Puslapio vaizdai

around, but there was no sign-she had not come up. Nonsense-he simply couldn't lose her, in that little space. Still calm, but with a cold dread growing at his heart, he took a long breath and went under again, deeper down this time. Almost at once he felt the swift tug of a current, and yielded himself to it, in the hope that it might carry him to her; but in a few seconds he was fighting madly to break loose, and only reached the top in time. Sobbing, distraught, trying to get back his breath and dive again, he heard a hurried sound of rowlocks, and the next instant he was clinging to the side of the boat, gasping out his story. There was still time, there was lots of time; she hadn't been under more than a minute. Lots of time.

Yet they were an age finding her,

an age of struggling, slowly drowning hope; and another age trying to bring back her life on the warm sand. A boy from the boat ran to intercept the doctor. Going his round from the nearest village, five miles off, his car had to pass along the road above the farm. He had come running over the sand-hills, his worn leather bag in his hand. All that was possible had been done; an age of effort, but to no purpose. She was gone.


rest of the room was still in merry disarray. Her short red eveningcoat, a Moroccan affair, with little pieces of glass and metal set in bizarre embroidery, lay across a chair. A jumper, discarded at the last minute in favor of another, hung from the bed-rail, one sleeve drooping forlornly to the floor. At the window the sun was streaming in, making an angular splash of brightness on the floor, lighting up mercilessly the grain in the boards and the frayed edge of the mat under the dressing-table. It emphasized her row of shoes-she loved shoes-new shoes for the honeymoon: a pair of slim brogues for climbing the mountains; a pair of fat woolly bedroom slippers, made altogether of lamb'swool; and evening shoes, not meant for sunlight. A sob caught in his throat; he raised his eyes to the table, but for a moment he could see nothing. There were her brushes, her little powder-box.

"Don't laugh at me, Dick..." She would so often give her nose an unnecessary reassuring dab. For selfconfidence, she explained. “You're not to laugh, you horrid creature!" and she would seize his arm, and rub her cheek against his sleeve, as they started off somewhere together.

No, no, no-it couldn't be true. Here everything was, as she had left it. It was a dream, a bad dream. Such things didn't happen. . . . . . in the first week of a honeymoon.

His feet stumbled on the weedgrown cobbles of the farm-yard. Mary, the maid of all work, who trudged two miles every morning to help the farmer's wife, was hanging Ah! He stood still, in the middle out clothes to dry. She stared at of the room, frozen by a sudden him, and her mouth opened slowly. thought. They would be bringing He didn't hear whether she spoke her up soon. A little slow mournful but went slowly up the creaking procession, across the fields, in the stairs to their room. sunlight. Some one would rememThe bed had been made, but the ber her clothes, and go back to get

them; and he saw her again, eagerly stripping them off, standing up with the white heap around her feet, stretching up her arms, singing to herself. Solemn hands would retrieve them, fold them reverently, and bring them up after her.

No, no, never! Why should he believe it why believe such nonsense, such cruelty-such blasphemy against the summer day and all that was good and happy in life? He would not stay to see anything at all. He would go away, for a long walk in the mountains, walk off this incubus, this nightmare. Then, when he came back in the evening, all would be normal and well again. She would be there to welcome him.

He blundered down-stairs in a sort of panic, and ran for the woods at the back of the farm. Until he reached their cover, he dared not look behind him, for fear he should see a little procession coming up slowly across the sand-hills.

Of the time he spent walking the mountains, between the morning and the evening, he could give no clear account. Only vague memories of misery, with a few clear-cut pictures far apart, remained with him. It was as if his mind, in its fevered endeavor not to think of the early morning, had fogged itself as to the present also. Certainly he succeeded in not thinking articulately of her, and was not put in mind of death by his glimpses of the sea; but all his body knew that something terrible had confronted him, and he wandered unresting for many hours in the vague misery of a beast.

Once, soon after he had fled from the farm, he found himself upon the railway line. Only two days before,

they had walked along it, stepping on the sleepers, laughing at the difficulty of making their steps fit the narrow intervals.

After that, maybe an hour later, he was on a steep slope, clawing his way upward through the bracken, tearing his hands, sweating, very thirsty. Then there was a loch; he must have knelt to drink, for he remembered feeling peevishly that the knees of his trousers were wet and cold.

Once, himself high up, he heard shots in a valley and saw a tiny speck fussing about in answer to them. For a while this surprised him; he only remembered afterward that it was the wrong time of year for shooting.

And then, once, he saw the farm, infinitely small below, and in a flash of apprehension had his one coherent memory. Oh, God, she is there, she is there, she is alive, let her be alive, she must be alive! He knelt, and his body strained, with agonized muscles, into one taut sinew of prayer that should move a mountain and alter the counsels of Heaven.

More hours, blind, weary, forgotten; then, without having decided to return, he found himself on the level ground, approaching the farm. The sky was sleepy and rich; it was evening. His legs ached terribly, and his knees were giving at every step. She would be there, to comfort him.

He crossed the cobbled yard, in front of the little hot bed of nasturtiums, and labored painfully up the stair. The door of their room confronted him. He gripped the handle, shut his eyes, and prayed, affirming his passionate faith that she was there.

Then he opened the door, and there in very truth she was, sitting, brushing her hair in front of the looking-glass, wearing a bright silk dressing-gown. She turned and smiled at him, but did not speak. The blessed relief flooded his soul, and with a great sigh of happiness he sank down on the edge of the bed, utterly exhausted, and sat watching her. The brush flowed up and down in long smooth strokes, rhythmically, fascinating him, almost sending his tired mind to sleep. How graceful her arms were! How soft!

For a long time he sat there in silence, content to watch her. Then he remembered the morning, clear in each detail. His heart began to beat cruelly; his breath came short; he passed his tongue over his lips, but it was parched and thick. Then, in torture, he rose to his feet, and tottered stiffly toward her with outstretched hands. She turned, and sent him a kiss over her shoulder, as she had done that morning in the water, the same gesture. Water. Her arms had been limp and motionless, her hair matted; when he had raised her head, a thin trickle of water had run from her nostrils. Water. She had been drowned.

Terror seized him.

"Water!" he screamed suddenly. "Water! You're covered with water! Oh, my God, you're drowned, you're drowned!"

She dropped her brush, turned round, and looked at him in an agony of pity and reproach. She stretched out her arms, and parted her lips as if to speak; then she burst into a passion of tears, covered her face with her hands, and disappeared.

The light faded slowly from the room, and he lay still, perfectly conscious now, defeated. She was gone, gone past recall. He made no more effort. He had prayed, and his prayer had been granted; but he had not the courage to accept his miracle. O ye of little faith!

Yet how could a man in his wits believe such a thing, so contrary to all experience? What about the others, the doctor, the men in the boat? They had all seen her-like that. Or was it because every one accepted the fact of death, and no one believed that-? He groaned, and put his hand to his brow; then his mind went back on him, and he wondered if she had really been there when he came in. If her return, not her death had been the dream. If the sun and his wanderings had so fevered him that he had seen a vision. He could swear to nothing; it was all now a part of the past, of the day's phantasmagoria. How could one ever know?

Yet-there was her brush on the floor, where she had let it fall. There seemed to be a faint radiance around it. Creeping forward toward the window on his hands and knees, he raised his eyes and saw that the moon had risen. He picked the brush up. It was still fragrant from her hair.

Then he heard voices at the foot of the stairs, whispering together. They were coming to look for him.

How could one ever be sure? Had she indeed come back? If he had only believed, would she be with him now? Was it all a dream, or had Orpheus once again lost his Eurydice?



VIII-Josephine Takes the Wrong Road


OSEPHINE, then, was shaking dice when her lord and master set his boot once more on the soil of France. Her last little tower of gold louis had been whisked away when Fouché's finger-tips fell like five cold bivalves on her arm.

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"I would tempt Fate no longer,' said the minister of police. "He travels fast!"

She turned with a swift movement from the waist, even in her alarm still graceful.

"Who travels fast, Citizen Fouché?" she asked, her little fist flying, clenched, to her parted lips.

"Your adoring husband, the illustrious general," supplied Talleyrand, bowing and applying thumb and forefinger outlined like a bird's head with brown grains in its beak, first to one nostril, then the other.

"There must be some mistake, Fouché," she cried. "Surely you are wrong. He would not leave without sending me some word."

"Even so, Citoyenne Bonaparte, he is here," said the death's-head, "on the road to Paris, and not, I should venture to say, sparing horse-flesh."

She knew that he was not mistaken. Did not this master spy know everything that went on! And surprise was her husband's first rule in love as in warfare.

Ruefully she looked at the green table. She had hoped to be able to pay off some of those debts long before his arrival. And, generous as he was, he could be very stern about debt. Still, one thing was certain; his brothers must not reach him before her.

"How charming to see a two years' bride so eager to greet her husband!" said Talleyrand, to the blinking minister of police, as she fled the room. "Pardieu! It restores one's faith in human nature."

Outside she leaped into the berline, bidding the postilion lash his horses -a cruelty unusual in the softhearted Josephine.

"Louise! Hortense!" she called as she gained her room. "The general is on his way. Any moment he may be here. What shall I do?" "Why not, maman, ride down to meet him?" said Hortense.

"A stroke of genius, my child," exclaimed the lovely lady, her tears now turned to laughter. "If he is vexed, that will disarm his anger. But hurry, Louise. Pack. Don't stand there like an idiot, gaping!"


Meantime the various members of his family had gathered at Joseph's house in the Rue Rocher. It was a cozy home, rather elegant too, for

Joseph had capitalized his brother's fame and the comfortable dot which Monsieur Clary, the rich silk merchant of Marseilles, had turned over to him with Julie.

First Pauline had danced in, all soft curves and enchanting chatter; then, more mannish and imperious, Eliza. Louis had brought his young side-burns and a new hussar's uniform all green and gold, with a furred pelisse over the shoulder. Letizia surveyed him dryly. She could not altogether blame Napoleon for his disappointment in Louis. The little fellow he had taught and supported, covered up at night to protect him from the air of the Auxonne marshes, had turned into something of a dreamer.

Lucien, who now appeared with his wife Christine, was more promising. He had given up three jobs that Napoleon had secured for him; but now he was a rising young legislator in the Council of Five Hundred, making speeches to his heart's content-good ones, too-and looking quite well in his red senatorial toga. Christine, too, was a satisfaction. Only an innkeeper's daughter, to be sure and a bit pock-pitted. But she had a sweet face and wore her clothes well. Nothing could be more svelte than her gown-from the hands of the renowned Germond-nothing less -though it cost too much. She learned very quickly, that girl.

And Julie was no trouble-so amiable and with such common sense. If only the widow-to Letizia, Josephine was still "that widow"had half as much!

Letizia had not greatly changed. A little gray in the chestnut, a few lines at the corners of the mouth, and

a decided paling of the old peachblow; but still plain of dress and awkward in her French, yet stately and commanding and with the old noble candor in the fine mouth and expressive eyes.

"Is not that like him?" Paulette was saying as her mother entered the room, from upstairs where Joseph had set aside an apartment for her. "To think of skipping over the sea and across all those countries without letting any one know!"

"Eh! He has come in time," said Eliza. "The creole's conduct has been perfectly scandalous!"

"Perhaps it was to catch her napping," Pauline suggested.

"I hope she hasn't heard the news. Then his eyes may be opened," Eliza returned. "Napoleon is not one to wear the two horns."

The boys made no comment on their sister-in-law; and Julie and Christine, who, though they had been thoroughly merged in this turbulent clan, yet had a little of understanding sympathy for Josephine, were too tactful to defend her


Letizia, however, was in no mood for gossip.

"This is no time for incrimination," she said in rebuke. "The important matter is that your brother has returned.”

"She never paid you any attention -hasn't even called," persisted Paulette, pouting.

"I know; she has shown me little respect," her mother answered. "But all I want is Napoleon's happiIf she has been indiscreet, things may be patched up. And you do not know that she has been more than that."


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