by Robert W. Chambers
By ROBERT W. CHAMBERS
Author of Cardigan,
The Maid at Arms,
The Maids of Paradise,
The Fighting Chance, etc.
A. L. BURT COMPANY
Publishers New York
Published by arrangement with Harper &Brothers
Copyright, 1897, by Harper &Brothers.
All rights reserved.
I. A MAKER OF
V. COWARDS AND
VI. TRAINS EAST
VII. THE ROAD TO
VIII. UNDER THE
X. AN UNEXPECTED
XI. “KEEP THY
XII. FROM THE
XIV. THE MARQUIS
XV. THE INVASION
XVI. “IN THE
HOLLOW OF THY
KEEPERS OF THE
XX. SIR THORALD
XXI. THE WHITE
XXII. A DOOR IS
XXVI. THE SHADOW
XXVII. ÇA IRA!
MESSAGE OF THE
XXX. THE VALLEY
OF THE SHADOW
When Yesterday shall dawn again,
And the long line athwart the hill
Shall quicken with the bugle's thrill,
Thine own shall come to thee, Lorraine!
Then in each vineyard, vale, and plain,
The quiet dead shall stir the earth
And rise, reborn, in thy new birth
Thou holy martyr-maid, Lorraine!
Is it in vain thy sweet tears stain
Thy mother's breast? Her castled crest
Is lifted now! God guide her quest!
She seeks thine own for thee, Lorraine!
So Yesterday shall live again,
And the steel line along the Rhine
Shall cuirass thee and all that's thine.
France livesthy Francedivine Lorraine!
R. W. C.
The author desires to acknowledge his indebtedness to the
valuable volumes of Messrs. Victor Duruy, Archibald Forbes,
Sir William Fraser, Dr. J. von Pflugk-Harttung, G.
Tissandier, Comdt. Grandin, and Un Officier de Marine,
concerning (wholly or in part) the events of 1870-1871.
Occasionally the author has deemed it best to change the
names of villages, officers, and regiments or battalions.
The author believes that the romance separated from the
facts should leave the historical basis virtually accurate.
R. W. C.
New York, September, 1897.
I. A MAKER OF MAPS
There was a rustle in the bushes, the sound of twigs snapping, a
soft foot-fall on the dead leaves.
Marche stopped, took his pipe out of his mouth, and listened.
Patter! patter! patter! over the crackling underbrush, now near, now
far away in the depths of the forest; then sudden silence, the silence
He turned his head warily, right, left; he knelt noiselessly,
striving to pierce the thicket with his restless eyes. After a moment
he arose on tiptoe, unslung his gun, cocked both barrels, and listened
again, pipe tightly clutched between his white teeth.
All around lay the beautiful Lorraine forests, dim and sweet, dusky
as velvet in their leafy depths. A single sunbeam, striking obliquely
through the brush tangle, powdered the forest mould with gold.
He heard the little river Lisse, flowing, flowing, where green
branches swept its placid surface with a thousand new-born leaves; he
heard a throstle singing in the summer wind.
Suddenly, far ahead, something gray shambled loosely across the
path, leaped a brush heap, slunk under a fallen tree, and loped on
For a moment Marche refused to believe his own eyes. A wolf in
Lorraine!a big, gray timber-wolf, here, within a mile of the Château
Morteyn! He could see it yet, passing like a shadow along the trees.
Before he knew it he was following, running noiselessly over the soft,
mossy path, holding his little shot-gun tightly. As he ran, his eyes
fixed on the spot where the wolf had disappeared, he began to doubt his
senses again, he began to believe that the thing he saw was some shaggy
sheep-dog from the Moselle, astray in the Lorraine forests. But he held
his pace, his pipe griped in his teeth, his gun swinging at his side.
Presently, as he turned into a grass-grown carrefour, a mere waste of
wild-flowers and tangled briers, he caught his ankle in a strand of ivy
and fell headlong. Sprawling there on the moss and dead leaves, the
sound of human voices struck his ear, and he sat up, scowling and
rubbing his knees.
The voices came nearer; two people were approaching the carrefour.
Jack Marche, angry and dirty, looked through the bushes, stanching a
long scratch on his wrist with his pocket-handkerchief. The people were
in sight nowa man, tall, square-shouldered, striding swiftly through
the woods, followed by a young girl. Twice she sprang forward and
seized him by the arm, but he shook her off roughly and hastened on. As
they entered the carrefour, the girl ran in front of him and pushed him
back with all her strength.
Come, now, said the man, recovering his balance, you had better
stop this before I lose patience. Go back!
The girl barred his way with slender arms out-stretched.
What are you doing in my woods? she demanded. Answer me! I will
know, this time!
Let me pass! sneered the man. He held a roll of papers in one
hand; in the other, steel compasses that glittered in the sun.
I shall not let you pass! she said, desperately; you shall not
pass! I wish to know what it means, why you and the others come into my
woods and make maps of every path, of every brook, of every
bridgeyes, of every wall and tree and rock! I have seen you
beforeyou and the others. You are strangers in my country!
Get out of my path, said the man, sullenly.
Then give me that map you have made! I know what you are! You come
from across the Rhine!
The man scowled and stepped towards her.
You are a German spy! she cried, passionately.
You little fool! he snarled, seizing her arm. He shook her
brutally; the scarlet skirts fluttered, a little rent came in the
velvet bodice, the heavy, shining hair tumbled down over her eyes.
In a moment Marche had the man by the throat. He held him there,
striking him again and again in the face. Twice the man tried to stab
him with the steel compasses, but Marche dragged them out of his fist
and hammered him until he choked and spluttered and collapsed on the
ground, only to stagger to his feet again and lurch into the thicket of
second growth. There he tripped and fell as Marche had fallen on the
ivy, but, unlike Marche, he wriggled under the bushes and ran on,
stooping low, never glancing back.
The impulse that comes to men to shoot when anything is running for
safety came over Marche for an instant. Instinctively he raised his
gun, hesitated, lowered it, still watching the running man with cold,
Well, he said, turning to the girl behind him, he's gone now.
Ought I to have fired? Ma foi! I'm sorry I didn't! He has torn your
bodice and your skirt!
The girl stood breathless, cheeks aflame, burnished tangled hair
shadowing her eyes.
We have the map, she said, with a little gasp.
Marche picked up a crumpled roll of paper from the ground and opened
it. It contained a rough topographical sketch of the surrounding
country, a detail of a dozen small forest paths, a map of the whole
course of the river Lisse from its source to its junction with the
Moselle, and a beautiful plan of the Château de Nesville.
That is my house! said the girl; he has a map of my house! How
The Château de Nesville? asked Marche, astonished; are you
Yes! I'm Lorraine. Didn't you know it?
Lorraine de Nesville? he repeated, curiously.
Yes! How dares that German to come into my woods and make maps and
carry them back across the Rhine! I have seen him
beforetwicedrawing and measuring along the park wall. I told my
father, but he thinks only of his balloons. I have seen others,
tooother strange men in the chasealways measuring or staring about
or drawing. Why? What do Germans want of maps of France? I thought of
it all dayevery day; I watched, I listened in the forest. And do you
know what I think?
What? asked Marche.
She pushed back her splendid hair and faced him.
War! she said, in a low voice.
War? he repeated, stupidly. She stretched out an arm towards the
east; then, with a passionate gesture, she stepped to his side.
War! Yes! War! War! War! I cannot tell you how I know itI ask
myself howand to myself I answer: 'It is coming! I, Lorraine, know
A fierce light flashed from her eyes, blue as corn-flowers in July.
It is in dreams I see and hear nowin dreams; and I see the
vineyards black with helmets, and the Moselle redder than the setting
sun, and over all the land of France I see bayonets, moving, moving,
like the Rhine in flood!
The light in her eyes died out; she straightened up; her lithe young
I have never before told this to any one, she said, faintly; my
father does not listen when I speak. You are Jack Marche, are you not?
He did not answer, but stood awkwardly, folding and unfolding the
You are the vicomte's nephewa guest at the Château Morteyn? she
Yes, said Marche.
Then you are Monsieur Jack Marche?
He took off his shooting-cap and laughed frankly. You find me
carrying a gun on your grounds, he said; I'm sure you take me for a
She glanced at his leggings.
Now, he began, I ask permission to explain; I am afraid that you
will be inclined to doubt my explanation. I almost doubt it myself, but
here it is. Do you know that there are wolves in these woods?
Wolves? she repeated, horrified.
I saw one; I followed it to this carrefour.
She leaned against a tree; her hands fell to her sides.
There was a silence; then she said, You will not believe what I am
going to sayyou will call it superstitionperhaps stupidity. But do
you know that wolves have never appeared along the Moselle except
before a battle? Seventy years ago they were seen before the battle of
Colmar. That was the last time. And now they appear again.
I may have been mistaken, he said, hastily; those shaggy
sheep-dogs from the Moselle are very much like timber-wolves in colour.
Tell me, Mademoiselle de Nesville, why should you believe that we are
going to have a war? Two weeks ago the Emperor spoke of the perfect
tranquillity of Europe. He smiled and added, France seeks no
quarrels. Because a brute of a German comes sneaking into these woods
to satisfy his national thirst for prying, I don't see why war should
War did result, she said, smiling also, and glancing at his torn
shooting-coat; I haven't even thanked you yet, Monsieur Marchefor
With a sudden gesture, proud, yet half shy, she held out one hand,
and he took it in his own hands, bronzed and brier scratched.
I thought, she said, withdrawing her fingers, that I ought to
give you an American 'shake hands.' I suppose you are wondering why we
haven't met before. There are reasons.
She looked down at her scarlet skirt, touched a triangular tear in
it, and, partly turning her head, raised her arms and twisted the
tangled hair into a heavy burnished knot at her neck.
You wear the costume of Lorraine, he ventured.
Is it not pretty? I love it. Alone in the house I always wear it,
the scarlet skirts banded with black, the velvet bodice and silver
chainsoh! he has broken my chain, too!
He leaned on his gun, watching her, fascinated with the grace of her
white fingers twisting her hair.
To think that you should have first seen me so! What will they say
at the Château Morteyn?
But I shall tell nobody, laughed Marche.
Then you are very honourable, and I thank you. Mon Dieu, they talk
enough about meyou have heard themdo not deny it, Monsieur Marche.
It is always, 'Lorraine did this, Lorraine did that, Lorraine is
shocking, Lorraine is silly, Lorraine' O Dieu! que sais'je! Poor
Poor Lorraine! he repeated, solemnly. They both laughed outright.
I know all about the house-party at the Château Morteyn, she
resumed, mending a tear in her velvet bodice with a hair-pin. I was
invited, as you probably know, Monsieur Marche; but I did not go, and
doubtless the old vicomte is saying, 'I wonder why Lorraine does not
come?' and Madame de Morteyn replies, 'Lorraine is a very uncertain
quantity, my dear'oh, I am sure that they are saying these things.
I think I heard some such dialogue yesterday, said Marche, much
amused. Lorraine raised her head and looked at him.
You think I am a crazy child in tatters, neglected and wild as a
falcon from the Vosges. I know you do. Everybody says so, and everybody
pities me and my father. Why? Parbleu! he makes experiments with
air-ships that they don't understand. Voilà! As for me, I am more than
happy. I have my forest and my fields; I have my horses and my books. I
dress as I choose; I go where I choose. Am I not happy, Monsieur
I should say, he admitted, that you are.
You see, she continued, with a pretty, confidential nod, I can
talk to you because you are the vicomte's American nephew, and I have
heard all about you and your lovely sister, and it is all rightisn't
It is, said Marche, fervently.
Of course. Now I shall tell you why I did not go to the Château and
meet your sister and the others. Perhaps you will not comprehend. Shall
I tell you?
I'll try to comprehend, said Marche, laughing.
Well, then, would you believe it? ILorraine de Nesvillehave
outgrown my clothes, monsieur, and my beautiful new gowns are coming
from Paris this week, and then
Then! repeated Marche.
Then you shall see, said Lorraine, gravely.
Jack, bewildered, fascinated, stood leaning on his gun, watching
every movement of the lithe figure before him.
Until your gowns arrive, I shall not see you again? he asked.
She looked up quickly.
Do you wish to?
Very much! he blurted out, and then, aware of the undue fervor he
had shown, repeated: Very muchif you don't mind, in a subdued but
Again she raised her eyes to his, doubtfully, perhaps a little
It wouldn't be right, would ituntil you are presented?
He was silent.
Still, she said, looking up into the sky, I often come to the
river below, usually after luncheon.
I wonder if there are any gudgeon there? he said; I could bring a
Oh, but are you coming? Is that right? I think there are fish
there, she added, innocently, and I usually come after luncheon.
And when your gowns arrive from Paris
Then! Then you shall see! Oh! I shall be a very different person; I
shall be timid and silent and stupid and awkward, and I shall answer,
'Oui, monsieur;' 'Non, monsieur,' and you will behold in me the jeune
fille of the romances.
Don't! he protested.
I shall! she cried, shaking out her scarlet skirts full breadth.
In a second she had gone, straight away through the forest, leaving
in his ears the music of her voice, on his finger-tips the touch of her
He stood, leaning on his guna minute, an hour?he did not know.
Presently earthly sounds began to come back to drown the delicious
voice in his ears; he heard the little river Lisse, flowing, flowing
under green branches; he heard a throstle singing in the summer wind;
he heard, far in the deeper forest, something passingpatter, patter,
patterover the dead leaves.
II. TELEGRAMS FOR TWO
Jack Marche tucked his gun under his arm and turned away along the
overgrown wood-road that stretched from the De Nesville forests to the
more open woods of Morteyn.
He walked slowly, puffing his pipe, pondering over his encounter
with the châtelaine of the Château de Nesville. He thought, too, of the
old Vicomte de Morteyn and his gentle wife, of the little house-party
of which he and his sister Dorothy made two, of Sir Thorald and Lady
Hesketh, their youthful and totally irresponsible chaperons on the
journey from Paris to Morteyn.
They're lunching on the Lisse, he thought. I'll not get a bite if
Ricky is there.
When Madame de Morteyn wrote to Sir Thorald and Lady Hesketh on the
first of July, she asked them to chaperon her two nieces and some other
pretty girls in the American colony whom they might wish to bring, for
a month, to Morteyn.
The devil! said Sir Thorald when he read the letter; am I to pick
out the girls, Molly?
Betty and I will select the men, said Lady Hesketh, sweetly; you
may do as you please.
He did. He suggested a great many, and wrote a list for his wife.
That prudent young woman carefully crossed out every name, saying,
Thorald! I am ashamed of you! and substituted another list. She had
chosen, besides Dorothy Marche and Betty Castlemaine, the two nieces in
question, Barbara Lisle and her inseparable little German friend, Alixe
von Elster; also the latter's brother, Rickerl, or Ricky, as he was
called in diplomatic circles. She closed the list with Cecil Page,
because she knew that Betty Castlemaine, Madame de Morteyn's younger
niece, looked kindly, at times, upon this blond giant.
And so it happened that the whole party invaded three first-class
compartments of an east-bound train at the Gare de l'Est, and
twenty-two hours later were trooping up the terrace steps of the
Château Morteyn, here in the forests and fragrant meadows of Lorraine.
Madame de Morteyn kissed all the girls on both cheeks, and the old
vicomte embraced his nieces, Betty Castlemaine and Dorothy Marche, and
threatened to kiss the others, including Molly Hesketh. He desisted, he
assured them, only because he feared Sir Thorald might feel bound to
follow his example; to which Lady Hesketh replied that she didn't care
and smiled at the vicomte.
The days had flown very swiftly for all: Jack Marche taught Barbara
Lisle to fish for gudgeon; Betty Castlemaine tormented Cecil Page to
his infinitely miserable delight; Ricky von Elster made tender eyes at
Dorothy Marche and rowed her up and down the Lisse; and his sister
Alixe read sentimental verses under the beech-trees and sighed for the
sweet mysteries that young German girls sigh forheart-friendships,
lovers, EwigkeitGod knows what!something or other that turns
the heart to tears until everything slops over and the very heavens
They were happy enough together in the Château and out-of-doors.
Little incidents occurred that might as well not have occurred, but
apparently no scars were left nor any incurable pang. True, Molly
Hesketh made eyes at Ricky von Elster; but she reproved him bitterly
when he kissed her hand in the orangery one evening; true also that Sir
Thorald whispered airy nothings into the shell-like ear of Alixe von
Elster until that German maiden could not have repeated her German
alphabet. But, except for the chaperons, the unmarried people did well
enough, as unmarried people usually do when let alone.
So, on that cloudless day of July, 1870, Rickerl von Elster sat in
the green row-boat and tugged at the oars while Sir Thorald smoked a
cigar placidly and Lady Hesketh trailed her pointed fingers over the
surface of the water.
Ricky, my son, said Sir Thorald, you probably gallop better than
you row. Who ever heard of an Uhlan in a boat? Molly, take his oars
Ricky shall row me if he wishes, replied Molly Hesketh; and you
do, don't you, Ricky? Thorald will set you on shore if you want.
I have no confidence in Uhlan officers, said her spouse, darkly.
Rickerl looked pleased; perspiration stood on his blond eyebrows and
his broad face glowed.
As an officer of cavalry in the Prussian army, he said, and as an
attaché of the German Embassy in Paris, I suggest that we return to
first principles and rejoin our base of supplies.
He's thirsty, said Molly, gravely. The base of supplies, so long
cut loose from, is there under the willows, and I see six feet two of
Cecil Page carrying a case of bottles.
Row, Ricky! urged Sir Thorald; they will leave nothing for Uhlan
The boat rubbed its nose against the mossy bank; Lady Hesketh placed
her fair hands in Ricky's chubby ones and sprang to the shore.
Cecil Page, she said, I am thirsty. Where are the others?
Betty and Dorothy looked out from their seat in the tall grass.
Charles brought the hamper; there it is, said Cecil.
Barbara Lisle and sentimental little Alixe von Elster strolled up
and looked lovingly upon the sandwiches.
Cecil Page stood and sulked, until Dorothy took pity and made room
on the moss beside her.
Can't you have a little mercy, Betty? she whispered; Cecil moons
like a wounded elephant.
So Betty smiled at him and asked for more salad, and Cecil brought
it and basked in her smiles.
Where is Jack Marche? asked Molly Hesketh. Dorothy, your brother
went into the chase with a gun, and where is he?
What does he want to shoot in July? It's too late for rooks, said
Sir Thorald, pouring out champagne-cup for Barbara Lisle.
I don't know where Jack went, said Dorothy. He heard one of the
keepers complain of the hawks, so, I suppose, he took a gun. I wonder
why that strange Lorraine de Nesville doesn't come to call. I am simply
dying to see her.
I saw her once, observed Sir Thorald.
You generally do, added his wife.
See what others don't.
Sir Thorald, a trifle disconcerted, applied himself to caviare and,
later, to a bottle of Moselle.
She's a beauty, they say began Ricky, and might have continued
had he not caught the danger-signal in Molly Hesketh's black eyes.
Lorraine de Nesville, said Lady Hesketh, is only a child of
seventeen. Her father makes balloons.
Not the little, red, squeaky kind, added Sir Thorald; Molly, he
is an amateur aeronaut.
He'd much better take care of Lorraine. The poor child runs wild
all over the country. They say she rides like a witch on a broom
Astride? cried Sir Thorald.
For shame! said his wife; IIupon my word, I have heard that
she has done that, too. Ricky! what do you mean by yawning?
Ricky had been listening, mouth open. He shut it hurriedly and grew
pink to the roots of his colourless hair.
Betty Castlemaine looked at Cecil, and Dorothy Marche laughed.
What of it? she said; there is nobody here who would dare to!
Oh, shocking! said little Alixe, and tried to look as though she
At that moment Sir Thorald caught sight of Jack Marche, strolling up
through the trees, gun tucked under his left arm.
No luncheon, no salad, no champagne-cup, no cigarette! he called;
all gone! all gone! Molly's smoked my last
Jack Marche, where have you been? demanded Molly Hesketh. No, you
needn't dodge my accusing finger! Barbara, look at him!
It's a pretty fingerif Sir Thorald will permit me to say so,
said Jack, laughing and setting his gun up against a tree. Dorrie,
didn't you save any salad? Ricky, you devouring scourge, there's not a
bit of caviare! I'm hungryOh, thanks, Betty, you did think of the
prodigal, didn't you?
It was Cecil, she said, slyly; I was saving it for him. What did
you shoot, Jack?
Now you people listen and I'll tell you what I didn't shoot.
A poor little hawk? asked Betty.
Noa poor little wolf!
In the midst of cries of astonishment and exclamations Sir Thorald
arose, waving a napkin.
I knew it! he saidI knew I saw a wolf in the woods day before
yesterday, but I didn't dare tell Molly; she never believes me.
And you deliberately chose to expose us to the danger of being
eaten alive? said Lady Hesketh, in an awful voice. Ricky, I'm going
to get into that boat at once; DorothyBetty Castlemainebring Alixe
and Barbara Lisle. We are going to embark at once.
Ricky and his boat-load of beauty, laughed Sir Thorald. Really,
Molly, I hesitated to tell you becauseI was afraid
What, you horrid thing?afraid he'd bite me?
Afraid you'd bite the wolf, my dear, he whispered so that nobody
but she heard it; I say, Ricky, we ought to have a wolf drive! What do
The subject started, all chimed in with enthusiasm except Alixe von
Elster, who sat with big, soulful eyes fixed on Sir Thorald and
trembled for that bad young man's precious skin.
We have two weeks to stay yet, said Cecil, glancing involuntarily
at Betty Castlemaine; we can get up a drive in a week.
You are not going, Cecil, said Betty, in a low voice, partly to
practise controlling him, partly to see him blush.
Lady Hesketh, however, took enough interest in the sport to insist,
and Jack Marche promised to see the head-keeper at once.
I think I see him now, said Sir Thoraldno, it's Bosquet's boy
from the post-office. Those are telegrams he's got.
The little postman's son came trotting across the meadow, waving two
Monsieur le Capitaine Rickerl von Elster and Monsieur Jack
Marchetwo telegrams this instant from Paris, messieurs! I salute
you. And he took off his peaked cap, adding, as he saw the others,
Messieurs, mesdames, and nodded his curly, blond head and smiled.
Don't apologizeread your telegrams! said Lady Hesketh; dear me!
dear me! if they take you two away and leave Thorald, I shallI shall
Ricky's broad face changed as he read his despatch; and Molly
Hesketh, shamelessly peeping over his shoulder, exclaimed, It's
cipher! How stupid! Can you understand it, Ricky?
Yes, Rickerl von Elster understood it well enough. He paled a
little, thrust the crumpled telegram into his pocket, and looked
vaguely at the circle of faces. After a moment he said, standing very
straight, I must leave to-morrow morning.
Recalled? Confound your ambassador, Ricky! said Sir Thorald.
Recalled to Paris in midsummer! Well, I'm
Not to Paris, said Rickerl, with a curious catch in his voiceto
Berlin. I join my regiment at once.
Jack Marche, who had been studying his telegram with puzzled eyes,
held it out to Sir Thorald.
Can't make head or tail of it; can you? he demanded.
Sir Thorald took it and read aloud: New York Herald offers
you your own price and all expenses. Cable, if accepted.
'Cable, if accepted,' repeated Betty Castlemaine; accept what?
Exactly! What? said Jack. Do they want a story? What do
'expenses' mean? I'm not going to Africa again if I know it.
It sounds as though the Herald wanted you for some
expedition; it sounds as if everybody knew about the expedition, except
you. Nobody ever hears any news at Morteyn, said Molly Hesketh,
dejectedly. Are you going, Jack?
Does your telegram throw any light on Jack's, Ricky? asked Sir
But Rickerl von Elster turned away without answering.
III. SUMMER THUNDER
When the old vicomte was well enough to entertain anybody at all,
which was not very often, he did it skilfully. So when he filled the
Château with young people and told them to amuse themselves and not
bother him, the house-party was necessarily a success.
He himself sat all day in the sunshine, studying the week's Paris
newspapers with dim, kindly eyes, or played interminable chess games
with his wife on the flower terrace.
She was sixty; he had passed threescore and ten. They never strayed
far from each other. It had always been so from the first, and the
first was when Helen Bruce, of New York City, married Georges Vicomte
de Morteyn. That was long ago.
The chess-table stood on the terrace in the shadow of the
flower-crowned parapets; the old vicomte sat opposite his wife, one
hand touching the black knight, one foot propped up on a pile of
cushions. He pushed the knight slowly from square to square and twisted
his white imperial with stiff fingers.
Helen, he asked, mildly, are you bored?
Madame de Morteyn smiled at her husband and lifted a pawn in her
thin, blue-veined hand; but the vicomte had not finished, and she
replaced the pawn and leaned back in her chair, moving the two little
coffee-cups aside so that she could see what her husband was doing with
From the lawn below came the chatter and laughter of girls. On the
edge of the lawn the little river Lisse glided noiselessly towards the
beech woods, whose depths, saturated with sunshine, rang with the
mellow notes of nesting thrushes.
The middle of July had found the leaves as fresh and tender as when
they opened in May, the willow's silver green cooled the richer verdure
of beach and sycamore; the round poplar leaves, pale yellow and orange
in the sunlight, hung brilliant as lighted lanterns where the sun
I am not at all certain what to do with my queen's knight. May I
have another cup of coffee?
Madame de Morteyn poured the coffee from the little silver
It is hot; be careful, dear.
The vicomte sipped his coffee, looking at her with faded eyes. She
knew what he was going to say; it was always the same, and her answer
was always the same. And always, as at that first breakfasttheir
wedding-breakfasther pale cheeks bloomed again with a subtle colour,
the ghost of roses long dead.
Helen, are you thinking of that morning?
Of our wedding-breakfasthereat this same table?
The vicomte set his cup back in the saucer and, trembling, poured a
pale, golden liquid from a decanter into two tiny glasses.
A glass of wine?I have the honour, my dear
The colour touched her cheeks as their glasses met; the still air
tinkled with the melody of crystal touching crystal; a golden drop fell
from the brimming glasses. The young people on the lawn below were very
She placed her empty glass on the table; the delicate glow in her
cheeks faded as skies fade at twilight. He, with grave head leaning on
his hand, looked vaguely at the chess-board, and saw, mirrored on every
onyx square, the eyes of his wife.
Will you have the journals, dear? she asked presently. She handed
him the Gaulois, and he thanked her and opened it, peering
closely at the black print.
After a moment he read: M. Ollivier declared, in the Corps
Législatif, that 'at no time in the history of France has the
maintenance of peace been more assured than to-day.' Oh, that journal
is two weeks' old, Helen.
The treaty of Paris in 1856 assured peace in the Orient, and the
treaty of Prague in 1866 assures peace in Germany, continued the
vicomte; I don't see why it should be necessary for Monsieur Ollivier
He dropped the paper on the stones and touched his white mustache.
You are thinking of General Chanzy, said his wife, laughingyou
always twist your mustache like that when you're thinking of Chanzy.
He smiled, for he was thinking of Chanzy, his sword-brother; and the
hot plains of Oran and the dusty columns of cavalry passed before his
eyesmoving, moving across a world of desert into the flaming disk of
the setting sun.
Is to-day the 16th of July, Helen?
Then Chanzy is coming back from Oran. I know you dread it. We shall
talk of nothing but Abd-el-Kader and Spahis and Turcos, and how we lost
our Kabyle tobacco at Bou-Youb.
She had heard all about it, too; she knew every étape of the 48th of
the Linefrom the camp at Sathonay to Sidi-Bel-Abbès, and from Daya to
Djebel-Mikaidon. Not that she cared for sabres and red trousers, but
nothing that concerned her husband was indifferent to her.
I hope General Chanzy will come, she said, and tell you all about
those poor Kabyles and the Legion and that horrid 2d Zouaves that you
and he laugh over. Are you tired, dear?
No. Shall we play? I believe it was my move. How warm it is in the
sunno, don't stir, dearI like it, and my gout is better for it.
What do you suppose all those young people are doing? Hear Betty
Castlemaine laugh! It is very fortunate for them, Helen, that I married
an American with an American's disregard of French conventionalities.
I am very strict, said his wife, smiling; I can survey them en
If you turn around. But you don't.
I do when it is necessary, said Madame de Morteyn, indignantly;
Molly Hesketh is there.
The vicomte laughed and picked up the knight again.
You see, he said, waving it in the air, that I also have become a
very good American. I think no evil until it comes, and when it comes I
That's what I say, my dear
There, dear, I won't tease. Hark! What is that?
Madame de Morteyn leaned over the parapet.
It is Jean Bosquet. Shall I speak to him?
Perhaps he has the Paris papers.
Jean! she called; and presently the little postman came trotting
up the long stone steps from the drive. Had he anything? Nothing for
Monsieur le Vicomte except a bundle of the week's journals from Paris.
So Madame de Morteyn took the papers, and the little postman doffed his
cap again and trotted away, blue blouse fluttering and sabots echoing
along the terrace pavement.
I am tired of chess, said the old vicomte; would you mind reading
The politics, dear?
Yes, the weekly summaryif it won't bore you.
Tais toi! Écoute. This is dated July 3d. Shall I begin?
She held the paper nearer and read: 'A Paris journal publishes a
despatch through l'agence Havas which declares that a deputation from
the Spanish Government has left Madrid for Berlin to offer the crown of
Spain to Leopold von Hohenzollern.'
What! cried the vicomte, angrily. Two chessmen tipped over and
rolled among the others.
It's what it says, mon ami; lookseeit is exactly as I read it.
Are those Spaniards crazy? muttered the vicomte, tugging at his
imperial. Look, Helen, read what the next day's journal says.
His wife unfolded the paper dated the 4th of July and found the
column and read: 'The press of Paris unanimously accuses the Imperial
Government of allowing Prim and Bismarck to intrigue against the
interests of France. The French ambassador, Count Benedetti,
interviewed the King of Prussia at Ems and requested him to prevent
Prince Leopold von Hohenzollern's acceptance. It is rumoured that the
King of Prussia declined to interfere.'
Madame de Morteyn tossed the journal on to the terrace and opened
'On the 12th of July the Spanish ambassador to Paris informed the
Duc de Gramont, Minister of Foreign Affairs, that the Prince von
Hohenzollern renounces his candidacy to the Spanish throne.'
À la bonheur! said the vicomte, with a sigh of relief; that
settles the Hohenzollern matter. My dear, can you imagine France
permitting a German prince to mount the throne of Spain? It was more
than a menaceit was almost an insult. Do you remember Count Bismarck
when he was ambassador to France? He is a man who fascinates me. How he
used to watch the Emperor! I can see him yetthose puffy, pale eyes!
You saw him also, dearyou remember, at Saint-Cloud?
Yes; I thought him brusque and malicious.
I know he is at the bottom of this. I'm glad it is over. Did you
finish the telegraphic news?
Almost all. It saysdear me, Georges!it says that the Duc de
Gramont refuses to accept any pledge from the Spanish ambassador unless
that old Von Wertherthe German ambassador, you knowguarantees that
Prince Leopold von Hohenzollern will never again attempt to mount the
There was a silence. The old vicomte stirred restlessly and knocked
over some more chessmen.
Sufficient unto the day he said, at last; the Duc de Gramont is
making a mistake to press the matter. The word of the Spanish
ambassador is enoughuntil he breaks it. General Leboeuf might occupy
himself in the interimprofitably, I think.
General Leboeuf is minister of war. What do you mean, Georges?
Yes, dear, Leboeuf is minister of war.
And you think this German prince may some time again
I think France should be ready if he does. Is she ready? Not if
Chanzy and I know a Turco from a Kabyle. Perhaps Count Bismarck wants
us to press his king for guarantees. I don't trust him. If he does, we
should not oblige him. Gramont is making a grave mistake. Suppose the
King of Prussia should refuse and say it is not his affair? Then we
would be obliged to accept that answer, or
Or what, Georges?
Orwell, my dearor fight. But Gramont is not wicked enough, nor
is France crazy enough, to wish to go to war over a contingencya
possibility that might never happen. I foresee a snub for our
ambassador at Ems, but that is all. Do you care to play any more? I
tipped over my king and his castles.
Perhaps it is an omenthe King of Prussia, you know, and his
fortresses. I feel superstitious, Georges!
The vicomte smiled and set the pieces up on their proper squares.
It is settled; the Spanish ambassador pledges his word that Prince
Hohenzollern will not be King of Spain. France should be satisfied. It
is my move, I believe, and I move socheck to you, my dear!
I resign, dearest. Listen! Here come the children up the terrace
ButbutHelen, you must not resign so soon. Why should you?
Because you are already beaten, she laughed, gentlyyour king
and his castles and all his men! How headstrong you Chasseurs d'Afrique
I'm not beaten! said the old man, stoutly, and leaned closer over
the board. Then he also laughed, and said, Tiens! tiens! tiens! and
his wife rose and gave him her arm. Two pretty girls came running up
the terrace, and the old vicomte stood up, crying: Children! Naughty
ones! I see you coming! Madame de Morteyn has beaten me at chess. Laugh
if you dare! Betty Castlemaine, I see you smiling!
I? laughed that young lady, turning her flushed face from her aunt
to her uncle.
Yes, you did, repeated the vicomte, and you are not the niece
that I love any more. Where have you been? And you, Dorothy
Marche?your hair is very much tangled.
We have been lunching by the Lisse, said Dorothy, and Jack caught
a gudgeon; here it is.
Pooh! said the old vicomte; I must show them how to fish. Helen,
I shall go fishing
Some time, said his wife, gently. Betty, where are the men?
Jack and Barbara Lisle are fishing; Sir Thorald and Lady Hesketh
are in the green boat, and Ricky is rowing them. The others are
somewhere. Ricky got a telegram, and must go to Berlin.
Tell Rickerl von Elster that his king is making mischief, laughed
the vicomte, and he may go back to Berlin when he chooses. Then,
smiling at the young, flushed faces, he leaned on his wife's arm and
passed slowly along the terrace towards the house.
I wonder why Lorraine has not come? he said to his wife. Won't
she come to-night for the dance?
Lorraine is a very sweet but a very uncertain girl, replied Madame
de Morteyn. She led him through the great bay-window opening on the
terrace, drew his easy-chair before his desk, placed the journals
before him, and, stooping, kissed him.
If you want me, send Charles. I really ought to be with the young
people a moment. I wonder why Ricky must leave?
How far away are you going, Helen?
Only to the Lisse.
Then I shall read about Monsieur Bismarck and his Spanish friends
until you come. The day is long without you.
They smiled at each other, and she sat down by the window.
Read, she said; I can see my children from here. I wonder why
Ricky is leaving?
Suddenly, in the silence of the summer noon, far in the east, a dull
sound shook the stillness. Again they heard itagain, and againa
deep boom, muttering, reverberating like summer thunder.
Why should they fire cannon to-day, Helen? asked the old man,
querulously. Why should they fire cannon beyond the Rhine?
It is thunder, she said, gently; it will storm before long.
I am tired, said the vicomte. Helen, I shall sleep. Sit by
mesononearer yet! Are the children happy?
When the cannon cease, I shall fall asleep. Listen! what is that?
A blackbird singing in the pear-tree.
And what is thatthat sound of galloping? Look out and see,
It is a gendarme riding fast towards the Rhine.
IV. THE FARANDOLE
That evening Dorothy Marche stood on the terrace in the moonlight
waving her plumed fan and listening to the orchestra from the hamlet of
Saint-Lys. The orchestratwo violins, a reed-pipe, a biniou, and a
harpwere playing away with might and main. Through the bay-window she
could see the crystal chandeliers glittering with prismatic light, the
slender gilded chairs, the cabinets and canapés, golden, backed with
tapestry; and everywhere massed banks of ferns and lilies. They were
dancing in there; she saw Lady Hesketh floating in the determined grip
of Cecil Page, she saw Sir Thorald proudly prancing to the air of the
farandole; Betty Castlemaine, Jack, Alixe, Barbara Lisle passed the
window only to re-pass and pass again in a whirl of gauze and filmy
colour; and the swish! swish! swish! of silken petticoats, and the rub
of little feet on the polished floor grew into a rhythmic, monotonous
cadence, beating, beating the measure of the farandole.
Dorothy waved her fan and looked at Rickerl, standing in the
moonlight beside her.
Why won't you dance, Ricky? she asked; it is your last evening,
if you are determined to leave to-morrow. He turned to her with an
abrupt gesture; she thought he was going to speak, but he did not, and
after a moment she said: Do you know what that despatch from the New
York Herald to my brother means?
Yes, he said. His voice was dull, almost indifferent.
Will you tell me?
Isis it anything dangerous that they want him to do?
Rickytell me, then! You frighten me.
If I receive another telegram. I expect to.
Then, if you receive another despatch, we shall all know?
Rickerl von Elster bent his head and laid a gloved hand lightly on
I am very unhappy, he said, simply. May we not speak of other
Yes, Ricky, she said, faintly. He looked almost handsome there in
the moonlight, but under his evening dress the square build of the
Prussian trooper, the rigid back, and sturdy limbs were perhaps too
apparent for ideal civilian elegance. Dorothy looked into his serious
young face. He touched his blond mustache, felt unconsciously for the
sabre that was not dangling from his left hip, remembered, coloured,
and stood up even straighter.
We are thinking of the same thing, said Dorothy; I was trying to
recall that last time we metdo you remember? In Paris?
He nodded; eyes fixed on hers.
At the Diplomatic Ball?
And you were in uniform, and your sabre was very beautiful, butdo
you remember how it clashed and banged on the marble stairway, and how
the other attachés teased you until you tucked it under your left arm?
Dear me! I was fascinated by your patent-leather sabre-tache, and your
little spurs, that rang like tiny chimes when you walked. What
sentimental creatures young girls are! Ne c'est pas, Ricky?
I have never forgotten that evening, he said, in a voice so low
that she leaned involuntarily nearer.
We were very young then, she said, waving her fan.
It was not a year ago.
We were young, she repeated, coldly.
Yet I shall never forget, Dorothy.
She closed her fan and began to examine the fluffy plumes. Her
cheeks were red, and she bit her lips continually.
Do you particularly admire Molly Hesketh's hand? she asked,
He turned crimson. How could she know of the episode in the
orangery? Know? There was no mystery in that; Molly Hesketh had told
her. But Rickerl von Elster, loyal in little things, saw but one
explanationDorothy must have seen him.
YesI kissed her hand, he said. He did not add that Molly had
Dorothy raised her head with an icy smile.
Is it honourable to confess such a thing? she asked, in steady
Butbut you knew it, for you saw me he stammered.
I did not! she flashed out, and walked straight into the house.
Dorrie! cried her brother as she swept by him, what do you think?
Lorraine de Nesville is coming this evening!
Lorraine? said his sisterdear me, I am dying to see her.
Then turn around, whispered Betty Castlemaine, leaning across from
Cecil's arm. Oh, Dorrie! what a beauty!
At the same moment the old vicomte rose from his gilded chair and
stepped forward to the threshold, saying, Lorraine! Lorraine! Then you
have come at last, little bad one? And he kissed her white hands and
led her to his wife, murmuring, Helen, what shall we do with the
little bad one who never comes to bid two old people good-day?
Ah, Lorraine! said Madame de Morteyn; kiss me, my child.
There she stood, her cheeks faintly touched with colour, her
splendid eyes shining like azure stars, the candle-light setting her
heavy hair aglow till it glistened and burned as molten ore flashes in
a crucible. They pressed around her; she saw, through the flare of
yellow light, a sea of rosy faces; a vague mist of lace set with
jewels; and she smiled at them while the colour deepened in her cheeks.
There was music in her ears and music in her heart, and she was dancing
nowdancing with a tall, bronzed young fellow who held her strong and
safe, and whose eyes continually sought her own.
You see, she said, demurely, that my gowns came to-day from
It is a dreamthis one, he said, smiling back into her eyes, but
I shall never forget the scarlet skirt and little bodice of velvet, and
the silver chains, and your hair
My hair? It is still on my head.
It was tangled across your facethen.
Taisez-vous, Monsieur Marche!
And you seem to have grown taller
It is my ball-gown.
And you do not cast down your eyes and say, 'Oui, monsieur,' 'Non,
Again they laughed, looking into each other's eyes, and there was
music in the room and music in their hearts.
Presently the candle-light gave place to moonlight, and they found
themselves on the terrace, seated, listening to the voice of the wind
in the forest; and they heard the little river Lisse among the rushes
and the murmur of leaves on the eaves.
When they became aware of their own silence they turned to each
other with the gentle haste born of confusion, for each feared that the
other might not understand. Then, smiling, half fearful, they reassured
each other with their silence.
She was the first to break the stillness, hesitating as one who
breaks the seal of a letter long expected, half dreaded: I came late
because my father was restless, and I thought he might need me. Did you
hear cannon along the Rhine?
Yes. Some German fête. I thought at first it might be thunder. Give
me your fan.
You do not hold it rightthere
Do you feel the breeze? Your fan is perfumedor is it the lilies
on the terrace? They are dancing again; must we go back?
She looked out into the dazzling moonlight of Lorraine; a
nightingale began singing far away in the distant swamp; a bat darted
by, turned, rose, dipped, and vanished.
They are dancing, she repeated.
Must we go?
In the stillness the nightingale grew bolder; the woods seemed
saturated with song.
My father is restless; I must return soon, she said, with a little
sigh. I shall go in presently and make my adieux. I wish you might
know my father. Will you? He would like you. He speaks to few people
except me. I know all that he thinks, all that he dreams of. I know
also all that he has done, all that he is doing, all that he will
doGod willing. Why is it I tell you this? Ma foi, I do not know. And
I am going to tell you more. Have you heard that my father has made a
Yeseverybody speaks of it, he answered, gravely.
Butah, this is the wonderful part!he has made a balloon that
can be inflated in five seconds! Think! All other balloons require a
long, long while, and many tubes; and one must take them to a usine de
gaz. My father's balloon needs no gasthat is, it needs no common
A montgolfier? asked Marche, curiously.
Oh, pooh! The idea! No, it is like other balloons, except
thatwellthere is needed merely a handful of silvery dustto which
you touch a drop of waterpiff! puff! c'est fini! The balloon is
And what is this silvery dust? he asked, laughing.
Voilà! Do you not wish you knew? ILorraine de NesvilleI know!
It is a secret. If the time ever should comein case of war, for
instancemy father will give the secret to Francefreelywithout
recompensea secret that all the nations of Europe could not buy! Now,
don't you wish you knew, monsieur?
And you know?
Yes, she said, with a tantalizing toss of her head.
Then you'd better look out, he laughed; if European nations get
wind of this they might kidnap you.
They know it already, she said, seriously. Austria, Spain,
Portugal, and Russia have sent agents to my fatheras though he bought
and sold the welfare of his country!
And that map-making fellow this morningdo you suppose he might
have been hanging about after that sort of thingtrying to pry and
pick up some scrap of information?
I don't know, she said, quietly; I only saw him making maps.
Listen! there are two secrets that my father possesses, and they are
both in writing. I do not know where he keeps them, but I know what
they are. Shall I tell you? Then listenI shall whisper. One is the
chemical formula for the silvery dust, the gas of which can fill a
balloon in five seconds. The other isyou will be astonishedthe plan
for a navigable balloon!
Has he tried it?
A dozen times. I went up twice. It steers like a ship.
Do people know this, too?
Germany does. Once we sailed, papa and I, up over our forest and
across the country to the German frontier. We were not very high; we
could see the soldiers at the custom-house, and they saw us, andwould
you believe it?they fired their horrid guns at uspop! pop! pop! But
we were too quick; we simply sailed back again against the very
air-currents that brought us. One bullet made a hole in the silk, but
we didn't come down. Papa says a dozen bullets cannot bring a balloon
down, even when they pierce the silk, because the air-pressure is great
enough to keep the gas in. But he says that if they fire a shell, that
is what is to be dreaded, for the gas, once aflame!that ends all.
Dear me! we talk a great deal of waryou and I. It is time for me to
They rose in the moonlight; he gave her back her fan. For a full
minute they stood silent, facing each other. She broke a lily from its
stem, and drew it out of the cluster at her breast. She did not offer
it, but he knew it was his, and he took it.
Symbol of France, she whispered.
Symbol of Lorraine, he said, aloud.
A deep boom, sullen as summer thunder, shook the echoes awake among
the shrouded hills, rolling, reverberating, resounding, until the
echoes carried it on from valley to valley, off into the world of
The utter silence that followed was broken by a call, a gallop of
hoofs on the gravel drive, the clink of stirrups, the snorting of
Somebody cried, A telegram for you, Ricky! There was a patter of
feet on the terrace, a chorus of voices: What is it, Ricky? Must you
go at once? Whatever is the matter?
The young German soldier, very pale, turned to the circle of
France and GermanyII
What? cried Sir Thorald, violently.
War was declared at noon to-day!
Lorraine gave a gasp and reached out one hand. Jack Marche took it
in both of his.
Inside the ballroom the orchestra was still playing the farandole.
V. COWARDS AND THEIR COURAGE
Rickerl took the old vicomte's withered hand; he could not speak;
his sister Alixe was crying.
War? War? Allons donc! muttered the old man. Helen! Ricky says we
are to have war. Helen, do you hear? War!
Then Rickerl hurried away to dress, for he was to ride to the Rhine,
nor spare whip nor spur; and Barbara Lisle comforted little Alixe, who
wept as she watched the maids throwing everything pell-mell into their
trunks; for they, too, were to leave at daylight on the Moselle Express
Below, a boy appeared, leading Rickerl's horse from the stables;
there were lanterns moving along the drive, and dark figures passing,
clustering about the two steaming horses of the messengers, where a
groom stood with a pail of water and a sponge. Everywhere the hum of
voices rose and died away like the rumour of swarming bees. War! War
is declared! When? War was declared to-day! When? War was
declared to-day at noon! And always the burden of the busy voices was
the same, menacing, incredulous, half-whispered, but always the
sameWar! war! war!
Booted and spurred, square-shouldered and muscular in his corded
riding-suit, Rickerl passed the terrace again after the last adieux.
The last? No, for as his heavy horse stamped out across the drive a
voice murmured his name, a hand fell on his arm.
Dorothy, he whispered, bending from his saddle.
I love you, Ricky, she gasped.
And they say women are cowards!
He lifted her to his breast, held her crushed and panting; she put
both hands before her eyes.
There has never been any one but you; do you believe it? he
Then you are mine!
Yes. May God spare you!
And Rickerl, loyal in little things, swung her gently to the ground
There was a flurry of gravel, a glimpse of a horse rearing,
plunging, springing into the darknessthat was all. And she crept back
to the terrace with hot, tearless lids, that burned till all her body
quivered with the fever in her aching eyes. She passed the orchestra,
trudging back to Saint-Lys along the gravel drive, the two fat
violinists stolidly smoking their Alsacian pipes, the harp-player
muttering to the aged piper, the little biniou man from the Côte-d'Or,
excited, mercurial, gesticulating at every step. War! war! war! The
burden of the ghastly monotone was in her brain, her tired heart kept
beating out the cadence that her little slippered feet echoed along the
At the foot of the steps which skirted the terrace she met her
brother and Lorraine watching the groom rubbing down the messengers'
horses. A lantern, glimmering on the ground, shed a sickly light under
Dorrie, said Jack, Sir Thorald and Lady Hesketh think that we all
should start for Paris by the early train. They have already sent some
of our trunks to Saint-Lys; Mademoiselle de Nesvillehe turned with a
gesture almost caressing to LorraineMademoiselle de Nesville has
generously offered her carriage to help transport the luggage, and she
is going to wait until it returns.
And uncleand our aunt De Morteyn?
I shall stay at Morteyn until they decide whether to close the
house and go to Paris or to stay until October. Dorrie, dear, we are
very near the frontier here.
There will be no invasion, said Lorraine, faintly.
The Rhine is very near, repeated Dorothy. She was thinking of
So you and Betty and Cecil, continued Jack, are to go with the
Heskeths to Paris. Poor little Alixe is crying her eyes out up-stairs.
She and Barbara Lisle are going to Cologne, where Ricky will either
find them or have his father meet them.
After a moment he added, It seems incredible, this news. They say,
in the village, that the King of Prussia insulted the French
ambassador, Count Benedetti, on the public promenade of Ems. It's all
about that Hohenzollern business and the Spanish succession. Everybody
thought it was settled, of course, because the Spanish ambassador said
so, and Prince Leopold von Hohenzollern withdrew his claim. I can't
understand it; I can scarcely believe it.
Dorothy stood a moment, looking at the stars in the midnight sky.
Then she turned with a sigh to Lorraine.
Good-night, she said, and they kissed each other, these two young
girls who an hour before had been strangers.
Shall I see you again? We leave by the early train, whispered
NoI must return when my carriage comes back from the village.
Good-by, deargood-by, dear Dorothy.
A moment later, Dorothy, flinging her short ermine-edged cloak from
her shoulders, entered the empty ballroom and threw herself upon the
One by one the candles spluttered, glimmered, flashed up, and went
out, leaving a trail of smoke in the still air. Up-stairs little Alixe
was sobbing herself to sleep in Barbara's arms; in his own chamber the
old vicomte paced to and fro, and to and fro, and his sweet-faced wife
watched him in silence, her thin hand shading her eyes in the
lamplight. In the next room Sir Thorald and Lady Hesketh sat close
together, whispering. Only Betty Castlemaine and Cecil Page had lost
little of their cheerfulness, perhaps because neither were French, and
Cecil was not going to the war, andafter all, war promised to be an
exciting thing, and well worth the absorbed attention of two very young
lovers. Arm in arm, they promenaded the empty halls and galleries,
meeting no one save here and there a pale-faced maid or scared flunky;
and at length they entered the gilded ballroom where Dorothy lay, flung
full length on the canapé.
She submitted to Betty's caresses, and went away to bed with her,
saying good-night to Cecil in a tear-choked voice; and a moment later
Cecil sought his own chamber, lighted a pipe, and gave himself up to
delightful visions of Betty, protected from several Prussian army-corps
by the single might of his strong right arm.
At the foot of the terrace, Lorraine de Nesville stood with Jack,
watching the dark drive for the lamps of the returning carriage. Her
maid loitered near, exchanging whispered gossip with the groom, who now
stood undecided, holding both horses and waiting for orders. Presently
Jack asked him where the messengers were, and he said he didn't know,
but that they had perhaps gone to the kitchens for refreshments.
Go and find them, then; here, give me the bridles, said Jack; if
they are eating, let them finish; I'll hold their horses. Why doesn't
Mademoiselle de Nesville's carriage come back from Saint-Lys? When you
leave the kitchens, go down the road and look for it. Tell them to
The groom touched his cap and hastened away.
I wish the carriage would comeI wish the carriage would hurry,
repeated Lorraine, at intervals. My father is alone; I am nervous, I
don't know why. What are you reading?
My telegram from the New York Herald, he answered,
It is easy to understand now, she said.
Yes, easy to understand. They want me for war correspondent.
Are you going?
I don't know He hesitated, trying to see her eyes in the
darkness. I don't know; shall you stay here in the Moselle Valley?
YesI suppose so.
You are very near the Rhine.
There will bethere shall be no invasion, she said, feverishly.
France also ends at the Rhine; let them look to their own!
She moved impatiently, stepped from the stones to the damp gravel,
and walked slowly across the misty lawn. He followed, leading the
horses behind him and holding his telegram open in his right hand.
Presently she looked back over her shoulder, saw him following, and
Why, will you go as war correspondent? she asked when he came up,
leading the saddled horses.
I don't know; I was on the Herald staff in New York; they
gave me a roving commission, which I enjoyed so much that I resigned
and stayed in Paris. I had not dreamed that I should ever be neededI
did not think of anything like this.
Have you never seen war?
Nothing to speak of. I was the Herald's representative at
Sadowa, and before that I saw some Kabyles shot in Oran. Where are you
To the river. We can hear the carriage when it comes, and I want to
see the lights of the Château de Nesville.
From the river? Can you?
Yesthe trees are cut away north of the boat-house. Look! I told
you so. My father is there alone.
Far away in the night the lights of the Château de Nesville
glimmered between the trees, smaller, paler, yellower than the splendid
stars that crowned the black vault above the forest.
After a silence she reached out her hand abruptly and took the
telegram from between his fingers. In the starlight she read it, once,
twice; then raised her head and smiled at him.
Are you going?
I don't know. Yes.
No, she said, and tore the telegram into bits.
One by one she tossed the pieces on to the bosom of the placid
Lisse, where they sailed away towards the Moselle like dim, blue
blossoms floating idly with the current.
Are you angry? she whispered.
He saw that she was trembling, and that her face had grown very
What is the matter? he asked, amazed.
The matterthe matter is this: IILorraine de Nesvilleam
afraid! I am afraid! It is fearit is fear!
Fear? he asked, gently.
Yes! she cried. Yes, it is fear! I cannot help itI never before
knew itthat II could be afraid. Don'tdon't leave usmy father
and me! she cried, passionately. We are so alone there in the
houseI fear the forestI fear
She trembled violently; a wolf howled on the distant hill.
I shall gallop back to the Château de Nesville with you, he said;
I shall be close beside you, riding by your carriage-window. Don't
tremble soMademoiselle de Nesville.
It is terrible, she stammered; I never knew I was a coward.
You are anxious for your father, he said, quietly; you are no
I amI tremblesee! I shiver.
It was the wolf
Ah, yesthe wolf that warned us of war! and the menthat one who
made maps; I never could do again what I did! Then I was afraid of
nothing; now I fear everythingthe howl of that beast on the hill, the
wind in the trees, the ripple of the LisseC'est plus fort que moiI
am a coward. Listen! Can you hear the carriage?
It is the noise of the river.
The river? How black it is! Hark!
The wind again
Look! She seized his arm frantically. Look! Oh, whatwhat was
The report of a gun, faint but clear, came to their ears. Something
flashed from the lighted windows of the Château de Nesvilleanother
flash broke outanotherthen three dull reports sounded, and the
night wind spread the echoes broadcast among the wooded hills.
For a second she stood beside him, white, rigid, speechless; then
her little hand crushed his arm and she pushed him violently towards
Mount! she cried; ride! ride!
Scarcely conscious of what he did, he backed one of the horses,
seized the gathered bridle and mane, and flung himself astride. The
horse reared, backed again, and stood stamping. At the same instant he
swung about in his saddle and cried, Go back to the house!
But she was already in the saddle, guiding the other horse, her
silken skirts crushed, her hair flying, sawing at the bridle-bit with
gloved fingers. The wind lifted the cloak on her shoulders, her little
satin slipper sought one stirrup.
Ride! she gasped, and lashed her horse.
He saw her pass him in a whirl of silken draperies streaming in the
wind; the swan's-down cloak hid her body like a cloud. In a second he
was galloping at her bridle-rein; and both horses, nose to nose and
neck to neck, pounded across the gravel drive, wheeled, leaped forward,
and plunged down the soft wood road, straight into the heart of the
forest. The lace from her corsage fluttered in the air; the lilies at
her breast fell one by one, strewing the road with white blossoms. The
wind loosened her heavy hair to the neck, seized it, twisted it, and
flung it out on the wind. Under the clusters of ribbon on her shoulders
there was a gleam of ivory; her long gloves slipped to the wrists; her
hair whipped the rounded arms, bare and white below the riotous
ribbons, snapping and fluttering on her shoulders; her cloak unclasped
at the throat and whirled to the ground, trampled into the forest
They struck a man in the darkness; they heard him shriek; the horses
staggered an instant, that was all, except a gasp from the girl,
bending with whitened cheeks close to her horse's mane.
Look out! A lantern!close ahead! panted Marche.
The sharp crack of a revolver cut him short, his horse leaped
forward, the blood spurting from its neck.
Are you hit? he cried.
No! no! Ride!
Again and again, but fainter and fainter, came the crack! crack! of
the revolver, like a long whip snapped in the wind.
Are you hit? he asked again.
Yes, it is nothing! Ride!
In the darkness and confusion of the plunging horses he managed to
lean over to her where she bent in her saddle; and, on one white, round
shoulder, he saw the crimson welt of a bullet, from which the blood was
welling up out of the satin skin.
And now, in the gloom, the park wall loomed up along the river, and
he shouted for the lodge-keeper, rising in his stirrups; but the iron
gate swung wide, and the broad, empty avenue stretched up to the
They galloped up to the door; he slipped from his horse, swung
Lorraine to the ground, and sprang up the low steps. The door was open,
the long hall brilliantly lighted.
It is ILorraine! cried the girl. A tall, bearded man burst in
from a room on the left, clutching a fowling-piece.
Lorraine! They've got the box! The balloon secret was in it! he
groaned; they are in the house yet He stared wildly at Marche, then
at his daughter. His face was discoloured with bruises, his thick,
blond hair fell in disorder across steel-blue eyes that gleamed with
Almost at the same moment there came a crash of glass, a heavy fall
from the porch, and then a shot.
In an instant Marche was at the door; he saw a game-keeper raise his
gun and aim at him, and he shrank back as the report roared in his
You fool! he shouted; don't shoot at me! drop your gun and
follow! He jumped to the ground and started across the garden where a
dark figure was clutching the wall and trying to climb to the top. He
was too latethe man was over; but he followed, jumped, caught the
tiled top, and hurled himself headlong into the bushes below.
Close to him a man started from the thicket, and ran down the wet
roadsplash! splash! slop! slop! through the puddles; but Marche
caught him and dragged him down into the mud, where they rolled and
thrashed and spattered and struck each other. Twice the man tore away
and struggled to his feet, and twice Marche fastened to his knees until
the huge, lumbering body swayed and fell again. It might have gone hard
with Jack, for the man suddenly dropped the steel box he was clutching
to his breast and fell upon the young fellow with a sullen roar. His
knotted, wiry fingers had already found Jack's throat; he lifted the
young fellow's head and strove to break his neck. Then, in a flash, he
leaped back and lifted a heavy stone from the wall; at the same instant
somebody fired at him from the wall; he wheeled and sprang into the
That was all Jack Marche knew until a lantern flared in his eyes,
and he saw Lorraine's father, bright-eyed, feverish, dishevelled,
Raise him! said a voice that he knew was Lorraine's.
They lifted Jack to his knees; he stumbled to his feet, torn,
bloody, filthy with mud, but in his arms, clasped tight, was the steel
Lorraine!my box!look! cried her father, and the lantern shook
in his hands as he clutched the casket.
But Lorraine stepped forward and flung both arms around Jack
Her face was deadly pale; the blood oozed from the wounded shoulder.
For the first time her father saw that she had been shot. He stared at
her, clutching the steel box in his nervous hands.
With all the strength she had left she crushed Jack to her and
kissed him. Then, weak with the loss of blood, she leaned on her
I am going to faint, she whispered; help me, father.
VI. TRAINS EAST AND WEST
It was dawn when Jack Marche galloped into the court-yard of the
Château Morteyn and wearily dismounted. People were already moving
about the upper floors; servants stared at him as he climbed the steps
to the terrace; his face was scratched, his clothes smeared with caked
mud and blood.
He went straight to his chamber, tore off his clothes, took a hasty
plunge in a cold tub, and rubbed his aching limbs until they glowed.
Then he dressed rapidly, donned his riding breeches and boots, slipped
a revolver into his pocket, and went down-stairs, where he could
already hear the others at breakfast.
Very quietly and modestly he told his story between sips of
You see, he ended, that the country is full of spies, who
hesitate at nothing. There were three or four of them who tried to rob
the Château; they seem perfectly possessed to get at the secrets of the
Marquis de Nesville's balloons. There is no doubt but that for months
past they have been making maps of the whole region in most minute
detail; they have evidently been expecting this war for a long time.
Incidentally, now that war is declared, they have opened hostilities on
their own account.
You did for some of them? asked Sir Thorald, who had been
fidgeting and staring at Jack through a gold-edged monocle.
NoIwe rode down and trampled a man in the dark; I should think
it would have been enough to brain him, but when I galloped back just
now he was gone, and I don't know how badly he was hit.
But the fellow that started to smash you with a paving-stonethe
Marquis de Nesville fired at him, didn't he? insisted Sir Thorald.
Yes, I think he hit him, but it was a long shot. Lorraine was
He stopped, colouring up a little.
She did it all, he resumedshe rode through the woods like a
whirlwind! Good heavens! I never saw such a cyclone incarnate! And her
pluck when she was hit!and then very quietly she went to her father
and fainted in his arms.
Jack had not told all that had happened. The part that he had not
told was the part that he thought of mostLorraine's white arms around
his neck and the touch of her innocent lips on his forehead. In silent
consternation the young people listened; Dorothy slipped out of her
chair and came and rested her hands on her brother's shoulder; Betty
Castlemaine looked at Cecil with large, questioning eyes that asked,
Would you do something heroic for me? and Cecil's eyes replied, Oh,
for a chance to annihilate a couple of regiments! This pleased Betty,
and she ate a muffin with appreciation. The old vicomte leaned heavily
on his elbow and looked at his wife, who sat opposite, pallid and
eating nothing. He had decided to remain at Morteyn, but this episode
disquieted himnot on his own account.
Helen, he said, Jack and I will stay, but you must go with the
children. There is no dangerthere can be no invasion, for our troops
will be passing here by night; I only wish to be sure thatthat in
casein case things should go dreadfully wrong, you would not be
compelled to witness anything unpleasant.
Madame de Morteyn shook her head gently.
Why speak of it? she said; you know I will not go.
I'll stay, too, said Sir Thorald, eagerly; Cecil and Molly can
take the children to Paris; Madame de Morteyn, you really should go
She leaned back and shook her head decisively.
Then you will both come, you and Madame de Morteyn? urged Lady
Hesketh of the vicomte.
The old man hesitated. His wife smiled. She knew he could not leave
in the face of the enemy; she had been the wife of this old African
campaigner for thirty years, and she knew what she knew.
Helen he began.
Yes, dear, we will both stay; the city is too hot in July, she
said; Sir Thorald, some coffee? No more? Betty, you want another
muffin?they are there by Cecil. Children, I think I hear the
carriages coming; you must not make Lady Hesketh wait.
I have half a mind to stay, said Molly Hesketh. Sir Thorald said
she might if she wanted to enlist, and they all tried to smile, but the
sickly gray of early morning, sombre, threatening, fell on faces
haggard with forebodingyoung faces, too, lighted by the pale flames
of the candles.
Alixe von Elster and Barbara Lisle went first; there were tears and
embraces, and au revoirs and aufwiedersehens.
Little Alixe blanched and trembled when Sir Thorald bent over her,
not entirely unconscious of the havoc his drooping mustache and cynical
eyes had made in her credulous German bosom. Molly Hesketh kissed her,
wishing that she could pinch her; and so they left, tearful, anxious,
to be driven to Courtenay, and whirled from there across the Rhine to
Sir Thorald and Lady Hesketh lingered on the terrace after the
others had returned to the breakfast-room.
Thorald, she said, you are a brute!
Eh? cried Sir Thorald.
You're a brute!
Molly, what the deuce is the matter?
Nothingif you ever see her again, I'll tell Ricky.
I might say the same thing in regard to Ricky, my dear, said Sir
It is not true, she said; I did no damage to him; and you
knowyou know down in the depths of your fickle soul thatthat
What, my dear?
Never mind! said Molly, sharply; but she crimsoned when he kissed
her, and held tightly to his sleeve.
Good ged! thought Sir Thorald; what a devil I am with women!
But now the carriages drove upcoupés, dog-carts, and a victoria.
They say we ought not to miss this train, said Cecil, coming from
the stables and flourishing a whip; they say the line may be seized
for government use exclusively in a few hours.
The old house-keeper, Madame Paillard, nodded and pointed to her
son, the under-keeper.
François says, Monsieur Page, that six trains loaded with troops
passed through Saint-Lys between midnight and dawn; dis, François,
c'est le Sieur Bosz qui t'a renseignépas?
Then hurry, said Lady Hesketh. Thorald, call the others.
I, said Cecil, am going to drive Betty in the dog-cart.
She'll probably take the reins, said Sir Thorald, cynically.
Cecil brandished his whip and looked determined; but it was Betty
who drove him to Saint-Lys station, after all.
The adieux were said, even more tearfully this time. Jack kissed his
sister tenderly, and she wept a little on his shoulderthinking of
One by one the vehicles rolled away down the gravel drive; and last
of all came Molly Hesketh in the coupé with Jack Marche.
Molly was sad and a trifle distraite. Those periodical mental
illuminations during which she discovered for the thousandth and odd
time that she loved her husband usually left her fairly innocuous. But
she was a born flirt; the virus was bred in the bone, and after the
first half-mile she opened her batteriesher eyesas a matter of
course on Jack.
What she got for her pains was a little sermon ending, See here,
Mollythree years ago you played the devil with me until I kissed you,
and then you were furious and threatened to tell Sir Thorald. The truth
is, you're in love with him, and there is no more harm in you than
there is in a china kitten.
Jack! she gasped.
And, he resumed, you live in Paris, and you see lots of things
and you hear lots of things that you don't hear and see in
Lincolnshire. But you're British, Molly, and you are domestic, although
you hate the idea, and there will never be a desolated hearth in the
Hesketh household as long as you speak your mother-tongue and read
The rest of the road was traversed in silence. They rattled over the
stones in the single street of Saint-Lys, rolled into the gravel oval
behind the Gare, and drew up amid a hubbub of restless teams,
market-wagons, and station-trucks.
See the soldiers! said Jack, lifting Lady Hesketh to the platform,
where the others were already gathered in a circle. A train was just
gliding out of the station, bound eastward, and from every window red
caps projected and sunburned, boyish faces expanded into grins as they
saw Lady Hesketh and her charges.
Vive l'Angleterre! they cried. Vive Madame la Reine! Vive
Johnbull et son rosbif! the latter observation aimed at Sir Thorald.
Sir Thorald waved his eye-glass to them condescendingly; faster and
faster moved the train; the red caps and fresh, tanned faces, the
laughing eyes became a blur and then a streak; and far down the
glistening track the faint cheers died away and were drowned in the
roar of the wheelslittle whirling wheels that were bearing them
merrily to their graves at Wissembourg.
Here comes our train, said Cecil. Jack, my boy, you'll probably
see some fun; take care of your hide, old chap! He didn't mean to be
patronizing, but he had Betty demurely leaning on his arm, anddear
me!how could he help patronizing the other poor devils in the world
who had not Betty, and who never could have Betty?
Montez, madame, s'il vous plait!Montez, messieurs! cried the
Chef de Gare; last train for Paris until Wednesday! All aboard! and
he slammed and locked the doors, while the engineer, leaning
impatiently from his cab, looked back along the line of cars and blew
his whistle warningly.
Good-by, Dorrie! cried Jack.
Good-by, my darling Jack! Be careful; you will, won't you? But she
was still thinking of Rickerl, bless her little heart!
Lady Hesketh waved him a demure adieu from the open window,
relented, and gave his hand a hasty squeeze with her gloved fingers.
Take care of Lorraine, she said, solemnly; then laughed at his
telltale eyes, and leaned back on her husband's shoulder, still
The cars were gliding more swiftly past the platform now; he caught
a glimpse of Betty kissing her hand to him, of Cecil bestowing a
gracious adieu, of Sir Thorald's eye-glassthen they were gone; and
far up the tracks the diminishing end of the last car dwindled to a
dark square, a spot, a dot, and was ingulfed in a flurry of dust. As he
turned away and passed along the platform to the dog-cart, there came a
roar, a shriek of a locomotive, a rush, and a train swept by towards
the east, leaving a blear of scarlet in his eyes, and his ears ringing
with the soldiers' cheers: Vive la France! Vive l'Empereur! À Berlin!
À Berlin! À Berlin! A furtive-eyed young peasant beside him shrugged
Bismarck has called for the menu; his cannon are hungry, he
sneered; there goes the bill of fare.
That's very funny, said a fierce little man with a gray mustache,
but the bill of fare isn't completethe class of '71 has just been
called out! and he pointed to a placard freshly pasted on the side of
Thethe class of '71? muttered the furtive-eyed peasant, turning
Exactlythe bill of fare needs the hors d'oeuvres; you'll go as an
olive, and probably come back a sardinein a box.
And the fierce little man grinned, lighted a cigarette, and
sauntered away, still grinning.
What did he care? He was a pompier and exempt.
VII. THE ROAD TO PARADISE
The road between Saint-Lys and Morteyn was not a military road, but
it was firm and smooth, and Jack drove back again towards the Château
at a smart trot, flicking at leaves and twigs with Cecil's whip.
The sun had brushed the veil of rain from the horizon; the leaves,
fresh and tender, stirred and sparkled with dew in the morning breeze,
and all the air was sweet-scented. In the stillness of the fields,
where wheat stretched along the road like a green river tinged with
gold, there was something that troubled him. Silence is oppressive to
sinners and prophets. He concluded he was the former, and sighed
restlessly, looking out across the fields, where, deep in the stalks of
the wheat, blood-red poppies opened like raw wounds. At other times he
had compared them to little fairy camp-fires; but his mood was
pessimistic, and he saw, in the furrows that the plough had raised, the
scars on the breast of a tortured earth; and he read sermons in bundles
of fresh-cut fagots; and death was written where a sickle lay beside a
pile of grass, crisping to hay in the splendid sun of Lorraine.
What he did not see were the corn-flowers peeping at him with dewy
blue eyes; the vineyards, where the fruit hung faintly touched with
bloom; the field birds, the rosy-breasted finches, the thrush, as
speckled as her own eggsno, nor did he hear them; for the silence
that weighed on his heart came from his heart. Yet all the summer wind
was athrill with harmony. Thousands of feathered throats swelled and
bubbled melody, from the clouds to the feathery heath, from the
scintillating azure in the zenith to the roots of the glittering wheat
where the corn-flowers lay like bits of blue sky fallen to the earth.
As he drove he thought of Lorraine, of her love for her father and
her goodness. He already recognized that dominant passion in her, her
unselfish adoration of her fathera father who sat all day behind
bolted doors trifling with metals and gases and little spinning,
noiseless wheels. The selfish to the unselfish, the dead to the living,
the dwarf to the giant, and the sinner to the saintthis is the world
and they that dwell therein.
He thought of her as he had seen her last, smiling up into the
handsome, bearded face that questioned her. No, the wound was
nothinga little blood lostenough to make her faint at his
feetthat was all. But his precious box was safeand she had flung
her loyal arms about the man who saved it and had kissed him before her
father, because he had secured what was dearer to her than lifeher
father's happinessa little metal box full of it.
Her father was very grateful and very solicitous about her wounded
shoulder; but he opened his box before he thought about bandages.
Everything was intact, except the conservatory window and his
daughter's shoulder. Both could be mendedbut his box! ah, that, if
lost, could never be replaced.
Jack's throat was hard and dry. A lump came into it, and he
swallowed with a shrug, and flicked at a fly on the headstall. A vision
of Sir Thorald, bending over little Alixe, came before his eyes. Pah!
he muttered, in disgust. Sir Thorald was one of those men who cease to
care for a woman when she begins to care for them. Jack knew it; that
was why he had been so gentle with Molly Hesketh, who had turned his
head when he was a boy and given him his first emotionspassion,
hateand then knowledge; for of all the deep emotions that a man shall
know before he dies the first consciousness of knowledge is the most
profound; it sounds the depths of heaven and hell in the space of time
that the heart beats twice.
He was passing through the woods now, the lovely oak and beech woods
of Lorraine. An ancient dame, bending her crooked back beneath a load
of fagots, gave him God bless you! and he drew rein and returned the
giftbut his was in silver, with the head of his imperial majesty
stamped on one side.
As he drove, rabbits ran back into the woods, hoisting their white
signals of conciliation. Peace and good will they seemed to read,
but a wise rabbit takes to the woods. Pheasants, too, stepped
daintily from under the filbert bushes, twisting their gorgeous necks
curiously as he passed. Once, in the hollow of a gorge where a little
stream trickled under layers of wet leaves, he saw a wild-boar standing
hock-deep in the ooze, rooting under mosses and rotten branches,
absorbed in his rooting. Twice deer leaped from the young growth on the
edge of the fields and bounded lazily into denser cover, only to stop
when half concealed and stare back at him with gentle, curious eyes.
The horse pricked up his ears at such times and introduced a few waltz
steps into his steady if monotonous repertoire, but Jack let him have
his fling, thinking that the deer were as tame as the horse, and both
were tamer than man.
Excepting the black panther, man has learned his lesson slowest of
all, the lesson of acquiescence in the inevitable.
I'll never learn it, said Jack, aloud. His voice startled himit
Lorraine! Lorraine! Life has begun for a very young man. Teach him
to see and bring him to accept existence in the innocence of your
knowledge; for, if he and the world collide, he fears the result to the
A few moments later he drove into Paradise, which is known to some
as the Château de Nesville.
VIII. UNDER THE YOKE
During the next two weeks Jack Marche drove into Paradise fourteen
times, and fourteen times he drove out of Paradise, back to the Château
Morteyn. Heaven is nearer than people suppose; it was three miles from
the road shrine at Morteyn.
Our Lady of Morteyn, sculptured in the cold stone above the shrine,
had looked with her wide stone eyes on many lovers, and had known they
were lovers because their piety was as sudden as it was fervid.
Twice a day Jack's riding-cap was reverently doffed as he drew
bridle before the shrine, going and coming from Paradise.
At evening, too, when the old vicomte slept on his pillow and the
last light went out in the stables, Our Lady of Morteyn saw a very
young man sitting, with his head in his hands, at her feet; and he took
no harm from the cold stones, because Our Lady of Morteyn is gentle and
gracious, and the summer nights were hot in the province of Lorraine.
There had been little stir or excitement in Morteyn. Even in
Saint-Lys, where all day and all night the troop-trains rushed by, the
cheers of the war-bound soldiers leaning from the flying cars were
becoming monotonous in the ears of the sober villagers. When the long,
flat cars, piled with cannon, passed, the people stared at the slender
guns, mute, canvas-covered, tilted skyward. They stared, too, at the
barred cars, rolling past in interminable trains, loaded with horses
and canvas-jacketed troopers who peered between the slats and shouted
to the women in the street. Other trains came and went, trains weighted
with bellowing cattle or huddled sheep, trains choked with small square
boxes marked Cartouches or Obus7^me; trains piled high with grain
or clothing, or folded tents packed between varnished poles and piles
of tin basins. Once a little excitement came to Saint-Lys when a
battalion of red-legged infantry tramped into the village square and
stacked rifles and jeered at the mayor and drank many bottles of red
wine to the health of the shy-eyed girls peeping at them from every
lattice. But they were only waiting for the next train, and when it
came their bugles echoed from the bridge to the square, and they went
awaywent where the others had gonelaughing, singing, cheering from
the car-windows, where the sun beat down on their red caps, and set
their buttons glittering like a million swarming fire-flies.
The village life, the daily duties, the dull routine from the
vineyard to the grain-field, and from the étang to the forest had not
changed in Saint-Lys.
There might be war somewhere; it would never come to Saint-Lys.
There might be death, yonder towards the Rhineprobably beyond it, far
beyond it. What of it? Death comes to all, but it comes slowly in
Saint-Lys; and the days are long, and one must eat to live, and there
is much to be done between the rising and the setting of a peasant's
There, below in Paris, were wise heads and many soldiers. They, in
Paris, knew what to do, and the war might begin and end with nothing
but a soiled newspaper in the Café Saint-Lys to show for itas far as
the people of Saint-Lys knew.
True, at the summons of the mayor, the National Guard of Saint-Lys
mustered in the square, seven strong and a bugler. This was merely a
display of forceit meant nothingbut let those across the Rhine
The fierce little man with the gray mustache, who was named
Tricasse, and who commanded the Saint-Lys Pompiers, spoke gravely of
Francs-corps, and drank too much eau-de-vie every evening. But these
warlike ebullitions simmered away peacefully in the sunshine, and the
tranquil current of life flowed as smoothly through Saint-Lys as the
river Lisse itself, limpid, noiseless, under the village bridge.
Only one man had left the village, and that was Brun, the
furtive-eyed young peasant, the sole representative in Saint-Lys of the
conscript class of 1871. And he would never have gone had not a
gendarme pulled him from under his mother's bed and hustled him on to
the first Paris-bound train, which happened to be a cattle train, where
Brun mingled his lamentations with the bleating of sheep and the
desolate bellow of thirsty cows.
Jack Marche heard of these things but saw little of them. The great
war wave rolling through the provinces towards the Rhine skirted them
at Saint-Lys, and scarcely disturbed them. They heard that Douay was
marching through the country somewhere, some said towards Wissembourg,
some said towards Saarbrück. But these towns were names to the peasants
of Saint-Lystant pis for the two towns! And General Douaywho was
he? Probably a fat man in red breeches and polished boots, wearing a
cocked-hat and a cross on his breast. Anyway, they would chase the
Prussians and kill a few, as they had chased the Russians in the
Crimea, and the Italians in Rome, and the Kabyles in Oran. The result?
Nothing but a few new colours for the ribbons in their sweethearts'
hairlike that pretty Magenta and Solferino and Sebastopol gray.
Fichtre! Faut-il gaspiller tout de même! mais, à la guerre comme à la
guerre! which meant nothing in Saint-Lys.
It meant more to Jack Marche, riding one sultry afternoon through
the woods, idly drumming on his spurred boots with a battered
It was his daily afternoon ride to the Château de Nesville; the shy
wood creatures were beginning to know him, even the younger rabbits of
the most recent generation sat up and mumbled their prehensile lips,
watching him with large, moist eyes. As for the red squirrels in the
chestnut-trees, and the dappled deer in the carrefours, and the sulky
boars that bristled at him from the overgrown sentiers, they accepted
him on condition that he kept to the road. And he did, head bent,
thoughtful eyes fixed on his saddle-bow, drumming absently with his
riding-crop on his spurred boots, his bridle loose on his horse's neck.
There was little to break the monotony of the ride; a sudden gush of
song from a spotted thrush, the rustle of a pheasant in the brake,
perhaps the modest greeting of a rare keeper patrolling his
beatnothing more. He went armed; he carried a long Colt's six-shooter
in his holster, not because he feared for his own skin, but he thought
it just as well to be ready in case of trouble at the Château de
Nesville. However, he did not fear trouble again; the French armies
were moving everywhere on the frontier, and the spies, of course, had
long ago betaken themselves and their projects to the other bank of the
The Marquis de Nesville himself felt perfectly secure, now that the
attempt had been made and had failed.
He told Jack so on the few occasions when he descended from his room
during the young fellow's visits. He made not the slightest objections
to Jack's seeing Lorraine when and where he pleased, and this very
un-Gallic behaviour puzzled Jack until he began to comprehend the
depths of the man's selfish absorption in his balloons. It was more
than absorption, it was mania pure and simple, an absolute inability to
see or hear or think or understand anything except his own devices in
the little bolted chamber above.
He did care for Lorraine to the extent of providing for her every
wanthe did remember her existence when he wanted something himself.
Also it was true that he would not have permitted a Frenchman to visit
Lorraine as Jack did. He hated two persons; one of these was Jack's
uncle, the Vicomte de Morteyn. On the other hand, he admired him, too,
because the vicomte, like himself, was a royalist and shunned the
Tuileries as the devil shuns holy water. Therefore he was his equal,
and he liked him because he could hate him without loss of
self-respect. The reason he hated him was thisthe Vicomte de Morteyn
had pooh-poohed the balloons. That occurred years ago, but he never
forgot it, and had never seen the old vicomte since. Whether or not
Lorraine visited the old people at Morteyn, he had neither time nor
inclination to inquire.
This was the man, tall, gentle, clean-cut of limb and feature, and
bearded like Jovethis was the man to whom Lorraine devoted her whole
existence. Every heart-beat was for him, every thought, every prayer.
And she was very devout.
This also was why she came to Jack so confidently and laid her white
hands in his when he sprang from his saddle, his heart in flames of
He knew this, he knew that her undisguised pleasure in his company
was, for her, only another link that welded her closer to her father.
At night, often, when he had ridden back again, he thought of it, and
paled with resentment. At times he almost hated her father. He could
have borne it easier if the Marquis de Nesville had been a loving
father, even a tyrannically solicitous father; but to see such love
thrown before a marble-faced man, whose expression never changed except
when speaking of his imbecile machines! How can he! How can he!
muttered Jack, riding through the woods. His face was sombre, almost
stern; and always he beat the devil's tattoo on his boot with the
But now he came to the park gate, and the keeper touched his cap and
smiled, and dragged the heavy grille back till it creaked on its
Lorraine came down the path to meet him; she had never before done
that, and he brightened and sprang to the ground, radiant with
She had brought some sugar for the horse; the beautiful creature
followed her, thrusting its soft, satin muzzle into her hand, ears
pricked forward, wise eyes fixed on her.
None for me? asked Jack.
With a sudden gesture she held a lump out to him in the centre of
her pink palm.
Before she could withdraw the hand he had touched it with his lips,
and, a little gravely, she withdrew it and walked on in silence by his
Her shoulder had healed, and she no longer wore the silken support
for her arm. She was dressed in blackthe effect of her glistening
hair and blond skin was dazzling. His eyes wandered from the white
wrist, dainty and rounded, to the full curved neckto the delicate
throat and proud little head. Her body, supple as perfect Greek
sculpture; her grace and gentle dignity; her innocence, sweet as the
light in her blue eyes, set him dreaming again as he walked at her
side, preoccupied, almost saddened, a little afraid that such happiness
as was his should provoke the gods to end it.
He need not have taken thought for the gods, for the gods take
thought for themselves; and they were already busy at Saarbrück. Their
mills are not always slow in grinding; nor, on the other hand, are they
always sure. They may have been ages ago, but now the gods are so out
of date that saints and sinners have a chance about equally.
They traversed the lawn, skirted the tall wall of solid masonry that
separated the chase from the park, and, passing a gate at the hedge,
came to a little stone bridge, beneath which the Lisse ran dimpling.
They watched the horse pursuing his own way tranquilly towards the
stables, and, when they saw a groom come out and lead him in, they
turned to each other, ready to begin another day of perfect
First of all he asked about her shoulder, and she told him
truthfully that it was well. Then she inquired about the old vicomte
and Madame de Morteyn, and intrusted pretty little messages to him for
them, which he, unlike most young men, usually remembered to deliver.
My father, she said, has not been to breakfast or dinner since
the day before yesterday. I should have been alarmed, but I listened at
the door and heard him moving about with his machinery. I sent him some
very nice things to eat; I don't know if he liked them, for he sent no
message back. Do you suppose he is hungry?
No, said Jack; if he were he would say so. He was careful not to
speak bitterly, and she noticed nothing.
I believe, she said, that he is about to make another ascension.
He often stays a long time in his room, alone, before he is ready. Will
it not be delightful? I shall perhaps be permitted to go up with him.
Don't you wish you might go with us?
Yes, said Jack, with a little more earnestness than he intended.
Oh! you do? If you are very good, perhapsperhapsbut I dare not
promise. If it were my balloon I would take you.
Of courseyou know it. But it isn't my balloon, you know. After a
moment she went on: I have been thinking all day how noble and good it
is of my father to consecrate his life to a purpose that shall be of
use to France. He has not said so, but I know that, if the next
ascension proves that his discovery is beyond the chance of failure, he
will notify the government and place his invention at their disposal.
Monsieur Marche, when I think of his unselfish nobleness, the tears
comeI cannot help it.
You, too, are noble, said Jack, resentfully.
I? Oh, if you knew! II am actually wicked! Would you believe it,
I sometimes think and think and wish that my father could spend more
time with mewith me!a most silly and thoughtless girl who would
sacrifice the welfare of France to her own caprice. Think of it! I
prayvery oftenthat I may learn to be unselfish; but I must be very
bad, for I often cry myself to sleep. Is it not wicked?
Very, said Jack, but his smile faded and there was a catch in his
You see, she said, with a gesture of despair, even you feel it,
Do you really wish to know what I do thinkof you? he asked, in a
It was on the tip of her tongue to say Yes. She checked herself,
lips apart, and her eyes became troubled.
There was something about Jack Marche that she had not been able to
understand. It occupied herit took up a good share of her attention,
but she did not know where to begin to philosophize, nor yet where to
end. He was different from other menthat she understood. But where
was that difference?in his clear, brown eyes, sunny as brown streams
in October?in his serious young face?in his mouth, clean cut and
slightly smiling under his short, crisp mustache, burned blond by the
sun? Where was the difference?in his voice?in his gestures?in the
turn of his head?
Lorraine did not know, but as often as she gave the riddle up she
recommenced it, idly sometimes, sometimes piqued that the solution
seemed no nearer. Once, the evening she had met him after their first
encounter in the forest carrefourthat evening on the terrace when she
stood looking out into the dazzling Lorraine moonlightshe felt that
the solution of the riddle had been very near. But now, two weeks
later, it seemed further off than ever. And yet this problem, that
occupied her so, must surely be worth the solving. What was it, then,
in Jack Marche that made him what he was?gentle, sweet-tempered, a
delightful companionyes, a companion that she would not now know how
to do without.
And yet, at times, there came into his eyes and into his voice
something that troubled hershe could not tell whysomething that
mystified and checked her, and set her thinking again on the old, old
problem that had seemed so near solution that evening on the moonlit
That was why she started to say Yes to his question, and did not,
but stood with lips half parted and blue eyes troubled.
He looked at her in silence for a moment, then, with a
half-impatient gesture, turned to the river.
Shall we sit down on the moss? she asked, vaguely conscious that
his sympathies had, for a moment, lost touch with hers.
He followed her down the trodden foot-path to the bank of the
stream, and, when she had seated herself at the foot of a linden-tree,
he threw himself at her feet.
They were silent. He picked up a faded bunch of blue corn-flowers
which they had left there, forgotten, the day before. One by one he
broke the blossoms from the stalks and tossed them into the water.
She, watching them floating away under the bridge, thought of the
blue bits of paperthe telegramthat she had torn up and tossed upon
the water two weeks before. He was thinking of the same thing, for,
when she said, abruptly: I should not have done that! he knew what
she meant, and replied: Such things are always your rightif you care
to use it.
She laughed. Then you believe still in the feudal system? I do not;
I am a good republican.
It is easy, he said, also laughing, for a young lady with
generations of counts and vicomtes behind her to be a republican. It is
easier still for a man with generations of republicans behind him to
turn royalist. It is the way of the world, mademoiselle.
Then you shall say: 'Long live the king!' she said; say it this
Long liveyour king!
I'm his subject if you are; I'll shout for no other king.
Now, whatever is he talking about? thought Lorraine, and the
suspicion of a cloud gathered in her clear eyes again, but was
dissipated at once when he said: I have answered the Herald's
What did you say? she asked, quickly.
There was resentment in her voice. She felt that he had done
something which was tacitly understood to be against her wishes. True,
what difference did it make to her? None; she would lose a delightful
companion. Suddenly, something of the significance of such a loss came
to her. It was not a revelation, scarcely an illumination, but she
understood that if he went she should be lonelyyes, even unhappy.
Then, too, unconsciously, she had assumed a mental attitude of interest
in his movementsof partial proprietorship in his thoughts. She felt
vaguely that she had been overlooked in the decision he had made; that
even if she had not been consulted, at least he might have told her
what he intended to do. Lorraine was at a loss to understand herself.
But she was easily understood. For two weeks her attitude had been that
of every innocent, lovable girl when in the presence of the man whom
she frankly cares for; and that attitude was one of mental
proprietorship. Now, suddenly finding that his sympathies and ideas
moved independently of her sympathiesthat her mental influence, which
existed until now unconsciously, was in reality no influence at all,
she awoke to the fact that she perhaps counted for nothing with him.
Therefore resentment appeared in the faintest of straight lines between
Do you care? he asked, carelessly.
I? Why, no.
If she had smiled at him and said Yes, he would have despaired;
but she frowned a trifle and said No, and Jack's heart began to beat.
I cabled them two words: 'Acceptprovisionally,' he said.
Oh, what did you mean?
Provisionally meantwith your consent.
Yesif it is your pleasure.
Pleasure! Her sweet eyes answered what her lips withheld. Her little
heart beat high. So then she did influence this cool young man, with
his brown eyes faintly smiling, and his indolent limbs crossed on the
moss at her feet. At the same moment her instinct told her to tighten
her hold. This was so perfectly feminine, so instinctively human, that
she had done it before she herself was aware of it. I shall think it
over, she said, looking at him, gravely; I may permit you to accept.
So was accomplished the admitted subjugation of Jack Marchea
stroke of diplomacy on his part; and he passed under the yoke in such a
manner that even the blindest of maids could see that he was not
vaulting over it instead.
Having openly and admittedly established her sovereignty, she was
happyso happy that she began to feel that perhaps the victory was not
unshared by him.
I shall think it over very seriously, she repeated, watching his
laughing eyes; I am not sure that I shall permit you to go.
I only wish to go as a special, not a regular correspondent. I wish
to be at liberty to roam about and sketch or write what I please. I
think my material will always be found in your vicinity.
Her heart fluttered a little; this surprised her so much that her
cheeks grew suddenly warm and pink. A little confused, she said what
she had not dreamed of saying: You won't go very far away, will you?
And before she could modify her speech he had answered, impetuously:
Never, until you send me away!
A mottled thrush on the top of the linden-tree surveyed the scene
curiously. She had never beheld such a pitiably embarrassed young
couple in all her life. It was so different in Thrushdom.
Lorraine's first impulse was to go away and close several doors and
sit down, very still, and think. Her next impulse was to stay and see
what Jack would do. He seemed to be embarrassed, toohe fidgeted and
tossed twigs and pebbles into the river. She felt that she, who already
admittedly was arbiter of his goings and comings, should do something
to relieve this uneasy and strained situation. So she folded her hands
on her black dress and said: There is something I have been wishing to
tell you for two weeks, but I did not because I was not sure that I was
right, and I did not wish to trouble you unnecessarily. Now, perhaps,
you would be willing to share the trouble with me. Would you?
Before the eager answer came to his lips she continued, hastily:
The man who made mapsthe man whom you struck in the carrefouris
the same man who ran away with the box; I know it!
That spy?that tall, square-shouldered fellow with the pink skin
and little, pale, pinkish eyes?
Yes. I know his name, too.
Jack sat up on the moss and listened anxiously.
His name is Von SteyrSiurd von Steyr. It was written in pencil on
the back of one map. The morning after the assault on the house, when
they thought I was ill in bed, I got up and dressed and went down to
examine the road where you caught the man and saved my father's little
steel box. There I found a strip of cloth torn from your evening coat,
andoh, Monsieur Marche!I found the great, flat stone with which he
tried to crush you, just as my father fired from the wall!
The sudden memory, the thought of what might have happened, came to
her in a flash for the first time. She looked at himher hands were in
his before she could understand why.
Go on, he whispered.
Her eyes met his half fearfullyshe withdrew her fingers with a
nervous movement and sat silent.
Tell me, he urged, and took one of her hands again. She did not
withdraw itshe seemed confused; and presently he dropped her hand and
sat waiting for her to speak, his heart beating furiously.
There is not much more to tell, she said at last, in a voice that
seemed not quite under control. I followed the broken bushes and his
footmarks along the river until I came to a stone where I think he sat
down. He was bleeding, toomy father shot himand he tore bits of
paper and cloth to cover the woundhe even tore up another map. I
found part of it, with his name on the back againnot all of it,
though, but enough. Here it is.
She handed him a bit of paper. On one side were the fragments of a
map in water-colour; on the other, written in German script, he read
Siurd von Steyr.
It's enough, said Jack; what a plucky girl you are, anyway!
I? You don't think so!do you?
You are the bravest, sweetest
Dear me! You must not say that! You are sadly uneducated, and I see
I must take you under my control at once. Man is born to obey! I have
decided about your answer to the Herald's telegram.
May I know the result? he asked, laughingly.
To-morrow. There is a brook-lily on the border of the sedge-grass.
You may bring it to me.
So began the education of Jack Marcheunder the yoke. And
Lorraine's education began, toobut she was sublimely unconscious of
This also is a law in the world.
On the first day of August, late in the afternoon, a peasant driving
an exhausted horse pulled up at the Château Morteyn, where Jack Marche
stood on the terrace, smoking and cutting at leaves with his
What's the matter, Passerat? asked Jack, good-humouredly; are the
Prussians in the valley?
You are right, Monsieur Marchethe Prussians have crossed the
Saar! blurted out the man. His face was agitated, and he wiped the
sweat from his cheeks with the sleeve of his blouse.
Nonsense! said Jack, sharply.
MonsieurI saw them! They chased methe Uhlans with their spears
and devilish yellow horses.
Where? demanded Jack, with an incredulous shrug.
I had been to Forbach, where my cousin Passerat is a miner in the
coal-mines. This morning I left to drive to Saint-Lys, having in my
wagon these sacks of coal that my cousin Passerat procured for me, à
prix réduit. It would take all day; I did not careI had bread and red
wineyou understand, my cousin Passerat and I, we had been gay in
Saint-Avold, toodame! we see each other seldom. I may have had more
eau-de-vie than anotherit is permitted on fête-days! Monsieur, I was
tiredI possibly sleptthe road was hot. Then something awakes me; I
rub my eyesbehold me awake!staring dumfounded at what? Parbleu!at
two ugly Uhlans sitting on their yellow horses on a hill! 'No! no!' I
cry to myself; 'it is impossible!' It is a bad dream! Dieu de Dieu! It
is no dream! My Uhlans come galloping down the hill; I hear them
bawling 'Halt! Wer da!' It is terrible! 'Passerat!' I shriek, 'it is
the hour to vanish!'
The man paused, overcome by emotions and eau-de-vie.
Well, said Jack, go on!
And I am here, monsieur, ended the peasant, hazily.
Passerat, you said you had taken too much eau-de-vie? suggested
Jack, with a smile of encouragement.
Much? Monsieur, you do not believe me?
I believe you had a dream.
Bon, said the peasant, I want no more such dreams.
Are you going to inform the mayor of Saint-Lys? asked Jack.
Of course, muttered Passerat, gathering up his reins; heu! da-da!
heu! cocotte! en route! and he rattled sulkily away, perhaps a little
uncertain himself as to the concreteness of his recent vision.
Jack looked after him.
There might be something in it, he mused, but, dear me! his nose
That same morning, Lorraine had announced her decision. It was that
Jack might accept the position of special, or rather occasional, war
correspondent for the New York Herald if he would promise not to
remain absent for more than a day at a time. This, Jack thought,
practically nullified the consent, for what in the world could a man
see of the campaign under such circumstances? Still, he did not object;
he was too happy.
However, he thought, I might ride over to Saarbrück. Suppose I
should be on hand at the first battle of the war?
As a mere lad he had already seen service with the Austrians at
Sadowa; he had risked his modest head more than once in the murderous
province of Oran, where General Chanzy scoured the hot plains like a
scourge of Allah.
He had lived, too, at headquarters, and shared the officers' mess
where cherba, tadjines, kous-kous, and méchoin formed the menu,
and a Kreima Kebira served as his roof. He had done his duty as
correspondent, merely because it was his duty; he would have preferred
an easier assignment, for he took no pleasure in cruelty and death and
the never-to-be-forgotten agony of proud, dark faces, where mud-stained
turbans hung in ribbons and tinselled saddles reeked with Arab horses'
War correspondent? It had happened to be his calling; but the
accident of his profession had been none of his own seeking. Now that
he needed nothing in the way of recompense, he hesitated to take it up
again. Instinctive loyalty to his old newspaper was all that had
induced him to entertain the idea. Loyalty and deference to Lorraine
compelled him to modify his acceptance. Therefore it was not altogether
idle curiosity, but partly a sense of obligation, that made him think
of riding to Saarbrück to see what he could see for his journal within
the twenty-four-hour limit that Lorraine had set.
It was too late to ride over that evening and return in time to keep
his word to Lorraine, so he decided to start at daybreak, realizing at
the same time, with a pang, that it meant not seeing Lorraine all day.
He went up to his chamber and sat down to think. He would write a
note to Lorraine; he had never done such a thing, and he hoped she
might not find fault with him.
He tossed his riding-crop on to the desk, picked up a pen, and wrote
carefully, ending the single page with, It is reported that Uhlans
have been encountered in the direction of Saarbrück, and, although I do
not believe it, I shall go there to-morrow and see for myself. I will
be back within the twelve hours. May I ride over to tell you about
these mythical Uhlans when I return?
He called a groom and bade him drive to the Château de Nesville with
the note. Then he went down to sit with the old vicomte and Madame de
Morteyn until it came dinner-time, and the oil-lamps in the gilded
salon were lighted, and the candles blazed up on either side of the
gilt French clock.
After dinner he played chess with his uncle until the old man fell
asleep in his chair. There was an interval of silence.
Jack, said his aunt, you are a dear, good boy. Tell me, do you
love our little Lorraine?
The suddenness of the question struck him dumb. His aunt smiled; her
faded eyes were very tender and kindly, and she laid both frail hands
on his shoulders.
It is my wish, she said, in a low voice; remember that, Jack. Now
go and walk on the terrace, for she will surely answer your note.
Howhow did you know I wrote her? he stammered.
When a young man sends his aunt's servants on such very unorthodox
errands, what can he expect, especially when those servants are
That groom told you, Aunt Helen?
Yes. Jack, these French servants don't understand such things. Be
more careful, for Lorraine's sake.
ButI willbut did the note reach her?
His aunt smiled. Yes. I took the responsibility upon myself, and
there will be no gossip.
Jack leaned over and kissed the amused mouth, and the old lady gave
him a little hug and told him to go and walk on the terrace.
The groom was already there, holding a note in one hand, gilt-banded
cap in the other.
His first letter from Lorraine! He opened it feverishly. In the
middle of a thin sheet of note-paper was written the motto of the De
Nesvilles, Tiens ta Foy.
Beneath, in a girlish hand, a single line:
I shall wait for you at dusk. Lorraine.
All night long, as he lay half asleep on his pillow, the words
repeated themselves in his drowsy brain: Tiens ta Foy! Tiens ta
Foy! (Keep thy Faith!). Aye, he would keep it unto deathhe knew it
even in his slumber. But he did not know how near to death that faith
might lead him.
The wood-sparrows were chirping outside his window when he awoke. It
was scarcely dawn, but he heard the maid knocking at his door, and the
rattle of silver and china announced the morning coffee.
He stepped from his bed into the tub of cold water, yawning and
shivering, but the pallor of his skin soon gave place to a healthy
glow, and his clean-cut body and strong young limbs hardened and grew
pink and firm again under the coarse towel.
Breakfast he ate hastily by candle-light, and presently he dressed,
buckled his spurs over the insteps, caught up gloves, cap, and
riding-crop, and, slinging a field-glass over his Norfolk jacket,
lighted a pipe and went noiselessly down-stairs.
There was a chill in the gray dawn as he mounted and rode out
through the shadowy portals of the wrought-iron grille; a vapour,
floating like loose cobwebs, undulated above the placid river; the
tree-tops were festooned with mist. Save for the distant chatter of
wood-sparrows, stirring under the eaves of the Château, the stillness
As he left the park and cantered into the broad red highway, he
turned in his saddle and looked towards the Château de Nesville. At
first he could not see it, but as he rode over the bridge he caught a
glimpse of the pointed roof and single turret, a dim silhouette through
the mist. Then it vanished in the films of fog.
The road to Saarbrück was a military road, and easy travelling. The
character of the country had changed as suddenly as a drop-scene falls
in a theatre; for now all around stretched fields cut into squares by
hedgesfields deep-laden with heavy-fruited strawberries, white and
crimson. Currants, too, glowed like strung rubies frosted with the dew;
plum-trees spread little pale shadows across the ruddy earth, and
beyond them the disk of the sun appeared, pushing upward behind a
half-ploughed hill. Everywhere slender fruit-trees spread their grafted
branches; everywhere in the crumbling furrows of the soil, warm as
ochre, the bunched strawberries hung like drops of red wine under the
The sun was an hour high when he walked his horse up the last hill
that hides the valley of the Saar. Already, through the constant
rushing melody of bird music, his ears had distinguished another
sounda low, incessant hum, monotonous, interminable as the noise of a
stream in a gorge. It was not the river Saar moving over its bed of
sand and yellow pebbles; it was not the breeze in the furze. He knew
what it was; he had heard it before, in Oranin the stillness of dawn,
where, below, among the shadowy plains, an army was awaking under dim
And now his horse's head rose up black against the sky; now the
valley broke into view below, gray, indistinct in the shadows, crossed
by ghostly lines of poplars that dwindled away to the horizon.
At the same instant something moved in the fields to the left, and a
shrill voice called: Qui-vive? Before he could draw bridle
blue-jacketed cavalrymen were riding at either stirrup, carbine on
thigh, peering curiously into his face, pushing their active light-bay
horses close to his big black horse.
Jack laughed good-humouredly and fumbled in the breast of his
Norfolk jacket for his papers.
I'm only a special, he said; I think you'll find the papers in
orderif not, you've only to gallop back to the Château Morteyn to
An officer with a bewildering series of silver arabesques on either
sleeve guided a nervous horse through the throng of troopers, returned
Jack's pleasant salute, reached out a gloved hand for his papers, and
read them, sitting silently in his saddle. When he finished, he removed
the cigarette from his lips, looked eagerly at Jack, and said:
You are from Morteyn?
The Vicomte de Morteyn is my uncle.
The officer burst into a boyish laugh.
Eh! cried Jack, startled.
Then he looked more closely at the young officer before him, who was
laughing in his face.
Well, upon my word! Noit can't be little Georges Carrière?
Yes, it can! cried the other, briskly; none of your damned airs,
Jack! Embrace me, my son!
My son, I won't! said Jack, leaning forward joyouslythe idea!
Little Georges calls me his son! And he's learning the paternal tricks
of the old generals, and doubtless he calls his troopers 'mes enfants,'
Oh, shut up! said Georges, giving him an impetuous hug; what are
you up to nowmore war correspondence? For the same old Herald?
Nom d'une pipe! It's cooler here than in Oran. It'll be hotter, tooin
another way, with a gay gesture towards the valley below. Jack
Marche, tell me all about everything!
On either side the blue-jacketed troopers fell back, grinning with
sympathy as Georges guided his horse into a field on the right,
motioning Jack to follow.
We can talk here a bit, he said; you've lots of time to ride on.
Now, fire ahead!
Jack told him of the three years spent in idleness, of the vapid
life in Paris, the long summers in Brittany, his desire to learn to
paint, and his despair when he found he couldn't.
I can sketch like the mischief, though, he said. Now tell me
about Oran, and our dear General Chanzy, and that devil's own 'Legion,'
and the Hell's Selected 2d Zouaves! Do you remember that day at Damas
when Chanzy visited the Emir Abd-el-Kader at Doummar, and the fifteen
Spahis of the escort, and that little imp of the Legion who was caught
roaming around the harem, and
Georges burst into a laugh.
I can't answer all that in a second! Wait! Do you want to know
about Chanzy? Well, he's still in Bel-Abbès, and he's been named
commander of the Legion of Honour, and he's no end of a swell. He'll be
coming back now that we've got to chase these sausage-eaters across the
Rhine. Look at me! You used to say that I'd stopped growing and could
never aspire to a mustache! Now look! Eh? Five feet eleven andwhat
do you think of my mustache? Oh, that African sun sets things growing!
I'm lieutenant, too.
Does the African sun also influence your growth in the line of
promotion? asked Jack, grinning.
Same old farceur, too! mused Georges. Now, what the mischief are
you doing here? Oh, you are staying at Morteyn?
IerI used to visit another houseernear by. You know the
Marquis de Nesville? asked Georges, innocently.
I? Oh yes.
You haveperhaps you have met Mademoiselle de Nesville?
Yes, said Jack, shortly.
There was a silence. Jack shuffled his booted toes in his stirrups;
Georges looked out across the valley.
In the valley the vapours were rising; behind the curtain of
shredded mist the landscape lay hilly, nearly treeless, cut by winding
roads and rank on rank of spare poplars. Farther away clumps of woods
appeared, and little hillocks, and now, as the air cleared, the spire
of a church glimmered. Suddenly a thin line of silver cut the landscape
beyond the retreating fog. The Saar!
Where are the Prussians? asked Jack, breaking the silence.
Georges laid his gloved hand on his companion's arm.
Do you see that spire? That is Saarbrück. They are there.
This side of the Rhine, too?
Yes, said Georges, reddening a little; wait, my friend.
They must have crossed the Saar on the bridges from Saint-Johann,
then. I heard that Uhlans had been signalled near the Saar, but I
didn't believe it. Uhlans in France? Georges, when are you fellows
going to chase them back?
This morningyou're just in time, as usual, said Georges, airily.
Do you want me to give you an idea of our positions? Listen, then:
we're massed along the frontier from Sierk and Metz to Hagenau and
Strasbourg. The Prussians lie at right angles to us, from Mainz to
Lauterburg and from Trier to Saarbrück. Except near Saarbrück they are
on their side of the boundary, let me tell you! Look! Now you can see
Forbach through the trees. We're there and we're at Saint-Avold and
Bitsch and Saargemünd, too. As for me, I'm with this damned rear-guard,
and I count tents and tin pails, and I raise the devil with stragglers
and generally ennui myself. I'm no gendarme! There's a regiment of
gendarmes five miles north, and I don't see why they can't do depot
duty and police this country.
The same childkicking, kicking, kicking! observed Jack. You
ought to thank your luck that you are a spectator for once. Give me
He raised the binoculars and levelled them at the valley.
Hello! I didn't see those troops before. Infantry, eh? And there
goes a regimentno, a brigadeno, a division, at least, of cavalry. I
see cuirassiers, too. Good heavens! Their breastplates take the sun
like heliographs! There are troops everywhere; there's an artillery
train on that road beyond Saint-Avold. Here, take the glasses.
Keep themI know where they are. What time is it, Jack? My
repeater is running wildas if it were chasing Prussians.
It's half-past nine; I had no idea that it was so late! Ha! there
goes a mass of infantry along the hill. See it? They're headed for
Saarbrück! Georges, what's that big marquee in the wheat-field?
The Emperor is there, said Georges, proudly; those troopers are
the Cuirassiers of the Hundred-Guards. See their white mantles? The
Prince Imperial is there, too. Poor little manhe looks so tired and
Jack kept his glasses fixed on the white dot that marked the
imperial headquarters, but the air was hazy and the distance too great
to see anything except specks and points of white and black, slowly
shifting, gathering, and collecting again in the grain-field, that
looked like a tiny square of pale gilt on the hill-top.
Suddenly a spot of white vapour appeared over the spire of
Saarbrück, then another, then three together, little round clouds that
hung motionless, wavered, split, and disappeared in the sunshine, only
to be followed by more round cloud clots. A moment later the dull
mutter of cannon disturbed the morning air, distant rumblings and faint
shocks that seemed to come from an infinite distance.
Jack handed back the binoculars and opened his own field-glasses in
silence. Neither spoke, but they instinctively leaned forward, side by
side, sweeping the panorama with slow, methodical movements, glasses
firmly levelled. And now, in the valley below, the long roads grew
black with moving columns of cavalry and artillery; the fields on
either side were alive with infantry, dim red squares and oblongs,
creeping across the landscape towards that line of silver, the Saar.
It's a flank movement on Wissembourg, said Jack, suddenly; or are
they swinging around to take Saint-Johann from the north?
Watch Saarbrück, muttered Georges between his teeth.
The slow seconds crept into minutes, the minutes into hours, as they
waited there, fascinated. Already the sharper rattle of musketry broke
out on the hills south of the Saar, and the projectiles fell fast in
the little river, beyond which the single spire of Saarbrück rose,
capped with the smoke of exploding shells.
Jack sat sketching in a canvas-covered book, raising his brown eyes
from time to time, or writing on a pad laid flat on his saddle-pommel.
The two young fellows conversed in low tones, laughing quietly or
smoking in absorbed silence, and even their subdued voices were louder
than the roll of the distant cannonade.
Suddenly the wind changed and their ears were filled with the hollow
boom of cannon. And now, nearer than they could have believed, the
crash of volley firing mingled with the whirring crackle of gatlings
and the spattering rattle of Montigny mitrailleuses from the Guard
Fichtre! said Georges, with a shrug, not only dancing, but music!
What are you sketching, Jack? Let me see. Hm! Pretty goodfor you.
You've got Forbach too near, though. I wonder what the Emperor is
doing. It seems too bad to drag that sick child of his out to see a lot
of men fall over dead. Poor little Lulu!
Kicking, kicking ever! murmured Jack; the same fierce Republican,
eh? I've no sympathy with youI'm too American.
Cheap cynicism, observed Georges. Hello!here's an aide-de-camp
with orders. Wait a second, will you? and the young fellow gathered
bridle and galloped out into the high-road, where his troopers stood
around an officer wearing the black-and-scarlet of the artillery. A
moment later a bugle began to sound the assembly; blue-clad cavalrymen
appeared as by magic from every thicket, every field, every hollow,
while below, in the nearer valley, another bugle, shrill and fantastic,
summoned the squadrons to the colours. Already the better part of a
regiment had gathered, four abreast, along the red road. Jack could see
their eagles now, gilt and circled with gilded wreaths.
He pocketed sketch-book and pad and turned his horse out through the
fields to the road.
We're off! laughed Georges. Thank God! and the devil take the
rear-guard! Will you ride with us, Jack? We've driven the Prussians
across the Saar.
He turned to his troopers and signalled the trumpeter. Trot! he
cried; and the squadron of hussars moved off down the hill in a whirl
of dust and flying pebbles.
Jack wheeled his horse and brought him alongside of Georges' wiry
It didn't last longeh, old chap? laughed the youthful hussar;
only from ten o'clock till nooneh? It's not quite noon yet. We're to
join the regiment, but where we're going after that I don't know. They
say the Prussians have quit Saarbrück in a hurry. I suppose we'll be in
Germany to-night, and thenvlan! vlan! eh, old fellow? We'll be out
for a long campaign. I'd like to see BerlinI wish I spoke German.
They say, said Jack, that most of the German officers speak
Bird of ill-omen, croaker, cease! What the devil do we want to
learn German for? I can say, 'Wein, Weib, und Gesang,' and that's
enough for any French hussar to know.
They had come up with the whole regiment now, which was moving
slowly down the valley, and Georges reported to his captain, who in
turn reported to the major, who presently had a confab with the
colonel. Then far away at the head of the column the mounted band began
the regimental march, a gay air with plenty of trombone and kettle-drum
in it, and the horses ambled and danced in sympathy, with an
accompaniment of rattling carbines and clinking, clashing
Quelle farandole! laughed Georges. Are you going all the way to
Berlin with us? Pst! Look! There go the Hundred-Guards! The Emperor is
coming back from the front. It's all over with the sausage-eaters, et
Far away, across the hills, the white mantles of the Hundred-Guards
flashed in the sunshine, rising, falling, as the horses plunged up the
hills. For a moment Jack caught a glimpse of a carriage in the
distance, a carriage preceded by outriders in crimson and gold, and
followed by a mass of glittering cuirassiers.
It's the Emperor. Listen, we are going to cheer, cried Georges. He
rose in his saddle and drew his sabre, and at the same instant a deep
roar shook the regiment to its centre
X. AN UNEXPECTED ENCOUNTER
It was a little after noon when the regiment halted on the
Saint-Avold highway, blocked in front by a train of Guard artillery,
and on either flank by columns of infantryvoltigeurs, red-legged
fantassins loaded with camp equipment, engineers in crimson and
bluish-black, and a whole battalion of Turcos, scarlet fez rakishly
hauled down over one ear, canvas zouave trousers tucked into canvas
leggings that fitted their finely moulded ankles like gloves.
Jack rested patiently on his horse, waiting for the road to be
cleared, and beside him sat Georges, chatting paternally with the giant
standard-bearer of the Turcos. The huge fellow laughed and showed his
dazzling teeth under the crisp jet beard, for Georges was talking to
him in his native tongueand it was many miles from Saint-Avold to
Oran. His standard, ornamented with the opened hand and spread
fingers, fluttered and snapped, and stood out straight in the valley
What's that advertisementthe hand of Providence? cried an
impudent line soldier, leaning on his musket.
Is it the hand that spanked Bismarck? yelled another. The Turcos
grinned under their scarlet head-dresses.
Ohé, Mustapha! shouted the line soldiers, Ohé, le Croissant! and
their band-master, laughing, raised his tasselled baton, and the band
burst out in a roll of drums and cymbals, Partons pour la Syrie.
Petite riffa! said the big standard-bearer, beamingwhich was
very good French for a Kabyle.
See here, Georges, said Jack, suddenly, I've promised to be back
at Morteyn before dark, and if your regiment is going to stick here
much longer I'm going on.
You want to send your despatches? asked Georges. You could ride
on to Saarbrück and telegraph from there. Will you? Then hunt up the
regiment later. We are to see a little of each other, are we not, old
Not if you're going Prussian-hunting across the Rhine. When you
come back crowned with bay and laurel and pretzels, you can stop at
They nodded and clasped hands.
Au revoir! laughed Georges. What shall I bring you from Berlin?
I'm no Herod, replied Jack; bring back your own feather-head
safelythat's all I ask. And with a smile and a gay salute the young
fellows parted, turning occasionally in their saddles to wave a last
adieu, until Jack's big horse disappeared among the dense platoons
For a quarter of an hour he sidled and pushed and shoved, and picked
a cautious path through section after section of field artillery,
seeing here and there an officer whom he knew, saluting cheerily,
making a thousand excuses for his haste to the good-natured
artillerymen, who only grinned in reply. As he rode, he noted with
misgivings that the cannon were not breech-loaders. He had recently
heard a good deal about the Prussian new model for field artillery, and
he had read, in the French journals, reports of their wonderful range
and flat trajectory. The cannon that he passed, with the exception of
the Montigny mitrailleuses and the American gatlings, were all
beautiful pieces, bronzed and engraved with crown and LN and eagle, but
for all their beauty they were only muzzle-loaders.
In a little while he came to the head of the column. The road in
front seemed to be clear enough, and he wondered why they had halted,
blocking half a division of infantry and cavalry behind them. There
really was no reason at all. He did not know it, but he had seen the
first case of that indescribable disease that raged in France in
1870-71that malady that cannot be termed paralysis or apathy or
inertia. It was all three, and it was malignant, for it came from a
befouled and degraded court, spread to the government, infected the
provinces, sparing neither prince nor peasant, until over the whole
fair land of France it crept and hung, a fetid, miasmic effluvia, till
the nation, hopeless, weary, despairing, bereft of nerve and sinew,
sank under it into utter physical and moral prostration.
This was the terrible fever that burned the best blood out of the
nationa fever that had its inception in the corruption of the empire,
its crisis at Sedan, its delirium in the Commune! The nation's
convalescence is slow but sure.
Jack touched spurs to his horse and galloped out into the Saarbrück
road. He passed a heavy, fat-necked general, sitting on his horse, his
dull, apoplectic eyes following the gestures of a staff-officer who was
tracing routes and railroads on a map nailed against a poplar-tree. He
passed other generals, deep in consultation, absently rolling
cigarettes between their kid-gloved fingers; and everywhere dragoon
patrols, gallant troopers in blue and garance, wearing steel helmets
bound with leopard-skin above the visors. He passed ambulances, too,
blue vehicles covered with framed yellow canvas, flying the red cross.
One of the field-surgeons gave him a brief outline of the casualties
and general result of the battle, and he thanked him and hastened on
towards Saarbrück, whence he expected to send his despatches to Paris.
But now the road was again choked with marching infantry as far as the
eye could see, dense masses, pushing along in an eddying cloud of red
dust that blew to the east and hung across the fields like smoke from a
locomotive. Men with stretchers were passing; he saw an officer, face
white as chalk, sunburned hands clinched, lying in a canvas
hand-stretcher, borne by four men of the hospital corps. Edging his way
to the meadow, he put his horse to the ditch, cleared it, and galloped
on towards a spire that rose close ahead, outlined dimly in the smoke
and dust, and in ten minutes he was in Saarbrück.
Up a stony street, desolate, deserted, lined with rows of closed
machine-shops, he passed, and out into another street where a regiment
of lancers was defiling amid a confusion of shouts and shrill commands,
the racket of drums echoing from wall to pavement, and the
ear-splitting flourish of trumpets mingled with the heavy rumble of
artillery and the cracking of leather thongs. Already the pontoons were
beginning to span the river Saar, already the engineers were swarming
over the three ruined bridges, jackets cast aside, picks rising and
fallingclink! clank! clink! clank!and the scrape of mortar and
trowel on the granite grew into an incessant sound, harsh and
discordant. The market square was impassable; infantry gorged every
foot of the stony pavement, ambulances creaked through the throng,
rolling like white ships in a tempest, signals set.
In the sea of faces around him he recognized the correspondent of
the London Times.
Hello, Williams! he called; where the devil is the telegraph?
The Englishman, red in the face and dripping with perspiration,
waved his hand spasmodically.
The military are using it; you'll have to wait until four o'clock.
Are you with us in this scrimmage? The fellows are down by the Hôtel
Post trying to mend the wires there. Archibald Grahame is with the
Jack turned in his saddle with a friendly gesture of thanks and
adieu. If he were going to send his despatch, he had no time to waste
in Saarbrückhe understood that at a glance. For a moment he thought
of going to the Hôtel Post and taking his chances with his brother
correspondents; then, abruptly wheeling his horse, he trotted out into
the long shed that formed one of an interminable series of coal
shelters, passed through it, gained the outer street, touched up his
horse, and tore away, headed straight for Forbach. For he had decided
that at Forbach was his chance to beat the other correspondents, and he
took the chance, knowing that in case the telegraph there was also
occupied he could still get back to Morteyn, and from there to
Saint-Lys, before the others had wired to their respective journals.
It was three o'clock when he clattered into the single street of
Forbach amid the blowing of bugles from a cuirassier regiment that was
just leaving at a trot. The streets were thronged with gendarmes and
cavalry of all arms, lancers in baggy, scarlet trousers and clumsy
schapskas weighted with gold cord, chasseurs à cheval in turquoise blue
and silver, dragoons, Spahis, remount-troopers, and here and there a
huge rider of the Hundred-Guards, glittering like a scaled dragon in
his splendid armour.
He pushed his way past the Hôtel Post and into the garden, where, at
a table, an old general sat reading letters.
With a hasty glance at him, Jack bowed, and asked permission to take
the unoccupied chair and use the table. The officer inclined his head
with a peculiarly graceful movement, and, without more ado, Jack sat
down, placed his pad flat on the table, and wrote his despatch in
FORBACH, 2d August, 1870.
The first shot of the war was fired this morning at ten
o'clock. At that hour the French opened on Saarbrück
with twenty-three pieces of artillery. The bombardment
continued until twelve. At two o'clock the Germans,
having evacuated Saarbrück, retreated across the Saar to
Saint-Johann. The latter village is also now being
evacuated; the French are pushing across the Saar by
means of pontoons; the three bridges are also being
Reports vary, but it is probable that the losses on the
German side will number four officers and seventy-nine
men killedwounded unknown. The French lost six
officers and eighty men killed; wounded list not
The Emperor was present with the Prince Imperial.
Leaving his pad on the table and his riding-crop and gloves over it,
he gathered up the loose leaves of his telegram and hastened across the
street to the telegraph office. For the moment the instrument was idle,
and the operator took his despatch, read it aloud to the censor, an
officer of artillery, who viséd it and nodded.
A longer despatch is to followcan I have the wires again in half
an hour? asked Jack.
Both operator and censor laughed and said, No promises, monsieur;
come and see. And Jack hastened back to the garden of the hôtel and
sat down once more under the trees, scarcely glancing at the old
officer beside him. Again he wrote:
The truth is that the whole affair was scarcely more
than a skirmish. A handful of the 2d Battalion of
Fusilliers, a squadron or two of Uhlans, and a battery
of Prussian artillery have for days faced and held in
check a whole French division. When they were attacked
they tranquilly turned a bold front to the French, made
a devil of a racket with their cannon, and slipped
across the frontier with trifling loss. If the French
are going to celebrate this as a victory, Europe will
He paused, frowning and biting his pencil. Presently he noticed that
several troopers of the Hundred-Guards were watching him from the
street; sentinels of the same corps were patrolling the garden, their
long, bayoneted carbines over their steel-bound shoulders. At the same
moment his eyes fell upon the old officer beside him. The officer
raised his head.
It was the Emperor, Napoleon III.
XI. KEEP THY FAITH
Jack was startled, and he instinctively stood up very straight, as
he always did when surprised.
Under the Emperor's crimson képi, heavy with gold, the old, old
eyes, half closed, peered at him, as a drowsy buzzard watches the sky,
with filmy, changeless gaze. His face was the colour of clay, the loose
folds of the cheeks hung pallid over a heavy chin; his lips were hidden
beneath a mustache and imperial, unkempt but waxed at the ends. From
the shadow of his crimson cap the hair straggled forward, half hiding
two large, wrinkled, yellow ears.
With a smile and a slight gesture exquisitely courteous, the Emperor
said: Pray do not allow me to interrupt you, monsieur; old soldiers
are of small account when a nation's newspapers wait.
Sire! protested Jack, flushing.
Napoleon III.'s eyes twinkled, and he picked up his letter again,
Such good news, monsieur, should not be kept waiting. You are
English? No? Then American? Oh!
The Emperor rolled a cigarette, gazing into vacancy with dreamy
eyes, narrow as slits in a mask. Jack sat down again, pencil in hand, a
little flustered and uncertain.
The Emperor struck a wax-match on a gold matchbox, leaning his elbow
on the table to steady his shaking hand. Presently he slowly crossed
one baggy red-trouser knee over the other and, blowing a cloud of
cigarette smoke into the sunshine, said: I suppose your despatch will
arrive considerably in advance of the telegrams of the other
correspondents, who seem to be blocked in Saarbrück?
He glanced obliquely at Jack, grave and impassible.
I trust so, sire, said Jack, seriously.
The Emperor laughed outright, crumpled the letter in his gloved
hand, tossed the cigarette away, and rose painfully, leaning for
support on the table.
Jack rose, too.
Monsieur, said Napoleon, playfully, as though attempting to
conceal intense physical suffering, I am in search of a mottofor
reasons. I shall have a regiment or two carry 'Saarbrück' on their
colours. What motto should they also carry?
Jack spoke before he intended ithe never knew why: Sire, the only
motto I know is this: 'Tiens ta Foy!'
The Man of December turned his narrow eyes on him. Then, bowing with
the dignity and grace that he, of all living monarchs, possessed, the
Emperor passed slowly through the garden and entered the little hôtel,
the clash of presented carbines ringing in the still air behind him.
Jack sat down, considerably exercised in his mind, thinking of what
he had said. The splendid old crusader's motto, Keep thy Faith, was
scarcely the motto to suggest to the man of the Coup d'État, the man of
Rome, the man of Mexico. The very bones of Victor Noir would twist in
their coffin at the words; and the lungs of that other Victor, the one
named Hugo, would swell and expand until the bellowing voice rang like
a Jersey fog-siren over the channel, over the ocean, till the seven
seas vibrated and the four winds swept it to the four ends of the
Very soberly he finished his despatch, picked up his gloves and
crop, and again walked over to the telegraph station.
The censor read the pencilled scrawl, smiled, drew a red pencil
through some of it, smiled again, and said: I trust it will not
inconvenience monsieur too much.
Not at all, said Jack, pleasantly.
He had not expected to get it all through, and he bowed and thanked
the censor, and went out to where his horse stood, cropping the tender
leaves of a spreading chestnut-tree.
It was five o'clock by his watch when he trotted out into the
Morteyn road, now entirely deserted except by a peasant or two,
staring, under their inverted hands, at the distant spire of Saarbrück.
Far away in the valley he caught glimpses of troops, glancing at
times over his shoulder, but the distant squares and columns on
hill-side and road seemed to be motionless. Already the thin,
glimmering line of the Saar had faded from view; the afternoon haze
hung blue on every hill-side; the woods were purple and vague as
streaks of cloud at evening.
He passed Saint-Avold far to the south, too far to see anything of
the division that lay encamped there; and presently he turned into the
river road that follows the Saar until the great highway to Metz cuts
it at an acute angle. From this cross-road he could see the railway,
where a line of freight-cars, drawn by a puffing locomotive, was
passingcars of all colours, marked on one end Elsass-Lothringen, on
the other Alsace-Lorraine.
He had brought with him a slice of bread and a flask of Moselle,
and, as he had had no time to eat since daybreak, he gravely began
munching away, drinking now and then from his flask and absently eying
the road ahead.
He thought of Lorraine and of his promise. If only all promises were
as easily kept! He had plenty of time to reach Morteyn before dark,
taking it at an easy canter, so he let his horse walk up the hills
while he swallowed his bread and wine and mused on war and love and
He had been riding in this abstracted study for some time, and had
lighted a pipe to aid his dreams, when, from the hill-side ahead, he
caught a glimpse of something that sparkled in the afternoon sunshine,
and he rose in his saddle and looked to see what it might be. After a
moment he made out five mounted troopers, moving about on the crest of
the hill, the sun slanting on stirrup metal and lance-tip. As he was
about to resume his meditations, something about these lancers caught
his eyesomething that did not seem quite righthe couldn't tell
what. Of course they were French lancers, they could be nothing else,
here in the rear of the army, but still they were rather odd-looking
lancers, after all.
The eyes of a mariner and the eyes of a soldier, or of a man who
foregathers with soldiers, are quick to detect strange rigging.
Therefore Jack unslung his glasses and levelled them on the group of
mounted men, who were now moving towards him at an easy lope, their
tall lances, butts in stirrups, swinging free from the arm-loops, their
horses' manes tossing in the hill breeze.
The next moment he seized his bridle, drove both spurs into his
horse, and plunged ahead, dropping pipe and flask in the road unheeded.
At the same time a hoarse shout came quavering across the fields, a
shout as harsh and sinister as the menacing cry of a hawk; but he
dashed on, raising a whirlwind of red dust. Now he could see them
plainly enough, their slim boots, their yellow facings and reverses,
the shiny little helmets with the square tops like inverted goblets,
the steel lances from which black and white pennons streamed.
They were Uhlans!
For a minute it was a question in his mind whether or not they would
be able to cut him off. A ditch in the meadow halted them for a second
or two, but they took it like chamois and came cantering up towards the
high-road, shouting hoarsely and brandishing their lances.
It was true that, being a non-combatant and a foreigner with a
passport, and, furthermore, an accredited newspaper correspondent, he
had nothing to fear except, perhaps, a tedious detention and a
long-winded explanation. But it was not that. He had promised to be at
Morteyn by night, and now, if these Uhlans caught him and marched him
off to their main post, he would certainly spend one night at least in
the woods or fields. A sudden anger, almost a fury, seized him that
these men should interfere with his promise; that they should in any
way influence his own free going and coming, and he struck his horse
with the riding-crop and clattered on along the highway.
Halt! shouted a voice, in Germanhalt! or we fire! and again in
French: Halt! We shall fire!
They were not far from the road now, but he saw that he could pass
Halt! halt! they shouted, breathless.
Instinctively he ducked, and at the same moment piff! piff! their
revolvers began, and two bullets sang past near enough to make his ears
Then they settled down to outride him; he heard their scurry and
jingle behind, and for a minute or two they held their own, but little
by little he forged ahead, and they began to shoot at him from their
saddles. One of them, however, had not wasted time in shooting; Jack
heard him, always behind, and now he seemed to be drawing nearer,
steadily but slowly closing up the gap between them.
Jack glanced back. There he was, a big, blond, bony Uhlan, lance
couched, clattering up the hill; but the others had already halted far
behind, watching the race from the bottom of the incline.
Tiens ta Foy, he muttered to himself, digging both spurs into his
horse; I'll not prove faithless to her first requestnot if I know
it. Good Lord! how near that Uhlan is!
Again he glanced behind, hesitated, and finally shouted: Go back! I
am no soldier! Go back!
I'll show you! bellowed the Uhlan. Stop your horse! or when I
Go back! cried Jack, angrily; go back or I'll fire! and he
whipped out his long Colt's and shook it above his head.
With a derisive yell the Uhlan banged awayonce, twice, three
timesand the bullets buzzed around Jack's ears till they sang. He
swung around, crimson with fury, and raised the heavy six-shooter.
By God! he shouted; then take it yourself! and he fired one
shot, standing up in his stirrups to steady his aim.
He heard a cry, he saw a horse rear straight up through the dust;
there was a gleam of yellow, a flash of a falling lance, a groan. Then,
as he galloped on, pale and tight-lipped, a riderless horse thundered
along behind him, mane tossing in the whirling dust.
With sudden instinct, Jack drew bridle and wheeled his trembling
mountthe riderless horse tore past himand he trotted soberly back
to the dusty heap in the road. It may have merely been the impulse to
see what he had done, it may have been a nobler impulse, for Jack
dismounted and bent over the fallen man. Then he raised him in his arms
by the shoulders and drew him towards the road-side. The Uhlan was
heavy, his spurs dragged in the dust. Very gently Jack propped him up
against a poplar-tree, looked for a moment at the wound in his head,
and then ran for his horse. It was high time, too; the other Uhlans
came racing and tearing uphill, hallooing like Cossacks, and he vaulted
into his saddle and again set spurs to his horse.
Now it was a ride for life; he understood that thoroughly, and
settled down to it, bending low in the saddle, bridle in one hand,
revolver in the other. And as he rode his sobered thoughts dwelt now on
Lorraine, now on the great lank Uhlan, lying stricken in the red dust
of the highway. He seemed to see him yet, blond, dusty, the sweat in
beads on his blanched cheeks, the crimson furrow in his colourless
scalp. He had seen, too, the padded yellow shoulder-knots bearing the
regimental number 11, and he knew that he had shot a trooper of the
11th Uhlans, and that the 11th Uhlan Regiment was Rickerl's regiment.
He set his teeth and stared fearfully over his shoulder. The pursuit
had ceased; the Uhlans, dismounted, were gathered about the tree under
which their comrade lay gasping. Jack brought his horse to a gallop, to
a canter, and finally to a trot. The horse was not winded, but it
trembled and reeked with sweat and lather.
Beyond him lay the forest of La Bruine, red in the slanting rays of
the setting sun. Beyond this the road swung into the Morteyn road, that
lay cool and moist along the willows that bordered the river Lisse.
The sun glided behind the woods as he reached the bridge that
crosses the Lisse, and the evening glow on feathery willow and dusty
alder turned stem and leaf to shimmering rose.
It was seven o'clock, and he knew that he could keep his word to
Lorraine. And now, too, he began to feel the fatigue of the day and the
strain of the last two hours. In his excitement he had not noticed that
two bullets had passed through his jacket, one close to the pocket, one
ripping the gun-pads at the collar. The horse, too, was bleeding from
the shoulder where a long raw streak traced the flight of a grazing
His face was pale and serious when, at evening, he rode into the
porte-cochère of the Château de Nesville and dismounted, stiffly. He
was sore, fatigued, and covered with dust from cap to spur; his eyes,
heavily ringed but bright, roamed restlessly from window to porch.
I've kept my faith, he muttered to himselfI've kept my faith,
anyway. But now he began to understand what might follow if he, a
foreigner and a non-combatant, was ever caught by the 11th regiment of
Uhlans. It sickened him when he thought of what he had done; he could
find no excuse for himselfnot even the shots that had come singing
about his ears. Who was he, a foreigner, that he should shoot down a
brave German cavalryman who was simply following instructions? His
promise to Lorraine? Was that sufficient excuse for taking human life?
Puzzled, weary, and profoundly sad, he stood thinking, undecided what
to do. He knew that he had not killed the Uhlan outright, but, whether
or not the soldier could recover, he was uncertain. He, who had seen
the horrors of naked, gaping wounds at Sadowahe who had seen the
pitiable sights of Oran, where Chanzy and his troops had swept the land
in a whirlwind of flame and swordhe, this same cool young fellow,
could not contemplate that dusty figure in the red road without a
shudder of self-accusationyes, of self-disgust. He told himself that
he had fired too quickly, that he had fired in anger, not in
self-protection. He felt sure that he could have outridden the Uhlan in
the end. Perhaps he was too severe on himself; he did not think of the
fusillade at his back, his coat torn by two bullets, the raw furrow on
his horse's shoulder. He only asked himself whether, to keep his
promise, he was justified in what he had done, and he felt that he had
acted hastily and in anger, and that he was a very poor specimen of
young men. It was just as well, perhaps, that he thought so; the
sentiment under the circumstances was not unhealthy. Moreover, he knew
in his heart that, under any conditions, he would place his duty to
Lorraine first of all. So he was puzzled and tired and unhappy when
Lorraine, her arms full of brook-lilies, came down the gravel drive and
said: You have kept your faith, you shall wear a lily for me; will
He could not meet her eyes, he could scarcely reply to her shy
When she saw the wounded horse she grieved over its smarting
shoulder, and insisted on stabling it herself.
Wait for me, she said; I insist. You must find a glass of wine
for yourself and go with old Pierre and dust your clothes. Then come
back; I shall be in the arbour.
He looked after her until she entered the stables, leading the
exhausted horse with a tenderness that touched him deeply. He felt so
mean, so contemptible, so utterly beneath the notice of this child who
stood grieving over his wounded horse.
A dusty and dirty and perspiring man is at a disadvantage with
himself. His misdemeanours assume exaggerated proportions, especially
when he is confronted with a girl in a cool gown that is perfumed by
blossoms pure and spotless and fragrant as the young breast that
So when he had found old Pierre and had followed him to a bath-room,
the water that washed the stains from brow and wrist seemed also to
purify the stain that is popularly supposed to resist earthly
ablutions. A clean body and a clean conscience is not a proverb, but
there are, perhaps, worse maxims in the world.
When he dried his face and looked into a mirror, his sins had
dwindled a bit; when Pierre dusted his clothes and polished his spurs
and boots, life assumed a brighter aspect. Fatigue, too, came to dull
that busybodythat tireless, gossiping gadaboutconscience. Fatigue
and remorse are enemies; slumber and the white flag of sleep stand
truce between them.
Pierre, he said; get a dog-cart; I am going to drive to Morteyn.
You will find me in the arbour on the lawn. Is the marquis visible?
No, Monsieur Jack, he is still locked up in the turret.
And the balloon?
Dame! Je n'en sais rien, monsieur.
So Jack walked down-stairs and out through the porch to the lawn,
where he saw Lorraine already seated in the arbour, placing the
long-stemmed lilies in gilded bowls.
It will be dark soon, he said, stepping up beside her. Thank you
for being good to my horse. Is it more than a scratch?
Noit is nothing. The horse shall stand in our stable until
to-morrow. Are you very tired? Sit beside me. Do you care to tell me
anything of what you did?
Do you care to know?
Of course, she said.
So he told her; not all, howevernot of that ride and the chase and
the shots from the saddle. But he spoke of the Emperor and the distant
battle that had seemed like a scene in a painted landscape. He told
her, too, of Georges Carrière.
Why, I know him, she said, brightening with pleasure; he is
Why, yes, said Jack; but for all he tried his voice sounded
Don't you think so? asked Lorraine, opening her blue eyes.
Again he tried to speak warmly of the friend he was really fond of,
and again he felt that he had failed. Why? He would not ask
himselfbut he knew. This shamed him, and he began an elaborate eulogy
on poor Georges, conscientious, self-effacing, but very, very
The maid beside him listened demurely. She also knew things that she
had not known a week ago. That possibly is why, like a little bird
stretching its new wings, she also tried her own resources, innocently,
timidly. And the torment of Jack began.
Monsieur Marche, do you think that Lieutenant Carrière may come to
He said he would; IerI hope he will. Don't you?
I? Oh yes. When will he come?
I don't know, said Jack, sulkily.
Oh! I thought you were very fond of him and that, of course, you
would know when
Nobody knows; if he's gone with the army into Germany it is
impossible to say when the war will end. Then he made a silly, boorish
observation which was, I hope for your sake he will come soon.
Oh, but he was ashamed of it now! The groom in the stable yonder
would have had better tact. Truly, it takes a man of gentle breeding to
demonstrate what under-breeding really can be. If Lorraine was shocked
she did not show it. A maid unloved, unloving, pardons nothing; a maid
with a lover invests herself with all powers and prerogatives, and the
greatest of these is the power to pardon. It is not only a power, it is
a need, a desire, an imperative necessity to pardon much in him who
loves much. This may be only because she also understands. Pardon and
doubt repel each other. So Lorraine, having grown wise in a week,
pardoned Jack mentally. Outwardly it was otherwise, and Jack became
aware that the atmosphere was uncomfortably charged with lightning. It
gleamed a moment in her eyes ere her lips opened.
Take your dog-cart and go back to Morteyn, said Lorraine, quietly.
Let me stay; I am ashamed, he said, turning red.
No; I do not wish to see you againfor a long, long
Her head was bent and her fingers were busy among the lilies in the
Do you send me away?
Because you are more than rude.
I am ashamed; forgive me.
She glanced up at him from her drooping lashes. She had pardoned him
No, she repeated, I cannot forgive.
There is the dog-cart, she whispered, almost breathlessly. So he
said good-night and went away.
She stood on the dim lawn, her arms full of blossoms, listening to
the sound of the wheels until they died away beyond the park gate.
She had turned whiter than the lilies at her breast. This was
because she was still very young and not quite as wise as some maidens.
For the same reason she left her warm bed that night to creep
through the garden and slip into the stable and lay her tear-stained
cheeks on the neck of Jack's horse.
XII. FROM THE FRONTIER
During the next three days, for the first time since he had known
her, he did not go to see Lorraine. How he stood ithow he ever
dragged through those miserable hourshe himself never could
The wide sculptured eyes of Our Lady of Morteyn above the shrine
seemed to soften when he went there to sit at her feet and stare at
nothing. It was not tears, but dew, that gathered under the stone lids,
for the night had grown suddenly hot, and everything lay moist in the
starlight. Night changed to midnight, and midnight to dawn, and dawn to
another day, cloudless, pitiless; and Jack awoke again, and his waking
thought was of Lorraine.
All day long he sat with the old vicomte, reading to him when he
wished, playing interminable games of chess, sick at heart with a
longing that almost amounted to anger. He could not tell his aunt. As
far as that went, the wise old lady had divined that their first
trouble had come to them in all the appalling and exaggerated
proportions that such troubles assume, but she smiled gently to
herself, for she, too, had been young, and the ways of lovers had been
her ways, and the paths of love she had trodden, and she had drained
love's cup at bitter springs.
That night she came to his bedside and kissed him, saying:
To-morrow you shall carry my love and my thanks to Lorraine for her
care of the horse.
I can't, muttered Jack.
Pooh! said Madame de Morteyn, and closed the bedroom door; and
Jack slept better that night.
It was ten o'clock the next morning before he appeared at breakfast,
and it was plain, even to the thrush on the lawn outside, that he had
bestowed an elaboration upon his toilet that suggested either a duel or
Madame de Morteyn hid her face, for she could not repress the smile
that tormented her sweet mouth. Even the vicomte said: Oh! You're not
off for Paris, Jack, are you?
After breakfast he wandered moodily out to the terrace, where his
aunt found him half an hour later, mooning and contemplating his
Then you are not going to ride over to the Château de Nesville?
she asked, trying not to laugh.
Oh! he said, with affected surprise, did you wish me to go to the
Yes, Jack dear, if you are not too much occupied. She could not
repress the mischievous accent on the too. Are you going to drive?
No; I shall walkunless you are in a hurry.
No more than you are, dear, she said, gravely.
He looked at her with sudden suspicion, but she was not smiling.
Very well, he said, gloomily.
About eleven o'clock he had sauntered half the distance down the
forest road that leads to the Château de Nesville. His heart seemed to
tug and tug and urge him forward; his legs refused obedience; he
sulked. But there was the fresh smell of loam and moss and aromatic
leaves, the music of the Lisse on the pebbles, the joyous chorus of
feathered creatures from every thicket, and there were the antics of
the giddy young rabbits that scuttled through the warrens, leaping,
tumbling, sitting up, lop-eared and impudent, or diving head-first into
Under the stems of a thorn thicket two cock-pheasants were having a
difference, and were enthusiastically settling that difference in the
approved method of game-cocks. He lingered to see which might win, but
a misstep and a sudden crack of a dry twig startled them, and they
withdrew like two stately but indignant old gentlemen who had been
subjected to uncalled-for importunities.
Presently he felt cheerful enough to smoke, and he searched in every
pocket for his pipe. Then he remembered that he had dropped it when he
dropped his silver flask, there in the road where he had first been
startled by the Uhlans.
This train of thought depressed him again, but he resolutely put it
from his mind, lighted a cigarette, and moved on.
Just ahead, around the bend in the path, lay the grass-grown
carrefour where he had first seen Lorraine. He thought of her as he
remembered her then, flushed, indignant, blocking the path while the
map-making spy sneered in her face and crowded past her, still
sneering. He thought, too, of her scarlet skirt, and the little velvet
bodice and the silver chains. He thought of her heavy hair,
dishevelled, glimmering in her eyes. At the same moment he turned the
corner; the carrefour lay before him, overgrown, silent, deserted. A
sudden tenderness filled his heartah, how we love those whom we have
protected!and he stood for a moment in the sunshine with bowed head,
living over the episode that he could never forget. Every word, every
gesture, the shape of the very folds in her skirt, he remembered; yes,
and the little triangular tear, the broken silver chain, the ripped
And she, in her innocence, had promised to see him there at the
river-bank below. He had never gone, because that very night she had
come to Morteyn, and since then he had seen her every day at her own
As he stood he could hear the river Lisse whispering, calling him.
He would gojust to see the hidden rendezvousfor old love's sake; it
was a step from the path, no more.
Then that strange instinct, that sudden certainty that comes at
times to all, seized him, and he knew that Lorraine was there by the
river; he knew it as surely as though he saw her before him.
And she was there, standing by the still water, silver chains
drooping over the velvet bodice, scarlet skirt hanging brilliant and
heavy as a drooping poppy in the sun.
Dear me, she said, very calmly, I thought you had quite forgotten
me. Why have you not been to the Château, Monsieur Marche?
And this, after she had told him to go away and not to return! Wise
in the little busy ways of the world of men, he was uneducated in the
ways of a maid.
Therefore he was speechless.
And now, she said, with the air of an early Christian tête-à-tête
with Neroand now you do not speak to me? Why?
Because, he blurted out, I thought you did not care to have me!
Surprise, sorrow, grief gave place to pity in her eyes.
What a silly man! she observed. I am going to sit down on the
moss. Are you intending to call upon my father? He is still in the
turret. If you can spare a moment I will tell you what he is doing.
Yes, he had a moment to sparenot many momentshe hoped she would
understand that!but he had one or two little ones at her disposal.
She read this in his affected hesitation. She would make him pay
dearly for it. Vengeance should be hers!
He stood a moment, eying the water as though it had done him
personal injury. Then he sat down.
The balloon is almost ready, steering-gear and all, she said. I
saw papa yesterday for a moment; I tried to get him to stay with me,
but he could not.
She looked wistfully across the river.
Jack watched her. His heart ached for her, and he bent nearer.
Forgive me for causing you any unhappiness, he said. Will you?
Oh! where was her vengeance now? So far beneath her!
These four days have been the most wretched days to me, the most
unhappy I have ever lived, he said. The emotion in his voice brought
the soft colour to her face. She did not answer; she would have if she
had wished to check him.
I will never again, as long as I live, give you one
moment'sdispleasure. He was going to say pain, but he dared not.
Still she was silent, her idle white fingers clasped in her lap, her
eyes fixed on the river. Little by little the colour deepened in her
cheeks. It was when she felt them burning that she spoke, nervously,
scarcely comprehending her own words: II also was unhappyI was
silly; we both are very sillydon't you think so? We are such good
friends that it seems absurd to quarrel as we have. I have forgotten
everything that was unpleasantit was so little that I could not
remember if I tried! Could you? I am very happy now; I am going to
listen while you amuse me with stories. She curled up against a tree
and smiled at himat the love in his eyes which she dared not read,
which she dared not acknowledge to herself. It was there, plain enough
for a wilful maid to see; it burned under his sun-tanned cheeks, it
softened the firm lips. A thrill of contentment passed through her. She
was satisfied; the world was kind again.
He lay at her feet, pulling blades of grass from the bank and idly
biting the whitened stems. The voice of the Lisse was in his ears, he
breathed the sweet wood perfume and he saw the sunlight wrinkle and
crinkle the surface ripples where the water washed through the sedges,
and the long grasses quivered and bent with the glittering current.
Tell you stories? he asked again.
Yesstories that never have really happenedbut that should have
Then listen! There was oncemany, many years agoa maid and a
Good graciousbut that story is as old as life itself! He did not
realize it, nor did she. It seemed new to them.
The sun of noon was moving towards the west when they remembered
that they were hungry.
You shall come home and lunch with me; will you? Perhaps papa may
be there, too, she said. This hope, always renewed with every dawn,
always fading with the night, lived eternal in her breastthis hope,
that one day she should have her father to herself.
Will you come? she asked, shyly.
Yes. Do you know it will be our first luncheon together?
Oh, but you brought me an ice at the dance that evening; don't you
Yes, but that was not a supperI mean a luncheon togetherwith a
table between us andyou know what I mean.
I don't, she said, smiling dreamily; so he knew that she did.
They hurried a little on the way to the Château, and he laughed at
her appetite, which made her laugh, too, only she pretended not to like
At the porch she left him to change her gown, and slipped away
up-stairs, while he found old Pierre and was dusted and fussed over
until he couldn't stand it another moment. Luckily he heard Lorraine
calling her maid on the porch, and he went to her at once.
Papa says you may lunch hereI spoke to him through the key-hole.
It is all ready; will you come?
A serious-minded maid served them with salad and thin
Tea! exclaimed Jack.
Isn't that very American? asked Lorraine, timidly. I thought you
might like it; I understood that all Americans drank tea.
They do, he said, gravely; it is a terrible habita national
vicebut they do.
Now you are laughing at me! she cried. Marianne, please to remove
that tea! No, no, I won't leave itand you can suffer if you wish. And
to think that I
They were both laughing so that the maid's face grew more serious,
and she removed the teapot as though she were bearing some strange and
poisonous creature to a deserved doom.
As they sat opposite each other, smiling, a little flurried at
finding themselves alone at table together, but eating with the
appetites of very young lovers, the warm summer wind, blowing through
the open windows, bore to their ears the songs of forest birds. It bore
another sound, too; Jack had heard it for the last two hours, or had
imagined he heard ita low, monotonous vibration, now almost distinct,
now lost, now again discernible, but too vague, too indefinite to be
anything but that faint summer harmony which comes from distant
breezes, distant movements, mingling with the stir of drowsy field
insects, half torpid in the heat of noon.
Still it was always there; and now, turning his ear to the window,
he laid down knife and fork to listen.
I have also noticed it, said Lorraine, answering his unasked
Do you hear it now?
Yesmore distinctly now.
A few moments later Jack leaned back in his chair and listened
Yes, said Lorraine, it seems to come nearer. What is it?
It comes from the southeast. I don't know, he answered.
They rose and walked to the window. She was so near that he breathed
the subtle fragrance of her hair, the fresh sweetness of her white
gown, that rustled beside him.
Hark! whispered Lorraine; I can almost hear voices in the
breezesthe murmur of voices, as if millions of tiny people were
calling us from the ends and outer edges of the earth.
There is a throbbing, too. Do you notice it?
Yeslike one's heart at night. Ah, now it comes neareroh,
nearer! nearer! Oh, what can it be?
He knew now; he knew that indefinable battlerumour that steals
into the senses long before it is really audible. It is not a
soundnot even a vibration; it is an immense foreboding that weights
the air with prophecy.
From the south and east, he repeated; from the Landesgrenze.
From the frontier, he said again. From the river Lauter and from
What is it? she whispered, close beside him.
Yes, it was cannonthey knew it nowcannon throbbing, throbbing,
throbbing along the horizon where the crags of the Geisberg echoed the
dull thunder and shook it far out across the vineyards of Wissembourg,
where the heights of Kapsweyer, resounding, hurled back the echoes to
the mountains in the north.
Whywhy does it seem to come nearer? asked Lorraine.
Nearer? He knew it had come nearer, but how could he tell her what
It is a battleis it not? she asked again.
Yes, a battle.
She said nothing more, but stood leaning along the wall, her white
forehead pressed against the edge of the raised window-sash. Outside,
the little birds had grown suddenly silent; there was a stillness that
comes before a rain; the leaves on the shrubbery scarcely moved.
And now, nearer and nearer swelled the rumour of battle, undulating,
quavering over forest and hill, and the muttering of the cannon grew to
a rumble that jarred the air.
As currents in the upper atmosphere shift and settle north, south,
east, west, so the tide of sound wavered and drifted, and set westward,
flowing nearer and nearer and louder and louder, until the hoarse,
crashing tumult, still vague and distant, was cut by the sharper notes
of single cannon that spoke out, suddenly impetuous, in the dull din.
The whole Château was awake now; maids, grooms, valets, gardeners,
and keepers were gathering outside the iron grille of the park,
whispering together and looking out across the fields.
There was nothing to see except pastures and woods, and low-rounded
hills crowned with vineyards. Nothing more except a single strangely
shaped cloud, sombre, slender at the base, but spreading at the top
like a palm.
I am going up to speak to your father, said Jack, carelessly; may
Interrupt her father! Lorraine fairly gasped.
Stay here, he added, with the faintest touch of authority in his
tone; and, before she could protest, he had sped away up the staircase
and round and round the long circular stairs that led to the single
A little out of breath, he knocked at the door which faced the top
step. There was no answer. He rapped again, impatiently. A voice
startled him: Lorraine, I am busy!
Open, called Jack; I must see you!
I am busy! replied the marquis. Irritation and surprise were in
Open! called Jack again; there is no time to lose!
Suddenly the door was jerked back and the marquis appeared, pale,
handsome, his eyes cold and blue as icebergs.
Monsieur Marche he began, almost discourteously.
Pardon, interrupted Jack; I am going into your room. I wish to
look out of that turret window. Come alsoyou must know what to
Astonished, almost angry, the Marquis de Nesville followed him to
the turret window.
Oh, said Jack, softly, staring out into the sunshine, it is time,
is it not, that we knew what was going on along the frontier? Look
On the horizon vast shapeless clouds lay piled, gigantic coils and
masses of vapour, dark, ominous, illuminated by faint, pallid lights
that played under them incessantly; and over all towered one tall
column of smoke, spreading above like an enormous palm-tree. But this
was not all. The vast panorama of hill and valley and plain, cut by
roads that undulated like narrow satin ribbons on a brocaded surface,
was covered with moving objects, swarming, inundating the landscape. To
the south a green hill grew black with the human tide, to the north
long lines and oblongs and squares moved across the land, slowly,
almost imperceptiblybut they were moving, always moving east.
It is an army coming, said the marquis.
It is a rout, said Jack, quietly.
The marquis moved suddenly, as though to avoid a blow.
What troops are those? he asked, after a silence.
It is the French army, replied Jack. Have you not heard the
Nomy machines make some noise when I'm working. I hear it now.
What is that clouda fire?
It is the battle cloud.
And the smoke on the horizon?
The smoke from the guns. They are fighting beyond Saarbrückyes,
beyond Pfalzburg and Wörth; they are fighting beyond the Lauter.
I think so. They are nearer now. Monsieur de Nesville, the battle
has gone against the French.
How do you know? demanded the marquis, harshly.
I have seen battles. One need only listen and look at the army
yonder. They will pass Morteyn; I think they will pass for miles
through the country. It looks to me like a retreat towards Metz, but I
am not sure. The throngs of troops below are fugitives, not the regular
geometrical figures that you see to the north. Those are regiments and
divisions moving towards the west in good order.
The two men stepped back into the room and faced each other.
After the rain the flood, after the rout the invasion, said Jack,
firmly. You cannot know it too quickly. You know it now, and you can
make your plans.
He was thinking of Lorraine's safety when he spoke, but the marquis
turned instinctively to a mass of machinery and chemical paraphernalia
You will have your hands full, said Jack, repressing an angry
sneer; if you wish, my aunt De Morteyn will charge herself with
Mademoiselle de Nesville's safety.
True, Lorraine might go to Morteyn, murmured the marquis,
absently, examining a smoky retort half filled with a silvery heap of
Then, may I drive her over after dinner?
Yes, replied the other, indifferently.
Jack started towards the stairs, hesitated, and turned around.
Your inventions are not safe, of course, if the German army comes.
Do you need my help?
My inventions are my own affair, said the marquis, angrily.
Jack flushed scarlet, swung on his heels, and marched out of the
room and down the stairs. On the lower steps he met Lorraine's maid,
and told her briefly to pack her mistress's trunks for a visit to
Lorraine was waiting for him at the window where he had left her, a
scared, uncertain little maid in truth.
The battle is very near, isn't it? she asked.
No, miles away yet.
Did you speak to papa? Did he send word to me? Does he want me?
He found it hard to tell her what message her father had sent, but
I am to go to Morteyn? Oh, I cannot! I cannot! Papa will be alone
here! she said, aghast.
Perhaps you had better see him, he said, almost bitterly.
She hurried away up the stairs; he heard her little eager feet on
the stone steps that led to the turret; climbing up, up, up, until the
sound was lost in the upper stories of the house. He went out to the
stables and ordered the dog-cart and a wagon for her trunks. He did not
fear that this order might be premature, for he thought he had not
misjudged the Marquis de Nesville. And he had not, for, before the cart
was ready, Lorraine, silent, pale, tearless, came noiselessly down the
stairs holding her little cloak over one arm.
I am to stay a week, she said; he does not want me. She added,
hastily, He is so busy and worried, and there is much to be done, and
if the Prussians should come he must hide the balloon and the box of
plans and formula
I know, said Jack, tenderly; it will lift a weight from his mind
when he knows you are safe with my aunt.
He is so good, he thinks only of my safety, faltered Lorraine.
Come, said Jack, in a voice that sounded husky; the horse is
waiting; I am to drive you. Your maid will follow with the trunks this
evening. Are you ready? Give me your cloak. Therenow, are you ready?
He aided her to mount the dog-carther light touch was on his arm.
He turned to the groom at the horse's head, sprang to the seat, and
nodded. Lorraine leaned back and looked up at the turret where her
Allons! En route! cried Jack, cheerily, snapping his ribbon-decked
At the same instant a horseless cavalryman, gray with dust and
dripping with blood and sweat, staggered out on the road from among the
trees. He turned a deathly face to theirs, stopped, tottered, and
Georges! cried Jack, amazed.
Give me a horse, for God's sake! he gasped. I've just killed
mine. II must get to Metz by midnight
Lorraine and Jack sprang to the road from opposite sides of the
vehicle; Georges' drawn face was stretched into an attempt at a smile
which was ghastly, for the stiff, black blood that had caked in a
dripping ridge from his forehead to his chin cracked and grew moist and
scarlet, and his hollow cheeks whitened under the coat of dust. But he
drew himself up by an effort and saluted Lorraine with a punctilious
deference that still had a touch of jauntiness to itthe jauntiness of
a youthful cavalry officer in the presence of a pretty woman.
Old Pierre, who had witnessed the episode from the butler's window,
came limping down the path, holding a glass and a carafe of brandy.
You are right, Pierre, said Jack. Georges, drink it up, old
fellow. There, now you can stand on those pins of yours. What's thata
No, a scratch from an Uhlan's lance-tip. Cut like a razor, didn't
it? I've just killed my horse, trying to get over a ditch. Can you give
me a mount, Jack?
There isn't a horse in the stable that can carry you to Metz, said
Lorraine, quietly; Diable is lame and Porthos is not shod. I can give
you my pony.
Can't you get a train? asked Jack, astonished.
No, the Uhlans are in our rear, everywhere. The railroad is torn
up, the viaducts smashed, the wires cut, and general deuce to pay. I
ran into an Uhlan or twoyou notice it perhaps, he added, with a grim
smile. Could you drive me to Morteyn? Do you think the vicomte would
lend me a horse?
Of course he would, said Jack; come, thenthere is room for
three, with an anxious glance at Lorraine.
Indeed, there is always room for a soldier of France! cried
Lorraine. At the same moment she instinctively laid one hand lightly on
Jack's arm. Their eyes spoke for an instantthe generous appeal that
shone in hers was met and answered by a response that brought the
delicate colour into her cheeks.
Let me hang on behind, pleaded GeorgesI'm so dirty, you know.
But they bundled him into the seat between them, and Jack touched his
beribboned whip to the horse's ears, and away they went speeding over
the soft forest road in the cool of the fading day; old Pierre, bottle
and glass in hand, gaping after them and shaking his gray head.
Jack began to fire volleys of questions at the young hussar as soon
as they entered the forest, and poor Georges replied as best he could.
I don't know very much about it; I was detached yesterday and taken
on General Douay's staff. We were at Wissembourgyou know that little
town on the Lauter where the vineyards cover everything and the
mountains are pretty steep to the north and west. All I know is this:
about six o'clock this morning our outposts on the hills to the south
began banging way in a great panic. They had been attacked, it seems,
by the 4th Bavarian Division, Count Bothmer's, I believe. Our posts
fell back to the town, where the 1st Turcos reinforced them at the
railroad station. The artillery were at it on our left, too, and there
was a most infernal racket. The next thing I saw was those crazy
Bavarians, with their little flat drums beating, and their fur-crested
helmets all bobbing, marching calmly up the Geisberg. Jack, those
fellows went through the vineyards like fiends astride a tempest. That
was at two o'clock. The Prussian Crown-Prince rode into the town an
hour before; we couldn't hold itHeaven knows why. That's all I
sawexcept the death of our general.
General Douay? cried Lorraine, horrified.
Yes, he was killed about ten o'clock in the morning. The town was
stormed through the Hagenauer Thor by the Bavarians. After that we
still held the Geisberg and the Château. You should have seen it when
we left it. I'll say it was a butcher's shambles. I'd say more if
Mademoiselle de Nesville were not here. He was trying hard to bear
upto speak lightly of the frightful calamity that had overwhelmed
General Abel Douay and his entire division.
The fight at the Château was worth seeing, said Georges, airily.
They went at it with drums beating and flags flying. Oh, but they fell
like leaves in the gardens, therethe paths and shrubbery were
littered with them, dead, dying, gasping, crawling about, like singed
flies under a lamp. We had them beaten, too, if it hadn't been for
their General von Kirchbach. He stood in the gardenhe'd been hit,
tooand bawled for the artillery. Then they came at us again in three
divisions. Where they got all their regiments, I don't know, but their
7th Grenadier Guards were there, and their 47th, 58th, 59th, 80th, and
87th regiments of the line, not counting a Jäger battalion and no end
of artillery. They carried the Three Poplarsa hilland they began
devastating everything. We couldn't face their fireI don't know why,
Jack; it breaks my heart when I say it, but we couldn't hold them. Then
they began howling for cannon, and, of course, that settled the
Château. The town was in flames when I left.
After a silence, Jack asked him whether it was a rout or a retreat.
We're falling back in very decent order, said Georges,
eagerlyreally, we are. Of course, there were some troops that got
into a sort of panicthe Uhlans are annoying us considerably. The
Turcos fought well. We fairly riddled the 58th Prussianstheir king's
regiment, you know. It was the 2d Bavarian Corps that did for us. We
will meet them later.
Where are you goingto Metz? inquired Jack, soberly.
Yes; I've a packet for BazaineI don't know what. They're trying
to reach him by wire, but those confounded Uhlans are destroying
everything. My dear fellow, you need not worry; we have been checked,
that's all. Our promenade to Berlin is postponed in deference to King
Wilhelm's earnest wishes.
They all tried to laugh a little, and Jack chirped to his horse, but
even that sober animal seemed to feel the depression, for he responded
in fits and starts and jerks that were unpleasant and jarring to
Georges' aching head.
The sky had become covered with bands of wet-looking clouds, the
leaves of the forest stirred noiselessly on their stems. Along the
river willows quivered and aspens turned their leaves white side to the
sky. In the querulous notes of the birds there was a prophecy of
storms, the river muttered among its hollows of floods and tempests.
Suddenly a great sombre raven sailed to the road, alighted, sidled
back, and sat fearlessly watching them.
Lorraine shivered and nestled closer to Jack.
Oh, she murmured, I never saw one beforeexcept in pictures.
They belong in the snowthey have no business here, said Jack;
they always make me think of those pictures of Russiathe retreat of
the Grand Army, you know.
Wolves and ravens, said Lorraine, in a low voice; I know why they
come to us here in FranceMonsieur Marche, did I not tell you that day
in the carrefour?
Yes, he answered; do you really think you are a prophetess?
Did you see wolves here? asked Georges.
Yes; before war was declared. I told Monsieur Marcheit is a
legend of our country. He, of course, laughed at it. I also do not
believe everything I am toldbutI don't knowI have alway believed
that, ever since I was, oh, very, very smalllike that. She held one
small gloved hand about twelve inches from the floor of the cart.
At such a height and such an age it is natural to believe
anything, said Jack. I, too, accepted many strange doctrines then.
You are laughing again, said Lorraine.
So they passed through the forest, trying to be cheerful, even
succeeding at times. But Georges' face grew paler every minute, and his
smile was so painful that Lorraine could not bear it and turned her
head away, her hand tightening on the box-rail alongside.
As they were about to turn out into the Morteyn road, where the
forest ended, Jack suddenly checked the horse and rose to his feet.
What is it? asked Lorraine. Oh, I see! Oh, look!
The Morteyn road was filled with infantry, solid, plodding columns,
pressing fast towards the west. The fields, too, were black with men,
engineers, weighted down with their heavy equipments, resting in long
double rows, eyes vacant, heads bent. Above the thickets of rifles
sweeping past, mounted officers sat in their saddles, as though carried
along on the surface of the serried tide. Standards fringed with gold
slanted in the last rays of the sun, sabres glimmered, curving upward
from the thronged rifles, and over all sounded the shuffle, shuffle of
worn shoes in the dust, a mournful, monotonous cadence, a hopeless
measure, whose burden was despair, whose beat was the rhythm of
Oh, but it cut Lorraine to see their boyish faces, dusty, gaunt,
hollow-eyed, turn to her and turn away without a change, without a
shade of expression. The mask of blank apathy stamped on every visage
almost terrified her. On they came, on, on, and still on, under a
forest of shining rifles. A convoy of munitions crowded in the rear of
the column, surrounded by troopers of the train-des-equipages; then
followed more infantry, then cavalry, dragoons, who sat listlessly in
their high saddles, carbines bobbing on their broad backs, whalebone
plumes matted with dust.
Georges rose painfully from his seat, stepped to the side, and
climbed down into the road. He felt in the breast of his dolman for the
packet, adjusted his sabre, and turned to Lorraine.
There is a squadron of the Remount Cavalry over in that meadowI
can get a horse there, he said. Thank you, Jack. Good-by,
Mademoiselle de Nesville, you have been more than generous.
You can have a horse from the Morteyn stables, said Jack; my dear
fellow, I can't bear to see you goto think of your riding to Metz
It's got to be done, you know, said Georges. He bowed; Lorraine
stretched out her hand and he gravely touched it with his fingers. Then
he exchanged a nervous gripe with Jack, and turned away hurriedly,
crowding between the passing dragoons, traversing the meadows until
they lost him in the throng.
We cannot get to the house by the road, said Jack; we must take
the stable path; and he lifted the reins and turned the horse's head.
The stable road was narrow, and crossed with sprays of tender
leaves. The leaves touched Lorraine's eyes, they rubbed across her fair
brow, robbing her of single threads of glittering hair, they brushed a
single bright tear from her cheeks and held it, glimmering like a drop
Behold the end of the world, said LorraineI am weeping.
He turned and looked into her eyes.
Is that strange? he asked, gently.
Yes; I have often wished to cry. I never couldexcept once
beforeand that was four days ago.
The day of their quarrel! He thrilled from head to foot, but dared
Four days ago, said Lorraine again. She thought of herself gliding
from her bed to seek the stable where Jack's horse stood, she thought
of her hot face pressed to the wounded creature's neck. Then, suddenly
aware of what she had confessed, she leaned back and covered her face
with her hands.
Lorraine! he whispered, brokenly.
But they were already at the Château.
Lorraine, my child! cried Madame de Morteyn, leaning from the
terrace. Her voice was drowned in the crash of drums rolling, rolling,
from the lawn below, and the trumpets broke out in harsh chorus,
shrill, discordant, terrible.
The Emperor had arrived at Morteyn.
XIV. THE MARQUIS MAKES HIMSELF
The Emperor dined with the Vicomte and Madame de Morteyn that
evening in the great dining-room. The Château, patrolled by doubled
guards of the Cent Gardes, was surrounded by triple hedges of bayonets
and a perfect pest of police spies, secret agents, and flunkys. In the
breakfast-room General Frossard and his staff were also dining; and
up-stairs, in a small gilded salon, Jack and Lorraine ate soberly,
tenderly cared for by the old house-keeper.
Outside they could hear the steady tramp of passing infantry along
the dark road, the clank of artillery, and the muffled trample of
cavalry. Frossard's Corps was moving rapidly, its back to the Rhine.
I saw the Prince Imperial, said Jack; he was in the conservatory,
writing to his mother, the Empress. Have you ever seen him,
Mademoiselle de Nesville? He is young, really a mere child, but he
looks very manly in his uniform. He has that same charm, that same
delicate, winning courtesy that the Emperor is famous for. But he looks
so pale and tiredlike a school-boy in the Lycée.
It would have been unfortunate if the Emperor had stopped at the
Château de Nesville, said Lorraine, sipping her small glass of
Moselle; papa hates him.
Many Royalists do.
It is not that only; there is something elsesomething that I
don't know about. It concerns my brother who died many years ago,
before I was born. Have I never spoken of my brother? Has papa never
No, said Jack, gently.
Well, when my brother was alive, our family lived in Paris. That is
all I know, except that my brother died shortly before the empire was
proclaimed, and papa and mamma came to our country-place here, where I
was born. René'smy brother'sdeath had something to do with my
father's hatred of the empire, I know that. But papa will never speak
of it to me, except to tell me that I must always remember that the
Emperor has been the curse of the De Nesvilles. Hark! Hear the troops
passing. Why do they never cheer their Emperor?
They cheered him at SaarbrückI heard them. You are not eating;
are you tired?
A little. I shall go with Marianne, I think; I am sleepy. Are you
going to sit up? Do you think we can sleep with the noise of the horses
passing? I should like to see the Emperor at table.
Wait, said Jack; I'll go down and find out whether we can't slip
into the ballroom.
Then I'll go too, said Lorraine, rising. Marianne, stay here; I
will return in a moment; and she slipped after Jack, down the broad
staircase and out to the terrace, where a huge cuirassier officer stood
in the moonlight, his straight sabre shimmering, his white mantle open
over the silver breastplate.
The ballroom was brilliantly lighted, the gilded canapés and chairs
were covered with officers in every conceivable uniform, lounging,
sprawling, chatting, and gesticulating, or pulling papers and maps over
the floor. A general traced routes across the map at his feet with the
point of a naked sword; an officer of dragoons, squatting on his
haunches, followed the movement of the sword-point and chewed an
unlighted cigarette. Officers were coming and going constantly,
entering by the hallway and leaving through the door-like windows that
swung open to the floor. The sinister face of a police-spy peered into
the conservatory at intervals, where a slender, pale-faced boy sat,
clothed in a colonel's uniform, writing on a carved table. It was the
Prince Imperial, back from Saarbrück and his baptism of fire, back
also from the Spicheren and the disaster of Wörth. He was writing to
his mother, that unhappy, anxious woman who looked every day from the
Tuileries into the streets of a city already clamorous, already
sullenly suspicious of its Emperor and Empress.
The boy's face was beautiful. He raised his head and sat silently
biting his pen, eyes wandering. Perhaps he was listening to the retreat
of Frossard's Corps through the fair province of Lorrainea province
that he should never live to see again. A few months more, a few
battles, a few villages in flames, a few cities ravaged, a few thousand
corpses piled from the frontier to the Loireand then, what? Why, an
emperor the less and an emperor the more, and a new name for a
provincethat is all.
His delicate, high-bred face fell; he shaded his sad eyes with one
thin hand and wrote againall that a good son writes to a mother, all
that a good soldier writes to a sovereign, all that a good prince
writes to an empress.
Oh, what sad eyes! whispered Lorraine; he is too young to see
He may see worse, said Jack. Come, shall we walk around the lawn
to the dining-room?
They descended the dark steps, her arm resting lightly on his, and
he guided her through a throng of gossiping cavalrymen and hurrying but
polite officers towards the western wing of the Château, the trample of
the passing army always in their ears.
As he was about to cross the drive, a figure stepped from the shadow
of the porte-cochèrea man in a rough tweed suit, who lifted his
wide-awake politely and asked Jack if he was not English.
American, said Jack, guardedly.
The man was apparently much relieved. He made a frank, manly apology
for his intrusion, looked appealingly at Lorraine, and said, with a
laugh: The fact is, I'm astray in the wrong camp. I rode out from the
Spicheren and got mixed in the roads, and first I knew I fell in with
Frossard's Corps, and I can't get away. I thought you were an
Englishman; you're American, it seems, and really I may venture to feel
that there is hope for memay I not?
Why, yes, said Jack; whatever I can do, I'll do gladly.
Then let me observe without hesitation, continued the man, smiling
under his crisp mustache, that I'm in search of a modest dinner and a
shelter of even more modest dimensions. I'm a war correspondent,
unattached just at present, but following the German army. My name is
At the name of the great war correspondent Jack stared, then
impulsively held out his hand.
Aha! said Grahame, you must be a correspondent, too. Ha! I
thought I was not wrong.
He bowed again to Lorraine, who returned his manly salute very
sweetly. If, she thought, Jack is inclined to be nice to this sturdy
young man in tweeds, I also will be as nice as I can.
My name is MarcheJack Marche, said Jack, in some trepidation. I
am not a correspondentthat is, not an active one.
You were at Sadowa, and you've been in Oran with Chanzy, said
Jack flushed with pleasure to find that the great Archibald Grahame
had heard of him.
We must take Mr. Grahame up-stairs at oncemust we not?if he is
hungry, suggested Lorraine, whose tender heart was touched at the
thought of a hungry human being.
They all laughed, and Grahame thanked her with that whimsical but
charming courtesy that endeared him to all who knew him.
It is awkward, now, isn't it, Mr. Marche? Here I am in France with
the army I tried to keep away from, roofless, supperless, and rather
expecting some of these sentinels or police agents may begin to inquire
into my affairs. If they do they'll take me for a spy. I was threatened
by the villagers in a little hamlet west of Saint-Avoldand how I'm
going to get back to my Hohenzollerns I haven't the faintest notion.
There'll surely be some way. My uncle will vouch for you and get
you a safe-conduct, said Jack. Perhaps, Mr. Grahame, you had better
come and dine in our salon up-stairs. Will you? The Emperor occupies
the large dining-room, and General Frossard and his staff have the
Amused by the young fellow's doubt that a simple salon on the first
floor might not be commensurate with the hospitality of Morteyn,
Archibald Grahame stepped pleasantly to the other side of the road; and
so, with Lorraine between them, they climbed the terrace and scaled the
stairs to the little gilt salon where Lorraine's maid Marianne and the
old house-keeper sat awaiting her return.
Lorraine was very wide-awake nowshe was excited by the stir and
the brilliant uniforms. She unconsciously took command, too, feeling
that she should act the hostess in the absence of Madame de Morteyn.
The old house-keeper, who adored her, supported her loyally; so,
between Marianne and herself, a very delightful dinner was served to
the hungry but patient Grahame when he returned with Jack from the
latter's chamber, where he had left most of the dust and travel stains
of a long tramp across country.
And how the great war correspondent did eat and drink! It made Jack
hungry again to watch him, so with a laughing apology to Lorraine he
joined in with a will, enthusiastically applauded and encouraged by
I could tell you were a correspondent by your appetite, said
Grahame. Dear me! it takes a campaign to make life worth living!
Life is not worth living, then, without an appetite? inquired
No, said Grahame, seriously; and you also will be of that opinion
some day, mademoiselle.
His kindly, humourous eyes turned inquiringly from Jack to Lorraine
and from Lorraine to Jack. He was puzzled, perhaps, but did not betray
They were not married, because Lorraine was Mademoiselle de Nesville
and Jack was Monsieur Marche. Cousins? Probably. Engaged? Probably. So
Grahame smiled benignly and emptied another bottle of Moselle with a
frank abandon that fascinated the old house-keeper.
And you don't mean to say that you are going to put me up for the
night, too? he asked Jack. You place me under eternal obligation, and
I accept with that understanding. If you run into my Hohenzollerns,
they'll receive you as a brother.
I don't think he will visit the Hohenzollern Regiment, observed
Noerthe fact is, I'm not doing much newspaper work now, said
Grahame was puzzled but bland.
Tell us, Monsieur Grahame, of what you saw in the Spicheren, said
Lorraine. Is it a very bad defeat? I am sure it cannot be. Of course,
France will win, sooner or later; nobody doubts that.
Before Grahame could manufacture a suitable replyand his wit was
as quick as his courtesya door opened and Madame de Morteyn entered,
sad-eyed but smiling.
Jack jumped up and asked leave to present Mr. Grahame, and the old
lady received him very sweetly, insisting that he should make the
Château his home as long as he stayed in the vicinity.
A few moments later she went away with Lorraine and her maid, and
Jack and Archibald Grahame were left together to sip their Moselle and
smoke some very excellent cigars that Jack found in the library.
Mr. Grahame, said Jack, diffidently, if it would not be an
impertinent question, who is going to run away in this campaign?
Grahame's face fell; his sombre glance swept the beautiful room and
rested on a picturethe Battle of Waterloo.
It will be worse than that, he said, abruptly. May I take one of
these cigars? Oh, thank you.
Jack's heart sank, but he smiled and passed a lighted cigar-lamp to
My judgment has been otherwise, he said, and what you say
It troubles me, too, said Grahame, looking out of the dark window
at the watery clouds, ragged, uncanny, whirling one by one like
tattered witches across the disk of a misshapen moon.
After a silence Jack relighted his half-burned cigar.
Then it is invasion? he asked.
Good heavens! the very stones in the fields will rise up!
If the people did so too it might be to better purpose, observed
Grahame, dryly. Then he emptied his glass, flicked the ashes from his
cigar, and, sitting erect in his chair, said, See here, Marche, you
and I are accustomed to this sort of thing, we've seen campaigns and we
have learned to judge dispassionately and, I think, fairly accurately;
but, on my honour, I never before have seen the beginning of such a
tempestnever! You say the very stones will rise up in the fields of
France. You are right. For the fields will be ploughed with solid shot,
and the shells will sow the earth with iron from the Rhine to the
Loire. Good Lord, do these people know what is coming over the
Prussians, said Jack.
Yes, Prussians and a few othersWürtembergers, Saxons, Bavarians,
men from Baden, from Hesse, from the Schwarzwaldfrom Hamburg to the
Tyrol they are coming in three armies. I saw the Spicheren, I saw
WissembourgI have seen and I know.
Presently he opened a fresh bottle, and, with that whimsical smile
and frank simplicity that won whom he chose to win, leaned towards Jack
and began speaking as though the younger man were his peer in
experience and age:
Shall I tell you what I saw across the Rhine? I saw the machinery
at workthe little wheels and cogs turning and grinding and setting in
motion that stupendous machine that Gneisenau patented and Von Moltke
improvedthe great Mobilization Machine! How this machine does its
work it is not easy to realize unless one has actually watched its
operation. I saw itand what I saw left me divided between admiration
andwell, damn it all!sadness.
You know, Marche, that there are three strata of fighting men in
Germanythe regular army, the 'reserve,' and the Landwehr. It is a
mistake into which many fall to believe that the reserve is the rear of
the regular army. The war strength of a regiment is just double its
peace strength, and the increment is the reserve. The blending of the
two in time of war is complete; the medalled men of 1866 and of the
Holstein campaign, called up from the reserve, are welded into the same
ranks with the young soldiers who are serving their first period of
three years. It is an utter mistake to think of the Prussian army or
the Prussian reserves as a militia like yours or ours. The Prussian
reserve man has three years active service with his colours to point
back to. Have ours? The mobilization machine grinds its grinding in
this wise. The whole country is divided into districts, in the central
city of each of which are the headquarters of the army corps recruited
from that district. Thence is sent forth the edict for mobilization to
the towns, the villages, and the quiet country parishes. From the
forge, from the harvest, from the store, from the school-room,
blacksmiths, farmers, clerks, school-masters drop everything at an
The contingent of a village is sent to headquarters. On the route
it meets other contingents until the rendezvous is reached. And
thenthe transformation! A yokel entersa soldier leaves. The slouch
has gone from his shoulders, his chest is thrown forward, his legs
straightened, his chin 'well off the stock,' his step brisk, his
carriage military. They are tough as whip-cord, sober, docile, and
terribly in earnest. They are orderly, decent, and reputable. They need
no sentries, and none are placed; they never get drunk, they are not
riotous, and the barrack gates are never infested by those hordes of
He paused and puffed at his cigar thoughtfully.
They are such soldiers as the world has not yet seen. Marching? I
saw them striding steadily forward with the thermometer at eighty-five
in the shade, with needle-gun, heavy knapsack, eighty rounds of
ammunition, huge great-coat, camp-kettle, sword, spade, water-bottle,
haversack, and lots of odds and ends dangling about them, with perhaps
a loaf or two under one arm. Sunstroke? No. Why? Sobriety. No absinthe
there, Mr. Marche.
We beat those men at Saarbrück, said Jack.
Grahame laughed good-humouredly.
At Saarbrück, when war was declared, the total German garrison
consisted of a battalion of infantry and a regiment of Uhlans. Frossard
and his whole corps were looking across at Saarbrück over the ridges of
the Spicheren, and nobody had the means of knowing what everybody knows
now, the reason, so discreditable to French organization, which
prevented him from blowing out of his path the few pickets and patrols,
and invading the territory which had its frontier only nominally
guarded. I was in Saarbrück at the time, and I had the pleasure of
dodging shells there, too. Why, we were all asking each other if it
were possible that the Frenchmen did not know the weakness of the land.
Our Uhlans and infantry were manipulated dexterously to make a
battalion look like a brigade; but we had an army corps in front of us.
We held the place by sheer impudence.
I know it, said Jack; it makes me ill to think of it.
It ought to make Frossard ill! Had a French army of invasion pushed
on through Saint-Johann on the 2d of August and marched rapidly into
the interior, the Germans could not possibly have concentrated their
scattered regiments, and it is my firm conviction that Napoleon would
have seen the Rhine without having had to fight a pitched battle. Well,
Marche, I drink to neither one side nor the other, buthere's to the
men with backbones. Prosit!
They laughed and clinked glasses. Grahame finished his bottle, rose,
politely stifled a yawn, and looked humourously at Jack.
There are two beds in my room; will you take one? said the young
Thank you, I will, said Grahame, and as soon as you please, my
So Jack led the way and ushered the other into a huge room with two
beds, seemingly lost in distant diagonal corners. Grahame promptly
kicked off his boots, and sat down on his bed.
I saw a funny thing in Saarbrück, he said. It was right in the
midst of a cannonadethe shells were smashing the chimneys on the
Hotel Hagen and raising hell generally. And right in the midst of the
whole blessed mess, cool as a cucumber, came sauntering a real live
British swell with a coat adorned with field-glasses and girdle and a
dozen pockets, an eye-glass, a dog that seemed dearer to him than life,
and a drawl that had not been perceptibly quickened by the French
cannon. He-aw-had been going eastward somewhere to-aw-Constantinople,
or Saint-Petersburg, or-aw-somewhere, when he-aw-heard that it might be
amusing at Saarbrück. A shell knocked a cart-load of tiles around his
head, and he looked at it through his eye-glass. Marche, I never
laughed so in my life. He's a good fellow, thoughhe's trotting about
with the Hohenzollern Regiment now, and, really, I miss him. His name
Not Sir Thorald? cried Jack.
Eh?yes, that's the man. Know him?
A little, said Jack, laughing, and went out, bidding Graham
good-night, and promising to have him roused at dawn.
Aren't you going to turn in? called Grahame, fearful of having
inconvenienced Jack in his own quarters.
Yes, said the young fellow. I won't wake youI'll be back in an
hour. And he closed the door, and went down-stairs.
For a few moments he stood on the cool terrace, listening to the
movement of the host below; and always the tramp of feet, the snort of
horses, and the metallic jingle of passing cannon filled his ears.
The big cuirassier sentinel had been joined by two more, all of the
Hundred-Guards. Jack noticed their carbines, wondering a little to see
cuirassiers so armed, and marvelling at the long, slender, lance-like
bayonets that were attached to the muzzles.
Presently he went into the house, and, entering the smoking-room,
met his aunt coming out.
Jack, she said, I am a little nervousthe Emperor is still in
the dining-room with a crowd of officers, and he has just sent an
aide-de-camp to the Château de Nesville to summon the marquis. It will
be most awkward; your uncle and he are not friendly, and the Marquis de
Nesville hates the Emperor.
Why did the Emperor send for him? asked Jack, wondering.
I don't knowhe wishes for a private interview with the marquis.
He may refuse to comehe is a very strange man, you know.
Then, if he is, he may come; that would be stranger still, said
Your uncle is not well, Jack, continued Madame de Morteyn; he is
quite upset by being obliged to entertain the Emperor. You know how all
the Royalists feel. But, Jack, dear, if you could have seen your uncle
it would have been a lesson in chivalry to you which any young man
could ill afford to misshe was so perfectly simple, so proudly
courteousah, Jack, your uncle is one in a nation!
He isand so are you! said Jack, kissing her faded cheek. Are
you going to retire now?
Yes; your uncle needs me. The lights are out everywhere. Lorraine,
dear child, is asleep in the next room to mine. Is Mr. Grahame
comfortable? I am glad. The Prince Imperial is sleeping too, poor
childsleeping like a worn-out baby.
Jack conducted his aunt to her chamber, and bade her good-night.
Then he went softly back through the darkened house, and across the
hall to the dining-room. The door was open, letting out a flood of
lamp-light, and the generals and staff-officers were taking leave of
the Emperor and filing out one by one, Frossard leading, his head bent
on his breast. Some went away to rooms assigned them, guided by a
flunky, some passed across the terrace with swords trailing and spurs
ringing, and disappeared in the darkness. They had not all left the
Emperor, when, suddenly, Jack heard behind him the voice of the Marquis
de Nesville, cold, sneering, ironical.
Oh, he said, seeing Jack standing by the door, can you tell me
where I may find the Emperor of the French? I am sent for. Turning on
the aide-de-camp at his side: This gentleman courteously notified me
that the Emperor desired my presence. I am here, but I do not choose to
go alone, and I shall demand, Monsieur Marche, that you accompany me
and remain during the interview.
The aide-de-camp looked at him darkly, but the marquis sneered in
I want a witness, he said, insolently; you can tell that to your
The aide-de-camp, helmet under his arm, from which streamed a
horse-hair plume, entered the dining-room as the last officer left it.
Jack looked uneasily at the marquis, and was about to speak when the
aid returned and requested the marquis to enter.
Monsieur Marche, remain here, I beg you, said the marquis, coolly;
I shall call you presently. It is a service I ask of you. Will you
Yes, said Jack.
The door opened for a second.
Napoleon III. sat at the long table, his head drooping on his
breast; he was picking absently at threads in the texture of the
table-cloth. That was all Jack sawa glimpse of a table covered with
half-empty glasses and fruit, an old man picking at the cloth in the
lamplight; then the door shut, and he was alone in the dark hall. Out
on the terrace he heard the tramp of the cuirassier sentinels, and
beyond that the uproar of artillery, passing, always passing. He stared
about in the darkness, he peered up the staircase into the gloom. A bat
was flying somewhere nearhe felt the wind from its mousy wings.
Suddenly the door was flung open beside him, and the marquis called
to him in a voice vibrating with passion. As he entered and bowed low
to the Emperor, he saw the marquis, tall, white with anger, his blue
eyes glittering, standing in the centre of the room. He paid no
attention to Jack, but the Emperor raised his impassible face, haggard
and gray, and acknowledged the young man's respectful salutation.
You have asked me a question, said the marquis, harshly, and I
demanded to answer it in the presence of a witness. Is your majesty
willing that this gentleman shall hear my reply?
The Emperor looked at him with half-closed, inscrutable eyes, then,
turning his heavy face to Jack's, smiled wearily and inclined his head.
Good, said the marquis, apparently labouring under tremendous
excitement. You ask me to give you, or sell you, or loan you my secret
for military balloons. My answer is, 'No!'
The Emperor's face did not change as he said, I ask it for your
country, not for myself, monsieur.
And I will give it to my country, not to you! said the marquis,
Jack looked at the Emperor. He noticed his unkempt hair brushed
forward, his short thumbs pinching the table-cloth, his closed eyes.
The Marquis de Nesville took a step towards him.
Does your majesty remember the night that Morny lay dying in the
shadows? And that horrible croak from the darkness when he raised
himself on one elbow and gasped, 'Sire, prenez garde à la Prusse!' Then
he died. That was alla warning, a groan, the death-rattle in the
shadows by the bed. Then he died.
The Emperor never moved.
'Look out for Prussia!' That was Morny's last gasp. And now?
Prussia is there, you are here! And you need aid, and you send for me,
and I tell you that my secrets are for my country, not for you! No, not
for youyou who said, 'It is easy to govern the French, they only need
a war every four years!' Nowhere is your war! Govern!
The Emperor's slow eyes rested a moment on the man before him. But
the man, trembling, pallid with passion, clenched his hands and hurled
an insult at the Emperor through his set teeth: Napoleon the Little!
Listen! When you have gone down in the crash of a rotten throne and a
blood-bought palace, then, when the country has shaken thisthis
thingfrom her bent back, then I will give to my country all I have!
But never to you, to save your name and your race and your
He fairly frothed at the lips as he spoke; his eyes blazed.
Your coup-d'état made me childless! I had a son, fairer than yours,
who lies asleep in therebrave, gentle, lovinga son of mine, a De
Nesville! Your bribed troops killed himshot him to death on the
boulevardshim among the othersso that you could sit safely in the
Tuileries! I saw themthose piled corpses! I saw little children
stabbed to death with bayonets, I saw the heaped slain lying before
Tortoni's, where the whole street was flooded crimson and the gutters
rippled blood! And you? I saw you ride with your lancers into the Rue
Saint-Honoré, and when you met the barricade you turned pale and rode
back again! I saw you; I was sitting with my dead boy on my kneesI
With a furious cry the marquis tore a revolver from his pocket and
sprang on the Emperor, and at the same instant Jack seized the crazy
man by the shoulders and hurled him violently to the floor.
Stunned, limp as a rag, the marquis lay at the Emperor's feet, his
clenched hands slowly relaxing.
The Emperor had not moved.
Scarcely knowing what he did, Jack stooped, drew the revolver from
the extended fingers, and laid it on the table. Then, with a fearful
glance at the Emperor, he dragged the marquis to the door, opened it
with a shove of his foot, and half closed it again.
The aide-de-camp stood there, staring at the prostrate man.
Here, help me with him to his carriage; he is ill, panted
Together they carried him out to the terrace, and down the steps to
a coupé that stood waiting.
The marquis is ill, said Jack again; put him to bed at once.
Before the sound of the wheels died away Jack hastened back to the
dining-room. Through the half-opened door he peered, hesitated, turned
away, and mounted the stairs slowly to his own chamber.
In the dining-room the lamp still burned dimly. Beside it sat the
Emperor, head bent, picking absently at the table-cloth with short,
XV. THE INVASION OF LORRAINE
It was not yet dawn. Jack, sleeping with his head on his elbow,
shivered in his sleep, gasped, woke, and sat up in bed. There was a
quiet footfall by his bed, the scrape of a spur, then silence.
Is that you, Mr. Grahame? he asked.
Yes; I didn't mean to wake you. I'm off. I was going to leave a
letter to thank you and Madame de Morteyn
Are you dressed? What time is it?
Four o'clocktwenty minutes after. It's a shame to rouse you, my
Oh, that's all right, said Jack. Will you strike a lightthere
are candles on my dresser. Ah, that's better.
He sat blinking at Grahame, who, booted and spurred and buttoned to
the chin, looked at him quizzically.
You were not going off without your coffee, were you? asked Jack.
Nonsense!wait. He pulled a bell-rope dangling over his head. Now
that means coffee and hot rolls in twenty minutes.
When Jack had bathed and shaved, operations he executed with great
rapidity, the coffee was brought, and he and Grahame fell to by
I thought you were afoot? said Jack, glancing at the older man's
I'm going to hunt up a horse; I'm tired of this eternal tramping,
replied Grahame. Hello, is this package for me?
Yes, there's a cold chicken and some things, and a flask to keep
you until you find your Hohenzollern Regiment again.
Grahame rose and held out his hand. Good-by. You've been very kind,
Marche. Will you say, for me, all that should be said to Madame de
Morteyn? Good-by once more, my dear fellow. Don't forget meI shall
never forget you!
Wait, said Jack; you are going off without a safe-conduct.
Don't need it; there's not a French soldier in Morteyn.
Gone? stammered Jackthe Emperor, General Frossard, the army
Every mother's son of them, and I must hurry
Their hands met again in a cordial grasp, then Grahame slipped
noiselessly into the hallway, and Jack turned to finish dressing by the
light of his clustered candles.
As he stood before the quaintly wrought mirror, fussing with studs
and buttons, he thought with a shudder of the scene of the night
before, the marquis and his murderous frenzy, the impassive Emperor,
the frantic man hurled to the polished floor, stunned, white-cheeked,
with hands slowly relaxing and fingers uncurling from the glittering
Lorraine's father! And he had laid hands on him and had flung him
senseless at the feet of the Man of December! He could scarcely button
his collar, his fingers trembled so. Perhaps he had killed the Marquis
de Nesville. Sick at heart, he finished dressing, buttoned his coat,
flung a cap on his head, and stole out into the darkness.
On the terrace below he saw a groom carrying a lantern, and he went
Saddle Faust at once, he said. Have the troops all gone?
All, monsieur; the last of the cavalry passed three hours ago; the
Emperor drove away half an hour later with Lulu
The princepardon, monsieurthey call him Lulu in Paris.
Hurry, said Jack; I want that horse at once.
Ten minutes later he was galloping furiously down the forest road
towards the Château de Nesville. The darkness was impenetrable, so he
let the horse find his own path, and gave himself up to a profound
dejection that at times amounted to blind fear. Before his eyes he saw
the pallid face of the Marquis de Nesville, he saw the man stretched on
the floor, horribly still; that was the worst, the stillness of the
The sky was gray through the trees when he turned into the park and
skirted the wall to the wicket. The wicket was locked. He rang
repeatedly, he shook the grille and pounded on the iron escutcheon with
the butt of his riding-crop; and at length a yawning servant appeared
from the gate-lodge and sleepily dragged open the wicket.
The marquis was ill, have you heard anything? asked Jack.
The marquis is there on the porch, said the servant, with a
gesture towards the house.
Jack's heart leaped up. Thank God! he muttered, and dismounted,
throwing his bridle to the porter, who now appeared in the doorway.
He could see the marquis walking to and fro, hands clasped behind
his strong, athletic back; his head was turned in Jack's direction.
The marquis is crazy, thought Jack, hesitating. He was convinced now
that long brooding over ancient wrongs had unsettled the man's mind.
There had always been something in his dazzling blue eyes that troubled
Jack, and now he knew it was the pale light of suppressed frenzy.
Still, he would have to face him sooner or later, and he did not recoil
now that the hour and the place and the man had come.
I'll settle it once for all, he thought, and walked straight up
the path to the house. The marquis came down the steps to meet him.
I expected you, he said, without a trace of anger. I have much to
say to you. Will you come in or shall we sit in the arbour there? You
will enter? Then come to the turret, Monsieur Marche.
Jack would have refused, but he had not the courage. He was not at
all pleased at the idea of mounting to a turret with a man whom he had
laid violent hands on the night before, a man whom he had seen succumb
to an access of insane fury in the presence of the Emperor of France.
But he went, cursing the cowardice that prevented him from being
cautious; and in a few moments he entered the chamber where retorts and
bottles and steel machinery littered every corner, and the pale dawn
broke through the window in ghastly streams of light, changing the
candle-flames to sickly greenish blotches.
They sat opposite each other, neither speaking. Jack glanced at a
heavy steel rod on the floor beside him. It was just as well to know it
was there, in case of need.
Monsieur, said the marquis, abruptly, I owe you a great deal more
than my life, which is nothing; I owe you my family honour.
This was a new way of looking at the situation; Jack fidgeted in his
chair and eyed the marquis.
Thanks to you, he continued, quietly, I am not an assassin, I am
not a butcher of dogs. The De Nesvilles were never public
executionersthey left that to the Bonapartes and Monsieur de Paris.
He rose hastily from his chair and held out a hand. Jack took it
warily and returned the nervous pressure. Then they both resumed their
Let us clear matters up, said the marquis in a wonderfully gentle
voice, that would have been fascinating to more phlegmatic men than
Jacklet us clear up everything and understand each other. You,
monsieur, dislike me; pardonyou dislike me for reasons of your own.
I, on the contrary, like you; I like you better this moment than I ever
did. Had you not come as I expected, had you not entered, had you
refused to mount to the turret, I still should have liked you. Now I
also respect you.
Jack twisted and turned in his chair, not knowing what to think or
Why do you dislike me? asked the marquis, quietly.
Because you are not kind to your daughter, said Jack, bluntly.
To his horror the man's eyes filled with tears, big, glittering
tears that rolled down his immovable face. Then a flush stained his
forehead; the fever in his cheeks dried the tears.
Jack, he said, calling the young fellow by his name with a
peculiarly tender gesture, I loved my son. My soul died within me when
René died, there on the muddy pavement of the Paris boulevards. I
sometimes think I am perhaps a little out of my mind; I brood on it too
much. That is why I flung myself into thiswith a sweep of his arm
towards the flasks and machinery piled around. Lorraine is a girl,
sweet, lovable, loyal. But she is not my daughter.
Lorraine! stammered Jack.
The young fellow sat up in his chair and studied the face of the
pale man before him.
I cannot tell.
After a silence the marquis stood up, and walked to the window. His
face was haggard, his hair dishevelled.
No, he said, Lorraine is not my daughter. She is not even my
heiress. She wasshe wasfound, eighteen years ago.
The room was becoming lighter; the sky grew faintly luminous and the
mist from the stagnant fen curled up along the turret like smoke.
Jack picked up his cap and riding-crop and rose; the marquis turned
from the window to confront him. His face was no longer furrowed with
pain, the cold light had crept back into his eyes.
Monsieur, said Jack, I ask your permission to address Lorraine. I
The marquis stood silent, scarcely breathing.
You know who and what I am; you probably know what I have. It is
enough for me; it will be enough for us both. I shall work to make it
enough. I do not expect or wish for anything from you for Lorraine; I
do not give it a thought. Lorraine does not love me, but, and here he
spoke with humility, I believe that she might. If I win her, will you
give her to me?
Win her? repeated the marquis, with an ugly look. The man's face
was changing now, darkening in the morning light.
Monsieur, he said, violently, you may say to her what you
please! and he opened the door and showed Jack the way out.
Dazed, completely mystified, Jack hurried away to find his horse at
the gate where he had left him. The marquis was crazy, that was
certain. These unaccountable moods and passions, following each other
so abruptly, were nothing else but reactions from a life of silent
suffering. All the way back to Morteyn he pondered on the strange scene
in the turret, the repudiation of Lorraine, the sudden tenderness for
himself, and then the apathy, the suppressed anger, the indifference
coupled with unexplainable emotion.
No sane man could act like that, he murmured, as he rode into the
Morteyn gate, and, with a smart slap of his hand on Faust's withers, he
sent that intelligent animal at a trot towards the stables, where a
groom awaited him with sponge and bucket.
The gardeners were cleaning up the litter in the roads and paths
left by the retreating army. The road by the gate was marked with hoof
and wheel, but the macadam had not suffered very much, and already a
roller was at work removing furrow and hoof-print.
He entered the dining-room. It was empty. So also was the
breakfast-room, for breakfast had been served an hour before.
He sent for coffee and muffins and made a hasty breakfast, looking
out of the window at times for signs of his aunt and Lorraine. The maid
said that Madame de Morteyn had driven to Saint-Lys with the marquis,
and that Mademoiselle de Nesville had gone to her room. So he finished
his coffee, went to his room, changed his clothes, and sent a maid to
inquire whether Lorraine would receive him in the small library at the
head of the stairs. The maid returned presently, saying that
Mademoiselle de Nesville would be down in a moment or two, so Jack
strolled into the library and leaned out of the window to smoke.
When she came in he did not hear her until she spoke.
Don't throw your cigarette away, monsieur; I permit you to
smokeindeed, I command it. How do you do? This in very timid
English. I meangood-morningoh, dear, this terrible English
language! Now you may sit there, in that large leather arm-chair, and
you may tell me why you did not appear at breakfast. Is Monsieur
Grahame still sleeping? Gone? Oh, dear! And you have been to the
Château de Nesville? Is my father well? And contented? There, I knew he
would miss me. Did you give him my dearest love? Thank you for
remembering. Now tell me
What? laughed Jack.
Everything, of course.
She looked at him, but did not answer.
Then he deliberately sat down and made love to her, not actual,
open, unblushing lovebut he started in to win her, and what his
tongue refused to tell, his eyes told until trepidation seized her, and
she sat back speechless, watching him with shy blue eyes that always
turned when they met his, but always returned when his were lowered.
It is a pretty game, this first preliminary of lovelike the
graceful sword-play and salute of two swordsmen before a duel. There
was no one to cry Garde à vous! no one to strike up the weapons that
were thrust at two unarmoured hearts, for the weapons were words and
glances, and Love, the umpire, alas! was not impartial.
So the timid heart of Lorraine was threatened, and, before she knew
it, the invasion had begun. She did not repel it with desperation; at
times, even, she smiled at the invader, and that, if not utter
treachery, was giving aid and encouragement to the enemy.
Besieged, threatened, she sat there in the arm-chair, half
frightened, half smiling, fearful yet contented, alarmed yet secure,
now resisting, now letting herself drift on, until the result of the
combination made Jack's head spin; and he felt resentful in his heart,
and he said to himself what all men under such circumstances say to
One moment he was sure she loved him, the next he was certain she
did not. This oscillation between heaven and hell made him unhappy,
and, manlike, he thought the fault was hers. This is the foundation for
man's belief in the coquetry of women.
As for Lorraine, she thrilled with a gentle fear that was the most
delightful sensation she had ever known. She looked shyly at the
strong-limbed, sunburned young fellow opposite, and she began to wonder
why he was so fascinating. Every turn of his head, every gesture, every
change in his face she knew nowknew so well that she blushed at her
But she would not permit him to come nearer; she could not, although
she saw his disappointment, under a laugh, when she refused to let him
read the lines of fate in her rosy palm. Then she wished she had laid
her hand in his when he asked it, then she wondered whether he thought
her stupid, thenBut it is always the same, the gamut run of shy
alarm, of tenderness, of fear, of sudden love looking unbidden from
eyes that answer love. So the morning wore away.
The old vicomte came back with his wife and sat in the library with
them, playing chess until luncheon was served; and after that Lorraine
went away to embroider something or other that Madame de Morteyn had
for her up-stairs. A little later the vicomte also went to take a nap,
and Jack was left alone lying on the lounge, too lonely to read, too
unhappy to smoke, too lazy to sleep.
He had been lying there for an hour thinking about Lorraine and
wondering whether she would ever be told what her exact relation to the
Marquis de Nesville was, when a maid brought him two letters,
postmarked Paris. One he saw at a glance was from his sister, and, like
a brother, he opened the other first.
DEAR JACK,I am very unhappy. Sir Thorald has gone off
to St. Petersburg in a huff, and, if he stops at
Morteyn, tell him he's a fool and that I want him to
come back. You're the only person on earth I can write
Faithfully yours, MOLLY HESKETH.
Jack laughed aloud, then sat silent, frowning at the dainty bit of
letter-paper, crested and delicately fragrant. Yes, he could read
between the linesa man in love is less dense than when in his normal
stateand he was sorry for Molly Hesketh. He thought of Sir Thorald as
Archibald Grahame had described him, standing amid a shower of bricks
and bursting shells, staring at war through a monocle.
He's a beast, thought Jack, but a plucky one. If he goes to
Cologne he's worse than a beast. A vision of little Alixe came before
him, blond, tearful, gazing trustingly at Sir Thorald's drooping
mustache. It made him angry; he wished, for a moment, that he had Sir
Thorald by the neck. This train of thought led him to think of Rickerl,
and from Rickerl he naturally came to the 11th Uhlans.
By jingo, it's unlucky I shot that fellow, he exclaimed, half
aloud; I don't want to meet any of that picket again while this war
Unpleasant visions of himself, spitted neatly upon a Uhlan's lance,
rose up and were hard to dispel. He wished Frossard's troops had not
been in such a hurry to quit Morteyn; he wondered whether any other
troops were between him and Saarbrück. The truth was, he should have
left the country, and he knew it. But how could he leave until his aunt
and uncle were ready to go? And there was Lorraine. Could he go and
leave her? Suppose the Germans should pass that way; not at all
likelybut suppose they should? Suppose, even, there should be
fighting near Morteyn? No, he could never go away and leave
Lorrainethat was out of the question.
He lighted a match and moodily burned Molly's letter to ashes in the
fireplace. He also stirred the ashes up, for he was honourable in
little thingslike Rickyand also, alas! apparently no novice.
Dorothy's letter lay on the tableher third since she had left for
Paris. He opened his knife and split the envelope carefully, still
thinking of Lorraine.
MY OWN DEAR JACK,There is something I have been
trying to tell you in the other three letters, but I
have not succeeded, and I am going to try again. I shall
tuck it away in some quiet little corner of my page; so
if you do not read carefully between every line, you may
not find it, after all.
I have just seen Lady Hesketh. She looks pale and
illthe excitement in the city and that horrid National
Guard keep our nerves on edge every moment. Sir Thorald
is away on business, she sayswhere, I forgot to ask
her. I saw the Empress driving in the Bois yesterday.
Some ragamuffins hissed her, and I felt sorry for her.
Oh, if men only knew what women suffer! But don't think
I am suffering. I am not, Jack; I am very well and very
cheerful. Betty Castlemaine is going to be engaged to
Cecil, and the announcement will be in all the English
papers. Oh, dear! I don't know why that should make me
sad, but it does. No, it doesn't, Jack, dear.
The city is very noisy; the National Guard parade every
day; they seem to be all officers and drummers and no
men. Everybody says we gained a great victory on the 2d
of August. I wonder whether Rickerl was in it? Do you
know? His regiment is the 11th Uhlans. Were they there?
Were any hurt? Oh, Jack, I am so miserable! They speak
of a battle at Wissembourg and one at the Spicheren.
Were the 11th Uhlans there? Try to find out, dear, and
write me at once. Don't forgetthe 11th Uhlans.
Jack, darling! can't you understand?
Your loving sister, DOROTHY.
Understand? What? repeated Jack. He read the letter again
I can't see what the mischief is extraordinary in that, he mused,
unless she's giving me a tip about Sir Thorald; but noshe can't know
anything in that direction. Now what is it that she has hidden away?
Oh, here's a postscript.
He turned the sheet and read:
My love to aunt and uncle, Jackdon't forget. I am
writing them by this mail. Is the 11th Uhlan Regiment in
Prince Frederick Charles's Army? Be sure to find out.
There is absolutely nothing in the Paris papers about
the 11th Uhlans, and I am astonished. But what can one
expect from Paris journals? I tried to subscribe to the
Berlin Post and the Hamburger Nachrichten and the
Munich Neueste Nachrichten, but the horrid creature at
the kiosk said she wouldn't have a German sheet in her
place. I hope the Herald will give particulars of
losses in both armies. Do you think it will? Oh, why on
earth do these two foolish nations fight each other?
P. P. S.Jack, for my sake, pay attention to what I
ask you and answer every question. And don't forget to
find out all about the 11th Uhlans. D.
Now, what on earth interests Dorrie in all these battle
statistics? he wondered; and what in the name of common-sense can she
find to interest her in the 11th Uhlans? Ricky? Absurd!
He repeated absurd two or three times, but he became more
thoughtful a moment later, and sat smoking and pondering. That would be
a nice muddle if she, the niece of a Frenchmanan American,
tooshould fix her affections on a captain of Uhlans whose regiment
he, Jack Marche, would avoid as he would hope to avoid the black
Absurd, he repeated for the fourth time, and tossed his cigarette
into the open fireplace. And as he rose to go up-stairs something out
on the road by the gate attracted his attention, and he went to the
Three horsemen sat in their saddles on the lawn, lance on thigh,
eyes fixed on him.
They were Uhlans!
XVI. IN THE HOLLOW OF THY HAND
For a moment he recoiled as though he had received a blow between
There they sat, little glistening schapskas rakishly tilted over one
ear, black-and-white pennons drooping from the lance-points,
schabraques edged with yellowaye, and tunics also, yellow and
bluethose were the coloursthe colours of the 11th Uhlans.
Then, for the first time, he fully realized his position and what it
might mean. Death was the penalty for what he had donedeath even
though the man he had shot were not deaddeath though he had not even
hit him. That was not all; it meant death in its most awful
formhanging! For this was the penalty: any civilian, foreigner,
franc-soldier, or other unrecognized combatant, firing upon German
troops, giving aid to French troops while within the sphere of German
influence, by aiding, abetting, signalling, informing, or otherwise,
was hungsometimes with a drum-head court-martial, sometimes without.
Every bit of blood and strength seemed to leave his limbs; he leaned
back against the table, cold with fear.
This was the young man who had sat sketching at Sadowa where the
needle-guns sent a shower of lead over his rocky observatory; the same
who had risked death by fearful mutilation in Oran when he rode back
and flung a half-dead Spahi over his own saddle, in the face of a
charging, howling hurricane of Kabyle horsemen.
Sabre and lance and bullets were things he understood, but he did
not understand ropes.
He could not tell whether the Uhlans had seen him or not; there were
lace curtains in the room, but the breeze blew them back from the open
window. Had they seen him?
All at once the horses jerked their heads, reared, and wheeled like
cattle shying at a passing train, and away went the Uhlans, plunging
out into the road. There was a flutter of pennants, a fling or two of
horses' heels, a glimmer of yellow, and they were gone.
Utterly unnerved, Jack sank into the arm-chair. What should he do?
If he stayed at Morteyn he stood a good chance of hanging. He could not
leave his aunt and uncle, nor could he tell them, for the two old
people would fall sick with the anxiety. And yet, if he stayed at
Morteyn, and the Germans came, it might compromise the whole household
and bring destruction to Château and park. He had not thought of that
before, but now he remembered also another German rule, inflexible,
unvarying. It was this, that in a town or village where the inhabitants
resisted by force or injured any German soldier, the village should be
burned and the provisions and stock confiscated for the use of King
Shocked at his own thoughtlessness, he sprang to his feet and walked
hastily to the terrace. Nothing was to be seen on the road, nor yet in
the meadows beyond. Up-stairs he heard Lorraine's voice, and his aunt's
voice, too. Sometimes they laughed a little in low tones, and he even
caught the rustle of stiff silken embroidery against the window-sill.
His mind was made up in an instant; his coolness returned as the
colour returns to a pale cheek. The Uhlans had probably not seen him;
if they had, it made little difference, for even the picquet that had
chased him could not have recognized him at that distance. Then, again,
in a whole regiment it was not likely that the three horsemen who had
peeped at Morteyn through the road-gate could have been part of that
same cursed picquet. No, the thing to avoid was personal contact with
any of the 11th Uhlans. This would be a matter of simple prudence;
outside of that he had nothing to fear from the Prussian army. Whenever
he saw the schapskas and lances he would be cautious; when these lances
were pennoned with black and white, and when the schapskas and
schabraques were edged with yellow, he would keep out of the way
altogether. It shamed him terribly to think of his momentary panic; he
cursed himself for a coward, and dug his clenched fists into both
pockets. But even as he stood there, withering himself with self-scorn,
he could not help hoping that his aunt and uncle would find it
convenient to go to Paris soon. That would leave him free to take his
own chances by remaining, to be near Lorraine. For it did not occur to
him that he might leave Morteyn as long as Lorraine stayed.
It was late in the afternoon when he lighted a pipe and walked out
to the road, where the smooth macadam no longer bore the slightest
trace of wheel or hoof, and nobody could have imagined that part of an
army corps had passed there the night before.
He felt lonely and a little despondent, and he walked along the road
to the shrine of Our Lady of Morteyn and sat down at her naked stone
feet. And as he sat there smoking, twirling his shooting-cap in his
hands, without the least warning a horseman, advancing noiselessly
across the turf, passed him, carbine on thigh, busby glittering with
the silver skull and crossbones. Before he could straighten up another
horseman passed, then another, then three, then six, then a dozen, all
sitting with poised carbines, scarcely noticing him at all, the low,
blazing sun glittering on the silver skulls and crossed thigh-bones,
deep set in their sombre head-gear.
They were Black Hussars.
A distant movement came to his ear at the same time, the soft shock
of thousands of footfalls on the highway. He sprang up and started
forward, but a trooper warned him back with a stern gesture, and he
stood at the foot of the shrine, excited but outwardly cool, listening
to the approaching trample.
He knew what it meant now; these passing videttes were the dust
before the tempest, the prophecy of the deluge. For the sound on the
distant highway was the sound of infantry, and a host was on the march,
a host helmeted with steel and shod with steel, a vast live bulk,
gigantic, scaled in mail, whose limbs were human, whose claws were
lances and bayonets, whose red tongues were flame-jets from a thousand
The German army had entered France and the province of Lorraine was
Like a hydra of three hideous heads the German army had pushed its
course over the Saar, over the Rhine, over the Lauter; it sniffed at
the frontier line; licked Wissembourg and the Spicheren with flaming
tongues, shuddered, coiled, and glided over the boundary into the fair
land of Lorraine. Then, like some dreadful ringed monster, it cast off
two segments, north, south, and moved forward on its belly, while the
two new segments, already turned to living bodies, with heads and eyes
and contracted scales, struggled on alone, diverging to the north and
south, creeping, squirming, undulating, penetrating villages and
cities, stretching across hills and rivers, until all the land was
shining with shed scales and the sky reeked with the smoke of flaming
tongues. This was the invasion of France. Before it Frossard recoiled,
leaving the Spicheren a smoking hell; before it Douay fell above the
flames of Wissembourg; and yet Gravelotte had not been, and Vionville
was a peaceful name, and Mars-la-Tour lay in the sunshine, mellow with
harvests, gay with the scarlet of the Garde Impériale.
On the hill-sides of Lorraine were letters of fire, writing for all
France to read, and every separate letter was a flaming village. The
Emperor read it and bent his weary steps towards Châlons; Bazaine read
it and said, There is time; MacMahon, Canrobert, Leboeuf, Ladmirault
read it and wondered idly what it meant, till Vinoy turned a retreat
into a triumph, and Gambetta, flabby, pompous, unbalanced, bawled
platitudes from the Palais Bourbon.
In three splendid armies the tide of invasion set in; the Red Prince
tearing a bloody path to Metz, the Crown Prince riding west by south,
resting in Nancy, snubbing Toul, spreading out into the valley of the
Marne to build three monuments of bloody bonesSaint-Marie,
Metz, crouching behind Saint-Quentin and Les Bottes, turned her
anxious eyes from Thionville to Saint-Julien and back to where
MacMahon's three rockets should have starred the sky; and what she saw
was the Red Prince riding like a fiery spectre from east to west; what
she saw was the spiked helmets of the Feldwache and the sodded parapets
of Longeau. Chained and naked, the beautiful city crouched in the
tempest that was to free her forever and give her the life she scorned,
the life more bitter than death.
Something of this ominous prophecy came to Jack, standing below the
shrine of Our Lady of Morteyn, listening to the on-coming shock of
German feet, as he watched the cavalry riding past in the glow of the
And now the infantry burst into view, a gloomy, solid column tramp,
tramp along the roadjägers, with their stiff fore-and-aft shakos,
dull-green tunics, and snuffy, red-striped trousers tucked into dusty
half-boots. On they came, on, onwould they never pass? At last they
were gone, somewhere into the flaming west, and now the red sunbeams
slanted on eagle crests and tipped the sea of polished spiked helmets
with fire, for a line regiment was coming, shaking the earth with its
rhythmical trampthud! thud! thud!
He looked across the fields to the hills beyond; more regiments,
dark masses moving against the sky, covered the landscape far as the
eye could reach; cavalry, too, were riding on the Saint-Avold road
through the woods; and beyond that, vague silhouettes of moving wagons
and horsemen, crawling out into the world of valleys that stretched to
Bar-le-Duc and Avricourt.
Oppressed, almost choked, as though a rising tide had washed against
his breast, ever mounting, seething, creeping, climbing, he moved
forward, waiting for a chance to cross the road and gain the Château,
where he could see the servants huddling over the lawn, and the old
vicomte, erect, motionless, on the terrace beside his wife and
Already in the meadow behind him the first bivouac was pitched; on
the left stood a park of field artillery, ammunition-wagons in the
rear, and in front the long lines of picket-ropes to which the horses
were fastened, their harness piled on the grass behind them.
The forge was alight, the farriers busy shoeing horses; the armourer
also bent beside his blazing forge, and the tinkling of his hammer on
small-arms rose musically above the dull shuffle of leather-shod feet
on the road.
To the right of the artillery, bisected as is the German fashion,
lay two halves of a battalion of infantry. In the foreground the
officers sat on their camp-chairs, smoking long faïence pipes; in the
rear, driven deep into the turf, the battalion flag stood furled in its
water-proof case, with the drum-major's halberd beside it, and drums
and band instruments around it on the grass. Behind this lay a straight
row of knapsacks, surrounded by the rolled great-coats; ten paces to
the rear another similar row; between these two rows stood stacks of
needle-guns, then another row of knapsacks, another stack of
needle-guns, stretching with mathematical exactness to the grove of
poplars by the river. A cordon of sentinels surrounded the bivouac;
there was a group of soldiers around a beer-cart, another throng near
the wine-cart. All was quiet, orderly, and terribly sombre.
Near the poplar-trees the pioneers had dug their trenches and
lighted fires. Across the trenches, on poles of green wood, were slung
He turned again towards the Château; a regiment of Saxon riders was
passinghad just passedand he could get across now, for the long
line had ended and the last Prussian cuirassiers were vanishing over
the hill, straight into the blaze of the setting sun.
As he entered the gate, behind him, from the meadow, an infantry
band crashed out into a splendid hymna hymn in praise of the Most
High God, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy.
And the soldiers' hoarse voices chimed in
Thou, who in the hollow of Thy Hand
And the deep drums boomed His praise.
XVII. THE KEEPERS OF THE HOUSE
The candles were lighted again in the ballroom, and again the
delicate, gilded canapés were covered with officers, great stalwart
fellows with blond hair and blue eyes, cuirassiers in white tunics
faced with red, cuirassiers in green and white, black, yellow, and
white, orange and white; dragoons in blue and salmon colour, bearing
the number 7 on their shoulder-straps, dragoons of the Guard in blue
and white, dragoons of the 2d Regiment in black and blue. There were
hussars too, dandies of the 19th in their tasselled boots and crimson
busby-crowns; Black Hussars, bearing, even on their soft fatigue-caps,
the emblems of death, the skull and crossed thigh-bones. An Uhlan or
two of the 2d Guard Regiment, trimmed with white and piped with
scarlet, dawdled around the salon, staring at gilded clock and
candelabra, or touching the grand-piano with hesitating but itching
fingers. Here and there officers of the general staff stood in
consultation, great, stiff, strapping men, faultlessly clothed in
scarlet and black, holding their spiked helmets carefully under their
arms. The pale blue of a Bavarian dotted the assembly at rare
intervals, some officer from Von Werder's army, attentive, shy, saying
little even when questioned. The huge Saxon officers, beaming with
good-nature, mixed amiably with the sour-visaged Brunswick men and the
In the long dining-room dinner was nearly ended. Facing each other
sat the old Vicomte and Madame de Morteyn, he pale, dignified,
exquisitely courteous, she equally pale but more gentle in her sweet
dignity. On the right sat the Red Prince, stiff as steel, jerky in
every movement, stern, forbidding, unbending as much as his black
Prussian blood would let him; on the left sat a thin old man, bald as
an ivory ball, pallid, hairless of face, a frame of iron in a sombre,
wrinkled tunic, without a single decoration. His short hawk's nose,
keen and fine as a falcon's beak, quivered with every breath; his thin
lips rested one upon the other in stern, delicate curves. It was
Moltke, the master expert, come from Berlin to watch the wheels turning
in that vast complicated network of machinery which he controlled with
one fragile finger pressing the button.
There, too, was Von Zastrow, destined to make his error at
Gravelotte, there was Steinmetz, and the handsome Saxon prince, and
great, flabby August of Würtemberg, talking with Alvensleben, dainty,
pious, aristocratic. Behind, in the shadow, stood Manstein and Goben, a
grim, gray pair, with menacing eyes. Perhaps they were thinking of the
Red Prince's parting words at the Spicheren: Your duty is to march
forward, always forward, find the enemy, prevent his escape, and fight
him wherever you find him. To which the fastidious and devout
Alvensleben muttered, In the name of God, and poor, brave Kamecke,
shuddering as he thought of his Westphalians and the cul-de-sac where
he had sent them on the 6th day of August, sighed and looked out into
Outside a Saxon infantry band began to play a masterpiece of
Beethoven. It seemed to be the signal for breaking up, and the Red
Prince, with abrupt deference, turned to Madame de Morteyn, who gave
the signal and rose. The Red Prince stepped back as the old vicomte
gave his wife a trembling arm. Then he bowed where he stood, clothed in
his tight, blood-red tunic, tall, powerful, square-jawed,
cruel-mouthed, and eyed like a wolf. But his forehead was fine, broad,
and benevolent, and his beard softened the wicked curve of his lips.
Jack and Lorraine had again dined together in the little gilded
salon above, served by Lorraine's maid and wept over by the old
The terrified servants scarcely dared to breathe as they crept
through the halls where, like a flight of devils from hell the
Prussian ogres had settled in the house. They came whimpering to
their mistress, but took courage at the calm, dignified attitude of the
old vicomte, and began to think that these children-eating Prussians
might perhaps forego their craving for one evening. Therefore the chef
did his best, encouraged by a group of hysterical maids who had
suddenly become keenly alive to their own plumpness and possible
desirability for ragoûts.
The old marquis himself received his unwelcome guests as though he
were receiving travelling strangers, to whom, now that they were under
his roof, faultless hospitality was due, nothing more, merely the
courtesy of a French nobleman to an uninvited guest.
Ah, but the steel was in his heart to the hilt. He, an old soldier
of the Malakoff, of Algeria, the brother in arms of Changarnier, of
Chanzy, he obliged to receive invadersinvaders belonging to the same
nation which had lined the streets of Berlin so long ago, cringing,
whining Vive l'Empereur! at the crack of the thongs of Murat's
Yet now it was that he showed himself the chivalrous soldier, the
old colonel of the old régime, the true beau-sabreur of an epoch dead.
And the Red Prince Frederick Charles knew it, and bowed low as the
vicomte left the dining-hall with his gentle, pale-faced wife on his
Jack, sitting after dinner with Lorraine in the bay-window above,
looked down upon the vast camp that covered the whole land, from the
hills to the Lisse, from the forest to the pastures above Saint-Lys.
There were no tentsthe German army carried none. Here and there a
canvas-covered wagon glistened white in the moonlight; the pale
radiance fell on acres of stacked rifles, on the brass rims of drums,
and the spikes of the sentries' helmets. Videttes, vaguely silhouetted
on distant knolls, stood almost motionless, save for the tossing of
their horses' heads. Along the river Lisse the infantry pickets lay,
the sentinels, patrolling their beats with brisk, firm steps, only
pausing to bring their heavy heels together, wheel squarely, and
retrace their steps, always alert and sturdy. The wind shifted to the
west and the faint chimes of Saint-Lys came quavering on the breeze.
The bells! said Jack; can you hear them?
Yes, said Lorraine, listlessly.
She had been very silent during their dinner. He wondered that she
had not shown any emotion at the sight of the invading soldiers. She
had notshe had scarcely even shown curiosity. He thought that perhaps
she did not realize what it meant, this swarm of Prussians pouring into
France between the Moselle and the Rhine. He, American that he was,
felt heartsick, humiliated, at the sight of the spiked casques and
armoured horsemen, trampling the meadows of the province that he
lovedthe province of Lorraine. For those strangers to France who know
France know two mothers; and though the native land is first and
dearest, the new mother, France, generous, tender, lies next in the
hearts of those whom she has sheltered.
So Jack felt the shame and humiliation as though a blow had been
struck at his own home and kin, and he suffered the more thinking what
his uncle must suffer. And Lorraine! His heart had bled for her when
the harsh treble of the little, flat Prussian drums first broke out
among the hills. He looked for the deep sorrow, the patience, the proud
endurance, the prouder faith that he expected in her; he met with
silence, even a distrait indifference.
Surely she could comprehend what this crushing disaster prophesied
for France? Surely she of all women, sensitive, tender, and loyal, must
know what love of kin and country meant?
Far away in the southwest the great heart of Paris throbbed in
silence, for the beautiful, sinful city, confused by the din of the
riffraff within her walls, blinded by lies and selfish counsels,
crouched in mute agony, listening for the first ominous rumbling of a
rotten, tottering Empire.
God alone knows why he gave to France, in the supreme moment of her
need, the beings who filled heaven with the wind of their lungs and
brought her to her knees in shamenot for brave men dead in vain, not
for a wasted land, scourged and flame-shrunken from the Rhine to the
Loire, not for provinces lost nor cities gone foreverbut for the
strange creatures that her agony brought forth, shapes simian and
weird, all mouth and convulsive movement, little pigmy abortions
mouthing and playing antics before high Heaven while the land ran blood
in every furrow and the world was a hell of flame.
Gambetta, that incubus of bombastic flabbiness, roaring prophecy and
platitude through the dismayed city, kept his eye on the balcony of the
particular edifice where, later, he should pose as an animated Jericho
trumpet. So, biding his time, he bellowed, but it was the Comédie
Française that was the loser, not the people, when he sailed away in
his balloon, posed, squatting majestically as the god of war above the
clouds of battle. And little Thiers, furtive, timid, delighting in
senile efforts to stir the ferment of chaos till it boiled, he, too,
was there, owl-like, squeaky-voiced, a true Bombyx à Lunettes. There,
too, was Hugooften ridiculous in his terrible moods, egotistical,
sloppy, roaring. The Empire pinched Hugo, and he roared; and let the
rest of the world judge whether, under such circumstances, there was
majesty in the roar. The spectacle of Hugo, prancing on the ramparts
and hurling bad names at the German armies, recalls the persistent but
painful manoeuvres of a lion with a flea. Both are terribly in
earnestneither is sublime.
Jack sat leaning on the window-ledge, his chin on both hands,
watching the moonlight rippling across the sea of steel below.
Lorraine, also silent, buried in an arm-chair, lay huddled somewhere in
the shadows, looking up at the stars, scarcely visible in the radiance
of the moon.
After a while she spoke in a low voice: Do you remember in chapel a
Yes, I know what you mean. Can you say itany of it?
Presently he heard her voice in the darkness repeating the splendid
'In the days when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the
strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they
are few, and they that look out of the windows be darkened.
'And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the
grinding is low, and they shall rise up at the voice of a bird, and all
the daughters of music shall be brought low.
'Also they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fear shall be
in the way, and the almond-tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper
shall be a burden, and desire shall fail.
'Because man goeth to his long home'
Her voice broke a little.
'And the mourners go about the streets'
He leaned forward, his hand stretched out in the shadows. After a
moment her fingers touched his, moved a little, and were clasped close.
Then it was that, in her silence, he read a despair too deep, too
sudden, too stupefying for expressiona despair scarcely yet
understood. A sensitive young mind, stunned by realities never dreamed
of, recovers slowly; and the first outward evidence of returning
comprehension is an out-stretched hand, a groping in the shadows for
the hand of the best beloved. Her hand was there, out-stretched, their
fingers had met and interlaced. A great lassitude weighed her down,
mind and body. Yesterday was so far away, and to-morrow so close at
hand, but not yet close enough to arouse her from an apathy unpierced
as yet by the keen shaft of grief.
He felt the lethargy in her yielding fingers; perhaps he began to
understand the sensitive girl lying in the arm-chair beside him,
perhaps he even saw ahead into the future that promised everything or
nothing, for France, for her, for him.
Madame de Morteyn came to take her away, but before he dropped her
hand in the shadows he felt a pressure that said, Wait!so he
waited, there alone in the darkness.
The bells of Saint-Lys sounded again, scarcely vibrating in the
still air; a bank of sombre cloud buried the moon, and put out the
little stars one by one until the blackness of the night crept in,
blotting out river and tree and hill, hiding the silent camp in
fathomless shadow. He slept.
When he awoke, slowly, confused and uncertain, he found her close to
him, kneeling on the floor, her face on his knees. He touched her arm,
fearfully, scarcely daring; he touched her hair, falling heavily over
her face and shoulders and across his knees. Ah! but she was tiredher
very soul was weary and sick; and she was too young to bear her
trouble. Therefore she came back to him who had reached out his hand to
her. She could not cryshe could only lie there and try to live
through the bitterness of her solitude. For now she knew at last that
she was alone on earth. The knowledge had come in a moment, it had come
with the first trample of the Prussian horsemen; she knew that her
love, given so wholly, so passionately, was nothing, had been nothing,
to her father. He whom she lived forwas it possible that he could
abandon her in such an hour? She had waited all day, all night; she
said in her heart that he would come from his machines and his turret
to be with her. Together they could have lived through the shame of the
dayof the bitter days to come; together they could have suffered,
knowing that they had each other to live for.
But she could not face the Prussian scourge aloneshe could not.
These two truths had been revealed to her with the first tap of the
Prussian drums: that every inch of soil, every grass-blade, every
pebble of her land was dearer to her than life; and that her life was
nothing to her father. He who alone in all the world could have stood
between her and the shameful pageant of invasion, who could have taught
her to face it, to front it nobly, who could have bidden her hope and
pray and waithe sat in his turret turning little wheels while the
whole land shook with the throes of invasiontheir native land,
The death-throes of a nation are felt by all the world. Bismarck
placed a steel-clad hand upon the pulse of France, and knew Lorraine
lay dying. Amputation would end allMoltke had the apparatus ready;
Bismarck, the great surgeon and greater executioner, sat with mailed
hand on the pulse of France and waited.
The girl, Lorraine, too, knew the crisis had comesensitive
prophetess in all that she held sacred! She had never prayed for the
Emperor, but she always prayed for France when she asked forgiveness
night and morning. At confession she had accused herself sometimes
because she could not understand the deeper meaning of this daily
prayer, but now she understood it; the fierce love for native soil that
blazes up when that soil is stamped upon and spurned.
All the devotion, all the tender adoration, that she had given her
father turned now to bitter grief for this dear land of hers. It, at
least, had been her mother, her comforter, her consolation; and there
it lay before herit called to her; she responded passionately, and
gave it all her love. So she lay there in the dark, her hot face buried
in her hands, close to one whom she needed and who needed her.
He was too wise to speak or move; he loved her too much to touch
again the hair, flung heavily across her faceto touch her flushed
brow, her clasped hands, her slender body, delicate and warm, firm yet
yielding. He waited for the tears to come. And when they fell, one by
one, great, hot drops, they brought no relief until she told him
allallher last and inmost hope and fear.
Then when her white soul lay naked in all its innocence before him,
and when the last word had been said, he raised her head and searched
in her pure eyes for one message of love for himself.
It was not there; and the last word had been said.
And, even as he looked, holding her there almost in his arms, the
Prussian trumpets clanged from the dim meadows and the drums thundered
on the hills, and the invading army roused itself at the dawn of
XVIII. THE STRETCHING OF NECKS
For two days and nights the German army passed through Morteyn and
Saint-Lys, on the march towards Metz. All day long the hills struck
back the echoes of their flat brass drums, and shook with the shock of
armed squadrons, tramping on into the west. Interminable trains of
wagons creaked along the sandy Saint-Avold road; the whistle of the
locomotive was heard again at Saint-Lys, where the Bavarians had
established a base of supplies and were sending their endless,
multicoloured trains puffing away towards Saarbrück for provisions and
munitions of war that had arrived there from Cologne. Generals with
their staffs, serious, civil fellows, with anxious, near-sighted eyes,
stopped at the Château and were courteously endured, only to be
replaced by others equally polite and serious. And regularly, after
each batch left with their marching regiments, there came back to the
Château by courier, the same evening, a packet of visiting-cards and a
polite letter signed by all the officers entertained, thanking the
Vicomte and Madame de Morteyn for their hospitality.
At last, on the 10th of August, about five o'clock in the afternoon,
the last squadron of the rear-guard cantered over the hills west of
Morteyn, and the last straggling Uhlan followed after, twirling his
Every day Lorraine had watched and waited for one word from her
father; every day Jack had ridden over to the Château de Nesville, but
the marquis refused to see him or to listen to any message, nor did he
send any to Lorraine.
Old Pierre told Jack that no Germans had visited the Château; that
the marquis was busy all day with his machinery, and never left his
turret except to eat at daylight in the grand salon below. He also
intimated that his master was about ready to make another ascension in
the new balloon, which, old Pierre affirmed, had a revolving screw at
either side of the wicker car, like a ship; and, like a ship, it could
be steered with perfect ease. He even took Jack to a little stone
structure that stood in a meadow, surrounded by trees. In there,
according to Pierre, stood this marvellous balloon, not yet inflated,
of course. That was only a matter of five seconds; a handful of the
silver dust placed at the aperture of the silken bag, a drop of pure
water touched to it, and, puff! the silver dust turns to vapour and the
balloon swells out tight and full.
Jack had peeped into the barred window and had seen the wicker car
of the balloon standing on the cement floor, filled with the folded
silken covering for the globe of the balloon. He could just make out,
on either side of the car, two twisted twin screws, wrought out of some
dull oxidized metal. On returning to Morteyn that evening he had told
She explained that the screws were made of a metal called aluminum,
rare then, because so difficult to extract from its combining
substances, and almost useless on account of its being impossible to
weld. Her father, however, had found a way to utilize ithow, she did
not know. If this ascension proved a success the French government
would receive the balloon and the secret of the steering and propelling
gear, along with the formula for the silvery dust used to inflate it.
Even she understood what a terrible engine of war such an aërial ship
might be, from which two men could blow up fortress after fortress and
city after city when and where they chose. Armies could be annihilated,
granite and steel would be as tinder before a bomb or torpedo of picric
acid dropped from the clouds.
On the 10th of August, a little after five o'clock, Jack left
Lorraine on the terrace at Morteyn to try once more to see the
marquisfor Lorraine's sake.
He turned to the west, where the last Uhlan of the rear-guard was
disappearing over the brow of the hill, brandishing his pennoned
lance-tip in the late rays of the low-hanging sun.
Good-by, he said, smiling up at her from the steps. Don't worry,
please don't. Remember your father is well, and is working for France.
He spoke of the marquis as her father; he always should as long as
she lived. He said, too, that the marquis was labouring for France. So
he was; but France would never see the terrible war engine, nor know
the secrets of its management, as long as Napoleon III. was struggling
to keep his family in the high places of France.
Good-by, he said again. I shall be back by sundown.
Lorraine leaned over the terrace, looking down at him with blue,
Tiens ta Foy.
She did not chide him; she longed to call him Jack, but it stuck in
her white throat when she tried.
If you do not come back by sundown, then I shall know you cannot,
But I shall.
Yes, I believe it.
Come after me if I don't return, he laughed, as he descended the
I shall, if you break your faith, she smiled.
She watched him out of sighthe was going on foot this timethen
the trees hid him, and she turned back into the house, where Madame de
Morteyn was preparing to close the Château for the winter and return to
It was the old vicomte who had decided; he had stayed and faced the
music as long as there was any to facePrussian music, too. But now
the Prussians had passed on towards Metztowards Paris, also, perhaps,
and he wished to be there; it was too sad in the autumn of Lorraine.
He had aged fearfully in the last four days; he was in truth an old
man now. Even he knew ithe who had never before acknowledged age; but
he felt it at night; for it is when day is ended that the old
comprehend how old they are.
This was to be Lorraine's last night at Morteyn; in the morning Jack
was to drive her back to her father and then return to Morteyn to
accompany his uncle and aunt to Paris. The old people once settled in
Paris with Dorothy and Betty Castlemaine, and surrounded by friends
again, Jack would take leave of them and return to Morteyn with one
servant. This he had promised Lorraine, and she had not said no. His
aunt also wished it, but she did not think it time yet to tell the
The servants, with the exception of one maid and the coachman, had
gone in the morning, by way of Vigny, with the luggage. The vicomte and
his wife were to travel by carriage to Passy-le-Sel, and from there,
via Belfort, if the line were open, to Paris by rail. Jack, it had been
arranged, was to ride to Belfort on horseback, and join the old people
there for the journey to Paris.
So Lorraine turned back into the silent house, where the furniture
stood in its stiff, white dust-coverings, where cloths covered
candelabra and mirror, and the piano was bare of embroidered scarfs.
She passed through darkened rooms, one after another, through the
long hall, where no servants remained, through the ballroom and
dining-room, and out into the conservatory, emptied of every palm. She
passed on across the interior court, through the servants' wicket, and
out to the stables. All the stalls save one were empty. Faust stood in
that one stall switching his tail and peering around at her with wise,
dark eyes. Then she kissed his soft nose, and went sadly back to the
house, only to roam over it again from terrace to roof, never meeting a
living soul, never hearing a sound except when she passed the vicomte's
suite, where Madame de Morteyn and the maid were arranging last details
and the old vicomte lay asleep in his worn arm-chair.
There was one room she had not visited, one room in which she had
never set foot, never even peeped into. That was Jack's room. And now,
by an impulse she could not understand, her little feet led her up the
stairway, across the broad landing, through the gun-room, and there to
the doorhis door. It was open. She glided in.
There was a faint odour of tobacco in the room, a smell of leather,
too. That came from the curb-bit and bridle hanging on the wall, or
perhaps from the plastron, foils, and gauntlets over the mantle. Pipes
lay about in profusion, mixed with silver-backed brushes, cigar-boxes,
neckties, riding-crops, and gloves.
She stole on tiptoe to the bed, looked at her wide, bright eyes in
the mirror opposite, flushed, hesitated, bent swiftly, and touched the
white pillow with her lips.
For a second she knelt there where he might have knelt, morning and
evening, then slipped to her feet, turned, and was gone.
At sundown Jack returned, animated, face faintly touched with red
from his three-mile walk. He had seen the marquis; more, too, he had
seen the balloonhe had examined it, stood in the wicker car, tested
the aluminum screws. He brought back a message for Lorraine,
affectionate and kindly, asking for her return home early the next
If we do not find you at Belfort to-morrow, said Madame de
Morteyn, seriously, we shall not wait. We shall go straight on to
Paris. The house is ready to be locked, everything is in perfect order,
and really, Jack, there is no necessity for your coming. Perhaps
Lorraine's father may ask you to stay there for a few days.
He has, said Jack, growing a trifle pink.
Then you need not come to Belfort at all, insisted his aunt. Jack
protested that he could not let them go to Paris alone.
But I've sent Faust on already, said Madame de Morteyn, smiling.
Then the Marquis de Nesville will lend me a horse; you can't keep
me away like that, said Jack; I will drive Mademoiselle de Nesville
to her home and then come on horseback and meet you at Belfort, as I
said I would.
We won't count on you, said his aunt; if you're not there when
the train comes, your uncle and I will abandon you to the mercy of
I shall send him on by freight, said Lorraine, trying to smile.
I'm going back to the Château de Nesville to-night for an hour or
two, observed Jack, finishing his Moselle; the marquis wanted me to
help him on the last touches. He makes an ascent to-morrow noon.
Take a lantern, then, said Madame de Morteyn; don't you want
Jules, tooif you're going on foot through the forest?
Don't want Jules, and the squirrels won't eat me, laughed Jack,
looking across at Lorraine. He was thinking of that first dash in the
night together, she riding with the fury of a storm-witch, her
ball-gown in ribbons, her splendid hair flashing, he galloping at her
stirrup, putting his horse at a dark figure that rose in their path;
and then the collision, the trample, the shots in the dark, and her
round white shoulder seared with the bullet mark.
She raised her beautiful eyes and asked him how soon he was going to
Now, he said.
You will perhaps wait until your old aunt rises, said Madame de
Morteyn, and she kissed him on the cheek. He helped her from her chair
and led her from the room, the vicomte following with Lorraine.
Ten minutes later he was ready to start, and again he promised
Lorraine to return at eleven o'clock.
'Tiens ta Foy,' she repeated.
The night was starless. As he stood there on the terrace swinging
his lantern, he looked back at her, up into her eyes. And as he looked
she bent down, impulsively stretching out both arms and whispering, At
elevenyou have promised, Jack.
At last his name had fallen from her lipshad slipped from them
easilysweet as the lips that breathed it.
He tried to answer; he could not, for his heart beat in his throat.
But he took her two hands and crushed them together and kissed the
soft, warm palms, passive under his lips. That was alla touch, a
glimpse of his face half lit by the lantern swinging; and again she
called, softly, Jack, 'Tiens ta Foy!' And he was gone.
The distance to the Château de Nesville was three miles; it might
have been three feet for all Jack knew, moving through the forest,
swinging his lantern, his eyes on the dim trees towering into the
blackness overhead, his mind on Lorraine. Where the lantern-light fell
athwart rugged trunks, he saw her face; where the tall shadows wavered
and shook, her eyes met his. Her voice was in the forest rumour, the
low rustle of leafy undergrowth, the whisper of waters flowing under
Already the gray wall of the park loomed up in the east, already the
gables and single turret of the Château grew from the shadows and took
form between the meshed branches of the trees.
The grille swung wide open, but the porter was not there. He walked
on, hastening a little, crossed the lawn by the summer arbour, and
approached the house. There was a light in the turret, but the rest of
the house was dark. As he reached the porch and looked into the black
hallway, a slight noise in the dining-room fell upon his ear, and he
opened the door and went in. The dining-room was dark; he set his
extinguished lantern on the table and lighted a lamp by the window,
saying: Pierre, tell the marquis I am heretell him I am to return to
Morteyn by elevenPierre, do you hear me? Where are you, then?
He raised his head instinctively, his hand on the lamp-globe. Pierre
was not there, but something moved in the darkness outside the window,
and he went to the door.
Pierre! he called again; and at the same instant an Uhlan struck
him with his lance-butt across the temples.
* * * * *
How long it was before he opened his eyes he could not tell. He
found himself lying on the ground in a meadow surrounded by trees. A
camp-fire flickered near, lighting the gray side of the little stone
house where the balloon was kept.
There were soundsdeep, guttural voices raised in dispute or
threats; he saw a group of shadowy men, swaying, pushing, crowding
under the trees. The firelight glimmered on a gilt button here and
there, on a sabre-hilt, on polished schapskas and gold-scaled
chin-guards. The knot of struggling figures suddenly widened out into a
half-circle, then came a quick command, a cry in FrenchAh!
God!and something shot up into the air and hung from a tree,
dangling, full in the firelight.
It was the writhing body of a man.
Jack turned his head away, then covered his eyes with his hands.
Beside him a tall Uhlan, swathed to the eyes in his great-coat, leaned
on a lance and smoked in silence.
Suddenly a voice broke out in the night: Links! vorwärts! There
came a regular tramp of feetone, two! one, two!across the grass,
past the fire, and straight to where Jack sat, his face in his arms.
The bright glare of lanterns dazzled him as he looked up, but he saw
a line of men with bared sabres standing to his righttall Uhlans,
buttoned to the chin in their sombre overcoats, helmet-cords
oscillating in the lantern glow.
Another Uhlan, standing erect before him, had been speaking for a
second or two before he even heard him.
Prisoner, do you understand German? repeated the Uhlan, harshly.
Yes, muttered Jack. He began to shiver, perhaps from the chill of
the wet earth.
Jack stumbled to his numbed feet. A drop of blood rolled into his
eye and he mechanically wiped it away. He tried to look at the man
before him; he could not, for his fascinated eyes returned to that
thing that hung on a rope from the great sprawling oak-branch at the
edge of the grove.
Like a vague voice in a dream he heard his own name pronounced; he
heard a sonorous formula repeated in a heavy, dispassionate
voiceaccused of having resisted a picquet of his Prussian Majesty's
11th Regiment of Uhlan cavalry, of having wilfully, maliciously, and
with murderous design fired upon and wounded trooper Kohlmann of said
picquet while in pursuit of his duty.
Again he heard the same voice: The law of non-combatants operating
in such cases leaves no doubt as to the just penalty due.
Jack straightened up and looked the officer in the eyes. Ah! now he
knew himthe map-maker of the carrefour, the sneak-thief who had
scaled the park wall with the boxthat was the face he had struck with
his clenched fist, the same pink, high-boned face, with the little,
pale, pig-like eyes. In the same second the man's name came back to him
as he had deciphered it written in pencil on the mapsSiurd von Steyr!
Von Steyr's eyes grew smaller and paler, and an ugly flush mounted
to his scarred cheek-bone. But his voice was dispassionate and harsh as
ever when he said: The prisoner Marche is at liberty to confront
witnesses. Trooper Kohlmann!
There he stood, the same blond, bony Uhlan whom Jack had tumbled
into the dust, the same colourless giant whom he had dragged with
trailing spurs across the road to the tree.
From his pouch the soldier produced Jack's silver flask, with his
name engraved on the bottom, his pipe, still half full of tobacco, just
as he had dropped it when the field-glasses told him that Uhlans, not
French lancers, were coming down the hill-side.
One by one three other Uhlans advanced from the motionless ranks,
saluted, briefly identified the prisoner, and stepped back again.
Have you any statement to make? demanded Von Steyr.
Jack's teeth were clenched, his throat contracted, he was choking.
Everything around him swam in darknessa darkness lit by little
flames; his veins seemed bursting. He was in their midst now,
shouldered and shoved across the grass; their hot breath fell on his
face, their hands crushed his arms, bent back his elbows, pushed him
forward, faster, faster, towards the tree where that thing hung,
turning slowly as a squid spins on a swivel.
It was the grating of the rope on his throat that crushed the first
cry out of him: Von Steyr, shoot me! For the love of God! Notnot
He was struggling nowhe set his teeth and struck furiously. The
crowd seemed to increase about him; now there was a mounted man in
their midstmore mounted men, shouting.
The rope suddenly tightened; the blood pounded in his cheeks, in his
temples; his tongue seemed to split open. Then he got his fingers
between the noose and his neck; now the thing loosened and he pitched
forward, but kept his feet.
Gott verdammt! roared a voice above him; Von Steyr!here! get
back there!get back!
Rickerl! gasped Jacktelltell themthey must shootnot
He stood glaring at the soldiers before him, face bloody and
distorted, the rope trailing from one clenched hand. Breathless,
haggard, he planted his heels in the turf, and, dropping the noose, set
one foot on it. All around him horsemen crowded up, lances slung from
their elbows, helmets nodding as the restive horses wheeled.
And now for the first time he saw the Marquis de Nesville, face like
a death-mask, one hand on the edge of the wicker balloon-car, which
stood in the midst of a circle of cavalry.
This is not the place nor is this the time to judge your
prisoners, said Rickerl, pushing his horse up to Von Steyr and
scowling down into his face. Who called this drum-head court? Is that
your province? Oh, in my absence? Well, then, I am here! Do you see
The insult fell like the sting of a lash across Von Steyr's face. He
saluted, and, looking straight into Rickerl's eyes, said, Zum Befehl,
Herr Hauptmann! I am at your convenience also.
When you please! shouted Rickerl, crimson with fury. Retire!
Scarcely were the words out of his mouth, scarcely had he backed his
startled horse, when there came a sound of a crushing blow, a groan,
and a soldier staggered back from the balloon-car, his hands to his
head, where the shattered helmet hung by one torn gilt cord. In the
same instant the marquis, dishevelled, white as a corpse, rose from the
wicker car, shaking his steel box above his head. Then, through the
ring of nervous, quivering horses the globe of the balloon appeared as
by magican enormous, looming, yellow sphere, tense, glistening,
The horses reared, snorting with fright, the Uhlans clung to their
saddles, shouting and cursing, and the huge balloon, swaying from its
single rope, pounded and bounced from side to side, knocking beast and
man into a chaotic mass of frantic horses and panic-stricken riders.
With a report like a pistol the rope parted, the great globe bounded
and shot up into the air; a tumult of harsh shouts arose; the crazed
horses backed, plunged, and scattered, some falling, some bolting into
the undergrowth, some rearing and swaying in an ecstasy of terror.
The troopers, helpless, gnashing their teeth, shook their long
lances towards the sky, where the moon was breaking from the banked
clouds, and the looming balloon hung black above the forest, drifting
And now Von Steyr had a weapon in his handsnot a carbine, but a
long chassepot-rifle, a relic of the despoiled franc-tireur, dangling
from the oak-tree.
Some one shouted, It's loaded with explosive bullets!
Then drop it! roared Rickerl. For shame!
The crash of the rifle drowned his voice.
The balloon's shadowy bulk above the forest was belted by a blue
line of light; the globe contracted, a yellow glare broke out in the
sky. Then far away a light report startled the sudden stillness; a dark
spot, suspended in mid-air, began to fall, swiftly, more swiftly,
dropping through the night between sky and earth.
You damned coward! stammered Rickerl, pointing a shaking hand at
God keep you when our sabres meet! said Von Steyr, between his
Rickerl burst into an angry laugh.
Where is your prisoner? he cried.
Von Steyr stared around him, right and leftJack was gone.
Let others prefer charges, said Rickerl, contemptuouslyif you
escape my sabre in the morning.
Let them, said Von Steyr, quietly, but his face worked
Second platoon dismount to search for escaped prisoner! he cried.
Open order! Forward!
XIX. RICKERL'S SABRE
Jack, lying full length in the depths of the forest, listened
fearfully for the sounds of the human pack on his heels. The blackness
was stupefying; the thud of his own heart seemed to fill the shrouded
forest like the roll of a muffled drum. Presently he crept on again,
noiselessly, painfully, closing his eyes when the invisible twigs
brushed his face.
He did not know where he was going, he only thought of getting away,
anywhereaway from that hangman's rope.
Again he rested, suffocated by the tumult in his breast, burning
with thirst. For a long while he lay listening; there was not a sound
in the night. Little by little his coolness returned; he thought of
Lorraine and his promise, and he knew that now he could not keep it. He
thought, too, of the marquis, never doubting the terrible fate of the
half-crazed man. He had seen him stun the soldier with a blow of the
steel box, he had seen the balloon shoot up into the midnight sky, he
had heard the shot and caught a glimpse of the glare of the burning
balloon. Somewhere in the forest the battered body of the marquis lay
in the wreck of the shattered car. The steel box, too, lay therethe
box that was so precious to the Germans.
He rose to his knees, felt around among the underbrush, bent his
head and crept on, parting leaves and branches with one hand, holding
the other over his eyes. The thought that he might be moving in a
circle filled him with fear. But that was exactly what he was doing,
for now he found himself close to the park wall; and, listening, he
heard the river murmuring among the alders. He halted, utterly at a
loss. If he were caught again could Rickerl save him? What could a
captain of Uhlans do? True, he had interfered with Von Steyr's
hangman's work, but that was nothing but a reprieve at best.
The murmur of the river filled his ears; his hot throat was
cracking. Drink he must, at any rate, and he started on in the
darkness, moving stealthily over the moss. The water was closer than he
had imagined; he bent above it, first touching it with groping hands,
then noiselessly bathed his feverish face in the dark stream, drinking
He longed to follow the shallow stream, wading to Morteyn, but he
dared not risk it; so he went along the bank as far as he could, trying
to keep within sound of the waters, until again he found himself close
to the park wall. The stream had vanished again.
Dawn began to gray the forest; little by little the nearest trees
grew from the darkness, and bushes took vague shapes in the gloom. He
strained his eyes, peering at every object near him, striving to
recognize stones, saplings, but he could not. Even when dawn at last
came up out of the east, and the thickets grew distinct, he did not
know where he was. A line of vapour through the trees marked the course
of the little river. Which way was it flowing? Even that he could not
tell. He looked in vain for the park wall; that had vanished utterly
with the dawn. Very cautiously he advanced over the deep forest mould
to the willow-fringed bank of the stream. The current was flowing east.
Where was he? He parted the willows and looked out, and at the same
instant an Uhlan saw him and shouted.
Running swiftly through the trees, head lowered, hands clenched, he
heard the sound of galloping on a soft road that seemed to run through
the forest, parallel to his own course. Then, as he bore hastily to the
right and plunged into the deeper undergrowth, he caught a glimpse of
the Château close by through the trees. Horrified to find himself back
at the place from which he had started, he doubled in his tracks, ran
on, stooping low, splashed into the stream and across, and plunged up
to the shoulders through the tall weeds and bushes until again he felt
the forest leaves beneath his feet.
The sudden silence around him was disconcerting. Where had the Uhlan
gone? He ran on, making straight for the depths of the woods, for he
knew now where he was, and in which direction safety lay.
After a while his breath and legs gave out together, and he leaned
against a beech-tree, his hands pressed to his mouth, where the breath
struggled for expulsion. And, as he leaned there, two Uhlans, mounted,
lances advanced, came picking their way among the trees, turning their
heads cautiously from side to side. Behind these two rode six others,
apparently unarmed, two abreast. He saw at once that nothing could save
him, for they were making straight for his beech-tree. In that second
of suspense he made up his mind to die fighting, for he knew what
capture meant. He fixed his eyes on the foremost Uhlan, and waited.
When the Uhlan should pass his tree he would fly at him; the rest could
stab him to death with their lancesthat was the only way to end it
He shrank back, teeth set, nerving himself for the springa hunted
thing turned fierce, a desperate man knowing that death was close. How
long they were in coming! Had they seen him? When would the horse's
nose pass the great tree-trunk?
Halt! cried a voice very near. The soft trample of horses ceased.
It seemed an age; the sluggish seconds crawled on. There was the
sound of feet among the dry forest leavesthe hum of deep voices. He
waited, trembling, for now it would be a man on foot with naked sabre
who should sink under his spring. Would he never come?
At last, unable to stand the suspense, he moved his eyes to the edge
of the tree. There they were, a group of Uhlans standing near two men
who stood facing each other, jackets off, shirts open to the throat.
The two men were Rickerl and Von Steyr.
Rickerl rolled up his white shirt-sleeve and tucked the cuff into
the folds, his naked sabre under his arm. Von Steyr, in shirt,
riding-breeches, and boots, stood with one leg crossed before the
other, leaning on his bared sabre. The surgeon and the two seconds
walked apart, speaking in undertones, with now and then a quick gesture
from the surgeon. The three troopers held the horses of the party, and
watched silently. When at last one of the Uhlans spoke, they were so
near that every word was perfectly distinct to Jack:
Gentlemen, an affair of honour in the face of the enemy is always
Rickerl burst out violently. There can be no compromiseno
adjustment. Is it Lieutenant von Steyr who seeks it? Then I tell him he
is a hangman and a coward! He hangs a franc-tireur who fires on us with
explosive bullets, but he himself does not hesitate to disgrace his
uniform and regiment by firing explosive bullets at an escaping wretch
in a balloon!
You lie! said Von Steyr, his face convulsed. At the same moment
the surgeon stepped forward with a gesture, the two seconds placed
themselves; somebody muttered a formula in a gross bass voice and the
swordsmen raised their heavy sabres and saluted. The next moment they
were at it like tigers; their sabres flashed above their heads, the
sabres of the seconds hovering around the outer edge of the circle of
glimmering steel like snakes coiling to spring.
To and fro swayed the little group under the blinding flashes of
light, stroke rang on stroke, steel shivered and tinkled and clanged on
Fascinated by the spectacle, Jack crouched close to the tree, seeing
all he dared to see, but keeping a sharp eye on the three Uhlans who
were holding the horses, and who should have been doing sentry duty
also. But they were human, and their eyes could not be dragged away
from the terrible combat before them.
Suddenly, from the woods to the right, a rifle-shot rang out, clear
and sharp, and one of the Uhlans dropped the three bridles,
straightened out to his full height, trembled, and lurched sideways.
The horses, freed, backed into the other horses; the two remaining
Uhlans tried to seize them, but another shot rang outanother, and
then another. In the confusion and turmoil a voice cried: Mount, for
God's sake! but one of the horses was already free, and was galloping
away riderless through the woods.
A terrible yell arose from the underbrush, where a belt of smoke
hung above the bushes, and again the rifles cracked. Von Steyr turned
and seized a horse, throwing himself heavily across the saddle; the
surgeon and the two seconds scrambled into their saddles, and the
remaining pair of Uhlans, already mounted, wheeled their horses and
galloped headlong into the woods.
Jack saw Rickerl set his foot in the stirrup, but his horse was
restive and started, dragging him.
Hurry, Herr Hauptmann! cried a Uhlan, passing him at a gallop.
Rickerl cast a startled glance over his shoulder, where, from the
thickets, a dozen franc-tireurs were springing towards him, shouting
and shaking their chassepots. Something had given wayJack saw
thatfor the horse started on at a trot, snorting with fright. He saw
Rickerl run after him, seize the bridle, stumble, recover, and hang to
the stirrup; but the horse tore away and left him running on behind,
one hand grasping his naked sabre, one clutching a bit of the
À mort les Uhlans! shouted the franc-tireurs, their ferocious
faces lighting up as Rickerl's horse eluded its rider and crashed away
through the saplings.
Rickerl cast one swift glance at the savage faces, turned his head
like a trapped wolf in a pit, hesitated, and started to run. A chorus
of howls greeted him: À mort! À mort le voleur! À la lanterne les
Scarcely conscious of what he was doing, Jack sprang from his tree
and ran parallel to Rickerl.
Ricky! he called in Englishfollow me! Hurry! hurry!
The franc-tireurs could not see Jack, but they heard his voice, and
answered it with a roar. Rickerl, too, heard it, and he also heard the
sound of Jack's feet crashing through the willows along the
Jack! he cried.
Quick! Take to the river-bank! shouted Jack in English again. In a
moment they were running side by side up the river-bottom, hidden from
the view of the franc-tireurs.
Do as I do, panted Jack. Throw your sabre away and follow me.
It's our last chance. But Rickerl clung to his sabre and ran on. And
now the park wall rose right in their path, seeming to block all
We can't get overit's ended, gasped Rickerl.
Yes, we canfollow, whispered Jack, and dashed straight into the
river where it washed the base of the wall.
Do exactly as I do. Follow close, urged Jack; and, wading to the
edge of the wall, he felt along under the water for a moment, then
knelt down, ducked his head, gave a wriggle, and disappeared. Rickerl
followed him, kneeling and ducking his head. At the same moment he felt
a powerful current pulling him forward, and, groping around under the
shallow water, his hands encountered the rim of a large iron conduit.
He stuck his head into it, gave himself a push, and shot through the
short pipe into a deep pool on the other side of the wall, from which
Jack dragged him dripping and exhausted.
You are my prisoner! said Jack, between his gasps. Give me your
sabre, Rickyquick! Look yonder! A loud explosion followed his words,
and a column of smoke rose above the foliage of the vineyard before
Artillery! blurted out Rickerl, in amazement.
French artillerylook out! Here come the franc-tireurs over the
wall! Give me that sabre and run for the French linesif you don't
want to hang! And, as Rickerl hesitated, with a scowl of hate at the
franc-tireurs now swarming over the wall, Jack seized the sabre and
jerked it violently from his hand.
You're crazy! he muttered. Run for the batteries!here, this
A franc-tireur fired at them point-blank, and the bullet whistled
between them. Leave me. Give me my sabre, said Rickerl, in a low
Then we'll both stay.
Leave me! I'll not hang, I tell you.
The franc-tireurs were running towards them.
They'll kill us both. Here they come!
You stood by me said Jack, in a faint voice.
Rickerl looked him in the eyes, hesitated, and cried, I surrender!
Come on! Hurry, Jackfor your sister's sake!
XX. SIR THORALD IS SILENT
It was a long run to the foot of the vineyard hill, where, on the
crest, deep hidden among the vines, three cannon clanged at regular
intervals, stroke following stroke, like the thundering summons of a
Behind them they saw the franc-tireurs for a moment, thrashing
waist-deep through the rank marsh weeds; then, as they plunged into a
wheat-field, the landscape disappeared, and all around the yellow grain
rustled, waving above their heads, dense, sun-heated, suffocating.
Their shoes sank ankle-deep in the reddish-yellow soil; they panted,
wet with perspiration as they ran. Jack still clutched Rickerl's sabre,
and the tall corn, brushing the blade, fell under the edge, keen as a
I can go no farther, breathed Jack, at last. Wait a moment,
The hot air in the depths of the wheat was stifling, and they
stretched their heads above the sea of golden grain, gasping like
fishes in a bowl.
Perhaps I won't have to surrender you, after all, said Jack. Do
you see that old straw-stack on the slope? If we could reach the other
He held out his hand to gauge the exact direction, then bent again
and plodded towards it, Rickerl jogging in his footprints.
As they pressed on under the rustling canopy, the sound of the
cannon receded, for they were skirting the vineyard at the base of the
hill, bearing always towards the south. And now they came to the edge
of the long field, beyond which stretched another patch of stubble. The
straw-stack stood half-way up the slope.
Here's your sabre, motioned Jack. He was exhausted and reeled
about in the stubble, but Rickerl passed one arm about him, and, sabre
clutched in the other hand, aided him to the straw-stack.
The fresh wind strengthened them both; the sweat cooled and dried on
their throbbing faces. They leaned against the stack, breathing
heavily, the breeze blowing their wet hair, the solemn cannon-din
thrilling their ears, stroke on stroke.
The thing is plain to me, gasped Rickerl, pointing to the
smoke-cloud eddying above the vineyarda brigade or two of Frossard's
corps have been cut off and hurled back towards Nancy. Their rear-guard
is making a standthat's all. Jack, what on earth did you get into
such a terrible scrape for?
Jack, panting full length in the shadow of the straw-stack, told
Rickerl the whole wretched story, from the time of his leaving Forbach,
after having sent the despatches to the Herald, up to the moment
he had called to Rickerl there in the meadow, surrounded by Uhlans, a
rope already choking him senseless.
Rickerl listened impassively, playing with the sabre on his knees,
glancing right and left across the country with his restless baby-blue
eyes. When Jack finished he said nothing, but it was plain enough how
seriously he viewed the matter.
As for your damned Uhlans, ended Jack, I have tried to keep out
of their way. It's a relief to me to know that I didn't kill that
trooper; butconfound him!he shot at me so enthusiastically that I
thought it time to join the party myself. Ricky, would they have hanged
me if they had given me a fair court-martial?
As a favour they might have shot you, replied Rickerl, gloomily.
Then, said Jack, there are two things left for me to dogo to
Paris, which I can't unless Mademoiselle de Nesville goes, or join some
franc-tireur corps and give the German army as good as they send. If
you Uhlans think, he continued, violently, that you're coming into
France to hang and shoot and raise hell without getting hell in return,
you're a pack of idiots!
The war is none of your affair, said Rickerl, flushing. You
brought it on yourselfthis hanging business. Good heavens! the whole
thing makes me sick! I can't believe that two weeks ago we were all
there together at Morteyn
A pretty return you're making for Morteyn hospitality! blurted out
Jack. Then, shocked at what he had said, he begged Rickerl's pardon and
bitterly took himself to task.
I am a fool, Ricky; I know you've got to follow your
regiment, and I know it must cut you to the heart. Don't mind what I
say; I'm so miserable and bewildered, and I haven't got the feeling of
that rope off my neck yet.
Rickerl raised his hand gently, but his face was hard set.
Jack, you don't begin to know what a hell I am living in, I who
care so much for France and the French people, to know that all, all is
ended forever, that I can never again
His voice choked; he cleared it and went on: The very name of Uhlan
is held in horror in France now; the word Prussian is a curse when it
falls from French lips. God knows why we are fighting! We Germans obey,
that is all. I am a captain in a Prussian cavalry regiment; the call
comes, that is all that I know. And here I am, riding through the land
I love; I sit on my horse and see the torch touched to field and barn;
I see railroads torn out of the ground, I see wretched peasants hung to
the rafters of their own cottages. He lowered his voice; his face grew
paler. I see the friend I care most for in all the world, a rope
around his neck, my own troopers dragging him to the vilest death a man
can die! That is war! Why? I am a Prussian, it is not necessary for me
to know; but the regiment moves, and I move! it halts, I halt! it
charges, retreats, burns, tramples, rends, devastates! I am always with
it, unless some bullet settles me. For this war is nearly ended, Jack,
nearly endeda battle or two, a siege or two, nothing more. What can
stand against us? Not this bewildered France.
Jack was silent.
Rickerl's blue eyes sought his; he rested his square chin on one
hand and spoke again:
Jack, do you know thatthat I love your sister?
Her last letter said as much, replied Jack, coldly.
Rickerl watched his face.
You are sorry?
I don't know; I had hoped she would marry an American. Have you
Yes. This was a chivalrous falsehood; it was Dorothy who had
spoken first, there in the gravel drive as he rode away from Morteyn.
Jack glanced at him angrily.
It was not honourable, he said; my aunt's permission should have
been asked, as you know; also, incidentally, my own. Doesdoes Dorothy
care for you? Oh, you need not answer that; I think she does. Well,
this war may change things.
Yes, said Rickerl, sadly.
I don't mean that, cried Jack; Heaven knows I wouldn't have you
hurt, Ricky; don't think I meant that
I don't, said Rickerl, half smiling; you risked your skin to save
me half an hour ago.
And you called off your bloody pack of hangmen for me, said Jack;
I'm devilish grateful, Rickyindeed I amand you know I'd be glad to
have you in the family ifif it wasn't for this cursed war. Never
mind, Dorothy generally has what she wants, even if it's
Even if it's an Uhlan? suggested Rickerl, gravely.
Jack smiled and laid his hand on Rickerl's arm.
She ought to see you now, bareheaded, dusty, in your shirt-sleeves!
You're not much like the attaché at the Diplomatic balleh, Ricky? If
you marry Dorothy I'll punch your head. Come on, we've got to find out
where we are.
That's my road, observed Rickerl, quietly, pointing across the
Don't you see?
Jack searched the distant landscape in vain.
No, are the Germans there? Oh, now I see. Why, it's a squadron of
your cursed Uhlans!
Yes, said Rickerl, mildly.
Then they've been chased out of the Château de Nesville!
Probably. They may come back. Jack, can't you get out of this
Perhaps, replied Jack, soberly. He thought of Lorraine, of the
marquis lying mangled and dead in the forest beside the fragments of
Your Lieutenant von Steyr is a dirty butcher, he said. I hope
you'll finish him when you find him.
He fired explosive bullets, which your franc-tireurs use on us,
retorted Rickerl, growing red.
Oh, cried Jack in disgust, the whole business makes me sick!
Ricky, give me your handthere! Don't let this war end our friendship.
Go to your Uhlans now. As for me, I must get back to Morteyn. What
Lorraine will do, where she can go, how she will stand this ghastly
news, I don't know; and I wish there was somebody else to tell her. My
uncle and aunt have already gone to Paris, they said they would not
wait for me. Lorraine is at Morteyn, alone except for her maid, and she
is probably frightened at my not returning as I promised. Do you think
you can get to your Uhlans safely? They passed into the grove beyond
the hills. What the mischief are those cannon shelling, anyway? Well,
good-by! Better not come up the hill with me, or you'll have to part
with your sabre for good. We did lose our franc-tireur friends
beautifully. I'll write Dorothy; I'll tell her that I captured you,
sabre and all. Good-by! Good-by, old fellow! If you'll promise not to
get a bullet in your blond hide I'll promise to be a brother-in-law to
Rickerl looked very manly as he stood there, booted, bareheaded, his
thin shirt, soaked with sweat, outlining his muscular figure.
They lingered a moment, hands closely clasped, looking gravely into
each other's faces. Then, with a gesture, half sad, half friendly,
Rickerl started across the stubble towards the distant grove where his
Uhlans had taken cover.
Jack watched him until his white shirt became a speck, a dot, and
finally vanished among the trees on the blue hill. When he was gone,
Jack turned sharply away and climbed the furze-covered slope from
whence he hoped to see the cannon, now firing only at five-minute
intervals. As he toiled up the incline he carefully kept himself under
cover, for he had no desire to meet any lurking franc-tireurs. It is
true that, even when the franc-tireurs had been closest, there in the
swamp among the rank marsh grasses, the distance was too great for them
to have identified him with certainty. But he thought it best to keep
out of their way until within hail of the regular troops, so he took
advantage of bushes and inequalities of the slope to reconnoitre the
landscape before he reached the summit of the ridge. There was a tufted
thicket of yellow broom in flower on the crest of the ridge; behind
this he lay and looked out across the plain.
A little valley separated this hill from the vineyard, terraced up
to the north, ridge upon ridge. The cannon smoke shot up from the
thickets of vines, rose, and drifted to the west, blotting out the
greater portion of the vineyard. The cannon themselves were invisible.
At times Jack fancied he saw a human silhouette when the white smoke
rushed outward, but the spectral vines loomed up everywhere through the
dense cannon-fog and he could not be sure.
However, there were plenty of troops below the hill nowinfantry of
the line trudging along the dusty road in fairly good order, and below
the vineyard, among the uncut fields of flax, more infantry crouched,
probably supporting the three-gun battery on the hill.
At that distance he could not tell a franc-tireur from any regular
foot-soldier except line-infantry; their red caps and trousers were
never to be mistaken. As he looked, he wondered at a nation that
clothed its troops in a colour that furnished such a fearfully distinct
mark to the enemy. A French army, moving, cannot conceal itself; the
red of trousers and caps, the mirror-like reflections of cuirass and
casque and lance-tip, advertise the presence of French troops so
persistently that an enemy need never fear any open landscape by
Jack watched the cannonade, lying on his stomach, chin supported by
both hands. He was perfectly cool now; he neither feared the Uhlans nor
the franc-tireurs. For a while he vainly tried to comprehend the reason
of the cannonade; the shells shot out across the valley in tall curves,
dropping into a distant bit of hazy blue woodland, or exploded above
the trees; the column of infantry below plodded doggedly southward; the
infantry in the flax-field lay supine. Clearly something was
interfering with the retreat of the troopssomething that threatened
them from those distant woods. And now he could see cavalry moving
about the crest of the nearer hills, but, without his glass, it was not
possible to tell what they were. Often he looked at the nearer forest
that hid the Château de Nesville. Somewhere within those sombre woods
lay the dead marquis.
With a sigh he rose to his knees, shivered in the sunshine, passed
one hand over his forehead, and finally stood up. Hunger had made him
faint; his head grew dizzy.
It must be noon, at least, he muttered, and started down the hill
and across the fields towards the woods of Morteyn. As he walked he
pulled the bearded wheat from ripening stems and chewed it to dull his
hunger. The raw place on his neck, where the rope had chafed, stung
when the perspiration started. He moved quickly but warily, keeping a
sharp lookout on every side. Once he passed a miniature vineyard, heavy
with white-wine grapes; and, as he threaded a silent path among the
vines, he ate his fill and slaked his thirst with the cool amber fruit.
He had reached the edge of the little vineyard, and was about to cross
a tangle of briers and stubble, when something caught his eye in the
thicket; it was a man's faceand he stopped.
For a minute they stared at each other, making no movement, no
Sir Thorald!faltered Jack.
But Sir Thorald Hesketh could not speak, for he had a bullet through
As Jack sprang into the brier tangle towards him, a slim figure in
the black garments of the Sisters of Mercy rose from Sir Thorald's
side. He saw the white cross on her breast, he saw the white face above
it and the whiter lips.
It was Alixe von Elster.
At the same instant the road in front was filled with French
Alixe caught his arm, her head turned towards the road where the
infantry were crowding past at double-quick, enveloped in a whirling
torrent of red dust.
There is a cart there, she said. Oh, Jack, find it quickly! The
driver is on the seatand I can't leave Sir Thorald.
In his amazement he stood hesitating, looking from the girl to Sir
Thorald; but she drew him to the edge of the thicket and pointed to the
road, crying, Go! go! and he stumbled down the pasture slope to the
edge of the road.
Past him plodded the red-legged infantry; he saw, through the
whirlwind of dust, the vague outlines of a tumbril and horse standing
below in the ditch, and he ran along the grassy depression towards the
vehicle. And now he saw the driver, kneeling in the cart, his blue
blouse a mass of blood, his discoloured face staring out at the passing
As he seized the horse's head and started up the slope again, firing
broke out among the thickets close at hand; the infantry swung out to
the west in a long sagging line; the chassepots began banging right and
left. For an instant he caught a glimpse of cavalry riding hard across
a bit of stubbleUhlans he saw at a glancethen the smoke hid them.
But in that brief instant he had seen, among the galloping cavalrymen,
a mounted figure, bareheaded, wearing a white shirt, and he knew that
Rickerl was riding for his life.
Sick at heart he peered into the straight, low rampart of smoke; he
watched the spirts of rifle-flame piercing it; he saw it turn blacker
when a cannon bellowed in the increasing din. The infantry were lying
down out there in the meadow; shadowy gray forms passed, repassed,
reeled, ran, dropped, and rose again. Close at hand a long line of men
lay flat on their bellies in the wheat stubble. When each rifle spoke
the smoke rippled through the short wheat stalks or eddied and curled
over the ground like the gray foam of an outrushing surf.
He backed the horse and heavy cart, turned both, half blinded by the
rifle-smoke, and started up the incline. Two bullets, speeding over the
clover like singing bees, rang loudly on the iron-bound cartwheels; the
horse plunged and swerved, dragging Jack with him, and the dead figure,
kneeling in the cart, tumbled over the tail-board with a grotesque wave
of its stiffening limbs. There it lay, sprawling in an impossible
posture in the ditch. A startled grasshopper alighted on its face,
turned around, crawled to the ear, and sat there.
And now the volley firing grew to a sustained crackle, through which
the single cannon boomed and boomed, hidden in the surging smoke that
rolled in waves, sinking, rising, like the waves of a wind-whipped sea.
Where are you, Alixe? he shouted.
She stood on the edge of the brier tangle as he laboured up the
slope with the horse and cart. Sir Thorald's breathing was horrible to
hear when they stooped and lifted him; Alixe was crying. They laid him
on the blood-soaked straw; Alixe crept in beside him and took his head
on her knees.
To Morteyn? whispered Jack. Perhaps we can find a surgeon
Oh, hurry! she sobbed; and he climbed heavily to the seat and
started back towards the road.
The road was empty where he turned in out of the fields, but, just
above, he heard cannon thundering in the mist. As he drew in the reins,
undecided, the cannonade suddenly redoubled in fury; the infantry fire
blazed out with a new violence; above the terrific blast he heard
trumpets sounding, and beneath it he felt the vibration of the earth;
horses were neighing out beyond the smoke; a thousand voices rose in a
far, hoarse shout:
The Prussian cavalry were charging the cannon.
Suddenly he heard them close at hand; they loomed everywhere in the
smoke, they were among the infantry, among the cannoneers; a tall rider
in silver helmet and armour plunged out into the road behind them, his
horse staggered, trembled, then man and beast collapsed in a shower of
bullets. Others were coming, too, galloping in through the grain
stubble and thickets, shaking their long, straight sabres, but the
infantry chased them, and fell upon them, clubbing, shooting, stabbing,
pulling horses and men to earth. The cannon, which had ceased, began
again; the infantry were cheering; trumpets blew persistently, faintly
and more faintly. In the road a big, bearded man was crawling on his
hands and knees away from a dead horse. His helmet fell off in the
Jack gathered the reins and called to the horse. As the heavy cart
moved off, the ground began to tremble again with the shock of
on-coming horses, and again, through the swelling tumult, he caught the
The Prussian cuirassiers were coming back.
Is Sir Thorald dying? he asked of Alixe; can he live if I lash
Look at him, Jack, she muttered.
I see; he cannot live. I shall drive slowly. Youyou are wounded,
are you? thereon the neck
It is his blood on my breast.
XXI. THE WHITE CROSS
At ten o'clock that night Jack stepped from the ballroom to the
terrace of the Château Morteyn and listened to the distant murmur of
the river Lisse, below the meadow. The day of horror had ended with a
dozen dropping shots from the outposts, now lining the banks of the
Lisse from the Château de Nesville to Morteyn. The French infantry had
been pouring into Morteyn since late afternoon; they had entered the
park when he entered, driving his tumbril with its blood-stained
burden; they had turned the river into a moat, the meadow into an
earthwork, the Château itself into a fortress.
On the concrete terrace beside him a gatling-gun glimmered in the
starlight; sentinels leaned on their elbows, sprawling across the
parapets; shadowy ranks of sleeping men lay among the shrubbery below,
white-faced, exhausted, motionless.
There were low voices from the darkened ballroom, the stir and
tinkle of spurred boots, the ring of sabres. Out in the hard
macadamized road, cannon were passing into the park by the iron gate;
beyond the road masses of men moved in the starlight.
After a moment Jack turned away and entered the house. For the
hundredth time he mounted the stairs to Lorraine's bedroom door and
listened, holding his breath. He heard nothingnot a crynot a sob.
It had been so from the first, when he had told her that her father lay
dead somewhere in the forest of Morteyn.
She had said nothingshe went to her room and sat down on the bed,
white and still. Sir Thorald lay in the next room, breathing deeply.
Alixe was kneeling beside him, crying silently.
Twice a surgeon from an infantry regiment had come and gone away
after a glance at Sir Thorald. A captain came later and asked for a
Sister of Mercy.
She can't go, said Jack, in a low voice. But little Alixe rose,
still crying, and followed the captain to the stables, where a dozen
mangled soldiers lay in the straw and hay.
It was midnight when she returned to find Jack standing beside Sir
Thorald in the dark. When he saw it was Alixe he led her gently into
He is conscious now; I will call you when the time comes. Go into
that roomLorraine is there, alone. Ah, go, Alixe; it is charity!and
you wear the white cross
It is dyed scarlet, she whispered through her tears.
He returned to Sir Thorald, who lay moving his restless hands over
the sheets and turning his head constantly from side to side.
Go on, said Jack; finish what you were saying.
Will she come?
Sir Thorald relapsed into a rambling, monotonous account of some
military movement near Wissembourg until Jack spoke again:
YesI know; tell me about Alixe.
YesAlixe, muttered Sir Thoraldis she here? I was wrong; I saw
her at Cologne; that was all, Jacknothing more.
There is more, said Jack; tell me.
Yes, there is more. I saw thatthat she loved me. There was a
sceneI am not always a beastI tried not to be. Thenthen I found
that there was nothing left but to go awaysomewhereand
livewithout her. It was too late. She knew it
Go on, said Jack.
Suddenly Sir Thorald's voice grew clear.
Can't you understand? he asked; I damned both our souls. She is
buying hers back with tears and bloodwith the white cross on her
heart and death in her eyes! And I am dying hereand she's to drag out
the years afterwards
He choked; Jack watched him quietly.
Sir Thorald turned his head to him when the coughing ceased.
She went with a field ambulance; I went, too. I was shot below that
vineyard. They told her; that is all. Am I dying?
Jack did not answer.
Will you write to Molly? asked Sir Thorald, drowsily.
Yes. God help you, Sir Thorald.
Who cares? muttered Sir Thorald. I'm a beasta dying beast. May
I see Alixe?
Then tell her to comenow. Soon I'll wish to be alone; that's the
way beasts diealone.
He rambled on again about a battle somewhere in the south, and Jack
went to the door and called, Alixe!
She came, pallid and weeping, carrying a lighted candle.
Jack took it from her hand and blew out the flame.
They won't let us have a light; they fear bombardment. Go in now.
Is he dying?
God? repeated Alixe.
Jack bent and touched the child's forehead with his lips.
Pray for him, he said; I shall write his wife to-night.
Alixe went in to the bedside to kneel again and buy back two souls
with the agony of her child's heart.
Pray, she said to Sir Thorald.
Pray, he repeated.
Jack closed the door.
Up and down the dark hall he wandered, pausing at times to listen to
some far rifle-shot and the answering fusillade along the picket-line.
Once he stopped an officer on the stairway and asked for a priest, but,
remembering that Sir Thorald was Protestant, turned away with a vague
apology and resumed his objectless wandering.
At times he fancied he heard cannon, so far away that nothing of
sound remained, only a faint jar on the night air. Twice he looked from
the window over the vast black forest, thinking of the dead man lying
there alone. And then he longed to go to Lorraine; he felt that he must
touch her, that his hand on hers might help her somehow.
At last, deadly weary, he sat down on the stairs by her door to try
to think out the problems that to-morrow would bring.
His aunt and uncle had gone on to Paris; Lorraine's father was dead
and her home had been turned into a fort. Saint-Lys was heavily
occupied by the Germans, and they held the railroad also in their
possession. It seemed out of the question to stay in Morteyn with
Lorraine, for an assault on the Château was imminent. How could he get
her to Paris? That was the only place for her now.
He thought, too, of his own danger from the Uhlans. He had told
Lorraine, partly because he wished her to understand their position,
partly because the story of his capture, trial, and escape led up to
the tragedy that he scarcely knew how to break to her. But he had done
it, and she, pale as death, had gone silently to her room, motioning
him away as he stood awkwardly at the door.
That last glimpse of the room remained in his mind, it obliterated
everything else at momentsLorraine sitting on her bedside, her blue
eyes vacant, her face whiter than the pillows.
And so he sat there on the stairs, the dawn creeping into the
hallway; and his eyes never left the panels of her door. There was not
a sound from within. This for a while frightened him, and again and
again he started impulsively towards the door, only to turn back again
and watch there in the coming dawn. Presently he remembered that dawn
might bring an attack on the Château, and he rose and hurried
down-stairs to the terrace where a crowd of officers stood watching the
woods through their night-glasses. The general impression among them
was that there might be an attack. They yawned and smoked and studied
the woods, but they were polite, and answered all his questions with a
courteous light-heartedness that jarred on him. He glanced for a moment
at the infantry, now moving across the meadow towards the river; he saw
troops standing at ease along the park wall, troops sitting in long
ranks in the vegetable garden, troops passing the stables, carrying
pickaxes and wheeling wheelbarrows piled with empty canvas sacks.
Sleepy-eyed boyish soldiers of the artillery were harnessing the
battery horses, rubbing them down, bathing wounded limbs or braiding
the tails. The farrier was shoeing a great black horse, who turned its
gentle eyes towards the hay-bales piled in front of the stable. One or
two slim officers, in pale-blue fur-edged pelisses, strolled among the
trampled flower-beds, smoking cigars and watching a line of men
shovelling earth into canvas sacks. The odour of soup was in the air;
the kitchen echoed with the din of pots and pans. Outside, too, the
camp-kettles were steaming and the rattle of gammels came across the
Who is in command here? asked Jack, turning to a handsome dragoon
officer who stood leaning on his sabre, the horse-hair crinière blowing
about his helmet.
Why, General Farron! said the officer in surprise.
Farron! repeated Jack; is he back from Africa, here in
Francehere at Morteyn?
He is at the Château de Nesville, said the officer, smiling. You
seem to know him, monsieur.
Indeed I do, said Jack, warmly. Do you think he will come here?
I suppose so. Shall I send you word when he arrives?
Another officer came up, a general, white-haired and sombre.
Is this the Vicomte de Morteyn? he asked, looking at Jack.
His nephew; the vicomte has gone to Paris. My name is Marche, said
The general saluted him; Jack bowed.
I regret the military necessity of occupying the Château; the
government will indemnify Monsieur le Vicomte
Jack held up his hand: My uncle is an old soldier of Francethe
government is welcome; I bid you welcome in the name of the Vicomte de
The old general flushed and bowed deeply.
I thank you in the name of the government. Blood will tell. It is
easy, Monsieur Marche, to see that you are the nephew of the Vicomte de
Monsieur Marche, said the young dragoon officer, respectfully, is
a friend of General Farron.
I had the honour to be attached as correspondent to his staffin
Oran, said Jack.
The old general held out his hand with a gesture entirely charming.
I envy General Farron your friendship, he said. I had a
sonperhaps your age. He diedyesterday. After a silence, he said:
There are ladies in the Château?
Yes, replied Jack, soberly.
The general turned with a gesture towards the woods. It is too late
to move them; we are, it appears, fairly well walled in. The cellar, in
case of bombardment, is the best you can do for them. How many are
Two, general. One is a Sister of Mercy.
Other officers began to gather on the terrace, glasses persistently
focussed on the nearer woods. Somebody called to an officer below the
terrace to hurry the cannon.
Jack made his way through the throng of officers to the stairs,
mounted them, and knocked at Lorraine's door.
Is it youJack?
He went in.
Lorraine lay on the bed, quiet and pale; it startled him to see her
so calm. For an instant he hesitated on the threshold, then went slowly
to the bedside. She held out one hand; he took it.
I cannot cry, she said; I cannot. Sit beside me, Jack. Listen: I
am wickedI have not a single tear for my father. I have been
heresoall night long. I prayed to weep; I cannot. I understand he
is deadthat I shall never again wait for him, watch at his door in
the turret, dream he is calling me; I understand that he will never
call me againnever againnever. And I cannot weep. Do you hate me? I
am tiredso tired, like a childvery young.
She raised her other hand and laid it in his. I need you, she
said; I am too tired, too young, to be so alone. It is myself I suffer
for; think, Jack, myself, in such a moment. I am selfish, I know it.
Oh, if I could weep now! Why can I not? I loved my father. And now I
can only think of his little machines in the turret and his balloon,
andoh!I only remember the long days of my life when I waited on the
turret stairs hoping he would come out, dreaming he would come some day
and take me in his arms and kiss me and hold me close, as I am to you.
And now he never will. And I waited all my life!
Hush! he whispered, touching her hair; you are feverish.
Her head was pressed close to him; his arms held her tightly; she
sighed like a restless child.
Never againneverfor he is dead. And yet I could have lived
forever, waiting for him on the turret stairs. Do you understand?
Holding her strained to his breast he trembled at the fierce
hopelessness in her voice. In a moment he recognized that a crisis was
coming; that she was utterly irresponsible, utterly beyond reasoning.
Like a spectre her loveless childhood had risen and confronted her; and
now that there was no longer even hope, she had turned desperately upon
herself with the blank despair of a wounded animal. End it all!that
was her one impulse. He felt it already taking shape; she shivered in
But there is a God he began, fearfully.
She looked up at him with vacant eyes, hot and burning.
He tried again: I love you, Lorraine
Her straight brows knitted and she struggled to free herself.
Let me go! she whispered. I do not wish to liveI can't!I
Then he played his last card, and, holding her close, looked
straight into her eyes.
France needs us all, he said.
She grew quiet. Suddenly the warm blood dyed her cheeks. Then, drop
by drop, the tears came; her sweet face, wet and flushed, nestled
quietly close to his own face.
We will both live for that, he said; we will do what we can.
For an hour she lay sobbing her heart out in his arms; and when she
was quiet at last he told her how the land lay trembling under the
invasion, how their armies had struggled and dwindled and lost ground,
how France, humbled, drenched with blood and tears, still stood upright
calling to her children. He spoke of the dead, the dying, the mutilated
creatures gasping out their souls in the ditches.
Life is worth living, he said. If our place is not in the field
with the wounded, not in the hospital, not in the prisons where these
boys are herded like diseased cattle, then it is perhaps at the
shrine's foot. Pray for France, Lorraine, pray and work, for there is
work to do.
There is work; we will go together, she whispered.
Yes, together. Perhaps we can help a little. Your father, when he
died, had the steel box with him. Lorraine, when he is found and is
laid to rest, we will take that box to the French lines. The secret
must belong to France!
She was eager enough now; she sat up on the bed and listened with
bright, wet eyes while he told her what they two might do for her land
Deardear Jack! she cried, softly.
But he knew that it was not the love of a maid for a man that parted
her lips; it was the love of the land, of her land of Lorraine, that
fierce, passionate love of soil that had at last blazed up, purified in
the long years of a loveless life. All that she had felt for her father
turned to a burning thrill for her country. It is such moments that
make children defenders of barricades, that make devils or saints of
the innocent. The maid that rode in mail, crowned, holding aloft the
banner of the fleur-de-lys, died at the stake; her ashes were the ashes
of a saint. The maid who flung her bullets from the barricade, who
carried a dagger to the Rue Haxo, who spat in the faces of the line
when they shoved her to the wall in the Luxembourg, died too for
France. Her soul is the soul of a martyr; but all martyrs are not
For another hour they sat there, planning, devising, eager to begin
their predestined work. They spoke of the dead, too, and Lorraine wept
at last for her father.
There was a Sister of Mercy here, she said; I saw her. I could
not speak to her. Later I knew it was Alixe. You called her?
Where is she?
Shall I speak to her?
He went out into the hall and tapped at the door of the next room.
Sir Thorald lay very still under the sheets, the crucifix on his
breast. At first Jack thought he was dead, but the slight motion of the
chest under the sheets reassured him. He turned to Alixe:
Go for a minute and comfort Lorraine, he whispered. Go, my
Go, said Sir Thorald, in a distinct voice.
When she had gone, Jack bent over Sir Thorald. A great pity filled
him, and he touched the half-opened hand with his own.
Sir Thorald looked up at him wistfully.
I am not worth it, he said.
Yes, we all are worth it.
I am not, gasped Sir Thorald. Jack, you are good. Do you believe,
at least, that I loved her?
Yes, if you say so.
I doin the shadow of death.
Jack was silent.
I never lovedbefore, said Sir Thorald.
In the stillness that followed Jack tried to comprehend the good or
evil in this stricken man. He could not; he only knew that a great love
that a man might bear a woman made necessary a great sacrifice if that
love were unlawful. The greater the love the more certain the
sacrificeself-sacrifice on the altar of unselfish love, for there is
no other kind of love that man may bear for woman.
It wearied Jack to try to think it out. He could not; he only knew
that it was not his to judge or to condemn.
Will you give me your hand? asked Sir Thorald.
Jack laid his hand in the other's feverish one.
Don't call her, he said, distinctly; I am dying.
Presently he withdrew his hand and turned his face to the wall.
For a long time Jack sat there, waiting. At last he spoke: Sir
But Sir Thorald had been dead for an hour.
When Alixe entered Jack took her slim, childish hands and looked
into her eyes. She understood and went to her dead, laying down her
tired little head on the sheeted breast.
XXII. A DOOR IS LOCKED
Lorraine stood on the terrace beside the brass gatling-gun, both
hands holding to Jack's arm, watching the soldiers stuffing the windows
of the Château with mattresses, quilts, and bedding of all kinds.
A stream of engineers was issuing from the hallway, carrying tables,
chairs, barrels, and chests to the garden below, where other soldiers
picked them up and bore them across the lawn to the rear of the house.
They are piling all the furniture they can get against the gate in
the park wall, said Jack; come out to the kitchen-garden.
She went with him, still holding to his arm. Across the vegetable
garden a barricade of furnituresofas, chairs, and wardrobeslay
piled against the wooden gate of the high stone wall. Engineers were
piercing the wall with crowbars and pickaxes, loosening the cement,
dragging out huge blocks of stone to make embrasures for three cannon
that stood with their limbers among the broken bell-glasses and
cucumber-frames in the garden.
A ladder lay against the wall, and on it was perched an officer, who
rested his field-glasses across the tiled top and stood studying the
woods. Below him a general and half a dozen officers watched the
engineers hacking at the wall; a long, double line of infantry crouched
behind them, the bugler kneeling, glancing anxiously at his captain,
who stood talking to a fat sub-officer in capote and boots.
Artillerymen were gathered about the ammunition-chests, opening the
lids and carrying shell and shrapnel to the wall; the balconies of the
Château were piled up with breastworks of rugs, boxes, and sacks of
earth. Here and there a rifleman stood, his chassepot resting on the
iron railing, his face turned towards the woods.
They are coming, said a soldier, calling back to a comrade, who
only laughed and passed on towards the kitchen, loaded down with sacks
A restless movement passed through the kneeling battalion of
Fiche moi la paix, hein! muttered a lieutenant, looking
resentfully at a gossiping farrier. Another lieutenant drew his sword,
and wiped it on the sleeve of his jacket.
Are they coming? asked Lorraine.
I don't know. Watch that officer on the wall. He seems to see
nothing yet. Don't you think you had better go to the rear of the house
No, not unless you do.
I will, then.
No, stay here. I am not afraid. Where is Alixe?
With the wounded men in the stable. They have hoisted the red cross
over the barn; did you notice?
Before she could answer, one of the soldiers on the balcony of the
Château fired. Another rose from behind a mattress and fired also; then
half a dozen shots rang out, and the smoke whirled up over the roof of
the house. The officer on the ladder was motioning to the group of
officers below; already the artillerymen were running the three cannon
forward to the port-holes that had been pierced in the park wall.
Come, said Jack.
Not yetI am not frightened.
A loud explosion enveloped the wall in sulphurous clouds, and a
cannon jumped back in recoil. The cannoneers swarmed around it, there
was a quick movement of a sponger, an order, a falling into place of
rigid artillerymen, then bang! and another up-rush of smoke. And now
the other cannon joined incrash! bang!and the garden swam in the
swirling fog. Infantry, too, were firing all along the wall, and on the
other side of the house the rippling crash of the gatling-gun rolled
with the rolling volleys. Jack led Lorraine to the rear of the Château,
but she refused to stay, and he reluctantly followed her into the
From every mattress-stuffed window the red-legged soldiers were
firing out across the lawn towards the woods; the smoke drifted back
into the house in thin shreds that soon filled the rooms with a blue
Suddenly something struck the chandelier and shattered it to the
gilt candle-sockets. Lorraine looked at it, startled, but another
bullet whizzed into the room, starring the long mirror, and another
knocked the plaster from the fireplace. Jack had her out of the room in
a second, and presently they found themselves in the cellar, the very
cement beneath their feet shaking under the tremendous shocks of the
Wait for me. Do you promise, Lorraine?
He hurried up to the terrace again, and out across the gravel drive
to the stable.
Alixe! he called.
She came quietly to him, her arms full of linen bandages. There was
nothing of fear or terror in her cheeks, nothing even of grief now, but
her eyes transfigured her face, and he scarcely knew it.
What can I do? he asked.
Nothing. The wounded are quiet. Is there water in the well?
He brought her half a dozen buckets, one after another, and set them
side by side in the harness-room, where three or four surgeons lounged
around two kitchen-tables, on which sponges, basins, and cases of
instruments lay. There was a sickly odour of ether in the air, mingled
with the rank stench of carbolic acid.
Lorraine is in the cellar. Do you need her? Surely notwhen I am
ready, he said.
No; go and stay with her. If I need you I will send.
He could scarcely hear her in the tumult and din, but he understood
and nodded, watching her busy with her lint and bandages. As he turned
to go, the first of the wounded, a mere boy, was brought in on the
shoulders of a comrade. Jack heard him scream as they laid him on the
table; then he went soberly away to the cellar where Lorraine sat, her
face in her hands.
We are holding the Château, he said. Will you stay quietly for a
little while longer, if I go out again?
If you wish, she said.
He longed to take her in his arms. He did not; he merely said, Wait
for me, and went away again out into the smoke.
From the upper-story windows, where he had climbed, he could see to
the edge of the forest. Already three columns of men had started out
from the trees across the meadow towards the park wall. They advanced
slowly and steadily, firing as they came on. Somewhere, in the smoke, a
Prussian band was playing gayly, and Jack thought of the Bavarians at
the Geisberg, and their bands playing as the men fell like leaves in
the Château gardens.
He had his field-glasses with him, and he fixed them on the
advancing columns. They were Bavarians, after allthere was no
mistaking the light-blue uniforms and fur-crested helmets. And now he
made out their band, plodding stolidly along, trombones and bass-drums
wheezing and banging away in the rifle-smoke; he could even see the
band-master swinging his halberd forward.
Suddenly the nearest column broke into a heavy run, cheering
hoarsely. The other columns came on with a rush; the band halted,
playing them in at the death with a rollicking quickstep; then all was
blotted out in the pouring cannon-smoke. Flash on flash the explosions
followed each other, lighting the gloom with a wavering yellow glare,
and on the terrace the gatling whirred and spluttered its slender
streams of flame, while the treble crash of the chassepots roared
Once or twice Jack thought he heard the rattle of their little
harsh, flat drums, but he could see them no longer; they were in that
smoke-pall somewhere, coming on towards the park wall.
Bugles began to soundFrench buglesclear and sonorous. Across the
lawn by the river a battalion of French infantry were running, firing
as they ran. He saw them settle at last like quail among the stubble,
curling up and crouching in groups and bevies, alert heads raised. Then
the firing rippled along the front, and the lawn became gray with
As he went down the stairs and into the garden he heard the soldiers
saying that the charge had been checked. The wounded were being borne
towards the barn, long lines of them, heads and limbs hanging limp. A
horse in the garden was ending a death-struggle among the
cucumber-frames, and the battery-men were cutting the traces to give
him free play. Upon the roof a thin column of smoke and sparks rose,
where a Prussian shellthe first as yethad fallen and exploded in
the garret. Some soldiers were knocking the sparks from the roof with
the butts of their rifles.
When he went into the cellar again Lorraine was pacing restlessly
along the wine-bins.
I cannot stay here, she said. Jack, get some bottles of brandy
and come to the barn. The wounded will need them.
You cannot go out. I will take them.
No, I shall go.
I ask you not to.
Let me, Jack, she said, coming up to himwith you.
He could not make her listen; she went with him, her slender arms
loaded with bottles. The shells were falling in the garden now; one
burst and flung a shower of earth and glass over them.
Hurry! he said. Are you crazy, Lorraine, to come out into this?
Don't scold, Jack, she whispered.
When she entered the stable he breathed more freely. He watched her
face narrowly, but she did not blanch at the sickening spectacle of the
They placed their bottles of brandy along the side of a box-stall,
and stood together watching the file of wounded passing in at the door.
They do not need us here, yet, he said. I wonder where Alixe is?
There is a Sister of Mercy out on the skirmish-line across the
lawn, said a soldier of the hospital corps, pointing with bloody hands
towards the smoke-veiled river.
Jack looked at Lorraine in utter despair.
I must go; she can't stay there, he muttered.
Yes, you must go, repeated Lorraine. She will be shot.
Will you wait here? he asked.
So he went away, thinking bitterly that she did not care whether he
lived or diedthat she let him leave her without a word of fear, of
kindness. Then, for the first time, he realized that she had never,
after all, been touched by his devotion; that she had never understood,
nor cared to understand, his love for her. He walked out across the
smoky lawn, the din of the rifles in his ears, the bitterness of death
in his heart. He knew he was going into dangerthat he was already in
peril. Bullets whistled through the smoke as he advanced towards the
firing-line, where, in the fog, dim figures were outlined here and
there. He passed an officer, standing with bared sword, watching his
men digging up the sod and piling it into low breastworks. He went on,
passing others, sometimes two soldiers bearing a wounded man, now and
then a maimed creature writhing on the grass or hobbling away to the
rear. The battle-line lay close to him nowlong open ranks of men,
flat on their stomachs, firing into the smoke across the river-bank.
Their officers loomed up in the gloom, some leaning quietly back on
their sword-hilts, some pacing to and fro, smoking, or watchfully
steadying the wearied men.
Almost at once he saw Alixe. She was standing beside a tall wounded
officer, giving him something to drink from a tin cup.
Alixe, said Jack, this is not your place.
She looked at him tranquilly as the wounded man was led away by a
soldier of the hospital corps.
It is my place.
No, he said, violently, you are trying to find death here!
I seek nothing, she said, in a gentle, tired voice; let me go.
Come back. Alixeyour brother is alive.
She looked at him impassively.
I have no brother.
He understood and chafed inwardly.
Come, Alixe, he urged; for Heaven's sake, try to live and
I have nothing to forgeteverything to remember. Let me pass. She
touched the blood-stained cross on her breast. Do you not see? That
was white once. So was my soul.
It is now, he said, gently. Come back.
A wounded man somewhere in the smoke called, Water! water! In the
name of God!my sister
I am coming! called Alixe, clearly.
To me first! Hasten, my sister! groaned another.
Patience, childrenI come! called Alixe.
With a gesture she passed Jack; a flurry of smoke hid her. The
pungent powder-fog made his eyes dim; his ears seemed to split with the
terrific volley firing.
He turned away and went back across the lawn, only to stop at the
well in the garden, fill two buckets, and plod back to the firing-line
again. He found plenty to do there; he helped Alixe, following her with
his buckets where she passed among the wounded, the stained cross on
her breast. Once a bullet struck a pail full of water, and he held his
finger in the hole until the water was all used up. Twice he heard
cheering and the splash of cavalry in the shallow river, but they
seemed to be beaten off again, and he went about his business,
listless, sombre, a dead weight at his heart.
He had been kneeling beside a wounded man for some minutes when he
became conscious that the firing had almost ceased. Bugles were
sounding near the Château; long files of troops passed him in the
lifting smoke; officers shouted along the river-bank.
He rose to his feet and looked around for Alixe. She was not in
sight. He walked towards the river-bank, watching for her, but he could
not find her.
Did you see a Sister of Mercy pass this way? he asked an officer
who sat on the grass, smoking and bandaging his foot.
A soldier passing, using his rifle as a crutch, said: I saw a
Sister of Mercy. She went towards the Château. I think she was hurt.
I heard somebody say so. Jack turned and hastened towards the
stables. He crossed the lawn, threaded his way among the low sod
breastworks, where the infantry lay grimy and exhausted, and entered
the garden. She was not there. He hurried to the stables; Lorraine met
him, holding a basin and a sponge.
Where is Alixe? he asked.
She is not here, said Lorraine. Has she been hurt?
I don't know.
He looked at her a moment, then turned away, coldly. On the terrace
the artillerymen were sponging the blood from the breech of their
gatling where some wretch's brains had been spattered by a
shell-fragment. They told him that a Sister of Mercy had passed into
the house ten minutes before; that she walked as though very tired, but
did not appear to have been hurt.
She is up-stairs, he thought. She must not stay there alone with
Sir Thorald. And he climbed the stairs and knocked softly at the door
of the death-chamber.
Alixe, he said, gently, opening the door, you must not stay
She was kneeling at the bedside, her face buried on the breast of
the dead man.
Alixe, he said, but his voice broke in spite of him, and he went
to her and touched her.
Very tenderly he raised her head, looked into her eyes, then quietly
Outside the door he met Lorraine.
Don't go in, he murmured.
She looked fearfully up into his face.
Yes, he said, she was shot through the body.
Then he closed the door and turned the key on the outside, leaving
the dead to the dead.
XXIII. LORRAINE SLEEPS
The next day the rain fell in torrents; long, yellow streams of
water gushed from pipe and culvert, turning the roads to lakes of amber
and the trodden lawns to sargasso seas.
Not a shot had been fired since twilight of the day before, although
on the distant hills Uhlans were seen racing about, gathering in
groups, or sitting on their horses in solitary observation of the
Out on the meadows, between the park wall and the fringe of nearer
forest, the Bavarian dead lay, dotting the green pelouse with blots of
pale blue; the wounded had been removed to the cover of the woods.
Around the Château the sallow-faced fantassins slopped through the
mire, the artillery trains lay glistening under their waterproof
coverings, the long, slim cannon in the breeches dripped with rain.
Bright blotches of rust, like brilliant fungi, grew and spread from
muzzle to vent. These were rubbed away at times by stiff-limbed
soldiers, swathed to the eyes in blue overcoats.
The line of battle stretched from the Château Morteyn, parallel with
the river and the park wall, to the Château de Nesville; and along this
line the officers were riding all day, muffled to the chin in their
great-coats, crimson caps soaked, rain-drops gathering in brilliant
beads under the polished visors. That they expected a shelling was
evident, for the engineers were at work excavating pits and burrows,
and the infantry were filling sacks with earth, while in the Château
itself preparations were in progress for the fighting of fire.
The white flag with the red-cross centre hung limp and drenched over
the stables and barns. In the corn-field beyond, long trenches were
being dug for the dead. Already two such trenches had been filled and
covered over with dirt; and at the head of each soldier's grave a
bayonet or sabre was driven into the ground for a head-stone.
Early that morning, while the rain drove into the ground in one
sheeted downpour, they buried Sir Thorald and little Alixe, side by
side, on the summit of a mound overlooking the river Lisse. Jack drove
the tumbril; four soldiers of the line followed. It was soon over; the
mellow bugle sounded a brief lights out, the linesmen presented arms.
Then Jack mounted the cart and drove back, his head on his breast, the
rain driving coldly in his face. Some officers came later with a rough
wooden cross and a few field flowers. They hammered the cross deep into
the mud between Sir Thorald and little Alixe. Later still Jack returned
with a spade and worked for an hour, shaping the twin mounds. Before he
finished he saw Lorraine climbing the hill. Two wreaths of yellow gorse
hung from one arm, interlaced like thorn crowns; and when she came up,
Jack, leaning silently on his spade, saw that her fair hands were cut
and bleeding from plaiting the thorn-covered blossoms.
They spoke briefly, almost coldly. Lorraine hung the two wreaths
over the head-piece of the cross and, kneeling, signed herself.
When she rose Jack replaced his cap, but said nothing. They stood
side by side, looking out across the woods, where, behind a curtain of
mist and rain, the single turret of the Château de Nesville was hidden.
She seemed restless and preoccupied, and he, answering aloud her
unasked question, said, I am going to search the forest to-day. I
cannot bear to leave you, but it must be done, for your sake and for
the sake of France.
She answered: Yes, it must be done. I shall go with you.
You cannot, he said; there is danger in the forest.
You are going?
They said nothing more for a moment or two. He was thinking of Alixe
and her love for Sir Thorald. Who would have thought it could have
turned out so? He looked down at the river Lisse, where, under the
trees of the bank, they had all sat that daya day that already seemed
legendary, so far, so far in the mist-hung landscape of the past. He
seemed to hear Molly Hesketh's voice, soft, ironical, upbraiding Sir
Thorald; he seemed to see them all there in the sunshineDorothy,
Rickerl, Cecil, Betty Castlemainehe even saw himself strolling up to
them, gun under arm, while Sir Thorald waved his wine-cup and bantered
He looked at the river. The green row-boat lay on the bank, keel up,
shattered by a shell; the trees were covered with yellow, seared
foliage that dropped continually into the water; the river itself was a
canal of mud. And, as he looked, a dead man, face under water, sped
past, caught on something, drifted, spun giddily in an eddy, washed to
and fro, then floated on under the trees.
You will catch cold here in the rain, he said, abruptly.
You also, Jack.
They walked a few steps towards the house, then stopped and looked
at each other.
You are drenched, he said; you must go to your room and lie
I willif you wish, she answered.
He drew her rain-cloak around her, buttoned the cape and high
collar, and settled the hood on her head. She looked up under her
Do you care so much for me? she asked, listlessly.
Will you give me the rightalwaysforever?
Do you mean thatthat you love me?
I have always loved you.
Still she looked up at him from the shadow of her hood.
I love you, Lorraine.
One arm was around her now, and with the other hand he held both of
She spoke, her eyes on his.
I loved you once. I did not know it then. It was the first night
there on the terracewhen they were dancing. I loved you againafter
our quarrel, when you found me by the river. Again I loved you, when we
were alone in the Château and you came to see me in the library.
He drew her to him, but she resisted.
Now it is different, she said. I do not love youlike that. I do
not know what I feel; I do not care for thatfor that love. I need
something warmer, stronger, more kindlysomething I never have had. My
childhood is gone, Jack, and yet I am tortured with the craving for it;
I want to be little againI want to play with childrenwith young
girls; I want to be tired with pleasure and go to bed with a mother
bending over me. It is thatit is that that I need, Jacka mother to
hold me as you do. Oh, if you knewif you knew! Beside my bed I feel
about in the dark, half asleep, reaching out for the mother I never
knewthe mother I need. I picture her; she is like my father, only she
is always with me. I lie back and close my eyes and try to think that
she is there in the darkcloseclose. Her cheeks and hands are warm;
I can never see her eyes, but I know they are like mine. I know, too,
that she has always been with mefrom the years that I have
forgottenalways with me, watching me that I come to no harmanxious
for me, worrying because my head is hot or my hands cold. In my
half-sleep I tell her thingslittle intimate things that she must
know. We talk of everythingof papa, of the house, of my pony, of the
woods and the Lisse. With her I have spoken of you often, Jack. And now
all is said; I am glad you let me tell you, Jack. I can never love you
likelike that, but I need you, and you will be near me, always, won't
you? I need your love. Be gentle, be firm in little things. Let me come
to you and fret. You are all I have.
The intense grief in her face, the wide, childish eyes, the cold
little hands tightening in his, all these touched the manhood in him,
and he answered manfully, putting away from himself all that was weak
or selfish, all that touched on love of man for woman:
Let me be all you ask, he said. My love is of that kind, also.
My darling Jack, she murmured, putting both arms around his neck.
He kissed her peacefully.
Come, he said. Your shoes are soaking. I am going to take charge
of you now.
When they entered the house he took her straight to her room, drew
up an arm-chair, lighted the fire, filled a foot-bath with hot water,
and, calmly opening the wardrobe, pulled out a warm bath-robe. Then,
without the slightest hesitation, he knelt and unbuttoned her shoes.
Now, he said, I'll be back in five minutes. Let me find you
sitting here, with your feet in that hot water.
Before she could answer, he went out. A thrill of comfort passed
through her; she drew the wet stockings over her feet, shivered,
slipped out of skirt and waist, put on the warm, soft bath-robe, and,
sinking back in the chair, placed both little white feet in the
I am ready, Jack, she called, softly.
He came in with a tray of tea and toast and a bit of cold chicken.
She followed his movement with tired, shy eyes, wondering at his
knowledge of little things. They ate their luncheon together by the
fire. Twice he gravely refilled the foot-bath with hotter water, and
she settled back in her soft, warm chair, sighing contentment.
After a while he lighted a cigarette and read to herfairy tales
from Perraultlegends that all children knowall children who have
known mothers. Lorraine did not know them. At first she frowned a
little, watching him dubiously, but little by little the music of the
words and the fragrance of the sweet, vague tales crept into her heart,
and she listened breathless to the stories, older than Egyptstories
that will outlast the last pyramid.
Once he laid down his book and told her of the Prince of Argolis and
Æthra; of the sandals and sword, of Medea, and of the wreathed
wine-cup. He told her, too, of the Isantee, and the legends of the gray
gull, of Harpan and Chaské, and the white lodge of hope.
She listened like a tired child, her wrist curved under her chin,
the bath-robe close to her throat. While she listened she moved her
feet gently in the hot water, nestling back with the thrill of the
warmth that mounted to her cheeks.
Then they were silent, their eyes on each other.
Down-stairs some rain-soaked officer was playing on the piano old
songs of Lorraine and Alsace. He tried to sing, too, but his voice
broke, whether from emotion or hoarseness they could not tell. A moment
or two later a dripping infantry band marched out to the conservatory
and began to play. The dismal trombone vibrated like a fog-horn, the
wet drums buzzed and clattered, the trumpets wailed with the rising
wind in the chimneys. They played for an hour, then stopped abruptly in
the middle of Partons pour la Syrie, and Jack and Lorraine heard them
trampling awayslop, slopacross the gravel drive.
The fire in the room made the air heavy, and he raised one window a
little way, but the wet wind was rank with the odour of disinfectants
and ether from the stable hospital, and he closed the window after a
I spent all the morning with the wounded, said Lorraine, from the
depths of her chair. The child-like light in her eyes had gone; nothing
but woman's sorrow remained in their gray-blue depths.
Jack rose, picked up a big soft towel, and, deliberately lifting one
of her feet from the water, rubbed it until it turned rosy. Then he
rubbed the other, wrapped the bath-robe tightly about her, lifted her
in his arms, threw back the bed-covers, and laid her there snug and
Sleep, he said.
She held up both arms with a divine smile.
Stay with me until I sleep, she murmured drowsily. Her eyes
closed; one hand sought his.
After a while she fell asleep.
XXIV. LORRAINE AWAKES
When Lorraine had been asleep for an hour, Jack stole from the room
and sought the old general who was in command of the park. He found him
on the terrace, smoking and watching the woods through his
Monsieur, said Jack, my ward, Mademoiselle de Nesville, is asleep
in her chamber. I must go to the forest yonder and try to find her
father's body. I dare not leave her alone unless I may confide her to
My son, said the old man, I accept the charge. Can you give me
the next room?
The next room is where our little Sister of Mercy died.
I have journeyed far with deathI am at home in death's chamber,
said the old general. He followed Jack to the death-room, accompanied
by his aide-de-camp.
It will do, he said. Then, turning to an aid, Place a sentry at
the next door. When the lady awakes, call me.
Thank you, said Jack. He lingered a moment and then continued: If
I am shot in the woodsif I don't returnGeneral Chanzy will take
charge of Mademoiselle de Nesville, for my uncle's sake. They are
I accept the responsibility, said the old general, gravely.
They bowed to each other, and Jack went out and down the stairs to
the lawn. For a moment he looked up into the sky, trying to remember
where the balloon might have been when Von Steyr's explosive bullet set
it on fire. Then he trudged on into the wood-road, buckling his
revolver-case under his arm and adjusting the cross-strap of his
Once in the forest he breathed more freely. There was an odour of
rotting leaves in the wet air; the branches quivered and dripped, and
the tree-trunks, moist and black, exhaled a rank aroma of lichens and
Along the park wall, across the Lisse, sentinels stood in the rain,
peering out of their caped overcoats or rambling along the river-bank.
A spiritless challenge or two halted him for a few moments, but he gave
the word and passed on. Once or twice squads met him and passed with
the relief, sick boyish soldiers, crusted with mud. Twice he met groups
of roving, restless-eyed franc-tireurs in straight caps and sheepskin
jackets, but they did not molest him nor even question him beyond
asking the time of day.
And now he passed the carrefour where he and Lorraine had first met.
Its only tenant was a sentinel, yellow with jaundice, who seized his
chassepot with shaking hands and called a shrill Qui Vive?
From the carrefour Jack turned to the left straight into the heart
of the forest. He risked losing his way; he risked more than that, too,
for a shot from sentry or franc-tireur was not improbable, and,
more-over, nobody knew whether Uhlans were in the woods or not.
As he advanced the forest growth became thicker; underbrush, long
uncut, rose higher than his head. Over logs and brush tangles he
pressed, down into soft, boggy gullys deep with dead leaves, across
rapid, dark brooks, threads of the river Lisse, over stony ledges,
stumps, windfalls, and on towards the break in the trees from which, on
clear days, one could see the turret-spire of the Château de Nesville.
When he reached this point he looked in vain for the turret; the rain
hid it. Still, he could judge fairly well in which direction it lay,
and he knew that the distance was half a mile.
The balloon dropped near here, he muttered, and started in a
circle, taking a gigantic beech-tree as the centre mark. Gradually he
widened his circuit, stumbling on over the slippery leaves, keeping a
wary eye out for the thing on the ground that he sought.
He had seen no game in the forest, and wondered a little. Once or
twice he fancied that he heard some animal moving near, but when he
listened all was quiet, save for the hoarse calling of a raven in some
near tree. Suddenly he saw the raven, and at the same moment it rose,
croaking the alarm. Up through a near thicket floundered a cloud of
black birds, flapping their wings. They were ravens, too, all croaking
and flapping through the rain-soaked branches, mounting higher, higher,
only to wheel and sail and swoop in circles, round and round in the
gray sky above his head. He shivered and hesitated, knowing that the
dead lay there in the thicket. And he was right; but when he saw the
thing he covered his eyes with both hands and his heart rose in his
throat. At last he stepped forward and looked into the vacant
eye-sockets of a skull from which shreds of a long beard still hung,
wet and straggling.
It lay under the washed-out roots of a fir-tree, the bare ribs
staring through the torn clothing, the fleshless hands clasped about a
How he brought himself to get the box from that cage of bones he
never knew. At last he had it, and stepped back, the sweat starting
from every pore. But his work was not finished. What the ravens and
wolves had left of the thing he pushed with sticks into a hollow, and
painfully covered it with forest mould. Over this he pulled great lumps
of muddy clay, trampling them down firmly, until at last the dead lay
underground and a heap of stones marked the sepulchre.
The ravens had alighted in the tree-tops around the spot, watching
him gravely, croaking and sidling away when he moved with abruptness.
Looking up into the tree-tops he saw some shreds of stuff clinging to
the branches, perhaps tatters from the balloon or the dead man's
clothing. Near him on the ground lay a charred heap that was once the
wicker car of the balloon. This he scattered with a stick, laid a
covering of green moss on the mound, placed two sticks crosswise at the
head, took off his cap, then went his way, the steel box buttoned
securely in his breast. As he walked on through the forest, a wolf fled
from the darkening undergrowth, hesitated, turned, cringing half
boldly, half sullenly, watching him with changeless, incandescent eyes.
Darkness was creeping into the forest when he came out on the
wood-road. He had a mile and a half before him without lantern or
starlight, and he hastened forward through the mire, which seemed to
pull him back at every step. It astonished him that he received no
challenge in the twilight; he peered across the river, but saw no
sentinels moving. The stillness was profound, save for the drizzle of
the rain and the drip from the wet branches. He had been walking for a
minute or two, trying to keep his path in the thickening twilight,
when, far in the depths of the mist, a cannon thundered. Almost at once
he heard the whistling quaver of a shell, high in the sky. Nearer and
nearer it came, the woods hummed with the shrill vibration; then it
passed, screeching; there came a swift glare in the sky, a sharp
report, and the steel fragments hurtled through the naked trees.
He was running now; he knew the Prussian guns had opened on the
Château again, and the thought of Lorraine in the tempest of iron
terrified him. And now the shells were streaming into the woods,
falling like burning stars from the heavens, bursting over the
tree-tops; the racket of tearing, splintering limbs was in his ears,
the dull shock of a shell exploding in the mud, the splash of fragments
in the river. Behind him a red flare, ever growing, wavering, bursting
into crimson radiance, told him that the Château de Nesville was
ablaze. The black, trembling shadows cast by the trees grew blacker and
steadier in the fiery light; the muddy road sprang into view under his
feet; the river ran vermilion. Another light grew in the southern sky,
faint yet, but growing surely. He ran swiftly, spurred and lashed by
fear, for this time it was the Château Morteyn that sent a column of
sparks above the trees, higher, higher, under a pall of reddening
At last he stumbled into the garden, where a mass of plunging horses
tugged and strained at their harnessed guns and caissons. Muddy
soldiers put their ragged shoulders to the gun-wheels and pushed;
teamsters cursed and lashed their horses; officers rode through the
throng, shouting. A squad of infantry began a fusillade from the wall;
other squads fired from the lawn, where the rear of a long column in
retreat stretched across the gardens and out into the road.
As Jack ran up the terrace steps the gatling began to whir like a
watchman's rattle; needle-pointed flames pricked the darkness from
hedge and wall, where a dark line swayed to and fro under the smoke.
Up the stairs he sped, and flung open the door of the bedroom.
Lorraine stood in the middle of the room, looking out into the
darkness. She turned at the sound of the opening door:
Hurry! he gasped; this time they mean business. Where is your
sentinel? Where is the general? Hurry, my childdress quickly!
He went out to the hall again, and looked up and down. On the floor
below he heard somebody say that the general was dead, and he hurried
down among a knot of officers who were clustered at the windows,
night-glasses levelled on the forest. As he entered the room a
lieutenant fell dead and a shower of bullets struck the coping outside.
He hastened away up-stairs again. Lorraine, in cloak and hat, met
him at the door.
Keep away from all windows, he said. Are you ready?
She placed her arm in his, and he led her down the stairs to the
rear of the Château.
Have they goneour soldiers? faltered Lorraine. Is it defeat?
Jack, answer me!
They are holding the Château to protect the retreat, I think. Hark!
The gatling is roaring like a furnace! What has happened?
I don't know. The old general came to speak to me when I awoke. He
was very good and kind. Then suddenly the sentinel on the stairs fell
down and we ran out. He was dead; a bullet had entered from the window
at the end of the hall. After that I went into my room to dress, and
the general hurried down-stairs, telling me to wait until he called for
me. He did not come back; the firing began, and some shells hit the
house. All the troops in the garden began to leave, and I did not know
what to do, so I waited for you.
Jack glanced right and left. The artillery were leaving by the
stable road; from every side the infantry streamed past across the
lawn, running when they came to the garden, where a shower of bullets
fell among the shrubbery. A captain hastening towards the terrace
looked at them in surprise.
What is it? cried Jack. Can't you hold the Château?
The other Château has been carried, said the captain. They are
taking us on the left flank. Madame, he added, should go at once;
this place will be untenable in a few moments.
Lorraine spoke breathlessly: Are you to hold the Château with the
gatling until the army is safe?
Yes, madame, said the captain. We are obliged to.
There came a sudden lull in the firing. Lorraine caught Jack's arm.
Come, cried Jack, we've got to go now!
I shall stay! she said; I know my work is here!
The German rifle-flames began to sparkle and flicker along the
river-bank; a bullet rang out against the granite façade behind them.
Come! he cried, sharply, but she slipped from him and ran towards
Drums were beating somewhere in the distant forestshrill, treble
drumsand from every hill-side the hollow, harsh Prussian trumpets
spoke. Then came a sound, deep, menacinga far cry:
Why don't you cheer? faltered Lorraine, mounting the terrace. The
artillerymen looked at her in surprise. Jack caught her arm; she shook
him off impatiently.
Cheer! she cried again. Is France dumb? She raised her hand.
Vive la France! shouted the artillerymen, catching her ardour.
Vive la Patrie! Vive Lorraine!
Again the short, barking, Prussian cheer sounded, and again the
artillerymen answered it, cheer on cheer, for France, for the Land, for
the Province of Lorraine. Up in the windows of the Château the line
soldiers were cheering, too; the engineers on the roof, stamping out
the sparks and flames, swung their caps and echoed the shouts from
terrace and window.
In the sudden silence that followed they caught the vibration of
hundreds of hoofsthere came a rush, a shout:
Hourra! Preussen! Hourra! Hourra! and into the lawn dashed the
German cavalry, banging away with carbine and revolver. At the same
moment, over the park walls swarmed the Bavarians in a forest of
bayonets. The Château vomited flame from every window; the gatling,
pulled back into the front door, roared out in a hundred streaks of
fire. Jack dragged Lorraine to the first floor; she was terribly
excited. Almost at once she knelt down and began to load rifles,
passing them to Jack, who passed them to the soldiers at the windows.
Once, when a whole window was torn in and the mattress on fire, she
quenched the flames with water from her pitcher; and when the soldiers
hesitated at the breach, she started herself, but Jack held her back
and led the cheering, and piled more mattresses into the shattered
Below in the garden the Bavarians were running around the house,
hammering with rifle-butts at the closed shutters, crouching, dodging
from stable to garden, perfectly possessed to get into the house. Their
officers bellowed orders and shook their sabres in the very teeth of
the rifle blast; the cavalry capered and galloped, and flew from
thicket to thicket.
Suddenly they all gave way; the garden and lawns were emptied save
for the writhing wounded and motionless dead.
Cheer! gasped Lorraine; and the battered Château rang again with
frenzied cries of triumph.
The wounded were calling for water, and Jack and Lorraine brought it
in bowls. Here and there the bedding and wood-work had caught fire, but
the line soldiers knocked it out with their rifle-butts. Whenever
Lorraine entered a room they cheered herthe young officers waved
their caps, even a dying bugler raised himself and feebly sounded the
salute to the colours.
By the light of the candles Jack noticed for the first time that
Lorraine wore the dress of the Provincethat costume that he had first
seen her inthe scarlet skirt, the velvet bodice, the chains of
silver. And as she stood loading the rifles in the smoke-choked room,
the soldiers saw more than that: they saw the Province itself in battle
therethe Province of Lorraine. And they cheered and leaped to the
windows, firing frenziedly, crying the old battle-cry of Lorraine:
Tiens ta Foy! Frappe! Pour le Roy! while the child in the bodice and
scarlet skirt stood up straight and snapped back the locks of the
loaded chassepots, one by one.
Once again! For France! cried Lorraine, as the clamour of the
Prussian drums broke out on the hill-side, and the hoarse trumpets
signalled from wood to wood.
A thundering cry arose from the Château:
The sullen boom of a Prussian cannon drowned it; the house shook
with the impact of a shell, bursting in fury on the terrace.
White faces turned to faces whiter still.
Hold on! For France! cried Lorraine, feverishly.
Cannon! echoed the voices, one to another.
Again the solid walls shook with the shock of a solid shot.
Jack stuffed the steel box into his breast and turned to Lorraine.
It is ended, we cannot stay he began; but at that instant
something struck him a violent blow on the chest, and he fell, striking
the floor with his head.
In a second Lorraine was at his side, lifting him with all the
strength of her arms, calling to him: Jack! Jack! Jack!
The soldiers were leaving the windows now; the house rocked and
tottered under the blows of shell and solid shot. Down-stairs an
officer cried: Save yourselves! There was a hurry of feet through the
halls and on the stairs. A young soldier touched Lorraine timidly on
Give him to me; I will carry him down, he said.
She clung to Jack and turned a blank gaze on the soldier.
Give him to me, he repeated; the house is burning. But she would
not move nor relinquish her hold. Then the soldier seized Jack and
threw him over his shoulder, running swiftly down the stairs, that
rocked under his feet. Lorraine cried out and followed him into the
darkness, where the crashing of tiles and thunder of the exploding
shells dazed and stunned her; but the soldier ran on across the garden,
calling to her, and she followed, stumbling to his side.
To the treesyonderthe forest he gasped.
They were already among the trees. Then Lorraine seized the man by
the arm, her eyes wide with despair.
Give me my dead! she panted. He is mine! mine! mine!
He is not dead, faltered the soldier, laying Jack down against a
tree. But she only crouched and took him in her arms, eyes closed, and
lips for the first time crushed to his.
XXV. PRINCESS IMPERIAL
The glare from the Château Morteyn, now wrapped in torrents of
curling flame, threw long crimson shafts of light far into the forest.
The sombre trees glimmered like live cinders; the wet moss crisped and
bronzed as the red radiance played through the thickets. The bright,
wavering fire-glow fell full on Jack's body; his face was hidden in the
shadow of Lorraine's hair.
Twice the timid young soldier drew her away, but she crept back,
murmuring Jack's name; and at last the soldier seized the body in both
arms and stumbled on again, calling Lorraine to follow.
Little by little the illumination faded out among the trees; the
black woods crowded in on every side; the noise of the crackling
flames, the shouting, the brazen rattle of drums grew fainter and
fainter, and finally died out in the soft, thick blackness of the
When they halted the young soldier placed Jack on the moss, then
held out his hands. Lorraine touched them. He guided her to the
prostrate figure; she flung herself face down beside it.
After a moment the soldier touched her again timidly on the
Have I done well?
She sobbed her thanks, rising to her knees. The soldier, a boy of
eighteen, straightened up; he noiselessly laid his knapsack and
haversack on the ground, trembled, swayed, and sat down, muttering
vaguely of God and the honour of France. Presently he went away,
lurching in the darkness like a drunken manon, on, deep into the
forest, where nothing of light or sound penetrated. And when he could
no longer stand he sat down, his young head in his hands, and waited.
His body had been shot through and through. About midnight he died.
When Jack came to his senses the gray mystery of dawn was passing
through the silent forest aisles; the beeches, pallid, stark, loomed
motionless on every side; the pale veil of sky-fog hung festooned from
tree to tree. There was a sense of breathless waiting in the shadowy
woodsno sound, no stir, nothing of life or palpitationnothing but
Jack crawled to his knees; his chest ached, his mouth cracked with a
terrible throbbing thirst. Dazed as yet, he did not even look around;
he did not try to think; but that weight on his chest grew to a burning
agony, and he tore at his coat and threw it open. The flat steel box,
pierced by a bullet, fell on the ground before his knees. Then he
remembered. He ripped open waistcoat and shirt and stared at his bare
breast. It was discoloureda mass of bruises, but there was no blood
there. He looked listlessly at the box on the leaves under him, and
touched his bruised body. Suddenly his mind grew clearer; he stumbled
up, steadying himself against a tree. His lips moved Lorraine! but no
sound came. Again, in terror, he tried to cry out. He could not speak.
Then he saw her. She lay among the dead leaves, face downward in the
When at last he understood that she was alive he lay down beside
her, one arm across her body, and sank into a profound sleep.
She woke first. A burning thirst set her weeping in her sleep and
then roused her. Tear-stained and ghastly pale, she leaned over the
sleeping man beside her, listened to his breathing, touched his hair,
then rose and looked fearfully about her. On the knapsack under the
tree a tin cup was shining. She took it and crept down into a gulley,
where, through the deep layers of dead leaves, water sparkled in a
string of tiny iridescent puddles. The water, however, was sweet and
cold, and, when she had satisfied her thirst and had dug into the black
loam with the edge of the cup, more water, sparkling and pure, gushed
up and spread out in the miniature basin. She waited for the mud and
leaves to settle, and when the basin was clear she unbound her hair,
loosened her bodice, and slipped it off. When she had rolled the wide,
full sleeves of her chemise to the shoulder she bathed her face and
breast and arms; they glistened like marble tinged with rose in the
pale forest dawn. The little scrupulous ablutions finished, she dried
her face on the fine cambric of the under-sleeve, she dried her little
ears, her brightening eyes, the pink palms of her hand, and every
polished finger separately from the delicate flushed tip to the wrist,
blue-veined and slender. She shook out her heavy hair, heavy and
gleaming with burnished threads, and bound it tighter. She mended the
broken points of her bodice, then laced it firmly till it pressed and
warmed her fragrant breast. Then she rose.
There was nothing of fear or sorrow in her splendid eyes; her mouth
was moist and scarlet, her curved cheeks pure as a child's.
For a moment she stood pensive, her face now grave, now sensitive,
now touched with that mysterious exaltation that glows through the
histories of the saints, that shines from tapestries, that hides in the
dim faces carved on shrines.
For the world was trembling and the land cried out under the
scourge, and she was ready now for what must be. The land would call
her where she was awaited; the time, the hour, the place had been
decreed. She was readyand where was the bitterness of death, when she
could face it with the man she loved.
Loved? At the thought her knees trembled under her with the weight
of this love; faint with its mystery and sweetness, her soul turned in
its innocence to God. And for the first time in her child's life she
understood that God lived.
She understood now that the sadness of life was gone forever. There
was no loneliness now for soul or heart; nothing to fear, nothing to
regret. Her life was complete. Death seemed an incident. If it came to
her or to the man she loved, they would wait for one another a little
whilethat was all.
A pale sunbeam stole across the tree-tops. She looked up. A little
bird sang, head tilted towards the blue. She moved softly up the slope,
her hair glistening in the early sun, her blue eyes dreaming; and when
she came to the sleeping man she bent beside him and held a cup of
sweet water to his lips.
About noon they spoke of hunger, timidly, lest either might think
the other complained. Her head close against his, her warm arms tight
around his neck, she told him of the boy soldier, the dreadful journey
in the night, the terror, and the awakening. She told him of the birth
of her love for himhow death no longer was to be feared or sought.
She told him there was nothing to alarm him, nothing to make them
despair. Sin could not touch them; death was God's own gift.
He listened, too happy to even try to understand. Perhaps he could
not, being only a young man in love. But he knew that all she said must
be true, perhaps too true for him to comprehend. He was satisfied; his
life was complete. Something of the contentment of a school-boy
exhausted with play lingered in his eyes.
They had spoken of the box; she had taken it reverently in her hands
and touched the broken key, snapped off short in the lock. Inside, the
Prussian bullet rattled as she turned the box over and over, her eyes
dim with love for the man who had done all for her.
Jack found a loaf of bread in the knapsack. It was hard and dry, but
they soaked it in the leaf-covered spring and ate it deliciously, cheek
Little by little their plans took shape. They were to goHeaven
knows how!to find the Emperor. Into his hands they would give the box
with its secrets, then turn again, always together, ready for their
work, wherever it might be.
Towards mid-afternoon Lorraine grew drowsy. There was a summer
warmth in the air; the little forest birds came to the spring and
preened their feathers in the pale sunshine. Two cicadas, high in the
tree-tops, droned an endless harmony; hemlock cones dropped at
intervals on the dead leaves.
When Lorraine lay asleep, her curly head on Jack's folded coat, her
hands clasped under her cheek, Jack leaned back against the tree and
picked up the box. He turned it softly, so that the bullet within
should not rattle. After a moment he opened his penknife and touched
the broken fragment of the key in the lock. Idly turning the
knife-blade this way and that, but noiselessly, for fear of troubling
Lorraine, he thought of the past, the present, and the future. Sir
Thorald lay dead on the hillock above the river Lisse; Alixe slept
beside him; Rickerl was somewhere in the country, riding with his Uhlan
scourges; Molly Hesketh waited in Paris for her dead husband; the
Marquis de Nesville's bones were lying in the forest where he now sat,
watching the sleeping child of the dead man. His child? Jack looked at
her tenderly. No, not the child of the Marquis de Nesville, but a
foundling, a lost waif in the Lorraine Hills, perhaps a child of
chance. What of it? She would never know. The Château de Nesville was a
smouldering mass of fire; the lands could revert to the country; she
should never again need them, never again see them, for he would take
her to his own land when trouble of war had passed, and there she
should forget pain and sorrow and her desolate, loveless childhood; she
should only remember that in the Province of Lorraine she had met the
man she loved. All else should be a memory of green trees and vineyards
and rivers, growing vaguer and dimmer as the healing years passed on.
The knife-blade in the box bent, sprang backthe box flew open.
He did not realize it at first; he looked at the three folded papers
lying within, curiously, indolently. Presently he took them and looked
at the superscriptions written on the back, in the handwriting of the
marquis. The three papers were inscribed as follows:
1. For the French Government after the fall of the
2. For the French Government on the death of Louis
Bonaparte, falsely called Emperor.
3. To whom it may concern!
To whom it may concern! he repeated, looking at the third paper.
Presently he opened it and read it, and as he read his heart seemed to
cease its beating.
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN!
Grief has unsettled my mind, yet, what I now write is
true, and, if there is a God, I solemnly call His curses
on me and mine if I lie.
My only son, René Philip d'Harcourt de Nesville, was
assassinated on the Grand Boulevard in Paris, on the 2d
of December, 1851. His assassin was a monster named
Louis Bonaparte, now known falsely as Napoleon III.,
Emperor of the French. His paid murderers shot my boy
down, and stabbed him to death with their bayonets, in
front of the Café Tortoni. I carried his body home; I
sat at the window, with my dead boy on my knees, and I
saw Louis Bonaparte ride into the Rue St. Honoré with
his murderous Lancers, and I saw children spit at him
and hurl curses at him from the barricade.
Now I, Gilbert, Marquis de Nesville, swore to strike.
And I struck, not at his lifethat can wait. I struck
at the root of all his pride and honourI struck at
that which he held dearer than theseat his dynasty!
Do the people of France remember when the Empress was
first declared enciente? The cannon thundered from the
orangerie at Saint-Cloud, the dome of the Invalides
blazed rockets, the city glittered under a canopy of
coloured fire. Oh, they were very careful of the Empress
of the French! They went to Saint-Cloud, and later to
Versailles, as they go to holy cities, praying. And the
Emperor himself grew younger, they said.
Then came the news that the expected heir, a son, had
been born dead! Lies!
I, Gilbert de Nesville, was in the forest when the
Empress of the French fell ill. When separated from the
others she called to Morny, and bade him drive for the
love of Heaven! And they drovethey drove to the
Trianon, and there was no one there. And there the child
was born. Morny held it in his arms. He came out to the
colonnade holding it in his arms, and calling for a
messenger. I came, and when I was close to Morny I
struck him in the face and he fell senseless. I took the
child and wrapped it in my cloak. This is the truth!
They dared not tell it; they dared not, for fear and
for shame. They said that an heir had been born dead;
and they mourned for their dead son. It was only a
daughter. She is alive; she loves me, and, God forgive
me, I hate her for defeating my just vengeance.
And I call her Lorraine de Nesville.
XXVI. THE SHADOW OF POMP
The long evening shadows were lengthening among the trees; sleepy
birds twitted in dusky thickets; Lorraine slept.
Jack still stood staring at the paper in his hands, trying to
understand the purport of what he read and reread, until the page
became a blur and his hot eyes burned.
All the significance of the situation rose before him. This child,
the daughter of the oath-breaker, the butcher of December, the sly,
slow diplomate of Europe, the man of Rome, of Mexico, the man now
reeling back to Châlons under the iron blows of an aroused people. In
Paris, already, they cursed his name; they hurled insults at the poor
Empress, that mother in despair. Thiers, putting his senile fingers in
the porridge, stirred a ferment that had not even germinated since the
guillotine towered in the Place de la Concorde and the tumbrils rattled
through the streets. He did not know what he was stirring. The same
impulse that possessed Gladstone to devastate trees animated Thiers. He
stirred the dangerous mess because he liked to stir, nothing more. But
from that hell's broth the crimson spectre of the Commune was to rise,
when the smoke of Sedan had drifted clear of a mutilated nation.
Through the heavy clouds of death which were already girdling Paris,
that flabby Cyclops, Gambetta, was to mouth his monstrous platitudes,
and brood over the battle-smoke, a nightmare of pomposity and
fanfaronadein a balloon. All France was bowed down in shame at the
sight of the grotesque convoy, who were proclaiming her destiny among
nations, and their destiny to lead her to victory and la gloire. A
scorched, blood-soaked land, a pall of smoke through which brave men
bared their breasts to the blast from the Rhine, and died
uncomplainingly, willingly, cheerfully, for the mother-landwas it not
The sublime martyrdom of the men who marched, who shall write it?
And who shall write of those othersBazaine, Napoleon, Thiers,
Gambetta, Favre, Ollivier?
If Bazaine died, cursed by a nation, his martyrdom, for martyrdom it
was, was no greater than that of the humblest French peasant, who,
dying, knew at last that he died, not for France, but because the men
who sent him were worse than criminalthey were imbecile.
The men who marched were sublime; they were the incarnation of
embattled France; the starving people of Metz, of Strassbourg, of
Paris, were sublime. But there was nothing sublime about Monsieur
Adolphe Thiers, nothing heroic about Hugo, nothing respectable about
Gambetta. The marshal with the fat neck and Spanish affiliations, the
poor confused, inert, over-fed marshal caged in Metz by the Red Prince,
harassed, bewildered, stunned by the clashing of politics and military
strategy, which his meagre brain was unable to reconcile or
separatethis unfortunate incapable was deserving of pity, perhaps of
contempt. His cup was to be bitterer than thatit was to be drained,
too, with the shouts of Traitor stunning his fleshy ears.
He was no traitor. Cannot France understand that this single word
traitor has brought her to contempt in the eyes of the world? There
are two words that mar every glorious, sublime page of the terrible
history of 1870-71, and these two words are treason and revenge.
Let the nation face the truth, let the people write incapacity for
treason, and honour for revenge, and then the abused term la
gloire will be justified in the eyes of men.
As for Thiers, let men judge him from his three revolutions, let the
unknown dead in the ditches beyond the enceinte judge him, let the
spectres of the murdered from Père Lachaise to the bullet-pitted
terrace of the Luxembourg judge this meddler, this potterer in
epoch-making cataclysms. Bismarck, gray, imbittered, without honour in
an unenlightened court, can still smile when he remembers Jules Favre
and his prayer for the National Guard.
And these were the men who formed the convoy around the chariot of
France militant, France in arms!a cortège at once hideous, shameful,
What was left of the Empire? Metz still held out; Strassbourg
trembled under the shock of Prussian mortars; Paris strained its eyes
for the first silhouette of the Uhlan on the heights of Versailles; and
through the chill of the dying year the sombre Emperor, hunted, driven,
threatened, tumbled into the snare of Sedan as a sick buzzard flutters
exhausted to earth under a shower of clubs and stones.
The end was to be brutal: a charge or two of devoted men, a crush at
the narrow gates, a white flag, a brusque gesture from Bismarck,
nothing more except a guard of honour, an imperial special train, and
Belgian newsboys shrieking along the station platform, Extra! Fall of
the Empire! Paris proclaims the Republic! Flight of the Empress!
Jack, sitting with the paper in his hands, read between the lines,
and knew that the prophecy of evil days would be fulfilled. But as yet
the writing on the wall of Alsatian hills had not spelled Sedan, nor
did he know of the shambles of Mars-la-Tour, the bloody work at
Buzancy, the retreat from Châlons, and the evacuation of Vitry.
Buzancy marked the beginning of the end. It was nothing but a
skirmish; the 3d Saxon Cavalry, a squadron or two of the 18th Uhlans,
and Zwinker's Battery fought a half-dozen squadrons of chasseurs. But
the red-letter mark on the result was unmistakable. Bazaine's
correspondence was captured. On the same day the second sortie occurred
from Strassbourg. It was time, for the trenches and parallels had been
pushed within six hundred paces of the glacis. And so it was
everywhere, the whole country was in a ferment of disorganized but
desperate resistance of astonishment, indignation, dismay.
The nation could not realize that it was too late, that it was not
conquest but invasion which the armies of France must prepare for. Blow
after blow fell, disaster after disaster stunned the country, while the
government studied new and effective forms of lying and evasion, and
the hunted Emperor drifted on to his doom in the pitfall of Sedan.
All Alsace except Belfort, Strassbourg, Schlettstadt, and Neuf
Brisac was in German hands, under German power, governed by German law.
The Uhlans scoured the country as clean as possible, but the
franc-tireurs roamed from forest to forest, sometimes gallantly facing
martyrdom, sometimes looting, burning, pillaging, and murdering. If
Germans maintain that the only good franc-tireur is a dead
franc-tireur, they are not always justified. Let them sit first in
judgment on Andreas Hofer. England had Hereward; America, Harry Lee;
and, when the South is ready to acknowledge Mosby and Quantrell of the
same feather, it will be time for France to blush for her
franc-tireurs. Noble and ignoble, patriots and cowards, the justified
and the misguided wore the straight képi and the sheepskin jacket. All
figs in Spain are not poisoned.
With the fall of the Château Morteyn, the war in Lorraine would
degenerate into a combat between picquets of Uhlans and roving
franc-tireurs. There would be executions of spies, vengeance on
peasants, examples made of franc-tireurs, and all the horrors of
irregular warfare. Jack knew this; he understood it perfectly when the
muddy French infantry tramped out of the Château Morteyn and vanished
among the dark hills in the rain.
For himself, had he been alone, there would have been nothing to
keep him in the devastated province. Indeed, considering his peculiarly
strained relations with the Uhlans of Rickerl's regiment, it behooved
him to get across the Belgian frontier very promptly.
Now he not only had Lorraine, he had the woman who loved him and who
was ready to sacrifice herself and him too for the honour of France.
She lived for one thingthe box, with its pitiful contents, its
secrets of aërial navigation and destruction, must be placed at the
service of France. The government was France now, and the Empress was
the government. Lorraine knew nothing of the reasons her father had had
for his hatred of the Emperor and the Empire. Personal grievances, even
when those grievances were her father's, even though they might be
justified, would never deter her from placing the secrets that might
aid, might save, France with the man who, at that moment, in her eyes,
represented the safety, security, the very existence of the land she
Jack knew this. Whether she was right or not did not occur to him to
ask. But the irony of it, the grim necessity of such a fate, staggered
hima daughter seeking her father at the verge of his ruina child,
long lost, forgotten, unrecognized, unclaimed, finding the blind path
to a father who, when she had been torn from him, dared not seek for
her, dared not whisper of her existence except to Morny in the cloaked
shadows of secret places.
For good or ill Jack made up his mind; he had decided for himself
and for her. Her loveless, lonely childhood had been enough of sorrow
for one young life; she should have no further storm, no more
heartaches, nothing but peace and love and the strong arm of a man to
shield her. Let her remember the only father she had ever knownlet
her remember him with faithful love and sorrow as she would. For the
wrong he had done, let him account to another tribunal; her, the echo
of that crime and hate and passion must never reach.
Why should he, the man who loved her, bring to her this heritage of
ruin? Why should he tear the veil from her trusting eyes and show her a
land bought with blood and broken oaths, sold in blood and infamy? Why
should he show her this, and say, This is the work of your imperial
family! There is your father!some call him the Assassin of December!
There is your mother!read the pages of an Eastern diary! There, too,
is your brother, a sick child of fifteen, baptized at Saarbrück,
endowed at Sedan?
It was enough that France lay prostrate, that the wounded screamed
from the blood-wet fields, that the quiet dead lay under the pall of
smoke from the nation's funeral pyre. It was enough that the parents
suffer, that the son drag out an existence among indifferent or hostile
people in an alien land. The daughter should never know, never weep
when they wept, never pray when they prayed. This was retributionnot
his, he only watched in silence the working of divine justice.
He tore the paper into fragments and ground them under his heel deep
into the soft forest mould.
He stood a long while in silence looking down at her. She was
breathing quietly, regularly; her long, curling lashes rested on curved
cheeks, delicate as an infant's.
Half fearfully he stooped to arouse her. A footfall sounded on the
dead leaves behind him, and a franc-tireur touched him on the shoulder.
XXVII. ÇA IRA!
What do you want? asked Jack, in a voice that vibrated
unpleasantly. There was a dangerous light in his eyes; his lips grew
thinner and whiter. One by one a dozen franc-tireurs stepped from
behind the trees on every side, rifles shimmering in the subdued
afternoon hazewiry, gloomy-eyed men, their sleeveless sheepskin
jackets belted in with leather, their sombre caps and trousers thinly
banded with orange braid. They looked at him without speaking, almost
without curiosity, fingering their gunlocks, bayoneted rifles unslung.
Your name? said the man who had touched him on the shoulder.
He did not reply at once. One of the men began to laugh.
He's the vicomte's nephew, said another; and, pointing at
Lorraine, who, now aroused, sat up on the moss beside Jack, he
continued: And that is the little châtelaine of the Château de
Nesville. He took off his straight-visored cap.
The circle of gaunt, sallow faces grew friendly, and, as Lorraine
stood up, looking questioningly from one to the other, caps were
doffed, rifle-butts fell to the ground.
Why, it's Monsieur Tricasse of the Saint-Lys Pompiers! she said.
Oh, and there is le Père Passerat, and little Émile Brun! Émile, my
son, why are you not with your regiment? The dark faces lighted up;
somebody snickered; Brun, the conscript of the class of '71 who had
been hauled by the heels from under his mother's bed, looked confused
and twiddled his thumbs.
One by one the franc-tireurs came shambling up to pay their awkward
respects to Lorraine and to Jack, while Tricasse pulled his bristling
mustache and clattered his sabre in its sheath approvingly. When his
men had acquitted themselves with all the awkward sincerity of Lorraine
peasants, he advanced with a superb bow and flourish, lifting his cap
from his gray head:
In my quality of ex-pompier and commandant of the 'Terrors of
Morteyn'my battalionhere he made a sweeping gesture as though
briefly reviewing an army corps instead of a dozen wolfish-eyed
peasantsI extend to our honoured and beloved Châtelaine de Nesville,
and to our honoured guest, Monsieur Marche, the protection and
safe-conduct of the 'Terrors of Morteyn.'
As he spoke his expression became exalted. He, Tricasse, ex-pompier
and exempt, was posing as the saviour of his province, and he felt
that, though German armies stretched in endless ranks from the Loire to
the Meuse, he, Tricasse, was the man of destiny, the man of the place
and the hour when beauty was in distress.
Lorraine, her eyes dim with gentle tears, held out both slender
hands; Tricasse bent low and touched them with his grizzled mustache.
Then he straightened up, frowned at his men, and said Attention! in a
very fierce voice.
The half-starved fellows shuffled into a single rank; their faces
were wreathed in sheepish smiles. Jack noticed that a Bavarian helmet
and side-arm hung from the knapsack of one, a mere freckled lad, downy
and dimpled. Tricasse drew his sabre, turned, marched solemnly along
the front, wheeled again, and saluted.
Jack lifted his cap; Lorraine, her arm in his, bowed and smiled
The dear, brave fellows! she cried, impulsively, whereat every man
reddened, and Tricasse grew giddy with emotion. He tried to speak; his
emotion was great.
In my capacity of ex-pompier, he gasped, then went to pieces, and
hid his eyes in his hands. The Terrors of Morteyn wept with him to a
Presently, with a gesture to Tricasse, Jack led Lorraine down the
slope, past the spring, and on through the forest, three Terrors
leading, rifles poised, Tricasse and the others following, alert and
balancing their cocked rifles.
How far is your camp? asked Jack. We need food and the warmth of
a fire. Tell me, Monsieur Tricasse, what is left of the two châteaux?
Lorraine bent nearer as the old man said: The Château de Nesville
is a mass of cinders; Morteyn, a stone skeleton. Pierre is dead. There
are many dead theremany, many dead. The Prussians burned Saint-Lys
yesterday; they shot Bosquet, the letter-carrier; they hung his boy to
the railroad trestle, then shot him to pieces. The Curé is a prisoner;
the Mayor of Saint-Lys and the Notary have been sent to the camp at
Strassbourg. We, my 'Terrors of Morteyn' and I, are still facing the
vandals; except for us, the Province of Lorraine is empty of Frenchmen
in armed resistance.
The old man, in his grotesque uniform, touched his bristling
mustache and muttered: Nom d'une pipe! several times to steady his
Lorraine and Jack pressed on silently, sorrowfully, hand in hand,
watching the scouts ahead, who were creeping on through the trees,
heads turning from side to side, rifles raised. They passed along the
back of a thickly wooded ridge for some distance, perhaps a mile,
before the thin blue line of a smouldering camp-fire rose almost in
their very faces. A low challenge from a clump of birch-trees was
answered, there came the sound of rifles dropping, the noise of feet
among the leaves, a whisper, and before they knew it they were standing
at the mouth of a hole in the bank, from which came the odour of
beef-broth simmering. Two or three franc-tireurs passed them, looking
up curiously into their faces. Tricasse dragged a dilapidated
cane-chair from the dirt-cave and placed it before Lorraine as though
he were inviting her to an imperial throne.
Thank you, she said, sweetly, and seated herself, not
relinquishing Jack's hand.
Two tin basins of soup were brought to them; they ate it, soaking
bits of crust in it.
The men pretended not to watch them. With all their instinctive
delicacy these clumsy peasants busied themselves in guard-mounting,
weapon cleaning, and their cuisine, as though there was no such thing
as a pretty woman within miles. But it tried their gallantry as
Frenchmen and their tact as Lorraine peasants. Furtive glances,
deprecatory and timid, were met by the sweetest of smiles from Lorraine
or a kindly nod from Jack. Tricasse, utterly unbalanced by his new rôle
of protector of beauty, gave orders in fierce, agitated whispers, and
made sudden aimless promenades around the birch thicket. In one of
these prowls he discovered a toad staring at the camp-fire, and he drew
his sword with a furious gesture, as though no living toad were good
enough to intrude on the Châtelaine of the Château de Nesville; but the
toad hopped away, and Tricasse unbent his brows and resumed his
When Lorraine had finished her soup, Jack took both plates into the
cave and gave them to a man who, squatted on his haunches, was washing
dishes. Lorraine followed him and sat down on a blanket, leaning back
against the side of the cave.
Wait for me, said Jack. She drew his head down to hers.
They lingered there in the darkness a moment, unconscious of the
amazed but humourous glances of the cook; then Jack went out and found
Tricasse, and walked with him to the top of the tree-clad ridge.
A road ran under the overhanging bank.
I didn't know we were so near a road, said Jack, startled.
Tricasse laid his finger on his lips.
It is the high-road to Saint-Lys. We have settled more than one
Uhlan dog on that curve there by the oak-tree. Look! Here comes one of
our men. See! He's got something, too.
Sure enough, around the bend in the road slunk a franc-tireur,
loaded down with what appeared to be mail-sacks. Cautiously he
reconnoitred the bank, the road, the forest on the other side, whistled
softly, and, at Tricasse's answering whistle, came puffing and blowing
up the slope, and flung a mail-bag, a rifle, a Bavarian helmet, and a
German knapsack to the ground.
The big police officer? inquired Tricasse, eagerly.
Yes, the big one with the red beard. He died hard. I used the
bayonet only, said the franc-tireur, looking moodily at the dried
blood on his hairy fists. I got a Bavarian sentry, too; there's the
Jack looked at the helmet. Tricasse ripped up the mail-sack with his
long clasp-knife. They stole our mail; they will not steal it again,
observed Tricasse, sorting the letters and shuffling them like cards.
One by one he looked them over, sorted out two, stuffed the rest
into the breast of his sheepskin coat, and stood up.
There are two letters for you, Monsieur Marche, that were going to
be read by the Prussian police officials, he said, holding the letters
out. What do you think of our new system of mail delivery? German
delivery, franc-tireur facteur, eh, Monsieur Marche?
Give me the letters, said Jack, quietly.
He sat down and read them both, again and again. Tricasse turned his
back, and stirred the Bavarian helmet with his boot-toe; the
franc-tireur gathered up his spoils, and, at a gesture from Tricasse,
carried them down the slope towards the hidden camp.
Put out the fire, too, called Tricasse, softly. I begin to smell
When Jack had finished his reading, he looked up at Tricasse,
folding the letters and placing them in his breast, where the flat
steel box was.
Letters from Paris, he said. The Uhlans have appeared in the
Eure-et-Seine and at Melun. They are arming the forts and enceinte, and
the city is being provisioned for a siege.
Paris! blurted out Tricasse, aghast.
Jack nodded, silently.
After a moment he resumed: The Emperor is said to be with the army
near Mézières on the south bank of the Meuse. We are going to find him,
Mademoiselle de Nesville and I. Tell us what to do.
Tricasse stared at him, incapable of speech.
Very well, said Jack, gently, think it over. Tell me, at least,
how we can avoid the German lines. We must start this evening.
He turned and descended the bank rapidly, letting himself down by
the trunks of the birch saplings, treading softly and cautiously over
stones and dead leaves, for the road was so near that a careless
footstep might perhaps be heard by passing Uhlans. In a few minutes he
crossed the ridge, and descended into the hollow, where the odour of
the extinguished fire lingered in the air.
Lorraine was sitting quietly in the cave; Jack entered and sat down
on the blankets beside her.
The franc-tireurs captured a mail-sack just now, he said. In it
were two letters for me; one from my sister Dorothy, and the other from
Lady Hesketh. Dorothy writes in alarm, because my uncle and aunt
arrived without me. They also are frightened because they have heard
that Morteyn was again threatened. The Uhlans have been seen in
neighbouring departments, and the city is preparing for a siege. My
uncle will not allow his wife or Dorothy or Betty Castlemaine to stay
in Paris, so they are all going to Brussels, and expect me to join them
there. They know nothing of what has happened at your home or at
Morteyn; they need not know it until we meet them. Listen, Lorraine: it
is my duty to find the Emperor and deliver this box to him; but you
must not goit is not necessary. So I am going to get you to Brussels
somehow, and from there I can pass on about my duty with a free heart.
She placed both hands and then her lips over his mouth.
Hush, she said; I am going with you; it is useless, Jack, to try
to persuade me. Hush, my darling; there, be sensible; our path is very
hard and cruel, but it does not separate us; we tread it together,
always together, Jack. He struggled to speak; she held him close, and
laid her head against his breast, contented, thoughtful, her eyes
dreaming in the half-light of France reconquered, of noble deeds and
sacrifices, of the great bells of churches thundering God's praise to a
humble, thankful nation, proud in its faith, generous in its victory.
As she lay dreaming close to the man she loved, a sudden tumult
startled the sleeping echoes of the cavethe scuffling and thrashing
of a shod horse among dead leaves and branches. There came a groan, a
crash, the sound of a blow; then silence.
Outside, the franc-tireurs, rifles slanting, were moving swiftly out
into the hollow, stooping low among the trees. As they hurried from the
cave another franc-tireur came up, leading a riderless cavalry horse by
one hand; in the other he held his rifle, the butt dripping with blood.
Silence, he motioned to them, pointing to the wooded ridge beyond.
Jack looked intently at the cavalry horse. The schabraque was blue,
edged with yellow; the saddle-cloth bore the number 11.
Uhlan? He formed the word with his lips.
The franc-tireur nodded with a ghastly smile and glanced down at his
Lorraine's hand closed on Jack's arm.
Come to the hill, she said; I cannot stand that.
On the crest of the wooded ridge crouched Tricasse, bared sabre
stuck in the ground before him, a revolver in either fist. Around him
lay his men, flat on the ground, eyes focussed on the turn in the road
below. Their eyes glowed like the eyes of caged beasts, their sinewy
fingers played continually with the rifle-hammers.
Jack hesitated, his arm around Lorraine's body, his eyes fixed
nervously on the bend in the road.
Something was coming; there were cries, the trample of horses, the
shuffle of footsteps. Suddenly an Uhlan rode cautiously around the
bend, glanced right and left, looked back, signalled, and started on.
Behind him crowded a dozen more Uhlans, lances glancing, pennants
streaming in the wind.
They've got a woman! whispered Lorraine.
They had a man, tooa powerful, bearded peasant, with a great livid
welt across his bloodless face. A rope hung around his neck, the end of
which was attached to the saddle-bow of an Uhlan. But what made Jack's
heart fairly leap into his mouth was to see Siurd von Steyr suddenly
wheel in his saddle and lash the woman across the face with his doubled
She cringed and fell to her knees, screaming and seizing his
Get out, damn you! roared Von Steyr. HereI'll settle this now.
Shoot that French dog!
My husband, O God! screamed the woman, struggling in the dust. In
a second she had fallen among the horses; a trooper spurred forward and
raised his revolver, but the man with the rope around his neck sprang
right at him, hanging to the saddle-bow, and tearing the rider with
teeth and nails. Twice Von Steyr tried to pass his sabre through him;
an Uhlan struck him with a lance-butt, another buried a lance-point in
his back, but he clung like a wild-cat to his man, burying his teeth in
the Uhlan's face, deeper, deeper, till the Uhlan reeled back and fell
crashing into the road.
Fire! shrieked Tricassethe woman's dead!
Through the crash and smoke they could see the Uhlans staggering,
sinking, floundering about. A mounted figure passed like a flash
through the mist, another plunged after, a third wheeled and flew back
around the bend. But the rest were doomed. Already the franc-tireurs
were among them, whining with ferocity; the scene was sickening. One by
one the battered bodies of the Uhlans were torn from their frantic
horses until only one remainedVon Steyrdrenched with blood, his
sabre flashing above his head. They pulled him from his horse, but he
still raged, his bloodshot eyes flaring, his teeth gleaming under
shrunken lips. They beat him with musket-stocks, they hurled stones at
him, they struck him terrible blows with clubbed lances, and he yelped
like a mad cur and snapped at them, even when they had him down, even
when they shot into his twisting body. And at last they exterminated
the rabid thing that ran among them.
But the butchery was not ended; around the bend of the road galloped
more Uhlans, halted, wheeled, and galloped back with harsh cries. The
cries were echoed from above and below; the franc-tireurs were
Then Tricasse raised his smeared sabre, and, bending, took the dead
woman by the wrist, lifting her limp, trampled body from the dust. He
began to mutter, holding his sabre above his head, and the men took up
the savage chant, standing close together in the road:
'Ça ira! Ça ira!'
It was the horrible song of the Terror.
'Que faut-il au Républicain?
Du fer, du plomb, et puis du pain!
'Du fer pour travailler,
Du plomb pour nous venger,
Et du pain pour nos frères!'
And the fierce voices sang:
'Dansons la Carmagnole!
Dansons la Carmagnole!
Ça ira! Ça ira!
Tous les cochons à la lanterne!
Ça ira! Ça ira!
Tous les Prussiens, on les pendra!'
The road trembled under the advancing cavalry; they surged around
the bend, a chaos of rearing horses and levelled lances; a ring of fire
around the little group of franc-tireurs, a cry from the whirl of flame
So they died.
XXVIII. THE BRACONNIER
Lorraine had turned ghastly white; Jack's shocked face was
colourless as he drew her away from the ridge with him into the forest.
The appalling horror had stunned her; her knees gave way, she stumbled,
but Jack held her up by main force, pushing the undergrowth aside and
plunging straight on towards the thickest depths of the woods. He had
not the faintest idea where he was; he only knew that for the moment it
was absolutely necessary for them to get as far away as possible from
the Uhlans and their butcher's work. Lorraine knew it, too; she tried
to recover her coolness and her strength.
Here is another road, she said, faintly; JackII am not
strongI amalittlefaint Tears were running over her cheeks.
Jack peered out through the trees into the narrow wood-road.
Immediately a man hailed him from somewhere among the trees, and he
shrank back, teeth set, eyes fixed in desperation.
Who are you? came the summons again in French. Jack did not
answer. Presently a man in a blue blouse, carrying a whip, stepped out
into the road from the bushes on the farther side of the slope.
Hallo! he called, softly.
Jack looked at him. The man returned his glance with a friendly and
What do you want? asked Jack, suspiciously.
Parbleu! what do you want yourself? asked the peasant, and showed
his teeth in a frank laugh.
Jack was silent.
The peasant's eyes fell on Lorraine, leaning against a tree, her
blanched face half hidden under the masses of her hair. Oho! he
Without the least hesitation he came quickly across the road and
close up to Jack.
Thought you might be one of those German spies, he said. Is the
lady ill? Coeur Dieu! but she is white! Monsieur, what has happened? I
am BrocardJean Brocard; they know me here in the forest
Eh! broke in Jackyou say you are Brocard the poacher?
Hey! That's itBrocard, braconnierat your service. And you are
the young nephew of the Vicomte de Morteyn, and that is the little
châtelaine De Nesville! Coeur Dieu! Have the Prussians brutalized you,
too? Answer me, Monsieur MarcheI know you and I know the little
châtelaineoh, I know!I, who have watched you at your pretty
love-making there in the De Nesville forest, while I was setting my
snares for pheasants and hares! Dame! One must live! Yes, I am
BrocardI do not lie. I have taken enough game from your uncle in my
time; can I be of service to his nephew?
He took off his cap with a merry smile, entirely frank, almost
impudent. Jack could have hugged him; he did not; he simply told him
the exact truth, word by word, slowly and without bitterness, his arm
around Lorraine, her head on his shoulder.
Coeur Dieu! muttered Brocard, gazing pityingly at Lorraine; I've
half a mind to turn franc-tireur myself and drill holes in the hides of
these Prussian swine!
He stepped out into the road and beckoned Jack and Lorraine. When
they came to his side he pointed to a stone cottage, low and badly
thatched, hidden among the trunks of the young beech growth. A team of
horses harnessed to a carriage was standing before the door; smoke rose
from the dilapidated chimney.
I have a guest, he said; you need not fear him. Come!
In a dozen steps they entered the low doorway, Brocard leading,
Lorraine leaning heavily on Jack's shoulder.
Pst! There is a thick-headed Englishman in the next room; let him
sleep in peace, murmured Brocard.
He threw a blanket over the bed, shoved the logs in the fireplace
with his hobnailed boots until the sparks whirled upward, and the
little flames began to rustle and snap.
Lorraine sank down on the bed, covering her head with her arms; Jack
dropped into a chair by the fire, looking miserably from Lorraine to
The latter clasped his big rough hands between his knees and leaned
forward, chewing a stem of a dead leaf, his bright eyes fixed on the
Morteyn! Morteyn! he repeated; it exists no longer. There are
many dead theredead in the garden, in the court, on the lawndead
floating in the pond, the riverdead rotting in the thickets, the
groves, the forest. I saw themI, Brocard the poacher.
After a moment he resumed:
There were more poachers than Jean Brocard in Morteyn. I saw the
Prussian officers stand in the carrefours and shoot the deer as they
ran in, a line of soldiers beating the woods behind them. I saw the
Saxons laugh as they shot at the pheasants and partridges; I saw them
firing their revolvers at rabbits and hares. They brought to their
camp-fires a great camp-wagon piled high with gameboars, deer,
pheasants, and hares. For that I hated them. Perhaps I touched one or
two of them while I was firing at white blackbirdsI really cannot
He turned an amused yellow eye on Jack, but his face sobered the
next moment, and he continued: I heard the fusillade on the Saint-Lys
highway; I did not go to inquire if they were amusing themselves. Ma
foi! I myself keep away from Uhlans when God permits. And so these
Uhlan wolves got old Tricasse at last. Zut! C'est embêtant! And poor
old Passerat, tooand Brun, and all the rest! Tonnerre de Dieu!
Ibut, nono! I am doing very wellI, Jean Brocard, poacher; I am
doing quite well, in my little way.
An ugly curling of his lip, a glimpse of two white teeththat was
all Jack saw; but he understood that the poacher had probably already
sent more than one Prussian to his account.
That's all very well, he said, slowlyhe had little sympathy with
guerilla assassinationbut I'd rather hear how you are going to get
us out of the country and through the Prussian lines.
You take much for granted, laughed the poacher. Now, did I offer
to do any such thing?
But you will, said Jack, for the honour of the Province and the
vicomte, whose game, it appears, has afforded you both pleasure and
Coeur Dieu! cried Brocard, laughing until his bright eyes grew
moist. You have spoken the truth, Monsieur Marche. But you have not
added what I place first of all; it is for the gracious châtelaine of
the Château de Nesville that I, Jean Brocard, play at hazard with the
Prussians, the stakes being my skin. I will bring you through the
lines; leave it to me.
Before Jack could speak again the door of the next room opened, and
a man appeared, dressed in tweeds, booted and spurred, and carrying a
travelling-satchel. There was a moment's astonished silence.
Marche! cried Archibald Grahame; what the deuce are you doing
here? They shook hands, looking questioningly at each other.
Times have changed since we breakfasted by candle-light at
Morteyn, said Jack, trying to regain his coolness.
I knowI know, said Grahame, sympathetically. It's devilish
rough on you allon Madame de Morteyn. I can never forget her charming
welcome. Dear me, but this war is disgusting; isn't it now? And what
the devil are you doing here? Heavens, man, you're a sight!
Lorraine sat up on the bed at the sound of the voices. When Grahame
saw her, saw her plightthe worn shoes, the torn, stained bodice and
skirt, the pale face and sad eyeshe was too much affected to speak.
Jack told him their situation in a dozen words; the sight of Lorraine's
face told the rest.
Now we'll arrange that, cried Grahame. Don't worry, Marche. Pray
do not alarm yourself, Mademoiselle de Nesville, for I have a species
of post-chaise at the door and a pair of alleged horses, and the whole
outfit is at your disposal; indeed it is, and so am I. Come now!and
so am I. He hesitated, and then continued: I have passes and papers,
and enough to get you through a dozen lines. Now, where do you wish to
When are you to start? replied Jack, gratefully.
Say in half an hour. Can Mademoiselle de Nesville stand it?
Yes, thank you, said Lorraine, with a tired, quaint politeness
that made them smile.
Then we wish to get as near to the French Army as we can, said
Jack. I have a mission of importance. If you could drive us to the
Luxembourg frontier we would be all rightif we had any money.
You shall have everything, cried Grahame; you shall be driven
where you wish. I'm looking for a battle, but I can't seem to find one.
I've been driving about this wreck of a country for the last three
days; I missed Amonvillers on the 18th, and Rezonville two days before.
I saw the battles of Reichshofen and Borney. The Germans lost three
thousand five hundred men at Beaumont, and I was not there either. But
there's a bigger thing on the carpet, somewhere near the Meuse, and I'm
trying to find out where and when. I've wasted a lot of time loafing
about Metz. I want to see something on a larger scale, not that the
Metz business isn't large enoughtwo hundred thousand men, six hundred
cannonand the Red Princelicking their chops and getting up an
appetite for poor old Bazaine and his battered, diseased, starved,
disheartened army, caged under the forts and citadel of a city scarcely
provisioned for a regiment.
Lorraine, sitting on the edge of the bed, looked at him silently,
but her eyes were full of a horror and anguish that Grahame could not
The Emperor is with the army yet, he said, cheerfully. Who knows
what may happen in the next twenty-four hours? Mademoiselle de
Nesville, there are many shots to be fired yet for the honour of
Yes, said Lorraine.
Instinctively Brocard and Grahame moved towards the door and out
into the road. It was perhaps respect for the grief of this young
French girl that sobered their faces and sent them off to discuss plans
and ways and means of getting across the Luxembourg frontier without
further delay. Jack, left alone with Lorraine in the dim, smoky room,
rose and drew her to the fire.
Don't be unhappy, he said. The tide of fortune must turn soon;
this cannot go on. We will find the Emperor and do our part. Don't look
that way, Lorraine, my darling! He took her in his arms. She put both
arms around his neck, and hid her face.
For a while he held her, watching the fire with troubled eyes. The
room grew darker; a wind arose among the forest trees, stirring dried
leaves on brittle stems; the ashes on the hearth drifted like gray
Her stillness began to trouble him. He bent in the dusk to see her
face. She was asleep. Terror, pity, anguish, the dreadful uncertainty,
had strained her child's nerves to the utmost; after that came the deep
fatigue that follows torture, and she lay in his arms, limp, pallid,
exhausted. Her sleep was almost the unconsciousness of coma; she
The fire on the hearth went out; the smoking embers glimmered under
feathery ashes. Grahame entered, carrying a lantern.
Come, he whispered. Poor little thing!can't I help you, Marche?
Wait; here's a rug. Sowrap it around her feet. Can you carry her?
Then follow; here, touch my coatI'm going to put out the light in my
lantern. Nowgently. Here we are.
Jack climbed into the post-chaise; Grahame, holding Lorraine in his
arms, leaned in, and Jack took her again. She had not awakened.
Brocard and I are going to sit in front, whispered Grahame. Is
all right within?
Yes, nodded Jack.
The chaise moved on for a moment, then suddenly stopped with a jerk.
Jack heard Grahame whisper, Sit still, you fool! I've got passes;
Let go! murmured Brocard.
Sit still! repeated Grahame, in an angry whisper; it's all right,
I tell you. Be silent!
There was a noiseless struggle, a curse half breathed, then a figure
slipped from the chaise into the road.
Grahame sank back. Marche, that damned poacher will hang us all.
What am I to do?
What is it? asked Jack, in a scarcely audible voice.
Can't you hear? There's an Uhlan in the road in front. That fool
means to kill him.
Jack strained his eyes in the darkness; the road ahead was black and
You can't see him, whispered Grahame. Brocard caught the distant
rattle of his lance in the stirrup. He's gone to kill him, the
To shoot him? asked Jack, aghast.
No; he's got his broad wood-knifethat's the way these brutes
kill. Hark! Good God!
A scream rang through the forest; something was coming towards them,
tooa horse, galloping, galloping, pounding, thundering pasta
frantic horse that tossed its head and tore on through the night, mane
flying, bridle loose. And there, crouched on the saddle, two men
swayed, locked in a death-clenchan Uhlan with ghostly face and bared
teeth, and Brocard, the poacher, cramped and clinging like a panther to
his prey, his broad knife flashing in the gloom.
In a second they were gone; far away in the forest the hoof strokes
echoed farther and farther, duller, duller, then ceased.
Drive on, muttered Jack, with lips that could barely form the
XXIX. THE MESSAGE OF THE FLAG
It was dawn when Lorraine awoke, stifling a cry of dismay. At the
same moment she saw Jack, asleep, huddled into a corner of the
post-chaise, his bloodless, sunken face smeared with the fine red dust
that drifted in from the creaking wheels. Grahame, driving on the front
seat, heard her move.
Are you better? he asked, cheerfully.
Yes, thank you; I am better. Where are we?
Grahame's face sobered.
I'll tell you the truth, he said; I don't know, and I can't find
out. One thing is certainwe've passed the last German post, that is
all I know. We ought to be near the frontier.
He looked back at Jack, smiled again, and lowered his voice:
It's fortunate we have passed the German lines, because that last
cavalry outpost took all my papers and refused to return them. I
haven't an idea what to do now, except to go on as far as we can. I
wish we could find a village; the horses are not exhausted, but they
Lorraine listened, scarcely conscious of what he said. She leaned
over Jack, looking down into his face, brushing the dust from his brow
with her finger-tips, smoothing his hair, with a timid, hesitating
glance at Grahame, who understood and gravely turned his back.
Jack slept. She nestled down, pressing her soft, cool cheek close to
his; her eyes drooped; her lips parted. So they slept together, cheek
A mist drove across the meadows; from the plains, dotted with
poplars, a damp wind blew in puffs, driving the fog before it until the
blank vapour dulled the faint morning light and the dawn faded into a
colourless twilight. Spectral poplars, rank on rank, loomed up in the
mist, endless rows of them, fading from sight as the vapours crowded
in, appearing again as the fog thinned in a current of cooler wind.
Grahame, driving slowly, began to nod in the thickening fog. At
moments he roused himself; the horses walked on and the wheels creaked
in the red dust. Hour after hour passed, but it grew no lighter. Drowsy
and listless-eyed the horses toiled up and down the little hills, and
moved stiffly on along the interminable road, shrouded in a gray fog
that hid the very road-side shrubbery from sight, choked thicket and
grove, and blotted the grimy carriage windows.
Jack was awakened with startling abruptness by Grahame, who shook
his shoulders, leaning into the post-chaise from the driver's seat.
There's something in front, Marche, he said. We've fallen in with
a baggage convoy, I fancy. Listen! Don't you hear the camp-wagons?
Confound this fog! I can't see a rod ahead.
Lorraine, also now wide awake, leaned from the window. The blank
vapour choked everything. Jack rubbed his eyes; his limbs ached; he
could scarcely move. Somebody was running on the road in frontthe
sound of heavy boots in the dust came nearer and nearer.
Look out! shouted Grahame, in French; there's a team here in the
road! Passez au large!
At the sound of his voice phantoms surged up in the mist around
them; from every side faces looked into the carriage windows, passing,
repassing, disappearing, only to appear againghostly, shadowy,
Soldiers! muttered Jack.
At the same instant Grahame seized the lines and wheeled his horses
just in time to avoid collision with a big wagon in front. As the
post-chaise passed, more wagons loomed up in the fog, one behind
another; soldiers took form around them, voices came to their ears,
dulled by the mist.
Suddenly a pale shaft of light streamed through the fog above; the
restless, shifting vapours glimmered; a dazzling blot grew from the
mist. It was the sun. Little by little the landscape became more
distinct; the pallid, watery sky lightened; a streak of blue cut the
zenith. Everywhere in the road great, lumbering wagons stood, loaded
with straw; the sickly morning light fell on silent files of infantry,
lining the road on either hand.
It's a convoy of wounded, said Grahame. We're in the middle of
it. Shall we go back?
A wagon in front of them started on; at the first jolt a cry sounded
from the straw, another, anotherthe deep sighs of the dying, the
groans of the stricken, the muttered curses of teamstersrose in one
terrible plaint. Another wagon startedthe wounded wailed; another
startedanotheranotherand the long train creaked on, the air
vibrating with the weak protestations of miserable, mangled creatures
tossing their thin arms towards the sky. And now, too, the soldiers
were moving out into the road-side bushes, unslinging rifles and fixing
bayonets; a mounted officer galloped past, shouting something; other
mounted officers followed; a bugle sounded persistently from the
distant head of the column.
Everywhere soldiers were running along the road now, grouping
together under the poplar-trees, heads turned to the plain. Some
teamsters pushed an empty wagon out beyond the line of trees and
overturned it; others stood up in their wagons, reins gathered, long
whips swinging. The wounded moaned incessantly; some sat up in the
straw, heads turned also towards the dim, gray plain.
It's an attack, said Grahame, coolly. Marche, we're in for it
After a moment, he added, What did I tell you? Look there!
Out on the plain, where the mist was clearing along the edge of a
belt of trees, something was moving.
What is it? asked Lorraine, in a scarcely audible voice.
Before Grahame could speak a tumult of cries and groans burst out
along the line of wagons; a bugle clanged furiously; the teamsters
shouted and pointed with their whips.
Out of the shadow of the grove two glittering double lines of
horsemen trotted, halted, formed, extended right and left, and trotted
on again. To the right another darker and more compact square of
horsemen broke into a gallop, swinging a thicket of lances above their
heads, from which fluttered a mass of black and white pennons.
Cuirassiers and Uhlans! muttered Grahame, under his breath. He
stood up in his seat; Jack rose also, straining his eyes, but Lorraine
hid her face in her hands and crouched in the chaise, her head buried
in the cushions.
The silence was enervating; even the horses turned their gentle eyes
wonderingly to that line of steel and lances; even the wounded,
tremulous, haggard, held their breath between clenched teeth and stiff,
Nom de Dieu! Serrez les rangs, tas de bleus! yelled an officer,
riding along the edge of the road, revolver in one hand, naked sabre
flashing in the other.
A dozen artillerymen were pushing a mitrailleuse up behind the
overturned wagon. It stuck in the ditch.
À nous, la ligne! they shouted, dragging at the wheels until a
handful of fantassins ran out and pulled the little death machine into
Du calme! Du calme! Ne tirez pas trop vite, ménagez vos cartouches!
Tenez ferme, mes enfants! said an old officer, dismounting and walking
coolly out beyond the line of trees.
Oui! oui! comptez sur nous! Vive le Colonel! shouted the soldiers,
shaking their chassepots in the air.
On came the long lines, distinct nowthe blue and yellow of the
Uhlans, the white and scarlet of the cuirassiers, plain against the
gray trees and grayer pastures. Suddenly a level sheet of flame played
around the stalled wagons; the smoke gushed out over the dark ground;
the air split with the crash of rifles. In the uproar bugles blew
furiously and the harsh German cavalry trumpets, peal on peal, nearer,
nearer, nearer, answered their clangour.
The deep, thundering shout rose hoarsely through the rifles' roaring
fusillade; horses reared; teamsters lashed and swore, and the rattle of
harness and wheel broke out and was smothered in the sheeted crashing
of the volleys and the shock of the coming charge.
And now it burst like an ocean roller, smashing into the wagon
lines, a turmoil of smoke and flashes, a chaos of maddened, plunging
horses and bayonets, and the flashing downward strokes of heavy sabres.
Grahame seized the reins, and lashed his horses; a cuirassier drove his
bloody, foam-covered charger into the road in front and fell, butchered
by a dozen bayonets.
Three Uhlans followed, whirling their lances and crashing through
the lines, their frantic horses crazed by blows and wounds. More
cuirassiers galloped up; the crush became horrible. A horse and
steel-clad rider were hurled bodily under the wagon-wheelsan Uhlan,
transfixed by a bayonet, still clung to his shattered lance-butt,
screaming, staggering in his stirrups. Suddenly the window of the
post-chaise was smashed in and a horse and rider pitched under the
wheels, almost overturning carriage and occupants.
Easy, Marche! shouted Grahame. Don't try to get out!
Jack heard him, but sprang into the road. For an instant he reeled
about in the crush and smoke, then, stooping, he seized a prostrate
man, lifted him, and with one tremendous effort pitched him into the
Grahame, standing up in the driver's seat, watched him in amazement
for a moment; but his horses demanded all his attention now, for they
were backing under the pressure of the cart in front.
As for Jack, once in the chaise again he pulled the unconscious man
to the seat, calling Lorraine to hold him up. Then he tore the Uhlan's
helmet from the stunned man's head and flung it out into the road;
after it he threw sabre and revolver.
Give me that rug! he cried to Lorraine, and he seized it and
wrapped it around the Uhlan's legs.
Grahame had managed to get clear of the other wagon now and was
driving out into the pasture, almost obscured by rifle smoke.
Oh, Jack! faltered Lorraineit is Rickerl!
It was Rickerl, stunned by the fall from his horse, lying back
They'd kill him if they saw his uniform! muttered Jack. Hark! the
French are cheering! They've repulsed the charge! Grahame, do you
hear?do you hear?
I hear! shouted Grahame. These horses are crazy; I can't hold
The troops around them, hidden in the smoke, began to cheer
frantically; the mitrailleuse whirred and rolled out its hail of death.
Vive la France! Mort aux Prussiens! howled the soldiers. A mounted
officer, his cap on the point of his sabre, his face laid open by a
lance-thrust, stood shouting, Vive la Nation! Vive la Nation! while a
boyish bugler shook his brass bugle in the air, speechless with joy.
Grahame drove the terrified horses along the line of wagons for a
few paces, then, wheeling, let them gallop straight out into the
pasture on the left of the road, where a double line of trees in the
distance marked the course of a parallel road.
The chaise lurched and jolted; Rickerl, unconscious still, fell in a
limp heap, but Jack and Lorraine held him up and watched the horses,
now galloping under slackened reins.
There are houses there! Look! cried Grahame. By Jove, there's a
Luxembourg gendarme, too. II believe we're in Luxembourg, Marche!
Upon my soul, we are! See! There is a frontier post!
He tried to stop the horses; two strange-looking soldiers, wearing
glossy shakos and white-and-blue aiguillettes, began to bawl at him; a
group of peasants before the cottages fled, screaming.
Grahame threw all his strength into his arms and dragged the horses
to a stand-still.
Are we in Luxembourg? he called to the gendarmes, who ran up,
gesticulating violently. Are we? Good! Hold those horses, if you
please, gentlemen. There's a wounded man here. Carry him to one of
those houses. Marche, lift him, if you can. Hello! his arm is broken at
the wrist. Go easyyou, I meanNow!
Lorraine, aided by Jack, stepped from the post-chaise and stood
shivering as two peasants came forward and lifted Rickerl. When they
had taken him away to one of the stone houses she turned quietly to a
gendarme and said: Monsieur, can you tell me where the Emperor is?
The Emperor? repeated the gendarme. The Emperor is with his army,
below there along the Meuse. They are fightingsince four this
He pointed to the southeast.
She looked out across the wide plain.
That convoy is going to Sedan, said the gendarme. The army is
near Sedan; there is a battle there.
Thank you, said Lorraine, quietly. Jack, the Emperor is near
Yes, he nodded; we will go when you can stand it.
I am ready. Oh, we must not wait, Jack; did you not see how they
even attacked the wounded?
He turned and looked into her eyes.
It is the first French cheer I have heard, she continued,
feverishly. They beat back those Prussians and cheered for France! Oh,
Jack, there is time yet! France is rising nowFrance is resisting. We
must do our part; we must not wait. Jack, I am ready!
We can't walk, he muttered.
We will go with the convoy. They are on the way to Sedan, where the
Emperor is. Jack, they are fighting at Sedan! Do you understand?
She came closer, looking up into his troubled eyes.
Show me the box, she whispered.
He drew the flat steel box from his coat.
After a moment she said, Nothing must stop us now. I am ready!
You are not ready, he replied, sullenly; you need rest.
'Tiens ta Foy,' Jack.
The colour dyed his pale cheeks and he straightened up. Always,
Grahame called to them from the cottage: You can get a horse and
wagon here! Come and eat something at once!
Slowly, with weary, drooping heads, they walked across the road,
past a wretched custom-house, where two painted sentry-boxes leaned,
past a squalid barnyard full of amber-coloured, unsavoury puddles and
gaunt poultry, up to the thatched stone house where Grahame stood
waiting. Over the door hung a withered branch of mistletoe, above this
swung a sign:
Your Uhlan is in a bad way, I think, began Grahame; he's got a
broken arm and two broken ribs. This is a nasty little place to leave
Grahame, said Jack, earnestly, I've got to leave him. I am forced
to go to Sedan as soon as we can swallow a bit of bread and wine. The
Uhlan is my comrade and friend; he may be more than that some day. What
on earth am I to do?
They followed Grahame into a room where a table stood covered by a
moist, unpleasant cloth. The meal was simplea half-bottle of sour red
wine for each guest, a fragment of black bread, and a râgout made of
something that had once been alivepossibly a chicken, possibly a
Grahame finished his wine, bolted a morsel or two of bread and
râgout, and leaned back in his chair with a whimsical glance at
Now, I'll tell you what I'll do, Marche, he said. My horses need
rest, so do I, so does our wounded Uhlan. I'll stay in this garden of
Eden until noon, if you like, then I'll drive our wounded man to
Diekirch, where the Hôtel des Ardennes is as good an inn as you can
find in Luxembourg, or in Belgium either. Then I'll follow you to
They all rose from the table; Lorraine came and held out her hand,
thanking Grahame for his kindness to them and to Rickerl.
Good-by, said Grahame, going with them to the door. There's your
dog-cart; it's paid for, and here's a little bag of French moneyno
thanks, my dear fellow; we can settle all that later. But what the
deuce you two children are going to Sedan for is more than my old
brains can comprehend.
He stood, with handsome head bared, and bent gravely over Lorraine's
handsimpulsive little hands, now trembling, as the tears of gratitude
trembled on her lashes.
And so they drove away in their dog-cart, down the flat,
poplar-bordered road, silent, deeply moved, wondering what the end
The repeated shocks, the dreadful experiences and encounters, the
indelible impressions of desolation and grief and suffering had
deadened in Lorraine all sense of personal suffering or grief. For her
land and her people her heart had bled, drop by dropher sensitive
soul lay crushed within her. Nothing of selfish despair came over her,
because France still stood. She had suffered too much to remember
herself. Even her love for Jack had become merely a detail. She loved
as she breathedinvoluntarily. There was nothing new or strange or
sweet in itnothing was left of its freshness, its grace, its
delicacy. The bloom was gone.
In her tired breast her heart beat faintly; its burden was the weary
repetition of a prayeran old, old prayera supplicationfor mercy,
for France, and for the salvation of its people. Where she had learned
it she did not know; how she remembered it, why she repeated it, minute
by minute, hour by hour, she could not tell. But it was always beating
in her heart, this prayerold, so old!and half forgotten
'To Thee, Mary, exalted
To Thee, Mary, exalted'
Her tired heart took up the rhythm where her mind refused to follow,
and she leaned on Jack's shoulder, looking out over the gray land with
innocent, sorrowful eyes.
Vaguely she remembered her lonely childhood, but did not grieve;
vaguely she thought of her youth, passing away from a tear-drenched
land through the smoke of battles. She did not grievethe last sad
tear for self had fallen and quenched the last smouldering spark of
selfishness. The wasted hills of her province seemed to rise from their
ashes and sear her eyes; the flames of a devastated land dazzled and
pained her; every drop of French blood that drenched the mother-land
seemed drawn from her own veinsevery cry of terror, every groan,
every gasp, seemed wrenched from her own slender body. The quiet,
wide-eyed dead accused her, the stark skeletons of ravaged houses
She turned to the man she loved, but it was the voice of a dying
land that answered, Come! and she responded with all a passion of
surrender. What had she accomplished as yet? In the bitterness of her
loneliness she answered, Nothing. She had worked by the wayside as
she passedin the field, in the hospital, in the midst of beleaguered
soldiers. But what was that? There was something else further on that
called herwhat she did not know, and yet she knew it was waiting
somewhere for her. Perhaps it is death, she mused, leaning on Jack's
shoulder. Perhaps it is his death. That did not frighten her;
if it was to be, it would be; but, through it, through the hideous
turmoil of fire and blood and pounding guns and shoutingthrough death
itselfsomewhere, on the other side of the dreadful valley of terror,
lay salvation for the mother-land. Thither they were boundshe and the
man she loved.
All around them lay the flat, colourless plains of Luxembourg; to
the east, the wagon-train of wounded crawled across the landscape under
a pallid sky. The road now bore towards the frontier again; Jack shook
the reins listlessly; the horse loped on. Slowly they approached the
border, where, on the French side, the convoy crept forward enveloped
in ragged clouds of dust. Now they could distinguish the drivers,
blue-bloused and tattered, swinging their long whips; now they saw the
infantry, plodding on behind the wagons, stringing along on either
flank, their officers riding with bent heads, the red legs of the
fantassins blurred through the red dust.
At the junction of the two roads stood a boundary post. A slovenly
Luxembourg gendarme sat on a stone under it, smoking and balancing his
rifle over both knees.
You can't pass, he said, looking up as Jack drew rein. A moment
later he pocketed a gold piece that Jack offered, yawned, laughed, and
You can buy contraband cigars at two sous each in the village
below, he observed.
What news is there to tell? demanded Jack.
News? The same as usual. They are shelling Strassbourg with
mortars; the city is on fire. Six hundred women and children left the
city; the International Aid Society demanded it.
Presently he added: A big battle was fought this morning along the
Meuse. You can hear the guns yet.
I have heard them for an hour, replied Jack.
They listened. Far to the south the steady intonation of the cannon
vibrated, a vague sustained rumour, no louder, no lower, always the
same monotonous measure, flowing like the harmony of flowing water,
passionless, changeless, interminable.
Along the Meuse? asked Jack, at last.
The slow convoy was passing now; the creak of wheel and the harsh
scrape of axle and spring grated in their ears; the wind changed; the
murmur of the cannonade was blotted out in the trample of hoofs, the
thud of marching infantry.
Jack swung his horse's head and drove out across the boundary into
the French road. On every side crowded the teams, where the low mutter
of the wounded rose from the foul straw; on every side pressed the
red-legged infantry, rifles en bandoulière, shrunken, faded caps
pushed back from thin, sick faces.
My soldiers! murmured Lorraine, sitting up straight. Oh, the pity
of it!the pity!
An officer passed, followed by a bugler. He glanced vacantly at
Jack, then at Lorraine. Another officer came by, leading his patient,
bleeding horse, over which was flung the dusty body of a brother
The long convoy was moving more swiftly now; the air trembled with
the cries of the mangled or the hoarse groans of the dying. A Sister of
Mercyher frail arm in a slingcrept on her knees among the wounded
lying in a straw-filled cart. Over all, louder, deeper, dominating the
confusion of the horses and the tramp of men, rolled the cannonade. The
pulsating air, deep-laden with the monstrous waves of sound, seemed to
beat in Lorraine's facethe throbbing of her heart ceased for a
moment. Louder, louder, nearer, more terrible sounded the thunder,
breaking in long, majestic reverberations among the nearer hills; the
earth began to shake, the sky struck back the iron-throated
echoessounding, resounding, from horizon to horizon.
And now the troops around them were firing as they advanced; sheeted
mist lashed with lightning enveloped the convoy, through which rang the
tremendous clang of the cannon. Once there came a momentary break in
the smokea gleam of hills, and a valley black with mena glimpse of
a distant town, a riverthen the stinging smoke rushed outward, the
little flames leaped and sank and played through the fog. Broad, level
bands of mist, fringed with flame, cut the pasture to the right; the
earth rocked with the stupendous cannon shock, the ripping rifle
crashes chimed a dreadful treble.
There was a bridge there in the mist; an iron gate, a heavy wall of
masonry, a glimpse of a moat below. The crowded wagons, groaning under
their load of death, the dusty infantry, the officers, the startled
horses, jammed the bridge to the parapets. Wheels splintered and
cracked, long-lashed whips snapped and rose, horses strained, recoiled,
leaped up, and fell scrambling and kicking.
Open the gates, for God's sake! they were shouting.
A great shell, moaning in its flight above the smoke, shrieked and
plunged headlong among the wagons. There came a glare of blinding
light, a velvety white cloud, a roar, and through the gates, no longer
choked, rolled the wagon-train, a frantic stampede of men and horses.
It caught the dog-cart and its occupants with it; it crushed the horse,
seized the vehicle, and flung it inside the gates as a flood flings
driftwood on the rocks.
Jack clung to the reins; the wretched horse staggered out into the
stony street, fell, and rolled over stone-dead.
Jack turned and caught Lorraine in both arms, and jumped to a
sidewalk crowded with soldiers, and at the same time the crush of
wagons ground the dog-cart to splinters on the cobble-stones. The crowd
choked every inch of the pavementwomen, children, soldiers, shouting
out something that seemed to move the masses to delirium. Jack, his arm
around Lorraine, beat his way forward through the throng, murmuring
anxiously, Are you hurt, Lorraine? Are you hurt? And she replied,
faintly, No, Jack. Oh, what is it? What is it?
Soldiers blocked his way now, but he pushed between them towards a
cleared space on a slope of grass. Up the slope he staggered and out on
to a stone terrace above the crush of the street. An officer stood
alone on the terrace, pulling at some ropes around a pole on the
Whatwhat is that? stammered Lorraine, as a white flag shot up
along the flag-staff and fluttered drearily over the wall.
Lorraine! cried Jack; but she sprang to the pole and tore the
ropes free. The white flag fell to the ground.
The officer turned to her, his face whiter than the flag. The crowd
in the street below roared.
Monsieur, gasped Lorraine, France is not conquered! That flag is
the flag of dishonour!
They stared at each other in silence, then the officer stepped to
the flag-pole and picked up the ropes.
Not that!not that! cried Lorraine, shuddering.
It is the Emperor's orders.
The officer drew the rope tightthe white flag crawled slowly up
the staff, fluttered, and stopped.
Lorraine covered her eyes with her hands; the roar of the crowd
below was in her ears.
O God!O God! she whispered.
Lorraine! whispered Jack, both arms around her.
Her head fell forward on her breast.
Overhead the white flag caught the breeze again, and floated out
over the ramparts of Sedan.
By the Emperor's orders, said the officer, coming close to Jack.
Then for the first time Jack saw that it was Georges Carrière who
stood there, ghastly pale, his eyes fixed on Lorraine.
She has fainted, muttered Jack, lifting her. Georges, is it all
Yes, said Georges, and he walked over to the flag-pole, and stood
there looking up at the white badge of dishonour.
XXX. THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW
Daylight was fading in the room where Lorraine lay in a stupor so
deep that at moments the Sister of Mercy and the young military surgeon
could scarcely believe her alive there on the pillows.
Jack, his head on his arms, stood by the window, staring out
vacantly at the streak of light in the west, against which, on the
straight, gray ramparts, the white flag flapped black against the dying
Under the window, in the muddy, black streets, the packed throngs
swayed and staggered and trampled through the filth, amid a crush of
camp-wagons, artillery, ambulances, and crowding squadrons of cavalry.
Riotous line soldiers cried out Treason! and hissed their generals or
cursed their Emperor; the tall cuirassiers surged by in silence, sombre
faces turned towards the west, where the white flag flew on the
ramparts. Heavier, denser, more suffocating grew the crush; an
ambulance broke down, a caisson smashed into a lamp-post, a
cuirassier's horse slipped in the greasy depths of the filth, pitching
its steel-clad rider to the pavement. Through the Place
d'Alsace-Lorraine, through the Avenue du Collège and the Place d'Armes,
passed the turbulent torrent of men and horses and cannon. The Grande
Rue was choked from the church to the bronze statue in the Place
Turenne; the Porte de Paris was piled with dead, the Porte de Balan
tottered a mass of ruins.
The cannonade still shook the hills to the south in spite of the
white flag on the citadel. There were white flags, too, on the
ramparts, on the Port des Capucins, and at the Gate of Paris. An
officer, followed by a lancer, who carried a white pennon on his
lance-point, entered the street from the north. A dozen soldiers and
officers hacked it off with their sabres, crying, No surrender! no
surrender! Shells continued to fall into the packed streets, blowing
horrible gaps in the masses of struggling men. The sun set in a crimson
blaze, reflecting on window and roof and the bloody waters of the
river. When at last it sank behind the smoky hills, the blackness in
the city was lighted by lurid flames from burning houses and the swift
crimson glare of Prussian shells, still plunging into the town. Through
the crash of crumbling walls, the hiss and explosion of falling shells,
the awful clamour and din in the streets, the town clock struck
solemnly six times. As if at a signal the firing died away; a desolate
silence fell over the citya silence full of rumours, of strange
movementsa stillness pulsating with the death gasps of a nation.
Out on the heights of La Moncelle, of Daigny, and Givonne lanterns
glimmered where the good Sisters of Mercy and the ambulance corps
passed among the dead and dyingthe thirty-five thousand dead and
dying! The plateau of Illy, where the cavalry had charged again and
again, was twinkling with thousands of lanterns; on the heights of
Frénois Prussian torches swung, signalling victory.
But the spectacle in the interior of the towna town of nineteen
thousand people, into which now were crushed seventy thousand frantic
soldiers, was dreadful beyond description. Horror multiplied on horror.
The two bridges and the streets were so jammed with horses and
artillery trains that it seemed impossible for any human being to move
another inch. In the glare of the flames from the houses on fire, in
the middle of the smoke, horses, cannon, fourgons, charrettes,
ambulances, piles of dead and dying, formed a sickening pell-mell. In
this chaos starving soldiers, holding lighted lanterns, tore strips of
flesh from dead horses lying in the mud, killed by the shells. Arms,
broken and foul with blood and mudrifles, pistols, sabres, lances,
casques, mitrailleusescovered the pavements.
The gates of the town were closed; the water in the fortification
moats reflected the red light from the flames. The glacis of the
ramparts was covered by black masses of soldiers, watching the placing
of a cordon of German sentinels around the walls.
All public buildings, all the churches, were choked with wounded;
their blood covered everything. On the steps of the churches poor
wretches sat bandaging their torn limbs with strips of bloody muslin.
Strange sounds came from the stone walls along the street, where
zouaves, turcos, and line soldiers, cursing and weeping with rage, were
smashing their rifles to pieces rather than surrender them.
Artillerymen were spiking their guns, some ran them into the river,
some hammered the mitrailleuses out of shape with pickaxes. The cavalry
flung their sabres into the river, the cuirassiers threw away revolvers
and helmets. Everywhere officers were breaking their swords and cursing
the surrender. The officers of the 74th of the Line threw their sabres
and even their decorations into the Meuse. Everywhere, too, regiments
were burning their colours and destroying their eagles; the colonel of
the 52d of the Line himself burned his colours in the presence of all
the officers of the regiment, in the centre of the street. The 88th and
30th, the 68th, the 78th, and 74th regiments followed this example.
Mort aux Vaches! howled a herd of half-crazed reservists, bursting
into the crush. Mort aux Prussiens! À la lanterne, Badinguet! Vive la
Jack turned away from the window. The tall Sister of Mercy stood
beside the bed where Lorraine lay.
Jack made a sign.
She is asleep, murmured the Sister; you may come nearer now.
Close the window.
Before he could reach the bed the door was opened violently from
without, and an officer entered swinging a lantern. He did not see
Lorraine at first, but held the door open, saying to Jack: Pardon,
monsieur; this house is reserved. I am very sorry to trouble you.
Another officer entered, an old man, covered to the eyes by his
crimson gold-brocaded cap. Two more followed.
There is a sick person here, said Jack. You cannot have the
intention of turning her out! It is inhuman
He stopped short, stupefied at the sight of the old officer, who now
stood bareheaded in the lantern-light, looking at the bed where
Lorraine lay. It was the Emperor!her father.
Slowly the Emperor advanced to the bed, his dreary eyes fixed on
Lorraine's pale cheeks.
In the silence the cries from the street outside rose clear and
Vive la République! À bas l'Empereur!
The Emperor spoke, looking straight at Lorraine: Gentlemen, we
cannot disturb a woman. Pray find another house.
After a moment the officers began to back out, one by one, through
the doorway. The Emperor still stood by the bed, his vague, inscrutable
eyes fixed on Lorraine.
Jack moved towards the bed, trembling. The Emperor raised his
Monsieuryour sister? Noyour wife?
My promised wife, sire, muttered Jack, cold with fear.
A child, said the Emperor, softly.
With a vague gesture he stepped nearer, smoothed the coverlet, bent
closer, and touched the sleeping girl's forehead with his lips. Then he
stood up, gray-faced, impassive.
I am an old man, he said, as though to himself. He looked at Jack,
who now came close to him, holding out something in one hand. It was
the steel box.
For me, monsieur? asked the Emperor.
Jack nodded. He could not speak.
The Emperor took the box, still looking at Jack.
There was a moment's silence, then Jack spoke: It may be too late.
It is a plan of a balloonwe brought it to you from Lorraine
The uproar in the streets drowned his voiceMort à l'Empereur! À
A staff-officer opened the door and peered in; the Emperor stepped
to the threshold.
I thank youI thank you both, my children, he said. His eyes
wandered again towards the bed; the cries in the street rang out
Mort à l'Empereur!
The Sister of Mercy was kneeling by the bed; Jack shivered, and
dropped his head.
When he looked up the Emperor had gone.
All night long he watched at the bedside, leaning on his elbow, one
hand shading his eyes from the candle-flame. The Sister of Mercy, white
and worn with the duties of that terrible day, slept upright in an
Dawn brought the sad notes of Prussian trumpets from the ramparts
pealing through the devastated city; at sunrise the pavements rang and
shook with the trample of the White Cuirassiers. A Saxon infantry band
burst into the Wacht am Rhine at the Paris Gate; the Place Turenne
vomited Uhlans. Jack sank down by the bed, burying his face in the
The Sister of Mercy rubbed her eyes and started up. She touched Jack
on the shoulder.
I am going to be very ill, he said, raising a face burning with
fever. Never mind me, but stay with her.
I understand, said the Sister, gently. You must lie in the room
The fever seized Jack with a swiftness incredible.
Thenswear itby theby the Saviour therethere on your
crucifix! he muttered.
I swear, she answered, softly.
His mind wandered a little, but he set his teeth and rose,
staggering to the table. He wrote something on a bit of paper with
Send for them, he said. You can telegraph now. They are in
Brusselsmy sistermy family
Then, blinded by the raging fever, he made his way uncertainly to
the bed, groped for Lorraine's hand, pressed it, and lay down at her
Call the surgeon! he gasped.
And it was very many days before he said anything else with as much
sense in it.
God help them! cried the Sister of Mercy, tearfully, her thin
hands clasped to her lips. Alone she guided Jack into the room beyond.
Outside the Prussian bands were playing. The sun flung a long,
golden beam through the window straight across Lorraine's breast.
She stirred, and murmured in her sleep, Jack! Jack! 'Tiens ta
But Jack was past hearing now; and when, at sundown, the young
surgeon came into his room he was nearly past all aid.
Typhoid? asked the Sister.
The Pest! said the surgeon, gravely.
The Sister started a little.
I will stay, she murmured. Send this despatch when you go out.
Can he live?
They whispered together a moment, stepping softly to the door of the
room where Lorraine lay.
It can't be helped now, said the surgeon, looking at Lorraine;
she'll be well enough by to-morrow; she must stay with you. The
chances are that he will die.
The trample of the White Cuirassiers in the street outside filled
the room; the serried squadrons thundered past, steel ringing on steel,
horses neighing, trumpets sounding the Royal March. Lorraine's eyes
There was no answer.
The surgeon whispered to the Sister of Mercy: Don't forget to hang
out the pest flag.
Jack! Jack! wailed Lorraine, sitting up in bed. Through the
tangled masses of her heavy hair, gilded by the morning sunshine, her
eyes, bright with fever, roamed around the room, startled, despairing.
Under the window the White Cuirassiers were singing as they rode:
Flieg', Adler, flieg'! Wir stürmen nach,
Ein einig Volk in Waffen,
Wir stürmen nach ob tausendfach
Des Todes Pforten Klaffen!
Und fallen wir, flieg', Adler, flieg'!
Aus unserm Blute mächst der Sieg!
Flieg', Adler, flieg'!
Mit uns ist Gott!
Terrified, turning her head from side to side, Lorraine stretched
out her hands. She tried to speak, but her ears were filled with the
deep voices shouting the splendid battle-hymn
Fly, Eagle! fly!
With us is God!
She crept out of bed, her bare feet white with cold, her bare arms
flushed and burning. Blinded by the blaze of the rising sun, she felt
her way around the room, calling, Jack! Jack! The window was open;
she crept to it. The street was a surging, scintillating torrent of
God with us!
The White Cuirassiers shook their glittering sabres; the melancholy
trumpet's blast swept skyward; the standards flapped. Suddenly the
stony street trembled with the outcrash of drums; the cuirassiers
halted, the steel-mailed squadrons parted right and left; a carriage
drove at a gallop through the opened ranks. Lorraine leaned from the
window; the officer in the carriage looked up.
As the fallen Emperor's eyes met Lorraine's, she stretched out both
little bare arms and cried: Vive la France!and he was gone to his
captivity, the White Cuirassiers galloping on every side.
The Sister of Mercy opened the door behind, calling her.
He is dying, she said. He is in here. Come quickly!
Lorraine turned her head. Her eyes were sweet and serene, her whole
pale face transfigured.
He will live, she said. I am here.
It is the pest! muttered the Sister.
Lorraine glided into the hall and unclosed the door of the silent
He opened his eyes.
There is no death! she whispered, her face against his. There is
neither death nor sorrow nor dying.
The clamour in the street died out; the wind was still; the pest
flag under the window hung motionless.
He sighed; his eyes closed.
She stretched out beside him, her body against his, her bare arms
around his neck.
His heart fluttered; stopped; fluttered; was silent; moved once
Again his heart stirredor was it her own?
When the morning sun broke over the ramparts of Sedan she fell
asleep in his arms, lulled by the pulsations of his heart.
XXXI. THE PROPHECY OF LORRAINE
When the Vicomte and Madame de Morteyn arrived in Sedan from
Brussels the last of the French prisoners had been gone a week; the
foul city was swept clean; the corpse-choked river no longer flung its
dead across the shallows of the island of Glaires; the canal was
untroubled by the ghastly freight of death that had collected like logs
on a boom below the village of Iges.
All day the tramp of Prussian patrols echoed along the stony
streets; all day the sinister outburst of the hoarse Bavarian bugles
woke the echoes behind the ramparts. Red Cross flags drooped in the
sunshine from churches, from banks, from every barrack, every depot,
every public building. The pest flags waved gaily over the Asylum and
the little Museum. A few appeared along the Avenue Philippoteaux,
others still fluttered on the Gothic church and the convent across the
Viaduc de Torcy. Three miles away the ruins of the village of Bazeilles
lay in the bright September sunshine. Bavarian soldiers in greasy
corvée lumbered among the charred chaos searching for their dead.
The plain of Illy, the heights of La Moncelle, Daigny, Givonne, and
Frénois were vast cemeteries. Dredging was going on along the river,
whither the curious small boys of Sedan betook themselves and stayed
from morning till night watching the recovering of rusty sabres,
bayonets, rifles, cannon, and often more grewsome flotsam. It was
probably the latter that drew the small boys like flies; neither the
one nor the other are easily glutted with horrors.
The silver trumpets of the Saxon Riders were chorusing the noon call
from the Porte de Paris when a long train crept into the Sedan station
and pulled up in the sunshine, surrounded by a cordon of Hanover
Riflemen. One by one the passengers passed into the station, where
passports were shown and apathetic commissaires took charge of the
There were no hacks, no conveyances of any kind, so the tall,
white-bearded gentleman in black, who stood waiting anxiously for his
passport, gave his arm to an old lady, heavily veiled, and bowed down
with the sudden age that great grief brings. Beside her walked a young
girl, also in deep mourning.
A man on crutches directed them to the Place Turenne, hobbling after
them to murmur his thanks for the piece of silver the girl slipped into
The number on the house is 31, he repeated; the pest flag is no
The pest? murmured the old man under his breath.
At that moment a young girl came out of the crowded station, looking
around her anxiously.
Lorraine! cried the white-haired man.
She was in his arms before he could move. Madame de Morteyn clung to
her, too, sobbing convulsively; Dorothy hid her face in her black-edged
After a moment Lorraine stepped back, drying her sweet eyes. Dorothy
kissed her again and again.
II don't see why we should cry, said Lorraine, while the tears
ran down her flushed cheeks. If he had died it would have been
After a silence she said again:
You will see. We are not unhappyJack and I. Monsieur Grahame came
yesterday with Rickerl, who is doing very well.
Rickerl here, too? whispered Dorothy.
Lorraine slipped an arm through hers, looking back at the old
Come, she said, serenely, Jack is able to sit up. Then in
Dorothy's ear she whispered, I dare not tell themyou must.
Dare not tell them
Thatthat I married Jackthis morning.
The girls' arms pressed each other.
German officers passed and repassed, rigid, supercilious, staring at
the young girls with that half-sneering, half-impudent, near-sighted
gaze peculiar to the breed. Their insolent eyes, however, dropped
before the clear, mild glance of the old vicomte.
His face was furrowed by care and grief, but he held his white head
high and stepped with an elasticity that he had not known in years.
Defeat, disaster, sorrow, could not weaken him; he was of the old
stock, the real beau-sabreur, a relic of the old régime, that grew
young in the face of defeat, that died of a broken heart at the breath
of dishonour. There had been no dishonour, as he understood itthere
had been defeat, bitter defeat. That was part of his trade, to face
defeat nobly, courteously, chivalrously; to bow with a smile on his
lips to the more skilful adversary who had disarmed him.
Bitterness he knew, when the stiff Prussian officers clanked past
along the sidewalk of this French city; despair he never dreamed of. As
for dishonourthat is the cry of the pack, the refuge of the snarling
mob yelping at the bombastic vociferations of some mean-souled
demagogue; and in Paris there were many, and the pack howled in the
Republic at the crack of the lash.
Lady Hesketh is here, too, said Lorraine. She appears to be a
little reconciled to her loss. Dorothy, it breaks my heart to see
Rickerl. He lies in his room all day, silent, ghastly white. He does
not believe that Alixedid what she didand died there at Morteyn.
Oh, I am glad you are here. Jack says you must tell Rickerl nothing
about Sir Thorald; nobody is to know thatnow all is ended.
Yes, said Dorothy.
When they came to the house, Archibald Grahame and Lady Hesketh met
them at the door. Molly Hesketh had wept a great deal at first. She
wept still, but more moderately.
My angel child! she said, taking Dorothy to her bosom. Grahame
took off his hat.
The old people hurried to Jack's room above; Dorothy, guided by
Lorraine, hastened to Rickerl; Archibald Grahame looked genially at
Molly and said:
Now don't, Lady HeskethI beg you won't. Try to be cheerful. We
must find something to divert you.
I don't wish to, said Molly.
There is a band concert this afternoon in the Place Turenne,
I'll never go, said Molly; I haven't anything fit to wear.
In the room above, Madame de Morteyn sat with Jack's hand in hers,
smiling through her tears. The old vicomte stood beside her, one arm
clasping Lorraine's slender waist.
Children! children! wicked ones! he repeated, how dare you marry
each other like two little heathen?
It comes, my dear, from your having married an American wife, said
Madame de Morteyn, brushing away the tears; they do those things in
America! grumbled the vicomte, perfectly delighteda nice
country for young savages. Lorraine, you at least should have known
I did, said Lorraine; I ought to have married Jack long ago.
The vicomte was speechless; Jack laughed and pressed his aunt's
They spoke of Morteyn, of their hope that one day they might rebuild
it. They spoke, too, of Paris, cuirassed with steel, flinging defiance
to the German floods that rolled towards the walls from north, south,
west, and east.
There is no death, said Lorraine; the years renew their life. We
shall all live. France will be reborn.
There is no death, repeated the old man, and kissed her on the
So they stood there in the sunlight, tearless, serene, moved by the
prophecy of their child Lorraine. And Lorraine sat beside her husband,
her fathomless blue eyes dreaming in the sunlightdreaming of her
Province of Lorraine, of the Honour of France, of the Justice of
Goddreaming of love and the sweetness of her youth, unfolding like a
fresh rose at dawn, there on her husband's breast.