The Last Hope
Henry Seton Merriman
Part 5 out of 6
and for the most part the marsh is divided into squares, each only
connected at one point with its neighbour.
Barebone knew the way as well as any in Farlingford, and he struck out
across the thick grass which crunched briskly under the foot, for it was
coated with rime, and the icy wind blew in from the sea a freezing mist.
Once or twice Barebone, having made a bee-line across from dyke to dyke,
failed to strike the exact spot where the low post indicated a plank, and
had to pause and stoop down so as to find its silhouette against the sky.
When they reached a plank he tried its strength with one foot and then
led the way across it, turning and waiting at the far end for Colville to
follow. It was unnecessary to warn him against a slip, for the plank was
no more than nine inches wide and shone white with rime. Each foot must
be secure before its fellow was lifted.
Colville, always ready to fall in with a companion's humour, ever quick
to understand the thoughts of others, respected his silence. Perhaps he
was not far from guessing the cause of it.
Loo was surprised to find that Dormer Colville was less antipathetic than
he had anticipated. For the last month, night and day, he had dreaded
Colville's arrival, and now that he was here he was almost glad to see
him; almost glad to quit Farlingford. And his heart was hot with anger
Turner's offer had at all events been worth considering. Had he been
alone when it was made he would certainly have considered it; he would
have turned it this way and that. He would have liked to play with it as
a cat plays with a mouse, knowing all the while that he must refuse in
the end. Perhaps Turner had made the offer in Miriam's presence,
expecting to find in her a powerful ally. It was only natural for him to
think this. Ever since the beginning, men have assigned to women the role
of the dissuader, the drag, the hinderer. It is always the woman,
tradition tells us, who persuades the man to be a coward, to stay at
home, to shirk a difficult or a dangerous duty.
As a matter of fact, Turner had made this mistake. He had always wondered
why Miriam Liston elected to live at Farlingford when with her wealth and
connections, both in England and France, she might live a gayer life
elsewhere. There must, he reflected, be some reason for it.
When whosoever does anything slightly unconventional or leaves undone
what custom and gossip make almost obligatory, a relation or a mere
interfering neighbour is always at hand to wag her head and say there
must be some reason for it. Which means, of course, one specific reason.
And the worst of it is that she is nearly always right.
John Turner, laboriously putting two small numerals together, after his
manner, had concluded that Loo Barebone was the reason. Even banking may,
it seems, be carried on without the loss of all human weakness,
especially if the banker be of middle age, unmarried, and deprived by an
unromantic superfluity of adipose tissue of the possibility of living
through a romance of his own. Turner had consented to countenance, if not
actually to take part in, a nefarious scheme, to rid France and the
present government of one who might easily bring about its downfall, on
certain conditions. Knowing quite well that Loo Barebone could take care
of himself at sea, and was quite capable of effecting an escape if he
desired it, he had put no obstacle in the way of the usual voyage to the
Iceland fisheries. Since those days many governments in France have
invented many new methods of disposing of a political foe. Dormer
Colville was only anticipating events when he took away the character of
the Captain of the "Petite Jeanne."
Turner had himself proposed this alternative method of securing
Barebone's silence. He had even named the sum. He had seized the
excellent opportunity of laying it before Barebone in the quiet intimacy
of the rectory drawing-room with Miriam in the soft lamp-light beside
him, with the scent of the violets at her breast mingling with the warm
smell of the wood fire.
And Barebone had laughed at the offer.
IN THE FURROW AGAIN
Turner, stumbling along the road to "The Black Sailor," probably wondered
why he had failed. It is to be presumed that he knew that the ally he had
looked to for powerful aid had played him false at the crucial moment.
His misfortune is common to all men who presume to take anything for
granted from a woman.
Barebone, stumbling along in the dark in another direction, was as angry
with Miriam as she in her turn was angry with Turner. She was, Barebone
reflected, so uncompromising. She saw her course so clearly, so
unmistakably--as birds that fly in the night--and from that course
nothing, it seemed, would move her. It was a question of temperament and
not of principle. For, even half a century ago, high principles were
beginning to go out of fashion in the upper strata of a society which in
these days tolerates anything except cheating at games.
Barebone himself was of a different temperament. He liked to blind
himself to the inevitable end, to temporise with the truth, whereas
Miriam, with a sort of dogged courage essentially English, perceived the
hard truth at once and clung to it, though it hurt. And all the while
Barebone knew at the back of his heart that his life was not his own to
shape. At the end, says an Italian motto, stands Destiny. Barebone wanted
to make believe; he wanted to pretend that his path lay down a flowery
way, knowing all the while that he had a hill to climb and Destiny stood
at the top.
Colville had come at the right time. It is the fate of some men to come
at the right moment, just as it is the lot of others never to be there
when they are wanted and their place is filled by a bystander and an
opportunity is gone for ever. Which is always a serious matter, for God
only gives one or two opportunities to each of us.
Colville had come with his ready sympathy, not expressed as the
world expresses its sympathy, in words, but by a hundred little
self-abnegations. He was always ready to act up to the principles of his
companion for the moment or to act up to no principles at all should that
companion be deficient. Moreover, he never took it upon himself to judge
others, but extended to his neighbour a large tolerance, in return for
which he seemed to ask nothing.
"I have a carriage," he said, when on a broader cart-track they could
walk side by side, "waiting for me at the roadside inn at the junction of
the two roads. The man brought me from Ipswich to the outskirts of
Farlingford, and I sent him back to the high road to wait for me there,
to put up and stay all night, if necessary."
Barebone was beginning to feel tired. The wind was abominably cold. He
heard with satisfaction that Colville had as usual foreseen his wishes.
"I dogged Turner all the way from Paris, hardly letting him out of my
sight," Colville explained, cheerily, when they at length reached the
road. "It is easy enough to keep in touch with one so remarkably stout,
for every one remembers him. What did he come to Farlingford for?"
"Apparently to try and buy me off."
"For Louis Bonaparte?"
"He did not say so,"
"No," said Colville. "He would not say so. But it is pretty generally
suspected that he is in that galley, and pulls an important oar in it,
too. What did he offer you?"
"Fifty thousand pounds."
"Whew!" whistled Colville. He stopped short in the middle of the road.
"Whew!" he repeated, thoughtfully, "fifty thousand pounds! Gad! They must
be afraid of you. They must think that we are in a strong position. And
what did you say, Barebone?"
Barebone paused, and after a moment's thought made no answer at all. He
could not explain to Dormer Colville his reason for refusing.
"Outright?" inquired Colville, deep in thought.
Colville turned and glanced at him sideways, though it was too dark to
see his face.
"I should have thought," he said, tentatively, after a while, "that it
would have been wise to accept. A bird in the hand, you know--a damned
big bird! And then afterwards you could see what turned up."
"You mean I could break my word later on," inquired Barebone, with that
odd downrightness which at times surprised Colville and made him think of
"Well, you know," he explained, with a tolerant laugh, "in politics it
often turns out that a man's duty is to break his word--duty toward his
party, and his country, and that sort of thing."
Which was plausible enough, as many eminent politicians seem to have
found in these later times.
"I dare say it may be so," answered Barebone, "but I refused outright,
and there is an end to it."
For now that he was brought face to face with the situation, shorn of
side issues and set squarely before him, he envisaged it clearly enough.
He did not want fifty thousand pounds. He had only wanted the money for a
moment because the thought leapt into his mind that fifty thousand pounds
meant Miriam. Then he saw that little contemptuous smile tilting the
corner of her lips, and he had no use for a million.
If he could not have Miriam, he would be King of France. It is thus that
history is made, for those who make it are only men. And Clio, that
greatest of the daughters of Zeus, about whose feet cluster all the
famous names of the makers of this world's story, has, after all, only
had the reversion of the earth's great men. She has taken them after some
forgotten woman of their own choosing has had the first refusal.
Thus it came about that the friendship so nearly severed one evening at
the Hotel Gemosac, in Paris, was renewed after a few months; and Barebone
felt assured once more that no one was so well disposed toward him as
There was no formal reconciliation, and neither deemed it necessary to
refer to the past. Colville, it will be remembered, was an adept at that
graceful tactfulness which is somewhat clumsily described by this
tolerant generation as going on as if nothing had happened.
By the time that the waning moon was high enough in the eastern sky to
shed an appreciable light upon their path, they reached the junction of
the two roads and set off at a brisk pace southward toward Ipswich. So
far as the eye could reach, the wide heath was deserted, and they talked
at their ease.
"There is nothing for it but to wake up my driver and make him take us
back to Ipswich to-night. To-morrow morning we can take train to London
and be there almost as soon as John Turner realises that you have given
him the slip," said Colville, cheerily.
"And then back to France--where the sun shines, my friend, and the spring
is already in the air. Think of that! It is so, at least, at Gemosac, for
I heard from the Marquis before I quitted Paris. Your disappearance has
nearly broken a heart or two down there, I can tell you. The old Marquis
was in a great state of anxiety. I have never seen him so upset about
anything, and Juliette did not seem to be able to offer him any
"Back to France?" echoed Barebone, not without a tone of relief, almost
of exultation, in his voice. "Will it be possible to go back there, since
we have to run away from Farlingford?"
"Safer there than here," replied Colville. "It may sound odd, but it is
true. De Gemosac is one of the most powerful men in France--not
intellectually, perhaps, but by reason of his great name--and they would
not dare to touch a protege or a guest of his. If you go back there now
you must stay at Gemosac; they have put the chateau into a more habitable
condition, and are ready to receive you."
He turned and glanced at Loo's face in the moonlight.
"There will be a difference, you understand. You will be a different
person from what you were when last there," he went on, in a muffled
"Yes, I understand," replied Barebone, gravely. Already the dream was
taking shape--Colville's persuasive voice had awakened him to find that
it was no dream, but a reality--and Farlingford was fading back into the
land of shadows. It was only France, after all, that was real.
"That journey of ours," explained Colville, vaguely, "has made an
extraordinary difference. The whole party is aroused and in deadly
Barebone made no answer, and they walked on in meditative silence toward
the roadside inn, which stood up against the southern sky a few hundred
"In fact," Colville added, after a silence, "the ball is at your feet,
Barebone. There can be no looking back now."
And again Barebone made no answer. It was a tacit understanding, then.
For greater secrecy, Barebone walked on toward Ipswich alone, while
Colville went into the inn to arouse his driver, whom he found slumbering
in the wide chimney corner before a log fire. From Ipswich to London, and
thus on to Newhaven, they journeyed pleasantly enough in company, for
they were old companions of the road, and Colville's unruffled good
humour made him an easy comrade for travel even in days when the idea of
comfort reconciled with speed had not suggested itself to the mind of
Such, indeed, was his foresight that he had brought with him to London,
and there left awaiting further need of it, that personal baggage which
Loo had perforce left behind him at the Hotel Gemosac in Paris.
They made but a brief halt in London, where Colville admitted gaily that
he had no desire to be seen.
"I might meet my tailor in Piccadilly," he said. "And there are others
who may perhaps consider themselves aggrieved."
At Colville's club, where they dined, he met more than one friend.
"Hallo!" said one who had the ruddy countenance and bluff manners of a
retired major. "Hallo! Who'd have expected to see you here? I didn't
And a hundred facetious questions gleamed from the major's eye.
"All right, my boy," answered Colville, cheerfully. "I am off to France
The Major shook his head wisely as if in approval of a course of conduct
savouring of that prudence which is the better part of valour, glanced at
Loo Barebone, and waited in vain for an invitation to take a vacant chair
near at hand.
"Still in the south of France, I suppose?"
"Still in the south of France," replied Colville, turning to Barebone in
a final way, which had the effect of dismissing this inquisitive idler.
While they were at dinner another came. He was a raw-boned Scotchman, who
spoke in broken English when the waiter was absent and in perfect French
when that servitor hovered near.
"I wish I could show my face in Paris," he said, frankly, "but I can't.
Too much mixed up with Louis Philippe to find favour in the eyes of the
"Why?" asked Colville. "What could you gain by showing in Paris a face
which I am sure has the stamp of innocence all over it?"
The Scotchman laughed curtly.
"Gain?" he answered. "Gain? I don't say I would, but I think I might be
able to turn an honest penny out of the approaching events."
"The Lord alone knows," replied the Scotchman, who had never set foot in
his country, but had acquired elsewhere the prudent habit of never
answering a question. "France doesn't, I am sure of that. I am thinking
there will be events, though, before long, Colville. Will there not,
Colville looked at him with an open smile.
"You mean," he said, slowly, "the Prince President."
"That is what he calls himself at present. I'm wondering how long. Eh!
man. He is just pouring money into the country from here, from America,
from Austria--from wherever he can get it."
"Why is he doing that?"
"You must ask somebody who knows him better than I do. They say you knew
him yourself once well enough, eh?"
"He is not a man I have much faith in," said Colville, vaguely. "And
France has no faith in him at all."
"So I'm told. But France--well, does France know what she wants? She
mostly wants something without knowing what it is. She is like a woman.
It's excitement she wants, perhaps. And she will buy it at any cost, and
then find afterward she has paid too dear for it. That is like a woman,
too. But it isn't another Bonaparte she wants, I am sure of that."
"So am I," answered Colville, with a side glance toward Barebone, a mere
flicker of the eyelids.
"Not unless it is a Napoleon of that ilk."
"And he is not," completed Colville.
"But--" the Scotchman paused, for a waiter came at this moment to tell
him that his dinner was ready at a table nearer to the fire. "But," he
went on, in French, for the waiter lingered, "but he might be able to
persuade France that it is himself she wants--might he not, now? With
money at the back of it, eh?"
"He might," admitted Colville, doubtfully. The Scotchman moved away, but
came back again.
"I am thinking," he said, with a grim smile, "that like all intelligent
people who know France, you are aware that it is a King she wants."
"But not an Orleans King," replied Colville, with his friendly and
The Scotchman smiled more grimly still and went away.
He was seated too near for Colville and Loo to talk of him. But Colville
took an opportunity to mention his name in an undertone. It was a name
known all over Europe then, and forgotten now.
THE THURSDAY OF MADAME DE CHANTONNAY
"It is," Madame de Chantonnay had maintained throughout the months of
January and February--"it is an affair of the heart."
She continued to hold this opinion with, however, a shade less
conviction, well into a cold March.
"It is an affair of the heart, Abbe," she said. "_Allez_! I know what I
talk of. It is an affair of the heart and nothing more. There is some one
in England: some blonde English girl. They are always washing, I am told.
And certainly they have that air--like a garment that has been too often
to the _blanchisseuse_ and has lost its substance. A beautiful skin, I
allow you. But so thin--so thin."
"The skin, madame?" inquired the Abbe Touvent, with that gentle and
cackling humour in which the ordained of any Church may indulge after a
The Abbe Touvent had, as a matter of fact, been Madame de Chantonnay's
most patient listener through the months of suspense that followed Loo
Barebone's sudden disappearance. Needless to say he agreed ardently with
whatever explanation she put forward. Old ladies who give good dinners to
a Low Church British curate, or an abbe of the Roman confession, or,
indeed, to the needy celibate exponents of any creed whatsoever, may
always count upon the active conversational support of their spiritual
adviser. And it is not only within the fold of Papacy that careful
Christians find the road to heaven made smooth by the arts of an
"You know well enough what I mean, malicious one," retorted the lady,
arranging her shawl upon her fat shoulders.
"I always think," murmured the Abbe, sipping his digestive glass of
eau-de-vie d'Armagnac, which is better than any cognac of Charente--"I
always think that to be thin shows a mean mind, lacking generosity."
"Take my word for it," pursued Madame de Chantonnay, warming to her
subject, "that is the explanation of the young man's disappearance. They
say the government has taken some underhand way of putting him aside. One
does not give credence to such rumours in these orderly times. No: it is
simply that he prefers the pale eyes of some Mees to glory and France.
Has it not happened before, Abbe?"
"Ah! Madame--" another sip of Armagnac.
"And will it not happen again? It is the heart that has the first word
and the last. I know--I who address you, I know!"
And she touched her breast where, very deeply seated it is to be
presumed, she kept her own heart.
"Ah! Madame. Who better?" murmured the Abbe.
"Na, na!" exclaimed Madame de Chantonnay, holding up one hand, heavy with
rings, while with the other she gathered her shawl closer about her as if
"Now you tread on dangerous ground, wicked one--_wicked_! And you so
demure in your soutane!"
But the Abbe only laughed and held up his small glass after the manner of
any abandoned layman drinking a toast.
"Madame," he said, "I drink to the hearts you have broken. And now I go
to arrange the card tables, for your guests will soon be coming."
It was, in fact, Madame de Chantonnay's Thursday evening to which were
bidden such friends as enjoyed for the moment her fickle good graces. The
Abbe Touvent was, so to speak, a permanent subscriber to these favours.
The task was easy enough, and any endowed with a patience to listen, a
readiness to admire that excellent young nobleman, Albert de Chantonnay,
and the credulity necessary to listen to the record (more hinted at than
clearly spoken) of Madame's own charms in her youth, could make sure of a
game of dominoes on the evening of the third Thursday in the month.
The Abbe bustled about, drawing cards and tables nearer to the lamps,
away from the draught of the door, not too near the open wood fire. His
movements were dainty, like those of an old maid of the last generation.
He hissed through his teeth as if he were working very hard. It served to
stimulate a healthy excitement in the Thursday evening of Madame de
"Oh, I am not uneasy," said that lady, as she watched him. She had dined
well and her digestion had outlived those charms to which she made such
frequent reference. "I am not uneasy. He will return, more or less
sheepish. He will make some excuse more or less inadequate. He will tell
us a story more or less creditable. _Allez_! Oh, you men. If you intend
that chair for Monsieur de Gemosac, it is the wrong one. Monsieur de
Gemosac sits high, but his legs are short; give him the little chair that
creaks. If he sits too high he is apt to see over the top of one's cards.
And he is so eager to win--the good Marquis."
"Then he will come to-night despite the cold? You think he will come,
"I am sure of it. He has come more frequently since Juliette came to live
at the chateau. It is Juliette who makes him come, perhaps. Who knows?"
The Abbe stopped midway across the floor and set down the chair he
carried with great caution.
"Madame is incorrigible," he said, spreading out his hands. "Madame would
perceive a romance in a cradle."
"Well, one must begin somewhere, Materialist. Once it was for me that the
guests crowded to my poor Thursdays. But now it is because Albert is
near. Ah! I know it. I say it without jealousy. Have you noticed, my dear
Abbe, that he has cut his whiskers a little shorter--a shade nearer to
the ear? It is effective, eh?"
"It gives an air of hardihood," assented the Abbe. "It lends to that
intellectual face something martial. I would almost say that to the
timorous it might appear terrible and overbearing."
Thus they talked until the guests began to arrive, and for Madame de
Chantonnay the time no doubt seemed short enough. For no one appreciated
Albert with such a delicacy of touch as the Abbe Touvent.
The Marquis de Gemosac and Juliette were the last to arrive. The Marquis
looked worn and considerably aged. He excused himself with a hundred
gestures of despair for being late.
"I have so much to do," he whispered. "So much to think of. We are
leaving no stone unturned, and at last we have a clue."
The other guests gathered round.
"But speak, my dear friend, speak," cried Madame de Chantonnay. "You keep
us in suspense. Look around you. We are among friends, as you see. It is
"Well," replied the Marquis, standing upright and fingering the snuff-box
which had been given to his grandfather by the Great Louis. "Well, my
friends, our invaluable ally, Dormer Colville, has gone to England. There
is a ray of hope. That is all I can tell you."
He looked round, smiled on his audience, and then proceeded to tell them
more, after the manner of any Frenchman.
"What," he whispered, "if an unscrupulous republican government had got
scent of our glorious discovery! What if, panic-stricken, they threw all
vestige of honour to the wind and decided to kidnap an innocent man and
send him to the Iceland fisheries, where so many lives are lost every
winter; with what hopes in their republican hearts, I leave to your
imagination. What if--let us say it for once--Monsieur de Bourbon should
prove a match for them? Alert, hardy, full of resource, a skilled sailor,
he takes his life in his hand with the daring audacity of royal blood and
effects his escape to England. I tell you nothing--"
He held up his hands as if to stay their clamouring voices, and nodded
his head triumphantly toward Albert de Chantonnay, who stood near a lamp
fingering his martial whisker of the left side with the air of one who
would pause at naught.
"I tell you nothing. But such a theory has been pieced together upon
excellent material. It may be true. It may be a dream. And, as I tell
you, our dear friend Dormer Colville, who has nothing at stake, who loses
or gains little by the restoration of France, has journeyed to England
for us. None could execute the commission so capably, or without danger
of arousing suspicion. There! I have told you all I know. We must wait,
my compatriots. We must wait."
"And in the mean time," purred the voice of the Abbe Touvent, "for the
digestion, Monsieur le Marquis--for the digestion."
For it was one of the features of Madame de Chantonnay's Thursdays that
no servants were allowed in the room; but the guests waited on each
other. If the servants, as is to be presumed, listened outside the door,
they were particular not to introduce each succeeding guest without first
knocking, which caused a momentary silence and added considerably to the
sense of political importance of those assembled. The Abbe Touvent made
it his special care to preside over the table where small glasses of
eau-de-vie d'Armagnac and other aids to digestion were set out in a
"It is a theory, my dear Marquis," admitted Madame de Chantonnay. "But it
is nothing more. It has no heart in it, your theory. Now I have a theory
of my own."
"Full of heart, one may assure oneself, Madame; full of heart," murmured
the Marquis. "For you yourself are full of heart--is it not so?"
"I hope not," Juliette whispered to her fan, with a little smile of
malicious amusement. For she had a youthful contempt for persons old
and stout, who talk ignorantly of matters only understood by such as
are young and slim and pretty. She looked at her fan with a gleam of
ill-concealed irony and glanced over it toward Albert de Chantonnay, who,
with a consideration which must have been hereditary, was uneasy about
the alteration he had made in his whiskers. It was perhaps unfair, he
felt, to harrow young and tender hearts.
It was at this moment that a loud knock commanded a breathless silence,
for no more guests were expected. Indeed the whole neighbourhood was
The servant, in his faded gold lace, came in and announced with a
dramatic assurance: "Monsieur de Barebone--Monsieur Colville."
And that difference which Dormer Colville had predicted was manifested
with an astounding promptness; for all who were seated rose to their
feet. It was Colville who had given the names to the servant in the order
in which they had been announced, and at the last minute, on the
threshold, he had stepped on one side and with his hand on Barebone's
shoulder had forced him to take precedence.
The first person Barebone saw on entering the room was Juliette,
standing under the spreading arms of a chandelier, half turned to look at
him--Juliette, in all the freshness of her girlhood and her first evening
dress, flushing pink and white like a wild rose, her eyes, bright with a
sudden excitement, seeking his.
Behind her, the Marquis de Gemosac, Albert de Chantonnay, his mother, and
all the Royalists of the province, gathered in a semicircle, by accident
or some tacit instinct, leaving only the girl standing out in front,
beneath the chandelier. They bowed with that grave self-possession which
falls like a cloak over the shoulders of such as are of ancient and
"We reached the chateau of Gemosac only a few minutes after Monsieur le
Marquis and Mademoiselle had quitted it to come here," Barebone explained
to Madame de Chantonnay; "and trusting to the good-nature--so widely
famed--of Madame la Comtesse, we hurriedly removed the dust of travel,
and took the liberty of following them hither."
"You have not taken me by surprise," replied Madame de Chantonnay. "I
expected you. Ask the Abbe Touvent. He will tell you, gentlemen, that I
As Barebone turned away to speak to the Marquis and others, who were
pressing forward to greet him, it became apparent that that mantle of
imperturbability, which millions made in trade can never buy, had fallen
upon his shoulders, too. For most men are, in the end, forced to play the
part the world assigns to them. We are not allowed to remain what we know
ourselves to be, but must, at last, be that which the world thinks us.
Madame de Chantonnay, murmuring to a neighbour a mystic reference to her
heart and its voluminous premonitions, watched him depart with a vague
"_Mon Dieu! mon Dieu_!" she whispered, breathlessly. "It is not a
resemblance. It is the dead come to life again."
"If I go on, I go alone," Barebone had once said to Dormer Colville.
The words, spoken in the heat of a quarrel, stuck in the memory of
both, as such are wont to do. Perhaps, in moments of anger or
disillusionment--when we find that neither self nor friend is what we
thought--the heart tears itself away from the grip of the cooler, calmer
brain and speaks untrammelled. And such speeches are apt to linger in the
mind long after the most brilliant jeu d'esprit has been forgotten.
What occupies the thoughts of the old man, sitting out the grey
remainder of the day, over the embers of a hearth which he will only quit
when he quits the world? Does he remember the brilliant sallies of wit,
the greatest triumphs of the noblest minds with which he has consorted;
or does his memory cling to some scene--simple, pastoral, without
incident--which passed before his eyes at a moment when his heart was
sore or glad? When his mind is resting from its labours and the sound of
the grinding is low, he will scarce remember the neat saying or the lofty
thought clothed in perfect language; but he will never forget a hasty
word spoken in an unguarded moment by one who was not clever at all, nor
even possessed the worldly wisdom to shield the heart behind the buckler
of the brain.
"You will find things changed," Colville had said, as they walked across
the marsh from Farlingford, toward the Ipswich road. And the words came
back to the minds of both, on that Thursday of Madame de Chantonnay,
which many remember to this day. Not only did they find things changed,
but themselves they found no longer the same. Both remembered the
quarrel, and the outcome of it.
Colville, ever tolerant, always leaning toward the compromise that eases
a doubting conscience, had, it would almost seem unconsciously, prepared
the way for a reconciliation before there was any question of a
difference. On their way back to France, without directly referring to
that fatal portrait and the revelation caused by Barebone's unaccountable
feat of memory, he had smoothed away any possible scruple.
"France must always be deceived," he had said, a hundred times. "Better
that she should be deceived for an honest than a dishonest purpose--if it
is deception, after all, which is very doubtful. The best patriot is he
who is ready to save his country at the cost of his own ease, whether of
body or of mind. It does not matter who or what you are; it is what or
who the world thinks you to be, that is of importance."
Which of us has not listened to a score of such arguments, not always
from the lips of a friend, but most often in that still, small voice
which rarely has the courage to stand out against the tendency of the
age? There is nothing so contagious as laxity of conscience.
Barebone listened to the good-natured, sympathetic voice with a
make-believe conviction which was part of his readiness to put off an
evil moment. Colville was a difficult man to quarrel with. It seemed
bearish and ill-natured to take amiss any word or action which could only
be the outcome of a singularly tender consideration for the feelings of
But when they entered Madame de Chantonnay's drawing-room--when Dormer,
impelled by some instinct of the fitness of things, stepped aside and
motioned to his companion to pass in first--the secret they had in common
yawned suddenly like a gulf between them. For the possession of a secret
either estranges or draws together. More commonly, it estranges. For
which of us is careful of a secret that redounds to our credit? Nearly
every secret is a hidden disgrace; and such a possession, held in common
with another, is not likely to insure affection.
Colville lingered on the threshold, watching Loo make the first steps of
that progress which must henceforth be pursued alone. He looked round for
a friendly face, but no one had eyes for him. They were all looking at
Loo Barebone. Colville sought Mrs. St. Pierre Lawrence, usually in full
evidence, even in a room full of beautiful women and distinguished men.
But she was not there. For a minute or two no one noticed him; and then
Albert de Chantonnay, remembering his role, came forward to greet the
"It was," explained Colville, in a lowered voice, "as we thought. An
attempt was made to get him out of the way, but he effected his escape.
He knew, however, the danger of attempting to communicate with any of us
by post, and was awaiting some opportunity of transmitting a letter by a
safe hand, when I discovered his hiding-place."
And this was the story that went half round France, from lip to lip,
among those who were faithful to the traditions of a glorious past.
"Madame St. Pierre Lawrence," Albert de Chantonnay told Colville, in
reply, "is not here to-night. She is, however, at her villa, at Royan.
She has not, perhaps, displayed such interest in our meetings as she did
before you departed on your long journey through France. But her
generosity is unchanged. The money, which, in the hurry of the moment,
you did not withdraw from her bank--"
"I doubt whether it was ever there," interrupted Colville.
"She informs me," concluded Albert, "is still at our service. We have
many other promises, which must now be recalled to the minds of those who
made them. But from no one have we received such generous support as from
They were standing apart, and in a few minutes the Marquis de Gemosac
"How daring! how audacious!" he whispered, "and yet how opportune--this
return. It is all to be recommenced, my friends, with a firmer grasp, a
"But my task is accomplished," returned Colville. "You have no further
use for a mere Englishman, like myself. I was fortunate in being able to
lend some slight assistance in the original discovery of our friend; I
have again been lucky enough to restore him to you. And now, with your
permission, I will return to Royan, where I have my little apartment, as
He looked from one to the other, with his melancholy and self-deprecating
"_Voila_" he added; "it remains for me to pay my respects to Madame de
Chantonnay. We have travelled far, and I am tired. I shall ask her to
"And Monsieur de Bourbon comes to Gemosac. That is understood. He will be
safe there. His apartments have been in readiness for him these last two
months. Hidden there, or in other dwellings--grander and better served,
perhaps, than my poor ruin, but no safer--he can continue the great work
he began so well last winter. As for you, my dear Colville," continued
the Marquis, taking the Englishman's two hands in his, "I envy you from
the bottom of my heart. It is not given to many to serve France as you
have served her--to serve a King as you have served one. It will be my
business to see that both remember you. For France, I allow, sometimes
forgets. Go to Royan, since you wish--but it is only for a time. You will
be called to Paris some day, that I promise you."
The Marquis would have embraced him then and there, had the cool-blooded
Englishman shown the smallest desire for that honour. But Dormer
Colville's sad and doubting smile held at arms' length one who was always
at the mercy of his own eloquence.
The card tables had lost their attraction; and, although many parties
were formed, and the cards were dealt, the players fell to talking across
the ungathered tricks, and even the Abbe Touvent was caught tripping in
the matter of a point.
"Never," exclaimed Madame de Chantonnay, as her guests took leave at
their wonted hour, and some of them even later--"never have I had a
Thursday so dull and yet so full of incident."
"And never, madame," replied the Marquis, still on tiptoe, as it were,
with delight and excitement, "shall we see another like it."
Loo went back to Gemosac with the fluttering old man and Juliette.
Juliette, indeed, was in no flutter, but had carried herself through
the excitement of her first evening party with a demure little air of
She had scarce spoken to Loo during the evening. Indeed, it had been his
duty to attend on Madame de Chantonnay and on the older members of these
quiet Royalist families biding their time in the remote country villages
of Guienne and the Vendee.
On the journey home, the Marquis had so much to tell his companion, and
told it so hurriedly, that his was the only voice heard above the rattle
of the heavy, old-fashioned carriage. But Barebone was aware of
Juliette's presence in a dark corner of the roomy vehicle, and his eyes,
seeking to penetrate the gloom, could just distinguish hers, which seemed
to be turned in his direction.
Many changes had been effected at the chateau, and a suite of rooms had
been prepared for Barebone in the detached building known as the Italian
house, which stands in the midst of the garden within the enceinte of the
"I have been able," explained the Marquis, frankly, "to obtain a small
advance on the results of last autumn's vintage. My notary in the village
found, indeed, that facilities were greater than he had anticipated. With
this sum, I have been enabled to effect some necessary repairs to the
buildings and the internal decorations. I had fallen behind the times,
perhaps. But now that Juliette is installed as chatelaine, many changes
have been effected. You will see, my dear friend; you will see for
yourself. Yes, for the moment, I am no longer a pauper. As you yourself
will have noticed, in your journey through the west, rural France is
enjoying a sudden return of prosperity. It is unaccountable. No one can
make me believe that it is to be ascribed to this scandalous Government,
under which we agonise. But there it is--and we must thank Heaven for
Which was only the truth. For France was at this time entering upon a
period of plenty. The air was full of rumours of new railways, new roads,
and new commercial enterprise. Banks were being opened in the provincial
towns, and loans made on easy terms to agriculturists for the improvement
of their land.
Barebone found that there were indeed changes in the old chateau. The
apartments above that which had once been the stabling, hitherto occupied
by the Marquis, had been added to and a slight attempt at redecoration
had been made. There was no lack of rooms, and Juliette now had her own
suite, while the Marquis lived, as hitherto, in three small apartments
over the rooms occupied by Marie and her husband.
An elderly relation--one of those old ladies habited in black, who are
ready to efface themselves all day and occupy a garret all night in
return for bed and board, had been added to the family. She contributed a
silent and mysterious presence, some worldly wisdom, and a profound
respect for her noble kinsman.
"She is quite harmless," Juliette explained, gaily, to Barebone, on the
first occasion when they were alone together. This did not present itself
until Loo had been quartered in the Italian house for some days, with his
own servant. Although he took luncheon and dinner with the family in the
old building near to the gate-house, and spent his evenings in Juliette's
drawing-room, the Marquis or Madame Maugiron was always present, and as
often as not, they played a game of chess together.
"She is quite harmless," said Juliette, tying, with a thread, the
primroses she had been picking in that shady corner of the garden which
lay at the other side of the Italian house. The windows of Barebone's
apartment, by the way, looked down upon this garden, and he, having
perceived her, had not wasted time in joining her in the morning
"I wonder if I shall be as harmless when I am her age."
And, indeed, danger lurked beneath her lashes as she glanced at him,
asking this question with her lips and a hundred others with her eyes,
with her gay air of youth and happiness--with her very attitude of
coquetry, as she stood in the spring sunshine, with the scent of the
primroses about her.
"I think that any one who approaches you will always do so at his peril,
"Then why do it?" she asked, drawing back and busying herself with the
flowers, which she laid against her breast, as if to judge the effect of
their colour against the delicate white of her dress. "Why run into
danger? Why come downstairs at all?"
"Why breathe?" he retorted, with a laugh. "Why eat, or drink, or sleep?
Why live? _Mon Dieu!_ because there is no choice. And when I see you in
the garden, there is no choice for me, Mademoiselle. I must come down and
run into danger, because I cannot help it any more than I can help--"
"But you need not stay," she interrupted, cleverly. "A brave man may
always retire from danger into safety."
"But he may not always want to, Mademoiselle."
And, with a shrug of the shoulders, she inserted the primroses within a
very small waistband and turned away.
"Will you give me those primroses, Mademoiselle?" asked Loo, without
moving; for, although she had turned to go, she had not gone.
She turned on her heel and looked at him, with demure surprise, and then
bent her head to look at the flowers at her own waist.
"They are mine," she answered, standing in that pretty attitude, her hair
half concealing her face. "I picked them myself."
"Two reasons why I want them."
"Ah! but," she said, with a suggestion of thoughtfulness, "one does not
always get what one wants. You ask a great deal, Monsieur."
"There is no limit to what I would ask, Mademoiselle."
She laughed gaily.
"If--" she inquired, with raised eyebrows.
"If I dared."
Again she looked at him with that little air of surprise.
"But I thought you were so brave?" she said. "So reckless of danger? A
brave man assuredly does not ask. He takes that which he would have."
It happened that she had clasped her hands behind her back, leaving the
primroses at her waist uncovered and half falling from the ribbon.
In a moment he had reached out his hand and taken them. She leapt back,
as if she feared that he might take more, and ran back toward the house,
placing a rough, tangle of brier between herself and this robber. Her
laughing face looked at him through the brier.
"You have your primroses," she said, "but I did not give them to you. You
want too much, I think."
"I want what that ribbon binds," he answered. But she turned away and ran
toward the house, without waiting to hear.
DORMER COLVILLE IS BLIND
It was late when Dormer Colville reached the quiet sea-coast village of
Royan on the evening of his return to the west. He did not seek Mrs. St.
Pierre Lawrence until the luncheon hour next morning, when he was
informed that she was away from home.
"Madame has gone to Paris," the man said, who, with his wife, was left in
charge of the empty house. "It was a sudden resolution, one must
conclude," he added, darkly, "but Madame took no one into her confidence.
She received news by post, which must have brought about this sudden
Colville was intimately acquainted with his cousin's affairs; many
hazarded an opinion that, without the help of Madame St. Pierre Lawrence,
this rolling stone would have been bare enough. She had gone to Paris for
one of two reasons, he concluded. Either she had expected him to return
thither from London, and had gone to meet him with the intention of
coming to some arrangement as to the disposal of the vast sum of money
now in Turner's hands awaiting further developments, or some hitch had
occurred with respect to John Turner himself.
Dormer Colville returned, thoughtfully, to his lodging, and in the
evening set out for Paris.
He himself had not seen Turner since that morning in the banker's office
in the Rue Lafayette, when they had parted so unceremoniously, in a
somewhat heated spirit. But, on reflection, Colville, who had sought to
reassure himself with regard to one whose name stood for the incarnation
of gastronomy and mental density in the Anglo-French clubs of Paris, had
come to the conclusion that nothing was to be gained by forcing a quarrel
upon Turner. It was impossible to bring home to him an accusation of
complicity in an outrage which had been carried through with remarkable
skill. And when it is impossible to force home an accusation, a wise man
will hold his tongue.
Colville could not prove that Turner had known Barebone to be in the
carriage waiting in the courtyard, and his own action in the matter had
been limited to the interposition of his own clumsy person between
Colville and the window; which might, after all, have been due to
stupidity. This, as a matter of fact, was Mrs. St. Pierre Lawrence's
theory on the subject. For that lady, resting cheerfully on the firm
basis of a self-confidence which the possession of money nearly always
confers on women, had laughed at Turner all her life, and now proposed to
continue that course of treatment.
"Take my word," she had assured Colville, "he was only acting in his
usual dense way, and probably thinks now that you are subject to brief
fits of mental aberration. I am not afraid of him or anything that he can
do. Leave him to me, and devote all your attention to finding Loo
Upon which advice Colville had been content to act. He had a faith in
Mrs. St. Pierre Lawrence's wit which was almost as great as her own; and
thought, perhaps rightly enough, that if any one were a match for John
Turner it was his sprightly and capable client. For there are two ways of
getting on in this world: one is to get credit for being cleverer than
you are, and the other to be cleverer than your neighbour suspects. But
the latter plan is seldom followed, for the satisfaction it provides must
necessarily be shared with no confidant.
Colville knew where to look for Mrs. St. Pierre Lawrence in Paris, where
she always took an apartment in a quiet and old-fashioned hotel rejoicing
in a select Royalist clientele on the Place Vendome. On arriving at the
capital, he hurried thither, and was told that the lady he sought had
gone out a few minutes earlier. "But Madame's maid," the porter added,
"is no doubt within."
Colville was conducted to Mrs. St. Pierre Lawrence's room, and was hardly
there before the lady's French maid came hurrying in with upraised hands.
"A just Heaven has assuredly sent Monsieur at this moment!" she
exclaimed. "Madame only quitted this room ten minutes ago, and she was
agitated--she, who is usually so calm. She would tell me nothing; but I
know--I, who have done Madame's hair these ten years! And there is only
one thing that could cause her anxiety--except, of course, any mishap to
Monsieur; that would touch the heart--yes!"
"You are very kind, Catherine," said Colville, with a laugh, "to think me
so important. Is that letter for me?" And he pointed to a note in the
"But--yes!" was the reply, and she gave up the letter, somewhat
reluctantly. "There is only one thing, and that is money," she concluded,
watching him tear open the envelope.
"I am going to John Turner's office," Mrs. St. Pierre Lawrence wrote.
"If, by some lucky chance, you should pass through Paris, and happen to
call this morning, follow me to the Rue Lafayette. M. St. P. L."
It was plain enough. Colville reflected that Mrs. St. Pierre Lawrence had
heard of the success of his mission to England and the safe return to
Gemosac of Loo Barebone. For the moment, he could not think how the news
could have reached her. She might have heard it from Miriam Liston; for
their journey hack to Gemosac had occupied nearly a week. On learning the
good news, Mrs. St. Pierre Lawrence had promptly grasped the situation;
for she was very quick in thought and deed. The money would be wanted at
once. She had gone to Turner's office to withdraw it in person.
Dormer Colville bought a flower in a shop in the Rue de la Paix, and had
it affixed to his buttonhole by the handmaid of Flora, who made it her
business to linger over the office with a gentle familiarity no doubt
pleasing enough to the majority of her clients.
Colville was absent-minded as he drove, in a hired carriage, to the Rue
Lafayette. He was wondering whether Mrs. St. Pierre Lawrence's maid had
any grounds for stating that a mishap to him would touch her mistress's
heart. He was a man of unbounded enterprise; but, like many who are
gamblers at heart, he was superstitious. He had never dared to try his
luck with Mrs. St. Pierre Lawrence. She was so hard, so worldly, so
infinitely capable of managing her own affairs and regulating her own
life, that to offer her his hand and heart in exchange for her fortune
had hitherto been dismissed from his mind as a last expedient, only to be
faced when ruin awaited him.
She had only been a widow three years. She had never been a sentimental
woman, and now her liberty and her wealth were obviously so dear to her
that, in common sense, he could scarcely, with any prospect of success,
ask her outright to part with them. Moreover, Mrs. St. Pierre Lawrence
knew all about Dormer Colville, as men say. Which is only a saying; for
no human being knows all about another human being, nor one-half, nor
one-tenth of what there is to know. Mrs. St. Pierre Lawrence knew enough,
at all events, Colville reflected, rather ruefully, to disillusionise a
schoolgirl, much more a woman of the world, knowing good and evil.
He had not lived forty years in the world, and twenty years in that world
of French culture which digs and digs into human nature, without having
heard philosophers opine that, in matters of the heart, women have no
illusions at all, and that it is only men who go blindfold into the
tortuous ways of love. But he was too practical a man to build up a false
hope on so frail a basis as a theory applied to a woman's heart.
He bought a flower for his buttonhole then, and squared his shoulders,
without any definite design. It was a mere habit--the habit acquired by
twenty years of unsuccessful enterprise, and renewed effort and deferred
hope--of leaving no stone unturned.
His cab wheeled into the Rue Lafayette, and the man drove more slowly,
reading the numbers on the houses. Then he stopped altogether, and turned
round in his seat.
"Citizen," he said, "there is a great crowd at the house you named. It
extends half across the street. I will go no further. It is not I who
care about publicity."
Colville stood up and looked in the direction indicated by his driver's
whip. The man had scarcely exaggerated. A number of people were waiting
their turn on the pavement and out into the roadway, while two gendarmes
held the door. Dormer Colville paid his cabman and walked into that
crowd, with a sinking heart.
"It is the great English banker," explained an on-looker, even before he
was asked, "who has failed."
Colville had never found any difficulty in making his way through a
crowd--a useful accomplishment in Paris at all times, where government is
conducted, thrones are raised and toppled over, provinces are won and
lost again, by the mob. He had that air of distinction which, if wielded
good-naturedly, is the surest passport in any concourse. Some, no doubt,
recognised him as an Englishman. One after another made way for him.
Persons unknown to him commanded others to step aside and let him pass;
for the busybody we have always with us.
In a few minutes he was at the top of the stairs, and there elbowed his
way into the office, where the five clerks sat bent up over their
ledgers. The space on the hither side of the counter was crammed with
men, who whispered impatiently together. If any one raised his voice, the
clerk whose business it was lifted his head and looked at the speaker
with a mute surprise.
One after another these white-faced applicants leant over the counter.
"_Voyons_, Monsieur!" they urged; "tell me this or inform me of that."
But the clerk only smiled and shook his head.
"Patience, Monsieur," he answered. "I cannot tell you yet. We are
awaiting advices from London."
"But when will you receive them?" inquired several, at once.
"It may be to-morrow. It may not be for several days."
"But can one see Mr. Turner?" inquired one, more daring than the rest.
"He is engaged."
Colville caught the eye of the clerk, and by a gesture made it known that
he must be allowed to pass on into the inner room. Once more his air of
the great world, his good clothes, his flower in the buttonhole, gave him
the advantage over others; and the clerk got down from his stool.
"Mrs. St. Pierre Lawrence is with him, I know," whispered Colville. "I
come by appointment to meet her here."
He was shown in without further trouble, and found Mrs. St. Pierre
Lawrence sitting, white-faced and voluble, in the visitors' chair.
John Turner had his usual air of dense placidity, but the narrow black
tie he always tied in a bow was inclined slightly to one side; his hair
was ruffled, and, although the weather was not warm, his face wore a
shiny look. Any banker, with his clients clamouring on the stairs and out
into the street, might look as John Turner looked.
"You have heard the news?" asked Mrs. St. Pierre Lawrence, turning
sharply in her chair and looking at Colville with an expression of sudden
relief. She carried a handkerchief in her hand, but her eyes were dry.
She was, after all, only a forerunner of those who now propose to manage
human affairs. And even in these later days of their great advance, they
have not left their pocket-handkerchiefs behind them.
"I was told by one of the crowd," replied Colville, with a side smile
full of sympathy for Turner, "that the--er--bank had come to grief."
"Was just telling Mrs. St. Pierre Lawrence," said Turner, imperturbably,
"that it is too early in the day to throw up the sponge and cry out that
all is lost."
"All!" echoed Colville, angrily. "But do you mean to say--Why, surely,
there is generally something left."
Turner shrugged his shoulders and sat in silence, gnawing the middle
joint of his thumb.
"But I must have the money!" cried Mrs. St. Pierre Lawrence. "It is most
important, and I must have it at once. I withdraw it all. See, I brought
my cheque-book with me. And I know that there are over a hundred thousand
pounds in my account. As well as that, you hold securities for two
hundred and fifty thousand more--my whole fortune. The money is not
yours: it is mine. I draw it all out, and I insist on having it."
Turner continued to bite his thumb, and glanced at her without speaking.
"Now, damn it all, Turner!" said Colville, in a voice suddenly hoarse;
"hand it over, man."
"I tell you it is gone," was the answer.
"What? Three hundred and fifty thousand pounds? Then you are a rogue! You
are a fraudulent trustee! I always thought you were a damned scoundrel,
Turner, and now I know it. I'll get you to the galleys for the rest of
your life, I promise you that."
"You will gain nothing by that," returned the banker, staring at the
date-card in front of him. "And you will lose any chance there is of
recovering something from the wreck. Mrs. St. Pierre Lawrence had better
take the advice of her lawyer--in preference to yours."
"Then I am ruined!" said that lady, rising, with an air of resolution.
She was brave, at all events.
"At the present moment, it looks like it," admitted Turner, without
meeting her eye.
"What am I to do?" murmured Mrs. St. Pierre Lawrence, looking helplessly
round the room and finally at the banker's stolid face.
"Like the rest of us, I suppose," he admitted. "Begin the world afresh.
Perhaps your friends will come forward."
And he looked calmly toward Colville. Mrs. St. Pierre Lawrence's face
suddenly flushed, and she turned away toward the door. Turner rose,
laboriously, and opened it.
"There is another staircase through this side door," he said, opening a
second door, which had the appearance of a cupboard. "You can avoid the
They passed out together, and Turner, having closed the door behind them,
crossed the room to where a small mirror was suspended. He set his tie
straight and smoothed his hair, and then returned to his chair, with a
vague smile on his face.
Colville took the vacant seat in Mrs. St. Pierre Lawrence's brougham. She
still held a handkerchief in her hand.
"I do not mind for myself," she exclaimed, suddenly, when the carriage
moved out of the court-yard. "It is only for your sake, Dormer."
She turned and glanced at him with eyes that shone, but not with tears.
"Oh! Don't you understand?" she asked, in a whisper. "Don't you see,
"A way out of it?" he answered, hurriedly, almost interrupting her. He
withdrew his hand, upon which she had laid her own; withdrew it
sympathetically, almost tenderly. "See a way out of it?" he repeated, in
a reflective and business-like voice. "No, I am afraid, for the moment, I
He sat stroking his moustache, looking out of the window, while she
looked out of the other, resolutely blinking back her tears. They drove
back to her hotel without speaking.
A SORDID MATTER
"_Bon Dieu!_ my old friend, what do you expect?" replied Madame de
Chantonnay to a rather incoherent statement made to her one May afternoon
by the Marquis de Gemosac. "It is the month of May," she further
explained, indicating with a gesture of her dimpled hand the roses abloom
all around them. For the Marquis had found her in a chair beneath the
mulberry-tree in the old garden of that house near Gemosac which looks
across the river toward the sea. "It is the month of May. One is young.
Such things have happened since the world began. They will happen until
it ends, Marquis. It happened in our own time, if I remember correctly."
And Madame de Chantonnay heaved a prodigious sigh, in memory of the days
that were no more.
"Given a young man of enterprise and not bad looking, I allow. He has the
grand air and his face is not without distinction. Given a young girl,
fresh as a flower, young, innocent, not without feeling. Ah! I know, for
I was like that myself. Place them in a garden, in the springtime. What
will they talk of--politics? Ah--bah! Let them have long evenings
together while their elders play chess or a hand at bezique. What game
will they play? A much older game than chess or bezique, I fancy."
"But the circumstances were so exceptional," protested the Marquis, who
had a pleased air, as if his anger were not without an antidote.
"Circumstances may be exceptional, my friend, but Love is a Rule. You
allow him to stay six weeks in the chateau, seeing Juliette daily, and
then you are surprised that one fine morning Monsieur de Bourbon comes to
you and tells you brusquely, as you report it, that he wants to marry
"Yes," admitted the Marquis. "He was what you may describe as brusque. It
is the English way, perhaps, of treating such matters. Now, for myself I
should have been warmer, I think. I should have allowed myself a little
play, as it were. One says a few pretty things--is it not so? One
suggests that the lady is an angel and oneself entirely unworthy of a
happiness which is only to be compared with the happiness that is
promised to us in the hereafter. It is an occasion upon which to be
"Not for the English," corrected Madame de Chantonnay, holding up a hand
to emphasise her opinion. "And you must remember, that although our
friend is French, he has been brought up in that cold country--by a
minister of their frozen religion, I understand. I, who speak to you,
know what they are, for once I had an Englishman in love with me. It was
in Paris, when Louis XVIII was King. And did this Englishman tell me that
he was heart-broken, I ask you? Never! On the contrary, he appeared to be
of an indifference only to be compared with the indifference of a tree.
He seemed to avoid me rather than seek my society. Once, he made believe
to forget that he had been presented to me. A ruse--a mere ruse to
conceal his passion. But I knew, I knew always."
"And what was the poor man's fate? What was his name, Comtesse?"
"I forget, my friend. For the moment I have forgotten it. But tell me
more about Monsieur de Bourbon and Juliette. He is passionately in love
with her, of course; he is so miserable."
The Marquis reflected for a few moments.
"Well," he said, at last, "he may be so; he may be so, Comtesse."
"And you--what did you say?"
The Marquis looked carefully round before replying. Then he leant forward
with his forefinger raised delicately to the tip of his nose.
"I temporised, Comtesse," he said, in a low voice. "I explained as
gracefully as one could that it was too early to think of such a
development--that I was taken by surprise."
"Which could hardly have been true," put in Madame de Chantonnay in an
audible aside to the mulberry-tree, "for neither Guienne nor la Vendee
will be taken by surprise."
"I said, in other words--a good many words, the more the better, for one
must be polite--'Secure your throne, Monsieur, and you shall marry
Juliette.' But it is not a position into which one hurries the last of
the house of Gemosac--to be the wife of an unsuccessful claimant, eh?"
Madame de Chantonnay approved in one gesture of her stout hand of these
principles and of the Marquis de Gemosac's masterly demonstration of
"And Monsieur de Bourbon--did he accept these conditions?"
"He seemed to, Madame. He seemed content to do so," replied the Marquis,
tapping his snuff-box and avoiding the lady's eye.
"And Juliette?" inquired Madame, with a sidelong glance.
"Oh, Juliette is sensible," replied the fond father. "My daughter is, I
hope, sensible, Comtesse."
"Give yourself no uneasiness, my old friend," said Madame de Chantonnay,
heartily. "She is charming."
Madame sat back in her chair and fanned herself thoughtfully. It was the
fashion of that day to carry a fan and wield it with grace and effect. To
fan oneself did not mean that the heat was oppressive, any more than the
use of incorrect English signifies to-day ill-breeding or a lack of
education. Both are an indication of a laudable desire to be unmistakably
in the movement of one's day.
Over her fan Madame cast a sidelong glance at the Marquis, whom she, like
many of his friends, suspected of being much less simple and spontaneous
than he appeared.
"Then they are not formally affianced?" she suggested.
"_Mon Dieu!_ no. I clearly indicated that there were other things to be
thought of at the present time. A very arduous task lies before him, but
he is equal to it, I am certain. My conviction as to that grows as one
knows him better."
"But you are not prepared to allow the young people to force you to take
a leap in the dark," suggested Madame de Chantonnay. "And that poor
Juliette must consume her soul in patience; but she is sensible, as you
justly say. Yes, my dear Marquis, she is charming."
They were thus engaged in facile talk when Albert de Chantonnay emerged
from the long window of his study, a room opening on to a moss-grown
terrace, where this plotter walked to and fro like another Richelieu and
brooded over nation-shaking schemes.
He carried a letter in his hand and wore an air of genuine perturbment.
But even in his agitation he looked carefully round before he spoke.
"Here," he said to the Marquis and his fond mother, who watched him with
complacency--"here I have a letter from Dormer Colville. It is
necessarily couched in very cautious language. He probably knows, as I
know, that any letter addressed to me is liable to be opened. I have
reason to believe that some of my letters have not only been opened, but
that copies of them are actually in the possession of that man--the head
of that which is called the Government."
He turned and looked darkly into a neighbouring clump of rhododendrons,
as if Louis Napoleon were perhaps lurking there. But he was nevertheless
quite right in his suspicions, which were verified twenty years later,
along with much duplicity which none had suspected.
"Nevertheless," he went on, "I know what Colville seeks to convey to us,
and is now hurrying away from Paris to confirm to us by word of mouth.
The bank of John Turner in the Rue Lafayette has failed, and with it goes
all the fortune of Madame St. Pierre Lawrence."
Both his hearers exclaimed aloud, and Madame de Chantonnay showed signs
of a desire to swoon; but as no one took any notice, she changed her
"It is a ruse to gain time," explained Albert, brushing the thin end of
his moustache upward with a gesture of resolution. "Just as the other was
a ruse to gain time. It is at present a race between two resolute
parties. The party which is ready first and declares itself will be the
victor. For to-day our poor France is in the gutter: she is in the hands
of the canaille, and the canaille will accept the first who places
himself upon an elevation and scatters gold. What care they--King or
Emperor, Emperor or King! It is the same to them so long as they have a
change of some sort and see, or think they see, gain to themselves to be
snatched from it."
From which it will be seen that Albert de Chantonnay knew his countrymen.
"But," protested Madame de Chantonnay, who had a Frenchwoman's inimitable
quickness to grasp a situation--the Government could scarcely cause a
bank to fail--such an old-established bank as Turner's, which has existed
since the day of Louis XIV--in order to gain time."
"An unscrupulous Government can do anything in France," replied the
lady's son. "Their existence depends upon delay, and they are aware of
it. They would ruin France rather than forego their own aggrandisement.
And this is part of their scheme. They seek to delay us at all costs. To
kidnap de Bourbon was the first move. It failed. This is their second
move. What must be our counter-move?"
He clasped his hands behind his willowy back and paced slowly backward
and forward. By a gesture, Madame de Chantonnay bade the Marquis keep
silence while she drew his attention to the attitude of her son. When he
paused and fingered his whisker she gasped excitedly.
"I have it," said Albert, with an upward glance of inspiration.
"Yes, my son?"
"The Beauvoir estate," replied Albert, "left to me by my uncle. It is
worth three hundred thousand francs. That is enough for the moment. That
must be our counter-move."
Madame de Chantonnay protested volubly. For if Frenchmen are ready to
sacrifice, or, at all events, to risk all for a sentiment--and history
says nothing to the contrary--Frenchwomen are eminently practical and
Madame had a hundred reasons why the Beauvoir estate should not be sold.
Many of them contradicted each other. She was not what may be called a
close reasoner, but she was roughly effective. Many a general has won a
victory not by the accuracy, but by the volume of his fire.
"What will become of France," she cried to Albert's retreating back as he
walked to and fro, "if none of the old families has a son to bless itself
with? And Heaven knows that there are few enough remaining now. Besides,
you will want to marry some day, and what will your bride say when you
have no money? There are no _dots_ growing in the hedgerows now. Not that
I am a stickler for a _dot_. Give me heart, I always say, and keep the
money yourself. And some day you will find a loving heart, but no _dot_.
And there is a tragedy at once--ready made. Is it not so, my old friend?"
She turned to the Marquis de Gemosac for confirmation of this forecast.
"It is a danger, Madame," was the reply. "It is a danger which it would
be well to foresee."
They had discussed a hundred times the possibility of a romantic marriage
between their two houses. Juliette and Albert--the two last
representatives of an old nobility long-famed in the annals of the
west--might well fall in love with each other. It would be charming,
Madame thought; but, alas! Albert would be wise to look for a _dot_.
The Marquis paused. Again he temporised. For he could not all in an
instant decide which side of this question to take. He looked at Albert,
frail, romantic; an ideal representative of that old nobility of France
which was never practical, and elected to go to the guillotine rather
than seek to cultivate that modern virtue.
"At the same time, Madame, it is well to remember that a loan offered now
may reasonably be expected to bring such a return in the future as will
provide _dots_ for the de Chantonnays to the end of time."
Madame was about to make a spirited reply; she might even have suggested
that the Beauvoir estate would be better apportioned to Albert's wife
than to Juliette as the wife of another, but Albert himself stopped in
front of them and swept away all argument by a passionate gesture of his
small, white hand.
"It is concluded," he said. "I sell the Beauvoir estate! Have not the
Chantonnays proved a hundred times that they are equal to any sacrifice
for the sake of France?"
A SQUARE MAN
All through the summer of 1851--a year to be marked for all time in the
minds of historians, not in red, but in black letters--the war of
politics tossed France hither and thither.
There were, at this time, five parties contending for mastery. Should one
of these appear for the moment to be about to make itself secure in
power, the other four would at once unite to tear the common adversary
from his unstable position. Of these parties, only two were of real
cohesion: the Legitimists and the Bonapartists. The Socialists, the
Moderate Republicans, and the Orleanists were too closely allied in the
past to be friendly in the present. Socialists are noisy, but rarely
clever. A man who in France describes himself as Moderate must not expect
to be popular for any length of time. The Orleanists were only just out
of office. It was scarcely a year since Louis Philippe had died in exile
at Claremont--only three years since he signed his abdication and hurried
across to Newhaven. It was not the turn of the Orleanists.
There is no quarrel so deadly as a family quarrel; no fall so sudden as
that of a house divided against itself. All through the spring and
summer of 1851 France exhibited herself in the eyes of the world a
laughing-stock to her enemies, a thing of pity to those who loved that
The Republic of 1848 was already a house divided against itself.
Its President, Louis Bonaparte, had been elected for four years. He was,
as the law then stood, not eligible again until after the lapse of
another four years. His party tried to abrogate this law, and failed. "No
matter," they said, "we shall elect him again, and President he shall be,
despite the law."
This was only one of a hundred such clouds, no bigger than a man's hand,
arising at this time on the political horizon. For France was beginning
to wander down that primrose path where a law is only a law so long as it
There was one man, Louis Bonaparte, who kept his head when others lost
that invaluable adjunct; who pushed on doggedly to a set purpose; whose
task was hard even in France, and would have been impossible in any other
country. For it is only in France that ridicule does not kill. And twice
within the last fifteen years--once at Strasbourg, once at Boulogne--he
had made the world hold its sides at the mention of his name, greeting
with the laughter which is imbittered by scorn, a failure damned by
It has been said that Louis Bonaparte never gave serious thought to the
Legitimist party. He had inherited, it would seem, that invaluable
knowledge of men by which his uncle had risen to the greatest throne of
modern times. He knew that a party is never for a moment equal to a Man.
And the Legitimists had no man. They had only the Comte de Chambord.
At Frohsdorff they still clung to their hopes, with that old-world belief
in the ultimate revival of a dead regime which was eminently
characteristic. And at Frohsdorff there died, in the October of this
year, the Duchess of Angouleme, Marie Therese Charlotte, daughter of
Marie Antoinette, who had despised her two uncles, Louis XVIII and
Charles X, for the concessions they had made--who was more Royalist than
the King. She was the last of her generation, the last of her family, and
with her died a part of the greatness of France, almost all the dignity
of royalty, and the last master-mind of the Bourbon race.
If, as Albert de Chantonny stated, the failure of Turner's bank was
nothing but a ruse to gain time, it had the desired effect. For a space,
nothing could be undertaken, and the Marquis de Gemosac and his friends
were hindered from continuing the work they had so successfully begun.
All through the summer Loo Barebone remained in France, at Gemosac as
much as anywhere. The Marquis de Gemosac himself went to Frohsdorff.
"If she had been ten years younger," he said, on his return, "I could
have persuaded her to receive you. She has money. All the influence is
hers. It is she who has had the last word in all our affairs since the
death of the Due de Berri. But she is old--she is broken. I think she is
dying, my friend."
It was the time of the vintage again. Barebone remembered the last
vintage, and his journey through those provinces that supply all the
world with wine, with Dormer Colville for a companion. Since then he had
journeyed alone. He had made a hundred new friends, had been welcomed in
a hundred historic houses. Wherever he had passed, he had left enthusiasm
behind him--and he knew it.
He had grown accustomed to his own power, and yet its renewed evidence
was a surprise to him every day. There was something unreal in it. There
is always something unreal in fame, and great men know in their own
hearts that they are not great. It is only the world that thinks them so.
When they are alone--in a room by themselves--they feel for a moment
their own smallness. But the door opens, and in an instant they arise and
play their part mechanically.
This had come to be Barebone's daily task. It was so easy to make his way
in this world, which threw its doors open to him, greeted him with
outstretched hands, and only asked him to charm them by being himself. He
had not even to make an effort to appear to be that which he was not. He
had only to be himself, and they were satisfied.
Part of his role was Juliette de Gemosac. He found it quite easy to make
love to her; and she, it seemed, desired nothing better. Nothing definite
had been said by the Marquis de Gemosac. They were not formally
affianced. They were not forbidden to see each other. But the
irregularity of these proceedings lent a certain spice of
surreptitiousness to their intercourse which was not without its charm.
They did not see so much of each other after Loo had spoken to the
Marquis de Gemosac on this subject; for Barebone had to make visits to
other parts of France. Once or twice Juliette herself went to stay with
relatives. During these absences they did not write to each other.
It was, in fact, impossible for Barebone to keep up any correspondence
whatever. He heard that Dormer Colville was still in Paris, seeking to
snatch something from the wreck of Mrs. St. Pierre Lawrence's fortune.
The Marquis de Gemosac had been told that affairs might yet be arranged.
He was no financier, however, he admitted; he did not understand such
matters, and all that he knew was that the promised help from the
Englishwoman was not forthcoming.
"It is," he concluded, "a question of looking elsewhere. It is not only
that we want money. It is that we must have it at once."
It was not, strictly speaking, Loo's part to think of or to administer
the money. His was the part to be played by Kings--so easy, if the gift
is there, so impossible to acquire if it be lacking--to know many people
and to charm them all.
Thus the summer ripened into autumn. It had been another great vintage in
the south, and Bordeaux was more than usually busy when Barebone arrived
there, at daybreak, one morning in November, having posted from Toulouse.
He was more daring in winter, and went fearlessly through the streets. In
cold weather it is so much easier for a man to conceal his identity; for
a woman to hide her beauty, if she wish to--which is a large If. Barebone
could wear a fur collar and turn it up round that tell-tale chin, which
made the passer-by pause and turn to look at him again if it was visible.
He breakfasted at the old-fashioned inn in the heart of the town, where
to this day the diligences deposit their passengers, and then he made his
way to the quay, from whence he would take passage down the river. It was
a cold morning, and there are few colder cities, south of Paris, than
Bordeaux. Barebone hurried, his breath frozen on the fur of his collar.
Suddenly he stopped. His new self--that phantom second-nature bred of
custom--vanished in the twinkling of an eye, and left him plain Loo
Barebone, of Farlingford, staring across the green water toward "The Last
Hope," deep-laden, anchored in mid-stream.
Seeing him stop, a boatman ran toward him from a neighbouring flight of
"An English ship, monsieur," he said; "just come in. Her anchors are
hardly home. Does monsieur wish to go on board?"
"Of course I do, comrade--as quick as you like," he answered, with a gay
laugh. It was odd that the sight of this structure, made of human hands,
should change him in a flash of thought, should make his heart leap in
In a few minutes he was seated in the wherry, half way out across the
stream. Already a face was looking over the bulwarks. The hands were on
the forecastle, still busy clearing decks after the confusion of letting
go anchor and hauling in the jib-boom.
Barebone could see them leave off work and turn to look at him. One or
two raised a hand in salutation and then turned again to their task.
Already the mate--a Farlingford man, who had succeeded Loo--was standing
on the rail fingering a coil of rope.
"Old man is down below," he said, giving Barebone a hand. From the
forecastle came sundry grunts, and half a dozen heads were jerked
sideways at him.
Captain Clubbe was in the cabin, where the remains of breakfast had been
pushed to one end of the table to make room for pens and ink. The Captain
was laboriously filling in the countless documents required by the French
custom-house. He looked up, pen in hand, and all the wrinkles, graven by
years of hardship and trouble, were swept away like writing from a slate.
He laid aside his pen and held his hand out across the table.
"Had your breakfast?" he asked, curtly, with a glance at the empty
Loo laughed as he sat down. It was all so familiar--the disorder of the
cabin; the smell of lamp-oil; the low song of the wind through the
rigging, that came humming in at the doorway, which was never closed,
night or day, unless the seas were washing to and fro on the main deck.
He knew everything so well; the very pen and the rarely used ink-pot; the
Captain's attitude, and the British care that he took not to speak with
his lips that which was in his heart.
"Well," said Captain Clubbe, taking up his pen again, "how are you
"With the business that brought you to this country," answered Clubbe,
with a sudden gruffness; for he was, like the majority of big men, shy.
Barebone looked at him across the table.
"Do you know what the business is that brought me to this country?" he
asked. And Captain Clubbe looked thoughtfully at the point of his pen.
"Did the Marquis de Gemosac and Dormer Colville tell you everything, or
only a little?"
"I don't suppose they told me everything," was the reply. "Why should
they? I am only a seafaring man."
"But they told you enough," persisted Barebone, "for you to draw your own
conclusions as to my business over here."
"Yes," answered Clubbe, with a glance across the table. "Is it going
"No. On the contrary, it is going splendidly," answered Barebone, gaily;
and Captain Clubbe ducked his head down again over the papers of the
French custom-house. "It is going splendidly, but--"
He paused. Half an hour ago he had no thought in his mind of Captain
Clubbe or of Farlingford. He had come on board merely to greet his old
friends, to hear some news of home, to take up for a moment that old self
of bygone days and drop it again. And now, in half a dozen questions and
answers, whither was he drifting? Captain Clubbe filled in a word, slowly
and very legibly.
"But I am not the man, you know," said Barebone, slowly. It was as if the
sight of that just man had bidden him cry out the truth. "I am not the
man they think me. My father was not the son of Louis XVI, I know that
now. I did not know it at first, but I know it now. And I have been going
on with the thing, all the same."
Clubbe sat back in his chair. He was large and ponderous in body. And the
habit of the body at length becomes the nature of the mind.
"Who has been telling you that?" he asked.
"Dormer Colville. He told me one thing first and then the other. Only he
and you and I know of it."
"Then he must have told one lie," said Clubbe, reflectively. "One that we
know of. And what he says is of no value either way; for he doesn't know.
No one knows. Your father was a friend of mine, man and boy, and he
didn't know. He was not the same as other men; I know that--but nothing
"Then, if you were me, you would give yourself the benefit of the
doubt?" asked Barebone, with a rather reckless laugh. "For the sake of
others--for the sake of France?"
"Not I," replied Clubbe, bluntly.
"But it is practically impossible to go back now," explained Loo. "It
would be the ruin of all my friends, the downfall of France. In my
position, what would you do?"
"I don't understand your position," replied Clubbe. "I don't understand
politics; I am only a seafaring man. But there is only one thing to
do--the square thing."
"But," protested Dormer Colville's pupil, "I cannot throw over my
friends. I cannot abandon France now."
"The square thing," repeated the sailor, stubbornly. "The square thing;
and damn your friends--damn France!"
He rose as he spoke, for they had both heard the customs officers come on
board; and these functionaries were now bowing at the cabin-door.
MRS. ST. PIERRE LAWRENCE DOES NOT UNDERSTAND
It was early in November that the report took wing in Paris that John
Turner's bank was, after all, going to weather the storm. Dormer Colville
was among the first to hear this news, and strangely enough he did not at
once impart it to Mrs. St. Pierre Lawrence.
All through the year, John Turner had kept his client supplied with ready
money. He had, moreover, made no change in his own mode of living. Which
things are a mystery to all who have no money of their own nor the good
fortune to handle other people's. There is no doubt some explanation of
the fact that bankers and other financiers seem to fail, and even become
bankrupt, without tangible effect upon their daily comfort, but the
unfinancial cannot expect to understand it.
There had, as a matter of fact, been no question of discomfort for Mrs.
St. Pierre Lawrence either.
"Can I spend as much as I like?" she had asked Turner, and his reply had
been in the affirmative.
"No use in saving?"
"None whatever," he replied. To which Mrs. St. Pierre Lawrence made
answer that she did not understand things at all.
"It is no use collecting straws against a flood," the banker answered,
There was, of course, no question now of supplying the necessary funds to
the Marquis de Gemosac and Albert de Chantonnay, who, it was understood,
were raising the money, not without difficulty, elsewhere. Mrs. St.
Pierre Lawrence had indeed heard little or nothing of her Royalist
friends in the west. Human nature is the same, it would appear, all the
world over, but the upper crust is always the hardest.
When Colville was informed of the rumour, he remembered that he had never
quarrelled with John Turner. He had, of course, said some hard things in
the heat of the moment, but Turner had not retorted. There was no
quarrel. Colville, therefore, took an early opportunity of lunching at
the club then reputed to have the best chef in Paris. He went late and
found that the majority of members had finished dejeuner and were taking
coffee in one or other of the smoking-rooms.
After a quick and simple meal, Colville lighted a cigarette and went
upstairs. There were two or three small rooms where members smoked or
played cards or read the newspapers, and in the quietest of these John
Turner was alone, asleep. Colville walked backward into the room, talking
loudly as he did so with a friend in the passage. When well over the
threshold he turned. John Turner, whose slumbers had been rudely
disturbed, was sitting up rubbing his eyes. The surprise was of course
mutual, and for a moment there was an awkward pause; then, with a smile
of frank good-fellowship, Colville advanced, holding out his hand.
"I hope we have known each other too many years, old fellow," he said,
"to bear any lasting ill-will for words spoken in the heat of anger or
He stood in front of the banker frankly holding out the hand of
forgiveness, his head a little on one side, that melancholy smile of
toleration for poor human weakness in his eyes.
"Well," admitted Turner, "we've certainly known each other a good many
He somewhat laboriously hoisted himself up, his head emerging from his
tumbled collar like the head of a tortoise aroused from sleep, and gave
into Colville's affectionate grasp a limp and nerveless hand.
"No one could feel for you more sincerely than I do," Colville assured
him, drawing forward a chair,--"more than I have done all through these
"Very kind, I'm sure," murmured Turner, looking drowsily at his friend's
necktie. One must look somewhere, and Turner always gazed at the necktie
of any one who sat straight in front of him, which usually induced an
uneasy fingering of that ornament and an early consultation of the
nearest mirror. "Have a cigar."
There was the faint suggestion of a twinkle beneath the banker's heavy
lids as Colville accepted this peace-offering. It was barely twenty-four
hours since he had himself launched in Colville's direction the rumour
which had brought about this reconciliation.
"And I'm sure," continued the other, turning to cut the end of the cigar,
"that no one would be better pleased to hear that better times are
coming--eh? What did you say?"
"Nothing. Didn't speak," was the reply to this vague interrogation. Then
they talked of other things. There was no lack of topics for conversation
at this time in France; indeed, the whole country was in a buzz of talk.
But Turner was not, it seemed, in a talkative mood. Only once did he
rouse himself to take more than a passing interest in the subject touched
upon by his easy-going companion.
"Yes," he admitted, "he may be the best cook in Paris, but he is not what
he was. It is this Revision of the Constitution which is upsetting the
whole country, especially the lower classes. The man's hand is shaky. I
can see it from his way of pouring the mayonnaise over a salad."
After touching upon each fresh topic, Colville seemed to return
unconsciously to that which must of necessity be foremost in his
companion's thoughts--the possibility of saving Turner's bank from
failure. And each time he learnt a little more. At last, with that
sympathetic spontaneity which was his chief charm, Dormer Colville laid
his hand confidentially on Turner's sleeve.
"Frankly, old fellow," he said, "are you going to pull it through?"
"Frankly, old fellow, I am," was the reply, which made Colville glance
hastily at the clock.
"Gad!" he exclaimed, "look at the time. You have kept me gossiping the
whole afternoon. Must be off. Nobody will be better pleased than I am to
hear the good news. But of course I am mum. Not a word will they hear
from me. I _am_ glad. Good-bye."
"I dare say you are," murmured Turner to the closed door.
Dormer Colville was that which is known as an opportunist. It was a dull
grey afternoon. He would be sure to find Mrs. St. Pierre Lawrence at
home. She had taken an apartment in the Rue de Lille in the St. Germain
quarter. His way was past the flower-shop, where he sometimes bestowed a
fickle custom. He went in and bought a carnation for his buttonhole.
It is to be presumed that John Turner devoted the afternoon to his
affairs. It was at all events evening before he also bent his steps
toward the Rue de Lille.
Yes, the servant told him, Madame was at home and would assuredly see
him. Madame was not alone. No. It was, however, only Monsieur Colville,
who was so frequent a visitor.
Turner followed the servant along the corridor. The stairs had rather
tried one who had to elevate such a weight at each step; he breathed
hard, but placidly.
Mrs. St. Pierre Lawrence received him with an unusual _empressement_.
Dormer Colville, who was discovered sitting as far from her as the size
of the room allowed, was less eager, but he brought forward a chair for
the banker and glanced sharply at his face as he sat down.
"So glad to see you," the hostess explained. "It is really kind of you to
come and cheer one up on such a dull afternoon. Dormer and I--won't you
take off your coat? No, let _me_ put it aside for you. Dormer and I were
just--just saying how dull it was. Weren't we?"
She looked from one to the other with a rather unnatural laugh. One would
have thought that she was engaged in carrying off a difficult situation
and, for so practised a woman of the world, not doing it very well. Her
cheeks were flushed, which made her look younger, and a subtle
uncertainty in her voice and manner added to this illusion charmingly.
For a young girl's most precious possession is her inexperience. Mrs. St.
Pierre Lawrence, for the first time in her life, was not sure of herself.
"Now I hope you have not come on business," she added, drawing forward
her own chair and passing a quick hand over her hair. "Bother business!
Do not let us think about it."
"Not exactly," replied Turner, recovering his breath. "Quite agree with
you. Let us say, 'Bother business,' and not think of it. Though, for an
old man who is getting stout, there is nothing much left but business and
his dinner, eh?"
"No. Do not say that," cried the lady. "Never say that. It is time enough
to think that years hence when we are all white-haired. But I used to
think that myself once, you know. When I first had my money. Do you
remember? I was so pleased to have all that wealth that I determined to
learn all about cheque-books and things and manage it myself. So you
taught me, and at last you admitted that I was an excellent man of
business. I know I thought I was myself. And I suppose I lapsed into a
regular business woman and only thought of money and how to increase it.
How horrid you must have thought me!"
"Never did that," protested Turner, stoutly.
"But I know I learnt to think much too much about it," Mrs. St. Pierre
Lawrence went on eagerly. "And now that it is all gone, I do not care
_that_ for it."
She snapped her finger and thumb and laughed gaily.
"Not that," she repeated. She turned and glanced at Dormer Colville,
raising her eyebrows in some mute interrogation only comprehensible to
him. "Shall I tell him?" she asked, with a laugh of happiness not very
far removed from tears. Then she turned to the banker again.
"Listen," she said. "I am going to tell you something which no one else
in the world can tell you. Dormer and I are going to be married. I dare
say lots of people will say that they have expected it for a long time.
They can say what they like. We don't care. And I am glad that you are
the first person to hear it. We have only just settled it, so you are the
very first to be told. And I am glad to tell you before anybody else
because you have been so kind to me always. You have been my best friend,
I think. And the kindest thing you ever did for me was to lose my money,
for if you had not lost it, Dormer never would have asked me to marry
him. He has just said so himself. And I suppose all men feel that. All
the nice ones, I mean. It is one of the drawbacks of being rich, is it
"I suppose it is," answered Turner, stolidly, without turning an eyelash
in the direction of Colville. "Perhaps that is why no one has ever asked
me to marry them."
Mrs. St. Pierre Lawrence laughed jerkily at this witticism. She laughed
again when John Turner rose from his chair to congratulate her, but the
laugh suddenly ceased when he raised her hand to his lips with a courtesy
which was even in those days dying out of the world, and turned away from
him hastily. She stood with her back toward them for a minute or two
looking at some flowers on a side table. Then she came back into the
middle of the room, all smiles, replacing her handkerchief in her pocket.
"So that is the news I have to tell you," she said.
John Turner had placidly resumed his chair after shaking hands with
Dormer Colville for the second time since luncheon.
"Yes," he answered, "it is news indeed. And I have a little news to give
you. I do not say that it is quite free from the taint of business, but
at all events it is news. Like yours, it has the merit of being at first
hand, and you are the first to hear it. No one else could tell it to
He broke off and rubbed his chin while he looked apathetically at
"It has another merit, rare enough," he went on. "It is good news. I
think, in fact I may say I am sure, that we shall pull through now and
your money will be safely returned to you."
"I am so glad," said Mrs. St. Pierre Lawrence, with a glance at Dormer
Colville. "I cannot tell you how glad I am."
She looked at the banker with bright eyes and the flush still in her
cheeks that made her look younger and less sure of herself.
"Not only for my own sake, you know. For yours, because I am sure you
must be relieved, and for--well, for everybody's sake. Tell me all about
it, please." And she pushed her chair sideways nearer to Colville's.
John Turner bit the first joint of his thumb reflectively. It is so rare
that one can tell any one all about anything.
"Tell me first," Mrs. St. Pierre Lawrence suggested, "whether Miriam
Liston's money is all safe as well."
"Miriam's money never was in danger," he replied. "Miriam is my ward; you
are only my client. There is no chance of Miriam being able to make ducks
and drakes of her money."
"That sounds as if I had been trying to do that with mine.
"Well," admitted the banker, with a placid laugh, "if it had not been for
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