Part 11 out of 12
"A whim," said the Vicomtesse. "I had always written twice a year either
to Monsieur de St. Gre or Antoinette, and although I had never seen them,
I loved them. Perhaps it was because they had the patience to read my
letters and the manners to say they liked them."
"Surely not, Madame," I said. "Monsieur de St. Gre spoke often to me of
the wonderful pictures you drew of the personages at court."
Madame la Vicomtesse had an answer on the tip of her tongue. I know now
that she spared me.
"And what of this miniature, Monsieur?" she asked. "What became of it
after you restored it to its rightful owner?"
I flushed furiously and fumbled in my pocket.
"I obtained it again, Madame," I said.
"You obtained it!" she cried, I am not sure to this day whether in
consternation or jest. In passing, it was not just what I wanted to say.
"I meant to give it you last night," I said.
"And why did you not?" she demanded severely.
I felt her eyes on me, and it seemed to me as if she were looking into my
very soul. Even had it been otherwise, I could not have told her how I
had lived with this picture night and day, how I had dreamed of it, how
it had been my inspiration and counsel. I drew it from my pocket,
wrapped as it was in the handkerchief, and uncovered it with a reverence
which she must have marked, for she turned away to pick a yellow flower
by the roadside. I thank Heaven that she did not laugh. Indeed, she
seemed to be far from laughter.
"You have taken good care of it, Monsieur," she said. "I thank you."
"It was not mine, Madame," I answered.
"And if it had been?" she asked.
It was a strange prompting.
"If it had been, I could have taken no better care of it," I answered,
and I held it towards her.
She took it simply.
"And the handkerchief?" she said.
"The handkerchief was Polly Ann's," I answered.
She stopped to pick a second flower that had grown by the first.
"Who is Polly Ann?" she said.
"When I was eleven years of age and ran away from Temple Bow after my
father died, Polly Ann found me in the hills. When she married Tom
McChesney they took me across the mountains into Kentucky with them.
Polly Ann has been more than a mother to me."
"Oh!" said Madame la Vicomtesse. Then she looked at me with a stranger
expression than I had yet seen in her face. She thrust the miniature in
her gown, turned, and walked in silence awhile. Then she said:--
"So Auguste sold it again?"
"Yes," I said.
"He seems to have found a ready market only in you," said the Vicomtesse,
without turning her head. "Here we are at Lamarque's."
What I saw was a low, weather-beaten cabin on the edge of a clearing, and
behind it stretched away in prim rows the vegetables which the old
Frenchman had planted. There was a little flower garden, too, and an
orchard. A path of beaten earth led to the door, which was open. There
we paused. Seated at a rude table was Lamarque himself, his hoary head
bent over the cards he held in his hand. Opposite him was Mr. Nicholas
Temple, in the act of playing the ace of spades. I think that it was the
laughter of Madame la Vicomtesse that first disturbed them, and even then
she had time to turn to me.
"I like your cousin," she whispered.
"Is that you, St. Gre?" said Nick. "I wish to the devil you would learn
not to sneak. You frighten me. Where the deuce did you go to?"
But Lamarque had seen the lady, stared at her wildly for a moment, and
rose, dropping his cards on the floor. He bowed humbly, not without
"Madame la Vicomtesse!" he said.
By this time Nick had risen, and he, too, was staring at her. How he
managed to appear so well dressed was a puzzle to me.
"Madame," he said, bowing, "I beg your pardon. I thought you were
that--I beg your pardon."
"I understand your feelings, sir," answered the Vicomtesse as she
"Egad," said Nick, and looked at her again. "Egad, I'll be hanged if
It was the first time I had seen the Vicomtesse in confusion. And indeed
if it were confusion she recovered instantly.
"You will probably be hanged, sir, if you do not mend your company," she
said. "Do you not think so, Mr. Ritchie?"
"Davy!" he cried. And catching sight of me in the doorway, over her
shoulder, "Has he followed me here too?" Running past the Vicomtesse, he
seized me in his impulsive way and searched my face. "So you have
followed me here, old faithful! Madame," he added, turning to the
Vicomtesse, "there is some excuse for my getting into trouble."
"What excuse, Monsieur?" she asked. She was smiling, yet looking at us
with shining eyes.
"The pleasure of having Mr. Ritchie get me out," he answered. "He has
never failed me."
"You are far from being out of this," I said. "If the Baron de
Carondelet does not hang you or put you in the Morro, you will not have
me to thank. It will be Madame la Vicomtesse d'Ivry-le-Tour."
"Madame la Vicomtesse!" exclaimed Nick, puzzled.
"May I present to you, Madame, Mr. Nicholas Temple?" I asked.
Nick bowed, and she courtesied again.
"So Monsieur le Baron is really after us," said Nick. He opened his
eyes, slapped his knee, and laughed. "That may account for the Citizen
Captain de St. Gre's absence," he said. "By the way, Davy, you haven't
happened by any chance to meet him?"
The Vicomtesse and I exchanged a look of understanding. Relief was plain
on her face. It was she who answered.
"We have met him--by chance, Monsieur. He has just left for Terre aux
"Terre aux Boeufs! What the dev--I beg your pardon, Madame la
Vicomtesse, but you give me something of a surprise. Is there another
conspiracy at Terre aux Boeufs, or--does somebody live there who has
never before lent Auguste money?"
Madame la Vicomtesse laughed. Then she grew serious again.
"You did not know where he had gone?" she said.
"I did not even know he had gone," said Nick. "Citizen Lamarque and I
were having a little game of piquet--for vegetables. Eh, citizen?"
Madame la Vicomtesse laughed again, and once more the shade of sadness
came into her eyes.
"They are the same the world over," she said,--not to me, nor yet to any
one there. And I knew that she was thinking of her own kind in France,
who faced the guillotine without sense of danger. She turned to Nick.
"You may be interested to know, Mr. Temple," she added, "that Auguste is
on his way to the English Turn to take ship for France."
Nick regarded her for a moment, and then his face lighted up with that
smile which won every one he met, which inevitably made them smile back
"The news is certainly unexpected, Madame," he said. "But then, after
one has travelled much with Auguste it is difficult to take a great deal
of interest in him. Am I to be sent to France, too?" he asked.
"Not if it can be helped," replied the Vicomtesse, seriously. "Mr.
Ritchie will tell you, however, that you are in no small danger.
Doubtless you know it. Monsieur le Baron de Carondelet considers that
the intrigues of the French Revolutionists in Louisiana have already
robbed him of several years of his life. He is not disposed to be
lenient towards persons connected with that cause."
"What have you been doing since you arrived here on this ridiculous
mission?" I demanded impatiently.
"My cousin is a narrow man, Madame la Vicomtesse," said Nick. "We enjoy
ourselves in different ways. I thought there might be some excitement in
this matter, and I was sadly mistaken."
"It is not over yet," said the Vicomtesse.
"And Davy," continued Nick, bowing to me, "gets his pleasures and
excitement by extracting me from my various entanglements. Well, there
is not much to tell. St. Gre and I were joined above Natchez by that
little pig, Citizen Gignoux, and we shot past De Lemos in the night.
Since then we have been permitted to sleep--no more--at various
plantations. We have been waked up at barbarous hours in the morning and
handed on, as it were. They were all fond of us, but likewise they were
all afraid of the Baron. What day is to-day? Monday? Then it was on
Saturday that we lost Gignoux."
"I have reason to think that he has already sold out to the Baron," I put
"I saw him in communication with the police at the Governor's hotel last
night," I answered.
Nick was silent for a moment.
"Well," he said, "that may make some excitement." Then he laughed. "I
wonder why Auguste didn't think of doing that," he said. "And now,
"How did you get to this house?" I said.
"We came down on Saturday night, after we had lost Gignoux above the
"Do you know where you are?" I asked.
"Not I," said Nick. "I have been playing piquet with Lamarque most of
the time since I arrived. He is one of the pleasantest men I have met in
Louisiana, although a little taciturn, as you perceive, and more than a
little deaf. I think he does not like Auguste. He seems to have known
him in his youth."
Madame la Vicomtesse looked at him with interest.
"You are at Les Iles, Nick," I said; "you are on Monsieur de St. Gre's
plantation, and within a quarter of a mile of his house."
His face became grave all at once. He seized me by both shoulders, and
looked into my face.
"You say that we are at Les Iles?" he repeated slowly.
I nodded, seeing the deception which Auguste had evidently practised in
order to get him here. Then Nick dropped his arms, went to the door, and
stood for a long time with his back turned to us, looking out over the
fields. When finally he spoke it was in the tone he used in anger.
"If I had him now, I think I would kill him," he said.
Auguste had deluded him in other things, had run away and deserted him in
a strange land. But this matter of bringing him to Les Iles was past
pardon. It was another face he turned to the Vicomtesse, a stronger
face, a face ennobled by a just anger.
"Madame la Vicomtesse," he said, "I have a vague notion that you are
related to Monsieur de St. Gre. I give you my word of honor as a
gentleman that I had no thought of trespassing upon him in any way."
"Mr. Temple, we were so sure of that--Mr. Ritchie and I--that we should
not have sought for you here otherwise," she replied quickly. Then she
glanced at me as though seeking my approval for her next move. It was
characteristic of her that she did not now shirk a task imposed by her
sense of duty. "We have little time, Mr. Temple, and much to say.
Perhaps you will excuse us, Lamarque," she added graciously, in French.
"Madame la Vicomtesse!" said the old man. And, with the tact of his
race, he bowed and retired. The Vicomtesse seated herself on one of the
rude chairs, and looked at Nick curiously. There was no such thing as
embarrassment in her manner, no trace of misgiving that she would not
move properly in the affair. Knowing Nick as I did, the difficulty of
the task appalled me, for no man was likelier than he to fly off at a
Her beginning was so bold that I held my breath, knowing full well as I
did that she had chosen the very note.
"Sit down, Mr. Temple," she said. "I wish to speak to you about your
He stopped like a man who had been struck, straightened, and stared at
her as though he had not taken her meaning. Then he swung on me.
"Your mother is in New Orleans," I said. "I would have told you in
Louisville had you given me the chance."
"It is an interesting piece of news, David," he answered, "which you
might have spared me. Mrs. Temple did not think herself necessary to my
welfare when I was young, and now I have learned to live without her."
"Is there no such thing as expiation, Monsieur?" said the Vicomtesse.
"Madame," he said, "she made me what I am, and when I might have redeemed
myself she came between me and happiness."
"Monsieur," said the Vicomtesse, "have you ever considered her
He looked at the Vicomtesse with a new interest. She was not so far
beyond his experience as mine.
"Her sufferings?" he repeated, and smiled.
"Madame la Vicomtesse should know them," I interrupted; and without
heeding her glance of protest I continued, "It is she who has cared for
"You, Madame!" he exclaimed.
"Do not deny your own share in it, Mr. Ritchie," she answered. "As for
me, Monsieur," she went on, turning to Nick, "I have done nothing that
was not selfish. I have been in the world, I have lived my life,
misfortunes have come upon me too. My visits to your mother have been to
me a comfort, a pleasure,--for she is a rare person."
"I have never found her so, Madame," he said briefly.
"I am sure it is your misfortune rather than your fault, Mr. Temple. It
is because you do not know her now."
Again he looked at me, puzzled, uneasy, like a man who would run if he
could. But by a kind of fascination his eyes went back to this woman who
dared a subject sore to the touch--who pressed it gently, but with
determination, never doubting her powers, yet with a kindness and
sympathy of tone which few women of the world possess. The Vicomtesse
began to speak again, evenly, gently.
"Mr. Temple," said she, "I am merely going to tell you some things which
I am sure you do not know, and when I have finished I shall not appeal to
you. It would be useless for me to try to influence you, and from what
Mr. Ritchie and others have told me of your character I am sure that no
influence will be necessary. And," she added, with a smile, "it would be
much more comfortable for us both if you sat down."
He obeyed her without a word. No wonder Madame la Vicomtesse had had an
influence at court.
"There!" she said. "If any reference I am about to make gives you pain,
I am sorry." She paused briefly. "After Mr. Ritchie took your mother
from here to New Orleans, some five years ago, she rented a little house
in the Rue Bourbon with a screen of yellow and red tiles at the edge of
the roof. It is on the south side, next to the corner of the Rue St.
Philippe. There she lives absolutely alone, except for a servant. Mr.
Clark, who has charge of her affairs, was the only person she allowed to
visit her. For her pride, however misplaced, and for her spirit we must
all admire her. The friend who discovered where she was, who went to her
and implored Mrs. Temple to let her stay, she refused."
"The friend?" he repeated in a low tone. I scarcely dared to glance at
"Yes, it was Antoinette," she answered. He did not reply, but his eyes
fell. "Antoinette went to her, would have comforted her, would have
cared for her, but your mother sent her away. For five years she has
lived there, Mr. Temple, alone with her past, alone with her sorrow and
remorse. You must draw the picture for yourself. If the world has a
more terrible punishment, I have not heard of it. And when, some months
ago, I came, and Antoinette sent me to her--"
"Sent you to her!" he said, raising his head quickly.
"Under another name than my own," Helene continued, apparently taking no
notice of his interruption. She leaned toward him and her voice
faltered. "I found your mother dying."
He said nothing, but got to his feet and walked slowly to the door, where
he stood looking out again. I felt for him, I would have gone to him
then had it not been for the sense in me that Helene did not wish it. As
for Helene, she sat waiting for him to turn back to her, and at length he
"Yes?" he said.
"It is her heart, Mr. Temple, that we fear the most. Last night I
thought the end had come. It cannot be very far away now. Sorrow and
remorse have killed her, Monsieur. The one thing that she has prayed for
through the long nights is that she might see you once again and obtain
your forgiveness. God Himself does not withhold forgiveness, Mr.
Temple," said the Vicomtesse, gently. "Shall any of us presume to?"
A spasm of pain crossed his face, and then his expression hardened.
"I might have been a useful man," he said; "she ruined my life--"
"And you will allow her to ruin the rest of it?" asked the Vicomtesse.
He stared at her.
"If you do not go to her and forgive her, you will remember it until you
die," she said.
He sank down on the chair opposite to her, his head bowed into his hands,
his elbows on the table among the cards. At length I went and laid my
hands upon his shoulder, and at my touch he started. Then he did a
singular thing, an impulsive thing, characteristic of the old Nick I had
known. He reached across the table and seized the hand of Madame la
Vicomtesse. She did not resist, and her smile I shall always remember.
It was the smile of a woman who has suffered, and understands.
"I will go to her, Madame!" he said, springing to his feet. "I will go
to her. I--I was wrong."
She rose, too, he still clinging to her hand, she still unresisting. His
eye fell upon me.
"Where is my hat, Davy?" he asked.
The Vicomtesse withdrew her hand and looked at me.
"Alas, it is not quite so simple as that, Mr. Temple," she said;
"Monsieur de Carondelet has first to be reckoned with."
"She is dying, you say? then I will go to her. After that Monsieur de
Carondelet may throw me into prison, may hang me, may do anything he
chooses. But I will go to her."
I glanced anxiously at the Vicomtesse, well knowing how wilful he was
when aroused. Admiration was in her eyes, seeing that he was heedless of
his own danger.
"You would not get through the gates of the city. Monsieur le Baron
requires passports now," she said.
At that he began to pace the little room, his hands clenched.
"I could use your passport, Davy," he cried. "Let me have it."
"Pardon me, Mr. Temple, I do not think you could," said the Vicomtesse.
I flushed. I suppose the remark was not to be resisted.
"Then I will go to-night," he said, with determination. "It will be no
trouble to steal into the city. You say the house has yellow and red
tiles, and is near the Rue St. Philippe?"
Helene laid her fingers on his arm.
"Listen, Monsieur, there is a better way," she said. "Monsieur le Baron
is doubtless very angry with you, and I am sure that this is chiefly
because he does not know you. For instance, if some one were to tell him
that you are a straightforward, courageous young man, a gentleman with an
unquenchable taste for danger, that you are not a low-born adventurer and
intriguer, that you have nothing in particular against his government, he
might not be quite so angry. Pardon me if I say that he is not disposed
to take your expedition any more seriously than is your own Federal
government. The little Baron is irascible, choleric, stern, or else
good-natured, good-hearted, and charitable, just as one happens to take
him. As we say in France, it is not well to strike flint and steel in
his presence. He might blow up and destroy one. Suppose some one were
to go to Monsieur de Carondelet and tell him what a really estimable
person you are, and assure him that you will go quietly out of his
province at the first opportunity, and be good, so far as he is
concerned, forever after? Mark me, I merely say SUPPOSE. I do not know
how far things have gone, or what he may have heard. But suppose a
person whom I have reason to believe he likes and trusts and respects, a
person who understands his vagaries, should go to him on such an errand."
"And where is such a person to be found," said Nick, amused in spite of
Madame la Vicomtesse courtesied.
"Monsieur, she is before you," she said.
"Egad," he cried, "do you mean to say, Madame, that you will go to the
Baron on my behalf?"
"As soon as I ever get to town," she said. "He will have to be waked
from his siesta, and he does not like that."
"But he will forgive you," said Nick, quick as a flash.
"I have reason to believe he will," said Madame la Vicomtesse.
"Faith," cried Nick, "he would not be flesh and blood if he didn't."
At that the Vicomtesse laughed, and her eye rested judicially on me. I
was standing rather glumly, I fear, in the corner.
"Are you going to take him with you?" said Nick.
"I was thinking of it," said the Vicomtesse. "Mr. Ritchie knows you, and
he is such a reliable and reputable person."
"You should have seen him marching in a Jacobin procession, Madame," he
"He follows his friends into strange places," she retorted.
"And now, Mr. Temple," she added, "may we trust you to stay here with
Lamarque until you have word from us?"
"You know I cannot stay here," he cried.
"And why not, Monsieur?"
"If I were captured here, I should get Monsieur de St. Gre into trouble;
and besides," he said, with a touch of coldness, "I cannot be beholden to
Monsieur de St. Gre. I cannot remain on his land."
"As for getting Monsieur de St. Gre into trouble, his own son could not
involve him with the Baron," answered Madame la Vicomtesse. "And it
seems to me, Monsieur, that you are already so far beholden to Monsieur
de St. Gre that you cannot quibble about going a little more into his
debt. Come, Mr. Temple, how has Monsieur de St. Gre ever offended you?"
"Madame--" he began.
"Monsieur," she said, with an air not to be denied, "I believe I can
discern a point of honor as well as you. I fail to see that you have a
He was indeed no match for her. He turned to me appealingly, his brows
bent, but I had no mind to meddle. He swung back to her.
"But Madame--!" he cried.
She was arranging the cards neatly on the table.
"Monsieur, you are tiresome," she said. "What is it now?"
He took a step toward her, speaking in a low tone, his voice shaking.
But, true to himself, he spoke plainly. As for me, I looked on
frightened,--as though watching a contest,--almost agape to see what a
clever woman could do.
"There is--Mademoiselle de St. Gre--"
"Yes, there is Mademoiselle de St. Gre," repeated the Vicomtesse, toying
with the cards.
His face lighted, though his lips twitched with pain.
"She is still--"
"She is still Mademoiselle de St. Gre, Monsieur, if that is what you
"And what will she think if I stay here?"
"Ah, do you care what she thinks, Mr. Temple?" said the Vicomtesse,
raising her head quickly. "From what I have heard, I should not have
thought you could."
"God help me," he answered simply, "I do care."
Helene's eyes softened as she looked at him, and my pride in him was
never greater than at that moment.
"Mr. Temple," she said gently, "remain where you are and have faith in
us. I begin to see now why you are so fortunate in your friends." Her
glance rested for a brief instant on me. "Mr. Ritchie and I will go to
New Orleans, talk to the Baron, and send Andre at once with a message.
If it is in our power, you shall see your mother very soon."
She held out her hand to him, and he bent and kissed it reverently, with
an ease I envied. He followed us to the door. And when the Vicomtesse
had gone a little way down the path she looked at him over her shoulder.
"Do not despair, Mr. Temple," she said.
It was an answer to a yearning in his face. He gripped me by the
"God bless you, Davy," he whispered, and added, "God bless you both."
I overtook her where the path ran into the forest's shade, and for a long
while I walked after her, not breaking her silence, my eyes upon her, a
strange throbbing in my forehead which I did not heed. At last, when the
perfumes of the flowers told us we were nearing the garden, she turned to
"I like Mr. Temple," she said, again.
"He is an honest gentleman," I answered.
"One meets very few of them," she said, speaking in a low voice. "You
and I will go to the Governor. And after that, have you any idea where
you will go?"
"No," I replied, troubled by her regard.
"Then I will tell you. I intend to send you to Madame Gravois's, and she
will compel you to go to bed and rest. I do not mean to allow you to
MONSIEUR LE BARON
The sun beat down mercilessly on thatch and terrace, the yellow walls
flung back the quivering heat, as Madame la Vicomtesse and I walked
through the empty streets towards the Governor's house. We were followed
by Andre and Madame's maid. The sleepy orderly started up from under the
archway at our approach, bowed profoundly to Madame, looked askance at
me, and declared, with a thousand regrets, that Monsieur le Baron was
having his siesta.
"Then you will wake him," said Madame la Vicomtesse.
Wake Monsieur le Baron! Bueno Dios, did Madame understand what it meant
to wake his Excellency? His Excellency would at first be angry, no
doubt. Angry? As an Andalusian bull, Madame. Once, when his Excellency
had first come to the province, he, the orderly, had presumed to awake
"Assez!" said Madame, so suddenly that the man straightened and looked at
her again. "You will wake Monsieur le Baron, and tell him that Madame la
Vicomtesse d'Ivry-le-Tour has something of importance to say to him."
Madame had the air, and a title carried with a Spanish soldier in New
Orleans in those days. The orderly fairly swept the ground and led us
through a court where the sun drew bewildering hot odors from the fruits
and flowers, into a darkened room which was the Baron's cabinet. I
remember it vaguely, for my head was hot and throbbing from my exertions
in such a climate. It was a new room,--the hotel being newly
built,--with white walls, a picture of his Catholic Majesty and the
royal arms of Spain, a map of Louisiana, another of New Orleans
fortified, some walnut chairs, a desk with ink and sand and a seal, and a
window, the closed lattice shutters of which showed streaks of light
green light. These doubtless opened on the Royal Road and looked across
the levee esplanade on the waters of the Mississippi. Madame la
Vicomtesse seated herself, and with a gesture which was an order bade me
"He will be angry, the dear Baron," she said. "He is harassed to death
with republics. No offence, Mr. Ritchie. He is up at dawn looking to
the forts and palisades to guard against such foolish enterprises as this
of Mr. Temple's. And to be waked out of a well-earned siesta--to save a
gentleman who has come here to make things unpleasant for him--is
carrying a joke a little far. Mais--que voulez-vous?"
She gave a little shrug to her slim shoulders as she smiled at me, and
she seemed not a whit disturbed concerning the conversation with his
Excellency. I wondered whether this were birth, or training, or both, or
a natural ability to cope with affairs. The women of her order had long
been used to intercede with sovereigns, to play a part in matters of
state. Suddenly I became aware that she was looking at me.
"What are you thinking of?" she demanded, and continued without waiting
for a reply, "you strange man."
"I was thinking how odd it was," I replied, "that I should have known you
all these years by a portrait, that we should finally be thrown together,
and that you should be so exactly like the person I had supposed you to
She lowered her eyes, but she did not seem to take offence. I meant
"And you," she answered, "are continually reminding me of an Englishman I
knew when I was a girl. He was a very queer person to be attached to the
Embassy,--not a courtier, but a serious, literal person like you, Mr.
Ritchie, and he resembled you very much. I was very fond of him."
"And--what became of him?" I asked. Other questions rose to my lips, but
I put them down.
"I will tell you," she answered, bending forward a little. "He did
something which I believe you might have done. A certain Marquis spoke
lightly of a lady, an Englishwoman at our court, and my Englishman ran
him through one morning at Versailles."
She paused, and I saw that her breath was coming more quickly at the
"He fled to England. He was a younger son, and poor. But his King heard
of the affair, had it investigated, and restored him to the service. I
have never seen him since," she said, "but I have often thought of him.
There," she added, after a silence, with a lightness which seemed
assumed, "I have given you a romance. How long the Baron takes to
At that moment there were footsteps in the court-yard, and the orderly
appeared at the door, saluting, and speaking in Spanish.
"His Excellency the Governor!"
We rose, and Madame was courtesying and I was bowing to the little man.
He was in uniform, his face perspiring in the creases, his plump calves
stretching his white stockings to the full. Madame extended her hand and
he kissed it, albeit he did not bend easily. He spoke in French, and his
voice betrayed the fact that his temper was near slipping its leash. The
Baron was a native of Flanders.
"To what happy circumstance do I owe the honor of this visit, Madame la
Vicomtesse?" he asked.
"To a woman's whim, Monsieur le Baron," she answered, "for a man would
not have dared to disturb you. May I present to your Excellency, Mr.
David Ritchie of Kentucky?"
His Excellency bowed stiffly, looked at me with no pretence of pleasure,
and I had had sufficient dealings with men to divine that, in the coming
conversation, the overflow of his temper would be poured upon me. His
first sensation was surprise.
"An American!" he said, in a tone that implied reproach to Madame la
Vicomtesse for having fallen into such company. "Ah," he cried,
breathing hard in the manner of stout people, "I remember you came down
with Monsieur Vigo, Monsieur, did you not?"
It was my turn to be surprised. If the Baron took a like cognizance of
all my countrymen who came to New Orleans, he was a busy man indeed.
"Yes, your Excellency," I answered.
"And you are a Federalist?" he said, though petulantly.
"I am, your Excellency."
"Is your nation to overrun the earth?" said the Baron. "Every morning
when I ride through the streets it seems to me that more Americans have
come. Pardieu, I declare every day that, if it were not for the
Americans, I should have ten years more of life ahead of me." I could
not resist the temptation to glance at Madame la Vicomtesse. Her eyes,
half closed, betrayed an amusement that was scarce repressed.
"Come, Monsieur le Baron," she said, "you and I have like beliefs upon
most matters. We have both suffered at the hands of people who have
mistaken a fiend for a Lady."
"You would have me believe, Madame," the Baron put in, with a wit I had
not thought in him, "that Mr. Ritchie knows a lady when he sees one. I
can readily believe it."
"He at least has a negative knowledge," she replied. "And he has brought
into New Orleans no coins, boxes, or clocks against your Excellency's
orders with the image and superscription of the Goddess in whose name all
things are done. He has not sung 'Ca Ira' at the theatres, and he
detests the tricolored cockades as much as you do."
The Baron laughed in spite of himself, and began to thaw. There was a
little more friendliness in his next glance at me.
"What images have you brought in, Mr. Ritchie?" he asked. "We all
worship the sex in some form, however misplaced our notions of it."
There is not the least doubt that, for the sake of the Vicomtesse, he was
trying to be genial, and that his remark was a purely random one. But
the roots of my hair seemed to have taken fire. I saw the Baron as in a
glass, darkly. But I kept my head, principally because the situation had
elements of danger.
"The image of Madame la Vicomtesse, Monsieur," I said.
"Dame!" exclaimed his Excellency, eying me with a new interest, "I did
not suspect you of being a courtier."
"No more he is, Monsieur le Baron," said the Vicomtesse, "for he speaks
His Excellency looked blank. As for me, I held my breath, wondering what
coup Madame was meditating.
"Mr. Ritchie brought down from Kentucky a miniature of me by Boze, that
was painted in a costume I once wore at Chantilly."
"Comment! diable," exclaimed the Baron. "And how did such a thing get
into Kentucky, Madame?"
"You have brought me to the point," she replied, "which is no small
triumph for your Excellency. Mr. Ritchie bought the miniature from that
most estimable of my relations, Monsieur Auguste de St. Gre."
The Baron sat down and began to fan himself. He even grew a little
purple. He looked at Madame, sputtered, and I began to think that, if he
didn't relieve himself, his head might blow off. As for the Vicomtesse,
she wore an ingenuous air of detachment, and seemed supremely unconscious
of the volcano by her side.
"So, Madame," cried the Governor at length, after I know not what
repressions, "you have come here in behalf of that--of Auguste de St.
"So far as I am concerned, Monsieur," answered the Vicomtesse, calmly,
"you may hang Auguste, put him in prison, drown him, or do anything you
like with him."
"God help me," said the poor man, searching for his handkerchief, and
utterly confounded, "why is it you have come to me, then? Why did you
wake me up?" he added, so far forgetting himself.
"I came in behalf of the gentleman who had the indiscretion to accompany
Auguste to Louisiana," she continued, "in behalf of Mr. Nicholas Temple,
who is a cousin of Mr. Ritchie."
The Baron started abruptly from his chair.
"I have heard of him," he cried; "Madame knows where he is?"
"I know where he is. It is that which I came to tell your Excellency."
"Hein!" said his Excellency, again nonplussed. "You came to tell me
where he is? And where the--the other one is?"
"Parfaitement," said Madame. "But before I tell you where they are, I
wish to tell you something about Mr. Temple."
"Madame, I know something of him already," said the Baron, impatiently.
"Ah," said she, "from Gignoux. And what do you hear from Gignoux?"
This was another shock, under which the Baron fairly staggered.
"Diable! is Madame la Vicomtesse in the plot?" he cried. "What does
Madame know of Gignoux?"
Madame's manner suddenly froze.
"I am likely to be in the plot, Monsieur," she said. "I am likely to be
in a plot which has for its furtherance that abominable anarchy which
deprived me of my home and estates, of my relatives and friends and my
"A thousand pardons, Madame la Vicomtesse," said the Baron, more at sea
than ever. "I have had much to do these last years, and the heat and the
Republicans have got on my temper. Will Madame la Vicomtesse pray
"I was about to do so when your Excellency interrupted," said Madame.
"You see before you Mr. Ritchie, barrister, of Louisville, Kentucky,
whose character of sobriety, dependence, and ability" (there was a little
gleam in her eye as she gave me this array of virtues) "can be perfectly
established. When he came to New Orleans some years ago he brought
letters to Monsieur de St. Gre from Monsieur Gratiot and Colonel Chouteau
of St. Louis, and he is known to Mr. Clark and to Monsieur Vigo. He is a
Federalist, as you know, and has no sympathy with the Jacobins."
"Eh bien, Mr. Ritchie," said the Baron, getting his breath, "you are
fortunate in your advocate. Madame la Vicomtesse neglected to say that
she was your friend, the greatest of all recommendations in my eyes."
"You are delightful, Monsieur le Baron," said the Vicomtesse.
"Perhaps Mr. Ritchie can tell me something of this expedition," said the
Baron, his eyes growing smaller as he looked at me.
"Willingly," I answered. "Although I know that your Excellency is well
informed, and that Monsieur Vigo has doubtless given you many of the
details that I know."
He interrupted me with a grunt.
"You Americans are clever people, Monsieur," he said; "you contrive to
combine shrewdness with frankness."
"If I had anything to hide from your Excellency, I should not be here," I
answered. "The expedition, as you know, has been as much of a farce as
Citizen Genet's commissions. But it has been a sad farce to me, inasmuch
as it involves the honor of my old friend and Colonel, General Clark, and
the safety of my cousin, Mr. Temple."
"So you were with Clark in Illinois?" said the Baron, craftily. "Pardon
me, Mr. Ritchie, but I should have said that you are too young."
"Monsieur Vigo will tell you that I was the drummer boy of the regiment,
and a sort of ward of the Colonel's. I used to clean his guns and cook
"And you did not see fit to follow your Colonel to Louisiana?" said his
Excellency, for he had been trained in a service of suspicion.
"General Clark is not what he was," I replied, chafing a little at his
manner; "your Excellency knows that, and I put loyalty to my government
before friendship. And I might remind your Excellency that I am neither
an adventurer nor a fool."
The little Baron surprised me by laughing. His irritability and his good
nature ran in streaks.
"There is no occasion to, Mr. Ritchie," he answered. "I have seen
something of men in my time. In which category do you place your cousin,
"If a love of travel and excitement and danger constitutes an adventurer,
Mr. Temple is such," I said. "Fortunately the main spur of the
adventurer's character is lacking in his case. I refer to the desire for
money. Mr. Temple has an annuity from his father's estate in Charleston
which puts him beyond the pale of the fortune-seeker, and I firmly
believe that if your Excellency sees fit to allow him to leave the
province, and if certain disquieting elements can be removed from his
life" (I glanced at the Vicomtesse), "he will settle down and become a
useful citizen of the United States. As much as I dislike to submit to a
stranger private details in the life of a member of my family, I feel
that I must tell your Excellency something of Mr. Temple's career, in
order that you may know that restlessness and the thirst for adventure
were the only motives that led him into this foolish undertaking."
"Pray proceed, Mr. Ritchie," said the Baron.
I was surprised not to find him more restless, and in addition the glance
of approbation which the Vicomtesse gave me spurred me on. However
distasteful, I had the sense to see that I must hold nothing back of
which his Excellency might at any time become cognizant, and therefore I
told him as briefly as possible Nick's story, leaving out only the
episode with Antoinette. When I came to the relation of the affairs
which occurred at Les Iles five years before and told his Excellency that
Mrs. Temple had since been living in the Rue Bourbon as Mrs. Clive,
unknown to her son, the Baron broke in upon me.
"So the mystery of that woman is cleared at last," he said, and turned to
the Vicomtesse. "I have learned that you have been a frequent visitor,
"Not a sparrow falls to the ground in Louisiana that your Excellency does
not hear of it," she answered.
"And Gignoux?" he said, speaking to me again.
"As I told you, Monsieur le Baron," I answered, "I have come to New
Orleans at a personal sacrifice to induce my cousin to abandon this
matter, and I went out last evening to try to get word of him." This was
not strictly true. "I saw Monsieur Gignoux in conference with some of
your officers who came out of this hotel."
"You have sharp eyes, Monsieur," he remarked.
"I suspected the man when I met him in Kentucky," I continued, not
heeding this. "Monsieur Vigo himself distrusted him. To say that
Gignoux were deep in the councils of the expedition, that he held a
commission from Citizen Genet, I realize will have no weight with your
Excellency,--provided the man is in the secret service of his Majesty the
King of Spain."
"Mr. Ritchie," said the Baron, "you are a young man and I an old one. If
I tell you that I have a great respect for your astuteness and ability,
do not put it down to flattery. I wish that your countrymen, who are
coming down the river like driftwood, more resembled you. As for Citizen
Gignoux," he went on, smiling, and wiping his face, "let not your heart
be troubled. His Majesty's minister at Philadelphia has written me
letters on the subject. I am contemplating for Monsieur Gignoux a sea
voyage to Havana, and he is at present partaking of my hospitality in the
"In the calabozo!" I cried, overwhelmed at this example of Spanish
justice and omniscience.
"Precisely," said the Baron, drumming with his fingers on his fat knee.
"And now," he added, "perhaps Madame la Vicomtesse is ready to tell me of
the whereabouts of Mr. Temple and her estimable cousin, Auguste. It may
interest her to know why I have allowed them their liberty so long."
"A point on which I have been consumed with curiosity--since I have
begun to tremble at the amazing thoroughness of your Excellency's
system," said the Vicomtesse.
His Excellency scarcely looked the tyrant as he sat before us, with his
calves crossed and his hands folded on his waistcoat and his little black
"It is because," he said, "there are many French planters in the province
bitten with the three horrors" (he meant Liberty, Equality, and
Fraternity), "I sent six to Havana; and if Monsieur Etienne de Bore had
not, in the nick of time for him, discovered how to make sugar he would
have gone, too. I had an idea that the Sieur de St. Gre and Mr. Temple
might act as a bait to reveal the disease in some others. Ha, I am
cleverer than you thought, Mr. Ritchie. You are surprised?"
I was surprised, and showed it.
"Come," he said, "you are astute. Why did you think I left them at
"I thought your Excellency believed them to be harmless, as they are," I
He turned again to the Vicomtesse. "You have picked up a diplomat,
Madame. I must confess that I misjudged him when you introduced him to
me. And again, where are Mr. Temple and your estimable cousin? Shall I
tell you? They are at old Lamarque's, on the plantation of Philippe de
"They were, your Excellency," said the Vicomtesse.
"Eh?" exclaimed the Baron, jumping.
"Mademoiselle de St. Gre has given her brother eight hundred livres, and
he is probably by this time on board a French ship at the English Turn.
He is very badly frightened. I will give your Excellency one more
"Madame la Vicomtesse," said the Baron, "I have heard that, but for your
coolness and adroitness, Monsieur le Vicomte, your husband, and several
other noblemen and their ladies and some of her Majesty's letters and
jewels would never have gotten out of France. I take this opportunity of
saying that I have the greatest respect for your intelligence. Now what
is the surprise?"
"That your Excellency intended that both Mr. Temple and Auguste de St.
Gre were to escape on that ship."
"Mille tonneres," exclaimed the Baron, staring at her, and straightway he
fell into a fit of laughter that left him coughing and choking and
perspiring as only a man in his condition of flesh can perspire. To say
that I was bewildered by this last evidence of the insight of the woman
beside me would be to put it mildly. The Vicomtesse sat quietly watching
him, the wonted look of repressed laughter on her face, and by degrees
his Excellency grew calm again.
"Mon dieu," said he, "I always like to cross swords with you, Madame la
Vicomtesse, yet this encounter has been more pleasurable than any I have
had since I came to Louisiana. But, diable," he cried, "just as I was
congratulating myself that I was to have one American the less, you come
and tell me that he has refused to flee. Out of consideration for the
character and services of Monsieur Philippe de St. Gre I was willing to
let them both escape. But now?"
"Mr. Temple is not known in New Orleans except to the St. Gre family,"
said the Vicomtesse. "He is a man of honor. Suppose Mr. Ritchie were to
bring him to your Excellency, and he were to give you his word that he
would leave the province at the first opportunity? He now wishes to see
his mother before she dies, and it was as much as we could do this
morning to persuade him from going to her openly in the face of arrest."
But the Baron was old in a service which did not do things hastily.
"He is well enough where he is for to-day," said his Excellency, resuming
his official manner. "To-night after dark I will send down an officer
and have him brought before me. He will not then be seen in custody by
any one, and provided I am satisfied with him he may go to the Rue
The little Baron rose and bowed to the Vicomtesse to signify that the
audience was ended, and he added, as he kissed her hand, "Madame la
Vicomtesse, it is a pleasure to be able to serve such a woman as you."
As we went through the court I felt as though I had been tied to a
string, suspended in the air, and spun. This was undoubtedly due to the
heat. And after the astonishing conversation from which we had come, my
admiration for the lady beside me was magnified to a veritable awe. We
reached the archway. Madame la Vicomtesse held me lightly by the edge of
my coat, and I stood looking down at her.
"Wait a minute, Mr. Ritchie," she said, glancing at the few figures
hurrying across the Place d'Armes; "those are only Americans, and they
are too busy to see us standing here. What do you propose to do now?"
"We must get word to Nick as we promised, that he may know what to
expect," I replied. "Suppose we go to Monsieur de St. Gre's house and
write him a letter?"
"No," said the Vicomtesse, with decision, "I am going to Mrs. Temple's.
I shall write the letter from there and send it by Andre, and you will go
direct to Madame Gravois's."
Her glance rested anxiously upon my face, and there came an expression in
her eyes which disturbed me strangely. I had not known it since the days
when Polly Ann used to mother me. But I did not mean to give up.
"I am not tired, Madame la Vicomtesse," I answered, "and I will go with
you to Mrs. Temple's."
"Give me your hand," she said, and smiled. "Andre and my maid are used
to my vagaries, and your own countrymen will not mind. Give me your
hand, Mr. Ritchie."
I gave it willingly enough, with a thrill as she took it between her
own. The same anxious look was in her eyes, and not the least
"There, it is hot and dry, as I feared," she said, "and you seem
flushed." She dropped my hand, and there was a touch of irritation in
her voice as she continued: "You seemed fairly sensible when I first met
you last night, Mr. Ritchie. Are you losing your sanity? Do you not
realize that you cannot take liberties with this climate? Do as I say,
and go to Madame Gravois's at once."
"It is my pleasure to obey you, Madame la Vicomtesse," I answered, "but I
mean to go with you as far as Mrs. Temple's, to see how she fares. She
"That is no reason why you should kill yourself," said Madame, coldly.
"Will you not do as I say?"
"I think that I should go to Mrs. Temple's," I answered.
She did not reply to that, letting down her veil impatiently, with a
deftness that characterized all her movements. Without so much as asking
me to come after her, she reached the banquette, and I walked by her side
through the streets, silent and troubled by her displeasure. My pride
forbade me to do as she wished. It was the hottest part of a burning
day, and the dome of the sky was like a brazen bell above us. We passed
the calabozo with its iron gates and tiny grilled windows pierced in the
massive walls, behind which Gignoux languished, and I could not repress a
smile as I thought of him. Even the Spaniards sometimes happened upon
justice. In the Rue Bourbon the little shops were empty, the doorstep
where my merry fiddler had played vacant, and the very air seemed to
simmer above the honeycombed tiles. I knocked at the door, once, twice.
There was no answer. I looked at Madame la Vicomtesse, and knocked again
so loudly that the little tailor across the street, his shirt opened at
the neck, flung out his shutter. Suddenly there was a noise within, the
door was opened, and Lindy stood before us, in the darkened room, with
terror in her eyes.
"Oh, Marse Dave," she cried, as we entered, "oh, Madame, I'se so glad
you'se come, I'se so glad you'se come."
She burst into a flood of tears. And Madame la Vicomtesse, raising her
veil, seized the girl by the arm.
"What is it?" she said. "What is the matter, Lindy?"
Madame's touch seemed to steady her.
"Miss Sally," she moaned, "Miss Sally done got de yaller fever."
There was a moment's silence, for we were both too appalled by the news
"Lindy, are you sure?" said the Vicomtesse.
"Yass'm, yass'm," Lindy sobbed, "I reckon I'se done seed 'nuf of it,
Mistis." And she went into a hysterical fit of weeping.
The Vicomtesse turned to her own frightened servants in the doorway, bade
Andre in French to run for Dr. Perrin, and herself closed the battened
doors. There was a moment when her face as I saw it was graven on my
memory, reflecting a knowledge of the evils of this world, a spirit above
and untouched by them, a power to accept what life may bring with no
outward sign of pleasure or dismay. Doubtless thus she had made King and
Cardinal laugh, doubtless thus, ministering to those who crossed her
path, she had met her own calamities. Strangest of all was the effect
she had upon Lindy, for the girl ceased crying as she watched her.
Madame la Vicomtesse turned to me.
"You must go at once," she said. "When you get to Madame Gravois's,
write to Mr. Temple. I will send Andre to you there."
She started for the bedroom door, Lindy making way for her. I scarcely
knew what I did as I sprang forward and took the Vicomtesse by the arm.
"Where are you going?" I cried. "You cannot go in there! You cannot go
It did not seem strange that she turned to me without anger, that she did
not seek to release her arm. It did not seem strange that her look had
in it a gentleness as she spoke.
"I must," she said.
"I cannot let you risk your life," I cried, wholly forgetting myself;
"there are others who will do this."
"Others?" she said.
"I will go. I--I have nursed people before this. And there is Lindy."
A smile quivered on her lips,--or was it a smile?
"You will do as I say and go to Madame Gravois's--at once," she murmured,
striving for the first time to free herself.
"If you stay, I stay," I answered; "and if you die, I die."
She looked up into my eyes for a fleeting instant.
"Write to Mr. Temple," she said.
Dazed, I watched her open the bedroom doors, motion to Lindy to pass
through, and then she had closed them again and I was alone in the
The throbbing in my head was gone, and a great clearness had come with a
great fear. I stood, I know not how long, listening to the groans that
came through the wall, for Mrs. Temple was in agony. At intervals I
heard Helene's voice, and then the groans seemed to stop. Ten times I
went to the bedroom door, and as many times drew away again, my heart
leaping within me at the peril which she faced. If I had had the right,
I believe I would have carried her away by force.
But I had not the right. I sat down heavily, by the table, to think and
it might have been a cry of agony sharper than the rest that reminded me
once more of the tragedy of the poor lady in torture. My eye fell upon
the table, and there, as though prepared for what I was to do, lay pen
and paper, ink and sand. My hand shook as I took the quill and tried to
compose a letter to my cousin. I scarcely saw the words which I put on
the sheet, and I may be forgiven for the unwisdom of that which I wrote.
"The Baron de Carondelet will send an officer for you to-night so that
you may escape observation in custody. His Excellency knew of your
hiding-place, but is inclined to be lenient, will allow you to-morrow to
go to the Rue Bourbon, and will without doubt permit you to leave the
province. Your mother is ill, and Madame la Vicomtesse and myself are
with her. "DAVID."
In the state I was it took me a long time to compose this much, and I
had barely finished it when there was a knock at the outer door. There
was Andre. He had the immobility of face which sometimes goes with the
mulatto, and always with the trained servant, as he informed me that
Monsieur le Medecin was not at home, but that he had left word. There
was an epidemic, Monsieur, so Andre feared. I gave him the note and his
directions, and ten minutes after he had gone I would have given much to
have called him back. How about Antoinette, alone at Les Iles? Why had
I not thought of her? We had told her nothing that morning, Madame la
Vicomtesse and I, after our conference with Nick. For the girl had shut
herself in her room, and Madame had thought it best not to disturb her at
such a stage. But would she not be alarmed when Helene failed to return
that night? Had circumstances been different, I myself would have ridden
to Les Iles, but no inducement now could make me desert the post I had
chosen. After many years I dislike to recall to memory that long
afternoon which I spent, helpless, in the Rue Bourbon. Now I was on my
feet, pacing restlessly the short breadth of the room, trying to shut out
from my mind the horrors of which my ears gave testimony. Again, in the
intervals of quiet, I sat with my elbows on the table and my head in my
hands, striving to allay the throbbing in my temples. Pains came and
went, and at times I felt like a fagot flung into the fire,--I, who had
never known a sick day. At times my throat pained me, an odd symptom in
a warm climate. Troubled as I was in mind and body, the thought of
Helene's quiet heroism upheld me through it all. More than once I had my
hand raised to knock at the bedroom door and ask if I could help, but I
dared not; at length, the sun having done its worst and spent its fury, I
began to hear steps along the banquette and voices almost at my elbow
beyond the little window. At every noise I peered out, hoping for the
doctor. But he did not come. And then, as I fell back into the
fauteuil, there was borne on my consciousness a sound I had heard before.
It was the music of the fiddler, it was a tune I knew, and the voices of
the children were singing the refrain:--
"Ne sait quand reviendra,
Ne sait quand reviendra."
I rose, opened the door, and slipped out of it, and I must have made a
strange, hatless figure as I came upon the fiddler and his children from
across the street.
"Stop that noise," I cried in French, angered beyond all reason at the
thought of music at such a time. "Idiots, there is yellow fever there."
The little man stopped with his bow raised; for a moment they all stared
at me, transfixed. It was a little elf in blue indienne who jumped first
and ran down the street, crying the news in a shrill voice, the others
following, the fiddler gazing stupidly after them. Suddenly he scrambled
up, moaning, as if the scourge itself had fastened on him, backed into
the house, and slammed the door in my face. I returned with slow steps
to shut myself in the darkened room again, and I recall feeling something
of triumph over the consternation I had caused. No sounds came from the
bedroom, and after that the street was quiet as death save for an
occasional frightened, hurrying footfall. I was tired.
All at once the bedroom door opened softly, and Helene was standing
there, looking at me. At first I saw her dimly, as in a vision, then
clearly. I leaped to my feet and went and stood beside her.
"The doctor has not come," I said. "Where does he live? I will go for
She shook her head.
"He can do no good. Lindy has procured all the remedies, such as they
are. They can only serve to alleviate," she answered. "She cannot
withstand this, poor lady." There were tears on Helene's lashes. "Her
sufferings have been frightful--frightful."
"Cannot I help?" I said thickly. "Cannot I do something?"
She shook her head. She raised her hand timidly to the lapel of my coat,
and suddenly I felt her palm, cool and firm, upon my forehead. It rested
there but an instant.
"You ought not to be here," she said, her voice vibrant with earnestness
and concern. "You ought not to be here. Will you not go--if I ask it?"
"I cannot," I said; "you know I cannot if you stay."
She did not answer that. Our eyes met, and in that instant for me there
was neither joy nor sorrow, sickness nor death, nor time nor space nor
universe. It was she who turned away.
"Have you written him?" she asked in a low voice.
"Yes," I answered.
"She would not have known him," said Helene; "after all these years of
waiting she would not have known him. Her punishment has been great."
A sound came from the bedroom, and Helene was gone, silently, as she had
* * * * * * *
I must have been dozing in the fauteuil, for suddenly I found myself
sitting up, listening to an unwonted noise. I knew from the count of the
hoof-beats which came from down the street that a horse was galloping in
long strides--a spent horse, for the timing was irregular. Then he was
pulled up into a trot, then to a walk as I ran to the door and opened it
and beheld Nicholas Temple flinging himself from a pony white with
lather. And he was alone! He caught sight of me as soon as his foot
touched the banquette.
"What are you doing here?" I cried. "What are you doing here?"
He halted on the edge of the banquette as a hurrying man runs into a
wall. He had been all excitement, all fury, as he jumped from his horse;
and now, as he looked at me, he seemed to lose his bearings, to be all
bewilderment. He cried out my name and stood looking at me like a fool.
"What the devil do you mean by coming here?" I cried. "Did I not write
you to stay where you were? How did you get here?" I stepped down on
the banquette and seized him by the shoulders. "Did you receive my
"Yes," he said, "yes." For a moment that was as far as he got, and he
glanced down the street and then at the heaving beast he had ridden,
which stood with head drooping to the kennel. Then he laid hold of me.
"Davy, is it true that she has yellow fever? Is it true?"
"Who told you?" I demanded angrily.
"Andre," he answered. "Andre said that the lady here had yellow fever.
Is it true?"
"Yes," I said almost inaudibly.
He let his hand fall from my shoulder, and he shivered.
"May God forgive me for what I have done!" he said. "Where is she?"
"For what you have done?" I cried; "you have done an insensate thing to
come here." Suddenly I remembered the sentry at the gate of Fort St.
Charles. "How did you get into the city?" I said; "were you mad to defy
the Baron and his police?"
"Damn the Baron and his police," he answered, striving to pass me. "Let
me in! Let me see her."
Even as he spoke I caught sight of men coming into the street, perhaps at
the corner of the Rue St. Pierre, and then more men, and as we went into
the house I saw that they were running. I closed the doors. There were
cries in the street now, but he did not seem to heed them. He stood
listening, heart-stricken, to the sounds that came through the bedroom
wall, and a spasm crossed his face. Then he turned like a man not to be
denied, to the bedroom door. I was before him, but Madame la Vicomtesse
opened it. And I remember feeling astonishment that she did not show
surprise or alarm.
"What are you doing here, Mr. Temple?" she said.
"My mother, Madame! My mother! I must go to her."
He pushed past her into the bedroom, and I followed perforce. I shall
never forget the scene, though I had but the one glimpse of it,--the
raving, yellowed woman in the bed, not a spectre nor yet even a semblance
of the beauty of Temple Bow. But she was his mother, upon whom God had
brought such a retribution as He alone can bestow. Lindy, faithful
servant to the end, held the wasted hands of her mistress against the
violence they would have done. Lindy held them, her own body rocking
with grief, her lips murmuring endearments, prayers, supplications.
"Miss Sally, honey, doan you know Lindy? Gawd'll let you git well, Miss
Sally, Gawd'll let you git well, honey, ter see Marse Nick--ter
The words died on Lindy's lips, the ravings of the frenzied woman ceased.
The yellowed hands fell limply to the sheet, the shrunken form stiffened.
The eyes of the mother looked upon the son, and in them at first was the
terror of one who sees the infinite. Then they softened until they
became again the only feature that was left of Sarah Temple. Now, as she
looked at him who was her pride, her honor, for one sight of whom she had
prayed,--ay, and even blasphemed,--her eyes were all tenderness. Then
"Harry," she said softly, "be good to me, dear. You are all I have now."
She spoke of Harry Riddle!
But the long years of penance had not been in vain. Nick had forgiven
her. We saw him kneeling at the bedside, we saw him with her hand in
his, and Helene was drawing me gently out of the room and closing the
door behind her. She did not look at me, nor I at her.
We stood for a moment close together, and suddenly the cries in the
street brought us back from the drama in the low-ceiled, reeking room we
"Ici! Ici! Voici le cheval!"
There was a loud rapping at the outer door, and a voice demanding
admittance in Spanish in the name of his Excellency the Governor.
"Open it," said Helene. There was neither excitement in her voice, nor
yet resignation. In those two words was told the philosophy of her life.
I opened the door. There, on the step, was an officer, perspiring,
uniformed and plumed, and behind him a crowd of eager faces, white and
black, that seemed to fill the street. He took a step into the room, his
hand on the hilt of his sword, and poured out at me a torrent of Spanish
of which I understood nothing. All at once his eye fell upon Helene, who
was standing behind me, and he stopped in the middle of his speech and
pulled off his hat and bowed profoundly.
"Madame la Vicomtesse!" he stammered. I was no little surprised that she
should be so well known.
"You will please to speak French, Monsieur," she said; "this gentleman
does not understand Spanish. What is it you desire?"
"A thousand pardons, Madame la Vicomtesse," he said. "I am the Alcalde
de Barrio, and a wild Americano has passed the sentry at St. Charles's
gate without heeding his Excellency's authority and command. I saw the
man with my own eyes. I should know him again in a hundred. We have
traced him here to this house, Madame la Vicomtesse. Behold the horse
which he rode!" The Alcalde turned and pointed at the beast. "Behold
the horse which he rode, Madame la Vicomtesse. The animal will die."
"Probably," answered the Vicomtesse, in an even tone.
"But the man," cried the Alcalde, "the man is here, Madame la Vicomtesse,
here, in this house!"
"Yes," she said, "he is here."
"Sancta Maria! Madame," he exclaimed, "I--I who speak to you have come to
get him. He has defied his Excellency's commands. Where is he?"
"He is in that room," said the Vicomtesse, pointing at the bedroom door.
The Alcalde took a step forward. She stopped him by a quick gesture.
"He is in that room with his mother," she said, "and his mother has the
yellow fever. Come, we will go to him." And she put her hand upon the
"Yellow fever!" cried the Alcalde, and his voice was thick with terror.
There was a moment's silence as he stood rooted to the floor. I did not
wonder then, but I have since thought it remarkable that the words spoken
low by both of them should have been caught up on the banquette and
passed into the street. Impassive, I heard it echoed from a score of
throats, I saw men and women stampeding like frightened sheep, I heard
their footfalls and their cries as they ran. A tawdry constable, who
held with a trembling hand the bridle of the tired horse, alone remained.
"Yellow fever!" the Alcalde repeated
The Vicomtesse inclined her head.
He was silent again for a while, uncertain, and then, without
comprehending, I saw the man's eyes grow smaller and a smile play about
his mouth. He looked at the Vicomtesse with a new admiration to which
she paid no heed.
"I am sorry, Madame la Vicomtesse," he began, "but--"
"But you do not believe that I speak the truth," she replied quietly.
"Will you follow me?" she said, turning again.
He had started, plainly in an agony of fear, when a sound came from
beyond the wall that brought a cry to his lips.
Her manner changed to one of stinging scorn.
"You are a coward," she said. "I will bring the gentleman to you if he
can be got to leave the bedside."
"No," said the Alcalde, "no. I--I will go to him, Madame la Vicomtesse."
But she did not open the door.
"Listen," she said in a tone of authority, "I myself have been to his
Excellency to-day concerning this gentleman--"
"You, Madame la Vicomtesse?"
"I will open the door," she continued, impatient at the interruption,
"and you will see him. Then I shall write a letter which you will take
to the Governor. The gentleman will not try to escape, for his mother is
dying. Besides, he could not get out of the city. You may leave your
constable where he is, or the man may come in and stand at this door in
sight of the gentleman while you are gone--if he pleases."
"And then?" said the Alcalde.
"It is my belief that his Excellency will allow the gentleman to remain
here, and that you will be relieved from the necessity of running any
As she spoke she opened the door, softly. The room was still now, still
as death, and the Alcalde went forward on tiptoe. I saw him peering in,
I saw him backing away again like a man in mortal fear.
"Yes, it is he--it is the man," he stammered. He put his hand to his
The Vicomtesse closed the door, and without a glance at him went quickly
to the table and began to write. She had no thought of consulting the
man again, of asking his permission. Although she wrote rapidly, five
minutes must have gone by before the note was finished and folded and
sealed. She held it out to him.
"Take this to his Excellency," she said, "and bring me his answer." The
Alcalde bowed, murmured her title, and went lamely out of the house. He
was plainly in an agony of uncertainty as to his duty, but he glanced at
the Vicomtesse--and went, flipping the note nervously with his finger
nail. He paused for a few low-spoken words with the tawdry constable,
who sat down on the banquette after his chief had gone, still clinging to
the bridle. The Vicomtesse went to the doorway, looked at him, and
closed the battened doors. The constable did not protest. The day was
fading without, and the room was almost in darkness as she crossed over
to the little mantel and stood with her head laid upon her arm.
I did not disturb her. The minutes passed, the light waned until I could
see her no longer, and yet I knew that she had not moved. The strange
sympathy between us kept me silent until I heard her voice calling my
"Yes," I answered.
I drew out my tinder-box and lighted the wick. She had turned, and was
facing me even as she had faced me the night before. The night before!
The greatest part of my life seemed to have passed since then. I
remember wondering that she did not look tired. Her face was sad, her
voice was sad, and it had an ineffable, sweet quality at such times that
was all its own.
"The Alcalde should be coming back," she said.
"Yes," I answered.
These were our words, yet we scarce heeded their meaning. Between us was
drawn a subtler communion than speech, and we dared--neither of us--to
risk speech. She searched my face, but her lips were closed. She did
not take my hand again as in the afternoon. She turned away. I knew
what she would have said.
There was a knock at the door. We went together to open it, and the
Alcalde stood on the step. He held in his hand a long letter on which
the red seal caught the light, and he gave the letter to the Vicomtesse,
with a bow.
"From his Excellency, Madame la Vicomtesse."
She broke the seal, went to the table, and read. Then she looked up at
"It is the Governor's permit for Mr. Temple to remain in this house.
Thank you," she said to the Alcalde; "you may go."
"With my respectful wishes for the continued good health of Madame la
Vicomtesse," said the Alcalde.
"IN THE MIDST OF LIFE"
The Alcalde had stopped on the step with an exclamation at something in
the darkness outside, and he backed, bowing, into the room again to make
way for some one. A lady, slim, gowned and veiled in black and followed
by a negress, swept past him. The lady lifted her veil and stood before
"Antoinette!" exclaimed the Vicomtesse, going to her.
The girl did not answer at once. Her suffering seemed to have brought
upon her a certain acceptance of misfortune as inevitable. Her face,
framed in the black veil, was never more beautiful than on that night.
"What is the Alcalde doing here?" she said.
The officer himself answered the question.
"I am leaving, Mademoiselle," said he. He reached out his hands toward
her, appealingly. "Do you not remember me, Mademoiselle? You brought
the good sister to see my wife."
"I remember you," said Antoinette.
"Do not stay here, Mademoiselle!" he cried. "There is--there is yellow
"So that is it," said Antoinette, unheeding him and looking at her
cousin. "She has yellow fever, then?"
"I beg you to come away, Mademoiselle!" the man entreated.
"Please go," she said to him. He looked at her, and went out silently,
closing the doors after him. "Why was he here?" she asked again.
"He came to get Mr. Temple, my dear," said the Vicomtesse. The girl's
lips framed his name, but did not speak it.
"Where is he?" she asked slowly.
The Vicomtesse pointed towards the bedroom.
"In there," she answered, "with his mother."
"He came to her?" Antoinette asked quite simply.
The Vicomtesse glanced at me, and drew the veil gently from the girl's
shoulders. She led her, unresisting, to a chair. I looked at them. The
difference in their ages was not so great. Both had suffered cruelly;
one had seen the world, the other had not, and yet the contrast lay not
here. Both had followed the gospel of helpfulness to others, but one as
a religieuse, innocent of the sin around her, though poignant of the
sorrow it caused. The other, knowing evil with an insight that went far
beyond intuition, fought with that, too.
"I will tell you, Antoinette," began the Vicomtesse; "it was as you said.
Mr. Ritchie and I found him at Lamarque's. He had not taken your money;
he did not even know that Auguste had gone to see you. He did not even
know," she said, bending over the girl, "that he was on your father's
plantation. When we told him that, he would have left it at once."
"Yes," she said.
"He did not know that his mother was still in New Orleans. And when we
told him how ill she was he would have come to her then. It was as much
as we could do to persuade him to wait until we had seen Monsieur de
Carondelet. Mr. Ritchie and I came directly to town and saw his
It was characteristic of the Vicomtesse that she told this almost with a
man's brevity, that she omitted the stress and trouble and pain of it
all. These things were done; the tact and skill and character of her who
had accomplished them were not spoken of. The girl listened immovable,
her lips parted and her eyes far away. Suddenly, with an awakening, she
turned to Helene.
"You did this!" she cried.
"Mr. Ritchie and I together," said the Vicomtesse.
Her next exclamation was an odd one, showing how the mind works at such a
"But his Excellency was having his siesta!" said Antoinette.
Again Helene glanced at me, but I cannot be sure that she smiled.
"We thought the matter of sufficient importance to awake his Excellency,"
"And his Excellency?" asked Antoinette. In that moment all three of us
seemed to have forgotten the tragedy behind the wall.
"His Excellency thought so, too, when we had explained it sufficiently,"
The girl seemed suddenly to throw off the weight of her grief. She
seized the hand of the Vicomtesse in both of her own.
"The Baron pardoned him?" she cried. "Tell me what his Excellency said.
Why are you keeping it from me?"
"Hush, my dear," said the Vicomtesse. "Yes, he pardoned him. Mr. Temple
was to have come to the city to-night with an officer. Mr. Ritchie and I
came to this house together, and we found--"
"Yes, yes," said Antoinette.
"Mr. Ritchie wrote to Mr. Temple that his Excellency was to send for him
to-night, but Andre told him of the fever, and he came here in the face
of danger to see her before she died. He galloped past the sentry at the
gate, and the Alcalde followed him from there."
"And came here to arrest him?" cried Antoinette. Before the Vicomtesse
could prevent her she sprang from her chair, ran to the door, and was
peering out into the darkness. "Is the Alcalde waiting?"
"No, no," said the Vicomtesse, gently bringing her back. "I wrote to his
Excellency and we have his permission for Mr. Temple to remain here."
Suddenly Antoinette stopped in the middle of the floor, facing the
candle, her hands clasped, her eyes wide with fear. We started, Helene
and I, as we looked at her.
"What is it, my dear?" said the Vicomtesse, laying a hand on her arm.
"He will take it," she said, "he will take the fever."
A strange thing happened. Many, many times have I thought of it since,
and I did not know its meaning then. I had looked to see the Vicomtesse
comfort her. But Helene took a step towards me, my eyes met hers, and in
them reflected was the terror I had seen in Antoinette's. At that
instant I, too, forgot the girl, and we turned to see that she had sunk
down, weeping, in the chair. Then we both went to her, I through some
instinct I did not fathom.
Helene's hand, resting on Antoinette's shoulder, trembled there. It may
well have been my own weakness which made me think her body swayed, which
made me reach out as if to catch her. However marvellous her strength
and fortitude, these could not last forever. And--Heaven help me--my own
were fast failing. Once the room had seemed to me all in darkness. Then
I saw the Vicomtesse leaning tenderly over her cousin and whispering in
her ear, and Antoinette rising, clinging to her.
"I will go," she faltered, "I will go. He must not know I have been
here. You--you will not tell him?"
"No, I shall not tell him," answered the Vicomtesse.
"And--you will send word to me, Helene?"
Antoinette kissed her, and began to adjust her veil mechanically. I
looked on, bewildered by the workings of the feminine mind. Why was she
going? The Vicomtesse gave me no hint. But suddenly the girl's arms
fell to her sides, and she stood staring, not so much as a cry escaping
her. The bedroom doors had been opened, and between them was the tall
figure of Nicholas Temple. So they met again after many years, and she
who had parted them had brought them together once more. He came a step
into the room, as though her eyes had drawn him so far. Even then he did
not speak her name.
"Go," he said. "Go, you must not stay here. Go!"
She bowed her head.
"I was going," she answered. "I--I am going."
"But you must go at once," he cried excitedly. "Do you know what is in
there?" and he pointed towards the bedroom.
"Yes, yes, I know," she said, "I know."
"Then go," he cried. "As it is you have risked too much."
She lifted up her head and looked at him. There was a new-born note in
her voice, a tremulous note of joy in the midst of sorrow. It was of her
he was thinking!
"And you?" she said. "You have come and remained."
"She is my mother," he answered. "God knows it was the least I could
Twice she had changed before our eyes, and now we beheld a new and yet
more startling transformation. When she spoke there was no reproach in
her voice, but triumph. Antoinette undid her veil.
"Yes, she is your mother," she answered; "but for many years she has been
my friend. I will go to her. She cannot forbid me now. Helene has been
with her," she said, turning to where the Vicomtesse stood watching her
intently. "Helene has been with her. And shall I, who have longed to
see her these many years, leave her now?"
"But you were going!" he cried, beside himself with apprehension at this
new turning. "You told me that you were going."
Truly, man is born without perception.
"Yes, I told you that," she replied almost defiantly.
"And why were you going?" he demanded. Then I had a sudden desire to
Antoinette was mute.
"You yourself must find the answer to that question, Mr. Temple," said
the Vicomtesse, quietly.
He turned and stared at Helene, and she seemed to smile. Then as his
eyes went back, irresistibly, to the other, a light that was wonderful to
see dawned and grew in them. I shall never forget him as he stood,
handsome and fearless, a gentleman still, despite his years of wandering
and adventure, and in this supreme moment unselfish. The wilful,
masterful boy had become a man at last.
He started forward, stopped, trembling with a shock of remembrance, and
gave back again.
"You cannot come," he said; "I cannot let you take this risk. Tell her
she cannot come, Madame," he said to Helene. "For the love of God send
her home again."
But there were forces which even Helene could not stem. He had turned to
go back, he had seized the door, but Antoinette was before him. Custom
does not weigh at such a time. Had she not read his avowal? She had his
hand in hers, heedless of us who watched. At first he sought to free
himself, but she clung to it with all the strength of her love,--yet she
did not look up at him.
"I will come with you," she said in a low voice, "I will come with you,
How quaintly she spoke his name, and gently, and timidly--ay, and with a
supreme courage. True to him through all those numb years of waiting,
this was a little thing--that they should face death together. A little
thing, and yet the greatest joy that God can bestow upon a good woman.
He looked down at her with a great tenderness, he spoke her name, and I
knew that he had taken her at last into his arms.
"Come," he said.
They went in together, and the doors closed behind them.
* * * * * * *
Antoinette's maid was on the step, and the Vicomtesse and I were alone
once more in the little parlor. I remember well the sense of unreality I
had, and how it troubled me. I remember how what I had seen and heard
was turning, turning in my mind. Nick had come back to Antoinette. They
were together in that room, and Mrs. Temple was dying--dying. No, it
could not be so. Again, I was in the garden at Les Iles on a night that
was all perfume, and I saw the flowers all ghostly white under the moon.
And then, suddenly, I was watching the green candle sputter, and out of
the stillness came a cry--the sereno calling the hour of the night. How
my head throbbed! It was keeping time to some rhythm, I knew not what.
Yes, it was the song my father used to sing:--
"I've faught on land? I've faught at sea,
At hume I've faught my aunty, O!"
But New Orleans was hot, burning hot, and this could not be cold I felt.
Ah, I had it, the water was cold going to Vincennes, so cold!
A voice called me. No matter where I had gone, I think I would have come
back at the sound of it. I listened intently, that I might lose no word
of what it said. I knew the voice. Had it not called to me many times
in my life before? But now there was fear in it, and fear gave it a
vibrant sweetness, fear gave it a quality that made it mine--mine.
"You are shivering."
That was all it said, and it called from across the sea. And the sea was
cold,--cold and green under the gray light. If she who called to me
would only come with the warmth of her love! The sea faded, the light
fell, and I was in the eternal cold of space between the whirling worlds.
If she could but find me! Was not that her hand in mine? Did I not feel
her near me, touching me? I wondered that I should hear myself as I
"I am not ill," I said. "Speak to me again."
She was pressing my hand now, I saw her bending over me, I felt her hair
as it brushed my face. She spoke again. There was a tremor in her
voice, and to that alone I listened. The words were decisive, of
command, and with them some sense as of a haven near came to me. Another
voice answered in a strange tongue, saying seemingly:--
"Oui, Madame--male couri--bon dje--male couri!"
I heard the doors close, and the sound of footsteps running and dying
along the banquette, and after that my shoulders were raised and
something wrapped about them. Then stillness again, the stillness that
comes between waking and sleeping, between pain and calm. And at times
when I felt her hand fall into mine or press against my brow, the pain
seemed more endurable. After that I recall being lifted, being borne
along. I opened my eyes once and saw, above a tile-crowned wall, the
moon all yellow and distorted in the sky. Then a gate clicked, dungeon
blackness, half-light again, ascent, oblivion.
VISIONS, AND AN AWAKENING
I have still sharp memories of the tortures of that illness, though it
befell so long ago. At times, when my mind was gone from me, I cried out
I know not what of jargon, of sentiment, of the horrors I had beheld in
my life. I lived again the pleasant scenes, warped and burlesqued almost
beyond cognizance, and the tragedies were magnified a hundred fold. Thus
it would be: on the low, white ceiling five cracks came together, and
that was a device. And the device would take on color, red-bronze like
the sumach in the autumn and streaks of vermilion, and two glowing coals
that were eyes, and above them eagles' feathers, and the cracks became
bramble bushes. I was behind the log, and at times I started and knew
that it was a hideous dream, and again Polly Ann was clutching me and
praying me to hold back, and I broke from her and splashed over the
slippery limestone bed of the creek to fight single-handed. Through all
the fearful struggle I heard her calling me piteously to come back to
her. When the brute got me under water I could not hear her, but her
voice came back suddenly (as when a door opens) and it was like the wind
singing in the poplars. Was it Polly Ann's voice?
Again, I sat with Nick under the trees on the lawn at Temple Bow, and the
world was dark with the coming storm. I knew and he knew that the storm
was brewing that I might be thrust out into it. And then in the
blackness, when the air was filled with all the fair things of the earth
torn asunder, a beautiful woman came through the noise and the fury, and
we ran to her and clung to her skirts, thinking we had found safety.
But she thrust us forth into the blackness with a smile, as though she
were flinging papers out of the window. She, too, grew out of the design
in the cracks of the ceiling, and a greater fear seized me at sight of
her features than when the red face came out of the brambles.
My constant torment was thirst. I was in the prairie, and it was
scorched and brown to the horizon. I searched and prayed pitifully for
water,--for only a sip of the brown water with the specks in it that was
in the swamp. There were no swamps. I was on the bed in the cabin
looking at the shifts and hunting shirts on the pegs, and Polly Ann would
bring a gourdful of clear water from the spring as far as the door. Nay,
once I got it to my lips, and it was gone. Sometimes a young man in a
hunting shirt, square-shouldered, clear-eyed, his face tanned and his
fair hair bleached by the sun, would bring the water. He was the hero of
my boyhood, and part of him indeed was in me. And I would have followed
him again to Vincennes despite the tortures of the damned. But when I
spoke his name he grew stouter before me, and his eyes lost their lustre
and his hair turned gray; and his hand shook as he held out the gourd and
spilled its contents ere I could reach them.
Sometimes another brought the water, and at sight of her I would tremble
and grow faint, and I had not the strength to reach for it. She would
look at me with eyes that laughed despite the resolution of the mouth.
Then the eyes would grow pitiful at my helplessness, and she would murmur
my name. There was some reason which I never fathomed why she could not
give me the water, and her own suffering seemed greater than mine because
of it. So great did it seem that I forgot my own and sought to comfort
her. Then she would go away, very slowly, and I would hear her calling
to me in the wind, from the stars to which I looked up from the prairie.
It was she, I thought, who ordered the world. Who, when women were lost
and men cried out in distress, came to them calmly, ministered to them
Once--perhaps a score of times, I cannot tell--was limned on the ceiling,
where the cracks were, her miniature, and I knew what was coming and
shuddered and cried aloud because I could not stop it. I saw the narrow
street of a strange city deep down between high houses,--houses with
gratings on the lowest windows, with studded, evil-looking doors, with
upper stories that toppled over to shut out the light of the sky, with
slated roofs that slanted and twisted this way and that and dormers
peeping from them. Down in the street, instead of the King's white
soldiers, was a foul, unkempt rabble, creeping out of its damp places,
jesting, cursing, singing. And in the midst of the rabble a lady sat in
a cart high above it unmoved. She was the lady of the miniature. A
window in one of the jutting houses was flung open, a little man leaned
out excitedly, and I knew him too. He was Jean Baptiste Lenoir, and he
cried out in a shrill voice:--
"You must take off her ruff, citizens. You must take off her ruff!"
There came a blessed day when my thirst was gone, when I looked up at the
cracks in the ceiling and wondered why they did not change into horrors.
I watched them a long, long time, and it seemed incredible that they
should still remain cracks. Beyond that I would not go, into speculation
I dared not venture. They remained cracks, and I went to sleep thanking
God. When I awoke a breeze came in cool, fitful gusts, and on it the
scent of camellias. I thought of turning my head, and I remember
wondering for a long time over the expediency of this move. What would
happen if I did! Perhaps the visions would come back, perhaps my head
would come off. Finally I decided to risk it, and the first thing that I
beheld was a palm-leaf fan, moving slowly. That fact gave me food for
thought, and contented me for a while. Then I hit upon the idea that
there must be something behind the fan. I was distinctly pleased by this
astuteness, and I spent more time in speculation. Whatever it was, it
had a tantalizing elusiveness, keeping the fan between it and me. This
was not fair.
I had an inspiration. If I feigned to be asleep, perhaps the thing
behind the fan would come out. I shut my eyes. The breeze continued
steadily. Surely no human being could fan as long as that without being
tired! I opened my eyes twice, but the thing was inscrutable. Then I
heard a sound that I knew to be a footstep upon boards. A voice
"The delirium has left him."
Another voice, a man's voice, answered:--
"Thank God! Let me fan him. You are tired."
"I am not tired," answered the first voice.
"I do not see how you have stood it," said the man's voice. "You will
kill yourself, Madame la Vicomtesse. The danger is past now."
"I hope so, Mr. Temple," said the first voice. "Please go away. You may
come back in half an hour."
I heard the footsteps retreating. Then I said: "I am not asleep."
The fan stopped for a brief instant and then went on vibrating
inexorably. I was entranced at the thought of what I had done. I had
spoken, though indeed it seemed to have had no effect. Could it be that
I hadn't spoken? I began to be frightened at this, when gradually
something crept into my mind and drove the fear out. I did not grasp
what this was at first, it was like the first staining of wine on the
eastern sky to one who sees a sunrise. And then the thought grew even as
the light grows, tinged by prismatic colors, until at length a memory
struck into my soul like a shaft of light. I spoke her name,
The fan stopped. There was a silence that seemed an eternity as the palm
leaf trembled in her hand, there was an answer that strove tenderly to
"Hush, you must not talk," she said.
Never, I believe, came such supreme happiness with obedience. I felt her
hand upon my brow, and the fan moved again. I fell asleep once more from
sheer weariness of joy. She was there, beside me. She had been there,
beside me, through it all, and it was her touch which had brought me back
Back to Full Books