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Title: The Bronze Eagle
       A Story of the Hundred Days
Author: Emmuska Orczy, Baroness Orczy


[This novel was published serially, under the title of "Waterloo"]



CONTENTS:

        THE LANDING AT JOUAN
I.      THE GLORIOUS NEWS
II.     THE OLD RÉGIME
III.    THE RETURN OF THE EMPEROR
IV.     THE EMPRESS' MILLIONS
V.      THE RIVALS
VI.     THE CRIME
VII.    THE ASCENT OF THE CAPITOL
VIII.   THE SOUND OF REVELRY BY NIGHT
IX.     THE TARPEIAN ROCK
X.      THE LAST THROW
XI.     THE LOSING HANDS
XII.    THE WINNING HAND





THE LANDING AT JOUAN


The perfect calm of an early spring dawn lies over headland and
sea--hardly a ripple stirs the blue cheek of the bay. The softness of
departing night lies upon the bosom of the Mediterranean like the dew
upon the heart of a flower.

A silent dawn.

Veils of transparent greys and purples and mauves still conceal the
distant horizon. Breathless calm rests upon the water and that awed hush
which at times descends upon Nature herself when the finger of Destiny
marks an eventful hour.

But now the grey and the purple veils beyond the headland are lifted one
by one; the midst of dawn rises upwards like the smoke of incense from
some giant censers swung by unseen, mighty hands.

The sky above is of a translucent green, studded with stars that blink
and now are slowly extinguished one by one: the green has turned to
silver, and the silver to lemon-gold: the veils beyond the upland are
flying in the wake of departing Night.

The lemon-gold turns to glowing amber, anon to orange and crimson, and
far inland the mountain peaks, peeping shyly through the mist, blush a
vivid rose to find themselves so fair.

And to the south, there where fiery sea blends and merges with fiery
sky, a tiny black speck has just come into view. Larger and larger it
grows as it draws nearer to the land, now it seems like a bird with
wings outspread--an eagle flying swiftly to the shores of France.

In the bay the fisher folk, who are making ready for their day's work,
pause a moment as they haul up their nets: with rough brown hands held
above their eyes they look out upon that black speck--curious,
interested, for the ship is not one they have seen in these waters
before.

"'Tis the Emperor come back from Elba!" says someone.

The men laugh and shrug their shoulders: that tale has been told so
often in these parts during the past year: the good folk have ceased to
believe in it. It has almost become a legend now, that story that the
Emperor was coming back--their Emperor--the man with the battered hat
and the grey redingote: the people's Emperor, he who led them from
victory to victory, whose eagles soared above every capital and every
tower in Europe, he who made France glorious and respected: her
citizens, men, her soldiers, heroes.

And with stately majesty the dawn yields to day, the last tones of
orange have faded from the sky: it is once more of a translucent green
merging into sapphire overhead. And the great orb in the east rises from
out the trammels of the mist, and from awakening Earth and Sea comes the
great love-call, the triumphant call of Day. And far away upon the
horizon to the south, the black speck becomes more distinct and more
clear; it takes shape, substance, life.

It divides and multiplies, for now there are three or four specks
silhouetted against the sky--not three or four, but five--no! six--no!
seven! Seven black specks which detach themselves one by one, one from
another and from the vagueness beyond--experienced eyes scan the horizon
with enthusiasm and excitement which threaten to blur the clearness of
their vision. Anyone with an eye for sea-going craft can distinguish
that topsail-schooner there, well ahead of the rest of the tiny fleet,
skimming the water with swift grace, and immediately behind her the
three-masted polacca--hm! have we not seen her in these waters
before?--and the two graceful feluccas whose lateen sails look so like
the outspread wings of a bird!

But it is on the schooner that all eyes are riveted now: she skips along
so fast that within an hour her pennant is easily distinguishable--red
and white! the flag of Elba, of that diminutive toy-kingdom which for
the past twelve months has been ruled over by the mightiest conqueror
this modern world has ever known.

The flag of Elba! then it is the Emperor coming back!

A crowd had gathered on the headland now--a crowd made up of bare-footed
fisher-folk, men, women, children, and of the labourers from the
neighbouring fields and vineyards: they have all come to greet the
Emperor--the man with the battered hat and the grey redingote, the
curious, flashing eyes and mouth that always spoke genial words to the
people of France!

Traitors turned against him--Ney! de Marmont! Bernadotte! those on whom
he had showered the full measure of his friendship, whom he had loaded
with honours, with glory and with wealth. Foreign armies joined in
coalition against France and forced the people's Emperor to leave his
country which he loved so well, had sent him to humiliation and to
exile. But he had come back, as all his people had always said that he
would! He had come back, there was the topsail-schooner that was
bringing him home so swiftly now.

Another hour and the schooner's name can be deciphered quite
easily--_L'Inconstant_, and that of the polacca _Le Saint-Esprit_ . . .
and beyond these _L'Etoile_ and _Saint Joseph_, _Caroline_. And the
entire little fleet flies the flag of Elba.

The Emperor has come back! Bare-footed fisherfolk whisper it among
themselves, the labourers in the valley call the news to those upon the
hills.

Why! after another hour or so, there are those among the small knot who
stand congregated on the highest point of the headland, who swear that
they can see the Emperor--standing on the deck of the _L'Inconstant_.

He wears a black bicorne hat, and his grey redingote: he is pacing up
and down the deck of the schooner, his hands held behind his back in the
manner so familiar to the people of France. And on his hat is pinned the
tricolour of France. Everyone on shore who is on the look-out for the
schooner now can see the tricolour quite plainly. A mighty shout escapes
the lusty throats of the men on the beach, the women are on the verge of
tears from sheer excitement, and that shout is repeated again and again
and sends its ringing echo from cliff to cliff, and from fort to fort as
the red and white pennant of the kingdom of Elba is hauled down from the
ship's stern and the tricolour flag--the flag of Liberty and of
regenerate France--is hoisted in its stead.

The soft breeze from the south unfurls its folds and these respond to
his caress. The red, white and blue make a trenchant note of colour now
against the tender hues of the sea: flaunting its triumphant message in
the face of awakening nature.

The eagle has left the bounds of its narrow cage of Elba: it has taken
wing over the blue Mediterranean! within an hour, perhaps, or two, it
will rest on the square church tower of Antibes--but not for long. Soon
it will take to its adventurous flight again, and soar over valley and
mountain peak, from church belfry to church belfry until it finds its
resting-place upon the towers of Notre Dame.

One hour after noon the curtain has risen upon the first act of the most
adventurous tragedy the world has ever known.

Napoleon Bonaparte has landed in the bay of Jouan with eleven hundred
men and four guns to reconquer France and the sovereignty of the world.
Six hundred of his old guard, six score of his Polish light cavalry,
three or four hundred Corsican chasseurs: thus did that sublime
adventurer embark upon an expedition the most mad, the most daring, the
most heroic, the most egotistical, the most tragic and the most glorious
which recording Destiny has ever written in the book of this world.

The boats were lowered at one hour after noon, and the landing was
slowly and methodically begun: too slowly for the patience of the old
guard--the old "growlers" with grizzled moustache and furrowed cheeks,
down which tears of joy and enthusiasm were trickling at sight of the
shores of France. They were not going to wait for the return of those
boats which had conveyed the Polish troopers on shore: they took to the
water and waded across the bay, tossing the salt spray all around them
as they trod the shingle, like so many shaggy dogs enjoying a bath; and
when six hundred fur bonnets darkened the sands of the bay at the foot
of the Tower of la Gabelle, such a shout of "Vive l'Empereur" went forth
from six hundred lusty throats that the midday spring air vibrated with
kindred enthusiasm for miles and miles around.




CHAPTER I

THE GLORIOUS NEWS


I

Where the broad highway between Grenoble and Gap parts company from the
turbulent Drac, and after crossing the ravine of Vaulx skirts the
plateau of La Motte with its magnificent panorama of forests and
mountain peaks, a narrow bridle path strikes off at a sharp angle on the
left and in wayward curves continues its length through the woods
upwards to the hamlet of Vaulx and the shrine of Notre Dame.

Far away to the west the valley of the Drac lies encircled by the
pine-covered slopes of the Lans range, whilst towering some seven
thousand and more feet up the snow-clad crest of Grande Moucherolle
glistens like a sea of myriads of rose-coloured diamonds under the kiss
of the morning sun.

There was more than a hint of snow in the sharp, stinging air this
afternoon, even down in the valley, and now the keen wind from the
northeast whipped up the faces of the two riders as they turned their
horses at a sharp trot up the bridle path.

Though it was not long since the sun had first peeped out above the
forests of Pelvoux, the riders looked as if they had already a long
journey to their credit; their horses were covered with sweat and
sprinkled with lather, and they themselves were plentifully bespattered
with mud, for the road in the valley was soft after the thaw. But
despite probable fatigue, both sat their horse with that ease and
unconscious grace which marks the man accustomed to hard and constant
riding, though--to the experienced eye--there would appear a vast
difference in the style and manner in which each horseman handled his
mount.

One of them had the rigid precision of bearing which denotes military
training: he was young and slight of build, with unruly dark hair
fluttering round the temples from beneath his white sugar-loaf hat, and
escaping the trammels of the neatly-tied black silk bow at the nape of
the neck; he held himself very erect and rode his horse on the curb, the
reins gathered tightly in one gloved hand, and that hand held closely
and almost immovably against his chest.

The other sat more carelessly--though in no way more loosely--in his
saddle: he gave his horse more freedom, with a chain-snaffle and reins
hanging lightly between his fingers. He was obviously taller and
probably older than his companion, broader of shoulder and fairer of
skin; you might imagine him riding this same powerful mount across a
sweep of open country, but his friend you would naturally picture to
yourself in uniform on the parade ground.

The riders soon left the valley of the Drac behind them; on ahead the
path became very rocky, winding its way beside a riotous little mountain
stream, whilst higher up still, peeping through the intervening trees,
the white-washed cottages of the tiny hamlet glimmered with dazzling
clearness in the frosty atmosphere. At a sharp bend of the road, which
effectually revealed the foremost of these cottages, distant less than
two kilometres now, the younger of the two men drew rein suddenly, and
lifting his hat with outstretched arm high above his head, he gave a
long sigh which ended in a kind of exultant call of joy.

"There is Notre Dame de Vaulx," he cried at the top of his voice, and
hat still in hand he pointed to the distant hamlet. "There's the spot
where--before the sun darts its midday rays upon us--I shall hear great
and glorious and authentic news of _him_ from a man who has seen him as
lately as forty-eight hours ago, who has touched his hand, heard the
sound of his voice, seen the look of confidence and of hope in his eyes.
Oh!" he went on speaking with extraordinary volubility, "it is all too
good to be true! Since yesterday I have felt like a man in a dream!--I
haven't lived, I have scarcely breathed, I . . ."

The other man broke in upon his ravings with a good-humoured growl.

"You have certainly behaved like an escaped lunatic since early this
morning, my good de Marmont," he said drily. "Don't you think that--as
we shall have to mix again with our fellow-men presently--you might try
to behave with some semblance of reasonableness."

But de Marmont only laughed. He was so excited that his lips trembled
all the time, his hand shook and his eyes glowed just as if some inward
fire was burning deep down in his soul.

"No! I can't," he retorted. "I want to shout and to sing and to cry
'Vive l'Empereur' till those frowning mountains over there echo with my
shouts--and I'll have none of your English stiffness and reserve and
curbing of enthusiasm to-day. I am a lunatic if you will--an escaped
lunatic--if to be mad with joy be a proof of insanity. Clyffurde, my
dear friend," he added more soberly, "I am honestly sorry for you
to-day."

"Thank you," commented his companion drily. "May I ask how I have
deserved this genuine sympathy?"

"Well! because you are an Englishman, and not a Frenchman," said the
younger man earnestly; "because you--as an Englishman--must desire
Napoleon's downfall, his humiliation, perhaps his death, instead of
exulting in his glory, trusting in his star, believing in him,
following him. If I were not a Frenchman on a day like this, if my
nationality or my patriotism demanded that I should fight against
Napoleon, that I should hate him, or vilify him, I firmly believe that I
would turn my sword against myself, so shamed should I feel in my own
eyes."

It was the Englishman's turn to laugh, and he did it very heartily. His
laugh was quite different to his friend's: it had more enjoyment in it,
more good temper, more appreciation of everything that tends to gaiety
in life and more direct defiance of what is gloomy.

He too had reined in his horse, presumably in order to listen to his
friend's enthusiastic tirades, and as he did so there crept into his
merry, pleasant eyes a quaint look of half contemptuous tolerance
tempered by kindly humour.

"Well, you see, my good de Marmont," he said, still laughing, "you
happen to be a Frenchman, a visionary and weaver of dreams. Believe me,"
he added more seriously, "if you had the misfortune to be a prosy,
shop-keeping Englishman, you would certainly not commit suicide just
because you could not enthuse over your favourite hero, but you would
realise soberly and calmly that while Napoleon Bonaparte is allowed to
rule over France--or over any country for the matter of that--there will
never be peace in the world or prosperity in any land."

The younger man made no reply. A shadow seemed to gather over his
face--a look almost of foreboding, as if Fate that already lay in wait
for the great adventurer, had touched the young enthusiast with a
warning finger.

Whereupon Clyffurde resumed gaily once more:

"Shall we," he said, "go slowly on now as far as the village? It is not
yet ten o'clock. Emery cannot possibly be here before noon."

He put his horse to a walk, de Marmont keeping close behind him, and in
silence the two men rode up the incline toward Notre Dame de Vaulx. On
ahead the pines and beech and birch became more sparse, disclosing the
great patches of moss-covered rock upon the slopes of Pelvoux. On
Taillefer the eternal snows appeared wonderfully near in the brilliance
of this early spring atmosphere, and here and there on the roadside
bunches of wild crocus and of snowdrops were already visible rearing
their delicate corollas up against a background of moss.

The tiny village still far away lay in the peaceful hush of a Sunday
morning, only from the little chapel which holds the shrine of Notre
Dame came the sweet, insistent sound of the bell calling the dwellers of
these mountain fastnesses to prayer.

The northeasterly wind was still keen, but the sun was gaining power as
it rose well above Pelvoux, and the sky over the dark forests and
snow-crowned heights was of a glorious and vivid blue.


II

The words "Auberge du Grand Dauphin" looked remarkably inviting, written
in bold, shiny black characters on the white-washed wall of one of the
foremost houses in the village. The riders drew rein once more, this
time in front of the little inn, and as a young ostler in blue blouse
and sabots came hurriedly and officiously forward whilst mine host in
the same attire appeared in the doorway, the two men dismounted,
unstrapped their mantles from their saddle-bows and loudly called for
mulled wine.

Mine host, typical of his calling and of his race, rubicund of cheek,
portly of figure and genial in manner, was over-anxious to please his
guests. It was not often that gentlemen of such distinguished appearance
called at the "Auberge du Grand Dauphin," seeing that Notre Dame de
Vaulx lies perdu on the outskirts of the forests of Pelvoux, that the
bridle path having reached the village leads nowhere save into the
mountains and that La Motte is close by with its medicinal springs and
its fine hostels.

But these two highly-distinguished gentlemen evidently meant to make a
stay of it. They even spoke of a friend who would come and join them
later, when they would expect a substantial _déjeuner_ to be served with
the best wine mine host could put before them. Annette--mine host's
dark-eyed daughter--was all a-flutter at sight of these gallant
strangers, one of them with such fiery eyes and vivacious ways, and the
other so tall and so dignified, with fair skin well-bronzed by the sun
and large firm mouth that had such a pleasant smile on it; her eyes
sparkled at sight of them both and her glib tongue rattled away at truly
astonishing speed.

Would a well-baked omelette and a bit of fricandeau suit the
gentlemen?--Admirably? Ah, well then, that could easily be done!--and
now? in the meanwhile?--Only good mulled wine? That would present no
difficulty either. Five minutes for it to get really hot, as Annette had
made some the previous day for her father who had been on a tiring
errand up to La Mure and had come home cold and starved--and it was
specially good--all the better for having been hotted up once or twice
and the cloves and nutmeg having soaked in for nearly four and twenty
hours.

Where would the gentlemen have it--Outside in the sunshine? . . . Well!
it was very cold, and the wind biting . . . but the gentlemen had
mantles, and she, Annette, would see that the wine was piping hot. . . .
Five minutes and everything would be ready. . . .

What? . . . the tall, fair-skinned gentleman wanted to wash? . . . what
a funny idea! . . . hadn't he washed this morning when he got up? . . .
He had? Well, then, why should he want to wash again? . . . She,
Annette, managed to keep herself quite clean all day, and didn't need
to wash more than once a day. . . . But there! strangers had funny ways
with them . . . she had guessed at once that Monsieur was a stranger, he
had such a fair skin and light brown hair. Well! so long as Monsieur
wasn't English--for the English, she detested!

Why did she detest the English? . . . Because they made war against
France. Well! against the Emperor anyhow, and she, Annette, firmly
believed that if the English could get hold of the Emperor they would
kill him--oh, yes! they would put him on an island peopled by cannibals
and let him be eaten, bones, marrow and all.

And Annette's dark eyes grew very round and very big as she gave forth
her opinion upon the barbarous hatred of the English for "l'Empereur!"
She prattled on very gaily and very volubly, while she dragged a couple
of chairs out into the open, and placed them well in the lee of the wind
and brought a couple of pewter mugs which she set on the table.

She was very much interested in the tall gentleman who had availed
himself of her suggestion to use the pump at the back of the house,
since he was so bent on washing himself; and she asked many questions
about him from his friend.

Ten minutes later the steaming wine was on the table in a huge china
bowl and the Englishman was ladling it out with a long-handled spoon and
filling the two mugs with the deliciously scented cordial. Annette had
disappeared into the house in response to a peremptory call from her
father. The chapel bell had ceased to ring long ago, and she would miss
hearing Mass altogether to-day; and M. le curé, who came on alternate
Sundays all the way from La Motte to celebrate divine service, would be
very angry indeed with her.

Well! that couldn't be helped! Annette would have loved to go to Mass,
but the two distinguished gentlemen expected their friend to arrive at
noon, and the _déjeuner_ to be ready quite by then; so she comforted her
conscience with a few prayers said on her knees before the picture of
the Holy Virgin which hung above her bed, after which she went back to
her housewifely duty with a light heart; but not before she had decided
an important point in her mind--namely, which of those two handsome
gentlemen she liked the best: the dark one with the fiery eyes that
expressed such bold admiration of her young charms, or the tall one with
the earnest grey eyes who looked as if he could pick her up like a
feather and carry her running all the way to the summit of Taillefer.

Annette had indeed made up her mind that the giant with the soft brown
hair and winning smile was, on the whole, the more attractive of the
two.


III

The two friends, with mantles wrapped closely round them, sat outside
the "Grand Dauphin" all unconscious of the problem which had been
disturbing Annette's busy little brain.

The steaming wine had put plenty of warmth into their bones, and though
both had been silent while they sipped their first mug-full, it was
obvious that each was busy with his own thoughts.

Then suddenly the young Frenchman put his mug down and leaned with both
elbows upon the rough deal table, because he wanted to talk
confidentially with his friend, and there was never any knowing what
prying ears might be about.

"I suppose," he said, even as a deep frown told of puzzling thoughts
within the mind, "I suppose that when England hears the news, she will
up and at him again, attacking him, snarling at him even before he has
had time to settle down upon his reconquered throne."

"That throne is not reconquered yet, my friend," retorted the Englishman
drily, "nor has the news of this mad adventure reached England so far,
but . . ."

"But when it does," broke in de Marmont sombrely, "your Castlereagh will
rave and your Wellington will gather up his armies to try and crush the
hero whom France loves and acclaims."

"Will France acclaim the hero, there's the question?"

"The army will--the people will----"

Clyffurde shrugged his shoulders.

"The army, yes," he said slowly, "but the people . . . what people?--the
peasantry of Provence and the Dauphiné, perhaps--what about the town
folk?--your mayors and _préfets_?--your tradespeople? your shopkeepers
who have been ruined by the wars which your hero has made to further his
own ambition. . . ."

"Don't say that, Clyffurde," once more broke in de Marmont, and this
time more vehemently than before. "When you speak like that I could
almost forget our friendship."

"Whether I say it or not, my good de Marmont," rejoined Clyffurde with
his good-humoured smile, "you will anyhow--within the next few
months--days, perhaps--bury our friendship beneath the ashes of your
patriotism. No one, believe me," he added more earnestly, "has a greater
admiration for the genius of Napoleon than I have; his love of France is
sublime, his desire for her glory superb. But underlying his love of
country, there is the love of self, the mad desire to rule, to conquer,
to humiliate. It led him to Moscow and thence to Elba, it has brought
him back to France. It will lead him once again to the Capitol, no
doubt, but as surely too it will lead him on to the Tarpeian Rock whence
he will be hurled down this time, not only bruised, but shattered, a
fallen hero--and you will--a broken idol, for posterity to deal with in
after time as it lists."

"And England would like to be the one to give the hero the final push,"
said de Marmont, not without a sneer.

"The people of England, my friend, hate and fear Bonaparte as they have
never hated and feared any one before in the whole course of their
history--and tell me, have we not cause enough to hate him? For fifteen
years has he not tried to ruin us, to bring us to our knees? tried to
throttle our commerce? break our might upon the sea? He wanted to make a
slave of Britain, and Britain proved unconquerable. Believe me, we hate
your hero less than he hates us."

He had spoken with a good deal of earnestness, but now he added more
lightly, as if in answer to de Marmont's glowering look:

"At the same time," he said, "I doubt if there is a single English
gentleman living at the present moment--let alone the army--who would
refuse ungrudging admiration to Napoleon himself and to his genius. But
as a nation England has her interests to safeguard. She has suffered
enough--and through him--in her commerce and her prosperity in the past
twenty years--she must have peace now at any cost."

"Ah! I know," sighed the other, "a nation of shopkeepers. . . ."

"Yes. We are that, I suppose. We are shopkeepers . . . most of us.
. . ."

"I didn't mean to use the word in any derogatory sense," protested
Victor de Marmont with the ready politeness peculiar to his race. "Why,
even you . . ."

"I don't see why you should say 'even you,'" broke in Clyffurde quietly.
"I am a shopkeeper--nothing more. . . . I buy goods and sell them again.
. . . I buy the gloves which our friend M. Dumoulin manufactures at
Grenoble and sell them to any London draper who chooses to buy them
. . . a very mean and ungentlemanly occupation, is it not?"

He spoke French with perfect fluency, and only with the merest suspicion
of a drawl in the intonation of the vowels, which suggested rather than
proclaimed his nationality; and just now there was not the slightest
tone of bitterness apparent in his deep-toned and mellow voice. Once
more his friend would have protested, but he put up a restraining hand.

"Oh!" he said with a smile, "I don't imagine for a moment that you have
the same prejudices as our mutual friend M. le Comte de Cambray, who
must have made a very violent sacrifice to his feelings when he admitted
me as a guest to his own table. I am sure he must often think that the
servants' hall is the proper place for me."

"The Comte de Cambray," retorted de Marmont with a sneer, "is full up to
his eyes with the prejudices and arrogance of his caste. It is men of
his type--and not Marat or Robespierre--who made the revolution, who
goaded the people of France into becoming something worse than
man-devouring beasts. And, mind you, twenty years of exile did not sober
them, nor did contact with democratic thought in England and America
teach them the most elementary lessons of commonsense. If the Emperor
had not come back to-day, we should be once more working up for
revolution--more terrible this time, more bloody and vengeful, if
possible, than the last."

Then as Clyffurde made no comment on this peroration, the younger man
resumed more lightly:

"And--knowing the Comte de Cambray's prejudices as I do, imagine my
surprise--after I had met you in his house as an honoured guest and on
what appeared to be intimate terms of friendship--to learn that you
. . . in fact . . ."

"That I was nothing more than a shopkeeper," broke in Clyffurde with a
short laugh, "nothing better than our mutual friend M. Dumoulin,
glovemaker, of Grenoble--a highly worthy man whom M. le Comte de Cambray
esteems somewhat lower than his butler. It certainly must have surprised
you very much."

"Well, you know, old de Cambray has a horror of anything that pertains
to trade, and an avowed contempt for everything that he calls
'bourgeois.'"

"There's no doubt about that," assented Clyffurde fervently.

"Perhaps he does not know of your connection with . . ."

"Gloves?"

"With business people in Grenoble generally."

"Oh, yes, he does!" replied the Englishman quietly.

"Well, then?" queried de Marmont.

Then as his friend sat there silent with that quiet, good-humoured smile
lingering round his lips, he added apologetically:

"Perhaps I am indiscreet . . . but I never could understand it . . . and
you English are so reserved . . ."

"That I never told you how M. le Comte de Cambray, Commander of the
Order of the Holy Ghost, Grand Cross of the Order du Lys, Hereditary
Grand Chamberlain of France, etc., etc., came to sit at the same table
as a vendor and buyer of gloves," said Clyffurde gaily. "There's no
secret about it. I owe the Comte's exalted condescension to certain
letters of recommendation which he could not very well disregard."

"Oh! as to that . . ." quoth de Marmont with a shrug of the shoulders,
"people like the de Cambrays have their own codes of courtesy and of
friendship."

"In this case, my good de Marmont, it was the code of ordinary gratitude
that imposed its dictum even upon the autocratic and aristocratic Comte
de Cambray."

"Gratitude?" sneered de Marmont, "in a de Cambray?"

"M. le Comte de Cambray," said Clyffurde with slow emphasis, "his
mother, his sister, his brother-in-law and two of their faithful
servants, were rescued from the very foot of the guillotine by a band of
heroes--known in those days as the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel."

"I knew that!" said de Marmont quietly.

"Then perhaps you also knew that their leader was Sir Percy Blakeney--a
prince among gallant English gentlemen and my dead father's friend. When
my business affairs sent me to Grenoble, Sir Percy warmly recommended me
to the man whose life he had saved. What could M. le Comte de Cambray do
but receive me as a friend? You see, my credentials were exceptional and
unimpeachable."

"Of course," assented de Marmont, "now I understand. But you will admit
that I have had grounds for surprise. You--who were the friend of
Dumoulin, a tradesman, and avowed Bonapartist--two unpardonable crimes
in the eyes of M. le Comte de Cambray," he added with a return to his
former bitterness, "you to be seated at his table and to shake him by
the hand. Why, man! if he knew that I have remained faithful to the
Emperor . . ."

He paused abruptly, and his somewhat full, sensitive lips were pressed
tightly together as if to suppress an insistent outburst of passion.

But Clyffurde frowned, and when he turned away from de Marmont it was in
order to hide a harsh look of contempt.

"Surely," he said, "you have never led the Comte to suppose that you are
a royalist!"

"I have never led him to suppose anything. But he has taken my political
convictions for granted," rejoined de Marmont.

Then suddenly a look of bitter resentment darkened his face, making it
appear hard and lined and considerably older.

"My uncle, Marshal de Marmont, Duc de Raguse, was an abominable
traitor," he went on with ill-repressed vehemence. "He betrayed his
Emperor, his benefactor and his friend. It was the vilest treachery that
has ever disgraced an honourable name. Paris could have held out easily
for another four and twenty hours, and by that time the Emperor would
have been back. But de Marmont gave her over wilfully, scurvily to the
allies. But for his abominable act of cowardice the Emperor never would
have had to endure the shame of his temporary exile at Elba, and Louis
de Bourbon would never have had the chance of wallowing for twelve
months upon the throne of France. But that which is a source of
irreparable shame to me is a virtue in the eyes of all these royalists.
De Marmont's treachery against the Emperor has placed all his kindred in
the forefront of those who now lick the boots of that infamous Bourbon
dynasty, and it did not suit the plans of the Bonapartist party that
we--in the provinces--should proclaim our faith too openly until such
time as the Emperor returned."

"And if the Comte de Cambray had known that you are just an ardent
Bonapartist? . . ." suggested Clyffurde calmly.

"He would long before now have had me kicked out by his lacqueys," broke
in de Marmont with ever-increasing bitterness as he brought his clenched
fist crashing down upon the table, while his dark eyes glowed with a
fierce and passionate resentment. "For men like de Cambray there is only
one caste--the _noblesse_, one religion--the Catholic, one
creed--adherence to the Bourbons. All else is scum, trash, beneath
contempt, hardly human! Oh! if you knew how I loathe these people!" he
continued, speaking volubly and in a voice shaking with suppressed
excitement. "They have learnt nothing, these aristocrats, nothing, I
tell you! the terrible reprisals of the revolution which culminated in
that appalling Reign of Terror have taught them absolutely nothing! They
have not learnt the great lesson of the revolution, that the people will
no longer endure their arrogance and their pretensions, that the old
regime is dead--dead! the regime of oppression and pride and
intolerance! They have learnt nothing!" he reiterated with ever-growing
excitement, "nothing! 'humanity begins with the _noblesse_' is still
their watchword to-day as it was before the irate people sent hundreds
of them to perish miserably on the guillotine--the rest of mankind, to
them, is only cattle made to toil for the well-being of their class. Oh!
I loathe them, I tell you! I loathe them from the bottom of my soul!"

"And yet you and your kind are rapidly becoming at one with them," said
Clyffurde, his quiet voice in strange contrast to the other man's
violent agitation.

"No, we are not," protested de Marmont emphatically. "The men whom
Napoleon created marshals and peers of France have been openly snubbed
at the Court of Louis XVIII. Ney, who is prince of Moskowa and next to
Napoleon himself the greatest soldier of France, has seen his wife
treated little better than a chambermaid by the Duchesse d'Angoulême and
the ladies of the old _noblesse_. My uncle is marshal of France, and Duc
de Raguse and I am the heir to his millions, but the Comte de Cambray
will always consider it a mesalliance for his daughter to marry me."

The note of bitter resentment, of wounded pride and smouldering hatred
became more and more marked while he spoke: his voice now sounded hoarse
and his throat seemed dry. Presently he raised his mug to his lips and
drank eagerly, but his hand was shaking visibly as he did this, and some
of the wine was spilled on the table.

There was silence for a while outside the little inn, silence which
seemed full of portent, for through the pure mountain air there was
wafted the hot breath of men's passions--fierce, dominating,
challenging. Love, hatred, prejudices and contempt--all were portrayed
on de Marmont's mobile face: they glowed in his dark eyes and breathed
through his quivering nostrils. Now he rested his elbow on the table and
his chin in his hand, his nervy fingers played a tattoo against his
teeth, clenched together like those of some young feline creature which
sees its prey coming along and is snarling at the sight.

Clyffurde, with those deep-set, earnest grey eyes of his, was silently
watching his friend. His hand did not shake, nor did the breath come any
quicker from his broad chest. Yet deep down behind the wide brow, behind
those same overshadowed eyes, a keen observer would of a surety have
detected the signs of a latent volcano of passions, all the more strong
and virile as they were kept in perfect control. It was he who presently
broke the silence, and his voice was quite steady when he spoke, though
perhaps a trifle more toneless, more dead, than usual.

"And," he said, "what of Mlle. Crystal in all this?"

"Crystal?" queried the other curtly, "what about her?"

"She is an ardent royalist, more strong in her convictions and her
enthusiasms than women usually are."

"And what of that?" rejoined de Marmont fiercely. "I love Crystal."

"But when she learns that you . . ."

"She shall not learn it," rejoined the other cynically. "We sign our
marriage contract to-night: the wedding is fixed for Tuesday. Until then
I can hold my peace."

An exclamation of hot protest almost escaped the Englishman's lips: his
hand which rested on the table became so tightly clenched that the hard
knuckles looked as if they would burst through their fetters of sinew
and skin, and he made no pretence at concealing the look of burning
indignation which flashed from his eyes.

"But man!" he exclaimed, "a deception such as you propose is cruel and
monstrous. . . . In view, too, of what has occurred in the past few days
. . . in view of what may happen if the news which we have heard is true
. . ."

"In view of all that, my friend," retorted de Marmont firmly, "the old
regime has had its nine days of wonder and of splendour. The Emperor has
come back! we, who believe in him, who have remained true to him in his
humiliation and in his misfortunes may once more raise our heads and
loudly proclaim our loyalty. The return of the Emperor will once more
put his dukes and his marshals in their rightful place on a level with
the highest nobility of France. The Comte de Cambray will realise that
all his hopes of regaining his fortune through the favours of the
Bourbons have by force of circumstances come to naught. Like most of the
old _noblesse_ who emigrated he is without a sou. He may choose to look
on me with contempt, but he will no longer desire to kick me out of his
house, for he will be glad enough to see the Cambray 'scutcheon regilt
with de Marmont gold."

"But Mademoiselle Crystal?" insisted Clyffurde, almost appealingly, for
his whole soul had revolted at the cynicism of the other man.

"Crystal has listened to that ape, St. Genis," replied de Marmont drily,
"one of her own caste . . . a marquis with sixteen quarterings to his
family escutcheon and not a sou in his pockets. She is very young, and
very inexperienced. She has seen nothing of the world as yet--nothing.
She was born and brought up in exile--in England, in the midst of that
narrow society formed by impecunious _émigrés_. . . ."

"And shopkeeping Englishmen," murmured Clyffurde, under his breath.

"She could never have married St. Genis," reiterated Victor de Marmont
with deliberate emphasis. "The man hasn't a sou. Even Crystal realised
from the first that nothing ever could have come of that boy and girl
dallying. The Comte never would have consented. . . ."

"Perhaps not. But she--Mademoiselle Crystal--would she ever have
consented to marry you, if she had known what your convictions are?"

"Crystal is only a child," said de Marmont with a light shrug of the
shoulders. "She will learn to love me presently when St. Genis has
disappeared out of her little world, and she will accept my convictions
as she has accepted me, submissive to my will as she was to that of her
father."

Once more a hot protest of indignation rose to Clyffurde's lips, but
this too he smothered resolutely. What was the use of protesting? Could
he hope to change with a few arguments the whole cynical nature of a
man? And what right had he even to interfere? The Comte de Cambray and
Mademoiselle Crystal were nothing to him: in their minds they would
never look upon him even as an equal--let alone as a friend. So the
bitter words died upon his lips.

"And you have been content to win a wife on such terms!" was all that he
said.

"I have had to be content," was de Marmont's retort. "Crystal is the
only woman I have ever cared for. She will love me in time, I doubt not,
and her sense of duty will make her forget St. Genis quickly enough."

Then as Clyffurde made no further comment silence fell once more between
the two men. Perhaps even de Marmont felt that somehow, during the past
few moments, the slender bond of friendship which similarity of tastes
and a certain similarity of political ideals had forged between him and
the stranger had been strained to snapping point, and this for a reason
which he could not very well understand. He drank another draught of
wine and gave a quick sigh of satisfaction with the world in general,
and also with himself, for he did not feel that he had done or said
anything which could offend the keenest susceptibilities of his friend.

He looked with a sudden sense of astonishment at Clyffurde, as if he
were only seeing him now for the first time. His keen dark eyes took in
with a rapid glance the Englishman's powerful personality, the square
shoulders, the head well erect, the strong Anglo-Saxon chin firmly set,
the slender hands always in repose. In the whole attitude of the man
there was an air of will-power which had never struck de Marmont quite
so forcibly as it did now, and a virility which looked as ready to
challenge Fate as it was able to conquer her if she proved adverse.

And just now there was a curious look in those deep-set eyes--a look of
contempt or of pity--de Marmont was not sure which, but somehow the look
worried him and he would have given much to read the thoughts which were
hidden behind the high, square brow.

However, he asked no questions, and thus the silence remained unbroken
for some time save for the soughing of the northeast wind as it whistled
through the pines, whilst from the tiny chapel which held the shrine of
Notre Dame de Vaulx came the sound of a soft-toned bell, ringing the
midday Angelus.

Just then round that same curve in the road, where the two riders had
paused an hour ago in sight of the little hamlet, a man on horseback
appeared, riding at a brisk trot up the rugged, stony path.

Victor de Marmont woke from his rêverie:

"There's Emery," he cried.

He jumped to his feet, then he picked up his hat from the table where he
had laid it down, tossed it up into the air as high as it would go, and
shouted with all his might:

"Vive l'Empereur!"


IV

The man who now drew rein with abrupt clumsiness in front of the auberge
looked hot, tired and travel-stained. His face was covered with sweat
and his horse with lather, the lapel of his coat was torn, his breeches
and boots were covered with half-frozen mud.

But having brought his horse to a halt, he swung himself out of the
saddle with the brisk air of a boy who has enjoyed his first ride across
country. Surgeon-Captain Emery was a man well over forty, but to-day his
eyes glowed with that concentrated fire which burns in the heart at
twenty, and he shook de Marmont by the hand with a vigour which made the
younger man wince with the pain of that iron grip.

"My friend, Mr. Clyffurde, an English gentleman," said Victor de Marmont
hastily in response to a quick look of suspicious enquiry which flashed
out from under Emery's bushy eyebrows. "You can talk quite freely,
Emery; and for God's sake tell us your news!"

But Emery could hardly speak. He had been riding hard for the past three
hours, his throat was parched, and through it his voice came up hoarse
and raucous: nevertheless he at once began talking in short, jerky
sentences.

"He landed on Wednesday," he said. "I parted from him on Friday . . . at
Castellane . . . you had my message?"

"This morning early--we came at once."

"I thought we could talk better here--first--but I was spent last
night--I had to sleep at Corps . . . so I sent to you. . . . But now, in
Heaven's name, give me something to drink. . . ."

While he drank eagerly and greedily of the cold spiced wine which
Clyffurde had served out to him, he still scrutinised the Englishman
closely from under his frowning and bushy eyebrows.

Clyffurde's winning glance, however, seemed to have conquered his
mistrust, for presently, after he had put his mug down again, he
stretched out a cordial hand to him.

"Now that our Emperor is back with us," he said as if in apology for his
former suspicions, "we, his friends, are bound to look askance at every
Englishman we meet."

"Of course you are," said Clyffurde with his habitual good-humoured
smile as he grasped Surgeon-Captain Emery's extended hand.

"It is the hand of a friend I am grasping?" insisted Emery.

"Of a personal friend, if you will call him so," replied Clyffurde.
"Politically, I hardly count, you see. I am just a looker-on at the
game."

The surgeon-captain's keen eyes under their bushy brows shot a rapid
glance at the tall, well-knit figure of the Englishman.

"You are not a fighting man?" he queried, much amazed.

"No," replied Clyffurde drily. "I am only a tradesman."

"Your news, Emery, your news!" here broke in Victor de Marmont, who
during the brief colloquy between his two friends had been hardly able
to keep his excitement in check.

Emery turned away from the other man in silence. Clearly there was
something about that fine, noble-looking fellow--who proclaimed himself
a tradesman while that splendid physique of his should be at his
country's service--which still puzzled the worthy army surgeon.

But he was primarily very thirsty and secondly as eager to impart his
news as de Marmont was to hear it, so now without wasting any further
words on less important matter he sat down close to the table and
stretched his short, thick legs out before him.

"My news is of the best," he said with lusty fervour. "We left Porto
Ferrajo on Sunday last but only landed on Wednesday, as I told you, for
we were severely becalmed in the Mediterranean. We came on shore at
Antibes at midday of March 1st and bivouacked in an olive grove on the
way to Cannes. That was a sight good for sore eyes, my friends, to see
him sitting there by the camp fire, his feet firmly planted upon the
soil of France. What a man, Sir, what a man!" he continued, turning
directly to Clyffurde, "on board the _Inconstant_ he had composed and
dictated his proclamation to the army, to the soldiers of France! the
finest piece of prose, Sir, I have ever read in all my life. But you
shall judge of it, Sir, you shall judge. . . ."

And with hands shaking with excitement he fumbled in the bulging pocket
of his coat and extracted therefrom a roll of loose papers roughly tied
together with a piece of tape.

"You shall read it, Sir," he went on mumbling, while his trembling
fingers vainly tried to undo the knot in the tape, "you shall read it.
And then mayhap you'll tell me if your Pitt was ever half so eloquent.
Curse these knots!" he exclaimed angrily.

"Will you allow me, Sir?" said Clyffurde quietly, and with steady hand
and firm fingers he undid the refractory knots and spread the papers out
upon the table.

Already de Marmont had given a cry of loyalty and of triumph.

"His proclamation!" he exclaimed, and a sigh of infinite satisfaction
born of enthusiasm and of hero-worship escaped his quivering lips.

The papers bore the signature of that name which had once been
all-powerful in its magical charm, at sound of which Europe had trembled
and crowns had felt insecure, the name which men had breathed--nay!
still breathed--either with passionate loyalty or with bitter
hatred:--"Napoleon."

They were copies of the proclamation wherewith the heroic
adventurer--confident in the power of his diction--meant to reconquer
the hearts of that army whom he had once led to such glorious victories.

De Marmont read the long document through from end to end in a
half-audible voice. Now and again he gave a little cry--a cry of loyalty
at mention of those victories of Austerlitz and Jena, of Wagram and of
Eckmühl, at mention of those imperial eagles which had led the armies of
France conquering and glorious throughout the length and breadth of
Europe--or a cry of shame and horror at mention of the traitor whose
name he bore and who had delivered France into the hands of strangers
and his Emperor into those of his enemies.

And when the young enthusiast had read the proclamation through to the
end he raised the paper to his lips and fervently kissed the imprint of
the revered name: "Napoleon."

"Now tell me more about him," he said finally, as he leaned both elbows
on the table and fastened his glowing eyes upon the equally heated face
of Surgeon-Captain Emery.

"Well!" resumed the latter, "as I told you we bivouacked among the olive
trees on the way to Cannes. The Emperor had already sent Cambronne on
ahead with forty of his grenadiers to commandeer what horses and mules
he could, as we were not able to bring many across from Porto Ferrajo.
'Cambronne,' he said, 'you shall be in command of the vanguard in this
the finest campaign which I have ever undertaken. My orders are to you,
that you do not fire a single unnecessary shot. Remember that I mean to
reconquer my imperial crown without shedding one drop of French blood.'
Oh! he is in excellent health and in excellent spirits! Such a man! such
fire in his eyes! such determination in his actions! Younger, bolder
than ever! I tell you, friends," continued the worthy surgeon-captain as
he brought the palm of his hand flat down upon the table with an
emphatic bang, "that it is going to be a triumphal march from end to end
of France. The people are mad about him. At Roccavignon, just outside
Cannes, where we bivouacked on Thursday, men, women and children were
flocking round to see him, pressing close to his knees, bringing him
wine and flowers; and the people were crying 'Vive l'Empereur!' even in
the streets of Grasse."

"But the army, man? the army?" cried de Marmont, "the garrisons of
Antibes and Cannes and Grasse? did the men go over to him at once?--and
the officers?"

"We hadn't encountered the army yet when I parted from him on Friday,"
retorted Emery with equal impatience, "we didn't go into Antibes and we
avoided Cannes. You must give him time. The people in the towns wouldn't
at first believe that he had come back. General Masséna, who is in
command at Marseilles, thought fit to spread the news that a band of
Corsican pirates had landed on the littoral and were marching
inland--devastating villages as they marched. The peasants from the
mountains were the first to believe that the Emperor had really come,
and they wandered down in their hundreds to see him first and to spread
the news of his arrival ahead of him. By the time we reached Castellane
the mayor was not only ready to receive him but also to furnish him with
5,000 rations of meat and bread, with horses and with mules. Since then
he has been at Digue and at Sisteron. Be sure that the garrisons of
those cities have rallied round his eagles by now."

Then whilst Emery paused for breath de Marmont queried eagerly:

"And so . . . there has been no contretemps?"

"Nothing serious so far," replied the other. "We had to abandon our guns
at Grasse, the Emperor felt that they would impede the rapidity of his
progress; and our second day's march was rather trying, the mountain
passes were covered in snow, the lancers had to lead their horses
sometimes along the edge of sheer precipices, they were hampered too by
their accoutrements, their long swords and their lances; others--who had
no mounts--had to carry their heavy saddles and bridles on those
slippery paths. But _he_ was walking too, stick in hand, losing his
footing now and then, just as they did, and once he nearly rolled down
one of those cursed precipices: but always smiling, always cheerful,
always full of hope. At Antibes young Casabianca got himself arrested
with twenty grenadiers--they had gone into the town to requisition a few
provisions. When the news reached us some of the younger men tried to
persuade the Emperor to march on the city and carry the place by force
of arms before Casabianca's misfortune got bruited abroad: 'No!' he
said, 'every minute is precious. All we can do is to get along faster
than the evil news can travel. If half my small army were captive at
Antibes, I would still move on. If every man were a prisoner in the
citadel, I would march on alone.' That's the man, my friends," cried
Emery with ever-growing enthusiasm, "that's our Emperor!"

And he cast a defiant look on Clyffurde, as much as to say: "Bring on
your Wellington and your armies now! the Emperor has come back! the
whole of France will know how to guard him!" Then he turned to de
Marmont.

"And now tell me about Grenoble," he said.

"Grenoble had an inkling of the news already last night," said de
Marmont, whose enthusiasm was no whit cooler than that of Emery.
"Marchand has been secretly assembling his troops, he has sent to
Chambéry for the 7th and 11th regiment of the line and to Vienne for the
4th Hussars. Inside Grenoble he has the 5th infantry regiment, the 4th
of artillery and 3rd of engineers, with a train squadron. This morning
he is holding a council of war, and I know that he has been in constant
communication with Masséna. The news is gradually filtering through into
the town: people stand at the street corners and whisper among
themselves; the word 'l'Empereur' seemed wafted upon this morning's
breeze. . . ."

"And by to-night we'll have the Emperor's proclamation to his people
pinned up on the walls of the Hôtel de Ville!" exclaimed Emery, and with
hands still trembling with excitement he gathered the precious papers
once more together and slipped them back into his coat pocket. Then he
made a visible effort to speak more quietly: "And now," he said, "for
one very important matter which, by the way, was the chief reason for my
asking you, my good de Marmont, to meet me here before my getting to
Grenoble."

"Yes? What is it?" queried de Marmont eagerly.

Surgeon-Captain Emery leaned across the table; instinctively he dropped
his voice, and though his excitement had not abated one jot, though his
eyes still glowed and his hands still fidgeted nervously, he had forced
himself at last to a semblance of calm.

"The matter is one of money," he said slowly. "The Emperor has some
funds at his disposal, but as you know, that scurvy government of the
Restoration never handed him over one single sou of the yearly revenue
which it had solemnly agreed and sworn to pay to him with regularity.
Now, of course," he continued still more emphatically, "we who believe
in our Emperor as we believe in God, we are absolutely convinced that
the army will rally round him to a man. The army loves him and has
never ceased to love him, the army will follow him to victory and to
death. But the most loyal army in the world cannot subsist without
money, and the Emperor has little or none. The news of his triumphant
march across France will reach Paris long before he does, it will enable
His Most Excellent and Most Corpulent Majesty King Louis to skip over to
England or to Ghent with everything in the treasury on which he can lay
his august hands. Now, de Marmont, do you perceive what the serious
matter is which caused me to meet you here--twenty-five kilomètres from
Grenoble, where I ought to be at the present moment."

"Yes! I do perceive very grave trouble there," said de Marmont with
characteristic insouciance, "but one which need not greatly worry the
Emperor. I am rich, thank God! and . . ."

"And may God bless you, my dear de Marmont, for the thought," broke in
Emery earnestly, "but what may be called a large private fortune is as
nothing before the needs of an army. Soon, of course, the Emperor will
be in peaceful possession of his throne and will have all the resources
of France at his command, but before that happy time arrives there will
be much fighting, and many days--weeks perhaps--of anxiety to go
through. During those weeks the army must be paid and fed; and your
private fortune, my dear de Marmont, would--even if the Emperor were to
accept your sacrifice, which is not likely--be but as a drop in the
mighty ocean of the cost of a campaign. What are two or even three
millions, my poor, dear friend? It is forty, fifty millions that the
Emperor wants."

De Marmont this time had nothing to say. He was staring moodily and
silently before him.

"Now, that is what I have come to talk to you about," continued Emery
after a few seconds' pause, during which he had once more thrown a
quick, half-suspicious glance on the impassive, though obviously
interested face of the Englishman, "always supposing that Monsieur here
is on our side."

"Neither on your side nor on the other, Captain," said Bobby Clyffurde
with a slight tone of impatience. "I am a mere tradesman, as I have had
the honour to tell you: a spectator at this game of political conflicts.
M. de Marmont knows this well, else he had not asked me to accompany him
to-day nor offered me a mount to enable me to do so. But if you prefer
it," he added lightly, "I can go for a stroll while you discuss these
graver matters."

He would have risen from the table only that Emery immediately detained
him.

"No offence, Sir," said the surgeon-captain bluntly.

"None, I give you my word," assented the Englishman. "It is only natural
that you should wish to discuss such grave matters in private. Let me go
and see to our _déjeuner_ in the meanwhile. I feel sure that the
fricandeau is done to a turn by now. I'll have it dished up in ten
minutes. I pray you take no heed of me," he added in response to
murmured protestations from both de Marmont and Emery. "I would much
prefer to know nothing of these grave matters which you are about to
discuss."

This time Emery did not detain him as he rose and turned to go within in
order to find mine host or Annette. The two Frenchmen took no further
heed of him: wrapped up in the all engrossing subject-matter they
remained seated at the table, leaning across it, their faces close to
one another, their eyes dancing with excitement, questions and
answers--as soon as the stranger's back was turned--already tumbling out
in confusion from their lips.

Clyffurde turned to have a last look at them before he went into the
house, and while he did so his habitual, pleasant, gently-ironical smile
still hovered round his lips. But anon a quickly-suppressed sigh chased
the smile away, and over his face there crept a strange shadow--a look
of longing and of bitter regret.

It was only for a moment, however, the next he had passed his hand
slowly across his forehead, as if to wipe away that shadow and smooth
out those lines of unspoken pain.

Soon his cheerful voice was heard, echoing along the low rafters of the
little inn, loudly calling for Annette and for news of the baked
omelette and the fricandeau.


V

"You really could have talked quite freely before Mr. Clyffurde, my good
Emery," said de Marmont as soon as Bobby had disappeared inside the inn.
"He really takes no part in politics. He is a friend alike of the Comte
de Cambray and of glovemaker Dumoulin. He has visited our Bonapartist
Club. Dumoulin has vouched for him. You see, he is not a fighting man."

"I suppose that you are equally sure that he is not an English spy,"
remarked Emery drily.

"Of course I am sure," asserted de Marmont emphatically. "Dumoulin has
known him for years in business, though this is the first time that
Clyffurde has visited Grenoble. He is in the glove trade in England: his
interests are purely commercial. He came here with introductions to the
Comte de Cambray from a mutual friend in England who seems to be a
personage of vast importance in his own country and greatly esteemed by
the Comte--else you may be sure that that stiff-necked aristocrat would
never have received a tradesman as a guest in his house. But it was in
Dumoulin's house that I first met Bobby Clyffurde. We took a liking to
one another, and since then have ridden a great deal together. He is a
splendid horseman, and I was very glad to be able to offer him a mount
at different times. But our political conversations have never been
very heated or very serious. Clyffurde maintains a detached impersonal
attitude both to the Bonapartist and the royalist cause. I asked him to
accompany me this morning and he gladly consented, for he dearly loves a
horse. I assure you, you might have said anything before him."

"_Eh bien!_ I'm sorry if I've been obstinate and ungracious," said the
surgeon-captain, but in a tone that obviously belied his words, "though,
frankly, I am very glad that we are alone for the moment."

He paused, and with a wave of his thick, short-fingered hand he
dismissed this less important subject-matter and once more spoke with
his wonted eagerness on that which lay nearest his heart.

"Now listen, my good de Marmont," he said, "do you recollect last April
when the Empress--poor wretched, misguided woman--fled so precipitately
from Paris, abandoning the capital, France and her crown at one and the
same time, and taking away with her all the Crown diamonds and money and
treasure belonging to the Emperor? She was terribly ill-advised, of
course, but . . ."

"Yes, I remember all that perfectly well," broke in de Marmont
impatiently.

"Well, then, you know that that abominable Talleyrand sent one of his
emissaries after the Empress and her suite . . . that this
emissary--Dudon was his name--reached Orleans just before Marie Louise
herself got there. . . ."

"And that he ordered, in Talleyrand's name, the seizure of the Empress'
convoy as soon as it arrived in the city," broke in de Marmont again.
"Yes. I recollect that abominable outrage perfectly. Dudon, backed by
the officers of the gendarmerie, managed to rob the Empress of
everything she had, even to the last knife and fork, even to the last
pocket handkerchief belonging to the Emperor and marked with his
initials. Oh! it was monstrous! hellish! devilish! It makes my blood
boil whenever I think of it . . . whenever I think of those fatuous,
treacherous Bourbons gloating over those treasures at the Tuileries,
while our Empress went her way as effectually despoiled as if she had
been waylaid by so many brigands on a public highway."

"Just so," resumed Emery quietly after de Marmont's violent storm of
wrath had subsided. "But I don't know if you also recollect that when
the various cases containing the Emperor's belongings were opened at the
Tuileries, there was just as much disappointment as gloating. Some of
those fatuous Bourbons--as you so rightly call them--expected to find
some forty or fifty millions of the Emperor's personal savings
there--bank-notes and drafts on the banks of France, of England and of
Amsterdam, which they were looking forward to distributing among
themselves and their friends. Your friend the Comte de Cambray would no
doubt have come in too for his share in this distribution. But M. de
Talleyrand is a very wise man! always far-seeing, he knows the
improvidence, the prodigality, the ostentation of these new masters whom
he is so ready to serve. Ere Dudon reached Paris with his booty, M. de
Talleyrand had very carefully eliminated therefrom some five and twenty
million francs in bank-notes and bankers' drafts, which he felt would
come in very usefully once for a rainy day."

"But M. de Talleyrand is immensely rich himself," protested de Marmont.

"Ah! he did not eliminate those five and twenty millions for his own
benefit," said Emery. "I would not so boldly accuse him of theft. The
money has been carefully put away by M. de Talleyrand for the use of His
Corpulent Majesty Louis de Bourbon, XVIIIth of that name."

Then as Emery here made a dramatic pause and looked triumphantly across
at his companion, de Marmont rejoined somewhat bewildered:

"But . . . I don't understand . . ."

"Why I am telling you this?" retorted Emery, still with that triumphant
air. "You shall understand in a moment, my friend, when I tell you that
those five and twenty millions were never taken north to Paris, they
were conveyed in strict secrecy south to Grenoble!"

"To Grenoble?" exclaimed de Marmont.

"To Grenoble," reasserted Emery.

"But why? . . . why such a long way?--why Grenoble?" queried the young
man in obvious puzzlement.

"For several reasons," replied Emery. "Firstly both the préfet of the
department and the military commandant are hot royalists, whilst the
province of Dauphiné is not. In case of any army corps being sent down
there to quell possible and probable revolt, the money would have been
there to hand: also, if you remember, there was talk at the time of the
King of Naples proving troublesome. There, too, in case of a campaign on
the frontier, the money lying ready to hand at Grenoble could prove very
useful. But of course I cannot possibly pretend to give you all the
reasons which actuated M. de Talleyrand when he caused five and twenty
millions of stolen money to be conveyed secretly to Grenoble rather than
to Paris. His ways are more tortuous than any mere army-surgeon can
possibly hope to gauge. Enough that he did it and that at this very
moment there are five and twenty millions which are the rightful
property of the Emperor locked up in the cellars of the Hôtel de Ville
at Grenoble."

"But . . ." murmured de Marmont, who still seemed very bewildered at all
that he had heard, "are you sure?"

"Quite sure," affirmed Emery emphatically. "Dumoulin brought news of it
to the Emperor at Elba several months ago, and you know that he and his
Bonapartist Club always have plenty of spies in and around the
préfecture. The money is there," he reiterated with still greater
emphasis, "now the question is how are we going to get hold of it."

"Easily," rejoined de Marmont with his habitual enthusiasm, "when the
Emperor marches into Grenoble and the whole of the garrison rallies
around him, he can go straight to the Hôtel de Ville and take everything
that he wants."

"Always supposing that M. le préfet does not anticipate the Emperor's
coming by conveying the money to Paris or elsewhere before we can get
hold of it," quoth Emery drily.

"Oh! Fourier is not sufficiently astute for that."

"Perhaps not. But we must not neglect possibilities. That money would be
a perfect godsend to the Emperor. It was originally his too, _par Dieu!_
Anyhow, my good de Marmont, that is what I wanted to talk over quietly
with you before I get into Grenoble. Can you think of any means of
getting hold of that money in case Fourier has the notion of conveying
it to some other place of safety?"

"I would like to think that over, Emery," said de Marmont thoughtfully.
"As you say, we of the Bonapartist Club at Grenoble have spies inside
the Hôtel de Ville. We must try and find out what Fourier means to do as
soon as he realises that the Emperor is marching on Grenoble: and then
we must act accordingly and trust to luck and good fortune."

"And to the Emperor's star," rejoined Emery earnestly; "it is once more
in the ascendant. But the matter of the money is a serious one, de
Marmont. You will deal with it seriously?"

"Seriously!" ejaculated de Marmont.

Once more the unquenchable fire of undying devotion to his hero glowed
in the young man's eyes.

"Everything pertaining to the Emperor," he said fervently, "is serious
to me. For a whim of his I would lay down my life. I will think of all
you have told me, Emery, and here, beneath the blue dome of God's sky,
I swear that I will get the Emperor the money that he wants or lose mine
honour and my life in the attempt.

"Amen to that," rejoined Emery with a deep sigh of satisfaction. "You
are a brave man, de Marmont, would to heaven every Frenchman was like
you. And now," he added with sudden transition to a lighter mood, "let
Annette dish up the fricandeau. Here's our friend the tradesman, who was
born to be a soldier. M. Clyffurde," he added loudly, calling to the
Englishman who had just appeared in the doorway of the inn, "my grateful
thanks to you--not only for your courtesy, but for expediting that
delicious _déjeuner_ which tickles my appetite so pleasantly. I pray you
sit down without delay. I shall have to make an early start after the
meal, as I must be inside Grenoble before dark."

Clyffurde, good-humoured, genial, quiet as usual, quickly responded to
the surgeon-captain's desire. He took his seat once more at the table
and spoke of the weather and the sunshine, the Alps and the snows the
while Annette spread a cloth and laid plates and knives and forks before
the distinguished gentlemen.

"We all want to make an early start, eh, my dear Clyffurde?" ejaculated
de Marmont gaily. "We have serious business to transact this night with
M. le Comte de Cambray, and partake too of his gracious hospitality,
what?"

Emery laughed.

"Not I forsooth," he said. "M. le Comte would as soon have Satan or
Beelzebub inside his doors. And I marvel, my good de Marmont, that you
have succeeded in keeping on such friendly terms with that royalist
ogre."

"I?" said de Marmont, whose inward exultation radiated from his entire
personality, "I, my dear Emery? Did you not know that I am that royalist
ogre's future son-in-law? _Par Dieu!_ but this is a glorious day for me
as well as a glorious day for France! Emery, dear friend, wish me joy
and happiness. On Tuesday I wed Mademoiselle Crystal de
Cambray--to-night we sign our marriage contract! Wish me joy, I say!
she's a bride well worth the winning! Napoleon sets forth to conquer a
throne--I to conquer love. And you, old sober-face, do not look so
glum!" he added, turning to Clyffurde.

And his ringing laugh seemed to echo from end to end of the narrow
valley.

After which a lighter atmosphere hung around the table outside the
"Auberge du Grand Dauphin." There was but little talk of the political
situation, still less of party hatred and caste prejudices. The hero's
name was still on the lips of the two men who worshipped him, and
Clyffurde, faithful to his attitude of detachment from political
conflicts, listened quite unmoved to the impassioned dithyrambs of his
friends.

But so absorbed were these two in their conversation and their joy that
they failed to notice that Clyffurde hardly touched the excellent
_déjeuner_ set before him and left mine host's fine Burgundy almost
untasted.




CHAPTER II

THE OLD REGIME


I

On that same day and at about the same time when Victor de Marmont and
his English friend first turned their horses up the bridle path and
sighted Notre Dame de Vaulx (when, if you remember, the young Frenchman
drew rein and fell to apostrophising the hamlet, the day, the hour and
the glorious news which he was expecting to hear) at about that
self-same hour, I say, in the Château de Brestalou, situate on the right
bank of the Isère at a couple of kilomètres from Grenoble, the big
folding doors of solid mahogany which lead from the suite of vast
reception rooms to the small boudoir beyond were thrown open and Hector
appeared to announce that M. le Comte de Cambray would be ready to
receive Mme. la Duchesse in the library in a quarter of an hour.

Mme. la Duchesse douairière d'Agen thereupon closed the gilt-edged,
much-bethumbed Missal which she was reading--since this was Sunday and
she had been unable to attend Mass owing to that severe twinge of
rheumatism in her right knee--and placed it upon the table close to her
elbow; then with delicate, bemittened hand she smoothed out one unruly
crease in her puce silk gown and finally looked up through her round,
bone-rimmed spectacles at the sober-visaged, majestic personage who
stood at attention in the doorway.

"Tell M. le Comte, my good Hector," she said with slow deliberation,
"that I will be with him at the time which he has so graciously
appointed."

Hector bowed himself out of the room with that perfect decorum which
proclaims the well-trained domestic of an aristocratic house. As soon as
the tall mahogany doors were closed behind him, Mme. la Duchesse took
her spectacles off from her high-bred nose and gave a little sniff,
which caused Mademoiselle Crystal to look up from her book and mutely to
question Madame with those wonderful blue eyes of hers.

"Ah ça, my little Crystal," was Madame's tart response to that eloquent
enquiry, "does Monsieur my brother imagine himself to be a second
Bourbon king, throning it in the Tuileries and granting audiences to the
ladies of his court? or is it only for my edification that he plays this
magnificent game of etiquette and ceremonial and other stupid
paraphernalia which have set me wondering since last night? M. le Comte
will receive Mme. la Duchesse in a quarter of an hour forsooth," she
added, mimicking Hector's pompous manner; "_par Dieu!_ I should think
indeed that he would receive his own sister when and where it suited her
convenience--not his."

Crystal was silent for a moment or two: and in those same expressive
eyes which she kept fixed on Madame's face, the look of mute enquiry had
become more insistent. It almost seemed as if she were trying to
penetrate the underlying thoughts of the older woman, as if she tried to
read all that there was in that kindly glance of hidden sarcasm, of
humour or tolerance, or of gentle contempt. Evidently what she read in
the wrinkled face and the twinkling eyes pleased and reassured her, for
now the suspicion of a smile found its way round the corners of her
sensitive mouth.

There are some very old people living in Grenoble at the present day
whose mothers or fathers have told them that they remembered
Mademoiselle Crystal de Cambray quite well in the year that M. le Comte
returned from England and once more took possession of his ancestral
home on the bank of the Isère, which those awful Terrorists of '92 had
taken away from him. Louis XVIII., the Benevolent king, had promptly
restored the old château to its rightful owner, when he himself, after
years of exile, mounted the throne of his fathers, and the usurper
Bonaparte was driven out of France by the armies of Europe allied
against him, and sent to cool his ambitions in the island fastnesses of
Elba.

Mademoiselle de Cambray was just nineteen in that year 1814 which was so
full of grace for the Bourbon dynasty and all its faithful adherents,
and in February of the following year she attained her twentieth
birthday. Of course you know that she was born in England, and that her
mother was English, for had not M. le Comte been obliged to fly before
the fury of the Terrorists, whose dreaded Committee of Public Safety had
already arrested him as a "suspect" and condemned him to the guillotine.
He had contrived to escape death by what was nothing short of a miracle,
and he had lived for twenty years in England, and there had married a
beautiful English girl from whom Mademoiselle Crystal had inherited the
deep blue eyes and brilliant skin which were the greatest charm of her
effulgent beauty.

I like to think of her just as she was on that memorable day early in
March of the year 1815--just as she sat that morning on a low stool
close to Mme. la Duchesse's high-backed chair, and with her eyes fixed
so enquiringly upon Madame's kind old face. Her fair hair was done up in
the quaint loops and curls which characterised the mode of the moment:
she had on a white dress cut low at the neck and had wrapped a soft
cashmere shawl round her shoulders, for the weather was cold and there
was no fire in the stately open hearth.

Having presumably arrived at the happy conclusion that Madame's wrath
was only on the surface, Crystal now said gently:

"Father loves all this etiquette, _ma tante_; it brings back memories of
a very happy past. It is the only thing he has left now," she added with
a little sigh, "the only bit out of the past which that awful revolution
could not take away from him. You will try to be indulgent to him, aunt
darling, won't you?"

"Indulgent?" retorted the old lady with a shrug of her shoulders, "of
course I'll be indulgent. It's no affair of mine and he does as he
pleases. But I should have thought that twenty years spent in England
would have taught him commonsense, and twenty years' experience in
earning a precarious livelihood as a teacher of languages in . . ."

"Hush, aunt, for pity's sake," broke in Crystal hurriedly, and she put
up her hands almost as if she wished to stop the words in the old lady's
mouth.

"All right! all right! I won't mention it again," said Mme. la Duchesse
good-humouredly. "I have only been in this house four and twenty hours,
my dear child, but I have already learned my lesson. I know that the
memory of the past twenty years must be blotted right out of our
minds--out of the minds of every one of us. . . ."

"Not of mine, aunt, altogether," murmured Crystal softly.

"No, my dear--not altogether," rejoined Mme. la Duchesse as she placed
one of her fine white hands on the fair head of her niece; "your
beautiful mother belongs to the unforgettable memories, of those twenty
years. . . ."

"And not only my beautiful mother, aunt dear. There are men living in
England to-day whose names must remain for ever engraved upon my
father's heart, as well as on mine--if we should ever forget those
names and neglect for one single day our prayers of gratitude for their
welfare and their reward, we should be the meanest and blackest of
ingrates."

"Ah!" said Madame, "I am glad that Monsieur my brother remembers all
that in the midst of his restored grandeur."

"Have you been wronging him in your heart all this while, _ma tante_?"
asked Crystal, and there was a slight tone of reproach in her voices
"you used not to be so cynical once upon a time."

"Cynical!" exclaimed the Duchesse, "bless the child's heart! Of course I
am cynical--at my age what can you expect?--and what can I expect? But
there, don't distress yourself, I am not wronging your father--far from
it--only this grandeur--the state dinner last night--his gracious
manner--all that upset me. I am not used to it, my dear, you see. Twenty
years in that diminutive house in Worcester have altered my tastes, I
see, more than they did your father's . . . and these last ten months
which he seems to have spent in reviving the old grandeur of his
ancestral home, I spent, remember, with the dear little Sisters of Mercy
at Boulogne, praying amidst very humble surroundings that the future may
not become more unendurable than the past."

"But you are glad to be back at Brestalou again? and you _will_ remain
here with us--always?" queried Crystal, and with tender eagerness she
clasped the older woman's hands closely in her own.

"Yes, dear," replied Madame gently. "I am glad to be back in the old
château--my dear old home--where I was very happy and very young
once--oh, so very long ago! And I will remain with your father and look
after him all the time that his young bird is absent from the nest."

Again she stroked her niece's soft, wavy hair with a gesture which
apparently was habitual with her, and it seemed as if a note of sadness
had crept into her brisk, sharp voice. Over Crystal's cheeks a wave of
crimson had quickly swept at her aunt's last words: and the eyes which
she now raised to Madame's kindly face were full of tears.

"It seems so terribly soon now, _ma tante_," she said wistfully.

"Hm, yes!" quoth Mme. la Duchesse drily, "time has a knack now and then
of flying faster than we wish. Well, my dear, so long as this day brings
you happiness, the old folk who stay at home have no right to grumble."

Then as Crystal made no reply and held her little head resolutely away,
Madame said more insistently:

"You are happy, Crystal, are you not?"

"Of course I am happy, _ma tante_," replied Crystal quickly, "why should
you ask?"

But still she would not look straight into Madame's eyes, and the tone
of Madame's voice sounded anything but satisfied.

"Well!" she said, "I ask, I suppose, because I want an answer . . . a
satisfactory answer."

"You have had it, _ma tante_, have you not?"

"Yes, my dear. If you are happy, I am satisfied. But last night it
seemed to me as if your ideas of your own happiness and those of your
father on the same subject were somewhat at variance, eh?"

"Oh no, _ma tante_," rejoined Crystal quietly, "father and I are quite
of one mind on that subject."

"But your heart is pulling a different way, is that it?"

Then as Crystal once more relapsed into silence and two hot tears
dropped on the Duchesse's wrinkled hands, the old woman added softly:

"St. Genis, who hasn't a sou, was out of the question, I suppose."

Crystal shook her head in silence.

"And that young de Marmont is very rich?"

"He is his uncle's heir," murmured Crystal.

"And you, child, are marrying a kinsman of that abominable Duc de Raguse
in order to regild our family escutcheon."

"My father wished it so very earnestly," rejoined Crystal, who was
bravely swallowing her tears, "and I could not bear to run counter to
his desire. The Duc de Raguse has promised father that when I am a de
Marmont he will buy back all the forfeited Cambray estates and restore
them to us: Victor will be allowed to take up the name of Cambray and
. . . and . . . Oh!" she exclaimed passionately, "father has had such a
hard life, so much sorrow, so many disappointments, and now this poverty
is so horribly grinding. . . . I couldn't have the heart to disappoint
him in this!"

"You are a good child, Crystal," said Madame gently, "and no doubt
Victor de Marmont will prove a good husband to you. But I wish he wasn't
a Marmont, that's all."

But this remark, delivered in the old lady's most uncompromising manner,
brought forth a hot protest from Crystal:

"Why, aunt," she said, "the Duc de Raguse is the most faithful servant
the king could possibly wish to have. It was he and no one else who
delivered Paris to the allies and thus brought about the downfall of
Bonaparte, and the restoration of our dear King Louis to the throne of
France."

"Tush, child, I know that," said Madame with her habitual tartness of
speech, "I know it just as well as history will know it presently, and
methinks that history will pass on the Duc de Raguse just about the same
judgment as I passed on him in my heart last year. God knows I hate that
Bonaparte as much as anyone, and our Bourbon kings are almost as much a
part of my religion as is the hierarchy of saints, but a traitor like
de Marmont I cannot stomach. What was he before Bonaparte made him a
marshal of France and created him Duc de Raguse?--An out-at-elbows
ragamuffin in the ranks of the republican army. To Bonaparte he owed
everything, title, money, consideration, even the military talents which
gave him the power to turn on the hand that had fed him. Delivered Paris
to the allies indeed!" continued the Duchesse with ever-increasing
indignation and volubility, "betrayed Bonaparte, then licked the boots
of the Czar of Russia, of the Emperor, of King Louis, of all the deadly
enemies of the man to whom he owed his very existence. Pouah! I hate
Bonaparte, but men like Ney and Berthier and de Marmont sicken me! Thank
God that even in his life-time, de Marmont, Duc de Raguse, has already
an inkling of what posterity will say of him. Has not the French
language been enriched since the capitulation of Paris with a new word
that henceforth and for all times will always spell disloyalty: and
to-day when we wish to describe a particularly loathsome type of
treachery, do we not already speak of a 'ragusade'?"

Crystal had listened in silence to her aunt's impassioned tirade. Now
when Madame paused--presumably for want of breath--she said gently:

"That is all quite true, _ma tante_, but I am afraid that father would
not altogether see eye to eye with you in this. After all," she added
naively, "a pagan may become converted to Christianity without being
called a traitor to his false gods, and the Duc de Raguse may have
learnt to hate the idol whom he once worshipped, and for this profession
of faith we should honour him, I think."

"Yes," grunted Madame, unconvinced, "but we need not marry into his
family."

"But in any case," retorted Crystal, "poor Victor cannot help what his
uncle did."

"No, he cannot," assented the Duchesse decisively, "and he is very rich
and he loves you, and as your husband he will own all the old Cambray
estates which his uncle of ragusade fame will buy up for him, and
presently your son, my darling, will be Comte de Cambray, just as if
that awful revolution and all that robbing and spoliation had never
been. And of course everything will be for the best in the best possible
world, if only," concluded the old lady with a sigh, "if only I thought
that you would be happy."

Crystal took care not to meet Madame's kindly glance just then, for of a
surety the tears would have rushed in a stream to her eyes. But she
would not give way to any access of self-pity: she had chosen her part
in life and this she meant to play loyally, without regret and without
murmur.

"But of course, _ma tante_, I shall be happy," she said after a while;
"as you say, M. de Marmont is very kind and good and I know that father
will be happy when Brestalou and Cambray and all the old lands are once
more united in his name. Then he will be able to do something really
great and good for the King and for France . . . and I too, perhaps.
. . ."

"You, my poor darling!" exclaimed Madame, "what can you do, I should
like to know."

A curious, dreamy look came into the girl's eyes, just as if a
foreknowledge of the drama in which she was so soon destined to play the
chief _rôle_ had suddenly appeared to her through the cloudy and distant
veils of futurity.

"I don't know, _ma tante_," she said slowly, "but somehow I have always
felt that one day I might be called upon to do something for France.
There are times when that feeling becomes so strong that all thoughts of
myself and of my own happiness fade from my knowledge, and it seems as
if my duty to France and to the King were more insistent than my duty to
God."

"Poor France!" sighed Madame.

"Yes! that is just what I feel, _ma tante_. Poor France! She has
suffered so much more than we have, and she has regained so much less!
Enemies still lurk around her; the prowling wolf is still at her gate:
even the throne of her king is still insecure! Poor, poor France! our
country, _ma tante_! she should be our pride, our glory, and she is weak
and torn and beset by treachery! Oh, if only I could do something for
France and for the King I would count myself the happiest woman on God's
earth."

Now she was a woman transformed. She seemed taller and stronger. Her
girlishness, too, had vanished. Her cheeks burned, her eyes glowed, her
breath came and went rapidly through her quivering nostrils. Mme. la
Duchesse d'Agen looked down on her niece with naive admiration.

"_Hé_ my little Joan of Arc!" she said merrily, "_par Dieu_, your
eloquence, _ma mignonne_, has warmed up my old heart too. But, please
God, our dear old country will not have need of heroism again."

"I am not so sure of that, _ma tante_."

"You are thinking of that ugly rumour which was current in Grenoble
yesterday."

"Yes!"

"If that Corsican brigand dares to set his foot again upon this land
. . ." began the old lady vehemently.

"Let him come, _ma tante_," broke in Crystal exultantly, "we are ready
for him. Let him come, and this time when God has punished him again, it
won't be to Elba that he will be sent to expiate his villainies!"

"Amen to that, my child," concluded Madame fervently. "And now, my dear,
don't let me forget the hour of my audience. Hector will be back in a
moment or two, and I must not lose any more time gossiping. But before I
go, little one, will you tell me one thing?"

"Of course I will, _ma tante_."

"Quite frankly?"

"Absolutely."

"Well then, I want to know . . . about that English friend of yours.
. . ."

"Mr. Clyffurde, you mean?" asked Crystal. "What about him?"

"I want to know, my dear, what I ought to make of this Mr. Clyffurde."

Crystal laughed lightly, and looked up with astonished, inquiring,
wide-open eyes to her aunt.

"What should you want to make of him, _ma tante_?" she asked, wholly
unperturbed under the scrutinising gaze of Madame.

"Nothing," said the Duchesse abruptly. "I have had my answer, thank you,
dear."

Evidently she had no intention of satisfying the girl's obvious
curiosity, for she suddenly rose from her chair, gathered her lace shawl
round her shoulders, and said with abrupt transition:

"The hour for my audience is at hand. Not one minute must I keep my
august brother waiting. I can hear Hector's footsteps in the corridor,
and I will not have him see me in a fluster."

Crystal looked as if she would have liked to question Madame a little
more closely about her former cryptic utterance, but there was something
in the sarcastic twinkle of those sharp eyes which caused the young girl
to refrain from too many questions, and--very wisely--she decided to
hold her peace.

Madame la Duchesse threw a quick glance into the gilt-framed mirror
close by. She smoothed a stray wisp of hair which had escaped from under
her lace cap: she gave a tug to her fichu and a pat to her skirts. Then,
as the folding doors were once more thrown open, and Hector--stiff,
solemn and pompous--appeared under the lintel, Madame threw back her
head in the grand manner pertaining to the old days at Versailles.

"Precede me, Hector," she said with consummate dignity, "to M. le
Comte's audience chamber."

And with hands folded before her, her aristocratic head very erect, her
mouth and eyes composed to reposeful majesty, she sailed out through the
mahogany doors in a style which no one who had never curtsied to the
Bien-aimé Monarque could possibly hope to imitate.


II

For some little while after her aunt had sailed out of the room Crystal
remained where she was sitting on the low stool beside the high-backed
chair just vacated by the Duchess.

Her eyes were still glowing with the enthusiasm which had excited the
admiration of the older woman a while ago, and the high colour in her
cheeks, the tremor of her nostrils showed that that same enthusiasm
still kept her nerves on the quiver and caused the young, hot blood to
course swiftly through her veins.

But something of the lightness of her mood had vanished, something of
the exultant joy of the heroine had given place to the calmer
resignation of the potential martyr. Gradually the colour faded from her
cheeks, the light died slowly out of her eyes, and the young fair head
so lately tossed triumphantly in the ardour of patriotism sunk gradually
upon the still heaving breast.

Crystal was alone, and she was not ashamed to let the tears well up to
her eyes. Despite her proud profession of faith the insistent longing
for happiness, which is the inalienable share of youth, knocked at the
portals of her heart.

Not even to the devoted aunt who had brought her up, who had known her
every childish sorrow and gleaned her every childish tear, not even to
her would she show what it cost her to sink her individuality, her
longings, her hopes of happiness into that overwhelming sense of duty to
her father's wishes and to the demands of her name, her country and her
caste.

She had repeated it to herself often and often that her father had
suffered so much for the sake of his convictions, had endured poverty
and exile where opportunism would have dictated submission to the
usurper Bonaparte and the acceptance of riches and honours at his hands,
he had remained loyal in his beliefs, steadfast to his King through
twenty years of misery, akin to squalor, the remembrance of which would
for ever darken the rest of his life, but he had endured all that
without bitterness, scarcely without a murmur. And now that twenty years
of self-abnegation were at last finding their reward, now that the King
had come into his own, and the King's faithful friends were being
compensated in accordance with the length of the King's purse, would it
not be arrant cowardice and disloyalty for her--an only child--to oppose
her father's will in the ordering of her own future, to refuse the rich
marriage which would help to restore dignity and grandeur to the ancient
name and to the old home?

Crystal de Cambray was born in England: she had lived the whole of her
life in a small provincial town in this country. But she had been
brought up by her aunt, the Duchesse douairière d'Agen, and through that
upbringing she had been made to imbibe from her earliest childhood all
the principles of the old regime. These principles consisted chiefly of
implicit obedience by the children to the parents' decrees anent
marriage, of blind worship of the dignity of station, and of duty to
name and caste, to king and country.

The thought would never have entered Crystal's head that she could have
the right to order her own future, or to demand from life her own
special brand of happiness.

Now her fate had been finally decided on by her father, and she was on
the point of taking--at his wish--the irrevocable step which would bind
her for ever to a man whom she could never love. But she did not think
of rebellion, she had no thought of grumbling at Fate or at her father:
Crystal de Cambray had English blood in her veins, the blood that makes
men and women accept the inevitable with set teeth and a determination
to do the right thing even if it hurts. Crystal, therefore, had no
thought of rebellion; she only felt an infinity of regret for something
sweet and intangible which she had hardly realised, hardly expected,
which had been too elusive to be called hope, too remote to be termed
happiness. She gave herself the luxury of this short outburst of
tears--since nobody was near and nobody could see: there was a fearful
pain in her heart while she rested her head against the cushion of the
stiff high-backed chair and cried till it seemed that she never could
cry again whatever sorrow life might still have in store for her.

But when that outburst of grief had subsided she dried her eyes
resolutely, rose to her feet, arranged her hair in front of the mirror,
and feeling that her eyes were hot and her head heavy, she turned to the
tall French window, opened it and stepped out into the garden.


It had suffered from years of neglect, the shrubs grew rank and stalky,
the paths were covered with weeds, but there was a slight feeling of
spring in the air, the bare branches of the trees seemed swollen with
the rising sap, and upon the edge of the terrace balustrade a
red-breasted robin cocked its mischievous little eye upon her.

At the bottom of the garden there was a fine row of ilex, with here and
there a stone seat, and in the centre an old stone fountain moss-covered
and overshadowed by the hanging boughs of the huge, melancholy trees.
Crystal was very fond of this avenue; she liked to sit and watch the
play of sunshine upon the stone of the fountain: the melancholy quietude
of the place suited her present mood. It was so strange to look on these
big evergreen trees and on the havoc caused by weeds and weather on the
fine carving of the fountain, and to think of their going on here year
after year for the past twenty years, while that hideous revolution had
devastated the whole country, while men had murdered each other,
slaughtered women and children and committed every crime and every
infamy which lust of hate and revenge can engender in the hearts of men.
The old trees and the stone fountain had remained peaceful and still the
while, unscathed and undefiled, grand, dignified and majestic, while the
owner of the fine château of the gardens and the fountain and of half
the province around earned a precarious livelihood in a foreign land,
half-starved in wretchedness and exile.

She, Crystal, had never seen them until some ten months ago, when her
father came back into his own, and leading his daughter by the hand, had
taken her on a tour of inspection to show her the magnificence of her
ancestral home. She had loved at once the fine old château with its
lichen-covered walls, its fine portcullis and crenelated towers, she had
wept over the torn tapestries, the broken furniture, the family
portraits which a rough and impious rabble had wilfully damaged, she had
loved the wide sweep of the terrace walls, the views over the Isère and
across the mountain range to the peaks of the Grande Chartreuse, but
above all she had loved this sombre row of ilex trees, the broken
fountain, the hush and peace which always lay over this secluded portion
of the neglected garden.

The earth was moist and soft under her feet, the cheeky robin, curious
after the manner of his kind, had followed her and was flying from seat
to seat ahead of her watching her every movement.

"Crystal!"

At first she thought that it was the wind sighing through the trees, so
softly had her name been spoken, so like a sigh did it seem as it
reached her ears.

"Crystal!"

This time she could not be mistaken, someone had called her name,
someone was walking up the avenue rapidly, behind her. She would not
turn round, for she knew who it was that had called and she would not
allow surprise to resuscitate the outward signs of regret. But she stood
quite still while those hasty footsteps drew nearer, and she made a
great and successful effort to keep back the tears which once more
threatened to fill her eyes.

A minute later she felt herself gently drawn to the nearest stone seat,
and she sank down upon it, still trying very hard to remain calm and
above all not to cry.

"Oh! why, why did you come, Maurice?" she said at last, when she felt
that she could look with some semblance of composure on the
half-sitting, half-kneeling figure of the young man beside her. Despite
her obstinate resistance he had taken her hand in his and was covering
it with kisses.

"Why did you come," she reiterated pleadingly, "you must know that it is
no use. . . ."

"I can't believe it. I won't believe it," he protested passionately.
"Crystal, if you really cared you would not send me away from you."

"If I really cared?" she said dully. "Maurice, sometimes I think that if
_you_ really cared you would not make it so difficult for me. Can't you
see," she added more vehemently, "that every time you come you make me
more wretched, and my duty seem more hard? till sometimes I feel as if I
could not bear it any longer--as if in the struggle my poor heart would
suddenly break."

"And because your father is so heartless . . ." he began vehemently.

"My father is not heartless, Maurice," she broke in firmly, "but you
must try and see for yourself how impossible it was for him to give his
consent to our marriage even if he knew that my happiness was bounded by
your love. . . . Just think it over quietly--if you had a sister who was
all the world to you, would _you_ consent to such a marriage? . . ."

"With a penniless, out-at-elbows, good-for-nothing, you mean?" he said,
with a kind of resentful bitterness. "No! I dare say I should not.
Money!" he cried impetuously as he jumped to his feet, and burying his
hands in the pockets of his breeches he began pacing the path up and
down in front of her. "Money! always money! Always talk of duty and of
obedience . . . always your father and his sorrows and his desires . . .
do I count for nothing, then? Have I not suffered as he has suffered?
did I not live in exile as he did? Have I not made sacrifices for my
king and for my ideals? Why should I suffer in the future as well as in
the past? Why, because my king is powerless or supine in giving me back
what was filched from my father, should that be taken from me which
alone gives me incentive to live . . . you, Crystal," he added as once
again he knelt beside her. He encircled her shoulders with his arms,
then he seized her two hands and covered them with kisses. "You are all
that I want in this world. After all, we can live in poverty . . . we
have been brought up in poverty, you and I . . . and even then it is
only a question of a few years . . . months, perhaps . . . the King must
give us back what that abominable Revolution took from us--from us who
remained loyal to him and because we were loyal. My father owned rich
lands in Burgundy . . . the King must give those back to me . . . he
must . . . he shall . . . he will . . . if only you will be patient,
Crystal . . . if only you will wait. . . ."

The fiery blood of his race had rushed into Maurice de St. Genis' head.
He was talking volubly and at random, but he believed for the moment
everything that he said. Tears of passion and of fervour came to his
eyes and he buried his head in the folds of Crystal's white gown and
heavy sobs shook his bent shoulders. She, moved by that motherly
tenderness which is seldom absent from a good woman's love, stroked with
soothing fingers the matted hair from his hot forehead. For a while she
remained silent while the paroxysm of his passionate revolt spent itself
in tears, then she said quite softly:

"I think, Maurice, that in your heart you do us all an injustice--to me,
to father, to yourself, even to the King. The King cannot give you that
which is not his; your property--like ours--was confiscated by that
awful revolutionary government because your father and mine followed
their king into exile. The rich lands were sold for the benefit of the
nation: the nation presumably has spent the money, but the people who
bought the lands in good faith cannot be dispossessed by our King
without creating bitter ill-feeling against himself, as you well know,
and once more endangering his throne. Those are the facts, Maurice,
against which no hot-blooded argument, no passionate outbursts can
prevail. The King gave my father back this dear old castle, because it
happened to have proved unsaleable, and was still on the nation's hands.
Our rich lands--like yours--can never be restored to us: that hard fact
has been driven into poor father's head for the past ten months, and now
it has gone home at last. These grey walls, this neglected garden, a few
sticks of broken furniture, a handful of money from an over-generous
king's treasury is all that Fate has rescued for him from out the ashes
of the past. My father is every whit as penniless as you are yourself,
Maurice, as penniless as ever he was in England, when he gave French and
drawing lessons to a lot of young ragamuffins in a middle-class school.
But Victor de Marmont is rich, and his money--once I am his wife--will
purchase back all the estates which have been in our family for
hundreds of years. For my father's sake, for the sake of the name which
I bear, I must give my hand to Victor de Marmont, and pray to God that
some semblance of peace, the sense of duty accomplished, will compensate
me for the happiness to which I shall bid good-bye to-day."

"And you are willing to be sold to young de Marmont for the price of a
few acres of land!" retorted Maurice de St. Genis hotly. "Oh! it's
monstrous, Crystal, monstrous! All the more monstrous as you seem quite
unconscious of the iniquity of such a bargain."

"Women of our caste, Maurice," she said in her turn with a touch of
bitterness, "have often before now been sacrificed for the honour of
their name. Men have been accustomed to look to them for help when their
own means of gilding their escutcheons have failed."

"And you are willing, Crystal, to be sold like this?" he insisted.

"My father wishes me to marry Victor de Marmont," she replied with calm
dignity, "and after all that he has suffered for the honour and dignity
of our name, I should deem myself craven and treacherous if I refused to
obey him in this."

Maurice de St. Genis once more rose to his feet. All his vehemence, his
riotous outbreak of rebellion seemed to have been smothered beneath a
pall of dreary despair. His young, good-looking face appeared sombre and
sullen, his restless, dark eyes wandered obstinately from Crystal's fair
bent head to her stooping shoulders, to her hands, to her feet. It
seemed as if he was trying to engrave an image of her upon his turbulent
brain, or that he wished to force her to look on him again before she
spoke the last words of farewell.

But she wouldn't look at him. She kept her head resolutely averted,
looking far out over the undulating lands of Dauphiné and Savoie to
where in the far distant sky the stately Alps reared their snow-crowned
heads. At last, unable to bear her silence any longer, he said dully:

"Then it is your last word, Crystal?"

"You know that it must be, Maurice," she murmured in reply. "My marriage
contract will be signed to-night, and on Tuesday I go to the altar with
Victor de Marmont."

"And you mean to tear your love for me out of your heart?"

"Yes!"

"Were its roots a little deeper, a little stronger, you could not do it,
Crystal. But they are not so deep as those of your love for your
father."

She made no reply . . . perhaps something in her heart told her that
after all he might be right, that, unbeknown to herself even, there were
tendrils of affection in her that bound her, ivylike, and so closely--to
her father that even her girlish love for Maurice de St. Genis--the
first hint of passion that had stirred the smooth depths of her young
heart--could not tear her from that bulwark to which she clung.

"This is the last time that I shall see you, Crystal," said Maurice with
a sigh, seeing that obviously she meant to allow his taunt to pass
unchallenged.

"You are going away?" she asked.

"How can I stay--here, under this roof, where anon--in a few
hours--Victor de Marmont will have claims upon you which, if he
exercised them before me would make me wish to kill him or myself. I
shall leave to-morrow--early . . ." he added more quietly.

"Where will you go?"

"To Paris--or abroad--or the devil, I don't know which," he replied
moodily.

"Father will be sorry if you go?" she murmured under her breath, for
once again the tears were very insistent, and she felt an awful pain in
her heart, because of the misery which she had to inflict upon him.

"Your father has been passing kind to me. He gave me a home when I was
homeless, but it is not fitting that I should trespass any longer upon
his hospitality."

"Have you made any plans?"

"Not yet. But the King will give me a commission. There will be some
fighting now . . . there was a rumour in Grenoble last night that
Bonaparte had landed at Antibes, and was marching on Paris."

"A false rumour as usual, I suppose," she said indifferently.

"Perhaps," he replied.

There was silence between them for awhile after that, silence only
broken by the twitter of birds wakening to the call of spring. The word
"good-bye" remained unspoken: neither of them dared to say it lest it
broke the barrier of their resolve.

"Will you not go now, Maurice?" said Crystal at last in pitiable
pleading, "we only make each other hopelessly wretched, by lingering
near one another after this."

"Yes, I will go, Crystal," he replied, and this time he really forced
his voice to tones of gentleness, although his inward resentment still
bubbled out with every word he spoke, "I wish I could have left this
house altogether--now--at once--but your father would resent it--and he
has been so kind . . . I wish I could go to-day," he reiterated
obstinately, "I dread seeing Victor de Marmont in this house, where the
laws of chivalry forbid my striking him in the face."

"Maurice!" she exclaimed reproachfully.

"Nay! I'll not say it again: I have sufficient reason left in me, I
think, to show these parvenus how we, of the old regime, bear every blow
which fate chooses to deal to us. They have taken everything from us,
these new men--our lives, our lands, our very means of subsistence--now
they have taken to filching our sweethearts--curse them! but at least
let us keep our dignity!"

But again she was silent. What was there to say that had not been
said?--save that unspoken word "good-bye." And he asked very softly:

"May I kiss you for the last time, Crystal?"

"No, Maurice," she replied, "never again."

"You are still free," he urged. "You are not plighted to de Marmont
yet."

"No--not actually--not till to-night. . . ."

"Then . . . mayn't I?"

"No, Maurice," she said decisively.

"Your hand then?"

"If you like." He knelt down close to her; she yielded her hand to him
and he with his usual impulsiveness covered it with kisses into which he
tried to infuse the fervour of a last farewell.

Then without another word he rose to his feet and walked away with a
long and firm stride down the avenue. Crystal watched his retreating
figure until the overhanging branches of the ilex hid him from her view.

She made no attempt now to restrain her tears, they flowed
uninterruptedly down her cheeks and dropped hot and searing upon her
hands. With Maurice's figure disappearing down the dark avenue, with the
echo of his footsteps dying away in the distance, the last chapter of
her first book of romance seemed to be closing with relentless finality.

The afternoon sun was hidden behind a bank of grey clouds, the northeast
wind came whistling insistently through the trees:--even that feeling of
spring in the air had vanished. It was just a bleak grey winter's day
now. Crystal felt herself shivering with cold. She drew her shawl more
closely round her shoulders, then with eyes still wet with tears, but
small head held well erect, she rose to her feet and walked rapidly back
to the house.


III

Madame la Duchesse had in the meanwhile followed Hector along the
corridor and down the finely carved marble staircase. At a monumental
door on the ground floor the man paused, his hand upon the massive
ormolu handle, waiting for Madame la Duchesse to come up.

He felt a little uncomfortable at her approach for here in the big
square hall the light was very clear, and he could see Madame's keen,
searching eyes looking him up and down and through and through. She even
put up her lorgnon and though she was not very tall, she contrived to
look Hector through them straight between the eyes.

"Is M. le Comte in there?" Madame la Duchesse deigned to ask as she
pointed with her lorgnon to the door.

"In the small library beyond, Madame la Duchesse," replied Hector
stiffly.

"And . . ." she queried with sharp sarcasm, "is the antechamber very
full of courtiers and ladies just now?"

A quick, almost imperceptible blush spread over Hector's impassive
countenance, and as quickly vanished again.

"M. le Comte," he said imperturbably, "is disengaged at the present
moment. He seldom receives visitors at this hour."

On Madame's mobile lips the sarcastic curl became more marked. "And I
suppose, my good Hector," she said, "that since M. le Comte has only
granted an audience to his sister to-day, you thought it was a good
opportunity for putting yourself at your ease and wearing your patched
and mended clothes, eh?"

Once more that sudden wave of colour swept over Hector's solemn old
face. He was evidently at a loss how to take Mme. la Duchesse's
remark--whether as a rebuke or merely as one of those mild jokes of
which every one knew that Madame was inordinately fond.

Something of his dignity of attitude seemed to fall away from him as he
vainly tried to solve this portentous problem. His mouth felt dry and
his head hot, and he did not know on which foot he could stand with the
least possible discomfort, and how he could contrive to hide from Madame
la Duchesse's piercing eyes that very obvious patch in the right knee of
his breeches.

"Madame la Duchesse will forgive me, I hope," he stammered painfully.

But already Madame's kind old face had shed its mask of raillery.

"Never mind, Hector," she said gently, "you are a good fellow, and
there's no occasion to tell me lies about the rich liveries which are
put away somewhere, nor about the numerous retinue and countless number
of flunkeys, all of whom are having unaccountably long holidays just
now. It's no use trying to throw dust in my eyes, my poor friend, or put
on that pompous manner with me. I know that the carpets are not all
temporarily rolled up or the best of the furniture at a repairer's in
Grenoble--what's the use of pretending with me, old Hector? Those days
at Worcester are not so distant yet, are they? when all the family had
to make a meal off a pound of sausages, or your wife Jeanne, God bless
her! had to pawn her wedding-ring to buy M. le Comte de Cambray a
second-hand overcoat."

"Madame la Duchesse, I humbly pray your Grace . . ." entreated Hector
whose wrinkled, parchment-like face had become the colour of a peony,
and who, torn between the respect which he had for the great lady and
his horror at what she said was ready to sink through the floor in his
confusion.

"Eh what, man?" retorted the Duchesse lightly, "there is no one but
these bare walls to hear me; and my words, you'll find, will clear the
atmosphere round you--it was very stifling, my good Hector, when I
arrived. There now!" she added, "announce me to M. le Comte and then go
down to Jeanne and tell her that I for one have no intention of
forgetting Worcester, or the pawned ring, or the sausages, and that the
array of Grenoble louts dressed up for the occasion in moth-eaten
liveries dragged up out of some old chests do not please me half as much
round a dinner table as did her dear old, streaming face when she used
to bring us the omelette straight out of the kitchen."

She dropped her lorgnon, and folding her aristocratic hands upon her
bosom, she once more assumed the grand manner pertaining to Versailles,
and Hector having swallowed an uncomfortable lump in his throat, threw
open the huge, folding doors and announced in a stentorian voice:

"Madame la Duchesse douairière d'Agen!"


IV

M. le Comte de Cambray was at this time close on sixty years of age, and
the hardships which he had endured for close upon a quarter of a century
had left their indelible impress upon his wrinkled, careworn face.

But no one--least of all a younger man--could possibly rival him in
dignity of bearing and gracious condescension of manner. He wore his
clothes after the old-time fashion, and clung to the powdered peruque
which had been the mode at the Tuileries and Versailles before these
vulgar young republicans took to wearing their own hair in its natural
colour.

Now as he advanced from the inner room to meet Mme. la Duchesse, he
seemed a perfect presentation or rather resuscitation of the courtly and
vanished epoch of the Roi Soleil. He held himself very erect and walked
with measured step, and a stereotyped smile upon his lips. He paused
just in front of Mme. la Duchesse, then stopped and lightly touched with
his lips the hand which she held out to him.

"Tell me, Monsieur my brother," said Madame in her loudly-pitched voice,
"do you expect me to make before you my best Versailles curtsey,
for--with my rheumatic knee--I warn you that once I get down, you might
find it very difficult to get me up on my feet again."

"Hush, Sophie," admonished M. le Comte impatiently, "you must try and
subdue your voice a little, we are no longer in Worcester remember--"

But Madame only shrugged her thin shoulders.

"Bah!" she retorted, "there's only good old Hector on the other side of
the door, and you don't imagine you are really throwing dust in _his_
eyes do you? . . . good old Hector with his threadbare livery and his
ill-fed belly. . . ."

"Sophie!" exclaimed M. le Comte who was really vexed this time, "I must
insist. . . ."

"All right, all right my dear André. . . . I won't say anything more.
Take me to your audience chamber and I'll try to behave like a lady."

A smile that was distinctly mischievous still hovered round Madame's
lips, but she forced her eyes to look grave: she held out the tips of
her fingers to her brother and allowed him to lead her in the correct
manner into the next room.

Here M. le Comte invited her to sit in an upright chair which was placed
at a convenient angle close to his bureau while he himself sat upon a
stately throne-like armchair, one shapely knee bent, the other slightly
stretched forward, displaying the fine silk stocking and the set of his
well-cut, satin breeches. Mme. la Duchesse kept her hands folded in
front of her, and waited in silence for her brother to speak, but he
seemed at a loss how to begin, for her piercing gaze was making him
feel very uncomfortable: he could not help but detect in it the twinkle
of good-humoured sarcasm.

Madame of course would not help him out. She enjoyed his obvious
embarrassment, which took him down somewhat from that high altitude of
dignity wherein he delighted to soar.

"My dear Sophie," he began at last, speaking very deliberately and
carefully choosing his words, "before the step which Crystal is about to
take to-day becomes absolutely irrevocable, I desired to talk the matter
over with you, since it concerns the happiness of my only child."

"Isn't it a little late, my good André," remarked Madame drily, "to talk
over a question which has been decided a month ago? The contract is to
be signed to-night. Our present conversation might have been held to
some purpose soon after the New Year. It is distinctly useless to-day."

At Madame's sharp and uncompromising words a quick blush had spread over
the Comte's sunken cheeks.

"I could not consult you before, Sophie," he said coldly, "you chose to
immure yourself in a convent, rather than come back straightaway to your
old home as we all did when our King was restored to his throne. The
post has been very disorganised and Boulogne is a far cry from
Brestalou, but I did write to you as soon as Victor de Marmont made his
formal request for Crystal's hand. To this letter I had no reply, and I
could not keep him waiting in indefinite uncertainty."

"Your letter did not reach me until a month after it was written, as I
had the honour to tell you in my reply."

"And that same reply only reached me a fortnight ago," retorted the
Comte, "when Crystal had been formally engaged to Victor de Marmont for
over a month and the date for the signature of the contract and the
wedding-day had both been fixed. I then sent a courier at great expense
and in great haste immediately to you," he added with a tone of
dignified reproach, "I could do no more."

"Or less," she assented tartly. "And here I am, my dear brother, and I
am not blaming you for delays in the post. I merely remarked that it was
too late now to consult me upon a marriage which is to all intents and
purposes, an accomplished fact already."

"That is so of course. But it would be a great personal satisfaction to
me, my good Sophie, to hear your views upon the matter. You have brought
Crystal up from babyhood: in a measure, you know her better than even
I--her father--do and therefore you are better able than I am to judge
whether Crystal's marriage with de Marmont will be conducive to her
permanent happiness."

"As to that, my good André," quoth Madame, "you must remember that when
our father and mother decided that a marriage between me and M. le Duc
d'Agen was desirable, my personal feelings and character were never
consulted for a moment . . . and I suppose that--taking life as it is--I
was never particularly unhappy as his wife."

"And what do you adduce from those reminiscences, my dear Sophie?"
queried the Comte de Cambray suavely.

"That Victor de Marmont is not a bad fellow," replied Madame, "that he
is no worse than was M. le Duc d'Agen and that therefore there is no
reason to suppose that Crystal will be any more unhappy than I was in my
time."

"But . . ."

"There is no 'but' about it, my good André. Crystal is a sweet girl and
a devoted daughter. She will make the best, never you fear! of the
circumstances into which your blind worship of your own dignity and of
your rank have placed her."

"My good Sophie," broke in the Count hotly, "you talk _par Dieu_, as if
I was forcing my only child into a distasteful marriage."

"No, I do not talk as if you were forcing Crystal into a distasteful
marriage, but you know quite well that she only accepted Victor de
Marmont because it was your wish, and because his millions are going to
buy back the old Cambray estates, and she is so imbued with the sense of
her duty to you and to the family escutcheon, that she was willing to
sacrifice every personal feeling in the fulfilment of that duty."

"By 'personal feeling' I suppose that you mean St. Genis."

"Well, yes . . . I do," said Madame laconically.

"Crystal was very much in love with him at one time."

"She still is."

"But even you, my dear sister, must admit that a marriage with St. Genis
was out of the question," retorted the Count in his turn with some
acerbity. "I am very fond of Maurice and his name is as old and great as
ours, but he hasn't a sou, and you know as well as I do by now that the
restoration of confiscated lands is out of the question . . . parliament
will never allow it and the King will never dare. . . ."

"I know all that, my poor André," sighed Madame in a more conciliatory
spirit, "I know moreover that you yourself haven't a sou either, in
spite of your grandeur and your prejudices. . . . Money must be got
somehow, and our ancient family 'scutcheon must be regilt at any cost. I
know that we must keep up this state pertaining to the old regime, we
must have our lacqueys and our liveries, sycophants around us and gaping
yokels on our way when we sally out into the open. . . . We must blot
out from our lives those twenty years spent in a democratic and
enlightened country where no one is ashamed either of poverty or of
honest work--and above all things we must forget that there has ever
been a revolution which sent M. le Comte de Cambray, Commander of the
Order of the Holy Ghost, Grand Cross of the Ordre du Lys, Seigneur of
Montfleury and St. Eynard, hereditary Grand Chamberlain of France, to
teach French and drawing in an English Grammar School. . . ."

"You wrong me there, Sophie, I wish to forget nothing of the past twenty
years."

"I thought that you had given your memory a holiday."

"I forget nothing," he reiterated with dignified emphasis, "neither the
squalid poverty which I endured, nor the bitter experiences which I
gleaned in exile."

"Nor the devotion of those who saved your life."

"And yours . . ." he interposed.

"And mine, at risk of their own."

"Perhaps you will believe me when I tell you that not a day goes by but
Crystal and I speak of Sir Percy Blakeney, and of his gallant League of
the Scarlet Pimpernel."

"Well! we owe our lives to them," said Madame with deep-drawn sigh. "I
wonder if we shall ever see any of those fine fellows again!"

"God only knows," sighed M. le Comte in response. "But," he continued
more lightly, "as you know the League itself has ceased to be. We saw
very little of Sir Percy and Lady Blakeney latterly for we were too poor
ever to travel up to London. Crystal and I saw them, before we left
England, and I then had the opportunity of thanking Sir Percy Blakeney
for the last time, for the many valuable French lives which his plucky
little League had saved."

"He is indeed a gallant gentleman," said Mme. la Duchesse gently, even
whilst her bright, shrewd eyes gazed straight out before her as if on
the great bare walls of her own ancestral home, the ghostly hand of
memory had conjured up pictures of long ago:--her own, her husband's and
her brother's arrest here in this very room, the weeping servants, the
rough, half-naked soldiery--then the agony of a nine days' imprisonment
in a dark, dank prison-cell filled to overflowing with poor wretches in
the same pitiable plight as herself--the hasty trial, the insults, the
mockery:--her husband's death in prison and her own thoughts of
approaching death!

Then the gallant deed!--after all these years she could still see
herself, her brother and Jeanne, her faithful maid, and poor devoted
Hector all huddled up in a rickety tumbril, being dragged through the
streets of Paris on the road to death. On ahead she had seen the weird
outline of the guillotine silhouetted against the evening sky, whilst
all around her a howling, jeering mob sang that awful refrain: "Cà ira!
Cà ira! les aristos à la lanterne!"

Then it was that she had felt unseen hands snatching her out of the
tumbril, she had felt herself being dragged through that yelling crowd
to a place where there was silence and darkness and where she knew that
she was safe: thence she was conveyed--she hardly realised how--to
England, where she and her brother and Jeanne and Hector, their faithful
servants, had found refuge for over twenty years.

"It was a gallant deed!" whispered Mme. la Duchesse once again, "and one
which will always make me love every Englishman I meet, for the sake of
one who was called The Scarlet Pimpernel."

"Then why should you attribute vulgar ingratitude to me?" retorted the
Comte reproachfully. "My feelings I imagine are as sensitive as your
own. Am I not trying my best to be kind to that Mr. Clyffurde, who is an
honoured guest in my house--just because it was Sir Percy Blakeney who
recommended him to me?"

"It can't be very difficult to be kind to such an attractive young man,"
was Mme. la Duchesse's dry comment. "Recommendation or no recommendation
I liked your Mr. Clyffurde and if it were not so late in the day and
there was still time to give my opinion, I should suggest that Mr.
Clyffurde's money could quite well regild our family 'scutcheon. He is
very rich too, I understand."

"My good Sophie!" exclaimed the Comte in horror, "what can you be
thinking of?"

"Crystal principally," replied the Duchesse. "I thought Clyffurde a far
nicer fellow than de Marmont."

"My dear sister," said the Comte stiffly, "I really must ask you to
think sometimes before you speak. Of a truth you make suggestions and
comments at times which literally stagger one."

"I don't see anything so very staggering in the idea of a penniless
aristocrat marrying a wealthy English gentleman. . . ."

"A gentleman! my dear!" exclaimed the Comte.

"Well! Mr. Clyffurde is a gentleman, isn't he?"

"His family is irreproachable, I believe."

"Well then?"

"But . . . Mr. Clyffurde . . . you know, my dear. . . ."

"No! I don't know," said Madame decisively. "What is the matter with Mr.
Clyffurde?"

"Well! I didn't like to tell you, Sophie, immediately on your arrival
yesterday," said the Comte, who was making visible efforts to mitigate
the horror of what he was about to say: "but . . . as a matter of fact
. . . this Mr. Clyffurde whom you met in my house last night . . . who
sat next to you at my table . . . with whom you had that long and
animated conversation afterwards . . . is nothing better than a
shopkeeper!"

No doubt M. le Comte de Cambray expected that at this awful
announcement, Mme. la Duchesse's indignation and anger would know no
bounds. He was quite ready even now with a string of apologies which he
would formulate directly she allowed him to speak. He certainly felt
very guilty towards her for the undesirable acquaintance which she had
made in her brother's own house. Great was his surprise therefore when
Madame's wrinkled face wreathed itself into a huge smile, which
presently broadened into a merry laugh, as she threw back her head, and
said still laughing:

"A shopkeeper, my dear Comte? A shopkeeper at your aristocratic table?
and your meal did not choke you? Why! God forgive you, but I do believe
you are actually becoming human."

"I ought to have told you sooner, of course," began the Comte stiffly.

"Why bless your heart, I knew it soon enough."

"You knew it?"

"Of course I did. Mr. Clyffurde told me that interesting fact before he
had finished eating his soup."

"Did he tell you that . . . that he traded in . . . in gloves?"

"Well! and why not gloves?" she retorted. "Gloves are very nice things
and better manufactured at Grenoble than anywhere else in the world. The
English coquettes are very wise in getting their gloves from Grenoble
through the good offices of Mr. Clyffurde."

"But, my dear Sophie . . . Mr. Clyffurde buys gloves here from Dumoulin
and sells them again to a shop in London . . . he buys and sells other
things too and he does it for profit. . . ."

"Of course he does. . . . You don't suppose that any one would do that
sort of thing for pleasure, do you? Mr. Clyffurde," continued Madame
with sudden seriousness, "lost his father when he was six years old. His
mother and four sisters had next to nothing to live on after the bulk of
what they had went for the education of the boy. At eighteen he made up
his mind that he would provide his mother and sisters with all the
luxuries which they had lacked for so long and instead of going into the
army--which had been the burning ambition of his boyhood--he went into
business . . . and in less than ten years has made a fortune."

"You seem to have learnt a great deal of the man's family history in so
short a time."

"I liked him: and I made him talk to me about himself. It was not easy,
for these English men are stupidly reticent, but I dragged his story out
of him bit by bit--or at least as much of it as I could--and I can tell
you, my good André, that never have I admired a man so much as I do this
Mr. Clyffurde . . . for never have I met so unselfish a one. I declare
that if I were only a few years younger," she continued whimsically,
"and even so . . . heigh! but I am not so old after all. . . ."

"My dear Sophie!" ejaculated the Comte.

"Eh, what?" she retorted tartly, "you would object to a tradesman as a
brother-in-law, would you? What about a de Marmont for a son? Eh?"

"Victor de Marmont is a soldier in the army of our legitimate King. His
uncle the Duc de Raguse. . . ."

"That's just it," broke in Madame again, "I don't like de Marmont
because he is a de Marmont."

"Is that the only reason for your not liking him?"

"The only one," she replied. "But I must say that this Mr. Clyffurde
. . ."

"You must not harp on that string, Sophie," said the Comte sternly. "It
is too ridiculous. To begin with Clyffurde never cared for Crystal, and,
secondly, Crystal was already engaged to de Marmont when Clyffurde
arrived here, and, thirdly, let me tell you that my daughter has far too
much pride in her ever to think of a shopkeeper in the light of a
husband even if he had ten times this Mr. Clyffurde's fortune."

"Then everything is comfortably settled, André. And now that we have
returned to our sheep, and have both arrived at the conclusion that
nothing stands in the way of Crystal's marriage with Victor de Marmont,
I suppose that I may presume that my audience is at an end."

"I only wished to hear your opinion, my good Sophie," rejoined M. le
Comte. And he rose stiffly from his chair.

"Well! and you have heard it, André," concluded Madame as she too rose
and gathered her lace shawl round her shoulders. "You may thank God, my
dear brother, that you have in Crystal such an unselfish and obedient
child, and in me such a submissive sister. Frankly--since you have
chosen to ask my opinion at this eleventh hour--I don't like this de
Marmont marriage, though I have admitted that I see nothing against the
young man himself. If Crystal is not unhappy with him, I shall be
content: if she is, I will make myself exceedingly disagreeable, both to
him and to you, and that being my last word, I have the honour to wish
you a polite 'good-day.'"

She swept her brother an imperceptibly ironical curtsey, but he detained
her once again, as she turned to go.

"One word more, Sophie," he said solemnly. "You will be amiable with
Victor de Marmont this evening?"

"Of course I will," she replied tartly. "Ah, ça, Monsieur my brother, do
you take me for a washerwoman?"

"I am entertaining the préfet for the _souper du contrat_," continued
the Comte, quietly ignoring the old lady's irascibility of temper, "and
the general in command of the garrison. They are both converted
Bonapartists, remember."

"Hm!" grunted Madame crossly, "whom else are you going to entertain?"

"Mme. Fourier, the préfet's wife, and Mlle. Marchand, the general's
daughter, and of course the d'Embruns and the Genevois."

"Is that all?"

"Some half dozen or so notabilities of Grenoble. We shall sit down
twenty to supper, and afterwards I hold a reception in honour of the
coming marriage of Mlle. de Cambray de Brestalou with M. Victor de
Marmont. One must do one's duty. . . ."

"And pander to one's love of playing at being a little king in a limited
way. . . . All right! I won't say anything more. I promise that I won't
disgrace you, and that I'll put on a grand manner that will fill those
worthy notabilities and their wives with awe and reverence. And now, I'd
best go," she added whimsically, "ere my good resolutions break down
before your pomposity . . . I suppose the louts from the village will be
again braced up in those moth-eaten liveries, and the bottles of thin
Médoc purchased surreptitiously at a local grocer's will be duly
smothered in the dust of ages. . . . All right! all right! I'm going.
For gracious' sake don't conduct me to the door, or I'll really disgrace
you under Hector's uplifted nose. . . . Oh! shades of cold beef and
treacle pies of Worcester . . . and washing-day . . . do you remember?
. . . all right! all right, Monsieur my brother, I am dumb as a carp at
last."

And with a final outburst of sarcastic laughter, Madame finally sailed
across the room, while Monsieur fell back into his throne-like chair
with a deep sigh of relief.




CHAPTER III

THE RETURN OF THE EMPEROR


I

But even as Madame la Duchesse douairière d'Agen placed her aristocratic
hand upon the handle of the door, it was opened from without with what
might almost be called undue haste, and Hector appeared in the doorway.

Hector in truth! but not the sober-faced, pompous, dignified Hector of
the household of M. le Comte de Cambray, but a red-visaged, excited,
fussy Hector, who for the moment seemed to have forgotten where he was,
as well as the etiquette which surrounded the august personality of his
master. He certainly contrived to murmur a humble if somewhat hasty
apology, when he found himself confronted at the door by Mme. la
Duchesse herself, but he did not stand aside to let her pass.

She had stepped back into the room at sight of him, for obviously
something very much amiss must have occurred thus to ruffle Hector's
ingrained dignity, and even M. le Comte was involuntarily dragged out of
his aristocratic aloofness and almost--though not quite--jumped up from
his chair.

"What is it, Hector?" he exclaimed, peremptorily.

"M. le Comte," gasped Hector, who seemed to be out of breath from sheer
excitement, "the Corsican . . . he has come back . . . he is marching on
Grenoble . . . M. le préfet is here! . . ."

But already M. le Comte had--with a wave of the hand as it were--swept
the unwelcome news aside.

"What rubbish is this?" he said wrathfully. "You have been dreaming in
broad daylight, Hector . . . and this excitement is most unseemly. Show
Mme. la Duchesse to her apartments," he added with a great show of calm.

Hector--thus reproved, coloured a yet more violent crimson to the very
roots of his hair. He made a great effort to recover his pomposity and
actually took up the correct attitude which a well-trained servant
assumes when he shows a great lady out of a room. But even then--despite
the well-merited reproof--he took it upon himself to insist:

"M. le préfet is here, M. le Comte," he said, "and begs to be received
at once."

"Well, then, you may show him up when Mme. la Duchesse has retired,"
said the Comte with quiet dignity.

"By your leave, my brother," quoth the Duchesse decisively, "I'll wait
and hear what M. le préfet has to say. The news--if news there be--is
too interesting to be kept waiting for me."

And accustomed as she was to get her own way in everything, Mme. la
Duchesse calmly sailed back into the room, and once more sat down in the
chair beside her brother's bureau, whilst Hector with as much grandeur
of mien as he could assume under the circumstances was still waiting for
orders.

M. le Comte would undoubtedly have preferred that his sister should
leave the room before the préfet was shown in: he did not approve of
women taking part in political conversations, and his manner now plainly
showed to Mme. la Duchesse that he would like to receive M. le préfet
alone. But he said nothing--probably because he knew that words would be
useless if Madame had made up her mind to remain, which she evidently
had, so, after a brief pause, he said curtly to Hector:

"Show M. le préfet in."

He took up his favourite position, in his throne-shaped chair--one leg
bent, the other stretched out, displaying to advantage the shapely calf
and well-shod foot. M. le préfet Fourier, mathematician of great renown,
and member of the Institut was one of those converted Bonapartists to
whom it behoved at all times to teach a lesson of decorum and dignity.

And certainly when, presently Hector showed M. Fourier in, the two
men--the aristocrat of the old regime and the bureaucrat of the
new--presented a marked and curious contrast. M. le Comte de Cambray
calm, unperturbed, slightly supercilious, in a studied attitude and
moving with pompous deliberation to greet his guest, and Jacques
Fourier, man of science and préfet of the Isère department, short of
stature, scant of breath, flurried and florid!

Both men were conscious of the contrast, and M. Fourier did his very
best to approach Mme. la Duchesse with a semblance of dignity, and to
kiss her hand in something of the approved courtly manner. When he had
finally sat down, and mopped his streaming forehead, M. le Comte said
with kindly condescension:

"You are perturbed, my good M. Fourier!"

"Alas, M. le Comte," replied the worthy préfet, still somewhat out of
breath, "how can I help being agitated . . . this awful news! . . ."

"What news?" queried the Comte with a lifting of the brows, which was
meant to convey complete detachment and indifference to the subject
matter.

"What news?" exclaimed the préfet who, on the other hand, was unable to
contain his agitation and had obviously given up the attempt, "haven't
you heard? . . ."

"No," replied the Comte.

And Madame also shook her head.

"Town-gossip does not travel as far as the Castle of Brestalou," added
M. le Comte gravely.

"Town gossip!" reiterated M. Fourier, who seemed to be calling Heaven
to witness this extraordinary levity, "town gossip, M. le Comte! . . .
But God in Heaven help us all. Bonaparte landed at Antibes five days
ago. He was at Sisteron this morning, and unless the earth opens and
swallows him up, he will be on us by Tuesday!"

"Bah! you have had a nightmare, M. le préfet," rejoined the Comte drily.
"We have had news of the landing of Bonaparte at least once a month this
half-year past."

"But it is authentic news this time, M. le Comte," retorted Fourier,
who, gradually, under the influence of de Cambray's calm demeanour, had
succeeded in keeping his agitation in check. "The préfet of the Var
department, M. le Comte de Bouthillier, sent an express courier on
Thursday last to the préfet of the Basses-Alpes, who sent that courier
straight on to me, telling me that he and General Loverdo, who is in
command of the troops in that district, promptly evacuated Digue because
they were not certain of the loyalty of the garrison. The Corsican it
seems only landed with about a thousand of his old guard, but since
then, the troops in every district which he has traversed, have deserted
in a body, and rallied round his standard. It has been, so I hear, a
triumphal march for him from the Littoral to Digne, and altogether the
news which the courier brought me this morning was of such alarming
nature, that I thought it my duty, M. le Comte, to apprise you of it
immediately."

"That," said M. le Comte condescendingly, "was exceedingly thoughtful
and considerate, my good M. Fourier. And what is the alarming news?"

"Firstly, that Bonaparte made something like a state entry into Digne
yesterday. The city was beflagged and decorated. The national guard
turned out and presented arms, drums were beating, the population
acclaimed him with cries of 'Vive l'Empereur!' The préfet and the
general in command had intended to resist his entry into the city, but
all the notabilities of the town forced them into submission. Duval, the
préfet, fled to a neighbouring village, taking the public funds with
him, while General Loverdo with a mere handful of loyal troops has
retreated on Sisteron."

Though M. le Comte de Cambray had listened to the préfet's narrative
with all his habitual grandeur of mien, it soon became obvious that some
of his aristocratic sangfroid had already abandoned him. His furrowed
cheeks had become a shade paler than usual, and the slender hand which
toyed with an ivory paper-knife on his desk had not its wonted
steadiness. Mme. la Duchesse perceived this, no doubt, for her keen eyes
were fixed scrutinisingly upon her brother; she saw too that his thin
lips were quivering and that the reason why he made no comment on what
he had just heard was because he could not quite trust himself to speak.
It was she, therefore, who now remarked quietly:

"And in your department, M. le préfet, in Grenoble itself, is the
garrison equally likely to go over to the Corsican brigand?"

M. Fourier shrugged his shoulders. He was not at all sure.

"After what has happened at Digne, Mme. la Duchesse," he said, "I would
not care to prophesy. Général Marchand does not intend to trust entirely
to the garrison. He has sent to Vienne and to Chambéry for
reinforcements . . . but . . ."

The préfet was hesitating, evidently he had not a great deal of faith in
the loyalty of those reinforcements either.

M. le Comte made a vigorous protest. "Surely, M. Fourier," he said, "you
don't mean to suggest that Grenoble is going to turn traitor to the
King?"

But M. le préfet apparently had meant to suggest it.

"Alas, M. le Comte!" he said, "we must always bear in mind that the
whole of the Dauphiné has remained throughout a bed of Bonapartism."

"But in that case . . ." ejaculated the Comte.

"Général Marchand is doing all he can to ensure effectual resistance, M.
le Comte. But we are in the hands of the army, and the army has never
been truly loyal to the King. At the bottom of every soldier's haversack
there is an old and worn tricolour cockade, which is there ready to be
fetched out at a moment's notice, and will be fetched out at the mere
sound of the Corsican's voice. We are in the hands of the army, M. le
Comte, and in the Dauphiné; alas! the army is only too ready to cry:
'Vive l'Empereur!'"

There was silence in the stately room now, silence only broken by the
tap-tap of the ivory paper-knife with which M. le Comte was still
nervously fidgeting. M. Fourier was wiping the perspiration from his
overheated brow.

"For God's sake, André, stop that irritating noise," said Mme. Duchesse
after awhile, "that tapping has got on my nerves."

"I beg your pardon, Sophie," said the Comte loftily.

He was offended with her for drawing M. Fourier's attention to his own
nervous restlessness, yet grateful to be thus forcibly made aware of it
himself. His attitude was on the verge of incorrectness. Where was the
aristocratic sangfroid which should have made him proof even against so
much perturbing news? What had become of the lesson in decorum which
should have been taught to this vulgar little bureaucrat?

M. le Comte pulled himself together with a jerk: he straightened out his
spare figure, put on that air of detachment which became him so well,
and finally turned once more to the préfet a perfectly calm and
unruffled countenance.

Then he said with his accustomed urbanity:

"And now, my good M. Fourier, since you have so admirably put the
situation before me, will you also tell me in what way I may be of
service to you in this--or to Général Marchand?"

"I am coming to that, M. le Comte," replied the préfet. "It will explain
the reason of my disturbing you at this hour, when I was coming anyhow
to partake of your gracious hospitality later on. But I do want your
assistance, M. le Comte, as the matter of which I wish to speak with you
concerns the King himself."

"Everything that you have told me hitherto, my good M. Fourier, concerns
His Majesty and the security of his throne. I cannot help wondering how
much of this news has reached him by now."

"All of it at this hour, I should say. For already on Friday the Prince
d'Essling sent a despatch to His Majesty--by courier as far as Lyons and
thence by aërial telegraph to Paris. The King--may God preserve him!"
added the ex-Bonapartist fervently, "knows as much of the Corsican's
movements at the present moment as we do; and God alone knows what he
will decide to do."

"Whatever happens," interjected the Comte de Cambray solemnly, "Louis de
Bourbon, XVIIIth of his name, by the Grace of God, will act like a king
and a gentleman."

"Amen to that," retorted the préfet. "And now let me come to my point,
M. le Comte, and the chief object of my visit to you."

"I am at your service, my dear M. Fourier."

"You will remember, M. le Comte, that directly you were installed at
Brestalou and I was confirmed in my position as préfet of this
department, I thought it was my duty to tell you of the secret funds
which are kept in the cellars of our Hôtel de Ville by order of M. de
Talleyrand."

"Yes, of course I remember that perfectly. French money, which the
unfortunate wife of that brigand Bonaparte was taking out of the
country."

"Quite so," assented Fourier. "The funds are in a convenient and
portable form, being chiefly notes and bankers' drafts to bearer, but
the amount is considerable, namely, twenty-five millions of francs."

"A comfortable sum," interposed Mme. la Duchesse drily. "I did not know
that Grenoble sheltered so vast a treasure."

"The money was seized," said the Comte, "from Marie Louise when she was
fleeing the country. Talleyrand did it all, and it was his idea to keep
the money in this part of the country against likely emergencies."

"But the emergency has arisen," exclaimed M. Fourier excitedly, "and the
money at Grenoble is useless to His Majesty in Paris. Nay! it is worse
than useless, it is in danger of spoliation," he added with unconscious
_naiveté_. "If the Corsican marches into Grenoble, if the garrison and
the townspeople rally to him, he will of a truth occupy the Hôtel de
Ville and the brigand will seize the King's treasure which lies now in
one of its cellars."

"True," mused the Comte, "I hadn't thought of that."

"Well!" exclaimed Madame with light sarcasm, "seeing that the money was
originally taken from his wife, the brigand will not be committing an
altogether unlikely act, I imagine, by taking what was originally his."

"His, my good Sophie?" exclaimed the Comte, highly shocked. "Money
robbed by that usurper from France--his?"

"We won't argue, André," said Madame sharply, "let us hear what M. le
préfet proposes."

"Propose, Mme. la Duchesse," ejaculated the unfortunate préfet, "I have
nothing to propose! I am at my wits' end what to do! I came to M. le
Comte for advice."

"And you were quite right, my dear M. Fourier," said the Comte affably.

He paused for a few seconds in order to collect his thoughts, then
continued: "Now let us consider this question from every side, and then
see to what conclusion we can arrive that will be for the best. Firstly,
of course, there is the possibility of your following the example of the
préfet of the Basses-Alpes and taking yourself and the money to a
convenient place outside Grenoble."

But at this suggestion M. Fourier was ready to burst into tears.

"Impossible, M. le Comte," he cried pitiably, "I could not do it. . . .
Where could I go? . . . The existence of the money is known . . . known
to the Bonapartists, I am convinced. . . . There's Dumoulin, the
glovemaker, he knows everything that goes on in Grenoble . . . and his
friend Emery, who is an army surgeon in the pay of Bonaparte . . . both
these men have been to and from Elba incessantly these past few months
. . . then there's the Bonapartist club in Grenoble . . . with a
membership of over two thousand . . . the members have friends and spies
everywhere . . . even inside the Hôtel de Ville . . . why! the other day
I had to dismiss a servant who . . ."

"Easy, easy, M. le préfet," broke in M. le Comte impatiently, "the long
and the short of it is that you would not feel safe with the money
anywhere outside Grenoble."

"Or inside it, M. le Comte."

"Very well, then, the money must be deposited there, where it will be
safe. Now what do you think of Dupont's Bank?"

"Oh, M. le Comte! an avowed Bonapartist! . . . M. de Talleyrand would
not trust him with the money last year."

"That is so . . . but . . ."

"It seems to me," here interposed Mme. la Duchesse abruptly, "that by
far the best plan--since this district seems to be a hot-bed of
disloyalty--would be to convey the money straightway to Paris, and then
the King or M. de Talleyrand can dispose of it as best they like."

"Ah, Mme. la Duchesse," sighed M. Fourier ecstatically as he clasped his
podgy little hands together and looked on Madame with eyes full of
admiration for her wisdom, "how cleverly that was spoken! If only I
could be relieved from that awful responsibility . . . five and twenty
millions under my charge and that Corsican ogre at our gates! . . ."

"That is all very well!" quoth the Comte with marked impatience, "but
how is it going to be done? 'Convey the money to Paris' is easily said.
But who is going to do it? M. le préfet here says that the Bonapartists
have spies everywhere round Grenoble, and . . ."

"Ah, M. le Comte!" exclaimed the préfet eagerly. "I have already thought
of such a beautiful plan! If only you would consent . . ."

M. le Comte's thin lips curled in a sarcastic smile.

"Oh! you have thought it all out already, M. le préfet?" he said. "Well!
let me hear your plan, but I warn you that I will not have the money
brought here. I don't half trust the peasantry of the neighbourhood, and
I won't have a fight or an outrage committed in my house!"

M. le préfet was ready with a protest:

"No, no, M. le Comte!" he said, "I wouldn't suggest such a thing for the
world. If the Corsican brigand is successful in capturing Grenoble, no
place would be sacred to him. No! My idea was if you, M. le Comte--who
have oft before journeyed to Paris and back--would do it now . . .
before Bonaparte gets any nearer to Grenoble . . . and take the money
with you . . ."

"I?" exclaimed the Comte. "But, man, if--as you say--Grenoble is full of
Bonapartist spies, my movements are no doubt just as closely watched as
your own."

"No, no, M. le Comte, not quite so closely, I am sure."

The insinuating manner of the worthy man, however, was apparently
getting on M. le Comte's nerves.

"Ah, ça, M. le préfet," he ejaculated abruptly, "but meseems that the
splendid plan you thought on merely consists in transferring
responsibility from your shoulders to mine own."

And M. le Comte cast such a wrathful look on poor M. Fourier that the
unfortunate man was stricken dumb with confusion.

"Moreover," concluded the Comte, "I don't know that you, M. le préfet,
have the right to dispose of this money which was entrusted to you by M.
de Talleyrand in the King's behalf without consulting His Majesty's
wishes in the matter."

"Bah, André," broke in the Duchesse in her incisive way, "you are
talking nonsense, and you know it. There is no time for red-tapeism now
with that ogre at our gates. How are you going to consult His Majesty's
wishes--who is in Paris--between now and Tuesday, I would like to know?"
she added with a shrug of the shoulders.

Whereupon M. le Comte waxed politely sarcastic.

"Perhaps," he said, "you would prefer us to consult yours."

"You might do worse," she retorted imperturbably. "The question is one
which is very easily solved. Ought His Majesty the King to have that
money, or should M. le préfet here take the risk of its falling in
Bonaparte's hands? Answer me that," she said decisively, "and then I
will tell you how best to succeed in carrying out your own wishes."

"What a question, my good Sophie!" said the Comte stiffly. "Of course we
desire His Majesty to have what is rightfully his."

"You mean he ought to have the twenty-five millions which the Prince de
Bénévant stole from Marie Louise. Very well then, obviously that money
ought to be taken to Paris before Bonaparte gets much nearer to
Grenoble--but it should not be taken by you, my good André, nor yet by
M. le préfet."

"By whom then?" queried the Comte irritably.

"By me," replied Mme. la Duchesse.

"By you, Sophie! Impossible!"

"And God alive, why impossible, I pray you?" she retorted. "The money, I
understand, is in a very portable form, notes and bankers' drafts, which
can be stowed away quite easily. Why shouldn't I be journeying back to
Paris after Crystal's wedding? Who would suspect me, I should like to
know, of carrying twenty-five millions under my petticoats? All I should
want would be a couple of sturdy fellows on the box to protect me
against footpads. Impossible?" she continued tartly. "Men are always so
ready with that word. Get a sensible woman, I say, and she will solve
your difficulties before you have finished exclaiming: 'Impossible!'"

And she looked triumphantly from one man to the other. There was obvious
relief on the ruddy face of little M. Fourier, and even M. le Comte was
visibly taken with the idea.

"Well!" he at last condescended to say, "it does sound feasible after
all."

"Feasible? Of course it's feasible," said Madame with a shrug of
contempt. "Either the King is in want of the money, or he is not. Either
Bonaparte is likely to get it or he is not. If the King wants it, he
must have it at any cost and any risk. Twenty-five millions in
Bonaparte's hands at this juncture would help him to reconstitute his
army and make it very unpleasant for the King and for us all. M. le
préfet, who has been in charge of the money all along, and M. le Comte
de Cambray, who is the only true royalist in the district, are both
marked down by spies: ergo Mme. la Duchesse d'Agen is the only possible
agent for the business, and an inoffensive old woman without any
political standing is the least likely to be molested in her task. If I
fail, I fail," concluded Madame decisively, "if I am stopped on the way
and the money taken from me, well! I am stopped, that's all! and M. le
préfet or M. le Comte de Cambray or any male agent they may have sent
would have been stopped likewise. But I maintain that a woman travelling
alone is far safer at this business and more likely to succeed than a
man. So now, for God's sake, don't let's argue any more about it.
Crystal is to be married on Tuesday and I could start that same
afternoon. Can you bring the money over with you to-night?"

She put her query directly to the préfet, who was obviously overjoyed,
and intensely relieved at the suggestion.

M. le Comte too seemed to be won over by his sister's persuasive
rhetoric: her strength of mind and firmness of purpose always imposed
themselves on those over whom she chose to exert her will: and men of
somewhat weak character like the Comte de Cambray came very easily under
the sway of her dominating personality.

But he thought it incumbent upon his dignity to make one more protest
before he finally yielded to his sister's arguments.

"I don't like," he said, "the idea of your travelling alone through the
country without sufficient escort. The roads are none too safe and
. . ."

"Bah!" broke in Madame impatiently. "I pray you, Monsieur my brother, to
strengthen your arguments, if you are really determined to oppose this
sensible scheme of mine. Travelling alone, forsooth! Did I not arrive
only yesterday, having travelled all the way from Boulogne and with no
escort save two louts on the box of a hired coach?"

"You chose to travel alone, my dear sister, for reasons best known to
yourself," retorted the Comte, greatly angered that M. le préfet should
hear the fact that Mme. la Duchesse douairière had travelled at any time
without an escort.

"And who shall say me nay, if I choose to travel back alone again, I
should like to know? So now if you have exhausted your string of
objections, my dear brother, perhaps you will allow M. le préfet to
answer my question."

Whereupon M. le préfet promptly satisfied Mme. la Duchesse on the point:
he certainly could and would bring the money over with him this evening.
And M. le Comte had no further objections to offer.

In the archives of the Ministry of War in Paris, any one who looks may
read that in the subsequent trial of Général Marchand for high
treason--after the Hundred Days and Napoleon's second abdication--préfet
Fourier during the course of his evidence gave a detailed account of
this same interview which he had with M. le Comte de Cambray and Mme. la
Duchesse douairière d'Agen on Sunday, March the 5th. In his deposition
he naturally laid great stress upon his own zeal in the matter,
declaring that he it was who finally overcame by his eloquence M. le
Comte's objections to the scheme and decided him to give his
acquiescence thereto.[1]

[Footnote 1: Déposition de Fourier. (Dossier de Marchant Arch. Guerre.)]

Certain it is that there was but little argument after this between Mme.
la Duchesse and the two men, and that the details of the scheme were
presently discussed soberly and in all their bearings.

"I shall have the honour presently," said Fourier, "of coming back here
to respond to M. le Comte's gracious invitation to dinner. Why
shouldn't I bring the money with me then?"

"Indeed you must bring the money then," retorted the irascible old lady,
"and let there be no shirking or delay. Promptitude is our great chance
of success. I ought not to start later than Tuesday, and I could do so
soon after the wedding ceremony. I could arrange to sleep at Lyons that
night, at Dijon the next day, be in Paris by Thursday evening and in the
King's presence on Friday."

"Provided you are not delayed," sighed the Comte.

"If I am delayed, my good André, then anyhow the game is up. But we are
not going to anticipate misfortune and we are going to believe in our
lucky star."

"Would to God I could bring myself to approve wholeheartedly of this
expedition! The whole thing seems to me chivalrous and romantic rather
than prudent, and Heaven knows how prudent we should be just now!"

"You look back on history, my dear brother," remarked Madame drily, "and
you'll see that more great events have been brought about by chivalry
and romance than by prudence and circumspection. The romance of Joan of
Arc delivered France from foreign yoke, the chivalry of François I.
saved the honour of France after the disaster of Pavie, and it certainly
was not prudence which set Henry of Navarre upon the throne of France
and in the heart of his people. So for gracious' sake do not let us talk
of prudence any more. Rather let us allow M. le préfet to return quietly
to the Hôtel de Ville, so that he and Mme. Fourier may proceed to dress
for to-night's ceremony, just as if nothing untoward had happened. In
the meanwhile I will complete my preparations for Tuesday. There are one
or two little details in connection with my journey--hostelries,
servants, horses and so on--which you, my dear André, will kindly decide
for me. And now, gentlemen," she added, rising from her chair, "I have
the honour to wish you both a very good afternoon."

She did not wait long enough to allow M. le Comte time to ring for
Hector, and she appeared so busy with her lace shawl that she was unable
to do more than acknowledge with a slight inclination of the head M. le
préfet's respectful salute. But then Mme. la Duchesse douairière
d'Agen--though a fervent royalist herself--had a wholesome contempt for
these opportunists. Fourier, celebrated mathematician, loaded with gifts
and honours by Napoleon, who had made him a member of the Institute of
Science and given him the prefecture of the Isère, had turned his coat
very readily at the Restoration, and the oaths of loyalty which he had
tendered to the Emperor seemed not to weigh overheavily upon his
conscience when he reiterated them to the King.

Mme. la Duchesse d'Agen, therefore, did not willingly place her
aristocratic fingers in the hand of a renegade, who she felt might turn
renegade again if his personal interest so dictated it. Perhaps
something of what lay behind Madame's curt nod to him, struck the
préfet's sensibilities, for the high colour suddenly fled from his round
face, and he did not attempt to approach her for the ceremonial
hand-kissing. But he ran across the room as fast as his short legs would
carry him, and he opened the door for her and bowed to her as she sailed
past him with all the deference which in the olden days of the Empire he
had accorded to the Empress Marie Louise.

"It is a mad scheme, my good M. Fourier," sighed the Comte when he found
himself once more alone with the préfet, "but such as it is I can think
of nothing better."

"M. le Comte," exclaimed the préfet with delight, "no one could think of
anything better. Ah, the women of France!" he added ecstatically, "the
women! how often have they saved France in moments of crises? France
owes her grandeur to her women, M. le Comte!"

"And also her reverses, my dear M. Fourier," remarked the Comte drily.


II

When Bobby Clyffurde came back to Brestalou, after his long day's ride,
he found the stately rooms of the old castle already prepared for the
arrival of M. le Comte's guests. The large reception hall had been
thrown open, as--after supper--M. le Comte would be receiving some of
the notabilities of Grenoble in honour of a great occasion: the
signature of the _contrat de mariage_ between Mlle. Crystal de Cambray
de Brestalou and M. Victor de Marmont. There was an array of liveried
servants in the hall and along the corridor through which Bobby had to
pass on the way to his own room: their liveries of purple with canary
facings--the heraldic colours of the family of Cambray de
Brestalou--hardly showed, in the flickering light of wax candles, the
many ravages of moth and mildew which twenty years of neglect had
wrought upon the once fine and brilliant cloth.

Downstairs the formal supper which was to precede the reception was laid
for twenty guests. The table was resplendent with the silver so kindly
lent by a benevolent and far-seeing king to those of his friends who had
not the means of replacing the ancient family treasures filched from
them by the revolutionary government.

There were no flowers upon the table, and only very few wax candles
burned in the ormolu and crystal chandelier overhead. Flowers and wax
candles were luxuries which must be paid for with ready money--a
commodity which was exceedingly scarce in the grandiose Château de
Brestalou--but they also were a luxury which could easily be dispensed
with, for did not M. le Comte de Cambray set the fashions and give the
tone to the whole _département_? and if he chose to have no flowers upon
his supper table and but few candles in his silver sconces, why then
society must take it for granted that such now was _bon ton_ and the
prevailing fashion at the Tuileries.

Bobby, knowing his host's fastidious tastes in such matters, had made a
very careful toilet, all the while that his thoughts were busy with the
wonderful news which Emery had brought this day, and which was all over
Grenoble by now. He and his two companions had left Notre Dame de Vaulx
soon after their _déjeuner_, and together had entered the city at five
o'clock in the afternoon. On their way they had encountered the
travelling-coach of Général Mouton-Duveret, who, accompanied by his
aide-de-camp, was on his way to Gap, where he intended to organise
strong resistance against Bonaparte.

He parleyed some time with Emery, whom he knew by sight and suspected of
being an emissary of the Corsican. Emery, with true southern verve, gave
the worthy general a highly-coloured account of the triumphal progress
through Provence and the Dauphiné of Napoleon, whom he boldly called
"the Emperor." Mouton--in no way belying his name--was very upset not
only by the news, but by his own helplessness with regard to Emery, who
he knew would presently be in Grenoble distributing the usurper's
proclamations all over the city, whilst he--Mouton--with his one
aide-de-camp and a couple of loutish servants on the box of his coach,
could do nothing to detain him.

As soon as the three men had ridden away, however, he sent his
aide-de-camp back to Grenoble by a round-about way, ordering him to make
as great speed as possible, and to see Général Marchand as soon as may
be, so that immediate measures might be taken to prevent that emissary
if not from entering the city, at least from posting up proclamations on
public buildings.

But Mouton's aide-de-camp was no match against the enthusiasm and
ingenuity of Emery and de Marmont, and when he--in his turn--entered
Grenoble soon after five o'clock, he was confronted by the printed
proclamations signed by the familiar and dreaded name "Napoleon" affixed
to the gates of the city, to the Hôtel de Ville, the mairie, the prison,
the barracks, and to every street corner in Grenoble.

The three friends had parted at the porte de Bonne, Emery to go to his
friend Dumoulin, the glovemaker--de Marmont to his lodgings in the rue
Montorge, whilst Bobby Clyffurde rode straight back to Brestalou.

A couple of hours later Victor de Marmont had also arrived at the
castle. He too had made an elaborate toilet, and then had driven over in
a hackney coach in advance of the other guests, seeing that he desired
to have a final interview with M. le Comte before he affixed his name to
his _contrat de mariage_ with Mlle. de Cambray. An air of solemnity sat
well upon his good-looking face, but it was obvious that he was
trying--somewhat in vain--to keep an inward excitement in check.

M. le Comte de Cambray, believing that this excitement was entirely due
to the solemnity of the occasion, had smiled indulgently--a trifle
contemptuously too--at young de Marmont's very apparent eagerness. A
vulgar display of feelings, an inability to control one's words and
movements when under the stress of emotion was characteristic of the
parvenus of to-day, and de Marmont's unfettered agitation when coming to
sign his own marriage contract was only on a par with préfet Fourier's
nervousness this afternoon.

The Comte received his future son-in-law with a gracious smile. The
thought of an alliance between Mlle. de Cambray de Brestalou and a de
Marmont of Nowhere had been a bitter pill to swallow, but M. le Comte
was too proud to show how distasteful it had been. Chatting pleasantly
the two men repaired together to the library.


III

Bobby Clyffurde--immaculately dressed in fine cloth coat and satin
breeches, with fine Mechlin lace at throat and wrist, and his light
brown hair tied at the nape of the neck with a big black bow--came down
presently to the reception room. He found the place silent and deserted.

But the stately apartment looked more cosy and home-like than usual. A
cheerful fire was burning in the monumental hearth and the soft light of
the candles fixed in sconces round the walls tempered to a certain
degree that bare and severe look of past grandeur which usually hung
upon every corner of the old château.

Clyffurde went up to the tall hearth. He rested his hand on the ledge of
the mantel and leaning his forehead against it he stared moodily into
the fire.

Thoughts of all that he had learned in the past few hours, of the new
chapter in the book of the destinies of France, begun a few days ago in
the bay of Jouan, crowded in upon his mind. What difference would the
unfolding of that new chapter make to the destinies of the Comte de
Cambray and of Crystal? What had Fate in store for the bold adventurer
who was marching across France with a handful of men to reconquer a
throne and remake an empire? what had she in store for the stiff-necked
aristocrat of the old regime who still believed that God himself had
made special laws for the benefit of one class of humanity, and that He
had even created them differently to the rest of mankind?

And what had Fate in store for the beautiful, delicate girl whose future
had been so arbitrarily settled by two men--father and lover--one the
buyer, the other the seller of her exquisite person, the shrine of her
pure and idealistic soul--and bargained for by father and lover as the
price of so many acres of land--a farm--a château--an ancestral estate?

Father and lover were sitting together even now discussing values--the
purchase price--"You give me back my lands, I will give you my
daughter!" Blood money! soul money! Clyffurde called it as he ground his
teeth together in impotent rage.

What folly it was to care! what folly to have allowed the tendrils of
his over-sensitive heart to twine themselves round this beautiful girl,
who was as far removed from his destiny as were the ambitions of his
boyhood, the hopes, the dreams which the hard circumstances of fate had
forced him to bury beneath the grave-mound of rigid and unswerving duty.

But what a dream it had been, this love for Crystal de Cambray! It had
filled his entire soul from the moment when first he saw her--down in
the garden under an avenue of ilex trees which cast their mysterious
shadows over her; her father had called to her and she had come across
to where he--Clyffurde--stood silently watching this approaching vision
of loveliness which never would vanish from his mental gaze again.

Even at that supreme moment, when her blue eyes, her sweet smile, the
exquisite grace of her took possession of his soul, even then he knew
already that his dream could have but one awakening. She was already
plighted to another, a happier man, but even if she were free, Crystal
would never have bestowed a thought upon the stranger--the commonplace
tradesman, whose only merit in her sight lay in his friendship with
another gallant English gentleman.

And knowing this--when he saw her after that, day after day, hour after
hour--poor Bobby Clyffurde grew reconciled to the knowledge that the
gates of his Paradise would for ever be locked against him: he grew
contented just to peep through those gates; and the Angel who was on
guard there, holding the flaming sword of caste prejudice against him,
would relent at times and allow him to linger on the threshold and to
gaze into a semblance of happiness.

Those thoughts, those dreams, those longings, he had been able to
endure; to-day reality had suddenly become more insistent and more
stern: the Angel's flaming sword would sear his soul after this, if he
lingered any longer by the enchanted gates: and thus had the semblance
of happiness yielded at last to dull regret.

He sank into a chair and buried his face in his hands.


IV

The sound of the opening and shutting of a door, the soft frou-frou of a
woman's skirt roused him from his gloomy reverie, and caused him to jump
to his feet.

Mlle. Crystal was coming across the long reception room, walking with a
slow and weary step toward the hearth. She was obviously not yet aware
of Clyffurde's presence, and he had full leisure to watch her as she
approached, to note the pallor of her cheeks and lips and that pathetic
look of childlike self-pity and almost of appeal which veiled the
brilliance of her deep blue eyes.

A moment later she saw him and came more quickly across the room, with
hand extended, and an air of gracious condescension in her whole
attitude.

"Ah! M. Clyffurde," she said in perfect English, "I did not know you
were here . . . and all alone. My father," she added, "is occupied with
serious matters downstairs, else he would have been here to receive
you."

"I know, Mademoiselle," he said after he had kissed the tips of three
cold little fingers which had been held out to him. "My friend de
Marmont is with him just now: he desired to speak with M. le Comte in
private . . . on a matter which closely concerns his happiness."

"Ah! then you knew?" she asked coldly.

"Yes, Mademoiselle, I knew," he replied.

She had settled herself down in a high-backed chair close to the hearth,
the ruddy light of the wood-fire played upon her white satin gown, upon
her bare arms, and the ends of her lace scarf, upon her satin shoes and
the bunch of snowdrops at her breast, but her face was in shadow and she
did not look up at Clyffurde, whilst he--poor fool!--stood before her,
absorbed in the contemplation of this dainty picture which mayhap after
to-night would never gladden his eyes again.

"You are a great friend of M. de Marmont?" she asked after a while.

"Oh, Mademoiselle--a friend?" he replied with a self-deprecatory shrug
of the shoulders, "friendship is too great a name to give to our chance
acquaintanceship. I met Victor de Marmont less than a fortnight ago, in
Grenoble. . . ."

"Ah yes! I had forgotten--he told me that he had first met you at the
house of a M. Dumoulin . . ."

"In the shop of M. Dumoulin, Mademoiselle," broke in Clyffurde with his
good-humoured smile. "M. Dumoulin, the glovemaker, with whom I was
transacting business at the moment when M. de Marmont walked in, in
order to buy himself a pair of gloves."

"Of course," she added coldly, "I had forgotten. . . ."

"You were not likely to remember such a trivial circumstance,
Mademoiselle. M. de Marmont saw me after that here as guest in your
father's house. He was greatly surprised at finding me--a mere
tradesman--in such an honoured position. Surprise laid the foundation of
pleasing intercourse between us, but you see, Mademoiselle, that M. de
Marmont has no cause to boast of his friendship with me."

"Oh! M. de Marmont is not so prejudiced. . . ."

"As you are, Mademoiselle?" he asked quietly, for she had paused and he
saw that she bit her lips with her tiny white teeth as if she meant to
check the words that would come tumbling out.

Thus directly questioned she gave a little shrug of disdain.

"My opinions in the matter are not in question, Sir," she said coldly.

She smothered a little yawn which may have been due to ennui, but also
to the tingling of her nerves. Clyffurde saw that her hands were never
still for a moment; she was either fingering the snowdrops in her belt
or smoothing out the creases in her lace scarf; from time to time she
raised her head and a tense expression came into her face, as if she
were trying to listen to what was going on elsewhere in the
house--downstairs perhaps--in the library where she was being finally
bargained for and sold.

Clyffurde felt an intense--an unreasoning pity for her, and because of
that pity--the gentle kinsman of fierce love--he found it in his heart
to forgive her all her prejudices, that almost arrogant pride of caste
which was in her blood, for which she was no more responsible than she
was for the colour of her hair or the vivid blue of her eyes; she seemed
so forlorn--such a child, in the midst of all this decadent grandeur.
She was being so ruthlessly sacrificed for ideals that were no longer
tenable, that had ceased to be tenable five and twenty years ago when
this château and these lands were overrun by a savage and vengeful mob,
who were loudly demanding the right to live in happiness, in comfort,
and in freedom. That right had been denied to them through the past
centuries by those who were of her own kith and kin, and it was
snatched with brutal force, with lust of hate and thirst for reprisals,
by the revolutionary crowd when it came into its own at last.

Something of the pity which he felt for this beautiful and innocent
victim of rancour, oppression and prejudice, must have been manifest in
Clyffurde's earnest eyes, for when Crystal looked up to him and met his
glance she drew herself up with an air of haughty detachment. And with
that, she wished to convey still more tangibly to him the idea of that
barrier of caste which must for ever divide her from him.

Obviously his look of pity had angered her, for now she said abruptly
and with marked coldness:

"My father tells me, Sir, that you are thinking of leaving France
shortly."

"Indeed, Mademoiselle," he replied, "I have trespassed too long as it is
on M. le Comte's gracious hospitality. My visit originally was only for
a fortnight. I thought of leaving for England to-morrow."

A little lift of the eyebrows, an unnecessary smoothing of an invisible
crease in her gown and Crystal asked lightly:

"Before the . . . my wedding, Sir?"

"Before your wedding, Mademoiselle."

She frowned--vaguely stirred to irritation by his ill-concealed
indifference. "I trust," she rejoined pointedly, "that you are satisfied
with your trade in Grenoble."

The little shaft was meant to sting, but if Bobby felt any pain he
certainly appeared to bear it with perfect good-humour.

"I am quite satisfied," he said. "I thank you, Mademoiselle."

"It must be very pleasing to conclude such affairs satisfactorily," she
continued.

"Very pleasing, Mademoiselle."

"Of course--given the right temperament for such a career--it must be so
much more comfortable to spend one's life in making money--buying and
selling things and so on--rather than to risk it every day for the
barren honour of serving one's king and country."

"As you say, Mademoiselle," he said quite imperturbably, "given the
right temperament, it certainly is much more comfortable."

"And you, Sir, I take it, are the happy possessor of such a
temperament."

"I suppose so, Mademoiselle."

"You are content to buy and to sell and to make money? to rest at ease
and let the men who love their country and their king fight for you and
for their ideals?"

Her voice had suddenly become trenchant and hard, her manner
contemptuous--at strange variance with the indifferent kindliness
wherewith she had hitherto seemed to regard her father's English guest.
Certainly her nerves--he thought--were very much on edge, and no doubt
his own always unruffled calm--the combined product of temperament,
nationality and education--had an irritating effect upon her. Had he not
been so intensely sorry for her, he would have resented this final taunt
of hers--an arrow shot this time with intent to wound.

But as it was he merely said with a smile:

"Surely, Mademoiselle, my contentment with my own lot, and any other
feelings of which I may be possessed, are of such very little
consequence--seeing that they are only the feelings of a very
commonplace tradesman--that they are not worthy of being discussed."

Then as quickly her manner changed: the contemptuous look vanished from
her eyes, the sarcastic curl from her lips, and with one of those quick
transitions of mood which were perhaps the principal charm of Crystal de
Cambray's personality, she looked up at Bobby with a winning smile and
an appeal for forgiveness.

"Your pardon, Sir," she said softly. "I was shrewish and ill-tempered,
and deserve a severe lesson in courtesy. I did not mean to be
disagreeable," she added with a little sigh, "but my nerves are all
a-quiver to-day and this awful news has weighed upon my spirit. . . ."

"What awful news, Mademoiselle?" he asked.

"Surely you have heard?"

"You mean the news about Napoleon . . . ?"

"I mean the awful certainty," she retorted with a sudden outburst of
vehemence, "that that brigand, that usurper, that scourge of mankind has
escaped from an all too lenient prison where he should never have been
confined, seeing how easy was escape from it. I mean that all the
horrors of the past twenty years will begin again now, misery,
starvation, exile probably. Oh, surely," she added with ever-increasing
passion, "surely God will not permit such an awful thing to happen;
surely he will strike the ogre dead, ere he devastates France once
again!"

"I am afraid that you must not reckon quite so much on divine
interference, Mademoiselle. A nation--like every single individual--must
shape its own destiny, and must not look to God to help it in its
political aims."

"And France must look once more to England, I suppose. It is humiliating
to be always in need of help," she said with an impatient little sigh.

"Each nation in its turn has it in its power to help a sister. Sometimes
help may come from the weaker vessel. Do you remember the philosopher's
fable of the lion and the mouse? France may be the mouse just now--some
day it may be in her power to requite the lion."

She shook her head reprovingly. "I don't know," she said, "that I
approve of your calling France--the mouse."

"I only did so in order to drive my parable still further home."

Then as she looked a little puzzled, he continued--speaking very slowly
this time and with an intensity of feeling which was quite different to
his usual pleasant, good-tempered, oft-times flippant manner:
"Mademoiselle Crystal--if you will allow me to speak of such an
insignificant person as I am--I am at present in the position of the
mouse with regard to your father and yourself--the lions of my parable.
You might so easily have devoured me, you see," he added with a quaint
touch of humour. "Well! the time may come when you may have need of a
friend, just as I had need of one when I came here--a stranger in a
strange land. Events will move with great rapidity in the next few days,
Mademoiselle Crystal, and the mouse might at any time be in a position
to render a service to the lion. Will you remember that?"

"I will try, Monsieur," she replied.

But already her pride was once more up in arms. She did not like his
tone, that air of protection which his attitude suggested. And indeed
she could not think of any eventuality which would place the Comte de
Cambray de Brestalou in serious need of a tradesman for his friend.

Then as quickly again her mood softened and as she raised her eyes to
his he saw that they were full of tears.

"Indeed! indeed!" she said gently, "I do deserve your contempt, Sir, for
my shrewishness and vixenish ways. How can I--how can any of us--afford
to turn our backs upon a loyal friend? To-day too, of all days, when
that awful enemy is once more at our gates! Oh!" she added, clasping her
hands together with a sudden gesture of passionate entreaty, "you are
English, Sir--a friend of all those gallant gentlemen who saved my dear
father and his family from those awful revolutionaries--you will be
loyal to us, will you not? The English hate Bonaparte as much as we do!
you hate him too, do you not? you will do all you can to help my poor
father through this awful crisis? You will, won't you?" she pleaded.

"Have I not already offered you my humble services, Mademoiselle?" he
rejoined earnestly.

Indeed this was a very serious ordeal for quiet, self-contained Bobby
Clyffurde--an Englishman, remember--with all an Englishman's shyness of
emotion, all an Englishman's contempt of any display of sentiment. Here
was this beautiful girl--whom he loved with all the passionate ardour of
his virile, manly temperament--sitting almost at his feet, he looking
down upon her fair head, with its wealth of golden curls, and into her
blue eyes which were full of tears.

Who shall blame him if just then a desperate longing seized him to throw
all prudence, all dignity and honour to the winds and to clasp this
exquisite woman for one brief and happy moment in his arms--to forget
the world, her position and his--to risk disgrace and betray
hospitality, for the sake of one kiss upon her lips? The temptation was
so fierce--indeed for one short second it was all but irresistible--that
something of the battle which was raging within his soul became
outwardly visible, and in the girl's tear-dimmed eyes there crept a
quick look of alarm--so strange, so ununderstandable was his glance, the
rigidity of his attitude--as if every muscle had become taut and every
nerve strained to snapping point, while his face looked hard and lined,
almost as if he were fighting physical pain.


V

Thus a few seconds went by in absolute silence--while the great gilt
clock upon its carved bracket ticked on with stolid relentlessness,
marking another minute--and yet another--of this hour which was so full
of portent for the destinies of France. Clyffurde would gladly have
bartered the future years of his life for the power to stay the hand of
Time just now--for the power to remain just like this, standing before
this beautiful woman whom he loved, feeling that at any moment he could
take her in his arms and kiss her eyes and her lips, even if she were
unwilling, even if she hated him for ever afterwards.

The sense of power to do that which he might regret to the end of his
days was infinitely sweet, the power to fight against that
all-compelling passion was perhaps sweeter still. Then came the pride of
victory. The habits of a lifetime had come to his aid: self-respect and
self-control, hard and wilful taskmasters, fought against passion, until
it yielded inch by inch.

The battle was fought and won in those few moments of silence: the
strain of the man's attitude relaxed, the set lines on his face
vanished, leaving it serene and quietly humorous, calm and
self-deprecatory. Only his voice was not quite so steady as usual, as he
said softly:

"Mademoiselle Crystal, is there anything that I can do for you?--now at
once, I mean? If there is, I do entreat you most earnestly to let me
serve you."

Had the pure soul of the woman been touched by the fringe of that
magnetic wave of passion even as it rose to its utmost height, nearly
sweeping the man off his feet, and in its final retreat leaving him with
quivering nerves and senses bruised and numb? Did something of the man's
suffering, of his love and of his despair appear--despite his
efforts--upon his face and in the depth of his glance?--and thus made
visible did they--even through their compelling intensity--cause that
invisible barrier of social prejudices to totter and to break? It were
difficult to say. Certain it is that Crystal's whole heart warmed to the
stranger as it had never warmed before. She felt that here was a _man_
standing before her now, whose promises would never be mere idle words,
whose deeds would speak more loudly than his tongue. She felt that in
the midst of all the enmity which encompassed her and her father in
their newly regained home and land, here at any rate was a friend on
whom they could count to help, to counsel and to accomplish. And deep
down in the very bottom of her soul there was a curious unexplainable
longing that circumstances should compel her to ask one day for his
help, and a sweet knowledge that that help would be ably rendered and
pleasing to receive.

But for the moment, of course, there was nothing that she could ask: she
would be married in a couple of days--alas! so soon!--and after that it
would be to her husband that she must look for devotion, for guidance
and for sympathy.

A little sigh of regret escaped her lips, and she said gently:

"I thank you, Sir, from the bottom of my heart, for the words of
friendship which you have spoken. I shall never forget them, never! and
if at any time in my life I am in trouble . . ."

"Which God forbid!" he broke in fervently.

"If any time I have need of a friend," she resumed, "I feel that I
should find one in you. Oh! if only I could think that you would extend
your devotion to my poor country, and to our King . . ." she exclaimed
with passionate earnestness.

"You love your country very dearly, Mademoiselle," he rejoined.

"I think that I love France more than anything else in the world," she
replied, "and I feel that there is no sacrifice which I would deem too
great to offer up for her."

"And by France you mean the Bourbon dynasty," he said almost
involuntarily, and with an impatient little sigh.

"I mean the King, by the grace of God!" she retorted proudly.

She had thrown back her head with an air of challenge as she said this,
meeting his glance eye to eye: she looked strong and wilful all of a
sudden, no longer girlish and submissive. And to the man who loved her,
this trait of power and latent heroism added yet another to the many
charms which he saw in her. Loyal to her country and to her king she
would be loyal in all things--to husband, kindred and to friends.

But he realised at the same time how impossible it would be for any man
to win her love if he were an enemy to her cause. St. Genis--royalist,
émigré, retrograde like herself--had obviously won his way to her heart
chiefly by the sympathy of his own convictions. But what of de Marmont,
to whom she was on the eve of plighting her troth? de Marmont the
hot-headed Bonapartist who owned but one god--Napoleon--and yet had
deliberately, and with cynical opportunism hidden his fanatical aims and
beliefs from the woman whom he had wooed and won?

The thought of that deception--and of the awakening which would await
the girl-wife on the very morrow of her wedding-day mayhap, was terribly
repellent to Clyffurde's straightforward, loyal nature, and bitter was
the contention within his soul as he found himself at the cross-roads of
a divided duty. Every instinct of chivalry towards the woman loudly
demanded that he should warn her--now--at once--before it was too
late--before she had actually pledged her life and future to a man whom
her very soul--if she knew the truth--would proclaim a renegade and a
traitor; and every instinct of loyalty to the man--that male solidarity
of sex which will never permit one man--if he be a gentleman--to betray
another--prompted him to hold his peace.

Crystal's gentle voice fell like dream-tones upon his ear. Vaguely only
did he hear what she said. She was still speaking of France, of all that
the country had suffered and all that was due to her from her sons and
daughters: she spoke of the King, God's own anointed as she called him,
endowed with rights divine, and all the while his thoughts were far
away, flying on the wings of memory to the little hamlet among the
mountains where two enthusiasts had exhausted every panegyric in praise
of their own hero, whom this girl called a usurper and a brigand. He
remembered every trait in de Marmont's face, every inflexion of his
voice as he said with almost cruel cynicism: "She will learn to love me
in time."

That, Clyffurde knew now, Crystal de Cambray would never do. Indifferent
to de Marmont to-day, she would hate and loathe him the day that she
discovered how infamously he had deceived her: and to Clyffurde's
passionate temperament the thought of Crystal's future unhappiness was
absolutely intolerable.

Here indeed was a battle far more strenuous and difficult of issue than
that of a man's will against his passions: here was a problem far more
difficult to solve than any that had assailed Bobby Clyffurde throughout
his life.

His heart cried out "She must know the truth: she must. To-day! this
minute, while there was yet time! Anon she will be pledged irrevocably
to a man who has lied to her, whom she will curse as a renegade, a
traitor, false to his country, false to his king!"

And the words hovered on his lips: "Mademoiselle Crystal! do not plight
your troth to de Marmont! he is no friend of yours, his people are not
your people! his God is not your God! and there is neither blessing nor
holiness in an union 'twixt you and him!"

But the words remained unspoken, because the unwritten code--the bond
'twixt man and man--tried to still this natural cry of his heart and
reason argued that he must hold his peace. His heart rebelled,
contending that to remain silent was cowardly--that his first duty was
to the woman whom he loved better than his soul, whilst ingrained
principles, born and bred in the bone of him, threw themselves into the
conflict, warning him that if he spoke he would be no better than an
informer, meriting the contempt alike of those whom he wished to help
and of the man whom he would betray.

It was one sound coming from below which settled the dispute 'twixt
heart and reason--the sound of de Marmont's voice which though he was
apparently speaking of indifferent matters had that same triumphant ring
in it which Clyffurde had heard at Notre Dame de Vaulx this morning.

The sound had caused Crystal to give a quick gasp and to clasp her hands
against her breast, as she said with a nervous little laugh:

"Imagine how happy we are to have M. de Marmont's support in this
terrible crisis! His influence in Grenoble and in the whole province is
very great: his word in the town itself may incline the whole balance of
public feeling on the side of the King, and who knows, it may even help
to strengthen the loyalty of the troops. Oh! that Corsican brigand
little guesses what kind of welcome we in the Dauphiné are preparing for
him!"

Her enthusiasm, her trust, her loyalty ended the conflict in Clyffurde's
mind far more effectually than any sober reasoning could have done. He
realised in a moment that neither abstract principles, nor his own
feelings in the matter, were of the slightest account at such a
juncture.

What was obvious, certain, and not to be shirked, was duty to a woman
who was on the point of being shamefully deceived, also duty to the man
whose hospitality he had enjoyed. To remain silent would be cowardly--of
that he became absolutely certain, and once Bobby had made up his mind
what duty was no power on earth could make him swerve from its
fulfilment.

"Mlle. Crystal," he began slowly and deliberately, "just now, when I was
bold enough to offer you my friendship, you deigned to accept it, did
you not?"

"Indeed I did, Sir," she replied, a little astonished. "Why should you
ask?"

"Because the time has come sooner than I expected for me to prove the
truth of that offer to you. There is something which I must say to you
which no one but a friend ought to do. May I?"

But before she could frame the little "Yes!" which already trembled on
her lips, her father's voice and de Marmont's rang out from the further
end of the room itself.

The folding doors had been thrown open: M. le Comte and his son-in-law
elect were on the point of entering and had paused for a moment just
under the lintel. De Marmont was talking in a loud voice and apparently
in response to something which M. le Comte had just told him.

"Ah!" he said, "Mme. la Duchesse will be leaving Brestalou? I am sorry
to hear that. Why should she go so soon?"

"An affair of business, my dear de Marmont," replied the Comte. "I will
tell you about it at an early opportunity."

After which there was a hubbub of talk in the corridors outside, the
sound of greetings, the pleasing confusion of questions and answers
which marks the simultaneous arrival of several guests.

Crystal rose and turned to Bobby with a smile.

"You will have to tell me some other time," she said lightly. "Don't
forget!"

The psychological moment had gone by and Clyffurde cursed himself for
having fought too long against the promptings of his heart and lost the
precious moments which might have changed the whole of Crystal's
future. He cursed himself for not having spoken sooner, now that he saw
de Marmont with glowing eyes and ill-concealed triumph approach his
beautiful fiancée and with the air of a conqueror raise her hand to his
lips.

She looked very pale, and to the man who loved her so ardently and so
hopelessly it seemed as if she gave a curious little shiver and that for
one brief second her blue eyes flashed a pathetic look of appeal up to
his.


VI

M. le Comte's guests followed closely on the triumphant bridegroom's
heels: M. le préfet, fussy and nervous, secretly delighted at the idea
of affixing his official signature to such an aristocratic _contrat de
mariage_ as was this between Mlle. de Cambray de Brestalou and M. Victor
de Marmont, own nephew to Marshal the duc de Raguse; Madame la préfète,
resplendent in the latest fashion from Paris, the Duc and Duchesse
d'Embrun, cousins of the bride, the Vicomte de Génevois and his mother,
who was Abbess of Pont Haut and godmother by proxy to Crystal de
Cambray; whilst Général Marchand, in command of the troops of the
district, fresh from the Council of War which he had hastily convened,
was trying to hide behind a _débonnaire_ manner all the anxiety which
"the brigand's" march on Grenoble was causing him.

The chief notabilities of the province had assembled to do honour to the
occasion, later on others would come, lesser lights by birth and
position than this select crowd who would partake of the _souper des
fiançailles_ before the _contrat_ was signed in their presence as
witnesses to the transaction.

Everyone was talking volubly: the ogre's progress through France--no
longer to be denied--was the chief subject of conversation. Some spoke
of it with contempt, others with terror. The ex-Bonapartists Fourier
and Marchand were loudest in their curses against "the usurper."

Clyffurde, silent and keeping somewhat aloof from the brilliant throng,
saw that de Marmont did not enter into any of these conversations. He
kept resolutely close to Crystal, and spoke to her from time to time in
a whisper, and always with that assured air of the conqueror, which
grated so unpleasantly on Clyffurde's irritable nerves.

The Comte, affable and gracious, spoke a few words to each of his guests
in turn, whilst Mme. la Duchesse douairière d'Agen was talking openly of
her forthcoming return journey to the North.

"I came in great haste," she said loudly to the circle of ladies
gathered around her, "for my little Crystal's wedding. But I was in the
middle of a Lenten retreat at the Sacred Heart, and I only received
permission from my confessor to spend three days in all this gaiety."

"When do you leave us again, Mme. la Duchesse?" queried Mlle. Marchand,
the General's daughter, in a honeyed voice.

"On Tuesday, directly after the religious ceremony, Mademoiselle,"
replied Madame, whilst M. le préfet tried to look unconcerned. He had
brought the money over as Mme. la Duchesse had directed. Twenty-five
millions of francs in notes and drafts had been transferred from the
cellar of the Hôtel de Ville to his own pockets first and then into the
keeping of Madame. He had driven over from the Hôtel de Ville in his
private coach, he himself in an agony of fear every time the road looked
lonely, or he heard the sound of horse's hoofs upon the road behind
him--for there might be mounted highwaymen about. Now he felt infinitely
relieved; he had shifted all responsibility of that vast sum of money on
to more exalted shoulders than his own, and inwardly he was marvelling
how coolly Mme. la Duchesse seemed to be taking such an awful
responsibility.

Now Hector threw open the great doors and announced that M. le Comte was
served. Through the vast corridor beyond appeared a vista of liveried
servants in purple and canary, wearing powdered perruque, silk stockings
and buckled shoes.

There was a general hubbub in the room, the men moved towards the ladies
who had been assigned to them for partners. M. le Comte in his grandest
manner approached Mme. la Duchesse d'Embrun in order to conduct her down
to supper. An air of majestic grandeur, of solemnity and splendid
decorum pervaded the fine apartment; it sought out every corner of the
vast reception room, flickered round every wax candle; it spread itself
over the monumental hearth, the stiff brocade-covered chairs, the gilt
consoles and tall mirrors. It emanated alike from the graciousness of M.
le Comte de Cambray and the pompousness of his majordomo. Hector in fact
appeared at this moment as the high priest in a temple of good manners
and bon ton: the muscles of his face were rigid, his mouth was set as if
ready to pronounce sacrificial words; in his right hand he carried a
gold-headed wand, emblem of his high office.

But suddenly there was a disturbance--an unseemly noise came from the
further end of the corridor, where rose the magnificent staircase.
Hector's face became a study in rapidly changing expressions: from
pompousness, to astonishment, then horror, and finally wrath when he
realised that an intruder in stained cloth clothes and booted and
spurred was actually making his way through the ranks of liveried and
gaping servants and loudly demanding to speak with M. le Comte.

Such an unseemly disturbance had not occurred at the Château de
Brestalou since Hector had been installed there as majordomo nearly
twelve months ago, and he was on the point of literally throwing
himself upon the impious malapert who thus dared to thrust his ill-clad
person upon the brilliant company, when he paused--more aghast than
before. In this same impious malapert he had recognised M. le Marquis de
St. Genis!

The young man looked to be labouring under terrible excitement: his face
was flushed and he was panting as if he had been running hard:

"M. le Comte!" he cried breathlessly as soon as he caught sight of
Hector, "tell M. le Comte that I must speak with him at once."

"But M. le Marquis . . . M. le Marquis . . ."

This was all that poor, bewildered Hector could stammer: his
slowly-moving brain was torn between the duties of his position and his
respect for M. le Marquis, and in the struggle the worthy man was
enduring throes of anxiety.

Fortunately M. le Comte himself put an end to Hector's dilemma. He had
recognised St. Genis' voice. Unlike his majordomo, he knew at once that
something terribly grave must have happened, else the young man would
never have committed such a serious breach of good manners. And M. le
Comte himself was never at a loss how to turn any situation to a
dignified and proper issue: he murmured a quick and courteous apology to
Mme. la Duchesse d'Embrun and a comprehensive one to all his guests,
then he hastened to meet St. Genis at the door.

Already St. Genis had entered. His rough clothes and muddy boots looked
strangely in contrast to the immaculate get-up of the Comte's guests,
but of this he hardly seemed to be aware. His face was flushed; with his
right hand he clutched a small riding cane, and his glowering dark eyes
swept a rapid glance over every one in the room.

And to the Comte he said hoarsely: "I must offer you my humblest
apologies, my dear Comte, for obtruding my very untidy person upon you
at this hour. I have walked all the way from Grenoble, as I could not
get a hackney-coach, else I had been here earlier and spared you this
unpleasantness."

"You are always welcome in this house, my good Maurice," said the Comte
in his loftiest manner, "and at any hour of the day."

And he added with a certain tone of dignified reproach: "I did ask you
to be my guest to-night, if you remember."

"And I," said St. Genis, "was churlish enough to refuse. I would not
have come now only that I felt I might be in time to avert the most
awful catastrophe that has yet fallen upon your house."

Again his restless, dark eyes--sullen and wrathful and charged with a
look of rage and of hate--wandered over the assembled company. The look
frightened the ladies. They took to clinging to one another, standing in
compact little groups together, like frightened birds, watchful and
wide-eyed. They feared that the young man was mad. But the men exchanged
significant glances and significant smiles. They merely thought that St.
Genis had been drinking, or that jealousy had half-turned his brain.

Only Clyffurde, who stood somewhat apart from the others, knew--by some
unexplainable intuition--what it was that had brought Maurice de St.
Genis to this house in this excited state and at this hour. He felt
excited too, and mightily thankful that the catastrophe would be brought
about by others--not by himself.

But all his thoughts were for Crystal, and an instinctive desire to
stand by her and to shield her if necessary from some unknown or
unguessed evil, made him draw nearer to her. She stood on the fringe of
the little crowd--as isolated as Bobby was himself.

De Marmont--whose face had become the colour of dead ashes--had left
her side: one step at a time and very slowly he was getting nearer and
nearer to St. Genis, as if the latter's wrath-filled eyes were drawing
him against his will.

At the young man's ominous words, M. le Comte's sunken cheeks grew a
shade more pale.

"What catastrophe, _mon Dieu!_" he exclaimed, "could fall on my house
that would be worse than twenty years of exile?"

"An alliance with a traitor, M. le Comte," said St. Genis firmly.

A gasp went round the room, a sigh, a cry. The women looked in mute
horror from one man to the other, the men already had their right hand
on their swords. But Clyffurde's eyes were fixed upon Crystal, who pale,
silent, rigid as a marble statue, with lips parted and nostrils
quivering, stood not five paces away from him, her dilated eyes
wandering ceaselessly from the face of St. Genis to that of de Marmont
and thence to that of her father. But beyond that look of tense
excitement she revealed nothing of what she thought and felt.

Already de Marmont--his hand upon his sword--had advanced menacingly
towards St. Genis.

"M. le Marquis," he said between set teeth, "you will, by God! eat those
words, or----"

"Eat my words, man?" retorted St. Genis with a harsh laugh. "By Heaven!
have I not come here on purpose to throw my words into your lying face?"

There was a brief but violent skirmish, for de Marmont had made a
movement as if he meant to spring at his rival's throat, and Général
Marchand and the Vicomte de Génevois, who happened to be near, had much
ado to seize and hold him: even so they could not stop the hoarse cries
which he uttered:

"Liar! Liar! Liar! Let me go! Let me get to him! I must kill him! I must
kill him!"

The Comte interposed his dignified person between the two men.

"Maurice," he said, in tones of calm and dispassionate reproof, "your
conduct is absolutely unjustifiable. You seem to forget that you are in
the presence of ladies and of my guests. If you had a quarrel with M. de
Marmont. . . ."

"A quarrel, my dear Comte?" exclaimed St. Genis, "nay, 'tis no quarrel I
have with him: and my conduct would have been a thousand times more vile
if I had not come to-night and stopped his hand from touching that of
Mlle. Crystal de Cambray--his hand which was engaged less than two hours
ago in affixing to the public buildings of Grenoble the infamous message
of the Corsican brigand to the army and the people of France."

A hoarse murmur--a sure sign that men or women are afraid--came from
every corner of the room.

"The message?--What message?"

Some people turned instinctively to M. le préfet, others to Général
Marchand. Every one knew that Bonaparte had landed on the Littoral,
every one had heard the rumour that he was marching in triumph through
Provence and the Dauphiné--but no one had altogether believed this--as
for a message--a proclamation--a call to the army--and this in Grenoble
itself. No one had heard of that--every one had been at home, getting
dressed for this festive function, thinking of good suppers and of
wedding bells. It was as if after a clap of thunder and a flash of
lightning the house was found to be in flames. M. le préfet in answer to
these mute queries had shrugged his shoulders, and Général Marchand
looked grim and silent.

But St. Genis with arm uplifted and shaking hand pointed a finger at de
Marmont.

"Ask him," he cried. "Ask him, my dear Comte, ask the miserable traitor
who with lies and damnable treachery has stolen his way into your
house, has stolen your regard, your hospitality, and was on the point of
stealing your most precious treasure--your daughter! Ask him! He knows
every word of that infamous message by heart! I doubt not but a copy of
it is inside his coat now. Ask him! Général Mouton-Duveret met him
outside Grenoble in company with that cur Emery and I saw him with mine
own eyes distributing these hellish papers among our townspeople and
pinning them up at the street-corners of our city."

While St. Genis was speaking--or rather screaming--for his voice,
pitched high, seemed to fill the entire room--every glance was fixed
upon de Marmont. Every one of course expected a contradiction as hot and
intemperate as was the accusation. It was unthinkable, impossible that
what St. Genis said could be true. They all knew de Marmont well. Nephew
of the Duc de Raguse who had borne the lion's share in surrendering
Paris to the allies and bringing about the downfall of the Corsican
usurper, he was one of the most trusted members of the royalist set in
Dauphiné. They had talked quite freely before him, consulted with him
when local Bonapartism appeared uncomfortably rampant. De Marmont was
one of themselves.

And yet he said nothing even now when St. Genis accused him and hurled
insult upon insult at him:--he said nothing to refute the awful
impeachment, to justify his conduct, to explain his companionship with
Emery. His face was still livid, but it was with rage--not indignation.
Marchand and Génevois still held him by the arms, else he and St. Genis
would have been at one another's throat before now. But his gestures as
he struggled to free himself, the imprecations which he uttered were
those of a man who was baffled and found out--not of one who is
innocent.

But as St. Genis continued to speak and worked himself up every moment
into a still greater state of excitement, de Marmont gradually seemed to
calm down. He ceased to curse: he ceased to struggle, and on his
face--which still was livid--there gradually crept a look of
determination and of defiance. He dug his teeth into his under lip until
tiny drops of blood appeared at the corner of his mouth and trickled
slowly down his chin.

Marchand and Génevois relaxed the grip upon his arms, since he no longer
fought, and thus released he contrived to pull himself together. He
tossed back his head and looked his infuriated accuser boldly in the
face.

By the time St. Genis paused in his impassioned denunciation, he had
himself completely under control: only his eyes appeared to glow with an
unnatural fire, and little beads of moisture appeared upon his brow and
matted the dark hair against his forehead. The Comte de Cambray at this
juncture would certainly have interposed with one of those temperate
speeches, full of dignity and brimming over with lofty sentiments, which
he knew so well how to deliver, but de Marmont gave him no time to
begin. When St. Genis paused for breath, he suddenly freed himself
completely with a quick movement, from Marchand's and Génevois' hold;
and then he turned to the Comte and to the rest of the company:

"And what if I did pin the Emperor's proclamation on the walls of
Grenoble," he said proudly and with a tremor of enthusiasm in his voice,
"the Emperor, whom treachery more vile than any since the days of the
Iscariot sent into humiliation and exile! The Emperor has come back!"
cried the young devotee with that extraordinary fervour which Napoleon
alone--of all men that have ever walked upon this earth--was able to
suscitate: "his Imperial eagles once more soar over France carrying on
their wings her honour and glory to the outermost corners of Europe. His
proclamation is to his people who have always loved him, to his
soldiers who in their hearts have always been true to him. His
proclamation?" he added as with a kind of exultant war-cry he drew a
roll of paper from his pocket and held it out at arm's length above his
head, "his proclamation? Here it is! Vive l'Empereur! by the grace of
God!"

Who shall attempt to describe the feelings of all those who were
assembled round this young enthusiast as he hurled his challenge right
in the face of those who called him a liar and a traitor? Surely it were
a hard task for the chronicler to search into the minds and hearts of
this score of men and women--who worshipped one God and reverenced one
King--at the moment when they saw that King threatened upon his throne,
their faith mocked and their God blasphemed: that the young man spoke
words of truth no one thought of denying. Napoleon's name had the power
to strike terror in the heart of every citizen who desired peace above
all things and of every royalist who wished to see King Louis in
possession of the throne of his fathers. But the army which had fought
under him, the army which he had led in triumph and to victory from one
end of the Continent of Europe to the other, that army still loved him
and had never been rightly loyal to King Louis. The horrors of war which
had lain so heavily over France and over Europe for the past twenty
years were painfully vivid still in everybody's mind, and all these
horrors were intimately associated with the name which stood out now in
bold characters on the paper which de Marmont was triumphantly waving.

M. le Comte had become a shade or two paler than he had been before: he
looked very old, very careworn, all of a sudden, and his pale eyes had
that look in them which comes into the eyes of the old after years of
sorrow and of regret.

But never for a moment did he depart from his attitude of dignity. When
de Marmont's exultant cry of "Vive l'Empereur!" had ceased to echo round
the majestic walls of this stately château, he straightened out his
spare figure and with one fine gesture begged for silence from his
guests.

Then he said very quietly: "M. Marmont, this is neither the place nor
the opportunity which I should have chosen for confronting you with all
the lies which you have told in the past ten months ever since you
entered my house as an honoured guest. But M. de St. Genis has left me
no option. Burning with indignation at your treachery he came hot-foot
to unmask you, before my daughter's fair hand had affixed her own
honourable name beneath that of a cheat and a traitor. . . . Yes! M. de
Marmont," he reiterated with virile force, breaking in on the hot
protests which had risen to the young man's lips, "no one but a cheat
and a traitor could thus have wormed himself into the confidence of an
old man and of a young girl! No one but a villainous blackguard could
have contemplated the abominable deceptions which you have planned
against me and against my daughter."

For a moment or two after the old man had finished speaking Victor de
Marmont remained silent. There were murmurs of indignation among the
guests, also of approval of the Comte's energetic words. De Marmont was
in the midst of a hostile crowd and he knew it. Here was no drawing-room
quarrel which could be settled at the point of a sword. Though--as Fate
and man so oft ordain it--a woman was the primary reason for the
quarrel, she was not its cause; and the hostility expressed against him
by every glance which de Marmont encountered was so general and so
great, that it overawed him even in the midst of his enthusiasm.

"M. le Comte," he said at last, and he made a great effort to appear
indifferent and unconcerned, "I wish for your daughter's sake that M.
de St. Genis had chosen some other time to make this fracas. We who have
learned chivalry at the Emperor's school would have hit our enemy when
he was in a position to defend himself. This, obviously, I cannot do at
this moment without trespassing still further upon your hospitality, and
causing Mlle. Crystal still more pain. I might even make a direct appeal
to her, since the decision in this matter rests, I imagine, primarily
with her, but with the Emperor at our gates, with the influence of his
power and of his pride dominating my every thought, I will with your
gracious permission relieve you of my unwelcome presence without taking
another leaf out of M. de St. Genis' book."

"As you will, Monsieur," said the Comte stiffly.

De Marmont bowed quite ceremoniously to him, and the Comte--courtly and
correct to the last--returned his salute with equal ceremony. Then the
young man turned to Crystal.

For the first time, perhaps, since the terrible fracas had begun, he
realised what it all must mean to her. She did not try to evade his
look, or to turn away from him. On the contrary she looked him straight
in the face, and watched him while he approached her, without retreating
one single step. But she watched him just as one would watch an abject
and revolting cur, that was too vile and too mean even to merit a kick.

Crystal's blue eyes were always expressive, but they had never been so
expressive as they were just then. De Marmont met her glance squarely,
and he read in it everything that she meant to convey--her contempt, her
loathing, her hatred--but above all her contempt. So overwhelming, so
complete was this contempt that it made him wince, as if he had been
struck in the face with a whip.

He stood still, for he knew that she would never allow him to kiss her
hand in farewell, and he had had enough of insults--he knew that he
could not bear that final one.

A red mist suddenly gathered before his eyes, a mad desire to strike, to
wound or to kill, and with it a wave of passion--he called it Love--for
this woman, such as he had never felt for her before. He gave her back
with a glance, hatred for hatred, but whereas her hatred for him was
smothered in contempt, his for her was leavened with a fierce and
dominant passion.

All this had taken but a few seconds in accomplishment. M. le Comte had
not done more than give a sign to Hector to see M. de Marmont safely out
of the castle, and Maurice de St. Genis had only had time to think of
interposing, if de Marmont tried to take Crystal's hand.

Only a few seconds, but a lifetime of emotion was crammed into them.
Then de Marmont, with Crystal's look of loathing still eating into his
soul, caught sight of Clyffurde who stood close by--Clyffurde whose one
thought throughout all this unhappy scene had been of Crystal, who
through it all had eyes and ears only for her.

Some kind of instinct made the young girl look up to him just then:
probably only in response to a wave of memory which brought back to her
at that very moment, the words of devotion and offer of service which he
had spoken awhile ago; or it may have been that same sense which had
told her at the time that here was a man whom she could always trust,
that he would always prove a friend, as he had promised, and the look
which she gave him was one of simple confidence.

But de Marmont just happened to intercept that look. He had never been
jealous of Clyffurde of course. Clyffurde--the foreigner, the bourgeois
tradesman--never could under any circumstances be a rival to reckon
with. At any other time he would have laughed at the idea of Mlle.
Crystal de Cambray bestowing the slightest favour upon the Englishman.
But within the last few seconds everything had become different. Victor
de Marmont, the triumphant and wealthy suitor of Mlle. de Cambray, had
become a pariah among all these ladies and gentlemen, and he had become
a man scorned by the woman whom he had wooed and thought to win so
easily.

The fierce love engendered for Crystal in his turbulent heart by all the
hatred and all the scorn which she lavished upon him, brought an
unreasoning jealousy into being. He felt suddenly that he detested
Clyffurde. He remembered Clyffurde's nationality and its avowed hatred
of the hero whom he--de Marmont--worshipped. And he realised also that
that same hatred must of necessity be a bond between the Englishman and
Crystal de Cambray.

Therefore--though this new untamed jealousy seized hold of him with
extraordinary power, though it brought that ominous red film before his
eyes, which makes a man strike out blindly and stupidly against his
rival, it also suggested to de Marmont a far simpler and far more
efficacious way of ridding himself once for all of any fear of rivalry
from Clyffurde.

When he had bowed quite formally to Crystal he looked up at Bobby and
gave him a pleasant and friendly nod.

"I suppose you will be coming with me, my good Clyffurde," he said
lightly, "we are rowing in the same boat, you and I. We were a very
happy party, were we not? you and Emery and I when Général Mouton met us
outside Grenoble: for we had just heard the glorious news that the
Emperor is marching triumphantly through France."

Then he turned once more to St. Genis: "Did not," he said, "the
General's aide-de-camp tell you that, M. de St. Genis?"

St. Genis had--during these few seconds while de Marmont held the centre
of the stage--succeeded in controlling his excitement, at any rate
outwardly. He was so absolutely master of the situation and had put his
successful rival so completely to rout, that the sense of satisfaction
helped to soothe his nerves: and when de Marmont spoke directly to him,
he was able to reply with comparative calm.

"Had you," he said to de Marmont, "attempted to deny the accusation
which I have brought against you, I was ready to confront you with the
report which Général Mouton's aide-de-camp brought into the town."

"I had no intention of denying my loyalty to the Emperor," rejoined de
Marmont, "but I would like to know what report Général Mouton's
aide-de-camp brought into Grenoble. The worthy General did not belie his
name, I assure you, he looked mightily scared when he recognised Emery."

"He was alone with his aide-de-camp and in his coach," retorted St.
Genis, "whilst that traitor Emery, you and your friend Mr. Clyffurde
were on horseback--you gave him the slip easily enough."

"That's true, of course," said de Marmont simply. "Well, shall we go, my
dear Clyffurde?"

He had accomplished the purpose of his jealousy even more effectually
than he could have wished. He looked round and saw that everyone had
thrown a casual glance of contempt upon Clyffurde and then turned away
to murmur with scornful indifference: "I always mistrusted that man."
Or: "The Comte ought never to have had the fellow in the house," while
the words: "English spy!" and "Informer" were on every lip.

But Clyffurde had made no movement during this brief colloquy. He
saw--just as de Marmont did--that everyone was listening more with
indifference than with horror. He--the stranger--was of so little
consequence after all!--a tradesman and an Englishman--what mattered
what his political convictions were? De Marmont was an object of
hatred, but he--Clyffurde--was only one of contempt.

He heard the muttered words: "English spy!" "Informer!" and others of
still more overwhelming disdain. But he cared little what these people
said. He knew that they would never trouble to hear any justification
from himself--they would not worry their heads about him a moment longer
once he had left the house in company with de Marmont.

He was not quite sure either whether de Marmont's spite had been
directed against himself, personally, or that it was merely the outcome
of his present humiliating position.

M. le Comte had not bestowed more than a glance upon him and that from
under haughtily raised brows and across half the width of the room: but
Crystal had looked up to him, and was still looking, and it was that
look which had driven all the blood from Clyffurde's face and caused his
lips to set closely as if with a sense of physical pain.

The insults which her father's guests were overtly murmuring, she had in
her mind and her eyes were conveying them to him far more plainly than
her lips could have done:

"English spy--traitor to friendship and to trust--liar, deceiver,
hypocrite." That and more did her scornful glance imply. But she said
nothing. He tried to plead with eyes as expressive as were her own, and
she merely turned away from him, just as if he no longer existed. She
drew her skirt closer round her and somehow with that gesture she seemed
to sweep him entirely out of her existence.

Even Mme. la Duchesse had not one glance for him. To these passionate,
hot-headed, impulsive royalists, an adherent of the Corsican ogre was
lower than the scum of the earth. They loathed de Marmont because he had
been one of themselves: he was a traitor, and not one man there but
would have liked to see him put up against a wall and summarily shot.
But the stranger they wiped out of their lives.

Was there any chance for Clyffurde, if he tried to defend himself? None
of a certainty. He could not call the accusation a lie, since he had
been in the company of Emery and of de Marmont most of the day, and mere
explanations would have fallen on deaf and unwilling ears.

Clyffurde knew this, nor did he attempt any explanation. There is a
certain pride in the heart of every English gentleman which in moments
of acute crisis rises to its full power and height. That pride would not
allow Clyffurde to utter a single word in his own defence. The futility
of attempting it also influenced his decision. He scorned the idea of
speaking on his own behalf, words which were doomed to be disbelieved.

In a moment he had found himself absolutely isolated in the centre of
the room, not far from the hearth where he had stood a little while ago
talking to Crystal, and close to the chair where she had sat with the
light of the fire playing upon her satin gown. The cushions still bore
the impress of her young figure as she had leaned up against them: the
sight of it was an additional pain which almost made Clyffurde wince.

He bowed silently and very low to Crystal and to Mme. la Duchesse, and
then to all the ladies and gentlemen who cold-shouldered him with such
contemptuous ostentation. De Marmont with head erect and an air of
swagger was already waiting for him at the door. Clyffurde in taking
leave of M. le Comte made a violent effort to say at any rate the one
word which weighed upon his heart.

"Will you at least permit me, M. le Comte," he said, "to thank you for
. . ."

But already the Comte had interrupted him, even before the words were
clearly out of his mouth.

"I will not permit you, Sir," he broke in firmly, "to speak a single
word other than a plain denial of M. de St. Genis' accusations against
you."

Then as Clyffurde relapsed into silence, M. le Comte continued with
haughty peremptoriness:

"A plain 'yes' or 'no' will suffice, Sir. Were you or were you not in
the company of those traitors Emery and de Marmont when Général
Mouton-Duvernet came upon them outside Grenoble?"

"I was," replied Clyffurde simply.

With a stiff nod of the head the Comte turned his back abruptly upon
him; no one took any further notice of the "English spy." The accused
had been condemned without enquiry and without trial. In times like
these all one's friends must be above suspicion. Clyffurde knew that
there was nothing to be said. With a quickly suppressed sigh, he too
turned away and in his habitual, English, dogged way he resolutely set
his teeth, and with a firm soldierly step walked quietly out of the
room.

"Hector, see that M. de Marmont's coach is ready for him," said M. le
Comte with well assumed indifference; "and that supper is no longer
delayed."

He then once more offered his arm to Mme. la Duchesse d'Embrun. "Mme. la
Duchesse," he said in his most courtly manner, "I beg that you will
accept my apologies for this unforeseen interruption. May I have the
honour of conducting you to supper?"




CHAPTER IV

THE EMPRESS' MILLIONS


I

De Marmont, having successfully shot his poisoned arrow and brought down
his enemy, had no longer any ill-feeling against Clyffurde. His jealousy
had been short-lived; it was set at rest by the brief episode which had
culminated in the Englishman's final exit from the Castle of Brestalou.

Not a single detail of that moving little episode had escaped de
Marmont's keen eyes: he had seen Crystal's look of positive abhorrence
wherewith she had regarded Clyffurde, he had seen the gathering up of
her skirts away--as it were--from the contaminating propinquity of the
"English spy."

And de Marmont was satisfied.

He was perfectly ready to pick up the strained strands of friendship
with the Englishman and affected not to notice the latter's absorption
and moodiness.

"Can I drive you into Grenoble, my good Clyffurde?" he asked airily as
he paused on the top of the perron steps, waiting for the hackney coach.

"I thank you," replied Clyffurde; "I prefer to walk."

"It is eight kilometres and a pitch-dark night."

"I know my way, I thank you."

"Just as you like."

He paused a moment, and began humming the "Marseillaise." Clyffurde
started walking down the monumental steps.

"Well, I'll say 'good-night,' de Marmont," he said coldly. "And
'good-bye,' too."

"You are not going away?" queried the other.

"As soon as I can get the means of going."

"Troops will be on the move all over the country soon. Foreigners will
be interned. You will have some difficulty in getting away."

"I know that. That's why I want to make arrangements as early as
possible."

"Where will you stay in the meanwhile?"

"Possibly at the 'Trois-Dauphins' if I can get a room."

"I shall see you again then. The Emperor will stay there while he is in
Grenoble. Well, good-night, my dear friend," said de Marmont, as he
extended a cordial hand to Clyffurde, who, in the dark, evidently failed
to see it. "And don't take the insults of all these fools too much to
heart." And he gave an expressive nod in the direction of the stately
castle behind him.

"They are dolts," he continued airily; "if they possessed a grain of
sense they would have kept on friendly terms with me. As that old fool's
son-in-law I could have saved him from all the reprisals which will
inevitably fall on all these royalist traitors, now that the Emperor has
come into his own again."

Clyffurde was half-way down the stone steps when these words of de
Marmont struck upon his ear. Instinctively he retraced his steps. There
was a suggestion of impending danger to Crystal in what the young man
had said.

"What do you mean by talking about reprisals?" he asked.

"Oh! . . . only the inevitable," replied de Marmont. "The people of the
Dauphiné never cared for these royalists, you know . . . and didn't
learn to like them any better in these past eleven months since the
Restoration. M. le Comte de Cambray has been very high and mighty since
his return from exile. He may yet come to wish that he had never quitted
the comfortable little provincial town in England where he gave drawing
lessons and French lessons to some very bourgeois boys. . . . But here's
that coach at last!" he continued with that jaunty air which he had
assumed since turning his back upon the reception halls of Brestalou.
"Are you sure that you would rather walk than drive with me?"

"No," replied Clyffurde abruptly, "I am not sure. Thank you very much. I
think that if you don't object to my somewhat morose company I would
like a lift as far as Grenoble."

He wanted to make de Marmont talk, to hear what the young man had to
say. From it he thought that he could learn more accurately what danger
would threaten Brestalou in the event of Napoleon's successful march to
Paris.

That the great adventurer's triumph would be short-lived Clyffurde was
perfectly sure. He knew the temper of England and believed in the
military genius of Wellington. England would never tolerate for a moment
longer than she could help that the firebrand of Europe should once more
sit upon the throne of France, and unless the allies had greatly altered
their policy in the past ten months and refused England the necessary
support, Wellington would be more than a match for the decimated army of
Bonaparte.

But a few weeks--months, perhaps, might elapse before Napoleon was once
again put entirely out of action--and this time more completely and more
effectually than with a small kingdom wherein to dream again of European
conquests; during those weeks and months Brestalou and its inhabitants
would be at the mercy of the man from Corsica--the island of unrest and
of never sleeping vendetta.

De Marmont was ready enough to talk. He knew nothing, of course, of
Napoleon's plans and ideas save what Emery had told him. But what he
lacked in knowledge he more than made up in imagination. Excitement too
had made him voluble. He talked freely and incessantly: "The Emperor
would do this. . . . The Emperor will never tolerate that . . ." was all
the time on his lips.

He bragged and he swaggered, launched into passionate eulogies of the
Emperor, and fiery denunciations of his enemies. Berthier, Clark,
Foucher, de Marmont, they all deserved death. Ney alone was to be
pardoned, for Ney was a fine soldier--always supposing that Ney would
repent. But men like the Comte de Cambray were a pest in any
country--mischief-making and intriguing. Bah! the Emperor will never
tolerate them.

Suddenly Clyffurde--who had become half-drowsy, lulled to somnolence by
de Marmont's incessant chatter and the monotonous jog-trot of the
horses--woke to complete consciousness. He pricked his ears and in a
moment was all attention.

"They think that they can deceive me," de Marmont was saying airily.
"They think that I am as great a fool as they are, with their talk of
Mme. la Duchesse's journey north, directly after the wedding! Bah! any
dolt can put two and two together: the Comte tells me in one breath that
he had a visit from Fourier in the afternoon, and that the Duchesse--who
only arrived in Brestalou yesterday--would leave again for Paris on the
day after to-morrow, and he tells it me with a mysterious air, and adds
a knowing wink, and a promise that he would explain himself more fully
later on. I could have laughed--if it were not all so miserably stupid."

He paused for want of breath and tried to peer through the window of the
coach.

"It is pitch-dark," he said, "but we can't be very far from the city
now."

"I don't see," rejoined Clyffurde, ostentatiously smothering a yawn,
"what M. le préfet's visit to Brestalou had to do with the Duchesse's
journey to the north. You have got intrigues on the brain, my good de
Marmont."

And with well-feigned indifference, he settled himself more cosily into
the dark corner of the carriage.

De Marmont laughed. "What Fourier's afternoon visit has to do with Mme.
d'Agen's journey?" he retorted, "I'll tell you, my good Clyffurde.
Fourier went to see M. le Comte de Cambray this afternoon because he is
a poltroon. He is terrified at the thought that the unfortunate Empress'
money and treasure are still lying in the cellars of the Hôtel de Ville
and he went out to Brestalou in order to consult with the Comte what had
best be done with the money."

"I didn't know the ex-Empress' money was lying in the cellar of the
Hôtel de Ville," remarked Clyffurde with well-assumed indifference.

"Nor did I until Emery told me," rejoined de Marmont. "The money is
there though: stolen from the Empress Marie Louise by that
arch-intriguer Talleyrand. Twenty-five millions in notes and drafts! the
Emperor reckons on it for current expenses until he has reached Paris
and taken over the Treasury."

"Even then I don't see what Mme. la Duchesse d'Agen has to do with it."

"You don't," said de Marmont drily: "but I did in a moment. Fourier
wouldn't keep the money at the Hôtel de Ville: the Comte de Cambray
would not allow it to be deposited in his house. They both want the
Bourbon to have it. So--in order to lull suspicion--they have decided
that Madame la Duchesse shall take the money to Paris."

"Well!--perhaps!--" said Clyffurde with a yawn. "But are we not in
Grenoble yet?"

Once more he lapsed into silence, closed his eyes and to all intents and
purposes fell asleep, for never another word did de Marmont get out of
him, until Grenoble was reached and the rue Montorge.

Here de Marmont had his lodgings, three doors from the "Hôtel des
Trois-Dauphins," where fortunately Clyffurde managed to secure a
comfortable room for himself.

He parted quite amicably from de Marmont, promising to call in upon him
in the morning. It would be foolish to quarrel with that young wind-bag
now. He knew some things, and talked of a great many more.


II

Preparations against the arrival of the Corsican ogre were proceeding
apace. Général Marchand had been overconfident throughout the day--which
was the 5th of March: "The troops," he said, "were loyal to a man. They
were coming in fast from Chambéry and Vienne; the garrison would and
could repulse that band of pirates, and take upon itself to fulfil the
promise which Ney had made to the King--namely to bring the ogre to His
Majesty bound and gagged in an iron cage."

But the following day, which was the 6th, many things occurred to shake
the Commandant's confidence: Napoleon's proclamation was not only posted
up all over the town, but the citizens were distributing the printed
leaflets among themselves: one of the officers on the staff pointed out
to Général Marchand that the 4th regiment of artillery quartered in
Grenoble was the one in which Bonaparte had served as a lieutenant
during the Revolution--the men, it was argued, would never turn their
arms against one whom they had never ceased to idolize: it would not be
safe to march out into the open with men whose loyalty was so very
doubtful.

There was a rumour current in the town that when the men of the 5th
regiment of engineers and the 4th of artillery were told that Napoleon
had only eleven hundred men with him, they all murmured with one accord:
"And what about us?"

Therefore Général Marchand, taking all these facts into consideration,
made up his mind to await the ogre inside the walls of Grenoble. Here at
any rate defections and desertions would be less likely to occur than in
the field. He set to work to organise the city into a state of defence;
forty-seven guns were put in position upon the ramparts which dominate
the road to the south, and he sent a company of engineers and a
battalion of infantry to blow up the bridge of Ponthaut at La Mure.

The royalists in the city, who were beginning to feel very anxious, had
assembled in force to cheer these troops as they marched out of the
city. But the attitude of the sapeurs created a very unpleasant
impression: they marched out in disorder, some of them tore the white
cockade from their shakos, and one or two cries of "Vive l'Empereur!"
were distinctly heard in their ranks.

At La Mure, M. le Maire argued very strongly against the destruction of
the bridge of Ponthaut: "It would be absurd," he said, "to blow up a
valuable bridge, since not one kilometre away there was an excellent
ford across which Napoleon could march his troops with perfect ease."
The sapeurs murmured an assent, and their officer, Colonel Delessart,
feeling the temper of his men, did not dare insist.

He quartered them at La Mure to await the arrival of the infantry, and
further orders from Général Marchand. When the 5th regiment of infantry
was reported to have reached Laffray, Delessart had the sapeurs out and
marched out to meet them, although it was then close upon midnight.

While Delessart and his troops encamped at Laffray, Cambronne--who was
in command of Napoleon's vanguard--himself occupied La Mure. This was on
the 7th. The Mayor--who had so strongly protested against the
destruction of the bridge of Ponthaut--gathered the population around
him, and in a body men, women and children marched out of the borough
along the Corps-Sisteron road in order to give "the Emperor" a rousing
welcome.

It was still early morning. Napoleon at the head of his Old Guard
entered La Mure; a veritable ovation greeted him, everyone pressed round
him to see him or touch his horse, his coat, his stirrups; he spoke to
the people and held the Mayor and municipal officials in long
conversation.

Just as practically everywhere else on his route, he had won over every
heart; but his small column which had been eleven hundred strong when he
landed at Jouan, was still only eleven hundred strong: he had only
rallied four recruits to his standard. True, he had met with no
opposition, true that the peasantry of the Dauphiné had loudly acclaimed
him, had listened to his harangues and presented him with flowers, but
he had not had a single encounter with any garrison on his way, nor
could he boast of any defections in his favour; now he was nearing
Grenoble--Grenoble, which was strongly fortified and well
garrisoned--and Grenoble would be the winning or losing cast of this
great gamble for the sovereignty of France.

It was close on eleven when the great adventurer set out upon this
momentous stage of his journey: the Polish Lancers leading, then the
chasseurs of his Old Guard with their time-worn grey coats and heavy
bear-skins; some of them were on foot, others packed closely together in
wagons and carts which the enthusiastic agriculturists of La Mure had
placed at the disposal of "the Emperor."

Napoleon himself followed in his coach, his horse being led along.
Amidst thundering cries of "God speed" the small column started on its
way.

As for the rest, 'tis in the domain of history; every phase of it has
been put on record:--Delessart--worried in his mind that he had not been
able to obey Général Marchand's orders and destroy the bridge of
Ponthaut--his desire to communicate once more with the General; his
decision to await further orders and in the meanwhile to occupy the
narrow defile of Laffray as being an advantageous position wherein to
oppose the advance of the ogre: all this on the one side.

On the other, the advance of the Polish Lancers, of the carts and wagons
wherein are crowded the soldiers of the Old Guard, and Napoleon himself,
the great gambler, sitting in his coach gazing out through the open
windows at the fair land of France, the peaceful valley on his left, the
chain of ice-covered lakes and the turbulent Drac; on his right beyond
the hills frowning Taillefer, snow-capped and pine-clad, and far ahead
Grenoble still hidden from his view as the future too was still
hidden--the mysterious gate beyond which lay glory and an Empire or the
ignominy of irretrievable failure.

History has made a record of it all, and it is not the purpose of this
true chronicle to do more than recall with utmost brevity the chief
incident of that memorable encounter, the Polish Lancers galloping back
with the report that the narrow pass was held against them in strong
force: the Old Guard climbing helter-skelter out of carts and wagons,
examining their arms, making ready: Napoleon stepping quickly out of his
coach and mounting his charger.

On the other side Delessart holding hurried consultation with the
Vicomte de St. Genis whom Général Marchand has despatched to him with
orders to shoot the brigand and his horde as he would a pack of wolves.

Napoleon is easily recognisable in the distance, with his grey overcoat,
his white horse and his bicorne hat; presently he dismounts and walks up
and down across the narrow road, evidently in a state of great mental
agitation.

Delessart's men are sullen and silent; a crowd of men and women from
Grenoble have followed them up thus far; they work their way in and out
among the infantrymen: they have printed leaflets in their hands which
they cram one by one into the hands or pockets of the soldiers--copies
of Napoleon's proclamation.

Now an officer of the Old Guard is seen to ride up the pass. Delessart
recognises him. They were brothers in arms two years ago and served
together under the greatest military genius the world has ever known.
Napoleon has sent the man on as an emissary, but Delessart will not
allow him to speak.

"I mean to do my duty," he declares.

But in his voice too there has already crept that note of sullenness
which characterised the sapeurs from the first.

Then Captain Raoul, own aide-de-camp to Napoleon, comes up at full
gallop: nor does he draw rein till he is up with the entire front of
Delessart's battalion.

"Your Emperor is coming," he shouts to the soldiers, "if you fire, the
first shot will reach him: and France will make you answerable for this
outrage!"

While he shouts and harangues the men are still sullen and silent. And
in the distance the lances of the Polish cavalry gleam in the sun, and
the shaggy bear-skins of the Old Guard are seen to move forward up the
pass. Delessart casts a rapid piercing glance over his men. Sullenness
had given place to obvious terror.

"Right about turn! . . . Quick! . . . March!" he commands.

Resistance obviously would be useless with these men, who are on the
verge of laying down their arms. He forces on a quick march, but the
Polish Lancers are already gaining ground: the sound of their horses'
hoofs stamping the frozen ground, the snorting, the clanging of arms is
distinctly heard. Delessart now has no option. He must make his men turn
once more and face the ogre and his battalion before they are attacked
in the rear.

As soon as the order is given and the two little armies stand face to
face the Polish Lancers halt and the Old Guard stand still.

And it almost seems for the moment as if Nature herself stood still and
listened, and looked on. The genial midday sun is slowly melting the
snow on pine trees and rocks; one by one the glistening tiny crystals
blink and vanish under the warmth of the kiss; the hard, white road
darkens under the thaw and slowly a thin covering of water spreads over
the icy crust of the lakes.

Napoleon tells Colonel Mallet to order the men to lower their arms.
Mallet protests, but Napoleon reiterates the command, more peremptorily
this time, and Mallet must obey. Then at the head of his old chasseurs,
thus practically disarmed, the Emperor--and he is every inch an Emperor
now--walks straight up to Delessart's opposing troops.

Hot-headed St. Genis cries: "Here he is!--Fire, in Heaven's name!"

But the sapeurs--the old regiment in which Napoleon had served as a
young lieutenant in those glorious olden days--are now as pale as death,
their knees shake under them, their arms tremble in their hands.

At ten paces away from the foremost ranks Napoleon halts:

"Soldiers," he cries loudly. "Here I am! your Emperor, do you know me?"

Again he advances and with a calm gesture throws open his well-worn grey
redingote.

"Fire!" cries St. Genis in mad exasperation.

"Fire!" commands Delessart in a voice rendered shaky with overmastering
emotion.

Silence reigns supreme. Napoleon still advances, step by step, his
redingote thrown open, his broad chest challenging the first bullet
which would dare to end the bold, adventurous, daring life.

"Is there one of you soldiers here who wants to shoot his Emperor? If
there is, here I am! Fire!"

Which of these soldiers who have served under him at Jena and Austerlitz
could resist such a call. His voice has lost nothing yet of its charm,
his personality nothing of its magic. Ambitious, ruthless, selfish he
may be, but to the army, a friend, a comrade as well as a god.

Suddenly the silence is broken. Shouts of "Vive l'Empereur!" rend the
air, they echo down the narrow valley, re-echo from hill to hill and
reverberate upon the pine-clad heights of Taillefer. Broken are the
ranks, white cockades fly in every direction, tricolours appear in their
hundreds everywhere. Shakos are waved on the points of the bayonets, and
always, always that cry: "Vive l'Empereur!"

Sapeurs and infantrymen crowd around the little man in the worn grey
redingote, and he with that rough familiarity which bound all soldiers'
hearts to him, seizes an old sergeant by the ends of his long moustache:

"So, you old dog," he says, "you were going to shoot your Emperor, were
you?"

"Not me," replies the man with a growl. "Look at our guns. Not one of
them was loaded."

Delessart, in despair yet shaken to the heart, his eyes swimming in
tears, offers his sword to Napoleon, whereupon the Emperor grasps his
hand in friendship and comforts him with a few inspiring words.

Only St. Genis has looked on all this scene with horror and contempt.
His royalist opinions are well known, his urgent appeal to Delessart a
while ago to "shoot the brigand and his hordes" still rings in every
soldier's ear. He is half-crazy with rage and there is quite an element
of terror in the confused thoughts which crowd in upon his brain.

Already the sapeurs and infantrymen have joined the ranks of the Old
Guard, and Napoleon, with that inimitable verve and inspiring eloquence
of which he was pastmaster, was haranguing his troops. Just then three
horsemen, dressed in the uniform of officers of the National Guard and
wearing enormous tricolour cockades as large as soup-plates on their
shakos, are seen to arrive at a break-neck gallop down the pass from
Grenoble.

St. Genis recognised them at a glance: they were Victor de Marmont,
Surgeon-Captain Emery and their friend the glovemaker, Dumoulin. The
next moment these three men were at the feet of their beloved hero.

"Sire," said Dumoulin the glovemaker, "in the name of the citizens of
Grenoble we hereby offer you our services and one hundred thousand
francs collected in the last twenty-four hours for your use."

"I accept both," replied the Emperor, while he grasped vigorously the
hands of his three most devoted friends.

St. Genis uttered a loud and comprehensive curse: then he pulled his
horse abruptly round and with such a jerk that it reared and plunged
madly forward ere it started galloping away with its frantic rider in
the direction of Grenoble.


III

And Grenoble itself was in a turmoil.

In the barracks the cries of "Vive l'Empereur!" were incessant; Général
Marchand was indefatigable in his efforts to still that cry, to rouse in
the hearts of the soldiers a sense of loyalty to the King.

"Your country and your King," he shouted from barrack-room to
barrack-room.

"Our country and our Emperor!" responded the soldiers with ever-growing
enthusiasm.

The spirit of the army and of the people were Bonapartist to the core.
They had never trusted either Marchand or préfet Fourier, who had turned
their coats so readily at the Restoration: they hated the émigrés--the
Comte de Cambray, the Vicomte de St. Genis, the Duc d'Embrun--with their
old-fashioned ideas of the semi-divine rights of the nobility second
only to the godlike ones of the King. They thought them arrogant and
untamed, over-ready to grab once more all the privileges which a bloody
Revolution had swept away.

To them Napoleon, despite the brilliant days of the Empire, despite his
autocracy, his militarism and his arrogance, represented "the people,"
the advanced spirit of the Revolution; his downfall had meant a return
to the old regime--the regime of feudal rights, of farmers general, of
heavy taxation and dear bread.

"Vive l'Empereur!" was cried in the barracks and "Vive l'Empereur!" at
the street corners.

A squadron of Hussars had marched into Grenoble from Vienne just before
noon: the same squadron which a few months ago at a revue by the Comte
d'Artois in the presence of the King had shouted "Vive l'Empereur!" What
faith could be put in their loyalty now?

But two infantry regiments came in at the same time from Chambéry and on
these Général Marchand hoped to be able to reckon. The Comte Charles de
la Bédoyère was in command of the 7th regiment, and though he had served
in Prussia under Napoleon he had tendered his oath loyally to Louis
XVIII. at the Restoration. He was a tried and able soldier and Marchand
believed in him. The General himself reviewed both infantry regiments on
the Place d'Armes on their arrival, and then posted them upon the
ramparts of the city, facing direct to the southeast and dominating the
road to La Mure.

De la Bédoyère remained in command of the 7th.

For two hours he paced the ramparts in a state of the greatest possible
agitation. The nearness of Napoleon, of the man who had been his comrade
in arms first and his leader afterwards, had a terribly disturbing
effect upon his spirit. From below in the city the people's mutterings,
their grumbling, their sullen excitement seemed to rise upwards like an
intoxicating incense. The attitude of the troops, of the gunners, as
well as of the garrison and of his own regiment, worked more potently
still upon the Colonel's already shaken loyalty.

Then suddenly his mind is made up. He draws his sword and shouts: "Vive
l'Empereur!"

"Soldiers!" he calls. "Follow me! I will show you the way to duty!
Follow me! Vive l'Empereur!"

"Vive l'Empereur!" vociferate the troops.

"After me, my men! to the Bonne Gate! After me!" cries De la Bédoyère.

And to the shouts of "Vive l'Empereur!" the 7th regiment of infantry
passes through the gate and marches along the streets of the suburb on
towards La Mure.

Général Marchand, hastily apprised of the wholesale defection, sends
Colonel Villiers in hot haste in the wake of De la Bédoyère. Villiers
comes up with the latter two kilomètres outside Grenoble. He talks, he
persuades, he admonishes, he scolds, De la Bédoyère and his men are
firm.

"Your country and your king!" shouts Villiers.

"Our country and our Emperor!" respond the men. And they go to join the
Old Guard at Laffray while Villiers in despair rides back into Grenoble.

In the town the desertion of the 7th has had a very serious effect. The
muttered cries of "Vive l'Empereur!" are open shouts now. Général
Marchand is at his wits' ends. He has ordered the closing of every city
gate, and still the soldiers in batches of tens and twenties at a time
contrive to escape out of the town carrying their arms and in many cases
baggage with them. The royalist faction--the women as well as the
men--spend the whole day in and out of the barrack-rooms talking to the
men, trying to infuse into them loyalty to the King, and to cheer them
up by bringing them wine and provisions.

In the afternoon the Vicomte de St. Genis, sick, exhausted, his horse
covered with lather, comes back with the story of the pass of Laffray,
and Napoleon's triumphant march toward Grenoble. Marchand seriously
contemplates evacuating the city in order to save the garrison and his
stores.

Préfet Fourier congratulates himself on his foresight and on that he has
transferred the twenty-five million francs from the cellars of the Hôtel
de Ville into the safe keeping of M. le Comte de Cambray. He and Général
Marchand both hope and think that "the brigand and his horde" cannot
possibly be at the gates of Grenoble before the morrow, and that Mme. la
Duchesse d'Agen would be well on her way to Paris with the money by that
time.

Marchand in the meanwhile has made up his mind to retire from the city
with his troops. It is only a strategical measure, he argues, to save
bloodshed and to save his stores, pending the arrival of the Comte
d'Artois at Lyons, with the army corps. He gives the order for the
general retreat to commence at two o'clock in the morning.

Satisfied that he has done the right thing, he finally goes back to his
quarters in the Hotel du Dauphiné close to the ramparts. The Comte de
Cambray is his guest at dinner, and toward seven o'clock the two men at
last sit down to a hurried meal, both their minds filled with
apprehension and not a little fear as to what the next few days will
bring.

"It is, of course, only a question of time," says the Comte de Cambray
airily. "Monseigneur le Comte d'Artois will be at Lyons directly with
forty thousand men, and he will easily crush that marauding band of
pirates. But this time the Corsican after his defeat must be put more
effectually out of harm's way. I, personally, was never much in favour
of Elba."

"The English have some islands out in the Atlantic or the Pacific,"
responds Général Marchand with firm decision. "It would be safest to
shoot the brigand, but failing that, let the English send him to one of
those islands, and undertake to guard him well."

"Let us drink to that proposition, my dear Marchand," concludes M. le
Comte with a smile.

Hardly had the two men concluded this toast, when a fearful din is
heard, "regular howls" proceeding from the suburb of Bonne. The windows
of the hotel give on the ramparts and the house itself dominates the
Bonne Gate and the military ground beyond it. Hastily Marchand jumps up
from the table and throws open the window. He and the Comte step out
upon the balcony.

The din has become deafening: with a hand that slightly trembles now
Général Marchand points to the extensive grounds that lie beyond the
city gate, and M. le Comte quickly smothers an exclamation of terror.

A huge crowd of peasants armed with scythes and carrying torches which
flicker in the frosty air have invaded the slopes and flats of the
military zone. They are yelling "Vive l'Empereur!" at the top of their
voices, and from walls and bastions reverberates the answering cry "Vive
l'Empereur!" vociferated by infantrymen and gunners and sapeurs, and
echoed and re-echoed with passionate enthusiasm by the people of
Grenoble assembled in their thousands in the narrow streets which abut
upon the ramparts.

And in the midst of the peasantry, surrounded by them as by a cordon,
Napoleon and his small army, just reinforced by the 7th regiment of
infantry, have halted--expectant.

Napoleon's aide-de-camp, Capitaine Raoul, accompanied by half a dozen
lancers, comes up to the palisade which bars the immediate approach to
the city gates.

"Open!" he cries loudly, so loudly that his young, firm voice rises
above the tumult around. "Open! in the name of the Emperor!"

Marchand sees it all, he hears the commanding summons, hears the
thunderous and enthusiastic cheers which greet Captain Raoul's call to
surrender. He and the Comte de Cambray are still standing upon the
balcony of the hotel that faces the gate of Bonne and dominates from its
high ground the ramparts opposite. White-cheeked and silent the two men
have gazed before them and have understood. To attempt to stem this tide
of popular enthusiasm would inevitably be fatal. The troops inside
Grenoble were as ready to cross over to "the brigand's" standard as was
Colonel de la Bédoyère's regiment of infantry.

The ramparts and the surrounding military zone were lit up by hundreds
of torches; by their flickering light the two men on the balcony could
see the faces of the people, and those of the soldiers who were even now
being ordered to fire upon Raoul and the Lancers.

Colonel Roussille, who is in command of the troops at the gate, sends a
hasty messenger to Général Marchand: "The brigand demands that we open
the gate!" reports the messenger breathlessly.

"Tell the Colonel to give the order to fire," is Marchand's peremptory
response.

"Are you coming with me, M. le Comte?" he asks hurriedly. But he does
not wait for a reply. Wrapping his cloak around him, he goes in the wake
of the messenger. M. le Comte de Cambray is close on his heels.

Five minutes later the General is up on the ramparts. He has thrown a
quick, piercing glance round him. There are two thousand men up here,
twenty guns, ammunition in plenty. Out there only peasants and a
heterogeneous band of some fifteen hundred men. One shot from a gun
perhaps would send all that crowd flying, the first fusillade might
scatter "the band of brigands," but Marchand cannot, dare not give the
positive order to fire; he knows that rank insubordination, positive
refusal to obey would follow.

He talks to the men, he harangues, he begs them to defend their city
against this "horde of Corsican pirates."

To every word he says, the men but oppose the one cry: "Vive
l'Empereur!"

The Comte de Cambray turns in despair to M. de St. Genis, who is a
captain of artillery and whose men had hitherto been supposed to be
tried and loyal royalists.

"If the men won't fire, Maurice," asks the Comte in despair, "cannot the
officers at least fire the first shot?"

"M. le Comte," replies St. Genis through set teeth, for his heart was
filled with wrath and shame at the defection of his men, "the gunners
have declared that if the officers shoot, the men will shatter them to
pieces with their own batteries."

The crowds outside the gate itself are swelling visibly. They press in
from every side toward the city loudly demanding the surrender of the
town. "Open the gates! open!" they shout, and their clamour becomes more
insistent every moment. Already they have broken down the palisades
which surround the military zone, they pour down the slopes against the
gate. But the latter is heavy, and massive, studded with iron, stoutly
resisting axe or pick.

"Open!" they cry. "Open! in the Emperor's name!"

They are within hailing distance of the soldiers on the ramparts: "What
price your plums?" they shout gaily to the gunners.

"Quite cheap," retort the latter with equal gaiety, "but there's no
danger of the Emperor getting any."

The women sing the old couplet:

    "Bon! Bon! Napoléon
    Va rentrer dans sa maison!"

and the soldiers on the ramparts take up the refrain:

    "Nous allons voir le grand Napoléon
    Le vainqueur de toutes les nations!"

"What can we do, M. le Comte?" says Général Marchand at last. "We shall
have to give in."

"I'll not stay and see it," replies the Comte. "I should die of shame."

Even while the two men are talking and discussing the possibilities of
an early surrender, Napoleon himself has forced his way through the
tumultuous throng of his supporters, and accompanied by Victor de
Marmont and Colonel de la Bédoyère he advances as far as the gate which
still stands barred defiantly against him.

"I command you to open this gate!" he cries aloud.

Colonel Roussille, who is in command, replies defiantly: "I only take
orders from the General himself."

"He is relieved of his command," retorts Napoleon.

"I know my duty," insists Roussille. "I only take orders from the
General."

Victor de Marmont, intoxicated with his own enthusiasm, maddened with
rage at sight of St. Genis, whose face is just then thrown into vivid
light by the glare of the torches, cries wildly: "Soldiers of the
Emperor, who are being forced to resist him, turn on those treacherous
officers of yours, tear off their epaulettes, I say!"

His shrill and frantic cries seem to precipitate the inevitable climax.
The tumult has become absolutely delirious. The soldiers on the ramparts
tumble over one another in a mad rush for the gate, which they try to
break open with the butt-end of their rifles; but they dare not actually
attack their own officers, and in any case they know that the keys of
the city are still in the hands of Général Marchand, and Général
Marchand has suddenly disappeared.

Feeling the hopelessness and futility of further resistance, he has gone
back to his hotel, and is even now giving orders and making preparations
for leaving Grenoble. Préfet Fourier, hastily summoned, is with him, and
the Comte de Cambray is preparing to return immediately to Brestalou.

"We shall all leave for Paris to-morrow, as early as possible," he says,
as he finally takes leave of the General and the préfet, "and take the
money with us, of course. If the King--which God forbid!--is obliged to
leave Paris, it will be most acceptable to him, until the day when the
allies are once more in the field and ready to crush, irretrievably this
time, this Corsican scourge of Europe."

One or two of the royalist officers have succeeded in massing together
some two or three hundred men out of several regiments who appear to be
determined to remain loyal.

St. Genis is not among these: his men had been among the first to cry
"Vive l'Empereur!" when ordered to fire on the brigand and his hordes.
They had even gone so far as to threaten their officers' lives.

Now, covered with shame, and boiling with wrath at the defection, St.
Genis asks leave of the General to escort M. le Comte de Cambray and his
party to Paris.

"We shall be better off for extra protection," urges M. le Comte de
Cambray in support of St. Genis' plea for leave. "I shall only have the
coachman and two postillions with me. M. de St. Genis would be of
immense assistance in case of footpads."

"The road to Paris is quite safe, I believe," says Général Marchand,
"and at Lyons you will meet the army of M. le Comte d'Artois. But
perhaps M. de St. Genis had better accompany you as far as there, at any
rate. He can then report himself at Lyons. Twenty-five millions is a
large sum, of course, but the purpose of your journey has remained a
secret, has it not?"

"Of course," says M. le Comte unhesitatingly, for he has completely
erased Victor de Marmont from his mind.

"Well then, all you need fear is an attack from footpads--and even that
is unlikely," concludes Général Marchand, who by now is in a great hurry
to go. "But M. de St. Genis has my permission to escort you."

The General entrusts the keys of the Bonne Gate to Colonel Roussille. He
has barely time to execute his hasty flight, having arranged to escape
out of Grenoble by the St. Laurent Gate on the north of the town. In the
meanwhile a carter from the suburb of St. Joseph outside the Bonne Gate
has harnessed a team of horses to one of his wagons and brought along a
huge joist: twenty pairs of willing and stout arms are already
manipulating this powerful engine for the breaking open of the resisting
gate. Already the doors are giving way, the hinges creak; and while
Général Marchand and préfet Fourier with their small body of faithful
soldiers rush precipitately across the deserted streets of the town,
Colonel Roussille makes ready to open the Gate of Bonne to the Emperor
and to his soldiers.

"My regiment was prepared to turn against me," he says to his men, "but
I shall not turn against them."

Then he formally throws open the gate.

Ecstatic delight, joyful enthusiasm, succeeds the frantic cries of a
while ago. Napoleon entering the city of Grenoble was nearly crushed to
death by the frenzy of the crowd. Cheered to the echoes, surrounded by
a delirious populace which hardly allowed him to move, it was hours
before he succeeded in reaching the Hôtel des Trois-Dauphins, where he
was resolved to spend the night, since it was kept by an ex-soldier, one
of his own Old Guard of the Italian campaign.

The enthusiasm was kept up all night. The town was illuminated. Until
dawn men and women paraded the streets singing the "Marseillaise" and
shouting "Vive l'Empereur!"

In a small room, simply furnished but cosy and comfortable, the great
adventurer, who had conquered half the world and lost it and had now set
out to conquer it again, sat with half a dozen of his most faithful
friends: Cambronne and Raoul, Victor de Marmont and Emery.

On the table spread out before him was an ordnance map of the province;
his clenched hand rested upon it; his eyes, those eagle-like, piercing
eyes which had so often called his soldiers to victory, gazed out
straight before him, as if through the bare, white-washed walls of this
humble hotel room he saw the vision of the brilliant halls of the
Tuileries, the imperial throne, the Empress beside him, all her
faithlessness and pusillanimity forgiven, his son whom he worshipped,
his marshals grouped around him; and with a gesture of proud defiance he
threw back his head and said loudly:

"Until to-day I was only an adventurer. To-night I am a prince once
more."


IV

It was the next morning in that same sparsely-furnished and uncarpeted
room of the Hôtel des Trois-Dauphins that Napoleon spoke to Victor de
Marmont, to Emery and Dumoulin about the money which had been stolen
last year from the Empress and which he understood had been deposited
in the cellars of the Hôtel de Ville.

"I am not going," he said, "to levy a war tax on my good city of
Grenoble, but my good and faithful soldiers must be paid, and I must
provision my army in case I encounter stronger resistance at Lyons than
I can cope with, and am forced to make a détour. I want the money--the
Empress' money, which that infamous Talleyrand stole from her. So you,
de Marmont, had best go straight away to the Hôtel de Ville and in my
name summon the préfet to appear before me. You can tell him at once
that it is on account of the money."

"I will go at once, Sire," replied de Marmont with a regretful sigh,
"but I fear me that it is too late."

"Too late?" snapped out the Emperor with a frown, "what do you mean by
too late?"

"I mean that Fourier has left Grenoble in the trail of Marchand, and
that two days ago--unless I'm very much mistaken--he disposed of the
money."

"Disposed of the money? You are mad, de Marmont."

"Not altogether, Sire. When I say that Fourier disposed of the Empress'
money I only mean that he deposited it in what he would deem a safe
place."

"The cur!" exclaimed Napoleon with a yet tighter clenching of his hand
and mighty fist, "turning against the hand that fed him and made him
what he is. Well!" he added impatiently, "where is the money now?"

"In the keeping of M. le Comte de Cambray at Brestalou," replied de
Marmont without hesitation.

"Very well," said the Emperor, "take a company of the 7th regiment with
you to Brestalou and requisition the money at once."

"If--as I believe--the Comte no longer has the money by him?----"

"Make him tell you where it is."

"I mean, Sire, that it is my belief that M. le Comte's sister and
daughter will undertake to take the money to Paris, hoping by their sex
and general air of innocence to escape suspicion in connection with the
money."

"Don't worry me with all these details, de Marmont," broke in Napoleon
with a frown of impatience. "I told you to take a company with you and
to get me the Empress' money. See to it that this is done and leave me
in peace."

He hated arguing, hated opposition, the very suggestion of any
difficulty. His followers and intimates knew that; already de Marmont
had repented that he had allowed his tongue to ramble on quite so much.
Now he felt that silence must redeem his blunder--silence now and
success in his undertaking.

He bent the knee, for this homage the great Corsican adventurer and
one-time dictator of civilised Europe loved to receive: he kissed the
hand which had once wielded the sceptre of a mighty Empire and was ready
now to grasp it again. Then he rose and gave the military salute.

"It shall be done, Sire," was all that he said.

His heart was full of enthusiasm, and the task allotted to him was a
congenial one: the baffling and discomfiture of those who had insulted
him. If--as he believed--Crystal would be accompanying her aunt on the
journey toward Paris, then indeed would his own longing for some sort of
revenge for the humiliation which he had endured on that memorable
Sunday evening be fully gratified.

It was with a light and swinging step that he ran down the narrow stairs
of the hotel. In the little entrance hall below he met Clyffurde.

In his usual impulsive way, without thought of what had gone before or
was likely to happen in the future, he went up to the Englishman with
outstretched hand.

"My dear Clyffurde," he said with unaffected cordiality, "I am glad to
see you! I have been wondering what had become of you since we parted on
Sunday last. My dear friend," he added ecstatically, "what glorious
events, eh?"

He did not wait for Clyffurde's reply, nor did he appear to notice the
latter's obvious coldness of manner, but went prattling on with great
volubility.

"What a man!" he exclaimed, nodding significantly in the direction
whence he had just come. "A six days' march--mostly on foot and along
steep mountain paths! and to-day as fresh and vigorous as if he had just
spent a month's holiday at some pleasant watering place! What luck to be
serving such a man! And what luck to be able to render him really useful
service! The tables will be turned, eh, my dear Clyffurde?" he added,
giving his taciturn friend a jovial dig in the ribs, "and what lovely
discomfiture for our proud aristocrats, eh? They will be sorry to have
made an enemy of Victor de Marmont, what?"

Whereupon Clyffurde made a violent effort to appear friendly and jovial
too.

"Why," he said with a pleasant laugh, "what madcap ideas are floating
through your head now?"

"Madcap schemes?" ejaculated de Marmont. "Nothing more or less, my dear
Clyffurde, than complete revenge for the humiliation those de Cambrays
put upon me last Sunday."

"Revenge? That sounds exciting," said Clyffurde with a smile, even while
his palm itched to slap the young braggart's face.

"Exciting, _par Dieu!_ Of course it will be exciting. They have no idea
that I guessed their little machinations. Mme. la Duchesse d'Agen
travelling to Paris forsooth! Aye! but with five and twenty millions
sewn somewhere inside her petticoats. Well! the Emperor happens to want
his own five and twenty millions, if you please. So Mme. la Duchesse or
M. le Comte will have to disgorge. And I shall have the pleasing task
of _making_ them disgorge. What say you to that, friend Clyffurde?"

"That I am sorry for you," replied the other drily.

"Sorry for me? Why?"

"Because it is never a pleasing task to bully a defenceless woman--and
an old one at that."

De Marmont laughed aloud. "Bully Mme. la Duchesse d'Agen?" he exclaimed.
"_Sacré tonnerre!_ what do you take me for. I shall not bully her. Fifty
soldiers don't bully a defenceless woman. We shall treat Mme. la
Duchesse with every consideration: we shall only remove five and twenty
millions of stolen money from her carriage, that is all."

"You may be mistaken about the money, de Marmont. It may be anywhere
except in the keeping of Mme. la Duchesse."

"It may be at the Château de Brestalou in the keeping of M. le Comte de
Cambray: and this I shall find out first of all. But I must not stand
gossiping any longer. I must see Colonel de la Bédoyère and get the men
I want. What are your plans, my dear Clyffurde?"

"The same as before," replied Bobby quietly. "I shall leave Grenoble as
soon as I can."

"Let the Emperor send you on a special mission to Lord Grenville, in
London, to urge England to remain neutral in the coming struggle."

"I think not," said Clyffurde enigmatically.

De Marmont did not wait to ask him to what this brief remark had
applied; he bade his friend a hasty farewell, then he turned on his
heel, and gaily whistling the refrain of the "Marseillaise," stalked out
of the hotel.

Clyffurde remained standing in the narrow panelled hall, which just then
reeked strongly of stewed onions and of hot coffee; he never moved a
muscle, but remained absolutely quiet for the space of exactly two
minutes; then he consulted his watch--it was then close on midday--and
finally went back to his room.


V

An hour after dawn that self-same morning the travelling coach of M. le
Comte de Cambray was at the perron of the Château de Brestalou.

At the last moment, when M. le Comte, hopelessly discouraged by the
surrender of Grenoble to the usurper, came home at a late hour of the
night, he decided that he too would journey to Paris with his sister and
daughter, taking the money with him to His Majesty, who indeed would
soon be in sore need of funds.

At that same late hour of the night M. le Comte discovered that with the
exception of faithful Hector and one or two scullions in the kitchen his
male servants both indoor and out had wandered in a body out to Grenoble
to witness "the Emperor's" entry into the city. They had marched out of
the château to the cry of "Vive l'Empereur!" and outside the gates had
joined a number of villagers of Brestalou who were bent on the same
errand.

Fortunately one of the coachmen and two of the older grooms from the
stables returned in the early dawn after the street demonstrations
outside the Emperor's windows had somewhat calmed down, and with the
routine of many years of domestic service had promptly and without
murmurings set to to obey the orders given to them the day before: to
have the travelling berline ready with four horses by seven o'clock.

It was very cold: the coachman and postillions shivered under their
threadbare liveries. The coachman had wrapped a woollen comforter round
his neck and pulled his white beaver broad-brimmed hat well over his
brows, as the northeast wind was keen and would blow into his face all
the way to Lyons, where the party would halt for the night. He had
thick woollen gloves on and of his entire burly person only the tip of
his nose could be seen between his muffler and the brim of his hat. The
postillions, whip in hand, could not wrap themselves up quite so snugly:
they were trying to keep themselves warm by beating their arms against
their chest.

M. le Comte, aided by Hector, was arranging for the disposal of leather
wallets underneath the cushions of the carriage. The wallets contained
the money--twenty-five millions in notes and drafts--a godsend to the
King if the usurper did succeed in driving him out of the Tuileries.

Presently the ladies came down the perron steps with faithful Jeanne in
attendance, who carried small bags and dressing-cases. Both the ladies
were wrapped in long fur-lined cloaks and Mme. la Duchesse d'Agen had
drawn a hood closely round her face; but Crystal de Cambray stood
bareheaded in the cold frosty air, the hood of her cloak thrown back,
her own fair hair, dressed high, forming the only covering for her head.

Her face looked grave and even anxious, but wonderfully serene. This
should have been her wedding morning, the bells of old Brestalou church
should even now have been ringing out their first joyous peal to
announce the great event. Often and often in the past few weeks, ever
since her father had formally betrothed her to Victor de Marmont, she
had thought of this coming morning, and steeled herself to be brave
against the fateful day. She had been resigned to the decree of the
father and to the necessities of family and name--resigned but terribly
heartsore. She was obeying of her own free will but not blindly. She
knew that her marriage to a man whom she did not love was a sacrifice on
her part of every hope of future happiness. Her girlish love for St.
Genis had opened her eyes to the possibilities of happiness; she knew
that Life could hold out a veritable cornucopia of delight and joy in a
union which was hallowed by Love, and her ready sacrifice was therefore
all the greater, all the more sublime, because it was not offered up in
ignorance.

But all that now was changed. She was once more free to indulge in those
dreams which had gladdened the days and nights of her lonely girlhood
out in far-off England: dreams which somehow had not even found their
culmination when St. Genis first told her of his love for her. They had
always been golden dreams which had haunted her in those distant days,
dreams of future happiness and of love which are seldom absent from a
young girl's mind, especially if she is a little lonely, has few
pleasures and is surrounded with an atmosphere of sadness.

Crystal de Cambray, standing on the perron of her stately home, felt but
little sorrow at leaving it to-day: she had hardly had the time in one
brief year to get very much attached to it: the sense of unreality which
had been born in her when her father led her through its vast halls and
stately parks had never entirely left her. The little home in England,
the tiny sitting-room with its bow window, and small front garden edged
with dusty evergreens, was far more real to her even now. She felt as if
the last year with its pomp and gloomy magnificence was all a dream and
that she was once more on the threshold of reality now, on the point of
waking, when she would find herself once more in her narrow iron bed and
see the patched and darned muslin curtains gently waving in the draught.

But for the moment she was glad enough to give herself to the delight of
this sudden consciousness of freedom. She sniffed the sharp, frosty air
with dilated nostrils like a young Arab filly that scents the
illimitable vastness of meadowland around her. The excitement of the
coming adventure thrilled her: she watched with glowing eyes the
preparations for the journey, the bestowal under the cushions of the
carriage of the money which was to help King Louis to preserve his
throne.

In a sense she was sorry that her father and her aunt were coming too.
She would have loved to fly across country as a trusted servant of her
King; but when the time came to make a start she took her place in the
big travelling coach with a light heart and a merry face. She was so
sure of the justice of the King's cause, so convinced of God's wrath
against the usurper, that she had no room in her thoughts for
apprehension or sadness.

The Comte de Cambray on the other hand was grave and taciturn. He had
spent hours last evening on the ramparts of Grenoble. He had watched the
dissatisfaction of the troops grow into open rebellion and from that to
burning enthusiasm for the Corsican ogre. St. Genis had given him a
vivid account of the encounter at Laffray, and his ears were still
ringing with the cries of "Vive l'Empereur!" which had filled the
streets and ramparts of Grenoble until he himself fled back to his own
château, sickened at all that he had seen and heard.

He knew that the King's own brother, M. le Comte d'Artois, was at Lyons
even now with forty thousand men who were reputed to be loyal, but were
not the troops of Grenoble reputed to be loyal too? and was it likely
that the regiments at Lyons would behave so very differently to those at
Grenoble?

Thus the wearisome journey northwards in the lumbering carriage
proceeded mostly in silence. None of the occupants seemed to have much
to say. Mme. la Duchesse d'Agen and M. le Comte sat on the back seats
leaning against the cushions; Crystal de Cambray and ever-faithful
Jeanne sat in front, making themselves as comfortable as they could.

There was a halt for _déjeuner_ and change of horses at Rives, and here
Maurice de St. Genis overtook the party. He proposed to continue the
journey as far as Lyons on horseback, riding close by the off side of
the carriage. Here as well as at the next halt, at St. André-le-Gaz,
Maurice tried to get speech with Crystal, but she seemed cold in manner
and unresponsive to his whispered words. He tried to approach her, but
she pleaded fatigue and anxiety, and he was glad then that he had made
arrangements not to travel beside her in the lumbering coach. His
position on horseback beside the carriage would, he felt, be a more
romantic one, and he half-hoped that some enterprising footpad would
give him a chance of displaying his pluck and his devotion.

A start was made from St. André-le-Gaz at six o'clock in the afternoon.
Crystal was getting very cramped and tired, even the fine views over the
range of the Grande Chartreuse and the long white plateau of the Dent de
Crolles, with the wintry sunset behind it, failed to enchain her
attention. Her father and her aunt slept most of the time each in a
corner of the carriage, and after the start from St. André-le-Gaz,
comforted with hot coffee and fresh bread and the prospect of Lyons now
only some sixty kilomètres away, Crystal settled herself against the
cushions and tried to get some sleep.

The incessant shaking of the carriage, the rattle of harness and wheels,
the cracking of the postillions' whips, all contributed to making her
head ache, and to chase slumber away. But gradually her thoughts became
more confused, as the dim winter twilight gradually faded into night and
a veil of impenetrable blackness spread itself outside the windows of
the coach.

The northeasterly wind had not abated: it whistled mournfully through
the cracks in the woodwork of the carriage and made the windows rattle
in their framework. On the box the coachman had much ado to see well
ahead of him, as the vapour which rose from the flanks and shoulders of
his steaming horses effectually blurred every outline on the road. The
carriage lanthorns threw a weird and feeble light upon the ever-growing
darkness. To right and left the bare and frozen common land stretched
its lonely vastness to some distant horizon unseen.


VI

Suddenly the cumbrous vehicle gave a terrific lurch, which sent the
unsuspecting Jeanne flying into Mme. la Duchesse's lap and threw Crystal
with equal violence against her father's knees. There was much cracking
of whips, loud calls and louder oaths from coachman and postillions,
much creaking and groaning of wheels, another lurch--more feeble this
time--more groaning, more creaking, more oaths and finally the coach
with a final quivering as it were of all its parts settled down to an
ominous standstill.

Whereafter the oaths sounded more muffled, while there was a scampering
down from the high altitude of the coachman's box and a confused murmur
of voices.

It was then close on eight o'clock: Lyons was distant still some dozen
miles or so--and the night by now was darker than pitch.

M. le Comte, roused from fitful slumbers and trying to gather his
wandering wits, put his head out of the window: "What is it, Pierre?" he
called out loudly. "What has happened?"

"It's this confounded ditch, M. le Comte," came in a gruff voice from
out the darkness. "I didn't know the bridge had entirely broken down.
This sacré government will not look after the roads properly."

"Are you there, Maurice?" called the Comte.

But strangely enough there came no answer to his call. M. de St. Genis
must have fallen back some little distance in the rear, else he surely
would have heard something of the clatter, the shouts and the swearing
which were attending the present unfortunate contretemps.

"Maurice! where are you?" called the Comte again. And still no answer.

Pierre was continuing his audible mutterings. "Darkness as black
as----": then he shouted with a yet more forcible volley of oaths:
"Jean! you oaf! get hold of the off mare, can't you? And you, what's
your name, you fool? ease the near gelding. Heavens above, what dolts!"

"Stop a moment," cried M. le Comte, "wait till the ladies can get out.
This pulling and lurching is unbearable."

"Ease a moment," commanded Pierre stolidly. "Go to the near door, Jean,
and help the master out of the carriage."

"Hark! what was that?" It was M. le Comte who spoke. There had been a
momentary lull in the creaking and groaning of the wheels, while the two
young postillions obeyed the coachman's orders to "ease a moment," and
one of them came round to help the ladies and his master out of the
lurching vehicle; only the horses' snorting, the champing of their bits
and pawing of the hard ground broke the silence of the night.

M. le Comte had opened the near door and was half out of the carriage
when a sound caught his ear which was in no way connected with the
stranded vehicle and its team of snorting horses. Yet the sound came
from horses--horses which were on the move not very far away and which
even now seemed to be coming nearer.

"Who goes there? Maurice, is that you?" called M. le Comte more loudly.

"Stand and deliver!" came the peremptory response.

"Stand yourself or I fire," retorted the Comte, who was already groping
for the pistol which he kept inside the carriage.

"You murderous villain!" came with the inevitable string of oaths from
Pierre the coachman. "You . . ."

The rest of this forceful expletive was broken and muffled. Evidently
Pierre had been summarily gagged. There was a short, sharp scuffle
somewhere on ahead; cries for help from the two postillions which were
equally sharply smothered. The horses began rearing and plunging.

"One of you at the leaders' heads," came in a clear voice which in this
impenetrable darkness sounded weirdly familiar to the occupants of the
carriage, who awed, terrified by this unforeseen attack sat motionless,
clinging to one another inside the vehicle.

Alone the Comte had not lost his presence of mind. Already he had jumped
out of the carriage, banging the door to behind him, despite feeble
protests from his sister; pistol in hand he tried with anxious eyes to
pierce the inky blackness around him.

A muffled groan on his right caused him to turn in that direction.

"Release my coachman," he called peremptorily, "or I fire."

"Easy, M. le Comte," came as a sharp warning out of the night, in those
same weirdly familiar tones; "as like as not you would be shooting your
own men in this infernal darkness."

"Who is it?" whispered Crystal hoarsely. "I seem to know that voice."

"God protect us," murmured Jeanne. "It's the devil's voice,
Mademoiselle."

Mme. la Duchesse said nothing. No doubt she was too frightened to speak.
Her thin, bony fingers were clasped tightly round her niece's hands.

Suddenly there was another scuffle by the door, the sharp report of a
pistol and then that strangely familiar voice called out again:

"Merely as a matter of form, M. le Comte!"

"You will hang for this, you rogue," came in response from the Comte.

But already Crystal had torn her hands out of Mme. la Duchesse's grasp
and now was struggling to free herself from Jeanne's terrified and
clinging embrace.

"Father!" she cried wildly. "Maurice! Maurice! Help! Let me go, Jeanne!
They are hurting him!"

She had succeeded in pushing Jeanne roughly away and already had her
hand on the door, when it was opened from the outside, and the
flickering light of a carriage lanthorn fell full on the interior of the
vehicle. Neither Crystal nor Mme. la Duchesse could effectually suppress
a sudden gasp of terror, whilst Jeanne threw her shawl right over her
head, for of a truth she thought that here was the devil himself.

The light illumined the lanthorn-bearer only fitfully, but to the
terror-stricken women he appeared to be preternaturally tall and broad,
with wide caped coat pulled up to his ears and an old-fashioned tricorne
hat on his head; his face was entirely hidden by a black mask, and his
hands by black kid gloves.

"I pray you ladies," he said quietly, and this time the voice was
obviously disguised and quite unrecognisable. "I pray you have no fear.
Neither I nor my men will do you or yours the slightest harm, if you
will allow me without any molestation on your part to make an
examination of the interior of your carriage."

Mme. la Duchesse and Jeanne remained silent: the one from fear, the
other from dignity. But it was not in Crystal's nature to submit quietly
to any unlawful coercion.

"This is an infamy," she protested loudly, "and you, my man, will swing
on the nearest gallows for it."

"No doubt I should if I were found out," said the man imperturbably,
"but the military patrols of M. le Comte d'Artois don't come out as far
as this: nevertheless I must ask you ladies not to detain me on my
business any longer. My men are at the door and it is over a quarter of
an hour ago since we placed M. de St. Genis temporarily yet effectually
hors de combat. I pray you, therefore, step out without delay so that I
may proceed to ascertain whether there is anything in this carriage
likely to suit my requirements."

"You must be a madman as well as a thief," retorted Crystal loudly, "to
imagine that we would submit to such an outrage."

"If you do not submit, Madame," said the man calmly, "I will order my
man to shoot M. le Comte in the right leg."

"You would not dare. . . ."

But the miscreant turned his head slowly round and called over his
shoulder into the night:

"Attention, my men! M. le Comte de Cambray!--have you got him?"

"Aye! aye, sir!" came from out the darkness.

Crystal gave a wild scream, and with an agonised gesture of terror
clutched the highway robber by the coat.

"No! no!" she cried. "Stop! stop! no! Father! Help!"

"Mademoiselle," said the man, quietly releasing his coat from her
clinging hands, "remember that M. le Comte is perfectly safe if you will
deign to step out of the carriage without further delay."

He held the lanthorn in one hand, the other was suddenly imprisoned by
Crystal's trembling fingers.

"Sir," she pleaded in a voice broken by terror and anxiety, "we are
helpless travellers on our way to Paris, driven out of our home by the
advancing horde of Corsican brigands. Our little all we have with us.
You cannot take that all from us. Let us give you some money of our own
free will, then the shame of robbing women who have in the darkness of
the night been rendered helpless will not rest upon you. Oh! have pity
upon us. Your voice is so gentle you must be good and kind. You will let
us proceed on our way, will you not? and we'll take a solemn oath that
we'll not attempt to put any one on your track. You will, won't you? I
swear to you that you will be doing a far finer deed thereby than you
can possibly dream of."

"I have some jewelry about my person," here interposed Madame's sharp
voice drily, "also some gold. I agree to what my niece says. We'll swear
to do nothing against you when we reach Lyons, if you will be content
with what we give you of our own free will and let us go in peace."

The man allowed both ladies to speak without any interruption on his
part. He even allowed Crystal's dainty fingers to cling around his
gloved hand for as long as she chose: no doubt he found some pleasure in
this tearful appeal from such beautiful lips, for Crystal looked
divinely pretty just then, with the flickering light of the lanthorn
throwing her fair head into bold relief against the surrounding gloom.
Her blue eyes were shining with unshed tears, her delicate mouth was
quivering with the piteousness of her appeal.

But when Mme. la Duchesse had finished speaking and began to divest
herself of her rings he released his hand very gently and said in his
even, quiet voice:

"Your pardon, Madame; but as it happens I have no use for ladies'
trinkets, while all that you have been good enough to tell me only makes
me the more eager to examine the contents of this carriage."

"But there's nothing of value in it," asserted Madame unblushingly,
"except what we are offering you now."

"That is as may be, Madame. I would wish to ascertain."

"You impious malapert!" she cried out wrathfully, "would you dare lay
hands upon a woman?"

"No, Madame, certainly not," he replied. "I will merely, as I have had
the honour to tell you, order my men to shoot M. le Comte de Cambray in
the right leg."

"You vagabond! you thief! you wouldn't dare," expostulated Madame, who
seemed now on the verge of hysteria.

"Attention, my men!" he called once more over his left shoulder.

"It is no use, _ma tante_," here interposed Crystal with sudden calm.
"We must yield to brute force. Let us get out and allow this abominable
thief to wreak his impious will with us, else we lay ourselves open to
further outrage at his hands. Be sure that retribution, swift and
certain, will overtake him in the end."

"Come! that's wisely spoken," said the man, who seemed in no way
perturbed by the scornful glances which Crystal and Madame now freely
darted upon him. He stood a little aside, holding the door open for them
to step out of the carriage.

"Where is M. le Comte de Cambray?" queried Crystal as she brushed past
him.

"Close by," he replied, "to your right now, Mademoiselle, and perfectly
safe, and M. le Marquis de St. Genis is not two hundred mètres away,
equally secure and equally safe. Here, le Bossu," he added, calling out
into the night, "ease the gag round your prisoner's mouth a little so
that he may speak to the ladies."

While Madame la Duchesse groped her way along in the direction whence
came sounds of stirring, groaning and not a little cursing which
proclaimed the presence of some men held captive by others, Crystal
remained beside the carriage door as if rooted to the spot. The feeble
light of the lanthorn had shown her at a glance that the masked
miscreant had taken every precaution for the success of his nefarious
purpose. How many men he had with him altogether, she could not of
course ascertain: half a dozen perhaps, seeing that her father, the
coachman and two postillions had been overpowered and were being closely
guarded, whilst she distinctly saw that two men at least were standing
behind their chief at this moment in order to ward off any possible
attack against him from the rear, while he himself was engaged in the
infamous task of robbing the coach of its contents.

Crystal saw him start to work in a most methodical manner. He had stood
the lanthorn on the floor of the carriage and was turning over every
cushion and ransacking every pocket. The leather wallets which he found,
he examined with utmost coolness, seeing indeed that they were stuffed
full of banknotes and drafts. His huge caped coat appeared to have
immense pockets, into which those precious wallets disappeared one by
one.

She knew of course that resistance was useless: the occasional glint of
the feeble lanthorn light upon the pistols held by the men close beside
her taught her the salutary lesson of silence and dignity. She clenched
her hands until her nails were almost driven into the flesh of her
palms, and her face now glowed with a fierce and passionate resentment.
This money which might have saved the King and France from the immediate
effects of the usurper's invasion was now the booty of a common thief!
Wild thoughts of vengeance coursed through her brain: she felt like a
tiger-cat that was being robbed of its young. Once--unable to control
herself--she made a wild dash forward, determined to fight for her
treasure, to scratch or to bite--to do anything in fact rather than
stand by and see this infamous spoliation. But immediately her hands
were seized, and an ominous word of command rang out weirdly through the
night.

"Resistance here! Attention over there!"

Her father's safety was a guarantee of her own acquiescence. Struggling,
fighting was useless! the abominable thief must be left to do his work
in peace.

It did not take long. A minute or two later he too had stepped out of
the carriage. He ordered one of his followers to hold the lanthorn and
then quietly took up his stand beside the open door.

"Now, ladies, an you desire it," he said calmly, "you may continue your
journey. Your coachman and your men are close here, on the road,
securely bound. M. de St. Genis is not far off--straight up the
road--you cannot miss him. We leave you free to loosen their bonds. To
horse, my men!" he added in a loud, commanding voice. "Le Bossu, hold my
horse a moment! and you ladies, I pray you accept my humble apologies
that I do not stop to see you safely installed."

As in a dream Crystal heard the bustle incident on a number of men
getting to horse: in the gloom she saw vague forms moving about
hurriedly, she heard the champing of bits, the clatter of stirrup and
bridle. The masked man was the last to move. After he had given the
order to mount he stood for nearly a minute by the carriage door,
exactly facing Crystal, not five paces away.

His companion had put the lanthorn down on the step, and by its light
she could see him distinctly: a mysterious, masked figure who, with
wanton infamy, had placed the satisfaction of his dishonesty and of his
greed athwart the destiny of the King of France.

Crystal knew that through the peep-holes of his mask, the man's eyes
were fixed intently upon her and the knowledge caused a blush of
mortification and of shame to flood her cheeks and throat. At that
moment she would gladly have given her life for the power to turn the
tables upon that abominable rogue, to filch from him that precious
treasure which she had hoped to deposit at the feet of the King for the
ultimate success of his cause: and she would have given much for the
power to tear off that concealing mask, so that for the rest of her life
she might be able to visualise that face which she would always
execrate.

Something of what she felt and thought must have been apparent in her
expressive eyes, for presently it seemed to her as if beneath the narrow
curtain that concealed the lower part of the man's face there hovered
the shadow of a smile.

The next moment he had the audacity slightly to raise his hat and to
make her a bow before he finally turned to go. Crystal had taken one
step backward just then, whether because she was afraid that the man
would try and approach her, or because of a mere sense of dignity, she
could not herself have said. Certain it is that she did move back and
that in so doing her foot came in contact with an object lying on the
ground. The shape and size of it were unmistakable, it was the pistol
which the Comte must have dropped when first he stepped out of the
carriage, and was seized upon by this band of thieves. Guided by that
same strange and wonderful instinct which has so often caused women in
times of war to turn against the assailants of their men or devastation
of their homes, Crystal picked up the weapon without a moment's
hesitation; she knew that it was loaded, and she knew how to use it.
Even as the masked man moved away into the darkness, she fired in the
direction whence his firm footsteps still sent their repeated echo.

The short, sharp report died out in the still, frosty air; Crystal
vainly strained her ears to catch the sound of a fall or a groan. But in
the confusion that ensued she could not distinguish any individual
sound. She knew that Mme. la Duchesse and Jeanne had screamed, she heard
a few loud curses, the clatter of bits and bridles, the snorting of
horses and presently the noise of several horses galloping away, out in
the direction of Chambéry.

Then nothing more.


VII

M. le Comte as well as the coachman and postillions were lying helpless
and bound somewhere in the darkness. It took the three women some time
to find them first and then to release them.

Crystal with great presence of mind had run to the horses' heads,
directly after she had fired that random shot. The poor, frightened
animals had reared and plunged, and had thereby succeeded in dragging
the heavy carriage out of the ditch. After which they had stopped, rigid
for a moment and trembling as horses will sometimes when they are
terrified, before they start running away for dear life. That moment was
Crystal's opportunity and fortunately she took it at the right time and
in the right way.

A hand on the leaders' bridles, a soothing voice, the absence of further
alarming noises tended at once to quieten the team--a set of good steady
Normandy draft-horses with none too much corn in their bellies to heat
their sluggish blood.

While Crystal stood at her post, Mme. la Duchesse--cool and
practical--found her way firstly to M. le Comte, then to the coachman
and postillions, and ordering Jeanne to help her, she succeeded in
freeing the men from their bonds.

Then calling to one of them to precede her with a lanthorn, she started
on the quest for Maurice de St. Genis. He was found--as that abominable
thief had said--some two hundred yards up the road, very securely bound
and with his own handkerchief tied round his mouth, but otherwise
comfortably laid on a dry bit of roadside grass.

Mme. la Duchesse would not reply to his questions, but after he was
released and able to stand up she made him give her a brief account of
his adventure. It had all been so sudden and so quick--he had fallen
back a little behind the carriage as soon as the night had set in, as he
thought it safer to keep along the edge of the road. He was feeling
tired and drowsy, and allowing his horse to amble along in the slow
jog-trot peculiar to its race. No doubt his attention had for some time
been on the wander, when, all at once, in the darkness someone seized
hold of his horse by the bridle and forced it back upon its haunches.
The next moment Maurice felt himself grabbed by the leg, and dragged off
his horse: he shouted for help, but the carriage was on ahead and its
own rattle prevented the shouts from being heard. After which he was
bound and gagged and summarily left to lie by the roadside. He had had
no chance against the ruffians, as they were numerous, but they did not
attempt to ill-use him in any way.

Slowly hobbling towards the carriage beside Mme. la Duchesse, for he was
cramped and stiff, Maurice told her all there was to tell. He had heard
the distant scuffle, the shouts and calls, also one pistol-shot at the
end, but he had been rendered helpless even before the carriage had come
to a halt in the ditch.

It was M. le Comte who in his accustomed measured tones now gave Maurice
de St. Genis the details of this awful adventure: the ransacking of the
carriage by the mysterious miscreant--the loss of the twenty-five
millions, the complete shattering of all hope to help the King with this
money in the hour of his need, and finally Crystal's desperate act of
revenge, as she shot the pistol off into the darkness, hoping at least
to disable the impudent rogue who had done them and the King such a
fatal injury.

St. Genis listened to it all with lips held tightly pressed together,
firm determination causing every muscle in his body to grow taut and
firm with the earnestness of his resolve.

When M. le Comte had finished speaking, and with a sigh of
discouragement had suggested an immediate continuation of his journey,
Maurice said resolutely:

"Do you go on straightway to Lyons with the ladies, my dear Comte, but I
shall not leave this neighbourhood till by some means or other I find
those miscreants and lay their infamous leader by the heel."

"Well spoken, Maurice," said the Comte guardedly, "but how will you do
it?--it is late and the night darker than ever."

"You must spare me one of your horses, my dear Comte," replied the young
man, "as mine apparently has been stolen by those abominable thieves,
and I'll ride back to the nearest village--you remember we passed it not
half an hour ago. I'll get lodgings there and get some information. In
the meanwhile perhaps you will see M. le Comte d'Artois immediately,
tell him all that has happened and beg him to send me as early in the
morning as possible a dozen cavalrymen or so, to help me scour the
country. I'll be on the look-out for them on this road by six o'clock,
and, please God! the day shall not go by before we have those infamous
marauders by the heels. Twenty-five millions, remember, are not dragged
about open country quite so easily as those thieves imagine. They are
bound to leave some trace of their whereabouts sometimes."

He appeared so confident and so cheerful that some of his optimism
infected M. le Comte too. The latter promised to get an audience of M.
le Comte d'Artois that very evening, and of course the necessary cavalry
patrol would at once be forthcoming.

"God grant you success, Maurice," he added fervently, and the young
man's energy and enthusiasm were also rewarded by a warm, glowing look
from Crystal.

A quarter of an hour afterwards, M. le Comte's travelling coach was once
more ready for departure. Pierre had been given his orders to make due
haste for Lyons, and to drive a unicorn team of three horses instead of
a regulation four, whereupon he had muttered a string of oaths which
would have caused a Paris wine-shop loafer to blush.

One of the horses thereupon was detached from the team for Maurice's use
and made ready with one of the postillions' saddles; the other
postillion had to climb up to the seat next to the coachman: all three
men were feeling not a little shamed at the sorry rôle which they had
just played, and they vowed revenge against the mysterious thieves who
had sprung upon them unawares and in the dark, or Mordieu! they would
have suffered severely for their impudence.

In silence M. le Comte, Mme. la Duchesse and Crystal, followed by
faithful Jeanne, re-entered the carriage. No one had been hurt. M. le
Comte's arms felt a little stiff from the cords which had bound them
behind his back and Jeanne was inclined to be hysterical, but Crystal
felt a fierce resentment burning in her heart. Somehow she had no hope
that Maurice would succeed, even though she threw him at the last a
kindly and encouraging smile. Her one hope was that she had inflicted a
painful if not a deadly wound upon the shameless robber of the King's
money.

Soon the party was once more comfortably settled and the cumbrous
vehicle, after another violent lurch, was once more on its way.

"Farewell, Maurice! good luck!" called M. le Comte at the last.

The young man waited until the heavy carriage swung more easily upon its
springs, then he mounted his horse, turned its head in the opposite
direction and rode slowly back up the road.

Inside the vehicle all was silent for a while, then M. le Comte asked
quietly:

"Did he find everything?"

"Everything," replied Crystal.

"I put in five wallets."

"Yes. He took them all."

"It is curious they should have fallen on us just by that broken
bridge."

"They were lying in wait for us, of course."

"Knowing that we had the money, do you think?" asked the Comte.

"Of course," replied Crystal with still that note of bitter resentment
in her voice.

"But who, besides ourselves and the préfet? . . ." began the Comte, who
clearly was very puzzled.

"Victor de Marmont for one . . ." retorted the girl.

"Surely you don't suppose that he would play the rôle of a highwayman
and . . ."

"No, I don't," she broke in somewhat impatiently, "he wouldn't have the
pluck for one thing, and moreover the masked man was considerably taller
than Victor."

"Well, then?"

"It is only an idea, father, dear," she said more gently, "but somehow I
cannot believe that this was just ordinary highway robbery. This road is
supposed to be quite safe: travellers are not warned against armed
highwaymen, and marauders wouldn't be so well horsed and clothed. My
belief is that it was a paid gang stationed at the broken bridge on
purpose to rob us and no one else."

"Maurice will soon be after them to-morrow, and I'll see M. le Comte
d'Artois directly we get to Lyons," said the Comte after a slight pause,
during which he was obviously pondering over his daughter's suggestion.

"It won't be any use, father," Crystal said with a sigh. "The whole
thing has been organised, I feel sure, and the head that planned this
abominable robbery will know how to place his booty in safety."

Whereupon the Comte sighed, for he was too well-bred to curse in the
presence of his daughter and his sister, Mme. la Duchesse had said
nothing all this while: nor did she offer any comment upon the
mysterious occurrence all the time that the next stage of the wearisome
journey proceeded.


VIII

Less than an hour later the coach came to a halt once more.

M. le Comte woke up with a start.

"My God!" he exclaimed, "what is it now?"

Crystal had not been asleep: her thoughts were too busy, her brain too
much tormented with trying to find some plausible answer to the riddle
which agitated her: "Who had planned this abominable robbery? Was it
indeed Victor de Marmont himself? or had a greater, a mightier mind than
his discovered the secret of this swift journey to Paris and ordered the
clever raid upon the treasure?"

The rumble of the wheels had--though she was awake--prevented her from
hearing the rapid approach of a number of horses in the wake of the
coach, until a peremptory: "Halt! in the name of the Emperor!" suddenly
chased every other thought away; like her father she murmured: "My God!
what is it now?"

This time there was no mystery, there would be no puzzlement as to the
meaning of this fresh attack. The air was full of those sounds that
denote the presence of many horses and of many men; there was, too, the
clinking of metal, the champing of steel bits, the brief words of
command which proclaimed the men to be soldiers.

They appeared to be all round the coach, for the noise of their presence
came from everywhere at once.

Already the Comte had put his head out of the window: "What is it now?"
he asked again, more peremptorily this time.

"In the name of the Emperor!" was the loud reply.

"We do not halt in the name of an usurper," said the Comte. "En avant,
Pierre!"

"You urge those horses on at your peril, coachman," was the defiant
retort.

A quick word of command was given, there was more clanking of metal,
snorting of horses, loud curses from Pierre on the box, and the
commanding voice spoke again:

"M. le Comte de Cambray!"

"That is my name!" replied the Comte. "And who is it, pray, who dares
impede peaceful travellers on their way?"

"By order of the Emperor," was the curt reply.

"I know of no such person in France!"

"Vive l'Empereur!" was shouted defiantly in response.

Whereupon M. le Comte de Cambray--proud, disdainful and determined to
show no fear or concern, withdrew from the window and threw himself back
against the cushions of the carriage.

"What in the Virgin's name is the meaning of this?" murmured Mme. la
Duchesse.

"God in heaven only knows," sighed the Comte.

But obviously the coach had not been stopped by a troop of mounted
soldiers for the mere purpose of proclaiming the Emperor's name on the
high road in the dark. The same commanding voice which had answered the
Comte's challenge was giving rapid orders to dismount and to bring along
one of the carriage lanthorns.

The next moment the door of the coach was opened from without, and the
light of the lanthorn held up by a man in uniform fell full on the
figure and on the profile of Victor de Marmont.

"M. le Comte, I regret," he said coldly, "in the name of the Emperor I
must demand from you the restitution of his property."

The Comte shrugged his shoulders and vouchsafed no reply.

"M. le Comte," said de Marmont, more peremptorily this time, "I have
twenty-four men with me, who will seize by force if necessary that which
I herewith command you to give up voluntarily."

Still no reply. M. le Comte de Cambray would think himself bemeaned were
he to parley with a traitor.

"As you will, M. le Comte," was de Marmont's calm comment on the old
man's attitude. "Sergeant!" he commanded, "seize the four persons in
this coach. Three of them are women, so be as gentle as you can. Go
round to the other door first."

"Father," now urged Crystal gently, "do you think that this is wise--or
dignified?"

"Wisely spoken, Mlle. Crystal," rejoined de Marmont. "Have I not said
that I have two dozen soldiers with me--all trained to do their duty?
Why should M. le Comte allow them to lay hands upon you and on Mme. la
Duchesse?"

"It is an outrage," broke in the Comte savagely. "You and your soldiers
are traitors, rebels and deserters."

"But we are in superior numbers, M. le Comte," said de Marmont with a
sneer. "Would it not be wiser to yield with a good grace? Mme. la
Duchesse," he added with an attempt at geniality, "yours was always the
wise head, I am told, that guided the affairs of M. le Comte de Cambray
in the past. Will you not advise him now?"

"I would, my good man," retorted the Duchesse, "but my wise counsels
would benefit no one now, seeing that you have been sent on a fool's
errand."

De Marmont laughed.

"Does Mme. la Duchesse mean to deny that twenty-five million francs
belonging to the Emperor are hidden at this moment inside this coach?"

"I deny, Monsieur de Marmont, that any twenty-five million francs belong
to the son of an impecunious Corsican attorney--and I also deny that any
twenty-five million francs are in this coach at the present moment."

"That is exactly what I desire to ascertain, Madame."

"Ascertain by all means then," quoth Madame impatiently, "the other
thief ascertained the same thing an hour ago, and I must confess that he
did so more profitably than you are like to do."

"The other thief?" exclaimed de Marmont, greatly puzzled.

"It is as Mme. la Duchesse has deigned to tell you," here interposed the
Comte coolly. "I have no objection to your knowing that I had intended
to convey to His Majesty the King--its rightful owner--a sum of
money--originally stolen by the Corsican usurper from France--but that
an hour ago a party of armed thieves--just like yourself--attacked us,
bound and gagged me and my men, ransacked my coach and made off with the
booty."

"And I thank God now," murmured Crystal involuntarily, "that the money
has fallen into the hands of a common highwayman rather than in those of
the scourge of mankind."

"M. le Comte . . ." stammered de Marmont, who, still incredulous, yet
vaguely alarmed, was nevertheless determined not to accept this
extraordinary narrative with blind confidence.

But M. le Comte de Cambray's dignity rose at last to the occasion: "You
choose to disbelieve me, Monsieur?" he asked quietly.

De Marmont made no reply.

"Will my word of honour not suffice?"

"My orders, M. le Comte," said de Marmont gruffly, "are that I bring
back to my Emperor the money that is his. I will not leave one stone
unturned . . ."

"Enough, Monsieur," broke in the Comte with calm dignity. "We will
alight now, if your soldiers will stand aside."

And for the second time on this eventful night, Mme. la Duchesse d'Agen
and Mlle. Crystal de Cambray, together with faithful Jeanne, were forced
to alight from the coach and to stand by while the cushions of the
carriage were being turned over by the light of a flickering lanthorn
and every corner of the interior ransacked for the elusive treasure.

"There is nothing here, mon Colonel," said a gruff voice out of the
darkness, after a while.

A loud curse broke from de Marmont's lips.

"You are satisfied?" asked the Comte coldly, "that I have told you the
truth?"

"Search the luggage in the boot," cried de Marmont savagely, without
heeding him, "search the men on the box! bring more light here! That
money is somewhere in this coach, I'll swear. If I do not find it I'll
take every one here back a prisoner to Grenoble . . . or . . ."

He paused, himself ashamed of what he had been about to say.

"Or you will order your soldiers to lay hands upon our persons, is that
it, M. de Marmont?" broke in Crystal coldly.

He made no reply, for of a truth that had been his thought: foiled in
his hope of rendering his beloved Emperor so signal a service, he had
lost all sense of chivalry in this overwhelming feeling of baffled rage.

Crystal's cold challenge recalled him to himself, and now he felt
ashamed of what he had just contemplated, ashamed, too, of what he had
done. He hated the Comte . . . he hated all royalists and all enemies of
the Emperor . . . but he hated the Comte doubly because of the insults
which he (de Marmont) had had to endure that evening at Brestalou. He
had looked upon this expedition as a means of vengeance for those
insults, a means, too, of showing his power and his worth before Crystal
and of winning her through that power which the Emperor had given him,
and through that worth which the Emperor had recognised.

But, though he hated the Comte he knew him to be absolutely incapable of
telling a deliberate lie, and absolutely incapable of bartering his word
of honour for the sake of his own safety.

Crystal's words brought this knowledge back to his mind; and now the
desire seized him to prove himself as chivalrous as he was powerful. He
was one of those men who are so absolutely ignorant of a woman's nature
that they believe that a woman's love can be won by deeds as apart from
personality, and that a woman's dislike and contempt can be changed into
love. He loved Crystal more absolutely now than he had ever done in the
days when he was practically her accepted suitor: his unbridled and
capricious nature clung desperately to that which he could not hold, and
since he had felt--that evening at Brestalou--that his political
convictions had placed an insuperable barrier between himself and
Crystal de Cambray, he felt that no woman on earth could ever be quite
so desirable.

His mistake lay in this: that he believed that it was his political
convictions alone which had turned Crystal away from him: he felt that
he could have won her love through her submission once she was his wife,
now he found that he would have to win her love first and her wifely
submission would only follow afterwards.

Just now--though in the gloom he could only see the vague outline of her
graceful form, and only heard her voice as through a veil of
darkness--he had the longing to prove himself at once worthy of her
regard and deserving of her gratitude.

Without replying to her direct challenge, he made a vigorous effort to
curb his rage, and to master his disappointment. Then he gave a few
brief commands to his sergeant, ordering him to repair the disorder
inside the coach, and to stop all further searching both of the vehicle
and of the men.

Finally he said with calm dignity: "M. le Comte, I must offer you my
humble apologies for the inconvenience to which you have been subjected.
I humbly beg Mme. la Duchesse and Mademoiselle Crystal to accept these
expressions of my profound regret. A soldier's life and a soldier's duty
must be my excuse for the part I was forced to take in this untoward
happening. Mme. la Duchesse, I pray you deign to re-enter your carriage.
M. le Comte, if there is aught I can do for you, I pray you command me.
. . ."

Neither the Duchesse nor the Comte, however, deigned to take the
slightest notice of the abominable traitor and of his long tirade.
Madame was shivering with cold and yawning with fatigue, and in her
heart consigned the young brute to everlasting torments.

The Comte would have thought it beneath his dignity to accept any
explanation from a follower of the Corsican usurper. Without a word he
was now helping his sister into the carriage.

Jeanne, of course, hardly counted--she was dazed into semi-imbecility by
the renewed terrors she had just gone through: so for the moment Victor
felt that Crystal was isolated from the others. She stood a little to
one side--he could only just see her, as the sergeant was holding up the
lanthorn for Mme. la Duchesse to see her way into the coach. M. le Comte
went on to give a few directions to the coachman.

"Mademoiselle Crystal!" murmured Victor softly.

And he made a step forward so that now she could not move toward the
carriage without brushing against him. But she made no reply.

"Mademoiselle Crystal," he said again, "have you not one single kind
word for me?"

"A kind word?" she retorted almost involuntarily, "after such an
outrage?"

"I am a soldier," he urged, "and had to do my duty."

"You were a soldier once, M. de Marmont--a soldier of the King. Now you
are only a deserter."

"A soldier of the Emperor, Mademoiselle, of the man who led France to
victory and to glory, and will do so again, now that he has come back
into his own once more."

"You and I, M. de Marmont," she said coldly, "look at France from
different points of view. This is neither the hour nor the place to
discuss our respective sentiments. I pray you, allow me to join my aunt
in the carriage. I am cold and tired, and she will be anxious for me."

"Will you at least give me one word of encouragement, Mademoiselle?" he
urged. "As you say, our points of view are very different. But I am on
the high road to fortune. The Emperor is back in France, the army flocks
to his eagles as one man. He trusts me and I shall rise to greatness
under his wing. Mademoiselle Crystal, you promised me your hand, I have
not released you from that promise yet. I will come and claim it soon."

"Excitement seems to have turned your brain, M. de Marmont," was all
that Crystal said, and she walked straight past him to the carriage
door.

Victor smothered a curse. These aristos were as arrogant as ever. What
lesson had the revolution and the guillotine taught them? None. This
girl who had spent her whole life in poverty and exile, and was
like--after a brief interregnum--to return to exile and poverty again,
was not a whit less proud than her kindred had been when they walked in
their hundreds up the steps of the guillotine with a smile of lofty
disdain upon their lips.

Victor de Marmont was a son of the people--of those who had made the
revolution and had fought the whole of Europe in order to establish
their right to govern themselves as they thought best, and he hated all
these aristos--the men who had fled from their country and abandoned it
when she needed her sons' help more than she had ever done before.

The aristocrat was for him synonymous with the émigré--with the man who
had raised a foreign army to fight against France, who had brought the
foreigner marching triumphantly into Paris. He hated the aristocrat, but
he loved Crystal, the one desirable product of that old regime system
which he abhorred.

But with him a woman's love meant a woman's submission. He was more
determined than ever now to win her, but he wanted to win her through
her humiliation and his triumph--excitement had turned his brain? Well!
so be it, fear and oppression would turn her heart and crush her pride.

He made no further attempt to detain her: he had asked for a kind word
and she had given him withering scorn. Excitement had turned his brain
. . . he was not even worthy of parley--not even worthy of a formal
refusal!

To his credit be it said that the thought of immediate revenge did not
enter his mind then. He might have subjected her then and there to
deadly outrage--he might have had her personal effects searched, her
person touched by the rough hands of his soldiers. But though his
estimate of a woman's love was a low one, it was not so base as to
imagine that Crystal de Cambray would ever forgive so dastardly an
insult.

As she walked past him to the door, however, he said under his breath:

"Remember, Mademoiselle, that you and your family at this moment are
absolutely in my power, and that it is only because of my regard for you
that I let you all now depart from here in peace."

Whether she heard or not, he could not say; certain it is that she made
no reply, nor did she turn toward him at all. The light of the lanthorn
lit up her delicate profile, pale and drawn, her tightly pressed lips,
the look of utter contempt in her eyes, which even the fitful shadow
cast by her hair over her brows could not altogether conceal.

The Comte had given what instructions he wished to Pierre. He stood by
the carriage door waiting for his daughter: no doubt he had heard what
went on between her and de Marmont, and was content to leave her to deal
what scorn was necessary for the humiliation of the traitor.

He helped Crystal into the carriage, and also the unfortunate Jeanne;
finally he too followed, and pulled the door to behind him.

Victor did not wait to see the coach make a start. He gave the order to
remount.

"How far are we from St. Priest?" he asked.

"Not eight kilomètres, mon Colonel," was the reply.

"En avant then, ventre-à-terre!" he commanded, as he swung himself into
the saddle.

The great high road between Grenoble and Lyons is very wide, and Pierre
had no need to draw his horses to one side, as de Marmont and his troop,
after much scrambling, champing of bits and clanking of metal, rode at a
sharp trot past the coach and him.

For some few moments the sound of the horses' hoofs on the hard road
kept the echoes of the night busy with their resonance, but soon that
sound grew fainter and fainter still--after five minutes it died away
altogether.

M. de Comte put his head out of the window.

"Eh bien, Pierre," he called, "why don't we start?"

The postillion cracked his whip; Pierre shouted to his horses; the heavy
coach groaned and creaked and was once more on its way.

In the interior no one spoke. Jeanne's terror had melted in a silent
flow of tears.


Lyons was reached shortly before midnight. M. le Comte's carriage had
some difficulty in entering the town, as by orders of M. le Comte
d'Artois it had already been placed in a state of defence against the
possible advance of the "band of pirates from Corsica." The bridge of La
Guillotière had been strongly barricaded and it took M. le Comte de
Cambray some little time to establish his identity before the officer in
command of the post allowed him to proceed on his way.

The town was fairly full owing to the presence of M. le Comte d'Artois,
who had taken up his quarters at the archiepiscopal palace, and of his
staff, who were scattered in various houses about the town. Nevertheless
M. le Comte and his family were fortunate enough in obtaining
comfortable accommodation at the Hotel Bourbon.

The party was very tired, and after a light supper retired to bed.

But not before M. le Comte de Cambray had sent a special autographed
message to Monseigneur le Comte d'Artois explaining to him under what
tragic circumstances the sum of twenty-five million francs destined to
reach His Majesty the King had fallen into a common highwayman's hands
and begging that a posse of cavalry be sent out on the road after the
marauders and be placed under the orders of M. le Marquis de St. Genis,
who would be on the look-out for their arrival. He begged that the posse
should consist of not less than thirty men, seeing that some armed
followers of the Corsican brigand were also somewhere on the way.




CHAPTER V

THE RIVALS


I

The weather did not improve as the night wore on: soon a thin, cold
drizzle added to the dreariness and to Maurice de St. Genis'
ever-growing discomfort.

He had started off gaily enough, cheered by Crystal's warm look of
encouragement and comforted by the feeling of certainty that he would
get even with that mysterious enemy who had so impudently thrown himself
athwart a plan which had service of the King for its sole object.

Maurice had not exchanged confidences with Crystal since the adventure,
but his ideas--without his knowing it--absolutely coincided with hers.
He, too, was quite sure that no common footpad had engineered their
daring attack. Positive knowledge of the money and its destination had
been the fountain from which had sprung the comedy of the masked
highwayman and his little band of robbers. Maurice mentally reckoned
that there must have been at least half a dozen of these bravos--of the
sort that in these times were easily enough hired in any big city to
play any part, from that of armed escort to nervous travellers to that
of seeker of secret information for the benefit of either political
party--loafers that hung round the wine-shops in search of a means of
earning a few days' rations, discharged soldiers of the Empire some of
them, whose loyalty to the Restoration had been questioned from the
first.

Maurice had no doubt that whatever motive had actuated the originator of
the bold plan to possess himself of twenty-five million francs, he had
deliberately set to work to employ men of that type to help him in his
task.

It had all been very audacious and--Maurice was bound to admit--very
well carried out. As for the motive, he was never for a moment in doubt.
It was a Bonapartist plot, of that he felt sure, as well as of the fact
that Victor de Marmont was the originator of it all. He probably had not
taken any active part in the attack, but he had employed the
men--Maurice would have taken an oath on that!

The Comte de Cambray must have let fall an unguarded hint in the course
of his last interview with de Marmont at Brestalou, and when Victor went
away disgraced and discomfited he, no doubt, thought to take his revenge
in the way most calculated to injure both the Comte and the royalist
cause.

Satisfied with this mental explanation of past events, St. Genis had
ridden on in the darkness, his spirits kept up with hopes and thoughts
of a glaring counter revenge. But his limbs were still stiff and bruised
from the cramped position in which he had lain for so long, and
presently, when the cold drizzle began to penetrate to his bones, his
enthusiasm and confidence dwindled. The village seemed to recede further
and further into the distance. He thought when he had ridden through it
earlier in the evening that it was not very far from the scene of the
attack--a dozen kilomètres perhaps--now it seemed more like thirty; he
thought too that it was a village of some considerable size--five
hundred souls or perhaps more--he had noticed as he rode through it a
well-illuminated, one-storied house, and the words "Débit de vins" and
"Chambres pour voyageurs" painted in bold characters above the front
door. But now he had ridden on and on along the dark road for what
seemed endless hours--unconscious of time save that it was dragging on
leaden-footed and wearisome . . . and still no light on ahead to betray
the presence of human habitations, no distant church bells to mark the
progress of the night.

At last, in desperation, Maurice de St. Genis had thought of wrapping
himself in his cloak and getting what rest he could by the roadside, for
he was getting very tired and saddle-sore, when on his left he perceived
in the far distance, glimmering through the mist, two small lights like
bright eyes shining in the darkness.

What kind of a way led up to those welcome lights, Maurice had, of
course, no idea; but they proclaimed at any rate the presence of human
beings, of a house, of the warmth of fire; and without hesitation the
young man turned his horse's head at right angles from the road.

He had crossed a couple of ploughed fields and an intervening ditch,
when in the distance to his right and behind him he heard the sound of
horses at a brisk trot, going in the direction of Lyons.

Maurice drew rein for a moment and listened until the sound came nearer.
There must have been at least a score of mounted men--a military patrol
sent out by M. le Comte d'Artois, no doubt, and now on its way back to
Lyons. Just for a second or two the young man had thoughts of joining up
with the party and asking their help or their escort: he even gave a
vigorous shout which, however, was lost in the clang and clatter of
horses' hoofs and of the accompanying jingle of metal.

He turned his horse back the way he had come; but before he had
recrossed one of the ploughed fields, the troop of mounted men--whatever
they were--had passed by, and Maurice was left once more in solitude,
shouting and calling in vain.

There was nothing for it then, but to turn back again, and to make his
way as best he could toward those inviting lights. In any case nothing
could have been done in this pitch-dark night against the highway
thieves, and St. Genis had no fear that M. le Comte d'Artois would fail
to send him help for his expedition against them on the morrow.

The lights on ahead were getting perceptibly nearer, soon they detached
themselves still more clearly in the gloom--other lights appeared in the
immediate neighbourhood--too few for a village--thought Maurice, and
grouped closely together, suggesting a main building surrounded by other
smaller ones close by.

Soon the whole outline of the house could be traced through the
enveloping darkness: two of the windows were lighted from within, and an
oil lamp, flickering feebly, was fixed in a recess just above the door.
The welcome words: "Chambres pour voyageurs. Aristide Briot,
propriétaire," greeted Maurice's wearied eyes as he drew rein. Good luck
was apparently attending him for, thus picking his way across fields, he
had evidently struck an out-of-the-way hostelry on some bridle path off
the main road, which was probably a short cut between Chambéry and
Vienne.

Be that as it may, he managed to dismount--stiff as he was--and having
tried the door and found it fastened, he hammered against it with his
boot.

A few moments later, the bolts were drawn and an elderly man in blue
blouse and wide trousers, his sabots stuffed with straw, came shuffling
out of the door.

"Who's there?" he called in a feeble, querulous voice.

"A traveller--on horseback," replied Maurice. "Come, petit père," he
added more impatiently, "will you take my horse or call to one of your
men?"

"It is too late to take in travellers," muttered the old man. "It is
nearly midnight, and everyone is abed except me."

"Too late, morbleu?" exclaimed the young man peremptorily. "You surely
are not thinking of refusing shelter to a traveller on a night like
this. Why, how far is it to the nearest village?"

"It is very late," reiterated the old man plaintively, "and my house is
quite full."

"There's a shake-down in the kitchen anyway, I'll warrant, and one for
my horse somewhere in an outhouse," retorted Maurice as without more ado
he suddenly threw the reins into the old man's hand and unceremoniously
pushed him into the house.

The man appeared to hesitate for a moment or two. He grumbled and
muttered something which Maurice did not hear, and his shrewd eyes--the
knowing eyes of a peasant of the Dauphiné--took a rapid survey of the
belated traveller's clothes, the expensive caped coat, the well-made
boots, the fashionable hat, which showed up clearly now by the light
from within.

Satisfied that there could be no risk in taking in so well-dressed a
traveller, feeling moreover that a good horse was always a hostage for
the payment of the bill in the morning, the man now, without another
word or look at his guest, turned his back on the house and led the
horse away--somewhere out into the darkness--Maurice did not take the
trouble to ascertain where.

He was under shelter. There was the remnant of a wood-fire in the hearth
at the corner, some benches along the walls. If he could not get a bed,
he could certainly get rest and warmth for the night. He put down his
hat, took off his coat, and kicked the smouldering log into a blaze;
then he drew a chair close to the fire and held his numbed feet and
hands to the pleasing warmth.

Thoughts of food and wine presented themselves too, now that he felt a
little less cold and stiff, and he awaited the old man's return with
eagerness and impatience.

The shuffling of wooden sabots outside the door was a pleasing sound: a
moment or two later the old man had come back and was busying himself
with once more bolting his front door.

"Well now, père Briot," said Maurice cheerily, "as I take it you are the
proprietor of this abode of bliss, what about supper?"

"Bread and cheese if you like," muttered the man curtly.

"And a bottle of wine, of course."

"Yes. A bottle of wine."

"Well! be quick about it, petit père. I didn't know how hungry I was
till you talked of bread and cheese."

"Would you like some cold meat?" queried the man indifferently.

"Of course I should! Have I not said that I was hungry?"

"You'll pay for it all right enough?"

"I'll pay for the supper before I stick a fork into it," rejoined
Maurice impatiently, "but in Heaven's name hurry up, man! I am half dead
with sleep as well as with hunger."

The old man--a real peasant of the Dauphiné in his deliberate manner and
shrewd instincts of caution--once more shuffled out of the room, and St.
Genis lapsed into a kind of pleasant torpor as the warmth of the fire
gradually crept through his sinews and loosened all his limbs, while the
anticipation of wine and food sent his wearied thoughts into a happy
day-dream.

Ten minutes later he was installed before a substantial supper, and
worthy Aristide Briot was equally satisfied with the two pieces of
silver which St. Genis had readily tendered him.

"You said your house was full, petit père," said Maurice after a while,
when the edge of his hunger had somewhat worn off. "I shouldn't have
thought there were many travellers in this out-of-the-way place."

"The place is not out-of-the-way," retorted the old man gruffly. "The
road is a good one, and a short cut between Vienne and Chambéry. We get
plenty of travellers this way!"

"Well! I did not strike the road, unfortunately. I saw your lights in
the distance and cut across some fields. It was pretty rough in the
dark, I can tell you."

"That's just what those other cavaliers said, when they turned up here
about an hour ago. A noisy crowd they were. I had no room for them in my
house, so they had to go."

St. Genis at once put down his knife and fork.

"A noisy crowd of travellers," he exclaimed, "who arrived here an hour
ago?"

"Parbleu!" rejoined the other, "and all wanting beds too. I had no room.
I can only put up one or two travellers. I sent them on to Levasseur's,
further along the road. Only the wounded man I could not turn away. He
is up in our best bedroom."

"A wounded man? You have a wounded man here, petit père?"

"Oh! it's not much of a wound," explained the old man with unconscious
irrelevance. "He himself calls it a mere scratch. But my old woman took
a fancy to him: he is young and well-looking, you understand. . . . She
is clever at bandages too, so she has looked after him as if he were her
own son."

Mechanically, St. Genis had once more taken up his knife and fork,
though of a truth the last of his hunger had vanished. But these
Dauphiné peasants were suspicious and queer-tempered, and already the
young man's surprise had matured into a plan which he would not be able
to carry through without the help of Aristide Briot. Noisy cavaliers--he
mused to himself--a wounded man! . . . wounded by the stray shot aimed
at him by Crystal de Cambray! Indeed, St. Genis had much ado to keep his
excitement in check, and to continue with a pretence at eating while
Briot watched him with stolid indifference.

"Petit père," said the young man at last with as much unconcern as he
could affect. "I have been thinking that you have--unwittingly--given me
an excellent piece of news. I do believe that the man in your best
bedroom upstairs is a friend of mine whom I was to have met at Lyons
to-day and whose absence from our place of tryst had made me very
anxious. I was imagining that all sorts of horrors had happened to him,
for he is in the secret service of the King and exposed to every kind of
danger. His being wounded in some skirmish either with highway robbers
or with a band of the Corsican's pirates would not surprise me in the
least, and the fact that he had some half-dozen mounted men with him
confirms me in my belief that indeed it is my friend who is lying
upstairs, as he often has to have an escort in the exercise of his
duties. At any rate, petit père," he concluded as he rose from the
table, "by your leave, I'll go up and ascertain."

While he rattled off these pretty proceeds of his own imagination,
Maurice de St. Genis kept a sharp watch on Aristide Briot's face, ready
to note the slightest sign of suspicion should it creep into the old
man's shrewd eyes.

Briot, however, did not exhibit any violent interest in his guest's
story, and when the latter had finished speaking he merely said,
pointing to the remnants of food upon the table:

"I thought you said that you were hungry."

"So I was, petit père," rejoined Maurice impatiently, "so I was: but my
hunger is not so great as it was, and before I eat another morsel I must
satisfy myself that it is my friend who is safe and well in your old
woman's care."

"Oh! he is well enough," grunted Briot, "and you can see him in the
morning."

"That I cannot, for I shall have to leave here soon after dawn. And I
could not get a wink of sleep whilst I am in such a state of uncertainty
about my friend."

"But you can't go and wake him now. He is asleep for sure, and my old
woman wouldn't like him to be disturbed, after all the care she has
given him."

St. Genis, fretting with impatience, could have cursed aloud or shaken
the obstinate old peasant roughly by the shoulders.

"I shouldn't wake him," he retorted, irritated beyond measure at the
man's futile opposition. "I'll go up on tiptoe, candle in hand--you
shall show me the way to his room--and I'll just ascertain whether the
wounded man is my friend or not, then I'll come down again quietly and
finish my supper.

"Come, petit père, I insist," he added more peremptorily, seeing that
Briot--with the hesitancy peculiar to his kind--still made no movement
to obey, but stood close by scratching his scanty locks and looking
puzzled and anxious.

Fortunately for him Maurice understood the temperament of these peasants
of the Dauphiné, he knew that with their curious hesitancy and inherent
suspiciousness it was always the easiest to make up their minds for
them.

So now--since he was absolutely determined to come to grips with that
abominable thief upstairs, before the night was many minutes older--he
ceased to parley with Briot.

A candle stood close to his hand on the table, a bit of kindling wood
lay in a heap in one corner, with the help of the one he lighted the
other, then candle in hand he walked up to the door.

"Show me the way, petit père," he said.

And Aristide Briot, with a shrug of the shoulders which implied that he
there and then put away from him any responsibility for what might or
might not occur after this, and without further comment, led the way
upstairs.


II

On the upper landing at the top of the stairs Briot paused. He pointed
to a door at the end of the narrow corridor, and said curtly:

"That's his room."

"I thank you, petit père," whispered St. Genis in response. "Don't wait
for me, I'll be back directly."

"He is not yet in bed," was Briot's dry comment.

A thin streak of light showed underneath the door. As St. Genis walked
rapidly toward it he wondered if the door would be locked. That
certainly was a contingency which had not occurred to him. His design
was to surprise a wounded and helpless thief in his sleep and to force
him then and there to give up the stolen money, before he had time to
call for help.

But the miscreant was evidently on the watch, Briot still lingered on
the top of the stairs, there were other people sleeping in the house,
and St. Genis suddenly realised that his purpose would not be quite so
easy of execution as he had hot-headedly supposed.

But the end in view was great, and St. Genis was not a man easily
deterred from a set purpose. There was the royalist cause to aid and
Crystal to be won if he were successful.

He knocked resolutely at the door, then tried the latch. The door was
locked: but even as the young man hesitated for a moment wondering what
he would do next, a firm step resounded on the floor on the other side
of the partition and the next moment the door was opened from within,
and a peremptory voice issued the usual challenge:

"Who goes there?"

A tall figure appeared as a massive silhouette under the lintel. St.
Genis had the candle in his hand. He dropped it in his astonishment.

"Mr. Clyffurde!" he exclaimed.

At sight of St. Genis the Englishman, whose right arm was in a sling,
had made a quick instinctive movement back into the room, but equally
quickly Maurice had forestalled him by placing his foot across the
threshold.

Then he turned back to Aristide Briot.

"That's all right, petit père," he called out airily, "it is indeed my
friend, just as I thought. I'm going to stay and have a little chat with
him. Don't wait up for me. When he is tired of my company I'll go back
to the parlour and make myself happy in front of the fire. Good-night!"

As Clyffurde no longer stood in the doorway, St. Genis walked straight
into the room and closed the door behind him, leaving good old Aristide
to draw what conclusions he chose from the eccentric behaviour of his
nocturnal visitors.

With a rapid and wrathful gaze, St. Genis at once took stock of
everything in the room. A sigh of satisfaction rose to his lips. At any
rate the rogue could not deny his guilt. There, hanging on a peg, was
the caped coat which he had worn, and there on the table were two
damning proofs of his villainy--a pair of pistols and a black mask.

The whole situation puzzled him more than he could say. Certainly after
the first shock of surprise he had felt his wrath growing hotter and
hotter every moment, the other man's cool assurance helped further to
irritate his nerves, and to make him lose that self-control which would
have been of priceless value in this unlooked-for situation.

Seeing that Maurice de St. Genis was absolutely speechless with surprise
as well as with anger, there crept into Clyffurde's deep-set grey eyes a
strange look of amusement, as if the humour of his present position was
more obvious than its shame.

"And what," he asked pleasantly, "has procured me the honour at this
late hour of a visit from M. le Marquis de St. Genis?"

His words broke the spell. There was no longer any mystery in the
situation. The condemnatory pieces of evidence were there, Clyffurde's
connection with de Marmont was well known--the plot had become obvious.
Here was an English adventurer--an alien spy--who had obviously been
paid to do this dirty work for the usurper, and--as Maurice now
concluded airily--he must be made to give up the money which he had
stolen before he be handed over to the military authorities at Lyons and
shot as a spy or a thief--Maurice didn't care which: the whole thing was
turning out far simpler and easier than he had dared to hope.

"You know quite well why I am here," he now said, roughly. "Of a truth,
for the moment I was taken by surprise, for I had not thought that a man
who had been honoured by the friendship of M. le Comte de Cambray and of
his family was a thief, as well as a spy."

"And now," said Clyffurde, still smiling and apparently quite
unperturbed, "that you have been enlightened on this subject to your own
satisfaction, may I ask what you intend to do?"

"Force you to give up what you have stolen, you impudent thief,"
retorted the other savagely.

"And how are you proposing to do that, M. de St. Genis?" asked the
Englishman with perfect equanimity.

"Like this," cried Maurice, whose exasperation and fury had increased
every moment, as the other man's assurance waxed more insolent and more
cool.

"Like this!" he cried again, as he sprang at his enemy's throat.

A past master in the art of self-defence, Clyffurde--despite his wounded
arm--was ready for the attack. With his left on guard he not only
received the brunt of the onslaught, but parried it most effectually
with a quick blow against his assailant's jaw.

St. Genis--stunned by this forcible contact with a set of exceedingly
hard knuckles--fell back a step or two, his foot struck against some
object on the floor, he lost his balance and measured his length
backwards across the bed.

"You abominable thief . . . you . . ." he cried, choking with rage and
with discomfiture as he tried to struggle to his feet.

But this he at once found that he could not do, seeing that a pair of
firm and muscular knees were gripping and imprisoning his legs, even
while that same all-powerful left hand with the hard knuckles had an
unpleasant hold on his throat.

"I should have tried some other method, M. de St. Genis, had I been in
your shoes," came in irritatingly sarcastic accents from his calm
antagonist.

Indeed, the insolent rogue did not appear in the least overwhelmed by
the enormity of his crime or by the disgrace of being so ignominiously
found out. From his precarious position across the bed St. Genis had a
good view of the rascal's finely knit figure, of his earnest face, now
softened by a smile full of kindly humour and good-natured contempt.

An impartial observer viewing the situation would certainly have thought
that here was an impudent villain vanquished and lying on his back,
whilst being admonished for his crimes by a just man who had might as
well as right on his side.

"Let me go, you confounded thief," St. Genis cried, as soon as the
unpleasant grip on his throat had momentarily relaxed, "you accursed spy
. . . you . . ."

"Easy, easy, my young friend," said the other calmly; "you have called
me a thief quite often enough to satisfy your rage: and further epithets
might upset my temper."

"Let go my throat!"

"I will in a moment or two, as soon as I have made up my mind what I am
going to do with you, my impetuous young friend--whether I shall truss
you like a fowl and put you in charge of our worthy host, as guilty of
assaulting one of his guests, or whether I shall do you some trifling
injury to punish you for trying to do me a grave one."

"Right is on my side," said St. Genis doggedly. "I do not care what you
do to me."

"Right is apparently on your side, my friend. I'll not deny it.
Therefore, I still hesitate."

"Like a rogue and a vagabond at dead of night you attacked and robbed
those who have never shown you anything but kindness."

"Until the hour when they turned me out of their house like a dishonest
lacquey, without allowing me a word of explanation."

"Then this is your idea of vengeance, is it, Mr. Clyffurde?"

"Yes, M. de St. Genis, it is. But not quite in the manner that you
suppose. I am going to set you free now in order to set your mind at
rest. But let me warn you that I shall be just as much on the alert
against another attack from you as ever I was before, and that I could
ward off two or even three assailants with my left arm and knee as
easily as I warded off one. It is a way we have in England."

He relaxed his hold on Maurice's legs and throat, and the young
man--fretting and fuming, wild with impotent wrath and with
mortification--struggled to his feet.

"Are you proposing to give me some explanation to mitigate your crime?"
he said roughly. "If so, let me tell you that I will accept none.
Putting the question aside of your abominable theft, you have committed
an outrage against people whom I honour, and against the woman whom I
love."

"Nor do I propose to give you any explanation, M. de St. Genis,"
retorted Clyffurde, who still spoke quite quietly and evenly. "But for
the sake of your own peace of mind, which you will I hope communicate to
the people whom you honour, I will tell you a few simple facts."

Neither of the men sat down: they stood facing one another now across
the table whereon stood a couple of tallow candles which threw fitful,
yellow lights on their faces--so different, so strangely
contrasted--young and well-looking both--both strongly moved by passion,
yet one entirely self-controlled, while in the other's eyes that passion
glowed fierce and resentful.

"I listen," said St. Genis curtly.

And Clyffurde began after a slight pause: "At the time that you fell
upon me with such ill-considered vigour, M. de St. Genis," he said, "did
you know that but for my abominable outrage upon the persons whom you
honour, the money which they would gladly have guarded with their life
would have fallen into the hands of Bonaparte's agents?"

"In theirs or yours, what matters?" retorted St. Genis savagely, "since
His Majesty is deprived of it now."

"That is where you are mistaken, my young friend," said the other
quietly. "His Majesty is more sure of getting the money now than he was
when M. le Comte de Cambray with his family and yourself started on that
quixotic if ill-considered errand this morning."

St. Genis frowned in puzzlement:

"I don't understand you," he said curtly.

"Isn't it simple enough? You and your friends credited me with
friendship for de Marmont: he is hot-headed and impetuous, and words
rush out of his mouth that he should keep to himself. I knew from
himself that Bonaparte had charged him to recover the twenty-five
millions which M. le préfet Fourier had placed in the Comte de Cambray's
charge."

"Why did you not warn the Comte then?" queried St. Genis, who, still
mistrustful, glowered at his antagonist.

"Would he have listened to me, think you?" asked the other with a quiet
smile. "Remember, he had turned me out of his house two nights before,
without a word of courtesy or regret--on the mere suspicion of my
intercourse with de Marmont. Were you too full with your own rage to
notice what happened then? Mlle. Crystal drew away her skirts from me as
if I were a leper. What credence would they have given my words? Would
the Comte even have admitted me into his presence?"

"And so . . . you planned this robbery . . . you . . ." stammered St.
Genis, whose astonishment and puzzlement were rendering him as
speechless as his rage had done. "I'll not believe it," he continued
more firmly; "you are fooling me, now that I have found you out."

"Why should I do that? You are in my hands, and not I in yours.
Bonaparte is victorious at Grenoble. I could take the money to him and
earn his gratitude, or use the money for mine own ends. What have I to
fear from you? What cause to fool you? Your opinion of me? M. le Comte's
contempt or goodwill? Bah! after to-night are we likely to meet again?"

St. Genis said nothing in reply. Of a truth there was nothing that he
could say. The Englishman's whole attitude bore the impress of truth.
Even through that still seething wrath which refused to be appeased, St.
Genis felt that the other was speaking the truth. His mind now was in
turmoil of wonderment. This man who stood here before him had done
something which he--St. Genis--could not comprehend. Vaguely he realised
that beneath the man's actions there still lay a yet deeper foundation
of dignity and of heroism and one which perhaps would never be wholly
fathomed.

It was Clyffurde who at last broke the silence between them:

"You, M. de St. Genis," he said lightly, "would under like circumstances
have acted just as I did, I am sure. The whole idea was so easy of
execution. Half a dozen loafers to aid me, the part of highwayman to
play--an old man and two or three defenceless women--my part was not
heroic, I admit," he added with a smile, "but it has served its purpose.
The money is safe in my keeping now, within a few days His Majesty the
King of France shall have it, and all those who strive to serve him
loyally can rest satisfied."

"I confess I don't understand you," said St. Genis, as he seemed to
shake himself free from some unexplainable spell that held him. "You
have rendered us and the legitimate cause of France a signal service!
Why did you do it?"

"You forget, M. de St. Genis, that the legitimate cause of France is
England's cause as well."

"Are you a servant of your country then? I thought you were a tradesman
engaged in buying gloves."

Clyffurde smiled. "So I am," he said, "but even a tradesman may serve
his country, if he has the opportunity."

"I hope that your country will be duly grateful," said Maurice, with a
sigh. "I know that every royalist in France would thank you if they
knew."

"By your leave, M. de St. Genis, no one in France need know anything but
what you choose to tell them. . . ."

"You mean . . ."

"That except for reassuring M. le Comte de Cambray and . . . and Mlle.
Crystal, there is no reason why they should ever know what passed
between us in this room to-night."

"But if the King is to have the money, he . . ."

"He will never know from me, from whence it comes."

"He will wish to know. . . ."

"Come, M. de St. Genis," broke in Clyffurde, with a slight hint of
impatience, "is it for me to tell you that Great Britain has more than
one agent in France these days--that the money will reach His Majesty
the King ultimately through the hands of his foreign minister M. le
Comte de Jaucourt . . . and that my name will never appear in connection
with the matter? . . . I am a mere servant of Great Britain--doing my
duty where I can . . . nothing more."

"You mean that you are in the British Secret Service? No?--Well! I don't
profess to understand you English people, and you seem to me more
incomprehensible than any I have known. Not that I ever believed that
you were a mere tradesman. But what shall I say to M. le Comte de
Cambray?" he added, after a slight pause, during which a new and strange
train of thought altered the expression of wonderment on his face, to
one that was undefinable, almost furtive, certainly undecided.

"All you need say to M. le Comte," replied Clyffurde, with a slight tone
of impatience, "is that you are personally satisfied that the money will
reach His Majesty's hand safely, and in due course. At least, I presume
that you are satisfied, M. de St. Genis," he continued, vaguely
wondering what was going on in the young Frenchman's brain.

"Yes, yes, of course I am satisfied," murmured the other, "but . . ."

"But what?"

"Mlle. Crystal would want to know something more than that. She will ask
me questions . . . she . . . she will insist . . . I had promised her to
get the money back myself . . . she will expect an explanation . . .
she . . ."

He continued to murmur these short, jerky sentences almost inaudibly,
avoiding the while to meet the enquiring and puzzled gaze of the
Englishman.

When he paused--still murmuring, but quite inaudibly now--Clyffurde made
no comment, and once more there fell a silence over the narrow room. The
candles flickered feebly, and Bobby picked up the metal snuffers from
the table and with a steady and deliberate hand set to work to trim the
wicks.

So absorbed did he seem in this occupation that he took no notice of St.
Genis, who with arms crossed in front of him, was pacing up and down the
narrow room, a heavy frown between his deep-set eyes.


III

Somewhere in the house down below, an old-fashioned clock had just
struck two. Clyffurde looked up from his absorbing task.

"It is late," he remarked casually; "shall we say good-night, M. de St.
Genis?"

The sound of the Englishman's voice seemed to startle Maurice out of his
reverie. He pulled himself together, walked firmly up to the table and
resting his hand upon it, he faced the other man with a sudden gaze made
up partly of suddenly conceived resolve and partly of lingering
shamefacedness.

"Mr. Clyffurde," he began abruptly.

"Yes?"

"Have you any cause to hate me?"

"Why no," replied Clyffurde with his habitual good-humoured smile. "Why
should I have?"

"Have you any cause to hate Mlle. Crystal de Cambray?"

"Certainly not."

"You have no desire," insisted Maurice, "to be revenged on her for the
slight which she put upon you the other night?"

His voice had grown more steady and his look more determined as he put
these rapid questions to Clyffurde, whose expressive face showed no sign
of any feeling in response save that of complete and indifferent
puzzlement.

"I have no desire with regard to Mlle. de Cambray," replied Bobby
quietly, "save that of serving her, if it be in my power."

"You can serve her, Sir," retorted Maurice firmly, "and that right
nobly. You can render the whole of her future life happy beyond what she
herself has ever dared to hope."

"How?"

Maurice paused: once more, with a gesture habitual to him, he crossed
his arms over his chest and resumed his restless march up and down the
narrow room.

Then again he stood still, and again faced the Englishman, his dark
enquiring eyes seeming to probe the latter's deepest thoughts.

"Did you know, Mr. Clyffurde," he asked slowly, "that Mlle. Crystal de
Cambray honours me with her love?"

"Yes. I knew that," replied the other quietly.

"And I love her with my heart and soul," continued Maurice impetuously.
"Oh! I cannot tell you what we have suffered--she and I--when the
exigencies of her position and the will of her father parted
us--seemingly for ever. Her heart was broken and so was mine: and I
endured the tortures of hell when I realised at last that she was lost
to me for ever and that her exquisite person--her beautiful soul--were
destined for the delight of that low-born traitor Victor de Marmont."

He drew breath, for he had half exhausted himself with the volubility
and vehemence of his diction. Also he seemed to be waiting for some
encouragement from Clyffurde, who, however, gave him none, but sat
unmoved and apparently supremely indifferent, while a suffering heart
was pouring out its wails of agony into his unresponsive ear.

"The reason," resumed St. Genis somewhat more calmly, "why M. le Comte
de Cambray was opposed to our union, was purely a financial one. Our
families are of equal distinction and antiquity, but alas! our fortunes
are also of equal precariousness: we, Sir, of the old noblesse gave up
our all, in order to follow our King into exile. Victor de Marmont was
rich. His fortune could have repurchased the ancient Cambray estates and
restored to that honoured name all the brilliance which it had
sacrificed for its principles."

Still Clyffurde remained irritatingly silent, and St. Genis asked him
somewhat tartly:

"I trust I am making myself clear, Sir?"

"Perfectly, so far," replied the other quietly, "but I am afraid I don't
quite see how you propose that I could serve Mlle. Crystal in all this."

"You can with one word, one generous action, Sir, put me in a position
to claim Crystal as my wife, and give her that happiness which she
craves for, and which is rightly her due."

A slight lifting of the eyebrows was Clyffurde's only comment.

"Mr. Clyffurde," now said Maurice, with the obvious firm resolve to end
his own hesitancy at last, "you say yourself that by taking this money
to His Majesty, or rather to his minister, you, individually, will get
neither glory nor even gratitude--your name will not appear in the
transaction at all. I am quoting your own words, remember. That is so,
is it not?"

"It is so--certainly."

"But, Sir, if a Frenchman--a royalist--were able to render his King so
signal a service, he would not only gain gratitude, but recognition and
glory. . . . A man who was poor and obscure would at once become rich
and distinguished. . . ."

"And in a position to marry the woman he loved," concluded Bobby,
smiling.

Then as Maurice said nothing, but continued to regard him with glowing,
anxious eyes, he added, smiling not altogether kindly this time,

"I think I understand, M. de St. Genis."

"And . . . what do you say?" queried the other excitedly.

"Let me make the situation clear first, as I understand it, Monsieur,"
continued Bobby drily. "You are--and I mistake not--suggesting at the
present moment that I should hand over the twenty-five millions to you,
in order that you should take them yourself to the King in Paris, and by
this act obtain not only favours from him, but probably a goodly share
of the money, which you--presumably--will have forced some unknown
highwayman to give up to you. Is that it?"

"It was not money for myself I thought of, Sir," murmured St. Genis
somewhat shamefacedly.

"No, no, of course not," rejoined Clyffurde with a tone of sarcasm quite
foreign to his usual easy-going good-nature. "You were thinking of the
King's favours, and of a future of distinction and glory."

"I was thinking chiefly of Crystal, Sir," said the other haughtily.

"Quite so. You were thinking of winning Mlle. Crystal by a . . . a
subterfuge."

"An innocent one, Sir, you will admit. I should not be robbing you in
any way. And remember that it is only Crystal's hand that is denied me:
her love I have already won."

A look of pain--quickly suppressed and easily hidden from the other's
self-absorbed gaze--crossed the Englishman's earnest face.

"I do remember that, Monsieur," he said, "else I certainly would never
lend a hand in the . . . subterfuge."

"You will do it then?" queried the other eagerly.

"I have not said so."

"Ah! but you will," pleaded Maurice hotly. "Sir! the eternal gratitude
of two faithful hearts would be yours always--for Crystal will know it
all, once we are married, I promise you that she will. And in the midst
of her happiness she will find time to bless your generosity and your
selflessness . . . whilst I . . ."

"Enough, I beg of you, M. de St. Genis," broke in Clyffurde now, with
angry impatience. "Believe me! I do not hug myself with any thought of
my own virtues, nor do I desire any gratitude from you: if I hand over
the money to you, it is sorely against my better judgment and distinctly
against my duty: but since that duty chiefly lies in being assured that
the King of France will receive the money safely, why then by handing it
over to you I have that assurance, and my conscience will rest at
comparative ease. You shall have the money, Sir, and you shall marry
Mlle. Crystal on the strength of the King's gratitude towards you. And
Mlle. Crystal will be happy--if you keep silence over this transaction.
But for God's sake let's say no more about it: for of a truth you and I
are playing but a sorry rôle this night."

"A sorry rôle?" protested the other.

"Yes, a sorry rôle. Are you not deceiving a woman? Am I not running
counter to my duty?"

"I but deceive Crystal temporarily. I love her and only deceive in order
to win her. The end justifies the means: Nor do you, in my opinion, run
counter to your duty. . . ."

But Clyffurde interrupted him roughly: "I pray you, Sir, make no comment
on mine actions. My own silent comments on these are hard enough to
bear: your eulogies would raise bounds to my patience."

Whereupon he walked quickly up to the bed and from under the mattress
extricated five leather wallets which he threw one by one upon the
table.

"Here is the King's money," he said curtly; "you could never have taken
it from me by force, but I give it over to you willingly now. If within
a week from now I hear that the King has not received it, I will
proclaim you a liar and a thief."

"Sir . . . you dare . . ."

"Nay! we'll not quarrel. I don't want to do you any hurt. You know from
experience that I could kill you or wring your neck as easily as you
could kill a child; but Mlle. Crystal's love is like a protecting shield
all round you, so I'll not touch you again. But don't ask me to measure
my words, for that is beyond my power. Take the money, M. de St. Genis,
and earn not only the King's gratitude but also Mlle. Crystal's, which
is far better worth having. And now, I pray you, leave me to rest. You
must be tired too. And our mutual company hath become irksome to us
both."

He turned his back on St. Genis and sat down at the table, drawing
paper, pen and inkhorn toward him, and with clumsy, left hand began
laboriously to form written characters, as if St. Genis' presence or
departure no longer concerned him.

An importunate beggar could not have been more humiliatingly dismissed.
St. Genis had flushed to the very roots of his hair. He would have given
much to be able to chastise the insolent Englishman then and there. But
the latter had not boasted when he said that he could wring Maurice's
neck as easily with his left hand as with his right, and Maurice within
his heart was bound to own that the boast was no idle one. He knew that
in a hand-to-hand fight he was no match for that heavy-framed,
hard-fisted product of a fog-ridden land.

He would not trust himself to speak any more, lest another word cause
prudence to yield to exasperation. Another moment of hesitation, a shrug
of the shoulders--perhaps a muttered curse or two--and St. Genis picked
up one by one the wallets from the table.

Clyffurde never looked up while he did so: he continued to form awkward,
illegible characters upon the paper before him, as if his very life
depended on being able to write with his left hand.

The next moment St. Genis had walked rapidly out of the room. Bobby left
off writing, threw down his pen, and resting his elbow upon the table
and his head in his hand, he remained silent and motionless while St.
Genis' quick and firm footsteps echoed first along the corridor, then
down the creaking stairs and finally on the floor below. After which
there came the sound of the opening and shutting of a door, the dragging
of a chair across a wooden floor, and nothing more.

All was still in the house at last. The old-fashioned clock downstairs
struck half-past two.

With a smothered cry of angry contempt Clyffurde seized on the papers
that lay scattered on the table and crushed them up in his hand with a
gesture of passionate wrath.

Then he strode up to the window, threw open the rickety casement and let
the pure cold air of night pour into the room and dissipate the
atmosphere of cowardice, of falsehood and of unworthy love that still
seemed to hang there where M. le Marquis de St. Genis had basely
bargained for his own ends, and outraged the very name of Love by
planning base deeds in its name.




CHAPTER VI

THE CRIME


I

Victor de Marmont had spent that same night in wearisome agitation. His
mortification and disappointment would not allow him to rest.

He had brought his squad of cavalry up as far as St. Priest, which lies
a little off the main road, about half-way between Lyons and the scene
of de Marmont's late discomfiture. Here he and his men had spent the
night, only to make a fresh start early the next morning--back for
Grenoble--seeing that M. le Comte d'Artois with thirty or forty thousand
troops was even now at Lyons.

When, an hour after leaving St. Priest, the little troop came upon a
solitary horseman, riding a heavy carriage horse with a postillion's
bridle, de Marmont at first had no other thought save that of malicious
pleasure at recognising the man, whom just now he hated more cordially
than any other man in the world.

M. de St. Genis--for indeed it was he--was peremptorily challenged and
questioned, and his wrath and impotent attempts at arrogance greatly
delighted de Marmont.

To make oneself actively unpleasant to a rival is apt to be a very
pleasurable sensation. Victor had an exceedingly disagreeable half-hour
to avenge and to declare St. Genis a prisoner of war, to order his
removal to Grenoble pending the Emperor's pleasure, to command him to
be silent when he desired to speak was so much soothing balsam spread
upon the wounds which his own pride had suffered at Brestalou last
Sunday eve.

It was not until a casual remark from the sergeant under his command
caused him to notice the bulging pockets of St. Genis' coat, that Victor
thought to give the order to search the prisoner.

The latter entered a vigorous protest: he fought and he threatened: he
promised de Marmont the hangman's rope and his men terrible reprisals,
but of course he was fighting a losing battle. He was alone against five
and twenty, his first attempt at getting hold of the pistols in his belt
was met with a threat of summary execution: he was dragged out of the
saddle, his arms were forced behind his back, while rough hands turned
out the precious contents of his coat-pockets! All that he could do was
to curse fate which had brought these pirates on his way, and his own
short-sightedness and impatience in not waiting for the armed patrol
which undoubtedly would have been sent out to him from Lyons in response
to M. le Comte de Cambray's request.

Now he had the deadly chagrin and bitter disappointment of seeing the
money which he had wrested from Clyffurde last night at the price of so
much humiliation, transferred to the pockets of a real thief and
spoliator who would either keep it for himself or--what in the
enthusiastic royalist's eyes would be even worse--place it at the
service of the Corsican usurper. He could hardly believe in the reality
of his ill luck, so appalling was it. In one moment he saw all the hopes
of which he had dreamed last night fly beyond recall. He had lost
Crystal more effectually, more completely than he ever had done before.
If the Englishman ever spoke of what had occurred last night . . . if
Crystal ever knew that he had been fool enough to lose the treasure
which had been in his possession for a few hours--her contempt would
crush the love which she had for him: nor would the Comte de Cambray
ever relent.

De Marmont's triumph too was hard to bear: his clumsy irony was terribly
galling.

"Would M. le Marquis de St. Genis care to continue his journey to Lyons
now? would he prefer not to go to Grenoble?"

St. Genis bit his tongue with the determination to remain silent.

"M. de St. Genis is free to go whither he chooses."

The permission was not even welcome. Maurice would as lief be taken
prisoner and dragged back to Grenoble as face Crystal with the story of
his failure.

Quite mechanically he remounted, and pulled his horse to one side while
de Marmont ordered his little squad to form once more, and after the
brief word of command and a final sarcastic farewell, galloped off up
the road back toward Lyons at the head of his men, not waiting to see if
St. Genis came his way too or not.

The latter with wearied, aching eyes gazed after the fast disappearing
troop, until they became a mere speck on the long, straight road, and
the distant morning mist finally swallowed them up.

Then he too turned his horse's head in the same direction back toward
Lyons once more, and allowing the reins to hang loosely in his hand, and
letting his horse pick its own slow way along the road, he gave himself
over to the gloominess of his own thoughts.


II

He too had some difficulty in entering the town. M. le Duc d'Orléans,
cousin of the King, had just arrived to support M. le Comte d'Artois,
and together these two royal princes had framed and posted up a
proclamation to the brave Lyonese of the National Guard.

The whole city was in a turmoil, for M. le Duc d'Orléans--who was
nothing if not practical--had at once declared that there was not the
slightest chance of a successful defence of Lyons, and that by far the
best thing to do would be to withdraw the troops while they were still
loyal.

M. le Comte d'Artois protested; at any rate he wouldn't do anything so
drastic till after the arrival of Marshal Macdonald, to whom he had sent
an urgent courier the day before, enjoining him to come to Lyons without
delay. In the meanwhile he and his royal cousin did all they could to
kindle or at any rate to keep up the loyalty of the troops, but
defection was already in the air: here and there the men had been seen
to throw their white cockades into the mud, and more than one cry of
"Vive l'Empereur!" had risen even while Monsieur himself was reviewing
the National Guard on the Place Bellecour.

The bridge of La Guillotière was stoutly barricaded, but as St. Genis
waited out in the open road while his name was being taken to the
officer in command he saw crowds of people standing or walking up and
down on the opposite bank of the river.

They were waiting for the Emperor, the news of whose approach was
filling the townspeople with glee.

Heartsick and wretched, St. Genis, after several hours of weary waiting,
did ultimately obtain permission to enter the city by the ferry on the
south side of the city. Once inside Lyons, he had no difficulty in
ascertaining where such a distinguished gentleman as M. le Comte de
Cambray had put up for the night, and he promptly made his way to the
Hotel Bourbon, his mind, at this stage, still a complete blank as to how
he would explain his discomfiture to the Comte and to Crystal.

In the present state of M. le Comte d'Artois' difficulties the money
would have been thrice welcome, and St. Genis felt the load of failure
weighing thrice as heavily on his soul, and dreaded the
reproaches--mute or outspoken--which he knew awaited him. If only he
could have thought of something! something plausible and not too
inglorious! There was, of course, the possibility that he had failed to
come upon the track of the thieves at all--but then he had no business
to come back so soon--and he didn't want to come back, only that there
was always the likelihood of the Englishman speaking of what had
occurred--not necessarily with evil intent . . . but . . . some words of
his: "If within a week I hear that the King of France has not received
this money, I will proclaim you a liar and a thief!" rang unpleasantly
in St. Genis' ears.

The young man's mind, I repeat, was at this point still a blank as to
what explanation he would give to the Comte de Cambray of his own
miserable failure.

He was returning--after an ardent promise to overtake the thief and to
force him to give up the money--without apparently having made any
effort in that direction--or having made the effort, failing signally
and ignominiously--a foolish and unheroic position in either case.

To tell the whole unvarnished truth, his interview with Clyffurde and
his thoughtlessness in wandering along the road all alone, laden with
twenty-five million francs, not waiting for the arrival of M. le Comte
d'Artois' patrol, was unthinkable.

Then what? St. Genis, determined not to tell the truth, found it a
difficult task to concoct a story that would be plausible and at the
same time redound to his credit. His disappointment was so bitter now,
his hopes of winning Crystal and glory had been so bright, that he found
it quite impossible to go back to the hard facts of life--to his own
poverty and the unattainableness of Crystal de Cambray--without making a
great effort to win back what Victor de Marmont had just wrested from
him.

Through the whirl of his thoughts, too, there was a vague sense of
resentment against Clyffurde--coupled with an equally vague sense of
fear. He, Maurice, might easily keep silent over the transaction of last
night, but Clyffurde might not feel inclined to do so. He would want to
know sooner or later what had become of the money . . . had he not
uttered a threat which made Maurice's cheeks even now flush with wrath
and shame?

Certain words and gestures of the Englishman had stood out before
Maurice's mind in a way that had stirred up those latent jealousies
which always lurk in the heart of an unsuccessful wooer. Clyffurde had
been generous--blind to his own interests--ready to sacrifice what
recognition he had earned: he had spared his assailant and agreed to an
unworthy subterfuge, and St. Genis' tormented brain began to wonder why
he had done all this.

Was it for love of Crystal de Cambray?

St. Genis would not allow himself to answer that question, for he felt
that if he did he would hate that hard-fisted Englishman more thoroughly
than he had ever hated any man before--not excepting de Marmont. De
Marmont was an evil and vile traitor who never could cross Crystal's
path of life again. . . . But not so the Englishman, who had planned to
serve her and who would have succeeded so magnificently but for
his--Maurice's--interference!

If this explanation of Clyffurde's strangely magnanimous conduct was the
true one, then indeed St. Genis felt that he would have everything to
fear from him. For indeed was it so very unlikely that the Englishman
was throughout acting in collusion with Victor de Marmont, who was known
to be his friend?

Was it so very unlikely that--seeing himself unmasked--he had found a
sure and rapid way of allowing the money to pass through St. Genis'
hands into those of de Marmont, and at the same time hopelessly
humiliating and discrediting his rival in the affections of Mlle. de
Cambray?

That the suggestion of handing the money over to him had come originally
from Maurice de St. Genis himself, the young man did not trouble himself
to remember. The more he thought this new explanation of past events
over, the more plausible did it seem and the more likely of acceptance
by M. le Comte de Cambray and by Crystal, and St. Genis at last saw his
way to appearing before them not only zealous but heroic--even if
unfortunate--and it was with a much lightened heart that he finally drew
rein outside the Hotel Bourbon.


III

M. le Comte de Cambray, it seems, was staying at the Hotel for a few
days, so the proprietor informed M. de St. Genis. M. le Comte had gone
out, but Mme. la Duchesse d'Agen was upstairs with Mlle. de Cambray.

With somewhat uncertain step St. Genis followed the obsequious
proprietor, who had insisted on conducting M. le Marquis to the ladies'
apartments himself. They occupied a suite of rooms on the first floor,
and after a timid knock at the door, it was opened by Jeanne from
within, and Maurice found himself in the presence of Crystal and of the
Duchesse and obliged at once to enter upon the explanation which, with
their first cry of surprise, they already asked of him.

"Well!" exclaimed Crystal eagerly, "what news?"

"Of the money?" murmured Maurice vaguely, who above all things was
anxious to gain time.

"Yes! the King's money!" rejoined the girl with slight impatience. "Have
you tracked the thieves? Do you know where they are? Is there any hope
of catching them?"

"None, I am afraid," he replied firmly.

Crystal gave a cry of bitter disappointment and reproach. "Then,
Maurice," she exclaimed almost involuntarily, "why are you here?"

And Mme. la Duchesse, folding her mittened hands before her, seemed
mutely to be asking the same question.

"But did you come upon the thieves at all?" continued Crystal with eager
volubility. "Where did they go to for the night? You must have come on
some traces of their passage. Oh!" she added vehemently, "you ought not
to have deserted your post like this!"

"What could I do," he murmured. "I was all alone . . . against so many.
. . ."

"You said that you would get on the track of the thieves," she urged,
"and father told you that he would speak with M. le Comte d'Artois as
soon as possible. Monsieur has promised that an armed patrol would be
sent out to you, and would be on the lookout for you on the road."

"An armed patrol would be no use. I came back on purpose to stop one
being sent."

"But why, in Heaven's name?" exclaimed the Duchesse.

"Because a troop of deserters with that traitor Victor de Marmont is
scouring the road, and . . ."

"We know that," said Crystal, "we were stopped by them last night, after
you left us. They were after the money for the usurper, who had sent
them, and I thanked God that twenty-five millions had enriched a common
thief rather than the Corsican brigand."

"Surely, Maurice," said the Duchesse with her usual tartness, "you were
not fool enough to allow the King's money to fall into that abominable
de Marmont's hands?"

"How could I help it?" now exclaimed the young man, as if driven to the
extremity of despair. "The whole thing was a huge plot beyond one man's
power to cope with. I tracked the thieves," he continued with vehemence
as eager as Crystal's, "I tracked them to a lonely hostelry off the
beaten track--at dead of night--a den of cutthroats and conspirators. I
tracked the thief to his lair and forced him to give the money up to
me."

"You forced him? . . . Oh! how splendid!" cried Crystal. "But then
. . ."

"Ah, then! there was the hideousness of the plot. The thief, feeling
himself unmasked, gave up his stolen booty; I forced him to his knees,
and five wallets containing twenty-five million francs were safely in my
pockets at last."

"You forced him--how splendid!" reiterated Crystal, whose glowing eyes
were fixed upon Maurice with all the admiration which she felt.

"Yes! that money was in my pocket for the rest of the happy night, but
the abominable thief knew well that his friend Victor de Marmont was on
the road with five and twenty armed deserters in the pay of the Corsican
brigand. Hardly had I left the hostelry and found my way back to the
main road when I was surrounded, assailed, searched and robbed. I
repeat!" continued St. Genis, warming to his own narrative, "what could
I do alone against so many?--the thief and his hirelings I managed
successfully, but with the money once in my possession I could not risk
staying an hour longer than I could help in that den of cutthroats. But
they were in league with de Marmont, and, though I would have guarded
the King's money with my life, it was filched from me ere I could draw a
single weapon in its defence."

He had sunk in a chair, half exhausted with the effort of his own
eloquence, and now, with elbows resting on his knees and head buried in
his hands, he looked the picture of heroic misery.

Crystal said nothing for a while; there was a deep frown of puzzlement
between her eyes.

"Maurice," she said resolutely at last, "you said just now that the
thief was in collusion with his friend de Marmont. What did you mean by
that?"

"I would rather that you guessed what I meant, Crystal," replied Maurice
without looking up at her.

"You mean . . . that . . ." she began slowly.

"That it was Mr. Clyffurde, our English friend," broke in Madame tartly,
"who robbed us on the broad highway. I suspected it all along."

"You suspected it, _ma tante_, and said nothing?" asked the girl, who
obviously had not taken in the full significance of Maurice's statement.

"I said absolutely nothing," replied Madame decisively, "firstly,
because I did not think that I would be doing any good by putting my own
surmises into my brother's head, and, secondly, because I must confess
that I thought that nice young Englishman had acted pour le bon motif."

"How could you think that, _ma tante_?" ejaculated Crystal hotly: "a
good motive? to rob us at dead of night--he, a friend of Victor de
Marmont--an adherent of the Corsican! . . ."

"Englishmen are not adherents of the Corsican, my dear," retorted Madame
drily, "and until Maurice's appearance this morning, I was satisfied
that the money would ultimately reach His Majesty's own hands."

"But we were taking the money to His Majesty ourselves."

"And Victor de Marmont was after it. Mr. Clyffurde may have known that.
. . . Remember, my dear," continued Madame, "that these were my
impressions last night. Maurice's account of the den of cutthroats has
modified these entirely."

Again Crystal was silent. The frown had darkened on her face: there was
a line of bitter resentment round her lips--a look of contempt, of hate,
of a desire to hurt, in her eyes.

"Maurice," she said abruptly at last.

"Yes?"

"I did wound that thief, did I not?"

"Yes. In the shoulder . . . it gave me a slight advantage . . ." he said
with affected modesty.

"I am glad. And you . . . you were able to punish him too, I hope."

"Yes. I punished him."

He was watching her very closely, for inwardly he had been wondering how
she had taken his news. She was strangely agitated, so Maurice's
troubled, jealous heart told him; her face was flushed, her eyes were
wet and a tiny lace handkerchief which she twisted between her fingers
was nothing but a damp rag.

"Oh! I hate him! I hate him!" she murmured as with an impatient gesture
she brushed the gathering tears from her eyes. "Father had been so kind
to him--so were we all. How could he? how could he?"

"His duty, I suppose," said St. Genis magnanimously.

"His duty?" she retorted scornfully.

"To the cause which he served."

"Duty to a usurper, a brigand, the enemy of his country. Was he, then,
paid to serve the Corsican?"

"Probably."

"His being in trade--buying gloves at Grenoble--was all a plant then?"

"I am afraid so," said St. Genis, who much against his will now was
sinking ever deeper and deeper in the quagmire of lying and cowardice
into which he had allowed himself to drift.

"And he was nothing better than a spy!"

No one, not even Crystal herself, could have defined with what feelings
she said this. Was it solely contempt? or did a strange mixture of
regret and sorrow mingle with the scorn which she felt? Swiftly her
thoughts had flown back to that Sunday evening--a very few days
ago--when the course of her destiny was so suddenly changed once more,
when her marriage with a man whom she could never love was broken off,
when the possibilities once more rose upon the horizon of her life, of a
renewed existence of poverty and exile in the wake of a dispossessed
king.

That same evening a man whom she had hardly noticed before--a man
neither of her own nationality nor of her own caste--this same
Englishman, Clyffurde, had entered into her life--not violently or
aggressively, but just with a few words of intense sympathy and with a
genuine offer of friendship; and she somehow, despite much kindness
which encompassed her always, had felt cheered and warmed by his words,
and a strange and sweet sense of security against hurt and sorrow had
entered her heart as she listened to them.

And now she knew that all that was false--false his sympathy, false his
offers of friendship--his words were false, his hand-grasp false.
Treachery lurked behind that kindly look in his eyes, and falsehood
beneath his smile.

"He was nothing better than a spy!" The sting of that thought hurt her
more than she could have thought possible. She had so few real friends
and this one had proved a sham. Had she been alone she would have given
way to tears, but before Maurice or even her aunt she was ashamed of her
grief, ashamed of her feelings and of her thoughts. There was a great
deal yet that she wished to know, but somehow the words choked her when
she wanted to ask further questions. Fortunately Mme. la Duchesse was
taking Maurice thoroughly to task. She asked innumerable questions, and
would not spare him the relation of a single detail.

"Tell us all about it from the beginning, Maurice," she said. "Where did
you first meet the rogue?"

And Maurice--weary and ashamed--was forced to embark on a minute account
of adventures that were lies from beginning to end: he had stumbled
across the wayside hostelry on a lonely by-path: he had found it full of
cut-throats: he had stalked and waylaid their chief in his own room,
and forced him to give up the money by the weight of his fists.

It was paltry and pitiable: nevertheless, St. Genis, as he warmed to his
tale, lost the shame of it; only wrath remained with him: anger that he
should be forced into this despicable rôle through the intrigues of a
rival.

In his heart he was already beginning to find innumerable excuses for
his cowardice: and his rage and hatred grew against Clyffurde as
Madame's more and more persistent questions taxed his imagination almost
to exhaustion.

When, after half an hour of this wearying cross-examination, Madame at
last granted him a respite, he made a pretext of urgent business at M.
le Comte d'Artois' headquarters and took his leave of the ladies. He
waited in vain hope that the Duchesse's tact would induce her to leave
him alone for a moment with Crystal. Madame stuck obstinately to her
chair and was blind and deaf to every hint of appeal from him, whilst
Crystal, who was singularly absorbed and had lent but a very indifferent
ear to his narrative, made no attempt to detain him.

She gave him her hand to kiss, just as Madame had done; it lay hot and
moist in his grasp.

"Crystal," he continued to murmur as his lips touched her fingers, "I
love you . . . I worked for you . . . it is not my fault that I failed."

She looked at him kindly and sympathetically through her tears, and gave
his hand a gentle little pressure.

"I am sure it was not your fault," she replied gently, "poor Maurice.
. . ."

It was not more than any kind friend would say under like circumstances,
but to a lover every little word from the beloved has a significance of
its own, every look from her has its hidden meaning. Somewhat satisfied
and cheered Maurice now took his final leave:

"Does M. le Comte propose to continue his journey to Paris?" he asked at
the last.

"Oh, yes!" Crystal replied, "he could not stay away while he feels that
His Majesty may have need of him. Oh, Maurice!" she added suddenly,
forgetting her absorption, her wrath against Clyffurde, her own
disappointment--everything--in face of the awful possible calamity, and
turning anxious, appealing eyes upon the young man, "you don't think, do
you, that that abominable usurper will succeed in ousting the King once
more from his throne?"

And St. Genis--remembering Laffray and Grenoble, remembering what was
going on in Lyons at this moment, the silent grumblings of the troops,
the defaced white cockades, the cries of "Vive l'Empereur!" which he
himself had heard as he rode through the town--St. Genis, remembering
all this, could only shake his head and shrug his shoulders in miserable
doubt.

When he had gone at last, Crystal's thoughts veered back once more to
Clyffurde and to his treachery.

"What abominable deceit, _ma tante_!" she cried, and quite against her
will tears of wrath and of disappointment rose to her eyes. "What
villainy! what odious, execrable treachery!"

Madame shrugged her shoulders and took up her knitting.

"These days, my dear," she said with unwonted placidity, "the world is
so full of treachery that men and women absorb it by every pore."

"But I shall not leave it at that," rejoined Crystal resolutely. "I'll
find a means of punishing that vile traitor . . . I'll make him feel the
hatred which he has so richly deserved--I shall not rest till I have
made him suffer as he makes me suffer now. . . ."

"My dear--my dear--" protested Mme. la Duchesse, not a little shocked at
the girl's vehemence.

Indeed, Crystal's otherwise sweet, gentle, yielding personality seemed
completely transformed: for the moment she was just a sensitive woman
who has been hit and hurt, and whose desire for retaliation is keener,
more relentless than that of a man. All the soft look in her blue eyes
had gone--they looked dark and hard--her fair curls were matted against
her damp forehead; indeed, Madame thought that for the moment all
Crystal's beauty had gone--the sweet, submissive beauty of the girl, the
grace of movement, the shy, appealing gentleness of her ways. She now
looked all determination, resentment, and, above all, revenge.

"The dear child," sighed the Duchesse over her knitting, "it is the
English blood in her. Those people never know how to accept the
inevitable: they are always wanting to fight someone for something and
never know when they are beaten."




CHAPTER VII

THE ASCENT OF THE CAPITOL


I

And the triumphal march from the gulf of Jouan continued uninterrupted
to Paris.

After Laffray and Grenoble, Lyons, where the silk-weavers of La
Guillotière assembled in their thousands to demolish the barricades
which had been built up on their bridge against the arrival of the
Emperor, and watched his entry into their city waving kerchiefs and hats
in his honour, and tricolour flags and cockades fished out of cupboards,
where they had lain hidden but not forgotten for one whole year.

After Lyons, Villefranche, where sixty thousand peasants and workmen
awaited his arrival at the foot of the tree of Liberty, on the top of
which a brass eagle, the relic of some old standard, glistened like gold
as it caught the rays of the setting sun.

And Nevers, where the townsfolk urged the regiments as they march
through the city to tear the white cockades from their hats! And
Chalon-sur-Saône, where the workpeople commandeer a convoy of artillery
destined for the army of M. le Comte d'Artois!

The préfets of the various départements, the bureaucracy of provinces
and cities, are not only amazed but struck with terror:

"This is a new Revolution!" they cry in dismay.

Yes! it is a new Revolution! the revolt of the peasantry of the poor,
the humble, the oppressed! The hatred which they felt against that old
regime which had come back to them with its old arrogance and its former
tyrannies had joined issue with the cult of the army for the Emperor who
had led it to glory, to fortune and to fame.

The people and the army were roused by the same enthusiasm, and marched
shoulder to shoulder to join the standard of Napoleon--the little man in
the shabby hat and the grey redingote, who for them personified the
spirit of the great revolution, the great struggle for liberty and its
final victory.

The army of the Comte d'Artois--that portion of it which remained
loyal--was powerless against the overwhelming tide of popular
enthusiasm, powerless against dissatisfaction, mutterings and constant
defections in its ranks. The army would have done well in Provence--for
Provence was loyal and royalist, man, woman and child: but Napoleon took
the route of the Alps, and avoided Provence; by the time he reached
Lyons he had an army of his own and M. le Comte d'Artois--fearing more
defections and worse defeats--had thought it prudent to retire.

It has often been said that if a single shot had been fired against his
original little band Napoleon's march on Paris would have been stopped.
Who shall tell? There are such "ifs" in the world, which no human mind
can challenge. Certain it is that that shot was not fired. At Laffray,
Randon gave the order, but he did not raise his musket himself; on the
walls of Grenoble St. Genis, in command of the artillery and urged by
the Comte de Cambray, did not dare to give the order or to fire a gun
himself. "The men declare," he had said gloomily, "that they would blow
their officers from their own guns."

And at Lyons there was not militiaman, a royalist, volunteer or a pariah
out of the streets who was willing to fire that first and "single shot":
and though Marshal Macdonald swore ultimately that he would do it
himself, his determination failed him at the last when surrounded by his
wavering troops he found himself face to face with the conqueror of
Austerlitz and Jena and Rivoli and a thousand other glorious fights,
with the man in the grey redingote who had created him Marshal of France
and Duke of Tarente on the battlefields of Lombardy, his comrade-in-arms
who had shared his own scanty army rations with him, slept beside him
round the bivouac fires, and round whom now there rose a cry from end to
end of Lyons: "Vive l'Empereur!"


II

Victor de Marmont did not wait for the arrival of the Emperor at Lyons:
nor did he attempt to enter the city. He knew that there was still some
money in the imperial treasury brought over from Elba, and his
mind--always in search of the dramatic--had dwelt with pleasure on
thoughts of the day when the Emperor, having entered Fontainebleau, or
perhaps even Paris and the Tuileries, would there be met by his faithful
de Marmont, who on bended knees in the midst of a brilliant and admiring
throng would present to him the twenty-five million francs originally
the property of the Empress herself and now happily wrested from the
cupidity of royalist traitors.

The picture pleased de Marmont's fancy: he dwelt on it with delight, he
knew that no one requited a service more amply and more generously than
Napoleon: he knew that after this service rendered there was nothing to
which he--de Marmont--young as he was, could not aspire--title, riches,
honours, anything he wanted would speedily become his, and with these to
his credit he could claim Crystal de Cambray once more.

Oh! she would be humbled again by then, she and her father too, the
proud aristocrats, doomed once more to penury and exile, unless he--de
Marmont--came forth like the fairy prince to the beggarmaid with hands
laden with riches, ready to lay these at the feet of the woman he loved.

Yes! Crystal de Cambray would be humbled! De Marmont, though he felt
that he loved her more and better than any man had ever loved any woman
before, nevertheless had a decided wish that she should be humbled and
suffer bitterly thereby. He felt that her pride was his only enemy: her
pride and royalist prejudices. Of the latter he thought but little:
confident of his Emperor's success, he thought that all those hot-headed
royalists would soon realise the hopelessness of their cause--rendered
all the more hopeless through its short-lived triumph of the past
year--and abandon it gradually and surely, accepting the inevitable and
rejoicing over the renewed glory which would come over France.

As for her pride! well! that was going to be humbled, along with the
pride of the Bourbon princes, of that fatuous old king, of all those
arrogant aristocrats who had come back after years of exile, as
arrogant, as tyrannical as ever before.

These were pleasing thoughts which kept Victor de Marmont company on his
way between Lyons and Fontainebleau. Once past Villefranche he sent the
bulk of his escort back to Lyons, where the Emperor should have arrived
by this time: he had written out a superficial report of his expedition,
which the sergeant in charge of the little troop was to convey to the
Emperor's own hands. He only kept two men with him, put himself and them
into plain, travelling clothes which he purchased at Villefranche, and
continued his journey to the north without much haste; the roads were
safe enough from footpads, he and his two men were well armed, and what
stragglers from the main royalist army he came across would be far too
busy with their own retreat and their own disappointment to pay much
heed to a civilian and seemingly harmless traveller.

De Marmont loved to linger on the way in the towns and hamlets where the
news of the Emperor's approach had already been wafted from Grenoble, or
Lyons, or Villefranche on the wings of wind or birds, who shall say?
Enough that it had come, that the peasants, assembled in masses in their
villages, were whispering together that he was coming--the little man in
the grey redingote--l'Empereur!

And de Marmont would halt in those villages and stop to whisper with the
peasants too: Yes! he was coming! and the whole of France was giving him
a rousing welcome! There was Laffray and Grenoble and Lyons! the army
rallied to his standard as one man!

And de Marmont would then pass on to another village, to another town,
no longer whispering after a while, but loudly proclaiming the arrival
of the Emperor who had come into his own again.

After Nevers he was only twenty-four hours ahead of Napoleon and his
progress became a triumphant one: newspapers, despatches had filtrated
through from Paris--news became authentic, though some of it sounded a
little wild. Wherever de Marmont arrived he was received with
acclamations as the man who had seen the Emperor, who had assisted at
the Emperor's magnificent entry into Grenoble, who could assure citizens
and peasantry that it was all true, that the Emperor would be in Paris
again very shortly and that once more there would be an end to tyranny
and oppression, to the rule of the aristocrats and a number of
incompetent and fatuous princes.

He did not halt at Fontainebleau, for now he knew that the Court of the
Tuileries was in a panic, that neither the Comte d'Artois, nor the Duc
de Berry, nor any of the royal princes had succeeded in keeping the army
together: that defections had been rife for the past week, even before
Napoleon had shown himself, and that Marshal Ney, the bravest soldier
in France, had joined his Emperor at Auxerre.

No! de Marmont would not halt at Fontainebleau. It was Paris that he
wanted to see! Paris, which to-day would witness the hasty flight of the
gouty and unpopular King whom it had never learned to love! Paris
decking herself out like a bride for the arrival of her bridegroom!
Paris waiting and watching, while once again on the Tuileries and the
Hôtel de Ville, on the Louvre and the Luxembourg, on church towers and
government buildings the old tricolour flag waved gaily in the wind.

He slept that night at a small hotel in the Louvre quarter, but the
whole evening he spent on the Place du Carrousel with the crowd outside
the Tuileries, watching the departure from the palace of the infirm King
of France and of his Court. The crowd was silent and obviously deeply
moved. The spectacle before it of an old, ailing monarch, driven forth
out of the home of his ancestors, and forced after an exile of three and
twenty years and a brief reign of less than one, to go back once more to
misery and exile, was pitiable in the extreme.

Many forgot all that the brief reign had meant in disappointments and
bitter regrets, and only saw in the pathetic figure that waddled
painfully from portico to carriage door a monarch who was unhappy,
abandoned and defenceless: a monarch, too, who, in his unheroic,
sometimes grotesque person, was nevertheless the representative of all
the privileges and all the rights, of all the dignity and majesty
pertaining to the most ancient ruling dynasty in Europe, as well as of
all the humiliations and misfortunes which that same dynasty had
endured.


III

It is late in the evening of March 20th. A thin mist is spreading from
the river right over Paris, and from the Place du Carrousel the lighted
windows of the Tuileries palace appear only like tiny, dimly-flickering
stars.

Here an immense crowd is assembled. It has waited patiently hour after
hour, ever since in the earlier part of the afternoon a courier has come
over from Fontainebleau with the news that the Emperor is already there
and would be in Paris this night.

It is the same crowd which twenty-four hours ago shed a tear or two in
sympathy for the departing monarch: now it stands here--waiting,
excited, ready to cheer the return of a popular hero--half-forgotten,
wildly acclaimed, madly welcomed, to be cursed again, and again
forgotten so soon. It was a heterogeneous crowd forsooth! made up in
great part of the curious, the idle, the indifferent, and in great part,
too, of the Bonapartist enthusiasts and malcontents who had groaned
under the reactionary tyranny of the Restoration--of malcontents, too,
of no enthusiasm, who were ready to welcome any change which might bring
them to prominence or to fortune. With here and there a sprinkling of
hot-headed revolutionaries, cursing the return of the Emperor as
heartily as they had cursed that of the Bourbon king: and here and there
a few heart-sick royalists, come to watch the final annihilation of
their hopes.

Victor de Marmont, wrapped in a dark cloak, stood among the crowd for a
while. He knew that the Emperor would probably not be in Paris before
night, and he loved to be in the very midst of the wave of enthusiasm
which was surging higher and ever higher in the crowd, and hear the
excited whispers, and to feel all round him, wrapping him closely like a
magic mantle of warmth and delight, the exaltation of this mass of men
and women assembled here to acclaim the hero whom he himself adored.
Closely buttoned inside his coat he had scraps of paper worth the ransom
of any king.

Among the crowd, too, Bobby Clyffurde moved and stood. He was one of
those who watched this enthusiasm with a heart filled with forebodings.
He knew well how short this enthusiasm would be: he knew that within a
few weeks--days perhaps--the bold and reckless adventurer who had so
easily reconquered France would realise that the Imperial crown would
never be allowed to sit firmly upon his head. None in this crowd knew
better that the present pageant and glory would be short-lived, than did
this tall, quiet Englishman who listened with half an ear and a smile of
good-natured contempt to the loud cries of "Vive l'Empereur!" which rose
spontaneously whenever the sound of horses' hoofs or rattles of wheels
from the direction of Fontainebleau suggested the approach of the hero
of the day. None knew better than he that already in far-off England
another great hero, named Wellington, was organising the forces which
presently would crush--for ever this time--the might and ambitions of
the man whom England had never acknowledged as anything but a usurper
and a foe.

And closely buttoned inside his coat Clyffurde had a letter which he had
received at his lodgings in the Alma quarter only a few moments before
he sallied forth into the streets. That letter was an answer to a
confidential enquiry of his own sent to the Chief of the British Secret
Intelligence Department resident in Paris, desiring to know if the
Department had any knowledge of a vast sum of money having come
unexpectedly into the hands of His Majesty the King of France, before
his flight from the capital.

The answer was an emphatic "No!" The Intelligence Department knew of no
such windfall. But its secret agents reported that Victor de Marmont,
captain of the usurper's body-guard, had waylaid M. le Marquis de St.
Genis on the high road not far from Lyons. The escort which had
accompanied Victor de Marmont on that occasion had been dismissed by him
at Villefranche, and the information which the British Secret
Intelligence Department had obtained came through the indiscretion of
the sergeant in charge of the escort, who had boasted in a tavern at
Lyons that he had actually searched M. de St. Genis and found a large
sum of money upon him, of which M. de Marmont promptly took possession.

When Bobby Clyffurde received this letter and first mastered its
contents, the language which he used would have done honour to a Toulon
coal-heaver. He cursed St. Genis' stupidity in allowing himself to be
caught; but above all he cursed himself for his soft-heartedness which
had prompted him to part with the money.

The letter which brought him the bad news seemed to scorch his hand, and
brand it with the mark of folly. He had thought to serve the woman he
loved, first, by taking the money from her, since he knew that Victor de
Marmont with an escort of cavalry was after it, and, secondly, by
allowing the man whom she loved to have the honour and glory of laying
the money at his sovereign's feet. The whole had ended in a miserable
fiasco, and Clyffurde felt sore and wrathful against himself.

And also among the crowd--among those who came, heartsick, hopeless,
forlorn, to watch the triumph of the enemy as they had watched the
humiliation of their feeble King--was M. le Comte de Cambray with his
daughter Crystal on his arm.

They had come, as so many royalists had done, with a vague hope that in
the attitude of the crowd they would discern indifference rather than
exultation, and that the active agents of their party, as well as those
of England and of Prussia, would succeed presently in stirring up a
counter demonstration, that a few cries of "Vive le roi!" would prove to
the army at least and to the people of Paris that acclamations for the
usurper were at any rate not unanimous.

But the crowd was not indifferent--it was excited: when first the Comte
de Cambray and Crystal arrived on the Place du Carrousel, a number of
white cockades could be picked out in the throng, either worn on a hat
or fixed to a buttonhole, but as the afternoon wore on there were fewer
and fewer of these small white stars to be seen: the temper of the crowd
did not brook this mute reproach upon its enthusiasm. One or two
cockades had been roughly torn and thrown into the mud, and the wearer
unpleasantly ill-used if he persisted in any royalistic demonstration.
Crystal, when she saw these incidents, was not the least frightened. She
wore her white cockade openly pinned to her cloak; she was far too
loyal, far too enthusiastic and fearless, far too much a woman to yield
her convictions to the popular feeling of the moment; and she looked so
young and so pretty, clinging to the arm of her father, who looked a
picturesque and harmless representative of the fallen regime, that with
the exception of a few rough words, a threat here and there, they had so
far escaped active molestation.

And the crowd presently had so much to see that it ceased to look out
for white cockades, or to bait the sad-eyed royalists. A procession of
carriages, sparse at first and simple in appearance, had begun to make
its way from different parts of the town across the Place du Carrousel
toward the Tuileries. They arrived very quietly at first, with as little
clatter as possible, and drew up before the gates of the Pavillon de
Flore with as little show as may be: the carriage doors were opened
unostentatiously, and dark, furtive figures stepped out from them and
almost ran to the door of the palace, so eager were they to escape
observation, their big cloaks wrapped closely round them to hide the
court dress or uniform below.

Ministers, dignitaries of the Court, Councillors of State; majordomos,
stewards, butlers, body-servants; they all came one by one or in groups
of twos or threes. As the afternoon wore on these arrivals grew less and
less furtive; the carriages arrived with greater clatter and to-do, with
finer liveries and more gorgeous harness. Those who stepped out of the
carriage doors were no longer quick and stealthy in their movements:
they lingered near the step to give an order or to chat to a friend; the
big cloak no longer concealed the gorgeous uniform below, it was allowed
to fall away from the shoulder, so as to display the row of medals and
stars, the gold embroidery, the magnificence of the Court attire.

The Emperor had left Fontainebleau! Within an hour he would be in Paris!
Everyone knew it, and the excitement in the crowd that watched grew more
and more intense. Last night these same men and women had looked with
mute if superficial sympathy on the departure of Louis XVIII. through
these same palace gates: many eyes then became moist at the sight, as
memory flew back twenty years to the murdered king--his flight to
Varennes, his ignominious return, his weary Calvary from prison to court
house and thence to the scaffold. And here was his brother--come back
after twenty-three years of exile, acclaimed by the populace, cheered by
foreign soldiers--Russians, Austrians, English--anything but French--and
driven forth once more to exile after the brief glory that lasted not
quite a year.

But this the crowd of to-day has already forgotten with the completeness
peculiar to crowds: men, women, and children too, they are no longer
mute, they talk and they chatter; they scream with astonishment and
delight whenever now from more and more carriages, more and more
gorgeously dressed folk descend. The ladies are beginning to arrive: the
wives of the great Court dignitaries, the ladies of the Court and
household of the still-absent Empress: they do not attempt to hide their
brilliant toilettes, their bare shoulders and arms gleam through the
fastenings of their cloaks, and diamonds sparkle in their hair.

The crowd has recognised some of the great marshals, the men who in the
Emperor's wake led the French troops to victory in Italy, in Prussia, in
Austria: Maret Duc de Bassano is there and the crowd cheers him, the Duc
de Rovigo, Marshal Davout, Prince d'Eckmühl, General Excelmans, one of
Napoleon's oldest companions at arms, the Duke of Gaeta, the Duke of
Padua, a crowd of generals and superior officers. It seems like the
world of the Sleeping Beauty and of the Enchanted Castle--which a kiss
has awakened from its eleven months' sleep. The Empire had only been
asleep, it had dreamed a bad dream, wherein its hero was a prisoner and
an exile: now it is slowly wakening back to life and to reality.

The night wears on: darkness and fog envelop Paris more and more.
Excitement becomes akin to anxiety. If the Emperor did leave
Fontainebleau when the last courier said that he did, he should
certainly be here by now. There are strange whispers, strange waves of
evil reports that spread through the waiting crowd: "A royalist fanatic
had shot at the Emperor! the Emperor was wounded! he was dead!"

Oh! the excitement of that interminable wait!

At last, just as from every church tower the bells strike the hour of
nine, there comes the muffled sound of a distant cavalcade: the sound of
horses galloping and only half drowning that of the rumbling of coach
wheels.

It comes from the direction of the embankment, and from far away now is
heard the first cry of "Vive l'Empereur!" The noise gets louder and more
clear, the cries are repeated again and again till they merge into one
great, uproarious clamour. Like the ocean when lashed by the wind, the
crowd surges, moves, rises on tiptoe, subsides, falls back to crush
forward again and once more to retreat as a heavy coach, surrounded by
a thousand or so of mounted men, dashes over the cobbles of the Place du
Carrousel, whilst the clamour of the crowd becomes positively deafening.

"Vive l'Empereur!"

The officers in the courtyard of the palace rush to the coach as it
draws up at the Pavillon de Flore: one of them succeeds in opening the
carriage door. The Emperor is literally torn out of the carriage,
carried to the vestibule, where more officers seize him, raise him from
the crowd, bear him along, hoisted upon their shoulders, up the
monumental staircase.

Their enthusiasm is akin to delirium: they nearly tear their hero to
pieces in their wild, mad, frantic welcome.

"In Heaven's name, protect his person," exclaims the Duc de Vicence
anxiously; and he and Lavalette manage to get hold of the banisters and
by dint of fighting and pushing succeed in walking backwards step by
step in front of the Emperor, thus making a way for him.

Lavalette can hardly believe his eyes, and the Duc de Vicence keeps
murmuring: "It is the Emperor! It is the Emperor!"

And he--the little stout man in green cloth coat and white
breeches--walks up the steps of his reconquered palace like a man in a
dream: his eyes are fixed apparently on nothing, he makes no movement to
keep his too enthusiastic friends away: the smile upon his lips is
meaningless and fixed.

"Vive l'Empereur!" vociferates the crowd.

Vive l'Empereur for one hundred days: a few weeks of joy, a few weeks of
anxiety, a few weeks of indecision, of wavering and of doubt. Then
defeat more irrevocable than before! exile more distant! despair more
complete.

Vive l'Empereur while we shout with excitement, while we remember the
disappointments of the past year, while we hope for better things from
a hand that has lost its cunning, a mind that has lost its power.

Vive l'Empereur! Let him live for an hundred days, while we forget our
enthusiasm and Europe prepares its final crushing blow. Let him live
until we remember once again the horrors of war, the misery, the famine,
the devastated homes! until once more we see the maimed and crippled
crawling back wearily from the fields of glory, until our ears ring with
the wails of widows and the cries of the fatherless.

Then let him no longer live, for he it is who has brought this misery on
us through his will and through his ambition, and France has suffered so
much from the aftermath of glory, that all she wants now is rest.


IV

Gradually--but it took some hours--the tumult and excitement in and
round the Tuileries subsided. The Emperor managed to shut himself up in
his study and to eat some supper in peace, while gradually outside his
windows the crowd--who had nothing more to see and was getting tired of
staring up at glittering panes of glass--went back more or less quietly
to their homes.

Only in the courtyard of the Tuileries, the troopers of the cavalry
which had formed the Emperor's escort from Fontainebleau tethered their
horses to the railings, rolled themselves in their mantles and slept on
the pavements, giving to this portion of the palace the appearance of a
bivouac in a place which has been taken by storm.

One of the last to leave the Place du Carrousel was Bobby Clyffurde. The
crowd was thin by this time, but it was the tired and the
indifferent--the merely curious--who had been the first to go. Those who
remained to the last were either the very enthusiastic who wanted to set
up a final shout of "Vive l'Empereur!" after their idol had entirely
disappeared from their view, or the malcontents who would not lose a
moment to discuss their grievances, to murmur covert threats, or suggest
revolt in some shape or form or kind.

Bobby slipped quickly past several of these isolated groups, indifferent
to the dark and glowering looks of suspicion that were cast at his tall,
muscular figure with the firm step and the defiant walk that was vaguely
reminiscent of the British troops that had been in Paris last year at
the time of the foreign occupation. He had skirted the Tuileries gardens
and was walking along the embankment which now was dark and solitary
save for some rowdy enthusiasts on ahead who, arm in arm in two long
rows that reached from the garden railings to the parapet, were
obstructing the roadway and shouting themselves hoarse with "Vive
l'Empereur!"

Clyffurde, who was walking faster than they did, was just deliberating
in his mind whether he would turn back and go home some other way or
charge this unpleasant obstruction from the rear and risk the
consequences, when he noticed two figures still further on ahead walking
in the same direction as he himself and the rowdy crowd.

One of these two figures--thus viewed in the distance, through the mist
and from the back--looked nevertheless like that of a woman, which fact
at once decided Bobby as to what he would do next. He sprinted toward
the crowd as fast as he could, but unfortunately he did not come up with
them in time to prevent the two unfortunate pedestrians being surrounded
by the turbulent throng which, still arm in arm and to the accompaniment
of wild shouts, had formed a ring around them and were now vociferating
at the top of raucous voices:

"À bas la cocarde blanche! À bas! Vive l'Empereur!"

A flickering street lamp feebly lit up this unpleasant scene. Bobby saw
the vague outline of a man and of a woman, standing boldly in the midst
of the hostile crowd while two white cockades gleamed defiantly against
the dark background of their cloaks. To an Englishman, who was a
pastmaster in the noble art of using fists and knees to advantage, the
situation was neither uncommon nor very perilous. The crowd was noisy it
is true, and was no doubt ready enough for mischief, but Clyffurde's
swift and scientific onslaught from the rear staggered and disconcerted
the most bold. There was a good deal more shouting, plenty of cursing;
the Englishman's arms and legs seemed to be flying in every direction
like the arms of a windmill; a good many thuds and bumps, a few groans,
a renewal of the attack, more thuds and groans, and the discomfited
group of roisterers fled in every direction.

Bobby with a smile turned to the two motionless figures whom he had so
opportunely rescued from an unpleasant plight.

"Just a few turbulent blackguards," he said lightly, as he made a quick
attempt at readjusting the set of his coat and the position of his satin
stock. "There was not much fight in them really, and . . ."

He had, of course, lost his hat in the brief if somewhat stormy
encounter and now--as he turned--the thin streak of light from the
street-lamp fell full upon his face with its twinkling, deep-set eyes,
and the half-humorous, self-deprecatory curl of the firm mouth.

A simultaneous exclamation came from his two protégés and stopped the
easy flow of his light-hearted words. He peered closely into the gloom
and it was his turn now to exclaim, half doubting, wholly astonished:

"Mademoiselle Crystal . . . M. le Comte. . . ."

"Indeed, Sir," broke in the Comte slowly, and with a voice that seemed
to be trembling with emotion, "it is to my daughter and to myself that
you have just rendered a signal and generous service. For this I tender
you my thanks, yet believe me, I pray you when I say that both she and
I would rather have suffered any humiliation or ill-usage from that
rough crowd than owe our safety and comfort to you."

There was so much contempt, hatred even, in the tone of voice of this
old man whose manner habitually was a pattern of moderation and of
dignity that for the moment Clyffurde was completely taken aback.
Puzzlement fought with resentment and with the maddening sense that he
was anyhow impotent to avenge even so bitter an insult as had just been
hurled upon him--against a man of the Comte's years and status.

"M. le Comte," he said at last, "will you let me remind you that the
other day when you turned me out of your house like a dishonest servant,
you would not allow me to say a single word in my own justification? The
man on whose word you condemned me then without a hearing, is a
scatter-brained braggart who you yourself must know is not a man to be
trusted and . . ."

"Pardon me, Monsieur," broke in the Comte with perfect sangfroid, "even
if I acted on that evening with undue haste and ill-considered judgment,
many things have happened since which you yourself surely would not wish
to discuss with me, just when you have rendered me a signal service."

"Your pardon, M. le Comte," retorted Clyffurde with equal coolness, "I
know of nothing which could possibly justify the charges which, not
later than last Sunday, you laid at my door."

"The charge which I laid at your door then, Mr. Clyffurde, has not been
lifted from its threshold yet. I charged you with deliberately
conspiring against my King and my country all the while that you were
eating bread and salt at my table. I charged you with striving to render
assistance to that Corsican usurper whom may the great God punish, and
you yourself practically owned to this before you left my house."

"This I did not, M. le Comte," broke in Clyffurde hotly. "As a man of
honour I give you my word, that except for my being in de Marmont's
company on the day that he posted up the Emperor's proclamation in
Grenoble, I had no hand in any political scheme."

"And you would have me believe you," exclaimed the Comte, with
ever-growing vehemence, "when you talk of that Corsican brigand as 'the
Emperor.' Those words, Sir, are an insult, and had you not saved my
daughter and me just now from violence I would--old as I am--strike you
in the face for them."

With an impatient sigh at the old man's hot-headed obstinacy, Clyffurde
turned with a look of appeal to Crystal, who up to now had taken no part
in the discussion: "Mademoiselle," he said gently, "will you not at
least do me justice? Cannot you see that I am clumsy at defending mine
own honour, seeing that I have never had to do it before?"

"I only see, Monsieur," she retorted coldly, "that you are making vain
and pitiable efforts to regain my father's regard--no doubt for purposes
of your own. But why should you trouble? You have nothing more to gain
from us. Your clever comedy of a highwayman on the road has succeeded
beyond your expectations. The Corsican who now sits in the armchair
lately vacated by an infirm monarch whom you and yours helped to
dethrone, will no doubt reward you for your pains. As for me I can only
echo my father's feelings: I would ten thousand times sooner have been
torn to pieces by a rough crowd of ignorant folk than owe my safety to
your interference."

She took her father's arm and made a movement to go: instinctively
Clyffurde tried to stop her: at her words he had flushed with anger to
the very roots of his hair. The injustice of her accusation maddened
him, but the bitter resentment in the tone of her voice, the look of
passionate hatred with which she regarded him as she spoke, positively
appalled him.

"M. le Comte," he said firmly, "I cannot let you go like this, whilst
such horrible thoughts of me exist in your mind. England gave you
shelter for three and twenty years; in the name of my country's kindness
and hospitality toward you, I--as one of her sons--demand that you tell
me frankly and clearly exactly what I am supposed to have done to
justify this extraordinary hatred and contempt which you and
Mademoiselle Crystal seem now to have for me."

"One of England's sons, Monsieur!" retorted the Comte equally firmly.
"Nay! you are not even that. England stands for right and for justice,
for our legitimate King and the punishment of the usurper."

"Great God!" he exclaimed, more and more bewildered now, "are you
accusing me of treachery against mine own country? This will I allow no
man to do, not even . . ."

"Then, Sir, I pray you," rejoined Crystal proudly, "go and seek a
quarrel with the man who has unmasked you; who caught you red-handed
with the money in your possession which you had stolen from us, who
forced you to give up what you had stolen, and whom then you and your
friend Victor de Marmont waylaid and robbed once more. Go then, Mr.
Clyffurde, and seek a quarrel with the Marquis de St. Genis, who has
already struck you in the face once and no doubt will be ready to do so
again."

And what of Clyffurde's thoughts while the woman whom he loved with all
the strength of his lonely heart poured forth these hideous insults upon
him? Amazement, then wrath, bewilderment, then final hopelessness, all
these sensations ran riot through his brain.

St. Genis had behaved like an abominable blackguard! this he gathered
from what she said: he had lied like a mean skunk and betrayed the man
who had rendered him an infinitely great service. Of him Clyffurde
wouldn't even think! Such despicable, crawling worms did exist on God's
earth: he knew that! but he possessed the happy faculty, the sunny
disposition that is able to pass a worm by and ignore its existence
while keeping his eyes fixed upon all that is beautiful in earth and in
the sky. Of St. Genis, therefore, he would not think; some day, perhaps,
he might be able to punish him--but not now--not while this poor,
forlorn, heartsick girl pinned her implicit faith upon that wretched
worm and bestowed on him the priceless guerdon of her love. An infinity
of pity rose in his kindly heart for her and obscured every other
emotion. That same pity he had felt for her before, a sweet, protecting
pity--gentle sister to fiercer, madder love which had perhaps never been
so strong as it was at this hour when, for the second time, he was about
to make a supreme sacrifice for her.

That the sacrifice must be made, he already knew: knew it even when
first St. Genis' name escaped her lips. She loved St. Genis and she
believed in him, and he, Clyffurde, who loved her with every fibre of
his being, with all the passionate ardour of his lonely heart, could
serve her no better than by accepting this awful humiliation which she
put upon him. If he could have justified himself now, he would not have
done it, not while she loved St. Genis, and he--Clyffurde--was less than
nothing to her.

What did it matter after all what she thought of him? He would have
given his life for her love, but short of that everything else was
anyhow intolerable--her contempt, her hatred? what mattered? since
to-night anyhow he would pass out of her life for ever.

He was ready for the sacrifice--sacrifice of pride, of honour, of peace
of mind--but he did want to know that that sacrifice would be really
needed and that when made it would not be in vain: and in order to gain
this end he put a final question to her:

"One moment, Mademoiselle," he said, "before you go will you tell me one
thing at least; was it M. de St. Genis himself who accused me of
treachery?"

"There is no reason why I should deny it, Sir," she replied coldly. "It
was M. de St. Genis himself who gave to my father and to me a full
account of the interview which he had with you at a lonely inn, some few
kilomètres from Lyons, and less than two hours after we had been
shamefully robbed on the highroad of money that belonged to the King."

"And did M. de St. Genis tell you, Mademoiselle, that I purposed to use
that money for mine own ends?"

"Or for those of the Corsican," she retorted impatiently. "I care not
which. Yes! Sir, M. de St. Genis told me that with his own lips and when
I had heard the whole miserable story of your duplicity and your
treachery, I--a helpless, deceived and feeble woman--did then and there
register a vow that I too would do you some grievous wrong one day--a
wrong as great as you had done not only to the King of France but to me
and to my father who trusted you as we would a friend. What you did
to-night has of course altered the irrevocableness of my vow. I owe,
perhaps, my father's life to your timely intervention and for this I
must be grateful, but . . ."

Her voice broke in a kind of passionate sob, and it took her a moment or
two to recover herself, even while Clyffurde stood by, mute and with
well-nigh broken heart, his very soul so filled with sorrow for her that
there was no room in it even for resentment.

"Father let us go now," Crystal said after a while with brusque
transition and in a steady voice; "no purpose can be served by further
recriminations."

"None, my dear," said the Comte in his usual polished manner.
"Personally I have felt all along that explanations could but aggravate
the unpleasantness of the present position. Mr. Clyffurde understands
perfectly, I am sure. He had his axe to grind--whether personal or
political we really do not care to know--we are not likely ever to meet
again. All we can do now is to thank him for his timely intervention on
our behalf and . . ."

"And brand him a liar," broke in Clyffurde almost involuntarily and with
bitter vehemence.

"Your pardon, Monsieur," retorted the Comte coldly, "neither my daughter
nor I have done that. It is your deeds that condemn you, your own
admissions and the word of M. de St. Genis. Would you perchance suggest
that he lied?"

"Oh, no," rejoined Clyffurde with perfect calm, "it is I who lied, of
course."

He had said this very slowly and as if speaking with mature
deliberation: not raising his voice, nor yet allowing it to quiver from
any stress of latent emotion. And yet there was something in the tone of
it, something in the man's attitude, that suggested such a depth of
passion that, quite instinctively, the Comte remained silent and awed.
For the moment, however, Clyffurde seemed to have forgotten the older
man's presence; wounded in every fibre of his being by the woman whom he
loved so tenderly and so devotedly, he had spoken only to her,
compelling her attention and stirring--even by this simple admission of
a despicable crime--an emotion in her which she could not--would not
define.

She turned large inquiring eyes on him, into which she tried to throw
all that she felt of hatred and contempt for him. She had meant to wound
him and it seemed indeed as if she had succeeded beyond her dearest
wish. By the dim, flickering light of the street-lamp his face looked
haggard and old. The traitor was suffering almost as much as he
deserved, almost as much--Crystal said obstinately to herself--as she
had wished him to do. And yet, at sight of him now, Crystal felt a
strong, unconquerable pity for him: the womanly instinct no doubt to
heal rather than to hurt.

But this pity she was not prepared to show him: she wanted to pass right
out of his life, to forget once and for all that sense of warmth of the
soul, of comfort and of peace which she had felt in his presence on that
memorable evening at Brestalou. Above all, she never wanted to touch his
hand again, the hand which seemed to have such power to protect and to
shield her, when on that same evening she had placed her own in it.

Therefore, now she took her father's arm once more: she turned
resolutely to go. One more curt nod of the head, one last look of
undying enmity, and then she would pass finally out of his life for
ever.


V

How Clyffurde got back to his lodgings that night he never knew.
Crystal, after his final admission, had turned without another word from
him, and he had stood there in the lonely, silent street watching her
retreating form--on her father's arm--until the mist and gloom swallowed
her up as in an elvish grave. Then mechanically he hunted for his hat
and he, too, walked away.

That was the end of his life's romance, of course. The woman whom he
loved with his very soul, who held his heart, his mind, his imagination
captive, whose every look on him was joy, whose every smile was a
delight, had gone out of his life for ever! She had turned away from him
as she would from a venomous snake! she hated him so cruelly that she
would gladly hurt him--do him some grievous wrong if she could. And
Clyffurde was left in utter loneliness with only a vague, foolish
longing in his heart--the longing that one day she might have her wish,
and might have the power to wound him to death--bodily just as she had
wounded him to the depth of his soul to-night.

For the rest there was nothing more for him to do in France. King Louis
was not like to remain at Lille very long: within twenty-four hours
probably he would continue his journey--his flight--to Ghent--where once
more he would hold his court in exile, with all the fugitive royalists
rallied around his tottering throne.

Clyffurde had already received orders from his chief at the Intelligence
Department to report himself first at Lille, then--if the King and court
had already left--at Ghent. If, however, there were plenty of men to do
the work of the Department it was his intention to give up his share in
it and to cross over to England as soon as possible, so as to take up
the first commission in the new army that he could get. England would be
wanting soldiers more urgently than she had ever done before: mother and
sisters would be well looked after: he--Bobby--had earned a fortune for
them, and they no longer needed a bread-winner now: whilst England
wanted all her sons, for she would surely fight.

Clyffurde, who had seen the English papers that morning--as they were
brought over by an Intelligence courier--had realised that the debates
in Parliament could only end one way.

England would not tolerate Bonaparte; she would not even tolerate his
abdication in favour of his own son. Austria had already declared her
intention of renewing the conflict and so had Prussia. England's
decision would, of course, turn the scale, and Bobby in his own mind had
no doubt which way that decision would go.

The man whom the people of France loved, and whom his army idolised, was
the disturber of the peace of Europe. No one would believe his
protestations of pacific intentions now: he had caused too much
devastation, too much misery in the past--who would believe in him for
the future?

For the sake of that past, and for dread of the future, he must go--go
from whence he could not again return, and Bobby Clyffurde--remembering
Grenoble, remembering Lyons, Villefranche and Nevers--could not
altogether suppress a sigh of regret for the brave man, the fine genius,
the reckless adventurer who had so boldly scaled for the second time the
heights of the Capitol, oblivious of the fact that the Tarpeian Rock was
so dangerously near.


VI

At this same hour when Bobby Clyffurde finally bade adieu to all the
vague hopes of happiness which his love for Crystal de Cambray had
engendered in his heart, his whilom companion in the long ago--rival and
enemy now--Victor de Marmont, was laying a tribute of twenty-five
million francs at the feet of his beloved Emperor, and receiving the
thanks of the man to serve whom he would gladly have given his life.

"What reward shall we give you for this service?" the Emperor had
deigned to ask.

"The means to subdue a woman's pride, Sire, and make her thankful to
marry me," replied de Marmont promptly.

"A title, what?" queried the Emperor. "You have everything else, you
rogue, to please a woman's fancy and make her thankful to marry you."

"A title, Sire, would be a welcome addition," said de Marmont lightly,
"and the freedom to go and woo her, until France and my Emperor need me
again."

"Then go and do your wooing, man, and come back here to me in three
months, for I doubt not by then the flames of war will have been kindled
against me again."




CHAPTER VIII

THE SOUND OF REVELRY BY NIGHT


I

But the hand had lost its cunning, the mighty brain its indomitable
will-power. Genius was still there, but it was cramped now by
indecision--the indecision born of a sense of enmity around, suspicion
where there should have been nothing but enthusiasm, and the blind
devotion of the past.

The man who, all alone, by the force of his personality and of his
prestige had reconquered France, who had been acclaimed from the Gulf of
Jouan to the gates of the Tuileries as the saviour of France, the
people's Emperor, the beloved of the nation returned from exile, the man
who on the 20th of March had said with his old vigour and his old pride:
"Failure is the nightmare of the feeble! impotence, the refuge of the
poltroon!" the man who had marched as in a dream from end to end of
France to find himself face to face with the whole of Europe in league
against him, with a million men being hastily armed to hurl him from his
throne again, now found the south of France in open revolt, the west
ready to rise against him, the north in accord with his enemies.

He has not enough men to oppose to those millions, his arsenals are
depleted, his treasury empty. And after he has worked sixteen hours out
of the twenty-four at reorganising his army, his finances, his machinery
of war, he has to meet a set of apathetic or openly hostile ministers,
constitutional representatives, men who are ready to thwart him at every
turn, jealous only of curtailing his power, of obscuring his ascendency,
of clipping the eagle's wings, ere it soars to giddy heights again. And
to them he must give in, from them he must beg, entreat: give up, give
up all the time one hoped-for privilege after another, one power after
another.

He yields the military dictatorship to other--far less competent--hands;
he grants liberty to the press, liberty of debate, liberty of election,
liberty to all and sundry: but suspicion lurks around him; they suspect
his sincerity, his goodwill, they doubt his promises, they mistrust that
dormant Olympian ambition which has precipitated France into humiliation
and brought the strangers' armies within her gates.

The same man was there--the same genius who even now could have mastered
all the enemies of France and saved her from her present subjection and
European insignificance, but the men round him were not the same. He,
the guiding hand, was still there, but the machinery no longer worked as
it had done in the past before disaster had blunted and stiffened the
temper of its steel.

The men around the Emperor were not now as they were in the days of Jena
and Austerlitz and Wagram. Their characters and temperaments had
undergone a change. Disaster had brought on slackness, the past year of
constant failures had engendered a sense of discouragement and
demoralisation, a desire to argue, to foresee difficulties, to foretell
further disasters.

He saw it all well enough--he the man with the far-seeing mind and the
eagle-eyes that missed nothing--neither a look of indecision, nor an
indication of revolt. He saw it all but he could do nothing, for he too
felt overwhelmed by that wave of indecision and of discouragement. Faith
in himself, energy in action, had gone. He envisaged the possibility of
a vanquished and dismembered France.

Above all he had lost belief in his Star: the star of his destiny which,
rising over the small island of Corsica, shining above a humble
middle-class home, had guided him step by step, from triumph to triumph,
to the highest pinnacle of glory to which man's ambition has ever
reached.

That star had been dimmed once, its radiance was no longer unquenchable:
"Destiny has turned against me," he said, "and in her I have lost my
most valuable helpmate."

And now the whole of Europe had declared war against him, and in a final
impassioned speech he turns to his ministers and to the representatives
of his people: "Help me to save France!" he begs, "afterwards we'll
settle our quarrels."

One hundred days after he began his dream-march, from the gulf of Jouan
in the wake of his eagle, he started from Paris with the Army which he
loved and which alone he trusted, to meet Europe and his fate on the
plains of Belgium.


II

And in Brussels they danced, danced late into the night. No one was to
know that within the next three days the destinies of the whole world
would be changed by the hand of God.

And how to hide from timid eyes the sense of this oncoming destiny? how
to stop for a few brief hours the flow of women's tears?

The ball should have been postponed--Her Grace of Richmond was willing
that it should be so. How could men and women dance, flirt and make
merry while Death was already reckoning the heavy toll of brave young
lives which she would demand on the morrow? But who knows England who
has not seen her at the hour of danger?

Put off the ball? why! perish the thought! The timid townsfolk of
Brussels or the ladies of the French royalist party who were in great
numbers in the city might think there was something amiss. What was
amiss? some gallant young men would go on the morrow and conquer or die
for England's honour! there's nothing amiss in that! Why put off the
ball? The girls would be disappointed--they who like to dance--why
should they be deprived of partners, just because some of them would lie
dead on the battlefield to-morrow?

Open your salons, Madame la Duchesse! The soldiers of Britain will come
to your ball. They will laugh and dance and flirt to-night as bravely as
they will die to-morrow.

The sands of life are running low for them: in a few hours perhaps a
bullet, a bayonet, who knows? will cut short that merry laugh, still the
gallant heart that even now takes a last and fond farewell from a
blushing partner, after a waltz, in a sweet-scented alcove with sounds
of soft and distinct music around that stills the coming cannon's roar.

Gordon and Lancey, Crawford and Ponsonby and Halkett, aye! and
Wellington too! What immortal names are spoken by the flunkeys to-night
as they usher in these brave men into the hostess' presence. The
ballroom is brilliantly illuminated with hundreds of wax candles, the
women have put on their pretty dresses, displaying bare arms and
dazzling shoulders; the men are in showy uniforms, glittering with stars
and decorations: Orange, Brunswick, Nassau, English, Belgian, Scottish,
French, all are there gay with gold and silver braid.

The confusion of tongues is greater surely than round the tower of
Babel. German and French and English, Scots accent and Irish brogue,
pedantic Hanoverian and lusty Brunswick tones, all and more of these
varied sounds mingle with one another, and half-drown by their clamour
the sweet strains of the Viennese orchestra that discoursed dreamy
waltzes from behind a bower of crimson roses; whilst ponderous Flemish
wives of city burgomasters gaze open-mouthed at the elegant ladies of
the old French noblesse, and shy Belgian misses peep enviously at their
more self-reliant English friends.

And the hostess smiles equally graciously to all: she is ready with a
bright word of welcome for everybody now, just as she will be anon with
a mute look of farewell, when--at ten o'clock--by Wellington's commands,
one by one, one officer after another will slip out of this hospitable
house, out into the rainy night, for a hurried visit to lodgings or
barracks to collect a few necessaries, and then to work--to horse or
march--to form into the ranks of battle as they had formed for the
quadrille--squares to face the enemy--advance, deploy as they had done
in the mazes of the dance! to fight as they had danced! to give their
life as they had given a kiss.

Bobby Clyffurde only saw Crystal de Cambray from afar. He had his
commission in Colin Halkett's brigade; his orders were the same as those
of many others to-night: to put in an appearance at Her Grace's ball, to
dispel any fears that might be confided to him through a fair partner's
lips: to show confidence, courage and gaiety, and at ten o'clock to
report for duty.

But the crowd in the ball-room was great, and Crystal de Cambray was the
centre of a very close and exclusive little crowd, as indeed were all
the ladies of the old French noblesse, who were here in their numbers.
They had left their country in the wake of their dethroned king and
despite the anxieties and sorrows of the past three months, while the
star of the Corsican adventurer seemed to shine with renewed splendour,
and that of the unfortunate King of France to be more and more on the
wane, they had somehow filled the sleepy towns of Belgium--Ghent,
Brussels, Charleroi--with the atmosphere of their own elegance and their
unimpeachable good taste.

Clyffurde knew that the Comte de Cambray had settled in Brussels with
his daughter and sister, pending the new turn in the fortunes of his
cause: the English colony there provided the royalist fugitives with
many friends, and Ghent was already overfull with the immediate
entourage of the King. But Bobby had never met either the Comte or
Crystal again.

He had crossed over to England almost directly after that final and
fateful interview with them: he had obtained his commission and was back
again in Belgium--as a fighting man, ready for the work which was
expected from Britain's sons by the whole of Europe now.

And to-night he saw her again. His instinct, intuition, prescience, what
you will, had told him that he would meet her here--and to his weary
eyes, when first he caught sight of her across the crowded room, she had
never seemed more exquisite, nor more desirable. She was dressed all in
white, with arms and shoulders bare, her fair hair dressed in the quaint
mode of the moment with a high comb and a multiplicity of curls. She had
a bunch of white roses in her belt and carried a shawl of gossamer lace
that encircled her shoulders, like a diaphanous cobweb, through which
gleamed the shimmering whiteness of her skin.

She did not see him of course: he was only one of so many in a crowd of
English officers who were about to fight and to die for her country and
her cause as much as for their own. But to him she was the only living,
breathing person in the room--all the others were phantoms or puppets
that had no tangible existence for him save as a setting, a background
for her.

And poor Bobby would so gladly have thrown all pride to the winds for
the right to run straight to her across the width of the room, to fall
at her feet, to encircle her knees, and to wring from her a word of
comfort or of trust. So strong was this impulse, that for one moment it
seemed absolutely irresistible; but the next she had turned to Maurice
de St. Genis, who was never absent from her side, and who seemed to
hover over her with an air of proprietorship and of triumphant mastery
which caused poor Bobby to grind his heel into the oak floor, and to
smother a bitter curse which had risen insistent to his lips.


III

Madame la Duchesse d'Agen spoke to him once, while he stood by watching
Crystal's dainty form walking through the mazes of a quadrille with her
hand in that of St. Genis.

"They look well matched, do they not, Mr. Clyffurde?" Madame said in
broken English and with something of her usual tartness; "and you? are
you not going to recognise old friends, may I ask?"

He turned abruptly, whilst the hot blood rushed up to his cheek, so
sudden had been the wave of memory which flooded his brain, at the sound
of Madame's sharp voice. Now he stooped and kissed the slender little
hand which was being so cordially held out to him.

"Old friends, Madame la Duchesse?" he queried with a quick sigh of
bitterness. "Nay! you forget that it was as a traitor and a liar that
you knew me last."

"It was as a young fool that I knew you all the time," she retorted
tartly, even though a kindly look and a kindly smile tempered the
gruffness of her sally. "The male creature, my dear Mr. Clyffurde," she
added, "was intended by God and by nature to be a selfish beast. When he
ceases to think of himself, he loses his bearings, flounders in a
quagmire of unprofitable heroism which benefits no one, and generally
behaves like a fool."

"Did I do all that?" asked Clyffurde with a smile.

"All of it and more. And look at the muddle you have made of things.
Crystal has never got over that miserably aborted engagement of hers to
de Marmont, and is no happier now with Maurice de St. Genis than she
would have been with . . . well! with anybody else who had had the good
sense to woo and win her in a straightforward, proper and selfish
masculine way."

"Mademoiselle de Cambray, I understand," rejoined Clyffurde stiffly, "is
formally affianced now to M. de St. Genis."

"She is not formally affianced, as you so pedantically and affectedly
put it, my friend," replied Madame with her accustomed acerbity. "But
she probably will marry him, if he comes out of this abominable war
alive, and if the King of France . . . whom may God protect--comes into
his own again. For His Majesty has taken those two young jackanapes
under his most gracious protection, and has promised Maurice a lucrative
appointment at his court--if he ever has a court again."

"Then Mademoiselle de Cambray must be very happy, for which--if I dare
say so--I am heartily rejoiced."

"So am I," said the Duchesse drily, "but let me at the same time tell
you this: I have always known that Englishmen were peculiarly idiotic in
certain important matters of life, but I must say that I had no idea
idiocy could reach the boundless proportions which it has done in your
case. Well!" she added with sudden gentleness, "farewell for the
present, mon preux chevalier: it is not too late, remember, to bear in
mind certain old axioms both of chivalry and of commonsense--the most
obvious of which is that nothing is gained by sitting open-mouthed,
whilst some one else gets the largest helpings at supper. And if it is
any comfort to you to know that I never believed St. Genis' story of
lonely inns, of murderous banditti and whatnots, well then, I give you
that information for what you may choose to make of it."

And with a final friendly nod and a gentle pressure of her aristocratic
hand on his, which warmed and comforted Bobby's sore heart, she turned
away from him and was quickly swallowed up by the crowd.


IV

In spite of rain and blustering wind outside the fine ballroom--as the
evening progressed--became unpleasantly hot. Dancing was in full swing
and the orchestra had just struck up the first strains of that
inspiriting new dance--the latest importation from Vienna--a dreamy
waltz of which dowagers strongly disapproved, deeming it licentious,
indecent, and certainly ungraceful, but which the young folk delighted
in, and persisted in dancing, defying the mammas and all the
proprieties.

Maurice de St. Genis after the last quadrille had led Crystal away from
the ballroom to a small boudoir adjoining it, where the cool air from
outside fanned the curtains and hangings and stirred the leaves and
petals of a bank of roses that formed a background to a couple of
seats--obviously arranged for the convenience of two persons who desired
quiet conversation well away from prying eyes and ears.

Here Crystal had been sitting with Maurice for the past quarter of an
hour, while from the ballroom close by came as in a dream to her the
gentle lilt of the waltz, and from behind her, a cluster of
sweet-scented crimson roses filled the air with their fragrance. Crystal
didn't feel that she wanted to talk, only to sit here quietly with the
sound of the music in her ears and the scent of roses in her nostrils.
Maurice sat beside her, but he did not hold her hand. He was leaning
forward with his elbows on his knees and he talked much and earnestly,
the while she listened half absently, like one in a dream.

She had often heard, in the olden days in England, her aunt speak of the
strange doings of that Doctor Mesmer in Paris who had even involved
proud Marie Antoinette in an unpleasant scandal with his weird
incantations and wizard-like acts, whereby people--sensible women and
men--were sent at his will into a curious torpor, which was neither
sleep nor yet wakefulness, and which produced a yet more strange sense
of unreality and dreaminess, and visions of things unsubstantial and
unearthly.

And sitting here surrounded with roses and with that languorous lilt in
her ear, Crystal felt as if she too were under the influence of some
unseen Mesmer, who had lulled the activity of her brain into a kind of
wakeful sleep even while her senses remained keenly, vitally on the
alert. She knew, for instance, that Maurice spoke of the coming
struggle, the final fight for King and country. He had been enrolled in
a Nassau regiment, under the command of the Prince of Orange: he
expected to be in the thick of a fight to-morrow. "Bonaparte never
waits," Crystal heard him say quite distinctly, "he is always ready to
attack. Audacity and a bold use of his artillery were always his most
effectual weapons."

And he went on to tell her of his own plans, his future, his hopes: he
spoke of the possibility of death and of this being a last farewell.
Crystal tried to follow him, tried to respond when he spoke of his love
for her--a love, the strength of which--he said--she would never be able
to gauge.

"If it were not for the strength of my love for you, Crystal," he said
almost fiercely, "I could not bear to face possible death to-morrow
. . . not without telling you . . . not without making reparation for my
sin."

And still in that curious trance-like sense of aloofness, Crystal
murmured vaguely:

"Sin, Maurice? What sin do you mean?"

But he did not seem to give her a direct reply: he spoke once more only
of his love. "Love atones for all sins!" he reiterated once or twice
with passionate earnestness. "Even God puts Love above everything on
earth. Love is an excuse for everything. Love justifies everything.
Such love as I have for you, Crystal, makes everything else--even sin,
even cowardice--seem insignificant and meaningless."

She agreed with what he said, for indeed she felt too tired to argue the
point, or even to get his sophistry into her head. Strangely enough she
felt out of tune with him to-night--with him--Maurice--the lover of her
girlhood, the man from whom she had parted with such desperate heartache
three months ago, in the avenue at Brestalou. Then it had seemed as if
the world could never hold any happiness for her again, once Maurice had
gone out of her life. Now he had come back into it. Chance and the
favour of the King had once more made a future happy union with him
possible. She ought to have been supremely happy, yet she was out of
tune. His passionate words of love found only a cold response in her
heart.

For the past three months she had constantly been at war with her own
self for this: she hated and despised herself for that numbness of the
heart which had so unaccountably taken all the zest and the joy out of
her life. Does one love one day and become indifferent the next? What
had become of the girlish love that had invested Maurice de St. Genis
with the attributes of a hero? What had he done that the pedestal on
which her ideality had hoisted him should have proved of such brittle
clay?

He was still the gallant, high-born, well-bred gentleman whom she had
always known; he was on the eve of fighting for his King and country,
ready to give his life for the same cause which she loved so ardently;
he was even now speaking tender words of love and of farewell. Yet she
was out of tune with him. His words of Love almost irritated her, for
they dragged her out of that delicious dream-like torpor which
momentarily peopled the world for her with gold-headed, white-winged
mysterious angels, and filled the air with soft murmurings and sweet
sounds, and a divine fragrance that was not of this earth.

It must have been that she grew very sleepy--probably the heat weighed
her eyelids down--certainly she found it impossible to keep her eyes
open, and Maurice apparently thought that she felt faint. Always in the
same vague way she heard him making suggestions for her comfort: "Could
he get her some wine?" or "Should he try and find Madame la Duchesse?"

Then she realised how she longed for a little rest, for perfect
solitude, for perfect freedom to give herself over to the sweet torpor
which paralysed her brain and limbs--tired, sleepy, or under the subtle
influence of some mysterious agency--she did not know which she was; but
she did know that she would have given everything she could at this
moment for a few minutes' complete solitude.

So she contrived to smile and to look up almost gaily into Maurice's
anxious face: "I think really, Maurice," she said, "I am just a little
bit sleepy. If I could remain alone for five minutes, I would go
honestly to sleep and not be ashamed of myself. Could you . . . could
you just leave me for five or ten minutes? . . . and . . . and, Maurice,
will you draw that screen a little nearer? . . ." she added, affecting a
little yawn; "nobody can see me then . . . and really, really I shall be
all right . . . if I could have a few minutes' quiet sleep."

"You shall, Crystal, of course you shall," said Maurice, eager and
anxious to do all that she wanted. He arranged a cushion behind her
head, put a footstool to her feet and pulled the screen forward so that
now--where she sat--no one could see her from the ballroom, and as in
response to repeated encores from the dancers, the orchestra had
embarked upon a new waltz, she was not likely to be disturbed.

"I'll try and find Mme. la Duchesse," he said after he had assured
himself that she was quite comfortable, "and tell her that you are quite
well, but must not be disturbed."

She caught his hand and gave it a little squeeze.

"You are kind, Maurice," she murmured.

She felt exactly like a tired child, now that she had been made so
comfortable, and she liked Maurice so much, oh! so much! no brother
could have been dearer.

"You won't go way without waking me, Maurice," she said as he bent down
to kiss her.

"No, no, of course not," he replied; "it still wants a quarter before
ten."

The screen shut off all the glare from the candles. The sense of
isolation was complete and delicious: the roses smelt very sweet, the
soft strains of the waltz sounded like elfin music.


V

Like elfin music--tender, fitful, dreamy!--an exquisite languor stole
into Crystal's limbs. She was not asleep, yet she was in dreamland--all
alone in semi-darkness, that was restful and soothing, and with the
fragrance of crimson roses in her nostrils and their velvety petals
brushing against her cheek.

Like elfin music!--sweet strains of infinite sadness--the tune of the
Infinite mingling with the semblance of reality!

Like elfin music--or like the voice of a human being in pain--the note
of sadness became the only real note now!

What really happened after this Crystal never rightly knew. Whenever in
the future her memory went back to this hour, she could not be sure
whether in truth she had been waking or dreaming, or at what precise
moment she became fully conscious of a presence close beside her--just
behind the bank of roses--and of a voice--low, earnest, quivering with
passionate emotion--that reached her ear as if through the tender
melodies played by the orchestra.

It almost seemed to her--when she thought over all the circumstances in
her mind--that she must have been subtly conscious of the presence all
along--all the while that Maurice was still with her and she felt so
curiously languid, longing only for darkness and solitude.

Something encompassed her now that she could not define: the warmth of
Love, the sense of protection and security--almost as if unseen arms,
that were strong and devoted and selfless, held her closely, shielding
her from evil and from the taint of selfish human passions.

And presently she heard her name--whispered low and with a note of
tender appeal.

Her eyes were closed and she paid no heed: but the appeal was once more
whispered--this time more insistently, and almost against her will she
murmured:

"Who calls?"

"An unfortunate whom you hate and despise, and who would have given his
life to serve you."

"Who is it?" she reiterated.

"A poor heart-broken wretch who could not keep away from your side, and
longed for one more sound of your voice even though it uttered words
more cruel than man can stand."

"What would you like to hear?"

"One word of comfort to ease that terrible sting of hate which has
burned into my very soul, till every minute of life has become
unendurable agony."

"How could I know," she asked, and now her eyes were wide open, gazing
out into nothingness, not turned yet in the direction whence that
dream-voice came: "how could I know that my hatred made you suffer or
that you cared for comfort from me?"

"How could you know, Crystal?" the voice replied. "You could know that,
my dear, just as surely as you know that in a stormy night the sky is
dark, just as you know that when heavy clouds obscure the blue ether
above, no ray of sunshine warms the shivering earth. Just as you know
that you are beautiful and exquisite, so you knew, Crystal, that I loved
you from the deepest depths of my soul."

"How could I guess?"

"By that subtle sense which every human being has. And you did guess it,
Crystal, else you would not have hated me as you did."

"I hated you because I thought you a traitor."

"Is it too late to swear to you that my only thought was to serve you?
. . ."

"By working against my King and country?" she retorted with just this
one brief flash of her old vehemence.

"By working for my country and for yours. This I swear by your sweet
eyes--by your dear mouth that hurt me so cruelly that evening--I swear
it by the damnable agony which you made me endure . . . by the abject
cowardice which dragged me to your side now like a whining wretch that
craves for a crumb of comfort . . . by all that you have made me suffer.
. . . Crystal, I swear to you that I was never false . . . false, great
God! when with every drop of my blood, with every fibre of my heart,
with every nerve, every sinew, every thought I love you."

The voice was so low, never above a whisper, and all around her Crystal
felt again that delicious sense of warmth--the breath of Love that
brings man's heart so near to God--the sense of security in a man's
all-encompassing Love which women prize above everything else on earth.

The music was just an accompaniment to that low, earnest whispering; the
soft strains of the violins made it still seem like a voice that comes
through a veil of dreams. Instinctively Crystal began to hum the
waltz-tune and her little head with its quaint coronet of fair curls
beat time to the languid lilt.

"Will you dance with me, Crystal?"

"No! no!" she protested.

"Just once--to-night. To-morrow we fight--let us dance to-night."

And before she could protest further, her will seemed to fall away from
her: she knew that her father, her aunt would be angry, that--as like as
not--Maurice would make a scene. She knew that Maurice--to whom she had
plighted her troth--had branded this man as a liar and a traitor: her
father believed him to be a traitor, and she . . . Well! what had he
done to disprove Maurice's accusations? A few words of passionate
protestations! . . . Did they count? . . . He wore his King's
uniform--many careless adventurers did that these strenuous times! . . .

And he wanted her to dance . . . ! how could she--Crystal de Cambray,
the future wife of the Marquis de St. Genis, the cynosure of a great
many eyes to-night--how could she show herself in public on his arm, in
a crowded ballroom?

Yet she could not refuse. She could not. Surely it was all a dream, and
in a dream man is but the slave of circumstance and has no will of his
own.

She was very young and loved to dance: and she had heard that Englishmen
danced well. Besides, it was all a dream. She would wake in a moment or
two and find herself sitting quietly among the roses with Maurice beside
her, telling her of his love, and of their happy future together.


VI

But in the meanwhile the dream was lasting. Her partner was a perfect
dancer, and this new, delicious waltz--inspiriting yet languorous,
rhythmical and half barbaric--sent a keen feeling of joy and of zest
into Crystal's whole being.

She was not conscious of the many stares that were levelled at her as
she suddenly appeared among the crowd in the ballroom, her face flushed
with excitement, her perfect figure moving with exquisite grace to the
measure of the dance.

The last dance together!

A few moments before, Clyffurde had made his way to the small boudoir in
search of fresh air, and had withdrawn to a window embrasure away from a
throng that maddened him in his misery of loneliness: then he realised
that Crystal was sitting quite close to him, that St. Genis, who had
been in constant attendance on her, presently left her to herself and
that without even moving from where he was he could whisper into her ear
that which had lain so heavily on his heart that at times he had felt
that it must break under the intolerable load.

Then as the soft strains of the music from the orchestra struck upon his
ear, the insistent whim seized him to make her dance with him, just
once--to-night. To-morrow the cannon would roar once more--to-morrow
Europe would make yet another stand against the bold adventurer whom
seemingly nothing could crush.

To-morrow a bullet--a bayonet--a sword-thrust--but to-night a last dance
together.

Those whims come at times to those who are doomed to die. Clyffurde's
one hope of peace lay in death upon the battlefield. Life was empty now.
He had fought against the burden of loneliness left upon him when
Crystal passed finally out of his life. But the burden had proved
unconquerable. Only death could ease him of the load: for life like this
was stupid and intolerable.

Men would die within the next few days in their hundreds and in their
thousands: men who were happy, who had wives and children, men on whose
lives Love shed its happy radiance. Then why not he? who was more lonely
than any man on earth--left lonely because the one woman who filled all
the world for him, hated him and was gone from him for ever.

But a last dance with her to-night! The right to hold her in his arms!
this he had never done, though his muscles had often ached with the
longing to hold her. But dancing with her he could feel her against him,
clasp her closely, feel her breath against his cheek.

She was not very tall and her head--had she chosen--could just have
rested in the hollow of his shoulder. The thought of it sent the blood
rushing hotly to his head and with his two strong hands he would at that
moment have bent a bar of iron, or smashed something to atoms, in order
to crush that longing to curse against Fate, against his destiny that
had so wantonly dangled happiness before him, only to thrust him into
utter loneliness again.

Then he spoke to her--and finally asked for the dance.

And now he held her, and guided her through the throng, her tiny feet
moving in unison with his. And all the world had vanished: he had her to
himself, for these few happy moments he could hold her and refuse to let
her go. He did not care--nor did she--that many curious and some angry
glances followed their every movement. Till the last bar was played,
till the final chord was struck she was absolutely his--for she had
given up her will to him.

The last dance together! He sent his heart to her, all his heart--and
the music helped him, and the rhythm; the very atmosphere of the
room--rose-scented--helped him to make her understand. He could have
kissed her hair, so close were the heaped-up fair curls to his mouth; he
could have whispered to her, and nobody would hear: he could have told
her something at any rate, of that love which had filled his heart since
all time, not months or years since he had known her, but since all time
filling every minute of his life. He could have taught her what love
meant, thrilled her heart with thoughts of might-have-been; he could
have roused sweet pity in her soul, love's gentle mother that has the
power to give birth to Love.

But he did not kiss her, nor did he speak: because though he was quite
sure that she would understand, he was equally sure that she could not
respond. She was not his--not his in the world of realities, at any
rate. Her heart belonged to the friend of her childhood, the only man
whom she would ever love--the man by whom he--poor Bobby!--had been
content to be defamed and vilified in order that she should remain happy
in her ideals and in her choice. So he was content only to hold her, his
arm round her waist, one hand holding hers imprisoned--she herself
becoming more and more the creature of his dreams, the angel that
haunted him in wakefulness and in sleep: immortally his bride, yet never
to be wholly his again as she was now in this heavenly moment where they
stood together within the pale of eternity.

In this, their last dance together!


VII

Far into the night, into the small hours of the morning, Crystal de
Cambray sat by the open window of her tiny bedroom in the small
apartment which her father had taken for himself and his family in the
rue du Marais.

She sat, with one elbow resting on the window-sill, her right hand
fingering, with nervy, febrile movements, a letter which she held.
Jeanne had handed it to her when she came home from the ball: M. de St.
Genis, Jeanne explained, had given it to her earlier in the evening
. . . soon after ten o'clock it must have been . . . M. le Marquis
seemed in a great hurry, but he made Jeanne swear most solemnly that
Mademoiselle Crystal should have the letter as soon as she came home
. . . also M. le Marquis had insisted that the letter should be given to
Mademoiselle when she was alone.

Not a little puzzled--for had she not taken fond leave of Maurice
shortly before ten o'clock, when he had told her that his orders were
to quit the ball then and report himself at once at headquarters. He had
seemed very despondent, Crystal thought, and the words which he spoke
when finally he kissed her, had in them all the sadness of a last
farewell. Crystal even had felt a tinge of remorse--when she saw how sad
he was--that she had not responded more warmly to his kiss. It almost
seemed as if her heart rebelled against it, and when he pressed her with
his accustomed passionate ardour to his breast, she had felt a curious
shrinking within herself, a desire to push him away, even though her
whole heart went out to him with pity and with sorrow.

And now here was this letter. Crystal was a long time before she made up
her mind to open it: the paper--damp with the rain--seemed to hold a
certain fatefulness within its folds. At last she read the letter, and
long after she had read it she sat at the open window, listening to the
dreary, monotonous patter of the rain, and to the distant sounds of
moving horses and men, the rattle of wheels, the bugle calls, the
departure of the allied troops to meet the armies of the great
adventurer on the billowing plains of Belgium.

This is what Maurice had written to her a few moments before he left;
and it must have taken him some time to pen the lengthy epistle.

     "MY BEAUTIFUL CRYSTAL,

     "I may never come back. Something tells me that my life,
     such as it is--empty and worthless enough, God knows--has
     nearly run its full course. But if I do come back to claim
     the happiness which your love holds out for me,--I will not
     face you again with so deep a stain upon mine honour. I did
     not tell you before because I was too great a coward. I
     could not bear to think that you would despise me--I could
     not encounter the look of contempt in your eyes: so I
     remained silent to the call of honour. And now I speak
     because the next few hours will atone for everything. If I
     come back you will forgive. If I fall you will mourn. In
     either case I shall be happy that you know. Crystal! in all
     my life I spoke only one lie, and that was three months
     ago, when I set out to reclaim the King's money, which had
     been filched from you on the high road, and returned
     empty-handed. I found the money and I found the thief. No
     thief he, Crystal, but just a quixotic man, who desired to
     serve his country, our cause and you. That man was your
     friend Mr. Clyffurde. I don't think that I was ever jealous
     of him. I am not jealous of him now. Our love, Crystal, is
     too great and too strong to fear rivalry from anyone. He
     had taken the money from you because he knew that Victor de
     Marmont, with a strong body of men to help him, would have
     filched it from you for the benefit of the Corsican. He
     took the money from you because he knew that neither you
     nor the Comte would have listened to any warnings from him.
     He took the money from you with the sole purpose of
     conveying it to the King. Then I found him and taunted him,
     until the temptation came to me to act the part of a coward
     and a traitor. And this I did, Crystal, only because I
     loved you--because I knew that I could never win you while
     I was poor and in humble circumstances. I soon found out
     that Clyffurde was a friend. I begged him to let me have
     the money so that I might take it to the King and earn
     consideration and a reward thereby. That was my sin,
     Crystal, and also that I lied to you to disguise the sorry
     rôle which I had played. Clyffurde gave me the money
     because I told him how we loved one another--you and I--and
     that happiness could only come to you through our mutual
     love. He acted well, though in truth I meant to do him no
     wrong. Later Victor de Marmont came upon me, and wrested
     the money from me, and I was helpless to guard that for
     which I had played the part of a coward.

     "I have eased my soul by telling you this, Crystal, and I
     know that no hard thoughts of me will dwell in your mind
     whilst I do all that a man can do for honour, King and
     country.

     "Remember that the next few hours, perhaps, will atone for
     everything, and that Love excuses all things.

     "Yours in love and sorrow,

     "MAURICE."

The letter, crumpled and damp, remained in Crystal's hand all the while
that she sat by the open window, and the sound of moving horses and men
in the distance conjured up before her eyes mental visions of all that
to-morrow might mean. The letter was damp with her tears now, they had
fallen incessantly on the paper while she re-read it a second time and
then re-read it again.

A quixotic man! Maurice said airily. How little he understood! How well
she--Crystal--knew what had been the motive of that quixotic action. She
had learned so much to-night in the mazes of a waltz. Now, when she
closed her eyes, she could still feel the dreamy motion with that strong
arm round her, and she could hear the sweet, languid lilt of the music,
and all the delicious elvish whisperings that reached her ear through
the monotonous cadence of the dance. Of what her heart had felt then,
she need now no longer be ashamed: all that should shame her now were
her thoughts in the past, the belief that the hand which had held hers
on that evening--long ago--in Brestalou could possibly have been the
hand of a traitor: that the low-toned voice that spoke to her so
earnestly of friendship then could ever be raised for the utterance of a
lie.

Of such thoughts indeed she could be ashamed, and of her cruelty that
other night in Paris, when she had made him suffer so abominably through
her injustice and her contempt.

"The next few hours, perhaps, will atone for everything," Maurice had
added. Ah, well! perhaps! But they could not erase the past; they could
not control the more distant future. Maurice would come back--Crystal
prayed earnestly that he should--but Clyffurde was gone out of her life
for ever. God alone knew how this renewed war would end! How could she
hope ever to meet a friend who had gone away determined never to see her
again?

A last dance together! Well! they had had it! and that was the end. The
end of a sweet romance that had had no beginning. He had gone now, as
Maurice had gone, as all the men had gone who had listened to their
country's call, and she, Crystal, could not convey to him even by a
message, by a word, that she understood all that he had done for her,
all that his actions had meant of devotion, of self-effacement, of pure
and tender Love.

A last dance together, and that had been the end. Even thoughts of him
would be forbidden her after this: for her thoughts were no longer free
of him, her heart was no longer free; her promise belonged to Maurice,
but her heart, her thoughts were no longer hers to give.

It was all too late! too late! the next few hours might atone for the
past but they could not call it back.

Weary and heart-sick Crystal crawled into bed when the grey light of
dawn peeped cold and shy into her room. She could not sleep, but she lay
quite still while one by one those distant sounds died away in the misty
morning. In this semi-dreamlike state it seemed to her as if she must be
able to distinguish the sound of _his_ horse's hoofs from among a
thousand others: it seemed as if something in herself must tell her
quite plainly where he was, what he did, when he got to horse, which way
he went. And presently she closed her eyes against the grey, monotonous
light, and during one brief moment she felt deliciously conscious of a
sweet, protecting presence somewhere near her, of soft whisperings of
fondness and of friendship: the sound of a dream-voice reached her ear
and once again as in the sweet-scented alcove she felt herself
murmuring: "Who calls?" and once more she heard the tender wailing as of
a stricken soul in pain: "A poor heart-broken wretch who could not keep
away from your side."

And memory-echoes lingered round her, bringing back every sound of his
mellow voice, every look in his eyes, the touch of his hand--oh! that
exquisite touch!--and his last words before he asked her to dance:
"With every drop of my blood, with every nerve, every sinew, every
thought I love you."

And her heart with a long-drawn-out moan of unconquerable sorrow sent
out into the still morning air its agonised call in reply:

"Come back, my love, come back! I cannot live without you! You have
taught me what Love is--pure, selfless and protecting--you cannot go
from me now--you cannot. In the name of that Love which your tender
voice has brought into being, come back to me. Do not leave me
desolate!"




CHAPTER IX

THE TARPEIAN ROCK


I

Rain, rain! all the morning! God's little tool--innocent-looking little
tool enough--for the remodelling of the destinies of this world.

God chose to soak the earth on that day--and the formidable artillery
that had swept the plateau of Austerlitz, the vales of Marengo, the
cemetery of Eylau, was rendered useless for the time being because up in
the inscrutable kingdom of the sky a cloud had chosen to burst--or had
burst by the will of God--and water soaked the soft, spongy soil of
Belgium and the wheels of artillery wagons sank axle-deep in the mud.

If only the ground had been dry! if only the great gambler--the genius,
the hero, call him what you will, but the gambler for all that--if only
he had staked his crown, his honour and that of Imperial France on some
other stake than his artillery! If only . . . ! But who shall tell?

Is it indeed a cloud-burst that changed the whole destinies of Europe?
Ye materialists, ye philosophers! answer that.

Is it to the rain that fell in such torrents until close on midday of
that stupendous 18th of June, that must be ascribed this wonderful and
all-embracing change that came over the destinies of myriads of people,
of entire nations, kingdoms and empires? Rather is it not because God
just on that day of all days chose to show this world of pigmies--great
men, valiant heroes, controlling genius and all-powerful
conquerors--the entire extent of His might--so far and no further--and
in order to show it, He selected that simple, seemingly futile means
. . . just a heavy shower of rain.

At half-past eleven the cannon began to roar on the plains of Mont Saint
Jean,[2] but not before. Before that it had rained: rained heavily, and
the ground was soaked through, and the all-powerful artillery of the
most powerful military genius of all times was momentarily powerless.

[Footnote 2: _i.e._ Waterloo.]

Had it not rained so persistently and so long that same compelling
artillery would have begun its devastating work earlier in the day--at
six mayhap, or mayhap at dawn, another five, six, seven hours to add to
the length of that awful day: another five, six, seven hours wherein to
tax the tenacity, the heroic persistence of the British troops: another
five, six, seven hours of dogged resistance on the one side, of
impetuous charges on the other, before the arrival of Blücher and his
Prussians and the turning of the scales of blind Justice against the
daring gambler who had staked his all.

But it was only at half-past eleven that the cannon began to roar, and
the undulating plain carried the echo like a thunder-roll from heaving
billow to heaving billow till it broke against the silent majesty of the
forest of Soigne.

Here with the forest as a background is the highest point of Mont
Saint Jean: and here beneath an overhanging elm--all day on
horseback--anxious, frigid and heroic, is Wellington--with a rain of
bullets all round him, watching, ceaselessly watching that horizon far
away, wrapped now in fog, anon in smoke and soon in gathering darkness:
watching for the promised Prussian army that was to ease the terrible
burden of that desperate stand which the British troops were bearing and
had borne all day with such unflinching courage and dogged tenacity.

It is in vain that his aides-de-camp beg him to move away from that
perilous position.

"My lord," cries Lord Hill at last in desperation, "if you are killed,
what are we to do?"

"The same as I do now," replies Wellington unmoved, "hold this place to
the last man."

Then with a sudden outburst of vehemence, that seems to pierce almost
involuntarily the rigid armour of British phlegm and British
self-control, he calls to his old comrades of Salamanca and Vittoria:

"Boys, which of us now can think of retreating? What would England think
of us, if we do?"

Heroic, unflinching and cool the British army has held its ground
against the overwhelming power of Napoleon's magnificent cavalry. Raw
recruits some of them, against the veterans of Jena and of Wagram! But
they have been ordered to hold the place to the last man, and in close
and serried squares they have held their ground ever since half-past
eleven this morning, while one after another the flower of Napoleon's
world-famed cavalry had been hurled against them.

Cuirassiers, chasseurs, lancers, up they come to the charge, like
whirlwinds up the declivities of the plateau. Like a whirlwind they rush
upon those stolid, immovable, impenetrable squares, attacking from every
side, making violent, obstinate, desperate onsets upon the stubborn
angles, the straight, unshakable walls of red coats; slashing at the
bayonets with their swords, at crimson breasts with their lances, firing
their pistols right between those glowing eyes, right into those firm
jaws and set teeth.

The sound of bullets on breastplates and helmets and epaulettes is like
a shower of hailstones upon a sheet of metal.

Twice, thrice, nay more--a dozen times--they return to the charge, and
the plateau gleams with brandished steel like a thousand flashes of
simultaneous fork-lightning on the vast canopy of a stormy sky.

From midday till after four, a kind of mysterious haze covers this field
of noble deeds. Fog after the rain wraps the gently-billowing Flemish
ground in a white semi-transparent veil--covers with impartial coolness
all the mighty actions, the heroic charges and still more heroic stands,
all the silent uncomplaining sufferings, the glorious deaths, all the
courage and all the endurance.

Through the grey mists we see a medley of moving colours--blue and grey
and scarlet and black--of shakos and sabretaches, of English and French
and Hanoverian and Scotch, of epaulettes and bare knees; we hear the
sound of carbine and artillery fire, the clank of swords and bayonets,
the call of bugle and trumpet and the wail of the melancholy pibroch:
tunics and gold tassels and kilts--a medley of sounds and of visions!

We see the attack on Hougoumont--the appearance of Bülow on the heights
of Saint Lambert--the charge of the Inniskillings and the Scots
Greys--the death of valiant Ponsonby. We see Marshal Ney Prince of
Moskowa--the bravest soldier in France--we see him everywhere where the
mêlée is thickest, everywhere where danger is most nigh. His magnificent
uniform torn to shreds, his gold lace tarnished, his hair and whiskers
singed, his face blackened by powder, indomitable, unconquered, superb,
we hear him cry: "Where are those British bullets? Is there not one left
for me?"

He knows--none better!--that the plains of Mont Saint Jean are the great
gambling tables on which the supreme gambler--Napoleon, once Emperor of
the French and master of half the world--had staked his all. "If we come
out of this alive and conquered," he cries to Heymès, his aide-de-camp,
"there will only be the hangman's rope left for us all."

And we see the gambler himself--Napoleon, Emperor still and still
certain of victory--on horseback all day, riding from end to end of his
lines; he is gayer than he has ever been before. At Marengo he was
despondent, at Austerlitz he was troubled: but at Waterloo he has no
doubts. The star of his destiny has risen more brilliant than ever
before.

"The day of France's glory has only just dawned," he calls, and his mind
is full of projects--the triumphant march back into Paris--the Germans
driven back to the Rhine--the English to the sea.

His only anxiety--and it is a slight one still--is that Grouchy with his
fresh troops is so late in arriving.

Still, the Prussians are late too, and the British cannot hold the place
for ever.


II

At three o'clock the fog lifts--the veil that has wrapped so many
sounds, such awful and wonderful visions, in a kind of mystery, is
lifted now, and it reveals . . . what? Hougoumont invested--Brave Baring
there with a handful of men--English, German, Brunswickians--making a
last stand with ten rounds of ammunition left to them per man, and the
French engineers already battering in the gates of the enclosing wall
that surrounds the château and chapel of Goumont: the farm of La Haye
Sainte taken--Ney there with his regiment of cuirassiers and five
battalions of the Old Guard: and the English lines on the heights of
Mont Saint Jean apparently giving way.

We see too a vast hecatomb: glory and might must claim their many
thousand victims: the dead and dying lie scattered like pawns upon an
abandoned chessboard, the humble pawns in this huge and final gamble for
supremacy and power, for national existence and for liberty. Hougoumont,
La Haye Sainte, Papelotte are sown with illustrious dead--but on the
plateau of Mont Saint Jean the British still hold their ground.

Wellington is still there on the heights, with the majestic trees of
Soigne behind him, the stately canopy of the elm above his head--more
frigid than before, more heroic, but also more desperately anxious.

"Blücher or nightfall," he sighs as a fresh cavalry charge is hurled
against those indomitable British squares. The thirteenth assault, and
still they stand or kneel on one knee, those gallant British boys;
bayonet in hand or carbine, they fire, fall out and re-form again:
shaken, hustled, encroached on they may be, but still they stand and
fire with coolness and precision . . . the ranks are not broken yet.

Officers ride up to the field-marshal to tell him that the situation has
become desperate, their regiments decimated, their men exhausted. They
ask for fresh orders: but he has only one answer for them:

"There are no fresh orders, save to hold out to the last man."

And down in the valley at La Belle Alliance is the great gambler--the
man who to-day will either be Emperor again--a greater, mightier monarch
than even he has ever been--or who will sink to a status which perhaps
the meanest of his erstwhile subjects would never envy.

But just now--at four o'clock--when the fog has lifted--he is flushed
with excitement, exultant in the belief in victory.

The English centre on Mont Saint Jean is giving way at last, he is told.

"The beginning of retreat!" he cries.

And he, who had been anxious at Austerlitz, despondent at Marengo, is
gay and happy and brimming full of hope.

"De Marmont," he calls to his faithful friend, "De Marmont, go ride to
Paris now; tell them that victory is ours! No, no," he adds excitedly,
"don't go all the way--ride to Genappe and send a messenger to Paris
from there--then come back to be with us in the hour of victory."

And Victor de Marmont rides off in order to proclaim to the world at
large the great victory which the Emperor has won this day over all the
armies of Europe banded and coalesced against him.


From far away on the road of Ohain has come the first rumour that
Blücher and his body of Prussians are nigh--still several hours' march
from Waterloo but advancing--advancing. For hours Wellington has been
watching for them, until wearily he has sighed: "Blücher or nightfall
alone can save us from annihilation now."

The rumour--oh! it was merely the whispering of the wind, but still a
rumour nevertheless--means fresh courage to tired, half-spent troops.
Even deeds of unparalleled heroism need the stimulus of renewed hope
sometimes.

The rumour has also come to the ears of the Emperor, of Ney and of all
the officers of the staff. They all know that those magnificent British
troops whom they have fought all day must be nigh to their final
desperate effort at last--with naught left to them but their stubborn
courage and that tenacity which has been ever since the wonder of the
world.

They know, these brave soldiers of Napoleon--who have fought and admired
the brave foe--that the 1st and 2nd Life Guards are decimated by now;
that entire British and German regiments are cut up; that Picton is
dead, the Scots Greys almost annihilated. They know what havoc their
huge cavalry charges have made in the magnificent squares of British
infantry; they know that heroism and tenacity and determination must
give way at last before superior numbers, before fresh troops, before
persistent, ever-renewed attacks.

Only a few fresh troops and Ney declares that he can conquer the final
dogged endurance of the British troops, before they in their turn
receive the support of Blücher and his Prussians, or before nightfall
gives them a chance of rest.

So he sends Colonel Heymès to his Emperor with the urgent message: "More
troops, I entreat, more troops and I can break the English centre before
the Prussians come!"

None knew better than he that this was the great hazard on which the
life and honour of his Emperor had been staked, that Imperial France was
fighting hand to hand with Great Britain, each for her national
existence, each for supremacy and might and the honour of her flag.

Imperial France--bold, daring, impetuous!

Great Britain--tenacious, firm and impassive!

Wellington under the elm-tree, calmly scanning the horizon while bullets
whiz past around his head, and ordering his troops to hold on to the
last man!

The Emperor on horseback under a hailstorm of shot and shell and bullets
riding from end to end of his lines!

Ney and his division of cuirassiers and grenadiers of the Old Guard had
just obeyed the Emperor's last orders which had been to take La Haye
Sainte at all costs: and the intrepid Maréchal now, flushed with
victory, had sent his urgent message to Napoleon:

"More troops! and I can yet break through the English centre before the
arrival of the Prussians."

"More troops?" cried the Emperor in despair, "where am I to get them
from? Am I a creator of men?"

And from far away the rumour: "Blücher and the Prussians are nigh!"

"Stop that rumour from spreading to the ears of our men! In God's name
don't let them know it," adjures Napoleon in a message to Ney.

And he himself sends his own staff officers to every point of the field
of battle to shout and proclaim the news that it is Grouchy who is
nigh, Grouchy with reinforcements, Grouchy with the victorious troops
from Ligny, fresh from conquered laurels!

And the news gives fresh heart to the Imperial troops:

"Vive l'Empereur!" they shout, more certain than ever of victory.


III

The grey day has yielded at last to the kiss of the sun. Far away at
Braine l'Alleud a vivid streak of gold has rent the bank of heavy
clouds. It is now close on seven o'clock--there are two more hours to
nightfall and Blücher is not yet here.

Some of the Prussians have certainly debouched on Plancenoit, but
Napoleon's Old Guard have turned them out again, and from Limale now
comes the sound of heavy cannonade as if Grouchy had come upon Blücher
after all and all hopes of reinforcements for the British troops were
finally at an end.

Napoleon--Emperor still and still flushed with victory--looks through
his glasses on the British lines: to him it seems that these are shaken,
that Wellington is fighting with the last of his men. This is the hour
then when victory waits--attentive, ready to bestow her crown on him who
can hold out and fight the longest--on him who at the last can deliver
the irresistible attack.

And Napoleon gives the order for the final attack, which must be more
formidable, more overpowering than any that have gone before. The
plateau of Mont Saint Jean, he commands, must be carried at all costs!

Cuirassiers, lancers and grenadiers, then, once more to the charge!
strew once more the plains of Waterloo with your dying and your dead!
Up, Milhaud, with your guards! Poret with your grenadiers! Michel with
your chasseurs! Up, ye heroes of a dozen campaigns, of a hundred
victories! Up, ye old growlers with the fur bonnets--Napoleon's
invincible Old Guard! With Ney himself to lead you! a hero among heroes!
the bravest where all are brave!

Have you ever seen a tidal wave of steel rising and surging under the
lash of the gale? So they come now, those cuirassiers and lancers and
chasseurs, their helmets, their swords, their lances gleaming in the
golden light of the sinking sun; in closed ranks, stirrup to stirrup
they swoop down into the valley, and rise again scaling the muddy
heights. Superb as on parade, with their finest generals at their head:
Milhaud, Hanrion, Michel, Mallet! and Ney between them all.

Splendid they are and certain of victory: they gallop past as if at a
revue on the Place du Carrousel opposite the windows of the Tuileries;
all to the repeated cry of "Vive l'Empereur!"

And as they gallop past the wounded and the dying lift themselves up
from the blood-stained earth, and raise their feeble voices to join in
that triumphant call: "Vive l'Empereur!" There's an old veteran there,
who fought at Austerlitz and at Jena; he has three stripes upon his
sleeve, but both his legs are shattered and he lies on the roadside
propped up against a hedge, and as the superb cavalry ride proudly by he
shouts lustily: "Forward, comrades! a last victorious charge! Long live
the Emperor!"


After that who was to blame? Was human agency to blame? Did Ney--the
finest cavalry leader in Napoleon's magnificent army, the veteran of an
hundred glorious victories--did he make the one blunder of his military
career by dividing his troops into too many separate columns rather than
concentrating them for the one all-powerful attack upon the British
centres? Did he indeed mistake the way and lead his splendid cavalry by
round-about crossways to the plateau instead of by the straight Brussels
road?

Or did the obscure traitor--over whom history has thrown a veil of
mystery--betray this fresh advance against the British centre to
Wellington?

Was any man to blame? Was it not rather the hand of God that had already
fallen with almighty and divine weight upon the ambitious and reckless
adventurer?--was it not the voice of God that spoke to him through the
cannon's roar of Waterloo: "So far but no farther shalt thou go! Enough
of thy will and thy power and thy ambition!--Enough of this scourge of
bloodshed and of misery which I have allowed thee to wield for so
long!--Enough of devastated homes, of starvation and of poverty! enough
of the fatherless and of the widow!"

And up above on the plateau the British troops hear the thunder of
thousands of horses' hoofs, galloping--galloping to this last charge
which must be irresistible. And sturdy, wearied hands, black with powder
and stained with blood, grasp more firmly still the bayonet, the rifle
or the carbine, and they wait--those exhausted, intrepid, valiant men!
they wait for that thundering charge, with wide-open eyes fixed upon the
crest of the hill--they wait for the charge--they are ready for
death--but they are not prepared to yield.

Along the edge of the plateau in a huge semicircle that extends from
Hougoumont to the Brussels road the British gunners wait for the order
to fire.

Behind them Wellington--eagle-eyed and calm, warned by God--or by a
traitor but still by God--of the coming assault on his positions--scours
the British lines from end to end: valiant Maitland is there with his
brigade of guards, and Adam with his artillery: there are Vandeleur's
and Vivian's cavalry and Colin Halkett's guards! heroes all! ready to
die and hearing the approach of Death in that distant roar of
thunder--the onrush of Napoleon's invincible cavalry.

Here, too, further out toward the east and the west, extending the
British lines as far as Nivelles on one side and Brussels on the other,
are William Halkett's Hanoverians, Duplat's German brigade, the Dutch
and the Belgians, the Brunswickers, and Ompteda's decimated corps. The
French royalists are here too, scattered among the foreign
troops--brother prepared to fight brother to the death! St. Genis is
among the Brunswickers. But Bobby Clyffurde is with Maitland's guards.

And now the wave of steel is surging up the incline: the gleam of
shining metal pierces the distant haze, casques and lances glitter in
the slowly sinking sun, whilst from billow to billow the echo brings to
straining ears the triumphant cry "Vive l'Empereur!"

Five minutes later the British artillery ranged along the crest has made
a huge breach in that solid, moving mass of horses and of steel. Quickly
the breach is repaired: the ranks close up again! This is a parade! a
review! The eyes of France are upon her sons! and "Vive l'Empereur!"

Still they come!

Volley after volley from the British guns makes deadly havoc among those
glistering ranks!

But nevertheless they come!

No halt save for the quick closing up into serried, orderly columns. And
then on with the advance!--like the surging up of a tidal wave against
the cliffs--on with the advance! up the slopes toward the crest where
those who are in the front ranks are mowed down by the British
guns--their places taken by others from the rear--those others mowed
down again, and again replaced--falling in their hundreds as they reach
the crest, like the surf that shivers and dies as it strikes against the
cliffs.

Ney's horse is killed under him--the fifth to-day--but he quickly
extricates himself from saddle and stirrups and continues on his way--on
foot, sword in hand--the sword that conquered at Austerlitz, at Eylau
and at Moskowa. Round him the grenadiers of the Old Guard--they with
the fur bonnets and the grizzled moustaches--tighten up their ranks.

They advance behind the cavalry! and after every volley from the British
guns they shout loudly: "Vive l'Empereur!"

And anon the tidal wave--despite the ebb, despite the constant breaking
of its surf--has by sheer force of weight hurled itself upon the crest
of the plateau.

The Brunswickers on the left are scattered. Cleeves and Lloyd have been
forced to abandon their guns: the British artillery is silenced and the
chasseurs of Michel hold the extreme edge of the upland, and turn a
deadly fusillade upon Colin Halkett's brigade already attacked by
Milhaud and his guards and now severely shaken.

"See the English General!" cries Duchaud to his cuirassiers, "he is
between two fires. He cannot escape."

No! he cannot but he seizes the colours of the 33rd whose young
lieutenant has just fallen, and who threaten to yield under the
devastating cross-fire: he brandishes the tattered colours, high up
above his head--as high as he can hold them--he calls to his men to
rally, and then falls grievously wounded.

But his guards have rallied. They stand firm now, and Duchaud, chewing
his grey moustache, murmurs his appreciation of so gallant a foe.

"That side will win," he mutters, "who can best keep on killing."


IV

"Up, guards, and at them!"

Maitland's brigade of guards had been crouching in the
corn--crouching--waiting for the order to charge--red-coated lions in
the ripening corn--ready to spring at the word.

And Death the harvester in chief stands by with his scythe ready for the
mowing.

"Up, guards, and at them!"

It is Maitland and his gallant brigade of guards--out of the corn they
rise and front the three battalions of Michel's chasseurs who were the
first to reach the highest point of the hill. They fire and Death with
his scythe has laid three hundred low. The tricolour flag is riddled
with grapeshot and Général Michel has fallen.

Then indeed the mighty wave of steel can advance no longer: for it is
confronted with an impenetrable wall--a wall of living, palpitating,
heroic men--men who for hours have stood their ground and fought for the
honour of Britain and of her flag--men who with set teeth and grim
determination were ready to sell their lives dearly if lives were to be
sold--men in fact who have had their orders to hold out to the last man
and who are going to obey those orders now.

"Up, guards, and at them," and surprised, bewildered, staggered, the
chasseurs pause: three hundred of their comrades lie dead or dying on
the ground. They pause: their ranks are broken: with his last dying sigh
brave Général Michel tries to rally them. But he breathes his last ere
he succeeds: his second in command loses his head. He should have
ordered a bayonet charge--sudden, swift and sure--against that red wall
that rushes at them with such staggering power: but he too tries to
rally his men, to reform their ranks--how can they re-form as for parade
under the deadly fire of the British guards?

Confusion begins its deathly sway: the chasseurs--under conflicting
orders--stand for full ten minutes almost motionless under that
devastating fire.

And far away on the heights of Frischemont the first line of Prussian
bayonets are seen silhouetted against the sunset sky.

Wellington has seen it. Blücher has come at last! One final effort, one
more mighty gigantic, superhuman struggle and the glorious end would be
in sight. He gives the order for a general charge.

"Forward, boys," cries Colonel Saltoun to his brigade. "Now is the
time!"

Heads down the British charge. The chasseurs are already scattered, but
behind the chasseurs, fronting Maitland's brigade, fronting Adam and his
artillery, fronting Saltoun and Colborne the Fire-Eater, the Old Guard
is seen to advance, the Old Guard who through twelve campaigns and an
hundred victories have shown the world how to conquer and how to die.

When Michel's chasseurs were scattered, when their General fell; when
the English lines, exhausted and shaken for a moment, rallied at
Wellington's call: "Up, guards, and at them!" when from far away on the
heights of Frischemont the first line of Prussian bayonets were
silhouetted against the sunset sky, then did Napoleon's old growlers
with their fur bonnets and their grizzled moustaches enter the line of
action to face the English guards. They were facing Death and knew it
but still they cried: "Vive l'Empereur!"

Heads down the British charge, whilst from Ohain comes the roar of
Blücher's guns, and up from the east, Zieten with the Prussians rushes
up to join in the assault.

Then the carnage begins: for the Old Guard is still advancing--in solid
squares--solemn, unmoved, magnificent: the bronze eagles on their
bonnets catch the golden rays of the setting sun. Thus they advance in
face of deadly fire: they fall like corn before the scythe. A sublime
suicide to the cry of "Vive l'Empereur!" and not one of the brigade is
missing except those who are dead.

They know--none better--that this is the beginning of the end. Perhaps
they do not care to live if their Emperor is to be Emperor no longer,
if he is to be sent back to exile--to the prison of Elba or worse: and
so they advance in serried squares, while Maitland's artillery has
attacked them in the rear. Great gaps are made in those ranks, but they
are quickly filled up again: the squares become less solid, smaller, but
they remain compact. Still they advance.

But now close behind them Blücher's guns begin to thunder and Zieten's
columns are rapidly gaining ground: all round their fur bonnets a
hailstorm of grape-shot is raging whilst Adam's artillery is in action
within fifty paces at their flank. But the old growlers who had suffered
death with silent fortitude in the snows of Russia, who had been as
grand in their defeat at Moscow and at Leipzic as they had been in the
triumphs of Auerstadt or of Friedland--they neither staggered nor paused
in their advance. On they went--carrying their muskets on their
shoulders--a cloud of tirailleurs in front of them, right into the
cross-fire of the British guns: their loud cry of "Vive l'Empereur"
drowning that other awesome, terrible cry which someone had raised a
while ago and which now went from mouth to mouth: "We are betrayed!
_Sauve qui peut!_"

The Prussians were in their rear; the British were charging their front,
and panic had seized the most brilliant cavalry the world had ever seen.

"Sauve qui peut" is echoed now and re-echoed all along the crest of the
plateau. And the echo rolls down the slope into the valley where
Reille's infantry and a regiment of cuirassiers, and three more
battalions of chasseurs, are making ready to second the assault on Mont
Saint Jean. Reille and his infantry pause and listen: the cuirassiers
halt in their upward movement, whilst up on the ridge of the plateau
where Donzelot's grenadiers have attacked the brigade of Kempt and
Lambert and Pack, the whisper goes from mouth to mouth:

"We are betrayed! _Sauve qui peut!_"

Panic seizes the younger men: they turn their horses' heads back toward
the slopes. The stampede has commenced: very soon it grows. The British
in front, the Prussians in the rear: "Sauve qui peut!"

Ney amongst them is almost unrecognisable. His face is coal-black with
powder: he has no hat, no epaulettes and only half a sword: rage,
anguish, bitterness are in his husky voice as he adjures, entreats,
calls to the demoralised army--and insults it, execrates it in turn. But
nothing but Death will stop that army now in its headlong flight.

"At least stop and see how a Marshal of France dies on the field of
honour," he calls.

But the voice which led these same men to victory at Moskowa has lost
its potency and its magic. The men cry "Vive Ney!" but they do not
stand. The stampede has become general. In the valley below the infantry
has started to run up the slope of La Belle Alliance: after it the
cavalry with reins hanging loose, stirrups lost, casques, sabretaches,
muskets--anything that impedes--thrown into the fields to right and
left. La Haye Sainte is evacuated, Hougoumont is abandoned; Papelotte,
Plancenoit, the woods, the plains are only filled with running men and
the thunder of galloping chargers.


Alone the Old Guard has remained unshaken. Whilst all around them what
was once the Grand Army is shattered, destroyed, melted like ice before
a devastating fire, they have continued to advance, sublime in their
fortitude, in their endurance, their contempt for death. One by one
their columns are shattered and there are none now to replace those that
fall. And as the gloom of night settles on this vast hecatomb on the
plateau of Mont Saint Jean the conquerors of Jena and Austerlitz and
Friedland make their last stand round the bronze eagle--all that is left
to them of the glories of the past.

And when from far away the cry of "Sauve qui peut" has become only an
echo, and the bronze eagle shattered by a bullet lies prone upon the
ground shielded against capture in its fall by a circling mountain of
dead, when finally Night wraps all the heroism, the glory, the sorrow
and the horrors of this awful day in the sable folds of her
all-embracing mantle, Napoleon's Old Guard has ceased to be.


And out in the western sky a streak of vivid crimson like human blood
has broken the bosom of the clouds: the glow of the sinking sun rests on
this huge dissolution of what was once so glorious and unconquered and
great. Then it is that Wellington rides to the very edge of the plateau
and fronts the gallant British troops at this supreme hour of oncoming
victory, and lifting his hat high above his head he waves it three times
in the air.

And from right and left they come, British, Hanoverians, Belgians and
Brunswickers to deliver the final blow to this retreating army, wounded
already unto death.

They charge now: they charge all of them, cavalry, infantry, gunners,
forty thousand men who have forgotten exhaustion, forgotten what they
have suffered, forgotten what they had endured. On they come with a rush
like a torrent let loose; the confusion of sounds and sights becomes a
pandemonium of hideousness, bugles and drums and trumpets and bagpipes
all mingle, merge and die away in the fast gathering twilight.

And the tidal wave of steel recedes down the slopes of Mont Saint Jean,
into the valley and thence up again on Belle Alliance, with a mêlée of
sounds like the breaking of a gigantic line of surf against the
irresistible cliffs, or the last drawn-out sigh of agony of dying giants
in primeval times.


V

On the road to Genappe in the mystery of the moonlit night a solitary
rider turned into a field and dismounted.

Carried along for a time by the stream of the panic, he found himself
for a moment comparatively alone--left as it were high and dry by the
same stream which here had divided and flowed on to right and left of
him. He wore a grey redingote and a shabby bicorne hat.

Having dismounted he slipped the bridle over his arm and started to walk
beside his horse back toward Waterloo.

A sleep-walker in pursuit of his dream!

Heavy banks of grey clouds chased one another with mad fury across the
midsummer sky, now obscuring the cold face of the moon, now allowing her
pale, silvery rays to light up this gigantic panorama of desolation and
terror and misery. To right and left along the roads and lanes, across
grassland and cornfields, canals, ditches and fences the last of the
Grand Army was flying headlong, closely pursued by the Prussians. And at
the farm of La Belle Alliance Wellington and Blücher had met and shaken
hands, and had thanked God for the great and glorious victory.

But the sleep-walker went on in pursuit of his dream--he walked with
measured steps beside his weary horse, his eyes fixed on the horizon far
away, where the dull crimson glow of smouldering fires threw its last
weird light upon this vast abode of the dead and the dying. He walked
on--slowly and mechanically back to the scene of the overwhelming
cataclysm where all his hopes lay irretrievably buried. He walked
on--majestic as he had never been before, in the brilliant throne-room
of the Tuileries or the mystic vastness of Notre Dame when the Imperial
crown sat so ill upon his plebeian head. . . . He walked on--silent,
exalted and great--great through the magnitude of his downfall.

And to right and left of him, like the surf that recedes on a pebbly
beach, the last of his once invincible army was flying back to
France--back in the wake of those who had been lucky enough to fly
before--bodies of men who had been the last to realise that an heroic
stand round a fallen eagle could no longer win back that which was lost,
and that if life be precious it could only be had in flight--bits of
human wreckage too, forgotten by the tide--they all rolled and rushed
and swept past the silent wayfarer . . . quite close at times: so close
that every man could see him quite distinctly, could easily distinguish
by the light of the moon the grey redingote and the battered hat which
they all knew so well--which they had been wont to see in the forefront
of an hundred victorious charges.

Now half-blinded by despair and by panic they gazed with uncomprehending
eyes on the man and on the horse and merely shouted to him as they
rushed galloping or running by, "The Prussians are on us! _Sauve qui
peut!_"

And the dreamer still looked on that distant crimson glow and in the
bosom of those wind-swept clouds he saw the pictures of Austerlitz and
Jena and Wagram, pictures of glory and might and victory, and the shouts
which he heard were the ringing cheers round the bivouac fires of long
ago.




CHAPTER X

THE LAST THROW


I

It was close on half-past nine and the moon full up on the stormy sky
when a couple of riders detached themselves out of the surging mass of
horses and men that were flying pell-mell towards Genappe, and slightly
checking their horses, put them to a slower gallop and finally to a
trot.

On their right a small cottage gleamed snow-white in the cold, searching
light of the moon. A low wall ran to right and left of it and enclosed a
small yard at the back of the cottage; the wall had a gate in it which
gave on the fields beyond. At the moment that the two riders trotting
slowly down the road reached the first angle of the wall, the gate was
open and a man leading a white horse and wearing a grey redingote turned
into the yard.

"My God! the Emperor!" exclaimed one of the riders as he drew rein.

They both turned their horses into the field, skirting the low,
enclosing wall until they reached the gate. The white horse was now
tethered to a post and the man in the grey redingote was standing in the
doorway at the rear of the cottage. The two men dismounted and in their
turn led their horses into the yard: at sight of them the man in the
grey redingote seemed to wake from his sleep.

"Berthier," he said slowly, "is that you?"

"Yes, Sire,--and Colonel Bertrand is here too."

"What do you want?"

"We earnestly beg you, Sire, to come with us to Genappe. There is not
the slightest hope of rallying any portion of your army now. The
Prussians are on us. You might fall into their hands."

Berthier--conqueror and Prince of Wagram--spoke very earnestly and with
head uncovered, but more abruptly and harshly than he had been wont to
do of yore in the salons of the Tuileries or on the glory-crowned
battlefields at the close of a victorious day.

"I am coming! I am coming!" said the Emperor with a quick sigh of
impatience. "I only wanted to be alone a moment--to think things out--to
. . ."

"There is nothing quite so urgent, Sire, as your safety," retorted the
Prince of Wagram drily.

The Emperor did not--or did not choose to--heed his great Marshal's
marked want of deference. Perhaps he was accustomed to the moods of
these men whom his bounty had fed and loaded with wealth and dignities
and titles in the days of his glory, and who had proved only too ready,
alas!--even last year, even now--to desert him when disaster was in
sight.

Without another word he turned on his heel and pushing open the cottage
door he disappeared into the darkness of the tiny room beyond. With an
impatient shrug of the shoulders Berthier prepared to follow him.
Colonel Bertrand busied himself with tethering the horses, then he too
followed Berthier into the building.

It was deserted, of course, as all isolated cottages and houses had been
in the vicinity of Quatre Bras or Mont Saint Jean. Bertrand struck a
tinder and lighted a tallow candle that stood forlorn on a deal table in
the centre of the room. The flickering light revealed a tiny cottage
kitchen--hastily abandoned but scrupulously clean--white-washed walls, a
red-tiled floor, the iron hearth, the painted dresser decorated with
white crockery, shiny tin pans hung in rows against the walls and two
or three rush chairs. Napoleon sat down.

"I again entreat you, Sire--" began Berthier more earnestly than before.

But the Emperor was staring straight out before him, with eyes that
apparently saw something beyond that rough white wall opposite, on which
the flickering candle-light threw such weird gargantuan shadows. The
precious minutes sped on: minutes wherein death or capture strode with
giant steps across the fields of Flanders to this lonely cottage where
the once mightiest ruler in Europe sat dreaming of what might have been.
The silence of the night was broken by the thunder of flying horses'
hoofs, by the cries of "Sauve qui peut!" and distant volleys of
artillery proclaiming from far away that Death had not finished all his
work yet.

Bertrand and Berthier stood by, with heads uncovered: silent, moody and
anxious.

Suddenly the dreamer roused himself for a moment and spoke abruptly and
with his usual peremptory impatience: "De Marmont," he said. "Has either
of you seen him?"

"Not lately, Sire," replied Colonel Bertrand, "not since five o'clock at
any rate."

"What was he doing then?"

"He was riding furiously in the direction of Nivelles. I shouted to him.
He told me that he was making for Brussels by a circuitous way."

"Ah! that is right! Well done, my brave de Marmont! Braver than your
treacherous kinsman ever was! So you saw him, did you, Bertrand? Did he
tell you that he had just come from Genappe?"

"Yes, Sire, he did," replied Bertrand moodily. "He told me that by your
orders he had sent a messenger from there to Paris with news of your
victory: and that by to-morrow morning the capital would be ringing
with enthusiasm and with cheers."

"And by the time de Marmont came back from Genappe," interposed the
Prince of Wagram with a sneer, "the plains of Waterloo were ringing with
the Grand Army's '_Sauve qui peut!_'"

"An episode, Prince, only an episode!" said Napoleon with an angry frown
of impatience. "To hear you now one would imagine that Essling had never
been. We have been beaten back, of course, but for the moment the world
does not know that. Paris to-morrow will be be-flagged and the bells of
Notre Dame will send forth their joyous peals to cheer the hearts of my
people. And in Brussels this afternoon thousands of our
enemies--Belgians, Dutch, Hanoverians, Brunswickers--were rushing
helter-skelter into the town--demoralised and disorganised after that
brilliant charge of our cuirassiers against the Allied left."

"Would to God the British had been among them too," murmured old Colonel
Bertrand. "But for their stand . . ."

"And a splendid stand it was. Ah! but for that. . . . To think that if
Grouchy had kept the Prussians away, in only another hour we . . ."

The dreamer paused in his dream of the might have been: then he
continued more calmly:

"But I was not thinking of that just now. I was thinking of those who
fled to Brussels this afternoon with the news of our victory and of
Wellington's defeat."

"Even then the truth is known in Brussels by now," protested Berthier.

"Yes! but not before de Marmont has had the time and the pluck to save
us and our Empire! . . . Berthier," he continued more vehemently, "don't
stand there so gloomy, man . . . and you, too, my old Bertrand. . . .
Surely, surely you have realised that at this terrible juncture we must
utilise every circumstance which is in our favour. . . . That early
news of our victory . . . we can make use of that. . . . A big throw in
this mighty game, but we can do it . . . Berthier, do you see how we can
do it . . . ?"

"No, Sire, I confess that I do not," replied the Marshal gloomily.

"You do not see?" retorted the Emperor with a frown of angry impatience.
"De Marmont did--at once--but he is young--and enthusiastic, whereas
you. . . . But don't you see that the news of Wellington's defeat must
have enormous consequences on the money markets of the world--if only
for a few hours? . . . It must send the prices on the foreign Bourses
tumbling about people's ears and create an absolute panic on the London
Stock Exchange. Only for a few hours of course . . . but do you not see
that if any man is wise enough to buy stock in London during that panic
he can make a fortune by re-selling the moment the truth is known?"

"Even then, Sire," stammered Berthier, a little confused by this
avalanche of seemingly irrelevant facts hurled at him at a moment when
the whole map of Europe was being changed by destiny and her future
trembled in the hands of God.

"Ah, de Marmont saw it all . . . at once . . ." continued the Emperor
earnestly, "he saw eye to eye with me. He knows that money--a great deal
of money--is just what I want now . . . money to reorganise my army, to
re-equip and reform it. The Chamber and my Ministers will never give me
what I want. . . . My God! they are such cowards! and some of them would
rather see the foreign troops again in Paris than Napoleon Emperor at
the Tuileries. You should know that, Maréchal, and you, too, my good
Bertrand. De Marmont knows it . . . that is why he rode to Brussels at
the hour when I alone knew that all was lost at Waterloo, but when half
Europe still thought that the Corsican ogre had conquered again. . . .
De Marmont is in Brussels now . . . to-night he crosses over to
England--to-morrow morning he and his broker will be in the Stock
Exchange in London--calm, silent, watchful. An operation on the Bourse,
what? like hundreds that have been done before . . . but in this case
the object will be to turn one million into fifty so that with it I
might rebuild my Empire again."

He spoke with absolute conviction, and with indomitable fervour, sitting
here quietly, he--the architect of the mightiest empire of modern
days--just as he used to do in the camps at Austerlitz and Jena and
Wagram and Friedland--with one clenched hand resting upon the rough deal
table, the flickering light of the tallow candle illuminating the wide
brow, the heavy jaw, those piercing eyes that still gazed--in this hour
of supreme catastrophe--into a glorious future destined never to
be--scheming, planning, scheming still, even while his Grand Army was
melting into nothingness all around him, and distant volleys of musketry
were busy consummating the final annihilation of the Empire which he had
created and still hoped to rebuild.

Berthier gave a quick sign of impatience.

Rebuild an Empire, ye gods!--an Empire!--when the flower of its manhood
lies pale and stark like the windrows of corn after the harvester has
done his work. Thoughts of a dreamer! Schemes of a visionary! How will
the quaking lips which throughout the length and breadth of this vast
hecatomb now cry, "Sauve qui peut!" how will they ever intone again the
old "Vive l'Empereur!"

The conqueror of Wagram gave a bitter sigh and faithful Bertrand hung
his head gloomily; but de Marmont had neither sighed nor doubted: but
then de Marmont was young--he too was a dreamer, and an enthusiast and a
visionary. His idol in his eyes had never had feet of clay. For him the
stricken man was his Emperor still--the architect, the creator, the
invincible conqueror--checked for a moment in his glorious work, but
able at his will to rebuild the Empire of France again on the very ruins
that smouldered now on the fields of Waterloo.

"I can do it, Sire," he had cried exultantly, when his Emperor first
expounded his great, new scheme to him. "I can be in Brussels in an
hour, and catch the midnight packet for England at Ostend. At dawn I
shall be in London, and by ten o'clock at my post. I know a financier--a
Jew, and a mightily clever one--he will operate for me. I have a million
or two francs invested in England, we'll use these for our operations!
Money, Sire! You shall have millions! Our differences on the Stock
Exchange will equip the finest army that even you have ever had! Fifty
millions? I'll bring you a hundred! God has not yet decreed the downfall
of the Empire of France!"

So de Marmont had spoken this afternoon in the enthusiasm of his youth
and of his hero-worship: and since then the great dreamer had continued
to weave his dreams! Nothing was lost, nothing could be lost whilst
enthusiasm such as that survived in the hearts of the young.

And still wrapped in his dream he sat on, while danger and death and
disgrace threatened him on every side. Berthier and Bertrand entreated
in vain, in vain tried to drag him away from this solitary place, where
any moment a party of Prussians might find and capture him.

Unceremoniously the Prince of Wagram had blown out the flickering light
that might have attracted the attention of the pursuers. It was a very
elementary precaution, the only one he or Bertrand was able to take. The
horses were out in the yard for anyone to see, and the greatest spoil of
victory might at any moment fall into the hands of the meanest Prussian
soldier out for loot.

But the dreamer still sat on in the gloom, with the pale light of the
moon streaming in through the narrow casement window and illumining that
marble-like face, rigid and set, that seemed only to live by the
glowing eyes--the eyes that looked into the future and the past and
heeded not the awful present.

Close on a quarter of an hour went by until at last he jumped to his
feet, with the sudden cry of "To Genappe!"

Berthier heaved a sigh of relief and Bertrand hurried out to unfasten
the horses.

"You are impatient, Prince," said the Emperor almost gaily, as he strode
with a firm step to the door. "You are afraid those cursed Prussians
will put the Corsican ogre into a cage and send him at once to His
Victorious Bourbon Majesty King Louis XVIII. Not so, my good Berthier,
not so. The Star of my Destiny has not yet declined. I've done all the
thinking I wanted to do. Now we'll to Genappe, where we'll rally the
remnants of our army and then quietly await de Marmont's return with the
millions which we want. After that we'll boldly on to Paris and defy my
enemies there . . . En avant, Maréchal! the Corsican ogre is not in the
iron cage yet!"

Outside Bertrand was holding his stirrup for him. He swung himself
lightly in the saddle and turned out of the farmyard gate into the open,
throwing back his head and sniffing the storm-laden air as if he was
about to lead his army to one of his victorious charges. Not waiting to
see how close the other two men followed him, he put his horse at once
at a gallop.

He rode on--never pausing--never looking round even on that gigantic
desolation which the cold light of the moon weirdly and fitfully
revealed--his mind was fixed upon a fresh throw on the gaming table of
the world.

Overhead the storm-driven clouds chased one another with unflagging fury
across the moonlit sky, now obscuring, now revealing that gigantic
dissolution of the Grand Army, so like the melting of ice and frost
under the fierce kiss of the sun.

More than men in an attack, less than women in a retreat, the finest
cavalry Europe had ever seen was flying like sand before the wind: but
the somnambulist rode on in his sleep, forgetting that on these vast and
billowing fields twenty-six thousand gallant French heroes had died for
the sake of his dreams.

Bertrand and the Prince of Wagram followed--gloomy and silent--they knew
that all suggestions would be useless, all saner advice remain unheeded.
Besides, de Marmont had gone, and after all, what did it all matter?
What did anything matter, now that Empire, glory, hope, everything were
irretrievably lost?

And in faithful Bertrand's deep-set eyes there came a strange, far-off
look, almost of premonition, as if in his mind he could already see that
lonely island rock in the Atlantic, and the great gambler there, eating
out his heart with vain and bitter regrets.


II

But de Marmont had never had any doubts, never any forebodings: he only
had boundless faith in his hero and boundless enthusiasm for his cause.
Accustomed to handle money since early manhood, owner of a vast fortune
which he had administered himself with no mean skill, he had no doubt
that the Emperor's scheme for manufacturing a few millions in a wild
gamble on the Stock Exchange was not only feasible but certain of
success.

Undoubtedly the false news of Wellington's defeat would reach London
to-morrow, as it had already reached Paris and Brussels. The panic in
the money market was a foregone conclusion: the quick rise in prices
when the truth became known was equally certain. It only meant
forestalling the arrival of Wellington's despatches in London by four
and twenty hours, and one million would make fifty during that time.

As de Marmont had told his Emperor, he had several hundred thousand
pounds invested in England, on which he could lay his hands: operations
on the Bourse were nothing new to him: and already while he was still
listening with respect and enthusiasm to his Emperor's instructions, he
was longing to get away. He knew the country well between here and
Brussels, and he was wildly longing to be at work, to be flying across
the low-lying land, on to Brussels and then across to England in the
wake of the awful news of complete disaster.

He would steal the uniform of some poor dead wretch--a Belgium or a
Hanoverian or a black Brunswicker, he didn't care which--it wouldn't
take long to strip the dead, and the greatness of the work at stake
would justify the sacrilege. In the uniform of one of the Allied army he
could safely continue his journey to Brussels, and with luck could reach
the city long before sunset.

In Brussels he would at once obtain civilian clothes and then catch the
evening packet for England at Ostend. Oh, no! it was not likely that
Wellington could send a messenger over to London quite so soon!

At this hour--it was just past five--he was still on Mont Saint Jean
making another desperate stand against the Imperial cavalry with troops
half worn out with discouragement and whose endurance must even now be
giving way.

At this hour the Prussians had appeared at Braine L'Alleud, they had
engaged Reille at Plancenoit, but Wellington and the British had still
to hold their ground or the news which de Marmont intended to accompany
to London might prove true after all.

Ye gods, if only that were possible! How gladly would Victor then have
lost the hundred thousands which he meant to risk to-morrow! Wellington
really vanquished before Blücher could come to his rescue! Napoleon
once more victorious, as he had always been, and a mightier monarch
than before! Then he, Victor de Marmont, the faithful young enthusiast
who had never ceased to believe when others wavered, who at this last
hour--when the whole world seemed to crumble away from under the feet of
the man who had once been its master--was still ready to serve his
Emperor, never doubting, always hoping, he would reap such a reward as
must at last dazzle the one woman who could make that reward for him
doubly precious.

Victor de Marmont had effected the gruesome exchange. He was now dressed
in the black uniform of a Brunswick regiment wherein so many French
royalists were serving. By a wide détour he had reached the approach to
Brussels. Indeed it seemed as if the news which he had sent flying to
Paris was true after all. Behind the forest of Soigne where he now was,
the fields and roads were full of running men and galloping horses. The
dull green of Belgian uniforms, the yellow facings of the Dutch, the
black of Brunswickers, all mingled together in a moving kaleidoscopic
mass of colour: men were flying unpursued yet panic-stricken towards
Brussels, carrying tidings of an awful disaster to the allied armies in
their haggard faces, their quivering lips, their blood-stained tunics.

De Marmont joined in with them: though his heart was full of hope, he
too contrived to look pale and spent and panic-stricken at will--he
heard the shouts of terror, the hastily murmured "All is lost! even the
British can no longer stand!" as horses maddened with fright bore their
half-senseless riders by. He set his teeth and rode on. His dark eyes
glowed with satisfaction; there was no fear that the great gambler would
stake his last in vain: the news would travel quick enough--as news of
disaster always will. Brussels even now must be full of weeping women
and children, as it soon would be of terror-driven men, of wounded and
of maimed crawling into the shelter of the town to die in peace.

And as he rode, de Marmont thought more and more of Crystal. The last
three months had only enhanced his passionate love for her and his
maddening desire to win her yet at all costs. St. Genis would of course
be fighting to-day. Perchance a convenient shot would put him
effectively out of the way. De Marmont had vainly tried in this wild
gallopade to distinguish his rival's face among this mass of foreigners.

As for the Englishman! Well! no doubt he had disappeared long ago out of
Crystal de Cambray's life. De Marmont had never feared him greatly. That
one look of understanding between Crystal and Clyffurde, and the
latter's strange conduct about the money at the inn, were alone
responsible for the few twinges of jealousy which de Marmont had
experienced in that quarter.

Indeed, the Englishman was a negligible quantity. De Marmont did not
fear him. There was only St. Genis, and with the royalist cause rendered
absolutely hopeless--as it would be, as it _must_ be--St. Genis and the
Comte de Cambray and all those stiff-necked aristocrats of the old
regime who had thought fit to turn their proud backs on him at Brestalou
three months ago, would be irretrievably ruined and discredited and
would have to fly the country once more . . . and Crystal, faced with
the alternative of penury in England or a brilliant existence at the
Tuileries as the wife of the Emperor's most faithful friend, would make
her choice as he--de Marmont--never doubted that any woman would.

Hope for him had already become reality. Brussels was the half-way halt
to the uttermost heights of his ambition. Fortune, the Emperor's
gratitude, the woman he loved, all waited for him there. He reached the
city just as that distant horizon in the west was lit up by a streak of
brilliant crimson from the fast sinking sun: just when--had he but
known it!--on the crest of Mont Saint Jean, Wellington had waved his hat
over his head and given the heroic British army--exhausted, but
undaunted--the order for a general charge; just when the Grand Army,
finally checked in its advance, had first set up the ominous call that
was like the passing-bell of its dying glory: "Sauve qui peut!"


III

"Sauve qui peut!"

Bobby Clyffurde heard the cry too through the fast gathering shadows of
unconsciousness that closed in round his wearied senses, and, as a film
that was so like the kindly veil of approaching Death spread over his
eyes, he raised them up just once to that vivid crimson glow far out in
the west, and on the winged chariot of the setting sun he sent up his
last sigh of gratitude to God. All day he had called for Death--all day
he had wooed her there where bullets and grape-shot were thickest--where
her huge scythe had been most busily at work.

Sons of fond mothers, husbands, sweethearts that were dearly loved,
brothers that would be endlessly mourned, lives that were more precious
than any earthly treasures--the ghostly harvester claimed them all with
impartial cruelty. And he--desolate and lonely--with no one greatly to
care if he came back or no--with not a single golden thread of hope to
which he might cling, without a dream to brighten the coming days of
dreariness--with a life in the future that could hold nothing but vain
regrets, Bobby had sought Death twenty times to-day and Death had
resolutely passed him by.

But now he was grateful for that: he was thankful that he had lived just
long enough to see the sunset, just long enough to take part in that
last glorious charge in obedience to Wellington's inspiring command:
"Up, guards, and at them!" he was glad to have lived just long enough
to hear the "Sauve qui peut!" to know that the Grand Army was in full
retreat, that Blücher had come up in time, that British pluck and
British endurance had won the greatest victory of all times for
Britain's flag and her national existence.

Now with a rough bandage hastily tied round his head where grape-shot
had lacerated cheek and ear, with a bayonet thrust in the thigh and
another in the arm, Bobby had remained lying there with many thousands
round him as silent, as uncomplaining, as he--in the down-trodden
corn--and with the tramp of thousands of galloping, fleeing horses, the
clash of steel and fusillade of tirailleurs and artillery reaching his
dimmed senses like a distant echo from the land of ghosts. And before
his eyes--half veiled in unconsciousness, there flitted the tender,
delicate vision of Crystal de Cambray: of her blue eyes and soft fair
hair, done up in a quaint mass of tiny curls; of the scarf of filmy lace
which she always liked to wrap round her shoulders, and through the lace
the pearly sheen of her skin, of her arms, and of her throat. The air
around him had become pure and rarified: that horrible stench of powder
and smoke and blood no longer struck his nostrils--it was roses, roses
all around him--crimson roses--sweet and caressing and fragrant--with
soft, velvety petals that brushed against his cheek--and from somewhere
close by came a dreamy melody, the half-sad, half-gay lilt of an
intoxicating dance.

It was delicious! and Bobby, wearied, sore and aching in body, felt his
soul lifted to some exquisite heights which were not yet heaven, of
course, but which must of a truth form the very threshold of Paradise.

He saw Crystal more and more clearly every moment: now he was looking
straight into her blue eyes, and her little hand, cool and white as
snow, rested upon his burning forehead. She smiled on him--as on a
friend--there was no contempt, no harshness in her look--only a great,
consoling pity and something that seemed like an appeal!

Yes! the longer he himself looked into those blue eyes of hers, the more
sure he was that there was an appeal in them. It almost seemed as if she
needed him, in a way that she had never needed him before. Apparently
she could not speak: she could not tell him what it was she wanted: but
her little hands seemed to draw him up, out of the trodden, trampled
corn, and having soothed his aches and pains they seemed to impel him to
do something--that was important . . . and imperative . . . something
that she wanted done.

He begged her to let him lie here in peace, for he was now comforted and
happy. He was quite sure now that he was dead, that her sweet face had
been the last tangible vision which he had seen on earth, ere he closed
his eyes in the last long sleep.


He had seen her and she had gone. All of a sudden she had vanished, and
darkness was closing in around him: the scent of roses faded into the
air, which was now filled again with horrid sounds--the deafening roar
of cannon, the sharp and incessant retort of rifle-fire, the awesome
mêlée of cries and groans and bugle-calls and sighs of agony, and one
deafening cry--so like the last wail of departing souls--which came from
somewhere--not very far away: "Vive l'Empereur!"

Bobby raised himself to a sitting posture. His head ached terribly--he
was stiff in every limb: a burning, almost intolerable pain gnawed at
his thigh and at his left arm. But consciousness had returned and with
it all the knowledge of what this day had meant: all round him there was
the broken corn, stained with blood and mud, all round him lay the dead
and the dying in their thousands. Far away in the west a crimson glow
like fire lit up this vast hecatomb of brave lives sacrificed, this
final agony of the vast Empire, the might and grandeur of one man laid
low this day by the mightier hand of God.

It lit up with the weird light of the dying day the pallid, clean-shaven
faces of gallant British boys, the rugged faces of the Scot, the olive
skin of the child of Provence, the bronzed cheeks of old veterans: it
threw its lurid glow on red coats and black coats, white facings and
gilt epaulettes; it drew sparks as of still-living fire from
breastplates and broken swords, discarded casques and bayonets,
sabretaches and kilts and bugles and drums, and dead horses and arms and
accoutrements and dead and dying men, all lying pell-mell in a huge
litter with the glow of midsummer sunset upon them--poor little
chessmen--pawns and knights--castles of strength and kings of some
lonely mourning hearts--all swept together by the Almighty hand of the
Great Master of this terrestrial game.

But with returning consciousness Bobby's gaze took in a wider range of
vision. He visualised exactly where he was--on the south slope of Mont
Saint Jean with La Haye Sainte on ahead a little to his left, and the
whitewashed walls of La Belle Alliance still further away gleaming
golden in the light of the setting sun.

He saw that on the wide road which leads to Genappe and Charleroi the
once invincible cavalry of the mighty Emperor was fleeing helter-skelter
from the scene of its disaster: he saw that the British--what was left
of them--were in hot pursuit! He saw from far Plancenoit the
scintillating casques of Blücher's Prussians.

And on the left a detachment of allied troops--Dutch, Belgian,
Brunswickers--had just started down the slope of the plateau to join in
this death-dealing pell-mell, where amongst the litter of dead and
dying, in the confusion of pursuer and pursued, comrade fought at times
against comrade, brother fired on brother--Prussian against British.

Down below behind the farm buildings of La Haye Sainte two battalions of
chasseurs of the Old Guard had made a stand around a tattered bit of
tricolour and the bronze eagle--symbol of so much decadent grandeur and
of such undying glory. "A moi chasseurs," brave Général Pelet had cried.
"Let us save the eagle or die beneath its wing."

And those who heard this last call of despair stopped in their headlong
flight; they forged a way for themselves through the mass of running
horses and men, they rallied to their flag, and with their
tirailleurs--kneeling on one knee--ranged in a circle round them, they
now formed a living bulwark for their eagle, of dauntless breasts and
bristling bayonets.

And upon this mass of desperate men, the small body of raw Dutch and
Belgian and German troops now hurled themselves with wild huzzas and
blind impetuousness. Against this mass of heroes and of conquerors in a
dozen victorious campaigns--men who had no longer anything to lose but
life, and to whom life meant less than nothing now--against them a
handful of half-trained recruits, drunk with the cry of "Victory" which
drowned the roar of the cannon and the clash of sabres, drunk with the
vision of glory which awaited them if that defiant eagle were brought to
earth by them!

And as Bobby staggered to his feet he already saw the impending
catastrophe--one of the many on this day of cumulative disasters. He saw
the Dutch and the Belgians and the Brunswickers rush wildly to the
charge--young men--enthusiasts--brave--but men whose ranks had twice
been broken to-day--who twice had rallied to their colours and then had
broken again--men who were exhausted--men who were none too ably
led--men in fact--and there were many French royalists among their
officers--who had not the physical power of endurance which had enabled
the British to astonish the world to-day.

Bobby could see amongst them the Brunswickers and their black coats--he
would have known them amongst millions of men. The full brilliance of
the evening glow was upon them--on their black coats and the silver
galoons and tassels; two of their officers had made a brave show in
Brussels three days--or was it a hundred years?--ago at the Duchess of
Richmond's ball. Bobby remembered them so well, for one of these two
officers was Maurice de St. Genis.

Oh! how Crystal would love to see him now--even though her dear heart
would be torn with anxiety for him--for he was fighting bravely, bravely
and desperately as every one had fought to-day, as these chasseurs of
the Old Guard--just the few of them that remained--were fighting still
even at this hour round that tattered flag and that bronze eagle, and
with the cry of "Vive l'Empereur!" dying upon their lips.

Despair indeed on both sides--even at this hour when the merest incident
might yet turn the issue of this world-conflict one way or the other.
Bobby, as he steadied himself on his feet, had seen that the attack was
already turning into a rout. Not only had Pelet's chasseurs held the
Dutch and Brunswickers at bay, not only had their tirailleurs made
deadly havoc among their assailants, but the latter now were threatened
with absolute annihilation even whilst all around them their
allies--British and Prussian--were crying "Victory!"

Bobby could see them quite clearly--for he saw with that subtle and
delicate sense which only a great and pure passion can give!--he saw the
danger at the very moment when it was born--at the precise instant when
it threatened that handful of black-coated men, one of whose officers
was named St. Genis. He saw the first sign of wavering, of stupefaction,
that followed the impetuous charge: he saw the gaps in the ranks after
that initial deadly volley from the tirailleurs. It almost seemed as if
he could hear those shouts of "Vive l'Empereur!" and the rallying cry of
commanding officers--it was all so near--not more than three hundred
yards away, and the clear, stormy atmosphere carried sights and sounds
upon its wing.

Another volley from the tirailleurs and the Dutch and Brunswickers
turned to fly: in vain did their officers call, they wanted to get away!
They tried to fly--to run, for now the chasseurs were at them with
bayonets--they tried to run, but the ground was littered with their own
wounded and dead--with the wounded and the dead of a long day of
carnage: they stumbled at every step--fell over the dying and the
wounded--over dead and wounded horses--over piles of guns and swords and
bayonets, and sabretaches, over forsaken guns and broken carriages,
litter that impeded them in front even as they were driven with the
bayonet from the rear.

Bobby saw it all, for they were coming now--pursued and pursuers--as
fast as ever they could; they were coming, these flying, black-coated
men, casting away their gay trappings as well as their arms, trying to
run--to get away--but stumbling, falling all the time--picking
themselves up, falling and running again.

And in that one short moment while the whole brief tragedy was enacted
before his eyes, Bobby also saw, in a vision that was equally swift and
fleeting, the blue eyes of Crystal drowned in tears. He saw her with
fair head drooping like a lily, he saw the quiver of her lips, heard the
moan of pain that would come to her lips when the man she loved was
brought home to her--dead. And in that same second--so full of
portent--Bobby understood why it was that her sweet image had called to
him for help just now. Again she called, again she beckoned--her blue
eyes looked on him with an appeal that was all-compelling: her two dear
hands were clasped and she begged of him that he should be her friend.

Such visions come from God! no man sees them save he whose soul is great
and whose heart is pure. Poor Bobby Clyffurde--lonely, heart-broken,
desolate--saw the exquisite face that he would have loved to kiss--he
saw it with the golden glow of evening upon the delicate cheeks, and
with the lurid light of fire and battle upon the soft, fair hair.

And the greatness of his love helped him to understand what life still
held for him--the happiness of supreme sacrifice.

All around him was death, but there was some life too: one or two poor,
abandoned riderless horses were quietly picking bits of corn from
between the piles of dead and dying men, or were standing, sniffing the
air with dilated nostrils, and snorting with terror at the deafening
noise. Bobby had steadied himself, neither his head nor his limbs were
aching now--at any rate he had forgotten them--all that he remembered
was what he saw, those black-coated Brunswickers who longed to fly and
could not and who were being slaughtered like insects even as they
stumbled and fled.

And Bobby caught the bridle of one of these poor, terror-stricken beasts
that stood snorting and sniffing not far away: he crawled up into the
saddle, for his thigh was numb and one of his arms helpless. But once on
horseback he could get along--over trampled corn and over the dead--on
toward that hideous corner behind the farm of La Haye Sainte where
desperate men were butchering others that were more desperate than
they--in among that seething crowd of black coats and fur bonnets, of
silver tassels and of brass eagles, into a whirlpool of swords and
bayonets and gun-fire from the tirailleurs--for there he had seen the
man whom Crystal loved--for whose sake she would eat out her heart with
mourning and regret.

In the deafening noise of shrieking and sighs and whizzing bullets and
cries of agony he heard Crystal's voice telling him what to do. Already
he had seen St. Genis struggling on his knees not fifty mètres away from
the first line of tirailleurs, not a hundred from the advancing steel
wall of fixed bayonets. Maurice had thrown back his head, in the
hopelessness of his despair; the evening sun fell full upon his haggard,
blood-stained face, upon his wide-open eyes filled with the terror of
death. The next moment Bobby Clyffurde was by his side; all around him
bullets were whizzing--all around him men sighed their last sigh of
agony. He stooped over his saddle: "Can you pull yourself up?" he
called. And with his one sound arm he caught Maurice by the elbow and
helped him to struggle to his feet. The horse, dazed with terror,
snorted at the smell of blood, but he did not move. Maurice, equally
dazed, scrambled into the saddle--almost inert--a dead weight--a thing
that impeded progress and movement; but the thing that Crystal loved
above all things on earth and which Bobby knew he must wrest out of
these devouring jaws of Death and lay--safe and sound--within the
shelter of her arms.


IV

After that it meant a struggle--not for his own life, for indeed he
cared little enough for that--but for the sake of the burden which he
was carrying--a burden of infinite preciousness since Crystal's heart
and happiness were bound up with it.

Maurice de St. Genis clung half inert to him with one hand gripping the
saddle-bow, the other clutching Bobby's belt with convulsive tenacity.
Bobby himself was only half conscious, dazed with the pain of wounds,
the exertion of hoisting that dead weight across his saddle, the
deafening noise of whizzing bullets round him, the boring of the
frightened horse against its bridle, as it tried to pick its way through
the tangled heaps upon the ground.

But every moment lessened the danger from stray bullets, and the chance
of the bayonet charge from behind. The cries of "Vive l'Empereur!" round
that still standing eagle were drowned in the medley and confusion of
hundreds of other sounds. Bobby was just able to guide his horse away
from the spots where the fighting was most hot and fierce, where
Vivian's hussars attacked those two battalions of cuirassiers, where
Adam's brigade of artillery turned the flank of the chasseurs and laid
the proud bronze eagle low, where Ney and the Old Guard were showing to
the rest of the Grand Army how grizzled veterans fought and died.

He rode straight up the plateau, however, but well to the right now,
picking his way carefully with that blind instinct which the tracked
beast possesses and which the hunted man sometimes receives from God.

The dead and the dying were less thick here upon the ground. It was here
that earlier in the day the Dutch and the Belgians and the Brunswickers
had supported the British left, during those terrific cavalry charges
which British endurance and tenacity had alone been able to withstand.
It was here that Hacke's Cumberland Hussars had broken their ranks and
fled, taking to Brussels and thence to Ghent the news of terrific
disaster. Bobby's lips were tight set and he snorted like a war-horse
when he thought of that--when he thought of the misery and sorrow that
must be reigning in Brussels now--and of the consternation at Ghent
where the poor old Bourbon King was probably mourning his dead hopes and
his vanished throne.

In Brussels women would be weeping; and Crystal--forlorn and
desolate--would perhaps be sitting at her window watching the stream of
fugitives that came in--wounded and exhausted--from the field of battle,
recounting tales of a catastrophe which had no parallel in modern times:
and Crystal, seeing and hearing this, would think of the man she loved,
and believing him to be dead would break her heart with sorrow.

And when Bobby thought of that he was spurred to fresh effort, and he
pulled himself together with a desperate tension of every nerve and
sinew, fighting exhaustion, ignoring pain, conjuring up the vision of
Crystal's blue eyes and her pleading look as she begged him to save her
from lifelong sorrow and the anguish of future loneliness. Then he no
longer heard the weird and incessant cannonade, he no longer saw the
desolation of this utter confusion around him, he no longer felt
exhausted, or the weight of that lifeless, impeding burden upon his
saddle-bow.

Stray bands of fugitives with pursuers hot on their heels passed him by,
stray bullets flew to right and left of him, whizzing by with their
eerie, whistling sound; he was now on the outskirts of the great
pursuit--anon he reached the crest of Mont Saint Jean at last, and
almost blindly struck back eastward in the direction of the forest of
Soigne.

It was blind instinct--and nothing more--that kept him on his horse: he
clung to his saddle with half-paralysed knees, just as a drowning man
will clutch a floating bit of wreckage that helps him to keep his head
above the water. The stately trees of Soigne were not far ahead now:
through the forest any track that bore to the left would strike the
Brussels road; only a little more strength--another effort or two--the
cool solitude of the wood would ease the weight of the burden and the
throbbing of nerves and brain. The setting sun shone full upon the leafy
edge of the wood; hazelnut and beech and oak and clumps of briar rose
quivered under the rough kiss of the wind that blew straight across the
lowland from the southwest, bringing with it still the confusion of
sounds--the weird cannonades and dismal bugle-calls--in such strange
contrast to the rustle of the leaves and the crackling of tiny twigs in
the tangled coppice.

How cool and delicious it must be under those trees--and there was a
narrow track which must lead straight to the Brussels road--the ground
looked soft and mossy and damp after the rain--oh! for the strength to
reach those leafy shadows, to plunge under that thicket and brush with
burning forehead against those soft green leaves heavy with moisture!
Oh! for the power to annihilate this distance of a few hundred yards
that lie between this immense graveyard open to wind and scorching sun,
and the green, cool moss and carpet of twigs and leaves and soft,
sweet-smelling earth, on which a weary body and desolate soul might find
eternal rest! . . .


V

On! on! through the forest of Soigne! There was no question as yet of
rest.

Maurice had not yet wakened from his trance. Bobby vaguely wondered if
he were not already dead. There was no stain of blood upon his fine
uniform, but it was just possible that in stumbling, running and falling
he had hit his head or received a blow which had deprived him of
consciousness directly after he had scrambled into the saddle.

Bobby remembered how pale and haggard he had looked and how his hand had
by the merest instinct clutched at the saddle-bow, and then had dropped
away from it--helpless and inert. Now he lay quite still with his head
resting against Bobby's shoulder.

Under the trees it was cool and the air was sweet and soothing: Bobby
with his left hand contrived to tear a handful of leaves from the
coppice as he passed: they were full of moisture and he pressed them
against Maurice's lips and against his own.

The forest was full of sounds: of running men and horses, the rattle of
wheels, and the calls of terror and of pain, with still and always that
awesome background of persistent cannonade. But Bobby heard nothing, saw
nothing save the narrow track in front of him, along which the horse now
ambled leisurely, and from time to time--when he looked down--the pale,
haggard face of the man whom Crystal loved.

At one moment Maurice opened his eyes and murmured feebly: "Where am I?"

"On the way to Brussels," Bobby contrived to reply.

A little later on horse and rider emerged out of the wood and the
Brussels road stretched out its long straight ribbon before Bobby
Clyffurde's dull, uncomprehending gaze.

Close by at his feet the milestone marked the last six kilomètres to
Brussels. Only another half-dozen kilomètres--only another hour's ride
at most! . . . Only!!! . . . when even now he felt that the next few
minutes must see him tumbling head-foremost from the saddle.

Far away beyond the milestone on his right--in a meadow, the boundary of
which touched the edge of the wood--women were busy tossing hay after
the rain, all unconscious of the simple little tragedy that was being
enacted so close to them: their cotton dresses and the kerchiefs round
their heads stood out as trenchant, vivid notes of colour against the
dull grey landscape beyond. A couple of haycarts were standing by:
beside them two men were lighting their pipes. The wind was playing with
the hay as the women tossed it, and their shrill laughter came echoing
across the meadow.

And even now the ground was shaken with the repercussion of distant
volleys of artillery, and along the road a stream of men were running
toward Brussels, horses galloped by frightened and riderless, or
dragging broken gun-carriages behind them in the mud. The whole of that
stream was carrying the news of Wellington's disaster to Brussels and to
Ghent: not knowing that behind them had already sounded the passing bell
for the Empire of France.

Bobby had drawn rein on the edge of the wood to give his horse a rest,
and for a while he watched that running stream, longing to shout to them
to turn back--there was no occasion to run--to see what had been done,
to take a share in that glorious, final charge for victory. But his
throat was too parched for a shout, and as he watched, he saw in among a
knot of mounted men--fugitives like the others, pale of face, anxious of
mien and with that intent look which men have when life is precious and
has got to be saved--he saw a man in the same uniform that St. Genis
wore--a Brunswicker in black coat and silver galoons--who stared at him,
persistently and strangely, as he rode by.

The face though much altered by three days' growth of beard, and by the
set of the shako worn right down to the brows, was nevertheless a
familiar one. Bobby--stupefied, deprived for the moment of thinking
powers, through sheer exhaustion and burning pain--taxed his weary brain
in vain to understand the look of recognition which the man in the black
uniform cast upon him as he passed.

Until a lightly spoken: "Hullo, my dear Clyffurde!" uttered gaily as the
rider drew near to the edge of the road, brought the name of "Victor de
Marmont!" to Bobby's quivering lips.

And just for the space of sixty seconds Fate rubbed her gaunt hands
complacently together, seeing that she had brought these three men
together--here on this spot--three men who loved the same woman, each
with the utmost ardour and passion at his command--each even at this
very moment striving to win her and to work for her happiness.

Behind them in the plains of Waterloo the cannon still was roaring: de
Marmont was on his way to redeem the fallen fortunes of the hero whom he
worshipped and to win imperial regard, imperial favours, fortune and
glory wherewith to conquer a girl's obstinacy. St. Genis--pale and
unconscious--seemed even in his unconsciousness to defy the power of any
rival by the might of early love, of old associations, of similarity of
caste and of political ideals. He had fought for the cause which she and
he had both equally at heart and by his very helplessness now he seemed
to prove that he could do no more than he had done and that he had the
right to claim the solace and comfort which her girlish lips and her
girlish love had promised him long ago.

Whilst Bobby had nothing to promise and nothing to give save
devotion--his hope, his desire and his love were bounded by her
happiness. And since her happiness lay in the life of the man whom he
had dragged out of the jaws of Death, what greater proof could he give
of his love than to lay down his life for him and for her?

De Marmont's keen eyes took in the situation at a glance: he threw a
quick look of savage hatred on St. Genis and cast one of contemptuous
pity on Clyffurde. Then with a shrug of the shoulders and a light,
triumphant laugh, he set spurs to his horse and rode swiftly away.

Bobby's lack-lustre eyes followed horse and rider down the road till
they grew smaller and smaller still and finally disappeared in the
distance. For a moment he felt puzzled. What was de Marmont doing in
this stream of senseless, panic-stricken men? What was he doing in the
uniform of one of the Allied nations? Why had he laughed so gaily and
appeared so triumphant in his mien?

Did he not know then that his hero had fallen along with his mighty
eagle? that the brief adventure begun in the gulf of Jouan had ended in
a hopeless tragedy on the field of Waterloo? But why that uniform? Poor
Bobby's head ached too much to allow him to think, and time was getting
on.

The road now was deserted. The last of the fugitives formed but a cloud
of black specks on the line of the horizon far off toward Brussels. From
the hayfield there came the merry sound of women's laughter, while far
away cannon and musketry still roared. And over the long, straight
road--bordered with straight poplar trees--the setting sun threw
ever-lengthening shadows.

Maurice opened his eyes.

"Where am I?" he asked again.

"Close to Brussels now," replied Bobby.

"To Brussels?" murmured St. Genis feebly. "Crystal!"

"Yes," assented Bobby. "Crystal! God bless her!" Then as St. Genis was
trying to move, he added: "Can you shift a little?"

"I think so," replied the other.

"If you could ease the pressure on my leg . . . steady, now! steady!
. . . Can you sit up in the saddle? . . . Are you hurt? . . ."

"Not much. My head aches terribly. I must have hit it against something.
But that is all. I am only dizzy and sick."

"Could you ride on to Brussels alone, think you?"

"Perhaps."

"It is not far. The horse is very quiet. He will amble along if you give
him his head."

"But you?"

"I'd like to rest. I'll find shelter in a cottage perhaps . . . or in
the wood."

St. Genis said nothing more for the moment. He was intent on sliding
down from the saddle without too much assistance from Bobby. When he had
reached the ground, it took him a little while to collect himself, for
his head was swimming: he closed his eyes and put out a hand to steady
himself against a tree.

When Maurice opened his eyes again, Bobby was sitting on the ground by
the roadside: the horse was nibbling a clump of fresh, green grass.

For the first time since that awful moment when stumbling and falling
against a pile of dead, with Death behind and all around him, he had
heard the welcome call: "Can you pull yourself up?" and felt the
steadying grip upon his elbow--Maurice de St. Genis looked upon the man
to whom he owed his life.

With that stained bandage round his head, dulled and bloodshot eyes,
face blackened with powder and smoke and features drawn and haggard,
Bobby Clyffurde was indeed almost unrecognisable. But Maurice knew him
on the instant. Hitherto, he had not thought of how he had come out of
that terrible hell-fire behind La Haye Sainte--indeed, he had quickly
lost consciousness and never regained it till now: and now he knew that
the same man who in the narrow hotel room near Lyons had ungrudgingly
rendered him a signal service--had risked his life to-day for
his--Maurice's sake.

No one could have entered that awful mêlée and faced the bayonet charge
of Pelet's cuirassiers and the hail of bullets from their tirailleurs
without taking imminent risk of death. Yet Clyffurde had done it. Why?
Maurice--wide-eyed and sullen--could only find one answer to that
insistent question.

That same deadly pang of jealousy which had assailed his heart after the
midnight interview at the inn now held him in its cruel grip again. He
felt that he hated the man to whom he owed his life, and that he hated
himself for this mean and base ingratitude. He would not trust himself
to speak or to look on Bobby at all, lest the ugly thoughts which were
floating through his mind set their stamp upon his face.

"Will you ride on to Brussels?" he said at last. "I can wait here . . .
and perhaps you could send a conveyance for me later on. M. le Comte de
Cambray would . . ."

"M. le Comte de Cambray and Mademoiselle Crystal are even now devoured
with anxiety about you," broke in Clyffurde as firmly as he could. "And
I could not ride to Brussels--even though some one were waiting for me
there--I really am not able to ride further. I would prefer to sit here
and rest."

"I don't like to leave you . . . after . . . after what you have done
for me . . . I would like to . . ."

"I would like you to scramble into that saddle and go," retorted Bobby
with a momentary return to his usual good-natured irony, "and to leave
me in peace."

"I'll send out a conveyance for you," rejoined St. Genis. "I know M. le
Comte de Cambray would wish . . ."

"Mention my name to M. le Comte at your peril . . ." began Clyffurde.

"But . . ."

"By the Lord, man," now exclaimed Bobby with a sudden burst of energy,
"if you do not go, I vow that sick as I am, and sick though you may be,
I'll yet manage to punch your aching head."

Then as the other--still reluctantly--turned to take hold of the horse's
bridle, he added more gently: "Can you mount?"

"Oh, yes! I am better now."

"You won't turn giddy, and fall off your horse?"

"I don't think so."

"Talk about the halt leading the blind!" murmured Clyffurde as he
stretched himself out once more upon the soft ground, whilst Maurice
contrived to hoist himself up into the saddle. "Are you safe now?" he
added as the young man collected the reins in his hand, and planted his
feet firmly into the stirrups.

"Yes! I am safe enough," replied St. Genis. "It is only my head that
aches: and Brussels is not far."

Then he paused a moment ere he started to go--with lips set tight and
looking down on Bobby, whose pale face had taken on an ashen hue:

"How you must despise me," he said bitterly.

But Bobby made no reply: he was just longing to be left alone, whilst
the other still seemed inclined to linger.

"Would to God," Maurice said with a sigh, "that M. le Comte heard the
evil news from other lips than mine."

"Evil news?" And Bobby, whom semi-consciousness was already taking off
once more to the land of visions and of dreams--was brought back to
reality--as if with a sudden jerk--with those two preposterous little
words.

"What evil news?" he asked.

"The allied armies have retreated all along the line . . . the Corsican
adventurer is victorious . . . our poor King . . ."

"Hold your tongue, you young fool," cried Bobby hoarsely. "The Lord help
you but I do believe you are about to blaspheme . . ."

"But . . ."

"The Allied Armies--the British Army, God bless it!--have covered
themselves with glory--Napoleon and his Empire have ceased to be. The
Grand Army is in full retreat . . . the Prussians are in pursuit. . . .
The British have won the day by their pluck and their endurance. . . .
Thank God I lived just long enough to see it all, ere I fell . . ."

"But when we charged the cuirassiers . . ." began St. Genis, not knowing
really if Bobby was raving in delirium, or speaking of what he knew. He
wanted to ask further questions, to hear something more before he
started for Brussels . . . the only thing which he remembered with
absolute certainty was that awful charge of his regiment against the
cuirassiers, then the panic and the rout: and he judged the whole issue
of the battle by what had happened to a detachment of Brunswickers.

And yet, of course--before the charge--he had seen and known all that
Bobby told him now. That rush of the Brunswickers and the Dutch down the
hillside was only a part of the huge and glorious charge of the whole of
the Allied troops against the routed Grand Army of Napoleon. He had
neither the physical strength nor the desire to think out all that it
would mean to him personally if what Bobby now told him was indeed
absolutely true.

He was longing to make the wounded man rouse himself just once more and
reiterate the glad news which meant so much to him--Maurice--and to
Crystal. But it was useless to think of that now. Bobby was either
unconscious or asleep. For a moment a twinge of real pity made St.
Genis' heart ache for the man who seemed to be left so lonely and so
desolate: jealousy itself gave way before that more gentle feeling.
After all, Crystal could only be true to the love of her childhood; her
heart belonged to the companion, the lover, the ideal of her girlish
dreams. This stranger here loved her--that was obvious--but Crystal had
never looked on him with anything but indifference. Even that dance last
night . . . but of this Maurice would not think lest pity die out of his
heart again . . . and jealousy and hate walk hand in hand with base
ingratitude.

He turned his horse's head round to the road, pressed his knees into its
sides, and then as the poor, weary beast started to amble leisurely down
the road, Maurice looked back for the last time on the prostrate,
pathetic figure of the lonely man who had given his all for him: he
looked at every landmark which would enable him to find that man
again--the angle of the forest where it touched the meadow,--the
milestone, the trees by the roadside--oh! he meant to do his duty, to do
it well and quickly, to send the conveyance, to neglect nothing; then,
with a sigh--half of bitterness, yet full of satisfaction--he finally
turned away and looked straight out before him into the distance where
Brussels lay, and where the happiness of Crystal's love called to him,
and he would find rest and peace in the warm affection of her faithful
heart.




CHAPTER XI

THE LOSING HANDS


I

An hour later Maurice de St. Genis was in Brussels. Though his head
still ached his mind was clear, and thoughts of Crystal--of happiness
with her now at last within sight--had chased every other thought away.

His home had been with the de Cambrays ever since those old, sad days in
England; he had a home to go to now:--a home where the kindly friendship
of the Comte as well as the love of Crystal was ready to welcome him.
The warmth of anticipated happiness and well-being warmed his heart and
gave strength to his body. The horrors of the past few hours seemed all
to have melted away behind him on the Brussels road as did the
remembrance of a man--wounded himself and spent--risking his life for
the sake of a friend. Not that St. Genis meant to be ungrateful--nor did
he forget that wounded man--lying alone and sick on the fringe of the
wood by the roadside.

As soon as he had taken his horse round to the barracks in the rue des
Comédiens, and before even he had a wash or had his uniform cleaned of
stains and mud, he rushed to the headquarters of the Army Service to see
how soon a conveyance could be sent out to his friend--and when he was
unable to obtain what he wanted there, he rushed from hospital to
hospital, thence to two or three doctors whom he knew of to see what
could be done. But the hospitals were already over-full and over-busy:
their ambulances were all already on the way: as for the doctors, they
were all from home--all at work where their skill was most needed--an
army of doctors, of ambulances and drivers would not suffice at this
hour to bring all the wounded in from the spot where that awful battle
was raging.

And Maurice saw time slipping by: he had already spent an hour in a
fruitless quest. He longed to see Crystal and waxed impatient at the
delay. Anon at the English hospital a kindly person--who listened
sympathetically to his tale--promised him that the ambulance which was
just setting out in the direction of Mont Saint Jean would be on the
look-out for his wounded friend by the roadside; and Maurice with a sigh
of relief felt that he had indeed done his duty and done his best.

At the English hospital Clyffurde would be splendidly looked
after--nowhere else could he find such sympathetic treatment! And
Maurice with a light heart went back to the barracks in the rue des
Comédiens, where he had a wash and had his uniform cleaned. Somewhat
refreshed, though still very tired, he hurried round to the rue du
Marais, where the Comte de Cambray had his lodgings. The first sight of
Brussels had already told him the whole pitiable tale of panic and of
desolation which had filled the city in the wake of the fugitive troops.
The streets were encumbered with vehicles of every kind--carts,
barouches, barrows--with horses loosely tethered, with the wounded who
lay about on litters of straw along the edges of the pavement, in
doorways, under archways in the centre of open places, with crowds of
weeping women and crying children wandering aimlessly from place to
place trying to find the loved one who might be lying here, hurt or
mayhap dying.

And everywhere men in tattered uniforms, with grimy hands and faces, and
boots knee-deep in stains of mud, stood about or sat in the empty
carts, talking, gesticulating, giving sundry, confused and contradictory
accounts of the great battle--describing Napoleon's decisive
victory--Wellington's rout--the prolonged absence of Blücher and the
Prussians, cause of the terrible disaster.

M. le Comte d'Artois had rushed precipitately from Brussels up to Ghent
to warn His Majesty the King of France that all hope of saving his
throne was now at an end, and that the wisest course to pursue was to
return to England and resign himself once more to obscurity and exile.

M. le Prince de Condé too had gone off to Antwerp in a huge barouche,
having under his care the treasure and jewels of the crown hastily
collected three months ago at the Tuileries.

In every open space a number of prisoners were being guarded by mixed
patrols of Dutch, Belgian or German soldiers, and their cry of "Vive
l'Empereur!" which they reiterated with unshakable obstinacy roused the
ire of their captors, and provoked many a savage blow, and many a broken
head.

But St. Genis did not pause to look on these sights: he had not the
strength to stand up in the midst of these confused masses of
terror-driven men and women, and to shout to them that they were
fools--that all their panic must be turned to joy, their lamentations to
shouts of jubilation. News of victory was bound to spread through the
city within the next hour, and he himself longed only to see Crystal, to
reassure her as to his own safety, to see the light of happiness kindled
in her eyes by the news which he brought. He had not the strength for
more.

It was old Jeanne who opened the door at the lodgings in the rue du
Marais when Maurice finally rang the bell there.

"M. le Marquis!" she exclaimed. "Oh! but you are ill."

"Only very tired and weak, Jeanne," he said. "It has been an awful day."

"Ah! but M. le Comte will be pleased!"

"And Mademoiselle Crystal?" asked Maurice with a smile which had in it
all the self-confidence of the accepted lover.

"Mademoiselle Crystal will be happy too," said Jeanne. "She has been so
unhappy, so desperately anxious all day."

"Can I see her?"

"Mademoiselle is out for the moment, M. le Marquis. And M. le Comte has
gone to the Cercle des Légitimistes in the rue des Cendres--perhaps M.
le Marquis knows--it is not far."

"I would like to see Mademoiselle Crystal first. You understand, don't
you, Jeanne?"

"Yes, I do, M. le Marquis," sighed faithful Jeanne, who was always
inclined to be sentimental.

"How long will she be, do you think?"

"Oh! another half hour. Perhaps more. Mademoiselle has gone to the
cathedral. If M. le Marquis will give himself the trouble to walk so
far, he cannot fail to see Mademoiselle when she comes out of church."

But already--before Jeanne had finished speaking--Maurice had turned on
his heel and was speeding back down the narrow street. Tired and weak as
he was, his one idea was to see Crystal, to hear her voice, to see the
love-light in her eyes. He felt that at sight of her all fatigue would
be gone, all recollections of the horrors of this day wiped out with the
first look of joy and relief with which she would greet him.


II

The service was over, and the congregation had filed out of the
cathedral. Crystal was one of the last to go. She stood for a long while
in the porch looking down with unseeing eyes on the bustle and
excitement which went on in the Place down below. Her mind was not
here. It was far indeed from the crowd of terror-stricken or gossiping
men and women, of wounded soldiers, terrified peasantry and anxious
townsfolk that encumbered the precincts of the stately edifice.

From the remote distance--out toward the south--came the boom and roar
of cannon and musket fire--almost incessant still. There was her heart!
there her thoughts! with the brave men who were fighting for their
national existence--with the British troops and with their
sufferings--and she stood here, staring straight out before
her--dry-eyed and pale and small white hands clasped tightly together.

The greater part of to-day she had sat by the open window in the shabby
drawing-room in the rue du Marais, listening to that awful fusillade,
wondering with mind well-nigh bursting with horror and with misery which
of those cruel shots which she heard in the dim distance would still for
ever the brave and loyal heart that had made so many silent sacrifices
for her.

And her father, vaguely thinking that she was anxious about
Maurice--vaguely wondering that she cared so much--had done his best to
try and comfort her: "She need not fear much for Maurice," he had told
her as reassuringly as he could--"the Brunswickers were not likely to
suffer much. The brunt of the conflict would fall upon the British. Ah!
but they would lose very heavily. Wellington had not more than seventy
thousand men to put up against the Corsican's troops; and only a hundred
and fifty cannon against two hundred and eighty. Yes, the British would
probably be annihilated by superior forces: but no doubt the other
allies--and the Brunswickers--would come off a great deal better."

But Mme. la Duchesse douairière d'Agen offered no such consolation. She
contented herself with saying that she was sure in her mind that
Maurice would come through quite safely, and that she prayed to God with
all her heart and soul that the gallant British troops would not suffer
too heavily. Then with her fine, gentle hand she patted Crystal's fair
curls which were clinging matted and damp against the young girl's
burning forehead. And she stooped and kissed those aching dry blue eyes
and whispered quite under her breath so that Crystal could not be sure
if she heard correctly: "May God protect him too! He is a brave and a
good man!"

And then Crystal had gone out to seek peace and rest in beautiful old
Ste. Gudule, so full of memories of other conflicts, other prayers,
other deeds of heroism of long ago. Here in the dim light and the
silence and the peace, her quivering nerves had become somewhat stilled:
and when she came out she was able just for the moment neither to see or
hear the terror-mongers down below and only to think of the heroes out
there on the field of battle for whom she had just prayed with such
passionate earnestness.

Suddenly in the crowd she recognised Maurice. He was coming up the
cathedral steps, looking for her, no doubt--Jeanne must have directed
him. When he drew near to her, he saw that a look of happy surprise and
of true joy lit up the delicate pathos of her face. He ran quickly to
her now. He would have taken her in his arms--here in face of the
crowd--but there was something in her manner which instinctively sobered
him and he had to be content with the little cold hands which she held
out to him and with imprinting a kiss upon her finger tips.

Already in his eyes she had read that the news which he brought was not
so bad as rumour had foretold.

"Maurice," she cried excitedly, with a little catch in her throat, "you
are well and safe, thank God! And what news? . . ."

"The news is good," Maurice replied. "Victory is assured by now. It has
been a hard day, but we have won."

She said nothing for a moment. But the tears gathered in her eyes, her
lips quivered and Maurice knew that she was thanking God. Then she
turned back to him and he could see her face glowing with excitement.

"And our allies," she asked, and now that little catch in her throat was
more marked, "the British troops? . . . We heard that they behaved like
heroes, and bore the brunt of this awful battle."

"I don't know much about the British troops, my sweet," he replied
lightly, "but what news I have I will have to impart to your father as
well as to you. So it will have to keep until I see him . . . but just
now, Crystal, while we are alone . . . I have other things to say to
you."

But it is doubtful if Crystal heard more than just the first words which
he had spoken, for she broke in quite irrelevantly:

"You don't know about the British troops, Maurice? Oh! but you must
know! . . . Don't you know what British regiments were engaged? . . ."

"I know that none of our own people were in British regiments, Crystal,"
he retorted somewhat drily, "whereas the Brunswickers and Nassauers were
as much French as German . . . they fought gallantly all day . . . you
do not ask so much about them."

"But . . ." she stammered while a hot flush spread over her cheeks, "I
thought . . . you said . . ."

"Are you not content for the moment, Crystal," he called out with tender
reproach, "to know that victory has crowned our King and his allies and
that I have come back to you safely out of that raging hell at Waterloo?
Are you not glad that I am here?"

He spoke more vehemently now, for there was something in Crystal's calm
attitude which had begun to chill him. Had he not been in deadly danger
all the day? Had she not heard that distant cannon's roar which had
threatened his life throughout all these hours? Had he not come back out
of the very jaws of Death?

And yet here she stood white as a lily and as unruffled; except for that
one first exclamation of joy not a single cry from the heart had forced
itself through her pale, slightly trembling lips: yet she was sweet and
girlish and tender as of old and even now at the implied reproach her
eyes had quickly filled with tears.

"How can you ask, Maurice?" she protested gently. "I have thought of you
and prayed for you all day."

It was her quiet serenity that disconcerted him--the kindly tone of her
voice--her calm, unembarrassed manner checked his passionate impulse and
caused him to bite his underlip with vexation until it bled.

The shadows of evening were closing in around them: from the windows of
the houses close by dim, yellow lights began to blink like eyes.
Overhead, the exquisite towers of Ste. Gudule stood out against the
stormy sky like perfect, delicate lace-work turned to stone, whilst the
glass of the west window glittered like a sheet of sapphires and
emeralds and rubies, as it caught the last rays of the sinking sun.
Crystal's graceful figure stood out in its white, summer draperies,
clear and crystalline as herself against the sombre background of the
cathedral porch.

And Maurice watched her through the dim shadows of gathering twilight:
he watched her as a fowler watches the bird which he has captured and
never wholly tamed. Somehow he felt that her love for him was not quite
what it had been until now: that she was no longer the same girlish,
submissive creature on whose soft cheeks a word or look from him had the
power to raise a flush of joy.

She was different now--in a curious, intangible way which he could not
define.

And jealousy reared up its threatening head more insistently:--bitter
jealousy which embraced de Marmont, Clyffurde, Fate and
Circumstance--but Clyffurde above all--the stranger hitherto deemed of
no account, but who now--wounded, abandoned, dying, perhaps--seemed a
more formidable rival than Maurice awhile ago had deemed possible.

He cursed himself for that touch of sentiment--he called it
cowardice--which the other night, after the ball, had prompted him to
write to Crystal. But for that voluntary confession--he thought--she
could never have despised him. And following up the train of his own
thoughts, and realising that these had not been spoken aloud, he
suddenly called out abruptly:

"Is it because of my letter, Crystal?"

She gave a start, and turned even paler than she had been before.
Obviously she had been brought roughly back from the land of dreams.

"Your letter, Maurice?" she asked vaguely, "what do you mean?"

"I wrote you a letter the other night," he continued, speaking quickly
and harshly, "after the ball. Did you receive it?"

"Yes."

"And read it?"

"Of course."

"And is it because of it that your love for me has gone?"

He had not meant to put his horrible suspicions into words. The very
fact--now that he had spoken--appeared more tangible, even irremediable.
She did not reply to his taunt, and he came a little closer to her and
took her hand, and when she tried to withdraw it from his grasp he held
it tightly and bent down his head so that in the gathering gloom he
could read every line of her face.

"Because of what I told you in my letter you despised me, did you not?"
he asked.

Again she made no reply. What could she say that would not hurt him far
more than did her silence? The next moment he had drawn her back right
into the shadow of the cathedral walls, into a dark angle, where no one
could see either her or him. He placed his hands upon her shoulders and
compelled her to look him straight in the face.

"Listen, Crystal," he said slowly and with desperate earnestness. "Once,
long ago, I gave you up to de Marmont, to affluence and to
considerations of your name and of our caste. It all but broke my heart,
but I did it because your father demanded that sacrifice from you and
from me. I was ready then to stand aside and to give up all the dreams
of my youth. . . . But now everything is different. For one thing, the
events of the past hundred days have made every man many years older:
the hell I went through to-day has helped to make a more sober, more
determined man of me. Now I will not give you up. I will not. My way is
clear: I can win you with your father's consent and give him and you all
that de Marmont had promised. The King trusts me and will give me what I
ask. I am no longer a wastrel, no longer poor and obscure. And I will
not give you up--I swear it by all that I have gone through to-day. I
will not! if I have to kill with my own hand every one who stands in my
way."

And Crystal, smiling, quite kindly and a little abstractedly at his
impulsive earnestness, gently removed his hands from her shoulders and
said calmly:

"You are tired, Maurice, and overwrought. Shall we go in and wait for
father? He will be getting anxious about me." And without waiting to see
if he followed her, she turned to walk toward the steps.

St. Genis smothered a violent oath, but he said nothing more. He was
satisfied with what he had done. He knew that women liked a masterful
man and he meant every word which he said. He would not give her up
. . . not now . . . and not to . . . Ye gods! he would not think of
that;--he would not think of the lonely roadside nor of the wounded man
who had robbed him of Crystal's love. He had done his duty by
Clyffurde--what more could he have done at this hour?--and he meant to
do far more than that--he meant to go back to the English hospital as
soon as possible, to see that Clyffurde had every attention, every care,
every comfort that human sympathy can bestow. What more could he do? He
would have done no good by going out with the ambulance himself--surely
not--he would have missed seeing Crystal--and she would have fretted and
been still more anxious . . . his first duty was to Crystal . . . and
. . . and . . . St. Genis only thought of Crystal and of himself and the
voice of Conscience was compulsorily stilled.


III

Having lulled his conscience to sleep and satisfied his self-love by a
passionate tirade, Maurice followed Crystal down the steps at the west
front of Ste. Gudule.

Immediately opposite them at the corner of the narrow rue de Ligne was
the old Auberge des Trois Rois, from whence the diligence started twice
a day in time to catch the tide and the English packet at Ostend.
Maurice and Crystal stood for a moment together on the steps watching
the bustle and excitement, the comings and goings of the crowd, which
always attend such departures. All day there had been a steady stream of
fugitives out of the town, taking their belongings with them: the
diligence was for the well-to-do and the indifferent who hurried away to
England to await the advent of more settled times.

Victor de Marmont had secured his place inside the coach. He had
exchanged his borrowed uniform for civilian clothes, he had bestowed his
belongings in the vehicle and he was standing about desultorily waiting
for the hour of departure. The diligence would not arrive at Ostend till
five o'clock in the morning: then with the tide the packet would go out,
getting into London well after midday. Chance, as represented by the
tide, had seriously handicapped de Marmont's plans. But enthusiasm and
doggedness of purpose whispered to him that he still held the winning
card. The English packet was timed to arrive in London by two o'clock in
the afternoon, he would still have two hours to his credit before
closing time on 'Change and another hour in the street. Time to find his
broker and half an hour to spare: that would still leave him an hour
wherein to make a fortune for his Emperor.

At one time he was afraid that he would not be able to secure a seat in
the diligence, so numerous were the travellers who wished to leave
Brussels behind them. But in this, Chance and the length of his purse
favoured him: he bought his seat for an exorbitant price, but he bought
it; and at nine o'clock the diligence was timed to start.

It was now half-past eight. And just then de Marmont caught sight of
Crystal and St. Genis coming down the cathedral steps.

He had half an hour to spare and he followed them. He wanted to speak to
Crystal--he had wanted it all day--but the difficulty of getting what
clothes he required and the trouble and time spent in bargaining for a
seat in the diligence had stood in his way. M. le Comte de Cambray would
never, of course, admit him inside his doors, and it would have meant
hanging about in the rue du Marais and trusting to a chance meeting with
Crystal when she went out, and for this he had not the time.

And the chance meeting had come about in spite of all adverse
circumstances: and de Marmont followed Crystal through the crowded
streets, hoping that St. Genis would take leave of her before she went
indoors. But even if he did not, de Marmont meant to have a few words
with Crystal. He was going to win a gigantic fortune for the
Emperor--one wherewith that greatest of all adventurers could once again
recreate the Empire of France: he himself--rich already--would become
richer still and also--if his coup succeeded--one of the most trusted,
most influential men in the recreated Empire. He felt that with the
offer of his name he could pour out a veritable cornucopia of abundant
glory, honours, wealth at a woman's feet. And his ambition had always
been bound up in a great measure with Crystal de Cambray. He certainly
loved her in his way, for her beauty and her charm; but, above all, he
looked on her as the very personification of the old and proud regime
which had thought fit to scorn the parvenu noblesse of the Empire, and
for a powerful adherent of Napoleon to be possessed of a wife out of
that exclusive milieu was like a fresh and glorious trophy of war on a
conqueror's chariot-wheel.

De Marmont had the supreme faith of an ambitious man in the power of
wealth and of court favour. He knew that Napoleon was not a man who ever
forgot a service efficiently rendered, and would repay this
one--rendered at the supreme hour of disaster--with a surfeit of
gratitude and of gifts which must perforce dazzle any woman's eyes and
conquer her imagination.

Besides his schemes, his ambitions, the future which awaited him, what
had an impecunious wastrel like St. Genis to offer to a woman like
Crystal de Cambray?


Outside the house in the rue du Marais where the Comte de Cambray
lodged, St. Genis and Crystal paused, and de Marmont, who still kept
within the shadows, waited for a favourable opportunity to make his
presence known.

"I'll find M. le Comte and bring him back with me," he heard St. Genis
saying. "You are sure I shall find him at the Légitimiste?"

"Quite sure," Crystal replied. "He did not mean to leave the Cercle till
about nine. He is sure to wait for every bit of news that comes in."

"It will be a great moment for me, if I am the first to bring in
authentic good news."

"You will be quite the first, I should say," she assented, "but don't
let father stay too long talking. Bring him back quickly. Remember I
haven't heard all the news yet myself."

St. Genis went up to the front door and rang the bell, then he took
leave of Crystal. De Marmont waited his opportunity. Anon, Jeanne opened
the door, and St. Genis walked quickly back down the street.

Crystal paused a moment by the open door in order to talk to Jeanne, and
while she did so de Marmont slipped quickly past her into the house and
was some way down the corridor before the two women had recovered from
their surprise. Jeanne, as was her wont, was ready to scream, but
despite the fast gathering gloom Crystal had at once recognised de
Marmont. She turned a cold look upon him.

"An intrusion, Monsieur?" she asked quietly.

"We'll call it that, Mademoiselle, an you will," he replied
imperturbably, "and if you will kindly order your servant to go, it
shall be a very brief one."

"My father is from home," she said.

De Marmont smiled and shrugged his shoulders.

"I know that," he said, "or I would not be here."

"Then your intrusion is that of a coward, if you knew that I was
unprotected."

"Are you afraid of me, Crystal?" he asked with a sneer.

"I am afraid of no one," she replied. "But since you and I have nothing
to say to one another, I beg that you will no longer force your company
upon me."

"Your pardon, but there is something very important which I must say to
you. I have news of to-day's doings out there at Waterloo, which bear
upon the whole of your future and upon your happiness. I myself leave
for England in less than half an hour. I was taking my place in the
diligence outside the Trois Rois when I saw you coming down the
cathedral steps. Fate has given me an opportunity for which I sought
vainly all day. You will never regret it, Crystal, if you listen to me
now."

"I listen," she broke in coolly. "I pray you be as brief as you can."

"Will you order the servant to go?"

For a moment longer she hesitated. Commonsense told her that it was
neither prudent nor expedient to hold converse with this man, who was an
avowed and bitter enemy of her cause. But he had spoken of the doings at
Waterloo and spoken of them in connection with her own future and her
happiness, and--prudent or not--she wanted to hear what he had to say,
in the vague hope that from a chance word carelessly dropped by Victor
de Marmont she would glean, if only a scrap, some news of that on which
St. Genis would not dwell but on which hung her heart and her very
life--the fate of the British troops.

After all he might know something, he might say something which would
help her to bear this intolerable misery of uncertainty: and on the
merest chance of that she threw prudence to the winds.

"You may go, Jeanne," she said. "But remain within call. Leave the front
door open," she added. "M. le Comte and M. le Marquis will be here
directly."

"Oh! you are well protected," said Victor de Marmont with a careless
shrug of the shoulders, as Jeanne's heavy, shuffling footsteps died away
down the corridor.

"Now, M. de Marmont," said Crystal coolly. "I listen."

She was leaning back against the wall--her hands behind her, her pale
face and large blue eyes with their black dilated pupils turned
questioningly upon him. The walls of the corridor were painted white,
after the manner of Flemish houses, the tiled floor was white too, and
Crystal herself was dressed all in white, so that the whole scene made
up of pale, soft tints looked weird and ghostly in the twilight and
Crystal like an ethereal creature come down from the land of nymphs and
of elves.

And de Marmont, too--like St. Genis a while ago--felt that never had
this beautiful woman--she was no longer a girl now--looked more
exquisite and more desirable, and he--conscious of the power which
fortune and success can give, thought that he could woo and win her once
again in spite of caste-prejudice and of political hatred. St. Genis had
felt his position unassailable by virtue of old associations, common
sympathies and youthful vows: de Marmont relied on feminine ambition,
love of power, of wealth and of station, and at this moment in Crystal's
shining eyes he only read excitement and the unspoken desire for all
that he was prepared to offer.

"I have only a few moments to spare, Crystal," he said slowly, and with
earnest emphasis, "so I will be very brief. For the moment the Emperor
has suffered a defeat--as he did at Eylau or at Leipzic--his defeats are
always momentary, his victories alone are decisive and abiding. The
whole world knows that. It needs no proclaiming from me. But in order to
retrieve that momentary defeat of to-day he has deigned to ask my help.
The gods are good to me! they have put it within my power to help my
Emperor in his need. I am going to England to-night in order to carry
out his instructions. By to-morrow afternoon I shall have finished my
work. The Empire of France will once more rise triumphant and glorious
out of the ashes of a brief defeat; the Emperor once more, Phoebus-like,
will drive the chariot of the Sun, Lord and Master of Europe, greater
since his downfall, more powerful, more majestic than ever before. And
I, who will have been the humble instrument of his reconquered glory,
will deserve to the full his bounty and his gratitude."

He paused for lack of breath, for indeed he had talked fast and volubly:
Crystal's voice, cold and measured, broke in on the silence that ensued.

"And in what way does all this concern me, M. de Marmont?" she asked.

"It concerns your whole future, Crystal," he replied with ever-growing
solemnity and conviction. "You must have known all along that I have
never ceased to love you: you have always been the only possible woman
for me--my ideal, in fact. Your father's injustice I am willing to
forget. Your troth was plighted to me and I have done nothing to deserve
all the insults which he thought fit to heap upon me. I wanted you to
know, Crystal, that my love is still yours, and that the fortune and
glory which I now go forth to win I will place with inexpressible joy at
your feet."

She shrugged her shoulders and an air of supreme indifference spread
over her face. "Is that all?" she asked coldly.

"All? What do you mean? I don't understand."

"I mean that you persuaded me to listen to you on the pretence that you
had news to tell me of the doings at Waterloo--news on which my
happiness depended. You have not told me a single fact that concerns me
in the least."

"It concerns you as it concerns me, Crystal. Your happiness is bound up
with mine. You are still my promised wife. I go to win glory for my name
which will soon be yours. You and I, Crystal, hand in hand! think of
it! our love has survived the political turmoils--united in love,
united in glory, you and I will be the most brilliant stars that will
shine at the Imperial Court of France."

She did not try to interrupt his tirade, but looked on him with cool
wonderment, as one gazes on some curious animal that is raving and
raging behind iron bars. When he had finished she said quietly:

"You are mad, I think, M. de Marmont. At any rate, you had better go
now: time is getting on, and you will lose your place in the diligence."

He was less to her than the dust under her feet, and his protestations
had not even the power to rouse her wrath. Indeed, all that worried her
at this moment was vexation with herself for having troubled to listen
to him at all: it had been worse than foolish to suppose that he had any
news to impart which did not directly concern himself. So now, while he,
utterly taken aback, was staring at her open-mouthed and bewildered, she
turned away, cold and full of disdain, gathering her draperies round
her, and started to walk slowly toward the stairs. Her clinging white
skirt made a soft, swishing sound as it brushed the tiled floor, and she
herself--with her slender figure, graceful neck and crown of golden
curls, looked, as the gloom of evening wrapped her in, more like an
intangible elf--an apparition--gliding through space, than just a
scornful woman who had thought fit to reject the importunate addresses
of an unwelcome suitor.

She left de Marmont standing there in the corridor--like some
presumptuous beggar--burning with rage and humiliation, too
insignificant even to be feared. But he was not the man to accept such a
situation calmly: his love for Crystal had never been anything but a
selfish one--born of the desire to possess a high-born, elegant wife,
taken out of the very caste which had scorned him and his kind: her
acquiescence he had always taken for granted: her love he meant to win
after his wooing of her hand had been successful--until then he could
wait. So certain too was he of his own power to win her, in virtue of
all that he had to offer, that he would not take her scorn for real or
her refusal to listen to him as final.


IV

Before she had reached the foot of the stairs, he was already by her
side, and with a masterful hand upon her arm had compelled her, by
physical strength, to turn and to face him once more.

"Crystal," he said, forcing himself to speak quietly, even though his
voice quivered with excitement and passionate wrath, "as you say, I have
only a few moments to spare, but they are just long enough for me to
tell you that it is you who are mad. I daresay that it is difficult to
believe in the immensity of a disaster. M. de St. Genis no doubt has
been filling your ears with tales of the allied armies' victories. But
look at me, Crystal--look at me and tell me if you have ever seen a man
more in deadly earnest. I tell you that I am on my way to aid the
Emperor in reforming his Empire on a more solid basis than it has ever
stood before. Have you ever known Napoleon to fail in what he set
himself to do? I tell you that he is not crushed--that he is not even
defeated. Within a month the allies will be on their knees begging for
peace. The era of your Bourbon kings is more absolutely dead to-day than
it has ever been. And after to-day there will be nothing for a royalist
like your father or like Maurice de St. Genis but exile and humiliation
more dire than before. Your father's fate rests entirely in your hands.
I can direct his destiny, his life or his death, just as I please. When
you are my wife, I will forgive him the insults which he heaped on me at
Brestalou . . . but not before. . . . As for Maurice de St. Genis
. . ."

"And what of him, you abominable cur?"

The shout which came from behind him checked the words on de Marmont's
lips. He let go his hold of Crystal's arm as he felt two sinewy hands
gripping him by the throat. The attack was so swift and so unexpected
that he was entirely off his guard: he lost his footing upon the
slippery floor, and before he could recover himself he was being forced
back and back until his spine was bent nearly double and his head
pressed down backward almost to the level of his knees.

"Let him go, Maurice! you might kill him. Throw him out of the door."

It was M. le Comte de Cambray who spoke. He and St. Genis had arrived
just in time to save Crystal from a further unpleasant scene. She,
however, had not lost her presence of mind. She had certainly listened
to de Marmont's final tirade, because she knew that she was helpless in
his hands, but she had never been frightened for a moment. Jeanne was
within call, and she herself had never been timorous: at the same time
she was thankful enough that her father and St. Genis were here.

Maurice was almost blind with rage: he would have killed de Marmont but
for the Comte's timely words, which luckily had the effect of sobering
him at this critical moment. He relaxed his convulsive grip on de
Marmont's throat, but the latter had already lost his balance; he fell
heavily, his body sliding along the slippery floor, while his head
struck against the projecting woodwork of the door.

He uttered a loud cry of pain as he fell, then remained lying inert on
the ground, and in the dim light his face took on an ashen hue.

In an instant Crystal was by his side.

"You have killed him, Maurice," she cried, as woman-like--tender and
full of compassion now--she ran to the stricken man.

"I hope I have," said St. Genis sullenly. "He deserved the death of a
cur."

"Father, dear," said Crystal authoritatively, "will you call to Jeanne
to bring water, a sponge, towels--quickly: also some brandy."

She paid no heed to St. Genis: and she had already forgotten de
Marmont's dastardly attitude toward herself. She only saw that he was
helpless and in pain: she knelt by his side, pillowed his head on her
lap, and with soothing, gentle fingers felt his shoulders, his arms, to
see where he was hurt. He opened his eyes very soon and encountered
those tender blue eyes so full of sweet pity now: "It is only my head, I
think," he said.

Then he tried to move, but fell back again with a groan of pain: "My leg
is broken, I am afraid," he murmured feebly.

"I had best fetch a doctor," rejoined M. le Comte.

"If you can find one, father, dear," said Crystal. "M. de Marmont ought
to be moved at once to his home."

"No! no!" protested Victor feebly, "not home! to the Trois Rois . . .
the diligence. . . . I must go to England to-night . . . the Emperor's
orders."

"The doctor will decide," said Crystal gently. "Father, dear, will you
go?"

Jeanne came with water and brandy. De Marmont drank eagerly of the one,
and then sipped the other.

"I must go," he said more firmly, "the diligence starts at nine
o'clock."

Again he tried to move, and a great cry of agony rose to his throat--not
of physical pain, though that was great too, but the wild, agonising
shriek of mental torment, of disappointment and wrath and misery,
greater than human heart could bear.

"The Emperor's orders!" he cried. "I must go!"

Crystal was silent. There was something great and majestic, something
that compelled admiration and respect in this tragic impotence, this
failure brought about by uncontrolled passion at the very hour when
success--perhaps--might yet have changed the whole destinies of the
world. De Marmont lying here, helpless to aid his Emperor--through the
furious and jealous attack of a rival--was at this moment more worthy of
a good woman's regard than he had been in the flush of his success and
of his arrogance, for his one thought was of the Emperor and what he
could no longer do for him. He tried to move and could not: "The
Emperor's orders!" came at times with pathetic persistence from his
lips, and Crystal--woman-like--tried to soothe and comfort him in his
failure, even though his triumph would only have aroused her scorn.

And time sped on. From the towers of the cathedral came booming the hour
of nine. The shadows in the narrow street were long and dark, only a
pale thin reflex of the cold light of the moon struck into the open
doorway and the white corridor, and detached de Marmont's pale face from
the surrounding gloom.

The Emperor's orders and because of a woman these could now no longer be
obeyed. If de Marmont had not seen Crystal on the cathedral steps, if he
had not followed her--if he had not allowed his passion and arrogant
self-will to blind him to time and to surroundings--who knows? but the
whole map of Europe might yet have been changed.

A fortune in London was awaiting a gambler who chose to stake everything
on a last throw--a fortune wherewith the greatest adventurer the world
has ever known might yet have reconstituted an army and reconquered an
Empire--and he who might have won that fortune was lying in the narrow
corridor of an humble lodging house--with a broken leg--helpless and
eating out his heart now with vain regret. Why? Because of a girl with
fair curls and blue eyes--just a woman--young and desirable--another
tiny pawn in the hands of the Great Master of this world's game.

The rain in the morning at Waterloo--Blücher's arrival or Grouchy's--a
man's selfish passion for a woman who cared nothing for him--who shall
dare to say that these tiny, trivial incidents changed the destinies of
the world?

Think on it, O ye materialists! ye worshippers of Chance! Is it indeed
the infinitesimal doings of pigmies that bring about the great upheavals
of the earth? Do ye not rather see God's will in that fall of rain?
God's breath in those dying heroes who fell on Mont Saint Jean? do ye
not recognise that it was God's finger that pointed the way to Blücher
and stretched de Marmont down helpless on the ground?


V

The arrival of M. le Comte de Cambray, accompanied by a doctor and two
men carrying an improvised stretcher, broke the spell of silence that
had fallen on this strange scene of pathetic failure which seemed but an
humble counterpart of that great and irretrievable one which was being
enacted at this same hour far away on the road to Genappe.

After the booming of the cathedral clock, de Marmont had ceased to
struggle: he accepted defeat probably because he, too--in spite of
himself--saw that the day of his idol's destiny was over, and that the
brilliant Star which had glittered on the firmament of Europe for a
quarter of a century had by the will of God now irretrievably declined.
He had accepted Crystal's ministrations for his comfort with a look of
gratitude. Jeanne had put a pillow to his head, and he lay now outwardly
placid and quiescent.

Even, perhaps--for such is human nature and such the heart of youth--as
he saw Crystal's sweet face bent with so much pity toward him a sense
of hope, of happiness yet to be, chased the more melancholy thoughts
away. Crystal was kind--he argued to himself--she has already
forgiven--women are so ready to forgive faults and errors that spring
from an intensity of love.

He sought her hand and she gave it--just as a sweet Sister of Mercy and
Gentleness would do, for whom the individual man--even the enemy--does
not exist--only the suffering human creature whom her touch can soothe.
He persuaded himself easily enough that when he pressed her hand she
returned the pressure, and renewed hope went forth once more soaring
upon the wings of fancy.

Then the doctor came. M. le Comte had been fortunate in securing
him--had with impulsive generosity promised him ample payment--and then
brought him along without delay. He praised Mlle. de Cambray for her
kindness to the patient, asked a few questions as to how the accident
had occurred, and was satisfied that M. de Marmont had slipped on the
tiled floor and then struck his head against the door. He was not likely
to examine the purple bruises on the patient's throat: his business
began and ended with a broken leg to mend. As M. le Comte de Cambray
assured him that M. de Marmont was very wealthy, the worthy doctor most
readily offered his patient the hospitality of his own house until
complete recovery.

He then superintended the lifting of the sick man on to the stretcher,
and having taken final leave of M. le Comte, Mademoiselle and all those
concerned and given his instructions to the bearers, he was the first to
leave the house.

M. le Comte, pleasantly conscious of Christian duty toward an enemy
nobly fulfilled, nodded curtly to de Marmont, whom he hated with all his
heart, and then turned his back on an exceedingly unpleasant scene,
fervently wishing that it had never occurred in his house, and equally
fervently thankful that the accident had not more fateful consequences.
He retired to his smoking-room, calling to St. Genis and to Crystal to
follow him.

But Crystal did not go at once. She stood in the dark corridor--quite
still--watching the stretcher bearers in their careful, silent work,
little guessing on what a filmy thread her whole destiny was hanging at
this moment. The Fates were spinning, spinning, spinning and she did not
know it. Had the solemn silence which hung so ominously in the twilight
not been broken till after the sick man had been borne away, the whole
of Crystal's future would have been shaped differently.

But as with the rain at Waterloo, God had need of a tool for the
furtherance of His will and it was Maurice de St. Genis whom He
chose--Maurice who with his own words set the final seal to his destiny.

De Marmont's eyes as he was being carried over the threshold dwelt upon
the graceful form of Crystal--clad all in white--all womanliness and
gentleness now--her sweet face only faintly distinguishable in the
gloom. St. Genis, whose nerves were still jarred with all that he had
gone through to-day and irritated by Crystal's assiduity beside the sick
man, resented that last look of farewell which de Marmont dared to throw
upon the woman whom he loved. An ungenerous impulse caused him to try
and aim a last moral blow at his enemy:

"Come, Crystal," he said coldly, "the man has been better looked after
than he deserves. But for your father's interference I should have wrung
his neck like the cowardly brute that he was."

And with the masterful air of a man who has both right and privilege on
his side, he put his arm round Crystal's waist and tried to draw her
away, and as he did so he whispered a tender: "Come, Crystal!" in her
ear.

De Marmont--who at this moment was taking a last fond look at the girl
he loved, and was busy the while making plans for a happy future
wherein Crystal would play the chief rôle and would console him for all
disappointments by the magnitude of her love--de Marmont was brought
back from the land of dreams by the tender whisperings of his rival. His
own helplessness sent a flood of jealous wrath surging up to his brain.
The wild hatred which he had always felt for St. Genis ever since that
awful humiliation which he had suffered at Brestalou, now blinded him to
everything save to the fact that here was a rival who was gloating over
his helplessness--a man who twice already had humiliated him before
Crystal de Cambray--a man who had every advantage of caste and of
community of sympathy! a man therefore who must be in his turn
irretrievably crushed in the sight of the woman whom he still hoped to
win!

De Marmont had no definite idea as to what he meant to do. Perhaps, just
at this moment, the pale, intangible shadow of Reason had lifted up one
corner of the veil that hid the truth from before his eyes--the absolute
and naked fact that Crystal de Cambray was not destined for him. She
would never marry him--never. The Empire of France was no more--the
Emperor was a fugitive. To St. Genis and his caste belonged the
future--and the turn had come for the adherents of the fallen Emperor to
sink into obscurity or to go into exile.

Be that as it may, it is certain that in this fateful moment de Marmont
was only conscious of an all-powerful overwhelming feeling of hatred and
the determination that whatever happened to himself he must and would
prevent St. Genis from ever approaching Crystal de Cambray with words of
love again. That he had the power to do this he was fully conscious.

"Crystal!" he called, and at the same time ordered the bearers to halt
on the doorstep for a moment. "Crystal, will you give me your hand in
farewell?"

The young girl would probably have complied with his wish, but St. Genis
interposed.

"Crystal," he said authoritatively, "your father has already called you.
You have done everything that Christian charity demands. . . ." And once
more he tried to draw the young girl away.

"Do not touch her, man," called de Marmont in a loud voice, "a coward
like you has no right to touch the hand of a good woman."

"M. de Marmont," broke in Crystal hotly, "you presume on your
helplessness. . . ."

"Pay no heed to the ravings of a maniac, Crystal," interposed St. Genis
calmly, "he has fallen so low now, that contemptuous pity is all that he
deserves."

"And contempt without pity is all that you deserve, M. le Marquis de St.
Genis," cried de Marmont excitedly. "Ask him, Mademoiselle Crystal, ask
him where is the man who to-day saved his life? whom I myself saw to-day
on the roadside, wounded and half dead with fatigue, on horseback, with
the inert body of M. de St. Genis lying across his saddle-bow. Ask him
how he came to lie across that saddle-bow? and whether his English
friend and mine, Bobby Clyffurde, did not--as any who passed by could
guess--drag him out of that hell at Waterloo and bring him into safety,
whilst risking his own life. Ask him," he continued, working himself up
into a veritable fever of vengeful hatred, as he saw that St.
Genis--sullen and glowering--was doing his best to drag Crystal away, to
prevent her from listening further to this awful indictment, these
ravings of a lunatic half-distraught with hate. "Ask him where is
Clyffurde now? to what lonely spot he has crawled in order to die while
M. le Marquis de St. Genis came back in gay apparel to court Mlle.
Crystal de Cambray? Ah! M. de St. Genis, you tried to heap opprobrium
upon me--you talked glibly of contempt and of pity. Of a truth 'tis I
do pity you now, for Mademoiselle Crystal will surely ask you all those
questions, and by the Lord I marvel how you will answer them."

He fell back exhausted, in a dead faint no doubt, and St. Genis with a
wild cry like that of a beast in fury seized the nearest weapon that
came to his hand--a heavy oak chair which stood against the wall in the
corridor--and brandished it over his head. He would--had not Crystal at
once interposed--have killed de Marmont with one blow: even so he tried
to avoid Crystal in order to forge for himself a clear passage, to free
himself from all trammels so that he might indulge his lust to kill.

"Take the sick man away! quickly!" cried Crystal to the stretcher
bearers. And they--realising the danger--the awfulness of the tragedy
which, with that clumsy weapon wielded by a man who was maddened with
rage, was hovering in the air, hurried over the threshold with their
burden as fast as they could: then out into the street: and Crystal
seizing hold of the front door shut it to with a loud bang after them.


VI

Then with a cry that was just primitive in its passion--savage almost
like that of a lioness in the desert who has been robbed of her
young--she turned upon St. Genis:

"Where is he now?" she called, and her voice was quite unrecognisable,
harsh and hoarse and peremptory.

"Crystal, let me assure you," protested Maurice, "that I have already
done all that lay in my power. . . ."

"Where is he now?" she broke in with the same fierce intensity.

She stood there before him--wild, haggard, palpitating--a passionate
creature passionately demanding to know where the loved one was. It
seemed as if she would have torn the words out of St. Genis' throat, so
bitter and intense was the look of contempt and of hatred wherewith she
looked on him.

M. le Comte--very much upset and ruffled by all that he had heard--came
out of his room just in time to see the stretcher-bearers disappearing
with their burden through the front door, and the door itself closed to
with a bang by Crystal. Truly his sense of decorum and of the fitness of
things had received a severe shock and now he had the additional
mortification of seeing his beautiful daughter--his dainty and
aristocratic Crystal--in a state bordering on frenzy.

"My darling Crystal," he exclaimed, as he made his way quickly to her
side and put a restraining hand upon her arm.

But Crystal now was far beyond his control: she shook off his hand--she
paid no heed to him, she went closer up to St. Genis and once more
repeated her ardent, passionate query:

"Where is he now?"

"At the English hospital, I hope," said St. Genis with as much cool
dignity as he could command. "Have I not assured you, Crystal, that I've
done all I could? . . ."

"At the English hospital? . . . you hope? . . ." she retorted in a voice
that sounded trenchant and shrill through the overwhelming passion which
shook and choked it in her throat. "But the roadside--where you left him
. . . to die in a ditch perhaps . . . like a dog that has no home? . . .
where was that?"

"I gave full directions at the English hospital," he replied. "I
arranged for an ambulance to go and find him . . . for a bed for him
. . . I. . . ."

"Give me those directions," she commanded.

"On the way to Waterloo . . . on the left side of the road . . . close
by the six kilomètre milestone . . . the angle of the forest of Soigne
is just there . . . and there is a meadow which joins the edge of the
wood where they were making hay to-day. . . . No driver can fail to find
the place, Crystal . . . the ambulance. . . ."

But now she was no longer listening to him. She had abruptly turned her
back on him and made for the door. Her father interposed.

"What do you want to do, Crystal?" he said peremptorily.

"Go to him, of course," she said quietly--for she was quite calm now--at
any rate outwardly--strong and of set purpose.

"But you do not know where he is."

"I'll go to the English hospital first . . . father, dear, will you let
me pass?"

"Crystal," said M. le Comte firmly, as he stood his ground between his
daughter and the door, "you cannot go rushing through the streets of
Brussels alone--at this hour of the night--through all the soldiery and
all the drunken rabble."

"He is dying," she retorted, "and I am going to find him. . . ."

"You have taken leave of your senses, Crystal," said the Comte sternly.
"You seem to have forgotten your own personal dignity. . . ."

"Father! let me go!" she demanded--for she had tried to measure her
physical strength against his, and he was holding her wrists now whilst
a look of great anger was on his face.

"I tell you, Crystal," he said, "that you cannot go. I will do all that
lies in my power in the matter: I promise you: and Maurice," he added
harshly, "if he has a spark of manhood left in him will do his best to
second me . . . but I cannot allow my daughter to go into the streets at
this hour of the night."

"But you cannot prevent your sister from doing as she likes," here broke
in a tart voice from the back of the corridor. "Crystal, child! try and
bear up while I run to the English hospital first and, if necessary, to
the English doctor afterwards. And you, Monsieur my brother, be good
enough to allow Jeanne to open the door for me."

And Madame la Duchesse d'Agen in bonnet and shawl, helpful and
practical, made her way quietly to the door, preceded by faithful
Jeanne. With a cry of infinite relief--almost of happiness--Crystal at
last managed to disengage herself from her father's grasp and ran to the
old woman: "_Ma tante_," she said imploringly, "take me with you . . .
if I do not go to find him now . . . at once . . . my heart will break."

M. le Comte shrugged his shoulders and stood aside. He knew that in an
argument with his sister, he would surely be worsted: and there was a
look in Madame's face which, even in this dim twilight, he knew how to
interpret. It meant that Madame would carry out her programme just as
she had stated it, and that she would take Crystal with her--with or
without the father's consent. So, realising this, M. le Comte had but
one course left open to him and that was to safeguard his own dignity by
making the best of this situation--of which he still highly disapproved.

"Well, my dear Sophie," he said, "I suppose if you insist on having your
way, you must have it: though what the women of our rank are coming to
nowadays I cannot imagine. At the same time I for my part must insist
that Crystal at least puts on a bonnet and shawl and does not career
about the streets dressed like a kitchen wench."

"Crystal," whispered Madame, who was nothing if not practical, "do as
your father wishes--it will save a lot of argument and save time as
well."

But even before the words were out of Madame's mouth, Crystal was
running along the corridor--ready to obey. At the foot of the stairs St.
Genis intercepted her.

"Let me pass!" she cried wildly.

"Not before you have said that you have forgiven me!" he entreated as he
clung to her white draperies with a passionate gesture of appeal.

An exclamation which was almost one of loathing escaped her lips and
with a jerk she freed her skirt from his clutch. Then she ran quickly up
the stairs. Outside the door of her own room on the first landing she
paused for one minute, and from out of the gloom her voice came to him
like the knell of passing hope.

"If he comes back alive out of the hell to which you condemned him," she
said, "I may in the future endure the sight of you again. . . . If he
dies . . . may God forgive you!"

The opening and shutting of a door told him that she was gone, and he
was left in company with his shame.




CHAPTER XII

THE WINNING HAND


Until far into the night the air reverberated with incessant
cannonade--from the direction of Genappe and from that of Wavre--but
just before dawn all was still. The stream of convoys which bore the
wounded along the road to Brussels from Mont Saint Jean and Hougoumont
and La Haye Sainte had momentarily ceased its endless course. The sky
had that perfect serenity of a midsummer's night, starlit and azure with
the honey-coloured moon sinking slowly down towards the west. Here at
the edge of the wood the air had a sweet smell of wet earth and damp
moss and freshly cut hay: it had all the delicious softness of a loved
one's embrace.

Through the roar of distant cannonade, Bobby had slept. For a time after
St. Genis left him he had watched the long straight road with dull,
unseeing eyes--he had seen the first convoy, overfilled with wounded men
lying huddled on heaped-up straw, and had thanked God that he was lying
on this exquisitely soft carpet made of thousands of tiny green
plants--moss, grass, weeds, young tendrils and growing buds and opening
leaves that were delicious to the touch. He had quite forgotten that he
was wounded--neither his head nor his leg nor his arm seemed to hurt him
now: and he was able to think in peace of Crystal and of her happiness.

St. Genis would have come to her by then: she would be happy to see him
safe and well, and perhaps--in the midst of her joy--she would think of
the friend who so gladly offered up his life for her.

When the air around was no longer shaken by constant repercussion, Bobby
fell asleep. It was not yet dawn, even though far away in the east there
was a luminous veil that made the sky look like living silver. Behind
him among the trees there was a moving and a fluttering--the birds were
no longer asleep--they had not begun to sing but they were shaking out
their feathers and opening tiny, round eyes in farewell to departing
night.

That gentle fluttering was a sweet lullaby, and Bobby slept and
dreamed--he dreamed that the fluttering became louder and louder, and
that, instead of birds, it was a group of angels that shook their wings
and stood around him as he slept.

One of the angels came nearer and laid a hand upon his head--and Bobby
dreamed that the angel spoke and the words that it said filled Bobby's
heart with unearthly happiness.

"My love! my love!" the angel said, "will you try and live for my sake?"

And Bobby would not open his eyes, for fear the angel should go away.
And though he knew exactly where he was, and could feel the soft carpet
of leaves, and smell the sweet moisture in the air, he knew that he must
still be dreaming, for angels are not of this earth.

Then a strong kind hand touched his wrist, and felt the beating of his
heart, and a rough, pleasant voice said in English: "He is exhausted and
very weak, but the fever is not high: he will soon be all right." And to
add to the wonderful strangeness of his dream, the angel's voice near
him murmured: "Thank God! thank God!"

Why should an angel thank God that he--Bobby Clyffurde--was not likely
to die?

He opened his eyes to see what it all meant, and he saw--bending over
him--a face that was more exquisitely fair than any that man had ever
seen: eyes that were more blue than the sky above, lips that trembled
like rose-leaves in the breeze. He was still dreaming and there was a
haze between him and that perfect vision of loveliness. And the kind,
rough voice somewhere close by said: "Have you got that stretcher
ready?" and two other voices replied, "Yes, Sir."

But the lips close above him said nothing, and it was Bobby now who
murmured: "My love, is it you?"

"Your love for always," the dear lips replied, "nothing shall part us
now. Yours for always to bring you back to life. Yours when you will
claim me--yours for life."

They lifted him onto a stretcher, and then into a carriage and a very
kind face which he quickly enough recognised as Mme. la Duchesse
d'Agen's smiled very encouragingly upon him, whereupon he could not help
but ask a very pertinent question:

"Mme. la Duchesse, is all this really happening?"

"Why, yes, my good man," Madame replied; and indeed there was nothing
dreamlike in her tart, dry voice: "Crystal and I really have dragged Dr.
Scott away from the bedside of innumerable other sick and wounded men,
and also from any hope of well-earned rest to-night: we have also really
brought him to a spot very accurately described by our worthy friend,
St. Genis, but where, unfortunately, you had not chosen to remain, else
we had found you an hour sooner. Is there anything else you want to
know?"

"Oh, yes! Madame la Duchesse, many things," murmured Bobby. "Please go
on telling me."

Madame laughed: "Well!" she said, "perhaps you would like to know that
some kind of instinct, or perhaps the hand of God guided one of our
party to the place where you had gone to sleep. You may also wish to
know, that though you seem in a bad way for the present, you are going
to be nursed back to life under Dr. Scott's own most hospitable roof:
but since Crystal has undertaken to do the nursing, I imagine that my
time for the next six weeks will be taken up in arguing with my dear and
pompous brother that he will now have to give his consent to his
daughter becoming the wife of a vendor of gloves."

Bobby contrived to smile: "Do you think that if I promised never to buy
or sell gloves again, but in future to try and live like a gentleman--do
you think then that he will consent?"

"I think, my dear boy," said Madame, subduing her harsh voice to tones
of gentleness, "that after my brother knows all that I know and all that
his daughter desires, he will be proud to welcome you as his son."

The doctor's wide barouche lumbered slowly along the wide, straight
road. In the east the luminous veil that still hid the rising sun had
taken on a hue of rosy gold: the birds, now fully awake, sang their
morning hymn. From the direction of Wavre came once more the cannon's
roar.

Inside the carriage Dr. Scott, sitting at the feet of his patient, gave
a peremptory order for silence. But Bobby--immeasurably happy and
contented--looked up and saw Crystal de Cambray--no longer a girl now,
but a fair and beautiful woman who had learned to the last letter the
fulsome lesson of Love. She sat close beside him, and her arm was round
his reclining head, and, looking at her, he saw the lovelight in her
dear eyes whenever she turned them on him. And anon, when Mme. la
Duchesse engaged Dr. Scott in a close and heated argument, Bobby felt
sweet-scented lips pressed against his own.



THE END





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