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SPLENDID HAZARD


By

HAROLD MACGRATH






AUTHOR OF

THE GOOSE GIRL, THE LURE OF THE MASK,
THE MAN ON THE BOX, ETC.




With Illustrations by

HOWARD CHANDLER CHRISTY


[Transcriber's note: All illustrations were missing from book.]






NEW YORK

GROSSET & DUNLAP

PUBLISHERS




COPYRIGHT 1910

THE BOBBS-MERRILL COMPANY




CONTENTS


CHAPTER

I A MEMORABLE DATE
II THE BUTTERFLY MAN
III A PLASTER STATUETTE
IV PIRATES AND SECRETARIES
V NO FALSE PRETENSES
VI SOME EXPLANATIONS
VII A BIT OF ROMANTIC HISTORY
VIII SOME BIRDS IN A CHIMNEY
IX THEY DRESS FOR DINNER
X THE GHOST OF AN OLD REGIME
XI PREPARATIONS AND COGITATIONS
XII M. FERRAUD INTRODUCES HIMSELF
XIII THE WOMAN WHO KNEW
XIV THE DRAMA BEGINS
XV THEY GO A-SAILING
XVI CROSS-PURPOSES
XVII A QUESTION PROM KEATS
XVIII CATHEWE ADVISES AND THE ADMIRAL DISCLOSES
XIX BREITMANN MAKES HIS FIRST BLUNDER
XX AN OLD SCANDAL
XXI CAPTAIN FLANAGAN MEETS A DUKE
XXII THE ADMIRAL BEGINS TO DOUBT
XXIII CATHEWE ASKS QUESTIONS
XXIV THE PINES OF AITONE
XXV THE DUPE
XXVI THE END OF THE DREAM




A SPLENDID HAZARD


CHAPTER I

A MEMORABLE DATE

A blurring rain fell upon Paris that day; a rain so fine and cold that
it penetrated the soles of men's shoes and their hearts alike, a
dispiriting drizzle through which the pale, acrid smoke of innumerable
wood fires faltered upward from the clustering chimney-pots, only to be
rent into fragments and beaten down upon the glistening tiles of the
mansard roofs. The wide asphalts reflected the horses and carriages
and trains and pedestrians in forms grotesque, zigzagging, flitting,
amusing, like a shadow-play upon a wrinkled, wind-blown curtain. The
sixteenth of June. To Fitzgerald there was something electric in the
date, a tingle of that ecstasy which frequently comes into the blood of
a man to whom the romance of a great battle is more than its history or
its effect upon the destinies of human beings. Many years before, this
date had marked the end to a certain hundred days, the eclipse of a sun
more dazzling than Rome, in the heyday of her august Caesars, had ever
known: Waterloo. A little corporal of artillery; from a cocked hat to
a crown, from Corsica to St. Helena: Napoleon.

Fitzgerald, as he pressed his way along the _Boulevard des Invalides_,
his umbrella swaying and snapping in the wind much like the sail of a
derelict, could see in fancy that celebrated field whereon this eclipse
had been supernally prearranged. He could hear the boom of cannon, the
thunder of cavalry, the patter of musketry, now thick, now scattered,
and again not unlike the subdued rattle of rain on the bulging silk
careening before him. He held the handle of the umbrella under his
arm, for the wind had a temper mawling and destructive, and veered into
the _Place Vauban_. Another man, coming with equal haste from the
opposite direction, from the entrance of the tomb itself, was also two
parts hidden behind an umbrella. The two came together with a jolt as
sounding as that of two old crusaders in a friendly joust. Instantly
they retreated, lowering their shields.

"I beg your pardon," said Fitzgerald in French.

"It is of no consequence," replied the stranger, laughing. "This is
always a devil of a corner on a windy day." His French had a slight
German twist to it.

Briefly they inspected each other, as strangers will, carelessly, with
annoyance and amusement interplaying in their eyes and on their lips,
all in a trifling moment. Then each raised his hat and proceeded, as
tranquilly and unconcernedly as though destiny had no ulterior motive
in bringing them thus really together. And yet, when they had passed
and disappeared from each other's view, both were struck with the fact
that somewhere they had met before.

Fitzgerald went into the tomb, his head bared. The marble underfoot
bore the imprint of many shoes and rubbers and hobnails, of all sizes
and--mayhap--of all nations. He recollected, with a burn on his
cheeks, a sacrilege of his raw and eager youth, some twelve years
since; he had forgotten to take off his hat. Never would he forget the
embarrassment of that moment when the attendant peremptorily bade him
remove it. He, to have forgotten! He, who held Napoleon above all
heroes! The shame of it!

To-day many old soldiers were gathered meditatively round the heavy
circular railing. They were always drawn hither on memorable
anniversaries. Their sires and grandsires had carried some of those
tattered flags, had won them. The tides of time might ebb and flow,
but down there, in his block of Siberian porphyry, slept the hero.
There were some few tourists about this afternoon, muttering over their
guide-books, when nothing is needed on this spot but the imagination;
and that solemn quiet of which the tomb is ever jealous pressed down
sadly upon the living. Through the yellow panes at the back of the
high altar came a glow suggesting sunshine, baffling the drab of the
sky outside; and down in the crypt itself the misty blue was as
effective as moonshine.

Napoleon had always been Fitzgerald's ideal hero; but he did not
worship him blindly, no. He knew him to have been a brutal,
domineering man, unscrupulous in politics, to whom woman was either a
temporary toy or a stepping-stone, not over-particular whether she was
a dairy-maid or an Austrian princess; in fact, a rascal, but a great,
incentive, splendid, courageous one, the kind which nature calls forth
every score of years to purge her breast of the petty rascals, to the
benefit of mankind in general. Notwithstanding that he was a rascal,
there was an inextinguishable glamour about the man against which the
bolts of truth, history, letters, biographers broke ineffectually. Oh,
but he had shaken up all Europe; he had made precious kings rattle in
their shoes; he had redrawn a hundred maps; and men had laughed as they
died for him. It is something for a rascal to have evolved the Code
Napoleon. What a queer satisfaction it must be, even at this late day,
nearly a hundred years removed, to any Englishman, standing above this
crypt, to recollect that upon English soil the Great Shadow had never
set his iron heel!

Near to Fitzgerald stood an elderly man and a girl. The old fellow was
a fine type of manhood; perhaps in the sixties, white-haired, and the
ruddy enamel on his cheeks spoke eloquently of sea changes and many
angles of the sun. There was a button in the lapel of his coat, and
from this Fitzgerald assumed that he was a naval officer, probably
retired.

The girl rested upon the railing, her hands folded, and dreamily her
gaze wandered from trophy to trophy; from the sarcophagus to the
encircling faces, from one window to another, and again to the porphyry
beneath. And Fitzgerald's gaze wandered, too. For the girl's face was
of that mold which invariably draws first the eye of a man, then his
intellect, then his heart, and sometimes all three at once. The face
was as lovely as a rose of Taormina. Dark brown were her eyes, dark
brown was her hair. She was tall and lithe, too, with the subtle hint
of the woman. There were good taste and sense in her garments. A
bunch of Parma violets was pinned against her breast.

"A well-bred girl," was the grateful spectator's silent comment. "No
new money there. I wish they'd send more of them over here. But it
appears that, with few exceptions, only freaks can afford to travel."

Between Fitzgerald and the girl was a veteran. He had turned eighty if
a day. His face was powder-blown, an empty sleeve, was folded across
his breast, and the medal of the Legion of Honor fell over the Sleeve.
As the girl and her elderly escort, presumably her father, turned about
to leave, she unpinned the flowers and offered them impulsively to the
aged hero.

"Take these, _mon brave_," she said lightly; "you have fought for
France."

The old man was confused and his faded eyes filled. "For me,
mademoiselle?"

"Surely!"

"Thanks, mademoiselle, thanks! I saw _him_ when they brought him back
from St. Helena, and the Old Guard waded out into the Seine. Those
were days. Thanks, mademoiselle; an old soldier salutes you!" And the
time-bent, withered form grew tall.

Fitzgerald cleared his throat, for just then something hard had formed
there. Why, God bless her! She was the kind of girl who became the
mother of soldiers.

With her departure his present interest here began to wane. He
wondered who she might be and what part of his native land she adorned
when not gracing European capitals. Well, this was no time for
mooning. He had arrived from London the day proceeding, and was
leaving for Corfu on the morrow, and perforce he must crowd many things
into this short grace of time. He was only moderately fond of Paris as
a city; the cafes and restaurants and theaters amused him, to be sure;
but he was always hunting for romance here and never finding it. The
Paris of his Dumas and Leloir no longer existed. In one way or
another, the Louvre did not carry him back to the beloved days; he
could not rouse his fancy to such height that he could see D'Artagnan
ruffling it on the staircase, or Porthos sporting a gold baldric, which
was only leather, under his cloak. So then, the tomb of Napoleon and
the articles of clothing and warfare which had belonged to him and the
toys of the poor little king of Rome were far more to him than all the
rest of Paris put together. These things of the first great empire
were tangible, visible, close to the touch of his hand. Therefore,
never he came to Paris that he failed to visit the tomb and the two
museums.

To-day his sight-seeing ended in the hall of Turenne, before the
souvenirs of the Duc de Reichstadt, so-called the king of Rome. Poor,
little lead soldiers, tarnished and broken; what a pathetic history!
Abused, ignored, his childish aspirations trampled on, the name and
glory of his father made sport of; worried as cruel children worry a
puppy; tantalized; hoping against hope that this night or the next his
father would dash in at the head of the Old Guard and take him back to
Paris.



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