A Comedy of Terrors

XXI.

LAYING THE GHOST.

CARROL’S knowledge of Maud’s address constituted a new temptation, which it was hard to resist. It was very difficult for him to keep away, when he knew that she was so near. In his resistance to the attraction which she exerted over him, he had nothing to strengthen him but his consideration for her, and his conviction that it would be better for her not to see him again. But this very consideration for her arose out of his love for her, which at the same time drew him to her.

For a day or two he succeeded in restraining himself, but at length his desire to see Maud grew uncontrollable, and, after feeble efforts to overcome it, he allowed himself to drift nearer and nearer to the place of which Grimes had told him, until at length he came within sight of the house. It was the day on which Grimes had made his visit ; and had he arrived a few moments earlier, he would have seen the manly form of his friend disappearing inside the doorway.

As he came within sight of the house his heart beat fast with feverish excitement, and an intense longing seized him to go in. He hesitated, and a struggle began in his soul, wherein desire on the one hand wrestled with conscientious scruples on the other. Already his scruples were beginning to give way, and his desire was gaining the mastery, when his eyes, which all the time had been fixed upon the door, caught sight of a figure slowly emerging from it.

It was a man of medium size, thin, dressed in a soldier’s uniform ; but the dress did not excite any attention on the part of Carrol, whose whole gaze was fixed upon the face. The face was deathly pale ; the man held a handkerchief to his forehead, which was stained with his blood, and a stream of blood also trickled down his face. He walked slowly and painfully, and going along the sidewalk he turned around the first corner and disappeared from view.

Carrol had been on the opposite side of the street, but the figure had not turned its eyes toward him at all. It had simply come forth from that door, walked along the opposite sidewalk, and disappeared.

As Carrol looked he felt petrified with utter horror. That face belonged to one and to one alone. It was the face that had never ceased to haunt him ever since that fearful night. Even so had that face appeared to his fancy over and over again as he brought before his mind the events of that night; and even so had the face appeared night after night in abhorrent dreams, ghastly, death-struck, with a bloodstream slowly trickling down from a mortal wound. There was only one thought in Carrol’s mind, — his victim ! Du Potiron ! once more appearing ! the dead once more revealed to the living !

For a few moments Carrol stood thus petrified in utter horror, and then in a wild frenzy he hurried away, flying he knew not where, all his brain on fire with the thoughts that came thronging over his mind. All the anguish of that night at Montreal was renewed; and his panic flight was repeated, with all its dread accompaniments. But this time the daylight favored him, and the tumult and roar of the crowded streets assisted him to regain something of his natural composure. But as the immediate terror died out, there remained behind a deep perplexity, a dark misgiving as to the nature and the meaning of this second visitation. To him in his superstition it seemed now as though the dead could really appear to the living ; and here was a proof that the murderer must be haunted by his victim. This opened before him a new horror in life. For if he should be doomed through the remainder of his days to be thus haunted, what was the use of life to him ? This time the apparition had come, not in darkness and at midnight, but in the full glare of day and in the midst of a crowded city, walking under the daylight along the paved sidewalk. Where would the next revelation take place ? No doubt that warning would be repeated, if he should dare ever again to visit Maud, or to speak to her. Between him and her there now stood this grisly phantom to keep them forever asunder. How could he now hope to assist Maud to escape, or how could he ever venture even to speak to her again ?

Starting forth thus from a full belief in the supernatural character of the figure of Du Potiron, and allowing a vivid fancy to play around it in this mad fashion, Carrol soon worked himself into a state of mind that was half despair and half frenzy. The future now afforded no hope whatever. It seemed useless for him to struggle any longer against such a fate as his ; and he began to feel that the very best thing for him to do would be to avail himself of the earliest opportunity that offered to escape from Paris, return home, and surrender himself to the authorities. A prolonged consideration of this course of action resulted in a fixed decision in favor of it ; and this decision had the effect of restoring to his mind its calmness. That calmness was deep depression and dull despair, but it seemed more tolerable than the madness to which he had just been subject. It was in this frame of mind that he returned to his lodgings. It was now late. Grimes was there, and by his face showed that he had something of importance to communicate.

“Hallo,” cried he, “you’re back at last. Three cheers ! I ’ve arranged it. I ’ve done it. They’ve consented. I’ve got the balloons. We ’re off tomorrow ; and what do you think of that, for instance ? ”

Grimes paused and looked triumphantly at Carrol, expecting some reply commensurate with the grandeur of the news. But Carrol made no reply ; and Grimes, looking at him more closely, saw in his face such pain and distress, that his own feelings underwent an instantaneous change.

“ Has anything happened? ” he asked hurriedly. “ What’s the matter ? You look more like death than life.”

“ I’ve been near death to-day,” said Carrol in a low voice. “ I’ve seen It.”

“Seen it? Seen what? Death?”

“Him, you know — the man that — that — you know. Du Potiron.”

Grimes gave a long whistle.

“ The dead arise ! ” moaned Carrol, “and they come to haunt the guilty ! ”

“Haunt your grandmother,” cried Grimes. “ What do you mean ? ”

Upon this Carrol told his terrible tale, enlarging particularly upon the fearful aspect of the spectre. Grimes listened patiently, and at its close he struck his fist heavily on the table.

“ See here,” said he, “ I can’t stand this any longer. I begin to think I’ve been doin’ wrong all along, but I swear I did it for the best. Look here, now. It’s all infernal humbug.”

“ What do you mean ? ” asked Carrol, startled by the tone of his friend.

“Why, Du Potiron ain’t dead at all. You did n’t kill him. He’s alive. You saw the man himself.”

Carrol shook his head despondently. “ I heard him fall — ”

“ You heard some rubbish fall, I dare say. You were scared, and a lot of old plaster tumbled down. It was n’t Du Potiron, and you never shot that man ; that’s so, as sure as you ’re born. You only heard plaster and rats.”

“ You can never make me believe— ” began Carrol, solemnly.

“ Pooh, nonsense. Look here, now, I tell you that dool was all a sham.”

“ A sham ? ”

“Yes, a sham. There wasn’t any bullets in the pistols. I loaded them myself. You know that.”

“ A sham ? a sham ? no bullets ? ” stammered Carrol, utterly bewildered.

“ I tell you it was all a sham. Du Potiron was aboard the steamer with us ; and he’s now in Paris ; and you saw him to-day.”

Carrol sat for a time quite bewildered. There was an immense reaction going on in his mind. He could not help believing Grimes ; and yet he had so long dwelt upon his own fancy, that it was difficult to give up his belief. In the midst of these thoughts, however, there began to arise in his mind the idea that he had been tricked and duped, and that Grimes had been amusing himself with his sufferings. A dark resentment arose within him at such treatment, and rising from his seat he looked at Grimes with a gloomy frown.

“ If you really mean what you say, and if you’ve been playing on me a joke like this— ” he said, bitterly.

“ Stop,” said Grimes, rising, and facing him. “ Not a word more. Don’t say it, or you and I ’ll quarrel. Wait till you hear what I’ve got to say about it. Sit down and hear me.”

Carrol resumed his seat and waited in stern silence, while Grimes went on with his explanation.

“ Now see here,” said Grimes. “ You remember askin’ me to be your second. I saw that you could n’t fire, and that you’d only get hit; so I arranged that plan of a duel in the dark. Very well. Now do you suppose I was goin’ to have your blood or that other fellow’s on my conscience ? No. I loaded the pistols, but did n’t put any bullets in. I thought you’d both fire, and then you’d think of course that both shots had missed; and so it would all turn out right, and no harm done. Was there any practical joke in that ? So you see Du Potiron could n’t have fallen at your shot ; and, in fact, my idea is that he jumped out of the back window while we were fastening the door; for I thought I heard footsteps over the rubbish behind the house. You may be sure that was the way of it. Now, I don’t see anythin’ in that to apologize for ; and I did n’t do anythin’ that I would n’t do again. I thought you’d have your shots, and that you’d get over your love-affair in time, and that all would turn out right in the end. So I cleared out and did n’t think any more about it till you and I met on board the steamer.

“ Wal, I confess I was a good deal troubled when I saw how you took things, and was goin’ to tell you the whole truth, especially after you saw Du Potiron, but was prevented by one thing.”

“ What was that ? ” asked Carrol. “ What possible thing could have made you keep up the miserable delusion, and allow me to suffer such horrors ? I swear to you no real murderer could have suffered worse than I did.”

“ Wal,” said Grimes, “ the whole trouble arose from the fact that the ladies were on board of the steamer. Now I saw that the sight of Miss Heathcote made you raving mad. You did n’t hate her, you know ; you were madly in love with her; and her bein’ on board prevented your gettin’ over your feelin’s. She had jilted you, and there she was on board the same boat, and you were goin’ crazy about her. Now it struck me that the only thing for a jilted lover like you was to have some other thing to take up his thoughts. You had that in your fancy about Du Potiron, and so I thought I’d let it slide. I did n’t dream of anything so childish as a practical joke, but simply acted out of a fatherly consideration for your good. My motive was good, whatever my policy may have been. It was to give you a counter-irritation.”

“ I think you might at least have told me after we arrived in Paris,” said Carrol, in a tone which was now quite free from resentment.

“ Wal,” said Grimes, “ my reason was just the same. The ladies were here, and there you were with your abuse of Miss Heathcote, so that if you had n’t had this dool to think of, you ’d been used up by this time. But you changed your tone a little lately, and I ’d made up my mind to tell you the fust chance,”

“ What was he doing there ? ” asked Carrol,”at her house. So if it is really Du Potiron, it seems that, while I have been suffering, she has been enjoying his society, travelling across the ocean with him, receiving his visits here, while I — ”

“ Come now,” roared Grimes, “ no more of that infernal jealous nonsense. Here you go again, full tilt, pitchin’ into Miss Heathcote in the old style. I don’t know anythin’ about her real feelin’s for the Frenchman, but I don’t think they ’re over tender; for what I saw of him to-day did n’t lead me to suppose that he was on very agreeable terms in that house.”

You saw him there ? You did ? ” cried Carrol eagerly; “was he—was he visiting them ? Did she — did she — seem glad? But how did his head get cut— ? ”

“ Wal, I believe I had some share in that catastrophe,” said Grimes. “ I ’ll tell you all about it.”

Carrol heard the whole story, and now learned for the first time the danger that the ladies were in, and the true position of Du Potiron with reference to them. Grimes informed him about Mrs. Lovell’s appeal to him for help, his proposal about balloons, and the circumstances which had led to the acquiescence of the ladies in such a dangerous mode of flight. He also gave a very vivid account of Du Potiron’s treatment of Mrs. Lovell, and the immediate result of it to Du Potiron himself.

Grimes informed him also of the measures which he had been taking that day to hasten their flight. He had been to M. Nadar and had engaged two balloons. He himself with Mrs. Lovell would embark in one, while Carrol and Miss Heathcote should take the other with an aeronaut to sail the craft. Very many little details had to be arranged, but everything was to be in readiness on the following night. Night was the time that was always chosen now, for during the day balloons were too much exposed to the bullets of the Prussians. The weather was sufficiently favorable for a start, and if it only continued so nothing would prevent their departure. The ladies were to be ready by the following evening, and Grimes and Carrol were to go to the house for them. They were perfectly willing to go, for they found the terrors of Paris greater than those of the untried voyage in the air ; and the confident assurances of Grimes had produced a great effect upon the trustful nature of Mrs. Lovell.

And now the clouds that had for so long a time hung over the soul of Carrol slowly rolled away, and the revelation of Maud’s truth, together with that of his own innocence, combined to fill him with the most exultant hope. The little difference that still remained between him and Maud could be terminated by one word. Her resentment could not be maintained, for she had consented to go with him in his care. To the perils of balloon-voyaging he never gave a single thought, his mind being only taken up with the idea of himself seated once more by the side of Maud, with not a cloud to mar their perfect mutual understanding.

But in the midst of his new-found joy there arose within him an intense longing to see Maud, from whom he was no longer repelled either by conscientious scruples or by grisly phantoms. He now remembered his terrors with indifference, and in his delight at the truth he had no resentment whatever against Grimes or anybody else for that matter. Once more he and Grimes resumed the old unclouded air of free and familiar intercourse, and talked over the coming events. Carrol, however, could not help feeling impatient at the time that yet separated him from Maud, and hinted in a vague way at some effort which he might make to call on the ladies earlier in the day.

“ Now don’t, my good fellow,” said Grimes earnestly, “ don’t. The ladies won’t expect you ; besides, they ’ll be as busy as bees all day arranging for their flight. You see it’s such uncommon short notice. Waitin’ two or three hours longer won’t hurt you, and will be a good deal more convenient for them than if you were to go botherin’ around them all the day.”

“ But don’t you think they may be in some danger from Du Potiron ? I should think it would be better for one of us to be there.”

“ O, I don’t know ! I don’t seem to think that one day ’ll make any great difference.”

“ But if the fellow can do anything, he ’ll do it at once. He must have been venomous enough before ; but now, after your treatment of him, he ’ll move heaven and earth to get them into trouble ; and, what’s more, he ’ll do it as quick as he can. It seems to me that if there is any danger at all, there ’ll be as much danger to-morrow as there would be a week from this.”

“ Wal, I don’t know, now that you speak of it, but what there may be a good deal in what you say ; still I don’t see what can be done. People have got to run some risk, and to-morrow is the risk that the ladies have got to run. They can’t be actually safe till they get outside of Paris, or above it, which is all the same.”

“ On the whole,” said Carrol, “ I think I’d better keep a lookout in that direction.”

What for ? ”

“ O, to satisfy my own mind ! ”

“ There won’t be much satisfaction in looking ; and if anythin’ was to happen, you would n’t be able to do anythin’. On the whole, I should n’t wonder but that you’d be doin’ better by makin’ yourself scarce till the appointed hour.”

“ Well, I ’ll see,” said Carrol, who, at the same time, was profoundly convinced that he would spend the whole of the next day in the vicinity of Maud’s house, and burst in upon her presence long before what Grimes called the appointed time.

XXII.

IN THE TOILS.

THE following day dawned bright and pleasant. The sky was perfectly cloudless, and the clear atmosphere gave promise of a favorable night.

Grimes had arranged everything on the previous day, and M. Nadar had solemnly engaged to be at the Place St. Pierre with two balloons and an aeronaut. There was therefore nothing in reality for him to do ; but Grimes was a man who never felt inclined to trust his business to others, and could not feel satisfied unless he himself were present. It was this feeling rather than any actual necessity that led him forth to pass the time with M. Nadar, so that he might see with his own eyes that everything was preparing. He was also actuated by a very natural desire to learn something more, if anything more could be learned, of the aeronautic art. Before starting he informed Carrol that he would call for the ladies at about dusk ; but that if the ladies were frightened about anything and wished to leave before then, they might go to the Place St. Pierre.

Grimes then set out on his way to visit M. Nadar. He strolled along in a leisurely manner, meditating on the prospect before him, and quite oblivious to the scene around him. He traversed street after street, and soon left the busier parts of the city behind him, and still went on, feeding his active fancy with very many pleasing scenes, and images and events, all of which were of a highly cheerful and pleasant character. Had he not been so very much taken up with these pleasing fancies, he would not have failed to notice the fact that he was followed by several men dressed as National Guards, but whose evil faces made them seem like mouchards of the fallen Empire, who, finding their occupation gone, had transformed themselves into the defenders of the Republic with no very striking success. These men followed him, at first cautiously, but at length, perceiving that he did not take the slightest notice of them, they went on carelessly, keeping close behind him, and occasionally addressing remarks to one another. At length two of them walked ahead of the others, towards Grimes. He, on his part, was quite unconscious of this new movement, and stalked on before, losing himself in the pleasing fancies with which his mind was filled. The two men hurried on till they caught up to him, when they divided, one going on each side, and at a signal each placed a hand on Grimes’s shoulder.

In a moment Grimes was brought back to real life. He stopped and confronted the men. The others meanwhile walked up and surrounded him. There were over a dozen of them, and all were armed.

“ What do you want ? ” asked Grimes in his usual Yankee French.

“Who are you ?” asked one of the men, who had first seized him.

“An American citizen,” said Grimes.

“Where are you going ? ”

“ On business,” said Grimes.

“ What business ? ”

Grimes was about to give an angry reply, but the affair looked too serious, so he was compelled to mitigate his wrath. He hesitated for a moment, but at length concluded that the truth was the easiest statement to make and so he said, “ I am going to see M. Nadar.”

“ M. Nadar ? ”

“ Yes, about a balloon.”

“A balloon? — aha,” said the other. “ A balloon ? You would fly, would you ? You would run away ? Aha, you cannot escape so easily.”

“There is nothing wrong in engaging a balloon,” said Grimes. “M Gambetta and others have gone in them.”

“ M. Gambetta is an honest and loyal citizen ; but you, monsieur, are a traitor and a spy.”

“ A traitor, a spy ? I am not,” cried Grimes. “ I am a friend of the French Republic.”

“ You are a Prussian spy,” cried the other in excited and vehement tones.

“ I am not,” roared Grimes. “ I am an American. The American Minister is my friend. I am an American and a Republican.”

“ Bah ! we know you. We have watched you. You have been denounced to us. We know you as one of Bismarck’s agents, and we arrest you in the name of the Republic.”

“ Arrest! ” cried Grimes, in fierce indignation, — “ arrest me, an American citizen ! ”

“ Monsieur, you are no more an American citizen than I am. You are a German. Your accent betrays you. Come, you are our prisoner. You must come with us. Remonstrance is useless.”

At this, Grimes stood suffocated with rage. He glared like a wild beast at his enemies. He thrust his hand into his pocket, and grasped his trusty revolver, and for a moment he meditated a wild rush upon his captors and a headlong flight. He looked up and down the street; but that one look was enough to satisfy him that anything like flight was utterly impossible. He let go his grasp of his revolver.

The sight of the National Guards around a foreigner had already attracted the notice of the passers-by. People stopped and stared. The words “Prussian spy ” were heard, and circulated from mouth to mouth. The crowd increased, and at length, in a marvellously short space of time, an immense number of people had gathered there. The rumor of a Prussian spy passed along the street, and people came running from every direction to see the sight.

As Grimes looked around, he saw the crowd, and the faces that were turned toward him were faces full of dark menace and intense hate. Passionate words passed from man to man, and reached his ears. He began to think that he was lost. Once more he subdued his wrath, and endeavored to appeal to the crowd.

“ Gentlemen ! ” said he, elevating his voice, “ I am an American citizen. I am a friend of the French Republic. I am a Republican myself. The American Minister is my friend. He will certify that I speak the truth.”

The crowd stared, and various murmurs arose. But the man who had seized Grimes turned with a shrug and called out, “ Citizens, this man is a Prussian spy. He is very dangerous. We have been searching for him for weeks. He is the worst spy in the place, and the chief agent of Bismarck.”

At these words there arose from the crowd a terrific outcry. Yells, shrieks, and execrations, in the midst of which were a hundred cries for immediate vengeance.

Grimes stood overwhelmed. He was a brave man, but the position in which he was made bravery useless. To defy, or to resist, or to offend that maddened mob was to be torn in pieces. He looked out once more upon them, and saw the faces inflamed with frantic rage and eyes glowing in fury. They were more like wild beasts than human beings. To disarm their wrath was impossible ; to explain matters, to prove the truth, was not allowed. The mob outside was so insane and so passionate, that the National Guards who had arrested him seemed almost his friends now, since they stood between him and the savages of the street.

The conclusion which Grimes came to was swift and decided. He saw that it would never do to stand there exposed to the wrath of the mob : anything was better than that. With the National Guards there was at least a hope of something like an examination or a trial; but with a street mob there was nothing but a tiger’s blind fury. His mind was made up. At all hazards, this scene must be stopped.

“ Gentlemen ! ” said he, courteously, to the National Guards, speaking so that all could hear him, “there is some mistake. I am convinced that you intend nothing but what is fair and right. I trust myself to your hands. Take me to the authorities, and I will submit to any examination.”

This was very magnanimous language from a man who was helpless; but the National Guards did not see the incongruity that there was between his language and his situation. They all drew themselves up in a dignified way and endeavored to assume the airs of so many Rhadamanthuses. Those of the crowd who heard him were somewhat favorably affected, and began to think that there might be some mistake ; but the most of them did not hear, and so they kept on howling.

“ It’s all right,” said Grimes. “ Let us go. Lead on. Don’t be troubled about me. I won’t run. It’s all right, gentlemen,” said he to the crowd. “It’s only a mistake. I’m an American. Vive la République Franςaise !

These last words he shouted out in tones loud enough to be heard by all. The mob heard it, and those words arrested the current of the general fury. They had the right ring. They hesitated.

“ It is a mistake,” roared Grimes in stentorian tones, so that he could be heard by all. “ I am an American. I am a Republican. Hurrah for the French Republic! Hurrah for liberty ! Down with the Prussians ! Down with Bismarck ! I am an American Republican, and I love the French Republic ! ”

As a matter of fact Grimes began to be somewhat disgusted with the French Republic, or rather with French Republicans, and consequently his words were not strictly true ; but he was in a very tight place, and he felt that it was his first duty to disarm the vengeance of that howling maniac mob. By giving them lavish doses of the popular cries, he hoped to succeed in this. His efforts were not unavailing. A large number of the crowd caught up his words and responded. The mob, as a mob, began to lose its homogeneity ; its unity disintegrated at the impact of those cries ; some kept up the call for vengeance; but others hurrahed for the French Republic, and others again for America.

Grimes now moved off, surrounded by his captors and the mob.

The National Guards led him, and the crowd followed him, through many streets. The crowd still showed that uncertainty of purpose which had been created by the remarks of the prisoner, and followed in a vague way, being now rather curious than inimical. In this way he at length reached a large building, in front of which there were a few men in the uniform of the National Guard. Grimes entered this place with his captors and was conducted to a room in the third story. On being shown in here the door was locked and the prisoner was left to his meditations.

Meanwhile Carrol had left the house and had started off to seek out some way of wiling away the tedious hours. He had wandered aimlessly through the streets, trying to get rid of the hours of the morning, and finding himself incessantly gravitating in an irresistible manner toward the lodgings of Maud. He resisted this tendency as long as he could, for he did not wish to intrude upon the ladies at unseasonable hours ; but at length he found it quite impossible to resist any longer. It was about midday when he found himself in the street in front of the house. He then made up his mind to remain in that street and keep up a watch over the house, with a vague idea that by so watching he might be the means of guarding the inmates from evil. For two or three hours he walked up and down the street, never going out of sight of the house ; and at length he became wearied of this fruitless occupation, and began to think of entering.

Mrs. Lovell and Maud were both in the room. Maud started to her feet and stood looking at him with a pale and agitated face. Mrs. Lovell advanced and greeted him. Carrol was scarce conscious of her existence. He made some incoherent reply to her, and then turned toward Maud. She stood looking at him with that same expression of entreaty and wonder and mournfulness which he had so often seen in her face; and as he walked toward her she made one or two steps forward. But Carrol’s face showed something very different from anything she had seen there since their misunderstanding ; it was full of joy and enthusiastic hope and tenderest affection. He hurried toward her and grasped her hand in both of his.

“ O my darling ! ” he faltered in a low voice ; “ forgive me ! forgive me ! ”

Mrs. Lovell started, and with some commonplace remark she left the room, and by that act won for herself the fervent gratitude of Carrol.

He was now alone with Maud. He understood at last the whole truth. There was at last no cloud of misunderstanding between them. Carrol was determined that everything should now be cleared up without delay, and so he poured forth the whole story of his sorrows. All was revealed without exception, and Maud was able to understand the whole reason of Carrol’s conduct. Even if his explanation had been less ample, she could have forgiven him ; but with this she felt that there was nothing to forgive.

Mrs. Lovell’s innate delicacy of soul, together with her sisterly regard for Maud and her consideration of her peculiar circumstances, all combined to make her stand aloof and leave the two lovers to come to a full understanding by themselves. At length, however, the time seemed to be sufficient, and she returned, finding Maud’s once melancholy face wreathed with smiles, and the face of Carrol in a similar condition.

By this time it was dusk. They began to talk of their approaching journey, and Carrol began to wonder why Grimes did not appear.

Suddenly, in the midst of this conversation, they all became aware of the tramp of feet on the stairway outside and along the hall toward the room. At that sound a feeling of fearful apprehension in one instant started up within the minds of all. The ladies turned pale, and Carrol started up to his feet in dismay.

The door opened without ceremony, and a number of men entered the room. They were dressed as National Guards. One of these advanced toward the group in the room, while the rest stood by the door. Others remained outside.

The man who advanced looked with sharp scrutiny at Carrol and at the ladies.

“ Madame Lovelle,” said he, in French, “which is Madame Lovelle ?”

“ What do you want ? ” said Mrs. Lovell, in English. “ I am Mrs. Lovell.”

“ Pardon, madame,” said the man, who seemed to be an officer, still speaking French ; “ I am charged with your arrest, in the name of the Republic.” And he laid his hand lightly upon her shoulder.

Mrs. Lovell did not understand what he said, but his gesture was sufficiently intelligible. She shrank back in terror. Maud started with a cry, and flung her arms about her. Carrol sprang forward with a menacing gesture.

“Arrest this man,” cried the officer, “ he is the Prussian spy ! ”

At this three men came forward and seized Carrol, and at a gesture from the leader dragged him out at once.

“ Madame,” said the officer, turning to Mrs. Lovell, “you must come. You are my prisoner.”

Mrs. Lovell did not understand the words, but she started back with a cry of despair.

“ O Georgie ! O my darling, darling Georgie ! ” cried Maud. “ O, what can we do ? What does it all mean ? ”

To this Mrs. Lovell made no reply whatever. She simply pressed Maud in her arms, and sobbed aloud in her anguish.

“Pardon, madame,” said the officer, “but you must come.” And he took her arm and drew her along after him. Maud clung to her, and Mrs. Lovell tried to cling to Maud. Then there followed a pitiable scene, — the sisters clinging to one another, the officer calling to his soldiers and tearing them from one another’s arms.

Mrs. Lovell, half fainting, was dragged away by the soldiers ; while Maud, quite frantic, tried to cling to her sister, and implored them to take her also. The soldiers kept her back, and, thus repelled, she stood for a few moments staring at them with a white face of agony, still imploring them to take her too. The men did not understand her words, however, and they coolly went on with their task, which was to arrest in the name of the Republic Madame Lovelle and the Prussian spy. They dragged their prisoners toward the door. Maud stood for a few moments overcome with anguish ; she had seen Carrol taken, and she now saw her sister dragged out after him. With a wild cry she rushed after Mrs. Lovell.

But Maud’s strength had been severely tried during the last few weeks, and this sudden and overwhelming sorrow was too much for her. Her brain reeled, her limbs failed ; and she had scarce taken three steps when she fell senseless on the floor.

XXIII.

FLIGHT.

THE meditations of Grimes during the first few minutes of his imprisonment were by no means pleasant. To have been arrested at any time would have been bad enough, but at such a time as this it was intolerable. What was worse, his captors were citizens of that great and glorious French Republic for which he had been so enthusiastic, and to which he had been seeking to devote his services. This was the unkindest cut of all, and it wounded him to the soul.

Grimes, however, was not the sort of man who could sit still and brood over his sufferings. He had a healthy and hearty animalism, which made him chafe under them, and move restlessly to and fro like a wild beast in his cage. His first impulse was to examine his prison and its surroundings, so as to see what prospects of escape there might be. The room itself was large and lofty, with tiled floor, and two tall windows that opened with hinges. There was no balcony outside, and the street was too far down to be reached by any process of climbing. The house in which he was formed one in a range that extended all along the street, and, as far as he could judge from a hasty glance, was several additional stories in height.

Although the fact that he was not handcuffed was very gratifying, still he did not see any prospect of immediate escape. If he should be left in that room that night, he might be able to get away; but the night would be or might be too late. Mrs. Lovell would expect him at dusk, and what would she do if he failed her ? What his prospects were he could not imagine, for he could not imagine why he had been arrested. Whether he would be summoned at once for examination, or made to wait, was equally uncertain. His experience of French ways made him incline to the belief that he would have to wait for two or three days. The whole thing seemed so abominably stupid to him, and so unmeaning, that it aggravated him all the more ; for Grimes had a logical soul, and if there had been any motive whatever in his arrest, he would not have felt so utterly outraged. As it was, even prolonged and heavy swearing gave no relief; and he was compelled at last to take refuge in the silence of disgust.

What the ladies might do in the event of his missing the appointment, he could not conjecture. In the midst of his meditations, which occupied several hours, he was roused by the rattling of keys at the door. Grimes started, and looked up with eager expectation, for now his fate would be decided. His only thought was that he was about to be taken away for examination. Two men came in, one of whom carefully locked the door on the inside, and then turning looked at Grimes with a mocking smile.

It was Du Potiron. In an instant Grimes understood it all. The suggestions of Carrol as to Du Potiron’s taking a speedy vengeance were indeed fulfilled ; and this was the mode that he had chosen. As Grimes saw his face, there came over him a terrible anxiety about Mrs. Lovell; for now it was shown that Du Potiron’s threats were not idle menaces ; and the same force which had been used against him could be used with far greater effect against defenceless women. The only hope he had was that Du Potiron might not yet have denounced them, and that he might yet escape in time to save them.

Du Potiron’s face was pale as usual, and below his kepi might be seen a bit of sticking-plaster, which no doubt covered the wound that he had received when Grimes knocked him down stairs. In his face there was a malice and triumphant malignancy that was quite demoniac. Grimes, however, looked at him calmly, and waited to see what he would do.

The other man, whom Du Potiron had no doubt brought with him for purposes of safety, looked very much like Du Potiron, only slightly inferior, suggesting the idea that he might be an admirer or follower of that great man. He had in his hands a pair of handcuffs, which were no doubt brought here to adorn the hands of Grimes. He also had some pieces of rope, which looked as though they were intended to bind him still more securely.

“Eh, bien monsieur,” said Du Potiron, at last. “ What you zink now ? Hah ? You laugh at me now, hah ? You attack me now, will you ? Hah ? Ze table is turn. Eet ees your turn now. Tr-r-r-r-emblez ! ”

At this, which was spoken very rapidly, very fiercely, and with manifold gesticulation, Grimes made no reply, but sat watching Du Potiron, and occasionally looking at the other man. He was measuring their strength ; he was cogitating as to the probability of others being in the hall outside ; and listening to hear if there was any shuffling or sound of voices. But there was nothing of the kind, and Grimes began to meditate a desperate deed.

“You not belief,” continued Du Potiron, who was evidently a Philistine and had come to crow over the fallen Samson, — “ you not belief. Ah hah ! You belief now ? Hah ? Madame Lovelle, she not belief; she belief now. Hah? Come, you are silent. You are dumb. Ha, ha.”

And Du Potiron made a low, mocking bow, spreading out the palms of his hands ; after which he raised himself, and once more regarded Grimes, who sat quite still, looking as before.

“ Moi, I haf warn ze madame one, deux, tree fois. Mais see you, what ees it now ; you are spies. You and ze madame, I haf denounce you bot to ze Central Committee of ze section, in ze nom sacre and august de la liberté. You haf been ze slaves of Bismarck, and conspire against ze security of la gr-r-r-r-rande République. I haf set ze loyal citoizens to watch, and you are discovaire. Voilà.”

Du Potiron paused again to see if his taunts would elicit any reply, but Grimes still held his peace, and sat as before in the same attentive and thoughtful attitude.

“ Aha,”continued Du Potiron. “You fly in ze balloon ? Hah ? Monsieur Nadar. Hah? Ma foi. You wish you escape me. Aha ? You not escape zees way so easy. I haf set my heart on vengeance, and I haf denounce you as ze enemy of ze sublime République. All ze disloyal must perish. La France will destroy ze tyrant, and ze oppressor, and ze despot. You sall not escape ; ze madame sall not escape. I am implacable. Moi, I nevaire forgif, nevaire. You air doom ! ”

Du Potiron frowned in what he meant to be a terrible manner, shook his clenched fists with melodramatic energy against Grimes, and stood staring at him to watch the effect of his words.

“ Aha,” he burst out at last. “You say notin ; you dumb ; you preten to be calm. But are doom, and Madame Lovelle is doom, and you bot sall soffaire. I sall nevaire forgive. I am implacable, inflexible, inexorable. You are lost; zere is no hope, no possibilité of redemption. Aha, does zat make you tr-r-r-emble ? ”

At this moment Grimes rose quickly, snatched his revolver from his pocket, advanced two steps, and seized Du Potiron by the throat so as to almost choke him, and levelled his pistol at the other man. The whole movement was so sudden and so unexpected, that both were taken by complete surprise.

“If you say a word, I ’ll fire,” said Grimes, in a low, stern voice, as he covered the other fellow with his pistol, and held Du Potiron’s throat in his iron clutch. The other man did n’t seem to require any such warning. His face was livid with terror; his knees shook; and the ropes and manacles fell upon the floor.

“Pick them up,” said Grimes, whose Yankee French now came out uncommonly strong.

The man stooped tremblingly, and picked up the ropes and handcuffs.

“Bring them here.”

The man obeyed.

“Now put them on this man,” said Grimes. “ If you don’t, I ’ll blow your brains out.”

With these words he pushed Du Potiron around so that the other man could get at his hands, while he himself watched every movement. Du Potiron meanwhile had made a few contortions, but the suddenness of this attack, and its overwhelming character, deprived him of all force. The iron grasp on his throat almost suffocated him, and thus he stood perfectly helpless. The other man tremblingly took the handcuffs and put them on Du Potiron’s hands.

“Now,” said Grimes, “take off his cravat and tie it over his mouth, tight.”

The man obeyed. The cravat was large enough to serve the purpose of a gag; and while the man was tying it on, Grimes tested it from time to time, making him tie it tighter, till at length it seemed to him to be safe enough.

Now Grimes seized a piece of rope, and warning Du Potiron not to move for his life, he made the other man turn round, and then he secured his hands tightly behind his back. After this he took his cravat, and gagged him in the same way that Du Potiron had been served.

But this was not enough. He wanted to put it out of the power of his two prisoners to move ; so he made them both lie down, impressing his orders upon them by holding the muzzle of the pistol against the foreheads of each in succession. Resistance was useless. Both lay down, and Grimes, taking some more rope, bound the feet of each. He then made them stand up, fastened them back to back, and passed the end of the line securely around an iron rod that supported a heavy shelf on one side of the room.

All this had been done with a neatness and despatch that showed the practised hand. After the work was finished, Grimes restored his pistol to his pocket.

“ Pardon,” said he, somewhat grimly, “you will see that I must escape, and, in order to do that, I had to tie you in this way. I may not see you again, and so I will wish you every happiness in the world, and say, adieu.”

With these words he turned away, and, picking up the keys which Du Potiron had dropped at the first onset, he went towards the door, and tried each one till he found the right one.

So far all had gone off well, but the question still remained, how was he to get out of the house. He saw that he could not go down stairs, and his idea was to ascend to the roof. His long meditations over balloons had made the upper regions of the air quite a natural subject for his mind to dwell upon, and he thought that if he once got up there he might be safe.

He opened the door cautiously and peeped out. The hall was empty.

He went out and listened. There was no sound at all. It seemed as though the upper stories of the house were not tenanted. The apartments, he thought, might be storerooms of some kind, or perhaps they were deserted on account of the siege.

There was no use in hesitating any longer, so he locked the door behind him, put the keys in his pocket, and walked away with as little noise as possible. I Finding that his boots creaked, he tore them off, and thrusting one in each side-pocket of his coat he hastened along the hall.

He soon reached the stairway. Looking up he found the coast clear, and looking down he saw the story below apparently deserted. He ran up the stairs, and continued ascending till he reached the topmost story. Here he found a step-ladder going up to the roof. Climbing this he raised a small trap-door which closed the opening, and stepped out upon the roof. Then he shut down the trap, and seating himself upon it he drew a long breath of relief, and looked around with a comprehensive stare, and then putting on his boots again he began to meditate over the situation.

The houses were flat roofed or almost flat, and were joined together so closely that he could walk on for a long distance without difficulty and without being seen from the street. The difficulty was how he was to get down again. This was a thing that he did not know exactly how to contrive. After some thought he decided on leaving this place and going over the roofs of the houses; such a journey might reveal some practicable way of descending. He might find a ladder or a staging or something of that sort. He accordingly started off and walked on till he reached a corner house, where any further progress in that direction was impossible. He now turned to the right, where the row of houses still extended along the street, and traversed several of these. At length he saw something which suggested a way of escape in case of an emergency. It was a trap-door, something like the one through which he had passed. Here at least there seemed a way to get down, and it was the only way. All the other traps and skylights had been closed. He knelt down by this and looked down. He saw nothing but the floor of the hall, nor did he hear anything. This encouraged him, and he decided to make his descent here. But to do so by daylight seemed too hazardous, and he thought it would be safer to wait till dusk. He seated himself here and kept a vigilant watch, ready if there appeared any signs of pursuit to plunge down and close the trap after him. But no signs of pursuit appeared, and Grimes thought pleasantly that his efforts to secure the prisoners had been crowned with complete success. They had been unable to free themselves, and had probably not received any visit from their comrades.

Two or three hours passed, and Grimes waited very patiently, feeling sure now that, if he only effected his escape, he would be able to be at the rendezvous in time. At length it grew sufficiently dark for his purpose,—just dark enough for safety, yet also sufficiently light for him to find his way. Once more he removed his boots and cautiously descended. As he reached the attic floor he listened, but heard nothing. Reassured, he descended farther. He met no one. He went farther and farther down, and now discovered that the house was uninhabited. By certain signs of disorder he thought that it had been visited by thieves, who had left the trap open. Reaching at length the door of the conciergerie, he found this locked, but another door had a key in the lock, and opening this he found himself in the court-yard, where he put on his boots again and looked around. Here a gate opened into the street, and was secured by a bar. Grimes removed this, and stepped forth into the street.

A cab was passing. He hailed it, and told the driver to take him to the Place de la Concorde. In due time he reached his destination, and, leaving the cab, he hurried off with a light heart toward Mrs. Lovell’s lodgings.

The darkness had now increased, but the moon was shining, and the night was still. All things promised a propitious voyage. On reaching Mrs. Lovell’s lodgings, he was surprised to find that there were no lights. However, he knew his way well enough to her apartments, and he went on, full of confidence, till he reached them. All was still. The door was open. He entered with a strange feeling of apprehension. The moonbeams streamed in through the windows and illumined the interior.

Grimes saw nothing of the general appearance of things, his whole attention being arrested by one sight. It was the figure of a lady prostrate on the floor, lying in the moonlight, face downward. The heart of Grimes gave a wild throb, and he rushed forward and knelt by her side. He raised her up. Her face, but dimly visible in the moonlight, was half concealed by the disordered hair that had fallen across it. Her hands were cold.

Grimes was bewildered. He raised the lifeless form in his arms and kissed the pale forehead, the closed eyes, the cold lips.

What was he to do ?

Send for help ?

But the house seemed deserted. There was no help to be had. Besides, he dared not wait, for now he felt as though all the National Guards of Paris were on his track, headed by Du Potiron, who would lead them here first of all. Then both would be arrested. There was only one thing, — flight, instant, immediate !

It could only be a faint. She would recover. Ah ! he saw it all. She had waited, and he had not come. Carrol had come, and in his impatience taken Miss Heathcote. Mrs. Lovell had still waited. She had been overcome with anxiety about him. She had not thought him false, but she had feared for his safety. She must have divined his arrest and his danger. The thought had been too dreadful.

Grimes’s whole nature melted down into utter softness beneath the power of such piteous thoughts.

“We must fly,” he murmured. " We must get to the balloon. She ’ll revive when she gets up aloft.”

Saying this he rose up, carrying the senseless lady in his arms, and hurried down to the street. There he got a cab, and drove to the Place St. Pierre. The lady still continued senseless. Grimes held her in his arms, and allowed himself to indulge in numberless tendernesses, feeling as though such acts and words as these were better adapted to win his loved one back to life than any quantity of the ordinary restoratives, such as burnt feather, cold water, and rubbings.

At last they reached the Place Bastille. A crowd was there. High in the air floated the dark outlines of two balloons, still held to the earth by their ropes, waiting for their passengers, struggling to be free. M. Nadar had been faithful. He rushed forward to the cab. Grimes emerged, carrying his precious burden.

“ Haste ! haste ! ” cried M. Nadar. “ I’ve been waiting an hour.”

“ Have the others come ? ” asked Grimes.

“ No, not yet. Haste, haste.”

Grimes was a little surprised, but his anxiety about his lifeless burden drove away other thoughts.

‘‘This lady’s fainted,” he said; “I want to restore her.”

“ She ’ll revive,” said M. Nadar ; “ if you wait now, you cannot go at all.”

Grimes said nothing, but hurried to the balloon. He lifted the lady into the car. Then he got in himself.

“ Are you ready ? ” asked M. Nadar.

“ Wait,” said Grimes, ‘‘my friends have not come.”

M. Nadar fumed and fussed.

In a few moments a cab was seen hastening toward the place.

“ They have come,” said M. Nadar. “ There is the cab. Are you ready ? ”

Grimes looked out. He saw the cab. He had no other thought than that this was Carrol and Miss Heathcote. He had a dread of Du Potiron and his National Guards.

“ Yes,” he said quickly.

In another moment the earth sank away, and the everlasting ether received him into its embrace.

James DeMille.