The Missourian
by Eugene P. (Eugene Percy) Lyle
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

"But," said Crittenden, "as an ally of this sister Republic, we'll still have our fighting."

"Well," demanded Driscoll, "what will you ask for?"

"Our Cordova lands back, after we've won them from the Empire."

"And," put in Grinders, "equality. We want republican equality."

"Then we'll all be privates?"

"No sir-ee, by cracken! Equality high up, that's what! We'll be colonels, breveted colonels, every last one of us—Colonel Driscoll, Colonel Grinders, Colonel Brothers and Sisters, Colonel——"

"That's easy," said Driscoll smiling. "Now I'll go and fix it up with General Pavon, before he gets away."

... To conclude this chapter on the Missourians' Republic, there is yet a word, which perhaps is also explanation of the saddened change that had come over Din Driscoll since that night after the battle with Don Rodrigo. It must be remembered that the peerless lad had just won his old comrades to the Mexican Republican cause. While yet rejoicing that here he more than made good the three hundred Liberals he had helped to capture when a captain under the Empire, he found that he had only cast his recruits out of the pale of law, first against the Empire, and then against the Republic.... Then he proposed their own republic, and for themselves they took Tampico from the French. But why? What was the real object in Driscoll's innermost thought? The suspicion arises: Was it to win a peace-offering wherewith to make friends again with the Liberals? Such an explanation of his otherwise wild scheme is but a theory, but the theory fits, for John D. Driscoll, though as reckless as any and quick for any forlorn hope, was, when a leader, scrupulously practical.

The above suggestion, moreover, is apropos in these later days, when the Tampico Republic has become to be folklore throughout Missouri, and when our cousins, the Kentuckians, even those proud colonels by acclamation, cannot rank beside these five hundred colonels scattered over the sister state; so that, when a stranger questions, a Missourian answers: "He a colonel? W'y yes, of course, sir. And, by God sir, a Tampico colonel, too! Yes, one of the five hundred!" and the stranger's eyes bulge as he takes off his hat.

[The deposition of Meagre Shanks ends here.]



"... O restless fate of pride, That strives to learn what Heaven resolves to hide."—The Iliad.

On returning to the capital, Jacqueline did not once set foot in any Imperial palace, but she established her own salon of a grande dame, and there installed herself mid a simple elegance. What was left of the mortgaged chateau in the Bourbonnais went to pay for it. Jacqueline would accept not a louis out of Napoleon's Black Chest. A French gentlewoman, she impoverished herself to work for France. And when, a little later, Napoleon dishonored his own name and that of France in his dealings with Maximilian, she thanked the instinct that had kept her free. Puddles muddied one's skirt so! The valiant maid broke her sword. She would serve no longer. At least, she was quite certain that she would not.

Napoleon's shame lay in this. Maximilian had accepted his harsh ultimatum regarding the Mexican customs, and in return for such humiliation he depended on the presence of the French troops for yet another year. But the United States threatened war, and Napoleon cringed. He would withdraw the troops immediately. He would abandon Maximilian, treaty or no treaty. Thus the quiet forces in the American Legation at Paris battled against the proud House of Orleans. The princess of that House failed. She could not save her husband's throne, and her own. Her mind gave way. She became a raving maniac. So much for Charlotte's mission.

With the news Maximilian was a broken man. He seemed to remember his promise to rejoin her in Europe, for he set out coastward and left the marshal a letter that was virtually his abdication. Yet in the Hot Country he stopped for his health. An Austrian frigate waited for him. But behind him was his capital. Would he return? History will never know, perhaps, the soul-despairing network of intrigue and counter-intrigue that wound and tightened about the young sapling roots that would strike deep in an unnourishing soil and become a dynastic oak. The rabid clericals, who were Maximilian's ministers at the time, thought their puppet gone, and in terror of an avenging Republic they resigned. But Bazaine, urged to it by Padre Fischer, prevailed upon them to remain, and Fischer gave his word that the puppet would not escape. So France lost another chance to take back the Mexican Empire, and thereby pave a way out of her shame. For while Maximilian recuperated, he reconsidered. Clerical generals assured him of armies, the ministers talked eloquently of treasure from the Church coffers. The fat padre manipulated generals and ministers and Emperor, He was supreme. None might come near the royal ear except at his pleasure.

It was at this time, about the first of the year, some six months after Charlotte had sailed to Europe, and only a few weeks before the French would do the same, that one evening Jacqueline's footman brought her a plainly sealed envelope, without crest, without writing. She tore it open, and started as she looked at a simple autograph on the card inside.

"His—this gentleman, Tobie, you admitted him?"

The well-trained servant stood impassive. "What would madame have?" he replied. "The man walked in like a lord, keeping his face hid in a cloak. But if madame——"

"Was there a carriage?"

"No, madame, but I noticed a saddle horse at a little distance, held by a mounted soldier with a carbine. But if madame——"

"He is in the drawing-room, then?"

"Oui, madame, and without removing his Mexican sombrero. But if madame desires that this citizen find himself—h'm—pressed to go——"

"Tobie! No, on the contrary, you will permit him to wait undisturbed, until I come."

A few minutes later Jacqueline beheld a tall figure in elegant charro garb striding the length of her salon. As she entered, her guest threw off sombrero and Spanish cloak, and revealed the drawn and troubled features of the Emperor of Mexico.

"Your Majesty has returned to His capital!" she exclaimed. "Then it is true——"

"That I shall cling to my play-empire? But I do not know yet, mademoiselle, I do not know yet. If I did, I should not be here, here in your house for the first time, and against your wishes——"

"Will Your Highness be seated?"

Maximilian flung himself wearily into an armchair. The fire of the enthusiast had died out of his eyes, and the fire of fever had left them faded. They reminded one of the blue of old-fashioned china.

"But why——" she began.

"Why come to you, you mean? I don't know; instinct, I suppose."

"Isn't that rather vague? Your Imperial Highness returns to the City, to his palace——"

"Not to his palace, mademoiselle, not while it would seem a mockery of my poor imperial state, but to an hacienda in the suburbs. If I enter my Mexican palace again, it will be because I have decided to remain an emperor."

"And for the reason that you have not so decided, you do me the honor——"

"I do myself the service, mademoiselle. I can bear this torment of indecision no longer, and you can help me, for you, dear lady, see clearly where the vision of others is distorted. The enthusiasm of the others is unsafe. Yes," he sighed, with a little superior air of resignation to all human foibles, "those on whose loyalty I can depend are indeed few, but I am thankful that among them are my ministers, and my faithful secretary, Father Augustin Fischer——"

"Then why, in heaven's name, does Your Highness come to me?"

"Instinct, or—perhaps it's mania. Something has forced me to learn what you would say."

Jacqueline's foot—a small digression, at most—was slippered in blue, and this she pillowed on a cushion of red. And on another cushion she settled her elbow; and the sleeve of the chemisette, or blouse, or whatever the high-necked filmy white garment was, fell away, revealing a rounded forearm clasped in a band of gold. And resting her chin on her thumb, she regarded the young prince thoughtfully. In her look there may have been a sedate twinkle of amusement, but all was gently, pityingly sympathetic.

"Let me know," she said, "more of the doubts that trouble Your Highness."

Unerringly she touched the right chord. Doubts, yes, doubts of a broken dreamer. Illusions shattered as bubbles. A dweller in an ideal shadow, believing that subjects needed only lofty phrases, Maximilian was finding himself tragically maladjusted to the modern day in which he lived. But as the words tumbled from his lips in the passionate relief of unburdening, it quickly appeared that his misgivings arose only because he had fallen short of Dark Age standards. He recalled bitterly how, unlike the illustrious among his ancestors, he had not stirred until others had won his crown for him. But destiny was kind. He had the chance for redemption. To hold his empire now depended on him alone. He would mount his horse, give to the light a true Hapsburg blade, and valiantly ride forth to conquer or perish, and in any hazard be worthy of his House.

Then, without abrupt change, he talked of Austria's late woes. Had he but commanded his country's ships at Lissa! Could he but have risked his life at Sadowa! And moreover, he was still needed over there. But in some quick recollection a moisture dimmed the blue eyes. He drew from his vaquero jacket a dispatch. It was from Franz Josef. If Maximilian returned to Austria, the message ran, then he must leave behind the title of Emperor—leave behind even the title!

"And will that hurt so much?" asked Jacqueline.

The Ritual again! For it a man withheld asylum from his brother.

"Is there no mother," cried the exasperated girl, "to spank both your Majesties?"

"'Tis of Her Serene Highness——" Maximilian began with dignity.

"Highness? Yes, I forgot, but not high enough to chide majesty, though she be a mother."

"Yet she has only just warned me of her deep displeasure if—No, her message shall wait. I wish to hear first what you think. Tell me, shall I go, or shall I stay? Tell me, tell me, and why!"

Feverishly the man craved one frank word. There was in his look the prayer of a desperate gambler who watches a card poised between the dealer's fingers. Jacqueline had one answer only. But exactly how to express it, lest she be wrongly taken, made her pause.

"In the first place," she began slowly, "there is only a single consideration involved, and in that lies the solution of Your Majesty's doubts. I mean the consideration of honor. Now if Your Highness is—whipped off his throne—that is ignominy—But wait, wait, I am not through. I——"

"Almost my mother's words!" he cried triumphantly. And with a hand that trembled, he got out the letter from that Archduchess Sophia who had given one son a crown and loved this other as her darling.

"'Rather than suffer humiliation by a French policy'" he read from her letter, "'stay, stay, though you be buried under the walls of Mexico!'"

"But——" Jacqueline interposed. She had been taken amiss after all.

"You too bid me stay," he insisted. "But I might have known. I might have known. One who never errs said that this would be your counsel. The Padre is wonderful—wonderful!"

Father Fischer, of course! What else? How consummate was the snake in his cunning! He counted on honesty and nobility in another, though having none himself. He knew Jacqueline. He thought that, both good and frank, she must advise the Emperor as his mother had done. Accordingly, when Maximilian became afflicted with doubts, the priest allowed him to go to Jacqueline. She would be an accomplice despite herself. Only his judgment did not go quite far enough. Jacqueline had not spoken all her mind.

Imperiously she compelled Maximilian's attention. "I said ignominy, yes," she persisted, "but I would have added that honor—the modern and the decent—and the only courage, lies in facing this same ignominy. Listen. If the least of impure ambition enters in your decision to remain, then for each death in the civil war that must result, Your Highness may hold himself to account, and so be held by history. Now," she went on, unmoved by the fact that he had winced, "the question remains with Your Highness—does aught besides honor hold you to stay?"

To himself he answered as she spoke, and guilt confessed mounted his brow.

"But there," she said, "Father Fischer will interpret the will of the Almighty. Before Your Imperial Highness retires to-night, my words will be forgotten."

The lash fell on flesh already raw and smarting. To predict that he would change yet again, when to change he branded himself a wilful murderer—no! That was more than he could endure. She must not think that of him. He held out his hand. "Jeanne!" he murmured imploringly.

"Don't!" she cried, "Don't call me that!"

Then she bit her lip, and her fury turned against herself. "Jeanne" was feminine and French for "John," which was masculine and—American. This important discovery she had made months ago when riding beside a man whose horse was "Demijohn." As a girl in love, she had found a cozy joy in their names being the same. But for that very reason any recollection of it, since then, was the less to be borne.

Blushing indignantly, she saw that Maximilian was regarding her with a puzzled expression. Manlike, he referred it to himself, and suddenly, he too started. Only once before had he addressed her thus familiarly, which was during that memorable afternoon beside the artificial lake at Cuernavaca. Here, therefore, must lie the association that caused her agitation. Yet, since that afternoon, she had permitted no reference to their interview, unless to raise her brows quizzically at his continued presence in Mexico. But now, what of the self-betrayal into which he had just surprised her? It could not but be connected with that other time when he had murmured her name. There was, however, no conscious vanity in the remarkable explanation. It was remorse. He thought of Charlotte, his wife. And this other woman, had he wronged her also? For during the past weeks of trouble he had forgotten that he had loved her, and she had not forgotten. In two such facts, falling together, was the wrong, and one that a woman scarcely ever forgives, as he had had reason to know.

"I could not help supposing, mademoiselle," he ventured diffidently, "that what you said at Cuernavaca was inspired by—by no feeling toward myself. I could suppose nothing else in the light of your utter indifference since then, and—and your aversion for my very presence."

Jacqueline laughed pleasantly. "In that Your Highness deceives himself. I did then, as I do now, feel for Your Highness enough to wish him safely out of Mexico."

"Charity, then?"

She did not protest.

"As I thought," he said. "There was no feeling in—in——"

Jacqueline raised her eyes and met his frankly.

"When a woman feels in the sense you mean, sire," she said, "then she does not make an empire, even the Austrian Empire, a condition. If the man in question has no more than his horse, his pistols, even his pipe, then the woman——" But she stopped abruptly.

"With you," he granted honestly, "it was not a matter of personal ambition either. But if neither of these, then what—Now I see!" he cried. "A state reason! A decoy, to tempt me out of Mexico! Yes, yes, now I see!"

"It is good to know," said Jacqueline, not ungratefully, "that Your Majesty at least, if no other, can see a high motive in my self abasement."

"Now what can she mean by that?" he demanded of himself. "What other, in particular, thinks hard of her that she should care?"

Eloin was the only other man who could have seen them, there at Cuernavaca. No, little it mattered to her what Eloin thought. But—yes, there was another. There was the American who had intruded and wanted to save his empire. Maximilian recalled now her change to bitterness after the American had left them, and a moment ago he had seen the identical pain of self-contempt tug at her lips. And yet, once she had left the American to die. But Maximilian answered even that objection. Leaving him to die was a necessity for her country. And the sacrifice had gone farther. It had not faltered before the self-degradation of which she had just spoken.

The admiration in his eyes grew. The chivalry in his race awoke within him, and exalted him. He felt himself become the true knight, in the purity of devotion to a woman—a gentleman, as real chivalry would have the term. Poor man and poet, he felt even the impulse to bend the knee and crave as a boon some risk of life in her service, without thought of boon thereafter—a knightly impulse nearly obsolete in chivalry, if ever customary. But he knew now that the impulse was really possible, and the proof was this: that the constraint between them had vanished, that soon he was talking with her easily and naturally.

For Jacqueline also the air had become blessedly pure, and deeply, gratefully, she breathed of it. Because now she talked with one whose respect was a fact, who knew her for what she was, and during a moment's space she was happy, with the happiness of delusion. It seemed that other men, that one other man, might one day know her too, and give her his esteem. But the phantasy passed. The knowledge must forever be restricted to the man before her, and for him she did not care.

Maximilian, very strangely, was thinking of the very self-same thing. Here was a service in her behalf already offering. If he could cause that other man to know? But it was out of the question. Men may convince one another of a woman's guilt, and only too easily. But of her innocence? No, it was absurdly out of the question. Besides, next day the true knight would be starting back for Europe. Had he not just decided?



"... and could make the worse appear The better reason."—Paradise Lost.

After half an hour's sharp canter, Maximilian dismounted at La Teja, his suburban hacienda. He had come quickly from Jacqueline's, for his heart was light. The stress and storm of wavering were ended at last. Soon now he would be at Miramar, at beautiful Miramar, overlooking the sea, where Charlotte awaited him, but knew it not. And by love and tender care he would coax her back to sanity. Ah, no, the pure joy of living was not done for them yet!

"Desire Father Augustin to attend me in my private cabinet," he said to the first lackey.

The huge priest came on the instant. He bore a candle in one fat, freckled hand, and above its light the dull flesh of his face shone yellow. His head was as ever pear-shaped with its heavy, flabby jowls, and in the apex the two little beads of eyes leaped adventurously at sight of the prince.

"I am here, sire," he said purringly. "Your Majesty, then, wishes me to prepare for his return to the imperial palace to-morrow?"

"No, father," His Majesty answered stoutly, though not without an uneasy glance. "To-morrow I set out for the coast. The Dandolo is still there at anchor. You will give the necessary orders to my Hungarians, who will be my escort."

Fischer opened his lips, to close them. The involuntary creasing of his brow smoothed at once. Maximilian, who had dreaded argument from this man, breathed easier. But of course any man would give way when a Hapsburg had irrevocably made up his mind. The padre laid down the candle, and interlaced his bloated fingers over his paunch in an attitude of sleek calmness. He was smiling and fawned meek anxiety to second his patron's least wish.

"Your Imperial Majesty's wisdom, I see, is not a thing to be turned by the fraeulein?"

"On the contrary, Mademoiselle la Marquise d'Aumerle counseled my departure, not my remaining."

The fingers tightened slightly over the bulge of the sutane. "She then presumed to differ from Her Serene Highness, Your Majesty's mother?"

"My mother would counsel the same, were she in Mexico. I thank you, padre, that I went to see the only one who could so take my mother's place, because now, at last, I know what I must do."

The priest took a long breath, and drew back, mentally, to some vantage point whence he could survey the field and plan his campaign anew. He nodded humble acquiescence, but the small bright eyes seemed to gorge themselves on the prince. Maximilian stirred restively. One has seen a lion watch the trainer's whip, as though he wondered that a creature with only a whip should yet, in some way, compel him to do this or that. Before an obscure adventurer the monarch hastened to justify his abdication. But it did not make him easier because the padre listened so obsequiously, with never a quiver before the horror and misery pictured. He only listened, this man of God, noting it all deferentially, item by item, with a smiling gesture that he heard and understood, and was quite ready for the next. Maximilian became aware at last of his own low stooping. And that moment he stopped abruptly.

"The Lord reward Your Majesty's tender heart," now spoke the priest, "and may the reward be such as a ruler should expect from his God!"

"What do you mean?" demanded Maximilian in impatient anger. "Have all the barbarities of civil war no power to move you? Do I not know that the savagery has already begun?"

The curate crossed himself. In humility he would bear the charge of hardness of heart. "Power to stir me?" he repeated. "If Your Majesty would think on his power to bring this same savagery to an end! That is his reward offered by Heaven, the reward of bringing holy peace to a stricken land."

"Did I not come for that? You only remind me how I have failed."

"And why, sire? Because your instruments were not blessed. The French oppressed the Church as well as the people. But now the French are leaving. It is the hand of Providence."

"She said he would interpret the will of Heaven!" Maximilian exclaimed.

The priest heard, stammered, and went to wreck miserably, as a hypocrite unmasked knows that his next word must sound like hypocrisy. How slyly she had checkmated him! Forseeing his thrust, she had countered his every shift of cunning through this feeble fencer before him. And the mistake he had made, in sending Maximilian to her! For a moment the expression of the apostate Lutheran was very ugly in its baffled rage. But he was too wise a trainer to lose patience utterly. He realized instead that the struggle was harder than any he had yet had with his royal dupe, since now his real antagonist was the young Frenchwoman.

"I? I interpret the word of God?" He said it very humbly, with bowed head. "Alas, Your Majesty knows I am the last to presume to that. But there are those who can. There is the Holy Father in Rome, who is infallible. I only know that he told Your Majesty's servant, myself, that a ruler blessed by the Church is an instrument of God. But if the ruler turns his back ere his work is done——"

Maximilian's nostrils were dilating strangely, and the consummate tempter hurried on. He exalted the grandeur of the Emperor's task, yet craftily made success appear simple and easy. The forces of "the arch-rebel Benito Juarez" were concentrated in "a horde of impious thieves calling themselves the Army of the North." But Miramon, His Majesty's own general, was hastening to meet them. One decisive battle, and there would be no more rebels. The nation must then recognize that the Empire had sustained itself without French aid.

"Of course a few lives will be lost," he quietly sneered, "and we who do not understand may grieve for them, but the ways of Heaven, for its own ends, are inscrutable. Your Majesty knows that others before him, his ancestors, have had to wade through the blood of God's enemies. But Your Majesty's glorious ancestors were fulfilling their destiny. And why should not you, also, sire, you who are the child of destiny?"

It was a magic word. Fischer knew his man devilishly well.

"But how can I tell," Maximilian demanded petulantly, "that my destiny really lies in Mexico?"

"Then your destiny, sire, must lie in Europe, in Austria," was the priest's astounding concession. "After all, a prince's intuitions, being given him by divine revelation, can alone be his guide."

Maximilian's eyes flashed.

"Then I abdicate—herewith!"

Fischer meekly assented.

"There are rumors, nay, more than rumors," he mused aloud, "that a strong hand is needed in Austria. I repeat only what all Europe says boldly, that Franz Josef cannot long hold his throne. Yes, yes, sire, but do not stare so!—Yet the crown prince is a child. Who then shall be regent? Who but——"

"Enough, enough, I say! Now look to my orders. We start to-morrow."

The secretary beamed unctious joy that his master had so decided, and was bowing himself out, when abruptly he paused, "Oh, I forgot, a packet for Your Majesty."

Maximilian took the missive. It was not heavy. It did not seem as heavy as Fate, not as heavy as a coffin.

"This is an old date," he said in a puzzled way. "See, the postmark, 'Brussels, Sept. 17.'"

"It just came by courier from Vera Cruz, being sent via New York no doubt accounts for the delay."

Maximilian sighed. Even the post no longer considered royalty. Packets had taken on leisurely habits since the Empire's crumbling—or since the secretary's ascendancy. He broke the seal with tremulous fingers. The thing must tell him of Charlotte.

"From Monsieur Eloin," he said.

"But he—he does not send bad news, nothing, sire, of Her Imperial Highness?"

Well enough did that soul of mud know the letter's contents. Well enough he knew that Eloin and himself could waste no time on an insane woman. Their chances of future position were in too critical a state. And the packet was designed for just such a crisis as the present.

Maximilian frowned, read excitedly. He was swept along as by a torrent. Fixed on him were the small bead eyes of the priest, darting a light, like a flame on oil. And when the Emperor gasped quickly and sprang to his feet with hands clenched in the manner of a strong man, the priest was ready.

"Good news, then?" he cried. "What fortune! Now Your Majesty will hurry the faster to Vienna?"

Maximilian gave him a glance, as though he were dense to think so.

"Here, read, read it!"

M. Eloin, sycophant, courtier, had never sung for his royal patron a roundelay more pleasing than his prose of the moment. It caused to vibrate the very heart chords of the susceptible prince. There were subtle appeals to spite ungratified, to wounded pride, to ambition, to honor. The letter ran:

... Nevertheless, I am convinced that to abandon the throne now, before the return of the French army, would be interpreted as an act of weakness.... If this appeal (to the Mexican people) is not heard, then Your Majesty, having accomplished his noble mission to the end, will return to Europe with all the prestige that accompanied his departure; and mid important events that are certain to happen, he will be able to play the role that belongs to him in every way....

And then the supreme refrain:

In passing through Austria, I was able to bear witness to the general discontent that reigns there. Yet nothing is done yet. The Emperor is discouraged; the people fret and publicly demand his abdication; the sympathies for Your Majesty are spreading visibly throughout the entire Empire; in Venetia a whole population wishes to acclaim its former governor....

Thus it was that Eloin pilfered Jacqueline's lever, and thus he used another fulcrum, as he had promised Charlotte he would. By pandering to Maximilian's Austrian ambitions, he showed the weak prince how they could yet never be realized if prestige were lost in Mexico. To keep this prestige, to increase it, Maximilian must prove to Austria that he could hold the empire he already had, and that without foreign bayonets. He had only to stay a short time after the French should evacuate. And then, within a few months, a few weeks, he might lay down the sceptre voluntarily, to take up the one awaiting him across the ocean.

"We will leave here in the morning," cried Maximilian—"no, to-night, at once!"

"For Vera Cruz, sire?" queried the padre.

"No, for my capital, for my palace! And father, allow no one to mention abdication to me again. My decision to stay is irrevocable."

The padre promised faithfully that he should not be disturbed, and this was one promise that the good padre kept.



"And Jove himself shall guard a monarch's right." —The Iliad.

Early one morning a month later, a solemn little group of uniformed men climbed to the roof of Buena Vista, the imperial wedding gift to Marshal Bazaine, and nerving themselves, pulled down the Tricolor. France, a Napoleon, were again leaving the New World. It was Evacuation.

The Army of the Expedition came tramping down the Paseo. There were heavy Dragoons and Cuirassiers, on majestic chargers. There were light Chasseurs and Lancers, on fleet Arabians that had often proved themselves against the Mexican pony. There was the clanking of steel, and the flash of helmets through the dust. The imperial eagles, gilded anew, were poised for flight back to their native aeries. Lower in the earthly cloud bobbed the tasseled fez of the bronzed Zouave, and the perky red pompon on the fighting cap of the little piou-piou. With the steady beat of the march, the pantalons rouges crossed, spread, crossed, spread, like regiments of bright, bloody shears. The bands played. And yet it was not a martial scene. Feet, not hearts, lifted to the fife's thrilling note. Nor was the multitude that thronged the wide avenue a fiesta populace. It looked on stolidly, without a huzza, yet without a hiss. Enthusiasm in either sense would have been relief, but the Mexicans assisting at the bag and baggage of an invader were as unmoved as those other spectators, the colossal figures in the glorietas; as the two Aztec giants, leaning on their war clubs; as Guatemotzin, with high feathered crest and spear aloft, foreboding as in life to the European conqueror; as Columbus, who, having himself suffered, gave now no sign of remorse for the blows which this new hemisphere gave the old; as Charles IV. on his iron horse, who had bargained with a former Napoleon to be called Emperor of America, and who, unlike Maximilian, had wisely surrendered such a crown.

Cavalry, infantry, cannon, wagons, on they came through the city and past the Zocalo, under the Cathedral towers, under the lifeless, shuttered windows of the Palacio. Here in the Zocalo, in the central plaza, the sometime first lady of Her Imperial Majesty's household sat in her barouche, and opposite her a pretty girl, and she was talking with an officer of Chasseurs d'Afrique whose horse was restive, and all the while there was the rumbling of wheels, the tread of feet, and the ring of hoofs.

The sometime first lady was saying good-bye to the officer, as she had already to many another gallant chevalier pausing beside her carriage. But for her it was farewell to all her countrymen there, to the little piou-pious most of all, and her gray eyes were frankly moist.

"And now they are going," she mused aloud, "really going, because, parbleau, a monsieur in Washington says they must."

"I wish to heaven," swore the young officer gloomily, "some monsieur would say as much to you! See here, we'd give you and Mademoiselle Berthe enough room on the ship for a barracks, if you'd only come. There's a many less welcome," and he jerked his head toward a stream of vehicles straggling among the troops. They were filled with Mexican aristocrats whose doubtful titles had been revived by the Empire, all eagerly accepting French transport out of their native land.

Jacqueline laughed. "They're so afraid of the Liberals, they will forget their escutcheons. So of course they've forgotten the bouquets. You should have seen the garlands, Michel, that heralded our grand entry here. Oh, la-la! We paid for them ourselves. Thus arrived the Drapeau Civilizateur de la France. And now behold the departure. Not the cost of a violet to spare from Napoleon's strong chest! He mais, hear that tune! It's 'Leaving for Syria,' the thing decreed into our national hymn. For once I'm glad, glad it's not the 'Marseillaise.'"

"Mademoiselle—dear friend," spoke the slow-thinking Michel, "you do not wish to answer my question. Why do you stay behind, alone? Why? Nothing good ever happens to anyone in this country, and who can tell what might happen to you when the army is gone? Come now," he went on, forcing some bluff cheer into his words, "Jeanne d'Aumerle, your friends want you out of it. Fall in with us, here, now. Let me give the order, 'Cocher, a Paris!—Voila, what more's to be done?"

Indeed, what more simple? Or more to be desired? Yet there was nothing she desired less. She thought of what she had found in Mexico, and must leave behind. It was a dead thing, true, and already buried. But—the grave was too fresh as yet. However, the real reason for her staying involved something else.

She made no reply, for at the moment a strange voice, with a jagged Mexican accent and a thin insidious inflection, broke in upon them, and startled them all three.

"Nay, Monsieur le Duc," it began, rolling the title as a morsel on the tongue. "Your Grace would deprive us of too much honor. Why, indeed, should mademoiselle not remain among us?"

Turning quickly, Jacqueline beheld the stranger's black eyes upon herself. He, too, wished to know why she stayed in Mexico, but in his sharp, shifting look there was a penetration quite different from that of the guileless Michel. He bestrode a magnificent horse that seemed made for armor, whereas he himself would surely have been crushed under so much as a Crusader's buckler. Being so very small, and perched so very high, he cut a ludicrously martial figure with his plumed hat and epaulettes and gold buttons and braid and medals and exquisitely mounted sabre. It was not a French uniform that he wore, but Mexican Imperial, and stupendously ornate. And within the brave array, he was such a little, little man!—insignificance glorified into caricature.

But the pigmy was not altogether on parade. He had that morning been receiving arsenals and fortresses from the French; in short, the keys of the Empire. For he was Commander in Chief of the Imperial armies, was this species of manikin. And ugly? He was a man of lifted upper lip under a bristling moustache, a man of fangs, a wee, snarling, strutting, odious creature of a man. A deep livid scar split his cheek and would not heal. Instead of arousing sympathy, it proclaimed him rather for the scratches he gave to others. For he was that Mexican of infamous name, the Leopard. Once he had looted the British Legation. Another time he massacred young medical students attending the wounded of both sides. There were stories of children speared and tossed in ditches. Yet certain priests blessed his ardor as defender of the Church. Maximilian had sent him on a mission to Palestine, since he was abhorrent to the moderates. But now he was back again, to lead the clerical armies. The valley of Mexico shrank from his brutal proclamation demanding submission. "Mexicans, you know me!" so ended the snarl. He gathered forced loans. He drafted peons, though they were exempt. He emptied the prisons, and convicts he sent in chains as recruits for the Imperial garrisons. In such a fashion Leonardo Marquez began his duties as generalisimo of the Empire.

"Your Excellency is most kind," said Jacqueline, for no other reason than to annoy him by changing from French into his own language.

"On the contrary," returned Marquez, "I am flattered that you will be here to observe how we, alone, shall crush the rebels. Your countrymen, senorita, happily leave plenty of them. But I cannot believe that this is why you remain."

"Make her tell you, then," interposed the helpless Ney. He was utterly at sea. There was a trial of strength on between these two, but how or for what was quite beyond him.

Jacqueline pushed back the Persian shawl she wore—this fifth day of February was the Mexican springtime—and settled herself to the contest in earnest. "I fear," she began slowly, "that my motive in staying can hardly be intelligible, unless, perhaps, Your Excellency knows why I came to Mexico in the first place. No senor, that blank smile of yours will not serve. Your Excellency cannot feign ignorance of public gossip."

"Of course, I have heard that——"

"To be sure you have," she returned dryly, "and you might add that I failed, since Maximilian has not yet abdicated. But Your Excellency is not one to imagine that the end can be long delayed."

She, too, was searching for a motive, his motive in the interview.

"The Mexicans alone will sustain our patriotic ruler," stoutly declared the generalisimo. "But let us suppose, merely for pastime, that His Majesty does abdicate. What then? What profit to France, since at this moment, before our eyes, her army is leaving?"

Jacqueline smoothed the ruffled pleats on her full gray skirt. They looked like an exaggerated railroad on a map, and doubtless needed smoothing.

"And remotely supposing," she said, "that our army might come back again?"

Then, in a flash, she raised her eyes, and surprised the start he gave. But she laughed at once, and at him, for taking her nonsense as serious.

"No," she exclaimed, "Your Excellency can more easily recall Santa Anna from his island exile."

This, too, was nonsense, or so he was forced to consider it. But knowing that the Empire could not endure, he was believed even then to be negotiating with the rich former dictator. In his scowl Jacqueline discovered what she sought. He wanted, in brief, to negotiate with Napoleon also, and he wanted to negotiate through her. Napoleon could bid higher than Santa Anna. She saw, moreover, what was worrying the traitor. If Napoleon did not mean to bid, why then was she staying in Mexico?

Marquez glanced fretfully at Ney and Berthe. If he might be honored in the privilege of calling to pay his respects?——

But Jacqueline regretted that she was to be too much occupied in preparations for her own early departure. And that very evening she sent a note to Maximilian, frankly warning him against the Leopard. But she warned His Majesty farther, that if he did not heed, that when it should be too late to save him in any case, and Marquez still had something to sell, that then she would advise her own emperor, should her own emperor wish to buy. Hoping, though, for the best, she sent by Ney a message to Bazaine at the head of the column, suggesting that he delay embarkation as long as possible. She had in mind Maximilian awakened to the faithlessness of his chief support and wishing to overtake the French troops.

For which it appears that Jacqueline still wielded a free lance, belonging to her own country alone and owning no master other than her own conscience.

As Bazaine at the army's head rode through the Zocalo, he looked up to find the palatial shutters closed. The Mexican Empire was sulking like a spiteful child. The marshal wearily shrugged his shoulders, and thought on the ingratitude of princes. But the silence of the Palace was only a pose, mean and despicable. Maximilian himself was peeping through the shutters down upon the gallant, moving sea of color. It was a stream of gleaming bayonets, of champing horses, of lumbering artillery. His eyes would single out and cling to this or that figure till it was lost in the street beyond, and then he would try to realize that it was lost to him forever. For the street beyond lay toward the coast, where many ships awaited. The archducal petulance gave way to vague melancholy.

Finally he looked upon the last swinging foot, then at the dust settling. Below, in the Zocalo, what had been a fringe of mourning around the troops, became a scurrying of human creatures. They were his subjects. Not a French uniform remained, but the prince sighed heavily as he turned from his ignoble peep-hole. Courtiers and counselors glanced at each other significantly. By tacit consent one among them spoke.

"Free at last, sire, free at last! Ah, see them, there below. They know their shackles are broken, they know that the foreign invader who chilled their allegiance is gone. Nay more, their loyalty has already borne fruit. In the north, sire——"

"How, father? You do not mean——"

"Yes, sire, yes, the mother of God be praised! I mean victory, and death to many traitors. The news has just come. Miramon has won a decisive battle and taken Zacatecas."

"Zacatecas! But Juarez was there?"

"Yes, sire, and Miramon entered so suddenly the arch rebel surely could not have escaped."

"Juarez taken, that man taken!"

"Even so, sire, And"—Fischer's interlaced fingers tightened until the veins grew large—"and, it only remains for Your Majesty to dispose of him, according to the law."

Maximilian trembled with joy. He was master of the situation. His people had made him master. Here was divine right vindicated. It was—Destiny! He had but to follow whither the heavenly finger pointed. And in rapture, he seized his pen.

Palace of Mexico, Feb. 5th, 1867.

My dear General Miramon:

I charge you particularly, in case you do capture Don Benito Juarez, Don Sebastian Lerdo de Tejado, and others of his suite, to have them tried and condemned by a council of war ... but the sentence is not to be executed before receiving Our approbation.... Your affectionate Maximiliano.

Bazaine and the French camped the first night, the next day, and yet another night outside the City, waiting. They did not reach Puebla until the tenth. The rear guard fell farther and farther behind, keeping the road open. At last there was news. Juarez had escaped Miramon at Zacatecas, warned in time through some mysterious agency. And farther, Miramon had encountered another Republican army, by whom he was not only defeated, but routed completely. In panic he was fleeing to Queretero.

"Maximilian must surely abdicate now," thought Bazaine, and he sent back a message. "I can," he wrote, "yet extend a hand to His Majesty to help him retire."

In Vera Cruz the marshal waited for an answer. Day after day passed, and then the answer came. Too late, was its refrain. Maximilian had left his capital with what troops he could spare. He had left for Queretero, to join Miramon there.

Bazaine, the last to quit the shore, climbed aboard his ship, and taking one final look for a chance horseman with word to wait yet longer, and seeing none, gave the order to weigh anchor.



"Si debbe ai colpi della sua fortuna Voltar il viso di lagrime asciutto." —Machiavelli.

The mountain villages were arming. Bronzed men, savagely joyful, poured from under roofs of thatch, strapping on great black lead-weighted belts. In the corrals others lassoed horses. It looked like a sudden changing from peaceful highland domesticity, as the clans of Scotland or the cantons of Helvetia might gather. But these men were not rising to defend their homes. The hamlets clustered among the crags were their barracks, nothing more. The wildest canyons of the Sierra Madre del Sur, far away in the rocky southwestern corner of the continent, were only their camping grounds, their refuge. To be armed was their natural state. They were fighters by occupation. They were an army. Unceasing hardship and constant peril had seasoned them, and their discipline was perfect, unconscious, because it came from the herding instinct of wolves. During years they had waged war against a ruthless foe, and they, too, were relentless. The penalty of defeat was massacre.

The foe of this army was a greater army, and between the two it was a duel of chieftains, of General Regules in the Sierra, of General Mendez on the plain. Deadlier antagonists might not be imagined. Mendez, he who had shot two Republican generals under the Black Decree, was above all men the likeliest to hold stubborn Michoacan for the Empire. But even he failed, because the man against him was not less a man than he, because also the spark of resistance to sceptre and crosier never dies out in Michoacan.

The man as good as he was Regules. A Spaniard, Regules had fought with the Catholic Don Carlos. And now, he was suffering for Mexican Liberals the most that any general can suffer, defeat after defeat, and sometimes annihilation. But he was a Marion, a Fabius. He knew the mountain recesses as no one else, even better than Mendez, who was born among them, and here he would gather fugitives, draft every straggler, until in time he sallied forth again to badger his arch enemy. He hoped only to exist till that day when the French should leave Empire and Republic face to face, on equal terms. It had taken tenacious faith and gloomy years, but the day came at last. The news sifted through defile and gorge. The invader had embarked for Toulon. Nearer at hand Mendez had evacuated Morelia, and was marching to Queretero. And at Queretero was Miramon, driven there from the north by Escobedo. At Queretero was the Emperor—was the Empire, desperate, ferocious, an animal at bay. Out boldly upon the plain, then! But no longer as a slinking guerrilla horde! As an army rather, with thrilling bugles and the Mexican eagle aloft, and regiment numbers in gold on pennons of brightest red! For the Empire was the hunted mad-dog now, and the dignified host was the Republic. The barracks of the Sierra were arming.

In one of the corrals an officer of cavalry was quelling insubordination with soft words. But the mutineers, not knowing their man, did not fathom the dangerous sweetness of his tone. They were deserters from Mendez, come that morning, and as they had horses, were foisted on the officer's splendid troop. But like the native infantry, they insisted that their women, the soldaderas, should go with them on what was to be a swift march to Queretero. Having brought useful information concerning Mendez, they were insolent in their demands.

"Now, muchachos," said the officer of cavalry, "you see how absurd it is, so quiet down. The women can follow later."

"A Gringo to dictate to us, bless me the saints! Us, free Mexicans, and Republicans!" And the ringleader drew his machete and rushed on the officer.

The Gringo smiled, in a way that a man rarely smiles. His eyes opened in mild surprise, and as the mutineers looked to see his head roll from his shoulders, he was still smiling in that poisonously sweet way. Perhaps there passed across his face just the shadow of pity or of revulsion, but none might say for certain, because of a pistol's flash that came so quickly after. With the report the assailant plunged headlong, and on the ground seemed to shrivel in his rags. Behind the smoke the officer was carelessly holding a large black revolver, no higher than his hip.

"Because," he added, "it's not a woman's game."

Then he thrust the weapon back under his ribs and sauntered away. The mutineers gaped in trembling at his back. When they picked up the ringleader, they saw that his fingers had been neatly clipped at the hilt of the machete.

The cavalry officer was Driscoll—but changed! He was changed as bland Mephisto would change a man, if the material were adaptable and Mephisto an artist. Such exquisite gentleness in peril and in slaying could be no other than the devil's own, and in the most devilishly artistic mood of that suave dilettante.

It was natural that any man should color somewhat into a desperado, considering such an existence among those Sierras, but Driscoll was a desperado refined by cynicism. And yet there was still naught of self-consciousness in it all. The change had not been abrupt, but gradual, as a growing into maturity. The roughened native instincts of a gentleman had sobered from Quixotic impulses into a diabolic calm. His bravery was turned to cool and almost supernatural self possession, mocked withal by gentleness. And yet he was not a villain. To the mutineers, to those who beheld his smile, he seemed a fiend. But his horse knew no change in him, which was significant. Something had gone wrong, that was all. The young man who had looked out on the world, half challenging, half expectant, must have seen too suddenly that part of life which is unlovely. However, the thing may not be thus easily explained. The soul of a man, when bent or distorted under stress, is a weird and fearful growth. One may contemplate it in awe; but understand it, never.

More than a year before, when Driscoll changed sides, he was embarrassed to find a side to change to, so thoroughly had the Empire swept away all vestiges of the Liberal strength. But on achieving that farewell of his to Mendez, he rode happily southward, with some vague notion of tracking the Republic into Michoacan. The first night he slept under the stars mid tunas and Spanish daggers, and when he awoke it was to find a strange Indito squatting patiently at his feet. He sat up and rubbed his eyes at what might have been a Hindoo image, except that it doffed a straw sombrero.

"Y'r Mercy is awake?" queried the idol.

"N-o, but it will probably not be long now. Who in thunder are you?"

The Indito explained, and Driscoll covered his knees with his hands, and stared and grew more astounded. The ragged fellow said that he had escaped from Mendez's camp by squirming on his belly through the cacti, and he had followed the American senor, on foot. He was, he added, a Republican spy.

Driscoll mechanically drew his pistol, but recalled that now he also was Republican.

"But why follow me?" he demanded.

"I was sent to watch only Y'r Mercy, Y'r Mercy's thousand pardons."

"The devil!"

"And with Y'r Mercy's permission, I was to kill Y'r Mercy at the first chance. But since Y'r Mercy has changed sides——"

"Now look here, who—who put you up to this business, I want to know?"

The man shrugged his shoulders. He only knew that a senor chaparro had sent him.

"A short senor?" Driscoll repeated. "Then we might call you a Shorter Yet, and maybe you know where this Republica is hiding out?"

The Indito brightened. "That's why I'm here, senor. I'll take Y'r Mercy to the Citizen General Regules."

At the name Driscoll frowned involuntarily, but laughed as he again remembered that he no longer shared the Imperialist hates.

"Regules?" he repeated. "But we all thought he was dead, since the last time we scoured his mountains."

"That the Virgin would have let me kill Y'r Mercy before then!" said the Indito regretfully. "But no matter, Y'r Mercy will discover that the citizen general is still alive."

And so he was. They found him in the wildest of the wild region of the Sierra Madre del Sur, far away beyond the Rio de las Balsas, beyond Michoacan, in the impassable tierra caliente of the Pacific slope. The Indians here were the Pintos, who knew naught of the world outside, and owned allegiance to none but a grizzly old dictator, royally described as the Panther of the South. One thing was certain, the Empire could never follow Regules to the fever and ambush of the Panther's marshy realm, and Regules was hard pressed indeed when he sought such protection. But he was there now, in that last refuge of Liberalism, alone, wounded, fever stricken, emaciated, but undaunted. Driscoll found him so, and became his first recruit.

For the moment Regules had no army, but armies were only weapons brandished by the real principals in the duel. Over battle and rout and slaughter the two chiefs would glare each at the other, blade in hand and panting, but either ever ready for the stroke that should thrust through the army to the heart of its general. Such a struggle needed only antiquity and a bard to be Homeric. No Greek could equal either champion in cunning, nor Trojan in prowess, nor both in grim persistence and rugged hate. It was truly a fight to have a hand in, and with big, lusty zest, the Storm Centre bounded into the lists. He leaped backward into the age of colossal, naked emotions, which strove as great veined giants with a rude splendor that was barbaric. It was the grandeur of primeval man, of majesty resting on him who fought best. After a thousand years of roof and tableware a man may be no longer primeval, but he is no longer quite a man either if his primeval state does not sometimes appeal to him. As for the young Missourian, he was enthralled.

During that winter, the Spaniard and the American were a recruiting squad of two, picking up the seeds of rebellion among the fertile rocks. The vago, or poor Indito, was drafted wherever caught. Guerrilla fugitives rejoined their leader. The little band grew slowly, but in appearance merited Mendez's contemptuous epithet of brigand thieves. Fluttering yellow rags revealed only leathery-hided bones. Sandals sloughed away. There were a few machetes, and one or two venerable musketoons. But the commoner weapon was a heavy wooden staff, used for trudging up the steep paths. Imagine a Mexican abandoning his horse! But pursuers often tracked "the brigand thieves" by their mounts dying here and there—a pitiful blazed trail. And their exhausted riders often lay down as well, and would not rise, though Regules lashed them, though the terrible Mendez followed close behind. If at this time the Republic compared its conditions with the tapestried court in Mexico, then hope of success must have seemed lugubrious irony. Yet there was the watchword still, "Viva la Intervencion del Norte!" Regules looked to the United States to drive away the French. Driscoll's face would twist to a grimace. It was a peculiar position for an ex-Confederate.

The Republicans in Michoacan were cut off from all outside help, while those along the Rio Grande drew from the friendly Americans in Texas much aid and comfort. Driscoll pondered on this, until in June he got leave to go to the Cordova colony and there enlist, if possible, his old comrades of Shelby's brigade. The result is known. After the affair at Tampico, he came back with a troop of colonels. They were the nucleus of a cavalry which he loved more than Demijohn, more than his ugly pistols, more than his pipe.

It was a grim affection that Driscoll bore his regiment of horse. He was no longer the same man as when he left. He returned from Cordova with a mood on him, which settled more and more heavily as he nursed his troops into a splendid fighting machine. There was a dangerously quiet exultation in the patience with which he built the regiment up to full strength and trained it into the power of a brigade. He did wonders through the idea, pleasantly instilled, that much of the fun of fighting lies in the winning, and he demolished, as an absurd fetich, the idea that the hunted men of Regules were doomed never to win.

Thus he labored with the Inditos, his terrible little fatalists in combat. There were enough to choose from, since by now the tide of desertion was changing toward the Republic. The problem of mounts in time solved itself. The French began selling their horses rather than transport them back to Europe, and these being declared contraband of war by the Liberal government, were complacently taken away from their owners without even Juarez script in payment. The question of arms proved more troublesome, but the answer at last was even more satisfactory. For the besieged at Queretero, Driscoll's troop later became some unfamiliar dragon hissing an incessant flame of poisonous breath. This was due to a strange and mystical weapon which not only carried a ball farther than any rifle known before, but sixteen of them, one after the other. The strange and mystical weapon multiplied a lone man into a very genii of death, until the Missourian's twelve hundred were more to be dreaded than many battalions.

The repeating rifles, it may be explained, formed a part of the cache which General Shelby had made on crossing into Mexico. He had taken them, among other things, from the Confederate depositories in Texas. Driscoll knew of the cache through Boone, and by infinite patience had it brought into Michoacan. A solitary Indito journeyed eight hundred miles unnoticed with some seeming fragments of scrap iron. Other vagos were in front of him. Others followed. And these passed yet others, empty handed, trudging in the opposite direction. So an arsenal came to the Sierra Madre del Sur all the way from the Rio Grande, and each and every cavalier, whether miserable ranchero or veteran Missourian, became an engine of destruction, good for a fusillade of forty shots without the biting of a cartridge, for sixteen from his rifle, for six from each of his revolvers, and after these, good for terrific in-fighting with his dragoon sabre. It was no marvel that Driscoll loved such a troop, but the wonder lay in his smile, soft and purring and far-away, as he stroked his murderous darling.

Colonel Daniel Boone, chief of scouts, was harassed nearly to insomnia over the change in his friend. At the bottom of the mystery there must be inspiration for a glowing line, and with pen ready poised over the violet fluid of romance, it was disheartening to have the solution elude him. He proposed clues as a poet tests rhymes. There was vendetta. There was blighted passion. But he ruefully discarded both. Either would be marked by violent growth, while this thing that touched the Storm Centre formed as slowly as the gravity of wisdom. But what baffled most was that Driscoll himself was completely oblivious. If he knew nothing of the effect, how then could one ask him about the cause?

Daniel, however, overlooked the fact that a malady may break out variously, according to temperament. As an instance Daniel's patient would lose himself in reverie, long and deep and mellowing. Now he was riding with a girl whose gray eyes were upon him in that pensive way she had; or rather, in the pensive way of a girl who finds herself in love, and wondering at it, seeks to learn the reason through a grave scrutiny of the object. It seemed very good to be riding with her again like that, for there was a soothing sense of companionship, of dear camaraderie that needed no words, but only that expression of her mouth and a pair of gray eyes. The day dream, while it lasted, had nothing of bitterness, but lulled his soul instead, and when it passed, he would be left with thankfulness for his moment of fleeting bliss and ineffable comfort. Or again, he awoke to reality with a longing that fiercely would not be denied. "Oh, I want—Jack'leen!" Often and often the imperious smothered cry all but passed his lips. And then he would shake himself, as out of physical slumber, and he would take up his life again. But he would be a shade deeper in the devil's own mood, of gentleness and a smile.

After Cuernavaca Driscoll had brooded somewhat, yet rather as a boy whose melancholy is callow and easily fades. But during that evening in Boone's cabin, he had changed to a man, for it was then he came to know the meaning of possession, and in the same moment he learned the meaning of loss. A dull and indefinable resentment thereafter grew on him. But against whom? Against no one, perhaps. Yet he had had a vision of his life's dearest happiness, and it was gone, that vision, beyond recall.

Ignorant as he was of Jacqueline's mission, Driscoll had but one explanation. A man had been born a prince, and a prince dazzles a woman. Yet the rankling in him was neither because of the prince, nor because of the woman. It was much more hopeless than that. It was because a man could be born a prince at all. Something was out of harmony in the world. The irony of it made him grim, and to his sense of humor that such things could be came the smile. A prince in the New World and in the Nineteenth Century!—Now here was as incongruous a juxtaposition as a bull in a crockery shop. And the result?—A people robbed of their dignity as men; a spike among the cogs, and the machinery everywhere grinding discordantly. For the pilfered people, however, the matter could be righted, and Driscoll felt his vague wrath as one with theirs. Together they would drive the bull from the shop. The Mexicans could later repair their crockery. But as to his own precious little bit of bric-a-brac, that was shattered beyond hope. His only balm was to help the other sufferers. His only resentment was against fatality. But to pout at fatality is such a foolish business that he smiled, in a gentlemanly, sardonic way. Lucifer himself would be obsequious before fatality. And as for presuming to chastise it, that does indeed require the devil's own mood.



"It may be short, it may be long, 'Tis reckoning-day!' sneers unpaid Wrong." —Lowell.

It was a long column that undulated over the cacti plain with the turnings of the national highway. Men and horses bent like whitened spectres under a cloud of saltpetre dust. They burned with thirst, and had burned during fifteen days of forced marching over bad roads. They kept their ranks after the manner of soldiers, else they would have seemed a hurrying mob, for there was scant boast of uniforms. The officers wore shoulder straps of green or yellow, and some of the men had old military caps, high and black, with manta flaps protecting the neck.

Except for an occasional pair of guaraches, or sandals, the infantry trudged barefoot, little leather-heeled Mercuries who cared nothing for thorns. Their olive faces, running with sweat, were for the most part typically humble, patient under fatigue, lethargic before peril. Here and there one held the hand of his soldadera, like him a stoic brown creature, who shared his hardships that she might be near to grind his ration of corn into tortillas. Veterans were there who had fought the French at Puebla, and on coarse frayed shirts displayed their heroes' medals. Some among them had meantime served the Empire, and had lately deserted back again—but no matter. In the cavalry there were those who on a time had ridden against the Americans in Santa Anna's famous guard. Now they rode with Driscoll, among the Missourians. And the Missourians sang:

"My name it is Joe Bowers, And I've got a brother Ike; I come from old Missouri, Yes, all the way from Pike."

Their mouths opened wide to the salty dust, and they roared with great-lunged humor, the stentor note of Tall Mose Bledsoe—Colonel Bledsoe of the State of Pike—far and away in the van of the chorus. Even the Mexicans, who comprised over half the regiment, chanted forth the tune. They had heard it often enough, and thought it a species of appropriate national hymn. Only the colonel of the troop rode in silence, but not gloomily. This playfulness of his pet before a snarl was music that he liked. The other Missouri colonels (brevet) were as boys ever, were still only Joe Shelby's "young men for war." There was Colonel Marmaduke of Platte. There was Colonel Crittenden of Nodaway. There was Colonel Grinders from the Ozarks. There was Colonel Clay of Carroll, and Colonel Carroll of Clay. These were captains. Colonel Bledsoe was a major, and so was Colonel Boone, also chief of scouts. Colonel Clayburn, otherwise the "Doc" of Benton, was ranking surgeon; while the chaplain, lovingly known as "Old Brothers and Sisters," and the choicest fighter among them, was lieutenant-colonel.

Of course some of the four or five hundred colonels had to be privates. But they did not mind, they were colonels just the same. Which provoked complications, especially with a Kansan who had wandered among them some time since. The Kansan, whose name was Collins, was an ex-Federal, even one of their ancient and warmest enemies, of the Sixth Kansas Cavalry. And being a mettlesome young man into the bargain, he rose by unanimous consent to command a native company of the troop. But Captain Collins found it hard to address a Missouri private as colonel, and to be addressed by the Missouri private as an inferior in rank. A sporadic outburst of jayhawker warfare generally ensued. But according to the merger treaty between the Republic of Colonels and the Republica Mexicana, the Missourian was strictly in his rights. Besides, both needed the exercise, and after the business of fists, formality dropped of itself. Captain Collins thereupon became "Harry;" and the private "Ben" or "Jim," or whatever else.

Driscoll's troop wanted for nothing. Regimentals, luckily, were not considered a want. But in replacing worn-out slouch hats and cape-coats, the Americans set an approximate standard, which was observed also by their fellow troopers among the Mexicans. They were able to procure sombreros, wide-brimmed and high-peaked, of mouse-colored beaver with a rope of silver. The officers and many of the men had long Spanish capas, or cloaks, which were black and faced in gray velvet. Their coats were short charro jackets. As armor against cacti, they either had "chaps" or trousers "foxed" over in leather, with sometimes a Wild Western fringe. They came to be known as the Gray Troop, or the Gringo Grays. The natives themselves were proudest of the latter title.

The brigade marched as victors, but they remembered how they had formerly skulked as hunted guerrillas, and also, how Mendez had scourged the dissident villages. They found bodies hanging to trees. At Morelia a citizen who cried "Viva la Libertad!" had been brained with a sabre. It was the hour for reprisals. And Regules exacted suffering of the mocho, or clerical, towns that had sheltered the "traitors." Requisitions for arms, horses, and provisions marked his path. Deserters swelled his ranks. He had enough left-overs from the evacuation to organize what in irony he called his Foreign Legion. At Acambaro a second Republican army, under General Corona—"welcomer than a stack of blues," as Boone said—more than doubled their force, and together they hastened on to Queretero.

But at Celaya, when men were thinking of rest in the cool monasteries there, they learned that they must not pause. The word came from El Chaparrito, who ever watched the Empire as a hawk poised in mid-air. General Escobedo of the Army of the North had pursued Miramon south into Queretero, but only to find him reinforced there by Mendez and the troops from the capital. This superior array meant to attack Escobedo, then turn and destroy Corona and Regules. The Republicans, therefore, must be united at once.

The message was no sooner heard than the two weary brigades of Corona and Regules set forth again. They covered the remaining thirty miles that night, expecting a victorious Imperialist army at each bend in the road. But they met instead, toward morning, a lone Imperialist horseman galloping toward them. Regules's sharp eyes caught the glint of the stranger's white gold-bordered sombrero, and with a large Castilian oath he plucked out his revolver. Driscoll touched his arm soothingly.

"But, Maria purisima," cried Regules, "he's an Explorador!"

The Exploradores were Mendez's scouts, his bloodhounds for a Republican trail, and the most hated of all that breed.

"Aye, Senor General," the stranger now spoke, "I was even the capitan of Exploradores, who kisses Your Mercy's hand."

There was a familiar quality in the man's half chuckle, and Driscoll hastily struck a match. In its light a face grew before him, and a pair of malevolent eyes, one of them crossed and beaming recognition, met his.

"Well, Tibby?" said Driscoll quietly.

"First your pistols, then what you know," commanded Regules. "Here, in between us. Talk as we ride, or——"

Don Tiburcio complied. Such had been his intention.

"I am no more a loyal Imperialist," he announced, with a gruesome contortion of the mouth.

"Nor a live deserter for long," said Regules. "Quick, what's the news at Queretero?"

"Carrai, my news and more will jolt out if I open my mouth. Eh, mi coronel," he added to Driscoll, "you've taught this barbarous gait to the Republic too, I see?"

"Better obey orders," Driscoll warned him gently.

"But there's no need of hurry, senores. Not now, there isn't."

"You mean the Imperialists have whipped Escobedo, that——"

"Not so fast, mi general. If they had, wouldn't I want you to hurry, for then there'd be a conquering Empire waiting for you?"

"Colonel Driscoll," said Regules, "fall back a step. I'm going to kill this fellow now."

"As you wish, general. But he's got something to tell."

"Then por Dios, why doesn't he?"

"Yes, Tibby, why don't you?"

Don Tiburcio cocked a puzzled head toward the American. He had not known such softness of voice in Mendez's former captain of Lancers. But he saw that Driscoll had drawn his pistol, which accorded so grimly with the mildness of his tone that the scout chuckled in delight and admiration.

"You know that I'll tell—now," he said reproachfully. "In a word, there's been no battle at all, curse him, curse both——"

"No battle! Escobedo kept away then?"

"No, not even that. The Imperialists would not fight, and the Empire has lost its last chance. Curse them both, curse——"

"Well, curse away, but who, what?"

"I curse, senores mios," and the scout's words grated in rage and chagrin, "I curse His Excellency the general-of-division-in-chief of the army of operations, Don Leonardo Marquez. I curse, senores, the Reverend Senor Abbot, Padre Augustin Fischer——"

"Good, that's finished. Now tell us why there was no battle."

"I curse His Ex——"

"You have already, but now——"

Tiburcio flung up his hand in a gesture of assent, and his ugly features relaxed. Though going at a brisk trot, he rolled a cigarette and lighted it. Then he told his story. Queretero? Ha, Queretero was now the Court, the Army, the Empire! Pious townsmen shouted "Viva el Senor Emperador!" all day long. The cafes were alive with uniforms and oaths and high play. Padres and friars shrived with ardor. There was the theatre. Fashion promenaded under the beautiful Alameda trees, and whispered the latest rumors of the Empress Carlota. Maximilian decorated the brave, and bestowed gold fringed standards. Then came Escobedo and his Legion del Norte, but they kept behind the hills. Bueno, the Empire would go forth and smite them, and the pious townspeople climbed to the housetops to see it done. And yesterday morning the Empire, with banners flying and clarion blasts, did march out and form in glittering battle array.

"And then, hombre?"

"And then the Empire marched back again, senores."

Regules and Driscoll were stupefied. What gross idiocy—or treachery—had thrown away the Empire's one magnificent chance?

Tiburcio sucked in his breath. "I curse——"

"Marquez?" cried Regules.

"Si senor, Marquez! Marquez cried out against the attack, and His Majesty ordered the troops back into town again."

"But Miramon, hombre? Miramon, the best among you, where was he?"

"General Miramon fairly begged to fight, but he has been defeated once, and now Marquez warns the Emperor against Miramon's 'imprudence.' Marquez is chief of staff, and crows over Miramon, who was once his president. He personally ordered Miramon off the field, yet it was Miramon who first made the insolent little whelp into a general."

"This," said Driscoll, "does not explain why you desert to us?"

For an instant the old malignant humor gleamed in the baleful crescent. "It's the fault of the fat padrecito," he replied. "Your Mercy perhaps does not know about the pretty servant he eloped with from the Bishop of Durango's to Murguia's hacienda? Well, but trouble started when I saw her, or rather, when she saw me, even me, senor, for then she perceived that the padrecito was not a handsome man. Presto, there was another eloping, and the holy Father Fischer felt bad, so very bad that when he got into favor with Maximilian, he had me condemned for certain toll-taking matters he knew of. But I vanished in time, and I've been serving under Mendez as a loyal and undiscouraged Imperialist until yesterday. But yesterday the padre recognized me at a review of the troops. Your Mercy figures to himself how long I waited after that? Your Mercy observed how fast I was riding?"

The fellow's audacity saved him. The news he brought proved correct. Escobedo had not been attacked. Besides, Regules perhaps hoped to trap Mendez through the former Imperialist scout, though Driscoll derided the idea and even counseled the worthy deserter's execution.

Don Tiburcio's lank jaw dropped. Driscoll's advice was too heavy a recoil on his own wits, for had he not once saved the Gringo's life, feeling that one day he might be a beneficiary of the Gringo's singular aversion to shooting people? And now here was the Gringo in quite another of his unexpected humors. But what bothered Don Tiburcio most was the acumen that tempered the American's mercy. The facts indeed stood as Driscoll casually laid them before General Regules. Tibby, for instance, had neglected to call himself a "loyal" Republican. Asked for a description of the new earthworks on the Cerro de las Campanas, he only told how peons and criminals were forced to carry adobes there though exposed to Escobedo's sharpshooters, which had in it for Tibby the subtle element of a jest. Or asked about the new powder mills, he described how Maximilian slept patriotically wrapped in a native serape, woven with the eagle and colors, or related how the Emperor won the hearts of soldiers and citizens by his princely and ever amiable bearing.

"Now sing us the national hymn," said Driscoll, "and the betrayal of your former friends will be complete."

But though Don Tiburcio had deserted for convenience and perhaps meant to be a spy in the dissident camp, yet Regules saved him, while Driscoll lifted his shoulders indifferently and at heart was not sorry.

The Celaya road, crossing a flat country, first touches Queretero on its southwestern corner, and from here the two Republican brigades beheld the ancient romantic town in the dawn as they approached. Many beautiful Castilian towers, stately and tapering to needles of stone, rose from among flat roofs and verdure tufts, and pointed upward to a sky as soft and warm as over the Tuscan hills. Other spires were Gothic, and others truncated, but the temples that gave character to the whole were those of Byzantine domes. Lighted by the sun's level rays of early morning, their mosaic colors glittered as in some bright glare of Algeria, but were relieved by the town's cooling fringe of green and the palms of many plazas within. It might have been a Moorish city, in Happy Arabia called paradise, a city of fountains, and wooded glens, like haunts of mythical fauns. Queretero once boasted a coat of arms, granted by a condescending Spanish monarch, and for loyalty to the hoary order of king and church she in those old days described herself as Very Noble and Royal. Stern cuirassed conquistadores held her as a key to the nation's heart, as a buckler for the capital, and lately the French did also. And now the Hapsburg had come to a welcome of garlands, and called her his "querida."

But however excellently Queretero served as a base of military operations, as a besieged place pocketed among hills her aspect altered woefully. She was like an egg clutched in the talons of an eagle. On north and east and south the hills swept perilously near, a low, convenient range, with only a grass plain a few miles wide separating them from the town below. On north and east the heights were already sprinkled with Escobedo's tents and cannon. They commanded the only two strongholds of the besieged, as well as the town itself, which lay between. One stronghold was the Cerro de las Campanas, a wedge-shaped hill on the northwestern edge of the town, which held nothing but trenches. On the northwestern edge was the other stronghold, the mound of Sangremal, which fell away as a steep bluff to the grassy plain below. From the bluff, across the plain, to the hills opposite, stretched a magnificent aqueduct. On the mound's commodious summit of tableland there was the Plaza de la Cruz, also the Church de la Cruz, and an old Franciscan hive, called the monastery de la Cruz. Here Maximilian established himself in a friar's lonely cell. On the north a small river skirted the town, on the south, where nothing intervened between the grassy plain and the wooded Alameda, the besiegers found the most vulnerable flank.

On this side investment began with the arrival of Corona and Regules, and soon after, of General Riva Palacio. The Republicans numbered fifteen thousand already, and more were coming daily, but as yet there were ragged strands in the noose being woven around the beleaguered place. Curiously enough, the most feverish to see the cordon perfected was none other than Don Tiburcio.

"Marquez will escape! Marquez will fly the net!" he kept bewailing. "Si senor, and the padrecito with him, curse them both!"

Two weeks passed, filled with skirmishes and ominous tests of strength. At night fiery parabolas blazed their course against the sky, up from the outer hills, sweeping down on Las Campanas or La Cruz. Imperialist chiefs urged a general attack, but again Marquez foiled their hopes. Then, at two o'clock one morning, there came to pass what Tiburcio had feared. A body of horse stole out upon the plain, and gained the unguarded Sierra road to Mexico. Four thousand cavalry pursued over the hills, but in vain. The fugitives were Marquez and the Fifth Lancers, his escort. He was gone to the capital to raise funds, and to bring back with him, at once, the Imperialist garrison there of five thousand men. Doting Maximilian had even named him lieutenant of the Empire, and Mexico City would shortly have the Leopard for regent. Queretero, moreover, was seriously weakened by the loss of the Fifth Lancers, and there were those who remembered how, when Guadalajara was besieged by Liberals seven years before, Marquez had likewise set out for aid, and had returned—too late.

To his wrathful disgust, Don Tiburcio learned that Father Fischer was also gone with Marquez. The priest had disguised himself in an officer's cloak, and for the moment none in the town knew of his flight. The fat padre, it appeared, no longer hoped for the luscious bishopric of Durango. His was the rat's instinct, as regards a sinking ship.

The Leopard and the Rat got away only in time. The very next day ten thousand ragged Inditos, largely conscripts, arrived from the Valley of Mexico and filled the gap in the besiegers' line. Investment was now complete, against a paltry nine thousand within the town.



"The inclination to goodness is imprinted deeply in the nature of man." —Bacon.

But the paltry nine thousand were the best army of Mexicans ever yet gathered together. For weeks they kept more than thirty thousand Republicans out of an unwalled, almost an unfortified town. But while the Republicans were largely chinacos, or raw soldiery, they inside were trained men. There were the Cazadores, a Mexican edition of the Chasseurs, organized by Bazaine under French drill masters. There was Mendez's seasoned brigade. There was Arellano's artillery, though numbering only fifty pieces. There were the crack Dragoons of the Empress, the Austro-Mexican Hussars, and a squadron of the Municipal Guards. There were veterans who had fought at Cerro Gordo, and steadily ever since in the civil wars. There was the ancient Battalion de Celaya, mainstay of the Spanish viceroys, and later of the Emperor Iturbide, its colonel. There were the Battalion del Emperador, the Tiradores de la Frontera, a company of engineers, and several well-disciplined regiments of the line.

But the day came when they began to starve, and being hungry took the heart out of many things. It took the heart out of bombarding Escobedo in his hillside adobe; out of taunting "uncouth rebels." The rebels were in trenches often not a street's width distant, and for reply they pointed to certain dangling acorns who had been "traitors" caught slipping through the lines. Being hungry took the heart out of the quick-time diana, played after a brilliant sortie. Out of the embrace Maximilian gave Miramon. Out of Miramon's call for vivas for His Majesty the Emperor. Out of standard decorating and promotions and thrilling words of praise. Out of the anniversary of Maximilian's acceptance of the throne. Out of a medal presentation for military merit, which the generals bestowed on their Emperor in the name of the army. Out of being made a caballero of the Order of Guadalupe, especially as the monarch could give only a ribbon, since the cross must wait until his return to the capital. And being hungry certainly made pathetic his prediction that some among those present would one day wear the medal for twenty-five years of faithful service to the Empire. Being hungry took the poet-hero's glow out of his wan cheek as he declared again that he, a Hapsburg, would never desert, for even then he heard Imperialist platoons shooting recaptured deserters. Or he thought of the wounded left to die on the grassy plain and lying there unburied. No, all the heart was being taken out of these things, for Marquez still did not come with the help he had gone to bring, and the noose was tightening day by day. Attempts were made to send some one through to depose Marquez, but each one failed. Splendid sallies resulted in prisoners taken, which were only so many more mouths to feed. The Roman aqueduct had long since been cut off, and now the wells were giving out. Mules and horses drank at the river, while sharpshooters picked them off. The feebler animals were butchered and distributed as rations. And still the sorry Marquez gave no sign. Even hope failed the empty stomachs.

But for those who waited outside as Vengeance enthroned, expectation began to take on a creepy quality. The besiegers were preparing against themselves a host, not of men, but of frightful spectres, of famished maniacs, of unearthly ghouls, who would clutch and tear with claws any man that stood between them and a morsel of food. And the fury of desperation sharpened with each succeeding irony of a dinner hour.

The siege had endured six weeks. Marquez had been gone a month. But the Republicans held ready for whatever force he might bring. Their key to the situation was the Cimatario, the highest hill on the south. Between it and the wooded Alameda stretched the grassy plain. Republican trenches from base to shoulder of the peak opposed Imperialist trenches under the Alameda trees. Republican troops flanked the Cimatario on either side, lying in wait for Marquez. On one side Driscoll's Grays guarded the Celaya road.

So here they were sleeping encamped on the morning of April 27, when the bugle of a patrol cracked their slumbers. They lay booted and spurred. A moment later they were horsed as well, blinking across the plain in the pearly mist of dawn. They had heard hoofbeats, sharp and dry on the high tableland. Now they saw a wild, shadowy troop, which was hotly pursuing a spectral coach of gossamer wheels, with six plunging mules frantically lashed by outriders. At once, almost, the coach was lost among the dim strangers, who snatched at flying ends of harness, and with their prize raced on again.

The Grays stared. It was like some pictured hold-up, not real. But they knew better when from among themselves a colossal yellow horse and rider dashed toward the road. Then they awoke for certain, and tore after their colonel to solve this ashen mystery so early in the morning. Was it Marquez, perhaps? But the coach white with dust, and white curtains flapping, what was that?

Striking their flank at an angle, Driscoll drove hard into the fleeing horde. The Grays saw his hand raise as a signal, whereat they did not close in, but swerved and galloped parallel, some fifty paces distant. Driscoll struggled alone against the heaving sea about him. But no cut-throat of that pirate mass so much as drew a knife. By force of brawn, he wedged his way toward the coach, reached it, leaned forward, and caught up the curtain. And what he saw was a poke bonnet. The bonnet was a bower of lace and roses, held by a filmy saucy knot under a lady's chin. He saw a face framed within, of a skin creamy white, of lips blood-red, of hair like copper, and he saw a pair of eyes. They were gray eyes, and as they opened suddenly and wider upon him whom she thought must be her captor, the lady started violently, her cheeks aflame. But at once the eyes snapped as in mockery, and her lips moved.

"Monsieur permits himself——" she began, but no one heard except her terrified companion within the coach. Driscoll had already dropped the curtain as a thing that burned, and was raging on again with the turbulent stream. He got to the leader of the band, and jerked the fellow's bridle. He raised his voice, and louder than the pounding of hoofs he cursed in wrathful disgust.

"Dam' you Rod, this here's getting monotonous!"

The man swung in his saddle. His eyes were black-browed and savage. He was Rodrigo Galan, the terrible Don Rodrigo. But shabby, how very shabby he looked for the thief of million dollar convoys! Yet that bonanza coup of the bullion train had happened two years ago. Since then the outlaw had visited the capital. Boldly, audaciously, he had gone as a rich hacendado, and after the manner of rich hacendados he had "seen the City." Mozos with gorged canvas bags on their shoulders had followed his stately stride into the gambling casinos. He had played with regal nerve, and on the last occasion, had flung the emptied sacks away as nonchalantly as on the first. Only, the last time, he had felt remorse that the "bank" had profited instead of Tiburcio. In that matter of the bullion convoy he had not treated Don Tiburcio as one caballero should another.

Their horses—Rodrigo's and Driscoll's—were racing by bounds shoulder to shoulder. This endured for possibly the space of a second. Then Demijohn felt his rein tighten, and he took more time. Next his bit suddenly pinched, and down the old fellow came upon his front feet together, firmly planted, and sank to his haunches. Driscoll still held Rodrigo's bridle, and Rodrigo and horse, being in air, lunged backward.

"We stop here," Driscoll announced.

Don Rodrigo plumped down heavily in his saddle. His bristling moustache lifted over his cruel white teeth. Two hundred swarthy little demons reining in around them looked expectantly for a signal. But their chief frowned at the twelve hundred Gringo Grays hovering on his flank. They too wanted only a sign, and they outnumbered the Brigand's six to one. But Rodrigo believed he held the advantage. First he obediently halted himself and his minions.

"Now then senor," said he in pompous and heavy syllables, "I am at your disposition. Will your people commence the battle, or shall we?"

Driscoll appreciated the dilemma. The carriage would be in the line of fire. He had had an intuition of its occupants, and for that reason had kept back his men.

"Where was she going?" he demanded.

Rodrigo feigned surprise. "And where," he asked, "or rather, to whom, should Your Mercy imagine?"

To Queretero! To Maximilian, of course! This, too, Driscoll had divined already.

"No matter," he retorted shortly, "but how did you run across her this time?"

The outlaw filled his chest, "You Americans, senor, do not understand the feelings of a man bowed under a heavy wrong. You——"

"We'll let it go at that," said Driscoll, with a little wave of the hand, "but—how in——"

"You scoff already, senor? But will you, at these stains of blood? Then let me say to you, senor mio, they make me remember one shameless deed for which the tyrant Maximilian must pay."

The stains Rodrigo meant were on a little ivory cross which he had taken from his jacket. The emblem served him to lash his emotions, to goad his precious sense of wrong. He studied the cross intently; then, by a vast and excruciating effort, thrust it into Driscoll's hand.

"Yes, yes," he cried, "you must take it! He said so."


"Si, senor, he who shares my wrong, Don Anastasio Murguia."

"Murgie!" exclaimed the bewildered American. "But—why, hombre, I haven't seen the old skinflint since—since he and I both were court-martialled by Lopez!"

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10     Next Part
Home - Random Browse