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THE HOODED SNAKE 



A STORY OF 



G% Bttxrt Indict 



" To beguile the time, 
Look like the time, bear welcome in your eye, 
Your hand, your tongue: look like the innocent flower, 
But be the serpent under it.' 

SHAKESrEAUE. 



BY 

WATTS PHILLIPS, 

AUTHOR Oi' "JOSEPH CHAVItiNY," "THE TOOR STROLLERS 
"THE DEAL) HEART," ETC., ETC. 



LONDON: 
WARD AND LOCK, 

15S, FLEET STUEET. 



LONDON: 

PRINTED BY ADAMS AND GEE, 23, MIDDLE STREET, 

■\VISST SMITI1FIELD, E.C. 



PREFACE. 



The publishers of the " Hooded Snake" havo 
suggested to its author that a few words of prefaco 
are necessary, inasmuch as the scene of the story- 
being laid in France, and as it has been the writer's 
endeavour to make his characters act and talk some- 
what after the fashion of Frenchmen, the charge of 
adaptation, or translation, is almost certain to be 
brought against him by all those young critics whose 
knowledge of French literature consists of an inti- 
mate accpiaintance with, at the most, half-a-dozen of 
its best known authors. It is, therefore, but right to 
state that the story — such as it is — owes its parentage 



IV PREFACE. 

t 

to the author's imagination only, and is derived from 
no foreign source whatever. Such assertion, as regards 
the " Hooded Snake," is rendered doubly necessary 
from the fact, that, a year or two since, its author 
produced a drama, — " The Poor Strollers" — which it 
pleased a good-natured public to honour with a de- 
cided approbation ; but, the very " flavour of sunny 
France," which the author had endeavoured to diffuse 
throughout his drama, was, with certain critics, seized 
upon as groundwork for suspicion ; and, without point- 
ing to a line in proof, they hinted at a '"possible 
adaptation." — Had he invested the French strollers 
with the coarser attributes of the English mounte- 
bank, and made bis characters English in everything 
but their birthplace, he might possibly have been 
allowed the parentage of his own drama; as it was, 
these precious young critics abused the public for 
persisting in its first opinion as to the drama's merits, 
and endeavoured by a " sneer" to do what they had 
failed to accomplish by proof. The author at the 
time received such criticism with a smile, and now 
speaks of it with indifference ; yet it is but right, when 
the word original appears upon the title-page of either 



PREFACE. V 

drama or novel, that the writer should be considered 
distinctly to pledge himself to its truth. 

The story of the " Hooded Snake" is intended 
to illustrate that corruption of manners arising out of 
the spy system, which attained so wonderful and 
alarming a development under the direction of the 
famous, or infamous Joseph Fouche, and it is a story 
that can hardly fail to interest the readers of the 
present day — when, unfortunately, a vast system of 
espionage is again organised in France — where the 
outspoken thought of the honest man is an offence to 
be punished as severely as though he had broken into 
his neighbour's house, or raised a hand against his 
neighbour's life — where " repression and surveillance 
have been carried to their extreme point, and are pro- 
ducing a social uneasiness of which no one can pre- 
dict the result ;"•" 1,200,000 francs have been demanded 
by the French Government, and granted by the Legis- 
lative Body, in addition to the 2,000,000 francs already 
dedicated to the supp ort of that terrible instrument 

* " Times" newspaper. Mi.rcli 23nl, 1858. 



■VI PREFACE. 

of despotism — the secret police, and the warning con- 
veyed in Beranger's well-known song — 

" Parlons bas, 
Parlons bas, 
Ici pris j'ai vu Judas, 
J'ai ?u Judas, j'ai vu Judas," 

can never be uttered with more truthful effect than 
at the present time, when " Monsieur Judas" walks 
the streets in safety — and men eye each other askance 
— doubtful whether the fair-spoken friend is not a 
spy, whose name is secretly enrolled among, " Lea 
limiers de la Police." 

The story of " The Hooded Snake" is laid in the 
days of Fouche ; but, unless continental politics un- 
dergo a great change, such a treachery as it describes 
will soon find many a parallel in our own. 



CONTENTS. 



CHAPTER I. 

PAGE 

The Reader makes the acquaintance of Pere Dominique, 
is introduced to Monsieur Anatole Chiffon, and also 
gets a glimpse of the Baron D'Aubigny's guests . 1 

CHAPTER II. 

The Baron D'Aubigny and his daughter — The Chevalier de 
Preville and his son — An Enthusiast, and a Laughing 
Philosopher . . . . . .21 

CHAPTER III. 

The Morning after the Storm . . . .36 

CHAPTER IV. 

Eugenie and Yvonne — Keroulas relates a story, and the 

Reader makes a discovery . . . .52 

CHAPTER V. 
A peep into the Baron's Study — Suspicions . . 64 

CHAPTER VI. 

The Banm takes Victor into his confidence— Keroulas— 

The Plot thickens . . • • -87 

CHAPTER VII. 
The Rivals— Hands not hearts— M. Anatole Cuiflbn . 'X< 



Vlll. CONTENTS. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

PAGE 

Husband and Wife — Victor's Midnight Vigil — The Hooded 

Snake 107 



CHAPTER IX. 

Father and Son — A change of Plans — Diamond cut Dia- 
mond ....... 125 



CHAPTER X. 

Paul Lebrun has a Stroke of Good Fortune — A Coining 

Storm ...... 1-J3 



CHAPTER XL 
Cape Ra2 ....... 159 

CHAPTER XII. 
Fouches Agents— Patrician and Plebeian . . . 170 

CHAPTER XIII. 

Yvonne — The First and Last Kiss . . .186 

CHAPTER XIV. 
Retribution . . . . . .197 

CHAPTER XV. 
Anatole Chiffon's Night Ride, and its Termination . 217 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 



CHAPTER I. 

THE READER MAKES THE ACQUAINTANCE OP PeRE 
DOMINIQUE, IS INTRODUCED TO MONSIEUR ANATOLE 
CHIFFON, AND ALSO GETS A GLIMPSE OF THE BARON 

d'aubigny's GUESTS. 

The scene of our story lies in Brittany. It is one 
of those stormy nights so frequent on the gloomy 
Breton coasts, upon which the very shadow of death 
seems ever to rest, when Nature puts on her fiercest 
aspect, and the sea, lashed into fury by the wind, 
tosses its gigantic waves against the rocks, as though it 
would overleap every barrier that stood between it and 
its prey — trembling and awe-struck man. The voice 
of the storm is heard for miles inland ; and the peasant, 
hurrying homewards to his solitary hut across the 
savage and dreary landes, pauses to cross himself, 
while his blue lips move in prayer for help against the 
fiend that, as he believes, rides upon and rules the 
mighty blast ; while the fierce inhabitant of the coast, 
whose home is perched among the rocks, like the nest 

B 



2 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

of the vulture and the osprey ; and who, it is said, is 
as dangerous to the storm-smitten vessel as the rocks 
themselves, turns his scowling eye from the great fire 
of dried reeds and broom over which he is crouched, 
to the wall of his hut, where hangs a painted effigy of 
the Virgin, and prays that to-morrow's sun will rise on 
a wreck-strewn shore ; while his rough helpmate 
fastens the shutter, shielding her eyes the while, lest 
she should glance without and be driven into madness 
by the sight of the spectral crierien — those phantom 
forms of shipwrecked men, who are ever driven on- 
wards by a pitiless wind that mocks their cries for 
Christian burial. 

" None pass Cape B,az without hurt or fright," says 
the Breton proverb, and this night the grim features of 
those cruel rocks are hidden behind a shroud of blind- 
ing mist, as the bravo hides the dagger beneath his 
cloak, waiting for the coming prey. A wild night, a 
wild coast, and a wild people. "Well may the Breton 
sailors pray, "Help me, great God, at Cape Raz ; my 
ship is so small, and my need is so great ! " 

" Why don't you open the door, some .of you 1 " 
said Dominique Eonchamp, as a loud knocking was 
heard at the door of his farm. 

Upon ordinary occasions Pere Dominique was not 
a man to be trifled with. A Breton farmer is king 
under his own roof, and at times, the government of 
farmer Bonchamp verged upon the despotic ; but when 
superhuman influence is dreaded, mere human influence 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 3 

goes for naught ; so the circle of men , women, and 
children constituting the living furniture of Pere 
Dominique's house sat motionless, and as the knocking 
increased, only gazed more fixedly at the fire. 

" Open the door ; do you hear 1 " 

Had the circle been a circle of Druidical stones, it 
could not have been more deaf to his command. 

"Marie Jeanne," and he addressed a stalwart 
Breton servant-wench ; "do you go, or — " and the 
words came slowly through his lips, as the better to 
impress upon his auditors the enormity of their per- 
mitting such an act, " or am I to open the door 
myself." 

There was a movement in the circle, and upon each 
face there beamed but one expression — a devout wish 
that he would. 

The Pere Dominique was fat — unusually fat for a 
Breton — and, therefore, somewhat lethargic ; but, as 
the knocking continued, he made an effort to rise. 

" Stay, PSre Dominique ;" and a young peasant rose 
hastily from his seat, " since the door must be opened, 
I'll do it ; though," and he crossed himself devoutly, 
"none but the fiend would knock at an honest man's 
door on such a night as this." 

" None but a dishonest man would turn even a 
dog from his door, on such a night. Why, you're as 
white as the meal tub ; I thought you had more 
courage, Keroulas." 

" Courage ! " and the young peasant drew himself 



4 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

proudly up, while his dark eyes flashed from beneath 
his long hair, which, after the fashion of his country, 
hung long upon his shoulders ; " courage ! If there's 
any man but yourself, Pere Dominique, in either Leon 
or Cornouaille, who doubts that, he is welcome to 
seek the proof. But when it comes to a wrestling- 
match with — " 

" I heard the wheels of the death-cart plainly to- 
night, as I came from the fields," broke in, with a se- 
pulchral voice, a cadaverous-looking peasant, who sat 
as rivetted to his seat, with his hollow eyes fixed on 
the fire. " Two skeletons were driving it as usual, for 
I heard their bones rattle in the wind ; but I shut my 
eyes as close as a rat-trap when it passed, for to look 
on them is death ! " 

Kex-oulas, who was moving towards the door, upon 
hearing this piece of cheering intelligence, halted 
abruptly, and glanced uneasily at the dark passage he 
must traverse to reach the principal entrance to the 
farm, when a voice, gentle and bird-like, that ever- 
sung sweet music in his ear, said — 

" No harm can befall the good, — nor any other, 
while the blessed Virgin has them in her care. I will 
go with you, Keroulas." 

The speaker was the only daughter of Dominique 
Bon champ, — a young girl between seventeen and 
eighteen years of age : her slight figure set off to ad- 
vantage by the graceful Breton costume ; her large 
calm eyes were full of a holy simplicity ; and her face, 



THE HOODED SNAKE. O 

"with its look of quiet serenity, was such as might have 
inspired the artist-monks, when, with a wondrous pa- 
tience, they illuminated with many a saint-like face, 
the heavy missals that formed the only ornaments of 
their gloomy cells. It was a calm face, but not a sad 
one, for a smile was ever hovering about the lips, — as 
the Peri lingered by the half-closed gates of paradise. 
" Nay, Yvonne," said Keroulas, hastily, as she rose 
and was about to move towards him, " to permit that 
I must lack both courage and shame. If my cheek 
wanted colour, as father Dominique said, just now, 
your words have brought it back again." And then, 
before Yvonne could make answer, he had snatched up 
a light and disappeared into the passage that led to 
the door. 

" Brehan, the miller, was set upon by the Courils* 
when returning from Quiinper," began the peasant with 
the cadaverous countenance, who was called Martin, 
and seemed to be especially rich in ghostly anecdote. 
"He came upon them suddenly, and was endeavouring 
to creep away, when they caught sight of him, for the 
moonlight was lying thick as snow upon the ground, 
and he was surrounded in a moment." 

" Did he dance with them 1 " asked Marie 
Jeanne, the dilation of whose eyes kept pace with 
Martin's story. 

* The Courils are malignant dwarfs, that, according to 
Breton superstition, when disturbed at their moonlight revels, 
force the intruder to join in their dance till he dies of the fatigue. 



6 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

" Did he dance with them 1 of course not ; or he 
■would never have lived to tell the story. Fortunately 
for him, he had a phial of holy water in his pouch ; it 
had been blessed that very day by the Bishop himself. 
But the Courils seized him, and carried him through 
the air nevertheless, leaving him insensible at his own 
door, where his wife found him in the morning ! " 

" Paul Lebrun says the miller was drunk, and that 
the Courils were the white fence-posts which he saw 
turning round in the road !" 

All shook their heads in grave dissent at this solu- 
tion ; and the speaker, a small, active, dark-eyed boy, 
shrunk behind the seat of Yvonne, abashed at the un- 
pleasant reception his speech had met with ; for even 
Pere Dominique sent a glance of deep reproach to- 
wards him. 

"Hush!" 

The heavy tread of Keroulas was heard returning. 
It was accompanied by that of a much lighter person ; 
and when Keroulas, who was the first to emerge from 
the passage, appeared, he was greeted by all with the 
question, 

" Who is it ?" 

To Dominique Eonchamp, Keroulas made reply. 

"Nobody : that is, nobody in particular. It's 
Monsieur Chiffon." 

And the young Breton, in a not very gracious 
manner, put down the light, and, without further heed 
of the new comer, resumed his seat. 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 7 

The effect of the announcement was different upon 
Dominique. After one or two efforts he rose on his 
legs and advanced towards his unexpected guest. 

"You are welcome, you are welcome, Monsieur 
Chiffon. It is to be hoped the news you bring will 
prove better than the weather. How does Monsieur 
le Baron ? Is your young mistress well ? she was 
somewhat ailing when Yvonne saw her yesterday. 
Where is your horse 1 you have put him up in the 
stable : ah ! you know our ways, I see. What could 
have brought you abroad on such a night 1 your clothes 
are pouring a cataract ! " and then, without pausing for 
a reply to his questions, he turned angrily to the circle 
round the fire : " Get up some of you ! Isthis Breton 
hospitality 1 What says the proverb 1 ' The best seat 
in the house for the stranger, and the best dish at the 
table,' and shall Monsieur Chiffon, Monsieur le Baron's 
valet, have less 1 Marie Jeanne ! some more wood on 
the fire, and a fresh stool on the hearth." 

The person to whom this welcome was addressed 
let his heavy and saturated cloak fall from his 
shoulders : then throwing his hat and whip upon an 
adjacent bench, stepped into the centre of the now 
widened circle, and, after throwing a rapid look 
around — which, however, comprehended each of its 
members — he turned his back upon them all, and 
stretohed a pair of long lean hands over the flaming 
logs, — when having sufficiently warmed them, he drew 
them several times one over the other with a sharp 



b THE HOODED SNAKE. 

crackling sound — then wheeled round, and once more 
faced the group, 

" So you took me for the fiend himself, I suppose, 
that you kept me so long beating the outside of your 
door ; parbleti ! even he might he excused for seeking 
a shelter on such a night — nor would it be Christian- 
like to refuse it." 

A murmur of disapprobation came from the pea- 
sants. It was evident that Monsieur Chiffon stood by 
no means high in their regard. 

Chiffon was a small, lean, sallow man, of that un- 
decided age which leaves the guesser at fault as to its 
exact place between forty and fifty ; his hair, which 
grew thinly about his head, in ragged tufts, like patches 
of heath in an unfavourable soil, was of that un- 
pleasant hue known as " foxy ; " but the true " foxy " 
character wes in the eyes — small, quick, and piercing ; 
they gleamed from beneath the brows with a restless, 
furtive look, never resting long upon any one object, 
yet taking in all its points, whatever they might be, at 
a glance. The nose, which was slightly hooked, rose 
above a pair of thin, restless lips, continually moved 
by a nervous twitching at the corners. The neck was 
long and bent forward, though not from the weight of 
the head, which was unusually small. A decided pro- 
trusion of the lower part of the face, a wrinkling of 
the skin about the eyes, and a pricking back of the 
ears, whenever the faculties of Monsieur Chiffon be- 
came keenly excited, gave him the appearance of one 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 9 

of those wild animals which creep with slow and 
stealthy steps, nearer and nearer ; till, certain of their 
prey, they make the final spring, dartingwith the swift- 
ness of an arrow through ths trembling air. 

Of Monsieur Anatole Chiffon's past history, nothing 
was known, at least in Brittany, where he had ap- 
peared two years previous to the date of our story, 
bringing with him a letter of recommendation to the 
Chevalier de Preville, from one of the Chevalier's old 
Parisian associates, who had been — so the letter set 
forth — for many years the fortunate possessor of Mon- 
sieur Anatole's services, but, dying from the effects of 
a sword thrust received in a street quarrel, he left him 
(M. Chiffon) as a legacy to the Chevalier, or — whoever 
else would provide provide for him. 

The Chevalier de Preville — a gay, light-hearted 
gentleman, who had been a reckless bon vivant under 
the monarchy, a careless, reckless fugitive during the 
worst days of the Republic — had returned to Paris 
after the fall of the Terrorists, but was forced again to 
leave that city, having in some Avay incurred the sus- 
picion of the lynx-eyed Pouche, then Minister of 
Police, and retired with his only son, Victor de Pre- 
ville, to Pontarlac, a small estate belonging to him in 
Brittany, the only remnant — that much extravagance 
and numerous confiscations had left — of a once princely 
fortune. Upon this estate lie had lived in seclusion 
for three years, visiting only his nearest neighbour, the 
Baron d'Aubigny, one of the richest proprietors in 



10 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

Brittany, with whom he loved to talk over those bril- 
liant and by-gone days when fashion and folly — the 
terms are but too often synonymous — held misrule in 
Paris, and vice sat crowned with the diadem of a king. 
Since then, the whirligig of time had brought its 
changes. The Baron d'Aubigny had become a sterner 
and a wiser man for the niauy lessons that experience 
had taught. Not so the Chevalier ; it was his boast 
that he had sailed hitherto laughing down the stream 
of life, and laughing he would finish the voyage, 
gliding into that sea of oblivion — for, according to his 
philosophy, it was such — the grave. The ghastly pre- 
sence of the guillotine brought with it no terrors for 
him ; he had plotted and counter-plotted under its very 
shadow ; and now, that it had passed away, and all 
Trance was embodied in one man — who, like the angel 
of death, was destined to sweep over Europe — its 
glory and its scourge, the Chevalier suddenly gave over 
plotting, and retired, as he said, " like Cincinnatus, to 
his cabbage garden, the cabbage being a vegetable in 
which careful cultivation might develop a soundness of 
heart that it would be in vain to look for in man." 
With the Chevalier, life was, in the words of a French 
writer, "a chaplet of small joys and petty miseries 
which the philosopher shakes with a laugh." 

The chevalier was too poor to treat himself to the 
luxury of such an accomplished valet as Anatole 
Chiffon, and too good-natured (the world said good 
nature was the Chevalier's one fault) to rudely turn 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 11 

away his friend's bequest — so lie made it over to his 
friend D'Aubigny, to whose fortune half-a-dozen mouths, 
more or less, could make no difference. 

And thus it was that Anatole Chiffon became valet 
to the Baron D'Aubigny. 

We must now apologize to our readers, and also to 
those asssembled in Farmer Bonchamp's house, for 
leaving Monsieur Chiffon standing so long with his 
back to the fire. 

" Such subjects are ill to jest upon, Monsieur 
Chiffon," said the farmer, reproachfully, as the valet 
moved towards a seat, selecting — not that placed for 
him — but the one left vacant by Keroulas, who had 
risen to assist in drawing the wine, which Marie Jeanne 
was preparing to warm over the fire. 

This preference will not be wondered at when we 
state that the seat vacated by the young peasant was 
next to that of the pretty Yvonne, who, however, 
seemed but little pleased by the change of neighbours. 

" Why ill to jest upon, Pere Dominique ? He who 
makes but a jest of the devil, fears him not ; and is it 
not a mark of holiness to set him and his at defiance 1 " 

Seven hands simultaneously crossed seven bosoms,* 
as farmer Bonchamp made answer — 

"At certain times, the demons have power, and 

* " A Breton peasant " says the proverb ," has ever a prayer 
on his lip, and a cross at his finger end. Among the lower class, 
no true Breton places bread to his lips, without first making the 
cross upon it with his knife. 



12 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

then ensues the commotion in the air, for there is no 
rest for the elements, when Satan is unloosed." 

" Nor much for man, when such a storm as this is 
raging — whew ! how it blew as I crossed the heath ;" 
and pursing his thin lips, Chiffon gave a shrill whistle 
in imitation of the sound of the wind at a distance, 
'ere it came roaring and shrieking round the house. 

" Don't do that !" implored Martin, with something 
like a menace in his voice, " without you wish to 
bring the hurricane upon us, till it blows the roof from 
the farm, and the wall about our ears ; for if that comes 
to pass, even the Buguel iSTos could not save us." 

" And who may that gentleman be 1 I never heard 
his name before/' 

" He never heard of the Buguel Nos !"* 

Here all the peasants leaned solemnly forward and 
gazed pityingly at the unmoved Chiffon, while Martin, 
sinking his voice into a whisper, continued — 

" The Buguel Nos is the friend of man. Only pray 
to him for aid, and he is sure to be by your side in the 
extremity of danger." 

" A friend in need is a friend indeed ; it shall be 
my endeavour to make the acquaintance of your Buguel 
Nos." 

* The Buguel Nos, a supernatural being of vast stature, which 
increases as he approachesthose to whom he appears. The Buguel 
Nos resembles, in some peculiarities, the Number Nip of the 
Germans, only that the former is ever friendly in his intentions 
towards man. 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 13 

Without heeding the interruption, Martin went on. 

" I have seen him." 

" You have ?" 

" I have !" A buzz of excitement from the pea- 
sants. Martin was evidently considered by all as an 
extraordinary man. " I saw him near Pont Croix. I 
got somehow benighted, and lost my road about two 
miles to the west of Andenac's farm, close upon the 
rising ground that overlooks Deadman's Bay, where 
the Dutch brig went to pieces. You can imagine my 
fear." 

" They could, they did !" Chiffon glanced sharply at 
the pale serious faces about him ; it was plain they 
shared it. 

" Luckily, I had a bottle of brandy — genuine 
Nantz — and took a long steady draught." 

The peasants drew in their breath, then smacked 
their lips ; it was done unconsciously, but with a 
relish. 

" I then sat down to think over what had best 
be done. I sat for nearly an hour, turning over first 
one thing, then another in my mind ; when, putting 
down my hand for the Nantes, I found the bottle — 
empty ! I at once came to the conclusion — " 

" That you had drunk its contents." 

Martin gave the valet a look of contempt. " That 
I was on unholy ground ; and scarcely had I become 
aware of this, than the stone upon which 1 was seated 
began to whirl rapidly round. At the sam time I 



14 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 



descried something black approaching over the 
heath." 

The peasants crossed themselves. 
" It stopped some dozen yards from me, but with- 
out being aware of my presence, for I had crawled be- 
hind the stone which had served me for a seat ; and 
then I plainly saw the tail and horns, and knew it was 
the fiend himself." 

Martin's listeners glanced oyer their shoulders, and 
drew their stools closer together. 

" He walked round and round the stone, evidently 
looking for me." 

" I thought he hadn't seen you ;" said the incredu- 
lous Chiffon. 

" When I remembered," continued Martin, who 
was not to be put out in his narrative, "the Bnguel 
Kos, and prayed to him to relieve me from my 
danger." 

"Did -he come?" 

" Could I be here, if he had not ? Suddenly his tall 
form stepped from out the mist, wbich'seemecl as thick 
as a wall, and he stood between me and the Accursed 
One; his figure grew larger and taller as he approached 
me, till it seemed as though the stars were resting on 
his forehead- — at last he stood by my side." 

" Could you see the stars through the mist that was 
as thick as a wall ?" put in Chiffon, slily. 

" He loosed his long white mantle from his 
shoulders, and just as the fiend uttered a fearful yell, 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 15 

and made a rush forward, he dropped it over me. I 
was saved." 

A long sigh of relief from the peasants. Then 
Martin, pointing to the dark-eyed boy, who, racovered 
from his rebuff, was playing with the logs on the fire, 
said, " Zizi knows what I relate to be true ; for his 
father — rest his soul ! — was one of those who found me 
in the morning." 

" That he did ;" laughed the urchin, twirling apiece 
of the burning wood between his fingers, " That he did. 
He was out a reed-gathering, when he came upon 
Martin, stretched on the ground. He did'nt make out 
a man at first, because Martin was half covered by a 
snow-drift, and, therefore, would'nt have stopped, but 
that one of Andenac's black cows, which had wandered 
in the night, was lying down close by." 

" Ah ! ah ! I see ; and in endeavouring to catch 
the cow, he lighted upon Martin," laughed Chiffon. 

" So it pleased the blessed St. Iflam to direct it," 
broke in Martin. " Talac found me beneath the snow- 
drift, half-dead, with the empty bottle beside me." 
Here the murmur of flhanksgiving and the irreverent 
mirth of Chiffon, were alike interrupted by a fresh 
knocking at the outer door. And this time there was 
slight delay in answering the summons, Chiffon, at the 
first stroke, leaping lightly to his feet. 

" As I expected ; they have made out the farm by 
the light from the windows. These gentlemen" are 
gueSts^for Monsieur le Daron," he said, in brief expla- 



16 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

nation to Bonchamp, who had also risen ; " they come 
from the coast, and the Baron, who knew they must 
take your farm on the way, desired me to meet them 
here, and bring them on." 

" Will they go on to the maison D'Aubigny to- 
night ?" inquired the farmer, as several of the labour- 
ers hurried to the door to render assistance to the 
travellers. 

" The Baron's orders are imperative. Besides, a 
man can but be wet through ; and these gentlemen 
must be as thoroughly sea-soaked as the weeds that 
float upon the billows. It's not easy landing at the 
best of times near Cape Raz." 

" Landing ! why there was but one ship off the 
shore before nightfall. Baul Lebrun said it was an 
English brig by the build, though she carried French 
colours. I hope these messieurs are not English. In 
most things the Baron's word is law ; but — " 

"English ! no." Chiffon paused, then glanced up- 
wards with his glittering eyes into the open face of the 
farmer. " So Paul Lebrun thought that vessel Eng- 
lish — umph !" 

" Paul ought to know : he has been in one of their 
prisons on the other side of the water !" 

" Ah ! nothing is so little likely to rust in the 
memory as the remembrance of a wrong. And, upon 
an emergency, where might this kno wing gentleman 
be found ?" 

" At Pont Croix : a good sailor, though a wild one." 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 17 

" From England ! it may be — and yet," muttered 
Chiffon, as the farmer left him to ■welcome the new- 
arrivals, " I would give something to be certain ; nay, 
I must be certain. Let me see. Le Brun — Pont 
Croix : that must not slip my memory." 

Two persons, — gentlemen by their perfect ease of 
manner and general bearing — had entered the large 
room ; and now, conducted by Pere Dominique, ad- 
vanced towards the fire, shaking, as they did so, the rain 
from their garments ; the peasants, who had all risen, 
drawing back respectfully as the strangers approached. 

" You say that my good friend, the Baron 
D'Aubigny, has sent us a guide. By my faith, we stand 
in no small need of one, if the remaining part of the 
road is as difficult to follow as that we have already 
traversed. Oh !" and the speaker, a tall, dark man, 
with a somewhat clerical appearance, eyed Chiffon in- 
quisitively, as that gentleman advanced, and stood 
bowing before him, " you are the envoy, I sup- 
pose?" 

"Monsieur supposes correctly. I am the confidential 
servant of Monsieur le Baron d'Aubigny." 

" Bah ! the servant who proclaims his position thus 
loudly, is seldom worthy of the confidence bestowed." 
Then, turning to his companion, he continued, "'Twere 
useless to tarry here, Dupont. The distance to the 
maison d'Aubigny is only two miles, so the good farmer 
informs me ; and, guided by this fellow, we shall travel 
it safely and quickly." 



18 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

At the word " fellow," uttered somewhat con- 
temptuously by the tall, dark man, a close observer 
might have seen a quick, almost savage gleam, dart 
from the eyes of Chiffon, — but there were no such 
close observers present, — and, in a moment, the fierce 
gleam was gone, and the face as unruffled as before. 

" Tt was Monsieur le Baron's wish that messieurs 
should not delay on the road." 

The dark man again eyed him keenly. " Did my 
friend, the Baron, give a reason for his wish ¥' 

Chiffon shrugged his shoulders. 

" It is for me to obey Monsieur le Baron's com- 
mands. It is for others to demand their reason." 

"A sharp knave," thought- the stranger. Then 
turning to his companion — " We must depart at once, 
it seems, but not before we have thanked this honest 
Breton for his proffered hospitality. I have travelled 
much, but it is only in Brittany so warm a welcome 
meets a stranger on the threshold." 

" That smells well," said the smaller of the two 
strangers, addressed by the other as Dupont — "that 
smells well," and he pointed to the bowl of warm wine 
which Marie Jeanne had just lifted from the fire. 

" Nor will its taste be less pleasing, I trust ;"' and 
Dominique Bonchamp, taking the bowl from Marie 
Jeanne, handed it first to the taller stranger, who he 
instinctively recognised as the other's superior in rank. 
" Drink, Monsieur, and accept the old Breton saluta- 
tion — the blessing of God be with you !" 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 19 

" And with you, friend." Then, taking a long 
draught of the wine, the dark man handed the howl 
to his companion, who returned it empty to Marie 
Jeanne, much to the chagrin of Chiffon, for whose 
refection this delectable beverage had been expressly 
prepared. 

" A draught to quicken the blood and awaken a 
fresh life in the reins of the dying. And now, if my 
friend, here, with the hawk visage, is agreeable, we 
will start for the maison D'Aubigny." 

" Stop a moment, Marcel, let us first" — and Dupont, 
who had taken out his purse, prepared to draw the 
strings, when Pere Dominique laid a friendly but 
heavy hand upon his arm. 

" Put up your money, Monsieur, we Bretons give, 
but do not sell, our hospitality, and least of all would 
we sell it to the friends of Baron D'Aubigny." 

Dupont coloured, stammered out an excuse, and 
hastily returned his purse to his pocket, while Marcel, 
the taller of the two, prepared to re-adjust his cloak, 
first unloosing, for a moment, the strap which attached 
a small leathern case to his side. 

" No offence is taken, Monsieur, nor, I hope, given," 
said the farmer, when an exclamation from Marcel 
startled the company. 

" Venlrebleu ! you are too officious, sirrah ! how 
dare you, unasked, touch aught of mine 1" Chiffon, 
who had lifted the little travelling case, replaced it 
quietly on the bench. 



20 THE HOODED SXAKE. 

" Pardon me ; I thought it my place to assist, 
Monsieur." 

" What is your name T 

" Chiffon." 

" Then, learn, Monsieur Chiffon, that, when travel- 
ling, it is the habit of a wise man to attend to himself." 
So saying, he rebuckled the little case to its strap, 
resumed his coat and hat, and moved toward the door, 
followed by his companion. 

" Good night, Pere Dominique — good night, my 
pretty Yvonne ;" and Chiffon prepared to follow the 
travellers out of the room, " Pont Croix, I think you 
said 1 and the name Lebrun ?" 

The honest farmer nodded, and Monsieur Anatole 
Chiffon, with a musing look, took his departure. 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 21 



CHAPTER II. 

THE BARON D'AUBIGNY AND HIS DAUGHTER — THE CHE- 

VALIEK DE PREVILLE AND HIS SON AN ENTHUSIAST, 

AND A LAUGHING PHILOSOPHER. 

The Baron is slowly pacing the floor of the prin- 
cipal salon in the maison d'Aubigny — at every lull in 
the storm that is raging without he pauses, and bend- 
iDg his head slightly forward, listens attentively, till 
the hoarse murmur of the wind is heard again like the 
rolling surge of a distant sea, growing louder and 
louder, till it sweeps like a billow over the hoiise, and 
dashes itself, howling and screaming, against the pointed 
turrets that crown the roof; making every bolt and 
bar, every shutter and door, that would keep it from 
the warm life within, strain and creak, as it shakes 
them in the frenzy of its wrath. 

" Surely, I heard the beat of horses' hoofs." The 
liaron spoke this to himself, for the room had other 
occupants, and as he did so he approached nearer to 
one of the great windows. 



22 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

" This wind is Jacobin at heart ; it roars and blus- 
ters, so that no other tongue may be heard, while it 
does its work of destruction alike on sea and land — 
there — now it falls again." 

He listened attentively, then with an impatient 
stamp of the foot resumed his promenade. 

" They must have taken Bonchamp's farm on their 
road. Chiffon could not have missed them. Should 
that have chanced, 'twere no easy task for them to 
make out the path over these dreary heaths." 

A clear, ringing voice,, silvery as a woman's, broke 
in upon the Baron's reverie, and a gentleman who for 
some minutes had been engaged watching two chess 
players, a young lady and gentleman, who with him- 
self were the other occupants of the room, lounged 
slowly across, and said, as he threw himself carelessly 
into a chair : 

" Are you exercising yourself in that way for 
amusement or health, d'Aubigny 1 that will make the 
hundred and seventh time you've taken the measure 
of this room. Shall we try what cards will do to dis- 
sipate ennui 1 or, do you intend your walk to be per- 
petual, like the wandering Jew's — the amiable peripa- 
tetic in whom our wise peasants believe so devoutly 1" 

" I am in no humour for cards to-night, besides I 
confess myself somewhat uneasy at the non-arrival of 
these looked-for guests, and Chiffon also ; the heath is 
full of water-courses, and these rains — " 

The other gentleman interrupted him with a laugh. 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 23 

" Oh ! never fear for Chiffon, while there's a rope 
to be had in France he's safe from either fire or water." 

"You do not like Chiffon 1" 

" Not like him — I adore him — Chiffon's my model 
man. He's a living type of the age — a creature with 
no fixed principles ; sure, like a cork, to swim in all 
weathers and ride out storms that would sink a gallant 
vessel like yourself, who will never put up the helm in 
time ; but, with the one end in view, goes ever steadily 
onwards, though the charts mark ' rocks and sand- 
banks' so plainly, that all eyes, but yours, can read." 

" I trust you do not compare — " began the Baron 
somewhat haughtily. 

" Certainly not, mon cher ; nevertheless, a wise 
man might learn a lesson by watching in stormy times 
the movements of such men as Chiffon. He's a straw, 
I grant you, but straws will show the way the wind 
blows." 

" And so you think, Chevalier — ?" 

But the Baron seemed doomed to interruption. 

" I do nothing of the kind, I gave over thinking 
when I retired to Brittany. It's a kind of labour that 
does not suit this climate ; everybody here, from the 
highest to the lowest, act upon impulse — thought is 
quite out of the question." 

" Do I act upon impulse only V 

" Oh ! I leave you out of the question. True, you 
were born in Brittany, but then you were bred in the 
faubourg St. Germain." 



2i THE HOODED SNAKE. 

" And these gallant peasants? have they acted from 
impulse only, when they have so often proved them- 
selves ready to sacrifice their property and lives at the 
call of King and Country V 

" Impulse, nothing but impulse, I assure you, my 
dear Baron. Ask any ex-Chouan,* you've plenty on 
your estate, what those two words King and Country 
mean ; his answer will not be particularly edifying," 

" He will tell you, de Preville," said the Baron, 
warmly, " that it means his religion and his home, for 
either of which he is ready to leave the spade and 
plough for the sabre and the musket. He alone it 
was who stood firm when religion had ceased to be 
even a name in France, and when the blessed sanctity 
of his home was polluted by the revolutionary rabble, 
that sowed the salt of desolation in his fields, and 
stained the bright waters of the Loire with his father's 
and children's blood." 

The Baron was evidently excited ; not so the Che- 
valier. 

" You set a high value upon these peasants, mon 
cher." 

" I do. I should be unworthy of the trust I hold, 
could I do otherwise." 

" And yet," and a slight sneer crept over de Pre- 

* Chouans (owls), a name given by the Republicans (them- 
selves termed blues from the colour of their uniform), to the 
Royalist peasants of Brittany, the scream of the owl being the 
war-cry they generally used. 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 25 

ville's face, and for a moment unpleasantly disturbed 
its smiling expression, " and yet you would risk their 
lives and your own — certainly your own if you risked 
theirs — should some wild scheme present itself propos- 
ing, as an end, the re-establishment of a dynasty that 
is dead and — the fate of all that dies in this world — 
forgotten." 

The Baron started and glanced uneasily at de 
Preville ; but all trace of the sneer was gone and the 
face beamed sunny as before. 

" You have said truly, that you speak without 
thinking ; be assured it would be upon no slight cause 
that I or any right thinking man would dare again to 
call down upon this unhappy country the tempest of 
war, whose effects it has so terribly and so recently 
felt." 

" Exactly," and the Chevalier suppressed a yawn, 
for the conversation was taking a serious tone, a thing, 
that of all others, he abhorred. " That republican 
scoundrel, Hoche, did his work with a will and a firm 
hand to back it. Brittany still exists, it is true, but 
with bent head and clasped hands, like one that awaits 
the executioner." 

" For shame ! de Preville, your speech belies your 
nature. When did a Breton fear to face even his 
executioner ! Let but his cause be just, and he is 
willing that the furrow ploughed by his hands in the 
morning shall, ere night, become his grave." 

The Chevalier yawned again, it was evident the 



26 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

conversation was uninteresting. The Baron perceived 
his friend's weariness, and said, with a smile, 

" Time was when Felix de Preville was not so 
averse to conspiracies." 

" Time was, ah ! my friend, that's just it. Time 
was, when we were both young," and he passed a white 
hand over his unwrinkled forehead. "But I have 
given up conspiring with my other youthful follies; 
besides, conspiracies can never prosper, you must trust 
to so many men." 

" Many men may be faithful." 

" Certainly not ! the thing is impossible. I've 
studied men as diligently as I'm now studying garden- 
ing — man is, I must confess, a creature by no means 
deficient in points to admire, but, upon the whole, I 
prefer the cabbage." 

" You are incorrigible." 

" Then spare me the correction." The Chevalier 
laughed gaily, rose, and again approached the chess 
players. " How goes the game, or rather, how has it 
gone ? for I see it is concluded." 

The young man answered, 

" Oh ! Eugenie has won." 

The Chevalier bowed to the lady. 

" Mademoiselle wins everything — she won an old 
man's heart among other things long ago." 

Eugenie d'Aubigny shook her head ; " Your heart, 
Chevalier, what should I do with that V 

" What young ladies do with all hearts when they 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 27 

belong to so aged a person as myself, throw it away, 
or place it with other rubbish in a corner." 

" Rather preserve it with all the care so inesti- 
mable a gift deserves." 

" Not much, I fear ; but, were I Victor's age." 

The young man rose immediatety. 

" Spare me, Sir, I beg," then turning to Eugenie, 
"my father's compliments when addressed to those of 
his own sex cut both ways, but with a lady — " 

" The sword blade is hidden in flowers." 

It was the Baron d'Aubigny who now joined the 
group. 

De Preville shrugged his shoulders. 

" They will no longer permit us to be young." 

" The Chevalier would forget that time exists." 

" And who does not in the presence of Mademoi- 
selle r 

The Baron laid his hand upon his friend's arm and 
motioned for silence. 

The storm had ceased, the wind had gone down, and 
the sound of horses' hoofs upon the road leading to the 
house was now plainly audible. 

" At last they are here." 

All was commotion — the Baron hastening down to 
the courtyard to be the first to greet his guests, while 
Eugenie, who was not fine lady enough to ignore the 
kitchen, departed to superintend the preparations for 
supper, and the Chevalier and Victor were left alone 
by the fire. We take advantage of this short pause 



28 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

in the action of our story to describe more in detail 
the two younger members of the little party that had 
so lately occupied the room. 

Eugenie d'Aubigny was the Baron's daughter, his 
only daughter, and by him regarded, not without 
reason, as a miracle of grace and beauty. We say, 
not without reason, because the more affectionate the 
parents, the more eager are they to put forward the 
like claims to their offspring, without, to other than 
the parental eye, the requisite qualification being ap- 
parent. Eugenie had reached her twenty-first year ; 
she was of a tall, graceful figure ; her height, which 
was rather above than below the usual standard, being 
relieved by the lithesome ease of her every motion. 
Her features were well cut, full of animation, and 
beaming with intelligence ; the eyes, of a rich brown, 
were ever varying in their expression, one moment 
quick and sparkling, the next soft with a loving ten- 
derness, that rose holy as a prayer from the young 
girl's soul ; her forehead was high, and the line of the 
head magnificently arched ; while the hair, a Pactolus 
of wealth, flowed in heavy, golden-tinted waves upon 
3ier shoulders, or would have flowed had they not 
been caught up and looped on either side behind her 
shell-like ears, — two gorgeous curtains lifted aside that 
reverential eyes might gaze upon the picture of a saint. 
From a light and graceful child, Eugenie had become 
a beautiful woman ; but the blossom had not changed 
into the fruit, the bud had not burst into the flower 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 29 

beneath her father's eye. She, too, had suffered from 
the "Terror," — the click of the guillotine had early- 
met her ear, and its tall shadow spread across her 
path. Her mother had been compelled to bend her 
head beneath the axe, finding in its keen edge ber 
passport to a better world, where such crime is un- 
known, or, if known, remembered only by those who 
pity and forgive. The baron d'Aubigny, on the news 
of his wife's death, voluntarily surrendered himself to 
her assassins, but was snatched from the fate he courted 
by that last cast of the revolutionary dice, which 
stopped the loaded tumbril in the street and checked 
the descending axe, till it had cast beneath it, bound 
and bleeding, those who but yesterday were execu- 
tioners. Eugenie, at the commencement of the 
" Terror," had been conveyed out of Paris and hurried 
over the frontiei*, finding safety and a home with a 
maiden Aunt at Coblentz, in which city she remained 
till summoned again to France to join her father on 
his estates in Brittany, arriving at about the same 
time as the Chevalier de Preville and his son, the 
latter of whom had made the acquaintance of Made- 
moiselle many months previous, and during her resi- 
dence at Coblentz ; he, Victor, having visited at the 
house of her aunt, who was an old friend of his father s 
and god-mother to himself. 

Victor de Preville was Eugenie's elder by three 
years, and had already taken an active part in the 
struggles which had convulsed his native country. 



30 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

Unlike his father, he bore upon his face the true type 
of the enthusiast, a clear olive complexion, dark, 
flashing eyes, and hair that hung about his cheeks in 
sombre masses ; the straight nose, the curved nostrils 
and full scornful lip, all bespoke the native city of the 
mother he had lost — Marseilles. Restless, and eager 
to transmit each thought into as rapid an action, his 
father, who loved him dearly, had found it difficult to 
induce him to share his retirement in Brittany. So 
firm, indeed, had been his refusal, that his sudden 
change of resolution had been scarcely credited until 
he made his appearance at the old chateau Pontarlac, 
about a week after Mademoiselle Eugenie had taken 
up her abode in the maison d'Aubigny. A suspicion, 
for a moment, had entered the mind of the Chevalier, 
but was immediately dismissed as a thing impossible. 
Victor knew that the hand of the heiress to the estates 
of dAubigny was already disposed of to another. 
From an early age she had been affianced to the 
young Count de Marigny, a formal agreement had 
been entered into by their respective parents ; and, 
though the young people had not met since child- 
hood, Marigny having been for years an exile in 
England, where he still remained holding an office of 
trust in the household of the fugitive king, yet the 
matter was considered so thoroughly as an affair con- 
cluded, that de Preville wasted no further thought 
about it. 

" Victor is no fool," he reasoned, " and none but a 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 31 

fool would sigh after a girl that is sure to be another's. 
The fox and the grapes is a very good fable, but I 
hold the fox to have been a fool to sit cursing under 
the tree instead of bestirring himself to find one more 
accessible." 

The Chevalier said with truth that he had studied 
men ; but there was one portion of mankind he had 
yet to study, that portion in which the warm dictates 
of the heart were held to have greater weight than 
the cool reasoning of the brain, and where an all- 
absorbing love, not for self, but for another, breaks 
down the barriers of worldly prudence and sets, an 
interested calculation at defiance. 

The Chevalier sneered at the World and cultivated 
his garden. " I know Victoijf he would say, '* I've 
studied him thoroughly — It's a good soil. I can sow 
the seed and grow whatl desire." But nature sometimes 
deceives the most skilful gardener, and the Chevalier 
had yet to learn that a man is not a cabbage. 

" Do you know these gentlemen, sir V asked Victor 
of his father, when they were left alone in the room. 

" These gentlemen newly arrived 1 No : they are 
friends whose acquaintance the Baron made in times 
when friends were valuable. They did him, he says, 
good service : and he is not the man to forget it." 

" He would not be the Baron d'Aubigny if he did 
though that is but a sorry compliment after all. No 
man forgets a kindness : time cannot wipe away a 
service received." 



32 THE HOODED SXAKE. 

The Chevalier eyed his son for a moment as one 
would examine a curiosity ; then, with a slight shrug 
of his shoulders, ejaculated " humph !" and made no 
further answer. 

" They come from America, the Baron said." 

" Yes ; the Baron said so." 

" The land of Washington !" and Victor's eyes 
sparkled : " the land in which liberty is other than a 
name, — the land of freemen !" 

" And slaves ;" said the Chevalier, drily. 

" Oh ! my father, is it not there where the rights 
of man — " 

" Are promulgated, you would say?" and his father 
broke into his usual silvery laugh. " It is quite true, 
they are so : — to the music of fetters, and the cease- 
less cracking of the slaver's whip !" 

" I grant that slavery is wrong — " 

De Preville shrugged his shoulders. 

" It's a wrong that's pretty nearly universal : the 
world is divided into but two classes— masters and 
slaves !" 

" But, sir—" 

" There, there, argument bores me, — you're young, 
and can bear the fatigue of contradiction, — I can't, — 
so have it all your own way. We are all that which 
we profess to be !" 

" I should hope so," said Victor, laughing. 

The Chevalier looked at him again. Then, after a 
moment's pause, — 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 



33 



" How old are you, Victor ?" 

" Surely you know, sir !" 

The Chevalier repeated the question. 

" Twenty-four." 

"And yet would judge things by their surface ! 
"Well, I'm fond of novelties ; and decidedly I'm proud 
of you as a son." 

The door of the room opened, and the Baron 
entered, followed by the two strangers last seen by us 
beneath the roof of Dominique Bonchamp's farm. 

The Baron advanced to the fireplace, in which 
some huge logs were burning cheerfully. 

" My friend, the Chevalier de Preville." 

The new comers bowed. 

" Chevalier, this is a gentleman to whom I am 
highly indebted, — Monsieur Etienne Marcel. My 
friends, I am sure, will become his." 

With an ineffable grace the Chevalier acknowledged 
the introduction, shedding one of his sunniest smiles, 
and dropping one of his lowest bows. 

" This gentleman is a friend of Monsieur Marcel's, 
and therefore a friend of mine, — Monsieur Dupont." 

Again the Chevalier looked the picture of amia- 
bility. 

" My daughter has flown, I see. But where is 
Victor?" 

Victor de Preville, on the entrance of the two 
strangers, had moved some steps towards them, when 
his glance rested on the tallest of the two. — Victor 

D 



34 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

started — hesitated — then looked again, and was about 
to advance, when the name mentioned by the Baron 
met his ear. Again he hesitated, and looked earnestly 
at the stranger. 

" It surely must be, — and yet Etienne Marcel was 
the name the Baron mentioned." 

At this moment the eyes of the stranger met his : 
the eyebrows rose for a moment, and a look of much 
astonishment swept over his face, but it vanished as 
rapidly, unperceived by all but Victor. 

" Allow me to introduce you, Victor, to my friend, 
M. Etienne Marcel." 

" I have, that is, I think I have met Monsieur — 
Monsieur — " 

" Marcel !'' said the stranger quickly. 

' ' Monsieur Marcel before." 

" You are mistaken, — your face is strange to me f 
besides I have not visited Europe for some years. 
But mine is one of those faces that Dame Nature turns 
out by the dozen ; or, perhaps, I may be the fortunate 
possessor of a Doppelganger * as the Germans would say." 

The Baron laughed at the mistake, and turned to 
Monsieur Dupont, who was describing to the Chevalier 
the perils of their night-ride : as he did so, Marcel 
laid his hand upon Victor's arm, and drew him a few 
paces apart ; then, speaking in a hurried whisper, he 
said, — 

" Have you yet to be so well acquainted with danger 
* Doppelganger— a double or second self. 



THE HOODED SNAKF. j.j 

as to have to learn the necessity of caution, Victor de 
Preville T 

" You are, then ?— " 

" Etienne Marcel. If I am content with my name, 
why should others cavil at it I Our meeting here is 
unexpected." 

" And undesired, you would say T 

" For the present, — I confess as much. But the 
lady, where is she ?" 

" Also here." 

The dark brows of the stranger met in a frown. 

" I have done you a service, Victor de Preville : in 
my turn, I require one. Hasten to her at once, — you 
understand 1 and prepare her to receive" — he spoke- 
with emphasis — " Monsieur Etienne Marcel !" 

" It shall be done : but it is for us to implore- 
silence of you, — our secret is to all, but you, \\n- 
known."' 

The dark brows parted once more. 

" Good ! You have been prudent, I see ; be so 
still, and fear me not. But see her." 

Victor, with a gesture of assent, moved towards 
the door. 

" And let the old friend be forgotten in the new, — 
no uncommon thing, as the world goes." 

Etienne Marcel turned to the group before the fire, 
and was soon deep in the mysteries of narrow bridle- 
paths and hidden watercourses ; but Victor de Pre- 
ville had disappeared from the room. 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 



CHAPTER III. 

THE MORNING AFTER THE STORM. 

Carefully descending a rugged, and to any but 
practised feet, perilous path, that was cut into the face of 
the cliff, Monsieur Anatole Chiffon reached in safety, 
through nrach cat-like agility, the bay, upon whose 
carpet of sand the waves of that " vast and melan- 
choly sea " break with a hollow and depressing sound, 
like a groan wrung suddenly from the heart of a listen - 
in g niultitrde. To-day, the seawas calm, — calm for 
that iron coast whose savage recesses were peopled — 
thinly peopled — by men as rough as its rocks, as re- 
morseless and cruel as its seas. The sun had lifted his 
broad face above the horizon, and gazing down into 
the vast mirror of sparkling water, rested upon his 
many-tinted couch of cloud, admiring his majestic 
beauty, and shaking abroad his golden locks in the 
fullness of his pride. The treacherous sea crept softly 
to the feet of the rejoicing earth, and touched them 
with her Judas' kiss, or, softly heaving her broad 
bosom, threw showers of spray, like tears, against the 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 37 

scarrei face of the tall cliffs, as though repentant of 
her former violence. The gorged snake lay gasping 
in the sun ; the tiger, its vengeance for the moment 
glutted, licked the hand that but yesterday it tore, and 
to-morrow — to night, perhaps — will tear again. 

Monsieur Anotole Chiffon, little troubled by such 
reflections, rested for a moment after his descent, 
leaning his back against a detached mass of rock, and 
rubbing as usual, his thin, claw-like hands gently the 
one over the other. 

"Not a vestige of the brig, — no, she's gone !" and 
he scanned the horizon with a keen and searching 
glance. Not a sail was to be seen — not one. Yes ; 
— no ; it was but the wing of a sea bird, that, poised 
above the wave, had caught upon her snowy feathers 
a stray beam from the regal sun. All around wore 
the aspect of a majestic calm ; an artist would have 
delighted in the quiet grandeur of the scene, but Mon- 
sieur Chiffon viewed nature through other than artistic 
eyes ; a something very like an oath escaped his lips, 
and he stamped his foot deep into the wet sand. 

"I would have given a dozen gold pieces, — nay, 
a score (it was plain that Monsieur Chiffon was 
very vexed indeed), to have known rightly to what 
nation that brig belonged ; — a night-bird, that clothes 
herself in darkness, and is gone with the first dawn ol 
the day." 

It could scarcely have been for his master that 
the valet was anxious for this information ; the Bai - on 



33 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

must already have known it from his guests ; but 
Anatole was eminently curious in all things, great ox- 
small, picking them up and hiding them away, like 
that model thief, the raven ; not that they had any 
present value, but always with an eye to a possible 
advantage. 

After another careful investigation of the horizon, 
he turned his attention to the scene that was going 
on upon the shore, which was rapidly assuming a 
more animated appearance. Groups of men, their 
long hair blowing about their faces, and their dark 
eyes gleaming beneath the broad brims of their hate, 
were collecting about the water's edge, while others, 
by paths similar to that lately travelled by Chiffon, 
were seen descending the face of the rocks. One of 
the latter came leaping lightly down the narrow path, 
singing one of their national ballads, or complaints, 
those singular productions, so characteristic of this 
peculiar people. He wore the huge brimmed hat, the 
long flowing dress, and the broad red sash of the 
Breton peasant ; but his face had the brown hue of 
health and travel ; his eyes the cheerful light, and his 
figure a jaunty carriage, that differed widely from 
the sombre aspect and sedate gait of the Breton whose 
life had been spent within sight of his own church 
steeple, and whose longest voyage had been within 
three miles of the coast. 

He came upon Chiffon as that worthy had again 
halted, and was surveying a broken spar, to which 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 39 

some fragments of cordage were attached, which lay 
half embedded in the sand at his feet. The singer, — 
for, though the singer had finished, the tune still clung 
about his lips — was about him, when Chiffon, looking 
up, called to him : 

" Holloa ! friend ! " 

The young man — and he looked younger than he 
was — halted, and turned to the valet. 

" That's as it may be," said he. " I've lived too 
long, and seen to much, to accept that title from any 
lips that choose to use it." 

Chiffon laughed. 

" You're not my enemy, I suppose." 

"Not I ! or rather, as I said before, that's as it 
may be." 

He approached Chiffon, who, still standing by the 
broken spar, began to rub his hands slowly together, 
and gazed fixedly in the other's face. 

" I only make a friend of au honest man." 

Chiffon shrugged his shoulders, and raised his eye- 
brows. 

" Monsieur is eccentric ! his list cannot be extensive. 

" If you're that," the other went on, " there's 
always a welcome for you at my cottage ; " and he flung 
out his hand towards the brow of the cliff he had just 
descended ; " a draught of comfortable liquor and a 
pipe of tobacco : a king could desire no more." 

Chiffon bowed. 

" But if you are one of these wolves," and with a 



40 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

rapid gesticulation he pointed to the several groups, 
" who live by murder and rapine, who are more cruel 
than the sea — for what that spares they destroy — why, 
I'd thank you to give me a wide berth, for I am apt to 
strike when I am angry." 

" I know but little of the sea," began Chiffon. 

" Nor do they," broke in the other. " Is it to 
know the sea, think you, to sit through the long night, 
watching for an opportunity to betray those whose 
home is upon its surface ; to place false lights in every 
window that looks seaward, and then listen for the 
welcome sound of the guns at sea — those cries of 
agony from the storm-tossed ship that tell of her great 
distress 1 

" You speak of the wreckers : there are plenty on 
this coast ! " 

" Plenty ! " and the young man's bronzed face 
flushed with indignation ; " were there but one, there 
would be that one too many. Man, woman, and child, 
they are all alike wreckers from their cradles. Yonder 
reef is a stone as precious to them as any in a king's 
crown* — the vultures ! " 

" There was a ship in the Bay last night," said 
Chiffon." 

* The Bretons seem to consider the bris (wreck) as a sort of 
alluvial right. The terrible right of the bris was, as is well known, 
one of the most lucrative of privileges. The Viscount de Leon, 
alluding to a reef, said, " I have a stone there more precious 
than those which enrich a king's crown." — Michelet. 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 41 

"There was." 

"She had a narrow escape, in such a storm, on 
such a coast, with such a people." 

; The sailor — for such by his manner and aspect he 
was — in his turn looked hard at Chiffon. 

" Last night as trim a brig as ever sailed upon the 
water lay there ! " and he pointed towards the sea, 
" with many an honest heart beating high with life 
within her." 

" And where is she now 1 " asked the valet, his 
former look of vexation stealing back to his face. 

" Where ? There ! " and this time the sailor 
pointed to the broken spar at his feet. " That's a part 
of her ; you'll find little more of her ; the fragments 
were few and the thieves many." 

"Wrecked?" 

" That's about the largest part of her remaining 
(again he pointed to the spar). This reef has jaws of 
granite, and teeth of iron, and behind them, men still 
harder. If I'd my way, I'd make a gibbet of every 
bit of that ship's timber, and a scoundrel should dangle 
from each yard of her cordage." 

" But you are Breton 1 " and Chiffon spoke this 
with an ill-concealed sneer. The sailor, without no- 
ticing it, drew himself up proudly. 

" Of course I am ! I was born at St. Pol : for 
twenty years I've wandered far and wide in the world ; 
but in Brittany is my home, and I return to it as a 
bird returns to its nest." 



42 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

" You don't spare the faults of your countrymen." 

" These my countrymen ! and ■who are you, who 
j udge of our Brittany by such a sample as these fishers 
of sea-weed and robbers of the dead afford V 

" A stranger, as you might have guessed by my 
question," said the amiable Anatole, apologetically. 

" Then know that a true Breton has an open hand 
for the stranger — not a knife for his throat ; a welcome, 
not a curse to the wanderer that distress has thrown 
upon his threshold. For my part, I'd sooner have 
pitched head-foremost from the summit of Cape Kaz, 
which is three hundred feet above the sea, than have 
had a hand in the doings of last night." 

Chiffon gave a look of inquiry. 

"The ship broke from her anchorage, and was 
driven on to the shore. She might still have been 
saved, but false lights were hung out as a lure ; a light 
was fastened to a cow's horns, and so the demons, keep- 
ing the poor animal moving, enticed the brig right 
on to the beach." 

"Sharp fellows." 

" She was in splinters in no time ! I came down 
as the work of destruction was just finished. A wild 
cry — such a cry ! when there's no hope left in the heart, 
and the jaws of death close with a snap — told me 
where she was ; a flash of lightning showed me a dark 
object struggling in a shroud of foam : when the next 
flash came she was gone, and that was all I saw of the 
English brig." 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 43 

" English ! are you sure she was English ? " 

" Sure as my name's Paul Lebrun." 

" Lebrun ! " 

" Isn't the name to your liking 1 It was my 
father's, and I would'nt change it for a Rohan's ! " 

But Monsieur Chiffon was far from disliking it ; 
his voice assumed its most silky tone, and his counte- 
nance its blandest expression. 

" I am happy to make the acquaintance of Mon- 
sieur Paul Lebrun ; as a friend of Dominique Bon- 
champ I may claim — " he had got thus far when his 
outstretched hand was imprisoned in that of the sailor, 
who gave it such a "friendly " grip, as to bring tears 
into the valet's eye3, and he with difficulty suppressed 
a cry of pain. 

" You, a friend of farmer Dominique ! and I, like 
a great sea bear, to hold off as I did ! " He would 
again have taken Chiffon's hand, but that gentleman 
stepped back hastily. " Dominique Bonchamp is one 
of the best men in Brittany, which is as though I said 
the best in France j and moreover, he has the prettiest 
daughter — " 

"Humph! Yvonne Bonchamp?" 

*' Yes, Yvonne ; there's not a man within twenty 
miles, that is not envious of the flower of Bonchamp's 
farm, and would gladly transplant it to his own." 

" Yvonne has many lovers." 

" To look at her is to love her ; it's a fate." 

" And loves in her turn but one." 



44 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

" Who 1 " said the young sailor, with a certain 
fierceness of tone, which made Chiffon smile and shrug 
his shoulders. 

" I am not in the confidence of the pretty Yvonne ; 
others, perhaps, may be better informed." 

'■ Not I ! " and Paul Lebrun, still in some confu- 
sion, began to clear away the sand from the spar with 
his foot. 

Chiffon mused. 

" So Keroulas has a rival, and I have two. It's as 
well to calculate the opposition before making the 
attack." Then raising his voice — 

" And all perished who were on board this English 
brig i " 

" All but one." 

" One ! and where is he V 

" In Jalec's cottage, about a hundred yards along 
the shore ; it's hidden like a sea-bird's nest, among the 
rocks." 

" Have you seen him V asked the valet, eagerly. 

"I must have been blind if I had not, considering 
it was I who saved him from the waves — and, worse 
than the waves, those wolves that prowl about the 
shore." 

" Of course you questioned him ? " 

" I did nothing of the kind ; the man was bruised 
and bleeding, hurt to the death, they think ; and 
moreover, I should not have understood a word he 
said, if he'd have talked till now." 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 45 

"Why not?" 

" He's English — not that he can help that, poor 
fellow ; we've all our misfortunes." 

"You've been to England; so Pere Dominique 
told me?" 

" Yes, I've been there ; was boxed up for years in 
one of their floating purgatories, where I learnt many 
things." 

" But not the language ?" 

" Certainly not ! they could'nt force that upon me ! 
I am content to speak with the tongue my mother 
gave me, and desire no other." 

" You are right, Monsieur Paul ; a multiplicity of 
tongues has always been productive of mischief, from 
Babel downwards ; but, as I would aid in the work of 
charity so well begun, I should like to speak with this 
man." 

" You ' I told you he was English !" 

" And I answer that I speak his language." 

" You said you were a friend of Dominique Bon- 
champ ! a true Frenchman was ever the Englishman's 
enemy." 

"And yet but a few hours ago you rescued this 
man from a grave, probably at the risk of your own 
life !" 

Paul Lebrun was puzzled ; lie rubbed his chin, and 
looked with a somewhat sheepish expression in the 
face of the valet. 

" Why, you see, when a ship's foundering, we lower 



46 THE HOODED SSAKE. 

the boats, no matter what flag she hoists ; for a cry of 
distress is what we all understand, no matter whether 
it be uttered in English or French." 

Again Monsieur Chiffon shrugged his shoulders. 
" Pity it's so seldom replied to ; but," he answered, 
" I have no more love for England than you have; my 
acquisition of the language was an accident, a happy 
one, as it has frequently proved. No, I have small 
love for a country that is even now sheltering the 
enemies of France." 

"And who may they be T 

"Her own sons. Would it be the first time an 
unfilial hand has been raised against a parent ?" 
Paul looked at him in horror. 

" I would have such a hand hewn from the wrist, 
whoever owned it." 

" You but echo my own sentiments, and but prove 
the truth of Farmer Dominique's words, that you 
were a brave mariner and a good Breton." 

The sailor's cheek flushed this time with pleasure. 
"Pere Dominique said that ! And Yvonne, was 
it before Yvonne he praised me thus ?" 

" She echoed her father's praise. But there is not 
a man or woman," and Chiffon glanced from the 
corner of his twinkling eyes, " but does justice to the 
merits of Paul Lebrun !" 

Chiffon had evidently adopted the policy, though 
not the side, espoused by the great Tallerand, whose 
reputation for — what shall we say — diplomacy, was at 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 47 

its height. Paul Lebrun, after several outward at- 
tempts to appear unembarrassed, roosting like a fowl, 
first upon one leg and then the other, burst into a 
laugh, and turned the conversation by asking the 
name of his new acquaintance. 

"Anatole Chiffon, confidential secretary to the 
Baron d'Aubigny." 

" Then you can tell me if it will be long before 
ITonsieur le Baron is here. Jalec went up to the 
Maison d'Aubigny some hours ago, to announce the 
■wreck of the brig, and that one of the crew, feared 
to be mortally injured, was lying in his cottage." 

" Diable .'" muttered Chiffon between his teeth ; 
"was there no nearer succour at hand, that the Baron 
must be disturbed by such news ?" 

" Succour was not required ; but one of the brig's 
boats landed some strangers at the commencement of 
the storm last night, and Jalec thought that they 
might know something about the poor wretch who 
has been so cruelly mauled by that rib-breaker 
yonder," and he shook his fist in the direction of the 
reef. 

" Where is Jalec's cottage V 

" In the first bend of the cliffs ; there's been a fall 
of rock within a yard or so of it. The sea has a 
hungry tooth about there." 

" A pleasant residence. I will see this poor man. 
I speak his language indifferently well, and have some 
little knowledge of surgery."' 



48 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

"It 'will avail him but little, I fear. However, 
though I have business of my own elsewhere, I will 
accompany you back ; as you say, it is but right to 
sacrifice ourselves for a fellow- creature." 

" Did I say that V 

"I suppose you meant it, for — " 

" Well, well, I always mean what I say ; but I 
presume this unfortunate man is not unattended V 

" Jalec's wife is attending upon him." 

" Then, with your permission, I will proceed thither 
alone. I have already wasted too much of your time, 
Monsieur Paul, to rob you of more." 

"For the matter of that, it's no robbery, being 
cheerfully given. Nor is my business so pressing that 
I need be chary of my company ; 'twas but to give 
bon jour to Pere Dominique, who is sure to come 
down to the beach when he hears of the evil doings of 
last night." 

"Nay, it is possible he is already somewhere 
at hand; for I passed him on my road with his 
daughter." 

" Yvonne !" 

"Yes, Yvonne — looking prettier than ever; and 
so I'll wager thought her foster-brother, Keroulas, by 
the attention he lavished upon her." 

" The face of Paul Lebrun grew dark as night, his 
gaiety had fled — the sun was hidden by that blackest 
of clouds — jealousy. 

" Keroulas ! was he with her V 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 49 

" So, as your friends are in good company, I will 
not refuse your's, that is so kindly proffered." 

" Your pardon, Monsieur Chiffon, but I have other 
business, pressing business, that I had forgot. Jalec's 
is close at hand, you cannot miss it ; besides, you're 
sure to find half-a-dozen gossips about the door ;" and, 
with a hurried adieu, Paul Lebrun started off in the 
direction which, by a move of the hand, Chiffon had 
indicated as the path by which the Breton farmer and 
his daughter would descend to the beach. Chiffon 
looked after him for a moment, gently rubbing his 
hands and laughing inwardly. 

" So the song has left your lips, my young skimmer 
of the seas; and jealousy has hung a weight upon 
your heart that was so feather-light before — and will 
be feather-light again — for the wounds love makes 
quickly heal, however deep at first : lasting no longer 
than the furrow that follows a ship's keel." Then 
turning upon his heel, he changed the current of his 
thoughts; "I wonder whether this Englishman has 
life enough left in him to answer a few civil questions 
— let him but answer them correctly, and they may 
put him back over the cliff again if they like, with a 
sail for his shroud, and the sea for his coffin." 

With this charitable observation, Monsieur Ana- 
tole Chiffon bent his steps toward's Jalec's cottage. 

Some two hours after, a party of gentlemen rode 
up to Jalec's door ; the party consisted of the Baron, 
his two guests, and the Chevalier : they were met at 

E 



50 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

the threshold by the fisherman's wife ; she shook her 
head as the gentlemen dismounted. 

" Dead ?" asked the Baron, with an expression of 
much anxiety. 

" Dead !" ejaculated Etienne Marcel ; " poor fellow 
— the fishermen said he was badly hurt' — it is a happy 
release." 

"Very happy," said the Chevalier, drily. There 
was something in the tone that made Efcienne Marcel 
turn to look at the face of the speaker ; it was nearly 
as sunshiny as usual — the only change was a slight, 
very slight, shade of compassion. 

" These butterflies," said Marcel to himself, as he 
entered the cottage, "have neither curiosity nor 
thought about the business of the world — it may wag 
whichever way it pleases as long as they are allowed 
to gather honey from its flowers. The woman had 
removed the sheet, and Marcel, who, with the Baron, 
had been the first to dismount, gazed for a few seconds 
on the corpse. 

" Poor fellow ! a cruel fate !" He turned to the 
woman, "When did he die?' 

" Scarcely an hour ago." A few more inquiries, 
and after a liberal donation to the woman, the gentle- 
men prepared to remount, proposing to ride along the 
beach. The Baron spoke aside to Marcel — 

" You have recognised him." 

" He was the second officer on board ; a brave 
man, and a skilful seaman." 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 51 

" Heaven receive him !" 

" Amen ! yet am I thankful he has had speech 
with none that could understand his language ; for 
then his death might have been the prelude to many 
others. Our lives are — " 

" Hush !" the Baron pointed to some women who 
were clustering about the threshold, gazing inquisi- 
tively within. 

Etienne Marcel nodded and was silent — they re- 
mounted and rode away, lsaving, as Marcel signifi- 
cantly said, Death behind them in the cottage. 



52 THE H00DEE SNAKE. 



CHAPTER IV 

EUSENIE AND YVONNE. KEROULAS RELATES A STORY, 
AND THE READER MAKES A DISCOVERY. 

" You love Keroulas V 

Yvonne raised her calm eyes, and looked her ques- 
tioner in the face. 

" Undoubtedly, he is my foster-brother." 

" Do we always wish to wed our foster-brothers ?" 

" Wed ! Indeed, Mademoiselle, I had no such 
thought ; though — " and again her eyes met steadfastly 
those of her companion — " I know of no reason why 
I should not wed Keroulas, if my father approved." 

" And if he did not approve V 

" I should not marry at all." 

" But your father does approve T 

" I do not know," she hesitated ; " he did, but 
now — " she hesitated again, " I do not know." 

" I see ; fathers are sometimes hard to please ; but 
if your heart approves, you are old enough to act for 
yourself." 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 53 

" Oh ! Mademoiselle Eugenie, Heaven will not 
smile upon a marriage that lacks the blessing of a pa- 
rent." 

Eugenie d'Aubigny started, as moved by some sud- 
den emotion, then bent her tall figure over Yvonne, 
who was seated at her feet, and kissed her cheek. 

"You are a little saint, my Yvonne, and, therefore, 
too good for this earth. I lose my self-content, some- 
times, when I sit beside you. I have mixed with the 
world — a corrupt and bad world — that would soil even 
the brightness of an angel's wings." 

" You have suffered, Mademoiselle ?" 

Eugenie was silent for a moment, and pushed back 
from her eyes, which were glistening with tears, the 
loose braids of her fair and lustrous hair. " I have 
suffered — even in my cradle, Yvonne ; I received the 
baptism of sorrow, and sorrow ages quicker than time. 
I lived to see myself an exile, my father a proscribed 
fugitive ; and my mother, my loved mother, a martyr 
on the scaffold." 

" She is in heaven," said Yvonne, gently. 

Mademoiselle d'Aubigny s voice deepened into a 
fiercer music, and she clenched her small hands convul- 
sively, till the knuckles showed white even through the 
pearly skin that covered them. 

" May the souls of those accursed monsters never 
enter its blissful gates ! May — " She paused, for 
Yvonne had caught the raised hands in hers and 
pressed them to her bosom. 



54 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

" Mademoiselle Eugenie ! my father has often told 
me how jour blessed mother died. Her last words 
were — oh ! surely you have not forgotten them — ' for- 
give us our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass 
against us !' " 

Eugenie d'Aubigny was silent, the fierce light 
waned from her eyes, and, soft as twilight, the gentle 
and loving soul of the woman looked forth. But a 
minute before, with head erect, compressed lip, and 
nostril curved, she seemed a Juno, regal in her rage ; 
but now, the eyes, brown as the autumn leaves, or peb- 
bles seen through the liquid light of a running brook, 
were tender as a dove's ; and the ripe lips parted to 
embrace more gently, as though repentant of the harsh 
words they had uttered : it was still the face of a 
queen ; but seen thus it was the face of Aphrodite, 
the bright-haired queen of love. 

" Have I not said truly that you are a saint, my 
Yvonne ?" 

| Yvonne laughed — one of those pleasant laughs that 
so refresh the jaded brain to hear — a laugh that leaps 
from the lips rejoicing from its silvery clearness, as a 
mountain rivulet that dances through a myriad of 
flowers. 

" You should tell Paul Lebrun that, if you would 
make him angry.* He declares that saints are only 

* It may be as well here to remind the reader of that cordial 
intercourse which has always existed between the resident Breton 
aristocracy and the people. The difference in social position is 



THE HOODED SXAKE. 55 

made to live apart from the rest of us, and shut them- 
selves up between four stone walls, till they are taken 
bodily up to heaven," here Yvonne crossed herself, 
" as being too good for this world — while a woman's 
mission is just to make the earth as much like heaven 
as she can, by staying as long as possible in it." 

"And who isPaul Lebrun 1 another lover ? — why, 
Yvonne, you are turning the heads of all our honest 
Bretons !" 

Yvonne answered, and without a blush, " Paul 
Lebrun is a lover of mine, for he never loses an oppor- 
tunity to tell me so ; I could not love him, even if I 
so desired ; he is so wild, too accustomed to a roving 
life, to contentedly settle down in one of our quiet 
Breton homes." 

" You are right, Yvonne ; a man who cares only 
for self, and his own wild fancies, will make but a bad 
husband." 

" But you mistake me, Mademoiselle. Such a man 
must not be thought of when we speak of Paul Lebrun. 
There is not a Breton on the coast but is proud of 
Paul being his countryman ; he is as brave as a lion — 
though every Breton may claim to be that — and, ne- 
vertheless, as kind and gentle as if he carried the 
heart of a woman beneath the breast of a man." 



understood, but its acknowledgment is unaccompanied by those 
absurd forms and ceremonies that create so much bitterness be- 
tween the different classes. 



56 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

" You speak his praises warmly — how if Keroulas 
should hear you ?" 

" Keroulas would have naught to fear. I but speak 
the truth ; nor would it be Keroulas, did he desire me 
to do otherwise. It was but two nights since, during 
that dreadful storm, that Paul, after fastening a rope 
about him, sprang out into the raging sea, to save the 
unfortunate man who died in Jalec's cottage, who was 
then being tossed about by the waves? like a plaything 
upon the fearful reef !" 

Again the angry light was in Eugenie's eyes as she 
said, " Do not let us speak of that night — such doings 
are the shame of Britanny. Well have they named it 
the bay of death : for not a week passes, scarcely a day 
in the rough weather, without the bodies of murdered 
men being cast upon the beach." 

" Murdered ! Mademoiselle !" 

" Cruelly, cowardly murdered ! The lights that 
flash through the darkness, promising safety, are but 
so many corpse-candles that burn over the seaman's 
grave." 

Yvonne shuddered : she had heard too much of the 
fearful doings on this savage coast to venture a word 
in behalf of its savage inhabitants.* 

" Could not Monsieur le Baron do something ?" 

* The whole coast is a graveyard, sixty vessels are wrecked 
upon it every winter. The sea is English at heart, she loves not 
France, but dashes our ships to pieces, and blocks up our har- 
bours with sand. — Miclielet. 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 57 

" I fear not ; the men of the coast claim the bris 
(wreck) as their right ; and what a Breton deems his 
right few would venture to be the first to wrest from 
him." 

" But this right is wrong !" 

" Protected by custom. We live in stormy times, 
my father says — and to bring our own ships safely to 
shore, we must be patient, and wait and suffer, till the 
appointed time has come.'' 

Eugenie and Yvonne were seated on a rustic bench, 
near the great terrace that looked down upon the 
garden of the chateau, and down the terrace steps a 
young peasant hastily descended ; he doffed his broad- 
brimmed hat as he approached the ladies, bowed to 
Eugenie, and glanced from the corner of his eye at 
Yvonne, whose cheek had for the first time deepened 
its colour, as she rose to meet him. 

" Keroulas !" 

" Yvonne !" the Breton took a step towards her, 
then remembering himself, shook his long hair about 
his hot cheeks and again made his obeisance to Made- 
moiselle d'Aubigny. 

" Pere Dominique sent me over to Monseur le 
Baron with a present of milk and eggs. Monsieur le 
Baron told me that Yvonne was with you, Mademoi- 
selle ; and I thought — that is, Monsieur le Baron 
thought — I could accompany Yvonne back to tho 
farm : before she could reach it, evening will have set 
in — and — and, it is possible — that — that — " 



58 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

" That those mischievous dwarfs, the Courils* may 
be about, and Keroulas Carnac "would rather that 
Yvonne Bonchamp danced with no one but himself." 

There was a look of good-humoured mischief in the 
Breton's eyes as he answered the laughing Eugenie. 

" But a week ago, Monsieur Victor was like to 
have killed the young Parisian Count, who insisted 
upon dancing with Mademoiselle during the fete at 
Ponta Croix !" 

It was now Eugenie's turn to blush ; the red 
blood mounted into her cheeks and burnt through its 
transparent veil. 

" The Count presumed upon a short acquaintance, 
and Monsieur de Preville chastised his impertinence." 

The young Breton with natural tact hastened to 
change the subject. 

' ' It would ill become me in anything to criticise 
the actions of M. de Preville ; it is to his father, the 
Chevalier, I owe my life." 

" My father has often said so ; but I have not, as 
yet, heard how it was done. I have twice questioned 
the Chevalier ; and he, true to his custom, turns off 
the question with a jest, or tells me some romantic rig- 
marole, that he laughs at as an impromptu fiction some 
few minutes afterwards." 

" It was an act I shall not forget, Mademoiselle ; 
thus it was : I was out, as we all were — boys as well 

* Cowih. See note to first chapter, p. 5. 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 59 

as men — against the Blues* but the fortune of war 
had everywhere turned agai st us ; the swords and 
bayonets of the spoilers were red with the best blood 
of Brittany, and the firebrand was passed from cottage 
to cottage, till not a night went by but the sky was 
reddened by the flames of burning villages. It was a 
fearful time, but a brave one," and the swarthy face of 
the peasant assumed a yet darker hue, while his knitted 
brow and clenched hands showed the power of the re- 
membrance. Eugenie gazed on him for a moment, 
then motioned him to proceed, saying — 

" It was a brave time, — such a time may come 
again, let us hope with a happier result." 

" Amen !" Keroulas crossed himself devoutly and 
continued — "I fought under Georges Cadougalj-in the 
Morbihan and Cotes-du-Nord — was left for dead on the 
plain of Grand Champ, — and, still worse, was taken 
prisoner at Elven. They sent me, witlj twenty cap- 
tured Chouans, to Paris, to give ' informaiion,'' as they 
called it ; one only was false to his counteyi nineteen 

* The Republican troop?. 

t Georges Cadougal, the celebrated Chouan leader. He was 
the son of a poor miller of Auray.in Lower Brittany ; an inflexible 
" legitamist,'' he waged a gallant but unsuccessful war against the 
Republicans for many years. He was executed on the 2:">th of 
June, 1804, in his thirty-fifth year, meeting his fate with the 
same intrepidity that had distinguished hia life. " His mind," 
said Napoleon, " was cast in the true mould : in my hands he 
would have done great things. I know how to appreciate his 
firmness of character." 



GO THE HOODED SNAKE. 

remained firm, and so we were condemned to die. We 
were not much moved by that, for mercy was the last 
thing we expected from their parricidal hands ; and 
so our minds were made up to the worst. But as 
fortune would have it, Monsieur le Chevalier, who was 
in Paris at the time, had recognised me during the 
trial as one who had been born upon his estate, and 
after making application in vain to the judges, set about 
in another way to obtain my release." 

" He applied to the First Consul, or to Fouche 1" 

The Breton laughed. 

" I had gotinto prison through the might of steel, — I 
escaped from it through the might of gold. One night, — 
it was the night before the day fixed for my execution, — 
the jailor, in closing the cell, had forgotten to remove 
the key from the door, — the same accident occurred to 
that at the end of the corridor, and the soldier who 
guarded the outer one of all was asleep, so sound asleep, 
that though I stumbled twice, for my limbs were 
cramped, I failed to awake him." 

" A heavy sleeper !" said Eugenie. 

Again the Breton laughed. 

" And a conscientious one — he was to sleep at the 
rate of a louis a minute, — he had only received five of 
the former, yet he slept a good ten of the latter, — and 
I got safe into the street." 

"And the Chevalier de Preville did this 1" 

" He did, and more ; he had me safely conveyed to 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 61 

Brittany, till my pardon — though I had committed no 
crime but what I would gladly commit again — was 
granted. ' I have done you a service,' said the Che- 
valier, ' I may, one of these days, require one of you.' " 
" And you promised, of course ?" 
" I gave no promise, Mademoiselle, for none was 
necessary ; he knew Keroulas Carnac, and was satisfied. 
I owe the Chevalier a life, and it is his, should he want 
it." 

Yvonne had risen from the seat, and touching the 
Breton's arm, pointed to the sun, that was rapidly dis- 
appearing beneath the horizon. 

" Mademoiselle will pardon me if I take my leave ; 
the darkness comes on so swiftly, and it is ill journey- 
ing when the light of heaven is shut out." 

" Beside, Keroulas would rather meet a regiment 
of Blues, than half-a-dozen of these dancing dwarfs 
who—" 

" Hush ! Mademoiselle d'Aubigny, do not speak 
lightly of the Courils ! it is ill jesting when trouble 
may be even now lying in wait for us, and sorrow 
plucking at our elbow." 

The superstitious peasant said this in so solemn a 
voice that at any other time Eugenie would have 
laughed ; but she herself seemed struck with a fore- 
boding, and was silent. 

Yvonne pressed Mademoiselle d'Aubigny's hand to 
her li]>3, who, in return, kissed her affectionately on 
both cheeks. Keroulas made a respectful obeisance, 



62 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

then drew the young maiden's arm within his own, 
and moved off in the direction of a narrow path that 
was cut through the thick underwood, and led from 
the garden, or park, into the road. 

Eugenie watched them till they had disappeared ; 
then, with a heavy sigh, walked slowly away, pene- 
trating deeper into the umbrageous recesses of the 
garden ; a melancholy shade had fallen upon the young 
face, and she murmured half aloud — 

" Dear Yvonne, may neither care nor blight fall 
upon your young life, — and may Keroulas, as he has 
already to others proved himself to be a true man, 
prove to you as true a lover !" Again she sighed, 
" Ah ! me. I have borne much of suffering, and borne 
it without complaint ; but this daily deceit — this secret 
which every day, every hour, against my reason, my 
tongue threatens to betray, is weighing me to the 
earth. A thousand times have I thought it better 
that my father should know all ; and yet his sense of 
honour — his word, so solemnly pledged to another — 
his hope by such an union to retrieve the falling for- 
tunes of our house ; no, I dare not ! dare not ! Alas ! 
I know not what to think, or do. I must, like that 
poor princess in the English play, still ' love and be 
silent !' " 

She was now standing in a small dell, on every 
side thickly encompassed with trees whose branches 
interlaced themselves above her head, when footsteps 
were heard upon the dry leaves, which lay inches thick 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 63 

upon the ground ; and then a well-known voice met 
her ear, calling her name. She turned in the direction 
from whence it came, the sweet dove-like look settled 
in her eyes ; and in a voice full of the heart's music, 
she answered " Victor !" 

The branches were pushed apart outside, and Victor 
de Preville, springing down the bank, stood by her 
side, 

" Eugenie ! My wife !" 

" My husband !" Her arms were thrown about 
his neck, her cheek pressed against his, then she started 
back and coloured from neck to brow. Victor was not 
alone ; the branches were again pushed aside, and his 
companion appeared upon the top of the bank. 

"The Abbe de Chateau Vieux !" 

" Pardon, Madame de Preville !" said the new 
comer, with a laughing significance, as he leaped lightly 
down, and bowed before the lady with all the grace of 
the ancien regime. " By your leave, I will introduce 
myself as a merchant, about to make a trading tour in 
Brittany— one Etienne Marcel." 



64 THE HOODED SNAKE. 



CHAPTEB V 

A PEEP INTO THE BARON'S STUDY — SUSPICIONS. 

In the left wing of the old maison d'Aubigny, are 
situated the private apartments of the Baron : these 
three rooms — a sleeping-room, a study, and an ante- 
chamber — constituted, as he would often laughingly 
say to his friend the Chevalier, the only portion of his 
possessions that he could really call his own — friends 
and servants alike respecting the tabooed threshold. 
Chiffon alone, in his double capacity of valet and secre- 
tary — though his secretaryship was by no means of 
the confidential character he asserted it to be, — having 
a right of entrance to the Baron's apartments ; a right, 
however, that he but seldom used, excepting when his 
attendance was required by his master — a self-denial 
which, considering the valet's well-known habit of pry- 
ing into all things that did not concern him, excited 
no little astonishment in the d'Aubigny household. 

The Baron's study was a large A^aulted room, huDg 
round with tapestry so old, that the subjects — scrip- 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 65 

tux-al or otherwise — set forth upon it, had entirely- 
disappeared ; the many-hued threads presenting a 
sombre though chaotic surface of colour in those places 
where the tapestry remained entire : the whole, how- 
ever, was fast resolving itself to dust, as, centuries ago, 
had the taper fingers of the high-born ladies whose 
well-tutored skill had fashioned it. Several large 
presses, containing many a time-hallowed document 
pertaining to the d'Aubigny family, stood around, the 
wood-work of which was in nearly the same state of 
decay as the tapestry. The great high-backed chairs 
were piled with books ; and not only were their seats 
thus littered with learning, but their rheumatic or 
gouty legs were almost hidden by a perfect sea of dusty 
volumes that surged everywhere about the floor. Near 
the one great window that looked out upon a thick 
shrubbery, stood a massive bureau — an ancient piece 
of brass-bound furniture — before which the male 
d'Aubigny's for many a generation had sat, till it came 
to be considered by the family as a sort of household 
friend, not to be discarded for any more graceful or 
even more convenient modern innovation. It was a 
very mysterious affair, being full of all kinds of intricate 
devices and out-of-the-way places of concealment in 
the shape of wells and drawers, only to be discovered 
by means of carefully-hidden springs. It is related 
that an overbusy servant, who had once stolen into t he- 
room to polish up the old bureau's dingy exterior, had 
by chance touched one of these springs, whereupon 

F 



66 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

such an opening of unlooked-for doors, sucli a darting 
out of undreamt-of drawers ensued, that, dropping her 
duster with a scream, the girl fled from the room, and 
could never again be tempted to enter it. Before this 
bureau sat the Baron — his elbow upon the raised desk, 
and his head resting upon his hand — his brow was 
knitted as in deep but unpleasant thought, and his 
eyes were rivetted upon some papers that lay in a heap 
before him. Suddenly arousing himself he took up 
the papers one by one, and, drawing the lamp, for it 
was evening far advanced, towards him, carefully exa- 
mined their seals ; this done, he threw himself back in 
the chair, the same puzzled look still upon his face. 

" It cannot be !" he said ab last, " it is impossible ! 
None but Chiffon has admittance here — and de Preville 
has vouched for his honesty ; besides, this lock is of a 
peculiar and English manufacture ; any attempt to 
open it, otherwise than with the proper key, would 
only injure the wards and make detection certain : the 
key never quits my person, and its duplicate cannot 
be found in France." Again he examined each seal, 
and with the same result. "They are as when I sealed 
them, not a crack or flaw ; and yet, I would have sworn 
that the position of the packets had been altered : this 
small one, for instance, I remember yesterday placing 
nearly at the bottom of the pile, the corner pushed 
under the silken thread of the larger packet, and this 
evening it is most unaccountably at the top !" He 
rose, opened his vest, took out a small key attached to 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 67 

his neck by a long thin ribbon, then leant across the 
desk, and touched first one spring, then another ; and 
sliding his fingers aloDg the apparently solid wood, 
pushed back a small panel and discovered a secret 
drawer, he fitted the key to the lock, shooting and re- 
shooting the bolt. 

" It's strange ! the wards are certainly uninjured — 
it never acted better. I must have been mistaken. 
Heaven forbid ! I should even in thought wrongfully 
accuse an innocent man." 

The Baron closed the drawer, locked it, and then — 
it was a habit with him — strode up and down the 
room, his hands tightly locked behind him. 

" And yot, I must be cautious — tie Preville may be 
deceived. Yes, yes, there is need of caution in such a 
game as this I am engaged in — a game in which all is 
at stake — my fortune and my head !" He drew a long 
breath. " Poor Eugenie ! may it please God to pre- 
serve both for her sake. Alas ! he who wages the war 
of kings and dynasties must abide the peril, for it is 
one in which the weaker must ever go to the wall ; 
and, like the two pots in the fable, the finer the porce- 
lain the sooner it is broken. It is a bold throw, but 
it must be made ; if the rising is general, it would ill- 
become the Baron d' Aubigny to remain idle, when king 
and country alike solicit his aid. Caution ! pardieu ! 
if that wily fox Fouchc got but wind of such a plot, 
some estates would change owners and some heads part 
company from the shoulder ! C'hatcauvicux must de- 



68 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

part to-morrow for Nantes, and then cross the Loire 
into La Yendee ; he will find there a soil ripe enough 
for revolt, for in every desolated town, on the site of 
every vanished village, and among the ashes of each 
ruined homestead, the fire of revenge is smouldering — 
a breath, and it starts into a devouring flame. Dupont 
must keep along the coast to Quimper, and there await 
the promised instructions from England. England !" 
— here the Baron muttered something very like an 
oath, " small trust will Breton or Vendean place in 
English promises ! It matters little to England whether 
royalist or republican has the upper-hand ; her strength 
lies in our weakness, and as long as we cut each others 
throats she will lend us money to do it. Bah ! this is 
the country of Duguesclin, and no armed Englishmar 
can ever tread it but as an enemy." As the Baron 
who was by no means free from some of the prejudice? 
of his time, said this, some one knocked at the outside 
of the door of the antechamber : the knock was repeatec 
three times, and the Baron hastened into the ante 
chamber, returning with his guests Dupont and Etienm 
Marcel, or, as we shall now call him, the Abbe Cha 
teauvieux. When the two latter were seated, tht 
Baron, who had remained standing, took the sealec 
packets from the bureau, and said — 

"You see I am quite prepared, and should advist 
your departure about an hour before sunrise. I havt 
cared that you shall have good horses in place of tht 
sorry jades that brought you from the coast the othei 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 69 

night ; these are the best in my stables, and you are 
not the men to let the grass grow under their feet." 

" Before sunrise ! may not our departure at such 
an early hour excite suspicion 1 " The Baron 
laughed. 

" You forget, Chateauvieux, you are in Brittany, 
and not in Paris ; besides, is is my intention to accom- 
pany you some leagues. I have business at Loudiac, 
and some part of the road we may travel together." 

" "We shall be rejoiced, my dear Baron ; our jour- 
ney will appear shorter by that number of leagues." 

The Baron bowed, then handed to each of his 
visitois several of the sealed papers. " The gentlemen, 
to whom these are addressed, will give not only a warm 
welcome to the envoys of our king, but all the infor- 
mation you may require concerning the feeling in their 
neighbourhood. In a few days, by such means, you 
may feel the pulse of the country, and hasten or delay 
your plaiis accordingly. You, Chateauvieux, will pro- 
ceed to Nantes. You will find among these papers a 
letter to a Monsieur Raymond, a hemp merchant." 

" A good trade !" said the Abbe, en parenthese, 
'■ and, should we get the upper hand of thcsu varlets, 
likely to become an extensive one." 

The Baron went on. 

" He will be able to speak as to the feeling of the 
men of his class ; they must have short memories if 
thev can look at the Loire, as it rushes by their city, 
and not wish well to their exiled king." 



70 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

" The Loire ! the river of the Noyades!* each wave 
it rolls towards the sea is a tongue that speaks of re- 
publican crime, and craves for the return of Louis." 

The Baron shook his head sadly. 

" Or speaks a warning against again rashly calling 
down so cruel a punishment ; but that is scarcely to 
be dreaded, for, though I hate this man who now rides 
triumphant upon the neck of France, he is neither 
cruel nor — " 

" Well, I cross from Nantes into La Vendee," 
interrupted the Abbe, the dark shade settling upon 
his face, for he was a "good hater," and was not one 
to praise an enemy — " a country both religious and 
loyal." 

" They cling to their habits, like all of us, Chateau- 
vieux. What you would denominate their supersti- 
tion, custom has made a religion. You may sweep 
away every vestige of the past from the soil of Brit- 
tany, but you cannot shake the Breton's fixed ideas. 
' I will overthrow your steeples,' said the republican 
St. Andre to the mayor of one of our villages, ' in 
order that no object may remain to recal your super- 
stitions.' ' You will still be forced to leave us the 
stars,' replied the peasant ; ' and they may be seen 

* The terrible " drownings of Nantes," commanded by the 
sanguin iry Carrier, a man " whose excesses,'' as was said, " dis- 
honoured terror itself." His victims were enclosed in the holds 
of ships ; at a given signal valves were opened, and the waves of 
the Loire swallowed them up. By these means hundreds were 
destroyed at a time. 



TIIE HOODED SNAKE. 71 

from a greater distance than our steeples !'* A good 
cause will make a hero of a peasant ; a bad one will 
often make a coward of a prince, — that is, if he knew it 
to be so. Our peasantry, Breton and Vendean, wish to 
remain unmolested — to remain in everything as their 
fathers were before them. The republic came upon 
them suddenly — it sought to shake ideas that were 
with them not to be shaken — to cast aside old customs, 
whose roots were twined about the heart — their Lares 
and Penates were threatened — so they one and all 
snatched up the musket to defend them." 

" Then you think they have sunk into a sluggish 
sleep, and are not again to be aroused ¥' 

" I did not say that. Show them a cause — " 

" What greater can I show than that of the Lord's 
anointed — Louis, their king 1" 

" To men like ourselves, possibly none greater ; but 
the peasant, before he again risks his little all, must 
know that unless he does so, his rights may again be 
invaded and himself torn from his home to be marched 
to the frontier." 

" I understand," said the Abbe ; while his com- 
panion, Dupont, who was of a taciturn nature, simply 
nodded his approval. 

" Our peasants shrink from such forced military 
service ; and, had it not pleased the republic to com- 
mand a levy of 300,000 men, La Vendee might have 

• Souveatre. 



72 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

remained quiet and escaped the storm that has devas- 
tated it." 

" Arid you think this compulsory service likely to 
be again insisted upon 1" asked Chateauvieux. 

" I do." 

" Good !" said the Abbe ; and Dupont grunted his 
assent. 

" The First Consul, as it has pleased them to term 
him, wants men — they are the counters without which 
he cannot play out his game, and — " 

" And that game is 1" 

" Empire !" 

The Abbe Chateauvieux mused. Dupont shrugged 
his shoulders. 

" I know this M. Buonaparte well. He is a deter- 
mined, self-concentrated man : nothing is too high for 
his ambition, and no obstacle too great for him to 
hesitate at its removal — a man of iron, with a steady 
and unswerving will." 

" My dear Baron, is it possible I hear you prais- 
ing-?" 

" An enemy, you would say — why not 1 Yet, I 
do not praise him. I but act as the wrestler, who 
takes in all the points of his adversary before closing 
with him. To take advantage of a man's weakness, you 
must also know wherein lies his strength." 

Chateauvieux, who, with Dupont, had carefully 
placed in their vests the papers given to them by the 
Baron, now drew a paper from a small leathern case 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 73 

and presented it to the Baron, who received it with 
some reverence. 

" You will there find, under the signature of His 
Majesty, full instructions, my dear Baron, for you to 
act in this part of Brittany — should the news we send 
you from the south, and La Vendee, prove as good as 
we anticipate and desire." 

" Till then—" 

" I need not say keep it carefully concealed. Such 
a document would gain for the fortunate knave who 
might chance upon it a rich estate at least, and for the 
unfortunate gentleman whose name is mentioned 
therein — a halter." 

" Monsieur TAbbe ! " 

" Pardon me, my dear Baron, I forgot what is due 
to men of family, like ourselves. Keep up the differ- 
ence of class, by all means. Let me see : thus it 
stands — for the noble, the block — for the peasant, the 
gallows — and for those who occupy the medium posi- 
tion, like our friend Dupont, a well directed shot — " 

'■ Bah ! '' said the latter gentleman, for the first 
time breaking silence. " It will find me with a weapon 
in my hands ; this is the twenty-third conspiracy I've 
been engaged in, and have never seen the inside of a 
prison yet !" 

" Don't boast, mon ami ! I shall see you behind 
the bars yet," said the Abbe, who, utterly reckless of 
danger himself, was never so happy as when sporting 
within its jaws — his spirits rising in proportion as a 



74- THE HOODED SNAKE. 

peril increased. But the Baron, a man of tried 
courage, was annoyed at this unseasonable levity, and 
said — 

" You are a lonely and childless man, Etienne ; 
what kith and kin you have can well protect them- 
selves, and did your head roll upon the scaffold to- 
morrow, many might grieve, there are none but your- 
self the headsman's stroke would kill ; but I Lave a 
daughter, far dearer to me than life — without me there 
are none to protect her — it is her life then I hazard 
with my own." 

The Abbe looked up quickly, as about to speak — 
then checked himself, and remained silent. 

" I grant she is affianced to the Count de Marigny ; 
but he is in exile, and it may be long before the cen- 
tract is fulfilled." 

"Very long," thought the Abbe — but he said 
nothing. 

" And with death comes confiscation, and I would 
not have Marigny accept a dowerless wife. Not that 
he whose father was my earliest friend and the soul of 
honour, would hesitate — of that, I'm sure." 

The Abbe, whose knowledge of the young Count's 
principles and habits were of a somewhat more recent 
date than the Baron's, was not so sure — but he was a 
wise man, and still said nothing. 

" So you see, Chateauvieux, with us the case is 
different; and where — in your case — I would — nay 
have — marched up to the mouth of a cannon, I would 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 75 

now, honour permitting, step a pace or two aside for 
the ball to pass me. Confessing such to be my feelings, 
I have risked all — life, daughter, happiness — in the 
cause of my king and country ; but would thank you 
to keep your hints about axes and halters to yourself, — 
it is time enough to bestow thought on them when 
you're under the one, or about to be tied to the other." 

The Abbe Chateauvieux rose to his feet, and grasped 
the Baron's hand, "Right, old comrade ! and I ask 
pardon for such foolish jesting. You say well; like 
the snail, I carry my house upon my back, and should 
leave few or none — excepting yourself, perhaps — to 
grieve for me. For your daughter — and no man in 
France can boast a richer possession than Mademoiselle 
Eugenie — be sure," and he wrung the Baron's hand 
warmly, " whatever betide, she will have a protector." 

" You mean Marigny 1 " 

" Marigny will be a happier man than he deserves," 
was the Abbes evasive answer ; " besides, there is one 
protector who never deserts the pure and good." 

The Baron bowed his head reverentially, and, for a 
moment, the three gentlemen were silent — it was a 
painful silence, and Chateauvieux was the first to 
break it. 

" With your permission, Dupont and I will return 
to our apartments. We have some arrangements to 
make ere we again descend to the salon — when, as we 
shall be stirring so early in the morning, we must 
make our adieux to Mademoiselle." 



76 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

"Stay !" The Abbe and his friend were moving 
towards the door, " I will summon my valet, and—" 

" Do nothing of the kind ! " said Chateauvieux, 
quickly, " I am not enraptured with the aspect of your 
Monsieur Chiffon." 

The Baron started. 

" Have you been long the possessor of his invalu- 
able services ? " 

" Two years ; sufficient to know a man." 

" Humph ! not such a man as I take Monsieur 
Chiffon to be. Pardon my questioning you thus, — 
but had he a recommendation to your service ? " 

" The best ; he was recommended — and strongly 
recommended — by my friend, de Preville." 

" The Chevalier is a light and thoughtless man — 
who gives little or no care to anything. He would as 
carelessly pass his v/ord for Chiffon, or any other, if it 
gave hiin no troubls to do so — as he would risk his 
money, if he had any, upon a throw of the dice-box. 

Again the Baron spoke, with anger — and this time 
the honest blood rushed to his cheeks. 

" Silence, Chateauvieux ! remember you are beneath 
my roof, and it is of my friend you speak ! from boy- 
hood I have known de Preville — and ever found him 
thoughtless, if you will, but honourable and generous 
to a fault !" 

" Exactly so, d'Aubigny ! I agree in all you say 
about the Chevalier ; but it is this self-same generosity 
to a fault, which you allow him to possess, that would 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 77 

lead me to doubt his recommendation of a person like 
your eccentric-looking valet. The character of the 
Chevalier a child might fathom, it is all upon the 
surface ; now, Monsieur Chiffon's runs deep, and — " 

" What are you about 1 " broke in the Baron 
laughing in spite of himself, " are you making a com- 
parison between my friend and my valet ? " 

" Certainly not." The Abbe now spoke with 
something of hauteur. " The Chevalier de Preville is 
a gentleman — " 

'• While you think poor Chiffon to be — 1 " 

"A scoundrel!" 

And with a friendly au revoir the Abbe and his 
friend left the apartment. 

The Baron gazed after them, — then breathed a 
heavy sigh as he turned towards the bureau, and said — 
" Strange fellow, Chateauvieux — as brave as the lion, 
yet as cunning as the fox — just the man for a cause 
like ours. His attachment to the king is unconquer- 
able, and his love of conspiracy and intrigue equally 
ardent ; such energetic earnest men make no allowance 
for a feather-brain, like de Preville, who takes the 
world as it comes, and will leave it neither better nor 
Worse than he found it." 

The Baron had touched the spring and put by the 
panel, when he paused — holding the pree ous paper 
given him by Chateauvieux irresolutely in his hand — 
" It is strange, too, how his suspicions concerning 
Chiffon came, as it were, like an echo to my own. 1 



78 THE HOODED SNAKE 

dare not mention this to de Preville, lie will turn the 
■whole affair into a jest, and banter me for a week after 
about my ' demon ' of a valet — terming him Bobes- 
pierre redivivus, or Fouche the second — with a world 
of similar nonsense. Yet the interests concerned are 
far too grave to induce me to run any hazard with this 
fellow, who Chateauvieux so much dislikes. Ah ! I 
have it, I will state my suspicions frankly to Victor, 
and he shall make some closer inquiries into the ante- 
cedents of this man than his father has done : not but 
that the man has served me well for two years, but — " 
the Earon paused a moment, then closed the drawer and 
shut the panel — " precaution is the mother of safety, 
and before I again trust to the old hiding-place, my 
suspicions must be removed, till then I shall use 
another." So saying the Baron — the little paper still 
in his hand — crossed the room, and entered his bed- 
chamber, closing the door behind him. 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 79 



CHAPTER VI. 

THE BABOK TAKES VICTOR INTO HIS CONFIDENCE 

KEROULAS — THE PLOT THICKENS. 

" It was from Monsieur de Nangis that my father 
received Chiffon, as a consignment, and, according to 
his letter of recommendation, a valuable one." 

" De Nangis ! I remember he was one of the first 
that fell in the September massacre." 

"No, that was his brother. My father's friend 
was not so fortunate ; he died from the effects of a 
wound received in the Palais Royal in a quarrel of 
some kind, arising out of I know not what. De 
Nangis left his opponent dead on the spot — dying 
himself, some hours afterwards, in a room of the Cafe 
Foy, to which place his friends had carried him." 

" Truly a sad end for a brave man — but Chiffon 1" 

" "Was by his mastor's side when ho breathed his 
last : a week afterwards he presented himself at the 
Chateau rontarlac, with the written request of De 
Nangis in his hand." 



80 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

"I must have been mistaken, — yet tilings have 
occurred, Victor, to arouse my suspicion ; and, I 
confess, to shake my trust in this man." 

The Baron and Victor were standing in a recess 
formed by one of the large windows of the salon 
d'Aubigny, the large curtains screening them from 
the company assembled in the room. 

" You both alarm and surprise me, Baron !" 
"Thus the case stands, Victor,— for I can have no 
reserve with one who I have learnt to regard almost 
as a son," and he laid his hand affectionately upon the 
young man's shoulder, — " You have lived long enough, 
in the world to know that we all have our secrets — 
you have yours." It was fortunate the heavy curtain 
shut out the light, or Victor's startled look could 
scarcely have escaped the Baron, who went on — " 1 
have mine. What they are, you, not being a woman, 
will not care to inquire : suffice it, they are secrets of 
an importance to othera as well as myself, and there- 
fore require upon my part a double care. You under- 
stand me ?" 

Victor bowed. 

"You know the old bureau in my study — that 
piece of antiquity you were but the other day ad- 
miring so much — " 

Victor bowed again. 

"Well, that has its secrets also — which, until 
lately, I had believed known only to myself. It was 
my habit to entrust all my more important papers to 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 81 

its keeping, with the same confidence as one would 
his life in the hands of a long- tried and trusty servant. 
As I have said, it is only lately that I have had 
reason to suspect that my secrets are no longer my 
own ; in short, that the ' open, sesame !' has been dis- 
covered" 

" A domestic traitor ! oh ! impossible ! I cannot 
bebeve that any one would be so base, to bite the 
hand that feeds — to betray the owner of the roof that 
shelters him." 

The Baron smiled at the young man's indignation, 
though it pleased him. 

"You are still young, Victor; yet a moment's 
reflection, and you will remember the times in which 
we live — how few years have passed since the son 
eyed with suspicion the father, and the father, terrified 
by that one dread word ' suspect,' looked askance at 
the son, since a brother* ascended the tribune, and 
added a fratricidal vote to those that doomed the 
sainted Louis to the block ! Where ties of kin- 
dred have proved so weak, shall ties of gratitude be 
regarded 1" 

The Baron shook his head and sighed. 

" The times have not changed — only the serpent, 
that so lately held itself erect to sting, now crawls 
stealthily upon its victim — there is deceit everywhere 
in France, for the spirit of Foucho pervades its go- 
vernment and councils." 

• The Due d'Orleans. 
Q 



82 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

"And Chiffon?" 

"Nay, my dear Victor, I do not accuse him — 
lacking proof, I should blush to do so — but I have a 
habit of assorting my papers, and, as with age we 
grow methodical, placing them according to their 
shape, bulk, subject, and so on ; by degrees the idea 
has struck me, that frequent alterations were made in 
this arrangement — but not by me." 
" Is it possible !" 

" The seals of the packets were ever as I left them, 
but the contents were often differently arranged : for 
instance, a document that was near the bottom I 
would find close at the top, and one that I had pur- 
posely placed near the top had, in the same unac- 
countable manner, sunk to the bottom." 

" Grounds for suspicion, indeed !" 

" And yet, as I say, to all appearance the seals of 
the letters — the fastenings of the drawers — were un- 
tampered with. Now, my valet alone has access to 
the room, and therefore it is not surprising that my 
suspicion fell first upon him — " 

" I would shoot the scoundrel, did I think — " 

" Patience, patience, Victor, I may be mistaken — 
nay, possibly I am — what I ask of you is, that you 
will seek to learn more of the past history of Chiffon 
than this recommendation of De Nangis affords ?" 

" Certainly — my father — " 

"Nay, do not speak of it to him — I could have 
done that : but you know his careless way, and more- 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 83 

over he would possibly feel hurt at a doubt, upon such 
slender grounds, thrown upon the character of his 
protegee. Do you know any of the De Nangis ?" 

" The nephew of Chiffon's master was one of my 
companions at Coblentz." 

"Inquire, then, of him : he may learn something 
concerning a man for so many years the valet to his 
uncle." 

" I will write to-night !" 

Again the Baron laughed good humouredly. 

" Time enough, time enough, Victor ; I have business 
at Loudiac to-morrow, and shall not return until the 
day after ; we will then speak further of this. In the 
meanwhile I have taken precaution to prevent the 
repetition of the treachery — if treachery has been 
committed." 

As the Baron said this, the curtain of the recess, 
which was partially drawn, was twitched aside, and a 
laughing voice exclaimed — 

"Why, dAubigny, what conspiracy are you and 
Victor hatching here in the darkness 1 ? Come forth 
into the light, that we may read the mystery from 
your faces." 

"There's no mystery, Chevalier;" and the gentle- 
men quitted the reqess and joined the company in the 
salon. I purpose a journey to Loudiac to-morrow, 
and was giving some instructions to Victor, to 
which he has kindly premised to attend in my 
abs?ncs. : ' 



84 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

"What instructions'? I have the curiosity of a 
woman." 

" And the tongue, I fear," said the Baron. 

" Would I could boast one only half as bewitching 
as Mademoiselle's," — and the Chevalier bowed to 
Eugenie, — "and I would know every secret in men's 
power to tell, even though some of them were locked 
up in the bosom of Fouche himself !" 

" You would tell them again as quickly ; so they 
would be secrets no longer.' 

" Is it a crime to disseminate knowledge V 

" Forbidden knowledge — to pluck the fruit of 
which entails a penalty," said Chateauvieux, with a 
smile. 

" I've had penalties enough in my time, Monsieur 
Marcel. I had scarcely begun to try my wings in the 
world, when I was compelled to sing my first song 
behind the bars of the Bastille ; it was there I made 
my name as a poet." 

"A poet!" 

" Yes, my dear Mademoiselle Eugenie ; I composed 
twenty-seven odes and some fifty sonnets." 

" Might I ask the favour of a copy of poems that 
must, from such an author, be at least original V 

" I am sorry to refuse you, Mademoiselle ; but the 
only copy of the work is no longer extant — it fell 
with the walls of the Bastille." 

"How so?" 

"The sans-oulottes had no feeling for poetry; and, 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 85 

as mine was traced with a nail upon the walls of my 
dungeon, they destroyed it without compunction — it 
was a pity. I had just commenced an epic when I 
was liberated." 

"And France lost a second Henriade?" said the 
Baron. 

" Such is the fate of genius. Every memento of 
my work is lost, but the nail, which I have carefully 
preserved as a confirmation of my story." 

" They soon imprisoned the bird again : was it 
not so, de Preville V 

"Parbleu! they looked upon me as a flower that 
the rough winds of heaven would destroy, so kept me 
carefully preserved between four stone walls — L'Ab- 
baye, the Conciergerie, St. Lazare. I've been an in- 
mate of them all, and came out scatheless, as you see." 

" A sad life," said Eugenie. 

" Not at all," replied the Chevalier. " We had 
neighbour Death so long, that we ceased to fear it. 
I never met such good company before as I met in 
those various prisons. It was in my last place of de- 
tention that I made tbe acquaintance of poor Chenier ; 
who, like myself, Mademoiselle, fostered the flowers of 
poesie in a dungeon — though, when I took up my nail, 
I had no such inspiration as the beautiful Mademoiselle 
de Coigny. Poor Andre ! he made a temple of his 
prison, and she was then the deity he placed upon 
the shrine."* 

* Andre Chenier. Of this poet, who only wanted time to be 



86 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

" The Chevalier was unfortunate !" said Chateau- 
vieux, with, a barely concealed sneer. "He seems to 
have suffered under each government." 

"Getting an iron bracelet, when men like Monsieur 
Etienne Marcel would have transmuted the metal and 
made it gold !" 

" How ! Monsieur ;" and the dark brows of Cha- 
teauvieux met in a frown. 

The Chevalier threw a glance towards him — a 
bright shaft of contemptuous ridicule — and laughed — 
" You are a trader ; and it is one of the rules of trade 
to sell its goods in the best market — and buy in the 
cheapest. Faith ! it's an example worth following." 

" You council treason, de Preville !" said d'Aubigny, 
" and treason never prospered yet." 

" No ! my dear d'Aubigny ; treason is but the 
battle of the outs against the ins : he that is fortunate 
will ever pass for the right. I remember an epigram 
worth much for the truth it teaches, though it comes 
from England : — 



'a' 



" Treason doth never prosper, what's the reason ? 
For if it prosper, none dare call it treason !" 

" Where did you learn this folly T said the Baron, 
half angry — half laughing. 

great, Lamartine says : — " The dreams of his splendid imagina- 
tion had found their reality in Mademoiselle de Coigny, who was 
incarcerated in the same prison." Thus does love triumph in the 
face of death. 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 8/ 

" Folly ! it's the essence of wisdom. I have sown 
my wild oats, and am waiting the harvest of virtuous 
reward to spring from their burial. You are a rich 
man, d'Aubigny, and I a very poor one : could I have 
found a red cap to fit my head, or have tuned my 
throat to the Marseillaise, I might have still called 
many broad acres mine. I was loyal, in Paris, and a 
conspirator, and I am now paying the penalty in a fifth 
and last prison — the gloomy little chateau Pontarlac." 

" We must not remember our troubles, Chevalier," 
said Eugenie. De Preville bowed ; and his voice, 
whose tones had been unusually bitter, changed in a 
moment. 

" It is only Mademoiselle who has the power to 
make us forget them." 

" And the means ?" 

" Music ! whether she speaks or sings." 

" You will sing, Eugenie," and the fond father 
looked at his tall and graceful daughter with a proud 
smile. 

" With pleasure — if my doing so will give pleasure 
to these gentlemen." 

The gentlemen were profuse in their expressions of 
delight. Eugenie's voice answered them ; but her eyes — 
those brown, tender eyes — with such a depth of love be- 
neath their velvet surface, sought Victor's — such a 
glance is the silent medium by which soul communi- 
cates with soul — speaking a language the most poetic 
in the word, and one which only lovers understand. 



88 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

"A song of Brittany," suggested Victor. " One of 
the ballads of the people — whose simple words are the 
utterance of the heart — in whose melody we hear the 
sad murmur of the wind across our heaths, the melan- 
choly ripple of the waves upon our shores." 

" You're very romantic, Victor," said his father, 
" I don't object to it — it's as becoming in youth, as 
a blush on a maiden's c eek — but it's as out of place 
in age as paint in the cheek of the — 

"Hush!" 

Eugenie had begun to sing an old Breton song, whose 
plaintive melody brought tears into the eyes of the 
listeners, with the exception, perhaps, of dePreville, who 
considered sentiment to be a mistake. The song was 
in the native Celtic, and was a fair sample of that 
" dying language and dying poetry," which is so rapidly 
passing away, — it was the patriotic lay of some bygone 
and nameless poet — 

" Whose songs gushed from his heart, 
As showers from the clouds of summer — 
As tears from the eyelids start." 

The Baron — who, all aristocratic as he was Breton 
to the core of his heart — was visibly affected: and, when 
the song concluded, bent over his daughter's chair and 
pressed a, loving kiss upon her forehead. Even the 
Chevalier had, for a moment, lost his nonchalance, 
and complimented the singer with his sunniest smile, 
saying — " Had the Syrens sung with voices only half 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 89 

as sweet, alas ! for Ulysses and his crew, for they 
would have been most certainly devoured." 

" A stream of delicious melody," said Chateuvieux ; 
" of which the very sands are golden !" added the Che- 
valier. 

" Really, gentlemen, you overpower me with your 
compliments," laughed Eugenie. " You are so lavish 
in your gifts, that, like Tarpeia, I am crushed be- 
neath them." 

" Eugenie has a stock of these old ballads : her 
nurse was famous for her skill in singing them — both 
the ballads of the mountains, and the exquisite com- 
plaints of the coast." 

" I have heard much of the latter," said the Abbe\, 
" and if our solicitations may have effect upon Made- 
moiselle — " 

" Eugenie is always delighted to pleasure her 
father's guests — in this, as, I believe, in all things, I 
can answer for my daughter." 

The beautiful head was bent for a moment, and 
the face hidden : then it was raised, and with eyes, 
whose lustre shone through tears, Eugenie d'Aubigny 
sung one of the wild yet musical complaints to which 
we have before referred. 

# # *- # 

Beneath the windows of the salon, standing im- 
moveable under the dark shadow of the trees, stood 
a man — his face was concealed by the broad brim of 
his hat. As he leant forward, listening attentively to 



90 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

the singing within, his arms were crossed over the 
muzzle of a gun, the butt of which rested on the ground. 
He remained thus, immoveable, like a sentinel at & his 
post, long after the second song was finished, only alter- 
ing his position by leaning his back against a tree ; 
then, one by one, the lights disappeared from the 
windows, indicating that the inhabitants of the maison 
d'Aubigny were about to seek their rest. The man 
for the first time made a gesture of impatience, by 
striking the butt of his gun violently upon the ground. 

" He will not return to Pontarlac. Diable ! then 
I have had my watch for nothing ; nothing ! that can 
scarcely be for I have heard the singing of Mademoiselle, 
and singing, too, the songs of our Brittany." 

He waited a few minutes more — scanned each 
window of the house with an eye that flashed like a 
hawk's from beneath his hat — then, carrying his gun 
in the hollow of his arm, turned and disappeared among 
the trees. He had scarcely done so, when the gate of 
the chateau was opened, and a horseman, muffled 
closely in his cloak, for the night was cold, rode out of 
the court-yard ; returning the " God be with you !" of 
the old servant who closed the gate behind him, he 
gave his horse the spur, and galloped swiftly down the 
road. He had not proceeded far, however, before 
he.reined-in his horse, and, bending forward, listened 
attentively : for from the thick undergrowth about the 
trees that lined the roadside, there came a peculiar cry 
— that of the screech-owl — which was three times re- 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 91 

peated. The horseman, at the third cry, uttered a 
similar sound, which was answered by a loud laugh, 
and the man with the gun jumped nimbly into the 
road. 

" I thought it was you, Monsieur Victor. So you 
have not forgotten the old Chouan war-cry : it has 
often enough struck terror into .the cowardly hearts of 
tkefilues, being always folio wed by a volley from our 
guns. I remember, though I was but young at the 
time, the struggle that took place in this very road." 

The man had advanced nearly to the horseman's 
bridle, who said with some surprise — • 

" Keroulas !" 

" You were slow to recognise me," said the Breton, 
laughing. " We Bretons have eyes like cats, and see 
the belter for the darkness. I knew you directly you 
came through the gate." Then, he added, "I have 
been waiting out here for some hours, hoping to get 
speech with Monsieur le Chevalier." 

" With my father !'' again Victor showed sur- 
prise. " He sleeps at the Baron's to-night, and will 
not return to Pontarlac till the morning ; but is your 
business so pressing that it will not keep till the 
morning V' 

" It is pressing, for it concerns the Baron 
d'Aubigny and his daughter!" 

" What do you mean, Keroulas 1 Speak, man ! 
nothing can concern them that does not also concern 



92 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

me" — lie checked himself — " and everyone who loves 
them." 

" You are right, Monsieur Victor : what is in- 
tended for the ear of the father cannot go far wrong 
when entrusted to the son. This, then, is what I had 
to relate to the Chevalier." 

The Breton, resting upon the barrel of his gun, 
went on — 

" You know Martin ?" 

" For the most superstitious fool this side of the 
Loire — and that's saying much ; go on !" 

" Humph ! that's as it may be. But Martin was 
returning late last night from Saint Croix ; and, wish- 
ing to avoid as much as possible the loneliness of the 
heath, took the road that sweeps round here under the 
trees, facing the maison d'Aubigny." 

" Well, well V 

But the Breton, like all of his race, was not to be 
hurried. He went on, deliberately, " Martin had 
crossed the main road, and was keeping as much as 
possible under the shadow of the trees, when a turn in 
the path brought him directly under the windows of 
the left wing ; he paused a moment to glance up at 
them, when to his alarm the largest window was 
gently opened, and a man descended by the limbs of 
the great vine which forms a natural ladder at that 
side of the house." 

" And Martin ?" 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 93 

" Fled — without looking behind him. He was 
silent about what he had seen all day ; but as the 
evening drew on, and we sat together, could keep his 
council no longer, and so unburthened his mind to 
me." 

" Silent! — for why ? Why not have gone instantly 
to the Baron ?" 

" Martin is discreet enough in some things. The 
man was coming from the house — a hand closed the 
window behind him. Scandal has made much of less 
— and — the Baron has a daughter — •" 

" Dog ! would you dare to suspect — " 

The Breton started erect as an arrow, and by an 
instinctive movement raised his gun, — and then let it 
fall again slowly to his feet. " I pardon your words. 
You love Mademoiselle, and he who loves is neither 
master of his words nor his actions ; but I still say 
Martin was discreet — and knew little of the arrange- 
ment of the rooms in the house — the man descended 
from the third over the vine-trellis." 

" The Baron's study !" 

" As you say, the Baron's study. Knowing that, 
I was here to speak to your father, who is the Baron's 
friend, and lacks not patience to hear a plain story." 

Victor extended his hand to the Breton. 

" Pardon me, Keroulas, I — " Keroulas seized the 
proffered hand, shaking it warmly. 

" It is I who was in the wrong. There are some 



94 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

names so dear that we tremble when another mentions 
them. You will tell the Chevalier of this discovery of 
Martin's ?" 

Victor reflected for a few minutes, then answered — 

" No ! it is best, at present, we speak of this to no 

one. It shall be my care to watch ; it will be time 

when we know more — and more we shall know — to 

act." 

" I will share your watch, Monsieur Victor. Had 
I been in Martin's place, a shot from my gun should 
have brought the robber to the earth." 

" How know you that he was a robber'?" 
" None but a robber leaves an honest man's house 
by the window !" 

" The mystery thickens !" thought Victor, " aud 
the Baron's suspicions are more than correct : though 
whether Chiffon be in league with this spy — for such 
he is evidently — is yet doubtful." He turned towards 
the ex-Chouan, who, whistling softly, was polishing his 
gun-barrel with his sleeve. 

" Do you return to Pere Bonchamp's farm f 
" No ! I sleep to-night at Jalec's cabin. By sun- 
rise we have to be fishing a league off the coast." 

" I will ride with you. Jalec can give me sleeping 
room, I know — a chair and my cloak is all that I 
require. Come, Keroulas, we can talk as we go.'' As 
he said this he pushed on somewhat briskly ; then, 
suddenly tightening his rein, said, " I travel too 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 95 

quickly — I had forgotten that I have four feet beneath 
me, and you but two." 

But the hardy Breton, who was still whistling 
softly, motioned to him to proceed. " Never fear for 
me, Monsieur Victor; a man's walk can equal a horse's 
over such ground as this ;" and he strode on, keeping 
pace with the horse without any apparent effort, still 
diligently polishing the barrel of his gun. 



96 THE HOODED SNAKE. 



CHAPTER VII. 

THE RIVALS — HANDS NOT HEARTS — II. ANATOLE 
CHIFFON. 

It was long past noon, and all was busy life on 
Dominique Bonchamp's farm. FA number of Bre- 
ton damsels, in their modest and picturesque costume, 
were bustling about, attending to the wants of the 
labourers as they came and went in and out of the 
farm ; the voice of the farmer was heard everywhere, 
and his portly person was so active in its movements, 
that at times he appeared ubiquitous. The farm was 
evidently one of the most prosperous, and presented 
none of that dirt and discomfort unfortunately so fre- 
quent in the homesteads of Brittany. 

Standing at the door of the dairy was Yvonne, 
leaning against the primitive-looking woodwork : she 
looked as beautiful and delicate as one of those 
exquisite flowers that we see at times adorning the 
rough sides of an oak. Near her stood Paul Lebrun, 
with a look of mingled bashfulness and impuience 
upon his generally bold face ; but, in the presence 01 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 97 

Yvonne, his reckless bearing was subdued, — not by 
any effort on her part, — but as a rough spirit is awed 
and calmed by the quiet and holy aspect of the inte- 
rior of some Christian church. Yvonne's pure and 
gentle face was the altar before which the wild nature 
of the young sailor bent down ; true, he struggled 
against the feeling, but to conquer it — was impossible. 
It was during one of these struggles to regain his 
usual confidence of demeanour that we come upon him 
now. 

" A good morning's work this !" and he kicked 
carelessly at a huge basket of fish that stood at his 
feet. " Had Keroulas been compelled from his cradle 
to pick up a living with the hook and line, he could 
scarcely have done better." 

" Keroulas is a good fisherman. Jalec says a better 
sailor — " 

" Sailor !" laughed Lebrun contemptuously. " Yo\i 
don't call these spratcatchers sailors ! why, there's not 
not one of them but would faint downright did he 
once see the line of his dear native shore fade in the 
horizon." 

" That is not true, Lebrun. Our Brittany has 
produced too many good sailors, ' she smiled good 
humouredly at Paul, " yourself among the number, to 
permit belief in your sarcasm : besides, is he less a man 
because his heart sinks when for the first time he 
leaves his native land behind him?" 

" Oh ! certainly not. I have had my eyes over- 
H 



98 THE HOODED SNAKeI 

flow myself: and the first time we steered out ot 
Brest I cried like a great lubberly boy — which, in 
fact, I was." 

" And you are none the worse for it, as a man, I 
suppose ¥' 

" I suppose not : yet, to be valued ashore it is not 
sufficient to have gained the reputation of a good 
sailor ! an ' idle ne'er-do-well,' they say, and they pass 
him by for some St. Peter," and again he kicked the 
basket with his foot, " who brings home his miraculous 
draught of fishes !" 

" For shame, Paul Lebrun ! to speak thus ill- 
naturedly of those who daily risk their lives to give 
their wives and children bread. Besides, you have an 
irreverent way of speaking of holy things, which I 
greatly dislike." 

" I was brought up to the sea, and not to the 
church!" answered Paul, somewhat sulkily. 

" And so to follow creditably the one, you consider 
it necessary to entirely forget the precepts of the 
other ! I'm really ashamed of you, Paul !" 

The young sailor looked up into the bright face ot 
the pretty lecturer, and said somewhat sheepishly — 

" I'm but a rough fellow, I know ; but, under your 
tuition, I shall soon be tame enough — such a tongue 
would quell a tiger !" 

Yvonne laughed outright at this very doubtful 
compliment. 

" So I'm a shrew, am If 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 99 

" You ! ! ! — why you're as gentle as the dove that 
announced the abatement of the storm to Captain 
!Noah ; and your words are as soothing as oil iipon the 
waves. You a shrew ! — good idea that !" 

" Yvonne !" called farmer Eonchamp, looking sud- 
denly out from the loft of an adjacent barn, " we can 
have no idle hands here ; you must make Paul useful, 
if he will persist in coming here in the day-time : the 
day for work, the evening for play, and the night for 
rest. " Hilloh ! Jean, you blockhead, are you going 
to market with a cart loaded in that fashion'?" and 
the farmer disappeared from the window of the loft to 
reappear immediately afterwards in a distant corner of 
the vard. 

a/ 

" You hear what my father says, — if you would 
do nothing but bask in the sun, you had better go out 
on the heath. You won't plough, and you don't fish ; 
what, then, are you good for ?" 

" Keroulas does both !" 

" He does : my father says he drives the straightest 
furrow of them all ; and as for his fishing, look there !" 
and she pointed to the basket. 

" I wish he'd dropped over the side of Jalec's boat, 
and they were now fishing for him Avith his own hook 
and line !" This time Master Paul kicked the detested 
basket so viciously that it turned over, and its contents 
were scattered about. Before Yvonne could speak, a 
hand was laid on Paul's shoulder, and he was thrust 
roughly back. 



100 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

" If a man won't labour himself, he should not 
mar the labour of others." 

Lebrun turned fiercely round, and faced Keroulas 1 

" If you place your hand on me, I'll pitch you 
over one of your own hayricks ! I've driven many 
a furrow over a field," and he pointed towards 
the sea, "that you were never man enough to 
plough !" 

" Not man enough ! — what is there Keroulas Car- 
nac is not man enough to do 1 — and yet Paul Lebrun 
dares to attempt — " 

Without answering, the two young men, both 
brave as lions and as strong, glared for a moment at 
each other. 

Yvonne read their angry purpose in their eyes, and 
was hastening to advance between them, when a 
chuckling laugh was heard behind them, and a voice 
sounded unpleasantly in their ears — 

" Ha ! ha ! the rivals ! take care, my friends, take 
care ! I've heard that when the dogs were busy fight- 
ing, the fox ran off with the bone !" Both the young 
men turned towards the new comer — no other than 
the Baron's " confidential" valet, Monsieur Anatole 
Chiffon, who stepped briskly between them. Kerou- 
las, who hated the valet from his soul, was the first to 
speak — 

" You may also have heard that there is danger 
in interposing in another's quarrel !" 

" And that he who comes between two enemies 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 101 

gets kicked and pummelled for his pains !" added 
Lebrun. 

" Fie ! fie;! what words are these ?" said the tin- 
moved valet. "It flavours rather of the Gascon than 
the Breton to hector thus before a lady !" 

Both the young men stole a glance at the pained 
and anxious face of Yvonne, and were silent. Ah ! 
the power of beauty ! Had either of these bold 
fellows been a Hercules, they would have required no 
other Omphale but Yvonne, but would have been con- 
tent to have taken the distaff and spun at her feet for 
the remainder of their lives. 

" For shame, Keroulas ! for shame, Faul," she 
said, glancing from one to the other in a pretty anger. 
" It is fortunate my father is not a witness to this 
scene ! Have you so little respect for me, Keroulas, 
that you must act thus ? And you, Faul Lebrun, if 
you come only to disturb this quiet home with such 
silly brawls, had best come here no longer." 

" Ha! ha! my friend!" whispered Chiffon in the 
angry sailor's ear, "your case is hopeless. You see 
which way the cat jumps." 

Lebrun, without answering Chiffon, turned towards 
Yvonne, and said, humbly enough — 

" My visits should long ago have ceased, did 
I deem them to have been unpleasant to Fere 
Dominique and his daughter: as for others," and he 
darted a look of defiance at his rival, " there are 



102 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

places of meeting to be found where interference is 
impossible !" 

" If Paul Lebrnn will name the place, Keroulas 
Carnac will be there to await his coming." 

Yvonne was becoming really frightened. Her 
gentle nature took alarm at the revengeful and mean- 
ing looks the two young men cast at each other. 

" I would be the last to forbid Paul Lebrun my 
father's house. One who has proved himself so brave 
against our enemies, can scarcely fail to be welcome to 
his friends." 

" You see, you see," snarled Chiffon, this time in 
the ear of Keroulas, " these rovers of the deep win 
the women after all ! — there's a romance in the life 
that can never be obtained by those who plod on a 
beaten path ashore." 

The face of Keroulas grew dark as night — his 
black eyes seemed filled with a smouldering fire : his 
teeth were clenched ; his lips compressed ; a demon 
possessed him — the demon of jealousy! The dogged, 
revengeful spirit of the Breton was roused : he said 
nothing, but his resolve was firm as iron. 

Poor Yvonne never dreaming of the fearful storm 
she had raised, laid her hand upon that of Paul 
Lebrun, upon whose brown surface it showed like a 
snow-flake. 

" Give me your hand ?" he did so, though reluc- 
tantly, as knowing what would follow. " It's an 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 103 

honest one I know. And now, Keroulas, yours !" The 
Breton looked doggedly down, and remained motion- 
less. Lebrun coloured crimson from the throat to the 
temples, and would have withdrawn his hand, but that 
Yvonne still held it in hers, and he would not have 
lost that soft touch for a pocketful of gold pieces. 

" Another time, Mademoiselle Yvonne," he said. 
" Keroulas Carnac and I have had many disputes of 
late ; this would be but a hasty settlement, after 
all." 

" He who shall win the cause of dispute is, I fear, 
pretty nearly decided !" whispered the valet, as he 
twitched at the sleeve of the peasant. 

" Keroulas !" said Yvonne again, and once more 
Chiffon gave a warning pull at his sleeve. Poor 
Keroulas Carnac ! his good and bad angels were beside 
him : this time, however, the good angel triumphed. 

" Keroulas !" a moment of hesitation — then the 
Breton peasant stepped forward, and Yvonne taking 
his hand, placed it in that of Lebrun." 

" You are friends !" she said. 

They said so, — that is, their tongues said so — their 
hearts spoke a different language. Chiffon read it in 
their eyes. Yvonne — as how could she be ? — was not 
so keen an observer, 

' Quite pathetic, this;" sneered Chiffon. •' Blood 
soon hot, soon cool, eh ? It's for all the world like a 
scene from one of Joseph Chenier's tragedies — it's a 
glorious truce, if it be but lasting." 



104 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

" Away, bird of evil omen !" said the sailor, only 
too pleased to have an object upon which he could freely 
vent his passion. "You are a Jonah that would sink 
the best ship that ever floated ! Had I a chap of your 
kidney aboard one of mine, overboard you'd go, though 
I gave some dozen fishes an indigestion." 

'• Walk the plank, eh ! been a little in the piratical 
way 1 I shouldn't wonder : it requires caution, 
though — it's not so safe as wrecking !" 

" If you stand there grinning at me, you varlet, I'll 
— " and the sailor raised his arm. 

" Stop !" thundered Keroulas ; and equally anxious 
with Lebrun to find fresh cause for quarrel, he was 
once more about to advance upon Lebrun, when Pere 
Dominique suddenly appeared. The change was elec- 
trical : at the first glimpse of his sturdy figure, and 
round, healthy face, the dark clouds cleared away at 
once — the brows were unbent — the hands were un- 
clenched, — and to all, but those who had witnessed the 
previous scene, everything appeared to be on the most 
amicable footing ; or rather, we should say, to all but 
one of those who had witnessed the previous scene, for 
Yvonne was delighted with what she considered her 
success as a peacemaker; while Chiffon, evidently 
greatly delighted, shruggled and chuckled — " Only a 
little dispute upon the matter of ploughing — one pre- 
ferring the furrow drawn in the water, the other that 
carved in the land !" 

"Pooh! pooh!" said the good farmer, "both are 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 105 

good ploughmen in their way, and both to be honoured 
alike. But, my children, let us have no more quar- 
relling, — do you hear ? Shake hands !" 

They did hear, and mechanically obeyed his com- 
mands ; for Dominique Bonchamp was a despot, though 
a kindly one, upon his little domain. His were judg- 
ments without appeal : he wielded his power with 
moderation, because he knew it was secure, and was 
looked up to as a father by his numerous dependants. 

"Oome, Yvonne, my flower, let us have a jug of 
cider. I've been bawling after those scamps in the 
yard till my throat is as dry as a miller's ; besides, I 
must drink a glass with Paul, in honour of the brave 
deed he did the other day. Only think," and he 
turned to Chiffon, " this thoughtless ne'er-do-well must 
needs go risking his life, to save that of — ha ! ha ! 
what do you think 1 — an Englishman !* stupid fellow 1" 

"Truly, an unchristian-like act !" said Chiffon. 

"Humph!" the honest farmer coloured slightly, 
and said with some confusion, " I did not say that. I 
have no love for the English, and look upon them as 
the natural enemies of my country ; but, had I been 
in Paul's place, I should have done the same, — and I 
honour him for it !" 

* " Those who have never heard the tone in which the name 
ef Sagyoit (Saxon) is pronounced on the shores of Brittany, 
cannot conceive the hatred it awakens in the hearts of this 
people. An Englishman, in their estimation, is not a foreigner — 
he is not even an enemy — he is an Englishman. — Souvestre. 



106 THE HOODED SUAK2. 

" And so we all do," said Yvonne, extending her 
little hand, -which the delighted and bewildered sailor 
seized upon eagerly, and, by an unconquerable impulse, 
conveyed to his lips. The farmer only laughed ; but 
Yvonne withdrew her hand hastily. She had, as she 
truly said to Mademoiselle d'Aubigny, a friendship for 
Lebrun, but her love was for the companion of her 
childhood — Keroulas Carnac. 

The Breton peasant, by an effort, mastered his 
passion, though he was trembling in every limb. He 
turned from the large blue eyes of Yvonne — those 
" homes of silent prayer " — which had sought his face ; 
and then his gaze rested on the triumphant and sar- 
castic visage of the valet. 

Things must be bad indeed, to bestow such an evi- 
dent pleasure upon Anatole Ohiffon. 



TKE HOODED SNAKE. 107 



CHAPTER VIII. 

HUSBAND AND WIFE — VICTOR'S MIDNIGHT VIGIL — THE 
HOODED SNAKE ! 

Again we visit the maison d'Aubigny. 
In a small room, elegantly furnished, and tastefully 
decorated with pictures and flowers, two lovers are 
seated — lovers, for the glow of youth is on their 
cheeks — its freshness about their hearts ! Lovers ! — 
and yet they have been husband and wife for several 
years. Eugenie de Preville — for the reader has now 
been taken into our confidence — rests her hand upon 
the arm of her husband and looks entreatingly into 
his face. 

" Victor, our secret must be told !" 
"And your father?" 

" Will know all. Believe me, dear Victor, it were 
better than this continued deceit, which lowers ua and 
dishonours him." 

" Dishonours him ! Eugenie !" 



108 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

" Surely, yes. It was but yesterday, as I under- 
stand, that he sent a letter to Count de Marigny, to be 
delivered by the Abbe Chateauvieux upon his return 
to England." 

" Which letter the Abbe will not deliver ; for none 
can know as well as he its futility." 

Etigenie sighed. 

" Yet more deceit — and my poor father, who is 
building upon the advantages likely to accrue from 
such an alliance, when things once more right them- 
selves in France — " 

"Victor looked lovingly into his wife's face, and 
said — 

" Do you repent, Eugenie 1 — do you repent the act 
that has united our fates for ever ? True, you have 
lost a dazzling future in wedding so poor a gentleman, 
who, unless he carves out fortune with his sword, has 
nothing but a small, impoverished estate to — " 

He was not permitted to proceed further ; for the 
white arm of Eugenie was about his neck, and one of 
her small hands upon his mouth. 

" Oh ! shame, Victor ! to wrong me thus. "When 
I gave my hand, my heart went with it — it was a gift 
freely bestowed. Has time lessened its value ? " 

The brown eyes had filled with tears, but Victor 
kissed away the diamond drops ere they fell. 

" It has but enhanced it ! " he said. " You are to 
me, Eugenie, the only joy of my life. Accident threw 
us together at Coblentz. To see you was to love you ; 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 109 

and I loved you fervently — not as the rich Baron 
d'Aubigny's daughter, but as the exiled girl, alone in a 
world of danger — whose mother had already fallen 
beneath the glaive of the assasins, and whose father, a 
captive in one of their prisons, was believed to be 
beyond even the hope of release, except through the 
same dread portal. The Abbe Chateauvieux, an old 
companion of your father, was also my friend as he 
was yours, Eugenie. He also saw the dangers that 
surrounded you, and willingly consented to join our 
hands. He did so, and you became my wife — my 
loved and loving wife." 

" Yes, my husband ! and I regret nothing but that 
fatal resolve to keep our marriage secret from my father.'' 

" It was a necessary one : the Abbe himself advised 
it. Your father's honour was pledged to de Marigny. 
Time, it was possible, would bring its changes. The 
Baron had never visited Cobientz. Your aunt — my 
poor godmother — the witness to our union, was dead. 
The Abbe pointed out the policy of this temporary 
concealment. My father held out hopes— nay, still 
holds out hopes of a speedy change in our fortunes — a 
change, he often says, that will enable us to leave this 
dreary little chateau of Pontarlac, for the brilliant, 
active world of Paris." 

"You would leave Pontarlac?" 

" With you, Eugenie, I would leave it to-morrow , 
were I able. I long to shake off the rust of this 
ignoble idleness — .to take my chance in the great strife, 



110 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

and gain for myself the laurel crown — or, failing in 
the attempt, — " he hesitated for a moment — then 
said firmly, but sadly — " a grave ! " 

Eugenie started — then looked reproachfully at her 
husband, whose arm encircled her waist, but whose 
head was turned away. 

"You are selfish, Victor ! Even of your grave, I, 
a true wife, would claim my share !" 

"Eugenie !" 

" You married me when I was poor and friendless — 
when the revolutionary wave had submerged France, 
and not a rood of land belonged to its nobles. You 
swore to love me then. Ah ! Victor, you no longer 
love me, for you would leave me now !" 

" I would win a name before claiming you at your 
father's hands. I would find favour with him before — " 

" You have done so ! You are the Chevalier de 
Preville's son, and my father loves you as his own ! " 

There was a pause — one of those delicious pauses, 
when two hearts seem to have but one beat — when 
two souls but one sympathy — two brains but one 
thought. Victor was the first to speak. 

" You are right, Eugenie. In this I will be guided 
by you." 

She pressed his hand in both of hers, and looked 
up gratefully. 

" This deceit shall end. To-morrow, when the 
Baron returns, he shall know all." 

" From me, Victor 1 Yes — let the task be mine. 



THE HOODED SNAKE. Ill 

He will be quick to pardon when he hears the long- 
deferred confession from the lips of his child." 

"Deferred! — yes — too long deferred: had it not 
been for my father's promises — of this golden shower 
that has yet to descend, I should have told the Baron 
of our early love — our hurried, and, as we then 
thought, necessary union." 

" To-morrow I will also," continued Victor, "make 
confession to my father, though from him I have 
nought to fear. ' Are you happy 1 ' he will say. ' I 
am !' then he will shrug his shoulders and say, ' I am 
satisfied ' — declining the exertion of either praise or 
blame." 

" The Chevalier is a happy man — he seems without 
a care." 

"You mistake, dearest. I do believe his heart is 
full of care for me. He is a sybarite — but not one of 
that effeminate breed whose whole system is deranged 
by a crumpled rose-leaf ! I have ever found him a 
kind and indulgent father." 

" I love him for that. I, too, have sought his love, 
and believe that I have gained it. Speak to him first, 
then, dear Victor, and he shall be our mediator with 
the Baron. I know my father, and howhis heart will 
melt into tenderness beneath the persuasive voice of 
his friend." 

"Hark !" — a small clock on the chimneypiece struck 
the hour — " it is ten o'clock, and I must go, dear 
Eugenie !" 



112 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

"Go!" 

" I have a duty to execute to-night — a self-imposed 
one !" 

" At this late hour V 

" Nonsense ! darling ; it is one without danger, 
but by the faithful performance of which much evil 
may be frustrated — much wickedness punished !" 

" You alarm me !" 

" There is no cause for alarm, little trembler. To- 
morrow I will tell you all ;" he laughed, and placed 
his finger on his lips. " I shall guard my secret even 
from you for this night !" 

" Where is your horse ?" 

" Tied, as usual, in the shrubbery — some fifty paces 
from the road." Victor went to the window — " The 
moon will not be out to-night — I shall have a dark 
ride to Pontarlac." 

" Your home." 

" Not till its mistress enters it. Till then" — he 
pressed her again and again to his breast — " my home 
is here." He crossed the room, and taking up a large 
cloak, which upon his entrance he had placed carefully 
near the door, arranged it about his person. " To- 
morrow will see a crisis in our fate. Victor de Pre- 
ville will then claim his beautiful young wife, and they 
will meet to part no more !" He moved towards the 
door — paused, and made a gesture to Eugenie, who 
had taken the little lamp from the table — " Nay, 
dearest, no light — 'twere better not. I can descend 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 113 

the staircase safely, and I know the road too well to 
miss. L it now. To-morrow ! my Eugenie. Till then — 
farewell." He opened a door that led upon a long 
narrow staircase, from which descended a steep flight 
of stairs communicating with another door opening 
upon Eugenie's little flower-garden — and, kissing his 
hand, was about to pass out, when his wife laughingly 
caught up something from the table and hurried after 
him — catching him by the cloak as she did so. 

" You are strangely forgetful to-night, Victor ! 
Here is the key, without which your exit would be — " 
she stopped suddenly, — then again passed her hand 
down his cloak — " What is this ? — a sword ! Why 
are you armed ? Speak, Victor — it is your wife that 
asks !" 

Victor drew her again to his bosom, and lovingly 
kissed her high and fair forehead. 

" Trembling again ! — nay, then it is my turn to 
become alarmed, and ask what ails my wife ? You 
must be careful of your health, Eugenie, for — " 

"But this sword?" 

Victor laughed. 

"Is it the first time you have seen one? This" — and 
for a moment he pulled aside the cloak that had hidden 
it — " is a sword of my father's — a good one, I believe. 
He left it with Eaymond, the cutler, at Point Croix. 
I stopped at his shop on my way from the shore. Are 
you satisfied ?" 

" Heaven bless you, Victor ! — but attim?s I have a 
i 



114 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

foreboding of evil, and — and — even trifles alarm 
me." 

Her husband had begun to descend the stairs. 

" Go back to your nest, little bird — to-morrow will 
begin for us a new life. Till then, my wife, adieu." 

" Victor, my husband, adieu." 

She watched him descend the stairs, cross the little 
lobby, and open the outer door. He turned towards 
her and waved his hand. One long, loving look — the 
door closed, and Eugenie de Preville was alone. She 
stood for some minutes leaning against the balustrade, 
listening to catch, if possible, the faintest sound of his 
retreating footsteps ; then slowly retraced the way 
back to her room, which, having reached, she sank upon 
her knees, and, with her face buried in her hands 
prayed — fervently prayed — for the happiness and wel- 
fare of her lrasband and father. 

Blessings on thee ! pure-souled, bright-haired 
Eugenie ! That man may indeed account himself happy 
who is included in such prayers as those that rise tc 
heaven from thy innocent and truthful lips ! 

Proceeding to that part of the shrubbery where he 
had left his horse, Victor de Preville, after having 
assured himself of the animal's safety, turned to the 
right, and forced his way again through the thick 
bushes until he arrived at the same spot where Keroulas 
held watch on the preceding night — there, leaning 
against the trunk of a tree, and thoroughly con- 
cealed by its shadow, he drew the folds of his cloak 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 115 

closer around him, and commenced his solitary 
vigil. 

An hour passed, and yet he waited patiently. No 
sound had met his ears, but the hoot of that feathered 
hermit the owl — rejoicing in the darkness, or the flap 
of the bat's leathern wings, as it brushed past him. 
This, and the fierce screaming of the wind, as it tore 
through the roof of branches that spread above his 
"head, was all that disturbed the silence around. Ano- 
ther hour passed— and still the young man watched — 
his gaze never quitting the window of the Baron's 
study, which remained dark and sombre — never open- 
ing an eye upon the wild night that was holding its 
reign without. 

A sound ! yes, at last a sound, as of a horse's hoofs, 
fell upon his strained ear, and then was swept away by 
the wind that was tearing and shaking the branches. 
Again and again the sound came ! — and Victor, with 
head bent forward, listened. Yes — it was the sound of 
a horse's hoofs, striking with a dull and heavy sound 
upon the close-cut turf. At every lull in the fierce 
blast it became more audible, approaching nearer and 
nearer to where the young man stood. Suddenly it 
stopped — the sounds ceased, and the bat and the owl — 
those children of the night— alone disturbed its silence. 

"Whoever he may be, he has halted !" thought 
Victor, as hie eyes endeavoured to pierce, though in 
vain, the screen of underwood. " He has kept upon 
the grass, that his horse's tread should not be carried 



116 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

down the road, which it would be, to a certainty, when 
the wind is in this quarter — diable!" He drew back 
hastily — as, within a few feet of him, a long, dark 
shadow fell upon the sward — then, with a quick step, 
a figure passed him, and approached the house. The 
man — for man undoubtedly it was — was wrapped from 
head to foot in a large horseman's cloak, which effect- 
ually concealed his face and form from view. At the 
same moment a gleam of light shot from the study 
window — a lamp was passed several times across the 
panes — then all was dark as before. The stranger 
answered the signal by a low whistle, and crossing 
boldly the space between the shrubbery and the 
house, stood at the foot of the large vine mentioned by 
Keroulas — an ancient tree that clasped, with its huge 
serpentine-like limbs, the entire front of this wing of 
the house. Then the stranger lowered the cloak from 
his face, and turned a keen and searching look upon 
the shrubbery and garden around, without perceiving 
the anxious watcher, who still kept himself within the 
shadow of the trees— but Victor started, as he per- 
ceived that the stranger was masked. 

" A spy — and masked !" The young man set his 
teeth hard, and grasped convulsively the hilt of his 
sword. " Shall I kill him now where he stands, — no- 
he shall die in the commission of his infamy ; besides, 
my task would be then but halt completed. I would 
also know his accomplice. Ah ! — as I expected — he is 
mounting by the branches of the vine !" 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 117 

Placing his foot firmly upon the lower limb of the 
tree, the stranger began the ascent. It was evidently 
a ladder he had used b«fore ; for he passed from branch 
to branch without pausing an instant, till his head 
was upon a level with the window, the lattice of 
which was gently opened by some one from within; 
and then, swinging himself upwards, he was grasped by 
a pair of outstretched hands and drawn into the 
room. The lattice closed immediately, and all was as 
before. 

For some minutes Victor de Preville remained 
motionless as a statue in his place of concealment. 

"I would find them at their work," he thought 
" and strike them in the midst of their fancied security. 
Security ! — the fools — that security is indeed short- 
lived that attends on such a crime." After watching, 
attentively the window — at which, however, there was 
no re-appearance of the light — he crept cautiously 
from the shadow, and crossed, as the stranger had pre- 
viously done, the open space between it and the house. 
He did this as rapidly as possible, fearing a discovery 
that must inevitably have taken place had any been 
watching from the window ; and, as he stood beneath 
the vine, his back closely pressed against the wall, the 
beat of his heart was distinctly audible. But there 
was no movement from within, the window still re- 
maining closed ; then, slowly, "Victor began the ascent, 
having first wound his cloak in such a manner about 
him as not to impede his movements, and keeping the 



118 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

hilt of his sword within grasp of his hand, ready for 
immediate use. 

But one little lamp illumines the Baron's study ; 
and that so shaded that its light only falls upon the 
raised desk of the old bureau, upon which several 
papers are lying. Before the desk is seated the stranger 
— still closely masked — who is examining packet after 
packet with much eagerness — throwing the last one 
down with an exclamation of disappointment. 

" It is not here ! There are papers enough to ex- 
cite suspicion, but none to prove a direct correspond- 
ence : that one would be worth them all." 

Leaning against the bureau — his arms folded, and 
with a look of more than usual cunning on his face — 
stands Monsieur Anatole Chiffon. He also shrugs his 
shoulders with an air of disappointment, and says, as 
he glances down at the papers with a grimace — 

" That a document, more precise than any we have 
yet discovered, must be in existence, I know. I over- 
heard the Abbe, before his departure, ask the Baron 
whether the paper was in a place of safety, saying, 
significantly — ' You know our heads are wrapped up 
in it !' " 

Again the stranger turned over the papers, but 
evidently with the same want of success. 

" The English brig brought the Abbe direct from 
England. I drew that from the sailor, who believed 
that I was sent from him to make inquiries ; and 
Fouche has already informed you that a conspiracy is 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 119 

hatching at Hartwell,* though in Brittany it is to chip 
the shell." 

" Do you know all the hiding-places in this mys- 
terious old bureau ?" 

Chiffon drew himself up with conscious pride. 

" All !" 

" The Baron has possibly selected some other place 
for its concealment ?" 

" It is possible." 

« Well r 

« Well— I shall find it.'* 

" When f 

The valet shrugged his shoulders. 

" Impatience will bring us no nearer to our end. 
That I shall find it, I am sure — the ' how V remains to 
be considered." 

" Well, I shall make notes of the contents of these 
packets. In the meanwhile do you take your stand at 
the further end of the corridor. Some of these brutes 
may take it in their heads to walk in their sleep, and 
we must run no risk." 
" No risk is run." 

" Humph !" The stranger's eyes gleamed through 
his mask, as he looked at Chiffon. " None by you! 
yours is but a dirty rag of a reputation, which half 
Paris—" 

* Hartwell, in Buckinghamshire, where Louis XVIII. fixed 
his residence, after the peace of Tilsit, and remained for some 
years. 



120 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

" We are in Brittany, and not in Paris," said the 
valet, shortly. 

The other laughed. 

" Place the wax there. You have the seals — good 
— they are perfect. You might deceive Fouche himself!'' 

Monsieur Anatole Chiffon bowed modestly. 

" I have no doubt you have done so." 

The valet felt the flattery, and bowed again. 

" Will your task be a long one ?" — he pointed to 
the paper. 

" Half-an-hour — and then I leave you to your 
peaceful slumbers. If a quiet conscience is a blessing, 
then you are blessed, Anatole. Go, and keep good 
watch." 

He motioned towards the door, and Chiffon, with- 
out reply, moved softly across the room, opened it 
gently, and disappeared. The stranger looked after 
him, and muttered — 

" That fellow glides over the floor without touching 
it, I think ; though his appearance is scarcely so an- 
gelic as to lead me to believe that wings form a part 
of his personal adornment." He broke the seal of one 
of the packets as he spoke, and began diligently to 
peruse the contents — so diligently, as not to hear a 
slight noise behind him ; and it was not till a heavy 
hand was laid upon his shoulder, he became aware that 
the room had another occupant. With a low, but 
startled cry, he sprang to his feet, and, turning, stood 
face to face with Victor de Preville. 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 121 

" Who are you ?" — how came you here ?" said the 
stranger, in a voice evidently disguised, after the two 
men had surveyed each other for a moment in silence. 
" Who am 1 1 — nay, I wear no mask. How came 
I here ?" — he pointed to the window — " by the same 
road you so lately travelled." 

" Victor de Preville !" 

" You know me, it seems. I know my presence to 
be undesired. You would, doubtless, have preferred 
meeting some other person ?" 

" Any other." 

A shudder passed through the frame of the stranger, 
and his voice sounded still more hollow beneath his 
mask. 

"My presence in this study," continued Victor, 
" is no intrusion. T am here by authority." 

" Whose ?" 

" It's owner's. Can you assert as much, and as 
truthfully ?" 

The stranger answered with a groan, and leant for 
support against the bureau. Victor regarded him 
steadfastly. 

" You are my prisoner — escape is impossible !" 

" Prisoner ! Boy — do you take me for a robber T 

" Worse ! I know you to be a spy — that basest of 
all created things — a political spy !" 

" It is false !" 

Victor pointed to the packet with the broken seal. 
The stranger made a hurried movement towards the 



122 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

table ; but the young man unsheathed his sword and 
stepped between. 

" It shall be for the Baron to judge. Another such 
movement towards these papers, and I run my sword 
up to the hilt in your body — too honourable a death 
for such a man !" 

The stranger seemed to reflect — his manner changed 
as he said — 

" Young man, I too am armed !" — and he drew the 
rapier that hung by his side. " There lies my path !" 
— he pointed to the window — " stay me, and the result 
be upon your own head !" 

" To leave this room, you must leave me — a 
corpse !" 

Again the stranger seemed shaken by some uncon- 
trollable emotion. 

" Madman ! — insensate fool ! — you know not what 
you do ! Let me pass !" 

He would have advanced, but the point of Victor's 
sword was at his breast — another step, and he would 
have been upon the quivering steel. 

" Listen — you are young, and I appeal to your 
heart. Let me pass, and on the word of a gentleman, 
I return to this room no more ! nor will I use the 
knowledge I have gained to — " 

But he was interrupted by Victors contemptuous 
laugh. 

" Gentleman ! — and do you lay claim to that sacred 
name 1 — you — a spy — a robber !" 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 123 

" Silence ! Cross steel if you will, but do not stab 
■with words — they may wound me — your sword cannot" 

Not another word was spoken — their swords crossed, 
and, with eyes bent on each other, they commenced 
the conflict. The clash of their weapons filled the 
room, but not a sound penetrated through the thick 
walls or beyond the massive door. The combat was 
soon over. Victor, to his surprise, found himself, 
though no mean adept with the sword, more than 
matched by the marvellous address and coolness of the 
stranger. Inch by inch he felt himself driven from 
the window he had so zealously barricaded, and forced 
backwards against the wall. Frantic with rage at this 
unlooked-for opposition, he resolved upon a desperate 
effort, and, watching his opportunity, made one rapid 
and dexterous lunge — a quick wrench of his wrist fol- 
lowed — a bright light flashed before his eyes, and his 
sword flew to the other end of the apartment. 

He was at the mercy of his opponent ; but the 
stranger seemed but little disposed for revenge. Lean- 
ing upon his long rapier, he said — still in the same 
hollow voice, which was so evidently assumed — 

" That last thrust was well meant, but, fortunately 
for you, failed in its purpose. Victor de Preville, you 
are spared a great crime. You would have taken my 
life — yours is now at my disposal. I give it you, and 
farewell." 

He was moving towards the window, when again 
Victor flung himself in his way. 



124 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

" Kill me, if you will ! but I have said it — you shall 
not leave this room and I alive. I scorn to accept life 
from a spy ! — a traitor ! — a midnight thief !" 

The stranger paused irresolutely. 

" The Baron's secrets are in your hands — I will 
know who you are. Strike ! if you will — but the spy 
shall be unmasked !" 

He prepared to spring upon the stranger, but with 
an imperious gesture he waved him back, saying, as he 
flung down his sword — 

" Unhappy boy ! — you will be satisfied !" 

" I will !" 

" You shall ! The act and its consequences be 
alike thine own." 

The voice had changed, and Victor threw up his 
hands with a gesture of alarm. 

" No ! — no ! — I am mad — it cannot be !" 

The mask was no longer upon the face of the 
stranger — he had wrenched asunder the strings, and it 
hung loosely down. With a wild cry Victor staggered 
back, and buried his face in his hands — 

" My Father !" 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 125 



CHAPTER IX. 

FATHER AND SON — A CHANGE OF PLANS — DIAMOND 
CUT DIAMOND. 

Night — that " mother of dark- winged dreams " — 
had drawn down the last folds of her mantle from the 
face of the sleeping earth, and day hastened to awaken 
her with the loud matin hymn of rejoicing birds, the 
pleasant lowing of the cattle, and the plaintive bleat - 
ings of the sheep, as they leaped in myriads from their 
folds, and whitened the verdant plains and hills. The 
sun was high in the heavens before his beams poured 
through the narrow windows, cut, or rather rent, 
in the crumbling walls of the chateau Pontarlac, and 
gilded (it was sadly in want of adornment of some 
kind) its grey, slated roof. One of these stray beams 
had struggled through a window rather wider than its 
fellows, and rested upon the face of a gentleman which 
wore an expression quite as sunny as itself. Seated 
in an easy chair — whose covering and deep fringes had 



126 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

once been magnificent, but which now was in the 
samestate of woeful dilapidation as everything round — 
•was the Chevalier de Preville, the owner of the 
chateau and all that it contained ; or, as he himself 
said, the Timon who had made this tumble-down old 
place a refuge from the world, where he might let a 
profitless life slip by, and " eat his root " in peace. 

On the morning in question the Chevalier's "root " 
consisted of a somewhat elegant dejeune, to which he 
had done ample justice ; and when we — exercising an 
author's right — break in upon his privacy, he has just 
lifted to a level with his eye a glass of fragrant Bor- 
deaux, and was allowing the sunbeam to pour through 
its rich contents, which it did, at the same time en- 
circling with its golden splendour not only the glass 
but the delicate white hand that held it, and the small 
but costly ruffle of lace, that hung like a dew-spangled 
cobweb about the wrist. 

Timon had breakfasted — and breakfasted well — and 
was, for an hour at least, at peace with the world. 

After the Chevalier had sufficiently delighted his 
eye, he lowered the glass to a dangerous proximity 
with his mouth — when the door of the room was 
opened, and Victor de Preville entered the room. 

Victor de Preville — but how changed from the 
previous night ! His eyes were wild and haggard — 
his cheeks had lost their healthy hue, and in its place 
had settled a paleness as of death. His dress was dis- 
ordered and travel-stained, as from some long and 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 127 

weary ride ; while Lis dark hair — generally so carefully 
arranged — hung about his face in ragged elf-locks. 

His father stared at this apparition for a moment 
with astonishment — then placing his glass upon the 
table, he motioned towards a chair. 

" Be seated, Victor." 

But his son remained standing, and said — 

" You desired to see me. I have but just returned, 
or should before this have obeyed your summons." 

" You are obedient !" said the Chevalier, with a 
pleased smile. 

" You are my father," was the answer. 

The Chevalier half rose in his easy chair, and said, 
with much tenderness — 

" I am proud of the title, Victor. You, it seems, 
are not so proud that I should claim it." 

Victor sighed. 

" .But what ails you, my son. Why this torn and 
travel-stained apparel — you could have had but little 
rest?" 

" Rest ! — I have had none — can have none. 1 rode 
all last night." 

" Where ?" 

" Nowhere — along the shore — across the heath. 
For miles and miles I chased forgetfulness — it was 
not to be overtaken by me !" 

The Chevalier looked at his son for some minutes 
without speaking — then said gently — 

" Sit down, Victor — let us talk together." 



128 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

The young man obeyed mechanically, His father 
then went on — 

" It is not my wish to remind you of benefits 
received ; but I have suffered much for you, Victor, — 
suffered — and suffered cheerfully, because you were 
my son — my only son."' • 

Victor's head was bent upon his breast. He 
seemed like one sunk in a stupor — he neither moved 
nor returned an answer, 

" Nay, this very — " the Chevalier hesitated — " line 
of policy you condemn so much, was thought of and 
adopted with a view to your future interests !" 

"For mine !" For a moment the indignant spirit 
of the man flashed up ; but again his head sunk 
on his breast as he said, "For me, then, my father, 
you have plunged yourself into such hopeless dis- 
honour !" 

" Yes — for you, Victor. For myself, I might have 
been content to have finished my life in this tumble- 
down old chateau ; but it is necessary that you should 
have the means of advancement. To gain them I 
listened to the offers of Fouche, and consented to act 
as the government agent, and watch my plotting 
neighbours in Brittany." 

" The Baron was your friend 1" 

"Yes, we are what the world would call fast 
friends; that is, the Baron condescends to admit to 
his intimacy the poor owner of Pontarlac, who, in his 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 129 

turn has submitted — long enough, as it appears to 
me — to be thus patronised." 

Victor could no longer control his emotion — he 
sobbed aloud, and buried his face in his hands. A 
mingled look of commiseration and contempt settled 
upon the fine features of the Chevalier. 

" This is useless, Victor — worse than useless — it is 
foolish ! Keep your own counsel, and no one will be 
the wiser for the discovery you have made — a dis- 
covery I would have willingly spared you ; but you 
were obstinate, and pulled down this trouble upon 
yourself." 

" But you, sir," — and, raising his pale face, Victor 
looked fixedly at his father — " you will never use the 
knowledge you have gained to the injury of the 
Baron i" 

"Humph!" 

" You would not — dare not !" 

" Dare not ! — that's as it may be ; but you see, 
Victor, there are others engaged in this affair — paid 
agents of that police of which Fouche is the powerful 
head, as Anatole Chiffon is one of the least scrupulous 
hands." 

" Chiffon ! — the Baron shall hang that scoundrel 
upon the nearest tree, as our farmers nail the trea- 
cherous kites to their barn-doors." 

" Tut ! tut ! — the Baron will do nothing of the 
kind. In the first place, he will remain in total 

K 



130 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

ignorance of the whole affair. In the second place, 
that any movement upon his part would be more 
likely to bring his own head to the axe than Chiffon's 
neck to the halter." 

Victor would have interrupted, but his father mo- 
tioned for silence, and continued — 

"You consider the matter in a light by far too 
romantic for the age we live in. Oblige me by de- 
scending from the high horse you have mounted, and 
leaving off heroics for a time, listen to reason. You 
must remember, my dear Victor, these are not the 
days of Corydon' and Phillis, but those of Fouche 
and the secret police. Stay — before I commence 
you might like to strengthen your nerves — the 
Bordeaux is excellent. No ! — well, perhaps you're 
right. You are hot-headed, and wine heats the blood 
sadly." 

He emptied his glass — refilled it — then settled 
himself back in his chair. Evidently the Chevalier 
had begun to view things more composedly. 

"D'Aubigny and I are rival politicians — that is 
all. He would become richer than he is by upsetting 
the existing order of things — I richer by maintaining 
it. Both of us look at France as a huge chess-table. 
We each move our men upon the board. Careful of 
their interests, inasmuch as being involved in our own, 
they assist our game. I checkmate the Baron and 
sweep the board— he loses his estates. I expressly 
stipulated for his personal safety, and I gain enough 



THE HOODED SXAKE. 131 

to purchase my own back again — a desirable end, and 
one worth working for." 

"And the means by which you have endeavoured 
to attain it !" 

" Means ! My dear boy, I must again entreat you 
to reflect calmly — if it is possible for youth so to do — 
upon the lessons that experience teaches. You are a 
Royalist. I do not find fault with your opinions, only 
I deem them ill-judged under the present aspect of 
affairs. Well, this system of espionage, which you — 
being young, and full of very generous, but utterly 
impracticable ideas — view with so much indignation, 
has been the one that has had the highest patronage 
from the Sicilian King,* who turned his prison into 
one large ear, that he might the better arrive at the 
secrets of its inmates — down to the First Consul's 
chief favourite, Joseph Fouche, who has carved all 
France into a similar shape, for precisely the same 
purpose." 

Without noticing Victor's gesture of horror, the 
Chevalier continued — 

" D'Aubigny and I were thrown together at the 
commencement of the revolution. We were both firm 
Royalists— that is, we stuck by our order; and, 
having nothing to gain by a change, and evei-ything 

* Dionysius I., who is said to have made i subterraneous 
cave in a rock — cut in the form of a human ear — for the purpose 
of hearing the discourse of his -victims, who were confined in the 
prison above. 



132 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

to lose, we anathematised the canaille, and sung, 
as loudly as any, ' Richard! mon roi, I'univers 
i'abandonne!' Unfortunately our prophecy was cor- 
rect — the universe abandoned our Richard quickly 
enough, or, rather, he was compelled to abandon the 
universe. I saw the interior of nearly all the prisons 
of Paris, and a series of the dirtiest and most rascally 
gaolers that ever wore the red-cap for an or- 
nament. My estates were confiscated, and your 
mother, with yourself, were saved by escaping over 
the frontier." 

"And the Baron d'Aubigny?" asked Victor. 

" Saved his estates from the clutch of the Re- 
publican tiger by the good offices of his own house- 
steward, who — being a great rascal in every other 
respect — had become a pet of Robespierre." 

" The Baron was your friend. I have often heard 
him say — " 

" How he lectured and advised me 1 — me, who — " 
the Chevalier was no longer calm — he had risen from 
the chair, and paced the room quickly as he spoke — 
41 Listen, Victor! In my youth I had one vice — a 
great one, but it was shared by many. I had a passion 
for the gaming-table. I grant it was a Maelstrom 
that swept down much of the fortune that the rascals 
left me ; but when times changed, and once more we 
were able to walk abroad with a tolerable certainty 
that our heads were our own for a day, at least, 
d'Aubigny found himself a rich man again, and I was 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 133 

a beggar. He was my friend — you have said so, he 
has said so — and I appealed to him to assist me in 
paying a heavy debt of honour that I owed. I frankly 
owned how I had lost the money, and he — reverting 
to his former warnings and advice — refused. The 
sum was a large one. I tried elsewhere, but to raise 
it was impossible. My last money I had sent to you 
at Coblentz. Nay, never start, Victor ! Your father 
never gave grudgingly—least of all, to you. The 
promised time of payment expired, and the man to 
whom I owed the money insulted me in the public 
promenade." 

" My father !" 

The Chevalier laughed, but with much bitterness. 

" You know that I have some little skill with the 
sword. A meeting followed — though he might have 
refused it till the debt was paid — and the next day 
they buried him at Montmartre." 

The Chevalier, who was standing by the table, 
filled his glass, and emptied it almost unconsciously. 

" I have since paid the debt, with interest, to his 
wife and children — to do which I was forced to sell 
all that was left me but this beggar's patch of Pon- 
tarlac. But I never forgot the high morality — the 
prudence of d'Aubigny." 

"You quarrelled?" 

" Quarrelled ! — no — is the boy a fool 1 We became 
firmer friends than ever. You have heard of that 
snake who hides its threatening eyes beneath a hood, 



134 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

"which it raises only Avhen sure of its victim, and it 
throws back its head to strike V 

With a cry of anguish, Victor sprang to his feet. 

"Father! father! — this scheme of revenge — this 
■wicked, cruel scheme, you must forego — must — " 

"Must! ; — Victor, do you know me? — are you 
mad T 

" It is you that are mad — blind — not to see — not 
to see— rto know — " a sudden faintness came over him — 
he staggered and leant for support against the wall. 
With a bound the Chevalier was by his side — affection 
in his voice and eyes — alarm in the words that trem- 
bled from his tongue. 

'■ Victor, my son ! what would you have me know? 
tell me — this paleness is frightful — horrible! Speak! 
or I shall think that I have killed my son !" 

Grasping his father's arm convulsively, Victor 
gazed into his face — a face that was now as pale and 
agitated as his own. 

" The Baron's daughter — 

" Eugenie?" — and then the Chevalier's face crim- 
soned — and his son thanked Heaven ; for he read in 
that rising blood the only sign of repentance he had 
seen — it was the glow of shame. 

" Eugenie d'Aubigny is my wife !" 

The Chevalier de Preville was a man of iron nerve. 
Beneath that winning and graceful exterior was con- 
cealed an energy of purpose, and a cool and calculating 
mind to guide it, that none but the keenest of 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 135 

observers might discover. But for his all-absorbing 
love for this, his only son, he would have been a man 
after Talleyrand's own heart— if such an article formed 
an item in that distinguished statesman's anatomy, — 
skilled to varnish over his real meaning by smooth and 
deceptive words, — knowing well when to use those, 
with him, equally deadly weapons — the sneer and the 
smile. Slow to decide upon the means to be adopted 
to gain his ends; but, when decided upon, unscrupu- 
lous in their use. 

It must have been, indeed, a terrible resolve that 
had induced such a man — so fitted to make his way 
among the strife of factions now raging in all the con- 
tinental courts — where "diplomacy" was the gift most 
prized — to bury himself, as he had done, in the dreary 
solitude of Pontarlac ! 

The end he had in view, he has himself explained. 
The edifice he had taken such pains to build was near 
its completion — and — five words from the lips of his 
son — and the edifice lay in ruins at his feet ! 

He answered not a word — but stood speechless — 
shaking, in every limb, like one struck by a sudden 
palsy. Victor took him by the hand, and led him, 
unresisting as a child, to a chair. 

"Father!" he said, "it is not yet too late to 
wipe from our escutcheon this terrible blot. This evil 
work must be undone. The information you have 
gleaned — how, let us for ever forget— must never pass 
your lips. The Baron we will warn— thank Heaven, 



136 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

in time — of the precipice that lies before him. You 
■will save him — save me ; for his fortunes are mine, as 
they are my wife's !" 

The Chevalier only regarded him with a vacant 
and haggard stare. 

" This charge against the Baron can only be sub- 
stantiated by you. Fouche never strikes but when the 
prey is certain. There is no one — " 

The Chevalier spoke at last. 

" Fool ! — there is one." 

" One !— who T 

De Preville shuddered as he answered ; for now he, 
too, saw the peril — the deadly peril — that environed 
them. 

" Fouche's master-spy — the keenest, cleverest of 
them all — Anatole Chiffon !" 

A knock — then two more, sharply repeated — was 
heard outside the door. Both father and son started. 
The former rose immediately to his feet. 

" It is he ! There is an old proverb, that when we 
talk of the fiend he is sure to appear at our elbow — 
this scoundrel is here to prove fche a truth of it !" 

Victor de Preville gazed upon his father with asto- 
nishment. Could this be the same man who, but a few 
moments before, he had seen speechless and powerless — 
shaking in every limb, as with some vague yet terrible 
dread ! The face was as calm and unruffled as the 
bright sky without, from which every vestige of cloud 
and storm-rack had long since disappeared. The lip 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 137 

had possibly a tighter compression than usual; but 
that was all. He crossed the room, and opened a door 
opposite to that from which the sounds had proceeded, 
and said — 

" He must not see you here. I have my reasons,, 
but do not question me now. It is well he did not 
know of our meeting last night. Your retreat was 
not a moment too soon. This fellow has more than 
the cunning of the fox, and the nose of a sleuth-hound ! 
Do you wait for me in the salon — I will descend when 
he is gone." 

" But this man — how to baffle him 1 He must be 
stayed at once, or — " 

" Be that my care. Mine, I see, is a Penelope's 
web, and I must myself undo the work I have so care- 
fully fashioned. Go !" 

Victor was passing out, when his father laid his 
hand upon his shoulder, and said, kindly — 

" You, too, have erred. A confidence should have 
existed between father and son. Had there been no 
secret between us, how much evil would have been 
spared us both — nay, we will talk of this some other 
time. Listen !" 

The knocking was repeated. 

" There is scant time for explanations when the 
panther is scratching at the door. Go — all shall be as- 
you wish. I have said it !" 

He closed the door softly behind Victor — then,, 
returning Jo his chair, resumed his seat. 



138 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

" It's a strange world !" lie said — " wheels within 
wheels. I lay the train and prepare the match — and 
lo ! it is my own house I would blow into the air ! 
Well, well — it is the task of genius to conquer diffi- 
culties; and this rascal, who is purring outside the 
door there, is my greatest." 

Again came the three knocks — but this time 
louder. 

" So ho ! — impatient." 

The Chevalier, without moving from his chair, 
pulled a silken cord that hung near it, and the door, 
which Victor had opened with his pass-key, swung 
open, and Anatole Chiffon appeared upon its thresh- 
old. 

He entered, and, with an habitual distrust, glanced 
sharply round. 

" Monsieur le Chevalier is alone ?" 

" Monsieur le Chevalier was asleep, till awakened 
by your knocking. I wish you would make your visits 
at a somewhat more seasonable time than the morning. 
I have but just breakfasted, and yours is not the kind 
of face to assist a man's digestion." 

The Chevalier de Pre\ille was himself again — the 
same half-sneer was upon his lips, but the sunny light 
played about his face as usual. 

Chiffon bowed, with that peculiar affectation of 
humility by which knaves so often proclaim to their 
otherwise superiors the equality of crime. 

" Monsieur le Chevalier is facetious !" 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 139 

" I am glad to hear it —it's my only remedy, my 
good Anatole, against that atmosphere of mystery you 
carry about with you." 

Chiffon rubbed his hands slowly together, and was 
silent. 

" Have you found the document ?" 

"Which?" 

" Which ! — why, that which you say you are sure 
is in existence : that which bears Louis's signature at 
its foot." 

" No !" 

" You have come to tell me that V 

" Monsieur le Chevalier knows I seldom come but 
to announce a success !" 

" Well — which of your many hot irons has come 
out red-hot? — what especial act of villany has suc- 
ceeded ? — for your pleasing countenance carries with 
it an announcement of the fact." 

" The Baron d'Aubigny has returned with news 
that it appears must have met him on the road." 

" What news ?" and the Chevalier filled a fresh 
glass with the Bordeaux. 

" That of the young Count de Marigny's death." 

We have said that the Chevalier was a man of 
great self-possession— he showed it now. The trial 
was a severe one — but he carried the Bordeaux safely 
to his lips. 

" The Baron's plans are then altered. De Marigny 
was the strongest tie that bound him to the exiled 



140 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

court. It is snapped by an accident, and Mademoi- 
selle must look elsewhere for a husband." 

" Well, she at least is not likely to break her 
heart. Is that all your news V 

" Not quite all. I took part in an interview 
between the Baron and his daughter.''' 

" That is, you listened ?" 

" I did my duty to those whose money I 
receive." 

" The Baron, of course ?" 

" Monsieur le Chevalier is still facetious. I can 
wait. When he has finished his wine and jokes, I 
will proceed." 

" Go on, man, — I've done with both. That night- 
bird visage of thine has soured the one, and fright- 
ened the other." 

The Chevalier crossed one leg over the other, and 
caressed it with much affection. 

" Mademoiselle seemed disturbed in her mind, and 
told her father she had to make to him a long- 
deferred confession." 

Was it a sudden cramp in the Chevalier's well- 
turned leg that made him wince so suddenly ? If so, 
it was but a transient pain ; for he looked into the 
valet's face with a smile, and caressed his leg as 
before. 

" And this confession she made V 

" This confession she did not make. Farmer Bon- 
champ was announced, and the Baron, who had pressing 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 141 

business with him, "was compelled to leave his daughter 
abruptly. This evening he returns to the chateau, and," 
concluded the valet, modestly, " this evening I shall 
know all !" 

" Tut ! — what can the confession — a love one, 
doubtless-^-have to interest us ? You are wasting 
your valuable time, Anatole !" 

" I am not yet certain of that. When walking in a 
laybrinth, it is wise to pick up every thread till you 
find the clue !" 

The Chevalier laughed. 

" Well, well — worm out every secret in Cupid's 
budget, if you so please. You will have enough to do. 
But what paper is that you are turning so cautiously 
in your hands ?" 

" The despatch for Paris. Shall it be forwarded 
to-day ?" 

" No — give it to me — I have a postcript to add. 
To-morrow will be time enough. I shall forward it 
by Jean, who will travel post. Is that all your 
news V 

" All." 

" Good ! May I request you, then, to seek out 
the major-domo of this bachelor establishment, and 
demand some refreshment at his hands. For myself — • 
I will re -peruse this despatch, and add a postcript 
before I ride over to Pont-Croix." 

With another low bow, Chiffon, after a few more 



142 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

words, departed as mysterously as he came ; and then 
the Chevalier started from his seat. 

" A Penelope's web, indeed !" he said, as he 
snatched the despatch from the table. Here, then, is 
the first thread that I break " — and in a hundred frag- 
ments the paper was scattered upon the floor. 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 143 



CHAPTER X. 

PAUL LEBBUN HAS A STROKE OF GOOD FORTUNE 

A COMING STORM. 

It was about a week after the occurrences men- 
tioned in the last chapter, that the Breton farmer, 
Dominique Bonchamp, stood in the very centre of the 
large gateway that opened into his well-stocked farm- 
yard. His countenance was as beaming as ever, his 
hands were deep sunk in his pockets, and his heart was 
also evidently there, for he had that day been reckon- 
ing up the gains of the last half-year, and found a 
balance greatly in his favour, — there was self-congratu- 
lation in the merry twinkle of his eye, and a certificate 
of contentment in the fleshy fulness of his jovial face. 
Dominique Bonchamp was a prosperous man ; and, 
from the pinnacle of hard-earned success, gazed with a 
favourable eye upon the world. In early life, the 
good farmer had been as discontented and as combative 
as his fellows ; but, somehow, he had begun to philo- 



144 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

sophise — an easy theory to do when the purse is full — 
upon the " troubles of the times," and came to the con- 
clusion that as long as things went on quietly, it were 
best to let them alone. " Pooh, pooh !" he would say, 
"just let the world wag on, and don't meddle : better 
cold feet than burnt fingers ;" and so it was plain to 
all that the world wagged well with Pere Dominique. 
Yvonne Bonchamp had, as we have said, many suitors, 
but none had as yet found much favour with the farmer 
— -not that any had received from him the harsh 
rebuff or solemn interdiction ; he was too good a 
fellow for that, and, moreover, remembered that he had 
been young himself, and so made allowance for the 
attraction so pretty a face as Yvonne's afforded to all 
the rustic beaux of the neighbourhood. 

" Let the wolves come," Dominique would say with 
a jolly chuckle, as Corydon and Daphnis would come 
dropping in of an evening to take their seats by the 
farmer's fire, to gaze sheepishly at Yvonne, and to 
scowl fiercely at each other ; " Let them come ; my 
pretty lamb is safe within the fold, and the old shep- 
herd is an experienced, and, therefore, vigilant watcher." 
Many was the ardent swain who had hastened in the 
extremity of his love to lay purse and heart at farmer 
Dominique's feet — but the worthy Breton only shook 
his head and said, "No, no, it won't do, Michael" — 
or " It won't do, Jean; you're a very good fellow, but 
you won't do for my Yvonne ; that's a capital Sunday 
coat of yours, but when you walk to church it will be 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 145 

with some other flower than Yvonne in your button- 
hole. I have worked hard to get a few things together, 
and he who succeeds me in the farm must have more 
than enough to sustain it. There, don't be downcast, 
but draw your stool nearer to the fire, and take a drink 
of cider. You're not the man to break your heart for 
a woman. Care, who's a terrible writing master, 
hasn't yet made even a line on your young forehead. 
Break your heart ! — pooh ! drink, and pass the 
cider." And so phlegmatic Michael or Jean buried 
their faces, and their sorrows, in the pitcher, and, with 
the resignation of the martyr, passed the cider as 
directed. To-day, however, a suitor had re-appeared — 
we say re-appeared, as he had twice before tried his 
fortune and been rejected — and was (proving that 
there is nothing like perseverance) triumphantly suc- 
cessful. The suitor was our old friend, PaulLebrun; 
he had that morning proposed for the hand of Yvonne 
Bonchamp, and been accepted by her father. Our 
readers would like to know the reason of this sudden 
success ? — let them listen to the farmer, and he will 
doubtless explain it. 

We left him in the full enjoyment of a prosperous 
proprietorship, standing upon his own threshold ; 
within a few feet of him, seated upon an inverted 
pail, is the happy Paul, who, while listening to the 
farmer, glances anxiously, yet nervously, towards 
the farm, hoping to see the bright pure face of 
Yvonne at either door or window. But his wish 



146 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

remained ungratified ; for the alarmed girl, on the 
first intimation of her father's approval of the young 
seaman's suit, had retreated to her chamber, where, 
with a face bathed in tears, she was kneeling before 
the image of the Virgin that hung beside her bed, and 
appealed to her — the blessed symbol of maternity — 
for counsel and succour. 

" And so you will renounce the sea, Paul 1" 

" For ever !" Paul answered with much em- 
phasis. 

" Good, very good ! it is not everybody that has 
had such luck as your uncle, Pierre Lebrun — the poor 
man ! How many vessels did you say called him part 
owner V 

" Three; one fvoni Monte Video, the two others 
from the States." 

" All safe 9" 

" They are all three now anchored in the harbour 
at Brest." 

" Good, very good !" Then it seemed suddenly to 
strike the farmer that his gratification was possibly too 
apparent, for he rubbed the back of his huge hand 
across his eyes, and throwing as much as possible a 
lugubrious accent into his voice, said — • 

" What an uncertain thing is life ! To think of my 
dear old friend Pierre Lebrun dying so suddenly !" 

Pere Dominique's hearty detestation of the ava- 
ricious and surly old trader was well known to Paul; 
he, however, with the wisdom of the parrot in the 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 147 

story, contented himself with thinking a great deal, 
but said nothing. 

" And to think of him leaving all his money to 
you — to you — who he would never allow to enter his 
warehouse doors — and who he always denominated as 
a disgrace — " 

Paul moved uneasily upon his seat, and glanced 
towards the windows of the farm — Yvonne might be 
there, and the farmer's voice was a loud one — 

"I never disgraced my uncle," he said, hastily ; 
" nor offended him in aught that I know, excepting in 
refusing to undergo the slavery of his counting-house. 
I preferred the tar-barrel to the inkstand — a seat in 
the cross-trees of a gallant ship to one on a ricketty 
stool in a room that was worse than the hold of a slaver. 
He was my father's brother, but I asked him for no- 
thing; the kindness he proffered I refused — that's 
all." 

" You were a brave fellow, Paul, and folly is ex- 
cusable in youth ; but it was a generous act of your 
uncle's to forgive you." 

" He'd neither chick nor child belonging to him ; 
I am the only one of the family now living. The pro- 
perty comes to me naturally. My uncle's death was 
sudden : had he made a will — " 

" The result might have been different, no doubt. 
He was always eccentric — poor Pierre Lebrun !" 

The farmer sunk his hands deeper in his pockets, 
and moved his lips — at the same time an abstruse ex- 



148 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

pression settled upon his face — lie was evidently calcu- 
lating — 

"Let me see — the part ownership of the three 
brigs — the little brandy-distillery at Nantes — the two 
flax fields near Hennebon — the — the — why, you're a 
rich man, Paul ! " 

The sailor answered carelessly and truthfully — 

" I value it but little, were it fifty times as much 
— did I not hope that Yvonne would condescend to 
share it with me ; or, rather, that she would become 
mistress of it all, and accept me as a portion of the 
property: it would be my delight to slave for her." 

Dominique Bonchamp chuckled — he had himself 
been young. 

" Parbleu! you're an honest young fellow, Paul; 
but that's a kind of slavery that the marriage-ring 
generally abolishes ; nevertheless, my Yvonne's a girl 
of ten thousand — " 

" Of ten million !" interrupted the sailor. 

The farmer bowed to the correction, and pro- 
ceeded — 

" Of ten million ; but her inclinations will never 
be forced by me. Win her and wear her — you have 
my consent." 

" But you approve of my suit T 
" Heartily, and will assist it. Yvonne shall know 
the wishes of her father, and as I know you to be a 
favourite of hers, I've no doubt she'll gratify them — 
there's my hand upon it." 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 149 

Dominique extended his hand, which the young 
sailor rose hastily to grasp — so hastily, that his foot 
caught in the leathern strap of the pail, and he came 
heavily to the ground. 

" That's a bad omen," said a dismal voice close be- 
side them; "a very bad omen. He that stumbles, 
when about to grasp a friendly hand, is certain to have 
many an obstacle to disturb friendship." 

" What do you mean by your croaking V asked 
Lebrun, angrily, as he sprung to his feet, and turned 
upon the superstitious Martin, who, leaning upon a 
hayfork, surveyed him with a melancholy shake of the 
head. " Do you mean that Pere Dominique and my- 
self are like to quarrel V 

" It needn't be a quarrel — it may be death," 
answered the cheerful Martin. "Nine cases out of 
ten, a stumble at such a time forbodes it." 

" If you darken my happiness with that raven 
visage of thine, I'll — " 

But here Pere Dominique interposed — 

" Beware the hasty word, but never lift the hasty 
hand, Paul; especially against Martin, who is one of 
the kindest souls alive — only somewhat prone to take 
a gloomy view of things; it's his nature — isn't it, 
Martin r 

" I can't laugh like the others, Pere Dominique, 
when I know by what dangers we're surrounded, and 
how the fiend is on the watch night and day, to ensnare 
us; and as for warnings, I'm surprised that you should 



150 THE HOODEE SNAKE. 

despise them. When your cousin Oliver was engaged 
to Rose Bernard, didn't I say that he would never 
place the silver ring on her finger, and that the mar- 
riage-lights would glimmer round his coffin ; and didn't 
it all occur on the very road to the church, when — " 

Snatching up the bucket, the fiery young sailor 
flung it full at Martin ; but that Job's comforter, who 
had evidently a " warning" of its coming, stepped 
briskly aside, and the heavy missile shot past him. 
This movement on the part of Lebrun had the effect 
of bringing his anecdote to an abrupt conclusion, though 
he gazed after the bucket with an air of phlegmatic in- 
difference, and shook his head as solemnly as before; 
nor was his equanimity to be disturbed by the loud 
laughter of his master. 

" Come, come, Paul ! I mustn't have Martin hurt, 
though the song he sings is not exactly the one I should 
choose for a wedding festival; nor can I afford to have 
Marie Jeanne's milk-pails thrown about in that fashion; 
it's lucky she did not see it, for her temper's sooner 
ruffled than Martin's." 

He looked towards a side-door of the great strag- 
gling farm, at which Marie Jeanne had just made her 
appearance, and was now busy distributing some 
victuals to a poor mendicant woman and her family. 

"Hilloh!" shouted the jolly farmer, "hilloh! 
Marie Jeanne, let them cross the threshold, and eat 
and drink with a roof over them — the little ones will 
be none the worse for a warm, so put a fresh log on 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 151 

the fire. The poor are guests sent by God, says the 
proverb, and it's written on every Breton's door-post — " 
then, without waiting to hear Marie Jeanne's reply, 
or the thanks of the poor woman, he turned to Paul 
Lebrun — 

" And do you come with me, Paul; you've a long 
walk before you to Pont Croix, and must empty a 
wine-flask before you start, if only to drink a heaven- 
ward passage to the soul of your good uncle ; besides," 
he continued, seeing Lebrun hesitate, " Yvonne will 
be there to welcome us." 

No other inducement was needed, and with a quick 
step — ah! the wings love fastens to our feet! — Paul 
followed the farmer into the house. 

Martin still leaned upon his hay-fork, and groaned, 
as he looked after them. When they had disappeared 
into the house, his thoughts resolved themselves into 
words — 

" What Fate has ordained it's not for man to alter : 
he sleeps qxiiet who has a pall for his coverlid, and it's 
not for you, Paul Lebrun, that the bazvalan* will knock 

The bazvalan was the person deputed to ask girls in mar- 
riage, and was usually a tailor, who presented himself with one 
stocking blue, the other white. — Michelet. 

" In Cornouaile," says M. Emile Souvestre, " as soon as a 
young man has drawn his lot and escaped the conscription, he 
begins to think of marriage. Returned safe from this strange 
lottery, opened for the benefit of the cannon, he immediately 
seeks to place his life under the shelter of a hut, consecrated by 
the presence of a wife and an infant's cradle. He rarely, how- 



152 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

at the farm-house door. I dreamt last night — and last 
night was a Friday — that I saw him lying at the foot 
of Cape Paz, with a winding-sheet rolled up on his 
breast — and when he threw the bucket at me, there 
was a glare in his eye that flickered up and down, like 
a corpse-candle. It's a sad thing, and he so young; 
but he who fights against destiny, beats the air with 
his fists : it passes over him notwithstanding ;" and so 
saying, with another "gusty sigh," Martin shouldered 
his hay-fork, and strode away in the direction of the 
barn." 

Two hours after Paul Lebrun was on his way to 
Pont Croix. 

If any man had reason for rejoicing, that man was 
Paul Lebrun ; but the other day a poor sailor waiting 
for a ship to offer itself to bear him away once more 
to lead a life of toil and adventure, he now found 
himself a small landed proprietor, and the possessor of, 
for Brittany, no inconsiderable sum of ready cash. 

ever, consults affection in the choice of a companion; for it is a 
home he seeks rather than an attachment; he therefore applies 
to the tailor, in order to know something of the marriageable 
young people of the neighbourhood. The tailor is in the habit 
of visiting house after house, in the exercise of his occupation ; 
and as he is greatly despised by the men, he consoles himself 
by rendering himself useful to the women, who appreciate him 
accordingly. He is therefore the person officially employed in 
case of a projected alliance; it is his duty to " carry the word" 
and he is consequently a person of great importance with the 
young of both sexes." Monsieur Souvestre makes the colour of 
the bazvalan's stockings red and purple. 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 153 

Yvonne had not absolutely refused him — she had 
been cold, but what of that ? she was not one of those 
girls who at the first offer throw themselves into- 
the arms of their lovers — on the contrary, she had 
listened patiently to all that Lebrun, and then her 
father, had to urge upon the subject, and had only 
asked for time, refusing to give an answer without 
due reflection. Decidedly Paul had reason to hope, 
and he thought so too, or he would not have sung 
so loudly — 

"Oh ! then never despair, fond lover, 
There's hope while the heart beats high ; 
The lark, whose nest is nearest earth, 
Finds her music in the sky." 

But Paul found his music everywhere — in the sky — on 
the earth — in the wind that shook the trees and swept 
over the long grass — in the hum of the innumerable 
insects that filled the evening air, and in the quaver- 
ing song of " Nature's choristers," the birds, who thus 
poured out their thanksgiving before retiring to their 
rests ; but the principal music that he found was in 
the contentment of his own heart. 

The news of Paul's good fortune was known every- 
where, to judge from the salutations and words of 
congratulation that were addressed to him by all he 
met, and they were many while he kept to the road ; 
but soon he quitted the beaten track, and struck off 
into a wide sea of broom, intersected here and there 
by narrow ribbon-like paths, which twisted in and 



\5i THE HOODED SNAKE. 

out, as serpents twist and wind, when, suddenly 
alarmed, they seek a hiding-place. But Paul Lebrun 
knew each turn of the path he had chosen, though to 
a stranger it would have been a task more than 
difficult. 

He had walked a considerable distance through 
this verdant sea, when the hoarse murmur of waves 
met his ear, and the dull booming of the surf as it 
broke upon a distant beach ; then there whirled above 
his head several sea birds, who rose and fell, swept 
round and round, or seemed to rest motionless in the 
air, poised gracefully on their outstretched wings. 

" We shall have another storm," said the sailor, as 
he looked up at the fluttering birds j " they say these 
white-winged wanderers are the souls of shipwrecked 
seamen, and their screams but friendly warnings of 
the coming tempest. For my part, sea-dog as I am, 
I could never yet hear their shrill cries without a 
foreboding of danger at my heart." He still continued 
walking as he looked up and watched the birds, and 
while thus musing diverged somewhat from the track ■ 
he had not gone far before he became aware of his 
error, and halted abruptly. 

" Tiens ! when the helmsman takes to star-gazing, 
it's all up with the ship," — he laughed; "my brains 
have gone wool-gathering, and no wonder, when my 
heart makes such a noise against my ribs. After 
looking into Yvonne's eyes I feel dazzled for hours 
to come — it's like gazing at the noonday sun in the 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 155 

Tropics — which blinds a poor fellow from its very- 
brightness and beauty." He pushed aside the tall 
wall of broom before him and passed out upon a 
smooth carpet of short grass, which spread itself out 
till it terminated at the edge of a long line of cliff. 
The heath finished abruptly within twenty feet of the 
precipice, and Paul Lebrun stood upon a broad plat- 
form of rock, and gazed out upon the immensity of 
waters — upon the great ocean whose broad bosom had 
been to him as a mother's, soothing his sorrows and 
singing him to sleep, as he lay in his hammock, with 
a rough yet kindly lullaby. And now he was about to 
forsake his parent, bid a farewell to her for ever — 
and, offering sacrifice to the divinity of love, sit be- 
neath his vine-tree and cultivate the happiness of 
home. 

Some such thoughts were in the young sailor's 
mind as he stood here upon the summit of Cape Kaz, 
and gazed down, nearly three hundred feet, upon the 
roaring and restless sea. 

The view from this " formidable" cape was one of 
surpassing grandeur, and included seven leagues of 
coast-line ; and while Paul Lebrun stood, with folded 
arms and rapt look, upon the vast rock, we will, upon 
the principle that what has been already well done it 
is unnecessary to do again, borrow from a great 
French historian, who, in speaking of Brittany, thus 
describes the scene before us : — 

" Let us seat ourselves on this formidable Cape Eaz; 



156 THE EOODED SNAKE. 

upon this overhanging rock, three hundred feet above 
the sea, and whence we descry seven leagues of coast- 
line. This is, in some sort, the sanctuary of the Celtic 
world. The dot you discern beyond Dead-Man's Bay 
is the island of Sein, a desolate, treeless, and all but 
unsheltered sand-bank ; the abode of some poor and 
compassionate families, who yearly save the ship- 
wrecked mariners. This island was the abode of the 
sacred virgins who gave the Celts fine weather or 
shipwreck. There they celebrate their gloomy and 
murderous orgies, and the seamen heard with terror, 
far off at sea, the clash of barbaric cymbals. This 
island is the traditionary birthplace of Myrddyn, the 
Merlin of the middle age. All these rocks around us 
are towns which have been swallowed up ; this is 
Douarnenez, that is, the Breton Sodom. Those two 
ravens you see, ever flying heavily on the shore, are 
the souls of King Grallo and his daughter ; and those 
shrill whistlings, which one would take for the voice 
of the tempest, are the crierien, the ghosts of the 
shipwrecked clamouring for burial." 

Such is the wild scene that meets the eyes of those 
who look down and around them from the dizzy 
summit of Cape Raz. 

The sun was sinking rapidly below the horizon; 
great masses of dark and threatening cloud built 
themselves up, growing larger and larger, and each 
minute shutting out more of the bright face 
of heaven ; the moaning of the sea grew louder 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 157 

and louder, and the cry of the sea-birds more 
shrill— 

" The storm is coming, as I thought, and faster 
than I expected — short is the note of preparation on 
this wild coast — the tempest is upon you in all its 
force, ere, alarmed by the napping of its wings, you 
can put about and run for a refuge." He turned as he 
said this, and began to pursue a path that led along 
the rocks : " I shall scarcely get to Pont Croix to- 
night ; no matter, I shall keep along by the cliffs, and, 
at the worst, can find shelter and a welcome in old 
Jalec's cottage." He hurried his pace, only stopping at 
intervals to look out into the heaving waste of waters, 
or down upon the beach, upon which the huge billows 
were now tumbling with the noise of thunder. " God 
keep all ships from this cruel coast for this night !" 
prayed the young sailor as he hastened along — "the 
vultures are already moving in their nests, I fear, and 
are whetting their beaks for the prey these waves may 
roll on shore." Suddenly Paul stopped, for within a 
dozen yards of him was the figure of a man ascending ; 
or rather he had completed the ascent, of one of the 
many rocky paths that was cut into the face of the 
cliffs. The man's features were hidden by the broad 
brim of his hat ; he carried a gun upon his shoulder, 
and some birds, which he had evidently but lately 
shot, slung to its barrel. Grasping a rugged projeotion 
of rock, he swung himself up upon the smooth plat- 
form on the top of the cliff. A few paces and the two 



158 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

men met — -with a surly " good night" he in the broad- 
brimmed heavy flapped hat was about to pass — when 
an exclamation from the young sailor caused him to 
remove his eyes from the ground — he looked hastily 
up and then echoed the cry of astonishment — Paul 
Lebrun was standiDg face to face Avith his rival 
Keroulas Carnac. 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 159 



CHAPTER XL 



CAPE KAZ. 



The two men gazed on each other for some mo- 
ments without speaking ; but their dark and lowering 
brows showed the intensity of their hate — the great 
storm clouds, that were covering the sea with a sable 
canopy, were not more threatening. 

Paul Lebrun was the first to speak — 

"A good evening to Keroulas Carnac; it must 
be brave sport " — and he pointed contemptuously to 
the birds that were suspended from the other's gun — 
" that keeps you from the farm so late." 

" These are but poor birds, and I almost regret 
having killed them, for they have done me no harm ; 
but there's a braver sport to come, and it's for that I 
keep my gun in readiness." 

" And what sport may that be 1" 



160 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

" Shooting the night-hawk when it comes too near 
the nest of the dove. I have watched one hovering 
about the farm lately." 

" And what has made you the dove's protector ?" 

" Her weakness and her love." 

" Love !" laughed the other — ■" Keroulas Carnac 
would hold the dove in a cage ; but the beautiful bird 
has wings, and is free to fly where she pleases." 

"Accursed be the hand that would seek to fetter 
her — but let the treacherous fowler beware " — and the 
peasant struck his hand upon the butt of his gun — 
" how he spreads snares in her path !" 

" And let others beware how they meddle in what 
concerns them not !" 

" Not concern me !" — and the fire of the volcano 
blazed up through its covering of ice — " Yvonne Bon- 
champ not concern me ! — do you think this pretty bird, 
that I have tended and worshipped from the time that 
I was no higher than this gun " — and he struck the 
butt-end upon the earth — "will now tear my heart 
into fragments, and make her nest and home beneath 
your thatch T 

" It is my hope that she will. Her father — " 

Keroulas interrupted him with a bitter smile — 

" Her father — yes, Dominique Bonchamp is a good 
man and an affectionate father ; but his mother was 
from Normandy, and so he loves a full purse and over- 
flowing barns somewhat more than a true Breton 
should ; and he who but yesterday would have got the 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 161 

quick answer and contemptuous shrug is to-day wel- 
comed with open arms." 

" You would say — ?" 

" That I have heard of your good fortune and seen 
its results. You are rich, and I am poor, and so Pere 
Dominique blows with a cold breath upon me ; for he 
knows that I have no uncle whose death I can 
pray for as a benefit — no chance of a grave suddenly 
opening, over which I might step to fortune. Your 
uncle'' — 

" isot a word against him, or — " 

The swarthy face of the Breton peasant grew 
purple with suppressed emotion, but he laughed till the 
rocks rung again as he said — 

" Listen to him ! — to Paul Lebrun, who has so 
often coupled the name of the old miser, Pierre 
Lebrun, with wild jests, as he uttered it over 
the wine-pot in the cabaret ! Your affection is of as 
rapid a growth as your fortune." 

The sailor clenched his hands, and the veins on his 
forehead stood out like whipcord ; but he said nothing, 
and Keroulas resumed — 

"But let him who steps between Yvonne Bonchamp 
and Keroulas Carnac look to himself. Should he 
dare—" 

" Dare !" 

" I would shoot him, with less compunction than I 
have shot these birds." 

" And if you met him here, face to face, Keroulas 

M 



162 THE HOODED SXAKE. 

Carnac, and he told you Yvonne Boncliamp should he 
Ms?" 

" I would fling him over the cliff, as I do this 
bundle of feathers" — and, snatching the birds from the 
ground, where they had fallen, he cast them far away 
into the air. 

"Your words are stronger than your hands," 
sneered the other. " That I love Yvonne you know- 
that she shall be my wife I tell you now — not by 
snares, or other fowler's wiles, but of her own free 
will she shall make her home with me and nestle in 
my bosom." 

He was aboiit to pass the peasant, who stood di- 
rectly in the path he must traverse, when the latter 
said — 

" Her father has promised you this f 
"Kay, she her- elf has — " 
"Liar!" 

The word had scarcely escaped his lips, when Ke- 
roulas reeled backwards and fell heavily to the earth, 
and Lebrun, with raised arm and flashing eyes, stood 
over him. 

With a quick writhing movement, the ex-Ohouan 
placed himself out of the reach of his adversary, 
and tli en sprung erect and faced him. The coun- 
tenances of the two men, as thus they stood, pre- 
paring for the deadly grapple, upon this smooth plat- 
form of rock, were terrible to see : that of the Breton 
peasant was already stained with blood, and wore that 



THE HOODED SXAKE. 163 

savage look of settled hate and iron determination that 
marks the Breton character when thoroughly roused ; 
his hat was off ; his long dark hair streamed over his 
shoulders ; the lips were drawn back from the teeth, 
which gleamed white as a tiger's. The wild Celtic 
nature was no longer to be controlled : it was the 
triumph of the animal over the man. 

Nor was the sailor less stirred by the mad tempest 
of passion, and with an eye as fierce — a foot as firm as 
his rival's, he awaited the onset. 

Not a word was said — a bound, and each had fiercely 
grappled with the other, straining every muscle and 
nerve, with one fearful aim in view — to urge his oppo- 
nent nearer and nearer to the edge of the cliff. 

Swaying to and fro — now down — now xip, but never 
once relaxing their hold, these two strong men struggled. 
At one moment they held each other at arm's length, 
and sought, by rapid movement and dexterous will, to 
give the final fall ; at the next their faces were within 
an inch of each other — their teeth grinding, their eyes 
glaring, and the hot bi'eath scorching their cheeks. 
Twice they fell, but rose together. The grass around 
them was trampled into mud, for the heavy rain-drops 
had begun to fall, or was flung about in fragments, as 
the two men struggled to maintain their foothold. 
Nearer and nearer to the dizzy elge they came. The 
sea-birds, alarmed, yet seemingly curious of such a 
conflict, came soaring up — flew round and round, 
screaming, or with quick-beating pinion fled swiftly 



164: 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 



away, returning, however, again and again, to sweep 
in graceful circles above the combatants. The mad- 
dened men were now but a few feet from the edge of 
the precipice. A huge grave was yawning at their 
side — the dark cloud hung like a pall above them — yet 
neither of them spoke. Once only had they parted in 
that terrible struggle — once, but for an instant, yet 
sufficient time for Keroulas to have seized his gun and 
ended the conflict at once ; but the fierce Breton disdained 
such an advantage — such an assassination, for thus he 
would rightly have considered it — and only locked his 
adversary again in a deadly embrace. Paul, too, 
might then have terminated the strife by a well-di- 
rected thrust of the long knife he carried stuck in his 
sash ; but he read the peasant's thoughts in his eyes as 
they rested on his gun, and, scorning to be outdone in 
generosity, he plucked the knife from his girdle and 
cast it yards away. Nearer and nearer to the cliff— 
the end of one or both was at hand. "Were those the 
sounds of a horse's hoofs — the cry of a human voice — 
that were borne upon the wind? Surely they are 
more|and more distinct, and the cry is " Keroulas !" 
But the combatants hear it not or heed it not ; setting 
their teeth closer, and taking each a firmer foothold, 
they make their final effort. 

A shout — almost a shriek — and a horseman gallops 
madly over the platform, and only draws rein within 
three feet of the precipice. Eoth horse and rider re- 
mained for a moment motionless, as though they had 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 165 

stiffened into marble ; the face of the horseman is pale 
as ashes, and he looks around him in horror — the 
whole face of the platform is bare, he is alone upon 
the cliff. 

Again the sea-birds come whirling up from below? 
but with their scream is mingled a strange cry. 

" No bird uttered a cry like that, unless old Grallo 
and his daughter have really feathered coverings," said 
the horseman, as he flung himself from the saddle ; 
" stand firm, Rollo, good horse, it's well for both of us 
your training is so perfect, or your forelegs would have 
been dangling over this accursed cliff, and I lying in 
pieces at its base." 

Another cry — and then fresh screams from the 
birds, who now hung in a thick cloud over that portion 
of the precipice near which the horseman stood. 

" It's strange ! there must be a descent here of 
nearly two hundred and fifty feet — the men must have 
been dashed to atoms ! What is it these birds are 
screaming at ?" 

Kneeling, he crept cautiously to the edge, ard 
peered down ; he had not over-estimated the height of 
the cliff, the brow of which jutted over, presenting a 
surface of jagged rock for some yards, and then, sud- 
denly sloping inwards, made the whole descent in one 
unbroken line of cliff, so smooth that every inch of a 
lead line would have touched its surface, had it been 
dropped from top to bottom : the base of the cliff was 
not to be seen for the spray clouds which the great 



1GG THE HOODED SNAKE. 

■waves threw upwards as they rushed madly on, tossing 
about the fallen rocks, and seeking day and night to 
undermine these giant warders of their enemy — the 
earth. Suddenly, the man who was peering over 
uttered an exclamation of alarm and astonishment, then 
crawled backwards a few paces, sprung to his feet, and, 
hastening to his horse, began with frantic haste to take 
the strong leathern bridle from his neck. 

What could have occasioned this alarm and agita- 
tion? 

At the first glance that the stranger gave over the 
edge of the cliff he shuddered with horror, and uttered 
the startled cry we have heard ; for almost within 
reach of his hand was a man — but ONE — clinging, with 
all the energy of desperation, to a small, prickly shrub, 
that grew out of the face of the cliff ; one of those 
shrubs which, springing from seeds that had fallen into 
the deep crevices of the rocks, grew thinly for some 
little distance downwards, as long as the rugged sur- 
face pave any hold for their snaky roots. 

For a moment, as the two foes lost their foothold 
and fell over the edge of the platform, their vice-like 
grasp of each other relaxed, and both threw out their 
arms with a wild gesture of fear and despair — the hand 
of one encountered the prickly shrub, which he'grasped 
instinctively and convulsively, thus arresting his down- 
ward course, and keeping, even by so frail a support, 
his body still suspended in the air, the other, less for- 
tunate, had swung over quite clear of the brow of the 



THE IIOODED SNAKE. lb I 

cliff, and with a groan that wrung even the heart of 
his enemy to hear, he fell downwards, downwards into 
the waves that sprang up howling to receive him, and 
when they had torn his mangled body from the rocks, 
hurried it away wrapped in a shroud of foam. 

For a few moments, the survivor remained thus 
hanging bv one hand over the certain death that threa- 
tened him ; he heard the dash and tumble of the water 
beneath him, that seemed to his strained sense to grow 
more and more ravenous for its prey ; by an effort he 
swung his body upwards and seized with his other 
hand the fibrous roots ; then it was that the sound of 
a horse s hoofs met his ear, and again and again his 
agonized cry broke forth. 

" Hold on !" shouted the man from the platform 
above ; " but for your life do not look down ; do so 
but once and you are lost." 

The other made no answer, it would have been use- 
less to have done so, for the face that had appeared over 
the cliff was as quickly withdrawn ; but even in the 
extremity of his peril, a smile wreathed his lips at the 
advice thus offered, for his was a foot that would have 
trodden the dizziest paths without faltering, 'and looked 
down with a steady gaze from crags only tenanted by 
the eagle, but the weight upon his hands was each 
moment growing heavier, and with anxiety and calm- 
ness he awaited his fate. 

Rapidly the man upon the platform unfastened 
the bridle and stirrup-leathers from his horse, and with 



168 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

an equal rapidity knotted them firmly together ; then 
lie looked hastily about him. No ! not a tree ; not a 
bush within distance possible for such a line to reach — 
ha ! ha ! fortune favours him — this man "who is clins:- 
ing like a limpet to the rock — the stranger's eyes have 
rested upon the gun of Keroulas, he springs towards it, 
snatches it from the ground, tben looks eagerly around 
for some crevicejin the soil — he finds one — " the very 
place," he says, as he thrusts the barrel of the gun 
deep into the gap and fixes it firmly with a large 
flint, then he ties one end of the line to it, and throw- 
ing himself flat on the ground, creeps towards the edge 
of the cliff, with almost as little time as it takes to 
tell. 

" Thank heaven ! the man is still there ; for the 
love of life, hold on !" 

The strong line descends — it touches the face of 
the man — will he suddenly let go of the shrub to grasp 
it ? not he ! cool in this, the extremest moment 
of his danger, he turns his head slightly, and, watching 
the moment, catches the line between his strong teeth, 
this done, he moves his head close to his right arm till 
the leather touches his hand, and then, and not till 
then, grasps it ; he carefully tests its strength before he 
entirely lets go the tough roots of the prickly shrub — 
it will do — the knots have been skilfully fastened, and 
the man above is ready to aid — slowly, hand over hand, 
he ascends, his head is at last on a level with the edge 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 169 

of the platform — the stranger grasps him by the collar 
— a strong effort ! another ! and he stands once more 
upon firm ground — he is saved ! 

For the second time Keroulas Carnac owes his life 
to the Chevalier de Preville. 



170 THE IIOOOliD SNAKE. 



CHAPTER XII. 

FOUCHe'S AGENTS — PATRICIAN AND PLEBIAN. 

The clay after the event recorded in the last 
chapter, Anatole Chiffon rode over to the Chateau 
Pontarlac. 

It "was noon when he dismounted in the grass- 
grown court-yard of that very antique and desolate- 
looking mansion, and, consigning his horse into the 
safe keeping of a rough-looking lad, who acted as 
ostler, he entered the house, and proceeded at once 
to the private apartment of its master. Monsieur le 
Chevalier de Preville was seated, as usual, near the 
window ; through which, when we last visited the 
chateau, the sunbeams were so merrily playing— but 
now there was but little sunlight, either in the room 
or in the face of its occupant — the day without was 
not more sad beneath its weight of dark clouds than 
the face of the man within. Thrice he took a book 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 1/1 

from the table, and, as if to banish the unpleasant 
thoughts that oppressed him, endeavoured to read ; 
but the third time — after turning over a few pages — 
he cast the volume from him, and, rising, walked the 
room with every sign of angry impatience. 

" This fellow is an ass !" he said, as, with his foot, 
he pushed aside the book he had flung upon the floor ; 
" he tells us that chance is but the fool's excuse for folly 
— that the wise man may direct and govern it — bah ! 
how could I have foreseen such an accursed chance as 
this % — that has uprooted all my schemes and undone the 
patient labour of years. The reward that Fouche pre- 
ferred was a great one — wealth, station, influence — a 
busy part in this great game that is about to be 
played in Europe ; a game that will make kings 
beggars, aye ! and beggars kings — none but the owl- 
eyed could fail to see the signs of the coming times — 
I saw them long ago — saw them with a vision 
sharpened by poverty, and resolved, whatever I might 
trample under my feet, to keep, this time at least, the 
sure road. My services were eagerly accepted — my 
ambition known and encouraged — for cunning Joseph 
saw at once, that a head like mine might be put to a. 
better use than helping to fill the headsman's basket — 
his were not the tactics of his old friend Maximilian ; 
' he killed,' I have heard him say, ' I buy? and he 
bought me— at a noble price too— that is— at what 
would have been a noble price — for Joseph promises 
but never pays beforehand — " He laughed bitterly, 



172 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

as if in self derision — then continued, though in a 
more subdued manner : " This marriage of Victor's up- 
sets all — and since the news of Marigny's death, 
d'Aubigny regards Victor with an eye of especial 
favour — the girl has not yet confessed to her father^ 
though there is slight reason to doubt that forgive- 
ness will be forthcoming — and then, Victor is heir to 
these very estates Fouche so longs to confiscate — and 
which I ! I, of all men — have been labouring to place 
within his clutch. Still it is not too late for me to 
save what I would, but a few days ago, have eagerly 
destroyed ; yes, I would have gained fortune for Vic- 
tor, and now — it is I alone who threaten this wealth 
he is otherwise certain to possess ; alone ! would I were 
alone in this, but my associate, this wily spy — this 
ferret — that Fouche must needs thrust upon me — how 
to baffle him, and prevent his gaining that information 
which, once proved and transmitted to Paris, would 
leave d'Aubigny without land enough to make a grave 
— while Victor — my son ! would curse, must curse 
even his father, who had aided in this shameful work." 

The wretched man bent his face in his hands, and 
for a moment was shaken by strong emotion — for a 
moment only ; for again came the three distinct knocks 
that had disturbed, on the previous day, his interview 
with his son. 

" Chiffon !" 

He started — then by an effort recovered his com- 
posure and walked to the door. 



THE HOODED SXAKE. 173 

" Xo new discovery, I hope — no fresh meshes for 
me to break — for break them I will, one by one." 

He threw open the door, and gave admittance to 
the smiling valet. 

The Chevalier shuddered, despite himself; for a 
smile upon some faces is the most ominous of signs. 

" Why do you stand there, leering and shaking 
your head in that goblin fashion — yours is not exactly 
the countenance a man would wish to be framed in his 
door- way longer than necessary ?" 

Chiffon entered the room perfectly unruffled by the 
Chevalier's tone of banter — he was not a man to take 
offence at a sneer; besides, he was used to it. 

" You bring news ? " 

Chiffon nodded. 

"Good news?" 

" Tor the Chevalier de Preville — yes; for the Baron 
d'Aubigny — no." 

" How ! you have not discovered V 

Chiffon nodded. 

" Have you lost power of speech, man 1 Speak out 
the news you have brought, or take that and yourself 
away together." 

The valet let his cloak fall from his shoulders, and, 
after glancing everywhere about the room, advanced, 
with his quick, cat-like tread, to the side of the Che- 
valier, and whispered in his ear — 

" I have it." 

"The — " but with all his self-command, the Cheva- 



174 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

lier could not bring himself to ask the question ; it 
■was unnecessary, for the answer he dreaded quickly 
came. 

" The order for an immediate organisation of a 
revolt ; it bears the seal of the Bourbon, and is signed 
by his own hand." 

" And yon discovered it — how ?" 

Chiffon glanced clown modestty. 

" I promised to obtain it. The change of hiding- 
place was the first thing to discover; the second thing 
was to make myself master of the document. I did 
both." 

"But how V 

" Pardon me, if when the end is satisfactorily- 
gained, I prefer to be silent as to the means. We all 
have our gifts. I live by mine." 

" Give me the paper." 

" Monsieur le Chevalier shall have it this night; 
but it is necessary I should make out another paper, a 
fac simile of this, to put in its place. To disarm sus- 
picion is to render success certain." 

" You are the cleverest rascal in all France, Ana- 
tole !" 

'•'Monsieur is too good, and scarcely just; there are 
yet some even in that respect who surpass me." 

The valet's eyes had again modestly sought the 
ground, or the angry light in de Preville's eyes, and 
the heightened colour upon his cheek, could scarcely 
have escaped him. 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 175 

" To-night I shall forward tbe courier to Paris. 
My dispatch is prepared, but this document must ac- 
company it. Your forgery, when will it be com* 
pleted ?" 

The Chevalier laid emphasis on the word "forgery," 
but the valet replied without apparently heeding the 
sneer. 

" Before midnight, I will bring it to the Chateau 
Pontarlac; the Chevalier de Preville will find me faith- 
ful to my trust." 

" The Baron d'Aubigny has found you so." 

The eyes of the two men met — they smiled — but 
each knew how the other secretly hated him. The 
bond of crime is after all but a bond of flax, which the 
stronger villain may snap in an instant. 

" I am the Baron d'Aubigny's paid valet, not his 
friend." 

"How, sirrah! would you dare pass judgment 
upon your betters V 

" I have no such presumption. The Chevalier, as 
I understood him, accuses me indirectly of ingratitude. 
I would vindicate myself." 

" Enough, enough," said de Preville, haughtily. 
" You will place in my hands this document, a cotirier 
will travel night and day — it will be for Fouche to act 
upon it ; it was but for this I have delayed sending 
the other papers : without the one damning fact of 
direct correspondence they were useless; with it they 
become all-important, as showing the ramifications of 



176 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

the plot. To-niglit you will come by the private door 
from the garden ; there is the key, you can go." 

He took it from his pocket and placed it in Chif- 
fon's hand; the valet put it carefully into a side- 
pocket, but still lingered. 

" Have you more to say; is not your budget of 
news yet empty T 

" The other news I have concerns but little the 
Chevalier de Preville, yet it was his wish to hear all 
the gossip of the neighbourhood." 

" Well ! what old woman's story is now afloat 1 I 
I am all attention;" and, throwing himself back in his 
chair, de Preville gazed resignedly at the ceiling. 

" A murder has been committed on the coast." 

" Only one ? The rascals have been idle of late." 

" The body of a young seaman, Paul Lebrun, was 
found this morning lying frightfully mangled on a 
shelf of the cliff, a few yards above the level of the 
beach, near Cape Paz." 

" And why should they suspect foul play 1 he who 
lives by the water too often dies by it. A boat is but 
a plank, and a plank but a thin barrier between a man 
and his grave." 

" But Lebrun was not in a boat last night ; he left 
farmer Bonchamp's for Pont Croix, and was last seen 
diverging from the direct road and following one over 
the cliffs—" 

" And so got benighted, and missed his footing — a 
sad occurrence, but too frequent to be wondered at." 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 177 

" The sailor was accustomed to the path, and could 
have walked it blindfold; besides, when last seen, he 
was making for Jalec's cottage, and night had not set 
in." 

The Chevalier yawned, and still stared languidly 
at the ceiling. 

" Is that all your news ? that a young sailor, pos 
sibly in liquor, goes wandering over the rocks in the 
twilight, and, making a false step, is found the next 
morning at the base of the cliff, though last seen on 
the top ? Nevertheless, our honest Bretons, who de- 
light in the mysterious and horrible, give out that this 
man has been murdered." 

" The} r suspect nothing of the kind." 

'•TVho, then?" 

1: It is I. who know it for certain." 

" You !" The Chevalier sat up, and with a look of 
wonder gazed into the face of unmoved Chiffon. 

" Possibly your acuteness may have also discovered 
the murderer?" 

t! It has." 

The Chevalier's eyes widened more and more. 

" May I ask his name ?" 

" Kcroulas Carnac." 

There was a pause— Chiffon was silent; so was the 
■Chevalier, but from a different cause. 

"You are mistaken ; Keroulas is incapable of such 
a crime." 

Chiffon shrugged his shoulders. 

N 



178 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

" When a man is in love he is capable of every 
folly. Keroulas loves Yvonne Bonchamp." 

"Well?" 

" And Paul Lebrun was his rival, and a favoured 
one." 

" By the girl V 

" Better still, by her father." 

" And these are the only grounds you have for so 
terrible an accusation 1" 

There was a wicked gleam in the valet's eyes as he 
answered — 

" Had they been, I should have kept my thought 
to myself; but with your good patience, I will shortly 
state my other reasons — strong ones, as they appear to 
me." 

The Chevalier motioned him to proceed. The valet, 
leaning forward, crossed his lean arms over the back 
of a chair, rested his pointed chin on his hands, and 
went on thus : — 

" For some time past, whenever these two men 
have met hot words have ensued. I was myself wit- 
ness to a quarrel that, but for the interference of Pere 
Bonchamp, might have had a serious termination ; then 
it was that Keroulas Carnac confided to me the story 
of his hopes and fears, his hatred and his love." 

" He made a curious selection of a confidant," said 
the Chevalier. 

" True, he might have done better; but there was 
too much fire in the heart for the brain to keep cool. 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 179 

He swore that he would kill any man who came be- 
tween his foster-sister and himself — in such matters 
these Bretons keep their word, and he has proved no 
exception to the rule." 

" But what advantage had this young sailor over 
the other ?" 

" Every advantage — he'd money ; having made no 
impression on the daughter's heart, he attacked the 
father's — there his success was certain. Keroulas 
knew this — " 

" Reason enough for killing any man," was the 
comment of the Chevalier. " I have fought three duels 
for similar causes before I was this young peasant's 
age." 

Chiffon, without noticing the interruption, pro- 
ceeded — 

" And did not hide his intention of taking sum- 
mary vengeance. About the same time that Lebrun 
was seen walking in the direction of Cape Raz, Ke- 
roulas was shooting wild fowl on the beach ; they 
must have met — " 

"Why must they?" 

" They did meet, and that on the summit of the 
cliff, at the base of which the sailor's body was found." 

" You have no proof." 

'• I examined the spot carefully this morning; it 
bore every sign of a severe struggle having taken 
place : the impression of heavy feet was still fixed in 
the soil ; the marks were too deep for even last night's 



180 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 



storm to have wholly effaced them — and among the 
grass I found a sheathed knife ; it was Paul Lebrun's 
— his name was upon the hilt." 

" Fouche chooses hit* agents well; you are worthy 
of your reputation, Anatole." 

" Such is my endeavour." 

" But your motive in all this inquiry, for you have 
one ?" 

" I have : my motive is to benefit myself." 

"Yourself!— how?" 

" Yestei'day I had two rivals, to-day I have but 
one. I would marry Yvonne Bonchamp." 

At first a look of extreme astonishment held pos- 
session of the Chevalier de Preville's face; then he 
threw himself back in his chair, and gave way to peal 
after peal of laughter. The valet never altered his 
position, nor did his countenance express the least an- 
noyance at the other's merriment. 

" Chiffon in love ! incredible !" And De Preville 
with difficulty restrained a fresh explosion. 

" I did not say that !" observed the valet, calmly. 
" What I said was that it was my intention to marry 
Yvonne Bonchamp. Her father would increase his 
substance, and I am not poor. There were two ob- 
stacles in my path— one is already removed, and I shall 
myself remove the other." 

" By what means f ' 

" The law. To-morrow, the chain of evidence 
complete, I make my deposition before the Mayor of 



THE HOODED SXAKE. 181 

Pont Croix, with whom I have already lodged the 
knife, and a fragment of cloth that once formed part 
of the vest of Keroulas ; it was found in the dead 
man's hand." 

" And should your proofs fail, how then ? Keroulas 
Carnac is not a man to trifle with." 

" They will not fail." 

" But if it could be proved that this was after all 
but a duel between two angry men, who mutually 
thirsted for the life of each other: could this be 
proved V 

" It cannot be. But one person could give this 
proof, and he, for his own sake, will remain silent." 

The Chevalier started, for the keen eyes of the 
valet were rivetted on his face. 

" You speak in riddles, you must solve them, for I 
am slow at such guess-work." 

" This will help to a solution" — and Chiffon took 
from his pocket a riding-glove, which he placed softly 
on the table; " I picked it up among the broom, which 
had been broken down by a horse having pushed his 
way through it — up to the very edge of the cliff were 
the marks of a horse's hoofs — Kollo's shoes are of a 
fashion different to those made by the rough Breton 
farriers." 

" Well ! what's the man driving at ?" 

" Nothing. I have brought back the Chevalier de 
Preville's glove, thinking it fortunate I found it as I 
did, for the crest and initials are worked upon it." 



182 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

Again these two men looked full into the eyes of 
each other — the patrician and plebeian spy — true 
types of those evil times, when none were too high to 
refuse the pay, and none too low to be refused by the 
unscrupulous Fouche. The Chevalier de Preville had 
drawn himself erect, the head thrown back, and the 
eyes flashing down ivpon the other, who, in his turn, 
glanced fearlessly up with the cunning eyes and savage 
protruding jaw — the one graceful, yet threatening as 
the snake that suddenly rears itself erect before it 
strikes ; the other crouching, but dangerous as the wild 
cat before it springs. The Chevalier spoke, with a 
voice trembling with suppressed passion — 

" And you ! you ! the trusted agent of Robes- 
pierre — the spy of Pouche ! — the jackal of the guillo- 
tine ! — the hunting leopard, that each new government 
keeps in leash to run down the game it would destroy 
— you propose to me, the Chevalier de Preville to act 
as your accomplice in a false accusation against a man 
who was born upon this very estate of Pontarlac ! 
What value do you set upon your life, that you dare 
to do this thing ?" 

" I only ask for that which I shall gain — your 
silence." 

The Chevalier made a movement, but Chiffon, 
without heeding it, continued, in a low but firm 
voice — 

" The association you complain of was not sought 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 183 

by me — though I have shared many- a secret mission 
with those whose names take even higher rank among the 
nobility of France than that of the Chevalier de Preville ; 
those who desired the service, chose the instruments — 
the stroke is the same whether the poniard has a 
leathern or a velvet handle." 

" Do you taunt me ?" 

" It would ill become me to do so — I but remind 
the Chevalier de Preville, that, in undertaking this 
business, he had his own ends in view ; in a humbler 
way I have mine : I would therefore entreat his better 
consideration upon this point, and not from a mere 
caprice of liberality seek to thwart the scheme I have 
so carefully projected." 

" Caprice ! is it thus you speak of the life of a 
man?" 

" To none but you can this peasant make appeal ; 
to which appeal you will return, and in all humility I 
ask it, no answer." 

Even with the Chevalier de Preville further dissi- 
nndation was impossible, — the hot blood burnt in his 
cheeks, the red flush mounted to his forehead. " This 
man shall not be sacrificed ; it shall be my business to 
proclaim the truth." 

Without changing a muscle of his face, Monsieur 
Anatole Chiffon bowed, and moved quietly towards 
the door. 

" I will pray the Chevalier de Preville to recon- 



184 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

sider the matter; to-night I may find him better 
disposed to listen to my reasons ; till then I ■will take 
my leave." 

The other impatiently waved his hand and turned 
towards the window ; then, and not till then, a bright 
gleam, the lightning of a concentrated mtdice, shot 
from the eyes of the valet. 

" Reason waits upon reflection — I ask at the Che- 
valier de Preville's hands, Keroulas'_Carnac ; in return 
I leave him the Baron d'Aubigny." 

De Preville turned, but the door had closed and 
the valet was gone ; in a few minutes his voice was 
heard in the court-yard, and then the clatter of horse's 
hoofs on the road told that he had departed. 

The war had began, the two men now knew each 
other as foes — it was diamond cut diamond with a 
vengeance. 

Opening a small door, the Chevalier passed out of 
the room and slowly ascended a steep flight of stone 
steps that led to a small sleeping room that was placed 
immediately beneath the tiled and pointed roof. He 
pushed open the door, and entered unperceived by the 
room's occupant, who, with his face pressed against the 
narrow aperture that served for a window, was watch- 
ing a horseman galloping swiftly down the road. 
The Chevalier advanced and laid his hand upon the 
shoulder of Keroulas, for it w r as the young Breton, 
and gazed into his disturbed and haggard face, then 



THE HOODED S2CAKE. 155 

pointed to the horseman still visible from the turret 
■window. 

" You have recognised him V 

" I have — he is your enemy !' 

" And thine !" 

Again the Breton turned to the window, and, 
without a word, the two men watched the horseman 
till a distant bend in the road had concealed him from, 
their sisrht. 



186 THE HOODED SNAKE. 



CHAPTER XIII. 

YVONNE — THE FIRST AND LAST KISS ! 

All "was commotion at Pere Bonchamp's farm ! 

The sad news of the untimely end of poor Paul 
Lebrun had been brought over by some fishermen, 
early in the morning, and the good farmer had departed 
at once to Jalec's cottage, where the body of the un- 
fortunate young sailor was lying. 

Yvonne, who had passed the night praying for a 
deliverance from the affliction her father's sudden 
acceptance of Paul's proposal had brought upon her, 
was aghast at this terrible and unlooked-for compliance 
with her wishes. The farm labourers stood about in 
groups, talking over the accident — for so, by one and 
all, it was considered ; while Marie Jeanne and the 
two other female servants stood, with red and swollen 
eyes, by the dairy door, catching up such crumbs of 
information as came in their way. Nor was this feeling 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 187 

of general sadness at all affected, for Paul Lebrun had 
been a favourite with all — especially with the women 
— his frank, easy, careless good humour having made 
for him friends on all sides ; the only person who, it is 
possible, felt a sort of gloomy satisfaction at the event, 
was the superstitious Martin, who triumphed not a 
little at this sad realisation of his prophecy. 

There was a murmur of respectful admiration and a 
general lifting of caps, as the Baron d'Aubigny and his 
daughter passed through the farm-yard towards the 
house, at the door at which Yvonne stood to wel- 
come them. The murmur of admiration was called 
forth by the beauty of Eugenie, whose tall and graceful 
figure, firm and majestic step, would have betokened a 
lofty pride, but for the look of exquisite gentleness 
and love that was ever beaming in her dove-like eyes : 
the lifting of caps was but an accustomed tribute to the 
position of the Baron, who was invested with something 
little short of the dignity of a king by the surrounding 
peasantry. 

" My pretty Yvonne, what is this I hear ?" said 
the Baron, when they had entered the house and his 
daughter had placed herself on a seat beside the young 
Bretonne, whose hand she took affectionately between 
her own; "misfortune follows upon misfortune, and 
death has been once more busy upon this fatal 
coast." 

" It is a sad blow for us all, for there were none 
who bore ill-will to Paul Lebrun : he had always a 



188 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

kind heart to feel for, and, when able, a ready hand 
to relieve the distresses of others." 

" Your father, who I met on my road hither, has 
told me all ; he has lost a son, and you a husband." 

Quickly Yvonne raised her head, and answered, in 
a quiet, but firm voice — 

" My father is in error. Paul was to me a dear, 
kind friend — more than that, had Heaven spared his 
life, he could not have been." 

Unperceived by the occupants of the ro cm, a 
man had paused at the open lattice : at the first sound 
of Yvonne's voice, he had thrust aside the dark tangled 
hair from his face and listened eagerly ; when she 
ceased speaking, he bit his lip so fiercely, to repress a 
groan of anguish, that the blood trickled slowly from 
it ; then he shrunk back into the shadow formed by 
some huge climbing plants, and, still within earshot, 
stood immoveable as a statiie of bronze. 

" Your father did not think so." 

" He did not. My father is, at times, hasty, being 
unused to contradiction, and I feared to speak to him 
at once, though the storm is never of long duration, 
and he is so kind and indulgent when it has passed. 
To-day, when this terrible calamity was undreamt of, 
I had intended seeking the advice of Mademoiselle Eu- 
genie, and, through her, have solicited your interces- 
sion with my father, for with him, as with us all, your 
influence is great." 

The good Baron smiled kindly on the pure and 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 189 

pleasant lace that looked up so imploringly into his 
own, and said : — 

" There was no need, my child, of Eugenie's aid in 
such solicitation — though well I know how readily it 
would be given ; but tell me frankly — for Eugenie, I 
find, can keep a secret, despite her sex — you have a 
lover, and one you love — or so brave and handsome a 
young fellow as poor Lebrun might have hoped for 
better fortune." 

Yvonne looked down and made no answer, reply- 
ing only to the gentle pressure of Eugenie's soft hands ; 
the Baron smiled, and smoothed the glossy braids of 
hair that stole from beneath the pretty Breton cap. 

" It is from no idle curiosity I ask, darling, nor 
would I vex you with such questions at so sad a time, 
but your father speaks his disappointment freely, and 
laments to all the husband you have lost; tell me, then, 
the name of this living lover, whose fortune has been 
indeed great to have won a place in so pure a heart ? 
I have promised Eugenie to gain your father's approval 
by making this lucky fellow's marriage portion equal to 
your father's wish." 

Yvonne was still silent. 

" 1 trust, Yvonne, this man who has won your love 
has given you no cause to believe it unworthily be- 
^owed r 

The head of the listener at the window was bent 
down upon his breast, and with a beating heart, he 
waited for Yvonne's answer. 



190 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

She raise her head, and there was a flush of ho- 
nestpride on her cheek as she said — 

" There is not a better nor honester man in Brit- 
tany than'Keroulas Oai-nac." 

The hidden listener started, his whole frame was 
shaken by a sudden spasm, then he muttered between 
his teeth, " That villain, Chiffon ! slanderer ! liar ! he 
has damned my immortal soul ! ! !" 

" Keroulas ! truly, a brave man, as those rascally 
blues proved to their cost ; you 'have said well, mon 
enfant, I know of none so worthy of the flower ol 
Pere Bonchamp's farm. Before I speak to your father 
I would see Keroulas — tell him that." 

But Yvonne's cheek crimsoned, and she shook her 
head. 

" I understand — love is too delicate a thing for my 
rough hand to touch — well, Eugenie, who has often 
spoken to me of this young man, shall be my messen- 
ger. I would see two, nay, three," and he looked smil- 
ingly on his daughter, " hearts happy." 

Eugenie caught her father's hand and pressed it to 
her lips — 

" Four hearts, dear Yvonne ; for my father is never 
so happy as when he is doing good " 

Keeping within the shadow of the wall, Keroulas 
Carnac moved stealthily, like some guilty thing, from 
the window, and gliding behind a range of small sheds, 
leaped the wall that enclosed the yard, and hastened, 
still unperceived, across the fields ; he was soon among 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 191 

the tall broom, where, thoroughly concealed, he threw 
himself prostrate on the ground, and gave free vent to 
his grief, sobbing as though, in the extremity of his 
despair, the iron nature had given way, and the strong 
heart was about to break. At last he looked up, the 
blessed relief of tears had cooled in time the fever 
that poured through his brain the fires of madness, 
and he found a further relief in the bitter words that 
escaped his lips — 

" Fool ! dupe that I have been ! — dupe to this 
cunning knave — this specious villain, who, professing 
friendship — pity, poured his calumnies into my cre- 
dulous ears; calumnies against her — Yvonne — that 
blessed saint so good, so true, so pure, who might have 
been mine, but now can never, never be ! No !" and 
he struck his clenched hands against his forehead ; 
" Never ! these hands are too deeply stained to clasp 
her's before the altar ! Did she know all she would 
cui-se me ; the Baron would drive me from his pre- 
sence ; and even our good Cure would turn away his 
eyes with horror as I knelt before him in the confes- 
sional ; and this, all this ! the work of this man — this 
fiend who has ensnared my soul !" He covered his 
face, and gave way to his emotion; then went on 
more calmly. " He told me that he had overheard 
her confession of love for Paul Lebrun ; nay, that 
Lebrun had boasted of it openly, in the tavern at Pont 
Croix — that it was talked of as a settled thing ; and 
that I, I, miserable fool, was the laughing stock of even 



192 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

the labourers on the farm, for my silly blindness and 
the presumption of the hopes I had formed. This 
sudden access of wealth ; Pere Dominique's changed 
manner ; Yvonne's behaviour during the quarrel at 
the farm — all confirmed the wicked lie. I did nol 
seek the meeting, it was accident that brought us 
together on the cliff ; his bravado seemed to confirm 
the other's story ; the blow, and Mon Dieu ! Jlor, 
Dieu ! — and yet I live ! Live for what ?" — he extended 
his arms and shook his clenched hands as though in 
the face of an opponent — "for what? — Revenge. 
When was a Breton content to die with that unsa- 
tisfied 1 Revenge for my wrongs, and revenge for his 
— the man who lay murdered beneath the cliff; mur 
dered by me ! — no — by him, the slanderer and liar !" 

Again and again fierce paroxysms of passion swepi 
over him ; then, when the fury of the storm had passed 
he lay back exhausted, but with the stern unrelenting 
look upon his face. 

" Twice I have owed my worthless life to the Che- 
valier de Preville ; when he shall please to demand ii 
is his to take ; but this that he now asks of me is my 
own affair as much as his. It is a benefit I am about 
to do mankind, — to kill this double liar, this spy, this 
domestic Judas, this traitor on his master's hearth. Ii 
I miss his heart this night, I will never pull triggei 
again, unless the barrel is turned towards myself. I) 
who have brought down an eagle on the wing, cannot 
but kill the cowardly fox that goes slinking to his 
hole." 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 193 

He was about to rise, when the sound of voices 
came upon his ear ; he drew back, and crouched still 
lower down among the broom. 

"It is Pere Dominique returning from Jalee's 
cottage." 

He was right ; and the good farmer was speaking 
in tones almost of anger, to the person who rode by 
his side — 

" Murder ! It is plain, Monsieur, that you are a 
stranger to our Brittany. I will not deny but despe- 
rate deeds are done upon our coasts ; but, then, they 
are upon those whom the wild sea dashes on the shore. 
The saints forbid I should defend such acts ; yet 
has the bris (wreck) been claimed as a right since first 
a house was built within sound of the rolling surge ; 
but to murder a man in cold blood — a Breton, too — 
you had better not speak your suspicions aloud unless 
you can show some grounds for them ; all Bretons 
may not be so patient as I am." 

The voice that replied was somewhat indistinct at 
first, but when its accents fell clearly upon the ear of 
Keroulas Carnac, he uttered a stifled cry, and again 
half rose to his feet — 

" Would that I had but a weapon," he said, " and 
I would slay him even now ; yet I have promised to 
bide the appointed time ; the Chevalier has my word, 
and though this measureless liar stood before the bar- 
rel of my gun, and my finger rested on its trigger, he 

o -- 



194 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

should hold his life safe till then ; my word is passed, 
and I may not break it." 

" You ask for proofs, Pere Dominique. Well, 
what if I promise that proofs shall be forthcoming. 
How say you then?" 

" That Brittany has been disgraced, and a foul 
deed committed, for which there is not a man who 
knew Paul Lebrun but will exact a retribution ; yet, 
till such proofs are shown, I hold such a charge to be 
a base calumny, and shall refuse, as I do now, to give 
ear to it." 

" Be it so ; to-morrow may prove many things, this 
among the number." 

" You speak as lightly of to-morrow as did poor 
Lebrun ; yet he never saw the sun rise upon it. Such 
may be my fate or yours. "Who knows 1" 

" Who knows T It was Keroulas Oarnac who 
echoed the farmer's words, as he looked after the 
figures of the horsemen ; their voices no longer to be 
distinguished, though, at times, the sneering laugh of 
Chiffon was still borne towards him by the wind. 

Three hours afterwards, Yvonne, who was sitting 
alone in her little room, was disturbed by a tap on the 
window — startled, but without fear, she rose and 
opened it at once ; and there, leaning on the sill, his 
pale face gazing into her own, was her lover, Keroulas 
Carnac. 

" Keroulas ! You here !" 

" Hush, Yvonne ! in mercy do not drive me away ; 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 195 

for a minute — but one — let me look into your- eyes, 
and listen to the blessed accents of your voice." 

" You alarm me ; your face is pale, and your eyes 
so wild and fierce." 

" Nay, dearest Yvonne, you have no cause to fear ; 
but I have watched hours for this opportunity, to see 
you thus alone, to kiss your hands and bless you, my 
dearest, dearest love, before I go !" 

"Go!" 

He smiled sadly, and pointed towards the heath, 
over which the shadows of evening were fast creeping, 

" My way lies over there. I have a duty to per- 
form — an act of justice which must be done; into my 
hands has the sacred trust been given. You w T ould not 
stay me, Yvonne ?" 

"I would not, Keroulas; that which your heart 
dictates, that you will do ; but my father, will you not 
see him ?" 

"No; not to-night." He drew her towards him 
as he spoke, " You love me, Yvonne ! you have con- 
fessed it to others this day. Let, then, thy tongue now 
sound as sweet a music in my ears." 

Half laughing, half vexed, she strove to release 
herself from his grasp. 

" The time is ill -chosen. To-morrow I — " 

He interrupted her, and said, in a voice so strange 
and hollow that the colour forsook her cheek, and in 
her heart she felt a sudden fear — 

" Let none make certain to see the rising of the 



196 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

sun ;" as he spoke, the great clock in the farm kitchen 
or general room, began to strike the hour. 

" Hush !" He counted the strokes. " I must be 
gone." He drew her towards him again, " You love 
me, Yvonne?" 

" I love you, Keroulas !" 

Their lips, for the first and last time, met in one 
long, burning, passionate kiss, and he was gone. 

Again that strange foreboding took possession oi 
her young heart, that certain warning of the coming 
ill; she closed the lattice, and sought the only refuge 
for the distressed — bowing her head and knees in 
earnest prayer. 

Again Keroulas Oarnac creeps, with stealthy steps, 
along the wall; he pauses behind the great barn, and 
moves away some loose stones — something glitters even 
in that dull light — it is the polished barrel and mount- 
ngs of a gun; another minute, he has leaped the wall, 
and makes at once for the heath, crossing it in the 
direction of the Chateau Pontarlac. 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 197 



CHAPTER XIV. 



KETEIBCTION. 



Keeoulas Carnac is standing in the private apart- 
ment of the Chevalier de Preville — rigid and silent as 
a sentry at his post, he leans upon his gun, and watches 
the Chevalier, who, by the light of a small shaded 
lamp, is writing rapidly at the table. The Breton 
peasant standing thus, just without the circle of the 
light, his ardent eyes gleaming from beneath the wide 
brim of his hat, and the long black hair, wildly dishe- 
velled, streaming about his face and shoulders, might 
be taken for one of those gloomy visitors from the 
realms of darkness, of which the Breton legends love 
to tell — who, for a time, have cast aside the fetters of 
the grave, and re-visited the world, to tempt the souls 
of men. Some such thought must have passed through 
the mind of the Chevalier, for, looking up, he said — 
" Since thou wilt neither eat nor diink, I pry thee 



19S THE HOODED SNAKE. 

sit ; for that tall, dark figure of thine seems to belong 
rather to the dead than the living, as thou standest 
there, making no movement, nor giving other sign of 
breathing life." 

The Breton laughed, but not the laugh of mirth ; 
and, without altering his position, he said — 

" ' Rather to the dead than the living.' You have 
said well, Monsieur le Chevalier. After this night, I 
leave Britanny ; in a few weeks — the world." 

" You hinted at this before. You would seek your 
solace where solace is alone to be found — at the foot of 
the cross. You would bury yourself and your sor- 
rows in that living tomb — a monastery." 

" I would dedicate myself to the service of the poor 
and wretched." 

" A noble vocation ; but the ties which bind men 
to this world of joy and sorrow, cannot be separated as 
easily as those long locks of thine will be clipped from 
thy head by the scissors of the priest ; nor will thy 
fierce, passionate heart beat more tranquilly because 
thy breast is covered by the robe of serge." 

" Monsieur le Chevalier is no friend to the vowed 
children of poverty — to the noble men who suffer a 
daily martyrdom, and, in their holy self-denial, preach 
a lesson, and set an example to mankind." 

" You mistake, Keroulas," said the Chevalier, 
gravely; though a finer ear than the Breton's might 
have detected a certain irony in the tone ; " I may ad- 
mire those virtues, though I cannot imitate the men 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 199 

who devote every hour of their lives to a self-appointed 
ministry — who, in bitter self-humiliation, take up the 
cross, and place the thorny crown upon their foreheads ; 
who close their eyes to the beauty of women, lest the 
light of her face should shut out the brighter light of 
Heaven; "who renounce the feast for the funeral, and, 
absent from the board, are ever to be found by the 
couch of the dying; but such a life, if life it can be 
called, which is but one long preparation for the grave, 
is not for you." 

"And why not?" 

" Because you love — will ever love — Yvonne Bon- 
champ." 

The Breton trembled at the utterance of the name ; 
the Chevalier observed his emotion, and continued — 

" You pronounce the heavens to be no longer bright, 
because a cloud has passed between you and the sun ; 
the earth to contain nought but misery, because the 
presence of a sorrow has for a day darkened your door ; 
but the cloud is passing away, and to-morrow the sor- 
row will be no longer there. What poison-drop re- 
mains then in this brimming cup that fortune presents 
to your lips i" 

" A drop deadly as the venom of the snake — a 
drop that blights all healthy life, and fills the soul with 
despair, the heart with bitterness." 
" And that is ]" 
" Be morse !" 



200 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 



The Chevalier de Preville rose, and said, kindly, as 
he took the Breton's hand — 

" You shall not increase that bitterness for me. I 
release you from the promise you have made ; as the 
gain, so shall the work be mine— you shall not do 
this deed. It is an act of justice which I will exe- 
cute ; for — " 

" Not do it ! Who shall stay me 1 This man's 
life is mine. Did he escape me this night, what 
matters ! — in the broad glare of day, in the busy 
market-place, or in the crowded street, I would keep 
my oath, and slay him." 

" It is but justice. I have told you all ; it is your 
life he strives at." 

" Were that all, I could thank him j he woidd but 
rid me of a burden ; but through this villain's slanders, 
a brave man has lost his life. We Bretons have strange 
fancies — one is, that the soul of a murdered man has 
no peace, till justice has loosened from the body the 
evil soul of the man by whose agency the murder was 
wrought. Such was my forefathers' belief, and their 
belief is mine." 

" Chiffon cannot harm you ; be assured of that- 
My evidence will be sufficient to prevent it." 

" I thank you, Monsieur le Chevalier ; but it is not 
for myself I speak. I am here to take vengeance 
upon the assassin of Paul Lebrun." 

" Upon the traitorous servant — the political spy — 
the spy of Joseph Fouche. Anatole Chiffon holds in 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 201 

Lis hands the Baron's life and mine. Nay, should he 
live to speak the word, many is the great family in 
Brittany that must bow down its head in the dust." 

" He shall die ! I will shoot him as I would a dog 
that had sprung at his master's throat !" 

" I have given it forth that I have reason to sus- 
pect my^house to have been opened by secret keys, and 
that my papers have been tampered with by a robber. 
I consulted the Mayor of Pont Croix about it this 
day, and it is by his advice I place an armed watch in 
my grounds. The Baron has made a like complaint ; 
to-morrow the neighbourhood will be on the alert to 
discover the spy, and they will find him — " 

" Dead !" 

" The Baron d'Aubigny will be saved — " 

"And Paul Lebrun avenged." 

" I have appointed him to meet me here, and the 
time is near at hand ; he will bring papers that will 
enable me to fully prove his guilt to the Baron. When 
he leaves, it will be by that door — " the Chevalier 
pointed to the door of which he had given Chiffon the 
key — " he will depart almost directly — he has a long 
journey before him." 

There was a dreadful significance in the Breton's 
laugh — 

" He has !" 

" Some ten miles from here the courier awaits the 
papers. Chiffon has promised to lodge them in his 
hands before dawn. It will be for you to decide on that." 



202 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

" I have decided." 

" Y"ou will be concealed in the small thicket to the 
left of the lawn, which he must cross, to get to his 
horse ; then, as he steps into the open space — " 

" He steps into his grave ! I never miss my 
mark." 

" The night is dark ¥' 

" Not a star." 

" Fortune favours us. To your post, Keroulas ; be 
patient and bold. Go ; for even now I think I can 
distinguish the tramp of a horse upon the road." 

The Breton lifted his gun to his shoulder, and 
moved towards the door. 

" Let him enter safely ; but, as he quits the house, 
let judgment fall." 

The grim- determined look had never once left the 
face of the ex-Chouan ; it deepened into an expression 
of almost savage ferocity, and his fingers tightened 
about the.iock of his gun — 

" His blood be upon my head, and Heaven have 
mercy on his soul !" 

" Amen ! " 

The Breton passed out of the room and descended 
the stairs, then the outer door was heard to close 
behind him ; the Chevalier drew a long breath of 
relief. 

Half-an-hour after, the outer door was again opened 
by a pass-key, and Chiffon entered the apartment. 
Loner and earnest was the conversation that ensued 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 203 

between the Chevalier and the valet. It was plain 
that there was a mutual distrust on both sides — and, 
since the Chevalier's refusal to assist Chiffon in his ini- 
quitous scheme against Keroulas, a mutual hate — but 
each was too skilful a diplomatist to allow this latter 
feeling to become apparent. Thrusts delivered with 
the most deadly intent were received as given — with 
a smile ; and searching questions, so cleverly put that 
they seemed to defy evasion, were as adroitly answered. 
It was no longer the elegant, smiling Chevalier, scatter- 
ing ban, mots, and careless of the world around him, nor 
the half-sneering, half-sycophantic valet, who glided 
hither and thither, bearing all rebuffs with a humility 
that disarmed his insulters, but watching everything 
with his cunning, restless eyes ; it was two daring and 
unscrupulous men — two of the very cleverest of that 
vast army of spies v/hich Fouche had sent forth to 
conquer the world — an army which he recruited from 
the highest, as well as the lowest ranks of society. To 
the Chevalier de Preville had been allotted the diffi- 
cult and dangerous task of keeping careful watch upon 
the doings of the royalists in Brittany, and of report- 
ing each movement of the nobles and great proprietors 
direct to the Minister at Paris ; which he was able to 
do with tolerable correctness, from his believed care- 
lessness of character, which threw all off their guard 
and from his close intimacy with the Baron d' Aubigny. 
Yet Fouche's system of espionage would never have 
been so complete, as it undoubtedly was, if implicit 



204 THE HOODED SNAKT. 

confidence had been placed in any one man. The 
world only saw the face of the clock, and admired the 
hands that moved with so much regularity ; but the 
internal mechanism was closely concealed, and the 
"wheels within wheels" were kept carefully out of 
sight. So, when the Chevalier de Preville took up Ms 
abode at the Chateau Pontarlac, Monsieur Anatole 
Chiffon, one of the most skilful employees of the secret 
police, was dispatched to watch the Chevalier, and 
furnish his report to their mutual employer. 

De Preville was too sagacious a man not to have at 
once perceived the object for which Chiffon was thrust 
upon him ; but as it had been, hitherto, his intention 
to fulfil to the letter the Minister's instructions, he 
was indifferent how many of the tribe of Judas it 
might please the "diplomatic fox "to place as spies 
upon his conduct ; but now the entire aspect of affairs 
was changed, and this discovery of the secret mar- 
riage of his son had made the Baron's interests his 
own ; and it became his necessity, not only to refuse to 
aid, but to utterly thwart every design that threatened 
the estates, or in any way militated against the in- 
terests of the Baron, as four and twenty hours back 
there was no proof strong enough to directly implicate 
him with the new plot, in which, as De Preville had 
suspected, the Abbe Chateauvieux was the prime 
mover ; but this discoveiy of the document, bear- 
ing the royal seal and signature, would, if the 
paper were forwarded to Paris, sweep away the entire 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 205 

estates of the Baron, and place even Lis life in 
jeopardy. 

There were many ways of saving him had De 
Preville been alone ; but — and this showed the evil 
wisdom of Fouche's policy — his secrets were also known 
to Chiffon — and more than known, for the terrible 
document was still in the valet's custody, and was by 
him to be delivered to Fouche's messenger, who had 
halted at a village some ten miles from Pontarlac. To 
gain possession of this document, and supply its place 
with another, and, comparatively, harmless paper, 
which he had already prepared, would be his first en- 
deavour — that failing, he had but one trust — the 
bullet of Keroulas. 

" Your absence from the Maison d'Aubigny may be 
discovered ; the Baron's suspicions ax*e already aroused. 
I can trust to Pierre ; I told him to keep Bollo ready 
saddled to take on the despatch." 
Chiffon shook his head — 

" The Baron remains to-night at Pont Croix, to con- 
sult with the mayor and others upon the possibility of 
repressing this wild work upon the coast. It is but a 
few hours ride ; I shall be safely housed again before 
morning ; besides, this is a dispatch of far too great 
a value to trust to other than tried hands." 

He produced a small case, the same that the Abbe 
Chatieuvieux had presented to the Baron d'Aubigny, 
which the Chevalier took and examined, then opened it 
and drew forth the paper, which he read attentively: — 



206 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

" A warrant to raise men in the king's name and 
command them ; to call upon the nobles, landed pro- 
prietors, and all loyal subjects to revolt. Such is the 
substance of this document — a dangerous one even 
without the hand and seal of Louis attached." 

Chiffon rubbed his hands briskly together with 
delight — 

"The first Bourbon gave these broad lands to a 
d'Aubigny — the last has signed them away." 

" Poor d'Aubigny !" 

The Chevalier uttered this almost xmconsciously, 
as he finished a second perusal of the paper. Chiffon 
stared and raised his eyebrows. A commiseration of 
misfortune was never one of his virtues, nor could lie 
believe its existence in another. 

" Poor !" he chuckled ; " there'll not be a poorer 
man in Brittany ; they know how to squeeze dry at 
Paris ; but this Abbe Chateauvieux and his friend, 
how about them 1 while the net is spreading, it would 
be better to make it large enough to catch them all." 

"Our further instructions we shall receive from 
Paris." 

" Humph ! Time lost is seldom to be regained, 
especially with such a man as Chateauvieux ; besides, 
it's ill following a scent in La Vendee, the peasants are 
dumb as fishes and cunning as rats. There's treason 
in the very blood of a Vendean." 

" If report speaks true, you ought to know what 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 207 

their blood is like ; you were -with Carrier at Nantes 
and afterwards." 

Chiffon turned pale, or rather livid, as he said, 
hastily, " Keport's a liar ! I had nothing to do with 
those atrocities ; my heart sickens when I think of 
them now." 

"Now!" and the Chevalier's face wore, for a mo- 
ment, one of its old sarcastic smiles. "I can well 
believe it; nevertheless, there might be safer travel- 
ling for Monsieur Anatole Chiffon than through 
mined La Vendee, or along the banks of the Loire." 

Chiffon had quickly regained his composure, and 
gave back sneer for sneer — 

"There are few that care to look back into the 
past ; some because they fear again to face an almost 
forgotten crime ; others because a present debasement 
is rendered still more intolerable by the recollection; 
of a once honourable position." 

The Chevalier bit his lip, and began to turn over 
the papers upon the table. 

"Enough of this idle talk," he said, "let us to 
business f and he proceeded to select such documents 
from those before him as were intended to form a 
part of the despatch. For the third time he perused 
the important document that Chiffon had brought, 
then carefully folded it and prepared to replace it in 
the leathern case, pausing only to ask Chiffon to give 
him some sealed papers that were lying on a small 



208 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

sideboard behind him. The valet turned, collected 
the papers, and passed them to De Preville, who was 
refastening the case. The Chevalier motioned him to 
place them on his desk, being himself engaged in 
twisting some silk about the little packet in his hand, 
to which he appended his seal. The papers were 
severally examined, and each fastened in a similar 
manner, then one large and well-secured envelope 
placed round them all, and the despatch was complete. 

The Chevalier handed it to Chiffon. 

"It is a heavy charge, Monsieur Anatole; shall 
Pierre ride with you 1" 

" ~No, my horse is a good one," he laughed ; " the 
best in the Baron's stables ; and for the dangers of the 
road, if any, I am prepared." He pushed aside his 
riding-coat, and pointed to a couple of pistols. The 
Chevalier nodded. 

" Good ! those are friends that seldom fail a man in 
the hour of need. But the despatch 1 — " 

" I place here — " and he suited the action to the 
word — "in the inner pocket — it is safe." 

For once, however, the valet was deceived, and 
the cunning fox outwitted ; the document upon which 
hung the fortunes, perhaps the life of d'Aubigny, lay 
hidden beneath a pile of papers on the Chevalier's 
desk, and a harmless writing occupied its place in the 
case ; but for one minute had Chiffon's eyes left the 
table, but during that minute the exchange had been 
successfully made. 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 209 

" Thus much for the public service ;" and the valet 
buttoned his coat carefully over the packet. " I will 
now again venture to ask the Chevalier de Preville 
not to interfere between me and this hot-headed 
Breton ; the quarrel between us. though he knows it 
not, is one to the death — his blood be upon my 
head." 

Despite his habitual self-command, De Preville 
started to hear this man, who he looked upon as 
doomed, so strangely echo the words of the other; 
after a moment's pause, he said — 

"I will not interfere between you; I leave Ke- 
roulas Carnac to you, and — " he added significantly, 
" you to Keroulas." 

" It is as I wish ; as the prize will be mine if I 
succeed, so I am content to abide the penalty of 
failure." 

" You have a strange hatred for this man." 

" Not I, but he is an obstacle in my path ; he 
stands between me and the prize I would — will — 
gain." 

" Suppo this rival removed, are you sure of 
that T 

"As sure as shall witness the rising of to- 
morrow's sun, which, if I guess aright, will be some 
five hours hence. I have sounded her father — the 
difficulties there are not insurmountable; he has set 
his heart upon two neighbouring farms, of which I 
shall shortly become the landlord. 



2,10 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

" But Yvonne — has she no voice in such a 
matter V 

Chiffon looked into the Chevalier's face with the 
leer of a satyr — 

" All women are to be bent to man's will : through 
vanity, one ; fear, another ; piety, a third ; and so on — 
the fish are there ready to bite — all that the angler has 
to study is the description of bait he puts on the hook." 
" With such a knowledge of the sex the success of 
your suit is certain ; but beware of Keroulas !" 

The spy laughed contemptuously. "Let him be- 
ware of me, to-morrow we shall be quits !" He 
opened the door, and was about to leave the room, 
when the Chevalier laid his hand upon his arm — 
" Have you no conscience, Chiffon ?" 
Chiffon paused, and looked incredulously into the 
other's face, as though he doubted having properly 
understood the question. 

"Decidedly Monsieur le Chevalier is more than 
usually eccentric to-night." 

With his hand still upon his sleeve, De Preville 
repeated the question. 
Chiffon answered — 

" I am forty -five, eat well, drink moderately, and 
enjoy sound sleep ; during those years I have served 
many masters, but chiefly Maximilian Robespierre 
and Joseph Fouche. I have turned over, in my capa- 
city of servant-of-all-work, pretty nearly the entire of 
their diplomatic wardrobes; but, though I found 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 211 

many strange things in my search, yet did I fail to 
discover even a rag of the thing you mean — " 

The Chevalier no longer touched the valet's sleeve ; 
his face now wore its sunniest smiles, the hood had 
once more descended over the head of the snake. 

" Had I chanced upon it," continued Chiffon, " I 
might have tried it on, and, if it had fitted me, worn 
it for a time with the other cast-off clothes. As it 
was, my life has heen untroubled by anything of the 
kind, and my death — " 

"Goon." 

"There's time enough to prepare for that when 
this world's comforts are more certain ; but I have a 
long journey before me, so, Monsieur le Chevalier, I 
have the honour to wish you a good night." 

The other waved his hand. The door closed be- 
hind Chiffon, and the Chevalier de Preville was alone. 

Alone ! he, a strong man, with nerves of steel, 
had never felt a loneliness so terrible. He counted 
the steps of Chiffon as he descended the stairs, and 
awaited, with a shudder, for the closing of the door. 
The sound came at last, and the listener, as it smote 
upon his ear, leaned for support against the table, 
while the big drops stood, like beads, upon his fore- 
head — the agony of expectation was at its height. He 
listened, but his strained ear caught no sound ; n« 
sound but the rustling of the leaves as the chill night 
wind swept by them. 

" Surely the Breton haa not let him escape ! the 



212 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

window in the room above looks out upon the lawn ; 
from it I can see the thicket." 

Opening the little door, he flew, rather than 
walked, up the steep spiral stairs, and entered the 
small room we last saw tenanted by Keroulas. The 
Chevalier hastened to the window, and endeavoured, 
but in vain, to pierce through the darkness of the 
night ; not a vestige of light, not a star was visible. 
He turned away, and again descended the stairs. But 
no sooner had the Chevalier quitted his study to 
ascend to the turret, than the door by which Chiffon 
had disappeared re-opened, and the head of the valet 
was thrust in. 

"You have forgotten, Monsieur le Chevalier, the 
report from Quimper ; it is — why the bird's flown, 
and quickly too." The valet stepped into the room 
and closed the door behind him. He crossed the floor 
towards the table, when the sound of the descending 
feet met his ear, and, with a caution habitual to him, 
he drew back into the shadow. With an unsteady 
step and haggard look De Preville re-entered the 
room, 

" Can that scoundrel have escaped 1 " he said this 
in a low, agitated voice, but aloud. Anatole Chiffon 
drew still further back into the shadow. 

" If so, then Victor, my son, is ruined — ruined ! — 
and the Baron and his daughter lost ! Not a sound 
yet ! I must seek Keroulas — he must be asleep or 
dead to have allowed this man to escape." He snatched 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 213 

his hat from a chair and hastened down the stairs that 
led to the garden, then Chiffon moved from his con- 
cealment and sprang towards the table. 

" Treachery ! " he gasped, rather than spoke ; and, 
tearing open his vest, he took out the despatch, and 
thrusting aside the envelope, opened the case. At a 
glance, the truth biirst upon the spy, and with the 
mingled expression of some baffled fiend, he hissed from 
between his teeth, " Tricked ; but the fox is not 
earthed yet — this door leads to the body of the chateau 
— good ; I know the road. I can pass through the 

kitchen, through the court-yard, and once in the 

* 
saddle — " he shook his clenched fist at the door through 

which the Chevalier had disappeared. " We shall 

meet again, you double traitor." His hand was upon 

the lock, when it was turned from the other side, the 

door opened, and he stood face to face with Victor de 

Preville ! At the same moment, the sharp report of a 

gun was heard from the thicket that skirted that side 

of the house ; there was a cry — a loud and startling 

cry — and then the night relapsed into its awful silence. 

" What do you here ? What means that noise ? 
Where is my father?" 

Quick as lightning, the spy saw the only game to 
play — and with success he played it. 

" Help ! Monsieur Victor ; there are robbers — to 
to the garden — to the garden ! Your poor father has 
rashly — " 

Thrusting him aside, the young man stayed to hear 



214 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

mo more ; he dashed open the opposite door, and, with. 
a bound, passed down the stairs. With a movement 
as rapid, though in an opposite direction, disappeared 
from the room Monsieur Anatole Chiffon. 

A few minutes, and heavy footsteps re-ascended 
the stairs, and as they entered the room the light fell 
upon the horror-struck faces of Victor and Keroulas. 
Between them, and supported by both, was the Che- 
valier de Preville. 

" Who has done this accursed deed? Speak, Kerou- 
las !" burst from the lips of the son, as they placed 
the Chevalier in a chair. 

" The accursed act is mine, Victor de Preville ; 
the doom of blood is upon me. I am your father's 
murderer !" 

The dying man — for the chill of death was at his 
heart, and the cold dews upon his brow — made an 
attempt to rise, and turned towards his son — 

" Believe him not, Victor ; the act is mine. Kerou- 
las is innocent; it was for me, for you, for all — he 
raised the retributive hand, but it was not to be. As 
mine was the first fault, it is but just I first should 
pay the penalty." 

Then the dying man said faintly — 

" Had my life been spared, I had done much to 
remedy the evil I have committed. Nay, much has 
already been done." His voice grew fainter, till it 
passed away into a murmur — 

" Victor, my son, do you forgive me!" 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 215 

The son pressed his lips upon the forehead of his 
father, and the hot tears fell upon his face. At that 
moment the sounds of alarmed voices were heard in 
the other part of the chateau, and then the clatter of 
a horse's hoof was heard without the house. 

Suddenly the Chevalier raised himself erect, and, 
with a grasp of iron, seized the hand of Keroulas — 

" Chiffon !" — and he pointed to the window. " You 
owe me a life, Keroulas Carnac ! Repay it ! Not a 
moment is to be lost. Rollo stands ready saddled in 
the stable. Should that man reach Quimper — " 

The Breton raised de Preville's hand to his lips, 
and said, in a voice hoarse with emotion — 

" He shall never reach it ! He rides fast, but he 
must ride faster yet to escape fate." And without 
another word, the tall, dark form of the Breton pea- 
sant passed, noiseless as a shadow, from the room. 

Then the father, sinking back into his chair, 
motioned to the son, and pointed to the table. 

" The paper ! — beneath the second pile — there ! — 
there ! Is it safe 1" 

" Is it this, my father ; this with a seal ? 
" Thank Heaven, it is safe ! Give it me — and now 
the lamp — so, my heart is lighter. Let but the Breton 
fulfil his vow, and the danger is passed." 

Ho rose with difficulty, and, stretching out his 
hand, held the paper over the flame of the lamp, and 
watched it eagerly as it was licked up by a greedy 
tongue of fire. 



216 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

" Ashes !" lie said, as the last fragment fell con- 
sumed from his fingers ; then his head sunk heavily 
upon the shoulder of his son. Victor gave one long 
despairing look into the placid face, that -wore about 
the lips a smile ; then waved back the alarmed domes- 
tics who had crept into the room, for their assistance 
was no longer needed — the Chevalier de Preville was 
dead. 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 217 



CHAPTER XV 

ANATOLE CHIFFON'S NIGHT RIDE AND ITS TERMINATION. 

In the best stall of the dreary old stable attached 
to the Chateau Pontarlac stood, ready saddled, Rollo, 
the Chevalier's own horse. Pierre, the groom, was 
lying sound asleep upon a truss of straw, beneath the 
dim light of a battered old lantern, that swung from a 
cross-beam above him, when the door was pushed 
suddenly open, and the Breton peasant entered. 
Placing his hand upon the sleeper's shoulder, he shook 
him roughly. "With a start the groom sprang to his 
feet, and gazed with alarmed but still sleepy eyes 
upon the disturber of his rest. 

" Lead out the horse ! In the name of the blessed 
saints, lead out the horse ! — or stand aside, and let me 
perform your office." 

" Why, it's Keroulas Carnac ! Well, to think, 
now, that you of all men should frighten me thus ! 
But what are you going to do with the horse V 

" Ride him." 



218 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

"My master's horse ! Ey whose authority ?" 

"Your master's! Now you have recovered your 
wits, take down the lantern, and stand beside the 
door." 

Without more words, Keroulas led the horse into 
the court-yard, snatched the lantern from the sleepy 
Pierre, and cast a hasty but searching glance at each 
strap and buckle; then, giving back the lantern, 
leaped into the saddle. 

" Open the gate, Pierre !" The groom obeyed, 
saying, as he did so — 

" You are in haste, Keroulas ; why, if it were a 
question of life or death — " 

" It is a question of life or death !" He patted the 
arched neck of the horse as he spoke. " I carry death 
with me ; and — did you not hear that cry, Pierre ? — 
leave it behind me. Good night !" and before the 
bewildered groom could make reply, Keroulas, giving 
the horse the rein, shot through the gateway like an 
arrow, and was galloping swiftly down the road. 

Paising his lantern, the groom peered into the 
darkness; then, with a doubtful shake of the head, 
closed the gate — 

" Well, my master may do as he likes with his own ; 
but, for my part, I'd think twice before I trusted 
such a horse to a madman. He'll break his neck 
■before he's gone a mile ; and, what is far worse, he'll 
break Polio's." 

Again a confused noise of voices came from the 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 219 

house, and lights passed backward and forward behind 
the windows. The groom shrugged his shoulders — 

"There's a something amiss indoors, I suppose, 
but it's no affair of mine, and curiosity is'nt my 
failing ; my business lies with the stables." So saying, 
he re-entered the ruinous old barn which it had 
pleased the owners of Pontarlac to dignify with that 
title ; and after slinging the lantern to the beam, 
threw himself down upon the straw, " and addressed 
him again to sleep." 

After his unexpected and undesired meeting with 
Victor de Preville, Chiffon had hastened along the 
corridor, and, descending the stairs, made an in- 
effectual attempt to open the front door. Failing in 
this, in consequence of its having been locked and the 
key removed, he re-crossed the stone-paved and 
broken floor, and turned down a passage to the right 
that led to the kitchen. Here he paused for a mo- 
ment, to listen to the voice and footsteps of the 
inhabitants of the chateau, now thoroughly aroused ; 
but his hesitation was for a moment only. He dragged 
a table to the window, and, springing upon it, opened 
the lattice, placed high up in the wall, and leaped 
boldly out, alighting safely upon the soft turf outside ; 
safely, inasmuch as he sustained no other damage 
than a few scratches from a thorn-bush against which 
he had rolled. To rise to his feet and plunge into the 
shrubbery was the work of an instant ; and, threading 
its well-known paths, he soon arrivedj at the place 



220 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

where he had left his horse. Unfastening the bridle 
from the branch around which he had twined it, he 
led the animal out into the open space beyond the 
thicket, and then with a cry, or rather scream of joy, 
vaulted on its back. 

" I am safe — safe from that double traitor ! And 
now for my revenge !" He put spurs to his horse, 
leaped a low fence, and gained the high road. " It's 
difficult travelling in a dark night over broken ground 
like this; but I mustn't draw rein till I pass through 
the gates of Quimper. The colonel in command there 
is a creature of Fouche's, and will only be too happy 
to do a something which may raise him in the estima- 
tion of his master. It will be a grand coup to have 
these cursed aiistocrats all laid by the heels to- 
morrow. Ha ha ! Monsieur le Chevalier shall pay 
dearly for this. Joseph Fouche never forgives a 
traitor — that is i ti aitor to himself — diable .'" And he 
struck his spurs again and again into his horse's side, 
till the animal seemed to fly rather than gallop over 
the ground, " to think of my being thus outwitted : 
this comes of trusting these aristocrats — we must needs 
go by law — the First Consul has always that word in 
his mouth, and Fouche, like the cat, delights to play 
with the mouse ere he kills it. Robespierre's course 
was the wiser — he cut the gordian knot with -the axe 
— and let those who liked argue the law of the case 
afterwards. Yes, Maximilian was right, and the 
guillotine is the only true regenerator of mankind. 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 221 

Bonaparte thinks differently ; well ! axe or bayonet 
it's all the same thing — they thin the population to give 
honest men like myself elbow room and opportunity to 
live. ' 

The Spy laughed, checked his horse's speed for a 
moment, and turned half round in his saddle to glance 
at a dark mass of building, which rose up black and soli- 
tary, a short distance to the left. " Bonchamp's farm 
— not a light to be seen ; my future father-in-law is a 
man of rule, and has sought his bed hours ago — an 
excellent man, sober, and plodding as one of his own 

oxen, and as obstinate as hilloh ! they are not all 

asleep ; the house has opened an eye ; there's a light, 
and at Yvonne's lattice, too," — he said this between 
bis closed teeth, — "waiting for Keroulas, perhaps, 
to talk love nonsense from the window : well, well, 
she will have to wait long enough after to-night — ' My 
poor Yvonne does nothing but weep and pray,' said 
her father ; and to-morrow I promise that she shall 
have cause to do both. Come," he said to the horse, 
as he again urged it into a galop, " push on ! you must 
make up for lost time ; every minute has its value ; 
and like a fool I've wasted three in watching that 
window. Parbleu ! if there's gratitude in a minister, 
I may look higher for a mate than the daughter of a 
Breton farmer. Once my birds safely netted, and then 
away to Paris, to see what fortune awaits me !" 

The Spy had left the farm nearly a mile behind 
him, and had entered upon one of those long, desolate 



222 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

tracks of heath so frequent in Brittany, giving to its 
scenery that wild and savage aspect, the constant con- 
templation of which must, in a great measure, influence 
the sad and sombre character of its peasantry. In the 
day-time, for miles, the vast sea of heath and broom 
might be seen stretching on either hand, its dreary- 
monotony diversified only by masses of rock, on the 
sides and summits of which grew, sparingly, long 
grasses and flowers. Man is but rarely seen, except 
in the neighbourhood of some isolated farm, that rises, 
cold and unsheltered, save by a few miserable trees, 
like a solitary island in a vast and melancholy sea • it 
is a land that grows nothing well but men ; a hard, 
phlegmatic, stubborn race, that for centuries made 
itself a name in history, as one never at peace ; for 
" when they were not fighting at home," says the 
chronicler, " they were fighting abroad ;" and " -when 
they could not find a rich war abroad, they remained 
at home and fought with each other." Even the 
women often showed themselves to be true children of 
this wild and rugged land, from Froissart's favourite 
heroine, J ane de Montfort, " who had a man's courage 
and a lion's heart," to the no less indomitable heroines 
who often fought side by side with their husbands 
against the Republicans in Brittany and La Vendee- 
A savage, but noble race, now rapidly passing away 
before those mighty conquerors and missionaries of 
civilisation, the printing press and the steam engine ; 
light is beginning to stream across the barren wastes, 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 223 

and iron roads to traverse the gloomy heaths, and 
soon, that Brittany, now so famous in chronicle and 
song, will, as a land of poetry and romance, be known 
no more. 

Not that Monsieur Anatole Chiffon was muc 
troubled by reflections as to either the past or the 
future of Brittany ; he was, essentially, a man of the 
present, and, . moreover, the night was still so dark 
that objects, unless within a short distance, were 
totally invisible ; twice he had to dismount, to assure 
himself that he was in the right road, by a closer 
examination of — now a peculiar block of stone, and 
then a tree, which served as landmarks for the travel- 
lers in this sterile wilderness. 

" It's lighter than it was," said the Spy, after 
having dismounted for the second time, "but the moon 
still keeps herself behind her black veil. I'd give 
something for just one smile from her bright face ; 
for, once out of this labyrinth of heath and broom, I've 
an easy, if a long ride before me : luckily, the Baron's 
horse is a good one, and keeps her pace well, even 
though she carries her master's death-warrant on her 
back ; certainly, the Baron's fate is a hard one — friend, 
valet, and horse, all in a conspiracy against him !" and 
the rascal laughed so hearlily at the idea, that he 
nearly rolled from the saddle. " But what could have 
induced the Chevalier to play us false after all 1 was it 
repentance at the eleventh hour 1 No ! de Preville is 
not so weak as that ; nor could it have been his friend- 



224 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

ship for d'Aubigny • it would be rather too late in the 
day to think of that — ah ! I think I have it ; Victor 
and Mademoiselle d'Aubigny — they've been loving of 
late ; yes, it must be so ; only find out in what 
direction a man's interest lies, and you've at once got 
the key to his actions ; this death of Marigny was the 
one obstacle removed; and the Baron's consent gained, 
Victor de Preville would come in for the entire of the 
estates, instead of the Chevalier being indebted to 
Fouche for a small slice of them. Why, what an ass 
I've been ! should a murmur of this get to Paris, my 
reputation would be gone for ever, — not to have seen 
these doves billing and cooing directly under my nose ! 
Bother the women ! they're always disarranging our 
plans ! when they once get mixed up in an affair, there's 
no reckoning upon a man's line of conduct for an 
hour ; for my part, I should be content if there were 
no such thing as love in the world ; however, it never 
lasts long, and that's a consolation." 

After this philosophical and highly Christian re- 
mark, Monsieur Anatole Chiffon rode on for some 
time in silence ; only indulging in an occasional ebul- 
lition of temper as the horse made a false step upon the 
uneven ground, or diverged from the beaten track : 
suddenly, however, he reigned in the horse, and wheel- 
ing round in the saddle, bent forward and listened at- 
tentively — 

" I could have sworn I heard the tramp of a 
Ihorse's hoofs carried along by the wind ; is it possible 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 225 

I can be pursued 1 Very possible — Stay !" Tor the 
third time lie dismounted, and placed his ear to the 
ground. Yes, there was no longer room for doubt ; 
the sound was that of a horse rapidly approaching. In 
a minute Chiffon was in the saddle, and, urging his 
horse to the top of its speed, literally flew over the 
uneven road; without, for a moment, slakening his 
pace, he turned in the saddle, and again and again en- 
deavoured to penetrate the thick wall of darkness that 
rose up between him and the distant horseman. " Can 
it be the Chevalier— or Victor de Preville 1 Surely, 
if bent upon such a chace, there would be more than 
one. Most likely it is some solitary traveller, who, 
like myself, endeavours to shorten by speed his jour- 
ney over this gloomy waste. However, be he enemy 
or friend, he will find Anatole Chiffon prepared," and 
the spy drew forth first one, and then the other of his 
pistols, and carefully examined their priming, " Eight !" 
he said ; " there's but little to fear : it is but one man 
that approaches, and I have here what is equal to the 
lives of two ; besides, in so dark a night as this, I have 
but to draw rein, and diverge slightly from this beaten 
tr.-.ck, and the horseman, whoever he is, will pass with- 
out knowing there has been any one within a mile of 
him, for the wind blows towards me." 

The quick tramp of the horse's feet came nearer 
and nearer ; one thing was certain, that the approach- 
ing horseman was better mounted than the treacherous 
valet. " I must let him pass me," muttered the latter ; 

Q 



226 THE HOODED SNAKE, 

and, by a jerk of the rein, he turned his horse's head in 
a contrary direction to that they had been pursuing. 
" About a quarter of a mile to the right there is ano- 
ther road — a worse road than this, if possible — but 
needs must, I suppose. Yet, if I can find good cover, 
I will make a halt till he has passed." The desired 
shelter was soon found, and horse and man were effec- 
tually concealed behind a mass of rock that stood, vast 
and solitary, among the heath, some fifty yards from 
the road. A few minutes, and bursting, as it were, 
through the dai-kness, came the horseman, the sound 
of whose approach had created so much uneasiness to 
Chiffon. He was riding at a headlong speed, and the 
horse's loud panting was painful to hear ; yet not for 
a moment did the rider slacken his pace, but with head 
bent forward over the animal's neck, appeared, while 
urging him forward, to seek some object in the gloom 
before him. He was passing onwards, like a whirl- 
wind, when loud, clear, and sonorous, the neigh of a 
horse rang through the air j and, as though it had re- 
cognised a Mend, the animal bestrode by the strange 
rider halted abruptly, and, raising its head proudly, 
gave back the cry ; at the same time, a horseman 
darted out — for concealment was now impossible — 
from behind the rock, and galloped swiftly across the 
heath. 

A shout from the stranger met the valet's ears, 
but it only served as an inducement to quicken his 
flight, for, by the tones of the voice, he now knew his 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 227 

pursuer to be Keroulas Carnac. Yes, it was all plain 
enough, now — the Baron's horse had recognised a 
friend in Rollo ; too often had they journeyed side 
by side to pass each other without a note of joyful re- 
cognition, and it was with many an imprecation upon 
the poor brute that Chiffon urged her onwards, by 
cruelly goaring with his spurs her foam and blood- 
streaked sides. 

" Halt, Anatole Chiffon ! Liar ! murderer ! spy ! 
it is I, Keroulas Carnac f ' 

The valet made no answer, but struck his heel 
yet more fiercely into the sides of his horse, and the 
poor tortured brute, redoubling its efforts, began to 
increase the distance between Chiffon and his pur- 
suer. 

" Dog ! my rifle can carry further than your heart ! 
Draw rein, I say — or I will fire upon you as you 
ride." 

The valet glanced over his shoulder, each minute 
was giving him an advantage over his pursuer ; a few 
more yards, and to take aim — even with a Breton's 
'• nightbird" eye — would be impossible, for the dark- 
ness would form a barrier between them as impervious 
as the shield of Achilles. 

With a laugh of defiance, the valet replied to the 
threat, and, by a stroke of the spur, sent the horse 
forward ; a few more bounds and the curtain of the 
night had closed around them, and nothing but the 
•quick beat of the horse's hoofs guided the Breton in his 



2'28 THE HOODED SNAKE. 

pursuit. Suddenly, from the very depth of the dark- 
ness, came a cry — the agonised cry of a horse. Mad- 
dened by the promised security, again and again had 
the valet used the spur, when the horse made one long 
lean forward, then a loose fragment of rock rolled 
away from under its. fore feet, and, in a moment, 
horse and rider came to the ground. For a minute or 
two both remained stunned, and motionless, but when 
Eollo came thundering on, Keroulas Carnac was boldly 
confronted by Anatole Chiffon, who stood, a pistol in 
each hand, by the still prostrate horse. 

The enraged Breton would have rode him down at 
puce, but the noble animal he bestrode refused to take 
part in the terrible animosities of man, and swerved 
aside ; it was lucky that he did so, for, at the same 
moment, a well-directed bullet whizzed past the Bre- 
ton's cheek, so near that it carried away a portion of 
the flesh, and Keroulas felt the warm blood trickling 
down his face. Without a moment's pause, the peasant 
rose in his saddle and fired — his boast had not been 
without reason — he had no occasion for a second shot, 
for the wretched spy, uttering a ciy of agony, 
stumbled heavily forward and fell upon his face. 

The Ereton sprung from the saddle and advanced 
towards the fallen man — 

"It is a righteous act, and one that will bring 

peace to V.te soul of poor Lebrun — for this poor wretch 

too, shall masses be said and Christian sepulture 

|iven — yes, I will cany back the body with me, 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 229 

and before them all avow the retributive deed — it is 
an act I am prepared to justify, or content to abide the 
penalty." Throwing aside his rifle, he stooped over 
the valet, then, with a cry, started back, for his eye 
looked down the deadly tube of Chiffon's second pistoL 
The spy had half risen from the ground — a look of 
fiend-like malice was upon his face — a menacing laugh 
broke from his lips — and, with a finger steadied by 
hate, he pulled the fatal trigger, a sharp report fol- 
lowed, and, without even a groan, Keroulas Carnao 
fell backwards a corpse ! 

********* 
Day broke over the vast and solitary heath ; the 
oold grey dawn crept up the sky, and rendered the 
desolation below yet more saddening and apparent ; a 
chill wind blew from the distant sea, and stirred with 
its salt breath the tall broom and long slender grasses, 
but not a sound disturb jd this dreary solitude, not a 
bird sprung upwards to welcome the coming light : 
time passed, however, and the light grew brighter and 
brighter, till the huge masses of rock that were scat- 
tered about stood out boldly against the sky in many 
an uncouth and fantastic shape, and the few solitary 
trees " each held a withered hand " to heaven to catch 
the first warm rays of the life-giving sun. 

Day ! it was broad day now, birds were singing in 
the air, and the pleasant inurmur of innumerable in- 
sects was everywhere around ; the light of the sun 
flowed in wavelets of gold over all things ; flowers 



230 THE HOODEE SNAKE. 

before unseen raised their graceful heads, and, beautiful 
as women, who, in their exquisite weakness, cling to 
the rougher manhood by their side, shed many an un- 
looked-for charm about the broken masses of rock 
from whose crevices they sprung. The sound, too, of 
human voices now broke upon the silence, but the 
tones were discordant and harsh, and the aspect of the 
men who uttered them, savage and lowering. These 
were the dwellers upon the heath — miners, as might 
be guessed by the iron lamp that each carried sus- 
pended to his belt, for there were lead mines in the 
neighbourhood. The miners are grouped around two 
horses that they have come upon, grazing quietly among 
the stone and rock. 

"This one has had a severe fall, its knees are 
broken, and there is a wound in the shoulder," said a 
miner, as he rose from a careful examination of one of 
the horses. 

" This one is without a scratch," said another ; " but 
when a man meets with horses, saddled and bridled, 
roaming over the heaths, it is but natural to ask where 
are the riders 1" 

" Here ! " 

The man who littered this last exclamation was 
standing near one of the large fragments of rock that 
lay everywhere about the heath. His comrades, in a 
second, were gathered around him. There they stood, 
grave and silent, forming a ring about two bodies — 
one that of a small, attenuated man, who lay upon hi* 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 231 

face, and who had evidently bled to death from a 
wound in the neck, a large stain of blood darkening 
the grass around him ; the other presented the fine 
athletic figure of a man -who had been cut off in the 
full vigour of life : the means were but too apparent — 
a slender crimson stream having trickled from a small 
round hole in the forehead — the fatal entrance by 
which the bullet had found its passage to the brain. 
Upon the one face, the finger of death had fixed, as in 
marble, a look of wicked triumph ; while the other 
seemed to retain, even in death, a look of horrified as- 
tonishment. 

Thus terminated the ride of Anatole Chiffon, and 
the life of Keroulas Carnac. 



A year has elapsed, and a heavy sorrow has crossed 
the threshold, and darkened the hearth of Dominique 
Bonchamp — the head of the old farmer is bowed with 
grief, and his hearty laugh is no longer heard : the as- 
pect of his farm is also changed ; the busy life is 
there, as heretofore, but it is no longer the joyous life 
that we have witnessed, when labour performed its 
task to the music of its own song — and the heart sang 
to lighten the work of the hands. What is the reason 
of this desolation that reigns around 1 Can ought 
have happened to Yvonne ? Is it that she is dead 1 
Alas ! yes, dead to the world and its joys ; dead to 
the despairing father and sorrowing friends ; the con- 



232 THE HOODED SXA1CE. 

vent doors have closed upon her young life, and over 
her bent head has fallen the consecrated veil. 

" Farewell, dear, dear father, and friends !" said 
the poor girl, as she took leave of the sad group who 
conducted her to the steps of the altar. " I will never 
so utterly forget the world as to cease to pray for your 
happiness." She then pressed to her bosom the weep- 
ing Eugenie, who, with her husband and father, stood 
near her, and, kissing her on both cheeks, said, " You 
are a wife, Madame de Preville — a good, true, and 
loving wife ; yours is a love that has stood the test of 
sorrow, and such a love would mine have been for Ke- 
roulas Carnac ; but it was not to be : may your life, 
dear sister, for you must let me call you so, be happier 
than mine." She ceased, and Victor and the Baron, 
obeying a gesture from the abbess, drew Eugenie away, 
while the nuns gathered around the gentle and pure- 
souled sister. 

But a little month has flown, when a nun, a good, 
kind creature, whom sympathy had drawn towards the 
young novice, knocks softly at the door of her celL 
There was no answer ; she knocked again ; and then, 
turning the handle of the door, glanced within. Yes, 
the room was occupied; — near the grated window, 
Yvonne was kneeling, her eyes fixed upon the crucifix 
that hung against the wall, while the bright rays of 
the sun poured down upon her face and illumined it as 
with a glory ; the good sister entered the room, and, 
stepping softly across the floor, stooped over the kneel- 



THE HOODED SNAKE. 233 

ing girl and pressed a kiss upon her forehead. Scarcely 
had she done so, than she started back in alarm ; the 
forehead was cold as marble, and no breath came 
through the parted lips : the beautiful casket was 
there, but the priceless jewel was gone, — the last 
breath of life had passed away in prayer. Yvonne's 
petition had been granted, and her pure soul was in 
Heaven. 



END OF HOODED SNAKE. 



POOR POPPIBTON. 



CHAPTER I. 

In a pleasant little sitting-room of a Margate 
lodging-house two persons are variously engaged 
and both intent upon their engagements ; as these 
persons — male and female — have much to do with the 
story we are about to relate, we think it necessary to 
introduce them at once, by name, to that profound 
and august personage — the reader. 

Mr. and Mrs. — (we beg the lady's pardon) — Mrs. 
and Mr. Thomas Dowse are as worthy a couple as ever 
turned their backs, for a time, upon the smoke of 
London, to inhale the salt breeze, and devour the 
savoury shrimp upon the sandy shore of that cockney 
paradise, the Isle of Thanet. 

Mi\ Thomas Dowse is a citizen of London, who, 
after many years of toil, has succeeded in two things : 
the first, in making a small fortune from his business, 



poos toitletox. 235 

that of retail hosier in Bucklersbury, — the second, in 
Toeing nominated to represent his ward, in that most 
glorious of our city's institutions — the court of Common 
Council. It has been his custom each year to, as he 
would express it, l( rub the rust off " at the sea- side ; 
and as, during the present year, the incrustation was 
unusually thick, the rubbing process had been com- 
menced proportionately early 

The ceremony of introduction now having been duly 
gone through, and the reader and Mr. Dowse made ac- 
quainted, we shall no longer indulge in the puff prelimi- 
nary, but taking the trumpet from our lips, pass it over 
to the worthy retail hosier himself, and allow that gen- 
tleman to blow it, at least to his own satisfaction. 

The scene, as we have said, is a sitting-room, and 
as we have not said, it is upon the ground-floor, with 
windows opening down to the carpet, thus admitting 
as much of the sea air as possible ; which, even when 
the windows are shut, is very much indeed — the car- 
pet, when a breeze is blowing, generally displaying, in 
its wavelike undulations, a tolerably correct imitation, 
though upon a smaller scale, of the toss and tumble of 
water that is going on without. Through the windows 
the beach is visible, presenting — not the usual " fine 
view of the sea," that is held out as an alluring bait 
by advertising lodging-house keepers, and which 
generally consists of a distant view of it between two 
chimney pots, or about six square inches of sand, the- 
end of a bowsprit, and its pendant, a blue shirt, hung 



236 POOR POPPLETON. 

out to dry, — but a fine sweep of beach, upon which a 
row of bathing-machines are bleaching in the sun, or 
crawling slowly out into the sea, to disgorge their 
living and lively freight. The furniture of this parti- 
cular sitting-room we will not describe ; it was of the 
usual lodging-house sort, putting forth a false and 
shabby pretension to the ornamental, as though con- 
scious that the useful was quite out of the question, 
Mrs. Dowse, who is fat and fair, and fast approach- 
ing forty, has approached the window, and after glanc- 
ing out upon the wide " expanse of ocean," with pas- 
sionate admiration turns to address her more prosiac 
husband, whose undivided attention is bestowed upon 
the breakfast-table. ♦• 
" Oh ! Dowse !" 

" What's the matter T says that gentleman, looking, 
up with alarm, for Mrs. Dowse's exclamation was both 
sharp and sudden. 

" Why, nothing's the matter, but; — " 
" Well, my dear, don't do it again. I want my 
nerves settled, and not shocked in that manner. Be- 
sides, it disarranges the digestive organs, and thereby 
spoils the appetite." 

Mrs. Dowse raised first her eyebrows, then her 
shoulders, again glanced from the window, and again 
addressed her husband. 

" Come, my dear, and look at the sea — it's beauti- 
ful this morning." 

•" No doubt of it — but to my mind, ' distance lend* 



POOH POPPLETON. 237 

enchantment to the view.' " Mrs. Dowse made a 
movement to speak, but the common councilman went 
on. " It's a curious fact, Mrs. D., that the farther I 
am from what tie poets call the wilderness of waters, 
the more I enjoy it." And certainly the havoc he was 
making among the eatables before him proved the 
object of Mrs. Dowse's affection to be of a very different 
character. His lady — whose early education had been 
grounded upon the Minerva's press, and whose fountain 
of knowledge was still the circulating library — replied, 
with much disgust — 

" You've no romance, Mr. Dowse !" 
"I have not, my dear; that fact was perfectly 
understood when I married you." 
"Mr. D. !" 

" Mrs. Ditto ! I am eating, and it's rude to talk 
with my mouth full." 

Shade of Rosa Matilda, this was too much ! The 
eyes — and they had not yet . lost all their youthful 
brightness — of Mrs. Dowse sparkled, and her indig- 
nant thought found utterance — the thought sprung 
from a dweller in the realms of romance, but the 
words were coined in Bucklersbury. We blush as we 
write them down — 
"You're a hog!" 

The party addressed, however, only shrugged his 
shoulders, and said quietly — " Very good ! then I'll 
go to the entire animal — only you won't pickle me in 
brine, Mrs. Dowse. I tell you I hate the sea." 



238 POOR POPPLETON. 

" Then why did you come to it ?" 

" Because it's the fashion ; you're not respectable 
unless you do. Besides, there's the smoke of London 
to wash off ; a man is like a watch, my love, lie 
must be cleaned at intervals, to work well. The 
sea's a bath, intended for the world to wash in once a 
.year — it's a very good contrivance, but it might be 
better." 

"Better?" 

" It's too salt, and not near steady enough — as 
a married man, I require quietude and regular habits." 

Mrs. Dowse shuddered. 

" Prosiac man, and I have married you ! " 

" Yes, my dear, you have ; so my first require- 
ment will never be realised." 

" Mr. Dowse ! sir ! when I was a girl — " 

" Pooh ! you never were a girl." 

" What '?" 

" There are no girls now-a-days. When one of your 
«ex has reached the age of ten years, she has nothing 
to gain but dimensions !" 

But Mrs. Dowse was not to be silenced. She begun 
again— to be again interrupted by her husband. 

" The sea -side is — " 

" I don't want a sea-side. As a father of a family, 
I find the expense greater than the benefit. Here is 
only a fortnight gone, and I have spent no less than 
three pounds ten in raffles alone ; and — " Here the 
worthy hosier, for the first time during the conversa- 



POOK POPPLETON. 239 

tion, laid down his knife and fork, and gazed fixedly 
at his wife — " what have I got for my money 1" 

" Fiddlestick !" 

" No, I am sorry to say, nothing so useful, Mrs. D. 
I've got one pair of nut-crackers that cracked them- 
selves directly they were opened, and forty-six sticks 
of cosmetic." 

"Well?" 

" Well ! what's the good of all that to me 1 Busi- 
ness men don't wear moustaches, and I am bald ; 
there's no disguising the fact, I'm bald." 

" Pshaw ; you've no poetry." 

" Not a bit, prose is good enough for me. 

" Go on with your breakfast." 

" Thank you, my dear, but I haven't stopped." 
And Mr. Thomas Dowse continued the pleasant 
operation — to him the pleasantest operation — of eating, 
while his more romantic spouse watched the evolu- 
tions of the bathing machines from the window, Mr. 
Dowse only looking up at intervals, as the sound of 
the dragging wheels was heard, or the heavy plunges 
that denoted the propinquity of the bathers. 

" There's Tom Edwards ! he dives like a duck !" 

The exclamation came from Mrs. Dowse. The little 
hosier was horrified ; again he laid down those active 
weapons, his knife and fork, and surveyed the partner 
of his bosom sternly. 

" Dive like a duck ! then I shall request Mr. Ed- 
wards to dive a little further from my parlour 
window." 



240 POOR POPPLETON. 

" Don't be foolish, Mr. D. ' When you're at Rome,' 
you know." 

". Yes, I know, but the Romans didn't do anything 
so nasty." 

Here several plunges were heard, and Mr. Dowse 
rose with dignity, snatched a telescope from the hands 
of his wife, and drawing himself up to his full height 
(five-feet three), said, 

" Mrs. Dowse, as the mother of a family, I am 
surprised at you ; do you never read the Times ?" 

" "What, the letters about the bathing V 

" Yes, madame, letters that, to the style of Junius 
unite the morals of — of — Dr. Watts ; you will re- 
member they were signed Paterfamilias." 

"Well?" 

Mr. Dowse's face assumed a yet more majestic 
expression, he waved his hand, and leaning upon the 
telescopse said — 

" Mrs. Dowse, I am Paterfamilias." 

" What ! you ? you Paterfamilias 1 you write to 
the papers ! oh! you funny little man!" And the 
good lady gave way to peal after peal of laughter. 
This peculiar and unexpected reception of his an- 
nouncement of the great secret — for such it had been 
— of the last three weeks of Mr. Dowse's life — some- 
what unsettled that indignant moralist ; and he said, 
with rising and justifiable anger — 

" Yvhat do you mean, ma'am ? I don't like that 
laugh, Mrs. D. When the name of Paterfamilias is 



POOR POPPLETON. 241 

mentioned, you will allow me to say that any hilarity 
is unbecoming." 

But his buxom wife, with a fresh explosion of 
mirth, made answer — 

"Why, you silly little man, what does it matter 
for a month 1 When we city. folks get abroad — " 

" There's no reason why we should leave modesty at 
home." He pointed to the table — " Take your break- 
fast, Mrs. Dowse, and leave them (the grammar, even 
of a common councilman, may be faulty) bathers 
alone." 

The good little lady obeyed, only observing, as she 
did so — 

" I scorn your insinuation, Mr. Dowse ; I was only 
looking ifl couldseeanything of Mr. Poppleton — ah ! 
poor Mr. Poppleton ! where is he now, I wonder V 

But Mr. Dowse was out of humour, and answered, 
pettishly 

" I don't know — and begin to think that I don't 
care. I am not an unkind man, Mrs. D., but I am a 
healthy one, and I dislike sick people." 

His wife put down her teacup, and said, reproach- 
fully, " You've no heart !" 

The good-natured little hosier looked at his wife 
for a moment ; then, walking round the table, deli- 
berately imprinted a kiss upon her plump cheek. 

" No heart ! That's because I gave it all to you the 
day we were married. L stands for love, my dear !" 

" And D for duck," said the lady — and thus the 

E 



242 POOR POPPLETON. 

little conjugal difference happily concluded, and the 
breakfast continued. 

" Mr. Poppleton's in love, isn't he ?" again ques- 
tioned the lady. 

" Poor Poppleton ! he's dying of it. It's a heart 
disease that admits of but one cure.'' 

"What's that?" 

" Marriage ! He'd have died in those dreary cham- 
bers of his in town — that's why I have invited him 
down here, to see if change of air would do him good, 
and—" 

" And what ?" asked the hosier's wife, as her hus- 
band paused and shook his head with much solemnity 
— " And what 1" 

"And smooth his path to the grave." 

Mrs. Dowse gave a slight scream, and a convulsive 
jump in her chair; but the stoical hosier continued 
eating, merely inquiring, as a reason for his wife's 
alarm, if anything had fallen into the milk-jug ? The 
lady glanced at him reproachfully, and, with tears in 
her eyes, asked if Mr. Poppleton was really so very 
bad? Again Mr. D. shook his head — a profound 
and ominous shake, that was as full of meaning as 
Lord Burleigh's. 

"He's double-knocked at Death's door, and — ' 
here he reached his hand across the table — "I'll 
trouble you for the cold meat, my dear ?" 

The lady helped her husband, and resumed — 

" Is there no hope ?" 



POOR POPPLETON. 243 

" None. ' We're here to-day and gone to-rnorrow.' 
Very good motto that, Mrs. D , for all earthly lodging- 
houses. The mustard, if you please? Thank you." 

" And you can eat when that poor young man is 
suffering?" 

" "Why not 1 Is there any reason why this poor 
man should suffer as well 1 Besides, I'm not in love !" 

" Mr. D !" 

" That is, I've no necessity to be in love. I'm 
married — now, Poppleton is not." 

" Poor young man !" 

" Well, that's a matter of opinion ; but these are 
the facts of the case." Here Mr. Dowse pushed away 
his plate, and wiped his mouth v.ith the table napkin. 
" My friend, Augustus Poppleton, is in love — in 
love with Miss Jemima Wilkins, to distraction !" 

He emphasised the last word ; and Mrs. Dowse 
sighed — a deep sigh of sympathy ; then said — 

"And she returns his love T 

"Well, hitherto she has done so ; for all his letters 
have been sent back unopened. Her father, you see, 
is in the oil and colour line. Poppleton is, as you 
know, an artist ; and being thoroughly in the old 
gentleman's books in the way of trade, is thoroughly 
out of them in any other." 

" I don't understand.' ' 

" Well, then, the result of their business transac- 
tions has not been of that pleasant nature to lead the 
paternal Wilkins to approve of an artistic alliance." 



244 POOR POPPLETON. 

" But there's money on one side," said simple Mrs. 
Dowse. 

" And none on the other," replied her husband. 
"That's just it!" 

" I thought Mr. Poppleton was a genius 1" 

" That's it again ! He is a genius ; and so old 
"WHkins, like a prudent man, has closed his books and 
doors to him." 

" The old curmudgeon !" exclaimed the indignant 
lady — for, bless her heart ! though born in the city, 
she had but little of its worldly wisdom — " the old 
curmudgeon ! and you to defend him." 

Mr. Dowse coughed : a hard, man-of-the-world, 
business-like, city cough. 

" You see, my dear, I have a friendship for 
Augustus ; but then, I am a friendly man — ahem ! — 
Paterfamilias, you know ; and, thank heaven ! I have 
as yet been able to meet my butcher without a blush, 
aud, win a. j,t h o me, I am always so to the tax- 
gatherer." 

"And you are not a genius, I suppose T 

" Your supposition is correct — I am not. When 
I reflect upon the extent of my family, and the hard- 
ness of the times, I am grateful that I am not." 

" And Miss Jemima, is her heart as closely shut as 
the doors of her father ?" 

" That's a riddle that none but the young lady 
herself can solve. Her father, fearing the effect of 
the charms of Poppleton — and it must be confessed 



POOR POPPLETOX. 245 



.that those geniuses are often very charming fellows 
has sent her over to France for a time, where, from 
the last news received by her broken-hearted lover, 
she is about to be married to a French gentleman; 
and Poppleton, seeing all his hopes ruined by this un- 
looked-for French alliance, took to his bed and was 
given up by the doctors." 

" Given up by the doctors ! poor young man !" 
"Nonsense, my dear; if anything could have 
saved him, that would. They recommended Madeira, 
but they might as well have recommended the moon. 
I suggested Margate ; and, with your consent, in- 
vited him down here." 
The lady sighed again. 

" Poor dear that he is — so quiet, such a lamb of a 
man !" 

"And so changed!" Here the good-natured 
hosier echoed the sigh of his wife, and, rising, walked 
to the window ; " When I see what he is, and reflect 
upon what he was, I hate all womankind." 

" I am surprised at you, Mr. Dowse !" said his 
better-half, who had also risen and followed him to the 
window. 

" Pardon me, I mean that I hate the sex, viewing 
it as a wholesale commodity — but — "and the hosier 
passed his arm round the ample waist of his wife — " I 
adore it in detail." 

" Get away with your nonsense.' Matilda 
Dowse turned very red, and struggled to release her- 
self. " Don't you see — he's here." 



2iu POOR POPPLETON. 

" So be is !" and the kindly couple drew back, one 
on each, side of the window, as a Bath chair appeared 
before it ; its occupant was a young man, with all the 
external marks of an invalid in the last stage of bodily 
weakness. His pale face just showed above the large 
red comforter that was wrapped round his throat ; 
his head, upon which was a cloth travelling-cap 
with lappets, the strings of which were tied carefully 
under his chin, rested upon a pillow. The chair 
stopped ; the invalid uttered a prolonged and dismal 
groan ; and, without noticing either Mrs. or Mr. 
Dowse, — who had opened the windows, or rather glass 
doors, to receive him — allowed his head to rest heavily 
upon his breast. 

" Poor Mr. Augustus !" said the lady, as she advanced 
to the side of the chair. Then, in a whisper to her 
husband, " he seems worse to-day !" 

Mr. Thomas Dowse sunk his hands deep into hia 
pockets, and uttered a subdued and melancholy 
whistle ; but the only words that escaped his lips were 
— " Poor Poppleton !" 

" Come, come, Poppleton $" and th9 little hosier 
laid his hand upon his sick friend's shoulder. 

" Oh ! do bear up, Mr. Augustus," said the hosier's 
wife, "and — " 

" Jemima, ob} Jemima !" was all that their entrea- 
ties elicited from the gentleman in the Bath chair. 
Had Mrs. and Mr, Dowse been at that moment in 
Bucklersbury, he could not have appeared more sub- 
limely unconscious of their presence. 



POOR POPPLETON. 247 

" Oh ! never mind Jemima, Mr. P. ; you'd be 
little the better for seeing her now, I'm sure." 

Thus spoke the good lady, while her husband 
gazed into his sick friend's face, and muttered, in an 
aside — 

" And she'd be little the better for seeing him now, 
I'm certain ;" the aloud, " Come, rouse up, Gus." 

" I can't ; my health is gone — nry spirit's broken — 
life's a blank." 

" Nonsense ! fill it up with somebody else's name. 
When I was first disappointed in — " 

" You ! Mr. D. 2" 

Never was astonishment expressed more legibly 
On feminine face, than it was on thine, Mrs. Dowse ; 
but her husband corrected himself, and called back the 
Sunshine with a word. 

" I meant to say, if I had been disappointed in 
love." 

"Wellf 

*' Why, Td soon have balanced the account, and 
opened a fresh leaf in the ledger." 

So saying, he proceeded, with the assistance of the 
chairman, to lift poor Poppleton out of the chair. 
Thhi operation performed, the invalid entered the room, 
leaning heavily upon an arm of each ; then, with a 
groan that made the lady start as at a pistol shot, he 
Sunk into an easy chair. 

" Come, have a chop, old fellow ; it will do you. 
good." 



2£8 POOR POPPLETON. 

Poppleton shook his head, 

"Eat food ? I've done with food !" 

"Then take some coffee." 

" Drink 1 I've done with drink — all drinks but 
One !" 

Here he turned his head slowly in the direction 
of Mrs. Dowse — 

" Madam, is there any poison in the house ? " 

" Goodness, gracious ! No." 

" Then send for sixpenny worth of the most deadly. 
Say it's for the rats ; the chemists won't suspect — they, 
never do." 

Mr. Dowse drew himself up with dignity, the 
spirit of Paterfamilias was aroused. 

" Mr. Augustus Poppleton — " 

" ' That's he that was Othello ! '" a quotation fol- 
lowed by a groan, as it deserves to be, from the gen- 
tleman. 

" I am surprised." 

■" Are you ? Happy man, I'm past astonishment." 

Here the chairman advanced, and touched his 
hat. 

" Ax pardin ; but want the cheer agin to-day, 
sir 1 " 

Poppleton, without looking up, replied faintly— 

"No." 

" Any hother wehicle ?" 

"Yes, a hearse." 

A look of hoiTor passed between the hosier and 



POOR POPPLETON. 249 

liis wife ; but the chairman received the order after 
the manner of his tribe, with phlegmatic indifference. 

" Weri-y good, sir. Master jobs 'em ; but if you're 
a-goin' so uncommon soon " — here he drew from his 
pocket a fragment of dirty paper — " there's this little 
haccount fust to — " 

With one hand Mr. Poppleton rejected the docu- 
ment, with the other he languidly indicated the 
hosier — 

" Pay it, Dowse." 

His head sunk upon his breast, and the name of 
" Jemima " was alone audible upon his lips. 

The chairman received the money with a smile. 
The victim to friendship paid it with a grimace, saying, 
however — 

" "Wait outside, my man ; we may require you 
after breakfast." 

The individual addressed touched his hat, then, 
glancing at Poppleton, said, in a hoarse whisper — 

" Gen'le'man's werry bad, sir ?'' 

"Hush! yes." 

" Werry good, sir." 

He then, with another leer at the unconscious in- 
valid, touched a dirty forehead with a still dirtier fore- 
finger — 

" Little cranky, eh, sir ? Something gone wrong in 
the upper vurks ?" 

Mr. Dowse shook his head, and placed a hand upon 
his heart. The " noble chairman " looked puzzled, but 



250 POOK POPPLETON. 

touched his hat again, then muttered, as he went 
out — 

"Indian chap, I 'spose. Well, I thought it wos 
delirium trimins." 

So, with a reflective air, he wandered down the 
beach, to join, and to discuss the matter with, a party 
of his comrades ; who, each one seated in his chair, 
were lazily basking in the sun. The Bath chair -was 
considerately left for somebody to tumble over, blocking 
up the glass doors of the sitting-room. 

" Come, come, have some breakfast," for the seventh 
time urged the anxious hostess. 

" You are very good, but — but my heart's broken." 

" Save the pieces, my boy," burst in the hosier.. 
" Tell you what it is, there's no cement like time \ 
they'll ail come together again, depend on it." 

" She returned my letters." 

" Compulsion. Old Wilkins is a perfect tempest \ 
not all the oil in his shop would calm him when he's 
roused." 

" I had her promise.* 1 

"Pooh 1 pooh 1 lover's promises are like Irishmen's 
beads — made to be broken. Have some ^631^3^" 

"You're very kind, very; but please let me dief 
I'd rather do it ; it may be my last request on earth. 5 * 

" Oh 1 don't talk in that way, Mr. Augustus," ex* 
claimed the lady, " it's shocking. For my part I never 
oould abide funerals, black's so unbecoming." 

Mr. Dowse was fast losing patience — he was aa 



POOB POPPLETW. 251 

obstinate man himself — but that any man should so 
pertinaciously refuse to eat his breakfast, was an extent 
of obstinacy — for such he regarded it — by him not to 
be conceived. So, pushing Poppleton's chair nearer 
the open windows or doors, he said, somewhat sharply — 

" There you are, then — plenty of air, the cbame- 
lion's dish on a large scale — hope you'll enjoy it — fine 
view of the sea and the bathers ; don't you see 'em 
come bobbing up like Truth from her well — that is, 
they're quite as wet, and almost as nak — " 

" Mr. D. !" 

The husband looked at his wife and coughed. 

" Ahem ! as destitute of clothing — " He would 
have said more, but the side door was banged open, 
and an under-sized, doubtful-aged, ragged-headed, red- 
armed maid-of-all-work thrust her begrimed visage into 
the room. 

" What do you want, Betsy ?" said Mr. Dowse, 
angrily, as he surveyed the dirty apparition. 

'• Nuflin. Here's the paper." She placed the 
Times upon the chair nearest to her hand, withdrew 
her head from the room with the same celerity with 
which she had introduced it, and the door again shut 
her from their view. 

The hosier crossed the room and took up the 
.newspaper, 

u If brevity's the soul of wit, then Betsy's a very 
facetious girl. Pray be seated, Mrs. Dowse. I'll take 
eome coffee." 



252 POOR POPPLETON. ' 

" Don't let me interrupt you," groaned the unhappy 
Poppleton, languidly taking up the telescope, which 
Dowse had placed near him ; " I'm very sorry if I do, 
but it won't be tor long," — and slowly opening the 
telescope, he directed it towards the beach and looked 
out. 

" All right," said the hosier, passing his cup across 
the table ; "don't disturb yourself any more about him, 
my dear, it's really — but, bless me ! what is he looking 
at so attentively? Poppleton! Poppleton! very pecu- 
liar ! he seems quite interested ! What can he see r" 
The worthy little citizen, still stirring his coffee-cup, 
which he held in his hand, rose from his seat and ap- 
proached the window unobserved by Poppleton, who 
was intent upon a something he saw through the tele- 
scope. " There's Betsy talking to the soldiers : but he 
can't be interested in her, — how fond that girl is of the 
military, to be sure !" 

Mrs. D. suspended the operation of pouring out 
coffee to remark, " It's shameful ! Betsy's habits 
wouldn't do in Bucklersbury. I never will allow any 
girl in my house to have followers !" 

"Then you'll have to wait upon yourself, Mrs. 
Dowse, for human nature will be. human nature. I< 
say, Poppleton ! — what the deuce is he looking at ? " 

The hosier was straining his eyes in the direction to 
which the telescope pointed, when, with a sudden 
bound, Augustus Poppleton sprang from the easy 
chair. 



POOR POPPLETON. 253' 

" 'Tis she ! ! ! " 

He dashed out his arms as he spoke, and struck 
the coffee-cup out of Dowse's hand with the tele- 
scope. 

" I can't mistake ! — the figure ! — the walk ! it is 
she ! — she's here ! I'm here ! Dowse, my heart's not 
broken !" 

" I wish I could say as much for my coffee-cup ! 
What on earth is the matter, Mr. Augustus Pop- 
pleton?" 

"I'm mad!" and before Dowse could retreat, his 
friend had clasped him in his arms, — at the same time 
bringing down the end of the telescope upon the break- 
fast equipage, to the great alarm of the lady, who rose, 
with a scream, from the table. 

" Yes, I'm mad with joy ! Dowse, old fellow, 
don't I tell you I'm mad ! " 

"You needn't repeat the assertion !" and the little 
hosier, now purple in the face, struggled violently to 
free himself. "It's quite apparent ! Let me go, will 
you ? Mrs .D., why don't you call somebody V 

" Mr. Augustus !" screamed the lady, at the same 
time seizing him firmly by the coat-tails, " Mr. 
Augustus ! " 

Alive to the appeal, Mr. Augustus released the 
captive Dowse — so suddenly that, with his toilette all 
awry, that gentleman staggered back into the easy 
chair, — released the husband, to — oh ! horror ! — em- 
brace the wife in a like frantic manner ! 



254 POOR POPPLETON. 

" Best of women ! your heart can understand 
me!" 

" Oh ! he's raving ! " gasped Dowse from the 
chair. 

" Beautiful woman !" continued the revived Pop- 
pleton. 

" Ah ! that's sufficient ! — his wits are clean gone !" 
commented the hosier. 

" Well, I don't quite see that, Mr. D.," said his wife, 
adjusting her cap. 

"You can feel for me, my dear madam, — as a 
sister !" 

" I can, Mr. Augustus." 

"Asa mother !" 

" Go along with you !" and, with a face as red as a 
peony, she turned to her husband, saying, in a whisper, 
" Oh ! he's mad ! — mad as a March hare 1" 

In truth Mr. Augustus Poppleton's movements be- 
came each moment more and more suspicious. Snatch- 
ing up the telescope with one hand, with the other he 
grasped the astonished Dowse by the collar, and dragged 
him to his feet. 

" You're my friend ! don't deny it, you are ! take 
pity on my weakness — bear with me !" 

" "Weakness !" and the word came from the half- 
choked citizen with a jerk — "Let me go, sir." 

" Come here," and Poppleton pulled him to the 
window — "stand there! now, take hold of that — " 
and he thrust the telescope into his hands; "look 



POOR POFPLETON. 255 

there !" he pointed towards the beach — " tell me, Tom 
Dowse, what do you see?" 

" A fat woman bathing a dog, and — " 
" A dog ! look again !" and again Augustus pointed 
—"there! !!" 

Mr. Dowse gazed attentively in the direction in- 
dicated, then was about to shut up the telescope indig- 
nantly — " For shame, Mr. Poppleton, — I'm surprised 
at you — as the father of a family I really can't, — it strikes 
me forcibly — " It did, for the end of the telescope was 
first thrust in his ribs preparatory to its being returned 
to his hands, by the indignant Poppleton, 

" I didn't !" said that gentleman, who seemed 
rapidly becoming — if mentally weak — physically 
stronger; "not there?" and he altered the focus of the 
glass : " Now, do you see an angel ?" 

" "Well, no, I think not — but I shouldn't know one 
if I did." 

" That girl, sir,"said Augustus Poppleton, solemnly, 
" is a paragon of loveliness." 

" Is she ? well I shouldn't have guessed it," and here 
Dowse shut the telescope; "they say beauty's the 
mother of love ; but, in this case, love is the mother of 
beauty." 

"You saw her?" 

" Of course I did." 

" You recognised her V 

"Yes, Betsy." 

'•No, Jemima!" 



256 POOR POPPLETON. 

And with much indignation, Augustus Poppleton 
pushed Mr. Thomas Dowse roughly on one side, made 
a rush at the open window, cleared the Bath chair 
with a bound, and disappeared in the direction of the 
beach, leaving the hosier and his wife gazing after him 
with faces of blank astonishment. 



POOS POPPLETON. 257 



CHAPTER II. 

We left Mrs. and Mr." Dowse, at the conclusion of 
our first chapter, standing in attitudes expressive of 
astonishment, at the eccentric behaviour and abrupt 
departure of their sick friend, Mr. Augustus Poppleton. 

The gentleman was the first to speak — 

" Mad !" he said, " stark, staring mad !" 

" Certainly," assented the lady. 

" Poor fellow!" the hosier went on, with a sorrowful 
shake of his head ; " poor fellow, they are often taken 
like this before they go off!" 

"Go off!" muttered Mrs. Dowse, " I begin to wish 
he had never come down." 

" Nonsense, haven't you got any charity ?" 

The lady, who was now picking up the fragments of 
the coffee-cup, which Mr. Poppleton had broken, an- 
swered, pettishly, " Charity begins at home." 

" So it does, my dear, but it thrives none the worse 
for now and then taking an airing — ah !" continued 
Dowse, with a profound sigh " I shouldn't wonder 
if in half an hour he's brought home a corpse." 

s 



258 POOR POPPLETON. 

Again the fragments of the coffee-cups were scattered 
upon the floor — it -was evident that good little Mrs. 
Dowse was not born like old Sarah of Marlborough, 
before nerves were in fashion — 

"Lor! Mr. D., why just now he seemed quite well." 

" That's it," said her husband, " when we seem well 
we're always the most ill — don't all the doctors tell us 
so ? — a sudden revery is like a sudden repentance, too 
good to be lasting. But I'll tell you what I'll do — I'll 
go and look after him, while you instruct Betsy to 
see his bed prepared. There, go, my dear," for Mrs. 
Dowse still hesitated; "forget and forgive, you know; 
let her knoek him up something light and refreshing 
— a little senna tea or some barley -water — poor fellow, 
he's as weak as a baby, and wants sustaining." 

Mrs. Dowse was not one of those who could " nurse 
her wrath to keep it warm," so, having for the second 
time picked up the broken crockery, she left the room 
with the old sunshiny look upon her face (indeed no 
other was at home there), saying, nevertheless, "I'll 
do the best for the poor young man, I'm sure ; but 
he's no judge of a woman's age, and that I'll stick to." 

The door having closed upon his wife, Mr. Dowse 
again resumed his place at the open window — indul- 
ging, at the same time, in a prolonged whistle. "Whew! 
— well, that was a queer start — poor Poppleton ! — why 
here's nearly a week and we couldn't get him to walk 
a dozen yards without support — had to lift him in and 
out of this very chair, which he has just cleared like 



POOR POPPLETON. 259 

an acrobat. What can be the matter V And again 
the hosier whistled reflectively, " Could anything have 
bitten 1 One does get bitten in every way in these 
lodging-houses — all day by the hai'pies who keep thein, 
and all night by the — well, never mind — but there's no 
place like home, after all •" here he took up the tele- 
scope, and began to adjust the focus. — Couldn't have 
been hydrophobia, because he runs to the water — 
water, indeed ! — I declare there are those young hussies 
bathing away still, in spite of Paterfamilias — it's very 
shocking! — shameful ! it's — " Mr Dowse, while giving 
vent to his indignant feelings, had applied his eye to 
the telescope ; " it's — why I declare they're dancing — 
positively dancing — having a quadrille in the water — 
ha, ha, ha ! — very pretty, upon my word!" and the feet 
of the little hosier began to go through a few steps, we 
must presume without the knowledge of their owner : 
though be it known he was no more averse to a dance 
than you or I, gentle reader ; his eye, however, was 
still closely applied to the end of the telescope. 

" That's a nice girl — tlie^tall one with the yellow 
hair — shoukl'nt mind such a partner myself, young 
hussey ! Ton my Avord ! — really the police should 
interfere." He had drawn the telescope out to the 
full extent, and was so intent upon the entertainment it 
afforded him as to be unaware that another person 
had entered the room ; it was Poppleton, the incu- 
rable Poppleton ! the doomed Poppleton ! poor Pop- 
pleton ! whose case had been pronounced " hopeless," 



260 POOR POPPLETON. 

not only by his friend Dowse, but by the doctors 

those 

" Sad presaging ravens that toll 
The sick man's passport in their lengthy bills, 
And in the shadow of the silent night 
Doth shake contagion from their sable wings." 

It was Poppleton ; but how changed ! There was 
jauntiness in his air, a confidence in his aspect ; . 

light had 

" On Marmion's visage spread, 
And fired his glazing eye." 

Oh ! mysterious power of love ! what magic can equa 
thine ! Magic ; pooh ! Prospero's wand was but 
common walking-stick, and Harlequin's bat no mor 
than a cricketer's, compared to the .wonder-workin 
power, the irresistible witchery, of a pair of sof 
brown eyes. But a few minutes back and the face c 
Augustus Poppleton was melancholy as a winter's se 
— it was now radiant and smiling as a summer meadow 
He gazed at the occupied and unconscious Dowse fo 
a moment, then, taking off his own cap, suspended i 
gracefully on 'the end of the telescope, and, to th 
amazement of the little hosier, a 

" Thick darkness fell upon all things." 

" I've lost the focus ; yes — no — its very vexing ; 
can't see a bit." 

He was endeavouring to alter the focus, his eye 
still peering into the depths of the telescope, when i 
voice sounded into his ear — 



POOR POPPLETON. 261 

" Dowse ! — your wife's coming !" 

The telescope was dropped instantly, and Pater- 
familias looked up, all confusion — 

"No, my dear, I can't see him anywhere. I've 
been — " here his eyes rested upon the grinning Pop- 
pleton — " Oh ! it's you, is it ?" — then, in an aside to 
himself — " he's as mad as ever." 

The behaviour of Mr. Augustus was certainly 
peculiar. He held his sides and stamped his feet, 
giving way to bursts of laughter — minute guns of 
mirth let off at intervals, and after each burst gave his 
fore-fingers an admonitory shake at the bewildered 
citizen. At last he spoke — 

" You're a nice man to write letters to the 
papers ! Why, Peeping Tom of Coventry was a saint 
to you !" 

" Mr. Augustus !" — but Mr. Augustus went on — 

" At your time of life, too — it's horrible ! I ought 
to tell Mrs. Dowse — I ought, indeed, for the interests 
of morality." 

The hosier could hear no more. He was naturally 
a mild man, but " anger is one of the sinews of the 
soul, and he that wants it hath a mained mind •" so 
the cup of endurance overflowed, and — 

" Mr. Poppleton ! ! ! — sir — a word : if I did not 
know that you were suffering — that you were weak, 
sir — do you hear me 1 — weak — I'd — what the devil do 
you mean, sir?" 

At the word weak, Poppleton, who had taken up 



262 POOR POPPLETON. 

the telescope, had given the hosier a playful poke in 
the stomach, which had sent him staggering back into 
an easy chair, whose arms were fortunately open to 
receive him. 

" What do you mean, sir V 

"Mean ! — why, IVe found her !" 

He seized his friend's hand, and gave it such a 
squeeze that tears of pain rose in Mr. Dowse's eyes. 

"Why don't you wish me joy 1" 

" Found who 1 — what 1 — your wits, I hope." 

Mr. Poppleton dived into his waistcoat pocket, and 
took therefrom a small piece of limp pasteboard, which 
he presented to Mr. Dowse, saying : 

" There's her card." The hosier glanced at the 
name and address — 

MISS JEMIMA WILKINS, 

7, Marine Parade. 

" Yes !" exclaimed the delighted lover, who was 

reading it for the hundred and fifth time over his 

friend's shoulder, " Marine Parade, — that's the nest of 

my turtle-dove." 

" A turtle-dove sat cooing 
All alone by herself on a tree.'' 

" She cooed because she was alone — it's when 
they're paired that the pecking begins." Thus spoke 
the now somewhat sulky Dowse, at the same time 
returning the precious pasteboard. 

" So, after all, Miss Wilkins is not in France V 



POOR POPPLETON. 26S 

" No more than you're in Bucklersbury. It was 
all a lie upon the part of my father-in-law, the oil and 
colourman." 

' ; Your father-in-law T 

" That is to be — Jemmy adores me ! regularly 
mad about me." 

" Is she ? Then the best thing you can both do is 
to take lodgings in some comfortable asylum. Now I 
came down here in search of quietude, Mr. Poppleton, 
and I haven't found it." 

To this Augustus Poppleton made no direct reply, 
but exclaiming, " Yes, I am better, much better," 
began to walk briskly about the room. " I can breathe 
better ;" here he unbuttoned his great coat — took 
first one arm and then the other from its sleeves, made 
it up into a ball, and flung it to Dowse, who indignantly 
cast it on the sofa. Then Mr. Poppleton took from 
about his neck the many wrappers, and flung them 
carelessly about the room ; this accomplished, he 
condescended once more to address bis friend. 

" Ton my life, old boy, I'm peckish, absolutely 
peckish !" 

'• Are you ? — well, I suppose Betsy has made your 
barley-water — I'll call her." 

Dowse was moving towards the door, when his 
' sick friend' whirled him back by the coat tails. 

"Barley-water! — don't, be a fool, Dowsy; come 
here."' So saying he dragged him to the table, and 
thrust a knife and fork into his hands. " There, just 



264 POOR POPPLETON. 

carve up that fowl, while I polish off an egg." He 
drew a chair to the table, and with an appetite 
freshened by an abstinence for days, began to eat. 
"There," and with a nourish of the spoon he 
decapitated an egg ; — " neatly dene, wasn't it 1 — shell 
came off as easily as though there had been a chicken 
inside — ah ! the sea-side don't agree with fowls, it 
makes them lay such small eggs ; this must have been 
a sparrow's ; I'll try another." As he reached across 
the table he became aware that Mr. Dowse, who was 
still standing with the knife and fork in his hands, 
was surveying him with open-mouthed astonishment. 
" Why, what's the matter ? Dowse can't cut up a 
fowl, eh? — how your education must have been 
neglected ; here, give me the dagger !" — and, taking 
the knife and fork, he proceeded to separate the fowl 
into halves — " never waste time in being scientific — 
that's the way — down the middle, and up again ; you 
see it's good to do things by halves sometimes." He 
placed the half-fowl upon his plate, and after a few 
minutes' silent eating, inquired — 

"Where's Mrs. D. V 

" Gone to prepare your barley-water." 

" Has she, kind soul ? — how considerate is woman. 
There, I shall do now, till luncheon — nothing like the 
sea sir for giving a man an appetite — hope I shan't 
suffer for it, though." 

" You won't — but I shall, if the appetite continues," 
grumbled Dowse to himself, as Poppleton rose from 



POOR POPPLETON. 265 

the table. " Come," said that eccentric gentleman, 
"what do you say, old boy — old Tom Dowse — what do 
you say to a row ?" 

"A what?" 

" A row — you know — 

' The sea, the sea, the open sea, 

The blue, the fresh, the ever free — ' " 

" Oh, I know — but it happens to be always more 
free than welcome with me." 

" Pooh ! nothing bike it ;" and Poppleton, who was 
evidently of a musical nature, sung again, 
' I'm where I would ever be.' ' 

" Never be, you mean," said the hosier, " it always 
makes me ill."' 

"You ill? nonsense! look at me!" and Mr. Poppleton 
struck his chest ; " come, if only to oblige your sick 
friend." But Mr. Dowse still demurred. " I don't see 
why there should be a pair of sick friends ; besides, I 
have promised to take a walk with Mrs. D., on the 
sands." 

"With a telescope, eh? — ah! — sly boots ; I wonder 
what Mrs. D. would say to this?" and the wicked 
Poppleton, snatching up a telescope, glanced through it 
for a moment, at the same time giving a grotesque 
imitation of his friend's dancing." 

"Nonsense, Gus — " said the latter gentleman, look- 
ing, nevertheless, very confused. " Nonsense, Mrs. D. 
is too sensible a woman to — " 

" Believe in Paterfamilias — very well, it's all one to 



266 POOB POPPLETON. 

me — we'll wait for the better half, and take a stroll 
together." 

But the hosier had begun to reflect that his friend 
was in that state of mind there was no knowing what 
he might not do ; so that, for prudential reasons, it 
would be as well, perhaps, to leave Mrs. Dowse out of 
the company — so, making a virtue of necessity, he said 
— " After all, a breath of air may do me good — so, as 
you're ill, and want company, I'll go with you, for— 
let's say — a quarter of an hour." 

" Come along," acquiesced the other, " and be 
quick — here's your hat, but where is mine V He took 
up, as he spoke, the invalid's eap, with lappets, and 
surveyed it dubiously. " I say, Dowse, I don't much 
like this." 

It wasn't the most sightly headgear for even 
Margate, where every variety of head " eccentricity" 
abounds ; but the good-natured Dowse said, apologe- 
tically, " It's very comfortable, I'm sure, and — 

'•' You like it ? then suppose we exchange." It 
Was no sooner said than done ; thrusting the cap into 
the hands of the disconcerted hosier, Poppleton took 
the hat from his head and put it on his own, remarking 
"that it was every one to their taste, and that for his 
part he did not like the cap." 

" It looks very black," said the hosier, nervously, 
as they approached the door. " I'm sure we shall 
have a storm — and — and — you must remember you 
are not well, Augustus." 



POOR POPPLETOtf. 267 

" Oh ! it's all right," answered the transformed 
lover ; " besides, I like it to blow stifSsh — the air's 
like an egg, it can't have too much salt in it, besides, 
it makes the spirits rise." 

But the hosier still held back, observing, " it was 
all very well if the rising was confined to the spirits." 

" Why, you're not afraid V 

" Afraid ! why, no, not exactly — only, you see — * 
yes — that is — I am afraid — very much afraid — for 
you, your health, you know, is so delicate — so — " 

" Never fear for me, the sight of Jemima has made 

a new man of me — ' Richard's himself again.' " He 

struck an attitude, but in doing so chanced to look 

out of the window. He started — " Why, I declare ! 

there's Jemima herself walking towards the pier — 

let's run." 

" Run ! — my dear Augustus, it's impossible. You 

know I never run ; especially just after my meals." 

Poppleton looked vexed for a moment, then a 
thought came like an inspiration. — " We'll manage it 
— must catch Jemima — here, get in." 

' ; In where V 

" Here — into the chair ;" and without giving the 
hosier time to retreat, he pushed him suddenly into 
the Bath chair, left standing outside the glass doors, 
and then placed himself behind it. 

" Oh ! he's mad !" exclaimed the now terrified 
Domm'. " He must be mad ! here ! help, some one ! 
Mrs. D. !" But, with a laugh and a warning 



:C8 



POOH POPPLETON. 



shout of "hold on!" Poppleton pushed the chair 
swiftly off, with the unhappy little hosier, now silent 
from terror, clinging with both hands convulsively to 
the sides. The chair had scarcely disappeared, when 
Mrs. Dowse entered the room, and glanced anxiously 
round, at the same time observing that she thought 
somebody called. 

" It must have been my D. I suppose he wants 
the things cleared." She went towards the table, and 
started — >" Cleared, indeed — well, I'm sure, Mr. D., 
you've left little enough to clear. What a change the 
sea air makes, to be sure ! Why, he has eaten enough 
for six ! Poor Poppleton's share and his own too— 
Ah ! poor Mr. Augustus, when will you have such an 
appetite !" — but how to remove the ' debberee,' as Mr. 
Garlique (Mr. Garlique was Mrs. Dowse's French 
master in her youth) would say. She went to the 
door, and called Betsy several times, that individual 
taking her time about coming ; but when she did 
come, it was like Harlequin through a trap, viz., 
with a startling abruptness. — "What do you mean by 
bursting into the room in that fashion ?" 

" Thought you called." 

" Well, so T did" — for Betsy was making for the 
door again, — " clear away." 
t " All right, mum." 

She disappeared for a moment, to return with a 
tray, and then began to " clear away," by the very 
complete but original method of holding the tray to 



POOR POPPLETON. 269 

the table, and then crooking her arm like a scythe to 
sweep the things into it. 

"You were talking to the soldiers, Betsy." 

" Yes, mum : werry fond o' the h'army — got a 
brother in it — he's in the transported corpse." 

" I don't like such goings on, Betsy." 

"Werry sorry, mum, but can't 'elp it — if you wos 
a sittin h' alone all day an' night in a damp kitchen, 
with nothing but critics and beadles, you'd be glad to 
keep kump'ny when you'd the chance." 

" Oh, it's h'easy to say go along, 1 ' said Betsy, whose 
tongue seemed to have become suddenly unlocked, 
" but human beings is human beings, and not mer- 
maids. Servants has their feelinx, and can't be a 
rubbin' an' a scrubbin' an' a wearin' themselves to 
skillingtons for nothink." 

" Clear away, you impudent girl." 

" There's no imperence intended — but if you wos 
catched up as I h'am, you'd be 'rasperated to. I works 
like a nigger — a black nigger, I does." 

" Well, that's a good girl, say no more about it — 
have you made Mr. Poppleton's barley water ?" This 
query overtook Betsy as she was staggering towards 
the door with the tray ; she made no halt in her pro- 
gress, but flung the answer over her shoulder, " In 
course I has, a hour ago." 

" Bless me ! how you've over-loaded the tray, you'll 
break all the things ; do go gently, you stupid girl." 

" Lor ! mum ! never broke nothink in all my life," 



270 POOR POPPLETON. 

and banging the door open with, the tray, Betsy dis- 
appeared ; the door shut behind her, and there -wa 
silence for a moment, then an avalanche of crockery 
was heard descending the stairs. Mrs. Dowse threw 
up her arms with horror. 

" There go the tea-things !" 

A heavier and more solid body now bumped slowly 
from stair to stair. 

" And there goes Betsy !" 

It was hut too true, Mrs. Dowse's prophecy had 
been fulfilled ; and when she rushed to the door and 
looked down the stairs, there she saw the placid Betsy 
sitting on the very bottom of the flight, gazing upon 
the ruins of China, with a countenance as dirty and 
apathetic as that of Mr. Commissioner Yeh. 



POOB POPPLETON. 271 



CKAPTEB III. 

To those of our readers who have be#n to Margate, 
we have bo occasion to describe the bathing establish- 
ments of that highly salubrious place. To those of 
our readers who have not been to Margate, we advise 
them to go there, for a week, at least, and taste of 
pleasures that defy descriptipn. A row of dwarfish - 
looking sheds, with painted fronts, brass-knockered 
doors; small windows, whose white blinds are, when the 
rooms are unoccupied, kept carefully raised, that the 
passers-by may be tempted to enter by the. enticements 
presented to their gaze, which consist of a very white 
bath, like a tomb, or a " conglomeration" of marble 
slabs and yellow deal work, each a kind of miniature 
Morgue, with everything provided but the corpse. 
A damp vapour hangs about the doors, and a smell as 
of a myriad washing days pervades the entire place. 
On the pavement stand hungry men, ever on tbe 
watch for victims, ready to clutch the innocent pas- 
sengers, male and female, and, carrying them into the 



272 POOR POPPLETON. 

recesses of their haunts, give them such a taste of Hy- 
dropathy as to make them shudder at the name of the 
"cure" for some time to come. It is no use endea- 
vouring to escape from these persecutors ; you may 
succeed in tearing your coat-tails from the grasp oi 
one, but you are sure to fall a victim to the many. 
Your best way is to go in quietly, and, after being left 
alone in a bath, rush out suddenly, and escape over 
some back wall ; but to traverse the pavement without 
falling into their snare is — and we have tried it many 
times — impossible. The establishment with which our 
story is more immediately connected is situated not a 
hundred miles from the M — ri — e L — br — y. It is on 
rather a larger scale than its neighbours, and it is 
rather more redolent of paint and steam, and what 
Mr. Weller terms the flavour of " warm flat irons." 
Upon its white boarded front hang many notices and 
inscriptions, such as " Hot Baths always ready ;" 
" Shower Baths at a moment's notice," &c, &c. The 
establishment itself has two swing doors, before which, 
when our chapter opens, several indefatigable attend- 
ants are touting — that is, accosting the passenger with 
an importunity that would shame an Irish beggar, or 
the "bearer of the plate" in a fashionable church. 
Here comes an old gentleman, evidently on his way to 
the reading-rooms or pier. Let us stand aside and 
watch these harpies' proceedings. 

First Touter advances — 

"Want a bath, sir?" 



POOR POPPLETOX. 273 

Old gentleman, mildly — 

" No." 

Second Touter intercepts him, and speaks in an in- 
sinuating manner — 

"Want a Ao« Lath, sir?" 

Old gentleman, quickening his pace — 

"No!" 

Third Touter, seizing his arm, and gazing reproach- 
fully in his face — 

" Want a hip bath, sir 1" 

First Touter, resting his chin on old gentleman's 
shoulder, looks at him lovingly — 

"It's a shower bath you wants 1" 

Old gentleman turns upon his tormentors, and 
ejaculates, angrily— 

" No, no, no !" 

He then makes a wild endeavour to escape, but 
they all surround him, and slowly but surely he is 
pushed towards the doors. 

" This way, sir," says Touter No. 1, evidently a 
man of decision, and he flings open one of the swing- 
doors, and calls to some one within — " Cold bath !" 

" But I don't want a cold bath," cries the old 
gentleman, struggling frantically. 

" Very good, sir ; did'nt I say so ?" an Touter 
No. 2, calls with the lungs of Stentor, for " Hot bath !" 

With arms wildly waving, and eyes flashing with 
indignation, the old gentleman, scorning to yield, still 
struggles — 



274 POOR POPPLETON. 

" I don't want—" 

" A cold bath ? No ! sir ;" and with one well-directed 
shove, No. 2 pushes him into the purlieus of the 
establishment, where he is received by an attendant, 
who hands him a couple of towels, which he — now 
quite bewildered — grasps mechanically. 

"Towels, sir! quite ready, sir;" and they — the 
attendant and the old gentleman — disappeared. As the 
doors close behind them, a short derisive laugh breaks 
from the touters. 

" Clean old gent, that, Tommy," says No. 1. 

" Werry ; this '11 make the third bath he's taken 
this mornin'," replies No. 2. 

" He'll go mad of the hydrophoby," laughs No. 1; 
and putting their hands into their pockets, they in- 
dulge in a short, but expressive dance of triumph. 

Third Touter, who has followed old gentleman, re- 
appears at door, and is welcomed by his fellows. 

"All right, Jem!" 

" In course — he went in like a lamb." 

" Hush ! here comes another." 
The " another " was an old lady in green spectacles, 
carrying a very curly poodle dog. Let us throw the 
remainder of the scene into a dramatic form. 

Fikst Touter. (advancing) Want a bath, mum ? 

Old Lady, (with dignity) NO ! 

First Touter. (with insidious sarcasm) Little dog 
want a bath, mum?" 

Old Ladt. Get away ; no ! (she advances toward* 



POOR POPPLETON. 275 

Second Touter) Which is the Marine Library, my 
good man? 

Second Touter. {quickly) This is, mum ! 

He opens door. The same attendant appears and 
takes piossession of Old Lady ; the door closes as 
before. The Second Touter places fingers to nose 
and extends them playfully. 

First Touter. (glancing down the street) Here 
they come ! Keep the pot a 'biling. 

The two bubbles that chanced at that moment to 
swim upon the surface were our friends Augustus 
Poppleton and Thomas Dowse, just returned from the 
salt-water excursion upon which we left them intent in 
our last chapter. Poppleton — the changed and change- 
able Poppleton — came jauntily along the pavement, 
whistling and singing alternately. In the rear of his 
" sick friend" followed Thomas Dowse — but changed 
— sadly changed. Upon his head was the invalid cap, 
the lappets pulled down, and strings tied tightly under 
his ears. He was no longer the merry little hosier, 
with healthy appetite and digestion to match, but very 
wet, very pale, and utterly miserable ; indeed, the two 
friends seemed almost to have changed characters. 

"We said that Mr. Poppleton was singing — and the 
song of his selection was peculiar, though by no means 
elegant — but there was, as he observed apologetically 
to his friend, a taste of the "briny " about it that was 
very appropriate for a Margate audience. 

"It's none of your over-refined, namby-pamby, 



276 POOR POPPLETON. 

sky-blue productions ; but it's imaginative and highly- 
poetic, and in the days of Yankee melodies, Billings- 
gate lyrics, and Christy i I instrels, I don't despair of 
seeing this — my favourite song — upon every young 
lady's piano. Wasn't the first verse magnificent?" 

" I wasn't listening." 

" No ! That was your loss, Dowse." 

" I'm not fond of music." 

" Then affect a taste ; it's often enough done now- 
a-days — never too late to mend. Stop, I'll give it you 
over again." 

And, despite the earnest entreaties of his friend, 

he re-commenced the ditty in a voice which might have 

rivalled that of Mr. Thomas Pipes, which, according 

to his historian, Smollett, bore a close resemblance to 

the droning of bagpipes, and the sound of an east wind 

sighing through a cranny — 

" One Friday morning we did set sail, 

But we had not got far from the land, 
When we spied a pretty mar-maid, 
With a comb and a glass in her hand — y — y 
dandy — dand. " * 

" Poppleton ! Augustus ! I really must insist — " 

"Pooh! come along, and don't look so indifferent 

to harmony." 

" Three times round went our gallant ship, 
And three times round went she — e — e — e; 
Three times round went our gallant ship, 

And sunk unto the bottom of the sea — e — e — e.' 

* The author of Poor Poppleton having inserted the above graceful effusion 
from memory, will not answer that his quotation ii correct. 



POOK POPPLETON. 277 

"Why don't you speak, Dowsy ? Why, any one 
would think you'd got something upon your mind." 

Mr. Dowse, who was shaking the wet off his 
clothes, answered sulkily — 

" Then I havn't on my stomach. I told you how 
it would be." 

Poppleton looked down into his friend's pale face, 
and laughed — 

" Why, we hadn't rowed a dozen yards — what a 
poor creature you are ! " 

" I told you I couldn't abear the sea — pleasure 
party you call it— ugh !" 

" Well; didn't I throw it up directly V 

The hosier gave a grimace— 

" And so did I, sooner than you expected. And 
then to tumble into that infernal surf — " 

" Want a bath, sir f suddenly ejaculates Touter 
No. 1 , close to Dowse's ear. 

The hosier gave himself a shake like a Newfound, 
land dog, and scattered the water drops around— 

" Do I look as if I did 1 Be off with you." 

"Do you want a bath, sir 1" to Poppleton. 

" My friend, if you lay that dirty paw of yours 
upon my arm again, I shall treat you to what you evi- 
dently require — a bath, gratis." 

Poppleton pointed, significantly, over the wooden 
railings, to a rich compost of mud and mussel-shells 
that lay beneath. The Touters took the hint, and saun- 
tered quietly away — at the same moment; a large- 



278 POOR POPPLETON. 

headed boy, with a pair of very small legs, which he 
was using to the best of his ability, dashed up against 
Mr. Thomas Dowse, and, with all the force of a bat- 
tering ram, drove him against the wall. 

"Now, then, sto — o — pid!" shouted the irate 
juvenile, as he rubbed his head, which had come into 
contact with the buttons of Mr. Dowse's waistcoat — 
" where are you drivin' to V 

" Well, if ever I " — and it was with difficulty the 
hosier kept his equilibrium — " from such a shrimp 
too ! " 

The lack of size upon the part of the boy seemed 
to increase the citizen's anger. He seized the offender 
by the collar, and shook him so violently that the 
youth's large head seemed about to part from his 
shoulders. The boy struggled and writhed in Dowse's 
grasp, and in so doing dropped a letter, which Popple- 
ton picked up, and was about to return, when his eye 
rested upon ths address. He looked at it steadily for 
a moment, then, turning the letter over, proceeded to 
break the seal. 

" Give me my letter," said the boy, breaking loose 
from Dowse, and turning upon Poppleton — " Give me 
my letter ; you're not No. 5, Prospect Place." 

" Yes, I am," quickly answered Poppleton, who 
had perused *he note, "and look here, this is a 
shilling." 

He held up the coin before the messenger's eyes, 
who looked at it surlily, and nodded. 



POOR POPPLETON. 279 

"Now, tell me — didn't a very handsome young 
lady give you this note ?" 

The boy — who was not to be mollified, even by 
money — assumed the air of a connoisseur, and gave 
immediate and contemptuous answer — 

" She warn't nothink of the kind. She was a fat 
gal, with a large 'at." 

Augustus Poppleton replaced the shilling in his 
pocket, made a step forward, and boxed the youth's 
ears soundly — " There's something for your imperti- 
nence. Be off!" 

" But I want a h'answer." 

" You've got one. I will carry the other myself." 

The boy hurried away, but halted at the .distance 
of some yards, and performed then and there a rapid 
pantomime of defiance. This being done, he turned 
his back upon the two friends, aud walked quietly 
away. 

" Read that !" said Poppleton to Dowse, who was 
still engaged shaking the wet from his clothes ; " Bead 
that ! you can dry yourself afterwards." 

Mr. Dowse took the note — or rather allowed the 
note to be thrust into his hand, and glanced at it 
carelessly. 

" I can't read it — never saw such a hand." 

Poppleton, who was looking over his shoulder, 
angrily reversed the letter. 

" There ? why, you were holding it upside down." 

" I don't see much difference ; it's just as difficult 



280 POOR POPPLETON. 

this -way — more, I think. The boy wants six lessons 
in practical penmanship." 

" Boy ! ! ! -why it's from Jemima !" 

" Is it ?" said the unmoved Dowse ; " then I can't 
compliment Jemima upon her writing." 

He then began to read, though with an apparent 
difficulty—" Dear Pop." " Well, that's funny. ' Dear 
Pop,' and its signed ' Weasel !' " 

" Wilkins !" said the indignant lover. 

" Well, but Pop.?" 

" Don't you see I'm Pop.; it's the abbreviation 
that feminine affection delights in. Here, give it to 
me," and he snatched the letter from his friend's hand, 
" where did you go to school ?" 

"Not in the British Museum, so I cant read 
hieroglyphics." 

But Poppleton had begun to read the letter, heed- 
less of the comments of Dowse. 

" Dear Pop. — It's sufficient that I have seen you. 
I desire no more." 

" Well, that's civil," said the hosier. 

"What?" 

"Why, that she don't want to see you again." 

" Oh ! nonsense ; be quiet, will you !" and Pop- 
pleton resumed his reading. 

" I am happy. I return to town to-morrow, and, 
of course, you willfolloio me." 

"Yes, yes," broke in the hosier, "of course 
you will ; by all means, do. But first finish the note — " 



POOR POPPLETON. 281 

" If, then, my father still continues obdurate, we, who 
have lived but for each other, at least tan die together " 

" Certainly ; it's the least you . can do. A very 
sensible girl, that." 

" i" shall be at the Railway Station at nine o'clock 
to-morrow morning. 

" Till death ! your own 

" Jemima." 

" Dowse, my friend, wish me joy ; I really begin 
to think the doctors have made a mistake, after ail." 

" So do I," was the brief response. 

" Let us go and quaff a bumper to the health of 
Jemima — tell me, Dowsy, what will you take ?" 

" Cold, if I stand here much longer ; I shall go 
home." 

" Home ! and you call yourself a friend — go to 
Bath !" 

Upon that word, the Touters, who had come creep- 
ing back, spake, as with one voice — 

" Bath ! sir ! yes, sir ! hot bath i cold bath 1 hip or 
shower V 

Dowse, who was beginning to shiver in his wet 
garments, hesitated, and with a Margate Touter, to 
hesitate was to be lost. 

" "Well, I think a hot bath might do me good, while 
you dry my clothes." 

" Of course it will, sir ; all right, sir, this way, sir !" 



282 POOR POPPLETON. 

" And the other gent ?" said the second Touter, 
approaching Poppleton. 

'•' No," said that gentleman ; " I'll wait." 

" This door for the waiting-room." 

Poppleton, still in heroics, moved towards the door 
as directed. Dowse placed his hand upon his arm. 

"Poppleton!" 

" Jemima !" 

This was too much for Dowse's patience, even from 
a " sick friend ;" he, no he did not. bless Jemima — he 
said something, to blot out which would require from 
the recording angel a tear — and then the friends 
disappeared in the Margate Bathing Establishment by 
different doors. 



POOH POPPLETON. 283 



CHAPTER IV. 

The interior, or rather the principal room in 
the interior of the Bathing Establishment, was after 
the model of that most ancient order of architecture, 
the barn — the walls, like many other wooden and worth- 
less materials, passed for a something'much better than 
they really were : at the back of the room were large 
doors and windows, through which might be discerned, 
so it was styled in the advertisements, " A splendid 
view of the sea ;" the upper portion of some bathing- 
machines were seen like so many stranded turtles close 
to the window — other bathing machines were crawling 
out into the water, while beyond them appeared a 
portion of the pier. The walls were spotted, or appeared 
to have broken out into an eruption of many-coloured 
advertising placards — bills of theatres, concerts, <kc. — 
while a cabinet piano stood on one side, tastefully 
decorated with a small vase of flowers. Besides the 
piano, there was a table covered with magazines and 
newspapers, and in one corner of the room hung two 
pair of dusty boxing-gloves and some foils — the whole 
room presented a picture whose duplicate all who wish 



284 poor poppletost. 

may contemplate by visiting any " popular " watering- 
place within an easy railway distance of the metropolis 
— one of those vast collections of baths and washhouses 
which have been aptly termed " great national hospitals 
for out-door patients." The room had many occupants , 
at the piano, on a tall stool, sat a small, bony child, 
torturing, with fingers as hard and angular as dominoes, 
the keys of the piano ; her mother, a harpy of a doubt- 
ful age, sat beside her, and with the blind bigotry of a 
Gardner or Bonner, increased, by her approval, the 
cruel torture inflicted upon her daughter's victims. The 
victims consisted of an old gentleman reading, or en- 
deavouring to read, a newspaper, and some four or five 
young ladies, who, in grotesquely large hats, appeared 
like a row of gigantic fungi springing from a wooden 
bench in the background. 

" Louder, Cecilia ; louder, dear," said the lady by 
the piano. 

"Surely, ma'am," implored the old gentleman, 
looking up from his paper, " It's quite loud enough." 

"The lady lifted her stately head, and regarded the 
speaker with much contempt. 

" P'raps you're not fond of music, sir ?" she pro- 
nounced the " sir " with much emphasis. 

" Music 1 humph ! — no ma'am." 

" Then," continued the lady, "you had better leave 
any remarks to them as is — you may go on, Celia, dear." 

"It's finished, ma," squeaked the bony prodigy from 
the music stool. 



POOR POPPLETOtf, 285 

" Then play it over again." At this fearful com- 
mand, there was in the company assembled—- to use the 
language of the penny-a-liner— a great sensation ; but 
the fond mother — not only blind but deaf to her 
daughter's faults — repeated the order— 

" Play it again, Cecilia, and be careful in the fin- 
gering." 

" Fingering ! fisting, you mean, ma'am." Here, at- 
tendant ! waiter ! you, sir, what's your name 1 — is my 
bath ready?" 

" Yes, sir." 

" Thank Heaven!" and the old gentleman, throwing 
down his newspaper, hurried out after the attendant, 
who opened a door on the left-hand side of the room. 
The mamma followed him with her eyes, and when he 
had disappeared, indulged herself in a prolonged and 
disdainful sniff. 

"Riff-raff! but I despise such persons — go on, dear!" 
Cecilia did go on, but the only angels who were dis- 
turbed by her playing were the young ladies who 
hitherto had remained in the back-ground — they rose 
from their seats — laughed, talked, and made what 
other noise was possible — but the means were not 
snfiicient to attain the desired end. Cecilia continued 
to play, and her mother to beat what she called time 
to the music. Let us listen to the conversation of 
these young ladies, who have just been joined by 
several others, likewise intent on bathing — it may be 
taken as a fair sample of watering place tittle-tattle. 



286 POOR POPPLETON. 

One young lady, a brunette, with glossy black hair, 
and large languishing eyes, addresses a young blonde, 
at the same time pointing to a book she carries in her 
hand. 

" What have you got there, dear ?" 

" This 1 Oh ! it's Mr. James's < False Heir.' " 

" Yes, I know it ; it's so nice, but you should read 
'Mabel the Mildewed, or the Mouldy Monk of Dry- 
burgh Abbey.'" 

" Oh ! don't, dear ; I couldn't, it would frighten me 
to death. I like fashionable novels ; look at this, it's 
such a darling, ' Ferdinand Fitzwynkin, or the Belle 
of Belgravia,' it's by Mrs. Tyresome Bore." 

Here a third young lady breaks in with — "La, lend 
it me," and, taking the book, adds, " I shall read it m 
half-an-hour." 

" But that's the third volume." 

" Oh ! it don't matter ; I always read the third 
volume first, it's generally the most interesting ;" then 
turning over a few pages, she read, with that peculiar 
nasal drawl, so much affected by very young ladies 
and popular Puseyite preachers — 

" ' Still clinging to the coat tails of her infuriated 
parent, she was dragged twice round the spacious apart- 
ment, then across the staircase, down a flight of marble 
steps into the hall, where she fell with her fair forehead 
upon the pavement.'' Lor' ! how nice !" 

" Isn't it ?" said the young lady, who was the pro- 
prietor of the book ; " well, it's all like that." 



POOR POPPLETON. 287 

" Did you see Charley Pappington yesterday ?" asked 
a little pocket Venus, of about fifteen ; "he was on the 
sands yesterday with his mamma." 

" Has he got his commission." 

" Yes, dear ; and such a love of a moustache."' 

" Lor' ! only think of that ; and Ensign Pupps, who 
Fanny's so sweet upon, hasn't six h airs upon his chin, 
though he's been gazetted this six weeks." 

Here the conversation was broken off by the 
entrance of the bathing woman, who announced, in 
a voice as musical as the grunt of an hippopo- 
tamus, that "the machines are ready, and please 
look alive." 

Obedient to the voice of the charmer, the 
young ladies, with much smiling and giggling, 
were about to follow their directress through 
the doors at the back, that lead out upon the 
beach, when Augustus Poppleton entered. They 
all started as though they had never seen a man 
before — drew themselves up and the front 01 
their hats down, so as to hide their faces entirely, 
a la mode de Ramsgate, &c. 

" Ah !" said Poppleton, as in self-communion ; 
'' ugly girls, or they wouldn't do that." 

In a moment the front of the hats flew up, and a 
dozen eyes of every pleasant variety of colour flashed 
indignation upon him ; with heads erect, they swept 
past, and left Poppleton — convulsed with laughter — 

"Good girls; set their faces against falsehood, I 



288 POOR POPPLETON. 

see ; but bother those hat3, they should be interdicted 
to all but the ugly -women, and then nobody would 
wear them. Hilloh ! — what's that V 

It was Cecilia singing ; that dear child's accom- 
plishments were marvellous ; as the mother said, in the 
pride of her heart, "she sings vocal as well as in- 
strumental." 

"Charming voice !" ejaculated Poppleton, ap- 
proaching the piano ; " beautiful ! beautiful ! pupil of 
Cruvelli or Garcia, I suppose : what is she singing now, 
madam, is it Welch ?" 

" /'talian, sir." 

•' Ah ! so it is — yes, I think I know it !" 

Poppleton paused reflectingly ; the lady hastened 
to his relief — 

"The Caustic Diver; the air's by Madame 
Greasey." 

"Ah ! I thought I knew it ; but I like English 
melodies, simple ballads, something I can under- 
stand — " 

" They must be very simple," sneered the lady. 

" Exactly so — a something that belongs to our 
literature, and is a credit to it — something soft and 
sentimental — possibly the young lady can oblige me." 

The mamma nodded her head graciously. 

'' If you will mention — " 

" Of course I will— now there's Vilikin's and his 
Dinah, or the Ratcatcher's Daughter;" and, to the 
horror of Cecilia and her mother, he proceeded to 



POOR POPPLETOX. 289 

whistle a portion of the last tune — " pathetic, isn't 
it?" 

The indignant parent rose from her chair, and 
addressed her daughter — 

" Cecilia, dear, come away?" at the same moment 
the Bathing-woman appeared at the door. 

" The machine are ready, mum." 

"Very well;" and gathering Cecilia under her 
protecting wing, the offended lady passed the wicked 
Poppleton, saying, in a hissing whisper that a Siddon's 
would not have disowned for its withering intensity — 
" Phaugh ! common person." 

Poppleton gazed after the retreating form, and 
when the door had closed upon it, paused in the tune 
which had given so much offence, and which he had 
continued to whistle. 

" Ha ! ha ! routed the enemy at last. What a 
time Dowse is; and if there is one thing that I dislike 
more than another, it's waiting for anybody." 

He said this impatiently, and began to walk round 
the room, examining the advertisements and placards. 

" Here's a variety of amusements for those that 
care about these things," and he went on reading 
" ' The Pyrenean Stunners will perform this evening 
wet or dry ; also the ' Great Salamander, who swallows 
coals of fire ;' — he must be dry enough, that fellow — 
' the famous Sword Swallower from Paris ;' and ' the 
Cannibals from the South Seas, who will eat raw meat 
before the audience ;'— and glad to get it, I should 
think, in such times as these — it's clear these savages 



290 POOR POPPLETON. 

weren't visited by Captain Cook ;'' — and Poppleton 
continued to read — "'the Ostrich of the Desert, 

whose appetite is truly fabulous,' there's no doubt 

of that—' he will devour a plate of tenpenny nails, and 
any object of ironwork that may be presented to him 
by the audience.' — Ton )ny word ! fancy making your 
larder of a blacksmith's shop. Well, ' may good 
digestion wait on appetite, and health on both.' Let's 
find another placard, — um — um ! ' Lodgings for an 
invalid, facing St. Sepulchre's Church,' — with an 
enlivening view of the churchyard, I suppose ; — 
' The Human Pyramid, or the Acrobats of Egypt ;' 
um — um ! ' Theatre Royal ;' — ' Concert ;' — of course, 
nothing but concerts now a-days. What a musical 
people we must be, to be sure. Ah ! I once loved, 
when — " 

Poppleton started; for at that moment a voice 
commenced singing from — at least so it appeared — one 
of the bathing machines, whose tops were close to the 
open windows of the room — 

We'll love though thou art poor, dear, 

For what is wealth to ine '! 
The world would all seem poor, dear, 

This world deprived of thee. 

True love should not despair, dear, 

There's hope while the heart beats high, 

The lark, whose nest is nearest earth, 
Finds her music in the sky. 

Poppleton listened with all his ears — he had only 
two — but, as this is an observation much favoured by 
modern writers, I see no reason why I shouldnot use it. 



POOR POPPLETOff. 291 

" It is ! it must be ! That voice — that song, which 
I myself composed in happier years ; it is, it is, 
Jemima !" 

He approached the door, and listened attentively. 
" She comes ! I hear her gentle tread ; her sylph- 
like form appears — and thus I rush to embrace her !" 

The door at back swung open, and Poppleton, 
plunging forward, threw his arms round the graceful 
form of — the bathing woman. 
" H'imperance !" 

And with the strength of an insulted and indignant 
virtue, she sent poor Poppleton staggering back 
several yards. 
" Jemima !" 

" Get out ! My name's Sairey." 
"Tell me," implored the bewildered Poppleton, 
" did that voice belong to you 1" 
" Wotwoice?" 
" That voice !" 
"This woice?" 
" No ! no ! that." 

"I tell you what it is, young man," said the 
angry matron, who was a stalwart giantess of some 
fifty summers, with a rugged countenance, and from 
her frequent immersions in the salt sea wave, a " very 
ancient and fish-like smell." " You had better go an' 
yet your 'ead shaved, and next time you see your 
tailor, order a veskit made straight." 

'■ Silence, amphibious female ! ^silence, and listen !" 
And again Poppleton went through a series of 



292 POOK POPPLETON. 

attitudes which would have made the fortune of a 
sculptor, could he have transferred them to marble, as 
the song continued 

We'll love as they loved of old, dear, 

When worth was much and wealth was small; 

For the world has grown so cold, dear, 
That its chill lies over all. 

True love should not despair, dear, 

Let us love as in days gone by ; 
The lark, whose nest is nearest earth, 

Finds her music in the sky. 

"It is her voice !" 

He was rushing off again, when an attendant entered 
through a side-door, and addressed him — 

" Beg pardin', but the gent's a-waitin' for you, sir." 

""What gent?" 

" Your friend, Sir." 

" Friends ! I have no friends !" and pushing past the 
bathing-woman, he darted down the steps at the back. 

'• That young man has got a tile off," begun the 
bathing-woman, when bounding up the steps. Augustus 
Poppleton re-entered the room — 

"Woman! — I mean respected and respectable fe- 
male; have you seen a young lady out there?" and he 
pointed towards the beach. 

" Dozens on 'em." 

" A beautiful young lady ?" 
The bathing-woman reflected. 

" Tastes differ ; but there's one as ain't ugly — she is 
in that there machine." 



POOK POPPLETON. 293 

Poppleton clasped his hands. 

" Take me to her !" 

Diana herself could not have received the request 
with more disdain. 

" Get along with your h'imperance." 

" Uncharitable Undine ; — but I'll go myself." 

He was about to carry this resolve into execution, 
when the bathing-woman roughly interposed — 

" No, you don't. What ! do you want to take away 
the ka'racter of the establishment. There, don't take 
on so. She'll be here herself in less nor ten minutes." 
" Consoling thought. I'll wait." 
At this moment a bell in the adjoining room rung 
violently, and the same attendant that had previously 
entered, now re-appeared — 

" It's your friend, Sir ; he's tired of waiting. Say's 
he'll go." 

" Go ? nonsense ! Who'd object to wait, when he's 
obliging a friend. There goes the bell again ; what an 
impatient man he is ! How shall I amuse him for ten 
minutes ? Ah ! what do I see ?" and his eyes fell upon 
the boxing-gloves hanging upon the wall — "they'll do ; 
there's nothing like exercise after a bath." He took 
down the gloves, and turned to the attendant — " Where 
is he 1 In the next room ? Very well ; lead on, I'll 
follow thee. And best of women," — to the bathing- 
woman — " tell me when she comes." 

" In cfourse." Then, as the door closed behind him, 
she added — " I shan't do nothink of the kind." 



294 POOK POPPLETON. 



CHAPTER V. 

The old bathing- woman had scarcely disappeared 
down the ricketty steps that led upon a platform, from 
which various planks communicated with bathing 
machines, that were either receiving or disgorging their 
occupants, than two ladies ascended them, and entered 
the waiting-room. One — the elder — was our pleasant- 
faced and sound-hearted friend, Mrs. Dowse ; the 
other — how shall we describe her 1 " Grace in all her 
movements ; in every gesture dignity and love 1 " or, 
"that she seemed an angel newly dressed, save 
wings for Heaven ?" Certainly not. She was a bloom- 
ing "bouncing" English girl of eighteen, plump as a 
partridge, and with a smile that rested on her face ; a 
bright " bow of promise," through which was ever 
gleaming the sunshine of her heart. The elder lady 
carried a book, and the other a small white rose, that 
she twirled about in her fingers in an absent manner 
as she entered the room, and threw herself into a 
chair. 

"Charming weather, Miss!" said Mrs. Dowse, 



POOR POPPLETON. 295 

glanciDg at the younger lady's face with a smile ; for 
to her kind heart, such a face was a sufficient letter 
of introduction. The young lady looked up, sighed, 
and said — 

"Charming!" 

"The sea is beautiful to-day," and Mrs. Dowse 
smiled again. 

"There is but little beauty in the world now," was 
the answer. 

" Then how wrong of you, Miss," said the hosier's 
lady, " to monopolise so much of it !" 

The young lady smiled — even grief cannot shut the 
door upon flattery — but the smile passed away, and 
again she sighed heavily. 

" Aren't you well, Miss 1 " 

" Oh ! yes, very well." 

She sighed, for the third time, then rose, crossed 
the room, and begun to turn over the music on the 
piano. Mrs. Dowse looked after her, and nodded with 
a deep significance — 

" That young lady's in love. I know the symptoms. 
This makes the fifth young lady, I have remarked them 
in this morning j it seems quite an epidemic — some- 
thing in the air I suppose •" and the pleasant little 
lady, whose philosophy was quite of another sort to 
that which finds its enjoyment in the misfortunes of 
others, smiled kindly on the young lady, who had al- 
most unconsciously taken her seat before the open piano; 
therefore, as the smile was not returned, being directed 



296 POOR TOPFLETON. 

at the young lady's back, Mrs. Dowse took out her 
knitting-needles from a small bag that dangled from 
her waist, and proceeded to perform some marvel in 
crotchet. 

" I wonder where Mr. Dowse has got to V she 
said half aloud ; " I dare say he's walking that poor 
Mr. Poppleton off his legs. D. has no consideration 
for sick people, he always enjoys such good health 
himself." 

"Ah!" sighed the young lady at the piano, who 
was no other than the object of Poppleton's adoration 
— Miss Wilkins herself—" Ah ! I wonder what Au- 
gustus is doing now 1 Poor dear, how miserable he 
must be, sitting somewhere disconsolate on a rock !" 

A similar thought was evidently in the mind of 
Mrs. Dowse, for almost at the same moment she said 
— though inaudible to Miss Wilkins — 

" Poor Mr. Augustus, so weak, so interesting ; I 
do hope Mr. Dowse is taking care of his sick friend." 

Here a confused sound of voices was heard from 
the room to the right, followed by a great noise, as of 
persons scuffling and stamping. Mrs. Dowse put down 
her crotchet, but Miss "Wilkins continued at the piano, 
only looking up with a sigh. 

" Good gracious ! my dear, did you hear that 
noise 1 What can it mean V 

" Nothing, Ma'am ; only some of the gentlemen 
amusing themselves. They have such light hearts." 

" But heavy bodies," said the elder lady, as there 



TOOR POPPLETON. 297 

came a violent bang against the partition ; so violent, 
that the small vase that was upon the piano fell over 
and was broken. Miss Wilkins rose hastily from hex- 
seat, and in much alarm approached Mrs. Dowse. Mrs. 
Dowse, also in much alarm, rose from her seat and 
approached Miss Wilkins. Then came another bang 
against the partition, which was naturally followed by 
a scream from the ladies. 

" Oh! that Augustus was here !" exclaimed Miss 

Wilkins. 

" Oh ! where can Dowse be 1" ejaculated the 

hosier's lady. 

The words had scarcely escaped their lips, when 
another concussion took place. This time some hard 
substance was hurled against the door, which burst 
open, and Dowse — Dowse, whose presence his wife had 
invoked — rolled into the room, and fell flat at her feet, 
while the figure of his " sick friend," Augustus Popple- 
ton, suddenly framed itself in the doorway, the face 
flushed with excitement, and the eyes distended with 
astonishment, as they fell upon the feminine portion of 
the group. Both the gentlemen wore boxing-gloves, 
and had evidently been engaged in pugilistic amuse- 
ment, and so the stamping and scuffling was explained. 

"Jemima !" 

"Augustus! !" 

'• Mr. D. ! ! !" 

" Murder ! ! ! !" 

These exclamations were all fired at once, like a 
x 



298 POOR POPPLETON. 

volley of musketry. The last — as we have written 
them down — and most appaling from its intensity, 
came from the lips of the unhappy Dowse, who still 
retained his ignominious position on the floor, appa- 
rently as unable to change it, as are those " lively 
turtle " that repose uncomfortably on their backs, be- 
fore they [are resolved into soup, and find a grave 
beneath the belt of an alderman. 

Mrs. Dowse was the first to speak — ■■ 

" What is all this ? Dowse, what are you doing 
on the floor V 

Suddenly, and with the briskness of a watch- 
spring, Dowse sat up, and pointing to Poppleton, made 
answer — 

"Ask that ruffian, he put me here." 

"For shame, Sir," said his lady, "get up and 
protect me." 

Before Dowse could reply, Poppleton advanced 
from the doorway, and bowing politely to the ladies, 
observed apologetically, after glancing at the prostrate 
Dowse — 

" Protect you ! why, my dear Madam, he cannot 
protect himself. I never saw such a guard." 

" I never saw such a blackguard," said Dowse from 
the floor. He had risen to his knees, and looked to- 
wards his wife, but the good lady turned away her 
head somewhat angrily. 

"What terrible language, Mr. Dowse, and to poor 
Mr. Poppleton." 



POOR POPPLETON. 299 

" D n Mr. Poppleton, I've had enough of him. 

Tell me — does that look like a sick man 1" He pointed 
to Poppleton, who, we are constrained to say, was 
making desperate love to Jemima — " Does that look 
like a sick man? Have you looked long enough 1 
Then having contemplated that picture, may I request 
that you gaze on this ?" 

This time he pointed to himself ; to an eye dis- 
figured by a rim of bkckness — a diamond in black 
enamel. Mrs. Dowse glanced at the partially extin- 
guished optic, and screamed — 

" Oh ! you dreadful man. What have you been 
doing to yourself?" 

"I? to myself! That's a good 'un ! It's all a 
swindle, Mrs. D. Here, I go and ask a man on a visit 
because he's dying — yes, on the express understanding 
that he is dying — and no sooner does he take up his 
abode beneath my roof, than he gets well directly." 

" Of course he does ;" — it was Poppleton who spoke 
now — " here's the cure," he indicated the blushing Miss 
Wilkins, " and I embrace it." 

He did so ; not once, but half a dozen times. Mrs. 
Dowse smiled— her husband groaned. 

" Poor Mr. Augustus," said the kind lady, " and he 
so ilL" 

This was too much. 

" 111 ! he ill ! Nonsense Mrs. D., it's me, me— I'm 
ill ; can't you see 1" And Dowse stood, at last, upon 
his legs— or rather upon one of them, while he rubbed 



300 POOR POPPLETOH". 

the other tenderly with his hand. " To oblige a friend 
I consent to turn my house into a hospital, and he — " 

" Adapts the master to his change of residence. 
Come, Dowsy, don't bear malice, I forgive you." 

" Don't be 'ard upon the young man, said the old 
bathing-woman, who had just ascended the steps at 
back, "he's got a tile off;" here she pointed to her 
head, "and isn't responsible for his fractions." 

Dowse hesitated ; he looked at Poppleton's offered 
hand — half turned away — then repented, and was 
about to grasp it, when again a hubbub of voices was 
heard from the side-room, apparently in high dispute. 

"Pay!" shouted one voice, "what for? Being 
half-boiled in your confounded bath 1 I'll see you — " 

The where was inaudible, but another voice re- 
plied — 

" You took the bath, Sir." 

" It's a lie ! you took me. Open the door, some- 
body !" 

Poppleton, who was, as he himself expressed it 
" the sould of kindness," advanced towards the closed 
door, exclaiming, after the approved transpontine 
fashion, " May the ear that is deaf to the voice of 
distress — " 

But Jemima "Wilkins threw herself before him. 

" Bash man ! what would you do ? Augustus, 'tis 
my father !" 

Mr. Poppleton paused in his heroics, and whistled — 

"Old Wilkins? the devil!" 



TOOR POPPLETOS. 301 

He would have made a precipitate retreat, but the 
door flew open, and the father of Jemima literally 
tumbled into his arms, closely followed by an attendant, 
in whose hand he had left a portion of a coat-tail It 
was a moment for immediate decision and rapidity of 
action, and Poppleton proved himself equal to the 
occasion. With the strength of a Hercules he hugged 
the old gentleman to his breast, and without allowing 
him a glimpse of his face, gazed fixedly over " his 
shoulder. 

" If he sees me, I am lost !" thought Poppleton. 

" Protect me !" gasped the half stifled-Wilkins. 

" With my life, much-esteemed man." Then to 
himself as he tightened his embrace — " Protect you, 
indeed, remorseless old curmudgeon !" 

" What are you about ? I shall be stifled ! Let 
me go !" 

He struggled to release himself, but Poppleton only 
hugged him the closer. " If I can but reach the door," 
he thought, "I'll bonnet him and escape." Then 
aloud, " Venerable man, I entreat you to be calm and 
quiet." 

" Let me go, scoundrel ! let me go !" and by a sud- 
den effort he released himself, just as Poppleton had 
sueeeoded in forcing his hat down over his eyes. 
" What do you mean 1 Who the deuce are you, Sir." 
He pushed up his hat and glared at 'his tormentor. — 
"Augustus Poppleton !" 

" Discovered !" said that gentleman, and retreating 



302 POOR POPPLETON. 

before Wilkins, he fell back upon Dowse. " Dowse, 
protect me ! bold me, I'm so ill." 

" No, you ain't," exclaimed the hosier, hastily, 
" you're nothing of the kind. I can't stand any more 
of that, you know." 

In the meanwhile Old "Wilkins had gazed round the 
room, and recognised another of its occupants in the 
person of his daughter, who, upon his first appearance, 
had dropped back into the arms of the bathing-woman, 
as suddenly — we borrow the latter individual's phrase- 
ology — " as if she'd been skeared by a bull, or taken 
coloforum." 

" Jemima," said her father. — " Well, come, this is 
fortunate !" He then made a sudden advance upon the 
amazed Poppleton, and seized his hand — "My dear 
Poppleton ! my dear friend, Poppleton ! I am delighted 
to see you looking so well, de — lighted," and he gave 
his hand an energetic shake after each word. 

" Oh ! he's mad," groaned the artist, "brain regularly 
gone — gracious ! how his eyes glare through his spec- 
tacles. Leave go, Sir ! leave go ! He'll bite — I know 
he will !" 

"My dear Mr. Augustus, I've been seeking you 
everywhere — and so has Jemmy there, I'll be bound." 

Poppleton still retreated — this conduct on the part 
of the old gentleman was unaccountable. 

" Shouldn't wonder if he foams at the mouth pre- 
sently. I hope it don't run in the family." 

He liberated himself and made for the door, but the 
bathing- woman prevented his exit. 



PUOli POPrLETOX. uU.J 

"Not this way. T'other's the way out." 

" Augustus ! where are you going ?" cried Miss 
Wilkins, "and—' 

" Oh ! Mr. Poppleton, think of your health ; you're 
going out without your hat," exclaimed Mrs. Dowse. 

"They're all mad," said the utterly bewildered 
Poppleton, " it's catching. There was a change in the 
moon last night. I see it all." 

" Damn it,. Gus !" said Old Wilkins, losing patience 
at Popple ton's strange reception of his proffered ci- 
vility. 

" Gus ] oh ! I can't stand this, he's chaffing," and 
changing his entire manner, Poppleton approached Mr. 
"Wilkins — " Eespected and respectable oil merchant, 
explain yourself. Father of Jemima, I demand an 
explanation." 

"You should have had one before, but for your 
most extraordinary behaviour — read that, my boy," 
aud he handed him a letter ; " do you know the 
handwriting '?" 

Poppleton looked at the letter and started — 

" Kuow it 1 of course I do. ' Oh ! my prophetic 
soul, my uncle.' " 

"Yes," and Wilkins nodded confidentially, "I 
wrote to him three days ago, and this is his answer." 

" His uncle l Why, Dowse, you never told me ho 
had one," said the hosier's wife. 

" Pooh ! everybody has an uncle, only it's the 
lashion not to confess to him. Poppleton was 



304 POOR POPPLETON. 

pretty constant in his visits to one of his, I 
believe." 

Mrs. Dowse glanced with commiseration towards 
Poppleton, who had opened the letter, and only said, 
" Poor Mr. Augustus !" 

" Urn — um," and Poppleton, after puzzling at the 
first few words of the letter, began to read the re- 
mainder aloud — 

"I am delighted to hear that Augustus is 
likely to become steady ; it's quite time, so I shall 
look over past follies, and give the young people my 
blessing." 

" Liberal old man !" 

" Go on, go on ! my boy," urged the now jovial 
Wilkins, and Poppleton continued to read — 

"And a few hundreds for them to face the world 
with, on the understanding that you will do the same 
by your daughter." 

The letter fell from poor Poppleton's hands. 

" I'm giddy — here, hold me, some one." He was 
moving over towards Dowse, who, standing on one 
leg, like a fowl, was still manipulating the other, 
" Dowse, support me." 

"I shan't," said that gentleman, testily, "I've 
supported you long enough. If you want to faint, do 
it decently — take a chair." 

" Would the young man like a little brandy ?" put 
in the bathing-woman ; " or would the young lady — 
just a little, deluded with water T 



POOR POPPLETON. 305 

This friendly offer -was refused, and Wilkins took 
Poppleton's hand — 

' : There," and he placed that of Jemima in it, 
" bless you, my children. The words have possibly 
been said somewhere before, but I rejoice in their 
repetition — " bless you !" 

" Yes, bless 'em F Mrs. Dowse put her handker- 
chief to her eyes, and turned to her husband — " Dowse, 
where are your tears V 

" They won't come to order, like yours, Mrs. D. ; 
still, it is affecting." 

Poppleton seized the hosier's hand — "Worthy 
couple ! I can never forget your kindness." 

"Nor I yours," said the little citizen, with a 
grimace. 

" You wish me joy ?" 

'• I do. But I tell you what it is — the next time 
you pay me a visit, let it be in a different character 
than the one you have so badly sustained." 

" What's that ?" 

'• Poor Poppleton, my — " 

"Sick Friend!" 



END OF PuOU POPPLETON. 



London: Adams & Gee, 1'rintcra, Middle Mu-d, West SmlUificld 



MM MAGAZINE.— MEHY MONTH.— ONE SHILLING. 

TEMPLE BAR, 

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No. 1, ready December 1, 1860. 



PROSPECTUS. 

We cannot plead, as an excuse for calling our New 
Monthly Miscellany ''Temple Bar," that it will be either 
written or printed in the edifice which divides London from 
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" TEMPLE BAB" -A LONDON MAGAZINE. 



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This Magazine, then, shall be called 



"TEMPLE BA R," 



because the great tide of cosmopolitan humanity is for ever 
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engravers' studios, and bookbinders' workshops ; and that to 
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Knights of the Temple yet ride on one horse; where Mr. 



"TEMPLE BAR" -A LONDON MAGAZINE. 

Arthur Pendennis is yet chatting with Mr. George "Warrington 
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our Editor can lay hands, and full of solid yet entertaining 
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A word as to the contemplated contents of our Magazine. 
Our Editor will contribute a series of sketches of travels, which 
he has undertaken, in sundry remote regions not entirely un- 
known in English country maps, which will be continued from 
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writing little essays in the manner which has secured him, for 
a considerable period, the kindly encouragement of the public. 
We shall have a domestic romance of English life and manners 
— and of love ; for what is life without love ? by " an eminent 
hand" — in other words, by the very best novelist that can be 
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"TEMPLE BAR '-A LONDON MAGAZINE. 

effusion in our store, we shall confine ourselves, for that month, 
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and by way of an omelette sou/lee after, we trust, a succulent 
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Such, then, is our programme. It is not in the nature of 
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Mb. GEORGE AUGUSTUS SALA, 

who has been before the public as a writer for some years, and 
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