At La Glorieuse by Mollie Evelyn Moore Davis
MADAME RAYMONDE-ARNAULT leaned her head against the back of her
garden-chair, and watched the young people furtively from beneath her
half-closed eyelids. “He is about to speak,” she murmured under her
breath; “she, at least, will be happy!” and her heart fluttered
violently, as if it had been her own thin, bloodless hand which Richard
Keith was holding in his; her dark, sunken eyes, instead of Félice's
brown ones, which drooped beneath his tender gaze.
Marcelite, the old bonneÉ, who stood erect and stately behind
her mistress, permitted herself also to regard them for a moment with
something like a smile relaxing her sombre, yellow face; then she too
turned her turbaned head discreetly in another direction.
The plantation house at La Glorieuse is built in a shining loop of
Bayou L'Eperon. A level grassy lawn, shaded by enormous live-oaks,
stretches across from the broad stone steps to the sodded levee, where
a flotilla of small boats, drawn up among the flags and lily-pads, rise
and fall with the lapping waves. On the left of the house the white
cabins of the quarter show their low roofs above the shrubbery; to the
right the plantations of cane, following the inward curve of the bayou,
sweep southward field after field, their billowy, blue-green reaches
blending far in the rear with the indistinct purple haze of the swamp.
The great square house, raised high on massive stone pillars, dates
back to the first quarter of the century; its sloping roof is set with
rows of dormer-windows, the big red double chimneys rising oddly from
their midst; wide galleries with fluted columns enclose it on three
sides; from the fourth is projected a long, narrow wing, two stories in
height, which stands somewhat apart from the main building, but is
connected with it by a roofed and latticed passageway. The lower rooms
of this wing open upon small porticos, with balustrades of wrought
iron-work rarely fanciful and delicate. From these you may step into
the rose-garden—a tangled pleasance which rambles away through alleys
of wild-peach and magnolia to an orange-grove, whose trees are gnarled
and knotted with the growth of half a century.
The early shadows were cool and dewy there that morning; the breath
of damask-roses was sweet on the air; brown, gold-dusted butterflies
were hovering over the sweet-peas abloom in sunny corners; birds shot
up now and then from the leafy aisles, singing, into the clear blue sky
above; the chorus of the negroes at work among the young cane floated
in, mellow and resonant, from the fields. The old mistress of La
Glorieuse saw it all behind her drooped eyelids. Was it not April, too,
that long-gone, unforgotten morning? And were not the bees busy in the
hearts of the roses, and the birds singing, when Richard Keith, the
first of the name who came to La Glorieuse, held her hand in his, and
whispered his love-story yonder by the ragged thicket of crepe-myrtle?
Ah, Félice, my child, thou art young, but I too have had my sixteen
years; and yellow as are the curls on the head bent over shine, those
of the first Richard were more golden still. And the second Richard, he
Marcelite's hand fell heavily on her mistress's shoulder. Madame
Arnault opened her eyes and sat up, grasping the arms of her chair. A
harsh, grating sound had fallen suddenly into the stillness, and the
shutters of one of the upper windows of the wing which overlooked the
garden were swinging slowly outward. A ripple of laughter, musical and
mocking, rang clearly on the air; at the same moment a woman appeared,
framed like a portrait in the narrow casement. She crossed her arms on
the iron window-bar and gazed silently down on the startled group
below. She was strangely beautiful and young, though an air of soft and
subtle maturity pervaded her graceful figure. A glory of yellow hair
encircled her pale, oval face, and waved away in fluffy masses to her
waist; her full lips were scarlet; her eyes, beneath their straight,
dark brows, were gray, with emerald shadows in their luminous depths.
Her low-cut gown, of some thin, yellowish-white material, exposed her
exquisitely rounded throat and perfect neck; long, flowing sleeves of
spidery lace fell away from her shapely arms, leaving them bare to the
shoulder; loose strings of pearls were wound around her small wrists,
and about her throat was clasped a strand of blood-red coral, from
which hung to the hollow of her bosom a single translucent drop of
amber. A smile at once daring and derisive parted her lips; an elusive
light came and went in her eyes.
Keith had started impatiently from his seat at the unwelcome
interruption. He stood regarding the intruder with mute, half-frowning
Félice turned a bewildered face to her grandmother. “Who is it,
Mère?” she whispered. “Did—did you give her leave?”
Madame Arnault had sunk back in her chair. Her hands trembled
convulsively still, and the lace on her bosom rose and fell with the
hurried beating of her heart. But she spoke in her ordinary measured,
almost formal tones, as she put out a hand and drew the girl to her
side. “I do not know, my child. Perhaps Suzette Beauvais has come over
with her guests from Grandchamp. I thought I heard but now the sound of
boats on the bayou. Suzette is ever ready with her pranks. Or perhaps
She stopped abruptly. The stranger was drawing the batten blinds
together. Her ivory-white arms gleamed in the sun. For a moment they
could see her face shining like a star against the dusky glooms within;
then the bolt was shot sharply to its place.
Old Marcelite drew a long breath of relief as she disappeared. A
smothered ejaculation had escaped her lips, under the girl's intent
gaze; an ashen gray had overspread her dark face. “Mam'selle Suzette,
she been an' dress up one o' her young ladies jes fer er trick,” she
said, slowly, wiping the great drops of perspiration from her wrinkled
“Suzette?” echoed Félice, incredulously. “She would never dare! Who
can it be?”
“It is easy enough to find out,” laughed Keith. “Let us go and see
for ourselves who is masquerading in my quarters.”
He drew her with him as he spoke along the winding violet-bordered
walks which led to the house. She looked anxiously back over her
shoulder at her grandmother. Madame Arnault half arose, and made an
imperious gesture of dissent; but Marcelite forced her gently into her
seat, and, leaning forward, whispered a few words rapidly in her ear.
“Thou art right, Marcelite,” she acquiesced, with a heavy sigh.
“'Tis better so.”
They spoke in nègre, that mysterious patois which is so
uncouth in itself, so soft and caressing on the lips of women. Madame
Arnault signed to the girl to go on. She shivered a little, watching
their retreating figures. The old bonne threw a light shawl
about her shoulders, and crouched affectionately at her feet. The
murmur of their voices as they talked long and earnestly together
hardly reached beyond the shadows of the wild-peach tree beneath which
“How beautiful she was!” Félice said, musingly, as they approached
the latticed passageway.
“Well, yes,” her companion returned, carelessly. “I confess I do not
greatly fancy that style of beauty myself.” And he glanced
significantly down at her own flower-like face.
She flushed, and her brown eves drooped, but a bright little smile
played about her sensitive mouth. “I cannot see,” she declared, “how
Suzette could have dared to take her friends into the ball-room!”
“Why?” he asked, smiling at her vehemence.
She stopped short in her surprise. “Do you not know, then?” She sank
her voice to a whisper. “The ball-room has never been opened since the
night my mother died. I was but a baby then, though sometimes I imagine
that I remember it all. There was a grand ball there that night. La
Glorieuse was full of guests, and everybody from all the plantations
around was here. Mère has never told me how it was, nor Marcelite; but
the other servants used to talk to me about my beautiful young mother,
and tell me how she died suddenly in her ball dress, while the ball was
going on. My father had the whole wing closed at once, and no one was
ever allowed to enter it. I used to be afraid to play in its shadow,
and if I did stray anywhere near it, my father would always call me
away. Her death must have broken his heart. He rarely spoke; I never
saw him smile; and his eyes were so sad that I could weep now at
remembering them. Then he too died while I was still a little girl, and
now I have no one in the world but dear old Mère.” Her voice trembled a
little, but she flushed, and smiled again beneath his meaning look. “It
was many years before even the lower floor was reopened, and I am
almost sure that yours is the only room there which has ever been
They stepped, as she concluded, into the hall.
“I have never been in here before,” she said, looking about her with
shy curiosity. A flood of sunlight poured through the wide arched
window at the foot of the stair. The door of the room nearest the
entrance stood open; the others, ranging along the narrow hall, were
“This is my room,” he said, nodding towards the open door.
She turned her head quickly away, with an impulse of girlish
modesty, and ran lightly up the stair. He glanced downward as he
followed, and paused, surprised to see the flutter of white garments in
a shaded corner of his room. Looking more closely, he saw that it was a
glimmer of light from an open window on the dark, polished floor.
The upper hall was filled with sombre shadows; the motionless air
was heavy with a musky, choking odor. In the dimness a few tattered
hangings were visible on the walls; a rope, with bits of crumbling
evergreen clinging to it, trailed from above one of the low windows.
The panelled double door of the ball-room was shut; no sound came from
“The girls have seen us coming,” said Félice, picking her way
daintily across the dust-covered floor, “and they have hidden
Keith pushed open the heavy valves, which creaked noisily on their
rusty hinges. The gloom within was murkier still; the chill dampness,
with its smell of mildew and mould, was like that of a funeral vault.
The large, low-ceilinged room ran the entire length of the house. A
raised dais, whose faded carpet had half rotted away, occupied an
alcove at one end; upon it four or five wooden stools were placed; one
of these was overturned; on another a violin in its baggy green-baize
cover was lying. Straight high-backed chairs were pushed against the
walls on either side; in front of an open fireplace with a low wooden
mantel two small cushioned divans were drawn up, with a claw-footed
table between them. A silver salver filled with tall glasses was set
carelessly on one edge of the table; a half-open fan of sandalwood lay
beside it; a man's glove had fallen on the hearth just within the
tarnished brass fender. Cobwebs depended from the ceiling, and hung in
loose threads from the mantel; dust was upon everything, thick and
motionless; a single ghostly ray of light that filtered in through a
crevice in one of the shutters was weighted with gray, lustreless
motes. The room was empty and silent. The visitors, who had come so
stealthily, had as stealthily departed, leaving no trace behind them.
“They have played us a pretty trick,” said Keith, gayly. “They must
have fled as soon as they saw us start towards the house.” He went over
to the window from which the girl had looked down into the rose garden,
and gave it a shake. The dust flew up in a suffocating cloud, and the
spiked nails which secured the upper sash rattled in their places.
“That is like Suzette Beauvais,” Félice replied, absently. She was
not thinking of Suzette. She had forgotten even the stranger, whose
disdainful eyes, fixed upon herself, had moved her sweet nature to
something like a rebellious anger. Her thoughts were on the beautiful
young mother of alien race, whose name, for some reason, she was
forbidden to speak. She saw her glide, gracious and smiling, along the
smooth floor; she heard her voice above the call and response of the
violins; she breathed the perfume of her laces, backward blown by the
swift motion of the dance!
She strayed dreamily about, touching with an almost reverent finger
first one worm-eaten object and then another, as if by so doing she
could make the imagined scene more real. Her eyes were downcast; the
blood beneath her rich dark skin came and went in brilliant flushes on
her cheeks; the bronze hair, piled in heavy coils on her small,
well-poised head, fell in loose rings on her low forehead and against
her white neck; her soft gray gown, following the harmonious lines of
her slender figure, seemed to envelop her like a twilight cloud.
“She is adorable,” said Richard Keith to himself.
It was the first time that he had been really alone with her, though
this was the third week of his stay in the hospitable old mansion where
his father and his grandfather before him had been welcome guests. Now
that he came to think of it, in that bundle of yellow, time-worn
letters from Félix Arnault to Richard Keith, which he had found among
his father's papers, was one which described at length a ball in this
very ballroom. Was it in celebration of his marriage, or of his
home-coming after a tour abroad? Richard could not remember. But he
idly recalled portions of other letters, as he stood with his elbow on
the mantel watching Félix Arnault's daughter.
“Your son and my daughter,” the phrase which had made him
smile when he read it yonder in his Maryland home, brought now a warm
glow to his heart. The half-spoken avowal, the question that had
trembled on his lips a few moments ago in the rose-garden, stirred
impetuously within him.
Félice stepped down from the dais where she had been standing, and
came swiftly across the room, as if his unspoken thought had called her
to him. A tender rapture possessed him to see her thus drawing towards
him; he longed to stretch out his arms and fold her to his breast. He
moved, and his hand came in contact with a small object on the mantel.
He picked it up. It was a ring, a band of dull, worn gold, with a
confused tracery graven upon it. He merely glanced at it, slipping it
mechanically on his finger. His eyes were full upon hers, which were
suffused and shining.
“Did you speak?” she asked, timidly. She had stopped abruptly, and
was looking at him with a hesitating, half-bewildered expression.
“No,” he replied. His mood had changed. He walked again to the
window and examined the clumsy bolt. “Strange!” he muttered. “I have
never seen a face like hers,” he sighed, dreamily.
“She was very beautiful,” Félice returned, quietly. “I think we must
be going,” she added. “Mère will be growing impatient.” The flush had
died out of her cheek, her arms hung listlessly at her side. She
shuddered as she gave a last look around the desolate room. “They were
dancing here when my mother died,” she said to herself.
He preceded her slowly down the stair. The remembrance of the woman
began vaguely to stir his senses. He had hardly remarked her then,
absorbed as he had been in another idea. Now she seemed to swim
voluptuously before his vision; her tantalizing laugh rang in his ears;
her pale, perfumed hair was blown across his face; he felt its filmy
strands upon his lips and eyelids. “Do you think,” he asked, turning
eagerly on the bottom step, “that they could have gone into any of
She shrank unaccountably from him.
“Oh no!” she cried. “They are in the rose-garden with Mère, or they
have gone around to the lawn. Come;” and she hurried out before him.
Madame Arnault looked at them sharply as they came up to where she
was sitting. “No one!” she echoed, in response to Keith's report. “Then
they really have gone back?”
“Madame knows dat we has hear de boats pass up de bayou whilse
m'sieu' an' mam'selle was inside,” interposed Marcelite, stooping to
pick up her mistress's cane.
“I would not have thought Suzette so—so indiscreet,” said Félice.
There was a note of weariness in her voice.
Madame Arnault looked anxiously at her and then at Keith. The young
man was staring abstractedly at the window, striving to recall the
vision that had appeared there, and he felt, rather than saw, his
hostess start and change color when her eyes fell upon the ring he was
wearing. He lifted his hand covertly, and turned the trinket around in
the light, but he tried in vain to decipher the irregular characters
traced upon it.
“Let us go in,” said the old madame. “Félice, my child, thou art
Now when in all her life before was Félice ever fatigued? Félice,
whose strong young arms could send a pirogue flying up the bayou for
miles; Félice, who was ever ready for a tramp along the rose-hedged
lanes to the swamp lakes when the water-lilies were in bloom; to the
sugar-house in grinding-time; down the levee road to St. Joseph's, the
little brown ivy-grown church, whose solitary spire arose slim and
straight above the encircling trees.
Marcelite gave an arm to her mistress, though, in truth, she seemed
to walk a little unsteadily herself. Félice followed with Keith, who
was silent and self-absorbed.
The day passed slowly, a constraint had somehow fallen upon the
little household. Madame Arnault's fine high-bred old face wore its
customary look of calm repose, but her eyes now and then sought her
guest with an expression which he could not have fathomed if he had
observed it. But he saw nothing. A mocking red mouth; a throat made for
the kisses of love; white arms strung with pearls—these were ever
before him, shutting away even the pure sweet face of Félice Arnault.
“Why did I not look at her more closely when I had the opportunity,
fool that I was?” he asked himself, savagely, again and again,
revolving in his mind a dozen pretexts for going at once to the
Beauvais plantation, a mile or so up the bayou. But he felt an
inexplicable shyness at the thought of putting any of these plans into
action, and so allowed the day to drift by. He arose gladly when the
hour for retiring came—that hour which he had hitherto postponed by
every means in his power. He kissed, as usual, the hand of his hostess,
and held that of Félice in his for a moment; but he did not feel its
trembling, or see the timid trouble in her soft eyes.
His room in the silent and deserted wing was full of fantastic
shadows. He threw himself on a chair beside a window without lighting
his lamp. The rose-garden outside was steeped in moonlight; the
magnolia bells gleamed waxen-white against their glossy green leaves;
the vines on the tall trellises threw a soft net-work of dancing
shadows on the white-shelled walks below; the night air stealing about
was loaded with the perfume of roses and sweet-olive; a mockingbird
sang in an orange-tree, his mate responding sleepily from her nest in
the old summerhouse.
“To-morrow,” he murmured, half aloud, “I will go to Grandchamp and
give her the ring she left in the old ball-room.”
He looked at it glowing dully in the moonlight; suddenly he lifted
his head, listening. Did a door grind somewhere near on its hinges? He
got up cautiously and looked out. It was not fancy. She was standing
full in view on the small balcony of the room next his own. Her white
robes waved to and fro in the breeze; the pearls on her arms glistened.
Her face, framed in the pale gold of her hair, was turned towards him;
a smile curved her lips; her mysterious eyes seemed to be searching his
through the shadow. He drew back, confused and trembling, and when, a
second later, he looked again, she was gone.
He sat far into the night, his brain whirling, his blood on fire.
Who was she, and what was the mystery hidden in this isolated old
plantation house? His thoughts reverted to the scene in the
rose-garden, and he went over and over all its details. He remembered
Madame Arnault's agitation when the window opened and the girl
appeared; her evident discomfiture—of which at the time he had taken
no heed, but which came back to him vividly enough now—at his
proposal to visit the ball-room; her startled recognition of the ring
on his finger; her slurring suggestion of visitors from Grandchamp; the
look of terror on Marcelite's face. What did it all mean? Félice, he
was sure, knew nothing. But here, in an unused portion of the house,
which even the members of the family had never visited, a young and
beautiful girl was shut up a prisoner, condemned perhaps to a life-long
“Good God!” He leaped to his feet at the thought. He would go and
thunder at Madame Arnault's door, and demand an explanation. But no;
not yet. He calmed himself with an effort. By too great haste he might
injure her. “Insane?” He laughed aloud at the idea of madness in
connection with that exquisite creature.
It dawned upon him, as he paced restlessly back and forth, that
although his father had been here more than once in his youth and
manhood, he had never heard him speak of La Glorieuse nor of Félix
Arnault, whose letters he had read after his father's death a few
months ago—those old letters whose affectionate warmth, indeed, had
determined him, in the first desolation of his loss, to seek the family
which seemed to have been so bound to his own. Morose and taciturn as
his father had been, surely he would sometimes have spoken of his old
friend if—Worn out at last with conjecture; beaten back, bruised and
breathless, from an enigma which he could not solve; exhausted by
listening with strained attention for some movement in the next room,
he threw himself on his bed, dressed as he was, and fell into a heavy
sleep, which lasted far into the forenoon of the next day.
When he came out (walking like one in a dream), he found a gay party
assembled on the lawn in front of the house. Suzette Beauvais and her
guests, a bevy of girls, had come from Grandchamp. They had been
joined, as they rowed down the bayou, by the young people from the
plantation houses on the way. Half a dozen boats, their long paddles
laid across the seats, were added to the home fleet at the landing.
Their stalwart black rowers were basking in the sun on the levee, or
lounging about the quarter. At the moment of his appearance, Suzette
herself was indignantly disclaiming any complicity in the jest of the
“Myself, I was making o'ange- flower conserve,” she declared; “an'
anyhow I wouldn't go in that ball-room unless madame send me.”
“But who was it, then?” insisted Felice.
Mademoiselle Beauvais spread out her fat little hands and lifted her
shoulders. “Mo pas connais,” she laughed, dropping into patois.
Madame Arnault here interposed. It was but the foolish conceit of
some teasing neighbor, she said, and not worth further discussion.
Keith's blood boiled in his veins at this calm dismissal of the
subject, but he gave no sign. He saw her glance warily at himself from
time to time.
“I will sift the matter to the bottom,” he thought, “and I will
force her to confess the truth, whatever it may be, before the world.”
The noisy chatter and meaningless laughter around him jarred upon
his nerves; he longed to be alone with his thoughts; and presently,
pleading a headache—indeed his temples throbbed almost to bursting,
and his eyes were hot and dry—he quitted the lawn, seeing but not
noting until long afterwards, when they smote his memory like a
two-edged knife, the pain in Félice's uplifted eyes, and the little
sorrowful quiver of her mouth. He strolled around the corner of the
house to his apartment. The blinds of the arched window were drawn, and
a hazy twilight was diffused about the hall, though it was
mid-afternoon outside. As he entered, closing the door behind him, the
woman at that moment uppermost in his thoughts came down the dusky
silence from the farther end of the hall. She turned her inscrutable
eyes upon him in passing, and flitted noiselessly and with languid
grace up the stairway, the faint swish of her gown vanishing with her.
He hesitated a moment, overpowered by conflicting emotions; then he
sprang recklessly after her.
He pushed open the ball-room door, reaching his arms out blindly
before him. Once more the great dust-covered room was empty. He
strained his eye helplessly into the obscurity. A chill reaction passed
over him; he felt himself on the verge of a swoon. He did not this time
even try to discover the secret door or exit by which she had
disappeared; he looked, with a hopeless sense of discouragement, at the
barred windows, and turned to leave the room. As he did so, he saw a
handkerchief lying on the threshold of the door. He picked it up
eagerly, and pressed it to his lips. A peculiar delicate perfume which
thrilled his senses lurked in its gossamer folds. As he was about
thrusting it into his breast-pocket, he noticed in one corner a small
blood-stain fresh and wet. He had then bitten his lip in his
“I need no further proof,” he said aloud, and his own voice startled
him, echoing down the long hall. “She is beyond all question a prisoner
in this detached building, which has mysterious exits and entrances.
She has been forced to promise that she will not go outside of its
walls, or she is afraid to do so. I will bring home this monstrous
crime. I will release this lovely young woman who dares not speak, yet
so plainly appeals to me.” Already he saw in fancy her star-like eyes
raised to his in mute gratitude, her white hand laid confidingly on his
The party of visitors remained at La Glorieuse overnight. The negro
fiddlers came in, and there was dancing in the old-fashioned double
parlors and on the moonlit galleries. Félice was unnaturally gay. Keith
looked on gloomily, taking no part in the amusement.
“Il est bien bête, your yellow-haired Marylander,” whispered
Suzette Beauvais to her friend.
He went early his room, but he watched in vain for
some sign from his beautiful neighbor. He grew sick with apprehension.
Had Madame Arnault—But no; she would not dare. “I will wait one more
day,” he finally decided; “and then—”
The next morning, after a late breakfast, some one proposed
impromptu charades and tableaux. Madame Arnault good-naturedly sent for
the keys to the tall presses built into the walls, which contained the
accumulated trash and treasure of several generations. Mounted on a
step-ladder, Robert Beauvais explored the recesses and threw down to
the laughing crowd embroidered shawls and scarfs yellow with age, soft
muslins of antique pattern, stiff big-flowered brocades, scraps of
gauze ribbon, gossamer laces. On one topmost shelf he came upon a small
wooden box inlaid with mother-of-pearl. Félice reached up for it, and,
moved by some undefined impulse, Richard came and stood by her side
while she opened it. A perfume which he recognized arose from it as she
lifted a fold of tissue-paper. Some strings of Oriental pearls of
extraordinary size, and perfect in shape and color, were coiled
underneath, with a coral necklace, whose pendant of amber had broken
off and rolled into a corner. With them—he hardly restrained an
exclamation, and his hand involuntarily sought his breast-pocket at
sight of the handkerchief with a drop of fresh blood in one corner!
Félice trembled without knowing why. Madame Arnault, who had just
entered the room, took the box from her quietly, and closed the lid
with a snap. The girl, accustomed to implicit obedience, asked no
questions; the others, engaged in turning over the old-time finery, had
paid no attention.
“Does she think to disarm me by such puerile tricks?” he thought,
turning a look of angry warning on the old madame; and in the steady
gaze which she fixed on him he read a haughty defiance.
He forced himself to enter into the sports of the day, and he walked
down to the boat-landing a little before sunset to see the guests
depart. As the line of boats swept away, the black rowers dipping their
oars lightly in the placid waves, he turned, with a sense of release,
leaving Madame Arnault and Félice still at the landing, and went down
the levee road towards St. Joseph's. The field gang, whose red, blue,
and brown blouses splotched the squares of cane with color, was
preparing to quit work; loud laughter and noisy jests rang out on the
air; high-wheeled plantation wagons creaked along the lanes; negro
children, with dip-nets and fishing-poles over their shoulders, ran
homeward along the levee, the dogs at their heels barking joyously; a
schooner, with white sail outspread, was stealing like a fairy bark
around a distant bend of the bayou; the silvery waters were turning to
gold under a sunset sky.
It was twilight when he struck across the plantation, and came
around by the edge of the swamp to the clump of trees in a corner of
the home field which he had often remarked from his window. As he
approached, he saw a woman come out of the dense shadow, as if
intending to meet him, and then draw back again. His heart throbbed
painfully, but he walked steadily forward. It was only Félice. Only
Félice! She was sitting on a flat tombstone. The little spot was
the Raymonde-Arnault family burying-ground. There were many marble
head-stones and shafts, and two broad low tombs side by side and a
little apart from the others. A tangle of rose-briars covered the
sunken graves, a rank growth of grass choked the narrow paths, the
little gate, interlaced and overhung with honeysuckle, sagged away from
its posts; the fence itself had lost a picket here and there, and weeds
flaunted boldly in the gaps. The girl looked wan and ghostly in the
“This is my father's grave, and my mother is here,” she said,
abruptly, as he came up and stood beside her. Her head was drooped upon
her breast, and he saw that she had been weeping. “See,” she went on,
drawing her finger along the mildewed lettering: ” 'Félix
Marie-Joseph Arnault . . . âgé de trente-quatre ans.' . . . 'Hélène
Pallacier, épouse de Félix Arnault. . . décédée a l'âge de dix-neuf
ans.' Nineteen years old,” she repeated, slowly. “My mother was one
year younger than I am when she died—my beautiful mother!”
Her voice sounded like a far-away murmur in his ears. He looked at
her, vaguely conscious that she was suffering. But he did not speak,
and after a little she got up and went away. Her dress, which brushed
in passing, was wet with dew. He watched her slight figure, moving like
a spirit along the lane, until a turn in the hedge hid her from sight.
Then he turned again towards the swamp, and resumed his restless walk.
Some hours later he crossed the rose-garden. The moon was under a
cloud; the trunks of the crepe-myrtles were like pale spectres in the
uncertain light. The night wind blew in chill and moist from the swamp.
The house was dark and quiet, but he heard the blind of an upper window
turned stealthily as he stepped into the latticed arcade.
“The old madame is watching me—and her,” he said to himself.
His agitation had now become supreme. The faint familiar perfume
that stole about his room filled him with a kind of frenzy. Was this
the chivalric devotion of which he had so boasted? this the desire to
protect a young and defenceless woman? He no longer dared question
himself. He seemed to feel her warm breath against his cheeks. He threw
up his arms with a gesture of despair. A sigh stirred the death-like
stillness. At last! She was there, just within his doorway; the pale
glimmer of the veiled moon fell upon her. Her trailing laces wrapped
her about like a silver mist; her arms were folded across her bosom;
her eyes—he dared not interpret the meaning which he read in those
wonderful eyes. She turned slowly and went down the hall. He followed
her, reeling like a drunkard. His feet seemed clogged, the blood ran
thick in his veins, a strange roaring was in his ears. His hot eyes
strained her as she vanished, just beyond his touch, into the room next
his own. He threw himself against the closed door in a transport of
rage. It yielded suddenly, as if opened from within. A full blaze of
light struck his eyes, blinding him for an instant; then he saw her. A
huge four-posted bed with silken hangings occupied a recess in the
room. Across its foot a low couch was drawn. She had thrown herself
there. Her head was pillowed on crimson gold-embroidered cushions; her
diaphanous draperies, billowing foam-like over her, half concealed,
half revealed her lovely form; her hair waved away from her brows, and
spread like a shower of gold over the cushions. One bare arm hung to
the door; something jewel-like gleamed in the half-closed hand; the
other lay across her forehead, and from beneath it her eyes were fixed
upon him. He sprang forward with a cry. . . .
At first he could remember nothing. The windows were open; the heavy
curtains which shaded them moved lazily in the breeze; a shaft of
sunlight that came in between them fell upon the polished surface of
the marble mantel. He examined with languid curiosity some trifles that
stood there—a pair of Dresden figures, a blue Sèvres vase of graceful
shape, a bronze clock with gilded rose-wreathed Cupids; and then raised
his eyes to the two portraits which hung above. One of these was
familiar enough—the dark, melancholy face of Félix Arnault, whose
portrait by different hands and at different periods of his life hung
in nearly every room at La Glorieuse. The blood surged into his face
and receded again at sight of the other. Oh, so strangely like! The
yellow hair, the slumberous eyes, the full throat clasped about with a
single strand of coral. Yes, it was she! He lifted himself on his
elbow. He was in bed. Surely this was the room into which she had drawn
him with her eyes. Did he sink on the threshold, all his senses
swooning into delicious death? Or had he, indeed, in that last moment
thrown himself on his knees by her couch? He could not remember, and he
sank back with a sigh.
Instantly Madame Arnault was bending over him. Her cool hands were
on his forehead. “Dieu merci!” she exclaimed, “thou art
thyself once more, mon fils.“
He seized her hand imperiously. “Tell me, madame,” he demanded—
“tell me, for the love of God! What is she? Who is she? Why have you
shut her away in this deserted place? Why—”
She was looking down at him with an expression half of pity, half of
“Forgive me,” he faltered, involuntarily, all his darker suspicions
somehow vanishing; “but—oh, tell me!”
“Calm thyself, Richard,” she said, soothingly, seating herself on
the side of the bed, and stroking his hand gently. Too agitated to
speak, he continued to gaze at her with imploring eyes. “Yes, yes, I
will relate the whole story,” she added, hastily, for he was panting
and struggling for speech. “I heard you fall last night,” she
continued, relapsing for greater ease into French; “for I was full of
anxiety about you, and I lingered long at my window watching for you. I
came at once with Marcelite, and found you lying insensible across the
threshold of this room. We lifted you to the bed, and bled you after
the old fashion, and then I gave you a tisane of my own making, which
threw you into a quiet sleep. I have watched beside you until your
waking. Now you are but a little weak from fasting and excitement, and
when you have rested and eaten—”
“No,” he pleaded; “now, at once!”
“Very well,” she said, simply. She was silent a moment, as if
arranging her thoughts. “Your grandfather, a Richard Keith like
yourself,” she began, “was a college-mate and friend of my brother,
Henri Raymonde, and accompanied him to La Glorieuse during one of their
vacations. I was already betrothed to Monsieur Arnault, but I—No
matter! I never saw Richard Keith afterwards. But years later he sent
your father, who also bore his name, to visit me here. My son, Félix,
was but a year or so younger than his boy, and the two lads became at
once warm friends. They went abroad, and pursued their studies side by
side, like brothers. They came home together, and when Richard's father
died, Felix spent nearly a year with him on his Maryland plantation.
They exchanged, when apart, almost daily letters. Richard's marriage,
which occurred soon after they left college, strengthened rather than
weakened this extraordinary bond between them. Then came on the war.
They were in the same command, and hardly lost sight of each other
during their four years of service.
“When the war was ended, your father went back to his estates. Félix
turned his face homeward, but drifted by some strange chance down to
Florida, where he met her”—she glanced at the portrait over
the mantel. “Hélène Pallacier was Greek by descent, her family having
been among those brought over some time during the last century as
colonists to Florida from the Greek islands. He married her, barely
delaying his marriage long enough to write me that he was bringing home
a bride. She was young, hardly more than a child, indeed, and
marvellously beautiful”—Keith moved impatiently; he found these
family details tedious and uninteresting—“a radiant, soulless
creature, whose only law was her own selfish enjoyment, and whose
coming brought pain and bitterness to La Glorieuse. These were her
rooms. She chose them because of the rose-garden, for she had a
sensuous and passionate love of nature. She used to lie for hours on
the grass there, with her arms flung over her head, gazing dreamily at
the fluttering leaves above her. The pearls—which she always wore—
some coral ornaments, and a handful of amber beads were her only dower,
but her caprices were the insolent and extravagant caprices of a queen.
Félix, who adored her, gratified them at whatever expense; and I think
at first she had a careless sort of regard for him. But she hated the
little Félice, whose coming gave her the first pang of physical pain
she had ever known. She never offered the child a caress. She sometimes
looked at her with a suppressed rage which filled me with terror and
“When Félice was a little more than a year old, your father came to
La Glorieuse to pay us a long-promised visit. His wife had died some
months before, and you, a child of six or seven years, were left in
charge of relatives in Maryland. Richard was in the full vigor of
manhood, broad-shouldered, tall, blue-eyed, and blond-haired, like his
father and like you. From the moment of their first meeting Hélène
exerted all the power of her fascination to draw him to her. Never had
she been so whimsical, so imperious, so bewitching! Loyal to his
friend, faithful to his own high sense of honor, he struggled against a
growing weakness, and finally fled. I will never forget the night he
went away. A ball had been planned by Félix in honor of his friend. The
ball-room was decorated under his own supervision. The house was filled
with guests from adjoining parishes; everybody, young and old, came
from the plantations around. Hélène was dazzling that night. The light
of triumph lit her cheeks; her eyes shone with a softness which I had
never seen in them before. I watched her walking up and down the room
with Richard, or floating with him in the dance. They were like a pair
of radiant god-like visitants from another world. My heart ached for
them in spite of my indignation and apprehension; for light whispers
were beginning to circulate, and I saw more than one meaning smile
directed at them. Félix, who was truth itself, was gayly unconscious.
“Towards midnight I heard far up the bayou the shrill whistle of the
little packet which passed up and down then, as now, twice a week, and
presently she swung up to our landing. Richard was standing with Hélène
by the fireplace. They had been talking for some time in low, earnest
tones. A sudden look of determination came into his eyes. I saw him
draw from his finger a ring which she had one day playfully bade him
wear, and offer it to her. His face was white and strained; hers wore a
look which I could not fathom. He quitted her side abruptly and walked
rapidly across the room, threading his way among the dancers, and
disappeared in the press about the door. A few moments later a note was
handed me. I heard the boat steam away from the landing as I read it.
It was a hurried line from Richard. He said that he had been called
away on urgent business, and he begged me to make his adieus to Madame
Arnault and Félix. Félix was worried and perplexed by the sudden
departure of his guest. Helene said not a word, but very soon I saw her
slipping down the stair, and I knew that she had gone to her room. Her
absence was not remarked, for the ball was at its height. It was almost
daylight when the last dance was concluded, and the guests who were
staying in the house had retired to their rooms.
“Félix, having seen to the comfort of all, went at last to join his
wife. He burst into my room a second later, almost crazed with horror
and grief. I followed him to this room. She was lying on a couch at the
foot of the bed. One arm was thrown across her forehead, the other hung
to the floor, and in her hand she held a tiny silver bottle with a
jewelled stopper. A handkerchief, with a single drop of blood upon it,
was lying on her bosom. A faint, curious odor exhaled from her lips and
hung about the room, but the poison had left no other trace.
“No one save ourselves and Marcelite ever knew the truth. She had
danced too much at the ball that night, and she had died suddenly of
heart-disease. We buried her out yonder in the old Raymonde-Arnault
burying-ground. I do not know what the letter contained which Félix
wrote to Richard. He never uttered his name afterwards. The ball-room—
the whole wing, in truth—was at once closed. Everything was left
exactly as it was on that fatal night. A few years ago, the house being
unexpectedly full, I opened the room in which you have been staying,
and it has been used from time to time as a guest-room since. My son
lived some years, prematurely old, heart-broken, and desolate. He died
with her name on his lips.”
Madame Arnault stopped.
A suffocating sensation was creeping over her listener. Only in the
last few moments had the signification of the story begun to dawn upon
him. “Do you mean,” he gasped, “that the girl whom I—that she is—
“Hélène, dead wife of Félix Arnault,” she replied, gravely. “Her
restless spirit has walked here before. I have sometimes heard her
tantalizing laugh echo through the house, but no one had ever seen her
until you came—so like the Richard Keith she loved!”
“When I read your letter,” she went on, after a short silence,
“which told me that you wished to come to those friends to whom your
father had been so dear, all the past arose before me, and I felt that
I ought to forbid your coming. But I remembered how Félix and Richard
had loved each other before she came between them. I thought of the
other Richard Keith whom I—I loved once; and I dreamed of a union at
last between the families. I hoped, Richard, that you and Félice—”
But Richard was no longer listening. He wished to believe the whole
fantastic story an invention of the keen-eyed old madame herself. Yet
something within him confessed to its truth. A tumultuous storm of
baffled desire, of impotent anger, swept over him. The ring he wore
burned into his flesh. But he had no thought of removing it—the ring
which had once belonged to the beautiful golden-haired woman who had
come back from the grave to woo him to her!
He turned his face away and groaned.
Her eyes hardened. She arose stiffly. “I will send a servant with
your breakfast,” she said, with her hand on the door. “The down boat
will pass La Glorieuse this afternoon. You will perhaps wish to take
advantage of it.”
He started. He had not thought of going—of leaving her— her!
He looked at the portrait on the wall and laughed bitterly.
Madame Arnault accompanied him with ceremonious politeness to the
front steps that afternoon.
“Mademoiselle Félice?” he murmured, inquiringly, glancing back at
the windows of the sitting-room.
“Mademoiselle Arnault is occupied,” she coldly returned. “I will
convey to her your farewell.”
He looked back as the boat chugged away. Peaceful shadows enwrapped
the house and overspread the lawn. A single window in the wing gleamed
like a bale-fire in the rays of the setting sun.
The years that followed were years of restless wandering for Richard
Keith. He visited his estate but rarely. He went abroad and returned,
hardly having set foot to land; he buried himself in the fastnesses of
the Rockies; he made a long, aimless sea-voyage. Her image accompanied
him everywhere. Between him and all he saw hovered her faultless face;
her red mouth smiled at him; her white arms enticed him. His own face
became worn and his step listless. He grew silent and gloomy. “He is
madder than the old colonel, his father, was,” his friends said,
shrugging their shoulders.
One day, more than three years after his visit to La Glorieuse, he
found himself on a deserted part of the Florida sea-coast. It was late
in November, but the sky was soft and the air warm and balmy. He bared
his head as he paced moodily to and fro on the silent beach. The waves
rolled languidly to his feet and receded, leaving scattered
half-wreaths of opalescent foam on the snowy sands. The wind that
fanned his face was filled with the spicy odors of the sea. Seized by a
capricious impulse, he threw off his clothes and dashed into the surf.
The undulating billows closed around him; a singular lassitude passed
into his limbs as he swam; he felt himself slowly sinking, as if drawn
downward by an invisible hand. He opened his eyes. The waves lapped
musically above his head; a tawny glory was all about him, a luminous
expanse, in which he saw strangely formed creatures moving, darting,
rising, falling, coiling, uncoiling.
“You was jess on de eedge er drowndin', Mars Dick,” said Wiley, his
black body-servant, spreading his own clothes on the porch of the
little fishing-hut to dry. “In de name o' Gawd, whar mek you wanter go
in swimmin' dis time o' de yea', anyhow? Ef I hadn'er splurge in an'
fotch you out, dey'd er been mo'nin' yander at de plantation, sho!”
His master laughed lazily. “You are right, Wiley,” he said; “and you
are going to smoke the best tobacco in Maryland as long as you live.”
He felt buoyant. Youth and elasticity seemed to have come back to him
at a bound. He stretched himself on the rough bench, and watched the
blue rings of smoke curl lightly away from his cigar. Gradually he was
aware of a pair of wistful eyes shining down on him. His heart leaped.
They were the eyes of Félice Arnault! “My God, have I been mad!” he
muttered. His eyes sought his hand. The ring, from which he had never
been parted, was gone. It had been torn from his finger in his wrestle
with the sea. “ Get my traps together at once, Wiley,” he said. “We are
going to La Glorieuse.”
“Now you talkin', Mars Dick,” assented Wiley, cheerfully.
It was night when he reached the city. First of all, he made
inquiries concerning the little packet. He was right; the Assumption
would leave the next afternoon at five o'clock for Bayou L'Éperon. He
went to the same hotel at which he had stopped before when on his way
to La Glorieuse. The next morning, too joyous to sleep, he rose early,
and went out into the street. A gray, uncertain dawn was just
struggling into the sky. A few people on their way to market or to
early mass were passing along the narrow banquettes; sleepy-eyed women
were unbarring the shutters of their tiny shops; high-wheeled
milk-carts were rattling over the granite pavements; in the vine-hung
courtyards, visible here and there through iron grilles, parrots were
scolding on their perches; children pattered up and down the long,
arched corridors; the prolonged cry of an early clothes-pole man
echoed, like the note of a winding horn, through the close alleys.
Keith sauntered carelessly along.
“In so many hours,” he kept repeating to himself, “I shall be on my
way to La Glorieuse. The boat will swing into the home landing; the
negroes will swarm across the gang-plank, laughing and shouting; Madame
Arnault and Félice will come out on the gallery and look, shading their
eyes with their hands. Oh, I know quite well that the old madame will
greet me coldly at first. Her eyes are like steel when she is angry.
But when she knows that I am once more a sane man—And Félice, what if
she—But no! Félice is not the kind of woman who loves more than once;
and she did love me, God bless her! unworthy as I was.”
A carriage, driven rapidly, passed him; his eyes followed it idly,
until it turned far away into a side street. He strayed on to the
market, where he seated himself on a high stool in L'Appel du Matin
coffee-stall. But a vague, teasing remembrance was beginning to stir in
his brain. The turbaned woman on the front seat of the carriage that
had rolled past him yonder, where had he seen that dark, grave,
wrinkled face, with the great hoops of gold against either cheek?
Marcelite! He left the stall and retraced his steps, quickening his
pace almost to a run as he went. Félice herself, then, might be in the
city. He hurried to the street into which the carriage had turned, and
glanced down between the rows of wide-caved cottages with green doors
and batten shutters. It had stopped several squares away; there seemed
to be a number of people gathered about it. “I will at least satisfy
myself,” he thought.
As he came up, a bell in a little cross-crowned tower began to ring
slowly. The carriage stood in front of a low red-brick house, set
directly on the street; a silent crowd pressed about the entrance.
There was a hush within. He pushed his way along the banquette to the
steps. A young nun, in a brown serge robe, kept guard at the door. She
wore a wreath of white artificial roses above her long coarse veil.
Something in his face appealed to her, and she found a place for him in
the little convent chapel.
Madame Arnault, supported by Marcelite, was kneeling in front of the
altar, which blazed with candles. She had grown frightfully old and
frail. Her face was set, and her eyes were fixed with a rigid stare on
the priest who was saying mass. Marcelite's dark cheeks were streaming
with tears. The chapel, which wore a gala air, with its lights and
flowers, was filled with people. On the left of the altar, a bishop, in
gorgeous robes, was sitting, attended by priests and acolytes; on the
right, the wooden panel behind an iron grating had been removed, and
beyond, in the nun's choir, the black-robed sisters of the Carmelite
order were gathered. Heavy veils shrouded their faces and fell to their
feet. They held in their hands tall wax-candles, whose yellow flames
burned steadily in the semi-darkness. Five or six young girls knelt,
motionless as statues, in their midst. They also carried tapers, and
their rapt faces were turned towards the unseen altar within, of which
the outer one is but the visible token. Their eyelids were downcast.
Their white veils were thrown back from their calm foreheads, and
floated like wings from their shoulders.
He felt no surprise when he saw Félice among them. He seemed to have
foreknown always that he should find her thus on the edge of another
and mysterious world into which he could not follow her.
Her skin had lost a little of its warm, rich tint; the soft rings of
hair were drawn away under her veil; her hands were thin, and as waxen
as the taper she held. An unearthly beauty glorified her pale face.
“Is it forever too late?” he asked himself in agony, covering his
face with his hands. When he looked again the white veil on her head
had been replaced by the sombre one of the order. “If I could but speak
to her!” he thought; “if she would but once lift her eyes to mine, she
would come to me even now!”
Félice! Did the name break from his lips in a hoarse cry that
echoed through the hushed chapel, and silenced the voice of the priest?
He never knew. But a faint color swept into her cheeks. Her eyelids
trembled. In a flash the rose-garden at La Glorieuse was before him; he
saw the turquoise sky, and heard the mellow chorus of the field gang;
the smell of damask-roses was in the air; her little hand was in his .
. . he saw her coming swiftly towards him across the dusk of the old
ball-room; her limpid, innocent eyes were smiling into his own. . . .
she was standing on the grassy lawn; the shadows of the leaves
flickered over her white gown . . . .
At last the quivering eyelids were lifted. She turned her head
slowly, and looked steadily at him. He held his breath. A cart rumbled
along the cobble-stones outside; the puny wail of a child sounded
across the stillness; a handful of rose-leaves from a vase at the foot
of the altar dropped on the hem of Madame Arnault's dress. It might
have been the gaze of an angel in a world where there is no marrying
nor giving in marriage, so pure was it, so passionless, so free of
anything like earthly desire.
As she turned her face again towards the altar the bell in the tower
above ceased tolling; a triumphant chorus leaped into the air, borne
aloft by joyous organ tones. The first rays of the morning sun streamed
in through the small windows. Then light penetrated into the nun's
choir, and enveloped like a mantle of gold Sister Mary of the Cross,
who in the world had been Félicité Arnault.