Page images
PDF
EPUB

my father knew nothing of this meeting, or-oror of what led to it."

“Mademoiselle Olivia,” said Count Victor, “I am-what do you call it?-a somnambulist. In that condition it has sometimes been my so good fortune to wander into the most odd and rayishing situations. But as it happens, helas ! I can never recall a single incident of them when I waken in the morning. Ma foi !" (he remembered that even yet his suspicions of the Baron were unsatisfied), “I would with some pleasure become a nocturnal conspirator myself, and I have all the necessary qualities -romance, enterprise, and sympathy."

“Mungo knows all,” said the lady; “Mungo will explain.”

With infinite deference, mademoiselle, Mungo shall not be invited to do anything of the kind.”

“But he must,” said she firmly. “It is due to myself as well as to you, and I shall tell him to do so."

“Your good taste and judgment, mademoiselle, are your instructors. Permit me.”

He took the candlestick from her hands, gravely led the way to her chamber door, and at the threshold restored the light with an excess of polite posturing not without its whimsicality. As she took the candlestick she looked in his face with a twinkle of amusement in her eyes, giving her a vivacity not hitherto betrayed.

Guessing but half the occasion of her smiles, he cried abruptly and not without confusion, “ Ah! you were the amused observer of my farce in wading across from the shore. Peste !"

“Indeed and I was !” said she, smiling all the more brightly at the scene recalled. “Good night!”

And, more of a rogue than Count Victor had thought her, she disappeared into her chamber, leaving him to find his way back to his own.

CHAPTER XV.

A RAY OF LIGHT.

For the remainder of the night Count Victor's sleep was delicious or disturbed by dreams in which the gloomy habitation of that strange Highland country was lit with lamps-the brightest a woman's eyes. Sometimes she was Cecile, dancing—all abandoned, a child of dalliance, a nymph irresolute—to the music of a flageolet; sometimes another whose radiance fascinated, whose presence yet had terror, for (in the manner of dreams that at their maddest have some far-compassing and tremendous philosophy such as in the waking world is found in poems) she was more than herself, she was the other also, at least sharing the secrets of that great sisterhood of immaculate and despoiled, and, looking in his face, compelled to see his utter unworthiness.

He rose early and walked in the narrow garden, still sodden with rain though a bold warm sun shone high to the east. For ordinary he was not changeable, but an Olivia in Doom made a difference: those mouldering walls contained her; she looked out on the sea from those high peering windows; that bower would sometimes shelter her ; those alien breezes flowing continually round Doom were privileged to kiss her hair. Positively there seems no great reason, after all, why he should be so precipitate in his removal to the town! Indeed (he told himself with a smile of his sub-conscious self at

like haste said he tind, so attentpitality is les

of all; exemplch of it and hentive.","you

the subterfuge) there was a risk of miscarriage for his mission among tattling aubergistes, lawyers, and merchants. He was positively vexed when he encountered Mungo, and that functionary informed him that though he was early afoot the Baron was earlier still, and off to the burgh to arrange for his new lodgings. This precipitancy seemed unpleasantly like haste to be rid of him.

“Ah,” said he to the little servant, “ your master is so good, so kind, so attentive. Yet I do not wonder, for your Highland hospitality is renowned. I have heard much of it from the dear exiles—Glengarry par exemple, when he desired to borrow the cost of a litre or the price of the diligence to Dunkerque in the season when new-come Scots were reaching there in a humour to be fleeced by a compatriot with three languages at command and the boast of connections with Versailles."

Mungo quite comprehended.

“ Sir," said he with some feeling, “there was never bed nor board grudged at Doom. It's like father like son a'through them. The Baron's greatgutcher, auld Alan, ance thought the place no' braw enough for the eye o' a grand pairty o' Irish nobeelity that had bidden themsel's to see him, and the day they were to come he burned the place hauf doon. It was grand summer weather, and he camped them i' the park behin' there, sparing time nor money nor device in their entertainment. Ye see what might hae been a kin' o' penury in a castle was the very extravagance o' luxury in a camp. A hole in the hose is an accident nae gentleman need be ashamed o', but the same darned is a disgrace, bein' poverty confessed, as Annapla says."

It was a touchy servant this, Montaiglon told himself-somewhat sharper, too, than he had thought : he must hazard no unkind ironies upon the master.

“Charming, charming! good Mungo," said he. “The expedient might have been devised by my own great-grandfather-a gentleman of — of- of com

health and if he courself unresecue, Mungo,"is

mercial pursuits in Lyons city. I am less fastidious perhaps than the Irish, being very glad to take Doom Castle as I have the honour to find it."

“But ye're thinkin' the Baron is in a hurry to billet ye elsewhere," said the servant bluntly.

In an ordinary lackey this boldness would have been too much for Count Victor; in this grotesque, so much in love, it seemed, with his employer, and so much his familiar and friend in a ridiculous Scots fashion, the impertinence appeared pardonable. Besides, he blamed himself for the ill-breeding of his own irony.

“That, if I may be permitted to point it out, is not for us to consider, Monsieur Mungo,” said he. “I have placed myself unreservedly in the Baron's hands, and if he considers it good for my indifferent health that I should change the air and take up my residence a little farther along your delightful coast while my business as a wine merchant from Bordeaux is marching, I have no doubt he has reason."

A smile he made no effort to conceal stole over Mungo's visage.

“Wine merchant frae Bordeaux !” he cried. I've seen a hantle o' them hereaboots at the fishcurin' season, but they cam’in gabbarts to French Foreland, and it wasnae usual for them to hae Coont to their names nor whingers to their hips. It was mair ordinar the ink-horn at their belts and the sporran at their groins.”

“A malediction on the creature's shrewdness!” said Count Victor inwardly, while outwardly he simply smiled back.

"The red wine is my specialty,” said he, patting his side where the hilt of his sword should be. “My whinger, as you call it, is an auger: who the devil ever broached a pipe of Scots spirits with a penknife ? But I see you are too much in the confidence of the Baron for there to be any necessity of concealment between us.”

“H'm !” exclaimed Mungo drily, as one who has a

[ocr errors]

plot against ma's whase pederimdarroch,

[ocr errors]

and tak

sense of being flattered too obviously. “ The Baron's

a bairn, like a' true gentlemen I've seen, and he kens -glade me lang enough and likes me weel enough to mak'

nae secret o’ what it were to a’body's advantage ist should be nae secret to Mungo Byde. In this place Triat I'm sentinel, spy, and garrison; it wad ill become dhesi at the officer in command to let me be doin' my wark in the withoot some clue to the maist important pairt o't.

Ye're here on a search for ane Drimdarroch.” in e “You are a wizard, Monsieur Mungo!” cried cared on Montaiglon, not without chagrin at Doom's hand

ing over so vast and vital a secret to a menial.

Ay, and ye might think it droll that I should ken that; but I be't to ken it, for there's mony a plot against my maister, and nae foreigneer comes inside thae wa's whase pedigree I canna hae an inklin' o'. Ye're here aifter Drimdarroch, and ye're no' very sure aboot your host, and that's the last thing I wad haggle wi' ye aboot, for your error'll come to ye by-and-by.

Count Victor waved a deprecating hand.

“Oh, I ken a' aboot what mak's ye sae suspicious,” went on Mungo, undisturbed," and it's a thing I could mak' clear to ye in a quarter-hoor's crack if I had his leave. Tak’ my word for't, there's no' a better man wi' his feet in brogues this day than the Baron o' Doom. He should be searchin' the warld wi' the sword o' his faithers (and the same he can use), but the damned thing is the warld for him doesna gang by the snout o' Cowal and the pass o' Glencroe. He had a wife ance; she's dead and buried in Kilmorich; noo he's doited on his hame and his dochter

“The charming Olivia !” cried Count Victor, thinking in one detail at all events to surprise this little custodian of all the secrets.

“Ye met her last night,” said Mungo calmly, seeming to enjoy the rapidity with which his proofs of omniscience could be put forth. “That's half the secret. Ye were daunderin' aboot the lobby wi’

from Bu

Teal size

[ocr errors]

Shrew leasing Jutwardni

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

to the one

with a ne ve condition Ssity of com

se who has

« PreviousContinue »