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Lazarre   By: (1847-1902)

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With illustrations by André Castaigne

Indianapolis The Bown Merrill Company Publishers


[Illustration: He mounted toward the guardians of the imperial court and fortune was with him ]




"My name is Eagle," said the little girl.

The boy said nothing.

"My name is Eagle," she repeated. "Eagle de Ferrier. What is your name?"

Still the boy said nothing.

She looked at him surprised, but checked her displeasure. He was about nine years old, while she was less than seven. By the dim light which sifted through the top of St. Bat's church he did not appear sullen. He sat on the flagstones as if dazed and stupefied, facing a blacksmith's forge, which for many generations had occupied the north transept. A smith and some apprentices hammered measures that echoed with multiplied volume from the Norman roof; and the crimson fire made a spot vivid as blood. A low stone arch, half walled up, and blackened by smoke, framed the top of the smithy, and through this frame could be seen a bit of St. Bat's close outside, upon which the doors stood open. Now an apprentice would seize the bellows handle and blow up flame which briefly sprang and disappeared. The aproned figures, Saxon and brawny, made a fascinating show in the dark shop.

Though the boy was dressed like a plain French citizen of that year, 1795, and his knee breeches betrayed shrunken calves, and his sleeves, wrists that were swollen as with tumors, Eagle accepted him as her equal. His fine wavy hair was of a chestnut color, and his hands and feet were small. His features were perfect as her own. But while life played unceasingly in vivid expression across her face, his muscles never moved. The hazel eyes, bluish around their iris rims, took cognizance of nothing. His left eyebrow had been parted by a cut now healed and forming its permanent scar.

"You understand me, don't you?" Eagle talked to him. "But you could not understand Sally Blake. She is an English girl. We live at her house until our ship sails, and I hope it will sail soon. Poor boy! Did the wicked mob in Paris hurt your arms?"

She soothed and patted his wrists, and he neither shrank in pain nor resented the endearment with male shyness.

Eagle edged closer to him on the stone pavement. She was amused by the blacksmith's arch, and interested in all the unusual life around her, and she leaned forward to find some response in his eyes. He was unconscious of his strange environment. The ancient church of St. Bartholomew the Great, or St. Bat's as it was called, in the heart of London, had long been a hived village. Not only were houses clustered thickly around its outside walls and the space of ground named its close; but the inside, degraded from its first use, was parceled out to owners and householders. The nave only had been retained as a church bounded by massive pillars, which did not prevent Londoners from using it as a thoroughfare. Children of resident dissenters could and did hoot when it pleased them, during service, from an overhanging window in the choir. The Lady Chapel was a fringe maker's shop. The smithy in the north transept had descended from father to son. The south transept, walled up to make a respectable dwelling, showed through its open door the ghastly marble tomb of a crusader which the thrifty London housewife had turned into a parlor table. His crossed feet and hands and upward staring countenance protruded from the midst of knick knacks.

Light fell through the venerable clerestory on upper arcades. Some of these were walled shut, but others retained their arched openings into the church, and formed balconies from which upstairs dwellers could look down at what was passing below.

Two women leaned out of the Norman arcades, separated only by a pillar, watching across the nave those little figures seated in front of the blacksmith's window. An atmosphere of comfort and thrift filled St. Bat's. It was the abode of labor and humble prosperity, not an asylum of poverty... Continue reading book >>

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