The brilliant Court of Versailles reckoned little of the wars with Spain and Holland that
raged intermittently throughout those years. Luxurious living, witty conversation, and amorous
intrigue were the main occupations of Louis XIV's courtiers, and the latter diversion, in
particular, appealed to Mr. Stuart. A strict Scottish upbringing had not been able to quench a
strong natural enthusiasm for feminine beauty, and he was delighted to find the ladies of France a good deal more accommodating and accessible than those of his native country.
It was not, however, a court lady who made the sun of Paris shine more brightly for Mr.
Stuart. The windows of his lodgings in a tall, ancient house, once the home of a noble Parisian
family, overlooked a long garden belonging to a neighboring convent. Every morning and
afternoon the nuns and novices walked there in sedate groups. As they walked, some read their
breviaries, some meditated. But among those who had not yet taken their vows there were eyes
that wandered-eyes as yet undimmed by the shadows of the cloister. One particular pair of eyes
was often raised to Mr. Stuart's windows, and the vision which frequently appeared there of a
young man as handsome as any archangel-to eyes as unsophisticated as these. They were blue
eyes, very large, and the hair that peeped beneath the severe hood was corn-yellow and curled
softly into something suspiciously like modest ringlets. Altogether, Mlle Jeanne de la Salle was a
most un-nun-like young lady. Deeply emotional and romantic, she had at the age of fourteen
developed a wild attachment for one Soeur Thrse, a teacher at the convent school which Jeanne attended. Nothing would do but that Jeanne must follow her into the cloister, and live a life of
rapt piety, clad in radiant white and with her charming face surrounded by a highly becoming
But convent life, so far, had proved to be ever so slightly dull. Jeanne found her
devotional rapture distinctly weak at the unheard-of hours at which a relentless bell summoned
her to prayer. Perhaps she had made a mistake in thinking she had a vocation. When her eyes
met the dark eyes of Mr. Stuart, and held them, she was sure she had made a mistake.
Very soon a wordless rendezvous was kept every day between the young man at the
window and the girl in the garden. Before two weeks had passed, a convent servant had been
bribed to bring Mr. Stuart a note telling him at what hour Mademoiselle would walk in the garden
alone, and which garden gate would be left unlatched. On Monday of the third week, the little
bell called Jeanne to prayer in vain. Her narrow bed was empty. But the more ample bed of Mr.
Stuart, hung with rosy curtains and watched by carven Cupids, was by no means empty.
Jeannie threw herself into the business of being Robert Stuart's mistress with the same
concentrated devotion that she had at first given to her novitiate. To him, her simple sweetness
and extravagant adoration brought more pleasure than had the easy favors of the Court beauties.
He was as much in love as it was possible for him to be. He transferred his servants, his luggage,
his lady and himself to a hotel discreetly far away from the convent, and for some two months the
lovers led an idyllic life.
Ironically enough, it was the very simplicity and intensity which had attracted Robert
Stuart to Jeanne which now began to repel him. He began to exchange glances with other young
ladies, in public places. He invented important errands which kept him out in the evenings, while
Jeanne sat in their lodgings, tapping her foot impatiently, adding a few stitches to her embroidery,
then dropping her needle to sigh. Then he would come home to find her weeping and
reproachful, and a quarrel would break out.
It was cowardly of Mr. Stuart not to tell Jeanne that he was leaving her-that their affair
was ended. He thought seriously of it one evening, when she had been more vehement than usual
in her reproaches, protestations of love, and pleas for marriage.
'I left the convent for you-I broke my vows! And now, having led me into mortal sin,
you won't keep your promise and marry me.'
'I have told you a hundred times,' said Mr. Stuart patiently, 'that I cannot marry you
without my father's consent. He would be mortally offended, and I shall lose my inheritance.'
'Then take me back to Scotland with you! He will not refuse when he knows that I am a
demoiselle of good family.'
'I have told you I cannot. How would it seem if we traveled to Scotland together,
unmarried? You must let me go back myself, while you remain here.'
Jeanne wept and pleaded, but in vain. In the early hours of next morning, when it was still
hardly light, a carriage drew up at the door of the hotel, and the muffled figure of Mr. Stuart
stepped into it. Just as the postilion was about to whip up the horses, another figure appeared in
the hotel doorway. Jeanne, her face tear-streaked and her hair disheveled, and still wearing the
dress in which she had thrown herself down on the bed the night before, ran to the coach door and
frantically shook the handle.
'Let me in! Take me with you! You are going to Scotland, I know it. Robert, don't leave
me-don't leave me!'
But he held fast to the handle, and made wild signals to the bewildered postilion.
'You shan't go!' she shrieked. 'I tell you this, Robert Stuart-if you marry any other
woman but me I shall come between you to the end of your days!' And she leapt on to the forewheel
of the carriage, one foot on the hub, clinging to the top of the wheel with both hands.
'Drive on! Drive on!' cried Stuart. The postilion, half-dazed with sleep and surprised,
obeyed him. As the wheels turned Jeanne fell-not to the side of the carriage, but directly in front
of it. To the end of his life Robert Stuart heard her scream, as the wheel went over her forehead.
It was a dusky autumn evening, two or three weeks later, when another carriage bore him
along a quiet, hilly road towards Allenbank. He was more quietly dressed than in his Paris days,
but not a whit less jaunty. As a pretty shepherd lass herded her flock together to let the coach
pass, he swept off his feathered hat to her and gave her a smile which irradiated her life for many
a week. And why, after all, should he not smile? He was going home, after a highly instructive-
and amusing-tour, marred only by one misfortunate incident of the sort which could happen to
any man of the world, and which is best forgotten. His parents would be awaiting him with a
warm welcome, there would be charming girls produced for his inspection. The spacious estates
of Allenbank awaiting him. As the coach turned a corner, the familiar arched gateway came in
sight, and he leaned forward eagerly to see it.
Up the road rumbled the coach; then, thirty yards or so from the gateway, one of the
horses gave a frightened neigh, and reared. A second later the other echoed it.
'Get on, ye daft cattle! What ails ye?' shouted the driver, lashing out with his whip. But
both horses were as though riveted to the ground, their eyes rolling with fear.