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Title: Lord Tony's Wife
Author: Emmuska Orczy
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Language: English
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Lord Tony's Wife
Emmuska Orczy




PROLOGUE - Nantes, 1789

I

'Tyrant! tyrant! tyrant!'

It was Pierre who spoke, his voice was hardly raised above a murmur, but
there was such an intensity of passion expressed in his face, in the
fingers of his hand which closed slowly and convulsively as if they were
clutching the throat of a struggling viper, there was so much hate in
those muttered words, so much power, such compelling and awesome
determination that an ominous silence fell upon the village lads and the
men who sat with him in the low narrow room of the auberge des Trois
Vertus.

Even the man in the tattered coat and threadbare breeches, who ­­
perched upon the centre table---had been haranguing the company on the
subject of the Rights of Man, paused in his peroration and looked down
on Pierre half afraid of that fierce flame of passionate hate which his
own words had helped to kindle.

The silence, however, had only lasted a few moments, the next Pierre was
on his feet, and a cry like that of a bull in a slaughter-house escaped
his throat.

'In the name of God!' he shouted, 'let us cease all that senseless
talking. Haven't we planned enough and talked enough to satisfy our
puling consciences? The time has come to strike, mes amis, to strike I
say, to strike at those cursed aristocrats, who have made us what we
are---ignorant, wretched, downtrodden--senseless clods to work our
fingers to the bone, our bodies till they break so that they may wallow
in their pleasures and their luxuries! Strike, I say!' he reiterated
while his eyes glowed and his breath came and went through his throat
with a hissing sound. 'Strike! as the men and women struck in Paris on
that great day in July. To them the Bastille stood for tyranny---and the
tyrant cowered, cringed, made terms---he was frightened at the wrath of
the people! That is what happened in Paris! That is what must happen in
Nantes. The château of the duc de Kernogan is our Bastille! Let us
strike at it to-night, and if the arrogant aristocrat resists, we'll
raze his house to the ground. The hour, the day, the darkness are all
propitious. The arrangements hold good. The neighbours are ready.
Strike, I say!'

He brought his hard fist crashing down upon the table, so that mugs and
bottles rattled: his enthusiasm had fired all his hearers: his hatred
and his lust of revenge had done more in five minutes than all the
tirades of the agitators sent down from Paris to instil revolutionary
ideas into the slow-moving brains of village lads.

'Who will give the signal?' queried one of the older men quietly.

'I will!' came in lusty response from Pierre.

He strode to the door, and all the men jumped to their feet, ready to
follow him, dragged into this hot-headed venture by the mere force of
one man's towering passion. They followed Pierre like sheep--sheep that
have momentarily become intoxicated---sheep that have become fierce--a
strange sight truly---and yet one that the man in the tattered coat who
had done so much speechifying lately watched with eager interest and
presently related with great wealth of detail to M. de Mirabeau the
champion of the people.

'It all came about through the death of a pair of pigeons,' he said.

The death of the pigeons, however, was only the spark which set all
these turbulent passions ablaze. They had been smouldering for half a
century, and had been ready to burst into flames for the past decade.

Antoine Melun, the wheelwright, who was to have married Louise, Pierre's
sister, had trapped a pair of pigeons in the woods of M. le duc de
Kernogan. He had done it to assert his rights as a man---he did not want
the pigeons. Though he was a poor man, he was no poorer than hundreds of
peasants for miles around: but he paid imposts and taxes until every
particle of profit which he gleaned from his miserable little plot of
land went into the hands of the collectors, whilst M. le duc de Kernogan
paid not one sou towards the costs of the State, and he had to live on
what was left of his own rye and wheat after M. le duc's pigeon ahd had
their fill of them.

Whereupon Antoine was arrested for poaching and thieving: he was tried
at Nantes under the presidency of M. le duc de Kernogan, and ten minutes
ago while the man in the tattered coat was declaiming to a number of
peasant lads in the coffee-room of the auberge des Trois Vertus on the
subject of their rights as men and citizens, some one brought the news
that Antoine Melus had just been condemned to death and would be hanged
on the morrow.

That was the spark which had fanned Pierre Adet's hatred of the
aristocrats to a veritable conflagration: the news of Antoine Melun's
fate was the bleat which rallied all those human sheep around their
leader. For Pierre had naturally become their leader because his hatred
of M. le duc was more tangible, more powerful than theirs. Pierre had
had more education than they. His father, Jean Adet the miller, had sent
him to a school in Nantes, and when Pierre came home M. le curé of
Vertou took an interest in him and taught him all he knew
himself---which was not much---in the way of philosophy and the
classics. But later on Pierre took to reading and writings of M.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau and soon knew the Contrat Social almost by heart.
He had also read the articles in M. Marat's newspaper L'ami du Peuple!
and like Antoine Melun, the wheelwright, he had got it into his head
that it was not God, nor yet Nature who had intended one man to starve
while another gorged himself on all the good things of this world.

He did not, however, speak of these matters, either to his father or to
his sister or to M. le curé, but he brooded over them, and when the
price of bread rose to four sous he muttered curses against M. le duc de
Kernogan, and when famine prices ruled throughout the district those
curses became overt themes; and by the time that the pinch of hunger was
felt in Vertou Pierre's passion of fury against the duc de Kernogan had
turned to a frenzy of hate against the entire noblesse of France.

Still he said nothing to his father, nothing to his mother and sister.
But his father knew. Old Jean would watch the storm-clouds which
gathered on Pierre's lowering brow; he heard the muttered curses which
escaped from Pierre's lips whilst he worked for the liege-lord whom he
hated. But Jean was a wise man and knew how useless it is to put out a
feeble hand in order to stem the onrush of a torrent. He knew how
useless are the words of wisdom from an old man to quell the rebellious
spirit of the young.

Jean was on the watch. And evening after evening when the work on the
farm was done, Pierre would sit in the small low room of the auberge
with other lads from the village talking, talking of their wrongs, of
the arrogance of the aristocrats, the sins of M. le duc and his family,
the evil conduct of the King and the immorality of the Queen: and men in
ragged coats and tattered breeches came in from Nantes, and even from
Paris, in order to harangue these village lads and told them yet further
tales of innumerable wrongs suffered by the people at the hands of the
aristos, and stuffed their heads full of schemes for getting even once
and for all with those men and women who fattened on the sweat of the
poor and drew their luxury from the hunger and the toil of the
peasantry.

Pierre sucked in these harangues through every pore: they were meat and
drink to him. His hate and passions fed upon these effusions till his
whole being was consumed by a maddening desire for reprisals, for
vengeance---for the lust of triumph over those whom he had been taught
to fear.

And in the low, narrow room of the auberge the fevered heads of village
lads were bent together in conclave, and the ravings and shoutings of a
while ago were changed to whisperings and low murmurings behind barred
doors and shuttered windows. Men exchanged cryptic greetings when they
met in the village street, enigmatical signs passed between them while
they worked: strangers came and went at dead of night to and from the
neighbouring villages. M. le duc's overseers saw nothing, heard nothing,
guessed nothing. M. le curé saw much and old Jean Adet guessed a great
deal, but they said nothing, for nothing then would have availed.

Then came the catastrophe.

II

Pierre pushed open the outer door of the auberge des Trois Vertus and
stepped out under the porch. A gust of wind caught him in the face. The
night, so the chronicles of the time tell us, was as dark as pitch: on
ahead lay the lights of the city flickering in the gale: to the left the
wide tawny ribbon of the river wound its turbulent course toward the
ocean, the booming of the waters swollen by the recent melting of the
snows sounded like the weird echoes of invisible cannons far away.

Without hesitation Pierre advanced. His little troop followed him in
silence. They were a little sobered now that they came out into the open
and that the fumes of cider and of hot, perspiring humanity no longer
obscurred their vision or inflamed their brain.

They knew whither Pierre was going. It had all been
pre-arranged---throughout this past summer, in the musty parlour of the
auberge, behind barred doors and shuttered windows---all they had to do
was to follow Pierre, whom they had tacitly chosen as their leader. They
walked on behind him, their hands buried in the pockets of their thin,
tattered breeches, their heads bent forward against the fury of the
gale.

Pierre made straight for the mill--his home--where his father lived and
where Louise was even now crying her eyes out because Antoine Melun, her
sweetheart, had been condemned to be hanged for killing two pigeons.

At the back of the mill was the dwelling house and beyond it a small
farmery, for Jean Adet owned a little bit of land and would have been
fairly well off if the taxes had not swallowed up all the money that he
made out of the sale of his rye and his hay. Just here the ground rose
sharply to a little hillock which dominated the flat valley of the Loire
and commanded a fine view over the more distant villages.

Pierre skirted the mill and without looking round to see if the others
followed him he struck squarely to the right up a narrow lane bordered
by tall poplars, and which led upwards to the summit of the little
hillock around which clustered the tumble-down barns of his father's
farmery.

The gale lashed the straight, tall stems of the poplars until they bent
nearly double, and each tiny bare twig sighed and whispered as if in
pain. Pierre strode on and the others followed in silence. They were
chilled to the bone under their scanty clothes, but they followed on
with grim determination, set teeth, and anger and hate seething in their
hearts.

The top of the rising ground was reached. It was pitch dark, and the men
when they halted fell up against one another trying to get a foothold on
the sodden ground. But Pierre seemed to have eyes like a cat. He only
paused one moment to get his bearings, then---still without a word---he
set to work. A large barn and a group of small circular straw ricks
loomed like solid masses out of the darkness--black, silhouetted against
the black of the stormy sky. Pierre turned toward the barn: those of his
comrades who were in the forefront of the small crowd saw him
disappearing inside one of those solid shadowy masses that looked so
ghostlike in the night.

Anon those who watched and who happened to be facing the interior of the
barn saw sparks from a tinder flying in every direction: the next moment
they could see in every direction: the next moment they could see Pierre
himself quite clearly. He was standing in the middle of the barn and
intent on lighting a roughly-fashioned torch with his tinder: soon the
resin caught a spark and Pierre held the torch inclined toward the
ground so that the flames could lick their way up the shaft. The
flickering light cast a weird glow and deep grotesque shadows upon the
face and figure of the young man. His hair, lanky and dishevelled, fell
over his eyes; his mouth and jaw, illumined from below by the torch,
looked unnaturally large, and showed his teeth gleaming white, like the
fangs of a beast of prey. His shirt was torn open at the neck and the
sleeves of his coat were rolled up to the elbow. He seemed not to feel
either the cold from without or the scorching heat of the flaming torch
in his hand. But he worked deliberately and calmly, without haste or
febrile movements: grim determination held his excitement in check.

At last his work was done. The men who had pressed forward, in order to
watch him, fell back as he advanced torch in hand. They knew exactly
what he was going to do, they had thought it all out, planned it, spoken
of it till even their unimaginative minds had visualized this coming
scene with absolutely realistic perception. And yet now that the supreme
hour had come, now that they saw Pierre--torch in hand---prepared to
give the signal which would set ablaze the seething revolt of the
country-side, their heart seemed to stop its beating within their body;
they held their breath, their toil-worn hands went up to their throats
as if to repress that awful choking sensation which was so like fear.

But Pierre had no such hesitations; if his breath seemed to choke him as
it reached his throat, if it escaped through his set teeth with a
strange whistling sound, it was because his excitement was that of a
hungry beast who has sighted his prey and is ready to spring and devour.
His hand did not shake, his step was firm: the gusts of wind caught the
flame of his torch till the sparks flew in every direction and scorched
his hair and his hands, and while the others recoiled he strode on, to
the straw-rick that was nearest.

For one moment he held the torch aloft. There was triumph now in his
eyes, in his whole attitude. He looked out into the darkness far away
which seemed all the more impenetrable beyond the restricted circle of
flickering torch-light. It seemed as if he would wrest from that inky
blackness all the secrets which it hid---all the enthusiasm, the
excitement, the passions, the hatred which he would have liked to set
ablaze as he would the straw-ricks anon.

'Are you ready, mes amis?' he called.

'Aye! aye!' they replied---not gaily, not lustily, but calmly and under
their breath.

One touch of the torch and the dry straw began to crackle; a gust of
wind caught the flame and whipped it into energy; it crept up the side
of the little rick like a glowing python that wraps its prey in its
embrace. Another gust of wind and the flame leapt joyously up to the
pinnacle of the rick, and sent forth other tongues to lick and to lick,
to enfold the straw, to devour, to consume.

But Pierre did not wait to see the consummation of his work of
destruction. Already with a few rapid strides he had reached his
father's second straw-rick and this too he set alight, and then another
and another, until six blazing furnaces sent their lurid tongues of
flames, twisting and twirling, writhing and hissing through the stormy
night.

Within the space of two minutes the whole summit of the hillock seemed
to be ablaze and Pierre, like a god of fire, torch in hand seemed to
preside over and command a multitude of ever-spreading flames to his
will. Excitement had overmastered him now, the lust to destroy was upon
him, and excitement had seized all the others too.

There was shouting and cursing, and laughter that sounded mirthless and
forced, and calls to Pierre, and oaths of revenge. Memory like an
evil-intentioned witch was riding invisibily in the darkness and she
touched each seething brain with her fever-giving wand. Every man had an
outrage to remember, an injustice to recall, and strong, brown fists
were shaken aloft in the direction of the château de Kernogan whose
lights glimmered feebly in the distance beyond the Loire.

'Death to the tyrant! A la lanterne les aristos! The people's hour has
come at last! No more starvation! No more injustice! Equality! Liberty!
A mort les aristos!'

The shouts, the curses, the crackling flames, the howling of the wind,
the soughing of the trees made up a confusion of sounds which seemed
hardly of this earth; the blazing ricks, the flickering, red light of
the flames had finally transformed the little hillock behind the mill
into another Brocken on whose summit witches and devils do of a truth
hold their revels.

'A moi!' shouted Pierre again, and he threw his torch down upon the
ground and once more made for the barn. The others followed him. In the
barn were such weapons as these wretched penniless peasants had managed
to collect--scythes, poles, axes, saws, anything that would prove useful
for the destruction of the château de Kernogan and the proposed
brow-beating of M. le duc and his family. All the men trooped in in the
wake of Pierre. The entire hillock was now a blaze of light---lurid and
red and flickering---alternately teased and fanned and subdued by the
gale, so that at times every object stood out clearly cut, every blade
of grass, every stone in bold relief, and in the ruts and fissures,
every tiny pool of muddy water shimmered like strings of fire-opals:
whilst at others a pall of inky darkness, smoke-laden and impenetrable
would lie over the ground and erase the outline of farm-buildings and
distant mill and of the pushing and struggling mass of humanity inside
the barn.

But Pierre, heedless of light and darkness, of heat or of cold,
proceeded quietly and methodically to distribute the primitive
implements of warfare to this crowd of ignorant men who were by now over
ready for mischief: and with every weapon which he placed in willing
hands he found the right words for willing ears---words which would
kindle passion and lust of vengeance most readily where they lay
dormant, or would fan them into greater vigour where they smouldered.

'For thee this scythe, Hector Lebrun,' he would say to a tall, lanky
youth whose emaciated arms and bony hands were stretched with longing
toward the bright piece of steel; 'remember last year's harvest, the
heavy tax thou wert forced to pay, so that not one sou of profit went
into thy pocket, and thy mother starved whilst M. le duc and his brood
feasted and danced and shiploads of corn were sunk in the Loire lest
abundance made bread too cheap for the poor!'

'For thee this pick-axe, Henri Meunier! Remember the new roof on thy
hut, which thou didst build to keep the wet off thy wife's bed who was
crippled with ague---and the heavy impost levied on thee by the
tax-collector for this improvement to thy miserable hovel.'

'This pole for thee, Charles Blanc! Remember the beating administered to
thee by the duc's bailiff for daring to keep a tame rabbit to amuse thy
children!'

'Remember! Remember, mes amis!' he added exultantly, 'remember every
wrong you have endured, every injustice, every blow! remember your
poverty and his wealth, your crusts of dry bread and his succulent
meals, your rags and his silks and velvets, remember your starving
children and ailing mother, your care-laden wife and toil-worn
daughters! Forget nothing, mes amis, to-night, and at the gates of the
château de Kernogan demand of its arrogant owner wrong for wrong and
outrage for outrage.'

A deafening cry of triumph greeted this peroration, scythes and sickles
and axes and poles were brandished in the air and several scores of
hands were stretched out to Pierre and clasped in this newly-found bond
of vengeful fraternity.

III

Then it was that with vigorous play of the elbows Jean Adet, the miller,
forced his way through the crowd till he stood face to face with his
son.

'Unfortunate!' he cried, 'what is all this? What dost thou propose to
do? Whither are ye all going?'

'To Kernogan!' they all shouted in response.

'En avant, Pierre! we follow!' cried some of them impatiently.

But Jean Adet---who was a powerful man despite his years---had seized
Pierre by the arm and dragged him to a distant corner of the barn:

'Pierre!' he said in tones of command, 'I forbid thee in the name of thy
duty and the obedience which thou dost owe to me and to thy mother, to
move another step in this hot-headed adventure. I was on the high-road,
walking homewards, when that conflagration and the senseless cries of
these poor lads warned me that some awful mischief was afoot. Pierre! my
son! I command thee to lay that weapon down.'

But Pierre--who in his normal state was a dutiful son and sincerely fond
of his father--shook himself free from Jean Adet's grasp.

'Father!' he said loudly and firmly, 'this is no time for interference.
We are all of us men here and know our own minds. What we mean to do
to-night we have thought on and planned for weeks and months. I pray
you, father, let me be! I am not a child and I have work to do.'

'Not a child?' exclaimed the old man as he turned appealingly to the
lads who had stood by, silent and sullen during this little scene. 'Not
a child? But you are all only children, my lads. You don't know what you
are doing. You don't know what terrible consequences this mad escapade
will bring upon us all, upon the whole village, aye! and the
country-side. Do you suppose for one moment that the château of Kernogan
will fall at the mercy of a few ignorant unarmed lads like yourselves?
Why! four hundred of you would not succeed in forcing your way even as
far as the courtyard of the palace. M. le duc has had wind for some time
of your turbulent meetings at the auberge: he has kept an armed guard
inside his castle yard for weeks past, a company of artillery with two
guns hoisted upon his walls. My poor lads! you are running straight to
ruin! Go home, I beg of you! Forget this night's escapade! Nothing but
misery to you and yours can result from it.'

They listened quietly, if surlily, to Jean Adet's impassioned words. Far
be it from their thoughts to flout or to mock him. Paternal authority
commanded respect even among the most rough; but they all felt that they
had gone too far now to draw back: the savour of anticipated revenge had
been too sweet to be forgone quite so readily, and Pierre with his
vigorous personality, his glowing eloquence, his compelling power had
more influence over them than the sober counsels of prudence and the
wise admonitions of old Jean Adet. Not one word was spoken, but with an
instinctive gesture every man grasped his weapon more firmly and then
turned to Pierre, thus electing him their spokesman.

Pierre too had listened in silence to all that his father said, striving
to hide the burning anxiety which was gnawing at his heart, lest his
comrades allowed themselves to be persuaded by the old man's counsels
and their ardour be cooled by the wise dictates of prudence. But when
Jean Adet had finished speaking and Pierre saw each man thus grasping
his weapon all the more firmly and in silence, a cry of triumph escaped
his lips.

'It is all in vain, father,' he cried, 'our minds are made up. A host of
angels from heaven would not bar our way now to victory and to
vengeance.'

'Pierre!' admonished the old man.

'It is too late, my father,' said Pierre firmly, 'en avant, lads!'

'Yes! en avant! en avant!' assented some, 'we have wasted too much time
as it is.'

'But, unfortunate lads,' admonished the old man, 'what are you going to
do?---a handful of you---where are you going?'

'We go straight to the cross-roads, now, father,' said Pierre firmly.
'The firing of your ricks---for which I humbly crave your pardon---is
the preconcerted signal which will bring the lads from all the
neighbouring villages--from Goulaine and les Sorinières and Doulon and
Tourne-Bride--to our meeting place. Never you fear! There will be more
than four hundred of us and a company of paid soldiers is not like to
frighten us. Eh, lads?'

'No! no! en avant!' they shouted and murmured impatiently, 'there has
been too much talking already and we have wasted precious time.'

'Pierre!' entreated the miller.

But no one listened to the old man now. A general movement down the
hillock had already begun and Pierre turning his back on his father had
pushed his way to the front of the crowd and was now leading the way
down the slope. Up on the summit the fire was already burning low: only
from time to time an imprisoned tongue of flame would dart out of the
dying embers and leap fitfully up into the night. A dull red glow
illumined the small farmery and the mill and the slowly moving mass of
men along the narrow road, whilst clouds of black, dense smoke were
tossed about by the gale. Pierre walked with head erect. He ceased to
think of his father and he never looked back to see if the others
followed him. He knew that they did: like the straw-ricks a while ago,
they had become the prey of a consuming fire: the fire of their own
passion which had caught them and held them and would not leave them now
until their ardour was consumed in victory or defeat.

IV

M. le duc de Kernogan had just finished dinner when Jacques Labrunière
his head-bailiff came to him with the news that a rabble crowd composed
of the peasantry of Goulaine and Vertou and the neighbouring villages
had assembled at the cross-roads, there held revolutionary speeches, and
was even now marching toward the castle still shouting and singing and
brandishing of miscellaneous collection of weapons chiefly consisting
the scythes and axes.

'The guard is under arms, I imagine,' was M. le duc's comment on this
not altogether unforeseen piece of news.

'Everything is in perfect order,' replied the head-bailiff coolly, 'for
the defence of M. le duc and his property---and of Mademoiselle.'

M. le duc who had been lounging in one of the big armchairs in the
stately hall of Kernogan jumped to his feet at these words: his cheeks
suddenly pallid, and a look of deadly fear in his eyes.

'Mademoiselle,' he said hurriedly, 'by G-d, Labrunière, I had
forgotten--momentarily--'

'M. le duc?' stammered the bailiff in anxious inquiry.

'Mademoiselle de Kernogan is on her way home---even now---she spent the
day with Mme. la Marquise d'Herbignac---she was to return at about eight
o'clock...If those devils meet her carriage on the road...'

'There is no cause for anxiety, M. le duc,' broke in Labrunière
hurriedly. 'I will see that half a dozen men get to horse at once and go
and meet Mademoiselle and escort her home...'

'Yes...yes...Labrunière,' murmured the duc, who seemed very much
overcome with terror now that his daughter's safety was in jeopardy,
'see to it at once. Quick! quick! I shall wax crazy with anxiety.'

While Labrunière ran to make the necessary arrangements for an efficient
escort for Mademoiselle de Kernogan and gave the sergeant in charge of
the posse the necessary directions, M. le duc remained motionless,
huddled up in the capacious armchair, his head buried in his hand,
shivering in front of the huge fire which burned in the monumental
hearth, himself the prey of nameless, overwhelming terror.

He knew--none better---the appalling hatred wherewith he and all his
family and belongings were regarded by the local peasantry. Astride upon
his manifold rights--feudal, territorial, seignorial rights---he had all
his life ridden roughshod over the prejudices, the miseries, the
undoubted rights of the poor people, who were little better than serfs
in the possession of the high and mighty duc de Kernogan. He also
knew--none better---that gradually, very gradually it is true, but with
unerring certainty, those same down-trodden, ignorant, miserable and
half-starved peasants were turning against their oppressors, that riots
and outrages had occurred in many rural districts in the North and that
the insidious poison of social revolution was gradually creeping toward
the south and West, and had already infected the villages and small
townships which were situated quite unpleasantly close to Nantes and to
Kernogan.

For this reason he had kept a company of artillery at his own expense
inside the precincts of his château, and with the aristocrat's open
contempt for his peasantry which it had not yet learned to fear, he had
disdained to take further measures for the repression of local
gatherings, and would not pay the village rabble the compliment of being
afraid of them in any way.

But with his daughter Yvonne in the open roadway on the very night when
an assembly of that same rabble was obviously bent on mischief, matters
became very serious. Insult, outrage or worse might befall the proud
aristocrat's only child, and knowing that from these people, whom she
had been taught to look upon as little better than beasts, she could
expect neither mercy nor chivalry, the duc de Kernogan within his
unassailable castle felt for his daughter's safety the most abject, the
most deadly fear which hath ever unnerved any man.

Labrunière a few minutes later did his best to reassure his master.

'I have ordered the men to take the best horses out of the stables, M.
le duc,' he said, 'and to cut across the fields toward la Gramoire so as
to intercept Mademoiselle's coach ere it reach the cross-roads. I feel
confident that there is no cause for alarm,' he added emphatically.

'Pray God you are right, Labrunière,' murmured the duc feebly. 'Do you
know how strong the rabble crowd is?'

'No, Monseigneur, not exactly. Camille the under-bailiff, who brought me
the news, was riding homewards across the meadows about an hour ago when
he saw a huge conflagration which seemed to come from the back of Adet's
mill: the whole sky has been lit up by a lurid light for the past hour,
and I fancied myself that Adet's staw must be on fire. But Camille
pushed his horse up the rising ground which culminates at Adet's
farmery. It seems that he heard a great deal of shouting which did not
seem to be accompanied by any attempt at putting out the fire. So he
dismounted and led his horse round the hillock skirting Adet's farm
buildings so that he should not be seen. Under cover of darkness he
heard and saw the old miller with his son Pierre engaged in distributing
scythes, poles and axes to a crowd of youngsters and haranguing them
wildly all the time. He also heard Pierre Adet speak of the
conflagration as a perconcerted signal, and say that he and his mates
would meet the lads of the neighbouring villages at the
cross-roads...and that four hundred of them would then march on Kernogan
and pillage the castle.'

'Bah!' quoth M. le duc in a voice hoarse with execration and contempt,
'a lot of oafs who will give the hangman plenty of trouble to-morrow. As
for that Adet and his son, they shall suffer for this...I can promise
them that...If only Mademoiselle were home!' he added with a
heartrending sigh.

V

Indeed, had M. le duc de Kernogan been gifted with second sight, the
agony of mind which he was enduring would have been aggravated an
hundredfold. At the very moment when the head-bailiff was doing his best
to reassure his liege-lord as to the safety of Mlle. de Kernogan, her
coach was speeding along from the château of Herbignac toward those same
cross-roads where a couple of hundred hot-headed peasant lads were
planning as much mischief as their unimaginative minds could conceive.

The fury of the gale had in no way abated, and now a heavy rain was
falling--a drenching, sopping rain which in the space of half an hour
had added five centimetres to the depth of the mud on the roads, and had
in that same space of time considerably damped the enthusiasm of some of
the poor lads. Three score or so had assembled from Goulaine, two score
from les Sorinières, some three dozen from Doulon: they had rallied to
the signal in hot haste, gathered their scythes and spades, very eager
and excited, and had reached the cross-roads which were much nearer to
their respective villages than to Jean Adet's farm and the mill, even
while the old man was admonishing his son and the lads of Vertou on the
summit of the blazing hillock. Here they had spent half an hour in
cooling their heels and their tempers under the drenching rain---wet to
the skin---fuming and fretting at the delay.

But even so---damped in ardour and chilled to the marrow---they were
still a dangerous crowd and prudence ought to have dictated to
Mademoiselle de Kernogan the wiser course of ordering her coachman
Jean-Marie to head his horses back toward Herbignac, the moment that the
outrider reported that a mob, armed with scythes, spades and axes, held
the cross-roads and that it would be dangerous for the coach to advance
any further.

Already for the past few minutes the sound of loud shouting had been
heard even above the tramp of the horses and the clatter of the coach.
Jean-Marie had pulled up and sent one of the outriders on ahead to see
what was amiss: the man returned with very unpleasant tidings--in his
opinion it certainly would be dangerous to go any further. The mob
appeared bent on mischief: he had heard threats and curses all levelled
against M. le duc de Kernogan---the conflagration up at Vertou was
evidently a signal which would bring along a crowd of malcontents from
all the neighbouring villages. He was for turning back forthwith. But
Mademoiselle put her head out of the window just then and asked what was
amiss. On hearing that Jean-Marie and the postilion and outriders were
inclined to be afraid of a mob of peasant lads who had assembled at the
cross-roads and were apparently threatening to do mischief, she chided
them for their cowardice.

'Jean-Marie,' she called scornfully to the old coachman, who had been in
her father's service for close on half a century, 'do you really mean to
tell me that you are afraid of that rabble!'

'Why no! Mademoiselle, so please you,' replied the old man, nettled in
his pride by the taunt, 'but the temper of the peasantry round here has
been ugly of late, and 'tis your safety I have got to guard.'

'Tis my commands you have got to obey,' retorted Mademoiselle with a gay
little laugh which mitigated the peremptoriness of her tone. 'If my
father should hear that there's trouble on the road he will die of
anxiety if I do not return: so whip up the horses Jean-Marie. No one
will dare to attack the coach.'

'But Mademoiselle---' remonstrated the old man.

'Ah çà!' she broke in more impatiently, 'am I to be openly disobeyed?
Best join that rabble, Jean-Marie, if you have no respect for my
commands.'

Thus twitted by Mademoiselle's sharp tongue Jean-Marie could not help
but obey. He tried to peer into the distance through the veil of
blinding rain which beat against his face and stung the horses to
restlessness. But the light from the coach lanterns prevented his seeing
clearly into the darkness beyond. Still it seemed to him that on ahead a
dense and solid mass was moving toward the coach, also that the sound of
shouting and of excited humanity was considerably nearer than it had
been before. No doubt the mob had perceived the lights of the coach and
was even now making towards it, with what intent Jean-Marie divined all
too accurately.

But he had his orders, and though he was an old and trusted servant
disobedience these days was not even to be thought of. So he did as he
was bid. He whipped up his horses, which were high-spirited and answered
to the lash with a bound and a plunge forward. Mlle. de Kernogan leaned
back on the cushions of the coach. She was satisfied that Jean-Marie had
done as he was told, and she was not in the least afraid.

But less than five minutes later she ahd a rude awakening. The coach
gave a terrific lurch. The horses reared and plunged, there was a
deafening clamour all around: men were shouting and cursing: there was
the clash of wood and iron and the cracking of whips: the tramp of
horses' hoofs in the soft ground, and the dull thud of human bodies
falling in the mud followed by loud cries of pain. There was the sudden
crash of broken glass, the coach lanthorns had been seized and broken:
it seemed to Yvonne de Kernogan that out of the darkness faces distorted
with fury were peering at her through the window-panes. But through all
the confusion the coach kept moving on. Jean-Marie stuck to his post as
did also the postilion and the four outriders, and with whip and tongue
they urged their horses to break through the crowd regardless of human
lives, knocking and trampling down men and lads heedless of curses and
blasphemies which were hurled on them and on the occupants of the coach,
whoever they might be.

The next moment, however, the coach came to a sudden halt and a wild cry
of triumph drowned the groans of the injured and the dying.

'Kernogan! Kernogan!' was shouted from every side.

'Adet! Adet!'

'You limbs of Satan,' cried Jean-Marie, 'you'll rue this night's work
and weep tears of blood for the rest of your lives. Let me tell you
that! Mademoiselle is in the coach. When M. le duc hears of this, there
will be work for the hangman...'

'Mademoiselle in the coach,' broke in a hoarse voice with a rough tone
of command. 'Let's look at her...'

'Aye! Aye! let's have a look at Mademoiselle,' came with a volley of
objurgations and curses from the crowd.

'You devils--you would dare?' protested Jean-Marie.

Within the coach Yvonne de Kernogan hardly dared to breathe. She sat
bolt upright, her cape held tightly round her shoulders: her
eyes--dilated now with excitement, if not with fear, were fixed upon the
darkness beyond the window panes. She could see nothing, but she felt
the presence of that hostile crowd who had succeeded in overpowering
Jean-Marie and were intent on doing her harm.

But she belonged to a caste which never reckoned cowardice amongst its
many faults. During these few moments when she knew that her life hung
on the merest thread of chance, she neither screamed nor fainted but sat
rigidly still, her heart beating in unison with the agonizing seconds
which went so fatefully by. And even now when the carriage door was torn
violently open and even through the darkness she discerned vaguely the
forms of these avowed enemies close beside her, and anon felt a rough
hand seize her wrist, she did not move, but said quite calmly, with
hardly a tremor in her voice:

'Who are you? and what do you want?'

An outburst of harsh and ironical laughter came in response.

'Who are we, my fine lady?' said the foremost man in the crowd, he who
had seized her wrist and was half in and half out of the coach at this
moment, 'we are the men who throughout our lives have toiled and starved
whilst you and such as you travel in fine coaches and eat your fill.
What we want? Why just the spectacle of such a fine lady as you are
being knocked down into the mud just as our wives and daughters are if
they happen to be in the way when your coach is passing. Isn't that it,
mes amis?'

'Aye! aye!' they replied, shouting lustily. 'Into the mud with the fine
lady. Out with her, Adet. Let's have a look at Mademoiselle how she will
look with her face in the mud. Out with her, quick!'

But the man who was still half in and half out of the coach and who had
hold of Mademoiselle's wrist did not obey his mates immediately. He drew
her nearer to him and suddenly threw his rough, begrimed arms round her,
and with one hand pulled back her hood, then placing two fingers under
chin, he jerked it up till her face was level with his own.

Yvonne de Kernogan was certainly no coward, but at the loathsome contact
of this infuriated and vengeful creature, she was overcome with such a
hideous sense of fear that for the moment consciousness almost left her:
not completely alas! for though she could not distinguish his face she
could feel his hot breath upon her cheeks, she could smell the
nauseating odour of his damp clothes and she could hear his hoarse
mutterings as for the space of a few seconds he held her thus close to
him in an embrace which to her was far more awesome than that of death.

'And just to punish you, my fine lady,' he said in a whisper which sent
a shudder of horror right through her, 'to punish you for what you are,
the brood of tyrants, proud, disdainful, a budding tyrant yourself, to
punish you for every misery my mother and sister have had to endure, for
every luxury which you have enjoyed, I will kiss you on the lips and the
cheeks and just between your white throat and chin and never as long as
you live if you die this night or live to be an hundred will you be able
to wash off those kisses showered upon you by one who hates and loathes
you---a miserable peasant whom you despise and who in your sight is
lower far than your dogs.'

Yvonne with eyes closed hardly breathed, but through the veil of
semi-consciousness which mercifully wrapped her senses she could still
hear those awful words, and feel the pollution of those loathsome kisses
with which--true to his threat---this creature---half man, wholly devil,
whom she could not see but whome she hated and feared as she would Satan
himself--now covered her face and throat.

After that she remembered nothing more. Consciousness mercifully forsook
her altogether. When she recovered her senses, she was within the
percincts of the castle: a confused murmur of voices reached her ears,
and her father's arms were round her. Gradually she distinguished what
was being said: she gathered the threads of the story which Jean-Marie
and the postilion and outriders were hastily unravelling in response to
M. le duc's commands.

These men of course knew nothing of the poignant little drama which had
been enacted inside the coach. All they knew was that they had been
surrounded by a rough crowd--a hundred or so strong---who brandished
scythes and spades, that they had made valiant efforts to break through
the crowd by whipping up their horses, but that suddenly some of those
devils more plucky than the others seized the horses by their bits and
rendered poor Jean-Marie quite helpless. He thought then that all would
be up with the lot of them and was thinking of scrambling down from his
box in order to protect Mademoiselle with his body, and the pistols
which he had in the boot, when happily for every one concerned he heard
in the distance--above the clatter which that abominable rabble was
making, the hurried tramp of horses. At once he jumped to the conclusion
that these could be none other than a company of soldiers sent by M. le
duc. This spurred him to a fresh effort and gave him a new idea. To
Carmail the postilion who had a pistol in his holster he gave the
peremptory order to fire a shot into the air or into the crowd,
Jean-Marie cared not which. This Carmail did and at once the horses,
already maddened by the crowd, plunged and reared wildly, shaking
themselves free. Jean-Marie, however, had them well in hand, and from
far away there came the cries of encouragement from the advancing
horsemen who were bearing down on them full tilt. The next moment there
was a general mêlée. Jean-Marie saw nothing save his horses' heads, but
the outriders declared that men were trampled down like flies all around
while others vanished into the night.

What happened after that none of the men knew or cared. Jean-Marie
galloped his horses all the way to the castle and never drew rein until
the precincts were reached.

VI

Had M. de Kernogan had his way and a free hand to mete out retributive
justice in the proportion that he desired, there is no doubt that the
hangman of Nantes would have been kept exceedingly busy. As it was a
number of arrests were effected the following day--half the manhood of
the countryside was implicated in the aborted Jacquerie and the city
prison was not large enough to hold it all.

A court of justice presided over by M. le duc and composed of half a
dozen men who were directly or indirectly in his employ pronounced
summary sentences on the rioters which were to have been carried out as
soon as the necessary arrangements for such wholesale executions could
be made. Nantes was turned into a city of wailing; peasant-women--
mothers, sisters, daughters, wives of the condemned, trooped from
their villages into the city, loudly calling on M. le duc for
mercy, besieging the improvised court-house, the prison gates, the
town residence of M. le duc, the palace of the bishop: they pushed their
way into the courtyards and the very corridors of those
buildings--flunkeys could not cope with them---they fought with fists
and elbows for the right to make a direct appeal to the liege-lord who
had power of life and death over their men.

The municipality of Nantes held aloof from this distressful state of
things and the town councillors, the city functionaries and their
families shut themselves up in their houses in order to avoid being a
witness to the heartrending scenes which took place uninterruptedly
round the court-house and the prison. The mayor himself was powerless to
interfere, but it is averred that he sent a secret courier to Paris to
M. de Mirabeau, who was known to be a personal friend of his, with a
detailed account of the Jacquerie and of the terrible measures of
reprisal contemplated by M. le duc de Kernogan, together with an earnest
request that pressure from the highest possible quarters be brought to
bear upon His Grace so that he should abate something of his vengeful
rigours.

Poor King Louis, who in these days was being terrorized by the National
Assembly and swept off his feet by the eloquence of M. de Mirabeau, was
only too ready to make concessions to the democratic spirit of the day.
He also desired his noblesse to be equally ready with such concessions.
He sent a personal letter to M. le duc, not only asking him but
commanding him to show grace and mercy to a lot of misguided peasant
lads whose loyalty and adherence--he urged---might be won by a gracious
and unexpected act of clemency.

The King's commands could not in the nature of things be disobeyed: the
same stroke of the pen which was about to send half a hundred young
countrymen to the gallows granted them M. le duc's gracious pardon and
their liberty: the only exception to this general amnesty being Pierre
Adet, the son of the miller. M. le duc's servants had deposed to seeing
him pull open the door of the coach and stand for some time half in and
half out of the carriaged, obviously trying to terrorize Mademoiselle.
Mademoiselle refused either to corroborate or to deny this statement,
but she had arrived fainting at the gate of the château, and she had
been very ill ever since. She had sustained a serious shock to her
nerves, so the doctor hastily summoned from Paris had averred, and it
was supposed that she had lost all recollection of the terrible
incidents of that night.

But M. le duc was satisfied that it was Pierre Adet's presence inside
the coach which had brought about his daughter's mysterious illness and
that heartrending look of nameless horror which had dwelt in her eyes
ever since. Therefore with regard to that man M. le duc remained
implacable and as a concession to a father's outraged feelings both the
mayor of Nantes and the city functionaries accepted Adet's condemnation
without a murmur of dissent.

The sentence of death finally passed upon Pierre, the son of Jean Adet,
miller of Vertou, could not, however, be executed, for the simple reason
that Pierre had disappeared and that the most rigorous search instituted
in the neighbourhood and for miles around failed to bring him to
justice. One of the outriders who had been in attendance on Mademoiselle
on that fateful night declared that when Jean-Marie finally whipped up
his horses at the approach of the party of soldiers, Adet fell backwards
from the step of the carriage and was run over by the hind wheels and
instantly killed. But his body was never found among the score or so
which were left lying there in the mud of the road until the women and
old men came to seek their loved ones among the dead.

Pierre Adet had disappeared. But M. le duc's vengeance had need of a
prey. The outrage which he was quite convinced had been perpetrated
against his daughter must be punished by death--if not by the death of
the chief offender, then by that of the one who stood nearest to him.
Thus was Jean Adet the miller dragged from his home and cast into
prison. Was he not implicated himself in the riots? Camille the bailiff
had seen and heard him among the insurgents on the hillock that night.
At first it was stated that he would be held as hostage for the
reappearance of his son. But Pierre Adet had evidently fled the
countryside: he was obviously ignorant of the terrible fate which hiw
own folly had brought upon his father. Many thought that he had gone to
seek his fortune in Paris where his talents and erudition would ensure
him a good place in the present mad rush for equality amongst all men.
Certain it is that he did not return and that with merciless hate and
vengeful relentlessness M. le duc de Kernogan had Jean Adet hanged for a
supposed crime said to be committed by his son.

Jean Adet died protesting his innocence. But the outburst of indignation
and revolt aroused by this crying injustice was swamped by the torrent
of the revolution which, gathering force by these very acts of tyranny
and of injustice, soon swept innocent and guilty alike into a vast
whirlpool of blood and shame and tears.




BOOK 1



Chapter One - The Moor

I

Silence. Loneliness. Desolation.

And the darkness of late afternoon in November, when the fog from the
Bristol Channel had laid its pall upon moor and valley and hill: the
last grey glimmer of a wintry sunset had faded in the west: earth and
sky are wrapped in the gloomy veils of oncoming night. Some little way
ahead a tiny light flickers feebly.

'Surely we cannot be far now.'

'A little more patience, Mounzeer. Twenty minutes and we be there.'

'Twenty minutes, mordieu. And I have ridden since the morning. And you
tell me it was not far.'

'Not far, Mounzeer. But we be not 'orzemen either of us. We doan't
travel very fast.'

'How can I ride fast on this heavy beast? And in this satané mud. My
horse is up to his knees in it. And I am wet---ah! wet to my skin in
this sacré fog of yours.'

The other made no reply. Indeed he seemed little inclined for
conversation: his whole attention appeared to be riveted on the business
of keeping in his saddle, and holding his horse's head turned in the
direction in which he wished it to go: he was riding a yard or two ahead
of his companion, and it did not need any assurance on his part that he
was no horseman: he sat very loosely in his saddle, his broad shoulders
bent, his head thrust forward, his knees turned out, his hands clinging
alternately to the reins and to the pommel with that ludicrous
inconsequent gesture peculiar to those who are wholly unaccustomed to
horse exercise.

His attitude, in fact, as well as the promiscuous set of clothes which
he wore--a labourer's smock, a battered high hat, threadbare corduroys
and fisherman's boots--at once suggested the loafer, the do-nothing who
hangs round the yards of half-way houses and posting inns on the chance
of earning a few coppers by an easy job which does not entail too much
exertion on his part and which will not take him too far from his
favourite haunts. When he spoke--which was not often---the soft burr in
the pronunciation of the sibilants betrayed the Westcountryman.

His companion, on the other hand, was obviously a stranger: high of
stature, and broadly built, his wide shoulders and large hands and feet,
his square head set upon a short thick neck, all bespoke the physique of
a labouring man, whilst his town-made clothes--his heavy caped coat,
admirably tailored, his buckskin breeches and boots of fine
leather--suggested, if not absolutely the gentleman, at any rate one
belonging to the well-to-do classes. Though obviously not quite so
inexperienced in the saddle as the other man appeared to be, he did not
look very much at home in the saddle either: he held himself very rigid
and upright and squared his shoulders with a visible effort at seeming
at ease, like a townsman out for a constitutional on the fashionable
promenade of his own city, or a cavalry subaltern but lately emerged
from a riding school. He spoke English quite fluently, even colloquially
at times, but with a marked Gallic accent.

II

The road along which the two cavaliers were riding was unspeakably
lonely and desolate--an offshoot from the main Bath to Weston road. It
had been quite a good secondary road once. The accounts of the county
administration under date 1725 go to prove that it was completed in that
year at considerable expense and with stone brought over for the purpose
all the way from Draycott quarries, and for twenty years after that a
coach used to ply along it between Chelwood and Redhill as well as two
or three carriers, and of course there was all the traffic in connexion
with the Stanton markets and the Norton Fairs. But that was night on
fifty years ago now, and somehow--once the mail coach was
discontinued--it had never seemed worth while to keep the road in decent
repair. It had gone from bad to worse since then, and travelling on it
these days either ahorse or afoot had become very unpleasant. It was
full of ruts and crevasses and knee-deep in mud, as the stranger had
very appositely remarked, and the stone parapet which bordered it on
either side, and which had once given it such an air of solidity and of
value, was broken down in very many places and threatened soon to
disappear altogether.

The country round was as lonely and desolate as the road. And that sense
of desolation seemed to pervade the very atmosphere right through the
darkness which had descended on upland and valley and hill. Though
nothing now could be seen through the darkness which had descended on
upland and valley and hill. Though nothing now could be seen through the
gloom and the mist, the senses were conscious that even in broad
daylight there would be nothing to see. Loneliness dwelt in the air as
well as upon the moor. There were no homesteads for miles around, no
cattle grazing, no pastures, no hedges, nothing---just arid, waste land
with here and there a group of stunted trees or an isolated yew, and
tracts of rough, coarse grass not nearly good enough for cattle to eat.

There are vast stretches of upland equally desolate in many parts of
Europe--notably in Northern Spain--but in England, where they are rare,
they seem to gain an additional air of loneliness through the very life
which dulsates in their vicinity. This bit of Somersetshire was one of
them in this year of grace 1793. Despite the proximity of Bath and its
fashionable life, its gaieties and vitality, distant only a little over
twenty miles, and of Bristol distant less than thirty, it had remained
wild and forlorn, almost savage in its grim isolation, primitive in the
grandeur of its solitude.

III

The road at the point now reached by the travellers begins to slope in a
gentle gradient down to the level of the Chew, a couple of miles further
on: it was midway down this slope that the only sign of living humanity
could be perceived in that tiny light which glimmered persistently. The
air itself under its mantle of fog had become very still, only the water
of some tiny moorland stream murmured feebly in its stony bed ere it
lost its entity in the bosom of the river far away.

'Five more minutes and we be at th' Bottom Inn,' quoth the man who was
ahead, in response to another impatient ejaculation from his companion.

'If we don't break our necks meanwhile in this confounded darkness,'
retorted the other, for his horse had just stumbled and the
inexperienced rider had been very nearly pitched over into the mud.

'I be as anxious to arrive as you are, Mounzeer,' observed the
countryman laconically.

'I thought you knew the way,' muttered the stranger.

''Ave I not brought you safely through the darkness?' retorted the
other; 'you was pretty well ztranded at Chelwood Mounzeer, or I be much
mistaken. Who else would 'ave brought you out 'ere at this time o'
night, I'd like to know--and in this weather too? You wanted to get to
th' Bottom Inn and didn't know 'ow to zet about it: none o' the gaffers
up to Chelwood 'peared eager to 'elp you when I come along. Well, I've
brought you to th' Bottom Inn and...Whoa! Whoa! my beauty! Whoa,
confound you! Whoa!'

And for the next moment or two the whole of his attention had perforce
to be concentrated on the business of sticking to his saddle whilst he
brought his fagged-out, ill-conditioned nag to a standstill.

The little glimmer of light had suddenly revealed itself in the shape of
a lanthorn hung inside the wooden porch of a small house which had
loomed out of the darkness and the fog. It stood at an angle of the road
where a narrow lane had its beginnings ere it plunged into the moor
beyond and was swallowed up by the all-enveloping gloom. The house was
small and ugly; square like a box and built of grey stone, its front
flush with the road, its rear flanked by several small oubuildings.
Above the porch hung a plain sign-board bearing the legend: 'The Bottom
Inn' in white letters upon a black ground: to right and left of the
porch there was a window with closed shutters, and on the floor above
two more windows--also shuttered---completed the architectural features
of the Bottom Inn.

It was uncompromisingly ugly and uninviting, for beyond the faint
glimmer of the lanthorn only one or two narrow streaks of light
filtrated through the chinks of the shutters.

IV

The travellers, after some difference of opinion with their respective
horses, contrived to pull up and to dismount without any untoward
accident. The stranger looked about him, peering into the darkness. The
place indeed appeared dismal and inhospitable enough: its solitary
aspect suggested footpads and the abode of cut-throats. The silence of
the moor, the pall of mist and gloom that hung over upland and valley
sent a shiver through his spine.

'You are sure this is the place?' he queried.

'Can't ye zee the zign?' retorted the other gruffly.

'Can you hold the horses while I go in?'

'I doan't know as 'ow I can, Mounzeer. I've never 'eld two 'orzes all at
once. Suppose they was to start kickin' or thought o' runnin' away.'

'Running away, you fool!' muttered the stranger, whose temper had
evidently suffered grievously during the weary, cold journey from
Chelwood. 'I'll break your satané head if anything happens to the
beasts. How can I get back to Bath save the way I came? Do you think I
want to spend the night in this God-forsaken hole?'

Without waiting to hear any further protests from the lout, he turned
into the porch and with his riding whip gave three consecutive raps
against the door of the inn, followed by two more. The next moment there
was the sound of rattling of bolts and chains, the door was cautiously
opened and a timid voice queried:

'Is it Mounzeer?'

'Pardieu! Who else?' growled the stranger. 'Open the door, woman. I am
perished with cold.'

With an unceremonious kick he pushed the door further open and strode
in. A woman was standing in the dimly lighted passage. As the stranger
walked in she bobbed him a respectful curtsey.

'It is all right, Mounzeer,' she said; 'the Captain's in the
coffee-room. He came over from Bristol early this afternoon.'

'No one else here, I hope,' he queried curtly.

'No one, zir. It ain't their hour not yet. You'll 'ave the 'ouse to
yourself till after midnight. After that there'll be a bustle, I reckon.
Two shiploads come into Watchet last night--brandy and cloth, Mounzeer,
so the Captain says, and worth a mint o' money. The pack 'orzes will be
through yere in the small hours.'

'That's all right, then. Send me in a bite and a mug of hot ale.'

'I'll see to it, Mounzeer.'

'And stay--have you some sort of stabling where the man can put the two
horses up for an hour's rest?'

'Aye, aye, zir.'

'Very well then, see to that too: and see that the horses get a feed and
a drink and give the man something to eat.'

'Very good, Mounzeer. This way, zir. I'll see the man presently.
Straight down the passage, zir. The coffee-room is on the right. The
Captain's there, waiting for ye.'

She closed the front door carefully, then followed the stranger to the
door of the coffee-room. Outside an anxious voice was heard muttering a
string of inconsequent and wholly superfluous 'Whoa's!' Of a truth the
two wearied nags were only too anxious for a little rest.



Chapter Two - The Bottom Inn

I

A man was sitting, huddled up in the ingle-nook of the small
coffee-room, sipping hot ale from a tankard which he had in his hand.

Anything less suggestive of a rough sea-faring life than his appearance
it would be difficult to conceive; and how he came by the appellation
'the Captain' must for ever remain a mystery. He was small and spare,
with thin delicate face and slender hands: though dressed in very rough
garments, he was obviously ill at east in them; his narrow shoulders
scarcely appeared able to bear the weight of the coarsely made coat and
his thin legs did not begin to fill the big fisherman's boots which
reached midway up his lean thighs. His hair was lank and plentifully
sprinkled with gray: he wore it tied at the nape of the neck with a silk
bow which certainly did not harmonize with the rest of his clothing. A
wide-brimmed felt hat something the shape of a sailor's, but with higher
crown--of the shape worn by the peasantry in Brittany---lay on the bench
beside him.

When the stranger entered he had greeted him curtly, speaking in French.

The room was inexpressibly stuffy, and reeked of the fumes of stale
tobacco, stale victuals and stale beer; but it was warm, and the
stranger, stiff to the marrow and wet to the skin, uttered an
exclamation of well-being as he turned to the hearth, wherein a bright
fire burned cheerily. He had put his hat down when first he entered and
had divested himself of his big coat: now he held one foot and then the
other to the blaze and tried to infuse new life into his numbed hands.

'The Captain' took scant notice of his comings and goings. He did not
attempt to help him off with his coat, nor did he make an effort to add
another log to the fire. He sat silent and practically motionless, save
when from time to time he took a sip out of his mug of ale. But whenever
the new-comer came within his immediate circle of vision he shot a
glance at the latter's elegant attire--the well-cut coat, the striped
waistcoat, the boots of fine leather---the glance was quick and
comprehensive and full of scorn, a flash that lasted only an instant and
was at once veiled again by the droop of the flaccid lids which hid the
pale, keen eyes.

'When the woman has brought me something to eat and drink,' the stranger
said after a while, 'we can talk. I have a good hour to spare, as those
miserable nags must have some rest.'

He too spoke in French and with an air of authority, not to say
arrogance, which caused 'the Captain's' glance of scorn to light up with
an added gleam of hate and almost of cruelty. But he made no remark and
continued to sip his ale in silence, and for the next half-hour the two
men took no more notice of one another, just as if they had never
travelled all those miles and come to this desolate spot for the sole
purpose of speaking with one another. During the course of that
half-hour the woman brought in a dish of mutton stew, a chunk of bread,
a piece of cheese and a jug of spiced ale, and placed them on the table:
all of these good things the stranger consumed with an obviously keen
appetite. When he had eaten and drunk his fill, he rose from the table,
drew a bench into the ingle-nook and sat down so that his profile only
was visible to his friend 'the Captain.'

'Now, citizen Chauvelin,' he said with an attempt at ease and
familiarity not unmixed with condescension, 'I am ready for your news.'

II

Chauvelin had winced perceptibly both at the condescension and the
familiarity. It was such a very little while ago that men had trembled
at a look, a word from him: his silence had been wont to strike terror
in quaking hearts. It was such a very little while ago that he had been
president of the Committee of Public Safety, all powerful, the right
hand of citizen Robespierre, the master sleuth-hound who could track an
unfortunate 'suspect' down to his most hidden lair, before whose keen,
pale eyes the innermost secrets of a soul stood revealed, who guessed at
treason ere it was wholly born, who scented treachery ere it was
formulated. A year ago he had with a word sent scores of men, women and
children to the guillotine--he had with a sign brought the whole
machinery of the ruthless Committee to work against innocent of guilty
alike on mere suspicion, or to gratify his own hatred against all those
whom he considered to be the enemies of that bloody revolution which he
had helped to make. Now his presence, his silence, had not even the
power to ruffle the self-assurance of an upstart.

But in the hard school both of success and of failure through which he
had passed during the last decade, there was one lesson which Armand
once Marquis de Chauvelin had learned to the last letter, and that was
the lesson of self-control. He had winced at the other's familiarity,
but neither by word nor gesture did he betray what he felt.

'I can tell you,' he merely said quite curtly, 'all I have to say in far
less time than it has taken you to eat and drink, citizen Adet...'

But suddenly, at sound of that name, the other had put a warning hand on
Chauvelin's arm, even as he cast a rapid, anxious look all around the
narrow room.

'Hush, man!' he murmured hurriedly, 'you know quite well that that name
must never be pronounced here in England. I am Martin-Roget now,' he
added, as he shook off his momentary fright with equal suddenness, and
once more resumed his tone of easy condescension, 'and try not to forget
it.'

Chauvelin without any haste quietly freed his arm from the other's
grasp. His pale face was quite expressionless, only the thin lips were
drawn tightly over the teeth now, and a curious hissing sound escaped
faintly from them as he said:

'I'll try and remember, citizen, that here in England you are an aristo,
the same as all these confounded English whom may the devil sweep into a
bottomless sea.'

Martin-Roget gave a short, complacent laugh.

'Ah,' he said lightly, 'no wonder you hate them, citizen Chauvelin. You
too were an aristo here in England once--not so very long ago, I am
thinking---special envoy to His Majesty King George, what?--until
failure to bring one of these satané Britishers to book made you...
er...well, made you what you are now.'

He drew up his tall, broad figure as he spoke and squared his massive
shoulders as he looked down with a fatuous smile and no small measure of
scorn on the hunched-up little figure beside him. It had seemed to him
that something in the nature of a threat had crept into Chauvelin's
attitude, and he, still flushed with his own importance, his
immeasurable belief in himself, at once chose to measure his strength
against this man who was the personification of failure and
disgrace---this man whom so many people had feared for so long and whom
it might not be wise to defy even now.

'No offence meant, citizen Chauvelin,' he added with an air of patronage
which once more made the other wince. 'I had no wish to wound your
susceptibilities. I only desired to give you timely warning that what I
do here is no one's concern, and that I will brook interference and
criticism from no man.'

And Chauvelin, who in the past had oft with a nod sent a man to the
guillotine, made no reply to this arrogant taunt. His small figure
seemed to shrink still further within itself: and anon he passed his
think, claw-like hand over his face as if to obliterate from its surface
any expression which might war with the utter humility wherewith he now
spoke.

'Nor was there any offence meant on my part, citizen Martin-Roget,' he
said suavely. 'Do we not both labour for the same end? The glory of the
Republic and the destruction of her foes?'

Martin-Roget gave a sigh of satisfaction. The battle had been won: he
felt himself strong again---stronger than before through that very act
of deference paid to him by the once all-powerful Chauvelin. Now he was
quite prepared to be condescending and jovial once again:

'Of course, of course,' he said pleasantly, as he once more bent his
tall figure to the fire. 'We are both servants of the Republic, and I
may yet help you to retrieve your past failures, citizen, by giving you
an active part in the work I have in hand. And now,' he added in a calm,
business-like manner, the manner of a master addressing a servant who
has been found at fault and is taken into favour again, 'let me hear
your news.'

'I have made all the arrangements about the ship,' said Chauvelin
quietly.

'Ah! that is good news indeed. What is she?'

'She is a Dutch ship. Her master and crew are all Dutch...'

'That's a pity. A Danish master and crew would have been safer.'

'I could not come across any Danish ship willing to take the risks,'
said Chauvelin dryly.

'Well! And what about this Dutch ship then?'

'She is called the Hollandia and is habitually engaged in the sugar
trade: but her master does a lot of contraband---more that than fair
trading, I imagine: anyway, he is willing for the sum you originally
named to take every risk and incidentally to hold his tongue about the
whole business.'

'For two thousand francs?'

'Yes.'

'And he will run the Hollandia into Le Croisic?'

'When you command.'

'And there is suitable accommodation on board her for a lady and her
woman?'

'I don't know what you call suitable,' said Chauvelin with a sarcastic
tone, which the other failed or was unwilling to note, 'and I don't know
what you call a lady. The accommodation available on board the Hollandia
will be sufficient for two men and two women.'

'And her master's name?' queried Martin-Roget.

'Some outlandish Dutch name,' replied Chauvelin. 'It is spelt K U Y P E
R. The devil only knows how it is pronounced.'

'Well! And does Captain K U Y P E R understand exactly what I want?'

'He says he does. The Hollandia will put into Portishead on the last day
of this month. You and your guests can get aboard her any day after that
you choose. She will be there at your disposal, and can start within an
hour of your getting aboard. Her master will have all his papers ready.
He will have a cargo of West Indian sugar on board--destination
Amsterdam, consignee Mynheer van Smeer---everything perfectly straight
and square. French aristos, émigrés on board on their way to join the
army of the Princes. There will be on difficulty in England.'

'And none in Le Croisic. The man is running no risks.'

'He thinks he is. France does not make Dutch ships and Dutch crews
exactly welcome just now, does she?'

'Certainly not. But in Le Croisic and with citizen Adet on board...'

'I thought that name was not to be mentioned here,' retorted Chauvelin
dryly.

'You are right, citizen,' whispered the other, 'it escaped me and...'

Already he had jumped to his feet: his face suddenly pale, his whole
manner changed from easy, arrogant self-assurance to uncertainty and
obvious dread. He moved to the window, trying to subdue the sound of his
footsteps upon the uneven floor.

III

'Are you afraid of eavesdroppers, citizen Roget?' queried Chauvelin with
a shrug of his narrow shoulders.

'No. There is no one there. Only a lout from Chelwood who brought me
here. The people of the house are safe enough. They have plenty of
secrets of their own to keep.'

He was obviously saying all this in order to reassure himself, for there
was no doubt that his fears were on the alert. With a febrile gesture he
unfastened the shutters, and pushed them open, peering out into the
night.

'Hallo!' he called.

But he received no answer.

'It has started to rain,' he said more calmly. 'I imagine that lout has
found shelter in an outhouse with the horses.'

'Very likely,' commented Chauvelin laconically.

'Then if you have nothing more to tell me,' quoth Martin-Roget, 'I may
as well think about getting back. Rain or no rain, I want to be in Bath
before midnight.'

'Ball or supper-party at one of your duchesses?' queried the other with
a sneer. 'I know them.'

To this Martin-Roget vouchsafed no reply.

'How are things at Nantes?' he asked.

'Splendid! Carrier is like a wild beast let loose. The prisons are
over-full: the surplus of accused, condemned and suspect fills the
cellars and warehouses along the wharf. Priests and such like trash are
kept on disused galliots up stream. The guillotine is never idle, and
friend Carrier fearing that she might give out---get tired, what?---or
break down---has invented a wonderful way of getting rid of shoals of
undesirable people at one magnificent swoop. You have heard tell of it
no doubt.'

'Yes. I have heard of it,' remarked the other curtly.

'He began with a load of priests. Requisitioned an old barge. Ordered
Baudet the shipbuilder to construct half a dozen portholes in her
bottom. Baudet demurred: he could not understand what the order could
possibly mean. But Foucaud and Lamberty---Carrier's agents--you know
them---explained that the barge would be towed down the Loire and then
up one of the smaller navigable streams which it was feared the
royalists were preparing to use as a way for making a descent upon
Nantes, and that the idea was to sink the barge in midstream in order to
obstruct the passage of their army. Baudet, satisfied, put five of his
men to the task. Everything was ready on the 16th of last month. I know
the woman Pichot, who keeps a small tavern opposite La Sécherie. She saw
the barge glide up the river toward the galliot where twenty-five
priests of the diocese of Nantes had been living for the past two months
in the company of rats and other vermin as noxious as themselves. Most
lovely moonlight there was that night. The Loire looked like a living
ribbon of silver. Foucaud and Lamberty directed operations, and Carrier
had given them full instructions. They tied the calotins up two and two
and and transferred them from the galliot to the barge. It seems they
were quite pleased to go. Had enough of the rats, I presume. The only
thing they didn't like was being searched. Some had managed to screte
silver ornaments about their person when they were arrested. Crucifixes
and such like. They didn't like to part with these, it seems. But
Foucaud and Lamberty relieved them of everything but the necessary
clothing, and they didn't want much of that seeing whither they were
going. Foucaud made a good pile, so they say. Self-seeking, avaricious
brute! He'll learn the way to one of Carrier's barges too one day, I'll
bet.'

He rose and with quick footsteps moved to the table. There was some ale
left in the jug which the woman had brought for Martin-Roget a while
ago. Chauvelin poured the contents of it down his throat. He had talked
uninterruptedly, in short, jerky sentences, without the slightest
expression of horror at the atrocities which he recounted. His whole
appearance had become transfigured while he spoke. Gone was the urbane
manner which he had learnt at courts long ago, gone was the last
instinct of the gentleman sunk to proletarianism through stress of
circumstances, or financial straits or even political convictions. The
erstwhile Marquis de Chauvelin--envoy of the Republic at the Court of
St. James'--had become citizen Chauvelin in deed and in fact, a part of
that rabble which he had elected to serve, one of that vile crowd of
bloodthirsty revolutionaries who had sullied the pure robes of Liberty
and of Fraternity by spattering them with blood. Now he smacked his
lips, wiped his mouth with his sleeve, and burying his hands in the
pockets of his breeches he stood with legs wide apart and a look of
savage satisfaction settled upon his pale face. Martin-Roget had made no
comment upon the narrative. He had resumed his seat by the fire and was
listening attentively. Now while the other drank and paused, he showed
no sign of impatience, but there was something in the look of the bent
shoulders, in the rigidity of the attitude, in the large, square hands
tightly clasped together which suggested the deepest interest and an
intentness that was almost painful.

'I was at the woman Pichot's tavern that night,' resumed Chauvelin after
a while. 'I saw the barge---a moving coffin, what?---gliding down stream
towed by the galliot and escorted by a small boat. The floating battery
at La Samaritaine challenged her as she passed, for Carrier had
prohibited all navigation up or down the Loire until further notice.
Foucaud, Lamberty, Fouquet and O'Sullivan the armourer were in the boat:
they rowed up to the pontoon and Vailly the chief gunner of the battery
challenged them once more. However, they had some sort of written
authorization from Carrier, for they were allowed to pass. Vailly
remained on guard. He saw the barge glide further down stream. It seems
that the moon at the time was hidden by a cloud. But the night was not
dark and Vailly watched the barge till she was out of sight. She was
towed past Trentemoult and Chantenay into the wide reach of the river
just below Cheviré where, as you know, the Loire is nearly two thousand
feet wide.'

Once more he paused, looking down with grim amusement on the bent
shoulders of the other man.

'Well?'

Chauvelin laughed. The query sounded choked and hoarse, whether through
horror, excitement or mere impatient curiosity it were impossible to
say.

'Well!' he retorted with a careless shrug of the shoulders. 'I was too
far up stream to see anything and Vailly saw nothing either. But he
heard. So did others who happened to be on the shore close by.'

'What did they hear?'

'The hammering,' replied Chauvelin curtly, 'when the portholes were
knocked open to let in the flood of water. And the screams and yells of
five and twenty drowning priests.'

'Not one of them escaped, I suppose?'

'Not one.'

Once more Chauvelin laughed. He had a way of laughing--just like
that---in a peculiar mirthless, derisive manner, as if with joy at
another man's discomfiture, at another's material or moral downfall.
There is only one language in the world which has a word to express that
type of mirth; the word is Schadenfreude.

It was Chauvelin's turn to triumph now. He had distinctly perceived the
signs of an inward shudder which had gone right through Martin-Roget's
spine: he had also perceived through the man's bent shoulders, his
silence, his rigidity that his soul was filled with horror at the story
of that abominable crime which he--Chauvelin--had so blandly retailed
and that he was afraid to show the horror which he felt. And the man who
is afraid can never climb the ladder of success above the man who is
fearless.

IV

There was silence in the low raftered room for awhile: silence only
broken by the crackling and sizzling of damp logs in the hearth, and the
tap-tapping of a loosely fastened shutter which sounded weird and
ghoulish like the knocking of ghosts against the window-frame.
Martin-Roget bending still closer to the fire knew that Chauvelin was
watching him and that Chauvelin had triumphed, for---despite failure,
despite humiliation and disgrace--that man's heart and will had never
softened: he had remained as merciless, as fanatical, as before and
still looked upon every sign of pity and humanity for a victim of that
bloody revolution--which was his child, the thing of his creation, yet
worshipped by him, its creator--as a crime against patriotism and
against the Republic.

And Martin-Roget fought within himself lest something he might say or
do, a look, a gesture should give the other man an indication that the
horrible account of a hideous crime perpetrated against twenty-five
defenceless men had roused a feeling of unspeakable horror in his heart.
That was the punishment of these callous makers of a ruthless
revolution--that was their hell upon earth, that they were doomed to
hate and to fear one another; every man feeling that the other's hand
was up against him as it had been against law and order, against the
guilty and the innocent, the rebel and the defenceless; every man
knowing that the other was always there on the alert, ready to pounce
like a beast of prey upon any victim--friend, comrade, brother--who came
within reach of his hand.

Like many men stronger than himself, Pierre Adet---or Martin-Roget as he
now called himself--had been drawn into the vortex of bloodshed and of
tyranny out of which now he no longer had the power to extricate
himself. Nor had he any wish to extricate himself. He had too many past
wrongs to avenge, too much injustice on the part of Fate and
Circumstance to make good, to wish to draw back now that a newly-found
power had been placed in the hands of men such as he through the revolt
of an entire people. The sickening sense of horror which a moment ago
had caused him to shudder and to turn away in loathing from Chauvelin
was only like the feeble flicker of a light before it wholly dies
down--the light of something purer, early lessons of childhood, former
ideals, earlier aspirations, now smothered beneath the passions of
revenge and of hate.

And he would not give Chauvelin the satisfaction of seeing him wince. He
was himself ashamed of his own weakness. He had deliberately thrown in
his lot with these men and he was determined not to fall a victim to
their denunciations and to their jealousies. So now he made a great
effort to pull himself together, to bring back before his mind those
memory-pictures of past tyranny and oppression which had effectually
killed all sense of pity in his heart, and it was in a tone of perfect
indifference which gave no loophole to Chauvelin's sneers that he asked
after awhile:

'And was citizen Carrier altogether pleased with the result of his
patriotic efforts?'

'Oh, quite!' replied the other. 'He has no one's orders to take. He is
proconsul--virtual dictator in Nantes: and he has vowed that he will
purge the city from all save its most deserving citizens. The cargo of
priests was followed by one of malefactors, night-birds, cut-throats and
such like. That is where Carrier's patriotism shines out in all its
glory. It is not only priests and aristos, you see--other miscreants are
treated with equal fairness.'

'Yes! I see he is quite impartial,' remarked Martin-Roget coolly.

'Quite,' retorted Chauvelin, as he once more sat down in the ingle-nook.
And, leaning his elbows upon his knees he looked straight and
deliberately into the other man's face, and added slowly: 'You will have
no cause to complain of Carrier's want of patriotism when you hand over
your bag of birds to him.'

This time Martin-Roget had obviously winced, and Chauvelin had the
satisfaction of seeing that his thrust had gone home: though
Martin-Roget's face was in shadow, there was something now in his whole
attitude, in the clasping and unclasping of his large, square hands
which indicated that the man was labouring under the stress of a violent
emotion. In spite of this he managed to say quite coolly: 'What do you
mean exactly by that, citizen Chauvelin?'

'Oh!' replied the other, 'you know well enough that I mean---I am no
fool, what?...or the Revolution would have no use for me. If after my
many failures she still commands my services and employs me to keep my
eyes and ears open, it is because she knows that she can count on me. I
do keep my eyes and ears open, citizen Adet or Marin-Roget, whatever you
like to call yourself, and also my mind---and I have a way of putting
two and two together to make four. There are few people in Nantes who do
not know that old Jean Adet, the miller, was hanged four years ago,
because his son Pierre had taken part in some kind of open revolt
against the tyranny of the ci-devant duc de Kernogan, and was not there
to take his punishment himself. I knew old Jean Adet...I was on the
Place du Bouffay at Nantes when he was hanged...'

But already Martin-Roget had jumped to his feet with a muttered
blasphemy.

'Have done, man,' he said roughly, 'have done!'

And he started pacing up and down the narrow room like a caged panther,
snarling and showing his teeth, whilst his rough, toil-worn hands
quivered with the desire to clutch an unseen enemy by the throat and to
squeeze the life out of him. 'Think you,' he added hoarsely, 'that I
need reminding of that?'

'No. I do not think that, citizen,' replied Chauvelin calmly, 'I only
desired to warn you.'

'Warn me? Of what?'

Nervous, agitated, restless, Martin-Roget had once more gone back to his
seat: his hands were trembling as he held them up mechanically to the
blaze and his face was the colour of lead. In contrast with his
restlessness Chauvelin appeared the more calm and bland.

'Why should you wish to warn me?' asked the other querulously, but with
an attempt at his former over-bearing manner. 'What are my affairs to
you---what do you know about them?'

'Oh, nothing, nothing, citizen Martin-Roget,' replied Chauvelin
pleasantly, 'I was only indulging the fancy I spoke to you about just
now of putting two and two together in order to make four. The
chartering of a smuggler's craft---aristos on board her--her ostensible
destination Holland--her real objective Le Croisic... Le Croisic is now
the port for Nantes and we don't bring aristos into Nantes these days
for the object of providing them with a feather-bed and a competence,
what?'

'And,' retorted Martin-Roget quietly, 'if your surmises are correct,
citizen Chauvelin, what then?'

'Oh, nothing!' replied the other indifferently. 'Only...take care,
citizen...that is all.'

'Take care of what?'

'Of the man who brought me, Chauvelin, to ruin and disgrace.'

'Oh! I have heard of that legend before now,' said Martin-Roget with a
contemptuous shrug of the shoulders. 'The man they call the Scarlet
Pimpernel you mean?'

'Why, yes!'

'What have I to do with him?'

'I don't know. But remember that I myself have twice been after that man
here in England; that twice he slipped through my fingers when I thought
I held him so tightly that he could not possibly escape and that twice
in consequence I was brought to humiliation and to shame. I am a marked
man now--the guillotine will soon claim me for her future use. Your
affairs, citizen, are no concern of mine, but I have marked that Scarlet
Pimpernel for mine own. I won't have any blunderings on your part give
him yet another triumph over us all.'

Once more Martin-Roget swore one of his favourite oaths.

'By Satan and all his brood, man,' he cried in a passion of fury, 'have
done with this interference. Have done, I say. I have nothing to do, I
tell you, with your satané Scarlet Pimpernel. My concern is with...'

'With the duc de Kernogan,' broke in Chauvelin calmly, 'and with his
daughter; I know that well enough. You want to be even with them over
the murder of your father. I know that too. All that is your affair. But
beware, I tell you. To being with, the secrecy of your identity is
absolutely essential to the success of your plan. What?'

'Of course it is. But...'

'But nevertheless, your identity is known to the most astute, the
keenest enemy of the Republic.'

'Impossible,' asserted Martin-Roget hotly.

'The duc de Kernogan...?'

'Bah! He had never the slightest suspicion of me. Think you his High and
Mightiness in those far-off days ever looked twice at a village lad so
that he would know him again four years later? I came into this country
as an émigré stowed away in a smuggler's ship like a bundle of
contraband goods. I have papers to prove that my name is Martin-Roget
and that I am a banker from Brest. The worthy bishop of Brest--denounced
to the Commitee of Public Safety for treason against the Republic--was
given his life and a safe conduct into Spain on the condition that he
gave me---Martin-Roget--letters of personal introduction to various
high-born émigrés in Holland, in Germany and in England. Armed with
these I am invulnerable. I have been presented to His Royal Highness the
Regent, and to the élite of English society in Bath. I am the friend of
M. le duc de Kernogan now and the accredited suitor for his daughter's
hand.'

'His daughter!' broke in Chauvelin with a sneer, and his pale, keen eyes
had in them a spark of malicious mockery.

Martin-Roget made no immediate retort to the sneer. A curious hot flush
had spread over his forehead and his ears, leaving his cheeks wan and
livid.

'What about the daughter?' reiterated Chauvelin.

'Yvonne de Kernogan has never seen Pierre Adet the miller's son,'
replied the other curtly. 'She is now the affianced wife of Martin-Roget
the millionaire banker of Brest. To-night I shall persuade M. le duc to
allow my marriage with his daughter to take place within the week. I
shall plead pressing business in Holland and my desire that my wife
shall accompany me thither. The duke will consent and Yvonne de Kernogan
will not be consulted. The day after my wedding I shall be on board the
Hollandia with my wife and father-in-law, and together we will be on our
way to Nantes where Carrier will deal with them both.'

'You are quite satisfied that this plan of yours is known to no one,
that no one at the present moment is aware of the fact that Pierre Adet,
the miller's son, and Martin-Roget, banker of Brest, are one and the
same?'

'Quite satisfied,' replied Martin-Roget emphatically.

'Very well, then, let me tell you this, citizen,' rejoined Chauvelin
slowly and deliberately, 'that in spite of what you say I am as
convinced as that I am here, alive, that your real identity will be
known---if it is not known already---to a gentleman who is at this
present moment in Bath, and who is known to you, to me, to the whole of
France as the Scarlet Pimpernel.'

Martin-Roget laughed and shrugged his shoulders.

'Impossible!' he retorted. 'Pierre Adet no longer exists...he never
existed...much...Anyhow, he ceased to be on that stormy day in
September, 1789. Unless your pet enemy is a wizard he cannot know.'

'There is nothing that my pet enemy--as you call him---cannot ferret out
if he has a mind to. Beware of him, citizen Martin-Roget. Beware, I tell
you.'

'How can I,' laughed the other contemptuously, 'if I don't know who he
is?'

'If you did,' retorted Chauvelin, 'it wouldn't help you...much. But
beware of every man you don't know; beware of every stranger you meet;
trust no one; above all, follow no one. He is there when you lease
expect him under a disguise you would scarcely dream of.'

'Tell me who he is then---since you know him---so that I may duly beware
of him.'

'No,' rejoined Chauvelin with the same slow deliberation, 'I will not
tell you who he is. Knowledge in this case would be a very dangerous
thing.'

'Dangerous? To whom?'

'To yourself probably. To me and to the Republic most undoubtedly. No! I
will not tell you who the Scarlet Pimpernel is. But take my advice,
citizen Martin-Roget,' he added emphatically, 'go back to Paris or to
Nantes and strive there to serve your country rather than run your head
into a noose by meddling with things here in England, and running after
your own schemes of revenge.'

'My own schemes of revenge!' exclaimed Martin-Roget with a hoarse cry
that was like a snarl...It seemed as if he wanted to say something more,
but that the words choked him even before they reached his lips. The hot
flush died down from his forehead and his face was once more the colour
of lead. He took up a log from the corner of the hearth and threw it
with a savage, defiant gesture into the fire.

Somewhere in the house a clock struck nine.

V

Martin-Roget waited until the last echo of the gong had died away, then
he said very slowly and very quietly:

'Forgo my own schemes of revenge? Can you even remotely guess, citizen
Chauvelin, what it would mean to a man of my temperament and of my
calibre to give up that for which I have toiled and striven for the past
four years? Think of what I was on that day when a conglomeration of
adverse circumstances turned our proposed expedition against the château
de Kernogan into a disaster for our village lads, and a triumph for the
duc. I was knocked down and crushed all but to death by the wheels of
Mlle. de Kernogan's coach. I managed to crawl in the mud and the cold
and the rain, on my hands and knees, hurt, bleeding, half dead, as far
as the presbytery of Vertou where the curé kept me hidden at risk of his
own life for two days until I was able to crawl farther away out of
sight. The curé did not know, I did not know then of the devilish
revenge which the duc de Kernogan meant to wreak against my father. The
news reached me when it was all over and I had worked my way to Paris
with the few sous in my pocket which that good curé had given me,
earning bed and bread as I went along. I was an ignorant lout when I
arrived in Paris. I had been one of the ci-devant Kernogan's
labourers---his chattel, what?---little better or somewhat worse off
than a slave. There I heard that my father had been foully
murdered--hung for a crime which I was supposed to have committed, for
which I had not even been tried. Then the change in me began. For four
years I starved in a garret, toiling like a galley-slave with my hands
and muscles by day and at my books by night. And what am I now? I have
worked at books, at philosophy, at science: I am a man of education. I
can talk and discuss with the best of those d---d aristos who flaunt
their caprices and their mincing manners in the face of the outraged
democracy of two continents. I speak English--almost like a native---and
Danish and German too. I can quote English poets and criticize M. de
Voltaire. I am an aristo, what? For this I have worked, citizen
Chauvelin---day and night--oh! those nights! how I have slaved to make
myself what I now am! And all for that one object--the sole object
without which existence would have been absolutely unendurable. That
object guided me, helped me to bear and to toil, it cheered and
comforted me! To be even one day with the duc de Kernogan and with his
daughter! to be their master! to hold them at my mercy!...to destroy or
pardon as I choose!...to be the arbiter of their fate!...I have worked
for four years: now my goal is in sight, and you talk glibly of forgoing
my own schemes of revenge! Believe me, citizen Chauvelin,' he concluded,
'it would be easier for me to hold my right hand into those flames until
it hath burned to a cinder than to forgo the hope of that vengeance
which has eaten into my soul. It would hurt much less.'

He had spoken thus at great length, but with extraordinary restraint.
Never once did he raise his voice or indulge in gesture. He spoke in
even, monotonous tones, like one who is reciting a lesson; and he sat
straight in front of the fire, his elbow on his knee, his chin resting
in his hand and his eyes fixed upon the flames.

Chauvelin had listened in perfect silence. The scorn, the resentful
anger, the ill-concealed envy of the fallen man for the successful
upstart had died out of his glance. Martin-Roget's story, the intensity
of feeling betrayed in that absolute, outward clam had caused a chord of
sympathy to vibrate in the other's atrophied heart. How well he
understood that vibrant passion of hate, that longing to exact an eye
for an eye, an outrage for an outrage! Was not his own life given over
now to just such a longing?--a mad aching desire to be even once with
that hated enemy, that maddening, mocking, elusive Scarlet Pimpernel who
had fooled and baffled him so often?

VI

Some few moments had gone by since Martin-Roget's harsh, monotonous
voice had ceased to echo through the low raftered room: silence had
fallen between the two men---there was indeed nothing more to say; the
one had unburthened his overfull heart and the other had understood.
They were of a truth made to understand one another, and the silence
between them betokened sympathy.

Around them all was still, the stillness of a mist-laden night; in the
house no one stirred: the shutter even had ceased to creak; only the
crackling of the wood fire broke that silence which soon became
oppressive.

Martin-Roget was the first to rouse himself from this trance-like state
wherein memory was holding such ruthless sway: he brought his hands
sharply down on his knees, turned to look for a moment on his companion,
gave a short laugh and finally rose, saying briskly the while:

'And now, citizen, I shall have to bid you adieu and make my way back to
Bath. The nags have had the rest they needed and I cannot spend the
night here.'

He went to the door and opening it called a loud 'Hallo, there!'

The same woman who had waited on him on his arrival came slowly down the
stairs in response.

'The man with the horses,' commanded Martin-Roget peremptorily. 'Tell
him I'll be ready in two minutes.'

He returned to the room and proceeded to struggle into his heavy coat,
Chauvelin as before making no attempt to help him. He sat once more
huddled up in the ingle-nook hugging his elbows with his thin white
hands. There was a smile half scornful, but not wholly dissatisfied
around his bloodless lips. When Martin-Roget was ready to go he called
out quietly after him:

'The Hollandia remember! At Portishead on the last day of the month.
Captain K U Y P E R.'

'Quite right,' replied Martin-Roget laconically. 'I'm not like to
forget.'

He then picked up his hat and riding whip and went out.

VII

Outside in the porch he found the woman bending over the recumbent
figure of his guide.

'He be azleep, Mounzeer,' she said placidly, 'fast azleep, I do
believe.'

'Asleep?' cried Martin-Roget roughly, 'we'll soon see about waking him
up.'

He gave the man a violent kick with the toe of his boot. The man
groaned, stretched himself, turned over and rubbed his eyes. The light
of the swinging lanthorn showed him the wrathful face of his employer.
He struggled to his feet very quickly after that.

'Stir yourself, man,' cried Martin-Roget savagely, as he gripped the
fellow by the shoulder and gave him a vigorous shaking. 'Bring the horse
along now, and don't keep me waiting, or there'll be trouble.'

'All right, Mounzeer, all right,' muttered the man placidly, as he shook
himself free from the uncomfortable clutch on his shoulder and leisurely
made his way out of the porch.

'Haven't you got a boy or a man who can give that lout a hand with those
sacré horses?' queried Martin-Roget impatiently. 'He hardly knows a
horse's head from its tail.'

'No, zir, I've no one to-night,' replied the woman gently. 'My man and
my son they be gone down to Watchet to 'elp with the cargo and the
pack-'orzes. They won't be 'ere neither till after midnight. But,' she
added more cheerfully, 'I can straighten a saddle if you want it.'

'That's all right then--but...'

He paused suddenly, for a loud cry of 'Hallo! Well! I'm...' rang through
the night from the direction of the rear of the house. The cry expressed
both surprise and dismay.

'What the---is it?' called Martin-Roget loudly in response.

'The 'orzes!'

'What about them?'

To this there was no reply, and with a savage oath and calling to the
woman to show him the way Martin-Roget ran out in the direction whence
had come the cry of dismay. He fell straight into the arms of his guide,
who promptly set up another cry, more dismal, more expressive of
bewilderment than the first.

'They be gone,' he shouted excitedly.

'Who have gone?' queried the Frenchman.

'The 'orzes!'

'The horses? What in---do you mean?'

'The 'orzes have gone, Mounzeer. There was no door to the ztables and
they be gone.'

'You're a fool,' growled Martin-Roget, who of a truth had not taken in
as yet the full significance of the man's jerky sentences. 'Horses don't
walk out of the stables like that. They can't have done if you tied them
up properly.'

'I didn't tie them up,' protested the man. 'I didn't know 'ow to tie the
beastly nags up, and there was no one to 'elp me. I didn't think they'd
walk out like that.'

'Well! if they're gone you'll have to go and get them back somehow,
that's all,' said Martin-Roget, whose temper by now was beyond his
control, and who was quite ready to give the lout a furious thrashing.

'Get them back, Mounzeer,' wailed the man,' 'ow can I? In the dark, too.
Besides, if I did come nose to nose wi' 'em I shouldn't know 'ow to get
'em. Would you, Mounzeer?' he added with bland impertinence.

'I shall know how to lay you out, you satané idiot,' growled
Martin-Roget, 'if I have to spend the night in this hole.'

He strode on in the darkness in the direction where a little glimmer of
light showed the entrance to a wide barn which obviously was used as a
rough stabling. He stumbled through a yard and over a miscellaneous lot
of rubbish. It was hardly possible to see one's hand before one's eyes
in the darkness and the fog. The woman followed him, offering
consolation in the shape of a seat in the coffee-room whereon to pass
the night, for indeed she had no bed to spare, and the man from Chelwood
brought up the rear--still ejaculating cries of astonishment rather than
distress.

'You are that careless, man!' the woman admonished him placidly, 'and I
give you a lanthorn and all for to look after your 'orzes properly.'

'But you didn't give me a 'and for to tie 'em up in their stalls, and
give 'em their feed. Drat 'em! I 'ate 'orzes and all to do with 'em.'

'Didn't you give 'em the feed I give you for 'em then?'

'No, I didn't. Think you I'd go into one o' them narrow stalls and get
kicked for my pains.'

'Then they was 'ungry, pore things,' she concluded, 'and went out after
the 'ay what's just outside. I don't know 'ow you'll ever get 'em back
in this fog.'

There was indeed no doubt that the nags had made their way out of the
stables, in that irresponsible fashion peculiar to animals, and that
they had gone astray in the dark. There certainly was no sound in the
night to denote their presence anywhere near.

'We'll get 'em all right in the morning,' remarked the woman with her
exasperating placidity.

'To-morrow morning!' exclaimed Martin-Roget in a passion of fury. 'And
what the d---l am I going to do in the meanwhile?'

The woman reiterated her offers of a seat by the fire in the
coffee-room.

'The men won't mind ye, zir,' she said, 'heaps of 'em are Frenchies like
yourself, and I'll tell 'em you ain't a spying on 'em.'

'It's no more than five mile to chelwood,' said the man blandly, 'and
maybe you get a better shakedown there.'

'A five-mile tramp,' growled Martin-Roget, whose wrath seemed to have
spent itself before the hopelessness of his situation, 'in the fog and
gloom, and knee-deep in mud...There'll be a sovereign for you, woman,'
he added curtly, 'if you can give me a clean bed for the night.'

The woman hesitated for a second or two.

'You shall 'ave my son's bed. I know 'e'd rather 'ave the zovereign if
'e was ever zo tired. This way, zir,' she added, as she once more turned
toward the house, 'mind them 'urdles there.'

'And where am I goin' to zleep?' called the man from Chelwood after the
two retreating figures.

'I'll look after the man for you, zir,' said the woman; 'for a matter of
a shillin' 'e can sleep in the coffee-room, and I'll give 'im 'is
breakfast too.'

'Not one farthing will I pay for the idiot,' retorted Martin-Roget
savagely. 'Let him look after himself.'

He had once more reached the porch. Without another word, and not
heeding the protests and curses of the unfortunate man whom he had left
standing shelterless in the middle of the yard, he pushed open the front
door of the house and once more found himself in the passage outside the
coffee-room.

But the woman had turned back a little before she followed her guest
into the house, and she called out to the man in the darkness:

'You may zleep in any of them outhouses and welcome, and zure there'll
be a bit o' porridge for ye in the mornin'!'

'Think ye I'll stop,' came in a furious growl out of the gloom, 'and
conduct that d---d frogeater back to Chelwood? No fear. Five miles ain't
nothin' to me, and 'e can keep the miserable shillin' 'e'd 'ave give me
for my pains. Let 'im get 'is 'orzes back 'izelf and get to Chelwood as
best 'e can. I'm off, and you can tell 'im zo from me. It'll make 'im
sleep all the better, I reckon.'

The woman was obviously not of a disposition that would ever argue a
matter of this sort out. She had done her best, she reckoned, both for
master and man, and if they chose to quarrel between themselves that was
their business and not hers.

So she quietly went into the house again; barred and bolted the door,
and finding the stranger still waiting for her in the passage she
conducted him to a tiny room on the floor above.

'My son's room, Mounzeer,' she said; 'I 'ope as 'ow ye'll be
comfortable.'

'It will do all right,' assented Martin-Roget. 'Is "the Captain"
sleeping in the house to-night?' he added as with an afterthought.

'Only in the coffee-room, Mounzeer. I couldn't give 'im a bed. "The
Captain" will be leaving with the pack 'orzes a couple of hours before
dawn. Shall I tell 'im you be 'ere.'

'No, no,' he replied promptly. 'Don't tell him anything. I don't want to
see him again: and he'll be gone before I'm awake, I reckon.'

'That 'e will, zir, most like. Good-night, zir.'

'Good-night. And---mind--that lout gets the two horses back again for my
use in the morning. I shall have to make my way to Chelwood as early as
may be.'

'Aye, aye, zir,' assented the woman placidly. It were no use, she
thought, to upset the Mounzeer's temper once more by telling him that
his guide had decamped. Time enough in the morning, when she would be
less busy.

'And my John can see 'im as far as Chelwood,' she thought to herself, as
she finally closed the door on the stranger and made her way slowly down
the creaking stairs.



Chapter Three - The Assembly Rooms

I

The sigh of satisfaction was quite unmistakable.

It could be heard from end to end, from corner to corner of the
building. It sounded above the din of the orchestra who had just
attacked with vigour the opening bars of a schottische, above the
brouhaha of moving dancers and the frou-frou of skirts: it travelled
from the small octagon hall, through the central salon to the tea-room,
the ball-room and the card-room: it reverberated from the gallery: it
distracted the ladies from their gossip and the gentlemen from their
cards.

It was a universal, heartfelt 'Ah!' of intense and pleasurable
satisfaction.

Sir Percy Blakeney and his lady had just arrived. It was close on
midnight, and the ball had positively languished. What was a ball
without the presence of Sir Percy? His Royal Highness too had been
expected earlier than this. But it was not thought that he would come at
all, despite his promise, if the spoilt pet of Bath society remained
unaccountably absent; and the Assembly Rooms had worn an air of woe even
in the face of the gaily dressed throng which filled every vast room in
its remotest angle.

But now Sir Percy Blakeney had arrived, just before the clocks had
struck midnight, and exactly one minute before His Royal Highness drove
up himself from the Royal Apartments. Lady Blakeney was looking more
radiant and beautiful than ever before, so every one remarked when a few
moments later she appeared in the crowded ball-room on the arm of His
Royal Highness and closely followed by my lord Anthony Dewhurst and by
Sir Percy himself, who had the young Duchess of Flintshire on his arm.

'What do you mean, you incorrigible rogue,' her Grace was saying with
playful severity to her cavalier, 'by coming so late to the ball?
Another two minutes and you would have arrived after His Royal Highness
himself: and how would you have justified such solecism, I would like to
know.'

'By swearing that thoughts of your Grace had completely addled my poor
brain,' he retorted gaily, 'and that in the mental contemplation of such
charms I forgot time, place, social duties, everything.'

'Even the homage due to truth,' she laughed. 'Cannot you for once in
your life be serious, Sir Percy?'

'Impossible, dear lady, whilst your dainty hand rests upon mine arm.'

II

It was not often that His Royal Highness graced Bath with his presence,
and the occasion was made the excuse for quite exceptional gaiety and
brilliancy. The new fashions of this memorable year of 1793 had defied
the declaration of war and filtrated through from Paris: London
milliners had not been backward in taking the hint, and though most of
the more starchy dowagers obstinately adhered to the pre-war
fashions---the huge hooped skirts, stiff stomachers, pointed waists,
voluminous panniers and monumental head erections---the young and smart
matrons were everywhere to be seen in the new gracefully flowing skirts
innocent of steel constructions, the high waist line, the pouter
pigeon-like draperies over their pretty bosoms.

Her Grace of Flintshire looked ravishing with her curly fair hair
entirely free from powder, and Lady Betty Draitune's waist seemed to be
nestling under her arm-pits. Of course Lady Blakeney wore the very
latest thing in striped silks and gossamer-like muslin and lace, and it
were hard to enumerate all the pretty débutantes and young brides who
fluttered about the Assembly Rooms this night.

And gliding through that motley throng, bright-plumaged like a swarm of
butterflies, there were a few figures dressed in somber blacks and
greys--the émigrés over from France--men, women, young girls and gilded
youth from out that seething cauldron of revolutionary France--who had
shaken the dust of that rampant demagogism from off their buckled shoes,
taking away with them little else but their lives. Mostly chary of
speech, grave in their demeanour, bearing upon their wan faces traces of
that horror which had seized them when they saw all the traditions of
their past tottering around them, the proletariat whom they had despised
turning against them with all the fury of caged beasts let loose, their
kindred and friends massacred, their King and Queen murdered. The
shelter and security which hospitable England had extended to them, had
not altogether removed from their hearts the awful sense of terror and
of gloom.

Many of them had come to Bath because the more genial climate of the
West of England consoled them for the inclemencies of London's fogs.
Received with open arms and with that lavish hospitality which the
refugees and the oppressed had already learned to look for in England,
they had gradually allowed themselves to be drawn into the fashionable
life of the gay little city. The Comtesse de Tournai was here and her
daughter, Lady Ffoulkes, Sir Andrew's charming and happy bride, and M.
Paul Déroulède and his wife--beautiful Juliette Déroulède with the
strange, haunted look in her large eyes, as of one who has looked
closely on death; and M. le duc de Kernogan with his exquisite daughter,
whose pretty airs of seriousness and of repose sat so quaintly upon her
young face. But every one remarked as soon as M. le duc entered the
rooms that M. Martin-Roget was not in attendance upon Mademoiselle,
which was quite against the order of things; also that M. le duc
appeared to keep a more sharp eye than usual upon his daughter in
consequence, and that he asked somewhat anxiously if milor Anthony
Dewhurst was in the room, and looked obviously relieved when the reply
was in the negative.

At which trifling incident every one who was in the know smiled and
whispered, for M. le duc made it no secret that he favoured his own
compatriot's suit for Mademoiselle Yvonne's hand rather than that of my
lord Tony---which---as old Euclid has it---is absurd.

III

But with the arrival of the royal party M. de Kernogan's troubles began.
To begin with, though M. Martin-Roget had not arrived, my lord Tony
undoubtedly had. He had come in, in the wake of Lady Blakeney, but very
soon he began wandering round the room obviously in search of some one.
Immediately there appeared to be quite a conspiracy among the young folk
in the ball-room to keep both Lord Tony's and Mlle. Yvonne's movements
hidden from the prying eyes of M. le duc: and anon His Royal Highness,
after a comprehensive survey of the ball-room and a few gracious words
to his more intimate circle, wandered away to the card-room, and as luck
would have it he claimed M. le duc de Kernogan for a partner at faro.

Now M. le duc was a courtier of the old régime: to have disobeyed the
royal summons would in his eyes have been nothing short of a crime. He
followed the royal party to the card-room, and on his way thither had
one gleam of comfort in that he saw Lady Blakeney sitting on a sofa in
the octagon hall engaged in conversation with his daughter, whilst Lord
Anthony Dewhurst was nowhere in sight.

However, the gleam of comfort was very brief, for less than a quarter of
an hour after he had sat down at His Highness' table, Lady Blakeney came
into the card-room and stood thereafter for some little while close
beside the Prince's chair. The next hour after that was one of special
martyrdom for the anxious father, for he knew that his daughter was in
all probability sitting out in a specially secluded corner in the
company of my lord Tony.

If only Martin-Roget were here!

IV

Martin-Roget with the eagle eyes and the airs of an accredited suitor
would surely have intervened when my lord Tony in the face of the whole
brilliant assembly in the ball-room, drew Mlle. de Kernogan into the
seclusion of the recess underneath the gallery.

My lord Tony was never very glib of tongue. That peculiar dignified
shyness which is one of the chief characteristics of well-bred
Englishmen caused him to be tongue-tied when he had most to say. It was
just with gesture and an appealing pressure of his hand upon her arm
that he persuaded Yvonne de Kernogan to sit down beside him on the sofa
in the remotest and darkest corner of the recess, and there she remained
beside him silent and grave for a moment or two, and stole timid glances
from time to time through the veil of her lashes at the
finely-chiselled, expressive face of her young English lover.

He was pining to put a question to her, and so great was his excitement
that his tongue refused him service, and she, knowing what was hovering
on his lips, would not help him out, but a humorous twinkle in her dark
eyes, and a faint smile round her lips lit up the habitual seriousness
of her young face.

'Mademoiselle...' he managed to stammer at last. 'Mademoiselle
Yvonne...you have seen Lady Blakeney?'

'Yes,' she replied demurely, 'I have seen Lady Blakeney.'

'And...and...she told you?'

'Yes. Lady Blakeney told me many things.'

'She told you that...that...In God's name, Mademoiselle Yvonne,' he
added desperately, 'do help me out--it is cruel to tease me! Can't you
see that I'm nearly crazy with anxiety.'

Then she looked up at him, her dark eyes glowing and brilliant, her face
shining with the light of a great tenderness.

'Nay, milor,' she said earnestly, 'I had no wish to tease you. But you
will own 'tis a grave and serious step which Lady Blakeney suggested
that I should take. I have had no time to think...as yet.'

'But there is no time for thinking, Mademoiselle Yvonne,' he said
naïvely. 'If you will consent...Oh! you will consent, will you not?' he
pleaded.

She made no immediate reply, but gradually her hand which rested upon
the sofa stole nearer and then nearer to his: and with a quiver of
exquisite happiness his hand closed upon hers. The tips of his fingers
touched the smooth warm palm and poor Lord Tony had to close his eyes
for a moment as his sense of superlative ecstasy threatened to make him
faint. Slowly he lifted that soft white hand to his lips.

'Upon my word, Yvonne,' he said with quiet fervour, 'you will never have
cause to regret that you have trusted me.'

'I know that well, milor,' she replied demurely.

She settled down a shade or two closer to him still.

They were now like two birds in a cosy nest--secluded from the rest of
the assembly, who appeared to them like dream-figures flitting in some
other world that had nothing to do with their happiness. The strains of
the orchestra who had struck the measure of the first figure of a
contredanse sounded like fairy-music, distant, unreal in their ears.
Only their love was real, their joy in one another's company, their
hands clasped closely together!

'Tell me,' she said after awhile, 'how it all came about. It is all so
terribly sudden...so exquisitely sudden. I was prepared of course...but
not so soon...and certainly not to-night. Tell me just how it happened.'

She spoke English quite fluently, with just a charming slight accent,
which he thought the most adorable thing he had ever heard.

'You see, dear heart,' he replied, and there was a quiver of intense
feeling in his voice as he spoke, 'there is a man who not only is the
friend whom I love best in all the world, but is also the one whom I
trust absolutely, more than myself. Two hours ago he sent for me and
told me that grave danger threatened you--threatened our love and our
happiness, and he begged me to urge you to consent to a secret
marriage...at once...to-night.'

'And you think this...this friend knew?'

'I know,' he replied earnestly, 'that he knew, or he would not have
spoken to me as he did. He knows that my whole life is in your exquisite
hands--he knows that our happiness is somehow threated by that man
Martin-Roget. How he obtained that information I could not guess...he
had not the time or the inclination to tell me. I flew to make all
arrangements for our marriage to-night and prayed to God---as I have
never prayed in my life before--that you, dear heart, would deign to
consent.'

'How could I refuse when Lady Blakeney advised? She is the kindest and
dearest friend I possess. She and your friend ought to know one another.
Will you not tell me who he is?'

'I will present him to you, dear heart, as soon as we are married,' he
replied with awkward evasiveness. Then suddenly he exclaimed with boyish
enthusiasm: 'I can't believe it! I can't believe it! It is the most
extraordinary thing in the world...'

'What is that, milor?' she asked.

'That you should have cared for me at all. For of course you must care,
of you wouldn't be sitting here with me now...you would not have
consented...would you?'

'You know that I do care, milor,' she said in her grave quiet way. 'How
could it be otherwise?'

'But I am so stupid and so slow,' he said naïvely. 'Why! look at me now.
My heart is simply bursting with all that I want to say to you, but I
just can't find the words, and I do nothing but talk rubbish and feel
how you must despise me.'

Once more that humorous little smile played for a moment round Yvonne de
Kernogan's serious mouth. She didn't say anything just then, but her
delicate fingers gave his hand an expressive squeeze.

'You are not frightened?' he asked abruptly.

'Frightened? Of what?' she rejoined.

'At the step you are going to take?'

'Would I take it,' she retorted gently, 'if I had any misgivings?'

'Oh! if you had...Do you know that eve now...' he continued clumsily and
haltingly, 'now that I have realized just what it will mean to have
you...and just what it would mean to me, God help me---if I were to lose
you...well!...that even now I would rather go through that hell than
that you should feel the least bit doubtful or unhappy about it all.'

Again she smiled, gently, tenderly up into his eager, boyish face.

'The only unhappiness,' she said gravely, 'that could ever overtake me
in the future would be parting from you, milor.'

'Oh! God bless you for that, my dear! God bless you for that! But for
pity's sake turn your dear eyes away from me or I vow I shall go crazy
with joy. Men do go crazy with joy sometimes, you know, and I feel that
in another moment I shall stand up and shout at the top of my voice to
all the people in the room that within the next few hours the loveliest
girl in all the world is going to be my wife.'

'She certainly won't be that, if you do shout it at the top of your
voice, milor, for father would hear you and there would be an end to our
beautiful adventure.'

'It will be a beautiful adventure, won't it?' he sighed with unconcealed
ecstasy.

'So beautiful, my dear lord,' she replied with gentle earnestness, 'so
perfect, in fact, that I am almost afraid something must happen
presently to upset it all.'

'Nothing can happen,' he assured her. 'M. Martin-Roget is not here, and
His Royal Highness is even now monopolizing M. le duc de Kernogan so
that he cannot get away.'

'Your friend must be very clever to manipulate so many strings on our
behalf!'

'It is long past midnight now, sweetheart,' he said with sudden
irrelevance.

'Yes, I know. I have been watching the time: and I have already thought
everything out for the best. I very often go home from balls and routs
in the company of Lady Ffoulkes and sleep in her house those nights.
Father is always quite satisfied, when I do that, and to-night he will
be doubly satisfied feeling that I shall be taken away from your
society. Lady Ffoulkes is in the secret, of course, so Lady Blakeney
told me, and she will be ready for me in a few minutes now: she'll take
me home with her and there I will change my dress and rest for awhile,
waiting for the happy hour. She will come to the church with me and
then...oh then! Oh! my dear milor!' she added suddenly with a deep sigh
whilst her whole face became irradiated with a light of intense
happiness, 'as you say it is the most wonderful thing in all the
world--this---our beautiful adventure together.'

'The parson will be ready at half-past six, dear heart, it was the
earliest hour that I could secure...after that we go at once to your
church and the priest will tie up any loose threads which our English
parson failed to make tight. After those two ceremonies we shall be very
much married, shan't we?...and nothing can come between us, dear heart,
can it?' he queried with a look of intense anxiety on his young face.

'Nothing,' she replied. Then she added with a short sigh: 'Poor father!'

'Dear heart, he will only fret for a little while. I don't believe he
can really want you to marry that man Martin-Roget. It is just obstinacy
on his part. He can't have anything against me really... save of course
that I am not clever and that I shall never do anything very big in the
world...except to love you, Yvonne, with my whole heart and soul and
with every fibre and muscle in me...Oh! I'll do that,' he added with
boyish enthusiasm, 'better than any one else in all the world could do!
And your father will, I'll be bound, forgive me for stealing you, when
he sees that you are happy, and contented, and have everything you want
and...and...'

As usual Lord Tony's eloquence was not equal to all that it should have
expressed. He blushed furiously and with a quaint, shy gesture, passed
his large, well-shaped hand over his smooth, brown hair. 'I am not much,
I know,' he continued with a winning air of self-deprecation, 'and you
are far above me as the stars--you are so wonderful, so clever, so
accomplished and I am nothing at all... but...but I have plenty of
high-born connexions, and I have plenty of money and influential
friends...and...and Sir Percy Blakeney, who is the most accomplished and
finest gentleman in England calls me his friend.'

She smiled at his eagerness. She loved him for his clumsy little ways,
his halting speech, that big, loving heart of his which was too full of
fine and noble feelings to find vent in mere words.

'Have you ever met a finer man in all the world?' he added
enthusiastically.

Yvonne de Kernogan smiled once more. Her recollections of Sir Percy
Blakeney showed her an elegant man of the world, whose mind seemed
chiefly occupied on the devising and the wearing of exquisite clothes,
in the uttering of lively witticisms for the entertainment of his royal
friend and the ladies of his entourage: it showed her a man of great
wealth and vast possessions who seemed willing to spend both in the mere
pursuit of pleasures. She liked Sir Percy Blakeney well enough, but she
could not understand clever and charming Marguerite Blakeney's adoration
for her inane and foppish husband, nor the whole-hearted admiration
openly lavished upon him by men like Sir Andrew Ffoulkes, my lord
Hastings, and others. She would gladly have seen her own dear milor
choose a more sober and intellectual friend. But then she loved him for
his marvellous power of whole-hearted friendship, for his loyalty to
those he cared for, for everything in fact that made up the sum total of
his winning personality, and she pinned her faith on that other
mysterious friend whose individuality vastly intrigued her.

'I am more interested in your anonymous friend,' she said quaintly,
'than in Sir Percy Blakeney. But he too is kindness itself and Lady
Blakeney is an angel. I like to think that the happiest days of my
life--our honeymoon, my dear lord--will be spent in their house.'

'Blakeney has lent me Combwich Hall for as long as we like to stay
there. We'll drive thither directly after the service, dear heart, and
then we'll send a courier to your father and ask for his blessing and
his forgiveness.'

'Poor father!' sighed Yvonne again. But evidently compassion for the
father whom she had elected to deceive did not weigh over heavily in the
balance of her happiness. Her little hand once more stole like a timid
and confiding bird into the shelter of his firm grasp.

V

In the card-room at His Highness' table Sir Percy Blakeney was holding
the bank and seemingly luck was dead against him. Around the various
tables the ladies stood about, chattering and hindering the players.
Nothing appeared serious to-night, not even the capricious chances of
hazard.

His Royal Highness was in rare good humour, for he was winning
prodigiously.

Her Grace of Flintshire placed her perfumed and beringed hand upon Sir
Percy Blakeney's shoulder; she stood behind his chair, chattering
incessantly in a high flutey treble just like a canary. Blakeney vowed
that she was so ravishing that she had put Dame Fortune to flight.

'You have not yet told us, Sir Percy,' she said roguishly, 'how you came
to arrive so late at the ball.'

'Alas, madam,' he sighed dolefully, ''twas the fault of my cravat.'

'Your cravat?'

'Aye indeed! You see I spent the whole of to-day in perfecting my new
method for tying a butterfly bow, so as to give the neck an appearance
of utmost elegance with a minimum of discomfort. Lady Blakeney will bear
me out when I say that I set my whole mind to my task. Was I not busy
all day m'dear?' he added, making a formal appeal to Marguerite, who
stood immediately behind His Highness' chair, and with her luminous
eyes, full of merriment and shining with happiness, fixed upon her
husband.

'You certainly spent a considerable time in front of the looking-glass,'
she said gaily, 'with two valets in attendance and my lord Tony an
interested spectator in the proceedings.'

'There now!' rejoined Sir Percy triumphantly, 'her ladyship's testimony
thoroughly bears me out. And now you shall see what Tony says on the
matter. Tony! Where's Tony!' he added as his lazy grey eyes sought the
brilliant crowd in the card-room. 'Tony, where the devil are you?'

There was no reply, and anon Sir Percy's merry gaze encountered that of
M. le duc de Kernogan who, dressed in sober black, looked strangely
conspicuous in the midst of this throng of bright-coloured butterflies,
and whose grave eyes, as they rested on the gorgeous figure of their
English exquisite, held a world of contempt in their glance.

'Ah! M. le duc,' continued Blakeney, returning that scornful look with
his habitual good-humoured one, 'I had not noticed that Mademoiselle
Yvonne wsa not with you, else I had not thought of inquiring so loudly
for my friend Tony.'

'My lord Antoine is dancing with my daughter, Sir Percy,' said the other
man gravely, in excellent if somewhat laboured English, 'he had my
permission to ask her.'

'And is a thrice happy man in consequence,' retorted Blakeney lightly,
'though I fear me M. Martin-Roget's wrath will descend upon my poor
Tony's head with unexampled vigour in consequence.'

'M. Martin-Roget is not here this evening,' broke in the Duchess, 'and
methought,' she added in a discreet whisper, 'that my lord Tony was all
the happier for his absence. The two young people have spent a
considerable time together under the shadow of the gallery in the
ball-room, and, if I mistake not, Lord Tony is making the most of his
time.'

She talked very volubly and with a slight North-country brogue which no
doubt made it a little difficult for the stranger to catch her every
word. But evidently M. le duc had understood the drift of what she said,
for now he rejoined with some acerbity:

'Mlle. de Kernogan is too well educated, I hope, to allow the attentions
of any gentlemen, against her father's will.'

'Come, come, M. de Kernogan,' here interposed His Royal Highness with
easy familiarity, 'Lord Anthony Dewhurst is the son of my old friend the
Marquis of Atiltone: one of our most distinguished families in this
country, who have helped to make English history. He has moreover
inherited a large fortune from his mother, who was a Cruche of Crewkerne
and one of the richest heiresses in the land. He is a splendid fellow--a
fine sportsman, a loyal gentleman. His attentions to any young lady,
however high-born, can be but flattering--and I should say welcome---to
those who have her future welfare at heart.'

But in response to this gracious tirade, M. le duc de Kernogan bowed
gravely, and his stern features did not relax as he said coldly:

'Your Royal Highness is pleased to take an interest in the affairs of my
daughter. I am deeply grateful.'

There was a second's awkward pause, for every one felt that despite the
obvious respect and deference M. le duc de Kernogan had endeavoured to
inflict a snub upon the royal personage, and one or two hot-headed young
fops in the immediate entourage even muttered the word: 'Impertinence!'
inaudibly through their teeth. Only His Royal Highness appeared not to
notice anything unusual or disrespectful in M. le duc's attitude. It
seemed as if he was determined to remain good-humoured and pleasant. At
any rate he chose to ignore the remark which had offended the ears of
his entourage. Only those who stood opposite to His Highness, on the
other side of the card table, declared afterwards that the Prince had
frowned and that a haughty rejoinder undoubtedly hovered on his lips.

Be that as it may, he certainly did not show the slightest sign of
ill-humour: quite gaily and unconcernedly he scooped up his winnings
which Sir Percy Blakeney, who held the Bank, was at this moment pushing
towards him.

'Don't go yet, M. de Kernogan,' he said as the Frenchman made a movement
to work his way out of the crowd, feeling no doubt that the atmosphere
round him had become somewhat frigid if not exactly inimical, 'odn't go
yet, I beg of you. Pardi! Can't you see that you have been bringing me
luck? As a rule Blakeney, who can so well afford to lose, has the
devil's own good fortune, but to-night I have succeeded in getting some
of my own back from him. Do not, I entreat you, break the run of my luck
by going.'

'Oh, Monseigneur,' rejoined the old courtier suavely, 'how can my poor
presence influence the gods, who of a surety always preside over your
Highness' fortunes?'

'Don't attempt to explain it, my dear sir,' quoth the Prince gaily. 'I
only know that if you go now, my luck may go with you and I shall blame
you for my losses.'

'Oh! in that case, Monseigneur...'

'And with all that, Blakeney,' continued His Highness' once more taking
up the cards and turning to his friend, 'remember that we still await
your explanation as to your coming so late to the ball.'

'An omission, your Royal Highness,' rejoined Blakeney, 'an absence of
mind brought about by your severity, and that of Her Grace. The trouble
was that all my calculations with regard to the exact adjustment of the
butterfly bow were upset when I realized that the set of the present day
waistcoat would not harmonize with it. Less than two hours before I was
due to appear at this ball my mind had to make a complete volte-face in
the matter of cravats. I became bewildered, lost, utterly confused. I
have only just recovered, and one word of criticism on my final efforts
would plunge me now into the depths of despair.'

'Blakeney, you are absolutely incorrigible,' retorted His Highness with
a laugh. 'M. le duc,' he added, once more turning to the grave Frenchman
with his wonted graciousness, 'I pray you do not form your judgment on
the gilded youth of England by the example of my friend Blakeney. Some
of us can be serious when occasion demands, you know.'

'Your Highness is pleased to jest,' said M. de Kernogan stiffly. 'What
greater occasion for seriousness can there be than the present one.
True, England has never suffered as France is suffering now, but she has
engaged in a conflict against the most powerful democracy the world has
ever known, she has thrown down the gauntlet to a set of human beasts of
prey who are as determined as they are ferocious. England will not
emerge victorious from this conflict, Monseigneur, if her sons do not
realize that war is not mere sport and that victory can only be attained
by the sacrifice of levity and of pleasure.'

He had dropped into French in response to His Highness' remark, in order
to express his thoughts more accurately. The Prince--a little bored no
doubt---seemed disinclined to pursue the subject. Nevertheless, it
seemed as if once again he made a decided effort not to show ill-humour.
He even gave a knowing wink--a wink!---in the direction of his friend
Blakeney and of Her Grace as if to beg them to set the ball of
conversation rolling once more along a smoother--a less boring---path.
He was obviously quite determined not to release M. de Kernogan from
attendance near his royal person.

VI

As usual Sir Percy threw himself in the breach, filling the sudden pause
with his infectious laugh:

'La!' he said gaily, 'how beautifully M. le duc does talk. Ffoulkes,' he
added, addressing Sir Andrew, who was standing close by, 'I'll wager you
ten pounds to a pinch of snuff that you couldn't deliver yourself of
such splendid sentiments, even in your own native lingo.'

'I won't take you, Blakeney,' retorted Sir Andrew with a laugh, 'I'm no
good at peroration.'

'You should hear our distinguished guest M. Martin-Roget on the same
subject,' continued Sir Percy with mock gravity. 'By Gad! can't he talk?
I feel a d---d worm when he talks about our national levity, our insane
worship of sport, our...our...M. le duc,' he added with becoming
seriousness and in atrocious French, 'I appeal to you. Does not M.
Martin-Roget talk beautifully?'

'M. Martin-Roget,' replied the duc gravely, 'is a man of marvellous
eloquence, fired by overwhelming patriotism. He is a man who must
command respect wherever he goes.'

'You have known him long, M. le duc?' queried His Royal Highness
graciously.

'Indeed not very long, Monseigneur. He came over as an émigré from Brest
some three months ago, hidden in a smuggler's ship. He had been
denounced as an aristocrat who was furthering the cause of the royalists
in Brittany by helping them plentifully with money, but he succeeded in
escaping, not only with his life, but also with the bulk of his
fortune.'

'Ah! M. Martin-Roget is rich?'

'He is sole owner of a rich banking business in Brest, Monseigneur,
which has no important branch in America and correspondents all over
Europe. Monseigneur the Bishop of Brest recommended him specially to my
notice in a very warm letter of introduction, wherein he speaks of M.
Martin-Roget as a gentleman of the highest patriotism and integrity.
Were I not quite satisfied as to M. Martin-Roget's antecedents and
present connexions I would not have ventured to present him to your
Highness.'

'Nor would you have accepted him as a suitor for your daughter, M. le
duc, c'est entendu!' concluded His Highness urbanely. 'M. Martin-Roget's
wealth will no doubt cover his lack of birth.'

'There are plenty of high-born gentlemen devoted to the royalist cause,
Monseigneur,' rejoined the duc in his grave, formal manner. 'But the
most just and purest of causes must at times be helped with money. The
Vendéens in Brittany, the Princes at Coblentz are all sorely in need of
funds...'

'And M. Martin-Roget son-in-law of M. le duc de Kernogan is more likely
to feed those funds than M. Martin-Roget the plain business man who has
no aristocratic connexions,' concluded His Royal Highness dryly. 'But
even so, M. le duc,' he added more gravely, 'surely you cannot be so
absolutely certain as you would wish that M. Martin-Roget's antecedents
are just as he has told you. Monseigneur the Bishop of Brest may have
acted in perfect good faith...'

'Monseigneur the Bishop of Brest, your Highness, is a man who has our
cause, the cause of our King and of our Faith, as much at heart as I
have myself. He would know that on his recommendation I would trust any
man absolutely. He was not like to make careless use of such knowledge.'

'And you are quite satisfied that the worthy Bishop did not act under
some dire pressure...?'

'Quite satisfied, Monseigneur,' replied the duc firmly. 'What pressure
could there be that would influence a prelate of such high integrity as
Monseigneur the Bishop of Brest?'

VII

There was silence for a moment or two, during which the heavy bracket
clock over the door struck the first hour after midnight. His Royal
Highness looked round at Lady Blakeney, and she gave him a smile and an
almost imperceptible nod. Sir Andrew Ffoulkes had in the meanwhile
quietly slipped away.

'I understand,' said His Royal Highness quite gravely, turning back to
M. le duc, 'and I must crave your pardon, sir, for what must have seemed
to you an indiscretion. You have given me a very clear exposé of the
situation. I confess that until to-night it had seemed to me---and to
all your friends, Monsieur, a trifle obscure. In fact, it had been my
intention to intercede with you in favour of my young friend Lord
Anthony Dewhurst, who of a truth is deeply enamoured of your daughter.'

'Though your Highness' wishes are tantamount to a command, yet would I
humbly assert that my wishes with regard to my daughter are based upon
my loyalty and my duty to my Sovereign King Louis XVII, whom may God
guard and protect, and that therefore it is beyond my power now to
modify them.'

'May God trounce you for an obstinate fool,' murmured His Highness in
English, and turning his head away so that the other should not hear
him. But aloud and with studied graciousness he said:

'M. le duc, will you not take a hand at hazard? My luck is turning, and
I have faith in yours. We must fleece Blakeney to-night. He has had
Satan's own luck these past few weeks. Such good fortune becomes
positively revolting.'

There was no more talk of Mlle. de Kernogan after that. Indeed her
father felt that her future had already been discussed far too freely by
all these well-wishers who of a truth were not a little indiscreet. He
thought that the manners and customs of good society were very peculiar
here in this fog-ridden England. What business was it of all these
high-born ladies and gentlemen--of His Royal Highness himself for that
matter--what plans he had made for Yvonne's future? Martin-Roget was
bourgeois by birth, but he was vastly rich and had promised to pour a
coupld of millions into the coffers of the royalist army if Mlle. de
Kernogan became his wife. A couple of millions with more to follow, no
doubt, and a loyal adherence to the royalist cause was worth these days
all the blue blood that flowed in my lord Anthony Dewhurst's veins.

So at any rate thought M. le duc this night, while His Royal Highness
kept him at cards until the late hours of the morning.



Chapter Four - The Father

I

It was close on ten o'clock now in the morning on the following day, and
M. le duc de Kernogan was at breakfast in his lodgings in Laura Place,
when a courier was announced who was the bearer of a letter for M. le
duc.

He thought the man must have been sent by Martin-Roget, who mayhap was
sick, seeing that he had not been present at the Assembly Rooms last
night, and the duc took the letter and opened it without misgivings. He
read the address on the top of the letter: 'Combwich Hall'--a place
unknown to him, and the first words of the letter: 'Dear father!' And
even then he had no misgivings.

In fact he had to read the letter through three times before the full
meaning of its contents had penetrated into his brain. Whilst he read,
he sat quite still, and even the hand which held the paper had not the
slightest tremor. When he had finished he spoke quite quietly to his
valet:

'Give the courier a glass of ale, Frédérick,' he said, 'and tell him he
can go; there is no answer. And---stay,' he added, 'I want you to go
round at once to M. Martin-Roget's lodgings and ask him to come and
speak with me as early as possible.'

The valet left the room, and M. le duc deliberately read through the
letter from end to end for the fourth time. There was no doubt, no
possible misapprehension. His daughter Yvonne de Kernogan had eloped
clandestinely with my lord Anthony Dewhurst and had been secretly
married to him in the small hours of the morning in the Protestant
church of St. James, and subsequently before a priest of her own
religion in the Priory Church of St. John the Evangelist.

She apprised her father of this fact in a few sentences which purported
to be dictated by profound affection and filial respect, but in which M.
de Kernogan failed to detect the slightest trace of contrition. Yvonne!
his Yvonne! the sole representative now of the old race--eloped like a
kitchen-wench! Yvonne! his daughter! his asset for the future! his
thing! his fortune! that which he meant with perfect egoism to sacrifice
on the altar of his own beliefs and his own loyalty to the kingship of
France! Yvonne had taken her future in her own hands! She knew that her
hand, her person, were the purchase price of so many millions to be
poured into the coffers of the royalist cause, and she had disposed of
both, in direct defiance of her father's will and of her duty to her
King and to his cause!

Yvonne de Kernogan was false to her traditions, false to her father!
false to her King and country! In the years to come when the chroniclers
of the time came to write the histories of the great families that had
rallied round their King in the hour of his deadly peril, the name of
Kernogan would be erased from those glorious pages. The Kernogans will
have failed in their duty, failed in their loyalty! Oh! the same of it
all! The shame!!

The duc was far too proud a gentleman to allow his valet to see him
under the stress of violent emotion, but now that he was alone his thin,
hard face---with that air of gravity which he had transmitted to his
daughter---became distorted with the passio of unbridled fury; he tore
the letter up into a thousand little pieces and threw the fragments into
the fire. On the bureau beside him there stood a miniature of Yvonne de
Kernogan painted by Hall three years ago, and framed in a circlet of
brilliants. M. le duc's eyes casually fell upon it; he picked it up and
with a violent gesture of rage threw it on the floor and stamped upon it
with his heel, destroying in this paroxysm of silent fury a work of art
worth many hundred pounds.

His daughter had deceived him. She had also upset all his plans whereby
the army of M. le Prince de Condé would have been enriched by a couple
of million francs. In addition to the shame upon her father, she had
also brought disgrace upon herself and her good name, for she was a
minor and this clandestine marriage, contracted without her father's
consent, was illegal in France, illegal everywhere: save perhaps in
England--of this M. de Kernogan was not qutie sure, but he certainly
didn't care. And in this solemn moment he registered a vow that never as
long as he lived would he be reconciled to that English nincompoop who
had dared to filch his daughter from him, and never--as long as he
lived---would he by his consent render the marriage legal, and the
children born of that wedlock legitimate in the eyes of his country's
laws.

A calm akin to apathy had followed his first outbreak of fury. He sat
down in front of the fire, and buried his chin in his hand. Something of
course must be done to get his daughter back. If only Martin-Roget were
here, he would know better how to act. Would Martin-Roget stick to his
bargain and accept the girl for wife, now that her fame and honour had
been irretrievably tarnished? There was the question which the next
half-hour would decide. M. de Kernogan cast a feverish, anxious look on
the clock. Half an hour had gone by since Frédérick went to seek
Martin-Roget, and the latter had not yet appeared.

Until he had seen Martin-Roget and spoken with Martin-Roget M. de
Kernogan could decide nothing. For one brief, mad moment, the project
had formed itself in his disordered brain to rush down to Combwich Hall
and provoke that impudent Englishman who had stolen his daughter: to
kill him or be killed by him; in either case Yvonne would then be parted
from him for ever. But even then, the thought of Martin-Roget brought
more sober reflection. Martin-Roget would see to it. Martin-Roget would
know what to do. After all, the outrage had hit the accredited lover
just as hard as the father.

But why in the name of---did Martin-Roget not come?

II

It was past midday when at last Martin-Roget knocked at the door of M.
le duc's lodgings in Laura Place. The older man had in the meanwhile
gone through every phase of overwhelming emotions. The outbreak of
unreasoning fury--when like a maddened beast that bites and tears he had
broken his daughter's miniature and trampled it under foot---had been
followed by a kind of dull apathy, when for close upon an hour he had
sat staring into the flames, trying to grapple with an awful reality
which seemed to elude him all the time. He could not believe that this
thing had really happened: that Yvonne, his well-bred dutiful daughter,
who had shown such marvellous courage and presence of mind when the
necessity of flight and of exile had first presented itself in the wake
of the awful massacres and wholesale executions of her own friends and
kindred, that she should have eloped--like some flirtatious wench---and
outraged her father in this monstrous fashion, by a clandestine marriage
with a man of alien race and of a heretical religion! M. de Kernogan
could not realize it. It passed the bounds of possibility. The very
flames in the hearth seemed to dance and to mock the bare suggestion of
such an atrocious transgression.

To this gloomy numbing of the senses had succeeded the inevitable morbid
restlessness: the pacing up and down the narrow room, the furtive
glances at the clock, the frequent orders to Frédérick to go out and see
if M. Martin-Roget was not yet home. For Frédérick had come back after
his first errand with the astounding news that M. Martin-Roget had left
his lodgings the previous day at about four o'clock, and had not been
seen or heard of since. In fact his landlady was very anxious about him
and was sorely tempted to see the town-crier on the subject.

Four times did Frédérick have to go from Laura Place to the Bear Inn in
Union Street, where M. Martin-Roget lodged, and three times he returned
with the news that nothing had been heard of Mounzeer yet. The fourth
time--it was then close on midday---he came back running---thankful to
bring back the good tidings, since he was tired of that walk from Laura
Place to the Bear Inn. M. Martin-Roget had come home. He appeared very
tired and in rare ill-humour: but Frédérick had delivered the message
from M. le duc, whereupon M. Martin-Roget had become most affable and
promised that he would come round immediately. In fact he was even then
treading hard on Frédérick's heels.

III

'My daughter has gone! She left the ball clandestinely last night, and
was married to Lord Anthony Dewhurst in the small hours of the morning.
She is now at a place called Combwich Hall---with him!'

M. le duc de Kernogan literally threw these words in Martin-Roget's
face, the moment the latter had entered the room, and Frédérick had
discreetly closed the door.

'What? What?' stammered the other vaguely. 'I don't understand. What do
you mean?' he added, bewildered at the duc's violence, tired after his
night's adventure and the long ride in the early morning, irritable with
want of sleep and decent food. He stared, uncomprehending, at the duc,
who had once more started pacing up and down the room, like a caged
beast, with hands tightly clenched behind his back, his eyes glowering
both at the new-comer and at the imaginary presence of his most bitter
enemy--the man who had dared to come between him and his projects for
his daughter.

Martin-Roget passed his hand across his brow like a man who is not yet
fully awake.

'What do you mean?' he reiterated hazily.

'Just what I say,' retorted the other roughly. 'Yvonne has eloped with
that nincompoop Lord Anthony Dewhurst. They have gone through some sort
of marriage ceremony together. And she writes me a letter this morning
to tell me that she is quite happy and contented and spending her
honeymoon at a place called Combwich Hall. Honeymoon!' he repeated
savagely, as if to lash his fury up anew, 'Tsha!'

Martin-Roget on the other hand was not the man to allow himself to fall
into a state of frenzy, which would necessarily interfere with calm
consideration.

He had taken the fact in now. Yvonne's elopement with his English rival,
the clandestine marriage, everything. But he was not going to allow his
inward rage to obscure his vision of the future. He did not spend the
next precious seconds--as men of his race are wont to do--in smashing
things around him, in raving and fuming and gesticulating. No. That was
not the temper M. Martin-Roget was in at this moment when Fate and a
girl's folly were ranging themselves against his plans. His friend,
citizen Chauvelin, would have envied him his calm in the face of this
disaster.

Whilst M. le duc still stormed and raved, Martin-Roget sat down quietly
in front of the fire, rested his chin in his hand and waited for a lull
in the other man's paroxysm ere he spoke.

'From your attitude, M. le duc,' he then said quietly, hiding obvious
sarcasm behind a veil of studied deference, 'from your attitude I gather
that your wishes with regard to Mlle. de Kernogan have undergone no
modification. You would still honour me by desiring that she should
become my wife?'

'I am not in the habit of changing my mind,' said M. le duc gruffly. He
desired the marriage, he coveted Martin-Roget's millions for the
royalist cause, but he had no love for the man. All the pride of the
Kernogans, their long line of ancestry, rebelled against the thought of
a fair descendant of this glorious race being allied to a roturier--a
bourgeois--a tradesman, what? and the cause of King and country counted
few greater martyrdoms than that of the duc de Kernogan whenever he met
the banker Martin-Roget on an equal social footing.

'Then there is not much harm done,' rejoined the latter coolly; 'the
marriage is not a legal one. It need not even be dissolved--Mademoiselle
de Kernogan is still Mademoiselle de Kernogan and I her humble and
faithful adorer.'

M. le duc paused in his restless walk.

'You would...' he stammered, then checked himself, turning abruptly
away. He had some difficulty in hiding the scorn wherewith he regarded
the other's coolness. Bourgeois blood was not to be gainsaid. The
tradesman---or banker, whatever he was--who hankered after an alliance
with Mademoiselle de Kernogan, and was ready to lay down a couple of
million for the privilege--was not to be deterred from his purpose by
any considerations of pride or of honour. M. le duc was satisfied and
re-assured, but he despised the man for his leniency for all that.

'The marriage is no marriage at all according to the laws of France,'
reiterated Martin-Roget calmly.

'No, it is not,' assented the Duke roughly.

For a while there was silence: Martin-Roget seemed immersed in his own
thoughts and not to notice the febrile comings and goings of the other
man.

'What we have to do, M. le duc,' he said after a while, 'is to induce
Mlle. de Kernogan to return here immediately.'

'How are you going to accomplish that?' sneered the Duke.

'Oh! I was not suggesting that I should appear in the matter at all,'
rejoined Martin-Roget with a shrug of the shoulders.

'Then how can I...?'

'Surely...' argued the younger man tentatively.

'You mean...?'

Martin-Roget nodded. Despite these ambiguous half-spoken sentences the
two men had understood one another.

'We must get her back, of course,' assented the Duke, who had suddenly
become as calm as the other man.

'There is no harm done,' reiterated Martin-Roget with slow and earnest
emphasis.

Whereupon the Duke, completely pacified, drew a chair close to the
hearth and sat down, leaning his elbows on his knees and holding his
fine, aristocratic hands to the blaze.

Frédérick came in half an hour later to ask if M. le duc would have his
luncheon. He found the two gentlemen sitting quite close together over
the dying embers of a fire that had not been fed for close upon an hour:
and that prince of valets was gald to note that M. le duc's temper had
quite cooled down and that he was talking calmly and very affably to M.
Martin-Roget.



Chapter Five - The Nest

I

There are lovely days in England sometimes in November or December, days
when the departing year strives to make us forget that winter is nigh,
and autumn smiles, gentle and benignant, caressing with a still tender
kiss the last leaves of the scarlet oak which linger on the boughs, and
touching up with a vivid brush the evergreen verdure of bay trees, of
ilex and of yew. The sky is of that pale, translucent blue which
dwellers in the South never see, with the soft transparency of an
aqua-marine as it fades into the misty horizon at midday. And at dusk
the thrushes sing: 'Kiss me quick! kiss me quick! kiss me quick' in the
naked branches of old acacias and chestnuts, and the robins don their
crimson waistcoats and dart in and out among the coppice and through the
feathery arms of larch and pine. And the sun which tips the prickly
points of holly leaves with gold, joins in this merry make-believe that
winter is still a very, very long way off, and that mayhap he has lost
his way altogether, and is never coming to this balmy beautiful land
again.

Just such a day was the penultimate one of November, 1793, when Lady
Anthony Dewhurst sat at a desk in the wide bay window of the
drawing-room in Combwich Hall, trying to put into a letter to Lady
Blakeney all that her heart would have wished to express of love and
gratitude and happiness.

Three whole days had gone by since that exciting night, when before the
break of day in the dimly-lighted old church, in the presence of two or
three faithful friends, she had plighted her troth to Lord Anthony: even
whilst other kind friends--including His Royal Highness---formed part of
the little conspiracy which kept her father occupied and, if necessary,
would have kept M. Martin-Roget out of the way. Since then her life had
been one continuous dream of perfect bliss. From the moment when after
the second religious ceremony in the Roman Catholic church she found
herself alone in the carriage with milor, and felt his arms--so strong
and yet so tender---closing round her and his lips pressed to hers in
the first masterful kiss of complete possession, until this hour when
she saw his tall, elegant figure hurrying across the garden toward the
gate and suddenly turning toward the window whence he knew that she was
watching him, every hour and every minute had been nothing but unalloyed
happiness.

Even there where she had looked for sorrow and difficulty her path had
been made smooth for her. Her father, who she feared would prove hard
and irreconcilable had been tender and forgiving to such an extent that
tears almost of shame would gather in her eyes whenever she thought of
him.

As soon as she arrived at Combwich Hall she had written a long and
deeply affectionate letter to her father, imploring his forgiveness for
the deception and unfilial conduct which on her part must so deeply have
grieved him. She pleaded for her right to happiness in words of
impassioned eloquence, she pleaded for her right to love and to be
loved, for her right to a home, which a husband's devotion would make a
paradise for her.

This letter she had sent by special courier to her father and the very
next day she had his reply. She had opened the letter with trembling
fingers, fearful lest her father's harshness should mar the perfect
serenity of her life. She was afraid of what he would say, for she knew
her father well: knew his faults as well as his qualities, his pride,
his obstinacy, his unswerving determination and his loyalty to the
King's cause--all of which must have been deeply outraged by his
daughter's high-handed action. But as she began to read, astonishment,
amazement at once filled her soul: she could hardly trust her
comprehension, hardly believe that what she read could indeed be
reality, and not just the continuance of the happy dream wherein she was
dwelling these days.

Her father---gently reproachful---had not one single harsh word to
utter. He would not, he said, at the close of his life, after so many
bitter disappointments, stand in the way of his daughter's happiness:
'You should have trusted me, my child,' he wrote: and indeed Yvonne
could not believe her eyes. 'I had no idea that your happiness was at
stake in this marriage, or I should never have pressed the claims of my
own wishes in the matter. I have only you in the world left, now that
misery and exile are to be my portion! Is it likely that I would allow
any personal desires to weigh against my love for you?'

Happy as she was Yvonne cried--cried bitterly with remorse and shame
when she read that letter. How could she have been so blind, so
senseless as to misjudge her father so? Her young husband found her in
tears, and had much ado to console her: he too read the letter and was
deeply touched by the kind reference to himself contained therein: 'My
lord Anthony is a gallant gentleman,' wrote M. le duc de Kernogan, 'he
will make you happy, my child, and your old father will be more than
satisfied. All that grieves me is that you did not trust me sooner. A
clandestine marriage is not worthy of a daughter of the Kernogans.'

'I did speak most earnestly to M. le duc,' said Lord Tony reflectively,
'when I begged him to allow me to pay my addresses to you. But then,' he
added cheerfully, 'I am such a clumsy lout when I have to talk at any
length--and especially clumsy when I have to plead my own cause. I
suppose I put my case so badly before your father, m'dear, that he
thought me three parts an idiot and would not listen to me.'

'I too begged and entreated him, dear,' she said with a smile, 'but he
was very determined then and vowed that I should marry M. Martin-Roget
despite my tears and protestations. Dear father! I suppose he didn't
realize that I was in earnest.'

'He has certainly accepted the inevitable very gracefully,' was my lord
Tony's final comment.

II

Then they read the letter through once more, sitting close together, he
with one arm round her shoulder, she nestling against his chest, her
hair brushing against his lips and with the letter in her hands which
she could scarcely read for the tears of joy which filled her eyes.

'I don't feel very well to-day,' the letter concluded; 'the dampness and
the cold have got into my bones: moreover you two young love birds will
not desire company just yet, but to-morrow if the weather is more genial
I will drive over to Combwich in the afternoon, and perhaps you will
give me supper and a bed for the night. Send me word by the courier who
will forthwith return to Bath if this will be agreeable to you both.'

Could anything be more adorable, more delightful? It was just the last
drop that filled Yvonne's cup of happiness right up to the brim.

III

The next afternoon she sat at her desk in order to tell Lady Blakeney
all about it. She made out a copy of her father's letter and put that in
with her own, and begged dear Lady Blakeney to see Lady Ffoulkes
forthwith and tell her all that had happened. She herself was expecting
her father every minute and milor Tony had gone as far as the gate to
see if the barouche was in sight.

Half an hour later M. de Kernogan had arrived and his daughter lay in
his arms, happy, beyond the dreams of men. He looked rather tired and
wan and still complained that the cold had got into his bones: evidently
he was not very well and Yvonne after the excitement of the meeting felt
not a little anxious about him. As the evening wore on he became more
and more silent; he hardly would eat anything and soon after eight
o'clock he announced his desire to retire to bed.

'I am not ill,' he said as he kissed his daughter and bade her a fond
'Good-night,' 'only a little wearied...with emotion no doubt. I shall be
better after a night's rest.'

He had been quite cordial with my lord Tony, though not effusive, which
was only natural---he was at all times a very reserved man, and--unlike
those of his race---never demonstrative in his manner: but with his
daughter he had been singularly tender, with a wistful affection which
almost suggested remorse, even though it was she who, on his arrival,
had knelt down before him and had begged for his blessing and his
forgiveness.

IV

But the following morning he appeared to be really ill: his cheeks
looked sunken, almost livid, his eyes dim and hollow. Nevertheless he
would not hear of staying on another day or so.

'No, no,' he declared emphatically, 'I shall be better in Bath. It is
more sheltered there, here the north winds would drive me to my bed very
quickly. I shall take a course of baths at once. They did me a great
deal of good before, you remember, Yvonne--in September when I caught a
chill...they soon put me right. That is all that ails me now...I've
caught a chill.'

He did his best to reassure his daughter, but she was far from
satisfied: more especially as he hardly would touch the cup of chocolate
which she had prepared for him with her own hands.

'I shall be quite myself again in Bath,' he declared, 'and in a day or
two when you can spare the time--or when milor can spare you--perhaps
you will drive over to see how the old father is getting on, eh?'

'Indeed,' she said firmly, 'I shall now allow you to go to Bath alone.
If you will go, I shall accompany you.'

'Nay!' he protested, 'that is foolishness, my child. The barouche will
take me back quite comfortably. It is less than two hours' drive and I
shall be quite safe and comfortable.'

'You will be quite safe and comfortable in my company,' she retorted
with a tender, anxious glance at his pale face and the nervous tremor of
his hands. 'I have consulted with my dear husband and he has given his
consent that I should accompany you.'

'But you can't leave milor like that, my child,' he protested once more.
'He will be lonely and miserable without you.'

'Yes. I think he will,' she said wistfully. 'But he will be all the
happier when you are well again, and I can return to Combwich
satisfied.'

Whereupon M. le duc yielded. He kissed and thanked his daughter and
seemed even relieved at the prospect of her company. The barouche was
ordered for eleven o'clock, and a quarter of an hour before that time
Lord Tony had his young wife in his arms, bidding her a sad farewell.

'I hate your going from me, sweetheart,' he said as he kissed her eyes,
her hair, her lips. 'I cannot bear you out of my sight even for an
hour...let alone a couple of days.'

'Yet I must go, dear heart,' she retorted, looking up with that sweet,
grave smile of hers into his eager young face. 'I could not let him
travel alone...could I?'

'No, no,' he assented somewhat dubiously, 'but remember, dear heart,
that you are infinitely precious and that I shall scarce live for sheer
anxiety until I have you here, safe, once more in my arms.'

'I'll send you a courier this evening,' she rejoined, as she extricated
herself gently from his embrace, 'and if I can come back to-morrow...'

'I'll ride over to Bath in any case in the morning so that I may escort
you back if you really can come.'

'I will come if I am reassured about father. Oh, my dear lord,' she
added with a wistful little sigh, 'I knew yesterday morning that I was
too happy, and that something would happen to mar the perfect felicity
of these last few days.'

'You are not seriously anxious about M. le duc's health, dear heart?'

'No, not seriously anxious. Farewell, milor. It is au revoir...a few
hours and we'll resume our dream.'

V

There was nothing in all that to arouse my lord Tony's suspicions. All
day he was miserable and forlorn because Yvonne was not there--but he
was not suspicious.

Fate had a blow in store for him, from which he was destined never
wholly to recover, but she gave him no warning, no premonition. He spent
the day in making up arrears of correspondence, for he had a large
private fortune to administer--trust funds on behalf of brothers and
sisters who were minors--and he always did it conscientiously and to the
best of his ability. The last few days he had lived in a dream and there
was an accumulation of business to go through. In the evening he
expected the promised courier, who did not arrive: but his was not the
sort of disposition that would fret and fume because of a contretemps
which might be attributable to the weather--it had rained heavily since
afternoon---or to sundry trifling causes which he at Combwich, ten or a
dozen miles from Bath, could not estimate. He had no suspicions even
then. How could he have? How could he guess? Nevertheless when he
ultimately went to bed, it was with the firm resolve that he would in
any case go over to Bath in the morning and remain there until Yvonne
was able to come back with him.

Combwich without her was anyhow unendurable.

VI

He started for Bath at nine o'clock in the morning. It was still raining
hard. It had rained all night and the roads were very muddy. He started
out without a groom. A little after half-past ten, he drew rein outside
his house in Chandos Buildings, and having changed his clothes he
started to walk to Laura Place. The rain had momentarily left off, and a
pale wintry sun peeped out through rolling banks of grey clouds. He went
round by way of Saw Close and the Upper Borough Walls, as he wanted to
avoid the fashionable throng that crowded the neighbourhood of the Pump
Room and the Baths. His intention was to seek out the Blakeneys at their
residence in the Circus after he had seen Yvonne and obtained news of M.
le duc.

He had no suspicions. Why should he have?

The Abbey clock struck a quarter-past eleven when finally he knocked at
the house in Laura Place. Long afterwards he remembered how just at that
moment a dense grey mist descended into the valley. He had not noticed
it before, now he saw it had enveloped this part of the city so that he
could not even see clearly across the Place.

A woman came to open the door. Lord Tony then thought this strange
considering how particular M. le duc always was about everything
pertaining to the management of his household: 'The house of a poor
exile,' he was wont to say, 'but nevertheless that of a gentleman.'

'Can I go straight up?' he asked the woman, who he thought was standing
ostentatiously in the hall as if to bar his way. 'I desire to see M. le
duc.'

'Ye can walk upstairs, zir,' said the woman, speaking with a broad
Somersetshire accent, 'but I doubt me if ye'll see 'is Grace the Duke.
'Es been gone these two days.'

Tony had paid no heed to her at first; he had walked across the narrow
hall to the oak staircase, and was halfway up the first flight when her
last words struck upon his ear...quite without meaning for the
moment...but nevertheless he paused, one foot on one tread, and the
other two treads below...and he turned round to look at the woman, a
swift frown across his smooth forehead.

'Gone these two days,' he repeated mechanically; 'what do you mean?'

Well! 'Is Grace left the day afore yesterday--Thursday it was... 'Is man
went yesterday afternoon with luggage and sich...'e went by coach 'e
did...Leave off,' she cried suddenly; 'what are ye doin'? Ye're 'urtin
me.'

For Lord Tony had rushed down the stairs again and was across the hall,
gripping the unoffending woman by the wrist and glaring into her
expressionless face until she screamed with fright.

'I beg your pardon,' he said humbly as he released her wrist: all the
instincts of the courteous gentleman arrayed against his loss of
control. 'I...I forgot myself for the moment,' he stammered; 'would you
mind telling me again...what...what you said just now?'

The woman was prepared to put on the airs of outraged dignity, she even
glanced up at the malapert with scorn expressed in her small beady eyes.
But at sight of his face her anger and her fears both fell away from
her. Lord Tony was white to the lips, his cheeks were the colour of dead
ashes, his mouth trembled, his eyes alone glowed with ill-repressed
anxiety.

''Is Grace,' she said with slow emphasis, for of a truth she thought
that the young gentleman was either sick or daft,' 'Is Grace left this
'ouse the day afore yesterday in a hired barouche. 'Is man--Frederick--
went yesterday afternoon with the liggage. 'E caught the
Bristol coach at two o'clock. I was 'Is Grace's 'ousekeeper and I am
to look after the 'ouse and the zervants until I 'ear from 'Is Grace
again. Them's my orders. I know no more than I'm tellin' ye.'

'But His Grace returned here yesterday forenoon,' argued Lord Tony
calmly, mechanically, as one who would wish to convince an obstinate
child. 'And my lady...Mademoiselle Yvonne, you know...was with him.'

'Noa! Noa!' said the woman placidly. ''Is Grace 'asn't been near this
'ouse come Thursday afternoon, and 'is man left yesterday wi' th'
liggage. Why!' she added confidentially, "e ain't gone far. It was all
zettled that zuddint I didn't know nothing about it myzelf till I zeed
Mr. Frederick start off wi' th' liggage. Not much liggage neither it
wasn't. Sure but 'Is Grace'll be 'ome zoon. 'E can't have gone far. Not
wi' that bit o'liggage. Zure.'

'But my lady...Mademoiselle Yvonne...'

'Lor, zir, didn't ye know? Why 'twas all over th' town o'Tuesday as 'ow
Mademozell 'ad eloped with my lord Anthony Dew'urst, and...'

'Yes! Yes! But you have seen my lady since?'

'Not clapped eyes on 'er, zir, since she went to the ball come Monday
evenin'. An' a picture she looked in 'er white gown...'

'And...did His Grace leave no message...for...for anyone?...no letter?'

'Ah, yes, now you come to metion it, zir. Mr. Frederick 'e give me a
letter yesterday.' "Is Grace," sez 'e, "left this yere letter on 'is
desk. I just found it," sez 'e. "If my lord Anthony Dew'urst calls," sez
'e, "give it to 'im." I've got the letter zomewhere, zir. What may your
name be?'

'I am Lord Anthony Dewhurst,' replied the young man mechanically.

'Your pardon, my lord, I'll go fetch th' letter.'

VII

Lord Tony never moved while the woman shuffled across the passage and
down the back stairs. He was like a man who has received a knock-out
blow and has not yet had time to recover his scattered senses. At first
when the woman spoke, his mind had jumped to fears of some awful
accident...runaway horses...a broken barouche...or a sudden aggravation
of the duc's ill-health. But soon he was forced to reject what now would
have seemed a consoling thought: had there been an accident, he would
have heard--a rumour would have reached him--Yvonne would have sent a
courier. He did not know yet what to think, his mind was like a slate
over which a clumsy hand had passed a wet sponge--impressions,
recollections, above all a hideous, nameless fear, were all blurred and
confused within his brain.

The woman came back carrying a letter which was crumpled and greasy from
a prolonged sojourn in the pocket of her apron. Lord Tony took the
letter and broke its heavy seal. The woman watched him, curiously,
pityingly now, for he was good to look on, and she scented the
signifigance of the tragedy which she had been the means of revealing to
him. But he had become quite unconscious of her presence, of everything
in fact save those few sentences, written in French, in a cramped hand,
and which seemed to dance a wild saraband before his eyes:

'Milor,--

'You tried to steal my daughter from me, but I have taken her from you
now. By the time this reaches you we shall be on the high seas on our
way to Holland, thence to Coblentz, where Mademoiselle de Kernogan will
in accordance with my wishes be united in lawful marriage to M.
Martin-Roget whom I have chosen to be her husband. She is not and never
was your wife. As far as one may look into the future, I can assure you
that you will never in life see her again.'

And to this monstrous document of appalling callousness and cold-blooded
cruelty there was appended the signature of André Dieudonné Duc de
Kernogan.

But unlike the writer thereof Lord Anthony Dewhurst neither stormed nor
raged: he did not even tear the execrable letter into an hundred
fragments. His firm hand closed over it with one convulsive clutch, and
that was all. Then he slipped the crumpled paper into his pocket. Quite
deliberately he took out some money and gave a piece of silver to the
woman.

'I thank you very much,' he said somewhat haltingly. 'I quite understand
everything now.'

The woman curtseyed and thanked him; tears were in her eyes, for it
seemed to her that never had she seen such grief depicted upon any human
face. She preceded him to the hall door and held it open for him, while
he passed out. After the brief gleam of sunshine it had started to rain
again, but he didn't seem to care. The woman suggested fetching a
hackney coach, but he refused quite politely, quite gently: he even
lifted his hat as he went out. Obviously he did not know what he was
doing. Then he went out into the rain and strode slowly across the
Place.



Chapter Six - The Scarlet Pimpernel

I

Instinct kept him away from the more frequented streets--and instinct
after awhile drew him in the direction of his friend's house at the
corner of The Circus. Sir Percy Blakeney had not gone out fortunately:
the lacquey who opened the door to my lord Tony stared astonished and
almost paralyzed for the moment at the extraordinary appearance of his
lordship. Rain dropped down from the brim of his hat on to his
shoulders: his boots were muddy to the knees, his clothes wringing wet.
His eyes were wild and hazy and there was a curious tremor round his
mouth.

The lacquey declared with a knowing wink afterwards that his lordship
must 'ave been drinkin'!

But at the moment his sense of duty urged him to show my lord--who was
his master's friend---into the library, whatever condition he was in. He
took his dripping coat and hat from him and marshalled him across the
large, square hall.

Sir Percy Blakeney was sitting at his desk, writing, when Lord Tony was
shown in. He looked up and at once rose and went to his friend.

'Sit down, Tony,' he said quietly, 'while I get you some brandy.'

He forced the young man down gently into a chair in front of the fire
and threw another log into the blaze. Then from a cupboard he fetched a
flask of brandy and a glass, poured some out and held it to Tony's lips.
The latter drank--unresisting---like a child. Then as some warmth
penetrated into his bones, he leaned forward resting his elbows on his
knees and buried his face in his hands. Blakeney waited quietly, sitting
down opposite to him, until his friend should be able to speak.

'And after all that you told me on Monday night!' were the first words
which came from Tony's quivering lips, 'and the letter you sent me over
on Tuesday! Oh! I was prepared to mistrust Martin-Roget. Why! I never
allowed her out of my sight!...But her father!...How could I guess?'

'Can you tell me exactly what happened?'

Lord Tony drew himself up, and staring vacantly into the fire told his
friend the events of the past four days. On Wednesday the courier with
M. de Kernogan's letter, breathing kindness and forgiveness. On Thursday
his arrival and seeming ill-health, on Friday his departure with Yvonne.
Tony spoke quite calmly. He had never been anything but calm since
first, in the house of Laura Place, he had received that awful blow.

'I ought to have know,' he concluded dully, 'I ought to have guessed.
Especially since you warned me.'

'I warned you that Martin-Roget was not the man he pretended to be,'
said Blakeney gently, 'I warned you against him. But I too failed to
suspect the duc de Kernogan. We are Britishers, you and I, my dear
Tony,' he added with a quaint little laugh, 'our minds will never be
quite equal to the tortuous ways of these Latin races. But we are not
going to waste time now talking about the past. We have got to find your
wife before those brutes have time to wreak their devilries against
her.'

'On the high seas...on the way to Holland...thence to Coblentz...'
murmured Tony, 'I have not yet shown you the duc's letter to me.'

He drew from his pocket the crumpled, damp piece of paper on which the
ink had run into patches and blotches, and which had become almost
undecipherable now. Sir Percy took it from him and read it through:

'The duc de Kernogan and Lady Anthony Dewhurst are not on their way to
Holland and to Coblentz,' he said quietly as he handed the letter back
to Lord Tony.

'Not on their way to Holland?' queried the young man with a puzzled
frown. 'What do you mean?'

Blakeney drew his chair closer to his friend: a marvellous and subtle
change had suddenly taken place in his individuality. Only a few moments
ago he was the polished, elegant man of the world, then the kindly and
understanding friend--self-contained, reserved, with a perfect manner
redolent of sympathy and dignity. Suddenly all that was changed. His
manner was still perfect and outwardly calm, his gestures scarce, his
speech deliberate, but the compelling power of the leader--which is the
birthright of such men---glowed and sparkled now in his deep-set eyes:
the spirit of adventure and reckless daring was awake--insistent and
rampant---and subtle effluvia of enthusiasm and audacity emanated from
his entire personality.

Sir Percy Blakeney had sunk his individuality in that of the Scarlet
Pimpernel.

'I mean,' he said, returning his friend's anxious look with one that was
inspiring in its unshakable confidence, 'I mean that on Monday last, the
night before your wedding--when I urged you to obtain Yvonne de
Kernogan's consent to an immediate marriage---I had followed
Martin-Roget to a place called 'The Bottom Inn' on Goblin Combe--a place
well known to every smuggler in the country.'

'You, Percy!' exclaimed Tony in amazement.

'Yes, I,' laughed the other lightly. 'Why not? I had had my suspicions
of him for some time. As luck would have it he started off on the Monday
afternoon by hired coach to Chelwood. I followed. From Chelwood he
wanted to go on to Redhill: but the roads were axle deep in mud, and
evening was gathering in very fast. Nobody would take him. He wanted a
horse and a guide. I was on the spot--as disreputable a barloafer as you
ever saw in your life. I offered to take him. He had no choice. He had
to take me. No one else had offered. I took him to the Bottom Inn. there
he met our esteemed friend M. Chauvelin...'

'Chauvelin!' cried Tony, suddenly roused from the dull apathy of his
immeasurable grief, at sound of that name which recalled so many
exciting adventures, such mad, wild, hair-breadth escapes. 'Chauvelin!
What in the world is he doing here in England?'

'Brewing mischief, of course,' replied Blakeney dryly. 'In disgrace,
discredited, a marked man---what you will---my friend M. Chauvelin has
still an infinite capacity for mischief. Through the interstices of a
badly fastened shutter I heard two blackguards devising infinite
devilry. That is why, Tony,' he added, 'I urged an immediate marriage as
the only real protection for Yvonne de Kernogan against those
blackguards.'

'Would to God you had been more explicit,' exclaimed Tony with a bitter
sigh.

'Would to God I had,' rejoined the other, 'but there was so little time,
with licences and what not all to arrange for, and less than an hour to
do it in. And would you have suspected the Duc himself of such execrable
duplicity even if you had known, as I did then, that the so-called
Martin-Roget hath name Adet, and that he matures thoughts of deadly
revenge against the duc de Kernogan and his daughter?'

'Martin-Roget? the banker---the exiled royalist who...'

'He may be a banker now...but he certainly is no royalist--he is the son
of a peasant who was unjustly put to death four years ago by the duc de
Kernogan.'

'Ye gods!'

'He came over to England plentifully supplied with money--I could not
gather if the money is his or if it has been entrusted to him by the
revolutionary government for purposes of spying and corruption--but he
came to England in order to ingratiate himself with the duc de Kernogan
and his daughter, and then to lure them back to France, for what purpose
you may well imagine.'

'Good God, man...you can't mean...?'

'He has chartered a smuggler's craft--or rather Chauvelin has done it
for him. Her name is the Hollandia, her master hath name Kuyper. She was
to be in Portishead harbour on the last day of November: all her papers
in order. Cargo of West India sugar, destination Amsterdam, consignee
some Mynheer over there. But Martin-Roget, or whatever his name may be,
and no doubt our friend Chauvelin too, were to be aboard her, and also
M. le duc de Kernogan and his daughter. And the Hollandia is to put into
Le Croisic for Nantes, whose revolutionary proconsul, that infamous
Carrier, is of course Chauvelin's bosom friend.'

Sir Percy Blakeney finished speaking. Lord Tony had listened to him
quietly and in silence: now he rose and turned resolutely to his friend.
There was no longer any trace in him of that stunned apathy which had
been the primary result of the terrible blow. His young face was still
almost unrecognizable from the lines of grief and horror which marred
its habitual fresh, boyish look. He looked twenty years older than he
had done a few hours ago, but there was also in his whole attitude now
the virility of more mature manhood, its determination and unswerving
purpose.

'And what can I do now?' he asked simply, knowing that he could trust
his friend and leader with what he held dearest in all the world.
'Without you, Blakeney, I am of course impotent and lost. I haven't the
head to think. I haven't sufficient brains to pit against those cunning
devils. But if you will help me...'

Then he checked himself abruptly, and the look of hopeless despair once
moe crept into his eyes.

'I am mad, Percy,' he said with a self-deprecating shrug of the
shoulders, 'gone crazy with grief, I suppose, or I shouldn't talk of
asking your help, of risking your life in my cause.'

'Tony, if you talk that rubbish, I shall be forced to punch your head,'
retorted Blakeney with his light laugh. 'Why man,' he added gaily,
'can't you see that I am aching to have at my old friend Chauvelin
again.'

And indeed the zest of adventure, the zest to fight, never dormant, was
glowing with compelling vigour now in those lazy eyes of his which were
resting with such kindliness upon his stricken friend. 'Go home, Tony!'
he added, 'go you rascal, and collect what things you want, while I send
for Hastings and Ffoulkes, and see that four good horses are ready for
us within the hour. To-night we sleep at Portishead, Tony. The Day Dream
is lying off there, ready to sail at any hour of the day or night. The
Hollandia has twenty-four hours' start of us, alas! and we cannot
overtake her now: but we'll be in Nantes ere those devils can do much
mischief: and once in Nantes!...Why, Tony man! think of the glorious
escapes we've had together, you and I! Think of the gay, mad rides
across the north of France, with half-fainting women and swooning
children across our saddlebows! Think of the day when we smuggled the de
Tournais out of Calais harbour, the day we snatched Juliette Déroulède
and her Paul out of the tumbril and tore across Paris with that howling
mob at our heels! Think! think, Tony! of all the happiest, merriest
moments of your life and they will seem dull and lifeless beside what is
in store for you, when with your dear wife's arms clinging round your
neck, we'll fly along the quay of Nantes on the road to liberty! Ah,
Tony lad! were it not for the anxiety which I know is gnawing at your
heart, I would count this, one of the happiest hours of my happy life!'

He was so full of enthusiasm, so full of vitality, that life itself
seemed to emanage from him and to communicate itself to the very
atmosphere around. Hope lit up my lord Tony's wan face: he believed in
his friend as mediaeval ascetics believed in the saints whom they
adored. Enthusiasm had crept into his veins, dull despair fell away from
him like a mantle.

'God bless you, Percy,' he exclaimed as his firm and loyal hand grasped
that of the leader whom he revered.

'Nay!' retorted Blakeney with sudden gravity. 'He hath done that
already. Pray for His help to-day, lad, as you have never prayed
before.'



Chapter Seven - Marguerite

I

Lord Tony had gone, and for the space of five minutes Sir Percy Blakeney
stood in front of the hearth staring into the fire. Something lay before
him, something had to be done now, which represented the heavy price
that had to be paid for those mad and happy adventures, for that
reckless daring, aye for that selfless supreme sacrifice which was as
the very breath of life to the Scarlet Pimpernel.

And in the dancing flames he could see Marguerite's blue eyes, her
ardent hair, her tender smile all pleading with him not to go. She had
so much to give him--so much happiness, such an infinity of love, and he
was all that she had in the world! It seemed to him as if he could feel
her arms around him even now, as if he could hear her voice whispering
appealingly: 'Do not go! Am I nothing to you that thoughts of others
should triumph over my pleading? that the need of others should
outweight mine own most pressing need? I want you, Percy! aye! even I!
You have done so much for others--it is my turn now.'

But even as in a kind of trance those words seemed to reach his strained
senses, he knew that he must go, that he must tear himself away once
more from the clinging embrace of her dear arms and shut his eyes to the
tears which anon would fill her own. Destiny demanded that he should go.
He had chosen his path in life himself, at first only in a spirit of
wild recklessness, a mad tossing of his life into the scales of Fate.
But now that same destiny which he had chosen had become his master: he
no longer could draw back. What he had done once, twenty times, an
hundred times, that he must do again, all the while that the weak and
the defenceless called mutely to him from across the seas, all the while
that innocent women suffered and orphaned childred cried.

And to-day it was his friend, his comrade, who had come to him in his
distress: the young wife whom he idolized was in the most dire peril
that could possibly threaten any woman: she was at the mercy of a man
who, driven by the passion of revenge, meant to show her no mercy, and
the devil alone knew these days to what lengths of infamy a man so
driven would go.

The minutes sped on. Blakeney's eyes grew hot and wearied from staring
into the fire. He closed them for a moment and then quietly turned to
go.

II

All those who knew Marguerite Blakeney these days marvelled if she was
ever unhappy. Lady Ffoulkes, who was her most trusted friend, vowed that
she was not. She had moments--days--sometimes weeks of intense anxiety,
which amounted to acute agony. Whenever she saw her husband start on one
of those expeditions to France wherein every minute, every hour, he
risked his life and more in order to snatch yet another threatened
victim from the awful clutches of those merciless Terrorists, she
endured soul-torture such as few women could have withstood who had not
her splendid courage and her boundless faith. But against such crushing
sorrow she had to set off the happiness of those reunions with the man
whom she loved so passionately--happiness which was so great, that it
overrode and conquered the very memory of past anxieties.

Marguerite Blakeney suffered terribly at times--at others she was
overwhelmingly happy--the measure of her life was made up of the bitter
dregs of sorrow and the sparkling wine of joy! No! she was not
altogether unhappy: and gradually that enthusiasm which irradiated from
the whole personality of the valiant Scarlet Pimpernel, which dominated
his every action, entered into Marguerite Blakeney's blood too. His
vitality was so compelling, those impulses which carried him headlong
into unknown dangers were so generous and were actuated by such pure
selflessness, that the noble-hearted woman whose very soul was wrapped
up in the idolized husband, allowed herself to ride by his side on the
buoyant waves of his enthusiasm and of his desires: she smothered every
expression of anxiety, she swallowed her tears, she learned to say the
word 'Good-bye' and forgot the word 'Stay!'

III

It was half an hour after midday when Percy knocked at the door of her
boudoir. She had just come in from a walk in the meadows round the town
and along the bank of the river: the rain had overtaken her and she had
come in very wet, but none the less exhilarated by the movement and the
keen, damp, salt-laden air which came straight over the hills from the
Channel. She had taken off her hat and her mantle and was laughing gaily
with her maid who was shaking the wet out of a feather. She looked round
at her husband when he entered, and with a quick gesture ordered the
maid out of the room.

She had learned to read every line on Percy's face, every expression of
his lazy, heavy-lidded eyes. She saw that he was dressed with more than
his usual fastidiousness, but in dark clothes and travelling mantle. She
knew, moreover, by that subtle instinct which had become a second nature
and which warned her whenever he meant to go.

Nor did he announce his departure to her in so many words. As soon as
the maid had gone, he took his beloved in his arms.

'They have stolen Tony's wife from him,' he said with that light, quaint
laugh of his. 'I told you that the man Martin-Roget had planned some
devilish mischief--well! he has succeeded so far, thanks to that
unspeakable fool the duc de Kernogan.'

He told her briefly the history of the past few days.

'Tony did not take my warning seriously enough,' he concluded with a
sigh; 'he ought never to have allowed his wife out of his sight.'

Marguerite had not interrupted him while he spoke. At first she just lay
in his arms, quiescent and listening, nerving herself by a supreme
effort not to utter one sigh of misery or one word of appeal. Then, as
her knees shook under her, she sank back into a chair by the hearth and
he knelt beside her with his arms clasped tightly round her shoulders,
his cheek pressed against hers. He had no need to tell her that duty and
friendship called, that the call of honour was once again---as it so
often has been in the world--louder than that of love.

She understood and she knew, and he, with that super-sensitive instinct
of his, understood the heroic effort which she made.

'Your love, dear heart,' he whispered, 'will draw me back safely home as
it hath so often done before. You believe that, do you not?'

And she had the supreme courage to murmur: 'Yes!'



Chapter Eight - The Road to Portishead

I

It was not until Bath had very obviously been left behind that Yvonne de
Kernogan--Lady Anthony Dewhurst--realized that she had been trapped.

During the first half-hour of the journey her father had lain back
against the cushions of the carriage with eyes closed, his face pale and
wan as if with great suffering. Yvonne, her mind a prey to the gravest
anxiety sat beside him, holding his limp cold hand in hers. Once or
twice she ventured on a timid question as to his health and he
invariably murmured a feeble assurance that he felt well, only very
tired and disinclined to talk. Anon she suggested--diffidently, for she
did not mean to disturb him--that the driver did not appear to know his
way into Bath, he had turned into a side road which she felt sure was
not the right one. M. le duc then roused himself for a moment from his
lethargy. He leaned forward and gazed out of the window.

'The man is quite right, Yvonne,' he said quietly, 'he knows his way. He
brought me along this road yesterday. He gets into Bath by a slight
détour but it is pleasanter driving.'

This reply satisfied her. She was a stranger in the land, and knew
little or nothing of the environs of Bath. True, last Monday morning
after the ceremony of her marriage she had driven out to Combwich, but
dawn was only just breaking then, and she had lain for the most
part--wearied and happy---in her young husband's arms. She had taken
scant note of roads and signposts.

A few minutes later the coach came to a halt and Yvonne, looking through
the window, saw a man who was muffled up to the chin and enveloped in a
huge travelling cape, mount swiftly up beside the driver.

'Who is that man?' she queried sharply.

'Some friend of the coachman's, no doubt,' murmured her father in reply,
'to whom he is giving a lift as far as Bath.'

The barouche had moved on again.

Yvonne could not have told you why, but at her father's last words she
had felt a sudden cold grip at her heart--the first since she started.
It was neither fear nor yet suspicion, but a chill seemed to go right
through her. She gazed anxiously through the window, and then looked at
her father with eyes that challenged and that doubted. But M. le duc
would not meet her gaze. He had once more closed his eyes and sat quite
still, pale and haggard, like a man who is suffering acutely.

II

'Father we are going back to Bath, are we not?'

The query came out trenchant and hard from her throat which now felt
hoarse and choked. Her whole being was suddenly pervaded by a vast and
nameless fear. Time had gone on, and there was no sign in the distance
of the great city. M. de Kernogan made no reply, but he opened his eyes
and a curious glance shot from them at the terror-stricken face of his
daughter.

Then she knew--knew that she had been tricked and trapped---that her
father had played a hideous and complicated rôle of hypocrisy and
duplicity in order to take her away from the husband whom she idolized.

Fear and her love for the man of her choice gave her initiative and
strength. Before M. de Kernogan could realize what she was doing, before
he could make a movement to stop her, she had seized the handle of the
carriage door, wrenched the door open and jumped out into the road. She
fell on her face in the mud, but the next moment she picked herself up
again and started to run--down the road which the carriage had just
traversed, on and on as fast as she could go. She ran on blindly,
unreasoningly, impelled by a purely physical instinct to escape, not
thinking how childish, how futile such an attempt was bound to be.

Already after the first few minutes of this swift career over the muddy
road, she heard quick, heavy footsteps behind her. Her father could not
run like that--the coachman could not have thus left his horses--but
still she could hear those footsteps at a run--a quicker run than
hers---and they were gaining on her--every minute, every second. The
next, she felt two powerful arms suddenly seizing her by the shoulders.
She stumbled and would once more have fallen, but for those same strong
arms which held her close.

'Let me go! Let me go!' she cried, panting.

But she was held and could no longer move. She looked up into the face
of Martin-Roget, who without any hesitation or compunction lifted her up
as if she had been a bale of light goods and carried her back toward the
coach. She had forgotten the man who had been picked up on the road
awhile ago, and had been sitting beside the coachman since.

He deposited her in the barouche beside her father, then quietly closed
the door and once more mounted to his seat on the box. The carriage
moved on again. M. de Kernogan was no longer lethargic, he looked down
on his daughter's inert form beside him, and not one look of tenderness
or compassion softened the hard callousness of his face.

'Any resistance, my child,' he said coldly, 'will as you see be useless
as well as undignified. I deplore this necessary violence, but I should
be forced once more to requisition M. Martin-Roget's help if you
attempted such foolish tricks again. When you are a little more calm, we
will talk openly together.'

For the moment she was lying back against the cushions of the carriage;
her nerves having momentarily given way before this appalling
catastrophe which had overtaken her and the hideous outrage to which she
was being subjected by her own father. She was sobbing convulsively. But
in the face of his abominable callousness, she made a great effort to
regain her self-control. Her pride, her dignity came to the rescue. She
had had time in those few seconds to realize that she was indeed more
helpless than any bird in a fowler's net, and that only absolute calm
and presence of mind could possibly save her now.

If indeed there was the slightest hope of salvation.

She drew herself up and resolutely dried her eyes and readjusted her
hair and her hood and mantle.

'We can talk openly at once, sir,' she said coldly. 'I am ready to hear
what explanation you can offer for this monstrous outrage.'

'I owe you no explanation, my child,' he retorted calmly. 'Presently
when you are restored to your own sense of dignity and of self-respect
you will remember that a lady of the house of Kernogan does not elope in
the night with a stranger and a heretic like some kitchen-wench. Having
so far forgotten herself my daughter must, alas! take the consequences,
which I deplore, of her own sins and lack of honour.'

'And no doubt, father,' she retorted, stung to the quick by his insults,
'that you too will anon be restored to your own sense of self-respect
and remember that hitherto no gentleman of the house of Kernogan has
acted the part of a liar and of a hypocrite!'

'Silence!' he commanded sternly.

'Yes!' she reiterated wildly, 'it was the rôle of a liar and of a
hypocrite that you played from the moment when you sat down to pen that
letter full of protestations of affection and forgiveness, until like a
veritable Judas you betrayed your own daughter with a kiss. Shame on
you, father!' she cried. 'Shame!'

'Enough!' he said, as he seized her wrist so roughly that the cry of
pain which involuntarily escaped her effectually checked the words in
her mouth. 'You are mad, beside yourself, a thoughtless, senseless
creature whom I shall have to coerce more effectually if you do not
cease your ravings. Do not force me to have recourse once again to M.
Martin-Roget's assistance to keep your undignified outbursts in check.'

The name of the man whom she had learned to hate and fear more than any
other human being in the world was sufficient to restore to her that
measure of self-control which had again threatened to leave her.

'Enough indeed,' she said more calmly; 'the brain that could devise and
carry out such infamy in cold blood is not like to be influenced by a
defenceless woman's tears. Will you at least tell me whither you are
taking me?'

'We go to a place on the coast now,' he replied coldly, 'the outlandish
name of which has escaped me. There we embark for Holland, from whence
we shall join their Royal Highnesses at Coblentz. It is at Coblentz that
your marriage with M. Martin-Roget will take place, and ...'

'Stay, father,' she broke in, speaking quite as calmly as he did, 'ere
you go any further. Understand me clearly, for I mean every word I say.
In the sight of God--if not in that of the laws of France--I am the wife
of Lord Anthony Dewhurst. By everything that I hold most sacred and most
dear I swear to you that I will never become Martin-Roget's wife. I
would die first,' she added with burning but resolutely suppressed
passion.

He shrugged his shoulders.

'Pshaw, my child,' he said quietly, 'many a time since the world began
have women registered such solemn and sacred vows, only to break them
when force of circumstance and their own good sense made them ashamed of
their own folly.'

'How little you know me, father,' was all that she said in reply.

III

Indeed, Yvonne de Kernogan--Yvonne Dewhurst as she was now in the sight
of God and men---had far too much innate dignity and self-respect to
continue this discussion, seeing that in any case she was physically the
weaker, and that she was absolutely helpless and defenceless in the
hands of two men, one of whom--her own father---who should have been her
protector, was leagued with her bitterest enemy against her.

That Martin-Roget was her enemy--aye and her father's too--she had
absolutely no doubt. Some obscure yet keen instinct was working in her
heart, urging her to mistrust him even more wholly than she had done
before. Just now, when he laid ruthless hands on her and carried her,
inert and half-swooning, back into the coach, and she lay with closed
eyes, her very soul in revolt against this contact with him, against the
feel of his arms around her, a vague memory surcharged with horror and
with dread stirred within her brain: and over the vista of the past few
years she looked back upon an evening in the autumn--a rough night with
the wind from the Atlantic blowing across the lowlands of Poitou and
soughing in the willow trees that bordered the Loire--she seemed to hear
the tumultuous cries of enraged human creatures dominating the sound of
the gale, she felt the crowd of evil-intentioned men around the closed
carriage wherein she sat, calm and unafraid. Darkness then was all
around her. She could not see. She could only hear and feel. And she
heard the carriage door being wrenched open, and she felt the cold
breath of the wind upon her cheek, and also the hot breath of a man in a
passion of fury and of hate.

She had seen nothing then, and mercifully semi-unconsciousness had
dulled her aching senses, but even now her soul shrunk with horror at
the vague remembrance of that ghostlike form--the spirit of hate and of
revenge--of its rough arms encircling her shoulders, its fingers under
her chin--and then that awful, loathsome, contaminating kiss which she
thought then would have smirched her for ever. It had taken all the
pure, sweet kisses of a brave and loyal man whom she loved and revered,
to make her forget that hideous, indelible stain: and in the arms of her
dear milor she had forgotten that one terrible moment, when she had felt
that the embrace of death must be more endurable than that of this
unknown and hated man.

It was the memory of that awful night which had come back to her as in a
flash while she lay passive and broken in Martin-Roget's arms. Of course
for the moment she had no thought of connecting the rich banker from
Brest, the enthusiastic royalist and émigré, with one of those
turbulent, uneducated peasant lads who had attacked her carriage that
night: all that she was conscious of was that she was outraged by his
presence, just as she had been outraged then, and that the contact of
his hands, of his arms, was absolutely unendurable.

To fight against the physical power which held her a helpless prisoner
in the hands of the enemy was sheer impossibility. She knew that, and
was too proud to make feeble and futile efforts which could only end in
defeat and further humiliation. She felt hideously wretched and
lonely--thoughts of her husband, who at this hour was still serenely
unconscious of the terrible catastrophe which had befallen him, brought
tears of acute misery to her eyes. What would he do when--to-morrow
perhaps---he realized that his bride had been stolen from him, that he
had been fooled and duped as she had been too. What could he do when he
knew?

She tried to solace her own soul-agony by thinking of his influential
friends who, of course, would help him as soon as they knew. There was
that mysterious and potent friend of whom he spoke so little, who
already had warned him of coming danger and urged on the secret marriage
which should have proved a protection. There was Sir Percy Blakeney, of
whom he spoke much, who was enormously rich, independent, the most
intimate friend of the Regent himself. There was...

But what was the use of clinging even for one instant to those feeble
cords of Hope's broken lyre. By the time her dear lord knew that she was
gone, she would be on the high seas, far out of his reach.

And she had not even the solace of tears--heart-broken sobs rose in her
throat, but she resolutely kept them back. Her father's cold, impassive
face, the callous glitter in his eyes told her that every tear would be
in vain, her most earnest appeal an object for his sneers.

IV

As to how long the journey in the coach lasted after that Yvonne
Dewhurst could not have said. It may have been a few hours, it may have
been a cycle of years. She had been young--a happy bride, a dutiful
daughter--when she left Combwich Hall. She was an old woman now, a
supremely unhappy one, parted from the man she loved without hope of
ever seeing him again in life, and feeling nothing but hatred and
contempt for the father who had planned such infamy against her.

She offered no resistance whatever to any of her father's commands.
After the first outburst of revolt and indignation she had not even
spoken to him.

There was a halt somewhere on the way, when in the low-raftered room of
a posting-inn, she had to sit at table with the two men who had
compassed her misery. She was thirsty, feverish and weak: she drank some
milk in silence. She felt ill physically as well as mentally, and the
constant effort not to break down had helped to shatter her nerves. As
she had stepped out of the barouche without a word, so she stepped into
it again when it stood outside, ready with a fresh relay of horses to
take her further, still further, away from the cosy little nest where
even now her young husband was waiting longingly for her return. The
people of the inn--a kindly-looking woman, a portly middle-aged man, one
or two young ostlers and serving-maids were standing about in the yard
when her father led her to the coach. For a moment the wild idea rushed
to her mind to run to these people and demand their protection, to
proclaim at the top of her voice the infamous act which was dragging her
away from her husband and her home, and lead her a helpless prisoner to
a fate that was infinitely worse than death. She even ran to the woman
who looked so benevolent and so kind, she placed her small quivering
hand on the other's rough toil-worn one and in hurried, appealing words
begged for her help and the shelter of a home till she could communicate
with her husband.

The woman listened with a look of kindly pity upon her homely face, she
patted the small, trembling hand and stroked it gently, tears of
compassion gathered in her eyes:

'Yes, yes, my dear,' she said soothingly, speaking as she would to a
sick woman or to a child, 'I quite understand. I wouldna' fret if I was
you. I would jess go quietly with your pore father: 'e knows what's best
for you, that 'e do. You come 'long wi' me,' she added as she drew
Yvonne's hand through her arm, 'I'll see ye're comfortable in the
coach.'

Yvonne, bewildered, could not at first understand either the woman's
sympathy or her obvious indifference to the pitiable tale, until--Oh!
the shame of it!--she saw the two young serving-maids looking on her
with equal pity expressed in their round eyes, and heard one of them
whispering to the other:

'Pore lady! so zad ain't it? I'm that zorry for the pore father!'

And the girl with a significant gesture indicated her own forehead and
glanced knowingly at her companion. Yvonne felt a hot flush rise to the
very roots of her hair. So her father and Martin-Roget had thought of
everything, and had taken every precaution to cut the ground from under
her feet. Wherever a halt was necessary, wherever the party might come
in contact with the curious or the indifferent, it would be given out
that the poor young lady was crazed, that she talked wildly, and had to
be kept under restraint.

Yvonne as she turned away from that last faint glimmer of hope,
encountered Martin-Roget's glance of triumph and saw the sneer which
curled his full lips. Her father came up to her just then and took her
over from the kindly hostess, with the ostentatious manner of one who
has charge of a sick person, and must take every precaution for her
welfare.

'Another loss of dignity, my child,' he said to her in French, so that
none but Martin-Roget could catch what he said. 'I guessed that you
would commit some indiscretion, you see, so M. Martin-Roget and myself
warned all the people at the inn the moment we arrived. We told them
that I was travelling with a sick daughter who had become crazed through
the death of her lover, and believed herself--like most crazed persons
do--to be persecuted and oppressed. You have seen the result. They
pitied you. Even the serving-maids smiled. It would have been wiser to
remain silent.'

Whereupon he handed her into the barouche with loving care, a crowd of
sympathetic onlookers gazing with obvious compassion on the poor crazed
lady and her sorely tried father.

After this episode Yvonne gave up the struggle.

No one but God could help her, if He chose to perform a miracle.

V

The rest of the journey was accomplished in silence. Yvonne gazed,
unseeing, through the carriage window as the barouche rattled on the
cobble-stones of the streets of Bristol. She marvelled at the number of
people who went gaily by along the streets, unheeding, unknowing that
the greatest depths of misery to which any human being could sink had
been probed by the unfortunate young girl who wide-eyed, mute and
broken-hearted gazed out upon the busy world without.

Portishead was reached just when the grey light of day turned to a
gloomy twilight. Yvonne unresisting, insentient, went whither she was
bidden to go. Better that, than to feel Martin-Roget's coercive grip on
her arm, or to hear her father's curt words of command.

She walked along the pier and anon stepped into a boat, hardly knowing
what she was doing: the twilight was welcome to her, for it hid much
from her view and her eyes--hot with unshed tears--ached for the restful
gloom. She realized that the boat was being rowed along for some little
way down the stream, that Frédérick, who had come she knew not how or
whence, was in the boat too with some luggage which she recognized as
being familiar: that another woman was there whom she did not know, but
who appeared to look after her comforts, wrapped a shawl closer round
her knees and drew the hood of her mantle closer round her neck. But it
was all like an ugly dream: the voices of her father and of
Martin-Roget, who were talking in monosyllables, the sound of the oars
as they struck the water, or creaked in the rowlocks, came to her as
from an ever-receding distance.

A couple of hours later she came back to complete consciousness. She was
in a narrow place, which at first appeared to her like a cupboard: the
atmosphere was both cold and stuffy and reeked of tar and of oil. She
was lying on a hard bed with her mantle and a shawl wrapped round her.
It was very dark save where the feeble glimmer of a lamp threw a circle
of light around. Above her head there was a constant and heavy tramping
of feet, and the sound of incessant and varied creakings and groanings
of wood, cordage and metal filled the night air with their weird and
dismal sounds. A slow feeling of movement coupled with a gentle
oscillation confirmed the unfortunate girl's first waking impression
that she was on board a ship. How she had got there she did not know.
She must ultimately have fainted in the small boat and been carried
aboard. She raised herself slightly on her elbow and peered round her
into the dark corners of the cabin: opposite to her upon a bench, also
wrapped up in shawl and mantle, lay the woman who had been in attendance
on her in the boat.

The woman's heavy breathing indicated that she was fast asleep.

Loneliness! Misery! Desolation encompassed the happy bride of yesterday.
With a moan of exquisite soul-agony she fell back against the hard
cushions, and for the first time this day a convulsive flow of tears
eased the super-acuteness of her misery.



Chapter Nine - The Coast of France

I

The whole of that wretched mournful day Yvonne Dewhurst spent upon the
deck of the ship which was bearing her away every hour, every minute,
further and still further from home and happiness. She seldom spoke: she
ate and drank when food was brought to her: she was conscious neither of
cold nor of wet, of well-being or ill. She sat upon a pile of cordages
in the stern of the ship leaning against the taff-rail and in
imagination seeing the coast of England fade into illimitable space.

Part of the time it rained, and then she sat huddled up in the shawls
and tarpaulins which the woman placed about her: then, when the sun came
out, she still sat huddled up, closing her eyes against the glare.

When daylight faded into dusk, and then twilight into night she gazed
into nothingness as she had gazed on water and sky before, thinking,
thinking, thinking! This could not be the end--it could not. So much
happiness, such pure love, such perfect companionship as she had had
with the young husband whom she idolized could not all be wrenched from
her like that, without previous foreboding and without some warning from
Fate. This miserable, sordid, wretched journey to an unknown land could
not be the epilogue to the exquisite romance which had suddenly changed
the dreary monotony of her life into one long, glowing dream of joy and
of happiness! This could not be the end!

And gazing into the immensity of the far horizon she thought and thought
and racked her memory for every word, every look which she had had from
her dear milor. And upon the grey background of sea and sky she seemed
to perceive the vague and dim outline of that mysterious friend--the man
who knew everything--who foresaw everything, even and above all the
dangers that threatened those whom he loved. He ahd foreseen this awful
danger too! Oh! if only milor and she herself had realized its full
extent! But now surely! surely! he would help, he would know what to do.
Milor was wont to speak of him as being omniscient and having marvellous
powers.

Once or twice during the day M. le duc de Kernogan came to sit beside
his daughter and tried to speak a few words of comfort and of sympathy.
Of a truth--here on the open sea--far both from home and kindred and
from the new friends he had found in hospitable England--his heart smote
him for all the wrong he had done to his only child. He dared not think
of the gentle and patient wife who lay at rest in the churchyard of
Kernogan, for he feared that with his thoughts he would conjure up her
pale, avenging ghost who would demand an account of what he had done
with her child.

Cold and exposure--the discomfort of the long sea-journey in this rough,
trading ship had somewhat damped M. de Kernogan's pride and obstinacy:
his loyalty to the cause of his King had paled before the demands of a
father's duty toward his helpless daughter.

II

It was close on six o'clock and the night, after the turbulent and
capricious alternations of rain and sunshine promised to be beautifully
clear, though very cold. The pale crescent of the moon had just emerged
from behind the thick veil of cloud and mist which still hung
threateningly upon the horizon: a fitful sheen of silver danced upon the
waves.

M. le duc stood beside his daughter. He had inquired after her health
and well-being and received her monosyllabic reply with an impatient
sigh. M. Martin-Roget was pacing up and down the deck with restless and
vigorous strides: he had just gone by and made a loud and cheery comment
on the weather and the beauty of the night.

Could Yvonne Dewhurst have seen her father's face now, or had she cared
to study it, she would have perceived that he was gazing out to sea in
the direction to which the schooner was heading with an intent look of
puzzlement, and that there was a deep furrow between his brows. Half an
hour went by and he still stood there, silent and absorbed: then
suddenly a curious exclamation escaped his lips: he stooped and seized
his daughter by the wrist!

'Yvonne!' he said excitedly, 'tell me! am I dreaming or am I crazed?'

'What is it?' she asked coldly.

'Out there! Look! Just tell me what you see?'

He appeared so excited and his pressure on her wrist was so insistent
that she dragged herself to her feet and looked out to sea in the
direction to which he was pointing.

'Tell me what you see,' he reiterated with ever-growing excitement, and
she felt that the hand which held her wrist trembled violently.

'The light from a lighthouse, I think,' she said.

'And besides that?'

'Another light--a much smaller one--considerably higher up. It must be
perched up on some cliffs.'

'Anything else?'

'Yes. There are lights dotted about here and there. Some village on the
coast.'

'On the coast?' he murmured hoarsely, 'and we are heading towards it.'

'So it appears,' she said indifferently. What cared she to what shore
she was being taken: every land save England was exile to her now.

Just at this moment M. Martin-Roget in his restless wanderings once more
passed by.

'M. Martin-Roget!' called the duc.

And vaguely Yvonne wondered why his voice trembled so.

'At your service, M. le duc,' replied the other as he came to a halt,
and then stood with legs wide apart firmly planted upon the deck, his
hands buried in the pockets of his heavy mantle, his head thrown back,
as it defiantly, hiw whole attitude that of a master condescending to
talk with slaves.

'What are those lights over there, ahead of us?' asked M. le duc
quietly.

'The lighthouse of Le Croisic, M. le duc,' replied Martin-Roget dryly,
'and of the guard-house above and the harbour below. All at your
service,' he added, with a sneer.

'Monsieur...' exclaimed the duc.

'Eh? what?' queried the other blandly.

'What does this mean?'

In the vague, dim light of the moon Yvonne could just distinguish the
two men as they stood confronting one another. Martin-Roget, tall,
massive, with arms now folded across his breast, shrugging his broad
shoulders at the duc's impassioned query--and her father who suddenly
appeared to have shrunk within himself, who raised one trembling hand to
his forehead and with the other sought with pathetic entreaty the
support of his daughter's arm.

'What does this mean?' he murmured again.

'Only,' replied Martin-Roget with a laugh, 'that we are close to the
coast of France and that with this unpleasant but useful north-westerly
wind we shall be in Nantes two hours before midnight.'

'In Nantes?' queried the duc vaguely, not understanding, speaking
tonelessly like a somnambulist or a man in a trance. He was leaning
heavily now on his daughter's arm, and she with that motherly instinct
which is ever present in a good woman's heart even in the presence of
her most cruel enemy, drew him tenderly towards her, gave him the
support he needed, not quite understanding herself yet what it was that
had befallen them both.

'Yes, in Nantes, M. le duc,' reiterated Martin-Roget with a sneer.

'But 'twas to Holland we were going.'

'To Nantes, M. le duc,' retorted the other with a ringing note of
triumph in his voice, 'to Nantes, from which you fled like a coward when
you realized that the vengeance of an outraged people had at last
overtaken you and your kind.'

'I do not understand, 'stammered the duc, and mechanically
now--instinctively--father and daughter clung to one another as if each
was striving to protect the other from the raving fury of this madman.
Never for a moment did they believe that he was sane. Excitement, they
thought, had turned his brain: he was acting and speaking like one
possessed.

'I dare say it would take far longer than the next four hours while we
glide gently along the Loire, to make such as you understand that your
arrogance and your pride are destined to be humbled at last and that you
are now in the power of those men who awhile ago you did not deem worthy
to lick your boots. I dare say,' he continued calmly, 'you think that I
am crazed. Well! perhaps I am, but sane enough anyhow, M. le duc, to
enjoy the full flavour of revenge.'

'Revenge?...what have we done?...what has my daughter done?...'
stammered the duc incoherently. 'You swore you loved her...desired to
make her your wife...I consented...she...'

Martin-Roget's harsh laugh broke in on his vague murmurings.

'And like an arrogant fool you fell into the trap,' he said with calm
irony, 'and you were too blind to see in Martin-Roget, suitor for your
daughter's hand, Pierre Adet, the son of the victim of your execrable
tyranny, the innocent man murdered at your bidding.'

'Pierre Adet...I don't understand.'

''Tis but little meseems that you do understand, M. le duc,' sneered the
other. 'But turn your memory back, I pray you, to the night four years
ago when a few hot-headed peasant lads planned to give you a fright in
your castle of Kernogan...the plan failed and Pierre Adet, the leader of
that unfortunate band, managed to fly the country, whilst you, like a
crazed and blind tyrant, administered punishment right and left for the
fright which you had had. Just think of it! those boors! those louts!
that swinish herd of human cattle had dared to raise a cry of revolt
against you! To death with them all! to death! Where is Pierre Adet, the
leader of those hogs? to him an exemplary punishment must be meted! a
deterrent against any other attempt at revolt. Well, M. le duc, do you
remember what happened then? Pierre Adet, severely injured in the mélée,
had managed to crawl away into safety. While he lay betwixt life and
death, first in the presbytery of Vertou, then in various ditches on his
way to Paris, he knew nothing of what happened at Nantes. When he
returned to consciousness and to active life he heard that his father,
Jean Adet the miller, who was innocent of any share in the revolt, had
been hanged by order of M. le duc de Kernogan.'

He paused awhile and a curious laugh--half-convulsive and not unmixed
with sobs---shook his broad shoulders. Neither the duc nor Yvonne made
any comment on what they heard: the duc felt like a fly caught in a
death-dealing web. He was dazed with the horror of his position, dazed
above all with the rush of bitter remorse which had surged up in his
heart and mind, when he realized that it was his own folly, his
obstinacy--aye! and his heartlessness which had brought this awful fate
upon his daughter. And Yvonne felt that whatever she might endure of
misery and hopelessness was nothing in comparison with what her father
must feel with the addition of bitter self-reproach.

'Are you beginning to understand the position better now, M. le duc?'
queried Martin-Roget after awhile.

The duc sank back nerveless upon the pile of cordages close by. Yvonne
was leaning with her back against the taffrail, her two arms
outstretched, the north-west wind blowing her soft brown hair about her
face whilst her eyes sought through the gloom to read the lines of
cruelty and hatred which must be distorting Martin-Roget's face now.

'And,' she said quietly after awhile, 'you have waited all these years,
Monsieur, nursing thoughts of revenge and of hate against us. Ah!
believe me,' she added earnestly, 'though God knows my heart is full of
misery at this moment, and though I know that at your bidding death will
so soon claim me and my father as his own, yet would I not change my
wretchedness for yours.'

'And I, citizeness,' he said roughly, addressing her for the first time
in the manner prescribed by the revolutionary government, 'would not
change places with any king or other tyrant on earth. Yes,' he added as
he came a step or two closer to her, 'I have waited all these years. For
four years I have thought and striven and planned, planned to be even
with your father and with you one day. You had fled the country--like
cowards, bah!---ready to lend your arms to the foreigner against your
own country in order to re-establish a tyrant upon the throne whom the
whole of the people of France loathed and detested. You had fled, but
soon I learned whither you had gone. Then I set to work to gain access
to you...I learned English...I too went to England...under an assumed
name...with the necessary introductions so as to gain a footing in the
circles in which you moved. I won your father's condescension--almost
his friendship!... The rich banker from Brest should be fleeced in order
to provide funds for the armies that were to devastate France--and the
rich banker of Brest refused to be fleeced unless he was lured by the
promise of Mlle. de Kernogan's hand in marriage.'

'You need not, Monsieur,' rejoined Yvonne coldly, while Martin-Roget
paused in order to draw breath, 'you need not, believe me, take the
trouble to recount all the machinations which you carried through in
order to gain your ends. Enough that my father was so foolish as to
trust you, and that we are now completely in your power, but...'

'There is no "but,"' he broke in gruffly, 'you are in my power and will
be made to learn the law of the talion which demands an eye for an eye,
a life for a life: that is the law which the people are applying to that
herd of aristos who were arrogant tyrants once and are shrinking,
cowering slaves now. Oh! you were very proud that night, Mademoiselle
Yvonne de Kernogan, when a few peasant lads told you some home truths
while you sat disdainful and callous in your carriage, but there is one
fact that you can never efface from your memory, strive how you may, and
that is that for a few minutes I held you in my arms and that I kissed
you, my fine lady, aye! kissed you like I would any pert kitchen wench,
even I, Pierre Adet, the miller's son.'

He drew nearer and nearer to her as he spoke; she, leaning against the
taffrail, could not retreat any further from him. He laughed.

'If you fall over into the water, I shall not complain,' he said, 'it
will save our proconsul the trouble, and the guillotine some work. But
you need not fear. I am not trying to kiss you again. You are nothing to
me, you and your father, less than nothing. Your death in misery and
wretchedness is all I want, whether you find a dishonoured grave in the
Loire or by suicide I care less than nothing. But let me tell you this,'
he added, and his voice came now like a hissing sound through his set
teeth, 'that there is no intention on my part to make glorious martyrs
of you both. I dare say you have heard some pretty stories over in
England or aristos climbing the steps of the guillotine with an ecstatic
look of martyrdom upon their face: and tales of the tumbrils of Paris
laden with men and women going to their death and shouting "God save the
King" all the way. That is not the sort of paltry revenge which would
satisfy me. My father was hanged by yours as a malefactor--hanged, I
say, like a common thief! he, a man who had never wronged a single soul
in the whole course of his life, who had been an example of fine living,
of hard work, of noble courage through many adversities. My mother was
left a widow--not the honoured widow of an honourable man---but a
pariah, the relict of a malefactor who had died of the hangman's
rope--my sister was left an orphan--dishonoured---without hope of
gaining the love of a respectable man. All that I and my family owe to
ci-devant M. le duc de Kernogan, and therefore I tell you, that both he
and his daughter shall not die like martyrs but like malefactors
too---shamed---dishonoured--loathed and execrated even by their own
kindred! Take note of that, M. le duc de Kernogan! You have sown shame,
shame shall you reap! and the name of which you are so proud will be
dragged in the mire until it has become a by-word in the land for all
that is despicable and base.'

Perhaps at no time of his life had Martin-Roget, erstwhile Pierre Adet,
spoken with such an intensity of passion, even though he was at all
times turbulent and a ready prey to his own emotions. But all that he
had kept hidden in the inmost recesses of his heart, ever since as a
young stripling he had chafed at the social conditions of his country,
now welled forth in that wild harangue. For the first time in his life
he felt that he was really master of those who had once despised and
oppressed him. He held them and was the arbiter of their fate. The sense
of possession and of power had gone to his head like wine: he was
intoxicated with his own feeling of triumphant revenge, and this
impassioned rhetoric flowed from his mouth like the insentient babble of
a drunken man.

The duc de Kernogan, sitting on the coil of cordages with his elbows on
his knees and his head buried in his hands, had no thought of breaking
in on the other man's ravings. The bitterness of remorse paralyzed his
thinking faculties. Martin-Roget's savage words struck upon his senses
like blows from a sledge-hammer. He knew that nothing but his own folly
was the cause of Yvonne's and his own misfortune. Yvonne had been safe
from all evil fortune under the protection of her fine young English
husband; he--the father who should have been her chief protector---had
dragged her by brute force away from that husband's care and had landed
her...where?...A shudder like acute ague went through the unfortunate
man's whole body as he thought of the future.

Nor did Yvonne Dewhurst attempt to make reply to her enemy's delirious
talk. She would not give him even the paltry satisfaction of feeling
that he had stung her into a retort. She did not fear him--she hated him
too much for that--but like her father she had no illusions as to his
power over them both. While he stormed and raved she kept her eyes
steadily fixed upon him. She could only just barely distinguish him in
the gloom, and he no doubt failed to see the expression of lofty
indifference wherewith she contrived to regard him: but he felt her
contempt, and but for the presence of the sailors on the deck he
probably would have struck her.

As it was when, from sheer lack of breath, he had to pause, he gave one
last look of hate on the huddled figure of the duc, and the proud,
upstanding one of Yvonne, then with a laugh which sounded like that of a
fiend--so cruel, so callous was it, he turned on his heel, and as he
strode away towards the bow his tall figure was soon absorbed in the
surrounding gloom.

III

The duc de Kernogan and his daughter saw little or nothing of
Martin-Roget after that. For awhile longer they caught sight of him from
time to time as he walked up and down the deck with ceaseless
restlessness and in the company of another man, who was much shorter and
slimmer than himself and whom they had not noticed hitherto.
Martin-Roget talked most of the time in a loud and excited voice, the
other appearing to listen to him with a certain air of deference.
Whether the conversation between these two was actually intended for the
ears of the two unfortunates, or whether it was merely chance which
brought certain phrases to their ears when the two men passed closely
by, it were impossible to say. Certain it is that from such chance
phrases they gathered that the barque would not put into Nantes, as the
navigation of the Loire was suspended for the nonce by order of
Proconsul Carrier. He had need of the river for his awesome and
nefarious deeds. Yvonne's ears were regaled with tales--told with loud
ostentation---of the terrible noyades, the wholesale drowning of men,
women and children, malefactors and traitors, so as to ease the burden
of the guillotine.

After three bells it got so bitterly cold that Yvonne, fearing that her
father would become seriously ill, suggested their going down to their
stuffy cabins together. After all, even the foul and shut-up atmosphere
of these close, airless cupboards was preferable to the propinquity of
those two human fiends up on deck and the tales of horror and brutality
which they loved to tell.

And for two hours after that, father and daughter sat in the narrow
cell-like place, locked in each other's arms. She had everything to
forgive, and he everything to atone for: but Yvonne suffered so acutely,
her misery was so great that she found it in her heart to pity the
father whose misery must have been even greater than hers. The supreme
solace of bestowing love and forgiveness and of easing the racking
paroxysms of remorse which brought the unfortunate man to the verge of
dementia, warmed her heart towards him and brought surcease to her own
sorrow.




BOOK 2


Chapter One - The Tiger's Lair

I

Nantes is in the grip of the tiger.

Representative Carrier--with powers as of a proconsul--has been sent
down to stamp out the lingering remnants of the counter-revolution. La
Vendée is temporarily subdued; the army of the royalists driven back
across the Loire; but traitors still abound--this the National
Convention in Paris hath decreed--there are traitors everywhere. They
were not all massacred at Cholet and Savenay. Disbanded, yes! but not
exterminated, and wolves must not be allowed to run loose, lest they
band again, and try to devour the flocks.

Therefore extermination is the order of the day. Every traitor or
would-be traitor--every son and daughter and father and mother of
traitors must be destroyed ere they do more mischief. And
Carrier--Carrier the coward who turned tail and bolted at Cholet--is
sent to Nantes to carry on the work of destruction. Wolves and wolflings
all! Let none survive. Give them fair trial, of course. As traitors they
deserve death--have they not taken up arms against the Republic and
against the Will and the Reign of the People? But let a court of justice
sit in Nantes town; let the whole nation know how traitors are dealt
with: let the nation see that her rulers are both wise and just. Let
wolves and wolflings be brought up for trial, and set up the guillotine
on Place du Bouffay with four executioners appointed to do her work.
There would be too much work for two, or even three. Let there be
four--and let the work of extermination be complete.

And Carrier--with powers as of a proconsul--arrives in Nantes town and
sets to work to organize his household. Civil and military--with pomp
and circumstance--for the son of a small farmer, destined originally for
the Church and for obscurity is now virtual autocrat in one of the great
cities of France. He has power of life and death over thousands of
citizens--under the direction of justice, of course! So now he has
citizens of the bedchamber, and citizens of the household, he has a
guard of honour and a company of citizens of the guard. And above all he
has a crowd of spies around him--servants of the Committee of Public
Safety so they are called--they style themselves "La Compagnie Marat" in
honour of the great patriot who was foully murdered by a female
wolfling.

So la Compagnie Marat is formed--they wear red bonnets on their
heads---no stockings on their feet--short breeches to display their bare
shins: their captain, Fleury, has access at all times to the person of
the proconsul, to make report on the raids which his company effect at
all hours of the day or night. Their powers are supreme too. In and out
of houses--however private--up and down the streets--through shops,
taverns, and warehouses, along the quays and the yards--everywhere they
go. Everywhere they have the right to go! to ferret and to spy, to
listen, to search, to interrogate--the red-capped Company is paid for
what it can find. Piece-work, what? Work for the guillotine!

And they it is who keep the guillotine busy. Too busy in fact. And the
court of justice sitting in the Hôtel du Département is overworked too.
Carrier gets impatient. Why waste the time of patriots by so much
paraphernalia of justice? Wolves and wolflings can be exterminated so
much more quickly, more easily than that. It only needs a stroke of
genius, one stroke, and Carrier has it.

He invents the Noyades!

The Drownages we may call them!

They are so simple! An old flat-bottomed barge. The work of two or three
ship's carpenters! Portholes below the water-line and made to open at a
given moment. All so very, very simple. Then a journey downstream as far
as Belle Isle or la Maréchale, and "sentence of deportation" executed
without any trouble on a whole crowd of traitors--"vertical deportation"
Carrier calls it facetiously and is mightily proud of his invention and
of his witticism too.

The first attempt was highly successful. Ninety priests, and not one
escaped. Think of the work it would have entailed on the guillotine--and
on the friends of Carrier who sit in justice in the Hôtel du
Département! Ninety heads! Bah! That old flat-bottomed barge is the most
wonderful labour-saving machine.

After that the "Drownages" become the order of the day. The red-capped
Company recruits victims for the hecatomb and over Nantes Town there
hangs a pall of unspeakable horror. The prisons are not vast enough to
hold all the victims, so the huge entrepôt, the bonded warehouse on the
quay, is converted: instead of chests of coffee it is now encumbered
with human freight: into it pell-mell are thrown all those who are
destined to assuage Carrier's passion for killing: ten thousand of them:
men, women, and young children, counter-revolutionists, innocent
tradesmen, thieves, aristocrats, criminals, and women of evil fame--they
are herded together like cattle, without straw whereon to lie, without
water, without fire, with barely food enough to keep up the last
attenuated thread of a miserable existence.

And when the warehouse gets over full, to the Loire with them!--a
hundred or two at a time! Pestilence, dysentery decimates their numbers.
Under pretence of hygienic requirements two hundred are flung into the
river on the 14th day of December. Two hundred--many of them
women--crowds of children and a batch of parish priests.

Some there are among Carrier's colleagues--those up in Paris--who
protest! Such wholesale butchery will not redound to the credit of any
revolutionary government--it even savours of treachery--it is
unpatriotic! There are the emissaries of the National Convention,
deputed from Paris to supervise and control--they protest as much as
they dare--but such men are swept off their feet by the torrent of
Carrier's gluttony for blood. Carrier's mission is to "purge the
political body of every evil that infests it." Vague and yet precise! He
reckons that he has full powers and thinks he can flaunt those powers in
the face of those sent to control him. He does it too for three whole
months ere he in his turn meets his doom. But for the moment he is
omnipotent. He has to make report every week to the Committee of Public
Safety, and he sends brief, garbled versions of his doings. 'He is
pacifying La Vendée! he is stamping out the remnants of the rebellion!
he is purging the political body of every evil that infests it.' Anon he
succeeds in getting the emissaries of the National Convention recalled.
He is impatient of control. 'They are weak, pusillanimous, unpatriotic!
He must have freedom to act for the best.'

After that he remains virtual dictator, with none but obsequious,
terrified myrmidons around him: these are too weak to oppose him in any
way. And the municipality dare not protest either--nor the district
council--nor the departmental. They are merely sheep who watch others of
their flock being sent to the slaughter.

After that from within his lair the man tiger decides that it is a pity
to waste good barges on the cattle: 'Fling them out!' he cries. 'Fling
them out! Tie two and two together. Man and woman! criminal and aristo!
the theif and the ci-devant duke's daughter! the ci-devant marquis with
the slut from the streets! Fling them all out together into the Loire
and pour a hail of grape shot above them until the last struggler has
disappeared! Equality!' he cries, 'Equality for all! Fraternity! Unity
in death!'

His friends call this new invention of his: 'Marriage Républican!' and
he is pleased with the mot.

And Republican marriages become the order of the day.

II

Nantes itself now is akin to a desert--a desert wherein the air is
filled with weird sounds of cries and of moans, of furtive footsteps
scurrying away into dark and secluded byways, of musketry and confused
noises, of sorrow and of lamentations.

Nantes is a city of the dead--a city of sleepers. Only Carrier is
awake--thinking and devising and planning shorter ways and swifter, for
the extermination of traitors.

In the Hôtel de la Villestreux the tiger has built his lair: at the apex
of the island of Feydeau, with the windows of the hotel facing straight
down the Loire. From here there is a magnificent view downstream upon
the quays which are now deserted and upon the once prosperous port of
Nantes.

The staircase of the hotel which leads up to the apartments of the
proconsul is crowded every day and all day with suppliants and with
petitioners, with the citizens of the household and the members of the
Compagnie Marat. But no one has access to the person of the dictator. He
stands aloof, apart, hidden from the eyes of the world, a mysterious
personality whose word sends hundreds to their death, whose arbitrary
will has reduced a once flourishing city to abject poverty and squalor.
No tyrant has ever surrounded himself with a greater paraphernalia of
pomp and circumstance--no aristo has ever dwelt in greater luxury: the
spoils of churches and chateaux fill the Hôtel de la Villestreux from
attic to cellar, gold and silver plate adorn his table, priceless works
of art hang upon his walls, he lolls on couches and chairs which have
been the resting place of kings. The wholesale spoliation of the entire
country-side has filled the demagogue's abode with all that is most
sumptuous in the land.

And he himself is far more inaccessible than was le Roi Soleil in the
days of his most towering arrogance, than were the Popes in the glorious
days of medieval Rome. Jean Baptiste Carrier, the son of a small farmer,
the obscure deputy for Cantal in the National Convention, dwells in the
Hôtel de la Villestreux as in a stronghold. No one is allowed near him
save a few--a very few--intimates: his valet, two or three women, Fleury
the commander of the Marats, and that strange and abominable youngster,
Jacques Lalouëtm about whom the chroniclers of that tragic epoch can
tell us so little--a cynical young braggart, said to be a cousin of
Robespierre and the son of a midwife of Nantes, beardless, handsome and
vicious: the only human being--so we are told--who had any influence
over the sinister proconsul: mere hanger-on of Carrier or spy of the
National Convention, no one can say--a malignant personality which has
remained an enigma and a mystery to this hour.

None but these few are ever allowed now inside the inner sanctuary
wherein dwells and schemes the dictator. Even Lamberty, Fouquet and the
others of the staff are kept at arm's length. Martin-Roget, Chauvelin
and other strangers are only allowed as far as the ante-room. The door
of the inner chamber is left open and they hear the proconsul's voice
and see his silhouette pass and repass in front of them, but that is
all.

Fear of assassination--the inevitable destiny of the tyrant--haunts the
man-tiger even within the fastnesses of his lair. Day and night a
carriage with four horses stands in readiness on La Petite Hollande, the
great, open, tree-bordered Place at the extreme end of the Isle Feydeau
and on which give the windows of the Hôtel de la Villestreux. Day and
night the carriage is ready--with coachman on the box and postillion in
the saddle, who are relieved every two hours lest they get sleepy or
slack--with luggage in the boot and provisions always kept fresh inside
the coach; everything always ready lest something--a warning from a
friend or a threat from an enemy, or merely a sudden access of
unreasoning terror, the haunting memory of a bloody act--should decide
the tyrant at a moment's notice to fly from the scenes of his
brutalities.

III

Carrier in the small room which he has fitted up for himself as a
sumptuous boudoir, paces up and down just like a wild beast in its cage:
and he rubs his large bony hands together with the excitement engendered
by his own cruelties, by the success of this wholesale butchery which he
has invented and carried through.

There never was an uglier man than Carrier, with that long hatchet-face
of his, those abnormally high cheek bones, that stiff, lanky hair, that
drooping, flaccid mouth and protruding underlip. Nature seemed to have
set herself the task of making the face of a true mirror of the
soul--the dark and hideous soul on which of a surety Satan had already
set his stamp. But he is dressed with scrupulous care--not to say
elegance--and with a display of jewelry the provenance of which is as
unjustifiable as that of the works of art which fill his private sanctum
in every nook and cranny.

In front of the tall window, heavy curtains of crimson damask are drawn
closely together, in order to shut out the light of day: the room is in
all but total darkness: for that is the proconsul's latest caprice: that
no one shall see him save in semi-obscurity.

Captain Fleury has stumbled into the room, swearing lustily as he barks
his shins against the angle of a priceless Louis XV bureau. He has to
make report on the work done by the Compagnie Marat. Fifty-three priests
from the department of Anjou who have refused to take the new oath of
obedience to the government of the Republic. The red-capped Company who
tracked them down and arrested them, vow that all these calotins have
precious objects--money, jewelry, gold plate--concealed about their
persons. What is to be done about these things? Are the calotins to be
allowed to keep them or to dispose of them for their own profit?

Carrier is highly delighted. What a haul!

'Confiscate everything,' he cries, 'then ship the whole crowd of that
pestilential rabble, and don't let me hear another word about them.'

Fleury goes. And that same night fifty-three priests are 'shipped' in
accordance with the orders of the proconsul, and Carrier, still rubbing
his large bony hands contentedly together, exclaims with glee:

'What a torrent, eh! What a torrent! What a revolution!'

And he sends a letter to Robespierre. And to the Committee of Public
Safety he makes report:

'Public spirit in Nantes,' he writes, 'is magnificent: it has risen to
the most sublime heights of revolutionary ideals.'

IV

After the departure of Fleury, Carrier suddenly turned to a slender
youth, who was standing close by the window, gazing out through the
folds of the curtain on the fine vista of the Loire and the quays which
stretched out before him.

'Introduce citizen Martin-Roget into the ante-room now, Lalouët,' he
said loftily. 'I will hear what he has to say, and citizen Chauvelin may
present himself at the same time.'

Young Lalouët lolled across the room, smothering a yawn.

'Why should you trouble about all that rabble?' he said roughly, 'it is
nearly dinner-time and you know that the chef hates the soup to be kept
waiting.'

'I shall not trouble about them very long,' replied Carrier, who had
just started picking his teeth with a tiny gold tool. 'Open the door,
boy, and let the two men come.'

Lalouët did as he was told. The door through which he passed he left
wide open, he then crossed the ante-room to a further door, threw it
open and called in a loud voice:

'Citizen Chauvelin! Citizen Martin-Roget!'

For all the world like the ceremonious audiences at Versailles in the
days of the great Louis.

There was sound of eager whisperings, of shuffling of feet, of chairs
dragged across the polished floor. Young Lalouët had already and quite
unconcernedly turned his back on the two men who, at his call, had
entered the room.

Two chairs were placed in front of the door which led to the private
sanctuary--still wrapped in religious obscurity--where Carrier sat
enthroned. The youth curtly pointed to the two chairs, then went back to
the inner room. The two men advanced. The full light of midday fell upon
them from the tall window on their right--the pale, grey, colourless
light of December. They bowed slightly in the direction of the audience
chamber where the vague silhouette of the proconsul was alone visible.

The whole thing was a farce. Martin-Roget held his lips tightly closed
together lest a curse or a sneer escaped them. Chauvelin's face was
impenetrable--but it is worthy of note that just one year later when the
half-demented tyrant was in his turn brought before the bar of the
convention and sentenced to the guillotine, it was citizen Chauvelin's
testimony which weighed most heavily against him.

There was silence for a time: Martin-Roget and Chauvelin were waiting
for the dictator's word. He sat at his desk with the scanty light, which
filtrated between the curtains, immediately behind him, his ungainly
form with the high shoulders and mop-like, shaggy hair half swallowed up
by the surrounding gloom. He was deliberately keeping the other two men
waiting and busied himself with turning over desultorily the papers and
writing tools upon his desk, in the intervals of picking at his teeth
and muttering to himself all the time as was his wont. Young Lalouët had
resumed his post beside the curtained window and he was giving sundry
signs of his growing impatience.

At last Carrier spoke:

'And now, citizen Martin-Roget,' he said in tones of that lofty
condescension which he loved to affect, 'I am prepared to hear what you
have to tell me with regard to the cattle which you brought into our
city the other day. Where are the aristos now? and why have they not
been handed over to commandant Fleury?'

'The girl,' replied Martin-Roget, who had much ado to keep his vehement
temper in check, and who chose for the moment to ignore the second of
Carrier's peremptory queries, 'the girl is in lodgings in the Carrefour
de la Poissonnerie. The house is kept by my sister, whose lover was
hanged four years ago by the ci-devant duc de Kernogan for trapping two
pigeons. A dozen or so lads from our old village--men who worked with my
father and others who were my friends--lodge in my sister's house. They
keep a watchful eye over the wench for the sake of the past, for my sake
and for the sake of my sister Louise. The ci-devant Kernogan woman is
well-guarded. I am satisfied as to that.'

'And where is the ci-devant duc?'

'In the house next door--a tavern at the sign of the Rat Mort--a place
which is none too reputable, but the landlord--Lemoine---is a good
patriot and he is keeping a close eye on the aristo for me.'

'And now will you tell me, citizen,' rejoined Carrier with that unctuous
suavity which always veiled a threat, 'will you tell me how it comes
that you are keeping a couple of traitors alive all this while at the
country's expense?'

'At mine,' broke in Martin-Roget curtly.

'At the country's expense,' reiterated the proconsul inflexibly. 'Bread
is scarce in Nantes. What traitors eat is stolen from good patriots. If
you can afford to fill two mouths at your expense, I can supply you with
some that have never done aught but proclaim their adherence to the
Republic. You have had these two aristos inside the city nearly a week
and---'

'Only three days,' interposed Martin-Roget, 'and you must have patience
with me, citizen Carrier. Remember I hae done well by you, by bringing
such high game to your bag---'

'Your high game will be no use to me,' retorted the other with a harsh
laugh, 'if I am not to have the cooking of it. You have talked of
disgrace for the rabble and of your own desire for vengeance over them,
but---'

'Wait, citizen,' broke in Martin-Roget firmly, 'let us understand one
another. Before I embarked on this business you gave me your promise
that no one--not even you--would interfere between me and my booty.'

'And no one has done so hitherto to my knowledge, citizen,' rejoined
Carrier blandly. 'The Kernogan rabble has been yours to do with what you
like--er--so far,' he added significantly. 'I said that I would not
interfere and I have not done so up to now, even though the pestilential
crowd stinks in the nostrils of every good patriot in Nantes. But I
don't deny that it was a bargain that you should have a free hand with
them...for a time, and Jean Baptiste Carrier has never yet gone back on
a given word.'

Martin-Roget made no comment on this peroration. He shrugged his broad
shoulders and suddenly fell to contemplating the distant landscape. He
had turned his head away in order to hide the sneer which curled his
lips at the recollection of that 'bargain' struck with the imperious
proconsul. It was a matter of five thousand francs which had passed from
one pocket to the other and had bound Carrier down to definite promise.

After a brief while Carrier resumed: 'At the same time,' he said, 'my
promise was conditional, remember. I want that cattle out of Nantes--I
want the bread they eat--I want the room they occupy. I can't allow you
to play fast and loose with them indefinitely--a week is quite long
enough--'

'Three days,' corrected Martin-Roget once more.

'Well! three days or eight,' rejoined the other roughly. 'Too long in
any case. I must be rid of them out of this city or I shall have all the
spies of the Convention about mine ears. I am beset with spies, citizen
Martin-Roget, yes, even I--Jean Baptiste Carrier--the most selfless, the
most devoted patriot the Republic has ever known! Mine enemies up in
Paris send spies to dog my footsteps, to watch mine every action. They
are ready to pounce upon me at the slightest slip, to denounce me, to
drag me to their bar--they have already whetted the knife of the
guillotine which is to lay low the head of the finest patriot in
France--'

'Hold on! hold on, Jean Baptiste my friend,' here broke in young Lalouët
with a sneer, 'we don't want protestations of your patriotism just now.
It is nearly dinner time.'

Carrier had been carried away by his own eloquence. At Lalouët's mocking
words he pulled himself together: murmured: 'You young viper!' in tones
of tigerish affection, and then turned back to Martin-Roget and resumed
more calmly:

'They'll be saying that I harbour aristos in Nantes if I keep that
Kernogan rabble here any longer. So I must be rid of them, citizen
Martin-Roget...say within the next four-and-twenty hours...' He paused
for a moment or two, then added drily: 'That is my last word, and you
must see to it. What is it you do want to do with them enfin?'

'I want their death,' replied Martin-Roget with a curse, and he brought
his heavy fist crashing down upon the arm of his chair, 'but not a
martyr's death, understand? I don't want the pathetic figure of Yvonne
Kernogan and her father to remain as a picture of patient resignation in
the hearts and minds of every other aristo in the land. I don't want it
to excite pity or admiration. Death is nothing for such as they! they
glory in it! they are proud to die. The guillotine is their final
triumph! What I want for them is shame... degradation...a sensational
trial that will cover them with dishonour...I want their name dragged in
the mire--themselves an object of derision or of loathing. I want
articles in the Moniteur giving account of the trial of the ci-devant
duc de Kernogan and his daughter for something that is ignominious and
base. I want shame and mud slung at them--noise and beating of drums to
proclaim their dishonour. Noise! noise! that will reach every corner of
the land, aye that will reach Coblentz and Germany and England. It is
that which they would resent--the shame of it--the disgrace of their
name!'

'Tshaw!' exclaimed Carrier. 'Why don't you marry the wench, citizen
Martin-Roget? That would be disgrace enough for her, I'll warrant,' he
added with a loud laugh, enchanted at his witticism.

'I would to-morrow,' replied the other, who chose to ignore the coarse
insult, 'if she would consent. That is why I have kept her at my
sister's house these three days.'

'Bah! you have no need of a traitor's consent. My consent is
sufficient...I'll give it if you like. The laws of the Republic permit,
nay desire every good patriot to ally himself with an aristo, if he have
a mind. And the Kernogan wench face to face with the guillotine--or
worse--would surely prefer your embraces, citizen, what?'

A deep frown settled between Martin-Roget's glowering eyes, and gave his
face a sinister expression.

'I wonder...' he muttered between his teeth.

'Then cease wondering, citizen,' retorted Carrier cynically, 'and try
our Republican marriage on your Kernogans...thief linked aristo,
cut-throat to a proud wench...and then the Loire! Shame? Dishonour? Fal
lal I say! Death, swift and sure and unerring. Nothing better has yet
been invented for traitors.'

Martin-Roget shrugged his shoulders.

'You have never known,' he said quietly, 'what it is to hate.'

Carrier uttered an exclamation of impatience.

'Bah!' he said, 'that is all talk and nonsense. Theories, what? Citizen
Chauvelin is a living example of the futility of all that rubbish. He
too has an enemy it seems whom he hates more thoroughly than any good
patriot has ever hated the enemies of the Republic. And hath this deadly
hatred availed him, forsooth? He too wanted the disgrace and dishonour
of that confounded Englishman whom I would simply have tossed into the
Loire long ago, without further process. What is the result? The
Englishman is over in England, safe and sound, making long noses at
citizen Chauvelin, who has much ado to keep his own head out of the
guillotine.'

Martin-Roget once more was silent: a look of sullen obstinacy had
settled upon his face.

'You may be right, citizen Carrier,' he muttered after awhile.

'I am always right,' broke in Carrier curtly.

'Exactly...but I have your promise.'

'And I'll keep it, as I have said, for another four and twenty hours.
Curse you for a mulish fool,' added the proconsul with a snarl, 'what in
the d--l's name do you want to do? You have talked a vast deal of
rubbish but you have told me nothing to your plans. Have you any... that
are worthy of my attention?'

V

Martin-Roget rose from his seat and began pacing up and down the narrow
room. His nerves were obviously on edge. It was difficult for any
man--let alone one of his temperament and half-tutored disposition--to
remain calm and deferential in face of the overbearance of this brutal
Jack-in-office. Martin-Roget--himself an upstart--loathed the offensive
self-assertion of that uneducated and bestial parvenu, who had become
all-powerful through the sole might of his savagery, and it cost him a
mighty effort to keep a violent retort from escaping his lips--a retort
which probably would have cose him his head.

Chauvelin, on the other hand, appeared perfectly unconcerned. He
possessed the art of outward placidity to a masterly degree. Throughout
all this while he had taken no part in the discussion. He sat silent and
all but motionless, facing the darkened room in front of him, as if he
had done nothing else in all his life but interview great dictators who
chose to keep their sacred persons in the dark. Only from time to time
did his slender fingers drum a tattoo on the arm of his chair.

Carrier had resumed his interesting occupation of picking his teeth: his
long, thin legs were stretched out before him; from beneath his flaccid
lids he shot swift glances upwards, whenever Martin-Roget in his
restless pacing crossed and recrossed in frong of the open door. But
anon, when the latter came to a halt under the lintel and with his foot
almost across the threshold, young Lalouët was upon him in an instant,
barring the way to the inner sanctum.

'Keep your distance, citizen,' he said drily, 'no one is allowed to
enter here.'

Instinctively Martin-Roget had drawn back--suddenly awed despite himself
by the air of mystery which hung over that darkened room, and by the dim
silhouette of the sinister tyrant who at his approach had with equal
suddenness cowered in his lair, drawing his limbs together and thrusting
his head forward, low down over the desk, like a leopard crouching for a
spring. But this spell of awe only lasted a few seconds, during which
Martin-Roget's unsteady gaze encountered the half-mocking, wholly
supercilious glance of young Lalouët.

The next, he had recovered his presence of mind. But this crowning act
of audacious insolence broke the barrier of his self-restraint. An angry
oath escaped him.

'Are we,' he exclaimed roughly, 'back in the days of Capet, the tyrant,
and of Versailles, that patriots and citizens are treated like menials
and obtrusive slaves? Pardieu, citizen Carrier, let me tell you this...'

'Pardieu, citizen Martin-Roget,' retorted Carrier with a growl like that
of a savage dog, 'let me tell you that for less than two pins I'll throw
you into the next barge that will float with open portholes down the
Loire. Get out of my presence, you swine, ere I call Fleury to throw you
out.'

Martin-Roget at the insult and the threat had become as pale as the
linen at his throat: a cold sweat broke out upon his forehead and he
passed his hand two or three times across his brow like a man dazed with
a sudden and violent blow. His nerves, already overstrained and very
much on edge, gave way completely. He staggered and would have measured
his length across the floor, but that his hand encountered the back of
his chair and he just contrived to sink into it, sick and faint,
horror-struck and pallid.

A low cackle--something like a laugh--broke from Chauvelin's thin lips.
As usual he had witnessed the scene quite unmoved.

'My friend Martin-Roget forgot himself for the moment, citizen Carrier,'
he said suavely, 'already he is ready to make amends.'

Jacques Lalouët looked down for a moment with infinite scorn expressed
in his fine eyes, on the presumptuous creature who had dared to defy the
omnipotent representative of the People. Then he turned on his heel, but
he did not go far this time: he remained standing close beside the
door--the terrier guarding his master.

Carrier laughed loud and long. It was a hideous, strident laugh which
had not a tone of merriment in it.

'Wake up, friend Martin-Roget,' he said harshly, 'I bear no malice: I am
a good dog when I am treated the right way. But if any one pulls my tail
or treads on my paws, why! I snarl and growl of course. If the offense
is repeated...I bite...remember that; and now let us resume our
discourse, though I confess I am getting tired of your Kernogan rabble.'

While the great man spoke, Martin-Roget had succeeded in pullin himself
together. His throat felt parched, his hands hot and moist: he was like
a man who had been stumbling along a road in the dark and been suddenly
pulled up on the edge of a yawning abyss into which he had all but
fallen. With a few harsh words, with a monstrous insult Carrier had made
him feel the gigantic power which could hurl any man from the heights of
self-assurance and of ambition to the lowest depths of degradation: he
had shown him the glint of steel upon the guillotine.

He had been hit as with a sledge-hammer--the blow hurt terribly, for it
had knocked all his self-esteem into nothingness and pulverized his
self-conceit. It had in one moment turned him into a humble and cringing
sycophant.

'I had no mind,' he began tentatively, 'to give offence. My thoughts
were bent on the Kernogans. They are a find haul for us both, citizen
Carrier, and I worked hard and long to obtain their confidence over in
England and to induce them to come with me to Nantes.'

'No one denies that you have done well,' retorted Carrier gruffly and
not yet wholly pacified. 'If the haul had not been worth having you
would have received no help from me.'

'I have shown my gratitude for your help, citizen Carrier. I would show
it again...more substantially if you desire...'

He spoke slowly and quite deferentially but the suggestion was obvious.
Carrier looked up into his face: the light of measureless cupidity--the
cupidity of the coarse-grained, enriched peasant--glittered in his pale
eyes. It was by a great effort of will that he succeeded in concealing
his eagerness beneath his habitual air of lofty condescension:

'Eh? What?' he queried airily.

'If another five thousand francs is of any use to you...'

'You seem passing rich, Martin-Roget,' sneered Carrier.

'I have slaved and saved for four years. What I have amassed I will
sacrifice for the complettion of my revenge.'

'Well!' rejoined Carrier with an expressive wave of the hand, 'it
certainly is not good for a pure-minded republican to own too much
wealth. Have we not fought,' he continued with a grandiloquent gesture,
'for equality of fortune as well as of privileges...'

A sardonic laugh from young Lalouët broke in on the proconsul's eloquent
effusion.

Carrier swore as was his wont, but after a second or two he began again
more quietly:

'I will accept a further six thousand francs from you, citizen
Martin-Roget, in the name of the Republic and all her needs. The
Republic of France is up in arms against the entire world. She hath need
of men, of arms, of...'

'Oh! cut that,' interposed young Lalouët roughly.

But the over-vain, high and mighty despot who was ready to lash out with
unbridled fury against the slightest show of disrespect on the part of
any other man, only laughed at the boy's impudence.

'Curse you, you young viper,' he said with that rude familiarity which
he seemed to reserve for the boy, 'you presume too much on my
forbearance. These children you know, citizen...Name of a dog!' he added
roughly, 'we are wasting time! What was I saying...?'

'That you would take six thousand francs,' replied Martin-Roget curtly,
'in return for further help in the matter of the Kernogans.'

'Why, yes!' rejoined Carrier blandly, 'I was forgetting. But I'll show
you what a good dog I am. I'll help you with those Kernogans...but you
mistook my words, citizen: 'tis ten thousand francs you must pour into
the coffers of the Republic, for her servants will have to be placed at
the disposal of your private schemes of vengeance.'

'Ten thousand francs is a large sum,' said Martin-Roget. 'Let me hear
what you will do for me for that.'

He had regained something of his former complacency. The man who
buys--be it goods, consciences or services--is always for the moment
master of the man who sells. Carrier, despite his dictatorial ways, felt
this disadvantage, no doubt, for his tone was more bland, his manner
less curt. Only young Jacques Lalouët stood by--like a snarling
terrier--still arrogant and still disdainful--the master of the
situation--seeing that neither schemes of vengeance nor those of
corruption had ruffled his self-assurance. He remained beside the door,
ready to pounce on either of the two intruders if they showed the
slightest sign of forgetting the majesty of the great proconsul.

VI

'I told you just now, citizen Martin-Roget,' resumed Carrier after a
brief pause, 'and I suppose you knew it already, that I am surrounded
with spies.'

'Spies, citizen?' murmured Martin-Roget, somewhat taken aback by this
sudden irrelevance. 'I didn't know...I imagine...Any one in your
position...'

'That's just it,' broke in Carrier roughly. 'My position is envied by
those who are less competent, less patriotic than I am. Nantes is
swarming with spies. Mine enemies in Paris are working against me. They
want to undermine the confidence which the National Convention reposes
in her accredited representative.'

'Preposterous,' ejaculated young Lalouët solemnly.

'Well!' rejoined Carrier with a savage oath, 'you would have thought
that the Convention would be only too thankful to get a strong man at
the head of affairs in this hotbed of treason and of rebellion. You
would have thought that it was no one's affair to interfere with the
manner in which I administer the powers that have been given me. I
command in Nantes, what? Yet some busy-bodies up in Paris, some fools,
seem to think that we are going too fast in Nantes. They have become
weaklings over there since Marat has gone. It seems that they have heard
rumours of our flat-bottomed barges and of our fine Republican
marriages: apparently they disapprove of both. They don't realize that
we have to purge an entire city of every kind of rabble--traitors as
well as criminals. They don't understand my aspirations, my ideals,' he
added loftily and with a wide, sweeping gesture of his arm, 'which is to
make Nantes a model city, to free her from the taint of crime and of
treachery, and...'

An impatient exclamation from young Lalouët once again broke in on
Carrier's rhetoric, and Martin-Roget was able to slip in the query which
had been hovering on his lips:

'And is this relevant, citizen Carrier,' he asked, 'to the subject which
we have been discussing?'

'It is,' replied Carrier drily, 'as you will see in a moment. Learn
then, that it has been my purpose for some time to silence mine enemies
by sending to the National Convention a tangible reply to all the
accusations which have been levelled against me. It is my purpose to
explain to the Assembly my reasons for mine actions in Nantes, my
Drownages, my Republican marriages, all the coercive measures which I
have been forced to take in order to purge the city from all that is
undesirable.'

'And think you, citizen Carrier,' queried Martin-Roget without the
slightest trace of a sneer, 'that up in Paris they will understand your
explanations?'

'Yes! they will--they must when they realize that everything that I have
done has been necessitated by the exigencies of public safety.'

'They will be slow to realize that,' mused the other. 'The National
Convention to-day is not what the Constitutional Assembly was in '92. It
has become soft and sentimental. Many there are who will disapprove of
your doings...Robespierre talks loftily of the dignity of the
Republic...her impartial justice...The Girondins...'

Carrier interposed with a coarse imprecation. He suddenly leaned
forward, sprawling right across the desk. A shaft of light from between
the damask curtains caught the end of his nose and the tip of his
protruding chin, distorting his face and making it seem grotesque as
well as hideous in the dim light. He appeared excited and inflated with
vanity. He always gloried in the atrocities which he committed, and
though he professed to look with contempt on every one of his
colleagues, he was always glad of an opportunity to display his
inventive powers before them, and to obtain their fulsome eulogy.

'I know well enough what they talk about in Paris,' he said, 'but I have
an answer--a substantial, definite answer for all their rubbish. Dignity
of the Republic? Bah! Impartial justice? 'Tis force, strength, Spartan
vigour that we want...and I'll show them...Listen to my plan, citizen
Martin-Roget, and see how it will work in with yours. My idea is to
collect together all the most disreputable and notorious evil-doers of
this city...there are plenty in the entrepôt at the present moment, and
there are plenty more still at large in the streets of Nantes--thieves,
malefactors, forgers of State bonds, assassins and women of evil
fame...and to send them in a batch to Paris to appear before the
Committee of Public Safety, whilst I will send to my colleagues there a
letter couched in terms of gentle reproach: "See!" I shall say, "what I
have to content with in Nantes. See! the moral pestilence that infests
the city. These evil-doers are but a few among the hundreds and
thousands of whom I am vainly trying to purge this city which you have
entrusted to my care!" They won't know how to deal with the rabble,' he
continued with his harsh strident laugh. 'They may send them to the
guillotine wholesale or deport them to Cayenne, and they will have to
give them some semblance of a trial in any case. But they will have to
admit that my severe measures are justified, and in future, I imagine,
they will leave me more severly alone.'

'If as you say,' urged Martin-Roget, 'the National Convention give your
crowd a trial, you will have to produce some witnesses.'

'So I will,' retorted Carrier cynically. 'So I will. Have I not said
that I wil round up all the most noted evil-doers in the town. There are
plenty of them I assure you. Lately, my Company Marat have not greatly
troubled about them. After Savenay there was such a crowd of rebels to
deal with, there was no room in our prisons for malefactors as well. But
we can easily lay our hands on a couple of hundred or so, and members of
the municipality or of the district council, or tradespeople of
substance in the city will only be too glad to b rid of them, and will
testify against those that were actually caught red-handed. Not one but
has suffered from the pestilential rabble that has infested the streets
at night, and lately I have been pestered with complaints of all these
night-birds--men and women and...'

Suddenly he paused. He had caught Martin-Roget's feverish gaze fixed
excitedly upon him. Whereupon he leaned back in his chair, threw his
head back and broke into loud and immoderate laughter.

'By the devil and all his myrmidons, citizen!' he said, as soon as he
had recovered his breath, 'meseems you have tumbled to my meaning as a
pig into a heap of garbage. Is not ten thousand francs far too small a
sum to pay for such a perfect realization of all your dreams? We'll send
the Kernogan girl and her father to Paris with the herd, what?...I
promise you that such filth and mud will be thrown on them and on their
precious name that no one will care to bear it for centuries to come.'

Martin-Roget of a truth had much ado to control his own excitement. As
the proconsul unfolded his infamous plan, he had at once seen as in a
vision the realization of all his hopes. What more awful humiliation,
what more dire disgrace could be devised for proud Kernogan and his
daughter than being herded together with the vilest scum that could be
gathered together among the flotsam and jetsam of the population of a
seaport town. What more perfect realization could there be for the
ignominious death of Jean Adet the miller?

Martin-Roget leaned forward in his chair. The hideous figure of Carrier
was no longer hideous to him. He saw in that misshapen, gawky form the
very embodiment of the god of vengeance, the wielder of the flail of
retributive justice which was about to strike the guilty at last.

'You are right, citizen Carrier,' he said, and his voice was thick and
hoarse with excitement. He rested his elbow on his knee and his chin in
his hand. He hammered his nails against his teeth. 'That was exactly in
my mind while you spoke.'

'I am always right,' retorted Carrier loftily. 'No one knows better than
I do how to deal with traitors.'

'And how is the whole thing to be accomplished? The wench is in my
sister's house at present...the father is in the Rat Mort...'

'And the Rat Mort is an excellent place...I know of none better. It is
one of the worst-famed houses in the whole of Nantes...the meeting-place
of all the vagabonds, the thieves and the cut-throats of the city.'

'Yes! I know that to my cost. My sister's house is next door to it. At
night the street is not safe for decent females to be abroad: and though
there is a platoon of Marats on guard at Le Bouffay close by, they do
nothing to free the neighbourhood of that pest.'

'Bah!' retorted Carrier with cynical indifference, 'they have more
important quarry to net. Rebels and traitors swarm in Nantes, what?
Commandant Fleury has had no time hitherto to waste on mere cut-throats,
although I had thoughts before now of razing the place to the ground.
Citizen Lamberty has his lodgings on the other side and he does nothing
but complain of the brawls that go on there o' nights. Sure it is that
while a stone of the Rat Mort remains standing all the night-hawks of
Nantes will congregate around it and brew mischief there which is no
good to me and no good to the Republic.'

'Yes! I know all about the Rat Mort. I found a night's shelter there
four years ago when...'

'When the ci-devant duc de Kernogan was busy hanging your father--the
miller--for a crime which he never committed. Well then, citizen
Martin-Roget,' continued Carrier with one of his hideous leers, 'since
you know the Rat Mort so well what say you to your fair and stately
Yvonne de Kernogan and her father being captured there in the company of
the lowest scum of the population of Nantes?'

'You mean...?' murmured Martin-Roget, who had become livid with
excitement.

'I mean that my Marats have orders to raid some of the haunts of our
Nantese cut-throats, and that they may as well begin to-night and with
the Rat Mort. They will make a descent on the house and a thorough
perquisition, and every person--man, woman and child--found on the
premises will be arrested and sent with a batch of malefactors to Paris,
there to be tried as felons and criminals and deported to Cayenne where
they will, I trust, rot as convicts in that pestilential climate. Think
you,' concluded the odious creature with a sneer, 'that when put face to
face with the alternative, your Kernogan wench will still refuse to
become the wife of a fine patriot like yourself?'

'I don't know,' murmured Martin-Roget. 'I...I...'

'But I do know,' broke in Carrier roughly, 'that ten thousand francs is
far too little to pay for so brilliant a realization of all one's hopes.
Ten thousand francs? 'Tis an hundred thousand you should give to show
your gratitude.'

Martin-Roget rose and stretched his large, heavy figure to its full
height. He was at great pains to conceal the utter contempt which he
felt for the abominable wretch before whom he was forced to cringe.

'You shall have ten thousand francs, citizen Carrier,' he said slowly;
'it is all that I possess in the world now--the last remaining fragment
of a sum of twenty-five thousand francs which I earned and scraped
together for the past four years. You have had five thousand francs
already. And you shall have the other ten. I do not grudge it. If twenty
years of my life were any use to you, I would give you that, in exchange
for the help you are giving me in what means far more than life to me.'

The proconsul laughed and shrugged his shoulders--of a truth he thought
citizen Martin-Roget an awful fool.

'Very well then,' he said, 'we will call the matter settled. I confess
that it amuses me, although remember that I have warned you. With all
these aristos, I believe in the potency of my barges rather than in your
elaborate schemes. Still! it shall never be said that Jean Baptiste
Carrier has left a friend in the lurch.'

'I am grateful for your help, citizen Carrier,' said Martin-Roget
coldly. Then he added slowly, as if reviewing the situation in his own
mind: 'To-night, you say?'

'Yes. To-night. My Marats under the command of citizen Fleury will make
a descent upon the Rat Mort. Those shall be my orders. The place will be
swept clean of every man, woman and child who is inside. If your two
Kernogans are there...well!' he said with a cynical laught and a shrug
of his shoulders, 'they can be sent up to Paris with the rest of the
herd.'

'The dinner bell has gone long ago,' here interposed young Lalouët
drily, 'the soup will be stone-cold and the chef red-hot with anger.'

'You are right, citizen Lalouët,' said Carrier as he leaned back in his
chair once more and stretched out his long legs at his ease. 'We have
wasted far too much time already over the affairs of a couple of
aristos, who ought to have been at the bottom of the Loire a week ago.
The audience is ended,' he added airily, and he made a gesture of
overweening condescension, for all the world like the one wherewith the
Grand Monarque was wont to dismiss his courtiers.

Chauvelin rose too and quietly turned to the door. He had not spoken a
word for the past half-hour, ever since in fact he had put in a
conciliatory word on behalf of his impetuous colleague. Whether he had
taken an active interest in the conversation or not it were impossible
to say. But now, just as he was ready to go, and young Lalouët prepared
to close the doors of the audience chamber, something seemed suddenly to
occur to him and he called somewhat peremptorily to the young man.

'One moment, citizen,' he said.

'What is it now?' queried the youth insolently, and from his fine eyes
there shot a glance of contempt on the meagre figure of the once
powerful Terrorist.

'About the Kernogan wench,' continued Chauvelin. 'She will have to be
conveyed some time before night to the tavern next door. There may be
agencies at work on her behalf...'

'Agencies?' broke in the boy gruffly. 'What agencies?'

'Oh!' said Chauvelin vaguely, 'we all know that aristos have powerful
friends these days. It will not be over safe to take the girl across
after dark from one house to another...the alley is badly lighted: the
wench will not go willingly. She might scream and create a disturbance
and draw...er...those same unknown agencies to her rescue. I think a
body of Marats should be told off to convey her to the Rat Mort...'

Young Lalouët shrugged his shoulders.

'That's your affair,' he said curtly, 'Eh, Carrier?' And he glanced over
his shoulder at the proconsul, who at once assented.

Martin-Roget--struck by his colleague's argument--would have interposed,
but Carrier broke in with one of his uncontrolled outbursts of fury.

'Ah ça,' he exclaimed, 'enough of this now. Citizen Lalouët is right and
I have done enough for you already. If you want the Kernogan wench to be
at the Rat Mort, you must see to getting her there yourself. She is next
door, what? I won't have anything to do with it and I won't have my
Marats implicated in the affair either. Name of a dog! have I not told
you that I am beset with spies. It would of a truth be a climax if I was
denounced as having dragged aristos to a house of ill-fame and then had
them arrested there as malefactors! Now out with you! I have had enough
of this! If your rabble is at the Rat Mort to-night, they shall be
arrested with all the other cut-throats. That is my last word. The rest
is your affair. Lalouët! the door!'

And without another word, and without listening to further protests from
Martin-Roget or Chauvelin, Jacques Lalouët closed the doors of the
audience chamber in their face.

VII

Outside on the landing, Martin-Roget swore a violent, all comprehensive
oath.

'To think that we are under the heel of that skunk!' he said.

'And that in the pursuit of our own ends we have need of his help!'
added Chauvelin with a sigh.

'If it were not for that...And even now,' continued Martin-Roget
moodily, 'I doubt what I can do. Yvonne de Kernogan will not follow me
willingly either to the Rat Mort or elsewhere, and if I am not to have
her conveyed by the guard...'

He paused and swore again. His companion's silence appeared to irritate
him.

'What do you advise me to do, citizen Chauvelin?' he asked.

'For the moment,' replied Chauvelin imperturbably, 'I should advise you
to join me in a walk along the quay as far as Le Bouffay. I have work to
see to inside the building and the north-westerly wind is sure to be of
good counsel.'

An angry retort hovered on Martin-Roget's lips, but after a second or
two he succeeded in holding his irascible temper in check. He gave a
quick sigh of impatience.

'Very well,' he said curtly. 'Let us to Le Bouffay by all means. I have
much to think on, and as you say the north-westerly wind may blow away
the cobwebs which for the nonce do o'ercloud my brain.'

And the two men wrapped their mantles closely round their shoulders, for
the air was keen. Then they descended the staircase of the hotel and
went out into the street.



Chapter Two - Le Bouffay

I

In the centre of the Place the guillotine stood idle--the paint had worn
off her sides--she looked weather-beaten and forlorn--stern and
forbidding still, but in a kind of sullen loneliness, with the ugly
stains of crimson on her, turned to rust and grime.

The Place itself was deserted, in strange contrast to the bustle and the
movement which characterized it in the days when the death of men, women
and children was a daily spectacle here for the crowd. Then a constant
stream of traffic, of carts and of tumbrils, of soldiers and gaffers
encumbered it in every corner, now a few tumble-down booths set up
against the frontage of the grim edifice--once the stronghold of the
Dukes of Brittany, now little else but a huge prison--a few vendors and
still fewer purchasers of the scanty wares displayed under their ragged
awnings, one or two idlers loafing against the mud-stained walls, one or
two urchins playing in the gutters were the only signs of life.
Martin-Roget with his colleague Chauvelin turned into the Place from the
quay--they walked rapidly and kept their mantles closely wrapped under
their chin, for the afternoon had turned bitterly cold. It was then
close upon five o'clock--a dark, moonless, starless night had set in
with only a suspicion of frost in the damp air; but a blustering
north-westerly wind blowing down the river and tearing round the narrow
streets and the open Place, caused passers-by to muffle themselves,
shivering, yet tighter in their cloaks.

Martin-Roget was talking volubly and excitedly, his tall, broad figure
towering above the slender form of his companion. From time to time he
tossed his mantle aside with an impatient, febrile gesture and then
paused in the middle of the Place, with one hand on the other man's
shoulder, marking a point in his discourse or emphasizing his argument
with short staccato sentences and brief, emphatic words.
Chauvelin--placid and impenetrable as usual--listened much and talked
little. He was ready to stand still or to walk along just as his
colleague's mood demanded; in the darkness, and with the collar of a
large mantle pulled tightly up to his ears, it was impossible to guess
by any sign in his face what was going on in his mind.

They were a strange contrast these two men--temperamentally as well as
physically--even though they had so much in common and were both the
direct products of the same social upheaval which was shaking the
archaic dominion of France to its very foundations. Martin-Roget, tall,
broad-shouldered, bull-necked, the typical self-educated peasant, with
square jaw and flat head, with wide bony hands and spatulated fingers:
and Chauvelin--the aristocrat turned demagogue, thin and frail-looking,
bland of manner and suave of speech, with delicate hands and pale,
almost ascetic face.

The one represented all that was most brutish and sensual in this fight
of one caste against the other, the thirst for the other's blood, the
human beast that has been brought to bay through wrongs perpetrated
against it by others and has turned upon its oppressors, lashing out
right and left with blind and lustful fury at the crowd of tyrants that
had kept him in subjection for so long. Whilst Chauvelin was the
personification of the spiritual side of this bloody Revolution--the
spirit of cool and calculating reprisals that would demand an eye for an
eye and see that it got two. The idealist who dreams of the
righteousness of his own cause and the destruction of its enemies, but
who leaves to others the accomplishment of all the carnage and the
bloodshed which his idealism has demanded, and which his reason has
appraised as necessary for the triumph of which he dreams. Chauvelin was
the man of thought and Martin-Roget the man of action. With the one,
revenge and reprisals were selfish desires, the avenging of wrongs done
to himself or to his caste, hatred for those who had injured him or his
kindred. The other had no personal feelings of hatred: he had no
personal wrongs to avenge: his enemies were the enemies of his party,
the erstwhile tyrants who in the past had oppressed an entire people.
Every man, woman or child who was not satisfied with the present Reign
of Terror, who plotted or planned for its overthrow, who was not ready
to see husband, father, wife or child sacrificed for the ultimate
triumph of the Revolution was in Chauvelin's sight a noxious creature,
fit only to be trodden under heel and ground into subjection or
annihilation as a danger to the State.

Martin-Roget was the personification of sans-culottism, of rough manners
and foul speech--he chafed against the conventions which forced him to
wear decent clothes and boots on his feet--he would gladly have seen
every one go about the streets half-naked, unwashed, a living sign of
that downward levelling of castes which he and his friends stood for,
and for which they had fought and striven and committed every crime
which human passions let loose could invent. Chauvelin, on the other
hand, was one of those who wore fine linen and buckled shoes and whose
hands were delicately washed and perfumed whilst they signed decrees
which sent hundreds of women and children to a violent and cruel death.

The one trod in the paths of Danton: the other followed in the footsteps
of Robespierre.

II

Together the two men mounted the outside staircase which leads up past
the lodge of the concierge and through the clerk's office to the
interior of the stronghold. Outside the monumental doors they had to
wait a moment or two while the clerk examined their permits to enter.

'Will you come into my office with me?' asked Chauvelin of his
companion; 'I have a word or two to add to my report for the Paris
courier to-night. I won't be long.'

'You are still in touch with the Committee of Public Safety then?' asked
Martin-Roget.

'Always,' replied the other curtly.

Martin-Roget threw a quick, suspicious glance on his companion. Darkness
and the broad brim of his sugar-loaf hat effectually concealed even the
outlines of Chauvelin's face, and Martin-Roget fell to musing over one
or two things which Carrier had blurted out awhile ago. The whole of
France was overrun with spies these days--every one was under suspicion,
every one had to be on his guard. Every word was overheard, every glance
seen, every sign noted.

What was this man Chauvelin doing here in Nantes? what reports did he
send up to Paris by special courier? He, the miserable failure who had
ceased to count was nevertheless in constant touch with that awful
Committee of Public Safety which was wont to strike at all times and
unexpectedly in the dark. Martin-Roget shivered beneath his mantle. For
the first time since his schemes of vengeance had wholly absorbed his
mind he regretted the freedom and safety which he had enjoyed in
England, and he marvelled if the miserable game which he was playing
would be worth the winning in the end. Nevertheless he had followed
Chauvelin without comment. The man appeared to exercise a fascination
over him--a kind of subtle power, which emanated from his small shrunken
figure, from his pale keen eyes and his well-modulated, suave mode of
speech.

III

The clerk had handed the two men their permits back. They were allowed
to pass through the gates.

In the hall some half-dozen men were nominally on guard--nominally,
because discipline was not over strict these days, and the men sat or
lolled about the place; two of them were intent on a game of dominoes,
another was watching them, whilst the other three were settling some
sort of quarrel among themselves which necessitated vigorous and
emphatic gestures and the copious use of expletives. One man, who
appeared to be in command, divided his time impartially between the
domino-players and those who were quarrelling.

The vast place was insufficiently lighted by a chandelier which hung
from the ceiling and a couple of small oil-lamps placed in the circular
niches in the wall opposite the front door.

No one took any notice of Martin-Roget or of Chauvelin as they crossed
the hall, and presently the latter pushed open a door on the left of the
main gates and held it open for his colleague to pass through.

'You are sure that I shall not be disturbing you?' queried Martin-Roget.

'Quite sure,' replied the other curtly. 'And there is something I must
say to you...where I know that I shall not be overheard.'

Then he followed Martin-Roget into the room and closed the door behind
him. The room was scantily furnished with a square deal table in the
centre, two or three chairs, a broken-down bureau leaning against one
wall and an iron stove wherein a meagre fire sent a stream of malodorous
smoke through sundry cracks in its chimney-pipe. From the ceiling there
hung an oil-lamp the light of which was thrown down upon the table, by a
large green shade made of cardboard.

Chauvelin drew a chair to the bureau and sat down; he pointed to another
and Martin-Roget took a seat beside the table. He felt restless and
excited--his nerves all on the jar: his colleague's calm, sardonic
glance acted as a further irritant to his temper.

'What is it that you wish to say to me, citizen Chauvelin?' he asked at
last.

'Just a word, citizen,' replied the other in his quiet urbane manner. 'I
have accompanied you faithfully on your journey to England: I have
placed my feeble powers at your disposal: awhile ago I stood between you
and the proconsul's wrath. This, I think, has earned me the right of
asking what you intend to do.'

'I don't know about the right,' retorted Martin-Roget gruffly, 'but I
don't mind telling you. As you remarked awhile ago the North-West wind
is wont to be of good counsel. I have thought the matter over whilst I
walked with you along the quay and I have decided to act on Carrier's
suggestion. Our eminent proconsul said just now that it was the duty of
every true patriot to marry an aristo, an he be free and Chance puts a
comely wench in his way. I mean,' he added with a cynical laugh, 'to act
on that advice and marry Yvonne de Kernogan...if I can.'

'She has refused you up to now?'

'Yes...up to now.'

'You have threatened her--and her father?'

'Yes--both. Not only with death but with shame.'

'And still she refuses?'

'Apparently,' said Martin-Roget with every-growing irritation.

'It is often difficult,' rejoined Chauvelin meditatively, 'to compel
these aristos. They are obstinate...'

'Oh! don't forget that I am in a position now to bring additional
pressure on the wench. That lout Carrier has splendid ideas--a brute,
what? but clever and full of resource. That suggestion of his about the
Rat Mort is splendid...'

'You mean to try and act on it?'

'Of course I do,' said Martin-Roget roughly. 'I am going over presently
to my sister's house to see the Kernogan wench again, and to have
another talk with her. Then if she still refuses, if she still chooses
to scorn the honourable position which I offer her, I shall act on
Carrier's suggestion. It will be at the Rat Mort to-night that she and I
will have our final interview, and there when I dangle the prospect of
Cayenne and the convict's brand before her, she may not prove so
obdurate as she has been up to now.'

'H'm! That is as may be,' was Chauvelin's dry comment. 'Personally I am
inclined to agree with Carrier. Death, swift and sure--the Loire or the
guillotine--is the best that has yet been invented for traitors and
aristos. But we won't discuss that again. I know your feelings in the
matter and in a measure I respect them. But if you will allow me I would
like to be present at your interview with the soi-disant Lady Anthony
Dewhurst. I won't disturb you and I won't say a word...but there is
something I would like to make sure of...'

'What is that?'

'Whether the wench has any hopes...' said Chauvelin slowly, 'whether she
has received a message or has any premonition... whether in short she
thinks that outside agencies are at work on her behalf.'

'Tshaw!' exclaimed Martin-Roget impatiently, 'you are still harping on
that Scarlet Pimpernel idea.'

'I am,' retorted the other drily.

'As you please. But understand, citizen Chauvelin, that I will not allow
you to interfere with my plans, whilst you go off on one of those
wild-goose chases which have already twice brought you into disrepute.'

'I will not interfere with your plans, citizen,' rejoined Chauvelin with
unwonted gentleness, 'but let me in my turn impress one thing upon you,
and that is that unless you are as wary as the serpent, as cunning as
the fox, all your precious plans will be upset by that interfering
Englishman whom you choose to disregard.'

'What do you mean?'

'I mean that I know him--to my cost--and you do not. But you will, an I
am not gravely mistaken, make acquaintance with him ere your great
adventure with these Kernogan people is successfuly at an end. Believe
me, citizen Martin-Roget,' he added impressively, 'you would have been
far wiser to accept Carrier's suggestion and let him fling that rabble
into the Loire for you.'

'Pshaw! you are not childish enough to imagine, citizen Chauvelin, that
your Englishman can spirit away that wench from under my sister's eyes?
Do you know what my sister suffered at the hands of the Kernogans? Do
you think that she is like to forget my father's ignominious death any
more than I am? And she mourns a lover as well as a father--she mourns
her youth, her happiness, the mother whom she worshipped. Think you a
better gaoler could be found anywhere? And there are friends of
mine--lads of our own village, men who hate the Kernogans as bitterly as
I do myself--who are only too ready to lend Louise a hand in case of
violence. And after that--suppose your magnificent Scarlet Pimpernel
succeeded in hoodwinking my sister and in evading the vigilance of a
score of determined village lads, who would sooner die one by one than
see the Kernogan escape--suppose all that, I say, there would still be
the guard at every city gate to challenge. No! no! it couldn't be done,
citizen Chauvelin,' he added with a complacent laugh. 'Your Englishman
would need the help of a legion of angels, what? to get the wench out of
Nantes this time.'

Chauvelin made no comment on his colleague's impassioned harangue.
Memory had taken him back to that one day in September in Boulogne when
he too had set one prisoner to guard a precious hostage: it brought back
to his mind a vision of a strangely picturesque figure as it appeared to
him in the window-embrasure of the old castle-hall: it brought back to
his ears the echo of that quaint, irresponsible laughter, of that lazy,
drawling speech, of all that had acted as an irritant on his nerves ere
he found himself baffled, foiled, eating out his heart with vain
reproach at his own folly.

'I see you are unconvinced, citizen Martin-Roget,' he said quietly, 'and
I know that it is the fashion nowadays among young politicians to sneer
at Chauvelin--the living embodiment of failure. But let me just add
this. When you and I talked matters over together at the Bottom Inn, in
the wilds of Somersetshire, I warned you that not only was your identity
known to the man who calls himself the Scarlet Pimpernel, but also that
he knew every one of your plans with regard to the Kernogan wench and
her father. You laughed at me them...do you remember?...you shrugged
your shoulders and jeered at what you called my far-fetched ideas...just
as you do now. Well! will you let me remind you of what happened within
four-and-twenty hours of that warning which you chose to
disregard?...Yvonne de Kernogan was married to Lord Anthony Dewhurst
and...'

'I know all that, man,' broke in Martin-Roget impatiently. 'It was all a
mere coincidence...the marriage must have been planned long before
that...your Scarlet Pimpernel could not possibly have had anything to do
with it.'

'Perhaps not,' rejoined Chauvelin drily. 'But mark what has happened
since. Just now when we crossed the Place I saw in the distance a figure
flitting past--the gorgeous figure of an exquisite who of a surety is a
stranger in Nantes: and carried upon the wings of the north-westerly
wind there came to me the sound of a voice which, of late, I have only
heard in my dreams. On my soul, citizen Martin-Roget,' he added with
earnest emphasis, 'I assure you that the Scarlet Pimpernel is in Nantes
at the present moment, that he is scheming, plotting, planning to rescue
the Kernogan wench, out of you clutches. He will not leave her in your
power, on this I would stake my life; she is the wife of one of his
dearest friends: he will not abandon her, not while he keeps that
resourceful head of his on his shoulders. Unless you are desperately
careful he will outwit you; of that I am as convinced as that I am
alive.'

'Bah! you have been dreaming, citizen Chauvelin,' rejoined Martin-Roget
with a laugh and shrugging his broad shoulders; 'your mysterious
Englishman in Nantes? Why man! the navigation of the Loire has been
totally prohibited these last fourteen days--no carriage, van or vehicle
of any kind is allowed to enter the city--no man, woman or child to pass
the barriers without special permit signed either by the proconsul
himself or by Fleury the captain of the Marats. Why! even I, when I
brought the Kernogans in overland from Le Croisic, I was detained two
hours outside Nantes while my papers were sent in to Carrier for
inspection. You know that, you were with me.'

'I know it,' replied Chauvelin drily, 'and yet...'

He paused, with one clawlike finger held erect to demand attention. The
door of the small room in which they sat gave on the big hall where the
half-dozen Marats were stationed, the single window at right angles to
the door looked out upon the Place below. It was from there that
suddenly there came the sound of a loud peal of laughter--quaint and
merry--somewhat inane and affected, and at the sound Chauvelin's pale
face took on the hue of ashes and even Martin-Roget felt a strange
sensation of cold creeping down his spine.

For a few seconds the two men remained quite still, as if a spell had
been cast over them through that light-hearted peal of rippling
laughter. Then equally suddenly the younger man shook himself free of
the spell; with a few long strides he was already at the door and out in
the vast hall: Chauvelin following closely on his heels.

IV

The clock in the tower of the edifice was even then striking five. The
Marats in the hall looked up with lazy indifference at the two men who
had come rushing out in such an abrupt and excited manner.

'Any stranger been through here?' queried Chauvelin peremptorily of the
sergeant in command.

'No,' replied the latter curtly. 'How could they, without a permit?'

He shrugged his shoulders and the men resumed their game and their
argument. Martin-Roget would have parleyed with them but Chauvelin had
already crossed the hall and was striding past the clerk's office and
the lodge of the concierge out toward the open. Martin-Roget, after a
moment's hestitation, followed him.

The Place was wrapped in gloom. From the platform of the guillotine an
oil-lamp hoisted on a post threw a small circle of light around. Small
pieces of tallow candle, set in pewter sconces, glimmered feebly under
the awnings of the booths, and there was a street-lamp affixed to the
wall of the old château immediately below the parapet of the staircase,
and others at the angles of the Rue de la Monnaye and the narrow Ruelle
des Jacobins.

Chauvelin's keen eyes tried to pierce the surrounding darkness. He
leaned over the parapet and peered into the remote angles of the
building and round the booths below him.

There were a few people on the Place, some walking rapidly across from
one end to the other, intent on business, others pausing in order to
make purchases at the booths. Up and down the steps of the guillotine a
group of street urchins were playing hide-and-seek. Round the angles of
the narrow streets the vague figures of passers-by flitted to and fro,
now easily discernible in the light of the street lanthorns, anon
swallowed up again in the darkness beyond. Whilst immediately below the
parapet two or three men of the Company Marat were lounging against the
walls. Their red bonnets showed up clearly in the flickering light of
the street lamps, as did their bare shins and the polished points of
their sabots. But of an elegant, picturesque figure such as Chauvelin
had described awhile ago there was not a sign.

Martin-Roget leaned over the parapet and called peremptorily:

'Hey there! citizens of the Company Marat!'

One of the red-capped men looked up leisurely.

'Your desire, citizen?' he queried with insolent deliberation, for they
were mighty men, this bodyguard of the great proconsul, his spies and
tools in the awesome work of frightfulness which he carried on so
ruthlessly.

'Is that you Paul Friche?' queried Martin-Roget in response.

'At your service, citizen,' came the glib reply, delivered not without
mock deference.

'Then come up here. I wish to speak with you.'

'I can't leave my post, nor can my mates,' retorted the man who had
answered to the name of Paul Friche. 'Come down, citizen, an you desire
to speak with us.'

Martin-Roget swore lustily.

'The insolence of that rabble...' he murmured.

'Hush! I'll go,' interposed Chauvelin quickly. 'Do you know that man
Friche? Is he trustworthy?'

'Yes, I know him. As for being trustworthy...' added Martin Roget with a
shrug of the shoulders. 'He is a corporal in the Marats and high in
favour with commandant Fleury.'

Every second was of value, and Chauvelin was not the man to waste time
in useless parleyings. He ran down the stairs at the foot of which one
of the red-capped gentry deigned to speak with him.

'Have you seen any strangers across the Place just now?' he queried in a
whisper.

'Yes,' replied the man Friche. 'Two!'

Then he spat upon the ground and added spitefully: 'Aristos, what? In
fine clothes--like yourself citizen...'

'Which way did they go?'

'Down the Ruelle des Jacobins.'

'When?'

'Two minutes ago.'

'Why did you not follow them?...Aristos and...'

'I would have followed,' retorted Paul Friche with studied insolence;
''twas you called me away from my duty.'

'After them then!' urged Chauvelin peremptorily. 'They cannot have gone
far. They are English spies, and remember, citizen, that there's a
reward for their apprehension.'

The man grunted an eager assent. The word 'reward' had fired his zeal.
In a trice he had called to his mates and the three Marats soon sped
across the Place and down the Ruelle des Jacobins where the surrounding
gloom quickly swallowed them up.

Chauvelin watched them till they were out of sight, then he rejoined his
colleagues on the landing at the top of the stairs. For a second or two
longer the click of the men's sabots upon the stones resounded on the
adjoining streets and across the Place, and suddenly that same quaint,
merry, somewhat inane laugh woke the echoes of the grim buildings around
and caused many a head to turn inquiringly, marvelling who it could be
that had the heart to laugh these days in the streets of Nantes.

V

Five minutes or so later the three Marats could vaguely be seen
recrossing the Place and making their way back to Le Bouffay, where
Martin-Roget and Chauvelin still stood on the top of the stairs excited
and expectant. At sight of the men Chauvelin ran down the steps to meet
them.

'Well?' he queried in an eager whisper.

'We never saw them,' replied Paul Friche gruffly, 'though we could hear
them clearly enough, talking, laughing and walking very rapidly toward
the quay. Then suddenly the earth or the river swallowed them up. We saw
and heard nothing more.'

Chauvelin swore and a curious hissing sound escaped his thin lips.

'Don't be too disappointed, citizen,' added the man with a coarse laugh,
'my mate picked this up at the corner of the Ruelle, when, I fancy, we
were pressing the aristos pretty closely.'

He held out a small bundle of papers tied together with a piece of red
ribbon: the bundle had evidently rolled in the mud, for the papers were
covered with grime, Chauvelin's thin, claw-like fingers had at once
closed over them.

'You must give me back those papers, citizen,' said the man, 'they are
my booty. I can only give them up to citizen-captain Fleury.'

'I'll give them to the citizen-captain myself,' retorted Chauvelin. 'For
the moment you had best not leave your post of duty,' he added more
peremptorily, seeing that the man made as he would follow him.

'I take orders from no one except...' protested the man gruffly.

'You will take them from me now,' broke in Chauvelin with a sudden
assumption of command and authority which sat with weird strangeness
upon his thin shrunken figure. 'Go back to your post at once, ere I
lodge a complain against you for neglect of duty, with the citizen
proconsul.'

He turned on his heel and, without paying further heed to the man and
his mutterings, he remounted the stone stairs.

'No success, I suppose?' queried Martin-Roget.

'None,' replied Chauvelin curtly.

He had the packet of papers tightly clasped in his hand. He was debating
in his mind whether he would speak of them to his colleague or not.

'What did Friche say?' asked the latter impatiently.

'Oh! very little. He and his mates caught sight of the strangers and
followed them as far as the quays. But they were walking very fast and
suddenly the Marats lost their trace in the darkness. It seemed,
according to Paul Friche, as if the earth or the night had swallowed
them up.'

'And was that all?'

'Yes. That was all.'

'I wonder,' added Martin-Roget with a light laugh and a careless shrug
of his wide shoulders, 'I wonder if you and I, citizen Chauvelin--and
Paul Friche too for that matter---have been the victims of our nerves.'

'I wonder,' assented Chauvelin drily. And--quite quietly--he slipped the
packet of papers in the pockets of his coat.

'Then we may as well adjourn. There is nothing else you wish to say to
me about that enigmatic Scarlet Pimpernel of yours?'

'No--nothing.'

'And you still would like to hear what the Kernogan wench will say and
see how she will look when I put my final proposal to her?'

'If you will allow me.'

'Then come,' said Martin-Roget. 'My sister's house is close by.'


Chapter Three - The Fowlers

I

In order to reach the Carrefour de la Poissonnerie the two men had to
skirt the whole edifice of Le Bouffay, walk a little along the quay and
turn up the narrow alley opposite the bridge. They walked on in silence,
each absorbed in his own thoughts.

The house occupied by the citizeness Adet lay back a little from the
others in the street. It was one of an irregular row of mean, squalid,
tumble-down houses, some of them little more than lean-to-sheds built
into the walls of Le Bouffay. Most of them had overhanging roofs which
stretched out like awnings more than half-way across the road, and even
at midday shut out any little ray of sunshine which might have a
tendency to peep into the street below.

In this year II of the Republic the Carrefour de la Poissonnerie was
unpaved, dark and evil-smelling. For two thirds of the year it was
ankle-deep in mud: the rest of the time the mud was baked into cakes and
emitted clouds of sticky dust under the shuffling feet of the
passers-by. At night it was dimly lighted by one or two broken-down
lanthorns which were hung on transverse chains overhead from house to
house. These lanthorns only made a very small circle of light
immediately below them: the rest of the street was left in darkness save
for the faint glimmer which filtrated through an occasional ill-fitting
doorway or through the chinks of some insecurely fastened shutter.

The Carrefour de la Poissonnerie was practically deserted in the
daytime; only a few children--miserable little atoms of humanity showing
their meagre, emaciated bodies through the scanty rags which failed to
cover their nakedness--played weird, mirthless games in the mud and
filth of the street. But at night it became strangely peopled with vague
and furtive forms that were wont to glide swiftly by, beneath the
hanging lanthorns, in order to lose themselves again in the welcome
obscurity beyond: men and women--ill-clothed and unshod, with hands
buried in pockets or beneath scanty shawls--their feet, oft-times bare,
making no sound as they went squishing through the mud. A perpetual
silence used to reign in this kingdom of squalor and of darkness, where
nighthawks alone fluttered their wings; only from time to time a joyless
greeting of boon-companions, or the hoarse cough of some wretched
consumptive would wake the dormant echoes that lingered in the gloom.

II

Martin-Roget knew his way about the murky street well enough. He went up
to the house which lay a little back from the others. It appeared even
more squalid than the rest, not a sound came from within--hardly a
light--only a narrow glimmer found its way through the chink of a
shutter on the floor above. To right and left of it the houses were
tall, with walls that reeked of damp and of filth: from one of
these--the one on the left--an iron sign dangled and creaked dismally as
it swung in the wind. Just above the sign there was a window with
partially closed shutters: through it came the sound of two husky voices
raised in heated arguments.

In the open space in front of Louise Adet's house vague forms standing
about or lounging against the walls of the neighbouring houses were
vaguely discernible in the gloom. Martin-Roget and Chauvelin as they
approached were challenged by a raucous voice which came to them out of
the inky blackness around.

'Halt! who goes there?'

'Friends!' replied Martin-Roget promptly. 'Is citizeness Adet within?'

'Yes! she is!' retorted the man bluntly; 'excuse me, friend Adet--I did
not know you in this confounded darkness.'

'No harm done,' said Martin-Roget. 'And it is I who am grateful to you
all for your vigilance.'

'Oh!' said the other with a laugh, 'there's not much fear of your bird
getting out of its cage. Have no fear, friend Adet! That Kernogan rabble
is well looked after.'

The small group dispersed in the darkness and Martin-Roget rapped
against the door of his sister's house with his knuckles.

'That is the Rat Mort,' he said, indicating the building on his left
with a nod of the head. 'A very unpleasant neighbourhood for my sister,
and she has oft complained of it--but name of a dog! won't it prove
useful this night?'

Chauvelin had as usual followed his colleague in silence, but his keen
eyes had not failed to note the presence of the village lads of whom
Martin-Roget had spoken. There are no eyes so watchful as those of hate,
nor is there aught so incorruptible. Every one of these men here had an
old wrong to avenge, an old score to settle with those ci-devant
Kernogans who had once been their masters and who were so completely in
their power now. Louise Adet had gathered round her a far more efficient
bodyguard than even the proconsul could hope to have.

A moment or two later the door was opened, softly and cautiously, and
Martin-Roget asked: 'Is that you, Louise?' for of a truth the darkness
was almost deeper within than without, and he could not see who it was
that was standing by the door.

'Yes! it is,' replied a weary and querulous voice. 'Enter quickly. The
wind is cruel, and I can't keep myself warm. Who is with you, Pierre?'

'A friend,' said Martin-Roget drily. 'We want to see the aristo.'

The woman without further comment closed the door behind the new-comers.
The place now was as dark as pitch, but she seemed to know her way about
like a cat, for her shuffling footsteps were heard moving about
unerringly. A moment or two later she opened another door opposite the
front entrance, revealing an inner room--a sort of kitchen--which was
lighted by a small lamp.

'You can go straight up,' she called curtly to the two men.

The narrow, winding staircase was divided from this kitchen by a wooden
partition. Martin-Roget, closely followed by Chauvelin, went up the
stairs. On the top of these there was a tiny landing with a door on
either side of it. Martin-Roget without any ceremony pushed open the
door on his right with his foot.

A tallow candle fixed in a bottle and placed in the centre of a table in
the middle of the room flickered in the draught as the door flew open.
It was bare of everything save a table and a chair, and a bundle of
straw in one corner. The tiny window at right angles to the door was
innocent of glass, and the north-westerly wind came in an icy stream
through the aperture. On the table, in addition to the candle, there was
a broken pitcher half-filled with water, and a small chunk of brown
bread blotched with stains of mould.

On the chair beside the table and immediately facing the door sat Yvonne
Lady Dewhurst. On the wall above her head a hand unused to calligraphy
had traced in clumsy characters the words: 'Liberté! Fraternité!
Egalité!' and below that 'ou la Mort.'

III

The men entered the narrow room and Chauvelin carefully closed the door
behind him. He at once withdrew into a remote corner of the room and
stood there quite still, wrapped in his mantle, a small, silent,
mysterious figure on which Yvonne fixed dark, inquiring eyes.

Martin-Roget, restless and excited, paced up and down the small space
like a wild animal in a cage. From time to time exclamations of
impatience escaped him and he struck one fist repeatedly against his
open palm. Yvonne followed his movements with a quiet, uninterested
glance, but Chauvelin paid no heed whatever to him.

He was watching Yvonne ceaselessly, and closely.

Three days' incarceration in this wind-swept attic, the lack of decent
food and of warmth, the want of sleep and the horror of her present
position all following upon the soul-agony which she had endured when
she was forcibly torn away from her dear milor, had left their mark on
Yvonne Dewhurst's fresh young face. The look of gravity which had always
sat so quaintly on her piquant features had now changed to one of deep
and abiding sorrow: her large dark eyes were circled and sunk: they had
in them the unnatural glow of fever, as well as the settled look of
horror and of pathetic resignation. Her soft brown hair had lost its
lustre: her cheeks were drawn and absolutely colourless.

Martin-Roget paused in his restless walk. For a moment he stood silent
and absorbed, contemplating by the flickering light of the candle all
the havoc which his brutality had wrought upon Yvonne's dainty face.

But Yvonne after a while ceased to look at him--she appeared to be
unconscious of the gaze of these two men, each of whom was at this
moment only thinking of the evil which he meant to inflict upon
her--each of whom only thought of her as a helpless bird whom he had at
last ensnared and whom he could crush to death as soon as he felt so
inclined.

She kept her lips tightly closed and her head averted. She was gazing
across at the unglazed window into the obscurity beyond, marvelling in
what direction lay the sea and the shores of England.

Martin-Roget crossed his arms over his broad chest and clutched his
elbows with his hands with an obvious effort to keep control over his
movements and his temper in check. The quiet, almost indifferent
attitude of the girl was exasperating to his over-strung nerves.

'Look here, my girl,' he said at last roughly and peremptorily, 'I had
an interview with the proconsul this afternoon. He chides me for my
leniency toward you. Three days he thinks is far too long to keep
traitors eating the bread of honest citizens and taking up valuable
space in our city. Yesterday I made a proposal to you. Have you thought
on it?'

Yvonne made no reply. She was still gazing out into nothingness and just
at that moment she was very far away from the narrow, squalid room and
the company of these two inhuman brutes. She was thinking of her dear
milor and of that lovely home at Combwich wherein she had spent three
such unforgettable days. She was remembering how beautiful had been the
colour of the bare twigs in the chestnut coppice when the wintry sun
danced through and in between them and drew fantastic patterns of living
gold upon the carpet of dead leaves; and she remembered too how
exquisite were the tints of russet and blue on the distant hills, and
how quaintly the thrushes had called: 'Kiss me quick!' She saw again
those trembling leaves of a delicious faintly crimson hue which still
hung upon the branches of the scarlet oak, and the early flowering heath
which clothed the moors with a gorgeous mantle of rosy amethyst.

Martin-Roget's harsh voice brought her abruptly back to the hideous
reality of the moment.

'Your obstinacy will avail you nothing,' he said, speaking quietly, even
though a note of intense irritation was distinctly perceptible in his
voice. 'The proconsul has given me a further delay wherein to deal
leniently with you and with your father if I am so minded. You know what
I have proposed to you: Life with me as my wife--in which case your
father will be free to return to England or to go to the devils as he
pleases--or the death of a malefactor for you both in the company of all
the thieves and evil-doers who are mouldering in the prisons of Nantes
at this moment. Another delay wherein to choose between an honourable
life and a shameful death. The proconsul waits. But to-night he must
have his answer.'

Then Yvonne turned her head slowly and looked calmly on her enemy.

'The tyrant who murders innocent men, women and children,' she said,
'can have his answer now. I choose death which is inevitable in
preference to a life of shame.'

'You seem,' he retorted, 'to have lost sight of the fact that the law
gives me the right to take by force that which you so obstinately
refuse.'

'Have I not said,' she replied, 'that death is my choice? Life with you
would be a life a shame.'

'I can get a priest to marry us without your consent: and your religion
forbids you to take your own life,' he said with a sneer.

To this she made no reply, but he knew that he had his answer.
Smothering a curse, he resumed after a while:

'So you prefer to drag your father to death with you? Yet he has begged
you to consider your decision and to listen to reason. He has given his
consent to our marriage.'

'Let me see my father,' she retorted firmly, 'and hear him say that with
his own lips.'

'Ah!' she added quickly, for at her words Martin-Roget had turned his
head away and shrugged his shoulders with well-assumed indifference,
'you cannot and dare not let me see him. For three days now you have
kept us apart and no doubt fed us both up with your lies. My father is
duc de Kernogan, Marquis de Trentemoult,' she added proudly, 'he would
far rather die side by side with his daughter than see her wedded to a
criminal.'

'And you, my girl,' rejoined Martin-Roget coldly, 'would you see your
father branded as a malefactor, linked to a thief and sent to perish in
the Loire?'

'My father,' she retorted, 'will die as he has lived, a brave and
honourable gentleman. The brand of a malefactor cannot cling to his
name. Sorrow we are ready to endure--death is less than nothing to
us--we will but follow in the footsteps of our King and of our Queen and
of many whom we care for and whom you and your proconsul and your
colleagues have brutally murdered. Shame cannot touch us, and our honour
and our pride are so far beyond your reach that your impious and
blood-stained hands can never sully them.'

She had spoken very slowly and very quietly. There were no heroics about
her attitude. Even Martin-Roget--callous brute though he was--felt that
she had only spoken just as she felt, and that nothing that he might
say, no plea that he might urge, would ever shake her determination.

'Then it seems to me,' he said, 'that I am only wasting my time by
trying to make you see reason and common-sense. You look upon me as a
brute. Well! perhaps I am. At any rate I am that which your father and
you have made me. Four years ago, when you had power over me and over
mine, you brutalized us. To-day we--the people--are your masters and we
make you suffer, not for all--that were impossible--but for part of what
you made us suffer. That, after all, is only bare justice. By making you
my wife I would have saved you from death--not from humiliation, for
that you must endure, and at my hands in a full measure--but I would
have made you my wife because I still have pleasant recollections of
that kiss which I snatched from you on that never-to-be-forgotten night
and in the darkness--a kiss for which you would gladly have seen me hang
then, if you could have laid hands on me.'

He paused, trying to read what was going on behind those fine eyes of
hers, with their vacant, far-seeing gaze which seemed like another
barrier between her and him. At this rough allusion to that moment of
horror and of shame, she had not moved a muscle, nor did her gaze lose
its fixity.

He laughed.

'It is an unpleasant recollection, eh, my proud lady? The first kiss of
passion was not implanted on your exquisite lips by that fine gentleman
whom you deemed worthy of your hand and your love, but by Pierre Adet,
the miller's son, what? a creature not quite so human as your horse or
your pet dog. Neither you nor I are like to forget that methinks...'

Yvonne vouchsafed no reply to the taunt, and for a moment there was
silence in the room, until Chauvelin's thin, suave voice broke in quite
gently:

'Do not lose your patience with the wench, citizen Martin-Roget. Your
time is too precious to be wasted in useless recriminations.'

'I have finished with her,' retorted the other sullenly. 'She shall be
dealt with now as I think best. I agree with citizen Carrier. He is
right after all. To the Loire with the lot of that foul brood!'

'Nay!' here rejoined Chauvelin with placid urbanity, 'are you not a
little harsh, citizen, with our fair Yvonne? Remember! Women have moods
and megrims. What they indignantly refuse to yield to us one day, they
will grant with a smile the next. Our beautiful Yvonne is no exception
to this rule, I'll warrant.'

Even while he spoke he threw a glance of warning on his colleague. There
was something enigmatic in his manner at this moment, in the strange
suavity wherewith he spoke these words of conciliation and of
gentleness. Martin-Roget was as usual ready with an impatient retort. He
was in a mood to bully and to brutalize, to heap threat upon threat, to
win by frightfulness that which he could not gain by persuasion. Perhaps
that at this moment he desired Yvonne de Kernogan for wife, more even
than he desired her death. At any rate his headstrong temper was ready
to chafe against any warning or advice. But once again Chauvelin's
stronger mentality dominated over his less resolute colleague.
Martin-Roget--the fowler--was in his turn caught in the net of a keener
snarer than himself, and whilst--with the obstinacy of the weak--he was
making mental resolutions to rebuke Chauvelin for his interference later
on, he had already fallen in with the latter's attitude.

'The wench has had three whole days wherein to alter her present mood,'
he said more quietly, 'and you know yourself, citizen, that the
proconsul will not wait after to-day.'

'The day is young yet,' rejoined Chauvelin. 'It still hath six hours to
its credit...Six hours...Three hundred and sixty minutes!' he contined
with a pleasant little laugh; 'time enough for a woman to change her
mind three hundred and sixty times. Let me advise you, citizen, to leave
the wench to her own meditations for the present, and I trust that she
will accept the advise of a man who has a sincere regard for her beauty
and her charms and who is old enough to be her father, and seriously
think the situation over in a conciliatory spirit. M. le duc de Kernogan
will be grateful to her, for of a truth he is not over happy either at
the moment...and will be still less happy in the dépôt to-morrow: it is
over-crowded, and typhus, I fear me, is rampant among the prisoners. He
has, I am convinced--in spite of what the citizeness says to the
contrary--a rooted objection to being hurled into the Loire, or to be
arraigned before the bar of the Convention, not as an aristocrat and a
traitor but as an unit of an undesirable herd of criminals sent up to
Paris for trial, by an anxious and harried proconsul. There! there!' he
added benignly, 'we will not worry our fair Yvonne any longer, will we,
citizen? I think she has grasped the alternative and will soon realize
that marriage with an honourable patriot is not such an untoward fate
after all.'

'And now, citizen Martin-Roget,' he concluded, 'I pray you allow me to
take my leave of the fair lady and to give you the wise recommendation
to do likewise. She will be far better alone for awhile. Night brings
good counsel, so they say.'

He watched the girl keenly while he spoke. Her impassivity had not
deserted her for a single moment: but whether her calmness was of hope
or of despair he was unable to decide. On the whole he thought it must
be the latter: hope would have kindled a spark in those dark,
purple-rimmed eyes, it would have brought moisture to the lips, a tremor
to the hand.

The Scarlet Pimpernel was in Nantes--that fact was established beyond a
doubt--but Chauvelin had come to the conclusion that so far as Yvonne
Dewhurst herself was concerned, she knew nothing of the mysterious
agencies that were working on her behalf.

Chauvelin's hand closed with a nervous contraction over the packet of
papers in his pocket. Something of the secret of that enigmatic English
adventurer lay revealed within its folds. Chauvelin had not yet had the
opportunity of examining them: the interview with Yvonne had been the
most important business for the moment.

From somewhere in the distance a city clock struck six. The afternoon
was wearing on. The keenest brain in Europe was on the watch to drag one
woman and one man from the deadly trap which had been so successfully
set for them. A few hours more and Chauvelin in his turn would be
pitting his wits against the resources of that intricate brain, and he
felt like a war-horse scenting blood and battle. He was aching to get to
work--aching to form his plans--to lay his snares--to dispose his trap
so that the noble English quarry should not fail to be caught within its
meshes.

He gave a last look to Yvonne, who was still sitting quite impassive,
gazing through the squalid walls into some beautiful distance, the
reflection of which gave to her pale, wan face an added beauty.

'Let us go, citizen Martin-Roget,' he said peremptorily. 'There is
nothing else that we can do here.'

And Martin-Roget, the weaker morally of the two, yielded to the stronger
personality of his colleague. He would have liked to stay on for awhile,
to gloat for a few moments longer over the helplessness of the woman who
to him represented the root of every evil which had ever befallen him
and his family. But Chauvelin commanded and he felt impelled to obey. He
gave one long, last look on Yvonne--a look that was as full of triumph
as of mockery--he looked round the four dank walls, the unglazed window,
the broken pitcher, the mouldy bread. Revenge was of a truth the
sweetest emotion of the human heart. Pierre Adet--son of the miller who
had been hanged by orders of the Duc de Kernogan for a crime which he
had never committed--would not at this moment have changed places with
Fortune's Benjamin.

IV

Downstairs in Louise Adet's kitchen, Martin-Roget seized his colleague
by the arm.

'Sit down a moment, citizen,' he said persuasively, 'and tell me what
you think of it all.'

Chauvelin sat down at the other's invitation. All his movements were
slow, deliberate, perfectly calm.

'I think,' he said drily, 'as far as your marriage with the wench is
concerned, that you are beaten, my friend.'

'Tshaw!' The exclamation, raucous and surcharged with hate came from
Louise Adet. She, too, like Pierre--more so than Pierre mayhap--had
cause to hate the Kernogans. She, too, like Pierre had lived the last
three days in the full enjoyment of the thought that Fate and Chance
were about to level things at last between herself and those detested
aristos. Silent and sullen she was shuffling about in the room, among
her pots and pans, but she kept an eye upon her brother's movements and
an ear on what he said. Men were apt to lose grit where a pretty wench
was concerned. It takes a woman's rancour and a woman's determination to
carry a scheme of vengeance against another to a successful end.

Martin-Roget rejoined more calmly:

'I knew that she would still be obstinate,' he said. 'If I forced her
into a marriage, which I have the right to do, she might take her own
life and make me look a fool. So I don't want to do that. I believe in
the persuasiveness of the Rat Mort to-night,' he added with a cynical
laugh, 'and if that fails...Well! I was never really in love with the
fair Yvonne, and now she has even ceased to be desirable...If the Rat
Mort fails to act on her sensibilities as I would wish, I can easily
console myself by following Carrier's herd to Paris. Louise shall come
with me--eh, little sister?--and we'll give ourselves the satisfaction
of seeing M. le duc de Kernogan and his exquisite daughter stand in the
felon's dock--tried for malpractices and for evil living. We'll see them
branded as convicts and packed off like so much cattle to Cayenne. That
will be a sight,' he concluded with a deep sigh of satisfaction, 'which
will bring rest to my soul.'

He paused: his face looked sullen and evil under the domination of that
passion which tortured him.

Louise Adet had shuffled up close to her brother. In one hand she held
the wooden spoon wherewith she had been stirring the soup: with the
other she brushed away the dark, lank hair which hung in strands over
her high, pale forehead. In appearance she was a woman immeasurably
older than her years. Her face had the colour of yellow parchment, her
skin was stretched tightly over her high cheekbones--her lips were
colourless and her eyes large, wide-open, were pale in hue and circled
with red. Just now a deep frown of puzzlement between her brows added a
sinister expression to her cadaverous face:

'The Rat Mort?' she queried in that tired voice of hers. 'Cayenne? What
is all that about?'

'A splendid scheme of Carrier's, my Louise,' replied Martin-Roget
airily. 'We convey the Kernogan woman to the Rat Mort. To-night a
descent will be made on that tavern of ill-fame by a company of Marats
and every man, woman and child within it will be arrested and sent to
Paris as undesirable inhabitants of this most moral city: in Paris they
will be tried as malefactors or evil-doers--cut throats, thieves, what?
and deported as convicts to Cayenne, or else sent to the guillotine. The
Kernogans among that herd! What sayest thou to that, little sister? Thy
father, thy lover, hung as thieves! M. le Duc and Mademoiselle branded
as convicts! 'Tis pleasant to think on, eh?'

Louise made no reply. She stood looking at her brother, her pale,
red-rimmed eyes seemed to drink in every word that he uttered, while her
bony hand wandered mechanically across and across her forehead as if in
a pathetic endeavour to clear the brain from everything save of the
satisfying thoughts which this prospect of revenge had engendered.

Chauvelin's gentle voice broke in on her meditations.

'In the meanwhile,' he said placidly, 'remember my warning, citizen
Martin-Roget. There are passing clever and mighty agencies at work, even
at this hour, to wrest your prey from you. How will you convey the wench
to the Rat Mort? Carrier has warned you of spies--but I have warned you
against a crowd of English adventurers far more dangerous than an army
of spies. Three pairs of eyes--probably more, and one pair the keenest
in Europe--will be on the watch to seize upon the woman and to carry her
off under your very nose.'

Martin-Roget uttered a savage oath.

'That brute Carrier has left me in the lurch,' he said roughly. 'I don't
believe in your nightmares and your English adventurers, still it would
have been better if I could have had the woman conveyed to the tavern
under armed escort.'

'Armed escort has been denied you, and anyway it would not be much use.
You and I, citizen Martin-Roget, must act independently of Carrier. Your
friends down there,' he added, indicating the street with a jerk of the
head, 'must redouble their watchfulness. The village lads of Vertou are
of a truth no match intellectually with our English adventurers, but
they have vigorous fists in case there is an attack on the wench while
she walks across to the Rat Mort.'

'It would be simpler,' here interposed Louise roughly, 'if we were to
knock the wench on the head and then let the lads carry her across.'

'It would not be simpler,' retorted Chauvelin drily, 'for Carrier might
at any moment turn against us. Commandant Fleury with half a company of
Marats will be posted round the Rat Mort, remember. They may interfere
with the lads and arrest them and snatch the wench from us, when all our
plans may fall to the ground...one never knows what double game Carrier
may be playing. No! no! the girl must not be dragged or carried to the
Rat Mort. She must walk into the trap of her own free will.'

'But name of a dog! how is it to be done?' ejaculated Martin-Roget, and
he brought his clenched fist crashing down upon the table. 'The woman
will not follow me--or Louise either--anywhere willingly.'

'She must follow a stranger then--one whom she thinks is a
stranger--some one who will have gained her confidence...'

'Impossible.'

'Oh! nothing is impossible, citizen,' rejoined Chauvelin blandly.

'Do you know a way then?' queried the other with a sneer.

'I think I do. If you will trust me that is---'

'I don't know that I do. Your mind is so intent on those English
adventurers, you are like as not to let the aristos slip through your
fingers.'

'Well, citizen,' retorted Chauvelin imperturbably, 'will you take the
risk of conveying the fair Yvonne to the Rat Mort by twelve o'clock
to-night? I have very many things to see to, I confess that I should be
glad if you will ease me from that responsibility.'

'I have already told you that I see no way,' retorted Martin-Roget with
a snarl.

'Then why not let me act?'

'What are you going to do?'

'For the moment I am going for a walk on the quay and once more will
commune with the North-West wind.'

'Tshaw!' ejaculated Martin-Roget savagely.

'Nay, citizen,' resumed Chauvelin blandly, 'the winds of heaven are
excellent counsellors. I told you so just now and you agreed with me.
They blow away the cobwebs of the mind and clear the brain for serious
thinking. You want the Kernogan girl to be arrested inside the Rat Mort
and you see no way of conveying her thither save by the use of violence,
which for obvious reasons is to be deprecated: Carrier, for equally
obvious reasons, will not have her taken to the place by force. On the
other hand you admit that the wench would not follow you
willingly--Well, citizen, we must find a way out of that impasse, for it
is too unimportant an one to stand in the way of our plans: for this I
must hold a consultation with the North-West wind.'

'I won't allow you to do anything without consulting me.'

'Am I likely to do that? To begin with I shall have need of your
co-operation and that of the citizeness.'

'In that case...' muttered Martin-Roget grudgingly. 'But remember,' he
added with a return to his usual self-assured manner, 'remember that
Yvonne and her father belong to me and not to you. I brought them into
Nantes for mine own purposes--not for yours. I will not have my revenge
jeopardized so that your schemes may be furthered.'

'Who spoke of my schemes, citizen Martin-Roget?' broke in Chauvelin with
perfect urbanity. 'Surely not I? What am I but an humble tool in the
service of the Republic?...a tool that has proved useless--a failure,
what? My only desire is to help you to the best of my abilities. Your
enemies are the enemies of the Republic: my ambition is to help you in
destroying them.'

For a moment longer Martin-Roget hesitated: he abominated this
suggestion of becoming a mere instrument in the hands of this man whom
he still would have affected to despise--had he dared. But here came the
difficulty: he no longer dared to despise Chauvelin. He felt the
strength of the man--the clearness of his intellect, and though
he--Martin-Roget--still chose to disregard every warning in connexion
with the English spies, he could not wholly divest his mind from the
possibility of their presence in Nantes. Carrier's scheme was so
magnificent, so satisfying, that the ex-miller's son was ready to humble
his pride and set his arrogance aside in order to see it carried through
successfully.

So after a moment or two, despite the fact that he positively ached to
shut Chauvelin out of the whole business, Martin-Roget gave a grudging
assent to his proposal.

'Very well!' he said, 'you see to it. So long as it does not interfere
with my plans...'

'It can but help them,' rejoined Chauvelin suavely. 'If you will act as
I shall direct I pledge you my word that the wench will walk to the Rat
Mort of her free will and at the hour when you want her. What else is
there to say?'

'When and where shall we meet again?'

'Within the hour I will return here and explain to you and to the
citizeness what I want you to do. We will get the aristos inside the Rat
Mort, never fear; and after that I think that we may safely leave
Carrier to do the rest, what?'

He picked up his hat and wrapped his mantle round him. He took no
further heed of Martin-Roget or of Louise, for suddenly he had felt the
crackling of crisp paper inside the breast-pocket of his coat and in a
moment the spirit of the man had gone a-roaming out of the narrow
confines of this squalid abode. It had crossed the English Channel and
wandered once more into a brilliantly-lighted ball-room where an
exquisitely dressed dandy declaimed inanities and doggrel rhymes for the
delectation of a flippant assembly: it heard once more the lazy,
drawling speech, the inane, affected laugh, it caught the glance of a
pair of lazy, grey eyes fixed mockingly upon him. Chauvelin's thin
claw-like hand went back to his pocket: it felt that packet of papers,
it closed over it like a vulture's talon does upon a prey. He no longer
heard Martin-Roget's obstinate murmurings, he no longer felt himself to
be the disgraced, humiliated servant of the State: rather did he feel
once more the master, the leader, the successful weaver of an hundred
clever intrigues. The enemy who had baffled him so often had chosen once
more to throw down the glove of mocking defiance. So be it! The battle
would be fought this night--a decisive one--and long live the Republic
and the power of the people!

With a curt nod of the head Chauvelin turned on his heel and without
waiting for Martin-Roget to follow him, or for Louise to light him on
his way, he strode from the room, and out of the house, and had soon
disappeared in the darkness in the direction of the quay.

V

Once more free from the encumbering companionship of Martin-Roget,
Chauvelin felt free to breathe and to think. He, the obscure and
impassive servant of the Republic, the cold-blooded Terrorist who had
gone through every phase of an exciting career without moving a muscle
of his grave countenance, felt as if every one of his arteries was on
fire. He strode along the quay in the teeth of the north-westerly wind,
grateful for the cold blast which lashed his face and cooled his
throbbing temples.

The packet of papers inside his coat seemed to sear his breast.

Before turning to go along the quay he paused, hesitating for a moment
what he would do. His very humble lodgings were at the far end of the
town, and every minute of time was precious. Inside Le Bouffay, where he
had a small room allotted to him as a minor representative in Nantes of
the Committee of Public Safety, there was the ever present danger of
prying eyes.

On the whole--since time was so precious--he decided on returning to Le
Bouffay. The concierge and the clerk fortunately let him through without
those official delays which he--Chauvelin--was wont to find so galling
ever since his disgrace had put a bar against the opening of every door
at the bare mention of his name or the display of his tricolour scarf.

He strode rapidly across the hall: the men on guard eyed him with lazy
indifference as he passed. Once inside his own sanctum he looked
carefully around him; he drew the curtain closer across the window and
dragged the table and a chair well away from the range which might be
covered by an eye at the keyhole. It was only when he had thoroughly
assured himself that no searching eye or inquisitive ear could possibly
be watching over him that he at last drew the precious packet of papers
from his pocket. He undid the red ribbon which held it together and
spread the papers out on the table before him. Then he examined them
carefully one by one.

As he did so an exclamation of wrath or of impatience escaped him from
time to time, once he laughed--involuntarily--aloud.

The examination of the papers took him some time. When he had finished
he gathered them all together again, retied the bit of ribbon round them
and slipped the packet back into the pocket of his coat. There was a
look of grim determination on his face, even though a bitter sigh
escaped his set lips.

'Oh! for the power,' he muttered to himself, 'which I had a year ago!
for the power to deal with mine enemy myself. So you have come to
Nantes, my valiant Sir Percy Blakeney?' he added while a short, sardonic
laugh escaped his thin, set lips: 'and you are determined that I shall
know how and why you came! Do you reckon, I wonder, that I have no
longer the power to deal with you? Well!...'

He sighed again but with more satisfaction this time.

'Well!...' he reiterated with obvious complacency. 'Unless that oaf
Carrier is a bigger fool than I imagine him to be I think I have you
this time, my elusive Scarlet Pimpernel.'



Chapter Four - The Net

I

It was not an easy thing to obtain an audience of the great proconsul at
this hour of the night, nor was Chauvelin, the disgraced servant of the
Committee of Public Safety, a man to be considered. Carrier, with his
love of ostentation and of tyranny, found great delight in keeping his
colleagues waiting upon his pleasure, and he knew that he could trust
young Jacques Lalouët to be as insolent as any tyrant's flunkey of yore.

"I must speak with the proconsul at once," had been Chauvelin's urgent
request of Fleury, the commandant of the great man's bodyguard.

"The proconsul dines at this hour," had been Fleury's curt reply.

"'Tis a matter which concerns the welfare and the safety of the State!"

"The proconsul's health is the concern of the State too, and he dines at
this hour and must not be disturbed."

"Commandant Fleury!" urged Chauvelin, "you risk being implicated in a
disaster. Danger and disgrace threaten the proconsul and all his
adherents. I must speak with Citizen Carrier at once."

Fortunately for Chauvelin there were two keys which, when all else
failed, were apt to open the doors of Carrier's stronghold: the key of
fear and that of cupidity. He tried both and succeeded. He bribed and he
threatened: he endured Fleury's brutality and Lalouët's impertinence but
he got his way. After an hour's weary waiting and ceaseless parleyings
he was once more ushered into the ante-chamber where he had sat earlier
in the day. The doors leading to the inner sanctuary were open. Young
Jacques Lalouët stood by them on guard. Carrier, fuming and raging at
having been disturbed, vented his spleen and ill-temper on Chauvelin.

"If the news that you bring me is not worth my consideration," he cried
savagely, "I'll send you to the moulder in Le Bouffay or to drink the
waters of the Loire."

Chauvelin silent, self-effaced, allowed the flood of the great man's
wrath to spend itself in threats. Then he said quietly:

"Citizen Proconsul I have come to tell you that the English spy, who is
called the Scarlet Pimpernel, is now in Nantes. There is a reward of
twenty thousand francs for his capture and I want your help to lay him
by the heels."

Carrier suddenly paused in his ravings. He sank into a chair and a livid
hue spread over his face.

"It's not true!" he murmured hoarsely.

"I saw him--not an hour ago..."

"What proof have you?"

"I'll show them to you--but not across this threshold. Let me enter,
Citizen Proconsul, and close your sanctuary doors behind me rather than
before. What I have come hither to tell you, can only be said between
four walls."

"I'll make you tell me," broke in Carrier in a raucous voice, which
excitement and fear caused almost to choke in his throat. "I'll make
you...curse you for the traitor that you are...Curse you!" he cried more
vigorously, "I'll make you speak. Will you shield a spy by your silence,
you miserable traitor? If you do I'll send you to rot in the mud of the
Loire with other traitors less accursed than yourself."

"If you only knew," was Chauvelin's calm rejoinder to the other's
ravings, "how little I care for life. I only live to be even one day
with an enemy whom I hate. That enemy is now in Nantes, but I am like a
bird of prey whose wings have been clipped. If you do not help me mine
enemy will again go free--and death in that case matters little or
nothing to me."

For a moment longer Carrier hesitated. Fear had gripped him by the
throat. Chauvelin's earnestness seemed to vouch for the truth of his
assertion, and if this were so--if those English spies were indeed in
Nantes--then his own life was in deadly danger. He--like every one of
those bloodthirsty tyrants who had misused the sacred names of
Fraternity and of Equality--had learned to dread the machinations of
those mysterious Englishmen and of their unconquerable leader. Popular
superstition had it that they were spies of the English Government and
that they were not only bent on saving traitors from well-merited
punishment but that they were hired assassins paid by Mr. Pitt to murder
every faithful servant of the Republic. The name of the Scarlet
Pimpernel, so significantly uttered by Chauvelin, had turned Carrier's
sallow cheeks to a livid hue. Sick with terror now he called Lalouët to
him. He clung to the boy with both arms as to the one being in this
world whom he trusted.

"What shall we do, Jacques?" he murmured hoarsely, "shall we let him
in?"

The boy roughly shook himself free from the embrace of the great
proconsul.

"If you want twenty thousand francs," he said with a dry laugh, "I
should listen quietly to what Citizen Chauvelin has to say."

Terror and rapacity were ranged on one side against inordinate vanity.
The thought of twenty thousand francs made Carrier's ugly mouth water.
Money was over scarce these days: also the fear of assassination was a
spectre which haunted him at all hours of the day and night. On the
other hand he positively worshipped the mystery wherewith he surrounded
himself. It had been his boast for some time now that no one save the
chosen few had crossed the threshold of his private chamber: and he was
miserably afraid not only of Chauvelin's possible evil intentions, but
also that this despicable ex-aristo and equally despicable failure would
boast in the future of an ascendancy over him.

He thought the matter over for fully five minutes, during which there
was dead silence in the two rooms--silence only broken by the stertorous
breathing of that wretched coward, and the measured ticking of the fine
buhl clock behind him. Chauvelin's pale eyes were fixed upon the
darkness, through which he could vaguely discern the uncouth figure of
the proconsul, sprawling over his desk. Which way would his passions
sway him? Chauvelin as he watched and waited felt that his habitual
self-control was perhaps more severely taxed at this moment than it had
ever been before. Upon the swaying of those passions, the passions of a
man infinitely craven and infinitely base, depended all
his--Chauvelin's--hopes of getting even at last with a daring and
resourceful foe. Terror and rapacity were the counsellors which ranged
themselves on the side of his schemes, but mere vanity and caprice
fought a hard battle too.

In the end it was rapacity that gained the victory. An impatient
exclamation from young Lalouët roused Carrier from his sombre brooding
and hastened on a decision which was destined to have such momentous
consequences for the future of both these men.

"Introduce Citizen Chauvelin in here, Lalouët," said the proconsul
grudgingly. "I will listen to what he has to say."

II

Chauvelin crossed the threshold of the tyrant's sanctuary, in no way
awed by the majesty of that dreaded presence or confused by the air of
mystery which hung about the room.

He did not even bestow a glance on the multitudinous objects of art and
the priceless furniture which littered the tiger's lair. His pale face
remained quite expressionless as he bowed solemnly before Carrier and
then took the chair which was indicated to him. Young Lalouët fetched a
candelabra from the anteroom and carried it into the audience chamber:
then he closed the communicating doors. The candelabra he placed on a
console-table immediately behind Carrier's desk and chair, so that the
latter's face remained in complete shadow, whilst the light fell full
upon Chauvelin.

"Well! what is it?" queried the proconsul roughly. "What is this story
of English spies inside Nantes? How did they get here? Who is
responsible for keeping such rabble out of our city? Name of a dog, but
some one has been careless of duty! and carelessness these days is
closely allied to treason."

He talked loudly and volubly--his inordinate terror causing the words to
come tumbling, almost incoherently, out of his mouth. Finally he turned
on Chauvelin with a snarl like an angry cat:

"And how comes it, Citizen," he added savagely, "that you alone here in
Nantes are acquainted with the whereabouts of those dangerous spies?"

"I caught sight of them," rejoined Chauvelin calmly, "this afternoon
after I left you. I knew we should have them here, the moment Citizen
Martin-Roget brought the Kernogans into the city. The woman is the wife
of one of them."

"Curse that blundering fool Martin-Roget for bringing that rabble about
our ears, and those assassins inside our gates."

"Nay! Why should you complain, Citizen Proconsul, rejoined Chauvelin in
his blandest manner. Surely you are not going to let the English spies
escape this time? And if you succeed in laying them by the heels--there
where every one else has failed--you will have earned twenty thousand
francs and the thanks of the entire Committee of Public Safety."

He paused: and young Lalouët interposed with his impudent laugh:

"Go on, Citizen Chauvelin," he said, "if there is twenty thousand francs
to be made out of this game, I'll warrant that the proconsul will take a
hand in it--eh, Carrier?"

And with the insolent familiarity of a terrier teasing a grizzly he
tweaked the great man's ear.

Chauvelin in the meanwhile had drawn the packet of papers from his
pocket and untied the ribbon that held them together. He now spread the
papers out on the desk.

"What are these?" queried Carrier.

"A few papers," replied Chauvelin, "which one of your Marats, Paul
Friche by name, picked up in the wake of the Englishmen. I caught sight
of them in the far distance, and sent the Marats after them. For awhile
Paul Friche kept on their track, but after that they disappeared in the
darkness."

"Who were the senseless louts," growled Carrier, "who allowed a pack of
foreign assassins to escape? I'll soon make them disappear...in the
Loire."

"You will do what you like about that, Citizen Carrier," retorted
Chauvelin dryly; "in the meanwhile you would do well to examine these
papers."

He sorted these out, examined them one by one, then passed them across
to Carrier. Lalouët, impudent and inquisitive, sat on the corner of the
desk, dangling his legs. With scant ceremony he snatched one paper after
another out of Carrier's hands and examined them curiously.

"Can you understand all this gibberish?" he asked airily. "Jean
Baptiste, my friend, how much English do you know?"

"Not much," replied the proconsul, "but enough to recognize that
abominable doggerel rhyme which has gone the round of the Committees of
Public Safety throughout the country."

"I know it by heart," rejoined young Lalouët. "I was in Paris once, when
Citizen Robespierre received a copy of it. Name of a dog!" added the
youngster with a coarse laugh, "how he cursed!"

It is doubtful however if Citizen Robespierre did on that occasion curse
quite so volubly as Carrier did now.

"If I only knew why that satané Englishman throws so much calligraphy
about," he said, "I would be easier in my mind. Now this senseless
rhyme...I don't see..."

"It's importance?" broke in Chauvelin quietly. "I dare say not. On the
face of it, it appears foolish and childish: but it is intended as a
taunt and is really a poor attempt at humour. They are a queer people
these English. If you knew them as I do, you would not be surprised to
see a man scribbling off a cheap joke before embarking on an enterprise
which may cost him his head."

"And this inane rubbish is of that sort," concluded young Lalouët. And
in his thin high treble he began reciting:

'We seek him here; We seek him there!
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere.
Is he in heaven? Is he in h--ll?
That demmed elusive Pimpernel?"

"Pointless and offensive," he said as he tossed the paper back on the
table.

"A cursed aristo that Englishman of yours," growled Carrier. "Oh! when I
get him..."

He made an expressive gesture which made Lalouët laugh.

"What else have we got in the way of documents, Citizen Chauvelin?" he
asked.

"There is a letter," replied the latter.

"Read it," commanded Carrier. "Or rather translate it as you read. I
don't understand the whole of the gibberish."

And Chauvelin, taking up a sheet of paper which was covered with neat,
minute writing, began to read aloud, translating the English into French
as he went along:

"Here we are at last, my dear Tony! Didn't I tell you that we can get in
anywhere despite all precautions taken against us!"

"The impudent devils!" broke in Carrier.

---"Did you really think that they could keep us out of Nantes while
Lady Anthony Dewhurst is a prisoner in their hands."

"Who is that?"

"The Kernogan woman. As I told you just now, she is married to an
Englishman who is named Dewhurst and who is one of the members of that
thrice cursed League."

Then he continued to read:

"And did you really suppose that they would spot half a dozen English
gentlemen in the guise of peat-gatherers, returning at dusk and covered
with grime from their work? Not like, friend Tony! Not like! If you
happen to meet mine engaging friend Monsieur Chambertin before I have
that privilege myself tell him I pray you, with my regards, that I am
looking forward to the pleasure of making a long nose at him once more.
Calais, Boulogne, Paris--now Nantes--the scenes of his triumphs multiply
exceedingly."

"What in the devil's name does all this mean?" queried Carrier with an
oath.

"You don't understand it?" rejoined Chauvelin quietly.

"No. I do not."

"Yet I translated quite clearly."

"It is not the language that puzzles me. The contents seem to me such
drivel. The man wants secrecy, what? He is supposed to be astute,
resourceful, above all mysterious and enigmatic. Yet he writes to his
friend--matter of no importance between them, recollections of the past,
known to them both--and threats for the future, equally futile and
senseless. I cannot reconcile it all. It puzzles me."

"And it would puzzle me," rejoined Chauvelin, while the ghost of a smile
curled his thin lips, "did I not know the man. Futile? Senseless, you
say? Well, he does futile and senseless things one moment and amazing
deeds of personal bravery and of astuteness the next. He is three parts
a braggart too. He wanted you, me--all of us to know how he and his
followers succeeded in eluding our vigilance and entered our
closely-guarded city in the guise of grimy peat-gatherers. Now I come to
think of it, it was easy enough for them to do that. Those
peat-gatherers who live inside the city boundaries return from their
work as the night falls in. Those cursed English adventurers are passing
clever at disguise--they are born mountebanks the lot of them. Money and
impudence they have in plenty. They could easily borrow or purchase some
filthy rags from the cottages on the dunes, then mix with the crowd on
its return to the city. I dare say it was cleverly done. That Scarlet
Pimpernel is just a clever adventurer and nothing more. So far his
marvellous good luck has carried him through. Now we shall see."

Carrier had listened in silence. Something of his colleague's calm had
by this time communicated itself to him too. He was no longer raving
like an infuriated bull--his terror no longer made a half-cringing,
wholly savage brute of him. He was sprawling across the desk--his arms
folded, his deep-set eyes studying closely the well-nigh inscrutable
face of Chauvelin. Young Lalouët too had lost something of his
impudence. That mysterious spell which seemed to emanate from the
elusive personality of the bold English adventurer had been cast over
these two callous, bestial natures, humbling their arrogance and making
them feel that here was no ordinary situation to be dealt with by
smashing, senseless hitting and the spilling of innocent blood. Both
felt instinctively too that this man Chauvelin, however wholly he may
have failed in the past, was nevertheless still the only man who might
grapple successfully with the elusive and adventurous foe.

"Are you assuming, Citizen Chauvelin," queried Carrier after awhile,
"that this packet of papers was dropped purposely by the Englishman, so
that it might get into our hands?"

"There is always such a possibility," replied Chauvelin dryly. "With
that type of man one must be prepared to meet the unexpected."

"Then go on, Citizen Chauvelin. What else is there among these satané
papers?"

"Nothing further of importance. There is a map of Nantes, and one of the
coast and of Le Croisic. There is a cutting from Le Moniteur dated last
September, and one from the London Gazette dated three years ago. The
Moniteur makes reference to the production of Athalie at the Théâtre
Molière, and the London Gazette to the sale of fat cattle at an
agricultural show. There is a receipted account from a London tailor for
two hundred pounds worth of clothes supplied, and one from a Lyons
mercer for an hundred francs worth of silk cravats. Then there is the
one letter which alone amidst all this rubbish appears to be of any
consequence..."

He took up the last paper: his hand was still quite steady.

"Read the letter," said Carrier.

"It is addressed in the English fashion to Lady Anthony Dewhurst,"
continued Chauvelin slowly, "the Kernogan woman you know Citizen. It
says:

"Keep up your courage. Your friends are inside the city and on the
watch. Try the door of your prison every evening at one hour before
midnight. Once you will find it yield. Slip out and creep noiselessly
down the stairs. At the bottom a friendly hand will be stretched out to
you. Take it with confidence--it will lead you to safety and to freedom.
Courage and secrecy."

Lalouët had been looking over his shoulder while he read: now he pointed
to the bottom of the letter.

"And there is the device" he said, "we have heard so much about of
late--a five-petalled flower drawn in red ink...the Scarlet Pimpernel, I
presume."

"Aye! the Scarlet Pimpernel," murmured Chauvelin, "as you say!
Braggadocio on his part or accident, his letters are certainly in our
hands now and will prove--must prove, the tool whereby we can be even
with him once and for all."

"And you, Citizen Chauvelin," interposed Carrier with a sneer, "are
mighty lucky to have me to help you this time. I am not going to be
fooled, as Candeille and you were fooled last September, as you were
fooled in Calais and Héron in Paris. I shall be seeing this time to the
capture of those English adventurers."

"And that capture should not be difficult," added Lalouët with a
complacent laugh. "Your famous adventurer's luck hath deserted him this
time: an all-powerful proconsul is pitted against him and the loss of
his papers hath destroyed the anonimity on which he reckons."

Chauvelin paid no heed to the fatuous remarks.

How little did this flippant young braggart and this coarse-grained
bully understand the subtle workings of that same adventurer's brain! He
himself--one of the most astute men of the day--found it difficult. Even
now--the losing of those letters in the open streets of Nantes--it was
part of a plan. Chauvelin could have staked his head on that--apart of a
plan for the liberation of Lady Anthony Dewhurst--but what plan?--what
plan?

He took up the letter which his colleague had thrown down: he fingered
it, handled it, letting the paper crackle through his fingers, as if he
expected it to yield up the secret which it contained. The time had
come--of that he felt no doubt--when he could at last be even with his
enemy. He had endured more bitter humiliation at the hands of this
elusive Pimpernel than he would have thought himself capable of bearing
a couple of years ago. But the time had come at last--if only he kept
his every faculty on the alert, if Fate helped him and his own nerves
stood the strain. Above all if this blundering, self-satisfied Carrier
could be reckoned on!...

There lay the one great source of trouble! He--Chauvelin--had no power:
he was disgraced--a failure--a nonentity to be sneered at. He might
protest, entreat, wring his hands, weep tears of blood and not one man
would stir a finger to help him: this brute who sprawled here across his
desk would not lend him half a dozen men to enable him to lay by the
heels the most powerful enemy the Government of the Terror had ever
known. Chauvelin inwardly ground his teeth with rage at his own
impotence, at his own dependence on this clumsy lout, who was at this
moment possessed of powers which he himself would give half his life to
obtain.

But on the other hand he did possess a power which no one could take
from him--the power to use others for the furtherance of his own
aims--to efface himself while others danced as puppets to his piping.
Carrier had the power: he had spies, Marats, prison-guards at his
disposal. He was greedy for the reward, and cupidity and fear would make
of him a willing instrument. All that Chauvelin need do was to use that
instrument for his own ends. One would be the head to direct, the
other--a mere insentient tool.

From this moment onwards every minute, every second and every fraction
of a second would be full of portent, full of possibilities. Sir Percy
Blakeney was in Nantes with at least three or four members of his
League: he was at this very moment taxing every fibre of his resourceful
brain in order to devise a means whereby he could rescue his friend's
wife from the fate which was awaiting her: to gain this end he would
dare everything, risk everything--risk and dare a great deal more than
he had ever dared and risked before.

Chauvelin was finding a grim pleasure in reviewing the situation, in
envisaging the danger of failure which he knew lay in wait for him,
unless he too was able to call to his aid all the astuteness, all the
daring, all the resource of his own fertile brain. He studied is
colleague's face keenly--that sullen, savage expression in it, the
arrogance, the blundering vanity. It was terrible to have to humour and
fawn to a creature of that stamp when all one's hopes, all one's future,
one's ideals and the welfare of one's country were at stake.

But this additional difficulty only served to whet the man's appetite
for action. He drew in a long breath of delight, like a captive who
first after many days and months of weary anguish scents freedom and
ozone. He straightened out his shoulders. A gleam of triumph and of hope
shot out of his keen pale eyes. He studied Carrier and he studied
Lalouët and he felt that he could master them both--quietly,
diplomatically, with subtle skill that would not alarm the proconsul's
rampant self-esteem: and whilst this coarse-fibred brute gloated in
anticipatory pleasure over the handling of a few thousand francs, and
whilst Martin-Roget dreamed of a clumsy revenge against one woman and
one man who had wronged him four years ago, he--Chauvelin--would pursue
his work of striking at the enemy of the Revolution--of bringing to his
knees the man who spent life and fortune in combating its ideals and in
frustrating its aims. The destruction of such a foe was worthy a
patriot's ambition.

On the other hand some of Carrier's bullying arrogance had gone. He was
terrified to the very depths of his cowardly heart, and for once he was
turning away from his favourite Jacques Lalouët and inclined to lean on
Chauvelin for advice. Robespierre had been known to tremble at sight of
that small scarlet device; how much more had he--Carrier--cause to be
afraid? He knew his own limitations and he was terrified of the
assassin's dagger. As Marat had perished, so he too might end his days,
and the English spies were credited with murderous intentions and
superhuman power. In his innermost self Carrier knew that despite
countless failures Chauvelin was mentally his superior, and though he
never would own to this and at this moment did not attempt to shed his
overbearing manner, he was watching the other keenly and anxiously,
ready to follow the guidance of an intellect stronger than his own.

III

At last Carrier elected to speak.

"And now, Citizen Chauvelin," he said, "we know how we stand. We know
that the English assassins are in Nantes. The question is how are we
going to lay them by the heels?"

Chauvelin gave him no direct reply. He was busy collecting his precious
papers together and thrusting them back into the pocket of his coat.
Then he said quietly:

"It is through the Kernogan woman that we can get hold of him."

"How?"

"Where she is, there will the Englishmen be. They are in Nantes for the
sole purpose of getting the woman and her father out of your
clutches..."

"Then it will be a fine haul inside the Rat Mort," ejaculated Carrier
with a chuckle. "Eh, Jacques, you young scamp? You and I must go and see
that, what? You have been complaining that life was getting monotonous.
Drownages--Republican marriages! They have all palled in their turn on
your jaded appetite...But the capture of the English assassins, eh?...of
that League of the Scarlet Pimpernel which has ever caused citizen
Robespierre much uneasiness--that will stir up your sluggish blood, you
lazy young vermin!...Go on, go on, Citizen Chauvelin, I am vastly
interested!"

He rubbed his dry, bony hands together and cackled with glee. Chauvelin
interposed quietly:

"Inside the Rat Mort, eh, Citizen?" he queried.

"Why, yes. Citizen Martin-Roget means to convey the Kernogan woman to
the Rat Mort, doesn't he?"

"He does."

"And you say that where the Kernogan woman is there the Englishmen will
be..."

"The inference is obvious."

"Which means ten thousand francs from that fool Martin-Roget for having
the wench and her father arrested inside the Rat Mort! and twenty
thousand for the capture of the English spies...Have you forgotten,
Citizen Chauvelin," he added with a raucous cry of triumph, "that
commandant Fleury has my orders to make a raid on the Rat Mort this
night with half a company of my Marats, and to arrest every one whom
they find inside?"

"The Kernogan wench is not at the Rat Mort yet," quoth Chauvelin dryly,
"and you have refused to lend a hand in having her conveyed thither."

"I can't do it, my little Chauvelin," rejoined Carrier, somewhat sobered
by this reminder. "I can't do it...you understand...my Marats taking an
aristo to a house of ill-fame where presently I have her arrested...it
won't do...it won't do...you don't know how I am spied upon just
now...It really would not do...I can't be mixed up in that part of the
affair. The wench must go to the Rat Mort of her own free will, or the
whole plan falls to the ground. ...That fool Martin-Roget must think of
a way...it's his affair, after all. He must see to it...Or you can think
of a way," he added, assuming the coaxing ways of a tiger-cat; "you are
so clever, my little Chauvelin."

"Yes," replied Chauvelin quietly, "I can think of a way. The Kernogan
wench shall leave the house of Citizeness Adet and walk into the tavern
of the Rat Mort of her own free will. Your reputation, Citizen Carrier,"
he added without the slightest apparent trace of a sneer, "your
reputation shall be safeguarded in this matter. But supposing that in
the interval of going from the one house to the other the English
adventurer succeeded in kidnapping her..."

"Pah! is that likely?" quoth Carrier with a shrug of the shoulders.

"Exceedingly likely, Citizen; and you would not doubt it if you knew
this Scarlet Pimpernel as I do. I have seen him at his nefarious work. I
know what he can do. There is nothing that he would not venture...there
are few ventures in which he does not succeed. He is as strong as an ox,
as agile as a cat. He can see in the dark and he can always vanish in a
crowd. Here, there and everywhere, you never know where he will appear.
He is a past master in the art of disguise and he is a born mountebank.
Believe me, Citizen, we shall want all the resources of our joint
intellects to frustrate the machinations of such a foe."

Carrier mused for a moment in silence.

"H'm!" he said after awhile, and with a sardonic laugh. "You may be
right, Citizen Chauvelin. You have had experience with the rascal...you
ought to know him. We won't leave anything to chance--don't be afraid of
that. My Marats will be keen on the capture. We'll promise commandant
Fleury a thousand francs for himself and another thousand to be
distributed among his men if we lay hands on the English assassins
to-night. We'll leave nothing to chance," he reiterated with an oath.

"In which case, Citizen Carrier, you must on your side agree to two
things," rejoined Chauvelin firmly.

"What are they?"

"You must order Commandant Fleury to place himself and half a company of
his Marats at my disposal."

"What else?"

"You must allow them to lend a hand if there is an attempt to kidnap the
Kernogan wench while she is being conveyed to the Rat Mort..."

Carrier hesitated for a second or two, but only for form's sake: it was
his nature whenever he was forced to yield to do so grudgingly.

"Very well!" he said at last. "I'll order Fleury to be on the watch and
to interfere if there is any street-brawling outside or near the Rat
Mort. Will that suit you?"

"Perfectly. I shall be on the watch too--somewhere close by... I'll warn
commandant Fleury if I suspect that the English are making ready for a
coup outside the tavern. Personally I think it unlikely--because the Duc
de Kernogan will be inside the Rat Mort all the time, and he too will be
the object of the Englishmen's attacks on his behalf. Citizen
Martin-Roget too has about a score or so of his friends posted outside
his sister's house: they are lads from his village who hate the
Kernogans as much as he does himself. Still! I shall feel easier in my
mind now that I am certain of Commandant Fleury's co-operation."

"Then it seems to me that we have arranged everything satisfactorily,
what?"

"Everything, except the exact moment when Commandant Fleury shall
advance with his men to the door of the tavern and demand admittance in
the name of the Republic."

"Yes, he will have to make quite sure that the whole of our quarry is
inside the net, eh?...before he draws the strings...or all our pretty
plans fall to nought."

"As you say," rejoined Chauvelin, "we must make sure. Supposing
therefore that we get the wench safely into the tavern, that we have her
there with her father, what we shall want will be some one in
observation--some one who can help us draw our birds into the snare just
when we are ready for them. Now there is a man whom I have in my mind:
he hath name Paul Friche and is one of your Marats--a surly,
ill-conditioned giant...he was on guard outside Le Bouffay this
afternoon...I spoke to him...he would suit our purpose admirably."

"What do you want him to do?"

"Only to make himself look as like a Nantese cut-throat as he can..."

"He looks like one already," broke in Jacques Lalouët with a laugh.

"So much the better. He'll excite no suspicion in that case in the minds
of the frequenters of the Rat Mort. Then I'll instruct him to start a
brawl--a fracas--soon after the arrival of the Kernogan wench. The row
will inevitably draw the English adventurers hot-haste to the spot,
either in the hope of getting the Kernogans away during the mêlée or
with a view to protecting them. As soon as they have appeared upon the
scene, the half company of the Marats will descend on the house and
arrest every one inside it."

"It all sounds remarkably simple," rejoined Carrier, and with a leer of
satisfaction he turned to Jacques Lalouët. "What think you of it,
Citizen?" he asked.

"That it sounds so remarkably simple," replied young Lalouët, "that
personally I should be half afraid..."

"Of what?" queried Chauvelin blandly.

"If you fail, Citizen Chauvelin..."

"Impossible!"

"If the Englishmen do not appear?"

"Even so the citizen proconsul will have lost nothing. He will merely
have failed to gain the twenty thousand francs. But the Kernogans will
still be in his power and citizen Martin-Roget's ten thousand francs are
in any case assured."

"Friend Jean-Baptiste," concluded Lalouët with his habitual insolent
familiarity "you had better do what Citizen Chauvelin wants. Ten
thousand francs are good...and thirty better still. Our privy purse has
been empty far too long, and I for one would like the handling of a few
brisk notes."

"It will only be twenty-eight, Citizen Lalouët," interposed Chauvelin
blandly, "for Commandant Fleury will want one thousand francs and his
men another thousand to stimulate their zeal. Still! I imagine that
these hard times twenty-eight thousand francs are worth fighting for."

"You seem to be fighting and planning and scheming for nothing, Citizen
Chauvelin," retorted young Lalouët with a sneer. "What are you going to
gain, I should like to know, by the capture of that dare-devil
Englishman?"

"Oh!" replied Chauvelin suavely, "I shall gain the citizen proconsul's
regard, I hope--and yours too, Citizen Lalouët. I want nothing more
except the success of my plan."

Young Lalouët jumped down to his feet. He shrugged his shoulders and
through his fine eyes shot a glance of mockery and scorn on the thin,
shrunken figure of the Terrorist.

"How you do hate that Englishman, Citizen Chauvelin," he said with a
light laugh.

IV

Carrier having fully realized that he in any case stood to make a vast
sum of money out of the capture of the band of English spies, gave his
support generously to Chauvelin's scheme. Fleury, summoned into is
presence, was ordered to place himself and half a company of Marats at
the disposal of Citizen Chauvelin. He demurred and growled like a bear
with a sore head at being placed under the orders of a civilian, but it
was not easy to run counter to the proconsul's will. A good deal of
swearing, one or two overt threats and the citizen commandant was
reduced to submission. The promise of a thousand francs, when the reward
for the capture of the English spies was paid out by a grateful
government, overcame his last objections.

"I think you should rid yourself of that obstinate oaf," was young
Lalouët's cynical comment, when Fleury had finally left the audience
chamber; "he is too argumentative for my taste."

Chauvelin smiled quietly to himself. He cared little what became of
every one of these Nantese louts once his great object had been
attained.

"I need not trouble you further, Citizen Carrier," he said as he finally
rose to take his leave. "I shall have my hands full until I myself lay
that meddlesome Englishman bound and gagged at your feet."

The phrase delighted Carrier's insensate vanity. He was overgracious to
Chauvelin now.

"You shall do that at the Rat Mort, Citizen Chauvelin," he said with
marked affability, "and I myself will commend you for your zeal to the
Committee of Public Safety."

"Always supposing," interposed Jacques Lalouët with his cynical laugh,
"that citizen Chauvelin does not let the whole rabble slip through his
fingers."

"If I do," concluded Chauvelin dryly, "you may drag the Loire for my
body to-morrow."

"Oh!" laughed Carrier, "we won't trouble to do that. Au revoir, Citizen
Chauvelin," he added with one of his grandiloquent gestures of
dismissal, "I wish you luck at the Rat Mort to-night."

Jacques Lalouët ushered Chauvelin out. When he was finally left standing
alone at the head of the stairs and young Lalouët's footsteps had ceased
to resound across the floors of the rooms beyond, he remained quite
still for awhile, his eyes fixed into vacancy, his face set and
expressionless; and through his lips there came a long-drawn-out sigh of
intense satisfaction.

"And now, my fine Scarlet Pimpernel," he murmured softly, "once more a
nous deux."

Then he ran swiftly down the stairs and a moment later was once more
speeding toward Le Bouffay.



Chapter Five - The Message of Hope

I

After Martin-Roget and Chauvelin had left her, Yvonne had sat for a long
time motionless, almost unconscious. It seemed as if gradually, hour by
hour, minute by minute, her every feeling of courage and of hope were
deserting her. Three days now she had been separated from her
father--three days she had been under the constant supervision of a
woman who had not a single thought of compassion or of mercy for the
"aristocrat" whom she hated so bitterly.

At night, curled up on a small bundle of dank straw Yvonne had made vain
efforts to snatch a little sleep. Ever since the day when she had been
ruthlessly torn away from the protection of her dear milor', she had
persistently clung to the belief that he would find the means to come to
her, to wrest her from the cruel fate which her pitiless enemies had
devised for her. She had clung to that hope through that dreary journey
from dear England to this abominable city. She had clung to it even
whilst her father knelt at her feet in an agony of remorse. She had
clung to hope while Martin-Roget alternately coaxed and terrorized her,
while her father was dragged away from her, while she endured untold
misery, starvation, humiliation at the hands of Louis Adet: but
now--quite unaccountably--that hope seemed suddenly to have fled from
her, leaving her lonely and inexpressibly desolate. That small, shrunken
figure which, wrapped in a dark mantle, had stood in the corner of the
room watching her like a serpent watches its prey, had seemed like the
forerunner of the fate with which Martin-Roget, gloating over her
helplessness, had already threatened her.

She knew, of course, that neither from him, nor from the callous brute
who governed Nantes, could she expect the slightest justice or mercy.
She had been brought here by Martin-Roget not only to die, but to suffer
grievously at his hands in return for a crime for which she personally
was in no way responsible. To hope for mercy from him at the eleventh
hour were worse than futile. Her already over-burdened heart ached at
thought of her father: he suffered all that she suffered, and in
addition he must be tortured with anxiety for her and with remorse.
Sometimes she was afraid that under the stress of desperate soul-agony
he might perhaps have been led to suicide. She knew nothing of what had
happened to him, where he was, nor whether privations and lack of food
or sleep, together with Martin-Roget's threats, had by now weakened his
morale and turned his pride into humiliating submission.

II

A distant tower-clock struck the evening hours one after the other.
Yvonne for the past three days had only been vaguely conscious of time.
Martin-Roget had spoken of a few hours' respite only, of the proconsul's
desire to be soon rid of her. Well! this meant no doubt that the morrow
would see the end of it all--the end of her life which such a brief
while ago seemed so full of delight, of love and of happiness.

The end of her life! She had hardly begun to live and her dear milor'
had whispered to her such sweet promises of endless vistas of bliss.

Yvonne shivered beneath her thin gown. The north-westerly blast came in
cruel gusts through the unglazed window and a vague instinct of
self-preservation caused Yvonne to seek shelter in the one corner of the
room where the icy draught did not penetrate quite so freely.

Eight, nine and ten struck from the tower-clock far away: she heard
these sounds as in a dream. Tired, cold and hungry her vitality at that
moment was at its lowest ebb--and, with her back resting against the
wall she fell presently into a torpor-like sleep.

Suddenly something roused her, and in an instant she sat up--wide-awake
and wide-eyed, every one of her senses conscious and on the alert.
Something had roused her--at first she could not say what it was--or
remember. Then presently individual sounds detached themselves from the
buzzing in her ears. Hitherto the house had always been so still; except
on the isolated occasions when Martin-Roget had come to visit her and
his heavy tread had cause every loose board in the tumble-down house to
creak, it was only Louise Adet's shuffling footsteps which had roused
the dormant echoes, when she crept upstairs either to her own room, or
to throw a piece of stale bread to her prisoner.

But now--it was neither Martin-Roget's heavy footfall nor the shuffling
gait of Louis Adet which had roused Yvonne from her trance-like sleep.
It was a gentle, soft, creeping step which was slowly, cautiously
mounting the stairs. Yvonne crouching against the wall could count every
tread--now and then a board creaked--now and then the footsteps halted.

Yvonne, wide-eyed, her heart stirred by a nameless terror was watching
the door.

The piece of tallow-candle flickered in the draught. Its feeble light
just touched the remote corner of the room. And Yvonne heard those soft,
creeping footsteps as they reached the landing and came to a halt
outside the door.

Every drop of blood in her seemed to be frozen by terror: her knees
shook: her heart almost stopped its beating.

Under the door something small and white had just been introduced--a
scrap of paper; and there it remained--white against the darkness of the
unwashed boards--a mysterious message left her by an unknown hand,
whilst the unknown footsteps softly crept down the stairs again.

For awhile longer Yvonne remained as she was--cowering against the
wall--like a timid little animal, fearful lest that innocent-looking
object hid some unthought-of danger. Then at last she gathered courage.
Trembling with excitement she raised herself to her knees and then on
hands and knees--for she was very weak and faint--she crawled up to that
mysterious piece of paper and picked it up.

Her trembling hand closed over it. With wide staring terror-filled eyes
she looked all round the narrow room, ere she dared cast one more glance
on that mysterious scrap of paper. Then she struggled to her feet and
tottered up to the table. She sat down and with fingers numbed with cold
she smoothed out the paper and held it close to the light, trying to
read what was written on it.

Her sight was blurred. She had to pull herself resolutely together, for
suddenly she felt ashamed of her weakness and her overwhelming terror
yielded to feverish excitement.

The scrap of paper contained a message--a message addressed to her in
that name of which she was so proud--the name which she thought she
would never be allowed to bear again: Lady Anthony Dewhurst. She
reiterated the words several times, her lips clinging lovingly to
them--and just below them there was a small device, drawn in red ink...a
tiny flower with five petals...

Yvonne frowned and murmured, vaguely puzzled--no longer frightened now:
"A flower...drawn in red...what can it mean?"

But now suddenly all her fears fell away from her. Hope was once more
knocking at the gates of her heart--vague memories had taken definite
shape...the mysterious letter...the message of hope...the red
flower...all were gaining significance. She stooped low to read the
letter by the feeble light of the flickering candle. She read it through
with her eyes first--then with her lips in a soft murmur, while her mind
gradually took in all that it meant for her.



"Keep up your courage. Your friends are inside the city and on the
watch. Try the door of your prison every evening at one hour before
midnight. Once you will find it yield. Slip out and creep noiselessly
down the stairs. At the bottom a friendly hand will be stretched out to
you. Take it with confidence--it will lead you to safety and freedom.
Courage and secrecy."



When she had finished reading, her eyes were swimming in tears. There
was no longer any doubt in her mind about the message now, for her dear
milor' had so often spoken to her about the brave Scarlet Pimpernel who
had risked his precious life many a time ere this, in order to render
service to the innocent and the oppressed. And now, of a surety, this
message came from him: him: from her dear milor' and from his gallant
chief. There was the small device--the little red flower which had so
often brought hope to despairing hearts. And it was more than hope that
it brought to Yvonne. It brought certitude and happiness, and a sweet,
tender remorse that she should ever have doubted. She ought to have
known all along that everything would be for the best: she had no right
ever to have given way to despair. In her heart she prayed for
forgiveness from her dear absent milor'.

How could she ever doubt him? Was it likely that he would abandon
her?--he and that brave friend of his whose powers were indeed magical.
Why! she ought to have done her best to keep up her physical as well as
her mental faculties--who knows? But perhaps physical strength might be
of inestimable value both to herself and to her gallant rescuers
presently.

She took up the stale brown bread and ate it resolutely. She drank some
water and then stamped round the room to get some warmth into her limbs.

A distant clock had struck ten awhile ago--and if possible she ought to
get an hour's rest before the time came for her to be strong and to act:
so she shook up her meagre straw paillasse and lay down, determined if
possible to get a little sleep--for indeed she felt that that was just
what her dear milor' would have wished her to do.

Thus time went by--waking or dreaming, Yvonne could never afterwards
have said in what state she waited during that one long hour which
separated her from the great, blissful moment. The bit of candle burnt
low and presently died out. After that Yvonne remained quite still upon
the straw, in total darkness: no light came in through the tiny window,
only the cold north-westerly wind blew in in gusts. But of a surety the
prisoner who was within sight of freedom felt neither cold nor fatigue
now.

The tower-clock in the distance struck the quarters with dreary
monotony.

III

The last stroke of eleven ceased to vibrate through the stillness of the
winter's night.

Yvonne roused herself from the torpor-like state into which she had
fallen. She tried to struggle to her feet, but intensity of excitement
had caused a strange numbness to invade her limbs. She could hardly
move. A second or two ago it had seemed to her that she heard a gentle
scraping noise at the door--a drawing of bolts--the grating of a key in
the lock--then again, soft, shuffling footsteps that came and went and
that were not those of Louise Adet.

At last Yvonne contrived to stand on her feet; but she had to close her
eyes and to remain quite still for awhile after that, for her ears were
buzzing and her head swimming: she thought that she must fall if she
moved and mayhap lose consciousness.

But this state of weakness only lasted a few seconds: the next she had
groped her way to the door and her hand had found the iron latch. It
yielded. Then she waited, calling up all her strength--for the hour had
come wherein she must not only think and act for herself, but think of
every possibility which might occur, and act as she imagined her dear
lord would require it of her.

She pressed the clumsy iron latch further: it yielded again, and anon
she was able to push open the door.

Excited yet confident she tip-toed out of the room. The darkness--like
unto pitch--was terribly disconcerting. With the exception of her narrow
prison Yvonne had only once seen the interior of the house and that was
when, half fainting, she had been dragged across its threshold and up
the stairs. She had therefore only a very vague idea as to where the
stairs lay and how she was to get about without stumbling.

Slowly and cautiously she crept a few paces forward, then she turned and
carefully closed the door behind her. There was not a sound inside the
house: every-thing was silent around her: neither footfall nor
whisperings reached her straining ears. She felt about with her hands,
she crouched down on her knees: anon she discovered the head of the
stairs.

Then suddenly she drew back, like a frightened hare conscious of danger.
All the blood rushed back to her heart, making it beat so violently that
she once more felt sick and faint. A sound--gentle as a breath--had
broken that absolute and dead silence which up to now had given her
confidence. She felt suddenly that she was no longer alone in the
darkness--that somewhere close by there was some one--friend or foe--who
was lying in watch for her--that somewhere in the darkness something
moved and breathed.

The crackling of the paper inside her kerchief served to remind her that
her dear milor' was on the watch and that the blessed message had spoken
of a friendly hand which would be stretched out to her and which she was
enjoined to take with confidence. Reassured she crept on again, and anon
a softly murmured: "Hush-sh!--sh!--" reached her ear. It seemed to come
from down below--not very far--and Yvonne, having once more located the
head of the stairs with her hands, began slowly to creep
downstairs--softly as a mouse--step by step--but every time that a board
creaked she paused, terrified, listening for Louise Adet's heavy
footstep, for a sound that would mean the near approach of danger.

"Hush--sh--sh" came again as a gentle murmur from below and the
something that moved and breathed in the darkness seemed to draw nearer
to Yvonne.

A few more seconds of soul-racking suspense, a few more steps down the
creaking stairs and she felt a strong hand laid upon her wrist and heard
a muffled voice whisper in English:

"All is well! Trust me! Follow me!"

She did not recognize the voice, even though there was something vaguely
familiar in its intonation. Yvonne did not pause to conjecture: she had
been made happy by the very sound of the language which stood to her for
every word of love she had ever heard: it restored her courage and her
confidence in their fullest measure.

Obeying the whispered command, Yvonne was content now to follow her
mysterious guide who had hold of her hand. The stairs were steep and
winding--at a turn she perceived a feeble light at their foot down
below. Up against this feeble light the form of her guide was
silhouetted in a broad, dark mass. Yvonne could see nothing of him
beyond the square outline of his shoulders and that of his sugar-loaf
hat. Her mind now was thrilled with excitement and her fingers closed
almost convulsively round his hand. He led her across Louise Adet's back
kitchen. It was from here that the feeble light came--from a small oil
lamp which stood on the centre table. It helped to guide Yvonne and her
mysterious friend to the bottom of the stairs, then across the kitchen
to the front door, where again complete darkness reigned. But soon
Yvonne--who was following blindly whithersoever she was led--heard the
click of a latch and the grating of a door upon its hinges: a cold
current of air caught her straight in the face. She could see nothing,
for it seemed to be as dark out of doors as in: but she had the
sensation of that open door, of a threshold to cross, of freedom and
happiness beckoning to her straight out of the gloom. Within the next
second or two she would be out of this terrible place, its squalid and
dank walls would be behind her. On ahead in that thrice welcome
obscurity her dear milor' and his powerful friend were beckoning to her
to come boldly on--their protecting arms were already stretched out for
her; it seemed to her excited fancy as if the cold night-wind brought to
her ears the echo of their endearing words.

She filled her lungs with the keen winter air: hope, happiness,
excitement thrilled her every nerve.

"A short walk, my lady," whispered the guide, still speaking in English:
"you are not cold?"

"No, no, I am not cold," she whispered in reply. "I am conscious of
nothing save that I am free."

"And you are not afraid"

"Indeed, indeed I am not afraid," she murmured fervently. "May God
reward you, sir, for what you do."

Again there had been that certain something--vaguely familiar--in the
way the man spoke which for the moment piqued Yvonne's curiosity. She
did not, of a truth, know English well enough to detect the very obvious
foreign intonation; she only felt that sometime in the dim and happy
past she had heard this man speak. But even this vague sense of
puzzlement she dismissed very quickly from her mind. Was she not taking
everything on trust? Indeed hope and confidence had a very firm hold on
her at last.



Chapter Six - The Rat Mort

I

The guide had stepped out of the house into the street, Yvonne following
closely on his heels. The night was very dark and the narrow little
Carrefour de la Poissonnerie very sparsely lighted. Somewhere overhead
on the right, something groaned and creaked persistently in the wind. A
little farther on a street lanthorn was swinging aloft throwing a small
circle of dim, yellowish light on the unpaved street below. By its
fitful glimmer Yvonne could vaguely perceive the tall figure of her
guide as he stepped out with noiseless yet firm tread, his shoulder
brushing against the side of the nearest house as he kept closely within
the shadow of its high wall. The sight of his broad back thrilled her.
She had fallen to imagining whether this was not perchance that gallant
and all-powerful Scarlet Pimpernel himself: the mysterious friend of
whom her dear milor' so often spoke with an admiration that was akin to
worship. He too was probably tall and broad--for English gentlemen were
usually built that way; and Yvonne's over-excited mind went galloping on
the wings of fancy, and in her heart she felt that she was glad that she
had suffered so much, and then lived through such a glorious moment as
this.

Now from the narrow unpaved yard in front of the house the guide turned
sharply to the right. Yvonne could only distinguish outlines. The
streets of Nantes were familiar to her, and she knew pretty well where
she was. The lanthorn inside the clock tower of Le Bouffay guided
her--it was now on her right--the house wherein she had been kept a
prisoner these past three days was built against the walls of the great
prison house. She knew that she was in the Carrefour de la Poissonnerie.

She felt neither fatigue nor cold, for she was wildly excited. The keen
north-westerly wind searched all the weak places in her worn clothing
and her thin shoes were wet through. But her courage up to this point
had never forsaken her. Hope and the feeling of freedom gave her
marvellous strength, and when her guide paused a moment ere he turned
the angle of the high wall and whispered hurriedly: "You have courage,
my lady?" she was able to answer serenely: "In plenty, sir."

She tried to peer into the darkness in order to realize whither she was
being led. The guide had come to a halt in front of the house which was
next to that of Louise Adet: it projected several feet in front of the
latter: the thing that creaked so weirdly in the wind turned out to be a
painted sign, which swung out from an iron bracket fixed into the wall.
Yvonne could not read the writing on the sign, but she noticed that just
above it there was a small window dimly lighted from within.

What sort of a house it was Yvonne could not, of course, see. The
frontage was dark save for narrow streaks of light which peeped through
the interstices of the door and through the chinks of ill-fastened
shutters on either side. Not a sound came from within, but now that the
guide had come to a halt it seemed to Yvonne--whose nerves and senses
had become preternaturally acute--that the whole air around her was
filled with muffled sounds, and when she stood still and strained her
ears to listen she was conscious right through the inky blackness of
vague forms--shapeless and silent--that glided past her in the gloom.

II

"Your friends will meet you here," the guide whispered as he pointed to
the door of the house in front of him. "The door is on the latch. Push
it open and walk in boldly. Then gather up all your courage, for you
will find yourself in the company of poor people, whose manners are
somewhat rougher than those to which you have been accustomed. But
though the people are uncouth, you will find them kind. Above all you
will find that they will pay no heed to you. So I entreat you do not be
afraid. Your friends would have arranged for a more refined place
wherein to come and find you, but as you may well imagine they had no
choice."

"I quite understand, sir," said Yvonne quietly, "and I am not afraid."

"Ah! that's brave!" he rejoined. "Then do as I tell you. I give you my
word that inside that house you will be perfectly safe until such time
as your friends are able to get to you. You may have to wait an hour, or
even two; you must have patience. Find a quiet place in one of the
corners of the room and sit there quietly, taking no notice of what goes
on around you. You will be quite safe, and the arrival of your friends
is only a question of time."

"My friends, sir?" she spoke earnestly, and her voice shook slightly as
she spoke, "are you not one of the most devoted friends I can ever hope
to have? I cannot find the words now wherewith to thank you, but..."

"I pray you do not thank me," he broke in gruffly, "and do not waste
time in parleying. The open street is none too safe a place for you just
now. The house is."

His hand was on the latch and he was about to push open the door, when
Yvonne stopped him with a word.

"My father?" she whispered with passionate entreaty. "Will you help him
too?"

"Monsieur le Duc de Kernogan is as safe as you are, my lady," he
replied. "He will join you anon. I pray you have no fears for him. Your
friends are caring for him in the same way as they care for you."

"Then I shall see him...soon?"

"Very soon. And in the meanwhile," he added, "I pray you to sit quite
still and to wait events...despite anything you may see or hear. Your
father's safety and your own--not to speak of that of your
friends--hangs on your quiescence, your silence, your obedience."

"I will remember, sir," rejoined Yvonne quietly. "I in my turn entreat
you to have no fears for me."

Even while she said this, the man pushed the door open.

III

Yvonne had meant to be brave. Above all she had meant to be obedient.
But even so, she could not help recoiling at sight of the place where
she had just been told she must wait patiently and silently for an hour,
or even two.

The room into which her guide now gently urged her forward was large and
low, only dimly lighted by an oil-lamp which hung from the ceiling and
emitted a thin stream of black smoke and evil smell. Such air as there
was, was foul and reeked of the fumes of alcohol and charcoal, of the
smoking lamp and of rancid grease. The walls had no doubt been
white-washed once, now they were of a dull greyish tint, with here and
there hideous stains of red or the marks of a set of greasy fingers. The
plaster was hanging in strips and lumps from the ceiling; it had fallen
away in patches from the walls where it displayed the skeleton laths
beneath. There were two doors in the wall immediately facing the front
entrance, and on each side of the latter there was a small window, both
insecurely shuttered. To Yvonne the whole place appeared unspeakably
squalid and noisome. Even as she entered her ears caught the sound of
hideous muttered blasphemy, followed by quickly suppressed hoarse and
mirthless laughter and the piteous cry of an infant at the breast.

There were perhaps sixteen to twenty people in the room--amongst them a
goodly number of women, some of whom had tiny, miserable atoms of
humanity clinging to their ragged skirts. A group of men in tattered
shirts, bare shins and sabots stood in the centre of the room and had
apparently been in conclave when the entrance of Yvonne and her guide
caused them to turn quickly to the door and to scan the new-comers with
a furtive, suspicious look which would have been pathetic had it not
been so full of evil intent. The muttered blasphemy had come from this
group; one or two of the men spat upon the ground in the direction of
the door, where Yvonne instinctively had remained rooted to the spot.

As for the women, they only betrayed their sex by the ragged clothes
which they wore: there was not a face here which had on it a single line
of softness or of gentleness: they might have been old women or young:
their hair was of a uniform, nondescript colour, lank and unkempt,
hanging in thin strands over their brows; their eyes were sunken, their
cheeks either flaccid or haggard--there was no individuality amongst
them--just one uniform sisterhood of wretchedness which had already gone
hand in hand with crime.

Across one angle of the room there was a high wooden counter like a bar,
on which stood a number of jugs and bottles, some chunks of bread and
pieces of cheese, and a collection of pewter mugs. An old man and a fat,
coarse-featured, middle-aged woman stood behind it and dispensed various
noxious-looking liquors. Above their heads upon the grimy, tumble-down
wall the Republican device "Liberté! Egalité Fraternité!" was scrawled
in charcoal in huge characters, and below it was scribbled the hideous
doggerel which an impious mind had fashioned last autumn on the subject
of the martyred Queen.

IV

Yvonne had closed her eyes for a moment as she entered; now she turned
appealingly towards her guide.

"Must it be in here?" she asked.

"I am afraid it must," he replied with a sigh. "You told me that you
would be brave."

She pulled herself together resolutely. "I will be brave," she said
quietly.

"Ah! that's better," he rejoined. "I give you my word that you will be
absolutely safe in here until such time as your friends can get to you.
I entreat you to gather up your courage. I assure you that these
wretched people are not unkind: misery--not unlike that which you
yourself have endured--has made them what they are. No doubt we should
have arranged for a better place for you wherein to await your friends
if we had the choice. But you will understand that your safety and our
own had to be our paramount consideration, and we had no choice."

"I quite understand, sir," said Yvonne valiantly, "and am already
ashamed of my fears."

And without another word of protest she stepped boldly into the room.

For a moment or two the guide remained standing on the threshold,
watching Yvonne's progress. She had already perceived an empty bench in
the farthest angle of the room, up against the door opposite, where she
hoped or believed that she could remain unmolested while she waited
patiently and in silence as she had been ordered to do. She skirted the
groups of men in the centre of the room as she went, but even so she
felt more than she heard that muttered insults accompanied the furtive
and glowering looks wherewith she was regarded. More than one wretch
spat upon her skirts on the way.

But now she was in no sense frightened, only wildly excited; even her
feeling of horror she contrived to conquer. The knowledge that her own
attitude, and above all her obedience, would help her gallant rescuers
in their work gave her enduring strength. She felt quite confident that
within an hour or two she would be in the arms of her dear milor' who
had risked his life in order to come to her. It was indeed well worth
while to have suffered as she had done, to endure all that she might yet
have to endure, for the sake of the happiness which was in store for
her.

She turned to give a last look at her guide--a look which was intended
to reassure him completely as to her courage and her obedience: but
already he had gone and had closed the door behind him, and quite
against her will the sudden sense of loneliness and helplessness
clutched at her heart with a grip that made it ache. She wished that she
had succeeded in catching sight of the face of so valiant a friend: the
fact that she was safely out of Louise Adet's vengeful clutches was due
to the man who had just disappeared behind that door. It would be thanks
to him presently if she saw her father again. Yvonne felt more convinced
than ever that he was the Scarlet Pimpernel--milor's friend--who kept
his valiant personality a mystery, even to those who owed their lives to
him. She had seen the outline of his broad figure, she had felt the
touch of his hand. Would she recognize these again when she met him in
England in the happy days that were to come? In any case she thought
that she would recognize the voice and the manner of speaking, so unlike
that of any English gentleman she had known.

V

The man who had so mysteriously led Yvonne de Kernogan from the house of
Louis Adet to the Rat Mort, turned away from the door of the tavern as
soon as it had closed on the young girl, and started to go back the way
he came.

At the angle formed by the high wall of the tavern he paused; a moving
form had detached itself form the surrounding gloom and hailed him with
a cautious whisper:

"Hist! Citizen Martin-Roget, is that you?"

"Yes."

"Everything just as we anticipated?"

"Everything."

"And the wench safely inside?"

"Quite safely."

The other gave a low cackle, which might have been intended for a laugh.

"The simplest means," he said, "are always the best."

"She never suspected me. It was all perfectly simple. You are a
magician, Citizen Chauvelin," added Martin-Roget grudgingly. "I never
would have thought of such a clever ruse."

"You see," rejoined Chauvelin dryly. "I graduated in the school of a
master of all ruses--a master of daring and a past master in the art of
mimicry. And hope was our great ally--the hope that never forsakes a
prisoner--that of getting free. Your fair Yvonne had boundless faith in
the power of her English friends, therefore she fell into our trap like
a bird."

"And like a bird she shall struggle in vain after this," said
Martin-Roget slowly. "Oh! that I could hasten the flight of time--the
next few minutes will hang on me like hours. And I wish too it were not
so bitterly cold," he added with a curse; "this north-westerly wind has
got into my bones."

"On to your nerves, I imagine, Citizen," retorted Chauvelin with a
laugh; "for my part I feel as warm and comfortable as on a lovely day in
June."

"Hark! Who goes there? broke in the other man abruptly, as a solitary
moving form detached itself form the surrounding inky blackness and the
sound of measured footsteps broke the silence of the night.

"Quite in order, citizen!" was the prompt reply.

The shadowy form came a step of two farther forward.

"Is it you, Citizen Fleury?" queried Chauvelin.

"Himself, Citizen," replied the other.

The men had spoken in a whisper. Fleury now placed his hand on
Chauvelin's arm.

"We had best not stand so close to the tavern," he said, "the night
hawks are already about and we don't want to scare them."

He led the others up the yard, then into a very narrow passage which lay
between Louise Adet's house and the Rat Mort and was bordered by the
high walls of the houses on either side.

"This is a blind alley," he whispered. "We have the wall of Le Bouffay
in front of us: the wall of the Rat Mort is on one side and the house of
the Citizeness Adet is on the other. We can talk here undisturbed."

Overhead there was a tiny window dimly lighted from within. Chauvelin
pointed up to it.

"What is that?" he asked.

"An aperture too small for any human being to pass through," replied
Fleury dryly. "It gives on a small landing at the foot of the stairs. I
told Friche to try and maneuver so that the wench and her father are
pushed in there out of the way while the worst of the fracas is going
on. That was your suggestion, Citizen Chauvelin."

"It was. I was afraid the two aristos might get spirited away while your
men were tackling the crowd in the tap-room. I wanted them put away in a
safe place."

"The staircase is safe enough," rejoined Fleury, "it has no egress save
that on the tap-room and only leads to the upper story and the attic.
The house has no back entrance--it is built against the wall of Le
Bouffay."

"And what about your Marats, Citizen Commandant?"

"Oh! I have them all along the street--entirely under cover but closely
on the watch--half a company and all keen after the game. The thousand
francs you promised them has stimulated their zeal most marvellously,
and as soon as Paul Friche in there has whipped up the tempers of the
frequenters of the Rat Mort, we shall be ready to rush the place, and I
assure you, Citizen Chauvelin, that only a disembodied ghost--if there
be one in the place--will succeed in evading arrest."

"Is Paul Friche already at his post then?"

"And at work--or I'm much mistaken," replied Fleury as he suddenly
gripped Chauvelin by the arm.

For just at this moment the silence of the winter's night was broken by
loud cries which came from the interior of the Rat Mort--voices were
raised to hoarse and raucous cries--men and women all appeared to be
shrieking together, and presently there was a loud crash as of
overturned furniture and broken glass.

"A few minutes longer, Citizen Fleury," said Chauvelin, as the
commandant of the Marats turned on his heel and started to go back to
the Carrefour de la Poissonnerie.

"Oh yes!" whispered the latter, "We'll wait awhile longer to give the
Englishmen time to arrive on the scene. The coast is clear for them--my
Marats are hidden from sight behind doorways and shop-fronts of the
houses opposite. In about three minutes from now I'll send them
forward."

"And good luck to your hunting, Citizen," whispered Chauvelin in
response.

Fleury very quickly disappeared in the darkness and the other two men
followed in his wake. They hugged the wall of the Rat Mort as they went
along and its shadow enveloped them completely: their shoes made no
sound on the unpaved ground. Chauvelin's nostrils quivered as he drew
the keen, cold air into his lungs and faced the north-westerly blast
which at this moment also lashed the face of his enemy. His keen eyes
tried to pierce the gloom, his ears were strained to hear that merry
peal of laughter which in the unforgettable past had been wont to
proclaim the presence of the reckless adventurer. He knew--he felt--as
certainly as he felt the air which he breathed, that the man whom he
hated beyond everything on earth was somewhere close by, wrapped in the
murkiness of the night--thinking, planning, intriguing, pitting his
sharp wits, his indomitable pluck, his impudent dare-devilry against the
sure and patient trap which had been set for him.

Half a company of Marats in front--the walls of Le Bouffay in the rear!
Chauvelin rubbed his thin hands together!

"You are not a disembodied ghost, my fine Scarlet Pimpernel," he
murmured, "and this time I really think--"



Chapter Seven - The Fracas in the Tavern

I

Yvonne had settled herself in a corner of the tap-room on a bench and
had tried to lose consciousness of her surroundings.

It was not easy! Glances charged with rancour were levelled at her
dainty appearance--dainty and refined despite the look of starvation and
of weariness on her face and the miserable state of her clothing--and
not a few muttered insults waited on those glances.

As soon as she was seated Yvonne noticed that the old man and the
coarse, fat woman behind the bar started an animated conversation
together, of which she was very obviously the object, for the two
heads--the lean and the round--were jerked more than once in her
direction. Presently the man--it was George Lemoine, the proprietor of
the Rat Mort--came up to where she was sitting: his lank figure was bent
so that his lean back formed the best part of an arc, and an expression
of mock deference further distorted his ugly face.

He came up quite close to Yvonne and she found it passing difficult not
to draw away from him, for the leer on his face was appalling: his eyes,
which were set very near to his hooked nose, had a horrible squint, his
lips were thick and moist, and his breath reeked of alcohol.

"What will the noble lady deign to drink?" he now asked in an oily,
suave voice.

And Yvonne, remembering the guide's admonitions, contrived to smile
unconcernedly into the hideous face.

"I would very much like some wine," she said cheerfully, "but I am
afraid that I have no money wherewith to pay you for it."

The creature with a gesture of abject humility rubbed his greasy hands
together.

"And may I respectfully ask," he queried blandly, "what are the
intentions of the noble lady in coming to this humble abode, if she hath
no desire to partake of refreshments?"

"I am expecting friends," replied Yvonne bravely; "they will be here
very soon, and will gladly repay you lavishly for all the kindness which
you may be inclined to show to me the while."

She was very brave indeed and looked this awful misshapen specimen of a
man quite boldly in the face: she even contrived to smile, though she
was well aware that a number of men and women--perhaps a dozen
altogether--had congregated in front of her in a compact group around
the landlord, that they were nudging one another and pointing
derisively--malevolently--at her. It was impossible, despite all
attempts at valour, to mistake the hostile attitude of these people.
Some of the most obscene words, coined during these last horrible days
of the Revolution, were freely hurled at her, and one woman suddenly
cried out in a shrill treble:

"Throw her out, Citizen Lemoine! We don't want spies in here!"

"Indeed, indeed," said Yvonne as quietly as she could, "I am no spy. I
am poor and wretched like yourselves! and desperately lonely, save for
the kind friends who will meet me here anon."

"Aristos like yourself!" growled one of the men. "This is no place for
you or for them."

"No! No! This is no place for aristos," cried one of the women in a
voice which many excesses and many vices had rendered hoarse and rough.
"Spy or not, we don't want you in here. Do we?" she added as with arms
akimbo she turned to face those of her own sex, who behind the men had
come up in order to see what was going on.

"Throw her out, Lemoine," reiterated a man who appeared to be an oracle
amongst the others.

"Please! please let me stop here!" pleaded Yvonne; "if you turn me out I
shall not know what to do: I shall not know where to meet my friends
..."

"Pretty story about those friends," broke in Lemoine roughly. "How do I
know if you're lying or not?"

From the opposite angle of the room, the woman behind the bar had been
watching the little scene with eyes that glistened with cupidity. Now
she emerged from behind her stronghold of bottles and mugs and slowly
waddled across the room. She pushed her way unceremoniously past her
customers, elbowing men, women and children vigorously aside with a deft
play of her large, muscular arms. Having reached the forefront of the
little group she came to a standstill immediately in front of Yvonne,
and crossing her mighty arms over her ponderous chest she eyed the
"aristo" with unconcealed malignity.

"We do know that the slut is lying--that is where you make the mistake,
Lemoine. A slut, that's what she is--and the friend whom she's going to
meet...? Well!" she added, turning with an ugly leer towards the other
women, "we all know what sort of friend that one is likely to be, eh,
mesdames? Bringing evil fame on this house, that's what the wench is
after...so as to bring the police about our ears...I wouldn't trust her,
not another minute. Out with you and at once--do you hear?...this
instant...Lemoine has parleyed quite long enough with you already!"

Despite all her resolutions Yvonne was terribly frightened. While the
hideous old hag talked and screamed and waved her coarse, red arms
about, the unfortunate young girl with a great effort of will, kept
repeating to herself: "I am not frightened--I must not be frightened. He
assured me that these people would do me no harm..." But now when the
woman had ceased speaking there was a general murmur of:

"Throw her out! Spy or aristo we don't want her here!" whilst some of
the men added significantly: "I am sure that she is one of Carrier's
spies and in league with his Marats! We shall have those devils in here
in a moment if we don't look out! Throw her out before she can signal to
the Marats!"

Ugly faces charged with hatred and virulence were thrust threateningly
forward--one or two of the women were obviously looking forward to
joining in the scramble, when this "stuck-up wench" would presently be
hurled out into the street.

"Now then, my girl, out you get," concluded the woman Lemoine, as with
an expressive gesture she proceeded to roll her sleeves higher up her
arm. She was about to lay her dirty hands on Yvonne, and the poor girl
was nearly sick with horror, when one of the men--a huge, coarse giant,
whose muscular torso, covered with grease and grime showed almost naked
through a ragged shirt which hung from his shoulders in strips--seized
the woman Lemoine by the arm and dragged her back a step or two away
from Yvonne.

"Don't be a fool, petit mère," he said, accompanying this admonition
with a blasphemous oath. "Slut or no, the wench may as well pay you
something for the privilege of staying here. Look at that cloak she's
wearing--the shoe-leather on her feet. Aren't they worth a bottle of
your sour wine?"

"What's that to you, Paul Friche?" retorted the woman roughly, as with a
vigorous gesture she freed her arm from the man's grasp. "Is this my
house or yours?"

"Yours, of course," replied the man with a coarse laugh and a still
coarser jest, "but this won't be the first time that I have saved you
from impulsive folly. Yesterday you were for harbouring a couple of
rogues who were Marats in disguise: if I hadn't given you warning, you
would now have swallowed more water from the Loire than you would care
to hold. But for me two days ago you would have received the goods
pinched by Ferté out of Balaze's shop, and been thrown to the fishes in
consequence for the entertainment of the proconsul and his friends. You
must admit that I've been a good friend to you before now."

"And if you have, Paul Friche," retorted the hag obstinately, "I paid
you well for your friendship, both yesterday and the day before, didn't
I?"

"You did," assented Friche imperturbably. "That's why I want to serve
you again to-night."

"Don't listen to him, petit mère," interposed one or two out of the
crowd. "He is a white-livered skunk to talk to you like that."

"Very well! Very well!" quoth Paul Friche, and he spat vigorously on the
ground in token that henceforth he divested himself from any
responsibility in this matter, "don't listen to me. Lose a benefit of
twenty, perhaps forty francs for the sake of a bit of fun. Very well!
Very well!" he continued as he turned and slouched out of the group to
the farther end of the room, where he sat down on a barrel. He drew the
stump of a clay pipe out of the pocket of his breeches, stuffed it into
his mouth, stretched his long legs out before him and sucked away at his
pipe with complacent detachment. "I didn't know," he added with biting
sarcasm by way of a parting shot, "that you and Lemoine had come into a
fortune recently and that forty or fifty francs are nothing to you now."

"Forty or fifty? Come! come!" protested Lemoine feebly.



II

Yvonne's fate was hanging in the balance. The attitude of the small
crowd was no less threatening than before, but immediate action was
withheld while the Lemoines obviously debated in their minds what was
best to be done. The instinct to "have at" an aristo with all the
accumulated hatred of many generations was warring with the innate
rapacity of the Breton peasant.

"Forty or fifty?" reiterated Paul Friche emphatically. "Can't you see
that the wench is an aristo escaped out of Le Bouffay or the entrepôt?"
he added contemptuously.

"I know that she is an aristo," said the woman, "that's why I want to
throw her out."

"And get nothing for your pains," retorted Friche roughly. "If you wait
for her friends we may all of us get as much as twenty francs each to
hold our tongues."

"Twenty francs each..." The murmur was repeated with many a sigh of
savage gluttony, by every one in the room--and repeated again and
again--especially by the women.

"You are a fool, Paul Friche..." commented Lemoine.

"A fool am I?" retorted the giant. "Then let me tell you, that 'tis you
who are a fool and worse. I happen to know," he added as he once more
rose and rejoined the group in the centre of the room, "I happen to know
that you and every one here is heading straight for a trap arranged by
the Committee of Public Safety, whose chief emissary came into Nantes
awhile ago and is named Chauvelin. It is a trap which will land you all
in the criminal dock first and on the way to Cayenne or the guillotine
afterwards. This place is surrounded with Marats, and orders have been
issued to them to make a descent on this place, as soon as Papa
Lemoine's customers are assembled. There are two members of the accursed
company amongst us at the present moment..."

He was standing right in the middle of the room, immediately beneath the
hanging lamp. At his words--spoken with such firm confidence, as one who
knows and is therefore empowered to speak--a sudden change came over the
spirit of the whole assembly. Everything was forgotten in the face of
this new danger--two Marats, the sleuth-hounds of the proconsul--here
present, as spies and as informants! Every face became more
haggard--every cheek more livid. There was a quick and furtive scurrying
towards the front door.

"Two Marats here?" shouted one man, who was bolder than the rest. "Where
are they?"

Paul Friche, who towered above his friends, stood at this moment quite
close to a small man, dressed like the others in ragged breeches and
shirt, and wearing the broad-brimmed hat usually affected by the Breton
peasantry.

"Two Marats? Two spies?" screeched a woman, "Where are they?"

"Here is one," replied Paul Friche with a loud laugh and with his large
grimy hand he lifted the hat from his neighbour's head and threw it on
the ground; "and there," he added as with long, bony finger he pointed
to the front door, where another man--a square-built youngster with
tow-coloured hair somewhat resembling a shaggy dog--was endeavouring to
effect a surreptitious exit, "there is the other; and he is on the point
of slipping quietly away in order to report to his captain what he has
seen and heard at the Rat Mort. One moment, Citizen," he added, and with
a couple of giant strides he too had reached the door; his large rough
hand had come down heavily on the shoulder of the youth with the
tow-coloured hair, and had forced him to veer round and to face the
angry, gesticulating crowd.

"Two Marats! Two spies!" shouted the men. "Now we'll soon settle their
little business for them!"

"Marat yourself," cried the small man who had first been denounced by
Friche. "I am no Marat, as a good many of you here know. Maman Lemoine,"
he added pleading, "you know me. Am I a Marat?"

But the Lemoines--man and wife--at the first suggestion of police had
turned a deaf ear to all their customers. Their own safety being in
jeopardy they cared little what happened to anybody else. They had
retired behind their counter and were in close consultation together, no
doubt as to the best means of escape if indeed the man Paul Friche spoke
the truth.

"I know nothing about him," the woman was saying, "but he certainly was
right last night about those two men who came ferreting in here--and
last week too..."

"Am I a Marat, Maman Lemoine?" shouted the small man as he hammered his
fists upon the counter. "For ten years and more I have been a customer
in this place and..."

"Am I a Marat?" shouted the youth with the tow-coloured hair addressing
the assembly indiscriminately. "Some of you here know me well enough.
Jean Paul, you know--Ledouble, you too..."

"Of course! Of course I know you well enough, Jacques Leroux," came with
a loud laugh from one of the crowd. "Who said you were a Marat?"

"Am I a Marat, Maman Lemoine?" reiterated the small man at the counter.

"Oh! leave me alone with your quarrels," shouted the woman Lemoine in
reply. "Settle them among yourselves."

"Then if Jacques Leroux is not a Marat," now came in a bibulous voice
from a distant corner of the room, "and this compeer here is known to
Maman Lemoine, where are the real Marats who according to this fellow
Friche, whom we none of us know, are spying upon us?"

"Yes! where are they?" suggested another. "Show 'em to us Paul Friche,
or whatever your accursed name happens to be."

"Tell us where you come from yourself," screamed the woman with a shrill
treble, "it seems to me quite possible that you're a Marat yourself."

This suggestion was at once taken up.

"Marat yourself!" shouted the crowd, and the two men who a moment ago
had been accused of being spies in disguise shouted louder than the
rest: "Marat yourself!"

III

After that, pandemonium reigned.

The words "police" and "Marats" had aroused the terror of all these
night-hawks, who were wont to think themselves immune inside their lair:
and terror is at all times an evil counsellor. In the space of a few
seconds confusion held undisputed sway. Every one screamed, waved arms,
stamped feet, struck out with heavy bare fists at his nearest neighbour.
Every one's hand was against every one else.

"Spy! Marat! Informer!" were the three words that detached themselves
most clearly from out the babel of vituperations freely hurled from end
to end of the room.

The children screamed, the women's shrill or hoarse treble mingled with
the cries and imprecations of the men.

Paul Friche had noted that the turn of the tide was against him, long
before the first naked fist had been brandished in his face. Agile as a
monkey he had pushed his way through to the bar, and placing his two
hands upon it, with a swift leap he had taken up a sitting position in
the very middle of the table amongst the jugs and bottles, which he
promptly seized and used as missiles and weapons, whilst with his
dangling feet encased in heavy sabots he kicked out vigorously and
unceasingly against the shins of his foremost assailants.

He had the advantage of position and used it cleverly. In his right hand
he held a pewter mug by the handle and used it as a swivel against his
aggressors with great effect.

"The Loire for you--you blackmailer! liar! traitor!" shouted some of the
women who, bolder than the men, thrust shaking fists at Paul Friche as
closely as that pewter mug would allow.

"Break his jaw before he can yell for the police," admonished one of the
men from the rear "before he can save his own skin."

But those who shouted loudest had only their fists by way of weapon and
Paul Friche had mugs and bottles, and those sabots of his kicked out
with uncomfortable agility.

"Break my jaw will you," he shouted every time that a blow from the mug
went home, "a spy am I? Very well then, here's for you, Jacques Leroux;
go and nurse your cracked skull at home. You want a row," he added,
hitting at a youth who brandished a heavy fist in his face, "well! you
shall have it and as much of it as you like! as much of it as will bring
the patrols of police comfortably about your ears."

Bang! went the pewter mug crashing against a man's hard skull! Bang went
Paul Friche's naked fist against the chest of another. He was a hard
hitter and swift.

The Lemoines from behind their bar shouted louder than the rest, doing
as much as their lungs would allow them in the way of admonishing,
entreating, protesting--cursing every one for a set of fools who were
playing straight into the hands of the police.

"Now then! Now then, children, stop that bellowing, will you? There are
no spies here. Paul Friche was only having his little joke! We all know
one another, what?"

"Camels!" added Lemoine more forcibly. "They'll bring the patrols about
our ears for sure."

Paul Friche was not by any means the only man who was being vigorously
attacked. After the first two or three minutes of this kingdom of
pandemonium, it was difficult to say who was quarrelling with whom. Old
grudges were revived, old feuds taken up there, where they had
previously been interrupted. Accusations of spying were followed by
abuse for some past wrong of black-legging or cheating a confrère. The
temperature of the room became suffocating. All these violent passions
seething within these four walls seemed to become tangible and to mingle
with the atmosphere already surcharged with the fumes of alcohol, of
tobacco and of perspiring humanity. There was many a black-eye already,
many a contusion: more than one knife--surreptitiously drawn--was
already stained with red.

IV

There was also a stampede for the door. One man gave the signal. Seeing
that his mates were wasting precious time by venting their wrath against
Paul Friche and then quarrelling among themselves he hoped to effect an
escape ere the police came to stop the noise. No one believed in the
place being surrounded. Why should it be? The Marats were far too busy
hunting up rebels and aristos to trouble much about the Rat Mort and its
customers, but it was quite possible that a brawl would bring a patrol
along, and then 'ware the police correctionnelle and the possibility of
deportation or worse. Retreat was undoubtedly safer while there was
time. One man first: then one or two more on his heels, and those among
the women who had children in their arms or clinging to their skirts:
they turned stealthily to the door--almost ashamed of their cowardice,
ashamed lest they were seen abandoning the field of combat.

It was while confusion reigned unchecked that Yvonne--who was cowering,
frankly terrified at last, in the corner of the room, became aware that
the door close beside her--the door situated immediately opposite the
front entrance--was surreptitiously opened. She turned quickly to
look--for she was like a terror-stricken little animal now--one that
scents and feels and fears danger from every quarter round. The door was
being pushed open very slowly by what was still to Yvonne an unseen
hand. Somehow that opening door fascinated her: for the moment she
forgot the noise and the confusion around her.

Then suddenly with a great effort of will she checked the scream which
had forced itself up to her throat.

"Father!" was all that she contrived to say in a hoarse and passionate
murmur.

Fortunately as he peered cautiously round the room, Monsieur le Duc
caught sight of his daughter. She was staring at him--wide-eyed, her
lips bloodless, her cheeks the colour of ashes. He looked but the ghost
now of that proud aristocrat who little more than a week ago was the
centre of a group of courtiers round the person of the heir to the
English throne. Starved, emaciated, livid, he was the shadow of his
former self, and there was a haunted look in his purple-rimmed eyes
which spoke with pathetic eloquence of sleepless nights and of a soul
tortured with remorse.

Just for the moment no one took any notice of him--every one was
shrieking, every one was quarrelling, and Monsieur le Duc, placing a
finger to his lips, stole cautiously round to his daughter. The next
instant they were clinging to one another, these two, who had endured so
much together--he the father who had wrought such an unspeakable wrong,
and she the child who was so lonely, so forlorn and almost happy in
finding some one who belonged to her, some one to whom she could cling.

"Father, dear! what shall we do?" Yvonne murmured, for she felt the last
shred of her fictitious courage oozing out of her, in face of this awful
lawlessness which literally paralysed her thinking faculties.

"Sh! dear!" whispered Monsieur le Duc in reply. "We must get out of this
loathsome place while this hideous row is going on. I heard it all from
the filthy garret up above, where those devils have kept me these three
days. The door was not locked...I crept downstairs...No one is paying
heed to us...We can creep out. Come."

But at the suggestion, Yvonne's spirits, which had been stunned by the
events of the past few moments, revived with truly mercurial rapidity.

"No! no! dear," she urged. "We must stay here...You don't know...I have
had a message--from my own dear milor'--my husband...he sent a friend to
take me out of the hideous prison where that awful Pierre Adet was
keeping me--a friend who assured me that my dear milor' was watching
over me...he brought me to this place--and begged me not to be
frightened...but to wait patiently...and I must wait, dear...I must
wait!"

She spoke rapidly in whispers and in short jerky sentences. Monsieur le
Duc listened to her wide-eyed, a deep line of puzzlement between his
brows. Sorrow, remorse, starvation, misery had in a measure numbed his
mind. The thought of help, of hope, of friends could not penetrate into
his brain.

"A message," he murmured inanely, "a message. No! no! my girl, you must
trust no one...Pierre Adet...Pierre Adet is full of evil tricks--he will
trap you...he means to destroy us both...he has brought you here so that
you should be murdered by these ferocious devils."

"Impossible, Father dear," she said, still striving to speak bravely.
"We have both of us been all this while in the power of Pierre Adet; he
could have had no object in bringing me here to-night."

But the father who had been an insentient tool in the schemes of that
miserable intriguer, who had been the means of bringing his only child
to this terrible and deadly pass--the man who had listened to the lying
counsels and proposals of his own most bitter enemy, could only groan
now in terror and in doubt.

"Who can probe the depths of that abominable villain's plans," he
murmured vaguely.

In the meanwhile the little group who had thought prudence the better
part of valour had reached the door. The foremost man amongst them
opened it and peered cautiously out into the darkness. He turned back to
those behind him, put a finger to his lip and beckoned to them to follow
him in silence.

"Yvonne, let us go!" whispered the Duc, who had seized his daughter by
the hand.

"But, Father..."

"Let us go!" he reiterated pitiably. "I shall die if we stay here!"

"It won't be for long, Father dear," she entreated; "if milor' should
come with his friend, and find us gone, we should be endangering his
life as well as our own."

"I don't believe it," he rejoined with the obstinacy of weakness. "I
don't believe in your message...how could milor' or any one come to your
rescue, my child?...No one knows that you are here, in this hell in
Nantes."

Yvonne clung to him with the strength of despair. She too was as
terrified as any human creature could be and live, but terror had not
altogether swept away her belief in that mysterious message, in that
tall guide who had led her hither, in that scarlet device--the
five-petalled flower which stood for everything that was most gallant
and most brave.

She desired with all her might to remain here--despite everything,
despite the awful brawl that was raging round her and which sickened
her, despite the horror of the whole thing--to remain here and to wait.
She put her arms round her father: she dragged him back every time that
he tried to move. But a sort of unnatural strength seemed to have
conquered his former debility. His attempts to get away became more and
more determined and more and more febrile.

"Come, Yvonne! we must go!" he continued to murmur intermittently and
with ever-growing obstinacy. "No one will notice us...I heard the noise
from my garret upstairs...I crept down...I knew no one would notice
me...Come--we must go...now is our time.

"Father dear, whither could we go? Once in the streets of Nantes what
would happen to us?"

"We can find our way to the Loire!" he retorted almost brutally. He
shook himself free from her restraining arms and gripped her firmly by
the hand. He tried to drag her towards the door, whilst she still
struggled to keep him back. He had just caught sight of the group of men
and women at the front door: their leader was standing upon the
threshold and was still peering out into the darkness.

But the next moment they all came to a halt: what their leader had
perceived through the darkness did not evidently quite satisfy him: he
turned and held a whispered consultation with the others. Monsieur le
Duc strove with all his might to join in with that group. He felt that
in its wake would lie the road to freedom. He would have struck Yvonne
for standing in the way of her own safety.

"Father dear," she contrived finally to say to him, "if you go hence,
you will go alone. Nothing will move me from here, because I know that
milor' will come."

"Curse you for your obstinacy," retorted the Duc, "you jeopardize my
life and yours."

Then suddenly from the angle of the room where wrangling and fighting
were at their fiercest, there came a loud call:

"Look out, Père Lemoine, your aristos are running away. You are losing
your last chance of those fifty francs."

It was Paul Friche who had shouted. His position on the table was giving
him a commanding view over the heads of the threatening, shouting,
perspiring crowd, and he had just caught sight of Monsieur le Duc
dragging his daughter by force towards the door.

"The authors of all this pother," he added with an oath, "and they will
get away whilst we have the police about our ears."

"Name of a name of a dog," swore Lemoine from behind his bar, "that
shall not be. Come along, Maman, let us bring those aristos along here.
Quick now."

It was all done in a second. Lemoine and his wife, with the weight and
authority of the masters of the establishment, contrived to elbow their
way through the crowd. The next moment Yvonne felt herself forcibly
dragged away from her father.

"This way, my girl, and no screaming," a bibulous voice said in her ear,
"no screaming, or I'll smash some of those front teeth of yours. You
said some rich friends were coming along for you presently. Well then!
come and wait for them out of the crowd."

Indeed Yvonne had no desire to struggle or to scream. Salvation she
thought had come to her and to her father in this rough guise. In
another moment mayhap he would have forced her to follow him, to leave
milor' in the lurch, to jeopardize for ever every chance of safety.

"It is all for the best, Father dear," she managed to cry out over her
shoulder, for she had just caught sight of him being seized round the
shoulders by Lemoine and heard him protesting loudly:

"I'll not go! I'll not go! Let me go!" he shouted hoarsely. "My
daughter! Yvonne! Let me go! You devil!"

But Lemoine had twice the vigour of the Duc de Kernogan, nor did he care
one jot about the other's protests. He hated all this row inside his
house, but there had been rows in it before and he was beginning to hope
that nothing serious would come of it. On the other hand, Paul Friche
might be right about these aristos; there might be forty or fifty francs
to be made out of them, and in any case they had one or two things upon
their persons which might be worth a few francs--and who knows? they
might even have something in their pockets worth taking.

This hope and thought gave Lemoine additional strength, and seeing that
the aristo struggled so desperately, he thought to silence him by
bringing his heavy fist with a crash upon the old man's head.

"Yvonne! A moi!" shouted Monsieur le Duc ere he fell back senseless.

That awful cry, Yvonne heard it as she was being dragged through the
noisome crowd. It mingled in her ear with the other awful sounds--the
oaths and blasphemies which filled the air with their hideousness. It
died away just as a formidable crash against the entrance door suddenly
silenced every cry within.

"All hands up!" came with a peremptory word of command from the doorway.

"Mercy on us!" murmured the woman Lemoine, who still had Yvonne by the
hand, "we are undone this time."

There was a clatter and grounding of arms--a scurrying of bare feet and
sabots upon the floor, the mingled sounds of men trying to fly and being
caught in the act and hurled back: screams of terror from the women, one
or two pitiable calls, a few shrill cries from frightened children, a
few dull thuds as of human bodies falling...It was all so confused, so
unspeakably horrible. Yvonne was hardly conscious. Near her some one
whispered hurriedly:

"Put the aristos away somewhere, Maman Lemoine...the whole thing may
only be a scare...the Marats may only be here about the aristos...they
will probably leave you alone if you give them up...perhaps you'll get a
reward...Put them away till some of this row subsides...I'll talk to
Commandant Fleury if I can."

Yvonne felt her knees giving way under her. There was nothing more to
hope for now--nothing. She felt herself lifted from the ground--she was
too sick and faint to realize what was happening: through the din which
filled her ears she vainly tried to distinguish her father's voice
again.

V

A moment or two later she found herself squatting somewhere on the
ground. How she got here she did not know--where she was she knew still
less. She was in total darkness. A fusty, close smell of food and wine
gave her a wretched feeling of nausea--her head ached intolerably, her
eyes were hot, her throat dry: there was a constant buzzing in her ears.

The terrible sounds of fighting and screaming and cursing, the crash of
broken glass and overturned benches came to her as through a
partition--close by but muffled.

In the immediate nearness all was silence and darkness.



Chapter Eight - The English Adventurers

I

It was with that muffled din still ringing in her ear and with the
conception of all that was going on, on the other side of the partition,
standing like an awesome spectre of evil before her mind, that Yvonne
woke to the consciousness that her father was dead.

He lay along the last half-dozen steps of a narrow wooden staircase
which had its base in the narrow, cupboard-like landing on to which the
Lemoines had just thrust them both. Through a small heart-shaped hole
cut in the door of the partition-wall, a shaft of feeble light struck
straight across to the foot of the stairs: it lit up the recumbent
figure of the last of the Ducs de Kernogan, killed in a brawl in a house
of evil fame.

Weakened by starvation, by the hardships of the past few days, his
constitution undermined by privations and mayhap too by gnawing remorse,
he had succumbed to the stunning blow dealt to him by a half-drunken
brute. His cry: "Yvonne! A moi!" was the last despairing call of a soul
racked with remorse to the daughter whom he had so cruelly wronged.

When first that feeble shaft of light had revealed to her the presence
of that inert form upon the steps, she had struggled to her feet
and--dazed--had tottered up to it. Even before she had touched the face,
the hands, before she had bent her ear to the half-closed mouth and
failed to catch the slightest breath, she knew the full extent of her
misery. The look in the wide-open eyes did not terrify her, but they
told her the truth, and since then she had cowered beside her dead
father on the bottom step of the narrow stairs, her fingers tightly
closed over that one hand which never would be raised against her.

An unspeakable sense of horror filled her soul. The thought that he--the
proud father, the haughty aristocrat, should lie like this and in such a
spot, dragged in and thrown down--no doubt by Lemoine--like a parcel of
rubbish and left here to be dragged away again and thrown again like a
dog into some unhallowed ground--that thought was so horrible, so
monstrous, that at first it dominated even sorrow. Then came the
heartrending sense of loneliness. Yvonne Dewhurst had endured so much
these past few days that awhile ago she would have affirmed that nothing
could appall her in the future. But this was indeed the awful and
overwhelming climax to what had already been a surfeit of misery.

This! she, Yvonne, cowering beside her dead father, with no one to stand
between her and any insult, any outrage which might be put upon her,
with nothing but a few laths between her and that yelling, screeching
mob outside.

Oh! the loneliness! the utter, utter loneliness!

She kissed the inert hand, the pale forehead: with gentle, reverent
fingers she tried to smoothe out those lines of horror and of fear which
gave such a pitiful expression to the face. Of all the wrongs which her
father had done her she never thought for a moment. It was he who had
brought her to this terrible pass: he who had betrayed her into the
hands of her deadliest enemy: he who had torn her from the protecting
arms of her dear milor' and flung her and himself and the mercy of a set
of inhuman wretches who knew neither compunction nor pity.

But all this she forgot, as she knelt beside the lifeless form--the last
thing on earth that belonged to her--the last protection to which she
might have clung.

II

Out of the confusion of sounds which came--deadened by the intervening
partition--to her ear, it was impossible to distinguish anything very
clearly. All that Yvonne could do, as soon as she had in a measure
collected her scattered senses, was to try and piece together the events
of the last few minutes--minutes which indeed seemed like days and even
years to her.

Instinctively she gave to the inert hand which she held an additional
tender touch. At any rate her father was out of it all. He was at rest
and at peace. As for the rest, it was in God's hands. Having only
herself to think of now, she ceased to care what became of her. He was
out of it all: and those wretches after all could not do more than kill
her. A complete numbness of senses and of mind had succeeded the
feverish excitement of the past few hours: whether hope still survived
at this moment in Yvonne Dewhurst's mind it were impossible to say.
Certain it is that it lay dormant--buried beneath the overwhelming
misery of her loneliness.

She took the fichu from her shoulders and laid it reverently over the
dead man's face: she folded the hands across the breast. She could not
cry: she could only pray, and that quite mechanically.

The thought of her dear milor', of his clever friend, of the message
which she had received in prison, of the guide who had led her to this
awful place, was relegated--almost as a memory--in the farthermost cell
of her brain.

III

But after awhile outraged nature, still full of vitality and of youth,
re-asserted itself. She felt numb and cold and struggled to her feet.
From somewhere close to her a continuous current of air indicated the
presence of some sort of window. Yvonne, faint with the close and sickly
smell, which even that current failed to disperse, felt her way all
round the walls of the narrow landing.

The window was in the wall between the partition and the staircase, it
was small and quite low down. It was crossed with heavy iron bars.
Yvonne leaned up against it, grateful for the breath of pure air.

For awhile yet she remained unconscious of everything save the confused
din which still went on inside the tavern, and at first the sounds which
came through the grated window mingled with those on the other side of
the partition. But gradually as she contrived to fill her lungs with the
cold breath of heaven, it seemed as if a curtain was being slowly drawn
away from her atrophied senses.

Just below the window two men were speaking. She could hear them quite
distinctly now--and soon one of the voices--clearer than the
other--struck her ear with unmistakable familiarity.

"I told Paul Friche to come out here and speak to me," Yvonne heard that
same voice say.

"Then he should be here," replied the other, "and if I am not
mistaken..."

There was a pause, and then the first voice was raised again.

"Halt! Is that Paul Friche?"

"At your service, Citizen," came in reply.

"Well! Is everything working smoothly inside?"

"Quite smoothly; but your Englishmen are not there."

"How do you know?"

"Bah! I know most of the faces that are to be found inside the Rat Mort
at this hour: there are no strangers among them."

The voice that had sounded so familiar to Yvonne was raised now in loud
and coarse laughter.

"Name of a dog! I never for a moment thought that there were any
Englishmen about. Citizen Chauvelin was suffering from nightmare."

"It is early yet," came in response from a gentle bland voice, "you must
have patience, Citizen."

"Patience? Bah!" ejaculated the other roughly. "As I told you before
'tis but little I care about your English spies. 'Tis the Kernogans I am
interested in. What have you done with them, Citizen?"

"I got that blundering fool Lemoine to lock them up on the landing at
the bottom of the stairs."

"Is that safe?"

"Absolutely. It has no egress save into the taproom and up the stairs,
to the rooms above. Your English spies if they came now would have to
fly in and out of those top windows ere they could get to the aristos."

"Then in Satan's name keep them there awhile," urged the more gentle,
insinuating voce, "until we can make sure of the English spies."

"Tshaw! What foolery!" interjected the other, who appeared to be in a
towering passion. "Bring them out at once, Citizen Friche...bring them
out...right into the middle of the rabble in the taproom... Commandant
Fleury is directing the perquisition--he is taking down the names of all
that cattle which he is arresting inside the premises--let the ci-devant
Duc de Kernogan and his exquisite daughter figure among the vilest
cut-throats of Nantes."

"Citizen, let me urge on you once more..." came in earnest persuasive
accents from that gentle voice.

"Nothing!" broke in the other savagely. "To h--ll with your English
spies. It is the Kernogans that I want."

Yvonne, half-crazed with horror, had heard the whole of this abominable
conversation wherein she had not failed to recognize the voice of
Martin-Roget or Pierre Adet, as she now knew him to be. Who the other
two men were she could easily conjecture. The soft bland voice she had
heard twice during these past few days, which had been so full of
misery, of terror and of surprise: once she had heard it on board the
ship which had taken her away form England and once again a few hours
since, inside the narrow room which had been her prison. The third man
who had subsequently arrived on the scene was that coarse and grimy
creature who had seemed to be the moving evil spirit of that awful brawl
in the tavern.

What the conversation meant to her she could not fail to guess. Pierre
Adet had by what he said made the whole of his abominable intrigue
against her palpably clear. Her father had been right, after all. It was
Pierre Adet who through some clever trickery had lured her to this place
of evil. How it was all done she could not guess. The message...the
device...her walk across the street...the silence...the mysterious
guide...which of these had been the trickery?...which had been concocted
by her enemy?...which devised by her dear milor'?

Enough that the whole thing was a trap, a trap all the more hideous as
she, Yvonne, who would have given her heart's blood for her beloved, was
obviously the bait wherewith these friends meant to capture him and his
noble chief. They knew evidently of the presence of the gallant Scarlet
Pimpernel and his band of heroes here in Nantes--they seemed to expect
their appearance at this abominable place to-night. She, Yvonne, was to
be the decoy which was to lure to this hideous lair those noble eagles
who were still out of reach.

And if that was so--if indeed her beloved and his valiant friends had
followed her hither, then some part of the message of hope must have
come from them or from their chief...and milor' and his friend must even
now be somewhere close by, watching their opportunity to come to her
rescue...heedless of the awful danger which lay in wait for
them...ignorant mayhap of the abominable trap which had been so
cunningly set for them by these astute and ferocious brutes.

Yvonne a prisoner in this narrow space, clinging to the bars of what was
perhaps the most cruel prison in which she had yet been confined,
bruised her hands and arms against those bars in a wild desire to get
out. She longed with all her might to utter one long, loud and piercing
cry of warning to her dear milor' not to come nigh her now, to fly, to
run while there was yet time; and all the while she knew that if she did
utter such a cry he would hurry hot-haste to her side. One moment she
would have had him near--another she wished him an hundred miles away.

IV

In the tap-room a more ordered medley of sounds had followed on the wild
pandemonium of awhile ago. Brief, peremptory words of command, steady
tramping of feet, loud harsh questions and subdued answers, occasionally
a moan or a few words of protest quickly suppressed, came through the
partition to Yvonne's straining ears.

"Your name?"

"Where do you live?"

"Your occupation?"

"That's enough. Silence. The next."

"Your name?"

"Where do you live?"

Men, women and even children were being questioned, classified, packed
off, God knew whither. Sometimes a child would cry, a man utter an oath,
a woman shriek: then would come harsh orders delivered in a gruff voice,
more swearing, the grounding of arms and more often than not a dull,
flat sound like a blow struck against human flesh, followed by a volley
of curses or a cry of pain.

"Your name?"

"George Amédé Lemoine."

"Where do you live?"

"In this house."

"Your occupation?"

"I am the proprietor of the tavern, Citizen. I am an honest man and a
patriot. The Republic..."

"That's enough."

"But I protest."

"Silence. The next."

All with dreary, ceaseless monotony: and Yvonne like a trapped bird was
bruising her wings against the bars of her cage. Outside the window
Chauvelin and Martin-Roget were still speaking in whispers: the fowlers
were still watching for their prey. The third man had apparently gone
away. What went on beyond the range of her prison window--out in the
darkness of the night which Yvonne's aching eyes could not pierce--she,
the miserable watcher, the bait set here to catch the noble game, could
not even conjecture. The window was small and her vision was further
obstructed by heavy bars. She could see nothing--hear nothing save those
two men talking in whispers. Now and again she caught a few words.

"A little while longer, Citizen...you lose nothing by waiting. Your
Kernogans are safe enough. Paul Friche has assured you that the landing
where they are now has no egress save through the tap-room, and to the
floor above. Wait at least until Commandant Fleury has got the crowd
together, after which he will send his Marats to search the house. It
won't be too late then to lay hands on your aristos, if in the
meanwhile..."

"'Tis futile to wait," here interrupted Martin-Roget roughly, "and you
are a fool, Citizen, if you think that those Englishmen exist elsewhere
than in your imagination."

"Hark!" broke in the gentle voice abruptly and with forceful command.

And as Yvonne too in instinctive response to that peremptory call was
further straining her every sense in order to listen, there came from
somewhere, not very far away, right through the stillness of the night,
a sound which caused her pulses to still their beating and her throat to
choke with the cry which rose from her breast.

It was only the sound of a quaint and drawly voice saying loudly and in
English:

"Egad, Tony! ain't you getting demmed sleepy?"

Just for the space of two or three seconds Yvonne had remained quite
still while this unexpected sound sent its dulcet echo on the wings of
the north-westerly blast. The next--stumbling in the dark--she had run
to the stairs even while she heard Martin-Roget calling loudly and
excitedly to Paul Friche.

One reverent pause beside her dead father, one mute prayer commending
his soul to the mercy of his Maker, one agonized entreaty to God to
protect her beloved and his friend, and then she ran swiftly up the
winding steps.

At the top of the stairs, immediately in front of her a door--slightly
ajar--showed a feeble light through its aperture. Yvonne pushed the door
further open and slipped into the room beyond. She did not pause to look
round but went straight to the window and throwing open the rickety sash
she peeped out. For the moment she felt that she would gladly have
bartered away twenty years of her life to know exactly whence had come
that quaint and drawling voice. She leaned far out of the window trying
to see. It gave on the side of the Rat Mort over against Louise Adet's
house--the space below seemed to her to be swarming with men: there were
hurried and whispered calls--orders were given to stand at close
attention, whilst Martin-Roget had apparently been questioning Paul
Friche, for Yvonne heard the latter declare emphatically:

"I am certain that it came either from inside the house or from the
roof. And with your permission, Citizen, I would like to make assurance
doubly sure."

Then one of the men just suddenly have caught sight of the vague
silhouette leaning out of the window, for Martin-Roget and Friche
uttered a simultaneous cry, whilst Chauvelin said hurriedly:

"You are right, Citizen, something is going on inside the house."

"What can we do?" queried Martin-Roget excitedly.

"Nothing for the moment but wait. The Englishmen are caught sure enough
like rats in their holes."

"Wait!" ejaculated Martin-Roget with a savage oath, "wait! always wait!
while the quarry slips through one's fingers."

"It shall not slip through mine," retorted Paul Friche. "I was a
steeple-jack by trade in my day: it won't be the first time that I have
climbed the side of a house by the gutter-pipe. A moi Jean-Pierre," he
added, "and may I be drowned in the Loire if between us two we do not
lay those cursed English spies low."

"An hundred francs for each of you," called Chauvelin lustily, "if you
succeed."

Yvonne did not think to close the window again. Vigorous shouting and
laughter from below testified that that hideous creature Friche and his
mate had put their project in immediate execution; she turned and ran
down the stairs--feeling now like an animal at bay; by the time that she
had reached the bottom, she heard a prolonged, hoarse cry of triumph
from below and guessed that Paul Friche and his mate had reached the
window-sill: the next moment there was a crash overhead of broken
window-glass and of furniture kicked from one end of the room to the
other, immediately followed by the sound of heavy footsteps running
helter-skelter down the stairs.

Yvonne, half-crazed with terror, faint and sick, fell unconscious over
the body of her father.

V

Inside the tap-room Commandant Fleury was still at work.

"Your name?"

"Where do you live?"

"Your occupation?"

The low room was filled to suffocation: the walls lined with Marats, the
doors and windows which were wide open were closely guarded, whilst in
the corner of the room, huddled together like bales of rubbish, was the
human cattle that had been driven together, preparatory to being sent
for trial to Paris in vindication of Carrier's brutalities against the
city.

Fleury for form's sake made entries in a notebook--the whole thing was a
mere farce--these wretched people were not likely to get a fair
trial--what did the whole thing matter? Still! the commandant of the
Marats went solemnly through the farce which Carrier had invented with a
view to his own justification.

Lemoine and his wife had protested and been silenced: men had struggled
and women had fought--some of them like wild cats--in trying to get
away. Now there were only half a dozen or so more to docket. Fleury
swore, for he was tired and hot.

"This place is like a pest-house," he said.

Just then came the sound of that lusty cry of triumph from outside,
followed by all the clatter and the breaking of window glass.

"What's that?" queried Fleury.

The heavy footsteps running down the stairs caused him to look up from
his work and to call briefly to a sergeant of the Marats who stood
beside his chair:

"Go and see what that sacré row is about," he commanded. "In there," he
added as he indicated the door of the landing with a jerk of the head.

But before the man could reach the door, it was thrown open from within
with a vigorous kick from the point of a sabot, and Paul Friche appeared
under the lintel with the aristo wench thrown over his shoulder like a
sack of potatoes, his thick, muscular arms encircling her knees. His
scarlet bonnet was cocked over one eye, his face was smeared with dirt,
his breeches were torn at the knees, his shirt hung in strips from his
powerful shoulders. Behind him his mate--who had climbed up the
gutter-pipe into the house in his wake--was tottering under the load of
the ci-devant Duc de Kernogan's body which he had slung across his back
and was holding on to by the wrists.

Fleury jumped to his feet--the appearance of these two men, each with
his burden, caused him to frown with anger and to demand peremptorily:
"What is the meaning of this?"

"The aristos," said Paul Friche curtly; "they were trying to escape."

He strode into the room, carrying the unconscious form of the girl as if
it were a load of feathers. He was a huge massive-looking giant: the
girl's shoulders nearly touched the low ceiling as he swung forward
facing the angry commandant.

"How did you get into the house? and by whose orders?" demanded Fleury
roughly.

"Climbed in by the window, pardi," retorted the man, "and by the orders
of Citizen Martin-Roget."

"A corporal of the Company Marat takes orders only from me; you should
know that, Citizen Friche."

"Nay!" interposed the sergeant quickly, "this man is not a corporal of
the Company Marat, Citizen Commandant. As for Corporal Friche, why! he
was taken to the infirmary some hours ago with a cracked skull, he..."

"Not Corporal Friche," exclaimed Fleury with an oath, "then who in the
devil's name is this man?"

"The Scarlet Pimpernel, at your service, Citizen Commandant," came
loudly and with a merry laugh from the pseudo Friche.

And before either Fleury or the sergeant or any of the Marats could even
begin to realize what was happening, he had literally bounded across the
room, and as he did so he knocked against the hanging lamp which fell
with a crash to the floor, scattering oil and broken glass in every
direction and by its fall plunging the place into total darkness. At
once there arose a confusion and medley of terrified screams, of
piercing shrieks from the women and the children, and of loud
imprecations from the men. These mingled with the hasty words of
command, with quick orders from Fleury and the sergeant, with the
grounding of arms and tramping of many feet, and with the fall of human
bodies that happened to be in the way of the reckless adventurer and his
flight.

"He is through the door," cried the men who had been there on guard.

"After him then!" shouted Fleury. "Curse you all for cowards and for
fools."

The order had no need to be repeated. The confusion, though great, had
only been momentary. Within a second or less, Fleury and his sergeant
had fought their way through to the door, urging the men to follow.

"After him...quick!...he is heavily loaded...he cannot have got far..."
commanded Fleury as soon as he had crossed the threshold. "Sergeant,
keep order within, and on your life see that no one else escapes."



Chapter Nine - The Proconsul

I

From round the angle of the house Martin-Roget and Chauvelin were
already speeding along at a rapid pace.

"What does it all mean?" queried the latter hastily.

"The Englishman--with the wench on his back? have you seen him?"

"Malediction! what do you mean?"

"Have you seen him?" reiterated Fleury hoarsely.

"No."

"He couldn't have passed you?"

"Impossible."

"Then unless some of us here have eyes like cats that limb of Satan will
get away. On to him my men," he called once more. "Can you see him?"

The darkness outside was intense. The north-westerly wind was whistling
down the narrow street, drowning the sound of every distant footfall: it
tore mercilessly round the men's heads, snatching those bonnets from off
their heads, dragging at their loose shirts and breeches, adding to the
confusion which already reigned.

"He went this way..." shouted one.

"No! that!" cried another.

"There he is!" came finally in chorus from several lusty throats. "Just
crossing the bridge."

"After him," cried Fleury, "a hundred francs to the man who first lays
hands on that devil."

Then the chase began. The Englishman on ahead was unmistakable with that
burden on his shoulder. He had just reached the foot of the bridge where
a street lanthorn fixed on a tall bracket on the corner stone had
suddenly thrown him into bold relief. He had less than a hundred metres
start of his pursuers and with a wild cry of excitement they started in
his wake.

He was now in the middle of the bridge--an unmistakable figure of a
giant vaguely silhouetted against the light from the lanthorns on the
further end of the bridge--seeming preternaturally tall and misshapen
with that hump upon his back.

From right and left, from under the doorways of the houses in the
Carrefour de la Poissonnerie the Marats who had been left on guard in
the street now joined in the chase. Overhead windows were thrown
open--the good burghers of Nantes, awakened from their sleep, forgetful
for the nonce of all their anxieties, their squalor and their miseries,
leaned out to see what this new kind of din might mean. From
everywhere--it almost seemed as if some sprang out of the earth--men,
either of the town guard or Marats on patrol duty, or merely idlers and
night hawks who happened to be about, yielded to that primeval instinct
of brutality which causes men as well as beasts to join in a pursuit
against a fellow creature.

Fleury was in the rear of his posse, Martin-Roget and Chauvelin, walking
as rapidly as they could by his side, tried to glean some information
out of the commandant's breathless and scrappy narrative:

"What happened exactly?"

"It was the man Paul Friche...with the aristo wench on his back...and
another man carrying the ci-devant aristo...they were the English
spies...in disguise...they knocked over the lamp... and got away..."

"Name of a..."

"No use swearing, Citizen Martin-Roget," retorted Fleury as hotly as his
agitated movements would allow. "You and Citizen Chauvelin are
responsible for the affair. It was you, Citizen Chauvelin who placed
Paul Friche inside that tavern in observation--you told him what to
do..."

"Well?"

"Paul Friche--the real Paul Friche--was taken to the infirmary some
hours ago...with a cracked skull, dealt him by your Englishman, I've no
doubt..."

"Impossible," reiterated Chauvelin with a curse.

"Impossible? why impossible?"

"The man I spoke to outside Le Bouffay..."

"Was not Paul Friche."

"He was on guard in the Place with two other Marats."

"He was not Paul Friche--the others were not Marats."

"Then the man who was inside the tavern?..."

"Was not Paul Friche."

"...who climbed the gutter pipe...?"

"Malediction!"

And the chase continued--waxing hotter every minute. The hare had gained
slightly on the hounds--there were more than a hundred hot on the trail
by now--having crossed the bridge he was on the Isle Feydeau, and
without hesitating a moment he plunged at once into the network of
narrow streets which cover the island in the rear of La Petite Hollande
and the Hôtel de la Villestreux, where lodged Carrier, the
representative of the people. The hounds after him had lost some ground
by halting--if only for a second or two--first at the head of the
bridge, then at the corners of the various streets, while they peered
into the darkness to see which way had gone that fleet-footed hare.

"Down this way!"

"No! That!"

"There he goes!"

It always took a few seconds to decide, during which the man on head
with his burden on his shoulder had time mayhap to reach the end of a
street and to turn a corner and once again to plunge into darkness and
out of sight. The street lanthorns were few in this squalid corner of
the city, and it was only when perforce the running hare had to cross a
circle of light that the hounds were able to keep hot on the trail.

"To the bridges for your lives!" now shouted Fleury to the men nearest
to him. "Leave him to wander on the island. He cannot come off it,
unless he jumps into the Loire."

The Marats--intelligent and ferociously keen on the chase--had already
grasped the importance of this order: with the bridges guarded that
fleet-footed Englishman might run as much as he liked, he was bound to
be run to earth like a fox in his burrow. In a moment they had dispersed
along the quays, some to one bridge-head, some to another--the
Englishman could not double back now, and if he had already crossed to
the Isle Gloriette, which was not joined to the left bank of the river
by any bridge, he would be equally caught like a rat in a trap.

"Unless he jumps into the Loire," reiterated Fleury triumphantly.

"The proconsul will have more excitement than he hoped for," he added
with a laugh. "He was looking forward to the capture of the English spy,
and in deadly terror lest he escaped. But now meseems that we shall run
our fox down in sight of the very gates of la Villestreux.

Martin-Roget's thoughts ran on Yvonne and the Duc.

"You will remember, Citizen Commandant," he contrived to say to Fleury,
"that the ci-devant Kernogans were found inside the Rat Mort."

Fleury uttered an exclamation of rough impatience. What did he, what did
any one care at this moment for a couple of aristos more or less when
the noblest game that had ever fallen to the bag of any Terrorist was so
near being run to earth? But Chauvelin said nothing. He walked on at a
brisk pace, keeping close to commandant Fleury's side, in the immediate
wake of the pursuit. His lips were pressed tightly together and a
hissing breath came through his wide-open nostrils. His pale eyes were
fixed into the darkness and beyond it, where the most bitter enemy of
the cause which he loved was fighting his last battle against Fate.

II

"He cannot get off the island!" Fleury had said awhile ago. Well! there
was of a truth little or nothing now between the hunted hare and
capture. The bridges were well guarded: the island swarming with hounds,
the Marats at their posts and the Loire an impassable barrier all round.

And Chauvelin, the most tenacious enemy man ever had, Fleury keen on a
reward and Martin-Roget with a private grudge to pay off, all within two
hundred yards behind him.

True, for the moment the Englishman had disappeared. Burden and all, the
gloom appeared to have swallowed him up. But there was nowhere he could
go; mayhap he had taken refuge under a doorway in one of the narrow
streets and hoped perhaps under cover of the darkness to allow his
pursuers to slip past him and then to double back.

Fleury was laughing in the best of humours. He was gradually collecting
all the Marats together and sending them to the bridge-heads under the
command of their various sergeants. Let the Englishman spend the night
on the islands if he had a mind. There was a full company of Marats here
to account for him as soon as he attempted to come out in the open.

The idlers and nighthawks as well as the municipal town guard continued
to run excitedly up and down the streets--sometimes there would come a
lusty cry from a knot of pursuers who thought they spied the Englishman
through the darkness, at others there would be a call of halt, and
feverish consultation held at a street corner as to the best policy to
adopt.

The town guard, jealous of the Marats, were pining to lay hands on the
English spy for the sake of the reward. Fleury, coming across their
provost, called him a fool for his pains.

"My Marats will deal with the English spies, Citizen," he said roughly;
"he is no concern of yours."

The provost demurred: an altercation might have ensued when Chauvelin's
suave voice poured oil on the troubled waters.

"Why not," he said, "let the town guard continue their search on the
island, Citizen Commandant? The men may succeed in digging our rat out
of his hole and forcing him out into the open all the sooner. Your
Marats will have him quickly enough after that."

To this suggestion the provost gave a grudging assent. The reward when
the English spy was caught could be fought for later on. For the nonce
he turned unceremoniously on his heel, and left Fleury cursing him for a
meddlesome busybody.

"So long as he and his rabble does not interfere with my Marats,"
growled the commandant.

"Will you see your sergeants, Citizen?" queried Chauvelin tentatively.
"They will have to keep very much on the alert, and will require
constant prodding to their vigilance. If I can be of any service..."

"No," retorted Fleury curtly, "you and Citizen Martin-Roget had best try
and see the proconsul and tell him what we have done."

"He'll be half wild with terror when he hears that the English spy is at
large upon the island."

"You must pacify him as best you can. Tell him I have a score of Marats
at every bridge-head and that I am looking personally to every
arrangement. There is no escape for the devil possible save by drowning
himself and the wench in the Loire."

III

Chauvelin and Martin-Roget turned from the quay on to the Petite
Hollande--the great open ground with its converging row of trees which
ends at the very apex of the Isle of Feydeau. Opposite to them at the
further corner of the Place was the Hôtel de la Villestreux. One or two
of the windows in the hotel were lighted from within. No doubt the
proconsul was awake, trembling in the remotest angle of his lair, with
the spectre of assassination rampant before him--aroused by the
continued disturbance of the night, by the feverishness of this man-hunt
carried on almost at his gates.

Even through the darkness it was easy to perceive groups of people
either rushing backwards and forwards on the Place or congregating in
groups under the trees. Excitement was in the air. It could be felt and
heard right through the soughing of the north-westerly wind which caused
the bare branches of the trees to groan and to crackle, and the dead
leaves, which still hung on the twigs, to fly wildly through the night.

In the centre of the Place two small lights, gleaming like eyes in the
midst of the gloom, betrayed the presence of the proconsul's coach,
which stood there as always, ready to take him away to a place of
safety--away from this city where he was mortally hated and
dreaded--whenever the spectre of terror became more insistent than
usual, and drove him hence out of his stronghold. The horses were pawing
the frozen ground and champing their bits--the steam from their nostrils
caught the ray of the carriage lamps, which also lit up with a feeble
flicker the vague outline of the coachman on his box and of the
postilion rigid in his saddle.

The citizens of Nantes were never tired of gaping at the carriage--a
huge C-springed barouche--at the coachman's fine caped coat of
bottle-green cloth and at the horses with their handsome harness set off
with heavy brass bosses: they never tired of bandying words with the
successive coachmen as they mounted their box and gathered up the reins
or with the postilions who loved to crack their whips and to appear
smart and well-groomed, in the midst of the squalor which reigned in the
terror-stricken city. They were the guardians of the mighty proconsul;
on their skill, quickness and presence of mind might depend his precious
life.

Even when the shadow of death hangs over an entire community, there will
be some who will stand and gape and crack jokes at an uncommon sight.

And now when the pall of night hung over the abode of the man-tiger and
his lair, and wrapped in its embrace the hunted and the hunters, there
still was a knot of people standing round the carriage--between it and
the hotel--gazing with lack-lustre eyes on the costly appurtenances
wherewith the representative of a wretched people loved to surround
himself. They could only see the solid mass of the carriage and of the
horses, but they could hear the coachman clicking with his tongue and
the postilion cracking his whip, and these sights broke the absolute
dreary monotony of their lives.

It was from behind this knot of gaffers that there rose gradually a
tumult as of a man calling out in wrath and lashing himself into a fury.
Chauvelin and Martin-Roget were just then crossing La Petite Hollande
from one bank of the river to the other: they were walking rapidly
towards the hotel, when they heard the tumult which presently culminated
in a hoarse cry and a volley of oaths.

"My coach! my coach at once...Lalouët, don't leave me...Curse you all
for a set of cowardly oafs...My coach, I say..."

"The proconsul," murmured Chauvelin as he hastened forward, Martin-Roget
following closely on his heels.

By the time that they had come near enough to the coach to distinguish
vaguely in the gloom what was going on, people came rushing to the same
spot from end to end of the Place. In a moment there was quite a crowd
round the carriage, and the two men had much ado to push their way
through by a vigorous play of their elbows.

"Citizen Carrier!" cried Chauvelin at the top of his voice, trying to
dominate the hubbub, "one minute...I have excellent news for you...the
English spy..."

"Curse you for a set of blundering fools," came with a husky cry from
out the darkness, "you have let that English devil escape...I knew
it...I knew it...the assassin is at large...the murderer...my coach at
once...my coach...Lalouët--do not leave me."

Chauvelin had by this time succeeded in pushing his way to the forefront
of the crowd: Martin-Roget, tall and powerful, had effectually made a
way for him. Through the dense gloom he could see the misshapen form of
the proconsul, wildly gesticulating with one arm and with the other
clinging convulsively to young Lalouët who already had his hand on the
handle of the carriage door.

With a quick, resolute gesture Chauvelin stepped between the door and
the advancing proconsul.

"Citizen Carrier," he said with calm determination, "on my oath there is
no cause for alarm. Your life is absolutely safe...I entreat you to
return to your lodgings..."

To emphasize his words he had stretched out a hand and firmly grasped
the proconsul's coat sleeve. This gesture, however, instead of pacifying
the apparently terror-stricken maniac, seemed to have the effect of
further exasperating his insensate fear. With a loud oath he tore
himself free from Chauvelin's grasp.

"Ten thousand devils," he cried hoarsely, "who is this fool who dares to
interfere with me? Stand aside man...stand aside or..."

And before Chauvelin could utter another word or Martin-Roget come to
his colleague's rescue, there came the sudden sharp report of a pistol;
the horses reared, the crowd was scattered in every direction, Chauvelin
was knocked over by a smart blow on the head whilst a vigorous drag on
his shoulder alone saved him from falling under the wheels of the coach.

Whilst confusion was at its highest, the carriage door was closed to
with a bang and there was a loud, commanding cry hurled through the
window at the coachman on his box.

"En avant, Citizen Coachman! Drive for your life! through the Savenay
gate. The English assassins are on our heels."

The postilion cracked his whip. The horses, maddened by the report, by
the pushing, jostling crowd and the confused cries and screams around,
plunged forward, wild with excitement. Their hoofs clattered on the hard
road. Some of the crowd ran after the coach across the Place, shouting
lustily: "The Proconsul! the Proconsul!"

Chauvelin--dazed and bruised--was picked up by Martin-Roget.

"The cowardly brute!" was all that he said between his teeth, "he shall
rue this outrage as soon as I can give my mind to his affairs. In the
meanwhile..."

The clatter of the horses' hoofs was already dying away in the distance.
For a few seconds longer the rattle of the coach was still accompanied
by cries of "The Proconsul! the Proconsul!" Fleury at the bridge-head,
seeing and hearing its approach, had only just time to order his Marats
to stand at attention. A salvo should have been fired when the
representative of the people, the high and mighty proconsul, was abroad,
but there was no time for that, and the coach clattered over the bridge
at breakneck speed, whilst Carrier with his head out of the window was
hurling anathemas and insults at Fleury for having allowed the paid
spies of that cursed British Government to threaten the life of a
representative of the people.

"I go to Savenay," he shouted just at the last, "until that assassin has
been thrown in the Loire. But when I return...look to yourself,
Commandant Fleury."

Then the carriage turned down the Quai de la Fosse and a few minutes
later was swallowed up by the gloom.

IV

Chauvelin, supported by Martin-Roget, was hobbling back across the
Place. The crowd was still standing about, vaguely wondering why it had
got so excited over the departure of the proconsul and the rattle of a
coach and pair across the bridge, when on the island there was still an
assassin at large--an English spy, the capture of whom would be one of
the great events in the chronicles of the city of Nantes.

"I think," said Martin-Roget, "that we may as well go to bed now, and
leave the rest to Commandant Fleury. The Englishman may not be captured
for some hours, and I for one am over-fatigued."

"Then go to bed an you desire, Citizen Martin-Roget," retorted Chauvelin
dryly, "I for one will stay here until I see the Englishman in the hands
of Commandant Fleury."

"Hark," interposed Martin-Roget abruptly. "What was that?"

Chauvelin had paused even before Martin-Roget's restraining hand had
rested on his arm. He stood still in the middle of the Place and his
knees shook under him so that he nearly fell prone to the ground.

"What is it?" reiterated Martin-Roget with vague puzzlement. "It sounds
like young Lalouët's voice."

Chauvelin said nothing. He had forgotten his bruises: he no longer
hobbled--he ran across the Place to the front of the hotel whence the
voice had come which was so like that of young Lalouët.

The youngster--it was undoubtedly he--was standing at the angle of the
hotel: above him a lanthorn threw a dim circle of light on his bare head
with its mass of dark curls, and on a small knot of idlers with two or
three of the town guard amongst them. The first words spoken by him
which Chauvelin distinguished quite clearly were:

"You are all mad...or else drunk...The citizen proconsul is upstairs in
his room...He has just sent me down to hear what news there is of the
English spies..."

V

No one made reply. It seemed as if some giant and spectral hand had
passed over this mass of people and with its magic touch had stilled
their turbulent passions, silenced their imprecations and cooled their
ardour--and left naught but a vague fear, a subtle sense of awe as when
something unexplainable and supernatural has manifested itself before
the eyes of men.

From far away the roll of coach-wheels rapidly disappearing in the
distance alone broke the silence of the night.

"Is there no one here who will explain what all this means?" queried
young Lalouët, who alone had remained self-assured and calm, for he
alone knew nothing of what had happened. "Citizen Fleury, are you
there?"

Then as once again he received no reply, he added peremptorily:

"Hey! some one there! Are you all louts and oafs that not one of you can
speak?"

A timid voice from the rear ventured on explanation.

"The citizen proconsul was here a moment ago...We all saw him, and you,
Citizen Lalouët, were with him..."

An imprecation from young Lalouët silenced the timid voice for the
nonce...and then another resumed the halting narrative:

"We all could have sworn that we saw you, Citizen Lalouët, also the
citizen proconsul...He got into the coach with you...you...that
is...they have driven off..."

"This is some awful and treacherous hoax," cried the youngster, now in a
towering passion; "the citizen proconsul is upstairs in bed, I tell
you...and I have only just come out of the hotel...! Name of a name of a
dog! am I standing here or am I not?"

Then suddenly he bethought himself of the many events of the day which
had culminated in this gigantic feat of legerdemain.

"Chauvelin!" he exclaimed. "Where in the name of h--ll is Citizen
Chauvelin?"

But Chauvelin for the moment could nowhere be found. Dazed,
half-unconscious, wholly distraught, he had fled from the scene of his
discomfiture as fast as his trembling knees would allow. Carrier
searched the city for him high and low, and for days afterwards the
soldiers of the Compagnie Marat gave aristos and rebels a rest: they
were on the look-out for a small, wizened figure of a man--the man with
the pale, keen eyes who had failed to recognize in the pseudo Paul
Friche, in the dirty, out-at-elbows sans-culotte--the most exquisite
dandy that had ever graced the salons of Bath and of London: they were
searching for the man with the acute and sensitive brain who had failed
to scent in the pseudo-Carrier and the pseudo-Lalouët his old and arch
enemy Sir Percy Blakeney and the charming wife of my lord Anthony
Dewhurst.



Chapter Ten - Lord Tony

I

A quarter of an hour later Citizen-Commandant Fleury was at last ushered
into the presence of the proconsul and received upon his truly innocent
head the full torrent of the despot's wrath. But Martin-Roget had
listened to the counsels of prudence: for obvious reasons he desired to
avoid any personal contact for the moment with Carrier, whom fear of the
English spies had made into a more abject and more craven tyrant than
ever before. At the same time he thought it wisest to try and pacify the
brute by sending him the ten thousand francs--the bribe agreed upon for
his help in the undertaking which had culminated in such a disastrous
failure.

At the self-same hour whilst Carrier--fuming and swearing--was for the
hundredth time uttering that furious "How?" which for the hundredth time
had remained unanswered, two men were taking leave of one another at the
small postern gate which gives on the cemetery of Ste-Anne. The taller
and younger of the two had just dropped a heavy purse into the hand of
the other. The latter stooped and kissed the kindly hand.

"Milor'," he said, "I swear to you most solemnly that Monsieur le Duc de
Kernogan will rest in peace in hallowed ground. Monsieur le Curé de
Vertou--ah! he is a saint and a brave man, milor'--comes over whenever
he can prudently do so and reads the offices for the dead--over those
who have died as Christians, and there is a piece of consecrated ground
out here in the open which those fiends of Terrorists have not
discovered yet."

"And you will bury Monsieur le Duc immediately," admonished the younger
man, "and apprise Monsieur le Curé of what has happened."

"Aye! aye! I'll do that, milor', within the hour. Though Monsieur le Duc
was never a very kind master to me in the past, I cannot forget that I
served him and his family for over thirty years as coachman. I drove
Mademoiselle Yvonne in the first pony-cart she ever possessed. I drove
her--ah! that was a bitter day!--her and Monsieur le Duc when they left
Kernogan never to return. I drove Mademoiselle Yvonne on that memorable
night when a crowd of miserable peasants attacked her coach, and that
brute Pierre Adet started to lead a rabble against the château. That was
the beginning of things, milor'. God alone knows what has happened to
Pierre Adet. His father Jean was hanged by order of Monsieur le Duc. Now
monsieur le Duc is destined to lie in a forgotten grave. I serve this
abominable Republic by digging graves for her victims. I would be
happier, I think, if I knew what had become of Mademoiselle Yvonne."

"Mademoiselle Yvonne is my wife, old friend," said the younger man
softly. "Please God she has years of happiness before her, if I succeed
in making her forget all that she has suffered."

"Amen to that, milor'!" rejoined the man fervently. "Then I pray you
tell the noble lady to rest assured. Jean-Marie--her old coachman whom
she used to trust implicitly in the past--will see that Monsieur le Duc
de Kernogan is buried as a gentleman and a Christian should be."

"You are not running too great a risk by this, I hope, my good
Jean-Marie," quoth Lord Tony gently.

"No greater risk, milor'," replied Jean-Marie earnestly, "than the one
which you ran by carrying my old master's dead body on your shoulders
through the streets of Nantes."

"Bah! that was simple enough," said the younger man, "the hue and cry is
after higher quarry to-night. Pray God the hounds have not run the noble
game to earth."

Even as he spoke there came from far away through the darkness the sound
of a fast trotting pair of horses and the rumble of coach-wheels on the
unpaved road.

"There they are, thank God!" exclaimed Lord Tony, and the tremor in his
voice alone betrayed the torturing anxiety which he had been enduring,
ever since he had seen the last both of his adored young wife and of his
gallant chief in the squalid tap-room of the Rat Mort.

With the dead body of Yvonne's father on his back he had quietly worked
his way out of the tavern in the wake of his chief. He had his orders,
and for the members of that gallant League of the Scarlet Pimpernel
there was no such word as "disobedience" and no such word as "fail."
Through the darkness and through the tortuous streets of Nantes Lord
Anthony Dewhurst--the young and wealthy exquisite, the hero of an
hundred fêtes and galas in Bath, in London--staggered under the weight
of a burden imposed upon him only by his loyalty and a noble sense of
self-prescribed discipline--and that burden the dead body of the man who
had done him an unforgivable wrong. Without a thought of revolt he had
obeyed--and risked his life and worse in the obedience.

The darkness of the night was his faithful handmaiden, and the
excitement of the chase after the other quarry had fortunately drawn
every possible enemy from his track. He had set his teeth and
accomplished his task, and even the deathly anxiety for the wife whom he
idolized had been crushed, under the iron heel of a grim resolve. Now
his work was done, and from far away he heard the rattle of the
coach-wheels which were bringing his beloved nearer and nearer to him.

Five minutes longer and the coach came to a halt. A cheery voice called
out gaily:

"Tony! are you there?"

"Percy!" exclaimed the young man.

Already he knew that all was well. The gallant leader, the loyal and
loving friend, had taxed every resource of a boundlessly fertile brain
in order to win yet another wreath of immortal laurels for the League
which he commanded, and the very tone of his merry voice proclaimed the
triumph which had crowned his daring scheme.

The next moment Yvonne lay in the arms of her dear milor'. He had
stepped into the carriage, even while Sir Percy climbed nimbly on the
box and took the reins from the bewildered coachman's hands.

"Citizen Proconsul..." murmured the latter, who of a truth thought that
he was dreaming.

"Get off the box, you old noodle," quoth the pseudo-proconsul
peremptorily. "Thou and thy friend the postilion will remain here in the
road, and on the morrow you'll explain to whomsoever it may concern that
the English spy made a murderous attack on you both and left you half
dead outside the postern gate of the cemetery of Ste-Anne. Here," he
added as he threw a purse down to the two men--who, half-dazed and
overcome by superstitious fear, had indeed scrambled down, one from his
box, the other from his horse--"there's a hundred francs for each of you
in there, and mind you drink to the health of the English spy and the
confusion of your brutish proconsul."

There was no time to lose: the horses--still very fresh--were fretting
to start.

"Where do we pick up Hastings and Ffoulkes?" asked Sir Percy Blakeney
finally as he turned toward the interior of the barouche, the hood of
which hid its occupants from view.

"At the corner of the Rue de Gigan," came the quick answer. "It is only
two hundred metres from the city gate. They are on the look out for
you."

"Ffoulkes shall be postilion," rejoined Sir Percy with a laugh, "and
Hastings sit beside me on the box. And you will see how at the city gate
and all along the route soldiers of the guard will salute the equipage
of the all-powerful proconsul of Nantes. By Gad!" he added under his
breath, "I've never had a merrier time in all my live--not even when..."

He clicked his tongue and gave the horses their heads--and soon the
coachman and the postilion and Jean-Marie the gravedigger of the
cemetery of Ste-Anne were left gaping out into the night in the
direction where the barouche had so quickly disappeared.

"Now for Le Croisic and the Day-Dream," signed the daring adventurer
contentedly,"...and for Marguerite!" he added wistfully.

II

Under the hood of the barouche Yvonne, wearied but immeasurably happy,
was doing her best to answer all her dear milor's impassioned questions
and to give him a fairly clear account of that terrible chase and flight
through the streets of the Isle Feydeau.

"Ah, milor', how can I tell you what I felt when I realized that I was
being carried along in the arms of the valiant Scarlet Pimpernel?" A
word from him and I understood. After that I tried to be both
resourceful and brave. When the chase after us was at its hottest we
slipped into a ruined and deserted house. In a room at the back there
were several bundles of what looked like old clothes. "This is my
store-house," milor' said to me; "now that we have reached it we can
just make long noses at the whole pack of bloodhounds." He made me slip
into some boy's clothes which he gave me, and whilst I donned these he
disappeared. When he returned I truly did not recognize him. He looked
horrible, and his voice...! After a moment or two he laughed, and then I
knew him. He explained to me the rôle which I was to play, and I did my
best to obey him in everything. But oh! I hardly lived while we once
more emerged into the open street and then turned into the great Place
which was full--oh full!--of people. I felt that at every moment we
might be suspected. "Figure to yourself, my dear milor'..."

What Yvonne Dewhurst was about to say next will never be recorded. My
lord Tony had closed her lips with a kiss.



THE END




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