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showed her that the glistening objects which had caught her eye at a distance were the polished barrels of mousquetons, or heavy carbines, carried by two men who occupied the driving seat, she slipped from her hiding-place behind the large oak tree, and carefully ensconced herself among the thick bushes that overshadowed the rocks.
Scarcely had she done this, before one of the armed men got down from the box, and walked round the circular glade, scanning it with a curious and penetrating glance. For a moment, he paused before the old oak, as if attracted by some flowers Alix had dropped; but, another quicksearching look seeming to satisfy him, he returned to the carriage and stood by the door, as if in conference with some one inside.
"Thank Heaven!" thought Alix, "he sees that the carriage can not pass further in this direction; I shall not, therefore, be kept here long;" and her curiosity as to what was next to be done gaining predominance over her fears, she again peered eagerly between the branches. A gentleman got out of the carriage, and examined the little glade as carefully as his servant had done.
"What a handsome man!" thought Alix. "What a grand dress he has; all silk and velvet!" She fixed an admiring glance on the tall, noble-looking figure that stood for a moment, silent and still, in the centre of the amphitheatre.
"It will do, Pierre," he said at length, as he turned on his steps: "begin your work."
Pierre bowed, and, without speaking, pointed to a little plot of ground, of peculiarly bright green, with a dark ring round it—a fairy-ring, in short, so named in all countries—which lay almost directly opposite to Alix's hiding-place."Yes," was the brief answer. "Call Joseph to help; we are at least an hour too late."
The strong rigidity of the speaker's countenance caused Alix to tremble, although she did not know why, unless it were in her dread of falling into his hands as a spy of his secret actions, whatever they might be; for he was evidently not a man to be trifled with.
Pierre went back to the carriage, from which the other man had already descended, and together they took, from the hind boot, a couple of pickaxes and spades, with which they speedily began to cut away the turf of the green-ring, for a space of some six or eight feet in length, and as many in breadth.
She could distinctly sec Pierre's face, and perceived that it was not one she had ever seen before. That of Joseph was concealed from her, as he worked with his back toward her; but there was something about his dress and appearance which seemed familiar to her, and which was very different from that of Pierre. But what strange kind of hole was that they were digging! "Holy Mother of mercy, it is a grave!" As this idea occurred to her, her blood ran cold; but the sudden thought underwent as sudden a change, when, the second man turning his face toward her, she recognized, to her amazement, the countenance of her admirer, the old bailiff.
The sight of his familiar face dissipated her gloomy suspicions, and she speedily persuaded herself that instead of a grave to hide some dreadful deed, they were digging for some of the concealed treasures which every body knew were buried in the forest. Monsieur Reboul had often told her that he had heard of them from his grandmother, so it was natural enough he should be ready to seek them. How she would torment him with the secret thus strangely acquired!
From her merry speculations she was roused at length by the reappearance of the tall man, carrying in his arms something wrapped in a horseman's cloak, and followed by another and younger figure, bearing, like himself, all the outward signs belonging to the highest class of the nobility, though on his features was stamped an expression of cruelty and harshness.
"Going to bury a treasure rather than seek one," thought Alix. "Very well, Monsieur Reboul, I have you still!"
The ta.Il man, meanwhile, had placed his burden on the ground. Removing the cloak that covered it, he now displayed to Alix's astonished eyes a young and very lovely lady. For a moment, the fair creature stood motionless where she was placed, as if dazzled by the sudden light; but it was for a moment only, and then she flung herself on the ground at the feet of the elder man, beseeching him to have mercy upon her, to remember that she was young, and that life, any life, was dear to her!
The man moved not a muscle, uttered not a word save these—" I have sworn it."
The girl—for she looked little more than sixteen—pressed her hands on her bosom, as if to still the suffocating beating of her heart, and was silent. Such silenco' Such anguish! Alix trembled as if she herself were under the sentence of that cold, cruel man. But now the grave was finished; for grave it seemed to be, and one, too, destined to inclose that living, panting, beautiful creature. The aid man laid his hand upon her arm and drew her forcibly to the edge of the gaping hole.
With sudden strength she wrenched herself from his grasp; and, with a wild and thrilling shriek, rushed to the young man, clung to him, kissed his hands, his feet, raised her wild, tearless eyes to his, and implored for mercy, with such an agony of terror in her hoarse, broken voice, that the young man's powerful frame shook as if struck by ague. Involuntarily, unconsciously he clasped her in his arms. What he might have said or done, God knows, had the old man allowed him time; but already he was upon them, and snatched the girl from his embrace. The young man turned away with a look so terrible that Alix never recalled it, never spoke of it afterward, without an invocation to Heaven.
"Kill me first!" shrieked the poor girl, as her executioner dragged her a second time to that living grave. "Not alive, not alive! Oh my father, not alive!"
"I have no child, you no father!" was the stern reply. The young man hid his face in his hands, and Alix saw them thrust their victim into the grave; but she saw no more, for, with a cry almost as startling as that which the murdered lady had uttered, she fled from her concealment back to the village. Panting, she rushed on without pause, without hesitation, through unknown paths . her short quick cries for "Help! help! help!" showing the one idea that possessed her; but she met no one until she stopped exhausted and breathless at the first house in the village, that of the cure.
"Come, come at once; they will have killed her!" she exclaimed.
"What is the matter, my poor girl?" he asked in amazement, as, pushing back his spectacles, he raised his head from his breviary.
"Oh come, sir! I will tell you as we go. Where is Francois! He would help me! Oh, what shall I do, what shall I do? Come, do
There was no mistaking the look of agitation in her face: the cure yielded to her entreaties and followed her. As they quitted the house, they met some laborers with spades in their hands, going to their daily work.
"Make these men come with us," Alix said, "and bring their spades!"
The cure did so, and in an incredibly short space of time the little party reached the green ring. The spot was vacant now, as formerly— carriage, horses, servants, executioners, and victim, all had disappeared as if by magic; and, in the quiet sylvan solitude, not a trace save the newly-turned soil was perceptible of the tragedy enacted there so lately. But Alix staid not to glance around her; going directly up to the fatal spot, she gasped out, "Dig, dig!"
No one knew why the order was given, nor what they were expected to find; but her eagerness had extended itself to the whole party, and they at once set to work, while she herself, prostrate on the ground, tried to aid them by tearing up the sods with her hands. At length the turf was removed, and a universal cry of horror was heard when the body of the unhappy girl was discovered.
"Take her out; she is not dead! Monsieur le Cure, save her; tell us how to save her!"
The laborers gently raised the body, and placed it in Alix's arms, as she still sat on the ground. They chafed the cold hands, loosened the rich dress—the poor girl's only shroud—but she gave no sign of life.
"Water, water!" cried Alix. No fountain was near, but the rough men gathered the dead leaves strewed around, and sprinkled the pale face with the dew they still held. For a second they all hoped; the eyelids quivered slightly, and a faint pulsation of the heart was clearly perceptible.
But that was all They had come too late. The cure bent over the dead, and repeated the solemn "De profundis clamavi ad te, Domine," and then all joined in the hymn of death, "Dies
>r«e, dies ilia!" as they gently bore the corpse from the place of its savage sepulture, to holy ground. For several days the body was exposed in an open coffin in the little village church of Beauregard, and every effort was made to track the perpetrators of the dreadful deed. But in vain; no trace of them could be found. An innate dread of some personal misfortune sealed Alix's lips with respect to her recognition of the bailiff, and all inquiries as to the passing of a carriage such as she had described, between Maillot and Novelle, were made unsuccessfully.
The dress of the young lady was carefully examined, in hopes of the discovery of her name by means of ciphers or initials on her linen; but there were none. The satin robe, the jewels she had worn on her neck and arms, and the delicate flowers twined in her hair, gave evidence that she had been carried away from some gay fete. From the ring on her marriage finger they augured she was a wife; but there all conjecture ended. After her burial in holy ground her gold ring and other ornaments were hung up in the church, in the hope that some day a claimant might arise who could unravel the strange mystery; and close by them was suspended an ex vo by Alix, in gratitude for her own escape.
The story was never cleared up. Monsieur Reboul was never seen again, and Alix had so lost her boasted courage that she never afterward dared to take a solitary walk, especially near the fatal green ring in the forest. Perhaps it was this dread of being alone, or perhaps the mysterious disappearance of Monsieur Reboul, which tempted her soon afterward to follow the advice of her neighbors, and become the wife of Francois, the stone-cutter. The marriage was a happy one, and a time came when the remembrance of that fatal eve of St. John was recalled more as a strange legend to be told to her children and grandchildren than as a fearful drama in which she had herself taken part.
In the revolutionary struggles which followed, the ornaments of the murdered girl were, with other relics of the old regime, lost or removed from the little village church. Yet the story lingers there still, and, like many another strange story, it is a true one.
PICTURE OF A GREEK GIRL. SHE is a baggy damsel with a quaint, sly face, and her principal occupation is that of a maid of all work.
But she is dressed to-day; it is St. Somebody's feast, and every body is idling away their time in consequence. It was St. Whatshisname's day the day before yesterday, and it will be St. Whoist's day the day after to-morrow. Though our balloon-clad young acquaintance is idling, it is with a busy idleness; for she has been occupied ever since eight o'clock this morning in carrying about fruit, jellies, and sweetmeats, with strong raw spirits in gilded glasses, and little cups ot unstrained coffee A very singular and amusing picture she makes, as she stands bolt upright, tray in hand, before her father's guests. She is PICTURE OF A pretty. Yes, there is no doubt of that; but she has done almost every thing possible to disfigure herself. Though certainly not seventeen, with the rich, clear complexion of the Greeks, she is rouged up to the very eyes. Where she is not rouged, she is whitened. Her eyebrows are painted, and she has even found means to introduce some black abomination under her eyelids to make the eyes look larger. Her hair would be almost a marvel if left to itself; but she has twisted it, and plaited it, woven gold coins into it, and tied it up with dirty handkerchiefs, and gummed and honeyed it, till every tress has grown distorted and angry. Her ears are in themselves as sly and coquettish a pair of ears as need he; and they peep out beneath her tortured locks as if they would rather like to have a game at bo-peep than otherwise: but they are literally torn half an inch longer than they should be by an enormous pair of Mosaic ear-rings bought of a peddler. Her hands might have been nice once, for they are still small; but they arc as tough as horn and as red as chaps can make them, with sheer hard work, scrubbing and washing about the house. All Greek women, I think, have been mere housewives since the time of Andromache. Her figure is, if possible, more generally baggy than her trowsers. It bulges out in the most extraordinary bumps and fullness. A short jacket—as much too small for her as the brigand attire of the stage—does not make this general plumpness less remarkable; and she has a superfluity of clothes, which reminds one of the late King Christophe's idea of full dress. Numerous, however, as are the articles of wearing apparel she has put on, they all terminate with the trowsers, which arc looped up just below the knee. The rest of the leg and feet are bare, and hard, and plump, and purple, and chapped almost beyond belief, even in the fine piercing cold of a Greek February.
Her mind is a mere blank. Her idea of life is love-making, cleaning the house, serving coffee, and rouging herself on festival days. She can not read or write, or play the piano; but she can sing and dance. She can talk too, though never before company, No diplomatist can touch her in intrigue or invention. Not even Captain Absolute's groom could tell a falsehood with more composure. She does not know what it is to speak the truth; and, to use a Greek saying, she is literally kneaded up with tricks. The Greek girl has no heart, no affections. She is a mere lump of flesh and calculation. Her marriage is quite an affair of buying and selling. It is arranged by her friends. They offer to give a house (that is indispensable), and so much to whoever will take her off their hands. By-and-by, somebody comes to do so; the priests are called, there is a quaint strange ceremony, and he is bound, by fine, to perform his promise. This fine is usually ten per cent, on the fortune which was offered him with the lady.
I have said she can talk, but she can only talk of and to her neighbors; and she spends her evenings chiefly in sitting singing in the doorway, and watching them. This she does herself;
GREBK GIRL. 237but she has a little ally (a chit of a girl about seven years old, and looking forty, that you meet in the houses of all the islanders), who is on the look-out all day. No one ever enters a Greek house but the neighborhood knows it. All down the street, and in the next, and every where, those little girls are watching and flitting about on cunning errands as stealthily and swift as cats. Her father and mother will tell you that her own cousins never saw her alone or spoke a dozen consecutive words to her; but I rather fancy she has some acquaintance of her own; and she is generally on terms of rather startling friendship with the young man servant, who forms almost part of the family in all Greek houses. On summer nights too, when good people should be asleep, you will see closelyhooded figures flitting about noiselessly, like black ghosts. They are Greek girls. What they are about nobody knows. Perhaps, looking for the moon, which will not rise for some hours. At every dark corner of a wall, also, you will see young gentlemen sitting in the deep shadow with wonderful perseverance. If you go very near and they do not sec you, you may hear them singing songs, but low as the humming of a bee: so low, that they do not disturb even the timid owl who sits cooing amid the ruins of the last fire over the way. The Greek girl knows an amazing quantity of songs, and all of the same kind. They are about equal in point of composition to the worst of our street ballads: full of the same coarse wit and low trickery. They are sung to dreary, monotonous airs; and always through the nose. Never had the national songs of a people so little charm or distinctive character. You seek the strong, sweet language of the heart in vain among them. They have neither grace nor fancy.
With all this, the Greek girl is pious. She would not break any of the severe fasts of her church, even for money, though they condemn her to dry bread and olives for six weeks at a time: nor would she neglect going to church on certain days upon any account. She has a faith in ceremonies, and in charms, relics, and saints, almost touching; but there her belief ends. She would not trust the word of her own father or the archbishop. She can not suppose it possible that any one would speak the truth, unless he was obliged; and she judges correctly, according to her own experience. She herself would promise, and take an unmixed delight in deceiving her own mother on a question about a pin's head; but she would scrupulously avoid doing any thing she had promised; and the only way even to prevent her accepting a husband, would be to make her say she would have him beforehand. From that moment her fertile wits would toil night and day to find means of escape. And find them she would, to change her mind the day after she was free.
She has one hope dearer than all the rest. It is that she may one day wear Frank clothes, and see the Greeks at Constantinople. This is no exaggeration; the wrongs of the rayah have eaten into all classes of society in Turkey, until even women lisp, and the children prattle vengeance. It is so strong that it has made the Greeks hate one of the prettiest remaining costumes in the world, as a symbol of their most bitter and cruel servitude.
By-and-by, the Greek girl will grow old. From a household servant, she will then sink into a drudge, and her head will be always bound up as if she had a chronic toothache. You will see her carrying water on washing days, or groaning and squabbling upon others as she cleans the herbs for dinner. She will have become so old even at thirty, that it is impossible to recognize her. Rouge and whitening will have so corroded her face, that it looks like a sleepy apple or a withered medlar. Her eyes are shriveled into nothing. Her teeth will have been eaten away by rough wine, and noxious tooth-powders. She will be bald when she does not wear a towering wig, that only comes out on St. Everybody's days. The plump figure and all its bumps will have shriveled into a mere heap of aching old bones, and her only pleasures in this life will be scandal and curiosity.
You will find her croaking about, watching her neighbors at the most unseasonable times. She has wonderful perseverance in ferreting out a secret. She will thus know many more things than are true, and tell them with singular readiness and vivacity. She will be the terror of her neighborhood, and there is no conciliating her. Kindness, good humor, even money—which she prizes as much as she did when a girl, and grasps at it as eagerly—will have no effect on her. She must speak evil and hatch troubles, or she would die. The instinct of self-preservation is strong; so she will go upon her old course, come what may. She will be a terror even to her own daughter.
She has been reduced to this state by having been a thing of bargain and sale so long, that she has learned to consider money as the chief good. She has been subject to insult; to be beaten; to be carried away into the harem of a man she has never seen, and whose whole kind she despises; and has lost all natural feeling. All grace, tenderness, and affection, have been burnt out of her as with a brand. She has been looked upon as a mere tame animal until she has become little better. She has been doubted until deception has become her glory. She has been imprisoned and secluded until trickery has become her master passion. She has been kept from healthy knowledge and graceful accomplishments, from all softening influences and ennobling thoughts, until her mind has festered. When she is young, she is shut up until she becomes uncomfortable from fat; when she is old, she is worked until she becomes a skeleton. None have any respect or love for her, nor would she be now worthy of it, if they had.
But I drop the pen in weariness, only saying, that if a Greek girl be such as I have described her, what must a Greek boy be.
THE DURAND PROPERTY.
THE register of any lawyer in ordinary practice contains more records of the emotions and passions which sway human nature than any other sort of volume ever written or printed. To the eye of a stranger, indeed, these tines present only the abbreviated notes of ordinary office occurrences, or the condensed history of the progress of suits at law or in equity. But to the eye of the man who has made or directed the entries from day to day, a glance over the pages recalls a hundred strange and startling, and as many sad and sickening histories. It is no pleasant retrospect for a lawyer to review this book; and I believe it is seldom done except when absolutely required for business purposes. The private histories of many families—stories that men and women would give fortunes to have blotted out of their own and all other persons' memories—are in these pages; and when the possessor dies, the record becomes unintelligible, except as a memorandum that on such and such days such papers were filed or served, and such motions or decrees made.
For example, I open to one of the briefest pages in my old register, and find on it not more than a half dozen entries. The title of the cause is as follows: New York Supreme Court. John E. Durandvs. Stephen Halliday. We were plaintiff's attorneys.
The first entry is " March 18th. Ret'd by plff. in person."
He was a very old man. He came into the office with a feeble step, and with a humility that was painful. It is exceedingly unpleasant to sec an old man so broken down as to speak with an appearance of inferiority to mere boys; and yet he did so, and asked the clerks in the office if he was intruding, in a tone so meek and quiet, that I was shocked, and called out from my inner room to bid him walk in.
He was a very tall man, bowed down by his age, but with an eye that spoke a commingling of gentleness and of confidence which won you to him irresistibly. His story was brief. He desired to bring an action against a man named Halliday, to recover the value of a large estate, placed in his hands as trustee, but which he had disposed of. The circumstances, as I afterward learned them, were these:
Mr. Durand was a man of large wealth, but of small financial ability. He had lived a peaceful and quiet life not far from the city; but when his family persuaded him to remove into New York, he had fallen into the speculating temptations of the city. A year or two passed, and he had made two or three very fortunate operations in stock and in real estate, which, like all gambling successes, whetted his appetite for other and bolder schemes. He formed new acquaintances, made many new alliances, and among them all attached himself with special confidence to one man, a real estate broker named Halliday, who so far ingratiated himself into the old man's favor as to win his complete confidence. Durand had made several purchases, in expectation of rapid sales at large advances, and had exhausted all his available means; and, without having become insolvent, he found himself in the very common position of speculators, with immense liabilities, and immense assets, but no ability to turn his assets into available funds. The usual consequence followed. His paper must be dishonored and his contracts unfulfilled. The immediate result would be disgrace in the business world, and he could not bear that. With the impetuosity of inexperience, he hastened to his friend Halliday, and besought his advice and help. Halliday held his paper to a larger amount than any other creditor, and recommended him to place his entire property in his hands, and permit him to settle up his affairs. The infatuated and frightened man assented to any thing that looked like getting him out of the personal difficulty of settling his own complicated affairs, and readily consented. His lauds were conveyed by deeds, and his securities of every sort were made over to the broker, absolutely, and not a scrap of paper taken back for any of it.
A year of quiet passed, during which he had several suits at law commenced against him, but Halliday had agreed to take care of them all, and he was not annoyed. But one day, on calling at the office of the broker, he learned that he was out of town, and the next day he received the same answer. "He would not bo back in a week, perhaps not in two." Two, three, and four weeks passed, and the truth began to dawn on the old man's mind, that his broker friend had left the country with the proceeds of his villainy. The old man shook under the blow. He was left destitute and penniless, with heavy judgments hanging over him, which Halliday had allowed to accumulate, and the terrible nature of his position entirely broke down his constitution. For two years he lay sick and helpless. His creditors were merciful, and finding that he was unable to pay a cent in the dollar, fully released him from all claims. His wife had a small income of a few hundred dollars, on which they lived with their only grandehild, the daughter of a son who had died some years before, and ten years passed slowly away, and Mr. Durand had grown very old. During this time they lost two othar children, who had married merchants in the city, and who died leaving no children; so that their hearth was desolate but for the bright-eyed girl that played around it and gladdened it, and grew up to young and beautiful womanhood in their lowly home.
At the time that Mr. Durand visited my office, Mr. Halliday had returned to the city; not secretly, but openly, and with a bold face—thereby indicating his determination to resist any claim that might be made on him for the property. In fact, it was a very doubtful case. There was not a particle of evidence that the sales to Halliday were not bona fide sales for full value. It was evident that Halliday had large claims against Mr. Durand, and several creditors stated that he had bought Mr. Durand's protested notes from them a few days before the day of the transfer of
property. It had, therefore, a dark look on the face of it for the old man, and I was obliged to state as much to him frankly. He was prepared for that, however; and begged me to think the matter over, promising to call within a week and converse further on the subject. As he walked feebly toward the door of the office, I followed him with a melancholy gaze that he caught as he turned to bow his good-morning, and he answered it with a hopeful smile, which did more to give me confidence in him and in his hopes than a good witness to the facts would have done; but the next instant, when he was gone, I saw that his case was perfectly hopeless, and so dismissed it from my mind.
It was nearly a fortnight later that I found a lady in my room waiting my return from Court. She was young, and had a face of remarkable beauty and interest. Her features were perfectly regular, and her complexion white and pure. Her forehead was of medium height, her eyes blue, her chin small and admirably moulded . while her hair was plainly parted, showing a gleam of the white temple through the dark masses that were drawn back, but which refused to obey the comb. She was of the medium size, her form fully rounded and of exquisite proportions, and her hands and feet small and beautiful. Her air was graceful, yet somewhat constrained in a place where she was far from being at home, and I enjoyed for a moment the hesitation and embarrassment, which lent piquancy to her expressive countenance.
She was Mary Durand, and had come at her grandfather's request to see me. He was not well, and had desired her to call on me, and state some particulars of a conversation which she had overheard between her grandfather and Mr. Halliday.
It was the previous evening, and Mr. Halliday had called and asked for her grandfather, who was in his bedroom. The broker was admitted at Mr. Durand's request, and shown to his bedside; while the mother and granddaughter retired, the former to another part of tho house, and the latter to the next room, which was their usual sitting-room. Indeed it had once been part of the same room, but a thin partition had been put up, dividing it; but this was in fact only boards and paper, and tho conversation in one room could be readily heard in the other.
The old man had lain silent when his former friend entered, and the latter appeared for a moment deeply moved at the situation in which he found his former client; but recovering himself, after a few phrases of condolence he led the conversation along into the ordinary channels, and carefully avoided any allusion to the past. But a chance remark on the state of the money market gave Mr. Durand the opportunity to recall the past, and he went into it with a suddenness and a calm severity that startled his visitor.
"Halliday, I am a very old man. I am nearly eighty years old. I am weak, feeble, sick, and, I believe, I am dying. I was rich, and am poor. I was honored, and am despised. I was respect