“Maurice!” he cried.
The young man hesitated, but at last approached.
“You will not follow these madmen, Maurice?” said the baron.
“I must follow them, father.”
“I forbid it.”
“Alas! father, I cannot obey you. I have promised—I have sworn. I am second in command.”
His voice was sad, but it was determined.
“My son!” exclaimed M. d’Escorval; “unfortunate child!—it is to certain death that you are marching—to certain death.”
“All the more reason that I should not break my word, father.”
“And your mother, Maurice, the mother whom you forget!”
A tear glistened in the young man’s eye.
“My mother,” he replied, “would rather weep for her dead son than keep him near her dishonored, and branded with the names of coward and traitor. Farewell! my father.”
M. d’Escorval appreciated the nobility of soul that Maurice displayed in his conduct. He extended his arms, and pressed his beloved son convulsively to his heart, feeling that it might be for the last time.
“Farewell!” he faltered, “farewell!”
Maurice soon rejoined his comrades, whose acclamations were growing fainter and fainter in the distance; but the baron stood motionless, overwhelmed with sorrow.
Suddenly he started from his revery.
“A single hope remains, Abbe!” he cried.
“Alas!” murmured the priest.
“Oh—I am not mistaken. Marie-Anne just told us the place of rendezvous. By running to Escorval and harnessing the cabriolet, we might be able to reach the Croix d’Arcy before this party arrive there. Your voice, which touched Lacheneur, will touch the heart of his accomplices. We will persuade these poor, misguided men to return to their homes. Come, Abbe; come quickly!”
And they departed on the run.
The clock in the tower of Sairmeuse was striking the
hour of eight when
Lacheneur and his little band of followers left the Reche.
An hour later, at the Chateau de Courtornieu, Mlle. Blanche, after finishing her dinner, ordered the carriage to convey her to Montaignac. Since her father had taken up his abode in town they met only on Sunday; on that day either Blanche went to Montaignac, or the marquis paid a visit to the chateau.
Hence this proposed journey was a deviation from the regular order of things. It was explained, however, by grave circumstances.
It was six days since Martial had presented himself at Courtornieu; and Blanche was half crazed with grief and rage.
What Aunt Medea was forced to endure during this interval, only poor dependents in rich families can understand.
For the first three days Mlle. Blanche succeeded in preserving a semblance of self-control; on the fourth she could endure it no longer, and in spite of the breach of “les convenances” which it involved, she sent a messenger to Sairmeuse to inquire for Martial. Was he ill—had he gone away?