THE LAST HOPE
HENRY SETON MERRIMAN
"What is it thou knowest, sweet voice?" I cried.
"A hidden hope," the voice replied.
I. LE ROI EST MORT
II. VIVE LE ROI
III. THE RETURN OF "THE LAST HOPE"
IV. THE MARQUIS'S CREED
V. ON THE DYKE
VI. THE STORY OF THE CASTAWAYS
VII. ON THE SCENT
VIII. THE LITTLE BOY WHO WAS A KING
IX. A MISTAKE
X. IN THE ITALIAN HOUSE
XI. A BEGINNING
XII. THE SECRET OF GEMOSAC
XIII. WITHIN THE GATES
XIV. THE LIFTED VEIL
XV. THE TURN OF THE TIDE
XVI. THE GAMBLERS
XVII. ON THE PONT ROYAL
XVIII. THE CITY THAT SOON FORGETS
XIX. IN THE BREACH
XXI. NO. 8 RUELLE ST. JACOB
XXII. DROPPING THE PILOT
XXIII. A SIMPLE BANKER
XXIV. THE LANE OF MANY TURNINGS
XXV. SANS RANCUNE
XXVI. RETURNED EMPTY
XXVII. OUT OF THE MOUTHS OF BABES
XXVIII. BAREBONE'S PRICE
XXIX. IN THE DARK
XXX. IN THE FURROW AGAIN
XXXI. THE THURSDAY OF MADAME DE CHANTONNAY
XXXIII. DORMER COLVILLE IS BLIND
XXXIV. A SORDID MATTER
XXXV. A SQUARE MAN
XXXVI. MRS. ST. PIERRE LAWRENCE DOES NOT UNDERSTAND
XXXVII. AN UNDERSTANDING
XXXVIII. A COUP-D'ETAT
XXXIX. "JOHN DARBY"
XL. FARLINGFORD ONCE MORE
THE LAST HOPE
LE ROI EST MORT
"There; that's it. That's where they buried Frenchman," said
Andrew - known as River Andrew. For there was another Andrew who earned
his living on the sea.
River Andrew had conducted the two gentlemen from "The Black Sailor" to
the churchyard by their own request. A message had been sent to him in
the morning that this service would be required of him, to which he had
returned the answer that they would have to wait until the evening. It
was his day to go round Marshford way with dried fish, he said; but in
the evening they could see the church if they still set their minds on
River Andrew combined the light duties of grave-digger and clerk to the
parish of Farlingford in Suffolk with a small but steady business in fish
of his own drying, nets of his own netting, and pork slain and dressed by
his own weather-beaten hands.
For Farlingford lies in that part of England which reaches seaward toward
the Fatherland, and seems to have acquired from that proximity an
insatiable appetite for sausages and pork. On these coasts the killing of
pigs and the manufacture of sausages would appear to employ the leisure
of the few, who for one reason or another have been deemed unfit for the
sea. It is not our business to inquire why River Andrew had never used
the fickle element. All that lay in the past. And in a degree he was
saved from the disgrace of being a landsman by the smell of tar and
bloaters that heralded his coming, by the blue jersey and the brown
homespun trousers which he wore all the week, and by the saving word
which distinguished him from the poor inland lubbers who had no dealings
with water at all.
He had this evening laid aside his old sou'wester - worn in fair and foul
weather alike - for his Sunday hat. His head-part was therefore official
and lent additional value to the words recorded. He spoke them, moreover,
with a dim note of aggressiveness which might only have been racy of a
soil breeding men who are curt and clear of speech. But there was more
than an East Anglian bluffness in the statement and the manner of its
delivery, as his next observation at once explained.
"Passen thinks it's over there by the yew-tree - but he's wrong. That
there one was a wash-up found by old Willem the lighthouse keeper one
morning early. No! this is where Frenchman was laid by."
He indicated with the toe of his sea-boot a crumbling grave which had
never been distinguished by a headstone. The grass grew high all over
Farlingford churchyard, almost hiding the mounds where the forefathers
slept side by side with the nameless "wash-ups," to whom they had
extended a last hospitality.
River Andrew had addressed his few remarks to the younger of his two
companions, a well-dressed, smartly set-up man of forty or thereabouts,
who in turn translated the gist of them into French for the information
of his senior, a little white-haired gentleman whom he called "Monsieur
He spoke glibly enough in either tongue, with a certain indifference of
manner. This was essentially a man of cities, and one better suited to
the pavement than the rural quiet of Farlingford. To have the gift of
tongues is no great recommendation to the British born, and River Andrew
looked askance at this fine gentleman while he spoke French. He had
received letters at the post-office under the name of Dormer Colville: a
name not unknown in London and Paris, but of which the social fame had
failed to travel even to Ipswich, twenty miles away from this mouldering
"It's getting on for twenty-five years come Michaelmas," put in River
Andrew. "I wasn't digger then; but I remember the burial well enough. And
I remember Frenchman - same as if I see him yesterday."
He plucked a blade of grass from the grave and placed it between his
"He were a mystery, he were," he added, darkly, and turned to look
musingly across the marshes toward the distant sea. For River Andrew,
like many hawkers of cheap wares, knew the indirect commercial value of
The little white-haired Frenchman made a gesture of the shoulders and
outspread hands indicative of a pious horror at the condition of this
neglected grave. The meaning of his attitude was so obvious that River
Andrew shifted uneasily from one foot to the other.
"Passen," he said, "he don't take no account of the graves. He's what you
might call a bookworm. Always a sitting indoors reading books and
pictures. Butcher Franks turns his sheep in from time to time. But along
of these tempests and the hot sun the grass has shot up a bit.
Frenchman's no worse off than others. And there's some as are fallen in
He indicated one or two graves where the mound had sunk, and suggestive
hollows were visible in the grass. "First, it's the coffin that bu'sts in
beneath the weight, then it's the bones," he added, with that grim
realism which is begotten of familiarity.
Dormer Colville did not trouble to translate these general truths. He
suppressed a yawn as he contemplated the tottering headstones of certain
master-mariners and Trinity-pilots taking their long rest in the
immediate vicinity. The churchyard lay on the slope of rising ground upon
which the village of Farlingford straggled upward in one long street.
Farlingford had once been a town of some commercial prosperity. Its story
was the story of half a dozen ports on this coast - a harbour silted up, a
commerce absorbed by a more prosperous neighbour nearer to the railway.
Below the churchyard was the wide street which took a turn eastward at
the gates and led straight down to the river-side. Farlingford Quay - a
little colony of warehouses and tarred huts - was separated from
Farlingford proper by a green, where the water glistened at high tide. In
olden days the Freemen of Farlingford had been privileged to graze their
horses on the green. In these later times the lord of the manor pretended
to certain rights over the pasturage, which Farlingford, like one man,
"A mystery," repeated River Andrew, waiting very clearly for Mr. Dormer
Colville to translate the suggestive word to the French gentleman. But
Colville only yawned. "And there's few in Farlingford as knew Frenchman
as well as I did."
Mr. Colville walked toward the church porch, which seemed to appeal to
his sense of the artistic; for he studied the Norman work with the eye of
a connoisseur. He was evidently a cultured man, more interested in a work
of art than in human story.
River Andrew, seeing him depart, jingled the keys which he carried in his
hand, and glanced impatiently toward the older man. The Marquis de
Gemosac, however, ignored the sound as completely as he had ignored River
Andrew's remarks. He was looking round him with eyes which had once been
dark and bright, and were now dimly yellow. He looked from tomb to tomb,
vainly seeking one that should be distinguished, if only by the
evidence of a little care at the hands of the living. He looked down the
wide grass-grown street - partly paved after the manner of the
Netherlands - toward the quay, where the brown river gleamed between the
walls of the weather-beaten brick buildings. There was a ship lying at
the wharf, half laden with hay; a coasting craft from some of the greater
tidal rivers, the Orwell or the Blackwater. A man was sitting on a piece
of timber on the quay, smoking as he looked seaward. But there was no one
else in sight. For Farlingford was half depopulated, and it was tea-time.
Across the river lay the marshes, unbroken by tree or hedge, barren of
even so much as a hut. In the distance, hazy and grey in the eye of the
North Sea, a lighthouse stood dimly, like a pillar of smoke. To the
south - so far as the eye could pierce the sea haze - marshes. To the
north - where the river ran between bare dykes - marshes.
And withal a silence which was only intensified by the steady hum of the
wind through the gnarled branches of the few churchyard trees which turn
a crouching back toward the ocean.
In all the world - save, perhaps, in the Arctic world - it would be hard to
find a picture emphasising more clearly the fact that a man's life is but
a small matter, and the memory of it like the seed of grass upon the wind
to be blown away and no more recalled.
The bearer of one of the great names of France stood knee-deep in the
sun-tanned grass and looked slowly round as if seeking to imprint the
scene upon his memory. He turned to glance at the crumbling church behind
him, built long ago by men speaking the language in which his own
thoughts found shape. He looked slowly from end to end of the ill-kept
burial ground, crowded with the bones of the nameless and insignificant
dead, who, after a life passed in the daily struggle to wrest a
sufficiency of food from a barren soil, or the greater struggle to hold
their own against a greedy sea, had faded from the memory of the living,
leaving naught behind them but a little mound where the butcher put his
sheep to graze.
Monsieur de Gemosac was so absorbed in his reflections that he seemed to
forget his surroundings and stood above the grave, pointed out to him by
River Andrew, oblivious to the cold wind that blew in from the sea, deaf
to the clink of the sexton's inviting keys, forgetful of his companion
who stood patiently waiting within the porch. The Marquis was a little
bent man, spare of limb, heavy of shoulder, with snow-white hair against
which his skin, brown and wrinkled as a walnut shell, looked sallow like
old ivory. His face was small and aquiline; not the face of a clever man,
but clearly the face of an aristocrat. He had the grand manner too, and
that quiet air of self-absorption which usually envelops the bearers of
Dormer Colville watched him with a good-natured patience which pointed,
as clearly as his attitude and yawning indifference, to the fact that he
was not at Farlingford for his own amusement. Presently he lounged back
again toward the Marquis and stood behind him. "The wind is cold,
Marquis," he said, pleasantly. "One of the coldest spots in England. What
would Mademoiselle say if I allowed you to take a chill?"
De Gemosac turned and looked at him over his shoulder with a smile full
of pathetic meaning. He spread out his arms in a gesture indicative of
horror at the bleakness of the surroundings; at the mournfulness of the
decaying village; the dreary hopelessness of the mouldering church and
"I was thinking, my friend," he said. "That was all. It is not surprising
... that one should think."
Colville heaved a sigh and said nothing. He was, it seemed, essentially a
sympathetic man; not of a thoughtful habit himself, but tolerant of
thought in others. It was abominably windy and cold, although the corn
was beginning to ripen; but he did not complain. Neither did he desire to
hurry his companion in any way.
He looked at the crumbling grave with a passing shadow in his clever and
worldly eyes, and composed himself to await his friend's pleasure.
In his way he must have been a philosopher. His attitude did not suggest
that he was bored, and yet it was obvious that he was eminently out of
place in this remote spot. He had nothing in common, for instance, with
River Andrew, and politely yawned that reminiscent fish-curer into
silence. His very clothes were of a cut and fashion never before seen in
Farlingford. He wore them, too, with an air rarely assumed even in the
streets of Ipswich.
Men still dressed with care at this time; for d'Orsay was not yet dead,
though his fame was tarnished. Mr. Dormer Colville was not a dandy,
however. He was too clever to go to that extreme and too wise not to be
within reach of it in an age when great tailors were great men, and it
was quite easy to make a reputation by clothes alone.
Not only was his dress too fine for Farlingford, but his personality was
not in tune with this forgotten end of England. His movements were too
quick for a slow-moving race of men; no fools, and wiser than their
midland brethren; slow because they had yet to make sure that a better
way of life had been discovered than that way in which their Saxon
forefathers had always walked.
Colville seemed to look at the world with an exploiting eye. He had a
speculative mind. Had he lived at the end of the Victorian era instead of
the beginning he might have been a notable financier. His quick glance
took in all Farlingford in one comprehensive verdict. There was nothing
to be made of it. It was uninteresting because it obviously had no
future, nor encouraged any enterprise. He looked across the marshes
indifferently, following the line of the river as it made its devious way
between high dykes to the sea. And suddenly his eye lighted. There was a
sail to the south. A schooner was standing in to the river mouth, her
sails glowing rosily in the last of the sunset light.
Colville turned to see whether River Andrew had noticed, and saw that
landsman looking skyward with an eye that seemed to foretell the early
demise of a favouring wind.
"That's 'The Last Hope,'" he said, in answer to Dormer Colville's
question. "And it will take all Seth Clubbe's seamanship to save the
tide. 'The Last Hope.' There's many a 'Hope,' built at Farlingford, and
that's the last, for the yard is closed and there's no more building
The Marquis de Gemosac had turned away from the grave, but as Colville
approached him he looked back to it with a shake of the head.
"After eight centuries of splendour, my friend," he said. "Can that be
the end - that?"
"It is not the end," answered Colville, cheerfully, "It is only the end
of a chapter. _Le roi est mort - vive le roi!_"
He pointed with his stick, as he spoke, to the schooner creeping in
between the dykes.
VIVE LE ROI
"The Last Hope" had been expected for some days. It was known in
Farlingford that she was foul, and that Captain Clubbe had decided to put
her on the slip-way at the end of the next voyage. Captain Clubbe was a
Farlingford man. "The Last Hope" was a Farlingford built ship, and Seth
Clubbe was not the captain to go past his own port for the sake of saving
a few pounds.
"Farlingford's his nation," they said of him down at the quay. "Born and
bred here, man and boy. He's not likely to put her into a Thames dry-dock
while the slip-way's standing empty."
All the village gossips naturally connected the arrival of the two
gentlemen from London with the expected return of "The Last Hope."
Captain Clubbe was known to have commercial relations with France. It was
currently reported that he could speak the language. No one could tell
the number of his voyages backward and forward from the Bay to Bristol,
to Yarmouth, and even to Bergen, carrying salt-fish to those countries
where their religion bids them eat that which they cannot supply from
their own waters, and bringing back wine from Bordeaux and brandy from
It is not etiquette, however, on these wind-swept coasts to inquire too
closely into a man's business, and, as in other places, the talk was
mostly among those who knew the least - namely, the women. There had been
a question of repairing the church. The generation now slowly finding its
way to its precincts had discussed the matter since their childhood and
nothing had come of it.
One bold spirit put forth the suggestion that the two gentlemen were
London architects sent down by the Queen to see to the church. But the
idea fell to the ground before the assurance from Mrs. Clopton's own lips
that the old gentleman was nothing but a Frenchman.
Mrs. Clopton kept "The Black Sailor," and knew a deal more than she was
ready to tell people; which is tantamount to saying that she was a woman
in a thousand. It had leaked out, however, that the spokesman of the
party, Mr. Dormer Colville, had asked Mrs. Clopton whether it was true
that there was claret in the cellars of "The Black Sailor." And any one
having doubts could satisfy himself with a sight of the empty bottles,
all mouldy, standing in the back yard of the inn.
They were wine-merchants from France, concluded the wiseacres of
Farlingford over their evening beer. They had come to Farlingford to see
Captain Clubbe. What could be more natural! For Farlingford was proud of
Captain Clubbe. It so often happens that a man going out into the world
and making a great name there, forgets his birthplace and the rightful
claim to a gleam of reflected glory which the relations of a great
man - who have themselves stayed at home and done nothing - are always
ready to consider their due reward for having shaken their heads over him
during the earlier struggles.
Though slow of tongue, the men of Farlingford were of hospitable
inclination. They were sorry for Frenchmen, as for a race destined to
smart for all time under the recollection of many disastrous defeats at
sea. And of course they could not help being ridiculous. Heaven had made
them like that while depriving them of any hope of ever attaining to good
seamanship. Here was a foreigner, however, cast up in their midst, not by
the usual channel indeed, but by a carriage and pair from Ipswich. He
must feel lonesome, they thought, and strange. They, therefore, made an
effort to set him at his ease, and when they met him in "the street"
jerked their heads at him sideways. The upward jerk is less friendly and
usually denotes the desire to keep strictly within the limits of
acquaintanceship. To Mr. Dormer Colville they gave the upward lift of the
chin as to a person too facile in speech to be desirable.
The dumbness of the Marquis do Gemosac appealed perhaps to a race of
seafaring men very sparingly provided by nature with words in which to
clothe thoughts no less solid and sensible by reason of their terseness.
It was at all events unanimously decided that everything should be done
to make the foreigner welcome until the arrival of "The Last Hope." A
similar unanimity characterised the decision that he must without delay
be shown Frenchman's grave.
River Andrew's action and the unprecedented display of his Sunday hat on
a week-day were nothing but the outcome of a deep-laid scheme. Mrs.
Clopton had been instructed to recommend the gentlemen to inspect the
church, and the rest had been left to the wit of River Andrew, a man
whose calling took him far and wide, and gave him opportunities of speech
These opportunities tempted River Andrew to go beyond his instructions so
far as to hint that he could, if encouraged, make disclosures of interest
respecting Frenchman. Which was untrue; for River Andrew knew no more
than the rest of Farlingford of a man who, having been literally cast up
by the sea at their gates, had lived his life within those gates, had
married a Farlingford woman, and had at last gone the way of all
Farlingford without telling any who or what he was.
From sundry open cottage doors and well-laden tea-tables glances of
inquiry were directed toward the strangers' faces as they walked down the
street after having viewed the church. Some prescient females went so far
as to state that they could see quite distinctly in the elder gentleman's
demeanour a sense of comfort and consolation at the knowledge thus
tactfully conveyed to him that he was not the first of his kind to be
seen in Farlingford.
Hard upon the heels of the visitors followed River Andrew, wearing his
sou'wester now and carrying the news that "The Last Hope" was coming up
on the top of the tide.
Farlingford lies four miles from the mouth of the river, and no ship
can well arrive unexpected at the quay; for the whole village may see
her tacking up under shortened sail, heading all ways, sometimes
close-hauled, and now running free as she follows the zigzags of the
Thus, from the open door, the villagers calculated the chances of being
able to finish the evening meal at leisure and still be down at the quay
in time to see Seth Clubbe bring his ship alongside. One by one the men
of Farlingford, pipe in mouth, went toward the river, not forgetting the
kindly, sideward jerk of the head for the old Frenchman already waiting
It was nearly the top of the tide and the clear green water swelled and
gurgled round the weedy piles of the quay, bringing on its surface tokens
from the sea - shadowy jelly-fish, weed, and froth. "The Last Hope" was
quite close at hand now, swinging up in mid-stream. The sun had set and
over the marshes the quiet of evening brooded hazily. Captain Clubbe had
taken in all sail except a jib. His anchor was swinging lazily overside,
ready to drop. The watchers on the quay could note the gentle rise and
fall of the crack little vessel as the tide lifted her from behind. She
seemed to be dancing to her home like a maiden back from school. The
swing of her tapering masts spoke of the heaving seas she had left
It was characteristic of Farlingford that no one spoke. River Andrew was
already in his boat, ready to lend a hand should Captain Clubbe wish to
send a rope ashore. But it was obvious that the captain meant to anchor
in the stream for the night: so obvious that if any one on shore had
mentioned the conclusion his speech would have called for nothing but a
contemptuous glance from the steady blue eyes all round him.
It was equally characteristic of a Farlingford ship that there were no
greetings from the deck. Those on shore could clearly perceive the burly
form of Captain Clubbe, standing by the weather rigging. Wives could
distinguish their husbands, and girls their lovers; but, as these were
attending to their business with a taciturn concentration, no hand was
raised in salutation.
The wind had dropped now. For these are coasts of quiet nights and
boisterous days. The tide was almost slack. "The Last Hope" was scarcely
moving, and in the shadowy light looked like a phantom ship sailing out
of a dreamy sunset sky.
Suddenly the silence was broken, so unexpectedly, so dramatically, that
the old Frenchman, to whose nature such effects would naturally appeal
with a lightning speed, rose to his feet and stood looking with startled
eyes toward the ship. A clear strong voice had broken joyously into song,
and the words it sang were French:
"C'est le Hasard,
Qui, tot ou tard,
Ici bas nous seconde;
D'un bout du monde
A l'autre bout,
Le Hasard seul fait tout."
Not only were the words incongruous with their quaint, sadly gay air of a
dead epoch of music and poetry; but the voice was in startling contrast
to the tones of a gruff and slow-speaking people. For it was a clear
tenor voice with a ring of emotion in it, half laughter, half tears, such
as no Briton could compass himself, or hear in another without a dumb
feeling of shame and shyness.
But those who heard it on the shore - and all Farlingford was there by
this time - only laughed curtly. Some of the women exchanged a glance and
made imperfectly developed gestures, as of a tolerance understood between
mothers for anything that is young and inconsequent.
"We've gotten Loo Barebone back at any rate," said a man, bearing the