The Battle of the Strong
THE Isle of Jersey has the shape of a tiger on the prowl. The fore-claws of this tiger are the lacerating pinnacles of the Corbière and the impaling rocks of Portelet Bay and Noirmont; the hindclaws are the devastating diorite reefs of La Motte and the Banc des Violets. The head and neck, terrible and beautiful, are stretched out toward the west, as it were to scan the wild waste and jungle of the Atlantic seas. The nose is L’Etacq, the forehead is Grosnez, the ear is Plemont, the mouth is the dark cavern by L’Etacq, the teeth are the serried ledges of the Forêt de la Brequette. In truth, the sleek beast, with its feet planted in fearsome rocks and tides, and its ravening head set to defy the onslaught of the main, might, but for its ensnaring beauty, seem some monstrous footpad of the deep.
At a discreet distance from the head and the tail hover the jackals of La Manche, the Paternosters, the Dirouïlles, and the Ecréhos ; themselves destroying where they may, or filching the crumbs from the tiger’s feast of shipwreck and ruin. To this day the tiger’s head is the lonely part of Jersey; a hundred years ago, it was as distant from the Vier Marchi as is Penzance from Covent Garden. It would almost seem as if the people of Jersey, like the hangers-on of the king of the jungle, care not to approach too near the devourer’s head. Even now there is but a dwelling here and there upon the lofty plateau, and none at all on the dark and menacing headland. But the ancient Royal Court, as if determined to prove its sovereignty even over the tiger’s head, had stretched out its arms from the Vier Marchi to the neck of the beast, putting upon it a belt of defensive war : at the nape, a martello tower and barracks; underneath, two other martello towers, to be the teeth of the buckle.
Jersey was bristling with armament. Tall platforms were erected at almost speaking distance one from another, where sentinels kept watch for the descent of French frigates or privateers. Redoubts and towers were within musketshot of one another, with watch-houses between, and at intervals every able-bodied man in the country had perforce to leave his trade and act as sentinel, or go into camp or barracks with the militia for months at a time. British cruisers sailed the Channel ; now a squadron under Barrington, again under Bridport, hovered upon the coast, hopeful that a French fleet might venture near.
But little of this was to be seen in the western limits of the parish of St. Ouen’s. Plemont, Grosnez, L’Etacq, — all that giant headland could well take care of itself. A watch-house here and there sufficed. No one lived at L’Etacq, no one at Grosnez ; they were too bleak, too distant and solitary. No houses, no huts, were there.
If you had approached Plemont from Vinchelez-le-Haut, making for the sea, you would have said that there also was no habitation. But when at last you came to a hillock near the point of Plemont, expecting to find nothing but sky and sea and distant islands, suddenly at your feet you came upon a small stone dwelling. Its door faced the west, looking toward the isles of Guernsey and Sark. Fronting the north was a window, like an eye, ever watching the tireless Paternosters. To the east was another tiny window, like a deep loophole or embrasure, set toward the Dirouïlles and the Ecréhos.
The hut had but one room, of moderate size, with a vast hearth and chimney, the latter jutting out at the south end like a buttress. At one side, between it and the western wall, was a veille hung with curtains, which was both lounge and bed. The eastern chimney-side was given over to a few well-polished kitchen utensils, a churn, and a bread-trough. The floor was of mother earth alone, but a strip of hand-made carpet was laid down before the fireplace, and there was another at the end opposite. There were also a table, a spinning-wheel, and a shelf of books.
It was not the hut of a fisherman, though upon the wall opposite the books there hung fishing-tackle, nets, and cords, while outside, on staples driven into the chimney, were some lobster-pots. Upon two shelves were arranged a carpenter’s and a cooper’s tools, polished and in good order. And yet you would have said that neither a cooper nor a carpenter kept them in use. Everywhere there were signs of man’s handicraft as well as of woman’s work, but over it all was the touch of a woman. Moreover, apart from the tools there was no sign of a man’s presence in the hut. There was no coat hanging behind the door, no sabots for the fields and oilskins for the sands, no pipe laid upon a ledge, no shoemaker’s awl or fisherman’s needle fastening a calendar to the wall. The awl and the needle were there, but they were neatly put in their places upon the shelves. Whatever was the trade of the occupant, the tastes were above those of the ordinary dweller in the land. That was to be seen in a print of Raphael’s Madonna and Child, taking the place of the usual sampler upon the walls of Jersey houses ; in the old clock, nicely bestowed between a narrow cupboard and the tool-shelves ; in a few pieces of rare old china, and a gold - handled sword hanging above a huge well - carved oak chair. This chair relieved the room of anything like commonness, and somehow in its rough carving was in sympathy with the simple surroundings, making for dignity and sweet quiet. It was clear that only a woman could have so arranged the room and all therein. It was also clear that no man lived there.
If you had looked in at the doorway of this hut on a certain autumn day of the year 1796, the first thing to strike your attention would have been a dog lying asleep on the hearth ; then a suit of child’s clothes on a chair before the fire would have caught the eye. The only thing to distinguish this particular child’s dress from that of a thousand others in the island was the fineness of the material. Every thread of it had been delicately and firmly knitted till it was like perfect cloth, gracious in texture and in color a soft blue, relieved by a little red silk ribbon attached to the collar.
The hut contained as well a child’s chair, just so high that when placed by the window commanding the Dirouïlles or the Paternosters its occupant might see the waves, like panthers, beating white paws against the ragged pinnacles of granite ; the currents writhing below at the foot of the cliffs, or at half-tide, roaring and resounding, rush up and cover the sands of the Grève aux Lançons, and, like animals in pain, howl through the caverns in the cliffs ; the great northwester of November come breaking up the deep to batter the imperturbable cliffs of Grosnez and Plemont, to shriek to the witches who boiled their caldrons by the ruins of Grosnez Castle that the hunt of the seas was up. Just high enough was the little chair that its owner might, of a certain day in the year, look out and see the mystic fires that burned round the Paternosters, lighting up all the sea with a strange and awful radiance.
Scarce a rock to be seen from the hut but had such a legend : the burning ship at the Paternosters ; the horse and its rider at William’s Rock in Boulay Bay ; the fleet of boats with tall prows and long oars that drifted upon the Dirouïlles, and went down to the cry of the Crusaders’ “Dahin! dahin ! ” the Roche des Femmes at the Ecréhos, where still you may hear the cries of the women and children in terror of the engulfing sea.
On this particular day, if you had looked into the hut, or waited by the fire of vraic burning so softly in the chimney hour after hour, no one would have welcomed you, neither woman nor child ; but had you tired of waiting, and traveled along the coast, following its indentations for two miles or more from the hut, in a deep bay under tall cliffs, you would have seen a woman and a child coming quickly up the sands. Slung upon the woman’s shoulders was a small fisherman’s basket. The child ran before, eager to climb the hill and take the homeward path.
A man above was watching them. He had ridden up the cliff, had seen the woman in her boat making for the shore, had tethered his horse in the quarries near by, and now waited for her to come up. He chuckled to himself as she approached, for he had prepared a surprise for her. To make it more complete he hid himself behind some shrubs and boulders, and as she reached the top he sprang out before her with an ugly grin on his face.
The woman looked at him calmly, and waited for him to speak. There was no fear on her face, not even surprise ; nothing but steady inquiry and a disconcerting self-possession. Presently, with an air of bluster, the man said, “ Aha, my lady, I’m nearer than you thought — me ! ”
The child drew in to his mother’s side and clasped her hand. There was no terror in the little fellow’s eyes, however; rather, a shrinking from the man’s brutal manner. He had something of the same self-possession as the woman, and his eyes were like hers, clear, unwavering, and with a frankness that consumed you ; they were wells of sincerity. Open-eyed, you would have called the child, wanting a more subtle description.
“ I’m not to be fooled — me ! Come, now, let’s have the count,” said the man, as he whipped a greasy leather-covered book from his pocket and opened it.
“ Ah bah, I ’m waiting. Stay yourself ! ” he added roughly as she moved on, and his grayish-yellow face had an evil joy at thought of the ambush he had laid for her.
“ Who are you ? ” she asked, but taking her time to ask.
“ Sacré matin ! you know who I am.”
“ I know what you are,” she answered quietly.
He did not quite grasp her meaning, but the tone sounded contemptuous, and contempt sorted little with his ideas of his own importance.
“ I ’m the seigneur’s bailiff, — that’s who I am. Gad’rabotin, don’t you put on airs with me ! I ’m for the tribute, so off with your bag and let’s see your catch ! ”
“ I have never yet paid tribute to the seigneur of this manor.”
“Well, you’ll begin now. I’m the new bailiff, and if you don’t pay your tale, up you ’ll come to the court of the fief to-morrow.”
She looked him steadily in the eyes. “ If I were a man, I should not pay the tribute, and should go to the court of the fief to-morrow ; but being a woman,” — she clasped the hand of the child tightly to her for an instant; then, with a sigh, she took the basket from her shoulders, and, opening it, added, — “ but being a woman, the fish I caught in the sea, which belongs to God and to all men, I will divide with the seigneur whose bailiff spies on poor fisherfolk.”
The man growled an oath, and made a motion as though he would catch her by the shoulder in anger, or maybe strike her, but the look in her eyes stopped him. Counting out the fish, and setting apart for him three out of the eight she had caught, she said, “ It matters not so much to me, but there are others poorer than I; they suffer.”
With a leer, the fellow stooped, and, taking up the fish, put them in the pockets of his keminzolle, all slimy from the sea as they were.
“ Bà sû, you have n’t got much to take care of. have you ? It don’t take much to feed two mouths, — not so much as it does three, ma’m selle.”
Before he had finished speaking, the woman, without a word in reply to the gross insult, took the child by the hand and walked along her homeward path toward Plemont.
“A bi’tôt, good-by!” the bailiff laughed brutally; then, standing with his legs apart and his hands thrust down till they fastened on the fish in the pockets of his keminzolle, he called after her in sneering comment, “ Ma fistre! your pride did n’t fall — bà sû ! ”
“ Eh ben, I’ve got mackerel for supper,” he added, as he mounted his horse.
The woman was Guida Landresse, the child was her child, and they lived in the little house upon the cliff at Plemont. They were hastening thither now.
A visitor was awaiting Guida, a man, who, first knocking at the door, then looking in and seeing the room empty save for the dog lying asleep by the fire, had turned slowly away, and going to the cliff edge looked out over the sea. His movements were deliberate, his body moved slowly ; his whole appearance was that of great strength and nervous power. The face was preoccupied ; the eyes were watchful, dark, penetrating. They seemed not only to watch, but to weigh, to meditate, even to listen, —as it were, to do the duty of all the senses at once. In them worked all the forces of his nature ; they were crucibles in which every thought and emotion were consumed. The jaw was set and strong, yet it was not hard. The face contradicted itself. While not gloomy, it had lines like scars telling of past wounds.
It was not despairing, it was not morbid, and it was not resentful; it had the look of one both credulous and indomitable. Belief was stamped upon it ; not expectation, or dreams, or ambition, but trust and fidelity. You would have said he was a man of one set idea, though the head had a breadth sorting little with narrowness of purpose. The body was too healthy to belong to a fanatic, too powerful to be that of a dreamer alone, too reposeful and firm for other than a man of action.
Several times he turned to look toward the house and up the pathway leading from the hillock to the door. Though he waited long he did not seem impatient ; patience was part of him, and not the least part. At last he sat down on a boulder between the house and the shore, and scarcely moved as minute after minute passed, and then an hour, and more, and no one came. At last there was a soft footstep beside him, and he turned. A dog’s nose thrust itself into his hand.
“ Biribi, Biribi! ” he said, patting its head with his big hand. “ Watching and waiting, eh, Biribi ? ” The dog looked into his eyes as if it knew what was said and would speak, — or indeed was speaking in its own language. “ That ’s the way of life, Biribi, — watching and waiting, and watching, always watching.”
Suddenly the dog caught its head away from his hand, gave a short, joyful bark, and darted up the hillock.
“ Guida and the child,” the man said aloud, moving toward the house, — “Guida and the child.”
He saw her and the little one before they saw him. Presently the child said, “ See, maman ! ” and pointed.
Guida started. A swift flush passed over her face ; then she smiled and made a step forward to meet her visitor.
“ Maître Ranulph — Ranulph ! ” she said, holding out her hand. “ It’s a long time since we met.”
“ A year,” he answered simply, “ just a year.” He looked down at the child ; then stooped and caught him up in his arms, and said, “ He’s grown. Es-tu gentiment ? ” he added to the child, — “ es-tu gentiment, m’sieu’ ? ”
The child did not quite understand this. “ Please ? ” he said in true Jersey fashion, at which the mother was troubled.
“ Oh, oh, Guilbert, is that what you should say ? ”
The child looked up quaintly at her, and, with the same whimsical smile which Guida had given to another so many years before, he looked at Ranulph and said, “ Pardon, monsieur ? ”
“ Coum est qu’on êtes, m’sieu’ ? ” said Ranulph in another patois greeting.
Guida shook her head reprovingly. The child glanced swiftly at his mother, as though for permission to reply as he wished, then back at Ranulph, and was about to speak, when Guida said, “ I have not taught him the Jersey patois, Ranulph; only English and French.”
Her eyes met his clearly, meaningly. Her look said to him as plainly as words, “ The child’s destiny is not here.” But as if he knew that in this she was blinding herself, and that no one can escape the influences of surroundings, he held the child back from him, and with a smile said, “ Coum est-ce qu’on est, m’sieu’ ? ” Now the child, with his own elfish sense of the situation, replied in English, “Naicely, then kyou ! ”
“ You see,” said Ranulph to Guida, “ there are things that are stronger than we are. There’s a teaching deeper than anything we may show. The wind and earth and sea, and people we live with, they make us sing their song one way or another. It’s in our bones.”
A look of pain passed over Guida’s face ; she turned almost abruptly to the doorway, and said, with just the slightest hesitation, “ You will come in ? ”
There was no hesitation on his part. “ Oui-gia ! ” he returned, and stepped inside.
She hastily hung up the child’s cap and her own ; and as she gathered in the soft, waving hair, Ranulph noticed how the years had only burnished it more deeply and strengthened the beauty of the head. She had made the gesture unconsciously, but catching the look in his eye a sudden thrill of anxiety ran through her. Recovering herself, however, and with an air of bright friendliness and hospitality, she laid her hand upon the great armchair above which hung the ancient sword of her ancestor, the Comte Guilbert Mauprat de Chambéry, and said, “ Sit here, Ranulph.”
Seating himself he gave a heavy sigh, — one of those passing breaths of content which come to the hardest lives now and then ; as though the spirit of life itself, in ironical apology for human existence, gave the instant of respite from which hope is born again. Not for four long years had Ranulph sat thus quietly in the presence of Guida. At first, when Maîitresse Aimable had told him that Guida was leaving the Place du Vier Prison to live in this lonely place with her new-born child, he had gone to entreat her to remain ; but Maîtresse Aimable had been present then, and all that he could say — all that he might speak out of his friendship, out of the old love, now deep pitifulness and sorrow — was of no avail. It had been borne in upon him then that she was not morbid, but that her mind had a sane, fixed purpose which she was intent to fulfill. It was as though she had made some strange covenant with a little helpless life, with a little face that was all her face; and that covenant she would keep.
So he had left her, and so to do her service had been granted elsewhere. The Chevalier du Champsavoys, with a perfect wisdom and nobility, insisted on being to Guida what he had always been, speaking as naturally of her and the child as though there had always been a Guida and the child. Thus it was that he counted himself her protector, though he sat far away in the upper room of Elie Mattingley’s house in the Rue d’Egypte, thinking his own thoughts, biding the time when Guida should come back to the world, and mystery be over, and peace and happiness return ; hoping only that he might live to see it.
Under his directions, Jean Touzel had removed the few things that Guida took with her to Plemont; instructed by him, Elie Mattingley sold at auction the house and its furniture, and Guida invested the proceeds with the fishing company which already received the yearly income from her mother’s small property.
Thus Guida had settled at Plemont, and there three years of her life had passed.
“ Your father.—how is he?” asked Guida presently.
“ Feebler,” replied Ranulph ; “ he goes abroad but little now.”
“ It was said that the Royal Court was to make him a gift in remembrance of the battle of Jersey.”
Ranulph turned his head away from her to the child, and beckoned him over. The little one came instantly. As Ranulph lifted him on his knee he answered Guida : “ My father did not accept.”
“ Then they said you were to be connétable, — the grand monsieur ! ” She smiled at him in a friendly way.
“ I did not accept,” replied Ranulph. “ Most people would be glad of it,” rejoined Guida. “ My mother used to say you would be bailly one day.”
“ Who knows ? — perhaps I might have been! ”
She looked at him half sadly, half curiously. “You— you have n’t any ambition now, Maître Ranulph ? ”
It suddenly struck her that perhaps she was responsible for the maiming of this man’s life; for clearly it was maimed. More than once she had thought of it, but it came home to her to-day with peculiar force. Years ago every one had spoken of Ranulph Delagarde as one who might do great things; for to the eyes of a Jerseyman to be bailly was to be great, with six jurats sitting on either side of him, and more importance than any judge in the kingdom. As she looked back now, that day on the Ecréhos, when she had met Philip d’Avranche and Ranulph’s father had returned, seemed to mark the change in him. He had never been the same since then.
A great bitterness welled up in her. Without intention, without blame or sin, she had brought suffering upon others. The untoward happenings of her life had killed her grandfather, had bowed and aged the old chevalier, had forced her to reject the friendship of Carterette Mattingley, — for Carterette’s own sake, — had made the heart of one fat old woman heavy within her ; and she felt now that it had taken hope and ambition from the life of this man before her. Love in itself is but a bitter pleasure : when it is given to the unworthy it becomes a torture ; and so far as Ranulph and the world knew, she was wholly unworthy. Of late she had sometimes wondered if, after all, she had had the right to do as she had done: as though, indeed, she had asked herself whether any one person, in serene independence of conscience, may stand quite free to live regardless of all others in the world ; whether to act for one’s own heart, feelings, and life alone, no matter how perfect the honesty, is not a sort of noble cruelty, or cruel nobility, — an egotism which obeys but its own commandments, finding its own straight and narrow path by first disbarring the feelings and lives of others. It had now and again occurred to her, had she done what was best for the child ? Any moment’s misgiving upon this point made her heart ache bitterly. Was life, then, a series of triste condonings at the best, of humiliating compromises at the worst ?
She repeated her question to Ranulph: “ You have n’t ambition any longer ? ”
“ I’m busy building ships,” he answered evasively. “ I build good ships, they tell me, and I am strong and healthy. As for being connétable, I should rather, I’m afraid, help prisoners free than hale them before the Royal Court. For somehow, when you get at the bottom of most crimes, — the small ones, leastways, — you find that they were n’t quite meant. I expect — I expect that half the crimes ought never to be punished at all; for it’s strange that those things which hurt most can’t be punished by law.”
“ Perhaps it evens up in the long end,” replied Guida, turning away from him to the fire, and feeling her heart beat faster as she saw how the child nestled in Ranulph’s arms, — the child who had no father. “ You see,” she added, “ if some are punished who ought n’t to be, there are others who ought to be that are n’t. And the worst of it is, we care so little for real justice that we would n’t punish if we could,—I have come to feel that. Sometimes, if you do exactly what’s right, you hurt some one you don’t wish to hurt; and if you don’t do exactly what’s right, perhaps that some one else hurts you. So, often, we would rather be hurt than hurt.”
With the last words she turned from the fire and involuntarily faced him. Their eyes met. In hers were only the pity of life, the sadness, the cruelty of misfortune, and friendliness for him. In his eyes was purpose, definite, strong.
He went over and put the child in his high-chair. Then coming a little nearer to Guida, he said, “ There ’s only one thing in life that really hurts, — playing false.”
Her heart suddenly stopped beating. What was Ranulph going to say ? After all these years was he going to speak of Philip ? But she did not reply according to her thought.
“ Have people played false in your life, ever ? ” she asked.
“ If you ’ll listen to me, I ’ll tell you how,” he answered.
“Wait, wait,” she said, in trepidation. “ It — it has nothing to do with me ? ”
He shook his head. “ It has only to do with my father and myself. When I’ve told you, then you must say whether you will have anything to do with it or with me. . . . You remember,” he continued, without waiting for her to speak, “ you remember that day upon the Ecréhos, four years ago ? Well, that day I had made up my mind to tell you in so many words what I hoped you had always known, Guida. I did n’t. Why ? Not because of another man,—no, no, I don’t mean to hurt you, but I must tell you the truth now, — not because of another man, for I should have bided my chance with him.”
“ Ranulph, Ranulph,” she broke in, “you must not speak of this now! Do you not see it hurts me ? It is not like you — it is not right of you ” —
A sudden emotion seized him, and his voice shook.
“ Not right ? You should know that I would never say one word to hurt you, or do one thing to wrong you. But I must speak to-day, — I must tell you everything. I’ve thought of it for four long years, and I know now that what I mean to do is right.”
She sat down in the great armchair. A weakness came upon her ; she was being brought face to face with days of which she had never allowed herself to think, for she lived always in the future.
“ Go on,” she said helplessly. “ Tell me what you have to say, Ranulph.”
“ I will tell you why I did n’t speak of my love to you, that day we went to the Ecréhos. My father came back that day.”
“ Yes, yes,” she returned ; “ of course you had to think of him.”
“Yes, I had to think of him, but not in the way you mean. Be patient a little white,” he added.
Then in a few words he told her the whole story of his father’s treachery and crime, from the night before the battle of Jersey up to their meeting again upon the Ecréhos.
Guida was amazed and moved. Her heart filled with pity. “ Ranulph — poor Ranulph! ” she cried, half rising in her seat.
“ No, no, — wait,” he rejoined. “ Sit just where you are till I tell you all. Guida, you don’t know what a life it has been for me these four years. I used to be able to look every man in the face without caring whether he liked me or hated me; for then I had never lied, I had never done a mean thing to any man ; I had never deceived, — nanningia, never ! But when my father came back, then I had to play a false game. He had lied, and to save him I either had to hold my peace or tell his story. Speaking was lying, and being silent was lying. Mind you, I’m not complaining. I ’m not saying it because I want any pity. No; I’m saying it because it ’s the truth, and I want you to know the truth. You understand what it means to feel right in your own mind; feeling that way, the rest of life is easy. Eh ben, what a thing it is to get up in the morning, build your fire, make your breakfast, and sit down facing a man whose whole life is a lie, and that man your own father! Some morning perhaps you forget, and you go out into the sun, and it all seems good out there, and you take your tools and go to work, and the sea comes washing up the shingle, and you think that the shir-r-r-r of the water on the pebbles and the singing of the saw and the clanging of the hammer are the best music in the world. But all at once you remember ! — and then you work harder, not because you love work now for its own sake, but because it uses up your misery and makes you tired ; and being tired you can sleep, and in sleep you can forget. Yet nearly all the time you ’re awake it fairly kills you, for you feel some one always at your elbow, whispering, ‘ You ’ll never be happy again, — you ’ll never be happy again.’ And when you tell the truth about anything, that some one at your elbow laughs, and says, ‘ Nobody believes ; your whole life’s a lie.’ And if the worst man you know passes you by, that some one at your elbow says,
‘ You can wear a mask, but you ’re no better than he — no better, no ’ ” —
While Ranulph spoke, Guida’s face showed a pity and a kindness as deep as the sorrow which had deepened her nature. She shook her head once or twice, as though to say, “Surely, what suffering ! ” And now this seemed to strike Ranulph, to convict him of selfishness, for he suddenly stopped. His face presently cleared, and, smiling with a little of his old-time unburdened cheerfulness, he said, “ Yet one gets used to it, and one works on because one knows that it will all come right some time. I’m of the kind that waits.”
She looked up at him with her old wide - eyed steadfastness, and replied, “ You are a good man, Ranulph.”
He stood gazing at her a moment without remark ; then he said, “ No, but it’s like you to say I am.” Then he added, “ I ’ve told you the whole truth about myself and about my father. He did a bad thing, and I’ve shielded him. At first, nursing my troubles and my shame, I used to think that I could n’t live it out, that I had no right to have any happiness. But I’ve changed my mind about that, — oui-gia ! As I hammered away at my ships, month in, month out, year in, year out, the truth came home to me at last. What right had I to sit down and brood over my miseries ? I did n’t love my father, but I’ve done wrong for him and I’ve stood by him ; well, I did love — and I do love—some one else, and I should only be doing right to tell her so, and to ask her to let me stand with her against the world.”
He was looking down at her with all his story in his face, and she put out her hand quickly as if in protest, and said, “ Ranulph — ah no, Ranulph ” —
“ But yes, Guida,” he replied, with stubborn tenderness, “ it is you I mean, — it is you I have always meant. You have always been a hundred times more to me than my father, but I let you fight your fight alone. I’ve waked up now to my selfishness. But I tell you also that, though I love you better than anything in the world, if things had gone well with you, I ’d never have come to you. I never have come, because of my father, and I 'd never have come, because you are too far above me. I only come now because we ’re both apart from the world and lonely beyond telling, because we need each other. I come with just one thing to say, that we two should stand together. There are none that can be so near as those that have had hard troubles, that have had bitter wrongs. And when there’s love, too, what can break the bond ? You and I, Guida, are apart from the world, each in a black loneliness that no one understands. Let us be lonely no longer. Let us live our lives together. What shall we care for the rest of the world, if we know that we mean to do good, and not wrong ? So I’ve come to ask you to let me care for you and the child, — to ask you to make my home your home. My father has n’t long to live, and when he is gone we can leave this island forever. Will you come, Guida ? ”
She had not taken her eyes from his, and as his story grew her face lighted with emotion, — the glow of a moment’s content, of a fleeting joy. In spite of all, this man loved her, he wanted to marry her, — in spite of all. Glad to know that such men lived, and with how sombre memories contrasting with this bright experience, she said to him once again, “ You are a good man, Ranulph.”
Coming near to her, he murmured in a voice husky with feeling, “ You will be my wife, Guida ? ”
She stood up, one hand resting on the arm of the great chair, the other partly extended in pitying deprecation. “ No, Ranulph, no ; I can never, never be your wife, — never in this world. ”
For an instant he looked at her, dumfounded, overwhelmed ; then he turned away to the fireplace slowly and heavily. “ I suppose it was too much to hope for,” he said bitterly. He realized now how much she was above him, even in her sorrow and shame.
“You forget,” she answered quietly, and her hand went out suddenly to the brown curls of the child, “ you forget what the world says about me.”
There was a kind of fierceness in his look as he turned to her again. “ Me — I have always forgotten —everything,” he returned. “ Have you thought that for all these years I’ve believed one word? Secours d’la vie ! of what use is faith, what use to trust, if you thought I believed ! I do not know the truth, for you have not told me ; but I do know, as I know I have a heart in me, I do know that there never was any wrong in you. It is you who forget,” he added quickly,
— “ it is you who forget. I tried to tell you all this before, — three years ago I tried to tell you. You stopped me, you would not listen. Perhaps you have thought I did not know what was happening to you every week, almost every day of your life. A hundred times I have walked here, and you have not seen me : when you were asleep, when you were fishing, when you were working like a man in the fields and the garden,
— you who ought to be cared for by a man, working like a slave at man’s work ! But no, no, you have not thought well of me, or you would have known that every day I cared, every day I watched, and waited, and hoped, and believed ! ”
She came to him slowly where he stood, his great frame trembling with his passion and the hurt she had given him, and, laying her hand upon his arm, she said, “ Your faith was a blind one, Ro. I was either a girl who — who deserved nothing of the world, or I was a wife. I had no husband, had I ? Then I must have been a girl who — who deserved nothing of the world or of you. Your faith was blind, Ranulph, — you see it was blind.”
“What I know is this,” he replied, with dogged persistence, — “ what I know is this : that whatever was wrong, there was no wrong in you. My life a hundred times on that! ”
She smiled at him, the brightest smile that had been on her face these years past, and she answered softly, “I did not think there was so great faith; no, not in Israel ! ” Then the happiness passed from her lips to her eyes. “ Your faith has made me happy, Ro ; I am selfish, you see. Your love in itself could not make me happy, for I have no right to listen to words of love, because ” —
She paused. It seemed too hard to say ; the door of her heart inclosing her secret opened so slowly, so slowly. A struggle was going on in her. Every fibre of her nature was alive. Once, twice, thrice, she tried to speak, and could not. At last, with bursting soul and eyes swimming with tears, she said solemnly, “ I can never marry you, Ranulph, and I have no right to listen to your words of love, because — because I am a wife.”
Then she gave a great sigh of relief, like some penitent who has for a lifetime hidden a sin or a sorrow, and suddenly finds the joy of a confessional that relieves the sick heart, takes away the hand of loneliness that clamps it, and gives it freedom again ; that lifts the poor slave from the rack of secrecy, the most cruel Inquisition of Life and Time. She said the words once more, a little louder, a little clearer. She had vindicated herself to God ; now she had vindicated herself to man, — though to but one man.
“ I can never marry you, because I am a wife,” she repeated. There was a slight pause, and then the final word was said, — “ I am the wife of Philip d’Avranche.”
Ranulph did not speak. He stood still and rigid, looking with eyes that scarcely saw her; for a mist of conflicting emotions and numb impressions had clouded them.
“ I had not intended to tell any one until the time should come,” — once more her hand reached out and tremblingly stroked the head of the child, — “ but your belief in me has forced it from me. I could not now let you go from me ignorant of the truth, — you whose faith is beyond telling. Ranulph, I want you to know that I am at least no worse than you thought me.”
The look in his face was one of triumph, mingled with despair, hatred, and purpose,— hatred of Philip d’Avranche, and purpose concerning him. He gloried now in knowing that Guida might take her place among the honest women of this world, — as the world terms honesty,
— but he had received the death-blow to his every hope. So he had lost her altogether, — he who had watched and waited; who had served and followed, in season and out of season ; who had been the faithful friend, keeping his eye fixed only upon her happiness ; who had given all; who had poured out his heart like water, and his life like wine, before her !
At first all he thought of was that Philip d’Avranche was the husband of the woman he loved, and that Philip had deserted her. Then a remembrance stunned him : Prince Philip d’Avranche, Duc de Bercy, had another wife! He remembered — it had been burned into his brain the day he saw it first in the Gazette de Jersey — that he had married the Comtesse Chantavoine, niece of the Marquis Grandjon-Larisse, upon the very day, and but an hour before, the old Due de Bercy suddenly died. It flashed across his mind now what he had felt then. He had always believed that Philip had wronged Guida ; and long ago he would have gone in search of him, — gone to try the strength of his arm against this cowardly marauder, as he held him, — but his father’s ill health had kept him where he was, and Philip, too, was at sea upon the nation’s business. So the years had gone on until now.
His brain soon cleared. All that he had ever thought upon the matter now crystallized itself into the very truth of the affair. Philip had married Guida secretly; but his new future had opened up to him all at once, and he had married again, —a crime, but a crime which in high places sometimes goes unpunished. Yet how monstrous it was that such vile wickedness should be delivered against this woman before him, in whom beauty, goodness, power, were commingled ! She was the real Princess Philip d’Avranche, and this child of hers — Ah, now he understood why she allowed the child to speak no patois !
They scarcely knew how long they stood silent: she with her hand stroking the child’s golden hair ; he white and dazed, looking — looking at her and the child, as the thing resolved itself to him. At last, in a voice which neither he nor she could quite recognize as his own, he said, “ Of course you live now only for the child.”
How she thanked him in her heart for the things he had left unsaid, — those things which clear-minded and greatminded folk, high or humble, always understand ! There was no selfish lamenting upon his part; there were no reproaches, none of the futile banalities of the lover who fails to see that it is no crime for a woman not to love him. The thing he had said was the thing she most cared to hear.
“ Only for that, Ranulph,” she answered.
“ When will you claim the child’s rights ?”
She shook her head sadly. “ I do not know,” she replied, with hesitation. “ I will tell you all about it,” she added hastily.
Then she told him of the lost register of St. Michael’s and of the Reverend Lorenzo Dow, but she said nothing as to why she had kept silence. She felt that, man though he was, he might divine something of the truth. In any case he knew that Philip had deserted her.
After a moment he said, “ I ’ll find Mr. Dow if he is alive, and the register too. Then the boy shall have his rights at once.”
“ No, Ranulph,” she answered firmly, “it shall be in my own time. I must keep the child with me. I know not when I shall speak, — I am biding the day. Once I thought I never should speak, but then I did not see all, — did not wholly realize my duty toward Guilbert. It is so hard to do what is wise and just.”
“ When the proofs are found, your child shall have his rights,” he continued, with grim insistence.
“I would never let him go from me,”she said, and, leaning over, she impulsively clasped the little Guilbert in her arms.
“ There ’ll be no need for the child to go from you,” he rejoined; “for when your rights come to you, Philip d’Avranche will not be living.”
“Will not be living!” she cried in amazement. She did not understand at first.
“ I mean to kill him,” he replied sternly.
She started violently, and the light of anger leaped into her eyes. “You mean to kill Philip d’Avranche, — you, Maître Ranulph Delagarde ! ” she said. “ Whom has he wronged? Myself and my child only, — his wife and his child. Men have been killed for lesser wrongs, but the right to kill does not belong to you. You speak of killing Philip d’Avranche, and yet you dare to say you are my friend ! ”
In that moment Ranulph learned more than he had ever guessed of life’s subtle distinctions and the workings of a woman’s mind ; and he also knew that she was right. Her father, her grandfather, might have killed Philip d’Avranche, — any one but himself, he the man who had but just declared his love for her. Clearly his selfishness had blinded him. Right was on his side, but not the formal codes by which men live. He could not avenge Guida’s wrongs upon her husband, for all men knew that he had loved her for years.
“ Forgive me,” he said in a low tone ; “you are right. But you will let me help you in those other things, —to have justice for your child ? ”
“You see you can do that for me, Ranulph,” she answered gently.
A new thought came to him. “ Do you think your not speaking all these years was best for the child ? ” he asked.
Her lips trembled. “ Oh, that thought,” she said, “ that thought has made me unhappy so often ! It comes to me sometimes at night, as I lie sleepless, and I wonder if my boy will grow up and turn against me one day. Yet I did what I thought was right, Ranulph, — I did the only thing I could do. I would rather have died than ” —
She stopped short. No, not even to this man who knew all could she speak her whole mind, but sometimes the thought came to her with horrifying acuteness: was it possible that she ought to have sunk her own disillusions, misery, contempt, and hatred of Philip d’Avranche, for the child’s sake ? She shuddered even now as the reflection of that possibility came to her !
Of late she had felt that a crisis was near. She had had premonitions that her fate, whatever it was, was closing in upon her : that these days in this lonely spot with Guilbert, with her love for him and his love for her, were numbered ; that dreams must soon give way to action, and this devoted peace would be broken, she knew not how.
Stooping, she kissed the little fellow upon the forehead and upon the eyes, and his hands came up and clasped her cheeks.
“ Tu m’aimes, maman ? ” he asked. She had taught him the pretty question.
“ Comme la vie, comme la vie ! ” she answered, with a half-sob, and drew him from his chair to her bosom.
Now she looked toward the window. Ranulph followed the look, and saw that the shades of night were falling.
“ I have far to walk,” he said ; “ I must be going.”
As he held out his hand to Guida the child leaned over and touched him on the shoulder. “ What is your name, man ? ” he asked.
Ranulph smiled, and, taking the warm little hand in his own, he said, “ My name is Ranulph, little gentleman, but you shall call me Ro.”
“Good-night, Ro—man,” the child answered, with the same mischievous smile that had once belonged to Guida.
The scene brought up another such scene in Guida’s life, so many years ago. Instinctively she drew back, a look of pain crossing her face. But Ranulph did not see ; he was going. At the doorway he turned, and said, “ You may trust me.”
Guida did not answer in words, but she nodded and smiled, saying more plainly than words could say, “You are a good man, Ranulph.”
When Ranulph returned to his little house at St. Aubin’s Bay night had fallen. Approaching it, he saw that there was no light in the windows, that the blinds were not drawn, that there was no glimmer of a fire in the chimney. He hesitated at the door, for he instinctively felt that something must have happened to his father. He was just about to enter, however, when some one came hurriedly round the corner of the house.
“ Whist, boy ! ” said a voice. “ I’ve news for you.” Ranulph recognized the voice as that of Dormy Jamais. Dormy plucked at his sleeve. “ Come with me, boy ! ”
“ No, no ; come inside, if you want to tell me something,” returned Ranulph.
“ Ah bah, not for me ! Stone walls have ears. I ’ll tell you and the wind that hears and runs away.”
“ I must speak to my father first, " answered Ranulph.
“ Then come with me. I 've got him safe ! ” Dormy chuckled to himself.
Ranulph’s heavy hand dropped on his shoulder. “ What’s that you ’re saying, — my father with you ? What’s the matter ? ”
As though oblivious of Ranulph’s hand Dormy went on chuckling.
“ Whoever burns me for a fool will lose their ashes. Des monz à fous, — I have a head ! Come with me.”
Ranulph saw that he must humor the shrewd natural, so he said, “ Et ben, put your four shirts in five bundles and come along.” He was a true Jerseyman at heart, and speaking to such as Dormy Jamais he used the homely patois phrases. He knew there was no use hurrying the little man ; he would take his own time.
“ There’s been the devil to pay ! ” said Dormy, as he ran toward the shore, his sabots going clac - clac, clac - clac. “ There’s been the devil to pay in St. Helier’s, boy ! ” He spoke scarcely above a whisper,
“ Tchèche — what’s that ? ” said Ranulph.
But Dormy was not to uncover his pot of roses till his own time.
“ That connétable’s got no more wit than a square-bladed knife ! ” he rattled on. “ But gache-à-penn, I 'm hungry ! ” And as he ran he began munching a lump of bread he took from his pocket.
For the next five minutes they went on in silence. It was quite dark, and as they passed up Market Hill — called Ghost Lane because of the Good Little People who made it their highway — Dormy caught hold of Ranulph’s coat and trotted along beside him. As they went up the hill, tokens of the life within came out to them through doorway and window. Now it was the voice of a laughing young mother : —
Manges ta main
Et gardes l’autre pour demain ;
Et ta tête
Pour le jour do fête ;
Et ton gros ortée
Pour le Jour Saint Norbé.”
And again : —
The lark from head to tail.”
Ranulph knew the voice. It was that of a young wife of the parish of St. Saviour : married happily ; living simply ; given a frugal board, simple clothing after the manner of her kind, and a comradeship for life. For the moment he felt little but sorrow for himself. The world seemed to be conspiring against him : the chorus of Fate was singing behind the scenes, — singing of the happiness of others in sardonic comment on his own final unhappiness ; yet despite the pain of finality he felt something also of the apathy of despair.
From another doorway came fragments of a song sung at a veille. The door was open, and he could see within the happy gathering of lads and lasses. There was the spacious kitchen, its beams and rafters dark with age, adorned with flitches of bacon, huge loaves resting in the raclyi beneath the centre beam, the broad open hearth, the flaming fire of logs, and the great brass pan, shining like freshly coined gold, on its iron tripod over the logs. There were the lasses, in their short woolen petticoats, close caps, and bedgônes of blue and lilac ; the lads stirring with all their might the contents of the vast bashin, — many cabots of apples, together with sugar, lemon-peel, and cider; the old ladies, in mob-caps tied under the chin, measuring out the nutmeg and cinnamon by the light of the crasset, to complete the making of the black butter, — a jocund recreation for all, and at all times.
In a corner was a fiddler, and on the veille, flourished for the occasion with flowers and ferns, sat two centeniers and the prévôt, singing an old song of the veilles in the patois of three parishes.
Ranulph looked at the scene lingeringly. Here he was, with mystery and peril to hasten his steps, loitering at the spot where the light of home streamed out upon the roadway. But though he loitered, somehow he seemed withdrawn from all these things ; they were to him now almost like a picture of a distant past.
Dormy plucked at his coat. “ Come, come, lift your feet, lift your feet,” said he ; “ it’s no time to walk in slippers. The old man will be getting scared, ouigia!”
Ranulph roused himself. Yes, yes, he must hurry on. He had not forgotten his father, but something had held him here a moment, — as though Fate had whispered in his ear, " What does it matter now ? While yet you may, feed on the sight of happiness.” Just so, the prisoner going to execution seizes one of the few moments left to him for prayer, to look lingeringly upon what he leaves, as though to carry into the dark a clear remembrance of it all.
Moving on quietly in a kind of dream, Ranulph was roused again by Dormy’s voice: “ On Sunday I saw three magpies, and there was a wedding that day. Tuesday I saw two, which is for joy, and that day fifty Jersey prisoners of the French comes back on Jersey. This morning one I saw. One magpie is for trouble, and trouble’s here. One does n’t have eyes for naught, — no, bidemme ! ”
Ranulph’s patience was exhausted. He would no longer ask for Dormy’s news ; he would question if he had any.
“ Bachouar ! ” he exclaimed roughly, “ you make elephants out of fleas. You’ve got no more news than a conch shell has music, and when I’ve got to the end of this you shall have a backhander that ’ll put you to sleep, Maitre Dormy! ”
If he had been asked politely, Dormy would have been still more cunningly reticent. To abuse him in his own argot was to make him loose his bag of mice in a flash.
“ Bachouar yourself, Maître Ranulph! You 'll find out soon. No news — no trouble — eh ! Par madé, Mattingley ’s gone to the Vier Prison — he! The baker’s come back, and the connétable’s after Olivier Delagarde ! No trouble, pardingue ! If no trouble, Dormy Jamais ’s a bat’ d’la goule, and no need for father of you to hide in a place that only Dormy Jamais knows — my good ! ”
So at last the blow had fallen, — after all these years of silence, sacrifice, and misery. The futility of all that he had done and suffered for his father’s sake came home to Ranulph. Yet his brain was instantly alive. He questioned Dormy rapidly and adroitly, and got the story from him in patches.
The baker, who, with Olivier Delagarde, had betrayed the country into the hands of Rullecour, had been captured, with a French confederate of Mattingley’s, in attempting to steal Jean Touzel’s boat, the Hardi Biaou. The confederate had been mortally wounded at the capture. Before he died he implicated Mattingley in several robberies, and in one well-known case of piracy of three months before, committed within gunshot of the men-of-war lying in the tideway. The baker, seriously wounded, confessed to his crime, having been promised his life on condition that he disclosed the name of the ringleader in the treason which enabled Rullecour to land. He had straightway named Olivier Delagarde. After the capture, the prisoner had been carried to the courthouse and examined in private.
Hidden behind the great chair of the lieutenant-bailly himself, Dormy Jamais had heard the whole business. This had brought him hot-foot to St. Aubin’s Bay, whence he had hurried Olivier Delagarde to a hiding-place in the hills above the bay of St. Brelade. The fool had traveled more swiftly than Jersey justice, whose feet are heavy. Elie Mattingley and the baker were now in the Vier Prison. There was the whole story.
For fifteen years and more Ranulph Delagarde had been called a hero; his father, a hero and a patriot, — a figure of ancient loyalty that more than all else recalled the time when Pierson defeated Rullecour. It was but yesterday, as it were, that they had offered to make Ranulph connétable of St. Helier’s. The mask had fallen, the game was up. Well, at least there would be no more hiding, no more lying, no more inward shame greater than outward obloquy. All at once it appeared to him madness that he bad not taken his father away from Jersey long ago, — that he should have thus awaited here this inevitable hour.
Little good, however, could come of repining or lamenting. Nothing now was left but action. He must save his father ; it was his duty and his right. Some men had yielded up their sons to the sword of justice, but what son could so yield up his father ? — as though it were that he who begot might destroy, but he who was begotten must only save !
Walking fiercely on, thinking only of how he might save his father, he was conscious that the bŭzard beside him was munching bread and apples with idle enjoyment. There came to his mind suddenly the scene of fifteen years before, when, locked and barred in the baker’s shop, he had heard the clac-clac, clacclac, of Dormy’s sabots go by the doorway.
He must get his father clear of the island, and that soon. But how ? and where should they go ? He had a boat in St. Aubin’s Bay ; getting there under cover of darkness, he might embark with his father and set sail — whither ? To Sark ? There was no safety there. To Guernsey ? That was no better. To England ? He might join the English navy, of course, — he had been three years a gunner at Elizabeth Castle. No, not that; for in the navy he should meet with Philip d’Avranche, and if they two met he might forget the promise he had made to Guida. To France ? That was it, — to the war of the Vendée, to join Détricand, Comte Détricand de Tournay. No need to find the scrap of paper Détricand had given him once in the Vier Marchi. Wherever he might be, his great fame would be the highway to him. All France knew of the companion of La Rochejaquelein, the fearless Détricand de Tournay. Since in Jersey there was no longer a place for himself, shamed and dishonored, convicted of complicity in hiding his father’s crime, fighting now in that holy war he would find something to kill thought, to take him out of life without disgrace. France, — his fate awaited him in France. But there was his father still! Well, he would take his father with him to France, and bide his fate.
By the time his mind was thus made up, they had reached the rocky point dividing Portelet Bay from St. Brelade’s, — a lonely headland, not unlike that of Plemont at the north. Dark things were said of this spot, and the folk of the island were wont to avoid it. It had its ghostly lights, its pirates’ caves, and all the mise-en-scène of criminal privacy. That strange lights were seen was undoubted. Beneath the cliffs in the sea was a rocky islet called Janvrin’s Tomb. Here one Janvrin, ill of a fell disease, and with his fellows forbidden by the Royal Court to land, had taken refuge, and here died, wholly neglected and without burial. Afterward his body had lain exposed till the ravens and vultures picked the bones, and at last a great storm swept them off into the sea. Strange lights were to be seen by this rock, and though wise men guessed them mortal glimmerings, easily explained, they sufficed to give the headland immunity from invasion.
Here it was that Dormy Jamais had brought the trembling Olivier Delagarde, whimpering and senile, unrepenting and peevish, but with a craven fear of the Royal Court and a furious populace quickening his footsteps. Ranulph reached the cave which was his father’s hiding-place, through the seemingly impossible entrance of another and larger cave. It was like a little vaulted chapel, floored with sand and shingle. A crevice through rock and earth to the world above let in the light, and let out the smoke. Only the highest tide in the year entered this retreat.
Here Olivier Delagarde sat crouched over a tiny fire, with some bread and a jar of water at his hand, gesticulating and talking to himself. The long white hair and beard, with the benevolent forehead, gave him the look of some latterday St. Helier grieving for the sins and praying for the sorrows of mankind ; but from the hateful mouth came infamous profanity, fit only for the dreadful communion of a Witches’ Sabbath.
When he heard Ranulph and Dormy entering the cave, he cowered and shivered in terror ; but Ranulph, who knew too well his disgusting cowardice, called to him reassuringly. He quieted a little, but went on muttering to himself. As Ranulph approached, he stretched out his talon-like fingers in a gesture of entreaty.
“You’ll not let them hang me, Ranulph, — you ’ll save me ? ” he said.
“ Don’t be afraid ; they shall not hang you,” Ranulph replied quietly, and began warming his hands at the fire ; for, though it was but early autumn, the cave was cold.
“ You ’ll — you ‘ll swear it, Ranulph ? ”
“ I’ve told you they shall not hang you. You ought to know by this time whether I mean what I say,” his son answered, more sharply.
Assuredly Ranulph meant that his father should not be hanged. Whatever the law was, whatever wrong the old man had done, it had been atoned for; the price had been paid by both. He himself had drunk the cup of shame to the dregs, but now he would not swallow the dregs. An iron determination entered into him. He had endured all that he would endure from man. He had set out, to defend Olivier Delagarde from the worst that might happen, and he was ready now to do so to the bitter end. His scheme of justice might not be that of the Royal Court, but he would defend it with his life. He had suddenly grown hard — and dangerous.
The Royal Court was sitting late. Candles had been brought to light the long desk, or dais, where sat the lieutenant-bailly in his great chair, with six scarlet-robed jurats on either side of him. The attorney-general stood at his desk, mechanically scanning the indictment read against prisoners charged with capital crimes. His work was over, and, according to his lights, he had done it well. Not even the undertaker’s apprentice could have been less sensitive to the struggles of humanity under the heel of fate and death. A little plaintive complacency joined to a righteous austerity and an agreeable expression of hunger made the attorney-general a figure in godly contrast to the prisoner awaiting his doom in the iron cage opposite.
There was a singular stillness in this sombre Royal Court, where only a tallow candle or two and a dim lanthorn near the door filled the room with flickering shadows, — great heads upon the wall drawing close together, and vast lips murmuring awful secrets. Low whisperings came through the dusk, like mournful night-winds carrying tales of awe through a heavy forest. Once in the long silence a figure rose up, and, stealing across the room to a door near the jurybox, tapped upon it with a pencil. A moment’s pause, and the door opened slightly, and another shadowy figure appeared, whispered, and vanished. Then the first figure closed the door again quietly, and came and spoke softly up to the lieutenant-bailly, who yawned in his hand, sat back in his chair, and drummed with his fingers upon the arm. Thereupon the other — the greffier of the court — settled down at his desk beneath the jurats, and peered into an open book before him, his eyes close to the page, reading silently by the meagre light of a candle from the jurats’ desk behind him.
Now a fat and ponderous avocat rose up and was about to speak ; but the lieutenant-bailly, with a peevish gesture, waved him down, and he settled heavily into place again.
At last the door at which the greffier had tapped opened, and a gaunt figure in a red robe came out, and, standing in the middle of the room, motioned to the great pew opposite the attorney-general. Slowly the twenty-five men of the grand jury following him filed into place, and sat themselves down in the shadows. Then the gaunt figure, bowing to the lieutenant-bailly and the jurats, went over and took his seat beside the attorneygeneral. Whereupon the bailly leaned forward and droned a question to the grand enquête in the shadow. Then one rose from among the twenty-five, and out of the dusk there came a piping voice in reply to the judge : —
“ We find the prisoner at the bar more guilty than innocent.”
A shudder ran through the court. But some one not in the room shuddered still more violently ; for at the gable window of a house in the Rue des Très Pigeons a girl had sat the livelong day, looking, — looking into the court-room. She had watched the day decline, the evening come, and the lighting of the crasset, and had waited to hear the words that meant more to her than her own life. At last the great moment came, and she could hear the voice of the foreman of the grand enquête whining the fateful words, “ More guilty than innocent.”
It was Carterette Mattingley, and the prisoner at the bar was her father. Not far from Mattingley sat the chief witness against him, Carcaud, the baker, who, with Olivier Delagarde, had betrayed his country, and had now turned King’s evidence.
Carterette did not wait to see the figure issue from the barbarous iron cage grimly recalling the days of Bernal Diaz del Castillo, nor to see the twelve jurats put on their hats to hear the lieutenant-bailly pass sentence of death upon her father. She had other work to do. Even as Ranulph had declared that his father should not be hanged, in like manner she had made a vow. He had so far kept his word, and she would keep hers. She knew more concerning the Vier Prison than did the judges of the Royal Court — and she had laid her plans.
(To be continued.)