By JOHN BLOUNDELLE-BURTON
I can tell you there was a pretty bustle around Paris
that night when the news came of the downfall
of the old Fox—the fox being none other than
Cardinal Alberoni, who had just been turned out of Spain
for his intrigues, King Philip V. having had enough of
him. Not that the man, who had been a gardener's son,
and a sort of buffoon once to the Duke of Parma, was so
wondrous old, since in this year of grace 1719 he was but
fifty-five. Only, when a man is a scheming knave, who
has passed his full prime, and is also a fox—why, one
generally calls him an old one.
Now, the news of Alberoni's disgrace at Madrid came
first to us at Versailles, just about four of the afternoon,
what time we of the Grey Musketeers were going off duty,
our place till midnight being taken by those of the cavalry
regiment of Vermandois, which had arrived a week ago
from Blois—came at the hands of the Comte St. Denis
de Pile, who had been sent off post-haste to Paris with
the information, and also with another piece of intelligence,
at which, I protest, not one of us could help laughing,
serious enough though the thing was. This news
being none other than that the crafty old Italian, who was
on his way to Marseilles, there to embark with all his
wealth for his native land, had absolutely carried off in his
possession the will of the late King of Spain, Charles II.,
in which he bequeathed his throne to the very man who
now sat upon it.
"And," exclaimed St. Denis de Pile, as he drank down
a flask of Florence wine which we produced for him in
the guard-room, "I'll be sworn that he means to send that
will to the Emperor of Austria, who, if he is not a fool,
will at once destroy it. And then, poof! poof! poof!"
and the Count blew out his moustache in front of his lip,
"what becomes of all that we fought for in the War of the
Succession? Tête de mon chien! it will have to begin all
over again. Your countrymen, my boy," and he slapped
me affectionately on the shoulder, for we had met often
enough before, "your countrymen, the English, will want
another war, King George may be willing enough to oblige
them, and the Treaty of Utrecht may as well be used to
light a fire."
Now here was what some of my countrymen call a
pretty kettle of fish. Peace was expected to be proclaimed
in Europe at this moment, since the war of the
Pyrenees was over. France and England were sworn
allies and bosom friends, otherwise be sure that I, an
Englishman, young and enthusiastic, would not have been
holding the commission of a cornet in the Musketeers, and
serving the Regent, or, rather, the boy king for whom he
ruled. And all in a moment it was just as likely as not
that that war might break out again through the craftiness
of the Cardinal, who, since he had fallen, evidently did
not mean to do so without pulling others down with him.
For Austria had never willingly resigned her claims on
the throne of Spain, remembering that the old French
King had once formally waived all the claims of his own
family to it, Will or no Will, and had then instantly
asserted them on the death of Charles; while for my
country—well! we English are not over fond of retreating
from anything we have undertaken, though, for widely-known
considerations not necessary to set down here, we
had at last agreed to that peace of Utrecht, our having
thoroughly beaten the French by sea and land before we
did so, being, perhaps, the reason why we at last came in.
"What's to be done?" said old D'Hautefeuille now,
who was in command of the Grey Musketeers at this time.
"What? What? Le Debonnaire is at the Palais Royal—he
must know the news at once. De Pile, you must
ride on to Paris."
"Fichtre for Paris!" exclaimed the Count. "I am
battered enough already with my long ride. Think on't—from
Madrid! Through storms and burning suns, over
mountains and through plains, over two hundred leagues
and across half a score of horses' backs. Also, observe—the
letter is inscribed to the Regent's Grace at Versailles.
I have done my duty——"
"No 'buts,' D'Hautefeuille. My work is done. Let
the King's lieutenant of Versailles, who commands in his
and the Regent's absence, take charge of the paper. For
me a bottle and a meal, also a bed."
"Then take it to the lieutenant," said fiery D'Hautefeuille;
"hand it to him yourself, and bid him find a
courier to Paris. Peste! you, a royal messenger who can
ride from Madrid here, and yet cannot finish the journey
to Paris! Bah! go and get your bottle and your bed—and
much good may they do you."
Whereon the old fellow turned grumpily away, bidding
some of the younger ones amongst us not to be loitering
about the galleries endeavouring to catch the eyes of the
maids of honour, but, instead, to get off to our quarters
and be ready to relieve the officers of the Vermandois
regiment at midnight.
Yet, one amongst us, at least, was not to hear the
chimes of midnight summoning us to the night guard,
that one being myself, as you shall see. Nay, not one
hour later was to ring out from the palace clock ere, as
luck would have it, I was called forth from my own
quarters—or rather from the little salon of Alison de
Prie (who was a maid of honour, and who had invited
me in to partake of a pâté de bécasse which her father had
sent her from his property near Tours) by an order to
attend on D'Hautefeuille in his quarters.
Whereon I proceeded thither and found him in a very
bad temper—a thing he suffered much from lately, since
he also suffered from a gout that teased him terribly. Then,
immediately, he burst out on my putting in an appearance.
"Now, Adrian Trent, it is your month of special
service, is it not?"
"It is, monsieur," I answered, wondering what was
"So! very well. Here then is something for you to
do—that is, if the turning of my officers into couriers
and post-boys and lackeys constitutes 'special service.'
However, three creatures have to obey orders in this
world, soldiers, wives, and dogs, therefore I—and you—must
do so. Here, take this," and he tossed to me
across his table a mighty great letter on which was a
formidable red seal—"have your horse saddled and be
off with you to Paris. Give it into the Regent's hand.
It is the account of Alberoni's disgrace which that fainéant
De Pile could bring all this way, but no farther. Away
with you! The King's lieutenant seems to think that De
Pile is discharged of his duty here. Away with you!
What are you stopping for? You know the road to Paris,
I suppose? You ought to. It's hard enough to keep you
boys out of it if I give you an afternoon's leave. Be off!"
So off I went, and five minutes afterwards my best
grey, La Rose, was saddled, and I was riding swiftly
towards where the Regent was at the present moment.
Now, who'd have thought when I went clattering
through Sèvres and Issy, on that fine winter afternoon, in
all the bravery of my full costume—which was the handsomest
of any regiment in France, not even excepting our
comrades of the Black Musketeers—who'd have thought,
I say, that I was really taking the first steps of a long,
toilsome journey, which, ere it was ended, was to bring
me pretty near to danger and death? However, no need
to anticipate, since those who read will see.
An hour later I was in Paris, and then, even as I went
swiftly along amidst the crowds that were in the streets,
especially in those streets round about the Palais Royal, I
found that one thing was very certain, namely, that though
I might be now carrying on De Pile's message from the
Court of Spain to the Court of France, the purport of it
was already known. Near the Palais Royal were numerous
groups gathered, who cheered occasionally for France
and England, which did me good to hear; then for
Spain and France, which did not move me so much;
while, at the same time, I distinctly heard Alberoni's name
mentioned, with, attached to it, expressions and epithets
that were anything but flattering. Also, as I made for
the entrance opposite the Louvre, people called attention
to me, saying, "Voila le beau Mousquetaire—chut! doubtless
he rides from Versailles. Brings confirmation of the old
trickster's downfall. Ho! le beau Mousquetaire." While a
strident-voiced buffoon cried out to me, asking if all my
gold galloon and feathers and lace did not sometimes get
spoilt by the damp of the wintry weather, and another
desired to know if my sweetheart did not adore me in my
However, La Rose made her way through them all,
shaking her bridle-chain angrily if any got before her,
breathing out great gusts from her fiery nostrils, and casting
now and again the wicked white of her eye around;
she was a beauty who loved not to be pestered or interfered
with. And at last I was off her back, at the door
near the Regent's apartments on the south side, and asking
for the officer of the guard; and half-an-hour later I
was in the presence of the Regent himself, who sat writing
in a little room about big enough to make a cage for a
bird. Yet, in spite of the way in which his Highness
spent his evenings and nights, and also of his supper
parties and other dissipations, he did as much work in
that little cabinet as any other twelve men in France.
Because he was a very perfect gentleman—no matter
what his faults were (he answered for them to his Maker
but a little while after I met him)—he treated me exactly as
though I were his equal, and bade me be seated while he
read the letter calmly; then, looking up at me, he said—
"I knew something of this before. Even my beloved
Parisians know of it—how they have learnt it Heaven alone
can say. Still it is known. Alberoni was to leave Madrid
in forty-eight hours from the time of receiving notice.
Here he paused, and seemed to be reflecting deeply.
Then he said aloud, though more to himself than to me,
"I wonder if he has got the will?"
It not being my place to speak, I said nothing, waiting
to receive orders from him. And a moment later he
again addressed me.
"You mousquetaires have always the best of horses and
are proud of them. I know; I know. I have seen you
riding races against each other at Versailles and Marly.
And, for endurance, they will carry you far, both well and
swiftly, in spite of your weight and trappings. Is it not
"It is so, monseigneur," I answered, somewhat wonderingly,
and not quite understanding what way this talk
"How fast can you go? Say—a picked number of
you—ten—twenty—go for two days?"
"A long way, monseigneur. Perhaps, allowing for
rest for the animals, nearer forty than thirty leagues."
"So! Nearer forty than thirty leagues. 'Tis well."
Here he rose from his chair (I, of course, rising also),
turned himself round, and gazed at a map of France hanging
on the wall; ran, too, his finger along it from the
Pyrenees in the direction of Marseilles, while, as he did
so, he muttered continually, yet loud enough to be quite
audible to me—
"He would cross there—there, surely. Fifteen days
to quit Spain, two to quit Madrid—seventeen altogether.
From the fifth. The fifth! This is the twelfth. Ten
Then he continued to run his finger along the coast
line of the Mediterranean until it rested on Marseilles, at
which he stood gazing for some time. But now he said
nothing aloud for me to listen to, though it was evident
enough that he was considering deeply; but at last he
"His Eminence must be met and escorted—yes,
escorted—that is it—escorted in safety through the
land. Ay, in safety and safely. He must not be molested
nor—" while, though he turned his face away to gaze at
the map again, I would have been sworn that I heard
him mutter—"allowed to depart quite yet." Then he
suddenly said, "Do you know the house of the Chevalier
de Marcieu? It is in the Rue des Mauvais Garçons."
"I know the street, monseigneur. I can find the
"Good! Therefore proceed there at once—the number
is three—you are mounted, of course? Give my orders
to him that he is to come here instantly; then return and
I will give you some instructions for your commander."
Whereon I bowed respectfully as I went to the door,
the Regent smiling pleasantly upon me. Yet, ere I left
him, he said another word, asked a question.
"You mousquetaires gris have not had much exercise
lately at Versailles, I think. Have you?"
"No, monseigneur, not our troop at least. The men
have been but recently remounted."
"So. Very well. You shall have some exercise now.
'Twill do you good. You shall have a change of billet for
a little while. In any case, Versailles is too luxurious a
place for soldiers. Now, away with you to Marcieu's
house and bid him come here. Return also yourself.
Forget not that."
A GIRL CALLED DAMARIS
A week later, or, to be exact, six days, and the troop of
Grey Musketeers, commanded by Captain the Vicomte de
Pontgibaud—which was the one in which I rode as cornet—was
making its way pleasantly enough along the great
southern road that runs down from Paris to Toulouse.
Indeed, we were very near that city now, and expected to
be in it by the time that the wintry evening had fallen.
In it, and safely housed for the night, not forgetting that
the suppers of Southern France are most excellent and
comforting meals, and that the Lunel and Roussillon are
equally suited to the palate of a soldier, even though that
soldier be but twenty years old; as I was in those days,
now, alas! long since vanished.
But, ere I go on with what I have to tell, perhaps you
would care to hear in a few words how I, Adrian Trent,
an Englishman, am riding as cornette or porte drapeau in a
corps d'élite of our old hereditary enemies, the French.
Well, this is how it was. The Trents have ever been
Royalists, by which I mean that they and I, and all of
our thinking, were followers of the House of Stuart.
Now, you who read this may be one of those—or your
father may have been one of those—who invited the
Elector of Hanover to come over and ascend the English
throne, or you may be what my family and I are at the
present moment, Jacobites. Never mind for that, however.
You can keep your principles and we will keep
ours, and need not quarrel about them. Suffice it, therefore,
if I say that our principles have led us to quit England
and to take up our abode in France. And if ever King
James III. sits on—However, no matter for that either;
it concerns not this narrative.
My father was attached to the court of this King, who
was just then in temporary residence in Rome—though,
also, he sojourned some time in Spain—but, ere he followed
his sovereign's errant fortunes, he obtained for me
my guidon in the Musketeers, which service is most agreeable
to me, who, from a boy, had sworn that I would be
a soldier or nothing; while, since I cannot be an English
one, I must, perforce, be in the service of France. And,
as I trust that never more will France and England be
flying at each other's throats, I do hope that I may long
wear the uniform of the regiment. If not—But of that,
too, we will not speak.
To get on with what I have to tell, we rode into
Toulouse just as the winter day was coming to an end,
and a brave show we made, I can assure you, as we drew
up in the great courtyard of the old "Taverne du Midi," a
place that had been the leading hostelry ever since the
dark ages. For in that tavern, pilgrims, knights on their
road to Rome and even the Holy Land, men of different
armies, wandering minstrels and troubadours, had all been
accustomed to repose; even beggars and monks (who
paid for nothing) could be here accommodated, if they
chose to lie down in the straw amongst the horses and
sing a good song in return for their supper.
And I do protest that, on this cold December night,
when the icicles were hanging a foot long from the eaves,
and bitter blasts were blowing all around the city—the
north-east winds coming from away over the Lower Alps of
Savoy—you might have thought that you were back again
in those days, if you looked around the great salle-à-manger
of the tavern. For in that vast room was gathered together
a company which comprised as many different kinds of
people as any company could have consisted of when
met together in it in bygone ages. First, there was the
nobleman who, because he was one, had had erected
round his corner a great screen of arras by his domestics;
such things being always carried in France by persons of
much distinction, since they could neither endure to be
seen by the commoner orders, nor, if they had private
rooms, could they endure to look upon the bare whitewashed
walls of the rooms, wherefore the arras was in
that case hung on those walls. This great man we did not
set eyes on, he being enshrouded in his haughty seclusion,
but there was plenty else to be observed. Even now, in
these modern days of which I write, there were monks,
travellers, a fantoccini troupe, some other soldiers besides
ourselves, they being of the regiment of Perche, the intendant
of the solitary lord, and ourselves. Our troopers
alone numbered twenty, they having a table to themselves;
while we, the officers, viz., the captain (De Pontgibaud),
the lieutenant (whose name was Camier), and I
(the cornet), had also a table to ourselves.
Yet, too, there was one other, and, if only from her
quaint garb, a very conspicuous person. This was a girl—and
a mighty well-favoured girl too—dark, with her hair
tucked up all about her head; with superb full eyes, and
with a colour rich and brilliant as that of the Provence
rose. She made good use of those eyes, I can tell you,
and seemed nothing loth to let them encounter the glance
of every one else in the room. For the rest, she was a
sort of wandering singer and juggler, clad in a short
spangled robe, carrying a tambour de basque in her hand,
while by her side hung a coarse canvas bag, in which, as
we soon saw, she had about a dozen of conjuring balls.
"Who is that?" asked De Pontgibaud of the server,
as he came near our table bearing in his hand a succulent
ragôut, which was one of our courses—"who and what?
A traveller, or a girl belonging to Toulouse?"
"Oh!" said the man, with the true southern shrug of
his shoulders, "that!—elle! She is a wandering singer, a
girl called Damaris. On her road farther south. Pray
Heaven she steals nothing. She is as like to if she has the
chance. A purse or even a spoon, I'll wager. If I were
the master she should not be here. Yet, she amuses the
company. Sings love ballads and such things, and juggles
with those balls. Ha! giglot," he exclaimed, seeing the
girl jump off the table she had been sitting on, talking to
a bagman, and come towards us, "away. The gentlemen
of the mousquetaires require not your company."
"Ay, but they do though," the girl called Damaris
said, as she drew close to where we sat. "Soldiers like
amusement, and I can amuse them. Pretty gentlemen,"
she went on, "would you like a love song made in Touraine,
or to see a trick or two? Or I have a snake in a
box that can do quaint things. Shall I go fetch it—it will
dance if I pipe——"
"To confusion with your snake!" exclaimed the waiting
man, "we want no snakes here. Snakes, indeed——!"
"Well, then, a love song. This pretty boy," and here
she was forward enough to fix her eyes most boldly on
me, "looks as if he would like a love song. How blue
his eyes are!"
Alas! they are somewhat dim and old now, but then,
because I was young and foolish, and because my eyes
were blue, I felt flattered at this wandering creature's
remark. However, without waiting for an answer, she
"Come, we will have a trick first. Now," she said,
pulling out three of the balls from her bag, "you hold
that ball, mon enfant—thus," and she put one red one—the
only red one—into my hand. "You have it?"
"Yes," I said, "I have it;" and, because it was as big
as a good-sized apple, I closed my two hands over it.
"You are sure?"
"Show it then." Whereon I opened my hands again,
and, lo! it was a gilt ball and not a red one that was in
"Show that trick to me," said a voice at my back,
even as De Pontgibaud and Camier burst out a-laughing,
and so, too, did some of the people in the great hall who
were supping, while I felt like a fool. "Show that trick
to me." And, looking round, I saw that it was the Chevalier
de Marcieu who had spoken; the man to whom the
Regent had sent me, and who had ridden from Paris with
us as a sort of civilian director, or guide; the man from
whom we were to take our orders when acting as guard
to Alberoni when he passed this way, presuming that we
had the good fortune to encounter his Eminence; he who
was to be responsible for the safety of the Cardinal.
Now, he knew well enough that we of the mousquetaires
gris did not like him, that we regarded him as a spy—which,
in truth, he was, more or less—and that his company
was not absolutely welcome to us. Wherefore, all
along the road from Paris he had kept himself very much
apart from us, not taking his meals at our table—where
he was not wanted!—and riding ever behind the troop,
saying very little except when necessary. But now he
had evidently left the table at which he ate alone and had
come over to ours, drawn there, perhaps, by a desire to
witness the girl's performances.
"No," she said, "I shall not show it to you. I do not
do the same trick twice. But, if you choose, I will fetch
my little snake. Perhaps that would amuse you."
"I wish to see that trick with the red ball," said De
Marcieu quietly, taking no notice whatever of her emphasis
on the word "you." "Show it to me."
For answer, however, she dropped the balls into the
bag, and, drawing up a vacant chair which stood against
our table—she was a free and easy young woman, this!—said
she was tired, and should do no more tricks that
night. Also, she asked for some of our Roussillon as a
payment for what she had done. Whereupon Camier
poured her out a gobletful and passed it over to her,
which, with a pretty little bow and grimace, she took,
drinking our healths saucily a moment later.
Meanwhile I was eyeing this stroller and thinking that
she was a vastly well-favoured one in spite of her brown
skin, which, both on face and hands, was a strange colour,
it not being altogether that wholesome, healthy brown
which the winds and sun bring to those who are always
in the open, but, instead, a sort of muddy colour, so that
I thought, perhaps, she did not use to wash overmuch—which,
maybe, was like enough. Also, I wondered at
the shapeliness of her fingers and hands, the former being
delicate and tapering, and the nails particularly well kept.
Likewise, I observed something else that I thought strange.
Her robe—for such it was—consisted of a coarse, russet-coloured
Nîmes serge, such as the poor ever wear in
France, having in it several tears and jags that had been
mended roughly, yet, all the same, it looked new and
fresh—too new, indeed, to have been thus torn and
frayed. Then, also, I noticed that at her neck, just above
the collar of her dress, there peeped out a piece of lace of
the finest quality, lace as good as that of my steinkirk or the
ruffles of a dandy's frills. And all this set me a-musing,
I know not why.
Meanwhile Marcieu was persistent about that red ball,
asking her again and again to try the trick on him, and
protesting in a kind of rude good-humour that she did
not dare to let him inspect the ball, since she feared he
would discover some cunning artifice in it which would
show how she made it change from red to gilt.
"Bah!" she replied, "I can do it with anything
else. Here, I will show you the trick with other balls."
Whereon, as she spoke, she drew out two of the gilt ones
and said, "Now, hold out your hands and observe. See,
this one has a scratch on it; that one has none. Put the
second in your hand and I will transfer the other in its
"Nay," said the chevalier; "you shall do it with the
red or not at all."
"I will conjure no more," she said pettishly. Then
she snatched up the goblet of wine, drank it down at a
gulp, and went off out of the room, saying—
"Good-night, mousquetaires. Good-night, Blue Eyes,"
and, I protest, blew me a kiss with the tips of her fingers.
The sauciness of these mountebanks is often beyond
The chevalier took the vacant chair she had quitted,
though no one invited him to do so, his company not
being desired by any of us, and Pontgibaud, calling for a
deck of cards, challenged Camier to a game of piquet.
As for me, I sat with my elbows on the table watching
them play, though at the same time my eye occasionally
fell on the spy, and I wondered what he was musing
upon so deeply. But, presently, he called the drawer
over to him and gave an order for some drink to be
brought (since none of us had passed him over the flask,
we aristocratic mousquetaires not deeming a mouchard fit
bottle-companion for us), and when it came he turned
his back to the table at which we sat, and asked the man
a question in a low voice; though not so low a one but
that I caught what he said, and the reply too.
"Where is that vagrant disposed of?" he asked.
"With those other vagabonds, I suppose," letting his eye
fall on the members of the fantoccini troupe, "or in one
of the stables."
"Nay, nay," the server said, "she is not here, but at
the 'Red Glove' in the next street. She told me to-night
that that was her headquarters until she had visited every
inn and tavern in Toulouse and earned some money.
Then she will go on to Narbonne."
"So! The 'Red Glove.' A poor inn that, is it not?"
Whereon the man said it was good enough for a
wandering ballad-singer anyhow, and went off swiftly to
attend to another order at the end of the room, while
Marcieu sat there sipping his drink, but now and again
casting his eye also over some tablets which he had drawn
out of his pocket.
But at this time nine o'clock boomed forth from the
tower of the cathedral hard by, which we had noticed as
we rode in, and Pontgibaud gave the troopers their orders
to betake themselves to their beds; also one to me to go
to the stables and see that all the horses were carefully
bestowed for the night, since, though the troop-sergeant
had made his report that such was the case, he required
confirmation of it. Wherefore I went to the end of the
room, and, taking my long grey houppelande, or horseman's
cloak (which we mousquetaires, because we always had
the best of everything, wore trimmed with costly grey fur),
I donned it, and was about to go forth to the stables when
I heard Pontgibaud's voice raised somewhat angrily as he
spoke to the chevalier.
"Fichtre for such an arrest!" I heard him say, while
the few strangers who had not gone to their beds—as
most had done by now—cast their eyes in the direction
where he and Marcieu were. "Not I! Body of my
father! what do you take my gentlemen of the mousquetaires
to be? Exempts! police! Bah! Go to La
Poste. Get one of their fellows to do it. We are soldiers,
"I have the Regent's orders," Le Marcieu replied
quietly, "to arrest him or any one else I see fit. And,
Monsieur le Vicomte, it is to assist me that your 'gentlemen
of the mousquetaires' are here in Toulouse—have
ridden with me from Paris. I must press it upon you to
do as I desire."
Now, I could not wait any longer, since I had my
orders from Pontgibaud to repair to the stables and see
that the chargers were comfortable for the night, and as,
also, I saw a glance shoot out of his eye over the other's
head which seemed to bid me go on with my duty. Upon
which I went out to the yard, noticing that the snow was
falling heavily, and that it was like to be a hard winter
night—went out accompanied by a stableman carrying
"Give it me," I said, taking the lamp from him, "I
will go the round myself. Also the key, so that I can
lock the door when I have made inspection."
"Nay, monsieur," he answered, "the door cannot be
locked. The inn is full; other travellers' horses are in
the stable; they may be required at daybreak."
"Very well," I replied, "in that case one of our men
must be roused and put as guard over the animals; they
are too valuable to be left alone in an open stable," and,
as I spoke, I thought particularly of my beautiful La Rose,
for whom I had paid a hundred pistoles a year ago. Then
I gave the fellow a silver piece and bade him go get a
drink to warm himself with on this winter night, and
entered the stable.
The whinny which La Rose gave as I went in showed
me where all our horses were bestowed, and I proceeded
down to the end of the stable, observing when I got there
that they were all well housed for the night, and their
straw clean and fresh; while, as the glimmer of the lamp
proclaimed, they had been properly groomed and attended
to. Everything was very well. Wherefore, giving my
own mare the piece of sugar I had brought for her, I
made for the door again, observing that Le Marcieu's red
roan, a wiry but serviceable beast, was in a stall nearer
to the entrance.
Then suddenly, as I raised the lantern to give a
second glance at it, to my astonishment I saw the singing-girl,
Damaris, dart out swiftly from near that stall and
endeavour to push by me and escape through the door;
which, however, I easily prevented her from doing, since
I seized her at once by the arm and held her, while I exclaimed,
"Not so fast, mademoiselle, not so fast. What
are you doing here?—you, who are at the 'Red Glove'
and have no business whatever in these stables."
"WHEN THE STEED HAS FLOWN"
At first she struggled a little, then all of a sudden she
took a different tack, and exclaimed, "How dare you
touch me, fellow. You—a common mousquetaire—to lay
your hands on me! You! you! Let go—or——"
However, I had let go of her by now through astonishment
at her impertinence. A common mousquetaire,
indeed!—a common mousquetaire!—when, in all our regiment,
there was scarce a trooper riding who was not of
gentle blood—to say nothing of the officers.
"I may be 'a common mousquetaire,'" I replied, as
calmly as I could, "yet, all the same, commit no rudeness
to a wandering ballad-singer whom I find in the stable
where our horses are; and——"
"Why!" she exclaimed, with a look (I could see it by
the rays of the lantern) that was, I'll be sworn, as much
a pretence as her words—"why! 'tis Blue Eyes. Forgive
me; I thought it was one of your men—I—I—did not
know you in your great furred cloak. It becomes you
vastly well, Blue Eyes," and the hussy smiled up approvingly
"Does it?" I said. "No doubt. Yet, nevertheless, I
want an explanation of what you are doing in these stables
at night, in the dark, when you are housed at the 'Red
Glove';" and I spoke all the more firmly because I felt
certain that she had not taken me for one of the troopers
"Imbecile!" she exclaimed petulantly, and for all the
world as if she was speaking to an inferior. "Imbecile!
Idiot! Since you know I am at the 'Red Glove,' don't
you know too that they have no stabling for us who put
up there, and that the travellers' cattle are installed here?
Oh, Blue Eyes, you are only a simple boy!"
"No, I don't know it!" I exclaimed, a little dashed at
this intelligence; "but, pardon me, I would not be ill
mannered—only—do ladies of your calling travel on
horseback? I thought you wandered on foot from town
to town giving your entertainments."
"I do not travel on horseback, but on muleback.
There are such things as four-footed mules as well as two-footed
ones, Blue Eyes. I assure you there are. And
here is mine; look at it. Isn't it a sorry beast to be
in company with the noble steeds of the aristocratic
"Oh, it's 'aristocratic' now, is it?" I thought to
myself, "not 'common' mousquetaires," running my eye
over the mule she pointed out, even as I held the lantern
on high. Only, as I did so, I saw it was not a sorry beast
at all; instead, a wiry, clean-limbed Pyrenean mule,
whose hind-legs looked as though they could spring
forward mighty fast if wanted; in truth, an animal that
looked as if it could show its heels to many of its nobler
kin, namely horses. But, also, I observed that its saddle
was on, and that the halter was not fastened to the
"Well, you see?" she said, looking at me with her
mocking smile, and showing all her pretty white teeth as
she did so. "You see? Now, Blue Eyes, let me go. I
am tired and sleepy, and I want to go to bed."
This being sufficient explanation of her presence in the
stables, there was no further reason why I should detain
her and I said she might go, while, even as I spoke, I
fastened up the halter for her. After which we went out
into the yard, where we bade each other a sort of good-night,
I doing so a little crossly since I was still sore at
her banter, and she, on her part, speaking in still her
mocking, gibing manner.
"And where do you go to," she asked, "after this?
Eh, Blue Eyes? I should like to see you some day again,
you know. I like you, Blue Eyes," and as she spoke I
wondered what impish kind of thought was now in her
mind, for she was standing close to me, and seemed to be
emphasising her remarks about her liking for me by clutching
tight my houppelande in her hand.
"That," I said, "is, if you will excuse me, our affair.
Good-night; I hope you will sleep well at the 'Red Glove.'"
Then, because I did not want to part in anger from the
volatile creature, and because I was a soldier to whom
such licence is permissible, I said, "Adieu, sweetheart."
"Sweetheart!" she exclaimed, turning round on me.
"Sweetheart! You dare to speak to me thus—you—you—you
base—" But, just as suddenly as she had flown
out at me like a spitfire, she changed again, saying,
"Peste! I forget—I am only a poor wandering vagrant.
I did not mean that. I—I am sorry." And, as she vanished
round the corner of the yard into the street, I heard
her laugh and say softly, though loud enough, "Good-night,
Blue Eyes; adieu—sweetheart;" and again she
laughed as she disappeared.
Now, all this had taken some little time, as you may
well suppose, so that the great clock of the Cathedral of
St. Etienne was striking ten as I re-entered the inn and
went on to the large guests'-room, or salle. It was empty
at this time of all the sojourners in the house, except the
captain, Pontgibaud, who was sitting in front of the huge
fire, into which he stared meditatively while he drank some
wine from a glass at his elbow.
"All well with the horses?" he asked, as I went up to
him. "I thought you were never coming back." Then,
without waiting for any explanation from me as to my
absence, he said, "We go towards the Pyrenees, by
Foix, to-morrow, thereby to intercept Alberoni if we can.
That fellow, that mouchard, Marcieu, says he is due to cross
into France from Aragon. Meanwhile—" but there he
paused, saying no more. Instead, he gazed into the
embers of the fire; then suddenly, a moment or so after,
spoke again. "Adrian," he said, "it is fitting I should tell
you what Marcieu knows, or rather suspects, from information
he has received from Dubois, who himself has
received it from Madrid. Camier has been informed; so
must you be."
"What is it now?" I asked, my anxiety aroused.
"This. Alberoni, as Marcieu says, has all the old
Spanish aristocracy on his side, simply because the King,
Philippe, is a Frenchman. They are helping him—especially
the ladies. Now, it is thought one of them has
carried off the will of the late King Charles, and not
"Who is she?"
"He, Marcieu, will not tell, though he knows her rank
and title. But—" and now Pontgibaud looked round the
room, which was, as I have said, quite empty but for us,
then lowered his voice ere he replied—"but—he is going
to arrest that girl called Damaris to-morrow morning,"
and as he spoke he delivered himself of a grave, solemn
"Is he?" I said; "is he?" and then fell a-musing.
For this opened my eyes to much—opened them, too, in
a moment. Now, I understood her indignation at a
mousquetaire seizing hold of her, a high-born damsel,
probably of some old Castile or Aragon family, instead of
a wandering stroller as we had thought her to be—understood,
too, why I had seen that piece of rich lace peeping
out at her throat; why her dress of Nîmes serge, which
was a new one, was artfully torn and frayed. Also I
understood, or thought I did, the strange colour of her
face and hands, which were, I now made no manner of
doubt, dyed or stained to appear dirty and weatherbeaten,
and why the saddle was on her mule's back and the
halter loose from the rack;—understood, I felt sure, all
about it. Then, just as I was going to tell Pontgibaud
this, we both started to our feet. For, outside, where the
stables were, we heard a horse's hoofs strike smartly on
the cobble-stones of the yard; we heard the animal break
into a trot the moment it was in the street outside.
"Some one has stolen a horse from those stables,"
cried Pontgibaud, springing towards the door and rushing
down the passage; "pray Heaven 'tis not one of our
To which I answered calmly, "I think not. There
are other animals there than ours, horses and mules belonging
to people staying at other inns. It is a traveller
setting forth before the city gates are closed at midnight."
And, even as I spoke, I could not help laughing in my
captain's face, as well as at the look upon it.
ANA, PRINCESA DE CARBAJAL
We were riding through one of the innumerable valleys
which are formed by the spurs of the Pyrenees running
almost from where the Pic du Midi rises up to the city of
Toulouse; a valley which was bordered on either side by
shelving hills that were covered with woods nearly up to
their summits. And now we were looking forward eagerly
to meeting his Eminence, the Cardinal Alberoni, of whose
arrival in this neighbourhood we had received certain
intelligence from more than one of the innumerable spies
whom both the Regent and Cardinal Dubois maintained
ever in this region—a region dividing Spain from France.
As for Marcieu, who, as usual, rode behind the troop,
he had been in such a towering rage ever since the morning
of our departure from Toulouse, and had used such
violent language, that I for one had been obliged to tell
him to keep a civil tongue in his head, while Pontgibaud,
who was an aristocrat to the tips of his fingers as well as
captain of a troop of mousquetaires, told him he must be
more respectful in his language or altogether silent. For,
as naturally you have understood, it was the girl who
was pleased to call herself Damaris, and to assume the
disguise of a wandering juggler and singer, who had
ridden off that night on her mule, and was, no doubt, far
enough away from us in the morning.
And she had got the late King of Spain's will in her
pocket! of that Marcieu swore there could be no doubt—the
will which, in truth, was the principal thing that
brought the nations to agreeing that the Duke of Anjou
should sit as King Philippe V. on the throne of Spain—the
will which, if it once fell into the hands of Austria,
would instantly disappear for ever and set all Europe
alight with the flames of war again. She had got it, and
when Alberoni was searched it would not be found.
Perhaps, after all, it was not strange that Marcieu's expressions
were writ in a good round hand. He had
missed the chance of his life!
"I know her," he stormed in the morning, when he
found how abortive his attempts to arrest her had proved,
"I know her. Dubois sent me intelligence of everything.
She is the Princesa Ana de Carbajal, of an ancient and
illustrious Catalonian house, a house faithful to all the
interests of Austria before the days of Charles V. and of
Philip. May the pest seize her! She came ahead of
Alberoni disguised thus, and never thought she would
encounter us. And I do believe she has the will in that
accursed red ball. Such things have been used as
hiding-places before. Even Alberoni once used his crook
as a receptacle wherein to hide a slip of paper. And the
late King's last will in favour of Philippe was itself but a
slip of paper, signed when he was close to death." Then,
again, he used strong language.
However, she was gone, and, on the frail chance of
his being misinformed after all, and because he also had
orders to meet Alberoni in any circumstances, and to
escort him to the Mediterranean coast without allowing
him to hold converse with any one, we set off to find
him. For Dubois' spies had met us and said that Alberoni
was on his way, that he was close at hand.
So we rode along, nearing rapidly the pass into Spain
by which he was coming, and expecting every moment to
meet the Cardinal's coach attended by all his servants
and following. But suddenly, while we marched, there
happened something which put all thoughts of the Cardinal
and his devoted friend, the Princess Ana, out of our
heads—something terrible—awful—to behold.
A house, an inn, on fire, blazing fiercely, as we could
see, even as we all struck spurs into our horses and
galloped swiftly towards it—a house from the upper windows
of which we could observe the faces of people
looking. The upper windows, because all the lower part
was in flames, and because they who were inside had all
retreated up and up and up. Only, what could that
avail them! Soon the house, the top floor—there were
two above the ground—must fall in and—then! Yes—then!
We reached that burning auberge—'twas terrible,
ghastly, to see the flames bursting forth from it in the
broad daylight and looking white in the glare of the
warm southern sun, although 'twas winter—reached it,
wondering what we could do to save those who were
perishing; to save the screaming mother with her babe
clasped to her breast, the white-faced man who called on
God through the open window he was at to spare him
and his, or, if not him, then his wife and child.
What could we do—what? Bid them leap down
to us, fling themselves upon us—yes, at least we might do
that. One thing at least we could undoubtedly do—bid
them throw down the babe into our arms. And this was
done. The troopers sat close upon their horses, their
arms extended; a moment later the little thing was safe
in the great strong arms of the men, and being caressed
and folded to the breast of our great brawny sergeant.
Then, even as I witnessed this, even, too, as I (dismounted
now) hurried round with some mousquetaires to discover
if, in God's mercy, there was any ladder behind in the
outhouse or garden whereby the upper part might be
reached, I myself almost screamed with horror; for, at
that moment, on to the roof there had sprung a woman
shrieking; a woman down whose back fell coils of long
black hair; a woman, handsome, beautiful, even in her
agony and fear; a woman who was the girl called
"Damaris!" I called out, "Damaris!" for by that
name I had come to think of her, had known her for a
short hour or so, "Damaris! be calm, do nothing rash.
We will save you; the walls will not fall in yet. Be cool."
But in answer to my words she could do nothing but
wring her hands and shriek.
"I cannot die like this—not like this. Oh, Blue Eyes,
save me! Save me! Save me! You called me your
sweetheart. Save me!"
Then, at that moment, I heard a calm, icy voice beside
me say—it was the voice of Marcieu—"Does your highness
intend to restore the late King of Spain's will? Answer
that, or I swear, since I command here, that you shall not
In a moment I had sprung at him, would have pulled
him off his horse, have struck him in the mouth, have
killed him for his brutality, but that Camier and two of
the troopers held me back, and, even as they did so,
I heard the girl's voice ring out, "Yes! yes! yes! 'tis
here;" while, as she spoke, she put her hand in the bag
by her side, drew out the red ball, and flung it down from
the roof to where we all were.
But by now, Heaven in its mercy be praised! some of
the others had found a ladder and brought it round, and
were placing it against the walls. Only, it was too short!
God help her! it but reached to the sill of the top-floor
And now I was distraught, was mad with grief and
horror, when again that cold-blooded creature, Marcieu,
spoke, saying, "What matter? can she not descend from
the roof to the room that window is in?" and at the
same moment Pontgibaud called out to her to do that
very thing, which she, at once understanding, prepared to
Meanwhile, some of the men, who were all now dismounted,
had sprung to the ladder, eager to save, first the
girl, I think, then next the woman of the house, and then
the man. But I ordered them back. I alone would save
her, I said, I alone. Princess or stroller, noble or crafty
adherent of a wronged monarchy, whichever she might
be, I had taken a liking to this girl; she had called on
me to save her, and I would do it. Wherefore, up the
ladder I went as quickly as the weight of my great riding
boots and trappings would permit me, while all the time
the flames were shooting out from the lower windows—up,
until I stood at the top one and received her in my arms,
telling the woman and the man they should be saved
immediately, which they were, the troopers fetching down
the woman, and the man following directly after by himself;
yet none too soon either, for, even as he came down,
the flames had set the lower part of the ladder afire, so
that it fell down and he got singed as he came to earth.
But, nevertheless, all were now saved; and Damaris stood
trembling by my side, and pouring out her thanks to, and
blessings upon, me.
"I—I—did not mean what I said," stammered Marcieu.
"I meant you should be saved. But I meant also to have
that will, and I have got it." While, as his eye roved
around us, he saw the disgust written upon all our faces,
on the faces alike of officers and men.
"You have got it," she answered contemptuously.
"You have! Much good may it do you, animal!" and
again I saw the beautiful white teeth gleam between her
"But why here, Dama-Señorita?" I whispered; "why
here? You came the wrong way if you wished to escape
with the precious document."
She gave me somewhat of a nervous, tremulous smile,
and was about to answer me, and give me some explanation,
when, lo! there came an interruption to all our talk.
The long-expected Cardinal was approaching. Alberoni
had crossed the Pyrenees.
But in what a way to come! We could scarcely
believe our eyes. There was no coach, nor heavily-laden
mules to bear him and his followers and belongings.
He was on foot; so, too, were his attendants. He, a
cardinal; the arbiter of Spain, while ostensibly only the
political agent of the Duke of Parma; a prince of the
Church; a man who had intrigued for, and almost secured,
one of the greatest prizes of that Church, the primacy of
the land from which he had now been expelled—on foot!
so that, if he had not had on his head his cardinal's hat—which
he doubtless wore in his arrogance—none would have
deemed him the great man he was, even in his downfall.
All doffed their own hats as he came near us, Marcieu doing
so as respectfully as any, while, as we removed ours, I saw
him steal a glance at her whom we had known as Damaris.
Such a glance, such a sly, cunning one! Then, as she
sprang forward to take his hand, meaning, I think, to kiss
it, he prevented her from doing so by, instead, raising
that hand above her head and muttering, as I supposed,
a blessing. But now, even as he looked somewhat wonderingly
at the still burning house, he turned to Marcieu
"You are the man, I imagine, and those your troopers,
whom Philippe the Regent has sent to intercept me. Ha!
you are surprised that I know this," he went on, seeing
the start that Marcieu gave when he heard those words.
"Are you not? If you should ever know Alberoni better,
you will learn that he is a match for most court spies in
Now the chevalier did seem so utterly taken aback at
this (which caused Pontgibaud to give me a quaint look of
satisfaction out of the tail of his eye—for every one of us
hated that man mortally) that he could do nothing but
bow, uttering no sound. Whereon the Cardinal proceeded:
"Well! What do you expect to do with me? Your
comrades of Spain—the knaves and brigands whom the
King sent after me from Madrid—have pillaged me of all.
Some day I will pay his Majesty for the outrage—let him
beware lest I place Austria back upon his throne. 'Twas
a beggarly trick!—to take my carriages and mules, my
jewels and wealth—even the will of the late King, which
was most lawfully and rightfully in my possession."
"What!" broke from several of our lips, "what!"
while from Marcieu's white and trembling ones came the
words, "The late King's will! It is impossible. This girl—this
lady—has handed it to me!"
For a moment the Cardinal's sly glance rested on the
Princess, then on Marcieu, and then—then—he actually
laughed, not loud, but long.
"Monsieur," he said at last, "you are a poor spy—easily
to be tricked. You will never make a living at the
calling. The will that lady gave you was a duplicate, a
copy. It was meant that you should have that—that it
should fall into your stupid hands. And, had I not been
robbed on the other side of the mountains, you would not
have seen me here."
"It is so," the Princess said, striding up to where the
chevalier stood; "it is so. You spy! you spy! you
mouchard! if that worthless piece of paper in the red ball
had been the real will, I would have perished in the burning
house before letting it fall into your hands." Then,
sinking her voice still lower, though not so low but that
some of us could hear what she said, she went on: "Have
a care for your future. The followers of Austria have
still some power left, even at the Court of France. Your
threat to let me burn on the roof was not unmeant. It
will be remembered."
And now there is no more to tell, except that the
Princess knew that Marcieu meant to take the real will
from the Cardinal if he met him, and so it had been
arranged that, through her, the paper which he would
suppose was that real will was to fall into his hands, and
Alberoni would thus have been enabled to retain the original
and escape with it out of France. She had preceded
us to the foot of the mountains from Toulouse,
meaning, when we came up, to let Marcieu obtain the
red ball and thus be hoodwinked; and the accident of
the fire at the inn only anticipated what she intended
doing. The unexpected following of, and attack upon, the
Cardinal, ere he quitted Spain and descended the Pyrenees
into France, had, however, spoilt all their plans.
Here I should attempt that which most writers of
narratives are in the habit of performing, namely, conclude
by telling you what was the end of Ana de Carbajal's
adventure, of how she won and broke hearts and
eventually made a brilliant match. That is what Monsieur
Marivaux or the fair Scuderi would have done, as well as
some of the writers in my own native land. But I refrain,
because this strange meeting between me and the
beautiful and adventurous Spanish lady was but the commencement
of a long friendship that eventually ripened—However,
no matter. Some day, when my hand is not
weary and the spirit is upon me, I intend to write down
more of the history of the high-bred young aristocrat who
first appeared before me as a wandering stroller, and
passed for "a girl called Damaris."