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Henry Seton Merriman




  Author of"With Edged Tools," "The Sowers," Etc.


  Herbert S. Stone & Co.Chicago and New YorkMDCCCXCIXCopyright, MDCCCXCVIby Herbert S. Stone & Company


  Chapter Page

  I. Mushrooms 1 II. Monsieur 13 III. Madame 25 IV. Disqualified 36 V. C'est la Vie 49 VI. A Glimpse of Home 60 VII. In Provence 72 VIII. In Paris 83 IX. Finance 95 X. The Golden Spoon 107 XI. Theft 118 XII. Ruin 130 XIII. The Shadow Again 141 XIV. A Little Cloud 153 XV. Flight 165 XVI. Exile 177 XVII. On the Track 189 XVIII. A Dark Horse 201 XIX. Sport 213 XX. Underhand 223 XXI. Checkmate 234 XXII. Home 245 XXIII. Wrecked 256 XXIV. An Explanation 267 XXV. Paris Again 277 XXVI. Above the Snow Line 289 XXVII. The Hand of God 300 XXVIII. The Links 312 XXIX. At La Pauline 324

  Chapter I


  "La celebrite est comme le feu, qui brule de pres et illumine de loin."

  Under a glorious sky, in the year 1869, Paris gathered to rejoice inthe centenary of the birth of the First Napoleon. A gathering this ofmushroom nobility, soldiery and diplomacy, to celebrate the hundredthanniversary of the greatest mushroom that ever sprang to life in thehotbed of internecine strife.

  "Adventurers all," said John Turner, the great Paris banker, with whomI was in the Church of the Invalides; "and yonder," he added,indicating the Third Napoleon, "is the cleverest."

  We had pushed our way into the gorgeous church, and now rubbed elbowswith some that wore epaulettes on peaceful shoulders. There wereladies present, too. Did not the fair beings contribute to the riseand fall of that marvellous Second Empire? Representatives of almostevery European power paid homage that day to the memory of a littleCorsican officer of artillery.

  As for me, I went from motives of curiosity, as, no doubt, went manyothers, if indeed all had so good a call. In my neighbourhood, forinstance, stood a stout gentleman in court uniform, who wept aloudwhenever the organ permitted his grief to be audible.

  "Who is that?" I inquired of my companion.

  "A Legitimist, who would perhaps accept a Napoleonic post," repliedJohn Turner, in his stout and simple way.

  "And is he weeping because the man who was born a hundred years ago isdead?"

  "No! He is weeping because that man's nephew may perchance note hisemotion."

  One could never tell how dense or how acute John Turner really was.His round, fat face was always immobile and fleshy--no wrinkle, nomovement of lip or eyelid, ever gave the cue to his inmost thought. Hewas always good-natured and indifferent--a middle-aged bachelor whohad found life not hollow, but full--of food.

  Nature having given me long legs (wherewith to give the slip to myresponsibilities, and also to the bailiffs, as many of my femalerelatives have enjoyed saying), I could look over the heads of themajority of people present, and so saw the Emperor Napoleon III forthe first time in my life. The mind is, after all, a smaller thingthan those who deny the existence of that which is beyond theircomprehension would have us believe. At that moment I forgot to thinkof all that lay behind those dull, extinguished eyes. I forgot thatthis was a maker of history, and one who will be placed bychroniclers, writing in the calm of the twentieth century, only secondto his greater uncle among remarkable Frenchmen, and merely wonderedwhether Napoleon III perceived the somewhat obtrusive emotion of myneighbour in the court uniform.

  But a keener observer than myself could scarce have discerned theinformation on the still, pale features of the Emperor, who, indeed,in his implacability always reminded me more of my own countrymen thanof the French. The service was proceeding with that cunning rise andfall of voice and music which, I take it, has won not a few emotionalsouls back to the Mother Church. Suddenly John Turner chuckled in away that fat people have.

  "Laughing at your d--d piano-case," he explained.

  I had told him shortly before how I had boarded the Calais boat atDover in the form and semblance of a piano, snugly housed in one ofMessrs. Erard's cases, while my servant engaged in pleasant converseon the quay the bailiff who had been set to watch for me: this, whilethey were actually slinging me on board. The picture of the surpriseof my fellow-passengers when Loomer gravely unscrewed me and I emergedfrom my travelling-carriage in mid-channel had pleased John Turnervastly. Indeed, he told the story to the end of his days, and evenbrought that end within hail at times by an over-indulgence inapoplectic mirth. He chuckled at it now in the midst of this solemnservice. But I, more easily moved perhaps by outward show and pomp,could only think of our surroundings. The excitement of giving mycreditors the slip was a thing of the past; for those were rapid days,and I no laggard, as many took care to tell me, on the heel of theflying moment.

  The ceremony in which we were taking part was indeed strange enough torivet the attention of any who witnessed it--strange, I take it, asany historical scene of a century that saw the rise and fall ofNapoleon I. Strange beyond belief, that this dynasty should arise fromashes as cold as those that Europe heaped on St. Helena's dead, tocelebrate the birth of its founder!

  Who would have dared to prophesy fifty years earlier that a secondEmperor should some day sit upon the throne of France? Who would haveventured to foretell that this capricious people, loathing as they didin 1815 the name of Buonaparte, should one day choose by universalsuffrage another of that family to rule over them?

  Few of those assembled in the great tomb were of devout enough mind totake much heed of the service now proceeding at the altar, where thepriest droned and the incense rose in slow clouds towards the dome. Weall stared at each other freely enough, and in truth the faces ofmany, not to mention bright uniforms and brilliant names, warrantedthe abstraction from holy thought and fervour. The old soldiers liningthe aisle had fought, some at Inkerman, some at Solferino, some inMexico, that land of ill-omen. The generals of all nations, mixingfreely in the crowd, bowed grimly enough to each other. They had metbefore.

  It was indeed a strange jumble of prince and pauper, friend and foe,patriot and adventurer. And the face that drew my gaze oftenest wasone as still and illegible now as it was on the morning of January 11,four years later, when I bowed before it at Chiselhurst.

  The Third Napoleon, with eyes that none could read--a quiet,self-possessed enigma--passed down the aisle between his rankedsoldiers, and the religious part of the day's festivities was over.Paris promised to be _en fete_ while daylight lasted, and at night adisplay of fireworks of unprecedented splendour was to close thefestive celebration. There is no lighter heart than that which beatswithin the narrow waistcoat of the little Parisian bourgeois, unlessindeed it be that in the trim bodice of madame his wife; and evenwithin the church walls we could hear the sound of merriment in thestreets.

  When the Emperor had gone we all moved towards the doors of thechurch, congratulating each other, embracing each other, laughing andweeping all in one breath.

  One near to me seized my hand.

  "You are English!" he cried.

  "I am."

  "Then embrace me."
r />   We embraced.

  "Waterloo"--he called it Vatterlo--"is forgotten. It is buried in theCrimea," cried this emotional son of Gaul. He was a stout man who hadpartaken of garlic at dejeuner.

  "It is," I answered.

  And we embraced again. Then I got away from him. It was gratifying butinexpedient to be an Englishman at that moment, and John Turner, whoseclothes were made in Paris, silently denied me and edged away. Othersseemed desirous of burying Waterloo also, but I managed the obsequiesof that great victory with a shake of the hand.

  "Vive l'Empereur!" they cried. "Long live Napoleon!"

  And I shouted as loud as any. Whatever one may think, it is alwayswise to agree with the mob.

  On the steps of the church I found John Turner awaiting me.

  "Finished embracing your new-found friend?" he asked me, with ashortness which may have been a matter of breath. At all events, itwas habitual with this well-fed philosopher.

  "We were forgetting Waterloo," I answered.

  At that moment a merry laugh behind us made me turn. It was notdirected towards myself, and was doubtless raised by some incidentwhich had escaped our notice. The mere fact that this voice was raisedin merriment did not make me wheel round on my heel as if I had beenshot. It was the voice itself--some note of sympathy which I seemed tohave always known and yet never to have heard until this moment. Astrange thing--the reader will think--to happen to a man in histhirties, who had knocked about the world, doing but little goodtherein, as some are ready and even anxious to relate.

  Strange it may be, but it was true. I seemed to have known that voiceall my life--and it was only the merry laugh of a heedless girl.

  Has any listened to the prattle of the schoolroom without hearing atodd moments the tone of some note that is not girlish--the voice ofthe woman speaking gravely through the chatter of the child?

  I seemed to hear that note now, and turning, found the owner of thevoice within touch of me. She was tall and slim, with a certain freshimmaturity, which was like the scent of the first spring flowers in myown Norfolk woods at home. Flower-like, too, was her face--somewhatlong and narrow, with a fair flush on it of youth, health andhappiness. The merriest eyes in the world were looking laughingly intothe face of an old gentleman at her side, smiling, happy eyes ofinnocent maidenhood. And yet here again I saw the woman in the girl. Isaw a gracious lady, knowing life, and being yet pure, having learnedof good and evil only to remember the good. For the knowledge of evilis like vaccine--it causes disturbance only when hidden impurityawaits it.

  "Come," said John Turner, taking my arm, "no one else wants to forgetWaterloo."

  I went with him a little. Then I paused.

  "Who is the young lady coming down the steps behind us?"

  John Turner, looking over his shoulder, gave a grunt.

  "Old De Clericy and his daughter," he answered. "One of the familiesthat are too old to keep pace with the times."


  We walked on a little.

  "There is a chance for you--wants a secretary," muttered my companion.

  "Does he?" I exclaimed, stopping. "Then introduce me."

  "Not I."


  "Can't introduce a man who came across in a piano-case," he answered,with a laugh, which made me remember that this was a man of stationand some standing in Paris, while I was but a vagabond andne'er-do-well.

  "Then I'll introduce myself," I said, hastily.

  John Turner shrugged his broad shoulders and walked on. As for me, Istopped and on the impulse of the moment turned.

  Monsieur and Mademoiselle de Clericy were coming slowly towards me,and more than one looked at the fair young girl with a frankeradmiration than I cared about, while she was happily unconscious ofit. It would seem that she must lately have left the convent, for theguileless pink and white of that pure life lingered on her face, whileher eyes danced with an excitement out of all proportion to themoment. What should she know of Napoleon I, and how rejoice for Francewhen she knew but little of the dark days through which the greatgeneral had brought that land?

  I edged my way towards them through the crowd without pausing toreflect what I was about to do. I had run away from my creditors, itis true, but was not called upon to work for my living. The Howardshad not done much of that, so far as I knew; though many of myancestors, if one may credit the old portraits at home, had fought forrights, and even wrongs, with considerable spirit and success.

  The throng was a well-dressed one, and consequently of a cold and eviltemper if one worked against it. I succeeded, however, in reachingMonsieur de Clericy and touched his arm. He turned hastily, as onepossessing foes as well as friends, and showed me a most benevolentcountenance, kindly and sympathetic even when accosted by a totalstranger.

  "Monsieur de Clericy?" I asked.

  He peered up at me with pleasant, short-sighted eyes while returningmy salute.

  "But yes. Am I happy enough to be able to do anything for Monsieur?"

  He spoke in a high, thin voice that was almost childlike, and afeeling of misgiving ran through me that one so young andinexperienced as Mademoiselle de Clericy should be abroad on such aday with no better escort than this old man.

  "Pardon my addressing you," I said, "but I hear that you are seekinga secretary. I only ask permission to call at your hotel and apply forthe post."

  "But, mon grand monsieur," he said with a delightful playfulness,spreading out his hands in recognition of my height and east-countrybulk, "this is no time to talk of affairs. To-day we are at pleasure."

  "Not all, Monsieur; some are busy enough," I replied, handing him mycard, which he held close to his eyes, after the manner of one who hasnever possessed long or keen sight.

  "What determination!" he exclaimed, with an old man's tolerance. "MonDieu! these English allies of ours!"

  "Well!" he said, after a pause, "if Monsieur honours me with such arequest, I shall be in and at your service from ten o'clock to-morrowmorning."

  He felt in his pocket and handed me a card with courtesy. It was quiterefreshing to meet such a man in Paris in 1869--so naive, sounassuming, so free from that aggressive self-esteem whichcharacterized Frenchmen before the war. Since I had arrived in thecapital under the circumstances that amused John Turner so consumedly,I had been tempted to raise my fist in the face of every secondflaneur I met on the boulevard.

  Again I joined my English friend, who was standing where I had lefthim, looking around him with a stout, good-natured tolerance.

  "Well," he asked, "have you got the situation?"

  "No; but I am going to call to-morrow morning at ten o'clock andobtain it."

  "Umph!" said John Turner; "I did not know you were such a scoundrel."