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John Scott, in those moments of hiding and physical exhaustion, had little time to think, yet he was dimly conscious that he, an American who meant to meddle in the business of nobody, had fallen into a most extraordinary situation. By a sudden mischance he had lost in a few moments his uncle and the man who was at once his comrade and tutor, and now he had been running for his life with a stranger.
Yet he obeyed the warning words of Lannes and fairly tried to burrow into the earth. The name, Lannes, had exerted at once a great influence over him. The career of Napoleon had fascinated him, and of all his marshals the brave and democratic Lannes had appealed to him most. And now he was hiding with one who had in his veins kindred blood of this great and gallant figure.
Despite his anxiety John turned a little and looked at the young Frenchman who lay beside him. Lannes was but a year or two older than the American. Tall, slender, narrow of waist, and broad of chest and shoulders he seemed built for both agility and strength. He was fair of hair and gray of eye. But those gray eyes were his most remarkable feature. They were intensely bright, and the light in them seemed to shift and change, but no matter what the change might be they were always gay and merry. John surmised that he was one of the few, who by a radiant presence, are born to be a source of joy to the world, and time was to confirm him in his opinion.
"Luckily the big tombs of dead and forgotten Germans rise on either side of us," whispered Lannes, "and the chances are good that we won't be discovered, but we must keep on lying close. We're on the German side in this town and the Germans will look longer than the Austrians. They're at the end of the alley now, not thirty feet away."
John heard them marching. The thump, thump of solid German feet was plainly audible. It was a sound that he was to hear again, and again, and never forget, that heavy thump, thump of the marching German feet, a great military empire going forward to crush or be crushed. Even in those moments he was impressed less by his sense of personal danger than by his feeling that a nation was on the march.
"They've turned," said Lannes, and John heard the thump, thump of the feet passing away. But he and the young Frenchman lay still, until the last echo had died. Then Lannes sat up and peeped over the edge of one of the tombs.
"They'll search elsewhere," he said, "but they won't come here again. We'll have to be cautious, however, as they'll never stop, until they've gone all through the town. Trust the Germans for that. Now aren't you glad I brought you among the tombs? Could we have found a better hiding place?"
His manner was so gay and light-hearted that John found it infectious. Yet, he was resolved not to yield entirely. He had been dragged or pushed into too desperate a quandary.
"Suppose they don't find us now, what then?" he asked. "It may be all right for you, but as for me, my uncle and my friend are on the way to Munich, and I'm marooned in a land, the language of which I don't understand."
"But you're with me!"
"So I am, but you're a stranger. You belong to a country with which Germany is at war or going to war. You're a spy, and if you're caught, which is highly probable, you'll be hanged or shot, and because I'm with you they'll do the same to me."
Lannes plucked a grass stem and chewed it thoughtfully, although his eyes at no time lost their cheerful twinkle.
"I do seem to have plunged you into a whole lake of trouble," he said at length. "I'll admit that my own neck is in the halter, and it behooves me to escape as soon as I can, but don't think I'll ever neglect you. I mean to see that you get to Munich and rejoin your friends."
"It's a secret for the present, confined to me. But trust me! can't you?"
His speech had glided from French into English so good that it was colloquial, and of the vernacular. Now he looked directly into John's eyes, and John, looking back, saw only truth in their gray smiling depths. There are some things that we feel, instinctively, and with overwhelming power, and he knew that the young Frenchman would be as true as steel. He held out his hand and said:
"I believe every word you say. I'll ask no questions, but wait for what happens."
Lannes took the outstretched hand and gave it a grasp of extraordinary power. The joyous lights in his wonderful gray eyes shifted and changed with extraordinary rapidity.
"I like you, John Scott, you Yankee," he said. "You and I will be the best of friends and for life. Thus does the great American republic, which is you, pledge eternal friendship with France, the great European republic, which is me."
"You put it well, and now what are we going to do?"
"Graveyards are good places, my old—my old, being as you know, a translation of mon vieux, a term of friendship, becoming to you because of your grave demeanor—but it's not well to stay in them too long. You've noticed doubtless that the skies are darkening over the spur of the Alps toward Salzburg?"
"And what then?"
"It means that we must seek quarters for the night, and night is always friendly to fugitives. I promised that I'd take you to your friends in Munich—I can't do it in an hour or even in two, although I'll lead you to food and a bed, which are not to be despised. But we must wait a little longer."
"Until night comes fully?"
"Truly, until it's complete night. And, fortunately for you, it will be very dark, as I see plenty of clouds sailing in this direction from the mountains."
John, who was lying on his back, looked toward the south, and saw that the crests of the peaks and ridges were already dim with somber masses floating northward and westward. The air was growing cooler, and, in a half hour, the ancient churchyard was sure to be veiled in darkness. For the present Philip and he relapsed into silence, and John's thoughts traveled anxiously toward his uncle and Mr. Anson. What would they think had become of him? He knew that the Senator who was very fond of him would be alarmed greatly, and it was a bad time in Europe for any one to be missing.
But there was stern stuff in John Scott, and knowing that they must wait he put anxiety from him as much as he could and waited.
The heavy clouds, although they did not give forth rain, swept up, and brought black darkness with them. The white tombstones became pale, and the town beyond was invisible. Lannes rose and stretched himself deliberately, limb by limb.
"Are you willing, John Scott?" he asked, "to follow me and ask no questions?"
"Yes, Philip Lannes, I am."
"Well, then, John—I think I'll call you that because you and I are friends, and you may say Philip, too, which will save time—I'm going to lead you to temporary safety and comfort. I'll tell you, too, enough to assuage your curiosity. There's a little Huguenot quarter to this town. Louis Quatorze, as you know, drove many good people out of France. Some went to your own new land, but the majority settled in the surrounding countries. They've intermarried chiefly with themselves, and, after more than two hundred years on foreign soil, many of them still have French hearts in French bodies."
"Lead on then. I think I'd like to meet these good Huguenots. I'm growing tremendously hungry, Philip."
"Hunger is frequent in a great war. You'll grow used to it."
His manner took away any sting that his words might have contained. John could yet see those wonderful gray eyes shining through the twilight, and his heart warmed anew to the young Frenchman. If he were to be cast away in this strange German town Lannes was just the comrade whom he would have chosen.
"We're resurrected," continued Lannes, "and we'll leave our graveyard. May it be a long time before I enter another! And yet with a world going to war who can tell?"
But the touch of gravity was only for an instant. The joyous note quickly returned to his voice.
"Keep by my side," he said, "and walk in the most careless manner, as if you were a native of the town. If anybody asks question let me make all the replies. God gave me one special gift, and it was an easy tongue. It's not work for me to talk. I like to do it."
"And I like to hear you," said John.
"Which leaves us both satisfied. Now, it's lucky for us that our old European towns are so very old. In the Middle Ages they built with narrow streets, and all sorts of alleys and passages. Leading from the cemetery is just the sort of passage that you and I need at this time. Ah, here it is, and luckily it's empty!"
They had crossed the narrow street beyond the cemetery, and were looking into a dark tunnel between two low stone houses. No one was in sight. Lannes stepped without hesitation into the tunnel.
"Keep with me," he said, repeating his injunction, "and we'll soon be under shelter."
His manner was so cheerful, so confident that John instinctively believed him, and walked boldly by his side into the well of darkness. But as his eyes grew used to it he made out the walls crumbling with age and dripping with damp. Then the sound of heavy feet came thundering down the passage.
"Some one leading a horse," whispered Lannes. "There's a stable on our right. It's nothing. Seem not to notice as you pass."
The thunder of the feet, magnified in the confined space, increased, and presently John saw a boy leading one of those huge-footed horses, used for draft in Europe. The animal stepped slowly and heavily, and the boy was half asleep. John and Philip, hovering in the shadow of the wall, passed him so lightly that doubtless he was not conscious of their presence.
The Frenchman turned into a tributary alley, narrower and darker than the other, and Lannes knocked at a heavy oaken doorway, before which a small lantern cast a dim light. John had good eyes, and accustomed to the heavy shadows, he saw fairly well.
He concealed an imaginative temperament under a quiet manner, and he was now really back in the Middle Ages. It must have been at least four or five hundred years since people lived up little alleys like this. And the door with its heavy iron bands, the shuttered window above it, and the dim lantern that lighted the passage could belong only to long ago. The house and its neighbors seemed to have been built as much for defense as for habitation.
Lannes knocked again, and then John heard inside the soft tread of feet, and the lifting of heavy bars. It was another mediŠval touch, and he swung yet further back into the past. The door was opened slightly and the face of an elderly woman appeared at the crevice.
"It's Philip Lannes with a friend, Mother Krochburg," said the young Frenchman in a whisper, "and friend as you've often been to me I never needed the friendship of you and your house more than I do now."
She said something in German and opened the door wider. Lannes and John pressed in, and she instantly closed it behind them, putting the heavy bars in place. They stood in complete darkness, but they heard her moving about, and presently she lighted a small lamp which did not dispel the shadows beyond the range of a few feet.
But as she stood in the center of the beams the woman was outlined clearly for John. She was at least sixty, but she was tall and strong, and bore herself like a grenadier. She was looking at Lannes, and John had never beheld a gaze of more intense, burning curiosity.
"Well?" she said, and to John's surprise she now spoke in French. Lannes gave back her gaze with one fully as concentrated and burning.
"Angelique Krochburg, wife of Paul Krochburg, descendant of the Krochburgs, rightly called the Crochevilles," he said, drawing himself up and speaking with wonderful distinctness, "it has come at last."
"The war! The great war!" she said in a sharp whisper. John noticed that her strong figure trembled.
"Yes, the great war!" returned Lannes with dramatic intensity. "Germany declares war today on Russia. I know it. No matter how I know it, but I know it. She will make war on France tomorrow, and it will be the first object of her princes and military caste to destroy our republic. They reckon that with the aid of Austria they will rule the whole continent, and that in time the tread of their victorious armies will be heard all over the world."
The woman drew a breath so deep and sharp that it made a hissing sound between her teeth. John saw the lamp in her hand trembling.
"Then Philip Lannes," she said, "which is it to be—the peoples or the kings?"
Lannes drew himself up again—John recognized the dramatic quality in him—and replied in words that he shot forth like bullets:
"The peoples. Armies can be defeated, but nations cannot be put down. Our Napoleon, despite his matchless genius, found it so in his later empire. And they have reckoned ill at Berlin and Vienna. The world in alarm at military domination will be against them. They say the English won't fight and will keep out. But Mother Krochburg or Crocheville—I prefer the sound of Crocheville—we French know better. A thousand years of our history say that the English will fight. We have Agincourt and Cressy and Poitiers and La Belle Alliance to say that they will fight. And now they will fight again, but on our side. The bravest of our ancient enemies will stand with us, brothers in arms, shoulder to shoulder against an arrogant foe!"
"Do you know this, Philip Lannes, or is it some dream of that hopeful brain of yours?"
"It's not a dream. I know it. It hasn't been long since I was among the English. They will have to join us. The German threat will force them to it. Blinded by their own narrow teachings the generals at Berlin and Vienna cannot see the storm they've let loose. Ah, Madame Crocheville, it's more than two hundred years since any of your people have lived in France, but you are as true a Frenchwoman as if your feet had never pressed any but French soil!"
"There is truth in that wild head of yours."
"And the time of France and the French is coming. The republic has restored us. The terrible year of 1870 will be avenged. French valor and skill will bloom again!"
John had stood on one side, while they talked or rather allowed their emotions to shoot forth in words. But he was watching them intently, bent slightly forward, and, like Parsifal, he had never moved by the breadth of a single hair. The woman now glanced toward him.
"He can be trusted?" she asked Lannes.
"Absolutely. His head is in the German noose. He must do as we bid or that noose will close."
The gay ring had returned to Lannes' voice and a faint smile crossed the face of Madame Crocheville.
"It's the best of securities," she said, and John, compelled to acknowledge its truth, bowed.
"Who are pursuing you," she asked.
"Nobody at present," replied Lannes. "I'd have passed the border safely, but a pig of an Austrian officer happened to know the man whose passport I have. It was one chance in a thousand, and it went against me. My friend here is an American, and, as he was dragged into it, we must save him."
"It's likely that you need both food and rest as well as concealment."
"We do, and thank you for what we know we are going to receive."
She smiled again faintly. John surmised that she had a warm place in her heart for Lannes. Who would not? He was as light-hearted now as if he had come to a ball and not to a refuge. His eyes moved about the room and he seemed pleased with all he saw.
"Food and a little of the good wine that I've found here before would be indeed most welcome," he said, "and I speak for my new American friend as well as myself."
"Come!" she said briefly, and the two followed, as she led the way into a passage not more than wide enough for one, and then up a stone stairway into a room ventilated by only a single narrow window.
"Wait here," she said. She closed the door and John heard the huge German key turning in the lock. But the slit of a window was open, and he saw in the room two beds, a table, two chairs and some other furniture. The ceiling was low and sloping and John knew that they were directly under the eaves.
Lannes threw himself into one of the chairs and drew several mighty breaths.
"We're locked in, John," he said, "but it's for our good. Nobody can get at us, while Madame Crocheville holds the key, and she'll hold it. More than two hundred years on German soil, and still French, heart and soul. There must be something great and true in France, when she can inspire such far-flung devotion. That isn't a bad place, John. As the French general said in the Crimea, 'J'y suis, j'y reste' and I'm resting now."
"She knows all about you, I take it?"
"Of course. I've been here before, often. That little window looks out into a tiny court, and you'd probably be amazed at the amount of luxury to be found in this place. This old Europe of ours is often far better than it looks."
"I didn't see the man of the house."
"Oh, yes you did. Frau Krochburg or Madame Crocheville, if you wish secretly to call her so, is very much the man of the house. There is a Herr Krochburg, but he won't come in our way now. Madame will do everything for us at present. I've touched a spark of fire to her soul, and it has blazed up. Those Huguenots of long ago were really republicans, and it's republican France now, for the success of which she prays with every breath she draws."
"She's locked us in pretty securely. I heard that big German key turn."
"To keep others from getting at us. Not to keep us from getting out. Now, I hear it turning again, and I'll wager that she's coming back with something that will rejoice us to the core."
The door opened and Madame Crocheville walked into the room, bearing a large tray which she placed upon a chair until she could close and lock the door again. Then she bore it to the table and John looked at it with great longing. He was young, he was healthy and he had a digestion beyond criticism.
"I told you so," exclaimed Lannes triumphantly, "and look, Madame Crocheville has brought us her best—a bottle of the light, white wine made in this very district, and good! You can dismiss your American scruples—it's very mild—filet of beef, tender, too, baked potatoes, salad, bread and butter and cheese. It is truly fit for a king. Madame Crocheville, two young and starving souls, thank you."
A smile lighted up her stern, almost masculine features. Then her face, in truth, looked feminine and tender.
"You're wild and reckless, but you're a good boy, Philip Lannes," she said, "and I know that you'd willingly lay down your life for the France that I've never seen, but which I love. You say again that the great war is at hand."
"It has come. In a few days four hundred million people will be in it, and I know that France will come out of it with all her ancient glory and estate."
"I hope and pray so," she said fervently, and then she left them.
The two ate and drank with wonderfully keen appetites, but they did not forget their manners. John noticed that Philip was extremely fastidious at the table, and he liked him the better for it. And the food was wonderfully good. John felt new life and strength flowing into his veins.
"I suppose we stay here tonight," he said.
"Yes it would be dangerous for us to leave so soon. Madame Crocheville will take good care of us tonight and tomorrow, and tomorrow night we'll leave."
"I don't see just how we'll go," said John. "There are German troops in this town, as we know, and even if we could get out of it, where then would we be. I want to go to Munich, and you, I take it, want to reach France. We can't go by land and we can't go by water. How then can we go?"
"No, we can't go by either land or water, but we'll go in another way. Yes, we'll surely do it. This filet is certainly good. Take another piece. You haven't tasted the tomato salad yet, and it's fine. No, I won't tell you how we're going, because in every affair of life there's always a possible slip. You just wait upon the event, and learn patience. Patience is a wonderful quality to have, I ought to know. I've seen how much it does for others, and how often I've suffered from the lack of it."
"I'll wait, because I have to. You're right about the filet. It's good. I think I'll take some more of it."
"You can't have it. Pig of an American, it would be your third piece."
"But it would be your third, too!"
"I know it, but I saw its merits first. So, I get a discoverer's third as a reward. Feel a lot better, don't you, John?"
"I feel like a general now. Where did you learn such good, every-day English."
"Studied it ten years at school, and then I lived two years in that great, splendid unkempt country of yours. Mind your step! Good-by, little girl, good-by! We must get the men higher up! Tariff for Revenue only! Hurrah for the Goddess of Liberty! Our glorious American eagle bathes one wing in Lake Superior and the other in the Gulf of Mexico! Our foreign commerce would be larger if it were not for our grape-juice diplomacy! Now for the Maxixe and the Hesitation all at the same time!"
He sprang from his chair and whirled and jerked about the room in a kind of wild Apache dance. John laughed until his eyes grew wet.
"You've been there," he said, as Lannes sat down again, panting. "You've proved it, and I no longer wonder at your fine colloquial English."
"I like your country and I like you Americans," said Lannes seriously. "You are the favorite children of the world, and I say children purposely, because you are children. You think you are terribly wicked, but you're not wicked at all. You're mere amateurs in vice compared with the hoary and sinful nations of Europe. We're more quiet about it, but we practice tricks that you never dream of. We've made you think you're dollar-worshipers, but while the dollars are dropping through your fingers, John, we're hanging on to the francs, and marks, and shillings, and rubles and gulden and pesos and kronen with a grasp that death itself often fails to break."
John did not know whether to be pleased or displeased, but finally concluded to be pleased.
"Perhaps you're telling the truth," he said.
"I know I am. But here comes Madame Crocheville for the dishes. She will also say: 'Good night my wild and reckless but gallant Philip, and the same to you young American stranger.'"
"How do you know?"
"Never mind how I know. I know."
Madame Crocheville came in and she looked at the two with satisfaction. Their appearance had improved greatly under the ministrations of her good food and drink. She put the dishes on her tray and went to the door. When she had turned the key she looked back and said:
"Good night, my wild and reckless but gallant Philip, and the same to you, young American stranger."
Then she went out, closed the door, and the two heard the big key turning again in the lock. The young Frenchman looked at the young American and smiled in content.
"How did you know so exactly?" asked John.
"Just call it an uncommonly accurate guess. Now, I think I'll put out the lamp. The light from the window is sufficient for us, and we don't want to take any unnecessary risk."
He blew out the light, but John went to the window, and looked out on the tiny court or place, on the far side of which ran a street so narrow that it would have been called an alley at home.
He could not see much owing to the thick darkness, and it had begun to rain also. The air was chill and heavy with damp. John shivered. Fate had played him a weird trick by causing him to lose his train, but she had atoned for it partly by giving him this brave young Frenchman as a comrade. It was wonderfully snug and comfortable in the house of Madame Crocheville, called by her fellow townsmen and townswomen Frau Krochburg.
"I'm glad it's not a part of your plan for us to escape tonight, Philip," he said.
"And what's the cause of your gladness."
"It's raining, and it's as cold as winter. I like this place, and I think I'll go to bed."
"A good plan. Everything is ready for us."
There was a little adjoining room, in which they found water, towels and could make all the other preparations for the night, and John, feeling a sudden great weariness, made ready. When he was in bed he saw Lannes still at the window.
"Better crawl in, too, Philip," he called. "This is a fine bed, and I fancy the other is just as good."
"I'll join you in slumber land soon. Good night."
John closed his eyes, and in a few minutes he was sleeping soundly. He was first to awake the next morning, and he saw that it was a gray day. The rain had ceased, but there was no one in the little court or street beyond. Philip slept soundly, and, as it was early, John did not awake him. But he rose and dressed shortly before Madame Crocheville came with breakfast.
"You have slept well, I hope," she said.
"Never better," replied Lannes for them both.
"I hear from others that which you told me last night. Germany has declared war upon Russia, and the mightiest of the German armies marches today against France. Philip! Philip! Poor France will be crushed!"
"Not so, Madame! France is not ready and the German armies will go far toward Paris, but France, the republic, will not fall. I am young, but I have heard, and I have seen. French valor is French valor still, and Germany is creating for herself a ring of foes."
"You make me believe! You make me believe, Philip, in spite of myself," she said.
"We shall see what we shall see," said Lannes with confidence.
The day passed and they did not seek to stir from the room. Madame Crocheville brought them food, but talked little. Time was very heavy. John did not dare to go much to the window, for fear of being seen. The night at last came again, and to their great joy it was dark without either moon or stars.
"Now we'll go," said Lannes.
"I'm ready," said John, although he did not have the remotest idea how they were going.
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