“ THE Comtesse Chantavoine, — young, rich, amiable. You shall meet her to-morrow.” Long after Philip left the duke to go to his own chamber these words rang in his ears. He felt the cords of fate tightening round him. So real was the momentary illusion of being bound that, as he passed through the great hall where hung the pictures of his host’s ancestors, he made a sudden outward motion of his arms as though to free himself from a physical restraint.
Strange to say, he had never foreseen or reckoned with this matter of marriage in the designs of the duke. He had forgotten that sovereign dukes must make sure their succession even unto the third and fourth generations. His first impulse had been to declare that to introduce him to the countess would be futile, for he was already married. But the instant warning of the mind that his highness could never and would never accept the daughter of a Jersey shipbuilder restrained him. He had no idea that Guida’s descent from the de Mauprats of Chambéry would weigh with the duke, who would only see in her some apple - cheeked peasant stumbling over her court train.
So Philip held his peace, as he had held it upon this matter ever since he came to Bercy. It was not his way to be rash, though it was his way to be bold. There would be boldness in another direction, — in withholding the knowledge of his marriage. It was curious that the duke had never even hinted at the chance of his being already married ; yet not so curious, either, since complete silence concerning a wife was declaration enough that he was unmarried. He felt in his heart that a finer sense would have offered Guida no such humiliating affront, for he knew the lie of silence was as evil as the lie of speech.
He had not spoken, partly because he had not yet become used to the fact that he really was married. It had never been brought home to him by the ever present conviction of habit. One day of married life, or, in reality, a few hours of married life with Guida had given the sensation more of a noble adventure than of a lasting condition. With distance from that noble adventure something of the glow of a lover’s relations had gone, and the subsequent tender enthusiasm of mind and memory was not vivid enough to make him daring or — as he would have said — reckless for its sake. Yet this same tender enthusiasm was sincere enough to make him accept the fact of his marriage without discontent, even in the glamour of new and alluring ambitions.
If it had been a question of giving up Guida or giving up the duchy of Bercy, — if that had been put before him as the sole alternative, — he would have decided as quickly in Guida’s favor as he did regarding his commission in the navy when he thought it was a question between that and the duchy. The straightforward issue of Guida and of the duchy he had not been called upon to face. But, unfortunately for those who are tempted, issues are never put quite so plainly by the heralds of destiny and penalty. They are disguised as delectable chances, — the toss-ups are always the temptation of life. The man who uses trust money for three days only, to acquire in those three days a fortune, certain as magnificent, would pull up short beforehand if the issue of theft or honesty were put squarely before him. Morally, he means no theft; he uses his neighbor’s saw until his own is mended ; but he breaks his neighbor’s saw, his own is lost on its homeward way, he has no money to buy another, and he is tried and convicted on a charge of theft. Thus the custom of society establishes the charge of immorality upon the technical defect. But not on that alone; upon the principle that what is committed in trust shall be held inviolate with an exact obedience to conditions and an adherence to the spirit as to the letter of the law.
But the issue did not come squarely to Philip. He had not openly lied about Guida; as yet he had no intention of doing so. He even figured to himself with what surprise Guida would greet his announcement that she was henceforth Princesse Guida d’Avranche, and in due time would be her serene highness the Duchesse de Bercy. Certainly there was nothing immoral in his ambitions. If the present serene highness chose to establish him as second in succession to the reigning prince, who had a right to complain ?
Then, as to an officer of the English navy accepting succession in a sovereign duchy in suzerainty to the present government of France, while England was at war with her, — his host had more than once, in almost so many words, defined the situation. Because the duke himself, with no successor assured, was powerless to take sides with the Royalists against the Revolutionary government, he was at the moment obliged, for the very existence of his duchy, to hoist the tricolor upon the castle with his own flag. Once the succession was assured beyond the imbecile Leopold John, then he would certainly declare against the present fiendish government, and for the overthrown dynasty.
Now, England was fighting France not only because she was revolutionary France, but because of the murder of Louis XVI. and for the restoration of that overthrown dynasty. Also she was in close sympathy with the war of the Vendée, to which she would lend all possible assistance. Philip argued that if it was his duty, as a captain in the English navy, to fight against revolutionary France from without, he would be beyond criticism if, as the Duc de Bercy, he also fought against her from within.
Indeed, it was with this statement of the facts that the second military officer of the duchy had some days before been dispatched to the Court of St. James to secure its intervention for Philip’s release, by an important exchange of prisoners with the French government. This officer was also charged with securing the consent of the English King for Philip’s acceptance of the succession in the duchy while retaining his position in the English navy. The envoy had been instructed by the duke to offer his sympathy with England in the war and his secret adherence to the Royalist cause, to become open as soon as the succession through Philip was secured.
To Philip’s mind all that side of the case was in his favor, and sorted well with his principles of professional honor. Then came up the question of his private honor. He conceived it to be a reckless sacrifice of possibilities to tell the duke of his marriage. He was engaged in a game of chances, and what might happen would all be the fortune of the dice. To tell of his marriage was to load the dice against himself; not to do so was to put his private honor in the hazard. In his momentous translation from a prison to a palace, with dazzling fortunes in view, there came upon him confusion of the judgment and of the moralities; he felt that the opportunity for speaking of the marriage had passed.
He seated himself at a table, and took from his pocket a letter of Guida’s, written many weeks before, in which she said with an unmistakable firmness that she had not announced the marriage and would not; that he must do it, and he alone ; that the letter written to her grandfather had not been received by him, and that no one in Jersey knew their secret.
In reading this letter again a wave of feeling rushed over him. He realized the force and strength of her nature; every word had a clear and sharp straightforwardness and the ring of truth. She was not twenty, yet how powerful and clear was her intelligence! “A gifted creature, an unusual mind,” the Chevalier du Champsavoys had once said of her in Philip’s hearing. That was it : a gifted creature with an unusual mind.
All at once he had been brought to understand that a crisis was near, and he straightway prepared to meet it. The duke had said that he must marry; a woman had already been chosen for him, and he was to meet her to-morrow. But that meant nothing; to meet a woman was not of necessity to marry her. There were a thousand chances against the woman liking him ; and what could she be to him, this Comtesse Chantavoine ? Yet it might be necessary to give in his apparent adherence to this comedy devised by the duke, certainly until after the adoption and succession were formally arranged. Then — why, by that time he would be released, he would have to present himself in England to receive a new command, and delays, where a woman is concerned, are easy. Even supposing matters became critical, the countess herself might be in no hurry to marry.
Marry! He could feel his flesh creeping. It gave him an ugly, startled sensation. It was like some imp of Satan to drop into his ear now the suggestion that princes, ere this, had been known to have two wives, one of them unofficial. Yet he could have struck himself in the face for the iniquity of the suggestion ; he flushed from the indecency of it, — and so have sinners ever flushed as they set forth on the garish road to Avernus.
Vexed with these unbidden and unwelcome thoughts, he got up and walked about his chamber restlessly. “ Guida, — the poor Guida ! ” he said to himself manytimes. He was angry, disgusted, that those shameful, irresponsible thoughts should have come to him. He would atone for all that, and more, when he was Prince and she Princesse d’Avranche. But nevertheless he was ill at ease with himself. Guida was off there alone in Jersey, — alone.
Suddenly there flashed into his mind another possibility. Suppose — why, suppose—thoughtless scoundrel that he had been!—suppose that there might come another than himself and Guida to bear his name! And Guida was there alone, and her marriage still kept secret, — the danger of it to her good name! But she had said nothing in her letters, hinted nothing. No, in none had there been the most distant suggestion. Then and there he got the letters, one and all, and read them, every word, every line, all through to the end. No, there was not one hint. Of course it could not be so ; she would have — but no, she might not have — Guida was unlike anybody else.
He read on and on. And now, somehow, he thought he caught in one of the letters a new ring, a pensive gravity, a deeper tension, which were like ciphers or signals to tell him of some change in her. For a moment he was shaken. Manhood, human sympathy, surged up in him. The first flush of a new sensation ran through his veins like fire. The first instinct of fatherhood came to him, — a thrilling, uplifting feeling. But as suddenly there shot through his mind a thought which brought him to his feet with a spring.
Why, suppose — suppose that it was so! Suppose that through Guida the further succession might presently be made sure, and suppose he went to the prince and told him all,—that might achieve his consent in her favor ; and the rest would be easy. That was it, as clear as day. Meanwhile he would hold his peace. He would take his part in the perilous comedy; he would meet the countess, but he would force her to regard him with commonplace feelings ; he would pay no real court to her; he would wait — and wait.
For above all else, — and this was the thing that clinched the purpose in his mind, — above all else, the duke at best had but a brief time to live. He saw it himself, and but a week ago the court physician had told Philip that only unusual excitement kept the duke alive ; that any violence or shock, physical or mental, might snap the thread of existence. Plainly, the thing was to go on as he had been going, — to keep his marriage secret, meet the countess, apparently accede to all the duke suggested, and wait — wait!
With this definite purpose in his mind coloring all that he might say, yet crippling the freedom of his thought, he sat down and wrote to Guida. He had not written to her, according to the condition made by M. Dalbarade that during his stay at the castle he should hold communication with no one outside upon any consideration whatsoever. He was on parole : this issue was clear ; he could not send a letter to Guida until he was freed from the condition agreed to by the duke for him. It had been a bitter pill to swallow ; and he had had to struggle with himself many times since his arrival at the castle. For whatever the new ambitions and undertakings, there was still in the mysterious and lonely distance a woman for whose welfare he was responsible, for whose happiness he had yet done nothing, unless to give her his name under sombre conditions was happiness for her. Since his marriage, all that he had done to remind him of the new life which he had so hurriedly, so daringly, so eloquently entered upon was to send his young wife fifty pounds. Somehow, as this fact flashed to his remembrance now, it made him shrink; it had a certain cold, commercial look which struck him unpleasantly. Perhaps, indeed, the singular and painful shyness — chill almost — with which Guida had received those fifty pounds now communicated itself to him by the intangible telegraphy of the mind and spirit.
All at once, that bare, glacial fact of having sent her fifty pounds acted as a cynical illumination of his real position. He felt conscious now that Guida would have preferred some simple gift, some little thing that women love, in token and remembrance, rather than the commonplace if necessary token of the ordinary duties of life. Now that he came to think of it, since he had left her in Jersey, he had never sent her ever so small a gift. Indeed, he had never given her any gifts at all save the Maltese cross in her childhood and her wedding-ring. As for the ring, it had never occurred to him that she could not wear it except in the stillness of the night, unseen by any eye but her own. He did not know that she had been wont to go to sleep with the hand clasped to her breast, pressing close to her the one outward token she had of a new life, begun with a sweetness which was very bitter, and a bitterness which was only a little sweet.
Philip was in no fitting mood to write a letter. Too many emotions were in conflict in him at once. They were having their way with him ; and perhaps in this very complexity of his feelings he came nearer to being really and acutely himself than he had ever been in his life. Indeed, there was a moment when he was almost ready to consign the duke and all that appertained to him to the devil or the deep sea, and to take his fate as it came. But one of the other selves of him called down from the little attic where dark things brood, and told him that to throw up his present chances would bring him no nearer and no sooner to Guida, and must return him to the prison whence he came.
No, he must go on, — that was the only thing to do. Now, however, he would write to Guida, and send the letter when he was released from parole. But how many times did he tear up the paper in vain attempt to speak to her out of the confusion of his thoughts ! At last, like a hunter who, having lost his compass and his bearings, makes a dash through the wood in the bold belief that safety lies beyond if he but drive ahead, heedless, strong, enduring, so he plunged into the letter which told his wife where he was, of his opportunities, and of the brilliant outlook for them both.
His courage grew as the sentences spread out before him ; he became eloquent. He told her how heavily the days and months went on apart from her. He emptied out the sensations of absence, loneliness, desire, and affection. He wondered how she fared, — wondered tenderly. All at once he stopped short. It flashed upon him now that always his letters had been entirely of his own doings ; he had pictured himself always, — his own loneliness, his own grief at separation. He had never yet spoken of the details of her life, questioned her of this and of that, of all those things which fill the life of a woman, — not because she loves the little things, but because she is a woman, and the knowledge and governance of these little things are the habit and the duty of her life. His past egotism was borne in upon him now. He would try to atone for it. He asked her many questions; but one he did not ask, dared not ask, did not know how to speak to her of it. The fact that he could not say what most he wished to say was a powerful indictment of his relations to her, of his treatment of her, of his headlong courtship and marriage.
So portions of this letter of his had not the perfect ring of truth, had not the conviction which unselfish and solicitous love alone can beget. It was only at the last, only when he came to close the letter, that his words went from him with the sharp photography of his own heart. It came, perhaps, from a remorse which for the instant foreshadowed danger ahead ; from an acute pity for her ; and maybe from a longing to forego the attempt to don the promised pageantry of an exalted place, and get back to the straightforward hours, such as those upon the Ecréhos, when he knew that he loved her. But the sharpness of his feelings rendered more intense now the declaration of his love. The phrases were wrung from him. His hand trembled so that his will must rule it to steadiness, and that enforced pressure seemed to etch the words into the paper. “ Good-by, — no, à la bonne heure, my dearest,” he wrote; “good days are coming, brave, great days, when I shall be free to strike another blow for England, both from within and from without France; when I shall be, if all go well, the Prince d’Avranche, Duc de Bercy, and you my perfect princess. Good-by ! Ton Philip, qui t’aime toujours.”
He had hardly written the last words when a servant knocked at his door.
“ His serene highness offers his compliments to monsieur, and will monsieur descend to meet the Marquis GrandjonLarisse and the Comtesse Chantavoine, who have just arrived.”
For an instant Philip could scarce control his feelings to quietness, but he sent a message of obedience, and prepared to go down.
So it had come, — not to-morrow, but to-day. Already the deep game was on. With a sigh which was half of bitter and mocking laughter, he seized the sandbox, dried the letter to Guida, and put it in his pocket. As he descended the staircase, the last words of it kept assailing his mind, singing in his brain : “ Ton Philip, qui t’aime toujours! ”
Not many evenings after Philip’s first interview with the Comtesse Chantavoine, a visitor arrived at the castle. From his roundabout approach up the steep cliff in the dusk it was clear he wished to avoid observation. Of gallant bearing, he was attired in a fashion unlike the citizens of Bercy or the Republican military, who were often to be seen in the streets of the town. The whole relief of the costume was white, — white sash, white cuffs turned back, white collar, white rosette and band, white and red bandeau, and the faint glitter of a white shirt; in contrast were the black hat and plume, black tie, black top-boots with huge spurs, and yellow breeches. He carried a gun and a sword, and a pistol was stuck in the white sash. But one thing arrested the eye more than all else : a white square on the breast of the long brown coat, strangely ornamented with a red heart and cross. He was evidently a soldier of distinguished rank, but not of the army of the Republic.
The face was that of a devotee, not of peace, but of war, of some forlorn crusade. It had deep enthusiasm, which yet to the trained observer would have seemed rather the tireless faith of a convert than the disposition of the natural man. It was somewhat heavily lined for one so young. The marks of a hard life were on him ; but distinction and energy were in his look and in every turn of his body.
Arriving at the castle, he knocked at the postern. At first sight of him the porter suspiciously blocked the entrance with his person, but seeing the badge upon his breast stood at gaze, and a look of keen curiosity crossed his face. On the visitor announcing that he was of the house of Vaufontaine, this curiosity was mingled with as keen surprise; he was admitted with every mark of respect, and the gates closed behind him.
“ Has his highness any visitors? ” he asked as he dismounted.
The porter nodded assent.
“ Who are they ? ” He slipped a coin into the porter’s hand.
“ One of the family, — a cousin, his serene highness calls him.”
“ H’m, indeed ! A Vaufontaine, friend ? ”
“ No, monseigneur, a d’Avranche.”
“ What d’Avranche ? Not the Prince Leopold John ? ”
“ No, monseigneur ; the name is the same as his highness’s.”
“ Philip d’Avranche ? H’m ! from whence ? ”
“ From Paris, monseigneur, with his highness.”
The visitor, whistling softly, stood thinking a moment. Presently he added, “How old is he?”
“ About the same age as monseigneur.”
“ How does he occupy himself ? ”
“ He walks, rides, talks with his highness, asks questions of the people, reads in the library, and sometimes shoots and fishes.”
“ Is he a soldier ? ”
“ He carries no sword, and he takes a long aim with his gun ! ”
There was a sly smile lurking about the porter’s mouth. The visitor drew from his pocket a second gold piece, and, slipping it into the other’s hand, said, “ Tell it all at once. Who is the gentleman, and what is his business here ? Is he, perhaps, on the side of the Revolution, or does he keep better company ? ”
He looked keenly into the eyes of the porter, who screwed up his own, returning the gaze unflinchingly. Handing back the gold piece, the man answered firmly, “ I have told monseigneur what every one in the duchy knows ; there’s no charge for that. For what more his highness and — and those that his highness trusts know ” — he drew himself up with brusque importance — “ there’s no price, monseigneur.”
“ Body o’ me, here’s pride and vainglory ! ” returned the other. “ I know you, my fine Pergot. I knew you almost too well years ago, and then you were not so sensitive ; then you were a good Royalist like me, Pergot.” This time he fastened the man’s look with his own, and held it until Pergot dropped his head before it.
“ I don’t remember monseigneur,” he said, perturbed.
“ Of course not. The fine Pergot has a bad memory, like a good Republican, who by law cannot worship his God, or ask the priest to visit him when he’s dying, or make the sign of the cross ; a red Revolutionist is our Pergot now ! ”
“ I ’m as good a Royalist as monseigneur,” retorted the man, with some asperity. “ So are most of us. Only — only his highness says to us ” —
“ Don’t gossip of what his highness says, but do his bidding, Pergot. What a fool you are to babble thus! How d’ye know but I’m one of Fouché’s or Barère’s men? How d’ye know but there are five hundred men outside waiting for my whistle ? ”
The man changed instantly. His hand was at his side like lightning. “They ’d never hear that whistle, monseigneur, though you be Vaufontaine or no Vaufontaine! ”
His eyes were fixed on the visitor’s with stubborn determination. The other, smiling, reached out and touched him on the shoulder kindly.
“ My dear Frange Pergot,” said he, “ that’s the man I knew once, and the sort of man that’s been fighting with me for the Church and for the King these months past in the Vendée. Come, come, don’t you know me, Pergot ? Don’t you remember the scapegrace with whom, for a jape, you waylaid my uncle the cardinal and robbed him, and then gave him back his jeweled watch in return for a year’s indulgences? ”
“ But no, no,” answered the man, crossing himself quickly, and by the dim lanthorn light peering into the visitor’s face, “ it is not possible, monseigneur. The Comte Détricand de Tournay died in the Jersey Isle with him they called Rullecour.”
“ Well, well, you might at least remember this,” rejoined the other, showing a scar in the palm of his hand.
Recognition was instant now, and an old friendship was cemented anew. A little later there was ushered into the library of the castle the Comte Détricand de Tournay, who, under the name of Savary dit Détricand, had lived in the Isle of Jersey for many years. There he had been a dissipated idler, a keeper of worthless company, an alien coolly accepting the hospitality of a country he had ruthlessly invaded as a boy. Now, returned from vagabondage, he was the valiant and honored heir of the house of Vaufontaine, and the heir presumptive of the house of Berey.
True to his intention, Détricand had joined La Rochejaquelein, the intrepid, inspired leader of the Vendée, whose sentiments became his own : “ If I advance, follow me ; if I retreat, kill me ; if I fall, avenge me.” He had proven himself daring, courageous, and resourceful. His immovable gayety of spirits infected the simple peasants with a rebounding energy; his fearlessness inspired their confidence ; his kindness to the wounded, friend or foe, his mercy to prisoners, the gentle respect he showed the devoted priests who shared with the peasants the perils of war, had already made him beloved. He had also often helped to reconcile divisions, and to harmonize the varying views of the chieftains of the Vendée.
From the first all the leaders trusted him, and he sprang in a day, as had done the peasants Cathelineau, d’Elbée, and Stofflet, gentlemen like Lescure and Bonchamp, and noble fighters like d’Antichamp and the Prince of Talmont, to an outstanding position in the Royalist army. Again and again he had been engaged in perilous sorties and had led forlorn hopes. He had now come from the splendid victory at Saumur to urge his own kinsman, the Prince d’Avranche, Duc de Bercy, to join the Royalists.
It was the heyday of the cause. The taking of Saumur and the destruction of Coustard’s army, together with the capture of eleven thousand prisoners, were powerful arguments to lay before a nobleman all the traditions of whose house were of constant alliance with the Crown of France, whose very duchy had been the gift of a French monarch. Détricand had not seen the duke since he was a lad at Versailles, and there would be much in his favor ; for some winning power in him had of late grown deep and penetrating, and of all the Vaufontaines the duke had reason to dislike him least.
When the duke entered to Détricand in the library, he was under the influence of the convincing letter from the monks who had been engaged upon the pedigree of Commander Philip d’Avranche, and of a stimulating talk with the young English Norman himself. With the memory of past feuds and hatreds in his mind, and predisposed against any Vaufontaine, his greeting was cold and courteously disdainful, his manner preoccupied.
Remarking that he had but lately heard of Monsieur le Comte’s return to France, he hoped he had enjoyed his career in — was it in England or in America? But yes, he remembered : it began with an expedition to take the Channel Isles from England, — an insolent, a criminal business in time of peace, fit only for boys or filibusters. Had Monsieur le Comte then spent all these years in the Channel Isles, — a prisoner, possibly ? No ? Fastening his eyes cynically on the symbol of the Royalist cause on Détricand’s breast, he asked to what he was indebted for the honor of this present visit. Perhaps, he added dryly, it was to inquire after his own health, which, he was glad to assure Monsieur le Comte and all his cousins of Vaufontaine, was never better.
His face was like a leather mask, telling nothing of the arid sarcasm in his voice. The hands were shriveled, the shoulders shrunken, the temples fallen in ; the neck behind was pinched, and the eyes looked out like brown beads, alive with fire and touched with the excitement of monomania. His last words had a delicate savagery of irony, though, too, there could be heard in the tone a defiance arguing apprehension, not lost upon his visitor.
Détricand had smiled inwardly many times during the old man’s monologue, which was broken only by courteous, half-articulate interjections on his own part. He knew too well the old feud between their houses, the ambition that had possessed many a Vaufontaine to inherit the dukedom of Bercy, and the duke’s futile revolt against that possibility; but for himself, heir to the principality of Vaufontaine, and therefrom, by succession, to that of Bercy, it had no importance.
He had but one passion now, and it burned clear and strong; it dominated, it possessed him. He would have given up any worldly honor to see it succeed. He had idled and misspent too many years, had been vaurien and ne’er-dowell too long, to he sordid now. Even as the grievous sinner, come from dark ways, turns with furious and tireless strength to piety and good works, so this vagabond of noble family, wheeling suddenly in his tracks, had thrown himself into a cause which was all sacrifice, courage, and unselfish patriotism, — a holy warfare. The last bitter thrust of the duke had touched no raw flesh ; his withers were uuwrung. Gifted to thrust in return, and with warrant to do so, he put aside the temptation, and with the directness of one convinced of the righteousness of his cause, and with neither time nor temper for diplomacy in crisis, he answered his kinsman with daylight clearness.
“ Monsieur le Duc,” said he, “ I am glad your health is good ; the better it is, the better it suits the purpose of this interview. I am come on business, and on that alone. I am from Saumur, where I left La Rochejaquelein, Stofflet, Cathelineau, and Lescure masters of the city and victors over the Republican army ” —
“ I have heard a rumor,” interjected the duke impatiently.
“ I will give you fact,” continued Détricand, and he told of the series of successes lately come to the army of the Vendée.
“ And how does all this concern me, Monsieur le Comte ? ” asked the duke.
“I am come to ask you to join us, — to declare for our cause, for the Church and for the King. Yours is of the noblest names in France. Will you not stand openly for what you cannot waver from in your heart? If the Duc de Bercy declares for us, others will come out of exile, and from submission to the rebel government, to our aid. My mission from our leaders is to ask you to put aside whatever reasons you have had for alliance with this savage government, and to proclaim for the King.”
The duke did not take his eyes from Détricand’s as he spoke. What was going on behind that parchment face who might say ?
“ Are you aware,” he said at last, “ that I could send you straight from here to the guillotine ? ”
“ So could the porter at your gates, but he loves France almost as well as does the Duc de Bercy.”
“ You take refuge in the fact that you are my kinsman.”
“ The honor is stimulating, but I should not seek salvation by it. I have the greater safety of being your guest,” answered Détricand, with dignity.
“ Too premature a sanctuary for a Vaufontaine! ” retorted the duke, fighting down growing admiration for a kinsman whose family he would gladly root out if it lay in his power.
Détricand made a gesture of impatience, for he felt that his appeal had availed nothing, and he had no heart for a battle of words. His wit had been tempered in many fires, his nature was non-incandescent to praise or gibe. He had had his share of pastime ; now had come his share of toil, and the mood for give and take of words was not on him, though to advance his cause he would still use it in time of need.
He went straight to the point now. Hopelessly he spoke the plain truth.
“ I want nothing of the Prince d’Avranche but his weight and power in a cause for which the best gentlemen of France are giving their lives. I fasten my eyes on France alone ; I fight for the throne of Louis, — an altar of sacrifice now by the martyred blood of the King, — not for the duchy of Bercy. The duchy of Bercy may sink or swim, for all of me, if so be it does not stand with us in our holy war.”
The duke interjected a disdainful laugh.
Suddenly there shot into Détricand’s mind a suggestion, which, wild as it was, might after all belong to the grotesque realities of life. So he added with measured deliberation, “ If alliance must still be preserved with this evil government of France, then be sure there is no Vaufontaine who would care to inherit a principality so discredited. To meet that peril in succession the Duc de Bercy will do well to consult his new kinsman, Philip d’Avranche.”
For an instant there was absolute silence in the room. The old nobleman’s look was like a flash of flame in a mask of dead flesh. The short upper lip was arrested in a sort of snarl ; the fingers, half closed, were hooked like talons ; and the whole man was a picture of surprise, fury, and injured pride. The Duc de Bercy to be harangued to his duty, scathed, measured, disapproved, and counseled by a stripling Vaufontaine— it was monstrous !
It was the bitterness of aloes, also, for in his own heart he knew that Détricand had spoken the truth. The fearless appeal had roused him, for the moment at least, to the beauty and righteousness of a sombre, maybe hopeless cause, while the impeachment had pierced every sore in his heart. He felt the smarting anger and outraged vanity of the wrong-doer who, having argued down his own conscience, and believing he has blinded others as himself, suddenly finds that he and his motives are naked before the world.
Détricand had known regretfully, even as he spoke, that the duke, no matter what the reason, would not now join the Royalist army ; though, had his life been in danger, he still would have spoken the truth. So he had been human enough to try to pry open the door of mystery by a biting suggestion, for he had a feeling that in the presence of the mysterious kinsman Philip d’Avranche lay the cause of the resistance to his appeal. Who was this Philip d’Avranche ? It seemed absurd to Détricand that his mind should travel back just then to the island of Jersey.
The dumb fury of his host was about to break forth into speech, when the door of the library opened and Philip stepped inside. The silence holding two men now held three, and a cold astonishment possessed the two younger. The duke was too blind with anger to see the start of recognition his visitors gave at sight of each other, and by a curious concurrence of feeling both Détricand and Philip avoided an acknowledgment of acquaintance. Wariness was Philip’s cue, cautious wonder Détricand’s attitude.
The duke spoke first. Turning from Philip, he said to Détricand, with malicious triumph, “ It will disconcert Monsieur le Comte’s pious mind to know I have yet one kinsman who finds it no dishonor to inherit the duchy of Bercy. Monsieur le Comte, permit me to introduce Commander Philip d’Avranche.”
Something of Détricand’s old self came back to him. His face flushed with a sudden desire to laugh; then it grew pale with a kind of dumb astonishment. So this man was to be set against him even in the heritage of his family, as for one hour, in a kitchen in Jersey, they had been bitter opposites and secret rivals. He cared little about the heritage of the houses of Vaufontaine and Bercy, — he had higher ambitions ; but this adventuring sailor roused in him again the private grudge he had once begged Philip to remember. Recovering himself, he said meaningly, bowing low, “ The honor is memorable — and monstrous ! ”
Philip set his teeth, but replied,“ I am overwhelmed to meet one whose reputation is known — in every tap-room ! ”
Neither had chance to say more, for the duke, though not understanding the cause or meaning of the biting words, felt the contempt and suggestion in Détricand’s voice, and burst out in anger, “ Go tell the Prince of Vaufontaine that the succession is assured to my house. Monsieur, my cousin, Commander Philip d’Avranche, is now my adopted son ; a wife is already chosen for him, and soon, Monsieur le Comte, there will be still another successor to the title ! ”
“ The Duc de Bercy should add inspired domestic prophecy to the family record in the Almanach de Gotha! ” returned Détricand, with a cold smile.
“ God’s death ! ” cried the old nobleman, trembling with rage, and stretching toward the bell-rope. “ You shall go to Paris and the Temple. Fouché will take good care of you ! ”
“ Stop, Monsieur le Duc ! ” Détricand’s voice rang through the room. “You shall not betray even the humblest of your kinsmen, like that monster d’Orléans who betrayed the highest of his. What is more, there are hundreds of your people who still will pass a Royalist on to safety.”
The duke’s hand dropped from the bell-rope. He knew that Détricand’s words were true. Ruling himself to quiet, he said, with cold hatred, “ Like all your breed, crafty and insolent! But I will make you pay for it one day.”
Glancing toward Philip as though to see if this would move him, Détricand answered, “ Make no haste on my behalf ; years are not of such moment to me as to your highness.”
Philip saw Détricand’s look, and felt his moment and his chance had come. “ Monsieur le Comte ! ” he exclaimed threateningly.
The duke turned proudly to Philip. “You will collect the debt, cousin,” said he, and the smile on his face was wicked as he again turned toward Détricand.
“With interest well compounded,” replied Philip firmly.
Déricand smiled. “ I have drawn the Norman-Jersey cousin, then ! ” said he. “ Now we can proceed to compliments.” Then, with a change of manner, he added quietly, “Your highness, may the house of Bercy have no worse enemy than I ! I came only to plead the cause which, if it give death, gives honor too. And I know well that at least you are not against us. Monsieur d’Avranche,” — he turned to Philip, and his words were slow and deliberate, —“I hope we may yet meet in the Place du Vier Prison,— but when and where you will, and you shall find me in the Vendée when you please.” So saying, he bowed, and turned and left the room.
“ What meant the fellow by the Place du Vier Prison ? ” asked the duke.
“ Who knows, Monsieur le Duc ? ” answered Philip.
“ A fanatic like all the Vaufontaines, — a roisterer yesterday, a sainted chevalier to-morrow! ” said the duke irritably. “ But they still have strength and beauty — always ! ” he added reluctantly. Then he looked at the strong and comely frame before him, and was reassured. He laid a hand on Philip’s broad shoulder admiringly. “ You will of course have your hour with him, cousin ; but not, not till you are a d’Avranche of Bercy.”
“ Not till I am a d’Avranche of Bercy,” responded Philip in a low voice.
With what seemed an unnecessary boldness, Détricand slept that night at the inn, the Golden Crown, in the town of Bercy; a Royalist of the Vendée exposing himself to deadly peril in a town sworn to alliance with the Revolutionary government. He knew that the town, that the inn, might be full of spies, but one other thing he also knew : the innkeeper of the Golden Crown would not betray him, unless he had greatly changed since fifteen years ago. Then they had been friends, for his uncle of Vaufontaine had had a small estate in Bercy itself, in malicious proximity to the castle.
He walked boldly into the inn parlor. There were but three men in the room, — the landlord, a stout burgher, and Frange Pergot, the porter of the castle, who had lost no time in carrying his news ; not that he might betray his old comrade in escapade, but that he might tell a chosen few, who were Royalists under the rose, that he had seen one of those servants of God, an officer of the Vendée.
At sight of the white badge with the red cross on Détricand’s coat, the three stood up and answered his greeting with devout respect; and he had a speedy reassurance that in this inn he was safe from betrayal. Presently he learned that three days hence a meeting of the states of Bercy was to be held for setting the seal upon the duke’s formal adoption of Philip d’Avranche, and to execute a deed of succession. These things were to be done, that is, if the officer sent to the English King should have returned with Philip’s freedom and King George’s license to accept the succession in the duchy. From curiosity in these matters alone Détricand would not have remained at Bercy, but he might use the occasion for secretly gaining the adherence of officers of the duchy to the cause of the Royalists, — no hard task.
During these three days of waiting he heard with astonishment and concern the rumor that the great meeting of the states would be marked by Philip’s betrothal to the Comtesse Chantavoine. He cared little about the succession ; he had the consuming passion for a cause, but there was ever with him the remembrance of Guida Landresse de Landresse, and what touched Philip d’Avranche he associated with her. Of the true relations between Guida and Philip he knew nothing, but from that last day in Jersey he did know that Philip had roused in her emotions perhaps less vital than love, but assuredly less equable than friendship.
In his fear that Guida might suffer, the more he thought of the Comtesse Chantavoine as the chosen wife of Philip, the more it troubled him. For his own part, he would have gone far and done much to shield Guida from injury or insult. He had seen and appreciated in her something higher than Philip might understand, — a simple womanliness, a fine hereditary nobleness, a profound depth of character. Some day, if he lived and his cause prospered, he would go back to Jersey, — too late, perhaps, to hope for anything from her, but not too late to tell her his promise had been kept, and to pay her devout and admiring homage.
He could not now shake off oppressive thoughts concerning Guida and this betrothal. They interwove themselves through all his secret business with the Royalists of Bercy. It was a relief when the morning of the third day came, bright and joyous, and he knew that before the sun went down he should be on his way back to Saumur.
His friend the innkeeper urged him not to attend the meeting of the states of Bercy, lest he should be recognized by the spies of government. He was, however, firm in his resolution to go, but he exchanged his coat with the red cross for one less conspicuous.
With the morning of the eventful day came the news that the envoy to England had returned with Philip’s freedom by exchange of prisoners, and the needful license from the English King. But other news, too, was carrying through the town: the French government, having learned of the plan regarding Philip, had dispatched envoys to forbid the act of adoption and the deed of succession. Though the duke would have defied them, it behooved him to end the matter, if possible, before the arrival of these envoys. The assembly was hurriedly convened two hours before the time appointed, and the race began between the old nobleman and the emissaries of the French government.
The assembly being opened, in a breathless silence the governor-general of the duchy read aloud the license of the King of England permitting Philip d’Avranche, an officer in his navy, to assume the honors to be conferred upon him by the duke and the states of Bercy. Then the president of the states read aloud the order of succession : —
“ 1. To the hereditary prince, Leopold John, and his heirs male; in default of which to
“ 2. The prince successor, Philip d’Avranche, and his heirs male ; in default of which to
“ 3. The heir male of the house of Vaufontaine.”
Afterward came reading of the deed of gift by which certain possessions in the province of d’Avranche were made over to Prince Philip. To all this the assent of Prince Leopold John had been formally secured.
After the assembly and the chief officers of the duchy should have ratified these documents, and the duke should have signed them, they were to be inclosed in a box with three locks and deposited with the sovereign court at Bercy. Duplicates, also, were to be sent to London and registered in the records of the College of Arms. The states, amid great enthusiasm, at once ratified the documents by unanimous vote. The one notable dissentient was the intendant, Comte Carignan Damour, lately become a strong ally of the French government. It was he who had given Fouché information concerning Philip’s adoption ; it was also he who had at last, through his spies, discovered Détricand’s presence in the town, and had taken action thereupon. In the states, however, he had no vote, and wisdom kept him silent, though he was watchful for any opportunity to delay the proceedings until the arrival of the French envoys. They should soon be here, and he watched the doors anxiously. He had a double motive in preventing this new succession. With Philip as adopted son and heir there would be fewer spoils of office ; with Philip as duke there would be none at all, for the instinct of antipathy and distrust was mutual. Besides, he was a Republican at heart, and looked for reward from Fouché in good time.
Presently it was announced by the president that the signatures to the acts would be set in private. Thereupon, with all the concourse standing, the duke, surrounded by the law, military, and civil officers of the duchy, girded upon Philip the jeweled sword which had been handed down in the house of d’Avranche from generation to generation. The open function being thus ended, the people were enjoined to proceed at once to the cathedral, where a Te Deum would be sung.
The public then retired, leaving the duke and a few of the highest officials of the duchy to sign and seal the deeds. When the outer doors were closed, one unofficial person remained, — Comte Détricand de Tournay, of the house of Vaufontaine.
Détricand stood leaning against a pillar, looking complacently yet seriously at the group surrounding the duke at the great council-table. Suddenly the latter turned to a door at the right of the president’s chair, and, opening it, bowed courteously to some one beyond. An instant afterward there entered the Comtesse Chantavoine with her uncle the Marquis Grand jon-Larisse, an aged, feeble, but distinguished figure. They advanced toward the table, and Philip, saluting them gravely, offered the marquis a chair. At first the marquis declined it, but the duke pressed him, and in the subsequent proceedings he of all the number was seated.
Détricand apprehended the meaning of the scene. This was the lady whom the duke had chosen for the wife of the new prince. He had invited her to witness the final act which was to make Philip d’Avranche his heir in legal fact as by verbal proclamation, not doubting that the romantic nature of the incident would appeal to her. He had even hoped that the function might be followed by a formal betrothal in the presence of the officers of the duchy ; and the situation might stilt have been critical for Philip had it not been for the pronounced reserve of the countess herself.
She was tall, of gracious and stately but not lissome carriage; the curious quietness of her face would have been almost an unbecoming gravity, had not the eyes, clear, dark, and strong, lightened it. The mouth had sweetness, but it was a somewhat set sweetness, even as the face was somewhat fixed in its calm. In her bearing and in all her motions there was a regal quality ; yet, too, something of isolation, of withdrawal, in her self-possession and unruffled observation. She seemed, to Détricand, a figure apart; a woman whose friendship would be everlasting, but whose love would be more an affectionate habit than a passion, and in whom devotion would be strong, because devotion was the keynote of her nature. The dress of a nun would have turned her into a saint, of a peasant would have made her a Madonna, of a Quaker would have made her a dreamer and a dévote, of a queen would have made her benign yet unapproachable. It struck him all at once, as he looked, that this woman had one quality in absolute kinship with Guida Landresse, — honesty of mind and nature; only with this young aristocrat the honesty would be without passion. She had straightforwardness, a firm but limited intellect, a clear-mindedness belonging somewhat to narrowness of outlook, but a genuine capacity for understanding the right and the wrong of things. Guida, Détricand thought, might break her heart and live on ; this woman would break her heart and die. The one would grow larger through suffering ; the other, narrow into a numb coldness.
So he entertained himself for the moment by these flashes of discernment, presently merged in wonderment as to what was in Philip’s mind as he stood there, — destiny hanging in that drop of ink at the point of the pen in the duke’s fingers.
Philip was thinking of the destiny, but more than all else just now he was thinking of the woman before him, and the issue to be faced by him concerning her. His thoughts were not so clear nor so discerning as Détricand’s. No more than he understood Guida did he understand this clear-eyed, quiet, self-possessed woman before him. He thought her cold, unsympathetic, barren of that glow which should set the pulses of a man like himself bounding. It did not occur to him that those still waters ran deep ; that to awaken this seemingly glacial nature, to kindle a fire upon this altar, would be to secure unto his life’s end a steady, enduring flame of devotion. He revolted from her; not alone because he had a wife already, but because the countess chilled him, — because with her, in any case, he would never be able to play the passionate lover as he had done with Guida; and not to be the passionate lover was to be no lover at all. One thing only appealed to him : she was the Comtesse Chantavoine, a fitting consort in the eyes of the world for a sovereign duke. He could not but think well of himself in this auspicious hour, more than a little carried off his feet by the marvel of the situation. But still he could think of nothing quite clearly ; everything was confused and shifting in his mind.
He soon became aware that the duke was speaking, and, looking up, was conscious of the eyes of the intendant fixed upon him with a curious covert antipathy. The duke’s words had been merely an informal greeting to his council and the high officers present. He was about to speak further, however, but some one drew his attention to Détricand. An order was given to challenge the stranger ; but Détricand advanced toward the table, and said, “ The Duc de Bercy will not forbid the attendance of his cousin, Détricand de Tournay, at this impressive ceremony ? ”
The duke, dumfounded, though he preserved an outward calm, could not answer for an instant. Then, with a triumphant, vindictive smile which puckered his yellow cheeks like a wild apple, he said, “ The Comte de Tournay is welcome to behold the end of the ambitions of the Vaufontaines.” He looked toward Philip with an exulting pride and commendation. “Monsieur le Comte is quite right,” he added, turning to his council ; 44 he may always claim the privileges of a relative of the Bercys, but the hospitality extends no further than my house and my presence, and Monsieur le Comte will understand my meaning ”
At that moment Détricand caught the eye of the intendant, and then he understood perfectly. This man, the innkeeper had told him, was reported to be secretly a devout Republican, and from the intendant’s look he knew himself to be in immediate danger.
Without hesitation, however, bowing to all, and making no reply to the duke save a simple “ I thank your highness,” he took a place near the council-table.
The short ceremony of signing the deeds immediately followed. A few formal questions were asked of Philip, to which he briefly replied ; afterward he made the oath of allegiance to the duke and the duchy, with his hand upon the sword of the d’Avranches. These preliminaries ended, the duke was just stooping to put his pen to the paper for signature when the intendant, as much for the purpose of annoying Philip as of still delaying the proceedings, said, “ It would appear that one question has been omitted in the formalities of this court.” He paused dramatically. He was only aiming a random shot; he would make the most of it.
The duke looked up, perturbed, and said sharply, “ What is that, — what is that, monsieur ? ”
“ A formality, Monsieur le Duc, a mere formality. Monsieur ” — he bowed toward Philip politely — “ monsieur is not already married ? There is no ” — He paused again.
Standing erect and rigid, with his pen poised, the duke glanced sharply at the intendant, and then still more sharply at Philip. The progress of that look had granted Philip an instant’s time to recover his composure. He was conscious that the Comtesse Chantavoine had given a little start, and then had become quite still and calm. Now her eyes were intently fixed upon him.
For an instant there was absolute stillness. Philip had felt his heart give one great thump of terror. Did Détricand know anything ? Did the intendant know anything ? He had, however, been too often in physical danger to lose his nerve now. The moment was big with peril ; it was the turning-point of his life, and he felt it. His eyes dropped toward the spot of ink at the point of the pen which the duke held : it fascinated him, it was destiny. Now he took a step nearer to the table, and, drawing himself up, looked his princely interlocutor steadily in the eyes.
“Of course there is no marriage — no woman ? ” asked the duke a little hoarsely, his eyes fastened on Philip’s.
With steady voice Philip replied, “ Of course, Monsieur le Duc.”
There was another stillness. Some one sighed heavily. It was the Comtesse Chantavoine.
Then the duke stooped, and wrote his signature three times hurriedly upon the deeds.
A moment afterward Détricand was in the street, making toward the Golden Crown. As he hurried on he heard the galloping of horses ahead of him. Suddenly some one plucked him by the arm from a doorway. “ Inside, quick ! ” said a voice. It was that of the duke’s porter, Frange Pergot. Without hesitation or a word Détricand did as he was bid, and the door closed behind him.
“ Fouché’s men are coming down the street; spies have betrayed you,” whispered Pergot. “ Follow me. I will hide you till night, and then you must escape.”
What Pergot had said was quite true. But Détricand was safely hidden, and Fouché’s men arrived too late to forbid those formal acts which made Philip d’Avranche a prince, or to capture the Vendean chief, who, a week later, once again at Saumur, wrote a long letter to Carterette Mattingley, in Jersey, in which he set forth these strange events at Bercy, and asked certain questions concerning Guida.
Since the day of his secret marriage with Guida, Philip had been carried along in the gale of naval preparations and incidents of war as a leaf is borne onward by a storm, — no looking back, to-morrow always the goal. But as a wounded traveler nurses carefully his hurt, seeks shelter from the scorching sun and from the dank air, and travels by little stages lest he never come at all to friendly hostel, so Guida made her way slowly through the months of winter and of spring.
In the past, it had been February to Guida because the yellow Lenten lilies grew in all the sheltered côtils; March because the periwinkle and the lords and ladies came ; May because the cliffs were a blaze of golden gorse, and the perfume thereof made all the land sweet as a honeycomb.
Then came the other months, with hawthorn trees and hedges all in blow ; the lilac gladdening the doorways, the honeysuckle in bloomy thickets ; the oxeyed daisy of Whitsuntide ; the yellow rose of St. Brelade, that lies down in the sand and stands up in the hedges; the mergots, which, like good soldiers, are first in the field and last out of it; the unscented dog-violets, the yellow primroses, the daffodils and snowdrops, the buttercups, orchises, and celandines ; the laurustinus and privet and blackthorn hedges so green ; the osier beds, and the ivy on every barn ; the purple thrift in masses on the cliff; the sea-thistle in its glaucous green, — “ the laughter of the fields whose laugh was gold.” And all was summer.
Came a time thereafter when the children of the poor gathered blackberries for preserves and home-made wine; when the wild stock flowered in St. Ouen’s Bay ; when the bracken fern was gathered from every côtil, and dried for apple-storing, fire-lighting, and bedding for the cherished cow, for back-rests for the veilles, and for seats round the winter fire; when peaches, apricots, and nectarines made the walls sumptuous red and gold ; when the wild plum and crabapple flourished in the secluded roadways, and the tamarisk dropped its brown pods upon the earth. And all this was autumn.
At last, when came the birds of passage, the snipe and teal and barnacle geese, and the rains began ; when the green lizard with its turquoise - blue throat vanished; when the Jersey crapaud was heard croaking no longer in the valleys and the ponds, and the cows were well blanketed, — then winter had come again.
Such were the associations of the seasons in Guida’s mind until one day of a certain year, when for a few hours a man had called her his wife, and then had sailed away. There was no log that might thereafter record the days and weeks which unwound the coils of an endless chain into that sea whither Philip had gone.
Letters she had had, to be sure, — two letters ; but how many times, when a packet had come in, had she gone to the doorway and watched for old Mère Rossignol making the rounds with her han basket, chanting the names of those for whom she had letters ; and how many times did she go back to the kitchen choking down a sob !
The first letter was at once a blessing and a blow ; it was a reassurance and it was a misery. It spoke of bread, as it were, yet it offered a stone. It eloquently, passionately told of Philip’s love; but it also told, with a torturing ease, that the Araminta was under command to proceed to sea with sealed orders. And so, the letter said, he did not know when he should see her nor when he should be able to write again. War had been declared against France, and they might not touch a port nor have chance to send a letter by a homeward vessel for weeks, and maybe months. This was painful, but it was fate, and it was his profession, and it could not be helped. Of course, she must understand, he would write constantly, telling her, as through a kind of diary, what he was doing every day ; and then when the chance offered the big budget should go to her.
A pain came to Guida’s heart, piercing the joy which had overwhelmed it, as she read the flowing tale of his buoyant love. She knew that she could not have written so smoothly of “ fate ” and “profession,” nor told of this separation with so complaisant a sorrow, had she been the man and he the woman. With her the words would have been wrenched forth from her heart, would have been scarred into the paper with the bitterness of a spirit tried beyond its enduring.
With what enthusiasm did Philip, immediately after his heart-breaking news, write of what this war might do for him, — what avenues of advancement it might open up, what splendid chances it would offer for success in his career ! Did he mean that to comfort her ? she asked herself. Did he mean it to divert her from the pain of the separation, to give her something to hope for ? She read the letter over and over again, and — no, she could not, though her heart was so willing, find that meaning in it. It was all Philip, — Philip full of hope, purpose, prowess, ambition. Did he think — did he think that that could ease the pain, could lighten the dark day settling down on her ? Could he imagine that anything might compensate for his absence in the coming months, in this year of all years in her life ? Oh, did he not know ? His lengthened absence might be inevitable, it might be fate, but could he not see the bitter cruelty of it ? He had said that he would be back with her again in two months ; and now —ah, did he not know ?
As the weeks again came and went she felt indeed he did not know.
Some natures cling to beliefs long after conviction has been shattered and disproved. These are they of the limited imagination, the loyal, the pertinacious, and the affectionate, the singlehearted children of habit; blind where they do not wish to see, stubborn where their inclinations lie, unamenable to reason, wholly held by their legitimate obligations.
But Guida was not of these. Her brain and imagination were strong as her affections. Her incurable honesty was the deepest thing in her; she did not even know how to deceive herself. As her experience deepened under the influence of a sorrow which still was joy, and a joy which still was sorrow, her vision became acute and piercing. Her brain was like some kaleidoscope. Pictures of things, little and big, which had happened to her in her life, at moments flashed by her inner sight in furious procession. It was as if, in the photographic machinery of the brain, a shutter had slipped from its place, and a hundred unordered and ungoverned pictures, loosed from their natural restraint, rushed by.
Months had passed since Philip had left her, a month since she had received his second letter, — a month of complexity of feeling; of tremulousness of discovery ; of hungry eagerness for news of the war; of sudden little outbursts of temper in her household life, — a new thing in her experience ; of passionate touches of tenderness toward her grandfather ; of occasional biting comments in the conversations between the sieur and the chevalier, causing the gentlemen to look at each other in silent amazement; of as marked lapses into listless disregard of any talk that went on around her.
She had been used often to sit still, doing nothing, in a sort of physical content, as the sieur and his visitors talked ; now her hands were always busy, at knitting, sewing, or spinning, the steady gaze upon her work showing that her thoughts were far away. Though the chevalier and her grandfather vaguely noted the change, they as vaguely set it down to her growing womanhood. In any case, they held it was not for them to comment upon a woman or upon a woman’s ways. And a girl like Guida was an incomprehensible being, with an orbit and a system all her own, — whose sayings and doings were as little to be reduced to their understanding as the vagaries of any star in the Milky Way or the currents in St. Michael’s Basin.
One evening she sat before the fire thinking of Philip. Her grandfather had retired earlier than usual. Biribi, the dog, lay asleep on the veille. There was no sound save the ticking of the clock on the mantel above her head, Biribi’s slow breathing, the snapping of the log on the fire, and a soft rush of heat up the chimney. The words of Philip’s letters, learned by heart, and from which she had extracted every atom of tenderness they held, were always in her ears. At last one phrase kept repeating itself like some refrain, which becomes plaintive through repetition, then torturing in its mournful suggestion. It was this: “ But you see, dearest, that though I am absent from you I shall have such splendid chances to get on. There’s no limit to what this war may do for me.”
Suddenly Guida realized how different was her love from Philip’s, how different was her place in his life from his place in her life. She reasoned with herself, because she knew that a man’s life was work in the world, and that work and ambition were in his bones and in his blood, had been carried down to him through centuries of industrious, ambitious generations of men, — that men were one race, and women were another. A man was bound by the conditions of life governing the profession by which he earned his bread and butter, played his part in the world, and strove to reach the seats of honor in high places. He must either live by the law, fulfill to the letter his daily duties of the business of life, or drop out of the race ; and a woman, with bitterness and tears, in the presence of man’s immoderate ambition, must learn to pray, “ Lord, have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law.”
Quickly the whole thing resolved itself in Guida’s mind, and her thinking came to a full stop. She understood now what was the right and what the wrong, and, child as she was in years, woman that she was in experience and thought, yielding to the impulse of the moment, she buried her face in her hands and burst into tears.
“ Oh, Philip, Philip, Philip,” she sobbed aloud, “ it was not right of you to marry me; it was wicked of you to leave me ! ” Then in her thoughts she carried on the impeachment and reproach. If he had married her openly and left her at once, it would have been hard to bear, but in the circumstances it might have been right. If he had married her secretly and left her at the altar, so keeping the promise he had made her when she agreed to become his wife, that might have been pardonable. But to marry her as he did, and then, breaking his solemn vow, leave her, — it was not right in her eyes ; and if not right in the eyes of her who loved him, in whose would it be right ?
To these definitions she had come at last. It is an eventful moment, a crucial ordeal, for a woman, when she forces herself to see the naked truth concerning the man whom she has loved, yet the man who has wronged her. She is born anew in that moment: it may be to love on, to blind herself, and condone and defend, so lowering her own moral tone ; or to congeal in heart, become keener in intellect, scornful and bitter with her own sex and merciless toward the other, indifferent to blame and careless of praise, intolerant, judging all the world by her own experience, and incredulous of any true thing. Or yet again, she may become deeper, stronger, sadder, wiser ; condoning nothing, minimizing nothing, deceiving herself in nothing, and still never forgiving at least one thing, — the destruction of innocent faith and a noble credulity ; seeing clearly and acutely the whole wrong ; with a strong intelligence measuring perfectly the iniquity, but out of a largeness of nature and by virtue of a high sense of duty devoting her days to the salvation of a man’s honor, to the betterment of one weak or wicked nature.
Of these last was Guida.
“Oh, Philip, Philip, you have been wicked to me ! ” she sobbed.
Her tears fell upon the stone hearth, and the fire dried them, and every teardrop was one girlish feeling and emotion gone, one bright fancy, one tender hope, vanished.
She was no longer a girl. There were troubles and dangers ahead of her, but she must now face them dry-eyed and alone. In his second letter Philip had told her to announce the marriage, and had said that he would write to her grandfather explaining all, and also to the Reverend Lorenzo Dow.
She had waited and watched for that letter to her grandfather, but it had not come. As for Lorenzo Dow, he was a prisoner with the French.
There was yet another factor in the affair. While the island was still agog over Mr. Dow’s misfortune, there had been a bold robbery at St. Michael’s Rectory of the strong-box containing the Communion plate, the parish taxes for the year, the offertories for the month, and — what was of moment to at least one person — the parish register of deaths, baptisms, and marriages. The box was found on the seashore, but that was all. Thus it was that now no human being in Jersey could vouch that Guida had been married.
Yet these things troubled her little. How easily could Philip set all right! If he would but come back, — that at first was her only thought ; for what matter a ring, or any proof, testimony, or proclamation, without Philip!
It did not occur to her at first that all these things were needed to save her from shame in the eyes of the world. If she had thought of them apprehensively, she would have said to herself, “ How easy to set all right by simply announcing the marriage ! ” And she would have done so when war was declared and Philip received his new command, but that she wished the announcement to come from him. Well, that would come in any case when Philip’s letter to her grandfather arrived : no doubt it had missed the packet by which hers came.
But another packet, and yet another arrived; and still there was no letter from Philip for the Sieur de Mauprat. Winter had come, and spring had gone, and now summer was at hand. Haymaking was beginning, the wild strawberries were reddening among the clover, and in her little garden apples had followed the buds on the trees beneath which Philip had told his fateful tale of love.
At last a third letter arrived, — bringing little joy to her heart, however. It declared love and affection, it was even extravagant in terms of affection ; but somehow it fell short of the true thing, for its ardor was that of a mind preoccupied, and underneath all ran a current of inherent selfishness. It delighted in the activity of his life, it was full of hope, of promise of happiness for them both in the future, but it had no solicitude for Guida in the present. It chilled her heart— so warm but a little season ago — that Philip, to whom she had once ascribed strength, tenderness, profound thoughtfulness, should concern himself so little in the details of her life. For the most part, his letters seemed those of an ardent lover who knew his duty and did it gladly, but with a self-conscious and flowing eloquence, too, which could have cost but little strain of feeling.
He was curious to know what the people in Jersey said about their marriage. He had written to Lorenzo Dow and her grandfather, he said, but had heard afterward that the vessel carrying the letters had been taken by a French privateer; and so they had not arrived in Jersey. But of course she had told her grandfather and all the island of the ceremony performed at St. Michael’s. He was sending her fifty pounds, his first contribution to their home ; and, the war over, a beautiful home she certainly should have. He would write to her grandfather again, though this day there was no time to do so.
But Guida had not proclaimed the marriage. She had lived the first months of her wedded life in an aching stillness of secrecy ; she had suffered tremors, and apprehensions, and changing moods, and troubled, fevered hours alone, with no confidant, with no supporting tenderness from mother, sister, friend, or husband.
She realized now that she must announce the marriage at once. But yet what proofs of it had she ? There was the ring Philip had given her, inscribed with their names ; but she was sophisticated enough to know that this would not be adequate evidence in the eyes of her Jersey neighbors. The marriage register, with its record, was stolen, and that proof was gone. Lastly, there were Philip’s letters ; but no, — a thousand times no ! — she would not show Philip’s letters to any human being; even the thought of it hurt her pride, her delicacy of feeling, her self-respect. Her heart burned with bitterness to think that there had been a secret marriage. How hard it was, at this distance of time, to tell the world the tale, and to be forced to prove it by Philip’s letters ! No, no, she could not do it, — not yet. She would still wait the arrival of Philip’s letter to her grandfather. If it did not come soon, then she must be brave and tell her story.
She went to the Vier Marchi less now ; also fewer folk stood gossiping with her grandfather in the Place du Vier Prison or by the well at the front door, — so far she had not wondered why. To be sure, Maîtresse Aimable came oftener; but since one notable day at Sark Guida had resolutely avoided reference, however oblique, to Philip and herself. Still, in her dark days the only watchful eye upon her was that of the egregiously fat old woman called the “ femme de ballast,” whose thick tongue clave to the roof of her mouth, whose outer attractions were so meagre that even her husband’s chief sign of affection was to pull her great toe, passing her bed of a morning to light the fire.
Carterette Mattingley also came, but another friend who had watched over Guida for years before Philip appeared in the Place du Vier Prison never entered her doorway now. Only once or twice since that day on the Ecréhos, so fateful to them both, had Guida seen Ranulph Delagarde. He had withdrawn to St. Aubin’s Bay, where his trade of ship-building was carried on, and havingfitted up a small cottage, lived a secluded life with his father there. Neither of them appeared often in St. Helier’s, and they were seldom or never seen in the Vier Marchi.
Carterette saw Ranulph little oftener than did Guida, but she knew what he was doing, being anxious to know, and every one’s business being every one else’s business in Jersey. In the same way Ranulph knew of Guida. What Carterette was doing Ranulph was not concerned to know, and so knew little ; and Guida knew and thought little of how Ranulph fared : which was part of the selfishness of love.
But one day Carterette received a letter from France which excited her greatly, and sent her off hot-foot to Guida; and in the same hour Ranulph heard a piece of hateful gossip which made him fell to the ground the man who told him, and sent him with white face, and sick, affrighted, yet indignant heart, to the cottage in the Place du Vier Prison.
(To be continued.)