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posal of Mr. Yates whenever the latter chose. Together, therefore, they proceeded towards the only place that possessed any attraction for the English stranger. Of course, not silently: Monsieur Dufourmantelle took care of that, though the conversation was all on his side, for Mr. Yates was in one of those taciturn moods which were habitual with him.
Had the garrulous commissioner accompanied a Frenchman he would have been at no loss for a subject, but with his present companion it was difficult to discover a topic of interest. To Monsieur Dufourmantelle's remarks on the comeliness of the Norman women, Mr. Yates turned a deaf ear; he was equally impassible under the declaration that Norman courage and Norman wit were nowhere so admirably developed as at Rouen ; neither did he seem to pay the slightest attention to the commissioner's unhesitating assertion that, if one desired to be gay, the Norman capital was of all others the city in which that propensity could be indulged in to the fullest extent. Monsieur Dufourmantelle's only resource, then, was to go upon a tack which, in all his experience, he had never known to fail with any of our countrymen ; and that was, to speak, of the various English travellers of rank whom it had been his good fortune to wait upon in his capacity of cicerone.
He went through a long list, however, before he obtained any acknowledgment that his theme was agreeable ; but at last he mentioned a name that caused Mr. Yates to look round and ask him sharply what he said.
As he had done on a former occasion with Rachel, the commissioner repeated the name of “ Miladi Stuntall,” and the resemblance to her right appellation was sufficiently near to assure Mr. Yates of whom he spoke.
“ Yes, it was a very great privilege to have had the honour of attending upon a person so distinguished as Miladi, who was above all things une très grande dame; and then there was a charming episode, the heroine of which was Miladi's lovely young daughter. Oh, it was perfectly delicious! Singularly enough, as monsieur would admit when he heard it, the English boy who used to sing so divinely, and of whom he had spoken the night before in the cathedral, was connected with the little history. Ah, he (Dufourmantelle) understood these things, --he had himself had adventures when he was barely the height of monsieur's cane; one of them, he was sorry to say, had ended tragically, but what could he do ?—this, however, was altogether delightful. It was an affaire de cæur, quite refreshing at that tender age! Would monsieur like to hear the particulars ? Mademoiselle had heard the English boy sing-she had been quite attendrie by his voice--that was a fact which he (Dufourmantelle) bad personally witnessed, and was prepared, if called upon, to swear to. Only, as a man of honour, he respected those emotions: to him they were religiously sacred. Nevertheless the fact existed, and in the interests of his narrative he was bound to mention it."
Mr. Yates asked him what he was driving at.
“Ah, monsieur was right to recal him to his subject. He (Dufour. mantelle) was apt to be led away by his feelings; but monsieur, who, doubtless, was of a sensitive nature himself, would pardon him. Where was he? Oh, he remembered. In the cathedral. It was there the
pretty Miss and the young English boy saw each other and had some conversation together. Afterwards, on Sir Stuntall and Miladi leaving the hotel, he had been entrusted with a small paquet for the wonderful chorister."
“By which of them ?” asked Mr. Yates.
“By neither: it was from their daughter : a little secret ; monsieur would comprehend.”
If Mr. Yates did comprehend, he said nothing, but listened with a dogged look while the commissioner went on, betraying two innocent children through the mere exercise of his gossiping function :
“ Well, after a time—he confessed there was a little delay on his part, arising from the pressure of important affairs-he transmitted the paquet as he had been requested,—that is to say, he placed it in the hands of Madame Perrotin, to be given by her. Within a few days of that event, the English boy came to find him at the hotel, desirous to learn some particulars concerning the young and beautiful Miss."
“He did not know, then, who she was?” Mr. Yates inquired.
“Monsieur guessed rightly. Being presented by Sir Stuntall with one of his visiting-cards, no difficulty existed in that respect.”
Mr. Yates wanted to know what the boy said when he received the intelligence ?
“He read the name on the card,” said the commissioner, “ with much attention, and then he asked me several questions about the young lady. Did I not think her very beautiful ? What age I supposed her to be? What were the exact words she used when she charged me with her message ? Mille petits riens comme ça, monsieur !"
There was an ominous expression on Mr. Yates's sinister features, as if he thought nothing a trifle that related to Walter Cobham. One idea, however, seemed to preoccupy him more than any other. “ Are
you quite sure that this boy knew nothing about Sir James Tunstall before he came to you ?".
Assuredly not! How could he ? His first question was to know. But monsieur is acquainted with Sir Stuntall ?” “I am," said Mr. Yates. “ Have you anything more to
?” “ Yes,” returned the commissioner, " there remains something. On many occasions, Walterre, so the English boy is called, has visited me, always to speak of the same young person. It is quite evident to me that he has fallen in love with her: he continually repeats her name. Finally, he asks me if it were possible that he should write to thank her for the little present which she made him.”
“What was it?" abruptly demanded Mr. Yates.
“A cameo ring—a female head, as well as I could perceive ; he only showed it to me once, and then but for an instant, before his hand closed upon it."
“ Did he write ?”
"To me it appeared that such an act was required by mere politeness, I advised him, therefore, to do so."
“ And when was this ?”
" But three days ago. Yesterday morning he brought me the letter. He had never written to anybody before, and was afraid to trust to the
post. He preferred that I should forward it, as he knew that I had opportunities of sending to London by the numerous English travellers who stop at the hotel on their
home.” “ And have
sent it?" “ Effectively, no, monsieur. The opportunity has not yet presented itself.”
“ If you choose,” said Mr. Yates, carelessly—“ I mean, if it will be any convenience to you, I will take care of it. I return to-morrow."
“ Monsieur is only too good. I accept with many thanks. Here is the letter.”
From an agenda, plethoric with hotel cards and travellers' testimonials in favour of Jean Baptiste Dufourmantelle, the commissioner drew forth Walter's letter and gave it to Mr. Yates, who smiled grimly as he transferred it to his own pocket-book.
“I am charmed to think,” said his guide, “ that monsieur has been interested in the details of this little affair. Ah, here is the maison de santé !”
It was a large establishment, and, like every other of the kind in France, admirably conducted. Mr. Yates, however, was not pleased with it. He was no admirer of the soothing system, which he frankly pronounced to be humbug. “ Make 'em afraid of you.
my motto! You may argue with a madman till you're black in the face ; you can't convince him. But just clap a strait-waistcoat on him and give him a good stunning blow over the head ; you'll soon bring him to, then. Mad folks can't be cured. To try to do it is a flying in the face of Providence. It's a visitation for life, is madness. I've seen a good many of these lunatics in my time, and I never treated 'em but one way; and I never mean to."
Such had often been the expressed opinion of Mr. Yates, and of this complexion were his thoughts as he quitted the maison de santé. What else could Monsieur Dufourmantelle do for him ? Nothing. He'd rather be left to himself; he didn't want company. He should stroll about the town; he didn't care where. So with many bows, Monsieur Dufourmantelle withdrew, promising himself the pleasure of telling Walter, if he should chance to meet with him, how well he had executed his commission.
Left alone, Mr. Yates turned over in his mind the information he had obtained. It was material to know that Rachel had not yet made Walter aware of the secret of his birth. Had she revealed it, she must also have communicated the fact that Lady Tunstall was his aunt; this, it was evident, she had not done; therefore, she had been silent altogether. Hitherto. But how might she be disposed to act with the prospect before her of losing the child ? Should he see her again and offer money for her silence ? Mrs. Scrope had supplied him with plenty, to be used at his discretion. On reflection, he was convinced that this plan would not answer. An attempt to bribe might rouse Rachel's suspicions of the authority he asserted. At present she was under the influence of fear; she had reason for knowing that he was not one to be trifled with; his mark didn't wear out in a hurry. After all, what would it signify if the boy really found out his parentage? It was but denying Rachel's statement, or calling him a by-blow! In the place Mr. Yates meant to ship Walter off to, people made little account of such stories. Well-born or
ill, legitimate or bastard, it would be all the same to the folks he got among. A farm-servant in the marshes of the Macquarie—Mr. Yates knew a family out there that often wanted farm-servants from the old country, they died off rather fast—well, any one so situated might talk, if he had time, but wouldn't get many to listen to him. Mr. Yates, then, would risk the discovery. He next thought of the letter which the commissioner had given him. He took it out and read the superscription, which was as follows : “Miss Mary Tunstall, to the care of Sir James Tunstall, No. 50, Belgrave-square.
“ For all the chance she has of getting a letter with that address," soliloquised the Keeper, “it might as well stay in my pocket or go into the fire. I fancy Sir James would like to read it first himself, and if the boy is as hot as his father was, good-by to it. That, however, is not my game. I've a better use for the letter. Somebody I know won't mind what she pays for this bit of paper. Anything, I should say, rather than let it reach its destination."
Occupied by speculations of this kind, Mr. Yates wandered about, not caring where he went, till he began to feel both tired and thirsty. He had taken the line of the boulevards till it brought him to an obscure part of the town called the “Champ de Foire aux Boissons," where the market is held for the sale of cider and other liquors. As a matter of course cabarets were not scarce in this quarter, for the “pot de vin ” had a literal as well as a figurative acceptation here, in bringing bargains to a close. None of these houses were of very inviting appearance, but Mr. Yates was not particular, and walking into the nearest called for a bottle of good wine.
The place he had entered, dignified by the title of “Salle de Billard,” was a very large room, one side of which held a billiard-table, and the other was filled with common wooden chairs and small square tables, much dirtied and stained, and not arranged in the most orderly manner: in the intervening space stood a counter covered with bottles and glasses, at which a slatternly woman, with a bright-red handkerchief knotted round her head, served out “vin bleu” or “spiritueux” according to the tastes of her customers. It was not exactly the place to expect wine of the first quality, though the lady at the counter said, if she did not swear
- her asseveration sounding very like an oath-that better was not to be had in Rouen, and the price was eight-and-thirty sous! Whatever it was, Mr. Yates made no objection, but, seating himself at one of the tables, poured out a tumbler and drank it off at a draught. Presently he repeated the libation, and pending the discussion of the rest of the bottle - his thirst being somewhat assuaged—took a survey of the apartment.
Art flourished of course on its walls, but, as we have already said, Mr. Yates was not a man who appreciated Art, in a pictorial sense, and his keen eye turned towards something more congenial. It rested on the features of a man in a blouse who was playing at billiards with the owner of the cabaret, the husband of the dame de comptoir. He was tall and strongly made, and not ill favoured, but there was an expression in his countenance of so much cunning and audacity that very few could
it without some feeling of uneasiness. Of these few, however, Mr. Yates was one: the experience acquired in his profession had blunted in him all sense of apprehension.
The game was as noisily played as is customary where Frenchmen are
concerned, and for a time neither of the players took any notice of the new-comer ; but at last Mr. Yates perceived that he was the object of attention on the part of the man in the blouse. Though conversant enough with the French language, he could only make out a word or two, here and there, of what he said, all the rest being either the patois of the country, or else some jargon with which the keeper of the cabaret and his friend were familiar. After a few phrases, which seemed to be question and answer, had passed between them, the blousard addressed Mr. Yates in very excellent French.
Monsieur, he remarked, was apparently a stranger in Rouen.
Mr. Yates replied in the affirmative; he had only arrived the day before.
Upon this intimation the cabaretier made use of the word “ Vermillon,” and his companion shut one eye, a grimace not thrown away upon Mr. Yates, who gathered that the term applied to him—as in fact it did—that colour being a cant term for an Englishman.
The blousard continued: Monsieur found it difficult, no doubt, to amuse himself in a strange place.
No. Mr. Yates was, he said—though his face belied him-easily amused.
Did he like billiards ? Yes. He confessed he was rather partial to the game. In that case, perhaps monsieur would like a partie. He (the speaker) felt ashamed to occupy the table when a skilful player was, most probably, present.
Mr. Yates denied the inference; he could, he said, only just knock the balls about-omitting to add, as he saw no necessity for making the statement--that, amongst other occupations in the early part of his career, he had been a billiard-marker. “As for me," returned the gentleman in the blouse, “I can do
I was, in fact, taking a lesson, when you came in, from Monsieur Dubois, here. He, who lives on the spot, has plenty of opportunities for practice, while I, who come from a distance, scarcely handle a cue oftener than once a year. No. I occupy myself, monsieur, with agriculture and the breeding of horses, on a farm I have, not far from Pont de l'Arche."
“And no one," observed Monsieur Dubois, “ sends finer animals to market. They are, indeed, superb, as you would admit, monsieur, were you to visit my friend Mercier's establishment. Ah, it is worth making the journey to Pont de l'Arche to see his stud! Is monsieur a judge of horsefesh ?”
Mr. Yates could not say that exactly, but he was fond of the horse: it was such a noble animal! He used to ride when he was a boy.
Mr. Yates might have added, “ a good deal;" for, until he was turned out of a racing-stable, at thirteen, for being concerned in a "doctoring transaction, he had gone to scale as often as most young jocks. His education, indeed, though desultory, had been cared for in one or two other useful particulars. It was, however a question in his own mind, just then, whether he had been quite so well educated as Monsieur Mercier, whom he strongly suspected of being a sharper, a maquignon, and something more. There was a test at hand, he felt certain. Nor had he long to wait for it,