ON a spring morning, in the year seventeen hundred and ninety-eight, the public conveyance then running between Chalons-sur-Marne and Paris sat down one of its outside passengers at the first poststation beyond Meaux. The traveler, an old man, after looking about him hesitatingly for a moment or two, betook himself to a little inn opposite the post-house, known by the sign of the Piebald Horse, and kept by the Widow Duval--a woman who enjoyed and deserved the reputation of being the fastest talker and the best maker of gibelotte in the whole locality.
Although the traveler was carelessly noticed by the village idlers, and received without ceremony by the Widow Duval, he was by no means so ordinary and uninteresting a stranger as the rustics of the place were pleased to consider him. The time had been when this quiet, elderly, unobtrusive applicant for refreshment at the Piebald House was trusted with the darkest secrets of the Reign of Terror, and was admitted at all times and seasons to speak face to face with Maximilian Robespierre himself. The Widow Duval and the hangers-on in front of the post-house would have been all astonished indeed if any well-informed personage from the metropolis had been present to tell them that the modest old traveler with the shabby little carpet-bag was an ex-chief agent of the secret police of Paris!
Between three and four years had elapsed since Lomaque had exercised, for the last time, his official functions under the Reign of Terror. His shoulders had contracted an extra stoop, and his hair had all fallen off, except at the sides and back of his head. In some other respects, however, advancing age seemed to have improved rather than deteriorated him in personal appearance. His complexion looked healthier, his expression cheerfuller, his eyes brighter than they had ever been of late years. He walked, too, with a brisker step than the step of old times in the police office; and his dress, although it certainly did not look like the costume of a man in affluent circumstances, was cleaner and far more nearly worn than ever it had been in the past days of his political employment at Paris.
He sat down alone in the inn parlor, and occupied the time, while his hostess had gone to fetch the half-bottle of wine that he ordered, in examining a dirty old card which he extricated from a mass of papers in his pocket-book, and which bore, written on it, these lines:
"When the troubles are over, do not forget those who remember you with eternal gratitude. Stop at the first post-station beyond Meaux, on the high-road to Paris, and ask at the inn for Citizen Maurice, whenever you wish to see us or to hear of us again."
"Pray," inquired Lomaque, putting the card in his pocket when the Widow Duval brought in the wine, "can you inform me whether a person named Maurice lives anywhere in this neighborhood?"
"Can I inform you?" repeated the voluble widow. "Of course I can! Citizen Maurice, and the citoyenne, his amiable sister--who is not to be passed over because you don't mention her, my honest man--lives within ten minutes' walk of my house. A charming cottage, in a charming situation, inhabited by two charming people--so quiet, so retiring, such excellent pay. I supply them with everything--fowls, eggs, bread, butter, vegetables (not that they eat much of anything), wine (which they don't drink half enough of to do them good); in short, I victual the dear little hermitage, and love the two amiable recluses with all my heart. Ah! they have had their troubles, poor people, the sister especially, though they never talk about them. When they first came to live in our neighborhood--"
"I beg pardon, citoyenne, but if you would only be so kind as to direct me--"
"Which is three--no, four--no, three years and a half ago--in short, just after the time when that Satan of a man, Robespierre, had his head cut off (and serve him right!), I said to my husband (who was on his last legs then, poor man!) 'She'll die'--meaning the lady. She didn't though. My fowls, eggs, bread, butter, vegetables, and wine carried her through--always in combination with the anxious care of Citizen Maurice. Yes, yes! let us be tenderly conscientious in giving credit where credit is due; let us never forget that the citizen Maurice contributed something to the cure of the interesting invalid, as well as the victuals and drink from the Piebald Horse. There she is now, the prettiest little woman in the prettiest little cottage--"
"Where? Will you be so obliging as to tell me where?"
"And in excellent health, except that she is subject now and then to nervous attacks; having evidently, as I believe, been struck with some dreadful fright--most likely during that accursed time of the Terror; for they came from Paris--you don't drink, honest man! Why don't you drink? Very, very pretty in a pale way; figure perhaps too thin--let me pour it out for you--but an angel of gentleness, and attached in such a touching way to the citizen Maurice--"
"Citizen hostess, will you, or will you not, tell me where they live?"
"You droll little man, why did you not ask me that before, if you wanted to know? Finish your wine, and come to the door. There's your change, and thank you for your custom, though it isn't much. Come to the door, I say, and don't interrupt me! You're an old man--can you see forty yards before you? Yes, you can! Don't be peevish--that never did anybody any good yet. Now look back, along the road where I am pointing. You see a large heap of stones? Good. On the other side of the heap of stones there is a little path; you can't see that, but you can remember what I tell you? Good. You go down the path till you get to a stream; down the stream till you get to a bridge; down the other bank of the stream (after crossing the bridge) till you get to an old water-mill--a jewel of a water-mill, famous for miles round; artists from the four quarters of the globe are always coming to sketch it. Ah! what, you are getting peevish again? You won't wait? Impatient old man, what a life your wife must lead, if you have got one! Remember the bridge. Ah! your poor wife and children, I pity them; your daughters especially Pst! pst! Remember the bridge--peevish old man, remember the bridge!"
Walking as fast as he could out of hearing of the Widow Duval's tongue, Lomaque took the path by the heap of stones which led out of the high-road, crossed the stream, and arrived at the old water-mill. Close by it stood a cottage--a rough, simple building, with a strip of garden in front. Lomaque's observant eyes marked the graceful arrangement of the flower-beds, and the delicate whiteness of the curtains that hung behind the badly-glazed narrow windows. "This must be the place," he said to himself, as he knocked at the door with his stick. "I can see the traces of her hand before I cross the threshold."
The door was opened. "Pray, does the citizen Maurice--" Lomaque began, not seeing clearly, for the first moment, in the dark little passage.
Before he could say any more his hand was grasped, his carpet-bag was taken from him, and a well-known voice cried, "Welcome! a thousand thousand times welcome, at last! Citizen Maurice is not at home; but Louis Trudaine takes his place, and is overjoyed to see once more the best and dearest of his friends!"
"I hardly know you again. How you are altered for the better!" exclaimed Lomaque, as they entered the parlor of the cottage.
"Remember that you see me after a long freedom from anxiety. Since I have lived here, I have gone to rest at night, and have not been afraid of the morning," replied Trudaine. He went out into the passage while he spoke, and called at the foot of the one flight of stairs which the cottage possessed, "Rose! Rose! come down! The friend whom you most wished to see has arrived at last."
She answered the summons immediately. The frank, friendly warmth of her greeting; her resolute determination, after the first inquiries were over, to help the guest to take off his upper coat with her own hands, so confused and delighted Lomaque, that he hardly knew which way to turn, or what to say.
"This is even more trying, in a pleasant way, to a lonely old fellow like me," he was about to add, "than the unexpected civility of the hot cup of coffee years ago"; but remembering what recollections even that trifling circumstance might recall, he checked himself.
"More trying than what?" asked Rose, leading him to a chair.
"Ah! I forget. I am in my dotage already!" he answered, confusedly. "I have not got used just yet to the pleasure of seeing your kind face again." It was indeed a pleasure to look at that face now, after Lomaque's last experience of it. Three years of repose, though they had not restored to Rose those youthful attractions which she had lost forever in the days of the Terror, had not passed without leaving kindly outward traces of their healing progress. Though the girlish roundness had not returned to her cheeks, or the girlish delicacy of color to her complexion, her eyes had recovered much of their old softness, and her expression all of its old winning charm. What was left of latent sadness in her face, and of significant quietness in her manner, remained gently and harmlessly--remained rather to show what had been once than what was now.
When they were all seated, there was, however, something like a momentary return to the suspense and anxiety of past days in their faces, as Trudaine, looking earnestly at Lomaque, asked, "Do you bring any news from Paris?"
"None," he replied; "but excellent news, instead, from Rouen. I have heard, accidentally, through the employer whom I have been serving since we parted, that your old house by the riverside is to let again."
Rose started from her chair. "Oh, Louis, if we could only live there once more! My flower-garden?" she continued to Lomaque.
"Cultivated throughout," he answered, "by the late proprietor."
"And the laboratory?" added her brother.
"Left standing," said Lomaque. "Here is a letter with all the particulars. You may depend upon them, for the writer is the person charged with the letting of the house."
Trudaine looked over the letter eagerly.
"The price is not beyond our means," he said. "After our three years' economy here, we can afford to give something for a great pleasure."
"Oh, what a day of happiness it will be when we go home again!" cried Rose. "Pray write to your friend at once," she added, addressing Lomaque, "and say we take the house, before any one else is beforehand with us!"
He nodded, and folding up the letter mechanically in the old official form, made a note on it in the old official manner. Trudaine observed the action, and felt its association with past times of trouble and terror. His face grew grave again as he said to Lomaque, "And is this good news really all the news of importance you have to tell us?"
Lomaque hesitated, and fidgeted in his chair. "What other news I have will bear keeping," he replied. "There are many questions I should like to ask first, about your sister and yourself. Do you mind allowing me to refer for a moment to the time when we last met?"
He addressed this inquiry to Rose, who answered in the negative; but her voice seemed to falter, even in saying the one word "No." She turned her head away when she spoke; and Lomaque noticed that her hands trembled as she took up some work lying on a table near, and hurriedly occupied herself with it.
"We speak as little about that time as possible," said Trudaine, looking significantly toward his sister; "but we have some questions to ask you in our turn; so the allusion, for this once, is inevitable. Your sudden disappearance at the very crisis of that time of danger has not yet been fully explained to us. The one short note which you left behind you helped us to guess at what had happened rather than to understand it."
"I can easily explain it now," answered Lomaque. "The sudden overthrow of the Reign of Terror, which was salvation to you, was destruction to me. The new republican reign was a reign of mercy, except for the tail of Robespierre, as the phrase ran then. Every man who had been so wicked or so unfortunate as to be involved, even in the meanest capacity, with the machinery of the government of Terror, was threatened, and justly, with the fate of Robespierre. I, among others, fell under this menace of death. I deserved to die, and should have resigned myself to the guillotine but for you. From the course taken by public events, I knew you would be saved; and although your safety was the work of circumstances, still I had a hand in rendering it possible at the outset; and a yearning came over me to behold you both free again with my own eyes--a selfish yearning to see in you a living, breathing, real result of the one good impulse of my heart, which I could look back on with satisfaction. This desire gave me a new interest in life. I resolved to escape death if it were possible. For ten days I lay hidden in Paris. After that--thanks to certain scraps of useful knowledge which my experience in the office of secret police had given me--I succeeded in getting clear of Paris and in making my way safely to Switzerland. The rest of my story is so short and so soon told that I may as well get it over at once. The only relation I knew of in the world to apply to was a cousin of mine (whom I had never seen before), established as a silk-mercer at Berne. I threw myself on this man's mercy. He discovered that I was likely, with my business habits, to be of some use to him, and he took me into his house. I worked for what he pleased to give me, traveled about for him in Switzerland, deserved his confidence, and won it. Till within the last few months I remained with him; and only left my employment to enter, by my master's own desire, the house of his brother, established also as a silk-mercer, at Chalons-sur-Marne. In the counting-house of this merchant I am corresponding clerk, and am only able to come and see you now by offering to undertake a special business mission for my employer at Paris. It is drudgery, at my time of life, after all I have gone through--but my hard work is innocent work. I am not obliged to cringe for every crown-piece I put in my pocket--not bound to denounce, deceive, and dog to death other men, before I can earn my bread, and scrape together money enough to bury me. I am ending a bad, base life harmlessly at last. It is a poor thing to do, but it is something done--and even that contents a man at my age. In short, I am happier than I used to be, or at least less ashamed when I look people like you in the face."
"Hush! hush!" interrupted Rose, laying her hand on his arm. "I cannot allow you to talk of yourself in that way, even in jest."
"I was speaking in earnest," answered Lomaque, quietly; "but I won't weary you with any more words about myself. My story is told."
"All?" asked Trudaine. He looked searchingly, almost suspiciously, at Lomaque, as he put the question. "All?" he repeated. "Yours is a short story, indeed, my good friend! Perhaps you have forgotten some of it?"
Again Lomaque fidgeted and hesitated.
"Is it not a little hard on an old man to be always asking questions of him, and never answering one of his inquiries in return?" he said to Rose, very gayly as to manner, but rather uneasily as to look.
"He will not speak out till we two are alone," thought Trudaine. "It is best to risk nothing, and to humor him."
"Come, come," he said aloud; "no grumbling. I admit that it is your turn to hear our story now; and I will do my best to gratify you. But before I begin," he added, turning to his sister, "let me suggest, Rose, that if you have any household matters to settle upstairs--"
"I know what you mean," she interrupted, hurriedly, taking up the work which, during the last few minutes, she had allowed to drop into her lap; "but I am stronger than you think; I can face the worst of our recollections composedly. Go on, Louis; pray go on--I am quite fit to stop and hear you."
"You know what we suffered in the first days of our suspense, after the success of your stratagem," said Trudaine, turning to Lomaque. "I think it was on the evening after we had seen you for the last time at St. Lazare that strange, confused rumors of an impending convulsion in Paris first penetrated within our prison walls. During the next few days the faces of our jailers were enough to show us that those rumors were true, and that the Reign of Terror was actually threatened with overthrow at the hands of the Moderate Party. We had hardly time to hope everything from this blessed change before the tremendous news of Robespierre's attempted suicide, then of his condemnation and execution, reached us. The confusion produced in the prison was beyond all description. The accused who had been tried and the accused who had not been tried got mingled together. From the day of Robespierre's arrest, no orders came to the authorities, no death-lists reached the prison. The jailers, terrified by rumors that the lowest accomplices of the tyrant would be held responsible, and be condemned with him, made no attempt to maintain order. Some of them--that hunchback man among the rest--deserted their duties altogether. The disorganization was so complete, that when the commissioners from the new Government came to St. Lazare, some of us were actually half starving from want of the bare necessities of life. To inquire separately into our cases was found to be impossible. Sometimes the necessary papers were lost; sometimes what documents remained were incomprehensible to the new commissioners. They were obliged, at last, to make short work of it by calling us up before them in dozens. Tried or not tried, we had all been arrested by the tyrant, had all been accused of conspiracy against him, and were all ready to hail the new Government as the salvation of France. In nine cases out of ten, our best claim to be discharged was derived from these circumstances. We were trusted by Tallien and the men of the Ninth Thermidor, because we had been suspected by Robespierre, Couthon, and St. Just. Arrested informally, we were now liberated informally. When it came to my sister's turn and mine, we were not under examination five minutes. No such thing as a searching question was asked of us; I believe we might even have given our own names with perfect impunity. But I had previously instructed Rose that we were to assume our mother's maiden name--Maurice. As the citizen and citoyenne Maurice, accordingly, we passed out of prison--under the same name we have lived ever since in hiding here. Our past repose has depended, our future happiness will depend, on our escape from death being kept the profoundest secret among us three. For one all sufficient reason, which you can easily guess at, the brother and sister Maurice must still know nothing of Louis Trudaine and Rose Danville, except that they were two among the hundreds of victims guillotined during the Reign of Terror."
He spoke the last sentence with a faint smile, and with the air of a man trying, in spite of himself, to treat a grave subject lightly. His face clouded again, however, in a moment, when he looked toward his sister, as he ceased. Her work had once more dropped on her lap, her face was turned away so that he could not see it; but he knew by the trembling of her clasped hands, as they rested on her knee, and by the slight swelling of the veins on her neck which she could not hide from him, that her boasted strength of nerve had deserted her. Three years of repose had not yet enabled her to hear her marriage name uttered, or to be present when past times of deathly suffering and terror were referred to, without betraying the shock in her face and manner. Trudaine looked saddened, but in no way surprised by what he saw. Making a sign to Lomaque to say nothing, he rose and took up his sister's hood, which lay on a window-seat near him.
"Come, Rose," he said, "the sun is shining, the sweet spring air is inviting us out. Let us have a quiet stroll along the banks of the stream. Why should we keep our good friend here cooped up in this narrow little room, when we have miles and miles of beautiful landscape to show him on the other side of the threshold? Come, it is high treason to Queen Nature to remain indoors on such a morning as this."
Without waiting for her to reply, he put on her hood, drew her arm through his, and led the way out. Lomaque's face grew grave as he followed them.
"I am glad I only showed the bright side of my budget of news in her presence," thought he. "She is not well at heart yet. I might have hurt her, poor thing! I might have hurt her again sadly, if I had not held my tongue!"
They walked for a little while down the banks of the stream, talking of indifferent matters; then returned to the cottage. By that time Rose had recovered her spirits, and could listen with interest and amusement to Lomaque's dryly-humorous description of his life as a clerk at Chalons-sur-Marte. They parted for a little while at the cottage door. Rose retired to the upstairs room from which she had been summoned by her brother. Trudaine and Lomaque returned to wander again along the banks of the stream.
With one accord, and without a word passing between them, they left the neighborhood of the cottage hurriedly; then stopped on a sudden, and attentively looked each other in the face--looked in silence for an instant. Trudaine spoke first.
"I thank you for having spared her," he began, abruptly. "She is not strong enough yet to bear hearing of a new misfortune, unless I break the tidings to her first."
"You suspect me, then, of bringing bad news?" said Lomaque.
"I know you do. When I saw your first look at her, after we were all seated in the cottage parlor, I knew it. Speak without fear, without caution, without one useless word of preface. After three years of repose, if it pleases God to afflict us again, I can bear the trial calmly; and, if need be, can strengthen her to bear it calmly, too. I say again, Lomaque, speak at once, and speak out! I know your news is bad, for I know beforehand that it is news of Danville."
"You are right; my bad news is news of him."
"He has discovered the secret of our escape from the guillotine?"
"No--he has not a suspicion of it. He believes--as his mother, as every one does--that you were both executed the day after the Revolutionary Tribunal sentenced you to death."
"Lomaque, you speak positively of that belief of his--but you cannot be certain of it."
"I can, on the most indisputable, the most startling evidence--on the authority of Danville's own act. You have asked me to speak out--"
"I ask you again--I insist on it! Your news, Lomaque--your news, without another word of preface!"
"You shall have it without another word of preface. Danville is on the point of being married."
As the answer was given they both stopped by the bank of the stream, and again looked each other in the face. There was a minute of dead silence between them. During that minute, the water bubbling by happily over its bed of pebbles seemed strangely loud, the singing of birds in a little wood by the stream-side strangely near and shrill, in both their ears. The light breeze, for all its midday warmth, touched their cheeks coldly; and the spring sunlight pouring on their faces felt as if it were glimmering on them through winter clouds.
"Let us walk on," said Trudaine, in a low voice. "I was prepared for bad news, yet not for that. Are you certain of what you have just told me?"
"As certain as that the stream here is flowing by our side. Hear how I made the discovery, and you will doubt no longer. Before last week I knew nothing of Danville, except that his arrest on suspicion by Robespierre's order was, as events turned out, the saving of his life. He was imprisoned, as I told you, on the evening after he had heard your names read from the death-list at the prison grate. He remained in confinement at the Temple, unnoticed in the political confusion out-of-doors, just as you remained unnoticed at St. Lazare, and he profited precisely in the same manner that you profited by the timely insurrection which overthrew the Reign of Terror. I knew this, and I knew that he walked out of prison in the character of a persecuted victim of Robespierre's--and, for better than three years past, I knew no more. Now listen. Last week I happened to be waiting in the shop of my employer, Citizen Clairfait, for some papers to take into the counting-house, when an old man enters with a sealed parcel, which he hands to one of the shopmen, saying:
" 'Give that to Citizen Clairfait.'
" 'Any name?' says the shopman.
" 'The name is of no consequence,' answers the old man; 'but if you please, you can give mine. Say the parcel came from Citizen Dubois;' and then he goes out. His name, in connection with his elderly look, strikes me directly.
" 'Does that old fellow live at Chalons?' I ask
" 'No,' says the shopman. 'He is here in attendance on a customer of ours--an old ex-aristocrat named Danville. She is on a visit in our town.'
"I leave you to imagine how that reply startles and amazes me. The shopman can answer none of the other questions I put to him; but the next day I am asked to dinner by my employer (who, for his brother's sake, shows me the utmost civility). On entering the room, I find his daughter just putting away a lavender-colored silk scarf, on which she has been embroidering in silver what looks to me very like a crest and coat-of-arms.
" 'I don't mind your seeing what I am about, Citizen Lomaque,' says she; 'for I know my father can trust you. That scarf is sent back to us by the purchaser, an ex-emigrant lady of the old aristocratic school, to have her family coat-of-arms embroidered on it.'
" 'Rather a dangerous commission even in these mercifully democratic times, is it not?' says I.
" 'The old lady, you must know,' says she, 'is as proud as Lucifer; and having got back safely to France in these days of moderate republicanism, thinks she may now indulge with impunity in all her old-fashioned notions. She has been an excellent customer of ours, so my father thought it best to humor her, without, however, trusting her commission to any of the workroom women to execute. We are not living under the Reign of Terror now, certainly; still there is nothing like being on the safe side.'
" 'Nothing,' I answer. 'Pray what is this ex-emigrant's name?'
" 'Danville,' replies the citoyenne Clairfait. 'She is going to appear in that fine scarf at her son's marriage.'
" 'Marriage!' I exclaim, perfectly thunderstruck.
" 'Yes,' says she. 'What is there so amazing in that? By all accounts, the son, poor man, deserves to make a lucky marriage this time. His first wife was taken away from him in the Reign of Terror by the guillotine.'
" 'Who is he going to marry?' I inquire, still breathless.
" 'The daughter of General Berthelin--an ex-aristocrat by family, like the old lady; but by principle as good a republican as ever lived--a hard-drinking, loud-swearing, big-whiskered old soldier, who snaps his fingers at his ancestors and says we are all descended from Adam, the first genuine sans-culotte in the world.'
"In this way the citoyenne Ciairfait gossips on all dinner-time, but says nothing more of any importance. I, with my old police-office habits, set to the next day, and try to make some discoveries for myself. The sum of what I find out is this: Danville's mother is staying with General Berthelin's sister and daughter at Chalons, and Danville himself is expected to arrive every day to escort them all three to Paris, where the marriage-contract is to be signed at the general's house. Discovering this, and seeing that prompt action is now of the most vital importance, I undertake, as I told you, my employer's commission for Paris, depart with all speed, and stop here on my way. Wait! I have not done yet. All the haste I can make is not haste enough to give me a good start of the wedding party. On my road here, the diligence by which I travel is passed by a carriage, posting along at full speed. I cannot see inside that carriage; but I look at the box-seat, and recognize on it the old man Dubois. He whirls by in a cloud of dust, but I am certain of him; and I say to myself what I now say again to you, no time is to be lost!"
"No time shall be lost," answers, Trudaine, firmly. "Three years have passed," he continued, in a lower voice, speaking to himself rather than to Lomaque; "three years since the day when I led my sister out of the gates of the prison--three years since I said in my heart, 'I will be patient, and will not seek to avenge myself. Our wrongs cry from earth to heaven; from man who inflicts to God who redresses. When the day of reckoning comes, let it be the day of his vengeance, not of mine.' In my heart I said those words--I have been true to them--I have waited. The day has come, and the duty it demands of me shall be fulfilled."
There was a moment's silence before Lomaque spoke again. "Your sister?" he began, hesitatingly.
"It is there only that my purpose falters," said the other, earnestly. "If it were but possible to spare her all knowledge of this last trial, and to leave the accomplishment of the terrible task to me alone?"
"I think it is possible," interposed Lomaque. "Listen to what I advise. We must depart for Paris by the diligence to-morrow morning, and we must take your sister with us--to-morrow will be time enough; people don't sign marriage-contracts on the evening after a long day's journey. We must go then, and we must take your sister. Leave the care of her in Paris, and the responsibility of keeping her in ignorance of what you are doing, to me. Go to this General Berthelin's house at a time when you know Danville is there (we can get that knowledge through the servants); confront him without a moment's previous warning; confront him as a man risen from the dead; confront him before every soul in the room though the room should be full of people--and leave the rest to the self-betrayal of a panic-stricken man. Say but three words, and your duty will be done; you may return to your sister, and may depart with her in safety to your old retreat at Rouen, or where else you please, on the very day when you have put it out of her infamous husband's power to add another to the list of his crimes."
"You forget the suddenness of the journey to Paris," said Trudaine. "How are we to account for it without the risk of awakening my sister's suspicions?"
"Trust that to me," answered Lomaque. "Let us return to the cottage at once. No, not you," he added, suddenly, as they turned to retrace their steps. "There is that in your face which would betray us. Leave me to go back alone--I will say that you have gone to give some orders at the inn. Let us separate immediately. You will recover your self-possession--you will get to look yourself again sooner--if you are left alone. I know enough of you to know that. We will not waste another minute in explanations; even minutes are precious to us on such a day as this. By the time you are fit to meet your sister again, I shall have had time to say all I wish to her, and shall be waiting at the cottage to tell you the result."
He looked at Trudaine, and his eyes seemed to brighten again with something of the old energy and sudden decision of the days when he was a man in office under the Reign of Terror. "Leave it to me," he said; and, waving his hand, turned away quickly in the direction of the cottage.
Nearly an hour passed before Trudaine ventured to follow him. When he at length entered the path which led to the garden gate, he saw his sister waiting at the cottage door. Her face looked unusually animated; and she ran forward a step or two to meet him.
"Oh, Louis!" she said, "I have a confession to make, and I must beg you to hear it patiently to the end. You must know that our good Lomaque, though he came in tired from his walk, occupied himself the first thing, at my request, in writing the letter which is to secure to us our dear old home by the banks of the Seine. When he had done, he looked at me, and said, 'I should like to be present at your happy return to the house where I first saw you.' 'Oh, come, come with us!' I said directly. 'I am not an independent man,' he answered; 'I have a margin of time allowed me at Paris, certainly, but it is not long--if I were only my own master--' and then he stopped. Louis, I remembered all we owed to him; I remembered that there was no sacrifice we ought not to be too glad to make for his sake; I felt the kindness of the wish he had expressed; and perhaps I was a little influenced by my own impatience to see once more my flower-garden and the rooms where we used to be so happy. So I said to him, 'I am sure Louis will agree with me that our time is yours, and that we shall be only too glad to advance our departure so as to make traveling leisure enough for you to come with us to Rouen. We should be worse than ungrateful--' He stopped me. 'You have always been good to me,' he said. 'I must not impose on your kindness now. No, no, you have formalities to settle before you can leave this place.' 'Not one,' I said--for we have not, as you know, Louis? 'Why, here is your furniture to begin with,' he said. 'A few chairs and tables hired from the inn,' I answered; 'we have only to give the landlady our key, to leave a letter for the owner of the cottage, and then--' He laughed. 'Why, to hear you talk, one would think you were as ready to travel as I am!' 'So we are,' I said, 'quite as ready, living in the way we do here.' He shook his head; but you will not shake yours, Louis, I am sure, now you have heard all my long story? You can't blame me can you?"
Before Trudaine could answer, Lomaque looked out of the cottage window.
"I have just been telling my brother every thing," said Rose, turning round toward him.
"And what does he say?" asked Lomaque.
"He says what I say," replied Rose, answering for her brother; "that our time is your time--the time of our best and dearest friend."
"Shall it be done, then?" asked Lomaque, with a meaning look at Trudaine.
Rose glanced anxiously at her brother; his face was much graver than she had expected to see it, but his answer relieved her from all suspense.
"You are quite right, love, to speak as you did," he said, gently. Then, turning to Lomaque, he added, in a firmer voice, "It shall be done!"
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