A.C. Gunter: Baron Montez of Panama and Paris

A.C. Gunter’s Baron Montez: Chapter 24. Baron Montez’ Wedding Day

The reader is treated to the resolution of affairs with Baron Montez, so far as the Larchmont family is concerned. This is orchestrated by Harry, with the unexpected assistance of his brother, who is still flitting between mental states.

This penultimate chapter opens with Baron Montez deliberating on the fate of his black morocco-bound pocketbook. Strangely enough he is primarily concerned that it not be found, from which the reader may deduce that its only worth is in its incriminating value. Just as Montez has placated his concerns with the whereabouts of the implicative object, he receives a surprising wedding invitation from Francois which stirs his worries anew. Fernando Montez takes action with deadly overtones to remove the threat of Harry Larchmont, and stop him ruining his wedding to young Jesse, with whom he is clearly obsessed.

Louise is disturbed by a label she acquires courtesy of the French press: adventuress. To readers of today this may seem rather innocuous, in fact, some people would love to wear such a badge. But in the day, it denotes someone who has crossed the line, stepped outside of civilized society and entered the wild with a desire for the thrill of adventure. But beyond this, Gunter’s use of the word signals the beginning of a transformation for the formerly independent character, Louise.

“L’Affaire”, Le panorama: Paris la nuit, Ludovich Baschet, 1890-99

The thing is, Louise believes the newspaper’s depiction of her. This causes her to decry the predicament in which her actions on behalf of Harry have placed her. She still labors under the belief that Harry has been working to save Jessie as a prospective marriage partner. To stay in a gentleman’s hotel rooms, in the same dress for three days, in the presence of said juvenile prospect, on the run from the French police, not only contravenes standards of proper conduct within the society in which she lives, it unnerves her. She finds the situation is barely tolerable. Harry cannot find the time to say those three simple words despite countless opportunities, or to at least dispel her illusions in respect of Jesse. As becomes clear, she is not of concern so long as Harry can keep her on the premises. She takes a back seat during the chapter and Harry tells her little,

Perhaps it could be a question of social conventions that prevents Harry from declaring his feelings, but no, it is purposeful on Gunter’s part, as he wishes to reserve the Harry-Louise romance resolution for another chapter—first Harry must deal with Montez. In need of no man, throughout the novel Louise has been portrayed as possessing an independent spirit, without which she could not achieve what she has thus farbut things are about to change. She, captive and constrained, snarls at Harry, like a lioness who needs to be tamed, for how can she be overcome by Harry if she is already compliant?

The backbone of the novel involves a sequence of objects: first, George Riley’s casket of gold, and his pistol, together with a string of pearls, forge a relationship between Montez and the Californian couple. Of the pearls: one, the price of a venomous snake, the remainder with a blood message for the future granddaughter, Louise. The tintype image of Alice Ripleyconnecting her with Louise and Montez. The typewriter that brought Louise in contact with Montez and took the confession of Domingo; the house gifted to Bébée by Montez that proved fatal to the chanteuse; and Louise’s diary currently in Harry’s possession. In these closing chapters, we have seen the first Kodak camera and the manifestation of another crucial object—the black pocketbook of Baron Montez containing all the details of his secret dealings.

For the third time, the reader will be told the outcome if the contents should become public: being torn to pieces by the Parisian mob. These vertebrae of the novel provide connections between characters and motivations for action, and surprisingly, in this chapter a new object, in the shape of an enamelled box, makes an appearance for purposes of coercion.

Twice the length of previous chapters, it is primarily a stage-managed dialogue between the footballer Harry and the played Montez. Harry gives a consummate performance, although in the end Montez, known murderer, implicated in another death and now attempted murder is permitted to go free with access to the pocketbook. So much for saving the HONOR OF FRANCE.


CHAPTER 24

BARON MONTEZ’ WEDDING DAY

Within two hours a few of the detective force of the Rue de Jérusalem are on this young lady’s trail—only a few that the minister thinks he may trust.

They soon find out where Louise has been living, and at two a.m. the household of Monsieur Pichoir is aroused with inquiries for the lady who has been stopping with him.

To their astonishment he says: “She has not yet returned. She is still at the office of Baron Montez!”

Then the town is searched, and railroad stations guarded, and for two days the gentlemen of the Rue de Jérusalem make every effort—but Louise Minturn has disappeared!

From Ancienne Préfecture de police de Paris, rue de Jérusalem (c. 1850), Pierre Ambroise Richebourg (INHA: National Institute of the History of Art)

Word of their failure being brought to Montez, he has exclaimed: “These policemen are idiots!”

But in this he has not treated the officers of sûreté fairly. For the minister and he have not dared to tell the truth to the detectives. They have described Louise Minturn as an adventuress, not a clerk; they have stated what she stole was a pocketbook containing securities, stocks, bonds, etc.—not what it really did hold.

Here Montez stops the search, for an idea has come to him. After reading the letters given Miss Minturn by Aguilla, he has chuckled to himself: “It is only the attempt of my partner to protect himself!” and felt a great relief.

Though he has had the passenger lists of all ships bound for the Isthmus searched, and finds no record of her, still he imagines Louise must have gone by some steam line from England, if not by way of the United States; or perchance by some tramp ship carrying merchandise to the port of Colon, for a great many vessels laden with supplies and plant for the Panama Canal sail to that point.

Then Fernando has communed with himself cheerily: “Does my charming little stenographer think she will get back to Panama and Aguilla with her plunder in her hands? My smart little Yankee girl will find an Isthmus jail less comfortable than the Mazas.”

Therefore he cables to Colon, to an agent of his; and if Miss Minturn arrives there, she will probably find it necessary to apply to the American consul for protection, if she can get a chance to have word with him, for they have a way of putting people in dungeons there, and holding them, without notifying authorities or troubling courts—when the power requesting it is potent.

But Fernando is relieved. From the reports of the police, he is satisfied the pocketbook is not in Paris, the place where he fears it may be used against him. The other is a bagatelle.

All this makes him anxious to press his suit in regard to Miss Severn. He has her guardian under his thumb. The marriage must take place immediately! Then he will be free, if the worst comes to the worst, to leave France, a very rich man.

So Fernando writes to Mr. Francois Leroy Larchmont, asking him to call at his apartments on the Rue Auber, to arrange for the immediate marriage of his ward, and receives in reply the following most satisfactory note:

“2381/2 BOULEVARD MALESHERBES,

June 3, 188S.

“MY DEAR BARON:

“Your letter has come to me. I am so glad you are here. My brother Henri, who has returned from Panama, has treated me most unkindly. He would, if he dared, prevent Mademoiselle Severn marrying you. But of course that is impossible! I am her guardian! I have ordered the ceremony to take place at one P. M. tomorrow. The notary will be here for signing the civil contract.

“The trousseau is here—all that is necessary is the bridegroom!

“I did not like you, mio Fernando, a few months ago. You were dictatorial! But my brother is more so; and I love you—and hate him! My brother is very foolish since he has come back. He thinks he can destroy you by a black pocketbook. He is a fool! How can a black pocketbook destroy anybody? Just the same, I saw a girl bring it to him two nights ago—I went down and saw it from the hall—I heard him say to her, ‘I think that will settle Montez!’ And the girl said, ‘Destroy the bandit!’ Neither my brother nor the girl likes you. I think they do not like each other.

“The girl stays here. Henri has taken apartments on the Boulevard Haussmann.

“Don’t forget—tomorrow at one, punctually, the bridegroom must be here.

“Yours till then,

“FRANÇOIS LEROY LARCHMONT,

Franco American.

“P. S. I have taken a beautiful photograph of the bride when she was at the age of eleven. I call it l’enfant gâtée.

As he reads, Montez gives a shudder. The black pocketbook is here in Paris, in the hands of his enemy

He thinks over the matter deeply. He knows he cannot obtain it from the strong hand of the young American, without recourse to the processes of civil law. The examination of the papers contained therein, which must take place, cannot be kept entirely secret—even a French court could hardly do that; and if it once became known—one little bit of it—there would be such a hue and cry from the Parisian public, that everything within its morocco case must be given to the citizens of Paris.

Here he mutters with a shudder: “Diablo! the Parisian mob! They would tear me and Wernig in pieces! Even the Government could not save us—if they could save themselves! Besides, the Lottery Bill would then never go through the Senate, and that is necessary for my full success!”

After an hour’s thought he murmurs with a great sigh: “I must do it—there is nothing else;” and finally brings his teeth together with a snap, and says: “It is he, or I! it shall be he!”

So, putting on his oldest clothes, and making himself as seedy as possible, Fernando walks out of his rooms, and strolls to a far-off quarter of Paris, where the anarchists live—on a curious errand.

He goes by himself, taking no carriage; and there comes to a Russian nihilist, one who had helped blow up the Czar of the Russias. This personage Montez had once done a favor. The man is a mechanical genius. He had made an invention of some little appliance to a dredger. This small piece of machinery Fernando had induced the Canal Company to buy.

He holds a short conversation with the mechanic, and comes away quite relieved. “It is arranged,” he thinks, “quite easily.” Then he mutters: “Sapristi! I don’t like it; but it is the best I can do!”

However, he goes quite contentedly to a jeweller’s that afternoon and orders sent to his coming bride a magnificent parure of diamonds.

Next morning he looks over the papers and is astonished. It is not there! but he mutters: “They have not discovered yet. These reporters are lazy.”

But there is no more triumphant creature in gay Paris this day than Baron Montez of Panama, as he drives to his nuptials, his horses jingling with chains, and his lackeys laced with silver, as he comes along the Boulevard Malesherbes about one p.m., and gazes at the Parc Monceau, gay with the bright dresses of playing children and their attendant bonnes and nounous.

Now, all that Francois wrote to Baron Montez is as true as the letter of any irregular mind can be.

Louise Minturn has hardly said her words to Harry Larchmont, as he stands at the door of his brother’s house on the night of his return to Paris, before she finds both herself and the pocketbook drawn into the library, and Harry looking at her with eyes of joy.

Her trembling lips, throbbing bosom, and agitated eyes make her beautiful as an excited Venus—and she has got a new gown—what woman in Paris would not? Gazing on this loveliness, the young man would speak to her now—to his tender nurse of Panama—but other things are imperative first.

Antique postcard (n.d.)

Louise hastily tells him her story, concluding, “When I had the pocketbook, I knew it was so valuable that great efforts would be made to recover it.”

“Undoubtedly!” answers Harry, looking hurriedly over its contents, and growing more and more excited as he examines.

Then he gets up, seizes both the girl’s hands in his, and whispers: “God bless you! By your aid, I think I will win!”

“You think so?” cries Louise, excitedly.

“Yes; I think this pocketbook will settle Montez,” returns Harry. “But these are things for anxious conference with some great lawyer! Besides, the police! I must make some arrangements to protect both you and this! You cannot leave here!”

“Why not?”

“By this time your description is all over Paris. You must stay in this house very quietly!”

“Here!” exclaims the girl, astonished.

“Yes, with Miss Severn. She will make you perfectly at home—you will be treated en princesse! ‘“Then he goes on eagerly, for he sees signs of refusal: “I beg—I entreat you.”

To this Louise rises, and says: “Impossible!”

“But if you go into the streets, you will be subject to arrest. This is stolen property!” He holds up the pocketbook of Montez.

“Yes, stolen!” cries the girl; “but stolen from a bandit! Don’t you think this must destroy the murderer of my relatives?” for she has now some inkling of what she has pilfered means.

Then he looks tenderly at her, and says: “So much the more reason for my keeping you from danger from this man. You must let me protect you! I will introduce you to Miss Severn. Her governess is with her. I shall not be here!”

“You are going away?”

“Yes! What you have brought me gives me business this very night. After that I shall not return here, but take apartments. You must let me guide you till this is over.”

But the girl looks at him, a kind of despair in her eyes, and sighs: “You do not know!”

“I know everything that is necessary! I took care of you faithfully and truly in the blizzard?”

“Yes.”

“Don’t you think I will take care of you more carefully now that I have to thank you for this chance against the bandit who has robbed my brother—and you?”

“Very well!” falters Louise, his mention of the blizzard seeming to make her pliable.

But Harry, about to ring the bell, checks himself, and says: “The servants are not up. Besides, it is better that they do not see you this evening. Please remain here. I will see Miss Jessie!”

Then he goes upstairs, leaving Louise tremendously agitated. She will speak, for the first time, to this girl who has the heart she loves—this one whose fortune she is saving so that she may become his!

Then Harry, returning, announces: “Miss Severn had not gone to bed yet. In a minute she and her governess will be here.”

Almost as he speaks, that young lady enters, and he introduces her: “Miss Minturn, this is my ward, Miss Severn.—Jessie, this young lady is to be our honored guest. She nursed me through the fever in Panama; to her I owe my life—and much else!”

And Jessie, who had been about to bow, for the attitude of Louise is haughty as that of Diana of the Greeks, suddenly runs forward, kisses her, and says: “Thank Heaven! you saved him! I don’t know what we should have done without our Harry!” and so puts anguish into the heart of the woman standing before her, whose face grows very pale. So pale that Miss Severn cries out: “You are sick—you are going to faint!”

“No—but I—I have not had anything to eat—I—I—have been so agitated this evening!”

“Quick, Jessie—the pantry!” cries Larchmont. “Don’t arouse the servants—run about yourself!”

Then she and the governess go about in a fidgety kind of manner, and do not find much in the larder, for they don’t know where to look for it. But finally they get wine, biscuits, and something cold. And the wine gives strength to Louise, who has gone through a great deal this evening—more than any of them think she has.

As she eats and drinks, Larchmont suddenly says: “The memoranda of my brother’s accounts from Montez’ ledger—I believe you told me you had them!”

“Yes—in my pocket!” And Louise producing them, he, after inspection, suddenly says: “I must go!”

So, after a few more words, impressing secrecy on both the governess and Miss Jessie as to their sudden guest, Larchmont leaves them, and departs upon business that will take him all night.

Before morning Harry has the pocketbook where he considers it safe, though he has made a very careful examination of the matters therein.

He has not slept all night, making these arrangements. Early the next morning he engages apartments for himself in the Boulevard Haussmann, and thinks: “That’s pretty well for a man only three weeks over the fever. But before I go to bed, something else!”

He hires himself to a celebrated American lawyer, who is at present on his summer vacation in Paris, and, telling him the whole matter, gets from him certain opinions of American law, and certain advice, that please him so much that he acts upon them at once, cables to America, and then goes to bed satisfied that he has done a good night’s work.

Being very anxious to get a glimpse once more of a face that he has become accustomed to seeing during his sickness in Panama, the next afternoon finds Harry at his brother’s hotel again. There he learns that the invalid is well taken care of.

But while there, one of the attendants says: “Mr. Larchmont, your brother has demanded writing materials.”

“Very well,” answers Harry, “let him have them. I don’t think they will do him any harm. Perhaps they will do him good!” and thinks nothing more about the matter.

Then the physician comes and gives his advice; which is, to humor the patient. “Let him do what he likes!” This Harry is very much pleased to do, thinking it will keep Frank’s mind off subjects that agitate him.

Then he asks for Miss Minturn, but Jessie says she is not well enough to see him—“She is worn out!”

He sends a message to her, but the answer comes back: Will Mr. Larchmont please excuse her—unless it is imperative! For the girl has read an article in one of the Parisian papers, which briefly states that last evening Baron Montez was robbed by an adventuress! And this makes her ashamed.

 She has thought: “For his sake I endure calumny—and what does he give me in return—misery!”

Perchance, were it not for this unfortunate newspaper article, she would consent to see the man hungering for sight of her fair face, and these days might be happy ones to Louise Minturn instead of miserable ones.

As it is, were it not for absolute fear of arrest by the police, she would fly from him, and from his house, and from the girl she thinks his betrothed.

So Larchmont is compelled to content himself with messages from her, for he is tremendously busy, and under his lawyer’s direction is cabling to and receiving messages from America. But he consoles himself with the sage thought: “Wait!

This lasts for two days, when coming to his room in the Boulevard Haussmann, late at night, after a long interview with his New York lawyer, he remarks: “Now I’m ready for Señor Montez!”

Then, careless of everything but fatigue, he springs into bed to go to sleep and awake the next morning with a very peculiar headache. He looks astonished and rubs his eyes, half in amazement, half in agony, for the pain is excruciating.

Then he suddenly exclaims: “The headache of Culebra!—that came from—what can have given it to me in Paris? There’s no——”

His valet entering about this time—for Harry has fallen into his old style of luxurious living—he says to him: “Amadie—since I left yesterday morning, what have you done to my rooms?”

“Nothing! I’m going to leave them—I don’t think they are healthy.”

“Humph!— you remained in all last night?”

“ Yes, sir; I was too unwell—I had a fearful headache!”

“Ah!—when did it come on?”

“About ten o’clock last evening. I was too sick to get up to assist you, though I wished to, as there is a package—a present, I think it is—that came for you about five yesterday.”

“How was it sent?”

“It was left with the concierge—I do not know who brought it.”

“Ah, ha! it came at five and your headache at ten. Describe your pain to me.”

“Oh!” exclaims Amadie—“how can I? My head was in four pieces—each at the other side of the room.”

“The same!—Let’s look at my present!” remarks Larchmont, grimly. And removing its paper covers, a beautiful enamelled box of peculiar design is seen; but no card is with it.

Harry looks at this curiously a moment, then thinks deeply, and makes an investigation.

And this being over, Harry Larchmont, looking very serious and much impressed, goes off to the hotel on the Boulevard Malesherbes, where excitement destroys his headache; for he learns that his brother, Mr. Francois Leroy Larchmont, has just announced that it is the wedding day of Miss Jessie Severn and Baron Montez of Panama.

The vagaries of this gentleman, his attendants and servants have been instructed to obey, as far as is consistent with his and their safety. So they have followed his directions. And his orders have been that Jessie’s trousseau and her wedding presents—those that he has made her, and a very handsome one that has just come in from Baron Montez—be arranged in the parlor; he has also announced that his ward is to be wedded this day by civil contract.

Francois is just about to send for the necessary notary, but his brother, who comes hurriedly in, says: “There is one in the house now, preparing other documents.”

“Very well,” remarks Francois, “he’ll do! Baron Montez, the bridegroom, will come at one p.m. Let the bride be ready!”

“What makes you think that?” asks Harry, looking astounded.

“Why, I wrote to Montez that the ceremony would occur at that time.”

“The dickens you did!” murmurs his brother, and goes to privately questioning the sick man’s attendants.

They tell him that a letter was received, and answered, by the invalid. They did not suppose it would do any harm, as Monsieur Larchmont had told them to let Monsieur Franc̗ois do all the writing he might wish.

“Quite right!” remarks Larchmont, and he goes to his brother most cheerily, and says: “Very well! I shall be delighted to see your friend, Baron Montez. If he had not called today, I was about to see him myself!”

Then suddenly a peculiar look comes in his face, and he chuckles to himself, thinking: “Egad! I have what will fetch him, in more ways than one—this bridegroom! I’ll weaken his nerves first. It takes spinal vibrations to make gentlemen of his kidney sign away what I’ll make him disgorge!”

Calling Miss Severn to him, he says: “Jessie, I must ask you to remain upstairs this afternoon. I expect a visitor—one I do not care for you to see.”

“Who’s that?”

“Baron Montez!”

“Oh, I’m delighted to keep out of his way. Ugly faces are not pleasant to me!”

“Thank you!” whispers Larchmont; next asks eagerly, “Where is Louise—Miss Minturn?”

“Oh, she’s in her room, I think. I have not seen much of her. She seems so quiet—and reserved—I think she’s sad!”

“Sad?” ejaculates Harry.

“Yes, sad! I don’t think she likes me, either.”

“What have you done to her?”

“I?” gasps Jessie. “N-nothing!” for Mr. Larchmont’s tone is awe inspiring.

“Nothing?”

“Nothing except to give her every dainty I could think of to eat, and ask her to tell me all about your doings in Panama.”

“Oh! Ah! Very well! Run upstairs—that’s a good little girl,” mutters Harry, remembering his friend’s words in that city, and a suspicion that is rather pleasing to him than otherwise coming to his mind.

So, coming to Miss Minturn’s door, he knocks and says: “Can I see you for a minute? It is important!”

“Certainly!” comes a voice from within—a voice that astounds him, it is so unhappy.

She comes out; he looks in her face and falters: “Good heavens! You have been miserable here! You have not mingled with the family to any extent!”

“How could I?” answers Louise, attempting a moue, “without any clothes? I have only this dress.”

“I—I beg your pardon! Forgive me! I am a man! I forgot your trunks were at Pichoir’s. You have not dared to send for them!”

“Of course not, without your directions!” says the young lady.

He stands meditating a second, then replies: “You’ll have to wait till this afternoon.”

“Why till then?”

“Then I shall have annihilated your enemy and my own—Baron Montez!”

“This afternoon!”

“Yes—in the parlor downstairs. After that I think I can promise you toilettes ad libitum—Worth, Pingat, and Felix!”

“Impossible! Remember I am a poor girl! You said you wished to see me on a matter of importance!” answers Louise, reproach in her eyes, for she likes not his tones, which are nervous, perhaps bantering.

“Yes, of great importance!” he says, growing very earnest, for the girl’s manner makes him think she is suffering. “This afternoon I hope to have two interviews—one with Baron Montez; it will probably deeply affect you. Will you put your interests into my hands?” As he says this he looks at her with all his eyes.

“Y-e-s.”

“Understand me,” he goes on, “this interview may affect you—financially.”

“Oh, what have I to do with the matter? Regain your brother’s and your ward’s fortune from him. That is all. Don’t think of me; let me go away as soon as I can!”

“Your interest first of all!” returns Harry, determinedly. “Then for the other interview!”

“What one is that?”

“The one with you!” And his heart is very tender as he clasps her pretty fingers and whispers: “You—my interview with YOU! It is the most important!” and perhaps would say more, but there is a ring at the doorbell. So he mutters: “Afterwards! I must go now,” wrings her hand, and departs, leaving her a mixture of blushes and anxiety.

At one o’clock in the afternoon Harry has every preparation made—a notary with papers drawn up—an attaché of the American Consulate to make acknowledgments good for the United States.

So he, in perfect afternoon costume, a big white chrysanthemum in his buttonhole, strolls into the great parlor of the house, and looking around grins—for the room is en fête, the wedding presents are arranged upon a table, one great parure of diamonds from the bridegroom quite prominent; besides, a portion of the bride’s trousseau is displayed, which is decidedly out of form, but is the idea of the erratic Franc̗ois.

The Trousseau, Antique Postcard (n.d.)

Then Franc̗ois Leroy Larchmont comes in crying, “Flowers for the bride!” and tosses rare exotics all over the table in his old artistic style—and begins singing a little French wedding song and dancing a pas seul.

But Harry quietly gets him from the room, saying: “You must not make your appearance until you bring down the bride!”

“Oh, certainly!” and Franc̗ois returns to his room, where his brother tells his two attendants to keep him.

Then, looking everything over, Harry adds to the presents his own.

He places upon the table, next to the magnificent parure of diamonds of Baron Montez, a box of enamel of curious design, a little key hanging from its ornamental lock, and chuckles, “Now let the bridegroom come!”

But sitting down to wait, this big ex-athlete, who has stood unmoved facing a foot-ball wedge that is going to throw upon him two thousand pounds of undergraduate college veal, and smite him to the earth, and trample upon him with twenty-two murderous football shoes, grows nervous—the stake he will play for today is so large—the goal seems so dim and distant.

Next, he suddenly jumps up and rather curiously locks all the windows of the room, which seems a needless precaution against prying eyes, as the curtains have been already drawn and blinds closed by Mr. Fran̗cois’ order, he having had the gas lighted to give effect to the bride’s toilette.

A moment after there is the rattle of a carriage drawing up outside, and, peeping from the window, Harry Larchmont mutters: “Jingo! What a carriage! What liveries!”

For Fernando’s equipage is of South American and barbaric splendor this day.

A short half minute, and Robert announces: “Baron Montez!” And the door being thrown open, in comes the bridegroom, a smile of expectancy upon his olive face, and his white teeth a little whiter than ever; his hair done up very barbarously, and a white chrysanthemum in his buttonhole.

As he enters, he gives a little gasp of joy. The room is prepared; the wedding is beyond peradventure. Then a look of expectancy comes into his subtle eyes as he rolls them about, thinking to see the blonde hair, blue eyes, and graceful figure of Miss Jessie, his bride. But just here the Baron gives a start. His eye catches Harry Larchmont.

“You—here?” he falters. “I—” he stops strangely agitated.

But Larchmont, springing up, breaks in rather easily: “Baron—your hand! This affair has gone so far, that, though I opposed it, I presume it must continue now. My brother will be down shortly. The bride”

“Ah, yes—of course, brides are always late. It is their little way!” interjects Fernando, who has glanced about, and is reassured.

The room is en fête, the wedding presents on exhibition, and through the open door leading to the library he can see a notary, and another official gentleman, with legal documents upon a table before them, that are doubtless wedding contracts ready for signature; though most of this comes to him in a kind of a daze, he is so astonished at seeing Harry Larchmont.

His view of the case is surely correct. In fact, Larchmont proves it to him, for he continues chattily: “The notary in the next room is preparing the nuptial documents.” Ringing the bell, he says to Robert: “Find out when Monsieur Lebeau will have the contracts ready.”

During the servant’s absence, Larchmont casually remarks: “What exquisite jewels you sent the bride, Monsieur le Baron! Jessie was overcome at the sight of them!”

But the Baron seems overcome also at the sight of them.

As he has followed Larchmont’s careless wave of the hand, his eye has lighted on the beautiful enamelled casket with its curious ornaments, standing beside his sparkling gift. A little hectic flush flies into each cheek, making them look like chocolate ice-cream with spots of strawberry—that melt away, to leave deadly, ashy pallor such as only comes to those who have a little of the blood of Africa in their veins.

Then Robert, returning, announces, “The notary will be ready in five minutes.”

“All right!” replies Harry, cheerily.

But Montez does not reply to this. He seems to be interested in the casket beside the jewel case. His eyes never leave it. It appears to fascinate him, as a snake does its prey. He gets one awful, close look at it, and for a moment it seems to paralyze him. He appears amazed.

“Then before the notary—let’s get to the bride’s settlement,” remarks Larchmont. “As my brother is not strong, I must act for him, and account for Miss Severn’s dot to you, as her husband, under the contract. The securities, receipts, and deeds belonging to Miss Severn are, my brother has informed me, in this box.” He lays his hand upon the ornamental casket that has brought coma upon Fernando.

At this, the Baron, looking at him, gives a little hoarse rattle with his tongue, as if it were parched. The perspiration of fear is on the palms of his hands, though his fingers move nervously. He contrives to mutter: “The bride—she is coming!” and totters towards the door.

“Ho! ho! impatient bridegroom!” laughs Harry. “But your anxiety duped you. The bride is not here yet, but her fortune is.”

But Montez cares no more for brides—HE ONLY CARES TO GET OUT OF THIS ROOM ALIVE.

Then Larchmont, placing the box on a little table be side him, continues quite calmly: “We will examine the securities together. Take a seat on the other side of the table.”

But Fernando, who seems to have shrivelled up, his eyes never leaving the casket, sinks down on a sofa across the room from Larchmont. Looking at his agony Harry thinks he has won.

But at that moment there is a sound of light footsteps and rustle of feminine skirts on the staircase in the hall. Montez staggering up cries frantically, “The bride!”

For one second Harry grows pale himself, thinking: “Hang Jessie! She may spoil my coup.”

But he strides over to Fernando, laughing: “Not so fast, Romeo! Business first! We must examine these securities while we have time!”

“No business for me!” gasps Montez, “when I have—ah!— rapture in my heart!” Then he gives a sudden affrighted shrieking, “Aaah!” for Harry is holding the box right up to his face, and is putting the key in the lock.

“No, no! Not now!” he screams. Next moans, “I am not feeling well!” His hand goes up in a spasm, for Harry is turning the key. Then there is a click of shooting bolt.

“It’s unlocked! Now for Jessie’s securities!” continues Harry, gazing at the Baron. The blue eyes are very calm, for there is Saxon blood behind them. The dark eyes, very drooping and timorous, for there is all nations’ blood behind them, and the drop of the timid Cingalese is on top, and the drop of Morgan’s buccaneer is at the bottom.

Harry Larchmont is opening the case!

There is a howl of terror! That makes the notary and the official in the next room spring up.

Then Montez, clutching both Larchmont’s arms, cries hoarsely: “For your life, don’t open it! By the Virgin! don’t open it! You will blow me to pieces! It is an infernal machine that will blow me up! IT IS DYNAMITE! IT IS DEATH!”

“IT IS WHAT YOU SENT ME, YOU INFERNAL ASSASSIN!” cries Harry Larchmont, with awful mien and awful voice.

And Montez would run away, but Harry has him in a grip of steel. And the notary and the official gentleman in the other room would run away also, for there is a sound of commotion from them, and cries of astonished terror; and Larchmont knows he has all the witnesses he wants. So he goes on jeeringly: “Ah! ha! condemned by your own lips!”

And the other gasps: “Be careful how you handle it!” for Harry’s hands are on the box again.

“Pshaw! I don’t fear it!” And with a snap Larchmont throws open the lid, as Montez, with a shriek of terror, grovels upon the floor, and the clerk and the notary yell with fright.

“Pooh! Baron!” jeers Harry. “This does not contain nitro-glycerine NOW! Your gift arrived last night. Fortunately I did not open it. I awoke this morning with an awful headache—one I recognized— such as no man can have once, and not remember—the peculiar headache from the fumes of nitro-glycerine. With due precautions I opened the box, and I replaced what you had sent me by THIS!” He produces several papers. “These documents represent Miss Severn’s estate.”

Then he steps quietly to the door and says to the notary: “You will remember this gentleman’s confession. In a few minutes I shall have some documents for you to acknowledge!”

Coming back from this, he picks the Baron up, who is still gasping, and palpitating, and trembling, and puts him into a chair, with his strong hands. Then laughingly fans Fernando Gomez Montez back to life, for fright has nearly killed him, and Harry does not want him to die until he has signed some papers.

So, after a little, the Baron recovers somewhat, and grows very angry, and swears and curses, though his hands still shake and quiver.

But here Larchmont astounds Montez, for he suddenly asks this curious question: “My dear Baron, have you ever played the game of football?”

“No! Sacre! Diablo! What do I care for your beastly, idiotic game?” snarls the Baron.

“Well, in the game of football there is one point—one great point,” remarks Larchmont, easily, “that is to get the ball. The side that has the ball generally kicks the goal. Now, Baron, I am ready to play with you, because I have got the ball—I have got your pocketbook! I know what it contains, and though there are no bank bills nor certificates of deposit in it, it is worth to you your whole fortune!”

“My whole fortune! Absurd! Bah! It is a bagatelle! You frighten me, and you think that makes me a fool!”

“The pocketbook will kill you as surely as dynamite,” whispers Larchmont, “if I make this thing public in the present state of feeling in Paris! I blow you up and the Panama Canal together! You and your friend Herr Wernig will be torn to pieces by the mob! Let it but be known that you bribed the Deputies, the Minister of——”

Here Montez cries: “My God! no, no! never!”

“Then,” remarks Larchmont, “supposing I let you gosupposing I give you your pocketbook—what will you give me of the plunder of which you have robbed my brother, and the girl you said you loved—the girl whom you expected to call your bride today, but robbed also?”

“A million francs!”

“Pooh! when I have all your American securities?”

“Impossible! What do you mean? What do you know about my American securities?”

“I know that you did have three million dollars worth of the best in the world, in the hands of your New York bankers.”

“Did have?”

“Yes, DID have, for I have attached them all now in New York.”

“It is a lie!”

“If you had gone to your office this morning, Mr. Bridegroom, instead of coming here, you would have found a cable from your New York bankers to that effect. You are an alien—it was easy!”

“It is a lie!”

“Now, look here, Baron!” says Larchmont. “I’ve taken dynamite from you and two lies. The next time you say that to me I’ll put your little round head through the back of your chair!” Then he goes on again: “I have proofs—written evidence from your books—that you never made the investments in the Panama Canal stocks you reported to my brother. You simply said you made them. You simply charged them to him on your ledger, but your stock book shows no such purchases, at that time, nor at any other time. You put my brother’s and his ward’s money into your own pocket, but never bought the shares. I know well enough, if I bring suit in America, where I will bring it, having nailed your securities there, for I have had advice on this point, that American courts will follow a precedent they have already established, and decide in favor of my brother.”

“But this is even more than I have taken from him and your ward,” falters Montez.

“There is a young lady upstairs you have robbed.”

“Who?”

“Miss Minturn.”

“What—my stenographer? She shall have her salary,” says Fernando, grimly.

“She wants more! She is the sole heir of George Merritt Ripley, and Alice his wife, whom you murdered on the Isthmus, and robbed of their gold—some sixty thousand dollars!”

“You can’t prove it!”

“Whether I prove it or not, I’m going to collect it. I have notes and an assignment covering the value of all your New York securities, made out to me, in that room. Will you sign them, or shall the contents of your pocket book be given to the papers tonight?”

“There is no Parisian paper that would dare to publish them.”

“There is one!”

Imbecile! You rave! What one?”

“The Parisian edition of the New York Herald!

“Yes,” mutters Montez, “you’re right! That terrible American paper would publish any news!”

“Now will you sign, or not?”

“No!” cries Montez, desperately, and rises to go.

“Ah, you hope to slip away from town before the Herald can give them the news—but you don’t go!”

“What will stop me?”

“The contents of this box you sent me! I’ve got witnesses in there of your own confession! I’ll have you under lock and key in half an hour! You can’t get out on bail even, before I’ll spread over town the knowledge of the contents of that pocketbook. Then you know you will never leave Paris alive!”

“No!” cries Fernando, desperately, for he knows he could not exist two hours before the Parisian mob, knowing its contents, would rise up against him. “I’ll sign!”

Then he puts his hand to his brow, and mutters: “Three million piastres! Give me the pocketbook!”

“When you have signed! Not before! I also want an assignment of your contract with the young American lady, Miss Minturn.”

“Oh—certainly! You ask a small thing after very great ones.”

So Harry leads him into the room, where there is an affrighted notary and an astonished attache̕ of the American consulate. Here Baron Montez, the agony of restitution being on him, does the hardest five minutes’ work of his life—he signs over, in proper legal form, all his American securities to Harry Sturgis Larchmont, in trust for various other parties. These acknowledgments are certified to by the notary, and made good in the United States by the seal of the American consulate in Paris.

Then Montez whispers: “The pocketbook? Quick!”

“You did not think I had it upon me with such gentlemen as you about!” laughs Larchmont, who has grown faint himself now that he has won. “I’ll give you an order on the American Legation for it—good after three o’clock tomorrow. By that time the American stocks are in my hands, or there are no ocean cables.”

This being done, Montez turns to go. Larchmont follows him to the hall, for he thinks it just as well to see this gentleman outside his portals, as he has heard female voices upstairs, and fears descent from inquisitive young ladies.

At the door, Montez turns and hisses: “It was for this you brought me here—so that you might play with me and conquer me!”

“Oh,” replies Harry, very modestly, though the triumph of victory is on his face, “I did not conquer you—it was a young lady—Miss Minturn!”

“Ah, that damned stenographer!” shrieks Montez. “She who plotted with you, and entered my employ to destroy me! She—your accomplice—your toolyour——”

“I’ll trouble you not to say anything about her!” mutters Harry, his face growing very stern. “Please go away!” He has opened the door.

But upstairs there is a maniac chuckle: “Lo, the bridegroom goeth—Let me at him! I’m going to throw an orange peel at Baron Montez of Panama!”

“What is that?” says the Baron with a start.

“That is the voice of my brother whom you have made a lunatic!” whispers Harry. Then he says:

“For God’s sake go away. If I hear him again I shall kill you!”

Montez with a gasp runs down the stairs of the mansion, and springs into his carriage very nimbly, as Harry Larchmont, closing the door, mutters to himself: “Damn him! I don’t think he’ll forget his wedding day in a hurry!” Then tears come into his eyes and he murmurs, “Poor Frank!”


Notes

  • l’enfant gâtée: the spoiled child
  • moue: pouting expression Dictionary.com
  • Worth, Pingat, and Felix: famous French dressmakers/couturiers of the time. Fashion Timeline
  • pas seul: dance for one person
  • parure: a matching set of jewels or ornaments
  • bonnes and nounous: French housemaid/nursemaid and nannys
  • dot: dowry
  • Note on the final two images, proxies for the characters Baron Montez and Harry Larchmont respectively. The first is a photograph (1925) of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, first President of the Republic of Turkey; the second (1916) is of Irish-American actor, Creighton Hale. The images were left unlabelled to avoid distraction.

This edition © 2021 Furin Chime, Brian Armour

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