SON OF MONTE-CRISTO.
THE WIFE OF MONTE-CRISTO,
AND END OF THE CONTINUATION TO
ALEXANDER DUMAS' CELEBRATED NOVEL OF
"THE COUNT OF MONTE-CRISTO."
* * * * *
"The Son of Monte-Cristo" stands at the head of all exciting and absorbing novels. It is the sequel to "The Wife of Monte-Cristo," and the end of the continuation of Alexander Dumas' phenomenal romance of "The Count of Monte-Cristo." Like its renowned predecessors, it absolutely swarms with thrilling and dramatic incidents and adventures, everything being fresh, original and delightful. The spell of fascination is cast over the reader in the opening chapter and remains unbroken to the end. It deals chiefly with the astounding career of Esperance, Monte-Cristo's son, whose heroic devotion to Jane Zeld is one of the most touching and romantic love stories ever written. The scenes in Algeria have a wild charm, especially the abduction of Esperance and his struggle with the Sultan on the oasis in the desert. Haydee's experience in the slave mart at Constantinople is particularly stirring and realistic, while the episodes in which the Count of Monte-Cristo figures are exceedingly graphic. The entire novel is powerful and interesting in the extreme. That it will be read by all who have read "The Count of Monte-Cristo" and will delight them is certain.
* * * * *
WM. L. ALLISON COMPANY,
T. B. PETERSON & BROTHERS.
* * * * *
"The Son of Monte-Cristo," the sequel to "The Wife of Monte-Cristo," and end of the continuation of Dumas' masterwork, "The Count of Monte-Cristo," is in all respects a great novel. Romantic in the highest degree, powerful in the widest sense of the term and absorbingly interesting, it is a work absolutely without parallel at the present day. Every chapter has a strong and stirring feature of its own, while all the legions of intensely thrilling incidents are as original and surprising as they are strong. The hero is Esperance, the son of the Count of Monte-Cristo, who is followed from boyhood to the close of his wonderful and unprecedented career. His varied and remarkable adventures form a succession of amazing episodes never equalled in fiction, while his love for the unfortunate Jane Zeld and the strange complications to which it gives rise are depicted in the most fascinating fashion. The Count of Monte-Cristo and Haydee also have thrilling adventures, and Mercedes, Benedetto, Sanselme and Danglars, together with Fanfar, again appear. The hosts of admirers of "The Count of Monte-Cristo" should read "The Son of Monte-Cristo," as well as all who relish a novel of rare merit. They will certainly be delighted with it.
* * * * *
"The Son of Monte-Cristo" stands at the head of all exciting and absorbing novels. It is the sequel to "The Wife of Monte-Cristo," and the end of the continuation of that phenomenal romance, Alexander Dumas' "Count of Monte-Cristo." Like its renowned predecessors, it absolutely swarms with thrilling and dramatic incidents and adventures, everything being fresh, original and delightful. The spell of fascination is cast over the reader in the opening chapter and remains unbroken to the end. It deals chiefly with the astounding career of Esperance, Monte-Cristo's son, whose heroic devotion to Jane Zeld is one of the most touching and romantic love stories ever written. The scenes in Algeria have a wild charm, especially the abduction of Esperance and his struggle with the Sultan on the oasis in the desert. Haydee's experience in the slave mart at Constantinople is particularly stirring and realistic, while the episodes in which the Count of Monte-Cristo figures are exceedingly graphic. The entire novel is powerful and interesting in the extreme. That it will be read by all who have read "The Count of Monte-Cristo" and will delight them is certain.
I. ESPERANCE, THE SON OF MONTE-CRISTO 15
II. HAYDEE, THE WIFE OF MONTE-CRISTO 23
III. THE COUNT OF MONTE-CRISTO 32
IV. FANFAR'S ADVENTURES.—CAIN 38
V. WHAT PIERRE KNEW 40
VI. FRATERNAL THOUGHTS 57
VII. THE VILLAGE 61
VIII. THE PAST OF FRANCOISE 71
IX. WHERE THE INVASION PASSES 76
X. THE HUT AT OUTREMONT 82
XI. CHILDREN IN DARKNESS 87
XII. THE RISING SUN 90
XIII. MISCHIEF 96
XIV. TWO PLACES, S. V. P. 102
XV. MASTER AND SERVANT 107
XVI. WALK IN, GENTLEMEN! 118
XVII. ROBECCAL'S IDEA 125
XVIII. PIERRE LABARRE 133
XIX. A FIRST MEETING 142
XX. THIN PARTITIONS 147
XXI. THE GRATITUDE OF A MARQUIS 154
XXII. POOR BOBICHEL 161
XXIII. FRANCE—1824 170
XXIV. THE MARQUISE 180
XXV. THE VEAU SAUTE 188
XXVI. A MAN CHASE 197
XXVII. A GHOST 204
XXVIII. CINETTE! CINETTE! 212
XXIX. A CONSPIRACY 217
XXX. MACHIAVELLI & CO. 224
XXXI. TRIUMPH 229
XXXII. SURPRISES 233
XXXIII. FACE TO FACE 237
XXXIV. LEIGOUTTE 246
XXXV. THE NEST 258
XXXVI. SUPREME EFFORT 266
XXXVII. THE TRIAL 275
XXXVIII. THE CRISIS 278
XXXIX. THE AUTOPSY 286
XL. BETWEEN CHARYBDIS AND SCYLLA 291
XLI. VIDOCQ, THE CHIEF OF POLICE 296
XLII. TO THOSE WHO LOVE FANFAR 298
XLIII. A LETTER FROM MONTE-CRISTO 304
XLIV. ESPERANCE 307
XLV. "WHAT WILL HE DO?" 310
XLVI. FORWARD! 313
XLVII. JANE ZELD 320
XLVIII. A THUNDER CLAP 332
XLIX. HOW AND WHERE 338
L. CATASTROPHES 345
LI. A SHOT FROM A REVOLVER 353
LII. "WILL JANE ZELD LIVE?" 357
LIII. JANE ZELD'S SECRET 361
LIV. CARMEN 382
LV. THE BANKER 390
LVI. ESPERANCE, MONTE-CRISTO'S SON 397
LVII. THEY MUST BE SAVED 402
LVIII. GOUTRAN AND CARMEN 412
LIX. UPON THE TRACK 422
LX. ESPERANCE IN DESPAIR 428
LXI. ESPERANCE GOES TO COURBERRIE 430
LXII. COUCON 435
LXIII. CARMEN KEEPS HER WORD 438
LXIV. THE PLOT 447
LXV. THE MYSTERIOUS SIGNALS 451
LXVI. UNITED IN DEATH 456
LXVII. THE SPECTRE 462
LXVIII. MONTE-CRISTO, THE MARTYR 468
LXIX. EPILOGUE 471
SON OF MONTE-CRISTO.
THE WIFE OF MONTE-CRISTO.
ESPERANCE, THE SON OF MONTE-CRISTO.
Esperance, the son of Monte-Cristo, lay sleeping in the comfortable bed provided for him in the house of Fanfar, the French colonist, as related at the close of the preceding volume, "The Wife of Monte-Cristo." The prostration and exhaustion brought on by the excitement and fatigue of his terrible adventure with the remorseless Khouans rendered his sleep as leaden as the sleep of death; indeed, had it not been for his heavy respiration, he might have been mistaken for a corpse. But ordinary difficulties were not to conquer the heroic son of Monte-Cristo, who seemed to have inherited all the marvelous power and energy of his noble father, and as he lay there in the hot Algerian night, amid the balmy perfume of the luxuriant tropical flowers, a mysterious smile hovered about the corners of his sharply cut lips that told unmistakably of a fearless nature and a firm desire to promote the success of the good and the true. Esperance slept, and the lion in him was dormant; it was, however, destined soon to be aroused.
In another room, around the family table, Fanfar and his guests were seated, the Count of Monte-Cristo occupying the place of honor. The colonist, at the urgent solicitation of those with whom he had so strangely been brought in contact, was about to relate the story of his life, when suddenly Monte-Cristo's quick ear caught a sound.
"What was that?" he said in a startled whisper, instantly springing to his feet.
"I heard nothing," said Fanfar.
"It was, perhaps, the cry of some wild beast," suggested Captain Joliette.
Monte-Cristo hastened to his son's apartment, followed by Fanfar, Captain Joliette and Coucon, the Zouave.
The boy was still sleeping soundly, and the apartment was altogether undisturbed.
Monte-Cristo uttered a sigh of relief; he bent over the beautiful child and gently kissed him on the forehead.
The party returned to the adjoining room and resumed their seats. Scarcely had they done so when a dark form, shrouded in a green bournous, appeared stealthily at the open window of Esperance's chamber, and, gazing furtively around, lightly sprang into the room.
"Dog of a Frenchman!" hissed the intruder in a low tone between his teeth. "When you flung me over the battlements of Ouargla, you fancied you had killed me; but Maldar bears a charmed life and will have a bitter revenge!"
The intruder was indeed Maldar, the Sultan, who by some miracle had escaped Monte-Cristo's vengeance.
As he spoke he shook his fist in the direction of the Count, who was sitting at the table with the rest of Fanfar's guests, though his sombre air and clouded brow told that, while preserving his outward calmness, he yet suspected the presence of a deadly foe.
Maldar had removed his sandals, and his footsteps were noiseless. He went to the bed and stood for an instant gloating over the slumbering boy.
"I failed before, but I shall not fail again. Allah is great! I will strike this giaour of a Frenchman in his tenderest spot—his heart! The son shall pay the father's debt!"
Half-crouching and gathering his green bournous closely about him, he crept cautiously back to the window and made the sign of the crescent in the air. There was a slight flash, a pale phosphorescent glow, and in the midst of it the emblem of Islam appeared for an instant like a semi-circle of fire and then vanished.
Immediately a Khouan showed himself at the window; he leaped into the apartment, followed by three others of his fanatical and pitiless tribe. The new-comers instantly knelt at Maldar's feet and kissed the hem of his bournous.
"Son of the Prophet," said one of them, "we are here to do your bidding!"
"Rise," said Maldar, "and seize yonder lad, first gagging him with this sacred scarf made from Mohammed's own sainted vestment. Be quick and bear him to the desert!"
The Khouan who had acted as spokesman took the scarf from Maldar's hand and skilfully executed his command. Esperance was in such a deep slumber that he did not make a movement, even when the Arab lifted him from the bed and held him in his arms.
"Away!" cried Maldar in an undertone, adding, as the Khouan sprang from the window and disappeared in the darkness without: "Now, Count of Monte-Cristo, you are once more at my mercy, and this time you will not escape my vengeance!"
He darted through the window, motioning to the remaining Khouans to do likewise. In an instant the room was empty; the Arabs had vanished like a vision of the night.
Ten, fifteen minutes passed, and still not a sound to break the torpor of the Algerian night, save the hum of conversation around the table of Fanfar, the colonist. Monte-Cristo's sombre air had not passed away. He was a prey to a species of uneasiness he had never experienced before. Fanfar, noticing that the Count was disturbed, that some mysterious influence was working upon him, hesitated to commence his narration. Finally he said to him:
"Count, are you anxious concerning your son? If so, you can dismiss your anxiety. The lad is in perfect safety beneath my roof; his slumber will refresh him, and he will awake entirely restored. As for the Khouans, they never deign to visit my humble habitation, and they will hardly break their rule to come here now. Still, to satisfy you and put all your apprehensions at rest, I will go and take a look at the lad."
He arose and went to Esperance's room. In an instant he returned. His face had the pallor of wax.
Monte-Cristo leaped nervously to his feet and stood staring at him, his countenance wearing an expression of intense anguish.
"Well?" said he, in an unsteady voice.
Fanfar was breathless with excitement and terror. When he could find words, he said:
"The lad is gone!"
"My God!" cried Monte-Cristo, putting his hand to his forehead and staggering beneath the overwhelming blow, "I felt it! I had a premonition of some impending disaster, I knew not what! Oh! Esperance! Esperance!"
He hurried into the adjoining room and stood beside the empty bed. The moon was now shining in unclouded splendor and the apartment was almost as light as day. The slight covering had been torn from the couch and lay in a heap on the floor. Near it a small object sparkled; the agonized father stooped and picked it up: it was a miniature dagger of oriental workmanship, and upon its jeweled handle was an inscription in the Arabic tongue. Monte-Cristo took the weapon to the window and the full light of the silvery moonbeams fell upon it. The inscription was from the Koran, and was a maxim adopted by the Khouan tribe. The Count read it and trembled.
"I recognize this weapon," said he; "it is Maldar's. The Sultan is living and has been here! It is to him I owe this terrible misfortune—he has carried away my son!"
Miss Elphys approached the Count and touched his arm.
"We must start in pursuit at once!" said she, with a look of courage and determination.
"We?" cried Madame Caraman, aghast. "You, surely, do not mean again to face the dangers of this barbarous country, to go upon another Quixotic expedition, and drag me with you? Remember you are a woman! Besides, there are plenty of men here for the task!"
Clary glanced at the governess with indignation, but vouchsafed no reply to her selfish speech.
"Mademoiselle," said Captain Joliette, addressing the heroic girl, "your feelings do you honor; but I for one cannot consent for you to imperil your life in a night hunt for the dastardly Khouans, who have certainly made their way to the desert with the abducted lad. Madame Caraman is right; you must not again face the dangers of this barbarous country. Remain here with Madame Irene and Madame Caraman. I will organize and lead the pursuit."
Monte-Cristo, who, in the face of the new dangers that threatened his son, had recovered somewhat of his accustomed calmness, came to them and said:
"I thank you, Miss Elphys, for your generosity and bravery, but you must take the Captain's advice. Captain Joliette, I fully appreciate your motives in wishing to take command in this pursuit, but, at the same time, I must claim the precedence. Remember I am a father, and have a father's duty to perform. I will lead the pursuit."
Captain Joliette bowed.
"So be it," said he, "it is your right."
Coucon, Fanfar, Gratillet and Iron Jaws eagerly offered their services, and even Bobichel forgot his merry pranks and demanded to accompany the expedition. The Count of Monte-Cristo desired the former clown to remain for the protection of the ladies, but Miss Elphys protested against this.
"Take Bobichel with you," she said. "We can protect ourselves."
Bobichel, overjoyed, ran for the horses, and the little army instantly mounted, riding away toward the desert at the top of their animals' speed, with Monte-Cristo at their head.
Meanwhile Maldar and his Khouan followers were dashing along at a rapid pace on the fleet Arab coursers with which they were provided. One of the party bore Esperance before him on his saddle. The boy had not been aroused from his lethargic sleep by the abduction and subsequent flight. He slept peacefully and profoundly.
The fanatical Arabs maintained unbroken silence, and the sound of their horses' hoofs was deadened by the sand.
Maldar rode a trifle in advance. Now that the excitement of the abduction had worn off, he was as stoical as the rest, but occasionally, as he thought of his triumph over Monte-Cristo and the vengeance he was about to take upon his hated enemy, for he had decided to put Esperance to a lingering and terrible death and send the lad's gory head to the agonized father, a grim smile stole over his otherwise impassible countenance, and a demoniac gleam shot from his eyes.
But suddenly a faint sound was heard in the far distance. It came from the direction of Fanfar's farm. Maldar listened attentively; then he said to the Khouans, whose quick ears had also detected the sound:
"Ride like the wind, sons of the Prophet! We are pursued! The Count of Monte-Cristo and his unbelieving French hounds are on our track! But if they would overtake us and recover the boy, they must have the cunning of serpents and horses as fleet as the lightning's flash!"
HAYDEE, THE WIFE OF MONTE-CRISTO.
It was in Monte-Cristo's luxurious mansion in Marseilles, one bright morning in April. Since the Count's departure for Algeria in search of her son, Mercedes, faithful to her oath never to leave Haydee, had taken up her residence there. The two women who had filled such important places in the life of Monte-Cristo were sitting together in the large drawing-room, the windows of which looked out upon the calm blue waters of the Mediterranean. These windows were open and through them floated the delightful perfume of the flowers from the garden beyond, mingled with the saline odors of the sea. It was about ten o'clock and the sun, high in the heavens, inundated the vast apartment with its golden light and filled it with a generous warmth.
Haydee, the wife of Monte-Cristo, reclined upon an oriental rug, her head pillowed in the lap of Mercedes, who sat on a divan elegantly upholstered in the eastern fashion. Mercedes was lightly toying with Haydee's glossy hair that fell like a cloud about her shapely shoulders. Her eyes were beaming with affection, while those of Haydee had in them a dreamy, faraway look.
"Sister," said Mercedes at last, "why are you so sad and silent?"
"I know not," replied the wife of Monte-Cristo, languidly.
"You are thinking of your husband, the noblest of men, who is even now, perhaps, risking his life in the Algerian desert to save and recover my son."
"You speak truly," returned Haydee with a shudder; "I am thinking of him, and my heart is strangely oppressed."
"Have confidence in Monte-Cristo," said her companion, earnestly. "His lion courage, wonderful mental resources and mysterious power will render him more than a match for the untutored Arabs with whom it is his mission to contend."
"Yes, Mercedes; but my son, my Esperance? He is so young to be exposed to the dangers of the desert!"
"But Monte-Cristo is with him, and the father's love will shield him from all harm."
Haydee made no reply, but continued to gaze dreamily into space. Mercedes, still toying with her hair, strove to rouse her.
"Sister," said she, abruptly, "yesterday you promised to tell me how Monte-Cristo rescued you from the hands of the Turkish slave-dealer, Ali Pasha. Will you not fulfil that promise now?"
Haydee turned her eyes full on her companion's countenance and a look of gratitude passed over her pale visage. She saw that Mercedes wished to draw her mind from the contemplation of her husband's present peril by inducing her to revert to his heroism of the past.
"I will tell you," said she, "here in this apartment where everything, even to the very air, is vital with souvenirs of my beloved husband." And, without altering her position, Haydee at once commenced the following thrilling narration:
"We were cruising off the coast of Egypt in the Alcyon, when the idea of visiting Constantinople suddenly occurred to Monte-Cristo. He gave his orders without an instant's delay and the yacht was immediately headed for the Sultan's dominions.
"We reached Constantinople in due time, after an exceedingly pleasant voyage, for though it was toward the close of spring the weather was mild and for weeks the sea had been as calm and unruffled as a mirror.
"As we entered the Bosporus, we noticed a strange craft hovering near us. It was a small, rakish-looking vessel bearing the Turkish flag. Monte-Cristo had run up his private ensign on the Alcyon, an ensign that was recognized by all nations and gave the yacht free entrance into every port.
"The strange craft seemed to be following us, but as it made no attempt to approach the yacht, we soon became used to its presence and ceased to give it attention.
"When the Alcyon anchored, a gorgeously decorated caique, manned by a score of stalwart oarsmen, shot from shore and was soon alongside of the yacht. A magnificently-appareled old man with a long, snowy beard, attended by four solemn and stately eunuchs, came on board and was ceremoniously received by the Count. It was the Grand Vizier, who, having recognized Monte-Cristo's ensign, had hastened to welcome the illustrious hero to Constantinople in the name of his august master, the Sultan.
"Such an honor merited prompt and becoming recognition, and Monte-Cristo was too much of a Frenchman not to return compliment for compliment. Leaving the Alcyon in charge of his first officer, and bidding me a hasty and tender farewell, the Count entered the caique with the Grand Vizier and departed to pay his respects in person to the ruler of the Turkish nation.
"No sooner was the caique lost to sight among the shipping than the strange craft we had previously observed suddenly ran up to the yacht and made fast to her with grappling-irons. Before Monte-Cristo's men could recover from their surprise at this manoeuvre they were made prisoners and securely bound by twenty Turkish buccaneers, who had leaped over the bulwarks of the Alcyon, headed by a villainous-looking wretch, furiously brandishing a jeweled yataghan. This was Ali Pasha, the slave-dealer, as I soon learned to my cost.
"When the ruffians boarded the yacht, I had rushed below and hidden myself in Monte-Cristo's cabin, first securing a keen-bladed dagger for my defence.
"I had locked the door, but it was almost instantly burst open and Ali Pasha leaped in, followed by several of his crew.
"Holding my weapon uplifted in my hand, I cried out, in a tone of desperate determination:
"'The first scoundrel who dares to lay a finger on me shall die like a dog!'
"This speech was greeted with a loud burst of contemptuous laughter, and Ali Pasha himself, springing forward, whirled the dagger from my grasp with his yataghan. This done, he sternly fixed his glance upon me and said:
"'Haydee, wife of Monte-Cristo, Haydee, the Greek slave, you are my captive! Sons of Islam, seize her and conduct her to the slave mart of Stamboul!'
"Three Turks advanced to obey this command. They seized me and in vain did I struggle in their ruffianly grasp. In a moment I was securely bound and gagged. A mantle was thrown over my head. I felt myself thrust into a sack and swooned just as one of the buccaneers was lifting me upon his shoulder.
"When I recovered consciousness, I found myself, with a number of half-clad Georgian and Circassian girls, in the dreaded slave bazaar of Constantinople. Old memories, fraught with terror, rushed upon me. I recalled the time when I was before exposed for sale and Monte-Cristo had bought me. Would he come to my rescue once more? I scarcely dared to hope for such a thing. I pictured to myself the Count's desolation and distress on discovering that I had been stolen from him. But what could he do? How could he find me again? And even should he discover me, how could he snatch me from the grasp of Ali Pasha, whose favor with the Sultan was notorious? Monte-Cristo, with all his prestige, was but one man, and no match for the mendaciousness, duplicity and power of the entire Turkish court! I was lost, and nothing could save me!
"How shall I describe my feelings when I realized that I was even then, at that very moment, exposed for sale, that from being the free and honored wife of Monte-Cristo I had suddenly become a mere article of human merchandise, valued simply at so many miserable piastres! My fate hung upon a thread. Would I be purchased by some grandee as a new ornament for his harem, or was I destined to fall into the hands of a brutal master, to be used as a household drudge for the execution of bitter and revolting tasks?
"When each new purchaser entered the bazaar I trembled from head to foot, I quivered in every limb. One by one I saw the unfortunate Georgian and Circassian girls inspected and disposed of, until at last I was the only slave unsold in the entire mart. I thought my turn must speedily come, that the next Mussulman who entered would surely buy me, and I had firmly resolved upon suicide at the first opportunity, choosing death rather than slavery.
"Ali Pasha had personally conducted all the visitors about the bazaar, dilating in the extravagant oriental fashion upon the extraordinary merits of the captives he wished to turn into money. Many times he had paused before me where I stood cowering in a corner, volubly expatiating on my value and attractiveness, but hitherto not a single Turk had evinced the slightest inclination to relieve him of me.
"At last two men made their appearance and eagerly glanced around the mart. Both wore turbans and full Turkish dress. Their faces were shrouded with heavy beards, and there was an indescribable something about them that stamped them as personages of exalted rank.
"They paused a short distance from me, and one of them said, addressing Ali Pasha:
"'What is the name of yonder slave?'
"'Zuleika,' answered the obsequious and unscrupulous slave-dealer.
"'From what country is she and how did you obtain possession of her?' asked the second visitor, who had not yet spoken. His voice was subdued and evidently disguised; nevertheless there was something familiar in its tone that strangely stirred me and filled me with hope.
"Ali Pasha replied to his inquiry with unblushing effrontery:
"'The slave is from Circassia, and was sold to me by her parents.'
"I know not how I obtained the courage to do so, but instantly I cried out:
"'All that vile wretch has said is false! My name is Haydee, and I am the wife of the Count of Monte-Cristo! Ali Pasha forcibly abducted me from my husband's yacht that now lies in the harbor of Constantinople!'
"'Ali Pasha,' said the first speaker, 'this is a grave accusation! It is true that the illustrious Monte-Cristo's yacht now lies in the harbor of Stamboul, and such an abduction as this slave has mentioned did, indeed, take place.'
"The slave-dealer winced slightly, but, instantly recovering himself, calmly answered:
"'I know nothing of Monte-Cristo, his yacht or his wife. As for this lying slave, I will punish her on the spot!'
"With these words he advanced toward me and lifted his clenched fist to strike. I shrank tremblingly against the wall, but the next instant a blow that would have felled an ox had hurled Ali Pasha to the stone floor of the bazaar. It was delivered by the man whose voice had seemed familiar to me, and, tearing off his beard, my husband, the undaunted Count of Monte-Cristo himself, caught me in his arms and folded me to his breast!
"Ali Pasha had now arisen to his feet. Livid with rage he rushed at Monte-Cristo with a dagger in his hand, swearing by the Prophet that he would have his heart's blood. But the other visitor caught his arm and held him back.
"'Who are you and why do you stand between me and my just revenge?' cried the slave-dealer, furiously.
"The stranger threw open his robe, and on his breast gleamed a diamond-studded crescent.
"'The Grand Vizier!' exclaimed Ali Pasha, prostrating himself before the high official. The latter clapped his hands, whereupon six soldiers marched into the bazaar.
"'Seize that wretch!' he cried, pointing to the slave-dealer, 'and inflict upon him the punishment of the bastinado!'
"When this order had been executed, the Grand Vizier, placing himself at the head of the soldiers, escorted Monte-Cristo and myself to the harbor and saw us safely on board the royal caique.
"In due time we reached the yacht, where the officers and crew were at their posts as usual.
"After his interview with the Sultan, Monte-Cristo, accompanied by the Grand Vizier, had returned to the Alcyon in the caique. To his astonishment he found his men lying on the deck tightly bound. On releasing them he learned what had happened, and his influence was sufficient to induce the Grand Vizier, who was greatly affected by the Count's despair when he discovered the terrible fate that had befallen me, to risk the Sultan's displeasure by aiding him to recover me from the clutches of Ali Pasha.
"Such," concluded Haydee, "was the manner in which Monte-Cristo rescued me from the hands of the villainous Turkish slave-dealer and a fate worse than death."
"Sister," said Mercedes, "no wonder you love Monte-Cristo so devotedly, for he is one of the noblest and most heroic men upon this earth!"
THE COUNT OF MONTE-CRISTO.
Maldar and his Khouan followers had reached the desert with their captive. For a long time they heard Monte-Cristo and his men in hot pursuit of them, but the sound, growing fainter and fainter, had finally ceased. The Sultan concluded that the Count had been misled by some fancied indication and had taken a wrong direction. He therefore gave himself no further concern in regard to him. Once in the desert he slackened the pace of his Arab steed and the Khouans imitated his example. The party rode on for several miles when they arrived at a small oasis, covered with tall palm trees, that resembled an island of verdure amid the far-reaching waste of arid sand. There Maldar gave the order to dismount. The Khouans sprang lightly from their weary horses, both men and animals going directly to the wells, where they took long draughts of the cool, refreshing water. The night was now far spent, and as the abductors of Esperance threw themselves upon the grass surrounding the wells, the first rosy streaks of dawn appeared in the eastern heavens. The horses stood cropping the verdure for a brief period, then they also lay down for rest and recuperation. Soon slumber reigned supreme, for Maldar, fearing neither pursuit nor attack, had not taken the precaution to post sentinels. The scarf had been removed from Esperance's mouth, and the son of Monte-Cristo, still wrapped in his lethargic sleep, lay on the sod beside Maldar near one of the wells. It was a wild and picturesque group, such a group as would have filled the soul of a painter with delight and inspiration.
As the light increased, but while it was yet vague and uncertain, giving a demoniac and supernatural cast to the group and its tropical surroundings, Esperance suddenly awoke and raised himself upon his elbow. For an instant he gazed around him in bewilderment and terror. Was he dead, and were those swarthy-visaged forms extended motionless on the grass of the oasis the forms of fiends? This thought shot through his mind and augmented his consternation. When he fell asleep he was with his father, with the dauntless Monte-Cristo, and the last faces he had seen were the faces of French people and friends. Now he was in the midst of beings of another race, in the midst of strangers. Strangers? No, for at that moment his eyes rested on Maldar, and he realized that he was again in the clutches of his remorseless foe, and that the men around him belonged to the dreaded Khouan tribe.
He was unbound; nothing restrained his movements and not a single guard was watching over him. His fear vanished with his bewilderment and gave place to heroic resolution. Why should he not escape and make his way back to his beloved father and devoted countrymen? He arose cautiously to his feet, and peered into the distance. His heart throbbed with anguish, for beyond the narrow confines of the green oasis, as far as his eye could reach, stretched the trackless sands of the arid and inhospitable desert. Flight would be madness, nay, perhaps, death, but would it not also be death to remain? The son of Monte-Cristo, full of his father's unconquerable spirit, determined to take the chances of flight. Doubtless Monte-Cristo and his friends were even now scouring the desert in search of him. If he could mount one of the Khouans' horses and escape from the hands of his fanatical foes, he might meet them.
Esperance stole cautiously toward an Arab courser, but he had not taken a dozen steps when Maldar awoke, leaped to his feet, ran to him and laid an iron hand upon his shoulder.
"So you thought to escape me, did you, son of Monte-Cristo?" said the Sultan, with a mocking laugh and a fiendish light in big eyes. "By the beard of the Prophet, your presumption is unbounded! But you are mine, and no power on earth can save you now!"
The heroic lad gazed full in Maldar's face and, without the quiver of a muscle, answered defiantly:
"Wretch that you are to war on defenceless children, I do not fear you! Harm but a single hair of my head, and Monte-Cristo will grind you into dust!"
Maldar replied with a sneer: "Monte-Cristo, the infidel charlatan, is miles away. With all his boasted power he can do nothing to aid you. I have you now, and you shall die!"
With the quickness of lightning Esperance thrust out his hand, seizing the Sultan's jeweled yataghan and drawing it from its scabbard. At the same time he raised it above his head and brought it down, aiming it straight at Maldar's heart. The Sultan parried the thrust with his arm, receiving a gaping wound from which the blood gushed in a ruby stream. Smarting with pain and foaming with rage, he threw himself upon the daring boy, tore the yataghan from his grasp, and with its heavy handle struck him a blow on the head that stretched him senseless at his feet.
The noise of the conflict awoke the Khouans, who sprang up and rushed to their chief.
One of them drew a long-bladed knife and was about to stab the prostrate and unconscious boy, but the Sultan restrained him with an impatient gesture.
"Not here," said he. "The sacrifice can only be made in the mosque of the Khouans, thrice dedicated to Mohammed and reserved for the holiest rite of Islam, the rite of vengeance!" Motioning to the Khouan to take the insensible boy from the ground, he added "Now to horse and for the mosque. Bear our captive in your arms."
The Arabs mounted and were soon dashing across the desert, headed by the Sultan, who had hastily stanched the blood flowing from his arm and bound up the wound.
Half an hour later, Monte-Cristo and his men reached the oasis. The Count and Captain Joliette rode to the wells and at once saw where the grass had been beaten down by the Khouans and their horses.
"They have been here and recently, too," said Captain Joliette.
"Thank God!" said Monte-Cristo, fervently. "We are on their track! But what is that?" he added. "Is it blood?"
Coucon and Fanfar, who had been attentively examining the stain, simultaneously answered:
"It is blood."
"My God!" cried Monte-Cristo, with a convulsive start, "then they have slain my son!"
"Not so, Count," said Captain Joliette. "Had they slain Esperance they would have left his body here. But see," resumed he, pointing to the spot where Esperance had made the attack on Maldar; "here are evidences of a struggle; they have fought among themselves and one of them has been wounded."
"Heaven grant it may be so!" said Monte-Cristo.
The party started off again, following the track of the Arabs' horses, and after an hour's ride came in sight of a long, low building with a gleaming minaret, standing alone in the midst of the desert.
"The mosque of the Khouans!" cried Captain Joliette, triumphantly. "Maldar and his ruffians are there! Look! Yonder are their horses!"
Monte-Cristo and his men reached the building and leaped to the ground; they left their panting animals in charge of Bobichel, and, drawing their revolvers, made their way into the mosque.
There a sight met their eyes that almost froze the blood in their veins.
Esperance, with his hands tied behind him and stripped to the waist, was kneeling upon a large, flat stone in the centre of the mosque. Over him stood Maldar, his yataghan uplifted to strike. The four Khouans stood at a short distance, chanting what was evidently a death-hymn.
Instantly Monte-Cristo aimed his weapon at the Sultan and fired. Maldar fell dead beside his intended victim.
The other Arabs leaped through the open windows and, mounting their horses, fled across the desert.
Monte-Cristo caught his son in his arms.
"Esperance, my beloved!" he cried.
"Father!" exclaimed the rescued lad, clasping his arms about Monte-Cristo's neck.
Esperance's garments were quickly restored to him by Fanfar, and when he was clad in them, the party again mounted and started on their return to the colonist's farm.
There is no need to describe the toilsome journey, it was accomplished in due time, and once more Esperance was safe in his father's care.
The ladies gave the heroes of the expedition a most enthusiastic welcome, Miss Elphys shedding tears of joy as Esperance told her how his heroic father had saved him from death at Maldar's hands.
The next evening, when the excitement had somewhat subsided and Monte-Cristo and his men had fully recovered from their fatigue, Fanfar began the story of his life, which will be related in the succeeding chapters.
Toward the middle of December, 1813, a man was riding through the Black Forest.
This man seemed to be still in the vigor of youth. He wore a long, brown surtout and leathern gaiters. His hair was worn in a queue, and powdered. Night was coming on, and Pierre Labarre, confidential servant of the Marquis de Fongereues, was somewhat weary and eager to get on.
"Quick!" he said to his horse. "Quick! They are waiting for us, and we are the bearers of good news!"
The animal seemed to understand, and accelerated his pace.
Suddenly Pierre started. He had reached a group of nine trees, one of which had been struck by lightning, making the group a conspicuous one. The rider listened as he pulled up his steed.
"Surely," he said to himself, "I heard the trot of a horse on the other side of the Nine Trees!"
The road widened here and divided. He laid his hand on his breast by an involuntary movement.
"The portfolio is safe, any way! Get on, Margotte." And he lifted his reins.
But, as if this movement were a signal, he heard distinctly a horse coming toward him, this time at a full gallop, and then Pierre saw a shadow pass some thirty yards away.
He drew out a pistol, and rode with it in his hand until he passed the cross-road, but he saw and heard nothing more. Perhaps he had been mistaken—it was only a messenger traveling the same road as himself. He had entered the path which in a half hour would take him into Fribourg, when suddenly there was a flash and a report. A ball struck Pierre in the breast—he fell forward on the neck of his horse. A man came out of the shadow on the side of the road. This man was wrapped in a cloak. Just as he laid his hand on the bridle of the horse, Pierre straightened himself in his saddle.
"You are in too great a hurry, bandit!" he shouted, firing his pistol at the assassin at the same moment.
The man uttered a terrible cry, and then, with a superhuman effort, sprang into the wood. Pierre fired again, but this time hit nothing.
"It was a good idea of mine," he said, rubbing his chest, "to use this portfolio as a breastplate. And now, Margotte, carry me to Fribourg without further adventures!"
As Margotte obeyed the spur, her master heard the gallop of another horse dying away in the distance.
"Strange!" he said. "I could not see his face, but it seemed to me that I knew his voice when he cried out!"
WHAT PIERRE KNEW.
The Place Notre Dame at Fribourg was crowded with citizens and soldiers. The citizens wore troubled, and talked together in low voices, while the soldiers were noisy and abusive against France.
The colossal spire of the Cathedral threw its shadow over this scene.
Sovereigns and diplomats, ready for an invasion of France, had left Frankfort for Fribourg, there to complete their plans of vengeance and hate.
Blucher, with Sachen and Laugeron, had concentrated their troops between Mayence and Coblentz. The Prince de Schwartzemberg was marching toward Bale. The Swiss were irritated, believing that their neutrality would be violated.
In the Chamber of Commerce the Emperor Alexander, with Metternich and Lord Castlereagh, were studying maps, eager for the fray and the dismemberment of France. Count Pozzo de Borga was on his way to England.
On the Place de Ministre a tall mansion faces the Cathedral. Steps, with wrought iron railings, lead to the oaken door, well barred with steel. On the second floor, in a large, gloomy room, several persons are assembled. The last rays of the setting sun are coming from the high windows through the heavy panes of glass set in lead.
Standing near a window is a lady in black, looking out on the Square; her hand caresses a child who clings to her skirts. The two corners of the chimney in which are burning resinous logs of wood are occupied. On one side sits an old man, on the other a lady wrapped in a cloak that covers her entirely.
The Marquis de Fongereues is only sixty, but his white hair, his wrinkles, and the sad senility of his countenance gave him the appearance of an octogenarian. He sits motionless, his hands crossed on his knees. The lady opposite, whose head rests on the high oak back of her chair, is not yet forty. Her face is hard, and her eyes, fixed upon the Marquis, seem eager to read his thoughts. She is Pauline de Maillezais—Marquise de Fongereues—and the lady at the window is Magdalena, Vicomtesse de Talizac. Her husband, Jean de Talizac, is the son of the Marquis de Fongereues. Suddenly the old man said:
"Where is Jean?"
Magdalena started, as if this voice, breaking the silence of the room, had startled her.
"He has been away since morning," she replied, in a voice that she endeavored to render careless.
"Ah!" said the Marquis, relapsing into silence. Presently he inquired what time it was.
"Let me see—I wish to tell him," cried the child, leaving his mother's side and running across the room to a console table, on which stood an elaborate clock.
Frederic, the son of the Vicomte de Talizac, is deformed. One shoulder is higher than the other, and he limps, but he seems alert.
"It is seven o'clock," he said, in a sharp voice.
The door was thrown open at this moment, and a German officer appeared. Madame Fongereues rose hastily.
"And what is the decision, Monsieur de Karlstein?" she asked.
The officer bowed low to each of the three persons in the room, and then said, quietly:
"To-morrow the allied armies will cross the French frontier."
"At last!" exclaimed Madame de Fongereues, and Madame de Talizac uttered a cry of joy. The Marquis was unmoved.
"The details—give us the details!" said the young Marquise.
"We shall reach France through Switzerland," said the German, "and penetrate the heart of the empire. Lord Castlereagh approves of this plan and the Emperor Alexander gives it favorable consideration."
"And in a month the king will be at the Tuileries!" said Madame de Talizac.
The German did not notice this remark.
"And now, ladies, will you kindly permit me to retire? In two hours I leave with my company."
Madame de Fongereues extended her hand to him.
"Go, sir," she said. "Go aid in this sacred work! Insolent France must learn that the most sacred rights cannot be trodden under foot with impunity. Let the chastisement be as terrible as has been the crime!"
Monsieur de Karlstein bowed low and went out.
"At last!" repeated the Marquise. "These French have insulted and despised us too long! Twenty-five years of exile! It is twenty-five years since my father the Comte de Maillezais took me in his arms and, pointing toward Paris, said, 'Child! remember that the day will come when these men will kill their king, as they have forced your father to fly for his life.' Monsieur Fongereues, do you hear? Are you not glad to return as master among these men who drove you away, and with you all that there was great and noble in France?"
The old man turned his head.
"God protect France!" he said, solemnly.
A shout of laughter rang through the room. It was the son of Vicomte Jean, who was laughing at his grandfather.
Madame de Talizac shrugged her shoulders impatiently. Madame de Fongereues made her a sign.
"Come," she said, "the Marquis is sinking into his second childhood, and his follies irritate me."
The child took his mother's hand.
"We shall be the masters now, mamma, shall we not?"
The Vicomtesse murmured, as she left the room,
"Why has not Jean come? Can it be that he has not succeeded!"
Hardly had they disappeared than a door, concealed behind a hanging, slowly opened.
Pierre Labarre appeared and noiselessly approaching his master, knelt at his feet.
"Master," he said, respectfully, "I have returned."
The Marquis started. "You have come!" he exclaimed, then dropping his voice, he added, "Quick! Simon?"
"Hush! not so loud!" said Pierre; then whispering in the old man's ear, "He is living!" he said.
The Marquis half closed his eyes, and his lips moved in prayer, while large tears slowly ran down his withered cheeks.
The Marquis belonged to one of the oldest families of Languedoc. His ancestors had served France faithfully and had held positions of trust near the persons of the kings. The present Marquis had committed a fault not easily forgiven by the ancien regime. He had married the daughter of a farmer, when he was twenty, in spite of the threats of his family. This union was of short duration, for his wife died in giving birth to a son. This blow was so sudden that the young man abandoned himself to despair. He shut himself up from the world on an estate he had among the Vosges mountains, and lived only for his child.
The beloved dead, though of peasant blood, had been an extraordinary woman. She, young as she was, had thought much, and felt deeply the sufferings of her class. She pointed out to the Marquis how the people were weighed down by taxes, and how little their hard toil availed them.
"Friend," said Simonne, "thou art wealthy, thou belongest to the privileged class, give and speak. Open thy hand, and raise thy voice!"
She endeavored to awaken in his heart a noble ambition. He was twenty and he loved. Had she lived, Armand would, undoubtedly, have been one of the greatest actors in the crisis then preparing, but now that she was gone, he forgot the glorious legacy she had bequeathed to him. He detested the court, however, and determined that his son should grow up far away from its influences. Simon, therefore, passed his childhood among the mountains drinking in the delicious air, and growing as freely as a young tree.
But Armand was weak. His friends and family, who had fallen away from him at the time of his marriage, now sought to bring him back. He resisted for a time, but at last went to Versailles. The king received him proudly and said, "Monsieur de Fongereues, it is not well in you to abandon us thus. The throne needs its faithful supporters."
A few days later he was presented to Mademoiselle de Maillezais—her beauty was of that quality that dazzles rather than pleases. She made herself very attractive on this occasion, anxious to take back to the king this nobleman who had so nearly been lost.
In 1779, Armand married this lady. Simon, the peasant's son, was then five years of age. When his father spoke of him to his wife some little time after their marriage, she replied:
"You will, of course, do as you choose, but I should say that any change would be likely to injure his health."
The Marquis was glad to seize any excuse for keeping Simonne's son away from that society which his mother had so strongly condemned. It was with the feeling, therefore, that he was obeying the wishes of his beloved dead, that he left Simon among the mountains.
It was at this time that the war begun by the enemies of Nechar against his innovations reached its height. The nobles and the clergy, feeling their privileges attacked, organized against the Genoese banker a campaign in which he was to fall. The Maillezais family were Nechar's pitiless adversaries, and in spite of himself the Marquis was carried along with them. His wife had acquired a supremacy over him that daily increased. His weak nature was ever ready to be influenced by others, and his natural enthusiasm originally aroused by Simonne for another cause, was perverted to the profit of the ancien regime, and finally he was one of the first to applaud the words of Louis XVI., when he signed his name to an edict which inflicted on the country a new debt of four hundred and twenty million.
"It is legal because I wish it."
Nevertheless, the Marquis often thought of Simonne when he was alone. He recalled her beautiful, energetic face, her pathetic, eloquent words. Then he longed to see her son, whom his present wife hated. She herself had become a mother; the Vicomte Jean Talizac had been held at the baptismal font by the Queen Marie Antoinette.
The Marquise determined to oust Simon from his place in his father's heart. She but half succeeded in this, and was too wise to attack the memory of the dead.
The Marquis wrote in secret to his son, and occasionally went to see him among the Vosges, and embraced the lad, who inherited all his mother's intelligence and goodness.
Then the Vicomte returned like a truant schoolboy to Versailles, and the Marquise brought in her boy with an expression that seemed to say, "This is your boy! He is the one in whose veins runs only noble blood!"
In 1787 the Marquis was dangerously ill. His wife was devoted to him, and one day when he was in a critical condition she said, gently:
"Shall I send for the peasant's child?"
He closed his eyes and did not reply. When, after long weeks of illness, he was restored to health, he belonged to the Marquise. He never spoke of his eldest child, and adored Jean.
Then came the emigration. Monsieur de Fongereues, friend of Conde and of Polignac, yielded to his wife's entreaties and joined the Prince de Conde at Worms, where he was making an appeal to foreign powers against France. Although yielding to the wishes of the Marquise, De Fongereues was fully aware that it was a base act to desert his country, and excite against her the hatred of her most violent enemies. Young Simon, the son of the peasant, could not join in this parricidal act, although the Marquis sent Pierre Labarre, who was even then in his service, to his son, then fifteen years of age, to sound his views. If the youth would enter the army of Conde, the Marquis assured him a brilliant future. If he remained in France, however, he could no longer rely on his father, who, however, sent him a large sum of money. The youth refused the money, and replied:
"Say to my father that I love him, and that if ever he requires a devoted heart and a courageous arm that he may summon me to his side; but now, if I am to choose between poverty in my own country and wealth in a foreign land, I remain here!"
"It was Simonne's soul that spoke through his lips!" murmured the Marquis, when Pierre repeated the message sent by the young man.
The father and son did not meet after 1790. We will now return to Fribourg, to that room where Pierre Labarre had just told the Marquis that Simon was living.
Twenty-five years had elapsed—twenty-five years of anguish and sorrow for the Marquis. He had seen France fighting with heroic energy against all Europe. He had heard the enthusiastic shouts of 1792, and then the dull groans of the people crushed under the heel of the conqueror. And while his country bled and fought, the Marquis blushed with shame in London, Berlin and Vienna when his French ears heard the maledictions of the conquered.
As soon as his son, the Vicomte Jean, reached the age of twenty, he had become one of the most active agents of the coalition, and, as if to indicate his hatred of France, married a German.
From that time the Marquis heard nothing but abuse of France, nothing but exultation when her sons fell in Spain or in Russia. The old man's heart was sore within him, but it was then too late for him to make a stand, and he was obliged to live on amid this hatred.
Once only did Jean go to France to lend his aid to Cadondal's conspiracy, but he was obliged to flee precipitately, and with difficulty succeeded in gaining the frontier. On his return he was in a state of sullen rage. Was it despair at his lack of success, or did the Vicomte feel any remorse? His father watched him with troubled eyes and many fears, but did not dare ask a question.
What had become of Simon? The Marquis had read in a newspaper that a Simon Fougere carried the orders of the day at the battle of Hohenlinden. He leaped at once at the truth. Simonne's son was fighting for his country, while his other son, the Vicomte de Talizac, was fighting against it.
Suddenly the Marquis beheld the fall of the Imperial idol. The allied armies were in France. Vengeance was near at hand!
Three times the Marquis sent Pierre to France, but the faithful servant could learn nothing of Simon, but this last time he discovered that Simon was living. Pierre had been in the service of the Marquis for forty years. He had known Simonne, and felt for his master the deepest affection. He was of the people, and only this affection had induced him to leave France. By degrees he had become the confidant of his master, and read his half-broken heart like an open book, and realized that it was full of regrets, almost of remorse. Then he swore to himself that he would aid the Marquis to repair the injustice done to Simon. It is needless to say that Pierre's honest nature felt no sympathy for the Marquise. She, on the contrary, was the object of his deepest aversion, for he well knew that she had done her best to have him dismissed from the service of the Marquis.
The Vicomte de Talizac, the Vicomtesse, and their son, detested Pierre and watched him closely, with what aim they alone knew.
"I went to the Vosges, master," said Pierre. "I learned that the soldier known by the name of Simon Fougere had gone to Lorraine. I could learn nothing more. I went about everywhere—to Epinal, Nancy, Saint Die—and I had begun to despair, when one evening I reached the foot of a mountain and saw a little cluster of houses. I asked a peasant who was passing if I could procure accommodations there for the night.
"Of course," he answered. "Go straight ahead and you will come to friend Simon's inn."
The Marquis listened breathlessly. Pierre continued:
"The name was a common one in that part of the country, as I had good reason to know, but this time my heart began to beat. I thanked the peasant and I hurried on. And when I think that a Comte de Fongereues——"
"It was he, then!" cried the Marquis, snatching his servant's hands. "And you saw him? Tell me everything!"
"He is happy," answered Pierre. "But, master, let me tell my story in my own way, for then I shall forget nothing. I went into a little inn, which was as clean as possible and bore the sign, 'France!' A fire of vine branches was sparkling in the big chimney. A boy of about ten came to meet me. 'My friend,' I said, 'is this the inn of Monsieur Simon?'"
"'Yes, sir,' he replied, looking at me with soft, dark eyes. I felt as if I had seen him before."
"What! do you mean——" cried the Marquis.
"Wait, master, wait. I told him that I wanted supper and a bed. The boy ran toward a little door and called: 'Mamma! Mamma!' A woman appeared in peasant dress, with dark hair and eyes. She carried a little girl on one arm. The mother looked about thirty, and the girl was some six years of age.
"'Take a chair, sir,' said the mistress of the house. 'We will do the best we can for you.' Then she told the boy to take the horse to the stable and call his father. I took my seat by the fire and reflected that Simon would not be likely to know me, if it were he, as he had not seen me for thirty years. You had bidden me take care not to betray myself, but I knew that Time had done his work.
"'The country about here looks very dreary,' I said to Madame Simon. She turned in surprise from her work. She was laying the table for my supper.
"'Ah! you are a stranger here!' she answered with a smile. 'No, it is not dreary; it is much pleasanter here than in the cities.'
"'But in winter?' I persisted.
"'Oh! the mountains are magnificent then.'
"'Have you been living here long, Madame?'
"'Ten years,' she replied.
"'And these beautiful children are yours?'
"She hesitated a moment, or I thought so, but she said in a moment:
"'Yes, they are mine, and you will see their father presently, the best man in this place!' She brought in a bowl of steaming soup. 'Excuse the simplicity of the service, sir.' The door opened, and, master, if it had been in Africa, or thousands of miles from France, I should have known Simonne's son. He had his great deep eyes, but, master——"
Pierre stopped short.
"Go on; you frighten me!" cried the Marquis.
"Oh! master, Monsieur Simon has lost a leg. I saw it at once, and the tears came to my eyes. He lost it at Elchingen, in 1805—it was shot off by a cannon ball."
The Marquis started.
"And his brother was there, too!" he murmured. "Go on, Pierre."
"I knew him at once, as I was saying. He is tall, he is strong; his hair is turning gray, and he wears a heavy moustache, and was dressed in peasant costume. He came to me, and said in a voice that was so like his mother's: 'You are welcome!' I extended my hand, he did not seem to be astonished, and received it cordially. I went to the table, and while I ate my soup I watched him closely. He took the little girl up in his arms, and began to talk to her in a low voice, and the child listened intently. I could not hear what was said, but presently the child came running to me.
"'Monsieur,' she cried, 'will you do me a favor?'
"'Certainly,' I replied.
"'Will you drink with papa to the French army?'
"'Most gladly!' I answered, wondering at the same time if Simon took me for a spy. The mere idea made me feel ill, and I wanted to tell him who I was, when he came to the table with a couple of glasses.
"'To the success of our arms shall be our toast, sir!' he said. I answered, as I raised my glass to my lips: 'To France!' His eyes flashed with joy. These words had evidently conquered his distrust.
"'Would it be indiscreet to ask, sir, by what strange chance you are in this wild place?'
"I told him, for I had to lie, that I had lost my way. He looked at me a moment.
"'You come from Germany, do you not?'
"'Are you a sorcerer?' I exclaimed.
"'No—it is plain to see that by the cut and the material of your clothing. But is it true,' he continued rapidly, 'that the allied armies are about to cross the frontier?'
"'Alas! I fear so. But you do not know our last disaster, then?'
"'Fortune has betrayed us, but patience—patience!'
"'Do you think that further resistance is possible?' I asked.
"'I am a soldier of France!' was his proud reply. 'I believe in my banner and my country!' He then asked me many questions, and finally one that made my heart leap to my throat.
"'Is it true that the French emigres have accepted positions in these foreign armies?' I protested my ignorance. He passed his hand over his brow, as if to chase away unfortunate doubts, and I changed the conversation.
"'These lovely children are yours?' I asked.
"'Yes—and this is my wife, Francoise Simon, the best of women, who has consoled me in many sorrows, and this is Jacques, my eldest, and you know Francinette. Perhaps you will give me your name now?'
"'One moment—you have not introduced yourself.'
"'I am called Simon,' he answered with a frown.
"'Simon—and nothing else?'
"'Nothing else. If I ever bore another name, I have forgotten it. I fought in 1791. I was wounded and compelled to leave the service.' He spoke with some nervousness.
"'Are your parents living?' I asked. He looked at me intently, and pouring out a glass of wine, he carried it to his lips with a steady hand.
"'I never knew them,' he replied.
"We talked for some time, and he told me that after he recovered from his wound he entered the service of a rich farmer, and soon saved enough to lease a small farm for himself, where he carried on his small business as an inn and kept a school, 'for,' he said, 'I had received a good education, and wished to do something for the children about me.'
"It was midnight before I went to my room, and I arose as soon as I heard a movement below, but, early as it was, Simon had already gone out. I felt that I must return to you without waiting to see him again. I had formed a plan which I trust you will approve of. I went to the Mayor and obtained a copy of Simon's papers. You know since the new code any one can get such papers, and I said something about a lawsuit."
"And you have these papers?"
"Yes—in a portfolio in my breast."
He touched his breast as he spoke and uttered an exclamation of pain. "I had forgotten," he said, and then told his master of the attack made on him in the Black Forest.
"That is very strange," said the Marquis, thoughtfully.
"At all events, I wounded him," Pierre replied.
At this moment there was a sound just outside the door. The Marquis threw it open quickly, but there was nothing to be seen.
"I was sure I heard—"
"This old, worm-eaten wood makes strange noises when the dampness gets into it," said Pierre.
The Marquis read the papers carefully which Pierre now gave him.
"But there were two children at the time?" he said to Pierre. "Where is the certificate of the birth of Jacques?"
Pierre hesitated. "When Simon and Francoise were married," he answered, reluctantly, "Jacques was already born."
"And now," said the Marquis, "I must make some change in my will. My poor boy, in these papers, does not give his real name, nor the place of his birth, but we will soon remedy that."
"But why do you talk of your will! You must see your son, master, and then you can make all things right."
"I have grown very old lately, and have little strength left, but I hope to embrace my son Simon before I die; but I am in the hands of God. I wish to incorporate these papers in my will and then there will be no difficulty in proving Simon's relationship."
"But what do you fear?" asked Pierre.
The Marquis looked at him.
"Why this question? You know as well as I."
"Do you think that the Vicomte would have the audacity—"
The Marquis laid his hand on his servant's breast.
"There is no peasant," he said, slowly and emphatically, "no peasant in these parts who is capable of such a crime."
Pierre bowed his head; he understood.
"And this is not all," continued his master, "a will may be lost, may be stolen. I wish to provide for everything, and wish that Simon and his children shall be rich."
The Marquis went on speaking in so low a voice that no one but the servant could possibly hear.
When the Marquise, her daughter-in-law, and grandson left the salon, a servant attached especially to the service of the Vicomte approached.
"Madame la Vicomtesse," said Cyprien, "my master wishes to see you; he is in his chamber."
"Go, my child," interposed the Marquise, "but leave the boy with me, for I hate to be alone in these rooms which are drearier than a cloister."
The Vicomtesse de Talizac was of Austrian origin, and concealed under an air of languid indifference the most boundless ambition. Her large eyes were light and generally without expression, but on occasion they grew dark and flashed fire.
She had married the Vicomte de Talizac with the idea that she would thus obtain a high position at the French Court, knowing well moreover that the immense fortune of the Fongereueses would ensure her princely luxury. The Vicomtesse was both proud and avaricious, and her nature rebelled at the smallest check to her secret aspirations. Her only son came into the world hopelessly deformed, but his mother adored him to whom Nature had given neither physical nor moral beauty. She labored to make him as selfish and indifferent as herself. She determined that as he grew to man's estate, he should be feared rather than pitied, and to do this it was necessary that he should be immensely rich. He was taught from his cradle to hate France. When his mother saw that the hour of triumph for the emigres, the traitors, was near at hand, she was filled with bitter joy.
None of these people realized the work that had been going on for twenty years, and had little idea of the changes that had taken place. They ignored them all, and were only anxious to restore everything to the old condition.
The Vicomte de Talizac and his wife were especially eager for these results. There was but one shadow on their brilliant future. The fortune of the Vicomte had nearly gone—the fortune of the Fongereues family remained, but the Vicomte was well aware that his father had contracted an early marriage, and that of this union a son was born, with whom, to be sure, the old Marquis seemed to have broken entirely, but of late de Talizac began to realize that the father's love had outlived this separation; and, moreover, indulged in no possible delusion in regard to himself; he did not love his father, and knew that his father did not love him. Madame de Fongereues was also well aware of the tender reverence in which Simonne was held by the Marquis, and was convinced that the peasant's son was not forgotten.
Where was Simon? Were he to appear it would be ruin for the Vicomte. When Magdalena fully realized this, she snatched her son in her arms, and said to his father:
"If you are not weak and childish, this Simon will never despoil our son!"
De Talizac understood her.
We resume our recital at the moment when the Vicomtesse entered her husband's room, where he was lying on the couch. He signed to her to close the door. The Marquis was the living image of his mother, except that her beautiful regular features became in his face bony and repulsive.
"Well?" said the Vicomtesse, going up to the couch.
"I am wounded," he answered. "The man escaped me."
His wife frowned.
"Really!" she said, "one might think that the Vicomte de Talizac was strong enough to conquer a lacquey!"
"Hush!" cried the Vicomte, his eyes flashing fire, "do you think that I require you to remind me of the shame of my defeat? I have been for days, as you well know, on the track of the hound. I hid by the wayside to-night, like a murderer, and I saw him press his hand to his breast as if to assure himself of the safety of some package which undoubtedly contained the secret so necessary to the safety of our future. By what miracle the fellow escaped, I can't divine. I saw him fall forward, but he suddenly fired at me—but I did at all events as I promised you to do—"
"I can only say that our son is ruined!"
"No, not yet; listen to me. Pierre is with my father at this moment; hasten and listen to the conversation."
"But he is locked in his room!"
"I know that, Magdalena. Raise that curtain; you will find a door which opens on a staircase in the wall; go down twenty steps, then stop, pass your hand over the wall until you feel a spring; press it, and it will open. You will find a small window concealed within the room by the carving, and you can hear every word that is spoken—"
"Very good; but your wound—"
"Is not of much consequence; but hasten, for your son's sake."
The Vicomtesse disappeared.
This explains the noise that had attracted the attention of the Marquis.
An hour later Magdalena returned to her husband. "I know enough," she said. "Your brother Simon is married—he has two sons, and lives in the village of Leigoutte."
A cruel smile wandered over the lips of the Vicomte.
"Ah! the invasion will then take that direction!"
On the 1st of January, 1814, it was known that foreign forces had invaded France. It was a terrible surprise when fugitives passed through the villages crying, "Save yourselves, while there is yet time!"
Mothers wept for their sons, wives for their husbands, sisters for their brothers!
The winter was a severe one. The Vosges mountains and the villages in the valleys were alike wrapped in snow.
The inn which our readers already know at Leigoutte, presented a most picturesque appearance. The snow had been so heavy for several days that the woodcutters had not been up the mountains to bring down the wood, but this morning they had determined to make an attempt, and had gathered before the inn with their long light sledges on their shoulders. They seemed to be waiting for some one. "Can Simon be sick?" asked one of these men, finally.
"Not he!" answered another. "He is at the school-room with the children, and he never knows when to leave them."
"Oh! that is very well," grumbled a third, "but I think we had better go in and get a glass of wine, than wait here all this time."
"Have a little patience, friend; if Simon teaches our children, it is that they may be better off than their fathers, and not like them be compelled to die with cold and fatigue some day among the mountains!"
"Well said, friend, well said!" called out a full rich voice.
Every one turned. The door of the school-room was open, and he who had spoken was standing with arms outspread to prevent the children from rushing out too hastily on the slippery ice.
"Not so quick, children," he cried. "You can't fly over the snow like lapwings."
A boy of about ten repeated these words to the smaller children.
"That is right, Jacques," said Simon, "begin early, for you may have this school some day yourself!"
"Good morning, Master Simon," said one of the woodcutters, taking off his hat, "we were just saying that we should like something warm before we started."
"And you are right. I beg your pardon for keeping you waiting. I was just telling the children about a battle of the Republic at Valmy."
"Take my arm, sir," cried one of the woodcutters. "That wooden leg of yours is not very safe on the ice."
"Am I not here?" asked Jacques, in a vexed voice, "can I not look out for my father?"
"But why," he asked, "have you not asked for wine at the inn?"
"Because we heard that the little girl was ill, sir—"
"Oh! it is nothing of any consequence—there she is, as rosy and smiling as ever."
When Simon's voice was heard, the inn awoke from its silence. A woman appeared on the threshold holding in her arms a pretty little creature about six years old.
The mother was a simple peasant woman, wearing a peasant's dress. She began to fill glasses for these woodcutters, who addressed her with a cordial good morning.
At this moment the door was hastily opened, and a man appeared on the threshold. The woodcutters uttered a cry of surprise. The man was a soldier, who leaned against the wall and did not speak.
Simon hurried forward. "You are welcome, comrade," he exclaimed.
The man turned pale, and but for Simon's support, he would have fallen on the floor.
"Francoise, a chair!" cried the innkeeper.
The soldier had his head wrapped in a blue handkerchief, and drops of blood were upon his cheek. His uniform was in rags, and a linen bandage was wrapped around one leg.
The men looked on with terrified respect while Simon tried to make him drink a glass of wine, and signed to Jacques to take off the soldier's shoes, now covered with snow.
The soldier uttered a deep sigh of relief. He was a peasant of about forty, although his moustache was gray. His features bore the traces of suffering and privations.
"Some brandy!" he gasped.
Little Francinette carried the glass to him. He drank it, looking the while at the child with admiration and sad envy. Then taking her on his knee, he looked around him at the honest faces, and said:
"My name is Michel—Michel Charmoze. There are thirty of us down on the road, all wounded, in a big wagon. The horses have fallen, one is dead, and we have come for help."
The woodcutters looked from one to the other in amazement.
"What!" cried the soldier, "do you know nothing in this land of snow? I have been fighting three months on the Rhine. The Emperor has deserted us. All is over!"
The peasants listened in a stupefied sort of way. Only the vaguest rumors had as yet reached the peasants that Napoleon's star had begun to pale. Simon knew it, but he had held his peace.
"Where are the wounded?" he asked, quietly.
"A quarter of a league down the road."
"My friends," said Simon, "we have no horses, but your arms are strong. You must save these Frenchmen!"
"We are ready!" shouted twenty voices.
"Father, may I go, too?" asked Jacques, eagerly.
"Yes," said Simon, kindly. "You may go, and take some brandy with you."
The woodcutters took also shovels, sticks and ropes.
"When they come back," said Simon to his wife, "you must have a good meal ready. Carry straw into the school-room, tear up your old sheets into bandages, and send to Wisembach for the doctor."
"But the child—what am I to do with her?" asked Francoise, timidly.
"Oh! I will look out for her," cried the soldier. "I had a little girl of my own, but since I have been away, both mother and child have died!"
Simon and Michel were alone for a few moments. The little girl still sat on the soldier's knee, gravely enlarging one of the holes in his uniform with her busy little fingers.
"Then the invaders are in France?" said Simon.
"They are, indeed, but they won't stay long—be sure of that!"
"What army is it that is advancing in this direction?" asked Simon.
"Schwartzemberg's, with Russians, Prussians and Austrians."
"How far off are they?"
"Not more than ten leagues. We were nearly overtaken by them. They would not have got thus far had we not been betrayed by everybody. Those dogs of Royalists have felt no shame to be seen with these enemies of France!"
"Do you mean," he asked sternly, "that the emigres have dared——"
"Yes, they have dared to do just that!" and Michel swore a frightful oath. "I believe that there are Frenchmen who would lead these savages on, to roast and kill their own mothers!"
Simon had become deadly pale.
"Yes," continued the soldier. "Let me tell you about this wound." And he tore off the handkerchief around his head. His eyes at that moment fell on Simon's wooden leg, which he had not before seen. "Ah! you are one of us, then?" exclaimed Michel.
Simon nodded. "Go on with your story, my friend," he said.
"Well, we had just crossed the Rhine, and were getting on famously when we saw the detachment that had attacked us. I knew by their caps that they were Russians. We sheltered ourselves behind a wall, and then we let fly. I tell you, that was a fight! In front of me was a tall fellow who fought like the very devil. I pricked him with a bayonet, and he opened his arms wide and yelled—good Lord! I hear that yell now—'I am killed! Here! help for Talizac!' He shot at me the same moment. Now, friend, was not that a French name? But what is the matter with you?"
Simon had dropped into a chair. He was as white as a sheet, and his eyes were fixed on vacancy.
The soldier looked at him for a moment. "Come!" he said, "give me another glass, and we will drink to our country!"
At this moment Francoise came in hurriedly.
"Simon!" she cried, "the peasants are coming here from every direction. They say that the foreigners are coming this way, and they bid us fly!"
Simon went to the door. Francoise had spoken the truth. On all the roads and on all the mountain paths crowds were seen of men, women and children.
If the rout of an army is terrible, that of a people is infinitely more so. This flight from home and fireside is sad beyond expression. These peasants were running, carrying on their shoulders all that they held most precious. Their houses had been searched, for these peasants had served in the rising of '92, and they probably had arms. An old man was shot for concealing a pistol. At another place brutes had insulted the women, and burned the cottages deserted by the fugitives. This was the day that Napoleon Bonaparte had replied to the corps legislatif, who supplicated him to return to the people their lost liberty: "France is a man!—I am that man—with my will, my fame, and my power!"
The woodcutters now returned, dragging the huge wagon they had dug out of the snow-drifts. Simon rapidly explained to several peasants the preparations he had made, and under his instructions they hastened to remove the wounded from the wagon. It was a terrible sight—eleven out of the twenty-eight were dead. But in fifteen minutes the living were lying on the fresh straw spread in the school-room, and Simon and his wife were going from one to another of these poor sufferers, alleviating their sufferings as far as possible. Suddenly a great noise was heard without, followed by the most profound silence. Simon started.
"What was that!" he asked, quickly.
The door opened, and Michel appeared.
"The Cossacks!" he cried. "Come, Master Simon, come!"
Simon obeyed, signing to his wife to take his place. He went outside, and beheld some twenty men mounted on thin but vigorous-looking horses. The men were of medium height, bearded like goats and ugly as monkeys. They wore loose robes fastened into the waists with red scarfs. On their heads were high cylindrical caps. Some wore over their shoulders cloaks of bear skins. Their high saddles formed boxes in which they could pack away their booty. They looked down on the crowd with small, twinkling eyes set far in under bushy brows and low foreheads. At their head was an officer in the Austrian uniform.
The crowd fled to the further end of the open space, and the women clasped their crying children to their breasts. Simon walked directly toward the officer.
"Who are you, and what do you want?" he asked, politely but firmly.
The officer did not seem to hear him—he was looking intently at the inn. Simon repeated his question, this time in German. The Austrian then concluded to look at him.
"Is this village Leigoutte?" he asked. "And is that your inn?" And the soldier pointed to the inn.
"What business is that of yours?" asked Simon, who by this time had become excessively angry.
"Give my men something to drink."
Simon clenched his hands as he replied:
"I never give anything to the enemies of my country!"
The Cossacks understood him and uttered a groan.
"We shall take it by force, then!" said the officer, spurring his horse toward Simon, but the latter pulled out a pistol and pointed it at the Austrian.
"One step further!" he shouted, "and I will blow out your brains!"
The Austrian pulled up his steed, and saying a few words to his men, they turned their horses and departed.
"We shall see you again!" shouted the Austrian, over his shoulder.
The peasants uttered a shout of joy, but Simon was very thoughtful.
"Why," said he, to himself, "should there be a reconnoissance expressly for this village?"
The men now crowded around Simon.
"You frightened them well!" they said. "How ugly they are!" They laughed, and seemed to think all danger was past.
Simon and Michel exchanged a look, then the former raised his hand to command silence.
"My friends," he said, "they will return, and bring many more with them. Those among you who are not afraid to fight, may remain with me. But we must see at once about a place of safety for the women and children. It will be easy for twenty or thirty of us to keep these invaders from coming to this point again, for we know each mountain path. We have arms, for I long since concealed one hundred guns in my house, and these mountains—the ramparts of France, shall become inaccessible citadels. The enemy will approach in a compact column; we must send out scouts who will keep us informed. It is too late to-day for the attack to take place. Two of you will go to the neighboring villages and give the alarm. We will meet to-morrow at the Iron Cross. And remember, children, that in '92, as to-day, the invaders threatened France, and your fathers drove them out. May the children of those men be worthy of them!"
"But about the women and children?" asked Michel.
"They must be hidden in the farm-houses up the mountains. The wounded are protected by the code of war. Courage, then, and shout with me Vive la France!"
These words aroused immense enthusiasm for a few minutes.
Simon felt a hand on his; it was Francoise, with her little girl in her arms, and Jacques at her side.
"We shall not leave you, Simon," said his wife. "But I wish to speak to you a moment."
Simon looked at her in surprise. Then turning to Michel, "You will complete the arrangements. Jacques will show you where the arms are stored."
"Rely on us, Simon!" shouted the peasants. "We will do our duty!"
THE PAST OF FRANCOISE.
Simon followed his wife into the house. She closed the door behind her. Simon was struck by the strange expression in her face. Was it anxiety for him that had clouded that placid brow?
"Friend," said Francoise, "you must know all. I saw that Austrian officer from the window, and recognized him—"
"Yes, for the man who dishonored my sister that fatal night of the 16th of May, 1804, at Sachemont, was not alone. He was accompanied by the Count of Karlstein, the man whom you have just seen. I cannot dwell upon the terrors of that night. I escaped—but my poor sister! Nor did I ever speak of that man to you. I felt that Talizac was enough for us to hate."
"Yes, dear, I see; and I, too, have something to tell, for, when after long months in the hospital at Dresden, I was permitted to leave it, I wandered, I know not where; but I reached a hut—it was in February, 1805—I saw a light and knocked. There was no answer, and I opened the door and went in. To my horror, I beheld a woman dead, and heard an infant screaming its heart out."
"Poor little Jacques!" said Francoise, weeping.
"I saw a cup of milk on the table; I gave some to the infant. Presently you came in, and did not seem astonished to find the child in my arms. The physician you had gone to seek looked at the poor woman, said she was dead, and that he could do nothing. We were left alone together. It seemed as if you trusted me at once. Your hands trembled, and it was I who closed the eyes of the dead. The next day we followed the poor girl to the grave, and when one of the rough peasants who bore the bier on which she lay, asked you who I was, you answered simply, 'A friend!'
"After we returned to the hut, I asked you who the dead girl was, and then you pronounced the name of Talizac, and heard that a gentleman of France had conducted himself like a base coward—"
"But an honorable man said to me, 'Shall we repair the crime of another? Shall we not give this little one a home and a family?' I became your wife, your happy, honored companion, and poor Jacques will never know that he owes his life to a base profligate."
Simon laid his hand on his wife's head.
"Do you know why Simon Fougere wished to make reparation for the crime of the Vicomte de Talizac?"
"Because Simon Fougere had a loyal and generous heart!"
"Because," said Simon, in solemn tones, "because the Vicomte de Talizac is my brother!"
"Your brother! But who, then, are you?"
"The son of the Marquis de Fongereues," and in a few words Simon explained to his wife the situation already known to our readers.
"I reproach myself," concluded Simon, "for having so long concealed my name from you. I have not seen my father since I was a boy. I am indebted to him for a few years of happiness, but he was under the influence of others who awakened in him the pride of race. He has forgotten the Republican soldier, and has never cared to know whether I lived or died, since the day that he offered me a princely fortune, rank and title, to fight against France. But to return to this man, you are sure he is the friend and accomplice of Talizac?"
"I am sure."
"I have never seen my brother, but I know him to be one of the bitterest enemies France has. He has fought against us, and I have heard that he is nearly ruined. Painful as such suspicions are, I am tempted to believe that the appearance of this Karlstein in this out of the way place, is due to the fact that this renegade brother of mine has hunted me up, knowing that at my father's death I can claim my inheritance. I feel as if we were the cause of this attack on Leigoutte, which is really directed on the heir of the Fongereueses."
"Horrible!" murmured Francoise.
"Yes, this officer asked me if this inn belonged to me. Dear wife, it is now doubly our duty to take every measure for the protection of these people. You must take the children away. I must remain with these peasants. I wish you to go to the farm of old Father Lasvene—"
"Yes, I know, a league away, in the Outremont gorge."
"I will take you there. Lasvene is a man of sense, and will not be guilty of any imprudence."
Suddenly Francinette, who was looking out of a window, uttered a shrill cry, and ran to her mother.
"What is it?" exclaimed Simon, rushing to the window, which he threw open, but could see nothing.
Francoise soothed the little girl and questioned her.
The child, still wild with fear, pointed to the window. "A man! a bad man!"
The father lifted her in his arms.
"No, no," he said, "little Francinette was dreaming. There was no one there!"
"Yes, I saw him; he climbed over the wall!"
Simon took his gun and went out. Presently he returned, and with a look towards his wife that contradicted his words, he said, "No, it is nothing."
At the same time he wrote a few words on a bit of paper, and laid it on the table near his wife. This is what she read:
"The child is right; there are footprints on the wall—a spy undoubtedly." He said aloud: "And now, wife, make haste; there is no time to lose. Francinette, go to the other window and see if your brother is anywhere about. And Francoise," Simon continued rapidly, "I do not think that our separation will last long, yet it is well to be prepared for everything. All my secret and family papers are in this portfolio. Take every care of it. And now, kiss me—let no one see you weep!"
Michel and Jacques now entered.
"Well, Michel, what think you of our recruits?" asked Simon, cheerfully.
"Oh, they are born soldiers, and your boy Jacques is as bright as a button!"
Simon drew his child toward him.
"My boy, I meant to take your mother and sister to some place of safety, but I am needed here. You must go in my stead."
"Am I not to remain with you, father?" asked the boy, greatly disappointed.
"No—you are to take care of all that is most precious to me in the world. God bless you all!"
WHERE THE INVASION PASSES.
Never was there solitude more complete and more magnificent than at five o'clock that January morning among the Vosges mountains. The snow was piled up, softening the rugged outlines of the mountain peaks and through the pale darkness dim shadows were silently moving. These shadows are the brave mountaineers, who have come to defend France at the summons of Simon, who, in spite of his wooden leg, displayed immense activity. Among these there were no youths. The conscription had long since swallowed them up. They were elderly men and boys. Two of them were but fourteen, but they were vigorous and determined.
"We have arrived in time," said Simon, "but you are sure that there is no other road by which they can reach the village?"
"Only the one by which the wagon came with the wounded, but that, too, is well guarded."
"Yes," answered Simon, "a few brave fellows could keep an army back there, and you know we are continually receiving reinforcements. As soon as they understand that the gorge is impracticable, they will give up the point, and we shall feel that we have rendered effectual aid to France."
In the souls of these patriots there was a singular instinct of discipline. They listened in silence to Simon's words, and obeyed him whom they had taken for their leader without question or argument.
Simon called two men and bade them climb the high rocks on one side of the gorge. From thence they could look down the whole valley. The mists of the night had slowly drifted away, and the wind had died out. A gleam of sunshine, as pale as moonlight, rested on the mountain top.
The mountaineers waited long on the rocks, whither they had been sent, but returned to say that there was not a sound nor a movement.
"Let us go on," said Simon.
The gorge now became so narrow that only three men could move abreast. On each side rose high walls.
"Now, then," said Simon, "hide here. Keep your eyes open, and waste no ammunition. And you others will pass through that cleft which commands the lower road. Conceal yourselves well, and as soon as a Cossack appears, fire. Hans!"
A peasant ran at the sound of his name.
"If you hear firing from either of these posts, you are to advance at once with twenty men. Select them now, so that there will be no confusion."
Michel listened to these orders in silence.
"Well, comrade," said Simon, "what do you think of my arrangements?"
"They are excellent, and you ought to be a general."
"I could serve only the Republic," answered Simon, "I resigned in 1804."
Michel looked at him as if he did not more than half understand, then he muttered, reluctantly:
"Well, every man is entitled to his opinions."
"Now that our arrangements are made, we two will go on," said Simon.
They walked for some five minutes and reached the entrance of the gorge. There the road suddenly widened, and gently descended to the valley. On the left there was an enormous rock forty feet high. It was shaped like a pyramid standing on its apex. Simon went round it, feeling with his hands, tearing off bits of moss from time to time.
"Ah! we have it. Here, Michel, dig out this place with your bayonet!"
Michel obeyed, though without the smallest idea of what was to be done, and soon a hole of about a square foot was discovered.
"Now," said Simon, triumphantly, "I defy the Cossacks to pass this point!"
He laid on the ground a box that he had been carrying over his shoulder with great care.
"I have ten pounds of powder here!"
He proceeded to place this box in the hole, which it entirely filled. Then he produced a long wick, one end of which he inserted in the box. Then he nearly closed the box, leaving it only sufficiently open for the wick to burn easily.
"If our guns fail us," said Simon, grimly, "this will soon settle the matter!"
At this moment, from out of the woods on the side of the road sprang a man, shouting:
"Save me! Save me!"
Simon saw that the fellow was a gipsy, and that he had been wounded.
"Save me!" repeated the gipsy, "they will kill me!"
"Zounds! fellow," cried Michel, "who are you afraid of? I believe you are a spy!"
Simon motioned to Michel to be silent, and questioned the man who proceeded to say that he and his companions had been seized to act as guides through the forest.
"We refused," he said, "because you French had always been good to us. Then the soldiers killed one after the other of us as fast as we refused, and I ran away. They fired at me, and wounded me in the head. Oh! save me!"
Neither Simon nor Michel noticed the almost theatrical exaggeration of this fellow's gestures.
"The Cossacks are near?" asked Simon. "How many?"
"About five hundred."
"On this road?"
The three men listened, and distinctly heard the smothered footfall of horses in the snow.
"They are coming!" said Simon.
The Bohemian crouched against the rock, and hiding his face, shivered with fear.
Simon entered the gorge, and carrying his fingers to his lips made a noise that sounded like the hoarse caw of a crow. Other signals answered this, showing that all were ready.
Simon stood listening. The sounds came nearer and nearer, and, presently, some fifty yards away, appeared the Cossacks. They came slowly, uneasy at the profound silence. Simon aimed at the leader, fired and the Cossack fell. Frightful yells filled the air, but they continued to advance.
Then from every rock and tree came a rain of balls, the echoes from the granite walls making the invaders suppose that the opposing force was a hundred times what it really was.
The Cossacks were ready enough to return the fire, but they saw no enemy; not a human being. Still they moved on, closing up their ranks, and their horses trampling on the dead bodies of their comrades. They reached the gorge. The peasants, sure of their prey, now forgot all prudence, and showed themselves. The Cossacks, with cries of rage, answered their fusillade. The scene was an absolute butchery.