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Title:      Saint Michael's Gold
Author:     H. Bedford Jones (James O'Brien) 1887-1949
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
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Edition:    1
Language:   English
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Date first posted:          June 2003
Date most recently updated: June 2003

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A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook

Title:      Saint Michael's Gold
Author:     H. Bedford Jones (James O'Brien) 1887-1949





                       CHAPTER I

         LIBERTY AND EQUALITY, IF NOT FRATERNITY



LAST days in Paris are always eventful, but mine were to be
more eventful than most. I knew it when I wakened, at a late
hour, and found the curt note from Laurent Basse telling of
my denunciation.  "See Robespierre at once and block an
arrest," he wrote. "Meet me at five this afternoon at the
Bonnet Rouge."

A glance at the clock and I was out of bed, cursing my heavy
slumber. However, there was some excuse for my eight hours
of exhausted sleep, the first in two days, and I had the
satisfaction of knowing that three more women owed their
lives to me.

I had been too long under the shadow of denunciation to
worry over possible arrest. Ever since we voted against the
king's death, Paine and the rest of us had been in the same
boat.

I hurried. I had to eat, shave and dress, then stuff my few
belongings into my pockets and settle
up my bill for lodgings, since there would be no
return here. All this behind me, I hastened out to
the street. The Rue du Bac showed its usual crawling line of
hackney coaches, and I beckoned one. It was past noon of
Monday, the twentieth of May -- a day I was to remember for
its furious happenings.

The morrow would be exactly four months since Louis XVI lost
his head, in January of this year,1793.

From somewhere came darting a street gamin.  He flung a
sharp cry at me and in passing thrusta folded newspaper into
my hand; then he ran on without waiting for his money.  I
pocketed the paper impatiently as the hackney drew up.

"To the Tuileries -- the convention hall," I said.The driver
shrugged amiably.

"It will cost you five hundred francs, citizen!"

"I'll give you six hundred for speed."

"Bah!" he rejoined, with a laugh and a flourish of his whip.
"Why worry over speed, citizen, when to-morrow may see you
dead?"

I smiled and climbed in, and the vehicle lumbered off. My
smile quickly died into rueful gravity  - in this saucy
repartee was too much ghastly truth.  Recalling the folded
paper shoved into my hand, I opened it to find the latest
copy of Marat's newssheet, the "Friend of the People."
Scrawled across the top of it was an unsigned message:

"Advance the hour to three.  Imperative."

I shredded this into fragments and cast it away.  From
Laurent Basse, then -- porter and proof-runner of the paper,
body-guard and sole confidant of the terrible Marat. Why had
he changed the rendezvous to an earlier hour? The answer was
ominously simple.

"Something more has happened." I reflected, at the passing
buildings with unseeing gaze.  "If Marat has learned the
truth, I'm lost. My one hope lies in Robespierre, and also
in Danton; both hate and fear Marat. However, since Marat
denounced me last night, he must have cause. Some spy has
found me out."

The city was one of ravening wolves fast turning was divided
into two factions, the republicans and royalists, or Blues
and Whites. Inside the city were a dozen factions, tearing
at each other's throats, fighting for power.

Only a fool cherishes illusions, and I had none whatever. My
usefulness here was ended. It was only a matter of hours to
my arrest-to-night at latest. Then I heard my name called,
and something of a shock came over me.

"Martin! Citizen Martin!"

My coachman halted. Striding up from the curb was a tall
alert figure only too well known to me.  Clad in the most
approved revolutionary fashion, even to the blue "tyrant"
waistcoat and the liberty-cap pin at the neck of his shirt,
this man none the less achieved a certain elegance in his
appearance.  Citizen Rabaut, informer, spy, betrayer of his
own caste, dreaded agent of the Committee of Public Safety,
had once been the Marquis de Saint-Servaut. Where others had
turned coat from sincere belief, he had done so for his own
advantage. I knew him for opportunist pure and simple, a man
with no sincerity in anything, no respect for anyone,
utterly callous. He had all the vices of the old noblesse,
and none of their virtues except courage.

"So we ride together, Martin?" he exclaimed.  At his smile,
I lost my quick fear.  He had not come to arrest me then.

"To what ride do you refer -- one in a green cart, like the
late Citizen Capet?"

He laughed easily.  He was a handsome man and would go far,
with his absolute lack of scruple.

"Not yet, l hope! I refer to your appointment --Laurent
Basse told me of it half an hour ago. I'm glad we have met,
for the business is rather urgent and secret," and he flung
a glance at my driver. "By the way, I've heard rumors about
you -- eh?  How your commission was signed, I don't know.
Perhaps you'd like to get out of Paris before it's revoked
eh?"

He had a habit of saying things in this way, with a half-
inquiring word at the end. His dark, insolent eyes laughed
knowingly at me. I had sense to give him a quiet nod and not
reveal my utter   bewilderment at his words, for the name of
Basse showed me what was afoot.

"Since we're to be companions," I responded, "We might as
well get away while we can.  I'm quite at your service."

"Faith, you take it carelessly!"  Rabaut looked hard at me,
his powerful, cleanly cut features half suspicious.  "Do you
understand that full powers are accorded me, and nearly the
same to you? I am, in fact, a commissioner -- that is to
say, a king. I'm to keep my eye on the procureur Fromond,
who is nominally to have charge of the job." He had lowered
his voice and stood beside me. "You'll get half a troop of
horse at Avranches, if you want them, and will keep your eye
on me. Who the devil will keep an eye on you, remains to be
seen!"

He finished with a sardonic laugh.  Staggered by all this,
utterly at a loss, I temporized and did not dare show my
abysmal ignorance of the whole matter.

"When do we leave, then, and from where?" I demanded.

He produced a gold snuffbox and sniffed the brown dust with
an air.

"Basse told me of a pair of excellent horses, and I'm on my
way to find and requisition them" he responded. "I suppose
we'd best go by way of Versailles to Alencon, then on to
Avranches. Getting safely to the coast and back will be
matter for miracle -- the whole country down there is an
ambuscade for Bluest I'm trusting your head to work on the
matter. Shall we say four-thirty this afternoon, at my
lodgings -- eh? You know the place, above the Cafe Perron in
the Rue Dominique. That'll get us out of town to-night."

"Agreed," I said. "It's past noon already.  Four-thirty, eh?
You and I go alone?"

He nodded and stepped back, and my coach went on.

I was acutely relieved, and tried to resolve my bewilderment
into some semblance of order. Obviously Laurent Basse, the
porter and servant of Marat, had cooked up some scheme to
get me out of Paris.

Rabaut I knew for a most unprincipled scoundrel, a man even
more dreaded than Marat, eager to rise by the betrayal of
anyone. He had sent his own uncle to the guillotine, and had
fabricated more than one conspiracy to rescue the boy king
or the queen, only to gather in his companions and send them
to the knife. Fortunately, he had no suspicion that I was
doomed.

This man a commissioner! Were the fact true, Rabaut would be
actually more powerful than any man in France, outside
Paris. The commissioners appointed by the Committee of
Public Safety answered only to this central committee.
Generals obeyed them. They had power over everything and
everyone.

"Apparently I'm something of the same sort,"  was my
comforting reflection. "Some affair of huge size is in the
wind -- what the deuce can it be? Well, no matter if Rabaut
doesn't learn the truth about me before four-thirty this
afternoon! I'll have to wait until I meet Basse, and
meantime guard my tongue."

An excellent resolution, had I been able to keep it.

Upon approaching the disorderly mass of buildings, once the
Tuileries palace, it became evident I was not too late --
the session had been delayed, other representatives were
still arriving. The buildings roared with voices and crowds
fought at the doors. My driver got his six hundred francs in
fresh paper assignats, and was still grumbling when I turned
away.

There were some advantages in being a representative, for I
was recognized and passed by the guards with some jest, and
so gained the Terrace des Feuillants. From this terrace a
door reserved for members opened directly into the
convention hall.

As I stepped through it into the obscurity, a hand fell upon
my wrist.

For an instant I could see nothing. Outside, the day was
cloudy and dark; inside it was more than dark -- it was
ominous. Once the royal theater, this great hall was now
blurred and heavy with scaffolding and beams, dim with
feeble lamps, gloomy and threatening, all disproportionate
with the huge busts and statues stuck around. The only gay
thing in the place was the group of immense flags above the
speaker's tribune, and now even these were but vaguely
visible.  The session was not yet sitting, nor would be
soon. Around was all the usual turbulent, cursing, shouting
throng, voices storming in mad vehemence -- and in my ear
honest English speech, clear cut and sharp.

"Martin! This is madness, John, madness!"

Before me appeared the gentle, shrewd-eyed face of Thomas
Paine. He had been waiting here, probably for me, perhaps
for others. Like me, he had been given a seat in the
convention as an expert revolutionist, in which science
indeed he was more famed than I. My own seat came from the
influence of Lafayette.

You should not have come here," he went on rapidly. "You
don't know what took place in last night's session -- Marat
denounced you under the decree proposed by Osselin."

"I know."

None the less this showed what I had not known   I was
surely doomed. This terrible decree condemned to death any
emigre' or banished noble who returned to France, any person
who tried to leave France, anyone who helped in the
departure or return or who gave asylum to any such fugitive.
It was this decree which was to inaugurate the Terror.

"Where've you been the past two days, man?" snapped Paine.
"I've tried to reach you, but you weren't at home --"

"I've been helping three poor women out of this accursed
city," I said.

Paine groaned. "Then it's true! Fournier spoke with me half
an hour ago; he says Marat wants your head, Robespierre is
silent, Danton frowns.  If you're seen here to-day, you're
lost!  Get out, John, get out of here at once."

Sight of the man steadied me -- he was one sane man in this
convention gone mad with blood and power!  That we Americans
should be members here was not strange, nor were we the only
ones. There was Fournier, friend of Lafayette; indeed,
Washington himself had been made a member, and several
English liberals.

"No," I told him. "I'm here because it's the safest place
for the day.  Denunciation doesn't mean arrest. They'd not
arrest me here, in any case."

"But to-night --"

"I'll be gone," I said, unhurried. "I've left my lodgings
already.  You know Marat's watch-dog, as they call him --
that fellow Laurent Basse? He's heavily in my debt and is
making some plan to get me out of Paris."

"You have a chance, then," and Paine looked relieved. "Is
there anything I can do?"

"Yes. Don't get mixed up in my fate."

He laughed curtly. "No matter, John. They're only waiting
now for some pretext to get me   Danton tipped me off
yesterday.  I've sent him a letter on the tumultuous
misconduct of things here, and its publication may effect
something -- one way or the other."

"You!" I exclaimed.  "They'd not dare attack you, Paine!"

"They dare anything," he said gloomily. "Danton means to
bring the queen to the knife, and Marat is laying traps for
Robespierre.  Dare!  They've gone mad, John, and you'd
better get out of the madhouse."

A throng shoved into us and swept us apart.

I  went on, slowly working a devious way through the wild
tumult, half convinced that I had better get out yet
stubbornly resisting the conviction. Sabres, pistols, knives
were everywhere, threats filled the air. The Girondins,
already doomed, were frantically accusing their opponents.
Every man's hand was against that of every other man.  Oaths
and shouted imprecations were roared on all sides. If it
were not so frightful, it would have been ludicrous.

I got across the floor, beneath the black-framed Declaration
of the Rights of Man. An ugly place, this; the very memory
of those nineteen semi-circular benches fronting the
speaker's rostrum, the bare tribunes thronged with people,
the gloomy, blood-spattered wood all around was unpleasantly
suggestive.

This month saw the beginning of the fratricidal struggle.
Paris ruled France with a throttling grip, and this
convention of ours still ruled Paris; three men, Marat,
Danton and Robespierre, ruled the convention.  These three,
already in a death-grapple, were hurling doom at all around
them. And now, in the gloomy murk of this ominous hall,
under the ironical statue of Liberty with Franklin's
medallion affixed to her crown, I was destined to meet each
of these three men, with no great luck from the encounters.

While making my way along the dark passage between the
benches, I suddenly collided with a tall figure, getting a
sharp rap on the head.

"Pardon," I exclaimed.  "Ah, Danton I was looking for you-"

"It is not Danton," said a bitter voice, instantly apprising
me of my frightful error. "Useless to seek my pardon,
Citizen Martin."

The cold features of Robespierre grew before me. This man
would never forgive being mistaken for Danton -- his fingers
were already itching for that burly throat. At his tone,
anger swept through me, and I snapped at him with deliberate
insult.

"Your pardon?  Not at all.  Rather, I should ask the pardon
of Danton."

Even in the gloom, one could see how he went white at the
words.

"Another song to-morrow, citizen," he answered coldly, and
went his way.

There was one hope gone; with a shrug, I continued my
course.  Robespierre had held his peace about me, but this
issue was now decided, my fate sealed by the error I had
made. This man who had killed a king was inexorable and
pitiless, his dark, thin shadow already projected by the red
torch of the coming terror.

"There remains Danton," I thought. "He may be glad to stand
by me, if only to snarl at Robespierre and Marat. Danton has
the army and half Paris at his back, too! If he can stave
off any talk of arrest for today, then to-morrow I'll be
gone."

I soon found where Danton stood, in this respect.




                         CHAPTER II

         A WATCHDOG SOMETIMES BETRAYs HIS MASTER



TWO figures blocked my way, one of them vehemently and
furiously shouting, the other retorting with calm and deadly
accusations.  The first was burly, leonine, unkempt; the
second, young and handsome, a terrible brooding melancholy
in his eyes, a noble who had espoused the cause of liberty
and had found it only a hollow mockery.

Their dispute passed unheeded by the throngs all around,
since everyone was denouncing, threatening, clamoring for
the next man's blood. France was gripped by men seeking
wildly to keep their own feet from mounting the scaffold,
yet few of them managed it. Most of the men gathered in this
gloomy theater of the revolution were already death marked.

"I tell you," roared the leonine Danton, shaking his heavy
fist, "I tell you it is sheer folly! There is no trouble
worth the name in Brittany or the Vendee -- the menace to
the republic comes from the frontier! Saint-Just, you talk
too much and think too little."

"And you think not at all," retorted the acid-voice of
Saint-Just.  "You fear Prussia, but you forget yourself,
Danton.  Who thieved the crown jewels? Who led an army into
Belgium and filled pockets like a common robber?  Who stole
the hundred thousand pounds of the Ministry of Justice?"

"Ask, you ci-devant dog!" howled Danton, almost stifled by
an access of rage.  "If Santerre rolled drums to drown the
voice of a king, he can roll them to drown the questions of
a fool!"

"Ah, but he rolled them at the order of Robespierre!" This
smoothly barbed shaft drove home most cruelly.  Danton could
not forgive Robespierre for having cheated him of killing
Louis Capet. "And perhaps you will hear them rolled to drown
your own voice, Citizen Danton -- again at the order of
Robespierre."

Accurate prophecy was not difficult in these days.

"And you -- you!" Danton emitted a bellow of anger. "You in
your fine cravat and fine clothes, who talk of Brittany to
cloak your own designs --"

The livid face of a corpse emerged from the obscurity behind
the two, and a quietly decisive Vendee struck in.

"Who should not talk of Britanny?" it said. "Danton, you do
not know; Saint-Just, you do not realize; but I know and
realize, since I myself am from the west! On the first of
this month, twelve thousand volunteers left Paris to subdue
the Vendee. To-day, seven thousand are dead. This day week,
not four thousand will remain alive."

The speaker was Fouche, representative of Nantes.

"Bah!"  cried Danton.  "In the army of Rochelle alone, Biron
has eighty thousand men, a third of them veterans from the
Rhine!"

"Not enough by half," retorted the cold, precise Fouche.
"Look! In Maine, an army under Jean Chouan is in rebellion
against the draft laws. Farther on in the Vendee, the entire
country is in arms, and Cathelineau is destroying regiments,
capturing cannon, firing towns. Brittany is in civil war. In
Normandy, our best soldiers are being massacred. The English
are trying to obtain a landing point, and Prince de Talmont
is endeavoring to bind all these rebellious forces into one
great movement.  At all costs, we must block these aims!
Citizen Danton, forget Prussia and look to the west-the
ulcer must be destroyed before France can face the external
foe!"

The other two were silent.  They might well listen to
Fouche', already one of the most prominent men in the
convention. His insight, his craft, his balanced brain,
constituted a deadly and unerring force. Like Paine, he had
a rare common sense, but he also had the personal magnetism
Paine lacked, and in later days it carried him to a dukedom.

Suddenly Danton caught a glimpse of me, and swung around.

"Ah!" he exclaimed. His bloodshot eyes glared at me like
those of a wild beast. "Ah, here is our American friend, our
humanitarian, our fine aristocrat who cannot see a woman's
neck bared to the knife! Citizen Martin undoubtedly sees
events very clearly. Tell us, citizen, whence comes the
danger to our France? Come, instruct us in the cause!"

Soft and deadly words these, horribly instinct with menace.
Now I knew Danton had abandoned me utterly, beast that he
was! I met his gaze and flung caution aside.

"From ambition," I said.

"Oh!" Danton sneered. "Remarkable! We have nobles who are
one with the common people, priests and bishops who lead our
armies, and Americans who are prophets! Come, my citizen
from across the sea, prophesy!"

"With pleasure," I said coolly. "You seek to rival
Robespierre, who killed a king. Very well, Danton, the
butcher! If you wish, you may bring a queen to the
guillotine.  But be careful lest you are dragged in the wake
of this ambition, and go the same road."

Danton erupted in a howl of incoherent fury not lessened by
the cynical laughter of Saint-Just or the cold chuckle of
Fouche.  He flung a mad oath at me and then rushed away.
Fouche touched me on the shoulder as I was passing and
checked me, staring at me from his dark, deep-set, piercing
eyes.

"If I were you, citizen, do you know what I should do?" he
asked.

"What, then?" I demanded.

"Take wings," said Fouche, with his slow and terrible smile.
"Take wings and fly to your America -- within the hour!"

I read a well-meant warning in these words and nodded.

"Thank you, Fouche. Perhaps I shall do so."

Going on, threading my way among the groups, I gave up all
thought of seeking my seat and remaining for the session. By
this time, it was clear that I was utterly lost. My
appearance, instead of calming my fellow members, only
infuriated them, and I had lost my only chances of help.  I
must get away at once, or never.

For me, it was the end. During all these months I had used
my position and abilities to help unfortunate women and
children away from Paris.  This, indeed, was my sole excuse
for remaining. I had come to France, summoned by Lafayette,
two years previously. Like Paine, I was fired by hopes of
giving my aid to this revolution in the old world; the idea
of carrying help from America to France had enthused me
mightily.

Now, however, I was older.  With Paine and the others my
utter folly stood clear, all illusions were gone.  France
had finished with revolution and was entering into madness.
The patriots, indeed, the Girondins and the noblest of those
who had led the way to freedom, were already doomed.  As
Danton truly said, in a revolution the power gravitated to
the most wicked and the basest.

I struggled to reach the entrance again. "I'll go, if I can
get out of the country," was my despairing thought. "After
all, my time has not been wasted -- I've saved a few poor
souls from the teeth of the wolves, and have brought a touch
of pity into this ravening city.  Laurent Basse is powerful;
he, if anyone, can get me out of Paris, probably has
arranged it --"

Again my way was blocked by a wild throng.  This eddied away
and left two men -- rather, one man and a frightful
caricature of humanity. The man, who was some obscure Breton
deputy, was speaking eagerly, warmly, to the caricature.

"Absolutely forgotten, I tell you! And yet it is the
greatest treasure in all France.  I have seen the list of it
-- incredible! Citizen Fromond urged me to speak of it to
you. No one has remembered it --"

"I have remembered it," said the caricature.  Here was a
dwarfish figure with its stoop, disheveled and dirty,
blotched, branded by disease, mouth sprawling and huge, red
eyes hideous. Thi5 creature was the idol of the populace,
the most powerful man in Paris, who had risen over all
enmity and opposition to a place almost supreme. Marat.

"I have already made arrangements concerning it, but the
matter must remain secret," he went on.  "Above all, Danton
must not sniff it. He has a nose for treasure, that Danton."

"Yet," objected the deputy, "how can it be secretly managed?
If the Whites seize the place, and they are already working
north, they will get it.   Such a treasure --"

"It will be managed," said Marat. Looking past the Breton,
he saw me, and a mirthless smile twisted his lips.  "The
trouble in the west amounts to little. Leave all to me."

"Citizen, the trouble amounts to revolution!"

"Be quiet."

Marat pushed him aside impatiently and turned to face me.
His blotched and livid visage broke into a snarl, and wild
hatred flamed in his eyes.

"So, Citizen American, you have repaid hospitality with
insult, and our welcome with treachery!"

I lifted my brows.  "Eh?  Your meaning, Marat?"

"I know everything!" he burst out with sudden heat.  "I know
how, at seven o'clock yesterday morning, you escorted a
coach past the barrier of the Champs Elysees and on through
the guards.  In this coach were the ci-devant Baronne de
Florelle and her two daughters -- eh?  You have been
indiscreet, citizen."

"I have been merciful," I said, meeting his hot gaze.

"That word has been forgotten, except by Louisette."

Thus Marat always referred to the guillotine.

"The convention," I said, "has not passed a decree against
mercy."

"The decree was passed when the head of Louis Capet fell.
And, my American, no decrees are necessary against
traitors!"

"Then look to yourself!" I exclaimed angrily, swept by
loathing of the creature.  "All around you are traitors!
Your most intimate friend is the ci-devant Marquis de
Montaut. Citizen Cloots, who proclaims God as his personal
enemy, was a baron.  Citizen Charles Hesse was a prince.
Saint-Just was a noble --"

"Enough, Intervened Marat with ominous calm transfixing me
with his bestial eyes. "Three days ago, Citizen Martin, I
was considering giving you an army to lead. To-day, however,
I promise you a wife."

"You are kind," I said. "Her name?"

"Louisette."

With this one word Marat smiled and then was gone in the
vociferous throng.

I made my way out of the accursed P1ace, knowing I had heard
the very voice of death at my ear.

Yet the irony of it brought a laugh to my lips -  Marat the
all-powerful about to destroy me, while his servant was
rescuing me! Yet, could Laurent Basse manage it?  This
remained to be seen.  I must leave Paris at once, and then
France; and here was a difficult matter.  Anyone could enter
Paris, but leaving the city was a problem.

It was drawing toward the hour of my appoint-ment with
Basse, so I turned at once toward the Pont Neuf, the
rendezvous being at a cafe on the other bank. Once I saw
Basse, I could join Rabaut and get off -- if nothing
happened to stop me. At any moment I might be arrested.  My
figure was fairly well known and was too large for disguise,
and spies were everywhere.

I saw many persons whom I knew, but who did not speak to me
-- nobles and priests in ragged garb, a wigged nun selling
fruit, a marquis pushing a barrow of clothes for sale.  Men
were drilling, children were dancing, people were eating in
the streets and playing cards in the gutters, throngs were
excitedly discussing events or listening to orators.  The
people now owned Paris -- it was theirs. The walls were
gaudy with placards.  In the Tuileries gardens grew grain in
place of flowers. Beneath all this was starvation, mob law,
somber desperation, just as France herself was mad turmoil
and confusion with the enemy at her throat.

Fortunately, I had some gold in my belt. The assignats of
the republic were practically worthless, and Paris was
flooded with false English-made assignats -- a shrewd blow
at the credit of the republic.  Only gold was of avail in a
pinch, and I was certainly in a pinch.

"Once I get back to Virginia, I'll stay there," was my
morose thought. "That is, if I get back! How the devil Marat
discovered my activities -- ah! This seems to be a day of
meetings."

I had come to the Pont Neuf and started across the bridge
when, coming toward me, pushing her wheeled cart of
trinkets, ribbons and lavender-water, I perceived Mother
Pitou.

A bent and gnarled Parisian hag was she, brown-faced,
toothless, crooked in body.  Few people dreamed how
faithfully she served many of her old masters, how many of
the former aristocracy she had aided to leave the city.
Also, she served as a royalist agent and spy, and was
undoubtedly connected with half the plots and counter-plots
going on. Paris was filled with spies, naturally, yet this
old hag was an actual worker. She did things.

She nodded to me, and since no one was close at hand, I
halted and spoke.

"Good day, Mother Pitoul Is all well with you?"

"I hope so," she said, with a sharp look. "What about the
three sparrows?"

"All safe through and on their way under escort," I told
her.  "It gave me plenty of work getting them disguised and
through the barriers, I can tell you! But I had to use my
name, and now the game's up. Marat knows."

"Oh!"  She was taken aback, then cackled in laughter. Little
she cared. "He knows, eh? Then you can slip away, and take
with you a little starling who needs your help. He left
Paris but was stopped at Versailles -- is held there. If you
can vouch for him, he'll be set free --"

"Not I," was my angry response. This was not the first time
the old beldame had tried to involve me in her endless
intrigues. "I'll have nothing to do with your plots, as you
well know.  When it's a question of helping women away, I'm
at your service -- or have been."

"But listen, you talker!"  She reached out a skinny claw and
clutched me by the arm. "Kerguelec is the name -- a Breton
lad. In reality, one of the de Rohans -- ha! The name
touches you, eh?"

"Not a bit" I shook her off, none too gently, for she was a
persistent old creature.  "Let your aristocracy go to the
knife, for all of me -- they deserve it, most of them! And
even my helping women is ended now, Mother Pitou. I'm
denounced and will be arrested -- so I'm off to-day, if I
can get clear."

"Devil take you!" she snapped at me.  "This Kerguelec is at
the inn of the Liberty Cap, and one word from you will save
his neck. Since you are going, think of your own neck and do
a good action at the last, in the name of the saints! Will
that hurt you?"

Her appeal reached me with its reason, and shook my
decision. Given a certain degree of honor by the new
republic and admitted to a guest-seat in the convention, I
had flatly refused to take part in any plottings or to
connive at the evasion of royalists. In sober fact, I had
scant sympathy with the aristocrats and none whatever with
their cause. Regarding women and children, it was a far
different matter.  There, in lending what aid I could, I
could see none of the treachery with which Marat had
reproached me, but only mercy and plain decency.

Well, it was all over and ended now! The de Rohans were a
princely Breton family, and this caught bird was undoubtedly
connected with plots and risings. Now, however, John Martin
was no more a guest of France -- he was a fugitive trying to
save his head at any cost! If, as his final action, he might
also save the head of another man, why should he not do it?

"Very well," I said to the old crone.  "Your argument is
sound enough, and if possible I'll do something for this
Kerguelec.  I'll probably leave the city by way of
Versailles -- yes, it might be managed! Still," I added,
"I'll not be riding out alone. I expect to be in company
with a certain friend of yours -- a very dear friend, I
believe."

"Eh?" She peered up at me. "Who, then?"

"A certain marquis, a gentleman you delight to honor."

"Who, then?" she snapped irritably.

"The Marquis de Saint-Servaut, at present. known as Citizen
Rabaut."

She broke into a blether of cursing, and with a laugh I
swung off along the bridge.  I dared tell her nothing of my
plans, naturally, for a breath might ruin Laurent Basse.

Gaining the left bank, I walked on to that narrow, gray
little street called Ci-git-le-coeur, "Here rests the
heart," where in more ancient days the patron of Cellini had
builded a house for one of his many loves -- perhaps any one
of these tall blank structures overhanging the narrow way
had named the place. House and love and king all alike
forgotten, the words lingered plaintively from the dead
past, an echo of what had been and would not be again.

Only a short distance from the quay was the cafe of the
Bonnet Rouge, and pushing open the door, I entered.  It was
just three o'clock. Over the heads of a few drinkers, I
beheld the sprawling figure of Laurent Basse, on the settle
at the far end of the tavern. Basse was not an inviting
personage.  Like his master, he was extremely dirty and
unkempt, besides being ferociously hairy; but at present he
was to my eyes an angel of mercy.

"How goes it?" he said with a grin, as he gripped hands with
me and made room. "You're a lucky devil to have a man like
me for friend!"

"Conceded," I replied, as I settled down beside him and
watched him shred tobacco into a pipe.  "And how goes it
with you?"

"Excellently. All the world is being denounced, or soon will
be. Louisette will have a deep drink in another day or so!"
Basse exultantly pounded on the table with his knife-haft.
"Confusion to all aristocrats! If you were an aristocrat,
I'd not help you, even though I owe you my life! But you're
not. You're an American, and I have a feeling for Americans,
me.  They laugh.  They do not walk with their noses in the
air, like the English. Yes, when you pulled me away from
those pikes last year, you did yourself a good turn! I don't
forget when a man saves my life."

"Well, I'm no aristocrat," I said, laughing. The fellow was
as garrulous as a fishwife.  "By the way, I met Citizen
Rabaut. He spoke of matters I didn't understand in the
least, but I am leaving with him in an hour and a half."

Basse grinned again, and called for wine.  He flung a coin
on the table -- real coin, no paper! The wine was hastily
brought, the coin pouched, and we were left alone.

"It is curious, a real jest!"  Chuckling, Basse stared at
me. "You are lost because Marat knows you help women escape.
He thinks you are a spy for the Whites, too, but I know
better. Me, I agree with him -- I like to see a pretty girl
kiss Louisette! It is fine to see the red smocks and the
proud looks. However, I do not mind if a few get away, since
it pleases you. The curious contrast, my friend, is this:
You are saved, because Marat has remembered something."

"Salvation is several hours away yet," I said drily.

"Bah! I have your papers in my pocket -- Marat signed them
in his bath." Basse clapped me on the knee. "Did you know
the doctor has ordered him to take baths?  It is true, poor
devil; I'm sorry for him. Me, I haven't had a bath in two
years, and I'm the picture of health. Here's a great joke
for you of the convention! Yesterday one of the Girondins
accosted Danton in one of the halls, and threatened him
furiously, saying it wasn't Marat or Robespierre they
feared, but only Damon, who could sway the crowd with his
frantic oratory. Well, Robespierre was standing only four
feet away! Ten to one he has Danton's head inside a
fortnight."

"Let him have it and welcome," I returned with a shrug.  "My
only present interest is in my own head."

"True." Basse uttered a laugh. "Well, that is safe enough,
and a cleaner head than most, eh?" He nudged me enjoyably.
"Why do you have red hair, my friend, and bright blue eyes,
and a keen straight mouth like that of Saint-Just? A
difficult head to disguise. Well, it is safe-because Marat
has remembered something."

"Does he ever forget anything?"

"This is what everyone has forgotten, it seems, except a
nosy procureur in Avranches, one Fromond by name who kills
priests and destroys churches.  Voi1a le diable! A madman,
this Fromond, but one to make the dogs dance on the
boulevards, I assure you!"

This was the third time to-day I had heard the name uttered.

"Regard, now -- there is a treasure sealed away somewhere in
Normandy, a place called the Mont Libre. It had another name
in the old days, but I forget it. You see our volunteers of
Paris without shoes, half naked, fighting and dying so --
and this Treasure in the provinces! Marat is going to
convert it into shoes before Danton discovers it."

"And Citizen Rabaut is to do the converting."

"Everybody is to do it." Laurent Basse pulled his mustache
and grinned. "What devils you Americans are for
explanations!  Nominally, the job falls to this procureur,
Fromond. The committee at Avranches will send along a spy to
watch him, in shape of a jeweler to weigh and buy in the
treasure. Oh, Marat takes care of everything!  I have seen
the letters. Rabaut is commissioner in charge, to watch the
others, and be directly responsible."

"What trust in the fidelity of our citizens!" I said
ironically. Basse shrugged.

"Who is to be trusted, these days? Well, the Whites would
like to lay hands on this gold, be sure of it, and the roads
are unsafe. So, associated with Rabaut, to watch him and
take charge of the party's safety, is Citizen Merlin -- you
may know the man.  A jolly rascal from the Faubourg St.
Antoine, who helped Javogues empty the royal tombs in St.
Denis."

I nodded. The man was one of the lesser Parisian demagogues,
followers of Marat.

"All very well, Basse," I said, "but where is my place, and
how could I leave Paris? All the barriers are watched
closely, in every section. If an order for my arrest is
issued, I dare not show my papers --"

Basse cocked an eye at me and solemnly intoned the
republican shibboleth.

"Unity, the republic indivisible, liberty, equality,
fraternity, or death!  Vive la natio%!  Death to
aristocrats! Have a drink."

I laughed with the rascal, and our cups were refilled. Then
I repeated my query.

"All very well -- but where do I come in?"

"Where Merlin goes out -- honest Merlin does not yet know of
his appointment, for I have no intention of telling him."

Laurent Basse chuckled in his whiskers, leaned forward, and
lowered his strident voice.

"Listen! Me, I can write.  Me, I know how little a thing it
is to cross an '1' and make it into a 't', and deftly change
a Merlin to a Martin   there, you comprehend? I was charged
to deliver the commission to Citizen Merlin and keep it
secret. Instead, I change it a trifle and deliver it to
Citizen Martin!

"Chances for slips? Yes, a dozen, but none happened. I had
to give Rabaut his orders and letters, so I told him you
were commissioned. The thing was arranged last night, Marat
signed the papers this morning; Rabaut departs this
afternoon.

To keep him busy, I put him on the track of some good horses
-- and there's the whole thing in a nutshell."

Laughing, he leaned back and sipped his wine.

The audacity of the man was startling, yet proved his
friendship as nothing else would have done. He knew, of
course, that I was no conspirator and no White, as the
royalists were termed -- that all I wanted was to get away
safely.  I had saved his life, he was saving mine.

"Good man," I said.  "But won't this get you into trouble?"

He roared with mirth at this question.

"Me? Me, the proof-courier of the 'Friend of the People'?
Me, the porter of Citizen Marat, whom they call his
watchdog? If there is an inquiry, I made a mistake.  Upon my
word, Laurent Basse can make mistakes with impunity! But if
you once get out of Paris, there'll be no fuss about it.
Marat is a busy man."

"Basse, I thank you witb all my heart --"

"Bah! Our slate is cleared, then, and here's luck all
around." He lifted his glass, touched it to mine, and we
drank.  Then, wiping his mustache, he leaned forward. "You
see what you must do?"

"Explain."

"Let us suppose you are out of Paris. Well, can you get out
of France?  That's another matter. Use your commission and
go with Rabaut on this errand.  Nobody here will suspect you
of having gone to Brittany, with an idea of escape. Nobody
will ever imagine how you vanished, unless Merlin shows his
face to Marat some day. Well, you'll get to the west safely!

"The whole west is a madhouse.  Our honest Blues are
destroyed right and left -- those devils of Whites are all
in arms, and neither side gives quarter. Down with the
aristocrats! Let the Widow Capet and the Little Capet die,
and we may have peace. Well, the west will be swept by
armies presently, the country exterminated! Like the
Basques, down there all of them are priests or nobles. But
once there, you'll find shelter and you'll be safe -- I've
given you the start, friend American, and the rest of the
game is in your own hands."

These words did not jibe with Marat's scornful dismissal of
the Vendean troubles -- yet proved that Marat knew all about
them.  This bestial demagogue knew everything, and could
also dissimulate his knowledge; he was the ablest of the
triumvirate.  Had he lived only a few weeks longer, I verily
believe, there would have been no Terror. It was inaugurated
by the others as a measure of self-protection, but with
Marat alive there would have been no "others" left.

Laurent Basse produced some papers, pawed them over with his
filthy hands, selected one with the heading "Committee of
Public Safety," and passed it to me. Under the words "Year
One of the Republic" was written the date, the new calendar
not yet being adopted, and then:

       "Full powers are granted to Citizen Martin under the
       orders of Citizen Rabaut, delegated Commissioner of
       Public Safety."

To this paper were affixed three signatures those of Danton,
Marat, and Robespierre.

"Yet this is incredible!"  I lifted puzzled eyes to the
hairy face of Basse. "This errand is a secret matter known
to Marat alone, yet the others have signed --"

Basse laughed heartily.

"Listen!  Danton uses the army for his own purposes,
Robespierre uses Louisette for his own purposes, but my
master uses both these others for his own purposes!  Judge
which is the greatest man! The others know nothing of
Rabaut's real errand; ostensibly, he goes as commissioner to
the army. I've given him all the documents. And now let me
tell you something else, my friend."

Basse tapped me on the arm impressively.  "About yourself.
To-night you will be arrested.  To-morrow you will be
sentenced; the day after, to the knife! If I were you, I'd
remember."

"No danger," I responded.  Rising, I held out my hand to
him. "And thank you --"

"Wait!"  He broke into a sudden laughter, clinging to my
hand.  "I met Legendre on the way here -- you know Legendre,
the butcher! Well, he has sniffed out a pretty joke, this
species of a duck!  It seems that an innocent Breton yokel,
goatskin shirt and all, has been here in Paris for a week or
so -- and fastened upon whom, think you?  Fayau, of all men!
Fayau, who wants to burn the whole Vendee and make it a
desert!  Fayau thought the rogue was a Blue, took him
everywhere, exhibited him -- Fayau!"

Laurent Basse fell back on the settle, roaring with mirth
uncontrolled. I well knew the wild Fayau, who would have
suppressed the western risings with barbarous means.  I
could guess what was coming, and my lips twitched.

"Legendre sniffed something?"

"Aye, the butcher has a nose! He sniffed this stripling for
a de Rohan -- a de Rohan, mark you!  An emigre, a spy, a
plotter! And this is on the head of poor Fayau, who would
give his right arm to bring a Rohan under the knife!  More
than this," and pressing one hand to his aching side,
Basse laughed out the climax, "more than this, a girl! One
Marie de Rohan, of the accursed princely family! Think of
Fayau --"

"They've caught her?"

"She's escaped. Oh, they'll bring her in, never fear!
Legendre is moving heaven and earth to find her, and Fayau
is a raving maniac. Well, luck to you, luck to you! At least
you're no aristocrat. You're a good fellow, you are. Adieu!"

"Adieu, and all things," I said, and so left him.





                      CHAPTER III

         IF THE PAST IS UNPLEASANT, THERE IS ALWAYS
                       THE FUTURE


OUTSIDE, I followed the quay slowly downstream, having
plenty of time left. Presently I halted and stared
abstractedly at the brown muddy current below, still swollen
by the spring rains. Although I was a republican, I did not
share Paine's atheistic ideas, and a sense of wonder struck
me at the workings of providence as brought forth this day.

The girl, Marie de Rohan, for example.  She was, of course,
the Kerguelec of whom Mother Pitou had told me. Why the old
hag had not mentioned her sex, was a mystery. She was no
mere escaping refugee, but an active agent of the Whites.
She had come to Paris, perhaps bringing letters, and her
bold game had won until the last moment -- yet it was not
usual for a French woman to be thus employed. There was
something more behind it, I concluded, something
compellingly personal, perhaps some relative in one of the
prisons.

Now Kerguelec was suspected and detained at Versailles. As
yet, apparently, Mother Pitou was the only person in Paris
to know of it -- in Paris, where all the world was wildly
hunting the simple Breton lad! It was a keen jest, and like
all good jests, had about it a touch of the ironic, the
tragic.  Fate might overtake Kerguelec at any moment, might
well clutch him down before I reached Versailles to-night.
Well, we would see!

For the moment I had other matters to occupy my thoughts.
To-night arrested, to~morrow condemned, the next day
beheaded! An excellent program to remember, as Basse had
advised.

"All right, I'm through here, no longer a guest of France,"
I thought. "Once more I'm an American and nothing else.
Everything I've gained here is swept away, so let it go!
From this time on, all this murdering crew can look out for
themselves if they get in my way.  I'm bound for home, and
nothing shall intervene."

It was an uplifting thought, a spurring thought.  I had
suddenly become a hunted man, and I welcomed the work lying
ahead of me. Not for nothing had I traveled Indian trails in
Kentucky and crossed the western regions of Ohio -- if
things came to a scratch, I could abandon Rabaut and strike
out alone. Liberty was ended in France, as it everywhere
ends when it becomes tyranny.

Nor was I any mere soldier of fortune, to shift sides for
hire. Fighting for England made no appeal to me, and I had
no desire to join the Whites against the cause of liberty --
despite everything this cause still remained, and for me it
now remained doubly -- I would fight for John Martin and
home again!

So resolved, I turned from the river and threaded my way
among the narrow streets to the Rue Dominique. On the way I
bought a riding cloak and pistols, and reached the quarters
of Citizen Rabaut promptly at four-thirty in no little
apprehension. If Rabaut bad discovered anything in the
interim, I was lost.

Sighting two saddled horses before the door, however, my
relief was immediate. Rabaut appeared a moment later. He was
quite unsuspicious, flung me a gay greeting, and in five
minutes we mounted and were riding away. We were
ostentatious enough, too, with our pistols and flaming
tricolor sashes and cockades. Just as our own American
democracy's first action had been to institute an order of
chivalry, so the new French democracy played like a child
with badges and colors and tinsel.

Our traverse of the city was without incident, save to
emphasize the tremendous power of the documents we carried.
At the sectional barriers where all had to show their
papers, we were passed with salutes and cheers; the name of
Rabaut was well known, his new authority was impressive, and
nowhere was any demand made upon me -- as his companion I
was not even suspected. This made me smile to myself.
Citizen Rabaut might have to answer a few questions later
on, if my escape were traced!

At five-thirty we were past the barriers and heading for
Seve and Versailles, free.  And now I knew the astounding
bit of trickery had actually succeeded. With luck, anything
might succeed in Paris, yet in these days luck was a mighty
fickle jade.  Only a jest prevented Truchon from rescuing
Princesse de Lamballe, and a misunderstood word sent Madame
Elizabeth to the knife.

Feeling myself thus saved, I turned my attention to the
farther objective.  I knew the dangerous character of my
companion, and yet was confident in my ability to twist him
to my purposes. Rabaut, in common with others, felt a
certain reassurance from any contact with me or Fournier or
Paine; an American might not be entirely understood, but he
was at least no spy or informer, had no ulterior motives.

"Fouche' said to-day," I observed, as we rode side by side
along the two leagues of winding road, "that affairs in the
west are in frightful condition and our cause there
wavering."

To my utter surprise, Rabaut smiled in his mirthless,
sardonic way.

"Let the wolves destroy each other!" he exclaimed, and
snapped his fingers. "What will happen? South of the Loire,
all the Vendee is in a flame of revolt; those peasants will
cross the Loire, meet an army, and be crushed.  In Brittany
and Normandy the towns are Blue, the country White; the
country will be devastated and crushed. In Maine, Jean
Chouan may scatter one or two armies -- the third will crush
him. Cathelineau is a guerrila, to be hunted down and
crushed."

"Our journey in Normandy may not be unevent ful, though," I
said.

"Bah! We should reach Mont St. Michel safely enough -- eh?"

Mont St. Michel -- now the Mont Libre! Thus suddenly the
object of our quest burst upon me, for until now I had not
recognized the new name of the place.

It held me silent and thoughtful for a space. I had often
enough heard of this dreaded rock, an island just off the
Breton coast, a solid mount of masonry equally infamous with
the Bastille as a royal prison where men rotted; horrible
tales were told of it. Upon the revolution, monks and
jailers were turned out, and the dungeons became stuffed
with priests -- men too old or infirm for deportation. The
wholesale murder, now on its eve in Paris, had not yet
reached the provinces as a general thing.

"The treasure there is said to be enormous," I observed
presently. "Do you think we'll find it intact?"

"Why not?" was Rabaut's cynical answer. "Outside Paris, the
revolution is not yet ended. Men who fight for a cause do
not fill their pockets. Our chief object will be to reach
there before Cathelineau or the English make a raid and take
the place."

"More exactly," I amended, "our chief object will lie in
getting from town to town in safety. The entire countryside,
I understand, bristles with muskets for Blues."

"That will be your affair," he said indifferently.

"Then my affair begins at Versailles."
"Eh?" Rabaut turned in the saddle with an inquiring glance.
"Explain."

I gestured ahead. "At the inn of the Liberty Cap is a Breton
lad named Kerguelec. He is held for investigation. Well, I
propose to set him free and take him with us."

"And why, in the fiend's name?" asked Rabaut, staring at me.

I touched my gay sash. "Think you we can ride through
Normandy like this? We must take off our colors when leaving
town -- why draw bullets from every hedge? If a road is
closed, we shall have to find other roads. Here is a chance
to get a Breton guide, who'll know all the western roads.
Bound to us by a tie of gratitude, he should serve us well."

Rabaut nodded, and for a space rode on in thoughtful
silence.  Glancing at this dark, cruel, determined profile
at my side, for a fleeting instant I had the impression of
strange thoughts passing behind the mask of a face. And here
I was right.

"You know our errand?" asked Rabaut suddenly.

"Yes."

"Hm! Marat trusts you. Well, tell me something!  What are
you Americans doing here -- eh?  You, Paine -- all of you!
What have you to gain?"

At this final word, an astounding explanation of the man
beside me flashed over my mind. So astounding was it, that I
hesitated to accept the implication.

"Gain?" I repeated.  "What have we to gain?  Well, I think
we came here with visions. Those visions may still persist
with the others, for naturally one wants to see the end of
such events. For me, personally-"

I hesitated and broke off. Rabaut turned and gave me a
searching look.

"Come, Martin, be frank! All men have something to gain;
idealism persists only under oppression. The revolution, as
you say, began with visions and ideals. It has crumbled and
disintegrated into a fratricidal struggle for power.  Now it
is only a question of what each man seeks. The revolution is
ended."

True enough. In these words I could read darkly ominous
hints -- less in the words themselves than in their tone and
accent. Rabaut was feeling me out, carefully exploring my
mind.  He knew perfectly well I was no mere spy set to watch
him.

"I think," was my slow response, "we understand each other,
Rabaut.  I don't suppose you want to discuss the past; and
there I'm one with you! The future alone is interesting."

"Right!" He leaped at this bait with a swift access of
savagery. "The past be damned! I think we shall reach an
understanding, you and I. Now, as to this Breton at
Versailles -- you believe he'll be useful?"

"Very."

"Who told you of him? What do you know about him?"

"Basse mentioned him," I said.  "There's little doubt he is
a White -- perhaps a spy. What matter?

He can serve us."

This cynicism struck him in the right spot.

"Agreed, then.  What do you say to picking him up and
getting dinner, then going on -- eh? Neausle is only eight
leagues from Paris. We might press on there to-night."

"Willingly."

I smiled to myself as we rode along, for now slow
comprehension was coming to me. Rabaut knew the rapidity
with which things happened in Paris, knew that at any moment
our mission might be countermanded and ordered back -- and
he wanted to keep ahead of possibilities.

Clearly enough, I began to see into the heart of this
rascally man. Once Rabaut had been a marquis, an aristocrat,
a man of high position ruined by gaming. Now he was a
renegade, hated and feared by all, trusted by those he
served, and in a way powerful. Another turn of the wheel
could land him anywhere, and in these times the wheel turned
swiftly.

We rode a space in silence, now across the river and drawing
near Versailles. One world was behind us, another ahead.
Behind lay Paris and all its madness, its bloody internal
strife, its gathering Terror. Ahead of us lay all France.
True, each town had a committee, those terrible committees
of public safety soon to become agents of murder, yet the
two of us carried documents making us supreme over any other
man or group outside Paris itself.

"Here is a tremendous contrast," I said abruptly, pointing
to the town ahead. "We ride free, and all before us is at
our feet. Here, we are masters to be obeyed, responsible to
none, and the motto of the revolution becomes a mockery.
When we return --"

I paused, and Rabaut uttered a harsh laugh.

"When? You should say, if! Think you I'll be in a hurry to
re-enter Paris and give up my powers? Tell me, my American
friend, will you be in a hurry -- eh?"

"Not I."

"We shall understand each other," he said again, with a
certain grim satisfaction.

Had I been French, of course, he would not have spoken thus,
but I was an American, and perhaps he had some little
suspicion of my late activities. In a sense, sundered though
we were by a yawning gulf, we were impelled by very similar
feelings.  Not mere relief at my own escape filled my whole
heart   no, there was more, much more than this! Now I could
realize how every moment back there in Paris had been one of
high tension, of suspense and expectation, of energetic life
at full flood where one never knew what might happen next.

Now all this lay behind and past, like an evil dream, and I
wanted to see it no more. A wonderful hour, this ride with
its realizations of freedom and self-consciousness! Caught
up on the wavecrest of public excitement and held there
riotously, the individual had been less than nothing in a
forced conformation to liberty's shibboleth. I felt myself
robbed of two years of life, while sitting there seeing
history made around me and helping to make it.  The wildest
excesses of the revolution were yet to come, but I could
feel them impending, had heard them discussed  - everything
from a new calendar to a new deity in place of God.

The wild wave was nearly at height, and in a short time it
would become a seething maelstrom. I could scarcely think in
sane terms of life as it had been and would be again, in my
own land across the sea. This emergence from Paris was a
breath of sanity, of relaxation. The remembrance of this
very day in the convention hall brought a shiver -- so far
away it seemed, so incredible and unreal! What had it to do
with the cool night air, and the new stars, and the voices
of birds?

Instinctively, I sensed much the same feeling in my
companion. Here was a strong and subtle man who had betrayed
others right and left, handing over his own caste to the
knife, a renegade dog become leader of the wolf-pack,
holding himself above the tide of events at all costs. He
was absolutely sure in himself -- there was the keynote to
Rabaut. He had respect, fear, reverence, for nothing; having
seen his old world destroyed around him, he worked upward in
the new with ruthless tread. Yet now, perhaps, Citizen
Rabaut wished fervently to get out of it all.  He was one of
the few men in Paris who knew greater horizons, who could
visualize the round earth and not merely little Paris and
France. Much blood lay upon the head of Rabaut, and curses,
and these worried him not at all -- but the future did worry
him. With cause.

"At which inn -- the Liberty Cap?" he queried, as we rode
into Versailles.  "Good.  The local committee have their
headquarters there. We shall dine well -- eh?"

Twilight was gathering fast as we clattered along the
streets. Before us showed an inn loudly adorned with flags,
a soldier on guard outside.  Other soldiers came running,
flung a rope across the street for barrier, shouted orders
to halt.  Rabaut drew rein.

"We halt, citizens!" he cried. "We seek the committee and
dinner. Where are they?"

"Inside together, citizens!" said a sergeant. "You are from
Paris? Whither bound?"

"Ah, that's for the committee, citizen sergeant! Bait our
horses and lead us."

Dismounting, we entered the inn, while the sergeant stamped
ahead of us.  In the main room we came upon a vociferous
group seated about a big table -- the local committee of
public safety. It was the same story here as at Paris;
dispute, argument, threats hurled back and forth.  Candles
were glimmering and someone was bawling over a list of
suspects who should be seized. Then a silence fell as we
came forward, and Rabaut, giving his name, displayed his
credentials.

"Read, citizens."

The commission was handed about. In its wake went whispers
and low voices, while eyes stared furtively at us.
Versailles was close to Paris, and these men knew well
enough the name of Citizen Rabaut. They were suddenly afraid
for their heads, hesitated to ask our business, could only
gaze and mutter in suspense. A master had appeared among
them, and they cringed.

"Come!" Rabaut uttered a cheerful laugh, as he repocketed
his document. "Why such silence, in the devil's name?"

"There is no longer a devil," said a gloomy voice. "Devil
and God and superstition have all gone together."

"True, citizen, true! But there is a man -- a prisoner. I
want him." Rabaut glanced at me. "What's his name, Citizen
Martin?"

"Kerguelec," I responded. Instant relief fell upon the
gathering.

"Ah! That one is upstairs. He has refused to talk, so we
were awaiting some instructions about him."

"I bring them," said Rabaut.  "Rather, I give them.  Let a
horse be requisitioned for him. Let him be fed. Let him then
ride away with us -- and that's all! Now, citizens, what
about some food and Wine?"

Personal fears were thus assuaged; in these days, none knew
who might be a spy or a bringer of doom.  At once the table
broke into a babble of boasting, eager accusations, gossip,
suspicions, demands for news.  Everything hinged on Paris --
what had been done in the convention?  Who was denounced?
Was Marat really ill?  Had the queen escaped?

Rabaut and I seated ourselves, wine and food were brought, a
man went to take care of the horses and provide one for
Kerguelec, and bustle filled the room.  It was taken for
granted the man upstairs, "that one" as they called him,
rode out to his death. Over the whole place hung the
dominating and dreaded presence of Citizen Rabaut, and none
knew it better than Rabaut himself.

I could see the consciousness of it in his air, the harshly
bitter contempt for all those around, the cruel delight in
thrusting forth barbed words to compel sudden pallor. Here
was a new Rabaut, the arrogant noble showing through the
renegade's mask. This local committee might rule Versailles
in terror, yet Rabaut could hale them all to prison by
virtue of the commission in his pocket, and he delighted
savagely in making them swallow their own medicine.  Few in
France would have dared play with such men as these in
Rabaut's cool fashion -- few, indeed, possessed his infernal
audacity, his subtle sense of exactly the right word and
look that would sway men to fear or obedience. Marat had the
same gift, true; yet Marat was guided by certain principles
-- Rabaut by none.

As for the patriots, they were only too anxious to sacrifice
the scapegoat and rid themselves of the unwelcome caller.
With a scrape of feet on the sanded floor, Kerguelec was led
into the room to face us.  And instantly I sensed a thrill,
a half-comprehended moment of drama.  Sparks leaped from
brain to brain, and I could feel the sting of them, though
what lay behind it all was still hidden from me.

We looked upon a tall, slender youth clad in typical Breton
costume; high, wide black hat, goatskin vest or jacket, full
and baggy breeches coming just below the knee. Over one arm
was a cloak, and pistols showed in the tricolored sash, for
the suspect had been held but not imprisoned. Beneath the
hat was a thin, aquiline, dark face expressive of quiet
resolution; the long hair, worn to the shoulder in Breton
fashion and not retained by any ribbon, completed a disguise
most excellent for a woman, so that only if one knew the
disguise might truth be suspected.

The brown eyes were steady and very clear, poised high above
excitement.  Yet for all their poise, those eyes were not
proof against startled recognition.  In the candle-glow, I
saw them flash, and Rabaut was not the man to miss it.

"So!" he exclaimed, leaning back.  "You know me, citizen?"

"Certainly I do," returned Kerguelec coolly. "It was only
the other day that Citizen Fayau pointed you out to me."

"You know Fayau, then?"

"I have spent the past week with him in Paris."

A bold bid this in view of what Laurent Basse had told me
about search being made so frantically for Fayau's impostor.
Rabaut's sardonic smile showed instantly he had heard the
story about the trick played upon Fayau.  Fortunately, the
smile must have warned Kerguelec to watch his words, and not
bait the man before him. I was not worried, since I now knew
how little Rabaut cared about patriotic or other principles,
save that of self-interest.

"Citizens," and Rabaut turned to the committee, "where are
the papers concerning this suspect?"

"They are here, Citizen Rabaut." A dossier was handed Rabaut
and he pocketed it.

"Now, Breton, your name?"

"Jean Marie Kerguelec, from Ardeon in Bretagne."

"To whom did you belong, in the old days?"

"To myself, citizen."

"Ah! Of the petty noblesse~h?"  Rabaut considered this with
a nod.  "And have you yet dined?"

"No, citizen. I have eaten."

Rabaut broke into a laugh at this response.

"Good! A horse awaits you.  Here is Citizen Martin, a member
of the convention.  We ride together."

"Where?"  demanded Kerguelec, without emotion.

"Toward Bretagne."

"Very well."

"A cup of wine all around, citizens, and we'll get off!"

Amid the bustle, I saw those dark, steady eyes sweep to me.
Again I discerned in them a glimmer of recognition. This
Breton knew me then? Perhaps I, too, had been pointed out to
him. Americans were conspicuous in the convention.

Presently the three of us were leaving, accompanied outside
by most of the committee.  The horses were waiting and we
mounted at once under the smoky flare of a flambeau, made
our farewells and started away from this the final outpost
of Paris.

We clattered along in silence, none of us speaking until we
were out of the town, with the glare of the capital
suffusing the early night sky behind.  I was feeling hugely
relieved, while to Kerguelec it must have seemed a dream.
Then Rabaut, between us, held out something to the Breton --
it was the dossier.

"Take this~estroy it if you like~h? You are the man who
tricked Fayau.  No matter."

Kerguelec was dumfounded. Presently he spoke, hesitant.

"The charges against me-have they been dismissed?"

Now happened a strange thing.  Undoubtedly we all felt
different beings, with Paris gone behind us. That red city
vanished, the stars overhead, the quiet countryside all
around, brought back humanity and cool sanity to our hearts.
All reason had deserted Paris; this was why Reason was soon
to be enthroned there in place of God.  Here Rabaut could
afford to be himself, to slough all the patter of the
republican demagogue. He flung out a hand to the stars, and
laughed.

"Bah! There are no charges against you. Look at the night --
and ask such a question! I have requisitioned you to aid me,
no more. It has saved you some discomfort.  Therefore you
can afford to repay me -- eh?"

Kerguelec evaded.  "Saved me discomfort? I think it has
saved me a head."

Rabaut turned and regarded him, undoubtedly pondering this
evasion.  The man was like that, catching at wholly
unexpected things.

"So? I do not know you, and do not care what you have done.
I have other matters in hand than feeding the guillotine.
Is it understood?"

"Yes. Do we really go to Bretagne?"

"To Avranches," said Rabaut curtly.

After a little he leaned over toward me and made a gesture,
reining in his horse until it fell behind. I reined in
beside him, and he spoke under his breath, in English -- he
was fluent in several tongues.

"Feel him out. We must know whether we can trust him to
repay us -- rather, to guide us in case of need, and remain
with us, eh? I know these Bretons.  Get a promise out of him
and we have him safe."

I nodded.  Rabaut urged his horse on ahead more, until he
was riding well beyond earshot.  I drew in beside Kerguelec
and caught a slight laugh, almost a feminine laugh.

"I, too, speak English!" he said softly.  "You have the
promise, my friend. How did you know of me?"

"From Mother Pitou," I said, then caught the import of his
words and started.  "You know of me, also?"

"Naturally I do," came the dry retort. "For the past three
days I've been trying to reach you with letters. Finally I
had to destroy them undelivered."

"Letters?" I exclaimed. "What letters?"

"Well, Citizen Martin, I did not read them, but I happen to
know their contents. One was a patent of nobility, with
title of Comte.  Another was a commission as colonel of
horse in the allied army. These can be replaced of course.
Another prayed you to join me in my present mission-"

"Are you mad, or am I dreaming?" I broke in. "Count? Colonel
of horse?  Letters -- then from whom are these letters?"

"From the princes, who owe you gratitude and would secure
your services."

I checked an angry oath, and then uttered it freely in a new
access of anger. What fools these Bourbon princes were!
Because I had been doing good and quiet work for the sake of
humanity, they leaped at the conclusion I would serve them
politically in their petty intrigues and plots! My anger
became dismayed consternation.

Everything lay clear before me now.  If the enemy had spies
in Paris, Paris also had spies among the enemy.  Probably de
Neuville or some other royalist agent had carried similar
letters or copies, and they had fallen into the hands of
Marat's spies.  John Martin made a count, an officer -- no
wonder Marat's fury had leaped at me!

I gave Kerguelec an unadulterated piece of my mind.

"Worse than folly, it's madness!" I concluded.  "Fools that
they are to do such things! I want none of your titles of
nobility, and none of your gratitude.  News of this rank
folly has reached Marat, and has nearly destroyed me. Your
princes -- bah! I have nothing to do with them."

"But with the king?"

"I am an American."

"Then," said Kerguelec softly, "with me?"

"That's different. You're a woman in distress."

Kerguelec caught his breath. "You know?"

"Half Paris knows and is hunting for you," I said grimly.
"Marat knows, too, what I've been doing, and now I'm fleeing
for my life. Fortunately Rabaut does not suspect it, nor
does he know who you are."

Kerguelec laughed. "No! That is evident.  If he knew my name
-- ah!"

I missed a hidden significance in his words. "I've persuaded
him to give you a lift, on the plea we might have need of
you."

"I understand.  Now, my mission with you, or rather the
mission on which I hoped to have your help --"

"Leave it," I snapped. "I'm through with everything here. I
want none of your plots."

Again Kerguelec laughed, softly, clearly, amusedly.

"It would take you near Avranches. It is partly a private
mission, and partly -- ?"

"I refuse it,"  I said coldly, "and I refuse to talk about
it. Now, do you want to get out of France with me, or not?"

"After my errand is done. Where are we bound for, exactly?"

"Mont St. Michel."

Kerguelec remained silent for a long moment, and turning to
him I found a look of stark amazement on his smooth, steady
features.

"Of all places!" he said, and laughed once more. "Of all
places! And afterward?"

"I don't know. All the seaports are in the hands of the
Blues. To St. Malo, perhaps, once I'm rid of this Rabaut and
can get hold of a boat. I have commissary powers myself, as
his assistant."

"Then we stay together, if you wish," came the prompt
decision.  "You can help me, I you.  As for the errand, let
it rest pro tem. Those letters really harmed you, or their
import?"

"Yes. It must have become known. As though I'd accept a
barren title, or sell myself to a foreign prince's service -
- bah! You in Europe don't know Americans."

"Perhaps not," came the thoughtful reply. "Well, what about
Rabaut? You know who he is. You know what he can expect if
he falls into White hands. Perhaps you'll be rid of him
easily enough.  Do you know how I recognized him?"

"No."

"In other days I have danced with him.  He denounced my two
brothers.  They are in prison or dead. That is one reason I
came to Paris -- to try and get some trace of them. You see
now?"

In those words was a certain steely note, indicating the
quality of this woman-man.  I perceived, indeed, something
of what lay behind her presence. I was little astonished by
it, and indeed my mind went more to her words regarding
Rabaut. His fine head depended wholly upon the brain inside
it. If caught by the Whites, this man would be lucky to get
off with the fate of Judas -- he was not likely to be
caught, however. Rabaut was not the man ever to be caught.

"Why did you try to help me, if you would have none of my
offered mission?" asked Kerguelec in a low voice. "If you
are fleeing for your life, why would you disdain the reward
and gratitude of the princes?"

"One answer to both queries, and the same I have already
given," I said.  "Because I am an American."

Kerguelec pondered this, and we had no more speech together
on the matter, for after a little Rabaut slowed down and
rejoined us.

The personal equation now perplexed and puzzled me -- the
presence of the Breton.  This girl, a de Rohan, of a
princely family in Brittany and one of the noblest in
France, had suffered most bitterly at the hands of the arch-
betrayer; yet, to save herself, she must now give him her
help. It held an odd bite of irony.

On the other hand, Kerguelec obviously stood in acute peril.
Rabaut was fooled for the moment, but if he had known Marie
de Rohan in the old days, he would not be fooled for ever.
Further,recognition might come in any town, and it would
mean death; the blood of a de Rohan would be a sweet savor
in the nostrils of all France. I knew, also, how special
agents were being sent out into the departments to seek
hidden emigres, Fouche being one of them, and here was
another source of peril to the Breton.

As to the proffered rewards, and the hinted mission, I
dismissed them all with scarce a thought.  I wanted no share
in any plot, much less missions for the Bourbons, whom I
heartily despised. True, I would have worked for the poor
queen, since it was due to her pleading that Rochambeau and
Lafayette had gone to help Washington, but she was lost
beyond helping.  Free of Paris, I was free of everything,
and firmly intended to remain free, until I could rid myself
of Rabaut and France together.  Concerning this ridding, I
had dark forebodings. I rather doubted, from the man's
hints, whether he had any intention of returning to Paris at
all.

So we rode on, each occupied with private thoughts. Once
through St. Cyr, we pushed along the three leagues farther
to Neausle, a little town lying dark and silent under the
stars, for the hour was late.

"To-morrow night we'll make Bressole, and Alencon the next,"
said Rabaut, as we came into the quiet village street. "That
is, with luck aiding us. It'll mean hard riding and no
delays -- eh?"

"The farther the better," said I, voicing the one thought in
all our minds.

Reaching the village tavern, Rabaut lost no time in raising
a clamor and announcing himself.  At once the title of
commissioner set the place in motion.  Lights twinkled up,
doors were unbarred, a host appeared in his nightgear, and a
sleepy half-clad boy led away the horses to the stables.

"Two rooms, a call at sunrise, and breakfast    no mere
morning drink," said Rabaut to the host, and turned to me.
"You'll share my chamber?"

"Gladly."

Kerguelec left us, having a room to himself.  Once we were
alone with the door closed Rabaut came to me.

"Well?"

"All settled.  He stays with us and will prove a valuable
help. He's a White, but we can depend on him."

"Excellent. And his real name?"

"I didn't ask."

"Hm!" Rabaut scratched his chin thoughtfully, a shadowy
frown in his eyes. "Something familiar about that smooth
dark face of his -- well, let it go, so long as he serves us
well!  If he cheats the guillotine, I shan't hold it against
him. Me, I have other fish to fry, eh?"

I smiled to myself. Somebody was fast betraying a lack of
zeal for the republic, and I suspected now what the lure
might be.







                      CHAPTER IV

      ON ONE SIDE A LAWYER, ON THE OTHER A HEADSMAN


Hard riding turned the trick for us, and without incident,
other than a meeting with a courier from the west. He had no
lack of bad news for Paris -- Cathelineau was destroying
like an avenging angel, and his peasant army would soon be
winning battles.  It was a bloody war, with no quarter given
on either side. Prisoners, if taken, were shot.

Late at night we came riding into Alencon, horses and riders
alike half dead with weariness. Avoiding the old walled
city, we made direct for the faubourg of Montsor, on the
other bank of the Sante. Here we came to rest at a large inn
near the former Benedictine priory.

Late as was the hour, we found the host and his people still
up and about.  It seemed that another traveller had come in
shortly before, bound for Paris.

"And who may this other rider be?" demanded Rabaut
peremptorily, as we followed the host up to our rooms.

"A great man in the west, citizen commissaire!  One Citizen
Fromond, who comes from Avranches --"

Rabaut halted. "Name of a name!" he cried out, astonished.
Then he reached forward and halted the host with a shoulder-
grip. "Regard! I must see this man in the morning, citizen
-- look to it!  Let him not depart, or you'll suffer!"

The host promised fervently, and we staggered on to bed.
Rabaut was too weary to rouse up Fromond to-night, and I was
too dog4ired also to ask questions or pay any attention. The
name of Fromond struck sharp echoes in my brain, but a bed
was more important than echoes and I was asleep in ten
minutes.

The window of our chamber being open, 1 was wakened in the
early morning despite weariness by the banging of carts in
the street, as it was a market day.  Rabaut was still
snoring away.  Without rousing him, I shaved and dressed,
went downstairs and obtained a bite to eat. There was no
hurry, for we had arranged to stop over the day at Alencon,
to rest ourselves and the horses. Rabaut now felt himself
beyond any possible recall, and I had quite shaken off all
feeling of danger from the rear.

While breakfasting, I took note of a huge fellow sitting in
a dark corner, also breaking his fast. His size drew my
attention, for it was unusual in a Frenchman; he was even
taller than I, much more heavily built, and had a merry
countenance.  He seemed a droll fellow, for the host was
chuckling heartily at his remarks.

The meal finished, I set out for a morning stroll; the day
was beginning perfectly, even with promise of heat.  Lazily
drinking in the warm sunlit air, I sauntered along the wall
of the priory, and at a corner was drawn by a commotion.  A
dozen people stood there about two men, and a harsh, dry
voice was crackling high. The expectant, yet hesitant air of
those around was enough to show me the cause -- here was
another such scene of denunciation as had become altogether
too common. Some unhappy returned emigre or devoted priest,
disguised and still ministering to his flock, was being
unmasked and made prey to the red knife.

Coming upon the two central figures, however, I instantly
perceived this was no common affair. One man, poorly
dressed, white of face, shrank back against a wall, while
above him quivered a furious black-clad figure at which I
stared hard.

Even in these days of topsy-turvydom and outlandish
apparitions, this man immediately arrested the attention and
curiosity.  Amid fanaticism run rabid, his fanatic air stood
out with singular and terrible force. Bareheaded in the
morning sunlight, he was denouncing the poor shrinking
creature before him -- and what denunciation it was! Seldom,
even in the wild scenes of the convention, have I heard such
vitriolic words.

"Dog of a priest!" he was crying, his voice metallic and
piercing.  "Ah, I know you! I saw you once in Avranches.
Unspeakable dog that you are --"

The remainder was unquotable, fervid with black hatred, so
outrageous as to bring up the poor victim into a semblance
of dignity.  The ragged, dirty, pallid little man
straightened himself and met those flaming eyes.

"It is quite true," he said with simple stateliness. "I have
not taken the oath prescribed.  And I know you, my poor son
-- my poor Jacques Fromond! I forgive your words and deeds,
and shall pray for you."

Fromond! The name whipped me swiftly. Not so swiftly,
however, as the pity of the priest whipped the black-clad
man. He flung up an arm to strike, when I stepped forward
and touched him on the shoulder.  He swung around and looked
at me, teeth bared.

"Away!" he cried.  "Away, citizen!  This is my prey."

"No," I said calmly, noting how one and another of those
standing around exchanged low speech at sight of me.  "No,
citizen procureur of Avranches, Citizen Fromond! This poor
man is not your prey.  On the contrary, it is you who are my
prey."

Simple words, yet with remarkable effect. These other folk
had heard of a commissioner having arrived from Paris, and
took me for him.  They melted away quickly. I made a
significant gesture to the little priest, who scuttled off
at once, quite forgotten by his denouncer. Fromond and I
were left alone there, he staring at me, breathing rapidly,
his whole manner menacing and frightful.

It is hard to describe the man, since he was above mere
words. He was fair of complexion, and the left side of his
head bore a large bare-shredded patch as from some old wound
or injury. In profile he was remarkably handsome; in full
face, he was an unbalanced devil.

One brow and eye were twitched up -- the left side again --
and the same corner of the mouth drawn down, as though the
wound on his head had affected the facial nerve.  What a
mouth it was!  Thin and Powerful, bitter, cruel and cold as
steel.  The eyes were no less horrible to see. Light blue,
all ablaze With frenzied energy, they were at once the most
furious and the most mournful eyes I have ever seen in a
human face -- more deeply sad, indeed, even than those of
Saint-Just Mad? Not at all.  This man was awfully and
terribly sane, I realized, so sane as to be fully conscious
of the devil within him.

"Who are you?" he said slowly, aware how the little crowd
had melted away. "Who are you, who know me?"

"A messenger," I said.  "At the inn is Citizen Rabaut,
commissioner sent by the Paris committee.  He desires speech
with you at once."

This shook him.  Obviously the inn-keeper had not yet told
him of our arrival, for his jaw fell and his eyes widened on
me.

"A commissioner?", he said.  "But I have business in Paris,
with the committee --"

"And the citizen commissioner has business here with you."

Ominous again, and now he caught the full implication. He
took a step backward.

"There is some mistake," he said, more quietly. "I am the
syndic procureur of Avranches, member of the committee
there."  A sudden excitement broke loose and leaped within
him. "Do you know that I have destroyed the old cathedral
and palace?  Do you know I have hanged four priests and
twelve monks, and shot eight others?  Do you know I have
stripped bare every church within five leagues --"

"I know only that Citizen Rabaut has business of importance
with you," I said coldly.  "Must I have you arrested, or
will you come and speak with him?"

"Certainly, certainly," he replied, his excitement going as
rapidly as it came.

And there I had a clue to him.  His fanaticism must be
directed wholly against religion, but held no madness; it
was a clear, cold, sane fury of bitter hatred.  Only
paradoxical words can sometimes describe the tremendous
paradoxes of human nature.  That Fromond's brain was
unimpaired, became evident in his prompt reception of fear
at my words, his swift abandonment of the victim. Perhaps
his rage against all things religious was after all partly
assumed -- a step to rise upon, a focal cause, just as
Robespierre rose by the guillotine, and the Girondins by the
betrayal of their king. Yes, reason was active enough in
this man's brain! What others took for madness was a self-
induced fury, an abnormal rage and zeal for destruction.

"You are a commissioner also, citizen?" he asked, as we
turned back toward the inn.

"I am assistant to Citizen Rabaut."

"You speak like an Englishman."

"I am an American."

"Ah!"  He halted, turned to me, and with another uprush of
eagerness would have embraced me had I not avoided him. "An
American! Citizen, I honor you I honor any citizen of that
noble land which has abjured all religion!"

"There you lie," I said bluntly.  "The United States has
done no such thing."

"But it is set forth in your treaties!" he cried, staring at
me.  "A friend wrote me about it   statements that your
government was  in no sense  founded on the Christian faith
--"

"Oh, the devil fly away with you!"  I snapped roughly at
him.  "Shut your cursed mouth and come along."

This silenced and angered him, for which I cared nothing.

Something in me crawled at proximity to the man; he gave me
the sense of a dangerous reptile. Also, I was myself angry
and not at all disposed to bandy words with him.  He was
symptomatic of half France, revolting against any and all
religious faith in a vague brainless fashion.  We in America
have small patience with any fanatic who strives to bend all
the world for or against something, to suit his own petty
notions.  Our very freedom had been born in revolt against
just such efforts, and if ever this hard-won independence of
thought and speech were to fail, our very republic would go
to crash.

Upon reaching the inn, I learned that Rabaut was not yet up
and about. Citizen Fromond, somewhat disgruntled, went in to
his breakfast, and I stopped to smoke a pipe on the long
bench outside the door.  Midway of my smoke, a shadow fell
upon me and I looked at the big man I had previously seen in
the main room.  He was, I judged, a good six foot two, and
built in all proportion.

"Good morning, citizen!" he exclaimed, with a nod, and sat
down beside me. The bench groaned under his weight. "A fine
day and a poor pipe you have there. I know all about pipes.
I learned about them from a sergeant in a Rhineland
regiment.  You shouldn't have to pull at it -- badly
stuffed, perhaps. Look here! Did you ever hear the story
about the clay pipe and the vivandiere --"

He chuckled and related a scandalous army tale, with so
merry a voice and air that he drew a laugh from me before I
knew it.  Then, abruptly, he faced me with a sharp question.

"I hear you're the assistant commissioner from Paris?"

I nodded to this.  He leaned over, clapped my knee, and
winked.

"Listen! Is it true that they're sending a guillotine to the
west?"

"I don't know," I said.  "I believe some are being sent to
the provinces, though."

"Damnation take the thing!" he exclaimed. "I hope the man
who invented the accursed contraption will lose his own head
by it -- serve him right !"

"Dangerous sentiments to express, citizen," I said,
surprised by his utter lack of caution. So, at least, his
words appeared.

"Nonsense!  I've lost my job, thanks to the cursed
guillotine, and have reason to damn it! Look you, friend --
since you are commissioners, you'll have need of me! I'll
ride with you for my keep and ten francs a head."

I had to laugh at his manner. "Apply to Citizen Rabaut.
What's your profession, then?"

"Ask them in Caen the profession of Citizen Tronchet!
Presently I'll show you my profession -- it shows better
than it sounds. I have a fine big Norman horse to carry me,
I love a good bottle, a good lass, and a good story, and
between ourselves I had as soon kill Blues as Whites at your
bidding -- always at your bidding, citizen commissaire!  I
have a liking for your face -- you're a man, if I know one.
What say you?"

Looking at Tronchet more keenly, I discerned new angles to
him. He was jolly enough, his every word provocative of a
laugh, yet underneath this I divined things very stolid and
firm -- more than mere Norman phlegm.  Indeed, the man was
like a stone wall, yet his surface jollity acted as mask to
a penetrating and active brain.  Suddenly he clapped me on
the knee again and came to his feet, lightly as a feather.

"Here,  I'll  get  my  profession  and  show you!"

He vanished inside the inn, laughing to himself, and leaving
me to wonder what he had meant by his profession and ten
francs a head.  However, at this moment I caught the voice
of Rabaut shouting for me, and went inside to see Rabaut and
Fromond together on the stairs.

"Come along, Martin!" said Rabaut, and started up above. I
followed them. The three of us came to our room, and here
Rabaut introduced me to Fromond.  The procureur gave me a
venomous look but said nothing.  We sat down, and Rabaut got
out his documents.

"Well met, Citizen Fromond -- I have letters and orders for
you from the committee.  More correctly, from Marat."

Fromond sneered coldly.  "So my letters and appeals have
wakened him after all, then!"  He took the papers handed
him, broke the seals, and glanced them over with swiftly
flaming eyes. "Aye! The treasure of that accursed Mont St.
Michel now Mont Libre! It was on this errand I was riding to
Paris.  We are well met, indeed.  There'll be such a
spoiling as the west has never known! Everything is there,
safely locked away. The keys and inventory are in
Avranches."

      "Where?" demanded Rabaut quickly -- almost too
quickly. Fromond looked at him, and I sensed a clash between
the two.

"In my keeping," returned Fromond curtly. "Ha! The cause of
liberty shall be well served by the hoards of those accursed
monks!  Some of the finest gold-work in France is in that
place. I have seen it."

"Then it is settled that you ride with us in the morning?"
said Rabaut.  "We rest here for the day."

"Agreed. I shall be glad to join you.  Today I'll ferret out
some of the hidden blackbirds here --"

"You," I intervened, "will do nothing of the sort, Citizen
Fromond."

At this blunt speech, Fromond swung toward me with a
threatened outbreak of fury, and Rabaut made a gesture of
caution, which I disregarded. I knew my man now.

"We are on important business," I pursued coldly, giving
Fromond look for look.  "Being responsible for the safety of
this party, I say you shall do no ferreting, as you call it.
Kindly remember it is we who give orders, not you! Our
errand lies at the Mont, not here; with gold, and not with
fugitive priests. If you stir up some poor devils, we may be
detained heaven knows how long, or get into endless
difficulties."

Rabaut was instantly caught by this intimation.

"Right!" he said with decision. "Citizen Martin is nght. We
have an errand to do, and must do it. You understand,
Fromond?"

"Yes," snapped the lawyer angrily. Just then came a
thunderous, imperative summons at the door of the room.
Rabaut lifted his voice.

"Stop that noise and wait until I call! Now, Citizen
Fromond, I have orders regarding a certain jeweler of
Avranches, who is to go with us --"

"I know, I know," put in Fromond with a nod. "It is Citizen
Plessis; we have gone into the affair with him before our
committee. He is to accompany us, weigh all the metal, and
will buy it in.

"Exactly.  Then we go on to Avranches, pick him up, get an
escort under command of Citizen Martin, here, and proceed to
the Mont. Is all clear?"

"Quite.  You have no escort now, then? But it is scarcely
safe."

"We have a Breton riding with us," said Rabaut. "He is an
excellent guide, and we're safe enough with him. Outside,
there! You may enter."

The door was flung open at his call. There stood my huge
Tronchet, grinning merrily at us and leaning on a great
two-handed sword, nearly shoulder high to him. He came
forward into the room and slammed the door.

"Greeting, citizens!  Voila', my profession!"

We all stared at him.  Seeing that the man was looking at
me, Rahaut gave me an inquiring glance. I laughed.

"Devil take me if I know what it means! This is Citizen
Tronchet, who seeks some sort of employment with us.  He is
out of work, I believe."

Tronchet uttered a bellowing laugh, and this in itself half
banished Rabaut's cold frown.  He put both hands on the
pommel of his sword and chuckled at us.

"Aye, the guillotine has put me out of work, and the
republic therefore owes me a living.  Besides, think how
well you can use me!  I know more merry tales than you have
ever dreamed, I can kill a horse with one blow of the fist,
I can drink a quart of old Calvados and never miss the nick
0' the neck, and I am a surgeon who guarantees to cure all
human ills at a touch.  Consider all this!  It will cost you
only my keep and ten francs a head, for I provide my own
horse, one fit to carry me!"

Rabaut was fascinated and interested.  I began to perceive a
sinister something beneath this great joking mountain of a
man.

"Name of the fiend!"  Rabaut settled back into his chair
good-humored1y and almost smiled. "What is your profession,
eh?"

"Why, I'm the hereditary headsman of Caen, citizen!"

I started slightly, with sheer astonishment. Fromond took a
pinch of snuff nervously.  Rabaut opened his mouth, then
with a burst of laughter slapped his hand down on the table.

"Good! Good! Citizen Tnonchet, you are engaged!  Regard
Citizen Martin, at my left hand, and at my right, Citizen
Fromond. With us also rides Citizen Kerguelec, not present.
Now, let us suppose I ordered you to perform the business of
your office on, say, our good Citizen Fromond here --?"

Fromond's thin features became white. Tronchet tapped the
hilt of his big sword; his manner became curt, decisive,
cold.

"Then, citizen, you would have to employ a grave-digger."

"So!  What if Citizen Fromond ordered you to behead me?"


"For that, he must display authority superior to yours."

"Perfect!  I see you understand things," and Rabaut
chuckled. Glancing at Fromond, however, I saw he did not
relish this saturnine jesting, and the look he flung at
Rabaut was bitter. "You ride with us, Tronchet. You'll obey
my orders or those of Citizen Martin, who is my assistant
and is responsible for the safety of the party. Is it
understood?"

"Understood, citizen," said Tronchet with a salute. Rabaut
gestured to the door, and the heads-man departed. Fromond
rose and likewise departed, under plea of writing letters.
The door closed.

Rabaut surveyed me with a satiric smile and drew out his
snuff-box.

"Congratulations! We have a good man in this Tronchet.  His
sword, however, appears oddly rusted -- hm! Headsman of
Caen, eh? Yes, he's a Norman by looks and speech, as one can
see.

Well, you heard Fromond?  You've chosen to make him an enemy
-- you'd best beware!"

"So had you," I retorted.  Rabaut snarled.

"Aye? Let him dare make trouble, and I'll fling him into
jail! He's too sharp for that, though   so I say, beware of
him! That man is dangerous."

I met his perilous eyes and smiled.

"Dangerous to us personally, or to our errand?"

Rabaut frowned. "Did you note his words about the jeweler,
who is a spy of the Avranches committee?  Look at the thing
-- all cursed thievery!  Fromond hates priests insanely, and
wants to rob them, destroy their treasure, see it melted
down!  The jeweler will buy the precious metals, but at a
half of their value, be sure!  Sheer robbery all around."

"Then of us all," I said coolly, "perhaps Citizen Fromond is
the only one actuated by motives of real disinterest."

Rabaut tapped his snuffbox and stared hard at me.

"Ah!" he said.  "And what is your interest in the affair,
Martin?"

"The same as yours -- if we understand each other."

His face warmed, and he nodded, "Very well,"  he assented.
"After we have bagged the wolf, we shall talk about the skin
-- eh? It's agreed."

And at this, I knew where Citizen Rabaut stood.


We were a curious company, met this noon about a large
table.  Two of the local committee had come to pay their
respects to the Parisians -- filthy knaves, boasting of
their past atrocities and those to come. They were full of a
new story from some town to the north, about three nobles
named de Chaponay, a father and two brothers; these, some
days since escaped from prison, were being hunted
everywhere.  Tronchet immediately applied for the job of
beheading them if caught along our route, and Rabaut granted
the request.

Fromond already hated me and distrusted Rabaut, yet to some
extent he feared us both.  Oddly enough, he took an instant
liking to Kerguelec, perhaps because the latter could speak
Breton, and he had studied the language ardently; they
shortly be came inseparable.  Tronchet, of course, was the
friend of everyone from the start.  To imagine his real
business, unless one could probe below the surface, was
impossible.

At this meal, it so chanced, occurred an incident apparently
slight, yet one in reality fated to set the seal upon my
relations with Citizen Fromond.  I sat at one end of the
board, Kerguelec and Fromond on my right, Tronchet on my
left.  The meal was nearly finished, when I caught a dull
rattling sound as something fell to the sanded floor; at the
same instant, a pallor swept across the face of Kerguelec.
I glanced down at the floor, leaned over, and picked up a
small rosary with beads and cross of wood.  A Breton
naturally was inseparable from a rosary even in peril.

I straightened up and slipped the thing into my pocket, then
caught Fromond's gaze and knew he had perceived it. He said
nothing, but his light blue eyes were blazing with venom and
wild surmise.  I met his look with a smile, but he refused
the challenge, so I laughed and went on talking to Tronchet.

Afterward, seeing Kerguelec saunter out alone, I joined him
and we walked down the street together.  At the first
opportunity, I slipped the rosary into his hand, with a dry
comment.

"After this, if you must carry it, pocket it more securely."

"Thank you," he said quietly. "You should have let me
recover it, however.  Now Fromond will destroy you if he
can.  He said to me you looked like a priest in disguise."

At this I broke into laughter uncontrollable John Martin a
priest!  Kerguelec flashed me an angry glance.

"You are amused? Look out! I tell you, that man is insane!"

"No -- he's to be pitied, not feared," I returned. "Don't be
too sure of his insanity.  Something terrible lies in his
eyes, but it's not insanity -- more like remorse, to my
mind. Ten to one his activity against religion is a sort of
mania, pushing him farther all the while, yet at heart
bitterly regretted. Because he rebels in his soul against
his own actions, he tries to stifle himself and go on to
worse   oh, you may laugh at it, but wait and see! Here he
comes now. I'll charge him with it to his face."

Fromond indeed was approaching.  Kerguelec caught my arm.

"For the love of heaven, abandon this madness! The man is
dangerous!"

I shook off the hand.  "I'm weary of intrigue and pretense.
Now I'll jerk him out into the open for once -- ha, citizen!
A word, if you please!"

Fromond halted and regarded me fixedly. "What word, priest?"
he snapped.

"Just that."  I smiled.  "Man, you don't fool me for an
instant! Give up the pose! How your atheistic fervor
started, I can't say, but I know your heart fights against
it.  You've gone so far you can't draw back now, eh? You're
continually trying to prove your own sincerity to yourself,
trying to drown yourself in floods of hatred. Well, give it
up where I'm concerned. You don't make me believe in you."

My shaft drove home. His face went white as death, and the
left side of his countenance twitched.  His eyes widened, as
though beneath a mortal blow.

"You -- you devil!" he gasped.  A sudden fury convulsed him;
he whipped out a knife and leaped at me, like a maniac.

By good luck I caught one wrist in each hand and stood
holding him, for he had little strength and I a good deal --
he was like a struggling child.  I looked over his shoulder
at Kerguelec and winked.

"Go find Tronchet with his sword. Tell him I have work for
him."

Kerguelec departed, understanding me. No one else was close
by -- men watched from some distance only. Those words of
mine pricked all Fromond's bubble of mad fury; it was,
indeed, a deliberately induced fury.  He quieted, looked
into my eyes, and let fall the knife. I held to his wrists.

"You mean to kill me?" he asked thickly.

"No, you poor impostor, not unless you force me to it.  I'm
sorry for you, Fromond! Because a rosary falls to the
ground, don't imagine the bearer is a priest. Don't try to
make yourself into a devil; you're not a successful devil,
Fromond.

We're to be companions, and must reach an understanding, if
we're to work together.  I have need of you, so drop all
this pose before me."

He went limp in my hands, trembling as though with an ague.
The fury had passed from his eyes, and their sadness was
harrowing.

"Need of me?" he repeated dully.

"Wake up! I have not been a priest, but Rabaut has been a
marquis. Keep your eye on him, Fromond, especially after we
reach Mont St. Michel.  Nobody's to be trusted, these days."

The hint startled him, gave him new food for thought.  He
straightened up and I released his wrists. A light of
conjecture flashed into his face.

"Ah!" he murmured.

I left him standing there in the street, staring after me.






                        CHAPTER V

           IN THE WILDERNESS, ONE IS NOT ALONE


I was deliberate in avoiding any private speech with
Kerguelec, after this. Though I knew from his manner how
eagerly he desired it, I did not.  My own affairs were going
on swimmingly, and I had no intention of being drawn into
any political intrigues or plots which would complicate
things.  Kerguelec seemed quite capable of acting his part
beyond suspicion. Even knowing the truth as I did, it was
nearly impossible for me to discern any hint of the woman
beneath the Breton's outer seeming.  In this, of course, the
costume and long hair helped Kerguelec tremendously.

Taking stock of my own case, I was fatuously unworried.
Everything seemed against discovery or pursuit, for at Paris
our errand remained a secret mission.  Unless Marat caught
sight of worthy Citizen Merlin and ferreted out the
imposture, he would never dream how my escape had been
accomplished.  Above all, a man out of Paris was a man
forgotten, and Marat was busy scheming, fighting, killing.
Or so I thought, like a fool, forgetting how soon the
reports must have been turned in that Citizen Martin and
Citizen Rabaut had left town together.

As we rode into the west we made an excellent company, and
our big Tronchet proved the life of the party with his droll
stories and humors. If he were Rabelaisian at times, then
Kerguelec laughed with the rest -- this was too stern a game
for maid's blushes and shrinkings. Yet the huge fellow
puzzled me. His tongue slipped on the revolutionary jargon
at times, and more than once it seemed he was forcing
himself to jollity.

Rabaut drew ever more into himself. Fromond's presence laid
check upon him, and the two men rasped each other harshly,
almost to enmity.  So Fromond for the most part rode with
Kerguelec -- to my great amusement.  Little did the bright-
eyed, raving fanatic guess how his friendship lay with one
who was not only an aristocrat, but of a family noted for
its churchly support!

The roads were strictly watched, all the towns being on the
lookout for the three escaped de Chaponays, father and two
sons, but we had no difficulty in pressing forward.  So we
came to Mortain, a tiny but famous place perched among bleak
rocks, riding into the village late one night with the end
of our journey looming close. Avranches was only a day's
ride away. Our most direct route to Mont St. Michel lay by
way of Ducey, but we must pass by Avranches in order to pick
up the jeweler and our escort.

Morning brought us disquieting information.  The main road
to Avranches was most dangerous, the whole countryside being
in turbulent disorder.  The forests were savage and wild,
and in their cover was being waged a war of extermination,
chiefly by peasants of both parties. The Parisian soldiers
were helpless outside the towns; ignorant of the country,
ambushed at every turn, they were only blundering fools, and
the veterans were in the same fix. Their case was exactly
similar to that of Braddock's grenadiers trying to fight
Indians in our own American forests, and these peasants of
Normandy had all the guile and cruelty of Shawnees.

Our wakening in Mortain afforded an excellent example of the
life hereabouts -- it came from a volley of musketry. The
half-dozen soldiers quartered on the town had caught a
priest, a woman, and three Whites -- and this was the
result. No quarter was given on either side, none was asked.
Family was divided against family.  Those who had suffered
under the old regime were Blues, those who remained true to
king and religion were Whites; a simple distinction, so far
as bullets were concerned.

We took counsel over breakfast.  The sergeant in command of
the local detachment told us cynically enough that we would
be better off without his escort -- we must change our
republican sashes and cockades before starting. Fromond, who
knew the country, proposed that we take the hill road via La
Bec.

"Good!" exclaimed Kerguelec promptly. "It will not be
watched for travellers, and I can guide you.  What do you
think, sergeant?"

The latter shrugged.  "Your Breton garb will help, citizen!
At the same time, who knows? We have spies everywhere among
us. Even now perhaps word has gone out.  The church bells,
such as remain, send messages; smoke-signals go up.  These
accursed Whites have the guile of the devil!   And let them
learn that Citizen Fromond is on the road -- pouf!"

"Good!" said Tronchet, with a huge laugh. "If we meet Jean
Chouan, then Fromond is our prisoner!"

"And if necessary we may have to shoot him," added Rabaut
maliciously.  Fromond snarled at this.  "For the good of the
Republic of course," said Rabaut.  "Well, comrades, let's
change our colors and be off!  We'll trust to Kerguelec's
tongue."

We mounted and rode.

Both Fromond and Kerguelec knew the roads, and it seemed
that our anxiety had been all vain, for we rode half the
morning through the wooded Norman hills without encountering
a living soul.  There were evidences of the dead, however. A
rising flight of birds drew us a few yards off the road,
where we found the bodies of a dozen Paris volunteers, arms
tied behind their backs, lying in a row upon the chenille
moss. Only this, and trampled brush, and silence.

We rode on. These thickets of oak and beech and bramble
might hide an army anywhere. The road was rough, and the
only vestige of habitation we struck was a burned hut with
the corpses of two women and a child, recently bayoneted,
lying before it; a heart-chilling indication of the manner
of this warfare.

Men were here, invisible, in this wilderness -- detached
parties of grenadiers or Scouts, entire battalions, wild
ragged peasants by hundreds all lost to sight. It was toward
noon that we distinctly heard half a dozen regular volleys,
somewhere to the south of us, followed by a furious
crackling fusillade.  Another volley, weaker this time, and
a third, drowned in a final rattle of musketry.  Rabaut
looked off among the trees and pinched snuff.

"More volunteers from Paris needed," he observed with cold
cynicism.

We halted briefly at noon to dine on the provisions and wine
fetched from Mortain. Tronchet bore his huge sheathed sword
across his shoulders, though awkwardly, and refused to lay
aside the weapon; it was his wife, he said laughingly.
During the meal, Fromond eagerly proposed putting him to use
at Mont St. Michel.

"The place is crammed with Prisoners," he informed us.  "Old
and sick priests. The Bastille of Paris was destroyed -- the
Bastille of the ocean has been put to use. Since the devil
has Sent us a headsman, why not use him?  It will be an
excellent thing for the morale of the soldiers there, if
they see a few priests executed."

"An excellent idea," approved Rabaut, half in jest. I saw
Tronchet give Citizen Promond a queer sidelong glance, and
if ever savage enmity flashed in a man's eyes, it did then.
I wondered.

When we again mounted, we were forced to draw rein, almost
at once, in some consternation.  My horse had unaccountably
gone lame. Kerguelec's beast, bandaged above the fetlock by
reason of a slight wound, had also become so lame as scarce
to set foot to the ground. To get any fresh mounts was
impossible, and Rabaut had no mind to be lingering on this
road. Fromond too was furious -- he had most reason to fear
this stage of the journey.  I gave Kerguelec a look and
caught a demure wink.

Well, well, let's divide!" cried out Tronchet cheerfully.
"Citizen Promond knows the road you ride on with him,
Citizen Rabaut! I have some skill with horses, and in half
an hour I can get these two beasts lit for the road. We'll
limp along after you and get into Avranches sometime
tonight.  Or let Citizen Martin take my horse and go on with
you --"

Rabaut was no fool. He might have scented something amiss
here, had it not been for the procureur. Fromont erupted in
a savage burst of fear and anger, demanding that Rabaut ride
on with him, and I yielded to it, refusing to take
Tronchet's horse.

"Go ahead, Rabaut -- it's the best plan," I said.  "Fromond
can guide you, and two men with white cockades will not be
molested. If you do meet anyone, tell them we're following,
and wait for Kerguelec to pull you out of the fire."

Rabaut nodded.  "Come along as best you can, then. I'll send
out a detachment to meet you. Good luck!"

He rode off with Fromond and they disappeared along the
winding hill track. Once they were out of sight, I turned to
Tronchet and Kerguelec, who were looking over the horses.

"Well," I said drily, "since you know so much, Tronchet,
suppose you tell me the reason for this sudden lameness?"

"The hill roads." Laughing, he held up a stone he had prised
from the hoof of my horse. "Since you want the truth, have
it! Rid your poor beast of pain, Kerguelec."

With a slight smile, the Breton loosened the bandage about
the fetlock of his mount, and I perceived it had been drawn
supremely tight, with a ligature beneath.  At once the horse
was relieved.

"What the devil does all this mean?" I demanded angrily.

Kerguelec made a gesture of caution, his frowning gaze on
Tronchet. The latter, however, came to me and laid a hand on
my arm with a broad grin.

"Look you, citizen!" he said, assuming an air of frankness.
"Kerguelec made a little plot, and I fell in with it. He is
wise, this Breton! Who are those two men just departed? Why,
Fromond and Rabaut! If we meet anyone of the countryside,
Fromond certainly will be known. Their company would be our
death-warrant. We three, not being famous men, can now ride
along comfortably and without fear."

Plausible enough, certainly, yet I sniffed a good deal more
in it than this. Then, from behind Tronchet, Kerguelec
repeated his gesture of caution, this time more
emphatically. I yielded.

"Very well, Tronchet. Ride ahead. I want to speak with
Kerguelec."

Tronchet nodded, laughed, and broke into a droll story
guaranteed to bring blushes to the cheek of M. de Voltaire.
I cut him short in apparent ill-humor, and we mounted.
Although the animals limped a trifle, they were sound enough
for the road.  Tronchet took the lead, and once he was,
beyond earshot, Kerguelec leaned over and spoke sharply.

"Beware of that man!"

"Why?" I asked. The Breton shrugged.
"I don't know, but he's not what he seems. For a headsman,
there's something strange about him.

He may be a spy -- may be anything! It was not my scheme to
lame the horses, but his own, and I fell in with it because
it suited me. He tried to borrow one of my pistols, and I
refused. It's all very curious.

I nodded thoughtfully. Our big Tronchet had some game in
hand; if, for example, he were a robber, he had managed
things quite well to get me and Kerguelec alone. Then I
turned and met the dark gaze of the Breton.

"And why did you fall in with his scheme, then?"

"In order to have a talk with you."

"Devil take you!" I checked myself. "Pardon;I forgot you
were a woman, for the moment.  I want none of your plots or
missions, and this is not the time to leave Rabaut. If you
want to get away, you're free to go, and the bocage will
welcome you. I can't slip into the brush, however -- I
want to get out of the country."

"Good. I'm one with you there," said Kerguelec promptly.
"I'm not leaving Rabaut, but I must have speech with you.
We're all bound for Mont St. Michel. I have private affairs
there, of supreme importance to me --"

I broke in curtly, even angrily.

"Will you cease your everlasting efforts to drag me into
your intrigues? Understand once and for all, I want nothing
to do with them!"

Kerguelec regarded me with a little smile.

"Very well.  Remember your words later on   you may be
sorry, my friend! I know you are my friend, despite your
rough speech. You refuse my private affairs -- so be it! Yet
I, too, have an errand in regard to that treasure."

"Eh?" Surprise bore down my anger at his insistance. "The
treasure?"

"Exactly. The cause has need of it, for it's enormous. If I
can't get away with it, I must prevent it going to Paris.
However, I had hoped the two of us might turn the trick.
With a little boldness, we could secure it and slip away in
a boat.  From the mount to the open sea, the whole length of
the bay of Cancale, is no short distance -- yet it might be
done."

"Impossible," I returned, resigned to the discussion. The
clever rascal had tricked me into it rather neatly. "The
whole coast is under watch and guard.  Not even a fishing
boat can slip out through the French fleet."

"Except with luck and a seaman to aid," said Kerguelec, "and
I have some hope of finding the seaman to aid us.  A bold
man can achieve the impossible, and this is not so
impossible as it seems.

Believe me, I've thought it over many times, have made
plans. You'll not be angry if I tell you briefly what might
be done?"

Kerguelec spoke rapidly, earnestly. I listened in amazement
to find the details of his plan leaping at me ready prepared
and thought out, presented to me as feasible.

"A dozen fishermen -- militia hold the place -- enough to
defend it against an army, though their only duty is to
guard the prisoners. Once admitted with Rabaut, we can bide
our time to put Rabaut out of the way. Then take the
treasure and go, especially if we find a seaman among the
prisoners to aid us. I can arrange for bands of peasants to
surround Dol, Pontorson and other nearby towns, keeping the
Blues engaged. If we desire, some of the priests can be set
free and they'll help us --"

I broke in with a laugh, half of admiration.

"Faith, you could seize the place and be done with it! No.
It's out of the question."

"Why?" he demanded earnestly. "Have you no regard for what
this gold might do, once the princes had it in their hands?"

"Not a snap," I said with frankness. "I don't give a turn of
my hand for your princes, and would not trouble myself to
help them. Indeed, I came to France to help against them!"

"But have you no regard for the English, your own blood?"

"When I fought against them as a boy for freedom? Not a
scrap!"

"Is there anything for which you have regard?" he demanded
with hot disappointed anger.

"Yes," I said bluntly.  "Myself and my own safety."

"Very well! A share of this treasure, then, shall go to
you."

"Having regard for myself, I am not for sale."

The Breton was silent an instant. Then came the voice, not
of Kerguelec, but of Marie de Rohan,low and pleading.

"Monsieur, if I appeal to you as a woman --"

"The title of monsieur is banned under penalty of death," I
broke in coldly. "The only appeal you can make to me, as a
woman, is to help you secure your own safety. So far, I am
bound. For the gold -- no!"

Kerguelec muttered something under his breath that sounded
suspiciously like an oath and I chuckled.  Then I looked up
sharply. We had been winding up a half-clad, barren hillock,
and Tronchet's voice reached us.  He had drawn rein and was
waiting, pointing back.

"Look! Name of the Black Man, are we pursued?"

I glanced around. Below we could see snatches of the rough
track as it wound, and spurts of dust were going up in the
hot sunlight. I gazed narrowly.

"Two men only," I said. "Horsemen, riding hard."

"Tricolored sashes," added Kerguelec.

I got out my pistols and primed them, for they were already
fresh loaded. Tronchet fumbled beneath his coat, produced a
pistol, and asked me for fresh priming from my flask.

"So!" exclaimed Kerguelec.  "You were very anxious to borrow
a pistol from me this morning, Citizen Tronchet!"

"Of course," returned Tronchet coolly. "Having but one, I
wanted two.  But why do we get out pistols, citizen
assistant commissaire, for men wearing our own colors?"

"That," I said curtly, "remains to be seen. Ride on."

I was suspicious of the man now, in view of what Kerguelec
had said, and did not doubt he had meant to kill us both and
rob us if possible, incredible as such a scheme might seem.
However, I had other things to bother with at present, being
alarmed by the appearance of the two horsemen a half-mile
behind us. They must have secured fresh mounts at Mortain
and had there learned of our passing. It argued they were in
mad haste to catch up with Rabaut -- and boded no good to
me.

We were all thinking more of the men behind than of anyone
ahead. So, ten minutes later when we came upon the first
living creatures we had encountered all day, we were all
three somewhat startled.  The meeting was abrupt, without
warning, as we broke into an open glade where a brook
crossed the road and the brush was thick all around.

There before us in the center of the opening, wide-eyed in
alarm at our sudden appearance, was a peasant.  He was a
brutish, gnarled, wild fellow, holding over his shoulder an
ominously stained pitchfork, and in his other hand a rope.
Upon this rope staggered behind him a horrible figure -- a
man, half naked, smeared with blood and dirt, eyes shut with
blood coming from a wound across his head.

The peasant jerked on his rope, halting the captive.
Greenery closed in the spot like a wall, the sun beat down
hotly. The miserable prisoner went to his knees, head
hanging in utter exhaustion. I dismounted and the peasant,
though obviously alarmed, faced me boldly enough -- he had
no escape. He was a most villainous rascal.

"Well, citizens?" he snarled. "Who are you, with white
sashes? Whites never ride horses!"

"I am a commissioner from Paris," I said, knowing from his
language he was a Blue.

He grinned at this. "Ha! Well met, citizen   anybody would
know you were not Whites! Why, I am Citizen Leclerc, whose
farm lies half a mile north, and I have caught a ci-devant,
an emigre'! Look at him -- pretty, the aristocrat!  Rather,
I caught two, an old one and this young one.  My pitchfork
did for the old one; he was a sick rascal, not worth
troubling with. I'm taking the young one to Avranches to see
him shot. If Citizen Fromond is there, I may get a reward."

"Citizen Fromond has passed on this road not twenty minutes
ago," I said.  The peasant rubbed his chin.

"Ah! If I had known that, eh? Too bad I killed the old one;
Fromond would have given a reward for the team, certainly.
However, he died like a pig -- "

He broke into horrible laughter. There was a queer sound
behind, and I looked around to see Kerguelec and Tronchet
dismounted and coming forward.  Tronchet was staggering like
a man drunk, and his face, though pallid as death, was
streaming with sweat.

"What's the matter, man!" I exclaimed.

"The heat, the heat," he mumbled. I laughed lightly.

"Well, here's a chance to earn your first ten francs. Get
out your sword and go to work!"

"You -- you mean it?" he asked hoarsely. "On this prisoner?"

"Certainly," I said, and cocked my pistol. "It is an order."

"Very well, citizen commissioner," he blurted, wiping the
sweat from his face.

The prisoner, apparently a young man, drooped in the hot
sun. The peasant gaped at me open mouthed. I met Kerguelec's
eyes and caught a gesture of protesting incredulity,
returning a nod of reassurance. I had taken the whim to test
out Citizen Tronchet a little. The man knew me only as
assistant commissioner, of course, and Kerguelec as a Breton
serving Rabaut; and having made up my mind to put a bullet
into this murderous peasant, I wanted first to see where our
headsman stood.

As executioner, something certainly was amiss with him. He
seemed to utter a low groan as he drew the great sword from
its shoulder bandolier with fumbling hands, and wet his
lips. He tried to draw the blade free, but it stuck a
little. A wild oath burst from him. He lifted the sword in
both hands and sent it hurling away through the air. Then he
jerked at his pistol, strode forward a pace, and looked at
the peasant. His face was convulsed.

"You killed the old man with your fork, did you?" he asked.

"Aye!" The peasant grimaced.  "He died hard, I can tell you!
These cursed aristocrats hang on to life like cats. But I
finished him."

"He was my father," cried out Tronchet, "and this man is my
brother --"

On the word, he jerked up his pistol. The report bellowed,
white smoke belched. The peasant whirled around an4 fell in
a huddled heap. It was done all in a flash, swiftly.

Tronchet gave a leap, reached the side of the captive, and
flung an arm about the red, naked shoulders. He turned,
facing me and Kerguelec, and the man was transformed; every
vestige of the Tronchet we knew was gone. He stood holding
his empty pistol; a sudden calm settled upon him, a certain
indescribable majesty showed in his face.

"I am Vicomte de Chaponay. Now do your worst, you devils of
Paris!"

A ci-devant, an emigre', hiding as executioner!  Now I saw
everything -- he had not planned to rob us, but to make his
escape from us, and admiration leaped in me. With a gesture,
I checked a sudden movement from Kerguelec. Something warned
me, thrilled me. All around us in the brush was a rustle, as
though something moved in the bocage.

"Tronchet, go pick up your sword," I said. He flung a
terrible look at me, his eyes tortured. Then the shadow of
his gay laugh reached me.

"The sword? Bah! I bought it in a shop. I fled one way, my
father and brother the other. We've all failed -- finish it
I Vive le Roi!"

"Don't be a fool," I said. "I've no intention of -- ah!"

I turned, for in upon us sounded a trampling of hooves.
Breaking suddenly into the glade, as we ourselves had done,
came two horsemen, those who had been riding after us. From
their attire, they were couriers.  Reining in their sweat-
lathered beasts, they seized pistols, at sight of our white
sashes and cockades. I called to them hastily.

"Ho, citizens! You seek Citizen Rabaut?"

"Aye," exclaimed one, in obvious relief at this form of
address. "We have important news-orders for the arrest of
his assistant, Citizen Martin, a traitor --"

"You've told that to the wrong man," I said, and fired.

The first reeled in his saddle and fell heavily. The second
had taken warning. He whirled his horse around, spurring
hard, and my second pistol missed him.  Kerguelec fired,
missed likewise.  With a yell and a great leap, he was going
in a burst of speed.

I ran forward to the dead man, searched him hastily.
Nothing! The second, then, had carried the despatches. For
an instant I thought of pursuing him, but already too much
time had been wasted.  He could slip into the brush and
elude me too easily. I rose and came back to the others,
looking at the stupified, staring Tronchet.

"I'm sorry!" said Kerguelec contritely. "If I had not missed
him --"

"No matter," I said.  "He'll return to Mortain and go the
other way around to Avranches. He may wait for an escort of
Blues. We'll be two or three days ahead of him at least."

A cry of amazement burst from Tronchet.

"Name of the devil! What does this mean? You, a commissioner
from Paris --"

"I'm a fugitive from Paris," I said, "and those two men bore
orders for my arrest.  As for our Breton friend here, I've
another surprise for you. We're all in the same boat."

Kerguelec swept off his wide Breton hat and uttered a laugh.

"So, M. de Chaponay! I have the honor to salute you."

"And who the devil are you?" he demanded.

"Mademoiselle de Rohan," I said, laughing a little.

"Marie de Rohan," amended Kerguelec, "and I believe
distantly connected with your house, M. de Chaponay."

From Tronchet came one astounded exclamation; his expression
was dismayed, ludicrous, and he stood there with his jaw
hanging, utterly aghast. In this moment he must have
recalled those droll stories he had been recounting on the
road, the excellence with which he had played at his role of
headsman. Then all three of us broke into sudden laughter.

From this I was startled by a sound in the brush, the
crackle of a dead stick. The ominous noise wakened me. I ran
to the fallen man and jerked out his unused pistols.

"Too much talk!"  I called sharply.  "Quick, Tronchet --
look alive! Someone nearby --"

On the word, the bocage around us seemed to be swept by
motion. A man appeared. Other men flooded into the glade
from all sides. The barren rocks sprouted muskets, the very
trees broke into movement, showed men lying in the branches
or dropping to earth.

Strangely enough, not a word was spoken. Silent, they came
pouring in upon us from all directions, as we stood there
petrified -- men armed with muskets, with pikes, with sabers
string-tied to belts, with staves and scythes -- men ragged
and unkempt, barefoot or shod with leathern gaiters, nearly
all having flaming hearts broidered on their tattered
jackets -- bearded, long-haired, shaggy men.

They closed us within a human wall, still in this unreal
silence, their wild eyes fastened upon us.  Suddenly they
opened out, to let one man pass through them to the center.
He was short, sturdy, bronzed, with commanding features, and
his gaze was directed at me with anger.

"You did wrong!" he exclaimed abruptly. "Had you not killed
that rascal we should have had them both! You spoiled my
trap, monsieur, and I don't thank you for it!"

I was too amazed to make response.




                         CHAPTER VI

                  ONE 'TRUST5, ANOTHER CONFIDES


THE leader of our rescuers or captors, as the case might
prove, turned from me to Kerguelec. He removed his wide hat
in peasant fashion, and spoke awkwardly.  He had a distinct
Breton brogue.

"Mademoiselle, princess, you are safe. We heard all. Be
assured."

There was a stir. His men were freeing and caring for the
unhappy captive, who was now clinging to Tronchet.  The two
brothers embraced warmly. The man from the bocage put a hand
on Tronchet's arm and smiled.

"Well met, monsieur! I hoped our men might pick you up -- I
heard of your escape." He crossed himself quickly. "Your
father -- may he rest in peace !-is gone. You and your
brother remain.  M. de la Rochejacquelin will be glad of
your help. Do you know we have forty thousand men? It is
true.  We have soundly whipped the Blues at Fontenay.  I am
here on a swift errand, to create a diversion and return
south immediately.  We have little time to talk -- four
miles from here there is a detachment of Blues, cornered and
held until we come. We pause only to destroy them, then back
to the Vendee before we are caught and trapped."

He turned his steady, piercing eyes to me. "Who are you,
monsieur? Your actions have spoken for you, but your name
--"

"Martin," I said. "I am an American, a member of the
convention. Marat tried to take my head, and I kept it."

My light tone did not draw even a smile. There was no mirth
in these men.  When I spoke of belonging to the convention,
a low breath passed around, a growl; hands tightened on
weapons. Then Kerguelec spoke out, eagerly.

"Do not harm him! He has been in Paris, helping many of us
away to safety. He is not of our party, yet time and again
he has risked his life for us. He saved me from the
guillotine. He saved Madame de Florelle and her children.
Comte d'Artois has given him nobility -- "

The man before me suddenly went to his knees.  Before I
realized his intention, he seized my hand and pressed it to
his lips. He rose, and I saw the glitter of tears in his
eyes.

"Ah, monsieur -- you, an American do this!" he exclaimed. A
wild roar of applause went up from the ragged crew all
around, pikes and musket-butts thudded on the ground.
"Monsieur, I am only a peasant, a carter, humble before you.
I salute you."

"Your name, monsieur?" I asked curiously.

"Jacques Cathelineau."

Cathelineau! The name drew a start from me   of late it had
resounded largely in Paris, was being uttered through half
of France, had become known in England and Germany. Before
me stood the most dreaded guerilla leader of the Vendean
insurrection, the man once no better than a serf, now one of
the chief props on which leaned the princes of the house of
Bourbon.

Paris thought the name of the dead king was Capet, though it
was nothing of the sort. And Paris thought this man of the
west was a mere peasant carter, whom the renegade nobles
would crush with their thousands of volunteers. Paris was
very liable to mistakes those days!

Suddenly a voice broke in upon the scene, an eager panting
voice. A man hurled himself out of the thickets, burst a way
through the surrounding throng, came to a stop before us.

"Jacques!" he broke forth eagerly, in a dialect I could
scarce understand. "Two wagons coming from Avranches --
fifty Blues! Not half a mile away -- along this road --
heading for Mortain --"

Cathelineau whirled, and into his face leaped savage
exultation.

"Ready! Where are you, father?"

What now took place was swift and remarkable in its silence,
for I did not hear so much as an order given. The sense of
unreality was stunning. This astonishing meeting with
Jacques Cathelineau and his men of the bocage, presumably a
hundred miles away, and the whirlwind drama of the following
events still remain with me like a dream. Despite all I
knew, had seen, had heard, it was hard to credit such
warfare in Europe.

Cathelineau lifted his hand, and a priest in tattered,
tucked-up cassock made his appearance. The whole company
went to their knees while the priest, as I gathered, gave
absolution and made a short prayer; the savage faces around
me became devout, intent, rapt. Then everyone leaped into
action.

What became of the others, I hardly realized   they seemed
to melt away and vanish. Cathelineau took my arm, and I
found myself accompanying him; we were alone, striding
hurriedly through the forest. He noted my pace, my ability
to thread the heavy undergrowth, and smiled.

"You have followed the wood trails ere this, eh?  Well, you
shall have something to tell them in America," he said
grimly.

He led me a stiff pace, and I had no time to exchange words.
The thicket of brush had apparently swallowed everyone else;
we two were alone, Cathelineau leading the way as though he
could see beyond the enclosing trees.

Ten minutes of this; then, breathing hard, I came to a halt
at his side. Before us in the afternoon sunlight lay an open
stretch of the road, with rising ground on either side
dotted with sparse growth of beech and oak.

At the far end of this visible road, a group of dragoons was
riding toward us, ten mounted men, muskets ready, jogging
along easily enough and without thought of danger. Behind
them came into sight two lumbering, creaking wagons,
followed again by another two-score of men.  These were from
a Parisian regiment, ragged, enthusiastic volunteers, whose
appearance contrasted strongly with the gay brass and plumes
of the dragoon vanguard. I glanced along the hillside to
either hand, but could see no one.

"Where are your men?" I muttered to Cathelineau. His only
response was a slow, terrible smile.

The wagons creaked forward until they were but thirty yards
away from us, directly in the center of the open stretch.
The dragoons were even closer upon us, though somewhat
below. And of a sudden Cathelineau lifted his voice in one
powerful shout.

"Vive le Roi!"

A signal, I thought-but no! Nothing moved in the bocage.
Startled shouts arose from the dragoons and the soldiers.
The vanguard drew rein and clattered back to the wagons,
which had halted. Off to the right on the hillside appeared
a dozen ragged figures, who gave a scattering discharge of
muskets.  Two of the dragoons went down.

Orders cracked out, drums rolled. A vivandiere, perched on
one of the wagons, slapped her canteen and shrilled Parisian
argot at the soldiers. The infantry lined up, facing the
right, where the ragged figures had increased to a score in
number, gathering as though to charge down and exposing
themselves boldly. Coolly ranked, the soldiers lifted their
muskets. A volley of smoke and flame erupted.

Yet, as the word sounded to fire, the peasants vanished from
sight, flinging themselves down while the bullets whistled
above them. Then, from both sides of the road, burst out a
wild roar of voices. Instantly the volley was fired, a
torrent of men rose from tree and bush, poured forward,
hurled itself down headlong upon the road. Cathelineau left
my side and was in among the first, rusty saber in hand.

Their muskets empty, the soldiers fixed bayonets and
attempted to meet the mad charge. They might as well have
tried to stem a torrent of water with a basket.

They were caught behind and before.  Bullets rained in upon
them. The eddying smoke glinted to sun-gleams of sabers and
long scythes; I saw of it all only one incident, the
vivandiere leaping down from her wagon to be impaled upon a
pike, half a dozen others pinning her to the earth as she
fell. In fifteen seconds the ranks were broken, in thirty,
half the Blues were dead. Before a minute had passed, not
half a dozen soldiers kept their feet, and around them
surged the peasants with the ferocity of wolves.

I ran forward. As I came to the wagons, the last republican
went down -- an officer, sabered by Cathelineau in person.
As I reached the side of the guerilla leader, a man rushed
up to us exultantly.

"Finished!"

"The prisoners?" demanded Cathelineau.

"There are none."

"Good. The wagons are loaded with powder. Set fire to them.
Save horses for our friends here. Scatter the others in the
bocage. Ready to march!"

I remembered now how Cathelineau had spoken of a detachment
of soldiers cornered and kept penned against his coming.
Bloody work, this!

The thing held me dazed, stupefied.  I saw the ragged priest
moving around among the dying, while the wounded peasants
were being lifted and borne off. The horses were being
quieted, the wagons explored. As I stood there helplessly,
Tronchet came up to me, a black powder-smear across his
face, and gripped my hand.

"Farewell!" he exclaimed. "I'm off to the Vendee, with my
brother. You played your part too well, Monsieur American --
you fooled me completely!"

"The same to you," I returned.

"God guard you!" he said, and he was gone.

Cathelineau and Kerguelec came toward me, the latter
speaking earnestly.

"No," I heard him say. "No, I must go on. I have my own
errands to do. Monsieur Martin goes with me -- or I with
him."

Cathelineau gave me a look of inquiry, and I nodded.

"Yes. I'm not of your party, or of any party -- I go to
America. If I join you, my chance of reaching the sea is
gone. But you can still help me, if you will! That courier
who escaped, bore orders for my arrest -- "

"I have already issued instructions," said Cathelineau. "I
must get away at once, as soon as we finish the other
detachment of Blues, but I have sent out a few men. If the
courier reaches Avranches, it will be a miracle."

"Miracles happen," I said. He crossed himself and gave me a
stern glance, not liking my tone of voice.

"They can happen for as well as against, monsieur." He
dropped to one knee and brought Kerguelec's hand to his
lips. "Mademoiselle, I have horses here, ready for you. Take
them and get away at once. You need not hesitate to speak of
me -- before the Blues get after me, I'll be far away!
Farewell, with God!"

Five minutes afterward, mounted on dragoon horses, we were
riding away westward. In another five, the whole scene was
gone and we two were alone in the forest, Kerguelec and I.

For a time we rode in silence. Glancing back I saw a thick
column of smoke rising, and presently we caught the
thunderous reverberation of the explosion, making our horses
leap.  I was heavily oppressed by the happenings -- by the
incredible rapidity of all we had witnessed. From the time
we glimpsed the peasant and his haltered captive, scarce
half an hour could have elapsed; yet what had taken place in
this short time! Against such foes, no wonder the regular
officers and generals found the Vendean war confusing,
bewildering, hopeless!

I looked at Kerguelec suddenly. "If Cathelineau had known --
about Rabaut!"

"He knows, but cannot wait now to catch him," said the
Breton gravely. "He must get off to the south tonight.
However, Rabaut still has enemies."

"Ah!" A significance in the tone caught my attention. "Is
that woman's work?"

"You are a man."

I leaned over and put my hand on his firm, slender fingers.

"Listen, my dear girl!" I said earnestly. "Will you not give
up your ideas of using me? I am not a man to be used, I
assure you."
"You mistake." Kerguelec rested a steady gaze on me. "You
must ultimately get rid of Rabaut, not for my ends, but for
your own. You've refused the mission I offered you -- very
well.  You've refused to help me in my private errand. No
more appeals! I'm competent to carry out my own work. As for
the treasure, if I cannot get the gold I shall prevent it
going to Paris. Are you satisfied?"

"Entirely," I said A sudden ringing laugh broke from the
Breton.

"How bewildered you looked, back there! It was remarkable
about Tronchet. I never suspected him -- how wonderful it
all seems, now! What shall you tell Rabaut, when we show up
without Tronchet?"

"The truth," I said shortly. Kerguelec gave me a glance, but
said no more.

I was not courteous in the extreme, true, yet this came
rather from an excess of care on my own part, an endeavor to
treat Kerguelec exactly like the man he seemed. That a girl
of high family should play such a part, especially a French
girl, was a thing unheard of; it bespoke acute emergency,
and I regretted having refused to listen to any talk of
private affairs in my anxiety to keep clear of public
matters. How much Kerguelec must have gone through in
playing this role I could well understand. Above all, I was
horribly afraid for him.  A word, a gesture, a trick of
expression might betray him at any instant, for already
Rabaut had discovered something familiar in his face.

As we rode, the remembrance of what we had just witnessed
lingered deeply with us -- less so with me perhaps than with
Kerguelec.  It was not my country run rabid with civil war,
they were not my people and kinsfolk who destroyed each
other like wild beasts. Despite all we had seen, it was very
hard, in this warm flooding afternoon sunlight, to realize
the terrific disruption of France to credit the butchery
going on to the south of us, to feel that a hundred thousand
men were already in arms to repress this western rebellion,
and were failing in the effort!

A league from the hill of Avraiiches, we came down into a
village and the main highway. Scarcely were we through the
village, when ahead of us sounded a roaring chorus of
voices, thundering out an air we both recognized -- the
battle-hymn of the revolution, to which the children danced
in the streets of Paris:

         "Ah, ca ira, ca ira, ca ira,
         Les aristocrats a' Ia lanterne!"

We drew rein and waited.  It brought back everything to me -
- even those "lanterns" or street lamps of Paris, with the
large square hook at the top, where many a poor devil had
found an improvised gibbet! And so there broke upon us a
score of mounted dragoons, who flooded about us, stared
at me, stared at the strange Breton figure, until an officer
pushed forward and demanded our names. I gave them.

"Good!" he exclaimed. "We were sent out to meet and escort
you, citizens!" He looked at Kerguelec curiously, for his
regiment was newly arrived in the west.  "So this is a
Breton, eh? What a savage! I never saw a Breton before --"

"But I have seen these horses before!" shouted a sergeant,
pointing excitedly to our mounts.  "Devil take me if that
isn't Jambe d'Argent's horse and saddle!"

Shouts, oaths, questions, further recognition.  I beckoned
the officer.

"To Avranches, at once -- hush up these fools!  I have news
for Citizen Rabaut."

He obtained order.  I passed the word that I had been halted
by Whites, who had destroyed the convoy of powder, but had
gained clear of them by Kerguelec's help.  Amid new oaths
and vows of vengeance for their slain comrades, the soldiers
turned about and we all rode forward to the tower on the
hill, above the wide bay of Cancale.

It was drawing on to sunset when we mounted the heights to
the quarters of Rabaut -- a building opposite a huge mass of
ruins, in the front of them a single broken pillar bearing a
plate of brass. The town was filled with troops; they were
quartered on the houses, were bivouacked in the streets,
were crowding everywhere.  General Wimpfen, commanding the
La Manche army in this district, had been here only a week
previously and had left a strong garrison behind him.

We found Rabaut in a large room, surrounded by members of
the local committee and a number of officers. At sight of
us, Rabaut leaped up with unwonted effusiveness, came
forward, and embraced me with warmth.

"Not a word of our errand!" he murmured as he flung his arms
about me.  Then, louder; "All well? You came through safely?
But where is Tronchet?"

"Dead," I responded with perfect truth. Rabaut drew back,
and there was a general stir of interest.

"Dead? Then you met Whites?"

"None," I replied drily, "except Cathelineau and some
hundreds of his peasants. They had just cut off a convoy and
two wagons.  Tronchet is dead. Thanks to Kerguelec, who has
proven his worth to us this day, we secured a couple of
horses and got away."

Instantly the room was in mad uproar. The loss of convoy and
powder was nothing, but the bare name of Cathelineau
unloosed a tide of wild confusion and panic.  There was no
idea of ordering out troops after the guerilla -- everyone
leaped into fear that the guerilla would be before the gates
of Avranches.  The first fear was succeeded by stupefaction,
for the proximity of the dreaded rebel was incredible.  When
I assured them Cathelineau was already on his way back to
the Vendee, relief was swift, and Kerguelec came in for loud
applause.

Under cover of the uproar, Rabaut spoke quietly in my ear.

"Not a room in this cursed place is safe.  Go across to the
ruins of the cathedral, and I'll join you presently."

"Quarters first,"  I said.  "We're both dust-covered, and
I'm loaded with everything from pistols to comb."

I so spoke for Kerguelec's sake, and it proved Fromond had
offered quarters in his own house to the Breton -- luckily
enough, since space in the town was at a premium. So we
parted, and I was conducted to the room I shared with Rabaut
in this same building.

In another fifteen minutes, I left the place and sauntered
across to the ruins.  By questioning a citizen, I learned
the cathedral had abruptly fallen of its own age, three
years previously -- helped somewhat by Citizen Fromond, no
doubt.  This was not surprising, considering it was over
seven hundred years old.

Of this age, indeed, I was given unique and startling proof
when I approached the broken pillar, formerly on the porch
of the cathedral. The old brass plate affixed to it bore
characters still legible, informing me that upon this spot
Henry II of England had received absolution for the murder
of Thomas a Becket, in the year 1172.  I wondered what the
old king would think of his French duchy nowadays, if he
could see it!

The sun was sinking to rest when Rabaut approached me,
coolly enough.

"Your news has raised the devil again, just as I had things
calmed down," he said with a laugh. "I've arrested a
colonel, approved a dozen denunciations, and have ordered a
rascally renegade priest shot in the morning. I think these
fools are now convinced of my authority. Too bad about
Tronchet -- I liked the rogue. Martin, we must ride in the
morning."

"Good.  What about an immediate dinner?"

"We dine with Fromond in half an hour. How many dragoons do
you want to take along to the Mont, as escort?"

"That depends. Rabaut, you'll have to put your cards on the
table," I said, and met his insolent, sharply-inquiring eyes
firmly. "For our own safety, we need only Kerguelec. For the
sake of appearance --"

"In the eyes of Fromond," he added, and took a pinch of
snuff.  "Right.  Damn Fromond!  He and the jeweler ride with
us.  I appear to have had a narrow escape today from
Cathalineau, eh?  Are you certain it was the man himself --"

"One thing at a time," I interrupted curtly. "Cards down,
Rabaut, if we're to reach any agreement!"

For a long moment he regarded me fixedly, queer menacing
glints showing in those dark eyes of his.  Then, fingering
his snuffbox, he turned and stared at the street.

Rabaut was in the valley of decision. Until this moment, I
now perceived, he had been entertaining temptation
half-heartedly, and now he must decide once and for all, for
or against. If he came out into the open and trusted me with
his rascality, there could be no retreat for him.

"It's a devilish well-guarded affair," he reflected, half to
me, half to himself.  "The jeweler is to weigh the stuff on
the spot, while I check off the items on the inventory with
Fromond. We fetch everything back here, turn it over to the
jeweler, who then hands me the money for the metal. You
comprehend?"

He gave me a steady look. Cold-blooded rogue as he was, he
yet needed a prod. I gave it without compunction, since I
had no pity for him.

"Yes," I said and nodded. "Yes. Once we return here, the
chance is gone.  Come, speak out!  Is that it or not? Trust
me or else lose all the wager."

He snapped his snuffbox shut and plunged.

"That's it.  We must get the treasure at the Mont, or
nowhere.  Do we take the chance, you and I?"

"For what -- for the gold?" I demanded relentlessly.

"The gold and the future.  All of life! My authority extends
to St. Malo, the limit of this district. Say the word, and I
can send off a letter tonight to that town, ordering a
lugger to meet us off Mont St. Michelin three days.  You and
I,between us, manage the affair. We get a boat at the Mont,
load the gold into it, and get away -- that's it, roughly."

He watched me closely, to see how I would receive this bald
proposition.

"All well and good, as far as you go," I returned. "At all
events, we're to be no petty thieves!"

"Petty?" Warmth crept into his voice.  'Martin, I've seen
the inventory -- the gold alone in that place is worth a
king's ransom! Half of it would suffice a dozen men for
life."

"We go halves?" I demanded.

"Halves. Your objection to my scheme?"

"None, so far as it goes," I reflected. "But what comes
after? You cannot land with it in England, or it will be
seized for the royalist cause. There's a French fleet off
the coast, and all the bay is watched. Go -- whither?"

He laughed softly, for once with genuine amusement. "To
America, blind one! You forgot how much power a commissioner
has! The lugger meets us -- I give the orders. If any
republican frigate stops us, we go to America on a mission
from the convention.  Vive Ia Republique!  Liberty,
equality, fraternity, and the rights of man! It is simple,
if one has the password," he added cynically.

"Simple and reasonably safe,"  I responded thoughtfully. "We
might get past the fleet, after all -- it's bold enough to
work! Our only risk comes from the sea, then, and from an
English ship."

"Not from the sea in summer!" countered Rabaut quickly.
"These luggers are safe as a three-decker, and too small to
be bothered by the English. Even if stopped, we are
fishermen bound for the Newfoundland banks, or emigre's --
not worth bothering."

"Devilish bold, simple and ingenious," I observed
admiringly.

"Like all great plans." Rabaut tapped his snuff box, and
fixed his eyes upon me. "But what assurance have I of your
cooperation, Martin?  Or, in exact terms, that you'll not
betray me to Fromond?"

I laughed a little. "A most excellent assurance, my good
citizen! The fact that Marat wants my head."

"Eh?"  He started, his gaze widened a trifle. "Is this
true?"

"True." And now, under the spur of necessity, I did a very
foolish thing. Not until later did I realize how my words
put me in Rabaut's power. "My commission as your assistant
was made out in another name.  Having to flee at once, I
took a long chance and won. What's more to the point, orders
are out for my arrest, and I think you've been recalled."

These last words sharply swept him from my case to his own.
He became piercing, alert, dangerous. I told him of the two
couriers, hinting at more than I said in order to impress
upon him the idea of his own possible recall.  He nodded
decisively.

"Good.  We must not lose a moment.  Then it's agreed?"

"Agreed.  However, you had better keep your eye on Fromond,"
I added. "He's the chief danger point."

Rabaut showed his teeth, and a hint of venom darted in his
eyes.

"Let him dare! Now, what about help? We'll need a couple of
stout men, and we'll have to trust them to some extent. Gold
is heavy stuff to be loaded."

"Pick out two soldiers," I returned, little guessing how I
was to pay dearly for the advice.  "The stoutest, most
fanatic republicans you can find -- preferably Parisian
volunteers.  Show them your commission, offer them nothing,
have them detached on special service. If you pick the right
men, they'll help you steal Mont St. Michel itself, thinking
they're doing it for the committee in Paris, and will guard
you to America!"

"Right -- an excellent notion!"  Rabaut smiled slightly and
clapped me on the shoulder.  "Then it's settled, so come
along to Fromond's house. That devil will be sorry to learn
of Tronchet's death -- he had wrung a half-promise out of me
that he could have six priests beheaded every day, at the
Mont.  Now -- by the way! Kerguelec goes with us."

His tone of decision, of command, vaguely startled me.

"Goes with us?" I repeated. "Well, why not?"

"Oh, nothing!"  A peculiar smile crossed his face, and it
turned me cold.  "But I'll ride with our Breton tomorrow. I
think we'll be good company for each other."

Somehow, somewhere, had been a gap in the armor.  Rabaut
knew Kerguelec's secret.




                      CHAPTER VII

         PERIL FROM THE PAST IS ALWAYS SHARPEST

In vain did I seek even the least word with Kerguelec that
evening. No chance afforded itself, for Rabaut fastened upon
the Breton like a leech.

He was still unwarned when we rode out of Avranches in the
morning, though I fancied Rabaut's manner might have given
him some hint; what was passing between them, however, I
could not tell.  I rode in the van with our escort, four
troopers from a Rhineland regiment, sturdy Alsatians who
spoke German better than French.  Behind me came Rabaut and
Kerguelec, followed by Fromond and the jeweler -- a crafty-
eyed little Norman spy. Rabaut's two specially engaged
troopers brought up the rear with the baggage. They were
brothers, Parisians with tremendous mustaches, from a
grenadier regiment, and were known as Pol Rouge and Pol
Noir; their actual names I never knew.  They were large men,
active, fiery republicans, just the sort of thick-witted
enthusiasts to serve Rabaut's purpose.

As a matter of fact, we were all the finest pack of would-be
thieves riding the Norman roads since the Hundred Years'
War.  Nominally, we were about the job of stealing for the
republic a treasure belonging by all right to the
Benedictines of St. Maur. Actually, it was far otherwise.

Rabaut wanted to steal the gold for himself. I stood quite
ready to help him, if this would further my own escape.
Kerguelec wanted to steal it for the royalist cause, who had
best claim to it after the monks.  Fromond wanted to steal
it in order to injure the priests, since it was regarded as
a sacred treasure. The jeweler intended to steal all he
could in weighing the metal, and I had no doubt the scales
boxed behind his saddle would give full short weight.  The
only strictly honest men among us were the troopers -- a
position apt to be insecure as that of kernels between the
grindstones.

I had no more fear of the courier from Paris, or his news,
even if he managed to reach us.  It was true that Rabaut
knew my secret, but on the other hand I knew his intentions,
so we were very nicely balanced. My sole cause of present
uneasiness was Kerguelec, with whom I could get no private
speech. This I must put up with for the present.

The most direct way from Avranches to the Mont lay straight
across the beach sands. Fromond refused to consider it,
however, being in dread of quicksands and of the swift
tides, saying they often came in across the leagues and
leagues of flat sand with the rapidity of a horse at gallop.
The temptation was strong to disregard him, with the
unbroken sands running far as eye could see, but Kerguelec
backed up the lawyer.  So we went by way of the road, via
Pontaubault, Beauvoir and Pontorson -- a five-league ride in
all.  Little enough it seemed, at the setting out, and
Fromond was calculating to get to work on the treasure in
the course of the afternoon.

In view of later events, I keenly regretted having put the
procureur on the scent of Rabaut, whose plans now suited my
own purpose excellently.  If Fromond were to block him, I
too would be blocked, and I could see no better method of
leaving France than that suggested by Rabaut.  However, it
was too late now to cry over the milk.

The day was clear, beautiful, but very hot and oppressive,
and we jogged along without encountering any signs of war or
other disturbance. Having in mind Cathelineau's clever
stratagem in collecting and surrounding the Blues, I kept
two of my four Alsatians far out in advance, but we scarce
saw a soul until we rode into the little town of
Pontaubault.

Here the street was rapidly deserted at sight of us, good
proof of the temper of the inhabitants -- but not quickly
enough deserted.  A gray-haired peasant was hobbling across
the street ahead, when Fromond uttered a cry, drove in his
spurs, and clattered wildly on in advance.  He cut around in
front of the old man, who halted quietly, and then waved his
arm to hasten us on.

"Here we have one!"  he shouted.  His eyes were blazing, and
excitement caused the left side of his face to twitch
furiously.  "Quick, Citizen Martin! Bind him!"

We rode up. The old peasant regarded us calmly, even
smilingly, but said no word.

"What do you mean by this?"  I demanded of Fromond.  He
pointed down at the old peasant with his shaking hand.

"I know him! One of these superstition serving rascals --
was deported last year! He's come back,has been hiding here
-- oh, I know him!"

"Yes, my poor son, and I know you," spoke out the priest,
for so he was in reality  "God forgive you, as I do, your
fury! It was I who baptized you, Jacques Fromond.  Do you
remember that later day when you made your first communion
at my hands? Do you remember how you came with your parents,
all clad in white? Do you remember your vow to St. Michel,
or has your poor hurt brain been trying to forget all these
things --"

Fromond uttered an incoherent, bestial cry, and his eyes
were horrible to see in their tortured fury. He leaned over
in the saddle and struck the old man brutally across the
face, so that he staggered back against the house-wall
beyond.  At this, I nearly forgot myself. Indeed, I had
whipped out a pistol when a hand fell on my arm, and I
looked into the steady eyes of Kerguelec. They sobered me.

"Bind' him!" howled Fromond.  "Bind him and set him against
a wall and shoot him! The penalty for returned priests is
death --"

"Bah! Not a bit of it," said Rabaut coolly, not displeased
to balk Fromond. "If we stop for that, we may have half the
countryside buzzing around us before we reach Pontorson." He
took a pinch of snuff and looked down at the priest.  "Come,
old man!  Swear that you'll deliver yourself at Mont St.
Michel -- Mont Libre, I mean -- to-morrow, You agree?"

The priest wiped blood from his mouth.  "I agree," he said,
and then looked up at Fromond. He smiled a little and raised
his hand. "My poor son! God be merciful to you."

Fromond, white as death, lifted his arm to strike a second
time, when I caught his bridle and jerked his horse away. We
rode on. Fromond hurled wild imprecations upon all of us,
until he presently fell silent, gnawing his lip and fumbling
nervously with his reins. A curious meeting, I thought, and
was glad Kerguelec had prevented my impetuous folly. I began
to think this Fromond might be mad after all. At least he
was possessed of a devil!

The procureur was very impatient to reach our destination,
that he might begin his work; he would have pushed us on
with all speed, alleging as a fact that from noon until one
o'clock, whatever the tide, no water surrounded Mont St.
Michel.  Rabaut refused to be hurried. He intended to reach
Pontorson in time for noon meat, and from there cover the
two leagues across the sands to the Mont after the tide was
low. This put Fromond into a sullen fury, but he perforce
agreed.

We went our way without further happening, except the
tremendous incident of sighting our destination -- a vision
never to be forgotten.  This broke on us half a league from
Pontorson, and caused us to draw rein in silence. Even
Fromond, staring from his haunted eyes, must have found the
sight incredible, a touch of another world.

Before us outspread the immense horizon of sea and sand,
insensibly merging together, and against it was set an
enormous mass of granite, conical in shape.  Where rock
ended and masonry began was impossible to say.  This
mountain, gray-set amid yellow sands and receding tide, rose
against the sky, became walls and pinnacles and elongated
buttresses, culminating in the pointed belfry of the abbey.
At high tide this granite cone was surrounded for league on
league by ocean.  Now, with the tide going out, a league of
water still lay around it, and this would disappear as
rapidly as it would return. That this marvelous creation was
the work of human hands seemed past all reason -- the thing
hung there between earth and heaven in a glistening mirage,
a dream castle.

After this we passed on between orchards and barley fields,
and came at last into the village of Pontorson, where a few
months later the heroic Vendean army was vainly to stem the
tide of destruction rolling it under.  Once a famous place,
crowded with pilgrims for the Mont, the village was now a
gray desolation, one inn alone open and it empty of
travelers.

When we dismounted and the others trooped in side, I had
chance for a short word with Kerguelec and seized it.

"Danger," I said swiftly. "You had best mount and ride for
it now, comrade!"

He nodded composedly.  "I know.  He has recollected me."

"He told you?"

Kerguelec gave me a calm look.  "Yes.  He knows. He
threatens no danger -- rather, he threatens the worst of
dangers!"

"Then, for the love of heaven, get away while we're here!"

"No. I can handle him. Besides, let well enough alone! It
will help me in my private errands here -- and you've
refused them."

With this woman-like shot, Kerguelec turned and entered the
inn.

I followed, not without a muttered oath.  Here was a new
complication, and it left me aghast. Perhaps Rabaut had a
mind to take more than one sort of treasure along on his
flight to America!

An officer and a dozen dragoons were quartered in the town.
While we were at our meal the officer appeared, both to
learn our business and to get his own dinner.  Sight of
Rabaut's commission properly awed him, and he fell to work
at his own meal in the corner.  He was a veteran of fifty,
a bullet-headed Norman, thick of wits, sluggish of thought,
with all the slow perserverance of a blood hound. Despite
the new army formations and his obvious years of the work,
it spoke eloquently for his quality that he had not risen
above a captaincy -- when half-baked turncoat lieutenants of
the royal army now commanded brigades!

It chanced that I sat beside Kerguelec, both of us facing
the table of the solitary Norman. More than once I saw him
staring over at us in puzzled fashion, but had no clue
until, chancing to look at the Breton; I caught a glance of
apprehension, almost of terror. Then Kerguelec murmured a
low word, without significance for the others, even Rabaut
paying it no heed.

"A sergeant -- my father's regiment.  When the revolution
began, he helped murder the officers."

I understood it all in a flash -- this devil of a Norman
knew the de Rohan face, had either recognized Kerguelec or
would do so shortly.  The results stood out too clearly.
The fellow would make a denunciation before all of us, and
to save his own position in the eyes of Fromond, Rabat would
not dare overlook it. To ascertain whether the supposed
Kerguelec were really a woman would be only the work of a
moment --

Sweat started on my face.  Rabaut perceived it and made some
jest about the heat of the day, but I caught a glance of
comprehension from the dark steady eyes of Kerguelec.  With
this I rose and went over to the table of the scowling
captain.

Calling for some cold cider from the cellar, I began to talk
with him about himself and his work here.  Distracted from
his suspicions, flattered by such attention from the
assistant commissioner, he showed himself a most rabid
republican. He did not hesitate even to go into certain
details of countryside butchery.

I thought he was safe, but in the midst, as he flung a
glance at Kerguelec, the half-frown vanished and his blue
eyes flew suddenly wide. Recognition had come to him -- I
knew it without a word. He placed both hands on the table
and started to jump up, when I leaned over and checked him.

"Wait, citizen!" I said quietly, not to draw the general
attention. "I know it already."

These words broke into his sluggish mind. Staring at me, he
sank back into his seat, and I went on with a confidence I
was far from feeling.

"Yes, I know all about it!  Finish your meal, then come
outside with me, and we'll discuss the matter. It's an
affair touching the republic itself, you comprehend?"

"Eh?" he blurted.  "You mean -- the disguised emigre'
yonder?"

By good fortune, the words passed unheard by our party. I
nodded calmly.

"Of course.  Citizen Rabaut knows it also. Do as I say,
citizen captain, and I'll explain outside."

He obeyed, in his slow and ponderous fashion.  For once, I
was wholly at a loss. The fool must be silenced at any price
-- yet, Rabaut must not learn that I was aware of
Kerguelec's identity. This put any appeal to Rabaut clear
out of the question.  How to clap a stopper on this rascal?
The best solution would be to pistol him, but I was not
minded to save Kerguelec at the immediate cost of my own
head, especially after my warning had been spurned.

The captain finished his cider and rose.  I followed and
Rabaut glanced up.

"We're starting at once, Martin! The tide is about full
ebb."

I decided on a bold course -- almost a desperate course.
The dragoon was heading for the courtyard, so I beckoned
Rabaut imperatively. He rose and came to me.

"Well?"

"This one," and I jerked my head toward the retiring
captain, speaking in English, "has recognized in our friend
Kerguelec some emigre in disguise."

Rabaut's arrogant eyes narrowed in swiftly startled dismay.
I instantly took the advantage. It was obvious he did not
want to lose Kerguelec's company.

"Now, emigre or not, I owe the Breton a debt," I went on
easily.  "You daren't turn over your hand, for Fromond is
watching you like a cat."

"I know it, damnation take him!" muttered Rabaut.

"Well, leave the whole matter to me," I said confidently,
now sure of him. "Don't warn Kerguelec -- I'll handle the
thing myself."

"Good," said Rabaut, only too glad to leave the onus of it
on my shoulders.

I made haste outside, where the worthy captain was lighting
his pipe. He looked at me inquiringly.

"Well, citizen commissioner? Do you know this rascally
Breton of yours is a woman -- one of the accursed Rohans?"

"Certainly," I said.  "And do you know that Cathelineau with
an army of Whites is within a few miles of here?"

The officer looked at me, and the pipe fell from his hand to
shatter on the stones of the courtyard.

"Cathelineau -- here!" he said in a strangled voice.
"Impossible!"

"Yet true," I assured him. "We nearly fell into his hands
near Avranches, and this Breton saved us all. Citizen Rabaut
is therefore in his, or her, debt.  If someone else
denounces her, he is clear of it -- you understand?  We must
get on to the Mont at once, for Cathelineau may descend on
this town any moment; he has destroyed detachments of our
troops almost within sight of Avranches."

My rascal turned pale. "And my brave men, my little
handful?"

"Must take their chance.  Here!  Let me solve the problem
for you!"

He stammered something as he stared at me, his slow wits in
a daze.

"Tell your dragoons to mount and ride for Avranches.  You
remain here.  Ask this Breton to remain with you.  Let
Citizen Rabaut start for the Mont. I'll stay here, and we'll
follow him ten minutes later.  On the way, you will seize
the Breton and take him in as your prisoner. Regard!  You
gain the shelter of the Mont, with a ci-devant in your
hands, your men are saved, all is well -- promotion and
safety! Vive Ia Republique!"

He got my drift quickly enough, and if there were any holes
in my argument the dreaded name of Cathelineau was a
stopgap.

Two of his dragoons were lounging by the inn gate, and my
officer strode hastily toward them. The effect of his words
was immediate.  They saluted and then made all haste to
depart, shouting to their comrades down the street.  At the
same moment, Rabaut appeared, with Fromond and Kerguelec and
the jeweler, calling our men from their dinner.  The horses
were brought out at once.

Here the Norman showed unexpected intelligence -- perhaps a
result of his spurring fear. He came up to the party and
curtly desired Kerguelec to stop behind a few moments and
give him some road information he could not obtain locally.
Rabaut caught my nod, as did Kerguelec, and smoothed over
the request in a casual manner.  Rabaut, obviously, was very
desirous not to draw Fromond into the matter.

"Very well," he assented.  "Citizen Martin, will you wait
with Kerguelec and bring along a bottle or two of this
Calvados? Excellent stuff, this apple brandy, and if our
Bastille yonder is damp as it looks, we'll be glad of a
drop. Follow us soon.

"At once, citizen," I replied.  The captain had gone off in
search of his horse.

Rabaut called up our men, gave me one significant shrug, and
rode away, Fromond and the jeweler with him. Fromond was far
too impatient to reach the Mont for any passing suspicion or
incident to find rest in his whirring head.  So they rode
away down the street toward the sands. Kerguelec came,
bringing his horse and mine.

"Well?" he demanded briefly.

"For the last time, will you take the chance to escape or
not?" I said angrily.

"For the last time, no!"

"Then ask no questions.  Devil take me if I know what we'll
do! Mount and ride."

We swung into the saddle, just as the captain appeared with
his horse.  He turned in on the other side of Kerguelec and
we rode down the street. As we came from the village to the
shining stretches of sand below the high dunes, the others
were a quarter-mile ahead of us and striking off toward the
Mont.

The dragoon was nervous, considerably perplexed in mind, and
cursed the Whites most heartily for a pack of cowards who
fought from behind hedges and were afraid to come into the
open. Their style of combat was not to his taste, was not
soldiering as he knew it.  To do him justice, he was brave
enough, though unnerved by thought of an invisible enemy, a
bullet from the blue, and a firing squad if captured.

We turned the final corner of the cliff, and out ahead of us
appeared Mont St. Michael, the lower rock of Tombelaine
beyond it.  The Norman fell to cursing the place and threw
out a hand at the sands.

"Six men went down there last week," he said. "Honest
troopers, too -- a fine day like this!"

"Went down?"  I repeated.  "How?"

"This accursed place of devils -- if I were superstitious
enough to think devils could exist  Quicksands are
everywhere.  Fog may come without a moment's notice.
Sometimes the tide rushes in like a foaming wave, other
times it simply appears -- a man cannot run from it, even!
Those six men were caught in fog and rising tide.  It was
the end of them."

I gave small credit to his words.  The day was clear, hot,
without trace of fog, and all these reports of swift tides
struck me as wild folly. Here was no narrow bore, only huge
level golden sands, league after league of them beyond
eyesight. Quicksands, perhaps; yet from what I knew of such
things, a man need merely keep his head to get clear, even
if caught.

My thoughts were far more occupied with the question of my
Norman captain.  While entirely willing to kill him -- there
was no other possible course -- it could scarcely be done
out here on the open sands, in full sight of the whole
shore, the Mont, the party ahead. In such case, Rabaut would
be forced to arrest and hold me for some sort of trial, and
I did not care to get into a dungeon at present.  I had a
vague idea of putting the man under arrest and having him
flung into a cell on a trumped-up charge; yet this would be
a desperate, implausible and futile effort.  At least I had
got rid of his dragoons, so that if my Norman did not return
to Pontorson, he would not be readily missed.

We plodded on through the sand. Now I estimated it must be
four miles to the Mont, rising ahead of us majestic and
isolated, all gray naked stone from this aspect.  Details of
the place grew upon us. The shore was girded abruptly with
ramparts, save where cliff shot up in sheer straight masses.

Slightly to the left was a massive tower and cluster of
buildings, marking the entrance-gate of the place.  From
this, in an ascending transverse line toward the right,
appeared other buildings, former inns and taverns for
pilgrims. Those were backed by the naked rock, sweeping up
in almost incredible lines of masonry to the spiring abbey
that topped the whole.  The closer we drew, the more upon us
all grew the wonder of this ancient structure.

"One can understand," murmured Kerguelec, "why this abbey
was always called simply 'The Marvel'! It seems a place made
by angels --"

As though these words had wakened him, the dragoon turned in
his saddle, drew out a pistol, and fastened his blue eyes on
Kerguelec.

"You're under arrest, ci-devant," he announced brusquely.
"You are no man, but a woman.  I know your face -- one of
those damned aristocrats calling themselves de Rohans I
Well, there is no longer a 'de' in France, you comprehend? I
know you."

"So you should," said Kerguelec, meeting his look with calm
gaze.  "Since you served in my father's regiment -- traitor
to your salt and your king!"

"Hand over your pistols, Kerguelec," I demanded roughly.
Between this insolence and that contempt, a spark of death
might well fly.  "Hand them over, and no more talk. You're a
prisoner."

We were now perhaps two miles from the Mont, and a like
distance from the shore, as we did not hit out directly for
the place but at a sharp angle from Pontorson.  The party
ahead had gained somewhat upon us.  Kerguelec, without
protest, took the two pistols from his sash and handed them
to me. The dragoon watched frowningly.

"Are the loads fresh?" I asked.

"Yes."

I looked to the priming, and then, thrusting away one
pistol, cocked the other. The crisis had come -- there was
nothing for it now but action.  And yet, in this moment, I
could not deliberately and without a word shoot down the
man; it went against the grain, savored too much of murder
outright, was in fact nothing else.

I glanced up from the pistol and was about to speak and give
him at least a chance, when I saw he was staring with
uplifted eyes at the horizon.  A low exclamation of surprise
broke from him.

"Name of the dead devil!  Something is happening!"

Something was indeed happening -- though, as I followed his
gaze, I could not for a moment place it. Then I realized the
sunlight was thinning out, imperceptibly and strangely, for
not a cloud broke the blue sky.  This very blue, too, seemed
to be fading and losing its hot color.  Kerguelec spoke in a
queer voice.

"Tombelaine-look!"

The island beyond the Mont, a huge bit of rock not unlike a
crouching lion, slowly vanished from before our sight and
was gone, even as we looked.  With this I had the
explanation and laughed a little.

"Mist," I said.  "Mist in the distance. Well, citizen
captain, you know this Breton to be a ci-divant and a woman,
do you? A returned emigre, eh?"

The dragoon remembered himself again, forgot the mist.  He
jerked his head around and looked steadily at me.

"Yes," he said at last. "Of course."

"But when she is denounced, she will certainly be
imprisoned, and very likely executed.  Do you realize the
fact?"

"I hope so."  He flung a brutally savage look at Kerguelec.
"If I had my way, every one of them would be shot on sight
without a trial, men and women and children -- the whole
accursed breed must be wiped out!"

"Yes!"  I said calmly.  "But, citizen captain, you mistake
about this one."

He gave me a blank, uncomprehending stare.

"How, a mistake?  Not a bit of it, citizen. Search for
yourself, you'll see she's a woman -- bah!  What need of
search!  Lily-smooth hands and neck, no touch of a beard, a
bit full in the breast and hips, eh? Besides, you heard what
she said, admitting her identity.  When I denounce her --"

"You'll not denounce her, you street-sweepings,"  I said,
and flung up my cocked pistol at him. "Drop those weapons --
quick!"

At this instant, absolutely without any warning, the dragoon
was literally blotted from my sight.  In the twinkling of an
eye a thick blanket of fog enveloped us.




                       CHAPTER VIII

                  IT IS EASY TO MAKE PLANS

I think the incredible celerity of this thick mist held all
three of us paralyzed for an instant, despite the crisis
upon us, and drew our startled attention from each other to
the misty vapor around. We had seen no bank of fog moving
forward; it had apparently sprung full-bodied from the
ground, thick and white as powder-smoke. The figure of
Kerguelec, at arm's length from me, was a dim shape. That of
the captain had vanished.

Abruptly, Kerguelec caught my arm, dragging me over in the
saddle and almost unseating me. The red flash of a pistol
split the fog, and the bullet sang close. I straightened up
and fired a response, but already the horses had broken into
a plunging gallop and I nearly went to the sand.

I recovered my reins, dropped the pistol, and got my horse
under control. Looking around, I found myself alone.  The
others had completely disappeared in this accursed fog.

"Kerguelec!"

No reply to my shout, and my voice was beat back and muffled
by the dense, smooth whiteness.  Whither the brief dash had
carried me, was problematical, and all sense of direction
was totally lost.  Still, we could not be far from the
spreading waters of the Conesnon River, losing themselves
somewhere in the sands close by, and thus, by finding the
trickle, might at least have a guide back to the coast --
unless a quicksand intervened. Indeed, with the captain
escaped, we might have to make for the coast and give up any
further idea of going to the Mont -- flee south, instead,
into the Vendee!

I slipped from the saddle.  For a long moment I knelt,
applying my ear to the sand, listening.  I caught a dull
sound, and again; listened more intently -- and then glanced
up to find my horse gone from sight. The thickness of the
mist was incredible.  I leaped up, went dashing into the fog
only to encounter nothing, and halted with an imprecation on
my own folly.  Now I was dismounted as well as lost.

Since remaining in one spot would certainly be of no avail,
I struck out at random, one pistol ready, hoping at least to
run across my horse again. Well for me I was thus prepared!
For a time nothing happened.  Perhaps ten minutes in all
passed.  I shouted repeatedly, but no reply came, and I knew
a mere voice could not hope to pierce the fog for any great
distance.

I was on the point of firing in the air as a signal, when to
one side of me loomed a dark mass, indistinct, formless.
Instantly came the burst of a shot, and the bullet whipped
through my riding cloak.

The pistol in my hand made response, and I was sure of a
hit.  Yet, when I leaped forward, horse and rider had
disappeared completely, and I gripped at the empty air.  It
was uncanny, disconcerting, baffling in the extreme. I
dropped the second pistol, having my own brace still
remaining, and shouted.

Immediately upon this there came to me from one side the
repeated hooting of a screech-owl, and I hastily turned
toward it.  Kerguelec must have heard the shots and was
signaling to me; the cry was used by the peasant royalists
as a signal -- whence the term of Chouan applied to their
leader and to them in Maine.

So I plunged ahead more confidently, only to come to a
confused halt on finding the signal growing fainter and
farther.  The fog was deceiving me.  I called again, and now
we began a pretty game of blindman's buff, against the
chance of the Norman captain lighting upon either of us.
Hoot and shout were repeated time and again -- until of a
sudden burst forth a new and terrible voice. It was the thin
scream of a horse, instinct with awful fear and terror,
flinging across the fog a note of shrill, soul-shaken panic.
It came again and again, ever more fraught with panic, and
served to guide me.  Then close by Kerguelec cried out to me
-- this time in a scream, the desperate scream of a woman,
all her caution lost in sudden frantic horror.

No mistake about it now, the sound came just from my right,
and I ran toward it blindly, cocking a pistol as I ran.
Without warning my feet seemed to go down into fluid sand,
and even as I realized the peril, I could discern close
ahead of me a struggling mass, almost within touching
distance before it became visible.

No need for weapon here!  I was upon them abruptly, thrust
away the pistol, caught in my arms a dim figure leaping
toward me -- Kerguelec.

"Quick, quick! The horse!"

I saw the poor brute was already in far over fetlocks,
almost to knees, straining terribly yet caught heyond
escape. No help for it. Another frightful scream whirred up,
then I pulled out the pistol and mercifully put a bullet
into the head of the trapped animal. I myself was down to
the ankles by this time, yet managed to pull clear easily
enough, since Kerguelec had me by the hand.

"Out of here, now!" I exclaimed. Even in this moment I
noticed the slim delicacy of the fingers gripping to mine.
"Keep your head, step rapidly -- hold together!"

"Your horse --"

"Lost. The dragoon, too, worse luck! We may have to hit for
the shore --"

Upon this began for the two of us a veritable dance of
death, since it proved we were close to the little river,
where the moving, sucking sands were dangerous in the
extreme. Here and there we came upon brooks of water in the
sand, yet dared not try to get across them, for there lay
peril. Withal we must keep moving, always moving. At each
instant we might plunge down, and I had quite lost all my
contempt for these quicksands in acute consciousness of
their deadliness.

Time passed.  In whatever direction we turned, we appeared
to find only the same loose danger, until at length a gasp
of relief broke from Kerguelec and we plunged forward to a
stretch of firm sand. We halted, and if Kerguelec was
trembling, I was streaming with cold sweat. For a space we
rested in silence, gained poise and breath.

"The tide will be coming in soon," I said. "It looks as
though the Norman had escaped, and so we'd better give up
the Mont and make for the coast. The trickle of water and
the ripples in the sand will guide us."

"No!" exclaimed Kerguelec firmly. "I go on to the Mont -- it
is imperative."

An angry response was on my lips, when it was checked by
something dark, ahead, dimly visible through the cloaking
vapor. Almost stepping on it before I realized, I found
myself looking down at the body of the dragoon captain. He
lay still clutching a pistol -- my last bullet must have
reached him, for he was shot through the heart, quite dead.
Kerguelec drew me on with a shiver and asked no questions.
Then abruptly the Breton clutched my hand tightly, halted,
glanced around.

"Listen! There is someone behind us -- I heard it --"

Almost at our heels sounded with startling clarity a long-
drawn sigh, and then another, as though of one in pain.
Perhaps we were both unnerved by the situation, and the
memory of the dead man lying somewhere in the sand behind us
lingered heavily. Upon me fell a nameless horrible
apprehension -- the fear coming from an invisible presence
in a dark room. I called out sharply.

"Who's there? Speak --"

Silence answered.  We started forward and a sighing gasp
reached us again so that a low cry burst from Kerguelec.
Hand in hand we plunged on a few steps until I stopped and
uttered a shaky laugh of relief, half angry at myself for
such folly.

"Nothing but the air in the wet sand, comrade -- listen!"

To my footstep, came the sigh. Kerguelec laughed, but ended
the laugh sharply.

"It means that the tide is coming in then -- the water is
seeping up through the sand!  Run for it --"

"Keep cool," I counselled, and leaned over to seek direction
from the ripples in the sand. As I did so, distinct along
the surface I caught the rolling, rattling reverberation of
drums.

"They're sounding drums at the Mont. We're close by! Wait,
now, and listen --"

We both heard it clearly, when putting ear to sand, though
when erect the sound was quite inaudible to us. Rabaut had
obviously reached the island and was attempting to guide us
in, realizing our peril. It now became a question of
orientation, since we were on firm sand once again.  Careful
inspection of the sand under our feet showed the direction
of the water-ripples and we started off at a good pace,
pausing now and again to listen for the drums.

"We're making it aright," I said in no little relief. "And
that rascally Norman won't bother you further."

"But his men!"  Kerguelec turned a white, anxious face to
me. "When he does not return they'll send  "

"They'll never know."  Laughing, I explained by what
stratagem I had got rid of the dragoons.  "Your greatest
danger will lie from Rabaut, comrade.  Do you know he is
planning to get away with the treasure to America?"

"By your help?"

I read the thought behind the words, and chuckled. "So he
thinks. No, no, I don't want your monastic gold! If we get
away with it, you'll be welcome to the lot, for your cause
or king or   "

"Pardon, my friend."  Kerguelec pressed my hand. "I did not
mean such --"

The Breton's voice died, and we both came to a halt.  A
ragged volley of musketry broke through the fog thinly, but
it was not this bringing us to pause.  Every thought was
swept away in a cold access of fear -- around our feet was
water, where an instant before had been sand. The tide was
coming in!

"To the left," I said. "Run!"

Even on the words we were ankle-deep. Panic seized us. Hand
in hand we broke into a run once more, and sharp peril
spurred us. We splashed ahead, floundered on through
fast-deepening swirls of water, at our knees before we knew
it. The rapidity of this devilish tide was indeed something
incredible, though it came in no wave.  Kerguelec gave up
the effort, came to a halt.

"Useless!" he groaned.  "We're caught, comrade."

He jerked out the little wooden rosary and stood with head
bowed over it. I caught at it, tore it away, then seized him
by the shoulder and forced him on.

"Don't give up! We're close by the island --"

Close by, indeed! Echoing my words came another burst of
shots, and then a puff of wind struck my cheek. The fog
eddied and swirled in ghostly shapes, and thinned. I let out
a shout and Kerguelec repeated it. Directly ahead loomed up
a mountainous shape, dark, indistinct. The water was nearly
to our waists now climbing swiftly and surely.

"Fifty yards more -- all's well!"

Shouts reached us, and more shots, to which I responded.
Then I lost footing and went under, to come up swimming and
laughing.

"Swim, Breton!"

With a gasp of relief he gave up the struggle to keep erect
-- both of us were well nigh exhausted.  A poor swimmer, he
could just manage to keep going. Meantime more wind, and
over us the fog thinned and dissipated, while men came
splashing out from shore with lines. Next moment they were
around us, swimming, wading, hauling us in. We had landed at
the very gate of the Mont. And as we staggered in from the
water across the little space of firm ground, the fog became
all shot with pallid sunlight and then was gone on the wings
of brilliant afternoon, as though in despair of catching
more victims for this time.

About us crowded soldiers and half a dozen Montois, as the
local inhabitants were termed -- rough, gnarled fishermen
whose jargon was nearly unintelligible.  Oaths,
exclamations, shouts, filled the air. Through them came
shoving Rabaut, more human feeling in his face than I had
ever thought to see.

"Good!" he cried out, giving a hand to each of us, but all
his eyes to Kerguelec. "You had a near thing of it -- eh?
Soaked! Here, a swallow of cognac --"

A gulp of the fiery stuff, then he brought us into the
guardroom above the courtyard, just inside the main gate. He
curtly excluded all others, while we dropped on a bench to
recover, then he turned with a keen glance at me.

"Well, Martin? Where's the dragoon officer?"

"Ask the tide and the quicksands," I returned.

"Kerguelec's horse went down -- had to shoot the poor brute
-- and I lost mine. We nearly went down likewise. Brr!
Fromond knew what he was talking about when he warned us
from those sands!"

Rabaut nodded, and his face cleared at my news.

"Aye," he assented. "According to the people here, neither
the tide, the fog nor the sands are dangerous -- taken
separately; but together they're murderous. Well, we all
have a long climb ahead to our quarters -- if you're able,
we'd better be going. I've ordered clothes and rooms made
ready, but have not been up to the abbey yet. We can't get
to work until to-morrow. That devil Fromond is raging about
it! I nearly had to arrest him. All ready? Then we'll be
off."

We were all right in no time, and followed Rabaut out to the
street A shout of delight from the soldiers and hearty
congratulations greeted us, but I noticed that the handful
of Montois now held aloof in sullen, scowling silence.  The
reason for this attitude was not long in appearing.  Rabaut,
who knew the place well from other days, needed no guide and
led us forward himself.

Directly ahead, a tremendous mass of masonry linked the
outer ramparts to the cliff on our left; this mass was
pierced by a large closed gate and an open postern through
which we entered -- this was the King's Tower and gate, an
inner defence.  Now before us opened up the single street
mounting, in a saber-like curve, to the battlements and
abbey above.

On either hand the street was lined with a solid row of
taverns and shops, where in former days the flocks of
pilgrims had been entertained and loaded down with relics
and souvenirs of all sorts; as late as the previous summer
pilgrims had come here. Now all the place was closed, empty,
desolate, for the Mont Libre knew no more pilgrims. One inn
alone was open, the Red Unicorn. Deprived of their sole
livelihood, the Montois had either scattered to other places
or remained as apathetic fishermen, ruined by the revolution
and not at all appreciating the bliss of freedom.

The way was steep and sharply cobbled where it did not
traverse the naked rock. To spare Kerguelec, I called a halt
at the next turn and got my pipe alight with some half
soaked tobacco from my pouch. From Rabaut's remarks, as he
took snuff and gazed around, I concluded he must have had
some intimate acquaintance with this royal prison in former
times -- perhaps from the wrong side of the walls. Certainly
he seemed to hold the abbey in a species of dormant hatred.

Farther on appeared long curving stairways and terraces, all
of stone, endlessly mounting in a high vista across the
shoulder of the peak, and there doubling back out of sight.
Upon me grew a clearer perception of how enormous this whole
place was in extent, and what untold labor had built it.
When we paused again, Rabaut pointed to a cobbled wall and a
pile of ruins, to our left.

"Bertrand du Guesclin built that house for his bride," he
said, and added cynically: "And what would Edward the
Confessor have thought, when he climbed this hill had he
foreseen we should one day walk in his steps?"

"Probably," said Kerguelec, with the first open speech I had
heard him direct at Rabaut, "he would have extirpated the
family of St.-Servaut."

This shot, and the allusion to his ancient stock, did not
please Citizen Rabaut. He gave the Breton a sidelong glance
and then smiled in his mirthless grimace.

"Yes!" he said softly. "But once allied to the house of de
Rohan, what would St. Servaut have to fear from kings?"

Kerguelec did not respond. Rabaut thought the meaning of
these words lost upon me, but they showed me his intent; and
I could see the Breton's silence came from face-white anger.
Marriage offered any de Rohan by such a man, or compelled,
was the worst of outrages. So at least thought Kerguelec in
bitter pride of race, but I smiled to myself -- there were
far worse matters in the world, as he might yet discover.

We went on in silence after this, until at length we paused
again on a wide terrace near the crumbling ramparts, where
they curved up to meet the abbey walls. It was necessary to
toil up this long sloping succession of stairs to attain
even a vague comprehension of what the abbey yet far above
us meant in the way of ancient labor and skill. It towered
there incredibly, a cluster of buildings rearing into the
sky, a gloomily threatening mass of stone. All this granite
had been fetched hither from the Chausey Islands to the
west, one of the abbey fiefs in former days. Few soldiers
were visible, and I inquired as to the reason.

"Few are here," and Rabaut shrugged. "A handful could hold
the place against an army, but who would attack? No
wandering band of Whites could hope to take the Mont, and it
is not worth sending an army against -- we could too easily
throw in reenforcements from Avranches or by water. The
place has no military value these days.  The local militia
and a few invalided regulars are here -- no more; they have
more need to tend the cooking fires than their muskets.
Three hundred priests are locked up yonder, like sheep to
guard, for all are infirm or aged.  No, little use here for
soldiers."

Thought of the living conditions under which those three
hundred captives must labor brought a chill.

We passed on from landing to landing, then toiled up a final
sharp flight of stairs against a wall, and so came to the
Chatelet -- a tiny black opening between two enormous
towers. Inside were more steps; the entire approach was
built for defence, and a glance showed it to be absolutely
impregnable. Indeed, as Rabaut said, the place had stood
more than one siege, yet had never been captured or reduced
by an enemy.

Sentinels saluted, and a soldier joined us as guide with a
bunch of huge keys. Inside the Chatelet, we climbed onto a
wide platform beneath the gate-towers. Off to our right
appeared a guardroom and a deep courtyard, but our way lay
straight ahead under the blue sky, yet into a stupendous
canon of stone. Still it wound steeply upward, passed from
landing to stairs again, and now all between towering gray
masonry.  On the left hand were the abbatial buildings, and
on the right the huge masses of the church foundations. The
basilica proper was far overhead, being the crown of the
whole work, and looking upward it seemed as though we had
not yet begun our ascent.  The realization was stupefying.

A hundred feet up this steep road, known as the Great Inner
Degree, our guide turned to a doorway on the left, entering
the abbatial buildings. Here, he informed us, were rooms in
some sort made ready for occupancy, although the entire
place was in mad confusion.

We passed into the building and followed up endless flights
of narrow stone stairs. The structure was empty, untenanted,
given over these three years to neglect and desolation.
After a time we came to a great room hung with tattered
tapestries, its once splendid  furnishings hacked and its
paintings ripped.  Rabaut turned to Kerguelec, after
conferring with the guide.

"You had best keep this room. He tells me there is no lack
of monkish apparel in these wardrobes, so you can get into
dry garments."

Kerguelec assented in silence. I passed on with Rabaut to
another tremendous chamber, also bearing clear signs of
devastation. Here our guide went his way. Rabaut drew me to
a window opening on the Great Inner Degree and pointed to a
carven stone gallery or bridge flung across the top of this
great chasm of masonry, leading to the church.

"You see the advantages of our situation, Martin? The
treasure is kept over yonder, and this bridge gives us quick
and easy access to all the upper portion of the place --"

"At the present moment," I broke in, "my chief interest lies
in dry clothes."

Rabaut laughed. "True! Well, I've none to offer, but my
services are at your command. Here's food and wine waiting;
we'll dine in the refectory tonight, and perhaps this
wardrobe will afford something --"

He smashed open a huge oak Norman wardrobe half filling one
wall, and triumphantly drew forth an armful of cassocks,
monkish robes and other paraphernalia, which he flung at me
gaily.  I stripped, clad myself warmly if not becomingly in
approved Benedictine costume, and sat down to the table to
split a bottle of wine with him.

Rabaut was in expansive mood, but I had no illusions
whatever about his confidence in me. He thought me a
trusting dupe, and without doubt meant to murder or get rid
of me the moment he had the treasure safe and was in no more
need of my help. Since discovering the secret of Kerguelec,
the man had imperceptibly but surely altered toward me, and
I was too much on the alert not to sense a certain duplicity
in his manner.

"Why not go openly to America as an agent of the republic?"
he asked, his eyes kindling to the idea. "My commission
gives me full powers, and papers are easily forged. After a
month, say, when the gold is safely converted and banked, I
can sever my connection with diplomacy and drop out of
sight."

"All very well," I returned, "but what if an English frigate
overhauls our lugger enroute to America?"

His face became a mask. "I've prepared for all
contingencies," he said. "The lugger will be off Tombelaine
in three days.  I shall requisition a fishing boat here --
there are only half a dozen -- and it will await my orders.
When we leave, I replace the local guards with those
Alsatians we brought.  You and I and the two Parisians, Pol
Rouge and Pol Noir, will load the gold in the boat and
depart.  It's very simple."

"Very," I echoed drily. These words showed already he
intended to get rid of me before departing. Probably he
would do it at the last moment.  He made no mention of
Kerguelec, and his avoidance was significant. He did,
however, put a negligent question designed to test me out a
trifle.

"By the way, Martin, did that dragoon officer say for whom
he took our Breton? Some noble, perhaps?"

"He mentioned the name of de Rohan," I replied, with equal
indifference, "but had no time to elaborate on the theme. He
was careless with his pistols."

Rabaut showed white teeth in his mirthless grin and was
satisfied. A fine demagogue this heartless scoundrel,
traitor to everything and everyone except what he deemed his
own self-interest!

"Where's Fromond?" I asked.

"Looting the library, I believe."  Rabaut shook his head
frowningly.  "There's madness in that fellow! Well, do you
care to have a look around?  I'd like to look over the place
once again from a standpoint of authority. We might go --"

"Like this?" I asked with a grimace at my black-clad figure.

"Why not? Here's a pair of sandals to go with the costume,"
and he kicked a pair of mildewed sandals across the floor.

What matter, after all? I donned the sandals, lighted my
pipe, and rose.

We did not go down to the bottom of the Inner Degree, that
gulf between gray walls slowly winding upward, but by way of
the abbatial passage -- the bridge crossing from the abbot's
rooms directly to the church, and opening into the chapel of
the Trinity. Here we found a soldier enthusiastically
painting republican mottoes and chipping away carvings, and
we pressed him into service as cicerone, for Rabaut knew
little of the abbey. His acquaintance, I conjectured, had
been chiefly with the prisons.

We found ourselves in a church whose quiet splendor rose
magnificently above crass destruction, and for once Rabaut
even was awed. No hands had reached these high vaulted
arches, whose delicacy of carving was calculated to make the
place seem yet larger than it was in reality; yet it was
only a mere shell of former grandeur. Plain bare walls were
left of the ambulatory and its seven chapels. The altars had
been ruthlessly splintered and smashed, the carven figures
all hacked to fragments.

Choir and sanctuary, lifting in Gothic elegance to the high
windows, remained only as vestiges of past beauty. The stone
floor was strewn with bits of ancient stained glass, the
sculptured and carven stalls had been smashed; all around
lay bits of statuary and savagely ripped paintings. Along
the walls a few bas-reliefs had somehow escaped the general
devastation and testified to the former glory of the whole.
The high altar of St. Michael, between choir and nave, had
long since been stripped of its silver covering and was no
more than a ruinous mass of wood and stone.

From the church our guide conducted us to the cloister, a
covered gallery around a large central opening. Rabaut
touched me on the arm and spoke in a low voice.

"This is said to be the most beautiful piece of architecture
in all France. Imagine such a place subject to the spiteful
hatred of our Citizen Fromond!"

I could understand his feeling, little as he himself loved
the Mont. The double row of small, delicate columns
supporting the vaulted gallery were of pink granite,
surmounted by the most intricate carvings in white stone.
The walls, spaced with blind arcades and stone seats, held
exquisite bas-reliefs and carvings, now mutilated. The
perfect proportion, the balanced beauty of the whole, was
something beyond credence.

Our guide fell into a blasphemous and chuckling recital of
how, something over a year earlier, bands from the towns
along the coast had descended upon the Mont, sweeping
through it with wild destruction, burning the charter-house
and wrecking every thing until the militia from Avranches
halted the work. Rabaut silenced him with an abrupt, angry
word. This place had made an impression upon Citizen Rabaut,
so much so that he drew a long breath of relief when we came
out upon the west platform fronting the main doors of the
church.

Here in the open air everything seemed different, fresher,
the dazzling summer afternoon sunlight bathing everything in
a golden glow of sharp reality. From this tremendous
platform was ordinarily a view of Mount Dol and beyond, over
Brittany to the south and Normandy to the north, but now the
fog still cloaked down over sea and land. Above the waves of
white cloud, the Mont hung as though suspended in the sunlit
heavens, out of the world.

Still we had the revolution with us. Midway of the great
platform was affixed a pike, crowned with a red liberty ca~a
center for dancing and the new worship no doubt.  Beyond
this, near the verge of the platform, was set up a table at
which sat our Citizen Fromond.  The jeweler and two of the
Alsatian soldiers were heaping armfuls of rolls and
manuscripts on the table and stones around -- contents of
the once famed library, such as remained after the looting
of the previous year. Fromond, it appeared, was packing up
the volumes to carry back to Avranches, not from any love of
learning but from a desire to root out everything of value
belonging to the monks.

As we looked on, one of the soldiers opened up a folio of
vellum and tore out a magnificent page illumined in gold and
colors -- a jolly little gift for his chidren, he said with
a grin. Fromond cursed him sullenly but offered no objection
and gave us a dark look. Rabaut shrugged and turned away.

Along the edge of the platform had once run a stone parapet,
now shattered and gone.  We advanced to it, and Rabaut held
out his hand in silent gesture to the sheer gulf below,
ending in water and black rock. I questioned him and learned
the captive priests were in the dungeons below, as well as
in the old hostelry of the abbey, now half in ruins.

"One or two of the poor fools tried to escape some days
ago," and Rabaut laughed thinly.  "It would matter little if
any of them walked away; however, they found some rope and
tried an evasion."

"And they accomplished it?" I asked.

"They saved all hands a lot of trouble." Rabaut took a pinch
of snuff with his elegant air and gestured to the gulf. "The
ropes broke."

I shivered slightly.  "If I were Cathelineau, I'd raid this
place some night, for the sake of the treasure and the
priests."

"Impossible, without an army.  The blackbirds are too infirm
to get away," said Rabaut. A few months later, indeed, the
truth of his words was proven.  "Besides, they could not
reach here without conquering the whole country as they
went. Ah, well! In the morning we start working our gold
mine. Shall we have a look at the rest of the place, Citizen
Martin?"

I assented with a nod, glad to get away from here. The
bitter, twisted face of Fromond haunted me.




                         CHAPTER IX

             IT IS THE PAST THAT CAUSES THE PRESENT



Nexr morning brought me from slumber to dazzling sunlight,
pouring into my south-looking chamber.  Lying in the once
stately bed, whose posts and tester were broken and ripped,
I thought again dreamily of the previous evening and its
unrealities -- of our ill-cooked dinner in the huge
refectory with its smashed windows, its high carvings and
reader's lectern, its ghosts of knightly days; of Kerguelec,
in stained and wrinkled Breton garb, of Rabaut's cynicism,
of the wondrous hall of the Chevaliers, the floor littered
with torn banners of the knights of St. Michael. And now I
wakened to a frowzy soldier bringing me bread and wine, with
word that Citizens Fromond and Rabaut were at work. He had
no need to specify the nature of the work.  He advised me to
drink no water, since all in the place was bad, and
departed.

Having dressed and breakfasted, I visited Kerguelec's room
next to mine and found him gone. I went on to the church,
crossing the Inner Degree by the bridge, and in the basilica
met two of our Alsatian troopers. Each was hauling across
the floor, by a rope, a large fish-tub filled to the brim
with all manner of gold and silver objects, from chalices to
crucifixes.  In reply to my queries, they pointed to the
open west doors of the church. I preceded them and came out
upon the same great platform where we had seen Fromond the
previous afternoon. To all appearance, he had been there
ever since.

It was a most curious scene that greeted me -- the more so
because I could comprehend the underlying significance of
each detail.  Rabaut, knowing this, regarded me with his
cynical half-smile.

He sat at the table, set for sake of the cool breeze close
to the dizzy edge of the platform.  At the opposite side of
the table sat Fromond; between them was the crafty-eyed
jeweler with his scales set up and at work. I advanced to
the side of Rabaut, whence I could look down directly into
the gulf below. One glance at it was quite enough for me,
and I gave my attention to the work in hand.

Before Rabaut lay the inventory of abbey property, made out
by tile last prior, Dom Francois Maurice -- who had, I
understood, sympathized with the revolution in its early
stages. The document was dated April 10' 1790. As each
object was weighed and appraised, Rabaut checked it off on
the inventory, while Fromond made notes of the price offered
by the jeweler.  Our four Alsatians were bringing up the
treasure, some objects separately, others loaded into
fishtubs.  The things all ready and checked were being
separated, some being wrapped, others stuffed into stout
leathern bags for transport -- these, the more valuable.
Rabaut, cynically open, was coolly directing them with a
look or word in this separation, and I guessed the leathern
bags were intended for his own ultimate transport.

What a treasure it was! The sight of it was stupendous. More
startling was the realization of its artistic and historic
value, as I glanced from the glittering heaps to the
inventory lying on the table. Each object, and its
provenance, was fully described there. As I looked on, the
jeweler weighed and appraised at five thousand francs the
great pastoral cross of silver, noted as having been made in
1412 and as being the most beautiful in all France.  He
picked up an abbot's miter of the same period, heavily
adorned with large pearls and precious stones, and estimated
its value with a shrug of deprecation. I saw Rabaut quietly
shake his head at the two soldiers -- the miter was too
bulky.  The irony of this plunder-picking under Fromond's
eyes was amusing.

Around us stood tub after tub, some filled with general
objects, others with reliquaries, others with the peculiar
votive hearts offered by pilgrims at this shrine.
Fascinated, I smoked and watched proceedings for an hour or
more.

Splendid reliquaries were opened by Fromond, who tossed the
contents out into the gulf with blazing jests. Ancient
enamels were appraised at a song.  Three silver gilt
candelabra, given by the Duke of Bourbon in 1329, went at
five hundred francs and were rejected by Rabaut, who would
have only gold or gems. There was no lack of either. When
the reliquaries were finished, the first object fished up
from the next tub was a large gold chain and medallion
presented by Louis XI in 1470.  I began to comprehend the
astonishing age and inviolability of this place, whose
historic splendors were thus being checked off to the
melting pot like so many peltries just arrived from a
trading-post!

After a time, Rabaut signed me to take his place.  For the
moment, the gold was at ebb; a half-dozen tubs of silver and
brass ornaments and ex-votos were next on the lists, and
these did not interest the worthy citizen commissioner.
Rabaut took his departure, and the two Parisians saluted him
solemnly.

"Vive la Re publique! Vive Ia nation!" they repeated in
unison, uttering the fetish of the revolution like two
automatons.

I regarded these two men, Pol Rouge and Pol Noir,
unobtrusively but with growing interest. They revered Rabaut
as the symbol and living authority of Paris, as indeed he
was; at the session of May sixth, I had heard more than one
member of the convention denounce the system of
commissioners, as giving each man the power of a king, yet
it was an efficient and excellent system in general.

None could foretell who would be a Judas, and someone had to
be trusted, so that to the common folk a commissioner was
all of revolutionary France personified.

Yet I perceived these two grenadiers ignored me.  More,
their manner of doing it was heavy and labored; it amused
me, but also gave food for thought. They were clumsy
fellows, and I could see clearly how Rabaut had informed
them against me -- they had been picked to murder or put me
out of the way when the right time came, and were already
instructed in this duty.  Indirect evidence, of course,
still plain enough.

As the morning wore on to noon, my attention was turned to
observing Fromond more than anyone else. At first he had
been excited, eager, full of snarling blasphemous
exultancies, as one who comes to a long-antipicated goal.
Then he gradually became quiet. Upon him descended an air of
absorbed fanaticism, yet it seemed to me that he was grimly
pushing his way forward against invisible but terrible
counter-force. The twisted left side of his face broke into
occasional nervous twitching, his cruel and powerful lips
wore a set snarl, and his air to the rest of us was
singularly wild and bitter.

Odd as it might appear, the man was actually very self-
conscious while sitting here at his work. He was posing
again, to himself or to the devil within him. Aware of how I
had previously pierced his apparent frenetic fury, no doubt
recalling my extremely blunt words to him, he now and again
darted glances across the table at me, as he brought up some
object and handed it to the jeweler.

These looks were ominous and swift as summer lightning.  On
each occasion his pale blue eyes stabbed into me, venomous
with hatred and fear.  No words passed, yet it was easy to
understand how tense was the man, how ready to burst forth
at any pretext. So I gave him none. The open enmity of
Rabaut would have been far less disquieting to me than the
silent, deadly, hidden antagonism of this strange
individual.  And all the while, behind the blaze of the blue
eyes, lay a nameless and frightful horror, puzzling to
observe -- as though it were horror of himself and his
actions.

Noon wore on, and by common consent we knocked off work.
Far beneath us, all this time, had been going on the usual
routine of the prison quarters and dungeons. I scarce
realized this until a soldier came to announce the noonday
meal ready in the refectory.  Then a low sound of chanting
voices drifted up to us, and with a suppressed oath Fromond
inquired concerning it.

"Our black-robed guests, citizen procureur!" returned the
soldier, and grinned.  "They whine a superstitious psalm or
two at times.  It does no harm and amuses them --"

"Order them to be silent!" snapped Fromond.  "Let the dogs
do their whining at night, if they must do it!"

Even the soldier was astonished, for these local militia
were not bad fellows in their way, being rather tolerant,
and had none of the rabid savagery of our Alsatian troopers.
He shrugged and returned below, while we passed into the
cloister and so toward the refectory. Here we came upon
Rabaut and Kerguelec, who had been walking in the cool
shade. The Breton gave me one peculiar, imperative look, but
I wholly failed to read its significance.

Our meal was none too good. Be sides, I think most of us
were rather oppressed by the sense of desecration hanging
about the place. The only one of us in high spirits was the
Norman jeweler, who stood to make a small fortune from his
bargain after he had melted down the precious metals and
sold the others.  Once or twice I caught Rabaut eyeing him
speculatively and coldly, and so recalled how this crafty
little man was a spy of the committee at Avranches, as well
as a jeweler. Citizen Rabaut, I reflected, had one or two
people to get rid of if he were to cover up his tracks
effectively, and I wondered how he would go about it.

He did not intend to do it by making friends with Fromond,
as became clear while we were still at table. A guard from
below brought a petition from the captives there.  Learning
of the arrival of a commissioner, the aged priests begged
they might have liberty to leave their prisons and walk in
the garden or about the abbey, since the heat of summer was
affecting them sorely and half of them were ill from the
pestilential water of the Mont -- most of it rainwater
stored from the past winter.

Fromond interjected a scathing flood of abuse and commanded
hotly that the priests remain where they were and be
thankful.  I saw Kerguelec touch Rabaut's arm, saw those
steady dark eyes prick a message, and comprehended how the
Breton must be playing to make trouble.  Rabaut took a pinch
of snuff, leaned back in his chair, and looked steadily at
Fromond.

"Citizen procureur," he said loudly, deliberately and
coldly, "there is something you have forgotten -- something
really of the highest importance, I assure you!"

"What?" snapped Fromond.

"The fact that you are not giving orders here, and I am."
Rabaut flung a nod to the guard.  "Very good.  Let the old
men wander about.  They are harmless. They will not be
allowed to leave these upper buildings for the town below,
but they may have a breath of air.  You have no complaint as
to their conduct?"

"None, citizen commissaire," returned the soldier. "They are
as children. The one who tried to escape last week, and was
dropped into the sea, was the only young one among them."

Rabaut dismissed him and gave Fromond a hard look.  The
lawyer, though white-faced with anger, refused the challenge
and swallowed his wrath.

After the meal there was no indication of an immediate
return to our labor, so I passed into the cool depths of the
church, idly regarding the work of destruction and wondering
whether this looting of an ancient fane were not to be the
means of saving my own life and liberty.  A footstep brought
me about to see Kerguelec approaching with a gesture toward
the huge, four-columned pillars close by. I joined him in
shelter of one, and he addressed me with a brusque, almost
peremptory air.

"What share of the treasure will you take to assist me?"

"None," I responded, trying to probe the meaning behind the
words.  "I want none of it and will not assist you to obtain
it. To assist you in a personal manner -- that's another
thing. Which is it?"

Kerguelec smiled, and suddenly the woman flashed out in this
smile, marvelously.

"If I cannot obtain it, then I must insure it does not reach
Paris. The assistance is personal, to put it so, in this
endeavor."

"Then why insult me with the offer of gold?"

"To see if the sight of it has affected you," was the dry
response.  "Evidently it has not done so.  You are the man
you look, and I apologize. Your assistance?"

"Granted, as you might know," I said promptly. "The best of
the treasure won't reach Paris in any case, if I know it.
What's happened that you appeal for help?"

"Rabaut," came the significant rejoinder.  "I've discovered
that I am playing a rather risky game --"

"Oh! Wonderful discovery!"  I laughed ironically.  "You who
refuse warnings --"

"Will not refuse help." The words carried much in their tone
of almost despondent realization, and I scrutinized the
smooth, delicate features of Kerguelec with some care. It
seemed to me he had been badly shaken.

"You must have had a very pleasant talk with Rabaut this
morning.  Is there any immediate danger?"

"No. I can play the game and handle safely -- up to a
certain point." Kerguelec hesitated.  "Until, I think, we
have left here.  Other things have gone wrong, too; my
private affairs.  I've nothing left except to make sure the
treasure does not reach Paris."

"It won't. Do you know his plans?"

"Vaguely.  He's hinted at them.  And something he said --
nothing definite -- made me afraid for you. I think he means
--

I laughed at this.  "You think?  But I know!  Yes, he means
to get rid of me.  Never fear, I'll attend to that detail
when the time comes!  I'm keeping my eyes open."

"Good."  Kerguelec smiled a little and put out a hand to
mine.  "I felt I had to warn you and tell you I'd not
despise your help if needed. Good luck!  Careful, now -- let
me slip out by myself.  There's the chapel of the Trinity;
I'll go by the bridge."

Kerguelec departed swiftly.

I remained a while in the church, staring down at the
fragments of colored glass on the floor and wondering at the
situation.  The quiet balance of this girl wakened
admiration in me. Handle Rabaut indeed!  However, she might
be able to manage it for the present.  Once Rabaut got
himself out of all danger and could turn to cold steel
again, he would be a far different person to handle.

Naturally, I could make no plans.  Any contingency might
rise, and to see ahead was difficult in the extreme. My
chief fear now was from Fromond, because my own escape
depended on Rabaut's scheme going through, and I had
unluckily given Fromond a hint that Rabaut was not to be
trusted.

It was clear too how Rabaut had no intention of taking me
from the Mont-yet I must somehow manage to leave with him.
For my own sake, I could not turn on Rabaut and kill him,
either now or later. He alone could, by virtue of his
authority, effect the evasion; and merely to leave the Mont
would do me little good. The whole fleet of France was
centered on patrolling the western coasts in fear of an
English descent, and only Rabaut could hope to win through
and past this barrier.  Nor could I impersonate the man,
Rabaut being altogether too well-known for this to be
managed.

"Well," I concluded with a shrug, "we'll have to trust to
luck, wait for what turns up, and play the cards
accordingly!  Everything's on the knees of the gods just
now. The devil of it is that I'm not at all indispensable to
Rabaut, but he's quite indispensable to me! And in the
meantime --"

I whirled suddenly, staring about. From some-where had come
a sharp, incoherent cry like the scream of a wild beast,
instinct with startling emotions.  It was in the voice of
Fromond, and I thought it came from the west platform.

The great doors of the church opening on that platform were
half closed, shutting off the place from my sight. I ran to
them, then came out into the sunlight and halted.

Before me in the brightness stood a Fromond almost
inarticulate with passion, shaken by convulsions of wild
fury  For the moment I believe he was really beyond sanity.
He stood shaking his clenched fists in air, trembling, and
if ever the personal devil looked out of a man's face, it
did then from his.  The jeweler of Avranches had shrunk back
out of the way in terror.

The object of Fromond's wrath was a bent black figure to my
right -- an infirm, limping priest who stood staring at him
in silence, obviously amazed by the outbreak.  The priest
must have wandered up here from below in ignorance of the
work going forward on the platform. Save for these three, it
was empty.

Now from Fromond's lips poured a torrent of shrill abuse. I
stepped forward with a sharp word to him and gestured the
priest away, but he had not enough presence of mind to obey
and stood gaping stupidly.  Fromond whirled upon me rabidly;
I had the impression that he was frothing at the lipS.
Before he could speak, his eyes drove past me and he
stiffened, remained motionless.  I turned my head and
perceived three other figures coming out on the platform.

Two of them were soldiers -- not our Alsatians, but local
militia who knew and respected Fromond for a great man and
scarce knew who I was. Between them walked the same old
priest we had met in Pontaubault on the way here -- he who
had known Fromond from infancy.  In a rush, I recalled his
promise, knew he had come to give himself up, and attempted
to take charge of matters and save the situation.

"Away with him!" I commanded the two soldiers.  "Citizen
Rabaut is not here -- seek him in the abbot's rooms and lead
this man --"

Fromond leaped suddenly, pushed me staggering to one side,
and hurled a wild command at the two soldiers. They knew
him, yet they hesitated. The old priest smiled and lifted
his hand as though in benediction. Fromond struck it aside,
caught him by the shoulder, and sent him reeling across the
platform toward the verge.

The first priest, the lame one, uttered a cry of horror.
Just in time, he darted out and caught the older one,
stopped him, brought to a halt two paces from the edge of
the platform, beside the table.  The two stood there
waiting, fearful, yet with a strange dignity.

"Out of this, you fool!"  Fromond shook his fist at me. "You
dare to interfere and you'll go with them! Here, you men --
shoot these cursed blackbirds!"

"Stop it!" I ordered, trying again to assert myself above
this madman. "You men, listen to me -- I'm the assistant
commissioner from Paris. Take no orders from --"

As I spoke, I was getting out a pistol. It was loaded but
unprimed. Fromond leaped at me, cat-like, and struck it from
my hand, I whipped in a blow to the face and sent him
spinning, but there lay folly.  Instantly the two soldiers
were upon me. One tripped me up, the other sprawled on me as
I lay; it was all done neatly, swiftly, and next instant I
was helpless while Fromond shrilled out commands in a high,
cracking voice.

My wrists were tied behind me, my ankles were lashed, and a
dirty rag was wound about my mouth. Then I was jerked back
and left to sit against the church door, while the two men
picked up their muskets and inspected them, laughing.
Fromond repeated his order to shoot, and turned to shake his
fist at the two priests. The older one again lifted his hand
and completed his benediction.  His eyes seemed to drive
Fromond mad; they were very sorrowful and not angry, as was
his voice when he spoke.

"My poor son! I know it is not you who speaks -- that
dreadful injury in your youth --"

Fromond shrieked insanely, hurled himself forward, struck
the priest across the face and actually knocked him backward
from the platform. He was gone, over the fragments of the
broken stone parapet -- gone. Not so much as a cry came from
the depths.

The other priest stood there, shaking in every limb, eyes
closed. In this instant of horrified silence, holding even
the two soldiers spellbound, his voice reached me. A portion
of the requiem mass was upon his lips.

"Ne absorbeat eas tartarus, ne cadant in obscurum, sed
signifer sanctus Michael repraesentet eas in lucem --"

With a strangled cry Fromond darted, struck him, hurled him
out and away.  One long, thin scream wailed up and was gone.
For an instant I thought, and hoped, Fromond would follow
his victims, but he recovered his balance and for a long
moment remained gazing down at the sea. Then abruptly he
staggered, turned, and half fell into the chair beside the
table. Over it his face showed very white and terrible.  He
tried to speak, failed, but lifted his hand and pointed at
me.

At this instant Rabaut appeared. One glance and he started
forward. The two guards saluted stiffly and Fromond screamed
out at him in a burst of exultant rage.

"I sent them where they belong! Down to the sea with their
whining prayers -- down to the devil, if there is one! Keep
your accursed priests away from here, Citizen Rabaut, or
I'll send them all to the same place!"

Rabaut glanced at me, and I read a tacit warning in his
eyes. Then he turned and regarded Fromond calmly, silently,
and this look jerked sanity quickly back into the face of
Fromond. After a moment Rabaut looked at the jeweler, still
shrinking in horror, and cruelty twitched at his lips. He
was minded to get all three of us out of the way, but the
time had not come. He turned and came quietly to me, and
jerked the filthy rag from my mouth.

"Steady, now," he warned, and snapped an order.  One of the
two guards came and loosed me, helping me to my feet. Rabaut
took out his snuffbox and in his grand manner played with it
in his fingers.

"We'd better get along with the inventory," he observed
coldly, as though disdaining to go into recent events, and
this air of his had a singularly quieting effect on Fromond.
"Is this your pistol on the pavement, Citizen Martin? Better
take care of it. To table, please!"

I picked up the weapon, and stumbled forward to the chair
opposite Fromond.  In no sense am I squeamish.  Indian
scalpings, battle-torn men, and the guillotine have all
inured my senses to the sight of human life flitting, and in
case of need I have not paused at the taking of a life or
two myself -- yet in this moment I was badly shaken up.  The
terrible sight of these murders transcended anything I had
ever seen, and the thought was in my mind to take the devil
opposite me by the throat and send him after his victims.  I
was checked by Rabaut, who coolly shoved the inventory into
my hands.

"You may attend to this for me, Citizen Martin, at least
temporarily.  These lots of brass hearts -- a tub of them, I
see -- are of no value, but they must be opened, as it is
noted many of them contain enclosures, some of value.
Perhaps you'll attend to the opening, Citizen Fromond?  And
Citizen Plessis at his scales --"

Here appeared Pol Rouge and Pol Noir, and the other soldiers
were sent whence they had come.  The white-faced jeweler
came up to the table and took his seat, not without one
blinking grimace at the gulf below us. Fromond straightened
up, wiped sweat from his thin face, then reached for a quill
and leaned over his list.

Having thus started the machinery, Rabaut went to the side
wall behind me and leaned there carelessly, watching us.
Afterward, I could not but wonder at his thus remaining.
Had he some prescience, some foreknowledge -- but no!
Impossible. He must have stayed only to make certain no
trouble would arise between me and Fromond.

Gradually our silence gave place to low exchange of words,
as we fell to work upon the votive hearts.  Of these,
several tubs stood around -- one of gold, another of silver,
others of baser metals; we chanced to begin on those of
brass, as they stood first on the list.

These hearts, old and new across the centuries, were
evidently the most favored ex-voto of the average pilgrim --
and pilgrims had come by hundreds to this spot each year,
from all over Europe.  On each heart was displayed a flame
or cross, capped by a crown of thorns and perhaps engraved
with initials, names or dates. They opened like a watch, and
contained either a writing, giving the object of the
offering, or gifts.  They were of no great value, save those
studded with gems.

Fromond flung up a dozen to the table, opened them one by
one, tossed away the contents, and passed them on to the
jeweler; this latter was but slightly interested in the
hearts of brass or copper, called in this part of Normandy
'gold of Villedieu.'  Nothing of interest was retrieved from
the interiors, until Fromond brought up a fresh lot from the
tub.

Then, the first on which he put his hand seemed to startle
him.  He sat staring, his face slowly becoming whiter and
whiter, until a veritable pallor of death was settled on
that awry countenance of his. His fingers trembled. With an
obvious effort, he forced the heart open and cast it to one
side as he took the objects from it.  I looked at the heart,
and on one side saw certain letters and a date engraved:

                            J.F
                     29 Septembre 1751

It came to me that these were the initials of Jacques
Fromond.

I watched. Rabaut, aware of something unusual, came up to
the table. The jeweler sat petrified with terror by the face
of Fromond, who stared at the things in his hand.  One of
these was a long curl of yellow hair, the fine soft floss of
a child, tied about with a blue ribbon. The other was a
curled strip of parchment, and this the fingers of Fromond
opened and spread out upon the table. The quivering fingers
held it there, yet the eyes did not see it.  They had
closed, those pale blue, terrible eyes; the man was as
though gripped by an ague, trembling in every limb.

I leaned forward.  The writing on the parchment was upside
down to me, yet it was very clear and distinct, easily
deciphered.  It revealed to me, to all of us, a frightful
thing:

"Claude Fromond et Jeanne Courtois, e'poux, ont offerts Ce
coeur a l'Archange Saint Michel qui preserva miraculeusement
leur enfant, Jacques, victim d'un accident aifreux. Que le
prince des Milices Celestes protege a jamais leur fils
cheri."

Or, as the inscription would read put into English words:

"Claude Fromond and Jeanne C~urtOis) his wife, have offered
this heart to the Archangel St. Michael, who miraculously
preserved their child, Jacques, victim of a terrible
accident. May the Prince of the Heavenly Cohorts ever
protect their dear son!"

Thus before us lay clear the threads of a dark and terrible
history, the more so when the eyes of Fromond opened and
looked down at the paper before him.

Slowly, mechanically, one hand lifted and the groping,
shaking fingers sought the old injury on the left side of
his head.  Forty years ago -- why, I could see the awful
thing, and the hell of it, fullfledged there in his face!
He must have remembered it all, the pilgrimage his parents
had made here, bare-footed, how they had vowed their hurt
son to the service of Saint Michael should he recover from
the hurt, how they had returned home to find the boy
recovering.  And then, the years afterward --

The whole body of Fromond seemed to jerk suddenly; one hand
clutched at the brass heart.  The table was shoved back upon
us as his other hand spurned it. A cry burst from him, the
most mournful and soul-piercing cry ever I heard from human
lips -- a cry filled with things unutterable, with a
heartbreak of remorse beyond all words, with emotions
inexpressible.

Fromond came to his feet. He swayed before a moment and
gasped out something incoherent then he turned about and
took two swift steps to the edge of the platform.  Rabaut
started forward too late.  One convulsive tremor shook
Fromond from head to foot.  Lifting both arms, that same
unforgettable cry coming again to his lips like the wail of
a lost soul, he leaped straight out -- was gone.  Only the
echo of his cry came up to us, and then trailed away into
thin silence.

I staggered to my feet, feeling a little sick.

The soldiers were staring, white-faced. The little Norman
jeweler had fallen face down across the table in a dead
faint.  Rabaut strode out to the verge of the gulf and stood
there a long moment, gazing downward, until at length he
turned about and regarded me with his cynical calm, unmoved.

"At last," he observed reflectively, taking out his snuffbox
and snapping the lid, "at last, my dear Martin, we may begin
to understand Jacques Fromond."

And from this instant, too, seeing more clearly the coldly
inhuman soul of Rabaut, I began to fear him.




                          CHAPTER X


                 REFUGE IS NOT ALWAYS SAFETY

NOTHING happens in this little world  without exerting a
far-reaching ripple of effect upon apparently unrelated
matters.  Thus the events culminating in the suicide of
Fromond exerted an immediate and singular influence upon me,
and indeed upon all of us, since they completely altered the
whole course of later happenings.

A keenly disturbing factor was remove~  The presence of this
man, somewhat irresponsible and liable to real or assumed
outbursts of frenzy at any instant, I think must have been
holding us all more or less irresolute.  To give the devil
his due, here was a strong personality, one by no means to
be shoved into the background, but to be sharply reckoned
with. His abrupt removal from our midst was far more than a
mere wiping away of possible obstruction and danger. It
instantly flung each upon his own active resources and gave
an impetus to private schemes.

So far as I was concerned, it brought abrupt wakening to
hard facts. Until this moment I had been quite content to
wait idly, lulled by the smoothness with which everything
was pressing forward to my own advantage, and finding a
perilous satisfaction in playing a game of wits. The fates
were auspicious and heads were better than hands.

Now however I was jerked face to face with cold reality. The
losing player of this game encountered death, sudden and
merciless. Life was cheap here as in Paris itself, murder as
imminent, and survival was possible only to him who struck
first and hardest with unsparing hand.  Nothing but a cold
and pitiless strength, grinding down and mounting upon all
in the way, could hope to ride the wave.

If this realization drove home to me, it also reached Rabaut
at the same instant and wakened him to his old self. He had
been in check before Fromond, who was a menace to his plans,
but now he was freed and supreme in authority except for the
American whom he believed his dupe. Fromond was gone, very
opportunely, and he at once seized upon the chance to get
rid of the remaining menace -- the Norman jeweler-spy.  The
way he did it too was characteristic of Rabaut at his best.

Before the jeweler had recovered from his faint and lifted
his pallid face from the table, Rabaut was taking possession
of the chair so recently vacated by Fromond. He was all cold
authority personified.

"Citizen Martin!"  He pushed quills and ink-pot over to me.
"You will write down what has happened here, in brief
detail.  Paper of the committee-good!  I'll be writing an
official summary."

The jeweler and the soldiers stared, and no wonder.  This
inhuman coolness of Rabaut's was terrifying; it gave me,
more than the others, a glimpse of the actual man, for I
alone had some inkling of his purpose.

The quills scratched.  I wrote briefly and to the point
concerning Fromond's death, and when I had finished, Rabaut
asked me to read it aloud. He then beckoned forward the two
soldiers,  who took quills and made their mark as witnesses
-- neither could write.  The paper then went to the jeweler
who signed it and passed it back. Rabaut shook his head and
delivered his verbal bomb with a slight smile.

"No, no, citizen, keep it! At low tide this evening you will
go to Pontorson for the night.  In the morning, you'll go on
to Avranches.  There you will lay this report and my own
before the committee of public safety, requesting them to
appoint another delegate in the place of Citizen Fromond --
a delegate of upright and conscientious integrity.  You'll
accompany him back here and then resume the task."

"But, citizen commissioner!" faltered the jeweler, who had
no liking for the journey, or the delay in putting his gold
into the pot. "It is a journey, this!  And dangerous --"

"And those are my orders," said Rabaut, and flung me a sly
glance. "Since it is dangerous, take four men of the militia
here as your escort. Vive la Republique!"

The jeweler acquiesced, as he needs must, though none too
happily. Rabaut, ordering the two grenadiers to return the
treasure to its own place, rose.

"So, for the moment, we lay aside the task," he said
lightly.  "Citizen Martin, shall we take a turn on the
terraces above? The view from there, they say, is superb."

I assented.

In ten minutes, the two of us were strolling about the
terraces at the crest of the abbey. A magnificent panorama
was unrolled before us -- the long stretch of coast with its
sand-dunes and dotted towers, dim Granville across the
water, the wide bay to the west, Tombelaine ruined and
deserted, Mount Dol rising blue-green to the south.
Presently Rabaut chuckled and made pretense of opening his
mind to me.

"Beautiful, is it not, how things fit into our plan?  The
jeweler reaches Avranches tomorrow.  Next day he will
return, bringing a man to take Fromond's place -- bringing
also, no doubt, the delayed letters from Paris. You
comprehend?"

"You are staking everything on tomorrow night, then?"

"Everything -- for us both, Martin! Tomorrow I pick out all
the gold to take with us; Pol Rouge and Pol Noir will pouch
it safely. Four of the local militia will be gone.  Our four
Alsatians will replace them, having the guard tomorrow
night.  Thus we shall be able to get away unmolested. The
Alsatians will not understand, but they'll not dare offer
any objections to my orders."

"Things seem to fall your way," I observed. "What if the
lugger does not come?"

"Since things fall my way, she cannot fail."

I hazarded a bold stroke, to draw him into the open.

"And the Breton, this Kerguelec?"

Rabaut halted and turned, his smiling grimace on his lips.

"Martin, I'll tell you something -- show you how things fall
my way.  As that dragoon captain in Pontorson said this
Breton is an emigre, a noble disguised. Well, I have given
Kerguelec the chance to go with us and take a share in the
treasure; he has agreed. In case we are stopped by any
English ship, we become emigres -- he a de Rohan, I a St.
Servaut -- fleeing with our personal belongings to America.
We'll not be molested; rather, we'll be aided! You
comprehend? The whole scheme falls in perfectly, without a
flaw. A third of the treasure awaits you -- eh?"

"Thank you, I want none of it," I responded curtly. To
myself, I smiled at this effort to bribe me -- the second
offer of the sort in the same day, both offers with the
treasure still unwon!

"Bah!  Money is always use ful to have these days," said
Rabaut carelessly.  I think he disbelieved my protest, for
he made no further comment upon it. Nor did I make any
comment on his tissue of half-truths regarding Kerguelec.
"The lugger," he resumed, "should arrive off the Mont
tomorrow night, sometime before midnight.  I ordered her to
show two lights, one above the other, as a signal. It will
be dark toward ten o'clock.  Our two Parisians will carry
down the gold in the sacks --"

"Openly?" I objected. Rabaut shrugged.

"Why not, eh?  These thick-skulled peasants will suspect
nothing -- they have the capacity for wonder, but not the
ability to reason! By the time they or anyone else realized
that Citizen Commissioner Rabaut has decamped with St.
Michael's gold, that same citizen will be out of the bay and
at sea -- and let the devil stop him!  So, then, agreed?"

I nodded, and we descended from the terraces.

Before dark that evening the jeweler and four of the local
guards set out afoot for Pontorson, where they would secure
horses. No search was made for the bodies of Fromond or the
two priests -- the tide would attend to them in its own good
time. Besides, Fromond was not greatly mourned by anyone and
had, I gathered, no family.

Talking with Rabaut that night, and Kerguelec, we discussed
squarely the scheme for getting away.  Rabaut was exultant
and confident.  When I set forth practical objections, such
as the unlikelihood of the lugger being provisioned and
watered for such a voyage, he broke into a chuckle and
tapped my arm.

"Look you! One advantage in being a commissioner is that his
orders are unquestioned. So then, I ordered.  The lugger
will be well enough provisioned for a voyage to Domirnqu --
and if to the Antilles, then to America also! Have no fear.
He who travels with Citizen Rabaut is well taken care of."

"And who sups with the devil needs a long spoon, "I
retorted, and left them. "Good night to you both! I'm for
bed."

So I was, indeed, but not to any peaceful slumber, being
tormented with visions of Fromond plunging down that fearful
descent, clutching still in his hand the little heart of
brass. (This heart was retrieved by a fisherman in 1811.) It
happened repeatedly, this dream, but the last time with a
difference. In his fall, his eyes seemed to turn upon me,
vivid blue and burning with hatred, and I heard his voice
calling to me in a shrill cry.

"Beware of the night!  Beware of the night!  Beware of the
dawn!"

So vivid was it, I came all awake with the sound ringing in
my ears. Though I pretend to no belief in dreams, I do not
laugh at what is past my comprehension; for, it seems to me
if we understood everything in the two worlds we Should be
on a level with the Supreme Being, and no longer mere
mortals.

So for a little while I lay awake, Profoundly startled and
uneasy. Then I broke into a cold sweat at hearing a sound --
someone was here in my room, in the darkness!  Ashamed of my
terrors, fully awake, I Sat up with a laugh.

"Well?  Who is it?"

"Quiet! I, Kerguelec  Where are you?"

"Near the window."

Without a sound Kerguelec approached the huge bed, guided by
my voice. Presently his hand found mine and gripped it, and
he sat on the wooden side of the structure. I knew, of
course, something had gone wrong.

"What's the matter -- anything urgent?"

"What can be more urgent than death?"  The Breton laughed, a
weary bitterness in his voice. "Had I reached here a week
earlier, I would have beaten death, but I failed. However --
I'm here on your errand, not my own."

These half mysterious, half sad words puzzled me, until I
recollected all Kerguelec's mentions of private business at
the Mont -- and my refusal to enter into it. Somehow, I
knew, he had encounted a keen disappointment.

"What is it, Kerguelec, I said quietly. "I've long since
regretted my brusque refusal to listen to you at the first.
If there's anything I can do now --"

"There's nothing, he said, and pressed my hand slightly.
"No, Martin, it would have done no good in any case. I've
failed -- let it go! I had to reach you at once, for your
own sake. Do you know what Rabaut plans?"

"As regards me? Not in detail, but I can guess."

"It'S early yet, before midnight.  Rabaut is down below, on
the Inner Degree, with Pol Rouge and Pol Noir and one of the
Alsatians.  Their voices carried Up the walls so that I
could hear every word.  He'5 ordered them to seize you at
dawn."

"At dawn!" I repeated in dismay.  The words of my dream
flashed again to my mind.  Odd! Fromond said --"

I told of the dream on which I had wakened.  Kerguelec
dismissed it impatiently.

"Let be -- the danger presses.  The scheme is to arrest you
and leave you here.  Rabaut hopes to get off tomorrow night;
you'll remain as a scapegoat on whom the committee can take
vengeance."

This information held me startled and aghast.  Sly Rabaut!
He had flung me off guard indeed by seeming to take me into
his confidence and detailing his plans.  I had anticipated
no attempt against me until the following night at the
earliest -- until his own escape was well assured.

"Then there's only one course to take," I said. "I'll have
to see him at once, for only a bold front can carry the day
now.  To hide would be sheer folly, to fight, sheer madness.
Flight is utterly impossible. If I face him down, threaten
to give away his fine schemes, I may force him to postpone
matters until later --

"No, no!" broke in Kerguelec swiftly.  "That's out of the
question; he would only trap you tomorrow somehow --
remember, he holds all the cards! I have a better plan, and
the only one offering any hope."

"Good. Name it."

"The tide is in, and a thick fog has come with it.  There's
your only chance.  You know about the lugger coming tomorrow
night? I know how you may make it."

"Aboard her, you mean?"

"Yes, I'll take your cloak and hat now, up to the west
platform where everything happened this afternoon. I'll
leave them there by the edge. It will be thought you've
fallen over when your absence is discovered."

"And where'll I be?" I inquired drily.

"Pursuing folly, as you termed it -- in hiding!  You'll have
to get out of here, down to the town, and out; that's for
you to manage, but the fog is thick and will help you. Get
outside the walls and remain until dawn, when the tide will
be at ebb.  Then pass around on the west side of the Mont.
Just above the water there you'll find the ruins of a small
chapel under the cliff. A stairway used to go down to it
from the abbey, but that is long ago ruined and gone -- the
only access is around the shore. You can hide there, and no
one will suspect."

Kerguelec poured all this out in a breath.

"Very well," I assented, trying to grapple with the scheme.
"But to what end?"

"When the ship comes tomorrow night, swim off to her -- oh,
I know it sounds desperate," went on the Breton wearily,
"yet I can think of nothing else!  And it is less desperate
than to think of pitting yourself against Rabaut here, where
he has everything to aid him, and you nothing!"

"It's extremely cheerful, this prospect of yours!"  I
observed with a curt laugh. "The ship may be a mile or two
off the island --"

"Listen! There are a dozen things to favor you -- I know the
place, you see. But we've no time to talk further," broke in
Kerguelec.  "I had to let you know all this at once.  If you
can get aboard the boat, things may be very different --
you'll have a chance to catch Rabaut unprepared. Until we
get away from here, we don't dare touch him -- you see?  All
depends on him, that far.  Hurry now! You must act at once,
now, while the fog is thick! Give me any papers or other
things you want taken care of."

My hesitation was brief. Now thoroughly awake, I could
perceive the urgency of the errand bringing Kerguelec here,
and his plan was tempting. It was illogical and insane,
true, yet I was in no position to argue probabilities.  The
strait was desperate.  There was a slim chance to make
Rabaut think I had fallen from the platform during the
night.  Whether I could get outside the walls undiscovered,
even with the help of the fog, was a large question, and to
get aboard the lugger by swimming seemed rank folly.

"Beggars can't be choosers," I said. "Stay where you are,
now.  I'll dress and give you my papers and money."

In five minutes I had struggled into my clothes.  The room
was in pitch blackness and was chokily damp with fog.  The
idea of giving up hat and cloak was unpleasant until I
recollected the wardrobe filled with moldering garments of
former tenants.  Feeling about, I soon obtained a thick
fustian cassock with cowl and donned it. Then I came back to
the bedside, my few belongings ready.

"Here you are -- cloak, hat, money and papers,"  I said,
putting them into the hands of Kerguelec.  "And thanks for
your warning, my friend! Unless Rabaut lied, the lugger is
to show two lights, and I should make her well enough. If
not, and if things go amiss, I'll say goodby to you now.
Sure you're not in any danger?"

"Not at present."  Kerguelec's fingers pressed mine warmly.
"Keep a stout heart, comrade! I'll have pistols ready for
you tomorrow night.  If things go wrong, I'll kill Rabaut
and we'll make for the shore -- we'll have a chance to make
the Vendee, at worst.  Things are not at such crisis yet,
even if I have failed dismally."

"Failed?  Not you," I returned.  Kerguelec laughed a little,
sadly.

"Ah, but you don't know! I learned something yesterday --
however, no bothering you with my affairs now.  It's ended,
and we'll look forward to tomorrow night, eh? God keep you,
comrade!"

"And you," I answered, more than a little puzzled by
Kerguelec's words.

The room fell into silenc~the Breton was gone with scarce a
sound.

I stepped out into the corridor and just in time caught a
sound on the stairs. It was Rabaut, groping his way along
with many a curse on the black fog.  He came up and went to
his own chamber.  While he was there trying to make a light,
I stole past his doorway and down the stairs. I was quite
unarmed, for pistols were of no use in this emergency, when
a shot would discover everything.  Leaving my pistols in the
room, too, would make my supposed death much more
convincing.

It must be confessed I was not half in love with the job
ahead. When at length I came down to the level of the Inner
Degree and stepped out into that canon of masonry, I stood
overcome by a sense of futility. It was exactly as though I
stood at the bottom of a vast well, the walls on every side
collecting the dampness and dripping continually. The
blackness was complete. I could only hope to reach the
Chatelet, a few paces distant, by groping my way.

If the Chatelet, the only tiny opening in this huge pile of
granite, were closed and barred, I might a well turn back.
However I guessed it was seldom closed, the portcullis never
dropped, for the watch in this place was extremely slack. No
danger was felt from the prisoners, and if they wished to
escape, they were welcome to the chance of death. The Mont
was far better defended by its natural situation than by any
work of human hands, so far as any escape or any external
attack was concerned.

I slowly moved downward, came at last to a firm level of
stone flagging, and then descried a glimmer of light off to
the left, where was the guardroom.  Low voices reached me,
the fragrant odor of tobacco, and then the clack of wooden
sabots on stone.  I flattened against the wall and waited.

"Bah! Don't be a fool," growled a rough voice.  "Those
accursed Alsatians are out of the way, and the Parisians
also, and the commissioner's gone to bed. We can slip down
to the Licorne, get the wine, and be back here in no time.
Who's going to bother us on a dog's night like this?"

"Come along then," was the response.  "It's your money, so
lead the way!"

The sabots clattered, and then began to slap on descending
stairs, so I knew the two men of the guard were gone ahead
of me, down toward town.

The light remained in the guardroom, and I made my way to
it.

As I had already guessed, it came from a little blaze in the
huge fireplace.  Be fore it lying on out-spread cloaks were
a pack of cards and two large packets of food, bread and
cheese; these latter I took and stowed away in my pockets
beneath the monk's robe. Then I went to the Chatelet, passed
the low portal and down the steep stairs, and so down the
length of the curving Outer Degree, until I reached the
sweeping ascent from the town below.

Once out here in open air, I could realize the clammy
thickness of the fog -- fully as thick as the one so nearly
destroying me on our first approach to the Mont.  To feel
one's way down the steep hill with its many landings and
flights of stairs was a matter requiring caution.

At least the black robe served me well, and only a few
moments  later  proved  its utility  when  I heard the
sabot-clatter of the two guards returning.  They went back
up the hill, passing me almost within touching distance, yet
my presence was not guessed, nor could I see them.

Gaining confidence at this, I went on down at better speed
and presently sighted, at a distance of some few feet, the
dim yellow glow of light in the windows of the Licorne
Rouge, where Pol Rouge and Pol Noir were lustily shouting
bawdy ballads. On past this, to the Porte du Roi, a solid
black mass barricading the street.  Here the postern was
open and unguarded, so I continued without molestation to
the outer gate beyond.  This was closed, and a group of
guards sat about a small fire in the court yard.

Here I was blocked, and sat down to cool my heels in
obscurity, for while I might gain the walls it would be
impossible to descend from them without a rope. In any case,
so long as the fog and tide held, I could not hope to pass
around by the shore to the ruined chapel, much less
ascertain where the place was.

However, fortune favored me.  By the talk I learned the
guards were expecting some overdue fishermen belonging to
the place, and presently they set alight a huge flaring
cresset above the gate. A number of women, also expecting
the missing men, came down to the barbican and lined the
walls.  Some little while afterward we heard a faint hail
from outside.

At once men began to shout, drums were set beating, and two
muskets banged off, and after a time the missing fishermen
found their way to the gate, which had been flung open.

They entered, and a great time was had by all in French
fashion, with general embracing and much loud talk. Under
cover of this confusion, I calmly shouldered my way through
the group, unnoticed in the density of fog, and so got out
of the gate before it was closed again. And there I stayed,
for I  had no  mind to go  splashing  among  rocks and
quick-sands in pitch blackness.

All this alarm and firing would later render my own
disappearance more inexplicable, it was clear, and would
lend color to the theory of my death.  Rabaut would know the
watch had been on the alert, and he would probably be glad
to consider me out of his way, whether dead or in hiding.
Things, as he said, fell his way -- let him continue in the
theory!

Outside the walls was a sharp cluster of rocks and a little
beach where a few boats were drawn up. I settled down beside
a boat, pulled up the cowl of my robe, and went to sleep,
though fitfully. When I wakened, it was to a chill touch of
breeze, and I came stiffly to my feet.

The tide was going out, dawn was close at hand, and a light
wind was sending the fog-vapors swirling and eddying up
about the walls and pinnacles above.  It was high time to be
off, so I started around to the western, or seaward, face of
the Mont.  In ten minutes I was past the walls and beneath
the steep rock scarp, towering bald and bare into the sky.

Daylight was increasing and the mist was now going out fast.
Soon, rounding a projection of the rocky mass, I came in
sight of my objective -- a tiny tongue of rock on which
stood a small square building, partly in ruins but still
roofed over. Above it a steep slope strewn with trees led on
to the abbey walls, here impenetrable and naked, towering
far and high. No battlements were needed for defense on this
side of the island.

Sunrise touched the sky with gold as I reached the tiny
promontory and clambered up to the ruins above, my robe
flung back for freedom of action.  Before me appeared a
doorless opening, and I looked into what had once been a
tiny chapel, now littered with the debris of destruction.
With a sigh of relief I got out of my black robe and started
into the place.

Next instant ten long fingers had me by the throat.



                         CHAPTER XI


                A FOE MAY PROVE TO BE A BROTHER


The interior of the little ruined chapel was yet dim and
obscure -- the full day had not yet broken. By good luck I
had let go the black monk's robe, and I had some freedom to
grapple with those terrible fingers.

They had reached to me from behind, and now sank into my
throat like steel claws. The silence of it was unnerving for
an instant, then the touch of human flesh put strength into
me.  A hot breath beat upon my neck, and I tried to twist
about, to see with whom I was fighting, but in vain.

Desperate, frantic under the throttling grip, I stooped and
tried to fling my assailant over my head. He evaded; all his
weight descended on my back and he had me like an old man of
the sea, legs twined about my thighs, fingers digging into
my throat. I staggered forward a pace or two -- reaching
back, smashing blindly at the body clinging to me -- then
jerked up my head sharply.  Struck full in the mouth, my
savage attacker loosened his grip with a cry.

I had him then-had him in a wrenching grip about the
shoulders.  We were twined like two snakes, lost balance,
came heavily to the floor together.  He tried to fight back,
until I got home one blow in the face; and, singularly
enough, this finished him. Abruptly, all the strength seemed
to go out of him.  He fell limp, motionless, yet lay gazing
up at me with queerly haunting eyes.

Poised on one knee above him, I stared down as I gulped the
air into my lungs. A slender figure, this, clad in tattered
black garments, ill-smelling and foul, much emaciated.
Almost the first glance gave the explanation -- this man
must be one of the unhappy priests from the dungeons above,
probably  an  escaped  prisoner.  His  long  hair  was
gray-streaked, his face half-concealed by a stubble of
beard, yet something familiar in this face held my gaze and
puzzled me.

"Well, you've taken me," he said in a tone of resignation.
"Had my strength lasted, it had been another story! Call
them in and get it over with."

"Faith, I believe you!" I said, feeling my throat.  His
brief spasmodic strength had been furious.  Drawing back
from him, I put out my hand.  "Come, sit up! If you had
spoken before grappling me, my friend, you'd have saved us
both a bit of hard work."

He sat up, staring at me with blank incredulity. Undoubtedly
he had taken me for a searcher, not stopping to ask of me or
of his own reason.

"I'm not looking for you -- I'm looking for shelter," I said
quietly. "Surely I've seen you before in Paris, perhaps?
Something about your face --"

He shook his head, and wiped blood from his lips where my
stroke had cut them.

"No," he said dully.  "No."

"You're an evade -- from up above?"

He nodded.  "The damnable water up above!  It's foul. It
breeds fever. I've had nothing to eat for two days -- good
water here.  I hoped to get away to the coast -- impossible.
Diable!  It's no hospitable tavern, this!"

He broke off abruptly. I searched his face frowningly -- odd
language, this, for a priest! And surely I should know him,
for something in those oval, regular features struck to my
memory. His necessity struck more sharply, and I hauled from
my pocket one of the stolen meals I had brought from the
guardroom, blessing the chance that had flung it my way.

"Here's bread and cheese -- a meal for us both now, and
another like it tonight," I said. "Set your teeth into this,
and we can talk later on."

His eyes burned ravenously, yet he restrained himself while
I divided the hunks of bread and cheese. His gaze dwelt upon
me wonderingly, half fearfully, until I shoved his portion
at him. Then he smiled.

"Thank you, monsieur.  May I offer my apologies for the
reception tendered you?"

"Balanced by my damage to your face," I said, and laughed.

I brought in my monk'5 robe, at which he looked sharply, and
sat on it.  In five minutes our meal had disappeared.  It
was dry eating, and when I said as much, my companion smiled
and beckoned me to a crypt below the chapel. Here he bent
above a tiny trickle of water, drinking, and motioned me to
it.

"This is the old chapel of St Aubert, and the spring is not
very good, but it is good enough."

He went back above. When I returned there, I found him on
his knees, and did not disturb his devotions. Presently he
rose and came to me, smiling, hand outstretched.

"Monsieur, I am in your debt for an excellent meal! You are
one of the priests from up above, then?"

"I? Not at all. You have the advantage of me there --"

"But I'm no priest!" he ejaculated, then laughed. We broke
into joint laughter, and he explained. "I was escaping, used
the clothes of a priest -- it was my only chance.  The Blues
would have deported me with the other priests, but I fell
ill and they brought me here instead.  Naturally I could not
change back --"

Here then was some aristocrat whose head had been
momentarily saved by his priestly disguise.

Yet surely I had seen him somewhere ere this, and said as
much.

"Your face is certainly known to me-you've been in Paris?"

"No, in prison. I am Louis de Rohan -- titles are gone, but
names cannot be destroyed."

I was speechless for an instant. De Rohan! No wonder his
face looked familiar.

"There is a Marie de Rohan up above," I said. "A relative?"

"Marie -- my  sister?   Impossible!" he cried sharply.  "For
the love of heaven, monsieur, are you joking?"

I calmed his swift agitation, drew hirn into a corner, made
myself comfortable, and went at the business of explanation.
Amazing as this meeting appeared, it soon showed itself
quite natural.  If men do not distort them, human events
often have a way of working themselves out in startling yet
logical fashion, unless one prefers to admit the element of
divine guidance.

Here I had, in the presence of de Rohan, the reason for
Kerguelec's mysterious words about a personal errand -- the
reason, indeed, behind more than words!  Secrets were few in
these days, information was the easiest of all things to be
obtained, and word of de Rohan's plight had got out of
France to his friends.  So the girl had undertaken a
desperate errand -- partly for the king, partly for the sake
of her brother in Mont St. Michel.

"This, then, is why she insisted on coming here and refused
to get away!" I commented.  De Rohan nodded eager, excited
assent, though he did not yet know the story.  "And now
she's heard of your supposed death -- you must be the priest
who tried to escape and fell into the sea, eh?  Only a few
days ago?"

"Undoubtedly. I was down with fever when the chance came,
but could not miss it."

So he recounted his evasion. One of the immured priests had
chanced upon a great coil of rope, stored away and forgotten
and somewhat rotted.  De Rohan risked it, lowering himself
from one of the cells to the wooded scarp just above us. The
rope broke.  He sustained a bad fall and barely managed to
creep into this ruined chapel before collapsing. No search
had been made, for it was supposed he had fallen into the
sea.

Since then he had hoped nightly to steal away and make the
coast, thence the Vendee.  His shaking-up had been too
severe, however, and fever returned upon him, robbing him of
strength.  His little supply of food gave out. Except for
the fog which brought me here, he would have tried to crawl
to the coast during the past night; the fog had checked him,
as though destiny were determined to hold him to his fate.

"Perhaps it was God, too," he concluded.  "Why not? What
seems destruction turns out to be help and salvation."

"Well, you've a choice ahead," I observed, when he had
talked himself out and given me full comprehension of the
situation.  "Tonight, if you like, you can try for the coast
--"

"With Marie up above?" he exclaimed. "No, no, my friend!
Still, I do not entirely comprehend what is afoot --"

I laughed grimly, in sudden recollection. I understood
everything, he did not.  The poor man had gained the
sketchiest notion of the affair from my few words, and no
doubt his head was in a whirl.

"Why," I said, "your sister is not alone -- she is with a
man, noble like yourself, the Marquis de St.Servant --

De Rohan leaped to his feet.  Into his sallow, half-bearded
features came a dark flush and ebbed away.

"He -- that devil!  Impossible!  It was he who betrayed me,
who denounced my poor brother and caused his death --"

"And who now," I said, "thrusts his advances upon your
sister and intends to take her with him to America. If you
can quiet down, I'll explain."

Often enough in Paris I had seen the temper of the old
aristocracy when put to the test, yet never more clearly
than in this moment. Faced with such news as must have
pierced to his very soul, this poor fugitive became
transformed.  His agitation vanished. He quietly seated
himself and regarded me with a gaze composed and clear. The
same composure showed in his voice, by far more difficult of
control than the features, when he replied.

"You interest me, monsieur. Will you have the goodness to
continue?"

I would and did.  In a short while I had made him conversant
with the entire situation; he listened in silence, only a
slight flash of his eyes betraying any emotion.  Beneath
this haggard countenance was now emerging the inner man,
resolute, unflinching, keenly alert. When I had finished my
exposition, he nodded quietly.

"I understand, monsieur.  You are offering me the chance of
accompanying you tonight?"

"If you want it, yes," and I shrugged. "I warn you, however,
it's a desperate, even a mad, risk! To swim off to that --"

"I can swim well," he rejoined.  "Further, it's not so mad
as it may seem -- we'll find the water very warm, because of
its shallow depth and the day-hot sand. And if we make the
lugger, I'll be of use. I was in the navy in the old days,
had my own ship --"

"So that's what Kerguelec meant about finding a seaman to
aid us!" I exclaimed. "Well, you know the risk, de Rohan --"

"And accept it. Shall we keep any watch today?"

"Useless. If we are found, we have no way of escape."

"Then let us steep, against the fatigue of tonight!"

I nodded. In one corner he had a sorry couch of seaweed and
rags and his rotten shreds of rope; with my monk's robe
added, at least the chill of the bare stones was obviated.
We shared this excuse for a pallet, and in ten minutes I was
sound asleep.

My wakening came in late afternoon. It came suddenly,
abruptly, to a man's rough and full-throated laugh.

Sitting up, I stared around blankly, for the moment
bewildered, finding only emptiness and silence about me.
Through my head were running wild memories -- Fromond's
frightful end, the narrow-eyed, cynical face of Rabaut, the
soft voice of an unmasked Kerguelec.  Perhaps the laughter
had been a vagary of dream, then --

A shadow, noiseless, slipped through the doorway. De Rohan
stood before me, hand to lips, and spoke under his breath.

"Careful! Two fishermen from the Mont out-side. The tide is
down. They are Coming in here shortly -- they said so."

I leaped up. "Now?"

"Presently. They're resting just below."

Emphasizing his words, came another laugh and a rumble of
voices.

"Weapons?" I asked.

"None. We can evade them by going down into the crypt --
better to tie them up."

"Why?"

"They have nets -- you comprehend? We can use those poles
tonight."

I was slow to comprehend, not knowing the local customs. It
seemed the fishermen of the coast carried a pair of long,
light poles with net strung between. With these, they waded
along and scraped the bottom yards in advance. When de Rohan
had explained, I saw at once how excellently those poles
would fit in our haphazard scheme of things.

"By all means.  But how?  You're unable to fight --"

"Trust me for my share!" and de Rohan laughed. "Besides,
they're old men, Montois, and will be too frightened to put
up a fight."

I shrugged. Here was a different creature from the shaggy,
pallid wreck of a man who had flung himself upon me when I
entered the chapel! Energy gleamed in his dark eyes, and the
blurred outlines of his face showed hard, clear-cut, beneath
the bearded mask.

"Get behind the doorway, then."

We took position on either side the entrance. A broken stone
in the wall close by caught my eye.  Working at it, I
loosened a jagged fragment six inches in length, peered out,
and then passed it to de Rohan. He took it with a nod of
satisfaction.

The rough voices came to us, closer now -- bare feet made no
noise.  Exchanging some rude jest, the two fishermen stooped
and entered the place, blinking. They were gnarled men of
perhaps fifty years -- everyone in the west of France within
the draft age was either in the  army or gone to the Vendee
-- but were sturdy fellows, roughly dressed, shaggy-bearded.

De Rohan launched himself, grappled with the nearer man, and
dragged him to the floor. I took the other from behind as he
turned -- caught him with one full-weight blow behind the
ear and sent him headlong across the place, senseless. I
darted to help de Rohan, and found his stone had done the
trick.  Both men were sprawled unconscious upon the floor,
and my companion rose with a smile.

Tie them up, eh?  Bits of this rope will serve --"

We went to work with lengths of the rope, having taken two
excellent long knives from our captives, and presently had
the hapless Montois trussed and laid away in a dark corner.
Inspection of the spoils showed, besides the knives, some
bread and cheese of dubious quality, and two flasks half
filled with red wine, also some tobacco which I welcomed
gladly.

Our prisoners were placed face to wall, where they could see
nothing of us.  Upon recovering, they demanded to know who
had thus assaulted honest men, but after a curse or two
obeyed my order and fell silent.  So they remained during
the rest of the afternoon, while I smoked their tobacco and
enjoyed life.

Later, when the first shades of evening gathered about the
Mont, de Rohan slipped outside and returned with the nets,
left standing by the rock. These we stripped from the poles
and then bound the latter firmly together, pair by pair, put
the pairs together, and thus had between us a long, awkward,
but highly sustaining float. We might have need of it, if
compelled to be in the water a great length of time.

We made a very comfortable meal off our catured provender
and wine, while the two prisoners groaned dismally but in
vain.  De Rohan was immensely heartened by the food and
drink, and already his weakness was in great part dispelled.

"You'll not leave them to rot here, I suppose?" he asked,
with a gesture toward our captives.

"No," I said.  "When we get off, I'll cut their ankles free
-- they'll get home all right in the course of the night,
but will have to wait here for the tide to fall.  Without
fire, they can't attract any attention from above -- this is
the blank side of the walls, too, so it's safe enough. How's
the weather?"

"Excellent."

We left the shelter and from the lip of the tiny rock
promontory inspected the darkling waters before us. The tide
was coming in rapidly, the night was clear and starry, and
at our backs rose the Mont, a gloomy mass hulking against
the sky without a light showing.

An hour or more we sat there, talking between ourselves, and
in this short while de Rohan and I became measureably well
acquainted.  There was good steel in the man. He was none of
your flaunting, idle aristocrats; he had been bred to the
navy and before the revolution burst had commanded a
frigate. What was rarer too he could see with my own eye
when it came to his native folk.

"Fight for the boy in the Temple? Not I," he declared with
conviction. "It would not be for him, in any case, but for
those rogues of princes, who are pawns in the hand of
Prussia and England! They stay in safety and let lesser men
shed their blood. For France I would fight, yes; but not for
those cowards. France is now a republic, and to fight for
the royal cause is to fight against France under the orders
of foreigners -- no, no! We Rohans are not poor folk. We
have money laid aside in England. If I ever get safely away,
I may go to America, where so many others have fled, and
there take up a new life without any back glances on a
foundered past."

"You'll not have much choice in the matter," I said drily.
"Either we die tonight, or else we get away -- on the trail
to America!  First, however, we'll have to slip past the
French fleet, for they're watching the whole coast."

"Aye, and there's the rub," he assented. "Look you, Martin!
What's to prevent our going now around the shore to the
barbican gate and waiting there until Rabaut sets off --
then knifing him and his men and setting out? Nothing,
except the fleet of France! Every league of coast is
watched, both against emigre's and against a landing of the
English. An alarm beacon from the Mont, here, would be
flashed to St. Malo and Granville, on to Brest and Cherbourg
-- we'd never get out of the bay of Cancale!  And who could
pass through the fleet except Rabaut?"

"Precisely," and I nodded.  "We can only hope to get aboard
that lugger somehow-and we must do it ahead of Rabaut. Then
he'll be at our mercy. Either this, or else slip aboard her
unseen.  To tell the truth, the whole affair is so hazy, so
dependent on circumstances, it would be mere folly to try
and plan out any course of action."

"Right.  Then you're in command, Monsieur Martin!" he said
cheerfully. "I'm entirely in your hands, and you may count
on me to obey your orders implicitly."

"In that case," and I stood up, "suppose you get our float
launched."

"Eh? Do we start now?"

I pointed to a faint glitter among the stars, to seaward.

"Our lugger.  Two lights, one above the other. When Rabaut
will leave the Mont we don't know, but probably not for some
time yet. Let's go."

He assented. We both stripped to the waist, then I took my
knife from its sheath and crept back into the dark chapel. I
cut the ankle-bonds of the two captives.

"Work yourselves free, and go home when the tide falls," I
said. "If you try to cause any alarm, or leave here before
the tide goes down, you die."

Ten minutes later, at the side of de Rohan, I was pushing
out our float into the dark waters, with a full realization
of how mad and desperate was the venture.





                         CHAPTER XII


         WITH A WOMAN'S HELP, NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE

AS my companion had predicted, the water proved very warm,
thanks to the league on league of sands -- so much warn than
the air that the immersion promised little discomfort. We
pushed the float out ahead of us until we were wading waist
deep; then, with a concerted effort, sent it swirling on in
advance. We followed swimming until we caught it again, at
then settled to our task.

Oddly enough, considering the sort of mad venture on which
we were embarked, the first glimpse of those two twinkling
lugger-lights had restored all my courage and confidence. It
showed, past any doubt, that there was really some sense to
the whole absurd game, that Rabaut's apparently harebrained
scheme was based upon some solid premises. This acted as a
challenge, bidding me gamble against the future with the
same firm determination Rabaut himself displayed -- bidding
me cast aside all cold reckoning and plunge ahead with
something of his superb audacity! After all, this match of
life and death would go to him who could best juggle the
turn of events with each passing moment.

Yet I had need of all my courage as we slowly kicked the
float out against the tide, and the dark Mont receded and
merged into the night behind, the last touch of earth. Upon
us both weighed the oppressive sense of depth below and
immensity above, darkness all around us, the horizon doubly
black with uncertainty.  Fortunately the wind was only a
light breeze and the waters but slightly ruffled; although,
at the level of the water, all sight of the lugger's lights
had vanished, we still had the dark blur of Tombelaine on
the right by which to orient our course.

Our progress was of necessity slow, yet it was steady, and
we worked easily along in silence. The stars sparkled,
yellow diamonds against the blue velvet canopy closing down
on every hand.  It seemed as though the sky were pressing
down upon us as we floated here, infinitesimal human specks
on the black gulf.  The tiny rippling of our lashed spars
was the only sound; insensibly it grew upon us, swelled into
a perpetual hissing murmur, a lapping as of water fingers
touching us caressingly and gently, reassuringly, so that
fear departed.  The same thought was upon us both, for
presently de Rohan voiced it.

"God is close in the night, eh? We think of such things in
time of doubt -- but I like the feel of the water.  It's
heartening."

I glanced over my shoulder.

"Man is close also," I said grimly. I could see a glimmer of
light showing from the base of the Mont.  The apparent
closeness of it was disconcerting.  "Look back! Rabaut is
loading the boat, I imagine. Are you tired?"

"Tired? I'm scarcely wet yet!" De Rohan uttered a soft
laugh.  "Can one be tired when liberty hangs in the balance?
No.  We're doing excellently."

The quiet steadiness of his voice, so like that of
Kerguelec, reassured me.  I blessed my luck in lighting upon
such a comrade -- or was it luck?  Was it not, rather,
something higher and greater than mere luck -- had I not
been driving forward to this very meeting, to this very
instant of time, from that day in Paris when first I heard
of Kerguelec?  Perhaps. As de Rohan said, at such a moment
we are given to thinking of these things, I prayed no harm
might have come to the Breton during this day and evening.

We had slight conception of time; swimming or floating,
seconds are magnified into minutes.  I think an hour must
have passed in this manner, with the flicker of light
growing ever more faint behind us. We took it easily,
without hurry, for any effort at speed were senseless folly,
and we might have need of all our strength before we won
through. Our one great peril lay from fog, since we were
surely lost if the lightest mist came upon us;
imperceptibly, however, the breeze thickened from the
direction of the land and we knew this danger was obviated.
So we kept on, the whole great bay of Cancale ahead, and
behind us the dark masses of the shore, invisible to our
limited horizon.

"The lugger, I think," said de Rohan quietly, breaking
silence.  "Directly to our right, the double twinkle --"

I pulled myself up partially on the float and discerned a
faint double star, well to the right.

"Rest," I said, dropping back. "She's away over beyond
Tombelaine, and we've plenty of time -- she must tack over
in this direction."

De Rohan laughed softly, and I demanded the reason.

"Faith, why not laugh?" he returned whimsically. "To think
of our incredible madness in setting out like this, hoping
to reach the unknown point of contact between that lugger
and Rabaut's boat!"

"Think it over then -- it's not so mad," I returned. "Rabaut
will have two men only, to row a large and heavily laden
boat -- trust him to take no share in the work! He must go
slowly. He must display a light.  Also he must take the most
direct route possible; therefore he'll come straight out
from the Mont and let the lugger come to him. You see?"

De Rohan grunted.

"Aye. You've the right of it, perhaps. Are we far enough out
then?"

"Yes."

We relaxed, rested floating, letting the spars hold us up.

Slowly the double twinkle grew plainer and bore down upon
us, until beneath it we could make out the black vagueness
of sails and hull. The lugger approached us, came so close
we could hear the rippling rush of water beside her, the
voices on her deck, until we thought she would run us down
and made ready to swim for safety.  Then she luffed
suddenly, with a wild slapping of her dark-brown canvas.

"Hold her there!" came a command.  "Is that a boat's light?"

"Oui-da," rang the assent from aloft.

"Down with the sails."

Ropes squeaked in sheave-blocks, the flapping canvas rattled
down, and bare lines of spars were rocking against the stars
to the slow swing of the water. The lugger was not thirty
feet away from us. De Rohan ducked under the float and came
up beside me.

"You want to try and get aboard? We are between her and the
shore, so that the boat must pass us closely."

"Do you feel able to swim around her?" I asked. "Unless we
find a line, we can't hope to climb up."

He assented.  From our position we could see nothing of any
boat's light, but the crew of the lugger were setting out a
rope ladder, so we knew the time was short. As she lay
floating, we were near her stern.  I arranged to swim
outside and around her, while de Rohan took the inside, and
we would meet under her bow.  We were in slight danger of
being seen, for all hands were intent on the boat or their
work.

Without more delay we abandoned our float and struck off. I
rounded the stern of the craft, stroking lazily and quietly,
scanning her dark sides as I proceeded, but found no sign of
any trailing rope. For once, the slovenly French seamanship
was not in evidence -- we were dealing here with Bretons who
knew their business. Presently I caught a voice from the
deck above, in a growl.

"This is a queer affair," it said. "I should like to know,
me, if our pay is to come in assignats."

"Lucky if we get that much," responded a grumble. "These
accursed commissaires are all promises. The patron ought to
tap this one for an advance  -- look at the provisions we've
stowed! If it were a question of gold, I'd go to China or
hell, but why go to the Antilles for pay in worthless paper?
We could get a whole cargo of assignats by going to England,
where they are given away. Eighteen factories turning them
out, eh --"

The voices drifted off as I continued my slow progress.  The
bows were high, the stubby bowsprit sticking up against the
stars, clear of hanging lines. The head of de Rohan came
into sight just beyond me. Then I sighted the light of
Rabaut's boat.

"No luck," said de Rohan.

"The devil!" I responded softly. "And there's the boat.
Where's the ladder put out?"

"From the waist."

"Then get back to the stern. Come on around by this side, so
we'll not be seen."

We drifted back along the high wall of the lugger until we
came to the stern. By this time, the long immersion was
telling on us both in a gradual weakening of forces, and I
knew de Rohan must be far more drained of strength than I
myself.  A projection of the rudder afforded a hold, and I
indicated it to him.

"Hang on, now, until I come back."

He obeyed. I went on to the other side of the lugger and
took stock of things.

The boat was approaching slowly and laboriously. The two
grenadiers were making heavy work of it, since this was
probably their first encounter with an oar, and the boat was
heavy. She was deeply laden, and in the stern a dark mass
resolved itself into two figures, and I heard the voice of
Rabaut hailing the lugger.

"Hello, there! This is Citizen Commissaire Rabaut. You await
me?"

"Oui -- , citizen! A ladder is lowered, here by the
lantern."

"Good. You have cabins ready?"

"Diantre! We are not a frigate, citizen, but we have two
cabins. Both are yours."

"Very well. There are two of us, and two soldiers also. Be
ready to get my luggage aboard; it is heavy. You are bound
for America, on service of the republic; the pay to be in
gold. Is it understood?"

"Understood, citizen!" The voice was even joyous.  Payment
in gold meant much in these days, and meant a hundredfold to
thrifty Bretons.

The boat slowly came alongside, and a rope was flung down
from above. Pol Rouge, whom I recognized by his hearty
curses, caught a crab and went sprawling headlong. Pol Noir
got hold of the line but did not know what to do with it.
Rabaut scrambled forward, took the line, and ordered him to
get hold of the ladder.

I was drifting slowly under the side of the lugger, well
beyond the lantern-rays from above. The boat swung in upon
me, and with a stroke I was under her stern. Pol Rouge was
cursing furiously, Rabaut was snapping orders, while
everybody was giving directions above.

"Marie!" I exclaimed under cover of the confusion. "Get out
a line from a cabin window -- something to climb!"

"Good," she assented. At the same instant Rabaut turned.

"Kerguelec! Come along! Mount, while I hold the ladder."

I dived, lest Rabaut get a glimpse of my head, and struck
out for the stern of the lugger.  Exultation thrilled in me,
and when I rejoined de Rohan it was with a quick laugh and a
blessing for the sharp-witted girl. I told him briefly how I
had got word to her, and he uttered a sigh of relief.

"Good enough -- I am nearly exhausted. I do not know if I
can climb, Martin."

"You will."

We waited an interminable time, or so it seemed, while from
the decks resounded tramplings of feet and loud voices.
Knowing the two cabins must be in the stern, I had every
confidence in Kerguelec's ability to help us from our
impasse.

What had been said in my hearing, also, served to clarify
the whole situation. Rabaut's powers were supreme, and his
orders were obeyed without hesitation; further, his adroit
promise of payment in gold had placed ship and crew entirely
at his disposition.

I had hoped we might look for help from these Bretons, but
now it was clear we could expect nothing of the sort --
undoubtedly they were rabid revolutionaries and had been
chosen for the service by the local committee in St. Malo to
whom Rabaut had addressed his letter.

A slight noise came from over our heads, the voice of
Rabaut.

"You'll have this cabin to yourself, I'll take other.  I
must see to the stowage of our cargo, mademoiselle; if you
have need of anything, call a seaman and demand it.  With
morning, I'll have some proper garments for you -- I have
brought them with me on purpose. May I have your permission
to depart?"

"With pleasure," responded Kerguelec.

I paddled out a stroke or two and looked up. Perhaps eight
feet above us showed one lighted sten window, another to the
left being dark. Now, a the lighted window, appeared head
and shoulders, and the voice of Kerguelec came down.

"You're there?"

"Yes."

"I have no rope!" and the voice was despairing. "There's
nothing -- a blanket, perhaps?"

"If you can hold one end of it."

What followed was little less than desperate, especially as
we had no time to waste. Kerguelec dropped out the blanket,
keeping a grip on one corner. In order to get it within my
reach, he was forced to lean far out the cabin window, but
at length I caught hold. The Breton drew back and managed to
get his end across the sill for purchase -- by which time I
was out of the water and full weight on the blanket. The
climbing was a terrific task, far more difficult than
ascending a rope, for only the folds of cloth gave grip to
my fingers.

However at length I could reach to the window, and then drew
myself up and in, head-first. Kerguelec caught and stayed me
as I dropped to the floor and helped me to find my feet.

"All right?"

"All right, thanks." I got out my knife.  "The blanket,
quickly!"

I seized it and began to slit it into lengths, knotting two
of these strips together, for de Rohan could never have come
up as I had. Kerguelec at my side breathed a wondering
question, and I laughed.

"There's another to come -- you'll see!"

I dropped the knotted length of rope until de Rohan, below,
caught it.  I dragged him up, foot by foot -- no easy
matter, since he could help himself but little. As last I
got his hand in mine, and a final effort brought him up to
the window opening. He poised there, and a gasping word came
from him.

"Ha! Your fish is nearly aboard --"

A low cry burst from Kerguelec, who recognized the voice --
then de Rohan was in on top of me. I lost balance, and we
both went down in a heap.  When I struggled up, helping him
to his feet, I spoke to Kerguelec.  There was no answer --
the Breton had fainted. The supreme emotion of finding this
brother alive, whom she thought dead, had prevailed.

From this moment, as though it were symbolic, Kerguelec was
no more. There remained Marie de Rohan, the woman.

She revived swiftly. For a while brother and sister clung
together in tears, she oblivious of his half-naked wetness,
her voice melted in soft tenderness, until I wondered anew
how she could ever have assumed the man's tones of
Kerguelec.

"Ah, Louis, Louis!" and she laughed a little, holding him
away to devour his face with her eager gaze. "And they said
you were dead -- I got messages to some of the priests,
bribed a guard to bring me word -- fallen, they said, over
the cliff!"

"Why did you never tell me of your brother?"  I demanded.

"You are a hard man, Citizen Martin!" She regarded me
sideways as she spoke. "You cared for nothing except your
own safety -- you told me so.  You would help me, but not my
cause. You were afraid of being dragged into intrigues, you
would help no man in particular --"

"Nonsense," I said gruffly, feeling her words all too true.
"If you had told me it was a question of your brother -- but
you tried to bribe me --"

"What, bickering!" de Rohan intervened with a laugh. "Cease,
I command it! Friend Martin would never have pulled me alive
out of death had he not been a hard man, my sister! I am in
his debt, and utterly."

"I also," said the girl, and her hand came out to mine.
"Forgive my words -- they were not meant in earnest.
Besides, it has been hard for me today. Rabaut thinks you
dead, and I had small hope of seeing you --"

"Well, better discuss what's to be done," I broke in.
"Listen!"

The creaking of sheaves and slatting of canvas apprised us
the lugger was getting under way once more. From the stern
above us came sounds of a hot argument over the boat. Rabaut
had ordered it stove in and abandoned, and this was
sacrilege to the thrifty Breton mind. The matter was settled
by peremptory commands from Rabaut, and his voice wakened us
all to our situation.

In the silence came a heavy step outside, and a hand
hammered at the door.

"Well, citizen!" came the voice of Pol Rouge. "Asleep
already?"

I hurried!y crowded to one side with de Rohan; the cabin was
small and cramped for three of us. Marie took down the
lantern from its hook and then opened the door to reveal the
mustadied Parisian outside with a large bundle.

"Clothes, sent by the citizen commissioner," he said. Peste!
Your cabin floor is most sacredly wet, citizen!"

"It's nothing," said the girl, taking the bundle from him.
"I knocked over a pitcher of water. Thank you, citizen."

Pol Rouge stamped away, and the girl closed the door again.
She dropped the bundle into one of the two bunks and hung
the lantern back on its ceiling hook. De Rohan and I,
stripped to the waist, water-soaked, were certainly not very
pretty figures, and scarce blamed the girl for smiling as
she looked at us.

"Yes, we must decide what to do," she said. "Rabaut has sent
me these woman's garments, and if I wear them --"

She faltered. I caught de Rohan's eye, and both of us were
thinking the same thought.  A crisis might well impend at
any moment; it would depend on how far Rabaut would be in
control of his baser self.

"Right."  I put the matter frankly.  "If the worst comes to
the worst, we'll force the issue. Until then, temporize with
him! We're forced to depend on Rabaut to a certain extent."
I went on to set forth our position. It was certain we could
not get out of Cancale Bay without runmng the gauntlet of
the French fleet. "With Rabaut to pull us all through, well
and good," I concluded. "Tomorrow morning should tell the
tale, I imagine.  Given a good breeze, we should be well out
of the bay and clear of all danger by tomorrow night."

"Very well," said the girl, and bit her lip. "I'll do my
best, I promise you!  But -- but where --"

"Where can we stay meantime?" I finished for her. "That's
the thing to settle.  Perhaps we can get down in the hold,
later on --"

The same idea was in all our minds, though neither I nor de
Rohan would put it into words. Under the circumstances, any
separation would be rank folly. This cabin was the only safe
place for us, and to seek hiding down in the hold, where we
might be battened in and lost to all sight or sound of what
was passing above, would be an absurdity. Marie looked from
one to other of us' and then a smile touched her lips.

"Stay here," she said simply.  "There are two berths; one of
us must sleep on the floor. It will be only until tomorrow
night -- you agree?"

I glanced at de Rohan, and he nodded.

"Very well," I assented.  "De Rohan, you get into the top
bunk yonder. I'll take the floor. Mademoiselle, we'll be
asleep in five minutes, by your leave."

And so in fact we were.




                        CHAPTER XIII

              SCRUPLES ARE INJURIOUS   Q. E. D.


The little lugger was decidely not a spacious craft,
probably having been built for the Holland trade, or for
smuggling contraband into England. The two stern cabins
opened directly upon a large mess-cabin; this latter also
served as saloon, chart room, and lounge. Crew and officers
totalled ten, all of them stout Bretons of St. Malo   or
more properly termed, Maloums, the finest seamen of France.

These things we learned next morning from Marie. She was
gone when I wakened and roused up de Rohan, but returned to
bring us bread and wine and news. The lugger was well heeled
over and bowling westward under a fresh wind, the day was
clear and sunny, and the constant trample of feet on deck
bespoke much activity.

The girl stepped in, closed and bolted the door hurriedly,
and stood smiling at us.  We were a queer-looking pair,
unshaven and unwashed, with blankets pulled about our
shoulders. I glanced at de Rohan, his lips twitched, and all
three of us broke into laughter.  Marie still wore her
Breton costume, refusing to don the woman's garb until she
might have a feeling of greater security in doing so.

"I have one pair of pistols," she observed, as we made way
with the bread and wine. "They are in my berth yonder,
Monsieur Martin.  You'll find your papers and money safely
there too."

"Have you seen Rabaut?"  I asked, and she nodded assent.

"He's on deck. A ship is in sight -- the captain says she's
a French frigate, though only a scrap of white is visible."

Here was news! As I had anticipated, it was impossible for
any craft to steal out of French waters except by extra good
luck. Fearful of an English descent on the coast, anxious to
check the continuous enemy communication which was sapping
the strength of the republic, a large share of the French
navy was concentrated along the western coast on the
lookout. As our crew were presumably in service of the
republic, they had no reason to try and evade this watch.

Marie informed us that the treasure had been chucked below,
being carelessly treated by Rabaut as the strongest measure
of precaution. Pol Rouge and Pol Noir were seasick at the
moment, though no one else aboard was affected. Going to the
door, for she was returning on deck at once, the girl paused
there and flung her brother a singular glance, whose import
when taken with her words was plain enough to us both.

"Rest, both of you," she said. "Get back your strength today
-- we may have need of it tonight. I'll lock this door, so
no one can enter while I'm gone."

She departed. De Rohan looked at me significantly.

"Eh -- you comprehend?" he said. "This Rabaut is a beast."

"In this instance beasts prey by night, not by day," I said
philosophically, though it was only too easy to understand
the peril threatening Marie. "Best do as she says -- rest,
eat, sleep! If we have come upon a French frigate, we may
equally chance upon an English ship, and then show
ourselves. That would let the smoke out of Rabaut's balloon
in a hurry! However, we can wait and see how Rabaut handles
the frigate yonder."

Something like an hour afterward came drifting to us the
boom of a heavy gun. The lugger promptly came up into the
wind, and thus gave us sight, from our stern window, of the
frigate. Almost a once an exclamation broke from de Rohan.

"Irony of fate! It's my old ship, the Bellepoule!  Now we'll
see whether he can swing the affair --"

"He can swing the gates of hell off their hinges," I said
sourly.

For a little the frigate forged ahead out of our sight,
though she came close enough for a hail to be exchanged. The
lugger lowered a boat, and as we swung in the wind, we could
see the frigate again and the boat heading for her, with
Rabaut in the stern. We awaited the upshot with no little
anxiety, because our own escape was dependent upon the
finesse and audacity displayed by Rabaut.

We soon had proof of his quality. Half an hour elapsed, when
his boat left the frigate and started back to us. Almost at
once a wreath of white leaped from the side of the frigate,
and then gun after gun spoke out. As the heavy reports
reached us, we left the window lest Rabaut catch a glimpse
of our faces. De Rohan looked at me with a grim smile.

"The rascal! He's made them salute him by way of apology!
Well, I suppose they're glad enough to have a chance to burn
powder and make a noise --"

So it was, indeed. Before the s~ute was finished, the boat
was aboard and the lugger was heeling over anew to the wind
thrust.  In twenty minutes the blue horizon-line of France
had sunk out of sight -- Rabaut had won his game, we were
past the final barrier, and the land was gone. And now  -
what?

"Excellent!" stated de Rohan.  "Now all uncertainty is
cleared away, we know what we must face   and I'd give half
my fortune for a shave and a bath!"

"You'll get one tonight, or at least the shave," I
prophesied. "And perhaps some clothes to boot."

"From the skies?"

"No. From Citizen Rabaut."

He laughed at this, quite comprehending my meaning, and we
stretched out to sleep again.

Marie, as she had now become to me, not only from our
comradeship but from hearing this name alone on the tongue
of her brother, spent most of the afternoon on deck,
probably feeling more secure there in the open from any
advances on the part of Rabaut.

Twice, in the course of the day, she slipped in to us
bearing some food she had managed to secrete  - a bottle of
wine, some sausage, cheese and bread, rude but nourishing
fare. On the second occasion, just after sunset, she came
directly from the mess-cabin outside. As she flung back the
long hair from her face, after setting down her burden, I
saw the look in her eyes and spoke.

"Trouble?"

"Later," she returned laconically.

"Where's Rabaut? Didn't we hear him go into his cabin just
now?"

"Yes  - don't speak too loudly! He wants me to join him on
deck in a few minutes."

"Very good," I said coolly. "Keep him engaged there for a
time.  Play him carefully.  Then tell him to go to his own
cabin  - intimate that you may receive him here after a
little.  Remain on deck unless you hear a shot  - in that
case, watch whether anyone hears or observes it, and let us
know."

It was not too nice a part, this, particularly when given a
French girl of birth. Her face whitened a little with anger,
and her eyes flashed -- then, before she could speak, de
Rohan intervened gravely.

"This to you, that to us -- each one has a task, Marie. Is a
little pride more to be regarded than life and liberty?"

Her face softened, and her hand went impulsively to mine.

"Of course.  I'll do it," she said, and smiled. "And it will
be well done."

"Where are the two grenadiers -- Pol Rouge and Pol Noir?" I
asked.

"They are still down with mal de ~er, I believe. They are
forward with the crew. They should be getting over it soon."

"Well, if you take out the lantern, get it refilled and
relighted, and then bring it back, we'll not bother you
further."

She nodded and departed.  All this conversation had been
low-voiced, since Rabaut was in his cabin adjoining.
Presently she returned with the lighted lantern, and barely
had she entered when Rabaut came from his own cabin and
knocked at the door.

"I'll be on deck in five minutes," she responded without
opening.

"Thank you, mademoiselle," answered Rabaut, and so went his
way. I hung up the lantern and spoke softly.

"Tell us whether anyone's in the mess-cabin outside."

She opened the door and pronounced the coast clear.  In half
a moment de Rohan and I were across in Rabaut's cabin, door
closed, lantern on hook.

Darkness was falling fast. Our first care was to cover over
the window with a blanket, lest the reflection of light be
caught from the deck above.  Then, satisfied of security, we
turned to examine the place. One glance showed us that
Rabaut, despite his hasty departure from France, had not
left any of his personal effects behind.  De Rohan broke
into a laugh at sight of the clothes -- a large portmanteau
had been unpacked and the things laid out, so the damp sea
air might rid them of wrinkles.

Since Rabaut was of large build, his clothes would do me
very well.

"Come, Martin! The rogue takes good thought for himself!
Here's a case of razors -- and what excellent clean linen!
Decidedly, we'll appear to good advantage tomorrow, eh?"

De Rohan and I fell to work -- keeping, the while, our
pistols close at hand. It was not alone vanity and the
presence of a woman impelling us to the task of personal
adornment, nor even our own desires; but upon this matter
might depend the fate of us all, according to the sketchy
plans I had formulated.

That two men should long remain hidden aboard this small
craft was utterly impossible. The most we could hope for was
to remain undiscovered until the morning, and then our one
chance was to play a hold game, depending heavily on the
impetus of surprise to aid us. At best, we were two against
a dozen, and must count on moral force rather than any mere
physical prowess.  Rabaut once disposed of, my chief fears
lay with Pol Rouge and Pol Noir. Those two stupid, earnest,
courage-blinded Parisian grenadiers were anything but
negligible.  Also I was aware, but not sufficiently aware,
that man proposes and God disposes.

Half an hour or more passed. Shaved and bathed, we were like
new men, particularly de Rohan. Thus emerging, his features
showed the same delicate strength as those of his sister,
though he was much her senior. Food and wine had combined to
bring some color into his cheeks and rid him of weakness,
and I knew he could be depended on heavily.

Once shaved and cleansed, we turned to Rabaut's supply of
fine apparel, and took delight in sharing his finery.  There
was enough of it to equip us both, from stock to breeches,
and de Rohan drew to his share a pair of diamond-buckled
shoes -- but there I was at a loss. Not being built on
French lines, footgear was a problem; barefoot I came into
this lugger, and barefoot I would remain aboard her, it
seemed.

Without a warning came a sharp rap at the door and the voice
of Marie.

"Coming!"

She passed on without pause. I caught up my pistol when de
Rohan, cocking his own weapon, laid a hand on my arm.

"My friend, remember the debt I owe this man," he said
earnestly.  "He sent my brother to death and me to prison.
Leave him to me, I beg of you. That pistol-shot must come
from my hand."

"Conceded and gladly," I said, with a shrug. "But Marie has
not obeyed -- she should have gone on deck  -"

"There was some reason. Perhaps she thought best to warn us.
Then the man is mine?"

I nodded and sat down in the lower bunk. We did not have
long to wait. The lugger was heeling over slightly, groaning
and protesting in every timber, and we did not hear Rabaut's
approach until he was at the door and his voice sharply
exclaiming.

"A light! But who --"

He flung open the door, swinging it back against the bunks.
Thus he did not see me at all, but stepped into the cabin to
find himself face to face with Louis de Rohan. Pistol in
hand, the latter smiled.

"Welcome, M. le Marquis! I've been waiting for you."

Never have I seen a man so absolutely stupefied as Rabaut in
this moment -- and he of all men!  Here on this ship, far
out at sea, when all difficulties were passed and he had
brought his affair to a triumphant conclusion-a dead man
appeared before him. More, a man whom he had betrayed to
death! Small wonder his normal coolness deserted him, and
his cynical disbelief in anything was staggered, and the
possibility of the supernatural surged upon him in a
tremendous wave.

He put out a hand to the wall, as though groping for the
feel of something solid. I kicked the door, so it slammed
shut to a swing of the ship, but he never looked at me,
never knew I was there.  His usually keen eyes became large
and protruding, fastened upon de Rohan in a fixed stare. The
color ebbed out of his face.

"Louis!" he exclaimed huskily.  He must have known de Rohan
well in other days. "Louis! No, no  - you're dead --"

"Certainly, and I've come back for you," said de Rohan
quietly. "My brother Charles sent me. You remember him? And
others sent me, too.  Baron Nissen, whom you gave to the mob
at Versailles. De Rochefort, whom you betrayed to Marat
while he was at your dinner table. Fleurus, who --"

"Stop!" cried out Rabaut, struggling for selfcontrol, for
comprehension. "This is past belief -- you couldn't be here
--"

"No? But I am here, St.-Servaut! Perhaps the prayers of my
sister have brought me  - had this occurred to you as a
possibility? And I am about to kill you."

Rabaut's' two pistols lay in the upper berth, yet he made no
move toward them.  He could not drag his eyes from de Rohan,
and now it seemed I had woefully misjudged the man's ability
in a pinch. With one hand he fumbled in mechanical fashion
at his waistcoat, as though unable to get out his snuff box.
With the other he supported himself against the wall, for
the lugger was beginning to lurch badly.  He wet his lips,
tried to speak and could not. He was a pitiful spectre of
himself.

De Rohan, merciless, now sent in a deadly thrust.  It must
have astounded Rabaut beyond measure.

"To top all else, traitor, you have not hesitated to steal
the gold belonging to St. Michael himself, eh? That reached
you, did it? No, M. le Marquis, there's nothing I don't know
-- nothing! Do you really expect that St. Michael will let
you get away with all this treasure of his?"

Upon these words, de Rohan swung up his pistol. Rabaut
flinched visibly, his deathly white face streaming with cold
sweat.

"Stop!" he exclaimed.  "Stop! I'll make reparation --"

"Reparation  - from you?" de Rohan's laugh was bitter with
scorn. "Reparation for blood and treachery? Dog that you are
--"

"Wait, wait!" broke out Rabaut.  He took an unsteady step
forward.  "Give me time -- you cannot shoot me down like
this  -arrah!"

Swift as light, a growl on his lips, he hurled himself
forward.

Of all things, such a move on his part was most unexpected.
He had placed himself craftily, timing his spring to a
thrust of the deck, balancing himself perfectly.  So
tigerish was his leap, he actually knocked the pistol out of
de Rohan's hand before the latter could pull trigger, and
the weapon fell without exploding.

Flashing up from his waistcoat pocket, Rabaut's left hand
showed a small spring-knife, the blade open. De Rohan was
knocked backward against the muffled window.  One cry burst
from him as Rabaut's knife plunged; then he went down,
falling on the deck. Rabaut was over him instantly, gripping
back his head with one hand, thrusting again with the knife
for the bared throat.

Rabaut was plunging home the knife when I shot him.

It was a quick, hasty shot-the rapidity of his attack had
found me entirely unprepared. He pitched sidelong, the blade
dropping from his hand, and then rolled in a limp heap
against the side wall. I scrambled out of my bunk, threw
aside the pistol, and rushed to help de Rohan, who was
feebly trying to pull himself up. He came to one elbow,
caught my hand, and sat up.

"The rogue -- outwitted me!" he said faintly. "My side --"

I saw how he was hurt. The little knife had gashed into his
side below the ribs; a deep and nasty cut, bleeding
profusely. Scarcely had I laid bare the hurt, when a rattle
at the door brought me erect, as Marie stepped into the
cabin.

She stood motionless an instant, taking in everything at a
glance. Words were needless. What bad happened was plain to
see.

"Something for a bandage, and swiftly," I said.

She nodded and disappeared.  I stooped and helped de Rohan
to his feet.

"Arm around my neck -- that's right! We'll get into our own
cabin and then fix you up  - careful,now!"

We had only a few steps to go. The mess cabin was empty, and
another lantern was swinging in Marie's cabin. She met us,
some garment torn into strips for bandages, and helped me
lower her brother into the under berth, then brought water.
In a moment I was washing and binding up the wound. De Rohan
was unconscious by this time, chiefly from loss of blood,
for the hurt itself was not mortal by a good deal.

"Was the shot heard on deck?" I demanded, as I worked.

"Yes, but it was muffled, and no one was sure ahout it. What
happened?"

"Rabaut was too clever," I returned.  "Your brother should
have shot first and talked afterward. Keep an eye out, will
you, in case anyone comes?"

She left the cabin. Another five minutes and I had finished
the job, and a good job it was. There seemed little reason
why de Rohan should not be on his feet by morning, with
care. I went outside and almost collided with Marie in the
darkness.

"All clear," she said. "Is Rabaut  - dead?"

"I hope so devoutly," I answered. "Haven't had time yet to
make sure. Your brother's all right, Marie.  Look after him
tonight -  sleep is his best remedy.  In the morning put on
your woman's clothes.  We'll have to make a strong play to
get control of this lugger, and it must be done first thing.
Good night!"

"Good night," she said in a low and singular voice.

"Eh? What it is, comrade?" I asked. "Have I offended you?"

"No, no!" she returned, with swift breaths. "No! I don't see
how -- how you can keep on fighting against everything --
with Louis gone --"

I laughed and patted her hand, and her fingers clung to
mine.

"Nonsense! Who else could fight for you -- and who wouldn't
fight for you? Everything's all right. Good night again."

This time her response was more natural. "And God keep you!"
she added.

I went back into Rabaut's cabin and closed the door.

When I leaned over the body of Rabaut, a terrible temptation
grew upon me.  He was not dead, by evil chance. My bullet
had cut across his scalp over the ear  - he was not even
hurt to any extent. What I should do was plain enough.

To open the window and shove out his unconscious figure
would be the work of a moment. He would have a swift and
merciful death, far better than he deserved.  Otherwise he
would only have to be killed in worse fashion. To think of
leaving him alive, even in bonds, was impossible. It would
be the veriest folly to hold him prisoner on such a voyage
as this  - he had just proved his ability full measure!

Hesitate over it? Yes, and for a long moment. For all our
sakes, the thing cried out to be done. It was common sense.
And as I hesitated, came a tap on the door, and it opened to
let Marie enter.

"Again," she said, closing the door and regarding me. "I
felt I had to know -  about him. He's not dead?"

"Unfortunately, no," I said bitterly. "My bullet only
scraped his head."

"Then --"

I met her gaze, read her alarm, her unuttered question, and
smiled sourly.

"You called me a hard man, eh? Well, perhaps I am. This
rascal must be killed, if we are to live. He deserves it.
He has earned death a hundred times over.  Is it not so?"

"Yes," she said, steadily watching me.

"Well, there is the window, there is a pistol, there is his
own knife," I indicated the various means of disposal.
"Which shall it be?"

She glanced at the sprawled, unconscious figure and then
back at me.

"Eh? You mean --"

"Kill him if you wish," I said, and shrugged. "I'm no
murderer. If we can carry the game through in the morning,
I'll have him hung. There'd be a sense of justice to that,
eh? But to let the life out of a helpless man is the act of
a rank coward. I wish I could do it, but it's out of the
question for me."

She smiled suddenly.

"Good night again, monsieur!" she said, and quietly
departed, leaving me to a puzzled wonder.

So I bound Rabaut hand and foot, gagged him, and went to
bed.




                         CHAPTER XIV

                THE BATTLE IS NOT TO THE WEAK


I wakened to find the level rays of earliest sunlight
flooding in at the stern window, though it promised to be
gone soon enough. The wind was so light, the lugger was
almost on an even keel, and off to the south were banked
tremendous black clouds, promising some heavy weather ere
long.

I dressed, paying no heed to Rabaut, who lay glaring at me,
wide awake. My first care was to take stock of defences.
With the two pistols from Marie, and Rabaut's weapons, we
were fairly well armed, so I loaded and primed them and laid
them ready.  Then I removed the gag from Rabaut's mouth,
gave him a drink, and propped him up in the corner of the
cabin. I sat on the edge of the bunk and regarded him
appraisingly.

His lips were still too swollen for ready speech, and the
bonds must have caused him no little pain  - not to mention
his untended wound, whence a trickle of blood had dried over
his cheek.

"This is a very pleasant little surprise for you, eh?"  I
said cheerfully, mocking his little trick of speech.  "A
clever trick of yours, friend Rabaut, to arrange my disposal
at the Mont  - eh? Well, treachery is a good game
temporarily, not as a permanent thing. Your jug has gone to
the well once too often, and now you'll hang for your sins,
I trust. You failed to kill de Rohan last night, and I
failed to kill you, but a length of rope will soon set the
matter right. You may shout if you like  - and I'll put a
bullet into you."

He made no pretense of astonishment or any other emotion.
There was no way he could trick me now, and he knew it.

"I've procured your escape," he said thickly.

I laughed at this, arid as I laughed the venom in his eyes
grew deeper.

"Don't be silly," I said, and sobered. "I'm procuring my own
escape, thank you.  It's a pity de Rohan didn't pistol you
last night; somewhere, there's a reason of destiny in that.
I rather believe in destiny, Rabaut, or in the adage that
all's for the best if one regards it aright! You might not
agree with me at the moment, I concede. Well, perhaps your
life was spared in order to let me learn from you -- eh?
Come! Would sparing you be of advantage to us or to anyone
else? Can you set out any reason why you shouldn't hang?"

"The gold,." he muttered, staring at me, too hopeless even
to gather his faculties and make a bid for life.

"What gold? You have none. All aboard here is mine if I want
it  - though I don't. I'm no thief. Perhaps you have some
papers or information of value?"

He made a frantic clutch at the straw of hope.

"Yes. There's a French squadron ahead of us.  I can get you
past safely --"

"On this ocean? Bah! None of your lies. It won't do, my
friend! Since you've nothing worth while to offer, back goes
the gag."

He cursed me most horribly, but I suited action to words and
replaced the gag, at the risk of bitten fingers.  I
appropriated his pistol -- sash, buckled it around me, and
put two pistols in the pockets, then took the others in hand
and opened the door. Peering out, I found the mess-cabin
empty, and crossed quickly to that of Marie. At my knock,
she opened the door and I stepped in.

"Ready? Ah! My salutations, mademoiselle  - and heartiest
congratulations!"

To tell the truth, she astonished me beyond words, this
being my first sight of the real Marie de Rohan.  Gone was
Kerguelec, boots, breeches and black hat.  The long Breton
hair was now pinned up, she wore a very handsome, if not
new, gown of blue flowered silk, and a kerchief was pinned
about her throat.  Where the magic had come from I could not
say, but every touch of the dark Kerguelec had vanished, and
here before me stood a smiling, bright-eyed girl, a perfect
stranger, greeting my surprised regard with a gay courtsey.

"Ha, Martin!" cried de Rohan from his berth.  "What news?"

I turned to him. "We go to make news, I trust.  How are
you?"

"Well enough.  No fever at all events. Marie won't let me
up, though I'm able -- "

"Then get up," and I held out my hand to his.

He came to his feet, staggered a little, then quickly
steadied.  Marie intervened with anxious protest.

"But, Monsieur Martin, he is not able to exert himself!"

"He must become able, then," I said, and glanced at some
bread and wine she must have procured before my arrival.
"Something to eat and drink  - good!  We'll have need of
every ounce of help we can get. You go on deck, now, and
wait near the companionway until we come up. It won't be
long."

She obeyed, after one slightly rebellious look which I
disregarded.  So long as de Rohan could walk, he would serve
my purpose, since we were in no shape to take into
consideration anything except the pressing need of all
three.

I helped him to finish dressing, as he was already partially
clothed, and then we divided the wine and bread. I gave him
the two extra pistols, and we were ready.

"You'll have to grin and bear it," I said.  "No one will
suspect your condition. Get an arm around my neck --"

"No, I can manage all right with your arm to lean on," he
intervened.

We left the cabin together, and I told him about Rabaut's
present condition. The deck-ladder came down directly into
the mess-cabin, and as we reached it, I realized this was
actually my first appearance on board, my first sight of the
lugger beyond the stern cabins. Well, it was likewise the
lugger's first sight of me, and I was counting heavily on
the effect of surprise. By this time, the crew must all be
gawking at Marie, whom they certainly would never recognize
for Kerguelec.

We slowly mounted, de Rohan leaning on me, and as we neared
the deck paused.

"Go ahead, Martin.  I'll make my appearance after you. Pity
I didn't shoot that rascal last night!  I owe you my life
again. Go ahead."

I went on and came up through the open hatch to the deck.

Marie was standing a little aft of me, by the rail. Three
men stood by the wheel, staring at her. Forward, the crew
were gathering, all eyes for this stupefying apparition of a
woman. The cook, serving out some soup from a kettle, paused
with the others and was gaping aft, his mouth wide open. All
these men were rough Maloums, either fishermen or smugglers
by profession, with little distinction between the crew and
officers. Pol Rouge and Pol Noir were just coming on deck
forward.

My appearance created a new sensation.  The three men aft
hurriedly crossed themselves as I approached Marie -- a
significant gesture. The two grenadiers, catching sight of
me, stopped short, incredulous.

"Give your brother a hand," I said to the girl, and then
turned toward the three men by the wheel. These looked hard
at me, shrank slightly from my approach, and nodded a reply
to my greeting.

"Good day! Which of you is the captain?"

"C'est moi," said one, a burly, heavily bearded seaman with
a red cap. "I am the patron, monsieur."

"Will you be good enough to call your men together here?
I've something to say to all of you."

"But where are you from?  Where's Citizen Rabaut?" demanded
the skipper.

"You'll learn in a moment, my friend."

The skipper bawled at his men, and then broke off to stare
at de Rohan, who was now appearing.

"Name of the devil!" he cried out sharply.  "Where are you
all coming from?  How many more of you down below? Where's
that lanky rascal of a Breton?"

"He's dead," I said curtly. This was enough to bring them
all up with a round jerk.

The men came lurching aft, all staring hard, and the two
grenadiers followed.  De Rohan joined Marie at the rail. He
leaned easily against it, with no sign of his real weakness
except his pallor.  I drew out both pistols as though to
examine the priming, and the advancing men promptly halted.
I said nothing. Silence and significant actions were for the
moment my best allies.

As I had descried on first waking, the sunlight was already
doomed and failing fast. The whole sky to the south was now
a mass of black cloud, rapidly reaching across the zenith
and swallowing up all the dayspring.  The wind had faded out
to a mere breath, so that the canvas flapped half idly; the
ocean had become a rolling, glassy mass of gray water. Here
was one of those slow-gathering, slow-breaking storms, and
it might hold off an hour or half a day -- though it would
be a bad one when it broke.

Now occurred a tiny thing -- tiny, for the weight of destiny
hanging upon it later.  The helmsman touched Redcap's arm
and pointed off to the north.  Following the gesture, I
discerned a fleck of white, a scrap of sail against the
horizon. Redcap drew a telescope from his pocket and
unfolded it, looked at the sail, then slammed the glass shut
with a shrug.

"Nothing," he said.  "A small craft."

He turned toward me with obvious intent to speak, but I
forestalled him in the effort to get control of the
situation.

"Pol Rouge! Pol Noir! Step out here."

The two hairy rascals left the clumped mass of men, both of
them still in dumbfounded amazement at my appearance.

"You know me," I said curtly.  "You, Pol Rouge!  Tell these
honest seaman my name and position."

Pol Rouge growled.  "Citizen Martin, assistant commissioner
of the Paris committee  - or so called.  Citizen Rabaut has
given orders to arrest you, as being nothing of the sort."

"A lie," I stated. Putting up one pistol, I felt in my
pocket, fortunately having taken my papers and money from
Marie. I drew out the commission and handed it to the
skipper.  "Read for yourself, citizen."

He handled it gingerly, spelled out the words, and nodded.

"Right," he commented, to the stupefaction of the two
grenadiers.  I addressed them promptly, hoping to advantage
myself by whatever lies Rabaut had told them -- perhaps he
had simply told them the truth about me.

"You two worthy soldiers of the republic have been made the
dupe of a rascal," I said. "You have aided Citizen Rabaut to
steal a lot of valuables, the property of the state. You
have aided him to embark them by night aboard this lugger
for America.  Is there any reason why you should not be
tried and hung for the crime?"

"Eh?  Eh?" stammered Pol Rouge, over the spokesman for the
pair.  "What's all this about, citizen? Why, Citizen Rabaut
is acting under direct orders from Paris -  he has been
ordered to America --"

"Nothing of the sort," I interrupted. "He was sent to Mont
St Michel to bring those things back to Paris. You
yourselves know he gave orders to confine me there, in order
that he might escape with his plunder. If acting by orders,
would he not have gone to St. Malo and there embarked, or
Brest?  Aye I He would have gone on a frigate, not on a
little lugger.  Well, I have put Rabaut under arrest.  Now,
citizen soldiers, it may be you have acted innocently in
this matter. If so, here's your chance to speak."

The two grenadiers looked at each other, then at me, in a
mingling of perplexity and wrath.  Instantly I could see my
words had failed to penetrate their stupidly stubborn heads.
No reason could overawe them.  Instead of trying to sway
these two, I should have won over the crew-perhaps it was
not too late yet!

"Citizen Rabaut promised you pay in gold," I said, turning
to Redcap. "Well, you shall have your pay in gold from me as
well, if you want it. Hold your course for America. Citizen
Rabaut is to be hanged. Are you satisfied?"

There was a growl of dissent  The skipper pushed back his
cap, scratched his grizzled head, and looked from me to
Marie and de Rohan.

"Gold is gold, aye," he said.  "Still, citizen, there's no
proof of your tale. For all I know to the contrary, Citizen
Rabaut may be the honest man and you the rascal, trying to
make away with his effects! Once you hang him, his mouth is
stopped.

Let's have him up here and argue it out."

"Not a hit of it," I said promptly. "Come! An oath is an
oath. If I and my friends here will take oath on the cross
that my --"

The skipper flamed up at me angrily. He and the others might
be ardent republicans, but being Bretons, were far from
abjuring their faith; and now it seemed I had gone about
things in the wrong way, had committed myself to the wrong
cause, to win them over.

"What's an oath to you or any other fine Parisian?" he
growled out. "May the little black man fly away with the lot
of you! A pack of murdering rascals, that's what you and
your committee are!  What regard have you for sacred
things?"

"Regard enough," I cried out, to quell the swift mutter
echoing his words. "Where's all the luggage Rabaut brought
aboard? Get it out and look at it. You'll find he has
plundered sacred places -  Mont St. Michel itself! Get it
out and look! It'll show you quickly enough what sort of man
he is."

This gripped and held all of them aghast -  the Malouins,
because of their superstition and reverence for the sacred
Mont, the two grenadiers, in sheer dismay. What tale Rabaut
had told these two to account for taking the gold, I never
learned, yet it must have been a cunning story and far from
the truth.

"Break out one of those leathern sacks!" bawled Redcap at
his men.  "We'll soon see about this tale!"

Two of the men went leaping forward and fell to work on the
hatch there. The others muttered among themselves.  Pol
Rouge and Pol Noir put their heads together. I turned to de
Rohan.

"If you have to shoot, don't waste your bullets!
Mademoiselle, at the first sign of trouble, get below."

"You're afraid of the outcome?" she asked quietly.

"It's touch and go -- anything is possible," I returned.
"Somehow I've failed to hit the right note --"

"They are independent, these Malouins," she said, with a
glance at the men up the deck. "They don't take dictation
easily -- ah! Pol Rouge wants you"

"Citizen Martin!" The big grenadier took a step toward us.
"If this is as you say, then we have acted innocently. But
how do we know? Perhaps, as this seaman says, you are the
rogue and Citizen Rabaut the honest man. After all, he is
the commissioner, you are only his assistant!  This is a
matter to be talked over in due form --"

"Shut your mouth," I ordered abruptly.  "This is a matter in
which you take orders from me, or else a bullet.  Stand
back."

He glared at me, and over his shoulder, Pol Noir. They had
cooked up some fine scheme, these two ruffians, yet my
entire readiness to press trigger was disconcerting and held
them hesitant. At this moment too came intervention from
another source, as a shout rang out from the forward deck.

The two men there were coming aft, dragging along the planks
one of the leather sacks.  The others surrounded them, and
knives flashed In an instant the leather was ripped apart.
From the rent sack fell out some of Rabaut's choicest
pickings -  several gold chalices, a magnificent gem-studded
ciborium, and among other objects the wondrous pastoral
cross of ancient silver-work.

Now fell a long hush all up and down the deck.  Men crossed
themselves and stared wide-eyed at the unbelieveable
plunder, yet said no word; superstition was deeply rooted in
these seamen and they were frightened by what they beheld.
Then, abruptly, one glanced up and around, then others.

It was not mere fancy that a deeper and more terrible hush
had descended upon the sea.  The breeze was gone flat away,
and the clouds had rolled up across the sun, though the heat
of the morning was not lessened.  In this stillness, the
brown canvas flapped and tugged a little, then hung
listless.  Unexpectedly a seaman's voice added a touch of
awe to the silence, ringing loudly.

"Punishment!  The curse of sacrilege is upon us all!"

As though stung by these words, the skipper seized his red
cap and flung it to the deck, in an access of passionate
dismay.

"Dogs of destroyers, all of you!" he screamed out furiously.
"One as bad as another  - all you Parisians are alike,
destroyers of churches and murderers of priests! All of you
Blues are guilty wretches --"

There, in a flash, his words showed me where I had missed
the great point of appeal, in not stating instantly who we
were.  He and the others thought us no better than Rabaut,
when the mere name of de Rohan might have effected wonders.
Fool that I was! However, it was not too late. I realized
now what card to play, and saw the whole game won by playing
it.  Then, as I opened my lips to speak, came a low groan
from behind me.

I glanced around, to see de Rohan staggering. Perhaps his
efforts had disarranged the bandage, perhaps it was a mere
sudden swirl of weakness.  Deathly pale, he reeled and
caught at the rail; the pistols escaped from his hands to
fall clattering on the deck, not exploding. He drooped
forward, and Marie caught him in her arms.

"At them!"

De Rohan's fall was the signal -- with one short, fierce
yell, they were in upon me. The two grenadiers were
foremost, the seamen followed with a burst of imprecations.
De Rohan struggled to lift himself.

"I am Louis de R6han!" he cried faintly. "This is my sister
--"
Too late! The name reached some of them, but failed to check
the rush, and his words were drowned in the roar of my
pistol.

My first bullet took Pol Rouge fair between the eyes.  His
body crashed forward and struck me across the legs, sweeping
my feet from under me. The shock caused my second bullet to
miss Pol Noir, but took life from the skipper, whirled him
around, dropped him.  Then Pol Noir was on top of me,
snarling, a furious beast.

We went rolling across the deck, while all around us
volleyed up a medley of shouts and oaths and wild words.
Half the seamen were at me, the others trying to haul them
off, while Marie could only cower against the rail and
support her senseless brother. Next moment I beat Pol Noir
from my throat, wrenched clear of his clutching hands, and
gained my feet.  Using the heavy pistol as a club, I swung
as he came for me, and swung again. The two blows brained
him, left him in a huddled heap.

"Stop this madness!"  I struck another man down, leaped
clear, tried  to regain what I had lost.  "I am an American
 - here are two of your own de Rohans, Bretons like you --"

A belaying-pin, flung from behind, smashed me across the
back of the head. I swayed dizzily, staggering under the
blow. Instantly two of them were upon me, had me by the
throat, were throttling me against the rail. Across the
blackened sky ripped a flash of lightning, and in the wild
glare of it I glimpsed a terrible thing.

From the companionway was emerging the figure of Rabaut,
dragging himself slowly and painfully, still nearly numb --
somehow he had rid himself of bonds and gag, perhaps by
means of his little spring knife forgotten on the cabin
floor.  Sight of him was paralyzing.  I saw Marie pick up
one of her  brother's  fallen pistols and pull trigger
point-blank at Rabaut -  it missed fire, the priming gone.

Then Rabaut's voice reached me faintly, and nothing else.
The two seamen rammed my skull into the bulwark and I was
knocked senseless. And so we lost the game, almost at the
moment of success.






                         CHAPTER XV


         NOT EVEN SAINT MICHAEL COULD KILL THE DEVIL

As the voice of Rabaut had been my last memory, so it was my
first recognition upon wakening.

Probably I had been unconscious no great length of time -
ten minutes at the outside -- for when I opened my eyes, my
head was still ringing with the two cracks I had received,
and the scene was little changed. The ship was still hanging
listlessly in the breathless heat and growing darkness,
while the sea moved in a long, slow swell that rocked spars
and canvas against the blackening sky.

I was bound hand and foot and laid against the starboard
rail.  Pol Rouge and his brother were both dead, and the
Malouin skipper was coughing away his life near the wheel.
Half across the deck from me, by the foot of the after mast,
sat Marie.  In her lap she held the head of her brother, and
was leaning over working at his bandages.  He, poor fellow,
was still unconscious  Near them, fully master of the
situation, stood Rabaut.

He had just finished some sort of harangue to the seamen.
Whatever he said, the crafty scoundrel had swung events to
suit his own purposes -- the Malouins, flung into
consternation by the death of their master, accepted
Rabaut's dominance without protest. He must have rattled off
some most remarkable story, for Marie was glancing up at him
wide-eyed as though herself wondering at his tale. Her face
startled me, it was so thin-drawn, so set in desperate
lines, so past all hope.

Rabaut turned to me and met my eyes. He was rubbing away at
his wrists, his hair was matted and his cheek blackened with
his own dried blood, and yet in this moment he seemed
perfectly himself -- bitterly cruel of eye, with his same
cynical and debonair manner. He was about to speak, when a
thunderbolt split heaven and sea asunder with deafening
crepitation, blinding us all momentarily. The very ship
beneath us quivered and rocked to that electric blast.

When I could see him again, Rabaut was feeling for his
snuffbox.

"Decidedly a storm is at hand -- eh ?" he observed calmly.
"Well, Citizen Martin, you have changed your mind about
hanging me, perhaps? You'll very soon be stretching a rope
yourself  - at the present moment, I've more important
business on hand. You men there! Tie up that bag of gold and
chuck it below, and then make the hatches fast -- make
everything fast! Get this canvas down, you fools!  Do you
want to be sunk like a shot when the storm breaks on us?
Move, blast you!"

Always audacious, spendthrift of his personality, he lashed
them with bitter oaths and sharp orders, and the men obeyed
him without protest. Some fell to work about the hatch up
forward, after the gold had been bundled together and thrown
below, and others went at the sails.

Rabaut stamped forward among them, taking very efficient
charge of things -- he was all virile energy, in decided
contrast with the seamen. Perhaps the heavy, oppressive
atmosphere had affected them, for they appeared only half
alive, fearful, expectant of they knew not what, and yielded
dumbly.    Rabaut  seemed  to  have  a  good  deal  of
ship-knowledge, and had taken hold at an opportune moment.
His luck, obviously, held good.

It was not all luck, however. I lay silent, feeling words
needless and futile; I was robbed of leadership, of triumph,
of everything, by this man. Sight of his bleeding wrists, as
he came back toward the stern, showed my conjecture as to
his escape had been correct. If luck helped him, it was
because he helped himself first.

"So we still head for America together -- eh?"  He halted
before Marie, and surveyed her with his thin grimace of a
smile.  "And shall I hang this brother of yours at the same
time honest Citizen Martin swings? Speak quickly!  Bid me
for his life, if you want it -- what price, eh?  When the
canvas is down, the corpses go up!"

Marie made no answer, but stared up as though she had not
heard the words, and Rabaut turned away with a shrug.

How long the storm would hold off was a question, but the
Malouins had wakened to their peril and were at work with a
will getting in the canvas.  One among them was undoubtedly
the mate of the lugger, for his authority over the others
appeared unquestioned.

The heavens were by this time solidly overcast with high
black clouds, and a breeze was coming up from the south-
east, though still a very slight breath of air. Lightning
zigzagged across the horizon, and whether or not we were in
the storm center, everything was motionless and ominously
quiet, heavy with suspense. Only a rag or two of sail left
forward, the lugger still swayed to the slow, even swell.

Rabaut had picked up the two pistols dropped by de Rohan and
Marie.  From his pocket he now produced a very handsome
little silver flask, and
primed the weapons. He laid them on a water-butt lashed to
the rail and turned as three of the men approached him --
the mate leading them.

"What's the meaning of all this, citizen?" demanded the mate
abruptly, coming face to face with Rabaut and wearing an air
of determination. "If this gold of yours is stolen from the
sacred Mont, we want to know about it."

Without a word, Rabaut calmly reached over to the water-
butt, took up one of the pistols with a negligent air -- and
shot the man through the head.

A cry of horror burst from Marie.  However, with a sense of
detachment, I could not deny a certain admiration for
Rabaut.  This man knew exactly what to do and say, did it
and said it, all swiftly and without an instant's
hesitation.  It shamed me bitterly, when compared with the
bungling way I had handled things this morning.

"This way, citizen seamen!" he called, his penetrating voice
reaching all of the men alow and aloft.  Most of them were
already coming on the run. The second pistol in hand, Rabaut
faced them coolly.  "Question me, and you die. Obey my
orders, and you live. None other can save you, now! Think
twice about it -- eh?"

His indomitable coolness, the stark courage gleaming in
those piercing eyes of his, the insolent dominance of his
manner, drove home the terrific truth of all he said -- as
did the still twitching body at his feet  The men halted,
crossed themselves, stared, yielded to him in terrified
silence.

"Go make ready a line," and Rabaut jerked the long pistol
toward two of them.  "We'll hang the fool who has caused all
this trouble."

The two men obeyed. Rabaut uncocked his pistol, ordered the
other men to remove the bodies, and turned to Marie.

"Well, mademioselle, it's time to have an answer.  Shall I
spare your brother or not -- eh? What do you bid?"

"Do as you like, you traitor," she said, and lowered de
Rohan's head to the deck. Then she stood up and faced
Rabaut. "Do you think I would stoop to beg so low a creature
as you for anything?"

The quiet scorn of her manner drew a grimace to his
features.

"You'll beg soon enough," he said ominously, and motioned a
pair of the men who were about lifting Redcap's body.  "Here
you! Come and hold her."

The men turned and came forward, though uneasily enough.
Marie flashed one look that halted them, and her voice
leaped out.

"Lay hands on a de Rohan -- you men of Bretagne?"

"Eh?" One of the men scratched his head, staring. "Is this
true, eh? The de Rohans are princes and good Christians -- "

"You might better obey them," said the girl, "than the
orders of this man who plunders churches and holy places!"

They shrank a little, but Rabaut laughed.

"Come, come,  mademoiselle!" he exclaimed lightly.  "Don't
force matters to extremes, I beg you! As a matter of fact,
I'm tempted to spare our good Louis, since I may have need
of him. He's a much better seaman than I, and to reach
America --"

"You'll never reach America!" cried out the girl. "Never!"

So strong was her voice, so confident her manner, even
Rabaut gave her a swift, keenly startled look, and all the
men stared. She jerked at her neck and drew forth the same
little rosary of wood which once had so nearly exposed
Kerguelec. Others of the men came around, drawn by the
scene.

"What do you mean?" demanded Rabaut, frowning at her.

"Blasphemer!" she cried. "You dream of reaching America with
the sacred treasure stolen from Mont St Michel -- with blood
of murdered men on your hands -- fool that you are!  Do you
imagine there is no such thing as the vengeance of heaven?
The very gold you have stolen from the sacred altars will
bring its own punishment."

I think Rabaut believed her suddenly gone out of her head.
So, to tell the truth, did I, for in all frankness I did not
repose any too great confidence in the idea of direct
punishment from heaven for sacrilege or anything else.  In
my experience the vengeance of heaven works through slow
natural causes -- any direct interposition is too petty a
thing for so vast a force.

Yet, as Marie stood shaking the wooden cross at Rabaut, she
was transfigured with a furious earnestness, and the
passionate conviction of her voice and air was almost
frenzied.  Perhaps it was only the utterance of her own
hopelessness.

"Do you think your violence and treachery can go on for
ever?" she cried. "No! Whose were the lives you have
destroyed -- your own or God's?  Whose is this very gold you
have thieved -- this gold for which you have betrayed
yourself doubly and trebly? It belongs to the Prince of
Heaven, to the archangel Michael himself; it is from him you
have stolen, not from the petty hands of men  Back from him,
you men of Bretagn -  back from this traitor whose whole
existence makes a mock of God and man!"

At these wild words Rabaut himself drew away from the girl,
uneasily. As he backed toward the men, they in turn fell
away from him. All the deep superstition of their nature was
aroused, and among their mutterings I caught repeated the
name of de Rohan. Rabaut caught this also, and it stung him.

"You are raving, girl!" he said in contempt, none too well
assumed.  "What do you prophesy -- eh?  That St. Michael, in
whom you seem so fervently to believe, will descend from
heaven to reclaim this gold of his?"

She stood for a moment regarding him, and I perceived that
the frenetic outburst had exhausted her.  As though broken
by his jeering mockery, she turned suddenly and sank into a
crumpled heap beside her brother.  For a moment her
straining, agonized gaze went to me, and in those eyes I
could read her deep and terrible despair. Then she flung
herself down across de Rohan's body with long, gasping sobs.

"Bah!" Rabaut fumbled out his snuffbox. "Here, two of you!
Get this former assistant commissioner up to the halter --"

A tremendous flare, a rending, deafening bolt interrupted
him -- the lightning must have struck the water close beside
us.  In the darkness following startled oaths of terror went
up from the Malonins. Another flash, this time high across
the sky, showed me Rabaut standing there transfixed,
unopened snuffbox in hand, looking upward. Then the very
heavens opened in blinding fury.

Describe the thing I cannot. One instant was a frightful,
intolerable glare of light, a shock of sound splitting the
ears, a horrible sense of doom beyond human suffrance; the
ship beneath us heaved and splintered. The whole figure of
Rabaut was bathed in a whitish radiance; he toppled forward
and vanished. Everything vanished, lost in a dense
blackness. The bolt had struck us -- or had St. Michael
smitten down Rabaut in this appalling moment?

Slowly grew the darkened daylight once more, as the dazzle
passed away, with a smell of burning. Half stupefied, I
found myself still alive and managed to sit up. Rabaut lay
prostrate on the deck, Marie was scrambling hastily toward
me, the men were running with wild cries. The foremast was
in very mid-air, splintered, in the act of falling. It
crashed down athwart the bows, and the lugger rocked and
swayed like a small boat. Then Marie was at my side,
flinging her arms around me, burying her face against my
breast.

"I'm afraid -- I'm afraid!" she cried out like a child, and
clung to me, shaken with gasping breaths.

"The vengeance of St. Michael!" shrilled up a thin and
panicky scream from one seaman's throat. Other men repeated
it, hurled the words back and forth in stark mad fear.
Somewhere forward showed a flicker of yellow light.  "Afire
-- doomed!" rang out the yell.  "Away from her -- she is
accursed, accursed!"

A frenzy of blind fear had gripped them all. In a moment
these grown men had become worse than frightened children,
blind to everything, impenetrable to all reason. They
clustered about a small boat amidships and got it into the
water.

In vain I shouted at them.  Another levin-bolt ripped into
the sea a quarter-mile away, with splitting crack and
thunderous peal. It drew shrieks of mad terror from the men.
Into the boat they tumbled, careless of provision or water;
a rag of sail flew up, and out scurried the boat to leeward
of us and away on the freshening breeze. So went the poor
fools to their doom.

Up forward, the flicker of flame grew stronger.  We were
afire from the lightning.

"Marie, Marie!" I cried, shaking myself until the white face
of the girl lifted and her eyes came to mine.  "At my waist
-- my knife!  Get it quickly, cut me free!"

A shudder passed through her body, then she seemed to
realize the meaning of my words. Lifting herself, she
searched until she came upon my long fisherman's knife and
drew it out. I groaned despairingly as she fumbled for the
cords about my wrists and hacked vainly at them -- would she
never manage it? Then, abruptly, my arms were free.

Not long enough tied up to have become numbed, I seized the
knife from her hand, cut my feet loose and staggered up.
The wind was increasing, but very gradually, the storm was
still holding afar.

Now and again thunderbolts hurtled into the sea or swept
great gashes through the dark clouds, the peals and
rumblings nearly continuous.

I ran forward, and there came stumbling to a halt in
horrified realization of our actual plight. The whole bows
of the ship were a mass of wreckage, and through this was
spouting flame from the fore-castle hatch -- a sheet of
flame solid enough to show at one glance how helpless I was
to cope with it.

Already it was catching the tarred rigging and canvas
forward, the fallen spars, and spreading like wildfire.  The
bolt must have struck some stored oil or other inflammable
material, perhaps spirits for smuggling. With one sudden
rush, the licking blaze leaped twenty feet in air and
spouted high.

Turning, I came back to Marie, who now stood leaning against
the quarter-rail, her eyes on the flames. I halted before
her with a helpless gesture.

"Your miracle was a trifle too strong for one dose," I
shouted, to reach above the rattle of distant thunder.  "The
men have gone.  We're afire and lost, between the blaze and
the coming storm --"

"There were two boats!" she cried. "The other - "

"Crushed under the fallen mast yonder.  Call down another
miracle, if you can," I added bitterly, "for we'll have full
need of it."

She came a step closer to me, reached out and laid her hand
on my arm. To my startled amazement I found her smiling.
Then her voice came to me, clear and cool.

"Why doubt? Do you think it was not a miracle, indeed?"

I made an impatient gesture.  "If you like.  We're sadly in
need of another --"

The words died on my lips. Marie's mouth fell open, she put
a hand to her throat, her eyes drove past me and widened. I
whirled, startled.

Rabaut was just coming to his feet.




                         CHAPTER XVI


      IF A MIRACLE COULD BE EXPLAINED, IT WOULD BE NONE

Until this instant I had thought Rabaut dead -- had not even
dared to look at the charred and blackened figure.

Now I saw him unhurt, apparently. He moved slowly and came
erect, stood and looked around. In his actions was a
singular wooden stiffness, extremely unnatural. He seemed
dazed, as well he might, and yet something in his manner
held me spellbound, aghast, sent a chill down my back. The
snuffbox was still in his hand, and he sprang the catch of
it and took a pinch of the brown dust, as though completing
the act begun moments before. It was all very mechanical,
strangely done.

"A devilish smell of sulphur in the air," he said, and
looked at the two of us as though we were not there.
Something in his words, in their intonation, in his whole
air, raised the hair on my head with a distinct prickle.
"After all, my dear Michael," he went on, "I think you --
you -- you were a little hasty--"

His voice died away. He staggered, then suddenly collapsed
into a limp heap and lay motionless.  I went to him, lifted
his head -- he was quite dead.  Also he was quite cold, as
though he had been dead for long minutes.

Fear entered into me at this -- fear I could not explain or
put away. I straightened up, caught at the rail and stood
trying to master myself. The feeling was on me that here I
had heard a dead man speak, had seen a dead man move and
act; impossible, incredible as it was, none the less this
was my thought and fear.

I found Marie at my side and turned quickly to her, caught
her hand, and held it for a long moment against my lips. Now
I understood why she had flung herself upon me with her cry
of childish terror -- something of the same terror, though
with less reason, was upon me.  I looked into her eyes and
tried to smile but failed. She read my fear, and her other
hand came out to pat mine softly.

"Look! Look at me! Am I afraid any longer?"  she said. I
found her eyes very cool and darkly serene, and the smile on
her lips was wistful. "Don't laugh at miracles, but look up,
over the rail -  there --"

She turned me about and pointed. For a moment I could see
nothing.  The roar of the flames up forward and the rumbling
of heaven's artillery filled my ears, the spouting red blaze
was blinding to my eyes; then my vision cleared, and I
beheld. Not a quarter-mile distant, speeding upon us out of
the north under reefed canvas, was a ship.

Slowly the realization of it beat in upon me. She had seen
us, was heading for the mounting beacon of flame, and would
be under our stern in a scant few moments.  I remembered now
the rag of sail we had seen off to the north -- how long
ago? Half an hour perhaps, so swiftly had events moved, yet
seemingly hours ago.

With a hoarse shout I broke into life, tore off my coat,
waved it around my head. As though in response, an ensign
was run up. The very sight of it brought a heart-leap in my
throat.

"There's your miracle -- look!" I caught Marie's arm. "My
flag -- an American sloop of war -- she's heading for us--"

"Come, then," said Marie. "Help me."

I turned, found her trying to raise her brother, and bent to
her aid. His eyes opened as we lifted him, and he put out
one hand to the rail, staring around. Marie's eyes went to
me, and she motioned forward, questioningly.

"There's time," she said. "The gold is there -  you can
reach it--"

My bare foot struck against something and I glanced down at
the deck.  Then I stooped and picked up her little wooden
rosary and gave it to her.

"No," I said.  "Let Rabaut keep his gold -  or else the
prior owner? I'll go to America with a greater treasure --"

Marie answered my smile, and the flames forward went roaring
down the stiffening wind.



THE END




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