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A Roving Commission by G. A. Henty

Monsieur Duchesne shook his head


"France

has gone mad. I know that many of our good families have sought refuge in England, and we should at least find society congenial to us. Happily, we are in a condition to choose for ourselves; my ancestors have been wise men, and have long foreseen that what has actually occurred might possibly take place. Each in succession has impressed his views upon his son, and it has become almost a family tradition among us, and one upon which we have often been rallied. For with few exceptions all here seem to have regarded the state of things as being as unchangeable as Scripture says were the laws of the Medes and Persians. If this had been only a tradition, and had not been acted upon, it would not have benefited us now, but for six generations each of my ancestors has regarded it as a sacred duty to set aside nearly a tenth of his revenues as a provision when the troubles should come. This money has been chiefly invested in England and Holland, and the interest on the accumulations of all these years has been reinvested. I believe that, although I regard such investments as were made in France as lost, we shall, when we reckon up matters, find that our income will be fully as large as that which I have drawn from my property and trade here."

"I am very glad to hear it, Monsieur Duchesne. I have indeed, while I have been away, thought very often of what would happen to you and your family if you were forced to finally abandon your estate and leave the

island."

"I have reason to be grateful indeed, Nat, to the forethought of those who have gone before me; it is strange that the same idea did not occur to others. One can see now that our people here have been living in a fool's paradise, totally oblivious of the fact that a volcano might at any moment open under their feet. Are you going to remain here?"

"Oh, no! I am only making this a starting-place. My orders are to cruise along the southern coast, to render any assistance I can to the refugees, and if possible, to open communications with some of the chiefs of the insurgents and endeavour to find out what their plans are, and, should it be decided to accept the cession of the island when war with France breaks out, what the attitude of the blacks and mulattoes would be."

"You will not be likely to pick up any refugees, for the whites are exterminated except in the towns; but should any of the smaller places be attacked you might render good service by receiving at least the women and children on board."

That evening Monsieur Duchesne asked his brother-in-law, the doctor, and several other leading inhabitants, to his house, in order that Nat might gather their views. He found that these in the main agreed with those of his host, except that they were hopeful that France would, as soon as the news arrived, despatch an army of sufficient force to put down the insurrection. After the last of the guests had departed, Monsieur Duchesne shook his head.

"France will ere long require every soldier to defend her own frontiers; the saturnalia of blood in which she is indulging will cause her to be regarded as the common enemy of Europe. I hear that already the emigrant nobles are pressing the various European courts to march armies into France to free the king and royal family from their imprisonment by the mob of Paris, and ere long there will assuredly be a coalition which France will need all her strength to resist. England is certain to join it; and even had France troops to spare, she would find a difficulty in sending them here. So you will not change your mind and stay with us for the night?"


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