ST. Ives

Page 15

So soon as our eyes met, he drew near and addressed me in the French language, which he spoke with a good fluency but an abominable accent.

'I have the pleasure of addressing Monsieur le Vicomte Anne de Keroual de Saint-Yves?' said he.

'Well,' said I, 'I do not call myself all that; but I have a right to, if I chose. In the meanwhile I call myself plain Champdivers, at your disposal. It was my mother's name, and good to go soldiering with.'

'I think not quite,' said he; 'for if I remember rightly, your mother also had the particle. Her name was Florimonde de Champdivers.'

'Right again!' said I, 'and I am extremely pleased to meet a gentleman so well informed in my quarterings. Is monsieur Born himself?' This I said with a great air of assumption, partly to conceal the degree of curiosity with which my visitor had inspired me, and in part because it struck me as highly incongruous and comical in my prison garb and on the lips of a private soldier.

He seemed to think so too, for he laughed.

'No, sir,' he returned, speaking this time in English; 'I am not "BORN," as you call it, and must content myself with DYING, of which I am equally susceptible with the best of you. My name is Mr. Romaine--Daniel Romaine--a solicitor of London City, at your service; and, what will perhaps interest you more, I am here at the request of your great-uncle, the Count.'

'What!' I cried, 'does M. de Keroual de St.-Yves remember the existence of such a person as myself, and will he deign to count kinship with a soldier of Napoleon?'

'You speak English well,' observed my visitor.

'It has been a second language to me from a child,' said I. 'I had an English nurse; my father spoke English with me; and I was finished by a countryman of yours and a dear friend of mine, a Mr. Vicary.'

A strong expression of interest came into the lawyer's face.

'What!' he cried, 'you knew poor Vicary?'

'For more than a year,' said I; 'and shared his hiding-place for many months.'

'And I was his clerk, and have succeeded him in business,' said he. 'Excellent man! It was on the affairs of M. de Keroual that he went to that accursed country, from which he was never destined to return. Do you chance to know his end, sir?'

'I am sorry,' said I, 'I do. He perished miserably at the hands of a gang of banditti, such as we call chauffeurs. In a word, he was tortured, and died of it. See,' I added, kicking off one shoe, for I had no stockings; 'I was no more than a child, and see how they had begun to treat myself.'

He looked at the mark of my old burn with a certain shrinking. 'Beastly people!' I heard him mutter to himself.

'The English may say so with a good grace,' I observed politely.

Such speeches were the coin in which I paid my way among this credulous race. Ninety per cent. of our visitors would have accepted the remark as natural in itself and creditable to my powers of judgment, but it appeared my lawyer was more acute.

'You are not entirely a fool, I perceive,' said he.

'No,' said I; 'not wholly.'

'And yet it is well to beware of the ironical mood,' he continued. 'It is a dangerous instrument. Your great-uncle has, I believe, practised it very much, until it is now become a problem what he means.'

'And that brings me back to what you will admit is a most natural inquiry,' said I. 'To what do I owe the pleasure of this visit? how did you recognise me? and how did you know I was here?'

Carefull separating his coat skirts, the lawyer took a seat beside me on the edge of the flags.

'It is rather an odd story,' says he, 'and, with your leave, I'll answer the second question first. It was from a certain resemblance you bear to your cousin, M. le Vicomte.'

'I trust, sir, that I resemble him advantageously?' said I.

'I hasten to reassure you,' was the reply: 'you do. To my eyes, M. Alain de St.-Yves has scarce a pleasing exterior. And yet, when I knew you were here, and was actually looking for you--why, the likeness helped. As for how I came to know your whereabouts, by an odd enough chance, it is again M.

Robert Louis Stevenson
Classic Literature Library

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