Roads of Destiny
The Renaissance At Charleroi
Grandemont Charles was a little Creole gentleman, aged thirty-four, with a bald spot on
the top of his head and the manners of a prince. By day he was a clerk in a cotton broker's
office in one of those cold, rancid mountains of oozy brick, down near the levee in New
Orleans. By night, in his three-story-high chambre garnier in the old French Quarter he
was again the last male descendant of the Charles family, that noble house that had lorded
it in France, and had pushed its way smiling, rapiered, and courtly into Louisiana's early
and brilliant days. Of late years the Charleses had subsided into the more republican but
scarcely less royally carried magnificence and ease of plantation life along the
Mississippi. Perhaps Grandemont was even Marquis de Brassé. There was that title in the
family. But a Marquis on seventy-five dollars per month! Vraiment! Still, it has been
done on less.
Grandemont had saved out of his salary the sum of six hundred dollars. Enough, you
would say, for any man to marry on. So, after a silence of two years on that subject, he
reopened that most hazardous question to Mlle. Adèle Fauquier, riding down to Meade
d'Or, her father's plantation. Her answer was the same that it had been any time during
the last ten years: "First find my brother, Monsieur Charles."
This time he had stood before her, perhaps discouraged by a love so long and hopeless,
being dependent upon a contingency so unreasonable, and demanded to be told in simple
words whether she loved him or no.
Adèle looked at him steadily out of her gray eyes that betrayed no secrets and answered,
a little more softly:
"Grandemont, you have no right to ask that question unless you can do what I ask of you.
Either bring back brother Victor to us or the proof that he died."
Somehow, though five times thus rejected, his heart was not so heavy when he left. She
had not denied that she loved. Upon what shallow waters can the bark of passion remain
afloat! Or, shall we play the doctrinaire, and hint that at thirty-four the tides of life are
calmer and cognizant of many sources instead of but one—as at four-and-twenty?
Victor Fauquier would never be found. In those early days of his disappearance there was
money to the Charles name, and Grandemont had spent the dollars as if they were
picayunes in trying to find the lost youth. Even then he had had small hope of success, for
the Mississippi gives up a victim from its oily tangles only at the whim of its malign will.
A thousand times had Grandemont conned in his mind the scene of Victor's
disappearance. And, at each time that Adèle had set her stubborn but pitiful alternative
against his suit, still clearer it repeated itself in his brain.