THE LAST HOPE
BY HENRY SETON MERRIMAN
"What is it thou knowest, sweet voice?" I cried. "A hidden hope," the voice replied.
I. LE ROI EST MORT
II. VIVE LE ROI
III. THE RETURN OF "THE LAST HOPE"
IV. THE MARQUIS'S CREED
V. ON THE DYKE
VI. THE STORY OF THE CASTAWAYS
VII. ON THE SCENT
VIII. THE LITTLE BOY WHO WAS A KING
IX. A MISTAKE
X. IN THE ITALIAN HOUSE
XI. A BEGINNING
XII. THE SECRET OF GEMOSAC
XIII. WITHIN THE GATES
XIV. THE LIFTED VEIL
XV. THE TURN OF THE TIDE
XVI. THE GAMBLERS
XVII. ON THE PONT ROYAL
XVIII. THE CITY THAT SOON FORGETS
XIX. IN THE BREACH
XXI. NO. 8 RUELLE ST. JACOB
XXII. DROPPING THE PILOT
XXIII. A SIMPLE BANKER
XXIV. THE LANE OF MANY TURNINGS
XXV. SANS RANCUNE
XXVI. RETURNED EMPTY
XXVII. OUT OF THE MOUTHS OF BABES
XXVIII. BAREBONE'S PRICE
XXIX. IN THE DARK
XXX. IN THE FURROW AGAIN
XXXI. THE THURSDAY OF MADAME DE CHANTONNAY
XXXIII. DORMER COLVILLE IS BLIND
XXXIV. A SORDID MATTER
XXXV. A SQUARE MAN
XXXVI. MRS. ST. PIERRE LAWRENCE DOES NOT UNDERSTAND
XXXVII. AN UNDERSTANDING
XXXVIII. A COUP-D'ETAT
XXXIX. "JOHN DARBY"
XL. FARLINGFORD ONCE MORE
THE LAST HOPE
LE ROI EST MORT
"There; that's it. That's where they buried Frenchman," said Andrew—known as River Andrew. For there was another Andrew who earned his living on the sea.
River Andrew had conducted the two gentlemen from "The Black Sailor" to the churchyard by their own request. A message had been sent to him in the morning that this service would be required of him, to which he had returned the answer that they would have to wait until the evening. It was his day to go round Marshford way with dried fish, he said; but in the evening they could see the church if they still set their minds on it.
River Andrew combined the light duties of grave-digger and clerk to the parish of Farlingford in Suffolk with a small but steady business in fish of his own drying, nets of his own netting, and pork slain and dressed by his own weather-beaten hands.
For Farlingford lies in that part of England which reaches seaward toward the Fatherland, and seems to have acquired from that proximity an insatiable appetite for sausages and pork. On these coasts the killing of pigs and the manufacture of sausages would appear to employ the leisure of the few, who for one reason or another have been deemed unfit for the sea. It is not our business to inquire why River Andrew had never used the fickle element. All that lay in the past. And in a degree he was saved from the disgrace of being a landsman by the smell of tar and bloaters that heralded his coming, by the blue jersey and the brown homespun trousers which he wore all the week, and by the saving word which distinguished him from the poor inland lubbers who had no dealings with water at all.
He had this evening laid aside his old sou'wester—worn in fair and foul weather alike—for his Sunday hat. His head-part was therefore official and lent additional value to the words recorded. He spoke them, moreover, with a dim note of aggressiveness which might only have been racy of a soil breeding men who are curt and clear of speech. But there was more than an East Anglian bluffness in the statement and the manner of its delivery, as his next observation at once explained.
"Passen thinks it's over there by the yew-tree—but he's wrong. That there one was a wash-up found by old Willem the lighthouse keeper one morning early. No! this is where Frenchman was laid by."
He indicated with the toe of his sea-boot a crumbling grave which had never been distinguished by a headstone. The grass grew high all over Farlingford churchyard, almost hiding the mounds where the forefathers slept side by side with the nameless "wash-ups," to whom they had extended a last hospitality.
River Andrew had addressed his few remarks to the younger of his two companions, a well-dressed, smartly set-up man of forty or thereabouts, who in turn translated the gist of them into French for the information of his senior, a little white-haired gentleman whom he called "Monsieur le Marquis."
He spoke glibly enough in either tongue, with a certain indifference of manner. This was essentially a man of cities, and one better suited to the pavement than the rural quiet of Farlingford. To have the gift of tongues is no great recommendation to the British born, and River Andrew looked askance at this fine gentleman while he spoke French. He had received letters at the post-office under the name of Dormer Colville: a name not unknown in London and Paris, but of which the social fame had failed to travel even to Ipswich, twenty miles away from this mouldering churchyard.
"It's getting on for twenty-five years come Michaelmas," put in River Andrew. "I wasn't digger then; but I remember the burial well enough. And I remember Frenchman—same as if I see him yesterday."
He plucked a blade of grass from the grave and placed it between his teeth.
"He were a mystery, he were," he added, darkly, and turned to look musingly across the marshes toward the distant sea. For River Andrew, like many hawkers of cheap wares, knew the indirect commercial value of news.
The little white-haired Frenchman made a gesture of the shoulders and outspread hands indicative of a pious horror at the condition of this neglected grave. The meaning of his attitude was so obvious that River Andrew shifted uneasily from one foot to the other.
"Passen," he said, "he don't take no account of the graves. He's what you might call a bookworm. Always a sitting indoors reading books and pictures. Butcher Franks turns his sheep in from time to time. But along of these tempests and the hot sun the grass has shot up a bit. Frenchman's no worse off than others. And there's some as are fallen in altogether."
He indicated one or two graves where the mound had sunk, and suggestive hollows were visible in the grass. "First, it's the coffin that bu'sts in beneath the weight, then it's the bones," he added, with that grim realism which is begotten of familiarity.
Dormer Colville did not trouble to translate these general truths. He suppressed a yawn as he contemplated the tottering headstones of certain master-mariners and Trinity-pilots taking their long rest in the immediate vicinity. The churchyard lay on the slope of rising ground upon which the village of Farlingford straggled upward in one long street. Farlingford had once been a town of some commercial prosperity. Its story was the story of half a dozen ports on this coast—a harbour silted up, a commerce absorbed by a more prosperous neighbour nearer to the railway.
Below the churchyard was the wide street which took a turn eastward at the gates and led straight down to the river-side. Farlingford Quay—a little colony of warehouses and tarred huts—was separated from Farlingford proper by a green, where the water glistened at high tide. In olden days the Freemen of Farlingford had been privileged to graze their horses on the green. In these later times the lord of the manor pretended to certain rights over the pasturage, which Farlingford, like one man, denied him.
"A mystery," repeated River Andrew, waiting very clearly for Mr. Dormer Colville to translate the suggestive word to the French gentleman. But Colville only yawned. "And there's few in Farlingford as knew Frenchman as well as I did."
Mr. Colville walked toward the church porch, which seemed to appeal to his sense of the artistic; for he studied the Norman work with the eye of a connoisseur. He was evidently a cultured man, more interested in a work of art than in human story.
River Andrew, seeing him depart, jingled the keys which he carried in his hand, and glanced impatiently toward the older man. The Marquis de Gemosac, however, ignored the sound as completely as he had ignored River Andrew's remarks. He was looking round him with eyes which had once been dark and bright, and were now dimly yellow. He looked from tomb to tomb, vainly seeking one that should be distinguished, if only by the evidence of a little care at the hands of the living. He looked down the wide grass-grown street—partly paved after the manner of the Netherlands—toward the quay, where the brown river gleamed between the walls of the weather-beaten brick buildings. There was a ship lying at the wharf, half laden with hay; a coasting craft from some of the greater tidal rivers, the Orwell or the Blackwater. A man was sitting on a piece of timber on the quay, smoking as he looked seaward. But there was no one else in sight. For Farlingford was half depopulated, and it was tea-time. Across the river lay the marshes, unbroken by tree or hedge, barren of even so much as a hut. In the distance, hazy and grey in the eye of the North Sea, a lighthouse stood dimly, like a pillar of smoke. To the south—so far as the eye could pierce the sea haze—marshes. To the north—where the river ran between bare dykes—marshes.
And withal a silence which was only intensified by the steady hum of the wind through the gnarled branches of the few churchyard trees which turn a crouching back toward the ocean.
In all the world—save, perhaps, in the Arctic world—it would be hard to find a picture emphasising more clearly the fact that a man's life is but a small matter, and the memory of it like the seed of grass upon the wind to be blown away and no more recalled.
The bearer of one of the great names of France stood knee-deep in the sun-tanned grass and looked slowly round as if seeking to imprint the scene upon his memory. He turned to glance at the crumbling church behind him, built long ago by men speaking the language in which his own thoughts found shape. He looked slowly from end to end of the ill-kept burial ground, crowded with the bones of the nameless and insignificant dead, who, after a life passed in the daily struggle to wrest a sufficiency of food from a barren soil, or the greater struggle to hold their own against a greedy sea, had faded from the memory of the living, leaving naught behind them but a little mound where the butcher put his sheep to graze.
Monsieur de Gemosac was so absorbed in his reflections that he seemed to forget his surroundings and stood above the grave, pointed out to him by River Andrew, oblivious to the cold wind that blew in from the sea, deaf to the clink of the sexton's inviting keys, forgetful of his companion who stood patiently waiting within the porch. The Marquis was a little bent man, spare of limb, heavy of shoulder, with snow-white hair against which his skin, brown and wrinkled as a walnut shell, looked sallow like old ivory. His face was small and aquiline; not the face of a clever man, but clearly the face of an aristocrat. He had the grand manner too, and that quiet air of self-absorption which usually envelops the bearers of historic names.
Dormer Colville watched him with a good-natured patience which pointed, as clearly as his attitude and yawning indifference, to the fact that he was not at Farlingford for his own amusement. Presently he lounged back again toward the Marquis and stood behind him. "The wind is cold, Marquis," he said, pleasantly. "One of the coldest spots in England. What would Mademoiselle say if I allowed you to take a chill?"
De Gemosac turned and looked at him over his shoulder with a smile full of pathetic meaning. He spread out his arms in a gesture indicative of horror at the bleakness of the surroundings; at the mournfulness of the decaying village; the dreary hopelessness of the mouldering church and tombs.
"I was thinking, my friend," he said. "That was all. It is not surprising ... that one should think."
Colville heaved a sigh and said nothing. He was, it seemed, essentially a sympathetic man; not of a thoughtful habit himself, but tolerant of thought in others. It was abominably windy and cold, although the corn was beginning to ripen; but he did not complain. Neither did he desire to hurry his companion in any way.
He looked at the crumbling grave with a passing shadow in his clever and worldly eyes, and composed himself to await his friend's pleasure.
In his way he must have been a philosopher. His attitude did not suggest that he was bored, and yet it was obvious that he was eminently out of place in this remote spot. He had nothing in common, for instance, with River Andrew, and politely yawned that reminiscent fish-curer into silence. His very clothes were of a cut and fashion never before seen in Farlingford. He wore them, too, with an air rarely assumed even in the streets of Ipswich.
Men still dressed with care at this time; for d'Orsay was not yet dead, though his fame was tarnished. Mr. Dormer Colville was not a dandy, however. He was too clever to go to that extreme and too wise not to be within reach of it in an age when great tailors were great men, and it was quite easy to make a reputation by clothes alone.
Not only was his dress too fine for Farlingford, but his personality was not in tune with this forgotten end of England. His movements were too quick for a slow-moving race of men; no fools, and wiser than their midland brethren; slow because they had yet to make sure that a better way of life had been discovered than that way in which their Saxon forefathers had always walked.
Colville seemed to look at the world with an exploiting eye. He had a speculative mind. Had he lived at the end of the Victorian era instead of the beginning he might have been a notable financier. His quick glance took in all Farlingford in one comprehensive verdict. There was nothing to be made of it. It was uninteresting because it obviously had no future, nor encouraged any enterprise. He looked across the marshes indifferently, following the line of the river as it made its devious way between high dykes to the sea. And suddenly his eye lighted. There was a sail to the south. A schooner was standing in to the river mouth, her sails glowing rosily in the last of the sunset light.
Colville turned to see whether River Andrew had noticed, and saw that landsman looking skyward with an eye that seemed to foretell the early demise of a favouring wind.
"That's 'The Last Hope,'" he said, in answer to Dormer Colville's question. "And it will take all Seth Clubbe's seamanship to save the tide. 'The Last Hope.' There's many a 'Hope,' built at Farlingford, and that's the last, for the yard is closed and there's no more building now."
The Marquis de Gemosac had turned away from the grave, but as Colville approached him he looked back to it with a shake of the head.
"After eight centuries of splendour, my friend," he said. "Can that be the end—that?"
"It is not the end," answered Colville, cheerfully, "It is only the end of a chapter. Le roi est mort—vive le roi!"
He pointed with his stick, as he spoke, to the schooner creeping in between the dykes.
VIVE LE ROI
"The Last Hope" had been expected for some days. It was known in Farlingford that she was foul, and that Captain Clubbe had decided to put her on the slip-way at the end of the next voyage. Captain Clubbe was a Farlingford man. "The Last Hope" was a Farlingford built ship, and Seth Clubbe was not the captain to go past his own port for the sake of saving a few pounds.
"Farlingford's his nation," they said of him down at the quay. "Born and bred here, man and boy. He's not likely to put her into a Thames dry-dock while the slip-way's standing empty."
All the village gossips naturally connected the arrival of the two gentlemen from London with the expected return of "The Last Hope." Captain Clubbe was known to have commercial relations with France. It was currently reported that he could speak the language. No one could tell the number of his voyages backward and forward from the Bay to Bristol, to Yarmouth, and even to Bergen, carrying salt-fish to those countries where their religion bids them eat that which they cannot supply from their own waters, and bringing back wine from Bordeaux and brandy from Charente.
It is not etiquette, however, on these wind-swept coasts to inquire too closely into a man's business, and, as in other places, the talk was mostly among those who knew the least—namely, the women. There had been a question of repairing the church. The generation now slowly finding its way to its precincts had discussed the matter since their childhood and nothing had come of it.
One bold spirit put forth the suggestion that the two gentlemen were London architects sent down by the Queen to see to the church. But the idea fell to the ground before the assurance from Mrs. Clopton's own lips that the old gentleman was nothing but a Frenchman.
Mrs. Clopton kept "The Black Sailor," and knew a deal more than she was ready to tell people; which is tantamount to saying that she was a woman in a thousand. It had leaked out, however, that the spokesman of the party, Mr. Dormer Colville, had asked Mrs. Clopton whether it was true that there was claret in the cellars of "The Black Sailor." And any one having doubts could satisfy himself with a sight of the empty bottles, all mouldy, standing in the back yard of the inn.
They were wine-merchants from France, concluded the wiseacres of Farlingford over their evening beer. They had come to Farlingford to see Captain Clubbe. What could be more natural! For Farlingford was proud of Captain Clubbe. It so often happens that a man going out into the world and making a great name there, forgets his birthplace and the rightful claim to a gleam of reflected glory which the relations of a great man—who have themselves stayed at home and done nothing—are always ready to consider their due reward for having shaken their heads over him during the earlier struggles.
Though slow of tongue, the men of Farlingford were of hospitable inclination. They were sorry for Frenchmen, as for a race destined to smart for all time under the recollection of many disastrous defeats at sea. And of course they could not help being ridiculous. Heaven had made them like that while depriving them of any hope of ever attaining to good seamanship. Here was a foreigner, however, cast up in their midst, not by the usual channel indeed, but by a carriage and pair from Ipswich. He must feel lonesome, they thought, and strange. They, therefore, made an effort to set him at his ease, and when they met him in "the street" jerked their heads at him sideways. The upward jerk is less friendly and usually denotes the desire to keep strictly within the limits of acquaintanceship. To Mr. Dormer Colville they gave the upward lift of the chin as to a person too facile in speech to be desirable.
The dumbness of the Marquis do Gemosac appealed perhaps to a race of seafaring men very sparingly provided by nature with words in which to clothe thoughts no less solid and sensible by reason of their terseness. It was at all events unanimously decided that everything should be done to make the foreigner welcome until the arrival of "The Last Hope." A similar unanimity characterised the decision that he must without delay be shown Frenchman's grave.
River Andrew's action and the unprecedented display of his Sunday hat on a week-day were nothing but the outcome of a deep-laid scheme. Mrs. Clopton had been instructed to recommend the gentlemen to inspect the church, and the rest had been left to the wit of River Andrew, a man whose calling took him far and wide, and gave him opportunities of speech with gentlefolk.
These opportunities tempted River Andrew to go beyond his instructions so far as to hint that he could, if encouraged, make disclosures of interest respecting Frenchman. Which was untrue; for River Andrew knew no more than the rest of Farlingford of a man who, having been literally cast up by the sea at their gates, had lived his life within those gates, had married a Farlingford woman, and had at last gone the way of all Farlingford without telling any who or what he was.
From sundry open cottage doors and well-laden tea-tables glances of inquiry were directed toward the strangers' faces as they walked down the street after having viewed the church. Some prescient females went so far as to state that they could see quite distinctly in the elder gentleman's demeanour a sense of comfort and consolation at the knowledge thus tactfully conveyed to him that he was not the first of his kind to be seen in Farlingford.
Hard upon the heels of the visitors followed River Andrew, wearing his sou'wester now and carrying the news that "The Last Hope" was coming up on the top of the tide.
Farlingford lies four miles from the mouth of the river, and no ship can well arrive unexpected at the quay; for the whole village may see her tacking up under shortened sail, heading all ways, sometimes close-hauled, and now running free as she follows the zigzags of the river.
Thus, from the open door, the villagers calculated the chances of being able to finish the evening meal at leisure and still be down at the quay in time to see Seth Clubbe bring his ship alongside. One by one the men of Farlingford, pipe in mouth, went toward the river, not forgetting the kindly, sideward jerk of the head for the old Frenchman already waiting there.
It was nearly the top of the tide and the clear green water swelled and gurgled round the weedy piles of the quay, bringing on its surface tokens from the sea—shadowy jelly-fish, weed, and froth. "The Last Hope" was quite close at hand now, swinging up in mid-stream. The sun had set and over the marshes the quiet of evening brooded hazily. Captain Clubbe had taken in all sail except a jib. His anchor was swinging lazily overside, ready to drop. The watchers on the quay could note the gentle rise and fall of the crack little vessel as the tide lifted her from behind. She seemed to be dancing to her home like a maiden back from school. The swing of her tapering masts spoke of the heaving seas she had left behind.
It was characteristic of Farlingford that no one spoke. River Andrew was already in his boat, ready to lend a hand should Captain Clubbe wish to send a rope ashore. But it was obvious that the captain meant to anchor in the stream for the night: so obvious that if any one on shore had mentioned the conclusion his speech would have called for nothing but a contemptuous glance from the steady blue eyes all round him.
It was equally characteristic of a Farlingford ship that there were no greetings from the deck. Those on shore could clearly perceive the burly form of Captain Clubbe, standing by the weather rigging. Wives could distinguish their husbands, and girls their lovers; but, as these were attending to their business with a taciturn concentration, no hand was raised in salutation.
The wind had dropped now. For these are coasts of quiet nights and boisterous days. The tide was almost slack. "The Last Hope" was scarcely moving, and in the shadowy light looked like a phantom ship sailing out of a dreamy sunset sky.
Suddenly the silence was broken, so unexpectedly, so dramatically, that the old Frenchman, to whose nature such effects would naturally appeal with a lightning speed, rose to his feet and stood looking with startled eyes toward the ship. A clear strong voice had broken joyously into song, and the words it sang were French:
"C'est le Hasard, Qui, tot ou tard, Ici bas nous seconde; Car, D'un bout du monde A l'autre bout, Le Hasard seul fait tout."
Not only were the words incongruous with their quaint, sadly gay air of a dead epoch of music and poetry; but the voice was in startling contrast to the tones of a gruff and slow-speaking people. For it was a clear tenor voice with a ring of emotion in it, half laughter, half tears, such as no Briton could compass himself, or hear in another without a dumb feeling of shame and shyness.
But those who heard it on the shore—and all Farlingford was there by this time—only laughed curtly. Some of the women exchanged a glance and made imperfectly developed gestures, as of a tolerance understood between mothers for anything that is young and inconsequent.
"We've gotten Loo Barebone back at any rate," said a man, bearing the reputation of a wit. And after a long pause one or two appreciators answered:
"You're right," and laughed good-humouredly.
The Marquis de Gemosac sat down again, with a certain effort at self-control, on the balk of timber which had been used by some generations of tide-watchers. He turned and exchanged a glance with Dormer Colville, who stood at his side leaning on his gold-headed cane. Colville's expression seemed to say:
"I told you what it would be. But wait: there is more to come."
His affable eyes made a round of the watching faces, and even exchanged a sympathetic smile with some, as if to hint that his clothes were only fine because he belonged to a fine generation, but that his heart was as human as any beating under a homelier coat.
"There's Passen," said one woman to another, behind the corner of her apron, within Colville's hearing. "It takes a deal to bring him out o' doors nowadays, and little Sep and—Miss Miriam."
Dormer Colville heard the words. And he heard something unspoken in the pause before the mention of the last name. He did not look at once in the direction indicated by a jerk of the speaker's thumb, but waited until a change of position enabled him to turn his head without undue curiosity. He threw back his shoulders and stretched his legs after the manner of one cramped by standing too long in one attitude.
A hundred yards farther up the river, where the dyke was wider, a grey-haired man was walking slowly toward the quay. In front of him a boy of ten years was endeavouring to drag a young girl toward the jetty at a quicker pace than she desired. She was laughing at his impetuosity and looking back toward the man who followed them with the abstraction and indifference of a student.
Colville took in the whole picture in one quick comprehensive glance. But he turned again as the singer on board "The Last Hope" began another verse. The words were clearly audible to such as knew the language, and Colville noted that the girl turned with a sudden gravity to listen to them.
"Un tel qu'on vantait Par hasard etait D'origine assez minoe; Par hasard il plut, Par hasard il fut Baron, ministre, et prince."
Captain Clubbe's harsh voice broke into the song with the order to let go the anchor. As the ship swung to the tide the steersman, who wore neither coat nor waistcoat, could be seen idly handling the wheel still, though his duties were necessarily at an end. He was a young man, and a gay salutation of his unemployed hand toward the assembled people—as if he were sure that they were all friends—stamped him as the light-hearted singer, so different from the Farlingford men, so strongly contrasted to his hearers, who nevertheless jerked their heads sideways in response. He had, it seemed, rightly gauged the feelings of these cold East Anglians. They were his friends.
River Andrew's boat was alongside "The Last Hope" now. Some one had thrown him a rope, which he had passed under his bow thwart and now held with one hand, while with the other he kept his distance from the tarry side of the ship. There was a pause until the schooner felt her moorings, then Captain Clubbe looked over the side and nodded a curt salutation to River Andrew, bidding him, by the same gesture, wait a minute until he had donned his shore-going jacket. The steersman was pulling on his coat while he sought among the crowd the faces of his more familiar friends. He was, it seemed, a privileged person, and took it for granted that he should go ashore with the captain. He was, perhaps, one of those who seemed to be privileged at their birth by Fate, and pass through life on the sunny side with a light step and laughing lips.
Captain Clubbe was the first to step ashore, with one comprehensive nod of the head for all Farlingford. Close on his heels the younger sailor was already returning the greetings of his friends.
"Hullo, Loo!" they said; or, "How do, Barebone?" For their tongues are no quicker than their limbs, and to this day, "How do?" is the usual greeting.
The Marquis de Gemosac, who was sitting in the background, gave a sharp little exclamation of surprise when Barebone stepped ashore, and turned to Dormer Colville to say in an undertone:
"Ah—but you need say nothing."
"I promised you," answered Colville, carelessly, "that I should tell you nothing till you had seen him."
THE RETURN OF "THE LAST HOPE"
Not only France, but all Europe, had at this time to reckon with one who, if, as his enemies said, was no Bonaparte, was a very plausible imitation of one.
In 1849 France, indeed, was kind enough to give the world a breathing space. She had herself just come through one of those seething years from which she alone seems to have the power of complete recovery. Paris had been in a state of siege for four months; not threatened by a foreign foe, but torn to pieces by internal dissension. Sixteen thousand had been killed and wounded in the streets. A ministry had fallen. A ministry always does fall in France. Bad weather may bring about such a descent at any moment. A monarchy had been thrown down—a king had fled. Another king; and one who should have known better than to put his trust in a people.
Half a dozen generals had attempted to restore order in Paris and confidence in France. Then, at the very end of 1848, the fickle people elected this Napoleon, who was no Bonaparte, President of the new Republic, and Europe was accorded a breathing space. At the beginning of 1849 arrangements were made for it—military arrangements—and the year was almost quiet.
It was in the summer of the next year, 1850, that the Marquis de Gemosac journeyed to England. It was not his first visit to the country. Sixty years earlier he had been hurried thither by a frenzied mother, a little pale-faced boy, not bright or clever, but destined to pass through days of trial and years of sorrow which the bright and clever would scarcely have survived. For brightness must always mean friction, while cleverness will continue to butt its head against human limitations so long as men shall walk this earth.
He had been induced to make this journey thus, in the evening of his days, by the Hope, hitherto vain enough, which many Frenchmen had pursued for half a century. For he was one of those who refused to believe that Louis XVII had died in the prison of the Temple.
Not once, but many times, Dormer Colville laughingly denied any responsibility in the matter.
"I will not even tell the story as it was told to me," he said to the Marquis de Gemosac, to the Abbe Touvent and to the Comtesse de Chantonnay, whom he met frequently enough at the house of his cousin, Mrs. St. Pierre Lawrence, in that which is now the Province of the Charente Inferieure. "I will not even tell you the story as it was told to me, until one of you has seen the man. And then, if you ask me, I will tell you. It is nothing to me, you understand. I am no dreamer, but a very material person, who lives in France because he loves the sunshine, and the cuisine, and the good, kind hearts, which no government or want of government can deteriorate."
And Madame de Chantonnay, who liked Dormer Colville—with whom she admitted she always felt herself in sympathy—smiled graciously in response to his gallant bow. For she, too, was a materialist who loved the sunshine and the cuisine; more especially the cuisine.
Moreover, Colville never persuaded the Marquis de Gemosac to come to England. He went so far as to represent, in a realistic light, the discomforts of the journey, and only at the earnest desire of many persons concerned did he at length enter into the matter and good-naturedly undertake to accompany the aged traveller.
So far as his story was concerned, he kept his word, entertaining the Marquis on the journey and during their two days' sojourn at the humble inn at Farlingford with that flow of sympathetic and easy conversation which always made Madame de Chantonnay protest that he was no Englishman at all, but all that there was of the most French. Has it not been seen that Colville refused to translate the dark sayings of River Andrew by the side of the grass-grown grave, which seemed to have been brought to the notice of the travellers by the merest accident?
"I promised you that I should tell you nothing until you had seen him," he repeated, as the Marquis followed with his eyes the movements of the group of which the man they called Loo Barebone formed the centre.
No one took much notice of the two strangers. It is not considered good manners in a seafaring community to appear to notice a new-comer. Captain Clubbe was naturally the object of universal attention. Was he not bringing foreign money into Farlingford, where the local purses needed replenishing now that trade had fallen away and agriculture was so sorely hampered by the lack of roads across the marsh?
Clubbe pushed his way through the crowd to shake hands with the Rev. Septimus Marvin, who seemed to emerge from a visionary world of his own in order to perform that ceremony and to return thither on its completion.
Then the majority of the onlookers straggled homeward, leaving a few wives and sweethearts waiting by the steps, with patient eyes fixed on the spidery figures in the rigging of "The Last Hope." Dormer Colville and the Marquis de Gemosac were left alone, while the rector stood a few yards away, glaring abstractedly at them through his gold-rimmed spectacles as if they had been some strange flotsam cast up by the high tide.
"I remember," said Colville to his companion, "that I have an introduction to the pastor of the village, who, if I am not mistaken, is even now contemplating opening a conversation. It was given to me by my banker in Paris, who is a Suffolk man. You remember, Marquis, John Turner, of the Rue Lafayette?"
"Yes—yes," answered the Marquis, absently. He was still watching the retreating villagers, with eyes old and veiled by the trouble that they had seen.
"I will take this opportunity of presenting myself," said Colville, who was watching the little group from the rectory without appearing to do so. He rose as he spoke and went toward the clergyman, who was probably much younger than he looked. For he was ill-dressed and ill-shorn, with straggling grey hair hanging to his collar. He had a musty look, such as a book may have that is laid on a shelf in a deserted room and never opened or read. Septimus Marvin, the world would say, had been laid upon a shelf when he was inducted to the spiritual cure of Farlingford. But no man is ever laid on a shelf by Fate. He climbs up there of his own will, and lies down beneath the dust of forgetfulness because he lacks the heart to arise and face the business of life.
Seeing that Dormer Colville was approaching him, he came forward with a certain scholarly ease of manner as if he had once mixed with the best on an intellectual equality.
Colville's manners were considered perfect, especially by those who were unable to detect a fine line said to exist between ease and too much ease. Mr. Marvin recollected John Turner well. Ten years earlier he had, indeed, corresponded at some length with the Paris banker respecting a valuable engraving. Was Mr. Colville interested in engravings? Colville confessed to a deep and abiding pleasure in this branch of art, tempered, he admitted with a laugh, by a colossal ignorance. He then proceeded to give the lie to his own modesty by talking easily and well of mezzotints and etchings.
"But," he said, interrupting himself with evident reluctance, "I am forgetting my obligations. Let me present to you my companion, an old friend, the Marquis de Gemosac."
The two gentlemen bowed, and Mr. Marvin, knowing no French, proceeded to address the stranger in good British Latin, after the manner of the courtly divines of his day. Which Latin, from its mode of pronunciation, was entirely unintelligible to its hearer.
In return, the rector introduced the two strangers to his niece, Miriam Liston.
"The mainstay of my quiet house," he added, with his vague and dreamy smile.
"I have already heard of you," said Dormer Colville at once, with his modest deference, "from my cousin, Mrs. St. Pierre Lawrence."
He seemed, as sailors say, never to be at a loose end; but to go through life with a facile readiness, having, as it were, his hands full of threads among which to select, with a careless affability, one that must draw him nearer to high and low, men and women, alike.
They talked together for some minutes, and, soon after the discovery that Mariam Liston was as good a French scholar as himself, and therefore able to converse with the Marquis de Gemosac, Colville regretted that it was time for them to return to their simple evening meal at "The Black Sailor."
"Well," said Colville to Monsieur de Gemosac, as they walked slowly across the green toward the inn, embowered in its simple cottage-garden, all ablaze now with hollyhocks and poppies—"well, after your glimpse at this man, Marquis, are you desirous to see more of him?"
"My friend," answered the Frenchman, with a quick gesture, descriptive of a sudden emotion not yet stilled, "he took my breath away. I can think of nothing else. My poor brain is buzzing still, and I know not what answers I made to that pretty English girl. Ah! You smile at my enthusiasm; you do not know what it is to have a great hope dangling before the eyes all one's life. And that face—that face!"
In which judgment the Marquis was no doubt right. For Dormer Colville was too universal a man to be capable of concentrated zeal upon any one object. He laughed at the accusation.
"After dinner," he answered, "I will tell you the little story as it was told to me. We can sit on this seat, outside the inn, in the scent of the flowers and smoke our cigarette."
To which proposal Monsieur de Gemosac assented readily enough. For he was an old man, and to such the importance of small things, such as dinner or a passing personal comfort, are apt to be paramount. Moreover, he was a remnant of that class to which France owed her downfall among the nations; a class represented faithfully enough by its King, Louis XVI, who procrastinated even on the steps of the guillotine.
The wind went down with the sun, as had been foretold by River Andrew, and the quiet of twilight lay on the level landscape like sleep when the two travellers returned to the seat at the inn door. A distant curlew was whistling cautiously to its benighted mate, but all other sounds were still. The day was over.
"You remember," said Colville to his companion, "that six months after the execution of the King, a report ran through Paris and all France that the Dillons had succeeded in rescuing the Dauphin from the Temple."
"That was in July, 1793—just fifty-seven years ago—the news reached me in Austria," answered the Marquis.
Colville glanced sideways at his companion, whose face was set with a stubbornness almost worthy of the tenacious Bourbons themselves.
"The Queen was alive then," went on the Englishman, half diffidently, as if prepared for amendment or correction. "She had nearly three months to live. The separation from her children had only just been carried out. She was not broken by it yet. She was in full possession of her health and energy. She was one of the cleverest women of that time. She was surrounded by men, some of whom were frankly half-witted, others who were drunk with excess of a sudden power for which they had had no preparation. Others, again, were timorous or cunning. All were ignorant, and many had received no education at all. For there are many ignorant people who have been highly educated, Marquis."
He gave a short laugh and lighted a cigarette. "Mind," he continued, after a pause devoted to reflection which appeared to be neither deep nor painful, for he smiled as he gazed across the hazy marshes, "mind, I am no enthusiast, as you yourself have observed. I plead no cause. She was not my Queen, Marquis, and France is not my country. I endeavour to look at the matter with the eye of common-sense and wisdom. And I cannot forget that Marie Antoinette was at bay: all her senses, all her wit alert. She can only have thought of her children. Human nature would dictate such thoughts. One cannot forget that she had devoted friends, and that these friends possessed unlimited money. Do you think, Marquis, that any one man of that rabble was above the reach—of money?"
And Mr. Dormer Colville's reflective smile, as he gazed at the distant sea, would seem to indicate that, after a considerable experience of men and women, he had reluctantly arrived at a certain conclusion respecting them.
"No man born of woman, Marquis, is proof against bribery or flattery—or both."
"One can believe anything that is bad of such dregs of human-kind, my friend," said Monsieur de Gemosac, contemptuously.
"I speak to one," continued Colville, "who has given the attention of a lifetime to the subject. If I am wrong, correct me. What I have been told is that a man was found who was ready, in return for a certain sum paid down, to substitute his own son for the little Dauphin—to allow his son to take the chance of coming alive out of that predicament. One can imagine that such a man could be found in France at that period."
Monsieur de Gemosac turned, and looked at his companion with a sort of surprise.
"You speak as if in doubt, Monsieur Colville," he said, with a sudden assumption of that grand manner with which his father had faced the people on the Place de la Revolution—had taken a pinch of snuff in the shadow of the guillotine one sunny July day. "You speak as if in doubt. Such a man was found. I have spoken with him: I, who speak to you."
THE MARQUIS'S CREED
Dormer Colville smiled doubtfully. He was too polite, it seemed, to be sceptical, and by his attitude expressed a readiness to be convinced as much from indifference as by reasoning.
"It is intolerable," said the Marquis de Gemosac, "that a man of your understanding should be misled by a few romantic writers in the pay of the Orleans."
"I am not misled, Marquis; I am ignorant," laughed Colville. "It is not always the same thing."
Monsieur de Gemosac threw away his cigarette and turned eagerly toward his companion.
"Listen," he said. "I can convince you in a few words."
And Colville leaned back against the weather-worn seat with the air of one prepared to give a post-prandial attention.
"Such a man was found as you yourself suggest. A boy was found who could not refuse to run that great risk, who could not betray himself by indiscreet speech—because he was dumb. In order to allay certain rumours which were going the round of Europe, the National Convention sent three of its members to visit the Dauphin in prison, and they themselves have left a record that he answered none of their questions and spoke no word to them. Why? Because he was dumb. He merely sat and looked at them solemnly, as the dumb look. It was not the Dauphin at all. He was hidden in the loft above. The visit of the Conventionals was not satisfactory. The rumours were not stilled by it. There is nothing so elusive or so vital as a rumour. Ah! you smile, my friend."
"I always give a careful attention to rumours," admitted Colville. "More careful than that which one accords to official announcements."
"Well, the dumb boy was not satisfactory. Those who were paid for this affair began to be alarmed. Not for their pockets. There was plenty of money. Half the crowned heads in Europe, and all the women, were ready to open their purses for the sake of a little boy, whose ill-treatment appealed to their soft hearts: who in a sense was sacred, for he was descended from sixty-six kings. No! Barras and all the other scoundrels began to perceive that there was only one way out of the difficulty into which they had blundered. The Dauphin must die! So the dumb boy disappeared. One wonders whither he went and what his fate might be—"
"With so much to tell," put in Dormer Colville, musingly; "so much unspoken."
It was odd how the roles had been reversed. For the Marquis de Gemosac was now eagerly seeking to convince his companion. The surest way to persuade a man is to lead him to persuade himself.
"The only solution was for the Dauphin to die—in public. So another substitution was effected," continued Monsieur de Gemosac. "A dying boy from the hospital was made to play the part of the Dauphin. He was not at all like him; for he was tall and dark—taller and darker than a son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette could ever have been. The prison was reconstructed so that the sentry on guard could not see his prisoner, but was forced to call to him in order to make sure that he was there. It was a pity that he did not resemble the Dauphin at all, this scrofulous child. But they were in a hurry, and they were at their wits' ends. And it is not always easy to find a boy who will die in a given time. This boy had to die, however, by some means or other. It was for France, you understand, and the safety of the Great Republic."
"One hopes that he appreciated his privilege," observed Colville, philosophically.
"And he must die in public, duly certified for by persons of undoubted integrity. They called in, at the last moment, Desault, a great doctor of that day. But Desault was, unfortunately, honest. He went home and told his assistant that this was not the Dauphin, and that, whoever he might be, he was being poisoned. The assistant's name was Choppart, and this Choppart made up a medicine, on Desault's prescription, which was an antidote to poison."
Monsieur de Gemosac paused, and, turning to his companion, held up one finger to command his full attention.
"Desault died, my friend, four days later, and Choppart died five days after him, and the boy in the Temple died three days after Choppart. And no one knows what they died of. They were pretty bunglers, those gentlemen of the Republic! Of course, they called in others in a hurry; men better suited to their purpose. And one of these, the citizen Pelletan, has placed on record some preposterous lies. These doctors certified that this was the Dauphin. They had never seen him before, but what matter? Great care was taken to identify the body. Persons of position, who had never seen the son of Louis XVI, were invited to visit the Temple. Several of them had the temerity to protect themselves in the certificate. 'We saw what we were informed was the body of the Dauphin,' they said."
Again the old man turned, and held up his hand in a gesture of warning.
"If they wanted a witness whose testimony was without question—whose word would have laid the whole question in that lost and forgotten grave for ever—they had one in the room above. For the Dauphin's sister was there, Marie Therese Charlotte, she who is now Duchess of Angouleme. Why did they not bring her down to see the body, to testify that her brother was dead and the line of Louis XVI ended? Was it chivalry? I ask you if these had shown chivalry to Madame de Lamballe? to Madame Elizabeth? to Marie Antoinette? Was it kindness toward a child of unparalleled misfortune? I ask you if they had been kind to those whom they called the children of the tyrant? No! They did not conduct her to that bedside, because he who lay there was not her brother. Are we children, Monsieur, to be deceived by a tale of a sudden softness of heart? They wished to spare this child the pain! Had they ever spared any one pain—the National Assembly?"
And the Marquis de Gemosac's laugh rang with a hatred which must, it seems, outlive the possibility of revenge.
"There was to be a public funeral. Such a ceremony would have been of incalculable value at that time. But, at the last minute, their courage failed them. The boy was thrown into a forgotten corner of a Paris churchyard, at nine o'clock one night, without witnesses. The spot itself cannot now be identified. Do you tell me that that was the Dauphin? Bah! my friend, the thing was too childish!"
"The ignorant and the unlettered," observed Colville, with the air of making a concession, "are always at a disadvantage—even in crime."
"That the Dauphin was, in the mean time, concealed in the garret of the Tower appears to be certain. That he was finally conveyed out of the prison in a clothes-basket is as certain, Monsieur, as it is certain that the sun will rise to-morrow. And I believe that the Queen knew, when she went to the guillotine, that her son was no longer in the Temple. I believe that Heaven sent her that one scrap of comfort, tempered as it was by the knowledge that her daughter remained a prisoner in their hands. But it was to her son that her affections were given. For the Duchess never had the gift of winning love. As she is now—a cold, hard, composed woman—so she was in her prison in the Temple at the age of fifteen. You may take it from one who has known her all his life. And from that moment to this—"
The Marquis paused, and made a gesture with his hands, descriptive of space and the unknown.
"From that moment to this—nothing. Nothing of the Dauphin."
He turned in his seat and looked questioningly up toward the crumbling church, with its square tower, stricken, years ago, by lightning; with its grass-grown graveyard marked by stones all grey and hoary with immense age and the passage of cold and stormy winters.
"Who knows," he added, "what may have become of him? Who can say where he lies? For a life begun as his began was not likely to be a long one. Though troubles do not kill. Witness myself, who am five years his senior."
Colville looked at him in obedience to an inviting gesture of the hand; looked as at something he did not understand, something beyond his understanding, perhaps. For the troubles had not been Monsieur de Gemosac's own troubles, but those of his country.
"And the Duchess?" said the Englishman at length, after a pause, "at Frohsdorf—what does she say—or think?"
"She says nothing," replied the Marquis de Gemosac, sharply. "She is silent, because the world is listening for every word she may utter. What she thinks ... Ah! who knows? She is an old woman, my friend, for she is seventy-one. Her memories are a millstone about her neck. No wonder she is silent. Think what her life has been. As a child, three years of semi-captivity at the Tuileries, with the mob howling round the railings. Three and a half years a prisoner in the Temple. Both parents sent to the guillotine—her aunt to the same. All her world—massacred. As a girl, she was collected, majestic; or else she could not have survived those years in the Temple, alone—the last of her family. What must her thoughts have been, at night in her prison? As a woman, she is cold, sad, unemotional. No one ever lived through such troubles with so little display of feeling. The Restoration, the Hundred Days, the second Restoration, Louis XVIII, and his flight to England; Charles X and his abdication; her own husband, the Duc d'Angouleme—the Dauphin for many years, the King for half an hour—these are some of her experiences. She has lived for forty years in exile in Mittau, Memel, Warsaw, Koenigsberg, Prague, England; and now she is at Frohsdorf, awaiting the end. You ask me what she says? She says nothing, but she knows—she has always known—that her brother did not die in the Temple."
"Then—" suggested Colville, who certainly had acquired the French art of putting much meaning into one word.
"Then why not seek him? you would ask. How do you know that she has not done so, my friend, with tears? But as years passed on, and brought no word of him, it became less and less desirable. While Louis XVIII continued to reign there was no reason to wish to find Louis XVII, you understand. For there was still a Bourbon, of the direct line, upon the throne. Louis XVIII would scarcely desire it. One would not expect him to seek very diligently for one who would deprive him of the crown. Charles X, knowing he must succeed his brother, was no more enthusiastic in the search. And the Duchess d'Angouleme herself, you ask? I can see the question in your face."
"Yet," conceded Colville. "For, after all, he was her brother."
"Yes—and if she found him, what would be the result? Her uncle would be driven from the throne; her father-in-law would not inherit; her own husband, the Dauphin, would be Dauphin no longer. She herself could never be Queen of France. It is a hard thing to say of a woman—"
Monsieur de Gemosac paused for a moment in reflection.
"Yes," he said at length, "a hard thing. But this is a hard world, Monsieur Colville, and will not allow either men or women to be angels. I have known and served the Duchess all my life, and I confess that she has never lost sight of the fact that, should Louis XVII be found, she herself would never be Queen of France. One is not a Bourbon for nothing."
"One is not a stateswoman and a daughter of kings for nothing," amended Colville, with his tolerant laugh; for he was always ready to make allowances. "Better, perhaps, that France should be left quiet, under the regime she had accepted, than disturbed by the offer of another regime, which might be less acceptable. You always remind me—you, who deal with France—of a lion-tamer at a circus. You have a very slight control over your performing beasts. If they refuse to do the trick you propose, you do not press it, but pass on to another trick; and the bars of the cage always appear to the onlooker to be very inadequate. Perhaps it was better, Marquis, to let the Dauphin go; to pass him over, and proceed to the tricks suitable to the momentary humour of your wild animals."
The Marquis de Gemosac gave a curt laugh, which thrilled with a note of that fearful joy known to those who seek to control the uncontrollable.
"At that time," he admitted, "it might be so. But not now. At that time there lived Louis XVIII and Charles X, and his sons, the Duc d'Angouleme and the Duc de Berri, who might reasonably be expected to have sons in their turn. There were plenty of Bourbons, it seemed. And now—where are they? What is left of them?"
He gave a nod of the head toward the sea that lay between him and Germany.
"One old woman, over there, at Frohsdorf, the daughter of Marie Antoinette, awaiting the end of her bitter pilgrimage—and this Comte de Chambord. This man who will not when he may. No, my friend, it has never been so necessary to find Louis XVII as it is now. Necessary for France—for the whole world. This Prince President, this last offshoot of a pernicious republican growth, will drag us all in the mud if he gets his way with France. And those who have watched with seeing eyes have always known that such a time as the present must eventually come. For France will always be the victim of a clever adventurer. We have foreseen it, and for that reason we have treated as serious possibilities these false Dauphins who have sprung up like mushrooms all over Europe and even in America. And what have they proved? What have the Bourbons proved in frustrating their frauds? That the son of Louis XVI did not die in the Temple. That is all. And Madame herself has gathered further strength to her conviction that the little King was not buried in that forgotten corner of the graveyard of Sainte Marguerite. At the same time, she knows that none of these—neither Naundorff, nor Havergault, nor Bruneau, nor de Richemont, nor any other pretender—was her brother. No! The King, either because he did not know he was King, or because he had had enough of royalty, never came forward and never betrayed his whereabouts. He was to be sought; he is still to be sought. And it is now that he is wanted."
"That is why I offer to tell you this story now. That is my reason for bringing you to Farlingford now," said Colville, quietly. It seemed that he must have awaited, as the wise do in this world, the propitious moment, and should it never come they are content to forego their purpose. He gave a light laugh and stretched out his long legs, contemplating his strapped trousers and neat boots with the eye of a connoisseur. "And should I be the humble means of doing a good turn to France and others, will France—and others—remember it, I wonder. Perhaps I hold in my hands the Hope of France, Marquis."
He paused, and lapsed for a moment into thought. It was eight o'clock, and the long northern twilight was fading into darkness now. The bell of Captain Clubbe's ship rang out the hour—a new sound in the stillness of this forgotten town.
"The Last Hope," added Dormer Colville, with a queer laugh.
ON THE DYKE
Neither had spoken again when their thoughts were turned aside from that story which Colville, instead of telling, had been called upon to hear.
For the man whose story it presumably was passed across the green ere the sound of the ship's bell had died away. He had changed his clothes, or else it would have appeared that he was returning to his ship. He walked with his head thrown up, with long lithe steps, with a gait and carnage so unlike the heavy tread of men wearing sea-boots all their working days, that none would have believed him to be born and bred in Farlingford. For it is not only in books that history is written, but in the turn of a head, in the sound of a voice, in the vague and dreamy thoughts half formulated by the human mind 'twixt sleeping and waking.
Monsieur de Gemosac paused, with his cigarette held poised halfway to his lips, and watched the man go past, while Dormer Colville, leaning back against the wall, scanned him sideways between lowered lids.
It would seem that Barebone must have an appointment. He walked without looking about him, like one who is late. He rather avoided than sought the greeting of a friend from the open cottage-doors as he passed on. On reaching the quay he turned quickly to the left, following the path that led toward the dyke at the riverside.
"He is no sailor at heart," commented Colville. "He never even glanced at his ship."
"And yet it was he who steered the ship in that dangerous river."
"He may be skilful in anything he undertakes," suggested Colville, in explanation. "It is Captain Clubbe who will tell us that. For Captain Clubbe has known him since his birth, and was the friend of his father."
They sat in silence watching the shadowy figure on the dyke, outlined dimly against the hazy horizon. He was walking, still with haste as if to a certain destination, toward the rectory buried in its half circle of crouching trees. And already another shadow was hurrying from the house to meet him. It was the boy, little Sep Marvin, and in the stillness of the evening his shrill voice could be heard in excited greeting.
"What have you brought? What have you brought?" he was crying, as he ran toward Barebone. They seemed to have so much to say to each other that they could not wait until they came within speaking distance. The boy took Barebone's hand, and turning walked back with him to the old house peeping over the dyke toward the sea. He could scarcely walk quietly, for joy at the return of his friend, and skipped from side to side, pouring out questions and answering them himself as children and women do.
But Barebone gave him only half of his attention and looked before him with grave eyes, while the boy talked of nests and knives. Barebone was looking toward the garden, concealed like an entrenchment behind the dyke. It was a quiet evening, and the rector was walking slowly backward and forward on the raised path, made on the dyke itself, like a ship-captain on his quarter-deck, with hands clasped behind his bent back and eyes that swept the horizon at each turn with a mechanical monotony. At one end of the path, which was worn smooth by the Reverend Septimus Marvin's pensive foot, the gleam of a white dress betrayed the presence of his niece, Miriam Liston.
"Ah, is that you?" asked the rector, holding out a limp hand. "Yes. I remember Sep was allowed to sit up till half-past eight in the hope that you might come round to see us. Well, Loo, and how are you? Yes—yes."
And he looked vaguely out to sea, repeating below his breath the words "Yes—yes" almost in a whisper, as if communing secretly with his own thoughts out of hearing of the world.
"Of course I should come round to see you," answered Barebone. "Where else should I go? So soon as we had had tea and I could change my clothes and get away from that dear Mrs. Clubbe. It seems so strange to come back here from the racketing world—and France is a racketing world of its own—and find everything in Farlingford just the same."
He had shaken hands with the rector and with Miriam Liston as he spoke, and his speech was not the speech of Farlingford men at all, but rather of Septimus Marvin himself, of whose voice he had acquired the ring of education, while adding to it a neatness and quickness of enunciation which must have been his own; for none in Suffolk could have taught it to him.
"Just the same," he repeated, glancing at the book Miriam had laid aside for a moment to greet him and had now taken up again. "That book must be very large print," he said, "for you to be able to read by this light."
"It is large print," answered the girl, with a friendly laugh, as she returned to it.
"And you are still resolved to be a sailor?" inquired Marvin, looking at him with kind eyes for ever asleep, it would appear, in some long slumber which must have been the death of one of the sources of human energy—of ambition or of hope.
"Until I find a better calling," answered Loo Barebone, with his eager laugh. "When I am away I wonder how any can be content to live in Farlingford and let the world go by. And when I am here I wonder how any can be so foolish as to fret and fume in the restless world while he might be sitting quietly at Farlingford."
"Ah," murmured the rector, musingly, "you are for the world. You, with your capacities, your quickness for learning, your—well, your lightness of heart, my dear Loo. That goes far in the great world. To be light of heart—to amuse. Yes, you are for the world. You might do something there."
"And nothing in Farlingford?" inquired Barebone, gaily; but he turned, as he spoke, and glanced once more at Miriam Liston as if in some dim way the question could not be answered by any other. She was absorbed in her book again. The print must indeed have been large and clear, for the twilight was fading fast.
She looked up and met his glance with direct and steady eyes of a clear grey. A severe critic of that which none can satisfactorily define—a woman's beauty—would have objected that her face was too wide, and her chin too square. Her hair, which was of a bright brown, grew with a singular strength and crispness round a brow which was serene and square. In her eyes there shone the light of tenacity, and a steady purpose. A student of human nature must have regretted that the soul looking out of such eyes should have been vouchsafed to a woman. For strength and purpose in a man are usually exercised for the good of mankind, while in a woman such qualities must, it would seem, benefit no more than one man of her own generation, and a few who may follow her in the next.
"There is nothing," she said, turning to her book again, "for a man to do in Farlingford."
"And for a woman—?" inquired Barebone, without looking at her.
"There is always something—everywhere."
And Septimus Marvin's reflective "Yes—yes," as he paused in his walk and looked seaward, came in appropriately as a grave confirmation of Miriam's jesting statement.
"Yes—yes," he repeated, turning toward Barebone, who stood listening to the boy's chatter. "You find us as you left us, Loo. Was it six months ago? Ah! How time flies when one remains stationary. For you, I dare say, it seems more."
"For me—oh yes, it seems more," replied Barebone, with his gay laugh, and a glance toward Miriam.
"A little older," continued the rector. "The church a little mouldier. Farlingford a little emptier. Old Godbold is gone—the last of the Godbolds of Farlingford, which means another empty cottage in the street."
"I saw it as I came down," answered Barebone. "They look like last year's nests—those empty cottages. But you have been all well, here at the rectory, since we sailed? The cottages—well, they are only cottages after all."
Miriam's eyes were raised for a moment from her book.
"Is it like that they talk in France?" she asked. "Are those the sentiments of the great republic?"
Barebone laughed aloud.
"I thought I could make you look up from your book," he answered. "One has merely to cast a slur upon the poor—your dear poor of Farlingford—and you are up in arms in an instant. But I am not the person to cast a slur, since I am one of the poor of Farlingford myself, and owe it to charity—to the charity of the rectory—that I can read and write."
"But it came to you very naturally," observed Marvin, looking vaguely across the marshes to the roofs of the village, "to suggest that those who live in cottages are of a different race of beings—"
He broke off, following his own thoughts in silence, as men soon learn to do who have had no companion by them capable of following whithersoever they may lead.
"Did it?" asked Barebone, sharply. He turned to look at his old friend and mentor with a sudden quick distress. "I hope not. I hope it did not sound like that. For you have never taught me such thoughts, have you? Quite the contrary. And I cannot have learned it from Clubbe."
He broke off with a laugh of relief, for he had perceived that Septimus Marvin's thoughts were already elsewhere.
"Perhaps you are right," he added, turning to Miriam. "It may be that one should go to a republic in order to learn—once for all—that all men are not equal."
"You say it with so much conviction," was the retort, "that you must have known it before."
"But I do not know it. I deny such knowledge. Where could I have learned such a principle?"
He spread out his arms in emphatic denial. For he was quick in all his gestures—quick to laugh or be grave—quick, with the rapidity of a woman to catch a thought held back by silence or concealed in speech.
Marvin merely looked at him with a dreamy smile and lapsed again into those speculations which filled his waking moments; for the business of life never received his full attention. He contemplated the world from afar off, and was like that blind man at Bethsaida who saw men as trees walking, and rubbed his eyes and wondered. He turned at the sound of the church clock and looked at his son, whose attitude towards Barebone was that of an admiring younger brother.
"Sep," he said, "your extra half-hour has passed. You will have time tomorrow and for many days to come to exchange views with Loo."
The boy was old before his time, as the children of elderly parents always are.
"Very well," he said, with a grave nod. "But you must not tell Loo where those young herons are after I am gone to bed."
He went slowly toward the house, looking back suspiciously from time to time.
"Herons? no. Why should I? Where are they?" muttered Mr. Marvin, vaguely, and he absent-mindedly followed his son, leaving Miriam Liston sitting in the turf shelter, built like an embrasure in the dyke, and Barebone standing a little distance from her, looking at her.
A silence fell upon them—the silence that follows the departure of a third person when those who are left behind turn a new page. Miriam laid her book upon her lap and looked across the river now slowly turning to its ebb. She did not look at Barebone, but her eyes were conscious of his proximity. Her attitude, like his, seemed to indicate the knowledge that this moment had been inevitable from the first, and that there was no desire on either part to avoid it or to hasten its advent.
"I had a haunting fear as we came up the river," he said at length, quietly and with an odd courtesy of manner, "that you might have gone away. That is the calamity always hanging over this quiet house."
He spoke with the ease of manner which always indicates a long friendship, or a close camaraderie, resulting from common interests or a common endeavour.
"Why should I go away?" she asked.
"On the other hand, why should you stay?"
"Because I fancy I am wanted," she replied, in the lighter tone which he had used. "It is gratifying to one's vanity, you know, whether it be true or not."
"Oh, it is true enough. One cannot imagine what they would do without you."
He was watching Septimus Marvin as he spoke. Sep had joined him and was walking gravely by his side toward the house. They were ill-assorted.
"But there is a limit even to self-sacrifice and—well, there is another world open to you."
She gave a curt laugh as if he had touched a topic upon which they would disagree.
"Oh—yes," he laughed. "I leave myself open to a tu quoque, I know. There are other worlds open to me also, you would say."
He looked at her with his gay and easy smile; but she made no answer, and her resolute lips closed together sharply. The subject had been closed by some past conversation or incident which had left a memory.
"Who are those two men staying at 'The Black Sailor?'" she asked, changing the subject, or only turning into a by-way, perhaps. "You saw them."
She seemed to take it for granted that he should have seen them, though he had not appeared to look in their direction.
"Oh—yes. I saw them, but I do not know who they are. I came straight here as soon as I could."
"One of them is a Frenchman," she said, taking no heed of the excuse given for his ignorance of Farlingford news.
"The old man—I thought so. I felt it when I looked at him. It was perhaps a fellow feeling. I suppose I am a Frenchman after all. Clubbe always says I am one when I am at the wheel and let the ship go off the wind."
Miriam was looking along the dyke, peering into the gathering darkness.
"One of them is coming toward us now," she said, almost warningly. "Not the Marquis de Gemosac, but the other—the Englishman."
"Confound him," muttered Barebone. "What does he want?"
And to judge from Mr. Dormer Colville's pace it would appear that he chiefly desired to interrupt their tete-a-tete.
THE STORY OF THE CASTAWAYS
When River Andrew stated that there were few at Farlingford who knew more of Frenchman than himself, it is to be presumed that he spoke by the letter, and under the reserve that Captain Clubbe was not at the moment on shore.
For Captain Clubbe had known Frenchman since boyhood.
"I understand," said Dormer Colville to him two or three days after the arrival of "The Last Hope," "that the Marquis de Gemosac cannot do better than apply to you for some information he desires to possess. In fact, it is on that account that we are here."
The introduction had been a matter requiring patience. For Captain Clubbe had not laid aside in his travels a certain East Anglian distrust of the unknown. He had, of course, noted the presence of the strangers when he landed at Farlingford quay, but his large, immobile face had betrayed no peculiar interest. There had been plenty to tell him all that was known of Monsieur de Gemosac and Dormer Colville, and a good deal that was only surmised. But the imagination of even the darksome River Andrew failed to soar successfully under the measuring blue eye, and the total lack of comment of Captain Clubbe.
There was, indeed, little to tell, although the strangers had been seen to go to the rectory in quite a friendly way, and had taken a glass of sherry in the rector's study. Mrs. Clacy was responsible for this piece of news, and her profession giving her the entree to almost every back door in Farlingford enabled her to gather news at the fountain-head. For Mrs. Clacy went out to oblige. She obliged the rectory on Mondays, and Mrs. Clubbe, with what was technically described as the heavy wash, on Tuesdays. Whatever Mrs. Clacy was asked to do she could perform with a rough efficiency. But she always undertook it with reluctance. It was not, she took care to mention, what she was accustomed to, but she would do it to oblige. Her charge was eighteen-pence a day with her dinner, and (she made the addition with a raised eyebrow, and the resigned sigh of one who takes her meals as a duty toward those dependent on her) a bit of tea at the end of the day.
It was on a Wednesday that Dormer Colville met Captain Clubbe face to face in the street, and was forced to curb his friendly smile and half-formed nod of salutation. For Captain Clubbe went past him with a rigid face and steadily averted eyes, like a walking monument. For there was something in the captain's deportment dimly suggestive of stone, and the dignity of stillness. His face meant security, his large limbs a slow, sure action.
Colville and Monsieur de Gemosac were on the quay in the afternoon at high tide when "The Last Hope" was warped on to the slip-way. All Farlingford was there too, and Captain Clubbe carried out the difficult task with hardly any words at all from a corner of the jetty, with Loo Barebone on board as second in command.
Captain Clubbe could not fail to perceive the strangers, for they stood a few yards from him, Monsieur de Gemosac peering with his yellow eyes toward the deck of "The Last Hope," where Barebone stood on the forecastle giving the orders transmitted to him by a sign from his taciturn captain. Colville seemed to take a greater interest in the proceedings, and noted the skill and precision of the crew with the air of a seaman.
Presently, Septimus Marvin wandered down the dyke and stood irresolutely at the far corner of the jetty. He always approached his flock with diffidence, although they treated him kindly enough, much as they treated such of their own children as were handicapped in the race of life by some malformation or mental incapacity.
Colville approached him and they stood side by side until "The Last Hope" was safely moored and chocked. Then it was that the rector introduced the two strangers to Captain Clubbe. It being a Wednesday, Clubbe must have known all that there was to know, and more, of Monsieur de Gemosac and Dormer Colville; for Mrs. Clacy, it will be remembered, obliged Mrs. Clubbe on Tuesdays. Nothing, however, in the mask-like face, large and square, of the ship-captain indicated that he knew aught of his new acquaintances, or desired to know more. And when Colville frankly explained their presence in Farlingford, Captain Clubbe nodded gravely and that was all.
"We can wait, however, until a more suitable opportunity presents itself," Colville hastened to add. "You are busy, as even a landsman can perceive, and cannot be expected to think of anything but your vessel until the tide leaves her high and dry."
He turned and explained the situation to the Marquis, who shrugged his shoulders impatiently as if at the delay. For he was a southerner, and was, perhaps, ignorant of the fact that in dealing with any born on the shores of the German Ocean nothing is gained and, more often than not, all is lost by haste.
"You hear," Colville added, turning to the Captain, and speaking in a curter manner; for so strongly was he moved by that human kindness which is vaguely called sympathy that his speech varied according to his listener. "You hear the Marquis only speaks French. It is about a fellow-countryman of his buried here. Drop in and have a glass of wine with us some evening; to-night, if you are at liberty."
"What I can tell you won't take long," said Clubbe, over his shoulder; for the tide was turning, and in a few minutes would be ebbing fast.
"Dare say not. But we have a good bin of claret at 'The Black Sailor,' and shall be glad of your opinion on it."
Clubbe nodded, with a curt laugh, which might have been intended to deprecate the possession of any opinion on a vintage, or to express his disbelief that Dormer Colville desired to have it.
Nevertheless, his large person loomed in the dusk of the trees soon after sunset, in the narrow road leading from his house to the church and the green.
Monsieur de Gemosac and his companion were sitting on the bench outside the inn, leaning against the sill of their own parlour-window, which stood open. The Captain had changed his clothes, and now wore those in which he went to church and to the custom-house when in London or other large cities.
"There walks a just man," commented Dormer Colville, lightly, and no longer word could have described Captain Clubbe more aptly. He would rather have stayed in his own garden this evening to smoke his pipe in contemplative silence. But he had always foreseen that the day might come when it would be his duty to do his best by Loo Barebone. He had not sought this opportunity, because, being a wise as well as a just man, he was not quite sure that he knew what the best would be.
He shook hands gravely with the strangers, and by his manner seemed to indicate his comprehension of Monsieur de Gemosac's well-turned phrases of welcome. Dormer Colville appeared to be in a silent humour, unless perchance he happened to be one of those rare beings who can either talk or hold their tongues as occasion may demand.
"You won't want me to put my oar in, I see," observed he, tentatively, as he drew forward a small table whereon were set three glasses and a bottle of the celebrated claret.
"I can understand French, but I don't talk it," replied the Captain, stolidly.
"And if I interpret as we go along, we shall sit here all night, and get very little said."
Colville explained the difficulty to the Marquis de Gemosac, and agreed with him that much time would be saved if Captain Clubbe would be kind enough to tell in English all that he knew of the nameless Frenchman buried in Farlingford churchyard, to be translated by Colville to Monsieur de Gemosac at another time. As Clubbe understood this, and nodded in acquiescence, there only remained to them to draw the cork and light their cigars.
"Not much to tell," said Clubbe, guardedly. "But what there is, is no secret, so far as I know. It has not been told because it was known long ago, and has been forgotten since. The man's dead and buried, and there's an end of him."
"Of him, yes, but not of his race," answered Colville.
"You mean the lad?" inquired the Captain, turning his calm and steady gaze to Colville's face. The whole man seemed to turn, ponderously and steadily, like a siege-gun.
"That is what I meant," answered Colville. "You understand," he went on to explain, as if urged thereto by the fixed glance of the clear blue eye—"you understand, it is none of my business. I am only here as the Marquis de Gemosac's friend. Know him in his own country, where I live most of the time."
"Frenchman was picked up at sea fifty-five years ago this July," he narrated, bluntly, "by the 'Martha and Mary' brig of this port. I was apprentice at the time. Frenchman was a boy with fair hair and a womanish face. Bit of a cry-baby I used to think him, but being a boy myself I was perhaps hard on him. He was with his—well, his mother."
Captain Clubbe paused. He took the cigar from his lips and carefully replaced the outer leaf, which had wrinkled. Perhaps he waited to be asked a question. Colville glanced at him sideways and did not ask it.
"Dark night," the Captain continued, after a short silence, "and a heavy sea, about mid-channel off Dieppe. We sighted a French fishing-boat yawing about abandoned. Something queer about her, the skipper thought. Those were queer times in France. We hailed her, and getting no answer put out a boat and boarded her. There was nobody on board but a woman and a child. Woman was half mad with fear. I have seen many afraid, but never one like that. I was only a boy myself, but I remember thinking it wasn't the sea and drowning she was afraid of. We couldn't find out the smack's name. It had been painted out with a tar-brush, and she was half full of water. The skipper took the woman and child off, and left the fishing-smack as we found her yawing about—all sail set. They reckoned she would founder in a few minutes. But there was one old man on board, the boatswain, who had seen many years at sea, who said that she wasn't making any water at all, because he had been told to look for the leak and couldn't find it. He said that the water had been pumped into her so as to waterlog her; and it was his belief that she had not been abandoned many minutes, that the crew were hanging about somewhere near in a boat waiting to see if we sighted her and put men on board."
Mr. Dormer Colville was attending to the claret, and pressed Captain Clubbe by a gesture of the hand to empty his glass.
"Something wrong somewhere?" he suggested, in a conversational way.
"By daylight we were ramping up channel with three French men-of-war after us," was Captain Clubbe's comprehensive reply. "As chance had it, the channel squadron hove in sight round the Foreland, and the Frenchmen turned and left us."
Clubbe marked a pause in his narrative by a glass of claret, taken at one draught like beer.
"Skipper was a Farlingford man, name of Doy," he continued. "Long as he lived he was pestered by inquiries from the French government respecting a Dieppe fishing-smack supposed to have been picked up abandoned at sea. He had picked up no fishing-smack, and he answered no letters about it. He was an old man when it happened, and he died at sea soon after my indentures expired. The woman and child were brought here, where nobody could speak French, and, of course, neither of them could speak any English. The boy was white-faced and frightened at first, but he soon picked up spirit. They were taken in and cared for by one and another—any who could afford it. For Farlingford has always bred seafaring men ready to give and take."
"So we were told yesterday by the rector. We had a long talk with him in the morning. A clever man, if—"
Dormer Colville did not complete the remark, but broke off with a sigh. He had no doubt seen trouble himself. For it is not always the ragged and unkempt who have been sore buffeted by the world, but also such as have a clean-washed look almost touching sleekness.
"Yes," said Clubbe, slowly and conclusively. "So you have seen the parson."
"Of course," Colville remarked, cheerfully, after a pause; for we cannot always be commiserating the unfortunate. "Of course, all this happened before his time, and Monsieur de Gemosac does not want to learn from hearsay, you understand, but at first hand. I fancy he would, for instance, like to know when the woman, the—mother died."
Clubbe was looking straight in front of him. He turned in his disconcerting, monumental way and looked at his questioner, who had imitated with a perfect ingenuousness his own brief pause before the word mother. Colville smiled pleasantly at him.
"I tell you frankly, Captain," he said, "it would suit me better if she wasn't the mother."
"I am not here to suit you," murmured Captain Clubbe, without haste or hesitation.
"No. Well, let us say for the present that she was the mother. We can discuss that another time. When did she die?"
"Seven years after landing here."
Colville made a mental calculation and nodded his head with satisfaction at the end of it. He lighted another cigarette.
"I am a business man, Captain," he said at length. "Fair dealing and a clean bond. That is what I have been brought up to. Confidence for confidence. Before we go any further—" He paused and seemed to think before committing himself. Perhaps he saw that Captain Clubbe did not intend to go much further without some quid pro quo. "Before we go any further, I think I may take it upon myself to let you into the Marquis's confidence. It is about an inheritance, Captain. A great inheritance and—well, that young fellow may well be the man. He may be born to greater things than a seafaring life, Captain."
"I don't want any marquis to tell me that," answered Clubbe, with his slow judicial smile. "For I've brought him up since the cradle. He's been at sea with me in fair weather and foul—and he is not the same as us."
ON THE SCENT
Dormer Colville attached so much importance to the Captain's grave jest that he interpreted it at once to Monsieur de Gemosac.
"Captain Clubbe," he said, "tells us that he does not need to be informed that this Loo Barebone is the man we seek. He has long known it."
Which was a near enough rendering, perhaps, to pass muster in the hearing of two persons imperfectly acquainted with the languages so translated. Then, turning again to the sailor, he continued:
"Monsieur de Gemosac would naturally wish to know whether there were papers or any other means of identification found on the woman or the child?"
"There were a few papers. The woman had a Roman Catholic Missal in her pocket, and the child a small locket with a miniature portrait in it."
"Of the Queen Marie Antoinette?" suggested Colville, quickly.
"It may well have been. It is many years since I saw it. It was faded enough. I remember that it had a fall, and would not open afterward. No one has seen it for twenty-five years or so."
"The locket or the portrait?" inquired Colville, with a light laugh, with which to disclaim any suggestion of a cross-examination.
"And the locket?"
"My wife has it somewhere, I believe."
Colville gave an impatient laugh. For the peaceful air of Farlingford had failed to temper that spirit of energy and enterprise which he had acquired in cities—in Paris, most likely. He had no tolerance for quiet ways and a slow, sure progress, such as countrymen seek, who are so leisurely that the years slide past and death surprises them before they have done anything in the world but attend to its daily demand for a passing effort.
"Ah!" he cried, "but all that must be looked into if we are to do anything for this young fellow. You will find the Marquis anxious to be up and doing at once. You go so slowly in Farlingford, Captain. The world is hurrying on and this chance will be gone past before we are ready. Let us get these small proofs of identity collected together as soon as possible. Let us find that locket. But do not force it open. Give it to me as it is. Let us find the papers."
"There are no papers," interrupted Captain Clubbe, with a calm deliberation quite untouched by his companion's hurry.
"No; for Frenchman burnt them before my eyes."
Dormer Colville meditated for a moment in silence. Although his manner was quick, he was perhaps as deliberate in his choice of a question as was Captain Clubbe in answering it.
"Why did he do that? Did he know who he was? Did he ever say anything to you about his former life—his childhood—his recollections of France?"
"He was not a man to say much," answered Clubbe, himself no man to repeat much.
Colville had been trying for some time to study the sailor's face, quietly through his cigar smoke.
"Look here, Captain," he said, after a pause. "Let us understand each other. There is a chance, just a chance, that we can prove this Loo Barebone to be the man we think him, but we must all stand together. We must be of one mind and one purpose. We four, Monsieur de Gemosac, you, Barebone, and my humble self. I fancy—well, I fancy it may prove to be worth our while."
"I am willing to do the best I can for Loo," was the reply.
"And I am willing to do the best I can for Monsieur de Gemosac, whose heart is set on this affair. And," Colville added, with his frank laugh, "let us hope that we may have our reward; for I am a poor man myself, and do not like the prospect of a careful old age. I suppose, Captain, that if a man were overburdened with wealth he would scarcely follow a seafaring life, eh?"
"Then there is money in it?" inquired Clubbe, guardedly.
"Money," laughed the other. "Yes—there is money for all concerned, and to spare."
Captain Clubbe had been born and bred among a people possessing little wealth and leading a hard life, only to come to want in old age. It was natural that this consideration should carry weight. He was anxious to do his best for the boy who had been brought up as his own son. He could think of nothing better than to secure him from want for the rest of his days. There were many qualities in Loo Barebone which he did not understand, for they were quite foreign to the qualities held to be virtues in Farlingford; such as perseverance and method, a careful economy, and a rigid common sense. Frenchman had brought these strange ways into Farlingford when he was himself only a boy of ten, and they had survived his own bringing up in some of the austerest houses in the town, so vitally as to enable him to bequeath them almost unchastened to his son.
As has been noted, Loo had easily lived down the prejudices of his own generation against an un-English gaiety, and inconsequence almost amounting to emotion. And nothing is, or was in the solid days before these trumpet-blowing times, so unwelcome in British circles as emotion.
Frenchman had no doubt prepared the way for his son; but the peculiarities of thought and manner which might be allowed to pass in a foreigner would be less easily forgiven in Loo, who had Farlingford blood in his veins. For his mother had been a Clubbe, own cousin, and, as gossips whispered, once the sweetheart of Captain Clubbe himself and daughter of Seth Clubbe of Maiden's Grave, one of the largest farmers on the Marsh.
"It cannot be for no particular purpose that the boy has been created so different from any about him," Captain Clubbe muttered, reflectively, as he thought of Dormer Colville's words. For he had that simple faith in an Almighty Purpose, without which no wise man will be found to do business on blue water.
"It is strange how a man may be allowed to inherit from a grandfather he has never seen a trick of manner, or a face which are not the manner or face of his father," observed Colville, adapting himself, as was his habit, to the humour of his companion. "There must, as you suggest, be some purpose in it. God writes straight on crooked lines, Captain."
Thus Dormer Colville found two points of sympathy with this skipper of a slow coaster, who had never made a mistake at sea nor done an injustice to any one serving under him; a simple faith in the Almighty Purpose and a very honest respect for money. This was the beginning of a sort of alliance between four persons of very different character which was to influence the whole lives of many.
They sat on the tarred seat set against the weather-beaten wall of "The Black Sailor" until darkness came stealing in from the sea with the quiet that broods over flat lands, and an unpeopled shore. Colville had many questions to ask and many more which he withheld till a fitter occasion. But he learnt that Frenchman had himself stated his name to be Barebone when he landed, a forlorn and frightened little boy, on this barren shore, and had never departed from that asseveration when he came to learn the English language and marry an English wife. Captain Clubbe told also how Frenchman, for so he continued to be called long after his real name had been written twice in the parish register, had soon after his marriage destroyed the papers carefully preserved by the woman whom he never called mother, though she herself claimed that title.
She had supported herself, it appeared, by her needle, and never seemed to want money, which led the villagers to conclude that she had some secret store upon which to draw when in need. She had received letters from France, which were carefully treasured by her until her death, and for long afterward by Frenchman, who finally burnt all at his marriage, saying that he was now an Englishman and wanted to retain no ties with France. At this time, Clubbe remembered, Louis XVIII was firmly established on the throne of France, the Restoration—known as the Second—having been brought about by the Allied Powers with a high hand after the Hundred Days and the final downfall of Napoleon.
Frenchman may well have known that it might be worth his while to return to France and seek fortune there; but he never spoke of this knowledge nor made reference to the recollections of his childhood, which cast a cold reserve over his soul and steeped it with such a deadly hatred of France and all things French, that he desired to sever all memories that might link him with his native country or awake in the hearts of any children he should beget the desire to return thither.
A year after his marriage his wife died, and thus her son, left to the care of a lonely and misanthropic father, was brought up a Frenchman after all, and lisped his first words in that tongue.
"He lived long enough to teach him to speak French and think like a Frenchman, and then he died," said Captain Clubbe—"a young man reckoning by years, but in mind he was an older man than I am today."
"And his secret died with him?" suggested Dormer Colville, looking at the end of his cigar with a queer smile. But Captain Clubbe made no answer.
"One may suppose that he wanted it to die with him, at all events," added Colville, tentatively.
"You are right," was the reply, a local colloquialism in common use, as a clincher to a closed argument or an unwelcome truth. Captain Clubbe rose as he spoke and intimated his intention of departing, by jerking his head sideways at Monsieur de Gemosac, who, however, held out his hand with a Frenchman's conscientious desire to follow the English custom.
"I'll be getting home," said Clubbe, simply. As he spoke he peered across the marsh toward the river, and Colville, following the direction of his gaze, saw the black silhouette of a large lug-sail against the eastern sky, which was softly grey with the foreglow of the rising moon.
"What is that?" asked Colville.
"That's Loo Barebone going up with the sea-breeze. He has been down to the rectory. He mostly goes there in the evening. There is a creek, you know, runs down from Maiden's Grave to the river."
"Ah!" answered Colville, thoughtfully, almost as if the creek and the large lug-sail against the sky explained something which he had not hitherto understood.
"I thought he might have come with you this evening," he added, after a pause. "For I suppose everybody in Farlingford knows why we are here. He does not seem very anxious to seek his fortune in France."
"No," answered Clubbe, lifting his stony face to the sky and studying the little clouds that hovered overhead awaiting the moon. "No—you are right."
Then he turned with a jerk of the head and left them. The Marquis de Gemosac watched him depart, and made a gesture toward the darkness of the night, into which he had vanished, indicative of a great despair.
"But," he exclaimed, "they are of a placidity—these English. There is nothing to be done with them, my friend, nothing to be done with such men as that. Now I understand how it is that they form a great nation. It is merely because they stand and let you thump them until you are tired, and then they proceed to do what they intended to do from the first."
"That is because we know that he who jumps about most actively will be the first to feel fatigue, Marquis," laughed Colville, pleasantly. "But you must not judge all England from these eastern people. It is here that you will find the concentrated essence of British tenacity and stolidity—the leaven that leavens the whole."
"Then it is our misfortune to have to deal with these concentrated English—that is all."
The Marquis shrugged his shoulders with that light despair which is incomprehensible to any but men of Latin race.
"No, Marquis! there you are wrong," corrected Dormer Colville, with a sudden gravity, "for we have in Captain Clubbe the very man we want—one of the hardest to find in this chattering world—a man who will not say too much. If we can only make him say what we want him to say he will not ruin all by saying more. It is so much easier to say a word too much than a word too little. And remember he speaks French as well as English, though, being British, he pretends that he cannot."
Monsieur de Gemosac turned to peer at his companion in the darkness.
"You speak hopefully, my friend," he said. "There is something in your voice—"
"Is there?" laughed Colville, who seemed elated. "There may well be. For that man has been saying things in that placid monotone which would have taken your breath away had you been able to understand them. A hundred times I rejoiced that you understood no English, for your impatience, Marquis, might have silenced him as some rare-voiced bird is silenced by a sudden movement. Yes, Marquis, there is a locket containing a portrait of Marie Antoinette. There are other things also. But there is one draw-back. The man himself is not anxious to come forward. There are reasons, it appears, here in Farlingford, why he should not seek his fortune elsewhere. To-morrow morning—"
Dormer Colville rose and yawned audibly. It almost appeared that he regretted having permitted himself a moment's enthusiasm on a subject which scarcely affected his interests.
"To-morrow morning I will see to it."
THE LITTLE BOY WHO WAS A KING
The Reverend Septimus Marvin had lost his wife five years earlier. It was commonly said that he had never been the same man since. Which was untrue. Much that is commonly said will, on investigation, be found to be far from the truth. Septimus Marvin had, so to speak, been the same man since infancy. He had always looked vaguely at the world through spectacles; had always been at a loss among his contemporaries—a generation already tainted by that shallow spirit of haste which is known to-day as modernity—at a loss for a word; at a loss for a companion soul.