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Title:      The Marquis of Carabas
Author:     Rafael Sabatini
eBook No.:  0500331.txt
Edition:    1
Language:   English
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Date first posted:          April 2005
Date most recently updated: April 2005

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Title:      The Marquis of Carabas (1940)
Author:     Rafael Sabatini





CONTENTS

BOOK ONE

I.  MASTER-AT-ARMS

II.  MADEMOISELLE DE CHESNIÈRES

III.  THE BROTHERS

IV.  THE HERITAGE

V.  THE ACKNOWLEDGMENT

VI.  MONSIEUR DE PUISAYE

VII.  THE SAFE-CONDUCT

VIII.  THE CLAIM

IX.  THE HOME-COMING

X.  MADAME DE BELLANGER

XI.  LAZARE HOCHE

XII.  DEPARTURE

XIII.  BOISGELIN

XIV.  BOISHARDI

XV.  THE CHOUANS


BOOK TWO

I.  THE RETURN

II.  THE TRUST

III.  THE SECOND JOURNEY

IV.  IN POSSESSION

V.  THE WARNING

VI.  THE ASSAULT

VII.  INFERENCES

VIII.  LA PREVALAYE

IX.  THE RESCUE

X.  THE THANKS


BOOK THREE

I.  D'HERVILLY'S COMMAND

II.  THE RAT-TRAP

III.  DALLIANCE

IV.  MUTINY

V.  GROUCHY'S DIVISION

VI.  BELLANGER IN COMMAND

VII.  THE DUPES

VIII.  THE DISASTER

IX.  THE COURT MARTIAL

X.  THE AVENGER

XI.  MARGOT'S CHILD

XII.  FULFILMENT



BOOK ONE


Chapter One

MASTER-AT-ARMS


There is, you will come to agree, a certain humour to be discovered
in the fact that Monsieur de Morlaix accounted himself free of the
sin by which the angels fell, took 'parva domus magna quies' for
his motto, accounted tranquillity the greatest good, and regarded
as illusory and hollow the worldly prizes for which men sweat and
bleed.

That was before the sight of Mademoiselle de Chesnières came to
disturb his poise.  It was also at a time when, living in a state
of comparative affluence, he could afford such views.  For he
enjoyed an income greater even than that earned by the famous
Angelo Tremamondo, whose show pupil he had been and a part of whose
mantle had descended to him.  And he enjoyed, too, the benevolent
aid of Madam Fortune.  She had spared him the years of arduous toil
by which men usually climb to their ultimate eminence.  She had
lifted him at the very outset to the summit.

The manner of his becoming thus, per saltum, London's most famous
and fashionable master-at-arms was demonstrably of her contriving.

This Quentin de Morlaix, whose peculiar mental equipment and steady
nerves enhanced the natural aptitude of his spare, vigorous body
for the exercise of arms, was encouraged by Angelo--too well
established and prosperous to be apprehensive of competition--to
adopt swordsmanship as a profession, so as to supplement the very
meagre income of his mother.

But there were other masters-at-arms in London who could not view a
fresh arrival in their ranks with the same complacency; and one of
these, the well-known Rédas, carried resentment so far as to
publish a letter in The Morning Chronicle in which he held up to
cruellest ridicule the youthful newcomer.

It was the more unpardonable because Rédas himself was in
flourishing circumstances, and next to Henry Angelo's, his school
was the best attended in Town.  His criticisms were accounted of
weight; and crushed by them, it might well have followed that
Morlaix would have accepted the dismissal from the ranks of fencing-
masters which that abominable letter was calculated to pronounce.
Fortunately, the generous-hearted Angelo was at hand to inspire
confidence and dictate a course of action.

"You will answer him, Quentin.  You will not waste words.  You will
accept his description of you as a bungling dilettante, and you
will inform him that this being so he will the more easily defeat
you in the match for a hundred guineas to which you have the honour
to invite him."

Quentin smiled his regrets.  "It would be amusing so to answer him
if I disposed of a hundred guineas and dared to risk them."

"You misunderstand me.  That is the sum for which I will back you
against better men than Rédas."

"It's a flattering confidence.  But if I should lose your money?"

"You won't have done yourself justice.  I know your strength, and I
know Rédas', and I am content."

So the challenging letter was sent, and its appearance in The
Morning Chronicle produced a mild sensation.  It was impossible for
Rédas to refuse the trial of skill.  He was caught in the trap of
his own malice.  But he was so little aware of it that his
acceptance was couched in terms of scornful insult and garnished
with assertions of the phlebotomy he would perform upon his rash
challenger if his profession did not preclude a meeting with
unbuttoned foils.

"You will reply to this bombast," said Angelo again, "that since he
desires phlebotomy, you will gratify him by using the pointe
d'arrêt.  And you will add the condition that the match shall
consist of a single assault for the best of six hits."  The old
master answered Morlaix's look of astonishment by laying a finger
to his nose.  "I know what I'm doing, child."

After his jactancy Rédas could not refuse either condition without
rendering himself ridiculous, and so the matter was settled.

The courtly old Angelo, acting for Quentin, made the necessary
arrangements, and the meeting took place in Rédas' own academy in
the presence of his pupils, their friends, and some others drawn by
the correspondence, making up an attendance a couple of hundred
strong.  The thrifty Rédas had been inspired to charge a half-
guinea a head for admission, so that whatever happened his stake
would be fully covered.

The fashionable crowd came with manifest intent to heap ridicule
upon the presumptuous young fool who dared to measure himself
against so redoubtable a master, and to embitter with their
laughter the humiliation which they perceived in store for him.
There was laughter and there were some audible jeers to greet his
appearance, in contrast with the applause that had hailed the
entrance of the formidable Rédas.

Added to the memory of the taunts in his opponent's published
letters, this insultingly expressed partisanship filled Quentin de
Morlaix with anger.  But it was of a cold and steadying kind, which
determined him in the scrupulous observance of the plan that Angelo
had laid down for him, the plan at the root of the insistence upon
a single assault without respite until the best of the six hits had
been delivered.

Old Angelo, still youthful of figure at sixty and a model of grace
and elegance in an apricot velvet coat above black satin breeches,
acted as his pupil's second, and conducted Quentin to the middle of
the fencing floor, where Rédas and his second waited.

The audience, composed mainly of men of fashion, included also a
few ladies and some early French émigrés; for this happened in the
year 1791, before the heavy exodus from France.  These spectators
were ranged along the sides and at the ends of the long barn-like
room.  It was a morning of early spring, and the light, from four
windows placed high in the northern wall, was as excellent as could
be desired.

As the two swordsmen faced each other, stripped to the waist in
accordance with the conditions Quentin had made, the general
chatter rippled into silence.

The advantages of wind and limb were certainly with Morlaix.  Lean
and long, his naked torso, gleaming white above his black satin
smalls, seemed muscled in whipcord.  Nevertheless Rédas, for all
that at forty-four he was almost twice the age of his opponent,
looked formidable: a compact, swarthy, hairy man of obvious power
and vigour.  It was a contrast of mastiff with greyhound.  Rédas
had discarded his wig for a black silk scarf in which his cropped
head was swathed.  Morlaix wore his own hair, dark chestnut in
colour and luxuriant, tightly queued.

Formally the seconds examined the adjustments of the arresting
point with which each foil had been fitted.  It consisted of a
diminutive trident, strapped over the button, each of its sharp
steel points being a half-inch long.

Satisfied, they placed their men in position.  The blades were
crossed, and for a moment held lightly by Angelo at the point of
contact.  Then he gave the word and stood clear.

"Allez, messieurs!"

The released blades slithered and tinkled lightly one against the
other.  The engagement was on.

Rédas, determined upon making an end so speedy as to mark the
contemptible inferiority of the rash upstart who ventured to oppose
him, attacked with a dash and vigour that seemed irresistible.
That it should be resisted at all sowed in the onlookers a surprise
that grew steadily as the resistance was protracted.  Soon the
reason for it began to appear.  Morlaix, as cool and easy as he was
determined, ventured no counters, not so much as a riposte that
might give his adversary an opening, but contented himself with
standing on the defensive, concentrating his play in the deflection
of every thrust and lunge whirled against him in fiercely swift
succession.  Moreover, by playing close, with his elbow well
flexed, using only his forearm and the forte of his blade, he met,
with the minimum exertion of strength, an onslaught that was
recklessly prodigal of energy.

The counsels of Angelo had determined these tactics, calculated to
avenge as signally as Morlaix's powers might permit the insults of
which he had been the butt.  The aim was not merely to defeat
Rédas, but to make that defeat so utter as to leave him crushed
under a recoil of the ridicule which he had used so lavishly.
Therefore, whilst taking no risks, Morlaix made use of his every
natural advantage, the chief of which were his youth and greater
staying power.  These he would carefully conserve whilst Rédas
spent himself in the fierce persistent attack which had been
foreseen.  Morlaix calculated also that these tactics and his
opponent's impotence to defeat them and to draw him into counter-
attacking, would presently act upon Rédas' temper, driving him to
increase the fury of his onslaught and thus hasten that
breathlessness and exhaustion for which Morlaix was content
maliciously to wait.

It came as he had calculated.

At first Rédas, whilst fencing with unsparing vigour, had yet
preserved the academic correctness to be expected in a maîtres
d'armes.  But with the growth of his irritation before that
impenetrable defence, which nothing could lure even momentarily
into an offensive, he descended to tricks of swashbuckling,
accompanying feintes by exclamations and foot-stampings intended to
deceive the opponent into mistaking a false attack for a real one.
When by such devices he had merely succeeded in the further waste
of an energy of which he had now none to spare, he fell back and
paused so as to give expression to his anger.

"What's this?  Morbleu!  Do we fight, or do we play at fighting?"

Yet even as he spoke he was conscious that this verbal attempt to
save his face did him no better service than his fencing.  Even if
he should still prevail in the end--and that, at least, he had not
yet come to doubt--his could no longer be that masterly
overwhelming victory upon which he had counted.  Too long already
had his crafty opponent withstood him, and in the utter silence
that had now settled upon the ranks of the spectators he perceived
an astonishment that humiliated him.

Worse than this, there were actually one or two who laughed as if
in approval of Quentin's answer to his foolish question.

"It is what I was asking myself, cher maître.  Do not, I beg you,
be reluctant to make good your boasts."

Rédas said no more.  But even through the meshes of his mask the
baleful glare of his eyes could be discerned.  Enraged by the
taunt, he renewed the attack, still with the same unsparing vigour.
But it did not last.  He began to pay for the hot pace he had made
in his rash confidence that the engagement would be a short one.
He began to understand, and enraged the more because he understood,
the crafty motive underlying the condition that the combat should
be limited to a single assault.  His breathing began to trouble
him; his muscles began to lose resilience.  Perceiving this in the
slackening speed and loss of precision, Morlaix tested him by a
sudden riposte, which he was barely in time to parry.  He longed
desperately for that pause, be it of but a few seconds, which the
conditions denied him.

He fell back in an endeavour to try to steal it.  But Morlaix was
swift to follow him.  And now Rédas, half-winded, weary and
dispirited, found himself giving ground before an attack pressed by
an opponent who was still comparatively fresh.  It broke upon him
in answer to an almost despairing lunge in which the master had
extended himself so fully and with such disregard of academic rules
that he employed his left hand to support him on the ground.  A
counter-parry swept his blade clear, and a lightning riposte
planted the prongs of the arresting point high upon his breast.

A murmur rippled through the assembly as he recovered, with the
blood trickling from that superficial wound.  He fell back beyond
his opponent's reach in another desperate hope of a respite for his
labouring lungs.

Actually Morlaix allowed it him, what time he mocked him.

"I will not further tax your patience, cher maître.  Now guard
yourself."

He went in with a feinte in the low lines, whence he whirled his
point into carte as he lunged, and planted the trident over the
master's heart.

"Two!" he counted as he recovered.  "And now, in tierce, thus, the
third."  Again the points tore the master's flesh.  But crueller
far the words that tore his soul.  "Pah!  They told me you were a
fencing-master, and you're but a tirailleur de régiment.  It's time
to make an end.  Where will you have it?  In carte again, shall we
say?"

Once more Morlaix thrust low, and as Rédas, grown sluggish, moved
his blade to the parry, the point flashed in over his guard.
"Thus!"

And there, as the fourth hit went home, so violently that Quentin's
foil was bent into an arc, the seconds intervened.  The master's
ignominious defeat was complete, and from the spectators who had
come to mock him Morlaix received the ovation earned by his
concluding supreme display of mastery.

Rédas plucked the mask from a face that was grey.  He stood forth
railing and raging whilst the blood streamed from his labouring
chest.  "Ah, ça!  You applaud him, do you?  Quelle lâcheté!  You do
not perceive how base were his methods."  Passion strangled him.
"That was not to fight, that.  He has the younger heart and lungs.
He used the advantage of those.  You saw that he did not dare
attack until I was tired.  If this coward had played fair--crédieu!--
you would have seen a different end."

"And so we should," said Angelo, intervening, "if you had fought
with your tongue, Rédas, or with your pen.  Those are the weapons
of which you are really master.  In swordsmanship Monsieur de
Morlaix has shown that he can give you lessons."

So much was this the common opinion, that most of those who had
come to jeer at Morlaix were the first to transfer themselves to
his school, whilst such was the stir made in Town by the affair, so
swiftly and widely did it spread the fame of the new fencing-
master, that he found his academy overcrowded almost from the hour
of its establishment.

This instant, fortuitous flow of prosperity compelled him to engage
assistants, justified his removal to handsome premises in Bruton
Street, and enabled him to bring the ease of affluence into the
closing years of his mother's life.

In the four years that were sped since its foundation the Académie
Morlaix, under royal patronage, had become fashionable not only as
a fencing-school, but as a resort.  The long, austerely bare salle
d'armes on the ground floor, the gallery above it, the elegant
adjacent rooms, and in fine weather even the little garden, where
Morlaix cultivated his roses, came to be frequented by other than
fencers.  The continuing and ever-increasing flow of French
emigrants to London in those days was largely responsible for
converting the academy into a fashionable meeting-place.  It may
have begun in an assumption that Monsieur de Morlaix was, himself,
one of those fugitives from the Revolution who were compelled to
apply such aptitudes as they possessed to the earning of a
livelihood.  By the time this misapprehension had been corrected
the character of the fencing-school had been established as an
agreeable rendezvous for émigrés, and one in which these exiled
nobles were under no necessity of spending any of the money that
was so painfully scarce with them.

Morlaix encouraged them by the affability that was natural to his
easy-going temperament.  Reared from infancy in England, and an
Englishman in tastes and outlook, yet his French blood lent him a
natural warmth of heart for his compatriots.  He made them welcome
to his well-appointed establishment, encouraged them to frequent
it, and out of his prosperity--for his school was reputed to earn
upwards of three thousand pounds a year, which was affluence indeed
in the days of King George III--he dispensed a liberal hospitality,
and eased the financial embarrassment of many an émigré in those
days that were so dark and grim for the French noblesse.



Chapter II

MADEMOISELLE DE CHESNIÈRES


It is, as I have indicated, from his meeting with Mademoiselle de
Chesnières that he dates the awakening of ambition in him; that is
to say, of discontent with a lot which hitherto had fully satisfied
him and of desire to fill in life a loftier station.

That historic event is placed some four years after the founding of
his academy.  Its scene was the mansion of the Duc de Lionne in
Berkeley Square.  The young Duke having married soon after his
emigration the heiress of one of those upstart nawabs who had
enriched themselves with the plunder of the Indies, had been so far
removed by this matrimonial opportunism from the indigence
afflicting so many of his noble compatriots that he was enabled to
live in a splendour even surpassing that of which the Revolution
had deprived him in France.

His house, and to a limited extent his purse, were at all times
open to his less-fortunate fellow-exiles of birth, and once a week
his good-natured Duchess held a salon for their reception and
entertainment, where music, dancing, charades, conversation, and--
most welcome of all to many of those half-famished aristocrats--
refreshments were to be enjoyed.

Morlaix owed his invitation to the fact that the Duke, with
ambitions to excel as a swordsman, was of an assiduous attendance
at the Bruton Street academy round the corner.  For the rest it
came to him chiefly because the Duke had fallen into the common
habit of regarding Morlaix as a fellow-émigré.

In shimmering black and silver, with silver clocks to his
stockings, paste buckles to his red-heeled shoes and a dusting of
powder on his unclubbed, severely queued hair, his moderately tall,
well-knit figure, of that easy deportment which constant fencing
brings, was of the few that took the eye in an assembly that in the
main was shabby-genteel.

To many of the men he was already known, for many of them were of
those who attended his academy, a few to fence, and more merely to
lounge in his antechamber.  By some of these he was presented to
others: to Madame de Genlis, who made a bare living by painting
indifferently little landscapes on the lids of fancy boxes; to
the Countesses de Sisseral and de Lastic, who conducted an
establishment of modes charitably set up for them by the
Marchioness of Buckingham; to the Marquise des Réaux, who earned
what she could by the confection of artificial flowers; to the
Comte de Chaumont, who was trading in porcelains; to the Chevalier
de Payen, who was prospering as a dancing-master; to the Duchesse
de Ville-joyeuse, who taught French and music, being imperfectly
acquainted with either; and there was the learned, courtly Gautier
de Brécy, who had been rescued from starvation to catalogue the
library of a Mr. Simmons.  Thus were these great ones of the earth,
these lilies of the field, brought humbly to toil and spin for bare
existence.  None of it was toil of an exalted order.  Yet that
there were limits imposed by birth to the depths to which one might
descend in the struggle against hunger, Morlaix received that night
an illustration.

He found himself caught up in a group of men that had clustered
about the Vicomte du Pont de Bellanger.  It included the corpulent
Comte de Narbonne, the witty Montlosier, the Duc de La Châtre, and
some émigré officers who subsisted on an allowance of a shilling or
two a day from the British Government.  These Bellanger was
entertaining in his rich, sonorous voice with the scandalous case
of Aimé de La Vauvraye, on whom sentence had that day been passed.
Bellanger's manner, pompously histrionic and rich in gesture, went
admirably with his voice and inflated diction.  A tall man, of a
certain studied grace, with hair of a luxuriant and lustrous black,
eyes large, dark and liquid, and lips full and sensuous, he carried
that too-handsome head at an angle that compelled him to look down
his shapely nose upon the world.  Arrested and sentenced to death
by the Revolutionary Tribunal of St. Malo, he had saved his head by
a sensational escape, which made him famous in London émigré
society, and procured him in particular the admiration of the
ladies, of which, having left a wife in France, he accounted it due
to himself to miss no advantage.

To-night he was more than ordinarily swollen with importance by the
part he had played in the case of M. de La Vauvraye.  That
unfortunate gentleman, a Knight of St. Louis, had so far forgotten
what was due to the order of which he had the honour to be a
member, as to have taken service as valet to a Mr. Thornton, a
wealthy merchant of the city of London.  It was a scandal, said M.
de Bellanger, which could not possibly be overlooked.  The Vicomte
and three general officers had constituted themselves into a
chapter of the order.  They had that morning attended as a
preliminary a Mass of the Holy Ghost, whereafter they had sat in
judgment upon the unfortunate man.

"We found," Bellanger declaimed, "and you will say, messieurs, that
we were right to find, that the state of servitude with which this
unhappy man did not blush to confess that he had stained himself,
left us no choice but to condemn him.  Our sentence was that he
surrender his cross, and that he never again assume any of the
distinctive marks of the Royal and Military Order of St. Louis, or
the title or quality of a knight of that order.  And we are
publishing our sentence in the English news-sheets, so that England
may be made aware of what is due to so exalted an order."

"What," asked one of the listeners, "was La Vauvraye's defence?"

Bellanger took snuff delicately from a hand that first had been
outflung.  "The unhappy creature had none.  He pleaded weakly that
he accepted the only alternative to charity or starvation."

"And so far forgot himself as to prefer dishonour," said an
officer.

Narbonne fetched a sigh from his great bulk.  "The sentence was
harsh, but in the circumstances inevitable."

"Inevitable, indeed," agreed another, whilst yet another added:
"You had no choice but to expel him from the order."

Bellanger received these approvals as tributes to his judgment.
But meeting the fencing-master's eyes, something in their grey
depths offended his self-satisfaction.

"Monsieur de Morlaix is perhaps of another mind?"

"I confess it," Morlaix spoke lightly.  "The gentleman appears to
have been moved by too scrupulous a sense of honour."

Bellanger's brows went up.  His full eyes stared forbiddingly.

"Really, sir!  Really!  I think that would be difficult to
explain."

"Oh, no.  Not difficult.  He might have borrowed money, knowing
that he could not repay it; or he might have practised several of
the confidence tricks in vogue and rendered easy to the possessor
of a cross of St. Louis."

"Would you dare, sir," wondered the Duc de La Châtre, "to suggest
that any Knight of St. Louis could have recourse to such shifts?"

"It is not a suggestion, Monsieur le Duc.  It is an affirmation.
And made with authority.  I have been a victim.  Oh, but let me
assure you, a conscious and willing victim."

He possessed a voice that was clear and pleasantly modulated, and
although he kept it level, there was a ring in it that penetrated
farther than he was aware and produced now in his neighbourhood a
silence of which he was unconscious.

"Of Monsieur de La Vauvraye," he continued, "let me tell you
something more.  He borrowed a guinea from me a month ago.  He is
by no means the only Knight of St. Louis who has borrowed my
guineas.  But he is the only one who has ever repaid me.  That was
a week ago, and I must suppose that he earned that guinea as a
valet.  If you have debts, messieurs, it seems to me that no
servitude that enables you to repay them can be accounted
dishonouring."

He passed on, leaving them agape, and it was in that moment, whilst
behind him Bellanger was ejaculating horror and amazement, that he
found himself face to face with Mademoiselle de Chesnières.

She was moderately tall and of a virginal slenderness not to be
dissembled by her panniers of flowered rose silk of a fashion that
was now expiring.  Her hair, of palest gold, was piled high above a
short oval face lighted by eyes of vivid blue that were eager and
alert.  Those eyes met his fully and frankly, and sparkled with the
half-smile, at once friendly and imperious, that was breaking on
the delicate parted lips.  The smile, which seemed to be of
welcome, startled him until intuition told him that it was of
approval.  She had overheard him, and he felicitated himself upon
the chance use of words which had commended him in advance.  From
which you will gather that already, at a glance, as it were, he
discovered the need to be commended to her.

Delight and something akin to panic came to him altogether in the
discovery that she was speaking to him in a soft, level, cultured
voice that went well with her imperious air.  That she ignored the
fact that he was a stranger, which in another might have been
accounted boldness, seemed in her the result of a breeding so sure
of itself as to trust implicitly to the boundaries in which it
hedged her.

"You are brave, Monsieur," was all she said.

The ease with which he answered her surprised him.  "Brave?  I hope
so.  But in what do I proclaim it?"

"It was brave in such company as that to have broken a lance for
the unfortunate Monsieur de La Vauvraye."

"A friend of yours, perhaps?"

"I have not even his acquaintance.  But I should be proud to count
so honest a gentleman among my friends.  You perceive how fully I
agree with you, and why I take satisfaction in your courage."

"Alas!  I must undeceive you there.  Perhaps I but abuse the
disabilities under which my profession places me."

Her eyes widened.  "You have not the air of an abbé."

"I am not one.  Nevertheless I am just as debarred from sending a
challenge, and not likely to receive one."

"But who are you then?"

This may well have been the moment in which dissatisfaction with
his lot awoke in him.  It would have been magnificently gratifying
to announce himself as a person of exalted rank to this little lady
with the airs of a princess, to have answered her:  "I am the Duc
de Morlaix, peer of France," instead of answering, as truth
compelled him, simply and dryly:  "Morlaix, maître d'armes," to
which he added with a bow, "Serviteur."

It produced in her no such change as he dreaded.  She was smiling
again.  "Now that I come to look at you more closely, you have the
air of one.  It makes you even braver.  For it was your moral
courage that I admired."

To his chagrin they were interrupted by an untidily made woman of
middle age, large and loose of body and lean of limb.  An enormous
head-dress, powdered and festooned, towered above a countenance
that once may have been pretty, but must always have been foolish.
Now, with its pale eyes and lipless, simpering mouth, it was merely
mean.  A valuable string of pearls adorned a neck in scraggy
contrast with the opulent breast from which it sprang.  Diamonds
blazing on a corsage of royal blue proclaimed her among the few
Frenchwomen who had not yet been driven to take advantage of the
kindly willingness of Messrs. Pope & Co., of Old Burlington Street,
to acquire for cash--as advertised in The Morning Chronicle--the
jewels of French emigrants.

"You have found a friend, Germaine."  He was not sure whether there
was irony in the acid voice, but quite sure of the disapproval in
her glance.

"A kinsman, I think," the little lady startled him by answering.
"This is Monsieur Morlaix."

"Morlaix?  Morlaix of what?" the elder woman asked.

"Morlaix of nothing, of nowhere, Madame.  Just Morlaix.  Quentin de
Morlaix."

"I seem to have heard of a Quentin in the House of Morlaix.  But if
you are not a Morlaix de Chesnières I am probably mistaken."  She
announced herself with conscious pride:  "I am Madame de Chesnières
de Chesnes, and this is my niece, Mademoiselle de Chesnières.  We
find life almost insupportable in this dreary land, and we put our
hopes in such men as you to restore us soon to our beloved France."

"Such men as I, Madame?"

"Assuredly.  You will be joining one of the regiments that are
being formed for the enterprise of M. de Puisaye."

Bellanger, arm-in-arm with Narbonne, came to intrude upon them.
"Did I hear the odious name of Puisaye?  The man's astounding
impudence disgusts me."

Mademoiselle looked up at him.  Her eyes were cold.  "At least he
is impudent to some purpose.  He succeeds with Mr. Pitt where more
self-sufficient gentlemen have failed."

Bellanger's indulgent laugh deflected the rebuke.  "That merely
condemns the discernment of Mr. Pitt.  Notorious dullards, these
English.  Their wits are saturated by their fogs."

"We enjoy their hospitality, M. le Vicomte.  You should remember
it."

He was unabashed.  "I do.  And count it not the least of our
misfortunes.  We live here without sun, without fruit, without wine
that a man may drink.  It is of a piece with the rest that the
apathy of the British Government towards our cause should have been
conquered by this M. de Puisaye, an upstart, a constitutionalist,
an impure."

"Yet the Princes, M. le Vicomte, in their despair must clutch at
straws."

"That is well said, pardi!" swore Narbonne.  "In Puisaye they
clutch at straw, indeed: at a man of straw."  He laughed
explosively at his own wit, and M. de Bellanger condescended to be
amused.

"Admirable, my dear Count.  Yet Monsieur de Morlaix does not even
smile."

"Faith no," said Quentin.  "I confess to a failing.  I can never
perceive wit that has no roots in reason.  We cannot hope to change
a substance by changing the name of it."

"I find you obscure, Monsieur Morlaix."

"Let me help you.  It cannot be witty to say that my sword is made
of straw when it remains of steel."

"And the application of that, if you please?"

"Why, that Monsieur de Puisaye being a man of steel, does not
become of straw from being called so."

The cast with which the eyes of Monsieur de Narbonne were afflicted
gave him now a sinister appearance.  Bellanger breathed hard.

"A friend of yours, this notorious Count Joseph, I suppose."

"I have never so much as seen him.  But I have heard what he is
doing, and I conceive that every gentleman in exile should be
grateful."

"If you were better informed upon the views that become a
gentleman, Monsieur de Morlaix," said Bellanger with his drawling
insolence, "you might hold a different opinion."

"Faith, yes," Narbonne agreed.  "A fencing academy is hardly a
school of honour."

"If it were, Messieurs," said Mademoiselle sweetly, "I think that
you might both attend it with profit."

Narbonne gasped.  But Bellanger carried it off with his superior
laugh.  "Touché, pardi!  Touché!"  He dragged Narbonne away.

"You are pert, Germaine," her aunt's pursed lips reproved her.
"There is no dignity in pertness.  Monsieur de Morlaix, I am sure,
could answer for himself."

"Alas, Madame," said Quentin, "there was but one answer I could
return to that, and, again, the disabilities of my profession
silenced me."

"Besides, sir, French swords are required for other ends.  What
regiment do you join?"

"Regiment?"  He was at a loss.

"Of those that Monsieur de Puisaye is to take to France: the Loyal
Émigrant, the Royal Louis and the rest?"

"That is not for me, Madame."

"Not for you?  A Frenchman?  A man of the sword?  Do you mean that
you are not going to France?"

"I have not thought of it, Madame.  I have no interests to defend
in France."

Mademoiselle's eyes lost, he thought, some of the warmth in which
they had been regarding him.  "There are nobler things than
interest to be fought for.  There is a great cause to serve; great
wrongs to be set right."

"That is for those who have been dispossessed; for those who have
been driven into exile.  In fighting for the cause of monarchy,
they fight for the interests bound up with it.  I am not of those,
Mademoiselle."

"How, not of those?" asked Madame.  "Are you not an émigré like the
rest of us?"

"Oh, no, Madame.  I have lived in England since I was four years of
age."

He would not have failed to notice how that answer seemed to
startle her had not Mademoiselle commanded his attention.  "But you
are entirely French," she was insisting.

"In blood, entirely."

"Then, do you owe that blood no duty?  Do you not owe it to France
to lend a hand in her regeneration?"  Her eyes were challenging,
imperious.

"I wish, Mademoiselle, that I could answer with the enthusiasm you
expect.  But I am of a simple, truthful nature.  These are matters
that have never preoccupied me.  You see, I am not politically
minded."

"This, Monsieur, is less a question of politics than of ideals.
You will not tell me that you are without these?"

"I hope not.  But they are not concerned with government or forms
of government."

Madame interposed.  "How long do you say that you have been in
England?"

"I came here with my mother, some four and twenty years ago, when
my father died."

"From what part of France do you come?"

"From the district of Angers."

Madame seemed to have lost colour under her rouge.  "And your
father's name?"

"Bertrand de Morlaix," he answered simply, in surprise.

She nodded in silence, her expression strained.

"Now that is very odd," said Mademoiselle, and looked at her aunt.

But Madame de Chesnières, paying no heed to her, resumed her
questions.  "And madame your mother?  She is still alive?"

"Alas, no, Madame.  She died a year ago."

"But this is a catechism," her niece protested.

"Monsieur de Morlaix will pardon me.  And we detain him."  Her head-
dress quivered grotesquely from some agitation that was shaking
her.  "Come, Germaine.  Let us find St. Gilles."

Under the suasion of her aunt's bony, ring-laden hand, Mademoiselle
de Chesnières was borne away, taking with her all Quentin's
interest in this gathering.

Lackeys moved through the chattering groups on the gleaming floor,
bearing salvers of refreshments.  Quentin accepted a glass of
Sillery.  Whilst he stood sipping it he became aware that across
the crowded, brilliantly lighted room Madame de Chesnières' fan was
pointing him out to two young men between whom she was standing.
His host, the Duc de Lionne, seeing him alone, came to join him at
that moment.  The interest which made those young men crane their
necks to obtain a better view of him, led him to question the Duke
upon their identity.

"But is it possible that you do not know the brothers Chesnières?
St. Gilles, the elder, should interest a fencing-master.  He is
reckoned something of a swordsman.  It has been said of him that he
is the second blade in France."

Quentin was amused rather than impressed.  "A daring claim.  Rumour
could not place him second unless it also named the first.  Do you
know, Monsieur le Duc, upon whom it has conferred that honour?"

"Upon his own cousin, Boisgelin, the heroic Royalist leader now in
Brittany.  Oh, but heroic in no other sense.  A remorseless devil
who has never scrupled to take advantage of his evil, deadly
swordsmanship: that is to be an assassin.  Boisgelin has already
killed four men and made three widows.  A bad man, the hero of
Brittany.  But then . . ."  The Duke raised his slim shoulders.
". . . the house of Chesnières does not produce saints.  A tainted
family.  The last marquis was no better than an imbecile in his old
age; the present one is shut up in a madhouse in Paris, and those
gentlemen know how to profit by it."  His tone was contemptuous.
"He enjoys the immunity of his condition, and his estates are saved
by it from the general confiscation.  Those cousins of his live at
ease here upon the revenues, and yet do nothing to ease the lot of
their less fortunate fellow-exiles.  I do not commend their
acquaintance to you, Morlaix.  A tainted family, the family of
Chesnières."



Chapter Three

THE BROTHERS


In the week that followed Mademoiselle de Chesnières was too often
in Quentin's thoughts, and her cousins not at all.  Yet it was
these who were presently to force themselves upon his attention.
They were brought to him on a Sunday, close upon noon, by the Baron
de Fragelet, an habitué of the academy, a flippant, laughter-loving
scatterbrain, youthful in all but years.

The day and the hour could not have been better chosen if it was
desired to find Morlaix at leisure.  Actually he had given some
lessons, and still wearing the high-buttoned white plastron above
his black satin smalls he was idling with O'Kelly, his chief
assistant, in the bay of the window that overlooked his little
garden, at the end of his main fencing-room.

In this bay which was abnormally wide and deep Quentin had
fashioned a lounging-place, with deep chairs set about a round
mahogany table, cushioned window-seats and an Eastern rug or two,
all in sybaritic contrast to the bare austerity of the fencing-room
itself.

His servant Barlow had announced the Baron, and the Baron announced
and presented his companions.

"I bring you two compatriots who conceive themselves your kinsmen,
my dear Morlaix, and who think, consequently, that you should
become acquainted.  For myself I do not perceive the consequence,
kinsmen being the misfortunes with which we are supplied at birth.
I always say that provided I may choose my friends for myself, the
devil may have a kin for which I am not responsible."

Morlaix came forward, leaving O'Kelly in the embrasure.

"I have not your experience, Baron.  Fate has been sparing to me in
the matter of kinsfolk."

"Well, here's to supplement it."  And he named them:  "Monsieur
Armand de Chesnières, Chevalier de St. Gilles, and his brother
Constant."

They were as dissimilar as brothers could be.  St. Gilles was
moderately tall, well-knit and graceful, his face narrow and of an
attractive regularity of feature something marred by an expression
of disdain.  His younger brother towered by a half-head above him
and was of a heavy, powerful build.  He was black-haired and very
swarthy, and his wide, coarse mouth was almost as thick in the lips
as an Ethiopian's.  Both displayed an affluence in their dress,
which reminded Quentin of Lionne's comment upon their resources;
but whereas St. Gilles' neat figure was a mirror of elegance in a
coat that was striped in two shades of blue, the modishness of
Constant but stressed the clumsiness of his shape.

A harsh, domineering manner that went with the younger Chesnières'
exterior was advertised as much by his readiness to answer for both
as by his choice of terms.

"I'll not suppose the kinship, sir, more than that which is shared
by all men of a common name, implying a common tribal origin.  A
good many Frenchmen bear the name of Morlaix.  We, however, are
Morlaix of Chesnières."

"Whilst I, of course, am Morlaix of nowhere.  Still, as a Morlaix I
bid you welcome; as a compatriot I am at your service."

He led them down the room to the embayed lounge, presented O'Kelly,
proffered chairs, and dispatched Barlow for decanters.

The Chevalier de St. Gilles proved gracious.  "You are in great
repute, sir, as a fencing-master."

"You are very good."

"Under royal patronage, even."

"I have been fortunate."

"I cannot forgive myself that I should have been six months in
London without making your acquaintance and availing myself of the
opportunities your school affords.  In a modest way I am, myself,
something of a swordsman."

"Modesty, indeed," laughed Fragelet, and Constant laughed with him.

"My school is at your disposal.  You will meet many émigrés here;
some who come to fence, and more who come simply to meet one
another.  You will also meet many Englishmen of birth whose
sympathies are warmly enlisted by our exiled fellow-countrymen."

"And others, I suppose," said Constant with his sneering air.  "For
there are plenty of the school of thought of Mr. Fox."

Quentin smiled tolerantly.  "It is not for me to discriminate.
Besides, I am of those who respect opinions even when they do not
share them."

"A suspiciously Republican sentiment," said St. Gilles.

"Do not, I beg, account me a Republican merely because I seek to
cultivate a sense of justice."

"Acquired, I presume," countered the younger Chesnières, his sneer
now definite, "from some of the levellers and jacobins who are
active here in England, and hope to set up the Tree of Liberty in
Whitehall and the guillotine in Palace Yard."

"Why, no."  Quentin remained unruffled.  "I do not think that I
have been to school to them.  Nor do I think that we need take them
seriously.  The English are of a model calm.  It is a virtue that I
seek to emulate."  He looked Constant between the eyes and pointed
his remark by a little smile.  "Besides, they already possess a
constitution."

"A dishonour to the Crown," snapped Constant, and then Fragelet cut
into the discussion.

"They also possess a Society of the Friends of Man, which is busy
spreading here the gospel according to those dirty evangelists,
Marat and Robespierre."

"Perhaps your British phlegm and sense of justice approve of that,"
Constant taunted Quentin.

St. Gilles intervened.  "I am afraid, my dear Monsieur de Morlaix,
that we are less than courteous.  Forgive it on the score of our
unhappy situation.  We have unfortunately drifted to the fringe of
a subject on which the feelings of all French émigrés are very
tender; and where feelings are tender, restraint is difficult."

"Whilst I need take no credit for finding it easy, since I am
without politics."

Barlow approached with the decanters, glasses and a salver of
macaroons.

O'Kelly, who, perched on the arm of a chair, had listened in an
astonishment faintly tinged with indignation, jumped up to do the
honours for Quentin, glad of the diversion.

"A glass of wine, Chevalier.  It settles all arguments, so it
does."

But whilst he was filling the glasses, Constant came back to the
subject.  "Is it possible that there should be a man who is without
thought for the events in such a time as this?"

"Ah, pardon.  I did not refer to events, but to the theories behind
them."

"Do you discriminate?"

"One must, I think.  The theories were conceived by great minds, to
right wrongs, to make a better world, to bring happiness to
unfortunates who knew none.  The execution of those theories has
fallen into the hands of self-seeking rascals, who have perverted
liberty into anarchy."

"That," said St. Gilles, "in the circumstances is the best that
could have happened.  I'll not dispute with you on the quality of
the minds that conceived the theories responsible for our ills.
What matters to us is that the political scoundrels who have made
themselves masters of the State are busily exterminating one
another, and by the ineptitude of their misgovernment are hastening
the day of reckoning; that is to say, the day of our return."

"When it comes perhaps it will silence even Mr. Fox," the Baron
hoped.  "He's almost as mischievous here as was in France Mirabeau,
whom in other ways he resembles.  Mirabeau had the good taste to
die before the harvest that he helped to sow.  Mr. Fox would be
better dead before he inspires any more Horne Tookes and Lord
Edward Fitzgeralds."

"The Government will know when to call a halt to their activities."

"A wise Government," said the Chevalier, "resists beginnings.  Our
Revolution teaches that."  He drained his glass, and rose.  "But we
chatter and chatter under the influence of your enchanting
hospitality, and I neglect the purpose of this disturbance of you.
I came to enrol myself in your academy."

"I am honoured."  Quentin, too, had risen.  The others continued
seated.  "We are a little crowded, although I have another fencing-
floor, beyond the antechamber, and another assistant besides
O'Kelly here.  But we'll find an hour for you, never fear."

"That will be kind."  The Chevalier's eyes strayed down the long
panelled room, whose only furniture were the benches upholstered in
red leather set against the walls, and the trophies of foils and
masks, gauntlets and plastrons at intervals above them.  "Shall we
make essay now?  The first lesson?"

"Now?"

"If not too inconvenient.  A fencing-room affects me with
longings."

"Why, to be sure.  There's a dressing-room there.  O'Kelly, be so
good as to find the Chevalier what he needs."

When St. Gilles came back with mask and foil, his blue coat
exchanged for a fencing-jacket that set-off the compact neatness of
him, the assistant's services were again required.

"O'Kelly will give you a bout, Chevalier."

The Chevalier lost countenance.  "Ah . . . But . . .  It is with
you that I would measure myself, cher maître.  I am of some force."

Quentin laughed.  "So is O'Kelly, I assure you.  He would not be my
assistant else.  He will give you all the work you'll need."

The Irishman, who had already peeled off his coat, stood arrested.
He was a spare, loose-limbed young man of thirty, red of hair and
of a lean, pleasant freckled countenance.  His alert eyes were
watchful.

"No doubt, no doubt.  But it is with the master that I would test
myself."  The Chevalier smiled ingratiatingly.  "Will you not
humour me, Monsieur?"

Quentin lounged forward, in scarcely dissembled reluctance.

"If you insist."

O'Kelly handed him gauntlet, mask and foil, and they took up their
positions.  The Baron retained his chair in the embrasure, but
Constant de Chesnières came down to find a seat against the wall,
whence he could observe the fencers.

In the first passes this man reputed the second blade in France
certainly revealed himself for a swordsman of exceptional skill.
As the bout proceeded Constant's thick lips began to curl in a
faintly sneering smile.

Soon the Chevalier had scored a hit in tierce following upon a
feinte in the low lines, whereupon that ugly mouth of Constant's
was stretched in a grin, which drew an answering grin from O'Kelly
who was observing him.

The fencers circled, and the Chevalier, pressing with speed and
vigour, planted his button for the second time upon the master's
breast, and in exactly the same manner.

"Touché!" he cried this time, and paused with a broad smile.  "I am
not so rusty, after all."

"Why, no," Morlaix agreed pleasantly.  "That was very good.  You do
not overrate yourself."

"Shall we try again?"

"By all means.  Guard yourself."

As the blades crossed, Morlaix disengaged and lunged vigorously
under the Chevalier's guard.  St. Gilles swept the blade clear and
straightened his arm in perfectly timed riposte.  Morlaix parried
it, but a moment later he was hit yet again.  They fell apart.

"What do you say to that?" the Chevalier asked, and to the alert
O'Kelly there seemed to be a malicious satisfaction in his smile.

"Excellent," Morlaix commended him.  "You are of considerable,
indeed of quite exceptional, force, Chevalier.  Your only real need
is practice.  There is little that I can teach you."  St. Gilles'
smile faded into blank astonishment at words which in the
circumstances he accounted presumptuous.  But it remained for the
harsh contempt of his brother to express it.

"Is there anything you can teach him?"

O'Kelly permitted himself a laugh, that drew the haughty stare of
the speaker.  "What amuses you, sir?"

Morlaix answered for him.  "The humour of the question.  After all,
to teach is my trade."

Constant got up.  "And you flatter yourself that you could give
lessons to my brother?"

"That is not to flatter myself.  Monsieur de St. Gilles is of great
force; yet there are faults I should be happy to correct."

"In a swordsman who has shown you that he can hit as he pleases?"
Constant's tone could scarcely have been more offensive.  But
Morlaix's cool urbanity was not touched.

"Oh, no.  Not as he pleases.  As I please."

"As you please!  Really!  Did it please you to be hit thrice
without being able to hit him once?"

O'Kelly laughed again.  "Faith, it might be dangerous to take the
ability for granted."

St. Gilles spoke at last for himself.  "It seems idle to dispute.
You spoke of faults in my fencing, sir.  Would you point them out?"

"That is what I am for.  I will demonstrate them.  On guard!  So.
Now attack me as before."

The Chevalier complied.  He launched the botte with which he had
twice got home.  This time, however, the stroke was not only
parried, but with a swift counter Morlaix hit the Chevalier
vigorously over the heart.

He lowered his blade.  "That should not have happened," was his
quiet comment, to be hotly answered:  "It shall not happen again.
On guard!"

The attack was repeated, with an increase of both vigour and speed.
Yet once again it was met and answered by that hit in quarte.

The Chevalier fell back and spoke sharply in a manifest annoyance
that was shared by his scowling, startled brother.  "But what is
this, then?  Were you trifling with me before?"

Morlaix was of a perfect amiability.  "You confuse a master-at-arms
with an ordinary opponent, Chevalier.  That is an effective botte
of yours, to which I must suppose that you have given much
practice.  The fault in its execution lies in that you offer too
much body.  Keep yourself narrower.  Then if you are hit it will be
less fatally.  On guard again.  So.  That is better, but not yet
good enough.  Swing your left shoulder farther back, more in line
with your right.  Now hold yourself so, whilst making your attack.
Allongez!  Excellent.  For whilst I counter-parry it thus, and make
my riposte on the binding of the blade, I can touch you only in
quinte.  Thus."

The blades were lowered again and Morlaix expounded to the
discomfited swordsman.  "That correction of your position to an
unaccustomed one will have cramped you a little, so that you lost
pace and force, and left it easier for the counter to get home.
With practice, however, that will be overcome.  When it is
corrected, we will come to your other faults," he promised, and
added the cruellest cut of all:  "You display so much aptitude that
it should be easy to render you really formidable."

The Chevalier plucked the mask from his head, and displayed a face
dark with chagrin.  Formidable he had long been accounted and had
accounted himself.  It was difficult to preserve his urbanity
whilst feeling himself birched like a schoolboy.  He contrived to
force a laugh.

"You teach me that mastery, after all, is for masters."  He turned,
still laughing to his scowling brother.  "For a moment I think we
were in danger of forgetting it."

"That," said Constant, without mercy, "is because you've deceived
the world with the pretence that you are a swordsman."

They conceived themselves invited to laugh, and did so, whilst
Morlaix defended the Chevalier.  "It is no pretence.  I have some
swordsmen in my academy, but not one against whom I should hesitate
to match your brother."

"What good is that?" was the ill-humoured grumble.

"Good?  It is very good.  Place yourself in my care, Chevalier; and
if in a month I do not make a master of you I'll shut my academy."

When with many compliments they had taken their departure, "You'ld
be a fool to do that," said O'Kelly.

"Why so?"

"Sure, now you'ld be teaching him to cut your own throat.  What's
their quarrel with you, Quentin?"

"Quarrel.  I've never seen them till this day."

"D'ye tell me that?  Well, well."  O'Kelly laughed.  "Faith, ye've
cut a comb very prettily this morning.  It was amusing to see his
lordship's arrogance diminished.  They're all alike, these French
fops in their vanity.  It helps one to understand how necessary
they made their Revolution.  But--devil take me!--they learn
nothing from it, least of all their own empty worthlessness.
Anyhow," he ended, "I'ld like to know what Messieurs de Chesnières
can have against you."

"What maggot's astir under your red thatch, Ned?"

"A suspicion of what brought them here this morning.  Whilst you
were busy with the Chevalier, I was watching his black-visaged
brother.  His satisfaction at supposing the Chevalier your master
was as ferocious as his rage when you demonstrated that he wasn't."

"That's natural in ruffled vanity."

"It's natural in disappointment, too.  I'm a fool if they didn't
come here to take your measure."

"But to what end?"

"Do I know that now?  But I'll be sworn 'twas to no good end."

Morlaix stared with incredulity into the pleasant freckled face of
his assistant, and loosed a laugh.

"Ye can be as merry as ye please, Quentin.  But it wasn't a fencing-
lesson they came for.  I know hate when I see it, and I never saw
it plainer than in the eyes of Monsieur Constant.  Oh, ye may laugh
now.  But here's a prophecy for you:  You'll not be seeing either
of those gentlemen in your school again.  It's not lessons they
want from you."



Chapter Four

THE HERITAGE


A letter worded with portentous obscurity took Monsieur de Morlaix
on a blustering morning of May to the dingy office of Messrs.
Sharpe, Kellaway & Sharpe in Lincoln's Inn.

He was received by Mr. Edgar Sharpe with a deference such as that
worthy man of law had never shown him on any former visit.  A clerk
was required to dust a chair before Monsieur de Morlaix could be
permitted to sit.  Mr. Sharpe, himself, remained standing as if in
an august presence.

The attorney, a large, rubicund man in a grizzle wig, and of a
benignity of expression that would have adorned a bishop or a
butler, hummed and purred over him as a preliminary.

"It is . . .  Let me see, dear sir.  It will be fully a year since
I last enjoyed the satisfaction of seeing you."

"Myself in your place I shouldn't call it a satisfaction, much less
an enjoyment."

Misunderstanding him, Mr. Sharpe put away his smile.  "But how
true, sir!  How very true!  You do well to reprobate my terms.
Most ill-chosen.  For the occasion--I should say, the sad occasion--
was the lamentable decease of Madame your Mother, and the
settlement of her little estate, in which matter it is a
satisfaction to remember that I had the . . . ah . . . honour of
being of some service to you."

So much pronounced by way of funeral oration, Mr. Sharpe permitted
the smile to return.  "I'll take the liberty of saying, sir, that
you look well; extremely well.  It suggests--and I trust it rightly
suggests--that you have not found life too . . . ah . . . onerous
in the intervening year."

"My academy prospers."  A smile lengthened the ironic mouth.  "In a
quarrelsome world there is always work for men of my profession, as
of yours."

For a moment Mr. Sharpe seemed in danger of indignation at an
association of professions between which he could perceive no
similarity.  But he recovered betimes.

"Most gratifying," he purred.  "Especially in days when so many of
your fellow-exiles are suffering want."

"Faith, sir, as for my exile, I bear it with comfortable
unconsciousness.  The real exile for me would lie in leaving
England."

"Yet that, sir, is something to which you must have been brought up
to be prepared."

"Having nothing, I was brought up to be prepared for anything."

Mr. Sharpe sucked in his breath on a whinnying laugh at what he
conceived a flash of humour.  "Well, well, sir.  I have news for
you."  His rubicund countenance became solemn once more.  "News of
the greatest consequence.  Your brother is dead."

"Lord, sir!  Did I have a brother?"

"Is it possible that you are not aware of it?"

"And not yet persuaded of it, Mr. Sharpe."

"Dear me!  Dear me!"

"There is some error in your information.  I know myself to be my
mother's only child."

"Ah!  But you had a father, sir."

"I believe it's usual," said Quentin.

"And your mother was his second wife.  He was the Marquis of
Chavaray.  Bertrand de Morlaix de Chesnières, Marquis of Chavaray."

The young man's grey eyes opened wide.  Both names had lately been
impressed upon him.  Words spoken by the Duc de Lionne came
floating back into his memory.  Then the lawyer claimed his further
attention.  He was consulting a sheet which he had taken from his
writing-table.

"His elder son, your brother, Étienne de Morlaix de Chesnières, the
last Marquis, died two months ago in a nursing-home in Paris.  The
nursing-home of a Doctor Bazire, in the Rue du Bac."

Morlaix reflected mechanically that this would be the madhouse to
which Lionne had alluded.

"He died without issue," the attorney concluded, "therefore I
salute you, my lord, as the present Marquis of Chavaray and heir to
half a province.  And I think that I may say without fear of
contradiction that few dukedoms in France are as wealthy as this
marquisate of yours.  I have a schedule here of your exact
possessions."

There was a long silence, at the end of which Morlaix shrugged and
laughed.  "Sir, sir!  There is, of course, some grievous error.
These Chesnières bear the name of Morlaix.  Hence the confusion.
It is . . ."

"There is no confusion.  No error."  Mr. Sharpe was primly
emphatic.  "It amazes me that you should suppose it; that you
should not know, at least, that your name, too, is Chesnières."

"But it cannot be, or I should know it.  What purpose . . ."

Again he was interrupted.  "By your leave, sir.  By your leave.  It
is on your baptismal certificate, of which I have here a certified
copy, as well as the other documents necessary to establish your
identity beyond possibility of doubt.  The troubles of the times
and the difficulties of communication in view of the war with
France are responsible for their delay in reaching me.  They come
to me, with instructions to communicate with you at once if you
should still be alive, from a lawyer of Angers named Lesdiguières."

"Lesdiguières!"  Morlaix sat up.  "That was my mother's maiden
name."

"I am aware of it, of course.  And the writer is her brother, your
lordship's uncle, who is prepared to take all necessary steps to
establish you in your heritage."

Morlaix passed a hand across his brow.  "This . . . I find it all
very difficult to believe.  If it is correct, my mother would have
been Marquise de Chavaray.  And that she never was."

"Pardon.  She was, indeed, but did not choose so to call herself.
It . . . ah . . . frankly now, it astonishes me to find your
lordship so . . . ah . . . uninformed upon your own self.  But I
think I can throw some light on the matter, although I confess that
there is much that I may be unable to explain.

"It is no less than twenty-five years since Madame la Marquise--
that is, Madame your Mother--was brought to me by her distant
kinsman and my very good client, the late Joshua Patterson of Esher
in the County of Surrey.  The Marquis Bertrand de Chavaray had then
been dead six months, and for some reason never disclosed to me,
his widow had decided not only to leave France, but to renounce the
advantages of fortune, to which as Dowager Marchioness of Chavaray
she was entitled.  Her maternal grandmother had been English, and
in seeking what I may presume to term shelter here with her English
kinsfolk, she brought with her no property or means of livelihood
beyond her jewels.  These, however, were considerable, and they
were sold for some six thousand pounds, and on the meagre interest
of that sum, this lady, who was as prudent as--if you will permit
me to say so--she was beautiful and wise, maintained herself and
your lordship, and provided for your education.  But I am wandering
already into matters what will be known to you.

"My present instructions from Monsieur de Lesdiguières, or Citizen
Lesdiguières, as I suppose he will now be termed in the crazy
jargon that prevails in France, are, as I have said, to seek you
out, and to provide you with all additional documents necessary to
you in claiming your heritage."

"My heritage?"  Morlaix was smiling a little scornfully.  "What is
this heritage, assuming that the fantastic tale is true?  A barren
title.  London is full of them to-day.  They are émigré marquises
who hire themselves out to dress salads, teach dancing and do
needlework.  Shall I add to them a marquis who is a fencing-master?
I think I shall be less ridiculous as Monsieur de Morlaix."

Lawyer-like, in answering him, Mr. Sharpe ignored all that was
irrelevant.

"I have said that the Marquisate of Chavaray is richer than any
dukedom in France.  You may examine for yourself the schedule of
its vast acres, its towns and hamlets, its pasture and arable, its
moorland and forests, its farms, vineyards, châteaux and mills.  It
is all here."  He tapped a bulk of papers.

"You mean, of course, if the monarchy is restored?"

"No so.  Not so."

Mr. Sharpe had recourse to the lengthy communication from the
Citizen Lesdiguières.  This disclosed a situation very different
from Morlaix's reasonable assumption.

The late marquis, it transpired, being a half-crippled invalid, had
lived retired and quiet, aloof from politics, in a province which
regarded the excesses of the Revolution with anything but favour.
Of a kindly, gentle nature, he had been indulgently regarded by his
tenantry.  It would also seem that he was of Republican tendencies,
and already before the Revolution he had renounced all those
harsher feudal rights so largely responsible for that terrible
upheaval.  In the day of wrath he reaped as he had sown.  Whilst
the rest of the family of Chesnières had emigrated, he had remained
quietly at Chavaray, and had been left undisturbed until after the
King's death in '93.  Then, when the greedy sanguinocrats took
measures to deal with those nobles who by remaining on their
estates had avoided sequestration, he was arrested on a trumped-up
charge of being in correspondence with his émigré cousins.  It did
not matter that there was no proof.  But it did matter that he
disposed of gold and of a faithful steward who knew how to employ
it.  In the corrupt state of France there was nothing money could
not buy.  For a sum of ten thousand livres in gold to the public
accuser, the steward, one Lafont, obtained that Étienne de
Chesnières should be certified insane.  It was an easy matter,
considering his physical condition; but it would not in any case
have been difficult; for there were many instances in which, when
money was available, this had been done.

Étienne de Chesnières was transferred from the Prison of the Carmes
to the private asylum of Dr. Bazire, where he found others, much
the same as he was, who were prolonging their days by the same
means.  They had to pay handsomely for the privilege.  The doctor
was exorbitant in his charges, and he would not keep a patient for
a day longer than his dues were paid.  Lafont continued to provide
those demanded for his master, out of the revenues of lands that
could not legally be sequestrated until the Marquis had been
brought to trial and convicted.

And in the end, untried and unconvicted, he had died in that house
in the Rue du Bac, and his estates continued free.  They were also
available to his heir, provided that Quentin were this heir.  For,
whilst in general all Frenchmen now out of France were considered
to be émigrés and outlawed, yet by one of the Convention's
statutes, quoted in full by Lesdiguières, exception was made in
favour of such as were professionally engaged abroad before 1789.
Under this statute, Quentin de Morlaix was given six months from
the death of his newly-discovered brother in which to repatriate
himself.  Only, should he neglect to do so, would he, after the
lapse of that time, be adjudged an émigré and subjected to the
penalties of that situation.

Monsieur de Morlaix received this information with a smile.

"Whilst if I return to claim the property I shall merely have
stepped into the shoes of the late Marquis.  I shall be arrested on
suspicion of correspondence with my émigré kinsmen, convicted and
sent to the guillotine, unless I, too, get myself certified insane
and lodged with Dr. Bazire.  Faith, it's an enviable heritage, Mr.
Sharpe.  I am to be congratulated."

"But, my dear sir, a great fortune is concerned.  We have the word
of the Citizen Lesdiguières that the risk in your case is
negligible."

"It exists nevertheless."  He got up.  "You conceive, sir, that all
this leaves me a little bewildered.  I need to consider; to adjust
my mind.  You shall hear from me.  But I think I shall decide to
carry my head safely under a hat rather than see it in Sanson's
basket under a coronet."



Chapter Five

THE ACKNOWLEDGMENT


A tainted family, the Duc de Lionne had said.  How much, wondered
Morlaix, had that taint to do with the mystery that enveloped him?
How much had it to do with the visit paid him by the brothers
Chesnières?  Ten days were sped since that visit, and the brothers
had not reappeared in Bruton Street.  The Chevalier de St. Gilles
was the next heir to this Marquisate of Chavaray, to which Morlaix
had so unexpectedly succeeded.  Setting that aside, there was a
danger that this succession might make an end of those revenues
from Chavaray upon which the Duc de Lionne had informed him that
the Chesnières were living.  Here was something to colour those
suspicions of O'Kelly's, which had seemed so fantastic.  Could it
be that the Chevalier, already informed of the death of Étienne de
Chesnières, had desired to test Morlaix's strength, with a view,
perhaps, to picking a quarrel with him and disposing of him in a
legitimate manner?

Morlaix cursed the Marquisate of Chavaray and the inheritance which
had brought him such odious thoughts and marred the peace of mind
upon which he set so high a value.  He found it peculiarly ironical
that the station he had desired for himself--so vainly, as it then
seemed--when announcing his name and quality to Germaine de
Chesnières, should prove so disturbing when it was unexpectedly
thrust upon him.

He was fully informed by now touching the family of which he had
become the head.  His father, Bertrand de Morlaix de Chesnières, at
the age of seventy-four had married in second nuptials, the girl of
eighteen who had been Quentin's mother.  Bertrand's only brother,
Gaston, had had three children.  Of the elder of these, who was
also a Gaston de Chesnières, were born Armand, the present
Chevalier de St. Gilles, and his brother Constant.  Germaine was
the only child of the second son, Claude de Chesnières, who by
marriage had acquired the considerable contiguous property of
Grands Chesnes, to which Germaine was now the heiress.  She was,
therefore, their cousin-german, whilst all three were the second
cousins of Quentin himself.  The view that he must take of them
seemed to hang upon whether they were aware of the relationship in
which he stood to them.  Meanwhile he must resist the hateful
suspicion that if that knowledge was possessed by the brothers it
was also shared by Germaine and by her, for the unworthy purposes
of her cousins, left unacknowledged to him.

This was something that he hoped that circumstances would disclose
to him.  In that hope, he kept his counsel, and pursued the normal
tenor of his ways.

Some three mornings later, passing, in an interval between lessons,
into the ante-chamber, as was his habit, to greet the company
assembled there, he espied to his amazement in that chattering
throng Mademoiselle de Chesnières.  He made his way to her at once.

"My house is honoured, Mademoiselle."

She sank before him in a curtsy.  "It was inevitable that sooner or
later, sir, I should come to do homage to your fame.  I have to
thank Madame de Liancourt."

"You mean that I have."  His eyes were upon her with a singular
searching gravity.

The little Duchess surged at her elbow, with Bellanger in
attendance.  "A shameless intrusion, Monsieur de Morlaix.  But
naught would content the child but that she must see for herself
the most famous rendezvous in London."

Mademoiselle's cheeks flushed under his steady glance.  A little
frown flickered between her brows.  She was quick to protest.  "Oh,
but not all idle curiosity."

"I should be proud to think that interest had some part in it.  But
perhaps you come as the deputy of your family."

"A deputy?"  Again her brows were wrinkled, her eyes questioning.

"I have been expecting Monsieur de St. Gilles to come again.  He
was proposing to enter my academy."

"He has been here?"

"What's to surprise you, Mademoiselle?" wondered Bellanger.
"Sooner or later the Académie Morlaix is the Mecca of every
émigré."

"But odd that he should not have told us."

"A matter too insignificant, perhaps."  Morlaix was smiling, yet
still she found his eyes disturbingly watchful.  "The only oddness
is that he should not have returned, having engaged himself to do
so."

"Perhaps I can explain that.  My cousin has received a summons from
Holland, from Monsieur de Sombreuil, to join his regiment there.
In these last days he has been preparing for departure."

"All is clear, then," said Morlaix.

"Save the discourtesy of not informing you."

"Oh, that!"  Morlaix shrugged.  "One does not stand on ceremony
with fencing-masters.  M. de St. Gilles scarcely owes me so much."

She flushed, in annoyance this time.  "You do yourself injustice,
Monsieur de Morlaix.  Besides, the question is one of what he owes
to himself."

O'Kelly put his head round the door.  "Will you be coming, Quentin?
His Highness is waiting for you."

"Most apt," the Duchess laughed, a dimple in each soft round cheek.
"The Prince to wait upon the prince of fencing-masters.  France is
honoured in you, Monsieur de Morlaix."

He was bowing to them.  "Give me leave, ladies.  Barlow will supply
your needs.  Pray command him.  You will find friends here."  His
hand indicated the little groups of idlers.  "His Highness will not
fence for more than twenty minutes.  Let me hope to find you here
when the lesson is over.  I leave them in your care, Vicomte."

"But who am I," Bellanger deprecated, with a hint of tartness, "to
serve as deputy for the prince of fencing-masters?"

Morlaix did not stay to answer.  With here a bow and there a lift
of the hand to answer those who greeted him, he sped to his Royal
pupil.

When he came back, Mademoiselle de Chesnières was no longer there,
and he was left wondering whether he deplored this more for its own
sake or because it deprived him of the chance of further probing.

The opportunity to probe, however, was not long to be denied him.

Two days later there came to him a note from Madame de Chesnières.

"Monsieur my cousin," she wrote, "we discover that you have been
less than frank with us.  Pray come and sup with us to-morrow
night, so that you may make me your apologies.  You may send an
answer by my messenger."  Followed her signature and an address in
Carlisle Street, and that was all.

It was a communication at once puzzling and enlightening.  His
hinted lack of frankness explained itself, and from the rest he
gathered that the masks were to be off.  What he could not surmise
was why this particular moment should have been chosen for that
revelation.  So he went on the morrow to discover.

He found them nobly housed in that still fashionable quarter, and
he was amused to think that these haughty cousins maintained at his
charges so handsome an establishment, since it was by revenues
properly belonging to him and improperly deflected to them that
they supported it.

A white-stockinged footman, liveried and powdered, conducted him up
the softly carpeted staircase, and throwing wide the doors of the
drawing-room startled him by the announcement:

"Monsieur le Marquis de Chavaray."

He had dressed himself with that care for his appearance which was
amongst his qualities, in his black and silver, with a foam of lace
at throat and wrists and the light dusting of powder to his hair,
and moving with his lithe swordsman's grace, he stepped into the
view of the waiting company a figure to fit the announcement.

Madame de Chavaray rustled forward, her sons moving more slowly to
follow, whilst Mademoiselle remained in the background beside a
slight, short young man of a lively, eager countenance.

"Shall I forgive you your deception, Marquis?"  Madame was archly
simpering.

He bowed over her hand.  "I practised none, Madame."

"Oh, fie!  Did you not deny that you were a Chesnières."

"I merely did not assert it, and that because I was not aware of
it."

"Not aware of it?" St. Gilles thrust in.  "But how is that
possible?"

"Just as it was possible for you to lie in the same ignorance," he
answered, looking the Chevalier between the eyes.

"Ah, no, no.  It is scarcely the same thing.  A man must know who
he is where others may not."

"You may accept my word for it that it was not in my knowledge."
He offered no explanation, and a touch of hauteur made a barrier to
demands for it.

"But clearly you know it now," observed Constant.

"I learnt it within a few days of being honoured by your visit."
And point-blank, he asked:  "How long has it been known to you?"

"Let the Chevalier de Tinténiac answer that," said Gilles, and with
a gesture inviting forward the slight stranger, presented him.

No more than the name was necessary to make him known even to one
so aloof from politics as Quentin.  Wherever émigrés gathered in
those days no name was more famous than that of Tinténiac, the
dashing, daring gallant Breton Royalist, hero of a dozen battles,
who had been the lieutenant of the great Marquis de la Rouërie in
the organization of the royalist forces of Brittany, and was now
lieutenant to La Rouërie's successor, the Comte de Puisaye.

Alert and quick of movement as he was neat of figure, Tinténiac
came forward with Mademoiselle.

"I brought the news of Étienne de Chesnières' death from France two
days ago, Monsieur le Marquis."  And he added, "I have just
arrived, and I made haste to felicitate the Chevalier de St.
Gilles, believing him to be the heir.  Instead, Monsieur, permit me
now to offer these felicitations to you."

"You are gracious, sir."  They bowed mutually.

For a moment Quentin felt himself shamed for having harboured
suspicions so unworthy.  Then he remembered that it was now close
upon three months since Étienne's death, and thought he understood
why St. Gilles had chosen to let Tinténiac answer for him.  That
Tinténiac had brought the news he could well believe.  But that it
was known long before Tinténiac brought it he must believe also.
St. Gilles, observing a queer punctilio, would not utter a
falsehood which he would not hesitate to leave to be inferred.

"It is almost odd that in close upon three months no word of it
should have come to you from Angers."  Quentin was thinking of
Lafont, the steward of Chavaray from whom his cousins received
supplies.  His tone, however, was casually innocent of implications.

"Scarcely odd," smiled St. Gilles, "when you consider the
difficulties of communication between two countries now at war.
There are--alas!--few Tinténiacs to brave these dangerous
crossings."

"What I find more odd," said Mademoiselle, "is that knowing this
when I came to your academy, you said no word of it.  Indeed, I
seem to recall a false humility, an insistence upon the negligible
station of a fencing-master."

"That, Mademoiselle, is because such my station must continue.
This succession . . ."  He waved it away.  "What is it in these
days?  So nominal as not to be worth proclaiming."

Madame and her sons all spoke at once.

They were aghast.  They did not understand.  How could he describe
it as nominal, when those vast estates but awaited his claim to
them.  He answered, laughing, much as he had answered Sharpe.

"You seem to suggest that I should cross to France, so that there I
may choose between being guillotined or shut up in a madhouse."

They were vehement in their protests.  They cited the law which so
strongly favoured him as one established abroad before '89.  Was it
possible that because of idle fears, a negligible risk, he would
suffer the great estates of Chavaray to pass into the national
possession, as must happen if he did not prefer his claim.

"Will you guarantee that they will not so pass if I do prefer it?
Is it so difficult in France to-day to trump up charges against a
man of great possessions?"  He smiled.  "If there must be a
confiscation, I would rather that it be of Chavaray than of my
head."

Tinténiac was amused.  Mademoiselle watched Quentin gravely.  As
for the others their looks reflected no satisfaction.

"You cannot have considered, my dear cousin," St. Gilles told him
in a tone of remonstrance, "that you owe a duty to the house of
which you are now the head."

"Does that duty include rendering myself a headless head?"

"Does a trifle frighten you, then?" wondered Constant, with his
ready sneer.

"The guillotine is not a trifle when looked at from the lunette.
But frighten is a word I do not like.  And I have never reckoned
folly to be a part of valour."

"It is not a folly, sir," Constant retorted, "to fulfil the trust
that comes to you.  For you are no more than a trustee, a life
tenant of Chavaray.  To take the title and to be afraid to take the
estates is to make yourself an object of derision.  To be Marquis
of nothing, is to be a Marquis pour rire, a Marquis of . . . of
Carabas."

"That is precisely why I continue to be simply and humbly Morlaix
the fencing-master.  I had no thought to proclaim myself Marquis of
anything.  That explains, I hope, my reticence to you, Mademoiselle
my cousin.  I am content with my humble estate."

"But you no longer have the right to be," Constant insisted.  "To
make no effort to save Chavaray from confiscation, to allow it to
pass out of the family is to be false to the trust imposed upon
you, to take no thought for those who are to come after you."

Quentin's eyes strayed slowly to St. Gilles.  Under his quiet
smile, St. Gilles started and reddened.

"I read your thought, sir.  It is scarcely worthy.  I am on the
point of departure for Holland, to join Sombreuil's army, destined
to raise in France the Royal Standard.  My brother Constant will go
from England with the Loyal Émigrant of which regiment he is an
officer.  We go to fight a forlorn hope . . ."

"Faith, not so forlorn," Tinténiac interjected.

"Brave hearts may not ordinarily admit it.  But the moment is not
ordinary.  We go to offer up our lives upon the altar of the cause
to which our birth compels us, as it compels you, Monsieur le
Marquis, to offer everything.  So that it is unlikely that we shall
be of those who come after you."

"Morituri te salutant," murmured Quentin to that lofty farewell of
one about to die.

Anger flashed from the eyes of Constant.  But St. Gilles merely
smiled.  "Regard it so if you choose.  It is none so wide perhaps
of the fact."  And with malice, as it seemed to Quentin, he added:
"Remains our cousin Germaine."

At that she protested sharply.  "Nay, nay.  Leave me out of your
accounts."

Quentin turned to her.  "Does Mademoiselle desire me to make this
attempt?"

It was a moment before she answered him, a moment in which she
considered him with steady brooding eyes.  "And if I did?  Would
you go?"

He answered her almost before he knew what he had said.
"Unhesitatingly."

"Then in God's name bid him," sneered Constant, "for the honour of
the name."

Quentin wheeled sharply on the brothers.  "I'll make a bargain with
you.  For the honour of the name."  There was a sudden queer touch
of exaltation in his manner.  "Renounce your rights of succession
in favour of Mademoiselle de Chesnières, and I will start for
France as soon as it can be arranged."

They stared at him dumbfounded, Tinténiac with arms akimbo, and
eyes mischievously bright, considered them expectantly.

"Well?" Quentin demanded.  "Do you hesitate to forgo chances that
you account so slender, for the honour of the name?"

St. Gilles made a gesture of impatience, and half turned from him.

"The proposal is scarcely a sane one."

"A fantastically mad one," Constant added.

"It is one that answers you, I think, when you tax me with a lack
of courage," said Quentin.  "On those terms I'll prove my courage
to you."

"Oh, no, no," Madame was interposing.  "No one questions your
courage, my dear cousin.  It is your . . . your . . ."  She
struggled for words, her fingers writhing as if in quest of them.
"It is your sense of . . . of the Chesnières' tradition that is
lacking."

"I was not reared in it, you see."

"That's true, pardi!" swore Constant, his tone offensive.  His
temper was on edge, as it had been on that Sunday in the fencing-
school when Quentin had demonstrated his mastery, and anger was an
emotion that Constant had never learnt to curb or dissemble.

Mademoiselle intervened.  She was a trifle disdainful of them all.
"I think this has gone far enough.  We have little right to be so
importunate with our cousin.  It is for him to decide what he will
do."

"And Monsieur le Marquis decides that he will remain a Marquis de
Carabas."

"A fencing-master, Monsieur de Chesnières; a fencing-master,"
Quentin corrected him.  "An honourable profession although it
compels a man to labour under disabilities.  For instance, it is
not for him to meet insult as might another.  But then he scarcely
needs to heed the insults of any man who, realizing this, still
offers them."

He spoke easily, even sweetly; but his words had the effect of
freezing the brothers into a glowering silence.  Tinténiac came
laughing to the rescue.

"He can always, like the great Danet, choose weapons other than
those of his craft.  There was a boaster in Paris who took
advantage of him too often.  One day, Danet, being out of patience,
turned upon him.  'I may not send you the length of my sword,' said
he, 'but I tell you that you are a fool and a coward, and if you
want satisfaction you shall have it with a pack of cards and a
single pistol.  We'll cut once, and the man who cuts the higher
card shall have the pistol.  He may then please himself whether and
how he shoots the loser.'  The fellow being the fool and coward
that Danet called him, extricated himself on the pretext that those
were not the weapons of a gentleman.  'But for the future,' said
Danet, 'let it be known that they are the weapons of a fencing-
master.'  He was given peace from the fellow after that."

It was a timely turning of the conversation.  But the remainder of
the evening was scarcely a happy one.  A restraint remained; it
brooded over the supper table, nor did the flow of the wine
appreciably relieve it.  Inevitably their talk turned to
Tinténiac's Royalist activities, and the little Chevalier was
eloquent upon the valour of the Chouans and their skill in the
guerrilla warfare they were conducting whilst impatient for the
general rising.  But even this was productive of some acrid
passages.  The brothers permitted themselves to voice the
disparagement of Puisaye so common then among the émigré nobles.
Tinténiac, as Puisaye's lieutenant and close friend, could not let
it pass in silence.  He insisted with feeling upon the great work
of Puisaye; not only underground in the West of France, but with
the British Government whose support he alone had known how to
enlist on behalf of the Princes.

Upon this St. Gilles was uncompromising.  "I take shame that it
should be so, Chevalier, that the cause of the noblesse of France
should be controlled by an upstart, a Republican, a swindling
adventurer, a mountebank."

Tinténiac smiled tolerantly.  "You merely repeat the abuse of those
who would have done what he has done but that they have not his
courage, his energy or his address."  He sighed.  "It is a poor
recompense for such heroic labours.  An upstart, you say.  But his
birth is as good as yours or mine."

St. Gilles raised his brows.  His brother laughed coarsely.
Tinténiac, however, persisted, unruffled.  "He is called a
Republican.  A good many gentlemen have been that, who have now
seen the error of it.  You'll not deny that he has atoned."

"We are not yet at the end," grumbled Constant.  "His big promises
are still to be fulfilled."

"Be sure he will fulfil them.  His plans are too soundly laid for
failure.  And then, a mountebank, you say.  I pray God that I may
prove just such a mountebank as he.  To the peasants of Brittany,
Normandy and Maine, the Count Joseph, as they call him, is a god.
A lift of his hand can raise three hundred thousand men who are
ready to follow him into Hell.  It is given to few of us to
accomplish that.  And those who hope to see the monarchy restored
in France, believe me, will be sadly at fault if they do not take
Monsieur de Puisaye seriously, and support him loyally."

"He possesses a warm advocate," Mademoiselle commended him,
smiling, and Quentin, observing her, admired her fineness.

"A worshipper, Mademoiselle."

St. Gilles laughed.  "It becomes a religious question, then.  And
those are not for discussion at table."

But the restraint abode, and Quentin welcomed the evening's end,
and the hackney coach that was fetched to take him home.  It was
only when on the point of leaving, that for one brief moment in the
drawing-room he found himself alone with Germaine, away from the
group into which the other four had fallen.

"I have the misfortune," he said, "to be under your disapproval."

"Shall I disapprove of what I do not understand?  I am not by
nature rash, I hope, Monsieur my cousin."

The sweetness he discovered in her brought a wistfulness into his
glance.

"You find me obscure?"

"Indeed, mysterious."

He shook his head.  "The mystery is not in me.  It is about me."

"It is as I thought."  She nodded the fair head so admirably poised
on her white neck.  "You suspect our intentions.  I find that odd,
for I cannot conceive the shape of your suspicions.  It is not good
to be suspicious, cousin Quentin.  The suspicious are seldom happy,
for they are seldom at peace.  Suspicion creates devils to torment
us."

"It is not in my nature if I know myself.  But neither, I hope, am
I prone to be credulous, for that is to stumble into pitfalls."

"There are no pitfalls here," she answered him.

"Do you assure me of it?"

His tone drew her eyes to his once more.  "Would my assurance
satisfy you?"

"In all things," he answered with a fervour that visibly startled
her.

She was suddenly very grave.  A tinge of colour mounted to her
cheeks.  "Then . . . then I must go warily.  I will answer you that
I know of none, and can imagine none."

She saw a light as of quickened, exultant life, leap to the grey
eyes that pondered her.  "That answers for yourself.  And it is all
I need.  The rest are naught."

It was a reply that left her frowning as her aunt came to join
them.



Chapter Six

MONSIEUR DE PUISAYE


At parting that night with Tinténiac, Quentin expressed the hope of
another meeting at which their chance acquaintance might be
improved.  So cordially was it received by the Chevalier that
Quentin counted upon seeing it fulfilled.  But hardly as promptly
as it occurred.  For that was no later than the following evening,
just as the academy was about to close.

Tinténiac came accompanied by a man of commanding presence, very
tall, loose-limbed and erect, carrying his handsome head with an
air of conscious pride, and moving with a measured grace that was
almost histrionic.  From his manifest vigour, his age might have
been guessed at forty, though in reality he counted some ten years
more.  His face, tanned by exposure, was long and narrow, lofty of
brow and square of chin.  The eyes of so deep a blue as to seem
almost black were set deep under upward-slanting eyebrows that
rendered sardonic his expression.  The mouth was straight and firm,
but when the lips parted in a smile, this brought so much gentle
charm into his countenance that it seemed to change completely from
the disdainful sternness of its repose.  He wore his own hair, of a
reddish brown and turning grey at the temples, in a simple queue.
His dress, from his wide-brimmed black hat to his Hessian boots,
could not have been more simple than it was, yet as worn by him it
carried a suggestion of elaborateness.  His riding-coat of a light
blue with silver buttons was very full in the skirt, and his white
nankeens outlined the vigorous muscles of his long legs.

Morlaix, still in his fencing garments, observed his stately
advance down that long room with an admiring interest quickened at
closer quarters by a something familiar in the man's face, an
elusive likeness to someone he had once known.

Then Tinténiac was presenting him.

"You'll account that I have lost no time in seeking you.  It is due
to the insistence of Monsieur le Comte de Puisaye, who believes
that he can serve you."

"And certainly desires to do so," said the stranger, sweeping him a
bow.

"Monsieur de Puisaye!"  Surprised, Morlaix looked with deep
interest upon this man who might be said to hold the West of
France, and therefore the fortunes of the monarchy, in his hands;
this man who offering himself to Pitt, not as a suppliant, but as a
valuable ally in the war with the French Republic, had persuaded
the British Minister to lend his powerful aid to the enterprise
that was afoot, and who, being appointed by the Princes, Commander-
in-Chief of the Royal and Catholic Army of Brittany, was become an
object of bitter jealousy to the émigré nobility.  Despite the fact
that the aim of his labours was to end their exile and restore them
to their possessions, they could not forgive him for achieving what
none of them was capable of achieving, or for being, themselves,
constrained, by the rank bestowed upon him by the Princes, to serve
under his orders.

Whilst Morlaix considered him with the interest his fame deserved,
he became conscious of being himself the object of a scrutiny more
intent and searching than he could remember ever to have
experienced.  Then the smile broke, with all its singular charm,
and a lean hand was holding Quentin's in a grip that proclaimed the
Count's unusual vigour.

"On my soul, Fate is hardly to be forgiven for having left me
unconscious of your existence in all my comings and goings of the
past six months.  Only by merest chance do I discover it now from
Tinténiac."

Quentin, so schooled in imperturbability that it was wrought into
the nature of him, went near, and unaccountably, to embarrassment.
It may have been due to the unwavering, insistent stare of those
dark eyes.

"You desire to flatter me, Monsieur.  My obscure existence can
scarcely matter to you."

"Aha!  There speaks your ignorance."  His hand was at last
relinquished.  "You are to regard me as an old friend, pardi!  For
your mother's people were my friends when I was a lad in garrison
at Angers more than a quarter of a century ago.  There is nothing
for which the child of Margot Lesdiguières may not count upon me.
Voila!  Now you begin to understand the eagerness with which I seek
you, the vexation at not having sought you sooner."  Those
smouldering eyes were considering him again.  "Not to have known!
Ah! devil take me, but that is unforgivable."  Then he laughed, and
clapped Quentin's shoulder with a familiarity that jarred the
fencing master.  "But we'll repair that now.  We must become good
friends, great friends, is it not?"

"Naturally, Monsieur.  A friend of my mother's. . . .  Saving for
those she made in England, you are the first I have ever known.  I
have to thank you, Monsieur de Tinténiac.  Our meeting yesterday
was more fortunate even than I accounted it."

Puisaye paced away a little, looking about him.  "You prosper, I
learn.  You enjoy even royal patronage.  I find you well
established, oh, and well housed.  That is excellent.  Excellent!"

Quentin reflected that he would have admired a greater reserve.  He
cavilled that M. de Puisaye put himself too readily at his ease,
presumed a little upon that ancient friendship for Madame de
Morlaix.  Nevertheless, he summoned Barlow, ordered wine, and
conducted his visitors to the lounge above the little garden.

The Count sank with a sigh of satisfaction to a deep chair, and
stretched his long limbs.  "One is very well here, pardi!  I
understand that you should be content, as Tinténiac tells me.  But,
devil take me, a heritage such as Chavaray is not to be neglected."

The Chevalier interposed hurriedly, reading resentment in the
contraction of Quentin's brows.

"Monsieur le Comte will tell you how you may secure it without
incurring the dangers that are making you hesitate.  That, in fact,
is the real purpose of this visit, Monsieur de Morlaix."

"Do dangers make him hesitate?" cried Puisaye.  "Ah, bah!  I'll not
believe it.  With that nose and chin, that eagle's glance!  That is
not the man to shirk a danger, any more than I am."

To Quentin the flattery seemed gross.  He was not being favourably
impressed.  The flamboyance about this man offended his reticent
nature.  But he answered civilly.

"You will remember, Chevalier, that last night I discriminated to
St. Gilles between courage and sheer folly.  I do not shrink, I
hope, from ordinary risks.  But I do not lay a helpless neck under
the knife."

"As they would have you do, no doubt, those people of the family of
Chesnières," said Puisaye.  "I am glad to hear you had the sense
not to be taken in their trap."

"Their trap?" quoth Quentin.

"What else?  Is it possible, after all, that you doubt it?  They
talked, I hear, of the honour of the name, and your duty to it.
The honour of the name!  Of the name or Chesnières!  Dieu me damne!
There's not much honour to it for anyone to safeguard."

"It happens to be my name, sir," Quentin gently reproved him.

But Puisaye was not to be reproved.  "Parbleu!  I paid you the
compliment of forgetting it."  He waved the point aside with an
eloquent hand, and ran on:  "Those subtle gentlemen would have
persuaded you to go to France and get yourself guillotined.  A
convenient way of murdering you so that St. Gilles might succeed to
Chavaray."

Now whilst this was akin to the very suspicion Quentin had
harboured, yet to hear it bluntly voiced by this stranger was an
irritation.

"How would St. Gilles succeed if the estates were confiscated to
the nation, as they would be on the conviction that must precede my
guillotining?"

"How?"  Puisaye laughed.

"That," said Tinténiac, "is what Monsieur le Comte has come to tell
you."

"But what other can you suppose to have been their purpose?" cried
the Count.  "Or did you think they love you, then, these rascals?"
A note of mordant scorn and hatred crept now into his voice.  "A
vile, degenerate house, the house of Chesnières, my friend.  In
four generations it has produced only cripples, imbeciles or
scoundrels."

"It has produced me," Quentin reminded him.

For an instant Puisaye looked disconcerted.  Then his vigorous
laugh rang out again.  "Devil take me!  I will keep forgetting it."

"We shall be better friends, Monsieur, if you'll remember it," was
the quiet answer.

A swift gleam of anger flashed from the dark eyes, and was gone.
Puisaye shrugged, and waved his hand again.  He was very free of
gesture.

"Bien!  I'll remember."

He took up the glass that had been poured for him, held it to the
light a moment to judge the colour of the wine, then quaffed it and
smacked his lips appreciatively.  "You are well served, too.  I
should not have guessed there was so well-sunned a wine in England.
It grew ten years or more ago on the banks of the Garonne."  As
Quentin did not seem to take the hint, he reached for the decanter,
and brimmed himself another goblet.  "But to your business.  You
are not to imagine that you would be safe in France even before you
are in possession of the heritage.  To announce your claim to it
would be to find yourself laid by the heels and in the dead-cart."

"But the law, then?"

"You conceive that there is law in France.  To be sure there is.
But who trusts to it walks upon a bog.  The terms of a statute
matter nothing when those who administer it are scoundrels.
They'll give it any sense they choose.  It is just on this that
your fine cousins were counting."

"But," Quentin objected, "if I am disposed of, which you assume to
be their aim, they, as émigrés, cannot inherit.  Confiscation must
follow."

"So it must.  And the estates would be sold as national property.
But your cousins would do just that which I counsel you to do.
There are plenty of greedy, corrupt knaves in authority in France
who are fattening upon the national calamity; men who are prepared
to act secretly as agents of the rightful owners of confiscated
property.  If it were broken up and dispersed in petty lots, it
must be difficult to reassemble it when the time comes and the
monarchy is restored.  To prevent this, these agents lend their
names to the rightful owners, buy in the property for them at
prices purely nominal.  The incredible depreciation of the paper
currency of the Republic makes it easy for anyone with a little
gold.  Having bought it--for a consideration to themselves, of
course--these rascals will hold it against the day when this
nightmare is at an end.  Your cousins, I fancy, possess a faithful
servant in the steward at Chavaray, a rascal whom they will no
doubt reward for the supplies he has been furnishing them
dishonestly out of the property of the late Étienne.  I am well
informed, you see.  That fellow would, no doubt, discover for them
a likely agent and supply the necessary means."

"Well informed, indeed," Quentin agreed, and his tone betrayed some
of the surprise he felt that a stranger should be so intimately
acquainted with the affairs of Chavaray.  But his surmise of the
intentions of the brothers Chesnières, Quentin accounted shrewdly
exact.  It supplied a full explanation of all that had puzzled him
in their attitude.

Watching Quentin's frowning, thoughtful face, Puisaye asked him:
"Would it not ease your mind to have the matter handled so?"

"But who would so handle it for me?  Where am I to find a man in
France to undertake it?"

"That is perhaps how I can serve you.  Believe me, I should be
happy to do so.  In a few days I shall be returning to Brittany to
make sure that all is ready for the general rising.  It would be an
easy matter for me to pay a visit to Angers, and arrange that the
estates be bought for you when through your failure to appear
within the time prescribed their confiscation is decreed.  It will
not be long, I trust, before we shall have swept the sansculottes
to Hell, and so made it possible for you to enter into possession
in your own person.  What do you say to that?"

"That you overwhelm me," Quentin answered frankly, conscious even
then that it was an understatement.  "This interest in a stranger,
sir . . ."

"I'll beg that you'll not so describe yourself."  Puisaye was
emphatic.  "Cordieu!  Is it nothing that I am an old friend of your
mother's people, of your mother herself?"

"You know, sir, that my mother is no longer here to thank you."

"I know.  I know.  Tinténiac has told me."  His brow was clouded.
"If it had happened that I had come to England during her lifetime
I must long since have made your acquaintance.  I take it, then,
that you agree to let me serve you.  You will need, of course, to
place funds at my disposal."

"Funds?"  Quentin eyed him sharply.  It was as if a gleam of light
had suddenly been shed upon the mystification he discovered in a
stranger's concern that was as unsolicited as it appeared
exaggerated.  After all, Quentin knew his world.  He had only
Puisaye's own word for that ancient bond of friendship with the
Lesdiguières, and as lately as last night he had heard him
described as a swindling adventurer.  Of Tinténiac, too, he knew
nothing, when all was said.  The man enjoyed an heroic fame as an
active Royalist.  But like all men of his class in these days, he
would be reduced to neediness, a condition that drives men to queer
shifts so as to supply themselves.  Even the project which Puisaye
expounded, whilst so plausible, might be no more than a fiction for
all that Quentin knew.  "What funds would be needed?" he asked at
last.

Puisaye was airy.  "A million or two of livres.  Ah, don't let the
sound alarm you.  So worthless is the currency of the Republic that
some two thousand English pounds in gold would more than equal it."

"Not so much, perhaps.  But much for a poor fencing-master."

Puisaye seemed taken aback.  "Poor?"  He laughed.  "My friend, I do
not find that you have an air of poverty."

He could hardly have found words more unfortunate.  Quentin
remembered the man's interest in the academy's prosperity, the
probing half-questions which he had almost resented.

"Believe me, sir, I am touched by your interest in my affairs; but
too conscious of having done nothing to deserve it, it is
unthinkable that I should take advantage of it."

He saw the colour rise under the tan of Puisaye's narrow
countenance, and then recede again, leaving it of a deathly pallor.
The anger that momentarily glared from his eyes gave way to a look
of pain and wonder.  The smooth suavity of Quentin's tone had not
deceived him.

"By God!  He takes me for an escroc."  He got up as he spoke.

Tinténiac laughed uncomfortably.  "You suffer the fate of those who
offer unsolicited assistance."

"To have my face slapped by . . . by Margot's child!  That is . . .
Oh, but no matter what it is.  The fault is mine, for being
importunate."

"Sir," Quentin begged him, "do not regard it so.  I am sensible of
your excellent intentions.  It is only, as I have said, that I
cannot bring myself to trespass upon your good nature."

As if he felt himself mocked by the urbanity of that emotionless
voice, Puisaye yielded suddenly to anger.  "Suspicion is among the
meanest traits.  I am sorry to discover it in you."

Quentin inclined his head a little.  "I am pained to deserve your
disapproval, Monsieur le Comte.  If you have affairs elsewhere,
pray do not stand on ceremony."

Puisaye's lips twitched oddly in his white face.  He advanced,
clenching his hands, and for a moment Quentin thought that a blow
was coming.  Then Puisaye recovered.  He bowed from the hips,
theatrically, with an arm outflung.

"I take my leave, Monsieur le Marquis.  Pray forgive the intrusion.
Come, Tinténiac."

Tinténiac made a leg.  "Serviteur," he murmured with a curling lip,
and marched off in the wake of the tall, swaggering Count.

Quentin remained by the table in the embrasure, and as they passed
down the long room, Puisaye's voice floated back to him, laden with
indignation.

"I could have forgiven the cub if he had but had the manners to say
that he could not find the money!"



Chapter Seven

THE SAFE-CONDUCT


That night Quentin de Morlaix made an examination of conscience.
"Suspicion," Puisaye had said, "is among the meanest traits.  I am
sorry to discover it in you."  It was impressive because it
followed upon Germaine de Chesnières' more veiled reproach:  "The
suspicious are seldom happy, for they are seldom at peace."

It was because he agreed so cordially that unwarranted suspicion is
the fruit of a mean imagination that he now searched his soul.  Of
the suspicion with which Mademoiselle de Chesnières had reproached
him he found ample justification in the irresistible explanation
which Puisaye had given not only of their aims, but of the manner
in which they might fulfil them.  If he accepted this, he must
accept the fact that such things as Puisaye suggested could be
done.  But that Puisaye, with such mighty interests to serve,
moving in France at great risk and with a price upon his head,
should volunteer to increase his jeopardy for the sake of a
stranger became more and more incredible the more he considered it.
Therefore he might acquit himself, he thought, of the odious charge
of being too lightly moved to suspicion.

From pondering all this in detail, he came to reflect that what
Puisaye had proposed to do for him, he could do for himself if only
he could be sure of immunity in France whilst doing it.  That, of
course, was the difficulty, if it was true, as Puisaye said, that
the bloody-minded scoundrels who governed France did violence to
their own laws.  A month's brooding on this begot at last an
inspiration.  He remembered the English Jacobins, the Society of
the Friends of Man, whose aim was to establish the Tree of Liberty
on English soil, the Lord Edward Fitzgeralds, the Horne Tookes, the
Tom Paines.  There were in England, as there had been in France
before '89, many men of birth who had been seduced by those
philosophies for the regeneration of mankind which, so philanthropic
in theory, had proved in practice so abominable.

One of them, a young baronet, Sir George Lilburn, frequented
Quentin's academy, finding it expedient, no doubt, to advertise a
practised suppleness of wrist, so as to keep at bay the insults
which his political creed might provoke among his peers.

With him Quentin took counsel, mentioned, without specifying it,
that he had inherited a property in France and that so as to enter
into possession, it was expedient that he should go to Angers.
England being at war with France, there were obvious passport
difficulties.  Yet Quentin knew that members of the Society of the
Friends of Man came and went in spite of them.

The young baronet needed no more spurring.  He was willing and glad
to be of assistance.  The passport difficulty was easily overcome
now that Prussia had left the coalition and made a separate peace
with France.  Monsieur de Morlaix must travel on a Prussian
passport, readily obtainable from the Prussian Embassy.  For his
greater protection whilst in France, however--where Sir George
euphemistically admitted that officialdom could be of a vexatious
zeal--it would be desirable to procure him a safe-conduct, a
laissez-passer, from the Committee of Public Safety.  This was a
service that Sir George could easily render him.  He would give it
his immediate attention.

By an odd coincidence this undertaking of Sir George's was given on
27 July, which in Paris, by the Calendar of Liberty, was the 9
Thermidor, the date of Robespierre's abrupt fall and extinction.

The news of it reached London a few days later, to be followed soon
by reports of a reaction from the Terror that had brooded over
France.  To Quentin it seemed that this sudden turn of events must
enormously simplify the course upon which he had decided.  And not
only to Quentin; for scarcely was the matter known in London than
St. Gilles came seeking him.

He was suavely cousinly.  He explained that his departure for
Holland had been repeatedly postponed.  But he was glad since it
afforded him this opportunity of offering his felicitations.  "Your
apprehensions will have been removed with the removal of that
monster Robespierre.  There should be nothing to deter you now from
claiming your possessions."

"I am considering it," Quentin told him, and saw the eyes of his
cousin brighten with satisfaction.

"Decide it, my dear cousin.  Lose no time.  Although the law of
suspects is suspended and the Terror has passed, still delays may
be dangerous, and where so much is at stake you would do well to
hasten to France.  Already the time allowed by law for your
repatriation has grown dangerously short."

"Your anxiety for my interests flatters me," said Quentin in that
cold, emotionless voice of his.

"It is not only for your interests that I am anxious, but for those
of the house of Chavaray, for which, next to yourself, it is my
duty to care."

To be rid of him Quentin let him know that arrangements to enable
him to cross to France were already afoot.

"You relieve me," St. Gilles professed.  "Myself, on the eve of
departure for Holland, at the call of duty to the King, I am glad
to take with me the assurance that duty to our family will not be
neglected.  My farewells, dear cousin, and my good wishes."

He departed, leaving his dear cousin to smile over that final
impertinence, and over the thought that St. Gilles might have been
less satisfied had he known of the safe-conduct upon which Quentin
was depending.

There were now delays in procuring it, since the Jacobin agents in
London were left in uneasy doubt as to the consequences of the
Thermidorean upheaval, and delays were not lightly to be borne when
little more than a month remained for repatriation if he were to
avoid being listed as an émigré; for in this legal respect the
extinction of the Terror had brought as yet no change.

At last, towards the middle of August, he found himself, thanks to
Sir George's good offices, in possession of a Prussian passport and
a safe-conduct from the Committee of Public Safety, describing him
and the purpose for which he re-entered France, and bearing the
signatures of Barras, Tallien and Carnot.  In addition he had armed
himself, through Mr. Sharpe, with properly attested copies of all
documents necessary fully to establish his birth and parentage.

The academy he placed in the care of O'Kelly, with authority at
need to engage another assistant and to provide otherwise according
to his judgment.

"Why will you be going at all?" wondered O'Kelly, who was
imperfectly informed in the matter of the heritage.  "Things being
as they are in France, d'ye suppose now ye've inherited anything
worth the risk of collecting, considering what you're leaving
here?"

O'Kelly was by no means the only one to ask him that question, for
news of his imminent departure was spreading from the school,
through the émigré colony.  But the only one that he took seriously
was one that reached him at the eleventh hour.

On the very morning of his departure, when the travelling chaise
that was to bear him to Southampton stood already at the door, his
luggage in the boot, Barlow brought him word that Mademoiselle de
Chesnières desired to see him.

He was in the white-panelled dining-room above stairs in which he
had just breakfasted, saying a last word to O'Kelly, and Ramel.  He
dismissed them, so that he might receive her, a sudden tumult in
his pulses.

It startled her to see him already booted for the journey.  She
betrayed it in her parted lips and widened eyes.

"I am no more than in time, it seems," she cried.

"To bid me God-speed.  I take it very kindly, Mademoiselle, that
you should . . ."

"Oh, no, no!" she cried, interrupting him, and stood before him for
a moment twisting her gloves in agitated hands.  "You'll account me
of a monstrous presumption, Cousin Quentin.  I've come . . . I've
come to attempt even now, at this last moment, to dissuade you from
this journey."

"To dissuade me?"  It took his breath away.  Yet he so controlled
himself that she should not suspect it.  "To dissuade me?  But I
thought you so fully in accord with your cousins that the honour of
the name--was not that the phrase?--demands it."

"Never that.  I was never in accord with them on that.  And now
less than ever."

"You reproached me, I thought, with suspicions of their
disinterestedness in urging this course upon me."

"That is another matter.  I could understand your hesitation, and
see nothing cowardly in it, and yet deplore that you should harbour
your suspicions.  But now . . ."  She broke off, to recommence.
"You are deceived in your hopes that the death of Robespierre has
brought changes which make it safe for you to go.  The Terror may
be diminishing; but the Republican laws remain, the hatred of our
class remains, and between one and the other you will find yourself
in great danger."

"Since I owe this sweet concern to it, I cannot but take
satisfaction in it."

Her lovely eyes, of a deep gentian blue, dilated as she looked at
him.  Her face matched now in whiteness the graceful neck and
almost the muslin fichu that crossed the gentle swell of her young
breast.  "Be this mockery or gallantry, monsieur my cousin, both
are out of season.  I have come only to warn you of the dangers
into which you will be going."

He smiled.  "Dare I ask what is the source of your information, of
your knowledge of what is happening in France?"

"I have it from St. Gilles."

"You will not say that he has sent you here to tell me this?"

"If I told you that, you would not believe me?" she asked.

"I hope that I should never disbelieve whatever you might say."

"You never would have cause."  She was recovering her imperious
air.  "St. Gilles did not send me.  He did not even tell me these
things.  But if you must know my authority, I heard him saying them
yesterday to Constant."

"I see.  I see.  And how did he say it?  Something like this, I
think:  'The fool will discover when he reaches France and they lay
him by the heels, the blindness of trusting to the rumours of this
change of spirit among the sansculottes.'  It was so, was it not,
Mademoiselle?"

She eyed him in a stupefaction that was blended with annoyance.

"And if it were?  Oh, but don't trouble to answer that.  It was
just as you say.  I will admit it."

"You see, I begin to know these cousins.  And it would be said with
a chuckle, not a doubt."

"Since you are so well informed, you will know, of course, just
what that chuckle meant."

"It is not difficult to imagine."

"Not when one is by nature suspicious; then one imagines chuckles,
too, and every conceivable kind of malice."

"Whereas, of course, you would have me imagine that St. Gilles is
regretful that I should put my neck in danger."

"Why should you not imagine it?  It is as easy to imagine as the
opposite."

"Not in a man who some few days ago was here urging me to go
because this change of spirit in France would make it safe for me."

The scorn which had been deepening about her was all suddenly cast
aside.  Impetuously she came close, and laid a hand upon his arm.

"St. Gilles did that?"

He smiled.  "That it surprises you shows how little you understand
your cousins' aims for me."

"Oh, I see what you think.  But it is fantastic, revolting,
something of which it is impossible to suspect them.  After all, I
know them, and you do not, and I know St. Gilles incapable of any
baseness.  If he came here to urge you as you say, it can only have
been because he believed at the time what everyone believed.  He
had not yet learnt that the change of spirit was not so great,
after all."

"Then why does he not come again, to warn me?"

She considered a moment, candidly eyeing him, a little frown
between her eyes.  "Was your last reception of him such as to
encourage him?" she asked.  "Or did you display again that
offensive suspicion of his motives?"

"Faith, it's not impossible," he admitted, a little shaken in his
convictions.

"And I take it that you did not even consent to go.  For what I
overheard from him was:  'IF the fool goes . . .'  You begin to
see, I hope, the snares that too ready a suspiciousness can make
for you.  But let us leave that.  You have my warning.  You'll heed
it?"  The question came on a pleading note that thrilled him.

"I'll treasure it.  But it comes too late.  My plans are laid.  My
chaise is at the door.  I must follow my destiny."

She was very grave.  "It is not for me to be importunate.  I tell
you only this, that if you go I shall never look to see you again."

He was very close to her.  He lowered his head, and sank his voice
to a murmur.  "Would that matter to you, Germaine?"

She drew away as if in sudden panic.  Then recovering, she answered
with admirable dignity.  "It must naturally matter that any member
of my family should put himself in peril."

"And that is all?"  He spoke in infinite regret, then, too,
recovered.  "Of course.  Of course.  But let me reassure you.  I go
armed against the peril that you foresee.  I shall travel in France
under a safe-conduct from the Committee of Public Safety."

She showed him not relief, but blank surprise.  "How can you have
contrived it?"

He laughed.  "I have good friends of every political colour."

"I see.  And you look to your Republican friends to protect you."
Once again her mood was scornful.  "Why, then, of course, I have
foolishly wasted my time and yours.  Forgive these importunities.
Adieu et bon voyage, Monsieur mon cousin."  She sank to the very
ground in an exaggerated curtsy, and with a swirl of petticoats was
at the door.

He sprang after her.  "But what is this, Germaine?  In what have I
offended now?"

"Offended?  How can you suppose it?  You are free to choose your
friends, sir.  I trust they will prove all you hope."

He understood that he had wounded the fierce Royalism in which she
had been reared, a Royalism so intolerant that only under the
stress of bitter necessity would it consent to link hands even with
constitutional monarchists.  To move in Republican favour was
fantastically to these pure ones the unpardonable offence.

"You judge me harshly," he complained.

"Judge you, sir!  I?"  Her brows were raised.  "I have neither
right nor wish to judge you.  Again, good-bye."

It was a command not to detain her.  He yielded, a little out of
temper; and if his soul ached as he followed her down the stairs,
and handed her into her coach, yet his lips displayed a chill,
formal smile to match her own.



Chapter Eight

THE CLAIM


At any time the crossing of the narrow sea between England and
France must have seemed to the traveller as the passage from one
world to another, so different were the aspect, manners, language,
customs, garments, architecture, food, and almost every other
detail of the life of the country entered from that of the country
left.  But in the year '94--Year II of the Republic One and
Indivisible--the difference was deepened by the traces of the
violent political whirlwind that had swept over France.

Quentin had crossed by the ordinary packet from Southampton to
Jersey, and thence in a French fishing-boat had been conveyed to
Saint Malo, or Port Malo as it was termed in the new vocabulary of
Freedom, which excluded heavenly hierarchies as rigorously as
earthly ones.

Once Port Malo was left behind desolation spread an aspect of
rugged misery upon the land.  As he travelled in his chaise from
posting-house to posting-house, along the high road to Rennes,
neglected parklands and weed-choked gardens about more than one
untenanted château, were grim reminders of how it had fared with
the lordly class from which he had so lately discovered that he
sprang.  Grimmer still were here and there the blackened ruins of a
mansion once stately; for by a curious irony this Brittany, now to
be regarded as amongst the last strongholds of loyalty to Throne
and Altar, had been amongst the first and most violent of the
provinces to rise against the old order.  It was here, where the
distinction was most marked between noble and simple, where feudal
practices weighed most harshly upon the common people, that the
earliest outbreaks of revolt had taken place.  And just as violent
had been the reaction when the new order interfered with the
Breton's freedom of worship, driving forth their priests and
attempting to replace them by renegade constitutional strangers,
and when conscription was introduced and a levy of men decreed.

To the peasants of the West, shedding in hunger the illusions of
ease and abundance so glibly promised them in the name of Liberty,
Equality and Fraternity, this was the last intolerable affront.
They would levy the men demanded of them by the Republic, but
they would levy them, not to be sent to slaughter on distant
battlefields, but to defend the only liberty left them by the new
Age of Reason, the liberty to keep their lives and save their
souls.

In that hour of their need they turned again to their natural
overlords, from whose rule they had earlier revolted and of whom so
few remained.

The great Royalist rising of the West against the Republic was not,
at least in its beginnings, promoted by the nobles so as to re-
establish the order in which they throve; it was a rising of
peasants who marched in bands of thousands to implore, and in some
cases--as in that of the famous Monsieur de Charette in Vendée--
even to compel with menaces the nobles to take command of them.

These were the bands of which the Marquis de la Rouërie had been
the organizer in chief, holding themselves now at the orders of the
Comte de Puisaye, who had carried on and perfected La Rouërie's
organization.

At the moment of Quentin's arrival in Brittany many of them,
temporarily dispersed, were back at the cultivation of their fields
pending the summons to action.  Others, however, continued under
arms, lurking in the dense forests of the West, where no Republican
troops dared to hunt them, and sallying forth upon occasion to fall
upon Republican convoys, in order to victual themselves and improve
their equipment.  The cry of the owl--the chat huant--was their
rallying signal, whence was derived their designation of Chouans.

Quentin's acquaintance with them, however, was not to come until
later.  He saw nothing of them as he drove his hundred miles or so
from Port Malo to Angers, by roads which, thanks to the forced
labour of the old corvées, were better far than any in England.
That, however, was the only comparison he could make to the
advantage of France.  Everywhere in that province he beheld stark
misery, uncultivated or half-cultivated acres, with squalid
villages in which the houses were hovels built of mud, their
windows unglazed, inhabited by ragged starvelings who stood to
stare with animal dullness at the chaise that swayed and rattled
over their broken pavements.

Midway between Port Malo and Rennes he drove through miles of empty
desert moorland, where gorse was the only thing that blossomed,
with an occasional menhir or cromlech standing gaunt against the
sky.  After that, as he approached Rennes, there was some
improvement, with signs of intermittent cultivation.  The toilers
in the fields were mainly women, and even those who were still
young in years presented the weathered, wrinkled aspect of age, in
which all feminine softness was extinct.

He lay in Rennes at a fine inn, where the food was execrable, for
scarcity and want were the only visible fruits so far borne by the
tree of liberty.  There, too, he had his first glimpse of a
guillotine, standing red and menacing, but idle, in the great
square that once had been styled of Louis XV.  There, too, he was
pestered by cockaded and sash-girt officials, in a state of
nervousness resulting from their bewilderment at the changed state
of things which the fall of Robespierre had produced.  They seemed
relieved when Quentin presented papers which disposed of any
possible doubts concerning him.

At last, and without accident, he came to Angers, a substantial
town of stone houses with slate roofs, some open spaces and a fine
promenade flanked by Lombardy poplars along the River Sarthe.

He put up at the Inn of the Three Pigeons, which was also the
posting-house, and acting upon the advice received from Mr. Edgar
Sharpe he began by seeking that Pierre Lesdiguières who was his
mother's brother.

On the threshold of one of the more modest houses in the square, to
which he had been directed, he was checked by a slatternly
housekeeper, and informed that the Citizen Lesdiguières had gone
two days ago to Nantes.  The housekeeper did not know when he would
return.  These were days in which no one could venture a guess as
to what might happen on the morrow.  The Citizen Lesdiguières had
much business to transact in Nantes.  He had gone there with two
commissioners who had arrived from Paris to look into the conduct
of public affairs.  It was known that in Nantes there had been many
abuses by a Representative named Carrier, a creature of that
monster Robespierre.  All was in confusion, and the Citizen
Lesdiguières was to assist the commissioners in restoring order.
That might take some time.

The garrulous flood fell at last to a trickle, which Quentin was
able to stem by handing her a leaf torn from his tablets, on which
he had scribbled his name and the name of his inn, requesting her
to deliver it to the Citizen Lesdiguières on his return.

With more time at his disposal he would have been content to await
that return before taking any action.  As it was, though
disconcerted by the absence of one upon whose assistance he had
counted, he boldly decided to seek at once the prefecture.

Past the portals, guarded by a couple of slouching National Guards,
in striped trousers and blue coats, he was ushered into a dingy
room and there received with cold civility by the under-prefect.
That august functionary, young and not over clean, remained seated
at his writing-table and covered by a conical hat on the front of
which a tricolour cockade was plastered.  He assumed judicial airs
as he listened to Quentin's statement, and waved away the papers
Quentin offered in support of it.

If he was peremptory, he was considerably less so than Quentin
would have found him a month earlier.  Then he would have
overwhelmed any ci-devant Marquis with minatory official thunders.
Less sure of himself in these days of sudden moderation, which he
deplored, and with no other aim but that of avoiding responsibility
as far as possible, he coldly informed the Citizen Morlaix that his
case was one for the Revolutionary Committee of Angers, which would
be sitting to-morrow at the town-hall from ten to twelve.

Thither on the morrow Quentin repaired.  He found a Committee
similarly shorn of the truculence with which for many months it had
terrorized the public, and similarly anxious to practise
inactivity, since in these days of transition it knew not what
activities might ultimately be accounted incriminating.

After examining his papers, and after long deliberation, the
President concluded that the decision of such matters really fell
within the duties of the Public Accuser of Angers, to whom Quentin
was now referred.

The Public Accuser being also lodged in the town hall, and as
Quentin could think of no other official to whom he might be passed
on, he imagined that satisfaction would now be prompt.  But never
was he more mistaken.  The Public Accuser, he was informed by a
clerk, was too deeply engaged to receive him that day or the next.

Nor was that the end of the delay.  Day followed day, and still
that high functionary continued to deny himself on the same plea.
Quentin curbed his impatience only by the reflection that, after
all, the date of his entering France made him safe from any
chicanery that should classify him as an émigré, and so imperil his
possessions.  He was to realize his error when, at last, the Public
Accuser consented to receive him.  He afterwards blamed himself for
his dullness in not perceiving a coincidence in the fact that the
date of this was the 12th September, the day after the expiry of
the six months' grace accorded to a justifiable expatriate.

He found the Public Accuser, the Citizen Besné, installed in a
lofty chamber, furnished with the plunder of some nobleman's
mansion.  Cabinets richly inlaid and adorned by exquisitely painted
panels contained his archives; arm-chairs of gilded wood with
brocade coverings were set for the great man's visitors, and the
great man himself, very correct in black with a formally clubbed
wig and the airs of a petit maître sat at a bow-legged writing-
table of mahogany and gilt bronze that might have come from the
Palace of Versailles.

The Citizen Besné was of those, as Quentin was soon to discover, to
whom Puisaye had alluded as having grown rich out of the national
misfortune.  Not only had he assembled for himself a great estate
out of confiscated émigré property sold at vile prices, but he had
driven a great trade as the nominee of others who could afford, or
whom he could constrain, to pay his extortionate fees for
purchasing on their behalf.  He was a wizened, pock-marked little
man, with a thin tip-tilted nose, an almost lipless slit of a
mouth, and a pair of gimlet eyes that twinkled craftily.

His reception of Quentin was smoothly genial.  He heard his
statement, and glanced at his papers cursorily, whilst admitting
that he had knowledge of his case.

"It is unfortunate, however," he said, "that you arrive just a day
too late.  The law is as precise and clear as it is generous to
persons in your position; but it can tolerate no abuse of the
benign consideration for which it provides."

Quentin protested that he had been in France two weeks and in
Angers ten days, as he could prove.  The Citizen Besné's mouth was
stretched in a smile.

"Two weeks!  You have been in France two weeks, and it is six
months since the death of the ci-devant Marquis de Chavaray.  Such
tardiness, permit me to say, hardly argues a patriotic zeal or a
love for the country of your birth and that eagerness to return to
it at the first opportunity, such as should inflame the breast of
every true Frenchman.  The Republic, my friend, is patient with her
erring children, and clement in these fortunate days of equality in
justice as in all else.  But there are limits beyond which clemency
becomes mere weakness, and of weakness the Republic never can be
guilty."

Quentin dissembled his nausea at this turgid rhetoric sonorously
delivered; for the Citizen Besné possessed a voice that was
startlingly big in so small a man.

"With submission, citizen, may I indicate that we are to be
governed by the letter of the law, and not by sentimental
assumptions.  The letter of the law has been fulfilled by me.  I
was in France within the time prescribed."

"That," he was smoothly answered, "has a specious sound.  But let
me tell you that he is a bad man of law who concerns himself only
with the letter of it and ignores the spirit.  However, I will
waive the fact that but for the excessive leniency of the Republic
the estates of Chavaray would have been sequestered long ago, and
that the death of the ci-devant Marquis before conviction was
merely an accident by which the nation was cheated of her dues.  I
will keep to the letter of the law which you invoke.  By that the
estates, for lack of a claimant, became yesterday the property of
the nation.  You make your claim a day too late."

"Only because I was denied admittance to you earlier.  The
Revolutionary Committee will confirm my statement that I first
applied ten days ago."

"And the Committee informed you that application must be made to
me.  Do me the justice," rejoined the booming voice, "to believe
that mine is an exacting office.  I am overburdened with work and
with petitions of every kind.  I must receive them in the order in
which they are preferred, and the only date of which I can have
cognizance is the date on which they come before me.  You should
have taken this into account instead of remaining out of France
until the eleventh hour.  Let me add, citizen, that you are
fortunate in not being impeached as an émigré."

Inwardly burning with anger, yet perceiving that nothing could be
gained by exploding it against this sleek rascal whom the
Revolution had clothed in local omnipotence, Quentin set himself
calmly to plead against the assumption of lukewarmness which he
insisted was being permitted to weigh against him.  It was to be
remembered that a state of war existed between England and France,
which created enormous difficulties in passing from one country to
the other.  The time lost had been lost in seeking to overcome
them, and even when he had overcome them the events of Thermidor,
and the changes resulting from the fall of the party of the
mountain had created fresh delays.

The Public Accuser heard him out with patience; even, if that
crafty face was to be read at all, with satisfaction.  "The events
of Thermidor certainly favour you," he admitted.  "They ensure for
you a leniency which a few weeks ago would have been denied you.
Yet the facts--the legal facts--are as I have stated them.  The
sequestration of Chavaray became due yesterday.  In that matter I
can do nothing.  It is beyond my power to put back the clock.  But
the explanation you supply is one that certainly deserves my
sympathy.  To cancel the sequestration is not possible.  The
estates are now national property, and for sale.  Strictly, they
should be put up to auction.  But that, after all, is a matter
within my discretion, and I am prepared to stretch a point in your
favour so as to right a wrong which you make me understand has
happened automatically."  He cleared his throat, and leaned forward
across his writing-table.  "I will offer no opposition to--in fact,
I will facilitate in every way--your private purchase of the
estates."

"Purchase them!"  Quentin was aghast at the rascally impudence of a
proposal that he should purchase that which belonged to him.  He
began to understand fully the delay in giving him audience and the
trick of extortion of which he was being made the victim.  The
times, after all, had not changed to the extent that he had so
confidently supposed.

Besné smiled amiably into his staring eyes.  "After all, and
between ourselves, my dear citizen, the price need not be a high
one.  Indeed, prices of confiscated lands have been ruling
ridiculously low, largely as a result of the depreciation of the
paper currency of the Republic.  Then, again, patriots are not
rich.  So that the levels established are little more than
nominal."  The boom of the voice was muted to a confidential key.
"In strict confidence I may tell you that I have acted as nominee
in one or two cases similar to your own, for ci-devants whose
offences, of course, were merely technical.  I am, I hope, too good
a Republican to act for any others.  In those cases I have
naturally been allowed a commission for my pains: a commission of
one-third of the purchase price."

He paused there a moment, his crafty eyes seeking to read the
impassive countenance of the young man before him.  Then he
moistened his lips with a pale tongue, and softly expressed an
opinion that drew a gasp from Quentin.

"Five million livres would be a reasonable price for Chavaray."  He
paused again to smile upon the other's manifest dismay.  "Since
that would be the value of it in normal times, it cannot be
complained that we keep to it now, whilst disregarding a
depreciation of the assignat of which we are under no obligation to
take cognizance.  You take my point.  When that depreciation is
reckoned, the gold equivalent of five million livres is little more
than a paltry three thousand louis; a bagatelle; far less than the
yearly yield of the estates in ordinary times."

Quentin passed from dismay to amazement at a guile that could so
dissemble an outrageous transaction, and name a price that in
itself was speciously reasonable if one ignored, as Besné claimed
to be entitled to ignore, the shrinkage in the value of the
Republican currency.

"Even so," he said at last.  "Where shall I find three thousand
louis?"  Either he did not choose to remember that he could procure
it in England, or else he assumed that the matter could not lie in
suspense whilst he crossed the sea again to seek it.

"It offers difficulties, eh?"  Besné stroked his chin reflectively.
"Ah!  That, now, is unfortunate."  He considered further, quietly
humming through pursed lips.  "I wonder.  I wonder."  He became
effusive.  "Account me anxious to serve you, recognizing the
unfortunate situation in which you are placed.  I stand not only
for law, but also for justice.  Yet it would not be just--would it?--
that I should forgo a commission to which I think I am entitled.
Look, now, citizen, here is a friendly proposal for you; entirely
between ourselves, you understand.  Pay me the thousand louis which
would come to me as my commission on the extraordinarily low price
I have fixed, and I will offer no opposition to your claim to the
heritage; I will even recommend that it be admitted.  Considering
how that will simplify matters for you, you will hardly grudge me
that fee for such a service, eh?"

Dissembling his contempt, Quentin made answer smoothly:  "I should
not.  But, faith, it's no easier for me to find a thousand than
three thousand."

The Citizen Besné screwed up his eyes.  "Are you so sure?"

"I am sure."

"It is possible that you are mistaken.  I was lately informed that
the family of Chesnières, the cousins of the late ci-devant and
yours, are in London, living in luxury and wanting for nothing.  I
was about to order an investigation of this mystery of the source
of their supplies, when the events of Thermidor, whilst nowise
altering the laws relating to the property of émigrés, yet seem to
palliate, at least for the present, their evasion.  I have every
reason to suppose that the revenues of Chavaray, whilst diminished,
are by no means extinct.  Out of these revenues the steward of
Chavaray has been supplying what was necessary for the maintenance
in Paris of the late ci-devant, and at the same time remitting
moneys to the family in England.  It's an abuse that could not have
continued but for the sudden wave of moderation by which the
country is flooded.

"I advise you, then, to pay a visit to your steward at Chavaray.
He should be able to supply what you require from the funds in his
possession.  Go and see him, my friend.  In the meantime I will
stay my hand."

Quentin passed from amazement to amazement as he heard this
rascally official instructing him in the very course which it was
his intention to pursue.

Besné stood up, intimating that the interview was at an end.

"Of course you understand that all this is in strictest confidence
between us.  To a man of sense I need not add that an indiscretion
on your part must compel me to repudiate the entire transaction.  I
could not expose myself to a misunderstanding of the motives out of
which I act."  He smiled.  "I shall hope to see you soon again."

With a formal echo of the hope, Quentin bowed himself out of that
scoundrel's presence, not without a sense of shame at being the
conscious victim of so impudent a robber.



Chapter Nine

THE HOME-COMING


On the morrow, having ascertained that Lesdiguières, whose guidance
became more and more necessary to him, was still absent, Quentin
hired a chaise and was driven to his ancestral domain by a post-boy
who claimed to know the country as well as he knew his own pocket.

They left Angers, and headed north along a level road through a
well-wooded country that followed the course of the River Mayenne.
Some five miles out the boy informed him that they had now entered
the Chavaray lands, and when yet another five miles were behind
them the chaise swung to the right into a lane that ascended gently
between fields of stubble from which the harvest had been gathered,
until at last on an eminence above the river the Château de
Chavaray stood revealed in the August sunshine, an imposing mansion
of grey stone of the time of Louis XIII, with projecting pavilions
under extinguisher roofs at either end.

The chaise rolled between the massive stone piers of a wide gate,
and went rocking and swaying down a long avenue in need of repair,
set between two rows of tall Lombardy poplars.  On either hand the
comparatively open undulating parkland, where the grass stood tall
and rank, fell away to woods of oak and beech that gradually
increased in density.

The post-boy wound his horn as the chaise swept to a standstill
before tall iron gates set in the grey wall which, with the
flanking pavilions, enclosed the grass-grown forecourt.

Quentin alighted, and standing before the gates, looked through
with interest at this home of his fathers, chilled by the air of
desolation that overhung its stateliness.  With its shuttered
windows and the faded blistered paint on the great doors at the
head of the perron it looked like a house that was dead.

The post-boy, seeing that the flourish of his horn had aroused no
response, tore at the handle of a chain that hung beside one of the
piers, and a bell clanged mournfully upon the silence.

Presently a low door in the pavilion on the left was opened.  A
man's ill-kempt head appeared, and a pair of bovine eyes dully
regarded these intruders.  Then slowly there shambled out a fellow
in short and baggy breeches with naked legs that ended in a pair of
wooden shoes.  He clanked slowly over the grass-grown cobbles, and
came to observe them at closer quarters, always with that dull,
animal stare.

"What do you want?" he asked at last, in a deep, guttural voice.

Quentin's instinct was to announce himself for the Marquis de
Chavaray, and demand the instant opening of the gate.  But
remembering that there were no longer any marquises in France, he
preferred to ask for the Citizen Lafont.

"What do you want with him?"

"That I shall tell him when you fetch him.  Open me this gate."

Whilst the fellow stood without making shift to obey, a second man
emerged from the pavilion.  Like the first he was stockily built,
and wore the same pattern of enormous peasant breeches.  His legs,
however, were gaitered, and he boasted a short jacket of green
velvet and a broad black hat.  His face was tanned and strongly
featured and his eyes were light and clear as those of a hawk.

"What is it, Jacquot?"

"Strangers asking for you, master."

The newcomer reached the gate, and surveyed them sternly.  "Who are
you?  What do you want?" he asked, as curtly and rudely as his man
before him.

"You will be Lafont, I think.  My name is Morlaix de Chesnières.
Open the gate."

The man eyed him suspiciously.  "If your name were Chesnières I
must know you.  But I don't."

Nevertheless he drew the bolt.  The gate swung open, and Quentin
stepped into the forecourt.

"A nice, friendly welcome home," he said.  There was an asperity in
his smile.  "But, of course, you were not to know me."

The steward, on wide-planted feet, considered this rather military
figure, sparely elegant in long dark riding-coat, buckskin
breeches, and boots reversed at the top.

"Who do you say you are?"

"The present master of Chavaray."

The pale eyes flashed contempt.  "A purchaser of national property,
are you?  I hadn't heard of the sequestration of Chavaray; though,
of course, it was to be expected.  But didn't you say that your
name is Chesnières?"

"That is what I said.  It should tell you that I am master of
Chavaray by inheritance; not by purchase."

The rugged countenance became forbidding.  "Will this be a trick or
a jest?  The inheritor of Chavaray is Monsieur Armand de
Chesnières."

"The present inheritor, yes.  But I am the owner, Quentin Morlaix
de Chesnières, the late Marquis's brother."

"His brother?  What tale is that?  The late Marquis had no brother.
You're not even a good impostor, my lad, or you'd have informed
yourself that the late Marquis was old enough to be your
grandfather."

Quentin began to lose patience.  "Look you, my man.  I haven't come
to argue with you.  I . . ."

"I know very well what you're here for."  Lafont's voice was
harshly raised of a sudden.  "And I've had enough of you.  Out of
this!"

"A moment!"  Quentin was peremptory.  "I do not ask you to take my
word for my identity.  I bring papers to establish it.  Conduct me
indoors, if you please."

He was met by a grin of malicious understanding.  "Indoors, eh?
Oh, very likely.  Now be off before I make you sorry that you
came."

As he spoke, a young man in hunting-dress, booted to the middle of
his thighs, came briskly out of the pavilion.  He was followed by
three knaves in goat-skin jackets, baggy breeches of white linen
and wooden shoes, their weathered faces shaded by broad-brimmed
hats worn over knitted caps, each carrying a fowling-piece.

"What is it, Lafont?"  The young man's air and accent proclaimed
the gentleman.

"A joker who has the impudence to tell me that he is the Marquis of
Chavaray."

As if taken aback, the gentleman checked in his stride, and there
was a sudden quickening of his glance.  Then slowly he resumed his
advance.  He was bareheaded and his fair hair hung in a thick mane
about a thin-featured countenance that was arrogant and masterful.

"The imposture is too gross," he said contemptuously, and he
addressed himself to Quentin.  "Better be off, of your own accord,
my lad."

"It does not happen that I am your lad," said Quentin.  "Nor do I
know your right here.  As to mine, I have the means to satisfy you
if you will step indoors."

"Indoors, Monsieur de Boisgelin!" said Lafont significantly, with a
grin and a wink.

"Enough!"  The gentleman's peremptoriness increased.  "Will you go,
or shall my men throw you out?  It's yours to choose."

Still Quentin suppressed his anger.  From the breast of his riding-
coat he pulled a sheaf of papers.  "Look at these."

"What are they?"

"My papers.  They will prove my identity."

"That needs no proving.  Do you think I don't know a Republican spy
when I see one?  Be off!"

He made a sign to Lafont, who at once began a truculent advance,
whilst the other three moved forward to support him.

Quentin's eyes hardened in a face that anger had made white.  "Very
well," he said.  "I'll go.  But I shall remember your name,
Monsieur de Boisgelin, whilst awaiting the opportunity to call you
to account for a violence offered to me upon my own doorstep."

"By God, you mouchard, if you linger another moment I'll have my
men drive a charge of lead through your carrion."

Quentin stepped out of the forecourt, and Lafont slammed the iron
gate so closely upon him that one of his heels was bruised by it.

The post-boy, already mounted, watched his approach with scared
eyes.  He was barely in the chaise when it was whirled away at a
speed that argued panic.  Not until they had rattled down the
avenue between the poplars and regained the open road did the pace
slacken.  Then Quentin put his head out, and ordered the boy to
stop.

"You boast your knowledge of the country, my lad.  Do you happen to
know who is this Monsieur de Boisgelin who appears to be in
possession of Chavaray?"

"Do I know Boisgelin de Chesnières?  Ah, name of a name!  A bad
subject.  He doesn't shrink from murder, that one.  I was mightily
afraid for you, citizen, when you stayed to brave him."

And then Quentin remembered where he had heard the name of
Boisgelin before, and much in the same terms.  The Duc de Lionne it
was who had spoken of him as the first blade in France, a duellist
of fame, and cousin to the brothers Chesnières.

Meanwhile the post-boy ran on:  "Those rascals with him are
Chouans.  He's a Chouan, himself, and not a doubt there'll be more
of those wolves behind the shutters of the château.  Sacred name!
When I saw you obstinate, there was a moment when I wouldn't have
given ten sous for your life.  They're murderous brigands."

"Chouans, eh?  And what do you suppose Chouans may be doing at
Chavaray?"

"Just lurking.  You never know where they'll appear.  Likely
they'll be there in strength.  And that rascal Lafont has always
passed for a good sansculotte, which is how the two-faced scoundrel
comes to have been left in peace at Chavaray.  Next time you go
there, citizen, you should take a regiment of the Blues with you,
and burn out that nest of brigands.  God of God!" he ended.  "But
it's lucky we weren't murdered."

He cracked his whip, and baffled and angry the Marquis de Chavaray
was rattled back to Angers.

There, however, a message awaited him that went some way to raise
his spirits from their dejection.  Lesdiguières had returned from
Nantes, and had left word at Quentin's inn that he awaited him at
home.

Quentin did not keep him waiting.

In a dingy, dusty room, severely furnished as an office, he was
received by an untidy man of fifty of an incipient portliness,
whose shrewd, kindly countenance, however, was prepossessing.  His
garments were rusty, his wig ill-kempt, and there was an ounce of
snuff on his soiled neck-cloth.  He thrust a pair of horn-rimmed
spectacles up on to his forehead, and rose with alacrity to receive
his visitor.

"You are Maître Lesdiguières?" Quentin inquired.

The shrewd, kindly eyes smiled as they subjected him to a searching
consideration.  "And you are Margot's child!  Faith, you have her
eyes and the same proud look, and you'll have papers to prove you,
no doubt."  Lesdiguières advanced upon him, and embraced him.  "For
her sake I am glad to see you, nephew.  For years I have wondered
whether she and you were alive or dead.  It was a little hard to be
so utterly without news of her.  Tell me:  Is she still living?"

"Alas!  She died a year ago."

"Ah!"  He sighed, and his round face was troubled.  "I hope her
days in England were happy, peaceful."

"Peaceful they certainly were, and I believe them to have been
happy."

Lesdiguières nodded gravely.  He sighed again.  "Here we have been
through evil times, so evil that often it needed all a man's wit
and prudence merely to keep a head upon his shoulders.  But that is
now happily overpast, though prudence is still advisable.  Great
prudence."  Quentin was thrust into a chair.  "And so, Étienne de
Chavaray being dead, you've come to claim your heritage.  God knows
it has been hard-earned, and it's a miracle that it should have
escaped confiscation."

Quentin proffered his papers.

"What are these?" Lesdiguières asked.  "Let them lie for the
present."  He dropped them on to his table, resumed his seat, and
tapped his snuff-box.  "Now render me your accounts.  You'll not
have been idle since you came."

Quentin was commendably succinct, and his uncle listened without
comment beyond a grim smile over the interview with Besné and a
deepening frown over that day's indignities at Chavaray.

"Boisgelin, eh?" said Lesdiguières when the tale was done.  "A
cousin of yours.  A Chouan leader, as ardently sought by the
authorities as his other cousin, Boishardi, also a Chouan leader,
but a man of very different stamp.  Boisgelin is a graceless scamp.
An evil devil, a duellist.  There was a young man I knew in Rennes,
a lawyer, a good lad, whom this bully swordsman insulted and killed
on the eve of his wedding-day.  And he's sheltered by Lafont at
Chavaray, eh?  Between them they gave you a pleasant welcome home.
Anyway, it was a wasted journey.  Lafont I know to be a rogue,
probably a thief, and entirely in the interest of Armand and
Constant de Chesnières.  It's certain that he has been supplying
them with funds from the revenues of the estate.  He'll have helped
himself, too, not a doubt.  No wonder he wouldn't look at your
papers.  He'll want no master at Chavaray.  Perhaps not even
Armand.  Though, as things are, he is capable of coming to terms
with Armand so as to ensure his succession."  His eyes widened on
the thought that assailed him.  "Thousand devils!  Perhaps it was
lucky for you that he did not believe you to-day, or Boisgelin's
Chouans might have done your business for you."  He wagged his head
with solemnity.  "You may have more than the Republic to contend
with before you enter upon your heritage.  Meanwhile, there's this
money to be found for Besné."

"Must we indeed submit to this extortion?"

"With a smile."  Lesdiguières was emphatic.  "That robber may be
less dangerous than he was a month ago, now that terror is no
longer the order of the day.  But he is still dangerous enough, for
he is still in control of the legal machinery which the terrorists
perfected and which no one has yet ventured to destroy.  Besné goes
more carefully in his abuses.  That is all.  A couple of months ago
he would have demanded ten times as much for his rascally services.
There is nothing to do but pay his bribe if the estates are not to
become national property."

"But where am I to find a thousand louis?  Actually I dispose of
less than two hundred.  I was depending upon Lafont for what might
be necessary."

Lesdiguières laughed outright.  "Beware of optimism, nephew."  Then
he made a wry face.  "If I possessed the money I'ld never begrudge
you the loan of it.  I'ld gladly spend my last sou to bring success
to the plans my father formed when he married poor Margot to the
old Marquis."  He sighed as if the memory saddened him.  "But
perhaps we can contrive."

His manner of contriving depended upon a wealthy Marquise du Grégo,
who with her daughter, the Vicomtesse de Bellanger, was deeply in
the debt of Étienne de Chavaray.  They had been arrested under the
law of suspects, and at a moment when imprisonment made their own
wealth inaccessible to them, Étienne had advanced great sums--some
three or four thousand louis--as bribes for their deliverance.  As
a result of his own arrest occurring almost at the moment of their
release, the debt had remained undischarged.  The present should be
their opportunity.  It happened that business of the Republic was
compelling Lesdiguières to visit Port Malo at once.  He would go by
way of Coëtlegon taking Quentin with him so as to present him to
the Marquise.  As it was Lesdiguières, himself, who had acted for
the Marquise du Grégo in the matter of the money supplied by
Étienne de Chesnières, Quentin need have no doubt of their
reception.



Chapter Ten

MADAME DE BELLANGER


They set out, Quentin and his new-found uncle, very early on the
following morning, and so that the lawyer might make the better
speed on a journey to Port Malo which he represented as urgent,
they travelled on horseback.  Thus Quentin was under the necessity
of leaving the greater part of his belongings at his uncle's house,
taking with him no more than he could pack into a small valise,
strapped to the saddle behind him.  Never a marquis who was owner
of half a province travelled in more modest fashion.

Elsewhere in France the display of a tricolour cockade would have
been a prudent measure; but here, in a country infested by Chouans,
the tricolour would be as dangerous on the one hand as the white
cockade on the other.  So they eschewed devices of political
significance, leaving themselves free, according to Lesdiguières,
to cry either, "Vive la République," or "Vive le Roi," according to
their challengers.

By riding hard they reached and lay that night at Châteaubriant,
and on the next at Ploermel.  Here they put up at the Inn of the
Cicogne, whose tubby little landlord, Cauchart, welcomed
Lesdiguières as an old friend.

They were visited there by two members of the local Revolutionary
Committee who came to demand their papers.  When the demand had
been satisfied, they practised a civility which in the past two
years had been unknown in such functionaries.  Almost they excused
themselves for troubling these travellers, explaining that the
brigands--by which term they designated the Chouans--had of late
been of an increasing activity.

On the morrow they set out to cover the dozen miles or so to
Coëtlegon.  The September day was overcast and cooled by a strong
westerly wind, and in the grey light the empty moorlands looked
bleak and desolate.  Across these they made their way by tracks
that grew ever steeper and less defined.  Over the summit, however,
they descended into a district of forests of an ever-increasing
density.  They met no travellers other than occasional peasants,
men and women, who called a greeting to them in a tongue unknown to
Quentin.

Towards noon they emerged from these woodlands, through which they
had wound their way as through a maze, into a wide valley that was
sparsely planted, dominated by a massive flat-fronted mansion,
grey, four-square and severe, which seemed to take that wide valley
for its park.

At the foot of the balustraded terrace upon which it stood they
dismounted, left their nags to the care of a stable-boy who came to
meet them, and went up a broad flight of lichened steps.

Crossing the terrace, Quentin had a fleeting impression of a face
at one of the tall windows, hastily withdrawn as he raised his
glance.  An elderly man-servant out of livery stood to receive them
on the wide threshold, and conducted them to a lofty spacious salon
of faded glories, where presently they were joined by the ladies of
Coëtlegon.

For Lesdiguières there was a greeting of a warmth that seemed to
annihilate all barriers of rank.  It was followed by an amazement
that bordered on incredulity when the old lawyer presented his
companion as the new Marquis of Chavaray, and the amazement endured
even when incredulity had been conquered by explanations and an
insistent display of the young man's credentials.

They studied him with an interest equal to that with which in his
turn he considered them.  In the Marquise du Bot du Grégo he beheld
a tall, faded beauty, angular and shrivelled, but gentle-mannered
and kindly.  Her daughter, the Vicomtesse de Bellanger, as tall as
her mother, was of a beauty neither faded nor shrivelled, but of an
almost startling opulence.  A coil of her luxuriant hair, black and
glossy as velvet, lay alluringly on her neck as if to stress its
warm ivory whiteness.  Against that same warm pallor of her face
her full sensuous lips were vividly red.  Her eyes were large and
dark and languorous, and all her features of a miraculous
regularity.  The clinging lines of her riding-habit, of iron-grey
velvet laced with gold, revealed a beauty of shape to match her
splendid countenance.

In returning the papers the Marquise spoke in a voice as faded as
her person, a voice gentle to the point of plaintiveness.

"I recall that the old Marquis Bertrand made a mésalliance late in
life."  There was no shade of malice in her melancholy utterance of
the ill-chosen words.

"He married my sister, Madame," Lesdiguières answered without
embarrassment.  "Hence my interest in her son."

"Your sister?  To be sure.  I remember now.  Her name was
Lesdiguières, and she was accounted a great beauty; beautiful
enough, I suppose, to make amends in a man's eyes for her humble
birth.  That was before you were born, Louise.  But I did not know
that the union had borne fruit."

The fruit of it submitted himself impassively to her scrutiny.  In
the lithe upright carriage, the elegance of the riding-coat, with
the sword worn through the pocket, the proud poise of the head, and
the masterfulness of the long, lean countenance under the queued
chestnut hair, her myopic old eyes may have found something to
admire.

"Not much of the Chesnières in you," she commented.  "You'll favour
your mother, I suppose."  Softly she invited him to sit.  "Is
Armand de Chesnières aware of your existence?"

"Oh, yes, Madame.  And of my succession.  We met in London."

"In London!" exclaimed the daughter, with an increase of interest
in him, which Quentin perfectly understood.  "So you come from
England."

But it was her mother who pinned his attention.  "And what had
Armand to say to it?" she was inquiring.

"It was his advice that I should come to France to make good my
claim."  He explained at length the situation in which he found
himself towards the law, going on to acquaint them briefly with his
general circumstances.

They heard him out with every sign of friendly interest, blent in
Madame de Bellanger with a certain amusement, of which she made it
clear that the Chevalier de St. Gilles was the object.

Then Lesdiguières took up the tale, to inform them of Besné's
proposal.  "Whether," he said in conclusion, "you can supply the
sum, as a repayment of your debt to the late Marquis or simply as a
loan, would be, Madame, of your own determining.  But in either
case Monsieur de Chavaray, as he will tell you, will be profoundly
obliged."

Quentin fancied that the warmth of their attitude was a little
diminished.  Madame du Grégo looked slightly more wistful.  "I
should wish it to be towards the repayment of the debt, of course.
Should we not, Louise?"

"Naturally."  The Vicomtesse was definite.  "We must see what we
can do.  I will consult our steward at once."

"At the same time, sir," the mother added, "you will understand
that in these unhappy days, with revenues not merely shrunken but
so difficult to collect at all, it is no easy matter to lay hands
upon so large a sum."

"My mother means," explained the Vicomtesse, "that we may require a
little time, a few days.  But you may depend upon us not to keep
you waiting longer than we must.  Meanwhile, of course, you will do
us the honour to remain the guests of Coëtlegon."

Quentin looked to Lesdiguières for direction.  It was promptly
given.

"You relieve me of concern for Monsieur le Marquis, Mesdames.
Myself, I am on my way to Saint Malo, and in haste to reach it.  I
shall be happy to think of Monsieur de Chavaray in such hospitable
hands meanwhile."

Nevertheless the lawyer allowed them to persuade him to stay to
dine, and at the well-served table the conversation soon became
political, as was inevitable in those days.  It resolved itself
mainly into a dialogue between Lesdiguières, who in that
aristocratic household did not scruple to reveal his strongly
monarchical sentiments, and the Vicomtesse, who almost shocked
Quentin by the opposition which she offered to them.  She argued
strongly that the Terror being now overpast and succeeded by a
spirit of moderation, which, developing as was to be expected, held
out the promise of sane government under which all might live at
peace, one must deplore the renewed activities of the chouannerie,
which were provoking in Brittany a state of civil war under which
all must suffer.

They had endured enough at the hands of the terrorists, she
insisted.  She and her mother had been gaoled, had suffered
unutterable indignities, and had stood in imminent peril of the
guillotine.  To stifle by futile revolt the present spirit of
moderation, might well be to bring back those evil days.

Less, as it seemed to Quentin, from conviction than from deference,
Lesdiguières allowed her to have the last word, whereupon,
conscious of the silence in which Quentin had followed the debate,
she turned to challenge him.

"Do you not agree with me, Monsieur le Marquis?"

Had he answered truthfully, he must have expressed amazement that
the wife of an émigré who in his London exile was preparing to take
his place in the Royalist army about to invade the West, should
utter sentiments so republican.  He wondered what that pure
royalist, the pompous Bellanger--for news of whom she had not yet
troubled to seek--would say if he could hear her.

"Madame," he replied, "I am hardly in case to hold an opinion."

"By which I suppose you mean that gallantry prevents you from
uttering one that is in disagreement with a lady's."

"Indeed, Madame, all that I mean is that I am too indifferently
informed in these matters.  It happens that I am not politically
minded."

Her magnificent eyes glowed upon him in a smile.  "It shall be my
privilege to instruct you, sir, during the time you are to honour
us here."

Lesdiguières seems to have found that promise suspect.  For at
parting he had a word to say to Quentin about it.

"There are, no doubt, many matters in which Madame la Vicomtesse
would find amusement in instructing you.  But I doubt if you will
discover politics to be amongst them.  Keep a guard on yourself, my
lad.  Women sometimes have their own way of paying debts, and your
need at the moment is a thousand louis.  Once you have the money
make haste back to Angers, and should I not have returned before
you get there, await me before seeing Besné again.  God prosper
you, my lad."

He rode away, leaving Quentin to make the discovery that the
shrewdness of Lesdiguières' countenance was the faithful mirror of
his mind.

Madame du Grégo, as aimless and ineffective as her plaintive
exterior suggested, left all matters of consequence to her
daughter; and it was Louise who that very evening sent for the
steward and shut herself up with him to consider--as she afterwards
told Quentin--measures for raising the money required.

She told him of this on the following morning.  It broke fair after
a night of rain, and sky and earth sparkling with a new-washed air,
drew them out of doors as soon as breakfast was done.

She did not think that after two long days in the saddle Quentin
would care to ride, and in the vast park it was too wet underfoot
for walking.  But they could take the morning air on the terrace,
and there she lingered with him almost until the hour of dinner.

The matter of the money was soon dismissed.  It was entrusted to
the steward, and he was to exert himself to collect it.  Almost as
soon did she dismiss the matter of her husband when Quentin brought
it up.

"The Vicomte de Bellanger happens to be known to me, Madame."

She tossed her head.  "Then you know a good-for-naught," she
shocked him by replying.  I am told that Englishwomen are notorious
for their frailty.  Monsieur de Bellanger should be happy amongst
them."

"At present I think he is more concerned with the Royalist army
that is forming."

"Then he's greatly changed since last I saw him.  Shall we find a
less dreary topic?"

She plunged headlong into those politics upon which she had
promised to instruct him, and poured scorn upon the petty
jealousies among the leaders of the chouannerie which made
impossible that cohesion which alone could ensure any success
against the arms of the Republic.  She spoke of the Vendée, where
it had been the same, and where the great forces serving under
Stofflet and Charette were being destroyed piecemeal by the Blues
simply because their jealousy of one another prevented them from
combining.  Hence her conviction that no good could come of the
present Chouan activities, and that all that would result from them
would be to distress the country with civil strife, in which the
greatest sufferers must be those who occupied the land.  There
might even be a repetition in Brittany of the horrors seen in the
Vendée, when, so as to stamp out the ill-conducted rebellion, the
land was systematically laid bare by the fire and sword of the
Infernal Bands, as the Republican troops detailed for that work of
extermination by incendiarism and wholesale massacre, had been
designated.

Quentin listened with interest to the information all this
contained for him.  But neither the rich, musical voice nor the
superb muliebrity of his companion could dull his perception of the
fundamental egotism that shaped her views.  The cause in which her
birth should have enlisted all her sympathies, even at some
sacrifice of reason, was of little account when weighed against
apprehensions for her personal well-being.

She sought next to draw him to talk of himself and his life in
London and in particular of the émigrés he had known there, and
thus there came again a mention of her husband.  This time she did
not dismiss it as summarily as before.  She sighed, fell into
thought, then sighed again, and unburdened herself.

"Ah, my dear Marquis, you behold in me a woman to be commiserated."

"Say a woman to be admired, envied, desired even.  But never to be
commiserated."

She smiled upon him wistfully.  "You do not know.  Married as a
child, without any voice in the matter, a marriage of convenience,
arranged for me in the usual way, I am neither wife nor maid, and
have been so for years."  With increasing frankness she ran on.  "I
am a woman made for love; a woman in whom loving is a need; life's
greatest need.  And I am tied to a name, fettered to a worthless
man whom I have not seen in years, and whom it would be a pleasure
never to see again."

Quentin shrank a little.  These were confidences that he did not
desire.  Mechanically he answered:  "The times, no doubt, are to
blame for that."  And he thought that courtesy demanded the
addition:  "Only the force of cruel circumstances could keep a
husband from your side, Madame."

Mockery thrilled in her laugh.  "Not such a husband as mine.  And
then the different conditions in which we live.  He is at large,
moving freely amongst the men and women of his class, and finding
consolation in abundant measure, whilst I am wasting here in
solitude and even in danger.  Do not despise me, Marquis, for
pitying myself a little."

He could only repeat himself.  "The times, Madame!  The times are
to blame for all."

"Neither the times nor his emigration.  Bellanger married my
fortune, not me."

They had come to lean upon the granite balustrade.  Quentin turned
his head to consider her: her splendid height, her noble shape and
the beauty and vitality of her countenance.

"That is not to be believed, Madame, when one beholds you."

The languorous eyes smiled wistfully into his.  Her fine hand fell
caressingly upon his arm.  "I thank you for that, my friend.
Almost you restore me some self-respect.  For a woman neglected by
her husband is in danger of despising herself.  Do you know that he
desired me to share his emigration as little as I desired to
accompany him?"

"Of what do you complain, then?  It seems to me that you are
quits."

A sort of horror filled her glance.  "You laugh at me," she
reproached him.  "Perhaps I deserve it for inviting your pity.  But
you deceived me."

"I, Madame?"

"You seemed sympathetic.  Your eyes are kind.  I thought you would
understand, or I should not have ranted so.  Forgive me."

Contritely he abased himself, comforting her with assurances of
liveliest feeling for so sad a case.  But as if his attitude had
chilled her, she gave him no more of her confidences that day.

Neither, however, did she deny him her company.  Assiduous in her
attentions and solicitous for his entertainment, she seemed in the
days that followed to have no other thought or care.  She rode with
him mornings, now through the woodlands beyond the immense meadows
of Coëtlegon, now farther afield, over the wide moorland of Menez,
empty of all save gorse and broom, reaching it by way of a country
wasting for lack of cultivation and through villages of mud huts
with unglazed windows, tenanted by grim-faced men and women.

He was drawn to perceive in this squalor the justification of the
Revolution against a system that permitted it.  Unconvincingly she
would answer him that much of the present indigence was a result of
the chouannerie.  Fields remained indifferently cultivated because
the peasantry under arms abandoned them at the first summons to the
brigandage composing the warfare they conducted.

Daily, after dinner, she would take him to the estang of Coëtlegon,
a pleasant little artificial lake contrived for irrigation purposes
and fed by waters of the Liè, to fish for the monster carp that
inhabited it; and in the evenings she taught him backgammon, whilst
her melancholy, self-effacing mother sat eternally knitting.

She was not only of a superb, alluring beauty, but gay and witty
when not concerned to parade her unfortunate circumstances; and
even when engaged in this, she seemed to employ subtlest arts of
seduction, as if inviting Quentin to make free with treasures
neglected by their lawful lord.  She was not to suspect that the
eyes of his mind setting beside her the chaste image of Germaine de
Chesnières, found the rich muliebrity of Louise du Grégo excessive
and almost repellent.  Assigning to timidity his reticences, she
displayed herself with an increasing boldness, which still had no
power to move him from his restrained and formal courtliness.
Under cover of this he grew impatient of the delay, and ventured at
last, on the evening of the fifth day of his visit, gently to
approach the subject of his purpose there.

They were alone in the library of the château, a chamber which owed
its existence and equipment to the late Marquis du Bot du Grégo,
who had been a man of studious habits.  She had brought him there
to show him the illuminated missals and the incunabula which her
father had taken pride in collecting, and which in value
represented so considerable a fortune that she had more than
ordinary cause for thankfulness that Coëtlegon had not shared the
fate of so many Breton châteaux during the days of revolutionary
incendiarism.

He turned from the last of the missals she had displayed.  "Madame,
I begin to grow conscious of my monstrous abuse of your
hospitality."

"Have you not every claim upon it?  Do you forget the great debt we
owe you?  But perhaps you grow impatient here.  You find us dull."
She confronted him wistfully, at close quarters, beside the heavy
oaken table, on which the ponderous volumes lay.

"How can you suppose it?  I grow impatient only of my own
encroachments."

"That you may certainly dismiss.  Our steward is proving dilatory,
I know.  Can you blame me if I am not distressed by it?  It is
ordinarily so lonely for me here.  I have been so . . . so happy in
your companionship.  Why should I conceal it?  I have hardly given
a thought to the matter of the money.  I avoid unpleasant thoughts,
having had too many of them.  And that thought is unpleasant
because bound up with the thought of your departure."

She had drawn nearer still as she spoke, and the rich swell of her
breast was within an inch of his own.  Her moist, red lips were
parted in a gentle smile.

"Madame, you are too good."

"Too good?  Too good for what?"  She turned aside with a sigh.
"Caradec has gone to Ploermel, to endeavour to collect what is
still needed of the money for you.  But rents in these days are
difficult to obtain.  Hence a delay, which I say that I cannot
deplore.  Content you, however, that no effort will be spared to
satisfy you."  She lowered her voice to a gentle murmur, her eyes
played over him with an increasing languor.  "To satisfy you must
always be our aim.  We owe so much to the late Marquis.  Oh, and
for your own sake as well.  You are a man to whom a woman could
deny nothing."

He drew back a step, out of the enveloping aura of her seductiveness,
and parried so direct a thrust by a jest and a laugh.  "Madame, you
give me news of myself."  Then, turning aside, and moving slowly
towards the window he added:  "I recognize in it another proof of
your great goodness towards me."

Hungrily her dark eyes followed the lithe, graceful figure.

"You might recognize more than that," she breathed.

"Only if I were a coxcomb."

She was silent for a long moment.  When next she spoke there was a
hint of hoarseness in her voice.  "How terrible is your self-
restraint."

He thought it well that one of them should practise it.  "How
terrible," he evaded, "is the necessity that imposes it."

She caught her breath.  "Ah!  What necessity is that?"

Because he did not know, himself, he answered darkly:  "Madame,
there are things of which I cannot speak."

That hint of a mystery raised a barrier for a moment.  In the next
her feminine wit and persistence were overcoming it.  She rustled
to his side again, and stood with him looking out upon a sweep of
lawn to the tall yew hedge that enclosed a garden.  The lawn was
unkempt, almost a field, and the hedge was ragged; for Coëtlegon,
which in normal times had maintained a dozen gardeners, now
employed but one.  The Revolution had served to prove that if you
destroy the rich, you destitute those who live upon them.

"My friend, what is it that oppresses you?"  Her voice was rich in
sympathy.  "Confide in me.  A burden shared is a burden halved.
Let me help you.  Regard me as a friend who would spare herself
nothing where she might serve you."

The caressing hoarseness of her muted voice, her touch upon him,
the consciousness of her warm, palpitating, sensuous loveliness,
the very perfume that hung about her, a subtle distillation as of
lilac, began to trouble his senses.  He fought sternly against
these impalpable tentacles that were laying hold of him, yet ever
with a chivalrous reluctance to bruise her feelings.

"Madame, I have no words in which to mark my sense of the honour
that you do me."

"No words are needed."  It was almost a whisper.  She leaned
against him.  He had but to turn, and she would be in his arms.
And it was only by doing violence to himself that he succeeded in
drawing away from that alluring contact.

"You are right, Madame.  Words will not serve.  It is by deeds that
I must prove my gratitude, my awareness of the debt in which your
friendship places me.  And when occasion offers you shall not find
me wanting."

He scarcely knew what he was saying.  But whilst he spoke
mechanically, he obeyed the need again to be widening the distance
between them.  As he ceased, there was a silence in which she stood
curiously regarding him.  There was a flush on her normally pallid
cheeks, and her quickened breathing showed itself in the heave of
the lovely breast, so generously displayed by the low square cut of
her corsage.  Then she laughed a little, softly, on a rather
jangled note.

"I wonder what it is that makes you afraid of me?"

"Perhaps it is the fear of myself," he answered just as boldly, and
added quickly:  "By your gracious leave, Madame, I think I will
take the air before we sup."

On that, and in the best order that he could command, he made his
retreat.

An hour later, Lazare Hoche, the General commanding the Republican
Army of Cherbourg, arrived unexpectedly at Coëtlegon, to crave its
hospitality and to create a diversion and procure Quentin the
relief which had become an urgent necessity.



Chapter Eleven

LAZARE HOCHE


This Lazare Hoche, but for his untimely death, might well have
played in France the rôle that was to be filled by Bonaparte.
Already the fear that he might play it had all but brought him to
the guillotine.  His swift rise from the ranks to generalship, such
as only the revolutionary conditions could make possible, and the
victorious campaign of the Vosges, so brilliantly conducted by this
General in the middle twenties, with the power accruing to him from
his consequent popularity, had alarmed the jealous masters of the
Revolution.  Robespierre and his fierce acolyte, St. Just,
perceived what opportunities were offered to a resolute soldier who
had won the affection of his troops and the esteem of the people.
They may even have felt that the increasing anarchy could
ultimately be resolved--as, indeed, ultimately it came to be--by a
military dictatorship, and in Hoche, with his high courage, his
talents, his engaging personality and his popularity, they may have
suspected a potential dictator.  So they trumped up an impeachment
of treason, and cast him into gaol.  Fortunately for him, whilst he
awaited the trial that would undoubtedly have furnished him with a
passport to the scaffold, the events of Thermidor supervened, and
the prison-doors that opened to receive St. Just and the half-dead
Robespierre, opened at the same time to deliver the young general.

Not only released, but restored to the confidence of the present
masters of the State, Hoche was presently given command of the Army
of Cherbourg, and dispatched into the west with the mission of
stamping out the smouldering insurrection.

It was on his way now to take over that command, and accompanied by
a half-dozen members of his staff and a little troop of fifty horse
as escort, that General Hoche came to solicit for the night the
hospitality of Coëtlegon.

A man of the people--in his early youth he had been a groom in the
stables of Versailles--Lazare Hoche in his twenty-seventh year
presented every mark and attribute of nobility.  Commandingly tall
and admirably proportioned, elegant in his appointments, graceful
in his movements, he was of a grave, lofty beauty of countenance,
with calm intelligent eyes and a generous, mobile mouth.  His
gentle voice and his speech singularly cultured--for, of studious
habits, he had been at pains to repair the omissions in the
education with which he had started life--went to complete the
mirror of courtliness presented by this child of the gutter.

Even the old Marquise's fierce pride of birth succumbed in
graciousness before his natural nobility, whilst her daughter
received him as if he had been royal.

His brigadier, Humbert, who accompanied him, a man of his own age,
and like himself a son of the soil, was also of an exterior to take
the eye.  Shorter and more lightly built, he was quick and graceful
and of a lively countenance.  If Hoche wore the airs of a prince,
Humbert presented the appearance of a typical soldier of fortune,
gaily bold and swaggeringly gallant.  Whilst his military talents
were considerable, he had remained illiterate, and whilst Hoche in
his present surroundings, disdained the terminology of the
Republic, and gave the ladies of Coëtlegon their proper titles,
Humbert advertised his republicanism by scrupulously respecting the
revolutionary dictionary.  He rendered it evident, too, that he was
of a greater enterprise in gallantry, and his bold and open wooing
of the lovely Vicomtesse, next to whom he was seated at supper, was
not confined to an ardour of glances.

The Vicomtesse, however, as blind to the fire in Humbert's eyes as
she was deaf to the inner meaning of his phrases, had attentions
only for the handsome Hoche, seated opposite to her, beside her
mother.

Martin, the old maître d'hôtel, with a lad in plain livery to
assist him, waited upon them at a table that was reasonably well
supplied.  Wine was abundant and good, and liberal indulgence in it
did not improve the manners of the half-dozen officers at the
table's lower end.  Towards the end of the meal they grew
boisterous, shatteringly loud in their laughter and of rather too
coarse a jocularity.  Two of them brought forth their pipes and
lighted them at the candles, and calling for more wine were
disposing themselves for a carousal.  But observing the Marquise's
sudden trouble, the General was prompt to make an end.

He raised his gentle voice.  "Citizen-officers, Madame du Grégo
gives you leave to withdraw to the quarters she has assigned to
you, where you may take your ease.  You will, of course, practise
that circumspection becoming Republican officers who are guests in
a lady's house."

There were no murmurs, and if in their rising the members of his
staff were still noisy, nevertheless they were promptly obedient,
and allowed themselves to be led forth by Martin to the quarters
Hoche had suggested.

Louise du Grégo leaned forward to thank him.  "So much
considerateness does you honour, General.  My mother and I are
deeply grateful."

That was all that she said in words.  But a deal was added to them
by the ardour of her magnificent eyes, and the warm smile on her
red lips.

Humbert at her side made bold to set a hand upon her arm.  "Eh, but
we are not boors, Citoyenne, we soldiers of the Republic.  In our
duty to the ladies we are nothing behind the men of the old
regime."

"I do not doubt it, my General," she answered him, but her eyes
were ever upon Hoche.

They moved to the salon, and almost at once the Marquise bade them
good night, with plaintive, formally expressed hopes that they
would find the quarters assigned to them all that they could
desire.  Hoche returned gravely courteous assurances of his
confidence in this; Humbert laughingly protested that he possessed
the soldier's faculty for bivouacking anywhere.

"So that I may dig a hole for my hip-bone I can sleep comfortably
on the bosom of mother earth, which is not to say," he added with a
grin for the Vicomtesse, "that there are not other bosoms I should
prefer."

Quentin wondered would she have frowned with the same displeasure
at a similar brutality from Hoche.

"My friend," his General told him, "I am sure that Madame will
excuse you if you wish to join the others."

But Humbert ignored the hint.  "Madame might excuse me.  But I
could never excuse myself," he answered, and flung himself into a
chair.

Madame du Grégo was moving towards the door.  Hoche went to open
for her.  As he returned Humbert was saying:  "The Citoyenne
promised that she would sing for us."

"I promised," she corrected him, with an arch look at his superior,
"that I would sing for General Hoche."

She moved to meet him, and halting very close to him, looked up
into his face.  "What shall I sing for you, my General?"

Hoche, tall and dominant in his close-fitting blue coat with red
facings, the tricolour sash to his waist, and a high, black
military stock sharpening the line of his strong jaw, looked down
into the siren's eyes with a glance in which the disdainfully
watchful Quentin perceived a kindly responsive warmth.  Humbert
from his chair grunted a laugh that went unheeded.

"So that you sing, Madame," said Hoche, "it will matter little what
you sing."

They moved together to the clavichord.  She sighed aloud.  "It
shall be something to express myself, my loneliness and my
repining."

"You were not made for loneliness, Madame."

"I have, none the less, been doomed to it.  Thus fate abuses me."

"Fate is to be constrained."

She sighed.  "Alas!  I have never learnt the art of it."

"For one so endowed there is nothing to be learnt.  To desire is to
possess."

She flashed him an upward timid glance from under fluttering
eyelids.  "For such as you, my General, I can well believe it."

She sank to the seat at the instrument, and her fingers trembled
for a moment over the keys.  Then she began to sing, a heart-broken
little song that was all tears and thwarted passion, and ever and
anon as she sang her eyes would be raised to the commanding figure
standing over her as if she addressed to him the song-maker's
palpitating words.

Humbert, huddled in his chair, looked on and scowled.  Quentin,
observing all with secret amusement, regretted only that the man
who so completely engrossed the lady's attention should be
departing again in the morning.

Very soon, however, he thought that he perceived evidence that the
lady, sharing his regret, did not mean to leave the course of
things unchanged.  When, the song being ended, she broke the spell
of silence that marked its close, it was to comment upon the
General's going.

"Is it inevitable that you continue your journey to-morrow, sir?"

So much had she gone to his head already that he answered
gallantly:  "Be sure, Madame, that I should not continue it
otherwise."

She was still seated at the clavichord, he standing beside her.
She frowned thoughtfully awhile, with bowed head; then suddenly
looked up and swung to face him.  "I conceive you, of course, a man
indifferent to danger.  Yet I ask myself are you really aware of
how much danger threatens you between here and Cherbourg."

He raised his shoulders.  "Naturally, I am not unaware of the
unrest, since I am sent into the West to quell it.  But it's in my
trade to face whatever dangers may present themselves."

"Is it not also in your trade to see that you are in case to
overcome them?  Is not that a soldier's elementary duty?"

"I think I am in such case."

"Oh, no.  That is your error.  Strong bands of Chouans are
operating between here and Rennes.  It is only two days since one
of them attacked and seized a strongly escorted convoy."

"What's that?" rasped Humbert, coming to his feet.  She stared at
him, and then at Hoche.  "But is it possible that you have not
heard of it?"

Both denied all knowledge of it, whilst Quentin wondered how it
came that she had made no earlier allusion to so startling a fact.
Humbert pressed her with questions as to the exact whereabouts of
the attack, the substance of the convoy, and the strength of the
escort.  She was vague in her replies.  She had the information
from one of the peasants of Coëtlegon, who had not been precise in
details.  All that she knew for certain was that the Chouans were
in strength and that their eyes were everywhere.  She dwelt upon
their methods, moving unseen through the woods, assembling in force
to strike terribly from their ambushes, and dispersing again as
soon as the blow was struck, ever an elusive, impalpable menace.
She stressed the triumph it would be for them to seize the General
sent to suppress them.  If they had not yet fallen upon his flimsy
escort, it could only be because he had not yet reached the
particular ambush they were sure to have laid for him.  It was
impossible that they did not know of his presence now at Coëtlegon.
He could be sure that his every movement would be known to them and
watched.

"You mean," cried Humbert, "that they may descend upon us here?"

She shook her head so vigorously that momentarily she displaced a
heavy black ringlet that fell across her white bosom.  "Oh, no.
They will not attack you here lest that should bring reprisals upon
us.  At Coëtlegon you are safe.  I will answer for it.  And you
would do well, my General, to take advantage of it."

"What advantage does it afford?"

"Shelter, until you can reinforce your inadequate escort.  I will
send one of my own men to Rennes or Saint Brieuc or Saint Malo, or
wherever there is a garrison to supply your need."

Seeing Hoche grow thoughtful, Humbert protested inevitably:  "But
the delay!"

"It is better," said Madame, "to arrive late than not to arrive at
all.  And that, be sure, is what will happen if you go on.  Indeed,
General, knowing the unrest of the country, I don't know whether to
marvel more at your temerity in venturing into it so indifferently
guarded, or at your good fortune in being still alive."  She stood
up.  "Write two lines to the commander of the nearest garrison, and
one of my men shall set out with it at once."

"But the monstrous encroachment upon you," Hoche protested.

She smiled alluringly into his eyes.  "The burden, my General, will
be heavier for you than for us."

"Never say that.  For I know of no burden I would carry with
greater delight."

"It is settled then."  She laughed like a pleased child.

He looked at Humbert.  He spoke slowly.  "I think that we should
add Madame's generosity to the heavy debt in which her timely
warning leaves us."

Humbert, who had watched her with suspicious eyes, took a turn
before answering.  "I should like to know more of this attacked
convoy," he grumbled.  "I find it odd that there should have been
no word of it at Vannes this morning."

"The Chouans may have seen to that," Madame informed him.  "They
are ever vigilant to intercept couriers."

He shrugged, and spread his hands.  "Very well.  But if we are to
send for a further escort, I should prefer that one of my own men
carry the message."

She raised her brows.  "By all means, if you think that one of your
dragoons could ride a dozen miles unmolested through this country."

"He need not ride as a Blue.  We can dress him as a peasant."

"As you please.  My own man would travel more quickly and be more
certain to arrive.  But as you please."

"He would also," said Humbert, with a crooked smile, "be more
likely to have friends among the brigands."

"Name of Heaven, Humbert!  What do you imply?" Hoche disapproved
him.

Madame, however, remained serene.  "He is right to take no risks."

Humbert looked at his chief.  "You have decided, then, my General?"

"I think so.  Yes.  Don't you agree it would be prudent in view of
what we have learnt?"

Humbert's glance, growing humorously insolent, moved from Hoche to
the Vicomtesse.  A smile of understanding flickered on his firm
lips.

"We make holiday, then.  Very well."  He shrugged, and turned on
his heel.  "I go to give the order," he said, and marched out.



Chapter Twelve

DEPARTURE


Brigadier Humbert paced the terrace of Coëtlegon on the following
morning before breakfast in company with Captain Champeaux of
General Hoche's staff.

Looking up at one of the windows of the first floor, the Captain
had indicated it by a jerk of the thumb, a laugh and a coarse jest.
Humbert's angry rejoinder greeted Quentin, emerging at that moment
from the château.

"God of God!  It's no subject for jests.  With Hoche playing Samson
to Madame's Delilah, there's every chance of all our throats being
cut.  Ah, sacrébleu!  Who will assure me that this talk of brigand
activity is not a trick to keep us here whilst brigands are being
assembled in strength to exterminate us?  Before I'ld dally with a
damned aristocrat, I'ld make sure that the door was safely barred.
Those cursed woods on every side would mask an approach until the
enemy is upon us.  Post your pickets with care, and well advanced.
At least let us provide against surprise.  If we're attacked, we
must entrench ourselves in the château and turn it into a fort."

The Captain went off to the stables, where the men were quartered
and the horses stalled.  Humbert turned, and came face to face with
Quentin.  He uttered a surly good morning, which was pleasantly
returned.

"You are early abroad, sir," said Quentin.

"I lack the General's inducement to lie abed," was the ill-humoured
answer.  Then, with Republican directness, he brusquely questioned
Quentin.  "What exactly is your place in this household, citizen?
Are you of the family?"

"Oh, no.  A guest, like yourselves."

"But less richly entertained, perhaps, than some of us," grumbled
the handsome brigadier.

"If it were not so I might quarrel with you for that sneer."

"I am fortunate," was the mocking rejoinder on which Humbert
stalked away.

Quentin was left thoughtful.  Persuaded that the story of the
raided convoy was a fiction, he wondered whether Humbert's
suspicions of treachery might be justified.  But he dismissed the
notion almost instantly.  Not only did he call to mind the opinions
the Vicomtesse had so freely expressed to him, but he accounted her
the last woman in the world to invite the cruel vengeance that
would fall upon Coëtlegon afterwards.  If she desired to betray
Hoche, there were safer ways of accomplishing it.

So he reached the settled conviction that the trap she had laid for
Hoche was no more than a trap for his senses, so as to hold him
there as a consoler of that loneliness of which she had made such
bitter lament to Quentin.

For his past ungallant indifference he found himself punished now
by a neglect that could scarcely have been more discourteous to a
guest in his position.  All those attentions she had lavished upon
him were lavished now upon Hoche, and Quentin was left to solace
himself by amusement at the jealous furies of Humbert.

There was a display of them on that first morning after breakfast,
when the Vicomtesse was setting out with Hoche on one of those
rides in which hitherto Quentin had been her companion.  To Hoche,
already mounted beside his lovely mistress, Humbert had come
storming down the terrace steps with jingle of spurs and clatter of
sabre.

"Whither do you ride, my General?"

"Why, through the lands of Coëtlegon, to take the morning air."

"You may take more than that.  I'll beg you to remember, my
General, that your life is of importance to the Republic."

"Oh, and to me."  Hoche laughed.  "Be tranquil.  I am not likely to
imperil it."

"It may be imperilled for you."

"By whom, sir?" the Vicomtesse demanded.

"What do I know by whom?  On your own word the brigands infest the
woods of the country-side, and you don't want for woods hereabouts.
You'll take an escort, my General?"

"I think Madame la Vicomtesse will be my sufficient escort.  I am
sure that she will answer for my safety.  Come, Madame."  He
touched his horse with the spur, and they were off, leaving a
blasphemous Humbert to fume until their return.  Nor thereafter,
disgruntled though he remained, did he renew the scene on any of
the abundant occasions they offered him for it.  For in the
succeeding days Hoche and the Vicomtesse became more and more
inseparable, and their manner towards each other quite shamelessly
proclaimed the relationship into which they had come.  Whilst
Humbert scowled and writhed, and Quentin was scornfully amused,
Madame du Grégo appeared plaintively unconscious that a low-born
Republican soldier had become the accepted lover of her noble
daughter.

With Quentin's amusement, however, there was mingled a growing
irritation at the delay in the fulfilment of his purpose, and four
days after the coming of Hoche he ventured at last to break through
the neglect to which the Vicomtesse had doomed him.

"Madame, my consciousness of this continued trespass upon your
hospitality compels me to trouble you with a reminder of my object
here."

Her countenance became overcast.  "My friend, you can't imagine
that I should wantonly detain you.  Your affair has not been
neglected.  But, alas!--all Caradec's efforts have so far failed;
and in the present state of things I see little chance of their
succeeding.  He has contrived to collect only a few hundred louis,
which you may have if you will.  But it is still less than half the
sum required."

It was borne in upon him that she was not being sincere; that the
will to serve him was no longer present.  If his heart sank at this
failure, his pride urged him to accept it stoically.

"Since you tell me that there is no chance of succeeding, nothing
can justify my continuing here."

"Alas!" she sighed.  "We have been honoured by your visit.  We are
desolated that it should prove fruitless to you."

He met these polite insincerities with insincerities equally
polite, and passed to his preparations for departure on the morrow.

That evening the messenger sent out by Humbert returned, bringing
an escort of two hundred and fifty dragoons.  Thus Hoche, too, was
deprived of all pretext for lingering another day in the seductive
company of Louise du Grégo.

The only persons in good spirits at supper that night were the
Marquise whose pride had been secretly outraged by her daughter's
attachment to a sansculotte, however gallant of bearing, and
Humbert, whose mixed disgust over the affair had been dominated by
uneasiness lest, with or without the contrivance of the person he
had come to call Madame la Sirène, Coëtlegon, in the very heart of
the Chouan country, should come to prove their death-trap.  He
marked his relief by a noisy humour that jarred upon the silence of
the others.

Next morning the last farewells were spoken on the terrace, whilst
the troop paraded immediately below.  The Marquise did not appear.
She left to her daughter the task of speeding the guests.

For Quentin, who had begged Hoche's leave to ride with the troop as
far as their ways lay together, the Vicomtesse had little to say in
answer to his renewed thanks for the sterile hospitality dispensed
him.  All her thoughts were visibly for Hoche.

She wore upon her all the signs of a sleepless night, with dark
stains about eyes that had manifestly wept.  At the last moment,
when Quentin was already in the saddle, she delayed the departing
General, and drew him away along the terrace, out of earshot.

Side by side they paced to the terrace's end, and paused there a
long while in earnest talk, during which she seemed to sway towards
him.  At last they came slowly back.  At the head of the steps,
Hoche, bare-headed, his plumed hat tucked under his arm, bowed down
from his stately height over her hands, both of which he was
grasping, and both of which he kissed.  Then briskly he came down
to the horse that a trooper held for him, mounted, and made a sign
to the officer commanding the dragoons.

There were sharp orders, a wheeling movement of horses, with clink
and clank of accoutrements and stamping hooves, and they were in
march, which almost immediately quickened to a trot.

The General, in the rear with his staff about him, turned again and
yet again to raise his hat and to receive the last waved salutation
of the white figure that remained at the balustrade until distance
made an end.

Quentin conceived this to be the definite close of a love story,
not only because he remembered the Vicomte de Bellanger in London,
but also because Hoche had lately married a young wife, to whom
Humbert accounted him deeply attached.  If the wanton aristocrat,
so hungry for consolation in her semi-widowed loneliness, had
seduced the young Republican from his married loyalty, at least,
thought Quentin, it was an aberration no more than temporary, to
which there could be no sequel.

He was to discover before a year was out how egregiously rash was
this conclusion, and how unpredictably his own destiny was to be
shaped by the sequel when it came.

Hoche rode in silence, aloof, sunk in thought from which he
scarcely roused himself when somewhere about midway between
Josselin and Ploermel there was an alarm.

Their road skirted a wood at the time, and a considerable body of
men moving carelessly within it betrayed its presence to an
experienced under-officer from Port Malo, who passed word of it to
the commandant.

The troop was halted, and wheeled to face a possible attack.
Carbines were unslung, and held at the ready.  Thus they waited,
whilst within the wood all became still again.

Humbert spurred forward, along the front of the line, indifferent
to the fire that he might draw.  He went to urge the commandant to
send in half his troop to clear the wood.  But the commandant, with
experience of Chouan methods, urged sound reasons against any such
blind adventure.  Let the brigands, if they so choose, first betray
their exact whereabouts by opening fire.  Since to do so they must
approach the wood's edge, they would then be at the mercy of a
swift charge before they could retreat into the depths again.
There it would be highly imprudent to follow them.

Hoche roused himself, and with contemptuous impatience gave the
order to ride on, and thus, without incident, they came into
Ploermel.

Here Quentin, with courteous words of leave-taking to Hoche and the
members of his staff, detached himself from the troop, which rode
on through the town without pausing.



Chapter Thirteen

BOISGELIN


Quentin drew up at the Inn of the Cigogne, where he had lain the
night with Lesdiguières, when on his way to Coëtlegon.  Recognized
by the tubby Cauchart, he was made welcome.

It was already past noon, and when refreshed here, and with a fresh
horse, Quentin hoped to reach Rédon, thirty miles away, before
nightfall.  Lesdiguières, he learnt, had passed that way two days
ago, on his return journey, imagining no doubt that his nephew
would already be back at Angers.

Cauchart set before him a pot of cider, deploring that he had no
wine worthy of his guest, and Quentin was awaiting the food he had
ordered when he became aware of the rhythmic tramp of a very
considerable marching body.  His idle conclusion was that a company
of infantry was passing through Ploermel; and even when the march
ceased before the inn this conclusion still abode.

He raised his eyes as a quick step rang upon the threshold.  Into
the common-room, in the middle of which Cauchart stood at gaze,
came a brisk man in hunting dress with gaitered legs, whose
appearance was familiar.  He looked sharply about him, espied
Quentin, said:  "Ah!" and whistled shrilly.

At once there was a stir behind the door, and a dozen men of fairly
uniform appearance surged into the room.  They all wore the baggy
Breton breeches, mostly of linen, but some of fustian, short
jackets, which in many cases were of goatskin, and broad, round
hats; all looked villainous, and each was armed with a musket.

The man in the hunting dress swung upon the landlord, whose eyes
had grown uneasy.  "Whom do you house here, Cauchart?"  The
offensive, masterful tone stimulated Quentin's memory.  This was
that Monsieur de Boisgelin, who had ruffled it at Chavaray, denying
him access to his own house.

"Monsieur le Chevalier," Cauchart answered hurriedly, "all's well.
This is the new Marquis of Chavaray."

Boisgelin started at that, turned his head sharply, advanced a pace
or two, and looked more closely at Quentin.

"Marquis of Chavaray!" he echoed derisorily.  "Of Carabas, perhaps.
I know him now.  Were you fooled by that impudent lie, Cauchart?"

"Monsieur!  Monsieur!"  Cauchart was scandalized.  "It is no lie.
I have Maître Lesdiguières' word for it."

"Lesdiguières!" jeered Boisgelin.  "Lesdiguières!  He answers for
him, does he?"  Yet there was clearly something here that gave him
pause.  "Now what's the truth of this?"  He walked boldly up to
Quentin's table, and confronted him across it.  "You are the man
that rode with Hoche just now.  Are you not?"

Quentin, with a sense of peril strong upon him, liked this man even
less than when he had seen him at Chavaray.  He had been jarred,
too, by the use of the name "Carabas."  He remembered Constant's
application of it, and it seemed to him beyond mere coincidence
that it should now be repeated by this cousin of Constant's.
Nevertheless he contrived that his answer should be quietly civil.

"Why, yes.  I am."

"Useless to deny it, anyway."  Boisgelin made a sign to his men,
and at once their sabots clattered across the stone floor towards
Quentin.

Cauchart flung himself forward in a panic.  "Monsieur!  In God's
name!"

"Quiet, Cauchart.  Don't interfere.  We've a short way with pataud
spies in this country.  The nearest tree will do his affair."

"You take me for a spy?" said Quentin.  He kept cool.  "And for no
better reason than that I rode with General Hoche.  Permit me to
find you ridiculous."

"You forget that we've met before.  At Chavaray.  You were very
eager to enter the château."

"As was my right.  You have been told who I am."

"I am more concerned with what you are.  We waste time."

The words were as a signal.  He was seized under the arms and
pulled to his feet.

Again Cauchart, in liveliest distress, sought to intervene, only to
be brutally repressed by Boisgelin.

Under no delusion, now, appalled by the perception that he was
facing death at the hands of these ruffians, Quentin's wits worked
at desperate speed.  He heard the vintner's wailing voice:
"Monsieur le Chevalier, you must be in a mistake.  I tell you again
that I have Maître Lesdiguières' word for it that this is the new
Marquis de Chavaray."

"There'll be no mistake," was the astounding answer, "whether he's
that or the common pataud spy that I suppose him.  Very likely he
is both."

To Quentin, it was as if in his angry, cruel haste, Boisgelin had
said more than he intended.  It confirmed the suspicion begotten by
that contemptuous "Carabas," which the man had flung at him, and
with it came the thought that whilst this might be a chance
encounter, yet it presented an opportunity that was sought.  In
Boisgelin he began to see an agent of that movement to suppress him
of which glimpses had already been afforded him.

Already his aggressors were thrusting him away from the table, when
his desperately questing wits recalled Lionne's description of
Boisgelin as the best blade in France, "a remorseless devil who
never scruples to take advantage of his evil, deadly swordsmanship."

The recollection brought inspiration.  Such a man, swollen in pride
and self-confidence by the easy successes his sword had won, would
probably be of a vanity easily provoked.  Besides, as a gentleman
born, he would be imbued with a gentleman's notions of how to
defend his personal honour, if it were impugned, the more certainly
because of his confidence in a skill that he believed matchless.
It remained to see what calculated insult might wring from that
evil confidence.

Boisgelin was already striding towards the door, and Quentin was
being impelled after him by his captors when he spoke, throwing
into his voice all the contempt of which he was capable.

"You may act, sir, in spite of a doubt of what I really am.  But
you leave me in no doubt of what you are."

Boisgelin, arrested as much by the tone as by the words, swung
round to face him.  The movement halted the Chouans.

"What I am?"

Quentin laughed in his face.  "One sees it at a glance.  You may
play the bully with a dozen of your ruffians at your heels, as you
would never dare to play it without them.  For it's written plainly
on your vile face that you are by nature a poltroon."

Boisgelin lost some colour.  "Leave this to me," he sharply
silenced his men.  He stood staring at Quentin, and slowly a cruel
smile took shape on his lips.  "By God, sir, whoever and whatever
you are, I shall have the pleasure of proving you wrong before you
die."

The spadassin had gulped the bait.  His insulted vanity had
snatched at this invitation to display his prowess before his
followers.  But Quentin betrayed no relief.  He merely raised a
languid brow, his glance a fresh insult.

"Is it really possible?  Could I be mistaken, after all?  Or is
this mere play-acting?"

"You'll find it of a deadly earnest.  You wear a sword.  I suppose
you can use it?"

"I could try, if you dared to supply the occasion."

"Outside, then.  Here behind the inn."

Cauchart flung forward and caught his arm.  "Monsieur!  You cannot
do this.  It would be murder."

"It will be."  Boisgelin flung him off.  "Peace, fool.  Come on,
sir."

Quentin, however, now chose to manifest hesitation; for the whole
of his purpose was not yet fulfilled.  "All this is so irregular,"
he complained.

"You begin to find it so."

"What I find is that the dice are cogged against me.  It is what I
should have seen." He looked at the lowering faces about him as if
he indicated them.  "I am hardly among friends, and I should like
some definite assurance of what's to happen afterwards."

"Afterwards?  After what?"

"After I shall have killed you," said Quentin coolly

Boisgelin's mouth fell open.  Then a laugh came from it and found
an echo among his men.  "You make very sure."

"In this life," said Quentin, "the only thing of which we can be
very sure is death.  And you may be sure of it this afternoon,
Monsieur de Boisgelin."

"Don't keep me waiting, then."

"But I must until I know what is to happen afterwards.  If I am to
have my throat cut by your men here, I need not be at the trouble
of killing you first."

To Boisgelin this was as yet another blow in the face.  He turned
in fury to the door, and called:  "Grosjean!"

A burly Chouan, whose accoutrements announced a leader, appeared
almost at once in answer.  He wore a grey coat over a red
waistcoat, and the cockade in his hat was of silk.  He was armed
with a sword, and a brace of pistols were displayed in his belt,
whilst his legs, like Boisgelin's, were gaitered.

"This cockerel and I," Boisgelin informed him, with a grin, "are
about to take a turn in the garden.  After that, should he still be
alive, you will see that no obstacle is placed to his departure."

"By St. John, if he's still alive, he should deserve his liberty,"
grinned Grosjean.

"I require your word for that."

"Bien."  Grosjean solemnly stretched out his hand.  "It is sworn."

Boisgelin looked at Quentin.  "Does that satisfy you, fanfaron?"

Quentin inclined his bare head.  "Perfectly.  Let us go."

Beyond a vegetable patch at the back of the inn there was a stretch
of well-cropped even turf where Cauchart grazed his goats.  The
shadow cast across it by a belt of pines mellowed the strong light
of that September afternoon.  To this they came, followed not only
by the Chouans who had invaded the inn, but by those who had
remained outside, making in all a company of some forty or fifty
strong.

Their light chatter and little bursts of laughter bore witness to
their confidence in the invincibility of their leader.

When once, however, the two men were face to face, an orderly
silence fell and the Chouan ranks became rigidly immobile.

Quentin had removed his riding-coat, and had rolled the right
sleeve of his shirt above the elbow.  Boisgelin disdained to do
even so much, contenting himself with casting aside his hat and
sword-belt.

"You may put off your boots as well if you please," he sneered.

"Only if you will put off yours, sir," was the grave answer.

"I do not account it worth the trouble."

"As you please.  No doubt it is written that you are to die in your
boots."

"No doubt.  But it will not be to-day.  On guard!"

On the word he attacked.

That he looked to make short work of it is certain.  Just as it is
certain that when he fell back baffled and paused at the end of a
half-dozen disengages, some of the contemptuous confidence went out
of him.  He had discovered in the opposing blade a quality that had
not been present in any of those of his past easy victims.

Quentin in his time, if only on the fencing floor, had met some
famous swordsmen since his discomfiture of the very competent
Rédas.  But he could not remember to have met a better blade than
this.  It was little wonder, he thought, that Boisgelin had been so
ready to take in hand the punishment of his insults and to engage
his followers to let his opponent go free should he survive.  Not
on that account was he perturbed.  Formidable Boisgelin might be to
the ordinary swordsman; but hardly formidable to the practised
master.  Beyond realizing that the engagement was on a level that
would permit him to take no chances, Quentin was at ease.

At a distance of three paces Boisgelin addressed him provocatively
in that pause.

"Well, sir?  You are something slow to perform as you promised."

"But sure, I trust.  I must not disappoint you.  I await your
convenience."

Boisgelin bounded forward, feinted and lunged with admirable
suppleness.  Quentin encircled the blade, swept it clear, and drove
his opponent back by a thrust that presented the point at his
throat.  As if exasperated at being so easily foiled, Boisgelin
attacked again at once, and displayed now a speed and force that,
coolly met, was dangerous only to himself.  For a spell the blades
flashed and circled, making arcs of light for the amazed
spectators.  Then, at last, for the second time, and breathing hard
now as a result of his fury, Boisgelin fell back and lowered his
point.

But having winded him by his strictly defensive tactics, Quentin
would not allow him a second's leisure for recovery.  He went in,
in his turn, and the lowered point must be raised again at once to
meet him.  As he fenced, Quentin was moved to a savage mockery of
this murderous duellist.

"You begin, perhaps, to feel as you have made lesser swordsmen
feel.  Think, for instance, of that young lover of Rennes whom you
butchered a year ago, and how he faced you, as sure of his doom as
you should be by now of yours."

Deliberately, then, he exposed his low lines to invite a lunge.  He
wheeled aside as it came, desperately driven to spend itself
unresisted on the empty air, whilst now, inside the other's guard,
he drove his blade to transfix him from side to side.

It was so swiftly done that Quentin had recovered before the
spectators fully realized that their leader had been hit.

For a moment Boisgelin remained erect, taut, his eyes suddenly wide
as if in astonishment.  Then a shudder ran through him, a moan
broke from his lips, and he collapsed and sank grotesquely into a
heap, snapping the sword that was thrust out as if to stay his
fall.

Instantly there was a clatter of tongues swelling to a roar from
the Chouans, and the beginning of an angry forward surge.  But
Grosjean, loyal to his oath, flung himself before Quentin, to face
them, shouting sternly, a pistol in either hand.  He used the
Breton tongue; but his tone and action left little doubt of what he
said.

The uproar fell to a mutter.  Then at last it was stilled, and in a
heavy silence those wild men came across the grass to the spot
where the vanquished lay, with the victor standing above him.

Quentin swayed a little as he stood there and looked down at the
crumpled heap that so lately had swaggered threateningly in the
full pride of life.  To physical nausea in him was added a deep
spiritual disgust.  It was the first man that he had killed, and
for all that they had fought and he had dealt this death in self-
defence, he felt himself a murderer, conceived that this crumpled
heap, those staring eyes, those grinning lips, flecked with blood
and froth, must ever hereafter abide hauntingly in his sight.

His arm was roughly clutched by Grosjean.  The Chouan did not need
to look twice so as to realize that the man at their feet was dead.

"We keep faith," he growled.  "Get you gone!"

Quentin felt the need to say something, yet was at a loss to know
what might fit the occasion.  So, in silence, under the lowering
glances of the band, he turned to go back to the inn.  Again there
were the beginnings of a threatening mutter, but again their leader
quelled it.

He was met in the vegetable patch by Cauchart, who had stood there
to watch the events.  The taverner hurried him away, found him a
horse, and urged him to profit by the miracle that permitted his
departure and make the best speed he could out of the district.



Chapter Fourteen

BOISHARDI


Cauchart judged shrewdly that the present lull could not endure.

Very soon the Chouans were in mutiny against Grosjean, abusing him
for having restrained them when they would have avenged their
chief.  To his reminder of the word pledged, one of them, in whom a
lawyer was lost, raised a question.

"The pledge was that the petaud should be allowed to depart.  That
pledge is now fulfilled.  But what if any of us should ever meet
him again?  What then?"

Grosjean delivered judgment.  "That would be another matter."

"Very well, then.  We'll contrive to meet him again.  To-day.
We've only to find out what road he took.  Who is with me?"

Saving Grosjean, who had a clearer sense of the engagement made,
and who perceived in this no more than a fraudulent evasion, all
were on the side of that tricky casuist.

And so it came to pass that some three hours later, when Quentin
had come down from the moorland heights of Ploermel and was ambling
quietly along the flat road in the neighbourhood of Paillac, he
found himself suddenly surrounded by a score of wild men on shaggy
Breton ponies, in whom he thought that he recognized some of the
followers of Boisgelin.

Presently the sight of Grosjean amongst them made a certainty of
the assumption.  He guessed then that using that intimate knowledge
of the country which rendered them so mobile, they had cut straight
across it to intercept him and correct the error of having allowed
him to depart.

"Is this the faith you keep?" he asked them.

For answer they pulled him from his horse, deprived him of his
sword, and tied his hands behind him.  They went to work in
comparative silence, ignoring alike the questions and the abuse
which he permitted himself, Grosjean close beside him throughout.

He could not guess that Grosjean's presence was protective, and
that Grosjean in yielding where he had lacked power entirely to
oppose, had at least been able to enforce the condition that the
slayer of Boisgelin should not be put to death until their chief
commander, Monsieur de Boishardi, with all the facts before him,
should pronounce judgment.

Having bound his wrists, they searched him and removed from him the
effects they found, the chief of which were his safe-conduct from
the Committee of Public Safety and a money-belt containing the best
part of two hundred guineas in English gold.

Then, after an altercation which he was unable to follow, his
wrists were again unbound so as to enable him to ride.  He was
ordered to mount, and was led swiftly away.

Almost at once they quitted the highroad, and by narrow byways,
sometimes by mere bridle-paths through wild tracts of country,
through woods and once through the ford of a river, but always
moving at speed, they brought him towards the close of that autumn
day into the gloom of a great forest.

On the edge of it, uttered by one of them, he heard for the first
time the note of the screech-owl, the chat huant from which they
derived their appellation.  From a distance within the forest an
answering cry floated back to them.  They advanced more slowly now,
but no less surely towards the heart of that labyrinth of mingling
oak and elm and beech, and they emerged at last into a clearing
vast as a cathedral square, on the farther side of which the
outlines of a mean building were just visible in the dusk.  In the
middle of the clearing a fire flamed about a huge cooking-pot borne
on an iron tripod, and bivouacked about it were some five or six
score men, whose garb and accoutrements proclaimed them of the same
brotherhood as Quentin's captors.  Several rose, and came to meet
the newcomers.  At the news imparted, always in that Breton tongue
unknown to Quentin, their cries brought others from the fire.

Quentin was now dismounted and again pinioned before being led
forward by four of the Chouans, following in the wake of Grosjean.

They came to the hut across the clearing, and the leader, having
rapped upon the door, then opened it and passed in, the others
following.

Quentin found himself in a small chamber, brightly lighted by a
lamp on a big trestle table that carried the remains of a meal at
one end and a litter of papers and writing materials at the other.
Over these sat a man of perhaps thirty, darkly aristocratic of face
and of a certain richness of dress incongruous in these mean
surroundings.  His coat was of grey velvet with silver buttons, and
on the breast of it he wore as a badge a flaming heart.  His dark,
glossy hair was carefully dressed, a diamond gleamed in the rich
lace of his cravat, another on the fine hand that held the pen.

A Breton bed, presenting the appearance of a cupboard, was set
against the wall on the right, and a couple of wooden stools
completed the furniture of that chamber of blackened mud walls,
earthen floor and shuttered windows.

The man at the table, who was Boishardi, one of the most famous and
elusive of the Royalist leaders in the West, had paused in his
writing to see who came.  At sight of the prisoner he threw up his
head with a quickening of interest in his dark eyes.  "What's this,
Grosjean?"

Grosjean's brisk account was interrupted by corrections and
amplifications from the other Chouans, delivered in a French so
slurred and imperfect that to follow it was a strain upon the
prisoner's attention.  At moments all of them talked at once, as
when they came to the death of Boisgelin.  The mention of it
brought Boishardi suddenly to his feet, so terrible of aspect that
their clamours were instantly extinguished in awe.

After a pause he spoke, in a dull concentrated voice.  "Dead!
Boisgelin dead!"  He sank into his chair again, as if overcome, a
hand to his brow.

Grosjean went forward, and placed upon the table those effects
which had been taken from Quentin, the safe-conduct on top.  It was
some time before Boishardi paid any attention to these.  His voice,
tortured almost to a moan, kept repeating monotonously:  "Boisgelin
dead!  Murdered!"

At last Quentin spoke.  "Not murdered.  I killed him in fair fight.
He chose to challenge me."

Boishardi looked up.  His wild glance questioned the Chouans, and
Grosjean answered:  "So much is true.  The fight was fair enough.
We all saw it."

"But it is not possible.  Fair!  How could it be?"  He leaned
heavily upon the table, glaring at Quentin.  "You say he challenged
you.  Why?"

"Because he liked the unpleasant truth as little as another.
Because I told him that he was a poltroon to bring a score of
brigands at his heels to attack a single man."

"You do not tell me why he attacked you."

The others answered for him.  He was a spy of the Blues.  Let
Monsieur de Boishardi look at the safe-conduct found on him.
Monsieur de Boisgelin knew him of old.  He had attempted to force
his way into Chavaray when Monsieur de Boisgelin was there with a
band of followers.  He had been at Coëtlegon with Hoche, and with
Hoche had travelled as far as Ploermel, where the Republican
General had left him, so that he might pursue his filthy trade in
the country-side.

"Then why do you bring him to me?" demanded Boishardi.  "Why didn't
you hang him from the first tree by the roadside?"

Grosjean told him of the pledge, and of how having obeyed the
letter of it they subsequently recaptured the man.  "Because I
wasn't easy about it; because it seems to me a point of honour for
a gentleman's deciding, I bring him before you, Monsieur."

"A waste of time."  Boishardi's handsome face was white and wicked
with grief and rage.  "A waste of time.  It is all beside the
point.  The dog is a spy, and that is all that matters.  We do not
keep faith with spies.  They are outside the pale of honour."  The
diamond flashed in the lamplight, as peremptorily he waved his
hand.  "Take him out and finish it."

"Wait, sir," cried Quentin with the brigands' hands already upon
him.  "There is a monstrous error in all this.  I am not a spy."

Boishardi looked at the safe-conduct.  He took it up, and waved it,
his mouth curved in scorn.  "I take it that it was because you
could not persuade Monsieur de Boisgelin of that, that you found it
necessary to murder him."

"That, too, is false.  I did not murder him.  Even these men have
told you that we fought fair and clean."

"I do not choose to believe it.  There was no better blade in
France."

In the face of death, Quentin actually laughed.  "And that's as
much a lie as the rest, as I've proved to-day."

He could have said nothing more incautiously exasperating.
Boishardi's fist crashed upon the table.  "Take him out, I say, and
finish it."

Quentin, with a nausea of fear upon him, found himself struggling
wildly in their grip.  "Are you all murderers, then?  Do you care
nothing for the truth that you will not even listen to it?  I was
at Coëtlegon as the guest of the Marquise du Grégo before Hoche
arrived there.  Send word to her.  She will answer for me.  I had
nothing to do with Hoche.  I had a right to be at Chavaray, as
you've been told.  Because . . ."

Boishardi interrupted him.  "Enough!" he thundered.  "You should
have urged your reasons to Boisgelin, who was in case to judge
them.  That you preferred to kill him is proof enough for me.  That
you have killed him is more than enough, whatever and whoever you
may be.  Away, Grosjean!  Get it over."

"But in God's name, sir," cried Quentin, as they were dragging him
away.  "Do you not even care to know who I am?  At least let me
account for myself."

"I care not if you are a prince of the blood.  I care only for what
you have done," was the implacable answer.  "And for that you shall
pay."

They had dragged him to within a yard of the door, when it was
thrust open from without, and two figures surging on the threshold
blocked the way.

The Chouans pulled their prisoner aside so as to give passage to
these arrivals, one of whom was tall and spare, with an aspect of
command in every line of him, the other plump and stocky.

They came forward staring, the tall man slightly in advance of the
other.  "What is happening here?" he asked incuriously, and then
caught his breath as his lively eyes came to rest upon Quentin.
"You, here, sir?  And a prisoner!"  His excitement mounted.  "What
is this?"

Quentin raised his drooping head, and to his amazement and the
revival of his fainting spirit, beheld the Comte de Puisaye, whom
he had so cavalierly dismissed in London.  Without cause to suppose
that here was one who might be interested in his fate, yet undying
hope leapt up in him.

He heard dimly Boishardi's answer:  "It is a scoundrel upon whom
justice is to be done."

"Justice?  What manner of justice?"  Puisaye's tone was sharp and
curt.

"The only kind we keep for spies, and murderers.  Away with him,
Grosjean."

But if the command was peremptory, so peremptory was the gesture of
the Count's uplifted hand that the Chouan did not move.  Puisaye
stepped forward past Quentin, moving with that confident swaggering
peculiar to him.  "I'll know more of this, if you please."

Boishardi looked up in a surprise that changed to angry impatience.
"The matter is judged and finished.  Take him away."

"Wait!"  Puisaye's manner swelled in authority.  "You did not hear
me, I think.  I said that I require to know more of this.  Justice
that is in haste is ever suspect.  Untie his hands, Grosjean."

More than by the order was Quentin astonished by the promptitude
with which that voice of quiet authority was obeyed.

Boishardi, on his feet again, was raging.  "What does this mean,
Puisaye?  Do you interfere with me?"

"You make it necessary.  It happens that I know something of this
gentleman, something which you, who have sat in judgment on him,
can have been at no pains to discover.  That does not please me."

"I care nothing for any of that.  What I know, and you do not, is
that he has killed Boisgelin.  And for that I'll have him hanged
whatever you may know about him, and whatever you may say."

"I see."  Puisaye's tone was sardonic.  "You've a nice sense of
justice.  You make yourself the instrument of a private vengeance.
I arrive no more than in time."

"In time for what, if you please?"  Boishardi was now all
truculence.

"To prevent a crime for which I must have called you terribly to
account."

"Call me to account!"

"That is what I said.  As a beginning, let me present you to the
Marquis de Chavaray."

Boishardi stared, his white face distorted by passion.  "What lie
is that?"

"Let us be clear, Monsieur de Boishardi.  Do I understand you to
give me the lie?"

"Ah, bah!"  There was a gesture of fierce impatience.  "I mean, how
do you come to credit such a thing?"

"I happen to know it.  Of sure knowledge.  Monsieur de Chavaray and
I have met before.  In London."

"But the creature is a spy."

"Somebody has told you that.  It is merely foolish."

"But here's the evidence."  And in a shaking hand Boishardi held
out the safe-conduct.  "And if you want more, question Grosjean
there."

Puisaye would not even look at the paper.  "There is no evidence at
all.  There cannot be evidence of what is not.  You've fastened
upon some contemptible nonsense not worth sifting.  What's this of
his killing Boisgelin?  Or is that in the same class?"

"Tell him, Grosjean," cried the exasperated Boishardi.

When the tale was told, Puisaye turned quietly to Quentin.  "Do you
agree with all that?"

"I do, sir.  These men set upon me.  At Boisgelin's orders they
were about to hang me.  He would listen to no reason."

"Of course not."  And now Puisaye laughed.  "Of course not.  A dear
friend and kinsman of your cousins of Chesnières that Monsieur de
Boisgelin.  Quite possibly their agent.  And then?"

"I remembered his fame as a duellist.  I took advantage of it.  I
insulted him grossly in the hope that such a swordsman would make a
personal matter of it.  When that succeeded, I exacted a pledge of
immunity from his men before I would meet him."

"And the pledge was violated.  Perfect."  He turned again to
Boishardi.  "And you would have made yourself a party to that
dishonour by murdering Monsieur de Chavaray.  Do you begin to see
from what I save you?"

Boishardi was unmoved.  "Monsieur de Puisaye, I will not tolerate
your interference.  It is well to be frank.  For what that man has
done he shall certainly hang, whatever you may say."

"You should pay attention.  You cannot have heeded my allusion to
Boisgelin as a dear friend and kinsman of St. Gilles and his
brother."

"What shall that mean?"

"Boisgelin's repute was none so sweet as to place him above
suspicion of serving his kinsmen and friends in his own fashion."

"By God, sir!  Are there no limits to the lengths to which your
interest in this person will carry you?"

"None.  None.  So now that you understand that, you may dismiss
these lads.  There will be no hanging to-night."

Tense and white, Boishardi leaned heavily upon the table.

"Is that a challenge, Monsieur le Comte?"

"No.  It's an order.  You'll submit or else. . . .  But there!
You'd never be fool enough to drive me to deal with you for
insubordination.  You'll still remember, I hope, that here I
represent the Princes."

A flush of anger welled up to stain Boishardi's pallor.  He came
stalking round the table to confront Puisaye at close quarters.  "I
am your subordinate only for so long as I choose to be.  My
followers are my own, and their obedience is to me."

"That is brave, Monsieur de Boishardi."

And now, for the first time, Puisaye's plump companion spoke.  "So
brave as to be almost treason."

"You are new to Brittany, Monsieur le Baron," he was pointedly
answered.  "Breton loyalties are not perhaps as those of others."

"Faith!" the plump gentleman retorted.  "You make it evident, if
what you offer is a sample of it.  The great cause we serve is by
your lights to yield to petty personal differences."

"This difference is not a petty one, Monsieur de Cormatin.  A dear
friend and one of our most gallant leaders has been done to death
by a rascal who travels under a safe-conduct from the Committee of
Public Safety.  Judge if that condemns him.  But judge as you
please, I will not be baulked of justice upon the slayer."

"If we are still to talk of justice, I'll use plainer terms," said
Puisaye.  "This gallant leader, this dear friend, has met at last
the fate which he has long been inviting.  And that, if you please,
is the end of the matter."

It proved also the end of what little patience Boishardi still
possessed.  "Grosjean," he commanded, "you will take that man and
deal with him as I ordered."

"Grosjean!" said Puisaye, and the sternness of his voice and aspect
rooted the Chouan where he stood.  Then Puisaye took Boishardi by
the shoulders, and span him round, so that they faced each other
again.

"Listen to me, madman.  I should break you for this if I were not
your friend.  If you think to prevail against me because you have
your lads at hand, dismiss the thought.  I am not alone.  I have a
thousand men with me, for work that's to be done.  They outnumber
your band by five to one.  So let me invite you to bow to force
since you will not bow to reason."

Abruptly Puisaye cast off his sternness, laughed, and held out his
hand.

"Come, my friend.  Let this end peaceably.  We've work to do
together.  It is not for us to quarrel among ourselves."

Boishardi ignored the hand.  He continued stiff and hostile,
breathing hard.  "The quarrel is not of my making.  You come
hectoring it here to assert yourself against me in defence of a man
who is of no account to you."

"It happens that he is.  Honour, too, is of some account to me.
Yours as well as mine.  To-morrow you will thank me for this
intervention."  And again he held out his hand.

Still ignoring it Boishardi turned and paced away to put the table
between them.

"There is no more to be said."  His tone was bitter.

"I hoped there might be," Puisaye answered.  "But I will not urge
it.  I regret to say that you do not impress me favourably,
Monsieur de Boishardi."

"That desolates me, of course," was the insolent answer.  "Must we
continue this interview?"

"Not upon personal matters.  But there is something else.  The fact
not only that I arrive, but that I come in force might suggest it.
I have word of a convoy of arms, ammunition and equipment for the
Army of Cherbourg, which should pass this way, on the road to
Rennes, by noon to-morrow.  It travels under the strong guard of a
whole regiment of Blues, also on its way to reinforce that army.
Therefore, we must be in strength if we are to deal with it.  I
require your cooperation, and I have to ask you to see that your
men are under arms soon after daybreak and ready to be moved to the
post I shall assign you."

He had employed a hardening tone of authority as if to beat down
any opposition that might spring from Boishardi's resentful,
mutinous state of mind.  As Boishardi remained silent, his handsome
face darkened by his angry thoughts, Puisaye added after a pause:
"You have heard me, Monsieur de Boishardi?"

The other inclined his head.  "I have heard," he coldly
acknowledged.

"Then, if you please, you will report to me at daybreak."  He
turned without waiting for an answer.  "You will come with me,
Monsieur de Chavaray, and you, Baron."

He passed out, and none now dared to hinder Quentin as he followed
the stately figure from the hut in which he had looked upon the
awful face of death.



Chapter Fifteen

THE CHOUANS


In the little time that Puisaye had spent with Boishardi, a three-
sided log cabin, a dozen feet square, had sprung as if by magic
into existence on the far side of the clearing.  A company of the
Count's followers, a score of them perhaps, who had gone about the
task of construction with the energy of ants, were now, by the
light of lanterns, completing its roof of ramage.

Within, when Puisaye had brought Quentin and the Baron to it, they
found a table and some stools, of short round timbers, that had
been swiftly knocked together.  For bedding there were piles of
leaves and ferns, over which cloaks might be spread.  A couple of
lanterns, slung from side poles adequately lighted that interior.

It was a method of construction in which the Chouans were expert,
offering an alternative to the trenches built for the shelter or
the main bodies in their forest fastnesses.  These, dug to a
considerable depth and solidly roofed by branches under a
dissembling cover of turf and leaves, would defy detection by any
soldiers rash enough to carry pursuit into the depths of a forest.
They help to explain the mystery of Chouan movements in the
guerrilla warfare they conducted, their sudden appearances where
least suspected, and their equally sudden and complete disappearances
once their work was done.  Reports that they vanished as if the
earth had swallowed them were often nearer the literal truth than
the reporters suspected.

A young man in Chouan dress, of little more than middle height, but
of a massive breadth and corpulence suggestive of great power,
stood forward with a grin of welcome.  It was Georges Cadoudal, a
Chouan leader from the Morbihan, already famous and destined to
still greater fame.

"Behold your quarters, my General.  A wave of my fairy wand, and it
springs from the ground.  Another wave and the commissariat will
arrive, though I doubt if it be equal to our appetites."  Light,
prominent eyes stared at Quentin out of a round red face.  "A new-
comer?"

Puisaye named them to each other, describing Quentin as his friend
the Marquis de Chavaray, a description that checked further
questions, whereafter Cadoudal went off to quicken the sluggards in
charge of supper.

Then, at last, Quentin came to the matter of returning thanks.  "I
owe you my life, Monsieur le Comte."

"Faith, that's the sort of truth one doesn't hear every day," was
the answer, delivered with a grim humour that rendered it
surprising.  "It was fortunate for both of us that I arrived when I
did.  I begin to believe I have the gift of timeliness."

"I perceive the good fortune to you, sir, as little as I am
overwhelmed by the good fortune to myself.  It was a nasty
situation."

"From which you would not have extricated yourself as readily as
from the toils of Boisgelin."  He set a hand familiarly upon
Quentin's shoulder, and smiled gravely into his face, and the
memory of their parting in London rose to shame Quentin perhaps the
more bitterly because Puisaye appeared to have forgotten it.  "I
admire your wit in that affair.  And on my soul I believe that you
performed better than you suspect.  I would wager that Boisgelin--a
rascal at heart, who has met his deserts--was aware that in
extinguishing you he was serving the interests of his dear cousins.
You'll realize before all is done that you have to fight more than
the Republic for your patrimony."

"Be that as it may, it does not explain the luck to you in arriving
when you did."

It was Cormatin who supplied unexpectedly the answer.  "It has
enabled the General to form an accurate judgment of the man whom he
intended for his deputy in his absence."

"That is your assumption, Baron.  It was never more than a passing
thought with me to appoint any of these acknowledged leaders to the
supreme command whilst I am gone.  Their pestilent jealousies make
them untrustworthy.  To appoint any one of them is to risk the
anger and defection of all the others.  That's how the Vendée was
lost.  Fused into one those armies must have prevailed against the
Blues and made an end of the Republic.  But because Lescure would
not be subject to Charette, and Stofflet would not take the orders
of either, the Blues had easy work to defeat them piecemeal.  It
must not happen again, and it shall not, if it lies in my power, as
I believe it does, to prevent it.  But here comes Georges with
supper."

Cadoudal reappeared, boisterously ushering a couple of peasants,
one of them bearing on a wooden platter a goose that had been
roasted in the forest, the other with a basket on either arm, into
which had been packed some loaves of rye bread and a half-dozen
bottles of wine.

"A goose as heavy as a swan and juicy as a suckling, and enough
wine of Anjou for it to swim in," roared Cadoudal's big voice.
"The General is served.  To table, sirs."

They drew up the rude stools, and Cadoudal sat down with them.  He
had sent Boishardi an invitation to join them.  But his messenger
returned with word that Monsieur de Boishardi begged to be excused.

Puisaye shrugged.  "Let the fool sulk in his tent if he will."

"A whiff of that goose would lift the sulks from a prouder
stomach," vowed Cadoudal.  "But his loss will be our gain.  And,
after all, what would be one goose among five?"

A prodigy of a trencherman, he gauged the appetites of his
companions by his own.

When of the goose no more than the bones remained, a cheese of
goats' milk and some figs were discovered in the bread-basket, and
after that, with a second bottle of wine to each of them, Cadoudal
and Cormatin loaded their pipes.

Through the open front of their cabin they could see in the
clearing the glow of the bivouac fire, which had now been banked,
and the shadows of men lying or moving quietly about it.

The talk was mainly political.  Cormatin was in correspondence with
the secret Royalist agency in Paris, an organization which Puisaye
distrusted, denouncing it as in the hands of self-sufficient
mischief-makers.  The Baron was informed by it of the state of
things in the capital, the new Government's total lack of
orientation, and the rumours that many of those now in power,
Barras amongst them, favoured the return of the monarchy.  Hoche,
himself, was said to entertain royalist sympathies since his
imprisonment by the Convention, and they would find that his
mission in the West would prove to be one of pacification rather
than repression.

Puisaye poured scorn on it all.  "Thus the windy Abbé Brottier, who
imagines himself the axis on which monarchism now revolves.  Let
him chatter his fill, and send his gossipy reports to the Princes.
Our task is to work, and the West will be pacified when this task
is done and the King is back in the Tuileries."

"Amen and amen," said Cadoudal.  "Bring over your English
reinforcements, and our lads will sweep the putrid remains of this
Republic to Hell."

From what followed Quentin gathered that Puisaye's final mission of
preparation in Brittany was now complete, and in the assurance that
his army, computed at three hundred thousand men, would rise at a
word, he was about to return to England to report to Pitt and claim
the powerful aid he had been promised.  Within three months he
counted upon being ready to strike.  His Royal Highness, the Comte
d'Artois, as Lieutenant-General of the Kingdom, had engaged himself
to take the supreme command; and so, with one of the Princes at
their head, jealousies would be extinguished and all rival Royalist
bands be fused into a single solid army.

From this Puisaye came to matters personally concerned with
Quentin, and drew from him an account in detail of how he had fared
in France.

"And so," Quentin ended, "lacking the means to satisfy the
Republican needs of Monsieur Besné, my marquisate passes into
national property, and I remain a Marquis pour rire; or, in the
words of Monsieur Constant de Chesnières--since repeated, by the
way, by Monsieur de Boisgelin--a Marquis of Carabas."

Cormatin was amused.  "Chapeau bas!" he quoted, with a laugh, which
earned him a sardonic reproof from Puisaye.

"You are too fat for Puss-in-Boots, Baron."

"I wonder where I shall find me one," said Quentin.  "At the moment
it seems the only thing I lack so as to complete me."

"We'll find you one, never doubt it," Puisaye assured him.  "Your
only need is patience.  Meanwhile, you should have had enough of
France.  A little more of it, and--name of a name!--your bones
would have remained here permanently.  You invite danger from both
sides."

"Yet to retreat defeated!"  He sighed.

"A strategic retreat is not a defeat, child.  You draw back so that
you may leap the better.  I start for the coast to-morrow night.
You'll be well advised to travel with me back to England."

Again Quentin was shamed by this fresh display of a kindly
solicitude from a man who would have been justified in the very
opposite.  Puisaye overbore in his high-handed way the young man's
hesitations, and before he slept that night Quentin had penned a
letter to Lesdiguières to inform him that failure at Coëtlegon left
him no alternative but to return whence he had come, and await
events.

Whilst he was doing it, Puisaye was concluding with his two
companions the disposition still to be made before he departed; the
appointment of a lieutenant to represent him in the West during his
absence.  He was settled in the determination to appoint none of
those gentlemen who headed bands raised in their own districts.

"I perceive the folly of it as clearly as I perceive that had I
been a Breton with an immediate following of my own peasantry, not
even my appointment by the Princes to the supreme command would
have induced these gentlemen to submit to me."

"Jealous as Spaniards, these Bretons," Cormatin agreed with him.

"Oh, as to that, Baron, don't imagine that Bretons are the only
Frenchmen cursed with that disease."  He was bitter on the subject
of the obstacles jealousy had insensately raised for him in
England, seeking in reckless malice to destroy his credit with the
British Government, without which nothing would be accomplished.

"The only possible nobleman here," Puisaye continued, "is one whose
influence, gallantry and repute inspire an almost superstitious
dread in the Republicans.  I mean Boishardi."

"A mistake, Monsieur le Comte," Cadoudal condemned it.  "I know his
worth, and I'ld willingly serve under him with my lads.  But the
others . . .  Parbleu, not one of them would recognize Monsieur de
Boishardi as better than himself."

"That is why I have brought Monsieur de Cormatin."

The Baron looked up, his prominent eyes widening in his florid
face.

"You are not proposing . . ."

"I am.  It must be settled to-night.  And there is no other way but
by bringing in a man from outside, since no Breton will be served
by these Bretons.  Just as they accepted my nomination by the
Princes because I am not a Breton, so they will accept my
nomination of you as my major-general, paying attention only to
your military qualifications, which my proclamation will not fail
to stress.  Parbleu, you may laugh if you please.  It deserves that
you should."

Cormatin, shrinking visibly from the responsibility, was all
protests.  But Puisaye masterfully swept them aside.  "Men's
deference goes more readily to the unknown than to the known," was
his crowning, sardonic argument.  "What do you say to it, Georges?"

"It's the solution," said Cadoudal.

"That, Baron, is the voice of the rank and file of the army you'll
control."

"But the duties!" cried Cormatin.  "What do I know of them?"

"They are soon summed up: to preserve the cohesion of this great
secret army that awaits the call; to avoid any dissipation of its
strength in minor encounters and inconclusive skirmishes; and to
maintain its monarchical spirit, its high resolve, and readiness to
strike for Throne and Altar when the moment arrives.  There are
your duties.  They are simple, and in the discharge of them you
will have the support of the chiefs, with whom you will work in
consultation.  In honour you cannot refuse the charge."

"Monsieur le Baron can depend upon me," added Cadoudal, "and I
count for something hereabouts."

"Both with the men and with the chiefs," Puisaye added.  "With
Georges beside you, you may make your mind easy.  And so, I'll draw
up my proclamation before I sleep."

At once reassured and overborne, Cormatin dismissed what reluctance
lingered in him, and went to dispose himself on one of the rude
beds the forest yielded.

They were astir again at peep of day, and after a crust and a
draught of wine they were following an army that moved forward
scarcely visible and with little more than a rustle through the
forest twilight.  Every man, and there were fully a thousand moving
to that ambuscade, bore the white cockade in his hat, the emblem of
the Sacred Heart on his breast, and his gun slung from his
shoulders.  Boishardi was not visible; but he marched at the head
of his own contingent, and when the sally into the open came it was
he who led it.

That sally followed upon a massacring fusillade poured from the
forest's edge upon the convoy as it moved, unsuspecting, along the
road to Rennes.

The Blues were some four hundred strong, and in two detachments,
one ahead of the long line of wagons, the other following it.  The
attack was made simultaneously upon front and rear, and when the
rolling volleys had accounted for more than a quarter of each
detachment, the Chouans poured forth from their cover in two
parties, one led by Boishardi, the other by Cadoudal, and fell upon
the remainder before they could recover from the confusion into
which they had been flung.

Vainly did the surviving officers seek to rally them, vainly did a
mounted major seek to curse them into standing firm.  They were
youngsters, mostly newly conscripted, until this moment unbaptized
by fire, and appalled by the wild aspect of the fierce men who now
assailed them.  Once broken it was beyond their power to form their
ranks anew, and as the major was brought to earth by a shot that
killed his horse, the lads, flinging away their muskets so that
they might travel lighter, fled the field of battle, some sweeping
along the road towards Rennes, others taking to the woods opposite
to those from which the attack had come.

All happened at such speed that within a half-hour of the attack,
no evidence remained of it but the plundered and shattered forage
wagons.  The wounded and the dead had been borne into the woods,
and the Chouan horde, having struck its blow, had vanished again
completely.  Only the tale of it remained to be borne by the
fugitives to the garrison at Rennes, which, recognizing its
impotence to seek out so elusive an enemy, would merely rage and
curse and indite a report, for the exasperation of the Convention
in Paris, of the rich haul of arms, ammunition, accoutrements and
provender by which the Chouans were supplied towards a continuance
of their brigand warfare.




BOOK TWO



Chapter One

THE RETURN


On a cool but sunny October afternoon, Quentin de Morlaix, newly
arrived in London, walked down Bruton Street towards the academy
that bore his name.

His return to England in Puisaye's company had been rendered
possible without adventure by the secret Royalist lines of
communication whose network was spread over the face of Brittany,
and the perfection of which in the district he had traversed had
moved Quentin to amazement, as well as to respect for, and
confidence in, the man who had established and maintained them.

Travelling by night, and sleeping by day, they had made their first
stage at a house to the north of Lamballe belonging to a Madame de
Kerverso, in the loft of which a secret hiding-place received them;
their second had been at Villegourio, where they were well received
in a peasant homestead; and their third at Nantois, whence word was
sent on to Puisaye's agent at St. Brieuc to hold his fishing-boat
in readiness for the following night.  This agent had met them in
the outskirts of St. Brieuc, and had conducted them safe and
unchallenged through the cordon of coast-guards and excisemen that
barred the passage to the coast.  Bribes, Puisaye explained, played
a part in dulling the vigilance of those custodians of the shores.

From the water's edge a little boat had taken them a couple of
miles out to sea to the waiting fishing-smack.  In this they had
crossed to Jersey, and thence, by the regular packet, to Dover.  So
smoothly had they fared from start to finish that it was scarcely
conceivable that the journey could have been accomplished more
easily in times of peace.

And now Quentin was going up his own steps, entering his own house
again, and stalking unannounced into the long fencing-room.

At sight of him the grizzled Ramel, engaged at the moment with a
pupil, uttered a cry that brought O'Kelly from the far window-bay,
where he was idling.

"Glory be, now!  Is it yourself, Quentin, or will it be the ghost
of you?"

Before he could answer, O'Kelly was upon him, holding him by the
arms and chuckling into his face, whilst Ramel, his pupil
unceremoniously neglected, hovered exclamatorily about him, and old
Barlow, who had suddenly appeared, quivered in dumb excitement in
the background.

"And us thinking we'd never be seeing you again this side of Hell,"
cried O'Kelly, a hand on Quentin's shoulder, a glow of affection in
his eyes.

"That was to be wanting in faith."

"It was not.  It was from putting faith in a lie that was told us.
Wasn't Mademoiselle de Chesnières here, nigh on a month since, to
tell us you were murdered?"

"Her tale," said Ramel, "was that you'd been killed by Chouans,
somewhere in Brittany."

"Mademoiselle de Chesnières told you that?"

"She did so.  And with the tears in her sweet eyes that I'ld be
glad to earn by dying.  They had word of it, she said, from . . .
What would his name be, Ramel?"

"From the steward of Chavaray, she said.  I don't recall his name.
The news had come in a letter from him to Monsieur de St. Gilles."

"I see," said Quentin.  A bitter little smile broke on his lips.
"It explains a lot.  A rash anticipation on the part of that
rascal."

Then the thought of the tears that O'Kelly had mentioned swept all
else from his mind.  He desired more particular information upon
those tears.  Yet he dared not ask for them.  He would seek them at
the hands of the lady who was alleged to have shed them.

"There's an error to be corrected without delay.  I'll be paying a
visit to Carlisle Street at once."

"Ye'll do nothing of the kind if it's Mademoiselle de Chesnières
you'ld be seeking.  They've moved to Percy Street, off the
Tottenham Court Road.  I've written down the exact address.
There's been a change in their fortunes, I'm thinking."

After that Quentin did not tarry long.  Supplied with the address
of a glover in Percy Street, he went off in quest of it.  Directed
by the glover to the second floor, he climbed the creaking, gloomy,
narrow staircase of that mean house, and rapped on the door that
led to the rooms at the back.

When the door opened, to his surprise it was Mademoiselle de
Chesnières, herself, who appeared, contrasting sharply in her
shimmering grey gown and neatly coiffed head with the background of
a frowsty living-room.

She stood before him with dilating eyes, the colour slowly draining
from her cheeks.  Then there was an inarticulate cry, followed at
last by coherent speech.  "Is it really you, Monsieur de Morlaix?"
The question was almost whispered.

"I've startled you.  Forgive me.  If I could have suspected that
you would, yourself, answer my knock . . ."

"That is nothing," she interrupted him.  "We have believed you
dead, Cousin Quentin, and . . . and . . ."

"I know.  O'Kelly told me.  You had word of it from Lafont."

"Lafont wrote that he was informed of it by the Public Accuser of
Angers, and that as a result Chavaray has now been sequestrated."

"I understand."  He smiled apologetically.  "If I might come in."

But the suggestion awakened alarm in her.  "Ah, no.  No.  I . . . I
prefer that you do not.  I am alone here.  My aunt and Constant are
out.  And it is fortunate.  It is perhaps better that they should
not know of your return.  I don't know.  I must have time to
think."  She panted and trembled as she spoke.

"I would not for the world embarrass you."

"Then go, please.  Go at once.  I would not have Constant find you
here.  I dread what might happen.  Living, he will never forgive
you."

"He's to forgive me, is he?  Pray for what?"

"For murdering our cousin, Boisgelin.  We know, you see."

"So!  That's the tale now!"  Quentin laughed his scorn.  "I killed
him.  But I shouldn't call it murder.  The only murderer in the
affair was Boisgelin, himself."

She was staring at him, with sorrowful, inquiring eyes, when a
sound below revived her alarms.  "Ah, mon Dieu!  If it should be
they!  Go, Monsieur, please, please go."

"When there's so much to say," he sighed.  He was thinking of the
tears of which O'Kelly had told him.

"Go now, and you shall have the opportunity.  I'll provide it.  I
will come to you."

She was gasping over the words, and Quentin understood that it was
to get rid of him that she uttered them.

"When will you come?"

"When you will.  To-day.  This evening.  Oh, please go."

"I shall have the honour to await you."

"Do so.  Yes.  Yes."

The door closed whilst he was bowing, and he departed wondering
whether she would keep her word.

He went home to wait, and at six o'clock that evening Barlow
ushered her cloaked and hooded into the panelled room above-stairs
where she had come to him on the morning of his departure, less
than three months ago.

When she had suffered him to take her cloak, he saw that sternness
now replaced the earlier panic in which she had repulsed him.

"I keep my word," she said.  "I was forced to give it because of my
fears of what might happen."

"And for no other reason?" he gently asked.

"It . . . it seemed proper to give you an opportunity to explain."

He advanced a chair.  "I'll make a plain tale of it," he said, "and
leave the inferences to you."

She sat, whilst he, pacing the room under her grave eyes, made of
it the plain tale he promised, beginning with his visit to
Chavaray, and ending at Puisaye's intervention to save him.

"One understands the report of my death.  Once the Chouans had
carried me off no more will have been heard of me.  One
understands, too, some other things.  One understands, too, that
Boisgelin should address me as Marquis of Carabas remembering that
it was Constant who first applied the name to me.  You perceive the
coincidence?"

"It is none so remarkable."  Her manner, which had softened during
his narrative, grew stiff again.  "Nor do I perceive what inference
you draw."

"Then I will draw none."

"If you imply some conspiracy between my cousins and Monsieur de
Boisgelin, the thought is unworthy.  Are you not too prone to
suspicion, to drawing harsh conclusions?  Was it not enough to
justify Monsieur de Boisgelin's assumptions that he should have
found you travelling with a safe-conduct from the sansculottes?"

"He did not.  I was not searched until after his death."  This
startled her, he saw.  "I hope, Mademoiselle, that you'll judge me
leniently for the course I took to save my neck from the noose he
offered me.  It was the only way."

"That I can understand."  She had softened again.  "It is a
wretched affair.  You have made a determined enemy of Constant.  He
must not know of your return."

"I think he must.  I do not mean to hide myself.  Inevitably he
will hear that I am back in London."

"It is possible that he may not, for we are about to return to
France.  In two or three days we shall be gone.  St. Gilles is
already in Holland with Sombreuil."

"You are returning to France?  Now?"  He was horror-stricken.  "But
the danger of it!"

There was a further softening of her glance as if she were touched
by this fear on her account.  She even smiled a little, and shook
her golden head.

"We have no choice.  You have seen how we are lodged.  My aunt
cannot endure it."

"Name of Heaven!  It is still better than a French prison."

She paid no heed.  "The confiscation of Chavaray has put an end to
our means.  They were all remitted to us by Lafont, who regarded
St. Gilles as the next heir.  My aunt cannot face this destitution.
All her life she has been pampered in the luxury of her position.
And now that the Terror is at an end, the risks are negligible.
The decrees against the émigrés continue in force, but they are
being disregarded.  So we are assured."

"But where will you go?"

"That offers no difficulty."  Her smile broadened.  "You are not
the only one who has thought of using the Citizen Besné as a
nominee.  By Lafont's contriving, and for a fat bribe, with moneys
from the revenues of Chavaray, he purchased for us Grands Chesnes,
when it was sold as national property two years ago, after our
emigration.  We are assured that if we return we shall be left
undisturbed in possession of it in these days of tolerance."

"It is a risk," he said, and his eyes pondered her in almost
sorrowful gravity.

She shrugged.  "All life is that.  What can I do?  My aunt will
face the risk rather than continue in this intolerable poverty.
And so, we are making our packages, and in a couple of days we
shall be gone.  At least," she ended, "if for no other reason, I
can be glad because it removes the chance of a clash between you
and Constant."

"Do you fear so much for him?" he asked her.

"For him!"  Her voice soared on the exclamation.  "For him?  It is
for you that I fear.  I know his remorseless, vindictive nature."

"For me!  Oh, the happiness to hear you say that!  To believe that
you should know concern for me!"

He saw that he had startled her.  "It . . . it is natural.  Is it
not?"

"I have hoped--how I have hoped!--that some day it might be."  He
came to stand near her.  "Measure by it my concern for you.  My
dread of the thought of your going to France.  If you go, it may be
that I shall never see you again."

She looked down at her hands that were folded in her lap.  "It is
what I said to you when I came here to warn you against going."

"But with a difference, I fear.  Or could it have mattered to you
if I had not returned?"  Then he remembered the tears reported by
O'Kelly, and let them wash away the last of his hesitation.  "Do
you conceive how it matters to me?  Germaine!"  He sank down on one
knee beside her chair, and his arm went round her.  She stiffened a
little in the clasp of it, but made no shift to disengage herself.
"You are not to go to France."

She looked at him suddenly in surprise.  She laughed, but her eyes
were very tender.

"Let Madame de Chesnières and her son go if they will into this
danger."

"And I?  How do I avoid going with them?"

With eyes gazing deep into hers he answered softly:  "You have
guessed, haven't you?  You see, it becomes necessary to be brusque;
there is no longer time for timid approaches.  You may avoid it if
you will marry me, although I remain no better than a fencing-
master, and Marquis only of Carabas."

"If you were less than that, you would still be Quentin," was her
soft answer, and, leaning forward, she kissed him.

"Dear heart," he cried, when he recovered breath.  "It is settled,
then."

"Ah, no.  You forget, my dear, or, rather, you do not know my age.
For another year I shall not be mistress of myself.  Meanwhile,
Madame de Chesnières is my legal guardian, and the law is on her
side.  It would be so easy," she ended on a sigh, "if it were
otherwise."

"But if she consented . . ."

"It would be madness even to ask her.  No, no, my Quentin.  That
happiness is not yet for us."

"And for me not even the happiness this hour has brought me, since
it must be lost in dread for you."

She stroked his bronze-hued hair.  "That dread is so easily
exaggerated, my dear.  Already the émigrés are beginning to return,
and so long as they are prudent, we are assured that they are in no
danger of being molested, particularly in the West, which the
Government is anxious to pacify."

"And I am to be content with that assurance?"

"What other do you need?  The assurance that I shall be waiting for
you?  That I give you, my dear, if you still require it."

"Waiting until when?" he asked her gloomily.

"Until fate shall so have shaped things that you may come for me,
or else until having attained full age and become mistress of
myself I may come to you.  And that is less than a year ahead."
Seeing him still sunk in gloom, she ran on:  "Dear Quentin, it will
not be long, and in the meantime there is the joy of knowing that
we are travelling steadily towards each other, that every day is a
step along that blessed road."

His arms were round her, and he held her close.  "Let me draw from
you some of your fine courage."

"Take freely," she urged him, smiling into his eyes.  "That and my
love.  Know always that it is yours, Quentin."

And then the knell of their ecstasy sounded from the little ormolu
timepiece on the overmantel.  Its striking came to remind her of
the need to depart, lest an account should be asked of her absence.
Whatever the obstacles she would see him again before she left for
France.

With that assurance, given in a farewell embrace, she swirled away,
leaving him in a state approaching frenzy, between alternating
exaltation and despondency.



Chapter Two

THE TRUST


For four months thereafter Quentin, who had resumed the conduct of
his academy, exasperated O'Kelly by the grim face and absent mind
with which he performed his daily tasks.  Yet from all that Quentin
could glean from the French nobles who frequented his school, the
dangers to returning émigrés were as negligible in these days of
pacification as Germaine had represented them, and if so many of
them still abode in England it was because they waited to form the
regiments that under the British ægis should presently be landed in
the West of France for the purpose of making an end of the
Republic.

From the lofty heights of his scorn for all the world, the Vicomte
de Bellanger derided one day the notion that Constant de Chesnières
would have taken chances in the matter of his return to France.

"We may be very sure that Constant's native caution would never
permit him to set foot there until his advisers assured him that he
might do so without fear of being called to account for his
emigration.  Faith, I would go back myself, and await in France the
coming of the Royalist army, if I did not find life so pleasant
here in London."  It was notorious by then that he had not gone
because Madame de Laitonges would not permit him to leave her side
until the last moment.

Further, Quentin was reassured by letters--some three or four--
which Germaine had contrived to send him, but to which he was
denied the satisfaction of replying.

Nevertheless, dejection sat heavily upon him.  Paradoxically it was
increased, perhaps, by what had passed at his last meeting with
Germaine; for he was left in the position of one who has won
something which fate denies him the ability to grasp.

He was in a particularly black mood when, on a morning of February,
Monsieur de Puisaye surprised him by swaggering into his academy.
He had not seen the Count since that morning when they had reached
London together four months ago, a circumstance explained to him by
the gossip of the émigrés who frequented Bruton Street.  According
to this, Puisaye had returned almost at once to France in the
pursuit of the will-o'-the-wisp by which he was to restore the
monarchy.

"Behold me returned, my dear Quentin," was his airy announcement,
"to the chagrin, no doubt, of your friends our compatriots.  No
friends of mine, these fribbles.  Sometimes I think they would
rather continue to starve here than be restored to their
possessions by anything that I may accomplish.  I am not pure
enough for the high stomachs of these gentlemen."

His tone was carelessly loud considering that several of those to
whom he so scornfully alluded were present in the fencing-room.
Count d'Hervilly, who had become of considerable authority among
his fellow-exiles, was of these.  He had just been at practice, and
he was in the act of readjusting his cravat before a mirror on the
wall.  A tall, rather long-bodied man, stern-faced, with hard blue
eyes and a domineering manner, he turned.

"Not pure enough for what?" he asked, as he sauntered towards them.

"To lead you to victory over the infernal Republic."

"We recall that you served it once."

"Then you are pleased to recall a lie.  I led an army of Girondins,
in the hope of smashing the Terrorists."

"You distinguish between them!  That is too subtle for the minds of
monarchists or honest men."

His manner was superciliously insolent, and his tone was drawing
others about them into the window embrasure.  Puisaye was unabashed
by their general air of hostility.  He laughed at d'Hervilly.

"You should not assume that all monarchists and honest men are half-
wits.  The percipient ones will see that to lead one half of a
faction against the other, is to destroy the whole."

"If successfully led, it might be so.  But I have not heard that
you were successful."

Puisaye shrugged.  "Because I led a pack of cowards, who fled at
the first discharge.  Besides, your quarrel, I think, is with the
act, itself; not with the result."

"By what else do you judge an act?"

Quentin was finding d'Hervilly's insolence distasteful.  He
ventured to interpose.  "Sometimes, surely, by its intention."

"I thank you, sir," said Puisaye, with a flourish, and turned again
to d'Hervilly.  "So it has been judged by your betters."

D'Hervilly threw up his head.  "My betters!"

"You'll suffer me so to describe the Princes, I suppose.  In
statecraft you might even suffer me so to describe Mr. Pitt."

The old Duke d'Harcourt interjected:  "Do you say, sir, that they
honour you with their confidence?"

Puisaye raised his brows.  "God save us!  Your grace has been
asleep in these last months, I must suppose.  It is their
confidence, Monsieur le Duc, that enables me to bear with
equanimity the lack of it in lesser folk.  Though you may question
my purity, it is freely accepted by the purest of the pure, by my
dear friend, M. d'Artois."

That brought a gasp from some of them.  The old Duke angrily
stabbed the ground with his cane.

"Unsurpassable effrontery!  My God, I choke!  To call His Royal
Highness your dear friend!"

Puisaye's suave insolence was untroubled.  "The term is His
Highness's own."  He brought a letter from his bosom.  "See for
yourself, Duke, how His Highness addresses me.  'My dear friend,'
is it not?  Read on, if you will.  You will find that he commends
my labours, speaks of his impatience to co-operate with me and to
take command of the army I have raised."

Before his magnificent amused contempt there was a general,
shocked, resentful silence in that courtly group.

"I hope Monseigneur's trust will not prove misplaced," was the
Duke's sour comment.

"You may hope it confidently," Puisaye assured him.  "In fact you
may believe it, like Mr. Pitt."

"Mr. Pitt's beliefs will hardly help us," sneered one.

"I think they will when translated into material assistance: ships
and men, besides equipment and munitions for the army that awaits
me in Brittany."

"You have persuaded Mr. Pitt that an army awaits you!  Pardieu!  I
felicitate you on your persuasiveness."

"I thank you.  I deserve no less.  That army will rally to my
standard when I raise it."  He looked at them, almost seeming to
flaunt his splendid height, his magnificent head thrown back.  "Ah,
Messieurs, I could make myself Duke of Brittany if I would," he
boasted.

"I suppose," cackled d'Harcourt, "that Mr. Pitt believes that, too.
An ingenuous gentleman, this Mr. Pitt."  He turned contemptuously
away, and it was as a signal for the others to depart.

"You will believe it when you are invited to enrol," Puisaye flung
after them.  "A chance for you all, Messieurs, to bleed instead of
merely talking."

Disgruntled they melted away, and very soon there was not a
Frenchman remaining in the academy.

Barlow came with his decanters, and in the window-bay overlooking a
garden now sodden with the February rains Quentin made shift to
entertain his guest.

"I wonder you think it worth while to bait them with your boasts."

"Boasts?  Did I boast?"  Puisaye settled himself in a chair.  "If I
did, I boasted only of what I can perform.  And it amuses me to see
those numskulls squirm, and squirt their futile venom.  There's not
a man amongst them but would rather not see the monarchy restored
than that I should be the leader of that restoration.  Don't
begrudge me the amusement of crowing in their silly faces now that
at last I've brought the British Government to support my
enterprise."

"Is that really assured?"

"Pardieu!  Will you, too, be offensive?  Ships, men, arms, clothes,
provisions and the rest.  I have Pitt's definite promise.  And in
Brittany my army is ready.  It awaits my signal."

Quentin stood facing him, suddenly inspired.  "When do we sail?"

"WE?  What have you to do with it?"

"You'll not suppose I would not wish to be of the expedition.  I
have something to fight for, I believe."

Puisaye looked doubtful.  "There's not the need.  Remain here until
the business is finished.  Trust me then to see you settled in your
marquisate.  It will set a crown to my work."

Quentin stared at him.  "You want to laugh," he said.

"How so?"

"A little more, and you'll imply that the British ships and your
Breton army are to be applied to the restoration of the Marquis of
Carabas."

"Of Chavaray," Puisaye gravely corrected.  Then increased Quentin's
amazement by adding with a careless laugh:  "Faith! it may be
nearer the truth than you suspect."

"It could not be further from it.  Let us be serious.  When you go,
I go.  And it cannot be too soon for me."

"You'll have some reason for this.  What is it?"

"My own."

"Devil take you.  Keep your confidences, then.  But if it's the
thought of Chavaray that's troubling you, I can tell you that
Chavaray is safe.  I took care to inform myself on my last journey.
It has been sequestered, and is for sale.  It could be bought for
next to nothing.  But lack of faith in the present order of things
makes a sale impossible.  There are no fools to buy lands from
which they may be expelled to-morrow by a restoration.  It was, in
fact, to assure you of this that I came here to-day."

"I am more grateful than I can say."  Indeed, Puisaye's interest in
him was a source of ever-increasing wonder to Quentin.  "But my
anxiety to return to France is on quite other grounds."

"Of which you have told me that you do not wish to speak.  Well,
well.  We shall see."  Puisaye drained his glass, and stood up to
take his leave.  "You shall hear from me when I'm ready to sail."

Bruton Street did not see him again for a full month.  But Quentin
heard of him, and what he heard was little to the Count's credit;
for the émigrés were the reporters.

At first they were seeking to discover the link between Quentin and
one whom they never scrupled to describe as an upstart adventurer.

"He is my friend," Quentin had coldly discouraged more than one of
them.  "In France he saved my life.  That is a sufficient debt, I
think."

At first, and at least in part, it curbed their slanderous
tendencies.  Soon, however, news spreading to confirm Puisaye's
boast that he had won the support of Pitt and the confidence of the
Princes, the festering bitterness could no longer be repressed.  It
was remembered and repeated that he had been elected to the States-
General in '89 as a representative of the nobles, and had
treacherously voted with the Third Estate.  He was a Republican at
heart, and because even revolutionaries had rejected him he now
made war upon the Republic.  He had won the confidence of the
Princes by a trick.  By a trick he had imposed himself upon the
Chouans, seizing the chance afforded by the death of La Rouêrie,
who had organized them.

This and much more Quentin heard and scorned, assigning it rightly
to a mean jealousy of the man's extraordinary ascendancy.  He even
made some enemies by defending Puisaye's name; and a few émigrés
there were, such as Bellanger and d'Hervilly, who ceased to
frequent the academy on that account.

O'Kelly took these defections to heart, and was acid on the score
of Puisaye and Quentin's growing regard for him.  Quentin, however,
had other matters on his mind.  His hunger to return to France so
that he might be near Germaine had been at once sharpened and its
satisfaction revealed as possible by Puisaye's account of the
growing spirit of toleration and the difficulty of selling national
property that was the fruit of confiscation.

The seed thus sown had germinated to such purpose in Quentin's mind
that, taking advantage of the fact that Sir Francis Burdett, who
had lately married the youngest daughter of Mr. Coutts, often came
to fence in Bruton Street, he procured from him a letter of
introduction to his father-in-law.  Armed with this, he went off to
the city, to seek that famous banker's guidance and assistance.  To
such purpose were they accorded him that presently it was reported
in the academy that Monsieur de Morlaix was preparing to pay a
second visit to France.

Hard upon the spreading of that report, on a wild night towards the
end of March, Puisaye descended upon him to annoy him by a reproach
of the intention.

"You have me spied upon, it seems," Quentin complained.

"That's an ugly description of my interest in you, child."

"Faith!  You're cursedly paternal sometimes."

Puisaye's mouth fell open in astonishment.  Then he laughed, and
slapped Quentin's shoulder with his vigorous hand.  "To the devil
with your impudence!  Have I not the right to be?  Can't I boast
that you owe your life to me?  What more can a father boast?"

"I am not likely to forget it."

"Tush!  It may be a meanness to remind you of it.  But you drive me
to it by your resentment of my concern.  And that's a meanness,
too.  What is this haste to return to France?"

"To regain possession of Chavaray, of course.  My arrangements are
made.  It's for sale.  I propose to purchase it."

"A silly waste of money.  Our guns will buy it back for you, as
I've told you.  But if you're too cursedly impatient--peste!--I'll
not argue with you."

"You would lose your time."

"Curse your inflexibility."  Puisaye laughed.  Then his manner
changed.  He became serious.  "To dissuade you now, might actually
be against my own interests.  For if you're set on going, there's a
service you can render me."

Suddenly conscious that an indefinable resentment had been
rendering him churlish, Quentin leapt impulsively at the chance of
repaying something of his heavy debt towards this man.  "You have
but to ask."

"That's good of you.  My need is of a certain urgency, and
peculiar.  It's this.  I have a message for Cormatin, but I must
have a messenger who is personally known to Cormatin, as well as to
Tinténiac, who is now with him.  The matter is one that I dare not
commit to writing.  I cannot risk at this stage that a letter
should fall into Republican hands.  Will you bear this message for
me?"

"But very gladly.  Where do I find Cormatin?"

Instead of answering, Puisaye asked him:  "How do you propose to
enter France?"

"I have my safe-conduct still."

"Too dangerous.  It may be considered out of date.  There have been
changes again.  You will go to Jersey.  Thence one of my agents,
whose name I will give you, will put you ashore in the neighbourhood
of St. Brieuc.  From there you will travel along my lines of
communication from one to another of the houses of confidence I'll
indicate.  Now, please attend carefully."

Followed the substance of the message he was to bear.  Puisaye's
arrangements with Mr. Pitt were now complete and final.  A fleet
under Sir John Warren was already being equipped for the
expedition.  It should be ready to sail by early June, and the
determined landing-place in France was the Bay of Quiberon.  After
this came details of arms, munitions and equipment for the Chouan
army which the British ships would carry.  Of these he supplied a
written note, so couched as to be unintelligible to any who did not
possess the key, and another, similarly framed, detailing the
forces that would be landed to supplement the Chouans.  There would
be some four thousand British troops besides the regiments made up
of the émigrés in England amounting to some three thousand men.
There would be a further contingent of some two thousand émigrés
now in Holland with Sombreuil, and yet to be brought over.  In
addition there would be an enrolment from among the French
prisoners of war now in England of such as would be willing to earn
deliverance by service in the royalist army.  Their number was
estimated at a thousand.

Acting upon this information, Cormatin was at once to make such
disposition as would ensure that the three hundred thousand Chouans
upon whom they counted would be held in readiness to rise in June
as soon as the British ships reached Quiberon.

"It is all so important," Puisaye ended, "that I would go, myself,
if my presence here were less urgently needed.  There is not a
single one of these pestilential émigrés I could trust to be my
deputy in England.  I have the less scruple to ask this service of
you because of your determination to go in any case.  And I reflect
that if I ask you to serve me, I can repay you by helping you on
your way.  Along my lines of communication you can be certain of
travelling in safety, and of obtaining assistance and protection at
every stage."

"Thus," said Quentin graciously, "we shall be quits."

"Not until I see you safe at Chavaray in a land restored to
monarchical rule.  Believe me, my dear lad, the one is as important
to me as the other."



Chapter Three

THE SECOND JOURNEY


Aboard a Breton fishing-smack that in these days fished only so as
to dissemble its real activities, Quentin de Morlaix came in the
dead of an uneasy night of March to the Bay of St. Brieuc.  If the
foul weather deliberately chosen brought peril of shipwreck on the
one hand, on the other it lessened the other lurking perils, no
less deadly, that awaited a clandestine landing.

Rémisol, the master of the smack, an old smuggler by trade, who
with a man and a boy for crew plied now a form of smuggling more
dangerous far than the old running of contraband cargoes to
England, had picked his weather for the trip from Jersey, and was
grateful for the blustering westerly wind that blew them into the
gulf, and the driving rain that hung a veil about them.

Within a couple of hundred yards of the beach of Erquy, greatly
daring, Rémisol, having lowered the rag of canvas, no more than had
been needed to keep the smack handy, swung her beam across the
wind, and whilst she rocked from gunwale to gunwale on the long
rollers, he drew under her lee the boat she towed.  To descend into
her was not the least of the perils Quentin was called upon to
face.  Stumbling and sliding across the vessel's slippery deck,
clutching for support at whatever came under his hand, he reached
the gunwale.  Guided by Rémisol he climbed upon it, clinging
desperately to a ratline, and peering through the gloom for the
dark patch upon the oily sheen of the sea that marked the boat.
Then came the fearsome leap, to be caught in the arms of the
seaman, who had preceded him, and to crouch with him, lest they be
flung out of that wildly tossing shell.

He came to rest in the stern, whilst his companion thrust out an
oar.  The boat was swung into the wind, and her antics became less
fearful.  Soon her keel was grating on the shingle, and the spray
was breaking over her, to add to the drenching bestowed by the
rain.

"Look alive, sir," the seaman admonished Quentin.

He clutched him, and at closest quarters pointed his outstretched
arm barely visible in the gloom.  "Yonder is Erquy.  See that
glimmer of light.  That'll be a house in the village.  The road to
Nantois lies to the right of it."

"Thanks.  I know.  I've been this way before.  With Erquy before me
I cannot go astray."

"Have a care how you cross the line of coast-guards.  There's not
above a hundred yards between their tents.  Give thanks for the
rain.  It should keep them under cover while it lasts, and as they
show no lights they're likely asleep.  But we never can tell for
sure.  So go cautious.  You'll find them at the top of the beach.
God be with you, sir.  Give me a shove."

With the waves breaking about his thighs, Quentin thrust the boat
off.  In a moment it had vanished into the darkness, and the creak
of rowlocks was lost in the boom and rattle of the waves upon the
shingle.

For a moment Quentin thought less of the difficulties awaiting him
than of those the seaman must be facing in regaining the smack,
which, daring to show no light, remained invisible.  Before he
turned he caught faintly above the noise of wind and sea a hail
that was answered and repeated, and he understood the device by
which boat and smack would find each other again.

Cautiously, his sodden cloak wrapped about him, he began the ascent
of the beach towards the danger-line of the coast-guard tents.  The
downpour was lessening, but the blackness of the night continued
almost impenetrable, so that he might be said to be constrained to
steer his course by the sound of the sea behind him.

Suddenly, very faintly grey, a vague shape loomed before him and
brought him sharply to a halt.  He had all but walked into one of
the tents, one of the links drawn wherever a landing was possible
along the Brittany and Normandy coasts.  He was sidling away to the
right when the blackness in that direction was abruptly cleft by a
glowing cone.  Startled by that sudden, silent, luminous explosion,
he checked again, his eyes on the tent that had abruptly become
visible by the kindling of a light within it.

Shadows moved against the glowing canvas, the shadows of two men,
one of them topped by a monstrous distortion of a three-cornered
hat, which at once suggested to Quentin that its wearer was about
to come forth.  Instinctively he dropped to the ground, and
instinctively his hand sought the butt of the pistol within the
breast of his coat.

A shaft of light from that conical glow cut athwart the night, to
be darkened almost at once by the human bulk that appeared in the
opening of the raised flap.  Immovable it stood there for some
seconds, and Quentin began to realize that the man was doing no
more than taking stock of the weather.  Prone upon the sand,
thankful to be beyond the range of the light, he waited.  Voices
reached him faintly, the words indistinguishable.  Then came a
snatch of song to reassure him.  The black silhouette was withdrawn
from the opening; the flap was allowed to fall again, cutting off
the shaft of light.  But because the tent remained aglow, Quentin,
having risen, edged away in the opposite direction, nor began to
move forward again until he judged himself to be somewhere midway
between the next two tents, which remained in darkness.

He was through at last and at the foot of the dunes that made an
irregular wall at the head of the beach.  He climbed these on hands
and knees, not daring in the darkness to trust his feet over
surfaces so irregular.  From their summit, venturing at last to
stand, he sought the light of Erquy, and was thankful when he
perceived it, now straight ahead.  In the dark he had swerved
unduly to the left.  This, however, was easily corrected now that
he possessed anew that orientation.  With that beacon in view, he
went stumbling over the dunes, through the driving rain which had
increased again, and was beating upon his back and shoulders.

Thus he came at last upon a road.  The light of Erquy was behind by
now, and no longer visible.  But he knew the road.  This way he had
come with Puisaye.  Along that firm surface he made better
progress, and the day was breaking when he reached the outskirts of
Nantois.  He got his bearings from a gaunt ruin that reared itself
from a belt of pines on an eminence a little way back from the
highway, the Castle of Guémadec, raggedly silhouetted in the vivid
light of dawn.  Leaving the highway, he skirted the eminence until
he struck a path that led through a screening spinney to the
homestead.

Recognized there as the sometime companion of the Comte Joseph, he
was readily sheltered by the farmer.  He spent the day abed and
asleep, whilst his garments were being dried.  Soon after nightfall
he resumed his journey, accompanied by a vigorous peasant-girl to
serve him as guide to Villegourio, where the next stage was
established.  After that, travelling by night and resting by day,
he found friendly shelter, first at Villeneuve, north of Lamballe,
in the attic of the house of Madame de Kerverso, then at Quesnoy,
in the humble abode of the sisters du Gage, and at last at Ville
Louët, a dangerous neighbourhood because near Boishardi's abandoned
manor, upon which the Blues kept a close watch.

Thence on the fifth day after landing, and without waiting for the
night, because not safe to linger, he set out alone on a borrowed
horse, to make for the uplands and the Ridge of the Anguille, where
his journey was to end.

Avoiding Moncontour, he followed a track that led through fertile,
well-cultivated lands, to the slopes of Menez.  As he climbed
these, the signs of life and cultivation vanished, until from the
heights, looking south towards the Morbihan, was spread an empty
moorland landscape, broken only by scattered copses, to a far
horizon of forests, dark and solid.

Thus through a country ever more forlorn, whose increasing visible
expanse displayed never a hamlet or other sign of human habitation,
he plodded upwards.  Heather and gorse became the only vegetation
of this arid soil, broken at intervals by surging blocks of
granite.

At last, towards sunset, as he gained the empty heights of Bel Air,
a solitary dark grey building showed on the Ridge of the Anguille
above him, which he knew for the dwelling of Jean Villeneuve, or
Jean of the Ridge, as he was generally known.  He bore in the
district an unsavoury cut-throat reputation, which may have been
due to no more than the desolate situation of his tavern-dwelling.
It was a little frequented house of call for travellers crossing
the Menez on the way to Ménéac.

Goats grazed on the slope by which a winding path led Quentin to
the summit.  Fowls scattered nosily and a dog barked threateningly
as he came to a halt before the two long, low, one-storeyed
buildings, one of which was the inn, the other the barn and stable.

A slatternly girl in a red petticoat, bare of foot, unkempt and
black as a gipsy, showed herself on the threshold.  Bright, black
eyes scanned him from that grimy countenance.  A raucous voice
challenged rather than invited him.  "Do you stop here?"

"By your leave."  Quentin came to the ground.  "Supper and a bed.
Can you provide them?"

She turned to send a harsh call through the house.  It brought
forth a big, loose-limbed man in a goatskin jacket above grey
breeches so wide that as he stood they took the form of a skirt.
His naked legs were so hairy as to seem stockinged, and his feet
were thrust into wooden shoes and packed with straw.  His flat,
weathered face, showing between curtains of grizzled hair, was
sinister from sheer vacuity.

"Ohè!  Supper?  Aye.  There's a kid new-killed, and maybe Francine
can fry you an omelette.  Come you in."  He spoke on a dull,
uninterested monotone, in an accent not easily followed.  "Take
Monsieur's horse, Francine."

Within the gloomy, narrow, unclean and evil-smelling common-room,
on the floor of which some fowls were scratching themselves dust
baths, the host took stock again of his guest.

"Where'll you be coming from?"

Deliberately Quentin mentioned the last house of communication at
which he had stayed.

"Oh!  Ah!"  The flat face gave no sign of intelligence.  "And where
may you be going?"

"That will depend upon whom I meet here."

"Here?  Whom should you meet here?  This be a lonely house.  Few
comes this way."

"Baron Cormatin might come if you were to let him know that I am
asking for him."

"Baron what?  Na, na."  He shook his head and grinned.  "We've no
barons here, citizen.  'Tis a lonely house.  Travellers this way be
scarce.  And barons?  Name of a pipe!  I've never seen a baron."

Quentin paid no heed.  "I am from Count Joseph," he announced.

"Who?  Count . . . ?  You're in a mistake, my master.  You're come
to the wrong house.  Supper you may have and a bed, and welcome.
But don't believe you'll meet any of your fine friends here.  Not
in Jean de la Butte's house."

By insistence Quentin succeeded only in arousing the wrath of this
dullard and of the comely but unclean Francine who had slouched in.

"You must be cracked, my lad," she told him, with the freedom that
annoyance breeds.  "We're poor folk, and this is no house for the
nobility, even if there were any left.  Where do you come from at
all with your talk of counts and barons?  By faith, Jean, I believe
it's a traveller from the moon."

"I've told you that I come from . . ."

"Aye, aye," Jean interrupted him.  "That's enough!  We want no more
of it.  You break our heads."  He shambled off, a man whose
patience was exhausted.

Now this had not been one of the houses of confidence at which he
had called when journeying with Puisaye, and Quentin began to fear
that he had blundered.  He was less annoyed than disconcerted.
Night was falling and he was exhausted.  Even if he knew how to
repair the error of which he was by now convinced, he could do
nothing until to-morrow.

So in a disgruntled mood he ate a supper that almost turned his
stomach, and thereafter went to throw himself half dressed upon the
rude pallet provided.

He awakened with a glare of light upon his face in a room that
seemed full of men, as indeed it was; for although there were only
four of them, they sufficed to crowd the narrow little chamber.
The first he recognized was Jean de le Butte, who at the foot of
the bed held aloft a lantern.  Beside him stood a bulky man, whose
face was lost in the shadow of his hat's wide brim, and who carried
a musket slung from his shoulders.  Two others standing by the
bedside were similarly masked by the shadow of their round hats.

Quentin jerked himself up.  "What's this?  What do you want?"

A hand fell lightly on his shoulder.  "All's well, Monsieur de
Morlaix."  There was a hint of laughter in the brisk voice.  "I am
Tinténiac.  And here is Cormatin, for whom you've been asking."

"In effect," came the Baron's deeper tones, "prompt to your
summons, as you see.  You may go, Jean."

Quentin recovered his breath.  "The promptitude is a little
disconcerting.  I was not so impatient for the pleasure of your
visit that I could not have waited until morning."

"I was not to know who asked for me until I had seen you."

"And," said Tinténiac, "we have good reason at present to move only
by night.  The Ridge is under surveillance."

"So if you'll forgive the disturbance, we'll be glad of your news,"
the Baron added.

Sitting up on his pallet Quentin came to it at once, and by the
light of the lantern Jean had left, he read details and figures
from the cryptogram he had prepared.

Tinténiac was moved to a glad excitement, which the Baron was slow
to share.  "Can we be really sure," he asked, "that the Count is
not taking British support too much for granted?"

"It is not Puisaye's way to take things for granted," exclaimed the
Chevalier, with a touch of indignation.

"That is not my judgment of him," the Baron answered.  "Is it
yours, Monsieur de Morlaix?"

Quentin hesitated.  Had he been entirely frank, he would have said
that Puisaye's swaggering ways suggested an over-sanguine
temperament.  "My acquaintance with him," he evaded, "does not
permit me to pronounce."

"Mine does," said Tinténiac.  "And I very definitely hold you
mistaken, Baron."

"That the Count is of those who are prone to believe what they
hope?  Well, well.  And then the British Government . . .  I do not
choose to trust implicitly to British promises even if they are as
definite as Monsieur de Puisaye asserts."

"You may be sure that they are or he would not assert it,"
Tinténiac retorted.

"Need you wrangle over it?" wondered Quentin.  "You are committed
to nothing definite until the British ships actually arrive."

"There is the preparation of the ground," the Baron objected on a
grumbling tone.

"What then?  What else are you doing here?  The information I bring
is to encourage you in zeal, so that you see to it that the men are
ready when the hour strikes.  You'll hardly permit yourself to be
deterred by fancied misgivings on the score of British help."

Cormatin shrugged.  "Easy, of course.  Yet I do not choose to
believe in it, because I do not believe that it is in the policy of
Mr. Pitt to see the monarchy restored in France."

"To the devil with what you believe, Baron," was Tinténiac's testy
answer.  "You've said yourself that a man believes what he hopes.
How if we apply that to yourself?"

"My dear Chevalier!"

"How are you competent here in Brittany to judge of what is
happening in England, as against Puisaye who is at work there?"

Cormatin spread his hands in a pacifying gesture.  "I may be wrong.
I hope I am, and that Monsieur de Puisaye's buds will bloom."

"It is for you, Baron, to labour so that they may," Quentin told
him.

The Chevalier agreed impatiently.  "We have our orders, and nothing
remains but to obey."

"Oh, agreed!  Agreed!  I merely sound a warning against the
delusion of false hopes.  You may carry my assurances to the Count,
Monsieur de Morlaix, that I shall dispose as he commands."

"There is not the need.  He has no doubt of it.  And I am not
returning."

He spoke of his reasons.  The Baron displayed little interest.  He
seemed bemused.  But Tinténiac expressed the view that as things
now were, with the spirit of conciliation abroad, Quentin should
have little difficulty in obtaining possession of his estates and
in being left in peaceful enjoyment of them.

"And at need," he added, "I can lend you a dozen stout, trusty lads
for a bodyguard.  You can distribute them as servants, and depend
upon them to bring you off in case of trouble."

They were still discussing it when Cormatin roused himself to
interrupt them.

"It wants little more than an hour to daybreak, and we've all of a
dozen miles to ride.  We should be moving."

Quentin went with them, needing their guidance in a country now
entirely strange to him.  Outside the inn a dozen men awaited them,
mounted on Breton ponies, and in the wake of this bodyguard they
began the descent in the dark towards St. Uran.  Once the steepness
diminished the pace was quickened.  With sure knowledge of the
ground they pushed briskly through that harsh, wild country,
thickly wooded as it was and broken by ravines.  As the pallors of
dawn were lightening the east on their left, they reached the
borders of the vast sombre forest of La Noué, which was their
destination.

Within the heart of that dense labyrinth Cormatin and Tinténiac had
their present refuge, in the quarters set up there by the Chouan
leader St. Regent, commonly known as Pierrot, who was one of the
most active and resolute enemies of the Republic.  His immediate
following, numbering a couple of hundred men, were for the most
part old contrabandists, who under the monarchy had been engaged in
the smuggling of salt from Brittany, where it was free, into the
neighbouring provinces, where in those days it had been heavily
taxed.  Rude, vigorous men, inured to danger by the risky trade
they had followed, they were amongst the most formidable of those
who conducted the guerrilla warfare against the forces of
government.  St. Regent, himself, undersized and frail, with a keen
weasel face and lively, piercing brown eyes, exercised over them
the authority that only a skilful, proven leader can command.

A charcoal-burner's hut served him for quarters, whilst the men
were lodged underground in the entrenchments which they had dug,
roofed with turf and leaves over a stout framework of branches, so
that they would defy discovery to any but the most minute search.
Amongst them several refractory priests found shelter, ready to go
forth when needed to perform their offices, men the interdict upon
whom had been so heavy a factor in the revolt of the pious
peasantry.

On the Sunday morning of Quentin's arrival amongst them, he
attended the Mass, celebrated in a great clearing, at which the
entire band was present.  The deference shown him, as Puisaye's
emissary, by St. Regent and every man of his following, was an
evidence to him of the esteem in which the Count Joseph was held
and the powerful influence of his name.

"It is the same throughout the entire West," Tinténiac assured him.
"Puisaye is their Messiah, and when he gives the signal such an
army will spring from the soil that the scoundrels in Paris will
believe that the Day of Judgment is upon them."

"Yet Cormatin seems lukewarm," Quentin observed.

Tinténiac became grave.  "A doubter by nature.  And he has been
badly shaken by a near escape of capture by the Blues.  He was not
the man to leave here as Puisaye's Major-General.  Still, I do what
I can to buttress his crumbling spirit pending the arrival of
Puisaye himself.  We shall continue to prepare the ground, which,
for that matter, is well prepared already.  We could rise to-morrow
if the word came.  The Republicans are of it, aware of this fire
smouldering under the ashes, which it cannot locate, and which it
has tried in vain to stamp out.  An unexpected flare up at this
point or at that; a bold attack upon a convoy; a sudden raid upon
an arsenal, for arms and powder; a seizure of corn or cattle
intended for the troops; all this by bands that melt away and
vanish when the stroke has been delivered.  These things shake the
confidence and nerves of our Republican friends.  Having tried in
vain the brutal plan of wholesale devastation, they now betray
their fears by conciliatory measures, the cessation of persecutions,
the abolition of the trees of liberty, even toleration in matters of
religion.  As things are you'll have little difficulty at Chavaray.
Your cousin, Constant de Chesnières, with more to answer for than
you can have, is left to dwell in peace at Grands Chesnes."

This was news that Quentin hardly welcomed.  "I thought that he
would have gone to join his brother in Holland."

"He is an officer of the Loyal Émigrant, which has been assembled
in England.  Seeing the condition of things in the West, he has
been persuaded to await it here, supplying meanwhile a rallying-
point for the peasantry of his district.  It will be pleasant for
you to have your cousins for neighbours at Chavaray."

"It will certainly be interesting," was the extent of Quentin's
agreement.



Chapter Four

IN POSSESSION


On a bright day of spring, Monsieur de Morlaix cantered up the long
avenue of Lombardy poplars, about the roots of which the crocuses
gleamed golden, to the gates of Chavaray.  Three men who had the
air of grooms rode with him; Chouans these, of that dozen of the
bodyguard with which Tinténiac had provided him.

Monsieur de Morlaix had fared reasonably well, all things
considered, at the hands of the Public Accuser of Angers.  He had
presented himself boldly three days ago at the office of that
important public functionary, and had been paid the compliment of
immediate recognition.

"Behold me, if I am not mistaken, the Citizen Morlaix returned at
last.  Name of a name!  But where have you tarried this long
while?"

"I have been to England."

"To England!"  The Citizen Besné made a wry face.  "That's no place
for a true Frenchman.  A land of perfidy.  Our natural enemies, the
English, from immemorial time.  I thank God for it.  I would not
have them for our friends.  In the name of reason what took you
there?"

"A matter of twenty-four thousand livres in gold."

"That is some excuse."  The lean, livid, pock-marked face was split
by a grin.  "A man might go even to England for that."

"The friends in France upon whom I counted could not help me, so I
had no choice.  I bring you a draft on a bank in Amsterdam for that
amount."

A lively flicker in Besné's little eyes resolved itself into a cold
stare.  "For twenty-four thousand livres?"

"In gold.  Was not that the sum agreed?"

Besné displayed indignation.  "But that, my friend, was a solatium
to me for offering no opposition to your inheriting.  Since then
the situation has changed.  The sequestration has been effected and
registered.  Chavaray is now definitely national property, and for
sale."

"It was already national property then: so you informed me.  But
you were prepared to rescind the sequestration.  What was possible
then should be possible now."

"Indeed, it is not.  Since then you have placed yourself definitely
outside the law, by emigrating again."

"To leave the country for the express purpose of obtaining the
money necessary to satisfy legal requirements is not to emigrate."

Besné's full face was puckered into a grin.  He made little humming
noises.  "You should have been a lawyer.  You certainly know how a
hair should be split.  Nor can I say that your argument is really
unsound.  Indeed, considering it, I could hardly be held guilty of
a grave dereliction of duty if I yielded to the temptation of
serving you."

"I have it here."

"You have what?"

"The temptation."  From a wallet of oiled silk, Quentin drew one of
the bills of exchange on Amsterdam which had resulted from his
visits to Mr. Thomas Coutts.  He thought it well to add:  "It is
worthless until I endorse it to your order.  But that is quickly
done.  As quickly as your signing the admission of my claim."

With the figure "1000 guineas" dancing before his eyes, the Public
Accuser pursed his lips.  "Vexatious!" he muttered.  "Most
vexatious.  The sequestration, I repeat, is registered.  Only by
actual purchase can you now become possessor of the place.  But
that would have the advantage of making it doubly yours: by
purchase and by inheritance."  Amiably the Citizen Besné proffered
his open snuff-box.

Quentin waved it impatiently away.  "And the price?"

"Oh, but at a nominal price, of course.  I might say, as before,
five million livres.  In that case you would be well served by the
further depreciation of the national currency.  In gold to-day that
is not more than two thousand English guineas.  A bagatelle.  A
farce of a price.  I may come to be bitterly reproved for it.  But
there!"  He shrugged his shoulders.  "There are no buyers in these
days, and the nation must take what it can.  Look you, citizen: you
shall have the estates for five million livres, or two thousand
English guineas.  I'll have the deed of sale ready for you by to-
morrow.  And, of course, there will be the little commission of a
thousand guineas that we agreed."

So in exchange for his bills, two of them endorsed to the National
Treasury, the other to the Citizen Besné, Quentin received his deed
of ownership, and with it came once more to those tall iron gates
from which on his former visit he had been ignominiously driven.

The clang of the bell was answered by the barking of a dog, and
presently from that same low doorway in the left wing emerged as
before the steward Lafont, this time with a growling liver-coloured
mastiff at his heels.

He stared through the bars at Quentin, who sat his horse.  "Who are
you?  What do you want?"

"The owner of Chavaray.  Unbar the gate."

Recognition gleamed in the fellow's glance.  "So it's you again!"

"Your memory is better than your manners.  Unbar the gate, I say."

"Ah, bah!  The nation is the present owner of Chavaray, and it's in
my charge."

"That is at an end.  I have this for you."  He leaned from the
saddle, and passed a paper through the bars.

Scowling over it, Lafont read it aloud.  "The bearer of these, the
Citizen Quentin Morlaix, having acquired by purchase the property
of . . ."  The steward broke off, and looked up with a malevolent
sneer.  "I see.  A buyer of national property."  He laughed with
sour malice.  "I hope you may enjoy it longer than is usual in
these days."

"Meanwhile, the gate."

"To be sure.  The gate."  He turned the key in the lock, and opened
one of the wings, driving the dog to heel with an oath.

In the forecourt Quentin left his Chouans to stable the horses, and
with Lafont for reluctant and surly guide, went to acquaint himself
with the house.

Whilst the architecture was that of the days of Louis XIII, the
decoration of the spacious rooms was mainly in the baroque style of
Louis XV.  Exceptions were the wide hall with its elegant
pilasters, the black and white chequers of its marble pavement and
the vast fireplace, its cowl adorned by the shield of the
Chesnières with its oak-tree device.  At either end of the hall a
wide marble staircase, carpeted in faded red, led to the gallery
that surrounded it on three sides above.  The dining-room, too, of
dark oak wainscoting and massive furniture, was contemporary with
the house.  But all the rest was of the style of more frivolous
days.  Quentin passed through a succession of rooms on the ground
floor, panelled in silks and tapestries within frames of ornately
contorted escutcheon shapes: a green room, a pink room, a room
known as the peacock room from designs on the satin panels, another
known as the room of the monkeys, from the old tapestries of
arboreal designs upon which monkeys sported.  In some, the
furniture and the lustres overhead were conserved in linen shrouds;
in others their glories were bare to the dust that overlaid
everything within that neglected mansion and matched the cracked
mirrors, the broken picture frames and tattered tapestries, some of
which disfigured almost every one of those splendid rooms.

It was to be Quentin's task in the days that followed to restore
some order, and to this he set the peasant lads that Tinténiac had
supplied him.  They had been chosen from among those who, rendered
homeless by the troubles, were willing and even glad to exchange
the comforts of life under a roof for a roving, forest existence.
They were under the direction of an elderly Chouan named Charlot,
who had been a sort of seneschal-intendant at the Château de
Plougast, burnt by the Blues in '93.  He possessed a wife and a
daughter, with whom employment at Chavaray permitted reunion, and
because of this, Quentin received from the three of them devoted
service.

Restoration of order in the château was followed by attention to
the estates.  It was necessary to make the acquaintance of the
métayers and other tenants, and to seek the guidance of
Lesdiguières for the appointment of a steward to succeed Lafont,
whom he had instantly dismissed.  Of no less urgency was it to pay
a visit to Grands Chesnes, a matter reluctantly postponed from
misgivings of the reception that might await him there.  To
continue the postponement, however, seemed to him a frustration of
the real purpose of his coming to France.  Resolved, therefore, for
the sake of seeing Germaine de Chesnières, to face at once whatever
hostility there might be, he ordered a horse to be saddled for him
one fine April morning, and set out.

He rode alone, and his way ran through level lands dotted with
coverts, which grew denser and more frequent as he approached the
banks of the Mayenne.  The meadows were green and lush with herbage
left too abundant by the scarce cattle set to graze; of the
tillage, some stood fallow and empty, other was so rank with weeds
that it advertised its neglect even to such inexpert agrarian eyes
as Quentin's.  The few isolated rustics whom he met eyed him from
under lowering brows, and it was rarely that any returned his
greeting.  An old man of whom he inquired if he were on the right
way to the ford, jabbered for answer in a language Quentin did not
understand, but the tone and manner of which did not lead him to
suppose himself the object of civilities.

By following a path through a fringe of woodland, he came at last
to the shrunken river, singing and sparkling in the sunshine as it
rippled and frothed over a broad gravel shallow.  He urged his
horse to the water, through the tall rushes and golden king-cups
that fringed the bank, and splashed his way across.  Thence a well-
defined pathway led him a straight two miles or so to a sober grey
manor, flanked by a single tower with an extinguisher roof, which
he rightly supposed to be Grands Chesnes.

To the elderly man in peasant dress, without pretence of livery, by
whom he was received, he accounted it prudent to announce himself
in the Republican style, as the Citizen Morlaix, and after a
waiting pause in a gloomy hall, he was brought to a lofty room of a
sombre dignity, where Constant de Chesnières stood cool and
sardonic to receive him.

"I am honoured, Monsieur de Morlaix."  It was thus that Constant
now elected to address him.  "I had heard of your arrival at
Chavaray.  Permit me to say that I admire your courage."

Quentin bowed.  "I shall study always to deserve that admiration."

"Too gracious.  In what may I serve you?"

"In nothing of which I am aware.  Rather am I here to offer my
services to you."

"Again, too gracious.  We hear reports that you have purchased
Chavaray from the nation."

"It appeared to be the simplest course, all things considered."

"Simple, perhaps.  But fraught with risks.  You'll recall the old
warning maxim, Caveat emptor."

"It is scarcely applicable to me."

"By your leave, sir, it is applicable to any man who buys stolen
goods."

"But not if they were stolen from himself."

"I see."  Constant's eyes were insolently raised.  "You take that
view?"

"What view do you take, Monsieur?"

"That is of little consequence.  What should be, is that purchasers
of national property have fared none too happily of late.  In your
own case, too, the Chouans may recall that a Monsieur de Boisgelin,
a cousin of ours, who was of some esteem amongst them, met his
death at your hands.  They are of a tenacious memory, these
Chouans, and not without vindictiveness.  I do not wish to alarm
you," he added, with his sneering smile.  "And, as I have said
already, it is impossible not to admire your courage."

"And just as impossible to shake it," Quentin answered him amiably.
"As for Boisgelin, it will be known that I killed him in a fair
engagement."

"A fair engagement!"  For a moment Constant's voice was charged
with anger.  It was instantly controlled.  "I should deplore to
intrude a harsh note upon so amiable an occasion by reminding you
that you are a fencing-master."

"I am not on my defence.  But I may remind you in my turn that
Boisgelin was a practised duellist."

"You knew that of him.  But he was not so well informed concerning
yourself."

"That I can believe.  His friends were oddly negligent, or else
unduly confident."

"His friends?" Constant questioned, his glance sharpening.

But already Quentin was turning from him.  He had heard the door
open behind him, and he was brought face to face with Mademoiselle
de Chesnières.

For a moment there was a breathless pause, then she sped
impulsively forward.

"Quentin . . . Cousin Quentin!"

He bent over her hand, bearing it to his lips, whilst ahead, Madame
de Chesnières advanced into the room with solemn dignity, and
behind him, Constant remained sternly at gaze.

"Germaine!"  Madame's utterance expressed disapproval and commanded
restraint.  Then, with a manner that might have been modelled upon
her son's, and employing the same mode of address, "Monsieur de
Morlaix, is it not?" she said.

"Your servant, Madame."

"I was told that you were here.  I am wondering what may be the
occasion."

It was discouraging.  But he continued coolly urbane.  "No more
than the natural desire to express my duty."

Germaine stood beside him, apprehension in the watchful glance that
moved from her aunt to her cousin.  "You do us honour," she
declared with an air that seemed to defy them both.

Constant laughed.  "Why, so I was telling Monsieur de Morlaix.  I
must take an early occasion of returning the civility."

"We have not been in the house," said Madame, "since your
Republican friends removed the late Marquis."

"My Republican friends!  Oh, Madame!"  He smiled his astonishment.
"I was not aware that I had earned the Republic's friendship."

"But since it has placed you in possession of Chavaray . . ."

"No, no," Constant intervened.  "You forget, Madame.  Monsieur de
Morlaix is there by right of purchase.  I was explaining to him the
dangers of purchasing national property when you came in."

"It is possible," said Germaine, "that Cousin Quentin's right to it
is still better founded."

"Can there," wondered Quentin, to annoy them, "be a better right to
anything than that conferred by a deed of sale?"

"Always provided," Constant reminded him, "that the vendor,
himself, possesses a sound title.  That is what renders Monsieur de
Morlaix's position delicate."

"You repeat yourself, Constant," Germaine coldly reproved him.

"A cardinal truth cannot be too often repeated."

"Nor a cardinal lie, it seems."

"Germaine!"  Her mother was scandalized.  She directed upon Quentin
her deliberately false smile.  "You will excuse the child, Monsieur
de Morlaix.  The very young will always be dogmatic in matters they
do not understand."

"But I assure you that I regard Mademoiselle's understanding of
this matter as complete and perfect."

"A dangerous chivalry, sir."

He chose to be sententious.  "Where there is no danger there can be
no chivalry."

"Since you perceive both," said Constant, "we need say no more on
that score."

There fell a pause, and it was impossible for Quentin longer to
ignore that they kept him standing, even could he have ignored the
hostile eyes in the smiling masks assumed by mother and son.  If he
did not regret that he had come, at least he perceived that it
became impossible to protract the visit.

"I will remove the inconvenience of my presence."

They murmured protests in tones calculated to mark their
insincerity, and anger flashed from Germaine's eyes.

"You may look for me soon at Chavaray," Constant assured him at
parting, with a mockery that was but too apparent, and the echo of
which rang in Quentin's ears until he was home again.



Chapter Five

THE WARNING


Out of a gloomy absorption in which he sat plunged at the breakfast
table on the following morning, Charlot startled him with the
announcement that Mademoiselle de Chesnières was at Chavaray to see
him.

She came in trimly vigorous in a long drab riding-coat à
l'anglaise, a three-cornered hat jauntily surmounting her tight-
coiled golden tresses.

To-day, there being no witnesses, he did not content himself with
bending over her finger-tips, but folded her into an embrace to
which she went with a tenderly laughing eagerness.

"How dear in you to seek me, Germaine.  And so soon.  How very
dear!"

"It was so necessary, Quentin."  Gently she disengaged herself from
his arms.

His invitation to the hospitality of his table she waved aside.
Perched on the arm of a chair, her riding-whip tucked under her
arm, she began to peel off her gloves.  "Why did you come yesterday
to Grands Chesnes?"

"You'll suppose, of course, it was to see Madame de Chesnières and
the dear, good Constant."

"It was so unwise.  Had you forgotten the warning I gave you in
London?"

"But I had to see you.  It is for that I came to France.  And as
for danger . . ."  He raised a shoulder.  "If Constant means me
mischief, I am here to be assailed.  My visit to Grands Chesnes
neither helps nor hinders that."

She smiled wistfully.  "Yet it might have been wiser to have
practised patience."  And then she asked a curious question.  "Do
you set great store by Chavaray, Quentin?"

He looked at her in surprise.  "It is to be your domain, Germaine."

"I do not covet it.  Grands Chesnes is mine, and is enough for me.
Whilst Chavaray . . .  Quentin, it is not lucky to you.  Your life
has been in danger ever since you had a claim to this heritage.  It
terrifies me."  She flung hat and whip on the table, and came to
him.  "Let it go, Quentin.  Let them have it who covet it, who will
do murder to possess it.  Go back to England, to your academy.  Do
this if you love me, Quentin; for I can know no peace whilst you
are here.  Your calling is an honourable one and yields you
abundance for your wants.  Go back to it.  Wait for me there in
confidence, as I shall be content to wait until I can come to you."

He was aghast.  "Abandon Chavaray?  Surrender my rights because I
am threatened?  That is to advise me to play the coward," he
expostulated.  "Should you really respect me if I bowed before evil
rather than stand to defend what is mine?  What counsel is that,
sweetheart?"

"The counsel of the woman who wants you spared to be her life's
companion."

"You would account a coward a fit companion?  Quiet your fears.
The menace of our cousins leaves me calm.  I shall know how to deal
with it.  If my existence is proving inopportune to Messieurs de
Chesnières, it is an inopportuneness I shall study to maintain, and
they'll attempt to overcome it at their peril."

"You consider only yourself and your pride, Quentin," she
complained, "and me not at all."

"Is it merely pride to refuse to turn tail before a criminal
greed?"

"It is not only criminal greed, as you call it, Quentin.  There is
something else."  She hesitated, averting her glance.

"Well?" he demanded.

"They . . . they do not believe that your title is sound.  Oh, they
are sincere in that.  I know."

"Not believe it!"  There was anger in his laugh.  "Not believe it,
when it is established by every document that completes the chain."

"Legally, yes.  But . . ."

"But what?"

"It is because they have no hope to prevail at law, because they
cannot legally destroy your claim, that they will end by destroying
you."

"That I can understand.  But . . . ?"  His puzzled glance was
questioning her.

"Must I be plainer?"  She was almost in anguish.  "They do not
believe that you are your father's son."

"That's to explain one riddle by another.  Whose son else can a man
be?"  But the question was scarcely asked when the answer came to
him.  "God of Heaven!" he cried out.

"Ah, forgive me, Quentin.  It hurts, I know.  But I had to tell
you."

"And I am grateful."  Passion shook his voice.  He swung with a
wild gesture to the tall portrait of Bertrand de Morlaix de
Chesnières, Marquis of Chavaray, that hung above a carved oak
serving table.  It had been painted by Boucher when Bertrand was
little more than Quentin's present age.  "They dare in the face of
that!  The same hooked nose, the same grey eyes, the same glint of
red in the hair."  He laughed fiercely.  "Don't you see, Germaine?"

There was no such ready agreement as he invited.  She met his look
with a steady round-eyed stare, her face expressionless.  Then,
"Don't, my dear," she begged.  "There is not the need for this."

"But there is, if my mother's sweet fame is to be smirched by these
rascals so as to justify their thieving covetousness."  He swung
away from her to the window and back again, in long strides, his
manner wild.  "You could give me no better reason for standing firm
against these villains, for dealing mercilessly with them and
thwarting them in the end.  It becomes a sacred duty.  Let them
beware the mistake that was made by their cut-throat Boisgelin.  I
am not so helpless as they may suppose, to their undoing."

Germaine, pale and scared before his passion, had sunk into a
chair.  When his ranting ceased, "God forgive me," she exclaimed.
"I have only made matters worse.  Yet, listen, Quentin.  I have not
told you all.  You do not know to what you are exposed.  St. Gilles
might choose to fight you openly.  But Constant never.  He is sly
and treacherous, and the more vindictive since I have allowed him
to perceive my regard for you.  His mother and he have hoped that I
would one day marry him.  There are all the lands of Grands Chesnes
that will be mine one day, if ever order and justice are restored.
They would make a fine property for the younger Chesnières when the
elder is in possession of Chavaray.  Constant will no more suffer
you to interfere with that than with St. Gilles' succession.  For
you to remain here is to deliver yourself into his hands."

"So Boisgelin thought when he went out to measure swords with me
behind the inn at Ploermel."

This merely increased her agitation.  "Constant will never measure
swords with you.  He has other methods.  It needs little to raise
the peasantry against a buyer of national property.  And that is
what Constant is doing already, with the assistance of Lafont.  One
night soon, any night now, if you remain here, a mob of furious
peasants will descend upon you, to drag you from your château and
murder you.  That is how Constant works."

She looked up piteously into his face and gathered hope from its
startled expression.  "What could you do against that?" she cried.

His lips grew set, the grey eyes were bright and hard as steel.
"That they shall discover when they come.  I shall know how to make
them welcome."

She sprang up and came to clutch his arms.  "Do not deceive
yourself, my dear.  For pity's sake!"

"Let Constant remember Boisgelin.  He, too, accounted me a lamb to
be led to the shambles."

"There is no parallel."

"You shall find that there is.  Now that I am forewarned, let them
come."  On a quieter tone he strove to reassure her.  "Had they
taken me by surprise, it might have gone ill with me.  But now, the
surprise will be theirs.  Thank you for warning me, Germaine."

"Do you want to mock me with your thanks?  I come to persuade you
to go.  And I still beg you, for my sake . . ."

Abruptly she ceased, and started away from him, her eyes upon the
door.  From beyond it came a jingling ring of spurred steps on the
marble of the hall and a sound of voices, one of which shouted,
"Out of my way, my good man.  I'll announce myself."

Her eyes dilated as she glanced at Quentin.  "Constant!" she
breathed.

Then the door opened, and Constant appeared upon the threshold.
Pallor had turned his olive skin to a greenish hue, and his eyes
were evil.  Then a smile came like a mask to cover his countenance.

"You'll forgive the intrusion, Monsieur de Morlaix."

"Not readily," said Quentin, cool and haughty.  His glance went
beyond Constant, to Charlot, who stood flushed and angry behind
him.  "The times do not permit, perhaps, of great ceremony.  Yet I
am not so destitute of service that my visitors need come to me
unannounced."

Constant advanced slowly, ever with that hateful smile on his thick
lips, which Quentin promised himself that his glove should one day
wipe off.  "Ascribe it," he begged, "to my eagerness to return your
so courteous visit.  An eagerness which I am ashamed to see has
been exceeded by my cousin Germaine."  He turned to her, his manner
blending mockery with deference.  "My dear, in a censorious world
this was scarcely prudent.  Had you told me of the intention I
should have been happy to accompany you.  I have repaired matters
by following at the earliest."

"To spy upon me?"

He laughed.  "But no.  To guard you."

"You are not required to be my guardian."

"I think so.  Always.  And the need is suggested at the present
moment.  Monsieur de Morlaix, I am sure, will agree.  As a man of
honour it must have distressed you that a lady should expose
herself to criticism by a thoughtless intrusion here alone."

Quentin looked coldly upon that sardonic affability.

"You exaggerate.  You forget that there is a degree of kinship to
screen Mademoiselle de Chesnières."

"Degrees of kinship, even when they exist, are not adequate for so
much."

"You say, 'even when they exist.'  What does that mean?"

Constant affected surprise.  "Just that."  And then, as if becoming
for the first time aware of the laden table, he turned the subject.
"My faith!  I perceive how inconvenient is the moment.  You were at
table.  Then it must be ave atque vale.  Let me beg you to forgive
us an intrusion at so unreasonable an hour.  We rustics have a
notion of time that is different from that of you city-dwellers.
We must choose some later occasion.  Come, Germaine."  He held the
door for her.

"Willingly," she coldly answered him.  "I have said what I came to
say."  She looked steadily at Quentin.  "You will give it thought,
my cousin."

He took her hand.  "Be easy on that score."  He bowed to kiss her
fingers, whilst Constant watched them narrowly.  "I shall provide."

When they had gone he sat lost in thought.  Preoccupations on the
score of Germaine alternated with shivers of anger at the thought
of Constant.  He was being too nice, he told himself, to stand upon
a fencing-master's punctilio with a scoundrel who traded upon his
trust in it.  Let him strike Constant across his sneering face, and
so compel him to come out and be killed before he wreaked his evil,
treacherous will.  Ah, but would Constant come?  Even if Quentin
could descend to that?

He shook off the thought, and turned to the portrait of that father
whose tenderness was Quentin's earliest dim memory.  "Faith, old
gentleman, you may have been none too fortunate in your sons.  But
I can make you my compliments on your nephews."

After that, he took thought for the danger of which Germaine had
warned him.  He summoned Charlot, and told him that, regarded as an
intruder by the peasantry, he had cause to fear a raid on Chavaray.

"A treacherous lot of dastards, these hinds of Anjou," the Breton
pronounced them.  "As for their raid, we've a dozen good Brittany
lads here, our gates are strong, the walls are stout, and we're
well armed.  You may sleep in peace, Monsieur le Marquis."

But Monsieur le Marquis, if heartened, was not tranquillized.
"They may overwhelm us with numbers.  I must have reinforcements,
and the nearest to whom I can appeal are the Chevalier de Tinténiac
and St. Regent."

Charlot scratched his grizzled head, his seamy old face thoughtful.

"It's a long way to La Noué."

"A hundred miles, and we haven't a messenger to spare."

"There's my girl.  Marianne's as strong as a man and she can travel
as fast.  But there's the time it'll take."

"Four days, at least, before her message would bring anyone.  I've
even thought of sending to Angers for a detachment."

"Of Blues!" cried Charlot in horror.  "Mother of Heaven!  That
would set the country-side on fire against us.  I doubt if even our
lads would stand by you.  Don't think of it, Monsieur le Marquis."

So in the end Marianne was sent to La Noué, and they remained to
hope that no attack would come before her return.  In the meantime,
they fortified the house.



Chapter Six

THE ASSAULT


The candles had just been lighted and the curtains drawn that
evening, when Quentin, who sat at work upon the account-books of
Chavaray, in the Chinese salon, which he particularly affected,
became aware of a hum, as of a hive at swarming-time.

Scarcely had it drawn his attention from the riddle in which Lafont
had left the accounts, when Charlot, agitated and of a pallor that
seemed to have spread to his bald skull, broke in upon him.

"Monsieur le Marquis, they are coming.  They are coming."

Quentin was in no doubt as to whom was meant.  "Ah!"  He set down
his pen.  "And I had looked forward to a quiet evening.  Well,
well!  Are the shutters fast?"

"Marton is closing them now.  I have sent for the lads.  We are
ready, Monsieur.  But it's an army."

"We must do what we can."  His calm had the effect of quieting
Charlot's alarms.  "Assemble the men in the hall.  I will post them
myself!"

The windows of the ground floor were equipped with stout external
shutters, and in a dozen of these, those of the hall, the dining-
room on one side and the salon of the monkeys on the other, they
had that afternoon opened loopholes for their muskets.  It was
through those in the hall shutters that they now observed the
approach of a noisy peasant horde, lighted by torches, whose flames
were reflected from the pikes and scythe-blades with which they
were armed.

Quentin's Chouans, men who in two years of their fierce, guerrilla
warfare had been broken to every danger and to every kind of
engagement, whether offensive in raids or ambuscades, or defensive
in withstanding siege and assault by Republican troops, displayed
no alarm at the prospect of attack by a disorderly mob.  Had the
advancing peasants been Bretons like themselves, a strain might
have been placed upon their loyalty.  For the men of Brittany are a
race apart.  Their language and customs set up a barrier between
themselves and all other people of the earth.  It mattered nothing
that this assailing mob was made up of peasants like themselves, of
Royalists like themselves; it remained that they were Angevins, and
therefore of an alien breed, whilst the Bretons served one in whom
they had been told to behold a representative of their Comte
Joseph, who was the very messiah of the restoration of Throne and
Altar.

The stout iron gates of the forecourt stemmed the onslaught, as a
dam stems the rushing waters of a river.  Unlike a dam, however, it
was not to be overflowed.  The gates stood tall, and whilst the
high walls in which they were set, might, notwithstanding the
spikes that guarded the summit, have been easily scaled, the
assailants had lacked the foresight to bring ladders.  They hung
now, angrily clamant, upon the scrollwork of the gates, and a
musket shot or two were loosed, so as to stress their menace.

Quentin crossed the hall to the vestibule, where Charlot was on
guard with a double-barrelled gun, a second one, ready loaded,
leaning in the angle of the door.  He had opened the little shutter
in the grille, and was observing the demoniac antics outside.

"Unbar the door.  Let me out," said Quentin.

"Monsieur le Marquis!"  It was a horrified protest.  But Quentin
was very much the Marquis at that moment.  "This canaille shall not
suppose that I am afraid.  My chance to speak to them is whilst the
gates hold.  They may not hold long."

"They have fire-arms.  They may shoot."

"If they do I must hope that their markmanship is bad.  The light
will not help them.  Open."

He was so resolute that Charlot, muttering, complied.

It was in Quentin's mind that to wait unseen behind these walls was
to wait for an assault which, when it came, must in the end be
overwhelming.  Something might be achieved by a display of
dauntlessness.  Men are to be impressed and dominated by a bold,
contemptuous front.

As the massive door swung open, he showed himself bareheaded on the
summit of the steps which ran down on either hand, guarded by a
parapet which came to the height of his breast.

His appearance produced an instant silence of astonishment.  For a
moment, silhouetted in black against the light from the open door
behind him, he was unrecognizable.  But as the door closed again,
and some of the light from the flaming torches beat upon his face,
they identified him, and loosed their yells of execration.

"Pataud!  Sansculotte!  Thief!  Purchaser of national property!
We'll show you whose property it is.  You shall vomit your
Republican banquet!"

They had been stirred up against him in just the manner he
supposed.

He held up his hand for silence, but the outcries continued.  He
saw the musket-barrel being poked through the scrollwork of the
gate, and by the light of a lantern he recognized Lafont for the
man who wielded it.  But he continued to hold up his hand.

The musket cracked, and some splinters of stone rattled down behind
him.  He had not moved, and his cool courage, creating the
impression for which he hoped, earned him at last a silence.  On
that his voice ran clear and firm.

"Men of Chavaray!  I do not parley with you out of any fear.  We
are well armed and ready to resist you at the cost of much of your
blood until the help arrives for which--expecting this--I have
already sent out an appeal.  I parley with you because you are
brought here by the lies of those who labour for ignoble ends.

"It is not true that I am a buyer of national property.  I may have
had to pay so as to enter into possession of Chavaray; but it
remains that Chavaray is mine by right of birth and inheritance, as
is well known to those who send you against me.  I am the Marquis
of Chavaray, as I will show proof to any half-dozen whom you may
depute to come and seek it."

His confident almost disdainful tone had not failed of its effect.
It was recognized for the tone of the exalted class to which he
claimed to belong.  And this tone was matched by his erect, virile
figure, his air of scornful indifference to threats.  This could be
no pataud, no misbegotten upstart.  Only the gentleman born could
present a front of such stiff-necked intrepidity.

And so there was an amazed silence when he ceased, which endured
until broken by the jeers of Lafont.

"Will you heed that mountebank?  A Marquis, he?  Oh, to be sure a
Marquis: Marquis of Carabas."  And he lifted up his voice to a sing-
song declamation:


     "Chapeau bas!  Chapeau bas!
      Gloire au Marquis de Carabas!"


Thus, by the use of that term, he betrayed himself to Quentin, as
Boisgelin had done, for the agent of Constant.

He had swung to face the gates again, and again thrust the barrel
of his musket through the scrollwork.

"Here's to give him glory.  A feu de joie for Monsieur le Marquis
de Carabas."

He fired, and missed again.  Quentin who had not flinched let them
hear his laugh.

"Your aim is as false as your tongue, Lafont."

There was the crack of another shot.  It was fired from the
château, and this time by a marksman; for Lafont staggered back and
crumpled screaming into the arms of the man behind him.

Quentin swore under his breath, conceiving that this shot must undo
all that he had striven to accomplish.  Confirmed in this when the
mob loosed again the fury that he had been bridling, he turned and
quitted the perron.

Once he was within, Charlot made haste to close and bar the door.

"To expose yourself so!  God be praised that that murdering ape did
not hit you."

"Who fired that shot?"

"Does it matter, Monsieur, who fired it?  The animal is well
served.  I hope he got it through his dirty heart."

"It was ill done.  The trouble is now certain."  But he did not
pursue the inquiry.  It was not the moment to discourage his lads
by reproaches.

From outside, above the uproar, came the clang of metal on metal.
"They are using sledge-hammers to the gate," he said, and turned to
peer through the grille.

One of the Chouans from the dining-room approached the vestibule.

"Are you there, Monsieur le Marquis?  They are smashing the lock of
the gates.  Will you order us to fire?"

"Is it you, Jacques?"  He continued at the grille.

Saving where a space had been cleared to allow a man to swing his
great sledge-hammer, the assailants were tight-packed against the
gates.  A volley into them would be of murderous effect.

"We burn our boats if we do," said Quentin calmly.  "We shall be
committed to a fight that will end in massacre."

"Perhaps a volley would make them run, like the cowards they are,"
said Charlot.

"It might.  But . . .  What now?"

The clamour which had risen momentarily in a fresh excitement, fell
suddenly to a mutter, and the hammer blows ceased.

As an undertone to the angry murmurs of the horde, they could hear
now the beat of hooves rolling rapidly nearer.

"A troop of horse, and of some numbers by the sound.  Who are
these?"

"Could it be the Blues?" wondered Charlot.

"Whom else could it be?"

"Faith, then, we pass from Purgatory into Hell," muttered Jacques.

Quentin returned no answer.  His whole attention was upon the
happenings outside.

The tumult had risen again, but, as it seemed to him, on a fresh
note of execration, in which rage and fear were blending.  The
torchlight showed him that their backs were now to the château.
Soon they were falling away from the gates.  The thunder of the
hooves was close upon them, and at last, beyond and over the heads
of the mob, Quentin beheld leather helmets decked with tails of red
horse-hair and the flash of sabres that were being swung like
flails.

"Dragoons," he announced.  "Though by what miracle they arrive so
timely I'll not dare to guess."

The gates were now clear of the last of the peasants.  Scattered in
flight before the Republican cavalry, they took their lights with
them, so that the gates and all about them for a moment were lost
in darkness.  But the night was clear, and very soon Quentin's eyes
adjusted to the gloom could make out the shadowy figures of
horsemen, whilst the jingle of accoutrements dominated now the
receding sound of the yelling peasantry.

Quentin laughed in relief.  "We're delivered, it seems."

"Delivered?" cried Jacques, who had never met a Blue save as an
enemy.

"Of course.  We are not outlaws here at Chavaray, but decent
pacific folk.  At least, so we'll appear.  To your fellows,
Jacques.  Bid them vanish with their muskets.  Let only three or
four of you remain to lend Charlot a hand in peaceful service."

There was a rattling at the gates, and shouts of:  "Olà!  Olà!
Open!  Open!"

"Be off, Jacques."  Quentin threw wide the door, and let the light
stream forth, to quiet those who demanded admission.  "Go down and
open, Charlot."

"You know what you are doing, Monsieur le Marquis?"

"I don't.  Neither do you.  But we'll hope for the best."

Charlot went out to find the lock of the gate so beaten out of
shape that only by drawing the vertical bolts from their stone
sockets in the ground, and drawing both wings inwards together, was
it possible to open.

The dragoons, however, did not advance.  They remained ranged in
two files on either side of the avenue.  Between these a little
group of horsemen came up at a brisk, jingling trot.  Behind them,
at a little distance, could be seen the swaying lamps of a carriage
that followed.

The riders came on into the courtyard.  There were five, and one of
them, cloaked and wearing a high cocked hat heavily plumed in red,
white and blue, rode a little in advance of the others.

He pulled up, and came instantly from the saddle with athletic
ease, to confront Charlot.  "What house is this?"  His tone whilst
authoritative was courteously attuned.

"The Chateau de Chavaray."

"Chavaray?  Chavaray?  I know the name.  Who tenants it?"

"Monsieur le . . ."  Charlot caught himself up, remembering that he
addressed a cursed sansculotte.

But the soldier laughed.  "Monsieur le . . .  Go on, man."

Defiantly Charlot obeyed.  "Monsieur le Marquis is in residence."

"Conduct me to him, if you please."

With the airs of a maître d'hôtel of the old order, Charlot
inquired:  "Whom shall I have the honour of announcing?"

"General Hoche, commanding the Army of Cherbourg."

Charlot inclined himself.  "Give yourself the trouble of following
me, my General."

Into the light of the hall, where Quentin waited, the General
strode in the wake of that house-steward, his four plumed officers
following close.

Quentin's recognition of that splendid figure was immediate.

"General Hoche!"  He stepped forward with a courteous smile.  And
he added quickly:  "You arrive too opportunely to be in doubt of
your welcome."

"Chavaray!  Parbleu!  I knew that I knew the name.  We rejoice to
have been, it seems, of service.  And your words relieve me.  For
we are here to impose upon the hospitality of your house.  Not my
escort.  Let me hasten to remove alarm.  My troops will bivouac in
the grounds.  The commissariat wagons follow them.  The hospitality
I come to beg, without suspecting that I should beg it of an old
friend, is for myself and these officers of my staff, and for a
lady whom we are escorting to Rennes.  Her carriage is entering
your courtyard now.  In her, too, you will meet an old friend;
older, indeed, than I am.  Madame du Grégo de Bellanger."  Perhaps
it was the look in Quentin's eyes made him add the explanation:
"It happens that she is travelling in the same direction as
ourselves."

Quentin bowed.  "Such hospitality as my house affords at such short
notice would always have been yours, my General.  But to-night I am
to hail you as my deliverer."

"But from what, if you please, have I delivered you?  Ah!  I hear
Madame's carriage.  Give me leave."  He was gone again in a swirl
of blue cloak.

His officers remained, to change knowing, smiling glances, whilst
one of them, detaching from the group, came forward, his sabre
trailing.  It was Humbert.

"I hope you do me the honour to remember me, Monsieur de Chavaray."
His peasant accent was oddly at variance with his courtly words and
elegant air.

"Most agreeably, my General.  Welcome to Chavaray."

"My thanks.  Let me present my comrades."

By the time he had accomplished the ceremony with a grace worthy of
an officer of the Maison du Roi, Hoche was re-entering with the
Vicomtesse de Bellanger.

She came forward, thrusting back the hood of her cloak from her
intensely black and lustrous hair, an eagerness in her stride and
in her lovely face.

"Monsieur de Chavaray!  The happiness not only of finding you, but
of finding you in your own château!  It lifts a burden from my
spirit, eases my daily self-reproach that I could not help you to
it.  I envy the worthier friends who were able to do what
circumstances denied me the satisfaction of doing."

He bore her long, jewelled fingers to his lips.  "Madame, if you
did not bestow my house upon me, your coming to-night has preserved
it for me; and that is fully as great a service."

"Ah, no.  For that your thanks are due to General Hoche."

"But from what have we delivered you, my friend?" the General asked
again.  "There's a tale to be told."

"Not an amusing one."  Standing in the circle they made about him,
Quentin told it briefly and with restrictions.  Believing him to
have purchased Chavaray, the peasantry had come to deal with him as
buyers of national property were usually dealt with.

"If they are to recommence when we are gone," said Hoche, "our
scattering them to-night will be a very transient gain for you."

"Unless they should suppose that it was not by chance that the
troops of the Republic rode to my protection."

"The lesson was a sharp one," Humbert laughed.  "We broke some
heads with the flats of our sabres."

"Sabres," said Hoche, "which God be thanked are no longer to be
used in a fratricidal war."

It was an obscure utterance, the explanation of which was not to
come until after they had supped, and supped better than might be
expected considering how Chavaray had been taken unawares, and also
what was the political faith of Quentin's household.

Its restricted resources had been strained to prepare quarters for
these officers and for the lady who travelled under their escort.
Marton, with Charlot and one of the Breton lads to help her, had
been at pains to table a supper that if homely was savoury and
abundant, and to grace it Quentin had produced from the cellar some
bottles of Spanish wine which had found its way there no man knew
whence.

When the meal was done, and under the influence of that heady
Spanish wine, the veneer of good manners began to wear thin and
crack on the rude Republicans of Hoche's staff, the Vicomtesse
begged leave to retire, and Quentin sprang to wait upon her.
Hoche, who was no bibber of wine, and who had a care for his
dignity, rose with them.

So, leaving the others at table, with Charlot to see their wants
supplied, the three passed into the peacock salon, where candles
had been lighted and logs were blazing on the hearth.

The Vicomtesse tall and lithe, in a rather masculine spencer of a
golden brown, moved admiringly about the handsome room, with the
tones of green and blue and gold of its tapestried walls repeated
in the curtains of brocade that masked the tall windows and in the
soft Aubusson carpet underfoot.

"Like a chamber of Versailles," she declared.

Hoche, who knew of Versailles no more than the stables, smilingly
concurred.

"It is an irony," he said, "that a populace which a little time ago
would have burnt this château because a nobleman dwelt in it, would
have burnt it to-night because of an assumption that its tenant is
not a nobleman.  But, then, who would look for consistency in the
populace?"

"Does a Republican ask the question?" the Vicomtesse rallied him.

"A Republican who left his illusions in the prison of the
Conciergerie, when the mean Democrats he had served would have had
his head because they feared his popularity.  Nor do I love their
successors, who sent me here to pacify the country by massacring
Frenchmen."

"Let your rancour slumber," she bade him, "since you are now
relieved of that odious task."

"It was never one for a man who had gathered his laurels in battle
against the enemies of France.  That is what I do not easily forget.
Even now, it is only expediency that dictates conciliatoriness."

"Since it does, why so bitter?  Think less of what you might have
had to do, and more of what you are to do."

Hoche turned to Quentin with an indulgent smile.  "A rare woman
that, Monsieur de Chavaray.  One whose eyes perceive only the
cardinal point."

"The cardinal point?  What is that?"

"Why, that I am going to Rennes to make peace with a pen instead of
with the sword, to spill a little ink instead of a deal of blood."

"But with whom do you make this peace?" Quentin asked him, puzzled.

"With whom?  With whom have we been at war?  With the Royalists, of
course.  Are you so aloof here at Chavaray that you do not know
what is happening in the world?"

Quentin's countenance was blank.  "With the Royalists?  I am
wondering whom you mean by that."

"I mean the Royalists of Brittany, Normandy, Maine and Anjou.  Are
there any others?"

"And the Republic hopes to make peace with these?"

"Hopes?"  Hoche laughed easily.  "Rather more than that.  The truce
is called; the conference is summoned.  The citizen-representatives
of the Republic are on their way to meet the Royalist leaders, to
be embraced by them as brothers, tricolour and white cockade in
fraternal confrontation."

Quentin smiled his disbelief.  "My attitude towards the miraculous
is much like that of Saint Thomas."

"Yet this miracle has happened.  The peace treaty awaits our
signatures."

"Oh!  A peace treaty!  And the terms?"

"A general amnesty, liberty of religious cult and the renunciation
of levies, for our part; acknowledgment of and submission to the
government of the Republic, for theirs.  Thus an end to brigandage
and civil war and a restoration of tranquillity to the land."

To Quentin it seemed in that moment that the room with its peacock
tapestries, the graceful female figure in golden brown on the blue-
green settle, the erect and virile soldier in his tight blue frock
with his shoulders to the overmantel, were all phantasmal; like
Hoche's words, the projection of a dream.  Puisaye in London, and
Cormatin, his representative, in Brittany were the realities that
would shatter it.

Then, as if to answer that unannounced impression, Hoche spoke
again.  "I am just from Nantes, where Charette has signed the
peace.  Stofflet, who commands the Catholic Army of Anjou is still
obstinate; but Boishardi has been sent to convert him."  This was
incredible enough.  But something far more incredible was now to
follow.  "As for the Royal and Catholic Army of Brittany, I have
already discussed the peace preliminaries with Monsieur de
Cormatin, its Major-General, as he calls himself.  He is bringing
all the chiefs of the Chouannerie--some two hundred of them--to
meet us at Rennes."

"Monsieur de Cormatin!  It is with him that you have discussed the
peace preliminaries?"

Hoche laughed at his face of consternation.  "My dear Monsieur de
Chavaray, I seem to carry you from amazement to amazement."

"You do.  That Monsieur de Cormatin should consent to treat with
the Republic . . ."

"Consent!"  Hoche interrupted him.  "It was he who sought us with
proposals.  He has proved himself a good Frenchman, labouring hard
for peace.  It was he who was the chief agent of Charette's
pacification, and since then he has worked unceasingly to
accomplish the same on the right bank of the Loire."

"Cormatin!  Cormatin has done that!  But it is incredible."

"Incredible as much as you please.  You may credit it, nevertheless."

"I must, since you assure me of it so positively."

"And you rejoice with us, I am sure," the Vicomtesse interposed,
"to know that there is an end to bloodshed."

"Naturally.  Oh, naturally," Quentin agreed, aghast.

Hoche and the Vicomtesse fell into talk.  Quentin never heeded
them.  His mind was on his last meeting with Cormatin and Tinténiac
at La Noué, and he recalled the Baron's pessimism on the score of
Puisaye's labours, which at the time he had thought so oddly
obstinate.  He understood now.  The man must already have committed
himself to his cursed treachery.  The havoc to come from his
betrayal of his trust was at present incalculable.  Whilst Puisaye
in London was preparing the expedition that was to join the Army of
Brittany, Cormatin, his agent in France, was actively labouring to
dissolve this army.

Quentin's frowning, pensive glance fell upon the Vicomtesse.  Her
head thrown back, languidly smiling, she was gazing up into the
face of Hoche who had come to lean over the back of the settle she
occupied.  As he jested with her, his air possessive, he fingered a
ringlet of her lustrous, black hair.  Quentin thought of Bellanger,
who would be joining in England one of the émigré regiments that
were coming to meet the ruin and treachery preparing, and pondered
the indifference to him of this high-born lady in her infatuation
for the handsome, plebeian soldier, so utter that she warmly
approved the projects that were to encompass that ruin.

Observing his cold stare, she moved uncomfortably.

"Monsieur le Marquis, you seem bemused."

"Forgive me, Madame.  Aware as I am of what were once Cormatin's
professions, I find it difficult to imagine the impulse that can so
completely have changed them."

Hoche laughed curiously.  "I have told you what the Royalists
demand and what the Republicans are prepared to concede.  There is
an additional trivial matter of indemnities.  Under that title
Cormatin will pocket a matter of a million livres when the
pacification treaty is signed."

"I see.  The impulse of Judas."

Hoche shrugged.  "It's a point of view."

"And the Republic consents to pay him a million for his services."

"After all, those now in power are concerned to efface the work of
the terrorists, so that they may establish themselves securely.
And the means at their command are exiguous.  Surrounded as we are
by enemies abroad, internal peace is a first necessity.  The
possibility of a rising of the Chouans became a nightmare to the
gentlemen of the Convention.  That was Cormatin's opportunity; and
like an opportunist he seized it and turned it to account.  Let us
be grateful.  But the Vicomtesse is yawning."

"It is that the tale has not the same novelty for me as for our
host."

"Nor the power to disgust you," Quentin complained.

"That is because you have not yet perceived your own profit in all
this," Hoche told him.  "It is not impossible that you might come
to be placed outside the law as an émigré.  That danger is removed
by the amnesty for all returned émigrés, which is amongst the terms
we are to concede."

The tragic disillusion that awaited Puisaye in this, the cruel
frustration of all that he was accomplishing, were the only
considerations that weighed now with Quentin.  Only because of the
imprudence of opening his mind to his guests, did he set a curb
upon the anger stirring in him.

That anger kept him awake far into the night.  He had come to
France as the bearer of Puisaye's orders to Cormatin, and he took
the view that this traitorous contravention of those orders called
for action on his part.  What the action should be was the problem
that kept him wakeful.  The impulse to return to England, so as to
warn Puisaye, he dismissed as futile.  Already it was too late for
that.  Long before he could reach London, the pacification
conference to which Hoche now rode, would have been held, and the
mischief would be complete.  If Puisaye and all those committed
with him in England to the gallant adventure, trusting to be
received by the great Chouan army he had recruited, should arrive
unwarned in France, they would face irrevocable ruin.  Impossible
for Quentin to sit still at Chavaray whilst this treachery was
being consummated.  The only course that suggested itself before he
wearily fell asleep was to hunt out Tinténiac at once, and take
counsel with him.



Chapter Seven

INFERENCES


Hoche took himself off betimes on the following morning, with his
staff, his Vicomtesse and his escort, after leave-takings that were
patterns of courtesy and cordiality, "Symbolical," the Vicomtesse
laughed, "of the embrace of the old order and the new."

When he had handed her into her travelling-carriage, Hoche still
lingered.

"You should take measures for your protection," he recommended
Quentin, and his eyes were gravely friendly.

"They are taken.  Give yourself no concern, my General.  I am
disposing so as to leave Chavaray for the present."

"That is prudent.  Once the pacification is proclaimed another
spirit will come to reign over the land, and you will have no more
to fear.  Forgive the disturbance we have caused you, and fare you
well."

He mounted and rode away in the wake of the carriage, his staff
about him.  At the gateway he turned in the saddle to wave his hat
with its tricolour plumes.

From the steps of the perron Quentin watched them ride down the
avenue between the files of dragoons, which closed up to follow.
Then he went to give Charlot his last instructions before, himself,
departing to make his way to the Chouan cantonments in the forest
of La Noué.

He was still at this when a clatter of hooves in the courtyard
announced another visitor, and to his joyous surprise he beheld
Germaine in the act of tossing her reins to one of his lads.

Her appearance checked his gladness.  She was not only pale, but
coldly stern.

"You are disturbed," he said, when he had kissed her hand.

"Deeply.  I have come to talk to you.  In here?"  She pointed with
her whip to the dining-room, from which he had just emerged.

"If you will forgive the confusion in which you find it."

"Ah!  The legacy of your Republican guests."

Her tone prompted him to reply:  "And my very timely saviours."

He closed the door, whilst she went forward to the table from which
all traces of his guests' breakfast had not yet been cleared.
There was a significance in the glance this perfervid, ultra-
Royalist lady bestowed upon it.  Then she was steadily regarding
him.

"You must be on singularly intimate terms with the sansculottes to
be able to summon a troop of dragoons to your assistance.  It lends
colour to what has been said of you, to the very beliefs that led
to last night's affair."

"You mean, to what Constant has said of me.  He shall unsay it
presently when he follows you hither, as no doubt he will again."

She shook her head.  "Constant will not follow to-day.  He has been
dangerously wounded.  He was cut over the head by one of your
dragoons."

"God's Heart!  I supposed that he inspired the raid.  But I should
never have supposed that he actually led it.  That is not in his
usual methods."

"What Constant may have done matters less to me than what you did.
You have not answered my question:  Will you tell me the truth of
your relations with this canaille that at one time you travel under
its safe-conduct, and at another you can summon its troops to
protect you?"

Upon his amazement followed laughter.  "Is that how it looks?  But
I summoned no troops.  Hoche happened to halt here, demanding
quarters for the night, on his way to Rennes."

"Why should Hoche seek quarters at Chavaray?"

"Faith, it's the way of these gentlemen, to requisition what they
lack.  For the rest, he did not even know that Chavaray was the
château to which he came."

"And so, it was all just chance--miraculously timely chance?"

He met her incredulous, faintly scornful smile with a smile of
patient gentleness.  "As you say."

"And I am to believe it?"

His manner stiffened a little.  "Since I tell you so."

At a loss, she toyed a moment with her whip, her eyes on the
ground.  Then she raised them again to meet his patient gaze.
"Listen, Quentin.  It is true, is it not, that last night when the
peasants came, you went out and spoke to them?"

"And was twice fired upon by Constant's friend, Lafont.  That is a
detail worth adding."

This she ignored.  "And is it true, as several have reported, that
you warned them that help was on its way to you?"

He considered for a moment.  "It is almost true.  What I actually
said was that, expecting the attack, I had already sent out an
appeal for help."

"To whom, if not to General Hoche?"

"To the Chevalier de Tinténiac.  My messenger left for La Noué
yesterday morning, immediately after I received your warning."

"But La Noué is a hundred miles away.  How could you say yesterday
evening that help was on its way to you?"

He shrugged.  "Isn't it plain that I must say something to
intimidate them into abandoning the attack?"

"And then the help arrived.  A really fortunate coincidence."

"Most fortunate.  Unless you would prefer that I had been
massacred.  Is it your grievance, Germaine, that I have survived?"

The half-humorous question turned her hostility to distress.

"It is because you are not being frank with me; because of things
that seem to confirm what is being said of you: that you are at
heart a sansculotte.  I am ever being reminded, first that you came
to France on a safe-conduct from the sansculottes; then that by
favour of the same you were permitted to enter into possession of
Chavaray; and now, when you are attacked here because of just these
things, Republican soldiers hasten to protect you."

"It seems to hang together," he admitted.  "But for each of those
counts, you have my explanation.  Although, even without that, I do
not see that I should deserve your censure."

"Should you not?  You claim to be Marquis of Chavaray.  Where is
your place, if it is not beside the throne?"

"Agreed, so long as there is a throne to stand by.  But where is
the throne of France?"

"In the dust, I know.  But it will be raised again, as surely as
will the altars which have been defiled and overthrown."

He sighed, remembering what he had learnt from Hoche.  "I would I
could share your faith.  But at least I can deny this calumny of
Republican sympathies."

"What are denials when set against the deeds, themselves?"

"Deeds!  Well, well.  You shall have some.  I am leaving now to
perform them.  Let me hope that they will not be misrepresented."

"What do you mean?  You are leaving?"  She was peremptory.  "Where
are you going?"

He possessed an answer to crush all her suspicions.  On the point
of delivering it he checked.  He saw her, in her turn, confounding
Constant with the tale of it, and he conceived that Constant in his
murderous hostility, might not hesitate to use against him the
knowledge thus obtained even at the price of contributing to the
threatened ruin of the Royalist cause.  A word of warning from
Constant to Cormatin, and the odds were that Quentin would be
destroyed by the betrayers of Puisaye before he could make the
proposed attempt to thwart them.

Whatever the cost, then, he must conceal his intentions until he
had contrived to reach Tinténiac.

"Where I am going is no matter.  You would not expect me to wait at
Chavaray for a renewal of last night's attack."

"But you spoke of deeds."

"Naturally.  I shall not be idle.  I must labour to the end that I
may enjoy quiet possession of what is mine.  They are labours that
may come to improve your opinion of me."

"If you hesitate to tell me what they are, there is no more to be
said until they are done."  She gathered up her whip and gloves.

"Unless you should wish to felicitate me upon my preservation last
night."

"There are things that do not need to be spoken, Quentin," she was
grave, almost sorrowful.  "I shall look to hear from you again . . .
soon."  She extended her hand.

Abruptly, impulsively, he brushed it aside, and took her in his
arms.

"A little faith, Germaine," he begged.  "A little faith!  What is
love without it?"

Within the grip of his embrace she looked up at him with her solemn
eyes.  "Nothing, Quentin, I know.  You must inspire it."

"Very well."  He let her go.  He sighed, his brow clouded again.
"I shall hope to supply an antidote to this poison."

On that, as she was moving to the door, he went to hold it for her.
He was helping her to mount before she spoke again, and then it was
only to repeat herself.  "I shall hope--I shall pray--to hear from
you soon."

He stood gloomily watching her until the poplars of the avenue hid
her from his sight.



Chapter Eight

LA PREVALAYE


It was on the afternoon of the second day after that when, having
covered over a hundred miles, he rode, a weary man, into the forest
of La Noué, to be instantly held up by two armed Chouans, who
seemed to rise out of the ground.

He announced himself an emissary of the Comte Joseph in quest of
the Chevalier de Tinténiac.

"He is not here."

"Where is he?"

"We will conduct you to someone who will tell you."  The tone made
a threat of the promise.  "Dismount!"

They blindfolded him, and one of them led him forward on foot for a
considerable distance; the other followed with his horse, and
thrice as they went forward he heard echoing through the forest the
owl-cry.

When at last sight was restored to him, he was in that vast
clearing whither he had first been brought by Cormatin and
Tinténiac.  He beheld there an assembly of some three or four
hundred men, some seated at meat, others at work upon their arms or
accoutrements, others merely idling.  Farther off, on the
clearing's edge, some scores of hobbled, shaggy Breton ponies were
cropping the meagre herbage.

In the low doorway of the charcoal burner's hut stood a slight
little man in a hussar jacket with white facings, whose brilliant
dark eyes observed the approach keenly and questioningly until
recognition dawned in them.  Then he moved forward nimbly to meet
Quentin, peremptorily waving back his conductors.  It was St.
Regent.

"Monsieur de Chavaray!  God save you!"

"Well found!" was Quentin's answering greeting.  "I am seeking the
Chevalier de Tinténiac."

The dark eyes twinkled in the brown roguish face that was wrinkled
like a withered apple.  "Faith, sir, to find him you'll need to
cross the sea.  The Chevalier is in England with the Comte Joseph."

"When did he go?"

"A month since."

The answer dashed the hope in which the question had been asked.
"Then he went too soon."  And in a few swift words, Quentin told
him of the treachery preparing in Rennes by Cormatin.

The humour died out of the Chouan's face.  Unceremoniously he took
Quentin by the arm, and drew him towards the hut.  "Georges had
better hear this tale."

Within the dingy little chamber the corpulent Cadoudal lay wrapped
in slumber.  Startled out of it by St. Regent's shout, he sat up
grunting, instinctively reaching for his musket.  "What the devil
now?"

"A friend.  Monsieur de Chavaray."

"Peste!  Why will you yell so?  I thought it was the Blues."  He
heaved himself to his feet.

"Well met, Cadoudal.  I am a bearer of ill-tidings.  But let me wet
my throat before I begin.  Have you anything to drink?"

"Cider."  St. Regent went to fill a can at a barrel in the corner.
"Good, honest Breton cider of last autumn, with an edge to it."

Quentin gratefully drained the can, wearily lowered himself to a
stool by the plain deal table, stretched his booted legs, and told
the tale that he had learnt from Hoche.

Their amazement culminated in a boisterous refusal from Cadoudal to
believe it.  "They're Republican lies," he concluded.

"Hoche does not suggest a liar to me," said Quentin.

"Then he's a madman."

"He does not suggest that either."

St. Regent intervened, a thoughtful frown on his wizened face.
"The meeting at Rennes for next Wednesday is, at least, a fact."

"But not the purpose of it," Cadoudal stormed back.  "God of God!
The armistice, too, is a fact.  But who sought it?"

"Cormatin, says Hoche."

"He lies.  Are they not liars all, these foul Democrats?  The facts
refute them.  Wasn't it they who begged for the armistice?  Theirs
is the desperate need.  The Republic is crumbling, and driven to
make terms.  The poor Republican troops which the Convention can
spare for the West, move through it at their peril.  And they're so
well aware of it that they move only when they must.  The rest of
the time they're huddled together, a flock of panic-stricken sheep
that smell the wolves.  Is it for the wolves to go bleating to them
of peace?"

"No.  But a wolf who saw profit in it for himself might do so.
According to Hoche, Cormatin is to earn a million livres by this."

Cadoudal's rejection of this was even more indignant.  "Are we to
believe that of a man appointed by the Comte Joseph to represent
him?  Do you think that a man whose talents have built up this
great organization would commit the childish error of appointing
such a Major-General?"

St. Regent, however, was less confident:  "All traitors owe their
opportunity to the trust reposed in them.  And in these days . . .
Bah!  Who would have believed that Charette, the most knightly of
the Royalist Generals, would make submission to the Republic?"

"What is not yet so well known," Quentin told them, "is that that,
too, is the work of Monsieur de Cormatin."

"Hoche will have told you that," scoffed Cadoudal.

"We might dispute like this for ever," said St. Regent.  "Let us go
and see for ourselves what's happening."

"Why, so we shall, at Rennes, on Wednesday, when we come to hear
what the patauds have to propose.  If it should be that we are to
recognize their obscene Republic, then--God of my life!--they'll
discover that they waste their time.  Are the Chouans in defeat,
that they should submit to the enemy?  Haven't we sworn to fight
the battle of Throne and Altar to triumph or to death?  Are we to
betray that oath at the very hour in which the Republic is
agonizing, and the exhausted people, from one end of France to the
other, pray only for the restoration of the monarchy?  When the
English help arrives with Monsieur de Puisaye, such an army will
rise out of the ground as the world has never seen."

"It is not necessary to talk so much, Georges," said St. Regent.
"We are going to Rennes."

To the fair city of Rennes they came on the eve of that Wednesday
of late April, with a bodyguard of a hundred Chouans, openly
displaying the white cockade in their round hats and the emblem of
the Sacred Heart on the breast of their jackets.

They found the city crowded, and a festive exhilaration everywhere,
at the prospect of a cessation of hostilities and a restoration of
peace to the distracted country-side.

St. Regent found amusement in the spectacle of Chouans, in goat-
skins or iron-grey jackets, drinking with blue-coated Republicans,
and of the white cockade in such friendly cheek-by-jowl with the
tricolour, and he laughed to hear the new version of an emasculated
Marseillaise being sung in the streets.  Cadoudal, who lacked his
comrade's humorous outlook, glowered upon this ubiquitous
fraternizing of Royalist and Republican.  It filled him with
foreboding.  Most ferocious was his glance when Republican officers
saluted them as they passed.  It was, he complained, no sort of
spirit in which to prepare to cut each other's throat.

They moved hither and thither in quest of Cormatin, who was nowhere
to be found.  They learnt at last that he was at La Prevalaye, a
château on the banks of the Vilaine, some three or four miles out
of the town, where they would also find the Royalist chiefs
summoned for the morrow's conference.

They slept that night at their inn in Rennes, and betimes on the
morrow they made their way to La Prevalaye.  There they found some
hundreds of Chouans encamped, under their white standards, in the
grounds of the château, in tents supplied by the Republic, and
lavishly entertained at the Republic's charges.  Drawn from the
ends of the Morbihan, from the moorlands of Paimpont and Lavin,
from the depths of the forests of Camors, of Vernet, and the like,
these men who from the distant days of La Rouërie had scarcely ever
left their burrows and fastnesses but so as to deliver battle, were
a little dazed and intoxicated by the honours paid them now that
they moved openly and without furtiveness.

Within the lordly manor of La Prevalaye, that once had housed Henri
IV, the chiefs had been assembling for some days: gentlemen of
family, many of whom had been schooled in arms in the King's
regiments or in the Royal Navy.  Here they were received and
entertained by Hoche's staff and Republican officers of the Army of
Cherbourg, and feasted on a scale that spared no expenditure of
public funds.

Between Royalists and Republicans, La Prevalaye was housing close
upon four hundred men, all displaying that fraternal spirit which
Cormatin on the one side, and Hoche on the other, had laboured to
inspire.  Hoche himself was present with his staff, the gay,
debonair Humbert conspicuously solicitous of the comfort of their
Royalist guests.

Cormatin, aglow with satisfaction at the excellent prospects of his
pacificatory schemes, moved smiling and genial, his portliness
tight in a grey frock, with a high stiff collar about his white
cravat, a white sash girding his middle, white plumes to his hat,
the Sacred Heart on his breast, and a chaplet threaded through his
buttonhole.

Nor were ladies lacking to complete the social amenities, although
in this respect there was no Republican contribution, unless the
Vicomtesse de Bellanger were so to be considered from her now
flagrantly open attachment to the splendid Hoche.  A score of other
noble ladies, wives and sisters of some of the Royalist chiefs, who
hitherto had wooed security in obscurity, rejoiced in this occasion
of recapturing something of the gay days of the old departed order.

A glimpse of all this, when on his way to the summoned conference,
went far towards dispelling Cadoudal's obstinate disbelief in the
mischief that was planned.  Hence the scowl on his round, red face,
when he came, with his rolling gait, to be deafened in the great
conference chamber by the clatter of conversation from more than a
hundred tongues.  Known to most, he was familiarly greeted on every
hand.  St. Regent, too, numbered many acquaintances.  Quentin,
completely unknown, attracted little attention.  He remained aloof,
observant, whilst others continued to arrive, until the gathering
in that spacious, bare and rather dilapidated hall must have
numbered fully a hundred and fifty.

A score or so were of the agrarian type, like Cadoudal, loud-
spoken, rude of dress and manner.  The remainder were gentlemen,
many of whom revealed in their carriage their military antecedents;
some displayed it even in their dress, the close-fitting frocks,
high collars and deep cravats.  Many who, like Cormatin, flitted
hither and thither among the groups, wore the steel-grey with black
facings that was the recognized Royalist uniform, and were girt
with the white Royalist sash.  Others affected the short, Chouan
jacket over gaily coloured waistcoats of red or green, and some
wore the wide Breton breeches above leather gaiters.

Beyond the white cockade on his sugar-loaf hat, Quentin displayed
none of the Royalist insignia, and in his fawn riding-coat,
buckskins and boots, with his chestnut hair severely tied, he had a
sense of being on that account conspicuous.  St. Regent, however,
seemed to supply by his presence beside him a sufficient answer to
inquisitive glances.

Cadoudal could be seen striving to cleave a way through the press
to Cormatin, but being ever detained by those whom he sought to
pass.  He had not succeeded in reaching him when the Baron moved
briskly and purposefully to the long table ranged at the hall's
end.  With him went a group of a half-dozen officers composing his
staff, in one of whom Quentin recognized Boishardi, to confirm the
tale that this Royalist, famed the most gallant of them all, was in
alliance with the pacifists.

Cormatin reached the middle chair of those set beyond the table,
and with the butt of a pistol rapped sharply for silence.  Then,
waving the members of his staff, right and left, to their seats,
he, himself, remained standing.

The chatter died down, the general movement was arrested, and
Quentin found Cadoudal once more beside him.

In that attentive stillness Cormatin began to speak, his manner
confident, his voice strong and pleasantly modulated.  "Messieurs
the officers of the Royal and Catholic Army, we assemble to-day for
what should be our final conference, and at the conclusion it will
be the duty of this assembly to appoint ten of its members to
convey, to-morrow at La Mabilais, the result of our deliberations
to the ten representatives who have been sent by the National
Convention to conclude with us the terms of this pacification."

He paused a moment before proceeding.  "The desire for peace must
be present in the hearts of all.  For three years now we have seen
this fair land of the West, this Brittany, Maine, Normandy and
Anjou, ravaged by fratricidal war.  We have seen entire hamlets,
villages and even townships put to the sword and then razed to the
ground.  We have seen the cattle driven from the land and the
fields laid waste, and famine added to the other horrors by which
it was hoped to bend us into surrender.  All failed.  We were not
suppressed, because we are unsuppressible."

A sudden explosion of applause instead of encouraging seemed to
disconcert him.  Nevertheless, recovering, he continued.

"But if it has not suppressed us, it has brought, is still bringing
and will continue to bring, desolation to the land; and we should
not be worthy of the name of Frenchmen if we could look on this
with indifference.  We may perhaps have to admit that the
Republicans have set us an example by proposing the armistice which
enables us to meet them in a brotherly spirit. . . ."

Here Cadoudal, who for some moments had been restive at Quentin's
side, harshly interrupted him.  "We are brothers to no regicides."

Upon that followed a scene that showed how divided were the
opinions.  Yet if many applauded the interruption, there were more
to resent it and to call for silence from its supporters.

Cormatin waited patiently until order was restored.

"Suffer me, sirs, to have done without interruption.  Then let
frank discussion follow.  I was saying that the Republicans, weary
of this bloodshed and this havoc, have called this armistice in the
hope of an accommodation that will lift the horrors of civil strife
from the land.  They meet us in a spirit which to me, as Major-
General of the Royal and Catholic Army, seems generous.

"Monsieur de Boishardi, whom you see at my side, and in whom you
all recognize Brittany's stoutest and most gallant champion of the
Royalist cause, is newly returned from the Vendée, whither he went
in an endeavour to induce Stofflet to attend this conference.
Stofflet will not leave his army.  But, at least, he has not
refused to be bound by the treaty we are to make."

"Has he consented?" someone asked.

"Presently Monsieur de Boishardi himself will tell you of
Stofflet's attitude.  I have no cause to doubt that he will be
ready to lay down his arms on my recommendation, uttered as it is
with the authority of the Princes, whose representative I am."

"That is false!"

The interjection, sharp and loud, came from Quentin.

There was a startled movement through the assembly.  Chairs scraped
and ground at Cormatin's table.  His aides-de-camp were on their
feet, their glances angrily searching the quarter whence the words
had come.  Upon a silence almost of awe rang the challenging voice
of Cormatin.

"Who said that?"

"I did."  There happened to be a chair near Quentin.  He reached
for it and mounted it, so that he might be seen by all.  Muttered
inquiries into his identity rippled through the room.

"Do you give me the lie, sir?" Cormatin demanded, his face
empurpled.

"Directly and categorically."

"And there you are," said Cadoudal below him.

"By God . . ." Cormatin was beginning.  Then he checked.  "Who are
you, sir?"

It was the question in the eyes of a hundred faces turned towards
Quentin.

"I am plain to behold.  I trust that you recognize me, for then you
will recognize my right to speak as I have spoken.  You were the
representative of Monsieur de Puisaye.  I say 'you were,' because
from the moment that you disobey his orders and betray his trust as
you are doing, you cease to represent him."

Now Cormatin recognized him.  Pale with anger, mastering himself by
an effort, he named him.  "You are Chavaray."

"Puisaye's emissary to you, who last brought you his orders from
England.  To those orders your present activities prove you false.
And you magnify the offence when you let it be understood that you
act with the authority of the Princes.  It was Monsieur de Puisaye,
who, acting with that authority, sent you orders which precluded
any accommodation with the regicides."

He could add no more because of the sudden turmoil about him.

The secret resentment of the proceedings in the hearts of the
majority lulled hitherto by the guile with which Cormatin or his
aides had worked upon them separately, now exploded.

The Baron, his staff standing with him and seeking to calm the
hubbub, banged the table again and again with his pistol-butt.
Above the din his voice, grown shrill with anger, rang out:  "Hear
me, messieurs!  Hear me!"

When at last they consented to be silenced, he spoke with assumed
calm and dignity, suppressing his distress.

"What there is of personal between Monsieur de Chavaray and me can
wait for the moment.  The occasion is too grave, my responsibility
too heavy to suffer interruption by any personal insult.  I am
accused of being false to my orders from Monsieur de Puisaye.  So
rash is this accusation that it comes before I have even announced
the terms of the proposed accommodation.  Before I announce them,
let me add that even at the risk of being charged with neglect of
Monsieur de Puisaye's instructions from England, I, as the fully
empowered Major-General here on the spot, must claim to be the
judge of what is profitable and expedient to the cause we serve."

"The good man perorates too much," grumbled St. Regent.

It was evidently a fairly general opinion, for from every side rose
the cry:  "The terms!  The terms!"

"I am coming to them.  The Convention offers a general amnesty to
all who have been in arms against the Republic.  It will likewise
accord an amnesty to all émigrés who have returned in defiance of
their proscription.  Freedom of worship is to be restored, and the
ban to be lifted from those priests who have not taken the
constitutional oath.  The Republican troops are to be withdrawn
from the West, and indemnities on a generous scale are to be paid
to those whose property has suffered in the course of the civil
war.

"That is what the Republic offers us for the peace that all honest
men must ardently desire, and they are terms which it is my
considered opinion we should best serve the country by accepting."

He paused there, and the silence was such as to encourage him that
the generosity of the terms had impressed the audience.  Then a
voice asked for something more.

"You have told us what the sansculottes offer.  You have not said
what they demand in return."

"That follows logically.  That we lay down our arms, recognizing
the Republican Government."

"Is it that what you urge this meeting to accept?" asked the same
voice.

"It is, and that after very careful consideration.  If you agree,
as I hope you will, it only remains to elect the deputation that is
to wait upon the Conventionals at La Mabilais tomorrow, to sign the
treaty."

Quentin looked for another explosion.  It did not come.  Although
downcast by the proposal, which hardly took them by surprise,
seeing that they had been privately wrought upon beforehand, yet
there was no angry opposition.  Already the assembly was breaking
into groups, and the hum of discussion growing louder; already
Cormatin had resumed his seat, when again Quentin raised his voice.

"Have you the authority of the Comte de Puisaye for the
recommendation?"

In the stir that followed, he perceived that some there were who
resented this re-opening of a question which they accounted that
the Baron had already answered.  Of this, the Baron in his reply
coldly reminded him.

"You have answered, sir," Quentin rejoined, "that you have no such
authority.  Then let me ask by what right you make it."

"By the right of my own judgment.  For the rest, sir, the decision
lies with this assembly, as it still must if Monsieur de Puisaye,
himself, were in my place."

"But you seek to guide that decision against all that Monsieur de
Puisaye could wish.  You betray your trust."

"I shall be happy to discuss that privately with you afterwards."

"You shall discuss it publicly now."

Quentin perceived from the hostile, impatient murmurs, that the
assembly was not in sympathy with him.  Impulsively he climbed his
chair again, to address not Cormatin, but the entire gathering.

"Messieurs!  Whilst Monsieur de Cormatin is here urging you to make
a treaty of peace with the regicides, to lay down your arms and
recognize the Republic, in England Monsieur de Puisaye, in whose
place he claims to speak, is raising reinforcements for the
Royalist cause.  Any moment now may see the sailing of the ships
which Monsieur de Puisaye has induced the British Government to
dispatch to Brittany with arms, munitions of war, the regiments
composed of émigrés, reinforced by British troops and commanded by
one of the Princes of the Blood.

"Has Monsieur de Cormatin informed you of this before urging you to
enter into this treaty of peace, which I here denounce as a
betrayal?"

Cormatin, on his feet again, was again banging the table.

"Silence me that Rhodomont," he clamoured, "who out of his
ignorance would have us drench the land in blood again."

But now it was Cormatin, himself, who was silenced by the angry
demands that Monsieur de Puisaye's emissary be heard.  Vehemently
Quentin resumed.  "That expedition counts upon finding here an army
of three hundred thousand Chouans, likewise raised by the fervent
loyalty of Monsieur de Puisaye.  Ask yourselves, gentlemen of
Brittany, of Normandy, of Maine, of Anjou, is this the moment in
which to disband that army, which Monsieur de Cormatin has been
instructed through me to hold in readiness?

"Monsieur de Charette may have laid down his arms, seduced by just
such a recommendation as is urged upon you, and in the assumption
of an authority behind it which does not exist.  But Stofflet, as
you have heard, has rejected these blandishments.  He is still in
the Vendée, ready to unite with the troops that are coming from
overseas led by Monsieur d'Artois in person.  Thus reinforced, can
you doubt your power to account for the Republican battalions,
whose leaders listened to Monsieur de Cormatin's peace proposals
only because too conscious of their weakness?  Will you betray King
Louis XVII, still a prisoner in the Temple, to whose cause you have
vowed yourselves?  Ask yourselves these questions, gentlemen, and
when you have found the answer, deliver it to Monsieur de
Cormatin."

He climbed down, leaving the room in uproar.

Cadoudal clutched his arm.  "You've driven him against the wall.
He'll need Satan's own guile to answer all that."

St. Regent was grinning into his face.  "That's a sour draught
you've poured him.  And, God help him, he needs must drink it."

But they reckoned without Cormatin's ingenuity and effrontery, and
the despair that drove him recklessly to exercise them.  Erect,
almost contemptuously master of himself, save for the pallor so
excessive that his eyes looked black against it, he waited for the
clamour to die down.

"You do me wrong," he complained, when at last he could make
himself heard, "if you suppose that I have no answer."

"Answer, then," someone shouted to him.  "Answer, and be done.
What were your orders from the Comte de Puisaye?"

Cormatin raised a shaking hand.  "Give me leave!  Let me answer in
my own fashion."

A tall, swarthy man, authoritative of manner, Poirier de Beauvais,
an officer who had distinguished himself in the Vendée, interrupted
him again.  "The King?  What of the King in your fine schemes?  Did
you leave His Majesty out of your accounts?"

"You insult me by the question," Cormatin thundered back, and in an
excitement that made him slur his words, delivered his reply.
"There is an understanding that the King shall be restored to
liberty as soon after signing the treaty as may reasonably be
contrived."

"Why did you not mention it before?" Beauvais demanded.  "And what
is that understanding worth?  What is the nature of it?  Be more
precise."

"To what end?" Cadoudal stormed in.  "To hell with his
understandings!  I, for one, have heard enough.  He has admitted
that he speaks without the authority of the Comte Joseph.  Of what
importance, then, is anything that he says?  Remain who will.  I am
going."

That was to set a match to the train that Quentin had laid.  There
was such an immediate and general movement to depart, that Cormatin
saw the conference wrecked.  In frenzy, beating the table, shouting
himself hoarse, he again demanded to be heard.  Mocked at first, he
ended by prevailing.  Then, having entirely lost his wits before
the danger of shipwreck to his plans, he begged them excitedly to
preserve their own.

"A little calm!  A little calm, messieurs!" he implored.

He paused to bend his elegant head towards Boishardi, who, pallid
and distressed, was whispering to him under cover of his hand.
Then he cleared his throat, and resumed.

"Your mistrust, your prejudices, your readiness to listen to every
voice that would discredit me, forces me to reveal that which I had
hoped for the present to withhold, because it is dangerous to utter
it even among ourselves."

He gesticulated nervously, holding his hands clumsily before him,
clenching and unclenching them as he spoke.  "I have said that we
must recognize the Republic.  But . . . that is a mere formality.
No more.  We fulfil it with the mental reservations justifiable
wherever there is duress."

This sounded so much like empty nonsense that questions, excited,
angry, derisive, bombarded him from every side.

With his handkerchief he mopped his brow and dabbed his lips
alternately, in distraction, until some quiet being restored he was
able to plunge desperately on.

"Is my meaning not plain?  Must I add that such an undertaking will
give the Royalist Party time to organize itself and to prepare for
a victorious struggle?"  In a foaming rage he added, his voice
cracking on the words:  "Now you have forced me fully into the
open.  You perceive, perhaps, how far I am from betraying Monsieur
de Puisaye's trust."

"More than ever would you be betraying him if that were true,"
cried Quentin.  "For that is something which he could never
sanction."

"And why not?  Expediency, after all . . ."

He got no farther.  Cadoudal, raising a clenched fist and shaking
it menacingly, cut him short with a roar of anger and disgust.

"Sir, in the name of every man of honour, in the name of the
Royalists of Brittany and Vendée, I forbid you to continue."

With that he swung on his heel, clove angrily through the press of
those about him, and stormed out of the room, leaving a fresh
uproar behind him.

Cormatin, fulminated by the apostrophe of that simple husbandman,
sank in limp anguish to his seat, whilst others went trooping
noisily from the room in the wake of Cadoudal.  It was curious and
notable that the first to go were men of his own comparatively
humble class, setting an example to the nobles to abandon a
conference over which honour had been shamelessly declared no
longer to preside.

St. Regent was detained by Quentin, who would have detained
Cadoudal as well had he been given time.  For he perceived that if
many were disposed to go, many were disposed to linger, and to
these he accounted that he had yet a word to say, lest Cormatin
should win them back under the treacherous spell of his
pacificatory intentions.

"Messieurs, hear yet a word," he called, and Cormatin, in his
dejection, made no attempt to check him.  "Peace is the common
desire of all.  But not peace purchased by cowardice and treachery.
Could we recognize the Republic with our lips and deny it in our
hearts?  Could we enter into such a treaty, with the intention to
violate it?  Such falsity must be repugnant to every gentleman of
France, whose boast it is to be a model to the nations of the world
in all that concerns honour."

Here at last Cormatin, brought to his feet again, would have
arrested him had not the Major-General been howled down and ordered
to be silent.

Quentin proceeded.  "I invite you to reflect that the action
requested of you must close the doors of France forever to the
Princes on whose behalf you have taken up arms, and this at the
very moment when one of them is preparing to place himself at your
head with the resources supplied by England."

That rendered the confusion final and complete.  Beyond the table
the members of Cormatin's staff, led by Boishardi, broke into
invective that aroused answering invective from the assembly.  A
little more, and swords would have been drawn had not Quentin still
contrived to make himself heard above the tumult.

"Monsieur de Cormatin has the honour to command in Brittany by
virtue of a commission from our General-in-Chief, Monsieur de
Puisaye.  Whatever he may pretend, he cannot pretend that this
commission was given to him in the name of the Princes in order
that he should recognize the Republic."

His utterance was smothered by applause, and few indeed by now were
those who did not join in it.  At the table Cormatin's officers
exchanged despairing glances.

"I summon you, gentlemen, in the name of your General, Monsieur de
Puisaye, to suspend Monsieur de Cormatin from his command until
fresh order can be taken."

The affirmative answer to the demand thundered from a hundred
throats, and made an end of the conference.

Men pressed about Quentin, addressing him by the name which he had
suddenly made famous amongst them, praising what he had done, and
felicitating him upon the manner in which he had done it.

He did not win free until more than half the assembly had melted
away.

"You've given them a passport back to their burrows," said St.
Regent.  "They'll all be on their way before nightfall, and
Cormatin will be left to explain himself to the gentlemen of the
Convention he has brought from Paris to settle the peace terms.
He's in luck that the guillotine has suddenly become so unpopular."



Chapter Nine

THE RESCUE


The reality exceeded St. Regent's prognostication.  The Chouan
chiefs did not wait for nightfall to lead the men back to their
fastnesses.

Already a score of indignant gentlemen were at Quentin's heels as
he left the hall.  They formed the vanguard of the departure.  They
trooped noisily out into the gardens, where some ladies took the
sunlit air, with a few Republican officers in attendance.  Hoche
was not of these; but his handsome Brigadier was moving as his
merry deputy in attendance upon the responsive Vicomtesse de
Bellanger.

They stared askance at the excitement of the Royalists, who, with
scarcely a salutation, passed on, some to call for their horses,
others to summon from their tents and lead away such following as
they had brought.

Quentin and St. Regent were confronted by Cadoudal, who had been
morosely waiting for them.  "I wondered how much longer you would
stay once that energumen had shown his hand.  For what did you
wait?"

"To break his eggs for him," said Quentin.

"And the stench their rottenness has raised," added St. Regent,
"should drive everyone away."  In a dozen picturesque words he gave
a sketch of what had happened.

Cadoudal's glance lost some of its gloom.  "We'd better be going.
Faith, it's not safe now to linger.  And for you least of all,
Monsieur le Marquis.  When the explosion comes it'll blow this
peace conference back to Hell, where it was invented."

"And messieurs, the patauds will want to know who fired the train,"
St. Regent agreed.

Quentin shrugged indifferently.  But he was to learn at once that
the patauds did not provide the only danger for him.  Cormatin in
his pride of white plumes had appeared in the doorway with some
members of his staff.  From this group Colonel Dufour detached
himself and came in long strides to tap Quentin on the shoulder.

Quentin turned to be met by the bow of a tall lean man, who was
severely formal.  "On behalf of Monsieur le Baron de Cormatin," he
introduced himself.

"Serviteur!"  Quentin bowed in his turn.

"It will not astonish you that Monsieur le Baron considers himself
affronted by certain terms you had the temerity to apply to him."

"It does not."

"So much the better.  You will the more readily apprehend my
purpose."

"To the devil with that . . ." began Cadoudal.

There Quentin's raised hand checked him.  "I cannot refuse to meet
the Baron if he insists.  Considering, however, the occasion and
all that hangs upon it, you would serve him better by persuading
him that he is ill-advised."

"You will permit me, sir, to be the judge of how best to serve
him."

"In that case there is no more to be said."

Cadoudal, nevertheless, had a deal to say, and would have said a
deal more had Quentin permitted it.

Thus, since Dufour reported the Baron in haste to have done, they
met ten minutes later, behind the château, in an enclosure formed
by tall yew hedges, where the turf was springy and the light soft.

Colonel Dufour and a Monsieur de Nantois seconded the Baron, whilst
the two anxious and indignant Chouans stood by Quentin.

It was one of Monsieur de Cormatin's many illusions that he was a
swordsman, and he came to the meeting in a temper and with the
avowed intention to kill Monsieur de Chavaray.  Fear of
interruption rendered him of an impatience which was conveyed to
his opponent by the Colonel.

In the act of binding back his luxuriant hair, Quentin politely
smiled.  "Assure Monsieur le Baron that since he is in haste I will
make the engagement as short as possible.  He shall have no cause
to complain of delays."

"Rhodomontades are out of fashion among gentlemen," Dufour coldly
reproved him.

"You misunderstand me, I think.  As you shall see.  I am ready,
Monsieur."

By the fury of his countenance and in his onslaught the Baron
looked dangerous.  But Quentin could scarcely better have kept his
promise to make the engagement a brief one.  He met the Baron's
opening thrust on a deflecting forte, and with the riposte ran him
through the sword-arm.  Thus the witnesses had no sooner realized
that battle was engaged than they beheld the Baron disarmed, his
sword on the ground, and his right arm in the grip of his left
hand, through the fingers of which the blood was oozing.

Quentin flourished his blade in a salute.  "Ave atque vale," he
murmured, and looked at Dufour.  "Do me now the justice to confess
that you misunderstood me."

Cormatin spoke through his teeth.  Not even this prompt disposal of
him had dispelled his illusion that he plied a deadly blade.
"You've had the luck to-day, Monsieur le Marquis.  But we shall
meet again.  This does not end here."

"I think it does," said Cadoudal.  "For we're not to wait for
more."  He took Quentin by the arm.  "We'll be going.  The Baron
has too many cursed friends among the sansculottes, and what you've
done may annoy them."

They found their horses and their men, and they were trotting
briskly away from La Prevalaye, where the tents of the Chouans were
being rapidly deserted, before either of his companions paid any
attention to Quentin's repeated question.

"Where are we going?" echoed St. Regent at last.  "Why, back to La
Noué, that land of luxury and plenty.  And you're coming with us.
After the work you've done to-day there's only the forest for you
until we've regenerated this unhappy country."

He demurred, announcing the intention of returning to Chavaray.

"You're tired of life, then," said Cadoudal.  "How long do you
think it will be before they seek you there?"

"A day or two, perhaps," St. Regent assured him.  "They'll want to
present an account to you for wrecking their joyous peace plans."

Cadoudal elaborated.  "Cormatin will make you his scapegoat, so as
to turn the Republic's wrath from his own head.  It may not
suffice, and God knows I pray that it may not.  But that will not
help you.  The sansculottes will show you their own particular kind
of mercy if they lay hands on you."

It was too clear to admit of discussion.  So Quentin rode south
with his companions.  On the morrow, however, Cadoudal left them,
announcing the intention of doubling back to Rennes, so as to
ascertain the end of this peace-making business.

St. Regent pursued his way to the Forest of La Noué, and Quentin
went with him, there to make his home for the next two months.
Thence he sent a message to Charlot to inform him of the situation,
and bidding him, should trouble come, to quit the château with his
family and the lads, and fend for themselves.

After that there would be nothing to do but sit still and wait for
the coming of Puisaye.  His impulse was to take up the duties to
which Cormatin had been false, and go forth as the forerunner of
the Comte Joseph to stimulate the Royalists into holding themselves
in readiness.  He was restrained, however, by his lack of the
necessary knowledge of the country and of acquaintance--despite the
fame acquired at La Prevalaye--with the actual Royalists.  Nor was
there really the necessity, for Cadoudal, who paid them a visit a
fortnight after the debacle at La Prevalaye, had himself shouldered
the task.

He brought news of Cormatin.  In spite of what had happened,
clinging obstinately to a purpose already shattered, the Baron,
with his arm in a sling, had presented himself on the morrow of the
revolt to the ten Republican deputies who awaited the decision of
the conference.  Out of the members of his staff and a few Royalist
leaders whom he had deluded into adhering to him after the general
defection, he had made up the number necessary for the deputation
that was to sign the treaty in the name of all the insurgents north
of the Loire.

Of the two hundred Royalist leaders summoned to La Prevalaye and
the hundred and fifty who had responded, not more than twenty
attended the Baron to La Mabilais, where the treaty was to be
signed.

With an impudence of which history offers few parallels, he brought
his white-cockaded band into the pavilion where they were awaited
by the Citizen-Representatives, a raffish group of play-acting,
Jacobin gutterlings, tricked out in tricolour plumes and sashes,
and trailing sabres which they had never learnt to handle.

The proceedings were brief.  Cormatin announced that he and his
companions were empowered to sign the treaty as the representatives
of all the Royalists north of the Loire, saving only some odd,
recalcitrant ones, who would inevitably lay down their arms when
they found themselves forsaken.  He delivered even an address of
some magniloquence and of that histrionic flavour so dear to the
sansculottes.

"Our inspiration springs from the love of all Frenchmen for their
native land, the desire to extinguish civil discord, the oblivion
of the past, the glory common to both parties, the common regard
for all that may ensure the safety and happiness of France."

His conclusion lay in a solemn declaration to submit to the French
Republic, One and Indivisible, to recognize its laws, and to engage
never to bear arms against it.

To the Citizen-Representatives it was most satisfactory.  They
would be able now to announce to the Convention this triumph of
their diplomatic measures where force of arms had failed, and the
thanks of a grateful nation would be theirs.  In return they
readily accorded freedom of worship, the withdrawal of Republican
troops from the West, the amnesty to returned émigrés, and the
indemnities that had been stipulated.

They signed.  The peace was concluded.  Guns were fired; flags were
unfurled; military bands filled the air with their music to
announce to the world these joyous tidings.

Cormatin, adding a laurel crown to the white plumes that bedecked
his hat, rode into Rennes like a conqueror at the head of his
faithful twenty and their bewildered, white-cockaded following.
After them, in their carriages, came the Citizen-Representatives,
whilst Hoche and his dragoons formed a glittering rear-guard to the
triumphal procession.  National Guards lined the streets of Rennes;
the drums rolled; the trumpets blared, and the populace shouted:
"Long Live the Peace!  Long Live the Union!  Long Live France!"

Royalist and Republican passed to a fraternal banquet offered by
the nation, to celebrate the occasion.  There Cormatin perorated at
length in self-glorification, and the Citizen-Representatives
responded with a prolixity that increased in a measure as they
became more drunk, and ended only when the wine had robbed them of
the faculty of speech.  All very touching and impressive.

But on the sober morrow there were unpleasant rumours.  These
increased as the days passed.  Not all the Royalists who had
departed in disgust from La Prevalaye had accounted it necessary to
practise discretion.  The name of the ci-devant Marquis de Chavaray
began to be heard.  What he had said began to be quoted, and at
last it became widely known that he had smashed the conference, and
that the adherents of Cormatin were only a negligible few.

Paris heard the tale, and the Convention quivered with anger at the
imposture of which its representatives had been the victims.
Orders went out to the West, and whilst Cormatin still swaggered in
his bravery of white plumes, waiting to pocket the agreed indemnity
before making his exit from the scene which he had so gloriously
adorned, a thunderbolt fell from apparently clear skies.

At the very moment when a proclamation setting forth the peace
terms was being pasted on the walls of the Brittany townships,
announcing among other things the freedom of worship now accorded,
the Convention decreed--on 1 May--the penalty of death against all
refractory priests found on the territory of the Republic.  Upon
this followed an order for the arrest of all men known to have been
leaders of the Chouannerie.

It brought Boishardi to perceive the error of his ways.  He waited
for no more.  In a mood of savage penitence he called his Chouans
about him, fell upon a Republican convoy, and with the arms and
ammunition of which he plundered it, went to earth once more in his
district of Moncontour.

Cormatin, less clear-sighted and reluctant to depart without his
hard-earned million, allowed himself to be caught, and was flung
into prison, to make the discovery that it was easier to fool the
Royalists than the Republicans.

Such was the tale that Cadoudal brought back to La Noué.  He
related it with cynical humour, until at the end he came to add
that the name of Quentin de Morlaix de Chavaray was first upon the
list of those upon whose heads a price had been set.  Republican
troops had gone to Chavaray with orders to take him dead or alive,
and at the same time to clean up what was described as the émigré
nest of Grands Chesnes.  Apart from the fact that the Chesnières
were related to the arch-rebel Chavaray, not only had the amnesty
to émigrés been cancelled by the events, but also the toleration
with which since the Thermidorean reaction their return had been
regarded.

This was news that wiped from Quentin's lips the smile with which
he had listened to the epopee of Cormatin.

Cadoudal was quick to reassure him.  "I've taken order about it.
That is one reason why I am here, with three hundred of my lads at
my heels.  The Blues are conveying the prisoners to St. Brieuc."

"What prisoners?"

"Constant de Chesnières, his mother and Mademoiselle de Chesnières.
The escort, a company of the National Guards on foot, are
travelling slowly.  They come by way of Châteaubriant.  My scouts
are observing them, and I shall have word as soon as they reach
Ploermel.  The time of their arrival there will decide the rest.
The patauds are not to imagine that they can make arrests with
impunity in this country."

It was not until the following evening that word came of the
troop's arrival at Ploermel.  It was brought by a mounted Chouan,
the condition of whose horse showed the speed he had made.  He had
gleaned that the Blues would lie the night at Josselin, and proceed
by way of Pontivy on the morrow.

Cadoudal required no map by which to plan his operations.  He knew
the country-side as he knew his pocket.  Between Pontivy and the
village of Pont Havion, a dozen miles of highway ran through
country that was chiefly moorland, as wild and empty as any in
France.  At a point some four miles beyond Pont Havion the road
skirted a wood that clothed the rising ground to the north.  It was
there that Cadoudal would deliver battle.

"I shall be in it," Quentin announced.

The Chouan looked dubious.  "It's a peculiar form of warfare, ours.
Unlike any you'll ever have seen."

"I've seen none.  So it won't seem peculiar to me.  I can ply a
blade or handle a musket."

Cadoudal was relieved.  "I was afraid you'd want a command.  If
it's just sport you seek, come by all means."

Sport was by no means Quentin's object.  But he did not argue the
point.

Some time before this, Hoche, in writing of his difficulties to the
Convention, had complained:  "I am engaged with an unseizable
enemy.  These Chouans seem to materialize suddenly out of the
ground to deliver battle, and when it is over they melt away and
vanish again in the same mysterious manner, so that even when we
repel them it is impossible to render definite their defeat."

Of these Chouan methods Quentin was now to make acquaintance.

The little army, marshalled at evening in the clearing in the heart
of La Noué, knelt in prayer before an oak that bore a great brass
crucifix.  A proscribed, refractory priest in a white surplice,
over which he wore a stole of red, the colour of blood and
symbolical of martyrdom, which is love's highest expression,
pronounced a brief benedictory address.  He assured them that there
was remission of sins and assurance of salvation for those who fell
in the cause of God's Altars.

Thus fortified, they set out in the dusk, and in a manner alien to
all military conceptions.  There were no banners, no drums, no
trumpets, no marching formations swinging spiritedly shoulder to
shoulder along the highway.  They went off in the manner of a
spreading fan, in little groups of threes and fours which vanished
from the sight of one another through the woods.

Cadoudal kept a position somewhere in the middle of that invisible
line.  Three of his men were with him besides Quentin.  St. Regent,
who had insisted upon being of the party, was on the extreme left,
commanding the detachment that in action should form a rear-guard,
whilst a skilled Chouan leader named Guillemot was on the extreme
right and in command of the section intended for the van.

Night, moonless but clear and bright with stars, had completely
closed down when Cadoudal's little party emerged from the forest,
and to Quentin it might have seemed that these five men were the
only ones astir.  Of the remaining four hundred there was neither
sight nor sound.

They crossed the high road and a meadow beyond it that was sparsely
planted with fruit trees, and they emerged into a lane between
ditches, skirted a hamlet, and breasted slopes of a diminishing
vegetation that brought them to a moorland plateau, arid and empty.
At the end of an hour's steady trudging they came to a group of
massive monoliths, the menhirs of a druidical cromlech.  A little
beyond it the track dropped again, to levels of increasing
fertility; and then, moving in the dark with the unhesitating
certainty of men to whom every yard of the ground is known, they
turned aside and lowered themselves through the larches of a sharp
declivity to a ravine at the bottom of which Quentin could hear the
tinkle and rattle of a brook.  By this cleft they continued their
descent, until they found themselves once more upon level ground,
with the outbuildings of a farmstead looming dimly ahead.

Here Cadoudal halted them, and uttered the thrice-repeated cry of
an owl.  After a waiting pause in which a man might count to
twenty, he loosed the triple cry again.

Presently, ahead of them, a window revealed itself in a yellow
flash, and vanished.  Twice more in quick succession it sprang into
light, and after that remained steadily glowing.

They went forward, across a cobbled yard, to a door which opened as
they reached it.  A lantern was thrust forward to reveal them to
the bulky man who held it.

"And is it you, Georges!  Come in."

It was already after midnight, and for three hours they rested in
this farmstead, which was one of the established points in the
Chouans' network of lines of communication.  They supped on bread
and cheese and ham and cider, and slept after that until within an
hour of daybreak, when the farmer roused them.

Cadoudal kept horses here, and when they left he and Quentin were
mounted.  They had not far to go.  Beyond the farmlands, which lay
in a fold of the shallow hills, they climbed a heather-grown slope
as day was breaking in a rosy glow.  Once over the crown of it,
they entered a belt of woodland that fell gently away to the
Pontivy road at a point where it dipped into a hollow.  As they
advanced through this the owl's cry greeted them repeatedly, to
inform them that the band, which had scattered from a point a dozen
miles away, was here reassembling as concerted.  Soon the men were
revealed in groups, taking their ease until required for the raid.

With St. Regent and Guillemot, Cadoudal left the wood for the
highway at the bottom of the hollow, to survey the ground which his
dispositions were to turn into a death-trap for the Blues.  He was
short and sharp in his instructions.  Guillemot was ordered to
marshal his men under cover in line with the summit ahead, so as to
close the way to the advance of the Republicans; St. Regent was
posted similarly at the other summit, whence he could deploy upon
their rear.  The ambush between, at the foot of the hollow, would
be Cadoudal's own care.

They posted sentries, and then the men broke their fast on such
provisions as they had brought with them.

Not until close upon noon did the head of the Republican column,
six men well in advance of the main body, acting as scouts, come
into view on the brow of the hill.  Next followed a couple of
drummer lads, with their drums slung from their shoulders.  There
was no need to beat step at present, and the men marched in no sort
of orderly formation; rather they trudged along in the relaxed
fashion so common to the troops that fought the battles of Liberty,
Equality and Fraternity.

In all they amounted to a hundred men, and they were seen not to be
National Guards, as had been reported, but infantry of the line in
blue coats with white facings and black-gaitered legs.  A two-horse
chaise conveying the prisoners was in the middle of the contingent,
the commandant on horseback beside it on the left.

They came on without suspicion, for the eyes of the scouts could
detect no movement in the stillness of the wood.  The leading half
of them came abreast of Cadoudal's invisible muskets when the crack
of his pistol gave the signal for a volley.

As the thunder of its echoes rolled away, men reeled or sank, some
to rise again staggering, others to lie where they fell.  Those who
were unhurt halted and wheeled about, their muskets levelled, their
voices raised in a babel of imprecations.

Instinctively, if disorderly, without awaiting any word of command,
they answered the volley of the Chouans by a futile, ragged fire.
Yet one bullet sent thus blindly through the trees found Cadoudal,
who with Quentin was screened by no more than a tangle of brambles.
He span half round with a groan and an oath, and would have fallen
but that Quentin caught him in his arms.  Gently he lowered him to
the ground, so that he sat with his shoulders supported by a tree.

"Leave me," Cadoudal ordered him.  "Take charge in my stead.  You
know what's to do.  This is nothing.  I need a blood-letting.  I'm
too plethoric.  So Father Jacques says, and he's a doctor as well
as a priest."

He had laid bare the wound.  It was high in the right breast, and
bleeding freely.  "Send me Lazare.  He understands these things.
Don't waste time here.  Take charge of the men."

Meanwhile the Republican commandant had ridden forth in frenzy from
the shelter the chaise afforded him, shouting orders to go about,
with no thought but to extricate his company from this ambuscade.

It was as a signal for the Chouans to disclose themselves.

St. Regent's men poured across the road to close the way of
retreat, whilst Guillemot placed a solid phalanx ahead.  The
Chouans in the front rank of each detachment lowered themselves in
genuflection, with muskets at the shoulder, whilst the file behind
took aim over their heads.

The effect upon the soldiers of finding themselves thus covered
front and rear was paralysing.  Their commandant, however, though
rendered frantic by lack of perception of how to meet such a
situation, was far from intimidated.  He perceived at least and
instantly that to attack either of the disclosed bodies, he would
have to charge uphill, and would probably see the whole of his
company mown down before they could come to grips.  And since if
they remained in the open this might happen in any case, he decided
to attack the party in the wood.  Once within the timber he would
be on equal terms with those in ambush, and would be at an
advantage over those in the open.

So he swung his men to face the trees.  "Charge!" he roared, waving
them on with his sword.

He was obeyed with eagerness by men who understood the chances such
tactics might afford them.  But the beginning of that forward
movement was stemmed by a volley from fifty muskets.  A dozen Blues
rolled in the dust.

"On!  On!" the commandant urged the wavering ranks.  "Forward!"

Then a single musket cracked, and his horse went down under him.
He leapt clear, and sprang forward.  "Follow me, my children!"

The answer was an enfilading fire on both his flanks, which
accounted for another score of Republicans and broke the officer's
spirit.

Trapped, helplessly held by superior numbers, nearly half his men
out of action, his muskets might account for a few of the Chouans,
but only at the price of the annihilation of the remainder of his
company.

"Hold!" he yelled, in despair.

He stood forth, alone, facing the invisible enemy, and uncovering
held up his hat.  "This is a massacre.  Quarter!  I ask for
quarter."

Quentin's neat figure, with nothing of the Chouan about it save the
white cockade in his conical hat, slid round the bole of a tree on
the very edge of the wood, and came fully and fearlessly into view.

From the little that he had seen of Chouans in action he trusted to
the mercy of neither St. Regent nor Guillemot.  Therefore, as
Cadoudal's deputy, he decided to take matters into his own hands.

"We shed no more French blood than our safety demands.  Throw down
your muskets and your pouches."

For a moment the commandant, a tough, grizzled man of forty, who
looked the professional soldier and might under the old regime have
been a petty officer, seemed to hesitate, pain and anger in his
grey face.  Then ill-humouredly he shrugged.

"Ah, sacred name of a name, it's to make one die of rage!"  He
swung to his men.  "You have heard, my children.  The brigands are
too many for us.  Useless to the Nation to get ourselves butchered.
So down with your arms."

Conscripts, young and raw, they were glad enough to hear such a
command.

The Chouans swarmed out to collect the abandoned weapons and
ammunition.  There were odd jesters amongst them, with gibes for
the conquered, but in the main they went about the business in grim
silence.

Quentin, who had come forward among the first, thrust his way to
the chaise.

From its window round eyes stared at him: stark fear in those of
Madame de Chesnières; a glad amazement in Germaine's; and an
affected irony in Constant's.

"God save us!" he cried, with a laugh.  "If it isn't Monsieur de
Carabas!"

"To serve you," said Quentin, his tone grim.  He pulled open the
door.  "Pray give yourselves the trouble to alight."



Chapter Ten

THE THANKS


Not until the morrow, when they were back in the cantonments of La
Noué, did Mademoiselle de Chesnières find an opportunity to express
a confusion that had found its climax when she beheld Quentin in
the rescue party.

The return of the Chouans to their fastness had been similar to
their departure from it.  Leaving the disarmed Republicans to care
for their wounded and bury their dead, they had dispersed into
small groups, and so melted away.

On a stretcher, hurriedly improvised from branches, Cadoudal had
been conveyed by a party of his Morbihannais lads back to the farm
at which they had that morning rested, there to be put to bed
whilst one of their own surgeons was summoned to tend a wound that
was fortunately not dangerous.

The journey to La Noué was one that taxed the endurance not only of
Madame de Chesnières, but also of Constant, who was still in a
state of convalescence.  Pauses were necessary, and by the time
they came in deadly weariness to the Chouan cantonments, all those
who had been in the affair near Pontivy were already back there in
their quarters.

The ladies found the charcoal burner's hut made ready to receive
them.  Under St. Regent's directions fresh rushes had been laid on
the earthen floor, and fresh bracken had replaced the old under the
cloaks to form their beds.

Constant, who reached La Noué in a state of exhaustion, was housed
in one of the log cabins.

Of the three, Mademoiselle de Chesnières, whose lithe vigour had
suffered least, was the first to be astir upon the morrow.
Refreshed by some hours of sleep, she emerged from the hut, active
in a trim riding-gown of bottle-green and a plain, three-cornered
hat, her fair hair stiffly dressed in a fashion almost mannish.

She came forth to survey in daylight her odd surroundings, to
acquaint herself with one of those Chouan encampments of which she
had heard the fabulous accounts that were current.  But she found
little to be seen beyond the three log cabins, the great brass
crucifix aloft on its oak, and a cluster of Chouans, wild-looking
men, most of whom, at their ease, were now in shirt and breeches
about a fire of logs over which a great cooking-pot was suspended
from an iron tripod.  The steam of it, borne to her nostrils on the
morning breeze, was appetising.

The men scrambled respectfully to their feet at her approach.  Not
for them, savages though they might appear, to remain seated in the
presence of a gentlewoman whatever new doctrines might govern
conduct and manners in Republican France.

She returned their greetings with the gracious dignity that made
most men her willing servants.  For some moments she stood in talk
with them upon their cookery and their general mode of life,
following with difficulty the answers from those amongst them who
prided themselves upon speaking French.  Then, with an eye on the
log huts on the edge of that two-acre clearing, she asked for
Monsieur de Chavaray.  He had gone walking, she was told, some time
since in the forest, with his gun, perhaps looking for his
breakfast.  Ah, but there he came, returning, and, faith, it looked
as if he would have to be content with the stew of kid in the
cauldron, like the rest of them.

Fowling-piece on shoulder he came sauntering into the open, and she
went eagerly to meet him.

"Do you know my greatest joy in this deliverance, Quentin?  It is
in the thought that I owe it to you."

"Oh, no.  Not to me.  The design to rescue you was Cadoudal's."

His almost too courteous tone troubled her glance.  "You are angry
with me.  Perhaps you have cause to be.  I was not generous with
you at Chavaray."

"There is nothing in this to prove that your judgment was at
fault."

"And in what you did at La Prevalaye?  Do you imagine that we have
not heard of it?"

"That was no great matter."

"No great matter?  It was matter enough to cover me with shame for
heeding lying tales and for having drawn unhappy conclusions."

"They were quite logical, given the appearances."

She stood in sweet humility before him.  "There was your word, as
you reminded me.  That should have outweighed appearances.  It
should not have needed the proofs you have since given, and at such
cost to yourself.  You must have known that you would be proscribed
and hunted, for what you did.  You were setting out to do it, and
yet you would not tell me.  In your pride you left me in my unjust
doubts of you."

He was melted by her frank, sweet penitence.  "Not in my pride.
No.  In my prudence.  I dared not announce the intention even to
you."

"You did not trust me!  Perhaps I have no right to complain of
that.  I earned it by my own mistrust.  That is what shames me."

He smiled.  "In forming our opinions, the evidence is all,
unless . . .  But there!  That is another matter."

"Unless . . .  Unless what?"

"Unless an intuitive faith--shall we call it?--should override the
evidence, repelling inimical conclusions.  You see, you had said
that you loved me."

She hung her head.  "Yes," she softly answered him.  "You have the
right to say that.  My faith should have lent me a better vision."
She raised her eyes again, and they were magnified by sudden tears.
"Can I say more, Quentin?"

He was completely conquered.  If he did not take her in his arms,
standing as they did within sight of those men about the cauldron,
yet his tone almost supplied the place of the embrace.

"I should not have driven you to say so much.  But I desired you to
realize for yourself the errors by which you made me suffer."

"Quentin!"

"That is no matter now.  You have seen how mendacious evidence can
be.  Another time you will mistrust it.  For all that I told you
was true as truth itself: of the safe-conduct, of the death of
Boisgelin, of my possession of Chavaray, of the fortuitous coming
of Hoche.  As for what I did at La Prevalaye, if I am to continue
truthful, I acted rather from a sense of duty to the Comte de
Puisaye than from any political feeling.  I desire to be honest
with you in this as I have been in all else."

She held out her hands.  "Is our peace made?"

He took them, his eyes glowing.  "For all time, I hope."

Then as if the very expression reminded him of the perils that
might shorten time for them, he spoke of the need to conduct them
to the coast, and to ship them back to England until strife should
be at an end in France.

She shook her head; but without concern.  "It would not be
possible.  Madame de Chesnières could never face the dangers and
hardships of that journey.  It requires all the resource and vigour
of a man.  Besides, our plans are made.  When we were arrested we
were already packing up to go to Coëtlegon.  Madame de Bellanger
must have been aware of the orders for our arrest.  She sent us
word of it, urging us to go to her, and assuring us that at
Coëtlegon we should find a sanctuary, where we would be secure from
violence.  But for my aunt's hesitations, due to a personal
hostility to the Vicomtesse, we should never have delayed
departure."

Quentin thought he understood both Madame de Chesnières' hostility
to the Vicomtesse and the inviolability of Coëtlegon.  A common
source supplied one and the other.  For once he approved Madame de
Chesnières.  But not to the extent of scorning the ægis provided by
General Hoche.

"The arrest," Germaine concluded, "has put an end to any lingering
hesitations in my aunt.  She is very human, after all."

"I confess I had not found her angelic."

Germaine smiled and sighed.  They had begun to move side by side
across the clearing.  "There is little that is angelic about any
Chesnières, nor do they attract angelic mates.  A queer, turbulent,
unhappy family it has always been, tortured by internal hatreds
that more than once have led to fratricide."

"Then all that happens to me is explained.  It is in the Chesnières
tradition."

Constant came to interrupt them.  He approached, leaning heavily
upon a cane.  Pallor lent a greenish cast to his swarthiness.  He
greeted them with his sardonic grin.

"Ah, Germaine.  You seize opportunity to return thanks to your
saviour.  Very proper."

"Is he not your saviour, too, Constant?"

"Do not make me laugh, child.  I am still too weak from the wound
his friends dealt me.  And that is the answer."

It was Quentin who laughed.  "With what comic tenacity you cling to
a cherished conceit."

"To be sure you've changed your company since then.  That, I
suppose, would be to suit your convenience.  You may run with the
hare and hunt with the hounds until the hounds discover it and tear
you down.  It usually ends like that."

"Have you enlightened St. Regent?"

"Oh, sir!  It is not my way to return good for evil."

"Ah, no," Germaine told him.  "Evil for good is your way.  You're
proving it now."

With his sneering smile, Constant looked at Quentin.  "You've a
stout champion, sir, in Mademoiselle de Chesnières.  I felicitate
you."

"I thank you.  A woman is my sufficient champion in this instance."

"Ah?  I am dull.  Be so amiable as to explain that to me."

"It's plain enough," said Germaine.  "It means that he despises you
too much to quarrel with you.  And with reason.  You're
contemptible."

Constant still smiled.  "If beauty dwells in the eye of the
beholder, why so must ugliness.  You see me according to your
vision.  I must deplore the deception it practises upon you."

"He means," said Quentin, "that he's impervious to insult.  A lofty
state of mind."

"Oh, I hardly claim so much.  It must depend upon whence the insult
comes.  A woman's tongue, now, does no dishonour; a man's only if
he is honourable himself."

With an exclamation of disgust Germaine turned her shoulders upon
him.  Quentin, however, chose to enter into Constant's humour.  "A
nice point; a nice discrimination.  I ask myself should you stay to
practise it if a man were so hasty as to box your ears."

"A coarse suggestion," said disdainful Constant.

Germaine broke in with heat:  "Oh, why do you trouble to answer his
empty, offensive chatter, Quentin?"

"Oh, feminine inconsequence!" Constant mocked her.  "If I am empty
I cannot be offensive."

"Of course not," Quentin agreed indulgently.

"Ah?"

"Merely empty."

"You relieve me.  But, of course, I had not supposed that it was
possible to offend you."

"That is rarely a safe assumption, Monsieur de Chesnières."

"I had not paused to think of safety, Monsieur . . . Monsieur de
Carabas."

Quentin stepped forward so quickly, and moved to such obvious
sudden anger, that the leer perished on Constant's lips.  He may
well have asked himself had he not perhaps pushed insolence
incautiously far.  He may have been relieved to find Germaine
slipping between them, to lash him with the controlled scorn of her
quiet voice.

"What a poor, paltry, insolent coward you are, Constant!  You lean
on your cane, a sick, feeble man, spitting venom from the shelter
of your sickness, abusing a patience that you suppose inexhaustible,
and this against a man who rescued you only yesterday from the peril
of death."

He interrupted her.  "Ah, that no.  All the rest, if you please.
They are merely opinions; a girl's negligible opinions.  But that
Monsieur de Morlaix was moved by any thought of rescuing me is
more, I think, than even he will pretend."

"A fair statement," Quentin agreed.  "I should have been as
unlikely to go to your assistance as you are to acknowledge it."

"I am obliged to you for your frankness, Monsieur," said Constant.

St. Regent, slight and agile in his hussar jacket, came to bid them
to breakfast, and led the way to the hut with Monsieur de
Chesnières.

Germaine, following at leisure with Quentin, set a hand on his arm.

"You possess a brave man's forbearance," she commended him.

"My dear," he answered her, "my wrath is not required.  Monsieur
Constant is a man who will dig himself a grave with his tongue
before he is much older.  To that fate I am content to leave him."




BOOK THREE



Chapter One

D'HERVILLY'S COMMAND


For a full month Quentin abode at la Noué, whilst Cadoudal,
restored to vigour, assumed in Brittany and Normandy the task
abandoned by Cormatin, and in the discharge of it grew daily in
authority among the Royalists.

It was a month of much activity on both sides.  There were surprise
attacks upon townships held by the Blues and raids upon their
convoys, and there were counter-raids and massacres by Republicans
more or less at bay in that hostile country-side.  It was in the
course of one of these that Boishardi met his death, on the very
eve of his intended marriage.

Meanwhile in England the tireless, indomitable Puisaye, generously
supported by Pitt and Wyndham, prepared the expedition that was to
set the West in movement that was to sweep like a tidal wave across
France and overwhelm the gutterlings that dominated her.

At his summons French émigrés from the depths of Germany and bands
of old soldiers who had emigrated with their officers in '92 or who
had deserted Dumouriez in '93 hastened to reinforce the French
regiments recruited in England: the Royal Louis, of four hundred
gunners, who had escaped from Toulon; the Royal Marine, of five
hundred émigrés under the Comte de Hector, composed almost entirely
of former naval officers; the Loyal Émigrant, raised by the Duc de
la Châtre, seven hundred strong; the regiment of the Marquis du
Dresnoy, of the same strength; the regiment of the Comte
d'Hervilly, of twelve hundred Breton conscripts, who had come to
England as prisoners of war, and a hundred volunteers.  In all they
made up four brigades.  To these were to be added five regiments
assembling in Holland under Sombreuil, and some eight thousand
British troops that Pitt had undertaken to add to the lavish war
material he was providing.

Monsieur d'Artois displayed in his letters a quivering eagerness to
lead them, and his presence alone should be worth an army corps.
The Prince, a visible, tangible incarnation of the ideal for which
they fought, should rally every able-bodied man of the West to the
banner of Throne and Altar.

At Portsmouth a fleet under Sir John Warren was rapidly fitting
out, and the supply ships were loading the material, which
comprised twenty-four thousand muskets, clothing and footgear for
sixty thousand men and a vast store of food and ammunition.

Puisaye might flatter himself that all this was the miracle wrought
by his energy, vision, intelligence and persuasive powers.  His
satisfaction, however, was darkened by the jealousies and intrigues
that seldom fail to poison any Gallic enterprise.  At every step
these came to create obstacles for him and to add to the
difficulties inseparable from so Herculean a labour as his.

The vain and pompous d'Hervilly perceived here his chance to
magnify himself.  Endowed with few talents save the talent of
intrigue, and endowed with this one to excess, he so shrewdly
exercised it as to obtain, despite the fact that he held only a
colonel's rank, the chief command of the actual émigré contingent.

In view of the support he had won, the four generals commanding the
four brigades made no protest beyond relinquishing their commands,
since it was impossible that they should serve under a man of
inferior rank.  Of those nobles who had raised the other regiments,
La Châtre, Dresnoy and Hector adopted the same course for the same
reason.  Nor did it end there.  Every colonel in the service
retired rather than submit to one whose rank was not superior to
his own, with the result that the regiments were left under the
command of lieutenant-colonels, who were not of the same authority
over either officers or men.

If Puisaye did not interfere it was because he realized that
interference must lead to a trial of strength between himself and
d'Hervilly; and whilst he could not doubt that he must prevail, yet
he perceived that a worse state of things might result, such was
the influence d'Hervilly had won by his intriguing over the nobles
who filled the lesser ranks.  He imposed himself by assertiveness
and obstinacy, which were mistaken for strength of mind, and by a
veiled jactancy that conveyed an impression of high military gifts
acquired in the war of American Independence, in which he had
served as an aide-de-camp to the Comte d'Estaing.

Had not Puisaye underrated the man's assertiveness, he would now
have perceived a greater matter for alarm in the continued absence
of Monsieur d'Artois.

"It is in the field of honour," the Prince had written to Puisaye,
"that I hope soon to be able to give you in person the proofs of my
esteem and confidence."

Puisaye cared less about these proofs than about the actual
presence of the Prince, so passionately awaited by the devout and
simple Chouans.  Yet ready as they were to set out for that field
of honour of His Highness's letters, Monsieur d'Artois continued
abroad.  He would not, however, go the length of delaying the
expedition.  So it weighed anchor, a fleet of close upon a hundred
sail, and steered for Brittany.

A French fleet, which disputed its passage, was put to flight alter
the capture of three of its ships, and driven into the harbour of
Lorient, where it was blockaded.

On the evening of the 25th June the British ships sailed into the
Bay of Quiberon, and then the real trouble began.  With immediate
assumptions of paramount authority, d'Hervilly refused to disembark
until the 27th, by when his constant use of the telescope had
assured him that no enemy was in sight to dispute the landing.

Wondering how long he would be able to maintain a contemptuous
patience with this creature of routine, this martinet of the parade-
ground, Puisaye allowed him to have his way, but only because the
delay was giving the Bretons time to come to meet them.

When at last the expedition landed on the shore of the great bay,
at the foot of the mournful dunes and tumuli of Carnac, the sands
were black with the Chouans who had hastened thither as soon as the
news had reached them that the sails were in sight.  Fifteen
thousand of them waited to greet the émigré regiments.  They had
not travelled furtively, as was their habit, gliding invisibly
through herbage, stealing through woodland and by ravines, taking
advantage of the concealment offered by every fold of the ground;
they had marched boldly and openly by the highways in their
thousands, conceiving that the time of skulking was at an end.

They came dashing waist-deep into the water, to drag the boats
ashore: they harnessed themselves to the guns when these were
landed, so as to haul them up the beach.  On the sands of Quiberon
they leapt and danced in joy about the arriving émigrés, with
mighty shouts of, "Vive le Roi," "Vive la Religion!" and "Vive le
Comte Joseph!" which was the extent of the French that many of them
knew.  They were like great shaggy dogs capering in welcome, and as
dogs from the outset were they scornfully regarded by the émigrés
to whom they came to supply the necessary strength.  Their very
friendliness and the familiarities that sprang from it served only
to arouse in the gentlemen from England all the old arrogance of
caste.

Their transports were momentarily quelled by reverence when the
Bishop of Dol, in his mitre and carrying the pastoral crook, set
foot ashore followed by forty attendant priests.  In sudden awe the
wild peasant horde knelt on the sands with bowed heads to receive
the episcopal blessing.

After the landing of the men came the landing of the stores.  First
the fine muskets and the ammunition, which were at once distributed
and went to swell the enthusiasm of the Chouans.  So as to express
it they lost no time in biting cartridges, and the sounds of firing
were added to the hilarious din.

With a frown at the root of his great nose d'Hervilly surveyed that
peasant multitude.  Men who appeared to be without notion of
military formations, who had no uniforms beyond the white cockade
and the chaplet through the buttonhole, could not be soldiers in
his eyes.

"Are these your troops, Monsieur de Puisaye?"

Puisaye quietly smiled.  "A small sample of them, a mere vanguard."

"I shall not know what to do with them."

"I shall have the satisfaction of showing you."

He took ten thousand of them to form three army corps, the commands
of which he gave to Tinténiac, Vauban and Boisberthelot, gentlemen
who had led and were trusted by them, and sent them forward at once
to seize and hold Auray in the east and Landévan in the west, thus
placing the Royalist Army within a quadrilateral as a beginning.

Because relieved to be rid of two-thirds of that savage horde,
d'Hervilly raised no objections.  But on the morrow the brewing
storm broke at last between them.

Some further contingents arrived, brought in by Cadoudal, with whom
came St. Regent and Quentin, all of them very cordially received by
Puisaye in the kitchen of the farm-house at Carnac where he had
taken up his quarters.

For Quentin he had a welcome of particular warmth.  Retaining his
grip of the young man's hand, he placed his left on his shoulder,
and the keen eyes were softened by affection.

"By your action at La Prevalaye you saved my credit.  It is beyond
thanks, beyond anything I had the right to expect from you."

"God's thunder!" swore Cadoudal, "I envied him a performance that
should have been mine.  But I lacked the wit.  All I could think of
was to march out, slamming the door after me."

"And it was done," Puisaye continued, patting the shoulder under
his hand, "at great danger and discomfort, as I gather.  That was
brave."  His deep-set eyes glowed.  "I shall hope before long to
hear the King thank you in person."

Quentin laughed a little, to dissemble his embarrassment.  "I was
the bearer of your orders to the Baron de Cormatin.  I could hardly
stand silent when I saw him frustrating them."

There he was relieved by the abrupt arrival of d'Hervilly, with
four of his officers in attendance.  The Colonel clanked into the
kitchen with his swaggering gait, an incarnation of importance.

"Ah, Monsieur le Comte, I have to complain of these undisciplined
savages of yours.  They seem to be without any sense of respect for
their betters, or, indeed, sense of any kind.  I warn you that
unless you can control them we shall have trouble.  My gentlemen
are not disposed to suffer the insolences of these animals."

Cadoudal took a step forward, his face flushed, his great bulk
seeming to swell.  He flung out a huge hand.  "God's thunder!  Who
may this be?" he demanded in a roar.

Puisaye, a figure of elegant authority in his gold-laced coat of
madder red, the grey in his queued reddish hair giving it the
appearance of being lightly powdered, standing a half-head taller
than the long-bodied d'Hervilly, dominated the little gathering by
his suave urbanity.  He made the presentation.

"The Colonel Comte d'Hervilly, who commands the émigré contingent,"
was his short announcement on the one hand.  On the other he was
deliberately more elaborate.  "This is the Marquis de Chavaray, in
whom you discover an old acquaintance.  He leaves us all in his
debt by his exposure of the treachery of Cormatin.  And these are
Georges Cadoudal and Pierre St. Regent, two of the great heroes of
Brittany, who have carried the white cockade victoriously into a
hundred encounters."

D'Hervilly stared in surprise at his sometime fencing-master, and
paused to exchange civilities with him.  Then his glance swept on,
and in his cold, hard eyes there was only contempt for the portly,
frowning Cadoudal, in his grey coat and baggy breeches, and the
grinning St. Regent, with his mobile, wide-mouthed, comedian face
and his ridiculous hussar jacket.  His nod was scarcely
perceptible.

"Messieurs!" was all that he could find to say to them, and with
that he swung again to Puisaye.  "I am to request you to take order
so that I may not again have to complain of your Chouans."

Still Puisaye ignored an arrogance that amused St. Regent and
enraged Cadoudal.  He answered quietly:  "As we shall be going
forward almost at once, these trifles need no longer preoccupy you.
I was coming to inform you, Colonel, that we march to-morrow at
dawn."

D'Hervilly's glance was haughty.  "What you suggest is quite
impossible."

"It must be made possible.  And I do not suggest it.  I command it.
You will be good enough to see that all are ready."

The haughtiness became more marked.  "To march whither, if you
please?"

"Forward.  To Ploermel.  That is our first objective."  He turned
aside to the long kitchen table on which a large-scale map was
spread.  "I will show you . . ."

"A moment, Monsieur le Comte.  A moment!  You cannot be proposing
that we leave the coast before the arrival of the further forces
under Sombreuil, which the transports have returned to Plymouth to
embark."

For a moment Puisaye's urbanity was ruffled.  But he was content to
vent his impatience in a sigh.  He looked over his shoulder at the
Colonel.  "You must allow me to be the judge of that."

"I cannot."

Puisaye wheeled round.  "You cannot?  Name of a name!  I begin not
to understand you.  God give me patience!  I should not need to
tell you that speed is here of paramount importance.  A swift, bold
advance, to take the Army of the West by surprise before it can
concentrate, and to stimulate the general rising that is to yield
us the army with which to march on Paris."

Coldly, his lip curling, d'Hervilly shook his head.  "You do not
persuade me, Monsieur."

"Good God!" said Cadoudal.

Puisaye was smiling again.  "The events will do that by the time we
reach Ploermel.  By then our fifteen thousand Chouans will have
become not less than fifty thousand, and will, more likely, be a
hundred thousand.  These numbers will be more than doubled by the
men from Normandy and Anjou before we reach Laval, where we shall
be joined by the Maine contingent."

D'Hervilly shrugged ill-humouredly.  "Your Chouans, from what I
have seen of them, inspire me with little confidence; with none
unless they are leavened by seasoned troops, such as we await."

Puisaye's patience began to ooze away.  "My Colonel, I do not admit
your competence to judge the fighting qualities of the Chouans, of
whom you have no experience."

"I have experience to know soldiers when I see them.  But we will
not argue.  I should regard it as a folly to go forward until the
second expedition arrives.  And I know what I am saying.  Military
prudence, of which I also know something, dictates that we remain
here in touch with the sea so as to ensure their landing."

"Shall we ensure it any the less if all Brittany is in our
possession?  And I promise you that it will be by the time
Sombreuil arrives."

"Unless," Quentin ventured to put in, "you delay in seizing it."
Disregarding d'Hervilly's glance, which was such as he might turn
upon an impertinent lackey, Quentin prodded Cadoudal.  "Why don't
you tell them what you know?"

"About Hoche?  Faith, listening to Monsieur upon the art of war
takes my breath away.  He knows it all.  Still, here's the
situation:  Hoche is at Vannes with not more than five hundred men,
the remainder of his Army of the West being scattered about
Brittany.  Your landing and the rising have taken the patauds by
surprise, and I don't suppose Hoche has enjoyed much sleep since he
heard of it.  He'll be haunted by the nightmare of his scattered
detachments, expecting them to be cut to pieces before he can
concentrate them again.  But he is losing no time, and his recalled
troops are already hastening to Vannes.  By to-night he should have
a couple of thousand men, by the end of the week if we do nothing
to prevent it he will have thirteen or fourteen thousand, and his
couriers are on the way to Paris at the gallop, with demands for
reinforcements to meet the emergency.  It will put such a panic
into Messieurs the Sansculottes that within ten days Hoche will
have received every musket and every sabre they can muster."

D'Hervilly considered him for a moment in silence, his glance
veiled and sullen.  "What," he demanded at last, "is the source of
your information?"

Quentin looked at Puisaye in frank amazement.  "He asks for
sources!"

"Oh, a meticulous gentleman," sneered Puisaye.

"Our Lady of Auray!"  Cadoudal was gasping.  "Is it possible, sir,
that what I have told you does not leap to the eye?  How else does
this military experience of yours tell you that Hoche would be
acting?"

"And that," said Puisaye, "is just why it is of such importance to
move swiftly; at a bound make ourselves masters of Britanny and
rally its loyal sons to us before a Republican concentration can
either hinder or discourage it."

D'Hervilly's face was set.  He would waste no breath on their
pertness.  "I say again, Monsieur, that I am not persuaded."

Puisaye shrugged.  "To the devil with persuasion, then.  You have
my orders.  Let that suffice."

"I am not to take your orders."

"Monsieur!"  Puisaye was suddenly stern and formidable.  "I do not
think I understand."

"You understand, I suppose, that your authority is confined to your
Chouans.  The command of this expedition has been entrusted to me."

"By whom?"

"By the British Cabinet."

Puisaye had need of a moment in which to master himself before
replying.  "If that were so, which I take leave to assert it is
not, it cannot override my commission from the King.  It should not
be necessary to say this, and I resent that you compel me to say
it.  It is within your knowledge that His Majesty, whilst still
Regent, appointed me General-in-Chief of the Royal and Catholic
Army."

"Why do you stop there?" snapped d'Hervilly.  "Complete the title
so as to remove misunderstanding:  General-in-Chief of the Royal
and Catholic Army of Brittany.  Of Brittany.  The army I have
landed does not come within that narrow designation.  Your command,
as I have said, is confined to your Bretons, to your Chouans.
You . . ."

"Listen, sir.  I hold in addition the office of Lieutenant-General
of the Kingdom, and I shall continue to hold it until Monsieur
d'Artois arrives to assume it, himself."

"I have no knowledge of that.  All that I know, all that concerns
me, is that, as my commission proves, I have been placed in command
of this expedition by the British Government which organized it,
and I will permit no other to dictate courses of action in an
enterprise of which the responsibility is mine.  Do I make myself
clear?"

"Clear!  A thousand devils!  Can rubbish be clear?  The
organization was mine; the inspiration was mine; the preparation of
the soil was mine; the persuasion of the British Government to
support us was mine.  Are you drunk?  Is it likely that the command
of the expedition could be entrusted to another?"

"If that other were of military experience and ability to warrant
it."

"Good God!" muttered Cadoudal again.

"And you possess them?  God save us!  Acquired, I suppose, in
America, as an aide-de-camp.  That warrants your authority over a
man who has commanded an army in the field, who has created the
army that is now to be led!  You want to laugh, Monsieur le Comte.
Your commission may be vaguely worded.  It must be or you would not
dare to take this tone.  But you must be entirely crazy if you
suppose that your command extends beyond the émigré contingent from
England."

Purple with anger, the veins in d'Hervilly's forehead stood in bold
relief.  "I find you singularly offensive, sir.  And singularly
foolish.  The émigré contingent, as you call it, is the army.  Your
untrained, undrilled, undisciplined Chouans are merely auxiliaries."

Cadoudal exploded into angry laughter.  "An army of four thousand
men!  You'll storm Paris with it?  Name of a name!"

D'Hervilly ignored him.  "I waste no more words, sir.  The army
does not move from Quiberon until Sombreuil arrives with his
reinforcements."

"You'll be in Hell by then if you remain," said Cadoudal.  "Hoche
will see to that."

At last d'Hervilly condescended to notice him.  "I am not to be
spoken to in that manner," he rasped.  "Monsieur de Puisaye, I have
to require that you instruct your followers."  He swung on his
heel, beckoning the members of his staff.  "Come, Messieurs."  And
he clanked out with tremendous dignity.

The four who remained looked at one another.  Puisaye laughed, wry-
mouthed.  "And now?"

Cadoudal bounded forward.  "Do you ask?  Arrest that Polichinelle.
Let a court martial deal with him."

Puisaye stared at him as if he did not understand.  All the swagger
and flamboyance seemed to have perished in him.  He was a man
suddenly bowed under a load of weariness.  He dropped heavily, into
a chair.  "The consequences," he said.  "I should split the camp
into two parties.  The émigrés--and the weight of authority is with
them--will range themselves, almost to a man, on the side of that
intriguer.  They don't love me.  They mistrust me as one who is not
a pure.  In the States General I voted with the Constitutionalists;
I once commanded a Republican army.  D'Hervilly will have worked
upon all that."  He rested his head on his hand, his countenance
dark with trouble.  "If we fall to quarrelling among ourselves,
there's an end to the expedition, a ruin to all that I've worked
for."

"There's an end to it, anyway, if this Colonel is left in command,"
said St. Regent, and Cadoudal swore agreement with him.

Puisaye sighed wearily.  "Almost it was to have been foreseen.
From the beginning this man has been a source of trouble, a problem
with which I should long since have grappled had I not believed
that Monsieur d'Artois would embark with us and solve it for me by
taking the supreme command."

"You must grapple with it now," swore Cadoudal.

"We're in a deadlock."

"Never!  If you can't have him shot without provoking mutiny, if he
insists that the émigrés are not to march with us, we'll march
without them.  To delay would be fatal."

"Don't I perceive it?  But we promised the Bretons a Prince of the
Blood.  They look for him as for a messiah.  He has not come.  But
at least we have these martial émigrés, these nobles, these
officers of the King's army and navy, to lend a glamour to our
advance and rally the peasants in their thousands.  If we march
without them, who will believe in this army of saviours from
overseas?  Our peasants will not quit their fields.  Do you suppose
that I should have laboured and schemed these months in England if
I had not perceived all this?"  He rose, and stamped tempestuously
across the stone floor, in momentary surrender to his feelings.
"Ah, God of God!  To have the fruits of all my labours, of all my
striving, jeopardized by the vanity of this crass popinjay!"  He
broke off, and looking at Quentin, before whom he had halted, he
laughed as if in self-mockery.  "I have never yet failed to
dominate fortune by insistence and tenacity of purpose.  But now it
seems that fortune takes her revenge."

Cadoudal had nothing more to contribute to the discussion.  He sat
down to curse d'Hervilly with fluent ferocity.  St. Regent swore
that for his part he had never set great store by these pimps and
dancing-masters of the Court.  Quentin, in silence, watched
Puisaye, pervaded by a deep sympathy for him and a dull anger
against those incompetents who were frustrating him in the very
moment of his triumph.

He was pacing to and fro, in thought, his hands behind him, his
fine head bowed, his chin on his neckcloth.

"A deadlock it is," he said at last.  "Argument is futile.  Force,
still worse.  The English must resolve it."

"The English?"

"This expedition is theirs, and the British Cabinet must remove
d'Hervilly's misconception on the score of the command.  Mr. Pitt
shall amend the Colonel's commission, so that it leaves him no room
for presumptuous doubts."

"But the time this will take!" Cadoudal protested in dismay.  "When
instant, swift action is demanded."

"I know.  I know.  But there is nothing else to be done.  We must
hope for the best; hope that delay in taking the field will not too
ruinously prejudice us.  I will write to Mr. Pitt at once.  Sir
John Warren shall dispatch a cutter with my letter.  In ten days--a
fortnight at most--we shall have the answer."

"A fortnight!"  Cadoudal showed a face of horror.  "And what will
Hoche be doing in that fortnight?"

"All that Monsieur d'Hervilly is making possible.  You should see
that I cannot help it."



Chapter Two

THE RAT-TRAP


Monsieur de Puisaye waited upon d'Hervilly, to inform him of the
letter he had written.

"I tell you this so that you, too, may write if you so wish,
Colonel."  He seemed to stress the title.

"I shall certainly take the opportunity to let Mr. Pitt know that I
have occasion to complain of you, and on what grounds."  D'Hervilly
was white with passion and perhaps with fear of a humbling loss of
the authority he usurped.

Puisaye bowed coldly, and withdrew; and they did not meet again
until two days later, when Puisaye sought him with a message from
Auray.  Vauban sent word that Hoche had assembled thirteen thousand
men at Vannes, and was about to march on Auray, which could not be
held unless Vauban were supported.

The Loyal Émigrant Regiment, in red coats, white breeches and three-
cornered hats, was parading on the sands for inspection by
d'Hervilly when Puisaye came up with him and penetrated the group
of white-plumed officers.

"You perceive the first fruits of our inactivity.  Thirteen
thousand men, who in their scattered detachments might easily have
been suppressed, are now concentrated into an army."

D'Hervilly's curt answer ignored the criticism.  "You must recall
your Chouans."

"Unless we can support them."

"I have said that they must be recalled.  You force me to repeat
myself."

"In that case we must also recall Tinténiac from Landévan.  For
Vauban's withdrawal will leave his flank exposed."

"Of course."  D'Hervilly was contemptuous.  "You merely state the
obvious."

"Let me continue to do so," said Puisaye dryly.  He pointed across
the dunes to Fort Penthièvre, the massive stronghold that bestrode
the narrowest part of the Isthmus of Quiberon, on their right.  The
Republicans had renamed it Fort Sansculotte.  "Once we have
withdrawn our outposts from Auray and Landévan, we shall not only
have Hoche before us here, but when that happens our flank will be
threatened by that fortress.  The position becomes untenable."

There was a stir and mutter in the group of officers as the peril
was realized.  The blood darkened d'Hervilly's countenance.  Too
hastily he answered:  "At need we can re-embark."

Puisaye laughed, to annoy him further.  "That will be encouraging
to our Breton friends.  And after that?  You will return to
England, I suppose."

"Monsieur de Puisaye, I begin to find you insufferable."  The man
swelled with rage.  "Let us hear, pray, how you would deal with the
situation."

"There is only one way to deal with it.  The fort must be taken."

"Really!  Really!  It would be difficult to better the incompetence
of that suggestion."  He was smiling now, conceiving that he was
about to expose Puisaye's military incompetence.  "And how, pray,
does one take a fort without siege artillery?  Or perhaps you are
not aware that I have none."

"I am not."

"How?"

Puisaye turned, again to point, this time to the tall British ships
riding at anchor in the bay.  "There it is.  Sir John Warren's guns
will provide all the bombardment the sansculottes will need.

"Ah!"  Meditatively d'Hervilly stroked his chin, so as to cover his
confusion.  "It is a thought," he admitted, after a moment.

"Not one to exhaust the intellect."

"So I perceive.  Yet artillery alone will hardly accomplish it.
Storm troops will be needed, and I should be reluctant to expose my
regiments to the fire of men behind stone walls."

"Cadoudal's Chouans will undertake that part."

"In that case," d'Hervilly condescended cavalierly, "I am prepared
to adopt the plan."

There was no time to lose.  Puisaye directed the attempt for the
following morning.

Sir John's ships pounded Penthièvre with a hot continuous fire,
under cover of which Cadoudal led three thousand of his
Morbihannais to the assault.

From the heights, amid the grim megaliths of Carnac, d'Hervilly
with his staff observed the action, and what he beheld disgusted
him.  The Chouans prone on the ground, wriggling forward on their
bellies, in open formation, outraged his every sense of military
propriety.

"What tactics are these?"  He addressed his question to the
Universe.  "Observe me those savages.  Thus have I seen the Hurons
on the Savannahs.  I can almost imagine that I am back in America."

A voice came to startle him:  "How regrettable that you are not."

Doubting his ears, he swung about, and beheld a young man in a
riding-coat of green, who had come to stand on the edge of the
group of officers.

"Monsieur de Morlaix!  What is your regiment, sir?"

The terrible voice and the terrible glances of the staff left the
young man unperturbed.

"I have none.  I am in civil life."

"Then, what are you doing here?"

"Observing those very gallant fellows, admiring their tactics, and
wondering that their virtues should be unperceived by a soldier."

"Monsieur, you are an impertinent."

"Monsieur, you are not civil."

One of his officers laid a restraining hand upon d'Hervilly's arm.
He aimed at creating a diversion, and chance supplied him with the
means.  "Look, my Colonel!  The fort is striking its colours.  The
tricolour is coming down."

A burst of cheering came up to them from the Chouans below.

At this decisive effect of the British bombardment and in the
excitement of the moment, d'Hervilly allowed himself to be drawn
forward and down the slope.

That night, however, he stormed into the farm-house quarters whence
Puisaye was preparing to transfer himself.

"So, Monsieur!  We have reached the point at which you send a
spadassin, a bully swordsman, to provoke me to a quarrel, to insult
me."

Puisaye straightened himself from the dispatch-box over which he
had been bending.

"What's this?"  His voice was sharp.  "Of whom do you speak?"

"Of your master-at-arms, Morlaix, who calls himself Marquis de
Chavaray.  You'll not deny responsibility for his outrageous
conduct."

"I will not trouble to do so.  No.  I will content myself with
observing that I am not only well able, but even accustomed to
conducting my own quarrels.  If you do not know that of me, faith,
you know even less than I supposed."

Passion seemed to deafen the Colonel.  "I desire you to understand
that it is only because it might provoke a mutiny of your savages
that I refrain from ordering your arrest and dealing with you as
you deserve."

Puisaye stared at him for a long moment in dumb surprise.  When at
last he found his voice again, it was only to say:  "Go to the
devil."

"Monsieur le Comte, I will not tolerate this offensiveness."

"You have your remedy."

D'Hervilly choked.  "You are fortunate, sir, that my duty to my
King rises above my duty to myself.  But I warn you that if there
is more of this, even that may not prevail with me.  And in any
event, this is not the last you will hear of the matter.  You are
warned."  He stalked out.

Puisaye went in quest of Quentin.

"What have you been doing to d'Hervilly?"

Quentin told him.

"The fool has the effrontery to suggest that I sent you to put a
quarrel upon him."  He was still white with anger.  "One day, when
this business is over, I really think I shall have to give myself
the trouble of killing Monsieur d'Hervilly.  Pray remember that it
is a satisfaction I promise myself."

"I will bear it in mind.  I have no wish to be taken for a bully
swordsman."

Puisaye took him by the shoulders.  "Child, there's no need to be
resentful.  I was not reproving you.  How could I when it was so
generous of you to espouse my quarrel?"

"Not generous.  Inevitable.  The man is an offence.  Nor was I
espousing your quarrel.  I was making one of my own; for the
pleasure of it; provoked by the creature's meanness."

"Ah!"  Puisaye smiled wistfully.  "Well, well!  Better so."  He
turned away.  "Yet I was so foolish as to hope it was the other
way."

"But why?"

"Why?  Who knows?  Perhaps because I am a lonely man, never
lonelier than here and now, with all my plans in jeopardy, my
command usurped, my authority undermined among these gentlemen whom
I brought here.  It warmed me a little to believe that I had won a
friend to take up my quarrel for me."  He laughed.  "That is all.
Think no more of it."

"But I shall, sir."  Quentin was touched by that glimpse of a heart
under the hard glitter.  Puisaye's flamboyant exterior was suddenly
revealed to him as a panoply of stoical gallantry.  "Your belief
was not so wide of the truth when I come to think of it.  It was
certainly d'Hervilly's cavalier conduct towards you that influenced
mine."

There was an amazing softening of Puisaye's proud, hard glance.
"You're a good lad, Quentin.  You've a heart.  You deserve well."

"If there is anything in which I can serve you . . ."

"I need an aide-de-camp whom I can trust.  Tinténiac and Vauban
have their commands, and among the rest there's scarcely a man in
whom I could venture to place confidence."

"I am not a soldier, sir."

"Nor yet a fool.  You've proved your quality.  You offer just what
I most need."

Thus simply the link was forged that drew these two men closer, on
the threshold of a period that was to test Puisaye's fortitude more
heavily than any other in all his chequered life.

Trouble began on the day after Fort Penthièvre was occupied by the
regiment that still called itself of Dresnoy, although Dresnoy
himself had refused to embark with it rather than serve under
d'Hervilly.

From early morning along the narrow isthmus known as the Falaise,
that links the Peninsula of Quiberon with the mainland, the
retreating hordes from Auray began to stream.  They were made up
not only of Tinténiac's Chouans, but of all the peasants of the
district, the fugitives, amounting to some thirty thousand men,
women, children, old men and priests; and they brought with them
their possessions, so as to save them from pillage and destruction:
their herds of bullocks, sheep and goats, their carts laden with
household goods, their provender, and even the sacred vessels from
their churches.  It was nothing less than a stampede before the
army of the Republic, known to be advancing upon Auray, which the
withdrawal of the Chouans had rendered defenceless.

To these fugitives were added by noon those from the other outpost,
of Landévan, in similar terror of the vengeance that might be
wrought upon them for having harboured that vanguard of the Royal
Army.

From the ramparts of Penthièvre, in which he had taken up his
quarters, Puisaye, pallid and dull-eyed, his jauntiness all shed,
observed this ceaseless stream of peasants in flight before an army
which the ineptitude of d'Hervilly had permitted Hoche to assemble.
To him it was a spectacle that heralded ruin.  There was little
hope that the opportunity so crassly missed would recur, or that
they could revive in the peasantry the enthusiasm which must now be
fainting from disillusion.

Once across the Falaise, the arriving hordes spread themselves
through the peninsula, some five miles in length by two across,
with its half-dozen villages and the township of Quiberon towards
its southernmost end.  Nor was there a welcome for them such as
might have lightened their distress.  The gentlemen from England
had quartered themselves upon the villages and hamlets, occupying
every house, and refusing to be crowded by these savages, whose
presence seemed to offend their very nostrils.  They must find what
accommodation they could in barns or stables, whilst the great mass
of them were left to encamp under the open sky.  Fortunately the
July heat made this exposure tolerable.

That brutal refusal to yield quarters to ailing women and delicate
infants, and the haughty undisguised contempt of the émigré nobles
for these unhappy peasants, was quick to breed bad blood between
the Chouans and those whom a week ago they had welcomed as their
saviours.  Brawls were frequent, and it might have come to a
pitched battle, but for the efforts in which Puisaye spent his
despairing energies.  With him laboured loyally to the same end, if
with the same heavy heart, his lieutenants, Tinténiac, Vauban,
Boisberthelot and Quentin, as well as the Chouan leaders, Cadoudal,
St. Regent, Guillemot and Jean Rohu; but of all of them none worked
more ardently or savagely for the preservation of order than
Quentin.

His repute had spread through the ranks of the émigrés, among whom
there were several who, like Bellanger--now a captain in the Loyal
Émigrant--and d'Hervilly, had frequented his Bruton Street academy.
Then, too, it was known that he had killed Boisgelin, that magician
of the sword, and that he had smashed the conference at La
Prevalaye.  At once feared as a swordsman and respected for the
stout monarchism of which it was accounted that he had given proof,
his interventions were never ineffective; and he seemed ever at
hand to intervene.  That he should make enemies and excite rancours
was inevitable; but their open manifestations were rare, and he had
learnt the trick of a cold, hard glance that could quell them.

Once only was he startled, and that was when the Vicomte de
Bellanger, whom he had reproved for insolence towards a Chouan,
ventured to address him as the Marquis de Carabas, the odious by-
name bestowed upon him by Constant de Chesnières.  Only two other
men had ever used it to him hitherto, and by using it had disclosed
themselves for Constant's agents.

Viperishly he corrected Bellanger.  "Chavaray, sir.  Chavaray.
That is my name.  If you should again forget it, you shall be
taught to spell it, letter by letter.  And you will not enjoy the
lesson."

He swung on his heel, and was gone before the gaping Vicomte could
commit a further rashness.

He went fuming back to Penthièvre, into Puisaye's quarters, to
intrude upon an altercation that drove all personal grievances from
his mind.

D'Hervilly, who had also moved into the fort and established his
headquarters there, was the centre of the debate.  Puisaye's other
three lieutenants were present, besides the émigré officers
d'Allegre and Garrec.

Tinténiac was talking, his voice loud and emphatic, his slight
figure quivering with vehemence.  The burden of his news was that
Hoche, moving upon Auray the moment he had word of the Chouan
retreat, would pause there only until joined from Laval by Humbert,
who had assembled another five thousand men.  "Once the junction is
effected, an army twenty thousand strong will be upon us, and not
another man in Brittany will rise to join the Royal Standard."

Vauban, a brisk, vigorous fellow, took up the argument.  "The error
of our retreat from a position in which we should have been
supported becomes apparent.  Where Monsieur de Puisaye's bold plan
would by now have placed us in possession of Brittany, we find
ourselves all but trapped here, in a position of great danger."

"Unless," added d'Allegre, "prompt action is taken."

D'Hervilly, as Quentin could read in his dismayed countenance, had
been brought to realize the danger, and was impressed.  He had shed
his habitual aggressiveness.  Almost he seemed to excuse himself
for the errors he now perceived.  He had been reluctant, he
explained, to lose touch with the sea before the arrival of
Sombreuil's contingent.

"We'll be pushed into it now if we remain," was Boisberthelot's
blunt retort.

Puisaye, who had had more than his fill of arguments with
d'Hervilly, remained silent and aloof.  D'Hervilly addressed him.
"You express no views," he complained.

The Count awakened into sarcasm.  "Is it possible that they are
sought?  Is it possible that they are needed?"  He shrugged.  "The
situation should be plain even to you.  The choice is between being
thrust into the sea, as you have heard, and doing now the difficult
thing that would have been so easy a week ago.  March to meet Hoche
before he can make his junction with Humbert."

When d'Hervilly had expressed at length his resentment of Puisaye's
tone and manner, he made the only possible decision, and on the
morrow led forth the regiments of the Royal Louis and the Loyal
Émigrant.

They marched with drums beating and white banners fluttering, to
form the spearhead centre of an army of which ten thousand Chouans
under Tinténiac and Vauban were to compose the ponderous wings.
But before Plouharnel was reached, d'Hervilly had word that the
junction of Hoche and Humbert was effected, and incontinently, to
the rage of the Chouans, he ordered a retreat without having burnt
a cartridge.

Puisaye, with Cadoual and Boisberthelot, was marshalling the
reserves, that were to follow in support, when he beheld, from the
heights of Carnac, the return of the émigré regiments, still
marching with that admirable military precision which was a source
of pride to their fatuous commander.  It was a source of horror to
Puisaye, and of frenzy to Cadoudal.

"Why," roared the Chouan, "was not that monster swallowed by the
sea before he landed at Quiberon to ruin us?  Name of God!  Is he a
poltroon as well as a fool?"

Vauban was to come in later, raging:  "What is this man?  A coward
or a traitor?"  And he demanded angrily that d'Hervilly be brought
to trial for high treason.

When at last d'Hervilly himself arrived, it was seen that at least
his arrogance had been diminished.

"We were too late," he informed them.

Puisaye lashed him with his scorn.

"Too late for what?  It is never too late to die; and there was
always death had you failed.  It still remains."

Stung by the rebuke, d'Hervilly recovered his spirit, and with it
all his obstinacy.  It was idle, he asserted, to advise him to go
forth again; to urge that in the pass to which things were come,
nothing remained but to try immediate conclusions with Hoche.
There might be little advantage in numbers on the Republican side;
but he did not choose to take their word that this would be more
than counter-balanced by the fighting qualities of the Chouans.  He
was not impressed by their Chouans, a rabble of brigands without
military sense.

In a measure, as he proceeded, he recovered all his old arrogance.
Yesterday's debate was entirely forgotten.  He insisted now that he
had always been right to remain in touch with the sea, so as to
await the further troops from England before going forward.  He
regretted the moment of weakness in which he had yielded against
his better judgment to persuasion.  But that should not occur
again.  He knew what he was doing.  He was not to be taught the
military art by dilettante soldiers.  He would fortify himself at
Penthièvre and there await the Republicans.

He did so, and as a result, less than a week later Hoche was able
to write to the Convention:  "The Anglo-Émigré-Chouans are shut up
like rats in a trap, in the Peninsula of Quiberon."

It was no exaggeration.  He had set up his batteries so as to be
screened by the dunes from the guns of the British Fleet.  Then, by
an enfilading fire, he had driven the Royalists from their
entrenchments at Ste. Barbe, at the mainland extremity of the
isthmus.  Thereafter he had, himself, occupied and fortified those
trenches, which, stretching right across the isthmus, definitely
closed the trap in which the Royalists were held.

Only when that operation was complete did d'Hervilly realize the
threat with which they were now faced, although he may not yet have
understood that it was a threat of ruin beyond redemption.  It was
left for Puisaye to enlighten him, and this in the unsparing terms
which his frantic, heart-broken chagrin dictated.

The Chouans, fully disillusioned by now on the score of these
nobles whom they had hailed as liberators and in whom they had
discovered only incompetence and a wounding arrogance, were
beginning to desert.  They were slipping away by sea in their
hundreds, to land at unguarded points of the coast and make their
way back to their native districts, whence their report of what was
doing would sweep over the country-side, to quell what Royalist
ardour lingered, and send back to the cultivation of their fields
those thousands who had been standing ready to rise in arms.

Puisaye was a changed man in those days of his despair, his
assurance broken by a fortnight of sterile strife with the usurper
of his command.  His urbanity had fallen from him, and because he
realized the invisible mischief as plainly as the mischief that was
visible, he brought d'Hervilly with rude violence also to realize
it.

"We are stuck here on a rock in a rising sea," he declared.  "That
is where your vaunted military perspicacity has placed us.  A small
matter, by God, compared with the perfection with which your
regiments deploy upon the parade ground.  You're a born commander,
my Colonel--for a box of leaden soldiers."

D'Hervilly received his reproaches and his sarcasms in alternating
humility and insolence.  High words flew between them, and once in
the heat of exchanged insults Puisaye's hand went to his sword.
But it fell away again.

"That can wait," he said.  "There's something else to do at the
moment; or, rather, to undo."

In the bitterness of his resentments d'Hervilly might have pushed
his usurped authority to the length of ordering Puisaye's arrest.
But he had the sense to perceive that in this he was in a
stalemate.  Such an act would exhaust the patience of the Chouans,
who, perceiving where lay the blame, had abated nothing in their
reverence of the Comte Joseph.  The result, in the present temper,
might well be the massacre of every émigré on Quiberon.  Moreover,
d'Hervilly could no longer count even upon an unquestioning émigré
support.  His incompetence was being laid bare to them by the
events, and their perilous, besieged position was beginning to be
assigned to it.  Commonly now the members of his staff, whom he
brought to support him in the councils that invariably ended in
stormy altercations, were found to be in agreement with his
opponents.  The only man who remained unwavering, even in haughty
defiance of reason, in loyalty to his chief, was the Vicomte de
Bellanger.

Soon yet another peril began to make itself manifest.  Overcrowded
as Quiberon was, victuals began to run short.

D'Hervilly held a council in the orderly room of the fort, and with
a half-dozen nobles upon whose support he could count, received
Puisaye, whom he had bidden to it, and those whom Puisaye brought
with him unbidden: the Comte de Contades, his chief of staff,
Cadoudal as chief of the Chouans of Morbihan and the Chevalier de
Tinténiac.  Quentin came too, as Puisaye's aide-de-camp, in a
British red coat that was now the Royalist uniform.

D'Hervilly received them seated at his writing-table, his officers
grouped about him.  He looked askance upon Puisaye's following, but
offered no comment, and went straight to business.

He touched upon the gravity of a situation in which supplies of
food were failing, and fatuously invited them once again to approve
his foresight in keeping touch with the sea, since by means of the
British ships it should be possible to feed the Peninsula.  He
would thank Monsieur de Puisaye, and Monsieur Cadoudal, too, since
he was present, to reassure the peasantry on Quiberon, and to
employ their influence to see that calm was preserved.

Puisaye, grey-faced and worn, blear-eyed from sleeplessness,
laughed savagely.  "Thirty thousand Chouan combatants, thirty
thousand refugees, and some thirty thousand native inhabitants,
besides the émigré regiments.  A hundred thousand mouths in all to
be fed by the foraging of foreign sailors along a coast not only
hostile but bare.  I suppose, sir, that you make the suggestion
seriously.  That is why I laugh."

It was but the beginning of another tempest.

Cadoudal, like a raging bull, advanced to the table's edge.  "The
fact is, Messieurs, that starvation is about to complete the work
of General Hoche's other ally, Monsieur le Colonel here."  He
glared into the yellow face of d'Hervilly.  "By God, sir, the
Republic should raise a monument to you for the way you've served
and saved it."

Coming from a peasant, this was rather more than d'Hervilly's
gentlemen could stomach, whilst d'Hervilly himself seemed to freeze
where he sat.  His glance went beyond Cadoudal.

"Monsieur de Puisaye, must I ask you to protect me from such
insolences as this, or must I protect myself?"

"Protection!" Cadoudal raged.  "Who will protect us from you?  Who
will repair the mess your blundering pompous stupidity has got us
into?  Who will . . ."

"Quiet, Georges!" Puisaye admonished him, his hand upon that
massive shoulder.  "Abuse will not serve."

"This isn't abuse.  It's the nasty truth," Cadoudal retorted.  "My
lads are at the end of their patience.  They begin to ask me if
they have come here to get themselves slaughtered for the
satisfaction of a puppet-master.  They may not march in step; they
may not possess the secret of formations and all the other barrack-
square trumpery that make the soldier in the eyes of Monsieur le
Colonel; but, as God lives, they know something of fighting, which
is what they came for, not to be penned up like sheep to await the
butcher.  Fighting seems the last thing in the design of Monsieur
le Colonel."

D'Hervilly leaned forward, silencing by a gesture the indignation
of those who were his friends.  His voice shook with the passion he
suppressed.

"I do not dispute with you, Cadoudal.  I do not even explain
myself; for I owe no explanation to anybody."

"That we shall see before all's done," Cadoudal threatened.

D'Hervilly went stiffly on.  "I merely express in passing my deep
resentment of a tone taken by a man in your position to a man in
mine."

Cadoudal laughed savagely.

"Let us come to what matters.  Since those of you who know this
Brittany and its resources are persuaded that there can be no hope
of victualling, it remains only to cut our way out."  He reared his
head in proud audacity.  He became declamatory.  "We will deliver
battle to this General Hoche."

He seemed to pause there for applause.  Instead all that the
assertion brought him was another laugh of bitterness from Puisaye.
D'Hervilly smote the table with his fist.

"Monsieur le Comte!" he thundered, in passionate protest.

"You must forgive me.  I have a sense of irony.  It is provoked
when I hear you now proposing to do something that has become
impossible after so obstinately refusing to do it whilst it was not
only possible, but easy."

"Voila!" said Cadoudal.  "Now you have it, my Colonel."

But d'Hervilly's dignity did not permit him to heed the Chouan.
"Do you say that it is impossible, Monsieur le Comte?"

"Utterly.  To attempt it now would be to fling your men to death
against the wall of iron which by your . . .  Enfin, which you,
have permitted Hoche to build.  Your last chance was at Plouharnel,
when you decided wrongly that it was too late.  Now when it really
is too late, you propose to do it.  In the position which he has
fortified at Ste. Barbe, Hoche could hold you with half the men he
has concentrated there."

Bellanger came superciliously to the aid of his chief.  "That is an
opinion, Monsieur le Comte."

"An opinion," sneered Vauban, "with which every man of sense must
agree."

"I fear so," Contades sighed.

Again d'Hervilly smote the table.  Anger had robbed him of reason.
"Always am I opposed," he complained.  "It has been so ever since I
set foot upon this cursed shore.  How is a commander to conduct
matters against constant opposition?"

"That won't serve," Puisaye answered him contemptuously.  "Until
now you have always had your own way.  And that is just what has
landed us in this quagmire."

"Are you afraid, Monsieur de Puisaye?" cried d'Hervilly, so blindly
on his defence that he cared not what weapons he employed.

"Afraid?  Of what?  Of death?  What else can I welcome now that all
my labours have been wasted, all my plans wrecked by your folly?
Death, at least, would spare me the shame of facing those who
trusted to my word and my promises."

"Would it not be better," said Contades mildly, "to leave
recriminations?  We have to recognize that we are in desperate
straits, and . . ."

"And how we came into them," Cadoudal interrupted.

"That will not help us to get out," said Bellanger.  He went on to
tell them at pompous length that this was the problem to which they
should address their minds, and ended by inviting Monsieur de
Puisaye to tell them frankly what course he would advise.

Puisaye looked as if the question dumbfounded him.  Then he took a
deep breath.  "If, being in command, as the King and the British
Government believe me to be, I could by folly and lack of foresight
have placed the Royal Army in this trap, then here is what I should
do."

He advanced to the table and the large-scale map that was spread
upon it.  D'Hervilly who had ground his teeth at the first of those
words, stifled his retort in a desperate hope inspired by the
sudden brisk change in Puisaye.

With rough impatience the Count pulled the map about to suit his
ends.  "Approach, messieurs.  You, too, Georges, and you others."
His glance, which seemed now to smoulder, held d'Hervilly as if to
dominate him.  "One definite chance remains to repair the harm, to
smash Hoche, and to extricate ourselves.  But only one.  And it
will be the last.  If adopted it should make possible again my
original plan.  It should revive the enthusiasm and stimulate once
more the general rising that will enable us to march on Paris.  Be
warned, however, that should it fail, we are doomed.  But, then,
doomed we certainly are unless we have recourse to it.  And there
is no reason why it should fail if each performs his part without
falter or waver."

He lowered his glance to the map, and set himself to expound.
"See.  Here is Penthièvre.  Here the fortifications of Ste. Barbe
with Hoche's Army of Cherbourg, thirteen thousand strong.  We
muster in all some twenty thousand men.  Now, if we had twice that
number, we could not hope to carry that position by a frontal
attack; yet the men we possess would be more than enough to deal
with Hoche if we could place him between two fires.  This we can
do.  It is in our power to place him like a nut between the two
limbs of a nutcracker, and so crush him."

Dramatically he paused there, and looked at them.  D'Hervilly in a
fever of impatience cried out:  "Yes.  Yes.  But how to place him
so?"

"Thus, let ten thousand men, the émigré regulars and five thousand
Chouans, who will have to bear the brunt of the fighting, engage
him in front, whilst another ten thousand, brought round to
Plouharnel, descend simultaneously upon his rear."

D'Hervilly glared impatiently.  "You talk as if we enjoyed freedom
of movement.  How do we place a detachment at Plouharnel?"

"You but say the same thing in different words," cried Bellanger.
"The problem, Monsieur le Comte, is how to get to Plouharnel."

Cadoudal laughed.  "Puppies will be yelping."

"By God, sir!" roared Bellanger, his chin thrust out.  "I take
impertinences from no man.  I'll . . ."

D'Hervilly's fist came down with a bang.  "Hold your tongues!
Monsieur de Puisaye, if you please."

"There is no problem," said Puisaye.  "To leave Quiberon offers no
difficulty.  Men are leaving us every night by sea.  We have no
lack of luggers, and at need there are Sir John's sloops.  We can
convey our men to the coves of Poldu, and put them ashore there.
Thence, through a country where every man is their friend, and
without fear of interference by the Blues, since Hoche has brought
every soldier in Brittany to Ste. Barbe, they can make their way to
Plouharnel."

The intention and the means became clear, and for once, at last, a
proposal of Puisaye's encountered no opposition.  This was not only
because d'Hervilly had been schooled and subdued by the events, but
because the plan would rid him of the greater part of those Chouan
auxiliaries whose barbarous ways were a perpetual offence to his
fastidiousness, and would relieve by some ten thousand mouths a
peninsula that otherwise must soon know the straits of hunger.



Chapter Three

DALLIANCE


Lest from the heights of Ste. Barbe the activity of craft
transporting the brigades from Quiberon should be observed by
Republican telescopes and its purpose surmised, d'Hervilly insisted
that the operation should be carried out at night.

Puisaye was scornful of the precaution.  "Will you still be
interfering?  And have you vision for one object only at a time?
What shall it profit them if they see our luggers?  What can they
conclude but that the Chouans continue to desert us?"

Yet, although he accounted it a source of unnecessary delays he
yielded the point.

The council's final decision had been that the Chouans be put
ashore in the creeks of Rhuis; that they assemble at Muzillac, and
thence move in a wide circle, by Questembert, Elven and the moors
of Lanvaux, round Vannes, to come down upon Plouharnel.

With the limited number of luggers and sloops available, three
nights were consumed in conveying the Chouan divisions from
Quiberon.  So that the embarkations, commenced on the night of the
10th July, were not completed until that of the 12th.

Cadoudal went in command of the first contingent, Guillemot of the
second, and St. Regent of the third.  In addition to the Chouans,
the expedition included a company of the Loyal Émigrant.  This was
a political measure upon which Puisaye had insisted.  He had been
equally insistent that this company be under the command of
Tinténiac, and d'Hervilly had yielded only with the condition that
the Vicomte de Bellanger, who had proved his loyalty to him, should
go as second in command.  He had also designated the remainder of
the officers.  To Quentin the departure of the Chouans and of
Tinténiac represented a danger of being parted from the only
friends he counted in Brittany, and of being left at Quiberon with
no associates but the supercilious émigrés on whom he wasted no
affection.  He was therefore urged to seek Puisaye's permission to
go with Cadoudal.

At first the Count frowned upon the request.  "You would be better
here with me.  You will be saved the hardships of an arduous
march."

Quentin accounted the objection frivolous, and said so.  Puisaye
reflected, and his brow cleared.

"Why, if you're set on it, I'll not deny you.  Indeed, perhaps I
ought to be glad to have you go when I remember La Prevalaye.  You
proved a stout representative then; and with these fribbles about
him, Tinténiac may be in need of your support.  Take care of
yourself.  But then Georges shall have my orders as to that."

So it was with Cadoudal on the night of the 10th that Quentin
departed from Quiberon.

The entire force was to be in Hoche's rear by dawn of the 16th,
ready to fall upon it as soon as the guns were heard announcing the
opening of the frontal attack.  The last of the Chouans should be
ashore at Rhuis by dawn of the 13th, and the entire army would then
be ready to move upon its circuitous march of forty miles.  Two
days at need would suffice those hardy lads for this.  But because
of the émigrés and so as to provide for eventualities, Puisaye had
rightly insisted upon a margin of twenty-four hours.  Eventualities
there were almost from the outset.

In order to avoid congesting the little town of Muzillac, and so as
to cover at once the first stage of the march, Cadoudal brought his
men on the 11th, by Festumbert to Elven, thus disposing at once of
almost half the distance to their destination.  There on the morrow
he was joined by Tinténiac and the detachment of the Loyal
Émigrant.  Tinténiac reported that he had left Guillemot at
Festumbert, and that they would come forward that night, whilst
word had been left at Muzillac for the last division under St.
Regent, so that he might follow as soon as his men were landed.

Tinténiac would have pushed on at once.  Elven was too near to
Vannes, where Tallien and Bled, the representatives with the Army
of Cherbourg, had taken up their quarters, and word of the presence
of this Chouan army must inevitably reach them.  Cadoudal attached
no importance to it.

"It will have reached them already, anyway.  But so far it will
have told them little.  They'll suppose us deserters.  It is only
when we leave Elven that our destination may be suspected from the
direction we take.  So here we'll stay until the last moment."

The men were quartered partly upon the townsfolk, who made them
welcome, partly in farmsteads about the foot of the uplands of
Lanvaux.  The officers had joined Cadoudal at the Inn of the Grand
Breton, which was one of the houses of confidence upon which the
Royalists relied.

There Quentin was at breakfast with Tinténiac and Cadoudal on the
morning of the 13th, when Bellanger came into the room with a
letter in his hand, and on his face the glowing smile of the bearer
of good tidings.

"Chevalier, this has just reached me from my wife, who is at
Coëtlegon.  She writes that Charette, with between five and six
thousand Vendeans, is expected there to-day, and that he will be
eager to reinforce us if we resolve to pass that way.  She adds
that they will be proud at Coëtlegon to welcome the officers of the
Royal and Catholic Army.  In her confidence that we will accept her
invitation, she is assembling there some of the loveliest ladies of
Brittany, as eager as herself to honour the gallant gentlemen whose
swords are to bring back the King."

Hand on hip, the rather too-handsome head thrown back, he seemed to
wait for the applause.  Instead three pairs of eyes surveyed him
coldly, and then Quentin expressed what was probably in the minds
of all.

"How comes Madame la Vicomtesse to send you a letter?  How does she
know where to find you, and the rest?"

Bellanger exhibited impatience of the stupidity that could prompt
such a question.  She did not know where to find him.  But news of
the landings begun two nights ago had already gone out through
Brittany, and it was none so far to Coëtlegon.  Her courier was
passing through Elven on his way to Muzillac, but, seeing the army,
he had naturally inquired if by any chance the Vicomte de Bellanger
happened to be with it.

"Plausible," said Quentin.  "Almost too plausible to be convincing."

Bellanger became haughty.  "What the devil do you mean, sir?  Do
you suppose I don't know my wife's hand?"

"You may know her hand.  It's not her hand that's in question."

"What, then, if you please?"

"Her knowledge, of course," said Cadoudal.  "You've answered only
half.  How did the Vicomtesse know that you were to be with this
army that has landed in Rhuis?"

"She assumed it, of course."

"From what?"

Bellanger's hauteur soared magnificently.  "From her knowledge that
I am ever to be found at the post of honour."

"That, naturally," said Quentin gently.  "But suppose that for one
of the many reasons that might arise, you had not landed on Rhuis,
what would have become of this very important military news?"

"That is impertinent."

"No.  No."  Tinténiac spoke at last.  "Pertinent.  Most pertinent."

Bellanger curled his full lip, and flung the letter on the table.
"Look at the superscription, Chevalier."

Tinténiac read it aloud:  "To the Vicomte de Bellanger or the
officer commanding the detachment of the Royal and Catholic Army at
Muzillac."  He returned the letter, smiling.  "That, of course,
makes everything clear."

"Saving that Muzillac WAS to have been our place of assembly.
Actually, it is not," Quentin objected.

The Chevalier swept that aside.  "It would be easily presumed by
anyone who knew that we were landing at Rhuis."

"And how would that be known?  If the news went forth when Georges
landed his men, what grounds would there be for assuming that
others were to follow and that a point of assembly was settled?"

"Faith," growled Cadoudal, "I think that wants answering."

"The answer is that, as you see, it was assumed."

"Does that satisfy you?" wondered Quentin.

"It would be well to be plain, Monsieur de Morlaix," said
Bellanger.  "So tell us what you are supposing."

"I suppose nothing.  I ask; and I do not find an answer."

"I think I have supplied one.  My wife appears to have assumed that
which you conclude was not to be assumed.  It's merely your
conclusion that's at fault."  As if that were the last word on the
subject, he turned again to Tinténiac.  "The important matter is
that of Charette and his Vendeans.  You can hardly neglect so
valuable a reinforcement."

"I don't intend to."  He looked from Cadoudal to Quentin.  "It's a
piece of unexpected luck.  It makes doubly sure the defeat of
Hoche.  As soon as St. Regent arrives we march to Coëtlegon."

Cadoudal was dubious.  He thrust out a heavy lip.  "What need for
that?  It's eight or nine leagues to Coëtlegon.  Let the Vendeans
join us here."

Bellanger's face was clouded with haughty displeasure.  "That is
boorish.  It is hardly the gracious return this invitation
deserves."

"We are at war," was Cadoudal's brusque retort.  "War is serious.
Boorish, if you like.  It doesn't leave room for empty courtesies."

The Vicomte was all disdainful tolerance.  "I fear, sir, that we
look at this from different angles.  The view you express has never
been that of gentlemen."

"Which may be why the sansculottes have nearly made an end of
them."

"Come, come," laughed Tinténiac.  "No need to dispute it.  We have
time to spare.  Coëtlegon doesn't take us far out of our way.  We
are not due at Plouharnel until Friday."

"And you've to consider," said Bellanger, "that five thousand
Vendeans marching by themselves, might easily be beset and routed,
and so lost to us, whereas when incorporated with us, we shall make
up an army that need fear no force the Blues could send against
us."

"That is unanswerable," Tinténiac agreed.  "And, of course," the
pleasure-loving rascal added lightly, "it would be detestable to
disappoint the ladies.  It is settled, then, that we go."

Again he looked from Cadoudal to Quentin, as if inviting their
agreement.  But it was not forthcoming.  Cadoudal ill-humouredly
held that they had a definite objective, and should not be led
aside by any lure.  Quentin, even more hostile, accounted that too
much remained unexplained to render these proposals acceptable.  As
a result, Tinténiac, wavering between his ever-ready gallantry and
his sense of strict duty, decided to summon a council of all the
officers to determine the matter.

But when Bellanger had left them, the Chevalier reproached his
companions.  "You make difficulties where none need be made."

"Whilst you," retorted the downright Cadoudal, "think too much of
disappointing the women."

Tinténiac took the reproof in good part, with a laugh.  "Of
disappointing Madame de Bellanger," he amended.  "Consider that she
has not seen her husband for two years.  And you should remember
that, too, when you criticize the Vicomte."

Quentin's lip curled in a smile.  "You suppose them in a fever to
see each other, do you?  At the back of all my mistrust is the
knowledge that she is more deeply attached to Lazare Hoche than the
Vicomte de Bellanger's wife has a right to be."

Tinténiac took it flippantly.  "Hoche!  Ha!  An Apollo, they tell
me.  Your long residence in England has made you puritanical,
Quentin."

"Hoche commands the Army of Cherbourg."

"Ah, bah!  Love laughs at politics."

Thus airily he dismissed the matter, and left it for the council to
settle their course.  At the meeting, Quentin's was the only voice
raised against marching by way of Coëtlegon.  He urged that being
in sufficient strength without the Vendean reinforcements, nothing
could justify their turning aside from their very definite goal.
Cadoudal, whilst warmly agreeing with him, would not press the
point since they had plenty of time in hand.  The remainder, and
there were eight of them in all, found the Vicomtesse de
Bellanger's invitation irresistible.  One of them even went so far
as to argue that acceptance was strategically sound, since if they
were under observation by Republican scouts, this turning aside
would be entirely misleading.

So in full strength they marched out of Elven on the morning of the
13th, and by evening they came to Coëtlegon.  The Chouans arrived
there weary, dust-laden and disgruntled.  The stout boots received
from England had rendered footsore these hardy men who never knew
fatigue when barefoot or shod with clogs of their own making.  Nor
did they show a proper pride in the gaiters and red coats that had
replaced their fustians and goatskins.

At the disposal of their chiefs Coëtlegon placed the outbuildings,
whilst the men themselves were left to bivouac in the vast park.
Beasts had been assembled for their nourishment, and some pipes of
wine.  But they were left the task of slaughtering and preparing
their own meat.

The hospitality of the château itself was reserved for the officers
of the Loyal Émigrant, and it was lavish.

Madame de Bellanger, a white radiance, with a string of pearls
entwined in her ebony tresses and more than a touch of the new,
revealing, merveilleuse fashion in her dress, came out upon the
terrace to receive them, leading a train of damsels attendant upon
her queenliness.  They came with chatter and laughter in a gay
excitement to greet these knightly gentlemen of the old France, and
there were even some resumptions of acquaintance.

Quentin's glumness was dispelled by the unexpected sight of
Germaine de Chesnières in that fluttering flock, a Germaine whose
amazed eyes had no glances for any but himself.  He broke away from
the group in which he had ascended the terrace steps, and went
straight to her.  With a smile on trembling lips, she held out both
hands to him.

"Quentin!  I had not dreamt that you would be of the company."

"Nor I that you would still be at Coëtlegon.  I might have been
less honest had I known."

"Less honest?"

"The eagerness to behold you would have stifled the misgivings in
which I came."

"Misgivings?"

He was given no leisure to explain.  The Vicomtesse had concluded
the reception of a husband she had not seen for two years.  It had
been marked by a self-possessed absence of all transports.  That
duty briefly and decorously performed, she fluttered diaphanous
upon them, to say in other words what Germaine had said already.

"My dear Marquis!  That you should honour Coëtlegon again!  An
enchanting surprise."  Her smile was wide with delight, but he
thought her eyes were wary.

"I have to thank the fortune of war.  Whatever else it brings,
surprises are never absent."

"If all were as agreeable, we should not complain of war.  Should
we, Germaine?"

"Alas!" Germaine answered gravely.  "War is no matter for light-
heartedness when those dear to us are engaged in it."

"How solemn, child!  And yet how fitting to be solemn."  She
assumed solemnity herself.  "I think I laugh to keep myself from
weeping.  Oh, and because it is a duty that we owe to these brave
ones, who offer their lives to the great cause.  We must be gay, so
as to make gay for them the few hours they spend with us.  What
else," she added wistfully, "can women do?"

On that they were dragged away to be merged into the glittering
throng that was slowly trailing across the terrace towards the
house, and thus robbed of the communion for which they hungered.

Tossed hither and thither when the hall was reached, Quentin found
himself presently shoulder to shoulder with Tinténiac, who was deep
in a battle of pleasantries with the lovely Madame de Varnil and
her lovelier sister, Mademoiselle de Breton-Caslin.

With scant ceremony he took the Chevalier by the arm and drew him
aside.

"Mordieu!  What's this?  Is the house afire?" demanded Tinténiac.

"I've a notion that it ought to be.  Was there--or did I dream it--
some talk of Charette and a force of Vendeans?  If so, where do
they hide five thousand men?"

"Oh, that!  They are to arrive to-morrow."

"The report was that they would be here to-day."

"They are longer on the road than was expected.  Not surprising."

"And if they should not arrive to-morrow?"

"Eh?  To the devil with your doubts.  Of course they'll arrive.
Meanwhile, the company is charming, and the charm of it will become
more marked as the evening advances.  We are to dance after supper.
My dear Quentin, why so glum amid delights?"

"Delights were not in our programme when we left Quiberon."

"There was nothing against refreshing ourselves upon the way.  Good
God, Quentin, I may be dead to-morrow, or the day after.  Let us
live whilst we live.  Dum vivemus vivamus."

The banquet when they came to it, an affair of fifty covers, seemed
to revive those spacious days before the guillotine was invented.
The free flow of the wine warmed heads and hearts that nature had
not fashioned cool.

Afterwards to the stimulus of an orchestra that the lavishly
provident Vicomtesse had assembled, came the dancing that Tinténiac
had so joyously foretold.

Outside in the park, the Chouans about their bivouac fires could
see the windows ablaze with golden light, could hear the tinkling
strains of dance music wafted to them on the tepid air.  It set
them wondering whether their days and nights of bandit warfare and
their forest life had not been all a dream.

Cadoudal smoked his pipe on a bench by the lake, with St. Regent,
Guillemot and some other chiefs.  Annoyed by the absence of
Monsieur de Charette's Vendeans, he was deploring his weakness in
not having more strongly supported the Marquis de Chavaray's
opposition to this excursion.  He had been unduly swayed by
Tinténiac.  The bravest of the brave, Tinténiac.  But of notorious
weaknesses, and too prone to dalliance.

He was exercising it now.  Amid the shadows on the terrace etched
by the silver radiance of a half-moon, Madame de Bellanger's high,
gaily wanton laugh tinkled intermittently to announce the amusement
she found in the Chevalier's gallantry.  For to-night she had made
him her own.  She had been at need to remind Bellanger that this
was proper in a hostess towards her principal guest, when he had
sentimentally complained of being neglected by a wife to whom he
returned after two years of exile.

In that same mood of sentimental dudgeon, yet with unfaltering
dignity, the Vicomte had carried his lament to his old friends,
Madame de Chesnières and her son.

Constant, now fully restored to health and vigour, was eager to
take the place that belonged to him in the Loyal Émigrant.  He had
hailed the arrival of the regiment at the very moment when he had
been on the point of setting out for Quiberon so as to rejoin it.
He soothed Bellanger with arguments which had failed when urged by
the Vicomtesse.  He stressed Tinténiac's high consequence and the
need to do him honour, which was to be regarded as honour done the
Royal and Catholic Army.

"But then," said the Vicomte, "I, too, am of some consequence.  I
am the second in command."

"And there is no lack of honour waiting for you, too.  Mademoiselle
de Breton-Caslin, for instance, has eyes for no one else."

It was one way of being rid of him.  He took the bait, and soon
they beheld him bowing from his stately height over that frail
piece of loveliness.

Constant was loftily amused.  Madame de Chesnières, with other
preoccupations, did not share his amusement.  Through her
lorgnettes she scanned the dancing throng.

"I do not see Germaine.  Where is she?"

"I do not see the Marquis of Carabas.  Either it is a coincidence,
or it is the answer."

She bridled.  "You take it calmly."

He made a gesture of indifference.  "War settles many things, and
not only for causes and nations.  This pestilent fencing-master, to
do him justice, is not easily handled.  Time enough to think of it
when these hostilities are over.  He may not survive them."

"That is your way, is it not?  You let others fight your battles.
Why, then, did you enrol in the Loyal Émigrant?  Are you perhaps
immune from the very dangers upon which you found hopes for this
fellow?"

"There is the name.  You must see that, Madame.  If the Royalist
cause should prevail, as we hope, how would a man of the house of
Chesnières look who, being at hand and in health, had held aloof?
I may possess the wisdom to avoid unnecessary risks, but I do not
lack the courage to face necessary ones.  Now that the regiment is
here I have claimed my place.  I am to join Tinténiac's staff."

She sighed ponderously.  "I suppose you are right."  She became
lachrymose.  "But you will not expect a mother to show enthusiasm.
Armand's case gives me anxiety enough."  She looked up into the
heavy, swarthy face.  "If I should lose you both there will be none
to dispute possessions of Chavaray to this bastard of Margot's."

"Is that what troubles you?"

"Constant!"  It was an exclamation of fierce denial.

"Be easy.  Armand is safe with Sombreuil's division, since from
what they tell me, all should be over before it arrives in France.
He will be in time to reap the laurels which others will have cut."

"If I could be sure of that!"  Inconsequently she added:  "I wish
Germaine would not continue absent.  A headstrong, wilful girl.
Instead of being a help and comfort to me in these dreadful times,
she merely adds to my distraction.  I am a very unhappy woman,
Constant."

He stayed to soothe her when she would have had him rescuing
Germaine from her fencing-master, and thereby increased her
irritation.

Meanwhile Germaine and her fencing-master were one of the few
couples that paced the terrace, where the golden glow from the
windows was merged with the silver radiance of the moon.

She intoxicated him with a sweet, gentle frankness that made amends
for the pangs of earlier misunderstandings.  "I should be happy,
Quentin, if I could forget to-morrow and what you go to do."

"Yet if I were not going you would contemn my lack of a proper
Royalist fervour."

"Don't make a jest of it, even to punish me for my past unfaith.
That was a school through which I went.  I have come out wiser.  I
know my heart.  And it is time I did.  For in three months now,
Quentin, my tutelage will be ended.  I shall be free to dispose of
myself, mistress of my fate."

"And mistress then of mine."

She stood still, to face him.  "Is that a promise, Quentin?"  She
was singularly solemn.

"Much more.  It is an assertion."

She may have accounted his tone too light.  "But I want you to
promise it--whatever happens?"

"I could promise nothing more gladly.  Whatever happens.  But what
is to happen?"

She drew a sigh of relief, and they moved on again.

"Who can say what will happen?  Who can look more than a little way
into the future?  Let there, for us, be at least this one sure
thing towards which we travel."

"You give me pride and joy, Germaine."

"Your first words to me to-day were of misgivings.  What troubles
you?"

He told her, and went on to speak of Puisaye's sufferings, of his
strife with difficulties, and of the thwarting of his well-laid
plans.  "The adventure in which we are concerned represents a last
chance to undo the harm that's been done, to save his great
conception from ruin.  If we should fail him it will break his
heart; yes, and more hearts than his.  The royal cause will be
sunk."

"Monsieur de Puisaye is enviable to inspire such deep concern.  For
your concern is for him rather than the cause.  I am a little
jealous, perhaps, yet grateful to him for having made so stout a
Royalist of you.  I would that I had achieved it."

"But, Germaine," he protested, "more than anyone alive are you
responsible for my politics.  Until the King comes to his own, I
shall not now come to Chavaray, and I shall have no kingdom to
offer you."

"Must we talk of that again?  Have I not convinced you how little
is the store I set by that?"

"That may be.  But there's the store I set by offering it.  It
makes me fearful of everything that may jeopardize Puisaye's
success.  The light-heartedness of these gentlemen fills me with
impatience.  Even Tinténiac, hero though he is, all fire and
valour, has a streak of frivolity that dismays me in our
commander."

Yet when at last they quitted the terrace to rejoin the throng of
dancers, he had not told her of the weightiest factor in the
misgivings that were heavy upon him.

With Tinténiac and two of his lieutenants, Monsieur de la Houssaye
and the Chevalier de la Marche, Quentin camped that night in one of
the fine rooms of the château.  It was late when they retired, too
late for men before whom there was an arduous march on the morrow.

That morrow dawned still without sign of Monsieur de Charette and
his Vendeans.

"It would be well," said Quentin impatiently, "to discover if they
exist at all."

He made one of a group consisting only of Tinténiac and his staff,
which now included Constant de Chesnières, and Cadoudal who had
come to join them on the terrace, where they conferred in the
morning sunshine.  Bellanger was quick to take up the challenge of
that question.

"Is that an innuendo, Monsieur?"

"No.  A plain suggestion.  Is someone fooling us?  Whence was
Monsieur de Charette last reported?  It is time that we knew."

They looked at one another, and their eyes were uneasy.  Then the
Vicomte answered him.  The Vicomtesse will know.  I will ask her."

"No, no."  Quentin stayed him.  "It is perhaps no great matter
after all.  What is important is that we march without waiting any
longer."

Bellanger's laugh of scorn and wonder was joined by La Marche's in
a minor key.  "With forty-eight hours before us, and the distance a
mere matter of six or seven leagues!  Why, if we left here no
earlier than to-morrow night, we should still be in time."

"In time for what?  For fighting?  Are men to be taken into action
at the end of a six-leagues' march?"

"Anyway," said Tinténiac, "we can afford to wait another day.
Better, indeed, that we do not set out until to-morrow morning."

"Better for whom?  For what?" demanded Cadoudal.

"Better, because our direction will not be known so soon.  There
will be less chance of warning Hoche."

Cadoudal lost his temper.  "And more leisure for guzzling and
dancing and apish gallantry here at Coëtlegon.  Aye, Messieurs, you
may find me coarsely frank.  You may stare at me.  But, by God,
you'll not stare me down.  I'm no Court fop to mince my words.  I
say what I think."

"But, I wonder," lisped Bellanger, "do you think what you say."

Cadoudal gave him a glance that was like a blow, and continued to
address Tinténiac.  "What is more, I give you the mind of my lads.
They're not happy here.  They are beginning to ask more questions
than I can answer.  Many of them left their fields to come to
Quiberon.  They are reminding me that it is harvesting time, and
that if there's nothing better for them to do than to bivouac here
under the stars, as a guard of honour for merry-making popinjays,
they'd better be getting back to their labours.  This morning we
found that five hundred of them had gone.  By to-morrow we may have
lost another thousand.  Their tempers are on edge from the
treatment they had at Quiberon, and they haven't much patience
left.  That's what I have to say.  Perhaps, Monsieur le Vicomte,
you'll believe that I think what I say."

Tinténiac was gravely conciliatory.  "You may be sure that it
weighs with us, Georges.  Yet, I ask you: would it be reasonable to
depart before the arrival of these Vendeans, who are expected
hourly?"

"Surely," said Houssaye, "it must not be that we have come so far
out of our way for nothing."

"Devil take me if we should ever have come," swore Cadoudal.  "We
do not need these reinforcements.  We have enough without them."

"Georges is right," Quentin agreed, his tone hard and definite.
"Better sound the assembly, and take the road."

A general display of heat was his answer from these men who did not
love him.

"Do you give orders here?" Bellanger demanded.  "Since when?"

"I do not order, sir.  I advise."

"Your advice is not sought," snapped La Marche.

"But it seems needed."

Houssaye, who was the eldest and the gravest, eyed him sternly.
"Do you presume to advise experienced soldiers on matters that are
purely military?  You are a civilian, I understand."

"But not on that account an idiot.  The issue is a simple one.  A
child might pronounce upon it."

"But we are not children," drawled Bellanger.

"Then don't let us behave as if we were."

"I dislike your tone, sir.  I find you insufferably impertinent."

Tinténiac thought it time to intervene.  "No need for heat, sirs.
The issue, as the Marquis says, is a simple one."  He turned to
Cadoudal.  "Will it satisfy your lads, Georges, if we set out to-
night?"

"I'ld prefer to go this morning.  But I'll not argue it if you
promise that we start at dusk."

La Marche objected.  That would mean that they would be at
Plouharnel by morning, with twenty-four hours to wait for the
attack and for Hoche to be warned of their presence there.

"Absurd!" Constant agreed with him.  "It is the way to lose all the
advantage of surprise."

"Sirs, sirs!" Quentin admonished them.  "Is it, then, necessary to
make one march of it?  We march five hours; we rest for twelve;
then march another five or six, reaching Plouharnel at night to-
morrow, and resting there again for eight or ten hours.  Thus we go
into battle on Friday fresh and unexpected."

"You assume, of course, that Hoche has neither spies nor friends to
inform him?" sneered Bellanger.

"Oh, no."  There was a bitter smile on Quentin's lips.  "I wish I
were as sure of the existence of these Vendeans as I am that Hoche
lacks neither friends nor spies."  It was plain to all that he left
something unexpressed.

"I have observed in Monsieur de Morlaix," said Constant, "a
disposition to see what does not exist, and to overlook what does."

"What's in your mind, Quentin?" Tinténiac asked him.

He evaded the question.  "That the sooner we march, the sooner
shall we repair the error of having come here."

They were crying shame upon his ingratitude of the bounteous
hospitality of Madame de Bellanger, when the Vicomtesse herself
descended upon them, drawn by the sounds of their altercation.

"Fie, sirs!  Oh, fie!  You'll wake the ladies.  An ungallant return
for their entertainment of you last night."  Over her shoulder she
glanced up at the curtained windows.  She came fresh and delectable
in shimmering pink, a very emblem of the morning; in the courtly
words of Tinténiac, a rose upon which the dew still lingered.

Bellanger, not to be outdone in gallantry, offered excuses for the
altercation, blaming those who were so little sensible to the joys
assembled for them at Coëtlegon as to be urging immediate
departure.

She played archly at displeasure.  "Who are these heartless,
insensible ones?"

"Monsieur de Morlaix is the chief offender."  Like Constant,
Bellanger avoided allusion to him by his title.  "Newly admitted to
military rank, he displays the impatient ardour of the neophyte."

"On the score of his ardour we may forgive him.  But what military
necessity can exist for the impatience?"

"Why, none, Madame," said Tinténiac.

"Indeed, no," added Bellanger.  "Because at dawn on Friday, we are
to be on Hoche's rear, for action in concert with . . ."

"Morbleu, man!" Quentin interrupted violently.  "Will you publish
it to the winds of heaven?"

Forth pealed the silvery laugh of the Vicomtesse.  "Behold me the
four winds of heaven, who am more gentle than the gentlest zephyr."

Tinténiac, whose brow had darkened at Bellanger's monstrous
indiscretion, and so remained, now interjected gravely.  "These
Vendeans that were to have met us here, Madame?  Whence were they
reported to you?"

"From Rédon, four days ago.  Monsieur de Charette sent a rider
ahead with a letter begging the hospitality of Coëtlegon for them.
They would arrive, he said, on Tuesday, which was yesterday.  They
have been delayed.  But that they will arrive is certain.  They
should be here at any moment."

"Did Charette say whither they were bound?" asked Quentin.

"Why, for the coast.  To embark for Quiberon, so as to reinforce
the army there."

"An odd way to the coast from Rédon by Coëtlegon.  That is rather
to march away from it."

"Is it?"  She raised her brows.  "You must tell that to Monsieur de
Charette when he arrives.  He will probably answer that Coëtlegon
offers a convenient encampment for his men, whilst he sends forward
to make sure of the craft they'll need."

"He could encamp at Muzillac, in sight of the sea.  And from Rédon,
Muzillac is only half as far as Coëtlegon."

"How well you know the country!  You must tell Monsieur de Charette
this."  She was of an airy, smiling, playful impertinence.  "I do
not pretend to fathom the reasonings of military men."

"Nor should Monsieur de Morlaix," opined her husband.

Tinténiac put an end to the discussion on a tone of authority.  "We
will wait until nightfall.  Then we march; with the Vendeans or
without them."

She was all dismay.  "You will leave us all disconsolate," she
complained.

Houssaye sighed.  "Alas!  We bow to cruel necessity, Madame."

They began to drift away towards the house, with the exception of
Quentin, who lingered with Cadoudal.  He watched the little knot of
men displaying themselves so gaily about that winsome lady, and he
fetched a sigh of weariness.

"What do you think of it all, Georges?"

There was a heavy scowl on Cadoudal's big, blond face.  "That your
questions hit the weaknesses of the story."

"And that puts me further out of favour with these gallants.  No
matter, so that we march to-night."

He went in to breakfast and to be, in the course of it, the butt of
some jests on the score of his military perspicacity.  These he
contemptuously ignored.

They were still at table when a rattle of galloping hooves receding
from the château made him attentive.  They went, he observed, not
northwards, by the avenue through the park, but by the road that
ran southwards from the stables.  It made him thoughtful, but he
gave no expression to those thoughts even to Germaine when he came
to walk with her later in the neglected garden.

For awhile in her company he forgot his preoccupations.  It was
only upon returning to the house towards noon that he was
startlingly recalled to them.

He found in the hall a gathering of officers and ladies, about a
dusty fellow, booted and spurred, whom Tinténiac was questioning.

He approached to listen, and in a moment had grasped the situation.
This rider was from Josselin, with word that Charette was beset
there by a Republican army corps under the Marquis de Grouchy, some
eight thousand strong, which was on its way from Paris to reinforce
Hoche.  The Vendeans were entrenched in the town, but could not
hold it for long.  Unless relieved, they were doomed.

There was a silence of dismay when the last question had been asked
and answered.  Tinténiac stood with bowed head, stroking his chin
in thought until suddenly the Vicomtesse spoke.

"How providential that you should be here!"

Tinténiac raised gloomy eyes.  "I do not perceive the act of
providence, Madame."

"But, Chevalier, that you should be within reach of them.  To
Josselin it is less than twenty miles."

Quentin, who had been thoughtfully considering the messenger, here
interposed:  "And twenty miles farther from the goal which your
husband has made known to you."

"Did he?"  In wide-eyed surprise she turned to the Vicomte.  "Did
you?  If you did I have forgotten it.  But this . . .  Ah, you
cannot leave Charette and his brave fellows to be massacred.  No
Frenchman could do that."

"If they are massacred it will be by Frenchmen," Quentin reminded
her.

Tinténiac looked round with troubled eyes.  Vexation had turned him
pale.  "We cannot discuss it here.  Quentin, be so good as to
summon Cadoudal.  Bring him to us in the library, if Madame will
permit."



Chapter Four

MUTINY


That staff conference in the library was stormy from the outset.

Tinténiac, seated at the writing-table, grave and stern, began, as
it seemed, at the end by announcing a decision to the six who made
a semicircle before him.

"Out there I spoke of discussion, merely so as to avoid one.  This
is not a matter in which I can be dragged into arguments, or listen
to the opinions of the general.  Actually there is nothing to
discuss."

"You mean, of course," said Constant, "that we must go to the
relief of Charette."

"I mean that we must not."  They would have interrupted him with
protests, but he bore them down, displaying all that firmness of
which under his foppish exterior the little man was capable.  "I
mean that neither this nor anything else can alter the decision
taken this morning.  At nightfall we set out for Plouharnel, so
that we may not fail to be punctual and fresh at the post of duty
when Friday dawns."

Quentin's sigh of relief was heard by all.  "Thank God for that,"
he said, and so caused Bellanger to turn upon him sharply.

"Are you giving thanks that we leave these poor brave fellows to be
murdered?"

La Marche was leaning across the table.  "You can't mean it,
Chevalier.  It is unthinkable."

"What is unthinkable is that we should permit anything to interfere
with our duty.  If we fail in that, the Royalist cause is lost."

"You mean," Constant corrected him, "that it may not be won."

"And the difference?"

"It is considerable.  Puisaye's attack may fail.  But that need not
mean his total defeat.  After all, even without us he will still be
in sufficient strength to hold his own against Hoche.  And you
forget that he is about to be reinforced; that the expedition under
Sombreuil, with the British regulars, should reach Quiberon at any
moment now."

Tight-lipped, stern-eyed, Tinténiac answered him.  "I began by
saying that I would not consent even to discuss this matter.  But I
will remind you of this.  We did not leave Quiberon so that the
Royalist army should hold its own, but so that the Republican army
should be crushed.  I deplore as deeply as any of you the
misfortune to this corps from the Vendée.  Yet as things stand, and
if I am to be frank, in the interests of the monarchy I am thankful
that these Vendeans hold Grouchy in play, since otherwise it might
be in his power to prevent us from being punctually at Plouharnel."

"That is inhuman!" Bellanger protested.

"It is war," said Quentin.

"Not as Frenchmen understand it, sir."

"You mean, not as you understand it."

Tinténiac rose.  "Gentlemen, there is no more to be said.  You have
my orders.  We march at nightfall."

Constant thrust forward.  "Oh, but by your leave, Chevalier!  A
moment!  There's a great deal more to be said."

"Not to me."  Tinténiac held himself stiffly.  "I command this
expedition.  You will respect my orders, whatever your opinions."

"I should not respect myself if I did."

"Nor should I," added Bellanger.

"You summoned us to hold a council, not to be arbitrarily ordered."

Darker grew Tinténiac's brow.  He looked from one to the other of
them.  Then his glance passed, sternly, challengingly, on.  "Is
anyone else of that mind?"

The Chevalier de La Marche made a gesture of despair.  "It seems
terrible to me not to succour these men who are within reach."

"And, faith, that's my view," said La Houssaye.

"It is also mine," Tinténiac coldly agreed.  "But it cannot
influence my decision.  And you, Georges?"

Georges bowed his big head.  "You are in command, Chevalier, and
the responsibility is yours.  I thank God it is not mine."

"Even you!"  Tinténiac's confidence seemed shaken.  He permitted
himself a bitter little smile.  "Is there not one of you, then, who
sees eye to eye with me?"

"Oh, yes," said Quentin.  "Cadoudal is mistaken.  When he speaks of
responsibility he is thinking of choice.  Your orders leave you
none.  If you depart from them, there are no grounds that would
save you from being court-martialled and shot."

"You hear, sirs?  It is a timely reminder for you all."

"But it overlooks," objected the lofty Bellanger, "that there are
duties imposed by honour."

"Those," Quentin answered him, "I permit no man to teach me."

"You never have permitted it, I suppose."

Quentin smiled.  "If you suggest that I have, Vicomte, I shall be
happy to argue the point with you at some other time."

"Oh, at your pleasure, sir."

"Meanwhile we leave the Vendeans to their fate," said La Marche
bitterly, whilst La Houssaye took his big head in his hands in a
gesture almost hysterical.  "By God, it's too much," he lamented.

"Certainly too much for me," cried Constant boldly, feeling himself
supported.  He thrust forward.  "Let me have five thousand men, and
I'll lead them forward, myself, to the relief."

Tinténiac pondered him in indignant astonishment.  "You propose a
folly, sir," he said curtly.

"Why a folly?" demanded Bellanger.  "It's a solution, and it's the
very least that we can do."

"To weaken my force by half?"

"Momentarily only," Constant insisted.  "Listen to me, please.
Five hours to Josselin; five to return, eight for the remainder of
the journey to Plouharnel.  That's eighteen hours.  We should make
short work of the Blues once they are between us and the Vendeans.
But allow six hours for the operation.  That makes twenty-four in
all.  And from now to the dawn of Friday we dispose of thirty-six.
That leaves us twelve hours for rest, without counting our
reinforcement by the delivered Vendeans."

"Your reckoning is fantastic," Tinténiac condemned him.  "The
programme crazy.  Even if you could keep to it, which you never
could, twelve hours would still offer no proper rest to men who had
been so mercilessly used.  Let us hear no more of it."

"You underestimate the endurance of these Chouans."

Tinténiac smiled on that.  "I've marched with them and fought with
them.  Of their endurance neither you nor another can teach me
anything.  They may seem made of iron; but even iron can bear only
a certain strain.  If you could bring these men to Plouharnel on
time, weariness would make them useless there."

"That is no more than an opinion."

"So it is.  But it is my opinion, and I permit none other to count
in this.  Why, my dear Constant, the least hitch, and your crazy
time-table would be wrecked."

"I will take the risk of that."

"Oh, no.  The risk would be mine.  For the responsibility is mine."

"Is that what you fear?" Bellanger taunted him.

The Chevalier's face flamed.  But before he could answer, the four
of them were smothering him with protests, clamouring that he yield
the point and accept the compromise that Constant offered.

Cadoudal held aloof, glum and surly, watching them from under his
brows, and it was Quentin, at last, who went to the aid of his
chief.

"Messieurs, hear me a moment."

Scenting his opposition, they turned on him in fierce impatience.

"What can you have to say?" snapped Constant.

"Something that your obstinacy forces from me.  That to let you
have your way would be, perhaps, to let you walk into a trap.  A
trap that has been baited for us.  What evidence do we possess of
even the existence of these Vendeans?  A letter is said to have
come from Monsieur de Charette from . . ."

There Bellanger haughtily interrupted him.  "What do you mean, a
letter is said to have come?  A letter came."

"Have you seen it?"

"My wife saw it."

"So.  Well.  That was four days ago, she told us.  Last Saturday.
And the Vendeans were then at Rédon, a two days' march from here.
Charette announced, I think, that they would be here on Monday.  We
arrive on Tuesday, and still they are not here."

Again Bellanger interrupted him.  "Because they were held up by
Grouchy at Josselin."

"When?  On Sunday, or Monday?  But even if only yesterday, how
comes it that we have no news of it until noon to-day?  That is
remarkable and interesting.  It is also interesting that word of it
comes only after we have announced that we march at nightfall with
or without the Vendeans."

"What the devil are you insinuating now?" roared the Vicomte.
"What do you mean by 'interesting'?"

"Consider."  Quentin spoke quietly, very deliberately.  "If these
Vendeans had been imagined only for the purpose of detaining us
until too late to keep our assignation at Plouharnel, would not the
tale of their being beset at Josselin be a last resource to counter
our resolve to depart to-night?"

"But what is this?  What is this?" cried Bellanger, his wrath
curbed by amazement.  "How much farther will you let your
imagination run, sir?  It is already sufficiently offensive."

Tinténiac's brooding eyes were upon him.  "Have you nothing more
than this, Quentin?" he asked.

"I fancied that I had already given you something.  But, of course,
there's more.  There's this messenger from Josselin.  Why does he
come to Coëtlegon for succour?  How does he know of the presence of
an army here?  Who sent word of it to Josselin?  And when?  And if
anyone did, how came the news to get through the Republican lines
to the Vendeans beleagured in the town?"

"By God!" swore Cadoudal, whilst Tinténiac's glance was suddenly
quickened.

"Faith!  You are right.  These are questions that need answering."

"You begin to see."

Constant broke in.  "To see what?  What matters is that the news
did get there.  Thank God for it, since it must put heart of
resistance into those poor devils.  All the more reason why we
should succour them."

"Have you quite done, sir?" Bellanger asked Quentin.  "Or is there
more in your sack?"

"There is still the messenger.  He lied to you when he said that he
is a man of Josselin.  I happen to recognize him for a groom of
Coëtlegon, whose name is Michel."

They were stricken dumb whilst slowly the implication sank into
their minds.  Then Bellanger lost all his hauteur in sheer fury.

"Name of God!  What are you saying?"

"It's plain enough," said Constant.  "We are to believe, it seems,
not only that there is a traitor here, but that the traitor is
Madame la Vicomtesse, herself.  You dare to accuse her!"

"I accuse nobody.  I merely state the fact.  Whom the fact accuses
is a matter for you."

"Fact?" Constant retorted.  "Are you a fool or a rogue?  Do you
merely deceive yourself, or is it your aim to deceive us?"

"If you will decide I shall know how to answer you.  Meanwhile, so
as to quicken sluggish wits, there is something I should prefer not
to drag in.  But you leave me little choice.

"By what miracle does it happen, Monsieur de Chesnières, that
Madame la Vicomtesse was able to offer you shelter here at
Coëtlegon, and that having broken prison and with a price upon your
head, you have been able to remain here for weeks immune from
arrest?  What privileges does Madame de Bellanger enjoy from the
Republic that her house should be such a sanctuary?  Find the
answers to those questions, add them to the rest, and decide
whether the sum does not justify my fears that the invitation to
Coëtlegon was an invitation into a trap baited with these phantom
Vendeans."

"God's Blood!  This is too much!" raged Bellanger.  "You must be
mad.  This is something that through my wife reflects upon my
honour."

"I merely state facts, undeniable facts, which it would be well to
look into."

With the single exception of Cadoudal, who swore again, by way of
agreement, they stared at him in horror.  Tinténiac appealed to him
in tones of distress.

"My dear Quentin, this is entirely incredible."

"Not so incredible as are to me, these Vendeans, or these
Republican troops under Grouchy.  I tell you, sirs, I do not
believe there is a single Republican soldier this side of Auray."

Bellanger was raging at him.  "You have said things that must be
unsaid.  At point of sword if need be."

Tinténiac waved him aside.  "Point of sword never proved anything.
That is mere brawling."  Then quietly and firmly he added:  "We
wander into digressions.  We open up matters beyond my present
concerns, and these are more than enough for me.  The rest must
wait."

"It cannot wait," Bellanger fumed.

Constant abetted him.  "Of course not.  A gross imputation has been
made--an unpardonable affront to the Vicomte's honour."

Quentin shocked them by laughing at Constant.  "Have not fingers
enough been burnt of those you've employed to pull your chestnuts
from the fire?"

Maddened by the taunt of that galling truth, Constant raised his
hand to strike, when Tinténiac thrust himself between them.

"Not another word, on your lives!  To what are we descending?  Name
of God!  We seek the truth in the interests of ten thousand men,
and you obscure it by your brawling.  This conference is at an end.
It has been too far prolonged.  You have my decision and you will
keep to it.  You may go.  Quentin, you will remain, if you please."

But Bellanger would not be dismissed.  "The matter cannot end so,"
he protested.  "I cannot submit to it."

Constant would have supported him; but Tinténiac, at the end of his
patience, waved them out peremptorily, and Houssaye, La Marche and
Cadoudal, obeying him, compelled obedience from the other two.
They went almost physically propelled, but protesting to the end,
and Constant's last words were a threat.

"Since you refuse to listen, Tinténiac, you may take the
consequences; there are others who will not refuse, who will
realize that our duty is at Josselin."

"The fool," said Tinténiac, as the door closed at last upon them.
"It seems that all that you have said has been wasted on that
mulish mind.  You heard him.  He still rants of Josselin and these
supposed Vendeans.  Your facts may be few, when all is said, and
they may be slender.  But when bound together, they make a nasty
bundle."  He dropped wearily into a chair.  "Is there more, or have
you told us all?"

"You'll have gathered, I suppose, that Hoche is the Vicomtesse's
lover."

"Good God!  Do you surmise that from the rest?"

"On the contrary.  I surmise much of the rest from that."

He related what he knew, and it went to deepen the Chevalier's
gloom.  "I see," he said.  "And Bellanger?  What is his part in
this?"

"The part of a poor, deluded cuckold, so sure of himself in his
lordly fatuity that you cannot move him even by jealousy as you
could another."

They talked long on this, and might have talked longer but for the
return of Cadoudal.

He came in tempestuously, breathless, his big face flushed.

"There's the devil at work," was his blunt announcement.  "That
animal Chesnières whom you've taken on to your staff is stirring up
a Hell's broth out there.  He's haranguing the men in the park,
inflaming them on the score of the Vendeans, calling for volunteers
to go with him to Josselin."

Tinténiac bounded to his feet.  "By God!  Was that what he
threatened?  The madman!"  He made for the door.  "Come on!  I'll
put him under arrest."

Cadoudal caught him by the arm.  "You're too late, Chevalier.
You'ld risk a mutiny.  I've been telling you that since last night
those lads have been ripe for any mischief, asking where is the
Prince that was promised them, swearing that they are being cheated
and betrayed.  Only their faith in their own leaders, in St.
Regent, Guillemot and myself and their love for you have held them
in subjection.  But they've been explosive as gunpowder, itching to
be at the throats of somebody, and now this fool Chesnières has put
a match to them."

"What then?"  Tinténiac shook his arm free of the Chouan's heavy
grip.  "Am I to wait until they're all consumed?  We must talk to
them; do what we can to counter this sentimental poison."

"But no violence, Chevalier, or they'll make a hell about us.  No
arrests or threats of arrest to exasperate them."

They went off at speed, through the empty hall and across the
terrace, without a glance for the ladies and the émigré officers
crowding the balustrade, spectators of what was taking place in the
vast park below.  A man's haranguing voice, high-pitched and
penetrating, beat upon the air, and there, on horseback, sat
Constant de Chesnières, bare-headed, gesticulating, above a swarm
of red coats in that sparsely planted meadow.  As they approached
they made out the words of an oration that neared its close.

"Can we suffer the gallant Monsieur de Charette and those brothers
in arms from the Vendée who were hastening to our assistance to be
slaughtered by the Blues when it lies in our power to save them?"

Whilst a roar was answering him, Tinténiac drew close.  A way
through those dense red ranks had opened promptly to the orders of
Cadoudal.  But when the Chevalier would have mounted an ammunition-
cart in Constant's neighbourhood, Quentin wisely restrained him.

"Let Cadoudal," he said.  "They'll understand him better."

Cadoudal bounded up with the swift athletic ease that was
surprising in so corpulent a man, and began at once to address them
in their native Breton tongue.

The sneering smile with which Constant had greeted him, faded as he
perceived the advantage over himself which this gave the speaker.

But whilst Cadoudal's influence and authority over the majority was
soon manifest, yet many there were who from their clamorous
interruptions made it plain that the passions which Constant had
fanned into flame were not so easily to be quenched.  Perceiving
this, Constant returned to the attack when Cadoudal had finished.
Unable to supply answers to arguments which he had not understood,
he confined himself to the core of his appeal.

"It remains," he cried, "that five thousand of our brothers in arms
are beleaguered in Josselin, and will be massacred by the patauds
unless we go to their assistance.  Let those who perceive in this a
sacred duty take up their arms and follow me."

Thus he flung into that seething crowd the elements of a violent
contention between those who decided to go, and those whom Cadoudal
had persuaded that their duty lay elsewhere.

Constant, in the act of wheeling his horse, found Tinténiac at his
stirrup, white and stern.  His incisive voice cut sharply above the
uproar.

"I should provoke a pitched battle if I attempted forcibly to
restrain those you may have seduced into this mutiny.  But,
whatever the issue, I warn you that I shall bring you to answer
before a court martial at the earliest moment."

Constant in the momentary exaltation of his achievement and the
sense of power it brought him, laughed insolently.  "You brought it
on yourself by giving heed to that mountebank fencing-master of
yours.  For the rest, sir, if I deliver Charette, as I intend, you
should know that there is no court martial that will not hold me
justified."

"You think so?  You'll think differently when you face a platoon."

Without answering, Constant moved his horse slowly forward.  A
stream of men came winding after him through the main mass, swollen
as it advanced by lesser confluent streams.

Tinténiac looked at Cadoudal with eyes of dull anger that plainly
asked a question.  Cadoudal, grey-faced, heaved his great shoulders
in a gesture of helplessness.

"By our Lady of Auray," he groaned, "you might as well try to dam a
river with your two hands."



Chapter Five

GROUCHY'S DIVISION


The secession, whilst lamentable enough to Tinténiac, proved less
than he had feared.  For this he had to thank Cadoudal and his
Morbihannais.  Amounting to almost half the Chouan total, they were
not only loyal in themselves, but stout advocates of loyalty among
the others.  In the end it was found that rather fewer than four
thousand men had marched away with Constant, leaving Tinténiac with
between six and seven thousand men.

Grimly, with Quentin and the three Chouan chiefs, but otherwise
without a single member of his staff, the little Chevalier had
stood at the side of the avenue to watch that mutinous departure.

Guillemot, whose contingent had suffered most heavily in defection,
having vainly exhausted himself in seeking to stem the desertion,
was now venting his impotent anger in a steady flow of imprecation.

At the last Constant had returned to the Chevalier for a final
conciliatory word.  That mention of a platoon had helped him to
digest Tinténiac's threat.  Having digested it he was shaken in his
assurance of what must be the military view of his action.

He drew rein, and leaned over from the saddle, whilst the departing
men swung briskly past without formation.

"When I return to-morrow, Tinténiac, you will condone what I do."

The Chevalier returned him no answer beyond the stab of his stern
eyes.  Cadoudal, however, was less restrained, and he addressed
that man of birth in the second person singular, as if the better
to mark his contempt for him.

"If thou'lt make the mistake of returning at all, thou'lt see the
sort of condonation we shall have for thee."

Constant ignored him, and made another attempt with Tinténiac.
"Besides these lads, I shall bring back the Vendeans.  Think of the
great strength we shall then be in.  If you will wait for me until
noon, that will leave plenty of time for the march to Plouharnel."

"And that's the species of fool you are," said St. Regent.  "If
only these animals realized it, not one of them would follow you a
yard."

And then Tinténiac was moved to add:  "All that I can promise you
is that if you come back alive I'll bring you before a court
martial and have you shot for this."

On that the rage simmering in Guillemot boiled over suddenly.  "Why
wait?  You damned, muddling, mutinous animal, this'll put an end to
your buffooneries."

He pulled a pistol from his belt, levelled it, and pulled the
trigger.  It would have ended the adventure there and then for
Constant had not Quentin, acting upon impulse, caught Guillemot's
arm and flung it upwards, so that the pistol was discharged into
the air.

The report checked the flow of Chouans abreast of them.  From those
who perceived what had happened, there was a sudden threatening
movement, averted and quelled, however, by Constant, who moved his
horse so as to make a screen for Tinténiac's group, whilst with
voice and gesture he urged the indignant Chouans away and on.

When that was done he looked down at Quentin, who with Cadoudal was
still restraining the fierce Guillemot.  His expression was one of
frowning wonder.

"I am in your debt for that, Monsieur de Morlaix.  Do me the
justice to perceive that it's a debt I have not sought to incur."

Quentin answered neither by word nor look, and at last Constant
went off, riding slowly along the flank of the defiling column.

When the last of them had passed into the cloud of dust their
marching raised in the avenue, Tinténiac sent off the three Chouan
leaders to prepare their men for departure.

"I'll delay no longer.  Better had I listened to you, Quentin, and
not come.  The place is unlucky to us.  Still, though reduced in
numbers by this piece of treachery, we should be in sufficient
force to do our part.  Anyway, we must attempt it, and there must
be no more delays.  We march as soon as the men have eaten.  See to
it."

They went up to the terrace and there the fluttering courtly throng
closed about them, to plague them with questions as to what exactly
had happened.

"A mutiny," he answered shortly.  "Led by an imbecile I was fool
enough to appoint only yesterday to my staff."

Madame de Bellanger stood before him, the Vicomte towering dark and
haughtily protective at her side.  "But, Chevalier," she cried, "he
has gone to rescue the Vendeans.  Can you blame him for that?"

"I can, Madame.  I do."  Abandoning ceremony, he swung aside, and
raised his voice.  "Messieurs, we march in an hour.  I have to
request you to be ready."

Madame was horrified.  "In an hour!  That will scarcely leave you
time to dine."

The Vicomte supported her protest.  "Why this, Chevalier?  What
need for such sudden haste?  We have time to spare."

With nerves strained to breaking-point, Tinténiac was curt.  "Those
are my orders."  And he stalked on.

Quentin was following when Bellanger caught him without ceremony by
the arm.  "What ails him?  Are you responsible for this?"

"He does not like the air of Coëtlegon," said Quentin dryly.  "It
is not proving healthy."

"Oh, Marquis!" cried Madame, a lovely appealing figure of distress.
"I have neglected nothing the times permit, so as to make your
sojourn pleasant."

"On the contrary, Madame.  You supplied too much.  We did not come
for pleasure.  We came to incorporate a body of men which does not
arrive."

"Mon Dieu!  And you blame me, I hear, for this misfortune.
Appearances can terribly mislead us."

"Make it clear to him," said the Vicomte.  "It may moderate his
offensive assumptions."

"That is so unjust," she complained.  "This man who came from
Josselin--Michel--because he was once a groom here, you assume that
he is still in my service.  You forget the times in which we live,
and the constant changes they bring."

"I hope you are answered, sir," said the Vicomte, looking down his
nose.

"So foolish to suppose me to act with some dark, selfish motive.
And not only foolish.  Monstrous.  Almost I could laugh."

Quentin was non-committal.  "All this, Madame, ceases to be of
consequence, since we march at once."

"It is to slight my hospitality."

"The harsh necessity imposed by duty."

He bowed in leave-taking.  But Bellanger had not yet done with him.

"Hardly a gracious amende for your ungenerous opinions, sir."

"I trust that the sequel will put me to shame," he evaded, and so,
at last, took himself off.

On the doorstep he came upon Germaine, her aunt in agitation at her
side.

"They tell me," said Madame de Chesnières, "that my son has gone to
the rescue of Monsieur de Charette, and, what is even worse, that
his gallantry has earned him nothing but the reproof of your
commander.  That is a strange attitude in a Christian gentleman."

He murmured the platitude of a soldier's first duty being
obedience, and with a glance for Germaine, in which he sought to
express all that her aunt's presence rendered unutterable, he
escaped.

He found Tinténiac beset by a clamorous staff.  In his desire for
instant departure he was yet again being baulked by Madame de
Bellanger's too bounteous hospitality.  Reluctantly he was yielding
to the insistence of his officers that it would be a climax of
ungraciousness, and a gratuitous one, not to stay at least for the
dinner which had been prepared.  Having yielded, he was to discover
delays in coming to table.

When at long last, some three hours after Constant's departure,
they sat down, a gay, frivolous company, the Chevalier was in a
fume of exasperation at the insouciance of his émigrés.

Whilst within doors they banqueted unhurried, outside, the Chouans
having consumed their bread and onions and some odd scraps left
over from last night, waited impatiently to be gone.

Suddenly the laughter and chatter about the long table in the
dining-hall was silenced by a shattering volley of musketry from
the park.

As men and women questioned their neighbours with dilating eyes of
alarm in faces suddenly blenched, a second volley roared a sequel
to the first, to be followed by an uproar near at hand, above which
rang the cry:  "To arms!  To arms!  The Blues!"

From one of the tall windows which he had reached almost at a
bound, with a crowd of diners pressing behind him, Quentin saw a
heavy veil of smoke rising along the belt of trees across the
valley, a mile or more away.  Nearer, in the middle distance, in
the meadowlands, there was a stir and scurry of clamorous red-
coated Chouans caught unawares in the open.  Under the direction of
leaders made frantic by surprise, the several companies were
falling back out of range, forming ranks and looking to their
weapons, so as to meet this onslaught of an assailant as yet
invisible.  In their exposed position they were vulnerable to an
enemy who attacked from cover.  It was a reversal of the order with
which these warriors were familiar, and they found it little to
their liking.

The firing continued: heavy rolling volleys from the edge of the
timber, answered by ragged bursts from groups of Chouans who had
been caught within range; and who had dropped prone, according to
those tactics which d'Hervilly had so contemptuously described as
proper to Hurons, but without which they would now have been mown
down in swaths.

Quentin heard Tinténiac's voice behind him, shrill and compelling.

"To your posts, gentlemen!  We are attacked."

The men melted from the group that pinned him where he stood,
whereupon with scant ceremony he thrust himself free of the women
who remained.

In the middle of the room, where all was now confused movement, he
confronted Bellanger, who was buckling on his sword.  The Vicomte's
expression was unpleasantly sneering.

"Ah!  Monsieur de Oracle!  Not a Republican soldier, you said, this
side of Auray."

"I said some other things that it were better to remember."

"And with the same authority."

"Or the lack of it," cried the Vicomtesse, standing tense and white
just beyond her husband, a hand repressing the agitation of her
breast.

"So I pray, Madame," he answered, as he sped on.

Near the door he came upon Germaine.  She stood detached from a
cluster of huddled, panic-stricken ladies.  She was pale, but
singularly calm.  Their eyes met, and her lips parted in a little
smile of wistful greeting.  He drew close.

"Courage, Germaine.  They cannot be in sufficient force to break
through."

"That is not what I fear," she told him, with a touch of pride.
"God guard you, Quentin."

He would have lingered, but, outside, the voice of Tinténiac was
summoning them.  "Monsieur de Bellanger!  Gentlemen of the Loyal
Émigrant!  To your posts!"

He bore her hand to his lips, and was gone, almost swept out by the
sudden rush of émigrés who answered the Chevalier's call.

Sharp orders received them on the terrace and sent them off to
their men, who were already mustering their ranks.  To Bellanger,
as second in command, fell the first directions.

"Vicomte, you will post your company yonder on the right, so as to
be on the flank of the Blues when they debouch from the wood."

"If they debouch, sir."

"Away!  Monsieur de La Marche, you will instruct St. Regent to form
a left wing with his division.  Monsieur de La Houssaye, be good
enough to find Cadoudal.  Order him with Guillemot to compose the
centre.  And let word go forward commanding those advanced men to
fall back.  They are getting themselves killed to no purpose.  We
must draw the Blues on out of cover.  Hasten, sir."

Bellanger's rich, sonorous voice came up to them from below, raised
in command, and presently there was a rolling of drums, and the
company of the Loyal Émigrant was marching to take up its station
as steadily as if on parade, a spectacle to have satisfied the
fastidious eyes of Monsieur d'Hervilly.

Volley was succeeding volley from the woods, and the veil of smoke
steadily deepening until that distant belt of trees grew dim.  In
the short grass of the middle distance, red bundles lay still, to
tell of the execution done.

From the summit of the terrace steps Tinténiac watched and waited,
impatient until at last he saw that his order had gone forward.

The rash, futile, crawling advance of the foremost Chouans had been
stemmed, and they were beginning to fall back, still wriggling
along the ground.

Cadoudal arrived at speed and breathless.  He had thrown off his
coat, and the wet shirt clung to his sweating torso.  But his
spirit was as cool as his body was overheated.

"A lad of the district has just come in, who tells me that this is
a division under Grouchy, some three thousand strong."

"Grouchy!  Then what has become of the Vendeans?  It was Grouchy
who pinned them at Josselin.  My God!  Has he destroyed them?"

"Impossible.  He comes from Vannes.  He was on his way to join
Hoche, and turned back, having winded us here.  Thousand devils!
That explains things, I think."

"It should finally dispose of your faith in those Vendeans," said
Quentin.  "You'll begin to believe that we've been fooled?"

Tinténiac stared at him white-faced.  "By God!" he said through his
teeth.  "Ah, but we'll have the truth of it when this is over.  Do
you suppose that fool Chesnières will have got too far to hear the
firing?"

Cadoudal shook his massive head.  "Bah!  He's been gone these four
hours.  He'll be a dozen miles away, more than half-way to
Josselin."

Quentin pointed.  "Look."

Through the distant smoke that hung like a curtain upon the summer
air, a long line of horsemen was emerging.  It advanced, and halted
clear in view.  A second line followed it, and after that another,
and yet another.  "Grouchy's Dragoons," said Cadoudal.  "Guillemot
is getting his bayonets ready for them."

They could see Guillemot's men deploying into double lines at well-
spaced intervals.

"Let us go," said Tinténiac.

They went at a run to place themselves at the head of the body
forming the centre, and composed mainly of Cadoudal's Morbihannais,
at present held in reserve.

Before they reached their posts they had heard a bugle sounding the
charge, and presently came the drumming of hooves, muffled at
first, but gradually swelling in volume, as three hundred horsemen,
sabres flashing in the sunlight, charged down upon the Chouan
lines.

Could d'Hervilly have seen them then it might have changed his
views of their fighting qualities.  Steady as veterans they waited,
holding their fire until Guillemot judged the dragoons within
range.  Then from the foremost double line a volley of two hundred
muskets smote the Blues.  Falling men and stumbling horses
disordered for a moment the rhythm of that charge.  Before it was
recovered, the Chouans who had fired flung themselves prone upon
the turf, and over them, from the next lines, a second volley,
deadlier than the first, now that the range was shorter, renewed
increasingly the cavalry's confusion.  Then like those ahead of
them, these Chouans too lay prone, to allow yet a third fire to
blast the Republicans, whereafter, instantly, all were on their
feet, the three lines closed up, the front rank knelt, and bayonets
bristled to receive so much of the remaining cavalry as might
charge home.

But shattered to less than a third of its strength, the meadow
strewn with men and horses, the air filled with the screams of
beasts in agony and the lamentations of maimed men, what was left
of the dragoons scattered widely and went off to re-form out of
range.

That retreat, however, revealed a dense column of Blue infantry to
the deployment of which the cavalry had served as a screen.

At Tinténiac's orders, Guillemot's men, falling back to right and
left to reload, opened their ranks to give passage to Cadoudal's
division, sent forward to engage this main body of the enemy.

That engagement, begun in murderous fire from both sides, developed
into a bitter mêlée with cold steel, a wild, fierce confusion, in
which all strategic order was lost to both.  If the Chouans
suffered heavily at first from the Republican fire, they took a
terrible revenge at close quarters with the bayonet.  Steadily, but
ever more quickly as their resistance weakened, the Blues were
pressed back, until at last, towards sunset, being taken on one
flank by the Loyal Émigrant, and on the other by St. Regent's
division, they broke and ran, so as to extricate themselves from
the closing grip of those pincers.

To cover the retreat and enable his infantry to restore itself to
order, the Marquis de Grouchy, on a white horse, at the head of the
remainder of his dragoons, charged down upon the flank of the
pursuers, sabring fiercely; and actually with scarcely the loss of
a man, he held them in check long enough to permit his foot to re-
form.

When, the task accomplished, Grouchy rode his dragoons out of the
press, the Chouans, themselves a disordered mob by now, were
confronted with a line of Blues that firm once more met them with a
fire that tore gaps in their too solid ranks, and then steadily
retreated to new positions.

The Chouans of the centre, now entirely out of control, a furious
horde maddened by blood-lust, incapable of concerted action, obeyed
no attempt to restore them to order, but merely hurled themselves
in rage against that steady blue wall that received them with fire
and steel.

Their overwhelming numbers, however, far greater no doubt than
Grouchy had reckoned or been informed, made it impossible to snatch
from them the victory which was already won from an enemy whose
only aim now was to retire in as good order as possible.  Yet by
such wild tactics as the Chouans were now pursuing that victory
might be too dearly bought.

To make an end Tinténiac led St. Regent's division, which had been
out of this phase of the engagement, away towards the wood, and
then down on to the Republican right flank, so as to turn it.

Grouchy, perceiving the aim of the manœuvre, and fearing that it
might be copied by the Loyal Émigrant on his other flank, formed
his foot hastily into three sides of a square backed by the timber
into which he proposed to retire.

A heavy discharge of musketry from St. Regent's men having thrown
that right wing into disorder, Tinténiac, sword in hand, his coat
torn, his face blackened, led in person a charge upon it before it
could recover.

Quentin went with him, brandishing a musket which he had snatched
up to replace his broken sword.

So impetuous proved the charge that it opened a gap in the face of
the Blue square.  The Chouans poured in, hacking and stabbing, and
in a moment the Republican formation crumpled and broke up into
fleeing groups intent only upon gaining the sanctuary of the trees.
And now down upon them from the centre, like a torrent that has
broken its dam, came Cadoudal's Morbihannais.

It was the end.  The rout of Grouchy's division, which had taken
the field some three thousand strong, with all the pride and
confidence of regular soldiers, engaging a disorderly rabble, was
complete.  It remained only for the Republican commander to save
what he could from the wreckage of his force.  His survivors fled
demoralized for cover, like panic-stricken conies, with that
pursuing horde yelling upon their heels.

Tinténiac laughed in his hilarious excitement as he still led the
men of St. Regent who had followed him.  Laughing he spoke to
Quentin, who trotted beside him.

"That renegade Grouchy will have a fine account to render to his
sansculotte masters for this day's work," he jested, and on that
jest he checked, spun half-round, and crumpled into Quentin's arms.

On the very edge of the wood a fleeing Blue, almost one of the last
of them, had turned and knelt and fired almost at random upon the
pursuers, and the bullet had found Tinténiac's gallant breast.

The sansculotte paid for it with his life; for before he could
regain his feet a Chouan was upon him and a Chouan bayonet had
transfixed him.

Gently Quentin lowered Tinténiac to the ground.  He went down upon
one knee, supporting the body against the other.  A ring of Chouans
formed almost at once about them, and broke presently into
lamentations when it was perceived who was the stricken man.

Quentin's hand was busy upon Tinténiac's breast.  It came away
drenched in blood.

The Chevalier looked up at him, his eyes momentarily puzzled and
vacuous.  Then the smile with which he had charmed so many, broke
upon the livid, powder-grimed face.

"I think this is the end of Monsieur de Tinténiac," he said, and
spoke lightly as if amused.  "A great moment, Quentin, and a
victory won.  I may depart with a calm mind."

Quentin with a strangling sensation, knowing him sped, could answer
nothing.

The ring about them opened.  Bellanger and La Marche stood over
them in the gathering dusk.

"Ah, morbleu!  Quel malheur!  This is to pay too dearly for
victory.  Is the wound grave?"

Again Tinténiac smiled.  "Not grave.  No.  Just mortal.  So that
the King lives, what matter who dies?"  The smile passed.  "You are
in command now, Bellanger.  On your life and honour see that you
are punctual at Plouharnel."

Bellanger bowed his head in silence, and in that moment was thrust
aside almost roughly by a new arrival.  It was Cadoudal, grimed and
tattered from the fight.  He fell on his knees beside the dying
man.

"Chevalier!  My Chevalier!  Mon petit!" There was agony in his
voice.  "You're not badly hurt.  The good God could not permit
that."

"Ah, Georges!"  It was a murmur of welcome.  A feeble, wavering
hand sought the Chouan's.  Cadoudal grasped it eagerly, and bore it
to his lips.  "My brave, great-hearted Georges, we'll hunt the
Blues no more together.  But you . . ."

He had made an effort to raise himself.  The blood choked him.  For
a moment he struggled, coughing; then his head lolled sideways, and
came to rest against Quentin's shoulder.

Cadoudal, on his knees, fell to weeping aloud with the passionate
abandon of a child.



Chapter Six

BELLANGER IN COMMAND


Late that night, in the library of Coëtlegon, five men sat in
council under the presidency of the Vicomte de Bellanger, upon whom
the chief command had now devolved.  They were, besides the Vicomte
himself, La Houssaye, La Marche, Quentin and Georges Cadoudal.

From laying Tinténiac to rest in a grave beside the avenue, they
had returned weary and heartsore to the château to be feverishly
greeted by ladies over whom had hung the terror of falling in prey
to victorious sansculottes.

In contrast with last night's delights, there was grim work now for
these ladies whom Madame de Bellanger had brought to Coëtlegon so
as to lend gaiety to the gathering.  The wounded were being borne
in by their comrades.  The château was rapidly being transformed
into a hospital, and the services of the ladies were being claimed
to minister to these poor fellows, to wash and dress their wounds,
to nourish them, to quench their fevered thirsts, to cheer their
spirits and ease their sufferings.  They were proving themselves
competent.  Under the abiding frivolity of the old regime, their
natures had undergone a steadying process through the sufferings of
their class in the last few years.

The lovely Vicomtesse received the returning officers with a manner
that admirably blended exultation in their triumph with sorrow for
the sufferings at which it had been won.

Quentin, dishevelled, begrimed and near exhaustion, met her smile
with fierce, haggard eyes.  "How false," he said, "are the reports
that come to Coëtlegon, and what a death trap it has proved."

"How cruel to remind me of it!" she complained, in tearful
desolation.  "Almost you make it sound like a reproach.  And I
meant so well."

"I am sure of it.  But for whom?"

He waited for no answer.  He turned aside, and staggered off across
the hall, through which the wounded were being carried or assisted
in a constant stream, until he came upon Germaine.  With her was a
Mademoiselle de Kercadio, who had been betrothed of Boishardi, and
wore mourning for him.  This frail little lady, who had ridden
sabre in hand into battle at her lover's side, was now in tears.

"It breaks my heart to think of Tinténiac, so brave, so gay.
Boishardi loved him as a brother.  How sorry he would be,
especially for the treachery that doomed him.  It calls for
vengeance."

"Treachery!"  Quentin uttered a short mirthless laugh.  "Whilst a
third of us are gone to rescue imaginary Vendeans from Grouchy,
Grouchy falls upon the remaining two-thirds.  Who brought us word
of the Vendeans?  Who sent word of us to Grouchy, to bring him
here?"

Both women stared at him in terror.  "Quentin!" cried Germaine.
"What dreadful thing is in your mind?"

"Just that.  Just these questions.  My suspicious nature requires
an answer to them."

In that fierce mood he came to the council, where he found no
exultation of victory.  Apart from the gloom occasioned by the loss
of a commander so gallant and universally beloved as Tinténiac,
there was the cost of that victory to be counted.  Their casualties
exceeded two thousand, a third of which was the number of the dead.

Out in the parklands, moving points of light, like will-o'-the-
wisps, showed where the Chouans were at their grim work of
retrieving the wounded and burying the dead.

The writing-table had been turned into a buffet by the solicitude
of the Vicomtesse, and was laden with wine and meats for the
refreshment of these officers whose conference brooked no delays.
In the high-backed chair that had been occupied by Tinténiac a few
hours ago, sat now Bellanger, morose and stern.

He bent a sullen glance upon Quentin, who was the last to arrive,
and whom he would gladly have excluded had he dared, conscious as
he was of his uncompromising hostility, galled as he was by the
unavenged affronts which Quentin had put upon him.  These, however,
were matters that must wait.  The command which had devolved upon
him imposed duties from which no personal considerations must
deflect him.

The sense of that command endowed him with more than ordinary
prolixity.  He was being eloquent.  Even in this hour of gloom he
must be finding sonorous words in which to expatiate upon what had
that day been accomplished.  A glorious instance, he described it,
of matchless, Royalist valour.  He pronounced in emotional terms a
brief funeral oration over the great leader whom he deemed himself
unworthy to succeed--a confession which none mistook for a
conviction--and he invited these gentlemen of his staff to offer
suggestions for the immediate course of action now to be adopted.

Quentin, whose impatience had been growing under that flood of
words, which offended his sense of fitness and intensified the ache
of his lacerated nerves, was prompt to answer.

"What is to consider?  Our course of action was laid down in
Tinténiac's last words.  He commanded us to be punctual at
Plouharnel.  It remains but to obey him."

Bellanger afforded him a gloomy attention; then he looked at
Cadoudal, as if to invite his comment.

The Chouan, still in ragged shirt and breeches, as he had fought,
still in the grime of battle, sat apart, his elbows on his knees,
his head in his hands, his fingers thrust through his tousled fair
hair, his spirit mourning the bright leader he had followed with
the unquestioning fidelity of a hound.

Seeing him thus, Bellanger's heavy glance passed on.  "Monsieur de
La Marche."

La Marche, who sat glowering into a glass of wine he held, looked
up uneasily.  "As you've heard, we have our orders."  He spoke
without conviction, and having spoken, drained his glass.

"And you, La Houssaye?"

"I agree that since we know Tinténiac's intentions, it is incumbent
upon us to fulfil them as far as possible."

"As far as possible.  Exactly.  But how far is it now possible?"
He cleared his throat for the address that was to follow this
exordium.  But Quentin gave him no time to come to it.

"Tinténiac's orders apart, there is the purpose for which we left
Quiberon.  In spite of all that has happened, reduced as we are,
that purpose must still be ours.  Your clear duty, sir, is to give
the order to march at dawn."

"I am not asking to be told my duty."  The tone was acid.  "But
I'll let that pass with the rest."  He waved it away with one of
his long, graceful hands.  "Nothing remains but to march at dawn,
says Monsieur de Morlaix.  But with what, pray, are we to march?
With half the force considered necessary for this enterprise?  For
that is all that now remains of the ten thousand that left
Quiberon.  Am I to march men who are wearied by a day of battle and
a night of burying the dead?  Can I march these men at dawn?  Is
that reasonable advice?"

"March them at noon, then.  But march them to-morrow, so that we
may still come to Plouharnel in time."

"That is to answer only the half of my objections.  There remains
the question of our present numbers."

"We must make them suffice.  We have to remember that our function
is to create a diversion by falling upon Hoche's rear.  We are
still strong enough for that: to create confusion, compel that
division of his forces, which should enable the army of Monsieur de
Puisaye to annihilate him."

"At the price, no doubt, of our own annihilation," said La
Houssaye, faintly sarcastic.

"What then, so that the object is accomplished?  It remains the
only amend we can now make for all the blunders and worse that have
brought us to this pass.  And make it we must."

That set them all against him; all save Cadoudal, who continued
huddled in a seeming insensibility.  In the scowling faces of the
others, Quentin read his condemnation.

La Marche expressed it.  "By God, sir!  Do you malign the dead?  Do
you dare to cast your foul censure on the generalship of
Tinténiac?"

"I do not.  And you know that I do not.  My censure is for those
who over-persuaded Tinténiac to come to this . . . to come to
Coëtlegon; for those who resisted his will when, sensing danger, he
was eager to depart; for Constant de Chesnières, who mutinously
marched off a third of our men on a fool's errand, leaving us in
diminished strength to bear to-day's attack.  These are the errors,
the wicked errors, for which we must accept the blame, and for
which at need we must immolate ourselves, so that Monsieur de
Puisaye may not be cheated of his victory."

Bellanger sneered openly.  "I am not concerned to immolate what is
left of this company for the sake of Monsieur de Puisaye."

"Nor I," said La Marche.

"My faith, nor I," said Houssaye.

Cadoudal seemed to awaken at last.  He reared his great head, and
glared at them from blood-injected eyes.

"Name of God!  You sneer at the Comte Joseph, do you?  Well, sneer
your ignoble fill.  But who the devil asks you to die for his sake?
Are you all addle-headed?"  His voice soared.  "It is for the sake
of the King; for the sake of a cause in which a better man than any
of us has given his precious life to-day.  If you are not prepared
to die for that, then, damn your souls, why did you not remain in
England, or Holland, or Germany, or wherever else you've been
idling, whilst we Bretons, who believed in God and the King's
Majesty, have been bleeding freely these two years?"

Cowed and even shamed by that vehement outburst, they sat for a
long moment in sullen silence, whilst Cadoudal sank back into his
huddled attitude of dejection.

La Houssaye was the first to recover; but no longer to hector.
"You mistake us, Cadoudal.  We are all prepared to die for the
cause, else, as you say, we should not have come to France.  What
we are not prepared to do is to throw away our lives in vain
undertakings."

"To do our part at Ste. Barbe is no vain undertaking," said
Quentin.

"Can you be sure of that?" Bellanger asked him.

"What does my conviction matter, or your conviction?  For soldiers
there is obedience, not conviction.  And our obedience is due to
the orders under which we left Quiberon, the orders confirmed to-
day by Tinténiac."

Bellanger sighed in controlled exasperation.  "It is not quite so
simple.  Things have changed since we left Quiberon.  Give me
leave, Monsieur de Morlaix!  Arguments as to what may have changed
them are beside the point.  Things are not even as Tinténiac
supposed them when he issued his last orders.  For when he spoke he
did not know the extent of our losses."

"We still have men enough for what's to do," Quentin insisted.

"That is merely your opinion."

"It is also mine," flashed Cadoudal.

Bellanger strove with his temper.  "What is yours, La Houssaye?"

"Definitely that we are too weak."

"And yours, La Marche?"

"The same.  Our only prudent course is to rejoin the force that
followed Chesnières.  Time enough then to consider our next step."

"Time enough," cried Quentin.  "That is what it may not be."

Still with his long-suffering air, Bellanger expounded.  "We have
heard two soldiers of great experience, and their view accords
fully with mine.  You, Monsieur de Morlaix, are becoming the victim
of a fixed idea.  You persist in overlooking that Puisaye is
actually in greater strength than Hoche."

"Without reckoning," added La Houssaye, "that by now he must have
been reinforced by Sombreuil's division and the regulars from
England.  He will face the sansculottes in overwhelming strength."

"You leave out of account the advantages of Hoche's fortified
position," cried Quentin, in despair.  "And, again, what if
Sombreuil has not arrived?"

"You forget," retorted Bellanger, "that when Puisaye comes to
attack, and finds that we are not in Hoche's rear, it will be for
him to suspend the engagement."

"What anxiety, Monsieur, to discover reasons for neglecting duty!"

La Marche and Houssaye turned indignantly upon Quentin.  But
Bellanger waved a hand to pacify them.  He smiled acidly.

"We must continue," he drawled, "to bear with Monsieur de Morlaix's
impetuosity and wild assumptions, however offensive, remembering
that they are dictated by unreasoning zeal.  Our aim must be to do
the best for all concerned, and the immediate best is, clearly, to
follow Monsieur de Chesnières to Rédon, so as to incorporate with
ours not only his division, but also that of the Vendeans."

"My God!  Is it possible that you still believe in their
existence?"

Bellanger was lofty.  "Whether they exist or not can wait.  We do
know that three thousand Chouans exist between here and Rédon, and
our first step must be to reincorporate them in our ranks.  When
that is done we can consider what is to follow.  So as soon as the
men are fit to march, we set out for Rédon by way of Josselin and
Malestroit."

One last despairing attempt Quentin made to shape the course of
things.  "But it may be too late by then to do anything.  In God's
name, sir, summon at least a full council of all the émigré
officers and Chouan leaders, before you take so grave a decision."

But Bellanger would not be moved.  It is not impossible that the
bitter resentment aroused by Quentin may have stiffened his
obstinacy.  "The decision is taken.  I am in command, sir, and that
responsibility lies with me."

"The burden may prove heavy.  Tinténiac promised Chesnières a court
martial for his insubordination.  Beware lest you incur the same."

The Vicomte rose, a tall figure of great dignity.  "You presume, I
think, upon our patience."  He addressed the gathering.  "You have
my orders.  You will be good enough to communicate them to the
quarters concerned."

Cadoudal began to move towards the door.  "At least there's an end
to all this fish-market chatter."  He overtook Quentin, and gripped
his arm.  "These gentlemen from England seem all to be the good
friends of General Hoche; Monsieur d'Hervilly in Quiberon and
Monsieur de Bellanger here."

"Monsieur Cadoudal!"  Bellanger's voice was sharp and minatory.
"You are not respectful."

Cadoudal turned upon him a face of sneering astonishment.  "By God!
You've some discernment, after all."

He rolled out, heavy-footed, and Quentin went after him.



Chapter Seven

THE DUPES


Cool and trim, a muslin fichu above her aproned petticoat, Germaine
came from her labours of mercy with the wounded who lay in rows
upon the straw that had been carried into the handsome chambers of
Coëtlegon.

Bruised in body and spirit, Quentin surveyed her, sad-eyed.  "Can
you minister to souls as well, Germaine?"

"To yours at need, I hope.  I should not be the wife for you if I
could not."  Her glance was direct and frank, her tender, generous
lips were gently smiling.

"I should not be the husband for you were I not conscious of my
need of you."  He sighed.  "This is an evil hour."  Briefly he told
her of Bellanger's decision.  "Begun by deliberate malice, this
betrayal is now to be consummated by sheer, obstinate folly.
Whether he's still deceived and deluded by that woman who is
selling us, I don't know.  But the fool is marching us away from
the clear duty we were set when we left Quiberon."

"Quentin, this is all impossible.  The appearances are deluding
you.  I can't, I'll not believe this of Louise."  She was so warm
in defence of her friend that once again he was driven to marshal
his arguments.

Still they did not convince her.  "But all is surmise.  It must be.
There can be no proof of any of it."

"Proof enough.  She is Hoche's faithful ally."

"That is mad.  Hoche?  A sansculotte!  The son of a groom!"

"And the lover of the Marquise du Grégo, Vicomtesse Bellanger.  I
am no evil tongue, Germaine, to stain a woman's fame for the nasty
joy of it."  He told her what he knew as a witness, and left her
white and shaken.

"Mon Dieu!  The shame of it.  A groom's son; a champion of the
canaille."

"Oh, but a pretty enough fellow to please a more fastidious woman
than the Grégo.  A noble-looking animal, and laurel crowned."

"Don't, Quentin!  Don't.  It is all too vile.  You make me ashamed;
for if this is true, then we have profited by this vileness.  Oh
yes.  It explains a mystery.  That is what has made it possible for
Louise to offer us this secure shelter from pursuit."  Persuaded by
that glaring fact, so suddenly perceived, she marvelled that any
could resist persuasion.  "But isn't that enough to bring the
Vicomte to reason?"

"Evidently not.  I have been plain enough with him.  In the
interests of the cause I have spared him little.  It has merely
made me another enemy.  Merely stiffened him in his mulish
obstinacy.  So, in spite of all, we march on this fool's errand;
and God alone knows what will happen at Quiberon on Friday if we
fail, as seems now inevitable, to be at our post."

To comfort his distress she argued that to miss a victory was not
necessarily to sustain a defeat.  She reminded him that once the
men at Coëtlegon were reunited with those who had followed
Constant, they would be in strength to make themselves felt
wherever needed.  These were but the arguments that had opposed him
in the council.  That he permitted himself to take heart from them
now serves to show how the identity of an advocate may bear upon a
plea.

"That, indeed," he admitted, "is all that can be said for what we
do.  Be it as it may, I have done all that was possible to a man in
my place."

"More," she assured him.  "Much more.  But for you the Royalist
hopes would have been wrecked at La Prevalaye.  The King shall come
to know that he has had no more faithful servant than you.  You,"
she rallied him, "who profess yourself without sentimental
attachment to his cause."

"That has been changed.  Because I love you, I must love where you
love."

"As I must; and, therefore, hate where you hate.  The shelter of
Coëtlegon begins to stifle me.  We must go.  I must persuade my
aunt to leave at once."

This was to make him regret his frankness.  "To go whither?" he
asked her.

Her eyes widened in sudden misgiving.  Then, "Back to Grands
Chesnes, I suppose," she said, but without conviction.

"You know that cannot be.  Here in Madame de Bellanger's protection
you are safe.  Will you cast yourself into danger because she is
what she is?  There is no reason in that.  Remain here until this
time of trouble ends."

"Knowing what I know?  Despising her as I must?  Practising a
shameful opportunism?"

"There is no shame in using evil for purposes of good.  Take
advantage of that which it is beyond your power to mend or alter.
Take advantage of it for my sake.  I must know you safe.  Do not
add uncertainty and fear for you to what else my mind must bear."

The disdain in which she had spoken fell from her.  Her lip
trembled.  "You'll never ask me to do anything more hateful
Quentin."

"I shall never, I hope, ask you to do anything hateful once this
nightmare is at an end."

Across the hall Madame de Chesnières charged down upon the corner
which they occupied.  Her pale eyes were magnified behind the
lorgnettes through which she surveyed them; her lipless mouth was
tight.

"Ah, Monsieur de Morlaix!"  Whether this was greeting, comment or
dismissal none could have told.  "Germaine, I have been seeking you
everywhere.  I shall go mad, I think.  After all that I have
suffered, after all the terrors of this dreadful day, I am deprived
of my room, asked to share a cupboard in the attic with Madame du
Grégo and Madame du Parc.  It will kill me.  A woman of my years!"

"Your room will have been taken for the wounded," Germaine
patiently explained.  "There are so many of them.  Poor
unfortunates.  And they suffer so."

"Yes.  Yes.  But I?  Do I not suffer?  Is there to be no
consideration ever for me?"

"It's an inconsiderate world, Madame," said Quentin, bowing, and so
departed.

She stared after him through her levelled lorgnettes.  "Do you
suppose, Germaine, he meant to be impertinent?  I often suspect it
in that young man.  I never like the friends you choose.  At your
age mine were chosen for me.  Alas!  This Revolution has destroyed
all the decencies of life.  Where will it all end?  I warn you that
I cannot endure much more.  I say so frankly.  I wish that we had
never left England.  Better its fogs and mud and crudities than the
life that we lead here.  France is not fit for gentlefolk.
Constant must arrange for our return to London.  And now I hear
these soldiers will be leaving us to-morrow.  We shall be
defenceless then; at the mercy of the canaille.  It is all
intolerable."  She was in tears.

"The Republicans did not trouble us before the Chouans came.  Why
should we be troubled when they're gone?"  Germaine spoke with a
tinge of bitterness that went unnoticed.

"But how can we stay here, in a house that has become a hospital?"

"We can tend those who remain, Madame, and pray for the safety of
those who go to fight our battles."

Those prayers were to be needed by the weary men who set out at
noon upon the morrow.  Scarcely rested from the sad labours of the
night, following upon their day of battle, it was demanded of them
that they march.  But for the spur of hunger and the knowledge that
Coëtlegon was a platter they had licked clean already, it is
unlikely that any power would have moved them.  Their deceptively
ready obedience was due to the urgency of finding food.

Over ten miles of empty moorland, in the torrid July heat, they
dragged themselves to Josselin, leaving a trail of discarded red
coats and stout English shoes to mark their passage.

Upon Josselin they came down late in the afternoon like a swarm of
locusts.  The place received them with apathy.  It had undergone
occupation, now by one, now by the other army in the course of this
internecine war.  It had learnt the dismal lesson that the line of
least resistance was the line of least suffering.

The famished Chouans fed greedily, drank copiously, and relaxing in
repletion and drunkenness, refused to budge another yard that day.
Thus perished the last hope of those few who still remembered to
what they were engaged.

And so the dawn of the 16th, which should have been so fateful to
the Royalist fortunes, saw these men, whose post was on Hoche's
rear, awakening from their drunken slumbers forty miles and more
from the scene of action.

Quentin watching the daybreak from a window of the house in which
he was lodged with Cadoudal, heard in imagination the guns that
would be opening Puisaye's confident attack upon Ste. Barbe, beheld
in imagination the ebbing of that high confidence, the angry
increase of doubt, the despairing realization that Tinténiac's
division was not at the post of duty, and, finally, the suspension
of operations, and the mortified retreat.  Or, it was possible that
Puisaye persisted, especially if the expedition under Sombreuil had
arrived and that thus reinforced he was able to defeat Hoche, and
open the way into friendly Brittany.  This, however, was too
desperate a hope to mitigate his dejection.

The morning was well advanced before an orderly officer from
Bellanger came to require Cadoudal to sound the assembly, and it
was almost noon before they trailed out of Josselin, to resume the
march upon Rédon, a march now purposeless and futile.

Progress was slow.  The Chouans were sullen and depressed, as if
sensing the uncertainty of their leaders, asking themselves to what
purpose were they being trailed hither and thither in this fashion.
Only the activity of their three chiefs, Cadoudal, St. Regent and
Guillemot, prevented a mutiny that would probably have begun in a
massacre of the Loyal Émigrant.  Instead the Chouans avenged
themselves by being in their turn derisory of their supercilious
associates.  Lacking the stout resilience of the peasants and the
hardening which in these guerrilla years they had undergone, the
émigrés began to show signs of exhaustion at the end of a few
miles, and to retard the progress of the whole.  The Chouans jeered
at them for women who should have stayed at the spinning-wheel, and
left soldiering to men.

Quentin and the other officers, who were now mounted, rode to and
fro along the struggling ranks, labouring to prevent open strife
from embittering further the misery of that march.

At Malestroit, where they paused to forage, La Marche declared
roundly to Bellanger that the Loyal Émigrant could go no farther
that day.

"What then is to be done?  What is to be done?"  Bellanger looked
at those who were with him.

"It is of no consequence," Quentin sourly told him.

"How?  Of no consequence?"

"Nothing that you may do now can be worse than what you've done."

"You are insolent.  Insubordinate.  I warn you that I will not
suffer much more of it."

"That also is of no consequence."

"Very well, sir.  It is very well.  We shall see.  Meanwhile,
Captain de La Marche, if you are satisfied that the men of the
Loyal Émigrant are too weary to go farther, you may quarter them
here.  I leave you in charge of the company.  You will follow to
Rédon by way of Peillac as soon as you are able.  Cadoudal, you
will appoint a half-dozen men you can trust to remain and act as
guides."

Cadoudal gave an ill-humoured assent, and Bellanger disdained to
return to the matter of Quentin's insubordination.

The remainder being refreshed, the march was resumed, and with a
half-dozen officers of the Loyal Émigrant who refused to be left
behind, they came in the summer dusk to the uncouth village of
Peillac, where they devoured bread and meat and guzzled the wine
and cider of the villagers with the careless vigour of famished
men.  There, within a dozen miles of Rédon, they sought news of
Monsieur de Charette and his Vendeans; but sought it in vain.  At
first the villagers had spoken of an army moving in the district,
which had passed through Peillac two days ago, but it soon became
plain that this was the Chouan force under Constant de Chesnières.
And so at long last, Bellanger's obstinate belief in the Vendeans
began to break down.

"If you should prove to have been right, Monsieur de Morlaix?" he
asked in his growing dismay.

"None will forgive you," Quentin assured him.

"But the information was so precise."

Quentin was in no mood for mercy.  "So were the orders under which
we should have been at Plouharnel this morning."

"Name of God!  Why harp on that?"

"I understood you to ask my opinion."

"That is not an opinion.  It is a reproach; an impertinence."  His
glance appealed for support to La Houssaye, who sat with them in
the mean room of Peillac's best house.  La Houssaye did not respond
at all in the manner that was desired.  He wagged his big head in
sorrow.  "It begins to appear that we have been grievously misled.
It would certainly have been wiser to have kept to the orders.
Then none could have blamed you, whatever happened."

This was too much for Bellanger.  After an amazed pause he bounded
up.  "And that is all you have to say to me!  God of God!  After
urging me--you and La Marche--to decide upon this step."

"By your leave, Vicomte.  We did not urge it.  We deferred to your
plain wishes."

"Do you think that subtlety will excuse you?"

La Houssaye bridled.  "I am not subtle, and I need no excuse.  I
was not in command."

"I see.  I see."  Bellanger strode furiously about the narrow room.
"I am to be flung to the wolves, am I?  The responsibility was all
mine, only mine, was it?"

"So I understood you to say, Monsieur, at Coëtlegon."

Cadoudal got heavily to his feet.  "This does not concern me.  And
I hate all quarrels but my own.  Besides, I'm sick of the sound of
your voices.  I'll leave you, gentlemen, to your altercation."

He stamped out of the hovel.

"You do not want me either," said Quentin.  "And I am much of his
mind."  And he, too, went out.

In the heat of his argument with La Houssaye, Bellanger scarcely
heeded their departure.

So far, however, the Vicomte perceived only the shadow of the
trouble that was in store for him.  The substance of it overtook
him on the following morning, whilst they were breaking their fast
before taking the road again.  He sat with La Houssaye and Quentin
over a frugal meal that was being consumed in silence.  They were
not loving one another that morning.

To enliven their dullness the door was suddenly flung wide, and
Constant de Chesnières stood on the threshold, looking in his
swarthiness and wrath like an incarnation of the spirit of evil.

"Why are you here, you fools?" was his greeting.

Bellanger sprang up in amazement.  "Constant!" he cried.  "And the
Vendeans?"

"The Vendeans?"  Constant laughed unpleasantly.  He came forward,
leaving the door wide.  "They're south of the Loire, I suppose.  A
hundred miles or more away."

"You mean that they retired from Rédon?"

"I mean that they were never there.  Faith, Monsieur de Morlaix,
you have been proved right."  He made the acknowledgment in
bitterness, with a curling lip.  "We have been cheated by a foul
piece of treachery.  It aimed at dividing our forces, so that
Grouchy might deal with us separately."

Bellanger perceived here a spirit whose arrogance demanded a curb.
He mantled himself in his loftiest manner.  "It is fortunate that
your untimely heroics did not attract more men to join you in
mutiny, or else we should have been in poor case to give Grouchy
the warm welcome he received from us."

For a spell Constant glared, speechless.  Then his words came in a
foaming spate; and the first of them betrayed the panic that was at
the root of his wrath.  "God's Blood!  I may be broke for this, or
shot as Tinténiac threatened me.  For I come back worse than if I
had been defeated.  My men have deserted.  In disgust of the deceit
that victimized us, they've just melted away: gone back to their
harvests or to the devil.  I have not three hundred left of the
three thousand that followed me from Coëtlegon; and these are
homeless bandit rogues who don't care where they go so long as they
can plunder.  That gives you the measure of my case.  But, as I
live, at least I had looked to you to stand by me now, as you stood
by me when I proposed to go to the aid of those we were falsely
told lay at Grouchy's mercy."

"I stood by you?"  Bellanger was flushed.  "Monsieur, I find myself
with enough to answer for without that."

"Would you have the audacity to deny it?  And before these
gentlemen who heard you?  Here's baseness."

"Monsieur!"

"Don't mouth at me, Bellanger."  Constant's livid face was
convulsed with passion.  He flung about the room, his breathing
noisy.  "What the devil are you, then?  Are you merely a fool?
Noisy as a drum and just as empty of all but wind?  Or are you the
partner in treachery of your strumpet wife?"

Quentin sucked in his breath.  Constant had discovered more, it
seemed, at Rédon than the absence of Charette.

"My God, Chesnières, you are out of yourself," La Houssaye
protested, shocked.  "These words!"

"Let that silly cuckold answer them."

"Oh, I shall answer you."  Even in that dreadful moment, Bellanger
contrived to retain something of his histrionic manner.  His face
might be the colour of clay, but with head thrown back, his dark,
velvety eyes under frowning brows were steady.  "You will realize,
gentlemen, that for abuse so foul there is no answer in words.
Monsieur de La Houssaye, have the complacency to perceive that I
need a friend."

Quentin rose and stood suddenly forward.  "Messieurs, it is not
right, indeed most wrong, that you should engage in such a
quarrel."

Constant turned the blast of his wrath upon him.  "Ha!  And now
we're to have Monsieur de Carabas upon the code of honour.  It's
natural you should stand by this antlered imbecile.  Birds of a
feather.  Impostors both.  In his need of a friend I wonder he
should not have called upon you."

Quentin added to that madman's fury by a look of commiseration.
"For so poor a swordsman, sir, you have too rich a tongue."

"I'm swordsman enough to meet a man who cannot answer me save with
the sword."

"Rant your fill," said Bellanger.  "Rant your fill.  The reckoning
follows."

"Bah!  You shelter your villainy and your cuckoldhood in that.  You
cannot even deny it."

"Deny what, sir, in God's name?"

"That your wife, the mistress of this Hoche, a stableman turned
general, spread this snare for us so as to wreck the purpose for
which we were sent from Quiberon.  If you deny it I shall have the
charity to believe that at least you are not her partner, but her
victim like the rest of us."

"There are things, sir, that dignity does not permit one to deny."

"A cuckold's dignity!  God save us!"

"Sortons," said Bellanger.  "Let us go."

But Quentin intervened again.  "Before you do this, Monsieur de
Bellanger, you must know the quarrel you engage in.  You are both
dupes of this woman's treachery, and of the two it is you, Monsieur
de Bellanger, who are doubly betrayed.  How, then, can this be a
cause of quarrel between you?"

The three of them were staring at him in different degrees of
appalled surprise.  "It seems, then," said Bellanger, at last,
"that I am to have two of you on my hands."

Quentin shook his head.  "There are several things for which I
could kill you, Monsieur de Bellanger.  But because your wife
betrays you is not one of them.  I will not meet you on such
grounds."

"On what grounds, then?"

"On none.  I am in no need to prove my courage, and I should prove
it as little by killing you as you will prove your wife's chastity
by meeting Monsieur de Chesnières.  Let us be serious."

"You conceive that hitherto we have jested?"

"Carry your minds back to the council we held at Coëtlegon.  I gave
you then every hint I could that we were being betrayed.  You
derided me when I said that you would find the proof at Rédon, when
I insisted that the Vendeans did not exist.  You have found the
proof, I think."

"Proof of what?" Bellanger retorted.  "That my wife, herself, was
duped if you will; but no proof that she duped us."

"You forget the groom who brought the appeal for help.  When I told
you what I knew, you refused to investigate."

"Of course he would," sneered Constant, "and the motive's plain."
Thus in his blind rage he smote at reason as it began feebly to
raise its head.

Bellanger vowed that he would hear no more, and Quentin abandoned
the effort to stem the evil course of things.

Outside they found the little square thronged and noisy.  The three
hundred who had come back with Constant were hemmed in by a
seething, questioning mob.

Cadoudal, sweating profusely in the heat, and mopping himself, met
them almost on the doorstep.

"A fine consummation, sirs," he mocked.  "To hold my men together
after this will be like holding water in my two hands.  Devil take
me!  It would have been better for all of us had you remained in
England."

Quentin drew him aside, and in a dozen words told him what was
afoot.  He was not sympathetic.

"Excellent," he said.  "Let them cut each other's throat by all
means.  A pity they did not begin sooner."

Constant had found a friend in a Monsieur de Lantivy, of the Loyal
Émigrant, and with Cadoudal clinging to Quentin, so as to see the
sport, as he expressed it, the little group slipped out of the
village unobserved.  They found a quiet spot in a meadow watered by
a brook that flowed to join the Arz.  There in shirt and breeches,
in blazing sunshine under the summer sky that was a dome of
polished steel, the two men, whose folly was chiefly responsible
for the miscarriage of the expedition, faced each other sword in
hand.

It was a short engagement, surprising to Quentin in its result.
Men of equal height and reach and vigour, Constant was cramped by
natural clumsiness, and Bellanger incomparably the better
swordsman.  Yet whether his rage--a rage that may have been mingled
with tormenting doubts--obscured his mind and wove a trammel for
his limbs, or whether a streak of cowardice under all his bombast
now made him falter, his blundering opponent ran him through within
a few moments of engaging.

Thus, in the flower of his age, that rash, foolish man perished in
defence of the honour of a faithless woman whose name was destined
soon to become a byword for harlotry.



Chapter Eight

THE DISASTER


"He was a fool to meet you," was the rough comment of Cadoudal to
Monsieur de Chesnières.

Constant sneered brutally.  His success against a man held in some
repute as a swordsman had gone to his head a little.  "I left him
no choice," was his vaunt.

"Indeed, you did.  But he was too much of a fool to perceive it.
The Chevalier de Tinténiac promised you a court martial for your
insubordination.  As the Chevalier's successor, Monsieur de
Bellanger should have ordered your arrest and had you shot.  It's
what I should have done in his place.  But, to be sure, I'm no fine
gentleman with an over-sensitive honour and a withered reason.  And
now the gentlemen of the Loyal Émigrant have elected you to succeed
your victim.  My faith, it rounds off the mockery."

That is what had happened.  The group of officers of the Loyal
Émigrant who were with them had invited La Houssaye to assume
command.  La Houssaye, however, appalled by the disastrous shape
that things had assumed, definitely declined the responsibility.
After that, and in the absence of La Marche, their choice had
fallen upon Chesnières, perhaps because they believed that, like
Tinténiac, he was of influence with the Chouans.

Quite readily Constant had consented, and appointed his staff:  La
Houssaye, Lantivy, who had acted as his second, and St. Regent in
the place of Cadoudal, who refused to serve under the new
commander.  La Marche was to be included when he rejoined with the
main body of the Loyal Émigrant, left at Malestroit.  Quentin, who
more than any other now was to be regarded as Puisaye's
representative, found himself excluded, and was content.

"Are there many more fools in your family like this cousin of
yours?" Cadoudal asked him.  "To take command after what he's done
to ruin the enterprise is to challenge fate.  I'ld not willingly
stand in his shoes when he comes to meet the Comte Joseph.
Meanwhile, whether I march with him at all will depend upon whither
he marches.  The temper of my lads grows sour.  They'll be led on
no more fools' errands."

The new commander's decision, however, was to make their way back
to the army at Quiberon.

"The last decision I had expected from him," Cadoudal commented,
"because there's sense in it."

Upon that return journey they set out next morning, and at
Malestroit they came up with the émigrés who had turned faint
there.  By evening of that Sunday they were back at Josselin.  The
town, which had not yet recovered from the effects of their last
passage through it, gave them a cool welcome and seemed almost
eager to present them with some ugly rumours.

News had come of a great battle two days ago at Quiberon, in which
the Royal and Catholic Army had been routed.  Confirmation followed
on the Monday morning, before they left.  Yet they resisted belief.
The Royalist attack had failed as a result of the lack of
Tinténiac's simultaneous action.  But they clung fiercely to the
hope that this failure had been magnified by the tongue of rumour.
That the Royal Army could have suffered the reported destruction
was not to be believed.

Some of the Chouans, however, chose to believe it, and refused to
go farther.  They had been cheated, betrayed, ill-led and treated
with scorn by those on whose behalf they had come to fight.  They
had endured enough.  The harvest was calling them, and they would
go.

The end of it was that when that evening Constant rode up the
avenue of Coëtlegon, where they were again to make halt, he was
followed by no more than two thousand men, all that remained of the
ten thousand that Tinténiac had brought there a week ago.

To Constant's vexation, the Vicomtesse was no longer at her
château, and when he angrily demanded whither she had gone, only
Quentin's bitter mockery supplied an answer.

"Seek her in Hoche's camp."

In his disappointed vindictiveness he does not appear to have been
greatly concerned by the fact that his mother and cousin had also
departed with the rest.

For there were no ladies now to greet them at Coëtlegon, to feast
them and to languish for them.  The château was abandoned by all
save those wounded whose hurts were too grave to admit of their
being moved, and some peasant folk who out of the charity of their
hearts had come to nurse them.

Instead, they found there a half-dozen fugitives from Quiberon,
officers of the Royal Louis, whom a Captain de Guernissac--a
distant kinsman of the Grégos--had conducted thither into hiding.

They told a dreadful tale.

Even when d'Hervilly, realizing the dangerous situation into which
his obstinate policy had brought them, consented to the adoption of
Puisaye's plan, he still must be asserting himself by interfering
with its execution.  On the evening of the 15th, when preparations
for the morrow's action were being concluded, the sails of
Sombreuil's expedition appeared on the horizon.  The five émigré
regiments that Sombreuil was known to bring, represented at such a
moment the most opportune of reinforcements.  Yet d'Hervilly, in
the madness of those whom the gods have vowed to destruction, would
not consent that they be awaited.  They could not disembark until
the morrow, and that was the day for the dawn of which the attack
upon Hoche was planned.  Puisaye, waiting this timely arrival as an
eleventh-hour gift from the merciful gods for their salvation,
strenuously urged a twenty-four hours' postponement.  As
strenuously d'Hervilly opposed it, on the ground that Tinténiac's
division would be due to attack from Plouharnel.  Puisaye argued in
the first place that Tinténiac's orders were not to stir until he
heard the guns, in the second that if anything should have happened
to delay or hinder Tinténiac, Sombreuil's division would so swell
their strength that the Chevalier's absence would no longer cripple
them.  D'Hervilly, however, in a crowning act of folly, would not
yield.  Asserting for the last time his usurped authority of
Commander-in-Chief, he insisted that the attack be carried out as
originally planned.

For his further interference with the tactics of it he paid with
his foolish life.  He fell when an émigré regiment which he had
ordered forward was annihilated by a gale of fire from four of
Hoche's batteries.

The irony of it lay in that at the very moment that the last
dispositions he had made procured his own death and ensured the
ruin of the Royal Army, Sombreuil was casting anchor in the bay,
bearer at last of clear instructions from the British Government.
In these it was made definite that the British support had been
given only on the clear understanding that the supreme command
should be in the hands of the Comte de Puisaye.  D'Hervilly was
required to understand that his authority was straitly limited to
the émigré regiments, and he was ordered to take Monsieur de
Puisaye's commands for all operations and in all matters concerned
with general policy.

Had these definite orders reached Quiberon some twenty-four hours
earlier, the situation might yet have been saved.  When they
arrived death had already placed d'Hervilly beyond the necessity of
answering for the disastrous presumption, the very last act of
which had been one of the main factors in the Royalist ruin.  The
other had been the absence of Tinténiac from Hoche's rear.

Routed and hurled back behind Penthièvre, the demoralized Royalists
had been driven thence again under the hammer blows of the
Republicans.

Sombreuil and his five regiments, one of which was commanded by
Armand de Chesnières, landing to support an army that had all but
ceased to exist, found the Peninsula of Quiberon become little
better than a hospital.  Caught in that cul-de-sac and constrained
to own defeat, they capitulated to Hoche, and the Royal and
Catholic Army of Puisaye's creation, upon which such high confident
hopes had been justifiably founded, ceased to exist.

With this dreadful tale those fugitives came to deepen the despair
in which the remains of Tinténiac's division had staggered back to
Coëtlegon.  But it was hardly told in those terms; for Guernissac,
like most of the émigrés, was a partisan of d'Hervilly, and hostile
to Puisaye.  So that when Cadoudal, who was of the audience, in a
voice broken by grief, desired news of the fate of the Comte
Joseph, Guernissac let loose his venom.

"Puisaye?  The craven scoundrel was amongst the first to save his
skin."

"You lie," said a voice that produced by those two words a dreadful
silence.

"Who spoke?" blazed Guernissac.

Quentin stood forward.  "I did.  I have some acquaintance with the
man you defame."

Constant intervened ferociously.  The events had not improved his
temper or his manners.  "Is it you again?  Listen to me, you
rascal, and understand.  I am in command here, and I'll have no
brawling.  I'll make my authority respected.  I've still power
enough to place you under arrest if you attempt disturbances."

"I wonder if you have," put in Cadoudal.  "There are a few lads of
mine who'll share Monsieur le Marquis' opinion, and at need defend
it.  The Comte Joseph's honour is not to be blown upon by any pimp
who thinks himself a soldier.  To hell with your scowls, my lad!
They don't frighten me.  I am Georges Cadoudal.  If Monsieur de
Puisaye is not master of Brittany to-day, if the army which only he
could have raised is not victorious, it is because of the
interferences of such energumens as you, Chesnières, as d'Hervilly,
as Bellanger and the rest of you strutting, posturing jackanapes."
He looked fiercely at Guernissac.  "Don't let me hear you adding
lying calumny to the havoc your kind has made."

"Calumny!"  Guernissac was white to his thin lips.  A tempestuous
Gascon, lithely vigorous and swarthy as a Spaniard, he was
quivering with anger.  "My man, I talk of what I know, of what I've
seen.  As these others."  His sweeping gesture embraced his fellow
fugitives.  "Let me tell you of this precious Comte Joseph of
yours.  When all was in jeopardy and Quiberon a shambles, that
poltroon abandoned us.  He took a boat and fled to safety aboard
one of the English ships.  In his absence it was left for Sombreuil
and Armand de Chesnières and some others to settle with Hoche the
terms of the capitulation.  Will you justify that desertion?"

"Justify it?  I don't believe it."

Then another officer, a middle-aged man named Dumanoir, took up the
invective.  "We tell you that we saw it.  Justified, it certainly
can't be.  But it can be explained.  This traitor is in the pay of
England; and England desires only the ruin of France.  We all know
that now.  Why else should this sometime Republican have been
supported by Pitt, who had refused to listen to the proposals of
better men?"

"There were no better men," Quentin answered him.  "Those others
who went to Pitt had no proposals.  They merely whined appeals."

"So his friends may say.  But when all is known, it will be seen
that the perfidious Pitt employed him just so that our ruin might
be accomplished."

"You mean that until all is known, this fantastic falsehood is what
you will choose to believe.  It does credit to your wit."

"Bah!" said Cadoudal.  "Let them stew in their nauseous vileness."
He stamped out of the hall, and Quentin, who so fully shared his
feelings of disgust, went with him.

Outside Quentin asked him:  "What's to do now, Georges?"

At the moment Cadoudal had no answer for him.  But it was not long
delayed.  The facts supplied it.  Coëtlegon being in no case to
feed the little army that had come to re-encamp there, it began
almost at once to melt away.  The greater part of the Chouans slunk
off to their husbandry; others, inured by now to a life of
banditry, sought again their forest lairs.  Of the latter was
Cadoudal, with a following of some three hundred men, all that
remained him of his Morbihannais.  For him there could be no return
to civil life.  He was so marked and notorious a rebel that to lay
down his arms would be tantamount to suicide.  He took himself off,
with the announced intent to cross the Loire and join Charette,
whose Vendean army continued afoot there.

Quentin, with no notion of going into the Vendée, remained behind
with St. Regent, who with a bare hundred of his lads lingered at
Coëtlegon when all the rest of the Chouans had gone.  He was
inspired to this by the need to protect and nourish the wounded who
still cumbered the château.  He organized foraging parties, and it
was only thus that the men of the Loyal Émigrant were provided with
supplies.  In addition, at Quentin's instances, he sent out scouts
for news in general and in particular of the ladies of Chesnières.
It was chiefly a torment of anxiety on Germaine's account that
still retained Quentin at Coëtlegon.  Until he knew what had become
of her, it was impossible for him to dispose for his own future.
But for that he must have quitted a place which on every count had
become hateful to him.  To the émigrés he had been an object of
overt hostility ever since his hot defence of Puisaye, and only the
fear of his sword kept that hostility circumscribed in its
expressions.  Feeling himself an outcast in that society, and
himself despising it, he avoided it and consorted almost
exclusively with St. Regent and his men.

As the days passed the reports that came to Coëtlegon brought no
comfort to its tenants.

Sombreuil and his émigrés, a long column of prisoners, had been
marched in chains to Vannes, where the Representatives Tallien and
Bled were dealing with them.  These Royalists had capitulated to
Hoche with the condition that their lives should be spared.  But
the politicians refused to ratify what the military had done.  They
took the view that these men's outlawry as émigrés antedated their
surrender as prisoners of war.  They were being brought in groups
to summary trial, and as summarily shot on the warren of Vannes.

One day news came that the venerable old Bishop of Dol and fourteen
priests, together with Sombreuil, himself, Armand de Chesnières and
some of their companions in arms had been executed in a batch.
They heard, too, that some three thousand Chouans had deserted to
the Republicans.  It was, indeed, the end of all hope, and the
unfortunate Royalist remnant at Coëtlegon was brought to perceive
that only flight remained.

For Quentin, however, there was relief.  The same scout who brought
in those grim details of the fusillades, was actually the bearer of
a letter from Mademoiselle de Chesnières.

In the character of an onion seller, moving freely through the
land, this peasant lad had penetrated as far as St. Malo, and there
his ceaseless, shrewd inquiries had put him on a trail that led him
straight to Madame de Chesnières and her niece.  It might hardly
have been so easy, but that he found them lodged quite openly and
under their own names at the house of a baker in the shadow of the
square castle.

The hurried scrawl from Germaine of which he was the bearer had
brought at once peace and vexation to Quentin's hungry soul.

She wrote of her ineffable relief to learn of his safety, and
prayed him to continue to care for and preserve a life upon which
her own depended.  Next she reassured him on her own score.
Passports had been obtained for her aunt and herself, through the
interest of General Hoche, and they were at the moment of her
writing on the point of boarding a ship for Jersey, whence it would
be an easy matter to reach England.

He understood the prudence which omitted all allusion to the
military and political tragedy which had overtaken the Royalists,
and gave no hint of the channel through which the interest of
General Hoche had been enlisted.  He guessed it, as she knew he
would, and in this lay the pang of vexation that leavened his
thankfulness.  There is a humiliating sense of meanness in the
acceptance of help or service from one whom we despise.  Yet this
was the course he had, himself, urged upon Germaine, with his
sophistry on the employment of evil in the service of good.



Chapter Nine

THE COURT MARTIAL


Quentin sought Constant de Chesnières that same evening with the
news of Madame de Chesnières' safety.  He was moved by an impulse
of kindliness to allay anxieties which he conceived must exist, and
to bear tidings that might offer some mitigation of the mourning
into which news of his brother's death must have plunged Constant.

Constant was displaying both mentally and physically a steady
deterioration since the return to Coëtlegon.  Brooding upon the
disaster to which his folly had so largely contributed, aimless,
without plans for the future or the will to form any, he was
drinking heavily, and as a consequence, grew daily more overbearing
and quarrelsome.

He scowled upon Quentin's approach, and scowling, interrupted him
at the very outset.  "You have, then, the presumption to correspond
with my cousin?"

"We can discuss my presumptions afterwards, if you wish.  Let my
news come first.  It concerns Madame your mother."

They were alone together in that library which had already been the
stage of some fateful scenes, a room now dusty and disordered from
the neglect and carelessness of its inquilines of these past weeks.
The shards of a marble, knocked from its pedestal some days ago,
lay where they had fallen on the Aubusson carpet that was stained
with muddy footprints.  A broken chair, in brocade and gilded wood,
of the days of the Fifteenth Louis, hung in drunken collapse bereft
of a leg.  Books taken from their shelves to beguile the tedium of
the émigrés lay tumbled where they had been cast by their careless
readers.  It was a room that presented an epitome of the state of
the party of those who had confectioned it.  Its erstwhile gracious
fastidious dignity had succumbed to the corruptive forces of
misfortune.

Monsieur de Chesnières, himself, had undergone in his own person
some similar dilapidations.  Dishevelled, carelessly clad, his
long, yellow, satin waistcoat unbuttoned and wine-stained, his
neckcloth soiled and crumpled, the big swarthy man presented a
coarse, debauched appearance.

He leaned against the heavy writing-table, his full, malevolent
eyes considering the trim, spare figure before him.

"How does Madame my mother concern you?"

"She does not.  But I conceive that she may be of some concern to
you."  And briskly, so as to be the sooner done, he conveyed his
news.

The momentary relief on Constant's face was presently followed by a
sneer.

"We are fallen so low, then, as to be in the debt of a harlot for
our lives."

"Your mother's safety should be of more importance than the means
by which she procures it."

"Oh!  You are to instruct me?"  There was an ominous lift of the
thick, black brows.  "You would not perceive the presumption.  It's
no matter.  I am obliged to you, sir, for the tidings, although
there may be much that does not commend them."

Quentin smiled.  "There is also so much about me that does not
commend itself, that you will be relieved to hear that I am leaving
Coëtlegon to-night."

Constant's eyes opened in surprise, then gradually their expression
became dark with malevolence.  "By whose leave, sir?"

"Leave!  Is leave still necessary?"

"Do you pretend to forget that I command here?"

There was in this no new note to take Quentin by surprise.  For
days past Constant had been ranting on the subject of his
authority, and becoming the more insistent upon it in a measure as
it dwindled by the natural processes of disruption.

"That," said Quentin, placidly, "is merely tiresome.  What remains
to command?  A pack of fugitives?"

"You choose to be offensive.  It will not serve.  You do not help
yourself."

Seeing no profit in pursuing the discussion, Quentin shrugged,
turned, and walked out of the room.  But Constant went after him,
as if in pursuit of a prey about to escape, and overtaking him just
beyond the door, laid an arresting hand upon his shoulder.

A group of officers lounged dismally in talk at the far end of the
hall.  Three or four convalescents made another group on a bench
near the main doors.

"I will remind you," Constant was shouting, "that insubordination
in a soldier is a serious offence."

But Quentin mocked him.  "Faith!  I did not suspect that you
realized it.  Shall we be sensible?"  He shook the hand from his
shoulder.  "This wreckage of what was once an army is daily going
to pieces.  It is an army no longer, the sauve qui peut has
sounded, and it is idle to pretend that any authority remains."

"You will not find it idle.  I will tolerate neither desertion nor
insubordination."

"Bah!  You want to laugh."

"By God!  Must I order your arrest to show you that I'm serious?"

Quentin looked at him for a silent moment, steadily meeting the
malevolence of his glance.  "Please be frank with me.  What is the
purpose of this comedy?"

"You'll find it no comedy, you impostor; you bastard!"

For just one second, Quentin, who took such pride in his ability to
maintain calm under any provocation, completely lost control of
himself.  With the next heart-beat he recovered it.  But by then
the mischief was done.  In that one blind, volcanic second, he had
struck so hard a blow across Constant's face that, taken unawares
and perhaps off his balance, Constant had gone over backwards, and
lay stretched upon the floor.

Quentin stood over him, a smile on his white face.  "It was
overdue," he said.  "I have been curbing myself ever since I met
you, Monsieur de Chesnières.  But now that it has happened, I think
that we shall have to go through with it."

He had not heeded the quick approaching steps behind him, bringing
the startled officers at speed from the far side of the hall.

"Yes."  Constant was gathering himself together.  His tone was a
snarl.  "You will certainly have to go through with it."  He stood
up, displaying in a bruised countenance eyes of evil, mocking
exultation that alone might have warned Quentin of what was about
to follow.  He addressed the officers.  "Messieurs, you arrive most
opportunely.  Monsieur de La Marche, be good enough to place
Monsieur de Morlaix under arrest."

La Marche, who held Quentin in no affection, was promptly obedient.

"Your sword, sir."

Quentin stepped back, his face momentarily blank.  "Arrest me?"
Then he laughed.  "This is fantastic.  My quarrel with Monsieur de
Chesnières is not only a personal affair, it is an old one."

"A personal affair?"  Above the eyes, whose exultation was
maintained, the heavy brows were raised.  "I should be happy so to
regard it.  But that would make an end to all discipline.  You'll
not be ignorant of the consequences of striking a superior officer.
There is no lack of witnesses.  So the matter need not keep us
long."

Quentin's hand went by instinct to his sword.  Instantly La Marche
and another officer, named du Cressol, laid hands upon him.
Feeling himself firmly held, he wasted no strength in a futile
struggle.  Whilst these two retained their grasp, a third came to
unbuckle his belt, and remove it with his sword.

Constant spoke softly.  "You have long curbed yourself, you say.
So have I, with the patience of one who knew that sooner or later
your insolence would overreach itself."

"And," added Quentin, "with the guile of the coward who pursues
through agents the gratification of his private rancour."

Constant ignored the taunt.  "If you will come with me, messieurs,
we will deal with this at once."

He turned, re-entered the library, and went slowly to take his
stand beside the writing-table, whilst the others followed with
Quentin in their hostile midst.  There were six of them in all,
besides Constant, himself:  La Marche, La Houssaye, Dumanoir, that
elderly warrior, Major de Maisonfort, Guernissac and a youngster of
subaltern rank.

"There are enough of us for a court martial," Constant announced,
at which Quentin laughed.  "And since all of you were witnesses of
the assault with which I have to charge the prisoner, the matter is
simple.  If you will preside, Monsieur de La Houssaye, we will
dispose of it without waste of time."

Quentin's air remained one of scornful amusement, although he had
by now no illusions on the score of the trap into which he had
stepped.  Himself, he had supplied Constant with the means to
settle the old account between them.  He realized, too, his danger
from the general hostility of these officers who were to form this
mock court martial, and do the will of this man who had pursued him
with an enmity as relentless as it had been sly.  Yet, having
broken out of other snares as deadly that Constant had laid for
him, he could not yet believe that he would not break out of this
one.

Looking keenly about him in the silence that followed Constant's
invitation to La Houssaye, he perceived that, saving perhaps La
Marche and Guernissac, these men were actually startled by the
service required of them.  Whatever their hostility to Quentin, the
code by which they governed their lives made them regard this
primarily as an affair between gentlemen, for the settlement of
which a gentleman should scorn to make use of his position,
especially when that position was as indefinite as Constant's had
been rendered by the events.

La Houssaye expressed more than his own stiff mind when after a
pause he asked:  "Do I understand, Monsieur de Chesnières, that you
make the blow that was struck a matter for a court martial?"

Constant frowned upon him.  "I thought I made it clear."

The little man's big face had lengthened.  He still hesitated.
"Permit me to ask, Monsieur, the nature of the quarrel in which he
struck you."

"What has that to do with it?"

"Something, I think.  If the blow was struck in the course of a
quarrel on personal grounds . . ."

He was harshly interrupted.  "I do not quarrel with my subordinates,
sir.  But since you ask, I must tell you that the matter was nowise
personal.  Monsieur de Morlaix was insubordinate. He had announced
to me his intention to depart from Coëtlegon. When I refused him
leave, and warned him that if he dared to do without it, I should
hold him guilty of desertion, he aggravated his mutinous conduct
by striking me as you all saw."

"Ah!"  La Houssaye inclined his head.  "In that case I am at your
orders."  He went to take his seat at the writing-table, and signed
to the officers present to dispose themselves about him.

Dumanoir alone remained in charge of the prisoner.

Then Quentin, who remained outwardly composed, put a question to
the President.  "In this farcical trial that you propose to hold,
am I to have a friend?  It is usual, I think."

"Certainly.  You may name any one of these gentlemen to act for
you."

"I should prefer the choice to be less circumscribed.  I am within
my rights, I believe.  I do not recall that I have found any of
these gentlemen too friendly."

"You may name anyone you choose," La Houssaye conceded.

"I thank you, sir.  Perhaps some gentleman will do me the kindness
to find St. Regent and bring him here."

Constant reared his head as if he had been struck.  "St. Regent?  A
peasant!  That is inadmissible.  You will confine yourself to your
brother-officers of the Loyal Émigrant."

"I mistrust their brotherliness," said Quentin placidly.  "By what
rule of procedure must I confine my choice to them?"

Under his calm, hard eyes the President shifted uncomfortably.  He
looked at Constant, standing massively beside him.

"If the prisoner insists, we can hardly refuse.  But I trust that
he will not.  He should have the grace to recognize that the Sieur
St. Regent, a Chouan, a peasant, is hardly . . . ah . . . fitted to
represent a gentleman born before a tribunal of his peers."

"Of course not," said Constant.

"A gentleman born, Monsieur Le President.  I thank you for the
description.  But it was precisely for denying me that estate that
I knocked Monsieur de Chesnières down, as any of you would have
done in my place."

"Ah, bah!" Constant exclaimed in angry impatience.  "What need for
a friend at all, in so plain a case?  What advocacy can possibly
avail against that blow, witnessed and now admitted?  This comedian
merely wastes our time.  Let us get on."

"Here's an indecent haste to get me before a firing-party."

Under the dominance of Constant, La Houssaye gravely shook his
head.  "Indeed, sir, there is little to be tried, unless you should
deny the remainder of the charge as formulated by our commander:
that you proposed to depart, and were insubordinate when denied
your leave."

"If," said Quentin, "we are not to observe the ordinary forms of
procedure, then this ceases to be a trial, and becomes a mere
discussion.  Speaking, then, not as an accused, but as one officer
to another, Monsieur de La Houssaye, it is the fact that I did
Monsieur de Chesnières the civility to inform him of my intention
to leave Coëtlegon to-night with St. Regent's contingent."

"St. Regent's contingent?" cried Constant.  "You said nothing of
that."

"True.  I left it for St. Regent himself, to tell you or not, as he
chose.  I confined myself to my own affairs."

"You admit that when Monsieur de Chesnières refused you leave, you
struck him?" asked La Houssaye.

"When he refused.  But not because he refused.  Because of the
offensive terms in which he uttered the refusal."

Now this gathering, as was to be seen, had been oddly and
unpleasantly stirred by the intimation that St. Regent was about to
withdraw a body of men which the émigrés had come to regard as
their main shield and protection.  The two hundred men remaining
them would feel helpless indeed if deprived of the support of the
hundred Chouans with St. Regent.  Moreover, the peculiar tactics of
the Chouans and their peculiar knowledge of the country and its
fastnesses were things upon which the émigrés must count in a last
extremity.  The general indignation aroused by that threat of
desertion was voiced by Guernissac.

"No terms, sir, could be too offensive.  You and St. Regent are
creatures both of that traitor Puisaye, and worthy of him."  With
mounting fury the Gascon raged on:  "Rats that desert a doomed
ship.  Like Puisaye at Quiberon, so you and your brigand associate
here make off to safety, leaving those you have betrayed to shift
for themselves."

It was a speech to whip up the passions of these men, and as
Quentin looked round, his lip curving in scorn, he perceived the
effect it took.

"Those we betrayed?  Do you even know what you are saying?  How
have we betrayed them?"

Guernissac replied with violence.  "You betrayed them into
following you, you and Cadoudal and this St. Regent and the rest of
Puisaye's jackals."  La Marche took up that infamous perversion of
the facts, the more eagerly perhaps because he perceived in it a
shield for himself and his associates.

"We were removed from Quiberon, so that the Royalist forces might
be weakened by being divided.  That is the betrayal of which we are
the victims, we and those others who remained to fall at Quiberon
or were massacred in Vannes, whilst Puisaye has fled to England to
receive his Judas fee, his price for all the rich French blood that
has been spilled."

Thus the passion stirred by Guernissac spread like a contagion
through those present.  One after another in varying terms of
invective they repeated the substance of that accusation, which
originally had been the Gascon's, so that in a moment the very
ground of the trial seemed to have shifted.  Only La Houssaye held
judicially aloof.  He let the storm rage on, waiting patiently
until it should have spent itself.

Constant sat tight-lipped, content that the venom of the men who
formed this haphazard court should ask nothing better than to do
his will.

At last, a pause enabled Quentin to make some answer.

"Faith, sirs, this travesty of a tribunal leaves me wondering
whether it claims to sit in judgment upon me, or upon the gentlemen
who supplied you with the very coats you are wearing."

That earned him a fresh onslaught, dominated by the elderly
Maisonfort.

"Do you rally us with that?  Is it because you are so much in that
scoundrel Puisaye's secrets that you know the price he has had from
that perfidious assassin Pitt to lead us to destruction?"

"The man is half an Englishman himself," said someone with the air
of advancing a final proof against him.

"Of your charity, sirs," Quentin protested.  "One charge at a time.
At least make up your minds for what offence you are trying me.  Is
it for being half English, for having been associated with Monsieur
de Puisaye, or for having struck the foul-mouthed poltroon who
commands you?"

"You are to answer for all," raged the truculent Guernissac.

La Houssaye beat upon the table in a belated attempt to restore
some decency.  "Messieurs!  Messieurs!  We cannot now concern
ourselves with matters on which there is no evidence before us."

But Guernissac was not so easily silenced on the subject of his
obsession.  "Do we lack evidence that Puisaye has sold us or that
he was in the pay of England?"

"But, sir, we are not in judgment upon Puisaye.  Whatever evidence
we possess against him, is not evidence against the prisoner."

"Does this man's close connection with Puisaye count for nothing,
his and his Chouan associates, this fellow St. Regent who now
proposes to desert us?"

La Houssaye began to show signs of distraction.  "This way, we
shall never reach conclusion.  We are here to deal with a charge of
insubordination and violence."

"Then why the devil don't you?" cried La Marche.  "What need to
waste more time?  Send him before a platoon, and have done."

With political passions at boiling-point, the assent to this was
stormily general.

"If you value your own skins, sirs," said Quentin gently, "you'll
commit no such rashness.  My fellow-traitor St. Regent and his
Chouans might ask an unpleasant account of you for my assassination."

"Do you reckon upon that?" Constant asked him, coldly.

La Houssaye took it up.  "Are you threatening a wholesale mutiny so
as to deter us?  This, sir, is an aggravation of your offence.  We
are not to be intimidated in the execution of a clear duty."

"Bear with him," mocked Constant.  "It is the only defence he can
offer."

Under Quentin's cool appearance, alarm was stirring.  His sense of
being trapped increased.  He began seriously to fear not merely
sentence, but a swift execution before the Chouans could intervene.
He assumed--and no doubt correctly--that Constant's aim would be to
present St. Regent with an accomplished fact, secure in the support
of the Loyal Émigrant and in the conviction that whilst St. Regent
might possibly be reckless of bloodshed to rescue Quentin, he would
hardly risk a pitched battle so as to avenge him.

La Houssaye was sternly addressing him.  "You can hardly realize
the gravity of your position, or you would not treat the court with
levity.  If you have anything to say that will mitigate the charge
which you do not deny, I offer you a last opportunity of doing so."

Quentin, still with every appearance of ease, stood supporting
himself with both hands on the back of a light chair.  He smiled a
little as he answered.  "What can I say that would prevail against
passions so blind, against malice so determined?  I should but
waste the breath that I may need for something else.  For this, for
instance."

On the word he swung the chair aloft, span round and hurled it
through the window, with a resounding crash of shattered glass.
After it he sent a shout delivered with all the strength of his
lungs.  "To me!  St. Regent!  To me!"

Then he was struggling in the grip of Dumanoir and La Marche, and a
roar of voices filled the room.  The young subaltern went to the
assistance of the two who strove with him, and amongst them they
bore him to the ground.

As he went down under their weight, he was cheered by the
reflection that these fools by the noise they made could not fail
to draw the attention he desired.  Over the shoulder of La Marche,
who knelt upon him, he saw that the door was opening.  Then on a
sudden hush that fell, he heard a voice asking, with a marked
Breton accent:  "In the name of God, what is happening here?"



Chapter Ten

THE AVENGER


The new-comer, a bulky fellow in baggy Breton breeches of soiled
linen and green fustian jacket, a red night-cap drawn tight upon
his fair hair, displayed to Quentin's amazed eyes the rosy
countenance of Georges Cadoudal, whom he imagined miles away.

For a moment of mutual surprise the Chouan stood gazing at the
émigrés, and they at him.  Then Constant heaved himself up in
truculence.

"What do you want here?  What have you come back for?"

"By Our Lady of Auray!  Here's a welcome for a brother-in-arms.
What have I come back for?  To bring you a visitor."  He turned his
head and spoke over his shoulder.  "In here, Monsieur le Comte."

A brisk step and the jingle of a spur rang on the marble pavement
of the hall, and a tall figure in a long black riding-coat came to
fill the doorway.

The gentlemen of the Loyal Émigrant looked as if they beheld a
ghost.  They may have believed they did.  For it was the Comte de
Puisaye who stood before them; the man so confidently reported to
have fled to England.  He was followed by St. Regent.

He swept off the round black hat that shaded his brows, swept it
off with a characteristic flourish and tossed it spinning to a
chair.  His face now fully disclosed showed grey and haggard.  But
the commanding haughtiness of its expression had abated nothing.
He bowed theatrically.

"Serviteur, Messieurs!"  There was a queer, biting mockery in his
metallic tone.

He came slowly forward, a riding-switch held across his body in his
two gloved hands, and his deep-set eyes pondered the group that
sprawled on the floor beneath the window.

"What am I interrupting?"  He looked round for an answer, but
received none from those men who continued to stare at him in a
sort of awe.

Cadoudal thrust past him.  "Monsieur le Marquis!  And was it you,
then, who called for help?"

"Don't I look as if I needed it?"  The three who had held him fell
back before the Chouan's approach, and he sat up.  "Good evening to
you, Monsieur de Puisaye.  You ask what you are interrupting.
You'll hardly believe it from the appearances, but it's a court
martial."  He came to his feet, none hindering him now, and dusted
his garments.  "I stand charged with insubordination by gentlemen
who certainly understand the crime."

Puisaye considered them.  "A court martial.  Most opportune.  Being
assembled, perhaps you will now sit in judgment upon me.  I am
accused--so I am told by my friend here, Georges Cadoudal--of
cowardice and treason."

He paused there.  Dominated by his masterfulness, uneasy under his
scorn, not one of them ventured to answer him.

"Well, sirs?"  He threw his hands apart in a gesture of submission.
"I am here.  Which of you will utter in my presence the indictment
with which I understand that you are so free in my absence?"

Then Constant found voice and courage to give the company a lead.
"Why you are at Coëtlegon you know best yourself.  But if you think
to carry things by insolence, we shall discover your mistake to
you."

"Why I am here?  First, to prove by my presence that I have not
fled to England, as is stated by loose-tongued liars."

Here Guernissac, who felt himself directly challenged, made bold to
answer him.  "At least, you'll not deny that you fled from the
fight, that you slunk off like a coward to the English Admiral's
flagship.  You'll not deny it to me, because I saw you go."

Puisaye displayed no resentment.  "I went off to Sir John's
flagship, as you say.  But not as you suppose."  And Cadoudal
behind him laughed in contempt of the charge.  "I went off in the
discharge of my duty; the duty of a general to whom all played
false.  I went off so as to persuade Sir John to stand in with his
ships, in a last hope that his guns might retrieve, or at least
check, the disaster of the day.  And he might well have done so.  A
frigate, in fact, did open fire on the Republicans, and was
withering their battalions, when once again the gentlemen of the
noblesse of France betrayed me.  In contravention of my orders to
stand firm, they entered into a capitulation and sent word of it
aboard, demanding that the fire should cease."

"That is your tale, is it?" Constant sneered.

"That is my tale.  To their own undoing, [as these quel proves,]
those gentlemen on Quiberon would no more take my orders in the
hour when I might yet have saved them than they would take them
whilst it was in my power to lead them to certain and easy
victory."

At this there was some fleering laughter.

"It is in character, I suppose," he quietly rebuked them, "that you
should be amused by the consequences to the King's cause of the
incompetence, the ill-will, the empty vanity and downright
treachery which are the only qualities of which you gentlemen have
given proof."

"Have you the effrontery to speak of treachery?" Constant asked.

Puisaye looked at him, and there was a deadliness in his cold,
steady eyes.  "I have scarcely come to it yet.  I point to the
fruits of it.  That it has ruined me is nothing; but," and suddenly
his tone was incisive as the edge of a knife, "that it should have
ruined plans so long and laboriously laid, plans that I was years
in perfecting, and that it should have rendered null the invaluable
aid that none but I enjoyed the credit to procure from England, is
the tragedy for which the monarchy must pay."

"Is that what you have come here to tell us?" was Guernissac's
truculent question.

"Because if so," said Constant, "you waste your time.  You do not
impress us."

"Perhaps I shall before all is said.  One reason why I am here is
to prove to those liars who say that I fled to England that I am
still in Brittany.  I might have fled.  Being aboard Sir John
Warren's flagship I might have returned with him.  But there were
duties here in France still to be discharged.  There were events to
be investigated, so that I may render a full account to the British
Government should I ever reach England again."

"That we can well believe," sneered Constant, and found one or two
to sneer with him.

Puisaye left the sneer unheeded.  "I spent five days in Vannes; in
the lion's den, as you might say.  I was there when Sombreuil paid
with his life for the credulous folly of his capitulation.  And
with him went those others who had prevailed upon him to disregard
my orders at the end, as my orders had been disregarded throughout
this ill-starred adventure.  Your brother, Monsieur de Chesnières,
was amongst those whom I saw shot with him.  The total of those
massacred by the Republican fire on the warren of Vannes amounts,
sirs, to some seven hundred."

It drew a cry of horror from his audience.

"That holocaust impresses you, I see.  I hope it brings you--you
who are assembled here to sit in judgment upon insubordination--I
hope it brings you to reflect upon the dreadful guilt of those who
by their insubordination to me, the Commander-in-Chief of the
expedition, whether treacherous or just blindly stupid, have
procured the shedding of so much good French blood."

"Who more guilty than yourself?" cried Constant.

"That is what I am here to tell you."

"That blood cries to Heaven for vengeance," raved Guernissac.

"To Heaven, no doubt.  It cries also to me.  Hear me yet a moment,
sirs.  There are amongst you here some officers of that division
which left Quiberon under the Chevalier de Tinténiac, to be on
Hoche's rear on the 16th at dawn."  He seemed to swell before them
now with the just indignation that was in him, and his vibrant
voice beat out the words deliberately.  "It was a last attempt to
undo what the insubordination of an incompetent fool had done; and
but for the failure of your division to keep that engagement it
must have succeeded.  Instead, to that failure are due the disaster
of Quiberon, the rout of the Royal and Catholic Army and the
massacres on the warren of Vannes.  What, I ask you, are the
desserts of those responsible?"

He dominated them completely.  Even the bitter Guernissac quailed
under the sweep of a glance that made each of them feel not merely
accused but guilty.

He resumed.  "Whilst down there at Quiberon we counted upon you in
foolish confidence, you were making merry here in this very house
to which you have now returned; like dogs to their vomit."

There was a mutter of indignation at the insult.

"Don't bay at me," he thundered back, and so silenced them again.
"Whilst we made ready for action, trusting that loyal to your
pledge you would be on your way to take up your positions, you were
feasting and dancing and toying with the women brought here by a
treacherous harlot to beguile you."

Here Constant broke through the spell that his just indignation,
and their shamed sense of it, was weaving over them.  "I think
there has been enough of this.  If you know so much you will also
know that Tinténiac is dead.  It is a vileness to malign him."

"It is not of Tinténiac that I complain.  That was a loyal soul.
As loyal as brave.  Had he lived the engagement had been kept."

"You allude, then, to Bellanger.  He, too, is dead."

"By your hand.  I know.  And so he cannot answer for his part in
this betrayal.  But you, Monsieur de Chesnières, remain."

"I?"  Constant's dark eyes widened.  He lost some colour.

"Can it be that I surprise you?  Was it not your gross
insubordination to Tinténiac in marching off with three thousand of
his men that weakened the division and laid it open to the
Republican attack in which Tinténiac was killed?  Did not the
events leading to the failure of this division to keep the
engagement at Plouharnel follow out of that?"

There was no truculence in Constant now.  A sense of peril invaded
him, a sudden fear of this dominant man who towered before him like
an incarnation of Nemesis.  He faltered in glance and tone as he
defended himself.  "I was deceived by lies that Charette and his
Vendeans were at Rédon beset by Grouchy."

"What lies could deceive a soldier who knew his duty, who had his
orders?"

Constant stiffened.  "I am not to be browbeaten.  What I did then I
would do again in the like circumstances."

"Do you dare to say so with the knowledge of an army destroyed and
a wholesale massacre at Vannes in consequence of that mutiny?"

"Will you make me responsible for that?" Constant demanded,
recovering in heat some of his spirit.  "Will you make me the
scapegoat of your treachery and your ineptitude?  It will not
serve, Monsieur de Puisaye.  I am conscious of having acted only as
my honour demanded."

"Honour!" Puisaye echoed, in withering scorn.  "You talk of honour,
do you?  Honour!  Ha!  In what do I find you here engaged?  Having
failed by other means--and you have had recourse to many--to
extinguish a life that stands between you and your succession to
the marquisate of Chavaray, you contrive this comedy of a court
martial and employ these poor deluded dupes of yours to do your
murder for you."

There was no single outcry at this from those officers who might
well have deemed themselves insulted.  They remained mumchance,
suddenly stricken by the charge; for it revived acutely their
misgivings at the outset, their feeling that the matter was one for
personal settlement between the parties, a feeling which had been
overlaid and obscured by the political passions Guernissac had
stirred up.  With a painfully renewed consciousness of this, they
looked at Constant, to see how he would receive that formidable
accusation.

He stood tense and white, his hands working nervously at his sides.
"On that I give you the lie, sir," he said.  "And I can prove it.
None stands between me and that succession since my brother
Armand's death.  Certainly not this bastard who pretends himself
the son of Bertrand de Chesnières."

Puisaye's lip curled.  "He can pretend it so successfully that you
find it necessary to have him murdered.  But you lead me to digress
with your talk of honour.  My concern is with the military duty in
which your failure has wrought such irreparable havoc.  For that
you must pay, Monsieur de Chesnières.  I am here to exact it."

"Pay!"  Constant's face was momentarily blank.  Then he masked his
fear in bluster.  He laughed.  "You hear this ranter, gentlemen,
this impudent traitor in the pay of Pitt."

But that was a pistol from which Puisaye had already shaken the
false priming.  There was no such response as Constant looked for.
The company sat appalled, overawed.

"Leave my sins," the Count commanded.  "At the proper time and in
the proper quarter I will answer for them.  At present you will
answer to me for yours."

"I do not answer to you.  I am not on my trial."

"It is perhaps unnecessary.  You are already judged and sentenced.
You will recall Tinténiac's words to you when you rode mutinously
away with the Chouans you had seduced into following you.  What
were the exact words, Georges?"

Promptly Cadoudal quoted them:  "'If you come back alive, I'll
bring you before a court martial, and have you shot for this.'"

That rehearsal had power to drive Constant's fear deep into his
soul and to drain the blood from his dark face.  But in the next
heart-beat, remembering the predominance of his numbers, he took
courage in the conviction that the men of the Loyal Émigrant would
stand by him, right or wrong, in a trial of strength with Puisaye.
In that thought he recovered all his arrogance.

"You are singularly daring to come hectoring here," he said.  "As
daring as I have been patient in listening to you.  For whatever I
may have done, like yourself, I will answer at the proper time and
in the proper place."

"I mean you to do so," Puisaye answered him, and added:  "That time
is now; that place is here."

"You want to laugh.  When I answer it will be to my peers.  I do
not recognize your authority."

"There you state precisely your offence; the offence for which some
thousands have perished."

"Look you, Monsieur de Puisaye, there has been enough of this.  I
must ask you to withdraw and to leave Coëtlegon at once, counting
yourself lucky that you are permitted to do so."

Behind Puisaye Cadoudal loosed a laugh.  "What a cockerel!  And how
he crows!  Name of a name!"

Puisaye took a step forward.  "Monsieur de Chesnières," he said
quietly, "I have come to Coëtlegon to execute the sentence passed
on you by the Chevalier de Tinténiac."

The shock of this dissolved the spell that Puisaye had woven.
There was a sudden stir, some murmurs and a general rising.  La
Marche, Dumanoir and Guernissac closed about Constant as if to
protect him, whilst in a quavering, indignant voice La Houssaye
expressed the thought of all.

"Monsieur de Puisaye, there is a limit to what we can tolerate from
you.  Whatever authority you may once have possessed in the Royal
and Catholic Army has long since passed from you."  He rose.  "I
summon you to depart.  I warn you that you linger at your peril."

An angry rumble followed to announce the gathering of a storm.
Puisaye half turned.  "At my peril, Georges!" he exclaimed.  He
shrugged.  "There is no more to say."

"It is well for you that you perceive it at last," cried Guernissac
with a recovery of truculence that was doomed to instant
extinction.

Cadoudal had moved to the door.  He threw open both wings of it,
and to their angry consternation those gentlemen beheld a mob of
armed Chouans close-packed in the great hall.  To a beckoning sign
from him a half-score of them marched in at once.

"There is your man," Cadoudal told them, pointing to Chesnières.

It produced a fierce clamour of oaths and shouts of "Betrayal!" and
"Treachery!"  Swords flashed out, and the émigrés about Constant
stood in a posture of defence.

But Cadoudal had now taken charge.  "On your lives," he admonished
them, "let there be no resistance, or we'll cut him out from
amongst you with our bayonets."

Behind the émigré group, Monsieur de Saussure, the subaltern, was
opening one of the windows so as to escape, calling to his comrades
to hold the brigands whilst he fetched the regiment.

"You'll provoke useless bloodshed," Cadoudal warned them with
phlegm.  "I have brought three hundred of my Morbihannais with me,
and there are the men of St. Regent.  We outnumber your company by
two to one."

Nevertheless a brief resistance there was, with more Chouans
pouring in from the hall to smother it.  But for Puisaye's
intervention, they would have indulged the ferocity which the
foppish insolence of these allies had long since kindled in them.
On his injunctions, however, they used the stocks of their muskets
instead of the bayonets.  The slender rapiers were beaten aside and
broken, and whilst one of the Chouans was lightly pinked, there
were some bleeding heads among his defenders before Constant was
fast in the grip of his captors.

They dragged him, limp and trembling before Puisaye, who very tall
and straight in his tight black coat, stood aloof from the
scrimmage, with Quentin now beside him.

Cold, implacable, contemptuous, the Count waved the wretched man
away.  "You know what is to do, Georges."

"My God!  My God!"  Constant was almost screaming in his terror.
"Am I to be murdered, then?"  His eyes were wide, his olive tint
was of a greenish pallor; the sweat glistened on his shallow brow.

Puisaye was unmoved.  "We have a priest with us," he said.  "He
shall give you the only comfort justice permits us to afford."

"Justice!" raved the doomed man.  "You beast!  You murderer!  This
is a pretext for your infamy.  You butcher me to make succession
safe for that bastard impostor there who has been your jackal!"  He
made a wild appeal to Cadoudal.  "Cadoudal!  You at least are
honest.  Do you make yourself a party to this villainy?  You will
pay for it if you do, as that rascal will pay.  You will be hunted
for this by every Frenchman who counts himself a gentleman.  Don't
think that you'll escape their vengeance if you persist in this."

"Finissons!" was all the answer he had from the Chouan, who waved
his men out with their prisoner.

But still he struggled.  "At least hear me first, before you burden
your soul with murder.  I'll make it plain that this villain wants
me murdered in the interest of Morlaix, an impostor who calls
himself Marquis de Chavaray, a bastard who would rob me of my
heritage.  It's the truth, Cadoudal.  I swear it in the face of
death.  In the face of death, do you hear?  I can convince you if
only you will listen."

Still raving and struggling he had reached the door.  His late
associates, ranged behind a line of Chouans looked on in impotent
rage.

Quentin's hand gripped Puisaye's arm.

Constant's violence, that oath of his, "in the face of death," as
he had said, had filled him with a sudden fear.  It brought him a
sudden illumination, cast light for him into depths unsuspected
hitherto.  He bethought him of the inexplicable circumstances of
his upbringing from infancy in England, by a mother in exile who
concealed from him his rank and heritage; he recalled how oddly
Germaine had begged him not to pursue his claim to Chavaray, and
how she had looked; in remembering the answer, when he had swung to
the portrait of Bertrand de Chesnières, he was struck for the first
time by the age at which his putative father had begotten him.

"Wait, sir," he begged.  "In God's name, wait.  Let me hear what he
may have to say.  Let him explain himself."

Puisaye did not move.  "He can explain himself to a file of
muskets."

"But if it should be the truth that . . ."

"Peace!  What have I to do with that?"  He spoke in a thunder of
indignation that almost stunned Quentin's bewildered wits.  "I
execute the sentence passed by Tinténiac.  I punish the only one
left of those responsible for the ruin of Quiberon."

Leaving Quentin without an answer to this, he moved away, stalking
deliberately towards the line of Chouans.  Over their heads he
spoke to the herded émigrés.

"Messieurs, there is nothing more for you to do here.  The Loyal
Émigrant has ceased to exist.  The sauve qui peut has sounded.
Coëtlegon may at any moment be invaded by the sansculottes; and
after to-night there will not be a single Chouan here to aid in its
defence.  It is for you to scatter and make your way out of France
as best you can.  Or you may cross the Loire and join the army
which Monsieur de Charette still keeps in the field."  He signed to
the Chouans to open their ranks.  "I have no wish to detain you,
sirs.  You are at liberty to withdraw."

He made it plain that it was a command.  La Houssaye, however,
stood forward with an assumption of stiff dignity.

"Monsieur de Puisaye, you will have to answer for what you do in
the case of Monsieur de Chesnières if you persist.  I exhort you
to . . ."

"You waste your time, sir, and mine.  Be thankful that I am
satisfied with Monsieur de Chesnières' expiation, and that I do not
deal similarly with those of you who formed his staff.  Be
thankful, all of you, that I do not call you to account for what
was doing here when I came; for abetting the pursuit of a private
vengeance.  Go, sirs."

La Houssaye pursed his lips, raised his brows, and flung out his
arms in a gesture of angry helplessness.  Then he led the way out.
The others followed him, those who were whole assisting the three
who had been damaged in the brief struggle.



Chapter Eleven

MARGOT'S CHILD


In that spacious book-lined room whence all the others had
departed, Quentin turned solemn, almost fearful, eyes upon Puisaye.

"Monsieur le Comte, I require to know . . .  Are you sending
Chesnières before a firing-party because of his dereliction of
duty, or because of what was doing here when you arrived?"

Puisaye did not at once reply.  His hands behind him, he paced away
to the window and back before speaking, and then it was to evade
the question.  "Since he deserves death on either count, what
matter?"

"You answer too lightly, sir."  White and stern, Quentin's tone was
one of reproof.

"Name of God!  Why this concern?  There have been attempts enough
on your life by this Monsieur Constant.  There was Boisgelin's;
there was Lafont's; and no doubt there were others less apparent.
It is time that Chesnières paid."

From this Quentin took his answer, and it brought a vehemence into
his manner.  "You are not required, sir, to pay my debts.  I do not
tolerate it."

Puisaye raised his brows.  His glance was sardonic.  "Be it so.  He
is being shot, then, for his insubordination."

"You say so now.  But you persuade me otherwise."

"I persuade you?"

"Your tone, your attitude; oh, and things that have happened in the
past."

"You mean, of course, the attempts upon your life."

"I mean other things.  Above all what he said just now, swearing
it, 'in the face of death.'  Would he go before his Maker with a
false oath on his lips?  Do you think I could tolerate to have this
man put to death for my profit?"

"You would prefer him to live for your ruin.  Very noble.  But I
tell you again that he is being shot for insubordination."  Puisaye
came closer, and set a friendly hand upon Quentin's shoulder.  "Why
torment yourself, child?"

Quentin answered him in a dull resentment.

"Because there is so much in all this, so much about my own self
that I do not understand; things of which I have had no more than
puzzling glimpses.  I am struggling to see the truth behind the
hostility of these cousins of mine."

"Is that so difficult to understand, men being what they are?
Chavaray is one of the noblest heritages in France, or will be when
normal times return.  It is not lightly to be relinquished by men
who have always believed themselves heirs to it."

"Why have they believed that?  Didn't they know of my existence?"

"It is possible that they did not."

"Ah!  But only if my mother had concealed it, as she concealed from
me that I was heir to Chavaray.  Why?  Why should a mother conspire
to deprive her son of his heritage?  I know of one only answer."

"And that?"  Puisaye was suddenly stern.

"Her knowledge that he is not entitled to it.  If that were so,
then what Constant swore is true.  I am an impostor, a Marquis pour
rire, a Marquis de Carabas, as he named me long ago."

"Bah!  Are you so easily imposed upon by assertion?  Have you no
evidence in your possession?  You possess certificates, of your
mother's marriage to Bertrand de Chesnières and of your own birth
at Chavaray."

"If that were all.  But there are some facts to set against the
documents.  My father . . .  Bertrand de Chesnières was in his
seventy-fourth year when he married my mother, a girl of twenty.
It was only seven years later, when he was past eighty, that I was
born."

"And then?  You were born in wedlock.  Your claim to the marquisate
is legally unassailable."

"Legally, yes.  I have been told that that is precisely why the
Chesnières assailed it in other ways."

Puisaye's hand fell away from Quentin's shoulder.  He stood back,
pondering him from under frowning brows.  "Since when have you
harboured such notions as these?"

"Since Constant made oath here before they dragged him out."

"Pshaw!  What is the fellow's oath worth?  To what can he swear?
To an assumption, a suspicion, like your own.  On that assumption
these Chesnières would have murdered you in one way or another.
And you are so soft-hearted as to find it necessary to justify
them, even at the cost of doing so little honour to your mother's
memory."

"Do you know of any reason why my mother should have run away from
Chavaray after Bertrand's death, and gone to hide herself and me in
England?"

Puisaye may have perceived that the question was rhetorical; but
not on that account did he leave it unanswered.  "Name of God!
Isn't it plain?  To remove you from just such vindictiveness as
that which has pursued you since you succeeded to Étienne de
Chesnières."

Quentin stared in surprise.  "That is what you assume?"

"It is what I know.  You are to remember that, as I've told you
before, I was garrisoned in Angers in those days, and I was
intimate with the Lesdiguières.  That is why I took so deep an
interest in you, Quentin, when once I had found you.  That is why I
sought to make a friend of you, or, at least, to be a friend to
you.  Listen now."

He turned away, and thereafter as he talked, he paced the room in
long, slow steps.

"Old Lesdiguières, who was intendant to the lords of Chavaray, was
an ambitious old scoundrel who sacrificed his daughter to his
cursed worldliness.  The septuagenarian Bertrand de Chesnières,
rheumy and gout-ridden, in an expiring flicker of a lasciviousness
he had never learnt to curb, cast his bleary eyes upon your mother.
Her crafty, vigilant father saw his chance to make a great lady of
her.  He handled old Bertrand with such villainous astuteness that,
to the dismay of the old gentleman's family, they were married."

Quentin who had found a chair, and sat huddled in it, elbows on
knees and his chin in his hands, listened avidly, and missed no
accent of the stinging bitterness in which Puisaye spoke, as if this
were a tale which he found it impossible to tell dispassionately.

"Considering Étienne's crippled condition, Bertrand's nephew,
Gaston de Chesnières, had long regarded himself as the heir.  His
brother Claude, the father of Germaine de Chesnières, made an
eleventh-hour attempt to prevent the marriage.  But Bertrand, even
in his dotage, was not a man to be thwarted, and there was that old
devil Lesdiguières at his elbow, to sustain and guide him.

"Afterwards, Gaston, the father of Armand and Constant, never lost
an opportunity of humiliating and slighting the young Marquise.  He
allowed her to see very clearly what she might expect at his hands
when once he should be Marquis of Chavaray and head of the family.
For considering Bertrand's age and infirmities, he was at least
confident that no issue of that marriage would ever interfere with
his succession.  When, some seven years later, your birth came to
destroy his prospects, he made the country ring with the rage that
possessed him.  He went in fury to the courts demanding that they
should declare the illegitimacy of the new-born heir.  When the
courts confessed themselves powerless to interfere, he made appeal
to the King.  But the result was the same.  Infuriated by these
rebuffs, he went about vowing openly that he would take for himself
the justice that was denied him.

"So far I was a witness of what I tell you.  Of the rest I can
speak only from what I learnt later and what is easily surmised.
For my regiment was ordered overseas, to the Antilles, and I had
gone with it.  But it needs little imagination to conceive what a
time of anguish must have followed for your mother.  It endured for
four years.  Then Bertrand died, and she found herself utterly
unprotected; for by then, her father, too, was dead.  Her terror of
what might be done by Gaston and his sons, Armand and Constant, who
were then in adolescence, must so completely have broken her
spirit, that she resolved to carry you beyond their reach and into
hiding."

At a standstill now, he paused there before concluding:  "Their
conduct towards you since Étienne's death serves to show that the
malevolence that drove her forth has been fully and bitterly alive
in the house of Chesnières."

Silence followed.  Puisaye resumed his pacing, mechanically, his
face dark with thought, his chin on his breast, as if he were
looking physically into that past which his words had evoked.  At
last Quentin spoke.

"You are singularly well informed."

"It so happens."

"And yet there are gaps in the story."

"Naturally."

"Will you hear how my imagination fills them?"

The Count wheeled, squarely to face him, his glance keen and
searching.  Then a wave of his fine hand invited Quentin to
proceed.

"When the Marquise, my mother, in those first childless years of
her marriage was brought to fear what must happen in a widowhood
that could not be long delayed, it might occur to her that her only
chance of protection from that rancour, from being cast out, lay in
the possession of a child.  As a mother of the next heir after
Étienne, of the next marquis, she will have supposed that her
widowed position would be secure, unassailable."

There was an interrogative note to his statement; and, having made
it, he paused as if for a reply, watching Puisaye.

As none came, he resumed.  "It is not difficult to imagine that she
may have had a lover of her own age, one perhaps from whom her
father's damnable ambition had separated her.  Don't you agree?"

"Proceed, proceed," he was sharply bidden.

"The child came: the son so ardently desired.  But the immediate
consequences of his arrival would show her how grievously she had
miscalculated.  And so, as you have told me, when Bertrand de
Chesnières died and she found herself defenceless, she was content
to abandon everything for herself and her child, so that she might
place him beyond the resentment of the men of Chesnières, whom she
had thought so easily to cheat."

He paused there, his eyes steadily upon Puisaye, who had not moved
whilst he had been speaking.  "Do you not think, sir," he asked,
"that that is how things happened?"

For once he observed signs of faltering in that man of indomitable
self-assurance.  "I . . . I think . . . it may have happened
somewhat in that fashion."

Quentin leaned farther forward.  Sharp as the crack of a whip came
his next question.  "Do you know that it did?"

A deathly pallor gradually overspread the Count's haggard face, and
then, as if his will snapped suddenly under stress, the answer
came:  "Yes.  I know."

Quentin stood up, and for a long silent moment those two men
confronted each other, eye to eye, something of dread in the regard
of each.  In that moment was resolved for Quentin the puzzle of the
haunting elusive likeness presented by Puisaye to some countenance
that he had seen.  He knew now that it was his own mirror that had
shown it to him.

He spoke, and the hoarseness of his voice surprised him.  "You
mean, of course, that you are my father."

Puisaye's countenance contracted as if from a blow.  He sucked in
his breath, and wrung his hands.  "Ah!  God of God!"  Then he
recovered his poise.  He lowered his head and made a gesture of
resignation.  "Impossible to deny it," he confessed.

Quentin betrayed no excitement.  "It explains many things," was his
cool comment.  "Only the assurance that I was Bertrand de
Chesnières' son can have prevented me from suspecting it."

At that very moment the roar and crash of a volley of musketry made
the windows rattle.  He started half round.  "What was that?"

Terrible in his resumption of imperturbability, Puisaye answered
him.  "The end of the last claimant that stands between you and the
Marquisate of Chavaray."

"My God!"  Quentin's eyes were filled with horror.  "Was that why
you had him shot?  Was it?"

"Believe me, I should not have boggled at it," the Count answered
in cold contempt.  "But it was not necessary.  I but executed the
sentence passed by Tinténiac.  Remember that.  The fool has
expiated an offence through which some thousands of lives were lost
and a great cause has perished."

"If I could believe you!"  Quentin almost wailed in his angry
distress.  "If I could believe you!  But it will not serve."

"What the devil is there to trouble you?  Mordieu!  You have had no
part in this.  Your conscience may sleep in peace.  My shoulders
are broad enough to bear the burden of it.  Be content that there
is none now to dispute your title, Monsieur le Marquis."

"Dare you say that?  Dare you mock me with it knowing that I have
no right to it?"

"You are wrong.  You have every right.  A legal right that no one
can dispute, and a moral right, earned by your mother's sufferings."

Quentin uttered a short, loud laugh.  He made a gesture as of
thrusting something from him.  "I am the son of the man who has
cleared away the last legitimate Chesnières so as to make room for
an impostor.  Is that something I could ever forget?"  Passionately
he ran on:  "Sir, you would have dealt more fairly by me had you
told me this on that day when first you visited me in London.  You
should not have assumed that I take after my parents.  You should
have remembered that it was possible that I might, after all, be
honest."

Puisaye had winced under the bitter taunt.  Now an ironical smile
crept to his tight lips.

"I should be proud of you, I suppose.  Not only for this honesty of
which you make a boast, but also for the hardness you display.
Fine, manly qualities both.  But is all that has gone to make you
Marquis of Chavaray to be thrown away?  Are you not, after all,
lord of Chavaray by right of purchase?  Had you forgotten?  Or
isn't that enough for this incorruptible honesty of yours?"

"Not as long as a Chesnières lives to inherit."  There was a stern
finality in his tone.

Puisaye's brows met over eyes that reflected only pain.  His glance
seemed to burn its way into Quentin's mind.  "Aye!  You're an
inflexible dog."  Then he laughed, not without bitterness.  He
turned aside.  "I was born, I think, for frustration," he
complained.  "I touch nothing but it withers; no man has toiled
more relentlessly, planned more soundly, fought more dauntlessly.
Yet in every endeavour of mine there has been some incalculable
adventitious factor to baulk me in the end."  He resumed his
pacing.  "Heartbreak has been my portion, from the day when as a
young soldier at Angers I saw your mother, whom I worshipped,
forced into repulsive nuptials with the senile Chavaray.  Through
you I thought to avenge her fate; for it seemed to me a sweet
vengeance to set you back in the place for which she bore you and
from which she was compelled by fear to remove you.  I cherished
the thought that if she looked down on us from Heaven, she would
feel herself repaid for her sufferings, and would bless me with her
approval for having played a father's part by you: for having
preserved you, guarded you and guided you to that heritage so
dearly bought for you by her.  For ever since I so fortuitously
discovered you that has been my lodestar.  Even to-night, Quentin,
my tutelary duty towards you is the main reason of my presence
here.  The punishment of Constant de Chesnières was no more than
incidental.  What really brought me was the knowledge of your
presence and the hope to serve you whilst the power is still mine.
How timely was my coming shows how well I was inspired."

Quentin hung his head.  "Indeed, indeed, had you not come. . . .
It is I who would have been the target of that volley."

"I comfort myself with that, and blame myself for my failure
otherwise.  I have talked too much, admitted too much.  But my
senses took me by surprise; my emotions weakened my will;
temptation defeated me.  For it was beyond my power to resist the
temptation to acknowledge myself your father when you claimed me.
What would you, Quentin?  I am accounted hard.  I have so accounted
myself.  But it has remained for my son to show me how hard a man
should really be."

"God knows you do me wrong, sir."  Quentin's voice almost broke on
the words, and what more he would have said was choked in him.  He
advanced to proffer a hand, and the next moment found himself
engulfed and crushed in the embrace of that towering, powerful man.

"Child!  Child!" the deep rich voice was sobbing.  "Margot's
child!"



Chapter Twelve

FULFILMENT


On a mellow, hazy afternoon of late September, a post-chaise
rattled down Bruton Street, bringing Monsieur Quentin de Morlaix
home from his travels.

From the climax which his high adventure may be said to have
reached that night at Coëtlegon, it had sped almost uneventfully to
its close.  For this his thanks were due once again to the tutelary
offices of the Comte de Puisaye.  Taking advantage of the
established chain of communications, now as necessary as ever it
had been, owing to renewed Republican activity in the West since
Quiberon, and moving cautiously by night from one house of
confidence to another, the Count had brought him safely to St.
Brieuc, and there had shipped him aboard a contrabandist lugger for
Jersey.

Puisaye himself had remained in France.  "I am not in the humour to
bear reproaches patiently," he had said.  "And nothing else can
await me at present in England."

The surmise was correct enough, although it was not with the
English that the reproaches originated.  It was the compatriots
whose jealousy he had provoked, and who could not have failed him
more actively had they deliberately set out to betray the Royalist
cause, who laboured now to ruin him in reputation.

In reporting the disaster of Quiberon to the House of Commons, Mr.
Pitt was able to assure his audience that at least no drop of
English blood had been spilled, to which Mr. Sheridan for the
Opposition retorted:  "Yes.  But honour bled at all its pores," a
politician's silly, insulting falsehood which placed a weapon in
the hands of those French gentlemen who were clamouring that
England had betrayed them, and that Puisaye had been the agent of
this betrayal.

Had he foreseen this, Puisaye might have crossed to England with
Quentin, so as to be at hand to answer calumny.  As it was he
accounted it his duty to continue in France.

"Another chance may come to raise the country.  I remain, to seize
it if it does.  I shall cross the Loire and join Charette.  If I
live, you shall see me again, Quentin."

"You know where to find me," Quentin had answered.  "If I can ever
serve you, do not fail to call upon me."

"Serve me!  Should I take where I have so signally failed to give?"

"None lives who has given me more.  From you I have had knowledge
of myself, and twice you have saved the life which in the first
place you gave me."

"If that is a gift to rejoice in, may you continue so to find it."

They had embraced on the shingle by the waiting cockboat, and as
the seamen bent to their oars the stalwart figure with hand upheld,
gradually fading into the night, was memory's last abiding image of
that indomitable man.

It alternated in Quentin's mental vision with the slim straight
wraith of Germaine, as he had last seen her at Coëtlegon in the
moment of departure upon that fool's errand at Rédon; and this was
a vision to arouse a yearning that was blent with sorrow and
bereavement.

Puisaye who had given him so much and sought to give him so much
more, reckless even of honour, had lost her to him by the truth he
had imparted.  Yet Quentin would not have been without the pain
this brought him, for then he must have lost also the memory of the
sweetness, and this memory, he told himself, was something that
would irradiate all his future, as the reality had irradiated the
months that were overpast.  It had all been a dream, he vowed; the
dream of a fencing-master, who, being now awake, came back to be a
fencing-master once again.

It was late afternoon when unannounced he stepped into the long,
panelled room of which he had been so proud and which he had
regarded as his kingdom in the days before he was summoned to his
phantom heritage.

He was greeted by the ring of steel that once had been as music to
him; for a single pupil still lingered at practice with O'Kelly.

Old Ramel, on a bench against the wall, sat strapping a pointe
d'arrêt to the tip of a foil.

At sight of him, standing there, so straight and slender in his
long coat of bottle-green, O'Kelly had lowered his point, plucked
the mask from his fiery head, and, the pupil momentarily forgotten,
had stood foolishly at gaze.  Much as he had greeted him on a day a
year ago, did O'Kelly greet him now.

"Ah, now, is it indeed yourself, Quentin?"

"Myself it is, and thankful to be home."

In an instant they were upon him, each wringing one of his hands,
babbling a welcome that was incoherent with delight, whilst Barlow,
appearing none knew whence, came sidling up with a broad grin on
his priestly face.

"Faith, it's a homecoming," said Quentin, his heart warmed by this
affectionate reception.

"And have you come to stay, now?" O'Kelly asked him.

"I have.  My roaming ends where it began."

"Glory be!  We're not the only ones that'll be delighted."

There was one present, however, who manifested little delight.  The
pupil, abandoned and neglected, stared at them in haughty
displeasure.  O'Kelly, meeting at last that disapproving eye, was
moved to laughter.

"Ah, now, my lord, it's in luck ye are.  For here's the master,
himself, the Great Quentin de Morlaix.  And if there's a man in the
world that can make a swordsman of you, sure it's himself."

After his lordship had taken a slightly ruffled departure, and the
three of them sat in the embrasured lounge, about the table on
which Barlow had set the decanters as of old, O'Kelly gave him news
of the academy.  It prospered ever and was well attended, chiefly
now by Englishmen, who did not forget to pay their fees like the
impecunious French.  Of these there were scarcely any left.  All
who could wield a sword had crossed to France in the early summer.
Few of them, as Quentin knew, would ever return.  As a result of
that exodus, the academy had lost its character as a fashionable
meeting-ground of émigré society.

"But there's a lady of the old days who's been here twice in the
past week to ask if we had news of you.  Mademoiselle de
Chesnières."  O'Kelly was sly.  "Maybe ye'll remember her."

Here was history repeating itself again.

"Maybe I do," said Quentin, aware of quickened pulses; aware, too,
that O'Kelly's eyes were intent upon him.

"I thought ye would," said the Irishman, and that was all.

On the following morning, Quentin took up his share of the work of
instruction as naturally as if there had been no interruption of
it.  In this he sought an ease of the heartache that oppressed him.

That the news of his return spread quickly through the clubs and
coffee-houses was made manifest within the week by the appearance
in the academy of old friends who had been in the habit of coming
to practise with him, and by the daily enrolment of new pupils.

But these evidences of undiminished popularity, these harbingers of
affluence, procured him no exhilaration, failed to cure him of the
listlessness that closed down upon him when the day's work was
done.

O'Kelly watched him with affectionate anxiety, yet never ventured
to intrude upon that gloomy taciturnity.

The Irishman was alone early one morning in the fencing-room,
awaiting the first pupil, whilst in the adjoining antechamber
Barlow could be heard at work setting things to rights for the day,
when the door opened and a slim, straight figure in dove-grey
velvet confronted him.  He was suddenly, instinctively uplifted.
He sprang forward in welcome.

"Ah, come in with you, come in, Mademoiselle.  It's the glad news I
have for you.  He's come back."

She swayed and turned so pale that for a moment he was scared.

"Do you mean that he's here?"  Her voice trembled.

"Isn't that what I'm telling you?  Glory be!  Is it weeping you
are?"

She wiped away the tear that had caused the question.  "It's for
relief, O'Kelly.  Thankfulness.  I've been in such fear that he
would never return.  When . . . when did he arrive?"

"It'll be a fortnight to-morrow."

"A fortnight!"  Surprise, perplexity, displeasure, crossed her fair
face.  "A fortnight?"

"To be sure.  Will ye go up now, and take him by surprise?"

Barlow appeared in the doorway of the ante-chamber, drawn by the
sound of voices.

"Let Barlow take him word that I am here."

"Ah, that's never the way of it.  He's up there all alone, at
breakfast, with a black dog sitting on his shoulders.  Sure, now,
the sight of you'll scare the beast away for ever.  This way,
Mademoiselle."

He led her through the ante-chamber, to a farther door that opened
upon a staircase.  "Up with you, now.  The white door yonder."

Perhaps it was the mention of that black dog on Quentin's shoulders
that made her so obedient.  She went up, opened the door, and stood
on the threshold of that pleasant, white-panelled room, now filled
with the sunshine of the October morning.

He was at table, with his back to the door, and supposing it to be
Barlow who came, he did not stir.

Thus she was given leisure to consider him and his surroundings.

He wore a dressing-gown of dark blue brocade over his small
clothes.  His head, with its lustrous, bronze-coloured hair as
trimly queued as of old, was bowed in thought, his chin buried in
the high, black military stock he wore for fencing.  Before him the
white napery of the table, the gleam and sparkle of silver and
glass in the morning sunshine, and the bowl of late roses in the
middle, were so many expressions of his fastidiousness.

Her eyes grew moist and wistful as she pondered him until at last
he stirred.  "Why the devil do you keep the door open?"  He glanced
over his shoulder, and then in a swirl he was on his feet.

For a moment he stared, a consternation in his white face.  Then,
seeming to collect himself, he bowed.

"I am honoured . . . Marquise."

The consternation was now with her.  She rustled to him.  "Why,
Quentin!  What is this?"

"You should not have come," he told her, his tone very gentle.

"Should I not?  Let me rather ask you why you did not come to me.
You have been home a fortnight, I am told."

"I . . . I did not know where to find you."

"Did you seek me?"

"I thought it would be better not to."

She frowned.  "Because of Madame de Chesnières?" she asked.  But
she did not wait for an answer.  "Do you know the month and the
year in which we live?  I am of full age, Quentin, and mistress of
myself."

He was affectionately courteous.  "My felicitations, Marquise."

"Marquise?"

"Of Chavaray."

Through mounting, pained bewilderment, she made an attempt to
smile.

"You anticipate.  You have not yet made me that, Quentin."

"Nor ever shall.  For it will never be in my power to do it.  That
is why you are already the Marquise de Chavaray.  In your own
right."

"I . . . I don't understand."  The perplexity in her eyes asked a
fuller explanation.  He supplied it.

"There has been--shall we say?--an error.  I am not, and never have
been, heir to Chavaray.  I am not Morlaix de Chesnières, and though
I must continue to call myself Morlaix, I have not a right even to
that name."

To her quick understanding his aloofness ceased to be a puzzle.
Her eyes grew compassionate and very tender.  She set her hands
upon his shoulders.  "Who has had the cruelty to make this known to
you?"

"That I was an impostor?"

She shook her head.  "There is no imposture where there is no
intent to deceive.  And that you never had, as I long since assured
myself."

This was as a blow between the eyes to him.  "You knew, then?"

"I heard, long ago, a miserable, scandalous story."

"And you never told me!"

"Why should I?  What should I have told you?  A piece of hurtful
scandal, resting on surmises, which never could be proved, however
true it might be.  Was I to wound you with that?  What mattered to
me was that your honour was clean; that you had no suspicions even
that your claims were not as just as at law they were and are
unchallengeable."

He looked at her in silence and humility, his glance full of wonder
and homage.

"You have not told me how this knowledge came to you," she said.

Gently he disengaged her hands.  "I keep you standing."  He set a
chair for her.

"Will you be formal with me?"  Nevertheless she sat, and heard from
him the tale of those last events at Coëtlegon.

"You understand now," he told her at the end, "that you are
mistress of Chavaray."

"Do you mock me?  It was last yours by right of purchase, and now
it will be national property again, and likely so to continue until
it falls into the hands of Republican buyers.  We need not dispute
possession of that ghostly heritage.  Had it continued a reality, a
man of your stubborn pride might have made it a barrier between us.
So it's a dispensation of Providence that for us it has ceased to
exist."  She stood up again to confront him.  "There was a solemn
promise you made to me at Coëtlegon; an oath you swore.  You will
remember."

"Ah, but that was sworn by a man who believed himself to be Marquis
of Chavaray, not by a man without so much as a name to offer, whose
only marquisate, as your cousin Constant discovered long ago, is
that of Carabas."

She disdained all further argument.  She possessed subtler weapons
to subdue him to her will, and she had recourse to them.  She came
to put her arms about his neck, to smile with a winsome, conquering
tenderness into his startled eyes.

"Another sweet dispensation of Providence," she said, "is that I
was born to be the Marchioness of Carabas."



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The Marquis of Carabas by Rafael Sabatini





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