The whole of that wretched mournful day Yvonne Dewhurst spent upon the deck of the ship which was bearing her away every hour, every minute, further and still further from home and happiness. She seldom spoke: she ate and drank when food was brought to her: she was conscious neither of cold nor of wet, of well-being or ill. She sat upon a pile of cordages in the stern of the ship leaning against the taff-rail and in imagination seeing the coast of England fade into illimitable space.
Part of the time it rained, and then she sat huddled up in the shawls and tarpaulins which the woman placed about her: then, when the sun came out, she still sat huddled up, closing her eyes against the glare.
When daylight faded into dusk, and then twilight into night she gazed into nothingness as she had gazed on water and sky before, thinking, thinking, thinking! This could not be the end -- it could not. So much happiness, such pure love, such perfect companionship as she had had with the young husband whom she idolized could not all be wrenched from her like that, without previous foreboding and without some warning from Fate. This miserable, sordid, wretched journey to an unknown land could not be the epilogue to the exquisite romance which had suddenly changed the dreary monotony of her life into one long, glowing dream of joy and of happiness! This could not be the end!
And gazing into the immensity of the far horizon she thought and thought and racked her memory for every word, every look which she had had from her dear milor. And upon the grey background of sea and sky she seemed to perceive the vague and dim outline of that mysterious friend -- the man who knew everything -- who foresaw everything, even and above all the dangers that threatened those whom he loved. He ahd foreseen this awful danger too! Oh! if only milor and she herself had realized its full extent! But now surely! surely! he would help, he would know what to do. Milor was wont to speak of him as being omniscient and having marvellous powers.
Once or twice during the day M. le duc de Kernogan came to sit beside his daughter and tried to speak a few words of comfort and of sympathy. Of a truth -- here on the open sea -- far both from home and kindred and from the new friends he had found in hospitable England -- his heart smote him for all the wrong he had done to his only child. He dared not think of the gentle and patient wife who lay at rest in the churchyard of Kernogan, for he feared that with his thoughts he would conjure up her pale, avenging ghost who would demand an account of what he had done with her child.
Cold and exposure -- the discomfort of the long sea-journey in this rough, trading ship had somewhat damped M. de Kernogan's pride and obstinacy: his loyalty to the cause of his King had paled before the demands of a father's duty toward his helpless daughter.
It was close on six o'clock and the night, after the turbulent and capricious alternations of rain and sunshine promised to be beautifully clear, though very cold. The pale crescent of the moon had just emerged from behind the thick veil of cloud and mist which still hung threateningly upon the horizon: a fitful sheen of silver danced upon the waves.
M. le duc stood beside his daughter. He had inquired after her health and well-being and received her monosyllabic reply with an impatient sigh. M. Martin-Roget was pacing up and down the deck with restless and vigorous strides: he had just gone by and made a loud and cheery comment on the weather and the beauty of the night.
Could Yvonne Dewhurst have seen her father's face now, or had she cared to study it, she would have perceived that he was gazing out to sea in the direction to which the schooner was heading with an intent look of puzzlement, and that there was a deep furrow between his brows. Half an hour went by and he still stood there, silent and absorbed: then suddenly a curious exclamation escaped his lips: he stooped and seized his daughter by the wrist!
'Yvonne!' he said excitedly, 'tell me! am I dreaming or am I crazed?'
'What is it?' she asked coldly.
'Out there! Look! Just tell me what you see?'
He appeared so excited and his pressure on her wrist was so insistent that she dragged herself to her feet and looked out to sea in the direction to which he was pointing.
'Tell me what you see,' he reiterated with ever-growing excitement, and she felt that the hand which held her wrist trembled violently.
'The light from a lighthouse, I think,' she said.
'And besides that?'
'Another light -- a much smaller one -- considerably higher up. It must be perched up on some cliffs.'
'Yes. There are lights dotted about here and there. Some village on the coast.'
'On the coast?' he murmured hoarsely, 'and we are heading towards it.'
'So it appears,' she said indifferently. What cared she to what shore she was being taken: every land save England was exile to her now.
Just at this moment M. Martin-Roget in his restless wanderings once more passed by.
'M. Martin-Roget!' called the duc.
And vaguely Yvonne wondered why his voice trembled so.
'At your service, M. le duc,' replied the other as he came to a halt, and then stood with legs wide apart firmly planted upon the deck, his hands buried in the pockets of his heavy mantle, his head thrown back, as it defiantly, hiw whole attitude that of a master condescending to talk with slaves.
'What are those lights over there, ahead of us?' asked M. le duc quietly.
'The lighthouse of Le Croisic, M. le duc,' replied Martin-Roget dryly, 'and of the guard-house above and the harbour below. All at your service,' he added, with a sneer.
'Monsieur . . .' exclaimed the duc.
'Eh? what?' queried the other blandly.
'What does this mean?'
In the vague, dim light of the moon Yvonne could just distinguish the two men as they stood confronting one another. Martin-Roget, tall, massive, with arms now folded across his breast, shrugging his broad shoulders at the duc's impassioned query -- and her father who suddenly appeared to have shrunk within himself, who raised one trembling hand to his forehead and with the other sought with pathetic entreaty the support of his daughter's arm.
'What does this mean?' he murmured again.
'Only,' replied Martin-Roget with a laugh, 'that we are close to the coast of France and that with this unpleasant but useful north-westerly wind we shall be in Nantes two hours before midnight.'
'In Nantes?' queried the duc vaguely, not understanding, speaking tonelessly like a somnambulist or a man in a trance. He was leaning heavily now on his daughter's arm, and she with that motherly instinct which is ever present in a good woman's heart even in the presence of her most cruel enemy, drew him tenderly towards her, gave him the support he needed, not quite understanding herself yet what it was that had befallen them both.
'Yes, in Nantes, M. le duc,' reiterated Martin-Roget with a sneer.
'But 'twas to Holland we were going.'
'To Nantes, M. le duc,' retorted the other with a ringing note of triumph in his voice, 'to Nantes, from which you fled like a coward when you realized that the vengeance of an outraged people had at last overtaken you and your kind.'
'I do not understand, 'stammered the duc, and mechanically now -- instinctively -- father and daughter clung to one another as if each was striving to protect the other from the raving fury of this madman. Never for a moment did they believe that he was sane. Excitement, they thought, had turned his brain: he was acting and speaking like one possessed.
'I dare say it would take far longer than the next four hours while we glide gently along the Loire, to make such as you understand that your arrogance and your pride are destined to be humbled at last and that you are now in the power of those men who awhile ago you did not deem worthy to lick your boots. I dare say,' he continued calmly, 'you think that I am crazed. Well! perhaps I am, but sane enough anyhow, M. le duc, to enjoy the full flavour of revenge.'
'Revenge? . . . what have we done? . . . what has my daughter done? . . .' stammered the duc incoherently. 'You swore you loved her . . .desired to make her your wife . . . I consented . . . she . . .'
Martin-Roget's harsh laugh broke in on his vague murmurings.
'And like an arrogant fool you fell into the trap,' he said with calm irony, 'and you were too blind to see in Martin-Roget, suitor for your daughter's hand, Pierre Adet, the son of the victim of your execrable tyranny, the innocent man murdered at your bidding.'
'Pierre Adet . . . I don't understand.'
' 'Tis but little meseems that you do understand, M. le duc,' sneered the other. 'But turn your memory back, I pray you, to the night four years ago when a few hot-headed peasant lads planned to give you a fright in your castle of Kernogan . . . the plan failed and Pierre Adet, the leader of that unfortunate band, managed to fly the country, whilst you, like a crazed and blind tyrant, administered punishment right and left for the fright which you had had. Just think of it! those boors! those louts! that swinish herd of human cattle had dared to raise a cry of revolt against you! To death with them all! to death! Where is Pierre Adet, the leader of those hogs? to him an exemplary punishment must be meted! a deterrent against any other attempt at revolt. Well, M. le duc, do you remember what happened then? Pierre Adet, severely injured in the mélée, had managed to crawl away into safety. While he lay betwixt life and death, first in the presbytery of Vertou, then in various ditches on his way to Paris, he knew nothing of what happened at Nantes. When he returned to consciousness and to active life he heard that his father, Jean Adet the miller, who was innocent of any share in the revolt, had been hanged by order of M. le duc de Kernogan.'
He paused awhile and a curious laugh -- half-convulsive and not unmixed with sobs-- shook his broad shoulders. Neither the duc nor Yvonne made any comment on what they heard: the duc felt like a fly caught in a death-dealing web. He was dazed with the horror of his position, dazed above all with the rush of bitter remorse which had surged up in his heart and mind, when he realized that it was his own folly, his obstinacy -- aye! and his heartlessness which had brought this awful fate upon his daughter. And Yvonne felt that whatever she might endure of misery and hopelessness was nothing in comparison with what her father must feel with the addition of bitter self-reproach.
'Are you beginning to understand the position better now, M. le duc?' queried Martin-Roget after awhile.
The duc sank back nerveless upon the pile of cordages close by. Yvonne was leaning with her back against the taffrail, her two arms outstretched, the north-west wind blowing her soft brown hair about her face whilst her eyes sought through the gloom to read the lines of cruelty and hatred which must be distorting Martin-Roget's face now.
'And,' she said quietly after awhile, 'you have waited all these years, Monsieur, nursing thoughts of revenge and of hate against us. Ah! believe me,' she added earnestly, 'though God knows my heart is full of misery at this moment, and though I know that at your bidding death will so soon claim me and my father as his own, yet would I not change my wretchedness for yours.'
'And I, citizeness,' he said roughly, addressing her for the first time in the manner prescribed by the revolutionary government, 'would not change places with any king or other tyrant on earth. Yes,' he added as he came a step or two closer to her, 'I have waited all these years. For four years I have thought and striven and planned, planned to be even with your father and with you one day. You had fled the country -- like cowards, bah!-- ready to lend your arms to the foreigner against your own country in order to re-establish a tyrant upon the throne whom the whole of the people of France loathed and detested. You had fled, but soon I learned whither you had gone. Then I set to work to gain access to you . . . I learned English . . . I too went to England . . . under an assumed name. . . with the necessary introductions so as to gain a footing in the circles in which you moved. I won your father's condescension -- almost his friendship! . . . The rich banker from Brest should be fleeced in order to provide funds for the armies that were to devastate France -- and the rich banker of Brest refused to be fleeced unless he was lured by the promise of Mlle. de Kernogan's hand in marriage.'
'You need not, Monsieur,' rejoined Yvonne coldly, while Martin-Roget paused in order to draw breath, 'you need not, believe me, take the trouble to recount all the machinations which you carried through in order to gain your ends. Enough that my father was so foolish as to trust you, and that we are now completely in your power, but. . .'
'There is no "but," ' he broke in gruffly, 'you are in my power and will be made to learn the law of the talion which demands an eye for an eye, a life for a life: that is the law which the people are applying to that herd of aristos who were arrogant tyrants once and are shrinking, cowering slaves now. Oh! you were very proud that night, Mademoiselle Yvonne de Kernogan, when a few peasant lads told you some home truths while you sat disdainful and callous in your carriage, but there is one fact that you can never efface from your memory, strive how you may, and that is that for a few minutes I held you in my arms and that I kissed you, my fine lady, aye! kissed you like I would any pert kitchen wench, even I, Pierre Adet, the miller's son.'
He drew nearer and nearer to her as he spoke; she, leaning against the taffrail, could not retreat any further from him. He laughed.
'If you fall over into the water, I shall not complain,' he said, 'it will save our proconsul the trouble, and the guillotine some work. But you need not fear. I am not trying to kiss you again. You are nothing to me, you and your father, less than nothing. Your death in misery and wretchedness is all I want, whether you find a dishonoured grave in the Loire or by suicide I care less than nothing. But let me tell you this,' he added, and his voice came now like a hissing sound through his set teeth, 'that there is no intention on my part to make glorious martyrs of you both. I dare say you have heard some pretty stories over in England or aristos climbing the steps of the guillotine with an ecstatic look of martyrdom upon their face: and tales of the tumbrils of Paris laden with men and women going to their death and shouting "God save the King" all the way. That is not the sort of paltry revenge which would satisfy me. My father was hanged by yours as a malefactor -- hanged, I say, like a common thief! he, a man who had never wronged a single soul in the whole course of his life, who had been an example of fine living, of hard work, of noble courage through many adversities. My mother was left a widow -- not the honoured widow of an honourable man-- but a pariah, the relict of a malefactor who had died of the hangman's rope -- my sister was left an orphan -- dishonoured-- without hope of gaining the love of a respectable man. All that I and my family owe to ci-devant M. le duc de Kernogan, and therefore I tell you, that both he and his daughter shall not die like martyrs but like malefactors too --shamed-- dishonoured -- loathed and execrated even by their own kindred! Take note of that, M. le duc de Kernogan! You have sown shame, shame shall you reap! and the name of which you are so proud will be dragged in the mire until it has become a by-word in the land for all that is despicable and base.'
Perhaps at no time of his life had Martin-Roget, erstwhile Pierre Adet, spoken with such an intensity of passion, even though he was at all times turbulent and a ready prey to his own emotions. But all that he had kept hidden in the inmost recesses of his heart, ever since as a young stripling he had chafed at the social conditions of his country, now welled forth in that wild harangue. For the first time in his life he felt that he was really master of those who had once despised and oppressed him. He held them and was the arbiter of their fate. The sense of possession and of power had gone to his head like wine: he was intoxicated with his own feeling of triumphant revenge, and this impassioned rhetoric flowed from his mouth like the insentient babble of a drunken man.
The duc de Kernogan, sitting on the coil of cordages with his elbows on his knees and his head buried in his hands, had no thought of breaking in on the other man's ravings. The bitterness of remorse paralyzed his thinking faculties. Martin-Roget's savage words struck upon his senses like blows from a sledge-hammer. He knew that nothing but his own folly was the cause of Yvonne's and his own misfortune. Yvonne had been safe from all evil fortune under the protection of her fine young English husband; he -- the father who should have been her chief protector-- had dragged her by brute force away from that husband's care and had landed her . . . where? . . . A shudder like acute ague went through the unfortunate man's whole body as he thought of the future.
Nor did Yvonne Dewhurst attempt to make reply to her enemy's delirious talk. She would not give him even the paltry satisfaction of feeling that he had stung her into a retort. She did not fear him -- she hated him too much for that -- but like her father she had no illusions as to his power over them both. While he stormed and raved she kept her eyes steadily fixed upon him. She could only just barely distinguish him in the gloom, and he no doubt failed to see the expression of lofty indifference wherewith she contrived to regard him: but he felt her contempt, and but for the presence of the sailors on the deck he probably would have struck her.
As it was when, from sheer lack of breath, he had to pause, he gave one last look of hate on the huddled figure of the duc, and the proud, upstanding one of Yvonne, then with a laugh which sounded like that of a fiend -- so cruel, so callous was it, he turned on his heel, and as he strode away towards the bow his tall figure was soon absorbed in the surrounding gloom.
The duc de Kernogan and his daughter saw little or nothing of Martin-Roget after that. For awhile longer they caught sight of him from time to time as he walked up and down the deck with ceaseless restlessness and in the company of another man, who was much shorter and slimmer than himself and whom they had not noticed hitherto. Martin-Roget talked most of the time in a loud and excited voice, the other appearing to listen to him with a certain air of deference. Whether the conversation between these two was actually intended for the ears of the two unfortunates, or whether it was merely chance which brought certain phrases to their ears when the two men passed closely by, it were impossible to say. Certain it is that from such chance phrases they gathered that the barque would not put into Nantes, as the navigation of the Loire was suspended for the nonce by order of Proconsul Carrier. He had need of the river for his awesome and nefarious deeds. Yvonne's ears were regaled with tales -- told with loud ostentation-- of the terrible noyades, the wholesale drowning of men, women and children, malefactors and traitors, so as to ease the burden of the guillotine.
After three bells it got so bitterly cold that Yvonne, fearing that her father would become seriously ill, suggested their going down to their stuffy cabins together. After all, even the foul and shut-up atmosphere of these close, airless cupboards was preferable to the propinquity of those two human fiends up on deck and the tales of horror and brutality which they loved to tell.
And for two hours after that, father and daughter sat in the narrow cell-like place, locked in each other's arms. She had everything to forgive, and he everything to atone for: but Yvonne suffered so acutely, her misery was so great that she found it in her heart to pity the father whose misery must have been even greater than hers. The supreme solace of bestowing love and forgiveness and of easing the racking paroxysms of remorse which brought the unfortunate man to the verge of dementia, warmed her heart towards him and brought surcease to her own sorrow.