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To A Great Joy,
Born Jan 2, 1919
'God knows my heart is broke enough without you
—Prince Charles Stewart to Henry Goring
An evening of late autumn, full of rain, sweet and chill, was closing over the mountain of Ben Alder; low, dark, and watery clouds were reflected in the bosom of Loch Ericht, which gleamed in the valley; the distance was filled but not enclosed by violet hills, whose farthest dim forms sank out of sight with a remote beauty that suggested magic realms of faery.
The only human being in the large and melancholy landscape was a man who stood in front of a wattle hut, which was almost indistinguishable from the gray and stony rock and among the gray-green trees of Lethernilicht, which sloped to the edge of the loch.
This man leant against the low, half-concealed door of the miserable shieling and gazed at the sombre water, the stretches of heather, the uninhabited hills, the low and gloomy sky which showed through the sparse forest, with the look and in the attitude of one overwhelmed by wretched thoughts.
His appearance was in accordance with his surroundings: a torn and dirty plaid of the Cameron tartan hung round his shoulders, his untidy, bright brown hair was half concealed by a rough blue cloth bonnet, his knees were base, and his worsted stockings and latchet shoes of the coarsest material. His figure and bearing, at once graceful and robust, were such as is usual to a hardy mountaineer, but his face was remarkable and in no way suited to the lonely scene and his forlorn situation, and this even though his features were browned by exposure and disfigured by a growth of reddish beard. It was the face of a foreigner, a man of a breed alien to these majestic hills and lonely valleys, an ardent, lovable, attractive face, delicate and haughty, with indications of a hasty and impetuous temper in the full, handsome brown eyes, in the fine, sweeping, eager brows, in the line of the beautiful nostrils, and of pride and obstinacy in the full and firm lips, the lower of which slightly projected.
His age was about five-and-twenty; but there was a weight and dignity in his expression and in his carriage that were beyond his years, and there was nothing of the youth in his firm and well-formed figure.
A few drops of rain fell from the slow-moving water clouds, the violet hills faded into grayness as mists blotted out the last gleams of the sun.
The young man shuddered, and, turning round, peered through the door into the interior of the hut, which was full of the smoke from a peat fire that smouldered in the centre of the earth floor. There were four persons in this shelter, all attired in the same tattered and dark Highland dress; two of these were engaged in making and firing bread and two were playing cards.
Beds of heather and fern, a few folded plaids, a few earthenware vessels were the sole furnishings of the wretched hut, that was scarce large enough to contain half a dozen people.
At the far end stood a little cask of brandy, open, with a wooden cup beside it; the smell of the spirit mingled faintly with the reek of the peat smoke.
One of the card players looked up, saw the young man glancing in, rose up and joined him in the pure twilight.
It was now raining fast, the fresh drops glittering in the boughs of the firs, on the already sodden heather; the clouds outspread and mingled with each other so as to completely cover the sky and obscure the glow of the sunset; the two men stepped clear of the trees on to the bare mountain side. The water was no longer full of the forms of clouds and points of light, but of a uniform neutral tint, like dimmed steel, its smoothness disturbed by the steady fall of the rain. Over the hills the mists were crowding, like battalions of advancing armies, concealing the country they conquered.
The two men, without a word between them, began to walk slowly down the dripping side of the mountain.
The new-comer was of middle age, fair, and of a singularly beautiful countenance, which was marred by neglect and suffering; he also wore the Cameron plaid and a dark common bonnet; he limped heavily in his walk, and helped himself over the entanglements of the wet, elastic heather by means of a rough stick.
His companion looked at him once or twice as if about to speak, but refrained with the air of one who is tired of words; though they were so exactly alike in dress and all the signs of poverty and misery, though they were both fair men and uncommonly handsome men, there was an extraordinary difference of type and breed between them: the younger conveying the complex, the fantastic, the passionate, an exotic race, a destiny crowned and doomed by unusual attributes, while the elder had an air noble and calm, well balanced and serene.
The drenching rain had pearled the rough wool of the plaids with globules of water and darkened the fair locks that escaped from beneath the coarse bonnets; darkness was closing in to an extent which made the descent among the stones and heather difficult and dangerous, especially for the lame man, but neither took any heed.
Both were inured to hardships and both had their thoughts full of greater pains and larger misfortunes than any chance of weather could afford.
When they had gained to within a little of the loch, whose pale shape was fast being absorbed into the surrounding gloom, the younger man spoke.
'I know not why I bring you so far, Lochiel; with your wounded feet it is folly.'
His voice was melancholy and impatient, his accent as foreign as his face.
In a quiet tone Donald Cameron replied,—
'I am glad to leave the smoke of the shieling for the outer air, but if your Highness thinks to see Cluny and Archibald Cameron—I think they would hardly come now, the light having failed.'
He spoke with great courtesy and a certain patience, as of one who schools his tongue to loyalty in some cause his reason repudiates, and his speech, unlike that of his companion, was couched in the purest English, touched with the turn of the Doric tongue.
The two had now paused; with the desolate lake below, the lonely hills above, and all about them the encroaching mists, they seemed isolated from the world, outcast in this landscape without flower or fruit over which the sombre night was descending.
'Cluny has been long enough,' replied the Prince, with an air of hardly controlled passion. 'It is likely he has met with some misfortune.'
'Cluny of Macpherson will meet with no misfortune in the Highlands,' replied the Scottish chief with unconscious pride.
'Perhaps Cumberland's cut-throats have found the treasure at Loch Arkaig,' said the Prince fiercely, 'and Cluny searches in vain. I would he might return, empty-handed or no.'
'Cluny will return,' answered Lochiel, who believed in his friend's honour and devotion as in his own.
The Prince suddenly turned and looked at his companion; they were much of a height and their wet plaids touched, so close together did they stand on the heather slope.
'Lochiel, Lochiel,' cried the young man, 'do you ever call to mind that time fourteen months ago when you came to me in Moidart on the banks of Loch Nanaugh and I strove with you against your better judgment to rouse the Highlands? I, with seven men and a pocketful of French promises and never a penny of money, and you with half Scotland ready to rise at your signal—do you ever recall that, now that you are as landless as I was then?'
'No,' replied the ruined chief calmly; 'it is the way of the weakling to dwell on lost hopes. I think of the future when Charles Stewart shall again land in Scotland with not seven but seven thousand at his back.'
'And we talk over these times in St James's,' interrupted the Prince with a short laugh. 'The ignis-fatuus, Lochiel, the ignis fatuus!'
'Your Highness was not always wont to speak thus.'
'I was not always a hunted man, Lochiel, with a price set on my head,' returned Charles. 'But I have no right to talk thus to one thrice ruined for my sake,' he added with an affectionate smile yet a bitter accent. 'Is not that the hardest stroke of all, that those who love me are in this case because of me?'
'Those who love you, sir,' replied Lochiel, 'would be in no other case but that of following your fortunes.' To the scaffold,' murmured Charles. 'Perhaps Kilmarnock and Cromartie lie headless in their graves even as we speak. And the good blood shed at Culloden Muir, do you think that I never dwell on that?'
Donald Cameron of Lochiel, greatest of Highland chiefs, noblest of Scottish gentlemen, worthy grandchild of Ewan Cameron, did not reply but kept his glance fixed on the vanishing waters of Loch Ericht.
If he was thinking of his own position, a year ago so secure and proud, now as desperate and unhappy as that of the man beside whom he stood, if it did cross his mind how futile was the sacrifice whereby he had cast aside everything that made life dear to him for the sake of a cause which in his judgment had long since been hopeless, and to which he was only bound by hereditary loyalty, he gave no sign of it either in his manner or in his worn and beautiful face.
'Your Highness will talk in a more hopeful measure when you are in France,' he said at length, as if forced to speech by the mournful silence and the insistent gaze of the Prince.
'I shall not regret leaving Scotland, certainly,' replied Charles impetuously.
Donald Cameron winced at that. The Prince was in no way a Scot, though he had successfully endeavoured to appear so, and when he left these rugged shores he would not be leaving home but returning to it, while for Lochiel and such as he the departure from Scotland would mean the bitterest, most heart-breaking exile.
'Let us go back,' said Charles suddenly; we shall not see Cluny to-night.'
They turned and began to ascend the wet, gray rock, the wet, purple heather, Lochiel proceeding painfully by reason of the wounds in his ankles. The night had now almost completely closed in, their sole guide was the glimmer of light that proceeded from Cluny's Cage, as the shieling was called, which by now was absolutely indistinguishable from the mountain side and the mountain trees. The Prince walked slightly ahead of Lochiel, whom he had almost forgotten.
The weight of his ruined fortunes darkened his soul as the night clouds darkened the landscape; he had borne his disasters bravely, with gaiety and humour, neither despair nor temper had added to the hardships of his flight, yet his nature was too ardent, too eager, too keen and haughty, not to feel to the full this complete failure of an enterprise on which he had set his young manhood's dearest hopes.
All his life, spent in nominal exile, had been a training for this attempt on the throne of England, which he most firmly believed to be his by every law, human and divine, and in which belief he was supported by the adherence and acknowledgment of thousands of those whom he considered his subjects, and by the help and countenance of two such powerful states as Rome and France.
His present position was the more humiliating and bitter as there had been a moment when dazzling success had appeared to be within his grasp.
For one brilliant moment London had seemed as easy of achievement as Edinburgh, and Charles still considered that the retreat from Derby, for which he most furiously blamed Lord George Murray, had turned an approaching triumph into an inevitable downfall.
Through all the affected cheerfulness with which he had endured his subsequent fortunes, the gall of that retreat which had been forced on him by his generals had never left the soul of Charles, and in moments such as these, when he escaped from the pressing necessities of his present situation and the companionship of his loyal and devoted followers, it returned to him with overwhelming gloom.
By birth he was more of a Latin and a Pole than an Englishman. By training, education, and religion almost wholly Italian, despite the care that had been taken to surround him with influences of the country so many fond hearts believed he would one day rule. In appearance he was more of a Sobieski than a Stewart; in temperament he belonged more, far more, to the South than the North. To the religion that had cost his grandfather his throne he remained obstinately faithful; and though he had known how tremendously such an act would weigh in his favour and how many waverers it would enroll under his banner, nothing had induced him to attend the services of the Scottish Church when in Edinburgh, nor to endeavour to conciliate the Established faith in any way save by a declaration of complete tolerance, which had little effect on a nation that but too well remembered the worth of Papist promises.
This fact of how he had been hampered, perhaps overthrown, by loyalty to his traditional faith, was not one of the sweetest of Charles's remembrances as he stumbled through the heather towards the murky light of the miserable shelter, the only one left to him, where he must hide his hunted head. It was not soothing for him to reflect that, had he been a Protestant he might have gained the suffrage of a nation to whom the House of Hanover was only less hateful than Popery.
He paused suddenly—a dark, muffled figure in the almost complete darkness—and peered through the rain for Lochiel, who was labouring up the hill behind.
'If I should come again, can you dream of such a day, Lochiel'—he asked a little wildly. 'Will not this night seem strange to us, talking of it in St James's?'
Lochiel's fine voice came through the dark,—
'If the King of France stands firm, your Highness should return within the year. Ten thousand men would do.'
He spoke with the hope that springs from desire, for now every personal motive, as well as honour, bound him to the cause which before he had hesitated to join and which had proved his complete ruin.
Only by the triumph of the Stewarts could he ever hope to be again united to his faithful Camerons, to reign again in Achnagarry, to leave aught but a desolate heritage to his children.
'Ten thousand men,' he muttered, as if in derision of such high hopes; but he was young, and by nature sanguine and daring; and like a flash of colour across the dreary night there rose before him a vision of France, of French help, of the old life of luxury and splendour, of Holyrood palace again, and the march to London...not to be checked and turned back at Derby...
When they reached the shieling they found two newcomers, who had arrived another way round the loch and escaped observation in the gathering dark.
These were not Lochiel's brother and Cluny of Macpherson, whom Charles had sent to Loch Arkaig to remove the French treasure buried there, and whom he had been hourly expecting, but Macpherson of Breakachie and Colonel John Roy Stewart, who had commanded the Edinburgh Regiment of the Lowland Foot at Culloden Muir.
Those two men were talking with Glenladale and Lochgarry as Charles entered the hut, and, throwing off his soaking bonnet and dripping plaid, discovered his bright hair and vivid face in the dingy lantern light.
'Colonel Stewart!' he exclaimed eagerly, as if he hoped for good news from this unlooked-for messenger. The other, seeing the Prince come in so suddenly from the night, and beholding so near to him in such surroundings and in such attire one whom he was used to associate with splendour and command, fell back a little with a movement of slight amazement.
Charles laughed and sat down on the edge of the brandy barrel; Colonel Stewart offered to kiss his hand, the other chiefs standing round and waiting.
'John Macpherson met Cluny and Archibald Cameron,' said John Roy Stewart, and they directed him to me to come and find your Highness here and to give you the news that the two French vessels, under the command of Colonel Warren, that are searching for your Highness, have touched at Loch Nanaugh.'
Charles made no reply; the spot named was where he had landed fourteen months before. This news assured him safety and an end to his sufferings, but it was also the final seal on his disaster—the last confirmation of his failure.
'The thought was that your Highness should at once proceed to this shipping by way of Auchnacarry and Loch Arkaig,' continued Colonel Stewart.
Charles gave a quick glance round the circle of his friends' faces, then roused himself to a show of high spirits.
'We must toast your good news, my dear colonel,' he cried, 'even though we have but one cup—there is still some of the Fort Augustus brandy left.' He rose from the barrel, which he tipped up, and scooped out the spirit in the mean cup, then pausing, and suddenly holding himself erect, he looked keenly at Colonel Stewart.
'Any other news—from London?'
John Roy Stewart answered his master's unspoken thought.
'Cromartie has been pardoned, sir.'
Colonel Stewart's hesitancy was his reply.
'Ah, beheaded!' flashed Charles.
'Last month, sir.'
Half the brandy spilled from the Prince's hand and sank into the earth floor; the rest, with a whirling change of humour, he carried to his lips.
'A toast!' he cried defiantly. 'I give you a toast! The Black Eyes!'
He nodded at Lochiel with a look of challenge.
'You know the lady?'
'Miss Walkinshaw, who nursed your Highness at Stirling?' replied Donald Cameron sadly, not being attuned to this mood.
'No!' answered Charles imperiously. 'A king's daughter!'
He drained the cup of the raw brandy and then handed it with a strange smile to Lochgarry to be refilled.
Something about his mien, at once desperate and defiant, as one who faces what he dreads with keyed-up courage; something about the brightness of his person in the ragged clothes, in the murky atmosphere of the hut; something in the wild words that seemed flung at fate like a challenge, kept the others silent as the cup was passed from one to another and the toast drank gravely under the bright gaze of Charles.
High Mass was being celebrated this autumn morning in the church of St Sulpice, Paris.
As it was Sunday there was a fair congregation. Mass had ceased to be fashionable on any other day of the week, but on the seventh people still attended the churches, as a concession to their lackeys, the poorer sort and the bigots, of whom there were still a few, and also to enjoy the music, which in the great churches was often as good as that of the opera, and to see the jewels and adornments, which rivalled those of the Court for splendour and value.
The vast church was filled by a gold light, which came partly from the October sun beating against the high-placed windows of painted glass and partly from the candles on the gorgeous altar. Perfumes of fresh flowers, scents, incense, and the mustiness of long-enclosed air mingled together; the atmosphere seemed charged with fine dust; in the great spaces of the chancel and aisles the figures of the congregation looked small; the only movement was the waving of the ladies' fans and the nodding of the feathers in their hair as they moved their heads. Their dresses, mostly of bright silk, were all subdued and changed in colour by the wreaths of the drowsy incense smoke and the shafts of dusky light from the gold, blue, and crimson windows.
The choir had sung Terce; the classic measures of the canonical hour were accompanied by violins, lutes, and the subdued notes of the huge organ; the procession of the Mass entered from the Sacristy; in front the thurifer, after, the cross borne high between two acolytes and glittering with diamonds in the golden shadows, then the torch-bearers carrying each a small torch of perfumed wood, followed by the master of ceremonies, and lastly the priest, whose cope was held either side by the deacon and sub-deacon. As he moved with a slow, trained step towards the altar, pausing to bow to the standing choir and to hand his biretta to the deacon, the coloured satins, raised embroideries, and gold and silver threads on his stiff and splendid vestments glittered as much as the cross that now shone from the stand in the sanctuary.
A young man placed by a large pillar near the altar watched the ceremony with the most intense interest, though it was one that had been familiar to him all his life.
In particular he gazed at the figure of the celebrant with a concentration and an earnestness that seemed to remove him far from the atmosphere of the worldly church and the frivolous congregation.
In appearance he seemed one with those with whom he consorted: his dark blue satin, his laces and powder, composed the attire of a noble, his smooth, slightly long, clear-complexioned face was dreamy and placid in expression, his large, clear brown eyes shone full of reverence and a certain subdued ardour; he followed the ceremonies with as much care as if he had been taking direct part in them.
The acolytes took their candles to the credence table and knelt, facing the sanctuary; the thurifer went to the right side of the deacon, who took the sprinkler from him, dipped it in the holy water, kissed it, and handed it to the priest, who, taking it, began to intone the antiphon, Asperges me Domine, sprinkling the altar the while, first in the middle, then on the gospel, then on the epistle side.
The choir continued the Miserere, singing the Gloria Patri and Sicut erat, and repeating the antiphon.
This music penetrated the heart of the young man kneeling by the pillar, who folded his hands tightly on his heart and pressed his knees deeper into his velvet cushion with a little tremor of emotion.
In that moment many things seemed clear to him that before had been troubled and confused, and many past disasters and disappointments appeared to melt into nothingness before the consolation of Divine comfort.
The priest, having sprinkled himself on the forehead, was now genuflecting to the choir and sprinkling them with the holy water; he then came to the entrance of the sanctuary, attended by the ministers, and sprinkled the people three times, all saying in a low voice the psalm Miserere.
The young man bent low, as if a drop of the holy water had touched his brow, and sunk his fine face in his fine hands, and remained so while the priest returned to the altar and began to recite the Confiteor.
His companion, a few years older than himself, and of an appearance far more attractive and handsome, remained kneeling a little behind him, in the shadow, taking no great trouble to stifle his yawns or to conceal his boredom at the long tedious ceremony.
His face was so charming, his bearing so manly, his attire so splendid, that all the ladies in his vicinity were looking at him and several endeavouring to engage his attention.
But this feminine flattery, to which he was but too well used, appeared to weary him as much as the mass; he took no notice of any of his admirers, his sole interest seemed to be for his young companion, whose very earnest devotions he regarded with some intolerance.
It was easy to see that these two were brothers, yet there was a vast difference between them; the younger had none of the virile, splendid, and noble qualities of the elder, none of that bright, impatient, generous and open air that made the other marked in any company.
To the gay glances of the ladies, who escaped the tedium of the mass by audacious peepings from behind their fans at the conspicuous young man, he seemed an embodiment of all that was charming and attractive, and well worthy of his extraordinary and romantic history, which made him the most talked of person in Paris and very much the fashion.
In person he was tall, elegant, and robust; his figure set off by a suit of rose-coloured velvet, a waistcoat of silver brocade with a scalloped fringe, a neck-band of black satin, and a fall of blond lace.
His bright, smooth hair was rolled, curled, and fastened with a wide bow of sapphire-coloured ribbon.
A complexion of a remarkable delicacy, firm, fine, and precisely cut features, beautiful brown eyes, and a richness of colouring distinguished an appearance that, though not effeminate, was of a delicate and slightly exotic refinement. He did not appear happy; a certain disdain of his surroundings, an impatience of this ceremonial, this confinement, was conveyed in his manner; he appeared to be unaware of both priest and congregation, followed the mass mechanically; and when he was not turning that look of half-irritated interest on his brother, he appeared entirely absorbed in some heavy personal thoughts.
Through the singing of the gospel he was standing rather indolently, his head thrown slightly back, the altar candles throwing a steady though faint glow on his face fair and striking points of light from the two stars of St Andrew and St George that shone on the broad blue ribbon across his breast.
'Credo in unum Deum!' intoned the priest, standing in the middle of the altar; the two brothers repeated the creed after him, the younger with fervour, the elder indifferently.
Yet his noble figure, standing there so negligently, might have been in the eyes of many that of a martyr to this faith to whose tenets he had sacrificed his fairest hopes and whose influence had cost his family a triple crown.
Something of this glory and passion of sacrifice touched the heart of the fervent younger brother; as he stood in this foreign church he was thinking of that fair Romish ancestress of his whose lips had kissed the block in Fotheringay, of his great-grandfather dying for his faith that January morning in Whitehall, of a priest smuggled to the death-bed of another king, of his grandfather in his flight casting the emblems of power into the Thames, casting them away from his family for ever, it seemed, and of his own father, the melancholy exile whose portion had been bitterness and despair, and whose sole comfort was in the Church of Rome.
A glow of fervour and of gratitude coursed through the youth's veins; he felt that it would be sweet to merge and lose himself in this faith which had cost his race so dear; he longed to be the priest kissing the altar between the Dominus vobiscum and the Oremus, he saw himself forgoing the ambitious schemes, the daring hopes, that had of late agitated him, and withdrawing for ever into the ease and security, the dignity and holiness, of the Church.
He glanced timidly at his elder brother, of whom he stood slightly in awe. He was glad that he was not titular Prince of Wales, Regent of England, Scotland, and Ireland, bound to an overwhelming destiny, but simply Henry of York, who was free to do as he wished with his own life...
'In spiritu humilitatus,' prayed the priest...Presently the altar became almost blotted out as the thurible swung round three times over the bread and chalice, leaving circles of sweet smoke.
Through these mists gleamed the figure of the priest being censed by the deacon, saying the lavabo while he washed his hands, and after he sang the Pater Noster and the Pax.
Slowly the twists of smoke went upwards till they were lost round the high arches that supported the vast roof; grandiose and mystic the mass continued; the most beautiful music, the uprising of the fresh and lovely voices, the taught and rhythmic movement of the gorgeous ministers round the resplendent altar, the gleam of the jewels on the chalice, the cross, the sheen of pure gold from the sanctuary, the doors of which were studded with diamonds, the flow of the rich Latin which concealed all common meaning in the words, all combined to soothe Henry of York into a half drowsy enthusiasm, as if mind and body were comforted and at ease.
Nothing in the world seemed to matter very much; what could matter if one were safe under the protection of the Church of Rome? When the opulent music ceased and the priest, bowing to the altar, dismissed the people with the Placeat tibi, when the congregation began to stir and rise and even whisper and laugh together, almost before the ministers had followed the cross to the sacristy, Prince Henry remained on his knees, so absorbed in his pleasant devotions, that his brother had touched him twice, rather impatiently, before he moved.
Together they left the church, passing gracefully through the crowds and out at the principal entrance, where the heavy portico faced the large dirty Place de St Sulpice.
The morning was one of rich sunshine, dazzling after the subdued light of the church, the sky showed an unflecked blue above the scattered houses; in the basin of the great fountain in the middle of the square market women were freshening armfuls of Southern roses, tightly bound in bundles, by dipping their stalks into the stagnant water and scattering the sparse drops that fell from the Triton's mouth over the close packed heads of bloom.
'It is good to be in the fresh air,' said Charles, pausing to look about him.
Henry sighed as if his soft, religious reverie had been too early disturbed.
'The service was very beautiful,' he returned with gentle reproach.
'I have been nearer to God,' said Charles, 'lying on the open heather, half naked under the rain, sheltered only by His mountains from a bitter death.'
The younger brother did not answer; but too often the humour of these princes clashed, especially since Charles had returned to Paris with broken hopes and a bitter heart.
Their carriage had now drawn up in front of the church door; in it was Lochiel and his old exiled father, neither of whom could attend their master farther than to the door of the Romish church.
Charles abruptly refused to enter; he would, he said, walk; Henry, surprised and hurt, for he was precise about the matter of etiquette, made some remark with reference to the Prince's attire, which was that of a ball the night before, upon which Charles took his light black cloak from the carriage, threw it over his shoulders in silence and turned away, leaving his brother to enter alone the coach with the royal arms of England painted on the side and the footmen in the royal English livery swinging on the straps behind.
Charles was followed by the glances of the passersby, most of whom knew him; he thought he discerned pity in some of their looks and his full lips took an unpleasant curl.
'There is nothing more ridiculous,' he reflected, 'than to be a landless, exiled Prince.'
He was by nature ill suited to the situation in which fortune had placed him; the meek and serene resignation of his grandfather and father was as impossible to him as the austere and cold piety of his mother.
He shuddered at the thought of the life that had been his all his youth, the life of exile, dependence, dull, aimless intrigue, endless, useless plotting, deferred hopes and ceaseless disappointments.
Hateful to him was the atmosphere of the mock Court in the dreary Roman palace, the melancholy king, the impoverished, ruined courtiers, the comings and goings of adventurers or curious strangers, the dominion of the priests.
He had not rested until he had tried to retrieve the fortunes of his house by one desperate throw with fate; the fire and vigour of his youth had resolved to attempt by arms what diplomacy had given up as hopeless...only to lose everything, to bring his most devoted followers to the scaffold, ruin on the loyal Highlands, doubt of his cause into the Court of France, and into the heart of that good old man wandering through the dull rooms of the Palazzo dei Sant' Apostoli, fresh despair.
Charles's whole ardent being was in revolt against his fate.
He had acquitted himself to the admiration of all in the brief hour of his triumph and the long misery of his flight; no act of cruelty, of boasting, of folly, had marred the bright gleam of his prosperity, no repining, cowardice, or weakness had shadowed the dignity with which he had endured his utter downfall, but to suffer what his father had suffered with patience and fortitude—that was not in the power of this fiery, ardent, impetuous nature.
To return to Rome, to resume the old life, to dream of Holyrood Edinburgh, Preston, and Culloden amid the sloth of Southern exile seemed intolerable and impossible...He held by one hope—the promised aid of France.
So far Louis XV. had not expressed his hereditary friendship for the house of Stewart in any way beyond splendid hospitality and gracious compliments.
Forty thousand pounds had been sent by Henry's efforts to Scotland; Charles had had to leave them buried on the shores of Loch Arkaig with instructions to Cluny as to how to distribute them. Another two thousand had been sent by means of John Macdonnell (part of which he had been robbed of on the journey). D'Éguilles had been sent as quasi-ambassador to Edinburgh, and no further had the help of France gone in this unhappy expedition of 1745, which had proved more fatal to the Stewart cause than the disastrous rebellion of thirty years before.
During Charles's expedition Henry had remained in France endeavouring to urge Louis to send reinforcements, and had performed a thankless task doggedly and faithfully, if half-heartedly, and without much skill. The younger Stewart was as little a statesman as he was a warrior; however, he had secured for his defeated brother a splendid if unofficial reception at Versailles: a pension and the Hôtel St Antoine were put at the disposal of Charles, and Louis had been extremely gracious.
As the young Prince walked through the sunny, foul, and narrow streets of Paris he was endeavouring to comfort himself with these thoughts. Surely France could never go back on her promises; could never, for her own sake, abandon the family whom she had supported in so princely a fashion for three generations!
His sanguine and buoyant nature responded to the glamour of these reflections; he threw back his head and slightly smiled.
Might he not yet land at Moidart with a French army at his back; might he not, indeed, talk with Lochiel in St. James's over the dangers and miseries of that flight to the islands and the long hiding in the heather?
He quickened his step with the force that these thoughts gave him and brushed, rather roughly, against a lady who was coming out of a small grocer's shop, knocking from her hand a packet of candles that rolled towards the gutter.
The Prince flushed with vexation and stooped at once to gather up the candles, but the lady, quicker than he, swiftly snatched them up and slipped them into a large bag of gold and blue taffeta she carried swung on her arm.
Smiling, she faced the Prince, whose apologies were blushing and confused; he had always been shy and ill at ease with women, who never had in any way affected the main interests of his life.
But she cut him short and made a great curtsey on the very step of the little shop. 'It is the Prince of Wales!' she murmured, with her eyes on the two stars shown where he had flung back his thin cloak.
Charles was never displeased by graceful homage; he felt at his ease now that she had discovered his rank. He judged her to be of the lower bourgeosie by the fact that she was out alone and the manner of her plain black dress, but her dark, clever face, young and vivacious, her slender figure, bespoke breed.
'Mademoiselle, I must buy you some more candles,' he said.
He moved to avoid the passers-by and stood beside her, next the window of the shop, where bottles of oil, dried fishes, spices and figs were mingled with thick funeral tapers and bunches of wax-lights to burn before images of saints.
This chance encounter with this stranger brought the Prince from his day-dreams to an acute perception of his surroundings.
He was in one of the meaner streets of the Faubourg St Germain. The gray smoke uprising from the gray city was already obscuring the brightness of the day; the milk-girls were returning to the country with their empty pails, their empty butter baskets; women in bed-gowns and slippers were standing at doorways and leaning from upper windows, calling to the red-capped men with vinegar for sale and the weary water vendors whose backs were bent beneath jars of Seine water.
He himself, with his elegance, his fair face, and his stars was a strange figure for such a setting; and so the lady seemed to think, for she continued to gaze at him with a keen though respectful scrutiny.
'Your Highness goes on foot!' she murmured.
'I have been on foot before and worse shod,' he smiled.
'And now you are tired of carriages, Monseigneur,' she replied quickly.
'Tired of myself, mademoiselle.'
'I have heard a great deal about monseigneur—from a friend of his.'
'A friend of mine?'
'There are many friends of monseigneur in Paris.'
'Ah, exiles of '15,' remarked the Prince bitterly.
She ignored his tone and replied in the same bright, calm manner.
'This was the old Lochiel. I saw him riding in your coach, monseigneur, when you went to your first audience of his Majesty.'
'You know Lochiel?' cried Charles warmly, 'the father of my dear companion? Then you are my friend also.'
She curtseyed, quite composedly, and her smile showed white teeth in her dark face.
'But the old chief knows nothing of me,' added Charles sadly, 'beyond that I have been the ruin of his house.'
'We are all Jacobites in our little circle,' said the lady, still smiling, 'all devoted adherents of the king in Rome and of your Highness, but we are so obscure that we never hoped to meet you, monseigneur—especially in this fashion,' she added lightly.
She was so at her ease, so finished in her manners, so graceful and ready in her speech that Charles knew that he had been mistaken in supposing her to be of the bourgeosie; rather he thought her a member of one of the new philosophical circles that occupied such a peculiar position of intellectual aristocracy in Paris.
'Mademoiselle,' he said frankly and not in a tone of compliment, for gallantry was not in his nature, 'I can afford to lose no good subjects. Tell me where I may wait on you?'
The lady slightly coloured but did not change her serene and open aspect.
'I am Lucie Ferrand des Marres and I live with Madame de Vassè in the convent of St Joseph, near the rue St Dominique and the rue Belle Chase, but it is not to be supposed that monseigneur should wait upon us there.'
'If I may not come on my own merits I will come as Lochiel's friend. May I now escort you on your way, mademoiselle?'
She shook her head.
'Nay, I have many errands to execute that could be of no interest to monseigneur—such as cottons and coffee, biscuits and ribbons.'
She curtseyed again as prettily as a Court lady and went gracefully on her way.
Charles looked curiously after the self-reliant, delicate figure that carried the plain, almost mean, dark clothes so bravely and went so daintily about so common an errand.
She was a type new to him and he rather admired her, though she left him as cold as any woman he had ever met.
Charles had never been remotely in love; none of the languorous Italian beauties, none of the adoring women of Edinburgh and Holyrood had ever roused in him any interest.
Clementina Walkinshaw, who had nursed him of a fever when he was besieging Stirling Castle; Flora Macdonald, who had risked her life for his, were the only two women who had made any impression on him during the Scottish episode, and both these were already forgotten.
The only woman who ever at all occupied his thoughts was she of 'the black eyes' whom he had toasted so audaciously in the shieling above Loch Ericht the night the news had been brought him of Colonel Warren's ships waiting for him at Moidart.
His mind recurred to her now as he watched Mademoiselle Ferrand disappear into another shop, recurred not with the tenderness of love but with a throb of wild ambition.
It was now becoming hot, an unpleasant smell was rising from the foul street; Charles wearied of his aimless walk, of the stares of the people going sullenly about their toil, of the press and clatter of carts and cabriolets; he knew that his brief moment of freedom had come to an end and reluctantly he turned in the direction of the Hôtel St Antoine, wandering, however, in diverse directions and stopping in the rue des Lombards to buy a gilt paper of drageés.
The Hôtel St Antoine was a handsome building, with a courtyard, a Swiss porter, and a couple of English liveried lackeys in the place of sentries at the gates, but the sombre exterior gave no idea of the rich opulence of the interior.
Gilt wood, azure ceilings, velvet carpets and tapestries of melting hues from 'La Savonnière,' crystal and silver candle sconces, chimney-pieces of alabaster carved as carefully as a jewel, gold leather hangings and exquisite Italian pictures, a profusion of exotic flowers in porcelain vases from Lorraine and Nantes, sideboards of marquetry where, on cloths of English lace, stood flagons of precious wines and bowls of rare fruits, lackeys in sumptuous liveries and black pages in jewelled Oriental clothes, combined to give the effect of the utmost luxury, that private and secret luxury to be found only in Paris, outwardly the most squalid and miserable city in the world.
This borrowed magnificence was only valued by Charles in as far as it denoted the friendship of the King of France, as for his personal tastes he preferred an outdoor and active life.
Prince Henry came to meet him with some air of reproach; the Earl Marischal had arrived and wished to see Charles.
The Prince had every reason to please and conciliate this staunch Jacobite, who had been living in exile since the '15 and whose vast influence was essential to the Stewart cause.
'He has been waiting a great while,' added Henry plaintively.
Charles glanced at him quickly.
The Duke of York was all in black and looked like a half-pay officer his brother thought contemptuously.
'If you had come straight back from the mass—' began the younger prince.
Charles cut him short and asked where the Earl Marischal was?'
'In your cabinet,' replied Henry still displeased; the lurking differences of opinion between these two came quickly to the surface now.
Charles left him and went to the room where his friend waited.
George Keith, Earl Marischal of Scotland, the man who had urged James to the post of honour in '15 and who had lost everything for the White Rose, whose youth had been spent under Marlborough in the Lowland campaigns, was now a man of over fifty, slight and martial in figure, with a fine still face and the manner of a great gentleman.
He wore the rich dark velvets and costly laces of a courtier and in no way suggested the ruined exile.
When the Prince entered he was placidly engaged in reading a book, a new work on philosophy of the school of Hume and D'Alembert; he was at heart a republican and a freethinker, and letters and philosophy really interested him more than diplomacy and intrigue.
Charles did not love him; he found this devoted friend of his father's, who was, with Ormonde, the most respected of the Jacobites, dull and long-winded.
The Earl had always disapproved of Charles's mad attempt on Scotland, and after the ruin of Culloden the Prince could never face without a feeling of irritated shame the man whom in a sense he felt to be his mentor.
He could remember the Earl, a grave and stately man in Rome when he was an impetuous boy, and it seemed to him that integrally their positions had not changed since then.
The Earl put aside his book and rose to greet the Prince. He stood near the window and the October sunlight was full over his long, handsome face and dark hazel eyes.
'I received a letter from Rome this morning, sir,' he said.
Charles was vexed; there had been no communication for him from his father, and not for the first time did he dimly sense some conspiracy against him on the part of these three people who did not really approve of his conduct—James, Henry, and the Earl Marischal.
He came up to the table in the middle of the room and stood there, rather sullenly.
The room was dark and furnished in the heavy style of the last reign; the walls were panelled without hangings, the few pictures—fruit pieces of the Dutch school—rich in colour and the suggestion of solid luxury.
Behind the Prince was a cabinet in black Chinese lacquer; the high ornate ceiling was in shadow, and the figure of the young man in his rose-coloured velvet and silver tissue, with his stars and his bright hair, stood out vividly against this background of sombre but splendid hues.
'The Duke of York tells me,' began the Earl Marischal, 'that it is the intention of your Highness to remain in Paris.'
This was striking at the heart of the matter, and Charles winced.
'So Henry has been discussing my affairs with you, my lord,' he replied dryly.
This was not the first time that the Earl had noticed Charles speak unkindly of his brother.
'The Duke has served you very well, sir,' he said. 'He laboured hard for you while you were in Scotland—it was not his fault that the fleet did not sail from Dunkirk.'
'Maybe,' said the Prince swiftly; 'but this, sir, was not what you came to speak of.'
'No,' replied the Earl Marischal rather sadly. He stood silent a moment, a slight and very noble figure, and Charles was silent, too, holding himself in reserve.
'His Majesty thinks that you should return to Rome,' said George Keith at length, 'and it is the opinion, sir, of the wisest amongst your followers.'
'And the reason of this opinion?' flashed Charles.
'Sir,' answered the Earl gravely, 'it is but too obvious that France will do nothing for you.'
At this bluntness Charles became red in the face with passion.
'You have never believed in me, my lord!' he cried.
'I never believed in the Scottish expedition,' said the Earl.
'And I never believed in your Court intrigues, sir,' responded the Prince hotly. 'Better Culloden than the endless waiting on the will of Louis.'
'But Culloden has left you again dependent on the will of Louis, sir,' said the Earl earnestly. 'Your one hope is there.'
'You speak boldly, my lord.'
'I speak as one whose loyalty is beyond doubt,' answered the Earl, who had been ruined without rancour for the House of Stewart.
Any argument was hateful to Charles, and he knew that he should he beaten in this one, but he fought to the last with temper and a rash disregard of everything save his own passionate desires.
'France has made me promises—not yet fulfilled,' he said, the angry flush still staining his girlish complexion.
'Sir, to get these promises fulfilled requires great patience and tact.'
'Those virtues have been exercised since '15, sir, and what have they obtained?'
'What has, your Highness obtained by daring rashness?' asked the Earl gently.
'By Heaven, sir, I have made some stir—I have caused Europe to see I will not tamely submit to my position—I would sail again with seven men, ay, with none—God hear me!' he added on a note of anguish. 'I had succeeded had they listened to me and not turned back at Derby.'
The Earl Marischal looked at him with a detached admiration and kindness.
'Sir, you have gained great personal renown, but I cannot flatter you by saying that you have added to your father's chances of regaining his throne—all your more influential supporters have either perished or been exiled—the Highlands have been crushed by a cruel conqueror—'
'Were I to land with a French army the Highlands would rise again.'
'For the present France will never give that army, be assured, sir.'
'I have the King's own promise.'
'D'Argenson and Tencin matter more than the King, and they are pledged to England.'
The Prince moved restlessly, a little cloud lowered on his unhappy young face.
'I loathe politics!' he declared passionately.
'Alas, your Highness, without policy one may do nothing.'
Charles flung up his head in silent challenge of this assertion; then cast himself into one of the heavy carved dark chairs and rested his elbows on the table. He was tired, being without sleep, having gone from the ball to the mass because it was too late for bed when he had left the fête and because Henry had been eager to go to St Sulpice.
Now his head ached suddenly and he felt vexed with everything and full of rebellious irritation against the cool, calm Earl with his good advice.
'I will stay in Paris till I get the help that was promised me,' he said obstinately. 'What sustained me while I was wandering through Skye and starving in the Hebrides, but that hope? I have been received with every possible distinction at Versailles; and as for the cruelties in the Highlands, they have so disgusted the Scottish that I have three adherents now for every one I had when I landed at Moidart last year.'
'But they are powerless,' said the Earl serenely, 'without money, provisions, and regular troops.'
'All these France has promised me,' replied the Prince. 'Had she kept her word before I should be in London now. I told the King so—with but three thousand regular troops I could have marched into England after defeating Cope; had I but had provisions I could have pursued Hawley after Falkirk—had I not been penniless the tale of Culloden would have been a different one.'
He spoke with enthusiastic warmth. The cause he had so passionately at heart animating him into forgetfulness of his fatigue and his irritation.
His golden-brown eyes shone with energy as he spoke of his battles.
'I would not have exchanged the heather for this,' he said with a glance round the sumptuous room, 'had I not hoped to achieve the means to avenge my friends.'
'In brief,' replied the Earl, who had been regarding him with the calm glance of the philosopher gazing at the impetuosity of youth, 'you would act Culloden over again.'
'On my word, Lord Marischal,' replied the Prince impatiently, 'I do not understand this gloomy talk—has not the King received me as Prince Regent of England? are not troops already drilling at Calais and Dieppe, Boulogne and Dunkirk? And as for Cardinal Tencin, he is hardly likely to be my enemy seeing he owes his Hat to my father.'
George Keith, leaning against the window frame with the October sunlight over his fine face, could not forbear a little tender smile.
Before the '15 he had himself felt something of the same high hopes; thirty years of ruin and exile had given him a truer perspective of the affairs of Europe.
He had no more faith in the ardent, impetuous Charles than he had had in the austere and quiet James, but the same loyalty that had caused him to lose everything for the father made him desirous to do his utmost for the son. He had an intimate and perhaps bitter knowledge of the Court of France, and he resolved to forgo no effort that might save the young Prince from keen disappointments and perhaps cruel humiliations.
'Surely,' he said, with some warmth tempering the habitual sweetness of his demeanour. 'You are not deceived, sir, by this hotel, this pension, the flatteries of the King, the bows of the courtiers—France dare not move.'
'And why dare not?'
'Because of England.'
'These intrigues, these considerations are no affair of mine,' returned Charles haughtily, 'as one Prince to another Louis is pledged to me.'
'Alas, the age of chivalry is past,' said the Earl Marischal, who was himself a very preux cavalier, 'and you, sir, must relie on other motives.'
'I rely on myself,' said the fiery Prince; 'on my own power to induce France to help me.'
'Let your Highness consider that Louis thinks of Peace—that his finances are ruined, his fleets defeated, that the Italian campaigns have failed, that his German schemes have come to nothing, and that, after a struggle of nearly fifty years against the usurper, the House of Bourbon may be forced to abandon the House of Stewart.'
These words, delivered in a tone calmly sad, pressed hardly on the ardent heart of Charles.
But too surely they pierced the cloud of happy illusions with which he had endeavoured to delude himself, and revealed to him the barren prospects he had so valiantly endeavoured to hide from himself. But he would not one jot change his haughty and confident demeanour.
'Louis can never break the treaty of Fontainebleau,' he declared. 'It would be a betrayal, sir, a betrayal!'
The Earl Marischal was silent.
'I am sorry, sir,' added Charles with a slight quiver in his voice, that you think my cause so hopeless.'
He knew that it was greatly to his interest to gain the support of this man, who had meant so much and might mean so much more to his family, and what appeared to him the Earl's lukewarmness affected him with a desperate vexation. He felt himself alone, with even his father and his father's friends against him.
George Keith read his mind perfectly, but in sincerity could find nothing with which to reassure him; he had no longer much faith in the Jacobite cause and still less in Prince Charles, who seemed to his wise experience but a rash young hero of romance.
'What do you then advise me to do?' asked the Prince after a moment's reflection, and in a hostile tone.
'Return to Rome,' answered the Earl at once,' and there wait a more favourable opportunity for another attempt—this is the wish of your father, who has been most unhappy since you left Italy and who would forgo anything for the pleasure of seeing your Highness again—it is also the desire of the majority of your followers.'
Charles sat immobile. All his being recoiled from returning to the dreary life in the Palazzo Sant' Apostoli; he was made for adventure, for action, for excitement, he could not force himself into an attitude of resignation, nor stifle his spirit into the walls of the house his father called home.
'Henry, of course, wishes to return,' he remarked at length. 'Henry was half-hearted from the beginning.'
'The Duke is happier in Rome than in Paris,' replied the Earl, 'nor can I believe that your Highness really cares for the dissipations of this careless city.'
'I care for nothing,' said Charles fiercely, 'but keeping Louis to his promise. Is it possible, sir, that you do not see my position? If I give up now I betray those who died for me—those who are ruined for my sake—do you not see that?'
The Earl Marischal saw another thing and saw it clearly; 'If you are of so chivalrous a temper,' he thought, 'why did you not die too? Why did not you share the fate of those who fell at Culloden Muir?'
The Prince continued hotly.
'Do you think that I, sir, at my age, with my temper, can be content to skulk in Italy with priests fox company?'
'I said but "wait,"' remarked the Earl with his quiet demeanour and gentle insistence.
'We have waited too long—we have been waiting over fifty years now—does his Majesty's patience, his endless letters, his underground intriguing help at all?'
The Earl Marischal tried another line of argument.
'Consider, sir, what your position would be if you angered France, forced her to break with you, to close all hope for the future, to forbid you her realm? What would you do, where would you go?'
Charles would not be daunted even by this prospect. 'My name and my sword have some weight in Europe,' he said, with a dignity that was not without pathos, 'and I shall always have the loyalty of some devoted gentlemen.'
'All of which will avail you little, sir, without the help of France—the Pope alone can do nothing but offer you some paltry pension, and a close connection with the Pope is fatal to your chance in England,' replied the Earl sadly; 'and without the protection of France you become but a wanderer—a desperate adventurer.'
Charles glanced at the serene and noble face of the speaker, and his own bright countenance was clouded by dismay; this prospect held before him was indeed terrible, he foresaw himself in the most miserable position a man of his spirit could occupy.
George Keith saw his advantage and followed it up.
'Whereas if you retire, sir, with dignity and prudence you will oblige France, please his Majesty and your subjects, and always be again able to demand the help of Louis on some favourable occasion.'
Charles remained mutely obstinate. The portion that wisdom offered to him was more hateful to him than any other prospect could be—even more hateful than that of becoming a proscribed wanderer, with which the Earl Marischal had just alarmed him.
The old Jacobite continued his warning to the heir of a cause that he had served so well.
'I would have your Highness remember that once you lose the asylum of France you become the target for all the spies and assassins of Hanover who dare not touch you now, nor in Rome—your life would be as miserable as it lately was in the Isles and without the consolation of faithful friends about you. No State would dare to offer you protection, no prince would give you the affiance, so necessary to you, of some well-dowered royal lady—and you would be without money, sir.'
George Keith paused a moment, then added,—
'Believe me, sir, that is the greatest misery of all to one of a generous temper—there is no humiliation so bitter, no vexation so enduring, no restriction so fretting as continual lack of money.'
The thirty years exile spoke from an experience which, though it had not left his rare nature soured, had been bitter in the extreme.
Charles could find no reply; he only knew that no argument could induce him to return to the fruitless life of Rome.
The Earl Marischal perceiving this, and knowing that he had exhausted his whole stock of arguments, prepared to take his leave.
He felt more than ever detached from the Jacobite quarrel, which had become so opposite to his character and mood, and still further drawn to that life of tranquil security and philosophic calm which lay open to him in the service of the King of Prussia.
Charles saw his intent of leaving and stopped him with the agitation of one who will not contend alone with his own conflicting passions.
'My God, sir,' he cried, rising from his seat by the dark table, 'do you really think it possible that France will abandon me?'
'Most probable, sir.'
'I will put the thing to the issue,' replied the Prince in stormy anger. 'I will force King Louis to show his hand plainly—I will shame him before all Europe to keep his word—sir, I regret to disturb one so trusted by my father, but I will not leave Paris.'
The Earl bowed.
'You will see,' added Charles, as if endeavouring to give an air of prudence to his resolve, 'that Lochiel and Ewing, Lochgarry and Macdonnell are of my persuasion.'
'These gentlemen are very loyal,' returned the Earl as gravely as sweetly, 'but their advice will be the advice of ruined men, who have nothing to lose.'
'And what have I to lose?' asked the Prince recklessly facing the older man with his brown eyes dark with anguish and challenge.
'The chances of the future,' replied the Earl with a graceful readiness that hid his disbelief in any future and any chances for the House of Stewart.
'Trust me with them, sir.' said the Prince, still in that same gallant attitude of brave defiance. 'I shall not jeopardise my heritage.'
The Earl Marischal smiled gently and even with a certain tenderness.
'Permit me to take my leave, sir.'
'You do not love me, Earl Marischal,' said Charles, 'and have thought little of me since I asked you to embark in the herring boat two years ago—but I—if I am more fortunate than you should dream—will remember your great services to my house.'
With which flourish and a royal gesture Charles dismissed the unwelcome counsellor and soothed his own pride.
But when he was alone, when the door had closed with a certain air of finality on one whom he knew to be at least a faithful friend, a wave of melancholy swept over his young, impetuous heart.
He thought of his truly precarious position, and how this house, his pension, his servants, his very clothes, and the money in his pocket might melt away like fairy gold which, gleaming over-night, is but withered leaves in the morning.
Everything depended on France.
Even if he took the Earl Marischal's advice and retired to Rome he would still have to be a pensioner on King Louis or the Pope.
He had nothing to depend on unless it was doubtful help from Spain or from the impoverished Jacobites in England.
And on the other hand he had responsibilities; the gentlemen who had accompanied him in his flight from Scotland, and those who had preceded him on the voyage to Nantes, on which the Duke of Perth had died, all looked to him for a livelihood and protection.
And there was Henry to be provided for; James, he knew, could help no one; he had himself lived on charity and his wife's dowry all his days, and his greatest asset, Clementina Sobieski's Polish jewels, had been pledged for Charles's recent expedition.
Any way the Prince looked he saw himself obliged to ask for help, to sue for favour...to one of his temperament it seemed far preferable to ask for an army than to sue for a small pension, to demand help, as from one prince to another, than to supplicate alms as a hopeless adventurer.
He was not as deceived by the caresses of the Court nor as dazzled by his great popularity in Paris as the Earl Marischal had imagined, but he did cherish a deep belief in his own fortunes, and he relied, with the frankness of a generous nature, on the pledges of France. And, deep in his heart, he guarded another hope: that which had inspired him to the audacious toast of the shieling above Loch Ericht—'The black eyes—The King's daughter...'
The door opened softly and Prince Henry entered; it was near three o'clock, the dinner hour, he remarked with a glance at Charles's unchanged dress.
Charles looked at him with but little kindness: affectionate towards each other as they once had been, they now pulled apart on almost every subject, and the elder suspected the younger of being too much in the confidence of the old King in Rome and something of a spy on his own movements.
'I hope you have listened to the Earl Marischal,' said Henry, turning his demure, placid face towards his brother.
He had the same girlish complexion as Charles, the same length of face and full under-lip, and there the likeness ended.
The Prince stared past him out of the window.
'Henry,' he replied with his dangerous frankness, 'I am not returning to Rome.'
The Duke was keenly disappointed.
Then I think you fail in duty to his Majesty!' he cried, 'whose every letter is full of "his dearest Carluccio" and pressing the matter of your return.'
'I will never return,' repeated Charles, 'while there is the least hope of France.'
Henry looked dismal.
'Cannot you see that they are fooling us? I have had a longer experience than you of the Court of France. All flattery and corruption, and deceit and horrid atheism.'
He spoke in Italian, the language with which, despite his English tutors, he was most familiar, and Charles replied with vivacity in the same tongue.
'What does it matter about their atheism? You are too priest-ridden, Henry—you think more of the Church of Rome than of the throne of England.'
Henry's face, always rather obstinate in expression, hardened.
'Do you know,' pursued Charles with force and some bitterness, 'that if I had attended the Protestant service in Edinburgh I might be in London now? Do you not know that it is only the Popish faith that is keeping us out of our rights? The House of Hanover would not stand a moment were I to declare myself a member of the Church of England.'
'But you were not tempted,' said the Duke anxiously. 'God be thanked! You would not break your father's heart that way!'
The Prince laughed defiantly.
'Henri Quatre thought Paris worth a mass, did he not? I think of that every time I pass his statue on the Pont Neuf.'
The Duke, who had inherited the almost fanatical bigotry of his grandfather and father as well as the sincere and lofty piety of his mother, was distressed at this talk and irritated by the reckless demeanour of the Prince.
'You were always suspected of this,' he said sharply.
Charles looked straight at him.
'Henry, what do you mean to do?' he demanded quietly.
The Duke glanced away.
'Are you with me or against me?' continued the Prince.
'Against you, Carluccio!'
'Sometimes I have thought so.'
'I am against some of your wilful plans, some of your rash friends—'
'Who are my rash friends?'
'I mean Lochiel and the other Scotsmen, and I do not like Kelly, your secretary.'
'You always were half-hearted,' replied Charles contemptuously. 'No wonder that you could not persuade Louis to help me when you thought the whole thing a piece of folly yourself.'
Henry flushed. He really had laboured hard against the grain, and conscious of mediocre capacities, in his brother's cause, and had felt keenly enough his insidious and slightly humiliating position.
'Why should we continue to be beggars and supplicants, hangers-on of a foreign Court?' he asked; 'let us, dear Carluccio, give up these chimeras and choose some career in which we can be independent.'
'There is but one career possible to us: that of arms,' said Charles. 'And I do not yet feel reduced to sell my sword—even saying'—he added cynically—'that there was any one disposed to buy it.'
Henry looked uneasy, as if he had something to say that he did not dare utter.
'I wish you could see how hopeless it all is,' he replied feebly, 'and think of all the misery and bloodshed this plotting involves!'
At that the Prince winced. He was the most tenderhearted of men despite his obstinacy and his strain of wild fierceness, and the bloody scaffolds in London, and the bloody moors in Scotland, often haunted his day-dreams and disturbed his sleep.
'The things you quote to hold me back but push me forward,' he answered. 'It is useless for you to repeat to me the Earl's advices and reproofs.'
'It is a pity,' replied the young Duke, who had his brother's obstinacy without his sensitiveness, 'that we cannot understand each other better.'
'I do not understand you at all,' said the Prince, 'unless you merely wish for a life of ease and comfort and to forfeit all ambition for a dull and safe obscurity.'
'Ah, Carluccio!' murmured Henry. He could say no more, for the maître d'hôtel opened the door to announce, 'His Royal Highness is served.'
Charles in his sumptuous and slightly untidy splendour and Henry in his neat black, cut in the Italian mode and rather like the suit of an abbé, with a little cloak at the shoulder and plain lawn at his throat, went together to the great dining-room, azure and gilt-painted and carved.
Charles thought of the shieling by Loch Ericht—of the meals of dried fish and the messes he had himself cooked over difficult peat fires...in the midst of this grandeur that was not his own, he thought wistfully of those wild, free days, of the space and the fresh air and all the exercises his hardy body loved.
Sooner that again, he thought, than this sort of life for ever, his very meat paid for by compassion, the very lackeys serving it knowing so.
The post had brought him two letters. One was from the sad old man in Rome, beseeching his 'dearest Carluccio' to return to the only place the exiles could call home.
Charles thrust it half-read in his pocket and looked at the other.
Henry peered over his shoulder.
Both knew the smooth parchment, the exotic perfume, the elaborate seal of the arms of France—the most powerful person in France had written to the Prince.
Henry, despite his dismal forebodings, felt hope revive, and flushed with pleasure.
'It is from Madame de Pompadour!' he whispered in excitement.
Charles tore the letter in four and cast it down under his chair, in full sight of the lackeys.
'The Queen is our mother's relation and was her dear friend,' he said.
It was a hot autumn in Paris; later than usual the man with the heron feathers in his cap and the metal receptacle full of barley water on his back continued to wander about the dusty Tuileries, Palais Royal, and Luxembourg, selling his thin drink from a chained cup to the nurses, the soldiers, the little bourgeosie and the children who crowded these popular promenades.
People talked of the end of the war, but without much hope; the taxes were crushing, the bread bad, all the necessities of life adulterated because of the numberless monopolies; every one drank the impure Seine water, the public fountains were dry, the poor died by the hundreds in the pestilent quarters of St Marcel and Ile de la Cité, where the refuse from the slaughter-houses lay decaying in the foul gutters; every night the death-cart creaked its way, laden with horrid corpses, from the Hôtel Dieu to the cemetery of Clamart, there to toss its burden into a ditch sprinkled with quicklime; every day some wretch, the victim of crime or his own despair, floated down the muddy waters of the river to be caught in the filets de St Cloud, together with the other refuse of the great black and white city.
And every day the nobles rode through the foul streets, preceded by running footmen and huge Danish dogs that knocked down the passers-by, their coachman's whips often wounding those who cowered out of their way, their wheels splashing shops and houses with the filth of the street while they rolled on to some feast, where they would eat from gold plate the flesh of a boar that had been fed on champagne and drink soup of turtles brought by special messenger from London.
The two Stewart princes lived in this inner brilliancy that was enclosed in the outer misery and squalor of Paris.
They were frequent guests at Versailles, entertained by all the nobility, maintained lavishly by the King.
Charles fitted easily into this gorgeous existence, but Henry was not happy; he went frequently to the churches, and he could not find one where the profanity of the congregations and the indifference of the priests did not offend his piety.
He wrote dismal letters home to the dreary old King in Rome, portraying his elder brother as beguiled by the flatteries of the Court, sunk in dissipation and unmindful of everything but his own pleasures.
Which was very far from the truth. Charles never forgot for a single instant the one great object of his life, and kept his head singularly well during the attentions to which he was subjected. He was very much the fashion with the women; his rank, his romance, his adventures, his youth and handsome grace combined to make him irresistible to the French ladies.
But Charles was as cold in Paris as he had been in Rome or Edinburgh; his ambition ruled entirely his unroused heart. He still toasted, openly and privately, 'The King's daughter.'
Nor was it easy for him to always avoid this fervour of feminine adoration; women came over from London merely for the chance of a glimpse of him in his box at the opera, and the French ladies were open in their attempts to capture his attention. The longer he remained free the more passionate the interest he created, the more desperate the curiosity which speculated on which he would pick up of the many favours cast at his feet.
But under all his gaiety and charm, his good-fellowship and seeming light-hearted enjoyment of his own position, Charles was absorbed heart and soul in the one thing: a French army, French money...another landing in Scotland, another face to face fight, this time on equal terms, with the armies of the House of Hanover. So far Louis, Tencin, and D'Argenson were all evasive though friendly.
The Stewart prince was useful to France to use as a thorn in the side of England; a goad, if need be, and a threat; she was in no position to do anything more substantial for him than gifts and compliments.
So the young man (who was further handicapped by his refusal to court Madame Pompadour) made no more progress than the Earl Marischal had predicted.
To his friends he was very loyal, and for them he was able to do something; Lochiel, Lochgarry, and Maxwell of Kirkconnell were all given commissions in the French army with appropriate pensions.
Lochiel accepted his regiment with reluctance. To be a Brigadier in the French army meant little to the Highland chief whose heart was ever with the ruins of Achnagarry, and who was homesick for his own people and his own country.
'Lord Ogilvy or others might incline to make a figure in France,' wrote the noble and gentle Cameron to Rome, 'but for my part my ambition is to serve the Crown, and serve my country or perish with it...I hope your Majesty will approve the resolutions I have taken to share in the fate of the people I have undone, and if they must be sacrificed, to die along with them. It is the only way that I can free myself from the reproach of their blood.' With this resolution high in his heart, Lochiel left his wife and daughter in their modest lodging in Paris and rode out to Clichy to the residence of O'Brien, where Charles in this late autumn of 1746 then resided.
The splendid Chateau St Antoine he had returned to the King on an impulse of dignity.
'I will not live in a style that will deceive the expectations of my friends,' he said.
In the small house at Clichy, with a much depleted establishment, consisting mostly of Scottish gentlemen whom in any case he had to provide for, Charles then lived, taking as little as possible from Louis, breaking himself on the French politicians, on ill terms with the depressed and antagonistic Henry, and more than ever the idol of the Court and the capital.
Lochiel found him in the walled garden, which was full of poplar and willow trees, wallflowers and Michaelmas daisies edging the sweeps of plain shadowed grass.
Clichy was a pretty village, free from the smoke and fogs of Paris, and Lochiel was glad of the green, the blue, the quiet and the sweet air, after the noise and smells, the hideous sights and sordid filth of the capital.
Charles was seated on one of the long stone benches beneath the row of poplar trees, which rose up straight against the cloudless blue; the topmost boughs, shaken by a little breeze, showed fluttering gold and silver leaves that fell now and then slowly to the ground.
The Prince's face was overcast, his air of gloom emphasised the slight heaviness of underjaw and chin, a characteristic hardly noticeable when he was animated.
He wore a fawn-coloured coat much the same in hue as the poplar leaves that fluttered with every lift of the air on to the shorn grass. He greeted Lochiel with kind affection and told him briefly the news that had saddened him. Charles Radcliffe, the brother of that luckless Earl of Derwentwater who had perished in the '15, had been executed. His body, still clothed in the uniform of a captain of France, lay near his brother's lonely grave in St Giles-in-the-Fields, far from the beautiful Dilstone that had given birth to both these brothers, who had now perished for the White Rose.
Lochiel had not known Mr. Radcliffe, who had been, like his own father and the Earl Marischal, thirty years an exile, but the news saddened him; he thought of his own kin, his son and brother left in Scotland, of the brave Cluny skulking in the heather, of many a noble friend of his who might at any moment fall into the hands of the English Government.
More than ever was he strengthened in the temper in which he had come to visit the Prince.
'There is no way in which to endure these things,' he said simply, 'but to endeavour to avenge them, sir.'
'I have not,' replied Charles, 'any other object in life.'
Lochiel, at the Prince's bidding, seated himself beside him on the bench. The scant shade of the stripped poplar was over them, and before them the long stretch of plain grass, leading to the little house where Henry had spent the fourteen wretched months of his brother's adventure.
The Prince held a sprig of wallflower, which he turned about in his slim, capable hands.
'Mr. O'Brien,' he said, abruptly naming the man who for long had been his father's agent in Paris, 'tells me that Cardinal Tencin has shown him a paper on which was written the intentions of France towards myself.'
And these were?' questioned Lochiel eagerly.
'Twelve thousand livres a month pension, a house for Henry and myself!' smiled the Prince.
'I do not believe it!' cried Lochiel.
'Nor I,' said Charles. 'I cannot, no, by Heaven, I cannot!'
Nevertheless the very report was like the touch of a whip on the cheek to both men; mere food and lodging to be the result of all the splendid French promises!
Lochiel's heart contracted; the pleasant garden seemed to him suddenly very dreary; he looked at the peaceful scene with exile's eyes.
'Sir,' he said passionately, 'if he will not give you what he has promised—take nothing from him.'
'Save what I must,' commented the Prince with bitterness.
'Money can always be got from Rome and from the English Jacobites,' replied Lochiel undauntedly. Your Highness may live in this house that your father maintains, without accepting any pension from France.'
Prince Charles broke the flower in his hands.
'Be assured, Lochiel,' he said, 'that I will have all or nothing. But as for my maintenance here, the King, my father, will not long support even this establishment, which is kept out of the money he sends to O'Brien. Like the Earl Marischal, he no longer believes in me, and his cry is all for peace and resignation.'
'In which the Duke joins him?'
'Most assuredly,' replied the Prince sharply, casting away the bruised wallflower. 'Henry is unhappy here—naturally—he will not divert himself, he is continually shocked, he is not popular.'
'We are none of us happy,' remarked Lochiel with a gentle sigh.
'Well,' said Charles, 'for the matter of that I confess to a zest for life—even this life.'
'You are young, sir,' replied Donald Cameron.
'And so are you, Lochiel.'
'Ah, my life lies in the past I fear, sir. I feel as if I had only existed since I looked on the ruins of Achnagarry.'
Charles rose impetuously.
'Would you cut me to the heart, Lochiel!' he exclaimed. 'Do I ever forget, night or day, what you have lost for me?'
Lochiel seized his master's hand and kissed it humbly. 'I regret nothing that has happened to me in your service,' he said.
The Prince's eyes darkened with a tumultuous emotion as he gazed at this loyal friend.
Lochiel looked ill. The foul air, the adulterated food of Paris, agreed ill with the Highland chief, who, besides, had never wholly recovered from the wounds through his ankles received at Culloden.
Very different did he appear in his emaciation—his beauty partly effaced by mental suffering and bad health—from the splendid chief who had come to Moidart not two years before to receive his King's son; he did not now seem the influential, the famous Lochiel, happy among his people, who had given those counsels of prudence that the Prince had so impetuously overruled.
There was a saying among the Camerons that a fair-haired chief was born to misfortune, and Donald Cameron was almost golden-haired.
'Take my hand, hold it,' cried Charles eagerly, 'and hear me say that I am one with you in everything. I will never settle down on a pension; I will never return to Rome. Here I dedicate my life to the service of those fallen for me, those ruined for me—believe me, Lochiel, though I may at times seem light and thoughtless—never have I forgotten for one instant my duty to my people.'
He spoke like the hero of Falkirk and Preston; he used the ingenuous charm that had won all hearts at Holyrood. All that was best in him, his gay courage, his gentle kindness, his sensitive response to the fine and generous in others, his capability of sincere abandonment to the heroic impulse of the moment, showed in these words of his to Lochiel. It was perfect truth that the interests of his followers were as uppermost in his mind as his own, and that he who was incapable of harshness towards an enemy, was full of intense gratitude towards his friends.
'In my heart I hate this life,' he continued to Lochiel, who had risen and kept his face away to hide his emotion. These Court diversions, this idleness, corruption, and confusion—all is distasteful to me...I was happier at Holyrood, almost happier among the heather...And the women, always the women here...I ever wished to manage my affairs without women, Lochiel.'
He spoke with some disdain, and Lochiel recalled how cold he had been to the Scottish ladies and how sparing with his balls at Holyrood, to the extent that he had been blamed, as James had been in '15, for his 'over-much chastity.'
The Highland chief had his race's dislike of this use of intrigue by women, so common to the Latins, and was in agreement with the Prince's disgust.
'Yet I have no doubt,' he remarked sadly, 'Madame de Pompadour could do you a better service than either Tencin or D'Argenson.'
'I hope to succeed without her,' replied Charles. 'I hope,' he added, alluding to his dearest and most secret ambition, 'to make such an alliance that she will be powerless to harm me.'
Then, quickly changing the subject, he said, 'There is other news from London besides Charles Radcliffe's death. Murray of Broughton has turned informer—'
Lochiel gave a bitter exclamation.
'Very possible,' replied Charles; you must not blame him, but rather those who tortured him into dishonour. 'Tis not all of us, Lochiel, can pass through these dark places with our souls unscathed. Poor Murray was bitterly tempted.'
'No more so than Kilmarnock or Balmerino,' cried Lochiel whose face was flushed with a reflected shame, 'and many a small, mean wretch who might have played the Judas.'
'Those were fortunate in their fortitude,' said the Prince. 'Do you envy the miserable Murray, Lochiel? He will live to wish he had perished by the worst death they could invent.'
'I fear, sir, that he will send many honest men to the block and the gallows.'
'I am in hopes that he can tell nothing more than Lovat and such traitors had already revealed. I have other news for you. The ship on which young Glengarry was returning to Scotland has been stopped and he arrested. God knows what they will do with him.'
Donald Cameron was silent; he had no comment to make on news so disagreeable. He thought of his far-away heir and his brother, of his little daughter drooping in Paris, of the brave wife who had accompanied him in his ruin, and he spoke with a passionate accent and lips that quivered.
'For God's sake, sir, press these ministers. Now is the moment to strike before the Highlands are depopulated by English cruelty and the Elector has brought to the scaffold the most loyal of your subjects.'
'Lochiel,' replied the Prince earnestly. 'I will go to Versailles to-night and stay there till I have made his Majesty express himself clearly.'
'What do you yourself think, sir,' asked Lochiel anxiously, 'of the King of France's intentions towards you?'
'I cannot tell,' said Charles frankly. 'He is always charming. I do not know if he is sly or false; sometimes I think he is laughing at everything. At first I believed him very indolent and wholly the puppet of his ministers. Now I think that he keeps much business entirely in his own hands and lets even Tencin remain in the dark on several affairs. He says he is straitened for money, but I cannot judge of the truth of that.'
'The country does not appear to be prosperous, but the luxury is marvellous,' said Lochiel, who had always lived with dignity on an estate of five hundred a year.
'Louis says he is always straitened for money, but the Court spends prodigious sums. The women rule everything, and they have no thought beyond prodigious extravagance. It is neither the Court nor the country over which I would care to reign, Lochiel.'
'I do not want this regiment, sir,' said Donald Cameron. 'I would rather not be in the dependency of the King of France.'
'Lochiel,' replied the Prince sadly, we cannot choose—you and I—we must live with some dignity if we are to achieve anything, and this is the only way that I can establish you.'
'I will take it sooner than be a charge upon your 'Highness,' he said quickly, 'but, as I have written to the King in Rome, it accords ill with my desires and my conscience.'
The Prince pressed his friend's hand; he felt very warmly towards the man who so eagerly seconded him in all his wishes, who was so loyal and uncomplaining a supporter. The more estranged he became from the Duke of York and the Earl Marischal the more he turned to men like Lochiel.
The long shadows had now covered all the close grass and only the front of the house remained in the last glow of the autumn sun.
A soft breeze was shaking the light heart-shaped leaves from the poplar trees, and sending them in little eddies round the feet of the two men.
'Let us go in,' said the Prince suddenly, 'it becomes chilly.'
Prince Charles, in that spirit of adventure which was the only one agreeable to his temperament, after having decided to ignore all the pathetic pleadings of his father, all the reproaches of his brother, and the advices of his friends (many of whom he had alienated by his headstrong conduct) decided to take his fate in his own hands and push matters to an issue with France.
Soon after his interview with Lochiel at Clichy he presented himself at Versailles with the intention of putting his dearest hopes to the proof.
At this time he was still sanguine of ultimate success and very much on his mettle.
He considered that almost every one, even James and Henry, had been more or less faithless to the cause, and that he alone remained to uphold the rights of the Stewarts.
He was keenly conscious of that wave of hopelessness that had come over even his most devoted followers, of the terrible impression made in England among his party by the severities of the Government, and of the general feeling in Europe that he was a spent force, no longer either dangerous or useful.
He was most passionately resolved to combat all these influences. The sense of his own failure, and at the same time of his own energy and the rightfulness of his cause, had filled him with an obstinate rebellion against all the world, save a few men like Kelly and Lochiel, and a desperate resolve to somehow right himself and regain that place he felt so keenly and so bitterly was by rights his own.
Good taste made him go with as few borrowed trappings as possible to Versailles; a few Highland chiefs in the uniforms of the French army, Kelly the secretary, Kelly the Irish confessor, and the faithful barber valet formed his entire suite.
He found D'Argenson and Tencin genuinely friendly but evasive, the indolent king gracious and vague, the neglected Queen eagerly sympathetic and ready to weep with him over his misfortunes; among the nobles who thronged Versailles he was as popular as ever. His birth, his history, his youth, his charm could hardly fail to excite interest and admiration among these idle and jaded people—witty, sensitive, and cultured, and avid for fresh sensations.
In the midst of these caresses Charles was receiving anxious letters from James begging him not to quarrel with his followers (the Prince had refused to receive Lord George Murray, whom he had never forgiven for the Derby retreat, and besides the Earl Marischal, Balhally and Semphil had been offended, and he was not on the best of terms with O'Brien, his father's agent) and warning him that he was 'on the edge of a precipice.'
Meanwhile Henry was at Clichy, dull and sad, quite hopeless of his brother's prospects and in close and dismal correspondence with his father on the subject of Carluccio's rashness and folly.
Charles also, for all his apparent recklessness, felt himself on the edge of a precipice from which he resolved to save himself by a step as rash as his position was dangerous.
Women he had always ignored, but there was one woman now who could not be ignored, but who might make his entire fortune.
O'Brien was busy with marriage projects for the Princes: the daughter of the Duke of Modena for Charles, Mademoiselle de Mazarin for Henry. Though these marriages were considered inadequate, James thought them better than nothing.
Charles, in one of his fiery, impulsive letters to Rome, in which he called D'Argenson and Tencin rogues, and O'Brien little better, suggested the daughter of Prince Radziwil for Henry and was silent on his own designs.
In reply James informed his dearest Carluccio' of the death at Rome of Sir Thomas Sheridan, his old tutor, who had been through the '45; both he and Charles's master of the horse, who had died at Carlisle, were disliked by the old king, who took this occasion to inveigh against his son's choice of evil counsellors—telling him that he was surrounded by a gang,' and endeavouring to shake his confidence in George Kelly.
Charles was moved by his father's words: 'I will always love you. I will always believe that you love me,' but he took no notice of the King's advice.
Nor did he disclose any of his plans to James, being perfectly aware of the excellent English spies in Rome and the fact that all the correspondence of the Palazzo dei Sant' Apostoli was known immediately in London.
It was on his own audacity that he now entirely relied.
On a certain cold morning of early winter Prince Charles presented himself in the ante-chamber of the apartments of the Mesdames de France. With the second of these, Madame Adelaide, he had a promise of an interview that had not been arranged without difficulty and patience, well as they were acquainted, for Charles had demanded 'half an hour alone, without even your lady or chamber-woman.'
As the Prince waited there was a little smile on his face; it was one of his saving graces that he was always amused at his own odd adventures.
He was asked to wait in a little boudoir, by no means as magnificent as that of Madame de Pompadour.
The white walls were hung with azure silk, and there were three circular pastels in frames of gilt ribbons, the subjects being children with dogs; the furniture was of ash wood and gray brocade; there was a small, delicate Chinese cabinet of coral red lacquer, a worktable in crystal and tulip wood, candlesticks in flower-wreathed porcelain, and before the fire in the marble grate a screen of rose silk on a light stand.
A curtain of straw-coloured velvet concealed the entrance to the inner room, where, Charles suspected, others besides Madame Adelaide waited.
Quite soon she came out from these curtains, greeting him with a composure that hid a certain inner agitation.
This Princess, shy and conventional as she was, was not without a sense of the romance of this young man and of the way in which the ladies of the Court were 'pulling caps' for him.
She had coquetted with him before he had left France on his impossible expedition. She had listened to her mother's praises, her mother's sympathy, her mother's half-confidences: 'If he gets his Kingdom he will need a Queen,' and over that mythical Kingdom she had sometimes reigned in those cloudland dreams that will come even in the barren, artificial life of a Madame de France.
She believed now that he had come to solicit her help in a very desperate moment of his fortunes, and she had not found it in her heart to deny him though she knew how grotesque it was for any one to suppose that she had any influence whatever.
As he had guessed, her duenna and one of her sisters remained not so far behind those straw-coloured hangings, yet the knowledge of their proximity could not extract all the excitement from this interview with the graceful young man with whom she had flirted in the balls of the salle de miroirs or the fête champêtre on the tapis vert.
'Monseigneur,' she said with her curtsey. She looked more human than he had ever seen her, yet still more frigid than any woman who had ever spoken to him.
There she was—his 'second daughter of France, the black eyes'—the toast given in defiance during his wandering, a stiff little creature of brocade and lace, her complexion too whitened to show pallor, too rouged to show a blush; exact as an expensive puppet in her decorum and taught grace.
She had much of her father's beauty, but her expression was insipid and timid. The pomaded locks were dressed close to her head and adorned by two vivid pink camellias; the dark eyes so often toasted in a Highland shieling were dark indeed, and showed like velvet against the artificial delicacy of the complexion. The mouth and nose and chin were infantile.
She wore a petticoat of pink brocade and an overdress of gold brocade edged with brown fur, open in front to show her white neck and her pearls. At her elbows were cascades of fine lace (that had cost some peasant girls their eyesight, worked in the cellars of Valenciennes) stiffened with gold thread.
A chicken-skin fan was in her tiny hands, and beneath her hoops showed tiny feet in painted leather shoes.
Charles, even while he was bowing over her perfumed and powdered fingers, was contrasting her, with that wild, rebellious perversity that had spoilt so much in life for him, with other women.
With Lady Kingsburgh, summoned from her bed to cook his supper of eggs, with Flora Macdonald creeping out to meet him with a bowl of milk by moonlight, with other Scotswomen, free stepping, with wind-browned faces and loose hair, simple creatures without art or luxury to adorn them, faithful and brave as their men-folk, fragrant and strong as their heather.
He even thought, oddly enough, of the girl coming out of the grocer's shop in Paris, whose candles he had knocked into the mud.
The Princess had nothing to compare with him in her thoughts; her life was blank of all experience; a round of formal duties, of stately pleasures, had filled her days. She had only left one palace to be conveyed in a gold coach to another. She knew nothing at all about anything save a certain circle of the Court.
Like Charles, she had a Polish mother and had been brought up in a priestly atmosphere; Maria Lecinska was devout for much the same reasons that Clementina Sobieska had been, because religion was a refuge from much that was unhappy.
'Have you wondered at all why I want to see you?' asked the Prince.
Madame Adelaide looked at him timidly; he was different from any man she had ever seen, and this difference held for her a slightly terrified fascination. The boldness of his manner and the directness of his speech she found a little difficult to deal with.
'I hope you want my help and yet I dread you should ask it,' she said prettily, 'for I fear I can be of no use at all to monseigneur.'
She spoke with real feeling, and the famous dark eyes were soft and anxious.
For a moment the Prince was silent.
They were both standing; between them the gray silk ottoman. He wore dark violet silk and the two stars of St George and St Andrew. His bright hair, that he had been so eager once to have cut off for wig-wearing, had grown long in his travels and was curled and rolled into a turquoise blue ribbon, the extreme delicacy of his fair complexion had returned and gave a curious charm to features by no means effeminate.
'I come on such a strange errand,' he said at length in his fluent French, that had a slight hard Italian accent, 'that you are bound to wonder at me.'
She waited, rather nervously opening and shutting the chicken-skin fan.
He lifted his hand and let it fall with a certain impatience, as if he would sweep away the narrowness of their surroundings, the conventionality of their relationship.
'First of all, mademoiselle,' he asked impetuously, 'do you believe in me?'
He looked at her rather confidently; he was used to counting on the belief and devotion of women.
Madame Adelaide was able to answer with sincere fervour; both her mother and her priests had taught her to believe in the Stewart cause.
'Most certainly I believe in your Highness; does not all France?'
'You mean that you believe that my father is King of England,' he answered quickly. 'That was not my meaning. Do you believe in me—as a man?'
The Princess was at a loss; she had never thought of this aspect of the matter.
'A great many people,' continued Charles proudly, 'do not believe in me any longer...after Culloden...I think my father is one of them...You see,' he added ingenuously, 'it all depends on me now, and there is very much to do and but few to help.'
'You are always safe and welcome in France, monseigneur,' she faltered, a little alarmed by his earnestness.
'Safety and charity are the last things I want, mademoiselle. My one excuse for leaving Scotland was that I wished to procure help for another attempt. If I fail,' he added with deep bitterness, 'I had far better have perished at Culloden.'
She did not understand his mood. Never had she ever had to take anything as seriously as he was taking this.
She dropped her fan on the ottoman and clasped her frail hands on her bosom; a look of distress passed over her delicate and infantile face.
Prince Charles leant slightly towards her.
'Have you ever heard the story of my father's wooing of his queen?' he asked eagerly.
She had heard some vague tale from her mother, but it had had no affect on her unawakened mind.
'My mother was Queen Marie's friend,' he urged. You must have heard the tale, mademoiselle—of her flight to join him, of her imprisonment, of her escape—all her great love and devotion?'
'She was brave,' said Madame Adelaide vaguely.
'I think women are always brave,' he answered; 'at least when their pity, their loyalty, or their love is roused.'
The Princess felt her face hot behind the powder and rouge. She did not know in the least what to do.
'I must find some such woman as my mother was,' he said. 'I need a Queen—I need a wife.' He looked at her straightly.
'Would you have the courage to share my fortunes—to believe that one day I shall have the crown to offer of which you are worthy?'
It did not seem to him, in the pride of his unspoilt manhood, that he was offering a slight thing.
His rank, his hopes were very real to him; he was intensely proud of his family; he could not but know what women thought of him, and this was the first to whom he had in any way offered himself.
She attracted him, fascinated a taste at present both cold and fastidious—this apart from the immense value such a marriage would be to his cause.
'Through all my brief success, through all my long misery I thought of you,' he told her. 'I did not notice other ladies.'
Madame Adelaide felt in a dream; this was like some fairy tale—delicious, impossible.
'Mon Dieu!' she murmured with a side-way glance at the straw-coloured curtain, 'have you spoken to his Majesty?'
Her words brought Charles from his attitude of ingenuous enthusiasm.
'I will do so,' he said proudly, 'but first I speak to you—I want no unwilling wife—can you not give me my answer? We have been as intimate as a Court would allow—I am not disagreeable to you?'
'Monseigneur is astonishing!' stammered Madame Adelaide.
'Mademoiselle never expected to find me commonplace?'
'Monseigneur is audacious!'
'Will you not give me my answer?' he urged. 'Speak to me as a woman to a man, Adelaide—tell me if you could not love me as I should love you.'
A curious expression passed over the childish face. The black eyes hardened.
'Monseigneur forgets all etiquette,' said the second daughter of France. 'It is not to me that these proposals should be addressed.
Prince Charles paled with swift anger.
'I have offended you?'
She looked at him with more haughtiness than he would have thought her exquisite little countenance capable of expressing.
'Monseigneur has presumed.'
Stewart pride flamed to meet Bourbon pride.
'It would not be the first time that there has been an alliance between our houses,' he reminded her proudly.
Her reply had the astonishing cruelty of a child's artlessness.
'It would be the first time that a daughter of France has espoused one in the position of monseigneur.'
She was bewildered, amazed, almost outraged, and could find nothing to hold by but the thing most strongly taught her during her short life, pride of birth.
To Charles these words dealt almost as bitter a smart as had Culloden. In one instant one of his most cherished ambitions dissolved into air; perhaps in that moment he saw himself for the first time as others saw him, a penniless adventurer, a homeless exile.
'Say nothing of this to my father,' said the soft voice of the Princess, he—he would—oh, it is so impossible!'
Charles could find no word. He coloured to the eyes, conscious now that even the clothes he stood in were bought out of her father's bounty...His bold bid for fortune had been rash, audacious, reckless, and he was punished.
Seeing him so still, some emotion hitherto foreign to her stirred the shallow heart of the little Princess; a vague sense of something lost, something escaping, troubled her curiously.
'I—I am sorry,' she said.
Then the young man's mood changed; he had never hesitated to give his passions full vent nor paused in making enemies; he forgot the daughter of Louis and saw only the silly girl who had flouted him so grievously.
'You will be sorry!' he cried with a half laugh. He suddenly seized the pearl-bound wrists and drew the stiff little brocade figure towards him. 'Do you not think I could have loved you? We should have had a glorious life...You know nothing about it, do you? They will marry you to some nerveless princelet...then...remember this...'
He dragged her right up to him and kissed her painted lips. For the first time she knew how strong a man could be. Her blush now showed through the rouge; she did not cry out.
Charles put her away from him and laughed into her quiverling little face.
'Good-bye, Carina,' he said in Italian, and left her speechless from his kiss.
For all his triumphant exit he was angry with himself.
'Why could I not have loved her?' he thought furiously. 'I should have won if I had loved her.'
Carluccio left Versailles in an evil humour.
Every time one of his rash romantic schemes failed (schemes that were always founded on the generous response of others to some heroic impulse of his own) a slight hardening, a slight defiant bitterness took further possession of his ardent and sensitive nature.
Already his temper was not so sweet nor his spirit so gay as when he had left Rome.
He had been hit hard by many blows of fate, perhaps hardest of all by this open-eyed wonder and incredulous disdain of the little Princess.
For he had really believed that she admired him and cared for him, not from coxcombry, but because he was so used to this attitude on the part of women.
And she had been almost as horrified as if some lackey had addressed her!
Her few words had shown him as nothing else had how very desperate and pitiful his position was; probably these very women who conspired to make a hero of him only regarded him as a toy, the passing fashion of the moment.
No thought could have been bitterer to such a proud and independent temperament; all his tastes and inclinations were for an active and martial life, and the man who at fifteen had distinguished himself before Gaeta, winced in every fibre to think that he had become an object of pity and amusement to a foreign Court.
So far had he been from love for Madame Adelaide that already he almost hated her. There now appeared something repellent to him in her painted yet childlike prettiness, in her gorgeous precision, in her conventional graces.
He made no attempt to see the King, his mood was too sore. Before the foolish interview with Madame Adelaide he had seen D'Argenson, who had nothing to offer but the usual vague promises and friendly compliments.
As he came into the vast gravel, sun-filled courtyard that faced the great gates that opened on the Paris road, he saw, beside his own lackeys and waiting horses, a splendid and rather fantastic coach of gilt and crystal; mainly crystal, so that the occupant could be seen to advantage.
The horses were white, with blue leather harness, silver-plated, the servants in blue and white; three huge snowy Danish dogs were waiting to run in front.
The Prince knew to whom this fairy-tale sort of equipage belonged—Madame la Princesse de Talmond, a Polish lady, Marie Jablonowska, by birth.
She had been one of the foremost to openly adore him; her shameless admiration had roused the wrath of Madame D'Aiguillon, the minister's wife and the Prince's special protectress.
The thick glass plates of her coach showed her at her ease within, lying back on white velvet cushions, with a monkey one side of her and a black page wearing a crown of white ostrich feathers the other. She wore a quilted cloak of pale yellow with a huge collar of white fur, a pearl-coloured gown showed beneath, and across her knees was a bouquet of winter roses and hot-house fuchsias.
Her eyes sparkled as she saw the Prince. She lowered her window and asked him if he would return to Clichy in her coach.
Before to-day Charles would have refused; now something seemed altered in his relationship with all women. Some reserve, some purpose had been swept aside; with the end of his hopes of marrying the King's daughter had gone much of the need for his being circumspect and prudent.
With the end of his high-flown romance had come a slight coarsening of his pliant nature. Had Madame Adelaide responded he was capable of having become a knight-errant for her sake...Now he began to consider if there was not something in that other side of life which he had hitherto disdained.
He accepted Madame de Talmond's offer and took his seat by her side, rather with the idea of making her smart, of amusing himself with her, and then treating her cruelly.
The lady took the little black boy on her knee and looked at her companion over the child's grotesque crown of ostrich feathers while the beautiful coach swung along the magnificent avenue to Paris, the fierce, white dogs running ahead, driving out of the way and even knocking down the pedestrians who ventured to come too near the coach of a noble.
Madame de Talmond, born of that fierce old Polish strain, of which there was so much in Charles himself, was in every way a contrast to little Madame Adelaide.
She was not young, but the right age for a brilliant society that did not much value youth in women. She was very cultured, very brilliant, witty, and splendid; one of les philosophes, the patroness of a coterie of famous men, typical, in short, of all that was characteristic of the high-born women of France.
She was, besides, a cousin of the Queen and of Charles himself, and a very great lady among the great ladies at Versailles, having, besides, married Anne Charles, Prince de Talmond, of the powerful house of La Tremouille, who did not now, after nineteen years of marriage, count for much in her life.
Charles returned her gaze—he was wondering if she would be of any use to him politically—cynically debating within himself whether, after all, he should not have to use the influence of women to gain his ends.
She was beautiful in a vivid, rather sharp fashion. Her hair was fair, powdered and sprinkled with gold-dust, she had blue eyes, too keen and eager for perfect charm, her lips were full but her nose and chin almost too delicate, her neck and bust, her hands and arms, were perfect; her figure was slender and her movements swift and sudden. Her charm was very penetrating, very obvious, very trained; she had a reputation for honesty, generosity, a fierce jealous temper, and much affectation and extravagance.
She was quite clever enough to see that she owed this sudden concession on the part of the Prince to no quality of her own, but rather to his mood, and she made no attempt to cajole.
'How go your affairs, monseigneur?' she asked.
'Very ill,' he answered haughtily.
Madame de Talmond sighed.
'Eh, mon Dieu, if I were a man!'
Charles smiled in silence.
'I would give you some good advice,' she added.
'I am all attention and patience,' replied the Prince, who was grateful to her for her absence of coquetry.
The little monkey had jumped on to his knee and he was absently caressing it. The Princess set down the black boy, who squatted on the floor of the coach and began devouring sugar that perhaps his chained and beaten father had slaved to procure in another hemisphere.
'First,' said Madame de Talmond, 'do not trust the Cardinal nor D'Argenson.'
'I do not,' replied the Prince grimly.
'The first is all for himself, the second is powerless, both are afraid of England—then,' she added decisively, there are others, monseigneur: your brother does you no good—Italianate, suspicious, priest-ridden, ease-loving!'
Charles was not displeased with her boldness.
'Poor Henry is not happy in Paris.'
'Marry him,' said the Princess. 'Cut his connection with Rome. You must have nothing to do with Rome if you are to succeed in England—you see that?'
'I see it, madame.'
He was pleased with this advice that ran so in accordance with his own opinion.
'Take care of M. O'Brien—what is he now?—Lord Lismore, your father's agent.'
'I have never trusted him.'
'You have good reason.' She leant swiftly towards him. 'Shall I tell you something?'
The coach, swinging along too swiftly, nearly cast her against him. He thought how very lovely her face was when seen so close.
'Lady Lismore is, I am convinced,' she said in a quick whisper, 'an English spy—take care! She is also—very much the favourite of King Louis—did you know either of these things?'
He had not, and he was considerably alarmed and startled; yet it but all fitted in with what he had suspected and vaguely feared.
He gave an angry ejaculation, but Madame de Talmond put her cool fingers on his wrist.
'Sh!' You can do nothing. Your father believes implicitly in the Lismores—but be careful.'
'Careful! when I am surrounded by spies and traitors!' he said angrily.
'Defy them all—everything,' she replied; 'rely only on your own destiny.'
This entirely pleased his reckless mood and his naturally imprudent temperament.
'The King is pledged to help you,' urged the Princess, 'why should you trouble about any of them? Only,' she added rapidly, 'beware of the spies—and of Rome.'
He knew that she was right; had it not been for his faith he might have succeeded in his late expedition. This old, fierce thought returned.
'Mon Dieu!' exclaimed the Princess, 'what are any of their faiths compared to a crown?'
She spoke with the free-thinking indifference of a philosophe, but her words did not offend the son of the pious Clementina and the bigoted James.
Policy had given Charles a mixed religious education, and a year before Lord Elcho had said of him that 'his faith was still to seek.'
'Eh, priests or women, madame,' he said with a certain lightness; 'it seems one must be ruled by one or the other.'
'Better the women,' said the Princess instantly. That French army might have landed in Scotland by now had you flattered Madame de Pompadour.'
'The Queen is my kinswoman,' he reminded her.
Madame de Talmond laughed; she was not at all displeased with the chivalrous spirit that dared to insult the powerful favourite.
Glancing from the window she saw that the sun was sinking behind the wintry fields and that they were nearing the village of Clichy. She spoke no more of politics, knowing that what she had said would make a deep impression.
'Has monseigneur ever been in love?' she asked in a tone of detached curiosity.
Ah, cousin,' he replied, instantly ready to annoy her, 'I lost my heart for ever in Scotland.'
Madame de Talmond remained immovable.
'When shall I know you well enough for you to tell me of it?' she asked lazily.
'I will tell you now,' he said. 'It was when I was besieging Stirling and staying at Bannockburn House—she nursed me—my host's niece, named after my mother—Clementina! A beauty, young and fresh. When we parted she threw herself on her knees: "Even if every one forsake you," she said, "remember I will come to you wherever you are, in whatever circumstances!" Was not that loyalty, cousin?'
He looked at her maliciously.
'Why did you not bring her with you, Highness?' asked Madame de Talmond calmly, 'she would have relieved the tedium of your exile.'
He found his opportunity for another shaft.
'Ah, madame, the manners of Scotland are not those of Paris—this was a most honourable young lady whom I was never permitted to see alone.'
'Most romantic,' replied the Princess, and could not help a little dryness in her tone. And you lost your heart to this Scottish miss?'
'All there is of it to lose,' replied Charles flippantly.
Madame de Talmond broke into a laugh.
'I perceive your Highness is still very youthful,' was her revenge.
'You have the advantage of me there, cousin,' he said cruelly.
Now she could not conceal her anger.
'Mon Dieu, you are an Englishman after all!' she exclaimed. 'Such a remark would have been impossible to a man of any other nation.'
'I thought a philosophe was above compliments,' said Charles gravely.
She looked at him out of narrowed eyes. From that moment she was resolved to enslave him; it would be the easier for that ten years difference between them that he had reminded her of so brutally.
'One cannot forget that one was once admired,' she said plaintively.
She looked so beautiful as she spoke that the words became a mere coquetry and Charles was forced to smile.
She pushed her success no further.
'We are at Clichy,' she said, and turned away abruptly to stare at the wintry landscape. 'If you wish for more of the advice of an old woman,' she added, 'make an appointment with me—write to the Convent St Joseph, in the Quartier St Germain.'
Charles kissed her hand and descended without any wish or promise to see her again.
He did not mount the led horse his lackeys were bringing up beside the coach, for his house was very near, but turned away across the frozen road without a backward look at the glittering equipage of Madame de Talmond, rolling away into the dusk towards Paris.
He wondered why the name of the Convent St Joseph sounded familiar to him, and then remembered that it was the address given him by Mlle Ferrand, the girl whom he had met outside the grocer's shop.
As he approached the walls of the house a sense of desolation fell on the recklessness of his spirits. He remembered how he had gone to Versailles with high romantic hopes and generous emotions, in a mood of lofty thoughts and aspirations, to lay his dreams at the feet of a royal girl who should be the fit mate for his birth, his future, his cause.
He had returned with the tones of this girl's startled rebuff stinging in his ears—the companion of a woman whom he had hitherto ignored, a cynical worldly woman who could only appeal to him through the worst that was in him.
Charles was angry with the fate that had cast him from Adelaide de Bourbon to Marie de Talmond, angry with himself for the change these few short hours had made in his outlook and his mood.
The heavens were overclouded, a mist was rising from the direction of the river; the poplars in the garden, quite leaveless now, rustled in a strong cold wind.
Charles thought of the many dark evenings last summer when he had toasted 'The black eyes—the King's daughter' and lifted his shoulders in self-disgust.
After all he had been a fool to believe anything would occur but failure and humiliation.
'I suppose,' he said to himself bitterly as he crossed the garden, 'there is no princess in Europe who would be allowed to marry me.'
This was no reason, he reminded himself, why he should not amuse himself with the Madame de Talmond of this world, who lay so easy to his hand...He laughed sourly to think how he had annoyed her by his mention of the Scotch girl.
Clementina Walkinshaw, the niece of Hugh Paterson—whose guest he had been—he had almost forgotten her, would have quite forgotten her had it not been for the singular outburst of passion with which she had taken farewell of him; she was very handsome, but he had not noticed her much.
Even in those dreary days of inaction he had never been able to find much diversion in women's society.
He entered the house unperceived and was stopped in the hall by the sound of voices.
Through the open door of the room nearest to him he perceived Henry, Lord Lismore and his wife, in close conference round a candle-lit table.
They appeared to be talking openly and freely, yet with great earnestness.
Lady Lismore was speaking.
Charles caught the words 'your advantage' and ''tis the only way for a settlement' addressed to Henry, and imagined that something was being arranged without his knowledge.
Instantly there occurred to him the warnings of Madame de Talmond and what she had said of Lady Lismore.
This lady, a fair, pretty English woman, was seated at the table, her hands clasped in front of her, the candle-light over her pale hair and dress and face.
Charles had never liked her, and now he hated her. Wanton and a traitress, what was she planning with his brother?
He entered the room brusquely, and there was a little movement of confusion among the three people whom he had surprised.
Henry said vaguely that he had not expected his brother so soon; the Lismores made their reverences with some distraction.
'I thought to find your ladyship at Versailles,' said Charles sternly, throwing off his hat and cloak.
'Why, what should take me there, sir?' she asked timidly.
'Your ladyship best knows that,' he replied with meaning. 'They speak of you there as such a favourite that your absence is remarked.'
He saw her already faint colour fade as she answered,—
'I accompany my lord on his business, the business of your Highness.'
Charles looked at Lismore, who stood silent. 'What does the husband know?' he thought bitterly.
'My business!' he cried aloud on one of his usually reckless impulses. 'My business is in my own hands, madame.'
'Carluccio!' cried Henry.
Charles saw the Lismores exchange a glance that further infuriated him; he no longer doubted in the least that what Madame de Talmond had said was true.
No one spoke.
It was as if all the veiled animosities, jealousies, and suspicions that had always distracted that little band of exiles, that should have been so united, were suddenly discovered.
These four people, so closely involved in the same cause, stood like enemies before each other.
Henry looked coldly at his brother; he did not know why he had been to Versailles nor what had occurred there, but he understood that Charles was hostile as he had never been before.
'I do not know what offends you,' he said at length, speaking French, so that the Lismores could follow the conversation. 'You seem annoyed: why, my dear Carluccio?'
'What were you discussing when I entered?' demanded Charles.
The Lismores looked uneasy, but Henry replied quite composedly.
'What we were talking of you would have been told of in good time. His Majesty, our father, has suggested that I go to Spain to join Sir Thomas Geraldine, our agent, there.'
'Why?' asked the Prince.
'To discover if Spain be more pliable than is France.'
'And this was to be without my knowledge?' cried Charles.
Henry was silent and Lord Lismore interposed.
'It was thought by his Majesty, sir,' he said, 'that it were well for there to be some separation between the Duke and your Highness on account of your notable differences.'
'Our notable differences!' cried Charles, angrier every moment. And who has been writing to Rome of our notable differences?'
It was true that he had never written anything himself nor ever referred to Henry when corresponding with his father, save in terms of affectionate regard; any annoyance he might have felt towards his younger brother he was far too frank and generous to bring before the old King in Rome.
Henry was silent; his letters to Italy had been always full of complaints.
'Sir,' replied Lord Lismore respectfully but firmly, the one fact that you do not return to Rome is sufficient to show his Majesty that you are not one with the Duke.'
Charles flared up.
'And cannot any of you understand why I will not return to Rome?' he exclaimed, adding with fiery disdain, 'Bah! I cannot have anything to say to those who are not my friends.'
Lord Lismore bowed and made a sign to his wife.
The two left the room, but the young Duke remained standing by the table, erect behind the two candles.
Charles turned his hot, passionate face towards his brother.
'These people are scarcely civil to me!' he cried angrily.
Henry replied with a more restrained but just as deep wrath,—
'You insult them, Carluccio.'
'Do you know who they are? Spies of King George—and the woman is suspected of being King Louis's mistress.'
Henry was outraged and incredulous.
'Who told you that?' he demanded. 'Some jealous woman.'
'I believe it.'
'You believe anything vile of those who are my friends.'
Carluccio advanced to the table; pain and anger made his fair face quiver.
'Henry, you are against me—I have long felt that.'
The younger brother replied with that quiet air of lofty reserve which marked him as so different to the Prince.
'I am against your mode of life,' he said, with the air of an elder.
This prim attitude was of all others the most intolerable to Charles's wild and impetuous spirit.
'You mean that you do not see your own advantage in what I do,' he answered bitterly. 'You were ever for ease, Henry, and the safe side—ever fearful of risks and ventures. As long as you were safe in Rome with your pension and your priests you cared little for my hopes and chances.'
'It is better to be resigned than impatient,' said Henry, still most composed.
'You speak like that—at twenty?' The Prince's scorn was deep. 'I have no faith in one of such a temper. You are against me, you and your friends; you scheme behind my back, you arrange things with Rome, you speak against me to the King.'
Henry's control began to give now. The two young faces, so alike in type, so dissimilar in expression, were both flushed and disfigured with anger as they glanced fiercely at each other over the yellow candle flame that gave such a dim light in the dark little room.
'It is you,' said the Duke, 'who are against us, against the King, the Church, your real friends!'
Charles was astonished into silence, partly because the accusation was so unexpected, partly because he had never heard the placid Henry speak with such force.
'Do you not think,' continued the younger brother, that I see that you are prepared to forsake us all for the sake of success? You disregard the King's wishes and my feelings, you quarrel with men like the Earl Marischal, you associate with free-thinkers and atheists, you neglect the faith for which our family has sacrificed everything. His voice rose on a note of pain and passion. 'All, all to go to the winds for some wild, impossible scheme—another '15—another Culloden!'
'You know you wrong me,' said Charles with anger, but not with the same conviction that his brother had shown; he was, in truth, rather shaken to see how much passion Henry used.
'You know why our grandfather lost the crown of England and why our father refused his chance of it,' added the young Duke, unheeding the interruption. 'Because of their loyalty to the true Church.'
'And why should you suspect mine?' demanded Charles.
'Do not ask me reasons,' replied Henry, 'but inquire of yourself if what I say is not just—ask of your own soul if you have not lost, amid the dissipations of this abandoned city, your loyalty to God.'
The young man spoke sententiously, as one who had been schooled by priests, yet with great sincerity and a certain dignity.
One part et his charge Charles felt to be utterly unfair.
The unfortunate Prince had kept himself singularly free from the debauches of the French capital, because he had been entirely occupied by his political ambitions.
He could not hold himself so well acquitted of the other accusation. Never as ardent a Romanist as his brother, it was quite true that he had been affected, both by the way it had been brought home to him in Scotland what immense damage was done by his faith to his cause, and by the free-thinking atmosphere of Paris.
One not by temperament religious and trained in mixed creeds could hardly be expected not to realise the tremendous advantage to all his dearest hopes would be a change from his hereditary faith to that so firmly established in the country he hoped to rule.
He made no great attempt to defend himself.
'We are not churchmen,' he said, 'but Princes fighting—desperately—for their rights.'
'"What shall it avail a man,"' quoted Henry, '"if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?"' Carluccio turned away impatiently.
'I am concerned with the Kingdom of England not with the Kingdom of God. I will not break my father's heart by any change—but I will not ruin my chances by insisting on my connection with Rome.'
'Such an attitude is pure disloyalty, nay treachery,' returned Henry with all the heat of bigotry. 'The King could never support you in it.'
Charles spoke from the window, where he leant in a weary pose against the dark curtains.
'The King has his own consolations. He is old, melancholy, pious, resigned. I am none of these things. I see the world as it cannot be seen from the shadows of the Palazzo dei Sant' Apostoli—it is this dependence on Rome,' he added with rising bitterness, 'that has undone us all.'
Henry crossed himself.
Charles looked at his downcast face a moment in silence.
The quick, hot anger of Carluccio did not endure long; he was very fond of Henry, affectionate and generous towards all, and now he forgot his grievances in a desire for union, for real friendship with his only brother.
'Why will you not work with me, Henry? Leave the Lismores; believe me, they are false.'
'How do you wish me to help you?' asked the Duke doubtfully.
'Leave intriguing with priests and their set—join the life of Paris—marry and set up an establishment.'
A strange look flashed into Henry's eyes and then was veiled by his habitual expression of prudence.
'I will not marry,' he said obstinately.
Charles lifted his shoulders, angered again.
'I do not understand you. I do not think you intend that I should.'
Henry had nothing to say; his anger seemed to have vanished into an obstinate reserve. With his sober attire and grave face he looked much older than his years. The long lines of his features were accentuated and the handsomeness of his countenance was largely obscured.
Charles was not the man to be able to comfort sullenness with patience.
'Go your ways,' he cried, angry again, 'as I most certainly shall go mine.'
The Duke gave him a sharp look, then bowed and left him as the Lismores had left him, without a word and rather with the air of slinking away.
The Prince remained alone, standing by the dark curtain, out of the circle of the candle-light.
He felt downcast, bitter, disturbed by a tumult of feelings, all sore and angry.
He was convinced that even amongst his own party he had enemies, and that there was some conspiracy working against his desires.
Even the old King in Rome, who had become to him so shadowy a figure, appeared to be trying to thwart him at every turn.
Henry, the Earl Marischal, and the Lismores he sharply distrusted, but he knew that it was entirely useless to endeavour to shake the faith of James in any of these people.
Sensitive to an extreme, and still aching from the agony of his failure, he was in the mood to fling himself off from all his family and followers—to follow Madame de Talmond's advice and defy every one.
It was now nine o'clock, the Parisian hour for supper, and Charles could hear the household moving without.
He resolved, in his proud young heart, that he certainly would not sit down to table again with the Lismores. He rang the bell, and when the lackey came, ordered biscuits and a bottle of Tokay to be brought to his room, where he hastened to hide himself.
The apartments of this house had nothing of the splendour of the Hôtel St Antoine, but the Prince's old-panelled room, hung with damask, furnished with heavy black oak furniture and a bed with dark tapestry curtains was far more luxurious than many he had slept in when in Scotland. He sent for the two Kellys, the secretary, and the confessor, and proceeded to share the bottle of wine with them, while the lackey lit the wood fire on the large cold hearth.
These two men who now drank with Charles were the only two in this household whom he cared to make his companions.
Though of the same name they were only distantly related. The Rev. George Kelly, the secretary, was loyal, taciturn, painstaking, serious; had been, after being secretary to Atterbury, a prisoner in the Tower fourteen years; he was a man old enough to be the Prince's father. The priest was younger, an Irish cordelier, clever, witty, dissipated, with a bad reputation and much given to hard drinking. His association with Charles had been the foundation for most of Henry's censures, and was indeed doing the Prince little good in the eyes of serious people.
James had protested against these men. Charles had seemed to submit, but had retained the Kellys in his service, though they had both been recommended to him in the first instance by Semphil and Balhady, with whom he had now quarrelled.
Both were now disliked and distrusted by the English favourites. Kelly, because he was an Irish priest and a man of disreputable character, George Kelly because he appeared indifferent to his professed faith and associated with Romanists. As a matter of fact, they were men of learning, character, and resource, and the Rev. George was, besides, brave, honest, and upright.
Charles sat between them now, staring into the brightening fire.
A bottle of brandy had been added to the bottle of Tokay, and he and the priest were drinking it between them.
The Prince had always been fond of wine, and during his miseries in Scotland had learnt the comfort and consolation of brandy and whisky, a habit to which he but too readily returned in any moment of depression.
Father Kelly, who had been found in the Convent de la Grande Cordelier, wore the rough robe and knotted girdle of a Franciscan friar. He was dark, with a coarse beard, an intelligent face, and a pair of lively shrewd brown eyes.
The other Kelly was quietly dressed in black, but not in the garb of a clergyman. His countenance was saturnine, wrinkled and clever; a rather old-fashioned white peruke fell over his shoulders, and was fastened with a steel buckle.
The Prince made a bright picture between these two; his pale fair face, his large sparkling brown eyes, the characteristic high nose and full mouth, both so delicately shaped, the bright brown hair, gleaming into gold at the tips, the slender yet robust figure, the two orders on his breast, combined to make that Prince of romance who had been so madly adored in Scotland.
Even the Whigs had admitted the fascination and grace of his person: 'there could be no one more captivating' one who had seen him in Edinburgh had written; yet they called him Mr. Misfortunate, as they had called his father before him.
Little good had poor Carluccio reaped from all this heritage of charm; his fair face and his gallantry, the Court manners he wore as easily as his stars and orders, his great name and his shadowy hopes seemed to have no value in the market of the world.
Drinking his brandy (and drinking too much, though it did not seem in the least to affect him) he told his two companions he meant to leave Clichy and return to Paris.
'I doubt my old house in Montmartre would be too expensive now,' added the poor exile, 'but I might find some lodging with a friend where we could share the cost.'
It was not many weeks since he had ridden to Versailles in rose-colour and silver, flashing with jewels, 'like the star that shone at his birth'; now the jewels were pledged at the Mont de Pieté, the bill for the hire of the horses was still unpaid, and Charles was calculating how to save a few shillings.
'Then, sir,' remarked George Kelly, you would not accept a pension from France?'
'Never,' replied Charles.
The man whose principles had cost him fifteen years in the Tower of London made no attempt to combat the principles of another.
'I think you are right, sir,' he answered. 'All or nothing!'
Charles began to cast over the people he might lodge with in Paris.
There was Henry Goring, nominally his equerry, faithful of the faithful; there was Bulkeley, the friend of Montesquieu and the brother-in-law of Marshal Berwick, the two Lochiels, Sir James Stewart, and other Highland gentlemen in the service of France; with nearly all the rest Charles was in disagreement.
Truly the Jacobite cause was 'a house divided against itself.'
'Tell me, Father Kelly,' said Carluccio irreverently, 'what do you think of the Lismores?'
'He is to be trusted,' replied the Cordelier.
Charles lifted his shoulders.
'Yes,' insisted the friar. He has been faithful to your father for many years—is an old man now, and has no other object in life. As for Lady Lismore—'tis a fair daughter of Eve—she deceives every one, her husband first of all.'
The Prince poured out more brandy, his face was clouded.
'They intrigue with Henry against me,' he said.
'I believe,' assented the nonjuring parson, that they may be in the King's interest, but they are hardly in that of your Highness.'
'I have been lately warned against them both,' said Charles darkly.
'By whom, sir?'
'Madame de Talmond.'
'She certainly is well informed,' remarked the friar, 'and I believe may be trusted. A rather extraordinary woman.'
'For a woman well enough,' said Charles impatiently, 'but I would rather have my affairs in the hands of men.'
A valet entered and approached the little group by the fireside.
The Chevalier Graeme, Prince Henry's governor, had left a letter for his Highness.
It was from Lismore, enclosing one from Cardinal Tencin.
As Charles was incredulous of his offer, he said he had put it in writing:—A pension of twelve thousand francs a month and a house for himself and his brother.
The Prince raised his face, already flushed from drinking, and black anger lowered on his features.
He tore up the letter with the same gesture of contempt he had used towards the epistles of Madame Pompadour and cast the pieces into the fire.
Charles left Clichy and took hidden lodgings in Paris.
He was still officially incognito, the French Court continuing to receive him under the title of the Earl of Renfrew, and utterly refusing to recognise him either as Prince of Wales or Prince Regent of England.
He did not long remain in the French capital, but went to Lyons secretly, accompanied only by a few gentlemen, among whom were Colonel Nagle, Vaughan, and Archibald Cameron, the brother of Lochiel.
He left all his other friends completely in the dark as to his movements, only writing to Henry from Lyons that he intended to visit Madrid.
Henry replied by reminding him that James had meant to send himself to Spain, and Charles renewed his indignation at such measures being concerted behind his back.
He advised Henry to remain in Paris and himself proceeded to the Papal city of Avignon.
When he was at Stirling he had received a letter from Sir Charles Wogan, his father's agent in Madrid, advising him to seek the help of Spain and hinting that the King was offended at so much court being paid to Louis, and that he might do much more if personally besought.
Hitherto he had done little enough; a small pension to James that had not been paid for years, four thousand crowns towards the expedition of Charles—this was all the mighty Spanish Empire, then deeply engaged in a war with England, had contributed to the Stewart cause.
But Charles was sanguine. His eager spirit began to build ardent hopes on the possibility of Spanish help.
If he could secure Philip he would be quite glad to abandon Louis; it mattered little to him of what nationality should be the ten thousand trained troops he judged necessary for another landing in Scotland.
Also perhaps a Spanish Princess might be willing to accept the position a French Princess had scorned.
So Carluccio, as usual forgetful of everything but the adventure of the moment, embarked with an eager heart on this new enterprise, enjoying the travelling, the open skies, the long rides on horseback, the sight of new country, full of a thousand projects and schemes bearing on his own great end.
Yet from Guadalaxara on March 12 he was writing bitterly to King James:—
'I believe your Majesty will be as much surprised as I am
to find that, no sooner arrived, I was turned away without so much as
allowing me time to rest. I thought there was not such fools as the French
Court, but I find it here far beyond it.
'Your Majesty must forgive me if I speak here a little out of humour, for an angel would take the spleen on this occasion.
. . . . . .
'I took post at Perpignan, with Vaughan and Cameron, the rest not being able to ride, and not to be so many together.
'I arrived at Barcelona, and finding that, by the indiscretion of some of our own people (which the town happened then to be full of) it was immediately spread I was there: this hindered me to wait here for the rest of my people to come up, as I intended, and made me take the resolution to leave even those who had come there with me for the greater blind and expedition, and to take along with me only Colonel Nagle, who had been with the Duke of Ormond.
'I arrived at Madrid the 22nd instant, and addressed myself immediately to Geraldine, Sir Charles Wogan being at his government...
'I gave him immediately a letter for Caravagal, which enclosed one for the King, of which I enclose here a copy; this was the channel he advised me to go by.
'Upon that I got an appointment with the said minister...I asked him that I supposed he had delinded my letter to the King and had received his orders what I should do?
'To which he said he had not, telling me it was better he should not give it, and that I should go back immediately; that he was sorry the situation of affairs was such that he advised me to do so.
'This he endeavoured to persuade me to by several very nonsensical reasons.
'I answered them all, so that he had nothing in the world to say but that he would deliver my letter...
'I parted, after all compliments were over, and was never more surprised than when Caravagal himself came at the door of the auberge I was lodged in, at eleven at night and a half, to tell me that the King wanted to see me immediately.
'I went instantly, and saw the King and Queen together, who made me a great many civilities, but at the same time desiring me to go back as soon as possible; that, unluckily, circumstances of affairs required so at present; that nothing in the world they desired more than to have the occasion of showing me proofs of their friendship and regard.
('One finds in old histories that the greatest proofs of showing such things are to help people in distress; but this I find is not now à la mode, according to French fashion.)
'I asked the King leave in the first place to see the Queen Dowager and the rest of the royal family, to which he answered there was no need to do it.
'Upon my repeating how mortifying it would be for me, at least, not to make my respects to the old Queen, to thank her for her goodness towards us, he said I might speak of that to Caravagal.
'I found by that he had got his lesson, and was a weak man just put in motion like a clock-work.
'At last, after many respectful compliments, and that the chief motive of my coming was to thank his Majesty for all the services his royal family had done for ours, at the same time to desire a continuation of them; to which he said, if occasion offered he would do even more. After that I asked him, for not to trouble him longer, which was the minister he could leave me to speak of my affairs, and of what I wanted?
'To which he said that he had an entire confidence in Caravagal, and that to him alone I might speak as to himself.
'I spoke then, that Caravagal might hear, that there was nobody could be more acceptable to me than him: says I, in laughing, he is half an Englishman, being called Lancaster...From thence I went in the minister's apartment, and stayed some time with him.
'But I perceived immediately that he ballait la campagne, and concluded nothing to the purpose, but pressing me ardently to go out of the town and away immediately. I told him that, though I had made a long journey, notwithstanding, being young and strong, I should be ready to go away that very same night; but that, if he cared to assist me in the least, he must allow me a little time to explain and settle things with him; that, if he pleased, I would be next day with him again.
'He agreed to that, but that absolutely it was necessary, to do a pleasure to the King, I should part the day after.
'I went to him as agreed upon, and a note of what I was to speak to him about, which, after explaining, I gave to him a copy of, which I enclose here, along with the answer he made before me in writing, which seems to me not to say much.
'He pressed me again to part next day. I represented to him it was an impossibility, in a manner, for me to go before any of my people came up.
'At last he agreed to send along with me Sir Thomas Geraldine, as far as Guadalaxara, where I might wait for my family.
'We parted, loading each one another with compliments.'
So ended those hopes of Spain that for a short while had brightened the darkened path of Charles.
Some miserable result was obtained from the humiliating journey.
The old King's pension was paid more regularly, and a sum was given Charles for his expenses; money that it was bitter to take but which was useful enough on his return to Paris, where his party awaited him anxiously. Lochiel, Semphil, and Balhady declared that he had lost a favourable moment for obtaining troops from France. Sullivan, an officer in the French service, who had been one of Charles's companions in the '45, was supposed to have arrived at some understanding with Louis. Whatever these hopes may have been they were dead when Charles arrived in Paris, weary and disheartened from the Spanish journey.
He found a melancholy answer to his letter from Guadalaxara.
James, believing his cause abandoned by the two most powerful Romanist countries, begged his dearest Carluccio to return to Rome and promised to secure for him a pension from the Pope.
So Mr. Misfortunate returned to Paris, having proved that his charm, his grace, his romantic history, his name, availed nothing against the cold considerations of policy.
Returned to find even Lochiel slightly estranged from him, his brother openly in opposition, all the Jacobites blaming him for his absence at a critical moment, D'Argenson and Tencin colder, the King more difficult to see, and nothing left but the admiration of the women and the populace.
He would not return to Henry's house at Clichy, and he was in no mood for the obscure lodging he had taken before his departure for Madrid. So he returned to the Hôtel St Antoine, that was still at his disposal, and began to live magnificently on the money he had received from Spain and fifteen thousand livres his father had sent him.
Distraction and confusion reigned among the Jacobites, most of them were working at cross purposes; those like Semphil and Balhady, Lismore and Sullivan, who were in the confidence of James, were mistrusted by the Prince, while Charles's chosen friends, the young Sheridan and the two Kellys, were disliked by James.
The Earl Marischal had withdrawn from Paris and the whole cause. Lord George Murray Charles could not receive, despite the protests from James; never could the Prince forgive the retreat from Derby.
Yet Murray was faithful, brave, and diligent, a fine soldier and a loyal servant.
'If I did not what I would, I did what I could,' he said mournfully.
His brother, the Marquis of Tullibardine, betrayed by those whom he had trusted, had already died in the Tower of London. Lord Lovat was under arrest; every packet brought fresh news of executions, imprisonments, fines, laying waste by fire and sword.
Lochiel's cousin, Cluny, himself descended from the royal family that had held the Scottish throne before the Stewarts, was a miserable fugitive in the Highlands, protected only by the loyalty of his own clan.
Lord Ogilvie, who had brought nine hundred Lowlanders to Culloden, Lord Elcho, who had been the companion of the gallant Balmerino, were now in Paris; the last was Charles's enemy and did not cease to remind him of fifteen hundred pounds that he owed him, and the first was not the friend of the Prince that some of the Highland chieftains had proved to be.
In short, the position of the Jacobite party, half because of sheer misfortune, half because of the Prince's high-handed recklessness, obstinacy, temper, and tactlessness, seemed on the verge of dissolution; and Charles himself, as James had so sadly pointed out, 'on the edge of a precipice.' Meanwhile he sunned himself in the spurious gleams of his popularity; in England Jacobites kneeling at the block were saying they were glad to die for so sweet a Prince,' in France the women were 'pulling caps' for his favour.
The Prince, whose natural inclination was all towards the manly, the active, the straightforward, the bold, found himself forced to accept the homage of women and to become the centre of back-stairs intrigue.
He made one attempt to shake off the devils who lurked in wait for his passionate and outraged soul, one more effort to maintain his place as a Prince and a man.
Early in April he presented himself at Versailles and almost forced a private interview with the reluctant King, then commonly supposed to be on the eve of a peace with England, which would mean violating a treaty already in existence with James.
Louis received his guest, who was now becoming both troublesome and dangerous to him, in his private cabinet, which had every appearance of both splendour and gravity.
Portraits of early Kings of France snowed between the gilt leather hangings on the walls; the blue and ash-coloured carpet was Aubusson, the furniture very fine gilt; there were several buhl cabinets and a very fine Chinese piece in black and gold lacquer, before which the King sat. Above this was a china pendule clock on a gilt bracket, and a porcelain calendar fastened to the wall.
On the top of the desk itself stood a Sevres bowl full of exotic flowers: jasmine, tuberose, and carnations, and a terra-cotta nymph by Clodion.
Charles glanced at Louis with secret dislike.
The French King never troubled to dislike any one, but in truth the two men, though connected by blood and marriage, were as dissimilar in character as in fortune.
One thing only had they in common, unusual personal attraction, though Louis excelled Charles in personal handsomeness.
A King at seven and married at fifteen, Louis was now but ten years older than the Prince who had proposed to become his son-in-law, and in the full flower of that sumptuous beauty that no excesses had yet had power to mar. His regular features, splendid deep blue eyes, set off by the powdered curls, black satin, lace, and brilliants of his simple but costly attire, his slow, voluptuous glance, his air of regal indifference, of superb calm, made Charles appear thin, hawklike, too eager, too restless and impatient by contrast. Yet to most judgments the Prince would have appeared the more attractive of the two.
Louis's looks were too womanish, and there was something not lovable about his aloof, dull air.
With splendid grace he concealed his embarrassment at having to face Charles, and begged him to seat himself.
Charles took the gilt chair opposite the King, and leant forward in a slightly negligent attitude; he wore a steel-blue riding suit and cloak, and his hair was unpowdered.
On the lace at his breast glittered the two stars in diamonds.
Louis inquired if he had all he wished at the Château St Antoine, if his brother was well, if he had good news from Rome—
'The answer depends on your Majesty,' said Charles bluntly.
'My dear cousin, really nothing at all depends on me,' said Louis suavely. 'If you have come to talk business—which is a dull subject between friends—I must inflict the good Tencin on you—he knows where I only surmise, can act where I only can advise.'
Charles did not believe that Louis was the puppet he made himself out to be; he had a shrewd idea that frivolous and shallow, dissipated and indifferent as the King appeared, in reality he kept a sharp eye on his own affairs, and was so much an absolute monarch that even his own ministers were often in the dark as to his intentions.
'Sire,' replied the Prince, on a note almost of impatience, 'I have not come to talk diplomacy—Cardinal Tencin and I have long since wearied each other.'
He looked keenly at the King as he spoke; there was no change in the beautiful, mask-like face which expressed nothing but a lazy hauteur.
'His Eminence is,' assented Louis, 'very wearisome. But, my dear Prince, he is necessary!'
'Not between us,' said Charles promptly. 'Your Majesty can speak to me freely. I am not in a position,' he added proudly, 'to be able to dangle after ministers, nor of the temperament to mingle in intrigues. I speak to your Majesty as one gentleman to another.'
Louis glanced at the Clodion nymph as if asking for assistance, but his answer was given without hesitation.
'As one gentleman to another,' he said, 'I can do nothing for you, my dear cousin.'
Charles flushed hotly.
'Has your Majesty well considered that?' he demanded.
'I should have thought that it was obvious,' replied Louis. 'I am tied hand and foot—the English have cleared the sea of French ships—'
'Then you are going to make a peace with the Elector?' cried Charles.
Louis slowly opened a sardonyx snuff box that lay on the desk in front of him.
'The Elector is an intensely disagreeable person,' he remarked. 'I detest all these German princelings—I believe that a people with the good sense of the English must surely return to their legitimate King—but the time is not yet!'
'The time is now, sire!' said Charles sternly.
'Eh, bien,' answered Louis, still intent on the snuff box. 'Why be so impatient, you are young, elegant, Paris is a diverting city—you will find plenty of quite charming women, the plays, the opera, the chase—'
Charles interrupted again.
'Sire, I want ten thousand men.'
The King's lazy blue eyes turned slowly on the audacious young speaker.
'I should be rather glad of them myself,' he remarked.
Charles rose impetuously.
'You fool me, sir,' he said stormily.
A faint flush crept into the King's powdered cheek; he had never before been spoken to in this tone.
'Destiny fools all of us,' he said, 'and neither you nor I, monsieur, can set the world to our own wishes.'
The man who was absolute Lord over twenty-four million human beings, who was regarded with such respect that when mass was celebrated in his presence the priests stood with their backs to the Holy Eucharist rather than to him, who was not supposed to speak to any one below the rank of Princes of the blood, whose toilet was performed by great nobles, looked at the man who had been born to a heritage of forlorn hopes, who had been reared on the bread of charity, who had known defeat, humiliation, sufferings of fatigue and hunger, penury and danger, who had wandered with a price on his head and been chased like a hunted beast through the remotest parts of what he considered his kingdom.
Perhaps for a moment these differences seemed to disappear and the two looked at each other as one human being to another, perhaps Louis envied more Charles's freedom than the Prince envied the King's greatness; perhaps he wished for that second, that he could do the strong, the kingly, and chivalrous thing and openly protect this young kinsman in whose rights he believed. At least he sighed, and his voice was slightly changed when he spoke again.
'Believe me, Charles, I am not in every way fortunate.'
The Stewart pride matched the Bourbon; Charles was by no means softened.
'Your Majesty is indeed unfortunate if you are forced to break your word. It is an ugly stain on a great Prince.'
Louis lowered his eyes.
'You have heard rumours of a peace?' he questioned.
'Give no heed to rumours,' replied Louis with some energy.
'I will not if your Majesty will deny them,' said Charles quickly.
The King slightly lifted his shoulders.
'I can tell you no more but that I will always be your friend.'
'I heard as much in Spain,' replied the Prince bitterly.
Louis gave a sudden languid smile.
'I wish you would fall in love, my dear Prince,' he remarked.
Charles reddened with anger and held up his head haughtily.
'Then you would forget about these affairs of State,' added Louis.
Never, sire,' returned the Prince firmly. 'No woman is likely to cause me to forget the object of my life.'
'How unfortunate,' murmured Louis.
'Yes, I am unfortunate,' said Charles haughtily.
'Especially, sire, in my friends.'
'You have quarrelled with all of them, I think?' remarked the King.
At this, which showed that Louis followed the Jacobite intrigue with more keenness than might have been supposed, Charles gave him a sharp look.
'Who told your Majesty that?' he asked bluntly. 'Was it Lismore—or his wife?'
Louis shot him an oblique glance that seemed to express some amusement.
'And who has been warning you—against the Lismores. A lady?'
Charles smiled sourly.
'Maybe I also have my boudoir confidences, sire,' he replied.
Louis looked at him with a slight increase of interest.
Charles made an impatient movement as if the whole turn of the conversation was hateful to him. He rose and stood leaning on the back of his chair.
'Sire,' he said with deep earnestness, 'it is a desperate man who speaks to you. You know better than any that I am a pauper, an exile...an adventurer, perhaps...I have not the temper of my father and my brother that can endure a resigned position of deepened dependency...I must have action...occupation...some dignity, some hope...' He paused and in his emotion seemed to forget who was his auditor.
'...Or I feel all the devils in Hell in wait for me,' he added passionately.
Louis continued to turn about the sardonyx snuffbox.
'They might be more amusing than the compassions of a King,' he remarked.
'What I say is beyond your Majesty's sympathy!' cried Charles. 'I will not tell you then of my other anguishes: how the blood shed for me cries out for vengeance—how the ruined people who look to me for help weigh on my soul—how the picture of the burning, bleeding Highlands is ever before me. They loved me, sire, they loved me, those Scots, and if I can do nothing for them, I feel a coward that I did not perish with them at Culloden Muir.'
Louis slightly shivered; his personal timidity amounted to a nervous disease. As a child, masses had been said for his cure, but he remained cowardly to a painful degree, and there was something wild and fierce in the Prince's words that stirred his heavy imagination.
He seemed to glimpse something of the terror and distress of those Scottish days, the heaviness of the sacrifice that had been made for the Prince, his own forlorn and desperate position.
Louis hastened to dismiss the images that caused him these uneasy sensations.
'My dear cousin,' he said hastily. 'Why will you not be content with life as it is? Time may bring another opportunity for asserting your rights—'
'Would you condemn me to the life my father has lived?' demanded Charles sombrely. 'It is useless, sire. I have not the piety necessary to support such a fate.'
'You can the better find the amusements his Majesty has so missed,' replied Louis. 'I will see you lack nothing.'
'Sire,' interrupted the Prince, 'I have seen the paper Cardinal Tencin gave Lord Lismore—I refuse a pension.'
Louis gently bit his lower lip and closed the snuffbox with a snap.
'In that case, my dear Prince,' he remarked gently, 'I fear that we distress ourselves needlessly by this conversation.'
Charles was pale now, the pupils of his large eyes dilated, his fine nostrils distended; he knew perfectly well that he was playing a losing game, but it was not in his nature to admit defeat before it was forced on him.
Wounded and outraged by the treatment he was receiving, every moment more indignant, more smarting, his audacity increased with every rebuff Louis gave him.
And the fact that the King was urging him to the very life that he saw before him inevitably, yet hated, that this man who alone was able to rescue him was pushing him towards the abyss he dreaded and shrank from, condemning him, with cynical indifference in the flower of his youth and vigour, pride and hope, to the life of an idler, a fripon, a dependent, increased his rage and his despair.
Like a man with his back against the wall he continued the gallant, useless fight for a portion of his birthright.
'You cannot know, sire,' he said, 'what this means to me. I will never return to Rome to fawn upon the Pope. If you refuse me this assistance there is nothing before me but misery.'
Louis raised his eyes to the bouquet of exotic flowers on the desk above him, perhaps slightly moved, perhaps slightly bored.
For God's sake, sire,' continued the young man in increasing agitation, 'consider my position, my obligations—my duty—what I owe my country and myself—the hopes that are placed on me—'
He paused, then added with a certain keyed-up pride and courage,—
'Would you give me the hand of your daughter and recognise me as Prince of Wales?'
Louis turned his head sharply.
'Eh?' he said incredulously; then rousing himself, 'My dear Prince—'
Charles broke in impetuously.
'I spare you excuses, sire. I understand how you value me and how you intend to treat me.. I would only remind you of the treaty you have with my father.'
'One is seldom so unfortunate as to have to keep one's treaties,' remarked Louis slowly. 'In any case, it is Cardinal Tencin you must see about these matters.' He rose, looked not unkindly at the half-distraught young man, and added with meaning,—
'It will be worth your while to retain even the secret friendship of France.'
Charles turned on his heel, utterly reckless as to how he ruined the last hopes of his party. 'I will no longer importune your Majesty with the recital of my distresses.'
Alas, poor Prince, friendship is impossible for Kings!' sighed Louis.
Charles deigned no answer; bitter disappointment and burning anger almost choked him; he could not command himself to ordinary civility; in the King of France he saw only a man who had deceived, almost betrayed him.
Louis, who was at heart good-natured and who felt at times a lingering affection for Charles, would have added some softening words, some more graceful excuses and vague hopes for the future.
But the Prince was in no mood to endure false caresses.
He turned to the door with the curtest of salutations. Your Majesty follows your policy, I mine,' he said swiftly.
The King, who, any time the accounts of his realm were placed before him, enclosed himself in the Oeil-de-Boeuf and burnt them all to ashes, knew little of any connected policy, his one endeavour being to keep his own ease undisturbed.
He looked at Charles in a slightly melancholy fashion. He was a magnificent figure but gave a strange suggestion of lifeless emptiness, for all his handsome splendour.
Charles left him and traversed les petits appartements, the two rooms lined with books (the only one that gave any sign of ever being read was that ponderous manual of Court etiquette—L'Almanach de France) and came out into the public galleries of Versailles.
Disregarding the salutations of cordon-bleus and princes of the blood, Charles descended to the great courtyard, crowded as ever with horses and lackeys.
His own coach, with the arms of Great Britain, awaited for him; it was drawn by four enragé horses, specially trained for swiftness and supposed to perform the journey to Versailles and back in three hours.
As Charles was flinging himself into this coach a lady hastily stepped from a gilt leather Sedan chair and ran towards him. She was masked in violet velvet and wore a great cloak of cherry-coloured cloth.
'Monseigneur,' she whispered breathlessly, 'take me to Paris with you—'
Charles thought of Madame de Talmond, but a first glance told him that this was not she. He paused with his foot on the coach step. To his excited fancy this seemed to him the first of the devils into whose hands he had spoken of falling; he had had a vague intention of going, in his evil reaction, to the Convent St Joseph, to find the Polish Princess; but in the matter of women he had often been pursued, never the pursuer, and he took with bitter recklessness the first adventure that came to hand.
'Mount, madame, mount!' he cried, and taking her by the arm almost lifted her into the coach, then gave his orders to the coachman in the words used by the Princes of the blood and the great nobles when they wished to drive furiously—'A la tombeau overt!' Meaning that no danger was to be regarded, and the animals set forth with the speed of racers through the early spring evening, along the Paris road.
'If I am seen I am compromised,' murmured the lady, shrinking back against the buff-coloured velvet cushions.
'Shall I set you down, madam?' asked the Prince grimly.
Either by accident or art she was swung forward on to his breast; the movement of the coach was very violent and she clung to his laces as if breathless and frightened.
With impetuous fingers Charles pulled the mask from the stranger's face, breaking the ribbons and scattering her pale brown hair over his arm, for her locks were unpowdered and confined only by a braid of pearls.
A fair infantile face, rounded and exquisite, looked up at him; long diamonds hung in her ears and tears gleamed in her large blue eyes.
He knew her at once for Madame de Guèmènée, one of the frivolous beauties of the Court who had tried to attract his attention before his expedition to Scotland.
'What will you do with me?' she murmured. 'I have thrust myself upon you. Eh, monseigneur, have pity on me!'
She sat up, her silky hair falling about her on to the folds of the heavy cloak, looking like one of La Tour's pastels, that seem to be painted in silver and pearl and rose water.
Confusedly and blushing, she began some incoherent story of plots; she was sure Peace was to be signed, and had heard that if the Prince did not leave Paris he was to be assassinated.
Charles did not take much heed of this tale. He knew that he always went in danger of murder.
'I had to tell your Highness,' sighed the distressed beauty, 'whatever you may think of me. Eh, mon Dieu! why will you not leave Paris?'
His large marten muff lay on the seat. He picked it up and put it as a cushion behind her shoulders, for the furious driving was causing the coach to jolt terribly.
This lovely, yielding, agitated woman fitted in strangely with his mood. He knew that she was worthless and despised her as much as if she had been a dancer of the opera, but the perfume of passion about her, the soft, frail, exotic grace of her clinging submission, the way she had cast herself, almost openly, into his arms, roused in him a slightly savage pleasure.
He meant, in his bitter spite, to amuse himself somehow, and here was his diversion flung into his lap.
They were entering Paris; the foul streets began to enclose them; the air was full of the rude clang of church bells and the clatter of the shop signs one against the other in the rising wind.
The lamps were beginning to be lit in the windows of the modistes, where the trim girls sat behind their piles of ribbons, silks, and lace; druggists' shops, with dried vipers and bottles of salts among the raisins and dates, soaps and candles; armourers' shops, where young women sat among the pistols and swords; shops full of books, of images of saints and of indecent prints, flew past, together with the crowds of priests, friars, peasants, soldiers, and women of the little bourgeosie, who fled from before the progress of the Prince's coach.
Past the tall houses whose high windows showed the poor interior of some hôtel garnie, past the iron gates of some princely dwelling, past walls covered with announcements of the opera, the theatre, some book, some spectacle, impeded by processions of chained criminals being marched to the galleys, the porte-Dieu taking the sacrament to the dying, the police dragging a cursing woman before the commissionaire public, followed by a mocking crowd, all softened, rendered obscure and vague by the river mists that were encroaching into the pearl-gray sky, drove the Prince and Madame de Guèmènée.
He drew her close to him as the coach wheels struck fire from the cobbles and the curling whip of the coachman sent the passers-by cringing against the walls or into the doorways of the shops.
Under the cover of the foggy miasma of the city, which penetrated the luxurious carriage, he caught her chin with his free hand and kissed her with a passion that was not due to any love for her, but was simply a fierce expression of his tumultuous angers and despairs.
'Where shall I leave you?' he asked, while their lips still almost touched.
And she: 'Take me where you will'—with a sharp sigh.
She held her mask with the broken strings before her face as the quivering, foam-flecked horses drew up at the Hôtel St Antoine.
'You shall sup with me to-night,' said Charles fiercely.
He conducted her into one of the azure salons. Henry was there, gloomy and desolate.
At the sight of his brother's face, his brother's companion, he rose up in a kind of fright and left the room without a word.
'Madame de Guèmènée laughed. The sound of her frivolous, malicious merriment struck with an echo of horror on the ears of Charles, like the jeering malice of some triumphant fate.
He remembered when he had gone to Versailles to ask for the hand of a Princess and being cast to the consolations of—Madame de Talmond.
And this time he had gone as a Prince to a Prince, to ask a man's help, to wring from destiny another chance to attempt all that was noble and worth while in life—and the result had been that there was flung into his arms—Madame Guèmènée.
He looked at her as she stood gazing at him with eyes full of allure and expectation; she had opened the cherry-coloured cloak and showed a pale gown of painted silk and lace.
She clasped her hands and laughed in his face.
'What shall we have for supper?' she asked.
Her hair hung like the simple ringlets of an Italian Madonna; her face was the face of some fairy of the opera.
Charles threw back his head as if shaking off some burden of thought.
'Henry's housekeeping would be meagre for your tastes,' he said.
He called two valets; sent one to the rue des Lombards for confitures and bade the other go to the Hôtel d'Aligre in the rue St Honoré, where every dainty could be bought ready cooked.
Father Kelly and the secretary coming to find him, discovered him on a sofa with the piquant little beauty beside him, the valet waiting while she made out a list on her ivory tablets.
The Prince, flushed, handsome, with his grace and his stars, his noble brow and bright hair, seemed strangely employed; he took no notice of his friends, but leaning insolently near Madame Guèmènée read out each item as she wrote it with her gold pencil.
Pâte de thon frais de Toulon—Terrines de perdrix—Rouges de Nerac—a carp from Strasbourg, a capon de Caux.'
The lady flashed an impudent smile at the newcomers, who remained inside the door.
'And now the sweets,' she said.. 'This, please your Highness—Levantine dates, amandes princesse, gelée d'orange de Malte—confiture of little citrons Chinois, gelée de pommede Rouen, the aromatic Schapigne cheese. For liqueurs, Creme de Mexique Martinique, and Marasquin de Tava—
'Ah, Madame,' said the Cordelier, 'you tantalise a poor priest.'
'Join us, father,' cried Charles. 'We do not sup at the common table to-night.'
George Kelly left the room and closed the door, leaving his master with the woman, the confessor, and the valet.
In the corridor he met Henry, irresolute and pale, who demanded fearfully,—
'Who is that woman the Prince has brought home, M. Kelly?'
'One of the parasites of such men and such moments,' replied the nonjuring parson sombrely. He turned away, thinking of Scotland, of what the Prince had been then, of the tired head resting on the knees of Flora Macdonald while Lady Newburgh cut a lock of the hair, that was now touching the tainted beauty of Madame de Guèmènée.
The brothers were finally separated now. Henry left the Hôtel St Antoine and retired again to Lismores' house at Clichy.
The young Duke's letters to Rome were full of sad complaints of his elder brother's wildness, of his dissipation, of his reckless attitude towards all.
He had estranged every one, even the gentle Lochiel; the Earl Marischal had retired to Treviso, Lord George Murray had left Paris without seeing the Prince, Balhady had gone to a suburb outside the capital, where he was making tortoise-shell snuff-boxes, Semphil, Sheridan, Ogilvie, Clancarty, Lochgarry, Cameron, and the other Jacobites were supporting themselves somehow on French pensions and French hopes, for the most part a heartbroken little band of exiles, divided among themselves and with nothing but ruin in common. The war dragged on, always with disadvantage to France; the news from the Highlands was bad and bitter, the hopes held out by D'Argenson and Tencin vaguer and fainter.
Poor 'Mr. James Misfortunate,' wandering among the dreary galleries and moth-eaten tapestried chambers of the Palazzo dei Sant' Apostoli, or kneeling by the pompous tomb in San Pietro where lay that saintly 'wife who had done so little to help either himself or his sons, resigned finally and for ever any hope of that crown his father had lost the year he was born.
This unhappy Stewart was both reasonable and honourable; his sad life had been blameless and noble, and he accepted now without rancour what he regarded as the will of God.
His greatest distress was the absence of his sons. He entirely disapproved of the course adopted by Charles, which was, he thought, undignified and ungrateful.
He wished his dear Carluccio to believe that both France and Spain had abandoned the Stewart cause, and to retire with honour and dignity to the Papal States.
It was difficult for him to understand the temperament of his son, and the behaviour of Charles was forcing him to the melancholy conclusion, already arrived at by Henry, that the Prince was ready to sacrifice the family tradition and the family faith for the sake of gaining a delusive popularity.
Meanwhile Charles was amusing himself with the diversions of Paris and Madame de Guèmènée; his companions continued to be the two Kellys and a few of the less worthy Jacobites; his Hôtel was filled by a crowd of Irish adventurers and shady soldiers of fortune, whom the Prince recklessly allowed to pester the French Government for places and pensions.
He himself made a great figure on the Boulevards, at the opera, the spectacles, even in the Palais Royal or the Tuileries; he was entirely careless with money.
He had expensive miniatures, busts, and portraits of himself taken with all the orders'; he drove tine horses and dressed splendidly; Madame de Guèmènée proved a costly toy.
The Spanish money, the supplies from Rome, the French pension barely sufficed to meet his expenditure.
In return for this lavishness he had the applause and admiration of the common people both in England and France.
But the loyalty of men like the Earl Marischal and the love of men like Donald Cameron of Lochiel was waning.
No remonstrances moved Charles; he was but beguiling the time, he said, till France was ready to act—as act she must, according to the treaty with his father.
He avoided the Court. Madame de Guèmènée kept him from Madame de Talmond and Madame D'Aguillon, both more powerful friends, but the part this woman played in his life was to be as brief as it had been sudden.
During the excesses of the Carnival the Prince saw nothing of his brother, who remained in seclusion at Clichy, loathing the scandalous disorders to which the city was given over.
But as soon as the pompous and magnificent festival of the Fête Dieu (celebrated by Henry in private, but with true piety) was over, the Duke sent an invitation to Charles, asking him to supper at his house at Clichy.
The Prince, however eager to embark on a quarrel, was always equally impetuous in his reconciliations, and he accepted with affectionate warmth this overture on the part of his brother.
Early that April evening the splendid coach, with dogs and outriders, drew up at the gates of the modest suburban house.
Charles was received by the Chevalier Graeme, his brother's governor.
Henry, it seemed, was abroad, and had left no message; it could not be doubted that he would soon return.
The Lismores had not been seen in Clichy for some days. Charles, who was out of touch with his father's agent and convinced of the double part played by Lady Lismore, felt relieved to hear this.
He was in a good humour; pleased at the thought of seeing Henry again, and elated by these nameless and baseless hopes it takes so long to dispel in the bosom of virile youth.
The covers were laid in the dining-room, the candles lit, the valets in attendance.
Charles stood by the open window and looked out into the narrow garden, now full of roses and syringa, where the poplars, covered with young leaves, rose against the starlit sky.
Though his person was familiar to the Chevalier Graeme, that gentleman studied him with some curiosity.
The Prince had become a figure of much éclat in the eyes of all Europe; he had lately, in a spirit of sheer bravado, proposed for the hand of the Czarina of Russia; and all his exploits seemed extravagant and fantastic in the midst of a prosaic age.
A French barber, a French tailor, a French mistress had shaped him to the likeness of a true Parisian. He appeared more unlike an Englishman than ever.
He was curled, powdered, perfumed, adorned with every device of fashion, and looked not in the least like the leader of a forlorn cause, the hero of a lost hope.
He talked easily and gaily of the pleasures of the Carnival that was just over, the ball at the opera, the spectacles at the theatres, the extraordinary crowds in the Palais Royal.
'I know nothing of all this, sir,' replied the Scotsman dryly. With an abrupt changing of the subject he added, Your Highness has heard that Lochiel is ill?'
'Yes,' said the Prince.
He belied himself by the brief answer. A few days ago his gorgeous equipage had rattled down the quiet street where was the lodging in which the Highland chief was breaking his heart for the ruins of Achnagarry.
The meeting had been sad; Lochiel was reserved and Charles had read reproach into the submissive looks of the patient wife and frail child, both drooping in the air of exile.
'Henry is late,' he remarked on his side, changing the conversation.
Henry was late; the Chevalier Graeme could not understand, he did not even know where the young Duke had gone.
Impatience gave way to anger, anger to alarm; the house, the gardens were searched.
There was no sign of Henry, no note, no message.
Charles waited for three hours and then returned to Paris sick with the fear that his brother had been assassinated or kidnapped in mistake for himself.
His distress was allayed next morning by the receipt of a letter from Henry, in which he stated that he was longing to see his father, that the air of Paris did not agree with him, and that he was returning to Rome.
Charles was angry, scornful, and indifferent by turn.
A few weeks later fell the blow that was more deadly than Culloden to the Prince and his cause.
It came in the form of a letter from James to his son, written from Albano, the thirteenth day of June.
'I know not whether you will be surprised, my dearest
Carluccio, when I tell you that your brother will be made a Cardinal the
first day of next month.
'Naturally speaking, you should have been consulted about a resolution of that kind before it was put in execution; but, as the Duke and I were unalterably determined on the matter, and as we foresaw you might probably approve of it, we thought that it might be showing you more regard, and that it would be even more agreeable to you, that the thing should be done before your answer could come here, and to have it in your power to say it was done without your knowledge and approbation.
'It is very true I did not expect to see the Duke here so soon, and that his tenderness and affection for me prompted him to undertake the journey; but after I had seen him, I soon found that his chief motive for it was to discourse with me fully and freely on the vocation he had long had to embrace an ecclesiastical state, and which he had so long concealed from me, and kept to himself, with a view, no doubt, of having it in his power of being some use to you in the late conjunctures.'
'But the case is now altered; and as I am fully convinced of the sincerity and solidity of his vocation, I should think it a resisting of the will of God, and acting directly against my conscience, if I should pretend to restrain him in a matter that so nearly concerns him.
'The maxims I have grew up in, and have always followed, of not constraining others in matters of religion, did not a little help to determine me on the present occasion, since it would be a monstrous proposition that a King should be a father to his people and a tyrant to his children.
'After this, I will not conceal from you, my dearest Carluccio, that motives of conscience and equity have not alone determined me in this particular; and that when I seriously consider all that has passed in relation to the Duke for some years bye-gone, had he not had the vocation he has, I should have used my best endeavour and all arguments to have induced him to embrace that state.
'If Providence has made you the elder brother, he is as much my son as you, and my paternal care and affection are equally to be extended to you and to him, so that I should have thought I had greatly failed in both towards him had I not endeavoured by all means to secure to him, as much as in me lay, that tranquillity and happiness which I was sensible it was impossible for him to enjoy in any other state.
'You will understand all that I mean without my enlarging further on this last so disagreeable article; and you cannot, I am sure, complain that I deprive you of any services the Duke might have been to you, since you must be sensible that, all things considered, he would have been useless to you remaining in the world. But let us look forward and not backward. The resolution is taken, and will be executed before your answer to this can come here.
'If you think proper to say you were ignorant of it, and do not approve it, I shall not take it amiss of you; but, for God's sake, let not a step which should naturally secure peace and union amongst us for the rest of our days become a subject of scandal and éclat, which would fall heavier upon you than upon us in our present situation, and which a filial and brotherly conduct in you will easily prevent...God bless my dearest Carluccio, whom I tenderly embrace.—I am all yours,
The furious, desperate, and thrice unhappy Prince read two things only in this letter: the death warrant of his own hopes signed by his brother's acceptance of the Scarlet Hat, and the fact that James had abandoned an elder son as a lost cause and was only thinking of making some provision for the younger.
Charles became as stunned, as distracted, as when Lord George Murray had forced on him the retreat from Derby.
He was sufficiently near to the heart of European politics to know what his father and brother could scarcely realise: the absolutely disastrous effect of the step Henry had taken, not only on the British public but on the Scottish Jacobites.
Had Henry been acting in the pay of the British Government he could not better have served the interests of the House of Hanover.
Charles shut himself up with his wrath and despair, facing the overthrow of his most cherished schemes and a future which seemed to offer no ray of light.
It was not long before he saw in his brother's step the evidence of a long conspiracy.
This was the explanation of Henry's secrecy, his long letters to Rome, his closeness with the Lismores, his sober life, his reproaches, his indifference; an interview with D'Argenson confirmed the Prince's bitter suspicions.
That minister affected a great indignation against Henry, whom he spoke of as 'Italianate, superstitious, rogue, avaricious, fond of ease and jealous of the Prince'; he even hinted to Charles that Cardinal Tencin and Lady Lismore, in concert with Louis, and influenced by bribes from England, had persuaded the young Duke to enter the Church.
All this accorded but too well with the Prince's own convictions.
He had long known that Henry's heart was not in politics. During the year he had remained in France to look after Stewart interests he had been merely a cipher.
Charles knew him, too, for a bigot and one who loved comfort, and it was obvious that, in forsaking the stormy fortunes of his brother and in retreating to the safe harbourage of the Church, the pious young Prince had done extremely well for himself from a worldly as well as a spiritual point of view.
Later news from Rome said that Henry was to be Legate of Avignon for life, Archbishop of Monte Reale, which was worth 100,000 ducats a year, while there was promised to him the important office of Arch-Priest of the Vatican Basilica should he decide to become a priest as well as a Prince of the Church.
To Charles, in debt, all his jewels pawned, with nothing to rely on but the subsidy from France and a crowd of dependants to support, the thought of Henry's prosperity was a further incentive to bitter wrath.
His brother's health was no longer drunk at his table, and he forbade his name to be mentioned in his presence.
The Lismores he refused to receive, and more than ever he avoided the Court.
It was obvious that Louis was vastly relieved by the step that provided for one of the Stewart pretenders, and it was said that lie contemplated presenting the new Cardinal with two wealthy abbeys.
Charles in his despair turned to the sad Lochiel.
'Sir,' said Donald Cameron when he had listened to the Prince's passionate outburst, 'do you not know that you have a spy, a decoy, an agent of Louis in your own house? One who works with Lady Lismore and even the English. Let your Highness turn away Madame Guèmènée.'
Charles returned to the Hôtel St Antoine in a fury of evil passion.
His temper, always excitable (but sunny and cheerful under good fortune), had been irritated to almost madness by this culminating disaster of his brother's flight and the consequent damning of his cause, and now was further inflamed by the indignation of D'Argenson and the calm statements of Lochiel.
All his anger now fell on Madame de Guèmènée, the woman whom he had never wanted and whom he had only taken out of bravado and in a certain recoil of bitterness. She had, as D'Argenson told him, 'almost ravished him by force,' and now the reason of this violence, that he had taken for a mere amorous caprice, was revealed to him.
Lochiel's reasonable and melancholy speech, temperate and resigned, could leave no doubt in the mind of any man not infatuate, and Charles was not affected with love's blindness where Madame de Guèmènée was concerned.
Donald Cameron had his information from those friends of his who had once been brought to the Prince's notice and since forgotten by him, Mlle Ferrand and her friend Madame de Vassè, who lived in the Convent St Joseph.
The Marquise de Vassè, a widow of some wealth, was still in touch with Court circles and went not infrequently to Versailles. She had been able to tell Lochiel, whose exiled father had long been an intimate of her circle, that it was the common whisper, the common laugh at Versailles, how the Prince had fallen like a child into the trap set for him by Louis and taken into his house a woman who reported all his actions to the Court, strove to influence him to that sloth and idleness so desirable from the point of view of the French King, and whose mission was to finally induce him to abandon all his royal hopes and to fade into the obscurity of some luxurious retirement.
It was even generally supposed that Louis had used her, as well as Lady Lismore, to indirectly play upon Henry and induce him to accept the Scarlet Hat.
As Charles rode home he saw the whole world as black and bitter and ugly.
Spring had brought no beauty into Paris; the second procession of the Fête-Dieu was over and God had been put by for another year. A foul miasma of vice and crime, dirt and corruption, hung over the city.
The faces of the passers-by looked sickly and cynical; a crowd was streaming away from the Place de Grève, where a man had been executed on the wheel, a procession of Swiss cattle were being driven to the filthy slaughter-house in the rue de Pied de Boeuf, in and outside the cabarets men and women, unkempt and ugly, were drinking, quarrelling, or sleeping, officers on leave, priests, poets, and Government officials jostled each other in the streets, continually splashed and sometimes knocked down by the insolent progress of the great nobles' coaches, whose over-fed and dissipated lackeys struck with long whips at the people in the way.
In the crowded lemonade shops shameless and bedizened women were sharing their ices and their smiles with whoever cared to enjoy their favour.
At street corners beggars and people suffering from hideous diseases, the refuse of the Hôtel Dieu and La Bicetre, importuned alms in a tone of monotonous complaint; from the shop windows of the marchand des modes the trim work-girls ogled, over piles of lace, cravats, doeskin gloves, and silk shoulder-knots, the gallants without.
Sometimes a black funeral procession, with priests, candles, books, and holy water, passed; the dreary antiphon, Si iniquitates, and the psalm De profondis rising above the rattle of the traffic. Nowhere was there a fresh face, a laughing face, a fair or pleasant sight.
Charles leant back in the coach, sick at heart.
He remembered Scotland, that strange country where he had spent so brief a time, with a dull yearning.
Sombre Holyrood, that seemed silent with the memories of his unhappy race; Edinburgh, his ancient capital; the stone house at Culloden where he had looked out at the Nairn watering the melancholy moor; Castle Downie, where he had rushed in on Lord Lovat with the news of his defeat; the places whose wild names he had forgotten where he had lurked among the Isles; the skies and mists, the woods and hills, the sea birds and the sea; how sweet and fragrant, how fair and free it all seemed in the remembrance when compared to this great city.
And the Highland gentlemen and the Highland soldiers and the Highland peasantry seemed of a finer make than any one Charles had met in Versailles and Paris.
He recalled again the pleasant memory of Flora Macdonald coming out to him where he lay hid in the dark, giving him a bowl of milk and whispering to him plans for his escape.
In the glimpses of the moonlight he had seen her dark hair flowing from under her tartan snood, her tartan shawl folded over her strong limbs, her pure, earnest, and healthy face.
Only once had such a face looked at him in Paris—from under the hood of the girl buying candles in the Faubourg St Germain. He remembered, too, in his bitterness, the woman who had nursed him at Bannockburn House: a creature twenty years of age, soft, dark, impetuous and melting, passionate and devoted—more lovely she than any painted lady of the Court. And he had left these women to give himself to-Madame de Guèmènée!
He felt as if the fierce hands of his evil angel had pushed him violently down a path very different to that he had once begun to so proudly climb.
He entered the building that was becoming to him like a prison (more homely, more pleasant the third floor apartment in the hôtel garnie where Lochiel lived) and asked for Madame de Guèmènée.
She was at her toilet, that second toilet to which ladies did not hesitate to admit their admirers, for he had promised to take her to the opera that evening.
He entered her presence.
Her woman, slim, cunning, silent, administered to her beauty; the air was close with the perfume of unguents, creams, and oil.
She sat on a low stool before a low dressing-table that glittered with twelve candles and objects in crystal, gold, and silver; the light of these candles showed clearly the white walls and flower-wreathed panels, the delicate furniture, the two chamber-women in their lavender sarcenet and muslin caps, and the loveliness of Madame de Guèmènée.
She was already attired in a brocade petticoat of puce and white stripes and gold shoes with painted soles, that rested on a scarlet cushion; but the upper part of her body was part covered by a vest of silver gauze that plainly showed her soft and faultless shape.
Her arms and shoulders were bare save for a string of large pearls, but her hair was already pomaded and dressed close to her head with violet velvet roses; she held a horn of emerald green leather to her face while one of the women sprayed the last touch of powder over the curls that hung behind.
Her other whitened arm reached out for a pot of scented water into which she dipped her rosy fingers.
Over a chair near by lay her gown of silver and blue tissue.
Opposite her hung a mirror supported by porcelain cupids in which she viewed the entry of the Prince.
He closed the door roughly and strode heavily across the floor. He wore dark velvet and was without his stars or any jewels. He always went plainly to see the men whom he had ruined.
Madame de Guèmènée saw at once that his passionate young face was clouded with some emotion.
She put down the horn and turned round so as to give him a full view of her beauty.
Her child-like face was exquisitely tinted and rouged, a speck of scarlet in the corner of her eyes gave them brilliancy, near her lips was a grotesquely large patch of black velvet.
'Send the women away,' said Charles.
They, without waiting for orders, disappeared like shadows. Madame de Guèmènée assumed the expression of a startled, piqued child.
'Pack up your toys and leave the house,' added the Prince.
She sat still, staring at him.
'Your reason, monseigneur?'
'You may say that I am tired of you,' he returned brutally. 'It is very true.'
She stole a glance at the mirror to reassure herself by the sight of her own beauty.
'Your Highness jests,' she said, 'in English—or is this Highland—fashion?'
The Prince lowered at her fiercely.
'Go and ask King Louis for your fee—you will earn no more here.'
She knew now that she was discovered, and the moment was as tragic for her as any moment was likely to be in such a life as this; for she loved Charles with the selfish personal love that was the only kind of which she was capable.
She loved him now in his wrath and strength and Princely comeliness, and she was conscious of no shame, but only a great desire to keep him attached to her. She rose from the stool and scarlet footstool, in her stiff petticoat and elaborately dressed hair, with her bare arms and shoulders and her bosom veiled only in gauze.
'Nothing is true but that I love you,' she stammered.
'Go!' he returned impatiently. 'Go. I want to be rid of you. I do not want ever to see you again.'
'Is it possible that you really have no feeling for me?' she asked. She was genuinely astonished.
'My feeling for you, Madame,' said the Prince, 'is better not put into words.'
The beautiful Frenchwoman who had always been triumphant over men could not believe that her empire was lost; she knew the Prince to be moody and slightly savage, and thought to trust to time to bring him back to her again.
'Mon Dieu!' she exclaimed with affected lightness. 'I must beg monseigneur to retire until his humour changes.'
This was as straw to the fire of the wrath of the Prince; her air of coquetry, of being indispensable to him, of being able to subdue him with a glance, a word, could only have been successful had he been in love with her; as it was they served but to tell him his own shame.
'I wish this house, while I call it mine, to be free of you and your creatures,' he cried violently.
She was frightened now and could no longer simulate bravado. Many fears overcame her: she thought of the contempt of the King, the triumph of Madame de Talmond and other women at her failure, and in her agitation she made another mistake.
She fawned on him.
Again, if he had loved her, or ever been in love with her, she might have moved him; as it was, she was repulsive to him, a mere symbol of his own degradation.
The light of the twelve candles showed no allurement in her. He saw all her paint and pomade, her jewels and brocade, like the adornments on a doll.
As she tried to touch him, to implore his pity, a cruelty of which he, hitherto the most merciful of men, had not known himself capable, rose in him like a wave of flame.
He seized her soft shoulders roughly. In French, and in the Italian that came more naturally to him, lie called her all the hideous names his tongue could leap to, shaking her the while so that she could hardly stand on her feet and was only held upright by his fierce grip.
Never before had she heard the thing she was so freely named; she thought him intoxicated (as she had more than once seen him lately) or mad, and nothing but the training that was as second nature to her prevented her from calling out for help.
The velvet roses were shaken out of her hair, the tring of pearls broke and the jewels fell about them; he almost could have killed her. She seemed to him the embodiment of that France that had kicked and betrayed him...
At last some horror at himself made him leave go of her, so abruptly and violently that she fell to her knees, bruised, dazed, and shaken by dry sobs.
The sight of her, half naked, beaten, helpless, roused no pity in Charles.
He was still on the high crest of the wave of his wrath.
'Will you go now?' he cried, 'before I call my lackeys to throw you out?'
The wretched woman tried to get her breath; she was utterly overthrown before something strange to her and utterly beyond her sphere or comprehension.
In his fierce impatience Charles snatched up the first garment he saw—the rosy quilted and swansdown-trimmed cloak she was to have worn to the opera, and flung it over the shoulders he had bruised, dragging her to her feet and pulling her towards the door.
'But—the esclandre,' she stammered.
Charles, in his calmest moods, had never cared for that; in his fierce Roman Italian he mocked her, then shouted for her women.
They came running. They had not been very far away and had a shrewd idea of the situation.
'Take your mistress and begone,' he told them, pushing Madame de Guèmènée out on to the landing. 'Your portmanteaux will be sent after you—now begone!'
They saw that there was no disputing with him, for indeed he was like a man possessed. They hurried their mistress down the splendid stairs and whispered to one of the lackeys, who had gathered at the terrible sound of the Prince's raised voice, to tell the Swiss porter to call madame's coach.
Charles leant over the heavy bannisters and watched them go.
He was utterly careless of the publicity of the scene, of the amaze and even ridicule that it would arouse.
When she had gone he returned to her room, this temple so rudely despoiled of its idol, and looked with loathing at the trinkets and appointments of her dressing-table, most of them bought by himself.
Yes, while men like Lochiel and his brother had been straitened, while Cluny was a starving fugitive, while hundreds were dying for him amid the misery of the desolate Highlands, he had been buying baubles for this creature...
With hands that shook with passion he cast all the bottles and pots, cases and jewels on to the floor amid the scattered pearls, and the twelve candles flickered over streaming perfumes and unguents, and delicate, frivolous articles on which Charles set his heel violently.
The night had closed over Madame de Guèmènée even as she had come, swiftly and abruptly had she passed out of his life.
But not without leaving marks behind her. Never would he recover from this evening's work; if there were bruises on her body there were bruises on his soul.
Till now he had not known that it was in him to mishandle a woman; he knew now, and this knowledge was not good to have.
He paused by the dismantled dressing-table and stared at his reflection in the glass at which she had so lately bedecked herself.
His face was flushed, slightly distorted, the lines heavy about the mouth and jaw, the bright hair tumbled on the lowering forehead that was meant to be so candid and open. What would his father think of him now, or the Earl Marischal, or Henry, or Lochiel? Was this the Prince for whom so many had died, so many beggared themselves, the Prince whose bed-linen the noble Flora Macdonald and Lady Newburgh were hoarding for their winding sheets?
With his open hand he dashed out the candles that showed him such an evil presentment of himself, and left the room.
On his way to his own apartments he had to pass the private chapel.
It was not very often used now. Father Kelly was the only priest attached to the Prince's household, but as Charles passed in this mood of fury and pain he had an instinct to enter and to pray.
He thought of his father kneeling in the church of the Sant' Apostoli, before the green marble urn that held his mother's heart, of those early days when he had knelt through the long celebration of High Mass or the simple ceremony of complines.
Should he not now enter and say, as then, the Confiteor, beating his heart with true passion at the 'Mea Culpa, mea culpa, mia maxima culpa'?
He had raised the curtain before the door and was looking at the dim altar, lit only by one red flickering lamp, hesitating on the threshold of the holy place, when the thought of Henry came like a devil's prompting to swing him back into his wild mood.
The Church seemed to have joined with Madame de Guèmènée to mock and cheat him; he let the curtain fall again in front of the chapel, and, all disordered as he was, went out into the streets and in the direction of the hôtel of Madame de Talmond.
In May the rumours of a peace that had haunted Charles ever since his return to France began to take solid form. By the summer the plenipotentiaries had met at Aix-la-Chapelle. Looked upon by the outsider, the conduct of Charles at this desperate crisis of his affairs appeared truly amazing.
He had but dismissed Madame de Guèmènée to fall under the influence of Madame de Talmond, not the best of Egerias for a man in his situation.
Hot-headed, vain, impulsive, very much in love the Polish Princess encouraged the Prince in his defiance of France, in his feud with his brother and his father, in his religious slackness, and in every extravagance. Madame d'Aiguillon's counsels were scarcely more moderate; if she was not in love with Charles at least she was furiously jealous of Madame de Talmond, and their frequent quarrels further disturbed the confused household of the Prince, whose intimates still were the two Kellys, Sullivan, and young Sheridan, a crowd that James called 'a gang,' and a few faithful, heartbroken souls like Henry Goring and Harrington.
Lord George Murray had wandered off miserably to Switzerland without seeing the Prince, the Earl Marischal still held aloof at Treviso; hundreds of ruined gentlemen depended for their bread on the king Charles was braving. The English Government had proceeded to depopulate the Highlands by the Act prohibiting the wearing of the national dress or the carrying of arms in the Highlands, the penalty being seven years transportation.
Thus in Scotland the result of the '45.
Charles, annoyed by the constant visits of D'Argenson, Tencin, and other French ministers, all with the one purpose of persuading him to retire gracefully from France, moved from the pompous Hôtel St Antoine to a house on the Quai des Théatins, where he was in the midst of the theatres and spectacles and all the gay life of Paris.
He was more than ever the idol of the women and the mob.
The fact that the approach of peace made his cause appear hopeless invested him in the eyes of the young, the generous, and the foolish with an atmosphere of romance that suited well the extreme attraction of his person.
To watch him, to speculate on what his probable actions would be, was at that moment the favourite occupation in France.
He took no money from the Court; 25,000 francs and a promise of 70,000 more came from Cardinal Tencin. Charles expressed haughty surprise and the money was returned.
His supplies came from the devoted English Jacobites, whose agents managed to smuggle it over from London, and Major Kennedy continued to send him £6000 of the Arkaig treasure.
With these sums he lived riotously; having, among other extravagances, numerous busts, portraits, and miniatures of himself made for distribution among his adherents, and also medals struck, with his head, and the motto Amor Spes Brittaniae, in commemoration of the recent British naval victories, an action that was taken as a piece of insolence towards the French Government.
But neither Charles's bravado, nor Madame de Talmond's reign of 'fire and fury,' nor Madame d'Aguillon's wiser help, nor the admiration of the people, nor the applause when he went abroad, nor the sympathy of Court ladies, could retard the Prince's fate.
The Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle was signed, and one of the articles was that neither the Pretender nor any of his descendants should be allowed to enter any of the territories belonging to any of the parties to the treaty.'
This closed every country in Europe to Charles with the exception of the Papal States.
James wrote from Rome urging him to make a graceful retreat while such was possible, and not to anger Louis, who at some future date might be able to again help him; this indeed was the advice of the great number of Jacobites, whose very bread depended on the favour of France.
Charles paid no attention whatever. When the peace was mentioned in his presence he would turn on his heel and hum some popular air.
He treated with contempt all suggestions that he should leave Paris, and was believed capable of imitating Charles XII. at Bender, and standing a siege in his own house. To Cardinal Tencin he said that he held letters of the King promising to remain faithful, and that he held France to her treaty with his father. Madame d'Aiguillon was forced to abandon him through pressure brought on her husband; Madame de Talmond remained constant and was banished the Court.
The Prince at this time much frequented the salons of the philosophes and became tinged with the doctrines of Rousseau; Les Maximes d'un Homme Sauvage was the title of a paper he wrote for his own amusement; 'Tête de fer,' D'Argenson called him in despair when in July he brought out his protest against the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle.
A copy of it was sent to Montesquieu, the friend of David Hume, who greatly approved the Prince's eloquence and his noble sentiments towards the Highlanders.
Thus surrounded by the applause of the philosophes and the ladies of the salons, Charles became almost as indifferent towards the faith of his youth as his enemies declared him to be.
In this atmosphere, the slightly fanatical piety of the household in Rome, the rather smug saintliness of Henry, became more than ever repellent to the Prince, apart from the genuine and deep grievance that he had in the entry of his brother into the Church.
He was, perhaps, but too ready to see the weak points of a religion that had cost him so dear, and to listen with complacency to the ridicule of that Popish dominion that had been so fatal to the House of Stewart.
There was much changed in Charles. Bitter disappointment, hope deferred, keen stabs of disillusion, had made him a different man from the ardent, generous, gay young adventurer who had landed from a fishing boat in Moidart in '45.
He had already lost the best of his friends and broken with his family, alienated the French Government and many of his followers; he who had been so contemptuous of petticoat rule seemed delivered over to what D'Argenson called 'wild women' and the advice of people like his confessor and other boon companions.
When the Duchesse D'Aiguillon ceased visiting the gay house on the Quai des Théatins, Charles was more than ever cut off from any connection with the Court.
Far away now seemed those days when he had coquetted with a daughter of France in the galleries of Versailles, or supped with the King in the Pavilion of Madame de Pompadour...Almost as far as when he had given the toast of 'the black eyes' in Cluny's shieling above Loch Ericht.
One day in autumn he called on Madame de Talmond, only to be refused admission by her Swiss porter—the orders those of the lady's husband, who had been indifferent enough, or long suffering enough (he was a pious Jansenist) while his wife's love affairs did not affect his position, but who now trembled to countenance one almost under the open displeasure of the Court.
Charles was reckless enough to endeavour to force the door, and had to be led away, angry and protesting, by the unhappy Bulkeley, unwilling witness of scenes that he detested. Charles, in bitter defiance, succeeded in getting from the King's jeweller a magnificent service of gold plate originally ordered for Louis, and invited Madame de Talmond to an extravagant supper.
She came. Like Madame de Guèmènée she was in love with him, which put her at a disadvantage, but when the brilliant and noisy assembly had broken up and only she remained, Charles found that even a woman's affection was not proof against his behaviour.
'De Gesvres has been to see you?' she demanded at once.
'For the fourth time.'
'Tell me,' she said rather impatiently.
'What is there to tell? He offered me again a pension, a house at Fribourg—'
'And then—oh, and then a blank order on the Treasury that I might fill up with any amount I pleased.'
'I?—I said, "Excuse me, M. le Duc, I have business to attend to," and left the room before he had time to finish his message.'
The Princess rose.
'And the message was from the King and the messenger was the Governor of Paris! It is too much, mon ami, too much!'
Charles looked at her in instant anger.
'You also, madame, begin to question my actions?'
She stood by the table furnished in such useless and unbecoming splendour.
The gold plate, secured in sheer bravado and that never could be paid for, glittered in the light of the candles that now were guttering to the sockets of their crystal sticks; bouquets of costly flowers (as valuable as the gold plate almost this winter weather) drooped over the lace cloth, bottles of the most exquisite wines and liqueurs stood about among the disarranged glasses together with plates of fine porcelain and baskets of silver gilt piled with pineapples, grapes, apples, oranges, and nuts.
Madame de Talmond was dressed as befitted the woman who had presided at such a feast; her gown of silver brocade was festooned across the front of the low bodice with pearls, her petticoat was of ivory gauze painted with wreaths of pink roses; in her powdered hair was a clasp of brilliants, and another held the black velvet round her throat.
In this attire and this light she was still perfectly beautiful in that arid, bold, artificial, and brilliant style of beauty that belonged to her type and her age, being only distinguished from any great lady of the Court or the salons by a certain air of ardour, of flaming energy, of swift resolution, that she had in common with the Prince and that both owed to their fierce Polish blood.
To the eyes of youth, of romance, of chivalry, she was not beautiful at all and conveyed no lovely thought; to such she could at best have been but a Melusina, a creature decked in gaudy attractions lent her by unholy powers.
As such, indeed, she often appeared to the quick imagination of Prince Charles, and in some moods he was minded to cast her off as he had cast Madame de Guèmènée, but he knew that she was faithful, devoted to his interests, and certainly no one's agent or spy.
'Cousin,' she said, 'you must take the house at Fribourg—and the pension.' She tapped her fan sharply on the back of the chair beside which she stood. 'There is a point beyond which one cannot be obstinate.'
'You had better leave off associating with me—following the prudent example of Madame la Duchesse, said Charles hotly.
The sneer was an ungenerous one, directed at the woman who had lost her Court position through him, and Madame de Talmond resented it with a flash of temper.
'I have nothing to save, nothing to lose since the esclandre you made at my door last night,' she retorted. 'All Paris laughs at me to-day.'
Charles was not moved; he knew too well her past history.
'You must be used to the ways of Paris, mon amie,' he replied. A laugh more or less would hardly disturb a philosophe.'
He flung himself into a chair by the disordered table and filled himself another glass of wine. In his pearl-coloured satin, with his ribbon and stars, with his grace and high-bred handsomeness, he looked too noble, too full of vigour and sweetness for such a scene as this, even though his natural expression was overclouded by one of reckless obstinacy and the splendid brown eyes had a hard and cynical look.
'I will not touch a penny of their money nor will I return to Rome,' he said, setting down his glass. 'Rather would I live in some hole in a rock.'
'And that,' retorted Madame de Talmond, 'is what it may come to.'
He raised his head, looked at her and laughed.
'What matter? It is the better life—a man's part at least. Do you think I want the fat, easy things of the world...like Henry...he is to have two French abbeys...a Spanish bishopric. My father builds a church to commemorate all this great good fortune...Do you think that I envy either of them?'
She looked at him with an affection she could hardly restrain; so dear and lovable in his pride and bitterness, his ruin and defiance, did he look to her woman's eyes.
Several of the candles had fallen out, and they looked at each other across a flickering yellow light, and their background was full of shadows that obscured the marble and gilt, the azure clouds, the painted garlands, the alabaster cupids, and the silk hangings.
'I could come to Fribourg,' she said in a voice scarcely steady.
'And risk the laughs of Paris?' he asked. He was calm and even hard, still not in love. Had his affairs gone well he would never have troubled himself about any of these women, though there were moments when Madame de Talmond could make him lose his head, and though he largely allowed her to rule him.
'Ah, of course,' she said impetuously. 'You do not care for me at all; you are a half-savage creature Carluccio, and hardly worth a woman's interest.
He saw one of their usual quarrels brewing, and to-night he was in no mood for it. He rose with an air of decision.
'Shall I send for your coach, cousin, before M. de Talmond becomes uneasy?'
She bit her lip.
'There is some other woman,' she said sharply. 'You have been noticing Madame de Montbazon...a fool...she can do nothing for you.'
'She can do as much as any woman, smiled Charles. 'Amuse me.' And she is the cousin of D'Argenson.'
'Then it is Madame de Montbazon?' cried the Princess furiously.
Charles laughed in her face.
'How jealous you are, mon amie... Do you know that I have heard news of the lady who nursed me at Bannockburn House—Miss Walkinshaw?'
'The lady who holds your heart?' flashed Madame de Talmond contemptuously.
'The same. She is fled to Ghent with her people, and there, being a Romanist...has followed my brother's example and entered the Church... Has become a canoness...a safe and easy post.'
The lady looked at him keenly, a little uncertain of his mood. He certainly had been drinking heavily and she was not sure of his sobriety. Charles, owing to the spirits he consumed, became intoxicated in a fashion new to Madame de Talmond, used to the rather different excesses of the French nobles.
'We stray from the subject,' she said, controlling herself with an admirable effort. 'I may not be able to see so much of you, mon ami, at least so openly—and while I have the chance I would urge you to a moderate course. Mon Dieu, why roam Europe like a wild, hunted creature when you might have your house, your pension, your entourage—when in time a good match, another turn of politics, the secret help of France, might put you in the position to attempt another expedition to England.'
Charles watched her with a dangerous look, but said nothing.
'Your father, your brother, have both resigned themselves; cannot you do the same?'
'No,' said the Prince fiercely.
'Life could be very sweet to a man like you even without the dream of a crown,' urged Madame de Talmond, with a touch (strange to her) of wistfulness in her demeanour.
'With my women, my wine, and my pension,' added Charles in a low tone, 'my flatterers and my ruined hangers-on—my tawdry bit of royalty to gild my exile...my God, do you not think I dreamt it differently...it is not so long since Preston and Holyrood.'
At the sound of desperate pain in his voice she was instantly wholly his; she ran to him, and clasped him r tightly in her scented arms, all that was soft and warm and womanly in her coming to the surface.
'I love you for your self-will, mon Prince!' she cried. 'Oh, Charles! I love you—does that not help you at all?'
He turned in his chair so that he was facing her. He felt, as he had felt before, a certain dull wonder that he should rouse so much passion in others and remain so cold himself.
But at least there was anodyne, if not balm, in this warm affection so freely offered; anodyne for the pain and mortification, the misery and remorse, closed in his sore heart.
He clasped her with a fierceness that, in her eyes at least, well simulated passion; she half fell to her knees beside him, supported in his embrace; her lovely head bent forward for his kisses; the candles, fluttering to their end in trails of smoke, showed the two faces, that had nothing in common but their fairness, pressed together.
George Kelly entered without ceremony on this scene. The lady was deft to spring to her feet and show a cool face above her snatched-up fan; the Prince was confused, vexed, and spoke haughtily to the intruder.
The nonjuring parson took no heed of one whom he considered a Jezebel, a creature of but too frequent occurrence in the history of the house he served.
He addressed his master.
'Sir,' he said, 'Lochiel is dying. He has sent for you.'
The present adventure of Carluccio was not untouched with horror.
It was a bitter night, as sad and chill as winter. Owing to the corruption of the society that held the monopoly for the lighting of the streets of Paris, the lamps were not lit till midnight, and on days when the calendar (but not always the skies) showed a moon. At this hour and in this weather, therefore, the city was in complete darkness, save for the occasional flare from the flambeaux before some great house, or the garish light from a café or cabaret in the poorer streets.
Charles would not wait for the coach, and sedans, so popular at Versailles, were not used in the capital on account of the crowds, so, with his usual recklessness, he set out on foot, attended only by George Kelly, who came as a matter of course, without comment on either side.
Madame de Talmond had driven home, honest enough to admire the Prince's abrupt leaving of her at the summons of Lochiel, but vain enough to be vexed, and impetuous enough to show it.
'I can do more for you than any of your ragged Scots,' she had said with some ill-humour. All her hopes were centred entirely in France—the Scottish Jacobites were to her mind of no account in any political scale—their land a mere savage country.
Charles hardly heard her. If he thought of her at all as he made his way through the foul, dangerous street, it was with that sense of regret left by any intrigue from which the passion has fled; nothing seems so vulgar to the memory as the illicit love affair that seemed so romantic at the time, and Charles was sensitive and by nature morally fastidious.
When he was not with Madame de Talmond she figured in his mind as something rather distasteful, tainted with the same repulsion that had rendered the lovely Madame de Guèmènée hateful to him.
As they walked he questioned George Kelly about Lochiel, whom he had not seen for some weeks; how was it possible that Donald Cameron was dying?
The secretary only knew that he had been ailing for a long while, had never, perhaps, wholly recovered from the wounds in his ankles received at Culloden...
'But he cannot die of that—what is he dying of?' demanded Charles, impatient of this new sorrow that was being thrust upon him.
Kelly was silent a moment and then he said,—
'What did the Duke of Perth die of?'
The Prince's thoughts flew back with a start to that young leader of his who had breathed his last on the boat that had taken the first fugitives to Nantes.
'I never knew,' he replied, 'of what James Drummond died.'
'A broken heart,' said George Kelly calmly. 'It is like, sir, to be the fate of many of us.'
'Curse you!' returned the Prince heavily through the dark. 'Curse you, Kelly!'
The nonjuring parson made no reply, but followed doggedly at the Prince's heels, a black figure in the blackness. He was a better man than his enemies believed, and by no means the evil counsellor that James considered him to be; perhaps he understood Charles better than most, therefore his fidelity was the finer thing.
They had almost reached Lochiel's house before the Prince spoke again.
'I suppose you think I am a popinjay and a fool, Kelly?'
'I know you are my Prince,' replied the secretary grimly.
'Confound the politicians and the women, Kelly.'
They stopped at the door of the tall, plain house where Lochiel's apartments were, and ascended to the modest suite of rooms occupied by the Camerons.
Lochiel was Colonel and Brigadier in the French army, with an adequate pension, but there was wife and child and brother to keep, many a poor Scotsman to help, and money to be smuggled over to the other brother and the heir in the Highlands, and the home that Charles entered was mean to the point of poverty.
He remembered, with a sickening sense of self-disdain, the ostentatious service of gold plate, the dish of carps' tongues, the boars fed on champagne, that had been on his own table that night.
The first room that he entered, a kind of antechamber, furnished only with rush-bottomed chairs and a desk, was without a fire and lit only by two candles in iron sticks on the mantelshelf.
Near the pale light was a little group of people.
Donald Cameron's father, wife, and child were seated on the low chairs, the young girl leaning across her mother in a manner that suggested she was unconscious, her fair scanty hair falling loosely over her blue check dress. Bending over her was a lady whom the Prince recognised at once as Mademoiselle Lucie Ferrand de Marres.
As he paused in the doorway, bareheaded and his dark cloak falling apart over his stars, the old man rose and Lochiel's wife tried to get to her feet, though impeded by the weight of her daughter.
With his quick Latin perception Charles saw the truth.
'There is bad news,' he said advancing. 'Lochiel is dead.'
Yes, sir,' answered the old man with the sad indifference of extreme age. 'My son is dead—the doctor has just left the house—she'—he turned and pointed to his granddaughter—'she will be the next.'
'Speak words of good omen!' cried the wretched wife of Lochiel, and, regardless of the presence of the Prince, she again turned her attention to the girl.
Charles stood like a guilty creature before this homely scene. George Kelly and Mademoiselle Ferrand, both detached spectators, were looking at him intently.
'My son hoped that you would come in time,' continued the old Lochiel drearily, 'but he died so soon.'
'I was never told,' said Charles. 'Where is he?'
The dead man's wife, whose face was quite expressionless from extreme fatigue and grief, pointed to the inner door.
Mademoiselle Ferrand stepped up to it and held it open to the Prince.
Charles entered the death chamber, which was shuttered, closed, and dark; only the light from the outer room enabled him to see the bed with the looped-back curtains and the outlines of the Highland chief, whose pillows had been composed, whose hands were folded, and over whose limbs was spread a rug of Cameron tartan.
What memories now of those days at Moidart when this man had been persuaded to risk all in a cause he knew damned?
Charles shuddered away from the bed.
Old Lochiel had wandered in with an aimless curiosity and a dull sorrow.
'Ah, sir,' he said, peering at the Prince, 'a pity he could not have died at Achnagarry.'
He straightened the coverlet of his son's bed with shaking hands.
'They always said a fair-haired chief would be unfortunate,' he added.
'There is no one,' said Charles, as unfortunate as I am.'
Mademoiselle Ferrand spoke; she had remained by the door.
'Your Highness could be so blessed,' she said quickly.
Charles turned to look at her; dark, young, plainly dressed in a simple gown of dull stuff, she was a strange and grateful contrast to the woman he had left.
'Blessed in what?' he asked bitterly.
'Oh, in everything,' she answered, and she looked at him with eyes of clear devotion, as Flora Macdonald and Clementina Walkinshaw had looked.
'You do not know me, Mademoiselle,' replied the Prince.
He again came into the outer room, looking a beautiful figure, full of vigour and sweetness, full of romance and splendour among these sober people, yet most humanly wretched.
The young Donalda still lay across her mother's heart in a daze of grief.
The Paris air had nourished poorly this Highland flower. Her emaciated form, her languid features, her pale colouring showed but too plainly that, like her father, she had been transplanted but to die.
Old Lochiel, who had been a ruined exile so long that he had lost sense of his misfortunes, gently closed the door on his dead son.
'I have no words,' said Charles. 'Why, none at all.' The ancient chief looked at him with a touch of fire in his dim eyes.
'We but followed our allegiance, sir,' he answered. 'There is another Cameron at Achnagarry, should be you raise your standard again.'
Achnagarry! The Prince remembered his last look of it—a stretch of ruins...
'I think there are naught left but ghosts to follow my standard now,' he said with a wild accent.
Mademoiselle Ferrand was looking at him as intently as if she hoped to read his thoughts from his features.
He turned to the door, without taking any notice of any of them, and went rapidly down the mean stairs, his stars on his breast and the silent George Kelly at his heels.
When he reached the street he turned round and caught the parson by the hand.
'I know not if you are devil or angel, George Kelly, or both or neither...but you are always at my elbow...Find me some diversion to-night. Ay, by God, I must, I will forget!'
'It is not well that you should,' said the secretary sombrely.
'I will!' said the Prince fiercely. 'I will not take this great burden on my soul...all these men...their lives and deaths...
The street lamps were lit now, here and there the dim rays dispelled the chill darkness; one was not far away, and its murky light fell over the figure of the Prince as he leant against the wall of the house in the attitude of a sick man, and on the dark form of the parson who stood rigid before him.
'Did you love Lochiel, sir?'
Charles stared at Kelly.
Affectionate, amiable, and warm as was his disposition, great as was his power to make friends and adherents, he could not recall that he had ever loved any one, man or woman. He was strangely startled at the question.
'I have loved all those who have served me,' he said as if in self-defence.
'To the measure that you love Madame de Talmond,' replied the secretary dryly. 'Come, sir, put your cloak about your breast—there is no watch in these streets.'
The Prince threw his cloak across his shoulder, pulled his hat over his brows, and proceeded aimlessly along the streets.
'Shall we not go home?' asked the shadow beside him.
'Home!' cried Charles. 'Since when have I had a home?'
They walked in silence until they reached a wider street near to the Scottish College in the rue des Fosses St Victor, near the crumbling remnants of the old walls of Phillipe Auguste.
Kelly now placed his hands earnestly on the Prince's arm.
'Sir, the Scottish Chapel is open day and night—is it not very fitting that you should go there and say a prayer for the soul of Donald Cameron of Lochiel?'
'Yet he and you are heretic,' answered Charles; then, 'Is this your diversion?'
But he suffered the secretary to lead him to the Scottish College, so familiar to all the Jacobites, and the place where James III. had deposited such papers as his father had been able to save in his flight.
The porter admitted them at once, and they entered the old building with the cross of St Andrew above the door, and turned to the chapel, over the entrance to which a large thistle was carved.
The atmosphere of this ancient house, founded and endowed by the Scottish Bishops who had been servants to the house of Stewart, was quiet and peaceful. The heavy oak staircase, the deep-set windows, the plain chapel, always reminded Charles of Holyrood, especially when, as now, the only light was the glow of the oil lamps left for the priest in charge at night.
This person sat inside the chapel entrance, telling a string of white beads. He rose as the Prince entered, but took no further notice.
A red lamp burnt before the sanctuary and sent a sanguinary glow over the tablets commemorating the Scottish exiles who had so recently died.
Beneath the altar was buried the head of James II. and the remains of many of the faithful who had followed him into exile.
The whole place was full of memories of the Stewarts and of those who had died for them; it was a sad and sombre spot, a fitting one for Charles to kneel in and pray for Lochiel; but he remained on the threshold.
The perfume of stale incense came to his nostrils, mingled, it seemed to him, with the odour of decay and death; as if all the glory, splendour, and hope of his family was entombed for ever in this backwater of the foreign city.
Charles turned away and said in a tone that caused the priest to look up from his devotions,—
'Not here Kelly, not here is there any distraction.'
The secretary followed him out into the street again.
'Shall we not return to the Quai des Théatins?' he asked.
Charles took no notice, his mood was wild and sombre; the death of Lochiel, the Duc de Gesvres' offer, the desertion of Henry, the attitude of his father and of men like the Earl Marischal, all these things played havoc in his heart.
We should all have died at Culloden,' he said at last.
In this conclusion ended most of his tumultuous thoughts.
They were now passing a house where the lights still showed through the chinks of the shutters and where the courtyard was full of the red glow of flambeaux.
Charles was attracted by this sight and stopped opposite the gates.
'It is Madame de Montbazon's house,' he remarked.
'Sir, come on,' urged Kelly, pulling at the Prince's sleeve, with the first sign of emotion he had yet shown since their setting forth.
'And that is her coach returning from the opera,' continued the Prince regardless, and at once turned into the gates.
'Sir,' implored George Kelly eagerly, have some thought for what you do—this is neither the time, the place, nor the temper in which to seek this lady—'
'This pretty fool will divert me better than your chapels, Kelly. If you are afraid—leave me.'
But the parson followed him through the crowd of lackeys and the cross light of the torches to the door of the coach.
The lady had just descended from the step and stood on the threshold of her home. She was wrapped in a cardinal of green and white striped satin and carried a huge muff of white cocks' feathers.
Like the two other women who had attracted the attention of the Prince, she was fair, finished, charming, not very young, and very worldly; she was also of some power as the cousin of D'Argenson.
When she saw Charles coming towards her, followed by that dark, sour figure of the Irishman, she paused, for once in her life at a loss.
Charles reached her side.
'Madame,' he said, 'will you ask me to supper?'
She thought him drunk, or even mad. He was beginning to have a strange reputation in Paris, and to-night he looked wild, flushed, and beside himself.
Her beautiful face hardened at his recklessness, his stupidity, or his impatience (she could not tell which had prompted him), yet she was flattered that he had come to seek her out.
Monseigneur forgets les convenances,' she said in a clear voice, adding on a lower note, 'To-morrow Monseigneur might bring—his explanations and apologies.'
She would have entered the house, but the Prince was before her and had barred the way.
'It is to-night I want your company,' he said, smiling, yet fierce and haughty.
She was too startled and angry to be able to answer quickly, and before she could collect herself her husband had come out on to the doorstep. He was a violent man, whose wealth and temper had hitherto kept his cold and prudent wife at least outwardly faithful to him. He knew the Prince instantly and at once ordered his lackeys to remove the intruder.
'This is like a scene in the Opera Bouffe,' remarked Charles, 'and M. le Mari looks a true pantalone!'
M. de Montbazon, who was stout and ill-favoured, responded with dignity,—
'And M. le Prince will get the trouncing usually accorded to Scaramouche.'
Then turning again to his staring and hesitant valets he thundered,—
'Take monsieur and put him without the gates!'
Two now advanced, but Kelly was instantly between them and the Prince.
With an excited laugh Charles stepped back out of the torch-light, drew one of the pistols he always carried, and fired it, drew the other and emptied that, then in the confusion and darkness made his escape.
By next morning it was known all over Paris that the Prince had compromised Madame de Montbazon by firing two pistols and wounding two of her husband's servants.
The Court was indignant, the Jacobites offended that this should have occurred the day Lochiel had died, and Madame de Talmond so furious that she abstained from further visits to the Quai des Théatins.
The philosophes, whose salons entertained Charles, regretted his behaviour as showing mere recklessness and senseless bravado; James sent a remonstrance from Rome, touching on the 'scandal to the cause of your way of life'; the new Cardinal an affectionate greeting, not untouched by reproach; but the lesser people, both in England and France, applauded the Prince's spirit, and urged him, by their admiration, to yet further excesses and a fierce defiance of the King of France. He was now become a popular hero, yet entirely disapproved of by his real friends, who saw that the unfortunate young man was on the way to ruin both himself and his cause.
He appeared daily in the Palais Royal with a crowd of flatterers of the baser sort, and almost nightly at the opera, wearing his stars, sometimes with a dancer from l'Opera Bouffe beside him. Never now with either the Duchesse D'Aiguillon or Madame de Talmond.
All the great nobles had taken their countenance from him; the better sort of Jacobites, such as Lord Ormonde, the Earl Marischal, Lord George Murray, Lord Elcho, Lord Ogilvie, were now completely estranged; there remained only the boon companions and the doggedly faithful, like George Kelly and Henry Goring.
If Charles saw, as he could hardly avoid seeing, that he was, as his father had said some time ago, 'on the edge of a precipice,' he gave not the least sign of dejection nor of any faltering of spirit.
Henry Goring bitterly accused him of playing a part to claim the sympathy and win the applause of the baser sort, the rôle of any young adventurer who struts and fumes with his eye on the groundlings, but Kelly, who knew him better, thought him what the Scotch call fey.
Whatever might be the inner cause or reason of his behaviour, it was causing the greatest embarrassment to the Government.
Louis was becoming angry. Neither Tencin nor D'Argenson could do anything, well-wishers as they were to the House of Stewart, and England was protesting against the violation of the clause in the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle by the continued presence of the young Pretender, as the Whigs called Charles, in Paris.
Louis wrote to James, who urged his son to retire until a happier occasion, but with absolutely no effect.
Charles was offered a pension of any amount he liked to name, but rejected this proposal with the angry disdain that he had treated all the others.
He would remain in France, he declared, until he received the help France owed him, by promise and by treaty.
Such was his situation when, one day in early December, Madame de Talmond appeared in the house in the Quai des Théatins. Charles received her without either surprise or warmth; she on her side was agitated by an emotion that all her training could scarcely suppress.
'I hardly thought to see you again,' said Charles gravely, yet with eyes full of mischief.
'Ah, you may plague me as much as you like, Carluccio,' she replied hurriedly, 'but I cannot remember your faults when you are in danger!'
He lounged in the window seat, looking out at the gray sky, the gray street, and the gray, sluggish river.
I have never ceased to be in danger,' he said.
Madame de Talmond looked at him with critical and loving eyes.
As yet his changed life had left no sign on him; he was still in appearance the Prince out of a fairy tale who had carried through the '45 by sheer charm and ardour, but he had not the brown look of strength, the sparkling eyes, the air of vigour with which he had returned from Scotland.
Outwardly he was more now the Parisian of fashion, though he had still none of the blasé air, the tempered calm of the French noble.
He was dressed (Madame de Talmond correctly guessed his clothes were not paid for) in a suit of primrose-coloured brocade with a black velvet band and a diamond buckle at his throat, his hair powdered and elaborately curled.
He did not return Madame de Talmond's jealous and intent regard, but continued to gaze out of the window, so that his haughty profile was towards her as she sat over the log fire.
'Mon Dieu, but you are proud!' she cried. 'As God or as Lucifer! Eh, why do I trouble with you?'
'Why?' he asked without looking round.
'If I were ten years younger!' thought Madame de Talmond, not knowing that Helen herself would not have enraptured Charles in his present mood.
Aloud she spoke with an effort after her usual graceful calm,—
'Mon ami, though I am banished the Court I have means of knowing what is going to happen—I have come to tell you to leave Paris to-day.'
'A tedious errand,' remarked Charles grimly.
Madame de Talmond rose.
'Are you going,' she asked with dignity, 'to treat a woman's affection as lightly as you have treated a politician's arts?'
'Since they both have the same ends, yes, madame.'
'Do you think,' she continued in the same tone, 'that I have any motive, save care for your interest, in coming here to-day?'
'Madame,' he answered quickly, 'nothing of all this will move me.'
He looked at her now and she was further agitated by the tragic expression of his brown eyes.
'Oh, mon ami, why will you be so obstinate?' she cried.
'Why will you trouble about me?' he asked quietly.
'We are kin,' said Madame de Talmond. 'I should help you for the sake of Poland. You know of another reason.'
She looked an entrancing creature in her brown furs and turquoise-blue velvet mantle, with her fine fair features softened by tender feeling and delicately coloured by the glow of the fire.
Charles was sure she loved him, but love only spelt to him a plague, a boredom, a humiliation—the sharp reverse of all he would have had life to be.
He preferred Madame de Talmond to other women, but she only stirred his fancy fitfully, and he had hardly regretted her temporary desertion.
'Whatever you say or do,' he declared with a rising impatience, 'I shall not leave Paris.'
I could hide you for months in Lorraine if you will not go to Fribourg.'
'Neither Fribourg nor Lorraine.'
'But, mon ami, consider—'
'I have considered.'
'You do not know what I know!' cried the Princess exasperated. 'It is imperative that you leave Paris to-day.'
She spoke with an earnestness he could not ignore.
'Do you think,' he asked with a curious note like hatred in his voice, 'that the King would dare to touch me?'
'I know it.'
Wild rumours, madame, started by those who would be rid of me!'
The Princess sank into the chair from which she had risen and thrust her handkerchief to her quivering lips.
'I can do nothing,' she said in a low voice, 'because I am indifferent to you—'
He came over to her and put his hand on the back of her chair.
'Not indifferent, mon amie,' he said kindly. 'You have been very generous with me—I value your friendship above that of any one else.'
'You give it a cold name,' she replied. Her breast heaved and she did not dare look up at him.
'We are not children, to call it love,' returned the young Prince wearily.
His speech was not in accordance with his romantic, ardent character; she knew that and was bitterly piqued.
'So I have spoilt love for you,' she said, 'or no? Maybe you'll forget life and death for the sake of some little fool yet—'
Charles did not answer. He remained leaning over her chair, lightly and absently caressing the folds of her velvet mantle.
She turned swiftly and caught his hand, and looked up earnestly into his moody face.
'I beseech you to leave Paris to-day,' she implored.
He remained motionless.
Young, self-willed, but proud and most desperately unhappy, she read him under his assumed calm, and she knew that she could do nothing with him in this mood.
She sighed in genuine dismay.
'You mean to go to the opera to-night? she asked sadly.
Her hand tightened on his.
Will you take me with you?'
He looked at her curiously, even suspiciously; he was in so sore and angry a mood that he was doubtful of every one.
'Do you wish to be seen beside me in my coach—my box?' he asked.
'I have said so.'
She shrugged her shoulders.
'You forget that I am already in disgrace through you, mon ami.'>
'So that nothing much more can happen to you, eh?'
'Put it like that,' she replied dryly. 'But perhaps some other lady is to accompany you to-night?' she added sharply.
'Then—I will come.'
'You have some meaning in this.'
'I have some meaning in all I do—the same meaning—'
He dropped her hand and moved away.
The short day was ending and the fire-glow seemed stronger in the twilight.
'If I was in the mood to love I would love you, Marie,' he said sadly.
Madame de Talmond rose.
'It is enough that you do not love any other woman, Carluccio,' she said.
'You may be sure of that,' he replied with a melancholy that convinced her of the truth of what he said.
A delicate triumph flushed her fine face; he was hers as much as he was any one's; she had remained when Madame de Guèmènée and Madame de Montbazon had been swept away, and, impetuous and passionate as she was, she was wise enough to wait her time.
Perhaps in the complete ruin she saw ahead of him he might once more become wholly hers, and she might be able to do for him what would win his entire gratitude.
Her ambitious and excitable mind even dared to glance at some future when she might play the part of Louise de Querouaille to another Stewart on the throne of England.
'I shall sup with you to-night,' she said, and afterwards you will take me to the opera.'
She gave him her hand to kiss and left him to his wretched and distracted thoughts.
George Kelly saw her to her coach.
'Tell your master,' she said, 'to go armed to-night.'
'Do you think,' returned the secretary sourly, that I ever let him go abroad without weapons?'
She looked sharply into his grim, wrinkled face.
'Ah, I perceive you love the Prince,' she whispered.
George Kelly gave her a bitter look, at which she laughed.
You think I am your master's ruin,' she remarked, tapping him with her muff, 'but I may be his salvation.'
The nonjuring parson went heavily upstairs to Charles, who was still leaning against the mantelpiece, staring into the fire.
'So she has come back again!' said the secretary heavily.
'I never asked her, Kelly.'
'You tolerate her, sir.'
'It is not possible to escape the women.'
'Well,' said Kelly angrily, 'must you have one old, painted, furious, and corrupt?'
'Where will you find another type in France, Kelly?'
'Why find one at all?' asked the secretary in a tone of disgust. 'You are not fascinated by these Jezebels, sir. Leave them alone, in God's name. Marry and maintain your dignity.'
'Now you lecture me like poor Goring,' answered Charles with cool indifference. 'Why don't you leave me, Kelly, if my service is so irksome?'
The secretary received this in angry silence and left the room.
Another besides Madame de Talmond had attempted to warn Charles.
He had been walking in the gardens of the Tuileries that morning when he had been addressed by a stranger who told him that he came from Mademoiselle Ferrand, and that she begged him to depart immediately or he would be arrested before the close of the day.
The Prince's answer had been to turn to one of the gentlemen following him to desire that his box at the opera was prepared for him that evening.
He thought of that now as he stood alone in the darkening chamber.
Doubtless Lucie de Ferrand had received her information from Madame de Vassè, who was in touch with the Court.
That some measure was being concerted against him he could scarcely doubt, but he could not bring himself to believe that Louis had so utterly betrayed and forsaken him as to sign a warrant for his arrest.
Madame de Talmond soon returned, very splendid in gold and poppy-colour, with a quantity of diamonds, and very agitated under a forced air of gaiety.
At five o'clock she left the house with Charles, riding in the great coach with the arms of England painted on the sides and the footmen in the royal liveries of England behind. The night was cold, a light snow beginning to fall, the streets foul and slushy underfoot, the city already in complete darkness. The Prince wore a dark mantle and a hat with a diamond cockade. Madame de Talmond was in white fur and lavender-coloured satin cloak; she sat close to him and talked vivaciously.
But Charles was moody and stared out at the bitter darkness.
As the coach, blocked by the traffic, slowed down in the narrow rue St Honoré, the same serving-man who had spoken to Charles that morning forced his way to the coach window and again, in the name of his mistress, begged the Prince not to proceed.
For answer he pulled up the leather blind.
'Will you not go back, even now?' whispered Madame de Talmond.
Charles made no reply and the coach continued its way to the entrance to the Opera House.
It was now noticeable that the police had stopped the traffic in all the streets leading to the opera and that the theatre was surrounded by a cordon of troops.
Guards to the number of over a thousand were lined up in the courtyard of the Palais Royal, and all the corridors of the Opera House were filled with soldiers.
Charles could not know this, but he was able to see quite sufficient of these military precautions (taken to overawe the mob in case the Prince's popularity caused a tumult) to know that his arrest was determined on. For a second he covered his face with the end of his mantle, but when Madame de Talmond would have clung to him to prevent him leaving the coach, he put her aside without any sign of emotion, and, as if nothing extraordinary had occurred, opened the door and stepped into the December evening.
Madame de Talmond was instantly behind him, with the object of protecting him, if need be, with her own person.
But Charles had no sooner set his foot to the ground than he was seized by six sergeants and hurried off into the darkness.
Madame de Talmond turned to the Duc de Biran, of the guards, who was near her with his troop.
'Monsieur,' she said, 'the laurels of the King of France are in perfect flower, but no doubt this will add to their glory.'
With that she retired into the Prince's coach and was driven, a furious and bitter woman, back to her own hotel.
Charles was taken into the kitchen-court of the Palais Royal, where he observed scaling ladders in readiness to storm his house should he not have come forth that night.
The rows of silent soldiers and officers looked at him curiously as he was hurried through their midst.
He was a strange enough figure, with his diamond cockade and his beautiful, bitter face, and his mantle falling open on his gala-dress, and his stars, and his terrible composure as he remained motionless in the grip of his captors.
He was taken into the palace, to the rooms of M. Marsolan, the Duc D'Orleans's surgeon, where Major Vandreuil of the Foot Guards met him and arrested him in the name of the King of France.
'The manner might have been a little less violent,' said Charles calmly.
They were the first words he had spoken since his capture.
The six soldiers, under the orders of Major Vandreuil, now proceeded to search the Prince's person.
Concealed under his white cloth coat, so finely stitched with silver and wreaths of flowers, they found two pistols and a knife.
'You must not be surprised,' remarked Charles. I have gone armed ever since the English put a price on my head.'
They found nothing else but a pair of compasses in an inner pocket of his gorgeous waistcoat.
Charles set his teeth and could hardly conceal his vexation when these were discovered; he had intended them for a sinister purpose.
'I relied on the promises of France,' he said in an agitation he could not suppress. 'I was offered an asylum here...had I but a morsel of bread in the world I would share it with a friend.'
De Vandreuil replied by producing a length of black silk ribbon and ordering the Prince to be bound hand and foot so that he was incapable of movement.
'Ah, monsieur!' cried Charles, 'you have an ugly charge!'
He was now hurried downstairs, lifted into a coach, and driven to Vincennes.
There he was imprisoned in a decent chamber of the château, his bonds taken off, and left alone for the night.
He had learnt from his captors that the gentlemen who had been following him in a second coach to the opera had been sent to the Bastille.
Among them was Harrington and Henry Goring.
Charles was now left to face his fate in the darkness of the winter night, in these cold and hostile surroundings, with a guard at the door, entirely cut off from all his friends.
To a spirit so impetuous, wild, and reckless as his, the loss of personal liberty was in itself a torture.
Even in the worse days of his Scottish misery he had always been free.
As soon as he was alone he tried the doors and windows in a futile fury, then, casting himself along the low bed he broke into the first tears of his manhood.
Soured and broken at last was that gay and gallant spirit that had said that bright day in Rome, 'Sire, I go to restore to you your three kingdoms,' that had defied the delays and prudences of politicians by the immediate daring of that lonely landing in Moidart, that had persuaded Lochiel by sheer enthusiasm and ardour of youth, that had been generous and humane in the hour of victory at Preston, bold and steadfast on the march to Derby, who had won all by his behaviour in miserable adversity; the darling of the Highlands, the idol of the Jacobites, the pride and hope of an entire cause.
In these few years in France he had gradually lost everything.
The support and confidence of his father and brother, the loyalty of his earliest friends, the faith of his party, had all gone.
Most of the noblest of those who had drawn the sword for him had perished by the vengeance of the House of Hanover, or were dead in exile like Lochiel, or ruined fugitives like Macpherson of Cluny, while hundreds of the lesser sort, beggared for his sake, looked to him for the bread he could no longer supply.
For he was now poor; having refused help from France he had no resources whatever beyond what he could raise among his adherents in England.
It was useless to hope for aid from his father's meagre finances; and from his brother, now, ironically enough, one of the wealthiest churchmen in Italy, he could never ask assistance. His jewels were all pawned and he was heavily in debt; the contents of the house in the Quai des Théatins would be seized by his creditors.
He possessed, literally, nothing but the clothes he wore, since his weapons had been taken from him, and there was not the least chance of his ever getting what he had left behind in Paris; indeed, so lavish had been his expenditure that there was nothing much beyond unpaid-for goods in his house and hardly anything in the bank.
France was now his enemy, and Europe, with the exception of the Papal States, sealed to him. To retire to the Pope's dominions was to fall into complete obscurity and neglect, and he had vowed that he would never do it; yet anywhere else he must go as a fugitive, an outlaw, in disguise, in constant fear of arrest, kidnapping, and even assassination.
Any worthy marriage had now become impossible; the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle had forbidden any possible chance of an alliance with any prince or power, the Jacobites themselves were disheartened and timid, or even estranged.
No gleam of hope anywhere brightened the dreary future for Mr. Misfortunate, who saw himself utterly undone, cast away and despised, with his proud dreams, his gay courage, his gallant hopes, his royal blood, his charm, his youth and strength and grace all flung back at him as useless things.
It seemed that mankind had cast him from among them and refused him even a chance to try a throw with fortune.
Louis was his kinsman and his host, the man who had pledged himself by the Treaty of Fontainebleau to help and succour him, and Louis had had him treated like a criminal...There was indeed nothing for poor Carluccio to do but to weep through the bitter watches of the night...Had he still possessed the compasses they had robbed him of he would have made a fierce endeavour to take his own life...His jailers next morning found him composed; his broken heart was not exposed for their curiosity. He refused the services of a valet, being well used, he said, to wait upon himself.
On the following Sunday he was set free, being conducted as far as Pont Beauvoisin by a French official, and directed to make his way to Avignon, the nearest Papal territory.
At Chambéry he was joined by young Sheridan, Stafford, Harrington, and Goring (these having been released from the Bastille on condition that they did not return within fifty leagues of Paris), together with the taciturn George Kelly, who had managed to draw out all the money lying in the Prince's name at Waters's Bank, and to save many of the personal valuables from the Quai des Théatins.
Charles greeted these faithful servants sombrely; he had nothing to repay them with, not even hope.
The beautiful city on the Rhone was a notable resort of Jacobites. The Prince was received at once into the house of Lady Inverness, his old governess, over whom his father and mother had quarrelled so bitterly, while the house of the Marquis de Rochefort was prepared for him.
His position, however, was untenable, and he knew it. England at once protested against his proximity to France, and Charles was not the man to be liked by the priestly authorities of the city.
He resumed his old, wild, reckless life, introduced boxing, racing, gave balls and lavish entertainments, which were not frequented by the better people of the city.
The scandal of this mode of life was completed by the arrival of Madame de Talmond.
Banished to her estates in Lorraine, she made a bold flight to Avignon, and Charles, with his usual bravado, received her publicly into his house.
Short was this last gleam of false sunshine in which the Prince, in the company of a woman whom he did not love, for the last time defied the storms that must soon engulf him; brief these winter days of hollow merry-making, of desperate revelry, of futile pleasures, of the excesses of despair.
The cordelier had disappeared in the Paris downfall, but his lessons remained; Charles seldom went to bed sober, and showed an almost open contempt for religion, encouraged by his free-thinking mistress.
James did not fail to send him bitter letters of remonstrance, with the only result that Charles ceased to write to him at all.
And now came the moment when this last scene was played to a finish. Late in February, the Pope, being threatened by a bombardment of Civita Vecchia, ordered Charles to leave Avignon. He was, for he still had his spies, in receipt of news that further embittered this blow.
James, openly bewailing the scandal Charles was causing—'living openly with his concubine'—was receiving consolatory visits from Cardinals. Henry, who had accepted the rich abbeys from Louis in the very moment that that monarch had betrayed his brother, had withdrawn from Rome to escape the licence of the carnival and to pray for the conversion of Charles; both father and son were endeavouring to secure the beatification of Queen Clementina on the strength of stories of miracles performed by her relics on the nuns at Macerata.
Nothing could have more irritated and disgusted Charles than these tales of what he considered imbecility and senility, and all the old fury against the fatal act of Henry reawoke in his heart. Nor was he wrong in his opinion that the Duke's acceptance of the Cardinal's hat had damned the Stewart cause more effectually than many such defeats as Culloden could have done.
Other sad news came, smuggled through from Paris by means of Madame Vassè and Mademoiselle Ferrand (Charles felt he had secret friends in these two women, and marked their names for future use); the daughter of Lochiel had died, and soon after his wife; the last remaining Cameron, Dr. Archibald, had disappeared. It was believed that he had returned to Scotland.
Added to this was the news that Louis had sent the Duc de Nivernois to Rome to discuss with James some settlement and residence for the troublesome Prince.
This greatly enraged Charles, who knew that everything that passed in the Palazzo dei Sant' Apostoli was reported in England by the Hanoverian agents, Mann and Walton, who had their spies even in the King's chamber.
All these things combined to force him to a resolution well in accordance with his character, and that had been suggested to him some time before by M. D'Argenson (now in disgrace); this was to disappear, to remain hidden even from his friends, to work in the dark by devious and secret ways, to make himself, in this manner, a menace to all the Governments of Europe, in a way he could never do as a pensioned Prince safely settled in Papal territory.
The wildness, the danger, the excitement involved in this project suited his bitter and defiant mood. As a last fling with fate he sent a proposal for the hand of the Princess of Hesse Darmstadt, and spoke of putting himself forward as a candidate for the throne of Poland.
Meanwhile there came the Pope's order to leave Avignon, an order likely to be enforced by the Archbishop, who was on bad terms with the Prince, owing to his having forbidden the boxing and bull-fighting the latter had tried to introduce. Nor did Charles want to stay in Avignon; he was eager to be away on his solitary adventures, to escape the affectionate reproaches of his father, the watchfulness of France, who might now be considered to have joined his enemies since those in power now, Madame Pompadour De Puysieux and Cardinal Tencin, were openly unfriendly. Nor would Louis, exposed to the pasquinades and reproaches of his own capital, ever be likely to forgive Charles for having forced him to that tragic yet ridiculous arrest at the opera.
On the 28th February, 1749, Charles called Sheridan and Stafford and left them in charge of his establishment. The house, that had belonged to a certain Roberts, a merchant, was one of the best in the city and furnished with the money Kelly had rescued from Paris, together with many relics of former Stewart splendour that had been given by Lady Inverness, Charles's one-time governess, Dunbar, and other Jacobites in Avignon; there was also a considerable staff of Scotch servants, faithful followers entirely dependent on Charles for their bread.
And there was Madame de Talmond.
Charles had now become, in the literal sense, attached to her; not so much through affection (though to a certain extent she fascinated him), but through the strength of habit, and because she was the one person of his own world, the great world, who had remained faithful to him in this desperate crisis of his fortunes.
She continued what D'Argenson had named her rule of fire and fury'; she was so jealous that she would hardly allow him out of her sight, she quarrelled with him incessantly, she made scenes; yet with all this she held him by reason of her vitality, her charm, her intelligence, and her honesty.
Also, though trying on small occasions she was not lacking on great ones, as he had proved on the day of his arrest, and by the courage with which she had joined him in Avignon.
'Your Scots Dulcinea could have done no more for you,' she told him; she never ceased to taunt him with the unknown girl whom Charles had said, to vex her, had possessed his entire heart.
This evening of the 28th February Charles was out late with Henry Goring, and Madame de Talmond had wrought herself up to a fury of jealous vexation by the time he returned.
She was terribly afraid of other women; for though she knew that he was not of an amorous disposition, she was so acutely aware of his own inner indifference to herself that she was always dreading that he might some day really fall in love, and there were plenty of lovely, sympathetic, and gay ladies in Avignon.
Charles found her sitting over the fire in a dress of blond lace and a jacket of white silk painted with lavender roses.
Her ill-humour did not become her; only in certain moods and in certain lights was she entirely beautiful. At this period her face seemed to show sometimes the triumphant loveliness that had been hers, sometimes the sharp ugliness of the barren old age that was overtaking her. To-night she looked old, despite her makeup and the firelight.
As the Prince entered he cast a great bunch of snowdrops, cool and fragrant, on to her lap.
She rejected the gift pettishly, and her impatient movement of the hand sent it on the floor between them.
'Are you going to be unkind to-night, mon amie?' he asked.
'Your Highness is intolerable,' she replied fiercely.
He turned on her his brown glance, dark now with grim passion.
'Then you will be glad to hear that I am going to-night.'
'Alone?' she cried shrilly.
'With Henry Goring and George Kelly.'
'I have been ordered to leave Avignon,' he replied bitterly. 'Do you think I wish to be seized and bound again?'
Now that she was assured that it was a question of politics and not of another woman, her anger cooled instantly.
'Tell me,' she said steadily. 'You are going away; where?'
'Before God, I do not know—what shall a bird do that has no nest?—flit from bough to bough...Eh, I shall disappear.'
Madame de Talmond stooped, picked up the snowdrops, and clasped them tightly in her thin fingers; she felt the situation acutely, as perhaps even men like Goring and Kelly did not feel it...she could have gathered him to her heart and wept over him; she was keenly conscious how useless she was to him in such a moment as this.
'I could have served you better had I been a man,' she said. 'Or a woman whom you could have loved,' she added grimly.
'I have loved you,' he replied. 'I do love you.'
He thought he spoke the truth, for he had never known a stronger passion than that he had felt for her; but she knew that she had won him against his will, and held him despite himself.
'You do not offer to take me?'
'This is man's work.'
She could not resist saying,—
'If you cared for me you would take me with you.'
Then she rallied herself to the part that was expected of her, the only part that could please him.
'What do you want me to do?' she asked.
He responded with a quickness that showed he had already thought out her place in his scheme.
'You will stay here awhile, with the house open, servants, lights—as long as is possible, no one is to know of my departure.'
'I will do it,' she said. 'Will you not let me know where you are going?'
'Write to me at Waters's Bank,' he evaded, 'I hope to be in Paris again before the Carnival ends.'
That pleased, almost contented her; her eyes flashed at thought of a future that should be wholly hers. 'Address me at Madame de Vassè, Convent St Joseph,' she replied, 'she is a safe agent.'
The Prince was interested for a moment at the mention of this name that seemed to cross his path so often, then he fell again into his distraction, and presently kissed Madame de Talmond and parted from her without emotion.
That night he rode away secretly with George Kelly and Henry Goring, led by a hope distant and forlorn indeed, in search of a kingdom become as illusive as the Fortunate Isles and a bride as visionary as Morgane la Fay.
'Is it worth while to have a lover who does not love one?' Madame de Talmond asked herself in a mood of reaction; she was tempted to abandon the world and become dévote; everything seemed so dreary and worn out. 'Poor Carluccio!' she said, and found herself yawning.
Bubble after bubble broke. The hand of the Princess of Hesse Darmstadt was as impossible to obtain as had been that of the Czarina; no one knew where Charles was; Waters, the bankers in Paris, was his clearing house, and there the Prince called for letters a month after he had left Avignon, only to disappear again leaving no address behind. The French Court supposed him in Sweden or in Poland; he next visited Madame de Talmond in Luneville, went into Strasbourg, from whence he sent Goring to see the Earl Marischal at Berlin, and himself, soon after Easter, returned to Paris, where Madame de Talmond had preceded him and was now living, half incognita, in the Convent St Joseph. Though in disgrace, she had a friend in Maurepas, the minister who had succeeded D'Argenson, and she knew that her adventures were likely to be connived at. She had, besides, staunch friends in Madame de Vassè and Mademoiselle de Ferrand.
The Convent St Joseph, founded by Madame de Montespan, was an elegant and fashionable retreat for ladies widowed or living apart from their husbands; decorous, not too expensive, and convenient; there lived Madame du Deffand, and held the famous salon, frequented by at least two Jacobites, Montesquieu and Bulkeley, the Duke of Berwick's brother-in-law; here also came the Abbé Condillac, the friend of Mademoiselle de Ferrand and, in his well-bred, quiet way, a Jacobite also.
This was now the Prince's hiding-place and environment. In the daytime he remained concealed in a closet behind Madame de Vassè's salon, in the evening he descended, by a back staircase, to the apartments of Madame de Talmond.
Sometimes he went abroad, generally in the disguise of a servant, with Mademoiselle Ferrand, to do her marketing; sometimes he wandered to the Spectacles des Boulevarde or to gaze in the jeweller's shops in the Quai des Orfevres, and to give secret orders for medallions with his likeness to be made and sent to an agent in Red Lion Square for distribution among his adherents. These souvenirs had no name, but the motto: 'Look, love, and follow.'
Long and secret visits were paid to Waters with an idea of arranging some plan of correspondence with the Jacobites scattered over Europe. Major Kennedy was sent to Scotland for what might remain of the Arkaig treasure. He returned with very little. The money had been tampered with by Archibald Cameron and Glengarry, it was believed. Charles even suspected Cluny, and summoned him to Paris to give an account of this money, which had never been anything but a source of feud and discord among the clans.
Goring, though in dread of the Bastille, ventured to Paris to tell Charles that the Earl Marischal held aloof from all his designs; the faithful Kelly was concealed near the Prince in the Quartier St Germain, in the crowded and dangerous rue Tournon.
The Sunday following the Petite Fête-Dieu, the second procession that took place the octave after aster, a plainly-dressed man and woman stood outside a barber's shop in the Faubourg St Laurent. No one would have thought to recognise in this young man in the gray cloth coat, plain linen, and slouch hat, who seemed a superior kind of artisan, the Prince who had been idolised by Paris the year before, nor in the girl in the dark cardinal the woman who was the friend of Montesquieu and the inspiration of Condillac.
These walks about Paris were the sole diversion of the Prince in his melancholy retirement. Mademoiselle Ferrand was nearly always his companion, the other ladies being too conspicuous to dare to venture abroad in his company.
To-day he had persuaded her to take him to see the procession of St Laurent, the last of the Easter festivities, known as le grand pardon.
Partly out of prudence, partly in disgust, Charles had taken no part in the magnificent celebration of Easter, when the Church appeared to reign triumphant in Paris and the philosophes and their following nonexistent, when every shop and business was closed, and princes were proud to hold up the trains of cardinals; but sheer boredom and his usual reckless impatience of restraint had sent him out to mingle with the crowds, agape to see the procession of St Laurent.
He liked, too, to be in the company of Lucie de Ferrand; she pleased him more and more by contrast with his fiery, sharp, and jealous mistress. There was about her fresh youth a quiet, a frankness, a serenity that still reminded him of women like Miss Macdonald and Lady Kingsburgh. Like them, also, she was not in love with him, but acted out of gentle kindness and a certain romantic devotion to his cause, which, to a fine and sensitive mind might seem typical of all generous lost hopes.
But now Charles had forgotten his companion as he stood unnoticed in the festival crowd. It was a beautiful day, clear and brilliant as summer, that gave even to the sordid city a look of loveliness.
In defiance of police regulations, each house displayed a pot of flowers on the window-sill or in the balcony: roses, carnations, and even tiny plum-trees covered with blossom, and gooseberry bushes bursting into leaf.
Most houses were hung with the tapestries that had been brought out for the great day of the Fête-Dieu, or some bright-coloured square of cloth or carpet; the shops were beginning to close in honour of the procession; the little barber near where Charles stood was putting up his shutters in front of the little parlour, where everything, even the cobwebs, was thick with pomade and flour; the tisane seller had abandoned the Palais Royal to wander about here, waving his heron plumes and rattling his tin cup; most of the windows were already filled by excited faces, jostling children, and those too old or weak to venture into the streets.
Charles, looking upon this number of people who had no place for him in their thoughts, felt the bitter home-sickness of the exile. The whole scene appeared to him fantastic and distasteful, coloured by his own melancholy and the forlornness of his own position, made him envy the meanest there as some one freer, less burdened than himself.
Mademoiselle Ferrand saw something of his mood in that expressive, mobile face that too easily showed his feelings, and kindly put her hand on his arm.
This girl, though poverty made her a paid companion, had finer feelings than Charles had ever found in any courtier, and was truly noble in her carriage towards the fallen Prince.
'It is so tiring standing,' she whispered, 'will you not give me your arm?'
He started, distracted by her delicate ruse, and put his arm in hers. It was true that she looked pale; never strong, she had for weeks not been very well and given to bodily languors—ill in accordance with her bright spirit.
'Shall we return?' asked Charles.
'Oh, no, I should like to see the procession, she replied instantly.
As she spoke it came winding through the press of people, with music, flowers, and the colours of hundreds of brilliant vestments.
For this feast the parish of St Laurent borrowed all the censers and chasubles from all the other parishes, so that every shape and colour was represented. As there were not sufficient priests to wear these numerous sacerdotal robes, two hundred gardeners, with their hair shaved, were dressed up for the occasion, so that the procession seemed to be composed of every priest in Paris.
Two groups of people were attired to represent, one, a chapter of the Old, and one of the New Testament; these came directly behind the priests and were followed by acolytes, who bore on staves crowns of flowers.
These garlands, thus suspended in the air above the heads of the slow-moving procession, and seeming to quiver in unison with the music played by the Garde Française, gave a charming effect; the lightness of the roses, carnations, myrtles, ranunculus, jasmine, tuberoses, and fern, contrasting with the heavy richness of the vestments and the gleaming surface of the jewelled censers and elaborate crosses.
These flower-bearers were followed by a group of beautiful nude children, each a little St John, bearing a staff and leading a live lamb by a rose or azure ribbon; and, close behind them, girls of eight or ten, with their hair flowing over their white robes; and then babies, a multitude of them, all girls, all in white with white wreaths, in charge of servants and nurses, who led them by their hands or coaxed them to keep their place in the procession.
Next, with folded hands and downcast eyes, never raised to glance at the crowd pressing to right and left of them, the nuns of Sacré Coeur de Jésus. Close behind them the gold-embossed and silver-threaded banners of various orders, each gleaming with the picture of a saint, martyr, or confessor. Those who carried these banners marched with a slow and dignified movement; though sometimes obliged to stop they never took a step backwards. Their faces were covered with sweat, the veins stood out on the hands that held the pole steady in the leather socket, their straining figures and anxious faces seemed out of place amid the leisurely pomp, and the heavy cords attached to the banners swung here and there, shaken by their awkward movements.
Behind them came a hundred and fifty thurifers, making the air so thick with the aromatic incense that their figures could be only dimly seen; the clash of the chains of the censer rose and fell in unison, the smoke rose in curls and jets, forming into a thousand fantastic shapes and floating up into dissolving cascades of clouds above the heads of the people.
The loudness of the military music announced the approach of the band, which marched just in front of the dais whereupon the Host was displayed.
This, in a Monstrance, in the form of a great sun, ornamented by a multitude of precious stones, was borne under a canopy of white silk, on a platform covered with blue velvet strewn with stars composed of pearls, and was guarded by forty Swiss, who, with crossed halberts, kept off the crowd of people who pressed forward round the dais.
So great was the excitement that the progress of the holy structure was almost impeded; the guards were swept off their feet and borne along by the press, the notables who held the cords of the dais were pushed hither and thither, so that the Host rocked as if on a boat floating above this agitated human sea. It was impossible for any one to kneel or bow, and it seemed as if, any moment, the glittering Monstrance might be hurled among the enthusiastic worshippers and the staggering bearers fall on their faces.
This spectacle, the exciting music, the half-hysterical emotion, the crowd, the perfume of flowers, of incense, the sweating soldiers struggling in the mass of reeking humanity to guard this tottering throne where this cluster of jewels with the gold rays swayed to and fro, affected Charles with a deep sense of repulsion, yet fascinated him curiously.
He thought of his grandfather, his father, his mother, and brother; all that they had sacrificed to their steadfast belief in this faith, and could by no effort enter into their enthusiasm.
In such a display as this he found nothing to satisfy either his sense of beauty or his sense of religion—all seemed to him tawdry, barbaric, in a strange way horrible.
The Host appeared to him but as a piece of goldsmith work set too garishly with stones.
'But for that,' he said to himself as bitterly as fiercely, 'I might be a King, not skulking here with shopkeepers.' The bursts of military music sounded harshly in his ears, yet stirred in him a certain wild passion to which he could not put a name.
It was as if some enemy was triumphing over his lost hopes, his utter failure, as if the world that had cast him aside was now trampling on him and jeering him...To-day Henry, rich, fat, and comfortable, would be kneeling before his laden altars, cringing before his jewelled God, giving thanks, surrounded by his well-fed priests, for his pleasant life, his easy prosperity...for the two fat abbeys given him by the man who had betrayed and outraged his brother...and James, the old man, would be weeping over his eldest son's sins before the urn that held the heart of the woman who had been such a good religieuse that she had forgotten she was a wife and a mother..
'We have seen it all,' said Mademoiselle Ferrand, gently pressing his arm.
It was impossible for them to stand still in such a crowd, and they were being forced against their will in the wake of the procession.
'What did it mean to you?' asked the Prince.
'Mean to me?' replied the young philosophe. 'Why, nothing; but I liked to see the children—only I think they make them walk too far, the little St Johns were tired.'
They soon found themselves under the balconies of the Venetian Embassy, where the corps diplomatique was arranged to see the procession pass.
Charles noted with a sarcastic eye that the representatives of Protestant powers bent the knee as the dais staggered beneath the window.
'As I might have knelt in the Scottish kirk in Edinburgh,' he thought grimly.
The blare of the music, the pressure of the struggling crowd, the odour of the incense, mingled with that of reeking, perspiring humanity, began to tire Charles physically.
An air of weariness seemed to be falling over every one. Some of the wreaths dropped from the poles, the children began to cry, the priests to walk feebly under the weight of their heavy vestments; the sun was obscured behind a heavy cloud and a few drops of rain fell.
Discordant cries and shouts rose, audible between the bursts of the martial and monotonous music; some one was crushed against the wall of the Venetian Embassy; a flower-pot fell from an upper window, the scattered earth was blown away with the fine dust rising from the streets.
Above all the immobile glitter of the Host rocked and swayed as the bearers staggered on their toilsome way.
Charles caught hold of his companion's arm and dragged her, almost roughly, through the crowd.
She was rather faint and breathless when at last they got into the freer streets, but the Prince did not turn homewards, and she made no effort to combat his mood.
He led her to the gardens of the Luxembourg and placed himself beside her on one of the old stone seats.
Very peaceful was this park to-day, every one having repaired to the procession, with the exception of a few idlers that moved slowly among the trees.
The Luxembourg never had the life and gaiety of the Palais Royal or the Tuileries; here gathered generally the nurse-maids and the children, the modest bourgeoise, the poets and authors, the half-pay officers, and the old renaissance garden had a retired and reposeful air different to any public place in Paris.
The alleys, parterres, and fountains were all beautiful now with the fresh loveliness of spring. The water was azure in the stone basins, the young leaves emerald on the fine boughs of the trees, the sky flecked with white clouds above the long line of the Palace.
Yet there was a certain melancholy in all. The sadness that never fails in the sunshine of the early year, which seems but the death of a prolonged winter, and in its thin, cold quality has none of the joyous richness of autumn.
Only the frail, few first flowers grew here, pale of colour and faint of scent, and the breeze that had swept away the sudden rain-cloud was sharp and chill.
'You are tired of Paris?' asked Mademoiselle Ferrand gently.
'Of life,' he replied quietly.
She turned towards him her fine face, over which lately there rested a strange shadow that seemed cast from some invisible cloud.
'Why do you stay in hiding here, monseigneur?' she asked.
'Ask the stray dog why he licks the first hand that feeds him,' said Charles with fierce bitterness.
'But you are a man,' said the lady, 'with all the world open to you.'
'Nay, with all the world closed to me,' he answered vehemently; 'with my birthright stolen, my very name denied, cast out, hunted like a criminal, shunned like a leper—forbidden even the chance to fight for my own.'
Mademoiselle Lucie looked keenly and tenderly at the proud, miserable and angry young face, so downcast and brooding.
'But I believe in you,' she said simply, daring to add, so quiet were the gardens, 'and many others believe in your royal Highness.'
Again she reminded him, in this unquestioning loyalty, of Miss Macdonald...Her pure, slightly hollowed face, her true and steadfast eyes, her frank lips were pleasant things to look at...he wondered why he could not love a woman of this type or else leave love alone until he found his phantom Princess, now become as illusive as his will-o'-the-wisp crown.
'I like you so well,' continued the young woman's clear voice, 'that I would serve you in any way save that of dishonour, and I tell monseigneur that the Convent St Joseph is a poor place for him—and Madame de Talmond a poor companion,' she added firmly.
Charles laughed sourly.
'Madame de Vassè,' continued the girl 'is very tired of her and the scenes she makes, and thinks of closing her rooms to your Highness on that account.'
The Prince flushed. He did not greatly care to glance at his relations with Madame de Talmond when in the presence of Mademoiselle Ferrand. At this moment his whole life seemed sordid and miserable, and he felt no heart for any adventure.
But the woman, full of idealism and enthusiasm, could not see what fettered him from pursuing a straight and glorious path; she could not realise how embittered and broken this man was, nor the enemies he had within his own soul.
'Everything is possible to you,' she said, speaking with vigour and sweetness.
But Carluccio did not lift up his head.
That night when Charles crept down the secret staircase that led from the apartments of Madame de Vassè to those of Madame de Talmond, he went with a sense of distaste and weariness.
He felt certain that he was not suited for this life of concealment and intrigue, which was telling on him, mind and body; more than ever he longed for the open air, the life of freedom, of movement, and of action; his miserable existence in the heather seemed preferable to this.
It was in an ill humour that he confronted Madame de Talmond, waiting for him in her perfumed cabinet, lit only by a few rose-shaded candles and profusely decorated with exotic flowers, tuberoses, jasmine, and syringa, verbena, and musk.
The lady herself was in a rose-coloured petticoat and a jacket of powder-blue velvet, heavy with cascades of lace.
The unpleasant sharpness of her face betokened that she was in an ill humour. She glanced with displeasure at Charles, who had not changed the rough clothes of his disguise, and whose bright hair was unpowdered and fastened by a plain steel buckle.
'You are late,' she remarked at once; 'but it is not because you spent much time on your toilet, mon ami. I did not wait supper for you.'
'Mademoiselle Ferrand brought me some food,' replied Charles wearily.
'Ah, always Mademoiselle Ferrand! I suppose she has been keeping you company?'
'Nay,' said Charles in the same tone, 'I have been reading Tom Jones.'
'Which she procured for you?'
He seated himself, looking out of place amid the artificial daintiness, on the gilt and satin ottoman. It was obvious that he did not care in the least about Madame de Talmond, nor was heedful of displeasing her. She marked this with a rage that had been in her heart for many a day.
'You went out this afternoon?' she asked.
'With Mademoiselle de Ferrand?'
'To carry her basket and help her quarrel over two sous' worth of fish?' sneered the lady.
'There is no need to discuss Mademoiselle Ferrand,' said the Prince.
He leant back among the silk and embroidered cushions, took Tom Jones from his pocket, and began to turn over the leaves.
But Madame de Talmond was in no mood to be thus put off; her affection for the Prince had not withstood the strain of this strange life, his indifference, and all she had suffered and lost in his cause; she began, in fact, to weary of the situation, and she was tormented with jealousy of the young and charming woman who was, by force of circumstances, her lover's daily companion.
She was soured, too, at the Prince's repeated failures and fallen fortunes. The romance of his position began to pall, and as the chances of her being the guiding star of the destiny of a King glimmered ever more faintly into the distance so did her affection and interest wane.
Charles could have kept her had he taken the trouble, but he was not the man to force himself to make love when the humour was not on him, and this woman, fifteen years older than himself, so capricious, jealous, and violent, had begun to weary him and even to fill him with a certain disgust.
She rose now with the fixed intention of creating a scene.
'You make a convenience of me—you are utterly ungrateful and ungracious...Mon Dieu! do you never think what risks I run in thus sheltering you?'
'You have arranged all that with M. de Maurepas,' replied Charles with irritating calm, never lifting his eyes from his book.
'So—you make light of my sacrifices!' cried the enraged Princess. 'You think it is nothing for me to live here—imprisoned in these rooms—nothing to be banished from the Court—nothing to be separated from my husband—nothing that my reputation is compromised—'
'Your reputation!' interrupted Charles. 'Nom de Dieu, your reputation!'
Madame de Talmond, though she sneered at virtue in others, was as sensitive as any one else at any reflection on her own failings, and the Prince's mock transported her to the greater fury as she had no good answer ready, for she was aware that the whole world knew that whatever she might have sacrificed to Charles it was not either her good name nor her first affections, neither of these having been hers to lose.
'Cruel and ungrateful!' she flung at him; 'base and unworthy—how could I have been so misled as to think you would ever be successful in your mad plots!'
The thrust was as sharp as she had meant it to be; Charles quivered and no longer saw the print in the book he persisted to hold before him.
Madame de Talmond continued the invective of a jealous, bitter woman, an eloquence that has no thought but to wound and tear, one of the ugliest and hardest things in the world to endure.
'You and your ragged Scots!' she cried. 'Villains like Clancarty and Kelly—bah, how was I ever led to mingle with you—you, who take a woman's help and then insult her!'
Charles dashed down his book and rose.
She was so vulgar and hateful in her spite that if it had been his house he would have violently flung her out as he had done to Madame de Guèmènée.
He had proved then that it was in his nature to be brutal to women, and he would have found it in him to be brutal to this livid shrew now.
'I am, as you say,' he said fiercely, 'a ragged and penniless adventurer. My life is given to wretched plots and miserable schemings...I crave your pardon...I was a fool to think I could afford a mistress like you.'
'Afford! Mon Dieu! You owe your very shelter to me...'
'Hence this scene,' replied Charles grimly. 'Had I money I could have kept you amiable, mon amie.
'Had I found it worth my while,' he added, striking as recklessly as she had struck. 'As it is—go and find some wealthier lover while your face serves you...and I will go my ways.'
As always, the shrill fury of the woman dropped before the deep wrath of the man.
She cowered as her predecessor had cowered.
Not all the rose-coloured light, all the paint, powder, lace, and silk could disguise her age now; she looked witch-like and repellent in her fear and rage; as if from behind the cracking enamelled, rose-wreathed mask of beauty there showed suddenly the hideous image of malignant old age.
She stood between Charles and the door, a spectre blocking his path, shrinking only because she did not possess the courage to threaten, an epitome of all he had dragged his life into since he had left Rome in the first flush of his resplendent manhood.
He stood still for a moment, bitterly regarding her; the full sense of the ugliness of the scene, played in this pretty, rich, toy-like room, was present to him...What could be more hideous than the parting with a woman, never loved and never wanted, yet into whose hands had been given all the power that should have been surrendered to one only utterly beloved?
'I go, and this time I shall not come back,' he said, and, as she would not move, he pushed her roughly from his path.
This touch of physical violence inflamed her into some hardihood. She had always preserved her standing as a great lady and cousin of the Queen, and in all the violent episodes of her career had never been treated as less.
'It is well you should leave me for Lucie Ferrand,' she said coarsely. The kept companion will be able to play the rôle of kept mistress...You have sunk too low to deal with any other kind of woman.'
Her livid, distorted face was quite close to Charles as she spoke; he could see the thinness of the hair above the hollow on her temples, the cracking of the paint on her lips, the tiny wrinkles about her eyes...He pushed her away from him violently, so that she staggered and cried out, and when she turned her terrible face towards him again, as if to invoke a wordless curse, he struck her across the cheek, so that a red weal showed along the powder.
And so left her to endure, as best she might, this departure of the last of her lovers, and to make her peace with the God whose greatest popularity had always lain in His acceptance of the penitence of the Magdalen.
As for Carluccio, his evil genius had pushed him yet farther down a dark and horrible path. He went to the apartments of Madame de Vassè, drunk with the sense of what he had done...loathing himself, casting about wildly for some comfort, some help.
Lucie Ferrand opened the door to him She had been reading to her mistress, who had gone to bed early with a headache, and carried a candle, for all the lights in the apartment had been put out.
'This is rash,' she whispered, for the Prince had come without any precautions, and one of the servants might have been about.
Charles made no reply; he seated himself in the nearest chair and took his head in his hands.
It was a plain apartment that the one candle held by Mademoiselle Ferrand lit, an ante-chamber to the more pretentious room where Madame de Vassè held her salon; the furniture was cane and dark oak, the curtains blue and white check, on the walls a few prints in black and gold frames; yet there was something restful about the place after the heated, overcrowded boudoir of Madame de Talmond.
Mademoiselle Lucie stood looking down at the Prince, shading with one slender hand the flickering flame that cast a ruddy radiance on the bent head of Carluccio, showing threads of gold in the tumbled locks.
She was rather startled.
Never before had the Prince returned so late to her mistress's apartment, and never entered with so little precaution. Others beside himself would have been ruined had any one but herself or Madame de Vassè answered his knock on the secret door.
Tired and disturbed as she was, she did not think of herself but of the evident trouble of the man before her. In her long, dark gray dress, with her black hair simply knotted, and her kind, intelligent, grave face, she looked the antithesis of the woman he had just left, and a figure symbolical of pity and tenderness.
He looked up at last with a shame-faced attempt to cover his emotion.
'I came to return your book,' he said, and pulled the copy of Tom Jones from his pocket, which he handed her without looking up.
'But you did not come here to bring me that?' she asked gently.
He roused himself.
'I am going away. I came to say good-bye. I have been an intolerable burden on the goodness of Madame de Vassè and yourself.'
The words were formal, but the voice full of agitated emotion.
'Monseigneur!' cried Mademoiselle Ferrand. 'You are leaving the Convent!'
She knew that he had no other possible place of shelter.
'I should never have come,' he replied with rising bitterness.
Mademoiselle Lucie knew that he had had no such resolution as this when they had sat together in the Luxembourg that afternoon, and she easily guessed that he had quarrelled with Madame de Talmond.
She was not the type of woman who could think very kindly of any one like the Princess, and that part of Charles's life had always seemed to her very sordid and hardly to be tolerated.
'Yes, perhaps it is better that you should go,' she said.
'It is better,' he replied; 'and I shall never return, mademoiselle.'
She looked at him gravely.
'Perhaps that also is better.'
'Therefore take back your book. I shall have little leisure for reading. I will leave with you my case of books and my strong box. I may write here?'
'How can you ask? Am I not your friend? And so is Madame de Vassè.'
'You do not know me,' replied Charles; 'that is why.'
Indeed,' she said sweetly, 'we know you very well, monseigneur. And believe in you.'
He flushed most painfully and turned away his head; he thought of the scene upstairs and how he had struck a woman he had once professed to love.
'Believe in me no more,' he answered, 'for I no longer believe in myself.'
'Ah, Prince,' she protested.
'Prince of shreds and patches!' he interrupted bitterly. 'Prince of shadows and moonshine! Betrayed and fooled by every traitor and fool...I should have died at Culloden, for indeed I do not know how to use my life.'
Mademoiselle Lucie felt this might be but too true, and cast about in her mind for comfort. She turned and set the candles on the chimney-piece.
'I disturb you too long,' said the Prince heavily. 'I keep you from your rest. Indeed, there is no more to say.'
'But you cannot go like this!' cried the warmhearted girl. 'Will you not see Madame de Vassè?'
'You shall thank her for me.'
'Where will you go?'
'To-night to George Kelly in the rue Tournon; to-morrow—God knows!'
She looked at him with the sincerest compassion and regret. It seemed terrible to her clear and lofty mind that this noble and lovable figure, composed of so much that was generous, noble, and even heroic, should be at the mercy of these outrageous mischances, his most gallant struggles but the occasion for the sport of the Gods, every incident and circumstance combining to thrust him out and down among the evil things of life.
She knew that he must go his way, unaided and alone, and the desolation of his fate brought tears of pity to her eyes.
And there was so little that she could do for him or his hopeless cause.
'I must warn you that Madame de Talmond is not my friend,' said Charles from out the shadow in which she had left him; 'she may even be dangerous.'
Her quick mind grasped all the possibilities of this; she could easily imagine the Princess as impetuously spiteful.
'Then you must not stay in Paris,' she answered quickly. Then, with an effort of her generous nature to be just, she added, 'but Madame de Talmond sheltered you in Lorraine and brought you here, surely she could not be so base as to—'
'It is my misfortune and my disgrace,' said the Prince hotly, 'that I owe anything to Madame de Talmond.'
Lucie Ferrand sighed.
'I wish I could do something for you, monseigneur,' she said sadly.
'You have done everything, mademoiselle...It is I who have presumed too far.'
He spoke with perfect gentleness; he did not seem the same man who had quarrelled so brutally with Marie de Talmond...
'Will you fetch me my mantle and hat?' he added. 'I must indeed go.'
She went instantly to the little closet that was his usual place of concealment during the day, and that was stored with the few personal possessions he had brought with him to Paris.
While she was gone the Prince took a silent farewell of the place that had sheltered him during this brief pause in his adventures. He knew that he was not likely to meet kinder or more generous hearts than those of the two women who had so loyally kept his secret, nor to find a friendlier refuge than this of the Convent St Joseph...yet he was glad to be free of Madame de Talmond, glad to have his own way, solitary and cursed though it might be, free before him...and who knew?...there was still the gleam of the shadowy throne to lure him on, still the beckoning of the hand of the visionary Princess...he was young.
Mademoiselle Lucie returned with the hat and cloak and a small box she knew to contain jewels; she put these in the pocket of his mantle.
She was afraid that he might be in want of money, but did not dare to speak of this; besides, she had very little herself, and could get none without disturbing Madame de Vassè.
This, and other little details, such as the lack of clothes and what she should do with his books, and if he had arranged everything with Waters, distressed her; but she said nothing of these feminine misgivings as she helped him into the dark-blue mantle.
'If M. Goring stays in Paris, he may come and give us news of you?'
'Assuredly. I wish Goring to stay, but he is afraid of the Bastille.'
He stood a second, his hat in his hand, his face looking beautiful above the dark mantle in the soft, dim candlelight, regarding this true friend a little wistfully.
She, pale, tired, grave, earnestly returned his gaze and held out to him her thin hand.
Both knew that they were not likely to meet for a long while, if ever again.
He kissed her fingers as he had kissed those of Flora Macdonald when he had parted from her under circumstances similar yet happier, and now as then, he was silent.
Then with that gallantry of spirit that refused to be entirely thwarted by any limitations, he raised his head and laughed.
Mademoiselle Lucie fetched her solitary candle to light him down the narrow stairs.
Once his bright face looked back at her out of the shadows, then the darkness closed again round Carluccio.
The sun of early summer shone on the azure tents of the Turkish vendors in the Piazzo of San Marco, and all the booths covered with gay Oriental stuffs, trifling jewellery and Eastern sweetmeats.
The delicate rose-coloured brick and white stone of the campanile soared up into the brilliant blue, which vivid colour showed again in the arch behind the antique houses in front of the church, and in the glimpse of the Grand Canal by the Doge's palace, where the black gondola rocked at the steps by the Ponte dei Sospiri.
In and out of the colonnade of the great Piazza, which was after the manner of the Palais Royal, moved a great crowd of people, the women as well as the men freely entering the coffee-houses and shops.
Among these was a group that was attracting, in the gay idleness of this fashionable hour of the afternoon, much attention and many a whispered comment and daring hint.
This consisted of three gentlemen—two of them were perfectly well known to the Venetians—these were the hereditary Prince of Modena and the Modenas Ambassador to the Venetian Republic.
The other was a young man in a black Venetian cloak lined with scarlet, and a hat pulled over his eyes. Like almost every one else he wore the white mask and full-bottomed wig common to the Venetian nobility.
Even the gossipers knew nothing of him beyond the fact that he had lately arrived in Venice with no luggage, only one servant, in the Modenese livery, that he was staying at the Roman Legation and obviously living under the protection of the Prince of Modena.
But rumours were busy where truth had to be silent, and there were not a few among the noble Venetians who had guessed that this young stranger, who visited nowhere, lived in seclusion, and went about muffled in his cloak, was no other than the wild and unfortunate Prince Charles Stewart.
And it was indeed Carluccio who wandered under the colonnade of San Marco, chatting with his cousin, the Prince of Modena, sipping iced lemonade at the cafés, buying nosegays and ribbons from the Turkish pedlars to cast to the beggar children, buying grain to throw to the numberless white pigeons who circled amid the blue tents of the Eastern merchants.
He had hoped to meet Goring and Harrington in Venice, but the equerry had not yet arrived from Poland, where he had been sent to see what funds might be raised on Charles's reversion of the Sobieski property, and Harrington had not sufficient money to leave Avignon.
Charles had arrived penniless in Venice. The servant in the Modenese livery was the lean and grim George Kelly, the single valise he carried the sole possession of the Prince.
Most of the jewels Mademoiselle Ferrand had slipped into the pocket of his mantle had been taken by Kelly to the Mont de Pieté, and the proceeds spent by the Prince, who, as soon as he arrived in Venice, wrote to the Pope for money and to his father asking for a renewal of his authority as Regent.
James replied by sending what was asked, but called his son 'a continual heartbreak.' Clement sent a thousand sequins and a private advice to the Venetian legate to persuade Charles to return to Bologna or Ferrara.
Carluccio smiled cynically at both the letters, and at once spent some of the money in having struck little silver tokens with his portrait reduced from his medal with the inscription, Laetamini Cives, which was sent to Henry Goring to be smuggled to England to his brother Sir Charles, who was to distribute them through the Jacobite agents in Red Lion Square.
The Prince was now meditating another descent on England. He had written to Edgar, his father's secretary, and to the Earl Marischal, now at Berlin, on the matter; he had hopes of the assistance of Frederick of Prussia, and was cheered by news of a strong revival of Jacobitism in England.
The University of Oxford had invited him to the opening of the Radcliffe, where the Jacobite Dr William King was to make a speech in his interest; M. Dormer, Charles's agent in Antwerp, was arranging with Charles Goring to send a ship to that port in August; he also was to procure 20,000 muskets for the arming of the clans; Mr. Patullo of Dundee, late muster master of the Highland army, was also to procure arms; there was talk of a rising in London and an attack on St James's Palace. The cause that had lately seemed so dead showed signs of awakening to some life.
The Prince is determined to go over at any rate,' wrote Charles. He assures that he will expose no one but himself, supposing the worst.
At the same time the days were heavy on his hands. He wrote to Mademoiselle Ferrand to procure for him copies of Clarissa Harlowe, Joseph Andrews, and Athalie, also to ask if there were any other new books worth reading. He rather missed the society of the Parisian salons: Montesquieu, Condillac, Bulkeley; he altogether missed the society of Lucie Ferrand.
Another marriage project was on the ways. This time to the Princess Radziwill, a plain little girl of eleven, of birth not royal and fortune not tremendous.
James favoured the match, which was being pushed forward by the primate of Poland, Archbishop of Griesen, Monsignor Lascaris, the chaplain of the Radziwill family, and Madame de Talmond herself, who affected to have already forgiven the Prince, and to be still working for his political advancement.
The truth was that she had no chance of finding another lover, and was still too lively to contemplate with equanimity the only life now possible to her, that of dévote, so she continued to consider herself as attached to the Prince, though with hatred in her heart, as Charles well knew.
The whole intrigue sickened him. The elderly mistress angling for the child-wife in order to keep some hold on the last man her decaying charms could ever ensnare, was repulsive; and he did not trust her sincerity.
Mademoiselle de Ferrand was warned not to confide in her at all; Waters, who had the Prince on his books as 'Mr. Williams,' knew nothing at all about his client's movements, nor did the Principal of the Scots College, Paris, who till now had held every Stewart secret.
From the eyes of Europe darkness had swallowed the Prince; diplomats wondered in vain the whereabouts of this young man now so carelessly strolling along the Piazza San Marco. He was supposed to be in Strasbourg, in Prussia, in Spain, in Sweden, in Staffordshire; the British minister at Dresden was prepared to capture the Prince should he show his face in that country. Lord Hyndford, in Prussia, was also waiting a chance to kidnap 'the young vagabond,' as the Whigs were loud in calling Charles.
There did not lack Hanoverian plots for worse things than kidnappings; intrigues like those of Father Myles, against which Charles had so resolutely set his face, had their counterpart among the English agents, who were not so scrupulous as 'the young vagabond' they hunted, in spurning schemes of assassination.
Carluccio, meanwhile, found his private affairs in a desperate state.
Major Kennedy had only brought a small portion of the Arkaig treasure, and Cluny Macpherson could give no clear account of the remainder; somehow it had disappeared together with the diamond ring of Charles II. and other personal jewels belonging to the Prince. Both Cluny and Archibald Cameron, now lurking in Edinburgh, were suspected. Cluny, for years now a hunted fugitive among the heather, protested his innocence to his dying day; Charles had the nobility to believe him, but the loss of this great sum was a stinging vexation. Of another misfortune he knew nothing, but it was one designed to do him more harm than the loss of the ill-fated Arkaig treasure; this was the defection of young Glengarry, who was now a Hanoverian spy and a very clever one.
Reduced by his Jacobitism to sell his shoe buckles, and pawning Mrs. Murray of Broughton's watch, this Highland gentleman, outwardly as gallant, as handsome, as splendid as Lochiel, had undertaken the slightly better (though, as he found to his disgust, very meagerly) paid position of English agent among the Prince's party.
Whatever was known to Glengarry was known in St James's, but for the moment Charles was hidden even from this unsuspected traitor and lost even to those keen eyes in the idle, mingled crowd of Venice.
It was the afternoon, when the sun-blinds were beginning to be drawn, the shutters opened, and all the population to flock into the one piazza in the city.
It was fast approaching the time when the nobility would go into villigiatura, and a certain climax of gaiety marked the close of the season.
Some of the big theatres had already closed, and Charles had lost what he had longed for: the music of the best Italian school, after the theatrical, noisy, false opera of Rameau, Lalande, and Lully, which had offended his musical sense, trained in Rome, in the Paris operas.
But there were the smaller theatres and puppet-shows, and stray fiddlers, and little companies of scaramouches, and clowns and columbines, and people singing in the dusk from gondolas, or from the high, dim-lit window of some palace, glimpsed across the lagoons in the twilight. The air was rich and luscious, the sun by day, the moon by night unclouded and unconcealed; hard green grapes and ripe peaches began to appear in the booths, the ladies wore muslins and flower-wreathed hats; there was much love-making in the luminous evenings when the black gondolas sped swiftly and mysteriously over the star-spangled waters.
Carluccio was in his element in such an atmosphere, as he had been among the solitudes of the Isle of Skye; both were romantic, stimulating, full of the sense of adventure, calling into play his wit, his gallantry, his love of the strange and mysterious.
He was freer, perhaps, than he had ever been since he had landed at Morlaix. Of Kelly he saw little; in Avignon the nonjuring parson had told him that 'as an honest man' he could no longer remain in his service.
Charles on his side had been asked by the English Jacobites to dismiss Graeme (his brother's late steward), Oxburgh, and Kelly. Goring, on his last secret mission to London, had scraped together £15,000, only to be consigned on condition that these followers were dismissed.
The Prince, in desperate need of the money, had promised. Though Kelly had not yet either finally received or finally demanded his dismissal, things were over between him and his master.
Men like poor George Kelly were likely to become rare in the service of Charles Stewart.
As for the Prince, he cared nothing about this breaking of old ties; he had come to look upon the company of George Kelly as he looked upon his father's letters—a disagreeable to be avoided as much as possible.
He was not of an ungrateful disposition, and, as he had passionately declared himself, would have shared his last crust with a friend; but he was becoming more and more intolerant of any criticism or restraint, and his secretary's increasing disapproval of his conduct had lately become unendurable to Charles.
For this handsome cavalier, looking so gay and so good-humoured as he strolled along the Piazza, with his face still so smooth and delicate complexioned and his eyes so bright, was no longer the same man as the young hero of '45.
He was given now and then to heavy drinking, now and then to ferocious gusts of passion, to bitterness, recklessness, and extravagance, to a headlong obstinacy and a reckless impatience, to a defiant dissipation that caused an open scandal among his friends and followers and but little pleasure to himself.
None of this showed in him now; it seemed a lull in his desperate fortunes, when none but fair winds blew on his brows and the golden visions of hope for awhile gleamed brightly over his troubled way.
There was one in Venice who caused him to forget both the elderly mistresses he had left behind and the child-wife he was supposed to be seeking. This was his cousin's daughter, Fortunata D'Este. It was the thought of her that kept him so gay and pleasant now.
Presently, as the drums and pipes summoned the people to the comic theatres, and the Angelus rang through the pearly twilight, the three gentlemen turned to the steps near the Ducal Palace, where the gondolas rocked on the bosom of the canal where it broadened to the lagoons and the island, and presently to the sea that stretched beyond Lido, a space of shimmering haze beneath a translucent sky.
Opposite the dome and façade of San Giorgio Maggiore rose, flame and opal-coloured in the hue of the sunset that was beginning to tinge the heavens with liquid tints of unearthly beauty, the gondolas waited for the Prince and his companions. Two black with black satin curtains, but piled with silk cushions of crimson, purple, and emerald green, and rowed by men wearing the colours of the Estensi round their waists.
The Prince stepped into the first. The black curtains were parted and Princess Fortunata gave him her hand.
Leaning forward, he retained her fingers in his own as the gondola shot forward over the waters of the Grand Canal towards the Rialto, waters darkened in the shadows of the high palace, dark silver in contrast to the gold of the open lagoons and sea.
The Princess wore black silk; round her waist was a cord and tassel of diamonds, round her close-dressed powdered hair a wreath of pink silk roses.
She was young and fresh and gay, pretty, in a delicate, careless style, with no particular charm beyond that of high breeding and light-heartedness.
She had met the Prince in Strasbourg, and if she was not in love with him, at least she was delighted to coquette with him.
Carluccio, holding her hand now in the twilight, found it easy to imagine that he at last held fast the fairy princess who was to share the fairy kingdom.
She looked lovely, smiling from the shadows of her black curtains, to him, leaning near among the cushions; the pure oval of her little face held infinite hope and consolation.
Why not win her...regardless of the Radziwill child...He seemed to see about her smooth brow the crown of his dream kingdom.
In this still and magic air, in this soft and enchanted light, passing under the magnificent palaces, listening to the snatches of song, glimpsing these wayside lights at open festival windows—all seemed possible.
The dreams that had gleamed so bright before Derby, that had still gleamed before Culloden, that had not failed in the hiding-places of the Hebrides, but that had seemed to die in the scented air of Madame de Talmond's boudoir and the dull seclusion of the cabinet in the Convent St Joseph, seemed to revive again with ancient brilliancy and power.
'Will you be loved by me, will you be a Queen?' his heart seemed to say to hers.
Was not her very name of good omen for his cause?
She suffered him to retain her hand; she leant a little nearer to him, so that her bare shoulder touched his cloak, and looked up at him with sweet eyes.
He was a noble figure. He had removed his hat, and his mantle fell open on a coat of lavender-blue brocade and the soft, embroidered muslin of his cravat.
If he found it easy to believe in his dreams, she found it easy to believe in him.
To her young girl's fancy it seemed impossible that so princely a man should not one day gain his kingdom.
Under the second of the Rialto's dark shadows he kissed her fingers, and nearly touched her lips, so close she was.
Cascades of roses and jasmines falling over balconies, and the little terrace gardens, scented the increasing dusk; lanterns began to appear at the prows of passing gondolas, and candlelight showed through the open doors of churches.
Neither spoke, but each thought that they understood the other.
The gondola stopped at the Modenese Embassy, a magnificent palace overlooking a side canal. The light of flambeaux fixed either side the door helped them to their landing, for it was now completely dark save for the clear distant radiance of the summer stars.
The Princess disappeared in the shadows of the painted corridor, and Charles followed his cousin into the dining-salon, where the unshuttered windows looked on to the dark waters.
A table was laid with a costly service and costly delicacies; the light of candles in crystal stems showed the lily-crowned children, the rose-crowned children, the nymphs in draperies of azure and yellow that glowed from the walls and ceiling.
Charles could not have told why he felt light-hearted to-night.
He was a fugitive lurking in disguise, with borrowed money in his pocket, dependent upon pity for his safety, and charity for his lodging, yet he was conscious of none of these things, but only of a sense of ease and freedom and of being on the verge of some new world of experience and sensation.
The Prince of Modena, courteous, kind, even respectful towards his kinsman of the higher rank; the Ambassador, smooth and deferential, helped him in his illusion of being a great prince, not needing to accept favours but able to confer them.
Fortunata D'Este returned, having discarded her swinging hoops and diamonds for a gown of flowered English muslin and an open sacque of primrose yellow satin; her dark hair was unpowdered now in deference to some remark of the Prince to the effect that he did not like powder for ladies.
In this attire she reminded him a little of Mademoiselle de Ferrand; he did not yet know her well enough to be aware that in her essence she was totally different.
They sat down, a small party, to supper; only the three gentlemen, the Princess, and a lady-in-waiting, auburn-haired and gay.
Carluccio sat next to Fortunata. She put jasmine and rose petals in his wine, and held it up before the candle flame for him to see the crimson and amber lights in the rich vintage.
She drank his health in a glass with a milk-white stem and his head engraved at the bottom of the bowl with the motto, Audentior Ibo'; these glasses were being made in Venice to be smuggled over to the Jacobite families in Northumberland and Scotland.
She leant towards him, their silks and laces mingled. As they toasted each other, the bright, gold-tipped hair and the dark locks were very close together; they looked a brave and beautiful pair, so near in blood, so far in fortunes. The Modenese Prince smiled on them, and again Charles had the sense of grasping by the hand the dream-bride who was to share the dream throne.
When the supper was over he followed her on to the balcony, and they stood together looking over the darkness of the water, the soft golden light of the moon behind them, the scent of the wine and fruit within and the flowers without mingling in the air they breathed.
The D'Este Prince and his Ambassador and the lady-in-waiting were playing a trio for violins and spinet; a piece they knew by heart and laughed over in the half dusk of the candle-light.
Charles knew the melody to be a piece by Galuppi he had often played with Henry at the concerts in the Palazzo dei Sant' Apostoli. It made him think of Henry and gave him a faint homesickness for those days that seemed so far off, when James had been loving and Henry affectionate, and the time had somehow passed very pleasantly in the faded, shabby palace, with the Papal guards for ever in the courtyard, and the little mock court round the mock King, and all the busy turmoil of Rome without...Why go to Poland for a bride? His cousin would never refuse him this girl who stood beside him; he imagined her like that Beatrice, of her name and his, who had died a saint among the nuns at Chaillot.
The concerto ceased abruptly. Charles was aware that some one had entered the room; he heard his name in an English voice.
'You are wanted, Carluccio,' said Fortunata; 'but you will return?'
She waved towards him her black fan, and suddenly unfurled it between their faces.
'I will not go,' he said. 'It is George Kelly.'
But at that moment his cousin called him, and he turned reluctantly into the glow of the wax-lights.
The nonjuring parson stood by the table, his black clerical costume, which he had lately affected, as if in protest against the behaviour of the Prince, looked sombre in the rich room.
The whole scene impressed itself with sudden and extraordinary vividness on the Prince's mind. The Modenese Prince, with his violin still in his hand, the red-haired lady at the spinet, turning over pages of parchment music, the Ambassador in a gilt chair, with his instrument across his knees, and by the table with the candles, porcelain, glasses, baskets of sweetmeats and preserved citron, this dark figure of George Kelly with his old, lined, and grim face, and to all, the background of the soft, bright paintings on the wall.
The Prince, angry and startled, in his lavender brocade and light hair, standing still close to the window so that the shadow was over him, was himself the most remarkable figure in this picture.
'Kelly spoke directly to him, without glancing at the others.
'Your Highness, the Nuncio has sent me to find you.'
'Dio!' exclaimed Charles defiantly, 'am I not free even here!'
'An express arrived to-night from Rome,' said Kelly unmoved.
'From my father?'
'From the Pope,' answered the secretary curtly.
Charles was conscious of a little movement among the three spectators, and the defiance deepened in his own manner.
'Is this message from His Holiness so important that I should return to hear it, sir?' he demanded impatiently.
'It is so important that I am charged to bear it to you. Will your Highness hear it now?'
Charles turned to his cousin.
'I have no secrets from the Prince of Modena,' he said grandly.
The Estenesi Prince bowed. His daughter had come from the balcony and stood in the window frame. Her presence further increased the haughtiness of Charles.
'Well,' said Kelly dryly, 'the message is this—that you are prayed to instantly leave Venice for Bologna or Ferrara.'
It was the situation at Avignon over again; the sudden 'checkmate V cried by fate.
The Prince folded his arms and kept back the bitter words that rushed to his lips.
'Lord Albemarle in Paris has heard of your whereabouts and complained to the Pope. There is the old threat of a bombardment of Civita Vecchia,' said Kelly calmly.
'I cannot go at once,' replied Charles.
'Sir, I was directed to tell you that after to-night the Roman Legation is closed to you.'
Carluccio bent his head and the blood rushed into his face.
'Very well,' he answered, biting his full under-lip. 'I will ask the hospitality of my cousin here—you, sir, shall return to the legation for my baggage.'
On hearing himself thus directly mentioned, the Prince of Modena, who had followed with great alertness this conversation, came to the table, his violin under arm.
'Cousin,' he said quickly, 'you very greatly flatter me.'
Charles looked into his kinsman's astute face, from which the kindness and much even of the suave courtesy had disappeared.
'How do I flatter you, cousin?' he asked, very much on his guard.
Their eyes met, a level glance on each side.
'In supposing,' said the Italian quietly, that Modena could defy where Rome gives way.'
'That I am unable to offer you, cousin, what the Pope denies you.'
There was little softening of these words in the speaker's manner. The Estenesi had suddenly found himself in peril and placed in a dangerous position before strangers; with the habitual distrust of his nationality he was not sure either of Kelly or his own two country-people. To protect Charles now would be to defy all Europe and the Pope. He was secretly angry that his kinsman had asked this impossible thing of him, and this anger and the keen desire to clear himself before witnesses made him careless of cruelty in his dealing with Charles.
'Regrets—' he lifted his fine shoulders. 'How useless to afflict you with them, my dear cousin! A little thought will convince you how hopeless is your position in Venice—in Ferrara now—'
'In a word,' interrupted Charles fiercely, 'you, too, cast me off?'
'No—but I cannot shelter you here.'
The words were spoken brusquely, though still in the even tone of courtesy.
Charles turned sharply round and looked at the girl who stood in the window.
She was holding herself erect and alert, looking keenly from one to the other of the little group before her; the melting languor had gone from her glance, the infantile sweetness from her lips; the fairy Princess, the visionary Queen had vanished and in her stead was an anxious, worldly young woman.
In sheer reckless, imprudent devilry, Charles addressed her,—
'Will you not persuade your father, Fortunata, to protect me?'
He spoke in the tone of a favoured lover, and she blushed to the eyes.
As she drew slightly back, trembling and looking at him apprehensively, there was exactly the same expression on her face as he had seen on that of Adelaide de France when he had dared to make his audacious proposals.
'I never meddle in politics, cousin,' she said. 'If our playtime is ended—I am sorry—I shall always wish you good fortune.'
She tried to render her voice sweet, but in the ears of Carluccio it sounded shrill and harsh; he laughed out loud in grim scorn of himself...surely he might have known women better by now.
George Kelly took him by the arm.
'Sir, we had best be going—'
'Yes, we had best be going,' said Charles.
The Prince of Modena, whose eyes had applauded his daughter's speech, strove, now his point was gained, to cover his late harshness.
'You must not judge me by my necessities,' he said pleasantly. 'Some day you must command me to a greater service than any I have been able to render.'
Charles, on his way to the door, looked back over his shoulder and laughed again.
An hour before he had thought of this man as his friend and ally, of this woman as his future wife, now both regarded him with hostile eyes and mocked him with false courtesies.
'Write to me from Ferrara or Bologna,' added the Prince, 'and forgive me, my dear cousin, my seeming inhospitality.'
Charles made no answer, but catching hold of Kelly, hurried him from the room into the flambeaux-lit painted corridor that led to the water steps.
'Faint-hearted and traitorous!' he cried wildly. 'How they trembled, Kelly, at the mere thought of the Pope's anger.'
'Not only the Pope,' answered the secretary; it is all Europe whom they have to dread.'
'Oh, remind me that I am like a homeless dog on whom every door is shut!' exclaimed Charles fiercely; 'forced to skulk in holes and corners—and whose is the shame?'
'Bitter words will not help,' said George Kelly dryly. 'There are other disappointed men besides your Highness.'
He guided the Prince into the hired gondola in which he had come.
'It is so late,' he said in a low voice, 'that I think we may return to the Legation for the few hours till dawn.'
'We will not,' returned the Prince fiercely. 'I will not set eyes again on that perfidious priest.'
A lackey came running out with Charles's hat and cloak that he had forgotten in the agitation of his departure.
As the gondolier, in response to Kelly's whispered directions, pushed off from the steps, Charles felt in the pockets of his mantle.
One of them contained, as he had suspected, a heavy purse of money, put there by the Prince of Modena or his daughter.
With a cry of rage Charles was in the act of casting his dole back at the palace steps, when Kelly seized his arm, wrenched away the purse, and put it in his own pocket.
'Since we must take charity from some one,' he remarked cynically, 'it may as well be from the Prince of Modena.
Charles sank back without a word on the black velvet cushions, and buried his face in his hands.
The secretary was silent; he knew, too well, how utterly hopeless it was to persuade the Prince to accept the establishment offered in a Papal city, or, indeed, to any reasonable course. Kelly's design was no more than to get his master to the legation, force on him a little repose, gather together their luggage and whatever might be offered them (the secretary had become vulture-like in his pouncings on any possible perquisites) and set out, in some disguise, on any road that should lead them away from Venice.
His busy brain had already thought of Prussia—there was the Earl Marischal there, and the King was known to hate the Elector of Hanover...
The Prince interrupted his thoughts by ordering the gondola to stop.
They had reached a little piazetta in front of a church that was lit by the lamps either side of a shrine to the Virgin.
Here a little crowd was gathered, watching a shabby columbine dance on the pavement by the light of the sacred lamps.
The short skirts were of soiled pink and white silk, her one adornment was a string of the shells from Lido, known as fiori de mare, threaded with gold beads, and a wreath of wilting roses on her fair, floured hair.
But she was young and fresh with the opulent charm of the women of the Veneto, and she danced with grace and vigour. There was about her a midsummer magic, a golden languor, a savour of rich fruit and wild flowers that made her wonderful against the dusky background of the night.
A ragged scaramouche was collecting coins in a shell, Arlequino was turning somersaults under the shrine; the Prince's gondola ground against the water steps, and Charles stepped ashore.
'What is this?' cried Kelly in a tone of strong agitation as he climbed after him.
Charles put on his mantle, which was one of those which gave the appearance of a uniform to the Venetian nobility, and took from his breast one of the white masks commonly worn by all who went abroad in this city.
'Go your way,' he said as he fastened this over his face. 'A homeless man can have no servants...nay, no friends. I will find my own night's lodging.'
'What bitter madness is this?' whispered Kelly. 'Will you not come with me?'
The secretary dropped at the Prince's feet the purse he had recently wrested from him.
'As well part now as any other time,' he said, and returned to the gondola.
Charles stood still and listened to the splash of the oars coming from the darkness that concealed his last friend.
The air was full of the melody of caged nightingales hung from the upper windows of the palaces, and of the perfume of syringa and jasmine from the terrace gardens.
The scaramouche was now plucking at the strings of a lute; the Madonna's light fell on his travesty of a figure and on the voluptuous yet melancholy movements of the dancer.
Charles stepped forward, looking now, in mask and cloak, like any Venetian patrician.
'Scaramouche!' he cried. 'Come and pick up this purse!'
The creature darted forward, snatched the embroidered bag worked by the idle fingers of Fortunata D'Este, and stood cringing before the Prince.
'Take it to Columbine,' added Charles, 'and ask her what lodging for the night can be purchased for that sum.'
The girl came forward. She seemed luminous, rosy, like amber, grapes, and white wine or honey, in the flickering lamplight.
She caught at the purse, glanced at the contents, and her whole face glowed.
'For me?' she asked.
Yes,' said Charles, and my night's lodging.'
He used the clear Italian that bespoke him as not of Venice, and the spectators melted away before the too usual sight of a foreigner taking his diversions...it was obvious that the girl would dance no more.
The Arlequino whistled, and a gondola glided up on the smooth surface of the caneletto; Columbine linked her arm through that of the Prince.
He followed her into the gondola, and sank beside her behind the glass of the feltze, darkness enclosing them.
As he embraced her he felt the purse of gold hard between her soft breasts.
I will lodge you as you have never been lodged before,' she whispered, 'in a deserted palace, on a seaweed mattress, with a window looking towards the sunrise at Friuli—and the sea-gulls flying past to wake you in the morning, my noble lord.'
On a freezing night in winter, Henry Goring, muffled in a great-coat and a slouch hat, was cautiously making his way through the streets of Paris, in constant terror of being recognised either by some agent of the French Government or some spy of Lord Albemarle, the English Ambassador, and having ever before his disturbed mind a vision of 'that horrid Bastille,' of which he had once been an inmate.
He had crept out cautiously from his hiding-place in the convent of the English Benedictines, and was glad of the fierceness of the night that rendered observation unlikely. A heavy sleet was falling, the streets were a mass of slush and frozen stones, here and there planks were thrown down on the worst places; when a cart or carriage passed a fountain of mud and garbage was cast up into the air; the streets were unlit, most of the houses shuttered, and Goring had only the occasional murky light of the cabarets and his own intimate knowledge of the byways of Paris to guide him.
He was, however, sorrowfully intimate with the streets and alleys of the capital, where he so often hid at peril of his life, and he managed to arrive with but little delay at his dangerous rendezvous.
This was a house in one of the meanest quarters of Paris—St Marcel—a sort of inn or lodging-house, cheap and bare, and much used by disreputable foreigners.
The great signs clattered in the wind above Goring's head, but it was too dark for him to read them; still, he was tolerably sure of the situation of the house, and knocked on the shabby door.
It was instantly opened by a slatternly woman; an odour of grease and dirt and foul air rushed out into the bitter night.
'M. Williams lodges here?' asked Goring. 'I have an appointment with him—my name is Scobel.'
The woman stepped aside and allowed him to enter the evil-smelling passage.
'M. Williams's room upstairs, the first door,' she announced briefly, and watched with something of suspicion the stranger ascending the rickety stairs. 'No need for any hurry,' she called out; 'he is out, and said nothing of his coming back.'
'I will wait,' replied Goring heavily.
He entered the apartment the landlady had indicated, threw off his wet mantle and hat, and sat down on one of the broken chairs.
Used as he was to the refuges of conspirators and the hiding-places of exiles, this room caused him a shudder.
The walls were of broken plaster, and seemed overlaid with frozen damp, a ragged quilt was pulled across the window, a straw mattress, a dirty blanket, and a plaid covered the pallet bed.
There were two miserable chairs and a small table, a cracked ewer and a chipped bowl, and in one corner a corded hair trunk.
The one touch of comfort in the sordid room was the small fire that burnt feebly in the unswept hearth.
Over this Goring cowered, keeping company with his own unhappy thoughts.
He was a sick man now, having ruined his health in the arduous service of the Prince. He had been to Poland, Prussia, England, Scotland, Sweden, Russia, wandering on foot in all weathers and under all conditions of penury and misery, in daily fear of his liberty or even his life; there was nothing difficult he had not undertaken for Charles, from the finding of a wife or raising money in England, to pawning shoe-buckles in Ghent or pistols in Riga, and smuggling the poor proceeds to Charles through the agency of Waters's bank. He had secretly distributed pamphlets and lampoons, medals and miniatures of the Prince, and even garters with Jacobite mottoes, and pincushions printed with the names of those who had died for the Stewarts in '45.
And now Charles had summoned him to this rendezvous, telling him that he had another service to ask.
Goring did not know that he was capable of any fresh service.
His last had been to interview, disguised as an abbé, the Earl Marischal in the garden of the Tuileries, and then again, in the dress of a lackey, in one of the fashionable lace shops in the Palais Royal.
George Keith, now Prussian Ambassador to Versailles, had been totally discouraging on the subject of any Jacobite plots or intrigues.
The cause was dead, he had said, and it was perverse folly to endeavour to bring it to life.
He utterly repudiated the Prince, who had, he declared, disgraced and ruined his family. 'No man,' the old Earl had declared sternly, 'who spends his days in a cabaret and his nights in a bagnio can hope to put his hand to such an enterprise as this.'
But to Goring himself he spoke very kindly, urging him to leave his fruitless and sordid labours, and to enter the Prussian service.
Goring was thinking of this as he cowered over the miserable fire.
He had indeed, as the Earl Marschal had pointed out, lost everything by following Prince Charles. Loyalty to the Stewarts was in his blood. His father had been a companion of Atherbury; his brother, Sir Charles, had sent huge sums to support the cause; he himself had been in close attendance on Charles since his own youth; and the end of this service found him penniless, exiled, ill. As he waited, depressed by the sordid room, which reeked of brandy and tobacco, the words of the Earl Marischal occurred to him vividly, and he asked himself, with the impatience of a sick man, if indeed anything more was to be hoped from Charles Stewart.
Goring did not know much of his adventures since he had seen him last; he was supposed to have been in England, in Scotland, in Prussia, travelling in the disguise of a Capuchin or a merchant, with painted face and black wig.
He had certainly broken long ago with Madame de Talmond, who would probably have betrayed him now had she been able, and there was no longer a refuge for him in the Convent St Joseph, nor indeed, reflected Goring bitterly, in any reputable place.
He wished that he had attached himself to the fortunes of the elder Stewart, which were dignified if melancholy.
James was passing his life in Rome in a state of pious resignation, a victim, certainly, to dyspepsia and religious gloom, but a stately and self-controlled, if sad, figure.
The Cardinal was entirely happy; one of the wealthiest prelates in Italy, he was enabled to live as the pattern of a benevolent Prince of the Church, indulging his mild passion for literature, for music, cultured leisure, and organised charity.
His own life was saintly; his greatest diversion to arrange the masses of his Venetian choir-master, Galuppi, for performance in his church of Santa Maria Campitelli.
A narrow, bigoted existence, perhaps, but poor Goring, shivering in this dirty room, with the langour of his disease upon him, thought rather wistfully of the comfort of it...After all, there was something in easy beds, in good food, in warm clothes and refined company, and the permission to walk undisguised and at ease abroad...
The door opened quickly and the Prince entered.
Goring rose with a little intake of his breath; how he had once thrilled to the presence of his idolised young master...They had not met for a long while.
'Good-evening,' said the Prince. 'I see that you keep up a poor fire.'
'There is but little wood, sir,' replied Goring.
This was their greeting, given to mask God knows what bitter and anguished thoughts on either side.
For a second they faced each other.
For the first time Goring saw the Prince shabby and ill-kempt; the taint of brandy was in his breath, and over his gallant handsomeness the first shadow of decay and ruin had fallen.
He wore the soiled clothes of an abbé, the garb so common in Italy among the poor and disreputable; dirty linen and tumbled bands, his own hair carelessly tied and powdered into the semblance of a wig.
His beauty had lost its gaiety, his youth its freshness, his eyes were shadowed, and the lines of heaviness developed about the mouth and chin; the full lips had a cynical curl, and his whole expression was the reckless defiance, the bitter bravado of the outlaw and the soured, disappointed man.
While Goring was observing these changes in him, he did not fail to note the alteration in Goring.
The one time equerry to the Queen of Hungary was marked by the cold hand of a mortal illness that had sapped his youth and his enthusiasms; his eyes were too bright, his complexion sallow, his lips feverish, he shivered in his cheap, perished clothes, and continually coughed.
Charles turned away and held out his hands to the feeble fire.
'This is a merry meeting,' he remarked grimly. 'Come, your news of Paris!'
'Your Highness has not been here long?' asked Goring, who was really in the dark as to his master's movements.
'A few days—hiding in this hole,' returned Charles. 'Have you brought any money?' he added, with fierce abruptness.
'How should I have any money?' answered Goring with a touch of sullenness; 'all the Jacobite funds are paid into Waters'.'
'I am overdrawn there and at Dormer's in Antwerp,' said Charles. 'I had to pawn my pistols to get your supper.'
As he spoke he pulled from his pocket a small loaf, a sausage, and a bottle of brandy, which he placed on the dirty table.
'The woman will cook when you have an appetite,' he remarked.
'I have none,' replied Goring.
But he opened the bottle and filled a horn glass tumbler he kept but too ready in his pocket; Goring remarked with what ease he threw down the neat brandy.
'Your Highness has still that consolation.'
'Else I were dead,' answered the Prince with a cold recklessness. 'It is a good friend, the drink, for one who is always cold—and hungry—and cursed, wandering homeless, pursued and despised.'
'My God!' cried Goring. 'Why do you not end it, sir?'
The Prince filled his glass again.
'End it?' he asked sarcastically.
'You can retire to the Papal States—give up these wild plots—live in peace and ease—'
'So you also call them wild plots, eh, Goring?'
'Before God, I know not what else to call them, sir.' The Prince emptied his glass.
'I prefer this,' he said with deliberate emphasis, glancing round the wretched room, 'to any residence the Pope could offer me.'
'It may, it has been, worse than this—at least for me.'
'Ha, you hanker after the flesh-pots, eh, Goring; the good, fat, comfortable Cardinal, with his bulging pockets and his heaped tables—'
'I am not with him—' interrupted the equerry.
'No, you poor devil, but with me—what are you living on?'
'Some few livres given me by the Earl Marischal, sir.'
'Will do nothing.'
'Ah, he also has grown fat and comfortable—will he repudiate me?'
'At least he will not help me?'
'Curse him,' said the Prince with ugly calm, for an old, foolish, mean villain.'
'He was ruined for your father, sir.'
'Curse you,' said Charles in the same tone, 'for reminding me of that.'
'Why, I am cursed enough, sir,' returned Goring, throwing more wood on the fire.
'Do you wish to leave me?' asked the Prince sharply.
Henry Goring stirred the fire into a blaze with his foot.
'As to that,' he replied slowly, 'I am a sick man, with but little more to give any one. But if'—he straightened his shoulders—' I could still serve you, sir, I should never say you no.'
'I knew that you would speak thus,' replied the Prince with a return to his old sweetness and charm; 'how can I be utterly lost while I have such friends?'
'Alas, sir, you should be your own best friend!'
'You think me a scandalous fellow?' he asked, then added in a more gentle tone than any he had yet used, Perhaps even you, Goring, do not know what it has all meant to me.'
What had it not meant to every one of them—to Goring himself and hundreds of others who had so bravely and gaily fastened the white cockades to their breasts.
The long heartbreak, the endless exile, the slow disappointments, the furtive secret life, the misery of poverty, and the poor, bitter shifts of want, the homesickness gnawing like a slow hunger during the passing of the fruitless years...
Charles laughed again.
'Come, we so seldom meet—let us be cheerful—take your supper and I will tell you what fresh work I have for you.'
'I recently dined,' said Goring, who had a sick man's distaste for food, and could not, sir, eat.'
The Prince approached the fire.
'Sit down, then,' he said in a tone of kind authority, 'and I will tell you my two commissions.'
They seated themselves either side of the fire, taking what comfort they could from the poor blaze. The first constraint of the meeting was over, and Charles was more at his ease, while Goring felt, much in the same way as the warmth of the fire crept over his limbs, a certain faint return of the old faith and confidence, the old love and loyalty, creep into his cold and tired heart.
Charles was still 'dearest Carluccio,' of an extraordinary attractiveness and charm, and when he wished to please he could still be the man who had been the idol of Paris and Scotland not so many years before.
And it was evident that he wished to please now. He bent his bright brown glance on poor Goring with a look of eager determination; this was one of the last instruments he had to use, he must go carefully lest it break in his hand.
'All depends on money,' he began, but I hope to have some soon.' He mentioned two women as being likely to send him funds from England: one was Madame de Mezières, once Fanny Oglethorpe, his father's old admirer; Goring could remember how James and his sons had always despised her for a poor, busy, vulgar intriguer.
Charles caught his glance.
'I can no longer be nice, my dear...The clans have dipped their hands in the Arkaig treasure...Before God! I have had nothing...Well, if this money comes, you go to Avignon.'
'Avignon?' echoed Goring, rather stupidly.
'To close my household there. I believe they are all starving. I have sent what I could, and they can get no more credit. You may fetch Harrington to Paris, together with Sheridan and Stafford, and the creditors must take the house and furniture. You should,' he added with the readiness of one long inured to dishonest expedients, 'be able to bring away all small effects.'
And the servants?' asked Goring; 'the poor loyal Highlanders, the faithful Romanists, who have waited so long?'
Charles stared into the fire.
'They must go their ways,' he said.
'I am to turn adrift, without money and without hope, men who left their all to follow you, sir?'
'They can find their bread,' answered the Prince, 'as I do.'
'They are proscribed exiles,' said Goring quietly, 'without a hope in the world beyond your Highness.'
'Let them go to Rome—the Cardinal is rich enough.'
'He, sir, is already burdened by too many of your adherents.'
'Then let them die and rot!' broke out Charles fiercely. 'I have nothing to give them, nothing! Am I not a hunted rat myself? Must I be for ever reminded of what that and this has done for me? Whatever happens to them, Goring, it cannot be worse than my fate.'
'You would not have spoken so a few years ago,' said the equerry. In the Prince's hot words, in his flushed, stormy face, his friend read the evidences of a character already threatened with ruin.
Goring rose, coughing, and hunching together his thin shoulders.
Give this commission to another,' he added, 'for I will not undertake it.'
Charles threw out an oath, learnt in the gutters of St Marcel.
'Perhaps Kelly will go,' said Goring; he had never loved the nonjuring parson.
This reminded Charles of an old grievance.
'Kelly left me—I sent him away to please your brother and his friends—Kelly was a better servant than any of you—he left me in Venice. Oh, I believe he is snug enough, the canting rascal, with some Popish pension.'
'Well,' answered Goring in a heavy tone, 'what is your other commission?'
Charles swore again. The hideous language he used betrayed the company he had kept, and ill suited his still noble and beautiful mouth. Then he controlled himself, as if reflecting that this man could still be of use to him, and that he had few others to turn to in this emergency.
He rose, caught Goring by the lapel of his shabby coat, bent so near that his brandy-laden breath was on the other's face, and said earnestly, Do you remember Miss Clementina Walkinshaw?'
This name was so unexpected by Goring, and it was so long since he had heard it that he was silent a moment with the effort of recollection and comprehension.
He knew of the Walkinshaws as a very doubtful family. The father of this Clementina had been one of the agents in the romantic flight of the Sobieski Princess to reach her future husband, James Stewart; on the other hand, her sister was in the household of the Hanoverian Princess of Wales, and there was a Mr. Walkinshaw who was suspected of being an English spy; as for the girl herself, Goring remembered that she had met Charles in Bannockburn House, outside Stirling, six years ago...He certainly could not have seen her since.
'You do not remember her?' asked the Prince, who had been watching his face intently.
'I recollect that there was such a person,' replied Goring.
Charles paused a second; when he spoke it was very deliberately.
'When I met her at Hugh Patterson's house she was a beautiful young woman...about twenty, I think...She nursed me, you know, Goring...I never thought much about her, I was not thinking of women at all in those days, but I always have remembered the last words she said to me—they were these:
"Wherever you are, whatever happens to you, if you want me I will come to you."...There had been no love between us, not much intimacy, but so she spoke...I have not seen her from that day to this.'
Goring looked relieved.
'But I have heard of her,' added the Prince. 'A man I met in Lunéville told me she was in Ghent. I heard of her again in Antwerp—she had fled from Scotland on the ruin of her family, and now, to obtain a living, has become Canoness of an order in Ghent.'
'A nun?' asked Goring.
'Nay, it is merely a retreat and a livelihood,' replied Charles with a certain eagerness...She obtained it from her uncle, Colonel Graeme, who was much in the Netherlands.'
'And how does this touch your Highness?' demanded Goring.
Again Charles was silent.
There was a flush on his face, not wholly due to the firelight, and he hesitated, in a fashion very unlike his previous abrupt haughtiness.
'I have written to Miss Walkinshaw,' he said at length, with the air of a man embarking on a recital of a thing difficult of explanation.
'You want her to be your agent—to do some work for you?' asked Goring tentatively.
'No,' said the Prince slowly. 'As you know, I have long left Madame de Talmond. I have been very lonely and beset by many devils. I asked Miss Walkinshaw to be my companion.'
My God!' exclaimed Goring.
The Prince paid no attention to this ejaculation, which he certainly had been expecting.
'I reminded her of what she once said to me,' he continued, 'and begged her to keep her promise. The other day, at Waters's, I found her answer. She is willing to come, but she has no money, and it would be difficult for her to travel alone. It would not be advisable for me to go to Ghent now; Dormer says that the Netherlands are full of spies—'
'Stop, sir,' interrupted Goring. 'Let me understand this thing clearly. You propose to attach this woman to yourself, to add to all your difficulties that of taking a mistress with you from place to place?'
'She can pass as my wife,' said Charles.
Henry Goring could scarcely find words. The whole scheme seemed to him preposterous, hateful madness.
'What do you know of her, sir?' he asked. 'Half of her family are Whigs—she may be a spy; her sister is at St James's—it will be a connection that will greatly damage you with the Jacobites, an open scandal that will further estrange your father and the Pope—a bar to any marriage or settlement.'
'Listen,' said Charles with a certain eagerness, as if he wished to brush aside all objections and come to the heart of the matter. 'Dormer in Ghent, he has taken a little house for me near the Place de l'Empereur—where I was this summer, till I began to be observed—here you may be lodged and bring the lady, taking her as far as Douai, where I could meet you—'
Again Goring interrupted.
'Believe me, sir, such commissions are for the worst of men, and such you will find for money, but they will likewise betray you for more.'
'You pretend to give laws in everything I do,' returned Charles angrily. 'You have often threatened to quit me if I will not do your will and pleasure. But I will forget what has passed provided you continue to do your duty.'
He was indeed eager to retain this man, once his most devoted adherent, for many had already failed him in this particular business.
Madame de Vassè, who, under the name of Madame La Grandmain, had been very active in the Prince's interest, had absolutely refused to have anything to do with 'this affair of the young lady,' and the result had been a quarrel. A French agent at Courtrai, Beson, had also proved recalcitrant, and Charles had no other to whom he could turn; Sullivan might have been willing, but he was shut up at Avignon.
'Nothing will alter my intentions or my plans,' he added obstinately.
'Then I can only lament an affair that I would with pleasure have given my life to prevent,' said Goring sternly.
'Do you refuse to help me?' demanded Charles 'refuse to escort this lady to Douai?'
Henry Goring's thin face was flushed as he replied,—
'Any honest man would answer as I have done, and rather lose their service than consent to such work. Do you believe, sir, that the Earl Marischal, or other of your friends, would consent to do it? Why should you think me less virtuous? My family is as ancient, my honour as entire. I am sorry from my heart that you do not feel these reasons, but must submit to my bad fortune.'
This is disloyalty,' said Charles hotly. 'To you think to move me this way?'
'If you are determined to have the young lady,' replied Goring grimly, 'let Mr. Sullivan bring her to you.'
'You—you refuse me!' cried Charles again.
Goring paused, looked at him, and then said, very sadly,—
'Sir, have compassion on yourself—do not let your spleen get the better of your judgment and your prudence. You have done many rash things lately, but this is the crowning folly.'
'What other charges have you against me?' asked Charles with a sneer.
'You dismissed Dumont—I know he was a rogue, but you knew that he could send me to the Bastille to-morrow, and many of my poor friends to a worse place—you have not kept faith with Lady Primrose, who was in a great way expecting your messenger whom you never sent—and as for your poor servants at Avignon—'
'They are Papists,' said Charles, 'and I have done with Papists.'
'Miss Walkinshaw, Sullivan, and Sheridan are Papists,' returned Goring. How will it look if you keep these and dismiss a few poor footmen, who followed your fortunes through Scotland and lost all thereby? And observe, sir, what will be the effect of your discarding these poor men, all of them deserving better treatment from you—they will come to Paris, and show the whole town, English, French, and strangers, an example of your cruelty; their religion being all their offence.'
'I care not what offence I give the Papists,' returned the Prince sullenly; they have treated me as if I was a dog.'
'And do you think,' answered Goring, that your Protestants will believe you the better Protestant for this? If you do, I am afraid that you will find yourself mistaken—it will be a handle for your enemies to represent you as a hypocrite in your religion and cruel in your nature, and show the world what those who serve you are to expect. I swear to the great God,' he added gravely, 'that I speak sincerely.'
'And I,' said Charles, remain unmoved by anything you have said.'
'Sir,' replied Goring, 'do as you think fit, but let me beg of you to give such commissions to somebody else; I am incapable of acting in an affair that will do you, sir, infinite prejudice and cover me with dishonour. Another consideration is that people who send you money from England will be annoyed at this poor use of it, and may stop supplies.'
Charles kept his temper.
'Let the matter of the servants go for the present,' he answered, 'but I charge you, on your allegiance, to obey me in the matter of the lady.'
Goring leant his forehead against the mantelshelf and stared down into the fading fire.
'I grow so infirm,' he said, 'that I beg your Highness's leave to retire from your service. I will tell my family that my health is my reason, and I do not doubt that they will maintain me.'
Then the two men looked at each other without speaking.
The same thought was in the minds of each; so it had come to this—after all the years of friendship and devotion, service and peril, hope and endeavour. It was impossible for Goring not to reflect on what he had given for the Prince, impossible for Charles not to reflect on what he had taken, impossible for both not to consider what they had lost.
Goring was the first to speak.
'Twice you have told me you could not be at the expense of maintaining me, and have offered to turn me off like a varlet without food or clothes—this time I take my own dismissal. I am, sir, sorry that I do not leave you under better circumstances.'
Charles did not answer, but continued to gaze into the flames; his face looked flushed and heavy, his figure was slightly bowed.
Goring, who had expected a fury of anger, was relieved by this silence.
He moved slowly to where his hat and cloak lay on the table, next to the poor provisions that Charles had purchased.
The Prince turned, saw his action, and picked up his own mantle from the chair behind him.
'Take my pelisse,' he said, 'it is warmer—in your state of health warmth is very necessary.'
Goring stared. Charles crossed the room and put his own garment, which was of superior quality and lined with wool, round the other man's thin shoulders.
'Good-bye, Stouf,' he said, using the name under which he had for so long corresponded with this faithful friend.
Goring looked wistfully into his master's face, and could not bring himself to speak.
'Where are you lodging?' asked Charles.
'At the Benedictines.'
'Not with Madame de Vassè?'
'No—not since—You have had no recent news of her, sir?'
No,' replied Charles, with a hard smile; 'she and I quarrelled as you and I have quarrelled.'
Goring looked away.
'You do not know, sir, then, that Mademoiselle de Ferrand des Marres is dead?'
Dead!' cried Charles.
So completely had he been cut off from his former friends that this news came as a complete surprise to him...Now he remembered that she had been always delicate lately, ailing.
Dead!' he said again.
She seemed to him still such a vivid, vital personality, this girl who had done his mending and his marketing, given him books, forwarded his correspondence, believed in him so sweetly and serenely...and now she was dead...Well, there was one the less to look with regret after him down the dark paths he was travelling.
'I will write to Madame de Vassè,' he said briefly. 'They were as loving sisters.'
'Very many lament Mademoiselle Lucie—the Abbé Condillac is to dedicate his next book to her memory, they say—'
Goring paused, then added faintly,—
'I do not like to take this mantle, sir.'
Charles smiled with that charm so hard to resist, the old charm that had once swayed men so completely.
'You are too offended with me even for that?' he asked. 'You and I need not part bitterly, eh, Goring? I owe you money, too.'
'There are expenses to the matter of about three hundred pounds to men like Beson,' said Goring, who had always scorned to take a penny for himself; he lived on supplies sent him by his brother.
'It shall be sent you,' answered Charles. 'To what address?'
'Through Waters, sir, as usual.'
The banker, who had served the Jacobites so well, was lately dead, but his son was continuing the business, which still served as the means of communication between the Prince and his followers both in England and abroad.
Again the two men looked at each other; there were tears in Goring's eyes, a faint, ironical smile on the Prince's lips.
'Good-bye again, Stouf,' he said.
Goring hesitated a moment, bowed and turned away with rather a stumbling step.
The Prince watched the door close on him, and listened to his step until it died away on the stairs.
Then, with no show of emotion, he went to the table, cut himself a slice of sausage and a slice of bread with his jack-knife, drank another glass of brandy, and filled an old pipe which he took from his pocket.
With this he returned to the fire, on which he piled the remaining logs, seated himself in the old rickety chair, ate his supper and smoked his pipe, staring into the flames.
He saw many figures there: Goring, eager, ardent, elegant, full of high spirits, Mademoiselle Lucie coming out of the chandler's shop with her candles, Clementina Walkinshaw, pale and enthusiastic, her soul on her lips as she parted from him with those passionate words There were other figures, too: Henry, gay and loving, his father, kind and fond, Lochiel, so proudly faithful, Cluny, left behind on the wild shores of the Isles—
And others whose images were smeared with blood, who would instantly crowd into Charles's vision in moments such as these: Kilmarnock, Lovat, Balmerino, Hamilton, Wedderburn, Donald Macdonald, Tullibardine, and others, known only to him by their fates—a crowd of these, too many for any man's peace of mind.
Charles moved impatiently in his chair, rose, and knocked out his pipe.
He rattled the few coins in his pocket, the result of the pawning of the jade-handled Polish pistols he had kept so long.
They were not enough to take him to Douai; he must remain here till supplies came through Waters. Lady Primrose had promised some money, but it meant delay, and meanwhile there was the household at Avignon and Sheridan writing frantically for help...
'Damn them all,' said Charles aloud.
His brow darkened at thought of his brother living in princely state and wealth; he was in no mood to take into consideration the fact that Henry was supporting many of his, the Prince's, own following, and had found a place in the little Court of James, for the young Lochiel, Sir Hector Maclean, Lochgarry, and that unsuspected traitor, Glengarry.
Charles now hated the Papists and any one connected with them; he meant, on his next visit to England, to formally renounce that faith and enter the Anglican Church, this not only in the desperate hope of counteracting the effect of his brother's fatal connection with Rome, but to show his hatred of the church for which his family had sacrificed their entire fortunes.
Slowly he paced the foul, dirty little chamber, his mind full of all savage, bitter, and fierce thoughts.
He was further than ever from giving in and responding to the appeals of his father, but he loathed the life he was forced to lead.
Freedom, open spaces, activity had always been what he had needed, and these he had long been denied in this furtive existence of hiding in cities and going warily to avoid spies and assassins.
This life and his heavy drinking was already beginning to tell on his superb constitution and gallant good looks, as it had already told on his character.
Last summer he had been ill at Lübeck; on his last visit to Paris Waters had had to smuggle a physician to his lodging.
That perfect health that was like a panacea against all evils was no longer his; he had abused the gifts of nature as fiercely and wantonly as the fates had abused him; his face had changed; though he was only just over thirty, it had no longer the golden look of youth, the generous, open, noble expression, and though he was in his full development handsomer than he had been as a youth, his look was closed, and often bitter and sullen, often reckless, hard, and unkind. But now, gradually, as he walked up and down, his splendid height making the room seem pitiful, his face softened to its old look of generous nobility.
He was thinking of Clementina Walkinshaw; the last faint glories of his dreams clung to this woman's figure, who was the fairy princess, the visionary Queen, in another guise—companion, lover, support, and comfort. The thought of her caught his thoughts back to wide Scottish days, that brief period of his glory and his agony.
He would find in her what he had never found in these Latin women...
His thoughts suddenly seemed to cloud and break; he stopped and looked about him, as if suddenly realising, with great vividness, his surroundings. He stood quite still, a strange figure in his abbé's dress, his bright hair showing through the powder, his face raised as if he listened.
Suddenly he flung himself on the miserable bed, and buried his face in his hands with a boyish gesture.
'Goring, too!' he muttered.
It seemed to Carluccio, at this crisis of his fortunes, as if money was the only good. As he hung about Paris in disguise and poverty this lack of money seemed to him the most important thing in the world.
Formerly he had attached no value to it whatever. The little that had come his way he had flung about with prodigal generosity; it had seemed to his pride that never would money be a necessity to him, so high a value had he set on his name and his future, so confident had he been in the faith and loyalty of many men.
He remembered the Earl Marischal's words, spoken after a thirty years' experience, which at the time he had hardly noticed, but which now stung in the recollection with the bitterness of truth.
Truly, there was nothing more galling, humiliating, and unendurable than this lack of money.
To borrow was hateful enough, but now there was no one from whom he could borrow; lately he had had to take money from women, but the last of these in Paris, Madame de Vassè, was too offended for him to be able to approach her, and there was nothing for him to do but to await the supplies from England, since young Waters, a more prudent man and not such an enthusiastic Jacobite as his late father, could advance no more money on the various busts, portraits, orders, and books he held in his charge.
Charles might have gone to the Principal of the Scottish College, who held the valuable books and papers of his father and grandfather, but in the violence of his reaction against Romanism, the rue des Fosses de St Victor had become utterly hateful to him, and he could not endure to even recall the chapel he had last visited the night Lochiel had died.
Very far away now seemed those days, faded and lost those fervours of pure loyalty, of ardent hope, of youthful zest in life for life's sake.
It hardly seemed possible to Charles, lodging in the rue Pied de Boeuf, that he had once been a brilliant figure at the Court, that the opera house had been packed by people eager to catch a glimpse of him, that adoring crowds had followed him in the Tuileries and the Palais Royal.
It seemed that no one remembered him in Paris, and now that Madame de Vassè's doors were closed to him, his last touch with the great world was lost.
Madame de Talmond had become dévote; she spent her days in a darkened room hung with pictures of early Polish saints and heroes, her sole companions her dogs, her monkey, some pet rabbits, and her confessor.
Charles, who thought of her with horror, believed that she would do him any evil that lay in her power did she know that he was in Paris. To Madame de Vassè he wrote a rather formal letter of condolence on the death of her beloved companion, and received no reply.
To his ancient friends the philosophes and men like Bulkeley and Condillac he no longer dare reveal himself; he knew that these men judged his cause utterly lost, and would regard him only in the light of a desperate, greedy, ruined adventurer..
Of many former companions he had lost all trace. Goring had now disappeared as completely as George Kelly; the Earl Marischal was in Prussian service; he had practically repudiated the Stewart cause, and made his peace with the House of Hanover; of Charles personally he had expressed open disgust. To this last of the cavaliers such a life as that led by the Prince could be nothing else than a defiling of old traditions, a dragging in the dust of many things that had once been very fine and haughty and noble.
At the present moment Charles himself was acutely aware of how his environment degraded and ruined his aspirations. While bargaining for fish and sausage in the dirty shops, turning over shirts unmended and badly washed, shivering in a room with a miserable fire or in a bed with a miserable coverlet, drinking vile wine in a vulgar cabaret, slinking along back streets, idle and forlorn, always shabby, always ill fed, always conscious of a dwindling hoard of small coins, it was difficult to recapture the spirit of Prestonpans, the entry into Edinburgh, or even the desperate energy of the march to Derby, or the romantic circumstances of his flight and hiding, difficult to dream kingly dreams and elevate himself to the grandeur of the fate he had chosen.
How much easier to have died nobly at Culloden than in this Paris garret...It had come to that now—not how much finer it would have been to have died at Culloden, but how much easier.
Yes, how much, much easier anything would have been, even to die as Charles I. had died, than this...
It never seemed to him that his fate was due to any fault of his own.
Like all wild, impetuous natures caught in the trap of circumstances woven by their own faults, he blamed some mysterious destiny that had malignantly pursued him, and then a combination formed of every one he had ever known who had combined to act against him.
It never occurred to him that he could ever have acted differently, and it really seemed to him that there had always been some vast conspiracy against him, and that his father, Henry, Louis, and people like Lord George Murray, Lord Lismore, Balhaldy, Cardinal Tencin, the Pope, and many others who had professed to be his friends, had been in this vast plot to confound and frustrate him.
The only people whom he remembered with any kindness or gratitude were those who had died for him...Kilmarnock, Tullibardine, Balmerino, and Lochiel...even men like Charles Radcliffe, whom he had never known personally.
All the others, even to Henry Goring and Kelly, seemed to him more or less traitors.
And then there were the women...He remembered them all, from Adelaide de France to the Venetian Columbine, as episodes in his downfall; all in their degree had tricked and deceived him, from the King's daughter who had lured him into thinking that she would consider him as a suitor, to the dancer of Venice who had robbed him of his watch as he slept on her sea-weed mattress.
There were gracious visions of women in his life: Flora Macdonald, Lucie Ferrand des Marres, and others, but they had hardly affected him, certainly not his life or his actions, and to think of them was but like looking at a bouquet of faded flowers long closed away in a press.
Here again he saw nothing wrong in himself, never blamed his easy, bitter acceptance of the bold women who thrust themselves upon him, was never conscious of his own lack of love and tenderness, or even of genuine passion, his own impatience of the feminine and dislike of their influence, nor of a certain bad taste, perhaps inherent in the Stewarts, which made him select always the wrong type of woman, the woman that was not worth the pains.
Though the last few years of his life had been coloured and tangled and spoilt by women, there was not one of them who had given him anything to remember except hatred, disgust, or that pale sentiment of kindness with which he regarded the memory of Mademoiselle de Ferrand.
All these women appeared scheming, trivial, vulgar, shallow, deceitful to his embittered heart; not one of them had tried to touch the noble or heroic chord—not one of them had lifted the melancholy level of his days by any great emotion...He could imagine the world well lost for love, but he had not yet met the woman who would be worth that price.
Unless—there was just that silver hope, growing stronger of late, and mingling a gentle radiance in his life like spreading moonlight in dark waters—that dark creature in Bannockburn House had really been the woman who was to gild his life. He could recall nothing to equal the sincere passion of her last words to him:—
'Whenever you want me, wherever you are, I will come!'
Often had this sentence flashed into his mind in some desolate loneliness, in some sordid carousal.
At heart he was romantic, in his temperament there was much of the heroic; it was part of his grievance that he had never found these qualities in others (he did not recognise them in Kelly, or Goring, or Mademoiselle de Ferrand), but he thought they were there, in that girl named after his mother.
In one fierce mood of despair he had written to her, putting his fate to the test with reckless bravado, as was his wont, and she had responded instantly.
She was willing to come to him, to leave her safe retreat, to share his ragged fortunes, to join him in his out-at-elbow days. His spirit rose instantly to meet hers; he thought of marriage.
To these proportions had the fairy Princess of the visions shrunk.
James himself, some time since, had written:—
'I think it better that you should marry any gentlewoman who will have you, rather than remain unsettled,' and though he had not meant by 'gentlewoman' such a one as Clementina Walkinshaw; still, that he should have used such an expression showed that the fortunes of Charles had reached the nadir.
But it was not of this point of view that Carluccio was thinking.
Though he had been disappointed in his last matrimonial attempt, which was for the hand of the sister of Frederick of Prussia, he still cherished hopes of a grand affiance, as he still cherished hopes of wearing the English crown.
And it did not seem grotesque to him that he proposed sacrificing a possible royal match for the sake of Miss Walkinshaw, so deep-seated were his chivalrous and generous impulses, so wayward and impetuous were his erratic emotions of noble tenderness and fantastic honour.
He had not absolutely decided to marry this woman, but in the miserable leisure of his wretched idleness he often dwelt on the idea. If she was what he dared to think her, she was worth such a price.
Her image became very wonderful to him. He could not quite recall her appearance, but she had left on his mind the impression of something dark and vivid.
Darkness was associated with the best women he had known—Flora Macdonald, Lucie Ferrand—fairness with such as Madame de Guèmènée.
He remembered one gown she had worn, mauve velvet, that seemed to have a bloom on it, with a deep cavalier collar of thick lace and her hair in simple ringlets—an old-fashioned gown, reminiscent of an earlier and nobler age, and suited to the wearer's simple and straightforward beauty.
He felt sure that she was noble; the way that she had kept aloof from him all these years, never striving to bring herself under his notice, and yet never taking any heed of any other man, and then her instant response to his appeal pleased him greatly and led him to think she was a creature after his own ideal. He was too humiliated by his helplessness to write to her, for there was nothing more to be said between them, except the final summons for her to come to him, and this was impossible without money.
But in those notes that he made—fierce, heartbroken scribblings on scraps of paper most of them, he often referred to her as the person who would be his salvation and his joy.
Sometimes he had moments of fierce reaction, when he considered her as little better than a tattered adventuress ready to grasp at the most desperate chance of bettering her fortunes; one, at best, a despairing creature, weary of her life of enforced retirement and eager for any excuse to get out of it; but he was always able to reassure himself that it was obvious that if she had wished for worldly advantages, she could have married, have turned Protestant, or even informer, and through her sister's influence have obtained pardon and position in London.
So his image of her remained unclouded on the whole, though now and then obscured by the vague and painful passions that agitated his aching heart.
There were moments when he tasted Hell, moments of sordid, drunken idleness, of fierce cursing despair, when it seemed that he only clung with feeble finger-tips above that precipice his sorrowful father had predicted for him the first year of his arrival in France, moods when he saw his youth, his hopes, his name, his cause, cast behind him, for gone and lost, and ahead nothing but the steep descent leading to the bottomless abyss.
He had done many things of which he was ashamed to think, and in these moments such recollections were as so many torturing stings. Despite his half-promise to Goring, he had dismissed the wretched household at Avignon; the poor Scottish servants were wandering disconsolately to Rome in the vain hope of help from James. Sheridan, Harrington, Sullivan, and the other gentlemen were living from hand to mouth in poor lodgings in the Papal city. Their constant appeals for money were goads and irritants to Charles, but he meant to send supplies when he received them himself. The three hundred to Henry Goring also weighed on him; he did not greatly care to think of Goring; the last look that he had seen on the face of the sick man haunted him; he wished his old friend had been more reasonable.
Going one day to Waters's to see if the long-expected letters from England had arrived, he was told, none, but a lady had that morning been there asking after him, and anxiously inquiring his whereabouts.
As she had shown such an intimate knowledge of the Prince's affairs as proved her to be closely in the circle of the Jacobite intriguers, the banker had given her the address in the rue Pied du Boeuf, not as that of the residence of Charles, but as a place where she might write for information regarding his whereabouts.
The Prince was vaguely interested. It might be Lady Primrose or Madame de Mezières come over with money, or it might be Madame de Vassè, repented of her anger, or even Madame de Talmond, on the track of mischief.
No good description of the lady was forthcoming. She was said to have been slender and elegant, in a plain travelling dress and veil, a description that would have suited any of the women whom Charles had in his mind.
When he found himself again in the streets with empty pockets his slight interest in this stranger vanished in the bitter vexation with which he realised his position.
He wandered down the rue St. Honorè and the rue Royal, where he had once ruffled it so bravely.
He was conspicuous now by reason of his shabbiness, and so many curious glances were cast at him that he regretted the daring impulse of curiosity and bravado that had led him to walk down these fashionable streets, instead of quickly returning home by the back ways, as was his custom.
The splendidly dressed men in the coaches filled him with rage, but it was the women who roused his most bitter fury. Their beauty, their luxury, their careless indolence exasperated him.
Each of them seemed but another variation of the type of Madame de Guèmènée or Madame de Talmond.
He remembered the caresses, the flatteries he had received, the conquests he might have made, and now knew himself forgotten, and some other man fawned on in his place.
Trivial and hateful they seemed to him, these women of a world that had cast him out, these creatures who had gilded and adorned his past life, and the thought of Clementina Walkinshaw was beautiful by contrast.
It was a bitter afternoon, and Carluccio was not warm enough in his perished clothes; he shuddered now and then as he slouched down the crowded streets.
He was disguised by his abbé's dress and a black old-fashioned wig, but more by his changed air and expression; it would have been a sharp observer who would have recognised in him the gorgeous young gallant who had been the idol of Paris a few years before.
As he turned into the foul, wretched streets that led to his lodgings, he counted the money in his pocket—a few louis were all he possessed in the world, and he owed more than half to his landlady.
Waters had talked of the packets being delayed by storms...
With a heavy step he mounted the narrow, dirty stairs to his room.
A child ran out from the kitchen and shouted up to him that there was a woman waiting—had been waiting half an hour.
As he opened the door he was acutely conscious of every detail of the room—the dirty floor and walls, the smoke-blackened ceiling, the broken chairs and tables, the dead fire on the untended hearth, the candle thrust into the mouth of a bottle that was the only light, the ragged curtain at the window, the air foul with the fumes of tobacco and spirits and stale cooking. Never had the hideousness of the place been so apparent to him, never had he been so keenly conscious of the depth to which he had fallen.
A woman rose from her seat by the table, where she had been sitting expectantly, in the circle of thin light cast by the candle.
He discovered that he had not remembered a line of her features; this woman whom he had last seen in Scotland, in the splendour of her early youth and her rich setting, now appeared to him a stranger; yet he knew who it was that confronted him.
Miss Walkinshaw?' he said as he closed the door.
She did not answer. She was wearing her conventual dress of dark stuff, over it a cheap travelling mantle of gray; her face, pale, fatigued and stained, it seemed, with tears, looked out radiantly from the folds of the full hood.
Very differently had he intended to meet her. With a fine equipage and money in his pocket he had dreamt to fetch her from her retreat and take her to some semblance of splendid living...Instead, she had come to him in the depths...
It seemed to him now all mad and cursed, a piece with his life of madness and mischance. He could not speak to her; he felt that he had done her an infinite wrong.
'Do you want me?' she asked. A sudden gust of passion made her quiver. 'Ah, do not send me away.'
At these words he forgot his pride, his situation, the craziness of it all, for this seemed to him the voice of the beloved, long pursued, elusive woman, the dream princess who had crowned his visions of his lost kingdom.
He put off his hat and the black wig and cloak of his disguise. When she saw his bright hair uncovered, she gave a sharp sigh.
He turned to her instantly.
My girl,' he said hoarsely, 'it is a lost cause—maybe a lost soul.'
I also have been lost,' she answered, 'without you, Charles. I lived in the memory of you and in the hope of this...Oh, my dear.'
Her voice trembled as she spoke. She leant towards him, and she was tall, so that their weary, eager faces were very near each other. He suddenly yearned for her unspeakably; she seemed the solution of all his difficulties, the comfort for all his miseries. He drew her close to him and dropped his shamed head on her shoulder.