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Title: The Country Doctor
Author: Balzac, Honoré de, 1799-1850
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Country Doctor" ***

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                         THE COUNTRY DOCTOR

                                 BY

                          HONORE DE BALZAC



                            Translated by

                   Ellen Marriage and Clara Bell



             "For a wounded heart--shadow and silence."



                            To my Mother



                            INTRODUCTION

In hardly any of his books, with the possible exception of /Eugenie
Grandet/, does Balzac seem to have taken a greater interest than in
/Le Medecin de Campagne/; and the fact of this interest, together with
the merit and intensity of the book in each case, is, let it be
repeated, a valid argument against those who would have it that there
was something essentially sinister both in his genius and his
character.

/Le Medecin de Campagne/ was an early book; it was published in 1833,
a date of which there is an interesting mark in the selection of the
name "Evelina," the name of Madame Hanska, whom Balzac had just met,
for the lost Jansenist love of Benassis; and it had been on the stocks
for a considerable time. It is also noteworthy, as lying almost
entirely outside the general scheme of the /Comedie Humaine/ as far as
personages go. Its chief characters in the remarkable, if not
absolutely impeccable, /repertoire/ of MM. Cerfberr and Christophe
(they have, a rare thing with them, missed Agathe the forsaken
mistress) have no references appended to their articles, except to the
book itself; and I cannot remember that any of the more generally
pervading /dramatis personae/ of the Comedy makes even an incidental
appearance here. The book is as isolated as its scene and subject--I
might have added, as its own beauty, which is singular and unique, nor
wholly easy to give a critical account of. The transformation of the
/cretin/-haunted desert into a happy valley is in itself a commonplace
of the preceding century; it may be found several times over in
Marmontel's /Contes Moraux/, as well as in other places. The extreme
minuteness of detail, effective as it is in the picture of the house
and elsewhere, becomes a little tedious even for well-tried and
well-affected readers, in reference to the exact number of cartwrights
and harness-makers, and so forth; while the modern reader pure and
simple, though schooled to endure detail, is schooled to endure it
only of the ugly. The minor characters and episodes, with the
exception of the wonderful story or legend of Napoleon by Private
Goguelat, and the private himself, are neither of the first interest,
nor always carefully worked out: La Fosseuse, for instance, is a very
tantalizingly unfinished study, of which it is nearly certain that
Balzac must at some time or other have meant to make much more than he
has made; Genestas, excellent as far as he goes, is not much more than
a type; and there is nobody else in the foreground at all except the
Doctor himself.

It is, however, beyond all doubt in the very subordination of these
other characters to Benassis, and in the skilful grouping of the whole
as background and adjunct to him, that the appeal of the book as art
consists. From that point of view there are grounds for regarding it
as the finest of the author's work in the simple style, the least
indebted to super-added ornament or to mere variety. The dangerous
expedient of a /recit/, of which the eighteenth-century novelists were
so fond, has never been employed with more successful effect than in
the confession of Benassis, at once the climax and the centre of the
story. And one thing which strikes us immediately about this
confession is the universality of its humanity and its strange freedom
from merely national limitations. To very few French novelists--to few
even of those who are generally credited with a much softer mould and
a much purer morality than Balzac is popularly supposed to have been
able to boast--would inconstancy to a mistress have seemed a fault
which could be reasonably punished, which could be even reasonably
represented as having been punished in fact, by the refusal of an
honest girl's love in the first place. Nor would many have conceived
as possible, or have been able to represent in lifelike colors, the
lifelong penance which Benassis imposes on himself. The tragic end,
indeed, is more in their general way, but they would seldom have known
how to lead up to it.

In almost all ways Balzac has saved himself from the dangers incident
to his plan in this book after a rather miraculous fashion. The
Goguelat myth may seem disconnected, and he did as a matter of fact
once publish it separately; yet it sets off (in the same sort of
felicitous manner of which Shakespeare's clown-scenes and others are
the capital examples in literature) both the slightly matter-of-fact
details of the beatification of the valley and the various minute
sketches of places and folk, and the almost superhuman goodness of
Benassis, and his intensely and piteously human suffering and remorse.
It is like the red cloak in a group; it lights, warms, inspirits the
whole picture.

And perhaps the most remarkable thing of all is the way in which
Balzac in this story, so full of goodness of feeling, of true religion
(for if Benassis is not an ostensible practiser of religious rites, he
avows his orthodoxy in theory, and more than justifies it in
practice), has almost entirely escaped the sentimentality /plus/
unorthodoxy of similar work in the eighteenth century, and the
sentimentality /plus/ orthodoxy of similar work in the nineteenth.
Benassis no doubt plays Providence in a manner and with a success
which it is rarely given to mortal man to achieve; but we do not feel
either the approach to sham, or the more than approach to gush, with
which similar handling on the part of Dickens too often affects some
of us. The sin and the punishment of the Doctor, the thoroughly human
figures of Genestas and the rest, save the situation from this and
other drawbacks. We are not in the Cockaigne of perfectibility, where
Marmontel and Godwin disport themselves; we are in a very practical
place, where time-bargains in barley are made, and you pay the
respectable, if not lavish board of ten francs per day for
entertainment to man and beast.

And yet, explain as we will, there will always remain something
inexplicable in the appeal of such a book as the /Medecin de
Campagne/. This helps, and that, and the other; we can see what change
might have damaged the effect, and what have endangered it altogether.
We must, of course, acknowledge that as it is there are /longueurs/,
intrusion of Saint Simonian jargon, passages of /galimatias/, and of
preaching. But of what in strictness produces the good effect we can
only say one thing, and that is, it was the genius of Balzac working
as it listed and as it knew how to work.

The book was originally published by Mme. Delaunay in September 1833
in two volumes and thirty-six chapters with headings. Next year it was
republished in four volumes by Werdet, and the last fifteen chapters
were thrown together into four. In 1836 it reappeared with dedication
and date, but with the divisions further reduced to seven; being those
which here appear, with the addition of two, "La Fosseuse" and "Propos
de Braves Gens" between "A Travers Champs" and "Le Napoleon du
Peuple." These two were removed in 1839, when it was published in a
single volume by Charpentier. In all these issues the book was
independent. It became a "Scene de la Vie de Campagne" in 1846, and
was then admitted into the /Comedie/. The separate issues of
Goguelat's story referred to above made their appearances first in
/L'Europe Litteraire/ for June 19, 1833 (/before/ the book form), and
then with the imprint of a sort of syndicate of publishers in 1842.

                                                   George Saintsbury



                             CHAPTER I

                    THE COUNTRYSIDE AND THE MAN

On a lovely spring morning in the year 1829, a man of fifty or
thereabouts was wending his way on horseback along the mountain road
that leads to a large village near the Grande Chartreuse. This village
is the market town of a populous canton that lies within the limits of
a valley of some considerable length. The melting of the snows had
filled the boulder-strewn bed of the torrent (often dry) that flows
through this valley, which is closely shut in between two parallel
mountain barriers, above which the peaks of Savoy and of Dauphine
tower on every side.

All the scenery of the country that lies between the chain of the two
Mauriennes is very much alike; yet here in the district through which
the stranger was traveling there are soft undulations of the land, and
varying effects of light which might be sought for elsewhere in vain.
Sometimes the valley, suddenly widening, spreads out a soft
irregularly-shaped carpet of grass before the eyes; a meadow
constantly watered by the mountain streams that keep it fresh and
green at all seasons of the year. Sometimes a roughly-built sawmill
appears in a picturesque position, with its stacks of long pine trunks
with the bark peeled off, and its mill stream, brought from the bed of
the torrent in great square wooden pipes, with masses of dripping
filament issuing from every crack. Little cottages, scattered here and
there, with their gardens full of blossoming fruit trees, call up the
ideas that are aroused by the sight of industrious poverty; while the
thought of ease, secured after long years of toil, is suggested by
some larger houses farther on, with their red roofs of flat round
tiles, shaped like the scales of a fish. There is no door, moreover,
that does not duly exhibit a basket in which the cheeses are hung up
to dry. Every roadside and every croft is adorned with vines; which
here, as in Italy, they train to grow about dwarf elm trees, whose
leaves are stripped off to feed the cattle.

Nature, in her caprice, has brought the sloping hills on either side
so near together in some places, that there is no room for fields, or
buildings, or peasants' huts. Nothing lies between them but the
torrent, roaring over its waterfalls between two lofty walls of
granite that rise above it, their sides covered with the leafage of
tall beeches and dark fir trees to the height of a hundred feet. The
trees, with their different kinds of foliage, rise up straight and
tall, fantastically colored by patches of lichen, forming magnificent
colonnades, with a line of straggling hedgerow of guelder rose, briar
rose, box and arbutus above and below the roadway at their feet. The
subtle perfume of this undergrowth was mingled just then with scents
from the wild mountain region and with the aromatic fragrance of young
larch shoots, budding poplars, and resinous pines.

Here and there a wreath of mist about the heights sometimes hid and
sometimes gave glimpses of the gray crags, that seemed as dim and
vague as the soft flecks of cloud dispersed among them. The whole face
of the country changed every moment with the changing light in the
sky; the hues of the mountains, the soft shades of their lower slopes,
the very shape of the valleys seemed to vary continually. A ray of
sunlight through the tree-stems, a clear space made by nature in the
woods, or a landslip here and there, coming as a surprise to make a
contrast in the foreground, made up an endless series of pictures
delightful to see amid the silence, at the time of year when all
things grow young, and when the sun fills a cloudless heaven with a
blaze of light. In short, it was a fair land--it was the land of
France!

The traveler was a tall man, dressed from head to foot in a suit of
blue cloth, which must have been brushed just as carefully every
morning as the glossy coat of his horse. He held himself firm and
erect in the saddle like an old cavalry officer. Even if his black
cravat and doeskin gloves, the pistols that filled his holsters, and
the valise securely fastened to the crupper behind him had not
combined to mark him out as a soldier, the air of unconcern that sat
on his face, his regular features (scarred though they were with the
smallpox), his determined manner, self-reliant expression, and the way
he held his head, all revealed the habits acquired through military
discipline, of which a soldier can never quite divest himself, even
after he has retired from service into private life.

Any other traveler would have been filled with wonder at the
loveliness of this Alpine region, which grows so bright and smiling as
it becomes merged in the great valley systems of southern France; but
the officer, who no doubt had previously traversed a country across
which the French armies had been drafted in the course of Napoleon's
wars, enjoyed the view before him without appearing to be surprised by
the many changes that swept across it. It would seem that Napoleon has
extinguished in his soldiers the sensation of wonder; for an impassive
face is a sure token by which you may know the men who served erewhile
under the short-lived yet deathless Eagles of the great Emperor. The
traveler was, in fact, one of those soldiers (seldom met with
nowadays) whom shot and shell have respected, although they have borne
their part on every battlefield where Napoleon commanded.

There had been nothing unusual in his life. He had fought valiantly in
the ranks as a simple and loyal soldier, doing his duty as faithfully
by night as by day, and whether in or out of his officer's sight. He
had never dealt a sabre stroke in vain, and was incapable of giving
one too many. If he wore at his buttonhole the rosette of an officer
of the Legion of Honor, it was because the unanimous voice of his
regiment had singled him out as the man who best deserved to receive
it after the battle of Borodino.

He belonged to that small minority of undemonstrative retiring
natures, who are always at peace with themselves, and who are
conscious of a feeling of humiliation at the mere thought of making a
request, no matter what its nature may be. So promotion had come to
him tardily, and by virtue of the slowly-working laws of seniority. He
had been made a sub-lieutenant in 1802, but it was not until 1829 that
he became a major, in spite of the grayness of his moustaches. His
life had been so blameless that no man in the army, not even the
general himself, could approach him without an involuntary feeling of
respect. It is possible that he was not forgiven for this indisputable
superiority by those who ranked above him; but, on the other hand,
there was not one of his men that did not feel for him something of
the affection of children for a good mother. For them he knew how to
be at once indulgent and severe. He himself had also once served in
the ranks, and knew the sorry joys and gaily-endured hardships of the
soldier's lot. He knew the errors that may be passed over and the
faults that must be punished in his men--"his children," as he always
called them--and when on campaign he readily gave them leave to forage
for provision for man and horse among the wealthier classes.

His own personal history lay buried beneath the deepest reserve. Like
almost every military man in Europe, he had only seen the world
through cannon smoke, or in the brief intervals of peace that occurred
so seldom during the Emperor's continual wars with the rest of Europe.
Had he or had he not thought of marriage? The question remained
unsettled. Although no one doubted that Commandant Genestas had made
conquests during his sojourn in town after town and country after
country where he had taken part in the festivities given and received
by the officers, yet no one knew this for a certainty. There was no
prudery about him; he would not decline to join a pleasure party; he
in no way offended against military standards; but when questioned as
to his affairs of the heart, he either kept silence or answered with a
jest. To the words, "How are you, commandant?" addressed to him by an
officer over the wine, his reply was, "Pass the bottle, gentlemen."

M. Pierre Joseph Genestas was an unostentatious kind of Bayard. There
was nothing romantic nor picturesque about him--he was too thoroughly
commonplace. His ways of living were those of a well-to-do man.
Although he had nothing beside his pay, and his pension was all that
he had to look to in the future, the major always kept two years' pay
untouched, and never spent his allowances, like some shrewd old men of
business with whom cautious prudence has almost become a mania. He was
so little of a gambler that if, when in company, some one was wanted
to cut in or to take a bet at ecarte, he usually fixed his eyes on his
boots; but though he did not allow himself any extravagances, he
conformed in every way to custom.

His uniforms lasted longer than those of any other officer in his
regiment, as a consequence of the sedulously careful habits that
somewhat straitened means had so instilled into him, that they had
come to be like a second nature. Perhaps he might have been suspected
of meannesss if it had not been for the fact that with wonderful
disinterestedness and all a comrade's readiness, his purse would be
opened for some harebrained boy who had ruined himself at cards or by
some other folly. He did a service of this kind with such thoughtful
tact, that it seemed as though he himself had at one time lost heavy
sums at play; he never considered that he had any right to control the
actions of his debtor; he never made mention of the loan. He was the
child of his company; he was alone in the world, so he had adopted the
army for his fatherland, and the regiment for his family. Very rarely,
therefore, did any one seek the motives underlying his praiseworthy
turn for thrift; for it pleased others, for the most part, to set it
down to a not unnatural wish to increase the amount of the savings
that were to render his old age comfortable. Till the eve of his
promotion to the rank of lieutenant-colonel of cavalry it was fair to
suppose that it was his ambition to retire in the course of some
campaign with a colonel's epaulettes and pension.

If Genestas' name came up when the officers gossiped after drill, they
were wont to classify him among the men who begin with taking the
good-conduct prize at school, and who, throughout the term of their
natural lives, continue to be punctilious, conscientious, and
passionless--as good as white bread, and just as insipid. Thoughtful
minds, however, regarded him very differently. Not seldom it would
happen that a glance, or an expression as full of significance as the
utterance of a savage, would drop from him and bear witness to past
storms in his soul; and a careful study of his placid brow revealed a
power of stifling down and repressing his passions into inner depths,
that had been dearly bought by a lengthy acquaintance with the perils
and disastrous hazards of war. An officer who had only just joined the
regiment, the son of a peer of France, had said one day of Genestas,
that he would have made one of the most conscientious of priests, or
the most upright of tradesmen.

"Add, the least of a courtier among marquises," put in Genestas,
scanning the young puppy, who did not know that his commandant could
overhear him.

There was a burst of laughter at the words, for the lieutenant's
father cringed to all the powers that be; he was a man of supple
intellect, accustomed to jump with every change of government, and his
son took after him.

Men like Genestas are met with now and again in the French army;
natures that show themselves to be wholly great at need, and relapse
into their ordinary simplicity when the action is over; men that are
little mindful of fame and reputation, and utterly forgetful of
danger. Perhaps there are many more of them than the shortcomings of
our own characters will allow us to imagine. Yet, for all that, any
one who believed that Genestas was perfect would be strangely
deceiving himself. The major was suspicious, given to violent
outbursts of anger, and apt to be tiresome in argument; he was full of
national prejudices, and above all things, would insist that he was in
the right, when he was, as a matter of fact, in the wrong. He retained
the liking for good wine that he had acquired in the ranks. If he rose
from a banquet with all the gravity befitting his position, he seemed
serious and pensive, and had no mind at such times to admit any one
into his confidence.

Finally, although he was sufficiently acquainted with the customs of
society and with the laws of politeness, to which he conformed as
rigidly as if they had been military regulations; though he had real
mental power, both natural and acquired; and although he had mastered
the art of handling men, the science of tactics, the theory of sabre
play, and the mysteries of the farrier's craft, his learning had been
prodigiously neglected. He knew in a hazy kind of way that Caesar was
a Roman Consul, or an Emperor, and that Alexander was either a Greek
or a Macedonian; he would have conceded either quality or origin in
both cases without discussion. If the conversation turned on science
or history, he was wont to become thoughtful, and to confine his share
in it to little approving nods, like a man who by dint of profound
thought has arrived at scepticism.

When, at Schonbrunn, on May 13, 1809, Napoleon wrote the bulletin
addressed to the Grand Army, then the masters of Vienna, in which he
said that /like Medea, the Austrian princes had slain their children
with their own hands/; Genestas, who had been recently made a captain,
did not wish to compromise his newly conferred dignity by asking who
Medea was; he relied upon Napoleon's character, and felt quite sure
that the Emperor was incapable of making any announcement not in
proper form to the Grand Army and the House of Austria. So he thought
that Medea was some archduchess whose conduct was open to criticism.
Still, as the matter might have some bearing on the art of war, he
felt uneasy about the Medea of the bulletin until a day arrived when
Mlle. Raucourt revived the tragedy of Medea. The captain saw the
placard, and did not fail to repair to the Theatre Francais that
evening, to see the celebrated actress in her mythological role,
concerning which he gained some information from his neighbors.

A man, however, who as a private soldier had possessed sufficient
force of character to learn to read, write, and cipher, could clearly
understand that as a captain he ought to continue his education. So
from this time forth he read new books and romances with avidity, in
this way gaining a half-knowledge, of which he made a very fair use.
He went so far in his gratitude to his teachers as to undertake the
defence of Pigault-Lebrun, remarking that in his opinion he was
instructive and not seldom profound.

This officer, whose acquired practical wisdom did not allow him to
make any journey in vain, had just come from Grenoble, and was on his
way to the Grande Chartreuse, after obtaining on the previous evening
a week's leave of absence from his colonel. He had not expected that
the journey would be a long one; but when, league after league, he had
been misled as to the distance by the lying statements of the
peasants, he thought it would be prudent not to venture any farther
without fortifying the inner man. Small as were his chances of finding
any housewife in her dwelling at a time when every one was hard at
work in the fields, he stopped before a little cluster of cottages
that stood about a piece of land common to all of them, more or less
describing a square, which was open to all comers.

The surface of the soil thus held in conjoint ownership was hard and
carefully swept, but intersected by open drains. Roses, ivy, and tall
grasses grew over the cracked and disjointed walls. Some rags were
drying on a miserable currant bush that stood at the entrance of the
square. A pig wallowing in a heap of straw was the first inhabitant
encountered by Genestas. At the sound of horse hoofs the creature
grunted, raised its head, and put a great black cat to flight. A young
peasant girl, who was carrying a bundle of grass on her head, suddenly
appeared, followed at a distance by four little brats, clad in rags,
it is true, but vigorous, sunburned, picturesque, bold-eyed, and
riotous; thorough little imps, looking like angels. The sun shone down
with an indescribable purifying influence upon the air, the wretched
cottages, the heaps of refuse, and the unkempt little crew.

The soldier asked whether it was possible to obtain a cup of milk. All
the answer the girl made him was a hoarse cry. An old woman suddenly
appeared on the threshold of one of the cabins, and the young peasant
girl passed on into a cowshed, with a gesture that pointed out the
aforesaid old woman, towards whom Genestas went; taking care at the
same time to keep a tight hold on his horse, lest the children who
were already running about under his hoofs should be hurt. He repeated
his request, with which the housewife flatly refused to comply. She
would not, she said, disturb the cream on the pans full of milk from
which butter was to be made. The officer overcame this objection by
undertaking to repay her amply for the wasted cream, and then tied up
his horse at the door, and went inside the cottage.

The four children belonging to the woman all appeared to be of the
same age--an odd circumstance which struck the commandant. A fifth
clung about her skirts; a weak, pale, sickly-looking child, who
doubtless needed more care than the others, and who on that account
was the best beloved, the Benjamin of the family.

Genestas seated himself in a corner by the fireless hearth. A sublime
symbol met his eyes on the high mantel-shelf above him--a colored
plaster cast of the Virgin with the Child Jesus in her arms. Bare
earth made the flooring of the cottage. It had been beaten level in
the first instance, but in course of time it had grown rough and
uneven, so that though it was clean, its ruggedness was not unlike
that of the magnified rind of an orange. A sabot filled with salt, a
frying-pan, and a large kettle hung inside the chimney. The farther
end of the room was completely filled by a four-post bedstead, with a
scalloped valance for decoration. The walls were black; there was an
opening to admit the light above the worm-eaten door; and here and
there were a few stools consisting of rough blocks of beech-wood, each
set upon three wooden legs; a hutch for bread, a large wooden dipper,
a bucket and some earthen milk-pans, a spinning-wheel on the top of
the bread-hutch, and a few wicker mats for draining cheeses. Such were
the ornaments and household furniture of the wretched dwelling.

The officer, who had been absorbed in flicking his riding-whip against
the floor, presently became a witness to a piece of by-play, all
unsuspicious though he was that any drama was about to unfold itself.
No sooner had the old woman, followed by her scald-headed Benjamin,
disappeared through a door that led into her dairy, than the four
children, after having stared at the soldier as long as they wished,
drove away the pig by way of a beginning. This animal, their
accustomed playmate, having come as far as the threshold, the little
brats made such an energetic attack upon him, that he was forced to
beat a hasty retreat. When the enemy had been driven without, the
children besieged the latch of a door that gave way before their
united efforts, and slipped out of the worn staple that held it; and
finally they bolted into a kind of fruit-loft, where they very soon
fell to munching the dried plums, to the amusement of the commandant,
who watched this spectacle. The old woman, with the face like
parchment and the dirty ragged clothing, came back at this moment,
with a jug of milk for her visitor in her hand.

"Oh! you good-for-nothings!" cried she.

She ran to the children, clutched an arm of each child, bundled them
into the room, and carefully closed the door of her storeroom of
plenty. But she did not take their prunes away from them.

"Now, then, be good, my pets! If one did not look after them," she
went on, looking at Genestas, "they would eat up the whole lot of
prunes, the madcaps!"

Then she seated herself on a three-legged stool, drew the little
weakling between her knees, and began to comb and wash his head with a
woman's skill and with motherly assiduity. The four small thieves hung
about. Some of them stood, others leant against the bed or the
bread-hutch. They gnawed their prunes without saying a word, but they
kept their sly and mischievous eyes fixed upon the stranger. In spite
of grimy countenances and noses that stood in need of wiping, they all
looked strong and healthy.

"Are they your children?" the soldier asked the old woman.

"Asking your pardon, sir, they are charity children. They give me
three francs a month and a pound's weight of soap for each of them."

"But it must cost you twice as much as that to keep them, good woman?"

"That is just what M. Benassis tells me, sir; but if other folk will
board the children for the same money, one has to make it do. Nobody
wants the children, but for all that there is a good deal of
performance to go through before they will let us have them. When the
milk we give them comes to nothing, they cost us scarcely anything.
Besides that, three francs is a great deal, sir; there are fifteen
francs coming in, to say nothing of the five pounds' weight of soap.
In our part of the world you would simply have to wear your life out
before you would make ten sous a day."

"Then you have some land of your own?" asked the commandant.

"No, sir. I had some land once when my husband was alive; since he
died I have done so badly that I had to sell it"

"Why, how do you reach the year's end without debts?" Genestas went
on, "when you bring up children for a livelihood and wash and feed
them on two sous a day?"

"Well, we never go to St. Sylvester's Day without debt, sir," she went
on without ceasing to comb the child's hair. "But so it is--Providence
helps us out. I have a couple of cows. Then my daughter and I do some
gleaning at harvest-time, and in winter we pick up firewood. Then at
night we spin. Ah! we never want to see another winter like this last
one, that is certain! I owe the miller seventy-five francs for flour.
Luckily he is M. Benassis' miller. M. Benassis, ah! he is a friend to
poor people. He has never asked for his due from anybody, and he will
not begin with us. Besides, our cow has a calf, and that will set us a
bit straighter."

The four orphans for whom the old woman's affection represented all
human guardianship had come to an end of their prunes. As their
foster-mother's attention was taken up by the officer with whom she
was chatting, they seized the opportunity, and banded themselves
together in a compact file, so as to make yet another assault upon the
latch of the door that stood between them and the tempting heap of
dried plums. They advanced to the attack, not like French soldiers,
but as stealthily as Germans, impelled by frank animal greediness.

"Oh! you little rogues! Do you want to finish them up?"

The old woman rose, caught the strongest of the four, administered a
gentle slap on the back, and flung him out of the house. Not a tear
did he shed, but the others remained breathless with astonishment.

"They give you a lot of trouble----"

"Oh! no, sir, but they can smell the prunes, the little dears. If I
were to leave them alone here for a moment, they would stuff
themselves with them."

"You are very fond of them?"

The old woman raised her head at this, and looked at him with gentle
malice in her eyes.

"Fond of them!" she said. "I have had to part with three of them
already. I only have the care of them until they are six years old,"
she went on with a sigh.

"But where are your own children?"

"I have lost them."

"How old are you?" Genestas asked, to efface the impression left by
his last question.

"I am thirty-eight years old, sir. It will be two years come next St.
John's Day since my husband died."

She finished dressing the poor sickly mite, who seemed to thank her by
a loving look in his faded eyes.

"What a life of toil and self-denial!" thought the cavalry officer.

Beneath a roof worthy of the stable wherein Jesus Christ was born, the
hardest duties of motherhood were fulfilled cheerfully and without
consciousness of merit. What hearts were these that lay so deeply
buried in neglect and obscurity! What wealth, and what poverty!
Soldiers, better than other men, can appreciate the element of
grandeur to be found in heroism in sabots, in the Evangel clad in
rags. The Book may be found elsewhere, adorned, embellished, tricked
out in silk and satin and brocade, but here, of a surety, dwelt the
spirit of the Book. It was impossible to doubt that Heaven had some
holy purpose underlying it all, at the sight of the woman who had
taken a mother's lot upon herself, as Jesus Christ had taken the form
of a man, who gleaned and suffered and ran into debt for her little
waifs; a woman who defrauded herself in her reckonings, and would not
own that she was ruining herself that she might be a Mother. One was
constrained to admit, at the sight of her, that the good upon earth
have something in common with the angels in heaven; Commandant
Genestas shook his head as he looked at her.

"Is M. Benassis a clever doctor?" he asked at last.

"I do not know, sir, but he cures poor people for nothing."

"It seems to me that this is a man and no mistake!" he went on,
speaking to himself.

"Oh! yes, sir, and a good man too! There is scarcely any one
hereabouts that does not put his name in their prayers, morning and
night!"

"That is for you, mother," said the soldier, as he gave her several
coins, "and that is for the children," he went on, as he added another
crown. "Is M. Benassis' house still a long way off?" he asked, when he
had mounted his horse.

"Oh! no, sir, a bare league at most."

The commandant set out, fully persuaded that two leagues remained
ahead of him. Yet after all he soon caught a glimpse through the trees
of the little town's first cluster of houses, and then of all the
roofs that crowded about a conical steeple, whose slates were secured
to the angles of the wooden framework by sheets of tin that glittered
in the sun. This sort of roof, which has a peculiar appearance,
denotes the nearness of the borders of Savoy, where it is very common.
The valley is wide at this particular point, and a fair number of
houses pleasantly situated, either in the little plain or along the
side of the mountain stream, lend human interest to the well-tilled
spot, a stronghold with no apparent outlet among the mountains that
surround it.

It was noon when Genestas reined in his horse beneath an avenue of
elm-trees half-way up the hillside, and only a few paces from the
town, to ask the group of children who stood before him for M.
Benassis' house. At first the children looked at each other, then they
scrutinized the stranger with the expression that they usually wear
when they set eyes upon anything for the first time; a different
curiosity and a different thought in every little face. Then the
boldest and the merriest of the band, a little bright-eyed urchin,
with bare, muddy feet, repeated his words over again, in child
fashion.

"M. Benassis' house, sir?" adding, "I will show you the way there."

He walked along in front of the horse, prompted quite as much by a
wish to gain a kind of importance by being in the stranger's company,
as by a child's love of being useful, or the imperative craving to be
doing something, that possesses mind and body at his age. The officer
followed him for the entire length of the principal street of the
country town. The way was paved with cobblestones, and wound in and
out among the houses, which their owners had erected along its course
in the most arbitrary fashion. In one place a bake-house had been
built out into the middle of the roadway; in another a gable
protruded, partially obstructing the passage, and yet farther on a
mountain stream flowed across it in a runnel. Genestas noticed a fair
number of roofs of tarred shingle, but yet more of them were thatched;
a few were tiled, and some seven or eight (belonging no doubt to the
cure, the justice of the peace, and some of the wealthier townsmen)
were covered with slates. There was a total absence of regard for
appearances befitting a village at the end of the world, which had
nothing beyond it, and no connection with any other place. The people
who lived in it seemed to belong to one family that dwelt beyond the
limits of the bustling world, with which the collector of taxes and a
few ties of the very slenderest alone served to connect them.

When Genestas had gone a step or two farther, he saw on the mountain
side a broad road that rose above the village. Clearly there must be
an old town and a new town; and, indeed, when the commandant reached a
spot where he could slacken the pace of his horse, he could easily see
between the houses some well-built dwellings whose new roofs
brightened the old-fashioned village. An avenue of trees rose above
these new houses, and from among them came the confused sounds of
several industries. He heard the songs peculiar to busy toilers, a
murmur of many workshops, the rasping of files, and the sound of
falling hammers. He saw the thin lines of smoke from the chimneys of
each household, and the more copious outpourings from the forges of
the van-builder, the blacksmith, and the farrier. At length, at the
very end of the village towards which his guide was taking him,
Genestas beheld scattered farms and well-tilled fields and plantations
of trees in thorough order. It might have been a little corner of
Brie, so hidden away in a great fold of the land, that at first sight
its existence would not be suspected between the little town and the
mountains that closed the country round.

Presently the child stopped.

"There is the door of /his/ house," he remarked.

The officer dismounted and passed his arm through the bridle. Then,
thinking that the laborer is worthy of his hire, he drew a few sous
from his waistcoat pocket, and held them out to the child, who looked
astonished at this, opened his eyes very wide, and stayed on, without
thanking him, to watch what the stranger would do next.

"Civilization has not made much headway hereabouts," thought Genestas;
"the religion of work is in full force, and begging has not yet come
thus far."

His guide, more from curiosity than from any interested motive,
propped himself against the wall that rose to the height of a man's
elbow. Upon this wall, which enclosed the yard belonging to the house,
there ran a black wooden railing on either side of the square pillars
of the gates. The lower part of the gates themselves was of solid wood
that had been painted gray at some period in the past; the upper part
consisted of a grating of yellowish spear-shaped bars. These
decorations, which had lost all their color, gradually rose on either
half of the gates till they reached the centre where they met; their
spikes forming, when both leaves were shut, an outline similar to that
of a pine-cone. The worm-eaten gates themselves, with their patches of
velvet lichen, were almost destroyed by the alternate action of sun
and rain. A few aloe plants and some chance-sown pellitory grew on the
tops of the square pillars of the gates, which all but concealed the
stems of a couple of thornless acacias that raised their tufted
spikes, like a pair of green powder-puffs, in the yard.

The condition of the gateway revealed a certain carelessness of its
owner which did not seem to suit the officer's turn of mind. He
knitted his brows like a man who is obliged to relinquish some
illusion. We usually judge others by our own standard; and although we
indulgently forgive our own shortcomings in them, we condemn them
harshly for the lack of our special virtues. If the commandant had
expected M. Benassis to be a methodical or practical man, there were
unmistakable indications of absolute indifference as to his material
concerns in the state of the gates of his house. A soldier possessed
by Genestas' passion for domestic economy could not help at once
drawing inferences as to the life and character of its owner from the
gateway before him; and this, in spite of his habits of
circumspection, he in nowise failed to do. The gates were left ajar,
moreover--another piece of carelessness!

Encouraged by this countrified trust in all comers, the officer
entered the yard without ceremony, and tethered his horse to the bars
of the gate. While he was knotting the bridle, a neighing sound from
the stable caused both horse and rider to turn their eyes
involuntarily in that direction. The door opened, and an old servant
put out his head. He wore a red woolen bonnet, exactly like the
Phrygian cap in which Liberty is tricked out, a piece of head-gear in
common use in this country.

As there was room for several horses, this worthy individual, after
inquiring whether Genestas had come to see M. Benassis, offered the
hospitality of the stable to the newly-arrived steed, a very fine
animal, at which he looked with an expression of admiring affection.
The commandant followed his horse to see how things were to go with
it. The stable was clean, there was plenty of litter, and there was
the same peculiar air of sleek content about M. Benassis' pair of
horses that distinguished the cure's horse from all the rest of his
tribe. A maid-servant from within the house came out upon the flight
of steps and waited. She appeared to be the proper authority to whom
the stranger's inquiries were to be addressed, although the stableman
had already told him that M. Benassis was not at home.

"The master has gone to the flour-mill," said he. "If you like to
overtake him, you have only to go along the path that leads to the
meadow; and the mill is at the end of it."

Genestas preferred seeing the country to waiting about indefinitely
for Benassis' return, so he set out along the way that led to the
flour-mill. When he had gone beyond the irregular line traced by the
town upon the hillside, he came in sight of the mill and the valley,
and of one of the loveliest landscapes that he had ever seen.

The mountains bar the course of the river, which forms a little lake
at their feet, and raise their crests above it, tier on tier. Their
many valleys are revealed by the changing hues of the light, or by the
more or less clear outlines of the mountain ridges fledged with their
dark forests of pines. The mill had not long been built. It stood just
where the mountain stream fell into the little lake. There was all the
charm about it peculiar to a lonely house surrounded by water and
hidden away behind the heads of a few trees that love to grow by the
water-side. On the farther bank of the river, at the foot of a
mountain, with a faint red glow of sunset upon its highest crest,
Genestas caught a glimpse of a dozen deserted cottages. All the
windows and doors had been taken away, and sufficiently large holes
were conspicuous in the dilapidated roofs, but the surrounding land
was laid out in fields that were highly cultivated, and the old garden
spaces had been turned into meadows, watered by a system of irrigation
as artfully contrived as that in use in Limousin. Unconsciously the
commandant paused to look at the ruins of the village before him.

How is it that men can never behold any ruins, even of the humblest
kind, without feeling deeply stirred? Doubtless it is because they
seem to be a typical representation of evil fortune whose weight is
felt so differently by different natures. The thought of death is
called up by a churchyard, but a deserted village puts us in mind of
the sorrows of life; death is but one misfortune always foreseen, but
the sorrows of life are infinite. Does not the thought of the infinite
underlie all great melancholy?

The officer reached the stony path by the mill-pond before he could
hit upon an explanation of this deserted village. The miller's lad was
sitting on some sacks of corn near the door of the house. Genestas
asked for M. Benassis.

"M. Benassis went over there," said the miller, pointing out one of
the ruined cottages.

"Has the village been burned down?" asked the commandant.

"No, sir."

"Then how did it come to be in this state?" inquired Genestas.

"Ah! how?" the miller answered, as he shrugged his shoulders and went
indoors; "M. Benassis will tell you that."

The officer went over a rough sort of bridge built up of boulders
taken from the torrent bed, and soon reached the house that had been
pointed out to him. The thatched roof of the dwelling was still
entire; it was covered with moss indeed, but there were no holes in
it, and the door and its fastenings seemed to be in good repair.
Genestas saw a fire on the hearth as he entered, an old woman kneeling
in the chimney-corner before a sick man seated in a chair, and another
man, who was standing with his face turned toward the fireplace. The
house consisted of a single room, which was lighted by a wretched
window covered with linen cloth. The floor was of beaten earth; the
chair, a table, and a truckle-bed comprised the whole of the
furniture. The commandant had never seen anything so poor and bare,
not even in Russia, where the moujik's huts are like the dens of wild
beasts. Nothing within it spoke of ordinary life; there were not even
the simplest appliances for cooking food of the commonest description.
It might have been a dog-kennel without a drinking-pan. But for the
truckle-bed, a smock-frock hanging from a nail, and some sabots filled
with straw, which composed the invalid's entire wardrobe, this cottage
would have looked as empty as the others. The aged peasant woman upon
her knees was devoting all her attention to keeping the sufferer's
feet in a tub filled with a brown liquid. Hearing a footstep and the
clank of spurs, which sounded strangely in ears accustomed to the
plodding pace of country folk, the man turned to Genestas. A sort of
surprise, in which the old woman shared was visible in his face.

"There is no need to ask if you are M. Benassis," said the soldier.
"You will pardon me, sir, if, as a stranger impatient to see you, I
have come to seek you on your field of battle, instead of awaiting you
at your house. Pray do not disturb yourself; go on with what you are
doing. When it is over, I will tell you the purpose of my visit."

Genestas half seated himself upon the edge of the table, and remained
silent. The firelight shone more brightly in the room than the faint
rays of the sun, for the mountain crests intercepted them, so that
they seldom reached this corner of the valley. A few branches of
resinous pinewood made a bright blaze, and it was by the light of this
fire that the soldier saw the face of the man towards whom he was
drawn by a secret motive, by a wish to seek him out, to study and to
know him thoroughly well. M. Benassis, the local doctor, heard
Genestas with indifference, and with folded arms he returned his bow,
and went back to his patient, quite unaware that he was being
subjected to a scrutiny as earnest as that which the soldier turned
upon him.

Benassis was a man of ordinary height, broad-shouldered and
deep-chested. A capacious green overcoat, buttoned up to the chin,
prevented the officer from observing any characteristic details of his
personal appearance; but his dark and motionless figure served as a
strong relief to his face, which caught the bright light of the
blazing fire. The face was not unlike that of a satyr; there was the
same slightly protruding forehead, full, in this case, of prominences,
all more or less denoting character; the same turned-up nose, with a
sprightly cleavage at the tip; the same high cheek-bones. The lines of
the mouth were crooked; the lips, thick and red. The chin turned
sharply upwards. There was an alert, animated look in the brown eyes,
to which their pearly whites gave great brightness, and which
expressed passions now subdued. His iron-gray hair, the deep wrinkles
in his face, the bushy eyebrows that had grown white already, the
veins on his protuberant nose, the tanned face covered with red
blotches, everything about him, in short, indicated a man of fifty and
the hard work of his profession. The officer could come to no
conclusion as to the capacity of the head, which was covered by a
close cap; but hidden though it was, it seemed to him to be one of the
square-shaped kind that gave rise to the expression "square-headed."
Genestas was accustomed to read the indications that mark the features
of men destined to do great things, since he had been brought into
close relations with the energetic natures sought out by Napoleon; so
he suspected that there must be some mystery in this life of
obscurity, and said to himself as he looked at the remarkable face
before him:

"How comes it that he is still a country doctor?"

When he had made a careful study of this countenance, that, in spite
of its resemblance to other human faces, revealed an inner life nowise
in harmony with a commonplace exterior, he could not help sharing the
doctor's interest in his patient; and the sight of that patient
completely changed the current of his thoughts.

Much as the old cavalry officer had seen in the course of his
soldier's career, he felt a thrill of surprise and horror at the sight
of a human face which could never have been lighted up with thought--a
livid face in which a look of dumb suffering showed so plainly--the
same look that is sometimes worn by a child too young to speak, and
too weak to cry any longer; in short, it was the wholly animal face of
an old dying cretin. The cretin was the one variety of the human
species with which the commandant had not yet come in contact. At the
sight of the deep, circular folds of skin on the forehead, the sodden,
fish-like eyes, and the head, with its short, coarse, scantily-growing
hair--a head utterly divested of all the faculties of the senses--who
would not have experienced, as Genestas did, an instinctive feeling of
repulsion for a being that had neither the physical beauty of an
animal nor the mental endowments of man, who was possessed of neither
instinct nor reason, and who had never heard nor spoken any kind of
articulate speech? It seemed difficult to expend any regrets over the
poor wretch now visibly drawing towards the very end of an existence
which had not been life in any sense of the word; yet the old woman
watched him with touching anxiety, and was rubbing his legs where the
hot water did not reach them with as much tenderness as if he had been
her husband. Benassis himself, after a close scrutiny of the dull eyes
and corpse-like face, gently took the cretin's hand and felt his
pulse.

"The bath is doing no good," he said, shaking his head; "let us put
him to bed again."

He lifted the inert mass himself, and carried him across to the
truckle-bed, from whence, no doubt, he had just taken him. Carefully
he laid him at full length, and straightened the limbs that were
growing cold already, putting the head and hand in position, with all
the heed that a mother could bestow upon her child.

"It is all over, death is very near," added Benassis, who remained
standing by the bedside.

The old woman gazed at the dying form, with her hands on her hips. A
few tears stole down her cheeks. Genestas remained silent. He was
unable to explain to himself how it was that the death of a being that
concerned him so little should affect him so much. Unconsciously he
shared the feeling of boundless pity that these hapless creatures
excite among the dwellers in the sunless valleys wherein Nature has
placed them. This sentiment has degenerated into a kind of religious
superstition in families to which cretins belong; but does it not
spring from the most beautiful of Christian virtues--from charity, and
from a belief in a reward hereafter, that most effectual support of
our social system, and the one thought that enables us to endure our
miseries? The hope of inheriting eternal bliss helps the relations of
these unhappy creatures and all others round about them to exert on a
large scale, and with sublime devotion, a mother's ceaseless
protecting care over an apathetic creature who does not understand it
in the first instance, and who in a little while forgets it all.
Wonderful power of religion! that has brought a blind beneficence to
the aid of an equally blind misery. Wherever cretins exist, there is a
popular belief that the presence of one of these creatures brings luck
to a family--a superstition that serves to sweeten lives which, in the
midst of a town population, would be condemned by a mistaken
philanthropy to submit to the harsh discipline of an asylum. In the
higher end of the valley of Isere, where cretins are very numerous,
they lead an out-of-door life with the cattle which they are taught to
herd. There, at any rate, they are at large, and receive the reverence
due to misfortune.

A moment later the village bell clinked at slow regular intervals, to
acquaint the flock with the death of one of their number. In the sound
that reached the cottage but faintly across the intervening space,
there was a thought of religion which seemed to fill it with a
melancholy peace. The tread of many feet echoed up the road, giving
notice of an approaching crowd of people--a crowd that uttered not a
word. Then suddenly the chanting of the Church broke the stillness,
calling up the confused thoughts that take possession of the most
sceptical minds, and compel them to yield to the influence of the
touching harmonies of the human voice. The Church was coming to the
aid of a creature that knew her not. The cure appeared, preceded by a
choir-boy, who bore the crucifix, and followed by the sacristan
carrying the vase of holy water, and by some fifty women, old men, and
children, who had all come to add their prayers to those of the
Church. The doctor and the soldier looked at each other, and silently
withdrew to a corner to make room for the kneeling crowd within and
without the cottage. During the consoling ceremony of the Viaticum,
celebrated for one who had never sinned, but to whom the Church on
earth was bidding a last farewell, there were signs of real sorrow on
most of the rough faces of the gathering, and tears flowed over the
rugged cheeks that sun and wind and labor in the fields had tanned and
wrinkled. The sentiment of voluntary kinship was easy to explain.
There was not one in the place who had not pitied the unhappy
creature, not one who would not have given him his daily bread. Had he
not met with a father's care from every child, and found a mother in
the merriest little girl?

"He is dead!" said the cure.

The words struck his hearers with the most unfeigned dismay. The tall
candles were lighted, and several people undertook to watch with the
dead that night. Benassis and the soldier went out. A group of
peasants in the doorway stopped the doctor to say:

"Ah! if you have not saved his life, sir, it was doubtless because God
wished to take him to Himself."

"I did my best, children," the doctor answered.

When they had come a few paces from the deserted village, whose last
inhabitant had just died, the doctor spoke to Genestas.

"You would not believe, sir, what real solace is contained for me in
what those peasants have just said. Ten years ago I was very nearly
stoned to death in this village. It is empty to-day, but thirty
families lived in it then."

Genestas' face and gesture so plainly expressed an inquiry, that, as
they went along, the doctor told him the story promised by this
beginning.

"When I first settled here, sir, I found a dozen cretins in this part
of the canton," and the doctor turned round to point out the ruined
cottages for the officer's benefit. "All the favorable conditions for
spreading the hideous disease are there; the air is stagnant, the
hamlet lies in the valley bottom, close beside a torrent supplied with
water by the melted snows, and the sunlight only falls on the
mountain-top, so that the valley itself gets no good of the sun.
Marriages among these unfortunate creatures are not forbidden by law,
and in this district they are protected by superstitious notions, of
whose power I had no conception--superstitions which I blamed at
first, and afterwards came to admire. So cretinism was in a fair way
to spread all over the valley from this spot. Was it not doing the
country a great service to put a stop to this mental and physical
contagion? But imperatively as the salutary changes were required,
they might cost the life of any man who endeavored to bring them
about. Here, as in other social spheres, if any good is to be done, we
come into collision not merely with vested interests, but with
something far more dangerous to meddle with--religious ideas
crystallized into superstitions, the most permanent form taken by
human thought. I feared nothing.

"In the first place, I sought for the position of mayor in the canton,
and in this I succeeded. Then, after obtaining a verbal sanction from
the prefect, and by paying down the money, I had several of these
unfortunate creatures transported over to Aiguebelle, in Savoy, by
night. There are a great many of them there, and they were certain to
be very kindly treated. When this act of humanity came to be known,
the whole countryside looked upon me as a monster. The cure preached
against me. In spite of all the pains I took to explain to all the
shrewder heads of the little place the immense importance of being rid
of the idiots, and in spite of the fact that I gave my services
gratuitously to the sick people of the district, a shot was fired at
me from the corner of a wood.

"I went to the Bishop of Grenoble and asked him to change the cure.
Monseigneur was good enough to allow me to choose a priest who would
share in my labors, and it was my happy fortune to meet with one of
those rare natures that seemed to have dropped down from heaven. Then
I went on with my enterprise. After preparing people's minds, I made
another transportation by night, and six more cretins were taken away.
In this second attempt I had the support of several people to whom I
had rendered some service, and I was backed by the members of the
Communal Council, for I had appealed to their parsimonious instincts,
showing them how much it cost to support the poor wretches, and
pointing out how largely they might gain by converting their plots of
ground (to which the idiots had no proper title) into allotments which
were needed in the township.

"All the rich were on my side; but the poor, the old women, the
children, and a few pig-headed people were violently opposed to me.
Unluckily it so fell out that my last removal had not been completely
carried out. The cretin whom you have just seen, not having returned
to his house, had not been taken away, so that the next morning he was
the sole remaining example of his species in the village. There were
several families still living there; but though they were little
better than idiots, they were, at any rate, free from the taint of
cretinism. I determined to go through with my work, and came
officially in open day to take the luckless creature from his
dwelling. I had no sooner left my house than my intention got abroad.
The cretin's friends were there before me, and in front of his hovel I
found a crowd of women and children and old people, who hailed my
arrival with insults accompanied by a shower of stones.

"In the midst of the uproar I should perhaps have fallen a victim to
the frenzy that possesses a crowd excited by its own outcries and
stirred up by one common feeling, but the cretin saved my life! The
poor creature came out of his hut, and raised the clucking sound of
his voice. He seemed to be an absolute ruler over the fanatical mob,
for the sight of him put a sudden stop to the clamor. It occurred to
me that I might arrange a compromise, and thanks to the quiet so
opportunely restored, I was able to propose and explain it. Of course,
those who approved of my schemes would not dare to second me in this
emergency, their support was sure to be of a purely passive kind,
while these superstitious folk would exert the most active vigilance
to keep their last idol among them; it was impossible, it seemed to
me, to take him away from them. So I promised to leave the cretin in
peace in his dwelling, with the understanding that he should live
quite by himself, and that the remaining families in the village
should cross the stream and come to live in the town, in some new
houses which I myself undertook to build, adding to each house a piece
of ground for which the Commune was to repay me later on.

"Well, my dear sir, it took me fully six months to overcome their
objection to this bargain, however much it may have been to the
advantage of the village families. The affection which they have for
their wretched hovels in country districts is something quite
unexplainable. No matter how unwholesome his hovel may be, a peasant
clings far more to it than a banker does to his mansion. The reason of
it? That I do not know. Perhaps thoughts and feelings are strongest in
those who have but few of them, simply because they have but few.
Perhaps material things count for much in the lives of those who live
so little in thought; certain it is that the less they have, the
dearer their possessions are to them. Perhaps, too, it is with the
peasant as with the prisoner--he does not squander the powers of his
soul, he centres them all upon a single idea, and this is how his
feelings come to be so exceedingly strong. Pardon these reflections on
the part of a man who seldom exchanges ideas with any one. But,
indeed, you must not suppose, sir, that I am much taken up with these
far-fetched considerations. We all have to be active and practical
here.

"Alas! the fewer ideas these poor folk have in their heads, the harder
it is to make them see where their real interests lie. There was
nothing for it but to give my whole attention to every trifling detail
of my enterprise. One and all made me the same answer, one of those
sayings, filled with homely sense, to which there is no possible
reply, 'But your houses are not yet built, sir!' they used to say.
'Very good,' said I, 'promise me that as soon as they are finished you
will come and live in them.'

"Luckily, sir, I obtained a decision to the effect that the whole of
the mountain side above the now deserted village was the property of
the township. The sum of money brought in by the woods on the higher
slopes paid for the building of the new houses and for the land on
which they stood. They were built forthwith; and when once one of my
refractory families was fairly settled in, the rest of them were not
slow to follow. The benefits of the change were so evident that even
the most bigoted believer in the village, which you might call
soulless as well as sunless, could not but appreciate them. The final
decision in this matter, which gave some property to the Commune, in
the possession of which we were confirmed by the Council of State,
made me a person of great importance in the canton. But what a lot of
worry there was over it!" the doctor remarked, stopping short, and
raising a hand which he let fall again--a gesture that spoke volumes.
"No one knows, as I do, the distance between the town and the
Prefecture--whence nothing comes out--and from the Prefecture to the
Council of State--where nothing can be got in.

"Well, after all," he resumed, "peace be to the powers of this world!
They yielded to my importunities, and that is saying a great deal. If
you only knew the good that came of a carelessly scrawled signature!
Why, sir, two years after I had taken these momentous trifles in hand,
and had carried the matter through to the end, every poor family in
the Commune had two cows at least, which they pastured on the mountain
side, where (without waiting this time for an authorization from the
Council of State) I had established a system of irrigation by means of
cross trenches, like those in Switzerland, Auvergne, and Limousin.
Much to their astonishment, the townspeople saw some capital meadows
springing up under their eyes, and thanks to the improvement in the
pasturage, the yield of milk was very much larger. The results of this
triumph were great indeed. Every one followed the example set by my
system of irrigation; cattle were multiplied; the area of meadow land
and every kind of out-turn increased. I had nothing to fear after
that. I could continue my efforts to improve this, as yet, untilled
corner of the earth; and to civilize those who dwelt in it, whose
minds had hitherto lain dormant.

"Well, sir, folk like us, who live out of the world, are very
talkative. If you ask us a question, there is no knowing where the
answer will come to an end; but to cut it short--there were about
seven hundred souls in the valley when I came to it, and now the
population numbers some two thousand. I had gained the good opinion of
every one in that matter of the last cretin; and when I had constantly
shown that I could rule both mildly and firmly, I became a local
oracle. I did everything that I could to win their confidence; I did
not ask for it, nor did I appear to seek it; but I tried to inspire
every one with the deepest respect for my character, by the scrupulous
way in which I always fulfilled my engagements, even when they were of
the most trifling kind. When I had pledged myself to care for the poor
creature whose death you have just witnessed, I looked after him much
more effectually than any of his previous guardians had done. He has
been fed and cared for as the adopted child of the Commune. After a
time the dwellers in the valley ended by understanding the service
which I had done them in spite of themselves, but for all that, they
still cherish some traces of that old superstition of theirs. Far be
it from me to blame them for it; has not their cult of the cretin
often furnished me with an argument when I have tried to induce those
who had possession of their faculties to help the unfortunate? But
here we are," said Benassis, when after a moment's pause he saw the
roof of his own house.

Far from expecting the slightest expression of praise or of thanks
from his listener, it appeared from his way of telling the story of
this episode in his administrative career, that he had been moved by
an unconscious desire to pour out the thoughts that filled his mind,
after the manner of folk that live very retired lives.

"I have taken the liberty of putting my horse in your stable, sir,"
said the commandant, "for which in your goodness you will perhaps
pardon me when you learn the object of my journey hither."

"Ah! yes, what is it?" asked Benassis, appearing to shake off his
preoccupied mood, and to recollect that his companion was a stranger
to him. The frankness and unreserve of his nature had led him to
accept Genestas as an acquaintance.

"I have heard of the almost miraculous recovery of M. Gravier of
Grenoble, whom you received into your house," was the soldier's
answer. "I have come to you, hoping that you will give a like
attention to my case, although I have not a similar claim to your
benevolence; and yet, I am possibly not undeserving of it. I am an old
soldier, and wounds of long standing give me no peace. It will take
you at least a week to study my condition, for the pain only comes
back at intervals, and----"

"Very good, sir," Benassis broke in; "M. Gravier's room is in
readiness. Come in."

They went into the house, the doctor flinging open the door with an
eagerness that Genestas attributed to his pleasure at receiving a
boarder.

"Jacquotte!" Benassis called out. "This gentleman will dine with us."

"But would it not be as well for us to settle about the payment?"

"Payment for what?" inquired the doctor.

"For my board. You cannot keep me and my horse as well, without----"

"If you are wealthy, you will repay me amply," Benassis replied; "and
if you are not, I will take nothing whatever."

"Nothing whatever seems to me to be too dear," said Genestas. "But,
rich or poor, will ten francs a day (not including your professional
services) be acceptable to you?"

"Nothing could be less acceptable to me than payment for the pleasure
of entertaining a visitor," the doctor answered, knitting his brows;
"and as to my advice, you shall have it if I like you, and not unless.
Rich people shall not have my time by paying for it; it belongs
exclusively to the folk here in the valley. I do not care about fame
or fortune, and I look for neither praise or gratitude from my
patients. Any money which you may pay me will go to the druggists in
Grenoble, to pay for the medicine required by the poor of the
neighborhood."

Any one who had heard the words flung out, abruptly, it is true, but
without a trace of bitterness in them, would have said to himself with
Genestas, "Here is a man made of good human clay."

"Well, then, I will pay you ten francs a day, sir," the soldier
answered, returning to the charge with wonted pertinacity, "and you
will do as you choose after that. We shall understand each other
better, now that the question is settled," he added, grasping the
doctor's hand with eager cordiality. "In spite of my ten francs, you
shall see that I am by no means a Tartar."

After this passage of arms, in which Benassis showed not the slightest
sign of a wish to appear generous or to pose as a philanthropist, the
supposed invalid entered his doctor's house. Everything within it was
in keeping with the ruinous state of the gateway, and with the
clothing worn by its owner. There was an utter disregard for
everything not essentially useful, which was visible even in the
smallest trifles. Benassis took Genestas through the kitchen, that
being the shortest way to the dining-room.

Had the kitchen belonged to an inn, it could not have been more
smoke-begrimed; and if there was a sufficiency of cooking pots within
its precincts, this lavish supply was Jacquotte's doing--Jacquotte who
had formerly been the cure's housekeeper--Jacquotte who always said
"we," and who ruled supreme over the doctor's household. If, for
instance, there was a brightly polished warming-pan above the
mantelshelf, it probably hung there because Jacquotte liked to sleep
warm of a winter night, which led her incidentally to warm her master's
sheets. He never took a thought about anything; so she was wont to say.

It was on account of a defect, which any one else would have found
intolerable, that Benassis had taken her into his service. Jacquotte
had a mind to rule the house, and a woman who would rule his house was
the very person that the doctor wanted. So Jacquotte bought and sold,
made alterations about the place, set up and took down, arranged and
disarranged everything at her own sweet will; her master had never
raised a murmur. Over the yard, the stable, the man-servant and the
kitchen, in fact, over the whole house and garden and its master,
Jacquotte's sway was absolute. She looked out fresh linen, saw to the
washing, and laid in provisions without consulting anybody. She
decided everything that went on in the house, and the date when the
pigs were to be killed. She scolded the gardener, decreed the menu at
breakfast and dinner, and went from cellar to garret, and from garret
to cellar, setting everything to rights according to her notions,
without a word of opposition of any sort or description. Benassis had
made but two stipulations--he wished to dine at six o'clock, and that
the household expenses should not exceed a certain fixed sum every
month.

A woman whom every one obeys in this way is always singing, so
Jacquotte laughed and warbled on the staircase; she was always humming
something when she was not singing, and singing when she was not
humming. Jacquotte had a natural liking for cleanliness, so she kept
the house neat and clean. If her tastes had been different, it would
have been a sad thing for M. Benassis (so she was wont to say), for
the poor man was so little particular that you might feed him on
cabbage for partridges, and he would not find it out; and if it were
not for her, he would very often wear the same shirt for a week on
end. Jacquotte, however, was an indefatigable folder of linen, a born
rubber and polisher of furniture, and a passionate lover of a
perfectly religious and ceremonial cleanliness of the most scrupulous,
the most radiant, and most fragrant kind. A sworn foe to dust, she
swept and scoured and washed without ceasing.

The condition of the gateway caused her acute distress. On the first
day of every month for the past ten years, she had extorted from her
master a promise that he would replace the gate with a new one, that
the walls of the house should be lime-washed, and that everything
should be made quite straight and proper about the place; but so far,
the master had not kept his word. So it happened that whenever she
fell to lamenting over Benassis' deeply-rooted carelessness about
things, she nearly always ended solemnly in these words with which all
her praises of her master usually terminated:

"You cannot say that he is a fool, because he works such miracles, as
you may say, in the place; but, all the same, he is a fool at times,
such a fool that you have to do everything for him as if he were a
child."

Jacquotte loved the house as if it had belonged to her; and when she
had lived in it for twenty-two years, had she not some grounds for
deluding herself on that head? After the cure's death the house had
been for sale; and Benassis, who had only just come into the country,
had bought it as it stood, with the walls about it and the ground
belonging to it, together with the plate, wine, and furniture, the old
sundial, the poultry, the horse, and the woman-servant. Jacquotte was
the very pattern of a working housekeeper, with her clumsy figure, and
her bodice, always of the same dark brown print with large red spots
on it, which fitted her so tightly that it looked as if the material
must give way if she moved at all. Her colorless face, with its double
chin, looked out from under a round plaited cap, which made her look
paler than she really was. She talked incessantly, and always in a
loud voice--this short, active woman, with the plump, busy hands.
Indeed, if Jacquotte was silent for a moment, and took a corner of her
apron so as to turn it up in a triangle, it meant that a lengthy
expostulation was about to be delivered for the benefit of master or
man. Jacquotte was beyond all doubt the happiest cook in the kingdom;
for, that nothing might be lacking in a measure of felicity as great
as may be known in this world below, her vanity was continually
gratified--the townspeople regarded her as an authority of an
indefinite kind, and ranked her somewhere between the mayor and the
park-keeper.

The master of the house found nobody in the kitchen when he entered
it.

"Where the devil are they all gone?" he asked. "Pardon me for bringing
you in this way," he went on, turning to Genestas. "The front entrance
opens into the garden, but I am so little accustomed to receive
visitors that--Jacquotte!" he called in rather peremptory tones.

A woman's voice answered to the name from the interior of the house. A
moment later Jacquotte, assuming the offensive, called in her turn to
Benassis, who forthwith went into the dining-room.

"Just like you, sir!" she exclaimed; "you never do like anybody else.
You always ask people to dinner without telling me beforehand, and you
think that everything is settled as soon as you have called for
Jacquotte! You are not going to have the gentleman sit in the kitchen,
are you? Is not the salon to be unlocked and a fire to be lighted?
Nicolle is there, and will see after everything. Now take the
gentleman into the garden for a minute; that will amuse him; if he
likes to look at pretty things, show him the arbor of hornbeam trees
that the poor dear old gentleman made. I shall have time then to lay
the cloth, and to get everything ready, the dinner and the salon too."

"Yes. But, Jacquotte," Benassis went on, "the gentleman is going to
stay with us. Do not forget to give a look round M. Gravier's room,
and see about the sheets and things, and----"

"Now you are not going to interfere about the sheets, are you?" asked
Jacquotte. "If he is to sleep here, I know what must be done for him
perfectly well. You have not so much as set foot in M. Gravier's room
these ten months past. There is nothing to see there, the place is as
clean as a new pin. Then will the gentleman make some stay here?" she
continued in a milder tone.

"Yes."

"How long will he stay?"

"Faith, I do not know: What does it matter to you?"

"What does it matter to me, sir? Oh! very well, what does it matter to
me? Did any one ever hear the like! And the provisions and all that
and----"

At any other time she would have overwhelmed her master with
reproaches for his breach of trust, but now she followed him into the
kitchen before the torrent of words had come to an end. She had
guessed that there was a prospect of a boarder, and was eager to see
Genestas, to whom she made a very deferential courtesy, while she
scanned him from head to foot. A thoughtful and dejected expression
gave a harsh look to the soldier's face. In the dialogue between
master and servant the latter had appeared to him in the light of a
nonentity; and although he regretted the fact, this revelation had
lessened the high opinion that he had formed of the man whose
persistent efforts to save the district from the horrors of cretinism
had won his admiration.

"I do not like the looks of that fellow at all!" said Jacquotte to
herself.

"If you are not tired, sir," said the doctor to his supposed patient,
"we will take a turn round the garden before dinner."

"Willingly," answered the commandant.

They went through the dining-room, and reached the garden by way of a
sort of vestibule at the foot of the staircase between the salon and
the dining-room. Beyond a great glass door at the farther end of the
vestibule lay a flight of stone steps which adorned the garden side of
the house. The garden itself was divided into four large squares of
equal size by two paths that intersected each other in the form of a
cross, a box edging along their sides. At the farther end there was a
thick, green alley of hornbeam trees, which had been the joy and pride
of the late owner. The soldier seated himself on a worm-eaten bench,
and saw neither the trellis-work nor the espaliers, nor the vegetables
of which Jacquotte took such great care. She followed the traditions
of the epicurean churchman to whom this valuable garden owed its
origin; but Benassis himself regarded it with sufficient indifference.

The commandant turned their talk from the trivial matters which had
occupied them by saying to the doctor:

"How comes it, sir, that the population of the valley has been trebled
in ten years? There were seven hundred souls in it when you came, and
to-day you say that they number more than two thousand."

"You are the first person who has put that question to me," the doctor
answered. "Though it has been my aim to develop the capabilities of
this little corner of the earth to the utmost, the constant pressure
of a busy life has not left me time to think over the way in which
(like the mendicant brother) I have made 'broth from a flint' on a
large scale. M. Gravier himself, who is one of several who have done a
great deal for us, and to whom I was able to render a service by
re-establishing his health, has never given a thought to the theory,
though he has been everywhere over our mountain sides with me, to see
its practical results."

There was a moment's silence, during which Benassis followed his own
thoughts, careless of the keen glance by which his guest friend tried
to fathom him.

"You ask how it came about, my dear sir?" the doctor resumed. "It came
about quite naturally through the working of the social law by which
the need and the means of supplying it are correlated. Herein lies the
whole story. Races who have no wants are always poor. When I first
came to live here in this township, there were about a hundred and
thirty peasant families in it, and some two hundred hearths in the
valley. The local authorities were such as might be expected in the
prevailing wretchedness of the population. The mayor himself could not
write, and the deputy-mayor was a small farmer, who lived beyond the
limits of the Commune. The justice of the peace was a poor devil who
had nothing but his salary, and who was forced to relinquish the
registration of births, marriages, and deaths to his clerk, another
hapless wretch who was scarcely able to understand his duties. The old
cure had died at the age of seventy, and his curate, a quite
uneducated man, had just succeeded to his position. These people
comprised all the intelligence of the district over which they ruled.

"Those who dwelt amidst these lovely natural surroundings groveled in
squalor and lived upon potatoes, milk, butter, and cheese. The only
produce that brought in any money was the cheese, which most of them
carried in small baskets to Grenoble or its outskirts. The richer or
the more energetic among them sowed buckwheat for home consumption;
sometimes they raised a crop of barley or oats, but wheat was unknown.
The only trader in the place was the mayor, who owned a sawmill and
bought up timber at a low price to sell again. In the absence of
roads, his tree trunks had to be transported during the summer season;
each log was dragged along one at a time, and with no small
difficulty, by means of a chain attached to a halter about his horse's
neck, and an iron hook at the farther end of the chain, which was
driven into the wood. Any one who went to Grenoble, whether on
horseback or afoot, was obliged to follow a track high up on the
mountain side, for the valley was quite impassable. The pretty road
between this place and the first village that you reach as you come
into the canton (the way along which you must have come) was nothing
but a slough at all seasons of the year.

"Political events and revolutions had never reached this inaccessible
country--it lay completely beyond the limits of social stir and
change. Napoleon's name, and his alone, had penetrated hither; he is
held in great veneration, thanks to one or two old soldiers who have
returned to their native homes, and who of evenings tell marvelous
tales about his adventures and his armies for the benefit of these
simple folk. Their coming back is, moreover, a puzzle that no one can
explain. Before I came here, the young men who went into the army all
stayed in it for good. This fact in itself is a sufficient revelation
of the wretched condition of the country. I need not give you a
detailed description of it.

"This, then, was the state of things when I first came to the canton,
which has several contented, well-tilled, and fairly prosperous
communes belonging to it upon the other side of the mountains. I will
say nothing about the hovels in the town; they were neither more nor
less than stables, in which men and animals were indiscriminately
huddled together. As there was no inn in the place, I was obliged to
ask the curate for a bed, he being in possession, for the time being,
of this house, then offered for sale. Putting to him question after
question, I came to have some slight knowledge of the lamentable
condition of the country with the pleasant climate, the fertile soil,
and the natural productiveness that had impressed me so much.

"At that time, sir, I was seeking to shape a future for myself that
should be as little as possible like the troubled life that had left
me weary; and one of those thoughts came into my mind that God gives
us at times, to enable us to take up our burdens and bear them. I
resolved to develop all the resources of this country, just as a tutor
develops the capacities of a child. Do not think too much of my
benevolence; the pressing need that I felt for turning my thoughts
into fresh channels entered too much into my motives. I had determined
to give up the remainder of my life to some difficult task. A lifetime
would be required to bring about the needful changes in a canton that
Nature had made so wealthy, and man so poor; and I was tempted by the
practical difficulties that stood in the way. As soon as I found that
I could secure the cure's house and plenty of waste land at a small
cost, I solemnly devoted myself to the calling of a country surgeon
--the very last position that a man aspires to take. I determined to
become the friend of the poor, and to expect no reward of any kind
from them. Oh! I did not indulge in any illusions as to the nature of
the country people, nor as to the hindrances that lie in the way of
every attempt to bring about a better state of things among men or
their surroundings. I have never made idyllic pictures of my people; I
have taken them at their just worth--as poor peasants, neither wholly
good nor wholly bad, whose constant toil never allows them to indulge
in emotion, though they can feel acutely at times. Above all things,
in fact, I clearly understood that I should do nothing with them
except through an appeal to their selfish interests, and by schemes
for their immediate well-being. The peasants are one and all the sons
of St. Thomas, the doubting apostle--they always like words to be
supported by visible facts.

"Perhaps you will laugh at my first start, sir," the doctor went on
after a pause. "I began my difficult enterprise by introducing the
manufacture of baskets. The poor folks used to buy the wicker mats on
which they drain their cheeses, and all the baskets needed for the
insignificant trade of the district. I suggested to an intelligent
young fellow that he might take a lease on a good-sized piece of land
by the side of the torrent. Every year the floods deposited a rich
alluvial soil on this spot, where there should be no difficulty in
growing osiers. I reckoned out the quantity of wicker-work of various
kinds required from time to time by the canton, and went over to
Grenoble, where I found a young craftsman, a clever worker, but
without any capital. When I had discovered him, I soon made up my mind
to set him up in business here. I undertook to advance the money for
the osiers required for his work until my osier-farmer should be in a
position to supply him. I induced him to sell his baskets at rather
lower prices than they asked for them in Grenoble, while, at the same
time, they were better made. He entered into my views completely. The
osier-beds and the basket-making were two business speculations whose
results were only appreciated after a lapse of four years. Of course,
you know that osiers must be three years old before they are fit to
cut.

"At the commencement of operations, the basket-maker was boarded and
lodged gratuitously. Before very long he married a woman from Saint
Laurent du Pont, who had a little money. Then he had a house built, in
a healthy and very airy situation which I chose, and my advice was
followed as to the internal arrangements. Here was a triumph! I had
created a new industry, and had brought a producer and several workers
into the town. I wonder if you will regard my elations as childish?

"For the first few days after my basket-maker had set up his business,
I never went past his shop but my heart beat somewhat faster. And when
I saw the newly-built house, with the green-painted shutters, the vine
beside the doorway, and the bench and bundles of osiers before it;
when I saw a tidy, neatly-dressed woman within it, nursing a plump,
pink and white baby among the workmen, who were singing merrily and
busily plaiting their wicker-work under the superintendence of a man
who but lately had looked so pinched and pale, but now had an
atmosphere of prosperity about him; when I saw all this, I confess
that I could not forego the pleasure of turning basket-maker for a
moment, of going into the shop to hear how things went with them, and
of giving myself up to a feeling of content that I cannot express in
words, for I had all their happiness as well as my own to make me
glad. All my hopes became centered on this house, where the man dwelt
who had been the first to put a steady faith in me. Like the
basket-maker's wife, clasping her first nursling to her breast, did
not I already fondly cherish the hopes of the future of this poor
district?

"I had to do so many things at once," he went on, "I came into
collision with other people's notions, and met with violent
opposition, fomented by the ignorant mayor to whose office I had
succeeded, and whose influence had dwindled away as mine increased. I
determined to make him my deputy and a confederate in my schemes of
benevolence. Yes, in the first place, I endeavored to instil
enlightened ideas into the densest of all heads. Through his self-love
and cupidity I gained a hold upon my man. During six months as we
dined together, I took him deeply into my confidence about my
projected improvements. Many people would think this intimacy one of
the most painful inflictions in the course of my task; but was he not
a tool of the most valuable kind? Woe to him who despises his axe, or
flings it carelessly aside! Would it not have been very inconsistent,
moreover, if I, who wished to improve a district, had shrunk back at
the thought of improving one man in it?

"A road was our first and most pressing need in bringing about a
better state of things. If we could obtain permission from the
Municipal Council to make a hard road, so as to put us in
communication with the highway to Grenoble, the deputy-mayor would be
the first gainer by it; for instead of dragging his timber over rough
tracks at a great expense, a good road through the canton would enable
him to transport it more easily, and to engage in a traffic on a large
scale, in all kinds of wood, that would bring in money--not a
miserable six hundred francs a year, but handsome sums which would
mean a certain fortune for him some day. Convinced at last, he became
my proselytizer.

"Through the whole of one winter the ex-mayor got into the way of
explaining to our citizens that a good road for wheeled traffic would
be a source of wealth to the whole country round, for it would enable
every one to do a trade with Grenoble; he held forth on this head at
the tavern while drinking with his intimates. When the Municipal
Council had authorized the making of the road, I went to the prefect
and obtained some money from the charitable funds at the disposal of
the department, in order to pay for the hire of carts, for the Commune
was unable to undertake the transport of road metal for lack of
wheeled conveyances. The ignorant began to murmur against me, and to
say that I wanted to bring the days of the corvee back again; this
made me anxious to finish this important work, that they might
speedily appreciate its benefits. With this end in view, every Sunday
during my first year of office I drew the whole population of the
township, willing or unwilling, up on to the mountain, where I myself
had traced out on a hard bottom the road between our village and the
highway to Grenoble. Materials for making it were fortunately to be
had in plenty along the site.

"The tedious enterprise called for a great deal of patience on my
part. Some who were ignorant of the law would refuse at times to give
their contribution of labor; others again, who had not bread to eat,
really could not afford to lose a day. Corn had to be distributed
among these last, and the others must be soothed with friendly words.
Yet by the time we had finished two-thirds of the road, which in all
is about two leagues in length, the people had so thoroughly
recognized its advantages that the remaining third was accomplished
with a spirit that surprised me. I added to the future wealth of the
Commune by planting a double row of poplars along the ditch on either
side of the way. The trees are already almost worth a fortune, and
they make our road look like a king's highway. It is almost always
dry, by reason of its position, and it was so well made that the
annual cost of maintaining it is a bare two hundred francs. I must
show it to you, for you cannot have seen it; you must have come by the
picturesque way along the valley bottom, a road which the people
decided to make for themselves three years later, so as to connect the
various farms that were made there at that time. In three years ideas
had rooted themselves in the common sense of this township, hitherto
so lacking in intelligence that a passing traveler would perhaps have
thought it hopeless to attempt to instil them. But to continue.

"The establishment of the basket-maker was an example set before these
poverty-stricken folk that they might profit by it. And if the road
was to be a direct cause of the future wealth of the canton, all the
primary forms of industry must be stimulated, or these two germs of a
better state of things would come to nothing. My own work went forward
by slow degrees, as I helped my osier farmer and wicker-worker and saw
to the making of the road.

"I had two horses, and the timber merchant, the deputy-mayor, had
three. He could only have them shod whenever he went over to Grenoble,
so I induced a farrier to take up his abode here, and undertook to
find him plenty of work. On the same day I met with a discharged
soldier, who had nothing but his pension of a hundred francs, and was
sufficiently perplexed about his future. He could read and write, so I
engaged him as secretary to the mayor; as it happened, I was lucky
enough to find a wife for him, and his dreams of happiness were
fulfilled.

"Both of these new families needed houses, as well as the basket-maker
and twenty-two others from the cretin village, soon afterwards twelve
more households were established in the place. The workers in each of
these families were at once producers and consumers. They were masons,
carpenters, joiners, slaters, blacksmiths, and glaziers; and there was
work enough to last them for a long time, for had they not their own
houses to build when they had finished those for other people?
Seventy, in fact, were build in the Commune during my second year of
office. One form of production demands another. The additions to the
population of the township had created fresh wants, hitherto unknown
among these dwellers in poverty. The wants gave rise to industries,
and industries to trade, and the gains of trade raised the standard of
comfort, which in its turn gave them practical ideas.

"The various workmen wished to buy their bread ready baked, so we came
to have a baker. Buckwheat could no longer be the food of a population
which, awakened from its lethargy, had become essentially active. They
lived on buckwheat when I first came among them, and I wished to
effect a change to rye, or a mixture of rye and wheat in the first
instance, and finally to see a loaf of white bread even in the poorest
household. Intellectual progress, to my thinking, was entirely
dependent on a general improvement in the conditions of life. The
presence of a butcher in the district says as much for its
intelligence as for its wealth. The worker feeds himself, and a man
who feeds himself thinks. I had made a very careful study of the soil,
for I foresaw a time when it would be necessary to grow wheat. I was
sure of launching the place in a very prosperous agricultural career,
and of doubling the population, when once it had begun to work. And
now the time had come.

"M. Gravier, of Grenoble, owned a great deal of land in the commune,
which brought him in no rent, but which might be turned into
corn-growing land. He is the head of a department in the Prefecture,
as you know. It was a kindness for his own countryside quite as much
as my earnest entreaties that won him over. He had very benevolently
yielded to my importunities on former occasions, and I succeeded in
making it clear to him that in so doing he had wrought unconsciously
for his own benefit. After several days spent in pleadings,
consultation, and talk, the matter was thrashed out. I undertook to
guarantee him against all risks in the undertaking, from which his
wife, a woman of no imagination, sought to frighten him. He agreed to
build four farmhouses with a hundred acres of land attached to each,
and promised to advance the sums required to pay for clearing the
ground, for seeds, ploughing gear, and cattle, and for making
occupation roads.

"I myself also started two farms, quite as much for the sake of
bringing my waste land into cultivation as with a view to giving an
object-lesson in the use of modern methods in agriculture. In six
weeks' time the population of the town increased to three hundred
people. Homes for several families must be built on the six farms;
there was a vast quantity of land to be broken up; the work called for
laborers. Wheelwrights, drainmakers, journeymen, and laborers of all
kinds flocked in. The road to Grenoble was covered with carts that
came and went. All the countryside was astir. The circulation of money
had made every one anxious to earn it, apathy had ceased, the place
had awakened.

"The story of M. Gravier, one of those who did so much for this
canton, can be concluded in a few words. In spite of cautious
misgivings, not unnatural in a man occupying an official position in a
provincial town, he advanced more than forty thousand francs, on the
faith of my promises, without knowing whether he should ever see them
back again. To-day every one of his farms is let for a thousand
francs. His tenants have thriven so well that each of them owns at
least a hundred acres, three hundred sheep, twenty cows, ten oxen, and
five horses, and employs more than twenty persons.

"But to resume. Our farms were ready by the end of the fourth year.
Our wheat harvest seemed miraculous to the people in the district,
heavy as the first crop off the land ought to be. How often during
that year I trembled for the success of my work! Rain or drought might
spoil everything by diminishing the belief in me that was already
felt. When we began to grow wheat, it necessitated the mill that you
have seen, which brings me in about five hundred francs a year. So the
peasants say that 'there is luck about me' (that is the way they put
it), and believe in me as they believe in their relics. These new
undertakings--the farms, the mill, the plantations, and the roads
--have given employment to all the various kinds of workers whom I had
called in. Although the buildings fully represent the value of the
sixty thousand francs of capital, which we sunk in the district, the
outlay was more than returned to us by the profits on the sales which
the consumers occasioned. I never ceased my efforts to put vigor into
this industrial life which was just beginning. A nurseryman took my
advice and came to settle in the place, and I preached wholesome
doctrine to the poor concerning the planting of fruit trees, in order
that some day they should obtain a monopoly of the sale of fruit in
Grenoble.

"'You take your cheeses there as it is,' I used to tell them, 'why
not take poultry, eggs, vegetables, game, hay and straw, and so
forth?' All my counsels were a source of fortune; it was a question of
who should follow them first. A number of little businesses were
started; they went on at first but slowly, but from day to day their
progress became more rapid; and now sixty carts full of the various
products of the district set out every Monday for Grenoble, and there
is more buckwheat grown for poultry food than they used to sow for
human consumption. The trade in timber grew to be so considerable that
it was subdivided, and since the fourth year of our industrial era, we
have had dealers in firewood, squared timber, planks, bark, and later
on, in charcoal. In the end four new sawmills were set up, to turn out
the planks and beams of timber.

"When the ex-mayor had acquired a few business notions, he felt the
necessity of learning to read and write. He compared the prices that
were asked for wood in various neighborhoods, and found such
differences in his favor, that he secured new customers in one place
after another, and now a third of the trade in the department passes
through his hands. There has been such a sudden increase in our
traffic that we find constant work for three wagon-builders and two
harness-makers, each of them employing three hands at least. Lastly,
the quantity of ironware that we use is so large that an agricultural
implement and tool-maker has removed into the town, and is very well
satisfied with the result.

"The desire of gain develops a spirit of ambition, which has ever
since impelled our workers to extend their field from the township to
the canton, and from the canton to the department, so as to increase
their profits by increasing their sales. I had only to say a word to
point out new openings to them, and their own sense did the rest. Four
years had been sufficient to change the face of the township. When I
had come through it first, I did not catch the slightest sound; but in
less than five years from that time, there was life and bustle
everywhere. The gay songs, the shrill or murmuring sounds made by the
tools in the workshops rang pleasantly in my ears. I watched the
comings and goings of a busy population congregated in the clean and
wholesome new town, where plenty of trees had been planted. Every one
of them seemed conscious of a happy lot, every face shone with the
content that comes through a life of useful toil.

"I look upon these five years as the first epoch of prosperity in the
history of our town," the doctor went on after a pause. "During that
time I have prepared the ground and sowed the seed in men's minds as
well as in the land. Henceforward industrial progress could not be
stayed, the population was bound to go forward. A second epoch was
about to begin. This little world very soon desired to be better clad.
A shoemaker came, and with him a haberdasher, a tailor, and a hatter.
This dawn of luxury brought us a butcher and a grocer, and a midwife,
who became very necessary to me, for I lost a great deal of time over
maternity cases. The stubbed wastes yielded excellent harvests, and
the superior quality of our agricultural produce was maintained
through the increased supply of manure. My enterprise could now
develop itself; everything followed on quite naturally.

"When the houses had been rendered wholesome, and their inmates
gradually persuaded to feed and clothe themselves better, I wanted the
dumb animals to feel the benefit of these beginnings of civilization.
All the excellence of cattle, whether as a race or as individuals,
and, in consequence, the quality of the milk and meat, depends upon
the care that is expended upon them. I took the sanitation of cowsheds
for the text of my sermons. I showed them how an animal that is
properly housed and well cared for is more profitable than a lean
neglected beast, and the comparison wrought a gradual change for the
better in the lot of the cattle in the Commune. Not one of them was
ill treated. The cows and oxen were rubbed down as in Switzerland and
Auvergne. Sheep-folds, stables, byres, dairies, and barns were rebuilt
after the pattern of the roomy, well-ventilated, and consequently
healthy steadings that M. Gravier and I had constructed. Our tenants
became my apostles. They made rapid converts of unbelievers,
demonstrating the soundness of my doctrines by their prompt results. I
lent money to those who needed it, giving the preference to
hardworking poor people, because they served as an example. Any
unsound or sickly cattle or beasts of poor quality were quickly
disposed of by my advice, and replaced by fine specimens. In this way
our dairy produce came, in time, to command higher prices in the
market than that sent by other communes. We had splendid herds, and as
a consequence, capital leather.

"This step forward was of great importance, and in this wise. In rural
economy nothing can be regarded as trifling. Our hides used to fetch
scarcely anything, and the leather we made was of little value, but
when once our leather and hides were improved, tanneries were easily
established along the waterside. We became tanners, and business
rapidly increased.

"Wine, properly speaking, had been hitherto unknown; a thin, sour
beverage like verjuice had been their only drink, but now wineshops
were established to supply a natural demand. The oldest tavern was
enlarged and transformed into an inn, which furnished mules to
pilgrims to the Grand Chartreuse who began to come our way, and after
two years there was just enough business for two innkeepers.

"The justice of the peace died just as our second prosperous epoch
began, and luckily for us, his successor had formerly been a notary in
Grenoble who had lost most of his fortune by a bad speculation, though
enough of it yet remained to cause him to be looked upon in the
village as a wealthy man. It was M. Gravier who induced him to settle
among us. He built himself a comfortable house and helped me by
uniting his efforts to mine. He also laid out a farm, and broke up and
cleaned some of the waste land, and at this moment he has three
chalets up above on the mountain side. He has a large family. He
dismissed the old registrar and the clerk, and in their place
installed better-educated men, who worked far harder, moreover, than
their predecessors had done. One of the heads of these two new
households started a distillery of potato-spirit, and the other was a
wool-washer; each combined these occupations with his official work,
and in this way two valuable industries were created among us.

"Now that the Commune had some revenues of its own, no opposition was
raised in any quarter when they were spent on building a town-hall,
with a free school for elementary education in the building and
accommodation for a teacher. For this important post I had selected a
poor priest who had taken the oath, and had therefore been cast out by
the department, and who at last found a refuge among us for his old
age. The schoolmistress is a very worthy woman who had lost all that
she had, and was in great distress. We made up a nice little sum for
her, and she has just opened a boarding-school for girls to which the
wealthy farmers hereabouts are beginning to send their daughters.

"If so far, sir, I have been entitled to tell you the story of my own
doings as the chronicle of this little spot of earth, I have reached
the point where M. Janvier, the new parson, began to divide the work
of regeneration with me. He has been a second Fenelon, unknown beyond
the narrow limits of a country parish, and by some secret of his own
has infused a spirit of brotherliness and of charity among these folk
that has made them almost like one large family. M. Dufau, the justice
of the peace, was a late comer, but he in an equal degree deserves the
gratitude of the people here.

"I will put the whole position before you in figures that will make it
clearer than any words of mine. At this moment the Commune owns two
hundred acres of woodland, and a hundred and sixty acres of meadow.
Without running up the rates, we give a hundred crowns to supplement
the cure's stipend, we pay two hundred francs to the rural policeman,
and as much again to the schoolmaster and schoolmistress. The
maintenance of the roads costs us five hundred francs, while necessary
repairs to the townhall, the parsonage, and the church, with some few
other expenses, also amount to a similar sum. In fifteen years' time
there will be a thousand francs worth of wood to fell for every
hundred francs' worth cut now, and the taxes will not cost the
inhabitants a penny. This Commune is bound to become one of the
richest in France. But perhaps I am taxing your patience, sir?" said
Benassis, suddenly discovering that his companion wore such a pensive
expression that it seemed as though his attention was wandering.

"No! no!" answered the commandant.

"Our trade, handicrafts, and agriculture so far only supplied the
needs of the district," the doctor went on. "At a certain point our
prosperity came to a standstill. I wanted a post-office, and sellers
of tobacco, stationery, powder and shot. The receiver of taxes had
hitherto preferred to live elsewhere, but now I succeeded in
persuading him to take up his abode in the town, holding out as
inducements the pleasantness of the place and of the new society. As
time and place permitted I had succeeded in producing a supply of
everything for which I had first created a need, in attracting
families of hardworking people into the district, and in implanting a
desire to own land in them all. So by degrees, as they saved a little
money, the waste land began to be broken up; spade husbandry and small
holdings increased; so did the value of property on the mountain.

"Those struggling folk who, when I knew them first, used to walk over
to Grenoble carrying their few cheeses for sale, now made the journey
comfortably in a cart, and took fruit, eggs, chickens and turkeys, and
before they were aware of it, everyone was a little richer. Even those
who came off worst had a garden at any rate, and grew early vegetables
and fruit. It became the children's work to watch the cattle in the
fields, and at last it was found to be a waste of time to bake bread
at home. Here were signs of prosperity!

"But if this place was to be a permanent forge of industry, fuel must
be constantly added to the fire. The town had not as yet a renascent
industry which could maintain this commercial process, an industry
which should make great transactions, a warehouse, and a market
necessary. It is not enough that a country should lose none of the
money that forms its capital; you will not increase its prosperity by
more or less ingenious devices for causing this amount to circulate,
by means of production and consumption, through the greatest possible
number of hands. That is not where your problem lies. When a country
is fully developed and its production keeps pace with its consumption,
if private wealth is to increase as well as the wealth of the
community at large, there must be exchanges with other communities,
which will keep a balance on the right side of the balance-sheet. This
thought has let states with a limited territorial basis like Tyre,
Carthage, Venice, Holland, and England, for instance, to secure the
carrying trade. I cast about for some such notion as this to apply to
our little world, so as to inaugurate a third commercial epoch. Our
town is so much like any other, that our prosperity was scarcely
visible to a passing stranger; it was only for me that it was
astonishing. The folk had come together by degrees; they themselves
were a part of the change, and could not judge of its effects as a
whole.

"Seven years had gone by when I met with two strangers, the real
benefactors of the place, which perhaps some day they will transform
into a large town. One of them is a Tyrolese, an exceedingly clever
fellow, who makes rough shoes for country people's wear, and boots for
people of fashion in Grenoble as no one can make them, not even in
Paris itself. He was a poor strolling musician, who, singing and
working, had made his way through Italy; one of those busy Germans who
fashion the tools of their own work, and make the instrument that they
play upon. When he came to the town he asked if any one wanted a pair
of shoes. They sent him to me, and I gave him an order for two pairs
of boots, for which he made his own lasts. The foreigner's skill
surprised me. He gave accurate and consistent answers to the questions
I put, and his face and manner confirmed the good opinion I had formed
of him. I suggested that he should settle in the place, undertaking to
assist him in business in every way that I could; in fact, I put a
fairly large sum of money at his disposal. He accepted my offer. I had
my own ideas in this. The quality of our leather had improved; and why
should we not use it ourselves, and before very long make our own
shoes at moderate prices?

"It was the basket-maker's business over again on a larger scale.
Chance had put an exceedingly clever hard-working man in my way, and
he must be retained so that a steady and profitable trade might be
given to the place. There is a constant demand for foot-gear, and a
very slight difference in price is felt at once by the purchaser.

"This was my reasoning, sir, and fortunately events have justified it.
At this time we have five tanyards, each of which has its bark-mill.
They take all the hides produced in the department itself, and even
draw part of their supply from Provence; and yet the Tyrolese uses
more leather than they can produce, and has forty work-people in his
employ!

"I happened on the other man after a fashion no whit less strange, but
you might find the story tedious. He is just an ordinary peasant, who
discovered a cheaper way of making the great broad-brimmed hats that
are worn in this part of the world. He sells them in other cantons,
and even sends them into Switzerland and Savoy. So long as the quality
and the low prices can be maintained, here are two inexhaustible
sources of wealth for the canton, which suggested to my mind the idea
of establishing three fairs in the year. The prefect, amazed at our
industrial progress, lent his aid in obtaining the royal ordinance
which authorized them, and last year we held our three fairs. They are
known as far as Savoy as the Shoe Fair and the Hat Fair.

"The head clerk of a notary in Grenoble heard of these changes. He was
poor, but he was a well-educated, hardworking young fellow, and Mlle.
Gravier was engaged to be married to him. He went to Paris to ask for
an authorization to establish himself here as a notary, and his
request was granted. As he had not to pay for his appointment, he
could afford to build a house in the market square of the new town,
opposite the house of the justice of the peace. We have a market once
a week, and a considerable amount of business is transacted in corn
and cattle.

"Next year a druggist surely ought to come among us, and next we want
a clockmaker, a furniture dealer, and a bookseller; and so, by
degrees, we shall have all the desirable luxuries of life. Who knows
but that at last we shall have a number of substantial houses, and
give ourselves all the airs of a small city? Education has made such
strides that there has never been any opposition made at the
council-board when I proposed that we should restore our church and
build a parsonage; nor when I brought forward a plan for laying out a
fine open space, planted with trees, where the fairs could be held,
and a further scheme for a survey of the township, so that its future
streets should be wholesome, spacious, and wisely planned.

"This is how we came to have nineteen hundred hearths in the place of
a hundred and thirty-seven; three thousand head of cattle instead of
eight hundred; and for a population of seven hundred, no less than two
thousand persons are living in the township, or three thousand, if the
people down the valley are included. There are twelve houses belonging
to wealthy people in the Commune, there are a hundred well-to-do
families, and two hundred more which are thriving. The rest have their
own exertions to look to. Every one knows how to read and write, and
we subscribe to seventeen different newspapers.

"We have poor people still among us--there are far too many of them,
in fact; but we have no beggars, and there is work enough for all. I
have so many patients that my daily round taxes the powers of two
horses. I can go anywhere for five miles round at any hour without
fear; for if any one was minded to fire a shot at me, his life would
not be worth ten minutes' purchase. The undemonstrative affection of
the people is my sole gain from all these changes, except the radiant
'Good-day, M. Benassis,' that every one gives me as I pass. You will
understand, of course, that the wealth incidentally acquired through
my model farms has only been a means and not an end."

"If every one followed your example in other places, sir, France would
be great indeed, and might laugh at the rest of Europe!" cried
Genestas enthusiastically.

"But I have kept you out here for half an hour," said Benassis; "it is
growing dark, let us go in to dinner."



The doctor's house, on the side facing the garden, consists of a
ground floor and a single story, with a row of five windows in each,
dormer windows also project from the tiled mansard-roof. The
green-painted shutters are in startling contrast with the gray tones
of the walls. A vine wanders along the whole side of the house, a
pleasant strip of green like a frieze, between the two stories. A
few struggling Bengal roses make shift to live as best they may,
half drowned at times by the drippings from the gutterless eaves.

As you enter the large vestibule, the salon lies to your right; it
contains four windows, two of which look into the yard, and two into
the garden. Ceiling and wainscot are paneled, and the walls are hung
with seventeenth century tapestry--pathetic evidence that the room had
been the object of the late owner's aspiration, and that he had
lavished all that he could spare upon it. The great roomy armchairs,
covered with brocaded damask; the old fashioned, gilded candle-sconces
above the chimney-piece, and the window curtains with their heavy
tassels, showed that the cure had been a wealthy man. Benassis had
made some additions to this furniture, which was not without a
character of its own. He had placed two smaller tables, decorated with
carved wooden garlands, between the windows on opposite sides of the
room, and had put a clock, in a case of tortoise shell, inlaid with
copper, upon the mantel-shelf. The doctor seldom occupied the salon;
its atmosphere was damp and close, like that of a room that is always
kept shut. Memories of the dead cure still lingered about it; the
peculiar scent of his tobacco seemed to pervade the corner by the
hearth where he had been wont to sit. The two great easy-chairs were
symmetrically arranged on either side of the fire, which had not been
lighted since the time of M. Gravier's visit; the bright flames from
the pine logs lighted the room.

"The evenings are chilly even now," said Benassis; "it is pleasant to
see a fire."

Genestas was meditating. He was beginning to understand the doctor's
indifference to his every-day surroundings.

"It is surprising to me, sir, that you, who possess real public
spirit, should have made no effort to enlighten the Government, after
accomplishing so much."

Benassis began to laugh, but without bitterness; he said, rather
sadly:

"You mean that I should draw up some sort of memorial on various ways
of civilizing France? You are not the first to suggest it, sir; M.
Gravier has forestalled you. Unluckily, Governments cannot be
enlightened, and a Government which regards itself as a diffuser of
light is the least open to enlightenment. What we have done for our
canton, every mayor ought, of course, to do for his; the magistrate
should work for his town, the sub-prefect for his district, the
prefect for the department, and the minister for France, each acting
in his own sphere of interest. For the few miles of country road that
I persuaded our people to make, another would succeed in constructing
a canal or a highway; and for my encouragement of the peasants' trade
in hats, a minister would emancipate France from the industrial yoke
of the foreigner by encouraging the manufacture of clocks in different
places, by helping to bring to perfection our iron and steel, our
tools and appliances, or by bringing silk or dyer's woad into
cultivation.

"In commerce, 'encouragement,' does not mean protection. A really wise
policy should aim at making a country independent of foreign supply,
but this should be effected without resorting to the pitiful shifts of
customs duties and prohibitions. Industries must work out their own
salvation, competition is the life of trade. A protected industry goes
to sleep, and monopoly, like the protective tariff, kills it outright.
The country upon which all others depend for their supplies will be
the land which will promulgate free trade, for it will be conscious of
its power to produce its manufactures at prices lower than those of
any of its competitors. France is in a better position to attain this
end than England, for France alone possesses an amount of territory
sufficiently extensive to maintain a supply of agricultural produce at
prices that will enable the worker to live on low wages; the
Administration should keep this end in view, for therein lies the
whole modern question. I have not devoted my life to this study, dear
sir; I found my work by accident, and late in the day. Such simple
things as these are too slight, moreover, to build into a system;
there is nothing wonderful about them, they do not lend themselves to
theories; it is their misfortune to be merely practically useful. And
then work cannot be done quickly. The man who means to succeed in
these ways must daily look to find within himself the stock of courage
needed for the day, a courage in reality of the rarest kind, though it
does not seem hard to practise, and meets with little recognition--the
courage of the schoolmaster, who must say the same things over and
over again. We all honor the man who has shed his blood on the
battlefield, as you have done; but we ridicule this other whose
life-fire is slowly consumed in repeating the same words to children
of the same age. There is no attraction for any of us in obscure
well-doing. We know nothing of the civic virtue that led the great
men of ancient times to serve their country in the lowest rank
whenever they did not command. Our age is afflicted with a disease
that makes each of us seek to rise above his fellows, and there are
more saints than shrines among us.

"This is how it has come to pass. The monarchy fell, and we lost
Honor, Christian Virtue faded with the religion of our forefathers,
and our own ineffectual attempts at government have destroyed
Patriotism. Ideas can never utterly perish, so these beliefs linger on
in our midst, but they do not influence the great mass of the people,
and Society has no support but Egoism. Every individual believes in
himself. For us the future means egoism; further than that we cannot
see. The great man who shall save us from the shipwreck which is
imminent will no doubt avail himself of individualism when he makes a
nation of us once more; but until this regeneration comes, we bide our
time in a materialistic and utilitarian age. Utilitarianism--to this
conclusion we have come. We are all rated, not at our just worth, but
according to our social importance. People will scarcely look at an
energetic man if he is in shirt-sleeves. The Government itself is
pervaded by this idea. A minister sends a paltry medal to a sailor who
has saved a dozen lives at the risk of his own, while the deputy who
sells his vote to those in power receives the Cross of the Legion of
Honor.

"Woe to a people made up of such men as these! For nations, like men,
owe all the strength and vitality that is in them to noble thoughts
and aspirations, and men's feelings shape their faith. But when
self-interest has taken the place of faith and each one of us thinks
only of himself, and believes in himself alone, how can you expect to
find among us much of that civil courage whose very essence consists
in self-renunciation? The same principle underlies both military and
civil courage, although you soldiers are called upon to yield your
lives up once and for all, while ours are given slowly drop by drop,
and the battle is the same for both, although it takes different
forms.

"The man who would fain civilize the lowliest spot on earth needs
something besides wealth for the task. Knowledge is still more
necessary; and knowledge, and patriotism, and integrity are worthless
unless they are accompanied by a firm determination on his part to set
his own personal interests completely aside, and to devote himself to
a social idea. France, no doubt, possesses more than one well-educated
man and more than one patriot in every commune; but I am fully
persuaded that not every canton can produce a man who to these
valuable qualifications unites the unflagging will and pertinacity
with which a blacksmith hammers out iron.

"The Destroyer and the Builder are two manifestations of Will; the one
prepares the way, and the other accomplishes the work; the first
appears in the guise of a spirit of evil, and the second seems like
the spirit of good. Glory falls to the Destroyer, while the Builder is
forgotten; for evil makes a noise in the world that rouses little
souls to admiration, while good deeds are slow to make themselves
heard. Self-love leads us to prefer the more conspicuous part. If it
should happen that any public work is undertaken without an interested
motive, it will only be by accident, until the day when education has
changed our ways of regarding things in France.

"Yet suppose that this change had come to pass, and that all of us
were public-spirited citizens; in spite of our comfortable lives among
trivialities, should we not be in a fair way to become the most
wearied, wearisome, and unfortunate race of philistines under the sun?

"I am not at the helm of State, the decision of great questions of
this kind is not within my province; but, setting these considerations
aside, there are other difficulties in the way of laying down hard and
fast rules as to government. In the matter of civilization, everything
is relative. Ideas that suit one country admirably are fatal in
another--men's minds are as various as the soils of the globe. If we
have so often been ill governed, it is because a faculty for
government, like taste, is the outcome of a very rare and lofty
attitude of mind. The qualifications for the work are found in a
natural bent of the soul rather than in the possession of scientific
formulae. No one need fear, however, to call himself a statesman, for
his actions and motives cannot be justly estimated; his real judges
are far away, and the results of his deeds are even more remote. We
have a great respect here in France for men of ideas--a keen intellect
exerts a great attraction for us; but ideas are of little value where
a resolute will is the one thing needful. Administration, as a matter
of fact, does not consist in forcing more or less wise methods and
ideas upon the great mass of the nation, but in giving to the ideas,
good or bad, that they already possess a practical turn which will
make them conduce to the general welfare of the State. If
old-established prejudices and customs bring a country into a bad way,
the people will renounce their errors of their own accord. Are not
losses the result of economical errors of every kind? And is it not,
therefore, to every one's interest to rectify them in the long run?

"Luckily I found a /tabula rasa/ in this district. They have followed
my advice, and the land is well cultivated; but there had been no
previous errors in agriculture, and the soil was good to begin with,
so that it has been easy to introduce the five-ply shift, artificial
grasses, and potatoes. My methods did not clash with people's
prejudices. The faultily constructed plowshares in use in some parts
of France were unknown here, the hoe sufficed for the little field
work that they did. Our wheelwright extolled my wheeled plows because
he wished to increase his own business, so I secured an ally in him;
but in this matter, as in all others, I sought to make the good of one
conduce to the good of all.

"Then I turned my attention to another kind of production, that should
increase the welfare rather than the wealth of these poor folk. I have
brought nothing from without into this district; I have simply
encouraged the people to seek beyond its limits for a market for their
produce, a measure that could not but increase their prosperity in a
way that they felt immediately. They had no idea of the fact, but they
themselves were my apostles, and their works preached my doctrines.
Something else must also be borne in mind. We are barely five leagues
from Grenoble. There is plenty of demand in a large city for produce
of all kinds, but not every commune is situated at the gates of a
city. In every similar undertaking the nature, situation, and
resources of the country must be taken into consideration, and a
careful study must be made of the soil, of the people themselves, and
of many other things; and no one should expect to have vines grow in
Normandy. So no tasks can be more various than those of government,
and its general principles must be few in number. The law is uniform,
but not so the land and the minds and customs of those who dwell in
it; and the administration of the law is the art of carrying it out in
such a manner that no injury is done to people's interests. Every
place must be considered separately.

"On the other side of the mountain at the foot of which our deserted
village lies, they find it impossible to use wheeled plows, because
the soil is not deep enough. Now if the mayor of the commune were to
take it into his head to follow in our footsteps, he would be the ruin
of his neighborhood. I advised him to plant vineyards; they had a
capital vintage last year in the little district, and their wine is
exchanged for our corn.

"Then, lastly, it must be remembered that my words carried a certain
weight with the people to whom I preached, and that we were
continually brought into close contact. I cured my peasants'
complaints; an easy task, for a nourishing diet is, as a rule, all
that is needed to restore them to health and strength. Either through
thrift, or through sheer poverty, the country people starve
themselves; any illness among them is caused in this way, and as a
rule they enjoy very fair health.

"When I first decided to devote myself to this life of obscure
renunciation, I was in doubt for a long while whether to become a
cure, a country doctor, or a justice of the peace. It is not without
reason that people speak collectively of the priest, the lawyer, and
the doctor as 'men of the black robe'--so the saying goes. They
represent the three principal elements necessary to the existence of
society--conscience, property, and health. At one time the first, and
at a later period the second, was all-important in the State. Our
predecessors on this earth thought, perhaps not without reason, that
the priest, who prescribed what men should think, ought to be
paramount; so the priest was king, pontiff, and judge in one, for in
those days belief and faith were everything. All this has been changed
in our day; and we must even take our epoch as we find it. But I, for
one, believe that the progress of civilization and the welfare of the
people depend on these three men. They are the three powers who bring
home to the people's minds the ways in which facts, interests, and
principles affect them. They themselves are three great results
produced in the midst of the nation by the operation of events, by the
ownership of property, and by the growth of ideas. Time goes on and
brings changes to pass, property increases or diminishes in men's
hands, all the various readjustments have to be duly regulated, and in
this way principles of social order are established. If civilization
is to spread itself, and production is to be increased, the people
must be made to understand the way in which the interests of the
individual harmonize with national interests which resolve themselves
into facts, interests, and principles. As these three professions are
bound to deal with these issues of human life, it seemed to me that
they must be the most powerful civilizing agencies of our time. They
alone afford to a man of wealth the opportunity of mitigating the fate
of the poor, with whom they daily bring him in contact.

"The peasant is always more willing to listen to the man who lays down
rules for saving him from bodily ills than to the priest who exhorts
him to save his soul. The first speaker can talk of this earth, the
scene of the peasant's labors, while the priest is bound to talk to
him of heaven, with which, unfortunately, the peasant nowadays
concerns himself very little indeed; I say unfortunately, because the
doctrine of a future life is not only a consolation, but a means by
which men may be governed. Is not religion the one power that
sanctions social laws? We have but lately vindicated the existence of
God. In the absence of a religion, the Government was driven to invent
the Terror, in order to carry its laws into effect; but the terror was
the fear of man, and it has passed away.

"When a peasant is ill, when he is forced to lie on his pallet, and
while he is recovering, he cannot help himself, he is forced to listen
to logical reasoning, which he can understand quite well if it is put
clearly before him. This thought made a doctor of me. My calculations
for the peasants were made along with them. I never gave advice unless
I was quite sure of the results, and in this way compelled them to
admit the wisdom of my views. The people require infallibility.
Infallibility was the making of Napoleon; he would have been a god if
he had not filled the world with the sound of his fall at Waterloo. If
Mahomet founded a permanent religion after conquering the third part
of the globe, it was by dint of concealing his deathbed from the
crowd. The same rules hold good for the great conqueror and for the
provincial mayor, and a nation or a commune is much the same sort of
crowd; indeed, the great multitude of mankind is the same everywhere.

"I have been exceedingly firm with those whom I have helped with
money; if I had not been inflexible on this point, they all would have
laughed at me. Peasants, no less than worldlings, end by despising the
man that they can deceive. He has been cheated? Clearly, then, he must
have been weak; and it is might alone that governs the world. I have
never charged a penny for my professional advice, except to those who
were evidently rich people; but I have not allowed the value of my
services to be overlooked at all, and I always make them pay for
medicine unless the patient is exceedingly poor. If my peasants do not
pay me in money, they are quite aware that they are in my debt;
sometimes they satisfy their consciences by bringing oats for my
horses, or corn, when it is cheap. But if the miller were to send me
some eels as a return for my advice, I should tell him that he is too
generous for such a small matter. My politeness bears fruit. In the
winter I shall have some sacks of flour for the poor. Ah! sir, they
have kind hearts, these people, if one does not slight them, and
to-day I think more good and less evil of them than I did formerly."

"What a deal of trouble you have taken!" said Genestas.

"Not at all," answered Benassis. "It was no more trouble to say
something useful than to chatter about trifles; and whether I chatted
or joked, the talk always turned on them and their concerns wherever I
went. They would not listen to me at first. I had to overcome their
dislikes; I belonged to the middle classes--that is to say, I was a
natural enemy. I found the struggle amusing. An easy or an uneasy
conscience--that is all the difference that lies between doing well or
ill; the trouble is the same in either case. If scoundrels would but
behave themselves properly, they might be millionaires instead of
being hanged. That is all."

"The dinner is growing cold, sir!" cried Jacquotte, in the doorway.

Genestas caught the doctor's arm.

"I have only one comment to offer on what I have just heard," he
remarked. "I am not acquainted with any account of the wars of
Mahomet, so that I can form no opinions as to his military talents;
but if you had only watched the Emperor's tactics during the campaign
in France, you might well have taken him for a god; and if he was
beaten on the field of Waterloo, it was because he was more than
mortal, it was because the earth found his weight too heavy to bear,
and sprang from under his feet! On every other subject I entirely
agree with you, and /tonnerre de Dieu/! whoever hatched you did a good
day's work."

"Come," exclaimed Benassis with a smile, "let us sit down to dinner."

The walls of the dining-room were paneled from floor to ceiling, and
painted gray. The furniture consisted of a few straw-bottomed chairs,
a sideboard, some cupboards, a stove, and the late owner's celebrated
clock; there were white curtains in the window, and a white cloth on
the table, about which there was no sign of luxury. The dinner service
was of plain white earthenware; the soup, made after the traditions of
the late cure, was the most concentrated kind of broth that was ever
set to simmer by any mortal cook. The doctor and his guest had
scarcely finished it when a man rushed into the kitchen, and in spite
of Jacquotte, suddenly invaded the dining-room.

"Well, what is it?" asked the doctor.

"It is this, sir. The mistress, our Mme. Vigneau, has turned as white
as white can be, so that we are frightened about her."

"Oh, well, then," Benassis said cheerfully, "I must leave the table,"
and he rose to go.

In spite of the doctor's entreaties, Genestas flung down his
table-napkin, and swore in a soldierly fashion that he would not finish
his dinner without his host. He returned indeed to the salon; and as he
warmed himself by the fire, he thought over the troubles that no man
may escape, the troubles that are found in every lot that it falls to
man to endure here upon earth.

Benassis soon came back, and the two future friends sat down again.

"Taboureau has just come up to speak to you," said Jacquotte to her
master, as she brought in the dishes that she had kept hot for them.

"Who can be ill at his place?" asked the doctor.

"No one is ill, sir. I think from what he said that it is some matter
of his own that he wants to ask you about; he is coming back again."

"Very good. This Taboureau," Benassis went on, addressing Genestas,
"is for me a whole philosophical treatise; take a good look at him
when he comes, he is sure to amuse you. He was a laborer, a thrifty,
hard-working man, eating little and getting through a good deal of
work. As soon as the rogue came to have a few crowns of his own, his
intelligence began to develop; he watched the progress which I had
originated in this little district with an eye to his own profit. He
had made quite a fortune in eight year's time, that is to say, a
fortune for our part of the world. Very likely he may have a couple of
score thousand francs by now. But if I were to give you a thousand
guesses, you would never find out how he made the money. He is a
usurer, and his scheme of usury is so profoundly and so cleverly based
upon the requirements of the whole canton, that I should merely waste
my time if I were to take it upon myself to undeceive them as to the
benefits which they reap, in their own opinion, from their dealings
with Taboureau. When this devil of a fellow saw every one cultivating
his own plot of ground, he hurried about buying grain so as to supply
the poor with the requisite seed. Here, as everywhere else, the
peasants and even some of the farmers had no ready money with which to
pay for seed. To some, Master Taboureau would lend a sack of barley,
for which he was to receive a sack of rye at harvest time, and to
others a measure of wheat for a sack of four. At the present day the
man has extended this curious business of his all over the department;
and unless something happens to prevent him, he will go on and very
likely make a million. Well, my dear sir, Taboureau the laborer, an
obliging, hard-working, good-natured fellow, used to lend a helping
hand to any one who asked him; but as his gains have increased
/Monsieur/ Taboureau has become litigious, arrogant, and somewhat given
to sharp practice. The more money he makes, the worse he grows. The
moment that the peasant forsakes his life of toil pure and simple for
the leisured existence of the landowning classes, he becomes
intolerable. There is a certain kind of character, partly virtuous,
partly vicious, half-educated, half-ignorant, which will always be the
despair of governments. You will see an example of it in Taboureau. He
looks simple, and even doltish; but when his interests are in
question, he is certainly profoundly clever."

A heavy footstep announced the approach of the grain lender.

"Come in, Taboureau!" cried Benassis.

Thus forewarned by the doctor, the commandant scrutinized the peasant
in the doorway. Taboureau was decidedly thin, and stooped a little. He
had a bulging forehead, covered with wrinkles, and a cavernous face,
in which two small gray eyes with a dark spot in either of them seemed
to be pierced rather than set. The lines of the miser's mouth were
close and firm, and his narrow chin turned up to meet an exaggeratedly
hooked nose. His hair was turning gray already, and deep furrows which
converged above the prominent cheek-bones spoke of the wily shrewdness
of a horse-dealer and of a life spent in journeying about. He wore a
blue coat in fairly clean condition, the square side-pocket flaps
stuck out above his hips, and the skirts of the coats hung loose in
front, so that a white-flowered waistcoat was visible. There he stood
firmly planted on both feet, leaning upon a thick stick with a knob at
the end of it. A little spaniel had followed the grain-dealer, in
spite of Jacquotte's efforts, and was crouching beside him.

"Well, what is it?" Benassis asked as he turned to this being.

Taboureau gave a suspicious glance at the stranger seated at the
doctor's table, and said:

"It is not a case of illness, /M. le Maire/, but you understand how to
doctor the ailments of the purse just as well as those of the body. We
have had a little difficulty with a man over at Saint-Laurent, and I
have come to ask your advice about it."

"Why not see the justice of the peace or his clerk?"

"Oh, because you are so much cleverer, sir, and I shall feel more sure
about my case if I can have your countenance."

"My good Taboureau, I am willing to give medical advice to the poor
without charging for it; but I cannot look into the lawsuits of a man
who is as wealthy as you are for nothing. It costs a good deal to
acquire that kind of knowledge."

Taboureau began to twist his hat about.

"If you want my advice, in order to save the hard coin you would have
to pay to the lawyer folk over in Grenoble, you must send a bag of rye
to the widow Martin, the woman who is bringing up the charity
children."

"/Dame/! I will do it with all my heart, sir, if you think it necessary.
Can I talk about this business of mine without troubling the gentleman
there?" he added, with a look at Genestas.

The doctor nodded, so Taboureau went on.

"Well, then, sir, two months ago a man from Saint-Laurent came over
here to find me. 'Taboureau,' said he to me, 'could you sell me a
hundred and thirty-seven measures of barley?' 'Why not?' say I, 'that
is my trade. Do you want it immediately?' 'No,' he says, 'I want it
for the beginning of spring, in March.' So far, so good. Well, we
drive our bargain, and we drink a glass, and we agree that he is to
pay me the price that the barley fetched at Grenoble last market day,
and I am to deliver it in March. I am to warehouse it at owner's risk,
and no allowance for shrinkage of course. But barley goes up and up,
my dear sir; the barley rises like boiling milk. Then I am hard up for
money, and I sell my barley. Quite natural, sir, was it not?"

"No," said Benassis, "the barley had passed out of your possession,
you were only warehousing it. And suppose the barley had gone down in
value, would you not have compelled your buyer to take it at the price
you agreed upon?"

"But very likely he would not have paid me, sir. One must look out for
oneself! The seller ought to make a good profit when the chance comes
in his way; and, after, all the goods are not yours until you have
paid for them. That is so, /Monsieur l'Officier/, is it not? For you can
see that the gentleman has been in the army."

"Taboureau," Benassis said sternly, "ill luck will come to you. Sooner
or later God punishes ill deeds. How can you, knowing as much as you
do, a capable man moreover, and a man who conducts his business
honorably, set examples of dishonesty to the canton? If you allow such
proceedings as this to be taken against you, how can you expect that
the poor will remain honest people and will not rob you? Your laborers
will cheat you out of part of their working hours, and every one here
will be demoralized. You are in the wrong. Your barley was as good as
delivered. If the man from Saint-Laurent had fetched it himself, you
would not have gone there to take it away from him; you have sold
something that was no longer yours to sell, for your barley had
already been turned into money which was to be paid down at the
stipulated time. But go on."

Genestas gave the doctor a significant glance, to call his attention
to Taboureau's impassive countenance. Not a muscle had stirred in the
usurer's face during this reprimand; there was no flush on his
forehead, and no sign of emotion in his little eyes.

"Well, sir, I am called upon to supply the barley at last winter's
price. Now /I/ consider that I am not bound to do so."

"Look here, Taboureau, deliver that barley and be very quick about it,
or make up your mind to be respected by nobody in the future. Even if
you gained the day in a case like this, you would be looked upon as an
unscrupulous man who does not keep to his word, and is not bound by
promises, or by honor, or----"

"Go on, there is nothing to be afraid of; tell me that I am a scamp, a
scoundrel, a thief outright. You can say things like that in business
without insulting anybody, M. le Maire. 'Tis each for himself in
business, you know."

"Well, then, why deliberately put yourself in a position in which you
deserve to be called by such names?"

"But if the law is on my side, sir?"

"But the law will certainly /not/ be on your side."

"Are you quite sure about it, sir? Certain sure? For you see it is an
important matter."

"Certainly I am. Quite sure. If I were not at dinner, I would have
down the code, and you should see for yourself. If the case comes on,
you will lose it, and you will never set foot in my house again, for I
do not wish to receive people whom I do not respect. Do you
understand? You will lose your case."

"Oh! no, not at all, I shall not lose it, sir," said Taboureau. "You
see, sir, it is this way; it is the man from Saint-Laurent who owes
/me/ the barley; I bought it of him, and now he refuses to deliver
it. I just wanted to make quite certain that I should gain my case
before going to any expense at court about it."

Genestas and the doctor exchanged glances; each concealed his
amazement at the ingenious device by which the man had sought to learn
the truth about this point of law.

"Very well, Taboureau, your man is a swindler; you should not make
bargains with such people."

"Ah! sir, they understand business, those people do."

"Good-bye, Taboureau."

"Your servant, gentlemen."

"Well, now," remarked Benassis, when the usurer had gone, "if that
fellow were in Paris, do you not think that he would be a millionaire
before very long?"

After dinner, the doctor and his visitor went back to the salon, and
all the rest of the evening until bedtime they talked about war and
politics; Genestas evincing a most violent dislike of the English in
the course of conversation.

"May I know whom I have the honor of entertaining as a guest?" asked
the doctor.

"My name is Pierre Bluteau," answered Genestas; "I am a captain
stationed at Grenoble."

"Very well, sir. Do you care to adopt M. Gravier's plan? In the
morning after breakfast he liked to go on my rounds with me. I am not
at all sure that you would find anything to interest you in the things
that occupy me--they are so very commonplace. For, after all, you own
no land about here, nor are you the mayor of the place, and you will
see nothing in the canton that you cannot see elsewhere; one thatched
cottage is just like another. Still you will be in the open air, and
you will have something to take you out of doors."

"No proposal could give me more pleasure. I did not venture to make it
myself, lest I should thrust myself upon you."

Commandant Genestas (who shall keep his own name in spite of the
fictitious appellation which he had thought fit to give himself)
followed his host to a room on the first floor above the salon.

"That is right," said Benassis, "Jacquotte has lighted a fire for you.
If you want anything, there is a bell-pull close to the head of the
bed."

"I am not likely to want anything, however small, it seems to me,"
exclaimed Genestas. "There is even a boot-jack. Only an old trooper
knows what a boot-jack is worth! There are times, when one is out on a
campaign, sir, when one is ready to burn down a house to come by a
knave of a boot-jack. After a few marches, one on the top of another,
or above all, after an engagement, there are times when a swollen foot
and the soaked leather will not part company, pull as you will; I have
had to lie down in my boots more than once. One can put up with the
annoyance so long as one is by oneself."

The commandant's wink gave a kind of profound slyness to his last
utterance; then he began to make a survey. Not without surprise, he
saw that the room was neatly kept, comfortable, and almost luxurious.

"What splendor!" was his comment. "Your own room must be something
wonderful."

"Come and see," said the doctor; "I am your neighbor, there is nothing
but the staircase between us."

Genestas was again surprised when he entered the doctor's room, a
bare-looking apartment with no adornment on the walls save an
old-fashioned wall-paper of a yellowish tint with a pattern of brown
roses over it; the color had gone in patches here and there. There was
a roughly painted iron bedstead, two gray cotton curtains were
suspended from a wooden bracket above it, and a threadbare strip of
carpet lay at the foot; it was like a bed in a hospital. By the
bed-head stood a rickety cupboard on four feet with a door that
continually rattled with a sound like castanets. Three chairs and a
couple of straw-bottomed armchairs stood about the room, and on a low
chest of drawers in walnut wood stood a basin, and a ewer of obsolete
pattern with a lid, which was kept in place by a leaden rim round the
top of the vessel. This completed the list of the furniture.

The grate was empty. All the apparatus required for shaving lay about
in front of an old mirror suspended above the painted stone
chimney-piece by a bit of string. The floor was clean and carefully
swept, but it was worn and splintered in various places, and there
were hollows in it here and there. Gray cotton curtains bordered with
a green fringe adorned the two windows. The scrupulous cleanliness
maintained by Jacquotte gave a certain air of distinction to this
picture of simplicity, but everything in it, down to the round table
littered with stray papers, and the very pens on the writing-desk,
gave the idea of an almost monastic life--a life so wholly filled with
thought and feeling of a wider kind that outward surroundings had come
to be matters of no moment. An open door allowed the commandant to see
the smaller room, which doubtless the doctor seldom occupied. It was
scarcely kept in the same condition as the adjoining apartment; a few
dusty books lay strewn about over the no less dusty shelves, and from
the rows of labeled bottles it was easy to guess that the place was
devoted rather to the dispensing of drugs than scientific studies.

"Why this difference between your room and mine, you will ask?" said
Benassis. "Listen a moment. I have always blushed for those who put
their guests in the attics, who furnish them with mirrors that distort
everything to such a degree that any one beholding himself might think
that he was smaller or larger than nature made him, or suffering from
apoplectic stroke or some other bad complaint. Ought we not to do our
utmost to make a room as pleasant as possible during the time that our
friend can be with us? Hospitality, to my thinking, is a virtue, a
pleasure, and a luxury; but in whatever light it is considered, nay,
even if you regard it as a speculation, ought not our guest or our
friend to be made much of? Ought not every refinement of luxury to be
reserved for him?

"So the best furniture is put into your room, where a thick carpet is
laid down; there are hangings on the walls, and a clock and wax
candles; and for you Jacquotte will do her best, she has no doubt
brought a night-light, and a pair of new slippers and some milk, and
her warming-pan too for your benefit. I hope that you will find that
luxurious armchair the most comfortable seat you have ever sat in, it
was a discovery of the late cure's; I do not know where he found it,
but it is a fact that if you wish to meet with the perfection of
comfort, beauty, or convenience, you must ask counsel of the Church.
Well, I hope that you will find everything in your room to your
liking. You will find some good razors and excellent soap, and all the
trifling details that make one's own home so pleasant. And if my views
on the subject of hospitality should not at once explain the
difference between your room and mine, to-morrow, M. Bluteau, you will
arrive at a wonderfully clear comprehension of the bareness of my room
and the untidy condition of my study, when you see all the continual
comings and goings here. Mine is not an indoor life, to begin with. I
am almost always out of the house, and if I stay at home, peasants
come in at every moment to speak to me. My body and soul and house are
all theirs. Why should I worry about social conventions in these
matters, or trouble myself over the damage unintentionally done to
floors and furniture by these worthy folk? Such things cannot be
helped. Luxury properly belongs to the boudoir and the guest-chamber,
to great houses and chateaux. In short, as I scarcely do more than
sleep here, what do I want with superfluities of wealth? You do not
know, moreover, how little I care for anything in this world."

They wished each other a friendly good-night with a warm shake of the
hand, and went to bed. But before the commandant slept, he came to
more than one conclusion as to the man who hour by hour grew greater
in his eyes.



                             CHAPTER II

                          A DOCTOR'S ROUND

The first thing next morning Genestas went to the stable, drawn
thither by the affection that every man feels for the horse that he
rides. Nicolle's method of rubbing down the animal was quite
satisfactory.

"Up already, Commandant Bluteau?" cried Benassis, as he came upon his
guest. "You hear the drum beat in the morning wherever you go, even in
the country! You are a regular soldier!"

"Are you all right?" replied Genestas, holding out his hand with a
friendly gesture.

"I am never really all right," answered Benassis, half merrily, half
sadly.

"Did you sleep well, sir?" inquired Jacquotte.

"Faith, yes, my beauty; the bed as you made it was fit for a queen."

Jacquotte's face beamed as she followed her master and his guest, and
when she had seen them seat themselves at table, she remarked to
Nicolle:

"He is not a bad sort, after all, that officer gentleman."

"I am sure he is not, he has given me two francs already."



"We will begin to-day by calling at two places where there have been
deaths," Benassis said to his visitor as they left the dining-room.
"Although doctors seldom deign to confront their supposed victims, I
will take you round to the two houses, where you will be able to make
some interesting observations of human nature; and the scenes to which
you will be a witness will show you that in the expression of their
feelings our folk among the hills differ greatly from the dwellers in
the lowlands. Up among the mountain peaks in our canton they cling to
customs that bear the impress of an older time, and that vaguely
recall scenes in the Bible. Nature has traced out a line over our
mountain ranges; the whole appearance of the country is different on
either side of it. You will find strength of character up above,
flexibility and quickness below; they have larger ways of regarding
things among the hills, while the bent of the lowlands is always
towards the material interests of existence. I have never seen a
difference so strongly marked, unless it has been in the Val d'Ajou,
where the northern side is peopled by a tribe of idiots, and the
southern by an intelligent race. There is nothing but a stream in the
valley bottom to separate these two populations, which are utterly
dissimilar in every respect, as different in face and stature as in
manners, customs, and occupation. A fact of this kind should compel
those who govern a country to make very extensive studies of local
differences before passing laws that are to affect the great mass of
the people. But the horses are ready, let us start!"

In a short time the two horsemen reached a house in a part of the
township that was overlooked by the mountains of the Grande
Chartreuse. Before the door of the dwelling, which was fairly clean
and tidy, they saw a coffin set upon two chairs, and covered with a
black pall. Four tall candles stood about it, and on a stool near by
there was a shallow brass dish full of holy water, in which a branch
of green box-wood was steeping. Every passer-by went into the yard,
knelt by the side of the dead, said a /Pater noster/, and sprinkled a
few drops of holy water on the bier. Above the black cloth that
covered the coffin rose the green sprays of a jessamine that grew
beside the doorway, and a twisted vine shoot, already in leaf, overran
the lintel. Even the saddest ceremonies demand that things shall
appear to the best advantage, and in obedience to this vaguely-felt
requirement a young girl had been sweeping the front of the house. The
dead man's eldest son, a young peasant about twenty-two years of age,
stood motionless, leaning against the door-post. The tears in his eyes
came and went without falling, or perhaps he furtively brushed them
away. Benassis and Genestas saw all the details of this scene as they
stood beyond the low wall; they fastened their horses to one of the
row of poplar trees that grew along it, and entered the yard just as
the widow came out of the byre. A woman carrying a jug of milk was
with her, and spoke.

"Try to bear up bravely, my poor Pelletier," she said.

"Ah! my dear, after twenty-five years of life together, it is very
hard to lose your man," and her eyes brimmed over with tears. "Will
you pay the two sous?" she added, after a moment, as she held out her
hand to her neighbor.

"There, now! I had forgotten about it," said the other woman, giving
her the coin. "Come, neighbor, don't take on so. Ah! there is M.
Benassis!"

"Well, poor mother, how are you going on? A little better?" asked the
doctor.

"/Dame/!" she said, as the tears fell fast, "we must go on, all the
same, that is certain. I tell myself that my man is out of pain now.
He suffered so terribly! But come inside, sir. Jacques, set some
chairs for these gentlemen. Come, stir yourself a bit. Lord bless you!
if you were to stop there for a century, it would not bring your poor
father back again. And now, you will have to do the work of two."

"No, no good woman, leave your son alone, we will not sit down. You
have a boy there who will take care of you, and who is quite fit to
take his father's place."

"Go and change your clothes, Jacques," cried the widow; "you will be
wanted directly."

"Well, good-bye, mother," said Benassis.

"Your servant, gentlemen."

"Here, you see, death is looked upon as an event for which every one
is prepared," said the doctor; "it brings no interruption to the
course of family life, and they will not even wear mourning of any
kind. No one cares to be at the expense of it; they are all either too
poor or too parsimonious in the villages hereabouts, so that mourning
is unknown in country districts. Yet the custom of wearing mourning is
something better than a law or a usage, it is an institution somewhat
akin to all moral obligations. But in spite of our endeavors neither
M. Janvier nor I have succeeded in making our peasants understand the
great importance of public demonstrations of feeling for the
maintenance of social order. These good folk, who have only just begun
to think and act for themselves, are slow as yet to grasp the changed
conditions which should attach them to these theories. They have only
reached those ideas which conduce to economy and to physical welfare;
in the future, if some one else carries on this work of mine, they
will come to understand the principles that serve to uphold and
preserve public order and justice. As a matter of fact, it is not
sufficient to be an honest man, you must appear to be honest in the
eyes of others. Society does not live by moral ideas alone; its
existence depends upon actions in harmony with those ideas.

"In most country communes, out of a hundred families deprived by death
of their head, there are only a few individuals capable of feeling
more keenly than the others, who will remember the deaths for very
long; in a year's time the rest will have forgotten all about it. Is
not this forgetfulness a sore evil? A religion is the very heart of a
nation; it expresses their feelings and their thoughts, and exalts
them by giving them an object; but unless outward and visible honor is
paid to a God, religion cannot exist; and, as a consequence, human
ordinances lose all their force. If the conscience belongs to God and
to Him only, the body is amenable to social law. Is it not therefore,
a first step towards atheism to efface every sign of pious sorrow in
this way, to neglect to impress on children who are not yet old enough
to reflect, and on all other people who stand in need of example, the
necessity of obedience to human law, by openly manifested resignation
to the will of Providence, who chastens and consoles, who bestows and
takes away worldly wealth? I confess that, after passing through a
period of sneering incredulity, I have come during my life here to
recognize the value of the rites of religion and of religious
observances in the family, and to discern the importance of household
customs and domestic festivals. The family will always be the basis of
human society. Law and authority are first felt there; there, at any
rate, the habit of obedience should be learned. Viewed in the light of
all their consequences, the spirit of the family and paternal
authority are two elements but little developed as yet in our new
legislative system. Yet in the family, the commune, the department,
lies the whole of our country. The laws ought therefore to be based on
these three great divisions.

"In my opinion, marriages, the birth of infants, and the deaths of
heads of households cannot be surrounded with too much circumstance.
The secret of the strength of Catholicism, and of the deep root that
it has taken in the ordinary life of man, lies precisely in this--that
it steps in to invest every important event in his existence with a
pomp that is so naively touching, and so grand, whenever the priest
rises to the height of his mission and brings his office into harmony
with the sublimity of Christian doctrine.

"Once I looked upon the Catholic religion as a cleverly exploited mass
of prejudices and superstitions, which an intelligent civilization
ought to deal with according to its desserts. Here I have discovered
its political necessity and its usefulness as a moral agent; here,
moreover, I have come to understand its power, through a knowledge of
the actual thing which the word expresses. Religion means a bond or
tie, and certainly a cult--or, in other words, the outward and visible
form of religion is the only force that can bind the various elements
of society together and mould them into a permanent form. Lastly, it
was also here that I have felt the soothing influence that religion
sheds over the wounds of humanity, and (without going further into the
subject) I have seen how admirably it is suited to the fervid
temperaments of southern races.

"Let us take the road up the hillside," said the doctor, interrupting
himself; "we must reach the plateau up there. Thence we shall look
down upon both valleys, and you will see a magnificent view. The
plateau lies three thousand feet above the level of the Mediterranean;
we shall see over Savoy and Dauphine, and the mountain ranges of the
Lyonnais and Rhone. We shall be in another commune, a hill commune,
and on a farm belonging to M. Gravier you will see the kind of scene
of which I have spoken. There the great events of life are invested
with a solemnity which comes up to my ideas. Mourning for the dead is
vigorously prescribed. Poor people will beg in order to purchase black
clothing, and no one refuses to give in such a case. There are few
days in which the widow does not mention her loss; she always speaks
of it with tears, and her grief is as deep after ten days of sorrow as
on the morning after her bereavement. Manners are patriarchal: the
father's authority is unlimited, his word is law. He takes his meals
sitting by himself at the head of the table; his wife and children
wait upon him, and those about him never address him without using
certain respectful forms of speech, while every one remains standing
and uncovered in his presence. Men brought up in this atmosphere are
conscious of their dignity; to my way of thinking, it is a noble
education to be brought up among these customs. And, for the most
part, they are upright, thrifty, and hardworking people in this
commune. The father of every family, when he is old and past work,
divides his property equally among his children, and they support him;
that is the usual way here. An old man of ninety, in the last century,
who had divided everything he had among his four children, went to
live with each in turn for three months in the year. As he left the
oldest to go to the home of a younger brother, one of his friends
asked him, 'Well, are you satisfied with the arrangement?' 'Faith!
yes,' the old man answered; 'they have treated me as if I had been
their own child.' That answer of his seemed so remarkable to an
officer then stationed at Grenoble, that he repeated it in more than
one Parisian salon. That officer was the celebrated moralist
Vauvenargues, and in this way the beautiful saying came to the
knowledge of another writer named Chamfort. Ah! still more forcible
phrases are often struck out among us, but they lack a historian
worthy of them."

"I have come across Moravians and Lollards in Bohemia and Hungary,"
said Genestas. "They are a kind of people something like your
mountaineers, good folk who endure the sufferings of war with angelic
patience."

"Men living under simple and natural conditions are bound to be almost
alike in all countries. Sincerity of life takes but one form. It is
true that a country life often extinguishes thought of a wider kind;
but evil propensities are weakened and good qualities are developed by
it. In fact, the fewer the numbers of the human beings collected
together in a place, the less crime, evil thinking, and general bad
behavior will be found in it. A pure atmosphere counts for a good deal
in purity of morals."

The two horsemen, who had been climbing the stony road at a foot pace,
now reached the level space of which Benassis had spoken. It is a
strip of land lying round about the base of a lofty mountain peak, a
bare surface of rock with no growth of any kind upon it; deep clefts
are riven in its sheer inaccessible sides. The gray crest of the
summit towers above the ledge of fertile soil which lies around it, a
domain sometimes narrower, sometimes wider, and altogether about a
hundred acres in extent. Here, through a vast break in the line of the
hills to the south, the eye sees French Maurienne, Dauphine, the crags
of Savoy, and the far-off mountains of the Lyonnais. Genestas was
gazing from this point, over a land that lay far and wide in the
spring sunlight, when there arose the sound of a wailing cry.

"Let us go on," said Benassis; "the wail for the dead has begun, that
is the name they give to this part of the funeral rites."

On the western slope of the mountain peak, the commandant saw the
buildings belonging to a farm of some size. The whole place formed a
perfect square. The gateway consisted of a granite arch, impressive in
its solidity, which added to the old-world appearance of the buildings
with the ancient trees that stood about them, and the growth of plant
life on the roofs. The house itself lay at the farther end of the
yard. Barns, sheepfolds, stables, cowsheds, and other buildings lay on
either side, and in the midst was the great pool where the manure had
been laid to rot. On a thriving farm, such a yard as this is usually
full of life and movement, but to-day it was silent and deserted. The
poultry was shut up, the cattle were all in the byres, there was
scarcely a sound of animal life. Both stables and cowsheds had been
carefully swept across the yard. The perfect neatness which reigned in
a place where everything as a rule was in disorder, the absence of
stirring life, the stillness in so noisy a spot, the calm serenity of
the hills, the deep shadow cast by the towering peak--everything
combined to make a strong impression on the mind.

Genestas was accustomed to painful scenes, yet he could not help
shuddering as he saw a dozen men and women standing weeping outside
the door of the great hall. "/The master is dead!/" they wailed; the
unison of voices gave appalling effect to the words which they
repeated twice during the time required to cross the space between the
gateway and the farmhouse door. To this wailing lament succeeded moans
from within the house; the sound of a woman's voice came through the
casements.

"I dare not intrude upon such grief as this," said Genestas to
Benassis.

"I always go to visit a bereaved family," the doctor answered, "either
to certify the death, or to see that no mischance caused by grief has
befallen the living. You need not hesitate to come with me. The scene
is impressive, and there will be such a great many people that no one
will notice your presence."

As Genestas followed the doctor, he found, in fact, that the first
room was full of relations of the dead. They passed through the crowd
and stationed themselves at the door of a bedroom that opened out of
the great hall which served the whole family for a kitchen and a
sitting-room; the whole colony, it should rather be called, for the
great length of the table showed that some forty people lived in the
house. Benassis' arrival interrupted the discourse of a tall,
simply-dressed woman, with thin locks of hair, who held the dead
man's hand in hers in a way that spoke eloquently.

The dead master of the house had been arrayed in his best clothes, and
now lay stretched out cold and stiff upon the bed. They had drawn the
curtains aside; the thought of heaven seemed to brood over the quiet
face and the white hair--it was like the closing scene of a drama. On
either side of the bed stood the children and the nearest relations of
the husband and wife. These last stood in a line on either side; the
wife's kin upon the left, and those of her husband on the right. Both
men and women were kneeling in prayer, and almost all of them were in
tears. Tall candles stood about the bed. The cure of the parish and
his assistants had taken their places in the middle of the room,
beside the bier. There was something tragical about the scene, with
the head of the family lying before the coffin, which was waiting to
be closed down upon him forever.

"Ah!" cried the widow, turning as she saw Benassis, "if the skill of
the best of men could not save you, my dear lord, it was because it
was ordained in heaven that you should precede me to the tomb! Yes,
this hand of yours, that used to press mine so kindly, is cold! I have
lost my dear helpmate for ever, and our household has lost its beloved
head, for truly you were the guide of us all! Alas! there is not one
of those who are weeping with me who has not known all the worth of
your nature, and felt the light of your soul, but I alone knew all the
patience and the kindness of your heart. Oh! my husband, my husband!
must I bid you farewell for ever? Farewell to you, our stay and
support! Farewell to you, my dear master! And we, your children,--for
to each of us you gave the same fatherly love,--all we, your children,
have lost our father!"

The widow flung herself upon the dead body and clasped it in a tight
embrace, as if her kisses and the tears with which she covered it
could give it warmth again; during the pause, came the wail of the
servants:

"/The master is dead!/"

"Yes," the widow went on, "he is dead! Our beloved who gave us our
bread, who sowed and reaped for us, who watched over our happiness,
who guided us through life, who ruled so kindly among us. /Now/, I may
speak in his praise, and say that he never caused me the slightest
sorrow; he was good and strong and patient. Even while we were
torturing him for the sake of his health, so precious to us, 'Let it
be, children, it is all no use,' the dear lamb said, just in the same
tone of voice with which he had said, 'Everything is all right,
friends,' only a few days before. Ah! /grand Dieu/! a few days ago! A
few days have been enough to take away the gladness from our house and
to darken our lives, to close the eyes of the best, most upright, most
revered of men. No one could plow as he could. Night or day, he would
go about over the mountains, he feared nothing, and when he came back
he had always a smile for his wife and children. Ah! he was our
beloved! It was dull here by the fireside when /he/ was away, and our
food lost all its relish. Oh! how will it be now, when our guardian
angel will be laid away under the earth, and we shall never see him
any more? Never any more, dear kinsfolk and friends; never any more,
my children! Yes, my children have lost their kind father, our
relations and friends have lost their good kinsman and their trusty
friend, the household has lost its master, and I have lost
everything!"

She took the hand of the dead again, and knelt, so that she might
press her face close to his as she kissed it. The servants' cry, "/The
master is dead!/" was again repeated three times.

Just then the eldest son came to his mother to say, "The people from
Saint-Laurent have just come, mother; we want some wine for them."

"Take the keys," she said in a low tone, and in a different voice from
that in which she had just expressed her grief; "you are the master of
the house, my son; see that they receive the welcome that your father
would have given them; do not let them find any change.

"Let me have one more long look," she went on. "But alas! my good
husband, you do not feel my presence now, I cannot bring back warmth
to you! I only wish that I could comfort you still, could let you know
that so long as I live you will dwell in the heart that you made glad,
could tell you that I shall be happy in the memory of my happiness
--that the dear thought of you will live on in this room. Yes, as long
as God spares me, this room shall be filled with memories of you. Hear
my vow, dear husband! Your couch shall always remain as it is now. I
will sleep in it no more, since you are dead; henceforward, while I
live, it shall be cold and empty. With you, I have lost all that makes
a woman: her master, husband, father, friend, companion, and helpmate:
I have lost all!"

"/The master is dead!/" the servants wailed. Others raised the cry, and
the lament became general. The widow took a pair of scissors that hung
at her waist, cut off her hair, and laid the locks in her husband's
hand. Deep silence fell on them all.

"That act means that she will not marry again," said Benassis; "this
determination was expected by many of the relatives."

"Take it, dear lord!" she said; her emotion brought a tremor to her
voice that went to the hearts of all who heard her. "I have sworn to
be faithful; I give this pledge to you to keep in the grave. We shall
thus be united for ever, and through love of your children I will live
on among the family in whom you used to feel yourself young again. Oh!
that you could hear me, my husband! the pride and joy of my heart! Oh!
that you could know that all my power to live, now you are dead, will
yet come from you; for I shall live to carry out your sacred wishes
and to honor your memory."

Benassis pressed Genestas' hand as an invitation to follow him, and
they went out. By this time the first room was full of people who had
come from another mountain commune; all of them waited in meditative
silence, as if the sorrow and grief that brooded over the house had
already taken possession of them. As Benassis and the commandant
crossed the threshold, they overheard a few words that passed between
one of the newcomers and the eldest son of the late owner.

"Then when did he die?"

"Oh!" exclaimed the eldest son, a man of five-and-twenty years of age,
"I did not see him die. He asked for me, and I was not there!" His
voice was broken with sobs, but he went on: "He said to me the night
before, 'You must go over to the town, my boy, and pay our taxes; my
funeral will put that out of your minds, and we shall be behindhand, a
thing that has never happened before.' It seemed the best thing to do,
so I went; and while I was gone, he died, and I never received his
last embrace. I have always been at his side, but he did not see me
near him at the last in my place where I had always been."

"/The master is dead!/"

"Alas! he is dead, and I was not there to receive his last words and
his latest sigh. And what did the taxes matter? Would it not have been
better to lose all our money than to leave home just then? Could all
that we have make up to me for the loss of his last farewell. No. /Mon
Dieu!/ If /your/ father falls ill, Jean, do not go away and leave him,
or you will lay up a lifelong regret for yourself."

"My friend," said Genestas, "I have seen thousands of men die on the
battlefield; death did not wait to let their children bid them
farewell; take comfort, you are not the only one."

"But a father who was such a good man!" he replied, bursting into
fresh tears.

Benassis took Genestas in the direction of the farm buildings.

"The funeral oration will only cease when the body has been laid in
its coffin," said the doctor, "and the weeping woman's language will
grow more vivid and impassioned all the while. But a woman only
acquires the right to speak in such a strain before so imposing an
audience by a blameless life. If the widow could reproach herself with
the smallest of shortcomings, she would not dare to utter a word; for
if she did, she would pronounce her own condemnation, she would be at
the same time her own accuser and judge. Is there not something
sublime in this custom which thus judges the living and the dead? They
only begin to wear mourning after a week has elapsed, when it is
publicly worn at a meeting of all the family. Their near relations
spend the week with the widow and children, to help them to set their
affairs in order and to console them. A family gathering at such a
time produces a great effect on the minds of the mourners; the
consideration for others which possesses men when they are brought
into close contact acts as a restraint on violent grief. On the last
day, when the mourning garb has been assumed, a solemn banquet is
given, and their relations take leave of them. All this is taken very
seriously. Any one who was slack in fulfilling his duties after the
death of the head of a family would have no one at his own funeral."

The doctor had reached the cowhouse as he spoke; he opened the door
and made the commandant enter, that he might show it to him.

"All our cowhouses have been rebuilt after this pattern, captain.
Look! Is it not magnificent?"

Genestas could not help admiring the huge place. The cows and oxen
stood in two rows, with their tails towards the side walls, and their
heads in the middle of the shed. Access to the stalls was afforded by
a fairly wide space between them and the wall; you could see their
horned heads and shining eyes through the lattice work, so that it was
easy for the master to run his eyes over the cattle. The fodder was
placed on some staging erected above the stalls, so that it fell into
the racks below without waste of labor or material. There was a
wide-paved space down the centre, which was kept clean, and ventilated
by a thorough draught of air.

"In the winter time," Benassis said, as he walked with Genestas down
the middle of the cowhouse, "both men and women do their work here
together in the evenings. The tables are set out here, and in this way
the people keep themselves warm without going to any expense. The
sheep are housed in the same way. You would not believe how quickly
the beasts fall into orderly ways. I have often wondered to see them
come in; each knows her proper place, and allows those who take
precedence to pass in before her. Look! there is just room enough in
each stall to do the milking and to rub the cattle down; and the floor
slopes a little to facilitate drainage."

"One can judge of everything else from the sight of this cowhouse,"
said Genestas; "without flattery, these are great results indeed!"

"We have had some trouble to bring them about," Benassis answered;
"but then, see what fine cattle they are!"

"They are splendid beasts certainly; you had good reason to praise
them to me," answered Genestas.

"Now," said the doctor, when he had mounted his horse and passed under
the gateway, "we are going over some of the newly cleared waste, and
through the corn land. I have christened this little corner of our
Commune, 'La Beauce.'"

For about an hour they rode at a foot pace across fields in a state of
high cultivation, on which the soldier complimented the doctor; then
they came down the mountain side into the township again, talking
whenever the pace of their horses allowed them to do so. At last they
reached a narrow glen, down which they rode into the main valley.

"I promised yesterday," Benassis said to Genestas, "to show you one of
the two soldiers who left the army and came back to us after the fall
of Napoleon. We shall find him somewhere hereabouts, if I am not
mistaken. The mountain streams flow into a sort of natural reservoir
or tarn up here; the earth they bring down has silted it up, and he is
engaged in clearing it out. But if you are to take any interest in the
man, I must tell you his history. His name is Gondrin. He was only
eighteen years old when he was drawn in the great conscription of
1792, and drafted into a corps of gunners. He served as a private
soldier in Napoleon's campaigns in Italy, followed him to Egypt, and
came back from the East after the Peace of Amiens. In the time of the
Empire he was incorporated in the Pontoon Troop of the Guard, and was
constantly on active service in Germany, lastly the poor fellow made
the Russian campaign."

"We are brothers-in-arms then, to some extent," said Genestas; "I have
made the same campaigns. Only an iron frame would stand the tricks
played by so many different climates. My word for it, those who are
still standing on their stumps after marching over Italy, Egypt,
Germany, Portugal, and Russia must have applied to Providence and
taken out a patent for living."

"Just so, you will see a solid fragment of a man," answered Benassis.
"You know all about the Retreat from Moscow; it is useless to tell you
about it. This man I have told you of is one of the pontooners of the
Beresina; he helped to construct the bridge by which the army made the
passage, and stood waist-deep in water to drive in the first piles.
General Eble, who was in command of the pontooners, could only find
forty-two men who were plucky enough, in Gondrin's phrase, to tackle
that business. The general himself came down to the stream to hearten
and cheer the men, promising each of them a pension of a thousand
francs and the Cross of the Legion of Honor. The first who went down
into the Beresina had his leg taken off by a block of ice, and the man
himself was washed away; but you will better understand the difficulty
of the task when you hear the end of the story. Of the forty-two
volunteers, Gondrin is the only one alive to-day. Thirty-nine of them
lost their lives in the Beresina, and the two others died miserably in
a Polish hospital.

"The poor fellow himself only returned from Wilna in 1814, to find the
Bourbons restored to power. General Eble (of whom Gondrin cannot speak
without tears in his eyes) was dead. The pontooner was deaf, and his
health was shattered; and as he could neither read nor write, he found
no one left to help him or to plead his cause. He begged his way to
Paris, and while there made application at the War Office, not for the
thousand francs of extra pension which had been promised to him, nor
yet for the Cross of the Legion of Honor, but only for the bare
pension due to him after twenty-two years of service, and I do not
know how many campaigns. He did not obtain his pension or his
traveling expenses; he did not even receive his arrears of pay. He
spent a year in making fruitless solicitations, holding out his hands
in vain to those whom he had saved; and at the end of it he came back
here, sorely disheartened but resigned to his fate. This hero unknown
to fame does draining work on the land, for which he is paid ten sous
the fathom. He is accustomed to working in a marshy soil, and so, as
he says, he gets jobs which no one else cares to take. He can make
about three francs a day by clearing out ponds, or draining meadows
that lie under water. His deafness makes him seem surly, and he is not
naturally inclined to say very much, but there is a good deal in him.

"We are very good friends. He dines with me on the day of Austerlitz,
on the Emperor's birthday, and on the anniversary of the disaster at
Waterloo, and during the dessert he always receives a napoleon to pay
for his wine very quarter. Every one in the Commune shares in my
feeling of respect for him; if he would allow them to support him,
nothing would please them better. At every house to which he goes the
people follow my example, and show their esteem by asking him to dine
with them. It is a feeling of pride that leads him to work, and it is
only as a portrait of the Emperor that he can be induced to take my
twenty-franc piece. He has been deeply wounded by the injustice that
has been done to him; but I think regret for the Cross is greater than
the desire for his pension.

"He has one great consolation. After the bridges had been constructed
across the Beresina, General Eble presented such of the pontooners as
were not disabled to the Emperor, and Napoleon embraced poor Gondrin
--perhaps but for that accolade he would have died ere now. This
memory and the hope that some day Napoleon will return are all that
Gondrin lives by. Nothing will ever persuade him that Napoleon is dead,
and so convinced is he that the Emperor's captivity is wholly and
solely due to the English, that I believe he would be ready on the
slightest pretext to take the life of the best-natured alderman that
ever traveled for pleasure in foreign parts."

"Let us go on as fast as possible!" cried Genestas. He had listened to
the doctor's story with rapt attention, and now seemed to recover
consciousness of his surroundings. "Let us hurry! I long to see that
man!"

Both of them put their horses to a gallop.

"The other soldier that I spoke of," Benassis went on, "is another of
those men of iron who have knocked about everywhere with our armies.
His life, like that of all French soldiers, has been made up of
bullets, sabre strokes, and victories; he has had a very rough time of
it, and has only worn the woolen epaulettes. He has a fanatical
affection for Napoleon, who conferred the Cross upon him on the field
of Valontina. He is of a jovial turn of mind, and like a genuine
Dauphinois, has always looked after his own interests, has his
pension, and the honors of the Legion. Goguelat is his name. He was an
infantry man, who exchanged into the Guard in 1812. He is Gondrin's
better half, so to speak, for the two have taken up house together.
They both lodge with a peddler's widow, and make over their money to
her. She is a kind soul, who boards them and looks after them, and
their clothes as if they were her children.

"In his quality of local postman, Goguelat carries all the news of the
countryside, and a good deal of practice acquired in this way has made
him an orator in great request at up-sittings, and the champion teller
of stories in the district. Gondrin looks upon him as a very knowing
fellow, and something of a wit; and whenever Goguelat talks about
Napoleon, his comrade seems to understand what he is saying from the
movement of his lips. There will be an up-sitting (as they call it) in
one of my barns to-night. If these two come over to it, and we can
manage to see without being seen, I shall treat you to a view of the
spectacle. But here we are, close to the ditch, and I do not see my
friend the pontooner."

The doctor and the commandant looked everywhere about them; Gondrin's
soldier's coat lay there beside a heap of black mud, and his
wheelbarrow, spade, and pickaxe were visible, but there was no sign of
the man himself along the various pebbly watercourses, for the wayward
mountain streams had hollowed out channels that were almost overgrown
with low bushes.

"He cannot be so very far away. Gondrin! Where are you?" shouted
Benassis.

Genestas first saw the curling smoke from a tobacco pipe rise among
the brushwood on a bank of rubbish not far away. He pointed it out to
the doctor, who shouted again. The old pontooner raised his head at
this, recognized the mayor, and came towards them down a little
pathway.

"Well, old friend," said Benassis, making a sort of speaking-trumpet
with his hand. "Here is a comrade of yours, who was out in Egypt, come
to see you."

Gondrin raised is face at once and gave Genestas a swift, keen, and
searching look, one of those glances by which old soldiers are wont at
once to take the measure of any impending danger. He saw the red
ribbon that the commandant wore, and made a silent and respectful
military salute.

"If the Little Corporal were alive," the officer cried, "you would
have the Cross of the Legion of Honor and a handsome pension besides,
for every man who wore epaulettes on the other side of the river owed
his life to you on the 1st of October 1812. But I am not the Minister
of War, my friend," the commandant added as he dismounted, and with a
sudden rush of feeling he grasped the laborer's hand.

The old pontooner drew himself up at the words, he knocked the ashes
from his pipe, and put it in his pocket.

"I only did my duty, sir," he said, with his head bent down; "but
others have not done their duty by me. They asked for my papers! Why,
the Twenty-ninth Bulletin, I told them, must do instead of my papers!"

"But you must make another application, comrade. You are bound to have
justice done you in these days, if influence is brought to bear in the
right quarter."

"Justice!" cried the veteran. The doctor and the commandant shuddered
at the tone in which he spoke.

In the brief pause that followed, both the horsemen looked at the man
before them, who seemed like a fragment of the wreck of great armies
which Napoleon had filled with men of bronze sought out from among
three generations. Gondrin was certainly a splendid specimen of that
seemingly indestructible mass of men which might be cut to pieces but
never gave way. The old man was scarcely five feet high, wide across
the shoulders, and broad-chested; his face was sunburned, furrowed
with deep wrinkles, but the outlines were still firm in spite of the
hollows in it, and one could see even now that it was the face of a
soldier. It was a rough-hewn countenance, his forehead seemed like a
block of granite; but there was a weary expression about his face, and
the gray hairs hung scantily about his head, as if life were waning
there already. Everything about him indicated unusual strength; his
arms were covered thickly with hair, and so was the chest, which was
visible through the opening of his coarse shirt. In spite of his
almost crooked legs, he held himself firm and erect, as if nothing
could shake him.

"Justice," he said once more; "there will never be justice for the
like of us. We cannot send bailiffs to the Government to demand our
dues for us; and as the wallet must be filled somehow," he said,
striking his stomach, "we cannot afford to wait. Moreover, these
gentry who lead snug lives in government offices may talk and talk,
but their words are not good to eat, so I have come back here again to
draw my pay out of the commonalty," he said, striking the mud with his
spade.

"Things must not be left in that way, old comrade," said Genestas. "I
owe my life to you, and it would be ungrateful of me if I did not lend
you a hand. I have not forgotten the passage over the bridges in the
Beresina, and it is fresh in the memories of some brave fellows of my
acquaintance; they will back me up, and the nation shall give you the
recognition you deserve."

"You will be called a Bonapartist! Please do not meddle in the matter,
sir. I have gone to the rear now, and I have dropped into my hole here
like a spent bullet. But after riding on camels through the desert,
and drinking my glass by the fireside in Moscow, I never thought that
I should come back to die here beneath the trees that my father
planted," and he began to work again.

"Poor old man!" said Genestas, as they turned to go. "I should do the
same if I were in his place; we have lost our father. Everything seems
dark to me now that I have seen that man's hopelessness," he went on,
addressing Benassis; "he does not know how much I am interested in
him, and he will think that I am one of those gilded rascals who
cannot feel for a soldier's sufferings."

He turned quickly and went back, grasped the veteran's hand, and spoke
loudly in his ear:

"I swear by the Cross I wear--the Cross of Honor it used to be--that I
will do all that man can do to obtain your pension for you; even if I
have to swallow a dozen refusals from the minister, and to petition
the king and the dauphin and the whole shop!"

Old Gondrin quivered as he heard the words. He looked hard at Genestas
and said, "Haven't you served in the ranks?" The commandant nodded.
The pontooner wiped his hand and took that of Genestas, which he
grasped warmly and said:

"I made the army a present of my life, general, when I waded out into
the river yonder, and if I am still alive, it is all so much to the
good. One moment! Do you care to see to the bottom of it? Well, then,
ever since /somebody/ was pulled down from his place, I have ceased to
care about anything. And, after all," he went on cheerfully, as he
pointed to the land, "they have made over twenty thousand francs to me
here, and I am taking it out in detail, as /he/ used to say!"

"Well, then, comrade," said Genestas, touched by the grandeur of this
forgiveness, "at least you shall have the only thing that you cannot
prevent me from giving to you, here below." The commandant tapped his
heart, looked once more at the old pontooner, mounted his horse again,
and went his way side by side with Benassis.

"Such cruelty as this on the part of the government foments the strife
between rich and poor," said the doctor. "People who exercise a little
brief authority have never given a serious thought to the consequences
that must follow an act of injustice done to a man of the people. It
is true that a poor man who needs must work for his daily bread cannot
long keep up the struggle; but he can talk, and his words find an echo
in every sufferer's heart, so that one bad case of this kind is
multiplied, for every one who hears of it feels it as a personal
wrong, and the leaven works. Even this is not so serious, but
something far worse comes of it. Among the people, these causes of
injustice bring about a chronic state of smothered hatred for their
social superiors. The middle class becomes the poor man's enemy; they
lie without the bounds of his moral code, he tells lies to them and
robs them without scruple; indeed, theft ceases to be a crime or a
misdemeanor, and is looked upon as an act of vengeance.

"When an official, who ought to see that the poor have justice done
them, uses them ill and cheats them of their due, how can we expect
the poor starving wretches to bear their troubles meekly and to
respect the rights of property? It makes me shudder to think that some
understrapper whose business it is to dust papers in a government
office, has pocketed Gondrin's promised thousand francs of pension.
And yet there are folk who, never having measured the excess of the
people's sufferings, accuse the people of excess in the day of their
vengeance! When a government has done more harm than good to
individuals, its further existence depends on the merest accident, the
masses square the account after their fashion by upsetting it. A
statesman ought always to imagine Justice with the poor at her feet,
for justice was only invented for the poor."

When they had come within the compass of the township, Benassis saw
two people walking along the road in front of them, and turned to his
companion, who had been absorbed for some time in thought.

"You have seen a veteran soldier resigned to his life of wretchedness,
and now you are about to see an old agricultural laborer who is
submitting to the same lot. The man there ahead of us has dug and sown
and toiled for others all his life."

Genestas looked and saw an old laborer making his way along the road,
in company with an aged woman. He seemed to be afflicted with some
form of sciatica, and limped painfully along. His feet were encased in
a wretched pair of sabots, and a sort of wallet hung over his
shoulder. Several tools lay in the bottom of the bag; their handles,
blackened with long use and the sweat of toil, rattled audibly
together; while the other end of the wallet behind his shoulder held
bread, some walnuts, and a few fresh onions. His legs seemed to be
warped, as it were, his back was bent by continual toil; he stooped so
much as he walked that he leaned on a long stick to steady himself.
His snow-white hair escaped from under a battered hat, grown rusty by
exposure to all sorts of weather, and mended here and there with
visible stitches of white thread. His clothes, made of a kind of rough
canvas, were a mass of patches of contrasting colors. This piece of
humanity in ruins lacked none of the characteristics that appeal to
our hearts when we see ruins of other kinds.

His wife held herself somewhat more erect. Her clothing was likewise a
mass of rags, and the cap that she wore was of the coarsest materials.
On her back she carried a rough earthen jar by means of a thong passed
through the handles of the great pitcher, which was round in shape and
flattened at the sides. They both looked up when they heard the horses
approaching, saw that it was Benassis, and stopped.

The man had worked till he was almost past work, and his faithful
helpmate was no less broken with toil. It was painful to see how the
summer sun and the winter's cold had blackened their faces, and
covered them with such deep wrinkles that their features were hardly
discernible. It was not their life history that had been engraven on
their faces; but it might be gathered from their attitude and bearing.
Incessant toil had been the lot of both; they had worked and suffered
together; they had had many troubles and few joys to share; and now,
like captives grown accustomed to their prison, they seemed to be too
familiar with wretchedness to heed it, and to take everything as it
came. Yet a certain frank light-heartedness was not lacking in their
faces; and on a closer view, their monotonous life, the lot of so many
a poor creature, well-nigh seemed an enviable one. Trouble had set its
unmistakable mark on them, but petty cares had left no traces there.

"Well, my good Father Moreau, I suppose there is no help for it, and
you must always be working?"

"Yes, M. Benassis, there are one or two more bits of waste that I mean
to clear for you before I knock off work," the old man answered
cheerfully, and light shone in his little black eyes.

"Is that wine that your wife is carrying? If you will not take a rest
now, you ought at any rate to take wine."

"I take a rest? I should not know what to do with myself. The sun and
the fresh air put life into me when I am out of doors and busy
grubbing up the land. As to the wine, sir, yes, that is wine sure
enough, and it is all through your contriving I know that the Mayor at
Courteil lets us have it for next to nothing. Ah, you managed it very
cleverly, but, all the same, I know you had a hand in it."

"Oh! come, come! Good-day, mother. You are going to work on that bit
of land of Champferlu's to-day of course?"

"Yes, sir; I made a beginning there yesterday evening."

"Capital!" said Benassis. "It must be a satisfaction to you, at times,
to see this hillside. You two have broken up almost the whole of the
land on it yourselves."

"Lord! yes, sir," answered the old woman, "it has been our doing! We
have fairly earned our bread."

"Work, you see, and land to cultivate are the poor man's consols. That
good man would think himself disgraced if he went into the poorhouse
or begged for his bread; he would choose to die pickaxe in hand, out
in the open, in the sunlight. Faith, he bears a proud heart in him. He
has worked until work has become his very life; and yet death has no
terrors for him! He is a profound philosopher, little as he suspects
it. Old Moreau's case suggested the idea to me of founding an
almshouse for the country people of the district; a refuge for those
who, after working hard all their lives, have reached an honorable old
age of poverty.

"I had by no means expected to make the fortune which I have acquired
here; indeed, I myself have no use for it, for a man who has fallen
from the pinnacle of his hopes needs very little. It costs but little
to live, the idler's life alone is a costly one, and I am not sure
that the unproductive consumer is not robbing the community at large.
There was some discussion about Napoleon's pension after his fall; it
came to his ears, and he said that five francs a day and a horse to
ride was all that he needed. I meant to have no more to do with money
when I came here; but after a time I saw that money means power, and
that it is in fact a necessity, if any good is to be done. So I have
made arrangements in my will for turning my house into an almshouse,
in which old people who have not Moreau's fierce independence can end
their days. Part of the income of nine thousand francs brought in by
the mill and the rest of my property will be devoted to giving outdoor
relief in hard winters to those who really stand in need of it.

"This foundation will be under the control of the Municipal Council,
with the addition of the cure, who is to be president; and in this way
the money made in the district will be returned to it. In my will I
have laid down the lines on which this institution is to be conducted;
it would be tedious to go over them, it is enough to say that I have a
fund which will some day enable the Commune to award several
scholarships for children who show signs of promise in art or science.
So, even after I am gone, my work of civilization will continue. When
you have set yourself to do anything, Captain Bluteau, something
within you urges you on, you see, and you cannot bear to leave it
unfinished. This craving within us for order and for perfection is one
of the signs that point most surely to a future existence. Now, let us
quicken our pace, I have my round to finish, and there are five or six
more patients still to be visited."

They cantered on for some time in silence, till Benassis said
laughingly to his companion, "Come now, Captain Bluteau, you have
drawn me out and made me chatter like a magpie, and you have not said
a syllable about your own history, which must be an interesting one.
When a soldier has come to your time of life, he has seen so much that
he must have more than one adventure to tell about."

"Why, my history has been simply the history of the army," answered
Genestas. "Soldiers are all after one pattern. Never in command,
always giving and taking sabre-cuts in my place, I have lived just
like anybody else. I have been wherever Napoleon led us, and have
borne a part in every battle in which the Imperial Guard has struck a
blow; but everybody knows all about these events. A soldier has to
look after his horse, to endure hunger and thirst at times, to fight
whenever there is fighting to be done, and there you have the whole
history of his life. As simple as saying good-day, is it not? Then
there are battles in which your horse casts a shoe at the outset, and
lands you in a quandary; and as far as you are concerned, that is the
whole of it. In short, I have seen so many countries, that seeing them
has come to be a matter of course; and I have seen so many men die,
that I have come to value my own life at nothing."

"But you yourself must have been in danger at times, and it would be
interesting to hear you tell of your personal adventures."

"Perhaps," answered the commandant.

"Well, then, tell me about the adventure that made the deepest
impression upon you. Come! do not hesitate. I shall not think that you
are wanting in modesty even if you should tell me of some piece of
heroism on your part; and when a man is quite sure that he will not be
misunderstood, ought he not to find a kind of pleasure in saying, 'I
did thus'?"

"Very well, then, I will tell you about something that gives me a pang
of remorse from time to time. During fifteen years of warfare it never
once happened that I killed a man, save in legitimate defence of self.
We are drawn up in a line, and we charge; and if we do not strike down
those before us, they will begin to draw blood without asking leave,
so you have to kill if you do not mean to be killed, and your
conscience is quite easy. But once I broke a comrade's back; it
happened in a singular way, and it has been a painful thing to me to
think of afterwards--the man's dying grimace haunts me at times. But
you shall judge for yourself.

"It was during the retreat from Moscow," the commandant went on. "The
Grand Army had ceased to be itself; we were more like a herd of
over-driven cattle. Good-bye to discipline! The regiments had lost
sight of their colors, every one was his own master, and the Emperor
(one need not scruple to say it) knew that it was useless to attempt
to exert his authority when things had gone so far. When we reached
Studzianka, a little place on the other side of the Beresina, we came
upon human dwellings for the first time after several days. There were
barns and peasants' cabins to destroy, and pits full of potatoes and
beetroot; the army had been without vitual, and now it fairly ran riot,
the first comers, as you might expect, making a clean sweep of
everything.

"I was one of the last to come up. Luckily for me, sleep was the one
thing that I longed for just then. I caught sight of a barn and went
into it. I looked round and saw a score of generals and officers of
high rank, all of them men who, without flattery, might be called
great. Junot was there, and Narbonne, the Emperor's aide-de-camp, and
all the chiefs of the army. There were common soldiers there as well,
not one of whom would have given up his bed of straw to a marshal of
France. Some who were leaning their backs against the wall had dropped
off to sleep where they stood, because there was no room to lie down;
others lay stretched out on the floor--it was a mass of men packed
together so closely for the sake of warmth, that I looked about in
vain for a nook to lie down in. I walked over this flooring of human
bodies; some of the men growled, the others said nothing, but no one
budged. They would not have moved out of the way of a cannon ball just
then; but under the circumstances, one was not obliged to practise the
maxims laid down by the Child's Guide to Manners. Groping about, I saw
at the end of the barn a sort of ledge up above in the roof; no one
had thought of scrambling up to it, possibly no one had felt equal to
the effort. I clambered up and ensconced myself upon it; and as I lay
there at full length, I looked down at the men huddled together like
sheep below. It was a pitiful sight, yet it almost made me laugh. A
man here and there was gnawing a frozen carrot, with a kind of animal
satisfaction expressed in his face; and thunderous snores came from
generals who lay muffled up in ragged cloaks. The whole barn was
lighted by a blazing pine log; it might have set the place on fire,
and no one would have troubled to get up and put it out.

"I lay down on my back, and, naturally, just before I dropped off, my
eyes traveled to the roof above me, and then I saw that the main beam
which bore the weight of the joists was being slightly shaken from
east to west. The blessed thing danced about in fine style.
'Gentlemen,' said I, 'one of our friends outside has a mind to warm
himself at our expense.' A few moments more and the beam was sure to
come down. 'Gentlemen! gentlemen!' I shouted, 'we shall all be killed
in a minute! Look at the beam there!' and I made such a noise that my
bed-fellows awoke at last. Well, sir, they all stared up at the beam,
and then those who had been sleeping turned round and went off to
sleep again, while those who were eating did not even stop to answer
me.

"Seeing how things were, there was nothing for it but to get up and
leave my place, and run the risk of finding it taken by somebody else,
for all the lives of this heap of heroes were at stake. So out I go. I
turn the corner of the barn and come upon a great devil of a
Wurtemberger, who was tugging at the beam with a certain enthusiasm.
'Aho! aho!' I shouted, trying to make him understand that he must
desist from his toil. '/Gehe mir aus dem Gesicht, oder ich schlag dich
todt!/--Get out of my sight, or I will kill you,' he cried. 'Ah! yes,
just so, /Que mire aous dem guesit/,' I answered; 'but that is not the
point.' I picked up his gun that he had left on the ground, and broke
his back with it; then I turned in again, and went off to sleep. Now
you know the whole business."

"But that was a case of self-defence, in which one man suffered for
the good of many, so you have nothing to reproach yourself with," said
Benassis.

"The rest of them thought that it had only been my fancy; but fancy or
no, a good many of them are living comfortably in fine houses to-day,
without feeling their hearts oppressed by gratitude."

"Then would you only do people a good turn in order to receive that
exorbitant interest called gratitude?" said Benassis, laughing. "That
would be asking a great deal for your outlay."

"Oh, I know quite well that all the merit of a good deed evaporates at
once if it benefits the doer in the slightest degree," said Genestas.
"If he tells the story of it, the toll brought in to his vanity is a
sufficient substitute for gratitude. But if every doer of kindly
actions always held his tongue about them, those who reaped the
benefits would hardly say very much either. Now the people, according
to your system, stand in need of examples, and how are they to hear of
them amid this general reticence? Again, there is this poor pontooner
of ours, who saved the whole French army, and who was never able to
tell his tale to any purpose; suppose that he had lost the use of his
limbs, would the consciousness of what he had done have found him in
bread? Answer me that, philosopher!"

"Perhaps the rules of morality cannot be absolute," Benassis answered;
"though this is a dangerous idea, for it leaves the egoist free to
settle cases of conscience in his own favor. Listen, captain; is not
the man who never swerves from the principles of morality greater than
he who transgresses them, even through necessity? Would not our
veteran, dying of hunger, and unable to help himself, be worthy of
rank with Homer? Human life is doubtless a final trial of virtue as of
genius, for both of which a better world is waiting. Virtue and genius
seem to me to be the fairest forms of that complete and constant
surrender of self that Jesus Christ came among men to teach. Genius
sheds its light in the world and lives in poverty all its days, and
virtue sacrifices itself in silence for the general good."

"I quite agree with you, sir," said Genestas; "but those who dwell on
earth are men after all, and not angels; we are not perfect."

"That is quite true," Benassis answered. "And as for errors, I myself
have abused the indulgence. But ought we not to aim, at any rate, at
perfection? Is not virtue a fair ideal which the soul must always keep
before it, a standard set up by Heaven?"

"Amen," said the soldier. "An upright man is a magnificent thing, I
grant you; but, on the other hand, you must admit that virtue is a
divinity who may indulge in a scrap of gossip now and then in the
strictest propriety."

The doctor smiled, but there was a melancholy bitterness in his tone
as he said, "Ah! sir, you regard things with the lenience natural to
those who live at peace with themselves; and I with all the severity
of one who sees much that he would fain obliterate in the story of his
life."

The two horsemen reached a cottage beside the bed of the torrent, the
doctor dismounted and went into the house. Genestas, on the threshold,
looked over the bright spring landscape that lay without, and then at
the dark interior of the cottage, where a man was lying in bed.
Benassis examined his patient, and suddenly exclaimed, "My good woman,
it is no use my coming here unless you carry out my instructions! You
have been giving him bread; you want to kill your husband, I suppose?
Botheration! If after this you give him anything besides the tisane of
couch-grass, I will never set foot in here again, and you can look
where you like for another doctor."

"But, dear M. Benassis, my old man was starving, and when he had eaten
nothing for a whole fortnight----"

"Oh, yes, yes. Now will you listen to me. If you let your husband eat
a single mouthful of bread before I give him leave to take solid food,
you will kill him, do you hear?"

"He shall not have anything, sir. Is he any better?" she asked,
following the doctor to the door.

"Why, no. You have made him worse by feeding him. Shall I never get it
into your stupid heads that you must not stuff people who are being
dieted?"

"The peasants are incorrigible," Benassis went on, speaking to
Genestas. "If a patient has eaten nothing for two or three days, they
think he is at death's door, and they cram him with soup or wine or
something. Here is a wretched woman for you that has all but killed
her husband."

"Kill my husband with a little mite of a sop in wine!"

"Certainly, my good woman. It amazes me that he is still alive after
the mess you cooked for him. Mind that you do exactly as I have told
you."

"Yes, dear sir, I would far rather die myself than lose him."

"Oh! as to that I shall soon see. I shall come again to-morrow evening
to bleed him."

"Let us walk along the side of the stream," Benassis said to Genestas;
"there is only a footpath between this cottage and the next house
where I must pay a call. That man's little boy will hold our horses."

"You must admire this lovely valley of ours a little," he went on; "it
is like an English garden, is it not? The laborer who lives in the
cottage which we are going to visit has never got over the death of
one of his children. The eldest boy, he was only a lad, would try to
do a man's work last harvest-tide; it was beyond his strength, and
before the autumn was out he died of a decline. This is the first case
of really strong fatherly love that has come under my notice. As a
rule, when their children die, the peasant's regret is for the loss of
a useful chattel, and a part of their stock-in-trade, and the older
the child, the heavier their sense of loss. A grown-up son or daughter
is so much capital to the parents. But this poor fellow really loved
that boy of his. 'Nothing cam comfort me for my loss,' he said one day
when I came across him out in the fields. He had forgotten all about
his work, and was standing there motionless, leaning on his scythe; he
had picked up his hone, it lay in his hand, and he had forgotten to
use it. He has never spoken since of his grief to me, but he has grown
sad and silent. Just now it is one of his little girls who is ill."

Benassis and his guest reached the little house as they talked. It
stood beside a pathway that led to a bark-mill. They saw a man about
forty years of age, standing under a willow tree, eating bread that
had been rubbed with a clove of garlic.

"Well, Gasnier, is the little one doing better?"

"I do not know, sir," he said dejectedly, "you will see; my wife is
sitting with her. In spite of all your care, I am very much afraid
that death will come to empty my home for me."

"Do not lose heart, Gasnier. Death is too busy to take up his abode in
any dwelling."

Benassis went into the house, followed by the father. Half an hour
later he came out again. The mother was with him this time, and he
spoke to her, "You need have no anxiety about her now; follow out my
instructions; she is out of danger."

"If you are growing tired of this sort of thing," the doctor said to
the officer, as he mounted his horse, "I can put you on the way to the
town, and you can return."

"No, I am not tired of it, I give you my word."

"But you will only see cottages everywhere, and they are all alike;
nothing, to outward seeming, is more monotonous than the country."

"Let us go on," said the officer.

They rode on in this way for several hours, and after going from one
side of the canton to the other, they returned towards evening to the
precincts of the town.

"I must just go over there," the doctor said to Genestas, as he
pointed out a place where a cluster of elm-trees grew. "Those trees
may possibly be two hundred years old," he went on, "and that is where
the woman lives, on whose account the lad came to fetch me last night
at dinner, with a message that she had turned quite white."

"Was it anything serious?"

"No," said Benassis, "an effect of pregnancy. It is the last month
with her, a time at which some women suffer from spasms. But by way of
precaution, I must go in any case to make sure that there are no
further alarming symptoms; I shall see her through her confinement
myself. And, moreover, I should like to show you one of our new
industries; there is a brick-field here. It is a good road; shall we
gallop?"

"Will your animal keep up with mine?" asked Genestas. "Heigh!
Neptune!" he called to his horse, and in a moment the officer had been
carried far ahead, and was lost to sight in a cloud of dust, but in
spite of the paces of his horse he still heard the doctor beside him.
At a word from Benassis his own horse left the commandant so far
behind that the latter only came up with him at the gate of the
brick-field, where the doctor was quietly fastening the bridle to the
gate-post.

"The devil take it!" cried Genestas, after a look at the horse, that
was neither sweated nor blown. "What kind of animal have you there?"

"Ah!" said the doctor, "you took him for a screw! The history of this
fine fellow would take up too much time just now; let it suffice to
say that Roustan is a thoroughbred barb from the Atlas mountains, and
a Barbary horse is as good as an Arab. This one of mine will gallop up
the mountain roads without turning a hair, and will never miss his
footing in a canter along the brink of a precipice. He was a present
to me, and I think that I deserved it, for in this way a father sought
to repay me for his daughter's life. She is one of the wealthiest
heiresses in Europe, and she was at the brink of death when I found
her on the road to Savoy. If I were to tell you how I cured that young
lady, you would take me for a quack. Aha! that is the sound of the
bells on the horses and the rumbling of a wagon; it is coming along
this way; let us see, perhaps that is Vigneau himself; and if so, take
a good look at him!"

In another moment the officer saw a team of four huge horses, like
those which are owned by prosperous farmers in Brie. The harness, the
little bells, and the knots of braid in their manes, were clean and
smart. The great wagon itself was painted bright blue, and perched
aloft in it sat a stalwart, sunburned youth, who shouldered his whip
like a gun and whistled a tune.

"No," said Benassis, "that is only the wagoner. But see how the
master's prosperity in business is reflected by all his belongings,
even by the carter's wagon! Is it not a sign of a capacity for
business not very often met with in remote country places?"

"Yes, yes, it all looks very smart indeed," the officer answered.

"Well, Vigneau has two more wagons and teams like that one, and he has
a small pony besides for business purposes, for he does trade over a
wide area. And only four years ago he had nothing in the world! Stay,
that is a mistake--he had some debts. But let us go in."

"Is Mme. Vigneau in the house?" Benassis asked of the young wagoner.

"She is out in the garden, sir; I saw her just now by the hedge down
yonder; I will go and tell her that you are here."

Genestas followed Benassis across a wide open space with a hedge about
it. In one corner various heaps of clay had been piled up, destined
for tiles and pantiles, and a stack of brushwood and logs (fuel for
the kiln no doubt) lay in another part of the enclosure. Farther away
some workmen were pounding chalk stones and tempering the clay in a
space enclosed by hurdles. The tiles, both round and square, were made
under the great elms opposite the gateway, in a vast green arbor
bounded by the roofs of the drying-shed, and near this last the
yawning mouth of the kiln was visible. Some long-handled shovels lay
about the worn cider path. A second row of buildings had been erected
parallel with these. There was a sufficiently wretched dwelling which
housed the family, and some outbuildings--sheds and stables and a
barn. The cleanliness that predominated throughout, and the thorough
repair in which everything was kept, spoke well for the vigilance of
the master's eyes. Some poultry and pigs wandered at large over the
field.

"Vigneau's predecessor," said Benassis, "was a good-for-nothing, a
lazy rascal who cared about nothing by drink. He had been a workman
himself; he could keep a fire in his kiln and could put a price on his
work, and that was about all he knew; he had no energy, and no idea of
business. If no one came to buy his wares of him, they simply stayed
on hand and were spoiled, and so he lost the value of them. So he died
of want at last. He had ill-treated his wife till she was almost
idiotic, and she lived in a state of abject wretchedness. It was so
painful to see this laziness and incurable stupidity, and I so much
disliked the sight of the tile-works, that I never came this way if I
could help it. Luckily, both the man and his wife were old people. One
fine day the tile-maker had a paralytic stroke, and I had him removed
to the hospital at Grenoble at once. The owner of the tile-works
agreed to take it over without disputing about its condition, and I
looked round for new tenants who would take their part in improving
the industries of the canton.

"Mme. Gravier's waiting-maid had married a poor workman, who was
earning so little with the potter who employed him that he could not
support his household. He listened to my advice, and actually had
sufficient courage to take a lease of our tile-works, when he had not
so much as a penny. He came and took up his abode here, taught his
wife, her aged mother, and his own mother how to make tiles, and made
workmen of them. How they managed, I do not know, upon my honor!
Vigneau probably borrowed fuel to heat his kiln, he certainly worked
by day, and fetched in his materials in basket-loads by night; in
short, no one knew what boundless energy he brought to bear upon his
enterprise; and the two old mothers, clad in rags, worked like
negroes. In this way Vigneau contrived to fire several batches, and
lived for the first year on bread that was hardly won by the toil of
his household.

"Still, he made a living. His courage, patience, and sterling worth
interested many people in him, and he began to be known. He was
indefatigable. He would hurry over to Grenoble in the morning, and
sell his bricks and tiles there; then he would return home about the
middle of the day, and go back again to the town at night. He seemed
to be in several places at once. Towards the end of the first year he
took two little lads to help him. Seeing how things were, I lent him
some money, and since then from year to year the fortunes of the
family have steadily improved. After the second year was over the two
old mothers no longer moulded bricks nor pounded stones; they looked
after the little gardens, made the soup, mended the clothes, they did
spinning in the evenings, and gathered firewood in the daytime; while
the young wife, who can read and write, kept the accounts. Vigneau had
a small horse, and rode on his business errands about the
neighborhood; next he thoroughly studied the art of brick and tile
making, discovering how to make excellent square white paving-tiles,
and sold them for less than the usual prices. In the third year he had
a cart and a pair of horses, and at the same time his wife's
appearance became almost elegant. Everything about his household
improved with the improvement in his business, and everywhere there
was the same neatness, method, and thrift that had been the making of
his little fortune.

"At last he had work enough for six men, to whom he pays good wages;
he employs a wagoner, and everything about him wears an air of
prosperity. Little by little, in short, by dint of taking pains and
extending his business, his income has increased. He bought the
tile-works last year, and next year he will rebuild his house. To-day
all the worthy folk there are well clothed and in good health. His
wife, who used to be so thin and pale when the burden of her husband's
cares and anxieties used to press so hardly upon her, has recovered her
good looks, and has grown quite young and pretty again. The two old
mothers are thoroughly happy, and take the deepest interest in every
detail of the housekeeping or of the business. Work has brought money,
and the money that brought freedom from care brought health and plenty
and happiness. The story of this household is a living history in
miniature of the Commune since I have known it, and of all young
industrial states. The tile factory that used to look so empty,
melancholy, ill-kept, and useless, is now in full work, astir with
life, and well stocked with everything required. There is a good stock
of wood here, and all the raw material for the season's work: for, as
you know, tiles can only be made during a few months in the year,
between June and September. Is it not a pleasure to see all this
activity? My tile-maker has done his share of the work in every
building going, always busy--'the devourer,' they call him in these
parts."

Benassis had scarcely finished speaking when the wicket gate which
gave entrance to the garden opened, and a nicely-dressed young woman
appeared. She came forward as quickly as her condition allowed, though
the two horsemen hastened towards her. Her attire somewhat recalled
her former quality of ladies' maid, for she wore a pretty cap, a pink
dress, a silk apron, and white stockings. Mme. Vigneau in short, was a
nice-looking woman, sufficiently plump, and if she was somewhat
sunburned, her natural complexion must have been very fair. There were
a few lines still left on her forehead, traced there by the troubles
of past days, but she had a bright and winsome face. She spoke in a
persuasive voice, as she saw that the doctor came no further, "Will
you not do me the honor of coming inside and resting for a moment, M.
Benassis?"

"Certainly we will. Come this way, captain."

"The gentleman must be very hot! Will you take a little milk or some
wine? M. Benassis, please try a little of the wine that my husband has
been so kind as to buy for my confinement. You will tell me if it is
good."

"You have a good man for your husband."

"Yes, sir," she turned and spoke in quiet tones, "I am very well off."

"We will not take anything, Mme. Vigneau; I only came round this way
to see that nothing troublesome had happened."

"Nothing," she said. "I was busy out in the garden, as you saw,
turning the soil over for the sake of something to do."

Then the two old mothers came out to speak to Benassis, and the young
wagoner planted himself in the middle of the yard, in a spot from
whence he could have a good view of the doctor.

"Let us see, let me have your hand," said Benassis, addressing Mme.
Vigneau; and as he carefully felt her pulse, he stood in silence,
absorbed in thought. The three women, meanwhile, scrutinized the
commandant with the undisguised curiosity that country people do not
scruple to express.

"Nothing could be better!" cried the doctor cheerily.

"Will she be confined soon?" both the mothers asked together.

"This week beyond a doubt. Is Vigneau away from home?" he asked, after
a pause.

"Yes, sir," the young wife answered; "he is hurrying about settling
his business affairs, so as to be able to stay at home during my
confinement, the dear man!"

"Well, my children, go on and prosper; continue to increase your
wealth and to add to your family."

The cleanliness of the almost ruinous dwelling filled Genestas with
admiration.

Benassis saw the officer's astonishment, and said, "There is no one
like Mme. Vigneau for keeping a house clean and tidy like this. I wish
that several people in the town would come here to take a lesson."

The tile-maker's wife blushed and turned her head away; but the faces
of the two old mothers beamed with pleasure at the doctor's words, and
the three women walked with them to the spot where the horses were
waiting.

"Well, now," the doctor said to the two old women, "here is happiness
for you both! Were you not longing to be grandmothers?"

"Oh, do not talk about it," said the young wife; "they will drive me
crazy among them. My two mothers wish for a boy, and my husband would
like to have a little girl. It will be very difficult to please them
all, I think."

"But you yourself," asked Benassis; "what is your wish?"

"Ah, sir, I wish for a child of my own."

"There! She is a mother already, you see," said the doctor to the
officer, as he laid his hand on the bridle of his horse.

"Good-bye, M. Benassis; my husband will be sadly disappointed to learn
that you have been here when he was not at home to see you."

"He has not forgotten to send the thousand tiles to the
Grange-aux-Belles for me?"

"You know quite well, sir, that he would keep all the orders in the
canton waiting to serve you. Why, taking your money is the thing that
troubles him most; but I always tell him that your crowns bring luck
with them, and so they do."

"Good-bye," said Benassis.

A little group gathered about the bars across the entrance to the
tile-works. The three women, the young wagoner, and two workmen who
had left off work to greet the doctor, lingered there to have the
pleasure of being with him until the last moment, as we are wont to
linger with those we love. The promptings of men's hearts must
everywhere be the same, and in every land friendship expresses itself
in the same gracious ways.

Benassis looked at the height of the sun and spoke to his companion:

"There are still two hours of daylight left; and if you are not too
hungry, we will go to see some one with whom I nearly always spend the
interval between the last of my visits and the hour for dinner. She is
a charming girl whom every one here calls my 'good friend.' That is
the name that they usually give to an affianced bride; but you must
not imagine that there is the slightest imputation of any kind implied
or intended by the use of the word in this case. Poor child, the care
that I have taken of her has, as may be imagined, made her an object
of jealousy, but the general opinion entertained as to my character
has prevented any spiteful gossip. If no one understands the apparent
caprice that has led me to make an allowance to La Fosseuse, so that
she can live without being compelled to work, nobody has any doubts as
to her character. I have watched over her with friendly care, and
every one knows that I should never hesitate to marry her if my
affection for her exceeded the limits of friendship. But no woman
exists for me here in the canton or anywhere else," said the doctor,
forcing a smile. "Some natures feel a tyrannous need to attach
themselves to some one thing or being which they single out from among
the beings and things around them; this need is felt most keenly by a
man of quick sympathies, and all the more pressingly if his life has
been made desolate. So, trust me, it is a favorable sign if a man is
strongly attached to his dog or his horse! Among the suffering flock
which chance has given into my care, this poor little sufferer has
come to be for me like the pet lamb that the shepherd lasses deck with
ribbons in my own sunny land of Languedoc; they talk to it and allow
it to find pasture by the side of the cornfields, and its leisurely
pace is never hurried by the shepherd's dog."

Benassis stood with his hand on his horse's mane as he spoke, ready to
spring into the saddle, but making no effort to do so, as though the
thoughts that stirred in him were but little in keeping with rapid
movements.

"Let us go," he said at last; "come with me and pay her a visit. I am
taking you to see her; does not that tell you that I treat her as a
sister?"

As they rode on their way again, Genestas said to the doctor, "Will
you regard it as inquisitiveness on my part if I ask to hear more of
La Fosseuse? I have come to know the story of many lives through you,
and hers cannot be less interesting than some of these."

Benassis stopped his horse as he answered. "Perhaps you will not share
in the feelings of interest awakened in me by La Fosseuse. Her fate is
like my own; we have both alike missed our vocation; it is the
similarity of our lots that occasions my sympathy for her and the
feelings that I experience at the sight of her. You either followed
your natural bent when you entered upon a military career, or you took
a liking for your calling after you had adopted it, otherwise you
would not have borne the heavy yoke of military discipline till now;
you, therefore, cannot understand the sorrows of a soul that must
always feel renewed within it the stir of longings that can never be
realized; nor the pining existence of a creature forced to live in an
alien sphere. Such sufferings as these are known only to these natures
and to God who sends their afflictions, for they alone can know how
deeply the events of life affect them. You yourself have seen the
miseries produced by long wars, till they have almost ceased to
impress you, but have you never detected a trace of sadness in your
mind at the sight of a tree bearing sere leaves in the midst of
spring, some tree that is pining and dying because it has been planted
in soil in which it could not find the sustenance required for its
full development? Ever since my twentieth year, there has been
something painful and melancholy for me about the drooping of a
stunted plant, and now I cannot bear the sight and turn my head away.
My youthful sorrow was a vague presentiment of the sorrows of my later
life; it was a kind of sympathy between my present and a future dimly
foreshadowed by the life of the tree that before its time was going
the way of all trees and men."

"I thought that you had suffered when I saw how kind you were."

"You see, sir," the doctor went on without any reply to the remark
made by Genestas, "that to speak of La Fosseuse is to speak of myself.
La Fosseuse is a plant in an alien soil; a human plant moreover,
consumed by sad thoughts that have their source in the depths of her
nature, and that never cease to multiply. The poor girl is never well
and strong. The soul within her kills the body. This fragile creature
was suffering from the sorest of all troubles, a trouble which
receives the least possible sympathy from our selfish world, and how
could I look on with indifferent eyes? for I, a man, strong to wrestle
with pain, was nightly tempted to refuse to bear the burden of a
sorrow like hers. Perhaps I might actually have refused to bear it but
for a thought of religion which soothes my impatience and fills my
heart with sweet illusions. Even if we were not children of the same
Father in heaven, La Fosseuse would still be my sister in suffering!"

Benassis pressed his knees against his horse's sides, and swept ahead
of Commandant Genestas, as if he shrank from continuing this
conversation any further. When their horses were once more cantering
abreast of each other, he spoke again: "Nature has created this poor
girl for sorrow," he said, "as she has created other women for joy. It
is impossible to do otherwise than believe in a future life at the
sight of natures thus predestined to suffer. La Fosseuse is sensitive
and highly strung. If the weather is dark and cloudy, she is
depressed; she 'weeps when the sky is weeping,' a phrase of her own;
she sings with the birds; she grows happy and serene under a cloudless
sky; the loveliness of a bright day passes into her face; a soft sweet
perfume is an inexhaustible pleasure to her; I have seen her take
delight the whole day long in the scent breathed forth by some
mignonette; and, after one of those rainy mornings that bring out all
the soul of the flowers and give indescribable freshness and
brightness to the day, she seems to overflow with gladness like the
green world around her. If it is close and hot, and there is thunder
in the air, La Fosseuse feels a vague trouble that nothing can soothe.
She lies on her bed, complains of numberless different ills, and does
not know what ails her. In answer to my questions, she tells me that
her bones are melting, that she is dissolving into water; her 'heart
has left her,' to quote another of her sayings.

"I have sometimes come upon the poor child suddenly and found her in
tears, as she gazed at the sunset effects we sometimes see here among
our mountains, when bright masses of cloud gather and crowd together
and pile themselves above the golden peaks of the hills. 'Why are you
crying, little one?' I have asked her. 'I do not know, sir,' has been
the answer; 'I have grown so stupid with looking up there; I have
looked and looked, till I hardly know where I am.' 'But what do you
see there?' 'I cannot tell you, sir,' and you might question her in
this way all the evening, yet you would never draw a word from her;
but she would look at you, and every glance would seem full of
thoughts, or she would sit with tears in her eyes, scarcely saying a
word, apparently rapt in musing. Those musings of hers are so profound
that you fall under the spell of them; on me, at least, she has the
effect of a cloud overcharged with electricity. One day I plied her
with questions; I tried with all my might to make her talk; at last I
let fall a few rather hasty words; and, well--she burst into tears.

"At other times La Fosseuse is bright and winning, active, merry, and
sprightly; she enjoys talking, and the ideas which she expresses are
fresh and original. She is however quite unable to apply herself
steadily to any kind of work. When she was out in the fields she used
to spend whole hours in looking at a flower, in watching the water
flow, in gazing at the wonders in the depths of the clear, still river
pools, at the picturesque mosaic made up of pebbles and earth and
sand, of water plants and green moss, and the brown soil washed down
by the stream, a deposit full of soft shades of color, and of hues
that contrast strangely with each other.

"When I first came to the district the poor girl was starving. It hurt
her pride to accept the bread of others; and it was only when driven
to the last extremity of want and suffering that she could bring
herself to ask for charity. The feeling that this was a disgrace would
often give her energy, and for several days she worked in the fields;
but her strength was soon exhausted, and illness obliged her to leave
the work that she had begun. She had scarcely recovered when she went
to a farm on the outskirts of the town and asked to be taken on to
look after the cattle; she did her work well and intelligently, but
after a while she left without giving any reason for so doing. The
constant toil, day after day, was no doubt too heavy a yoke for one
who is all independence and caprice. Then she set herself to look for
mushrooms or for truffles, going over to Grenoble to sell them. But
the gaudy trifles in the town were very tempting, the few small coins
in her hand seemed to be great riches; she would forget her poverty
and buy ribbons and finery, without a thought for tomorrow's bread.
But if some other girl here in the town took a fancy to her brass
crucifix, her agate heart or her velvet ribbon, she would make them
over to her at once, glad to give happiness, for she lives by generous
impulses. So La Fosseuse was loved and pitied and despised by turns.
Everything in her nature was a cause of suffering to her--her
indolence, her kindness of heart, her coquetry; for she is coquettish,
dainty, and inquisitive, in short, she is a woman; she is as simple as
a child, and, like a child, she is carried away by her tastes and her
impressions. If you tell her about some noble deed, she trembles, her
color rises, her heart throbs fast, and she sheds tears of joy; if you
begin a story about robbers, she turns pale with terror. You could not
find a more sincere, open-hearted, and scrupulously loyal nature
anywhere; if you were to give a hundred gold pieces into her keeping,
she would bury them in some out-of-the-way nook and beg her bread as
before."

There was a change in Benassis' tone as he uttered these last words.

"I once determined to put her to the proof," he said, "and I repented
of it. It is like espionage to bring a test to bear upon another, is
it not? It means that we suspect them at any rate."

Here the doctor paused, as though some inward reflection engrossed
him; he was quite unconscious of the embarrassment that his last
remark had caused to his companion, who busied himself with
disentangling the reins in order to hide his confusion. Benassis soon
resumed his talk.

"I should like to find a husband for my Fosseuse. I should be glad to
make over one of my farms to some good fellow who would make her
happy. And she would be happy. The poor girl would love her children
to distraction; for motherhood, which develops the whole of a woman's
nature, would give full scope to her overflowing sentiments. She has
never cared for any one, however. Yet her impressionable nature is a
danger to her. She knows this herself, and when she saw that I
recognized it, she admitted the excitability of her temperament to me.
She belongs to the small minority of women whom the slightest contact
with others causes to vibrate perilously; so that she must be made to
value herself on her discretion and her womanly pride. She is as wild
and shy as a swallow! Ah! what a wealth of kindness there is in her!
Nature meant her to be a rich woman; she would be so beneficent: for a
well-loved woman; she would be so faithful and true. She is only
twenty-two years old, and is sinking already beneath the weight of her
soul; a victim to highly-strung nerves, to an organization either too
delicate or too full of power. A passionate love for a faithless lover
would drive her mad, my poor Fosseuse! I have made a study of her
temperament, recognized the reality of her prolonged nervous attacks,
and of the swift mysterious recurrence of her uplifted moods. I found
that they were immediately dependent on atmospheric changes and on the
variations of the moon, a fact which I have carefully verified; and
since then I have cared for her, as a creature unlike all others, for
she is a being whose ailing existence I alone can understand. As I
have told you, she is the pet lamb. But you shall see her; this is her
cottage."

They had come about one-third of the way up the mountain side. Low
bushes grew on either hand along the steep paths which they were
ascending at a foot pace. At last, at a turn in one of the paths,
Genestas saw La Fosseuse's dwelling, which stood on one of the largest
knolls on the mountain. Around it was a green sloping space of lawn
about three acres in extent, planted with trees, and surrounded by a
wall high enough to serve as a fence, but not so high as to shut out
the view of the landscape. Several rivulets that had their source in
this garden formed little cascades among the trees. The brick-built
cottage with a low roof that projected several feet was a charming
detail in the landscape. It consisted of a ground floor and a single
story, and stood facing the south. All the windows were in the front
of the house, for its small size and lack of depth from back to front
made other openings unnecessary. The doors and shutters were painted
green, and the underside of the penthouses had been lined with deal
boards in the German fashion, and painted white. The rustic charm of
the whole little dwelling lay in its spotless cleanliness.

Climbing plants and briar roses grew about the house; a great walnut
tree had been allowed to remain among the flowering acacias and trees
that bore sweet-scented blossoms, and a few weeping willows had been
set by the little streams in the garden space. A thick belt of pines
and beeches grew behind the house, so that the picturesque little
dwelling was brought out into strong relief by the sombre width of
background. At that hour of the day, the air was fragrant with the
scents from the hillsides and the perfume from La Fosseuse's garden.
The sky overhead was clear and serene, but low clouds hung on the
horizon, and the far-off peaks had begun to take the deep rose hues
that the sunset often brings. At the height which they had reached the
whole valley lay before their eyes, from distant Grenoble to the
little lake at the foot of the circle of crags by which Genestas had
passed on the previous day. Some little distance above the house a
line of poplars on the hill indicated the highway that led to
Grenoble. Rays of sunlight fell slantwise across the little town which
glittered like a diamond, for the soft red light which poured over it
like a flood was reflected by all its window-panes. Genestas reined in
his horse at the sight, and pointed to the dwellings in the valley, to
the new town, and to La Fosseuse's house.

"Since the victory of Wagram, and Napoleon's return to the Tuileries
in 1815," he said, with a sigh, "nothing has so stirred me as the
sight of all this. I owe this pleasure to you, sir, for you have
taught me to see beauty in a landscape."

"Yes," said the doctor, smiling as he spoke, "It is better to build
towns than to storm them."

"Oh! sir, how about the taking of Moscow and the surrender of Mantua!
Why, you do not really know what that means! Is it not a glory for all
of us? You are a good man, but Napoleon also was a good man. If it had
not been for England, you both would have understood each other, and
our Emperor would never have fallen. There are no spies here," said
the officer, looking around him, "and I can say openly that I love
him, now that he is dead! What a ruler! He knew every man when he saw
him! He would have made you a Councillor of State, for he was a great
administrator himself; even to the point of knowing how many
cartridges were left in the men's boxes after an action. Poor man!
While you were talking about La Fosseuse, I thought of him, and how he
was lying dead in St. Helena! Was that the kind of climate and country
to suit /him/, whose seat had been a throne, and who had lived with his
feet in the stirrups; hein? They say that he used to work in the
garden. The deuce! He was not made to plant cabbages. . . . And now we
must serve the Bourbons, and loyally, sir; for, after all, France is
France, as you were saying yesterday."

Genestas dismounted as he uttered these last words, and mechanically
followed the example set by Benassis, who fastened his horse's bridle
to a tree.

"Can she be away?" said the doctor, when he did not see La Fosseuse on
the threshold. They went into the house, but there was no one in the
sitting room on the ground floor.

"She must have heard the sound of a second horse," said Benassis, with
a smile, "and has gone upstairs to put on her cap, or her sash, or
some piece of finery."

He left Genestas alone, and went upstairs in search of La Fosseuse.
The commandant made a survey of the room. He noticed the pattern of
the paper that covered the walls--roses scattered over a gray
background, and the straw matting that did duty for a carpet on the
floor. The armchair, the table, and the smaller chairs were made of
wood from which the bark had not been removed. The room was not
without ornament; some flower-stands, as they might be called, made of
osiers and wooden hoops, had been filled with moss and flowers, and
the windows were draped by white dimity curtains bordered with a
scarlet fringe. There was a mirror above the chimney-piece, where a
plain china jar stood between two candlesticks. Some calico lay on the
table; shirts, apparently, had been cut out and begun, several pairs
of gussets were finished, and a work-basket, scissors, needles and
thread, and all a needle-woman's requirements lay beside them.
Everything was as fresh and clean as a shell that the sea had tossed
up on the beach. Genestas saw that a kitchen lay on the other side of
the passage, and that the staircase was at the further end of it. The
upper story, like the ground floor, evidently consisted of two rooms
only. "Come, do not be frightened," Benassis was saying to La
Fosseuse; "come down-stairs!"

Genestas promptly retreated into the sitting-room when he heard these
words, and in another moment a slender girl, well and gracefully made,
appeared in the doorway. She wore a gown of cambric, covered with
narrow pink stripes, and cut low at the throat, so as to display a
muslin chemisette. Shyness and timidity had brought the color to a
face which had nothing very remarkable about it save a certain
flatness of feature which called to mind the Cossack and Russian
countenances that since the disasters of 1814 have unfortunately come
to be so widely known in France. La Fosseuse was, in fact, very like
these men of the North. Her nose turned up at the end, and was sunk in
her face, her mouth was wide and her chin small, her hands and arms
were red and, like her feet, were of the peasant type, large and
strong. Although she had been used to an outdoor life, to exposure to
the sun and the scorching summer winds, her complexion had the
bleached look of withered grass; but after the first glance this made
her face more interesting, and there was such a sweet expression in
her blue eyes, so much grace about her movements, and such music in
her voice, that little as her features seemed to harmonize with the
disposition which Benassis had praised to the commandant, the officer
recognized in her the capricious and ailing creature, condemned to
suffering by a nature that had been thwarted in its growth.

La Fosseuse deftly stirred the fire of dry branches and turfs of peat,
then sat down in an armchair and took up one of the shirts that she
had begun. She sat there under the officer's eyes, half bashful,
afraid to look up, and calm to all appearance; but her bodice rose and
fell with the rapid breathing that betrayed her nervousness, and it
struck Genestas that her figure was very graceful.

"Well, my poor child, is your work going on nicely?" said Benassis,
taking up the material intended for the shirts, and passing it through
his fingers.

La Fosseuse gave the doctor a timid and beseeching glance.

"Do not scold me, sir," she entreated; "I have not touched them
to-day, although they were ordered by you, and for people who need
them very badly. But the weather has been so fine! I wandered out and
picked a quantity of mushrooms and white truffles, and took them over
to Jacquotte; she was very pleased, for some people are coming to
dinner. I was so glad that I thought of it; something seemed to tell
me to go to look for them."

She began to ply her needle again.

"You have a very pretty house here, mademoiselle," said Genestas,
addressing her.

"It is not mine at all, sir," she said, looking at the stranger, and
her eyes seemed to grow red and tearful; "it belongs to M. Benassis,"
and she turned towards the doctor with a gentle expression on her
face.

"You know quite well, my child, that you will never have to leave it,"
he said, as he took her hand in his.

La Fosseuse suddenly rose and left the room.

"Well," said the doctor, addressing the officer, "what do you think of
her?"

"There is something strangely touching about her," Genestas answered.
"How very nicely you have fitted up this little nest of hers!"

"Bah! a wall-paper at fifteen or twenty sous; it was carefully chosen,
but that was all. The furniture is nothing very much either, my
basket-maker made it for me; he wanted to show his gratitude; and La
Fosseuse made the curtains herself out of a few yards of calico. This
little house of hers, and her simple furniture, seem pretty to you,
because you come upon them up here on a hillside in a forlorn part of
the world where you did not expect to find things clean and tidy. The
reason of the prettiness is a kind of harmony between the little house
and its surroundings. Nature has set picturesque groups of trees and
running streams about it, and has scattered her fairest flowers among
the grass, her sweet-scented wild strawberry blossoms, and her lovely
violets. . . . Well, what is the matter?" asked Benassis, as La
Fosseuse came back to them.

"Oh! nothing, nothing," she answered. "I fancied that one of my
chickens was missing, and had not been shut up."

Her remark was disingenuous, but this was only noticed by the doctor,
who said in her ear, "You have been crying!"

"Why do you say things like that to me before some one else?" she
asked in reply.

"Mademoiselle," said Genestas, "it is a great pity that you live here
all by yourself; you ought to have a mate in such a charming cage as
this."

"That is true," she said, "but what would you have? I am poor, and I
am hard to please. I feel that it would not suit me at all to carry
the soup out into the fields, nor to push a hand-cart; to feel the
misery of those whom I should love, and have no power to put an end to
it; to carry my children in my arms all day, and patch and re-patch a
man's rags. The cure tells me that such thoughts as these are not very
Christian; I know that myself, but how can I help it? There are days
when I would rather eat a morsel of dry bread than cook anything for
my dinner. Why would you have me worry some man's life out with my
failings? He would perhaps work himself to death to satisfy my whims,
and that would not be right. Pshaw! an unlucky lot has fallen to me,
and I ought to bear it by myself."

"And besides, she is a born do-nothing," said Benassis. "We must take
my poor Fosseuse as we find her. But all that she has been saying to
you simply means that she has never loved as yet," he added, smiling.
Then he rose and went out on to the lawn for a moment.

"You must be very fond of M. Benassis?" asked Genestas.

"Oh! yes, sir; and there are plenty of people hereabouts who feel as I
do--that they would be glad to do anything in the world for him. And
yet he who cures other people has some trouble of his own that nothing
can cure. You are his friend, perhaps you know what it is? Who could
have given pain to such a man, who is the very image of God on earth?
I know a great many who think that the corn grows faster if he has
passed by their field in the morning."

"And what do you think yourself?"

"I, sir? When I have seen him," she seemed to hesitate, then she went
on, "I am happy all the rest of the day."

She bent her head over her work, and plied her needle with unwonted
swiftness.

"Well, has the captain been telling you something about Napoleon?"
said the doctor, as he came in again.

"Have you seen the Emperor, sir?" cried La Fosseuse, gazing at the
officer's face with eager curiosity.

"/Parbleu!/" said Genestas, "hundreds of times!"

"Oh! how I should like to know something about the army!"

"Perhaps we will come to take a cup of coffee with you to-morrow, and
you shall hear 'something about the army,' dear child," said Benassis,
who laid his hand on her shoulder and kissed her brow. "She is my
daughter, you see!" he added, turning to the commandant; "there is
something wanting in the day, somehow, when I have not kissed her
forehead."

La Fosseuse held Benassis' hand in a tight clasp as she murmured, "Oh!
you are very kind!"

They left the house; but she came after them to see them mount. She
waited till Genestas was in the saddle, and then whispered in
Benassis' ear, "Tell me who that gentleman is?"

"Aha!" said the doctor, putting a foot in the stirrup, "a husband for
you, perhaps."

She stood on the spot where they left her, absorbed in watching their
progress down the steep path; and when they came past the end of the
garden, they saw her already perched on a little heap of stones, so
that she might still keep them in view and give them a last nod of
farewell.

"There is something very unusual about that girl, sir," Genestas said
to the doctor when they had left the house far behind.

"There is, is there not?" he answered. "Many a time I have said to
myself that she will make a charming wife, but I can only love her as
a sister or a daughter, and in no other way; my heart is dead."

"Has she any relations?" asked Genestas. "What did her father and
mother do?"

"Oh, it is quite a long story," answered Benassis. "Neither her father
nor mother nor any of her relations are living. Everything about her
down to her name interested me. La Fosseuse was born here in the town.
Her father, a laborer from Saint Laurent du Pont, was nicknamed /Le
Fosseur/, which is no doubt a contraction of /fossoyeur/, for the office
of sexton had been in his family time out of mind. All the sad
associations of the graveyard hang about the name. Here as in some
other parts of France, there is an old custom, dating from the times
of the Latin civilization, in virtue of which a woman takes her
husband's name, with the addition of a feminine termination, and this
girl has been called La Fosseuse, after her father.

"The laborer had married the waiting-woman of some countess or other
who owns an estate at a distance of a few leagues. It was a
love-match. Here, as in all country districts, love is a very small
element in a marriage. The peasant, as a rule, wants a wife who will
bear him children, a housewife who will make good soup and take it out
to him in the fields, who will spin and make his shirts and mend his
clothes. Such a thing had not happened for a long while in a district
where a young man not unfrequently leaves his betrothed for another
girl who is richer by three or four acres of land. The fate of Le
Fosseur and his wife was scarcely happy enough to induce our
Dauphinois to forsake their calculating habits and practical way of
regarding things. La Fosseuse, who was a very pretty woman, died when
her daughter was born, and her husband's grief for his loss was so
great that he followed her within the year, leaving nothing in the
world to this little one except an existence whose continuance was
very doubtful--a mere feeble flicker of a life. A charitable neighbor
took the care of the baby upon herself, and brought her up till she
was nine years old. Then the burden of supporting La Fosseuse became
too heavy for the good woman; so at the time of year when travelers
are passing along the roads, she sent her charge to beg for her living
upon the highways.

"One day the little orphan asked for bread at the countess' chateau,
and they kept the child for her mother's sake. She was to be
waiting-maid some day to the daughter of the house, and was brought up
to this end. Her young mistress was married five years later; but
meanwhile the poor little thing was the victim of all the caprices of
wealthy people, whose beneficence for the most part is not to be
depended upon even while it lasts. They are generous by fits and
starts--sometimes patrons, sometimes friends, sometimes masters, in
this way they falsify the already false position of the poor children
in whom they interest themselves, and trifle with the hearts, the
lives, and futures of their protegees, whom they regard very lightly.
From the first La Fosseuse became almost a companion to the young
heiress; she was taught to read and write, and her future mistress
sometimes amused herself by giving her music lessons. She was treated
sometimes as a lady's companion, sometimes as a waiting-maid, and in
this way they made an incomplete being of her. She acquired a taste
for luxury and for dress, together with manners ill-suited to her real
position. She has been roughly schooled by misfortune since then, but
the vague feeling that she is destined for a higher lot has not been
effaced in her.

"A day came at last, however, a fateful day for the poor girl, when
the young countess (who was married by this time) discovered La
Fosseuse arrayed in one of her ball dresses, and dancing before a
mirror. La Fosseuse was no longer anything but a waiting-maid, and the
orphan girl, then sixteen years of age, was dismissed without pity.
Her idle ways plunged her once more into poverty; she wandered about
begging by the roadside, and working at times as I have told you.
Sometimes she thought of drowning herself, sometimes also of giving
herself to the first comer; she spent most of her time thinking dark
thoughts, lying by the side of a wall in the sun, with her face buried
in the grass, and passers-by would sometimes throw a few halfpence to
her, simply because she asked them for nothing. One whole year she
spent in a hospital at Annecy after heavy toil in the harvest field;
she had only undertaken the work in the hope that it would kill her,
and that so she might die. You should hear her herself when she speaks
of her feelings and ideas during this time of her life; her simple
confidences are often very curious.

"She came back to the little town at last, just about the time when I
decided to take up my abode in it. I wanted to understand the minds of
the people beneath my rule; her character struck me, and I made a
study of it; then when I became aware of her physical infirmities, I
determined to watch over her. Perhaps in time she may grow accustomed
to work with her needle, but, whatever happens, I have secured her
future."

"She is quite alone up there!" said Genestas.

"No. One of my herdswomen sleeps in the house," the doctor answered.
"You did not see my farm buildings which lie behind the house. They
are hidden by the pine-trees. Oh! she is quite safe. Moreover, there
are no mauvais sujets here in the valley; if any come among us by any
chance, I send them into the army, where they make excellent solders."

"Poor girl!" said Genestas.

"Oh! the folk round about do not pity her at all," said Benassis; "on
the other hand, they think her very lucky; but there is this
difference between her and the other women: God has given strength to
them and weakness to her, and they do not see that."

The moment that the two horsemen came out upon the road to Grenoble,
Benassis stopped with an air of satisfaction; a different view had
suddenly opened out before them; he foresaw its effect upon Genestas,
and wished to enjoy his surprise. As far as the eye could see, two
green walls sixty feet high rose above a road which was rounded like a
garden path. The trees had not been cut or trimmed, each one preserved
the magnificent palm-branch shape that makes the Lombard poplar one of
the grandest of trees; there they stood, a natural monument which a
man might well be proud of having reared. The shadow had already
reached one side of the road, transforming it into a vast wall of
black leaves, but the setting sun shone full upon the other side,
which stood out in contrast, for the young leaves at the tips of every
branch had been dyed a bright golden hue, and, as the breeze stirred
through the waving curtain, it gleamed in the light.

"You must be very happy here!" cried Genestas. "The sight of this must
be all pleasure to you."

"The love of Nature is the only love that does not deceive human
hopes. There is no disappointment here," said the doctor. "Those
poplars are ten years old; have you ever seen any that are better
grown than these of mine?"

"God is great!" said the soldier, coming to a stand in the middle of
the road, of which he saw neither beginning nor end.

"You do me good," cried Benassis. "It was a pleasure to hear you say
over again what I have so often said in the midst of this avenue.
There is something holy about this place. Here, we are like two mere
specks; and the feeling of our own littleness always brings us into
the presence of God."

They rode on slowly and in silence, listening to their horses'
hoof-beats; the sound echoed along the green corridor as it might
have done beneath the vaulted roof of a cathedral.

"How many things have a power to stir us which town-dwellers do not
suspect," said the doctor. "Do you not notice the sweet scent given
off by the gum of the poplar buds, and the resin of the larches? How
delightful it is!"

"Listen!" exclaimed Genestas. "Let us wait a moment."

A distant sound of singing came to their ears.

"Is it a woman or a man, or is it a bird?" asked the commandant in a
low voice. "Is it the voice of this wonderful landscape?"

"It is something of all these things," the doctor answered, as he
dismounted and fastened his horse to a branch of a poplar tree.

He made a sign to the officer to follow his example and to come with
him. They went slowly along a footpath between two hedges of
blossoming hawthorn which filled the damp evening air with its
delicate fragrance. The sun shone full into the pathway; the light and
warmth were very perceptible after the shade thrown by the long wall
of poplar trees; the still powerful rays poured a flood of red light
over a cottage at the end of the stony track. The ridge of the cottage
roof was usually a bright green with its overgrowth of mosses and
house-leeks, and the thatch was brown as a chestnut shell, but just
now it seemed to be powdered with a golden dust. The cottage itself
was scarcely visible through the haze of light; the ruinous wall, the
doorway and everything about it was radiant with a fleeting glory and
a beauty due to chance, such as is sometimes seen for an instant in a
human face, beneath the influence of a strong emotion that brings
warmth and color into it. In a life under the open sky and among the
fields, the transient and tender grace of such moments as these draws
from us the wish of the apostle who said to Jesus Christ upon the
mountain, "Let us build a tabernacle and dwell here."

The wide landscape seemed at that moment to have found a voice whose
purity, and sweetness equaled its own sweetness and purity, a voice as
mournful as the dying light in the west--for a vague reminder of Death
is divinely set in the heavens, and the sun above gives the same
warning that is given here on earth by the flowers and the bright
insects of the day. There is a tinge of sadness about the radiance of
sunset, and the melody was sad. It was a song widely known in the days
of yore, a ballad of love and sorrow that once had served to stir a
national hatred of France for England. Beaumarchais, in a later day,
had given it back its true poetry by adapting it for the French
theatre and putting it into the mouth of a page, who pours out his
heart to his stepmother. Just now it was simply the air that rose and
fell. There were no words; the plaintive voice of the singer touched
and thrilled the soul.

"It is the swan's song," said Benassis. "That voice does not sound
twice in a century for human ears. Let us hurry; we must put a stop to
the singing! The child is killing himself; it would be cruel to listen
to him any longer. Be quiet, Jacques! Come, come, be quiet!" cried the
doctor.

The music ceased. Genestas stood motionless and overcome with
astonishment. A cloud had drifted across the sun, the landscape and
the voice were both mute. Shadow, chillness, and silence had taken the
place of the soft glory of the light, the warm breath of the breeze,
and the child's singing.

"What makes you disobey me?" asked Benassis. "I shall not bring you
any more rice pudding nor snail broth! No more fresh dates and white
bread for you! So you want to die and break your poor mother's heart,
do you?"

Genestas came into a little yard, which was sufficiently clean and
tidily kept, and saw before him a lad of fifteen, who looked as
delicate as a woman. His hair was fair but scanty, and the color in
his face was so bright that it seemed hardly natural. He rose up
slowly from the bench where he was sitting, beneath a thick bush of
jessamine and some blossoming lilacs that were running riot, so that
he was almost hidden among the leaves.

"You know very well," said the doctor, "that I told you not to talk,
not to expose yourself to the chilly evening air, and to go to bed as
soon as the sun was set. What put it into your head to sing?"

"/Dame!/ M. Benassis, it was so very warm out here, and it is so nice
to feel warm! I am always cold. I felt so happy that without thinking I
began to try over /Malbrouk s'en va-t-en guerre/, just for fun, and then
I began to listen to myself because my voice was something like the
sound of the flute your shepherd plays."

"Well, my poor Jacques, this must not happen again; do you hear? Let
me have your hand," and the doctor felt his pulse.

The boy's eyes had their usual sweet expression, but just now they
shone with a feverish light.

"It is just as I thought, you are covered with perspiration," said
Benassis. "Your mother has not come in yet?"

"No, sir."

"Come! go in-doors and get into bed."

The young invalid went back into the cottage, followed by Benassis and
the officer.

"Just light a candle, Captain Bluteau," said the doctor, who was
helping Jacques to take off his rough, tattered clothing.

When Genestas had struck a light, and the interior of the room was
visible, he was surprised by the extreme thinness of the child, who
seemed to be little more than skin and bone. When the little peasant
had been put to bed, Benassis tapped the lad's chest, and listened to
the ominous sounds made in this way by his fingers; then, after some
deliberation, he drew back the coverlet over Jacques, stepped back a
few paces, folded his arms across his chest, and closely scrutinized
his patient.

"How do you feel, my little man?"

"Quite comfortable, sir."

A table, with four spindle legs, stood in the room; the doctor drew it
up to the bed, found a tumbler and a phial on the mantel-shelf, and
composed a draught, by carefully measuring a few drops of brown liquid
from the phial into some water, Genestas holding the light the while.

"Your mother is very late."

"She is coming, sir," said the child; "I can hear her footsteps on the
path."

The doctor and the officer looked around them while they waited. At
the foot of the bed there was a sort of mattress made of moss, on
which, doubtless, the mother was wont to sleep in her clothes, for
there were neither sheets nor coverlet. Genestas pointed out this bed
to Benassis, who nodded slightly to show that he likewise had already
admired this motherly devotion. There was a clatter of sabots in the
yard, and the doctor went out.

"You will have to sit up with Jacques to-night, Mother Colas. If he
tells you that his breathing is bad, you must let him drink some of
the draught that I have poured into the tumbler on the table. Take
care not to let him have more than two or three sips at a time; there
ought to be enough in the tumbler to last him all through the night.
Above all things, do not touch the phial, and change the child's
clothing at once. He is perspiring heavily."

"I could not manage to wash his shirts to-day, sir; I had to take the
hemp over to Grenoble, as we wanted the money."

"Very well, then, I will send you some shirts."

"Then is he worse, my poor lad?" asked the woman.

"He has been so imprudent as to sing, Mother Colas; and it is not to
be expected that any good can come of it; but do not be hard upon him,
nor scold him. Do not be down-hearted about it; and if Jacques
complains overmuch, send a neighbor to fetch me. Good-bye."

The doctor called to his friend, and they went back along the
foot-path.

"Is that little peasant consumptive?" asked Genestas.

"/Mon Dieu/! yes," answered Benassis. "Science cannot save him, unless
Nature works a miracle. Our professors at the Ecole de Medecine in
Paris often used to speak to us of the phenomenon which you have just
witnessed. Some maladies of this kind bring about changes in the
voice-producing organs that give the sufferer a short-lived power of
song that no trained voice can surpass. I have made you spend a
melancholy day, sir," said the doctor when he was once more in the
saddle. "Suffering and death everywhere, but everywhere also
resignation. All these peasant folk take death philosophically; they
fall ill, say nothing about it, and take to their beds like dumb
animals. But let us say no more about death, and let us quicken our
horses' paces a little; we ought to reach the town before nightfall,
so that you may see the new quarter."

"Eh! some place is on fire over there," said Genestas, pointing to a
spot on the mountain, where a sheaf of flames was rising.

"It is not a dangerous fire. Our lime-burner is heating his kiln, no
doubt. It is a newly-started industry, which turns our heather to
account."

There was the sudden report of a gun, followed by an involuntary
exclamation from Benassis, who said, with an impatient gesture, "If
that is Butifer, we shall see which of us two is the stronger."

"The shot came from that quarter," said Genestas, indicating a
beech-wood up above them on the mountain side. "Yes, up there; you
may trust an old soldier's ear."

"Let us go there at once!" cried Benassis, and he made straight for
the little wood, urging his horse at a furious speed across the
ditches and fields, as if he were riding a steeplechase, in his
anxiety to catch the sportsman red-handed.

"The man you are after has made off," shouted Genestas, who could
scarcely keep up with him.

Benassis wheeled his horse round sharply, and came back again. The man
of whom he was in search soon appeared on the top of a perpendicular
crag, a hundred feet above the level of the two horsemen.

"Butifer!" shouted Benassis when he saw that this figure carried a
fowling-piece; "come down!"

Butifer recognized the doctor, and replied by a respectful and
friendly sign which showed that he had every intention of obeying.

"I can imagine that if a man were driven to it by fear or by some
overmastering impulse that he might possibly contrive to scramble up
to that point among the rocks," said Genestas; "but how will he manage
to come down again?"

"I have no anxiety on that score," answered Benassis; "the wild goats
must feel envious of that fellow yonder! You will see."

The emergencies of warfare had accustomed the commandant to gauge the
real worth of men; he admired the wonderful quickness of Butifer's
movements, the sure-footed grace with which the hunter swung himself
down the rugged sides of the crag, to the top of which he had so
boldly climbed. The strong, slender form of the mountaineer was
gracefully poised in every attitude which the precipitous nature of
the path compelled him to assume; and so certain did he seem of his
power to hold on at need, that if the pinnacle of rock on which he
took his stand had been a level floor, he could not have set his foot
down upon it more calmly. He carried his fowling-piece as if it had
been a light walking-cane. Butifer was a young man of middle height,
thin, muscular, and in good training; his beauty was of a masculine
order, which impressed Genestas on a closer view.

Evidently he belonged to the class of smugglers who ply their trade
without resorting to violent courses, and who only exert patience and
craft to defraud the government. His face was manly and sunburned. His
eyes, which were bright as an eagle's, were of a clear yellow color,
and his sharply-cut nose with its slight curve at the tip was very
much like an eagle's beak. His cheeks were covered with down, his red
lips were half open, giving a glimpse of a set of teeth of dazzling
whiteness. His beard, moustache, and the reddish whiskers, which he
allowed to grow, and which curled naturally, still further heightened
the masculine and forbidding expression of his face. Everything about
him spoke of strength. He was broad-chested; constant activity had
made the muscles of his hands curiously firm and prominent. There was
the quick intelligence of a savage about his glances; he looked
resolute, fearless, and imperturbable, like a man accustomed to put
his life in peril, and whose physical and mental strength had been so
often tried by dangers of every kind, that he no longer felt any
doubts about himself. He wore a blouse that had suffered a good deal
from thorns and briars, and he had a pair of leather soles bound to
his feet by eel-skin thongs, and a pair of torn and tattered blue
linen breeches through which his legs were visible, red, wiry, hard,
and muscular as those of a stag.

"There you see the man who once fired a shot at me," Benassis remarked
to the commandant in a low voice. "If at this moment I were to signify
to him my desire to be rid of any one, he would kill them without
scruple.--Butifer!" he went on, addressing the poacher, "I fully
believed you to be a man of your word; I pledged mine for you because
I had your promise. My promise to the /procureur du roi/ at Grenoble was
based upon your vow never to go poaching again, and to turn over a new
leaf and become a steady, industrious worker. You fired that shot just
now, and here you are, on the Comte de Labranchoir's estate! Eh! you
miscreant? Suppose his keeper had happened to hear you? It is a lucky
thing for you that I shall take no formal cognizance of this offence;
if I did, you would come up as an old offender, and of course you have
no gun license! I let you keep that gun of yours out of tenderness for
your attachment to the weapon."

"It is a beauty," said the commandant, who recognized a duck gun from
Sainte Etienne.

The smuggler raised his head and looked at Genestas by way of
acknowledging the compliment.

"Butifer," continued Benassis, "if your conscience does not reproach
you, it ought to do so. If you are going to begin your old tricks
again, you will find yourself once more in a park enclosed by four
stone walls, and no power on earth will save you from the hulks; you
will be a marked man, and your character will be ruined. Bring your
gun to me to-night, I will take care of it for you."

Butifer gripped the barrel of his weapon in a convulsive clutch.

"You are right, sir," he said; "I have done wrong, I have broken
bounds, I am a cur. My gun ought to go to you, but when you take it
away from me, you take all that I have in the world. The last shot
which my mother's son will fire shall be through my own head. . . .
What would you have? I did as you wanted me. I kept quiet all winter;
but the spring came, and the sap rose. I am not used to day labor. It
is not in my nature to spend my life in fattening fowls; I cannot
stoop about turning over the soil for vegetables, nor flourish a whip
and drive a cart, nor scrub down a horse in a stable all my life, so I
must die of starvation, I suppose? I am only happy when I am up
there," he went on after a pause, pointing to the mountains. "And I
have been about among the hills for the past week; I got a sight of a
chamois, and I have the chamois there," he said, pointing to the top
of the crag; "it is at your service! Dear M. Benassis, leave me my
gun. Listen! I will leave the Commune, /foi de Butifer/! I will go to
the Alps; the chamois-hunters will not say a word; on the contrary,
they will receive me with open arms. I shall come to grief at the
bottom of some glacier; but, if I am to speak my mind, I would rather
live for a couple of years among the heights, where there are no
governments, nor excisemen, nor gamekeepers, nor procureurs du roi,
than grovel in a marsh for a century. You are the only one that I
shall be sorry to leave behind; all the rest of them bore me! When you
are in the right, at any rate you don't worry one's life out----"

"And how about Louise?" asked Benassis. Butifer paused and turned
thoughtful.

"Eh! learn to read and write, my lad," said Genestas; "come and enlist
in my regiment, have a horse to ride, and turn carabineer. If they
once sound 'to horse' for something like a war, you will find out that
Providence made you to live in the midst of cannon, bullets, and
battalions, and they will make a general of you."

"Ye-es, if Napoleon was back again," answered Butifer.

"You know our agreement," said the doctor. "At the second infraction
of it, you undertook to go for a soldier. I give you six months in
which to learn to read and write, and then I will find some young
gentleman who wants a substitute."

Butifer looked at the mountains.

"Oh! you shall not go to the Alps," cried Benassis. "A man like you, a
man of his word, with plenty of good stuff in him, ought to serve his
country and command a brigade, and not come to his end trailing after
a chamois. The life that you are leading will take you straight to the
convict's prison. After over-fatiguing yourself, you are obliged to
take a long rest; and, in the end, you will fall into idle ways that
will be the ruin of any notions of orderly existence that you have;
you will get into the habit of putting your strength to bad uses, and
you will take the law into your own hands. I want to put you, in spite
of yourself, into the right path."

"So I am to pine and fret myself to death? I feel suffocated whenever
I am in a town. I cannot hold out for more than a day, in Grenoble,
when I take Louise there----"

"We all have our whims, which we must manage to control, or turn them
to account for our neighbor's benefit. But it is late, and I am in a
hurry. Come to see me to-morrow, and bring your gun along with you. We
will talk this over, my boy. Good-bye. Go and sell your chamois in
Grenoble."

The two horsemen went on their way.

"That is what I call a man," said Genestas.

"A man in a bad way," answered Benassis. "But what help is there for
it? You heard what he said. Is it not lamentable to see such fine
qualities running to waste? If France were invaded by a foreign foe,
Butifer at the head of a hundred young fellows would keep a whole
division busy in Maurienne for a month; but in a time of peace the
only outlets for his energy are those which set the law at defiance.
He must wrestle with something; whenever he is not risking his neck he
is at odds with society, he lends a helping hand to smugglers. The
rogue will cross the Rhone, all by himself, in a little boat, to take
shoes over into Savoy; he makes good his retreat, heavy laden as he
is, to some inaccessible place high up among the hills, where he stays
for two days at a time, living on dry crusts. In short, danger is as
welcome to him as sleep would be to anybody else, and by dint of
experience he has acquired a relish for extreme sensations that has
totally unfitted him for ordinary life. It vexes me that a man like
that should take a wrong turn and gradually go to the bad, become a
bandit, and die on the gallows. But, see, captain, how our village
looks from here!"

Genestas obtained a distant view of a wide circular space, planted
with trees, a fountain surrounded by poplars stood in the middle of
it. Round the enclosure were high banks on which a triple line of
trees of different kinds were growing; the first row consisted of
acacias, the second of Japanese varnish trees, and some young elms
grew on the highest row of all.

"That is where we hold our fair," said Benassis. "That is the
beginning of the High Street, by those two handsome houses that I told
you about; one belongs to the notary, and the other to the justice of
the peace."

They came at that moment into a broad road, fairly evenly paved with
large cobble-stones. There were altogether about a hundred new houses
on either side of it, and almost every house stood in a garden.

The view of the church with its doorway made a pretty termination to
this road. Two more roads had been recently planned out half-way down
the course of the first, and many new houses had already been built
along them. The town-hall stood opposite the parsonage, in the square
by the church. As Benassis went down the road, women and children
stood in their doorways to wish him good-evening, the men took off
their caps, and the little children danced and shouted about his
horse, as if the animal's good-nature were as well known as the
kindness of its master. The gladness was undemonstrative; there was
the instinctive delicacy of all deep feeling about it, and it had the
same pervasive power. At the sight of this welcome it seemed to
Genestas that the doctor had been too modest in his description of the
affection with which he was regarded by the people of the district.
His truly was a sovereignty of the sweetest kind; a right royal
sovereignty moreover, for its title was engraven in the hearts of its
subjects. However dazzling the rays of glory that surround a man,
however great the power that he enjoys, in his inmost soul he soon
comes to a just estimate of the sentiments that all external action
causes for him. He very soon sees that no change has been wrought in
him, that there is nothing new and nothing greater in the exercise of
his physical faculties, and discovers his own real nothingness. Kings,
even should they rule over the whole world, are condemned to live in a
narrow circle like other men. They must even submit to the conditions
of their lot, and their happiness depends upon the personal
impressions that they receive. But Benassis met with nothing but
goodwill and loyalty throughout the district.



                            CHAPTER III

                     THE NAPOLEON OF THE PEOPLE

"Pray, come in, sir!" cried Jacquotte. "A pretty time the gentlemen
have been waiting for you! It is always the way! You always manage to
spoil the dinner for me whenever it ought to be particularly good.
Everything is cooked to death by this time----"

"Oh! well, here we are," answered Benassis with a smile.

The two horsemen dismounted, and went off to the salon, where the
guests invited by the doctor were assembled.

"Gentlemen," he said taking Genestas by the hand, "I have the honor of
introducing you to M. Bluteau, captain of a regiment of cavalry
stationed at Grenoble--an old soldier, who has promised me that he
will stay among us for a little while."

Then, turning to Genestas, he presented to him a tall, thin,
gray-haired man, dressed in black.

"This gentleman," said Benassis, "is M. Dufau, the justice of the
peace of whom I have already spoken to you, and who has so largely
contributed to the prosperity of the Commune." Then he led his guest
up to a pale, slight young man of middle height, who wore spectacles,
and was also dressed in black. "And this is M. Tonnelet," he went on,
"M. Gravier's son-in-law, and the first notary who came to the
village."

The doctor next turned to a stout man, who seemed to belong half to
the peasant, half to the middle class, the owner of a rough-pimpled
but good-humored countenance.

"This is my worthy colleague M. Cambon," he went on, "the
timber-merchant, to whom I owe the confidence and good-will of the
people here. He was one of the promoters of the road which you have
admired. I have no need to tell you the profession of this gentleman,"
Benassis added, turning to the curate. "Here is a man whom no one can
help loving."

There was an irresistible attraction in the moral beauty expressed by
the cure's countenance, which engrossed Genestas' attention. Yet a
certain harshness and austerity of outline might make M. Janvier's
face seem unpleasing at a first glance. His attitude, and his slight,
emaciated frame, showed that he was far from strong physically, but
the unchanging serenity of his face bore witness to the profound
inward peace of heart. Heaven seemed to be reflected in his eyes, and
the inextinguishable fervor of charity which glowed in his heart
appeared to shine from them. The gestures that he made but rarely were
simple and natural, his appeared to be a quiet and retiring nature,
and there was a modesty and simplicity like that of a young girl about
his actions. At first sight he inspired respect and a vague desire to
be admitted to his friendship.

"Ah! M. le Maire," he said, bending as though to escape from Benassis'
eulogium.

Something in the cure's tones brought a thrill to Genestas' heart, and
the two insignificant words uttered by this stranger priest plunged
him into musings that were almost devout.

"Gentlemen," said Jacquotte, who came into the middle of the room, and
there took her stand, with her hands on her hips, "the soup is on the
table."

Invited by Benassis, who summoned each in turn so as to avoid
questions of precedence, the doctor's five guests went into the
dining-room; and after the cure, in low and quiet tones, had repeated
a /Benedicite/, they took their places at table. The cloth that covered
the table was of that peculiar kind of damask linen invented in the
time of Henry IV. by the brothers Graindorge, the skilful weavers, who
gave their name to the heavy fabric so well known to housekeepers. The
linen was of dazzling whiteness, and fragrant with the scent of the
thyme that Jacquotte always put into her wash-tubs. The dinner service
was of white porcelain, edged with blue, and was in perfect order. The
decanters were of the old-fashioned octagonal kind still in use in the
provinces, though they have disappeared elsewhere. Grotesque figures
had been carved on the horn handles of the knives. These relics of
ancient splendor, which, nevertheless, looked almost new, seemed to
those who scrutinized them to be in keeping with the kindly and
open-hearted nature of the master of the house.

The lid of the soup-tureen drew a momentary glance from Genestas; he
noticed that it was surmounted by a group of vegetables in high
relief, skilfully colored after the manner of Bernard Palissy, the
celebrated sixteenth century craftsman.

There was no lack of character about the group of men thus assembled.
The powerful heads of Genestas and Benassis contrasted admirably with
M. Janvier's apostolic countenance; and in the same fashion the
elderly faces of the justice of the peace and the deputy-mayor brought
out the youthfulness of the notary. Society seemed to be represented
by these various types. The expression of each one indicated
contentment with himself and with the present, and a faith in the
future. M. Tonnelet and M. Janvier, who were still young, loved to
make forecasts of coming events, for they felt that the future was
theirs; while the other guests were fain rather to turn their talk
upon the past. All of them faced the things of life seriously, and
their opinions seemed to reflect a double tinge of soberness, on the
one hand, from the twilight hues of well-nigh forgotten joys that
could never more be revived for them; and, on the other, from the gray
dawn which gave promise of a glorious day.

"You must have had a very tiring day, sir?" said M. Cambon, addressing
the cure.

"Yes, sir," answered M. Janvier, "the poor cretin and Pere Pelletier
were buried at different hours."

"Now we can pull down all the hovels of the old village," Benassis
remarked to his deputy. "When the space on which the houses stand has
been grubbed up, it will mean at least another acre of meadow land for
us; and furthermore, there will be a clear saving to the Commune of
the hundred francs that it used to cost to keep Chautard the cretin."

"For the next three years we ought to lay out the hundred francs in
making a single-span bridge to carry the lower road over the main
stream," said M. Cambon. "The townsfolk and the people down the valley
have fallen into the way of taking a short cut across that patch of
land of Jean Francois Pastoureau's; before they have done they will
cut it up in a way that will do a lot of harm to that poor fellow."

"I am sure that the money could not be put to a better use," said the
justice of peace. "In my opinion the abuse of the right of way is one
of the worst nuisances in a country district. One-tenth of the cases
that come before the court are caused by unfair easement. The rights
of property are infringed in this way almost with impunity in many and
many a commune. A respect for the law and a respect for property are
ideas too often disregarded in France, and it is most important that
they should be inculcated. Many people think that there is something
dishonorable in assisting the law to take its course. 'Go and be
hanged somewhere else,' is a saying which seems to be dictated by an
unpraiseworthy generosity of feeling; but at the bottom it is nothing
but a hypocritical formula--a sort of veil which we throw over our own
selfishness. Let us own to it, we lack patriotism! The true patriot is
the citizen who is so deeply impressed with a sense of the importance
of the laws that he will see them carried out even at his own cost and
inconvenience. If you let the criminal go in peace, are you not making
yourself answerable for the crimes he will commit?"

"It is all of a piece," said Benassis. "If the mayors kept their roads
in better order, there would not be so many footpaths. And if the
members of Municipal Councils knew a little better, they would uphold
the small landowner and the mayor when the two combine to oppose the
establishment of unfair easements. The fact that chateau, cottage,
field, and tree are all equally sacred would then be brought home in
every way to the ignorant; they would be made to understand that Right
is just the same in all cases, whether the value of the property in
question be large or small. But such salutary changes cannot be
brought about all at once. They depend almost entirely on the moral
condition of the population, which we can never completely reform
without the potent aid of the cures. This remark does not apply to you
in any way, M. Janvier."

"Nor do I take it to myself," laughed the cure. "Is not my heart set
on bringing the teaching of the Catholic religion to co-operate with
your plans of administration? For instance, I have often tried, in my
pulpit discourses on theft, to imbue the folk of this parish with the
very ideas of Right to which you have just given utterance. For truly,
God does not estimate theft by the value of the thing stolen, He looks
at the thief. That has been the gist of the parables which I have
tried to adapt to the comprehension of my parishioners."

"You have succeeded, sir," said Cambon. "I know the change you have
brought about in people's ways of looking at things, for I can compare
the Commune as it is now with the Commune as it used to be. There are
certainly very few places where the laborers are as careful as ours
are about keeping the time in their working hours. The cattle are well
looked after; any damage that they do is done by accident. There is no
pilfering in the woods, and finally you have made our peasants clearly
understand that the leisure of the rich is the reward of a thrifty and
hard-working life."

"Well, then," said Genestas, "you ought to be pretty well pleased with
your infantry, M. le Cure."

"We cannot expect to find angels anywhere here below, captain,"
answered the priest. "Wherever there is poverty, there is suffering
too; and suffering and poverty are strong compelling forces which have
their abuses, just as power has. When the peasants have a couple of
leagues to walk to their work, and have to tramp back wearily in the
evening, they perhaps see sportsmen taking short cuts over ploughed
land and pasture so as to be back to dinner a little sooner, and is it
to be supposed that they will hesitate to follow the example? And of
those who in this way beat out a footpath such as these gentlemen have
just been complaining about, which are the real offenders, the workers
or the people who are simply amusing themselves? Both the rich and the
poor give us a great deal of trouble these days. Faith, like power,
ought always to descend from the heights above us, in heaven or on
earth; and certainly in our times the upper classes have less faith in
them than the mass of the people, who have God's promise of heaven
hereafter as a reward for evils patiently endured. With due submission
to ecclesiastical discipline, and deference to the views of my
superiors, I think that for some time to come we should be less
exacting as to questions of doctrine, and rather endeavor to revive
the sentiment of religion in the hearts of the intermediary classes,
who debate over the maxims of Christianity instead of putting them in
practice. The philosophism of the rich has set a fatal example to the
poor, and has brought about intervals of too long duration when men
have faltered in their allegiance to God. Such ascendency as we have
over our flocks to-day depends entirely on our personal influence with
them; is it not deplorable that the existence of religious belief in a
commune should be dependent on the esteem in which a single man is
held? When the preservative force of Christianity permeating all
classes of society shall have put life into the new order of things,
there will be an end of sterile disputes about doctrine. The cult of a
religion is its form; societies only exist by forms. You have your
standard, we have the cross----"

"I should very much like to know, sir," said Genestas, breaking in
upon M. Janvier, "why you forbid these poor folk to dance on Sunday?"

"We do not quarrel with dancing in itself, captain; it is forbidden
because it leads to immorality, which troubles the peace of the
countryside and corrupts its manners. Does not the attempt to purify
the spirit of the family and to maintain the sanctity of family ties
strike at the root of the evil?"

"Some irregularities are always to be found in every district, I
know," said M. Tonnelet, "but they very seldom occur among us. Perhaps
there are peasants who remove their neighbor's landmark without much
scruple; or they may cut a few osiers that belong to some one else, if
they happen to want some; but these are mere peccadilloes compared
with the wrongdoing that goes on among a town population. Moreover,
the people in this valley seem to me to be devoutly religious."

"Devout?" queried the cure with a smile; "there is no fear of
fanaticism here."

"But," objected Cambon, "if the people all went to mass every morning,
sir, and to confession every week, how would the fields be cultivated?
And three priests would hardly be enough."

"Work is prayer," said the cure. "Doing one's duty brings a knowledge
of the religious principles which are a vital necessity to society."

"How about patriotism?" asked Genestas.

"Patriotism can only inspire a short-lived enthusiasm," the curate
answered gravely; "religion gives it permanence. Patriotism consists
in a brief impulse of forgetfulness of self and self-interest, while
Christianity is a complete system of opposition to the depraved
tendencies of mankind."

"And yet, during the wars undertaken by the Revolution,
patriotism----"

"Yes, we worked wonders at the time of the Revolution," said Benassis,
interrupting Genestas; "but only twenty years later, in 1814, our
patriotism was extinct; while, in former times, a religious impulse
moved France and Europe to fling themselves upon Asia a dozen times in
the course of a century."

"Maybe it is easier for two nations to come to terms when the strife
has arisen out of some question of material interests," said the
justice of the peace; "while wars undertaken with the idea of
supporting dogmas are bound to be interminable, because the object can
never be clearly defined."

"Well, sir, you are not helping any one to fish!" put in Jacquotte,
who had removed the soup with Nicolle's assistance. Faithful to her
custom, Jacquotte herself always brought in every dish one after
another, a plan which had its drawbacks, for it compelled gluttonous
folk to over-eat themselves, and the more abstemious, having satisfied
their hunger at an early stage, were obliged to leave the best part of
the dinner untouched.

"Gentlemen," said the cure, with a glance at the justice of the peace,
"how can you allege that religious wars have had no definite aim?
Religion in olden times was such a powerful binding force, that
material interests and religious questions were inseparable. Every
soldier, therefore, knew quite well what he was fighting for."

"If there has been so much fighting about religion," said Genestas,
"God must have built up the system very perfunctorily. Should not a
divine institution impress men at once by the truth that is in it?"

All the guests looked at the cure.

"Gentlemen," said M. Janvier, "religion is something that is felt and
that cannot be defined. We cannot know the purpose of the Almighty; we
are no judges of the means He employs."

"Then, according to you, we are to believe in all your rigmaroles,"
said Genestas, with the easy good-humor of a soldier who has never
given a thought to these things.

"The Catholic religion, better than any other, resolves men's doubts
and fears; but even were it otherwise, I might ask you if you run any
risks by believing in its truths."

"None worth speaking of," answered Genestas.

"Good! and what risks do you not run by not believing? But let us talk
of the worldly aspect of the matter, which most appeals to you. The
finger of God is visible in human affairs; see how He directs them by
the hand of His vicar on earth. How much men have lost by leaving the
path traced out for them by Christianity! So few think of reading
Church history, that erroneous notions deliberately sown among the
people lead them to condemn the Church; yet the Church has been a
pattern of perfect government such as men seek to establish to-day.
The principle of election made it for a long while the great political
power. Except the Catholic Church, there was no single religious
institution which was founded upon liberty and equality. Everything
was ordered to this end. The father-superior, the abbot, the bishop,
the general of an order, and the pope were then chosen conscientiously
for their fitness for the requirements of the Church. They were the
expression of its intelligence, of the thinking power of the Church,
and blind obedience was therefore their due. I will say nothing of the
ways in which society has benefited by that power which has created
modern nations and has inspired so many poems, so much music, so many
cathedrals, statues, and pictures. I will simply call your attention
to the fact that your modern systems of popular election, of two
chambers, and of juries all had their origin in provincial and
oecumenical councils, and in the episcopate and college of cardinals;
but there is this difference,--the views of civilization held by our
present-day philosophy seem to me to fade away before the sublime and
divine conception of Catholic communion, the type of a universal
social communion brought about by the word and the fact that are
combined in religious dogma. It would be very difficult for any modern
political system, however perfect people may think it, to work once
more such miracles as were wrought in those ages when the Church as
the stay and support of the human intellect."

"Why?" asked Genestas.

"Because, in the first place, if the principle of election is to be
the basis of a system, absolute equality among the electors is a first
requirement; they ought to be 'equal quantities,' things which modern
politics will never bring about. Then, great social changes can only
be effected by means of some common sentiment so powerful that it
brings men into concerted action, while latter-day philosophism has
discovered that law is based upon personal interest, which keeps men
apart. Men full of the generous spirit that watches with tender care
over the trampled rights of the suffering poor, were more often found
among the nations of past ages than in our generation. The priesthood,
also, which sprang from the middle classes, resisted material forces
and stood between the people and their enemies. But the territorial
possessions of the Church and her temporal power, which seemingly made
her position yet stronger, ended by crippling and weakening her
action. As a matter of fact, if the priest has possessions and
privileges, he at once appears in the light of an oppressor. He is
paid by the State, therefore he is an official: if he gives his time,
his life, his whole heart, this is a matter of course, and nothing
more than he ought to do; the citizens expect and demand his devotion;
and the spontaneous kindliness of his nature is dried up. But, let the
priest be vowed to poverty, let him turn to his calling of his own
free will, let him stay himself on God alone, and have no resource on
earth but the hearts of the faithful, and he becomes once more the
missionary of America, he takes the rank of an apostle, he has all
things under his feet. Indeed, the burden of wealth drags him down,
and it is only by renouncing everything that he gains dominion over
all men's hearts."

M. Janvier had compelled the attention of every one present. No one
spoke; for all the guests were thoughtful. It was something new to
hear such words as these in the mouth of a simple cure.

"There is one serious error, M. Janvier, among the truths to which you
have given expression," said Benassis. "As you know, I do not like to
raise discussions on points of general interest which modern
authorities and modern writers have called in question. In my opinion,
a man who has thought out a political system, and who is conscious
that he has within him the power of applying it in practical politics,
should keep his mind to himself, seize his opportunity and act; but if
he dwells in peaceful obscurity as a simple citizen, is it not sheer
lunacy to think to bring the great mass over to his opinion by means
of individual discussions? For all that, I am about to argue with you,
my dear pastor, for I am speaking before sensible men, each of whom is
accustomed always to bring his individual light to a common search for
the truth. My ideas may seem strange to you, but they are the outcome
of much thought caused by the calamities of the last forty years.
Universal suffrage, which finds such favor in the sight of those
persons who belong to the constitutional opposition, as it is called,
was a capital institution in the Church, because (as you yourself have
just pointed out, dear pastor) the individuals of whom the Church was
composed were all well educated, disciplined by religious feeling,
thoroughly imbued with the spirit of the same system, well aware of
what they wanted and whither they were going. But modern Liberalism
rashly made war upon the prosperous government of the Bourbons, by
means of ideas which, should they triumph, would be the ruin of France
and of the Liberals themselves. This is well known to the leaders of
the Left, who are merely endeavoring to get the power into their own
hands. If (which Heaven forbid) the middle classes ranged under the
banner of the opposition should succeed in overthrowing those social
superiorities which are so repugnant to their vanity, another struggle
would follow hard upon their victory. It would not be very long before
the middle classes in their turn would be looked upon by the people as
a sort of /noblesse/; they would be a sorry kind of /noblesse/, it is
true, but their wealth and privileges would seem so much the more
hateful in the eyes of the people because they would have a closer
vision of these things. I do not say that the nation would come to
grief in the struggle, but society would perish anew; for the day of
triumph of a suffering people is always brief, and involves disorders
of the worst kind. There would be no truce in a desperate strife
arising out of an inherent or acquired difference of opinion among the
electors. The less enlightened and more numerous portion would sweep
away social inequalities, thanks to a system in which votes are
reckoned by count and not by weight. Hence it follows that a
government is never more strongly organized, and as a consequence is
never more perfect than when it has been established for the
protection of Privilege of the most restricted kind. By Privilege I do
not at this moment mean the old abuses by which certain rights were
conceded to a few, to the prejudice of the many; no, I am using it to
express the social circle of the governing class. But throughout
creation Nature has confined the vital principle within a narrow
space, in order to concentrate its power; and so it is with the body
politic. I will illustrate this thought of mine by examples. Let us
suppose that there are a hundred peers in France, there are only one
hundred causes of offence. Abolish the peerage, and all the wealthy
people will constitute the privileged class; instead of a hundred, you
will have ten thousand, instead of removing class distinctions, you
have merely widened the mischief. In fact, from the people's point of
view, the right to live without working is in itself a privilege. The
unproductive consumer is a robber in their eyes. The only work that
they understand has palpable results; they set no value on
intellectual labor--the kind of labor which is the principal source of
wealth to them. So by multiplying causes of offence in this way, you
extend the field of battle; the social war would be waged on all
points instead of being confined within a limited circle; and when
attack and resistance become general, the ruin of a country is
imminent. Because the rich will always be fewer in number, the victory
will be to the poor as soon as it comes to actual fighting. I will
throw the burden of proof on history.

"The institution of Senatorial Privilege enabled the Roman Republic to
conquer the world. The Senate preserved the tradition of authority.
But when the /equites/ and the /novi homines/ had extended the governing
classes by adding to the numbers of the Patricians, the State came to
ruin. In spite of Sylla, and after the time of Julius Caesar, Tiberius
raised it into the Roman Empire; the system was embodied in one man,
and all authority was centered in him, a measure which prolonged the
magnificent sway of the Roman for several centuries. The Emperor had
ceased to dwell in Rome when the Eternal City fell into the hands of
barbarians. When the conqueror invaded our country, the Franks who
divided the land among themselves invented feudal privilege as a
safeguard for property. The hundred or the thousand chiefs who owned
the country, established their institutions with a view to defending
the rights gained by conquest. The duration of the feudal system was
co-existent with the restriction of Privilege. But when the /leudes/ (an
exact translation of the word /gentlemen/) from five hundred became
fifty thousand, there came a revolution. The governing power was too
widely diffused; it lacked force and concentration; and they had not
reckoned with the two powers, Money and Thought, that had set those
free who had been beneath their rule. So the victory over the
monarchical system, obtained by the middle classes with a view to
extending the number of the privileged class, will produce its natural
effect--the people will triumph in turn over the middle classes. If
this trouble comes to pass, the indiscriminate right of suffrage
bestowed upon the masses will be a dangerous weapon in their hands.
The man who votes, criticises. An authority that is called in question
is no longer an authority. Can you imagine a society without a
governing authority? No, you cannot. Therefore, authority means force,
and a basis of just judgement should underlie force. Such are the
reasons which have led me to think that the principle of popular
election is a most fatal one for modern governments. I think that my
attachment to the poor and suffering classes has been sufficiently
proved, and that no one will accuse me of bearing any ill-will towards
them, but though I admire the sublime patience and resignation with
which they tread the path of toil, I must pronounce them to be unfit
to take part in the government. The proletariat seem to me to be the
minors of a nation, and ought to remain in a condition of tutelage.
Therefore, gentlemen, the word /election/, to my thinking, is in a fair
way to cause as much mischief as the words /conscience/ and /liberty/,
which ill-defined and ill-understood, were flung broadcast among the
people, to serve as watchwords of revolt and incitements to
destruction. It seems to me to be a right and necessary thing that the
masses should be kept in tutelage for the good of society."

"This system of yours runs so clean contrary to everybody's notions
nowadays, that we have some right to ask your reasons for it," said
Genestas, interrupting the doctor.

"By all means, captain."

"What is this the master is saying?" cried Jacquotte, as she went back
to her kitchen. "There he is, the poor dear man, and what is he doing
but advising them to crush the people! And they are listening to
him----"

"I would never have believed it of M. Benassis," answered Nicolle.

"If I require that the ignorant masses should be governed by a strong
hand," the doctor resumed, after a brief pause, "I should desire at
the same time that the framework of the social system should be
sufficiently yielding and elastic to allow those who have the will and
are conscious of their ability to emerge from the crowd, to rise and
take their place among the privileged classes. The aim of power of
every kind is its own preservation. In order to live, a government,
to-day as in the past, must press the strong men of the nation into
its service, taking them from every quarter, so as to make them its
defenders, and to remove from among the people the men of energy who
incite the masses to insurrection. By opening out in this way to the
public ambition paths that are at once difficult and easy, easy for
strong wills, difficult for weak or imperfect ones, a State averts the
perils of the revolutions caused by the struggles of men of superior
powers to rise to their proper level. Our long agony of forty years
should have made it clear to any man who has brains that social
superiorities are a natural outcome of the order of things. They are
of three kinds that cannot be questioned--the superiority of the
thinker, the superiority of the politician, the superiority of wealth.
Is not that as much as to say, genius, power, and money, or, in yet
other words--the cause, the means, and the effect? But suppose a kind
of social /tabula rasa/, every social unit perfectly equal, an increase
of population everywhere in the same ratio, and give the same amount
of land to each family; it would not be long before you would again
have all the existing inequalities of fortune; it is glaringly
evident, therefore, that there are such things as superiority of
fortune, of thinking capacity, and of power, and we must make up our
minds to this fact; but the masses will always regard rights that have
been most honestly acquired as privileges, and as a wrong done to
themselves.

"The /social contract/ founded upon this basis will be a perpetual pact
between those who have and those who have not. And acting on these
principles, those who benefit by the laws will be the lawmakers, for
they necessarily have the instinct of self-preservation, and foresee
their dangers. It is even more to their interest than to the interest
of the masses themselves that the latter should be quiet and
contented. The happiness of the people should be ready made for the
people. If you look at society as a whole from this point of view, you
will soon see, as I do, that the privilege of election ought only to
be exercised by men who possess wealth, power, or intelligence, and
you will likewise see that the action of the deputies they may choose
to represent them should be considerably restricted.

"The maker of laws, gentlemen, should be in advance of his age. It is
his business to ascertain the tendency of erroneous notions popularly
held, to see the exact direction in which the ideas of a nation are
tending; he labors for the future rather than for the present, and for
the rising generation rather than for the one that is passing away.
But if you call in the masses to make the laws, can they rise above
their own level? Nay. The more faithfully an assembly represents the
opinions held by the crowd, the less it will know about government,
the less lofty its ideas will be, and the more vague and vacillating
its policy, for the crowd is and always will be simply a crowd, and
this especially with us in France. Law involves submission to
regulations; man is naturally opposed to rules and regulations of all
kinds, especially if they interfere with his interests; so is it
likely that the masses will enact laws that are contrary to their own
inclinations? No.

"Very often legislation ought to run counter to the prevailing
tendencies of the time. If the law is to be shaped by the prevailing
habits of thought and tendencies of a nation, would not that mean that
in Spain a direct encouragement would be given to idleness and
religious intolerance; in England, to the commercial spirit; in Italy,
to the love of the arts that may be the expression of a society, but
by which no society can entirely exist; in Germany, feudal class
distinctions would be fostered; and here, in France, popular
legislation would promote the spirit of frivolity, the sudden craze
for an idea, and the readiness to split into factions which has always
been our bane.

"What has happened in the forty years since the electors took it upon
themselves to make laws for France? We have something like forty
thousand laws! A people with forty thousand laws might as well have
none at all. Is it likely that five hundred mediocrities (for there
are never more than a hundred great minds to do the work of any one
century), is it likely that five hundred mediocrities will have the
wit to rise to the level of these considerations? Not they! Here is a
constant stream of men poured forth from five hundred different
places; they will interpret the spirit of the law in divers manners,
and there should be a unity of conception in the law.

"But I will go yet further. Sooner or later an assembly of this kind
comes to be swayed by one man, and instead of a dynasty of kings, you
have a constantly changing and costly succession of prime ministers.
There comes a Mirabeau or a Danton, a Robespierre or a Napoleon, or
proconsuls, or an emperor, and there is an end of deliberations and
debates. In fact, it takes a determinate amount of force to raise a
given weight; the force may be distributed, and you may have a less or
greater number of levers, but it comes to the same thing in the end:
the force must be in proportion to the weight. The weight in this case
is the ignorant and suffering mass of people who form the lowest
stratum of society. The attitude of authority is bound to be
repressive, and great concentration of the governing power is needed
to neutralize the force of a popular movement. This is the application
of the principle that I unfolded when I spoke just now of the way in
which the class privileged to govern should be restricted. If this
class is composed of men of ability, they will obey this natural law,
and compel the country to obey. If you collect a crowd of mediocrities
together, sooner or later they will fall under the dominion of a
stronger head. A deputy of talent understands the reasons for which a
government exists; the mediocre deputy simply comes to terms with
force. An assembly either obeys an idea, like the Convention in the
time of the Terror; a powerful personality, like the Corps Legislatif
under the rule of Napoleon; or falls under the domination of a system
or of wealth, as it has done in our own day. The Republican Assembly,
that dream of some innocent souls, is an impossibility. Those who
would fain bring it to pass are either grossly deluded dupes or
would-be tyrants. Do you not think that there is something ludicrous
about an Assembly which gravely sits in debate upon the perils of a
nation which ought to be roused into immediate action? It is only right
of course that the people should elect a body of representatives who
will decide questions of supplies and of taxation; this institution has
always existed, under the sway of the most tyrannous ruler no less
than under the sceptre of the mildest of princes. Money is not to be
taken by force; there are natural limits to taxation, and if they are
overstepped, a nation either rises up in revolt, or lays itself down
to die. Again, if this elective body, changing from time to time
according to the needs and ideas of those whom it represents, should
refuse obedience to a bad law in the name of the people, well and
good. But to imagine that five hundred men, drawn from every corner of
the kingdom, will make a good law! Is it not a dreary joke, for which
the people will sooner or later have to pay? They have a change of
masters, that is all.

"Authority ought to be given to one man, he alone should have the task
of making the laws; and he should be a man who, by force of
circumstances, is continually obliged to submit his actions to general
approbation. But the only restraints that can be brought to bear upon
the exercise of power, be it the power of the one, of the many, or of
the multitude, are to be found in the religious institutions of a
country. Religion forms the only adequate safeguard against the abuse
of supreme power. When a nation ceases to believe in religion, it
becomes ungovernable in consequence, and its prince perforce becomes a
tyrant. The Chambers that occupy an intermediate place between rulers
and their subjects are powerless to prevent these results, and can
only mitigate them to a very slight extent; Assemblies, as I have said
before, are bound to become the accomplices of tyranny on the one
hand, or of insurrection on the other. My own leanings are towards a
government by one man; but though it is good, it cannot be absolutely
good, for the results of every policy will always depend upon the
condition and the belief of the nation. If a nation is in its dotage,
if it has been corrupted to the core by philosophism and the spirit of
discussion, it is on the high-road to despotism, from which no form of
free government will save it. And, at the same time, a righteous
people will nearly always find liberty even under a despotic rule. All
this goes to show the necessity for restricting the right of election
within very narrow limits, the necessity for a strong government, the
necessity for a powerful religion which makes the rich man the friend
of the poor, and enjoins upon the poor an absolute submission to their
lot. It is, in fact, really imperative that the Assemblies should be
deprived of all direct legislative power, and should confine
themselves to the registration of laws and to questions of taxation.

"I know that different ideas from these exist in many minds. To-day,
as in past ages, there ware enthusiasts who seek for perfection, and
who would like to have society better ordered than it is at present.
But innovations which tend to bring about a kind of social
topsy-turvydom, ought only to be undertaken by general consent. Let
the innovators have patience. When I remember how long it has taken
Christianity to establish itself; how many centuries it has taken to
bring about a purely moral revolution which surely ought to have been
accomplished peacefully, the thought of the horrors of a revolution,
in which material interests are concerned, makes me shudder, and I am
for maintaining existing institutions. 'Each shall have his own
thought,' is the dictum of Christianity; 'Each man shall have his own
field,' says modern law; and in this, modern law is in harmony with
Christianity. Each shall have his own thought; that is a consecration
of the rights of intelligence; and each shall have his own field, is a
consecration of the right to property that has been acquired by toil.
Hence our society. Nature has based human life upon the instinct of
self-preservation, and social life is founded upon personal interest.
Such ideas as these are, to my thinking, the very rudiments of
politics. Religion keeps these two selfish sentiments in subordination
by the thought of a future life; and in this way the harshness of the
conflict of interests has been somewhat softened. God has mitigated
the sufferings that arise from social friction by a religious
sentiment which raises self-forgetfulness into a virtue; just as He
has moderated the friction of the mechanism of the universe by laws
which we do not know. Christianity bids the poor bear patiently with
the rich, and commands the rich to lighten the burdens of the poor;
these few words, to my mind, contain the essence of all laws, human
and divine!"

"I am no statesman," said the notary; "I see in a ruler a liquidator
of society which should always remain in liquidation; he should hand
over to his successor the exact value of the assets which he
received."

"I am no statesman either," said Benassis, hastily interrupting the
notary. "It takes nothing but a little common sense to better the lot
of a commune, of a canton, or of an even wider district; a department
calls for some administrative talent, but all these four spheres of
action are comparatively limited, the outlook is not too wide for
ordinary powers of vision, and there is a visible connection between
their interests and the general progress made by the State.

"But in yet higher regions, everything is on a larger scale, the
horizon widens, and from the standpoint where he is placed, the
statesman ought to grasp the whole situation. It is only necessary to
consider liabilities due ten years hence, in order to bring about a
great deal of good in the case of the department, the district, the
canton, or the commune; but when it is a question of the destinies of
a nation, a statesman must foresee a more distant future and the
course that events are likely to take for the next hundred years. The
genius of a Colbert or of a Sully avails nothing, unless it is
supported by the energetic will that makes a Napoleon or a Cromwell. A
great minister, gentlemen, is a great thought written at large over
all the years of a century of prosperity and splendor for which he has
prepared the way. Steadfast perseverance is the virtue of which he
stands most in need; and in all human affairs does not steadfast
perseverance indicate a power of the very highest order? We have had
for some time past too many men who think only of the ministry instead
of the nation, so that we cannot but admire the real statesman as the
vastest human Poetry. Ever to look beyond the present moment, to
foresee the ways of Destiny, to care so little for power that he only
retains it because he is conscious of his usefulness, while he does
not overestimate his strength; ever to lay aside all personal feeling
and low ambitions, so that he may always be master of his faculties,
and foresee, will, and act without ceasing; to compel himself to be
just and impartial, to keep order on a large scale, to silence his
heart that he may be guided by his intellect alone, to be neither
apprehensive nor sanguine, neither suspicious nor confiding, neither
grateful nor ungrateful, never to be unprepared for an event, nor
taken unawares by an idea; to live, in fact, with the requirements of
the masses ever in his mind, to spread the protecting wings of his
thought above them, to sway them by the thunder of his voice and the
keenness of his glance; seeing all the while not the details of
affairs, but the great issues at stake--is not that to be something
more than a mere man? Therefore the names of the great and noble
fathers of nations cannot but be household words for ever."

There was silence for a moment, during which the guests looked at one
another.

"Gentlemen, you have not said a word about the army!" cried Genestas.
"A military organization seems to me to be the real type on which all
good civil society should be modeled; the Sword is the guardian of a
nation."

The justice of the peace laughed softly.

"Captain," he said, "an old lawyer once said that empires began with
the sword and ended with the desk; we have reached the desk stage by
this time."

"And now that we have settled the fate of the world, gentlemen, let us
change the subject. Come, captain, a glass of Hermitage," cried the
doctor, laughing.

"Two, rather than one," said Genestas, holding out his glass. "I mean
to drink them both to your health--to a man who does honor to the
species."

"And who is dear to all of us," said the cure in gentle tones.

"Do you mean to force me into the sin of pride, M. Janvier?"

"M. le Cure has only said in a low voice what all the canton says
aloud," said Cambon.

"Gentlemen, I propose that we take a walk to the parsonage by
moonlight, and see M. Janvier home."

"Let us start," said the guests, and they prepared to accompany the
cure.

"Shall we go to the barn?" said the doctor, laying a hand on Genestas'
arm. They had taken leave of the cure and the other guests. "You will
hear them talking about Napoleon, Captain Bluteau. Goguelat, the
postman, is there, and there are several of his cronies who are sure
to draw him out on the subject of the idol of the people. Nicolle, my
stableman, has set a ladder so that we can climb up on to the hay;
there is a place from which we can look down on the whole scene. Come
along, an up-sitting is something worth seeing, believe me. It will
not be the first time that I have hidden in the hay to overhear a
soldier's tales or the stories that peasants tell among themselves. We
must be careful to keep out of sight though, as these folk turn shy
and put on company manners as soon as they see a stranger."

"Eh! my dear sir," said Genestas, "have I not often pretended to be
asleep so as to hear my troopers talking out on bivouac? My word, I
once heard a droll yarn reeled off by an old quartermaster for some
conscripts who were afraid of war; I never laughed so heartily in any
theatre in Paris. He was telling them about the Retreat from Moscow.
He told them that the army had nothing but the clothes they stood up
in; that their wine was iced; that the dead stood stock-still in the
road just where they were; that they had seen White Russia, and that
they currycombed the horses there with their teeth; that those who
were fond of skating had fine times of it, and people who had a fancy
for savory ices had as much as they could put away; that the women
were generally poor company; but that the only thing they could really
complain of was the want of hot water for shaving. In fact, he told
them such a pack of absurdities, that even an old quartermaster who
had lost his nose with a frost-bite, so that they had dubbed him
/Nezrestant/, was fain to laugh."

"Hush!" said Benassis, "here we are. I will go first; follow after
me."

Both of them scaled the ladder and hid themselves in the hay, in a
place from whence they could have a good view of the party below, who
had not heard a sound overhead. Little groups of women were clustered
about three or four candles. Some of them sewed, others were spinning,
a good few of them were doing nothing, and sat with their heads
strained forward, and their eyes fixed on an old peasant who was
telling a story. The men were standing about for the most part, or
lying at full length on the trusses of hay. Every group was absolutely
silent. Their faces were barely visible by the flickering gleams of
the candles by which the women were working, although each candle was
surrounded by a glass globe filled with water, in order to concentrate
the light. The thick darkness and shadow that filled the roof and all
the upper part of the barn seemed still further to diminish the light
that fell here and there upon the workers' heads with such picturesque
effects of light and shade. Here, it shone full upon the bright
wondering eyes and brown forehead of a little peasant maiden; and
there the straggling beams brought out the outlines of the rugged
brows of some of the older men, throwing up their figures in sharp
relief against the dark background, and giving a fantastic appearance
to their worn and weather-stained garb. The attentive attitude of all
these people and the expression on all their faces showed that they
had given themselves up entirely to the pleasure of listening, and
that the narrator's sway was absolute. It was a curious scene. The
immense influence that poetry exerts over every mind was plainly to be
seen. For is not the peasant who demands that the tale of wonder
should be simple, and that the impossible should be well-nigh
credible, a lover of poetry of the purest kind?

"She did not like the look of the house at all," the peasant was
saying as the two newcomers took their places where they could
overhear him; "but the poor little hunchback was so tired out with
carrying her bundle of hemp to market, that she went in; besides, the
night had come, and she could go no further. She only asked to be
allowed to sleep there, and ate nothing but a crust of bread that she
took from her wallet. And inasmuch as the woman who kept house for the
brigands knew nothing about what they had planned to do that night,
she let the old woman into the house, and sent her upstairs without a
light. Our hunchback throws herself down on a rickety truckle bed,
says her prayers, thinks about her hemp, and is dropping off to sleep.
But before she is fairly asleep, she hears a noise, and in walk two
men carrying a lantern, and each man had a knife in his hand. Then
fear came upon her; for in those times, look you, they used to make
pates of human flesh for the seigneurs, who were very fond of them.
But the old woman plucked up heart again, for she was so thoroughly
shriveled and wrinkled that she thought they would think her a poorish
sort of diet. The two men went past the hunchback and walked up to a
bed that there was in the great room, and in which they had put the
gentleman with the big portmanteau, the one that passed for a
/negromancer/. The taller man holds up the lantern and takes the
gentleman by the feet, and the short one, that had pretended to be
drunk, clutches hold of his head and cuts his throat, clean, with one
stroke, swish! Then they leave the head and body lying in its own
blood up there, steal the portmanteau, and go downstairs with it. Here
is our woman in a nice fix! First of all she thinks of slipping out,
before any one can suspect it, not knowing that Providence had brought
her there to glorify God and to bring down punishment on the
murderers. She was in a great fright, and when one is frightened one
thinks of nothing else. But the woman of the house had asked the two
brigands about the hunchback, and that had alarmed them. So back they
came, creeping softly up the wooden staircase. The poor hunchback
curls up in a ball with fright, and she hears them talking about her
in whispers.

"'Kill her, I tell you.'

"'No need to kill her.'

"'Kill her!'

"'No!'

"Then they came in. The woman, who was no fool, shuts her eyes and
pretends to be asleep. She sets to work to sleep like a child, with
her hand on her heart, and takes to breathing like a cherub. The man
opens the lantern and shines the light straight into the eyes of the
sleeping old woman--she does not move an eyelash, she is in such
terror for her neck.

"'She is sleeping like a log; you can see that quite well,' so says
the tall one.

"'Old women are so cunning!' answers the short man. 'I will kill her.
We shall feel easier in our minds. Besides, we will salt her down to
feed the pigs.'

"The old woman hears all this talk, but she does not stir.

"'Oh! it is all right, she is asleep,' says the short ruffian, when
he saw that the hunchback had not stirred.

"That is how the old woman saved her life. And she may be fairly
called courageous; for it is a fact that there are not many girls here
who could have breathed like cherubs while they heard that talk going
on about the pigs. Well, the two brigands set to work to lift up the
dead man; they wrap him round in the sheets and chuck him out into the
little yard; and the old woman hears the pigs scampering up to eat
him, and grunting, /hon! hon/!

"So when morning comes," the narrator resumed after a pause, "the
woman gets up and goes down, paying a couple of sous for her bed. She
takes up her wallet, goes on just as if nothing had happened, asks for
the news of the countryside, and gets away in peace. She wants to run.
Running is quite out of the question, her legs fail her for fright;
and lucky it was for her that she could not run, for this reason. She
had barely gone half a quarter of a league before she sees one of the
brigands coming after her, just out of craftiness to make quite sure
that she had seen nothing. She guesses this, and sits herself down on
a boulder.

"'What is the matter, good woman?' asks the short one, for it was the
shorter one and the wickeder of the two who was dogging her.

"'Oh! master,' says she, 'my wallet is so heavy, and I am so tired,
that I badly want some good man to give me his arm' (sly thing, only
listen to her!) 'if I am to get back to my poor home.'

"Thereupon the brigand offers to go along with her, and she accepts
his offer. The fellow takes hold of her arm to see if she is afraid.
Not she! She does not tremble a bit, and walks quietly along. So there
they are, chatting away as nicely as possible, all about farming, and
the way to grow hemp, till they come to the outskirts of the town,
where the hunchback lived, and the brigand made off for fear of
meeting some of the sheriff's people. The woman reached her house at
mid-day, and waited there till her husband came home; she thought and
thought over all that had happened on her journey and during the
night. The hemp-grower came home in the evening. He was hungry;
something must be got ready for him to eat. So while she greases her
frying-pan, and gets ready to fry something for him, she tells him how
she sold her hemp, and gabbles away as females do, but not a word does
she say about the pigs, nor about the gentleman who was murdered and
robbed and eaten. She holds her frying-pan in the flames so as to
clean it, draws it out again to give it a wipe, and finds it full of
blood.

"'What have you been putting into it?' says she to her man.

"'Nothing,' says he.

"She thinks it must have been a nonsensical piece of woman's fancy,
and puts her frying-pan into the fire again. . . . /Pouf!/ A head comes
tumbling down the chimney!

"'Oh! look! It is nothing more nor less than the dead man's head,'
says the old woman. 'How he stares at me! What does he want!'

"'/You must avenge me/!' says a voice.

"'What an idiot you are!' said the hemp-grower. 'Always seeing
something or other that has no sort of sense about it! Just you all
over.'

"He takes up the head, which snaps at his finger, and pitches it out
into the yard.

"'Get on with my omelette,' he says, 'and do not bother yourself
about that. 'Tis a cat.'

"'A cat! says she; 'it was as round as a ball.'

"She puts back her frying-pan on the fire. . . . /Pouf!/ Down comes a
leg this time, and they go through the whole story again. The man was
no more astonished at the foot than he had been at the head; he
snatched up the leg and threw it out at the door. Before they had
finished, the other leg, both arms, the body, the whole murdered
traveler, in fact, came down piecemeal. No omelette all this time! The
old hemp-seller grew very hungry indeed.

"'By my salvation!' said he, 'when once my omelette is made we will
see about satisfying that man yonder.'

"'So you admit, now, that it was a man?' said the hunchback wife.
'What made you say that it was not a head a minute ago, you great
worry?'

"The woman breaks the eggs, fries the omelette, and dishes it up
without any more grumbling; somehow this squabble began to make her
feel very uncomfortable. Her husband sits down and begins to eat. The
hunchback was frightened, and said that she was not hungry.

"'Tap! tap!' There was a stranger rapping at the door.

"'Who is there?'

"'The man that died yesterday!'

"'Come in,' answers the hemp-grower.

"So the traveler comes in, sits himself down on a three-legged stool,
and says: 'Are you mindful of God, who gives eternal peace to those
who confess His Name? Woman! You saw me done to death, and you have
said nothing! I have been eaten by the pigs! The pigs do not enter
Paradise, and therefore I, a Christian man, shall go down into hell,
all because a woman forsooth will not speak, a thing that has never
been known before. You must deliver me,' and so on, and so on.

"The woman, who was more and more frightened every minute, cleaned her
frying-pan, put on her Sunday clothes, went to the justice, and told
him about the crime, which was brought to light, and the robbers were
broken on the wheel in proper style on the Market Place. This good
work accomplished, the woman and her husband always had the finest
hemp you ever set eyes on. Then, which pleased them still better, they
had something that they had wished for for a long time, to-wit, a
man-child, who in course of time became a great lord of the king's.

"That is the true story of /The Courageous Hunchback Woman/.

"I do not like stories of that sort; they make me dream at night,"
said La Fosseuse. "Napoleon's adventures are much nicer, I think."

"Quite true," said the keeper. "Come now, M. Goguelat, tell us about
the Emperor."

"The evening is too far gone," said the postman, "and I do not care
about cutting short the story of a victory."

"Never mind, let us hear about it all the same! We know the stories,
for we have heard you tell them many a time; but it is always a
pleasure to hear them."

"Tell us about the Emperor!" cried several voices at once.

"You will have it?" answered Goguelat. "Very good, but you will see
that there is no sense in the story when it is gone through at a
gallop. I would rather tell you all about a single battle. Shall it be
Champ-Aubert, where we ran out of cartridges, and furbished them just
the same with the bayonet?"

"No, the Emperor! the Emperor!"

The old infantry man got up from his truss of hay and glanced round
about on those assembled, with the peculiar sombre expression in which
may be read all the miseries, adventures, and hardships of an old
soldier's career. He took his coat by the two skirts in front, and
raised them, as if it were a question of once more packing up the
knapsack in which his kit, his shoes, and all he had in the world used
to be stowed; for a moment he stood leaning all his weight on his left
foot, then he swung the right foot forward, and yielded with a good
grace to the wishes of his audience. He swept his gray hair to one
side, so as to leave his forehead bare, and flung back his head and
gazed upwards, as if to raise himself to the lofty height of the
gigantic story that he was about to tell.

"Napoleon, you see, my friends, was born in Corsica, which is a French
island warmed by the Italian sun; it is like a furnace there,
everything is scorched up, and they keep on killing each other from
father to son for generations all about nothing at all--'tis a notion
they have. To begin at the beginning, there was something
extraordinary about the thing from the first; it occurred to his
mother, who was the handsomest woman of her time, and a shrewd soul,
to dedicate him to God, so that he should escape all the dangers of
infancy and of his after life; for she had dreamed that the world was
on fire on the day he was born. It was a prophecy! So she asked God to
protect him, on condition that Napoleon should re-establish His holy
religion, which had been thrown to the ground just then. That was the
agreement; we shall see what came of it.

"Now, do you follow me carefully, and tell me whether what you are
about to hear is natural.

"It is certain sure that only a man who had had imagination enough to
make a mysterious compact would be capable of going further than
anybody else, and of passing through volleys of grape-shot and showers
of bullets which carried us off like flies, but which had a respect
for his head. I myself had particular proof of that at Eylau. I see
him yet; he climbs a hillock, takes his field-glass, looks along our
lines, and says, 'That is going on all right.' One of the deep
fellows, with a bunch of feathers in his cap, used to plague him a
good deal from all accounts, following him about everywhere, even when
he was getting his meals. This fellow wants to do something clever, so
as soon as the Emperor goes away he takes his place. Oh! swept away in
a moment! And this is the last of the bunch of feathers! You
understand quite clearly that Napoleon had undertaken to keep his
secret to himself. That is why those who accompanied him, and even his
especial friends, used to drop like nuts: Duroc, Bessieres, Lannes
--men as strong as bars of steel, which he cast into shape for his own
ends. And here is a final proof that he was the child of God, created
to be the soldier's father; for no one ever saw him as a lieutenant or
a captain. He is a commandant straight off! Ah! yes, indeed! He did
not look more than four-and-twenty, but he was an old general ever
since the taking of Toulon, when he made a beginning by showing the
rest that they knew nothing about handling cannon. Next thing he does,
he tumbles upon us. A little slip of a general-in-chief of the army of
Italy, which had neither bread nor ammunition nor shoes nor clothes--a
wretched army as naked as a worm.

"'Friends,' he said, 'here we all are together. Now, get it well
into your pates that in a fortnight's time from now you will be the
victors, and dressed in new clothes; you shall all have greatcoats,
strong gaiters, and famous pairs of shoes; but, my children, you will
have to march on Milan to take them, where all these things are.'

"So they marched. The French, crushed as flat as a pancake, held up
their heads again. There were thirty thousand of us tatterdemalions
against eighty thousand swaggerers of Germans--fine tall men and well
equipped; I can see them yet. Then Napoleon, who was only Bonaparte in
those days, breathed goodness knows what into us, and on we marched
night and day. We rap their knuckles at Montenotte; we hurry on to
thrash them at Rivoli, Lodi, Arcola, and Millesimo, and we never let
them go. The army came to have a liking for winning battles. Then
Napoleon hems them in on all sides, these German generals did not know
where to hide themselves so as to have a little peace and comfort; he
drubs them soundly, cribs ten thousand of their men at a time by
surrounding them with fifteen hundred Frenchmen, whom he makes to
spring up after his fashion, and at last he takes their cannon,
victuals, money, ammunition, and everything they have that is worth
taking; he pitches them into the water, beats them on the mountains,
snaps at them in the air, gobbles them up on the earth, and thrashes
them everywhere.

"There are the troops in full feather again! For, look you, the
Emperor (who, for that matter, was a wit) soon sent for the
inhabitant, and told him that he had come there to deliver him.
Whereupon the civilian finds us free quarters and makes much of us, so
do the women, who showed great discernment. To come to a final end; in
Ventose '96, which was at that time what the month of March is now, we
had been driven up into a corner of the Pays des Marmottes; but after
the campaign, lo and behold! we were the masters of Italy, just as
Napoleon had prophesied. And in the month of March following, in one
year and in two campaigns, he brings us within sight of Vienna; we had
made a clean sweep of them. We had gobbled down three armies one after
another, and taken the conceit out of four Austrian generals; one of
them, an old man who had white hair, had been roasted like a rat in
the straw before Mantua. The kings were suing for mercy on their
knees. Peace had been won. Could a mere mortal have done that? No. God
helped him, that is certain. He distributed himself about like the
five loaves in the Gospel, commanded on the battlefield all day, and
drew up his plans at night. The sentries always saw him coming; he
neither ate nor slept. Therefore, recognizing these prodigies, the
soldier adopts him for his father. But, forward!

"The other folk there in Paris, seeing all this, say among themselves:

"'Here is a pilgrim who appears to take his instructions from Heaven
above; he is uncommonly likely to lay a hand on France. We must let
him loose on Asia or America, and that, perhaps, will keep him quiet.

"The same thing was decreed for him as for Jesus Christ; for, as a
matter of fact, they give him orders to go on duty down in Egypt. See
his resemblance to the Son of God! That is not all, though. He calls
all his fire-eaters about him, all those into whom he had more
particularly put the devil, and talks to them in this way:

"'My friends, for the time being they are giving us Egypt to stop our
mouths. But we will swallow down Egypt in a brace of shakes, just as
we swallowed Italy, and private soldiers shall be princes, and shall
have broad lands of their own. Forward!'

"'Forward, lads!' cry the sergeants.

"So we come to Toulon on the way to Egypt. Whereupon the English put
to sea with all their fleet. But when we are on board, Napoleon says
to us:

"'They will not see us: and it is right and proper that you should
know henceforward that your general has a star in the sky that guides
us and watches over us!'

"So said, so done. As we sailed over the sea we took Malta, by way of
an orange to quench his thirst for victory, for he was a man who must
always be doing something. There we are in Egypt. Well and good.
Different orders. The Egyptians, look you, are men who, ever since the
world has been the world, have been in the habit of having giants to
reign over them, and armies like swarms of ants; because it is a
country full of genii and crocodiles, where they have built up
pyramids as big as our mountains, the fancy took them to stow their
kings under the pyramids, so as to keep them fresh, a thing which
mightily pleases them all round out there. Whereupon, as we landed,
the Little Corporal said to us:

"'My children, the country which you are about to conquer worships a
lot of idols which you must respect, because the Frenchman ought to be
on good terms with all the world, and fight people without giving
annoyance. Get it well into your heads to let everything alone at
first; for we shall have it all by and by! and forward!'

"So far so good. But all those people had heard a prophecy of
Napoleon, under the name of /Kebir Bonaberdis/; a word which in our
lingo means, 'The Sultan fires a shot,' and they feared him like the
devil. So the Grand Turk, Asia, and Africa have recourse to magic, and
they send a demon against us, named the Mahdi, who it was thought had
come down from heaven on a white charger which, like its master was
bullet-proof, and the pair of them lived on the air of that part of
the world. There are people who have seen them, but for my part I
cannot give you any certain informations about them. They were the
divinities of Arabia and of the Mamelukes who wished their troopers to
believe that the Mahdi had the power of preventing them from dying in
battle. They gave out that he was an angel sent down to wage war on
Napoleon, and to get back Solomon's seal, part of their paraphernalia
which they pretended our general had stolen. You will readily
understand that we made them cry peccavi all the same.

"Ah, just tell me now how they came to know about that compact of
Napoleon's? Was that natural?

"They took it into their heads for certain that he commanded the
genii, and that he went from place to place like a bird in the
twinkling of an eye; and it is a fact that he was everywhere. At
length it came about that he carried off a queen of theirs. She was
the private property of a Mameluke, who, although he had several more
of them, flatly refused to strike a bargain, though 'the other'
offered all his treasures for her and diamonds as big as pigeon's
eggs. When things had come to that pass, they could not well be
settled without a good deal of fighting; and there was fighting enough
for everybody and no mistake about it.

"Then we are drawn up before Alexandria, and again at Gizeh, and
before the Pyramids. We had to march over the sands and in the sun;
people whose eyes dazzled used to see water that they could not drink
and shade that made them fume. But we made short work of the Mamelukes
as usual, and everything goes down before the voice of Napoleon, who
seizes Upper and Lower Egypt and Arabia, far and wide, till we came to
the capitals of kingdoms which no longer existed, where there were
thousands and thousands of statues of all the devils in creation, all
done to the life, and another curious thing too, any quantity of
lizards. A confounded country where any one could have as many acres
of land as he wished for as little as he pleased.

"While he was busy inland, where he meant to carry out some wonderful
ideas of his, the English burn his fleet for him in Aboukir Bay, for
they never could do enough to annoy us. But Napoleon, who was
respected East and West, and called 'My Son' by the Pope, and 'My dear
Father' by Mahomet's cousin, makes up his mind to have his revenge on
England, and to take India in exchange for his fleet. He set out to
lead us into Asia, by way of the Red Sea, through a country where
there were palaces for halting-places, and nothing but gold and
diamonds to pay the troops with, when the Mahdi comes to an
understanding with the Plague, and sends it among us to make a break
in our victories. Halt! Then every man files off to that parade from
which no one comes back on his two feet. The dying soldier cannot take
Acre, into which he forces an entrance three times with a warrior's
impetuous enthusiasm; the Plague was too strong for us; there was not
even time to say 'Your servant, sir!' to the Plague. Every man was
down with it. Napoleon alone was as fresh as a rose; the whole army
saw him drinking in the Plague without it doing him any harm whatever.

"There now, my friends, was that natural, do you think?

"The Mamelukes, knowing that we were all on the sick-list, want to
stop our road; but it was no use trying that nonsense with Napoleon.
So he spoke to his familiars, who had tougher skins than the rest:

"'Go and clear the road for me.'

"Junot, who was his devoted friend, and a first-class fighter, only
takes a thousand men, and makes a clean sweep of the Pasha's army,
which had the impudence to bar our way. Thereupon back we came to
Cairo, our headquarters, and now for another story.

"Napoleon being out of the country, France allowed the people in Paris
to worry the life out of her. They kept back the soldiers' pay and all
their linen and clothing, left them to starve, and expected them to
lay down law to the universe, without taking any further trouble in
the matter. They were idiots of the kind that amuse themselves with
chattering instead of setting themselves to knead the dough. So our
armies were defeated, France could not keep her frontiers; The Man was
not there. I say The Man, look you, because that was how they called
him; but it was stuff and nonsense, for he had a star of his own and
all his other peculiarities, it was the rest of us that were mere men.
He hears this history of France after his famous battle of Aboukir,
where with a single division he routed the grand army of the Turks,
twenty-five thousand strong, and jostled more than half of them into
the sea, rrrah! without losing more than three hundred of his own men.
That was his last thunder-clap in Egypt. He said to himself, seeing
that all was lost down there, 'I know that I am the saviour of France,
and to France I must go.'

"But you must clearly understand that the army did not know of his
departure; for if they had, they would have kept him there by force to
make him Emperor of the East. So there we all are without him, and in
low spirits, for he was the life of us. He leaves Kleber in command, a
great watchdog who passed in his checks at Cairo, murdered by an
Egyptian whom they put to death by spiking him with a bayonet, which
is their way of guillotining people out there; but he suffered so
much, that a soldier took pity on the scoundrel and handed his flask
to him; and the Egyptian turned up his eyes then and there with all
the pleasure in life. But there is not much fun for us about this
little affair. Napoleon steps aboard of a little cockleshell, a mere
nothing of a skiff, called the /Fortune/, and in the twinkling of an
eye, and in the teeth of the English, who were blockading the place
with vessels of the line and cruisers and everything that carries
canvas, he lands in France for he always had the faculty of taking the
sea at a stride. Was that natural? Bah! as soon as he landed at
Frejus, it is as good as saying that he has set foot in Paris.
Everybody there worships him; but he calls the Government together.

"'What have you done to my children, the soldiers?' he says to the
lawyers. 'You are a set of good-for-nothings who make fools of other
people, and feather your own nests at the expense of France. It will
not do. I speak in the name of every one who is discontented.'

"Thereupon they want to put him off and to get rid of him; but not a
bit of it! He locks them up in the barracks where they used to argufy
and makes them jump out of the windows. Then he makes them follow in
his train, and they all become as mute as fishes and supple as tobacco
pouches. So he becomes Consul at a blow. He was not the man to doubt
the existence of the Supreme Being; he kept his word with Providence,
who had kept His promise in earnest; he sets up religion again, and
gives back the churches, and they ring the bells for God and Napoleon.
So every one is satisfied: /primo/, the priests with whom he allows no
one to meddle; /segondo/, the merchant folk who carry on their trades
without fear of the /rapiamus/ of the law that had pressed too heavily
on them; /tertio/, the nobles; for people had fallen into an unfortunate
habit of putting them to death, and he puts a stop to this.

"But there were enemies to be cleared out of the way, and he was not
the one to go to sleep after mess; and his eyes, look you, traveled
all over the world as if it had been a man's face. The next thing he
did was to turn up in Italy; it was just as if he had put his head out
of the window and the sight of him was enough; they gulp down the
Austrians at Marengo like a whale swallowing gudgeons! /Haouf!/ The
French Victories blew their trumpets so loud that the whole world
could hear the noise, and there was an end of it.

"'We will not keep on at this game any longer!' say the Germans.

"'That is enough of this sort of thing,' say the others.

"Here is the upshot. Europe shows the white feather, England knuckles
under, general peace all round, and kings and peoples pretending to
embrace each other. While then and there the Emperor hits on the idea
of the Legion of Honor. There's a fine thing if you like!

"He spoke to the whole army at Boulogne. 'In France,' so he said,
'every man is brave. So the civilian who does gloriously shall be the
soldier's sister, the soldier shall be his brother, and both shall
stand together beneath the flag of honor.'

"By the time that the rest of us who were away down there in Egypt had
come back again, everything was changed. We had seen him last as a
general, and in no time we find that he is Emperor! And when this was
settled (and it may safely be said that every one was satisfied) there
was a holy ceremony such as was never seen under the canopy of heaven.
Faith, France gave herself to him, like a handsome girl to a lancer,
and the Pope and all his cardinals in robes of red and gold come
across the Alps on purpose to anoint him before the army and the
people, who clap their hands.

"There is one thing that it would be very wrong to keep back from you.
While he was in Egypt, in the desert not far away from Syria, the Red
Man had appeared to him on the mountain of Moses, in order to say,
'Everything is going on well.' Then again, on the eve of victory at
Marengo, /the Red Man/ springs to his feet in front of the Emperor for
the second time, and says to him:

"'You shall see the world at your feet; you shall be Emperor of the
French, King of Italy, master of Holland, ruler of Spain, Portugal,
and the Illyrian Provinces, protector of Germany, saviour of Poland,
first eagle of the Legion of Honor and all the rest of it.'

"That Red Man, look you, was a notion of his own, who ran on errands
and carried messages, so many people say, between him and his star. I
myself have never believed that; but the Red Man is, undoubtedly, a
fact. Napoleon himself spoke of the Red Man who lived up in the roof
of the Tuileries, and who used to come to him, he said, in moments of
trouble and difficulty. So on the night after his coronation Napoleon
saw him for the third time, and they talked over a lot of things
together.

"Then the Emperor goes straight to Milan to have himself crowned King
of Italy, and then came the real triumph of the soldier. For every one
who could write became an officer forthwith, and pensions and gifts of
duchies poured down in showers. There were fortunes for the staff that
never cost France a penny, and the Legion of Honor was as good as an
annuity for the rank and file; I still draw my pension on the strength
of it. In short, here were armies provided for in a way that had never
been seen before! But the Emperor, who knew that he was to be Emperor
over everybody, and not only over the army, bethinks himself of the
bourgeois, and sets them to build fairy monuments in places that had
been as bare as the back of my hand till then. Suppose, now, that you
are coming out of Spain and on the way to Berlin; well, you would see
triumphal arches, and in the sculpture upon them the common soldiers
are done every bit as beautifully as the generals!

"In two or three years Napoleon fills his cellars with gold, makes
bridges, palaces, roads, scholars, festivals, laws, fleets, and
harbors; he spends millions on millions, ever so much, and ever so
much more to it, so that I have heard it said that he could have paved
the whole of France with five-franc pieces if the fancy had taken him;
and all this without putting any taxes on you people here. So when he
was comfortably seated on his throne, and so thoroughly the master of
the situation, that all Europe was waiting for leave to do anything
for him that he might happen to want; as he had four brothers and
three sisters, he said to us, just as it might be by way of
conversation, in the order of the day:

"'Children, is it fitting that your Emperor's relations should beg
their bread? No; I want them all to be luminaries, like me in fact!
Therefore, it is urgently necessary to conquer a kingdom for each one
of them, so that the French nation may be masters everywhere, so that
the Guard may make the whole earth tremble, and France may spit
wherever she likes, and every nation shall say to her, as it is
written on my coins, "God protects you."'

"'All right!' answers the army, 'we will fish up kingdoms for you
with the bayonet.'

"Ah! there was no backing out of it, look you! If he had taken it into
his head to conquer the moon, we should have had to put everything in
train, pack our knapsacks, and scramble up; luckily, he had no wish
for that excursion. The kings who were used to the comforts of a
throne, of course, objected to be lugged off, so we had marching
orders. We march, we get there, and the earth begins to shake to
its centre again. What times they were for wearing out men and
shoe-leather! And the hard knocks that they gave us! Only Frenchmen
could have stood it. But you are not ignorant that a Frenchman is a
born philosopher; he knows that he must die a little sooner or a
litter later. So we used to die without a word, because we had the
pleasure of watching the Emperor do /this/ on the maps."

Here the soldier swung quickly round on one foot, so as to trace a
circle on the barn floor with the other.

"'There, that shall be a kingdom,' he used to say, and it was a
kingdom. What fine times they were! Colonels became generals whilst
you were looking at them, generals became marshals of France, and
marshals became kings. There is one of them still left on his feet to
keep Europe in mind of those days, Gascon though he may be, and a
traitor to France that he might keep his crown; and he did not blush
for his shame, for, after all, a crown, look you, is made of gold. The
very sappers and miners who knew how to read became great nobles in
the same way. And I who am telling you all this have seen in Paris
eleven kings and a crowd of princes all round about Napoleon, like
rays about the sun! Keep this well in your minds, that as every
soldier stood a chance of having a throne of his own (provided he
showed himself worthy of it), a corporal of the Guard was by way of
being a sight to see, and they gaped at him as he went by; for every
one came by his share after a victory, it was made perfectly clear in
the bulletin. And what battles they were! Austerlitz, where the army
was manoeuvred as if it had been a review; Eylau, where the Russians
were drowned in a lake, just as if Napoleon had breathed on them and
blown them in; Wagram, where the fighting was kept up for three whole
days without flinching. In short, there were as many battles as there
are saints in the calendar.

"Then it was made clear beyond a doubt that Napoleon bore the Sword of
God in his scabbard. He had a regard for the soldier. He took the
soldier for his child. He was anxious that you should have shoes,
shirts, greatcoats, bread, and cartridges; but he kept up his majesty,
too, for reigning was his own particular occupation. But, all the
same, a sergeant, or even a common soldier, could go up to him and
call him 'Emperor,' just as you might say 'My good friend' to me at
times. And he would give an answer to anything you put before him. He
used to sleep on the snow just like the rest of us--in short, he
looked almost like an ordinary man; but I who am telling you all these
things have seen him myself with the grape-shot whizzing about his
ears, no more put out by it than you are at this moment; never moving
a limb, watching through his field-glass, always looking after his
business; so we stood our ground likewise, as cool and calm as John
the Baptist. I do not know how he did it; but whenever he spoke, a
something in his words made our hearts burn within us; and just to let
him see that we were his children, and that it was not in us to shirk
or flinch, we used to walk just as usual right up to the sluts of
cannon that were belching smoke and vomiting battalions of balls, and
never a man would so much as say, 'Look out!' It was a something that
made dying men raise their heads to salute him and cry, 'Long live the
Emperor!'

"Was that natural? Would you have done this for a mere man?

"Thereupon, having fitted up all his family, and things having so
turned out that the Empress Josephine (a good woman for all that) had
no children, he was obliged to part company with her, although he
loved her not a little. But he must have children, for reasons of
State. All the crowned heads of Europe, when they heard of his
difficulty, squabbled among themselves as to who should find him a
wife. He married an Austrian princess, so they say, who was the
daughter of the Caesars, a man of antiquity whom everybody talks
about, not only in our country, where it is said that most things were
his doing, but also all over Europe. And so certain sure is that, that
I who am talking to you have been myself across the Danube, where I
saw the ruins of a bridge built by that man; and it appeared that he
was some connection of Napoleon's at Rome, for the Emperor claimed
succession there for his son.

"So, after his wedding, which was a holiday for the whole world, and
when they let the people off their taxes for ten years to come (though
they had to pay them just the same after all, because the excisemen
took no notice of the proclamation)--after his wedding, I say, his
wife had a child who was King of Rome; a child was born a King while
his father was alive, a thing that had never been seen in the world
before! That day a balloon set out from Paris to carry the news to
Rome, and went all the way in one day. There, now! Is there one of you
who will stand me out that there was nothing supernatural in that? No,
it was decreed on high. And the mischief take those who will not allow
that it was wafted over by God Himself, so as to add to the honor and
glory of France!

"But there was the Emperor of Russia, a friend of our Emperor's, who
was put out because he had not married a Russian lady. So the Russian
backs up our enemies the English; for there had always been something
to prevent Napoleon from putting a spoke in their wheel. Clearly an
end must be made of fowl of that feather. Napoleon is vexed, and he
says to us:

"'Soldiers! You have been the masters of every capital in Europe,
except Moscow, which is allied to England. So, in order to conquer
London and India, which belongs to them in London, I find it
absolutely necessary that we go to Moscow.'

"Thereupon the greatest army that ever wore gaiters, and left its
footprints all over the globe, is brought together, and drawn up with
such peculiar cleverness, that the Emperor passed a million men in
review, all in a single day.

"'Hourra!' cry the Russians, and there is all Russia assembled, a lot
of brutes of Cossacks, that you never can come up with! It was country
against country, a general stramash; we had to look out for ourselves.
'It was all Asia against Europe,' as the Red Man had said to Napoleon.
'All right,' Napoleon had answered, 'I shall be ready for them.'

"And there, in fact, were all the kings who came to lick Napoleon's
hand. Austria, Prussia, Bavaria, Saxony, Poland, and Italy, all
speaking us fair and going along with us; it was a fine thing! The
Eagles had never cooed before as they did on parade in those days,
when they were reared above all the flags of all the nations of
Europe. The Poles could not contain their joy because the Emperor had
a notion of setting up their kingdom again; and ever since Poland and
France have always been like brothers. In short, the army shouts,
'Russia shall be ours!'

"We cross the frontiers, all the lot of us. We march and better march,
but never a Russian do we see. At last all our watch-dogs are encamped
at Borodino. That was where I received the Cross, and there is no
denying that it was a cursed battle. The Emperor was not easy in his
mind; he had seen the Red Man, who said to him, 'My child, you are
going a little too fast for your feet; you will run short of men, and
your friends will play you false.'

"Thereupon the Emperor proposes a treaty. But before he signs it, he
says to us:

"'Let us give these Russians a drubbing!'

"'All right!' cried the army.

"'Forward!' say the sergeants.

"My clothes were all falling to pieces, my shoes were worn out with
trapezing over those roads out there, which are not good going at all.
But it is all one. 'Since here is the last of the row,' said I to
myself, 'I mean to get all I can out of it.'

"We were posted before the great ravine; we had seats in the front
row. The signal is given, and seven hundred guns begin a conversation
fit to make the blood spirt from your ears. One should give the devil
his due, and the Russians let themselves be cut in pieces just like
Frenchmen; they did not give way, and we made no advance.

"'Forward!' is the cry; 'here is the Emperor!'

"So it was. He rides past us at a gallop, and makes a sign to us that
a great deal depends on our carrying the redoubt. He puts fresh heart
into us; we rush forward, I am the first man to reach the gorge. Ah!
/mon Dieu/! how they fell, colonels, lieutenants, and common soldiers,
all alike! There were shoes to fit up those who had none, and
epaulettes for the knowing fellows that knew how to write. . . .
Victory is the cry all along the line! And, upon my word, there were
twenty-five thousand Frenchmen lying on the field. No more, I assure
you! Such a thing was never seen before, it was just like a field when
the corn is cut, with a man lying there for every ear of corn. That
sobered the rest of us. The Man comes, and we make a circle round
about him, and he coaxes us round (for he could be very nice when he
chose), and persuades us to dine with Duke Humphrey, when we were
hungry as hunters. Then our consoler distributes the Crosses of the
Legion of Honor himself, salutes the dead, and says to us, 'On to
Moscow!'

"'To Moscow, so be it,' says the army.

"We take Moscow. What do the Russians do but set fire to their city!
There was a blaze, two leagues of bonfire that burned for two days!
The buildings fell about our ears like slates, and molten lead and
iron came down in showers; it was really horrible; it was a light to
see our sorrows by, I can tell you! The Emperor said, 'There, that is
enough of this sort of thing; all my men shall stay here.'

"We amuse ourselves for a bit by recruiting and repairing our frames,
for we really were much fatigued by the campaign. We take away with us
a gold cross from the top of the Kremlin, and every soldier had a
little fortune. But on the way back the winter came down on us a month
earlier than usual, a matter which the learned (like a set of fools)
have never sufficiently explained; and we are nipped with the cold. We
were no longer an army after that, do you understand? There was an end
of generals and even of the sergeants; hunger and misery took the
command instead, and all of us were absolutely equal under their
reign. All we thought of was how to get back to France; no one stooped
to pick up his gun or his money; every one walked straight before him,
and armed himself as he thought fit, and no one cared about glory.

"The Emperor saw nothing of his star all the time, for the weather was
so bad. There was some misunderstanding between him and heaven. Poor
man, how bad he felt when he saw his Eagles flying with their backs
turned on victory! That was really too rough! Well, the next thing is
the Beresina. And here and now, my friends, any one can assure you on
his honor, and by all that is sacred, that /never/, no, never since
there have been men on earth, never in this world has there been such
a fricasse of an army, caissons, transports, artillery and all, in
such snow as that and under such a pitiless sky. It was so cold that
you burned your hand on the barrel of your gun if you happened to
touch it. There it was that the pontooners saved the army, for the
pontooners stood firm at their posts; it was there that Gondrin
behaved like a hero, and he is the sole survivor of all the men who
were dogged enough to stand in the river so as to build the bridges on
which the army crossed over, and so escaped the Russians, who still
respected the Grand Army on account of its past victories. And Gondrin
is an accomplished soldier," he went on, pointing to his friend, who
was gazing at him with the rapt attention peculiar to deaf people, "a
distinguished soldier who deserves to have your very highest esteem.

"I saw the Emperor standing by the bridge," he went on, "and never
feeling the cold at all. Was that, again, a natural thing? He was
looking on at the loss of his treasures, of his friends, and those who
had fought with him in Egypt. Bah! there was an end of everything.
Women and wagons and guns were all engulfed and swallowed up,
everything went to wreck and ruin. A few of the bravest among us saved
the Eagles, for the Eagles, look you, meant France, and all the rest
of you; it was the civil and military honor of France that was in our
keeping, there must be no spot on the honor of France, and the cold
could never make her bow her head. There was no getting warm except in
the neighborhood of the Emperor; for whenever he was in danger we
hurried up, all frozen as we were--we who would not stop to hold out a
hand to a fallen friend.

"They say, too, that he shed tears of a night over his poor family of
soldiers. Only he and Frenchmen could have pulled themselves out of
such a plight; but we did pull ourselves out, though, as I am telling
you, it was with loss, ay, and heavy loss. The Allies had eaten up all
our provisions; everybody began to betray him, just as the Red Man had
foretold. The rattle-pates in Paris, who had kept quiet ever since the
Imperial Guard had been established, think that HE is dead, and hatch
a conspiracy. They set to work in the Home Office to overturn the
Emperor. These things come to his knowledge and worry him; he says to
us at parting, 'Good-bye, children; keep to your posts, I will come
back again.'

"Bah! Those generals of his lose their heads at once; for when he was
away, it was not like the same thing. The marshals fall out among
themselves, and make blunders, as was only natural, for Napoleon in
his kindness had fed them on gold till they had grown as fat as
butter, and they had no mind to march. Troubles came of this, for many
of them stayed inactive in garrison towns in the rear, without
attempting to tickle up the backs of the enemy behind us, and we were
being driven back on France. But Napoleon comes back among us with
fresh troops; conscripts they were, and famous conscripts too; he had
put some thorough notions of discipline into them--the whelps were
good to set their teeth in anybody. He had a bourgeois guard of honor
too, and fine troops they were! They melted away like butter on a
gridiron. We may put a bold front on it, but everything is against us,
although the army still performs prodigies of valor. Whole nations
fought against nations in tremendous battles, at Dresden, Lutzen, and
Bautzen, and then it was that France showed extraordinary heroism, for
you must all of you bear in mind that in those times a stout grenadier
only lasted six months.

"We always won the day, but the English were always on our track,
putting nonsense into other nations' heads, and stirring them up to
revolt. In short, we cleared a way through all these mobs of nations;
for wherever the Emperor appeared, we made a passage for him; for on
the land as on the sea, whenever he said, 'I wish to go forward,' we
made the way.

"There comes a final end to it at last. We are back in France; and in
spite of the bitter weather, it did one's heart good to breathe one's
native air again, it set up many a poor fellow; and as for me, it put
new life into me, I can tell you. But it was a question all at once of
defending France, our fair land of France. All Europe was up in arms
against us; they took it in bad part that we had tried to keep the
Russians in order by driving them back within their own borders, so
that they should not gobble us up, for those Northern folk have a
strong liking for eating up the men of the South, it is a habit they
have; I have heard the same thing of them from several generals.

"So the Emperor finds his own father-in-law, his friends whom he had
made crowned kings, and the rabble of princes to whom he had given
back their thrones, were all against him. Even Frenchmen and allies in
our own ranks turned against us, by orders from high quarters, as at
Leipsic. Common soldiers would hardly be capable of such abominations;
yet these princes, as they called themselves, broke their words three
times a day! The next thing they do is to invade France. Wherever our
Emperor shows his lion's face, the enemy beats a retreat; he worked
more miracles for the defence of France than he had ever wrought in
the conquest of Italy, the East, Spain, Europe, and Russia; he has a
mind to bury every foreigner in French soil, to give them a respect
for France, so he lets them come close up to Paris, so as to do for
them at a single blow, and to rise to the highest height of genius in
the biggest battle that ever was fought, a mother of battles! But the
Parisians wanting to save their trumpery skins, and afraid for their
twopenny shops, open their gates and there is a beginning of the
/ragusades/, and an end of all joy and happiness; they make a fool of
the Empress, and fly the white flag out at the windows. The Emperor's
closest friends among his generals forsake him at last and go over to
the Bourbons, of whom no one had ever heard tell. Then he bids us
farewell at Fontainbleau:

"'Soldiers!' . . . (I can hear him yet, we were all crying just like
children; the Eagles and the flags had been lowered as if for a
funeral. Ah! and it was a funeral, I can tell you; it was the funeral
of the Empire; those smart armies of his were nothing but skeletons
now.) So he stood there on the flight of steps before his chateau, and
he said:

"'Children, we have been overcome by treachery, but we shall meet
again up above in the country of the brave. Protect my child, I leave
him in your care. /Long live Napoleon II.!/'

"He had thought of killing himself, so that no one should behold
Napoleon after his defeat; like Jesus Christ before the Crucifixion,
he thought himself forsaken by God and by his talisman, and so he took
enough poison to kill a regiment, but it had no effect whatever upon
him. Another marvel! he discovered that he was immortal; and feeling
sure of his case, and knowing that he would be Emperor for ever, he
went to an island for a little while, so as to study the dispositions
of those folk who did not fail to make blunder upon blunder. Whilst he
was biding his time, the Chinese and the brutes out in Africa, the
Moors and what-not, awkward customers all of them, were so convinced
that he was something more than mortal, that they respected his flag,
saying that God would be displeased if any one meddled with it. So he
reigned over all the rest of the world, although the doors of his own
France had been closed upon him.

"Then he goes on board the same nutshell of a skiff that he sailed in
from Egypt, passes under the noses of the English vessels, and sets
foot in France. France recognizes her Emperor, the cuckoo flits from
steeple to steeple; France cries with one voice, 'Long live the
Emperor!' The enthusiasm for that Wonder of the Ages was thoroughly
genuine in these parts. Dauphine behaved handsomely; and I was
uncommonly pleased to learn that people here shed tears of joy on
seeing his gray overcoat once more.

"It was on March 1st that Napoleon set out with two hundred men to
conquer the kingdom of France and Navarre, which by March 20th had
become the French Empire again. On that day he found himself in Paris,
and a clean sweep had been made of everything; he had won back his
beloved France, and had called all his soldiers about him again, and
three words of his had done it all--'Here am I!' 'Twas the greatest
miracle God ever worked! Was it ever known in the world before that a
man should do nothing but show his hat, and a whole Empire became his?
They fancied that France was crushed, did they? Never a bit of it. A
National Army springs up again at the sight of the Eagle, and we all
march to Waterloo. There the Guard fall all as one man. Napoleon in
his despair heads the rest, and flings himself three times on the
enemy's guns without finding the death he sought; we all saw him do
it, we soldiers, and the day was lost! That night the Emperor calls
all his old soldiers about him, and there on the battlefield, which
was soaked with our blood, he burns his flags and his Eagles--the poor
Eagles that had never been defeated, that had cried, 'Forward!' in
battle after battle, and had flown above us all over Europe. That was
the end of the Eagles--all the wealth of England could not purchase
for her one tail-feather. The rest is sufficiently known.

"The Red Man went over to the Bourbons like the low scoundrel he is.
France is prostrate, the soldier counts for nothing, they rob him of
his due, send him about his business, and fill his place with nobles
who could not walk, they were so old, so that it made you sorry to see
them. They seize Napoleon by treachery, the English shut him up on a
desert island in the ocean, on a rock ten thousand feet above the rest
of the world. That is the final end of it; there he has to stop till
the Red Man gives him back his power again, for the happiness of
France. A lot of them say that he is dead! Dead? Oh! yes, very likely.
They do not know him, that is plain! They go on telling that fib to
deceive the people, and to keep things quiet for their tumble-down
government. Listen; this is the whole truth of the matter. His friends
have left him alone in the desert to fulfil a prophecy that was made
about him, for I forgot to tell you that his name Napoleon really
means the /Lion of the Desert/. And that is gospel truth. You will hear
plenty of other things said about the Emperor, but they are all
monstrous nonsense. Because, look you, to no man of woman born would
God have given the power to write his name in red, as he did, across
the earth, where he will be remembered for ever! . . . Long live
'Napoleon, the father of the soldier, the father of the people!'"

"Long live General Eble!" cried the pontooner.

"How did you manage not to die in the gorge of the redoubts at
Borodino?" asked a peasant woman.

"Do I know? we were a whole regiment when we went down into it, and
only a hundred foot were left standing; only infantry could have
carried it; for the infantry, look you, is everything in an army----"

"But how about the cavalry?" cried Genestas, slipping down out of the
hay in a sudden fashion that drew a startled cry from the boldest.

"He, old boy! you are forgetting Poniatowski's Red Lancers, the
Cuirassiers, the Dragoons, and the whole boiling. Whenever Napoleon
grew tired of seeing his battalions gain no ground towards the end of
a victory, he would say to Murat, 'Here, you! cut them in two for me!'
and we set out first at a trot, and then at a gallop, /one, two/! and
cut a way clean through the ranks of the enemy; it was like slicing an
apple in two with a knife. Why, a charge of cavalry is nothing more
nor less than a column of cannon balls."

"And how about the pontooners?" cried the deaf veteran.

"There, there! my children," Genestas went on, repenting in his
confusion of the sally he had made, when he found himself in the
middle of a silent and bewildered group, "there are no agents of
police spying here! Here, drink to the Little Corporal with this!"

"Long live the Emperor!" all cried with one voice.

"Hush! children," said the officer, concealing his own deep sorrow
with an effort. "Hush! /He is dead/. He died saying, '/Glory, France,
and battle/.' So it had to be, children, he must die; but his memory
--never!"

Goguelat made an incredulous gesture, then he whispered to those about
him, "The officer is still in the service, and orders have been issued
that they are to tell the people that the Emperor is dead. You must
not think any harm of him because, after all, a soldier must obey
orders."

As Genestas went out of the barn, he heard La Fosseuse say, "That
officer, you know, is M. Benassis' friend, and a friend of the
Emperor's."

Every soul in the barn rushed to the door to see the commandant again;
they saw him in the moonlight, as he took the doctor's arm.

"It was a stupid thing to do," said Genestas. "Quick! let us go into
the house. Those Eagles, cannon, and campaigns! . . . I had quite
forgotten where I was."

"Well, what do you think of our Goguelat?" asked Benassis.

"So long as such stories are told in France, sir, she will always find
the fourteen armies of the Republic within her, at need; and her
cannon will be perfectly able to keep up a conversation with the rest
of Europe. That is what I think."

A few moments later they reached Benassis' dwelling, and soon were
sitting on either side of the hearth in the salon; the dying fire in
the grate still sent up a few sparks now and then. Each was absorbed
in thought. Genestas was hesitating to ask one last question. In spite
of the marks of confidence that he had received, he feared lest the
doctor should regard his inquiry as indiscreet. He looked searchingly
at Benassis more than once; and an answering smile, full of a kindly
cordiality, such as lights up the faces of men of real strength of
character, seemed to give him in advance the favorable reply for which
he sought. So he spoke:

"Your life, sir, is so different from the lives of ordinary men, that
you will not be surprised to hear me ask you the reason of your
retired existence. My curiosity may seem to you to be unmannerly, but
you will admit that it is very natural. Listen a moment: I have had
comrades with whom I have never been on intimate terms, even though I
have made many campaigns with them; but there have been others to whom
I would say, 'Go to the paymaster and draw our money,' three days
after we had got drunk together, a thing that will happen, for the
quietest folk must have a frolic fit at times. Well, then, you are one
of those people whom I take for a friend without waiting to ask leave,
nay, without so much as knowing wherefore."

"Captain Bluteau----"

Whenever the doctor had called his guest by his assumed name, the
latter had been unable for some time past to suppress a slight
grimace. Benassis, happening to look up just then, caught this
expression of repugnance; he sought to discover the reason of it, and
looked full into the soldier's face, but the real enigma was well-nigh
insoluble for him, so he set down these symptoms to physical suffering
and went on:

"Captain, I am about to speak of myself. I have had to force myself to
do so already several times since yesterday, while telling you about
the improvements that I have managed to introduce here; but it was a
question of the interests of the people and the commune, with which
mine are necessarily bound up. But, now, if I tell you my story, I
should have to speak wholly of myself, and mine has not been a very
interesting life."

"If it were as uneventful as La Fosseuse's life," answered Genestas,
"I should still be glad to know about it; I should like to know the
untoward events that could bring a man of your calibre into this
canton."

"Captain, for these twelve years I have lived in silence; and now, as
I wait at the brink of the grave for the stroke that will cast me into
it, I will candidly own to you that this silence is beginning to weigh
heavily upon me. I have borne my sorrows alone for twelve years; I
have had none of the comfort that friendship gives in such full
measure to a heart in pain. My poor sick folk and my peasants
certainly set me an example of unmurmuring resignation; but they know
that I at least understand them and their troubles, while there is not
a soul here who knows of the tears that I have shed, no one to give me
the hand-clasp of a comrade, the noblest reward of all, a reward that
falls to the lot of every other; even Gondrin has not missed that."

Genestas held out his hand, a sudden impulsive movement by which
Benassis was deeply touched.

"There is La Fosseuse," he went on in a different voice; "she perhaps
would have understood as the angels might; but then, too, she might
possibly have loved me, and that would have been a misfortune. Listen,
captain, my confession could only be made to an old soldier who looks
as leniently as you do on the failings of others, or to some young man
who has not lost the illusions of youth; for only a man who knows life
well, or a lad to whom it is all unknown, could understand my story.
The captains of past times who fell upon the field of battle used to
make their last confession to the cross on the hilt of their sword; if
there was no priest at hand, it was the sword that received and kept
the last confidences between a human soul and God. And will you hear
and understand me, for you are one of Napoleon's finest sword-blades,
as thoroughly tempered and as strong as steel? Some parts of my story
can only be understood by a delicate tenderness, and through a
sympathy with the beliefs that dwell in simple hearts; beliefs which
would seem absurd to the sophisticated people who make use in their
own lives of the prudential maxims of worldly wisdom that only apply
to the government of states. To you I shall speak openly and without
reserve, as a man who does not seek to apologize for his life with the
good and evil done in the course of it; as one who will hide nothing
from you, because he lives so far from the world of to-day, careless
of the judgements of man, and full of hope in God."

Benassis stopped, rose to his feet, and said, "Before I begin my
story, I will order tea. Jacquotte has never missed asking me if I
will take it for these twelve years past, and she will certainly
interrupt us. Do you care about it, captain?"

"No, thank you."

In another moment Benassis returned.



                             CHAPTER IV

                  THE COUNTRY DOCTOR'S CONFESSION

"I was born in a little town in Languedoc," the doctor resumed. "My
father had been settled there for many years, and there my early
childhood was spent. When I was eight years old I was sent to the
school of the Oratorians at Sorreze, and only left it to finish my
studies in Paris. My father had squandered his patrimony in the course
of an exceedingly wild and extravagant youth. He had retrieved his
position partly by a fortunate marriage, partly by the slow persistent
thrift characteristic of provincial life; for in the provinces people
pride themselves on accumulating rather than on spending, and all the
ambition in a man's nature is either extinguished or directed to
money-getting, for want of any nobler end. So he had grown rich at
last, and thought to transmit to his only son all the cut-and-dried
experience which he himself had purchased at the price of his lost
illusions; a noble last illusion of age which fondly seeks to bequeath
its virtues and its wary prudence to heedless youth, intent only on
the enjoyment of the enchanted life that lies before it.

"This foresight on my father's part led him to make plans for my
education for which I had to suffer. He sedulously concealed my
expectations of wealth from me, and during the fairest years of my
youth compelled me, for my own good, to endure the burden of anxiety
and hardship that presses upon a young man who has his own way to make
in the world. His idea in so doing was to instill the virtues of
poverty into me--patience, a thirst for learning, and a love of work
for its own sake. He hoped to teach me to set a proper value on my
inheritance, by letting me learn, in this way, all that it costs to
make a fortune; wherefore, as soon as I was old enough to understand
his advice, he urged me to choose a profession and to work steadily at
it. My tastes inclined me to the study of medicine.

"So I left Sorreze, after ten years of almost monastic discipline of
the Oratorians; and, fresh from the quiet life of a remote provincial
school, I was taken straight to the capital. My father went with me in
order to introduce me to the notice of a friend of his; and (all
unknown to me) my two elders took the most elaborate precautions
against any ebullitions of youth on my part, innocent lad though I
was. My allowance was rigidly computed on a scale based upon the
absolute necessaries of life, and I was obliged to produce my
certificate of attendance at the Ecole de Medecine before I was
allowed to draw my quarter's income. The excuse for this sufficiently
humiliating distrust was the necessity of my acquiring methodical and
business-like habits. My father, however, was not sparing of money for
all the necessary expenses of my education and for the amusements of
Parisian life.

"His old friend was delighted to have a young man to guide through the
labyrinth into which I had entered. He was one of those men whose
natures lead them to docket their thoughts, feelings, and opinions
every whit as carefully as their papers. He would turn up last year's
memorandum book, and could tell in a moment what he had been doing a
twelvemonth since in this very month, day, and hour of the present
year. Life, for him, was a business enterprise, and he kept the books
after the most approved business methods. There was real worth in him
though he might be punctilious, shrewd, and suspicious, and though he
never lacked specious excuses for the precautionary measures that he
took with regard to me. He used to buy all my books; he paid for my
lessons; and once, when the fancy took me to learn to ride, the good
soul himself found me out a riding-school, went thither with me, and
anticipated my wishes by putting a horse at my disposal whenever I had
a holiday. In spite of all this cautious strategy, which I managed to
defeat as soon as I had any temptation to do so, the kind old man was
a second father to me.

"'My friend,' he said, as soon as he surmised that I should break
away altogether from my leading strings, unless he relaxed them,
'young folk are apt to commit follies which draw down the wrath of
their elders upon their heads, and you may happen to want money at
some time or other; if so, come to me. Your father helped me nobly
once upon a time, and I shall always have a few crowns to spare for
you; but never tell any lies, and do not be ashamed to own to your
faults. I myself was young once; we shall always get on well together,
like two good comrades.'

"My father found lodgings for me with some quiet, middle-class people
in the Latin Quarter, and my room was furnished nicely enough; but
this first taste of independence, my father's kindness, and the
self-denial which he seemed to be exercising for me, brought me but
little happiness. Perhaps the value of liberty cannot be known until it
has been experienced; and the memories of the freedom of my childhood
had been almost effaced by the irksome and dreary life at school, from
which my spirits had scarcely recovered. In addition to this, my
father had urged new tasks upon me, so that altogether Paris was an
enigma. You must acquire some knowledge of its pleasures before you
can amuse yourself in Paris.

"My real position, therefore, was quite unchanged, save that my new
/lycee/ was a much larger building, and was called the Ecole de
Medecine. Nevertheless, I studied away bravely at first; I attended
lectures diligently; I worked desperately hard and without relaxation,
so strongly was my imagination affected by the abundant treasures of
knowledge to be gained in the capital. But very soon I heedlessly made
acquaintances; danger lurks hidden beneath the rash confiding
friendships that have so strong a charm for youth, and gradually I was
drawn into the dissipated life of the capital. I became an
enthusiastic lover of the theatre; and with my craze for actors and
the play, the work of my demoralization began. The stage, in a great
metropolis, exerts a very deadly influence over the young; they never
quit the theatre save in a state of emotional excitement almost always
beyond their power to control; society and the law seem to me to be
accessories to the irregularities brought about in this way. Our
legislation has shut its eyes, so to speak, to the passions that
torment a young man between twenty and five-and-twenty years of age.
In Paris he is assailed by temptations of every kind. Religion may
preach and Law may demand that he should walk uprightly, but all his
surroundings and the tone of those about him are so many incitements
to evil. Do not the best of men and the most devout women there look
upon continence as ridiculous? The great city, in fact, seems to have
set herself to give encouragement to vice and to this alone; for a
young man finds that the entrance to every honorable career in which
he might look for success is barred by hindrances even more numerous
than the snares that are continually set for him, so that through his
weaknesses he may be robbed of his money.

"For a long while I went every evening to some theatre, and little by
little I fell into idle ways. I grew more and more slack over my work;
even my most pressing tasks were apt to be put off till the morrow,
and before very long there was an end of my search after knowledge for
its own sake; I did nothing more than the work which was absolutely
required to enable me to get through the examinations that must be
passed before I could become a doctor. I attended the public lectures,
but I no longer paid any attention to the professors, who, in my
opinion, were a set of dotards. I had already broken my idols--I
became a Parisian.

"To be brief, I led the aimless drifting life of a young, provincial
thrown into the heart of a great city; still retaining some good and
true feeling, still clinging more or less to the observance of certain
rules of conduct, still fighting in vain against the debasing
influence of evil examples, though I offered but a feeble,
half-hearted resistance, for the enemy had accomplices within me. Yes,
sir, my face is not misleading; past storms have plainly left their
traces there. Yet, since I had drunk so deeply of the pure fountain of
religion in my early youth, I was haunted in the depths of my soul,
through all my wanderings, by an ideal of moral perfection which could
not fail one day to bring me back to God by the paths of weariness and
remorse. Is not he who feels the pleasures of earth most keenly, sure
to be attracted, soon or late, by the fruits of heaven?

"At first I went through the experience, more or less vivid, that
always comes with youth--the countless moments of exultation, the
unnumbered transports of despair. Sometimes I took my vehement energy
of feeling for a resolute will, and over-estimated my powers;
sometimes, at the mere sight of some trifling obstacle with which I
was about to come into collision, I was far more cast down than I
ought to have been. Then I would devise vast plans, would dream of
glory, and betake myself to work; but a pleasure party would divert me
from the noble projects based on so infirm a purpose. Vague
recollections of these great abortive schemes of mine left a deceptive
glow in my soul and fostered my belief in myself, without giving me
the energy to produce. In my indolent self-sufficiency I was in a very
fair way to become a fool, for what is a fool but a man who fails to
justify the excellent opinion which he has formed of himself? My
energy was directed towards no definite aims; I wished for the flowers
of life without the toil of cultivating them. I had no idea of the
obstacles, so I imagined that everything was easy; luck, I thought,
accounted for success in science and in business, and genius was
charlatanism. I took it for granted that I should be a great man,
because there was the power of becoming one within me; so I discounted
all my future glory, without giving a thought to the patience required
for the conception of a great work, nor of the execution, in the
course of which all the difficulties of the task appear.

"The sources of my amusements were soon exhausted. The charm of the
theatre does not last for very long; and, for a poor student, Paris
shortly became an empty wilderness. They were dull and uninteresting
people that I met with in the circle of the family with whom I lived;
but these, and an old man who had now lost touch with the world, were
all the society that I had.

"So, like every young man who takes a dislike to the career marked out
for him, I rambled about the streets for whole days together; I
strolled along the quays, through the museums and public gardens,
making no attempt to arrive at a clear understanding of my position,
and without a single definite idea in my head. The burden of
unemployed energies is more felt at that age than at any other; there
is such an abundance of vitality running to waste, so much activity
without result. I had no idea of the power that a resolute will puts
into the hands of a man in his youth; for when he has ideas and puts
his whole heart and soul into the work of carrying them out, his
strength is yet further increased by the undaunted courage of youthful
convictions.

"Childhood in its simplicity knows nothing of the perils of life;
youth sees both its vastness and its difficulties, and at the prospect
the courage of youth sometimes flags. We are still serving our
apprenticeship to life; we are new to the business, a kind of
faint-heartedness overpowers us, and leaves us in an almost dazed
condition of mind. We feel that we are helpless aliens in a strange
country. At all ages we shrink back involuntarily from the unknown. And
a young man is very much like the soldier who will walk up to the
cannon's mouth, and is put to flight by a ghost. He hesitates among the
maxims of the world. The rules of attack and of self-defence are alike
unknown to him; he can neither give nor take; he is attracted by
women, and stands in awe of them; his very good qualities tell against
him, he is all generosity and modesty, and completely innocent of
mercenary designs. Pleasure and not interest is his object when he
tells a lie; and among many dubious courses, the conscience, with
which as yet he has not juggled, points out to him the right way,
which he is slow to take.

"There are men whose lives are destined to be shaped by the impulses
of their hearts, rather than by any reasoning process that takes place
in their heads, and such natures as these will remain for a long while
in the position that I have described. This was my own case. I became
the plaything of two contending impulses; the desires of youth were
always held in check by a faint-hearted sentimentality. Life in Paris
is a cruel ordeal for impressionable natures, the great inequalities
of fortune or of position inflame their souls and stir up bitter
feelings. In that world of magnificence and pettiness envy is more apt
to be a dagger than a spur. You are bound either to fall a victim or
to become a partisan in this incessant strife of ambitions, desires,
and hatreds, in the midst of which you are placed; and by slow degrees
the picture of vice triumphant and virtue made ridiculous produces its
effect on a young man, and he wavers; life in Paris soon rubs the
bloom from conscience, the infernal work of demoralization has begun,
and is soon accomplished. The first of pleasures, that which at the
outset comprehends all the others, is set about with such perils that
it is impossible not to reflect upon the least actions which it
provokes, impossible not to calculate all its consequences. These
calculations lead to selfishness. If some poor student, carried away
by an impassioned enthusiasm, is fain to rise above selfish
considerations, the suspicious attitude of those about him makes him
pause and doubt; it is so hard not to share their mistrust, so
difficult not to be on his guard against his own generous thoughts.
His heart is seared and contracted by this struggle, the current of
life sets toward the brain, and the callousness of the Parisian is the
result--the condition of things in which schemes for power and wealth
are concealed by the most charming frivolity, and lurk beneath the
sentimental transports that take the place of enthusiasm. The
simplest-natured woman in Paris always keeps a clear head even in the
intoxication of happiness.

"This atmosphere was bound to affect my opinions and my conduct. The
errors that have poisoned my life would have lain lightly on many a
conscience, but we in the South have a religious faith that leads us
to believe in a future life, and in the truths set forth by the
Catholic Church. These beliefs give depth and gravity to every
feeling, and to remorse a terrible and lasting power.

"The army were masters of society at the time when I was studying
medicine. In order to shine in women's eyes, one had to be a colonel
at the very least. A poor student counted for absolutely nothing.
Goaded by the strength of my desires, and finding no outlet for them;
hampered at every step and in every wish by the want of money; looking
on study and fame as too slow a means of arriving at the pleasures
that tempted me; drawn one way by my inward scruples, and another by
evil examples; meeting with every facility for low dissipation, and
finding nothing but hindrances barring the way to good society, I
passed my days in wretchedness, overwhelmed by a surging tumult of
desires, and by indolence of the most deadly kind, utterly cast down
at times, only to be as suddenly elated.

"The catastrophe which at length put an end to this crisis was
commonplace enough. The thought of troubling the peace of a household
has always been repugnant to me; and not only so, I could not
dissemble my feelings, the instinct of sincerity was too strong in me;
I should have found it a physical impossibility to lead a life of
glaring falsity. There is for me but little attraction in pleasures
that must be snatched. I wish for full consciousness of my happiness.
I led a life of solitude, for which there seemed to be no remedy; for
I shrank from openly vicious courses, and the many efforts that I made
to enter society were all in vain. There I might have met with some
woman who would have undertaken the task of teaching me the perils of
every path, who would have formed my manners, counseled me without
wounding my vanity, and introduced me everywhere where I was likely to
make friends who would be useful to me in my future career. In my
despair, an intrigue of the most dangerous kind would perhaps have had
its attractions for me; but even peril was out of my reach. My
inexperience sent me back again to my solitude, where I dwelt face to
face with my thwarted desires.

"At last I formed a connection, at first a secret one, with a girl,
whom I persuaded, half against her will, to share my life. Her people
were worthy folk, who had but small means. It was not very long before
she left her simple sheltered life, and fearlessly intrusted me with a
future that virtue would have made happy and fair; thinking, no doubt,
that my narrow income was the surest guarantee of my faithfulness to
her. From that moment the tempest that had raged within me ceased, and
happiness lulled my wild desires and ambitions to sleep. Such
happiness is only possible for a young man who is ignorant of the
world, who knows nothing as yet of its accepted codes nor of the
strength of prejudice; but while it lasts, his happiness is as
all-absorbing as a child's. Is not first love like a return of
childhood across the intervening years of anxiety and toil?

"There are men who learn life at a glance, who see it for what it is
at once, who learn experience from the mistakes of others, who apply
the current maxims of worldly wisdom to their own case with signal
success, and make unerring forecasts at all times. Wise in their
generation are such cool heads as these! But there is also a luckless
race endowed with the impressionable, keenly-sensitive temperament of
the poet; these are the natures that fall into error, and to this
latter class I belonged. There was no great depth in the feeling that
first drew me towards this poor girl; I followed my instinct rather
than my heart when I sacrificed her to myself, and I found no lack of
excellent reasons wherewith to persuade myself that there was no harm
whatever in what I had done. And as for her--she was devotion itself,
a noble soul with a clear, keen intelligence and a heart of gold. She
never counseled me other than wisely. Her love put fresh heart into me
from the first; she foretold a splendid future of success and fortune
for me, and gently constrained me to take up my studies again by her
belief in me. In these days there is scarcely a branch of science that
has no bearing upon medicine; it is a difficult task to achieve
distinction, but the reward is great, for in Paris fame always means
fortune. The unselfish girl devoted herself to me, shared in every
interest, even the slightest, of my life, and managed so carefully and
wisely that we lived in comfort on my narrow income. I had more money
to spare, now that there were two of us, than I had ever had while I
lived by myself. Those were my happiest days. I worked with
enthusiasm, I had a definite aim before me, I had found the
encouragement I needed. Everything I did or thought I carried to her,
who had not only found the way to gain my love, but above and beyond
this had filled me with sincere respect for her by the modest
discretion which she displayed in a position where discretion and
modesty seemed well-nigh impossible. But one day was like another,
sir; and it is only after our hears have passed through all the storms
appointed for us that we know the value of a monotonous happiness, and
learn that life holds nothing more sweet for us than this; a calm
happiness in which the fatigue of existence is felt no longer, and the
inmost thoughts of either find response in the other's soul.

"My former dreams assailed me again. They were my own vehement
longings for the pleasures of wealth that awoke, though it was in
love's name that I now asked for them. In the evenings I grew
abstracted and moody, rapt in imaginings of the pleasures I could
enjoy if I were rich, and thoughtlessly gave expression to my desires
in answer to a tender questioning voice. I must have drawn a painful
sigh from her who had devoted herself to my happiness; for she, sweet
soul, felt nothing more cruelly than the thought that I wished for
something that she could not give me immediately. Oh! sir, a woman's
devotion is sublime!"

There was a sharp distress in the doctor's exclamation which seemed
prompted by some recollection of his own; he paused for a brief while,
and Genestas respected his musings.

"Well, sir," Benassis resumed, "something happened which should have
concluded the marriage thus begun; but instead of that it put an end
to it, and was the cause of all my misfortunes. My father died and
left me a large fortune. The necessary business arrangements demanded
my presence in Languedoc for several months, and I went thither alone.
At last I had regained my freedom! Even the mildest yoke is galling to
youth; we do not see its necessity any more than we see the need to
work, until we have had some experience of life. I came and went
without giving an account of my actions to any one; there was no need
to do so now unless I wished, and I relished liberty with all the keen
capacity for enjoyment that we have in Languedoc. I did not absolutely
forget the ties that bound me; but I was so absorbed in other matters
of interest, that my mind was distracted from them, and little by
little the recollection of them faded away. Letters full of heartfelt
tenderness reached me; but at two-and-twenty a young man imagines that
all women are alike tender; he does not know love from a passing
infatuation; all things are confused in the sensations of pleasure
which seem at first to comprise everything. It was only later, when I
came to a clearer knowledge of men and of things as they are, that I
could estimate those noble letters at their just worth. No trace of
selfishness was mingled with the feeling expressed in them; there was
nothing but gladness on my account for my change of fortune, and
regret on her own; it never occurred to her that I could change
towards her, for she felt that she herself was incapable of change.
But even then I had given myself up to ambitious dreams; I thought of
drinking deeply of all the delights that wealth could give, of
becoming a person of consequence, of making a brilliant marriage. So I
read the letters, and contented myself with saying, 'She is very fond
of me,' with the indifference of a coxcomb. Even then I was perplexed
as to how to extricate myself from this entanglement; I was ashamed of
it, and this fact as well as my perplexity led me to be cruel. We
begin by wounding the victim, and then we kill it, that the sight of
our cruelty may no longer put us to the blush. Late reflections upon
those days of error have unveiled for me many a dark depth in the
human heart. Yes, believe me, those who best have fathomed the good
and evil in human nature have honestly examined themselves in the
first instance. Conscience is the starting-point of our
investigations; we proceed from ourselves to others, never from others
to ourselves.

"When I returned to Paris I took up my abode in a large house which,
in pursuance with my orders, had been taken for me, and the one person
interested in my return and change of address was not informed of it.
I wished to cut a figure among young men of fashion. I waited a few
days to taste the first delights of wealth; and when, flushed with the
excitement of my new position, I felt that I could trust myself to do
so, I went to see the poor girl whom I meant to cast off. With a
woman's quickness she saw what was passing in my mind, and hid her
tears from me. She could not but have despised me; but it was her
nature to be gentle and kindly, and she never showed her scorn. Her
forbearance was a cruel punishment. An unresisting victim is not a
pleasant thing; whether the murder is done decorously in the
drawing-room, or brutally on the highway, there should be a struggle to
give some plausible excuse for taking a life. I renewed my visits very
affectionately at first, making efforts to be gracious, if not tender;
by slow degrees I became politely civil; and one day, by a sort of
tacit agreement between us, she allowed me to treat her as a stranger,
and I thought that I had done all that could be expected of me.
Nevertheless I abandoned myself to my new life with almost frenzied
eagerness, and sought to drown in gaiety any vague lingering remorse
that I felt. A man who has lost his self-respect cannot endure his own
society, so I led the dissipated life that wealthy young men lead in
Paris. Owing to a good education and an excellent memory, I seemed
cleverer than I really was, forthwith I looked down upon other people;
and those who, for their own purposes, wished to prove to me that I
was possessed of extraordinary abilities, found me quite convinced on
that head. Praise is the most insidious of all methods of treachery
known to the world; and this is nowhere better understood than in
Paris, where intriguing schemers know how to stifle every kind of
talent at its birth by heaping laurels on its cradle. So I did nothing
worthy of my reputation; I reaped no advantages from the golden
opinions entertained of me, and made no acquaintances likely to be
useful in my future career. I wasted my energies in numberless
frivolous pursuits, and in the short-lived love intrigues that are the
disgrace of salons in Paris, where every one seeks for love, grows
blase in the pursuit, falls into the libertinism sanctioned by polite
society, and ends by feeling as much astonished at real passion as the
world is over a heroic action. I did as others did. Often I dealt to
generous and candid souls the deadly wound from which I myself was
slowly perishing. Yet though deceptive appearances might lead others
to misjudge me, I could never overcome my scrupulous delicacy. Many
times I have been duped, and should have blushed for myself had it
been otherwise; I secretly prided myself on acting in good faith,
although this lowered me in the eyes of others. As a matter of fact
the world has a considerable respect for cleverness, whatever form it
takes, and success justifies everything. So the world was pleased to
attribute to me all the good qualities and evil propensities, all the
victories and defeats which had never been mine; credited me with
conquests of which I knew nothing, and sat in judgment upon actions of
which I had never been guilty. I scorned to contradict the slanders,
and self-love led me to regard the more flattering rumors with a
certain complacence. Outwardly my existence was pleasant enough, but
in reality I was miserable. If it had not been for the tempest of
misfortunes that very soon burst over my head, all good impulses must
have perished, and evil would have triumphed in the struggle that went
on within me; enervating self-indulgence would have destroyed the
body, as the detestable habits of egotism exhausted the springs of the
soul. But I was ruined financially. This was how it came about.

"No matter how large his fortune may be, a man is sure to find some
one else in Paris possessed of yet greater wealth, whom he must needs
aim at surpassing. In this unequal conquest I was vanquished at the
end of four years; and, like many another harebrained youngster, I was
obliged to sell part of my property and to mortgage the remainder to
satisfy my creditors. Then a terrible blow suddenly struck me down.

"Two years had passed since I had last seen the woman whom I had
deserted. The turn that my affairs were taking would no doubt have
brought me back to her once more; but one evening, in the midst of a
gay circle of acquaintances, I received a note written in a trembling
hand. It only contained these few words:

"'I have only a very little while to live, and I should like to see
you, my friend, so that I may know what will become of my child
--whether henceforward he will be yours; and also to soften the regret
that some day you might perhaps feel for my death.'

"The letter made me shudder. It was a revelation of secret anguish in
the past, while it contained a whole unknown future. I set out on
foot, I would not wait for my carriage, I went across Paris, goaded by
remorse, and gnawed by a dreadful fear that was confirmed by the first
sight of my victim. In the extreme neatness and cleanliness beneath
which she had striven to hid her poverty I read all the terrible
sufferings of her life; she was nobly reticent about them in her
effort to spare my feelings, and only alluded to them after I had
solemnly promised to adopt our child. She died, sir, in spite of all
the care lavished upon her, and all that science could suggest was
done for her in vain. The care and devotion that had come too late
only served to render her last moments less bitter.

"To support her little one she had worked incessantly with her needle.
Love for her child had given her strength to endure her life of
hardship; but it had not enabled her to bear my desertion, the keenest
of all her griefs. Many times she had thought of trying to see me, but
her woman's pride had always prevented this. While I squandered floods
of gold upon my caprices, no memory of the past had ever bidden a
single drop to fall in her home to help mother and child to live; but
she had been content to weep, and had not cursed me; she had looked
upon her evil fortune as the natural punishment of her error. With the
aid of a good priest of Saint Sulpice, whose kindly voice had restored
peace to her soul, she had sought for hope in the shadow of the altar,
whither she had gone to dry her tears. The bitter flood that I had
poured into her heart gradually abated; and one day, when she heard
her child say 'Father,' a word that she had not taught him, she
forgave my crime. But sorrow and weeping and days and nights of
ceaseless toil injured her health. Religion had brought its
consolations and the courage to bear the ills of life, but all too
late. She fell ill of a heart complaint brought on by grief and by the
strain of expectation, for she always thought that I should return,
and her hopes always sprang up afresh after every disappointment. Her
health grew worse; and at last, as she was lying on her deathbed, she
wrote those few lines, containing no word of reproach, prompted by
religion, and by a belief in the goodness in my nature. She knew, she
said, that I was blinded rather than bent on doing wrong. She even
accused herself of carrying her womanly pride too far. 'If I had only
written sooner,' she said, 'perhaps there might have been time for a
marriage which would have legitimated our child.'

"It was only on her child's account that she wished for the
solemnization of the ties that bound us, nor would she have sought for
this if she had not felt that death was at hand to unloose them. But
it was too late; even then she had only a few hours to live. By her
bedside, where I learned to know the worth of a devoted heart, my
nature underwent a final change. I was still at an age when tears are
shed. During those last days, while the precious life yet lingered, my
tears, my words, and everything I did bore witness to my heartstricken
repentance. The meanness and pettiness of the society in which I had
moved, the emptiness and selfishness of women of fashion, had taught
me to wish for and to seek an elect soul, and now I had found it--too
late. I was weary of lying words and of masked faces; counterfeit
passion had set me dreaming; I had called on love; and now I beheld
love lying before me, slain by my own hands, and had no power to keep
it beside me, no power to keep what was so wholly mine.

"The experience of four years had taught me to know my own real
character. My temperament, the nature of my imagination, my religious
principles, which had not been eradicated, but had rather lain
dormant; my turn of mind, my heart that only now began to make itself
felt--everything within me led me to resolve to fill my life with the
pleasures of affection, to replace a lawless love by family happiness
--the truest happiness on earth. Visions of close and dear
companionship appealed to me but the more strongly for my wanderings
in the wilderness, my grasping at pleasures unennobled by thought or
feeling. So though the revolution within me was rapidly effected, it
was permanent. With my southern temperament, warped by the life I led
in Paris, I should certainly have come to look without pity on an
unhappy girl betrayed by her lover; I should have laughed at the story
if it had been told me by some wag in merry company (for with us in
France a clever bon mot dispels all feelings of horror at a crime),
but all sophistries were silenced in the presence of this angelic
creature, against whom I could bring no least word of reproach. There
stood her coffin, and my child, who did not know that I had murdered
his mother, and smiled at me.

"She died. She died happy when she saw that I loved her, and that this
new love was due neither to pity nor to the ties that bound us
together. Never shall I forget her last hours. Love had been won back,
her mind was at rest about her child, and happiness triumphed over
suffering. The comfort and luxury about her, the merriment of her
child, who looked prettier still in the dainty garb that had replaced
his baby-clothes, were pledges of a happy future for the little one,
in whom she saw her own life renewed.

"The curate of Saint Sulpice witnessed my terrible distress. His words
well-nigh made me despair. He did not attempt to offer conventional
consolation, and put the gravity of my responsibilities unsparingly
before me, but I had no need of a spur. The conscience within me spoke
loudly enough already. A woman had placed a generous confidence in me.
I had lied to her from the first; I had told her that I loved her, and
then I had cast her off; I had brought all this sorrow upon an unhappy
girl who had braved the opinion of the world for me, and who therefore
should have been sacred in my eyes. She had died forgiving me. Her
implicit trust in the word of a man who had once before broken his
promise to her effaced the memory of all her pain and grief, and she
slept in peace. Agatha, who had given me her girlish faith, had found
in her heart another faith to give me--the faith of a mother. Oh! sir,
the child, /her/ child! God alone can know all that he was to me! The
dear little one was like his mother; he had her winning grace in his
little ways, his talk and ideas; but for me, my child was not only a
child, but something more; was he not the token of my forgiveness, my
honor?

"He should have more than a father's affection. He should be loved as
his mother would have loved him. My remorse might change to happiness
if I could only make him feel that his mother's arms were still about
him. I clung to him with all the force of human love and the hope of
heaven, with all the tenderness in my heart that God has given to
mothers. The sound of the child's voice made me tremble. I used to
watch him while he slept with a sense of gladness that was always new,
albeit a tear sometimes fell on his forehead; I taught him to come to
say his prayer upon my bed as soon as he awoke. How sweet and touching
were the simple words of the /Pater noster/ in the innocent childish
mouth! Ah! and at times how terrible! '/Our Father which art in
heaven/,' he began one morning; then he paused--'Why is it not /our
mother/?' he asked, and my heart sank at his words.

"From the very first I had sown the seeds of future misfortune in the
life of the son whom I idolized. Although the law has almost
countenanced errors of youth by conceding to tardy regret a legal
status to natural children, the insurmountable prejudices of society
bring a strong force to the support of the reluctance of the law. All
serious reflection on my part as to the foundations and mechanism of
society, on the duties of man, and vital questions of morality date
from this period of my life. Genius comprehends at first sight the
connection between a man's principles and the fate of the society of
which he forms a part; devout souls are inspired by religion with the
sentiments necessary for their happiness; but vehement and impulsive
natures can only be schooled by repentance. With repentance came new
light for me; and I, who only lived for my child, came through that
child to think over great social questions.

"I determined from the first that he should have all possible means of
success within himself, and that he should be thoroughly prepared to
take the high position for which I destined him. He learned English,
German, Italian, and Spanish in succession; and, that he might speak
these languages correctly, tutors belonging to each of these various
nationalities were successively placed about him from his earliest
childhood. His aptitude delighted me. I took advantage of it to give
him lessons in the guise of play. I wished to keep his mind free from
fallacies, and strove before all things to accustom him from childhood
to exert his intellectual powers, to make a rapid and accurate general
survey of a matter, and then, by a careful study of every least
particular, to master his subject in detail. Lastly, I taught him to
submit to discipline without murmuring. I never allowed an impure or
improper word to be spoken in his hearing. I was careful that all his
surroundings, and the men with whom he came in contact, should conduce
to one end--to ennoble his nature, to set lofty ideals before him, to
give him a love of truth and a horror of lies, to make him simple and
natural in manner, as in word and deed. His natural aptitude had made
his other studies easy to him, and his imagination made him quick to
grasp these lessons that lay outside the province of the schoolroom.
What a fair flower to tend! How great are the joys that mothers know!
In those days I began to understand how his own mother had been able
to live and to bear her sorrow. This, sir, was the great event of my
life; and now I am coming to the tragedy which drove me hither.

"It is the most ordinary commonplace story imaginable; but to me it
meant the most terrible pain. For some years I had thought of nothing
but my child, and how to make a man of him; then, when my son was
growing up and about to leave me, I grew afraid of my loneliness. Love
was a necessity of my existence; this need for affection had never
been satisfied, and only grew stronger with years. I was in every way
capable of a real attachment; I had been tried and proved. I knew all
that a steadfast love means, the love that delights to find a pleasure
in self-sacrifice; in everything I did my first thought would always
be for the woman I loved. In imagination I was fain to dwell on the
serene heights far above doubt and uncertainty, where love so fills
two beings that happiness flows quietly and evenly into their life,
their looks, and words. Such love is to a life what religion is to the
soul; a vital force, a power that enlightens and upholds. I understood
the love of husband and wife in nowise as most people do; for me its
full beauty and magnificence began precisely at the point where love
perishes in many a household. I deeply felt the moral grandeur of a
life so closely shared by two souls that the trivialities of everyday
existence should be powerless against such lasting love as theirs. But
where will the hearts be found whose beats are so nearly /isochronous/
(let the scientific term pass) that they may attain to this beatific
union? If they exist, nature and chance have set them far apart, so
that they cannot come together; they find each other too late, or
death comes too soon to separate them. There must be some good reasons
for these dispensations of fate, but I have never sought to discover
them. I cannot make a study of my wound, because I suffer too much
from it. Perhaps perfect happiness is a monster which our species
should not perpetuate. There were other causes for my fervent desire
for such a marriage as this. I had no friends, the world for me was a
desert. There is something in me that repels friendship. More than one
person has sought me out, but, in spite of efforts on my part, it came
to nothing. With many men I have been careful to show no sign of
something that is called 'superiority;' I have adapted my mind to
theirs; I have placed myself at their point of view, joined in their
laughter, and overlooked their defects; any fame I might have gained,
I would have bartered for a little kindly affection. They parted from
me without regret. If you seek for real feeling in Paris, snares await
you everywhere, and the end is sorrow. Wherever I set my foot, the
ground round about me seemed to burn. My readiness to acquiesce was
considered weakness though if I unsheathed my talons, like a man
conscious that he may some day wield the thunderbolts of power, I was
thought ill-natured; to others, the delightful laughter that ceases
with youth, and in which in later years we are almost ashamed to
indulge, seemed absurd, and they amused themselves at my expense.
People may be bored nowadays, but none the less they expect you to
treat every trivial topic with befitting seriousness.

"A hateful era! You must bow down before mediocrity, frigidly polite
mediocrity which you despise--and obey. On more mature reflection, I
have discovered the reasons of these glaring inconsistencies.
Mediocrity is never out of fashion, it is the daily wear of society;
genius and eccentricity are ornaments that are locked away and only
brought out on certain days. Everything that ventures forth beyond the
protection of the grateful shadow of mediocrity has something
startling about it.

"So, in the midst of Paris, I led a solitary life. I had given up
everything to society, but it had given me nothing in return; and my
child was not enough to satisfy my heart, because I was not a woman.
My life seemed to be growing cold within me; I was bending under a
load of secret misery when I met the woman who was to make me know the
might of love, the reverence of an acknowledged love, love with its
teeming hopes of happiness--in one word--love.

"I had renewed my acquaintance with that old friend of my father's who
had once taken charge of my affairs. It was in his house that I first
met her whom I must love as long as life shall last. The longer we
live, sir, the more clearly we see the enormous influence of ideas
upon the events of life. Prejudices, worthy of all respect, and bred
by noble religious ideas, occasioned my misfortunes. This young girl
belonged to an exceeding devout family, whose views of Catholicism
were due to the spirit of a sect improperly styled Jansenists, which,
in former times, caused troubles in France. You know why?"

"No," said Genestas.

"Jansenius, Bishop of Ypres, once wrote a book which was believed to
contain propositions at variance with the doctrines of the Holy See.
When examined at a later date, there appeared to be nothing heretical
in the wording of the text, some authors even went so far as to deny
that the heretical propositions had any real existence. However it
was, these insignificant disputes gave rise to two parties in the
Gallican Church--the Jansenists and the Jesuits. Great men were found
in either camp, and a struggle began between two powerful bodies. The
Jansenists affected an excessive purity of morals and of doctrine, and
accused the Jesuits of preaching a relaxed morality. The Jansenists,
in fact, were Catholic Puritans, if two contradictory terms can be
combined. During the Revolution, the Concordat occasioned an
unimportant schism, a little segregation of ultra-catholics who
refused to recognize the Bishops appointed by the authorities with the
consent of the Pope. This little body of the faithful was called the
Little Church; and those within its fold, like the Jansenists, led the
strictly ordered lives that appear to be a first necessity of
existence in all proscribed and persecuted sects. Many Jansenist
families had joined the Little Church. The family to which this young
girl belonged had embraced the equally rigid doctrines of both these
Puritanisms, tenets which impart a stern dignity to the character and
mien of those who hold them. It is the nature of positive doctrine to
exaggerate the importance of the most ordinary actions of life by
connecting them with ideas of a future existence. This is the source
of a splendid and delicate purity of heart, a respect for others and
for self, of an indescribably keen sense of right and wrong, a wide
charity, together with a justice so stern that it might well be called
inexorable, and lastly, a perfect hatred of lies and of all the vices
comprised by falsehood.

"I can recall no more delightful moments than those of our first
meeting at my old friend's house. I beheld for the first time this shy
young girl with her sincere nature, her habits of ready obedience. All
the virtues peculiar to the sect to which she belonged shone in her,
but she seemed to be unconscious of her merit. There was a grace,
which no austerity could diminish, about every movement of her
lissome, slender form; her quiet brow, the delicate grave outlines of
her face, and her clearly cut features indicated noble birth; her
expression was gentle and proud; her thick hair had been simply
braided, the coronet of plaits about her head served, all unknown to
her, as an adornment. Captain, she was for me the ideal type that is
always made real for us in the woman with whom we fall in love; for
when we love, is it not because we recognize beauty that we have
dreamed of, the beauty that has existed in idea for us is realized?
When I spoke to her, she answered simply, without shyness or
eagerness; she did not know the pleasure it was to me to see her, to
hear the musical sounds of her voice. All these angels are revealed to
our hearts by the same signs; by the sweetness of their tongues, the
tenderness in their eyes, by their fair, pale faces, and their
gracious ways. All these things are so blended and mingled that we
feel the charm of their presence, yet cannot tell in what that charm
consists, and every movement is an expression of a divine soul within.
I loved passionately. This newly awakened love satisfied all my
restless longings, all my ambitious dreams. She was beautiful,
wealthy, and nobly born; she had been carefully brought up; she had
all the qualifications which the world positively demands of a woman
placed in the high position which I desired to reach; she had been
well educated, she expressed herself with a sprightly facility at once
rare and common in France; where the most prettily worded phrases of
many women are emptiness itself, while her bright talk was full of
sense. Above all, she had a deep consciousness of her own dignity
which made others respect her; I know of no more excellent thing in a
wife. I must stop, captain; no one can describe the woman he loves
save very imperfectly, preexistent mysteries which defy analysis lie
between them.

"I very soon took my old friend into my confidence. He introduced me
to her family, and gave me the countenance of his honorable character.
I was received at first with the frigid politeness characteristic of
those exclusive people who never forsake those whom they have once
admitted to their friendship. As time went on they welcomed me almost
as one of the family; this mark of their esteem was won by my behavior
in the matter. In spite of my passionate love, I did nothing that
could lower me in my own eyes; I did not cringe, I paid no court to
those upon whom my fate depended, before all things I showed myself a
man, and not other than I really was. When I was well known to them,
my old friend, who was as desirous as I myself that my life of
melancholy loneliness should come to an end, spoke of my hopes and met
with a favorable reception; but with the diplomatic shrewdness which
is almost a second nature with men of the world, he was silent with
regard to an error of my youth, as he termed it. He was anxious to
bring about a 'satisfactory marriage' for me, an expression that makes
of so solemn an act a business transaction in which husband and wife
endeavor to cheat each other. In his opinion, the existence of my
child would excite a moral repugnance, in comparison with which the
question of money would be as nought, and the whole affair would be
broken off at once, and he was right.

"'It is a matter which will be very easily settled between you and
your wife; it will be easy to obtain her full and free forgiveness,'
he said.

"In short, he tried to silence my scruples, and all the insidious
arguments that worldly wisdom could suggest were brought to bear upon
me to this end. I will confess to you, sir, that in spite of my
promise, my first impulse was to act straightforwardly and to make
everything known to the head of the family, but the thought of his
uncompromising sternness made me pause, and the probable consequences
of the confession appalled me; my courage failed, I temporized with my
conscience, I determined to wait until I was sufficiently sure of the
affection of the girl I hoped to win, before hazarding my happiness by
the terrible confession. My resolution to acknowledge everything
openly, at a convenient season, vindicated the sophistries of worldly
wisdom and the sagacity of my old friend. So the young girl's parents
received me as their future son-in-law without, as yet, taking their
friends into their confidence.

"An infinite discretion is the distinguishing quality of pious
families; they are reticent about everything, even about matters of no
importance. You would not believe, sir, how this sedate gravity and
reserve, pervading every least action, deepens the current of feeling
and thought. Everything in that house was done with some useful end in
view; the women spent their leisure time in making garments for the
poor; their conversation was never frivolous; laughter was not
banished, but there was a kindly simplicity about their merriment.
Their talk had none of the piquancy which scandal and ill-natured
gossip give to the conversation of society; only the father and uncle
read the newspapers, even the most harmless journal contains
references to crimes or to public evils, and she whom I hoped to win
had never cast her eyes over their sheets. How strange it was, at
first, to listen to these orthodox people! But in a little while, the
pure atmosphere left the same impression upon the soul that subdued
colors give to the eyes, a sense of serene repose and of tranquil
peace.

"To a superficial observer, their life would have seemed terribly
monotonous. There was something chilling about the appearance of the
interior of the house. Day after day I used to see everything, even
the furniture in constant use, always standing in the same place, and
this uniform tidiness pervaded the smallest details. Yet there was
something very attractive about their household ways. I had been used
to the pleasures of variety, to the luxury and stir of life in Paris;
it was only when I had overcome my first repugnance that I saw the
advantages of this existence; how it lent itself to continuity of
thought and to involuntary meditation; how a life in which the heart
has undisturbed sway seems to widen and grow vast as the sea. It is
like the life of the cloister, where the outward surroundings never
vary, and thought is thus compelled to detach itself from outward
things and to turn to the infinite that lies within the soul!

"For a man as sincerely in love as I was, the silence and simplicity
of the life, the almost conventual regularity with which the same
things are done daily at the same hours, only deepened and
strengthened love. In that profound calm the interest attaching to the
least action, word, or gesture became immense. I learned to know that,
in the interchange of glances and in answering smiles, there lies an
eloquence and a variety of language far beyond the possibilities of
the most magnificent of spoken phrases; that when the expression of
the feelings is spontaneous and unforced, there is no idea, no joy nor
sorrow that cannot thus be communicated by hearts that understand each
other. How many times I have tried to set forth my soul in my eyes or
on my lips, compelled at once to speak and to be silent concerning my
passion; for the young girl who, in my presence, was always serene and
unconscious had not been informed of the reason of my constant visits;
her parents were determined that the most important decision of her
life should rest entirely with her. But does not the presence of our
beloved satisfy the utmost desire of passionate love? In that presence
do we not know the happiness of the Christian who stands before God?
If for me more than for any other it was torture to have no right to
give expression to the impulses of my heart, to force back into its
depths the burning words that treacherously wrong the yet more ardent
emotions which strive to find an utterance in speech; I found,
nevertheless, in the merest trifles a channel through which my
passionate love poured itself forth but the more vehemently for this
constraint, till every least occurrence came to have an excessive
importance.

"I beheld her, not for brief moments, but for whole hours. There were
pauses between my question and her answer, and long musings, when,
with the tones of her voice lingering in my ears, I sought to divine
from them the secret of her inmost thoughts; perhaps her fingers would
tremble as I gave her some object of which she had been in search, or
I would devise pretexts to lightly touch her dress or her hair, to
take her hand in mine, to compel her to speak more than she wished;
all these nothings were great events for me. Eyes and voice and
gestures were freighted with mysterious messages of love in hours of
ecstasy like these, and this was the only language permitted me by the
quiet maidenly reserve of the young girl before me. Her manner towards
me underwent no change; with me she was always as a sister with a
brother; yet, as my passion grew, and the contrast between her glances
and mine, her words and my utterance, became more striking, I felt at
last that this timid silence was the only means by which she could
express her feelings. Was she not always in the salon whenever I came?
Did she not stay there until my visit, expected and perhaps foreseen,
was over? Did not this mute tryst betray the secret of her innocent
soul? Nay, whilst I spoke, did she not listen with a pleasure which
she could not hide?

"At last, no doubt, her parents grew impatient with this artless
behavior and sober love-making. I was almost as timid as their
daughter, and perhaps on this account found favor in their eyes. They
regarded me as a man worthy of their esteem. My old friend was taken
into their confidence; both father and mother spoke of me in the most
flattering terms; I had become their adopted son, and more especially
they singled out my moral principles for praise. In truth, I had found
my youth again; among these pure and religious surroundings early
beliefs and early faith came back to the man of thirty-two.

"The summer was drawing to a close. Affairs of some importance had
detained the family in Paris longer than their wont; but when
September came, and they were able to leave town at last for an estate
in Auvergne, her father entreated me to spend a couple of months with
them in an old chateau hidden away among the mountains of Cantal. I
paused before accepting this friendly invitation. My hesitation
brought me the sweetest and most delightful unconscious confession, a
revelation of the mysteries of a girlish heart. Evelina . . . /Dieu!/"
exclaimed Benassis; and he said no more for a time, wrapped in his own
thoughts.

"Pardon me, Captain Bluteau," he resumed, after a long pause. "For
twelve years I have not uttered the name that is always hovering in my
thoughts, that a voice calls in my hearing even when I sleep. Evelina
(since I have named her) raised her head with a strange quickness and
abruptness, for about all her movements there was an instinctive grace
and gentleness, and looked at me. There was no pride in her face, but
rather a wistful anxiety. Then her color rose, and her eyelids fell;
it gave me an indescribable pleasure never felt before that they
should fall so slowly; I could only stammer out my reply in a
faltering voice. The emotion of my own heart made swift answer to
hers. She thanked me by a happy look, and I almost thought that there
were tears in her eyes. In that moment we had told each other
everything. So I went into the country with her family. Since the day
when our hearts had understood each other, nothing seemed to be as it
had been before; everything about us had acquired a fresh
significance.

"Love, indeed, is always the same, though our imagination determines
the shape that love must assume; like and unlike, therefore, is love
in every soul in which he dwells, and passion becomes a unique work in
which the soul expresses its sympathies. In the old trite saying that
love is a projection of self--an /egoisme a deux/--lies a profound
meaning known only to philosopher and poet; for it is ourself in truth
that we love in that other. Yet, though love manifests itself in such
different ways that no pair of lovers since the world began is like
any other pair before or since, they all express themselves after the
same fashion, and the same words are on the lips of every girl, even
of the most innocent, convent-bred maiden--the only difference lies in
the degree of imaginative charm in their ideas. But between Evelina
and other girls there was this difference, that where another would
have poured out her feelings quite naturally, Evelina regarded these
innocent confidences as a concession made to the stormy emotions which
had invaded the quiet sanctuary of her girlish soul. The constant
struggle between her heart and her principles gave to the least event
of her life, so peaceful in appearance, in reality so profoundly
agitated, a character of force very superior to the exaggerations of
young girls whose manners are early rendered false by the world about
them. All through the journey Evelina discovered beauty in the scenery
through which we passed, and spoke of it with admiration. When we
think that we may not give expression to the happiness which is given
to us by the presence of one we love, we pour out the secret gladness
that overflows our hearts upon inanimate things, investing them with
beauty in our happiness. The charm of the scenery which passed before
our eyes became in this way an interpreter between us, for in our
praises of the landscape we revealed to each other the secrets of our
love. Evelina's mother sometimes took a mischievous pleasure in
disconcerting her daughter.

"'My dear child, you have been through this valley a score of times
without seeming to admire it!' she remarked after a somewhat too
enthusiastic phrase from Evelina.

"'No doubt it was because I was not old enough to understand beauty
of this kind, mother.'

"Forgive me for dwelling on this trifle, which can have no charm for
you, captain; but the simple words brought me an indescribable joy,
which had its source in the glance directed towards me as she spoke.
So some village lighted by sunrise, some ivy-covered ruin which we had
seen together, memories of outward and visible things, served to
deepen and strengthen the impressions of our happiness; they seemed to
be landmarks on the way through which we were passing towards a bright
future that lay before us.

"We reached the chateau belonging to her family, where I spent about
six weeks, the only time in my life during which Heaven has vouchsafed
complete happiness to me. I enjoyed pleasures unknown to town-dwellers
--all the happiness which two lovers find in living beneath the same
roof, an anticipation of the life they will spend together. To stroll
through the fields, to be alone together at times if we wished it, to
look over an old water-mill, to sit beneath a tree in some lovely glen
among the hills, the lovers' talks, the sweet confidences drawn forth
by which each made some progress day by day in the other's heart. Ah!
sir, the out-of-door life, the beauty of earth and heaven, is a
perfect accompaniment to the perfect happiness of the soul! To mingle
our careless talk with the song of the birds among the dewy leaves, to
smile at each other as we gazed on the sky, to turn our steps slowly
homewards at the sound of the bell that always rings too soon, to
admire together some little detail in the landscape, to watch the
fitful movements of an insect, to look closely at a gleaming
demoiselle fly--the delicate creature that resembles an innocent and
loving girl; in such ways as these are not one's thoughts drawn daily
a little higher? The memories of my forty days of happiness have in a
manner colored all the rest of my life, memories that are all the
fairer and fill the greater space in my thoughts because since then it
has been my fate never to be understood. To this day there are scenes
of no special interest for a casual observer, but full of bitter
significance for a broken heart, which recall those vanished days, and
the love that is not forgotten yet.

"I do not know whether you noticed the effect of the sunset light on
the cottage where little Jacques lives? Everything shone so brightly
in the fiery rays of the sun, and then all at once the whole landscape
grew dark and dreary. That sudden change was like the change in my own
life at this time. I received from her the first, the sole and sublime
token of love that an innocent girl may give; the more secretly it is
given, the closer is the bond it forms, the sweet promise of love, a
fragment of the language spoken in a fairer world than this. Sure,
therefore, of being beloved, I vowed that I would confess everything
at once, that I would have no secrets from her; I felt ashamed that I
had so long delayed to tell her about the sorrows that I had brought
upon myself.

"Unluckily, with the morrow of this happy day a letter came from my
son's tutor, the life of the child so dear to me was in danger. I went
away without confiding my secret to Evelina, merely telling her family
that I was urgently required in Paris. Her parents took alarm during
my absence. They feared that there I was entangled in some way, and
wrote to Paris to make inquiries about me. It was scarcely consistent
with their religious principles; but they suspected me, and did not
even give me an opportunity of clearing myself.

"One of their friends, without my knowledge, gave them the whole
history of my youth, blackening my errors, laying stress upon the
existence of my child, which (said they) I intended to conceal. I
wrote to my future parents, but I received no answers to my letters;
and when they came back to Paris, and I called at their house, I was
not admitted. Much alarmed, I sent to my old friend to learn the
reason of this conduct on their part, which I did not in the least
understand. As soon as the good soul knew the real cause of it all, he
sacrificed himself generously, took upon himself all the blame of my
reserve, and tried to exculpate me, but all to no purpose. Questions
of interest and morality were regarded so seriously by the family,
their prejudices were so firmly and deeply rooted, that they never
swerved from their resolution. My despair was overwhelming. At first I
tried to deprecate their wrath, but my letters were sent back to me
unopened. When every possible means had been tried in vain; when her
father and mother had plainly told my old friend (the cause of my
misfortune) that they would never consent to their daughter's marriage
with a man who had upon his conscience the death of a woman and the
life of a natural son, even though Evelina herself should implore them
upon her knees; then, sir, there only remained to me one last hope, a
hope as slender and fragile as the willow-branch at which a drowning
wretch catches to save himself.

"I ventured to think that Evelina's love would be stronger than her
father's scruples, that her inflexible parents might yield to her
entreaties. Perhaps, who knows, her father had kept from her the
reasons of the refusal, which was so fatal to our love. I determined
to acquaint her with all the circumstances, and to make a final appeal
to her; and in fear and trembling, in grief and tears, my first and
last love-letter was written. To-day I can only dimly remember the
words dictated to me by my despair; but I must have told Evelina that
if she had dealt sincerely with me she could not and ought not to love
another, or how could her whole life be anything but a lie? she must
be false either to her future husband or to me. Could she refuse to
the lover, who had been so misjudged and hardly entreated, the
devotion which she would have shown him as her husband, if the
marriage which had already taken place in our hearts had been
outwardly solemnized? Was not this to fall from the ideal of womanly
virtue? What woman would not love to feel that the promises of the
heart were more sacred and binding than the chains forged by the law?
I defended my errors; and in my appeal to the purity of innocence, I
left nothing unsaid that could touch a noble and generous nature. But
as I am telling you everything, I will look for her answer and my
farewell letter," said Benassis, and he went up to his room in search
of it.

He returned in a few moments with a worn pocketbook; his hands
trembled with emotion as he drew from it some loose sheets.

"Here is the fatal letter," he said. "The girl who wrote those lines
little knew the value that I should set upon the scrap of paper that
holds her thoughts. This is the last cry that pain wrung from me," he
added, taking up a second letter; "I will lay it before you directly.
My old friend was the bearer of my letter of entreaty; he gave it to
her without her parents' knowledge, humbling his white hair to implore
Evelina to read and to reply to my appeal. This was her answer:


"'Monsieur . . .' But lately I had been her 'beloved,' the innocent
name she had found by which to express her innocent love, and now she
called me /Monsieur/! . . . That one word told me everything. But listen
to the rest of the letter:

"'Treachery on the part of one to whom her life was to be intrusted
is a bitter thing for a girl to discover; and yet I could not but
excuse you, we are so weak! Your letter touched me, but you must not
write to me again, the sight of your handwriting gives me such
unbearable pain. We are parted for ever. I was carried away by your
reasoning; it extinguished all the harsh feelings that had risen up
against you in my soul. I had been so proud of your truth! But both of
us have found my father's reasoning irresistible. Yes, monsieur, I
ventured to plead for you. I did for you what I have never done
before, I overcame the greatest fears that I have ever known, and
acted almost against my nature. Even now I am yielding to your
entreaties, and doing wrong for your sake, in writing to you without
my father's knowledge. My mother knows that I am writing to you; her
indulgence in leaving me at liberty to be alone with you for a moment
has taught me the depth of her love for me, and strengthened my
determination to bow to the decree of my family, against which I had
almost rebelled. So I am writing to you, monsieur, for the first and
last time. You have my full and entire forgiveness for the troubles
that you have brought into my life. Yes, you are right; a first love
can never be forgotten. I am no longer an innocent girl; and, as an
honest woman, I can never marry another. What my future will be, I
know not therefore. Only you see, monsieur, that echoes of this year
that you have filled will never die away in my life. But I am in no
way accusing you. . . . "I shall always be beloved!" Why did you write
those words? Can they bring peace to the troubled soul of a lonely and
unhappy girl? Have you not already laid waste my future, giving me
memories which will never cease to revisit me? Henceforth I can only
give myself to God, but will He accept a broken heart? He has had some
purpose to fulfil in sending these afflictions to me; doubtless it was
His will that I should turn to Him, my only refuge here below. Nothing
remains to me here upon this earth. You have all a man's ambitions
wherewith to beguile your sorrows. I do not say this as a reproach; it
is a sort of religious consolation. If we both bear a grievous burden
at this moment, I think that my share of it is the heavier. He in whom
I have put my trust, and of whom you can feel no jealousy, has joined
our lives together, and He puts them asunder according to His will. I
have seen that your religious beliefs were not founded upon the pure
and living faith which alone enables us to bear our woes here below.
Monsieur, if God will vouchsafe to hear my fervent and ceaseless
prayers, He will cause His light to shine in your soul. Farewell, you
who should have been my guide, you whom once I had the right to call
"my beloved," no one can reproach me if I pray for you still. God
orders our days as it pleases Him. Perhaps you may be the first whom
He will call to himself; but if I am left alone in the world, then,
monsieur, intrust the care of the child to me.'



"This letter, so full of generous sentiments, disappointed my hopes,"
Benassis resumed, "so that at first I could think of nothing but my
misery; afterwards I welcomed the balm which, in her forgetfulness of
self, she had tried to pour into my wounds, but in my first despair I
wrote to her somewhat bitterly:

"Mademoiselle--that word alone will tell you that at your bidding I
renounce you. There is something indescribably sweet in obeying one we
love, who puts us to the torture. You are right. I acquiesce in my
condemnation. Once I slighted a girl's devotion; it is fitting,
therefore, that my love should be rejected to-day. But I little
thought that my punishment was to be dealt to me by the woman at whose
feet I had laid my life. I never expected that such harshness, perhaps
I should say, such rigid virtue, lurked in a heart that seemed to be
so loving and so tender. At this moment the full strength of my love
is revealed to me; it has survived the most terrible of all trials,
the scorn you have shown for me by severing without regret the ties
that bound us. Farewell for ever. There still remains to me the proud
humility of repentance; I will find some sphere of life where I can
expiate the errors to which you, the mediator between Heaven and me,
have shown no mercy. Perhaps God may be less inexorable. My
sufferings, sufferings full of the thought of you, shall be the
penance of a heart which will never be healed, which will bleed in
solitude. For a wounded heart--shadow and silence.

"'No other image of love shall be engraven on my heart. Though I am
not a woman, I feel as you felt that when I said "I love you," it was
a vow for life. Yes, the words then spoken in the ear of "my beloved"
were not a lie; you would have a right to scorn me if I could change.
I shall never cease to worship you in my solitude. In spite of the
gulf set between us, you will still be the mainspring of all my
actions, and all the virtues are inspired by penitence and love.
Though you have filled my heart with bitterness, I shall never have
bitter thoughts of you; would it not be an ill beginning of the new
tasks that I have set myself if I did not purge out all the evil
leaven from my soul? Farewell, then, to the one heart that I love in
the world, a heart from which I am cast out. Never has more feeling
and more tenderness been expressed in a farewell, for is it not
fraught with the life and soul of one who can never hope again, and
must be henceforth as one dead? . . . Farewell. May peace be with you,
and may all the sorrow of our lot fall to me!'"



Benassis and Genestas looked at each other for a moment after reading
the two letters, each full of sad thoughts, of which neither spoke.

"As you see, this is only a rough copy of my last letter," said
Benassis; "it is all that remains to me to-day of my blighted hopes.
When I had sent the letter, I fell into an indescribable state of
depression. All the ties that hold one to life were bound together in
the hope of wedded happiness, which was henceforth lost to me for
ever. I had to bid farewell to the joys of a permitted and
acknowledged love, to all the generous ideas that had thronged up from
the depths of my heart. The prayers of a penitent soul that thirsted
for righteousness and for all things lovely and of good report, had
been rejected by these religious people. At first, the wildest
resolutions and most frantic thoughts surged through my mind, but
happily for me the sight of my son brought self-control. I felt all
the more strongly drawn towards him for the misfortunes of which he
was the innocent cause, and for which I had in reality only myself to
blame. In him I found all my consolation.

"At the age of thirty-four I might still hope to do my country noble
service. I determined to make a name for myself, a name so illustrious
that no one should remember the stain on the birth of my son. How many
noble thoughts I owe to him! How full a life I led in those days while
I was absorbed in planning out his future! I feel stifled," cried
Benassis. "All this happened eleven years ago, and yet to this day, I
cannot bear to think of that fatal year. . . . My child died, sir; I
lost him!"

The doctor was silent, and hid his face in his hands; when he was
somewhat calmer he raised his head again, and Genestas saw that his
eyes were full of tears.

"At first it seemed as if this thunderbolt had uprooted me," Benassis
resumed. "It was a blow from which I could only expect to recover
after I had been transplanted into a different soil from that of the
social world in which I lived. It was not till some time afterwards
that I saw the finger of God in my misfortunes, and later still that I
learned to submit to His will and to hearken to His voice. It was
impossible that resignation should come to me all at once. My
impetuous and fiery nature broke out in a final storm of rebellion.

"It was long before I brought myself to take the only step befitting a
Catholic; indeed, my thoughts ran on suicide. This succession of
misfortunes had contributed to develop melancholy feelings in me, and
I deliberately determined to take my own life. It seemed to me that it
was permissible to take leave of life when life was ebbing fast. There
was nothing unnatural, I thought about suicide. The ravages of mental
distress affected the soul of man in the same way that acute physical
anguish affected the body; and an intelligent being, suffering from a
moral malady, had surely a right to destroy himself, a right he shares
with the sheep, that, fallen a victim to the 'staggers,' beats its
head against a tree. Were the soul's diseases in truth more readily
cured than those of the body? I scarcely think so, to this day. Nor do
I know which is the more craven soul--he who hopes even when hope is
no longer possible, or he who despairs. Death is the natural
termination of a physical malady, and it seemed to me that suicide was
the final crisis in the sufferings of a mind diseased, for it was in
the power of the will to end them when reason showed that death was
preferable to life. So it is not the pistol, but a thought that puts
an end to our existence. Again, when fate may suddenly lay us low in
the midst of a happy life, can we be blamed for ourselves refusing to
bear a life of misery?

"But my reflections during that time of mourning turned on loftier
themes. The grandeur of pagan philosophy attracted me, and for a while
I became a convert. In my efforts to discover new rights for man, I
thought that with the aid of modern thought I could penetrate further
into the questions to which those old-world systems of philosophy had
furnished solutions.

"Epicurus permitted suicide. Was it not the natural outcome of his
system of ethics? The gratification of the senses was to be obtained
at any cost; and when this became impossible, the easiest and best
course was for the animate being to return to the repose of inanimate
nature. Happiness, or the hope of happiness, was the one end for which
man existed, for one who suffered, and who suffered without hope,
death ceased to be an evil, and became a good, and suicide became a
final act of wisdom. This act Epicurus neither blamed nor praised; he
was content to say as he poured a libation to Bacchus, '/As for death,
there is nothing in death to move our laughter or our tears./'

"With a loftier morality than that of the Epicureans, and a sterner
sense of man's duties, Zeno and the Stoic philosophers prescribed
suicide in certain cases to their followers. They reasoned thus: Man
differs from the brute in that he has the sovereign right to dispose
of his person; take away this power of life and death over himself and
he becomes the plaything of fate, the slave of other men. Rightly
understood, this power of life and death is a sufficient counterpoise
for all the ills of life; the same power when conferred upon another,
upon his fellow-man, leads to tyranny of every kind. Man has no power
whatever unless he has unlimited freedom of action. Suppose that he
has been guilty of some irreparable error, from the shameful
consequences of which there is no escape; a sordid nature swallows
down the disgrace and survives it, the wise man drinks the hemlock and
dies. Suppose that the remainder of life is to be one constant
struggle with the gout which racks our bones, or with a gnawing and
disfiguring cancer, the wise man dismisses quacks, and at the proper
moment bids a last farewell to the friends whom he only saddens by his
presence. Or another perhaps has fallen alive into the hands of the
tyrant against whom he fought. What shall he do? The oath of
allegiance is tendered to him; he must either subscribe or stretch out
his neck to the executioner; the fool takes the latter course, the
coward subscribes, the wise man strikes a last blow for liberty--in
his own heart. 'You who are free,' the Stoic was wont to say, 'know
then how to preserve your freedom! Find freedom from your own passions
by sacrificing them to duty, freedom from the tyranny of mankind by
pointing to the sword or the poison which will put you beyond their
reach, freedom from the bondage of fate by determining the point
beyond which you will endure it no longer, freedom from physical fear
by learning how to subdue the gross instinct which causes so many
wretches to cling to life.'

"After I had unearthed this reasoning from among a heap of ancient
philosophical writings, I sought to reconcile it with Christian
teachings. God has bestowed free-will upon us in order to require of
us an account hereafter before the Throne of Judgment. 'I will plead
my cause there!' I said to myself. But such thoughts as these led me
to think of a life after death, and my old shaken beliefs rose up
before me. Human life grows solemn when all eternity hangs upon the
slightest of our decisions. When the full meaning of this thought is
realized, the soul becomes conscious of something vast and mysterious
within itself, by which it is drawn towards the Infinite; the aspect
of all things alters strangely. From this point of view life is
something infinitely great and infinitely little. The consciousness of
my sins had never made me think of heaven so long as hope remained to
me on earth, so long as I could find a relief for my woes in work and
in the society of other men. I had meant to make the happiness of a
woman's life, to love, to be the head of a family, and in this way my
need of expiation would have been satisfied to the full. This design
had been thwarted, but yet another way had remained to me,--I would
devote myself henceforward to my child. But after these two efforts
had failed, and scorn and death had darkened my soul for ever, when
all my feelings had been wounded and nothing was left to me here on
earth, I raised my eyes to heaven, and beheld God.

"Yet still I tried to obtain the sanction of religion for my death. I
went carefully through the Gospels, and found no passage in which
suicide was forbidden; but during the reading, the divine thought of
Christ, the Saviour of men dawned in me. Certainly He had said nothing
about the immortality of the soul, but He had spoken of the glorious
kingdom of His Father; He had nowhere forbidden parricide, but He
condemned all that was evil. The glory of His evangelists, and the
proof of their divine mission, is not so much that they made laws for
the world, but that they spread a new spirit abroad, and the new laws
were filled with this new spirit. The very courage which a man
displays in taking his own life seemed to me to be his condemnation;
so long as he felt that he had within himself sufficient strength to
die by his own hands, he ought to have had strength enough to continue
the struggle. To refuse to suffer is a sign of weakness rather than of
courage, and, moreover, was it not a sort of recusance to take leave
of life in despondency, an abjuration of the Christian faith which is
based upon the sublime words of Jesus Christ: 'Blessed are they that
mourn.'

"So, in any case, suicide seemed to me to be an unpardonable error,
even in the man who, through a false conception of greatness of soul,
takes his life a few moments before the executioner's axe falls. In
humbling himself to the death of the cross, did not Jesus Christ set
for us an example of obedience to all human laws, even when carried
out unjustly? The word /resignation/ engraved upon the cross, so clear
to the eyes of those who can read the sacred characters in which it is
traced, shone for me with divine brightness.



"I still had eighty thousand francs in my possession, and at first I
meant to live a remote and solitary life, to vegetate in some country
district for the rest of my days; but misanthropy is no Catholic
virtue, and there is a certain vanity lurking beneath the hedgehog's
skin of the misanthrope. His heart does not bleed, it shrivels, and my
heart bled from every vein. I thought of the discipline of the Church,
the refuge that she affords to sorrowing souls, understood at last the
beauty of a life of prayer in solitude, and was fully determined to
'enter religion,' in  the grand old phrase. So far my intentions were
firmly fixed, but I had not yet decided on the best means of carrying
them out. I realized the remains of my fortune, and set forth on my
journey with an almost tranquil mind. /Peace in God/ was a hope that
could never fail me.

"I felt drawn to the rule of Saint Bruno, and made the journey to the
Grande Chartreuse on foot, absorbed in solemn thoughts. That was a
memorable day. I was not prepared for the grandeur of the scenery; the
workings of an unknown Power greater than that of man were visible at
every step; the overhanging crags, the precipices on either hand, the
stillness only broken by the voices of the mountain streams, the
sternness and wildness of the landscape, relieved here and there by
Nature's fairest creations, pine trees that have stood for centuries
and delicate rock plants at their feet, all combine to produce sober
musings. There seemed to be no end to this waste solitude, shut in by
its lofty mountain barriers. The idle curiosity of man could scarcely
penetrate there. It would be difficult to cross this melancholy desert
of Saint Bruno's with a light heart.

"I saw the Grand Chartreuse. I walked beneath the vaulted roofs of the
ancient cloisters, and heard in the silence the sound of the water
from the spring, falling drop by drop. I entered a cell that I might
the better realize my own utter nothingness, something of the peace
that my predecessor had found there seemed to pass into my soul. An
inscription, which in accordance with the custom of the monastery he
had written above his door, impressed and touched me; all the precepts
of the life that I had meant to lead were there, summed up in three
Latin words--/Fuge, late, tace/."

Genestas bent his head as if he understood.

"My decision was made," Benassis resumed. "The cell with its deal
wainscot, the hard bed, the solitude, all appealed to my soul. The
Carthusians were in the chapel, I went thither to join in their
prayers, and there my resolutions vanished. I do not wish to criticise
the Catholic Church, I am perfectly orthodox, I believe in its laws
and in the works it prescribes. But when I heard the chanting and the
prayers of those old men, dead to the world and forgotten by the
world, I discerned an undercurrent of sublime egoism in the life of
the cloister. This withdrawal from the world could only benefit the
individual soul, and after all what was it but a protracted suicide? I
do not condemn it. The Church has opened these tombs in which life is
buried; no doubt they are needful for those few Christians who are
absolutely useless to the world; but for me, it would be better, I
thought, to live among my fellows, to devote my life of expiation to
their service.

"As I returned I thought long and carefully over the various ways in
which I could carry out my vow of renunciation. Already I began, in
fancy, to lead the life of a common sailor, condemning myself to serve
our country in the lowest ranks, and giving up all my intellectual
ambitions; but though it was a life of toil and of self-abnegation, it
seemed to me that I ought to do more than this. Should I not thwart
the designs of God by leading such a life? If He had given me
intellectual ability, was it not my duty to employ it for the good of
my fellow-men? Then, besides, if I am to speak frankly, I felt within
me a need of my fellow-men, an indescribable wish to help them. The
round of mechanical duties and the routine tasks of the sailor
afforded no scope for this desire, which is as much an outcome of my
nature as the characteristic scent that a flower breathes forth.

"I was obliged to spend the night here, as I have already told you.
The wretched condition of the countryside had filled me with pity, and
during the night it seemed as if these thoughts had been sent to me by
God, and that thus He had revealed His will to me. I had known
something of the joys that pierce the heart, the happiness and the
sorrow of motherhood; I determined that henceforth my life should be
filled with these, but that mine should be a wider sphere than a
mother's. I would expend her care and kindness on the whole district;
I would be a sister of charity, and bind the wounds of all the
suffering poor in a countryside. It seemed to me that the finger of
God unmistakably pointed out my destiny; and when I remembered that my
first serious thoughts in youth had inclined me to the study of
medicine, I resolved to settle here as a doctor. Besides, I had
another reason. /For a wounded heart--shadow and silence/; so I had
written in my letter; and I meant to fulfil the vow which I had made
to myself.

"So I have entered into the paths of silence and submission. The /fuge,
late, tace/ of the Carthusian brother is my motto here, my death to the
world is the life of this canton, my prayer takes the form of the
active work to which I have set my hand, and which I love--the work of
sowing the seeds of happiness and joy, of giving to others what I
myself have not.

"I have grown so used to this life, completely out of the world and
among the peasants, that I am thoroughly transformed. Even my face is
altered; it has been so continually exposed to the sun, that it has
grown wrinkled and weather-beaten. I have fallen into the habits of
the peasants; I have assumed their dress, their ways of talking, their
gait, their easy-going negligence, their utter indifference to
appearances. My old acquaintances in Paris, or the she-coxcombs on
whom I used to dance attendance, would be puzzled to recognize in me
the man who had a certain vogue in his day, the sybarite accustomed to
all the splendor, luxury, and finery of Paris. I have come to be
absolutely indifferent to my surroundings, like all those who are
possessed by one thought, and have only one object in view; for I have
but one aim in life--to take leave of it as soon as possible. I do not
want to hasten my end in any way; but some day, when illness comes, I
shall lie down to die without regret.

"There, sir, you have the whole story of my life until I came here
--told in all sincerity. I have not attempted to conceal any of my
errors; they have been great, though others have erred as I have
erred. I have suffered greatly, and I am suffering still, but I look
beyond this life to a happy future which can only be reached through
sorrow. And yet--for all my resignation, there are moments when my
courage fails me. This very day I was almost overcome in your presence
by inward anguish; you did not notice it but----"

Genestas started in his chair.

"Yes, Captain Bluteau, you were with me at the time. Do you remember
how, while we were putting little Jacques to bed, you pointed to the
mattress on which Mother Colas sleeps? Well, you can imagine how
painful it all was; I can never see any child without thinking of the
dear child I have lost, and this little one was doomed to die! I can
never see a child with indifferent eyes----"

Genestas turned pale.

"Yes, the sight of the little golden heads, the innocent beauty of
children's faces always awakens memories of my sorrows, and the old
anguish returns afresh. Now and then, too, there comes the intolerable
thought that so many people here should thank me for what little I can
do for them, when all that I have done has been prompted by remorse.
You alone, captain, know the secret of my life. If I had drawn my will
to serve them from some purer source than the memory of my errors, I
should be happy indeed! But then, too, there would have been nothing
to tell you, and no story about myself."



                             CHAPTER V

                              ELEGIES

As Benassis finished his story, he was struck by the troubled
expression of the officer's face. It touched him to have been so well
understood. He was almost ready to reproach himself for having
distressed his visitor. He spoke:

"But these troubles of mine, Captain Bluteau----"

"Do not call me Captain Bluteau," cried Genestas, breaking in upon the
doctor, and springing to his feet with sudden energy, a change of
position that seemed to be prompted by inward dissatisfaction of some
kind. "There is no such person as Captain Bluteau. . . . I am a
scoundrel!"

With no little astonishment, Benassis beheld Genestas pacing to and
fro in the salon, like a bumble-bee in quest of an exit from the room
which he has incautiously entered.

"Then who are you, sir?" inquired Benassis.

"Ah! there now!" the officer answered, as he turned and took his stand
before the doctor, though he lacked courage to look at his friend. "I
have deceived you!" he went on (and there was a change in his voice).
"I have acted a lie for the first time in my life, and I am well
punished for it; for after this I cannot explain why I came here to
play the spy upon you, confound it! Ever since I have had a glimpse of
your soul, so to speak, I would far sooner have taken a box on the ear
whenever I heard you call me Captain Bluteau! Perhaps you may forgive
me for this subterfuge, but I shall never forgive myself; I, Pierre
Joseph Genestas, who would not lie to save my life before a
court-martial!"

"Are you Commandant Genestas?" cried Benassis, rising to his feet. He
grasped the officer's hand warmly, and added: "As you said but a short
time ago, sir, we were friends before we knew each other. I have been
very anxious to make your acquaintance, for I have often heard M.
Gravier speak of you. He used to call you, 'one of Plutarch's men.'"

"Plutarch? Nothing of the sort!" answered Genestas. "I am not worthy
of you; I could thrash myself. I ought to have told you my secret in a
straightforward way at the first. Yet, now! It is quite as well that I
wore a mask, and came here myself in search of information concerning
you, for now I know that I must hold my tongue. If I had set about
this business in the right fashion it would have been painful to you,
and God forbid that I should give you the slightest annoyance."

"But I do not understand you, commandant."

"Let the matter drop. I am not ill; I have spent a pleasant day, and I
will go back to-morrow. Whenever you come to Grenoble, you will find
that you have one more friend there, who will be your friend through
thick and thin. Pierre Joseph Genestas' sword and purse are at your
disposal, and I am yours to the last drop of my blood. Well, after
all, your words have fallen on good soil. When I am pensioned off, I
will look for some out-of-the-way little place, and be mayor of it,
and try to follow your example. I have not your knowledge, but I will
study at any rate."

"You are right, sir; the landowner who spends his time in convincing a
commune of the folly of some mistaken notion of agriculture, confers
upon his country a benefit quite as great as any that the most skilful
physician can bestow. The latter lessens the sufferings of some few
individuals, and the former heals the wounds of his country. But you
have excited my curiosity to no common degree. Is there really
something in which I can be of use to you?"

"Of use?" repeated the commandant in an altered voice.

"/Mon Dieu!/ I was about to ask you to do me a service which is all but
impossible, M. Benassis. Just listen a moment! I have killed a good
many Christians in my time, it is true; but you may kill people and
keep a good heart for all that; so there are some things that I can
feel and understand, rough as I look."

"But go on!"

"No, I do not want to give you any pain if I can help it."

"Oh! commandant, I can bear a great deal."

"It is a question of a child's life, sir," said the officer,
nervously.

Benassis suddenly knitted his brows, but by a gesture he entreated
Genestas to continue.

"A child," repeated the commandant, "whose life may yet be saved by
constant watchfulness and incessant care. Where could I expect to find
a doctor capable of devoting himself to a single patient? Not in a
town, that much was certain. I had heard you spoken of as an excellent
man, but I wished to be quite sure that this reputation was well
founded. So before putting my little charge into the hands of this M.
Benassis of whom people spoke so highly, I wanted to study him myself.
But now----"

"Enough," said the doctor; "so this child is yours?"

"No, no, M. Benassis. To clear up the mystery, I should have to tell
you a long story, in which I do not exactly play the part of a hero;
but you have given me your confidence and I can readily give you
mine."

"One moment, commandant," said the doctor. In answer to his summons,
Jacquotte appeared at once, and her master ordered tea. "You see,
commandant, at night when every one is sleeping, I do not sleep. . . .
The thought of my troubles lies heavily on me, and then I try to
forget them by taking tea. It produces a sort of nervous inebriation
--a kind of slumber, without which I could not live. Do you still
decline to take it?"

"For my own part," said Genestas, "I prefer your Hermitage."

"By all means. Jacquotte," said Benassis, turning to his housekeeper,
"bring in some wine and biscuits. We will both of us have our
night-cap after our separate fashions."

"That tea must be very bad for you!" Genestas remarked.

"It brings on horrid attacks of gout, but I cannot break myself of the
habit, it is too soothing; it procures for me a brief respite every
night, a few moments during which life becomes less of a burden. . . .
Come. I am listening; perhaps your story will efface the painful
impressions left by the memories that I have just recalled."

Genestas set down his empty glass upon the chimney-piece. "After the
Retreat from Moscow," he said, "my regiment was stationed to recruit
for a while in a little town in Poland. We were quartered there, in
fact, till the Emperor returned, and we bought up horses at long
prices. So far so good. I ought to say that I had a friend in those
days. More than once during the Retreat I had owed my life to him. He
was a quartermaster, Renard by name; we could not but be like brothers
(military discipline apart) after what he had done for me. They
billeted us on the same house, a sort of shanty, a rat-hole of a place
where a whole family lived, though you would not have thought there
was room to stable a horse. This particular hovel belonged to some
Jews who carried on their six-and-thirty trades in it. The frost had
not so stiffened the old father Jew's fingers but that he could count
gold fast enough; he had thriven uncommonly during our reverses. That
sort of gentry lives in squalor and dies in gold.

"There were cellars underneath (lined with wood of course, the whole
house was built of wood); they had stowed their children away down
there, and one more particularly, a girl of seventeen, as handsome as
a Jewess can be when she keeps herself tidy and has not fair hair. She
was as white as snow, she had eyes like velvet, and dark lashes to
them like rats' tails; her hair was so thick and glossy that it made
you long to stroke it. She was perfection, and nothing less! I was the
first to discover this curious arrangement. I was walking up and down
outside one evening, smoking my pipe, after they thought I had gone to
bed. The children came in helter-skelter, tumbling over one another
like so many puppies. It was fun to watch them. Then they had supper
with their father and mother. I strained my eyes to see the young
Jewess through the clouds of smoke that her father blew from his pipe;
she looked like a new gold piece among a lot of copper coins.

"I had never reflected about love, my dear Benassis, I had never had
time; but now at the sight of this young girl I lost my heart and head
and everything else at once, and then it was plain to me that I had
never been in love before. I was hard hit, and over head and ears in
love. There I stayed smoking my pipe, absorbed in watching the Jewess
until she blew out the candle and went to bed. I could not close my
eyes. The whole night long I walked up and down the street smoking my
pipe and refilling it from time to time. I had never felt like that
before, and for the first and last time in my life I thought of
marrying.

"At daybreak I saddled my horse and rode out into the country, to
clear my head. I kept him at a trot for two mortal hours, and all but
foundered the animal before I noticed it----"

Genestas stopped short, looked at his new friend uneasily, and said,
"You must excuse me, Benassis, I am no orator; things come out just as
they turn up in my mind. In a room full of fine folk I should feel
awkward, but here in the country with you----"

"Go on," said the doctor.

"When I came back to my room I found Renard finely flustered. He
thought I had fallen in a duel. He was cleaning his pistols, his head
full of schemes for fastening a quarrel on any one who should have
turned me off into the dark. . . . Oh! that was just the fellow's way!
I confided my story to Renard, showed him the kennel where the
children were; and, as my comrade understood the jargon that those
heathens talked, I begged him to help me to lay my proposals before
her father and mother, and to try to arrange some kind of
communication between me and Judith. Judith they called her. In short,
sir, for a fortnight the Jew and his wife so arranged matters that we
supped every night with Judith, and for a fortnight I was the happiest
of men. You understand and you know how it was, so I shall not wear
out your patience; still, if you do not smoke, you cannot imagine how
pleasant it was to smoke a pipe at one's ease with Renard and the
girl's father and one's princess there before one's eyes. Oh! yes, it
was very pleasant!

"But I ought to tell you that Renard was a Parisian, and dependent on
his father, a wholesale grocer, who had educated his son with a view
to making a notary of him; so Renard had come by a certain amount of
book learning before he had been drawn by the conscription and had to
bid his desk good-bye. Add to this that he was the kind of man who
looks well in a uniform, with a face like a girl's, and a thorough
knowledge of the art of wheedling people. It was HE whom Judith loved;
she cared about as much for me as a horse cares for roast fowls.
Whilst I was in the seventh heaven, soaring above the clouds at the
bare sight of Judith, my friend Renard (who, as you see, fairly
deserved his name) arrived at an understanding with the girl, and to
such good purpose, that they were married forthwith after the custom
of her country, without waiting for permission, which would have been
too long in coming. He promised her, however, that if it should happen
that the validity of this marriage was afterwards called in question,
they were to be married again according to French law. As a matter of
fact, as soon as she reached France, Mme. Renard became Mlle. Judith
once more.

"If I had known all this, I would have killed Renard then and there,
without giving him time to draw another breath; but the father, the
mother, the girl herself, and the quartermaster were all in the plot
like thieves in a fair. While I was smoking my pipe, and worshiping
Judith as if she had been one of the saints above, the worthy Renard
was arranging to meet her, and managing this piece of business very
cleverly under my very eyes.

"You are the only person to whom I have told this story. A disgraceful
thing, I call it. I have always asked myself how it is that a man who
would die of shame if he took a gold coin that did not belong to him,
does not scruple to rob a friend of happiness and life and the woman
he loves. My birds, in fact, were married and happy; and there was I,
every evening at supper, moonstruck, gazing at Judith, responding like
some fellow in a farce to the looks she threw to me in order to throw
dust in my eyes. They have paid uncommonly dear for all this deceit,
as you will certainly think. On my conscience, God pays more attention
to what goes on in this world than some of us imagine.

"Down come the Russians upon us, the country is overrun, and the
campaign of 1813 begins in earnest. One fine morning comes an order;
we are to be on the battlefield of Lutzen by a stated hour. The
Emperor knew quite well what he was about when he ordered us to start
at once. The Russians had turned our flank. Our colonel must needs get
himself into a scrape, by choosing that moment to take leave of a
Polish lady who lived outside the town, a quarter of a mile away; the
Cossack advanced guard just caught him nicely, him and his picket.
There was scarcely time to spring into our saddles and draw up before
the town so as to engage in a cavalry skirmish. We must check the
Russian advance if we meant to draw off during the night. Again and
again we charged, and for three hours did wonders. Under cover of the
fighting the baggage and artillery set out. We had a park of artillery
and great stores of powder, of which the Emperor stood in desperate
need; they must reach him at all costs.

"Our resistance deceived the Russians, who thought at first that we
were supported by an army corps; but before very long they learned
their error from their scouts, and knew that they had only a single
regiment of cavalry to deal with and the invalided foot soldiers in
the depot. On finding it out, sir, they made a murderous onslaught on
us towards evening; the action was so hot that a good few of us were
left on the field. We were completely surrounded. I was by Renard's
side in the front rank, and I saw how my friend fought and charged
like a demon; he was thinking of his wife. Thanks to him, we managed
to regain the town, which our invalids had put more or less in a state
of defence, but it was pitiful to see it. We were the last to return
--he and I. A body of Cossacks appeared in our way, and on this we
rode in hot haste. One of the savages was about to run me through with
a lance, when Renard, catching a sight of his manoeuvre, thrust his
horse between us to turn aside the blow; his poor brute--a fine animal
it was, upon my word--received the lance thrust and fell, bringing
down both Renard and the Cossack with him. I killed the Cossack,
seized Renard by the arm, and laid him crosswise before me on my horse
like a sack of wheat.

"'Good-bye, captain,' Renard said; 'it is all over with me.'

"'Not yet,' I answered; 'I must have a look at you.' We had reached
the town by that time; I dismounted, and propped him up on a little
straw by the corner of the house. A wound in the head had laid open
the brain, and yet he spoke! . . . Oh! he was a brave man.

"'We are quits,' he said. 'I have given you my life, and I had taken
Judith from you. Take care of her and of her child, if she has one.
And not only so--you must marry her.'

"I left him then and there sir, like a dog; when the first fury of
anger left me, and I went back again--he was dead. The Cossacks had
set fire to the town, and the thought of Judith then came to my mind.
I went in search of her, took her up behind me in the saddle, and,
thanks to my swift horse, caught up the regiment which was effecting
its retreat. As for the Jew and his family, there was not one of them
left, they had all disappeared like rats; there was no one but Judith
in the house, waiting alone there for Renard. At first, as you can
understand, I told her not a word of all that had happened.

"So it befell that all through the disastrous campaign of 1813 I had a
woman to look after, to find quarters for her, and to see that she was
comfortable. She scarcely knew, I think, the straits to which we were
reduced. I was always careful to keep her ten leagues ahead of us as
we drew back towards France. Her boy was born while we were fighting
at Hanau. I was wounded in the engagement, and only rejoined Judith at
Strasburg; then I returned to Paris, for, unluckily, I was laid up all
through the campaign in France. If it had not been for that wretched
mishap, I should have entered the Grenadier Guards, and then the
Emperor would have promoted me. As it was, sir, I had three broken
ribs and another man's wife and child to support! My pay, as you can
imagine, was not exactly the wealth of the Indies. Renard's father,
the toothless old shark, would have nothing to say to his
daughter-in-law; and the old father Jew had made off. Judith was
fretting herself to death. She cried one morning while she was dressing
my wound.

"'Judith,' said I, 'your child has nothing in this world----'

"'Neither have I!' she said.

"'Pshaw!' I answered, 'we will send for all the necessary papers, I
will marry you; and as for the child, I will look on him as mine----'
I could not say any more.

"Ah, my dear sir, what would not one do for the look by which Judith
thanked me--a look of thanks from dying eyes; I saw clearly that I had
loved, and should love her always, and from that day her child found a
place in my heart. She died, poor woman, while the father and mother
Jews and the papers were on the way. The day before she died, she
found strength enough to rise and dress herself for her wedding, to go
through all the usual performance, and set her name to their pack of
papers; then, when her child had a name and a father, she went back to
her bed again; I kissed her hands and her forehead, and she died.

"That was my wedding. Two days later, when I had bought the few feet
of earth in which the poor girl is laid, I found myself the father of
an orphan child. I put him out to nurse during the campaign of 1815.
Ever since that time, without letting any one know my story, which did
not sound very well, I have looked after the little rogue as if he
were my own child. I don't know what became of his grandfather; he is
wandering about, a ruined man, somewhere or other between Russia and
Persia. The chances are that he may make a fortune some day, for he
seemed to understand the trade in precious stones.

"I sent the child to school. I wanted him to take a good place at the
Ecole Polytechnique and to see him graduate there with credit, so of
late I have had him drilled in mathematics to such good purpose that
the poor little soul has been knocked up by it. He has a delicate
chest. By all I can make out from the doctors in Paris, there would be
some hope for him still if he were allowed to run wild among the
hills, if he was properly cared for, and constantly looked after by
somebody who was willing to undertake the task. So I thought of you,
and I came here to take stock of your ideas and your ways of life.
After what you have told me, I could not possibly cause you pain in
this way, for we are good friends already."

"Commandant," said Benassis after a moment's pause, "bring Judith's
child here to me. It is doubtless God's will to submit me to this
final trial, and I will endure it. I will offer up these sufferings to
God, whose Son died upon the cross. Besides, your story has awakened
tender feelings; does not that auger well for me?"

Genestas took both of Benassis' hands and pressed them warmly, unable
to check the tears that filled his eyes and coursed down his sunburned
face.

"Let us keep silence with regard to all this," he said.

"Yes, commandant. You are not drinking?"

"I am not thirsty," Genestas answered. "I am a perfect fool!"

"Well, when will you bring him to me?"

"Why, to-morrow, if you will let me. He has been at Grenoble these two
days."

"Good! Set out to-morrow morning and come back again. I shall wait for
you in La Fosseuse's cottage, and we will all four of us breakfast
there together."

"Agreed," said Genestas, and the two friends as they went upstairs
bade each other good-night. When they reached the landing that lay
between their rooms, Genestas set down his candle on the window ledge
and turned towards Benassis.

"/Tonnerre de Dieu!/" he said, with outspoken enthusiasm; "I cannot let
you go without telling you that you are the third among christened men
to make me understand that there is Something up there," and he
pointed to the sky.

The doctor's answer was a smile full of sadness and a cordial grasp of
the hand that Genestas held out to him.



Before daybreak next morning Commandant Genestas was on his way. On
his return, it was noon before he reached the spot on the highroad
between Grenoble and the little town, where the pathway turned that
led to La Fosseuse's cottage. He was seated in one of the light open
cars with four wheels, drawn by one horse, that are in use everywhere
on the roads in these hilly districts. Genestas' companion was a thin,
delicate-looking lad, apparently about twelve years of age, though in
reality he was in his sixteenth year. Before alighting, the officer
looked round about him in several directions in search of a peasant
who would take the carriage back to Benassis' house. It was impossible
to drive to La Fosseuse's cottage, the pathway was too narrow. The
park-keeper happened to appear upon the scene, and helped Genestas out
of his difficulty, so that the officer and his adopted son were at
liberty to follow the mountain footpath that led to the
trysting-place.

"Would you not enjoy spending a year in running about in this lovely
country, Adrien? Learning to hunt and to ride a horse, instead of
growing pale over your books? Stay! look there!"

Adrien obediently glanced over the valley with languid indifference;
like all lads of his age, he cared nothing for the beauty of natural
scenery; so he only said, "You are very kind, father," without
checking his walk.

The invalid listlessness of this answer went to Genestas' heart; he
said no more to his son, and they reached La Fosseuse's house in
silence.

"You are punctual, commandant!" cried Benassis, rising from the wooden
bench where he was sitting.

But at the sight of Adrien he sat down again, and seemed for a while
to be lost in thought. In a leisurely fashion he scanned the lad's
sallow, weary face, not without admiring its delicate oval outlines,
one of the most noticeable characteristics of a noble head. The lad
was the living image of his mother. He had her olive complexion,
beautiful black eyes with a sad and thoughtful expression in them,
long hair, a head too energetic for the fragile body; all the peculiar
beauty of the Polish Jewess had been transmitted to her son.

"Do you sleep soundly, my little man?" Benassis asked him.

"Yes, sir."

"Let me see your knees; turn back your trousers."

Adrien reddened, unfastened his garters, and showed his knee to the
doctor, who felt it carefully over.

"Good. Now speak; shout, shout as loud as you can." Adrien obeyed.

"That will do. Now give me your hands."

The lad held them out; white, soft, and blue-veined hands, like those
of a woman.

"Where were you at school in Paris?"

"At Saint Louis."

"Did your master read his breviary during the night?"

"Yes, sir."

"So you did not go straight off to sleep?"

As Adrien made no answer to this, Genestas spoke. "The master is a
worthy priest; he advised me to take my little rascal away on the
score of his health," he told the doctor.

"Well," answered Benassis, with a clear, penetrating gaze into
Adrien's frightened eyes, "there is a good chance. Oh, we shall make a
man of him yet. We will live together like a pair of comrades, my boy!
We will keep early hours. I mean to show this boy of yours how to ride
a horse, commandant. He shall be put on a milk diet for a month or
two, so as to get his digestion into order again, and then I will take
out a shooting license for him, and put him in Butifer's hands, and
the two of them shall have some chamois-hunting. Give your son four or
five months of out-door life, and you will not know him again,
commandant! How delighted Butifer will be! I know the fellow; he will
take you over into Switzerland, my young friend; haul you over the
Alpine passes and up the mountain peaks, and add six inches to your
height in six months; he will put some color into your cheeks and
brace your nerves, and make you forget all these bad ways that you
have fallen into at school. And after that you can go back to your
work; and you will be a man some of these days. Butifer is an honest
young fellow. We can trust him with the money necessary for traveling
expenses and your hunting expeditions. The responsibility will keep
him steady for six months, and that will be a very good thing for
him."

Genestas' face brightened more and more at every word the doctor
spoke.

"Now, let us go in to breakfast. La Fosseuse is very anxious to see
you," said Benassis, giving Adrien a gentle tap on the cheek.

Genestas took the doctor's arm and drew him a little aside. "Then he
is not consumptive after all?" he asked.

"No more than you or I."

"Then what is the matter with him?"

"Pshaw!" answered Benassis; "he is a little run down, that is all."

La Fosseuse appeared on the threshold of the door, and Genestas
noticed, not without surprise, her simple but coquettish costume. This
was not the peasant girl of yesterday evening, but a graceful and
well-dressed Parisian woman, against whose glances he felt that he was
not proof. The soldier turned his eyes on the table, which was made of
walnut wood. There was no tablecloth, but the surface might have been
varnished, it was so well rubbed and polished. Eggs, butter, a rice
pudding, and fragrant wild strawberries had been set out, and the poor
child had put flowers everywhere about the room; evidently it was a
great day for her. At the sight of all this, the commandant could not
help looking enviously at the little house and the green sward about
it, and watched the peasant girl with an air that expressed both his
doubts and his hopes. Then his eyes fell on Adrien, with whom La
Fosseuse was deliberately busying herself, and handing him the eggs.

"Now, commandant," said Benassis, "you know the terms on which you are
receiving hospitality. You must tell La Fosseuse 'something about the
army.'"

"But let the gentleman first have his breakfast in peace, and then,
after he has taken a cup of coffee----"

"By all means, I shall be very glad," answered the commandant; "but it
must be upon one condition: you will tell us the story of some
adventure in your past life, will you not, mademoiselle?"

"Why, nothing worth telling has ever happened to me, sir," she
answered, as her color rose. "Will you take a little more rice
pudding?" she added, as she saw that Adrien's plate was empty.

"If you please, mademoiselle."

"The pudding is delicious," said Genestas.

"Then what will you say to her coffee and cream?" cried Benassis.

"I would rather hear our pretty hostess talk."

"You did not put that nicely, Genestas," said Benassis. He took La
Fosseuse's hand in his and pressed it as he went on: "Listen, my
child; there is a kind heart hidden away beneath that officer's stern
exterior, and you can talk freely before him. We do not want to press
you to talk, do not tell us anything unless you like: but if ever you
can be listened to and understood, poor little one, it will be by the
three who are with you now at this moment. Tell us all about your love
affairs in the old days, that will not admit us into any of the real
secrets of your heart."

"Here is Mariette with the coffee," she answered, "and as soon as you
are all served, I will tell about my 'love affairs' very willingly.
But M. le Commandant will not forget his promise?" she added,
challenging the officer with a shy glance.

"That would be impossible, mademoiselle," Genestas answered
respectfully.

"When I was sixteen years old," La Fosseuse began, "I had to beg my
bread on the roadside in Savoy, though my health was very bad. I used
to sleep at Echelles, in a manger full of straw. The innkeeper who
gave me shelter was kind, but his wife could not abide me, and was
always saying hard things. I used to feel very miserable; for though I
was a beggar, I was not a naughty child; I used to say my prayers
every night and morning, I never stole anything, and I did as Heaven
bade me in begging for my living, for there was nothing that I could
turn my hands to, and I was really unfit for work--quite unable to
handle a hoe or to wind spools of cotton.

"Well, they drove me away from the inn at last; a dog was the cause of
it all. I had neither father nor mother nor friends. I had met with no
one, ever since I was born, whose eyes had any kindness in them for
me. Morin, the old woman who had brought me up, was dead. She had been
very good to me, but I cannot remember that she ever petted me much;
besides, she worked out in the fields like a man, poor thing; and if
she fondled me at times, she also used to rap my fingers with the
spoon if I ate the soup too fast out of the porringer we had between
us. Poor old woman, never a day passes but I remember her in my
prayers! If it might please God to let her live a happier life up
there than she did here below! And, above all things, if she might
only lie a little softer there, for she was always grumbling about the
pallet-bed that we both used to sleep upon. You could not possibly
imagine how it hurts one's soul to be repulsed by every one, to
receive nothing but hard words and looks that cut you to the heart,
just as if they were so many stabs of a knife. I have known poor old
people who were so used to these things that they did not mind them a
bit, but I was not born for that sort of life. A 'No' always made me
cry. Every evening I came back again more unhappy than ever, and only
felt comforted when I had said my prayers. In all God's world, in
fact, there was not a soul to care for me, no one to whom I could pour
out my heart. My only friend was the blue sky. I have always been
happy when there was a cloudless sky above my head. I used to lie and
watch the weather from some nook among the crags when the wind had
swept the clouds away. At such times I used to dream that I was a
great lady. I used to gaze into the sky till I felt myself bathed in
the blue; I lived up there in thought, rising higher and higher yet,
till my troubles weighed on me no more, and there was nothing but
gladness left.

"But to return to my 'love affairs.' I must tell you that the
innkeeper's spaniel had a dear little puppy, just as sensible as a
human being; he was quite white, with black spots on his paws, a
cherub of a puppy! I can see him yet. Poor little fellow, he was the
only creature who ever gave me a friendly look in those days; I kept
all my tidbits for him. He knew me, and came to look for me every
evening. How he used to spring up at me! And he would bite my feet, he
was not ashamed of my poverty; there was something so grateful and so
kind in his eyes that it brought tears into mine to see it. 'That is
the one living creature that really cares for me!' I used to say. He
slept at my feet that winter. It hurt me so much to see him beaten,
that I broke him of the habit of going into houses, to steal bones,
and he was quite contented with my crusts. When I was unhappy, he used
to come and stand in front of me, and look into my eyes; it was just
as if he said, 'So you are sad, my poor Fosseuse?'

"If a traveler threw me some halfpence, he would pick them up out of
the dust and bring them to me, clever little spaniel that he was! I
was less miserable so long as I had that friend. Every day I put away
a few halfpence, for I wanted to get fifteen francs together, so that
I might buy him of Pere Manseau. One day his wife saw that the dog was
fond of me, so she herself took a sudden violent fancy to him. The
dog, mind you, could not bear her. Oh, animals know people by
instinct! If you really care for them, they find it out in a moment. I
had a gold coin, a twenty-franc piece, sewed into the band of my
skirt; so I spoke to M. Manseau: 'Dear sir, I meant to offer you my
year's savings for your dog; but now your wife has a mind to keep him,
although she cares very little about him, and rather than that, will
you sell him to me for twenty francs? Look, I have the money here.'

"'No, no, little woman,' he said; 'put up your twenty francs. Heaven
forbid that I should take their money from the poor! Keep the dog; and
if my wife makes a fuss about it, you must go away.'

"His wife made a terrible to-do about the dog. Ah! /mon Dieu/! any one
might have thought the house was on fire! You never would guess the
notion that next came into her head. She saw that the little fellow
looked on me as his mistress, and that she could only have him against
his will, so she had him poisoned; and my poor spaniel died in my
arms. . . . I cried over him as if he had been my child, and buried
him under a pine-tree. You do not know all that I laid in that grave.
As I sat there beside it, I told myself that henceforward I should
always be alone in the world; that I had nothing left to hope for;
that I should be again as I had been before, a poor lonely girl; that
I should never more see a friendly light in any eyes. I stayed out
there all through the night, praying God to have pity on me. When I
went back to the highroad I saw a poor little child, about ten years
old, who had no hands.

"'God has heard me,' I thought. I had prayed that night as I had
never prayed before. 'I will take care of the poor little one; we will
beg together, and I will be a mother to him. Two of us ought to do
better than one; perhaps I should have more courage for him than I
have for myself.'

"At first the little boy seemed to be quite happy, and, indeed, he
would have been hard to please if he had not been content. I did
everything that he wanted, and gave him the best of all that I had; I
was his slave in fact, and he tyrannized over me, but that was nicer
than being alone, I used to think! Pshaw! no sooner did the little
good-for-nothing know that I carried a twenty-franc piece sewed into
my skirtband than he cut the stitches, and stole my gold coin, the
price of my poor spaniel! I had meant to have masses said with
it. . . . A child without hands, too! Oh, it makes one shudder!
Somehow that theft took all the heart out of me. It seemed as if I was
to love nothing but it should come to some wretched end.

"One day at Echelles, I watched a fine carriage coming slowly up the
hillside. There was a young lady, as beautiful as the Virgin Mary, in
the carriage, and a young man, who looked like the young lady. 'Just
look,' he said; 'there is a pretty girl!' and he flung a silver coin
to me.

"No one but you, M. Benassis, could understand how pleased I was with
the compliment, the first that I had ever had: but, indeed, the
gentleman ought not to have thrown the money to me. I was in a
flutter; I knew of a short cut, a footpath among the rocks, and
started at once to run, so that I reached the summit of the Echelles
long before the carriage, which was coming up very slowly. I saw the
young man again; he was quite surprised to find me there; and as for
me, I was so pleased that my heart seemed to be throbbing in my
throat. Some kind of instinct drew me towards him. After he had
recognized me, I went on my way again; I felt quite sure that he and
the young lady with him would leave the carriage to see the waterfall
at Couz, and so they did. When they alighted, they saw me once more,
under the walnut-trees by the wayside. They asked me many questions,
and seemed to take an interest in what I told them about myself. In
all my life I had never heard such pleasant voices as they had, that
handsome young man and his sister, for she was his sister, I am sure.
I thought about them for a whole year afterwards, and kept on hoping
that they would come back. I would have given two years of my life
only to see that traveler again, he looked so nice. Until I knew M.
Benassis these were the greatest events of my life. Although my
mistress turned me away for trying on that horrid ball-dress of hers,
I was sorry for her, and I have forgiven her, for candidly, if you
will give me leave to say so, I thought myself the better woman of the
two, countess though she was."

"Well," said Genestas, after a moment's pause, "you see that
Providence has kept a friendly eye on you, you are in clover here."

At these words La Fosseuse looked at Benassis with eyes full of
gratitude.

"Would that I was rich!" came from Genestas. The officer's exclamation
was followed by profound silence.

"You owe me a story," said La Fosseuse at last, in coaxing tones.

"I will tell it at once," answered Genestas. "On the evening before
the battle of Friedland," he went on, after a moment, "I had been sent
with a despatch to General Davoust's quarters, and I was on the way
back to my own, when at a turn in the road I found myself face to face
with the Emperor. Napoleon gave me a look.

"'You are Captain Genestas, are you not?' he said.

"'Yes, your Majesty.'

"'You were out in Egypt?'

"'Yes, your Majesty.'

"'You had better not keep to the road you are on,' he said; 'turn to
the left, you will reach your division sooner that way.'

"That was what the Emperor said, but you would never imagine how
kindly he said it; and he had so many irons in the fire just then, for
he was riding about surveying the position of the field. I am telling
you this story to show you what a memory he had, and so that you may
know that he knew my face. I took the oath in 1815. But for that
mistake, perhaps I might have been a colonel to-day; I never meant to
betray the Bourbons, France must be defended, and that was all I
thought about. I was a Major in the Grenadiers of the Imperial Guard;
and although my wound still gave me trouble, I swung a sabre in the
battle of Waterloo. When it was all over, and Napoleon returned to
Paris, I went too; then when he reached Rochefort, I followed him
against his orders; it was some sort of comfort to watch over him and
to see that no mishap befell him on the way. So when he was walking
along the beach he turned and saw me on duty ten paces from him.

"'Well, Genestas,' he said, as he came towards me, 'so we are not yet
dead, either of us?'

"It cut me to the heart to hear him say that. If you had heard him,
you would have shuddered from head to foot, as I did. He pointed to
the villainous English vessel that was keeping the entrance to the
Harbor. 'When I see /that/,' he said, 'and think of my Guard, I wish
that I had perished in that torrent of blood.'

"Yes," said Genestas, looking at the doctor and at La Fosseuse, "those
were his very words.

"'The generals who counseled you not to charge with the Guard, and
who hurried you into your traveling carriage, were not true friends of
yours,' I said.

"'Come with me,' he cried eagerly, 'the game is not ended yet.'

"'I would gladly go with your Majesty, but I am not free; I have a
motherless child on my hands just now.'

"And so it happened that Adrien over there prevented me from going to
St. Helena.

"'Stay,' he said, 'I have never given you anything. You are not one
of those who fill one hand and then hold out the other. Here is the
snuff-box that I have used though this last campaign. And stay on in
France; after all, brave men are wanted there! Remain in the service,
and keep me in remembrance. Of all my army in Egypt, you are the last
that I have seen still on his legs in France.' And he gave me a little
snuff-box.

"'Have "/Honneur et patrie/" engraved on it,' he said; 'the history of
our last two campaigns is summed up in those three words.'

"Then those who were going out with him came up, and I spent the rest
of the morning with them. The Emperor walked to and fro along the
beach; there was not a sign of agitation about him, though he frowned
from time to time. At noon, it was considered hopeless for him to
attempt to escape by sea. The English had found out that he was at
Rochefort; he must either give himself up to them, or cross the
breadth of France again. We were wretchedly anxious; the minutes
seemed like hours! On the one hand there were the Bourbons, who would
have shot Napoleon if he had fallen into their clutches; and on the
other, the English, a dishonored race: they covered themselves with
shame by flinging a foe who asked for hospitality away on a desert
rock, that is a stain which they will never wash away. Whilst they
were anxiously debating, some one or other among his suite presented a
sailor to him, a Lieutenant Doret, who had a scheme for reaching
America to lay before him. As a matter of fact, a brig from the States
and a merchant vessel were lying in the harbor.

"'But how could you set about it, captain?' the Emperor asked him.

"'You will be on board the merchant vessel, Sire,' the man answered.
'I will run up the white flag and man the brig with a few devoted
followers. We will tackle the English vessel, set fire to her, and
board her, and you will get clear away.'

"'We will go with you!' I cried to the captain. But Napoleon looked
at us and said, 'Captain Doret, keep yourself for France.'

"It was the only time I ever saw Napoleon show any emotion. With a
wave of his hand to us he went in again. I watched him go on board the
English vessel, and then I went away. It was all over with him, and he
knew it. There was a traitor in the harbor, who by means of signals
gave warning to the Emperor's enemies of his presence. Then Napoleon
fell back on a last resource; he did as he had been wont to do on the
battlefield: he went to his foes instead of letting them come to him.
Talk of troubles! No words could ever make you understand the misery
of those who loved him for his own sake."

"But where is his snuff-box?" asked La Fosseuse.

"It is in a box at Grenoble," the commandant replied.

"I will go over to see it, if you will let me. To think that you have
something in your possession that his fingers have touched! . . . Had
he a well-shaped hand?"

"Very."

"Can it be true that he is dead? Come, tell me the real truth?"

"Yes, my dear child, he is dead; there is no doubt about it."

"I was such a little girl in 1815. I was not tall enough to see
anything but his hat, and even so I was nearly crushed to death in the
crowd at Grenoble."

"Your coffee and cream is very nice indeed," said Genestas. "Well,
Adrien, how do you like this country? Will you come here to see
mademoiselle?"

The boy made no answer; he seemed afraid to look at La Fosseuse.
Benassis never took his eyes off Adrien; he appeared to be reading the
lad's very soul.

"Of course he will come to see her," said Benassis. "But let us go
home again, I have a pretty long round to make, and I shall want a
horse. I daresay you and Jacquotte will manage to get on together
whilst I am away."

"Will you not come with us?" said Genestas to La Fosseuse.

"Willingly," she answered; "I have a lot of things to take over for
Mme. Jacquotte."

They started out for the doctor's house. Her visitors had raised La
Fosseuse's spirits; she led the way along narrow tracks, through the
loneliest parts of the hills.

"You have told us nothing about yourself, Monsieur l'Officier," she
said. "I should have liked to hear you tell us about some adventure in
the wars. I liked what you told us about Napoleon very much, but it
made me feel sad. . . . If you would be so very kind----"

"Quite right!" Benassis exclaimed. "You ought to tell us about some
thrilling adventure during our walk. Come, now, something really
interesting like that business of the beam in Beresina!"

"So few of my recollections are worth telling," said Genestas. "Some
people come in for all kinds of adventures, but I have never managed
to be the hero of any story. Oh! stop a bit though, a funny thing did
once happen to me. I was with the Grand Army in 1805, and so, of
course, I was at Austerlitz. There was a great deal of skirmishing
just before Ulm surrendered, which kept the cavalry pretty fully
occupied. Moreover, we were under the command of Murat, who never let
the grass grow under his feet.

"I was still only a sub-lieutenant in those days. It was just at the
opening of the campaign, and after one of these affairs, that we took
possession of a district in which there were a good many fine estates;
so it fell out that one evening my regiment bivouacked in a park
belonging to a handsome chateau where a countess lived, a young and
pretty woman she was. Of course, I meant to lodge in the house, and I
hurried there to put a stop to pillage of any sort. I came into the
salon just as my quartermaster was pointing his carbine at the
countess, his brutal way of asking for what she certainly could not
give the ugly scoundrel. I struck up his carbine with my sword, the
bullet went through a looking-glass on the wall, then I dealt my
gentleman a back-handed blow that stretched him on the floor. The
sound of the shot and the cries of the countess fetched all her people
on the scene, and it was my turn to be in danger.

"'Stop!' she cried in German (for they were going to run me through
the body), 'this officer has saved my life!'

"They drew back at that. The lady gave me her handkerchief (a fine
embroidered handkerchief, which I have yet), telling me that her house
would always be open to me, and that I should always find a sister and
a devoted friend in her, if at any time I should be in any sort of
trouble. In short, she did not know how to make enough of me. She was
as fair as a wedding morning and as charming as a kitten. We had
dinner together. Next day, I was distractedly in love, but next day I
had to be at my place at Guntzburg, or wherever it was. There was no
help for it, I had to turn out, and started off with my handkerchief.

"Well, we gave them battle, and all the time I kept on saying to
myself, 'I wish a bullet would come my way! /Mon Dieu/! they are flying
thick enough!'

"I had no wish for a ball in the thigh, for I should have had to stop
where I was in that case, and there would have been no going back to
the chateau, but I was not particular; a nice wound in the arm I
should have liked best, so that I might be nursed and made much of by
the princess. I flung myself on the enemy, like mad; but I had no sort
of luck, and came out of the action quite safe and sound. We must
march, and there was an end of it; I never saw the countess again, and
there is the whole story."

By this time they had reached Benassis' house; the doctor mounted his
horse at once and disappeared. Genestas recommended his son to
Jacquotte's care, so the doctor on his return found that she had taken
Adrien completely under her wing, and had installed him in M.
Gravier's celebrated room. With no small astonishment, she heard her
master's order to put up a simple camp-bed in his own room, for that
the lad was to sleep there, and this in such an authoritative tone,
that for once in her life Jacquotte found not a single word to say.

After dinner the commandant went back to Grenoble. Benassis'
reiterated assurances that the lad would soon be restored to health
had taken a weight off his mind.



Eight months later, in the earliest days of the following December,
Genestas was appointed to be lieutenant-colonel of a regiment
stationed at Poitiers. He was just thinking of writing to Benassis to
tell him of the journey he was about to take, when a letter came from
the doctor. His friend told him that Adrien was once more in sound
health.

"The boy has grown strong and tall," he said; "and he is wonderfully
well. He has profited by Butifer's instruction since you saw him last,
and is now as good a shot as our smuggler himself. He has grown brisk
and active too; he is a good walker, and rides well; he is not in the
least like the lad of sixteen who looked like a boy of twelve eight
months ago; any one might think that he was twenty years old. There is
an air of self-reliance and independence about him. In fact he is a
man now, and you must begin to think about his future at once."

"I shall go over to Benassis to-morrow, of course," said Genestas to
himself, "and I will see what he says before I make up my mind what to
do with that fellow," and with that he went to a farewell dinner given
to him by his brother officers. He would be leaving Grenoble now in a
very few days.

As the lieutenant-colonel returned after the dinner, his servant
handed him a letter. It had been brought by a messenger, he said, who
had waited a long while for an answer.

Genestas recognized Adrien's handwriting, although his head was
swimming after the toasts that had been drunk in his honor; probably,
he thought, the letter merely contained a request to gratify some
boyish whim, so he left it unopened on the table. The next morning,
when the fumes of champagne had passed off, he took it up and began to
read.

  "My dear father----"

"Oh! you young rogue," was his comment, "you know how to coax whenever
you want something."

  "Our dear M. Benassis is dead----"

The letter dropped from Genestas' hands; it was some time before he
could read any more.

  "Every one is in consternation. The trouble is all the greater
  because it came as a sudden shock. It was so unexpected. M.
  Benassis seemed perfectly well the day before; there was not a
  sign of ill-health about him. Only the day before yesterday he
  went to see all his patients, even those who lived farthest away;
  it was as if he had known what was going to happen; and he spoke
  to every one whom he met, saying, 'Good-bye, my friends,' each
  time. Towards five o'clock he came back just as usual to have
  dinner with me. He was tired; Jacquotte noticed the purplish flush
  on his face, but the weather was so very cold that she would not
  get ready a warm foot-bath for him, as she usually did when she
  saw that the blood had gone to his head. So she has been wailing,
  poor thing, through her tears for these two days past, 'If I had
  /only/ given him a foot-bath, he would be living now!'

  "M Benassis was hungry; he made a good dinner. I thought that he
  was in higher spirits than usual; we both of us laughed a great
  deal, I had never seen him laugh so much before. After dinner,
  towards seven o'clock, a man came with a message from Saint
  Laurent du Pont; it was a serious case, and M. Benassis was
  urgently needed. He said to me, 'I shall have to go, though I
  never care to set out on horseback when I have hardly digested my
  dinner, more especially when it is as cold as this. It is enough
  to kill a man!'

  "For all that, he went. At nine o'clock the postman Goguelat,
  brought a letter for M. Benassis. Jacquotte was tired out, for it
  was her washing-day. She gave me the letter and went off to bed.
  She begged me to keep a good fire in our bedroom, and to have some
  tea ready for M. Benassis when he came in, for I am still sleeping
  in the little cot-bed in his room. I raked out the fire in the
  salon, and went upstairs to wait for my good friend. I looked at
  the letter, out of curiosity, before I laid it on the
  chimney-piece, and noticed the handwriting and the postmark. It
  came from Paris, and I think it was a lady's hand. I am telling
  you about it because of things that happened afterwards.

  "About ten o'clock, I heard the horse returning, and M. Benassis'
  voice. He said to Nicolle, 'It is cold enough to-night to bring
  the wolves out. I do not feel at all well.' Nicolle said, 'Shall I
  go and wake Jacquotte?' And M. Benassis answered, 'Oh! no, no,'
  and came upstairs.

  "I said, 'I have your tea here, all ready for you,' and he smiled
  at me in the way that you know, and said, 'Thank you, Adrien.'
  That was his last smile. In a moment he began to take off his
  cravat, as though he could not breathe. 'How hot it is in here!'
  he said and flung himself down in an armchair. 'A letter has come
  for you, my good friend,' I said; 'here it is;' and I gave him the
  letter. He took it up and glanced at the handwriting. 'Ah! /mon
  Dieu/!' he exclaimed, 'perhaps she is free at last!' Then his head
  sank back, and his hands shook. After a little while he set the
  lamp on the table and opened the letter. There was something so
  alarming in the cry he had given that I watched him while he read,
  and saw that his face was flushed, and there were tears in his
  eyes. Then quite suddenly he fell, head forwards. I tried to raise
  him, and saw how purple his face was.

  "'It is all over with me,' he said, stammering; it was terrible
  to see how he struggled to rise. 'I must be bled; bleed me!' he
  cried, clutching my hand. . . . 'Adrien,' he said again, 'burn
  this letter!' He gave it to me, and I threw it on the fire. I
  called for Jacquotte and Nicolle. Jacquotte did not hear me, but
  Nicolle did, and came hurrying upstairs; he helped me to lay M.
  Benassis on my little bed. Our dear friend could not hear us any
  longer when we spoke to him, and although his eyes were open, he
  did not see anything. Nicolle galloped off at once to fetch the
  surgeon, M. Bordier, and in this way spread the alarm through the
  town. It was all astir in a moment. M. Janvier, M. Dufau, and all
  the rest of your acquaintance were the first to come to us. But
  all hope was at an end, M. Benassis was dying fast. He gave no
  sign of consciousness, not even when M. Bordier cauterized the
  soles of his feet. It was an attack of gout, combined with an
  apoplectic stroke.

  "I am giving you all these details, dear father, because I know
  how much you cared for him. As for me, I am very sad and full of
  grief, for I can say to you that I cared more for him than for any
  one else except you. I learned more from M. Benassis' talk in the
  evenings than ever I could have learned at school.

  "You cannot imagine the scene next morning when the news of his
  death was known in the place. The garden and the yard here were
  filled with people. How they sobbed and wailed! Nobody did any
  work that day. Every one recalled the last time that they had seen
  M. Benassis, and what he had said, or they talked of all that he
  had done for them; and those who were least overcome with grief
  spoke for the others. Every one wanted to see him once more, and
  the crowd grew larger every moment. The sad news traveled so fast
  that men and women and children came from ten leagues round; all
  the people in the district, and even beyond it, had that one
  thought in their minds.

  "It was arranged that four of the oldest men of the commune should
  carry the coffin. It was a very difficult task for them, for the
  crowd was so dense between the church and M. Benassis' house.
  There must have been nearly five thousand people there, and almost
  every one knelt as if the Host were passing. There was not nearly
  room for them in the church. In spite of their grief, the crowd
  was so silent that you could hear the sound of the bell during
  mass and the chanting as far as the end of the High Street; but
  when the procession started again for the new cemetery, which M.
  Benassis had given to the town, little thinking, poor man, that he
  himself would be the first to be buried there, a great cry went
  up. M. Janvier wept as he said the prayers; there were no dry eyes
  among the crowd. And so we buried him.

  "As night came on the people dispersed, carrying sorrow and
  mourning everywhere with them. The next day Gondrin and Goguelat,
  and Butifer, with others, set to work to raise a sort of pyramid
  of earth, twenty feet high, above the spot where M. Benassis lies;
  it is being covered now with green sods, and every one is helping
  them. These things, dear father, have all happened in three days.

  "M. Dufau found M. Benassis' will lying open on the table where he
  used to write. When it was known how his property had been left,
  affection and regret for his loss became even deeper if possible.
  And now, dear father, I am writing for Butifer (who is taking this
  letter to you) to come back with your answer. You must tell me
  what I am to do. Will you come to fetch me, or shall I go to you
  at Grenoble? Tell me what you wish me to do, and be sure that I
  shall obey you in everything.

  "Farewell, dear father, I send my love, and I am your affectionate
  son,

ADRIEN GENESTAS."


"Ah! well, I must go over," the soldier exclaimed.

He ordered his horse and started out. It was one of those still
December mornings when the sky is covered with gray clouds. The wind
was too light to disperse the thick fog, through which the bare trees
and damp house fronts seemed strangely unfamiliar. The very silence
was gloomy. There is such a thing as a silence full of light and
gladness; on a bright day there is a certain joyousness about the
slightest sound, but in such dreary weather nature is not silent, she
is dumb. All sounds seemed to die away, stifled by the heavy air.

There was something in the gloom without him that harmonized with
Colonel Genestas' mood; his heart was oppressed with grief, and
thoughts of death filled his mind. Involuntarily he began to think of
the cloudless sky on that lovely spring morning, and remembered how
bright the valley had looked when he passed through it for the first
time; and now, in strong contrast with that day, the heavy sky above
him was a leaden gray, there was no greenness about the hills, which
were still waiting for the cloak of winter snow that invests them with
a certain beauty of its own. There was something painful in all this
bleak and bare desolation for a man who was traveling to find a grave
at his journey's end; the thought of that grave haunted him. The lines
of dark pine-trees here and there along the mountain ridges against
the sky seized on his imagination; they were in keeping with the
officer's mournful musings. Every time that he looked over the valley
that lay before him, he could not help thinking of the trouble that
had befallen the canton, of the man who had died so lately, and of the
blank left by his death.

Before long, Genestas reached the cottage where he had asked for a cup
of milk on his first journey. The sight of the smoke rising above the
hovel where the charity-children were being brought up recalled vivid
memories of Benassis and of his kindness of heart. The officer made up
his mind to call there. He would give some alms to the poor woman for
his dead friend's sake. He tied his horse to a tree, and opened the
door of the hut without knocking.

"Good-day, mother," he said, addressing the old woman, who was sitting
by the fire with the little ones crouching at her side. "Do you
remember me?"

"Oh! quite well, sir! You came here one fine morning last spring and
gave us two crowns."

"There, mother! that is for you and the children"

"Thank you kindly, sir. May Heaven bless you!"

"You must not thank me, mother," said the officer; "it is all through
M. Benassis that the money had come to you."

The old woman raised her eyes and gazed at Genestas.

"Ah! sir," she said, "he has left his property to our poor
countryside, and made all of us his heirs; but we have lost him who
was worth more than all, for it was he who made everything turn out
well for us."

"Good-bye, mother! Pray for him," said Genestas, making a few playful
cuts at the children with his riding-whip.

The old woman and her little charges went out with him; they watched
him mount his horse and ride away.

He followed the road along the valley until he reached the bridle-path
that led to La Fosseuse's cottage. From the slope above the house he
saw that the door was fastened and the shutters closed. In some
anxiety he returned to the highway, and rode on under the poplars, now
bare and leafless. Before long he overtook the old laborer, who was
dressed in his Sunday best, and creeping slowly along the road. There
was no bag of tools on his shoulder.

"Good-day, old Moreau!"

"Ah! good-day, sir. . . . I mind who you are now!" the old fellow
exclaimed after a moment. "You are a friend of monsieur, our late
mayor! Ah! sir, would it not have been far better if God had only
taken a poor rheumatic old creature like me instead? It would not have
mattered if He had taken me, but HE was the light of our eyes."

"Do you know how it is that there is no one at home up there at La
Fosseuse's cottage?"

The old man gave a look at the sky.

"What time is it, sir? The sun has not shone all day," he said.

"It is ten o'clock."

"Oh! well, then, she will have gone to mass or else to the cemetery.
She goes there every day. He has left her five hundred livres a year
and her house for as long as she lives, but his death has fairly
turned her brain, as you may say----"

"And where are you going, old Moreau?"

"Little Jacques is to be buried to-day, and I am going to the funeral.
He was my nephew, poor little chap; he had been ailing for a long
while, and he died yesterday morning. It really looked as though it
was M. Benassis who kept him alive. That is the way! All these younger
ones die!" Moreau added, half-jestingly, half-sadly.

Genestas reined in his horse as he entered the town, for he met
Gondrin and Goguelat, each carrying a pickaxe and shovel. He called to
them, "Well, old comrades, we have had the misfortune to lose him----"

"There, there, that is enough, sir!" interrupted Goguelat, "we know
that well enough. We have just been cutting turf to cover his grave."

"His life will make a grand story to tell, eh?"

"Yes," answered Goguelat, "he was the Napoleon of our valley, barring
the battles."

As they reached the parsonage, Genestas saw a little group about the
door; Butifer and Adrien were talking with M. Janvier, who, no doubt,
had just returned from saying mass. Seeing that the officer made as
though he were about to dismount, Butifer promptly went to hold the
horse, while Adrien sprang forward and flung his arms about his
father's neck. Genestas was deeply touched by the boy's affection,
though no sign of this appeared in the soldier's words or manner.

"Why, Adrien," he said, "you certainly are set up again. My goodness!
Thanks to our poor friend, you have almost grown into a man. I shall
not forget your tutor here, Master Butifer."

"Oh! colonel," entreated Butifer, "take me away from here and put me
into your regiment. I cannot trust myself now that M. le Maire is
gone. /He/ wanted me to go for a soldier, didn't he? Well, then, I
will do what he wished. He told you all about me, and you will not be
hard on me, will you, M. Genestas?"

"Right, my fine fellow," said Genestas, as he struck his hand in the
other's. "I will find something to suit you, set your mind at rest
---- And how is it with you, M. le Cure?"

"Well, like every one else in the canton, colonel, I feel sorrow for
his loss, but no one knows as I do how irreparable it is. He was like
an angel of God among us. Fortunately, he did not suffer at all; it
was a painless death. The hand of God gently loosed the bonds of a
life that was one continual blessing to us all."

"Will it be intrusive if I ask you to accompany me to the cemetery? I
should like to bid him farewell, as it were."

Genestas and the cure, still in conversation, walked on together.
Butifer and Adrien followed them at a few paces distance. They went in
the direction of the little lake, and as soon as they were clear of
the town, the lieutenant-colonel saw on the mountain-side a large
piece of waste land enclosed by walls.

"That is the cemetery," the cure told him. "He is the first to be
buried in it. Only three months before he was brought here, it struck
him that it was a very bad arrangement to have the churchyard round
the church; so, in order to carry out the law, which prescribes that
burial grounds should be removed a stated distance from human
dwellings, he himself gave this piece of land to the commune. We are
burying a child, poor little thing, in the new cemetery to-day, so we
shall have begun by laying innocence and virtue there. Can it be that
death is after all a reward? Did God mean it as a lesson for us when
He took these two perfect natures to Himself? When we have been tried
and disciplined in youth by pain, in later life by mental suffering,
are we so much nearer to Him? Look! there is the rustic monument which
has been erected to his memory."

Genestas saw a mound of earth about twenty feet high. It was bare as
yet, but dwellers in the district were already busily covering the
sloping sides with green turf. La Fosseuse, her face buried in her
hands, was sobbing bitterly; she was sitting on the pile of stones in
which they had planted a great wooden cross, made from the trunk of a
pine-tree, from which the bark had not been removed. The officer read
the inscription; the letters were large, and had been deeply cut in
the wood.


                               D. O. M.

                              HERE LIES

                      THE GOOD MONSIEUR BENASSIS

                         THE FATHER OF US ALL

                             PRAY FOR HIM.


"Was it you, sir," asked Genestas, "who----?"

"No," answered the cure; "it is simply what is said everywhere, from
the heights up there above us down to Grenoble, so the words have been
carved here."

Genestas remained silent for a few moments. Then he moved from where
he stood and came nearer to La Fosseuse, who did not hear him, and
spoke again to the cure.

"As soon as I have my pension," he said, "I will come to finish my
days here among you."



ADDENDUM

The following personage appears in other stories of the Human Comedy.

Murat, Joachim, Prince
  The Vendetta
  The Gondreville Mystery
  Colonel Chabert
  Domestic Peace





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