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arrange your route toward it." The two men spread a large map of Europe
on the table, and, bending over it, were soon deeply absorbed in
examining it, the while exchanging whispered remarks.

At last they seemed to have agreed on something. The map was folded up
and thrust into the younger man's pocket.

"I shall start at once," he said, with an air of decision.

"That is well," with evident satisfaction assented his companion. "And
take with you also the steel casket. In it are all the necessary
documents, some articles of clothing on which the mother with her own
hands embroidered the well-known symbol, and a million of francs in
English bank-notes. These, however, you will not use unless compelled to
do so by extreme necessity. You will receive annually a sufficient sum
from a certain banking-house which will supply all your wants. Have our
two trusty friends been apprised?"

"Yes; they await me hourly."

"So soon as you are beyond the French boundary you may communicate with
me in the way we have agreed upon. Until I hear from you I shall be in a
terror of anxiety. I am sorry I cannot accompany you, but I am already
suspected. You are, as yet, free from suspicion - are not yet registered
in the black book!"

"You may trust my skill to evade pursuit," said the young man, producing
from a secret cupboard a casket richly ornamented with gold.

"I do not doubt your skill, or your ability to accomplish the
undertaking; but the task is not a suitable one for so young a man. Have
you considered the fate which awaits you?"

"I have considered everything."

"You will be buried; and, what is worse, you will be the keeper of your
own prison."

"I shall be a severe jailer, I promise you," with a grim smile responded
the young man.

"Jester! You forget your twenty-six years! And who can tell how long you
may be buried alive?"

"Have no fear for me. I do not dread the task. Those in power now will
one day be overthrown."

"But when the child, who is only twelve years old now, becomes in three
or four years a blooming maiden - what then? Already she is fond of you;
then she will love you. You cannot hinder it; and yet, you will not even
dare to dream of returning her love. Have you thought of this also?"

"I shall look upon myself as the inhabitant of a different planet,"
answered the young man.

"Your hand, my friend! You have undertaken a noble task - one that is
greater than that of the captive knight who cut off his own foot, that
his sovereign, who was chained to him, might escape - "

"Pray say no more about me," interposed his companion. "Is the child
asleep?"

"This one is; the one in the other room is awake."

"Then let us go to her and tell her what we have decided." He lifted the
two-branched candlestick from the table; his companion carefully closed
the iron doors of the fireplace; then the two went into the adjoining
chamber, leaving the room they had quitted in darkness.

The elder gentleman had made a mistake: "this" child was _not_ asleep.
She had listened attentively, half sitting up in bed, to as much of the
conversation as she could hear.

A ray of light penetrated through the keyhole. The little girl sprang
nimbly from the bed, ran to the door, and peered through the tiny
aperture. Suddenly footsteps came toward the door. When it opened,
however, the little eavesdropper was back underneath the covers of the
bed. The old gentleman entered the room. He had no candle. He left the
door open, walked noiselessly to the bed, and drew aside the curtains to
see if "this" child was still asleep. The long-drawn, regular breathing
convinced him. Then he took something from the chair beside the bed, and
went back into the other room. The object he had taken from the chair
was the faded red shawl in which the stray child had been wrapped. He
did not close the door of the adjoining chamber, for the candles had
been extinguished and both rooms were now dark.

To the listening child in the bed, however, it seemed as if voices were
whispering near her - as if she heard a stifled sob. Then cautious
footsteps crossed the floor, and after an interval of silence the street
door opened and closed.

Very soon afterward a light was struck in the adjoining room, and the
elder man came through the doorway - alone.

He flung back the doors of the fireplace, and stirred the embers; then
he proceeded to perform a singular task. First he tossed a number of
letters and papers into the flames, then several dainty articles of
girls' clothing. He watched them until they had burned to ashes; then he
flung himself into an arm-chair; his head sank forward on his breast, in
which position he sat motionless for several hours.




CHAPTER II


When the younger of the two men stepped into the street he carried in
his arms a little girl wrapped in a faded red shawl, to whom he was
speaking encouragingly, in tones loud enough for any passer-by to hear:

"I know the little countess will be able to find her mama's palace; for
there is a fountain in front of it in which there is a stone man with a
three-pronged fork, and a stone lady with a fish-tail! Oh, yes; we shall
be sure to find it; and very soon we shall be with mama."

Here the child in his arms began to sob bitterly.

"For heaven's sake, do not weep; do not let your voice be heard,"
whispered the young man in her ear.

At this moment a man wearing a coarse blouse, with his cap drawn over
his eyes and a short pipe between his lips, came staggering toward them.
The young man, in order to make room for him, pressed close to the wall,
whereupon the new-comer, who seemed intoxicated, began in drunken tones:

"Hello, citizen! What do you mean? Do you want me to walk in the
gutter? - because you have got on fine boots, and I have only wooden
sabots! I am a citizen like yourself, and as good as you. We are alike,
are n't we?"

The young man now knew with whom he had to deal - a police spy whose duty
it was to watch him. He therefore replied quietly:

"No, we are not alike, citizen; for I have in my arms an unfortunate
child who has strayed from its mother. Every Frenchman respects a child
and misfortune. Is not that so, citizen?"

"Yes, that is so, citizen. Let 's have a little conversation about it";
and the pretended drunkard seized hold of the young man's mantle to
detain him.

"It is very cold," returned the young man. "Instead of talking here,
suppose you help me get this child to its home. Go to the nearest corner
and fetch a coach. I will wait here for you."

The blouse-wearer hesitated a moment, then walked toward the
street-corner, managing, however, to keep an eye on the young man and
his charge. At the corner he whistled in a peculiar manner, whereupon
the rumbling of wheels was heard. In a few moments the leather-covered
vehicle drew up beside the curb where the young man was waiting.

"I am very much obliged to you for your kindness, citizen," he said to
the blouse-wearer, who had returned with the coach. "Here," pressing a
twenty-sou piece into the man's palm, "is something for your trouble. I
wish you would come with me to help hunt for this little girl's home. If
you have time, and will come with me, you shall be paid for your
trouble."

"Can't do it, citizen; my wife is expecting me at home. Just you trust
this coachman; he will help you find the place. He 's a clever
youth - are n't you, Peroquin? You have made many a night journey about
Paris, have n't you? See that you earn your twenty francs to-night,
too!"

That the coachman was also in the service of the secret police the young
man knew very well; but he did not betray his knowledge by word or mien.

The blouse-wearer now shook hands cordially with the young man, and
said:

"Adieu, citizen. I beg your pardon if I offended you. I 'll leave you
now. I am going to my wife, or to the tavern; who can tell the future?"

He waited until the young man had entered the coach with his charge;
then, instead of betaking himself to his wife or to the tavern, he
crossed the street, and took up his station in the recess of a doorway
opposite the house with the swinging lantern. . . .

"Where to?" asked the coachman of the young man.

"Well, citizen," was the smiling response, "if I knew that, all would be
well. But that is just what I don't know; and the little countess, here,
who has strayed from her home, can't remember the street, nor the number
of the house, in which she lives. She can only remember that her mama's
palace is on a square in which there is a fountain. We must therefore
visit all the fountains in turn until we find the right one."

The coachman made no further inquiries, but climbed to the box, and
drove off in quest of the fountains of Paris.

Two fountains were visited, but neither of them proved to be the right
one. The young man now bade the coachman drive through a certain street
to a third fountain. It was a narrow, winding street - the Rue des Blancs
Manteaux.

When the coach was opposite a low, one-storied house, the young man drew
the strap, and told the driver he wished to stop for a few moments. As
the vehicle drew up in front of the house, the door opened, and a tall,
stalwart man in top-boots came forth, accompanied by a sturdy dame who
held a candle, which she protected from the wind with the palm of her
hand.

"Is that you, Raoul?" called the young man from the coach window.

There was no response from the giant, who, instead, sprang nimbly to the
box, and, flinging one arm around the astonished coachman, thrust a gag
into his mouth. Before the captive could make a move to defend himself,
his fare was out of the coach, and had pinioned his arms behind his
back. The giant and the young man now lifted the coachman from the box
and carried him into the house, the woman followed with the trembling
child, whom she had carefully lifted from the coach.

In the house, the two men bound their captive securely, first removing
his coat. Then they seated him on the couch, and placed a mirror in
front of him.

"You need not be alarmed, citizen," said the man in the top-boots. "No
harm shall come to you. We are only going to copy your face - because of
its beauty, you know!"

The young man also seated himself in front of the mirror, and proceeded,
with various brushes and colors, to paint his cheeks and nose a copper
hue, exactly like that of the coachman's reflection in the glass. Then
he exchanged his own peruke and hat for the shabby ones of the coachman.
Lastly, he flung around his shoulders the mantle with its seven collars,
and the resemblance was complete.

"And now," observed the giant, addressing the captive, "you can rest
without the least fear. At the latest, to-morrow about this time your
coach, your horses, your mantle, and whatever else belongs to you will
be returned. For the use of the things we have borrowed from you we
shall leave in the pocket of your coat twenty francs for every hour, and
an extra twenty francs as a _pourboire_; don't forget to look for it!
To-morrow at eleven o'clock a girl will fetch milk; she will release
you, and you can tell her what a singular dream you had! If you can't
go to sleep, just repeat the multiplication table. I always do when I
can't sleep, and I never have to go beyond seven times seven. Good
night, citizen!"

The door of the adjoining room opened, and the woman appeared, leading
by the hand a pretty little boy.

"We are ready," she announced.

The two men thrust pistols into their pockets. Then the woman and the
little boy entered the coach, the two men took seats on the box, and the
coach rolled away.




CHAPTER III


At ten o'clock the next morning the old gentleman paid a visit to his
little guest. This time the child was really asleep, and opened her eyes
only when the curtains were drawn back and the light from the window
fell on her face.

"How kind of you to waken me, monsieur!" she said, smiling; she was in a
good humor, as children are who have slept well. "I have slept
splendidly. This bed is as good as my own at home. And how delightful
not to hear my governess scolding! You never scold, do you, monsieur? I
deserve to be scolded, though, for I was very naughty last night, and
you were so kind to me - gave me such nice egg-punch; see, there is a
glass of it left over; it will do for my breakfast. I love cold punch,
so you need not trouble to bring me any chocolate." With these words,
the little maid sprang nimbly from the bed, ran with the naïveté of an
eight-year-old child to the table, where she settled herself in the
corner of the sofa, drew her bare feet up under her, and proceeded to
breakfast on the left-over punch and biscuits.

"There! that was a good breakfast," she said, after she had finished her
meal. "Oh, I almost forgot. Has mama sent for me?"

"Certainly not, my dear! We are going, by and by, to look for her. The
countess very likely has not yet learned of your disappearance; and if
she does know that you did not return home last night, she believes you
safe with the marquis. She will think you were not allowed to return
home in the storm, and will not expect to see you before noon."

"You are very clever, monsieur. I should never have thought of that! I
imagined that mama would be vexed, and when mama is cross she is _so_
disagreeable. At other times, though, she is perfectly lovely! You will
see how very beautiful she is, monsieur, for you are coming home with me
to tell her how you found me - you are so very kind! How I wish you were
my papa!"

The old gentleman was touched by the little one's artless prattle.

"Well, my dear little maid," he said tenderly, "we can't think of
showing ourselves on the street in such a costume. Besides, it would
frighten your mama to see you so. I am going out to one of the shops to
buy you a frock. Tell me, what sort was it Diana took from you?"

"A lovely pink silk, trimmed with lace, with short sleeves," promptly
replied the little maid.

"I shall not forget - a pink silk, trimmed with lace. You need not be
afraid to stay alone here. No one will come while I am away."

"Oh, I am not the least bit afraid. I like to be alone sometimes."

"There is the doll to keep you company," suggested the old gentleman,
more and more pleased with his affable little visitor.

"Is n't she lovely!" enthusiastically exclaimed the child. "She slept
with me last night, and every time I woke up I kissed her."

"You shall have her for your own, if you like her so much, my dear."

"Oh, thank you! Did the doll belong to your dear little daughter who is
dead?"

"Yes - yes," sorrowfully murmured the old gentleman.

"Then I will not play with her, but keep her locked in my little
cupboard, and call her Philine. That was the name of my little sister
who is dead. Come here, Philine, and sit by me."

"Perhaps you might like to look at a book while I am away - "

"A book!" interrupted the child, with a merry laugh, clapping her hands.
"Why, I am just learning the alphabet, and can't bring myself to call a
two-pronged fork 'y.'"

"You dear little innocent rogue!" tenderly ejaculated the old gentleman.
"Are you fond of flowers?"

He brought from the adjoining room a porcelain flowerpot containing a
narcissus in bloom.

"Oh, what a charming flower!" cried the child, admiringly. "How I wish I
might pluck just one!"

"Help yourself, my dear," returned her host, pushing the plant toward
her.

The child daintily broke off one of the snowy blossoms, and, with
childlike coquetry, fastened it in the trimming of her chemise.

"What is this beautiful flower called, monsieur?"

"The narcissus."

At mention of the name the little maid suddenly clapped her hands and
cried joyfully:

"Why, that is the name of our palace! Now don't you know where it is?"

"The 'Palace of Narcissus'? I have heard of it."

"Then you will have no trouble finding my home. Oh, you dear good little
flower!" and she kissed the snowy blossom rapturously.

The old gentleman surveyed her smilingly for a few moments, then said:

"I will go now, and buy the frock."

"And while you are away I shall tell Philine the story of Gargantua,"
responded the child.

"Lock the door after me, my dear, and do not open it until I mention my
name: Alfred Cambray - "

"Oh, I should forget the second one! Just say, 'Papa Alfred'; I can
remember that."

When the child was certain that the old gentleman had left the house,
she began hastily to search the room. She peered into every corner and
crevice. Then she went into the adjoining chamber, and opened every
drawer and cupboard. In returning to the first room she saw some scraps
of paper scattered about the floor. She collected them carefully, placed
them on the table, and dexterously fitted the pieces together until the
entire note-sheet lay before her. It was covered with writing which had
evidently been traced by a hurried hand, yet the child seemed to have no
difficulty in reading it.

When she heard the old gentleman's footstep on the staircase, she
brushed the scraps of paper from the table, and hastened to open the
door before the signal was given; and when he exhibited his purchase she
danced for joy.

"It is just like my ball-gown - exactly like it!" she exclaimed, kissing
the hands of her benefactor. Then the old gentleman clothed the child as
skilfully as if he were accustomed to such work. When the task was
finished he looked about him, and saw the scraps of paper on the floor;
he swept them together, and threw them into the fire.

Then, with the hand of his little companion clasped in his own, he
descended to the street in quest of a cab to take them to the Palace of
Narcissus.

The Palace of Narcissus had originally been the property of the
celebrated danseuse, Mlle. Guimard, for whom it had been built by the
Duke de Soubise. Like so many other fine houses, it had been confiscated
by the Revolution and sold at auction - or, rather, had been disposed of
by lottery, a lady who had paid one hundred and twenty francs for her
ticket winning it.

The winner of the palace sold it to M. Périgaud, a banker and shrewd
speculator, who divided the large dwelling into suites of apartments,
which became the favorite lodgings of the young men of fashion. These
young men were called the "narcissi," and later, the "incroyables" and
"_petits crevés_." The building, however, retained the name of the
Palace of Narcissus.

When the fiacre stopped at the door of the palace which led to her
mama's apartment, the little countess alighted with her escort, and said
to the coachman:

"You need not wait; the marquis will return home in my mama's carriage."

M. Cambray was obliged to submit to be called the "marquis." The
harmless fib was due to the rank of the little countess; she could not
have driven through the streets of Paris in the same fiacre with a
_pékin_!

"We will not go up the main staircase," said the child, taking her
companion's arm and leading him into the palace. "I don't want to meet
any of the servants. We will go directly to mama's boudoir, and take her
by surprise."

The countess mother, however, was not in her boudoir; only a screaming
cockatoo, and a capuchin monkey that grimaced a welcome. Through the
folding-doors which opened into an adjoining room came the melancholy
tones of a harmonium; and M. Cambray recognized a favorite
air - Beethoven's symphony, "_Les adieux, l'absence, et le retour_." He
paused a moment to listen to it.

"That is mama playing," whispered the child. "You go in first, and tell
her you have brought me home. Be very careful; mama is very nervous." M.
Cambray softly opened the door, and halted, amazed, on the threshold.

The room into which he had ventured unannounced was a magnificent salon,
filled with a brilliant company. Evidently the countess was holding a
matinée.

The assembled company were in full toilet. The women, who were chiefly
young and handsome, were clad in the modest fashion of that day, which
draped the shoulders and bust with embroidered kerchiefs, with priceless
lace adorning their gowns and genuine pearls twined among their tresses.
The men also wore full dress: Hungarian trousers, short-waisted coat,
with large, bright metal buttons, opening over an embroidered waistcoat.

Surrounded by her guests, the mistress of the house, an ideal of beauty,
Cythera herself, was seated at the harpsichord, her neck and shoulders
hidden by her wonderfully beautiful golden hair. When M. Cambray, in his
plain brown coat buttoned to the chin, with black gloves and dull
buckle-shoes, appeared in the doorway of the boudoir, which was not open
to all the world, every eye was turned in surprise toward him.

The lady at the harpsichord rose, surveyed the intruder with a haughty
stare, and was about to speak when a lackey in silver-embroidered livery
came hastily toward her and said something in a low tone.

"What?" she ejaculated, with sudden terror. "My daughter lost?"

The guests crowded around her, and a scene of great excitement followed.

Here M. Cambray came forward and said:

"I have found your daughter, countess, and return her to you."

The lovely woman made one step toward the child, who had followed M.
Cambray into the room, then sank to the floor unconscious. She was
tenderly lifted and borne into the boudoir. Two physicians, who were of
the company, followed.

When the door closed behind them, the entire company remaining in the
salon gathered about M. Cambray. The ladies seized his hands; and while
a blonde houri on his right sought to attract his attention, a brunette
beauty claimed it on his left - both women ignoring the attempts of the
men to shake hands with the hero of the hour.

One of the men, an elderly and distinguished-looking personage with a
commanding mien, now pressed forward to introduce himself. "Monsieur, I
am the Marquis Lyonel de Fervlans," he repeated in a patronizing tone.

"I am Alfred Cambray," was the simple response.

"Ah? Pray, have the kindness to tell us - the friends of the
countess - what has happened?"

M. Cambray related how and where he had found the lost child, the
company listening with eager attention. All were deeply affected. Some
of the women wept. When M. Cambray concluded his recital, the marquis
grasped both his hands, and, pressing them warmly, said in a trembling
voice:

"Thanks, many thanks, you brave, good man! We will never forget your
kindness."

One of the physicians now came from the boudoir, and announced that the
countess was better, and desired to speak to the deliverer of her child.

The countess was reclining on an ottoman, half buried in luxurious
cushions. Her little daughter was kneeling by her side, her head resting
on her mother's knee. It was a charming tableau.

"I am not able to express my gratitude, monsieur," began the countess,
in a faint voice, extending both hands toward M. Cambray. "I hope you
will allow me to call you my friend. I shall never cease to thank you!
Amélie, my love, kiss this hand; look at this face; impress it on your
heart, and never, _never_ forget it, for this brave gentleman rescued
you from a most horrible fate."

M. Cambray listened to these profuse expressions of gratitude, but with
heedless ear. His thoughts were with the fugitives. He longed to know if
they had escaped pursuit. While the countess was speaking he could not
help but think that a great ado was being made because a little countess
had been abandoned half clad in the public street. _He_ knew of another
little maid who had been treated with far greater cruelty.

His reply was brief:

"Your little daughter is very charming."

The mother sat upright with sudden decision, and unfastened the ivory
locket from the black ribbon around her neck. It contained a portrait of
the little countess Amélie.

"If the memory of the little foundling you rescued is dear to you,
monsieur, then accept this from me, and think sometimes of your
protégée."

It was a noble gift indeed! The lovely countess had given him her most
valued ornament.

M. Cambray expressed his thanks, pressed his lips to the countess's
hand, and kissed the little Amélie, who smilingly lifted her face for
the caress. Then he bowed courteously, and returned to the salon. He was
met at the door by the Marquis de Fervlans, who exclaimed reproachfully:

"What, you are going to desert us already? Then, if you will go, you
must allow me to offer you my carriage." He gave his arm to the old
gentleman, and conducted him to the vestibule, where, among a number of
liveried servants, stood a trim hussar in Swiss uniform.


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