S. Weir (Silas Weir) Mitchell.

The Guillotine club, and other stories online

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from Alphonse."

"Thank you, and do send him soon."

A note from me to M. Blanchelande, speak
ing casually of this unfortunate duel, termi
nated the count s hostile relation to M. Joseph
the Jacobin. I, as a Jacobin, also visited M.
Granson, the too busy uncle, now again in
Paris, and so alarmed him that he reported to
the Jacobin Club that his friend M. Joseph had
changed his lodgings, and had probably left
Paris. It was sadly to be feared, he added,

93



THE GUILLOTINE CLUB

that M. Joseph had no mind to a serious en
counter with the angry respondent of the Guil
lotine Club.

I went away next day to Marseilles on lega
tion business and was gone a week. On my re
turn I found the count still in bed, but patient
enough.

Once or twice a day Alphonse came to care
for me and my rooms, and always was present
at breakfast. I soon saw that he was eager
to talk, but knew that he would as usual wait
for me to invite the outflow. Sometimes he
was exasperatingly silent, and sometimes quite
too free of speech concerning what he saw or
heard.

I said, one morning, "Alphonse, are there no
other clubs ?"

He moved around the table so as to face me.
"Clubs! Mon Dieu! I want for monsieur
and his friends no more clubs. The Jacobin
vermin have gone, broken up."

"Why not before?"

"The police is, as Providence, patient. My



cousin "



94



THE GUILLOTINE CLUB

"Ah, your cousin of the police."

"The captain desired to know him. The rest
came of monsieur s amiability."

"Mine? What do you mean my amiabil
ity?"

"Yes, sare."

"Stuff! Don t try your English on me."

Yes, sare. Monsieur may remember that
having been, to my grief, a visitor at this low
club, he did say to the captain they were un
easy and would meet elsewhere, and caution
was mentioned as desirable. Monsieur did
think there was too much politics and perhaps
foolish plots of which M. Granson hinted."

"Well, what then?"

"The captain saw my cousin. He is in
much favor with the superior police. My
cousin, alas! loves money. The rest is mys
tery circumstances, Monsieur some arrests.
The Captain Merton is amazed bored when
things go quietly."

"Well, go on."

"The club is dead. M. Joseph ah, the poor
Joseph he is in bed. He has also left Paris.

95



THE GUILLOTINE CLUB

He is no more. Which of him is dead I know
not. There should be obsequies, funeral for
M. Joseph departed this life, to the joy of the
Count de la Motte. When I did tell him, he
gave me a napoleon, because he was pleased
when I proposed to him, as the surviving rel
ative of M. Joseph, to send out letters de faire
part. I did tell the captain, but he said to go
to the devil, which is not needed, for he too
often come to the captain. Pardon, Monsieur,
I mean to me. When I thus mourned over M.
Joseph, the count gave me another napoleon,
and ordered champagne for his dinner/

Thus, enlightened by Alphonse and some
what annoyed, I asked Captain Merton what
use he had made of my careless statement in
regard to my brother Jacobins, he said his
memory was bad, and declined to confess. We
seemed, to the regret of the captain, to be now
done with the complications of our friend s
dual personality ; but his aunt was still uncom
fortable in regard to the count s engagement.
To the amusement of Merton and myself, Al-



THE GUILLOTINE CLUB

phonse was the means of adjusting this mat
ter.

The third week after the duel in the garden,
Merton and I were at breakfast in his rooms in
the rue du Roi de Rome when Alphonse ap
peared with a note from Count de la Motte.

The captain read it aloud :

MY DEAR MERTON : Come in to-morrow. My aunt,
the Marquise de Chatelet, has written to me that she
is much pleased to have learned of my gallant con
duct in an abortive affair with a wretch belonging to
the Club of Jacobins, but hopes I will now marry and
have no more duels. There may have been of late
expenses, she writes, of doctors, etc., and incloses a
handsome cheque. Also, Mademoiselle Rosalie is to
be taken to see her to-morrow, which will end a long
family quarrel. Congratulate me. I do not quite un
derstand how she came to hear of the Jacobin muddle.
It revives a little my uneasiness. I hoped it dead and
buried.

Merton looked up. "Alphonse, you rascal,
you have been taking notes to madame the



aunt."



Yes, Monsieur."

97



THE GUILLOTINE CLUB

"Tell us all about it."

"If my master permits/

"Oh, go on. What have you been doing
now?"

"Two days ago I was to bring an answer
from the marquise to a note, and was bid to go
up-stairs. Monsieur has seen the lady?"

"Yes."

"She is of great size. There is much of her.
She said: You are by the kindness of M.
Greville caring for the count. A miserable
business, most regrettable/ Ah, Madame/ I
say, there might have been a worse, only
and I stopped.

"Madame says, Go on/ and I, Ah, Madame
may not know that because my grandfather
sheltered his master he was guillotined, and I
am at times a servant of the Society of Ances
tors, and so chance to know of the lamentable
duels with the low-born Jacobin Club. The
count was chosen to represent the Royalist
club in an affair, and when the Jacobin was
not easy to insult I know not what the count
did to that miserable man. No one does know.



THE GUILLOTINE CLUB

The count is reticent, like all the brave. It
was one of the name of Joseph a M. Joseph.
He would not think of pistols, that man. He
is gone fled. Even as far as America he is
gone, Madame, and and now it seems that the
police has dispersed the Club of Jacobins.

"When I told her this, the old lady stood up.
She is as the column in the Place Vendome for
height. She said: The Lord be praised!
And so the Jacobin ran away?

"I said, Yes, else the count would have killed
him that poor Joseph/

"After that she said, You seem rather too
well informed/

"I ventured to say madame la marquise must
know that servants hear and see many things.
I think she agreed with me, but all she said
was, Some of these things were better not
talked about. Then she asked, What did my
nephew do to that Jacobin animal? I said:
I know not all. M. le Comte is not one who
talks of himself: M. Joseph was not a gentle
man. He may have kicked him. The person
was, madame perceives, difficult to be insulted,

99



THE GUILLOTINE CLUB

like those of his kind. Monsieur found it nec
essary to be demonstrative.

"Great Scott!" said Merton. "What else?"

"The lady wrote a note to the count, and I
think it was of a nature to please. Then she
gave me a napoleon, and I am sorry it is all
over. It was productive."

"You are a man of genius, Alphonse."

"Merci, Monsieur."

"I, too, am sorry it is over," said Captain
Merton. "And now again Paris will be dull.
What about the club of thieves, Greville?"

"No more clubs for me," I said.



IOO



THE FOURTEENTH GUEST



THE FOURTEENTH GUEST

A STORY OF THIRTEEN AT TABLE



O try to come home early this evening,"
said Mrs. Woodburn, as she sat at break
fast.

"Yes, yes, my dear ; certainly/ her husband
said in an absent way, the morning paper he
was glancing over being between them. Then
aware that he had heard without clearly under
standing, and being a man with perfect marital
manners, he .laid the paper aside as he said:
"Pardon me. You were saying, my dear "

"I meant to say that I am a little nervous
about this dinner. I did say that I hoped you
jvould come home early because, if anything
happens "

"But what can happen?" he asked, ignoring
103



THE FOURTEENTH GUEST

the state of mind in which any such mild enter
prise as a formal dinner always found the mis
tress of their well-ordered household. Ex
perienced middle age, ample means, and un
questioned social place had not sufficed, as he
knew, to set her mind at ease.

"What can happen?" he repeated, as he
cracked an egg-shell. "Your dinners are al
ways pleasant. Why do you worry yourself ?"

"You know, Harry, I never worry; but I am
a little anxious when we have fourteen. Some
one is sure to fall out just at the last minute."

"Has it ever happened to us, I mean?"

"No; but it might."

"Of all the absurd superstitious survivals,
this does seem to me the maddest."

"Of course; but it does survive. I have it,
and so have a good many people who have not
the courage to admit it."

"That is no doubt true, and of course one
does have to consider anything that may make
a guest uncomfortable. You are quite right.
But now I must go. I saw that you had a let
ter from Sarah."

104



THE FOURTEENTH GUEST

"Yes. She finds Albany pleasant and gay,
and her aunts delighted to have her. I wish
she were here."

"Still uneasy? Well, I shall be at home
early in case of trouble about that fourteenth
man or woman. How is your stenographer
doing? You have had her three days. Is she
useful?"

"She is very well dressed," said Mrs. Wood-
burn, inconsequently.

Her husband laughed.

"What a feminine criticism! But is the
young woman what you wanted?" He knew
that her household was well managed, but at
cost of too much toil, due to his wife s want of
method. She, too, lamenting what her inca
pacity cost her, was quite unable to correct the
evil. When her husband had insisted on her
using his stenographer, she had been amazed,
as are such natures, at the. accuracy and easy
business ways of the highly competent secre
tary. She had now, as she answered him, one
of the outbursts of enthusiasm to which un
stable feminine temperaments are subject. She

105



THE FOURTEENTH GUEST

had little humor and in large and small mat
ters she lacked sense of proportion; for inevi
tably these two defects exist together.

"Harry, she is wonderful!"

"Oh, hardly that."

"Yes, invaluable! A very remarkable per
son. Oh, you may smile, it was so like a man
to smile, I always want to stop when people
smile."

"My dear, it is one of the forms of social
punctuation useful at times."

"I really don t understand you, Harry.
Miss Smith is invaluable. She writes a lady
like hand, and for the first time in years my
check-book balances to a penny. She is here
on the stroke of five, and "

"What a lesson in punctuality, my dear ! I
must say for the young woman that, except
ing Mr. Ware, she is the best stenographer in
our office. She does not talk unless addressed,
and has a kind of reserve not always found in
the office woman of her occupation."

"I confess she puzzles me a little."

"I am not surprised. She came to us with
1 06



THE FOURTEENTH GUEST

high commendation from the Union Business
College. Mr. Eyton said in his private an
swer to my application that she had one draw
back she was too strikingly handsome."

"I should not speak of her as striking in any
way/ said Mrs. Woodburn.

Again her husband smiled.

"And I should. But men and women rarely
agree about a woman s looks. This girl s
ways her behavior are the more important
matter. What my head clerk calls her busi
ness manners are all one could desire. She is
quiet, industrious, accurate, and calmly repel
lent when any of the juniors speak to her of
anything but her work. Certainly she is hand



some."



"Is she your own stenographer ?"

"Yes," he replied, slightly annoyed.

"Of course I had some little introductory
talk with her the first day you sent her here.
I thought her rather self-possessed for so young
a woman. I suppose that she may be about
twenty-seven; but it is only a guess."

"Oh, younger, much younger, I fancy.
107



THE FOURTEENTH GUEST

Have you never observed, my dear, that one
handsome woman is apt to set the age of an
other rather in advance of the fact ?"

"There is no fact in this case unless you
asked her."

"Thanks, Madam," he said, laughing.
"This witness did not ask. Did you?"

"I did not that is, not directly. She was
uncommunicative. In fact, she has amazingly
self-protective manners."

"Not a bad description. A valuable quality
at need."

"There should be no need of it here."

"Unless her age were in question. That is a
fair matter for feminine self-defense."

He readily understood that his wife must no
doubt have been kindly curious about a young
woman whom he himself felt to be an unusual
person, and, too, that the girl had shown no in
clination to talk of herself.

"There certainly is some mystery about her,"
said Mrs. Woodburn, reflectively.

"Well, that is no business of ours."

"Perhaps not." Mrs. Woodburn was iiv
108



THE FOURTEENTH GUEST

doubt. "Her manners are quite too good."

Her husband laughed. "What! Both dress
and manners! Perhaps I had better tell her.
Correction of too good manners should be
easy."

"Oh, Harry, I said she was well dressed, not
too well dressed." And then, with some dim
apprehension of his meaning, "You really are
a a trifle exasperating at times."

"How literal you are, Helen! Good-by; I
shall be here early."

A busy day and the decision of a large suit in
his favor brought him home about seven o clock
in high good humor. He found his wife al
ready dressed and in the drawing-room.

"Well," he said, "no thirteen at table to
night. Who have we, and who falls to my
share?"

"You are to take in Mrs. Grey."

"Good!"

"And do not talk to her all the time. You
have Miss Van Seckel on your left."

He made a wry face. "She is very absor
bent of talk; and Who else, my dear?"

109



THE FOURTEENTH GUEST

"I had trouble with the rest, but Miss Smith
was helpful and really quite suggestive. She
wrote the cards, and now, I think, it is all
pretty good. Of course the bishop goes in
with me, and the admiral is on my left, with
Mrs. Welles. Then comes the French secre
tary, who speaks very little English, and be
tween him and the German engineer, who
speaks none, I put Miss Nelson, who can chat
ter in both tongues ; and so on. It is all right,
Harry; and I am so relieved. You had better
go and dress."

As he rose, Miss Smith appeared, saying, as
she entered:

"Very fortunately I stayed, Mrs. Woodburn,
thinking you might need me. Miss Nelson
phones that she has toothache and cannot



come."



"I knew it!" cried Mrs. Woodburn. "Thir
teen at table ! What shall I do ?"

"May I not phone for some one else?" said
the tall girl.

"Yes," said Woodburn. "Come up to the
library, Helen." His wife followed him, la-

no



THE FOURTEENTH GUEST

menting her ill luck. Miss Smith sat down at
the phone while Woodburn turned over the
directory.

"Try Mrs. Smallwood," said his wife. "Not
Mrs. George the widow/

"Number 3421 Madison," read Woodburn.

"Hello! hello! Give me 3421 Madison!
They do not answer."

"What is the matter?" said Mrs. Wood-
burn.

"Oh, yes. Central says wire is out of or
der."

"Of course," cried the hostess. "Then
Madge Delaney, Harry."

"I have her, 209 West," said he.

"I am sorry," said Miss Smith, turning from
the phone; "she is dressing to dine out."

"Oh, this is too dreadful!" wailed Mrs.
Woodburn. "Try Helen Carstairs. Tell her
I must have her."

"She is sorry, but the baby has whooping-
cough."

"Well, I certainly do not want her," said
Mrs. Woodburn.

7 ill



THE FOURTEENTH GUEST

"Of course not. Try 9202 Fifth Avenue
Miss Jane Crayton."

"Hello, Central ! Give me 9202 Fifth Ave
nue! . . . The butler says out of town."

"Harry, what shall we do ! I told you some
thing would happen."

"If all fails, I can go to bed with a bad head
ache, my dear."

"Oh, don t joke about it, Harry!"

Miss Smith sat quiet at the phone, appar
ently an uninterested part of the mechanism
of communication, while Woodburn, troubled
by his wife s evident distress, said at last:

"No one will notice it, my dear."

"Every one will notice it. Miss Van Seckel
will have a fit."

"Heavens! if she only would!" said Wood-
burn.

"Why not phone her," said the unmoved
stenographer, "that you have thirteen at table?
Then she would not come."

Woodburn repressed his mirth. His wife,
silently indignant for a moment, said nothing.

"Come," said Woodburn, once more, "there

112



THE FOURTEENTH GUEST

is Cousin Susan Maynan. Oh, I have her, 423
Stone."

"Hello! hello! 423 Stone! I said 423
speak louder, Central !"

There was a long pause.

"She says she is engaged; very positively, I
infer, sir, from her voice."

"I don t believe her/ said the distracted
hostess. "The cat! It is because we asked
her so late."

"Don t go yet, Miss Smith," said Woodburn.
"Come with me, Helen." He drew her into a
back room.

"Now, what is it, Harry. We cannot dine
thirteen at table. I know you would die, or



some one."



"We are at the end of our resources. Sup
pose, my love, we ask Miss Smith "

"Oh, Harry"

"Now, listen! No one knows her. Your
maid can dress her in one of Sarah s gowns.
They are much of a size."

"What an absurd idea ! And to put her be
tween two foreigners, a girl unused to society,



THE FOURTEENTH GUEST

without a word of either man s tongue "

"Well, rearrange the table."

"Now that is so like a man. How can I?
It is half-past seven and later. Oh, twenty
minutes to eight !"

"What else can we do, dear? As of course
the girl can t talk to either man at all, there will
be no social blunders. Come, dear, decide."

"But after dinner, Harry! Heavens!"

"She must be introduced as a young friend
on a brief visit ; and, by George ! she will be at
least the handsomest of the lot."

"Will she do it? What a dilemma!"

"To die or not to die," he murmured. "Wait
a moment, my dear; I will ask her wait."

He went back to the phone. "Miss Smith,
my wife is in despair; will you not take the
vacant place at our dinner table? You can
wear one of my daughter s gowns, and we shall
be greatly obliged."

She rose, facing him as he spoke. For a mo
ment her chin muscles twitched, a certain
sign of emotion, her eyes filled. As he

114



THE FOURTEENTH GUEST

waited he wondered what caused her evident
distress.

"Well?" he said. "I am sorry to hurry you
but, pray, decide."

"I will do it," she said, decisively.

"Thank you."

In a moment his wife had disappeared with
the girl, and he went up-stairs to dress, a little
anxious, a little amused, and very curious, con
cerning the outcome of this social venture.
When dressed, he met his wife at the head of
the staircase.

"How does she look, Helen?"

"Look? Terribly handsome. All the men
will want to know her. Sarah s slippers are
too large for her, but the gown is all right.
Had I not better warn her about about cer
tain things ?"

"Decidedly not. And, my dear, as Miss Van
Seckel and more will be sure to ask who this
young woman is, I suppose we had better agree
that she is a young friend from the country
with us for a day or two, as I said."



THE FOURTEENTH GUEST

"Harry, we are committing a social fraud,
and I am to fib to support it."

"A case of conscience for the bishop. You
might consult him in strict confidence."

"I do wish you would take it more seriously."

"Serious ! Indeed, I consider it so. But do
not try to overmanage the actors in our
comedy."

"Comedy! It is tragedy. It will end ill, I



am sure."



"I am not so sure. Well, we go on first. I
hear the door-bell."

As he spoke they passed together into the
drawing-room, she still anxious, he with diffi
culty restraining the sense of humor of which
not the gravest situation entirely deprived him.

"Delighted to see you, Bishop. Good even
ing, Admiral." Mrs. Woodburn s face cleared
as the famous sailor said some pleasant trifle,
and the guests came in rapid succession.

"I think they are all here, Harry."

"Except the leading lady," he said.

"Oh, Harry, I forgot, the butler ! He will
know. I never thought of that."

116



THE FOURTEENTH GUEST

She glanced about the room. The attache
was struggling with a tongue unknown to man
in which Mrs. Welles was trying to make her
self understood. The German engineer officer,
who had received a dinner-card with the name
of Miss Smith, was awkwardly waiting, not at
all comprehending what he was to do.



117



II



TV/riSS SMITH/ announced the butler
1V-L w ith unusual lift of voice. In the
doorway stood a young woman in full evening
dress. There are some women for whom what
is charitably described as full dress is a fatal
test; there are others for whom it is the pre
cisely perfect setting of a radiant jewel. The
master of the house murmured, "By George !"
and went promptly to meet her. He was at his
courteous best, and felt that the young woman
he had committed to an impossible task must be
embarrassed by a social position to which she
was utterly unused. If so, she showed no sig
nal of distress, but said quietly as she ap
proached :

"I am late, I fear, Mr. Woodburn; but the
streets are so crowded."

More than Mrs. Woodburn were struck by
this tall and graceful girl who came forward

118



THE FOURTEENTH GUEST

with her host, white-gloved, fan in hand, smil
ing, and apparently at ease.

"I have apologized to Mr. Woodburn for be
ing late. I repent and promise to be better be
haved the next time."

"The next time, indeed !" said to herself the
amazed hostess, and then aloud, and with en
tire coolness :

"You are welcome late or early, my dear.
Admiral, let me present you to our friend Miss
Smith. She came in on us from the country
just in time to save me from thirteen at table.
Not that I care"

"Oh, yes ; but I do," said the admiral. "You
are doubly fortunate in this case, Madam : you
preserve life and enrich it."

"So happy to be a life-saving device!" said
Miss Smith.

Mr. Woodburn presented the German en
gineer officer, and, to Mrs. Woodburn s relief,
dinner was announced. The table was pretty,
and not loaded with the high flowers which pre
vent a view of opposite neighbors. On the
whole, the guests were felt by the hostess to be

119



THE FOURTEENTH GUEST

well seated except for the two foreigners be
tween whom sat Miss Smith, the hapless sac
rifice to a social difficulty. Mrs. Woodburn
was more than merely sorry for her, and with
some relief and more surprise saw her adjust
her gown as she took her place. The hostess s
fears made her uneasily watchful for the series
of mishaps which she felt certain must soon or
late betray awkward inexperience. Distracted
into inattention to the bishop, she was only able
to keep up an appearance of listening with the
aid of exclamatory brevities of "Just so!"
"Ah, really!" while she stole glances to left or
kept watch to hear what would come after the
quiet moment of adjustment of napkins. The
ill luck which had pursued her dinner had
obliged Mrs. Woodburn to place between the
attache and the admiral a dull, middle-aged
woman, Mrs. Welles, who dined to eat and
whose fragmentary French served to add for
the diplomat the interest of charades; SQ an-
swerless that at last he was driven to talk
across his relieved neighbor to the famous ad
miral, who understood him readily and replied

1 20



THE FOURTEENTH GUEST

in French which had the courage and enter
prise of the navy.

Hearing the young attache say, "Pardon me,
Admiral, does my neighbor Miss Smith speak
French ?" the hostess replied for him :

"Not a word at least, I fear not." Her
strange young guest appeared just then to be
silently listening to the German.

"Ah, well," said the diplomat, still speaking
across Mrs. Welles, "I shall at least try."

"It is a new face to me," remarked the ad
miral. "She has the beauty of unusual distinc
tion and the distinction of unusual beauty."
He felt that he had said something worthy of
his reputation for gallantry.

"Ah, but what a charming description !" said
the diplomat, repeating it in French.

"You are delightfully elaborate in your com
pliments, Admiral," said the hostess, overhear
ing them. She was not altogether pleased.
Here was terrible certainty of attention to the
guest whose correct role was to be silent and
to excite no remarks. The admiral had spoken
in French, and had a voice of command, trained

121



THE FOURTEENTH GUEST

to be heard at distance. To Mrs. Woodburn s
amazement, Miss Smith turned from the Ger
man.

"Ah, Admiral, what woman could be so free
from vanity as not to claim property in such a
salute from the flag-ship."

This gay recognition of the sailor s phrase
of admiration Mrs. Woodburn felt to be rather
in the manner of middle age than what was fit
ting in a young woman.

"I should not have dared to say it, Made
moiselle," said the young Frenchman, "but I
may at least venture not to disagree with the
admiral."

"Merci, Monsieur," said Miss Smith.

Mrs. Woodburn missed his reply, but knew
in a few moments that they were chatting in
fluent French and discussing French country


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Online LibraryS. Weir (Silas Weir) MitchellThe Guillotine club, and other stories → online text (page 4 of 10)