MEETING AND PARTING.
GRIMES and Carrol, as we have seen, made it their sole occupation to saunter about the public places, for the simple reason that this was at once the best and most attractive thing that they could do; and as neither cared about company, each went by himself. On one of these occasions, Carrol set forth on his daily pilgrimage and wandered to the Champs Elysées.
There was almost always a great gathering of people here, but on this occasion the crowd was much larger than usual. A body of soldiers marched along, apparently on their way to the outside of the city, consisting of footsoldiers and cavalry and artillery. From time to time the stirring strains of some martial air burst forth from a passing band, and the shouts and exclamations of the people arose without ceasing. It seemed to be the impression of the people that these troops were on their way to take part in a sortie; and the remarks that from time to time reached Carrol’s ears gave that idea to him. He therefore found something of greater interest than usual in the sight of men who were actually on the way to attempt such a serious thing as actual battle with the beleaguering host ; and so he wandered about from one place to another, seeking some position from which he could gaze upon the scene to the best advantage.
As he was thus moving about, he came upon the outskirts of a cluster of people, and hesitated for a moment about penetrating it. As he did so he noticed immediately in front of him a lady, the sight of whom sent a sudden thrill through every nerve. Her side face only was turned toward him, and she seemed trying to make her way through the crowd so as to go down the Champs Elysées ; but the very first glance that he gave showed him that she was no other than Maud Heathcote herself. He stood motionless with surprise for a few moments, and then, as the lady turned towards the spot where he was standing, he shrank back and hastily concealed himself.
The crowd here made way for Maud, and she passed through, walking so close to Carrol that he could have touched her. But he contrived to conceal himself so effectually that she did not see him, and so she walked on without the slightest idea that he was so near. Carrol watched her closely, and then stole away after her. In order that he might not be observed, he got among some trees, and walked behind them, moving from one to the other in a very stealthy and, it must be confessed, a very absurd manner. It was not at all difficult to do this, for Maud walked very slowly, and at times stopped and looked back. Carrol could easily see by the expression of her face that she was looking for some one, but who that person could be he was at a loss to conjecture. Instantly his suspicious nature was aroused. Now, he thought, was the time to find out the mysterious motive that had kept her here in Paris ; and though there was a miserable sense of shame in his mind, yet so great was his jealousy, that he kept up his watchful outlook for some considerable time.
At length Maud went on in a direction where the trees could no longer afford a cover to her jealous watcher. He was compelled, therefore, to venture forth, and this he did as cautiously as possible. There was a crowd in the distance, and toward this Maud, walked, and into the midst of this she disappeared. Carrol now hastened in that direction very rapidly, fearing that he might lose her altogether. Maud had gone into the midst of the crowd, but on reaching that place she found it impossible to go any farther. As her wish was to reach the other side, she found it necessary to retreat and go around the crowd, or attempt the passage farther on. She accordingly turned, and came back to the very place where she had entered. Now Carrol had just reached the edge of the crowd, and in his anxious desire to catch sight of Maud again he was looking most eagerly forward, when, suddenly, full before him, close in front, so close that further concealment of himself was impossible, with her eyes fixed on his, was Maud herself.
As she caught sight of Carrol a deep flush passed over her face, and then died out, leaving it as pale as death ; her eyes fastened themselves on his with a look of wistful entreaty and unutterable sadness ; and he could see that tears were trembling upon those long lashes. The sight of that face was piteous enough to have moved most deeply a sterner heart than that of Carrol. Her look flashed through him to his inmost soul, and at once all his hot rage, his venomous bitterness, his hard and cruel jealousy vanished and went into utter oblivion. He broke down completely. He reached out his hand and grasped hers feverishly. For a moment he could not speak, but at length he found his voice.
“ Maud !”
“ Paul !”
His voice was tremulous and hoarse ; her voice was tremulous too and faint. They stood for an instant looking at one another with their hands clasped, forgetful of the crowd around them, and of everything except each other. Maud saw the change in Carrol’s face ; she marked how pale and wan he had become, the dark circles around his hollow eyes, the sharp, pinched features, the trembling and quivering muscles of the face. The sight of these, combined with her own deep agitation, affected her still more strong, and at length she burst into tears and sobbed aloud.
Carrol stood there fearfully agitated.
He was weak and nervous, for his long struggle with sorrow and passion had produced its natural effect, and had greatly undermined his strength and the steadiness of his nerves. The revulsion which he had just experienced, in passing in one instant from a fierce, headlong desire for vengeance, to the tenderest emotion of love and pity, bewildered his brain. The sight of Maud’s sadness had wrought this change, and it was intensified by the sight of Maud’s tears. There was a choking sensation in his throat; his heart throbbed wildly; his hand still clutched hers convulsively ; and he neither moved nor spoke.
A movement now took place in the crowd, and the people pressed against the two as they stood there. This roused them. Maud gently withdrew her hand, and Carrol regained his presence of mind.
It' s too crowded,” he said, in a low voice; “come away—with me— to some other place.”
Maud said nothing, but as he started she walked by his side, and they went away out of the crowd.
“I — lost my way,” said Maud, at length, first breaking the silence. She spoke hurriedly and quickly. The silence embarrassed her so greatly, that to break it in any way was a relief; and so she naturally alluded to the first thing that came uppermost, which was her singular appearance thus alone in the midst of a crowd.
“ I lost my way,” she repeated, “ that is, I lost my sister, and I was trying to find her.”
“Your sister?” said Carrol, in an absent voice.
“Yes. Georgie, — Mrs. Lovell; we went out together, you know,” said Maud, who now seemed to have found her voice. “We generally drive out, but to-day she thought she would like a walk. We did n't know there would be such a crowd. We were walking about here together, when suddenly a great rush of people took place and we were separated. I; ve been looking for her for nearly half an hour, but cannot find her. Have you seen anything of her ? ”
She raised her eyes as she said this, and caught his gaze as it was fixed upon her. It was earnest and longing and sad, and full of a strange meaning. Her own eyes fell before it, and she was silent again.
“ I have not seen her,” said Carrol, in a dreamy, far-off tone.
They walked on a little farther in silence. Maud waited, thinking that Carrol would first break it, but Carrol made no attempt to speak. His brain was full of a tumult of thoughts, none of which he knew how to put into words. For this moment was sweet to him beyond all expression, but beneath the sweetness there was a dread memory which could not altogether leave him; and it was this that held his tongue fast bound, and checked the words that were rising to his lips.
Again Maud broke the silence which embarrassed her. But this time it was no commonplace that she uttered, but rather the thought that for weeks had been uppermost in her mind. It was a thing that she longed to know. Upon this all her future seemed to depend. So with a great effort she forced herself to speak.
“ You never answered my last letter. Did you get it ? ”
She spoke almost breathlessly, with intense eagerness, not looking at him, but walking by his side with her eyes fixed upon the ground. Her voice was low, but the words were distinct, and every one was audible to her companion. To him those words were not altogether intelligible as to their meaning, but they had reference to her letter, to that letter which had wrought so much woe for him. In a moment a new change came over him, his dark memories rushed to the surface, overpowering the tenderness which had been born from this meeting.
“Your letter?” said he, in a harsh voice. " I answered it. Did'n t you get ray answer ? ”
His tone startled her and shocked her. She raised her eyes in terror ; she saw a gloomy frown upon his face, and the gaze that he now turned upon her was cold and dark and cruel.
“ Oh ! ” she said, with a low moan of irrepressible grief, “ you cannot mean this. You don’t know. Did you get my second letter, my letter in which I explained ? Did you get that ?
I explained. It was an awful mistake — the first letter. You did not get my last letter.”
Carrol started. He stopped and looked at her. A thought came to him which sent a dark look of anguish over his face.
“ Last letter ! ” said he, “ I don’t know. I only got one letter, and I answered it. I wrote you a — a farewell. Did you write again ? What do you mean by a mistake? Was there a mistake ? What mistake ? O heaven ! tell me what you mean. I never got any other letter. What do you mean by your last letter?”
He spoke eagerly, but his tones expressed the deepest anguish. He was eager to know the truth, but beneath his eager desire was the grim consciousness that it was now too late for any explanation to avail. To find out that she after all was true, to have it all explained, was to him like having heaven opened ; but at the same time the consciousness of his dark deed of horror formed an impenetrable barrier that lay between him and that heaven.
All this longing and all this fear showed itself in his face and in his voice; forming a strange mixture, which Maud noticed with wonder and deep apprehension. But for her there was nothing else to do than to exculpate herself, and show her innocence and her truth.
“ Paul ! ” she cried, in a voice that was a wail of anguish, “ how could you go without seeing me? How could you take that letter as if it came from me and never come to me, when one word would have explained all ? It was all a mistake, — a miserable, miserable mistake. When you wrote to me you must have known how I would answer. And I did answer it as you knew I would. I answered it as you wished me to. But in my excitement and agitation I foolishly wrote on the envelope the wrong address. I did so because I happened to be writing a reply to some wretched creature, who sent me a silly note at the same time. In my agitation I wrote the wrong address on each envelope, and you got what was not intended for you. As soon as I received your reply I understood it all, and wrote you at once explaining it, but I never heard from you again. And, O Paul! believe me — I have — suffered — much.”
Maud was a proud girl, and all this was a humiliation to her ; but she had suffered so much, that she longed to find peace and reconciliation, and so she made this frank explanation. She made it frankly, because she was confident that it would make all things plain, and drive away the last feeling of suspicion and resentment that Carrol might entertain. She stood as she said this, not looking at him, but with her eyes fixed on the ground. A burning flush overspread her face. Her hands clutched one another convulsively. She spoke quickly, and the tones of her voice were tremulous and faint from the deep agitation of her heart. As she ended she could scarcely speak ; her last words seemed wrung from her in spite of herself; and when she stopped she waited for a moment, expecting Carrol’s answer, and then she slowly raised her eyes to his face. Her eyes were full of tears, and in them there was again that earnest, wistful look which had before been seen in them.
Carrol had heard every word. The few words of explanation had been sufficient to convey to his mind a general, yet a perfectly distinct idea of the nature of Maud’s mistake, and to assure him that she had been perfectly true and faithful ; that she had hastened to explain her mistake ; that she had suffered greatly ; and that his miserable jealousy had excited suspicions in his mind against her which were foully and frightfully unjust and disgraceful. He saw also that she had not only been thus perfectly true and faithful, but that now at this moment, and here by his side, she stood, herself volunteering this explanation, giving it unasked, and speaking to him words of sweet reconciliation. Thus all the truth burst upon him.
But as the truth thus became known to him, there were manifest to his mind other things which darkened that truth, and shrouded all his hopes in the blackness of darkness. She had explained her mistake fully and frankly, but she did not know how terrible, how fatal that mistake had been. As she stood there in her innocent trust, seeking reconciliation, her very words of explanation showed that she was utterly ignorant of the terrible crime which had been the result of this mistake. She evidently thought him as pure and as unstained as he had been when they had last spoken together. She could not have heard of the murder. She could not know what he was now. She thought that nothing lay between them but a misunderstanding that a word could remove ; she did not know that between them there yawned an abyss which must separate them forever. Soon she must know all, and then she would understand ; but now — but now —
A thousand thoughts like these rushed through Carrol’s mind as he stood there. He did not venture to look at Maud. As she raised her tearful eyes timidly and wistfully to his face, this was what she saw. She saw Carrol standing with averted face, his brow drawn together in a dark and gloomy frown, his lips compressed, and his eyes staring far away into empty space. On that face there was not the faintest approach to anything like a relenting of that harsh and resentful temper which he had manifested ever since their misunderstanding ; not the slightest sign of anything like an acquiescence in her explanation, of a readiness to receive it, or a tendency to meet her half-way and resume the old intimacy. He stood there as harsh, as stern, as implacable as ever.
Maud’s heart seemed to turn to stone as she gazed ; and at once there arose within her a bitter sense of wrong and injury ; her whole soul roused itself in strong resentment against such abominable treatment, and all the pride of her nature started up in fierce recoil proportionate to the degree in which she had just humiliated herself. She said not a word ; she turned, and without another look walked quickly away.
Of Carrol she had now only one thought as she thus walked away from him, and that was the thought of a pride on his part so obstinate as to be utterly irremovable ; a pride obdurate, implacable, and utterly devilish ; a nature cold, selfish, and altogether devoid of human feeling ; a foolish yet frantic self-esteem, which preferred continuance in a wrong course to a candid and frank change of opinion, even though such a course should lead to the shipwreck of a life, to the misery of himself and others. To her Carrol was obdurate beyond all hope of change. But it was not sorrow or melancholy that filled her heart as she left him. Her whole soul swelled with the most intense indignation against him for subjecting her so wantonly to such cruel injustice.
Meanwhile Carrol stood half frantic with the emotions that filled his heart and the thoughts that rushed through his brain. He did not see Maud leave him, nor did he hear her as she moved away; for his sight and hearing were dulled through the deep abstraction into which his feelings had plunged him. But at length he came to himself. He then saw, to his amazement, that he was alone. He could scarcely believe it. He looked all around. Crowds of people appeared assembled together not far away, — men, women, and children, — but where was Maud ?
He looked all around, wildly, and full of consternation. Every word that she had spoken was still fresh in his memory. He knew that he had given no answer to her. He saw that she had left him in anger. But where had she gone ? He could n’t imagine ; and so, after looking in all’directions, he started off to search after her.
But Maud had already disappeared in the crowd, and was walking toward her lodgings. As for Carrol, he searched after her all that day, never ceasing to reproach and curse himself for his folly ; but the day passed, and evening came, and Maud appeared no more.
AN IRRESISTIBLE APPEAL.
ON the same eventful day on which Carrol met with Maud, Grimes also happened to be in the Champs Elysées. He had made his daily effort upon Trochu and the American Minister, but in each case the queue had again baffled him, Sauntering away, he had drifted up the Champs Elysées, and, as he had nothing better to do, on reaching the Arc de l’Étoile he turned and allowed himself to drift down again.
Though he had been subject to a fresh disappointment, he was not at all depressed in his mind, but his broad face exhibited an expression of serenity that showed a mind at peace within. There was something in the scene which was pleasant in his eyes. His thoughts were stimulated by the sight of the marching warriors. He saw the invincible legions of republican France going forth at last to victory. He longed to make one among them. Every beat of the drum, every blare of the bugle, every tramp of the measured footfall, seemed a summons for him to come and join these ranks.
He was so absorbed that he sauntered on quite oblivious of the scene around him, he was suddenly roused by an exclamation, and the sound of his own name uttered in a lady’s voice. He started and stared.
“ Why, Mr. Grimes ! How very, very odd, but how really nice and fortunate ! ”
And Mrs. Lovell, for it was she who thus encountered him, held forth, with a beaming smile, her little hand, which Grimes at once grasped and crushed ; while at the same instant, as though the touch of that hand was magical, every thought of Trochu, and the French Republic, vanished from his mind.
“Wal!” exclaimed Grimes. And upon saying that he relapsed into a silence which, under the circumstances, may perhaps have been more eloquent than words.
“ It’s so absurd,” said Mrs. Lovell, withdrawing her hand, not without some effort. “ You know, I ’ve really lost my way ; and poor Maudie ! I’m so dreadfully anxious about her. We were separated by a great crowd, and I’ve been looking for her everywhere. I’m really quite wild with anxiety, for I’m sure she can never, never find her way home. And do you think that anything could happen to her, and isn’t it a shame, Mr. Grimes ? ”
To this Grimes made no reply, but stood gazing at her with a smile of almost parental indulgence and fondness.
“ You see, she does n’t know her way about Paris at all; and have n’t you seen her somewhere ? I thought perhaps I might find her up this way.”
Grimes shook his head, without attempting to say anything as yet.
“ I’m so dreadfully anxious, and I’m so wretchedly tired,” continued Mrs. Lovell. “ I’ve been looking for her everywhere ; and I was just going to sit down and rest, when I met you. And don’t you think, now, it would be just as well for me to sit down for a little while, Mr. Grimes ? Might n’t she find me more easily in that way, now ? And could n’t you find some seat for me, Mr. Grimes, where I could have a good view of the place, and see her if she came anywhere near ? ”
“ Most certainly, ma’am,” said Grimes, quickly. “ I 'll be perfectly delighted, I assure you. I hain’t the slightest doubt that that’s the best way to find her. Why, ’t aint any use to hunt her up in this crowd, no more ’n a needle in a haystack.”
“ I was just beginning to think some such thing as that,”said Mrs. Lovell.
Grimes now led the way out of the crowd to a seat on one side of the avenue, under the trees, in a place from which an extensive view could be commanded up and down. Here Mrs. Lovell seated herself with, “ O thanks, very much ; it’s really so good of you, Mr. Grimes”; while Grimes placed himself by her side.
“Wal,” said he, after a pause, in a confidential and friendly tone, “ and how are you to-day ? Pooty well ? ”
“ O, very well, thanks,” said Mrs. Lovell, with a smile.
Grimes paused, and looked solemnly at the ground for a few moments.
“ Fine weather we ’re havin’ to-day,” said he at length.
“Isn’t it perfectly exquisite ? ” said Mrs. Lovell.
“ Fine place, Paris,” continued Grimes, cheerily.
“ Delightful,” said Mrs, Lovell. “Do you know it’s my favorite place, that is, generally ; of course, just now it’s a little different.”
“ Fine people the French,” said Grimes.
“ Yes; I always liked them very much ; they are perfectly charming. And how very funny it was that I should meet you here. It’s really so nice, and so very, very providential, you know. Why, I was just beginning to despair.”
Grimes heaved a heavy sigh, and meditated solemnly for a little while.
“ Is this your first visit to Paris ? ” he asked at length, with an air of anxiety.
“ O no,” said Mrs. Lovell. “ I was here once or twice before ; and I liked it so very, very much, that I thought I should enjoy it now.”
“ I find, ma’am,” said Grimes, “ that you did n’t get scared at the siege. You hung on, I see. ’T aint everybody that’d do like that. That’s what I call pure spunk. And I tell you what it is, I did n’t think you’d ’a' done it. Most women are such cowards.”
“ O, but I ’m a coward, too,” said Mrs. Lovell. “ I’m an awful coward.
I ’m frightened out of my wits. I did n’t know there was going to be a siege, you know. There was no regular notice of it given. Nobody told me anything about it. I never was so surprised in my life. There ought to have been some regular public notice ; now ought n’t there, Mr. Grimes ? ”
“ Wal,” said Grimes, “ that’s queer. It strikes me there was a good deal about it in the papers.”
“ O yes ; but then, you know, I never read the papers. One never can believe the half of what they say. They always contradict themselves the next day. And then they always say such extravagant things. Really, you know, if one went by what the papers say, one could never expect to have any peace at all.”
“ Wal,” said Grimes, “ I must say I do admire your style. I’ve often heard the papers pitched into ; but people that abuse them always follow their lead, nevertheless. But you ’re the very first person I ever met with that deliberately ignored them, and not only despised them, but acted up to it.”
Mrs. Lovell took no notice of this, but looked earnestly at Grimes as he was speaking ; and when he had ceased, she said, “ I wonder why you remained, if you knew there was going to be a siege.”
“ Me ? ” said Grimes. “ O, I’m goin’ to enlist in the French army.”
“ O, how lovely ! ” cried Mrs. Lovell, in an animated tone; “how nice, and chivalrous, and all that! Do you know I’ve always perfectly adored the army ? and to think of your being an officer ! Only fancy ! The idea ! ”
And Mrs. Lovell fastened her eyes upon space with an expression of wonder beyond words that was exceedingly becoming to her particular style of beauty.
“Yes, ’m,” said Grimes seriously and with very creditable self-poise, “ I quite agree with you there. It’s what you might consider a high and holy callin’ just now in these times, when there is a regular epoch, a moment, ma’am, when liberty long buried is havin’ a resurrection, and the eagle of France responds to the clarion voice of—of—the principles of—of—seventy-six, and the Republic arises great, glorious, and free. And so it’s the proud privilege of every man that can wield a sword to strike a blow for the cause of freedom, — and so forth.”
“ How very, very true,” said Mrs. Lovell; “and do you know, Mr. Grimes,
I don’t think I ever knew anything half so funny as the way you and I meet. Only fancy ! First there was Niagara, then Montreal, then, you know, we met so absurdly on board the steamer, and now we have met again in the most unaccountable way in the middle of a besieged city. Really, it’s the most wonderful thing. But I suppose you don’t think anything of meeting with poor me, now that you are a great French general, Mr. Grimes.”
Grimes had already experienced a little of Mrs. Lovell’s tendency to an abrupt transition from ono subject of conversation to another, but this one bewildered him a little by its suddenness. The hint which she made as to his possible indifference was not, however unpleasant, and more than this it very naturally roused him to a manly denial of any such imputation.
“No, ’m,” said he steadily, shaking his head at the same time with a very solemn emphasis. “ That ain't my style. I don’t forget so easy. When I get a thing I always cling to it. The circumstance that led to our acquaintance at Niagara, ’m, still remains with me here at Paris.”
“ The — the circumstance ? ” asked Mrs. Lovell, doubtfully.
“ Yes, ’m.”
“ What a funny thing to call it a circumstance,” said Mrs. Lovell, with a light laugh. “ And have you really brought that absurd chignon here with you ? Only fancy ! ”
“ Wal,” said Grimes, in a tone of candor, “ when I said circumstance I meant incident, but as to the other— the apparatus — I’m free to say I have it still — in my trunk — in this town.”
“ And did you really bring it all the way across the ocean ?”
“ Yes, ’m.”
“ How very funny ! ” sighed Mrs. Lovell ; and then after a pause site added, in a low voice, “ I don’t see why, I 'm sure.”
Grimes looked at her earnestly, a slight flush passed over his face, his lips parted to utter words which rested there ; but he checked himself, and the words remained unspoken. Mrs. Lovell waited patiently, looking at the ground with a sweet air of meek expectation.
“ Wal,” said Grimes at last, “you see it was a kind of reminder of what I once wanted — and did n’t get.”
Mrs. Lovell gave a very little bit of a sigh.
“ I’m sure I don’t see the use of being so awfully despondent,” said she.
Grimes looked at her eagerly and earnestly. Mrs. Lovell looked at the ground. Grimes had a sudden idea that there might still be hope for him in this quarter, and the words were already on his lips which this idea impelled. But again he checked himself. It was his innate modesty and self-depreciation that stopped his utterance. No, he thought, she don’t mean that ; she is only speakin’ of despondency in general, and she ’s quite right. So Grimes said, “ Wal, ’m, I’m not that kind. I like one person, and no other. It ain’t the most comfortable nature to have, but a fellow can’t help his disposition. For my part, I’m a man of one idea, — always was, am now, and ever shall be. I’m a fellow of one feelin’ too, I suppose, and so I find if I once get hankerin’ after anybody, why, there I am, and I can’t get over it. There ain’t any use in it, as you say, course, but what can a fellow do if he can’t help it ? ”
At this Mrs. Lovell again gave a little sigh.
“ Yes,” said she, “ that’s just the way it is with me ; and I think it’s awfully nice.”
Grimes slowly took this observation into his mind and turned it over and over therein. It seemed to him at length to be a very gentle reminder, offered by Mrs. Lovell to him, that she was a widow, and was still brooding over her lost love, to which she still persisted in clinging with unchangeable constancy. He accepted it as a kind of rebuke, and in the simple honesty of his heart he found something in such rare constancy which was at once admirable, delicate, pure, holy, touching, affecting, pathetic, tender, and true. “It’s rather rough on me,” thought honest Grimes, “but, after all, it comes up to my idea of a hightoned woman.” He now felt afraid that he had gone too far in talking about his own feelings. He had perhaps offended her, and she had sought out this delicate way of administering a rebuke. He felt anxious to make amends for his error. He felt that an apology would only make matters worse ; and so he sought rather to make an ample atonement by introducing some new subject which should at once be most agreeable to her, and at the same time be suggestive of his own penitence. To him there seemed to be only one subject which could fulfil these conditions, and that was the memory of the one to whom she had just professed, as he supposed, such undying constancy.
“ I suppose now,” said Grimes, with that heavy sigh, and that deep dolefulness of tone which are often employed by clergymen in condoling with the afflicted or the bereaved, — “ I suppose now — that is, I dare say you thought a good deal of him.”
Mrs. Lovell at this looked up a little puzzled. But she supposed that this was a remark put forth by Grimes to sound her as to her state of mind with reference to himself. So a slight blush passed over her face, and she sighed gently, “ I suppose so.”
“ Liked to have him around ? ” continued Grimes in the same austerely dismal voice.
“ Yes,” sighed Mrs. Lovell.
“Missed him — most tremendously now ? ”
Mrs. Lovell shook her head slowly and emphatically, as though words were incapable of expressing the extent to which she had missed him.
“ Die for him, course,” wailed Grimes, as his voice grew dismaller and dolefuller.
“ I suppose so,” said Mrs. Lovell, after a pause in which she began to think that Grimes was making her commit herself altogether too much, but at the same time felt an undiminished desire to rouse him from his evident despondency to a healthier state of mind.
“Loss irreparable?” said Grimes, with a groan.
“Well — yes—that is,” added Mrs. Lovell, “ to lose him altogether, you know.”
Grimes gave another groan. If anything had been needed to convince him of the utter futility of the hopes that he had once cherished it was this, — this touching confession of love stronger than death, — this declaration of a woman’s truth and constancy. A new despair came to his own heart, but in the midst of his despair he honored her for such feelings. At length he roused himself and made a final effort.
“ Fine man, — I s’pose, — this Mr. Lovell ? ”
That is what Grimes said. It was an outburst of frank generosity. He was boiling over with jealous hate of this Lovell, but in his tender regard for Mrs. Lovell he subdued his jealousy and his hate, subdued himself, and rose to a display of his better nature. “Fine man, — I s’pose, — this Mr. Lovell ? ”
At this Mrs. Lovell started as though she had been shot She stared at Grimes in amazement, utterly unable to understand what he could possibly mean.
“ Mr. — Lovell ? ” she faltered at length. “ What do you mean ? I don’t understand you.”
“ Why,” said Grimes in equal amazement, “we’ve been talkin’ about him all along, have n’t we ? You said your loss of him was irreparable, and that you’d die for him.”
“ I was n’t talking about him at all,” said Mrs. Lovell, rising to her feet. “ And I ’m awfully anxious about poor Maudie. I have n’t seen her yet at all. Have you, Mr. Grimes? And I’m sure, I’ve been looking all over that crowd ever since I sat down here. You have n’t seen her, have you, Mr. Grimes? You didn’t notice her, did you, Mr. Grimes ? ”
“ No,” said Grimes, who had risen to his feet in a dazed way, — “ no, I — I have n’t.”
“ I think I ought to go home. She will probably be there ; I’m so awfully anxious about her.”
With these words Mrs. Lovell walked away, and Grimes walked away with her. He felt confused, bewildered, and confounded. The discovery that Mrs. Lovell had not been yearning over the dear departed had set his brain in a whirl. Who was the happy man for whom she felt such an attachment ? He was too modest to think of himself after what had passed. Was there any other person? If so, who was he? Where did he live ? Why should Mrs. Lovell be here in Paris ? What did it all mean ? All these thoughts served to throw him into such a state of confusion that he could scarcely find any words to say.
Out of this confusion, however, he was at length drawn by Mrs. Lovell herself. She at first had felt excessively vexed at the blunder that she had made, but her good-nature at length chased away her vexation ; and besides, she had matters of importance about which she wished to speak. This was her present position in Paris, exposed to the insults of Du Potiron. She had defied him, and smiled at his threats ; but in spite of all this she could not help feeling some uneasiness, and she was longing to have the interposition of some one whom she could trust. Now Grimes was the very man for this purpose and the only man.
So as they walked along she told Grimes exactly how it happened that she was in Paris at this time. The admiration which he had felt for her courage was now exchanged for a more tender sentiment of pity for beauty in distress. The distress also was not trivial or ordinary. She explained to him the more peculiar difficulties of her situation, as well as those general ones which were natural to all who were shut up in the city. She did not mention Du Potiron, for she thought that the mention of his name would be of no service, and would only lead to long and troublesome explanations, involving Maud’s private affairs. This she considered quite unnecessary. She confined herself simply to generalities. She expressed a great fear of internal difficulties in Paris, alluded in strong language to the chronic panic of Madame Guimarin, and the dangers of a revolution. The terror which she felt about the Reds seemed to Grimes to be very natural under the circumstances. In that danger he fully believed. Amid all his enthusiasm about the French Republic, he was well aware of the existence of a fanatical and bloodthirsty element in Paris, composed of people with whom the word “ republic ” meant little else than universal anarchy and bloodshed. Though he himself had no personal fears about the Red Republic, yet he knew that an unprotected lady had every reason for fear, and he was full of fear on her account.
And so It was that Mrs. Lovell’s pathetic appeal elicited from Grimes a rejoinder so full of earnest sympathy and zealous devotion that she had nothing more to desire. She informed him plainly that her one and only wish was to escape from Paris. Inside the city she would never feel safe. Safety seemed to her to be outside. To this Grimes responded by a solemn promise that he would effect her escape in some way or other.
Grimes walked with Mrs. Lovell back to her lodgings, and left her there. When Mrs. Lovell reached her rooms she found Maud there already. If she had not been so much excited, she would have noticed that Maud was even paler than usual, and that she evinced a certain feverish agitation that presented a strong contrast to the dull depression which had characterized her manner for the last few weeks.
A DESPERATE PROJECT.
FOR the remainder of that day Grimes wandered about, his mind filled with novel yet by no means unpleasant thoughts. His meeting with Mrs. Lovell had produced a very strong effect upon his thoughts, giving them a tendency altogether different from what they had before, and driving away from his mind all ideas of a general nature. He no longer thought of the French Republic, or of the sublime resurrection of a dead and buried cause; he no longer exhausted his ingenuity in the endeavor to find some way in which he could assist the arms of struggling France ; but, on the contrary, he saw before him something more tangible than an ideal republic. Instead of the symbolical figure of Liberty, he saw the real form and face of Mrs. Lovell asking with anxious look and audible words for his assistance.
She wanted his help. Yet what help could he give her ? This was the problem that now occupied his thoughts. She wanted to escape from Paris, and how could he assist her to accomplish this ? He knew very well that the place was “ straitly shut up,” and that no one could either enter or depart through that living wall which the enemy maintained around the beleaguered city. The notice of the approach of the enemy had been frequent and alarming, and the warning of the coming doom had been sufficient to drive away all who were in a position to leave. Almost all foreigners had long since left. A few had remained out of hardihood ; but there were none except Mrs. Lovell who had remained on account of ignorance. The discovery of the real cause of her stay, though it put an end to the admiration which he had felt for what he considered her “pluck,” did not at all affect his desire to help her.
Yet how could he help her in her desire to escape ? This was the problem that took up all his thoughts ; and it proved to be a problem which was by no means easy of solution. In this state of mind he returned to his lodgings.
He found Carrol there, gloomy, meditative, and reticent. In such a mood Carrol did not seem to be at all fitted to become a confidant of the thoughts that were troubling the mind of Grimes, and so Grimes did not feel inclined to make any mention to him of the events of the day. To Grimes it seemed that the slightest allusion to the ladies would only madden his friend, and bring on the usual tirade against all women in general, and against Maud Heathcote in particular. If he had come to any conclusion, or made up his mind to any particular plan of action, he might possibly have sought the cooperation of Carrol ; but as it was he was all at sea, and had not as yet settled upon anything. The consequence was that he simply held his tongue, and allowed himself to sink into his own meditations. On the other hand, Carrol’s thoughts were certainly not of such a character as he would feel inclined to communicate to any friend, however intimate. He was on this occasion overwhelmed with self-reproach for his treatment of Maud. He had met with her, he had listened to her, and he had not only not replied, but he had allowed her to leave him without being conscious of her departure. The remembrance of this made him utterly miserable ; and the misery which he felt was of such a nature that he could not hope for sympathy from others, since he could not even find excuse for himself.
Grimes meditated most earnestly over his problem for hours, until at last he fell asleep; and so intense were his meditations that they did not cease even then, but accompanied him. These dreams did not accomplish anything, however, beyond the simple fact that they served to keep his mind fixed all the more intently upon that one idea which had taken possession of it, and so much so that, on the following morn, it was just the same to him as though he had been wide awake all through the night.
On that day he made a final assault upon the American Minister. Fortunately for him there was a tremendous rain-storm. Now it happens that though the people on the continent of Europe can endure many evils, there is one thing that they cannot endure, and that is a thorough soaking. The terrors of rain have never been successfully encountered by any continental people. To the Anglo-Saxon race alone must the credit be given of a struggle with rain and victory over it. To them must be credited the umbrella, the mackintosh, the waterproof, and the indiarubber coat. These Anglo - Saxon inventions are still comparatively unknown to the benighted nations of the Continent, who still show a craven fear of rain, and, instead of boldly encountering it, shrink into the shelter of their houses at the slightest approach of a shower ; and so it was that Grimes found the queue dwindled to nothingness, and at last a way opened for him to the ear of the American Minister.
The ambassador sent forth by the majority of the nations of the earth generally has nothing whatever to do ; and his office is purely ornamental, being used as a brilliant reward for distinguished political merit. He is a luminary that reflects the lustre of his native country, and his only duty is to shine as bright as he can. The one exception to this is the American Ambassador. He has to do everything. He has to be guide, philosopher, and friend to the multitudinous American traveller. He has to supply him with passes to all manner of places, to shake hands with him, to listen to him, to warn, to rebuke, to instruct, to be instant in season and out of season. But of all the American Ambassadors that have ever lived, it may safely be said that not one has ever known the possibilities of American ambassadorial duty as it was known to the man who represented his country in Paris during the siege. For on that particular occasion the American eagle offered to gather the deserted chickens of all nations under her wings, and Minister Washburne it was who had to officiate as representative of the benevolent bird.
Grimes was able to make a statement of his case in the most effective manner. His errand now was totally different from what it would have been on a former occasion. Then he sought the Minister’s aid for himself; now he sought it for the ladies. His former errand would also have been more successful, for then he merely wished to fight, but now his wish was to run away.
The Minister’s answer at once chased away all the bright hopes in which Grimes had been indulging, and exhibited to him the utter desperation of his case. There was no such thing as escape possible to any one in the city, no matter what nation they might belong to. The Prussian rules were too stringent to be set aside for any human being whatever; nor was there any influence sufficiently potent to relax the rigor of those rules.
Of course, after such information as this, Grimes had nothing whatever to say. It was clearly a case in which there was no opportunity to make use of any argument or any persuasion. Paris was as entirely isolated from the world as though it had been an island in the midst of the ocean, unvisited by ships and unknown to man.
This is about what the Minister remarked to Grimes, and at the same time he alluded to the fact that the only communication with the world outside had been contrived by the ingenuity of the Parisians ; and those who were sufficiently desperate might now try the air and fly away in a balloon.
The suggestion was made in a general way, but the mention of balloons sank deep into the mind of Grimes and attracted all his thoughts at once. He carried this thought with him away from the embassy, and as he walked away through the crowded streets he lost himself in speculations as to the feasibility of such a plan.
A balloon !
Flight in a balloon !
At first the idea was certainly startling, in fact quite preposterous. But a second thought made it much less so, and a third and a fourth made it seem rather promising.
A balloon ? Why not ? It was certainly an easy mode of travelling. No jolts, no plungings and rollings; no alternations of rapidity and slowness, but all calm, smooth, yea, even luxurious.
And the management. Simple? Why, no mode of travelling could possibly equal it in this respect. All one had to do was to pull the valve-rope to bring the balloon down to the earth, and throw out ballast to raise it to the skies.
As to undertaking the management of the untried machine, Grimes had no doubts whatever about his capacity. For that matter he felt himself fully equal to any undertaking, however strange or unfamiliar. He felt within his soul a consciousness that he could manage a balloon, just as he felt the same consciousness that he could edit a paper, or preach a sermon, or command an army. “Yes,” said Grimes proudly to himself. “ Put me in a balloon, and I ’ll run it with any professional in all the blue ethereal sky.”
In fact the more he thought of this the more fascinating did the idea become, and at length it seemed to him not only a practicable mode of escape from Paris, but the easiest, safest, pleasantest, and most delightful mode of travelling that was ever devised. There was only one objection that could possibly be urged even by the most timid, and that was the notorious fact that the balloon could not be guided, but was at the mercy of the wind. But to Grimes this did not seem any disadvantage whatever. It might be taken, he thought, as an objection against balloons as a universal mode of travelling where the traveller wished to reach some definite place ; but to him, where his only desire was to escape from this one point, and where destination was a matter of indifference, this formed no objection whatever. Not the slightest difference could it make to him where the wind might carry him, whether east, west, north, or south. One thing, of course, he saw to be desirable, and that was not to start in a gale of wind. “ In any ordinary blow,” he thought, “ I’m at home, and I’m ready to soar aloft to the everlasting stars.”
Over such thoughts as these he finally grew greatly excited, and determined at once to make inquiries about balloons. Already they had become an article of necessity to the Parisian world, and at regular intervals they were sent forth bearing messages or passengers to the world without. Already Gambetta had made his flight, and dropped from the skies in the midst of astonished France to take up the rôle of heaven-descended monster.
What Gambetta has done, Grimes can do.
Such was the general conclusion which summed up the workings of the Grimesian brain. He had no difficulty in finding out the locality of the Balloon Depot, and in course of time he reached the place and stood in the presence of Monsieur Nadar.
The establishment was an extensive one. The exigencies of the siege had created a demand for balloons as the one great necessity of Paris, and every aeronaut had flung himself into the business. Prominent among these were Messieurs Nadar and Godard, both of whom were eminent in this celestial profession. Although the radical deficiencies of the balloon as a means of travel can never be remedied, yet much had been done by these gentlemen to make the balloon itself as efficient as it is possible for a mere balloon to be. A new material had been invented, consisting of cotton cloth saturated in india-rubber solution, which formed a substance that was quite airtight and at the same time far cheaper than the silk which had formerly been used, as well as stronger. Thus a better balloon was now made at a very much lower price than formerly. Other improvements had also been made in the netting, in the valve-rope and valve, and in the material used for ballast. Its structure was now simple enough to be understood by a child.
M. Nadar informed Grimes that the weather had been unsuitable for some days past, and that none had left the city, but he hoped after this rain there would be one or two quiet days. He had several balloons ready, which he could prepare on short notice. Grimes asked him his opinion as to the possibility of his managing a balloon himself ; not that he doubted it himself, but he was naturally desirous to see what another person might think. To his great delight, Nadar informed him that the mere management of a balloon was very simple, the chief requisite being presence of mind and cool courage.
None of the balloons which were ready could carry as many as four, nor did Grimes feel particularly anxious to take the whole party. He felt confident that he could manage the balloon if he had only one other passenger,— Mrs. Lovell, for instance. As to Miss Heathcote, he felt that it would be safer for her, as well as pleasanter for him, if she went in another balloon. He thought that Carrol might go with her. At the same time he did not think that Carrol would be capable of managing a balloon himself; and so he proposed to engage an aeronaut to navigate the other one. Thus everything, as he thought, would be fair and respectable, and safe and pleasant, and they could arrange a common rendezvous, where they could all meet again in a general reunion, and congratulate one another over their escape.
It was a plan which seemed to him to be so pleasant in every respect and from every point of view, that his whole soul was now set upon carrying it into execution. His last interview with Mrs. Lovell had produced a very strong and very peculiar effect upon him. Her allusions about constancy were not made with reference to her first husband, and he was too modest to venture to appropriate them to himself; but still, though they were not altogether intelligible, they were suggestive of very pleasant possibilities.
There were two difficulties, however, in the way of his plan, which might prevent its accomplishment. The first was, the possible unwillingness of Mrs. Lovell to make such a journey. The other was, the possible refusal of Carrol to have anything to do with Maud. Each of these difficulties would have to be encountered. As to the first, he trusted very much to his own powers of persuasion. He felt that Mrs. Lovell’s prejudices against ballooning were merely idle fears which could be readily dissipated, it he only should explain to her how simple, pleasant, safe, agreeable, and delightful that mode of travelling was, and if he could only induce her to put implicit confidence in him. As to Carrol, he hoped to be able to persuade him also ; but as yet he did not bestow much thought upon him. The great difficulty he rightly felt would be to persuade Mrs. Lovell. Strangely enough, in all this he never thought of any difficulty on the part of Maud. This arose from the fact that he was so in the habit of identifying her with her sister, that if Mrs. Lovell should only consent to go, it seemed to him to follow, as a matter of course, that Maud would go with her.