Obvious typographical errors have been corrected, and inconsistent spelling has been made consistent.
This volume does not have any illustrations.
The Works of Alexandre Dumas in Thirty Volumes
THE SON OF MONTE-CRISTO
Illustrated with Drawings on Wood by Eminent French and American Artists
New York P. F. Collier and Son MCMIV
I. FANFARO'S ADVENTURES 3
II. THE GOLDEN SUN 7
III. OLD AND NEW ACQUAINTANCES 16
IV. BROTHER AND SISTER 23
V. MASTER AND SERVANT 31
VI. THE PERFORMANCE 41
VII. PIERRE LABARRE 49
VIII. A MEETING 59
IX. THE GRATITUDE OF A NOBLEMAN 64
X. ESCAPED 73
XI. IN PARIS 79
XII. THE "MARQUIS" 92
XIII. THE PURSUIT 113
XIV. LOUISE 123
XV. SWINDLED 128
XVI. MACHIAVELLI AND COMPANY 134
XVII. LOUISON 139
XVIII. THE CANAL 143
XIX. SPLENDOR 147
XX. IN LEIGOUTTE 154
XXI. EXCITED 163
XXII. THE TRIAL 177
XXIII. THE CRISIS 180
XXIV. THE AUTOPSY 192
XXV. FROM SCYLLA TO CHARYBDIS 198
XXVI. MISTAKEN 204
XXVII. FREEDOM—BENEDETTO'S REVENGE 207
XXVIII. SPERO 215
XXIX. FORWARD, MARCH 221
XXX. JANE ZILD 228
XXXI. A THUNDERBOLT 240
XXXII. OLD ACQUAINTANCES 246
XXXIII. THE CATASTROPHE 252
XXXIV. A SHOT 262
XXXV. WILL SHE LIVE? 267
XXXVI. MELOSAN'S SECRET 271
XXXVII. CARMEN 287
XXXVIII. RECOLLECTIONS 297
XXXIX. DISAPPEARED 302
XL. A CONFESSION 311
XLI. ON THE TRAIL 318
XLII. THE TRAP 323
XLIII. THE PATH OF THORNS 326
XLIV. THE PASHA 330
XLV. HOW CARMEN KEEPS HER WORD 333
XLVI. IN COURBEVOIE 338
XLVII. THE DEVOTED 341
XLVIII. UNITED IN DEATH 344
XLIX. THE SPECTRE 347
EPILOGUE—THE ABBE DANTES 351
THE SON OF MONTE-CRISTO
Spero, the son of Monte-Cristo, was peacefully sleeping in another room, while, gathered around the table in the dining-room of Fanfaro's house, were Monte-Cristo, Miss Clary, Madame Caraman, Coucou, and Albert de Morcerf, ready to listen to the story of Fanfaro's adventures, which, as narrated at the close of the preceding volume, he was about to begin.
The following is Fanfaro's narrative:
It was about the middle of December, 1813, that a solitary horseman was pursuing the road which leads through the Black Forest from Breisach to Freiburg. The rider was a man in the prime of life. He wore a long brown overcoat, reaching to his knees, and shoes fastened with steel buckles. His powdered hair was combed back and tied with a black band, while his head was covered with a cap that had a projecting peak. The evening came, and darkness spread over the valley: the Black Forest had not received its name in vain. A few miles from Freiburg there stands a lonely hill, named the Emperor's Chair. Dark masses of basalt form the steps of this natural throne; tall evergreens stretch their branches protectingly over the hill. A fresh mountain air is cast about by the big trees, and the north wind is in eternal battle with this giant, which it bends but can never break.
Pierre Labarre, the solitary horseman, was the confidential servant of the Marquis de Fougereuse, and the darker the road became the more uncomfortable he felt. He continually spurred on his horse, but the tired animal at every stride struck against tree roots which lined the narrow path.
"Quick, Margotte," said Pierre to the animal, "you know how anxiously we are awaited, and besides we are the bearers of good news."
The animal appeared to understand the words, began to trot again at a smart pace, and for a time all went well.
Darker and darker grew the night, the storm raged fiercer and fiercer, and the roar of the distant river sounded like the tolling of church-bells.
Pierre had now reached a hill, upon which century-old lindens stretched their leafless branches toward heaven; the road parted at this point, and the rider suddenly reined in his horse. One of the paths led to Breisach, the other to Gundebfingen. Pierre rose in the stirrups and cautiously glanced about, but then he shook his head and muttered:
"Curious, I can discover nothing, and yet I thought I heard the clatter of a horse's hoofs."
He mechanically put his hand in his breast-pocket and nodded his head in a satisfied way.
"The portfolio is still in the right place," he whispered. "Forward, Margotte—we must get under shelter."
But just as the steed was about to start, the rider again heard the sound of a horse's hoofs on the frozen ground, and in a twinkling a horse bounded past Pierre like the wind. It was the second rider who had rushed past the servant at such a rapid gait.
Pierre was not superstitious, yet he felt his heart move quickly when the horseman galloped past him, and old legends about spectres rose up in his mind. Perhaps the rider was the wild huntsman of whom he had heard so much, or what was more likely, it was no spectre, but a robber. This last possibility frightened Pierre very much. He bent down and took a pistol out of the saddle-bag. He cocked the trigger and continued on his way, while he muttered to himself:
"Courage, old boy; if it should come to the worst you will kill your man."
Pierre rode on unembarrassed, and had reached a road which would bring him to Freiburg in less than half an hour. Suddenly a report was heard, and Pierre uttered a hollow groan. A bullet had struck his breast.
Bending with pain over his horse's neck he looked about. The bushes parted and a man enveloped in a long cloak sprung forth and rushed upon the servant. The moment he put his hand on the horse's rein, Pierre raised himself and in an angry voice exclaimed:
"Not so quickly, bandits!"
At the same moment he aimed his pistol and fired. The bandit uttered a moan and recoiled. But he did not sink to the ground as Pierre had expected. He disappeared in the darkness. A second shot fired after him struck in the nearest tree, and Pierre swore roundly.
"Confound the Black Forest," he growled as he rode along; "if I had not fortunately had my leather portfolio in my breast-pocket, I would be a dead man now! The scoundrel must have eyes like an owl: he aimed as well as if he had been on a rifle range. Hurry along, Margotte, or else a second highwayman may come and conclude what the other began."
The horse trotted along, and Pierre heard anew the gallop of a second animal. The bandit evidently desired to keep his identity unknown.
"Curious," muttered Pierre, "I did not see his face, but his voice seemed familiar."
THE GOLDEN SUN
Mr. Schwan, the host of the Golden Sun at Sainte-Ame, a market town in the Vosges, was very busy. Although the month of February was not an inviting one, three travellers had arrived that morning at the Golden Sun, and six more were expected.
Schwan had that morning made an onslaught on his chicken coop, and, while his servants were robbing the murdered hens of their feathers, the host walked to the door of the inn and looked at the sky.
A loud laugh, which shook the windows of the inn, made Schwan turn round hurriedly: at the same moment two muscular arms were placed upon his shoulders, and a resounding kiss was pressed upon his brown cheek.
"What is the meaning of this?" stammered the host, trying in vain to shake off the arms which held him. "The devil take me, but these arms must belong to my old friend Firejaws," exclaimed Schwan, now laughing; and hardly had he spoken the words than the possessor of the arms, a giant seven feet tall, cheerfully said:
"Well guessed, Father Schwan. Firejaws in propria persona."
While the host was cordially welcoming the new arrival, several servants hurried from the kitchen, and soon a bottle of wine and two glasses stood upon the cleanly scoured inn table.
"Make yourself at home, my boy," said Schwan, gayly, as he filled the glasses.
The giant, whose figure was draped in a fantastical costume, grinned broadly, and did justice to the host's invitation. The sharply curved nose and the large mouth with dazzling teeth, the full blond hair, and the broad, muscular shoulders, were on a colossal scale. The tight-fitting coat of the athlete was dark red, the trousers were of black velvet, and richly embroidered shirt-sleeves made up the wonderful appearance of the man.
"Father Schwan, I must embrace you once more," said the giant after a pause, as he stretched out his arms.
"Go ahead, but do not crush me," laughed the host.
"Are you glad to see me again?"
"I should say so. How are you getting along?"
"Splendidly, as usual; my breast is as firm still as if it were made of iron," replied the giant, striking a powerful blow upon his breast.
"Has business been good?"
"Oh, I am satisfied."
"Where are your people?"
"On their way here. The coach was too slow for me, so I left them behind and went on in advance."
"Well, and—your wife?" asked the host, hesitatingly.
The giant closed his eyes and was silent; Schwan looked down at his feet, and after a pause continued:
"Things don't go as they should, I suppose?"
"Let me tell you something," replied the giant, firmly; "if it is just the same to you, I would rather not talk on that subject."
"Ah, really? Poor fellow! Yes, these women!"
"Not so quickly, cousin—my deceased wife was a model of a woman."
"True; when she died I knew you would never find another one to equal her."
"My little Caillette is just like her."
"Undoubtedly. When I saw the little one last, about six years ago, she was as pretty as a picture."
"She is seventeen now, and still very handsome."
"What are the relations between your wife and you?"
"They couldn't be better; Rolla cannot bear the little one."
The host nodded.
"Girdel," he said, softly, "when you told me that day that you were going to marry the 'Cannon Queen,' I was frightened. The woman's look displeased me. Does she treat Caillette badly?"
"She dare not touch a hair of the child's head," hissed the giant, "or—"
"Do not get angry; but tell me rather whether Bobichel is still with you?"
"His time is about up."
"That would be no harm; and the little one?"
"The little one?" laughed Girdel. "Well, he is about six feet."
"You do not say so! Is he still so useful?"
"Cousin," said the giant, slowly, "Fanfaro is a treasure! Do you know, he is of a different breed from us; no, do not contradict me, I know what I am speaking about. I am an athlete; I have arms like logs and hands like claws, therefore it is no wonder that I perform difficult exercises; but Fanfaro is tender and fine; he has arms and hands like a girl, and skin like velvet, yet he can stand more than I can. He can down two of me, yet he is soft and shrewd, and has a heart of gold."
"Then you love him as much as you used to do?" laughed the host, in a satisfied way.
"Much more if it is possible; I—"
The giant stopped short, and when Schwan followed the direction of his eye, he saw that the wagon which carried the fortune of Cesar Girdel had rolled into the courtyard.
Upon four high wheels a large open box swung to and fro; on its four sides were various colored posts, which served to carry the curtains, which shut out the interior of the box from the eyes of the curious world. The red and white curtains were now cast aside, and one could see a mass of iron poles, rags, weights, empty barrels, hoops with and without purple silk paper, the use of which was not clear to profane eyes.
The driver was dressed in yellow woollen cloth, and could at once be seen to be a clown; he wore a high pasteboard cap adorned with bells, and while he swung the whip with his right hand he held a trumpet in his left, which he occasionally put to his lips and blew a blast loud enough to wake the very stones. The man's face was terribly thin, his nose was long and straight, and small dark eyes sparkled maliciously from under his bushy eyebrows.
Behind Bobichel, for this was the clown's name, Caillette, the giant's daughter, was seated. Her father had not overpraised his daughter: the tender, rosy face of the young girl had wonderfully refined features; deep blue soulful eyes lay half hidden under long, dark eyelashes, and gold-blond locks fell over her white neck. Caillette appeared to be enjoying herself, for her silvery laugh sounded continually, while she was conversing with Bobichel.
At the rear of the wagon upon a heap of bedding sat a woman whose dimensions were fabulous. She was about forty-five years of age; her face looked as if it had been chopped with an axe; the small eyes almost disappeared beneath the puffed cheeks, and the broad breast as well as the thick, red arms and claw-like hands were repulsive in the extreme. Bushy hair of a dirty yellow color hung in a confused mass over the shoulders of the virago, and her blue cloth jacket and woollen dress were full of grease spots.
Robeckal walked beside the wagon. He was of small stature, but nervous and muscular. The small face lighted up by shrewd eyes had a yellowish color; the long, thin arms would have done honor to a gorilla, and the elasticity of his bones was monkeyish in the extreme. He wore a suit of faded blue velvet, reddish brown hair only half covered his head, and a mocking laugh lurked about the corners of his lips while he was softly speaking to Rolla.
Bobichel now jumped from the wagon. Girdel hurried from the house and cordially exclaimed:
"Welcome, children; you have remained out long and are not hungry, are you?"
"I could eat pebblestones," replied Bobichel, laughing. "Ah, there is Schwan too. Well, old boy, how have you been getting along?"
While the host and the clown were holding a conversation, Girdel went to the wagon and stretched out his arms.
"Jump, daughter," he laughingly said.
Caillette did not hesitate long; she rose on her pretty toes and swung herself over the edge of the wagon into her father's arms. The latter kissed her heartily on both cheeks, and then placed her on the ground. He then glanced around, and anxiously asked:
"Where is Fanfaro?"
"Here, Papa Firejaws," came cheerfully from the interior of the wagon, and at the same moment a dark head appeared in sight above a large box. The head was followed by a beautifully formed body, and placing his hand lightly on the edge of the wagon, Fanfaro swung gracefully to the ground.
"Madcap, can't you stop turning?" scolded Girdel, laughingly; "go into the house and get your breakfast!"
Caillette, Fanfaro, and Bobichel went away; Girdel turned to his wife and pleasantly said:
"Rolla, I will now help you down."
Rolla looked at him sharply, and then said in a rough, rasping voice:
"Didn't I call you, Robeckal? Come and help me down!"
Robeckal, who had been observing the chickens in the courtyard, slowly approached the wagon.
"What do you want?" he asked.
"Help me down," repeated Rolla.
Girdel remained perfectly calm, but a careful observer might have noticed the veins on his forehead swell. He measured Rolla and Robeckal with a peculiar look, and before his look Rolla's eyes fell.
"Robeckal, are you coming?" cried the virago, impatiently.
"What do you wish here?" asked Girdel, coolly, as Robeckal turned to Rolla.
"What do I wish here?" replied Robeckal; "Madame Girdel has done me the honor to call me, and—"
"And you are thinking rather long about it," interrupted Rolla, gruffly.
"I am here," growled Robeckal, laying his hand upon the edge of the wagon.
"No further!" commanded Girdel, in a threatening voice.
"Ha! who is going to prevent me?"
"I, wretch!" thundered Firejaws, in whose eyes a warning glance shone.
"Bah! you are getting angry about nothing," said Robeckal, mockingly, placing his other hand on the edge of the wagon.
"Strike him, Robeckal!" cried Rolla, urgingly.
Robeckal raised his right hand, but at the same moment the athlete stretched him on the ground with a blow of his fist; he could thank his stars that Girdel had not struck him with his full force, or else Robeckal would never have got up again. With a cry of rage he sprung up and threw himself upon the giant, who waited calmly for him with his arms quietly folded over his breast; a sword shone in Robeckal's hand, and how it happened neither he nor Rolla knew, but immediately after he lay on top of the wagon, close to the Cannon Queen.
"Enough of your rascality, Robeckal," said the voice of him who had thrown the angry man upon the wagon.
"I thought the wretched boy would come between us again," hissed Rolla; and without waiting for any further help she sprung from the wagon and rushed upon Fanfaro, for he it was who had come to Girdel's assistance.
"Back, Rolla!" exclaimed Firejaws, hoarsely, as he laid his iron fist upon his wife's shoulder. Schwan came to the door and cordially said:
"Where are your comrades? The soup is waiting."
Robeckal hurriedly glided from the wagon, and approaching close to Rolla, he whispered a few words in her ear.
"Let me go, Girdel," said the giantess. "Who would take such a stupid joke in earnest? Come, I am hungry."
Firejaws looked at his wife in amazement. Her face, which had been purple with anger, was now overspread by a broad grin, and shrugging his shoulders, Girdel walked toward the house. Fanfaro followed, and Robeckal and Rolla remained alone.
"We must make an end of it, Rolla," grumbled Robeckal.
"I am satisfied. The sooner the better!"
"Good. I shall do it to-night. See that you take a little walk afterward on the country road. I will meet you there and tell you my plan."
"Do so. Let us go to dinner now, I am hungry."
When Rolla and Robeckal entered the dining-room, Girdel, Caillette, Bobichel, and Fanfaro were already sitting at table, and Schwan was just bringing in a hot, steaming dish.
OLD AND NEW ACQUAINTANCES
While the hungry guests were eating, the door at the back of the large dining-room was very softly opened. None of the strangers observed this, but the host, whose eyes were all over, went toward the door, at the threshold of which stood a man about forty years of age. The man was small and lean, and wore a brown overcoat trimmed with fur; the coat was cut out at the bosom and allowed a yellow vest and sky-blue tie to be seen. Trousers of dark-blue cloth reached to the knee, and his riding-boots, with spurs, completed the wonderfully made toilet.
The man's face had a disagreeable expression. He had deep squinting eyes, a large mouth, a broad nose, and long, bony fingers.
When the host approached the stranger he bowed and respectfully asked:
"How can I serve you, sir?"
The stranger did not reply; his gaze was directed toward the table and the guests, and the host, who had observed his look, again repeated the question.
The stranger walked into the middle of the room, and, seating himself at a table, said:
"Bring me a glass of brandy."
"I thought—I believed—" began the host.
"Do as I told you. I am expecting some one. Get a good dinner ready, and as soon as—the other one arrives, you can serve it."
"It shall be attended to," nodded Schwan, who thought the man was the steward of some big lord.
Just as the host was about to leave the room, the door was opened again and two more travellers entered. The first comer threw a look at the new arrivals, and a frown crossed his ugly face.
The last two who entered were entirely dissimilar. One of them, to judge from his upright bearing, must have formerly been a soldier. He was dressed plainly in civilian's clothes, and his bushy white mustache gave his face a threatening look; the deep blue eyes, however, served to soften the features. The other man was evidently a carman; he wore a blue linen blouse, leathern shoes, knee-breeches and a large round hat. When the host praised his kitchen to the new-comers, his words fell on fertile ground, for when he asked the first guest whether he would like to have some ham and eggs, the proposition was at once accepted.
"Where shall I serve the gentlemen?"
For a moment there was deep silence. The guests had just perceived the first comer and did not seem to be impressed by his appearance. Nevertheless, the man who looked like a soldier decided that they should be served at one of the side tables. When he said this Girdel looked up, and his features showed that the new-comers were not strangers to him. The man in the brown overcoat laughed mockingly when he perceived that the two strangers chose a table as far away from his as possible. He looked fixedly at them, and when Schwan brought him the brandy he had ordered, he filled his glass and emptied it at one gulp. He then took some newspapers out of his pocket and began to read, holding the pages in such a way as to conceal his face.
The host now brought the ham and eggs. As he placed them on the table, the carman hastily asked:
"How far is it, sir, from here to Remiremont?"
"To Remiremont? Ah, I see the gentlemen do not belong to the vicinity. To Remiremont is about two hours."
"So much the better; we can get there then in the course of the afternoon."
"That is a question," remarked Schwan.
"How so? What do you mean?"
"The road is very bad," he replied.
"That won't be so very dangerous."
"Oh, but the floods!"
"What's the matter with the floods?" said the old soldier.
"The enormous rainfall of the last few weeks has swollen all the mountain lakes," said the host, vivaciously, "and the road to Remiremont is under water, so that it would be impossible for you to pass."
"That would be bad," exclaimed the carman, excitedly.
"It would be dangerous," remarked the old soldier.
"Oh, yes, sir; last year two travellers were drowned between Sainte-Ame and Remiremont; to tell the truth, the gentlemen looked like you!"
"Thanks for the compliment!"
"The gentlemen probably had no guide," said the carman.
"Well, we shall take a guide along; can you get one for us?"
"To-morrow, but not to-day."
"Because my people are busy; but to-morrow it can be done."
In the meantime, the acrobats had finished their meal. Girdel arose, and, drawing close to the travellers, said:
"If the gentlemen desire, they can go with us to-morrow to Remiremont."
"Oh, that is a good idea," said the host gleefully; "accept, gentlemen. If Girdel conducts you, you can risk it without any fear."
In spite of the uncommon appearance of the athlete, the strangers did not hesitate to accept Girdel's offer; they exchanged glances, and the soldier said:
"Accepted, sir. We are strangers here, and would have surely lost ourselves. When do you expect to go?"
"To-morrow morning. To-night we give a performance here, and with the dawn of day we start for Remiremont."
"Good. Can I invite you now to join us in a glass of wine?"
Girdel protested more politely than earnestly; Schwan brought a bottle and glasses, and the giant sat down by the strangers.
While this was going on, the first comer appeared to be deeply immersed in the paper, though he had not lost a word of the conversation, and as Firejaws took a seat near the strangers, he began again to laugh mockingly.
Robeckal and Rolla now left the dining-room, while Fanfaro, Caillette and Bobichel still remained seated; a minute later Robeckal returned, and drawing near to Girdel, softly said to him:
"Do you need me?"
"To erect the booth?"
"No, Fanfaro and Bobichel will attend to it."
"Then good-by for the present."
Robeckal left. Hardly had the door closed behind him than the man in the brown overcoat stopped reading his paper and left the room too.
"One word, friend," he said to Robeckal.
"Quick, what does it concern?"
"Twenty francs for you, if you answer me properly."
"What is this Firejaws?"
"Athlete, acrobat, wrestler—anything you please."
"What is his right name?"
"Girdel, Cesar Girdel."
"Do you know the men with whom he just spoke?"
"You hate Girdel?"
"Who told you so, and what is it your business?"
"Ah, a great deal. If you hate him we can make a common thing of it. You belong to his troupe?"
"Yes, for the present."
"Bah, long enough to earn a few gold pieces."
"What is asked of me for that?"
"You? Not much. You shall have an opportunity to pay back the athlete everything you owe him in the way of hate, and besides you will be well rewarded."
Robeckal shrugged his shoulders.
"Humbug," he said, indifferently.
"No, I mean it seriously."
"I should like it to be done," replied Robeckal, dryly.
"Here are twenty francs in advance."
Robeckal stretched out his hand for the gold piece, let it fall into his pocket, and disappeared without a word.
"You have come too late, my friend," he laughed to himself. "Girdel will be a dead man before the morrow comes, as sure as my name is Robeckal."
In the meantime Girdel continued to converse with the two gentlemen; Schwan went here and there, and Fanfaro, Caillette and Bobichel were waiting for the athlete's orders for the evening performance.
"How goes it?" asked the carman, now softly.
"Good," replied Girdel, in the same tone.
"The peasants are prepared?"
"Yes. The seed is ripe. They are only waiting for the order to begin to sow.
"We must speak about this matter at greater length, but not here. Did you notice the man who was reading the paper over there a little while ago?"
"Yes; he did not look as if he could instil confidence into any one; I think he must be a lackey."
"He could be a spy too; when can we speak to one another undisturbed?"
"This evening after the performance, either in your room or in mine."
"Let it be in yours; we can wait until the others sleep; let your door remain open, Girdel."
"I will not fail to do so."
"Then it is settled; keep mum. No one must know of our presence here."
"Not even Fanfaro?"
"No, not for any price."
"But you do not distrust him? He is a splendid fellow—"
"So much the better for him; nevertheless, he must not know anything. I can tell you the reason; we wish to speak about him; we desire to intrust certain things with him."
"You couldn't find a better person."
"I believe it. Good-by, now, until to-night."
"Sir," said the carman, now aloud, "we accept your proposal with thanks, and hope to reach Remiremont to-morrow with your help."
Girdel turned now to Fanfaro, and gayly cried:
"To work, my son; we must dazzle the inhabitants of Sainte-Ame! Cousin Schwan, have we got permission to give our performance? You are the acting mayor."
"I am," replied Schwan; "hand in your petition; here is some stamped paper."
"Fanfaro, write what is necessary," ordered Girdel; "you know I'm not much in that line."
"If you are not a man of the pen, you are a man of the heart," laughed Fanfaro, as he quickly wrote a few lines on the paper.
"Flatterer," scolded Girdel. "Forward, Bobichel; bring me the work-box; the people will find out to-night that they will see something."
BROTHER AND SISTER
Half an hour later the inhabitants of Sainte-Ame crowded about the open place in front of the Golden Sun. They seldom had an opportunity of seeing anything like this, for very few travelling shows ever visited the small Lorraine village; and with almost childish joy the spectators gazed at Bobichel, Fanfaro, and Girdel, who were engaged in erecting the booth. The work went on briskly. The posts which had been run into the ground were covered with many-colored cloths, and a hurriedly arranged wooden roof protected the interior of the tent from the weather. Four wooden stairs led to the right of the entrance, where the box-office was; this latter was made of a primitive wooden table, on which was a faded velvet cover embroidered with golden arabesques and cabalistic signs. All the outer walls of the booth were covered with yellow bills, upon which could be read that "Signor Firejaws" would lift with his teeth red-hot irons of fabulous weight, swallow burning lead, and perform the most startling acrobatic tricks. Rolla, the Cannon Queen, would catch cannon balls shot from a gun, and do other tricks; at the same time the bill said she would eat pigeons alive, and with their feathers on. Caillette, the "daughter of the air," as she was called, would send the spectators into ecstasies by her performance on the tight rope, and sing songs. Robeckal, the "descendant of the old Moorish kings," would swallow swords, eat glass, shave kegs with his teeth; and Fanfaro would perform on the trapeze, give his magic acts, and daze the public with his extraordinary productions. A pyramid, formed of all the members of the troupe, at the top of which Caillette shone with a rose in her hand, stood at the bottom of the bills in red colors, and was gazed upon by the peasants in open-mouthed wonder. The hammering which went on in the interior of the booth sounded to them like music, and they could hardly await the night, which was to bring them so many magnificent things.
Girdel walked up and down in a dignified way and the crowd respectfully made way for him, while the giant, in stentorian tones, gave the orders to Fanfaro and Bobichel.
Bobichel's name was not on the bills; he was to surprise the public as a clown, and therefore his name was never mentioned. He generally amused the spectators in a comical way, and always made them laugh; even now, when he had finished his work, he mingled with the peasants and delighted them with his jokes.
Fanfaro and Caillette were still engaged constructing the booth. The young man arranged the wooden seats and the giant's daughter hung the colored curtains, which covered the bare walls, putting here and there artificial flowers on them. Sometimes Caillette would pause in her work, to look at Fanfaro with her deep blue eyes.
Fanfaro was now done with the seats and began to fasten two trapezes. They hung to a centre log by iron hooks, and were about twelve feet from the ground and about as far distant from each other.
Fanfaro lightly swung upon the centre log and hammered in the iron hooks with powerful blows.
The wonderfully fine-shaped body was seen to advantage in this position, and a sculptor would have enthusiastically observed the classical outlines of the young man, whose dark tights fitted him like a glove.
Fanfaro's hands and feet were as small as those of a woman, but, as Girdel had said, his muscles and veins were as hard as iron.
The iron hooks were fast now, and the young man swung himself upon a plank; he then glided down one trapeze, and with a quick movement grasped the other.
Like an arrow the slim body shot through the air, and then Fanfaro sprung lightly to the ground, while the trapeze flew back.
At the very moment the young man let go of the trapeze a faint scream was heard, and Caillette, deadly pale, stood next to Fanfaro.
"How you frightened me, you wicked fellow," said the young girl, drawing a deep breath.
"Were you really frightened, Caillette? I thought you would have got used to my exercises long ago."
"I ought to be so," pouted Caillette, pressing her hands to her fast-beating heart, "but every time I see you fly, fear seizes hold of me and I unconsciously cry aloud. Oh, Fanfaro, if an accident should happen to you—I would not survive it."
"Little sister, you are needlessly alarming yourself."
Caillette held down her pretty little head and the hot blood rushed to her velvety cheeks, while her hands nervously clutched each other.
"Caillette, what ails you?" asked Fanfaro.
"Oh—tell me, Fanfaro, why do you always call me 'little sister'?"
"Does the expression displease you, mademoiselle?" laughingly said the young man; "is it the word 'little,' or the word 'sister'?"
"I did not say the expression displeased me."
"Should I call you my big sister?"
"Why do you call me sister at all?"
A cloud spread over the young man's face.
"Did we not grow up together like brother and sister?" he asked; "you were six years old when your father took the deserted boy to his home."
"But you are not my brother," persisted Caillette.
"Perhaps not in the sense commonly associated with the term, but yet I love you like a brother. Doesn't this explanation please you?"
"Yes and no. I wished—"
"What would you wish?"
"I had rather not say it," whispered Caillette, and hastily throwing her arms about Fanfaro she kissed him heartily.
Fanfaro did not return the kiss; on the contrary he turned away and worked at the trapeze cord. He divined what was going on in Caillette, as many words hastily spoken had told the young man that the young girl loved him not as the sister loves the brother, but with a more passionate love. Caillette was still unaware of it, but every day, every hour could explain her feelings to her, and Fanfaro feared that moment, for he—did not love her.
How was this possible? He could hardly account for it himself. Caillette was so charming, and yet he could not think of the lovely creature as his wife; and as an honest man it did not enter his mind to deceive the young girl as to his feelings.
"Caillette," he said, now trying to appear cheerful, "we must hurry up with our preparations, or the performance will begin before we are done."
Caillette nodded, and taking her artificial flowers again in her hand, she began to separate them. At the same time the door opened and Firejaws appeared in company with two ladies. Fanfaro and Caillette glanced at the unexpected guests and heard the elderly lady say:
"Irene, what new caprice is it that brings you here, and what will the countess say if she hears of it?"
"Madame Ursula, spare your curtain lectures," laughed the young lady; "and if you cannot do so, you are free to return to the castle."
"God forbid," exclaimed Madame Ursula in affright.
She was a perfect type of the governess, with long thin features, pointed nose, small lips, gray locks, and spectacles. She wore a hat which fell to her neck, and a long colored shawl hung over her shoulders.
The appearance of the young lady compared very favorably with that of the duenna. A dark-blue riding costume sat tightly on a magnificent form; a brown velvet hat with a long white feather sat coquettishly on her dark locks; fresh red lips, sparkling black eyes, a classically formed nose, and finely curved lips completed her charming appearance. The young lady appeared to be about eighteen or nineteen years old; a proud smile hovered about her lips and the dark eyes looked curiously about.
Fanfaro and Caillette paused at their work, and now the young girl exclaimed in a clear bell-like voice:
"Monsieur Girdel, would it be possible for me to secure a few places for this evening, that is, some that are hid from the rest of the spectators?"
"H'm—that would be difficult," said Girdel, looking about.
"Of course I shall pay extra for the seats," continued the young lady.
"We have only one price for the front rows," said Firejaws, simply; "they cost twenty sous and the rear seats ten sous."
The governess sighed sorrowfully; Irene took an elegant purse from her pocket and pressed it in Girdel's hand.
"Take the money," she said, "and do what I say."
"I will try to get you the seats you desire, mademoiselle," he said politely, "but only for the usual price. Fanfaro," he said, turning to the young man, "can't we possibly fix up a box?"
Fanfaro drew near, and the young lady with open wonder gazed at the beautiful youth.
"What's the trouble, Papa Girdel?" he said.
Before the giant could speak Irene said:
"I do not ask very much. I would like to look at the performance, but naturally would not like to sit with the crowd. You know, peasants and such common people—"
"H'm!" growled Girdel.
"It is impossible," said Fanfaro, coolly.
"Impossible?" repeated the young lady in amazement.
"But, Fanfaro," interrupted Girdel, "I should think we could do it. A few boards, a carpet, and the thing is done."
"Perhaps, but I shall not touch a finger to it."
"You refuse?" exclaimed Irene. "Why, if I may ask?"
"Bravo, Fanfaro!" whispered Caillette, softly.
"Will you answer my question, monsieur—— I do not know your name?" said Irene, impatiently.
"I am called Fanfaro," remarked the young man.
"Well then, Monsieur Fanfaro," began Irene, with a mocking laugh, "why do you refuse to lend your master a helping hand?"
"His master?" replied Girdel, with flaming eyes; "excuse me, mademoiselle, but you have been incorrectly informed."
"Come, Papa Girdel," laughed Fanfaro, "I will tell the young lady my reasons, and I think you will approve of them. The public of 'peasants,' and such 'common people,' who are so repulsive to you, mademoiselle, that you do not desire to touch them with the seam of your dress, admire us and provide us with our sustenance. The hands which applaud us are coarse, I cannot deny it; but in spite of this, we regard their applause just as highly as that given to us by people whose hands are incased in fine kid gloves. To give you an especial box, mademoiselle, would be an insult to the peasants, and why should we do such a thing? Am I right or not?"
While Fanfaro was speaking, Irene looked steadily at his handsome face. The governess muttered something about impertinence. When the young man looked up, Irene softly said:
"That was a sharp lesson."
"No; I merely told you my opinion."
"Good. Now let me give you my answer; I will come this evening!"
"I thought so," replied Fanfaro simply.
MASTER AND SERVANT
When the young lady and her governess left the booth and wended their way along the country road, the peasants respectfully made way for them and even Bobichel paused in his tricks. Irene held her little head sidewise as she walked through the crowd, while the governess marched with proudly uplifted head.
"Thank God," said Madame Ursula, "there is the carriage."
An elegant equipage came in sight, and a groom led a beautiful racer by the bridle.
"Step in, Madame Ursula," said Irene, laughing, as she vaulted into the saddle.
"But you promised me—"
"To be at the castle the same time as you," added the young lady. "And I shall keep my promise. Forward, Almanser!"
The horse flew along like an arrow, and Madame Ursula, sighing, got into the carriage, which started off in the same direction.
"Who is the handsome lady?" asked Bobichel.
"The richest heiress in Alsace and Lorraine, Mademoiselle de Salves," was the answer.
"Ah, she suits me," said the clown.
"Bah, she is as proud as a peacock," growled an old peasant.
"It is all the same to me," said a second peasant; "she is going to be married to a gentleman in Paris, and there she fits better."
A heavy mail-coach, which halted at the Golden Sun, interrupted the conversation. Mr. Schwan ran to the door to receive the travellers, and at the same moment the man in the brown overcoat appeared at the threshold of the door. Hardly had he seen the mail-coach than he hurried to open the door, and in a cringing voice said:
"Welcome, Monsieur le Marquis; my letter arrived, then, opportunely?"
The occupant of the coach nodded, and leaning on the other's arm, he got out. It was the Marquis of Fougereuse. He looked like a man prematurely old, whose bent back and wrinkled features made him look like a man of seventy, while in reality he was hardly fifty.
In the marquis's company was a servant named Simon, who, in the course of years, had advanced from the post of valet to that of steward.
"What does the gentleman desire?" asked the host, politely.
"Let the dinner be served in my room," ordered Simon; and, giving the marquis a nod, he strode to the upper story in advance of him.
The door which Simon opened showed an elegantly furnished room according to Schwan's ideas, yet the marquis appeared to pay no attention to his surroundings, for he hardly gazed around, and in a state of exhaustion sank into a chair. Simon stood at the window and looked out, while the host hurriedly set the table; when this was finished, Simon winked to Schwan and softly said:
"Leave the room now, and do not enter it until I call for you."
"If the gentlemen wish anything—"
"I know, I know," interrupted Simon, impatiently. "Listen to what I say. You would do well to keep silent about the purpose of my master's visit here. In case any one asks you, simply say you know nothing."
"Neither I do," remarked Schwan.
"So much the better, then you do not need to tell a lie; I advise you in your own interest not to say anything."
The host went away and growled on the stairs:
"Confound big people and their servants. I prefer guests like Girdel and his troupe."
As soon as the door had closed behind Schwan, Simon approached the marquis.
"We are alone, master," he said timidly.
"Then speak; have you discovered Pierre Labarre's residence?"
"But you have not gone to see him yet?"
"No, I kept within your orders."
"You were right. I must daze the old scoundrel through my sudden appearance; I hope to get the secret from him."
"Is everything better now, master?" asked Simon, after a pause.
"Better? What are you thinking of?" exclaimed the marquis, angrily. "Every one has conspired against me, and ruin is near at hand."
"But the protection of his majesty—"
"Bah! the protection of the king is useless, if the cabinet hate me. Besides, I have had the misfortune to anger Madame de Foucheres, and since then everything has gone wrong."
"The king cannot have forgotten what you did for him," said Simon.
"A few weeks ago I was driven to the wall by my creditors, and I went to the king and stated my case to him. Do you know what his answer was? 'Monsieur,' he said, earnestly, 'a Fougereuse should not demean himself by begging,' and with that he gave me a draft for eighty thousand francs! What are eighty thousand francs for a man in my position? A drop of water on a hot stove."
"But the vicomte," he observed; "his majesty showers favors upon him—"
"I am much obliged for the favors! Yes, my son is spoken of, but in what a way! The vicomte gambles, the vicomte is always in a scrape, the vicomte is the hero of the worst adventures—and kind friends never fail to tell me all about it! I hope his marriage will put a stop to all this business. Have you heard anything further of the De Salves ladies?"
"Not much, but enough. The estate of the young heiress is the largest for miles about, and she herself is a beauty of the first class."
"So much the better. Think of it, four millions! Oh, if this should be lost to us!"
"That will hardly be the case, Monsieur le Marquis; the marriage has been decided upon."
"Certainly, certainly, but then—if the old countess should find out about our pecuniary embarrassments all would be lost. But no, I will not despair; Pierre Labarre must talk, and then—"
"Suppose he won't? Old people are sometimes obstinate."
"Have no fear, Simon, my methods have subdued many wills."
"Yes, yes, you are right, sir," laughed Simon.
"I can rely on you, then?"
"Perfectly so, sir. If it were necessary I would pick it up with ten Pierres!"
"You will find me grateful," said the marquis. "If Pierre Labarre gives the fortune to the Fougereuse and the vicomte becomes the husband of the countess, we will be saved."
"I know that you have brilliant prospects, my lord," replied Simon, "and I hope to win your confidence. The last few weeks I had an opportunity to do a favor to the family of my honored master."
"Really? You arouse my curiosity."
"My lord, Monsieur Franchet honored me with his confidence."
The marquis looked in amazement at his steward; Franchet was the superintendent of police. Recommended by the Duke of Montmorency, he was an especial favorite of the Society of Jesus. The Jesuits had spun their nets over the whole of France, and the secret orders emanated from the Rue de Vaugirard. Franchet had the reins of the police department in his hands, and used his power for the furtherance of the Jesuits' plans. The amazement which seized the marquis when he heard that his steward was the confidant of Franchet, was only natural; that Simon would make a good spy, Fougereuse knew very well.
"Go on," he softly said, when Simon paused.
"Thanks to the superintendent's confidence in me," said Simon, "I am able to secure a much more influential position at court for Monsieur le Marquis than he has at present."
"And how are you going to perform the miracle?" asked the marquis, sceptically.
"By allowing Monsieur le Marquis to take part in my projects for the good of the monarchy."
"Speak more clearly," ordered the marquis, briefly.
Simon went close to his master, and whispered:
"There exists a dangerous conspiracy against the state. People wish to overturn the government and depose the king."
"Folly! that has been often desired."
"But this time it is serious. A republican society—"
"Do not speak to me about republicans!" exclaimed Fougereuse, angrily.
"Let me finish, Monsieur le Marquis. My news is authentic. The attempt will perhaps be made in a few weeks, and then it will be a question of sauve qui peut! Through a wonderful chain of circumstances the plans of the secret society came into my hands. I could go to the king now and name him all the conspirators who threaten his life, but what would be my reward? With a servant little ado is made. His information is taken, its truth secretly looked into and he is given a small sum of money with a letter saying that he must have been deceived. If the Marquis of Fougereuse, on the other hand, should come, he is immediately master of the situation. The matter is investigated, the king calls him his savior, and his fortune is made."
The marquis sprung up in excitement.
"And you are in a position to give me the plans of this society? You know who the conspirators are?" he exclaimed, with sparkling eyes.
"Yes, my lord."
"You would allow me to reap the profit of your discovery?"
"Yes, my lord; I am in the first place a faithful servant."
"Simon, let us stop this talk with turned down cards. What do you wish in return?"
"Nothing, my lord; I depend upon your generosity."
"You shall not have cause to regret it," said the marquis, drawing a deep breath. "Should I succeed in securing an influential position at court, you shall be the first to profit by it."
"Thanks, my lord. I know I can count on your word. To come back to Pierre Labarre, I think we should hunt him up as soon as possible."
"I am ready; where does he live?"
"At Vagney, about three hours distant."
"It is now three o'clock," said the marquis, pulling out his watch. "If we start now, we will be able to return to-night."
"Then I shall order horses at once!"
Simon went away, and the marquis remained behind thinking. No matter where he looked, the past, present and future were alike blue to him.
The old marquis had died in 1817, and the vicomte had immediately set about to have the death of his brother, which had taken place at Leigoutte in 1814, confirmed. Both the wife and the children of Jules Fougere had disappeared since that catastrophe, and so the Vicomte of Talizac, now Marquis of Fougereuse, claimed possession of his father's estate.
But, strange to say, the legacy was far less than the vicomte and Madeleine had expected, and, as they both had contracted big debts on the strength of it, nothing was left to them but to sell a portion of the grounds.
Had the marquis and his wife not lived so extravagantly they would not have tumbled from one difficulty into the other, but the desire to cut a figure in the Faubourg St. Germain consumed vast sums, and what the parents left over, the son gambled away and dissipated.
Petted and spoiled by his mother, the Vicomte de Talizac was a fast youth before he had attained his fifteenth year. No greater pleasure could be given his mother than to tell her, that her son was the leader of the jeunesse doree. He understood how to let the money fly, and when the marquis, alarmed at his son's extravagance, reproached his wife, the latter cut him short by saying:
"Once for all, Jean, my son was not made to save; he is the heir of the Fougereuse, and must keep up his position."
"But in this way we shall soon be beggars," complained the marquis.
"Is that my fault?" asked Madame Madeleine, sharply. "What good is it that you—put your brother out of the way? His portion of the fortune is kept from you, and if you do not force Pierre Labarre to speak you will have to go without it."
"Then you think Pierre Labarre knows where the major part of my father's fortune is?" asked the marquis.
"Certainly. He and no one else has it in safe keeping, and if you do not hurry up, the old man might die, and we can look on."
The marquis sighed. This was not the first time Madeleine provoked him against Pierre Labarre, but the old man had disappeared since the death of his master, and it required a long time before Simon, the worthy assistant of the marquis, found out his residence.
In the meantime the position of the Fougereuses was getting worse and worse. At court murmurs were heard about swindling speculations with which the marquis's name was connected, and the vicomte did his best to drag the proud old name in the dust. A rescue was at hand, in a marriage of the vicomte with the young Countess of Salves, but this rescue rested on a weak footing, as a new escapade of "The Talizac Buckle," as the heir of the Fougereuse was mockingly called, might destroy the planned union.
Talizac was the hero of all the scandals of Paris; he sought and found his companions in very peculiar regions, and several duels he had fought had made his name, if not celebrated, at least disreputable.
This was the position of the marquis's affairs when Simon found Pierre Labarre; the marquis was determined not to return to Paris without first having settled the affair, and as Simon now returned to the room with the host, his master exclaimed:
"Are the horses ready?"
"No, my lord; the Cure has overflowed in consequence of the heavy rains, and the road from here to Vagney is impassable."
"Can we not reach Vagney by any other way?"
"No, my lord."
"Bah! the peasants exaggerate the danger so as to get increased prices for their services. Have you tried to get horses?"
"Yes, my lord; but unfortunately no one in the village except the host owns any."
"Then buy the host's horses."
"He refuses to give me the animals. An acrobat who came here this morning, and who owns two horses, refused to sell them to me."
"That looks almost like a conspiracy!" exclaimed the marquis.
"I think so too, and if I am permitted an advice—"
"Speak freely; what do you mean?"
"That the best thing we can do is to start at once on foot. If we hurry, we can reach Vagney this evening, and the rest will take care of itself."
"You are right," replied the marquis; "let us go."
Schwan was frightened when he heard of their intention, but the marquis remained determined, and the two were soon on the road.
"If no accident happens," growled the host to himself, "the Cure is a treacherous sheet of water; I wish they were already back again."
While the marquis and Simon were starting on their journey, Robeckal and Rolla had met on the country road as appointed, and in a long whispered conversation had made their plans. They both hated Girdel, Caillette, Fanfaro and Bobichel, and their idea was to kill both Girdel and Fanfaro that very evening. Caillette could be attended to afterward, and Bobichel was of no importance. Rolla loved Robeckal, as far as it was possible for a person like her to love any one, and desired to possess him. Robeckal, on his side, thought it would not be a bad idea to possess Girdel's business along with its stock, with which he ungallantly reckoned Rolla and Caillette. Caillette especially he admired, but he was smart enough not to say a word to Rolla.
"Enter, ladies and gentlemen, enter," exclaimed Bobichel, as he stood at the box-office and cordially greeted the crowds of people.
"I wonder whether she will come?" muttered Caillette to herself.
"Everything is ready," whispered Robeckal to Rolla; the Cannon Queen nodded and threw dark scowls at Girdel and Fanfaro.
The quick gallop of a horse was now heard, and the next minute Irene de Salves stepped into the booth.
"Really, she has come," muttered Caillette in a daze, as she pressed her hand to her heart and looked searchingly at Fanfaro.
The latter looked neither to the right nor left. He was busy arranging Girdel's weights and iron poles, and Caillette, calmed by the sight, turned around.
When Irene took her seat a murmur ran through the crowded house. The Salves had always occupied an influential position in the country; the great estate of the family insured them power and influence at court, and they were closely attached to the monarchy.
Irene's grandfather, the old Count of Salves, had been guillotined in 1793; his son had served under Napoleon, and was killed in Russia when his daughter had hardly reached her third year. The count's loss struck the countess to the heart; she retired to her castle in the neighborhood of Remiremont and attended to the education of her child.
Irene grew up, and when she often showed an obstinacy and wildness strange in a girl, her mother would say, with tears in her eyes:
"Thank God, she is the picture of her father."
That nothing was done under the circumstances to curb Irene's impetuosity is easily understood. Every caprice of the young heiress was satisfied, and so it came about that the precocious child ruled the castle. She thought with money anything could be done, and more than once it happened that the young girl while hunting trod down the peasants' fields, consoling herself with the thought:
"Mamma gives these people money, and therefore it is all right."
When Irene was about fifteen years old her mother became dangerously ill, and remained several months in bed. She never recovered the use of her limbs, and day after day she remained in her arm-chair, only living in the sight of her daughter. When Irene entered the room the poor mother thought the sun was rising, and she never grew tired of looking in her daughter's clear eyes and listening to her silvery voice. The most singular contradictions reigned in Irene's soul; she could have cried bitterly one minute, and laughed aloud the next; for hours at a time she would sit dreaming at the window, and look out at the autumnal forest scenery, then spring up, hurry out, jump into the saddle and bound over hill and valley. Sometimes she would chase a beggar from the door, the next day overload him with presents; she spent nights at the bedside of a sick village child, and carried an old woman at the risk of her life, from a burning house; in short, she was an original.
A few months before, the lawyer who administered the countess's fortune had appeared at the castle and had locked himself up with her mother. When he left the castle the next day, the young lady was informed that she was to be married off, and received the news with the greatest unconcern. She did not know her future husband, the Vicomte de Talizac, but thought she would be able to get along with him. That she would have to leave her castle and her woods displeased her; she had never had the slightest longing for Paris, and the crowded streets of the capital were intolerable to her; but seeing that it must be she did not complain.
It was a wild caprice which had induced the young girl to attend Girdel's performance; Fanfaro's lecture had angered her at first, but later on, when she thought about it, she had to confess that he was right. She was now looking expectantly at the young man, who was engaged with Bobichel in lighting the few lamps, and when he drew near to her, she whispered to him:
"Monsieur Fanfaro, are you satisfied with me?"
Fanfaro looked at her in amazement, but a cordial smile flew over his lips, and Irene felt that she could stand many more insults if she could see him smile oftener.
Madame Ursula, who sat next to her pupil, moved up and down uneasily in her chair. Irene did not possess the least savoir vivre. How could she think of addressing the young acrobat? and now—no, it surpassed everything—he bent over her and whispered a few words in her ear. The governess saw Irene blush, then let her head fall and nod. What could he have said to her?
Caillette, too, had noticed the young lady address Fanfaro, and she became violently jealous.
What business had the rich heiress with the young man, whom she was accustomed to look upon as her own property?
For Caillette, as well as Madame Ursula, it was fortunate that they had not heard Fanfaro's words, and yet it was only good advice which the young man had given Irene.
"Mademoiselle, try to secure the love of those who surround you," he had earnestly said. And Irene had, at first impatiently and with astonishment, finally guiltily, listened to him. Really, when she thought with what indifference her coming and going in the village was looked upon, and with what hesitation she was greeted, she began to think Fanfaro was right; the young man had been gone long, and yet his words still sounded in her ears. Yes, she would try to secure love.
In the meantime the performance had begun. Girdel played with his weights, Rolla swallowed stones and pigeons, Robeckal knives and swords, and Caillette danced charmingly on the tight-rope. During all these different productions, Fanfaro was continually assisting the performers; he handed Girdel the weights and took them from him; he accompanied Robeckal's sword exercise with hollow beats on a tambourine; he played the violin while Caillette danced on the rope, and acted as Bobichel's foil in his comic acts. Fanfaro himself was not to appear before the second part; for the conclusion of the first part a climax was to be given in which Girdel would perform a piece in which he had everywhere appeared with thunders of applause; the necessary apparatus was being prepared.
This apparatus consisted of a plank supported by two logs which stood upright in the centre of the circus. In the centre of the plank was a windlass, from which hung an iron chain with a large hook.
Fanfaro rolled an empty barrel under the plank and filled it with irons and stones weighing about three thousand pounds. Thereupon the barrel was nailed up and the chain wound about it; strong iron rings, through which the chain was pulled, prevented it from slipping off.
Girdel now walked up. He wore a costume made of black tights, and a chin-band from which an iron hook hung. He bowed to the spectators, seized the barrel with his chin hook and laid himself upon his back. Fanfaro stood next to his foster-father, and from time to time blew a blast with his trumpet. At every tone the heavy cask rose a few inches in the air, and breathlessly the crowd looked at Girdel's performance. The cask had now reached a height on a level with Girdel; the spectators cheered, but suddenly an ominous breaking was heard, and while a cry of horror ran through the crowd, Fanfaro, quick as thought, sprung upon the cask and caught it in his arms.
What had happened? Girdel lay motionless on the ground. Fanfaro let the heavy cask glide gently to the floor and then stood pale as death near the athlete. The chain had broken, and had it not been for Fanfaro's timely assistance Girdel would have been crushed to pieces by the heavy barrel.
The violent shock had thrown Girdel some distance away. For a moment all were too frightened to stir, but soon spectators from all parts of the house came running up and loud cries were heard.
Caillette had thrown herself sobbing at her father's feet; Bobichel and Fanfaro busied themselves trying to raise the fallen man from the ground, and Rolla uttered loud, roaring cries which no doubt were intended to express her grief. Robeckal alone was not to be seen.
"Oh, Fanfaro, is he dead?" sobbed Caillette.
Fanfaro was silent and bent anxiously over Girdel; Rolla, on the other hand, looked angrily at the young man and hissed in his ear:
"Do not touch him. I will restore him myself."
Instead of giving the virago an answer, Fanfaro looked sharply at her. The wretched woman trembled and recoiled, while the young man, putting his ear to Girdel's breast, exclaimed:
"Thank God, he lives!"
Caillette uttered a low moan and became unconscious; two soft hands were laid tenderly on her shoulders, and when the tight-rope dancer opened her eyes, she looked in Irene's face, who was bending anxiously over her.
Girdel still remained motionless; the young countess handed Fanfaro an elegantly carved bottle filled with smelling-salts, but even this was of no avail.
"Wait, I know what will help him!" exclaimed Bobichel, suddenly, and hurrying out he returned with a bottle of strong brandy.
With the point of a knife Fanfaro opened Girdel's tightly compressed lips; the clown poured a few drops of the liquid down his throat, and in a few moments Girdel slowly opened his eyes and a deep sigh came from his breast. When Bobichel put the bottle to his mouth again, he drank a deep draught.
"Hurrah, he is rescued!" exclaimed the clown, as he wiped the tears from his eyes. He then walked to Rolla and mockingly whispered: "This time you reckoned without your host."
Rolla shuddered, and a look flew from Bobichel to Fanfaro.
Robeckal now thought it proper to appear and come from behind a post. He said in a whining voice:
"Thank God that our brave master lives. I dreaded the worst."
Schwan, who was crying like a child, threw a sharp look at Robeckal, and Fanfaro now said:
"Is there no physician in the neighborhood?"
"No, there is no physician in Sainte-Ame, and Vagney is several miles distant."
"No matter, I shall go to Vagney."
"Impossible, the floods have destroyed all the roads; you risk your life, Fanfaro," said Schwan.
"And if that is so, I am only doing my duty," replied the young man. "I owe it to my foster-father that I did not die of cold and starvation."
"You are an honest fellow. Take one of my horses and ride around the hill. It is certainly an out-of-the-way road, but it is safe. Do not spare the horse; it is old, but when driven hard it still does its duty."
"Monsieur Fanfaro," said Irene, advancing, "take my riding horse; it flies like the wind, and will carry you to Vagney in a short time."
"She is foolish," complained Madame Ursula, while Fanfaro accepted Irene's offer without hesitating; "the riding horse is an English thoroughbred and cost two thousand francs."
No one paid any attention to her. Fanfaro swung himself into the saddle, and, throwing a cloak over his shoulders, he cordially said:
"Mademoiselle, I thank you."
"Don't mention it; I am following your advice," laughed Irene.
The marquis and his steward had likewise hurried along the road to Vagney. They were often forced to halt to find the right direction, as the overflowing Cure had flooded the road at different points, but yet they reached the hill on which the city rests before night.
"The danger is behind us now," said Simon.
A quarter of an hour later they stopped before a small solitary house. Simon shook the knocker, and then they both waited impatiently to get in.
For a short time all was still, and Simon was about to strike again, when a window was opened and a voice asked:
"Who is there?"
The two men exchanged quick glances; Pierre Labarre was at home, and, as it seemed, alone.
"I am the Marquis of Fougereuse," said the marquis, finally.
No sooner had the words been spoken than the window was closed. The bolt of the house door was shoved back in a few moments and a lean old man appeared on the threshold.
Ten years had passed since Pierre Labarre rode alone through the Black Forest, and saved himself from the bullet of the then Vicomte de Talizac by his portfolio. Pierre's hair had grown gray now, but his eyes looked as fearlessly on the world as if he had been thirty.
"Come in, vicomte," said the old man, earnestly.
The marquis and Simon followed Pierre into a small, plainly furnished room; the only decoration was a black piece of mourning almost covering one of the walls. While the old man turned up the small lamp, Simon, without being noticed, closed the door. Pierre pointed to a straw chair and calmly said:
"Monsieur le Vicomte, will you please take a seat?"
The marquis angrily said:
"Pierre Labarre, it surprises me that in the nine years which have passed since the death of my father, the Marquis of Fougereuse, you should have forgotten what a servant's duties are! Since seven years I bear the title of my father; why do you persist in calling me Monsieur le Vicomte?"
Pierre Labarre stroked the white hair from his forehead with his long bony hand and slowly said:
"I know only one Marquis of Fougereuse."
"And who should bear this title if not I?" cried the marquis, angrily.
"The son of the man who was murdered at Leigoutte in the year 1805," replied Pierre.
"Murdered?" exclaimed the marquis, mockingly: "that man fell fighting against the legitimate masters of the country."
"Your brother, Monsieur le Vicomte, was the victim of a well-laid plan; those persons who were interested in his death made their preparations with wonderful foresight."
The marquis frothed with anger, and it did not require very much more until he would have had the old man by the throat. He restrained himself, though; what good would it do him if he strangled Pierre before he knew the secret?
"Let us not discuss that matter," he hastily said; "other matters have brought me here—"
As Pierre remained silent, the marquis continued:
"I know perfectly well that that affair disturbed you. As the old servitor of my father you naturally were attached to the dead man. Yet, who could avert the catastrophe? The father, the mother and the two children were all slain at the same hour by the Cossacks, and—"
"You are mistaken, vicomte," interrupted Pierre, sharply; "the father fell in a struggle with paid assassins, the mother was burned to death, but the children escaped."
"You are fooling, old man," exclaimed the marquis, growing pale; "Jules's two children are dead."
The old man crossed his arms over his breast, and, looking steadily at the marquis, he firmly said:
"Monsieur le Vicomte, the children live."
The marquis could no longer restrain himself.
"You know where they are?" he excitedly exclaimed.
"No, vicomte, but it cheers me to hear from your words that you yourself do not believe the children are dead."
The marquis bit his lips. He had betrayed himself. Simon shrugged his shoulders and thought in his heart that the marquis was not the proper person to intrust with diplomatic missions for the Society of Jesus.
"Monsieur le Marquis," he hurriedly said, "what is the use of these long discussions? Put the question which concerns you most to the obstinate old man, and if he does not answer, I will make him speak."
"You are right," nodded the marquis; and turning to Pierre again he threateningly said:
"Listen, Pierre Labarre; I will tell you the object of my visit. It is a question of the honor of the Fougereuse."
A sarcastic laugh played about the old man's lips, and half muttering to himself, he repeated:
"The honor of the Fougereuse—I am really curious to know what I shall hear."
The marquis trembled, and, casting a timid look at Simon, he said:
"Simon, leave us to ourselves."
"What, Monsieur le Marquis?" asked Simon in amazement.
"You should leave us alone," repeated the marquis, adding in a whisper: "Go, I have my reasons."
"But, Monsieur le Marquis!"
"Do not say anything; go!"
Simon went growlingly away, and opening the door he had so carefully locked, he strode into the hall; taking care, however, to overhear the conversation.
As soon as the nobleman was alone with Pierre, his demeanor changed. He approached close to the old man, took his hand and cordially shook it. Pierre looked at the marquis in amazement, and quickly withdrawing his hand, he dryly said:
"To business, vicomte."
"Pierre," the marquis began, in a voice he tried to render as soft and moving as possible, "you were the confidant of my father; you knew all his secrets, and were aware that he did not love me. Do not interrupt me—I know my conduct was not such as he had a right to expect from a son. Pierre, I was not wicked, I was weak and could not withstand any temptation, and my father often had cause to be dissatisfied with me. Pierre, what I am telling you no human ear has ever heard; I look upon you as my father confessor and implore you not to judge too harshly."
Pierre held his eyes down, and even the marquis paused—he did not look up.
"Pierre, have you no mercy?" exclaimed the nobleman, in a trembling voice.
"Speak further, my lord," said Pierre; "I am listening."
The marquis felt like stamping with his foot. He saw, however, that he had to control himself.
"If you let me implore hopelessly to-day, Pierre," he whispered, gritting his teeth, "the name of Fougereuse will be eternally dishonored."
"The name of Fougereuse?" asked Pierre, with faint malice; "thank God, my lord, that it is not in your power to stain it; you are only the Vicomte de Talizac."
The marquis stamped his foot angrily when he heard the old man's cutting words; it almost surpassed his strength to continue the conversation to an end, and yet it must be if he wished to gain his point.
"I see, I must explain myself more clearly," he said after a pause. "Pierre, I am standing on the brink of a precipice. My fortune and my influence are gone; neither my wife nor my son imagines how I am situated, but if help does not come soon—"
"Well, what will happen?" asked Pierre, indifferently.
"Then I will not be able to keep my coat of arms, which dates from the Crusades, clean and spotless."
"I do not understand you, vicomte. Is it only a question of your fortune?"
"No, Pierre, it is a question of the honor of the Fougereuse. Oh, God! You do not desire to understand me; you want me to disclose my shame. Listen then," continued the marquis, placing his lips to the old man's ears: "to rescue myself from going under, I committed an act of despair, and if assistance does not come to me, the name of the Fougereuse will be exposed to the world, with the brand of the forger upon it."
The old man's face showed no traces of surprise. He kept silent for a moment, and then asked in cold tones:
"Monsieur le Vicomte, what do you wish of me?"
"I will tell you," said the marquis, hastily, while a gleam of hope strayed over his pale face; "I know that my father, to have the major part of his fortune go to his eldest son, made a will and gave it to you—"
"Go on," said Pierre, as the marquis paused.
"The will contains many clauses," continued the nobleman. "My father hid a portion of his wealth, and in his last will named the spot where it lies buried, providing that it should be given to his eldest son or his descendants! Pierre, Jules is dead, his children have disappeared, and therefore nothing hinders you from giving up this wealth. It must be at least two millions. Can you hesitate to give me the money which will save the name of Fougereuse from shame and exposure?"
The marquis hesitated; Pierre rose slowly and, turning to a side wall, grasped the mourning cloth and shoved it aside.
The nobleman wonderingly observed the old man, who now took a lamp and solemnly said:
"Vicomte, look here!"
The marquis approached the wall, and in the dim light of the lamp he saw a tavern sign, upon which a few letters could be seen. The sign had evidently been burned.
"Monsieur le Vicomte, do you know what that is?" asked Pierre, threateningly.
"No," replied the marquis.
"Then I will tell you, vicomte," replied Pierre. "The inscription on this sign once read, 'To the Welfare of France.' Do you still wish me to give you the will and the fortune?"
"I do not understand you," stammered the nobleman, in a trembling voice.
"Really, vicomte, you have a short memory, but I, the old servant of your father, am able to refresh it! This sign hung over the door of the tavern at Leigoutte; your brother, the rightful heir of Fougereuse, was the landlord and the bravest man for miles around. In the year 1805 Jules Fougere, as he called himself, fell. The world said Cossacks had murdered him. I, though, vicomte, I cry it aloud in your ear—his murderer was—you!"
"Silence, miserable lackey!" exclaimed the marquis, enraged, "you lie!"
"No, Cain, the miserable lackey does not lie," replied Pierre, calmly; "he even knows more! In the year 1807 the old Marquis of Fougereuse died; in his last hours his son, the Vicomte of Talizac, sneaked into the chamber of death and, sinking on his knees beside the bedside of the dying man, implored his father to make him his sole heir. The marquis hardly had strength enough to breathe, but his eyes looked threateningly at the scoundrel who dared to imbitter his last hours, and with his last gasp he hurled at the kneeling man these words: 'May you be eternally damned, miserable fratricide!'
"The vicomte, as if pursued by the furies, escaped; the dying man gave one more gasp and then passed away, and I, who was behind the curtains, a witness of this terrible scene—I shall so far forget myself as to deliver to the man who did not spare his father the inheritance of his brother? No, vicomte, Pierre Labarre knows his duty, and if to-morrow the name of the Fougereuse should be trampled in the dust and the present bearer of the name be placed in the pillory as a forger and swindler, then I will stand up and say:
"'He is not a Fougereuse, he is only a Talizac. He murdered the heir, and let no honest man ever touch his blood-stained hand!' Get out of here, Vicomte Talizac, my house has no room for murderers!"
Pale as death, with quaking knees, the marquis leaned against the wall. When Pierre was silent he hissed in a low voice:
"Then you refuse to help me?"
"Yes, a thousand times, yes."
"You persist in keeping the fortune of the Fougereuse for Jules's son, who has been dead a long time?"
"I keep the fortune for the living."
"And if he were dead, nevertheless?"
Pierre suddenly looked up—suppose the murderer were to prove his assertion?
"Would you, if Jules's son were really dead, acknowledge me as the heir?"
"I cannot tell."
"For the last time, will you speak?"
"No; the will and fortune belong to the Marquis of Fougereuse, Jules's son."
"Enough; the will is here in your house; the rest will take care of itself."
Hereupon the marquis gave a penetrating whistle, and when Simon appeared his master said to him:
"Take hold of this scoundrel!"
"Bravo! force is the only thing," cried Simon, as he rushed upon the old man. But he had reckoned without his host; with a shove Pierre Labarre threw the audacious rascal to the ground, and the next minute the heavy old table lay between him and his enemies. Thereupon the old man took a pistol from the wall, and, cocking the trigger, cried:
"Vicomte Talizac, we still have an old score to settle! Years ago you attempted to kill me in the Black Forest; take care you do not arouse my anger again."
The vicomte, who had no weapon, recoiled: Simon, however, seized a pocket-pistol from his breast, and mockingly replied: "Oh, two can play at that game!"
He pressed his hand to the trigger, but Pierre Labarre put his pistol down, and contemptuously said:
"Bah! for the lackey the dog will do. Catch him, Sultan!"
As he said these words he opened a side door; a large Vosges dog, whose glowing eyes and crispy hair made him look like a wolf, sprang upon Simon, and, clutching him by the throat, threw him to the ground.
"Help, my lord marquis!" cried the steward.
"Let go, Sultan," commanded Pierre.
The dog shook his opponent once more and then let him loose.
"Get out of here, miscreants!" exclaimed Pierre now, with threatening voice, as he opened the door, "and never dare to come into my house again."
The wretches ran as if pursued by the Furies. Pierre caressed the dog and then laughed softly; he was rid of his guests.
Fanfaro had urged Irene's horse on at great speed, and while it flew along like a bird, the most stormy feelings raged in his heart.
The gaze of the pretty girl haunted him; he heard her gentle voice and tried in vain to shake off these thoughts. What was he, that he should indulge in such wild fancies? A foundling, the adopted son of an acrobat, who had picked him up upon the way, and yet—
Further and further horse and rider flew; before Fanfaro's eyes stood Girdel's pale, motionless face, and he thought he could hear Caillette's bitter sobs. No, he must bring help or else go under, and ceaselessly, like lightning, he pushed on toward the city.
The marquis and Simon ran breathlessly along. Their only thought was to get far from the neighborhood of the old man and his wolf-hound. Neither of the two spoke a word. The stormy, roaring Cure was forgotten, the danger to life was forgotten; on, on they went, like deer pursued by a pack of bloodthirsty hounds, and neither of them paid any attention to the ominous noise of the overflowing mountain streams.
Suddenly Simon paused and seized the marquis's arm.
"Listen," he whispered, tremblingly, "what is that?"
A thunderous noise, ceaseless, rolling, and crashing, reached their ears from all sides; from all sides frothy, bubbling masses of water dashed themselves against the rocks, and now—now an immense rock fell crashing in the flood, which overflowed into the wide plain like a storm-whipped sea.
Despair seized the men; before, behind, and around them roared and foamed the turbulent waters; they turned to the right, where a huge rock, which still projected above the waves, assured them safety, but just then the marquis struck his foot against a stone—he tumbled and fell with a half-smothered cry for help, "Help—I am sinking!" into the dark depths.
Simon did not think of lending his master a helping hand; he sprang from rock to rock, from stone to stone, and soon reached a high point which protected him from the oncoming waters.
The marquis had been borne a short distance along by the raging waters, until he succeeded in clambering upon a branch of an evergreen tree. The flood still rolled along above his body, but with superhuman strength he managed to keep his head above water and despairingly cry, "Help, Simon! Rescue me!"
Suddenly it seemed to the half-unconscious man as if he heard a human voice calling to him from above:
With the remainder of his strength the marquis gazed in the direction from which it came, and recognized a human form which seemed to be hanging in the air.
"Attention, I will soon be with you," cried the voice, now coming nearer.
The marquis saw the form spring, climb, and then the water spurted up and the marquis lost consciousness.
Fanfaro, for naturally he was the rescuer, who appeared at the hour of the greatest need, now stood up to his knees in water, and had just stretched his hand out toward the marquis, when the latter, with a groan, let go of the tree branch, and the next minute he was borne along by the turbulent waters.
Fanfaro uttered a slight cry, but he did not hesitate a moment. Plunging into the seething waves, he parted them with muscular strokes, and succeeded in grasping the drowning man. Throwing his left arm about him, he swam to the rocky projection upon which the evergreen tree stood. Inch by inch he climbed toward the pathway which was upon the top of the hill. Perspiration dripped from his forehead, and his wind threatened to give out, but Fanfaro went on, and finally stood on top. Putting the marquis softly on the ground, Fanfaro took out a small pocket-lantern which he always carried with him. With great trouble he lighted the wet wick, and then let the rays fall full on the pale face of the motionless man. Seized by an indescribable emotion, the young man leaned over the marquis. Did he suspect that the man whom he had rescued from the stormy waters, at the risk of his life, was the brother of the man who had taken mercy on the helpless orphan, and was at the same time his father? The marquis now opened his eyes, heaved a deep sigh, and looked wildly around him.
"Where am I?" he faintly stammered. "The water—ah!"
"You are saved," said Fanfaro, gently.
The sound of the voice caused all the blood to rush to the marquis's heart.
"Did you save me?"
"Who are you?"
"My name is Fanfaro, and I am a member of Girdel's troupe, which is at present in Sainte-Ame. Can you raise yourself?"
With the young man's assistance, the marquis raised himself up, but uttered a cry of pain when he put his feet on the ground.
"Are you wounded?" asked Fanfaro, anxiously.
"No, I do not think so; the water knocked me against trees and stones, and my limbs hurt me from that."
"That will soon pass away. Now put your arm about my neck and trust yourself to me; I will bring you to a place of safety."
The marquis put his arms tightly about the young man's neck, and the latter strode along the narrow pathway which led to the heights.
Soon the road became broader, the neighing of a horse was heard, and drawing a deep breath the young man stood still.
"Now we are safe," he said, consolingly; "I will take you on the back of my horse, and in less than a quarter of an hour we will be in Sainte-Ame. I rode from there to Vagney, to get a physician for my foster-father, Girdel, who injured himself, but unfortunately he was not at home, and so I had to return alone. Get up, the road is straight ahead, and the mountains now lie between us and the water."
In the meantime Fanfaro had helped the marquis on the back of the horse, and now he raised his lantern to untie the knot of the rope with which he had bound the animal to a tree. The light of the lamp fell full upon his face, and the marquis uttered a slight cry; his rescuer resembled in a startling way the old Marquis of Fougereuse.
Had he Jules's son before him?
A satanic idea flashed through the brain of the noble rogue, and when Fanfaro, after putting out his lantern, attempted to get on the horse's back, the marquis pressed heavily against the horse's flank and they were both off like the wind in the direction of the village.
Fanfaro, who only thought that the horse had run away with the marquis, cried in vain to the rider, and so he had to foot the distance, muttering as he went:
"If the poor fellow only doesn't get hurt; he is still feeble, and the horse needs a competent rider."
THE GRATITUDE OF A NOBLEMAN
Fanfaro was hardly a hundred feet away from Sainte-Ame, when Girdel opened his eyes and looked about him.
"What, my little Caillette is weeping!" he muttered, half-laughing. "Child, you probably thought I was dead?"
"Oh, God be praised and thanked!" cried Caillette, springing up and falling upon her father's neck.
Bobichel almost sprung to the ceiling, and Schwan, between laughing and crying, exclaimed:
"What a fright you gave us, old boy. The poor fellow rode away in the night to get a physician, and—"
"A physician? For me?" laughed Girdel. "Thank God, we are not so far gone."
"But you were unconscious more than half an hour; we became frightened, and Fanfaro rode to Vagney."
"He rode? On our old mare, perhaps? If he only returns," said Girdel, anxiously. "The water must be dangerous about Vagney."
"He has a good horse; the Countess of Salves gave Fanfaro her thoroughbred," said Bobichel.
"Ah! that is different. Now, children, let me alone. Cousin Schwan, send me the two men whom I am to bring to Remiremont to-morrow; I must speak to them."
Caillette, Bobichel, Schwan and Rolla went away. In the dark corridor a figure passed by Rolla, and a hoarse voice said:
"All for nothing," growled Rolla; "he lives, and is as healthy as a fish in the water."
"You don't say so," hissed Robeckal.
"It was your own fault," continued the virago. "A good stab in the right place, and all is over; but you have no courage."
"Silence, woman!" growled Robeckal. "I have attended to that in another way; he shall not trouble us long. Tell me, does he ever receive any letters?"
"A great pile," said Rolla.
"And you cannot tell me their contents?"
"No; I never read them."
This discretion had good grounds. Rolla could not read, but she did not wish to admit it to him. Whether Robeckal suspected how things were, we do not know; anyhow, he did not pursue the subject any further, but said:
"Schwan brought two men to Girdel a little while ago; come with me to the upper story; we can listen at the door there and find out what they say."
When Robeckal and Rolla, after listening nearly two hours, slipped downstairs they had heard all that Girdel and the two gentlemen had said. They knew Fanfaro had been deputed to take important papers to Paris and give them to a certain person who had been designated; Girdel had guaranteed that Fanfaro would fill the mission promptly.
When Robeckal returned to the inn, Simon rushed in pale and trembling. He could hardly reply to the landlord's hurried questions; the words, "In the water—the flood—dead—my poor master!" came from his trembling lips, and immediately afterward he sank to the floor unconscious.
While Schwan was busy with him, the sound of a horse's hoofs was heard.
"Thank God, here comes Fanfaro!" exclaimed Bobichel and Caillette, simultaneously, and they both rushed to the door.
Who can describe their astonishment when they saw the marquis, dripping with water and half frozen, get down from the horse and enter the room?
"Where is Fanfaro?" asked Bobichel, anxiously.
"He will soon be here," replied the marquis; "the horse ran away with me, and I could not hold him."
"Then the brave fellow is not injured?" asked Schwan, vivaciously.
"God forbid; quick, give me a glass of brandy and lead me to Girdel; I must speak to him at once."
While the host went to get the brandy, Simon and the marquis exchanged looks; the next minute Schwan returned and the nobleman drank a large glass of brandy at a gulp.
"Ah, that warms," he said, smacking his lips, "and now let us look for Girdel."
As soon as the marquis left the room, Robeckal drew near to the steward and whispered:
"Follow me, I must speak to you."
They both went into the hall and held a conversation in low tones.
Suddenly a cry of joy reached their ears, and the next minute they saw Bobichel, who, in his anxiety about Fanfaro, had hurried along the road, enter the house with the young man.
"There he is," whispered Robeckal, "God knows how it is, but neither fire nor water seems to have the slightest effect on him."
"We will get rid of him, never fear," said Simon, wickedly.
From the upper story loud cries were heard. Rolla danced with a brandy bottle in her hand, and Girdel was asking himself how he ever could have made such a low woman his wife.
A knock was now heard on his door; Girdel cried, "Come in," in powerful tones, and a man, a stranger to him, crossed the threshold.
"Have I the honor of addressing Monsieur Girdel?" the stranger politely asked.
"At your service; that is my name."
"I am the Marquis of Fougereuse, and would like to have an interview with you."
"Take a seat, my lord marquis, and speak," said Girdel, looking expectantly at his visitor.
"I will not delay you long, Monsieur Girdel," the marquis began; "I know you have met with a misfortune—"
"Oh, it was not serious," said the athlete.
"Monsieur Girdel," continued the nobleman, "about one hour ago I was in peril of my life, and one of your men rescued me at the risk of his."
"You don't say so? How did it happen?" cried Girdel.
"I was in danger of drowning in the Cure; a young man seized me from out of the turbulent waters and carried me in his arms to a place of safety."
"Ah, I understand, the young man of whom you spoke—"
"Was your son, Fanfaro!"
"I thought so," said the athlete; "if Fanfaro is alone only one second, he generally finds time to save somebody. Where is the boy now?"
"He will be here soon. He asked me to get on the back of the horse with him. I got up first, and hardly had the fiery steed felt some one on his back than he flew away like an arrow. I was too feeble to check the horse, and so my rescuer was forced to follow on foot."
"Fanfaro doesn't care for that; he walks miles at a time without getting tired, and in less than fifteen minutes he will be here."
"Then it is the right time for me to ask you a few questions which I do not wish him to hear. You are probably aware what my position at court is?"
"Candidly, no; the atmosphere of the court has never agreed with me."
"Then let me tell you that my position is a very influential one, and consequently it would be easy for me to do something for you and your—son."
The marquis pronounced the word "son" in a peculiar way, but Girdel shook his head.
"I wish Fanfaro was my son," he sighed; "I know of no better luck."
"If the young man is not your son," said the marquis, "then he would need my assistance the more. His parents are, perhaps, poor people, and my fortune—"
"Fanfaro has no parents any more, my lord marquis."
"Poor young man!" said the nobleman, pityingly; "but what am I saying?" he interrupted himself with well-played anger. "Fanfaro has no doubt found a second father in you; I would like to wager that you were a friend of his parents, and have bestowed your friendship upon the son."
"You are mistaken, my lord; I found Fanfaro on the road."
"Impossible! What singular things one hears! Where did you find the boy?"
"Ah! that is an old story, but if it interests you I will relate it to you: One cold winter day, I rode with my wagon—in which was, besides my stock, my family and some members of my troupe—over a snow-covered plain in the Vosges, when I suddenly heard loud trumpet tones. At first I did not pay any attention to them. It was in the year 1814, and such things were not uncommon then. However, the tones were repeated, and I hurried in the direction from whence they proceeded. I shall never forget the sight which met me. A boy about ten years of age lay unconscious over a dead trumpeter, and his small hands were nervously clutched about the trumpet. It was plain that he had blown the notes I had heard and then fallen to the ground in a faint. I took the poor little fellow in my arms; all around lay the bodies of many French soldiers, and the terrors of the neighborhood had no doubt been too much for the little rogue. We covered him in the wagon with warm cloaks, and because the poor fellow had blown such fanfares upon the trumpet, we had called him Fanfaro."
"Didn't he have any name?" asked the marquis, nervously.
"That, my dear sir, wasn't so easy to find out. Hardly had we taken the boy to us than he got the brain-fever, and for weeks lay on the brink of the grave. When he at length recovered, he had lost his memory entirely, and only after months did he regain it. At last he could remember the name of the village where he had formerly lived—"
"What was the name of this village?" interrupted the marquis, hurriedly.
"Leigoutte, my lord."
The nobleman had almost uttered a cry, but he restrained himself in time, and Girdel did not notice his guest's terrible excitement.
"His name, too, and those of his parents and sister, we found out after a time," continued Girdel; "his father's name was Jules, his mother's Louise, his sister's Louison, and his own Jacques. On the strength of his information I went to Leigoutte, but found out very little. The village had been set on fire by the Cossacks and destroyed. Of the inhabitants only a few women and children had been rescued, and the only positive thing I heard was that Jacques's mother had been burned to death in a neighboring farmhouse. The men of Leigoutte had made a stand against the Cossacks, but had been fairly blown into the air by them. I returned home dissatisfied. Fanfaro remained with us; he learned our tricks, and we love him very much. Where he managed to procure the knowledge he has is a riddle to me; he never went to a regular school, and yet he knows a great deal. He is a genius, my lord marquis, and a treasure for our troupe."
Cold drops of perspiration stood on the nobleman's forehead. No, there was no longer any doubt: Fanfaro was his brother's son!
"Have you never been able to find out his family name?" he asked, after a pause.
"No; the Cossacks set fire to the City Hall at Weissenbach and all the records there were destroyed. An old shepherd said he had once been told that Jules was the scion of an old noble family. Anything positive on this point, I could not find out—I—"
At this point the door was hastily opened and Fanfaro entered. He rushed upon Girdel and enthusiastically cried:
"Thank God, Papa Girdel, that you are well again."
"You rascal, you," laughed Girdel, looking proudly at the young man. "You have found time again to rescue some one."
"Monsieur Fanfaro," said the marquis now, "permit me once more to thank you for what you have done for me. I can never repay you."
"Don't mention it, sir," replied Fanfaro, modestly, "I have only done my duty."
"Well I hope if you should ever need me you will let me know. The Marquis of Fougereuse is grateful."
When the marquis went downstairs shortly afterward, he found Simon awaiting him.
"Simon," he said, hurriedly, "do you know who Fanfaro is?"
"No, my lord."
"He is the son of my brother, Jules de Fougereuse."
"Really?" exclaimed Simon, joyfully, "that would be splendid."
"Listen to my plan; the young man must die, but under such circumstances as to have his identity proved, so that Pierre Labarre can be forced to break his silence. You understand me, Simon?"