They drew her up.
Raoul was not far off. He heard the woman’s last cry, and came threshing through the bushes on foot. He saw Sylvestre, unconscious of any approach, spring forward, jerk away the hands that had drawn the thong over the branch, let the strangling woman down and loosen the noose. Her eyes, starting out with horror, turned to him; she fell on her knees and clasped her hands. The tears were rolling down Sylvestre’s face.
“My friends, we must not do this! You shall not do it!”
He hurled away, with twice his natural strength, one who put out a hand.
“No, sirs!” cried Raoul, “you shall not do it! I come from Honore! Touch her who dares!”
He drew a weapon.
“Monsieur Innerarity,” said ’Polyte, “who is Monsieur Honore Grandissime? There are two of the name, you know,—partners—brothers. Which of—but it makes no difference; before either of them sees this assassin she is going to be a lump of nothing!”
The next word astonished every one. It was Charlie Mandarin who spoke.
“Let her go!”
“Let her go!” said Jean-Baptiste Grandissime; “give her a run for life. Old woman, rise up. We propose to let you go. Can you run? Never mind, we shall see. Achille, put her upon her feet. Now, old woman, run!”
She walked rapidly, but with unsteady feet, toward the fields.
“Run! If you don’t run I will shoot you this minute!”
She ran faster.
“Run, Clemence! Ha, ha, ha!” It was so funny to see her scuttling and tripping and stumbling. “Courri! courri, Clemence! c’est pou to’ vie! ha, ha, ha—”
A pistol-shot rang out close behind Raoul’s ear; it was never told who fired it. The negress leaped into the air and fell at full length to the ground, stone dead.
Drivers of vehicles in the rue Royale turned aside before two slight barriers spanning the way, one at the corner below, the other at that above, the house where the aged high-priest of a doomed civilization lay bleeding to death. The floor of the store below, the pavement of the corridor where stood the idle volante, were covered with straw, and servants came and went by the beckoning of the hand.
“This way,” whispered a guide of the four ladies from the Grandissime mansion. As Honore’s mother turned the angle half-way up the muffled stair, she saw at the landing above, standing as if about to part, yet in grave council, a man and a woman, the fairest—she noted it even in this moment of extreme distress—she had ever looked upon. He had already set one foot down upon the stair, but at sight of the ascending group drew back and said:
“It is my mother;” then turned to his mother and took her hand; they had been for months estranged, but now they silently kissed.