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Title: Rosin the Beau
Author: Richards, Laura Elizabeth Howe, 1850-1943
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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 "Rosin the Beau" ***

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ROSIN THE BEAU

       *       *       *       *       *

The Captain January Series

By LAURA E. RICHARDS

Over 350,000 copies of these books have been sold

          CAPTAIN JANUARY                          $ .50
            Same. Illustrated Holiday Edition.      1.25
            Same. Centennial Edition Limited.       2.50

          MELODY                                     .50
            Same. Illustrated Holiday Edition.      1.25

          MARIE                                      .50

          ROSIN THE BEAU                             .50

          NARCISSA                                   .50

          SOME SAY                                   .50

          JIM OF HELLAS                              .50

          SNOW WHITE                                 .50

Each volume attractively bound in cloth, with handsome new cover design.
Frontispiece by Frank T. Merrill

DANA ESTES & COMPANY PUBLISHERS Estes Press, Summer Street, Boston

       *       *       *       *       *

[Illustration]


ROSIN THE BEAU

by

LAURA E. RICHARDS

Author of
"Captain January," "Snow-White," "Three Margarets," "Queen Hildegarde,"
etc.



[Illustration]

Boston
Dana Estes & Company
Publishers



          TO
          My Sister Maud



ROSIN THE BEAU.



CHAPTER I.


MELODY, MY DEAR CHILD:

I SIT down to write my story for you, the life-story of old Rosin the
Beau, your friend and true lover. Some day, not far distant now, my
fiddle and I shall be laid away, in the quiet spot you know and love;
and then (for you will miss me, Melody, well I know that!) this writing
will be read to you, and you will hear my voice still, and will learn to
know me better even than you do now; though that is better than any one
else living knows me.

When people ask me where I hail from, our good, neighbourly, down-east
way, I answer "From the Androscoggin;" and that is true enough as far as
it goes, for I have spent many years on and about the banks of that fine
river; but I have told you more than that. You know something of the
little village where I was born and brought up, far to the northeast of
your own home village. You know something, too, of my second mother, as
I call her,--Abby Rock; but of my own sweet mother I have spoken little.
Now you shall hear.

The first thing I can remember is my mother's playing. She was a
Frenchwoman, of remarkable beauty and sweetness. Her given name was
Marie, but I have never known her maiden surname: I doubt if she knew it
herself. She came, quite by accident, being at the time little more than
a child, to the village where my father, Jacques De Arthenay, lived; he
saw her, and loved her at the sight. She consented to marry him, and I
was their only child. My father was a stern, silent man, with but one
bright thing in his life,--his love for my mother. Whenever she came
before his eyes, the sun rose in his face, but for me he had no great
affection; he was incapable of dividing his heart. I have now and then
seen a man with this defect; never a woman.

My first recollection, I said, is of my mother's playing. I see myself,
sitting on a great black book, the family Bible. I must have been very
small, and it was a large Bible, and lay on a table in the sitting-room.
I see my mother standing before me, with her violin on her arm. She is
light, young, and very graceful; beauty seems to flow from her face in a
kind of dark brightness, if I may use such an expression; her eyes are
soft and deep. I have seen no other eyes like my mother Marie's. She
taps the violin with the bow; then she taps me under the chin.

"_Dis 'Bon jour!' petit Jacques!_" and I say "Bo' zour!" as well as I
can, and duck my head, for a bow is expected of me. No bow, no music,
and I am quivering with eagerness for the music. Now she draws the bow
across the strings, softly, smoothly,--ah, my dear, you have heard only
me play, all your life; if you could have heard my mother! As I see her
and hear her, this day of my babyhood, the song she plays is the little
French song that you love. If you could have heard her sing!

  "A la claire fontaine                 As I went walking, walking,
   M'en allant promener,                Beside the fountain fair,
   Jai trouvé l'eau si belle            I found its waves so lovely,
   Que je m'y suis baigné.              I stayed to bathe me there.
   Il y a longtemps que je              'Tis long and long I have
      t'aime,                               loved thee,
   Jamais je ne t'oublierai!"           I'll ne'er forget thee more.

It is the song of my life, Melody; I never told you that before, but it
has always pleased me well that you cared for it.

As my mother sings the last words, she bends and kisses the violin,
which was always a living personage to her. Her head moves like a bird's
head, quickly and softly. I see her face all brightness, as I have told
you; then suddenly a shadow falls on it. My back is towards the door,
but she stands facing it. I feel myself snatched up by hands like
quivering steel; I am set down--not roughly--on the floor. My father
turns a terrible face on my mother.

"Mary!" he cried. "He was on the Bible! You--you set the child on the
Holy Bible!"

I am too frightened to cry out or move, but my mother Marie lays down
her violin in its box--as tenderly as she would lay me in my cradle--and
goes to my father, and puts her arm round his neck, and speaks to him
low and gently, stroking back his short, fair hair. Presently the
frightful look goes out of his face; it softens into love and sadness;
they go hand-in-hand into the inner room, and I hear their voices
together speaking gravely, slowly. I do not know that they are
praying,--I have known it since. I watch the flies on the window, and
wish my father had not come.

That, Melody, is the first thing I remember. It must have been after
that, that my father made me a little chair, and my mother made a gay
cushion for it, with scarlet frills, and I sat always in that. Our
kitchen was a sunny room, full of bright things; Mother Marie kept
everything shining. The floor was painted yellow, and the rugs were
scarlet and blue; she dyed the cloth herself, and made them beautifully.
There was always a fire--or so it seems now--in the great black gulf of
a fireplace, and the crane hung over it, with pots and kettles. The
firelight was thrown back from bright pewter and glass and copper all
about the walls; I have never seen so gay a room. And always flowers in
the window, and always a yellow cat on a red cushion. No canary bird; my
mother Marie never would have a bird. "No prisoners!" she would say.
Once a neighbour brought her a wounded sparrow; she nursed and tended it
till spring, then set it loose and watched it fly away.

This neighbour was a boy, some years older than myself; he is one of the
people I remember best. Petie we called him; Peter Brand; he died long
ago. He had been a comfort to my mother Marie, in days of
sadness,--before my birth, for she was never sad after I came,--and she
loved him, and he clung to her. He was a round-faced boy, with hair
almost white; awkward and shy, but very good to me.

As I grew older my mother taught me many French songs and games, and
Petie often made a third with us. He made strange work of the French
speech; to me it came like running water, but to Petie it was like
pouring wine from a corked bottle. Mother Marie could not understand
this, and tried always to teach him. I can hear her cry out, "Not thus,
Petie! not! you break me the ears! Listen only!

          "'_Sur le pont d'Avignon_,'

_Encore!_ again, Petie! sing wiz p'tit Jacques!"

And Petie would drone out, all on one note (for the poor boy had no
music either),

          "_Sooly pong d'Avinnong_,"

And Mother Marie would put her hands to her ears and cry out, "Ah, _que
non_! ah, _que non_! you keell me in my heart!" and poor Petie would be
so ashamed! Then Mother Marie would be grieved for him, and would beat
herself, and say that she was a demon, a monster of cruelty; and she
would run to the cupboard and bring cakes and doughnuts (she always
called them "dont's," I remember that), and make Petie eat till his eyes
stood out. And it always ended in her taking out the violin, and playing
and singing our hearts to heaven. Petie loved music, when Mother Marie
made it.

I speak of cakes. There was no one in the village who could cook like my
mother; every one acknowledged that. Whatever she put her hand to was
done to perfection. And the prettiness of it all! A flower, a green
leaf, a bunch of parsley,--there was some delicate, pretty touch to
everything she did. I must have been still small when I began to notice
how she arranged the dishes on our table. These matters can mean but
little to you, my dear child; but the eyes of your mind are so quick, I
know it is one of your delights to fancy the colours and lights that you
cannot see. Some bright-coloured food, then,--fried fish, it might be,
which should be of a golden brown shade,--would be always on a dark blue
platter, while a dark dish, say beefsteak, would be on the creamy yellow
crockery that had belonged to my father's mother; and with it a wreath
of parsley or carrot, setting off the yellow still more. And always,
winter and summer, some flower, if only a single geranium-bloom, on the
table. So that our table was always like a festival. I think this
troubled my father, when his dark moods were on him. He thought it a
snare of the flesh. Sometimes, if the meal were specially dainty, he
would eat nothing but dry bread, and this grieved Mother Marie almost
more than anything else. I remember one day,--it was my birthday, and I
must have been quite a big boy by that time,--Mother Marie had made a
pretty rose-feast for me. The table was strewn with rose-leaves, and
there was a garland of roses round my plate, and they stood everywhere,
in cups and bowls. There was a round cake, too, with rose-coloured
frosting; I thought the angels might have such feasts on their
birthdays, but was sure no one else could.

But when my father came in,--I can see now his look of pain and terror.

"You are tempting the Lord, Mary!" he cried. "You are teaching our child
to love the lust of the flesh and the pride of the eye. It is sin, it is
sin, my wife!"

I trembled, for I feared he would throw my beautiful cake into the fire,
as I had once seen him throw a pretty salad. But my mother Marie took
his arm. The door stood open, and the warm June was shining through. She
led him to the doorway, and pointed to the sky.

"Look, _mon ami_!" she said, in her clear, soft voice. "See the day of
gold that the good God has made for our little Jacques! He fills the
garden wiz roses,--I bring His roses in ze house. It is that He love ze
roses, and ze little child, and thee and me, my poor Jacques; for He
make us all, is it not?"

And presently, with her soft hand on his arm, the pain went from my poor
father, and he came in and sat down with us, and even patted my head and
tasted the cake. I recall many such scenes as this, my dear child. And
perhaps I should say that my mind was, and has always remained, with my
mother on such matters. If God gives food for the use of His creatures,
it is to His honour and glory to serve it handsomely, so far as may be;
and I see little religion in a slovenly piece of meat, or a shapeless
hunch of butter on a dingy plate.

My mother having this gift of grace, it was not strange that the
neighbours often called on her for some service of making beautiful. At
a wedding or a merrymaking of any kind she would be sent for, and the
neighbours, who were plain people, thought her gift more than natural.
People still speak of her in all that part of the country, though she
has been dead sixty odd years, little Mother Marie. She would have liked
to make the meeting-house beautiful each Sabbath with flowers, but this
my father could not hear of, and she never urged it after the first
time. At a funeral, too, she must arrange the white blossoms, and lay
the pale hands together. Abby Rock has told me many stories of the
comfort she brought to sorrowing homes, with her sweet, light, quiet
ways. Abby loved her as her own child.

As I grew older, my mother taught me the violin. I learned eagerly. I
need not say much about that, Melody; my best playing has been for you,
and you know all I could tell you; I learned, and it became the breath
of life to me. My lessons were in the morning always, so that my father
might not hear the sound; but this was not because he did not love the
violin. Far otherwise! In the long winter evenings my mother Marie would
play for him, after I was tucked up in my trundle-bed; music of
religious quality, which stirred his deep, silent nature strongly. She
had learned all the psalm-tunes that he loved, stern old Huguenot
melodies, many of them, that had come over from France with his
ancestor, and been sung down through the generations since. And with
these she played soft, tender airs,--I never knew what they were, but
they could wile the heart out of one's breast. I sometimes would lift my
head from my pillow, and look through the open door at the warm, light
kitchen beyond (for my mother Marie could not bear to shut me into the
cold, dark little bedroom; my door stood open all night, and if I woke
in the night, the coals would always wink me a friendly greeting, and I
could hear the cat purring on her cushion). I would look, I say, through
the open door. There would my mother stand, with the light, swaying way
she had, like a flower or a young white birch in the wind; her cheek
resting on the violin, her eyelids dropped, as they mostly were when she
played, and the long lashes black against her soft, clear paleness. And
my father Jacques sitting by the fire, his chin in his hand, still as a
carved image, looking at her with his heart in his eyes. That is the way
I think of them oftenest, Melody, my dear, as I look back to the days
long ago; this is the way I mostly see my father and mother, Jacques and
Marie De Arthenay, a faithful husband and wife.



CHAPTER II.


OUR village was not far from the sea, and my mother often took me down
to the beach. It was a curving beach of fine sand, bright and warm, and
the rocks that shut it in were warm, too, brown and yellow; it was a
sunny, heartsome place as ever I saw. I remember one day,--many days,
and this one of them,--when the three of us went down to the beach,
Mother Marie and Petie Brand and I. The Lady, the violin, went too, of
course, and we had our music, and it left us heartened through and
through, and friends with all the world. Then we began to skip stones,
three children together. Petie and I were only learning, and Mother
Marie laughed at our stones, which would go flopping and tumbling a
little way, then sink with a splash.

"They are ducks!" she said. (She called it "docks," Melody; you cannot
think how soft her speech was.) "Poor leetle docks, that go flap, flap;
not yet zey have learned to swim, no! But here now, see a bird of ze
water, a sea-bird what you call." She turned her wrist and sent the flat
pebble flying; it skimmed along like a live thing, flipping the little
crests of the ripples, going miles, it seemed to Petie and me, till at
length we lost sight of it altogether.

"Where did it go?" I asked. "I didn't hear it splash."

"It went--to France!" said Mother Marie. "It make a voyage, it goes,
goes,--at last it arrives. '_Voilà la France!_' it say. 'That I go
ashore, to ask of things for Marie, and for _petit Jacques_, and for
Petie too, good Petie, who bring the apples.'"

There were red apples in a basket, and I can see now the bright
whiteness of her teeth as she set them into one.

"What will the stone see?" I asked again; for I loved to make my mother
tell me of the things she remembered in France, the country she always
loved. She loved to tell, too; and a dreamy look would come into her
eyes at such times, as if she did not see us near at hand, but only
things far off and dim. We listened, Petie and I, as if for a fairy
tale.

"He come, zat leetle--non! _that lit_-tel stone." (Mother Marie could
often pronounce our English "th" quite well; it was only when she forgot
that she slipped back to the soft "z" which I liked much better.) "He
come to the shore! It is not as this shore, no! White is the sand, the
rocks black, black. All about are nets, very great, and boats. The men
are great and brown; and their beards--Holy Cric! their beards are a
bush for owls; and striped their shirt, jersey, what you call, and blue
trousers. Zey come in from sea, their sails are brown and red; the boats
are full wiz fish, that shine like silver; they are the herring, _petit
Jacques_, it is of those that we live a great deal. Down zen come ze
women to ze shore and zey--_they_--are dressed beautiful, ah! so
beautiful! A red petticoat,--sometimes a blue, but I love best the red,
striped wiz white, and over this the dress turned up, _à la
blanchisseuse_. A handkerchief round their neck, and gold earrings,--ah!
long ones, to touch their neck; and gold beads, most beautiful! and then
the cap! _P'tit Jacques_, thou hast not seen caps, because here they
have not the understanding. But! white, like snow in ze sun; the muslin
clear, you understand, and stiff that it cracks,--ah! of a beauty! and
standing out like wings here, and here--you do not listen! you make not
attention, bad children that you are! Go! I tell you no more!"

It was true, Melody, my dear, that Petie and I did not care so much
about the descriptions of dress as if we had been little girls; my
mother was never weary of telling about the caps and earrings; I think
she often longed for them, poor little Mother Marie! But now Petie and I
clung about her, and begged her to go on, and she never could keep her
vexation for two minutes.

"Tell how they go up the street!" said Petie.

"Play we went, too!" cried I. "Play the stone was a boat, Mère Marie."
(I said it as one word, Melody; it makes a pretty name, "Mère-Marie,"
when the pronunciation is good. To hear our people say "M'ree" or
"Marry," breaks the heart, as my mother used to say.)

She nodded, pleased enough to play,--for she was a child, as I have told
you, in many, many ways, though with a woman's heart and
understanding,--and clapped our hands softly together, as she held them
in hers.

"We, then, yes! we three, Mère-Marie, _p'tit Jacques_, and Petie, we go
up from the beach, up the street that goes tic tac, zic zac, here and
there, up the hill; very steep in zose parts. We come to one place, it
is steps--"

"Steps in the street?"

"Steps that make the street, but yes! and on them (white steps, clean!
ah! of a cleanness!), in the sun, sit the old women, and spin, and sing,
and tell stories. Ah! the fine steps. They, too, have caps, but they are
brown in the faces, and striped--"

"Striped, Mère-Marie? painted, do you mean?"

"She said the steps had caps!" whispered Petie, incredulous, but too
eager for the story to interrupt the teller.

"Painted? wat you mean of foolishness, _p'tit Jacques_? Ah! I was wrong!
not striped; wreenkled, you say? all up togezzer like a brown apple when
he is dry up,--like zis way!" and Mother Marie drew her pretty face all
together in a knot, and looked so comical that we went into fits of
laughter.

"So! zey sit, ze old women, and talk, talk, wiz ze heads together; but
one sit alone, away from those others, and she sing. Her voice go up,
thin, thin, like a little cold wind in ze boat-ropes.

          "'Il était trois mat'lots de Groix,
            Il était trois mat'lots de Groix,
            Embarqués sur le Saint François,
              Tra la derira, la la la,
              Tra la derira la laire!'[1]

"I make learn you that song, _petit Jacques_, one time! So we
come,--now, _mes enfants_, we come! and all the old women point the
nose, and say, 'Who is it comes there?' But that one old--but Mère
Jeanne, she cry out loud, loud. 'Marie! _petite Marie_, where hast thou
been so long, so long?' She opens the arms--I fall into zem, on my
knees; I cry--but hush, _p'tit Jacques_! I cry now only in ze story,
only--to--to show thee how it would be! I say, 'It is me, Marie, Mère
Jeanne! I come to show thee my little son, to take thy blessing. And my
little friend, too!'" She turned to pat Petie's head; she would not let
the motherless boy feel left out, even from a world in which he had no
part.

"My good friend Petie, whose mother is with the saints. Then Mère
Jeanne, she take all our hands, after she has her weep; she say 'Come!'
and we go up ze street, up, up, till we come to Mère Jeanne's house."

"Tell about the house!" I cried.

"Holy Cric! what a house!" cried Mère-Marie, clapping her hands
together. "It is stone, painted white, clean, like new cheese; the roof
beautiful, straw, warm, thick,--ah! what roofs! I have tried to teach
thy father to make them, but no! Inside, it is dark and warm, and full
wiz good smells. Now it is the _pot-au-feu_, but not every day zis, for
Mère Jeanne is poor; but always somesing, fish to fry, or pancakes, or
apples. But zis time, Mère Jeanne make me a _fête_; she say, 'It is the
_Fête Marie_!'

"She make the fire bright, bright; and she bring big chestnuts, two
handfuls of zem, and set zem on ze shovel to roast; and zen she put ze
greedle, and she mixed ze batter in a great bowl--it is yellow, that
bowl, and the spoon, it is horn. She show it to me, she say, 'Wat leetle
child was eat wiz this spoon, Marie? hein?' and I--I kiss the spoon; I
say, '_'Tite Marie, Mère Jeanne! 'Tite Marie qui t'aime!_'[2] It is the
first words I could say of my life, _mes enfants_!

"Zen she laugh, and nod her head, and she stir, stir, stir till ze
bobbles come--"

"The way they do when you make griddle-cakes, Mère-Marie?"

"Ah! no! much, much, thousand time better, Mère Jeanne make zem! She
toss them--so! wiz ze spoon, and they shine like gold, and when they
come down--hop!--they say 'Sssssssssss!' that they like to fry for Mère
Jeanne, and for Marie, and _p'tit Jacques_, and good Petie. Then I bring
out the black table, and I know where the bread live, and the cheese,
and while the cakes fry, I go to milk the cow--ah! the pearl of cows,
children, white like her own cream, fat like a boiled chestnut, good
like an angel! She has not forgotten Marie, she rub her nose in my
heart, she sing to me. I take her wiz both my arms, I weep--ah! but it
is joy, _p'tit Jacques_! it is wiz joy I weep! Zen, again in ze house,
and round ze table, we all sit, and we eat, and eat, that we can eat no
more. And Mère Jeanne say:

"'Tell me of thy home, Marie!' and I tell all, all; of thy father
Jacques, how he good, and great, and handsome as Saint Michael; and how
my house is fine, fine, and how Abiroc is good. And Mère Jeanne, she
make the great eyes; she cry, 'Ah! the good fortune! Ah, Marie, that
thou art fortunate, that thou art happy!'

"Then she tell thee, _p'tit Jacques_, how I was little, little, in a
blue frock, wiz the cap tie under my chin; and how I dance and sing in
the street, and how _Madame la Comtesse_ see me, and take me to ze
castle, and make teach me the violin, and give me Madame for my friend.
I have told thee all, many, many times. Then she tell, Mère Jeanne,--oh!
she is good, good, and all ze time she fill thee wiz chestnuts that I
cry out lest thou die,--she tell how one day she come home from market,
and I am gone. No Marie! She look, she run here and there, she cry,
''Tite Marie, where art thou?' No Marie come. She run to the neighbours,
she search, she tear her cap; they tell her, 'Demand of thy son's wife!
The strange ship sailed this morning; we heard child cry; what do we
know?'

"For the wife of Mère Jeanne's Jeannot, she was a devil, as I have told
thee, a devil with both the eyes evil; and none dare say what she had
done, for fear of their children and their cows to die. And then, Mère
Jeanne she tell how she run to Jeannot's house,--she fear nossing, Mère
Jeanne! the good God protect her always. She cry, 'Where is Marie? where
is my child?' And Jeannot's Manon, she laugh, she say, 'Cross the sea
after her, old witch! Who keeps thee?' Then--see, _p'tit Jacques_! see,
Petie! I have not seen this wiz my eyes, no! but in my heart I have
seen, I know! Then Mère Jeanne run at that woman, that devil; and she
pull off her cap and tread it wiz her foot; and she pull out her
hair,--never she had much, but since this day none!--and she scratch her
face and tear the clothes--ah! Mère Jeanne is mild like a cherub till
she is angry, but then-- And that devil scream, scream, but no one come,
no one care; they are all glad, they laugh to hear. Till Jeannot run in,
and catch his mother and hold her hands, and take her home to her house.
She tell me all this, Mère Jeanne, and it is true, and I know it in my
heart. But now she is dead, that witch, and the great devil has her, and
that is well." (I think my father would have lost his wits, Melody, if
he had heard the way my mother talked to me sometimes; but it was a
child's talk, my dear, and there was no harm. A child who had been
brought up among ignorant peasants; how should she know better, poor
little Mother Marie?)

"But now, see, _mes enfants_! We must come back across the sea, for ze
sun, he begin to go away down. So I tell zis, and Mère Jeanne she cry,
she take us wiz her arms, she cannot let us go. But I take Madame on my
arm, I go out in ze street, I begin to play wiz my hand. Then all come,
all run, all cry, 'Marie! Marie is here wiz her _violon_!' And I play,
play and sing, and the little children dance, dance, and _p'tit Jacques_
and Petie take them the hands and dance wiz--

          "'Eh! gai, Coco,
            Eh! gai, Coco,
            Eh! venez voir la danse
            Du petit marmot!
            Eh! venez voir la danse
            Du petit marmot!'

"Adieu, adieu, Mère Jeanne! adieu, la France! but you, _mes enfants_;
why do _you_ cry?"

FOOTNOTES:

[1]
    There were three sailor-lads of Groix,
    There were three sailor-lads of Groix,
    They sailèd in the Saint François,
          Tra la derira, etc.

[2] Little Marie, Mother Jeanne! Little Marie who loves you.



CHAPTER III.


I WAS twelve years old when my mother died. She had no illness, or none
that we had known of; the sweet soul of her slipped away in the night
like a bird, and left the body smiling asleep. We never knew what ailed
her; people did not torment themselves in those days with the "how" of a
thing. There may have been talk behind the village doors, but my father
never asked. She was gone, and his heart was gone with her, my poor
father. She was all the joy of his life, and he never had any more; I
never remember seeing him smile after that time. What gave him the best
comfort was trying to keep things pretty and bright, as she liked to see
them. He was neat as a woman, and he never allowed a speck of dust on
the chairs, or a withered leaf on the geraniums. He never would let me
touch her flowers, but I was set to polish the pewter and
copper,--indeed, my mother had taught me that,--and he watched jealously
lest any dimness come on them. I sometimes wondered at all this, as he
had so lately counted these matters of adornment and prettiness and such
as less than nothing, and vanity, as the preacher has it. But I think
his great grief put a sacredness, as it were, over everything that had
been hers, and all her ways seemed heavenly to him now, even though he
had frowned at them (never at her, Melody, my dear! never at her!) when
she was still with him.

My father wished me to help him in the farm work, but I had no turn for
that. I was growing up tall and weedy, and most like my strength went
into that. However it was, there was little of it for farming, and less
liking. Father Jacques made up his mind that I was no good for anything,
but Abby Rock stood up for me.

"The boy is not strong enough for farming, Jacques!" she said. "He's
near as tall as you, now, and not fifteen yet. Put him to learn a trade,
and he'll be a credit to you."

So I was put to learn shoemaking, and a good trade it has been to me all
my life. The shoemaker was a kind old man, who had known me from a baby,
and he contrived to make my work easy for me,--seeing I took kindly to
it,--and often let me have the afternoon to myself. My lungs were weak,
or Abby thought they were, and the doctor had told her I must not sit
too long over my bench, but must be out in the air as much as might be,
though not at hard labour. Then,--those afternoons, I am saying,--I
would be off like a flash with my fiddle,--off to the yellow sand beach
where the round pebbles lay. I could never let my poor father hear me
play; it was a knife in his heart even to see the Lady; and these hours
on the beach were my comfort, and kept the spirit alive in me. Looking
out to sea, I could still feel my mother Marie beside me, still hear her
voice singing, so gay, so sad,--singing all ways, as the wind blows. She
had no voice like yours, Melody, my dear, but it was small and sweet as
a bird's; sweet as a bird's! It was there, on the yellow sand beach,
that I first met Father L'Homme-Dieu, the priest.

I have told you a great deal about this good man, Melody. He came of old
French stock, like ourselves,--like most of the people in our village;
only his people had always been Catholics. His village, where he had a
little wooden church, was ten or twelve miles from ours, but he was the
only priest for twenty miles round, and he rode or walked long
distances, visiting the scattered families that belonged to his
following. He chanced to come to the beach one day when I was there, and
stayed to hear me play. I never knew he was there till I turned to go
home; but then he spoke to me, and asked about my music and my home, and
talked so kindly and wisely that my heart went out to him that very
hour. He took to me, too; he was a lonely man, and there was none in his
own neighbourhood that he cared to make his friend; and seldom a week
passed that he did not find his way to the beach, for an hour of music
and talk. Talk! How we did talk! There was always a book in his pocket,
too, and he would read some fine passage aloud, and then we would
discuss it, and turn it over and over, and let it draw our own thoughts
like a magnet. It was a rare chance for a country boy, Melody! Here was
a scholar, and as fine a gentleman as ever I met, and the heart of a
child and a wise man melted into one; and I like his own son for the
kindness he gave me. Sometimes I went to his house, but not often, for I
could not take so long a time away from my work. He lived in a little
house like a bird's house, and the little brown woman who did for him
was like a bird, and of all curious things, her name was Sparrow,--the
widow Sparrow.

There was a little study, where he sat at a desk in the middle, and
could pull down any book, almost, with no more than tilting his chair;
and there was a little dining-room, and a closet with a window in it,
where his bed stood. All these rooms were lined with books, most of them
works of theology and religion, but plenty of others, too: poetry, and
romances, and plays,--he was a great reader, and his books were all the
friends he had, he used to say, till he found me. I should have been his
son, he would say; and then lay his hand on my head and bid me be good,
and say my prayers, and keep my heart true and clean. He never talked
much to me of his own church (knowing my father by name and reputation),
only made plain to me the love of God, and taught me to seek it through
loving man.

I used to wonder how he came to be there, in the wilderness, as it must
often have seemed to him, for he had travelled much, and was city-bred,
his people having left the seacoast and settled inland in his
grandfather's time. One day, as I stood by his desk waiting for him, I
saw a box that always lay there, set open; and in it was a portrait of a
most beautiful lady in a rich dress. The portrait was in a gold frame
set with red stones,--rubies, they may have been,--and was a rich jewel
indeed. While I stood looking at it, Father L'Homme-Dieu came in; and at
sight of the open box, and me looking at it, his face, that was like old
ivory in its ordinary look, flushed dark red as the stones themselves. I
was sorely vexed at myself, and frightened too, maybe; but the change
passed from him, and he spoke in his own quiet voice. "That is the first
half of my life, Jacques!" he said. "It is set in heart's blood, my
son." And told me that this was his sweetheart who was drowned at sea,
and it was after her death that he became a priest, and came to find
some few sheep in the wilderness, near the spot where his fathers had
lived. Then he bade me look well at the sweet face, and when my time
should come to love, seek out one, if not so fair (as he thought there
were none such), still one as true, and pure, and tender, and loving
once, let it last till death; and so closed the box, and I never saw it
open again.

All this time I never let my father know about Father L'Homme-Dieu. It
would have seemed to him a terrible thing that his son should be friends
with a priest of the Roman Church, which he held a thing accursed. I
thought it no sin to keep his mind at peace, and clear of this thing,
for a cloud was gathering over him, my poor father. I told Abby,
however, good Abby Rock; and though it shocked her at first, she was
soon convinced that I brought home good instead of harm from my talks
with Father L'Homme-Dieu. She it was who begged me not to tell my
father, and she knew him better than any one else did, now that my
mother Marie was gone. She told me, too, of the danger that hung over my
poor father. The dark moods, since my mother's death, came over him more
and more often; it seemed, when he was in one of them, that his mind was
not itself. He never slighted his work,--that was like the breath he
drew,--but when it was done, he would sit for hours brooding by the
fireplace, looking at the little empty chair where my mother used to sit
and sing at her sewing. And sitting so and brooding, now and again there
would come over him as it were a blindness, and a forgetting of all
about him, so that when he came out of it he would cry out, asking where
he was, and what had been done to him. He would forget, too, that my
mother was gone, and would call her, "Mary! Mary!" so that one's heart
ached to hear him; and then Abby or I must make it clear to him again,
and see the dumb suffering of him, like a creature that had not the
power of speech, and knew nothing but pain and remembrance.

I might have been seventeen or eighteen at this time; I do not recall
the precise year. I was doing well with my shoemaking, and when this
trouble grew on my poor father I brought my bench into the kitchen, so
that I might have him always in sight. This was well enough for every
day, but already I was beginning to be sent for here and there, among
the neighbouring villages, to play the fiddle. The people of my father's
kind were passing away, those who thought music a device of the devil,
and believed that dancing feet were treading the road to hell. He was
still a power in our own village; but in the country round about the
young folks were learning the use of their feet, and none could hinder
them, being the course of nature, since young lambs first skipped in the
meadows. It was an old farmer, a good, jolly kind of man, who first gave
me the name of "Rosin." He sent for me to play at his barn-raising, and
a pretty sight it was; a fine new barn, Melody, all smelling sweet of
fresh wood, and hung with lanterns, and a vast quantity of fruits and
vegetables and late flowers set all about. Pretty, pretty! I have never
seen a prettier barn-raising than that, and I have fiddled at a many
since then. Well, this old gentleman calls to me across the floor, "Come
here, young Rosin!" I remember his very words. "Come here, young Rosin!
I can't get my tongue round your outlandish name, but Rosin'll do well
enough for you." Well, it stuck to me, the name did, and I was never
sorry, for I did not like to carry my father's name about overmuch, he
misliking the dancing as he did. The young folks caught up an old song,
and tagged that name on too, and called me Rosin the Bow. So it was
first, Melody; but there are two songs, as you know, my dear, to the
one tune (or one tune is all I know, and fits both sets of words), and
the second song spells the word "Beau," and so some merry girls in a
house where I often went to play, they vowed I should be Rosin the Beau.
I suppose I may have been rather a good-looking lad, from what they used
to say; and to make a long story short, it was by that name that I came
to be known through the country, and shall be known till I die. An old
beau enough now, my little girl; eighty years old your Rosin will be, if
he lives till next September. I took to playing the air whenever I
entered a room; it made a little effect, a little stir,--I was young and
foolish, and it took little to please me in those days. But I have
always thought, and think still, that a man, as well as a woman, should
make the best of the mortal part of him; and I do not know why we should
not be thankful for a well-looking body as for a well-ordered mind. I
cannot abide to see a man shamble or slouch, or throw his arms and legs
about as if they were timber logs. Many is the time I have said to my
scholars, when I was teaching dancing-school,--great lumbering fellows,
hulking through a quadrille as if they were pacing a raft in
log-running,--"Don't insult your Creator by making a scarecrow of the
body He has seen fit to give you. With reverence, He might have given it
to one of better understanding; but since you have it, for piety's sake
hold up your head, square your shoulders, and put your feet in the first
position!"

But I wander from the thread of my story, as old folks will do. After
all, it is only a small story, of a small life; not every man is born to
be great, my dear. Yet, while I sat on my shoemaker's bench, stitching
away, I thought of greatness, as I suppose most boys do. I thought of a
scholar's life, like that of Father L'Homme-Dieu before his sorrow came
to him; a life spent in cities, among libraries and learned, brilliant
people, men and women. I thought of a musician's life, and dreamed of
the concerts and operas that I had never heard. The poet Wordsworth, my
dear, has written immortal words about the dreams of a boy, and my
dreams were fair enough. It seemed as if all the world outside were
clouded in a golden glory, if I may put it so, and as if I had only to
run forth and put aside this shining veil, to find myself famous, and
happy, and blessed. And when I came down from the clouds, and saw my
little black bench, and the tools and scraps of leather, and my poor
father sitting brooding over the fire, my heart would sink down within
me, and the longing would come strong upon me to throw down hammer and
last, and run away, out into that great world that was calling for me.
And so the days went by, and the months, and the years.



CHAPTER IV.


I WAS twenty years old when the change came in my life. I remember the
day was cold and bleak, an early spring day. My father had had an
accident a few days before. In one of his unconscious fits he had fallen
forward--I had left the room but for a moment--and struck his head
sharply against one of the fire-irons. He came to himself quite wild,
and seeing the blood, thought he had killed some one, and cried to us to
take him to prison as a murderer. It took Abby and me a long time to
quiet him. The shock and the pain of it all had shaken me more than I
knew, and I felt sick, and did not know what ailed me; but Abby knew,
and she sent me to see Father L'Homme-Dieu, while she sat with my
father. I was glad enough to go, more glad than my duty allowed, I fear;
yet I knew that Abby was better than I at caring for my father.

As I walked across the brown fields, where the green was beginning to
prick in little points here and there, I began to feel the life strong
in me once more. The dull cloud of depression seemed to drop away, and
instead of seeing always that sad, set face of my poor father's, I could
look up and around, and whistle to the squirrels, and note the
woodpecker running round the tree near me. It has remained a mystery to
me all my life, Melody, that this bird's brains are not constantly
addled in his head, from the violence of his rapping. When I was a
little boy, I tried, I remember, to nod my head as fast as his went
nodding: with the effect that I grew dizzy and sick, and Mother Marie
thought I was going to die, and said the White Paternoster over me five
times.

I looked about me, I say, and felt my spirit waking with the waking of
the year. Yet, though I was glad to feel alive and young once more, I
never thought I was going to anything new or wonderful. The wise, kind
friend would be there; we should talk, and I should come away refreshed
and strengthened, in peace and courage; I thought of nothing more. But
when the widow Sparrow opened the door to me, I heard voices from the
room within; a strange voice of a man, and the priest's answering. I
stopped short on the threshold.

"The Father is busy!" I said. "I will call again, when he is alone."

"Now don't you!" said Mrs. Sparrow, who was always fond of me, and
thought it a terrible walk for me to take, so young, and with the
"growing weakness" not out of me. "Don't ye go a step, Jacques! I expect
you can come in just as well as not. There is a gentleman here, but he's
so pleasant, I should wish to have you see him, if _I_ was the Father."

I was hesitating, all the shyness of a country-bred boy coming over me;
for I had a quick ear, and this strange voice was not like the voices I
was used to hearing; it was like Father L'Homme-Dieu's, fine and
high-bred. But the next instant Father L'Homme-Dieu had stepped to the
door of the study, and saw me.

"Come in, Jacques!" he cried. His eyes were bright, and his air gay, as
I had never seen it. "Come in, my son! I have a friend here, and you are
the very person I want him to meet." I stepped over the threshold
awkwardly enough, and stood before the stranger. He was a young man, a
few years older than myself; tall and slender,--we might have been twins
as far as height and build went, but there the resemblance ceased. He
was fair, with such delicate colouring that he might have looked
womanish but for the dark fiery blue of his eyes, and his little curled
moustache. He looked the way you fancy a prince looking, Melody, when
Auntie Joy tells you a fairy story, though he was simply dressed enough.

"Marquis," said Father L'Homme-Dieu, with a shade of ceremony that I had
never heard before in his tone, "let me present to you M. Jacques
D'Arthenay, my friend! Jacques, this is the Marquis de Ste. Valerie."

He gave my name the French pronunciation. It was kindly meant; at my
present age, I think it was perhaps rightly done; but then, it filled me
with a kind of rage. The angry blood of a false pride, a false humility,
surged to my brain and sang in my ears; and as the young man stepped
forward with outstretched hand, crying, "A compatriot. Welcome,
monsieur!" I drew back, stammering with anger. "My name is Jacques De
Arthenay!"[3] I said. "I am an American, a shoemaker, and the son of a
farmer."

There was a moment of silence, in which I seemed to live a year. I was
conscious of everything, the well-bred surprise of the young nobleman,
the half-amused vexation of the priest, my own clumsy, boyish rage and
confusion. In reality it was only a few seconds before I felt my
friend's hand on my shoulder, with its kind, fatherly touch.

"Sit down, my child!" he said. "Does it matter greatly how a name is
pronounced? It is the same name, and I pronounced it thus, not without a
reason. Sit down, and have peace!"

There was authority as well as kindness in his voice. I sat down, still
trembling and blushing. Father L'Homme-Dieu went on quietly, as if
nothing had happened.

"It was for the marquis's sake that I gave your name its former--and
correct--pronunciation, my son Jacques. If I mistake not, he is of the
same part of France from which your ancestors came. Huguenots of
Blanque, am I not right, marquis?"

I was conscious that the stranger, whom I was inwardly accusing as a
pretentious puppy, a slip of a dead and worthless tree, was looking at
me intently; my eyes seemed drawn to his whether I would or no. So
meeting those blue eyes, there passed as it were a flash from them into
mine, a flash that warmed and lightened, as a smile broke over his face.

"D'Arthenay!" he said, in a tone that seemed to search for some
remembrance. "_D'Arthenay, tenez foi! n'est-ce pas, monsieur?_"

I started. The words were the motto of my father's house. They were
engraved on the stone which marked the grave of my grandfather many
times back, Jacques, Sieur D'Arthenay. Seeing my agitation, the marquis
leaned forward eagerly. He was full of quick, light gestures, that
somehow brought my mother back to me.

"But, we are neighbours!" he cried. "We must be friends, M. D'Arthenay.
Your tower--it is a noble ruin--stands not a league from my château in
Blanque. The Ste. Valeries and the D'Arthenays were always friends,
since Adam was, and till the Grand Monarque separated them with his
accursed Revocation. Monsieur, that I am enchanted at this rencounter!
_La bonne aventure, oh gai! n'est-ce pas, mon père?_"

There was no resisting his eager gaiety. And when he quoted the nursery
song that my mother used to sing, my stubborn resentment--at what? who
can say?--broke and melted away, and I was smiling back into the bright,
merry eyes. Once more he held out his hand, and this time I took it
gladly. Father L'Homme-Dieu looked on in delight; it was a good moment.

After that the talk flowed freely. I found that the young marquis,
having come on a pleasure tour to the United States, had travelled thus
far out of the general route to look up the graves of some of his
mother's people, who had come out with Baron Castine, but had left him,
as my ancestor had done, on account of his marriage with the Indian
princess. They were the Belleforts of Blanque.

"Bellefort!" I cried. "That name is on several stones in our old
burying-ground. The Belforts of our village are their descendants,
Father L'Homme-Dieu."

"Not Ham?" cried the father, bursting into a great laugh. "Not Ham
Belfort, Jacques?"

I laughed back, nodding. "Just Ham, father!"

I never saw Father L'Homme-Dieu so amused. He struck his hands together,
and leaned back in his chair, repeating over and over, "Ham Belfort!
Cousin of the Marquis de Ste. Valerie! Ham Belfort! Is it possible?"

The young nobleman looked from one to the other of us curiously.

"But what?" he asked. "Ham! _c'est-à-dire, jambon, n'est-ce pas?_"

"It is also a Biblical name, marquis!" said Father L'Homme-Dieu. "I must
ask who taught you your catechism!"

"True! true!" said the marquis, slightly confused. "_Sem, Ham, et
Japhet_, perfectly! and--I have a cousin, it appears, named Jam--I
should say, Ham? Will you lead me to him, M. D'Arthenay, that I embrace
him?"

"You shall see him!" I said. "I don't think Ham is used to being
embraced, but I will leave that to you. I will take you to see him, and
to see the graves in the burying-ground, whenever you say."

"But now, at the present time, this instant!" cried Ste. Valerie,
springing from his chair. "Here is Father L'Homme-Dieu dying of me, in
despair at his morning broken up, his studies destroyed by chatter. Take
me with you, D'Arthenay, and show me all things; Ham, also his brothers,
and Noë and the Ark, if they find themselves also here. Amazing country!
astonishing people!"

So off we went together, he promising Mrs. Sparrow to return in time for
dinner, and informing her that she was a sylphide, which caused her to
say, "Go along!" in high delight. He had brought a letter to the priest,
from an old friend, and was to stay at the house.

Back across the brown fields we went. I was no longer alone; the world
was full of new light, new interest. I felt that it was good to be
alive; and when my companion began to sing in very lightness of heart, I
joined in, and sang with right good will.

          "La bonne aventure, oh gai!
           La bonne aventure!"

He told me that his mother always sang him this song when he had been a
good boy; I replied that mine had done the same. How many French
mothers have sung the merry little lilt, I wonder? We sang one snatch
and another, and I could not see that the marquise had had the advantage
of the little peasant girl, if it came to songs.

The marquis--but why should I keep to the empty title, which I was never
to use after that first hour? Nothing would do but that we should be
friends on the instant, and for life,--Jacques and Yvon. "Thus it was
two centuries ago," my companion declared, "thus shall it be now!" and
I, in my dream of wonderment and delight, was only too glad to have it
so.

We talked of a thousand things; or, to be precise, he talked, and I
listened. What had I to say that could interest him? But he was full of
the wonders of travel, the strangeness of the new world and the new
people. Niagara had shaken him to the soul, he told me; on the wings of
its thunder he had soared to the empyrean. How his fanciful turns of
expression come back to me as I write of him! He was proud of his
English, which was in general surprisingly good.

New York he did not like,--a savage in a Paris gown, with painted face;
but on Boston he looked with the eyes of a lover. What dignity! what
Puritan, what maiden grace of withdrawal! An American city, where one
feels oneself not a figure of chess, but a human being; where no street
resembles the one before it, and one can wander and be lost in
delicious windings! Ah! in Boston he could live, the life of a poet, of
a scholar.

"And then,--what, my friend? I come, I leave those joys, I come away
here, to--to the locality of jump-off, as you say,--and what do I find?
First, a pearl, a saint; for nobleness, a prince, for holiness, an
anchorite of Arabia,--Le Père L'Homme-Dieu! Next, the ancient friend of
my house, who becomes on the instant mine also, the brother for whom I
have yearned. With these, the graves of my venerable ancestors, heroes
of constancy, who lived for war and died for faith; graves where I go
even now, where I kneel to pay my duty of respect, to drop the filial
tear!"

"Don't forget your living relations!" I said, with some malice. "Here is
your cousin, coming to meet us."

FOOTNOTE:

[3] Pronounced Jakes Dee Arthenay.



CHAPTER V.


AN ox-team was lumbering along the road towards us. The huge oxen
lurched from side to side, half-asleep, making nothing of their load of
meal-sacks piled high in air; their driver walked beside, half-asleep,
too. He was a giant in height (six foot six, Melody, in his stockings! I
have measured him myself), and his white clothes made him look something
monstrous indeed. Yvon stared and gaped, as this vision came slowly
towards him.

"What--what is it?" he asked. "Is it a monster?"

"Oh, no!" I said. "It's only Ham Belfort. How are you, Ham?"

"Smart!" said Ham. "How be you? Hoish, Star! haw! Stand still there,
will ye?"

The oxen came to a halt willingly enough, and man and beasts stood
regarding us with calm, friendly eyes. Ham and his oxen looked so much
alike, Melody (the oxen were white, I ought to have said), that I
sometimes thought, if we dressed one of the beasts up and did away with
his horns, people would hardly know which was which.

"Taking a load over to Cato?"

Cato was the nearest town, my dear. It was there that the weekly boat
touched, which was our one link with the world of cities and railways.

Ham nodded; he was not given to unnecessary speech.

"Is your wife better? I heard she was poorly."

"No, she ain't! I expect she'll turn up her toes now most any day."

This seemed awkward. I muttered some expressions of regret, and was
about to move on, when my companion, who had been gazing speechless and
motionless at the figure before him, caught my arm.

"Present me!" he whispered. "Holy Blue! this is my cousin, my own blood!
Present me, Jacques!"

Now, I had never had occasion to make a formal introduction in my life,
Melody. I had not yet begun to act as master of ceremonies at balls,
only as fiddler and call-man; and it is the living truth that the only
form of words I could bring to mind at the moment was, "Gents, balance
to partners!" I almost said it aloud; but, fortunately, my wits came
back, and I stammered out, sorely embarrassed:

"Ham, this is--a gentleman--who--who is staying with Father
L'Homme-Dieu."

"That so? Pleased to meet you!" and Ham held out a hand like a shoulder
of mutton, and engulfed the marquis's slender fingers.

"I am delighted to make the acquaintance of Mr. Belfort," said Ste.
Valerie, with winning grace. "I please myself to think that we are
related by blood. My mother was a Bellefort of Blanque; it is the French
form of your name, Mr. Belfort."

"I want to know!" said Ham. "_Darned_ pleased to meet you!" He laboured
for a moment, casting a glance of appeal at the oxen, who showed no
disposition to assist him; then added, "You're slim-appearin' for a
Belfort; they run consid'able large in these parts."

"Truly, yes!" cried the marquis, laughing delightedly. "You desire to
show the world that there are still giants. What pleasure, what rapture,
to go through the crowd of small persons, as myself, as D'Arthenay here,
and exhibit the person of Samson, of Goliath!"

Ham eyed him gravely. "Meanin' shows?" he asked, after a pause of
reflection. "No, we've never shew none, as I know of. We've been asked,
father 'n' I, to allow guessin' on our weight at fairs and sech, but we
jedged it warn't jest what we cared about doin'. Sim'lar with shows!"

This speech was rather beyond Ste. Valerie, and seeing him look puzzled,
I struck in, "Mr. Ste. Valerie wants to see the old graves in the old
burying-ground, Ham. I told him there were plenty of Belforts there, and
spelling the name as he does, with two l's and an e in the middle."

"I want to know if he spells it that way!" said Ham, politely. "We
jedged they didn't know much spellin', in them times along back, but I
presume there's different idees. Does your folks run slim as a rule?"

"Very slim, my cousin!" said Yvon. "Of my generation, there is none so
great as myself."

"I _want_ to know!" said Ham; and the grave compassion in his voice was
almost too much for my composure. He seemed to fear that the subject
might be a painful one, and changed it with a visible effort.

"Well, there's plenty in the old berr'in-ground spelt both ways. Likely
it don't matter to 'em now."

He pondered again, evidently composing a speech; again he demanded help
of the oxen, and went so far as to examine an ear of the nigh ox with
anxious attention.

"'Pears as if what Belforts is above the sod ought to see something of
ye!" he said at last. "My woman is sick, and liable to turn--I should
say, liable to pass away most any time; but if she should get better,
or--anything--I should be pleased to have ye come and stop a spell with
us at the grist-mill. Any of your folks in the grist business?"

"Grisst?" Ste. Valerie looked helplessly at me. I explained briefly the
nature of a grist-mill, and said truly that Ham's mill was one of the
pleasantest places in the neighbourhood. Yvon was enchanted. He would
come with the most lively pleasure, he assured Ham, so soon as Madame
Belfort's health should be sufficiently rehabilitated. I remember,
Melody, the pride with which he rolled out that long word, and the
delight with which he looked at me, to see if I noticed it.

"Meantime," he added, "I shall haste at the earliest moment to do myself
the honour to call, to make inquiries for the health of madame, to
present my respectful homages to monsieur your father. He will permit me
to embrace him as a son?"

Fortunately Ham only heard the first part of this sentence; he responded
heartily, begging the marquis to call at any hour. Then, being at the
end of his talk, he shook hands once more with ponderous good will, and
passed on, he and the oxen rolling along with equal steps.

Ste. Valerie was silent until Ham was out of earshot; then he broke out.

"Holy Blue! what a prodigy! You suffer this to burst upon me, Jacques,
without notice, without preparation. My nerves are permanently
shattered. You tell me, a man; I behold a tower, a mountain, Atlas
crowned with clouds! Thousand thunders! what bulk! what sinews! and of
my race! Amazing effect of--what? Climate? occupation? In France, this
race shrinks, diminishes; a rapier, keen if you will, but slender like a
thread; here, it swells, expands, towers aloft,--a club of Hercules. And
with my father, who could sit in my pocket, and my grandfather, who
could sit in his! Figure to yourself, Jacques, that I am called _le
grand Yvon!_" He was silent for a moment, then broke out again. "But the
mind. D'Arthenay! the brain; how is it with that? Thought,--a lightning
flash! is it not lost, wandering through a head large like that of an
ox?"

I cannot remember in what words I answered him, Melody. I know I was
troubled how to make it clear to him, and he so different from the
other. I seemed to stand midway between the two, and to understand both.
Half of me seemed to spring up in joy at the voice of the young
foreigner; his lightness, his quickness, the very way he moved his
hands, seemed a part of my own nature that I had not learned to use, and
now saw reflected in another. I am not sure if I make myself clear, my
child; it was a singular feeling. But when I would spring forward with
him, and toss my head and wave my hands as he did,--as my mother Marie
did,--there was something held me back; it was the other nature in me,
slow and silent, and--no! not cold, but loath to show its warmth, if I
may put it so. My father in me kept me silent many a time when I might
have spoken foolishness. And it was this half, my father's half, that
loved Ham Belfort, and saw the solid sweetness of nature that made that
huge body a temple of good will, so to speak. He had the kind of
goodness that gives peace and rest to those who lean against it. His
mill was one of the places--but we shall come to that by and by!

Walking on as we talked, we soon came to the village, and I begged my
new friend to come in and see my father and my home. We entered. My
father was standing by the fire, facing the door, with one hand on the
tall mantel-shelf. He was in one of his waking dreams, and I was struck
deeply, Melody, by the beauty, and, if I may use the word about a plain
man, the majesty of his looks. My companion was struck, too, for he
stopped short, and murmured something under his breath; I heard the word
"Noblesse," and thought it not amiss. My father's eyes (they were
extraordinarily bright and blue) were wide open, and looked through us
and beyond us, yet saw nothing, or nothing that other eyes could see;
the tender look was in them that meant the thought of my mother. But
Abby came quietly round from the corner where she sat sewing, and laid
her hand on his arm, and spoke clearly, yet not sharply, telling him to
look and see, Jakey had brought a gentleman to see him. Then the vision
passed, and my father looked and saw us, and came forward with a
stately, beautiful way that he could use, and bade the stranger welcome.
Ste. Valerie bowed low, as he might to a prince. Hearing that he was a
Frenchman, my father seemed pleased. "My dear wife was a Frenchwoman!"
he said. "She was a musician, sir; I wish you could have heard her
play."

"He was himself also of French descent," Ste. Valerie reminded him, with
another bow; and told of the ruined tower, and the old friendship
between the two houses. But my father cared nothing for descent.

"Long ago, sir!" he said. "Long ago! I have nothing to do with the dead
of two hundred years back. I am a plain farmer; my son has learned the
trade of shoemaking, though he also has some skill with the fiddle, I am
told. Nothing compared to his mother, but still some skill."

Ste. Valerie looked from one of us to the other. "A farmer,--a
shoemaker!" he said, slowly. "Strange country, this! And while your
_vieille noblesse_ make shoes and till the soil, who are these,
monsieur, who live in some of the palaces that I have seen in your
cities? In many, truly, persons of real nobility also, gentlemen,
whether hunting of race or of Nature's own. But these others? I have
seen them; large persons, both male and female, red as beef, their
grossness illuminated with diamonds of royalty, their dwelling a
magazine from the Rue de la Paix. These things are shocking to a
European, M. D'Arthenay!" My father looked at him with something like
reproof in his quiet gaze.

"I have never been in cities," he said. "I consider that a farmer's life
may be used as well as another for the glory of God."

Then, with a wave of his hand, he seemed to put all this away from him,
and with a livelier air asked the stranger to take supper with us. Abby
had been laying the cloth quietly while we were talking, and my father
would have asked her to sit down with us, but she slipped away while his
face was turned in the other direction, and though he looked once or
twice, he soon forgot. Poor Abby! I had seen her looking at him as he
talked, and was struck by her intent expression, as if she would not
lose a word he might say. It seemed natural, though, that he should be
her first thought; he had always been, since my mother died.

So presently we three sat about the little table, that was gay with
flowers and pretty dishes. I saw Ste. Valerie's wondering glances; was
it thus, he seemed to ask, that a farmer lived, who had no woman to care
for him? My father saw, too, and was pleased as I had rarely seen him.
He did not smile, but his face seemed to fill with light.

"My wife, sir," he said, "loved to see things bright and adorned. I
try--my son and I try--to keep the table as she would like it. I
formerly thought these matters sinful, but I have been brought to a
clearer vision,--through affliction." (Strange human nature, Melody, my
child! he was moved to say these words to a stranger, which he could not
have said to me, his son!) "She had the French taste and lightness, my
wife Mary. I should have been proud to have you see her, sir; the Lord
was mindful of His own, and took her away from a world of sin and
suffering."

The light died out; his eyes wandered for a moment, and then set, in a
way I knew; and I began to talk fast of the first thing that came into
my mind.



CHAPTER VI.


I COULD write a whole book about the summer that followed this spring
day, when I first met Yvon de Ste. Valerie. Yes, and the book would be
so long that no mortal man would have time to read it; but I must hurry
on with my story; for truth to tell, my eyes are beginning to be not
quite what they have been,--they'll serve my time, I hope, but my
writing was always small and crabbed,--and I must say what I have to
say, shorter than I have begun, I perceive. After the first week, then,
which he spent with Father L'Homme-Dieu, Yvon came over to our village
and boarded with Abby Rock. The Father was pleased to have him come; he
knew it would be a great thing for me, and he thought it would not hurt
the young gentleman to live for a time with plain folks. But if he
thought Yvon would look down on our village people, or hold himself
better than they, he was mistaken. In a week the young Frenchman was the
son and brother of the whole village. Our people were dear, good people,
Melody; but I sometimes thought them a little dull; that was after my
mother's death. I suppose I had enough of another nature in me to be
troubled by this, but not enough to know how to help it; later I
learned a little more; but indeed, I should justly say that my lessons
were begun by Yvon de Ste. Valerie. It was from him I learned, my dear,
that nothing in this world of God's is dull or common, unless we bring
dull hearts and dim eyes to look at it. It is the vision, the vision,
that makes the life; that vision which you, my child, with your
sightless eyes, have more clearly than almost any one I have known.

He was delighted with everything. He wanted to know about everything. He
declared that he should write a book, when he returned to France, all
about our village, which he called Paradise. It is a pretty place, or
was as I remember it. He must see how bread was made, how wool was spun,
how rugs were braided. Many's the time I have found him sitting in some
kitchen, winding the great balls of rags neatly cut and stitched
together, listening like a child while the woman told him of how many
rugs she had made, and how many quilts she had pieced; and she more
pleased than he, and thinking him one wonder and herself another.

He was in love with all the girls; so he said, and they had nothing to
say against it. But yet there was no girl could carry a sore heart, for
he treated them all alike. In this I have thought that he showed a sense
and kindness beyond his years or his seeming giddiness; for some of them
might well enough have had their heads turned by a gentleman, and one so
handsome, and with a tongue that liked better to say "Angel!" to a
woman than anything more suited to the average of the sex. But no girl
in the village could think herself for a moment the favoured maiden; for
if one had the loveliest eyes in the world, the next had a cheek of
roses and velvet, and the third walked like a goddess, and the fourth
charmed his soul out of his body every time she opened her lips. And so
it went on, till all understood it for play, and the pleasantest play
they ever saw. But he vowed from the first that he would marry Abby
Rock, and no other living woman. Abby always said yes, she would marry
him the first Sunday that came in the middle of the week; and then she
would try to make him eat more, though he took quite as much as was good
for him, not being used to our hearty ways, especially in the mornings.
Abby was as pleased with him as a child with a kitten, and it was pretty
to see them together.

"Light of my life!" Yvon would cry. "You are exquisite this morning!
Your eyes are like stars on the sea. Come, then, angelic Rock, _Rocher
des Anges_, and waltz with your Ste. Valerie!" And he would take Abby by
the waist, and try to waltz with her, till she reached for the
broomstick. I have told you, Melody, that Abby was the homeliest woman
the Lord ever made. Not that I ever noticed it, for the kindness in her
face was so bright I never saw anything but that; but strangers would
speak of it, and Yvon himself, before he heard her speak, made a little
face, I remember, that only I could see, and whispered, had I brought
him to lodge with Medusa? Medusa, indeed! I think Abby's smile would
soften any stone that had ever had a human heart beating in it, instead
of the other way.

But the place in the village that Yvon loved best was Ham Belfort's
grist-mill; and when he comes to my mind, in these days, when sadder
visions are softened and partly dim to me, it is mostly there that I
seem to see my friend.

It was, as I have said, one of the pleasantest places in the world. To
begin with, the colour and softness of it all! The window-glass was
powdered white, and the light came through white and dim, and lay about
in long powdery shafts, and these were white, too, instead of yellow. So
was the very dust white; or rather, it was good oatmeal and wheat flour
that lay thick and crumbling on the rafters above, and the wheels and
pulleys and other gear. As for Ham, the first time Yvon saw him in the
mill, he cried out "Mont Blanc!" and would not call him anything else
for some time. For Ham was whiter than all the rest, in his
working-dress, cap and jacket and breeches, white to begin with, and
powdered soft and furry, like his face and eyebrows, with the flying
meal. Down-stairs there was plenty of noise; oats and corn and wheat
pouring into the hoppers, and the great stones going round and round,
and wheels creaking and buzzing, and belts droning overhead. Yvon could
not talk at all here, and I not too much; only Ham's great voice and his
father's (old Mr. Belfort was Ham over again, gray under the powder,
instead of pink and brown) could roar on quietly, if I may so express
it, rising high above the rattle and clack of the machinery, and yet
peaceful as the stream outside that turned the great wheels and set the
whole thing flying. So, as he could not live long without talking, Yvon
loved best the loft above, where the corn was stored, both in bags and
unground, and where the big blowers were, and the old green fire-engine,
and many other curious things. I had known them all my life, but they
were strange to him, and he never tired, any more than if he had been a
boy of ten. Sometimes I wondered if he could be twenty-two, as he said;
sometimes when he would swing himself on to the slide, where the bags of
meal and flour were loaded on to the wagons. Well, Melody, it was a
thing to charm a boy's heart; it makes mine beat a little quicker to
think of it, even now; perhaps I was not much wiser than my friend,
after all. This was a slide some three feet wide, and say seven or eight
feet long, sloping just enough to make it pleasant, and polished till it
shone, from the bags that rubbed along it day after day, loading the
wagons as they backed up under it. Nothing would do but we must slide
down this, as if, I say, we were children of ten years old, coming down
astride of the meal-sacks, and sending a plump of flour into the air as
we struck the wagon. Father Belfort thought Yvon was touched in the
brain; but he was all the more gentle on this account. Boys were not
allowed on the slide, unless it were a holiday, or some boy had had a
hard time with sickness or what not; it was a treat rarely given, and
the more prized for that. But Yvon and I might slide as much as we
pleased. "Keep him cheerful, Jakey!" the dear old man would say. "Let
him kibobble all he's a mind to! I had a brother once was looney, and we
kep' him happy all his life long, jest lettin' him stay a child, as the
Lord intended. Six foot eight he stood, and weighed four hundred
pounds."

And when the boy was tired of playing we would sit down together, and
call to Ham to come up and talk; for even better than sliding, Yvon
loved to hear his cousin talk. You can take the picture into your mind,
Melody, my dear. The light dim and white, as I have told you, and very
soft, falling upon rows and rows of full sacks, ranged like soldiers;
the great white miller sitting with his back against one of these, and
his legs reaching anywhere,--one would not limit the distance; and
running all about him, without fear, or often indeed marking him in any
way, a multitude of little birds, sparrows they were, who spent most of
their life here among the meal-sacks. Sometimes they hopped on his
shoulder, or ran over his head, but they never minded his talking, and
he sat still, not liking to disturb them. It was a pretty sight of
extremes in bulk, and in nature too; for while Ham was afraid to move,
for fear of troubling them, they would bustle up to him and cock their
heads, and look him in the eye as if they said, "Come on, and show me
which is the biggest!"

There you see him, my dear; and opposite to him you might see a great
mound or heap of corn that shone yellow as gold. "_Le Mont d'Or_," Yvon
called it; and nothing would do but he must sit on this, lifted high
above us, yet sliding down every now and then, and climbing up again,
with the yellow grains slipping away under him, smooth and bright as
pebbles on the shore. And for myself, I was now here and now there, as I
found it more comfortable, being at home in every part of the friendly
place.

How we talked! Ham was mostly a silent fellow; but he grew to love the
lad so that the strings of his tongue were loosened as they had never
been before. His woman, too (as we say in those parts, Melody; wife is
the more genteel expression, but I never heard Ham use it. My father, on
the other hand, never said anything else; a difference in the fineness
of ear, my dear, I have always supposed),--his woman, I say, or wife,
had not "turned up her toes," but recovered, and as he was a faithful
and affectionate man, his heart was enlarged by this also. However it
was, he talked more in those weeks, I suppose, than in the rest of his
life put together. Bits of his talk, homely and yet wise, come back to
me across the sixty years. One day, I remember, we talked of life, as
young men love to talk. We said nothing that had not been said by young
men since Abel's time, I do suppose, but it was all new to us; and
indeed, my two companions had fresh ways of putting things that seemed
to make them their own in a manner. Yvon maintained that gaiety was the
best that life had to give; that the butterfly being the type of the
human soul, the nearer man could come to his prototype, the better for
him and for all. Sorrow and suffering, he cried, were a blot on the
scheme, a mistake, a concession to the devil; if all would but spread
their wings and fly away from it, houp! it would no longer exist. "_Et
voilà!_"

We laughed, but shook our heads. Ham meditated awhile, and then began in
his strong, quiet voice, a little husky, which I always supposed was
from his swallowing so much raw meal and flour.

"That's one way of lookin' at it, Eavan; I expect that's your French
view, likely; looks different, you see, to folks livin' where there's
cold, and sim'lar things, as butterflies couldn't find not to say
comfortable. Way I look at it, it always seemed to me that grain come as
near it as anything, go to compare things. Livin' in a grist-mill, I
presume, I git into a grainy way of lookin' at the world. Now, take
wheat! It comes up pooty enough, don't it, in the fields? Show me a
field o' wheat, and I'll show you as handsome a thing as is made this
side of Jordan. Wal, that might be a little child, we'll say; if there's
a thing handsomer than a field o' wheat, it's a little child. But bimeby
comes reapin' and all, and then the trouble begins. First, it's all in
the rough, ain't it, chaff and all, mixed together; and has to go
through the thresher? Well, maybe that's the lickin's a boy's father
gives him. He don't like 'em,--I can feel Father Belfort's lickin's
yet,--but they git red of a sight o' chaff, nonsense, airs, and what
not, for him. Then it comes here to the grist-mill. Well, I may be
gittin' a little mixed, boys, but you can foller if you try, I expect.
Say that's startin' out in life, leavin' home, or bindin' to a trade, or
whatever. Well, it goes into the duster, and there it gets more chaff
blowed off'n it. And from the duster it goes into the hopper, and down
in betwixt the stones; and them stones grind, grind, grind, till you'd
think the life was ground clear'n out of it. But 'tain't so; contrary!
That's affliction; the upper and nether millstone--Scriptur! Maybe
sickness, maybe losin' your folks, maybe business troubles,--whichever
comes is the wust, and more than any mortal man ever had to bear before.
Well, now, see! That stuff goes in there, grain; it comes out wheat
flour! Then you take and wet it down and put your 'east in,--that's
thought, I expect, or brains,--or might be a woman,--and you bake it in
the oven,--call that--well, 'git-up-and-git' is all I can think of, but
I should aim for a better word, talkin' to a foreigner."

"Purpose," I suggested.

"That's it! purpose! bake it in that oven, and you have a loaf of wheat
bread, riz bread; and that's the best eatin' that's ben invented yet.
That's food for the hungry,--which raw wheat ain't, except it's cattle.
But now you hear me, boys! To git wheat bread, riz bread, you've got to
have wheat to begin with. You've got to have good stuff to start with.
You can't make good riz bread out o' field corn. But take good stuff and
grind it in the Lord's mill, and you've got the best this world can
give. That's my philos'phy!"

He nodded his head to the last words, which fell slowly and weightily;
and as he did so, the sparrow that had been perched on his head ran down
his nose and fluttered in his face, seeming to ask how he dared make
such a disturbance. "I beg your pardon, I'm sure!" said Ham. "I'd no
notion I was interferin' with you. Why didn't you hit one of your
size?"



CHAPTER VII.


IT was in the grist-mill loft, too, that Yvon brought forward his great
plan, what he called the project of his life,--that of taking me back to
France with him. I remember how I laughed when he spoke of it; it seemed
as easy for me to fly to the moon as to cross the ocean, a thing which
none of my father's people had done since the first settlers came. My
mother, to be sure, had come from France, but that was a different
matter; nor had her talk of the sea made me feel any longing for it. But
Yvon had set his heart on it; and his gay talk flowed round and over my
objections, as your brook runs over stones. I must go; I should go! I
should see my tower, the castle of my fathers. It was out of repair, he
could not deny that; but what! a noble château might still be made of
it. Once restored, I would bring my father over to end his days with me,
under the roof that alone could properly shelter a person of such
nobility. He had won my father's heart, too, Melody, as he won all
hearts; they understood each other in some fine, far-off way, that was
beyond me. I sometimes felt a little pang that was not, I am glad to
believe, jealousy, only a wish that I might be more like Yvon, more like
my mother's people, since it was that so charmed my poor father.

I asked Yvon how I was to live, how my father and I should support
ourselves in our restored castle, and whose money would pay for the
restoration. He threw this aside, and said that money was base, and he
refused to consider it. It had nothing to do with the feelings, less
than nothing with true nobility. Should I then take my cobbler's bench,
I asked him, and make shoes for him and his neighbours, while my father
tilled the ground? But then, for the first and almost the last time, I
saw my friend angry; he became like a naughty, sulky child, and would
hardly speak to me for the rest of the day.

But he clung to his idea, none the less; and, to my great surprise, my
father took it up after awhile. He thought well, he told me, of Yvon's
plan; Yvon had talked it over with him. He, himself, was much stronger
than he had been (this was true, Melody, or nothing would have induced
me to leave him even for a week; Yvon had been like a cordial to him,
and he had not had one of his seizures for weeks); and I could perfectly
leave him under Abby's care. I had not been strong myself, a voyage
might be a good thing for me; and no doubt, after seeing with my own
eyes the matters this young lad talked of, I would be glad enough to
come home and settle to my trade, and would have much to think over as I
sat at my bench. It might be that a man was better for seeing something
of the world; he had never felt that the Lord intended him to travel,
having brought to his own door all that the world held of what was best
(he paused here, and said "Mary!" two or three times under his breath,
a way he had when anything moved him), but it was not so with me, nor
likely to be, and it might be a good thing for me to go. He had money
laid by that would be mine, and I could take a portion of that, and have
my holiday.

These are not his very words, Melody, but the sense of them. I was
strangely surprised; and being young and eager, the thought came upon me
for the first time that this thing was really possible; and with the
thought came the longing, and a sense which I had only felt dimly
before, and never let speak plain to me, as it were. I suppose every
young man feels the desire to go somewhere else than the place where he
has always abided. The world may be small and wretched, as some tell
him, or great and golden, according to the speech of others; he believes
neither one nor the other, he must see it with his own eyes. So this
grew upon me, and I brooded over it, till my life was full of voices
calling, and hands pointing across the sea, to the place which is
Somewhere Else. I talked with Father L'Homme-Dieu, and he bade me go,
and gave me his blessing; he had no doubt it was my pleasure, and might
be my duty, in the way of making all that might be made of my life. I
talked with Abby; she grew pale, and had but one word, "Your father!"
Something in her tone spoke loud to my heart, and there came into my
mind a thought that I spoke out without waiting for it to cool.

"Won't you marry my father, Abby?"

Abby's hands fell in her lap, and she turned so white that I was
frightened; still, I went on. "You love him better than any one else,
except me." (She put her hand on her heart, I remember, Melody, and kept
it there while I talked; she made no other sign.)

"And you can care for him ten times better than I could, you know that,
Abby, dear; and--and--I know Mère-Marie would be pleased."

I looked in her face, and, young and thoughtless as I was, I saw that
there which made me turn away and look out of the window. She did not
speak at once; but presently said in her own voice, or only a little
changed, "Don't speak like that, Jakey dear! You know I'll care for your
father all I can, without that;" and so put me quietly aside, and talked
about Yvon, and how good Father L'Homme-Dieu had been to me.

But I, being a lad that liked my own way when it did not seem a wrong
one (and not only then, perhaps, my dear; not only then!), could not let
my idea go so easily. It seemed to me a fine thing, and one that would
bring happiness to one, at least; and I questioned whether the other
would mind it much, being used to Abby all his life, and a manner of
cousin to her, and she my mother's first friend when she came to the
village, and her best friend always. I was very young, Melody, and I
spoke to my father about it; that same day it was, while my mind was
still warm. If I had waited over night, I might have seen more clear.

"Father," said I; we were sitting in the kitchen after supper; it was a
summer evening, soft and fair, but a little fire burned low on the
hearth, and he sat near it, having grown chilly this last year.

"Father, would you think it possible to change your condition?"

He turned his eyes on me, with an asking look.

"Would you think it possible to marry Abby Rock?" I asked; and felt my
heart sink, somehow, even with saying the words. My father hardly seemed
to understand at first; he repeated, "Marry Abby Rock!" as if he saw no
sense in the words; then it came to him, and I saw a great fire of anger
grow in his eyes, till they were like flame in the dusk.

"I am a married man!" he said, slowly. "Are you a child, or lost to
decency, that you speak of this to a married man?"

He paused, but I found nothing to say. He went on, his voice, that was
even when he began, dropping deeper, and sinking as I never heard it.

"The Lord in His providence saw fit to take away my wife, your mother,
before sickness, or age, or sorrow could strike her. I was left, to
suffer some small part of what my sins merit, in the land of my sojourn.
The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the
Lord. But because my wife Mary,--my wife Mary" (he lingered over the
words, loving them so), "is a glorified spirit in another world, and I
am a prisoner here, is she any less my wife, and I her faithful husband?
You are my son, and hers,--hers, Jakey; but if you ever say such words
to me again, one house will not hold us both." He turned his head away,
and I heard him murmuring under his breath, "Mary! Mary!" as I have said
his way was; and I was silent and ashamed, fearing to speak lest I make
matters worse; and so presently I slipped out and left him; and my fine
plan came to naught, save to make two sad hearts sadder than they were.

But it was to be! Looking back, Melody, after fifty years, I am
confident that it was the will of God, and was to be. In three weeks
from that night, I was in France.

I pass over the wonder of the voyage; the sorrowful parting, too, that
came before it, though I left all well, and my father to all appearances
fully himself. I pass over these, straight to the night when Yvon and I
arrived at his home in the south of France. We had been travelling
several days since landing, and had stopped for two days in Paris. My
head was still dizzy with the wonder and the brightness of it all. There
was something homelike, too, in it. The very first people I met seemed
to speak of my mother to me, as they flung out their hands and laughed
and waved, so different from our ways at home. I was to see more of
this, and to feel the two parts in me striving against each other; but
it is early to speak of that.

The evening was warm and bright, as we came near Château Claire; that
was the name of my friend's home. A carriage had met us at the station,
and as we drove along through a pretty country (though nothing to New
England, I must always think), Yvon was deep in talk with the driver,
who was an old servant, and full of news. I listened but little, being
eager to see all my eyes could take in. Vines swung along the sides of
the road, in a way that I always found extremely graceful, and wished we
might have our grapes so at home. I was marvelling at the straw-roofed
houses and the plots of land about them no bigger than Abby Rock's best
table-cloth, when suddenly Yvon bade pull up, and struck me on the
shoulder. "_D'Arthenay, tenez foi!_" he cried in my ear; and pointed
across the road. I turned, and saw in the dusk a stone tower, square and
bold, covered with ivy, the heavy growth of years. It was all dim in the
twilight, but I marked the arched door, with carving on the stone work
above it, and the great round window that stared like a blind eye. I
felt a tugging at my heart, Melody; the place stood so lonely and
forlorn, yet with a stateliness that seemed noble. I could not but think
of my father, and that he stood now like his own tower, that he would
never see.

"Shall we alight now?" asked Yvon. "Or will you rather come by daylight,
Jacques, to see the place in beauty of sunshine?"

I chose the latter, knowing that his family would be looking for him;
and no one waited for me in La Tour D'Arthenay, as it was called in the
country. Soon we were driving under a great gateway, and into a
courtyard, and I saw the long front of a great stone house, with a light
shining here and there.

"Welcome, Jacques!" cried Yvon, springing down as the great door opened;
"welcome to Château Claire! Enter, then, my friend, as thy fathers
entered in days of old!"

The light was bright that streamed from the doorway; I was dazzled, and
stumbled a little as I went up the steps; the next moment I was standing
in a wide hall, and a young lady was running forward to throw her arms
round Yvon's neck.

He embraced her tenderly, kissing her on both cheeks in the French
manner; then, still holding her hand, he turned to me, and presented me
to his sister. "This is my friend," he said, "of whom I wrote you,
Valerie; M. D'Arthenay, of La Tour D'Arthenay, Mademoiselle de Ste.
Valerie!"

The young lady curtseyed low, and then, with a look at Yvon, gave me her
hand in a way that made me feel I was welcome. A proper manner of
shaking hands, my dear child, is a thing I have always impressed upon my
pupils. There is nothing that so helps or hinders the first impression,
which is often the last impression. When a person flaps a limp hand at
me, I have no desire for it, if it were the finest hand in the world;
nor do I allow any tricks of fashion in this matter, as sometimes seen,
with waggling this way or that; it is a very offensive thing. Neither
must one pinch with the finger-tips, nor grind the bones of one's
friend, as a strong man will be apt to do, mistaking violence for
warmth; but give a firm, strong, steady pressure with the hand itself,
that carries straight from the heart the message, "I am glad to see
you!"

This is a speech I have made many times; I have kept the young lady
waiting in the hall while I made it to you, thereby failing in good
manners.

At the first glance, Valerie de Ste. Valerie seemed hardly more than a
child, for she was slight and small; my first thought was, how like she
was to her brother, with the same fair hair and dark, bright blue eyes.
She was dressed in a gown of white dimity, very fine, with ruffles at
the foot of the skirt, and a fichu of the same crossed on her breast. I
must say to you, my dear Melody, that it was from this first sight of
her that I took the habit of observing a woman's dress always. A woman
of any age taking pains to adorn herself, it has always seemed to me
boorish not to take careful note of the particulars of a toilet. Mlle.
de Ste. Valerie wore slippers of blue kid, her feet being remarkably
slender and well-shaped; and a blue ribbon about her hair, in the manner
of a double fillet. After a few gracious words, she went forward into a
room at one side of the hall, we following, and here I was presented to
her aunt, a lady who had lived with the brother and sister since their
parents' death, a few years before this time. Of this lady, who was
never my friend, I will say little. Her first aspect reminded me of
frozen vinegar, carved into human shape; yet she had fine manners, and
excused herself with dignity for not rising to salute us, being lame, as
her nephew knew. For Yvon, though he kissed her hand (a thing I had
never seen before), I thought there was little love in the greeting; nor
did he seem oppressed with grief when she excused herself also from
coming to sup with us.

At supper, we three together at a table that was like a small island of
warm pleasantness in the great hollow dining-hall, Yvon was full of wild
talk, we two others mostly listening. He had everything to tell, about
the voyage, about his new friends, all of whom were noble and beautiful
and clever.

"Figure to yourself, Valerie!" he cried. "I found our family there; the
most noble, the most gigantic persons in the world! Thy cousin Jambon,
it is a giant, eight feet high, at the least. He denies it, he is the
soul of modesty, but I have eyes, and I see. This man has the soul
greater than his vast body; we have discussed life, death, in short, the
Infinite, we three, Jambon and Jacques and I. He has a father--both have
fathers! it is the course of nature. The father of D'Arthenay here is a
prince, a diamond of the old rock; ah! if our father of sainted memory
could have known M. D'Arthenay _père_, Valerie, he would have known the
brother of his soul, as their sons know each other. Not so, Jacques? But
_le père_ Bellefort, Valerie, he is gigantesque, like his son. These
rocks, these towers, they have the hearts of children, the smiles of a
crowing infant. You laugh, D'Arthenay? I say something incorrect? how
then?"

He had said nothing incorrect, I told him; I only thought it would be
surprising to hear Father Belfort crow, as he hardly spoke three times
in the day.

"True! but what silence! the silence of fullness, of benevolence.
Magnificent persons, not to be approached for goodness."

So he rattled on, while his sister's blue eyes grew wider and wider. I
did not in truth know what to say. I hardly recognised our plain people
in the human wonders that Yvon was describing; I could hardly keep my
countenance when he told her about Mlle. Roc, an angel of pious dignity.
I fancied Abby transported here, and set down at this table, all flowers
and perfumed fruits and crimson-shaded lights; the idea seemed to me
comical, though now I know that Abby Rock would do grace to any table,
if it were the President's. I was young then, and knew little. And so
the lad talked on and on, and his fair young lady sister listened and
marvelled, and I held my tongue and looked about me, and wondered was I
awake or asleep.



CHAPTER VIII.


THE pictures come back fast and thick upon my mind. I suppose every
life, even the quietest, has its picture-book, its record of some one
time that seems filled with beauty or joy as a cup that brims over.
Every one, perhaps, could write his own fairy story; this is mine.

The next day Yvon had a thousand things to show me. The ladies sat in
their own room in the morning, and the rest of the castle was our own.
It amazed me, being a great building, and the first of the kind I had
seen. Terraces of stone ran about the house, except on the side of the
courtyard, and these were set with flowering shrubs in great stone pots,
that would take two men to lift. Beyond the terraces the ground fell
away in soft banks and hollows to where I heard a brook running through
a wood-piece. Inside, the rooms, very lofty and spacious, were dark to
my eyes, partly from the smallness of the windows, partly from the dark
carved wood that was everywhere, on floor and walls and ceilings. I
could never be at home, I thought, in such a place; though I never found
elsewhere such a fine quality of floor; smooth in the perfect degree,
yet not too slippery for firm treading, and springing to the foot in a
way that was next to dance music for suggestion. I said as much to Yvon,
and he caught the idea flying, as was his way, and ran to bring his
sister, bidding me get my fiddle on the instant. We were in a long hall,
rather narrow, but with excellent space for a few couples, let alone one.
Mlle. de Ste. Valerie came running, her hand in her brother's, a little
out of breath from his suddenness, and in the prettiest morning dress of
blue muslin. I played my best waltz, and the two waltzed. This is one of
the brightest pictures in my book, Melody. The young lady had perfect
grace of motion, and had been well taught; I knew less about the matter
than I do now, but still enough to recognise fine dancing when I saw it;
her brother was a partner worthy of her. I have seldom had more pure
pleasure in playing dance music, and I should have been willing it had
lasted all day; but it was not long before a sour-faced maid came and
said my Lady had sent her to say mademoiselle should be at her studies;
and she ran away laughing, yet sorry to go, and dropped a little running
curtsey at the door, very graceful, such as I have never seen another
person make.

The room was darker when she was gone; but Yvon cried to me I must see
the armory, and the chapel, and a hundred other sights. I followed him
like a child, my eyes very round, I doubt not, and staring with all my
might. The armory was another of the long halls or corridors that ran
along the sides of the courtyard. Here were weapons of all kinds, but
chiefly swords; swords of every possible make and size, some of great
beauty, others clumsy enough, that looked as if bears should handle
them. I had never held a sword in my hand,--how should I?--but Yvon
vowed I must learn to fence, and told some story of an ancestor of mine
who was the best swordsman in the country, and kept all comers at bay in
some old fight long ago. I took the long bit of springy steel, and found
it extraordinary comfortable to the hand. Practice with the fiddle-bow
since early childhood gave, I may suppose, strength and quickness to the
turn of my wrist; however it was, the marquis cried out that I was born
for the sword; and in a few minutes again cried to know who had taught
me tricks of fence. Honesty knows, I had had no teaching; only my eye
caught his own motions, and my hand and wrist answered instantly, being
trained to ready obedience. I felt a singular joy in this exercise,
Melody. In grace and dexterity it equals the violin; with this
difference, which keeps the two the width of the world apart, that the
one breeds trouble and strife, while the other may, under Providence,
soothe human ills more than any other one thing, save the kindly sound
of the human voice.

Make the best defence I could, it was not long before Yvon sent my foil
flying from my hand; but still he professed amazement at my ready
mastering of the art, and I felt truly that it was natural to me, and
that with a few trials I might do as well as he.

Next I must see the chapel, very ancient, but kept smart with candles
and crimson velvet cushions. I could not warm to this, feeling the four
plain walls of a meeting-house the only thing that could enclose my
religious feelings with any comfort; and these not to compare with a
free hillside, or the trees of a wood when the wind moves in them. And
then we went to the stables, and the gardens, laid out very stately, and
his sister's own rose garden, the pleasantest place in the whole, or so
I thought.

So with one thing and another, it was late afternoon before Yvon
remembered that I must not sleep again without visiting my own tower, as
he would call it; and for this, the young lady had leave to go with us.
It was a short walk, not more than half a mile, and in a few minutes we
were looking up at the tower, that seemed older and sadder by day than
it had done in the evening dimness. It stood alone. The body of what had
been behind and beside it was gone, but we could trace the lines of a
large building, the foundations still remaining; and here and there were
piles of cut stone, the same stone as that in the tower. Yvon told me
that ever since the castle had begun to fall into decay (being long
deserted), the country people around had been in the habit of mending
their houses, and building them indeed, often, from the stone of the old
château. He pointed to one cottage and another, standing around at
little distance. "They are dogs," he cried, "that have each a bit of the
lion's skin. Ah, Jacques! but for my father of blessed memory, thy tower
would have gone in the same way. He vowed, when he came of age, that
this desecration should go no further. He brought the priest, and
together they laid a fine curse upon whoever should move another stone
from the ruins, or lay hands on La Tour D'Arthenay. Since then, no man
touches this stone. It remains, as you see. It has waited till this day,
for thee, its propriety."

He had not quite the right word, Melody, but I had not the heart to
correct him, being more moved by the thing than I could show reason for.
Inside the tower there was a stone staircase, that went steeply up one
side, or rather the front it was, for from it we could step across to a
wide stone shelf that stood out under the round window. It might have
been part of a great chimney-piece, such as there still were in Château
Claire. The ivy had reached in through the empty round, and covered this
stone with a thick mat, more black than green. Though ready enough to
step on this myself, I could not think it fit for Mlle. de Ste. Valerie,
and took the liberty to say so; but she laughed, and told me she had
climbed to this perch a hundred times. She was light as a leaf, and when
I saw her set her foot in her brother's hand and spring across the empty
space from the stair to the shelf, it seemed no less than if a wind had
blown her. Soon we were all three crouching or kneeling on the stone,
with our elbows in the curve of the great window, looking out on the
prospect. A fair one it was, of fields and vineyards, with streams
winding about, but very small. They spoke of rivers, but I saw none. It
was the same with the hills, which Yvon bade me see here and there;
little risings, that would not check the breath in a running man. For
all that, the country was a fine country, and I praised it honestly,
though knowing in my heart that it was but a poor patch beside our own.
I was thinking this, when the young lady turned to me, and asked, in her
gracious way, would I be coming back, I and my people, to rebuild
Château D'Arthenay?

"It was the finest in the county, so the old books say!" she told me.
"There was a hall for dancing, a hundred feet long, and once the Sieur
D'Arthenay gave a ball for the king, Henri Quatre it was, and the hall
was lighted with a thousand tapers of rose-coloured wax, set in silver
sconces. How that must have been pretty, M. D'Arthenay!"

I thought of our kitchen at home, and the glass lamps that Mère-Marie
kept shining with such care; but before I could speak, Yvon broke in.
"He shall come! I tell him he shall come, Valerie! All my life I perish,
thou knowest it, for a companion of my sex, of my age. Thou art my
angel, Valerie, but thou art a woman, and soon, too, thou wilt leave me.
Alone, a hermit in my château, my heart desolate, how to support life?
It is for this that I cry to the friend of my house to return to his
country, the country of his race; to bring here his respected father, to
plant a vineyard, a little corn, a little fruit,--briefly, to live.
Observe!" Instantly his hands fluttered out, pointing here and there.

"Jacques, observe, I implore you! This tower; it is now uninhabited, is
it not? you can answer me that, though you have been here but a day."

As he waited for an answer, I replied that it certainly was vacant, so
far as I could see; except that there must be bats and owls, I thought,
in the thickness of the ivy trees.

"Perfectly! Except for these animals, there is none to dispute your
entrance. The tower is solid,--of a solidity! Cannon must be brought, to
batter down these walls. Instead of battering, we restore, we construct.
With these brave walls to keep out the cold, you construct within--a
dwelling! vast, I do not say; palatial, I do not say; but ample for two
persons, who--who have lived together, _à deux_, not requiring separate
suites of apartments." He waved his hand in such a manner that I saw
long sets of rooms opening one after another, till the eye was lost in
them.

"Here, where we now are posed, is your own room, Jacques. For you this
view of Paradise. Monsieur your father will not so readily mount the
stairs, becoming in future years infirm, though now a tree, an oak,
massive and erect. We build for the future, D'Arthenay! Below, then, the
paternal apartments, the salon, perhaps a small room for guns and dogs
and appliances." Another wave set off a square space, where we could
almost see the dogs leaping and crouching.

"Behind again, the kitchens, offices, what you will. A few of these
stones transported, erected; glass, carpets, a fireplace,--the place
lives in my eyes, Jacques! Let us return to the château, that I set all
on paper. You forget that I study architecture, that I am a drawsman,
hein? Ten minutes, a sheet of drawing-paper,--pff! Château D'Arthenay
lives before you, ready for habitation on the instant."

I saw it all, Melody; I saw it all! Sometimes I see it now, in an old
man's dream. Now, of course, it is wild and misty as a morning fog
curling off the hills; but then, it seemed hardly out of reach for the
moment. Listening to my friend's eager voice, and watching his glowing
face, there came to life in me more and more strongly the part that
answered to him. I also was young; I also had the warm French blood
burning in me. In height, in strength, perhaps even in looks, I was not
his inferior; he was noble, and my fathers had stood beside his in
battle, hundreds of times.

I felt in a kind of fire, and courted the heat even while it burned me.
I answered Yvon, laughing, and said surely I would have no other
architect for my castle. Mlle. de Ste. Valerie joined in, and told me
where I should buy carpets, and what flowers I should plant in my
garden.

"Roses, M. D'Arthenay!" she cried. "Roses are the best, for the masses.
A few gillyflowers I advise, they are so sweet; and plenty of lilies,
the white and yellow. Oh! I have a lily with brown stripes, the most
beautiful! you shall have a bulb of it; I will start it for you myself,
in a stone pot. You must have a little conservatory, too, for winter
plants; one cannot live without flowers, even in winter. All winter,
when no longer many flowers bloom out-of-doors, though always some,
always my hardy roses, then I live half my day in the conservatory. You
shall have some of my flowers; oh, yes, I can spare you plenty."

She was so like her brother! There was the same pretty eagerness, the
same fire of kindliness and good will, hurrying both along to say they
knew not what. I could only thank her; and the very beauty and sweetness
of her struck all at once a sadness on my merriment; and I saw for a
moment that this was all a fleeting wreath of fog, as I said; yet all
the more for that strove to grasp it and hold it fast.

The sun went down behind the low hills, and the young lady cried that
she must hasten home; her aunt would be vexed at her for staying so
long. Yvon said, his faith, she might be vexed. If Mlle. de Ste. Valerie
might not go out with her brother, the head of her house and her natural
guardian, he knew not with whom she might go; and muttered under his
breath something I did not hear. So we went back to the château, and
still I was in the bright dream, shutting my eyes when it seemed like to
break away from me. The evening was bright and joyous, like the one
before. Again we three supped alone, and it seemed this was the custom,
the Countess Lalange (it was the name of the aunt) seldom leaving her
own salon, save to pass to her private apartments beyond it. We spent
an hour there,--in her salon, that is,--after supper, and I must bring
my violin, but not for dance music this time. I played all the sweetest
and softest things I knew; and now and then the young lady would clap
her hands, when I played one of my mother's songs, and say that her
nurse had sung it to her, and how did I learn it, in America? They were
the peasant songs, she said, the sweetest in the world. The lady aunt
listened patiently, but I think she had no music in her; only once she
asked if I had no sacred music; and when I played our psalm-tunes, she
thought them not the thing at all. But last of all, when it was time for
us to go away, I played lightly, and as well as I knew how to play, my
mother's favourite song, that was my own also; and at this, the young
girl's head drooped, and her eyes filled with tears. Her mother, too,
had sung it! How many other mothers, I ask myself sometimes, how many
hearts, sad and joyful, have answered to those notes, the sweetest, the
tenderest in the world?

          "Il y a longtemps que je t'aime;
           Jamais je ne t'oublierai!"



CHAPTER IX.


THIS was one day of many, my dear. They came and went, and I thought
each one brighter than the last. When I had been a month at Château
Claire, I could hardly believe it more than a week, so quickly and
lightly the time went. The mornings, two children at play; the
afternoons, three. I suppose it was because the brother and sister were
so strangely like each other, that I grew so soon to feel Mlle. Valerie
as my friend; and she, sweet soul, took me at Yvon's word, and thought
me, perhaps, a fine fellow, and like her own people. That she never
fully learned the difference is one of the many things for which I have
to thank a gracious God.

Abby Rock told me, Melody,--in after-times, when we were much
together,--how my poor father, at sight of my mother Marie, was struck
with love as by a lightning-flash. It was a possession, she would say,
only by an angel instead of an evil spirit; at the first look, she
filled his life, and while she lived he wanted nothing else, nor indeed
after she died. It was not so with me. And perhaps it might seem strange
to some, my dear child, that I write this story of my heart for you, who
are still a slip of a growing girl, and far yet from womanhood and the
thoughts that come with it. But it may be some years before the paper
comes to you, for except my poor father, we are a long-lived race; and I
find singular comfort, now that I cannot keep myself exercised as much
as formerly, by reason of growing years, in this writing. And I trust to
say nothing that you may not with propriety hear, my dear.

When I had been a month at Château Claire, then, a new thing began to
come slowly upon me. From the first I had felt that this young lady was
the fairest and the sweetest creature my eyes had seen; like a drop of
morning dew on a rose, nothing less. I dwelt upon the grace of her
motions, and the way the colour melted in her cheek, as I would dwell
upon the fairest picture; and I listened to her voice because it was
sweeter than my violin, or even the note of the hermit-thrush. But
slowly I became aware of a change; and instead of merely the pleasure of
eye and ear, and the warmth at the heart that comes from true kindliness
and friendship, there would fall a trembling on me when she came or
went, and a sense of the room being empty when she was not in it. When
she was by, I wanted nothing more, or so it seemed, but just the
knowledge of it, and did not even need to look at her to see how the
light took her hair where it waved above her ear. This I take to have
been partly because the feeling that was growing up in me came not from
her beauty, or in small part only from that, but rather from my learning
the truth and purity and nobleness of her nature; and this knowledge
did not require the pleasure of the eyes. I thought no harm of all this;
I took the joy as part of all the new world that was so bright about me;
if voices spoke low within me, telling of the other life overseas, which
was my own, while this was but a fairy dream,--I would not listen, or
bade my heart speak louder and drown them. My mind had little, or say
rather, my reason had little to do in those days; till it woke with a
start, if I may say so, one night. It was a July night, hot and close.
We were all sitting on the stone terrace for coolness, though there was
little enough anywhere. I had been playing, and we had all three sung,
as we loved to do. There was a song of a maiden who fell asleep by the
wayside, and three knights came riding by,--a pretty song it was, and
sung in three parts, the treble carrying the air, the tenor high above
it, and the bass making the accompaniment.

          "Le premier qui passa,--       The first who rode along,--
            'Voilà une endormie!'          "Behold! a sleeping maid."

          "Le deuxième qui passa,--      The next who rode along,--
            'Elle est encore jolie!'       "She's fair enough!" he said.

          "Le troisième qui passa,       The third who rode along,--
            'Elle sera ma mie!'            "My sweetheart she shall be!"

          "La prit et l'emporta,         He's borne her far away,
            Sur son cheval d'Hongrie."     On his steed of Hungary.

I was thinking, I remember, how fine it would be to be a knight on a
horse of Hungary (though I am not aware that the horses of that country
are finer than elsewhere, except in songs), and to stoop down beside the
road and catch up the sleeping maiden,--and I knew how she would be
looking as she slept,--and ride away with her no one could tell where,
into some land of gold and flowers.

I was thinking this in a cloudy sort of way, while Yvon had run into the
house to bring something,--some piece of music that I must study, out of
the stores of ancient music they had. There was a small table standing
on the terrace, near where we were sitting, and on it a silver
candlestick, with candles lighted.

Mlle. Valerie was standing near this, and I again near her, both
admiring the moon, which was extraordinary bright and clear in a light
blue sky. The light flooded the terrace so, I think we both forgot the
poor little candles, with their dull yellow gleam. However it was, the
young lady stepped back a pace, and her muslin cape, very light, and
fluttering with ruffles and lace, was in the candle, and ablaze in a
moment. I heard her cry, and saw the flame spring up around her; but it
was only a breath before I had the thing torn off, and was crushing it
together in my hands, and next trampling it under foot, treading out the
sparks, till it was naught but black tinder. A pretty cape it was, and a
sin to see it so destroyed. But I was not thinking of the cape then. I
had only eyes for the young lady herself; and when I saw her untouched,
save for the end of her curls singed, but pale and frightened, and
crying out that I was killed, there came a mist, it seemed, before my
face, and I dropped on the stone rail, and laughed.

"You are not burned, mademoiselle?"

"I? no, sir! I am not touched; but you--you? oh, your hands! You took it
in your hands, and they are destroyed! What shall I do?" Before I could
move she had caught my two hands in hers, and turned the palms up.
Indeed, they were only scorched, not burned deep, though they stung
smartly enough; but black they were, and the skin beginning to puff into
blisters. But now came the tap of a stick on the stone, and Mme. de
Lalange came hobbling out. "What is this?" she cried, seeing me standing
so, pale, it may be, with the young lady holding my blackened hands
still in hers.

"What is the meaning of this scene?"

"Its meaning?" cried Mlle. Valerie; and it was Yvon's self that flashed
upon her aunt.

"The meaning is that this gentleman has saved my life. Yes, my aunt!
Look as you please; if he had not been here, and a hero,--a _hero_,--I
should be devoured by the flames. Look!" and she pointed to the
fragments of muslin, which were floating off in black rags. "He caught
it from me, when I was in flames. He crushed it in his hands,--these
poor hands, which are destroyed, I tell you, with pain. What shall we
do,--what can we ever do, to thank him?"

The old lady looked from one to the other; her face was grim enough, but
her words were courteous.

"We are grateful, indeed, to monsieur!" she said. "The only thing we
can do for him, my niece, is to bind his hands with soothing ointment; I
will attend to this matter myself. You are agitated, Valerie, and I
advise you to go to your own room, and let Felice bring you a potion. If
M. D'Arthenay will follow me into my salon, I will see to these injured
hands."

How a cold touch can take the colour out of life. An instant before I
was a hero, not in my own eyes, but surely in those tender blue ones
that now shone through angry tears, and--I knew not what sweet folly was
springing up in me while she held my hands in hers. Now, I was only a
young man with dirty and blackened fingers, standing in a constrained
position, and, I make no doubt, looking a great fool. The young lady
vanished, and I followed madame into the little room. I am bound to say
that she treated my scorched hands with perfect skill.

When Yvon came rushing in a few minutes later,--he had heard the story
from his sister, and was for falling on my neck, and calling me his
brother, the saviour of his cherished sister,--I know not what wild
nonsense,--Mme. de Lalange cut his expressions short. "M. le Marquis,"
she said, and she put a curious emphasis on the title, I thought; "M. le
Marquis, it will be well, believe me, for you to leave this gentleman
with me for a short time. He has suffered a shock, more violent than he
yet realises. His hands are painfully burned, yet I hope to relieve his
sufferings in a few minutes. I suggest that you retire to your own
apartments, where M. D'Arthenay will join you, say in half an hour."

Generally, Yvon paid little heed to his aunt, rather taking pleasure in
thwarting her, which was wrong, no doubt, yet her aspect invited it; but
on this occasion, she daunted us both. There was a weight in her words,
a command in her voice, which I, for one, was not inclined at that
moment to dispute; and Yvon, after an angry stare, and a few muttered
words of protest, went away, only charging me to be with him within the
half-hour.

Left alone with the ancient lady, there was silence for a time. I could
not think what she wanted with me; she had shown no love for my society
since I had been in the house. I waited, thinking it the part of
courtesy to let her begin the conversation, if she desired any.

Presently she began to talk, in a pleasanter strain than I had yet heard
her use. Was the pain less severe? she asked; and now she changed the
linen cloths dipped in something cool and fragrant, infinitely soothing
to the irritated skin. I must have been very quick, to prevent further
mischief; in truth, it was a great debt they owed me, and she, I must
believe her, shared the gratitude of her niece and nephew, even though
her feelings were less vivaciously expressed.

I told her it was nothing, and less than nothing, that I had done, and I
thought there had been far too much said about it already. I was deeply
thankful that no harm had come to Mlle. de Ste. Valerie, but I could
claim no merit, beyond that of having my eyes open, and my wits about
me.

She bowed in assent. "Your wits about you!" she said. "But that in
itself is no small matter, M. D'Arthenay, I assure you. It is not every
young man who can say as much. Your eyes open, and your wits about you?
You are fortunate, believe me."

Her tone was so strange, I knew not what reply to make, if any; again I
waited her lead.

"The young people with whom I have to do are so widely different from
this!" she said, presently. "Hearts of gold, heads of feather! you must
have observed this, M. D'Arthenay."

I replied with some warmth that I had recognised the gold, but not the
other quality. She smiled, a smile that had no more warmth in it than
February sunshine on an icicle.

"You are modest!" she said. "I give you credit for more discernment than
you admit. Confess that you think our marquis needs a stronger head
beside him, to aid in his affairs."

I had thought this, but I conceived it no part of my duty to say as
much. I was silent, therefore, and looked at her, wondering.

"Confess," she went on, "that you saw as much, when he came to your
estate--of which the title escapes me--in North America; that you
thought it might be well for him to have a companion, an adviser, with
more definite ideas of life; well for him, and possibly--incidentally,
of course--for the companion?"

"Madam!" I said. I could say no more, being confounded past the point of
speech.

"It is because of this friendly interest in my nephew," the lady went
on, taking no notice of my exclamation. "In my _nephew_, that I think to
give you pleasure by announcing a visit that we are shortly to receive.
A guest is expected at Château Claire in a few days; in fact, the day
after to-morrow. My nephew has doubtless spoken to you of the Vicomte de
Creçy?"

I said no, I had heard of no such person.

"Not heard of him? Unpardonable remissness in Yvon! Not heard of the
vicomte? Of the future husband of Mlle. de Ste. Valerie?"

I took the blow full and fair, my dear. I think my father in me kept me
from flinching; but I may have turned white as I saw myself an hour
after; for after one glance the woman turned her eyes away, and looked
at me no more as she spoke on. "It seems hardly credible that even my
nephew's featherpate should have kept you a month in ignorance of what
so nearly concerns his sister and our whole family. The vicomte is a
charming man, of high polish and noble descent. His estate adjoins ours
on the south. The match was made by my late brother, the father of Yvon
and Valerie, shortly before his death. It had been his cherished plan
for years, ever since Providence removed the vicomtesse to a better
world than this; but Valerie was very young. The matter was arranged
while she was still in the convent, and since then the vicomte has been
travelling, in Russia, India, the world over, and is but just returned.
The betrothal will be solemnised, now, in a few days."

I feared to speak at the moment. I snuffed the candle, and, finding my
hand steady, tried my voice, which had a good strength, though the sound
of it was strange to me.

"Do they--does she know?" I asked.

The lady cleared her throat, and looked--or I fancied it--a trifle
confused. "I have not yet told my niece and nephew. I--the letter came
but this evening. There was a letter also for you, M. D'Arthenay; I
ordered it sent to your room. I think your hands will do well now, and I
need no longer detain you from your friend."

I stood up before her.

"Madam," I said, "permit me a word. I have to thank you for your
kindness, and for the hospitality which I have received under this
kindly roof, whether it were with your will or not. For Mlle. de Ste.
Valerie, I wish her all joy that earthly life can know. If her--if her
husband be one half so noble as herself, she cannot fail of happiness.
It is only a princely nature that should be matched with the purity of
an angel and the goodness of a saint. For myself"--I paused a moment,
finding myself short of breath; but my strength was come back to me. I
sought her eye and held it, forcing her to look at me against her will.
"For myself, I am no noble, though there is good blood in my veins. I am
a plain man, the son of a peasant. But God, madam, who sees your heart
and mine, created, I make bold to remind you, both noble and peasant;
and as that God is above us, you have done bitter wrong to an honest
man. There is no heart of a woman in you, or I would commend to it that
fair young creature, who will need, I think, a woman's tenderness. I
thank you again for your assistance, and I take my leave. And I pray you
to remember that, whatever the D'Arthenays may have been in France, in
my country, in America, madam, they pass for men of honour!"

I bowed, and left her; and now, methought, it was she who was white, and
I thought there was fear in her eyes when she dropped them. But I turned
away, and, passing Yvon's door, went to my own room.



CHAPTER X.


THE shock of my awakening was so violent, the downfall of my air-castles
so sudden and complete, that I think for awhile I had little sense of
what was going on. Yvon came to my door and knocked, and then called;
but I made no answer, and he went away, thinking, I suppose, that I had
forgotten him, and gone to bed. I sat on the side of my bed, where I had
thrown myself, great part of that night; and there was no thought of
sleep in me. My folly loomed large before me; I sat and looked it in the
face. And sometimes, for a few moments, it would not seem altogether
folly. I felt my youth and strength in every limb of me, and I thought,
what could not love do that was as strong as mine? for now I knew that
all these quiet weeks it had been growing to full stature, and that
neither gratitude nor friendship had any considerable part in my
feeling, but here was the one woman in the world for me. And would it be
so hard, I asked, to take her away from all this, and make a home for
her in my own good country, where she should be free and happy as a
bird, with no hateful watchers about her path? And would she not love
the newness, and the greatness and beauty of it all, and the homely
friends whom her brother so truly loved? Could I not say to her, "Come!"
and would she not come with me?

Ah! would she not? And with that there fell from my eyes as it were
scales,--even like the Apostle Paul, with reverence be it said,--and I
saw the thing in its true light. My heart said she would come; had not
her eyes answered mine last night? Was there not for her, too, an
awakening? And if she came,--what then?

I saw her, the delicate lady, in my father's house; not a guest, as Yvon
had been, but a dweller, the wife and daughter of the house, the wife of
a poor man. I remembered all the work that my mother Marie had done so
joyfully, so easily, because she was a working-woman, and these were the
things she had known all her life. This form of grace that filled my
eyes now was no lighter nor more graceful than hers; but the difference!
My mother's little brown hands could do any work that they had strength
for, and make it a woman's work in the doing, because she was pure woman
in herself; but these white fingers that had caught mine last
night,--what could they do? What ought they to do, save work delicately
with the needle, and make cordials and sweets (for in this my young lady
excelled), and beyond these matters, to play the harp and guitar, and
tend her roses, and adorn her own lovely person?

"But," cried the other voice in me, "I am young and strong, and I can
work! I can study the violin, I can become a musician, can earn my
bread and hers, so that there will be no need of the farm. It would be a
few years of study, a few years of waiting,--and she is so young!"

Ah, yes! she was so young! and then that voice died away, and knew that
it had no more to say. What--what was this, to think of urging a young
girl, still almost a child, to give up the station of life in which she
had lived happy and joyous, and go away with a stranger, far from her
own home and her own people, to share a struggling life, with no certain
assurance of anything, save love alone? What was this but a baseness, of
which no honest man could be capable? If,--if even I had read her glance
aright,--last night,--or was it a year ago? Still, it was but a thing of
a moment, the light springing up of a tiny fire of good will, that would
die out in a few days after I was gone, for want of fuel; even if it
were not snatched out strongly by other hands, as I had put out those
climbing flames last night. How her startled eyes sought mine! How the
colour flashed into her face when I spoke. No! no! Of that I must not
think, if my manhood was to stay in me!

This other, then, who was coming,--this man would turn her thoughts. She
would yield, as is the custom for young maidens in France, with no
thought that it might be otherwise. He was no longer young,--he had
already been once married,--I looked up at this moment, I do not know
by what chance, and my eyes fell on a long glass, what they call a
cheval-glass in France, my dear, showing the whole figure. I think no
harm, seeing this was so long ago, in saying that I appeared to
advantage in such a view, being well-made, and perhaps not without other
good points. This will seem strangely trifling to you, my child, who see
nothing but the soul of man or woman; but I have always loved a good
figure, and never felt shame to thank God for giving me one. My clothes
were good, having been bought in Paris as we came through. I have never
made any claim to pass for a gentleman, Melody, but yet I think I made a
fair enough show of one, that night at least. And being so constituted,
I sat staring at my image in the mirror, and wondering like a fool if
the other man were as good-looking. This would be like a slight crust of
contentment,--sad enough at that,--forming for a moment over the black
depth of sorrow that was my heart; and next moment the pain would stab
through it again, till I could have cried out but for the shame of it;
and so the night wore by, and the morning found me still there. I had
learned little, save the one thing that was all the world,--that I could
not commit a baseness.

It was strange to me, coming down to breakfast, to find Yvon unchanged,
his own gay self simply. I was grown suddenly so old, he seemed no more
than a child to me, with his bits of song that yesterday I had joined in
with a light heart, and his plans for another day of pleasure, like
yesterday and all the days. Looking at him, I could have laughed, had
there been any laughter in me, at the thought of his aunt that I had
come over with a view to bettering myself at his expense. It seemed a
thing of so little moment; I had half a mind to tell him, but held my
peace, wishing her really no evil, since what she had done had been
through love and care for her own. There might be such men as she had
thought me; I have since found that there are indeed.

Yvon was full of plans; we were to ride this afternoon, to such and such
a place; it was the finest view in the country, there was nothing to
approach it. Pierre should drive over and meet us there, with peaches,
and cream, and cakes, and we would sup, we three together, and come home
by moonlight. It would be the very thing! if I really could hold the
bridle? it was the very thing to remove the recollection of last night
from his sister's mind, impressionable, as youth always is. (He said
this, Melody, with an air of seventy years, and wisdom ineffable, that
was comical enough.) "From my own mind," he cried, "never shall the
impression be effaced. Thy heroism, my Jacques, shall be inscribed in
the annals of our houses. To save the life of a Demoiselle de Ste.
Valerie is claim sufficient for undying remembrance; to save the life of
my sister, my Valerie,--and you her saviour, the friend of my
heart,--the combination is perfect; it is ideal. I shall compose a poem,
Jacques; I have already begun it. '_Ciel d'argent_--' you shall hear it
when it has progressed a little farther; at present it is in embryo
merely."

He sent for his sister, that they might arrange their plans before she
passed to her lessons, which were strictly kept up. She came, and my
heart spoke loud, telling me that all my vigil had brought to me was
true, and that I must begone. There was a new softness in her sweet
eyes, a tone in her voice,--oh, it was always kind,--but now a
tenderness that I must not hear. She would see my hands; could not
believe that I was not seriously wounded; vowed that her aunt was a
magician; "though I prayed long, long, last night, monsieur, that the
wounds might heal quickly. They are really--no! look, Yvon! look! these
terrible blisters! but, they are frightful, M. D'Arthenay. You--surely
you should not have left your room, in this condition?"

Not only this, I assured her, but I was so entirely well that I hoped to
ride with them this afternoon, if the matter could be arranged. She
listened with delight while Yvon detailed his plan; presently her face
fell a little.

"Walk back!" she said. "Yes, Yvon, what could be more delightful? but
when I tell you that the sole is sprung from my walking-shoe, and it
must go to the village to be mended! How can I get it back in time?"

A thought came to me. "If mademoiselle would let me see the shoe?" I
said. "Perhaps I can arrange it for her." Yvon frowned and pshawed; he
did not like any mention of my shoemaking; this was from no unworthy
feeling, but because he thought the trade unsuited to me. I, however,
repeated my request, and, greatly wondering, the young lady sent a
servant for the shoe. I took it in my hand with pleasure; it was not
only beautiful, but well made. "Here is an easy matter!" I said,
smiling. "Will mademoiselle see how they mend shoes in my country?" A
hammer was soon found, and sitting down on a low bench, I tapped away,
and soon had the pretty thing in order again. Mademoiselle Valerie cried
out upon my cleverness. "But, you can then do anything you choose,
monsieur?" she said. "To play the violin, to save a life, to mend a
shoe,--do they teach all these things in your country? and to what
wonderful school did you go?"

I said, to none more wonderful than a village school; and that this I
had indeed learned well, but on the cobbler's bench. "Surely Yvon has
told you, mademoiselle, of our good shoemaker, and how he taught me his
trade, that I might practise it at times when there is no fiddling
needed?" I spoke cheerfully, but let it be seen that I was not in jest.
A little pale, she looked from one of us to the other, not
understanding.

"All nonsense, Valerie!" cried Yvon, forcing a laugh. "Jacques learned
shoemaking, as he would learn anything, for the sake of knowledge. He
may even have practised it here and there, among his neighbours; why
not? I have often wished I could set a stitch, in time of need, as he
has done to-day. But to remain at this trade,--it is stuff that he
talks; he does not know his own nature, his own descent, when he permits
himself to think of such a thing. Fie, M. D'Arthenay!"

"No more of that!" I said. "The play is over, _mon cher_! M. D'Arthenay
is a figure of your kind, romantic heart, Yvon. Plain Jacques De
Arthenay, farmer's son, fiddler, and cobbler, stands from this moment on
his own feet, not those of his grandfather four times back."

I did not look at my young lady, not daring to see the trouble that I
knew was in her sweet face; but I looked full at Yvon, and was glad
rather than sorry at his black look. I could have quarrelled with him or
any man who had brought me to this pass. But just then, before there
could be any more speech, came the sour-faced maid with an urgent
message from Mme. de Lalange, that both the young lady and the marquis
should attend her in her own room without delay.

Left alone, I found myself considering the roses on the terrace, and
wondering could I take away a slip of one, and keep it alive till I
reached home. In the back of my head I knew what was going on up-stairs
in the grim lady's room; but I had no mind to lose hold on myself, and
presently I went for my fiddle, which was kept in the parlour hard by,
and practised scales, a thing I always did when out of Yvon's company,
being what he could not abear. To practise scales is a fine thing,
Melody, to steady the mind and give it balance; you never knew, my
child, why I made you sing your scales so often, that night when your
aunt Rejoice was like to die, and all the house in such distress. Your
aunt Vesta thought me mad, but I was never in better wits.

So I was quiet, when after a long time Yvon came down to me. When I saw
that he knew all, I laid my violin away, agitation being bad for the
strings,--or so I have always thought. He was in a flame of anger, and
fairly stammered in his speech. What had his aunt said to me, he
demanded, the night before? How had she treated me, his friend? She
was--many things which you know nothing about, Melody, my dear; the very
least of them was cat, and serpent, and traitress. But I took a cool
tone.

"Is it true, Yvon," I asked, "about the gentleman who comes to-morrow?
You have already known about it? It is true?"

"True!" cried Yvon, his passion breaking out. "Yes, it is true! What,
then? Because my sister is to marry, some day,--she is but just out of
her pinafores, I tell you,--because some day she is to marry, and the
estates are to join, is that a reason that my friend is to be insulted,
my pleasure broken up, my summer destroyed? I insist upon knowing what
that cat said to you, Jacques!"

"She told me what you acknowledge," I said. "That I can be insulted I
deny, unless there be ground for what is said. Mme. de Lalange did what
she considered to be her duty; and--and I have spent a month of great
happiness with you, marquis, and it is a time that will always be the
brightest of my life."

But at this Yvon flung himself on my neck--it is not a thing practised
among men in this country, but in him it seemed nowise strange, my blood
being partly like his own--and wept and stormed. He loved me, I am glad
to believe, truly; yet after all the most part was to him, that his
party of pleasure was spoiled, and his plans broken up. And then I
remembered how we had talked together that day in the old grist-mill,
and how he had said that when trouble came, we should spread our wings
and fly away from it. And Ham's words came back to me, too, till I could
almost hear him speak, and see the grave, wise look of him. "Take good
stuff, and grind it in the Lord's mill, and you've got the best this
world can give." And I found that Ham's philosophy was the one that
held.

There was no more question of the gay party that afternoon. Mlle. de
Ste. Valerie did not dine with us, word coming down that her head ached,
and she would not go out. Yvon and I went to walk, and I led the way to
my tower (so I may call it this once), thinking I would like to see it
once more. All these three months and more (counting from the day I
first met Yvon de Ste. Valerie at the priest's house), I had played a
second in the duet, and that right cheerfully. Though my own age, the
marquis was older in many ways from his knowledge of society and its
ways, and his gay, masterful manner; and I, the country lad, had been
too happy only to follow his lead, and go about open-eyed, seeing all he
would show, and loving him with honest admiration and pride in him. But
it was curious to see how from this moment we changed; and now it was I
who led, and was the master. The master in my own house, I thought for a
moment, as we sat on the shelf under the great round window, and looked
out over the lands that had once belonged to my people. Here once more
the dream came upon me, and I had a wild vision of myself coming back
after years, rich and famous, and buying back the old tower, building
the castle, and holding that sweet princess by my side. The poet
Coleridge, my dear, in describing a man whose wits are crazed, makes use
of this remarkable expression:

          "How there looked him in the face
             An angel beautiful and bright,
           And how he knew it was a fiend,
             That miserable knight."

This knowledge was also mercifully mine. And I was helped, too, by a
thing slight enough, and yet curious. Being in distress of mind, I
sought some use of my hands, as is the case with most women and some
men. I fell to pulling off the dead leaves of ivy from the wall; and so,
running my hand along the inside of the window, felt beneath it a
carving on the stone. I lifted the leaves, which here were not so thick
as in most places, and saw a shield carved with arms, and on it the
motto I knew well: "_D'Arthenay, tenez foi!_"

I told my friend that I must be gone that night; that I knew his aunt
desired it, and was entirely in her right, it being most unfitting that
a stranger should be present on such an occasion as this. Doubtless
other friends would be coming, too, and my room would be wanted.

Here he broke out in a storm, and vowed no one should have my room, and
I should not stir a foot for a hundred of them. And here had she kept
him in the dark, as if he were a babe, instead of the head of the house.
It was an affront never to be forgiven. If the vicomte had not been the
friend of his father, he would break off the match, and forbid him the
house. As it was, he was powerless, tied hand and foot.

I interrupted him, thinking such talk idle; and begged to know what
manner of man this was who was coming. Was he--was he the man he should
be?

He was a gallant gentleman, Yvon confessed; there was no fault to find
with him, save that he was old enough to be the girl's father. But that
was all one! If he were twenty viscounts, he should not turn out his,
Yvon's friend, the only man he ever cared to call his brother,--and so
on and so on, till I cut him short. For now I saw no way, Melody, but to
tell him how it was with me; and this I did in as few words as might
be, and begged him to let me go quietly, and say no more. For once, I
think, the lad was put to such depth of sorrow as was in him. He had
never guessed, never thought of this; his sister was a child to him, and
must be so, he supposed, to all. How could he tell? Why had he brought
me here, to suffer? He was a criminal! What could he do? And then there
struck him a thought, and he glanced up sharply at me, and I saw not the
face of my friend, but one cold and questioning. Had I spoken to his
sister? Did she--

I cut him short at the word. Of that, I said, he could judge better than
I, having been in my company daily for three months. He fell on my neck
again, and implored my pardon; and said, I think, that twenty viscounts
were less noble than I. I cared little for my nobility; all I asked was
to get away, and hide my wound among my own friendly people.

And so it was arranged that I was to go that night; and we walked back
to the château, speaking little, but our hearts full of true affection,
and--save for that one sting of a moment--trust in each other.



CHAPTER XI.


THE disturbance of my mind had been so great, that all this while I had
forgotten the letter of which Mme. de Lalange had spoken the night
before. I had seen it when I first went to my room, but was in no mood
for village news then; I saw that it was in the large round hand of Ham
Belfort, and thought it kind in him to write, seeing that it cost him
some effort; then I forgot it, as I said. But now, going again to my
room, and with nothing much to do save wait the hour of my departure, I
took the letter up, idly enough, thinking I might as well do this as
another thing. This is what I read, Melody. No fear of my forgetting the
words.

          FRIEND JAKEY:

          I am sorry to have bad news to send you this first
          time of my writing. Father says to prepare your
          mind, but I never found it work that way myself,
          always liking to know straight out how things was,
          and I think you are the same. Your father has been
          hearty, for him, till about a week ago. Then he
          begun to act strange, and would go about looking
          for your mother, as if she was about the place.
          Abby kep watch on him, and I happened in once or
          twice a day, just to pass the word, and he was
          always just as polite, and would read me your
          letters. He thought a sight of your letters,
          Jakey, and they gave him more pleasure than likely
          he'd have had if you'd have ben here, being new
          and strange to him, so to speak. He was a perfect
          gentleman; he like to read them letters, and they
          done credit to him and you. Last night Abby said
          to me, she guessed she would take her things over
          and stay a spell at the house, till your father
          was some better, he was not himself, and she owed
          it to you and your mother. I said she was right,
          I'd gone myself, but things wasn't so I could
          leave, and a woman is better in sickness, however
          it may be when a man is well. She went over early
          this morning, but your father was gone. There
          warn't no hide nor hair of him round the house nor
          in the garding. She sent for me, and I sarched the
          farm; but while I was at it, seems as if she
          sensed where he was, and she went straight to the
          berrin-ground, and he was layin on your mother's
          grave, peaceful as if he'd just laid down a spell
          to rest him. He was dead and cold, Jakes, and you
          may as well know it fust as last. He hadn't had no
          pain, for when I see him his face was like he was
          in heaven, and Abby says it come nearer smiling
          than she'd seen it sence your mother was took. So
          this is what my paneful duty is to tell you, and
          that the Lord will help you threw it is my prayer
          and alls that is in the village. Abby is real
          sick, or she would write herself. She thought a
          sight of your father, as I presume likely you
          know. We shall have the funeral to-morrow, and
          everything good and plain, knowing how he would
          wish it from remembering your mother's. So no
          more, Friend Jakey; only all that's in the village
          feels for you, and this news coming to you far
          away; and would like you to feel that you was
          coming home all the same, if he is gone, for there
          aint no one but sets by you, and they all want to
          see you back, and everybody says it aint the same
          place with you away. So I remain your friend,

                                               HAM BELFORT.

          P.S. I'd like you to give my regards to Eavan, if
          he remembers the grist-mill, as I guess likely he
          doos. Remember the upper and nether millstones,
          Jakey, and the Lord help you threw.

                                                      H. B.

It is sometimes the bitterest medicine, Melody, that is the most
strengthening. This was bitter indeed; yet coming at this moment, it
gave me the strength I needed. The sharp sting of this pain dulled in
some measure that other that I suffered; and I had no fear of any
weakness now. I do not count it weakness, that I wept over my poor
father, lying down so quietly to die on the grave of his dear love. In
my distraction, I even thought for a moment how well it was with them
both, to be together now, and wished that death might take me and
another to some place where no foolish things of this world should keep
us apart; but that was a boy's selfish grief, and I was now grown a man.
I read Ham's letter over and over, as well as I could for tears; and it
seemed to me a pure fruit of friendship, so that I gave thanks for him
and Abby, knowing her silent for want of strength, not want of love. I
should still go home, to the friendly place, and the friendly people who
had known my birth and all that had fallen since. I had no place here; I
was in haste to be gone.

At first I thought not to tell Yvon of what had come to me; but he
coming in and finding me as I have said, I would not have him mistake my
feeling, and so gave him the letter. And let me say that a woman could
not have been tenderer than my friend was, in his sympathy and grieving
for me. I have told you that he and my poor father were drawn to each
other from the first. He spoke of him in terms which were no more than
just, but which soothed and pleased me, coming from one who knew
nobility well, both the European sense of it, and the other. Upon this,
Yvon pressed me to stay, declaring that he would go away with me, and we
would travel together, till my hurt was somewhat healed, or at least I
had grown used to the sting of it; but this I could not hear of. He
helped me put my things together, for by this time night was coming on.
He had found his sister so suffering, he told me, that she felt unable
to leave her bed; and so he had thought it best not to tell her of my
departure till the morrow. And this was perhaps the bitterest drop I had
to drink, my dear, to leave the house like a thief, and no word to her
who had made it a palace of light to me. Indeed, when Yvon left me, to
order the horses, a thought came into my mind which I found it hard to
resist. There was a little balcony outside my window, and I knew that my
dear love's window (I call her so this once, the pain coming back sharp
upon me of that parting hour) opened near it. If I took my violin and
stepped outside, and if I played one air that she knew, then, I thought,
she would understand, at least in part. She would not think that I had
gone willingly without kissing her sweet hand, which I had counted on
doing, the custom of the country permitting it. I took the violin, and
went out into the cool night air; and I laid my bow across the strings,
yet no sound came. For honour, my dear, honour, which we bring into this
world with us, and which is the only thing, save those heavenly ones,
that we can take from this world with us, laid, as it were, her hand on
the strings, and kept them silent. A thing for which I have ever since
been humbly thankful, that I never willingly or knowingly gave any touch
of pain to that sweet lady's life. But if I had played, Melody; if it
had been permitted to me as a man of honour as well as a true lover, it
was my mother's little song that I should have played; and that, my
child, is why you have always said that you hear my heart beat in that
song.

          "Il y a longtemps que je t'aime;
           Jamais je ne t'oublierai!"

Before we rode away, Mme. de Lalange came out to the door, leaning on
her crutched stick; the horses being already there, and I about to
mount. She swept me a curtsey of surprising depth, considering her
infirmity.

"M. D'Arthenay," she said, "I think I have done you an injustice. I
cannot regret your departure, but I desire to say that your conduct has
been that of a gentleman, and that I shall always think of you as noble,
and the worthy descendant of a great race." With that she held out her
hand, which I took and kissed, conceiving this to be her intention; that
I did it with something the proper air her eyes assured me. It is a
graceful custom, but unsuited to our own country and race.

I could only reply that I thanked her for her present graciousness, and
that it was upon that my thought should dwell in recalling my stay here,
and not upon what was past and irrevocable; which brought the colour to
her dry cheek, I thought, but I could say nothing else. And so I bowed,
and we rode away; my few belongings having gone before by carrier, all
save my violin, which I carried on the saddle before me.

Coming to the Tour D'Arthenay, we checked our horses, with a common
thought, and looked up at the old tower. It was even as I had seen it on
first arriving, save that now a clear moonlight rested on it, instead of
the doubtful twilight. The ivy was black against the white light, the
empty doorway yawned like a toothless mouth, and the round eye above
looked blindness on us. As I gazed, a white owl came from within, and
blinked at us over the curve. Yvon started, thinking it a spirit,
perhaps; but I laughed, and taking off my hat, saluted the bird.

"_Monsieur mon locataire_," I said, "I have the honour to salute you!"
and told him that he should have the castle rent free, on condition that
he spared the little birds, and levied taxes on the rats alone.

Looking back when we had ridden a little further, the tower had turned
its back on me, and all I saw was the heaps of cut stone, lying naked in
the moonlight. That was my last sight of the home of my ancestors. I had
kept faith.



CHAPTER XII.


HERE ends, my dear child, the romance of your old friend's life; if by
the word romance we may rightly understand that which, even if not
lasting itself, throws a brightness over all that may come after it. I
never saw that fair country of France again, and since then I have lived
sixty years and more; but what I brought away with me that sorrowful
night has sweetened all the years. I had the honour of loving as sweet a
lady as ever stepped from heaven to earth; and I had the thought that,
if right had permitted, and the world been other than it was, I could
have won her. Such feelings as these, my dear, keep a man's heart set on
high things, however lowly his lot may be.

I came back to my village. My own home was empty, but every house was
open to me; and not a man or a woman there but offered me a home for as
long as I would take it. My good friend Ham Belfort would have me come
to be a son to him, he having no children. But my duty, as he clearly
saw when I pointed it out, was to Abby Rock; and Abby and I were not to
part for many years. Her health was never the same after my father's
death; it was her son I was to be, and I am glad to think she found me
a good one.

Father L'Homme-Dieu made me kindly welcome, too, and to him and to Abby
I could open my heart, and tell them all that had befallen me in these
three life-long months. But I found a strange difference in their manner
of receiving it; for whereas the Father understood my every feeling, and
would nod his head (a kind hand on my shoulder all the while), and say
yes, yes, I could not have done otherwise, and thus it was that a
gentleman should feel and act,--which was very soothing to me,--Abby, on
the other hand, though she must hear the story over and over again,
could never gain any patience in the hearing.

"What did they want?" she would cry, her good homely face the colour of
a red leaf. "An emperor would be the least that could suit them, I'll
warrant!" And though she dared not, after the first word, breathe
anything against my sweet young lady, she felt no such fear about the
old one, and I verily believe that if she had come upon Mme. de Lalange,
she would have torn her in pieces, being extraordinary strong in her
hands. Hag and witch were the kindest words she could give her; so that
at last I felt bound to keep away from the subject, from mere courtesy
to the absent. But this, as I have since found by observation, was the
mother-nature in Abby, which will fill the mildest woman with desire to
kill any one that hurts or grieves her child.

For some time I stuck close to my shoemaker's bench, seeking quiet, as
any creature does that is deeply wounded (for the wound was deep, my
dear; it was deep; but I would not have had it otherwise), and seeing
only those home friends, who had known the shape of my cradle, as it
were, and to whom I could speak or not, as my mind was. I found solid
comfort in the society of Ham, and would spend many hours in the old
grist-mill; sometimes sitting in the loft with him and the sparrows,
sometimes hanging over the stones, and watching the wheat pour down
between them, and hearing the roar and the grinding of them. The upper
and nether millstones! How Ham's words would come back, over and over,
as I thought how my life was ground between pain and longing! One day, I
mind, Ham came and found me so, and I suppose my face may have showed
part of what I felt; for he put his great hand on my shoulder, and
shouted in my ear, "Wheat flour, Jakey! prime wheat flour, and good riz
bread; I see it rising, don't you be afeard!" But by and by the
neighbours in the country round heard of my being home again; and
thinking that I must have learned a vast deal overseas, they were set on
having me here and there to fiddle for them. At first I thought no, I
could not; there seemed to be only one tune my fiddle would ever play
again, and that no dancing tune. But with using common sense, and some
talk with Father L'Homme-Dieu, this foolishness passed away, and it
seemed the best thing I could do, being in sadness myself, was to give
what little cheer I could to others. So I went, and the first time was
the worst, and I saw at once here was a thing I could do, and do, it
might be, better than another. For being with the marquis, Melody, and
seeing how high folks moved, and spoke, and held themselves, it was
borne in upon me that I had special fitness for a task that might well
be connected with the pleasure of youth in dancing. Dancing, as I have
pointed out to you many times, may be considered in two ways: first, as
the mere fling of high spirits, young animals skipping and leaping, as
kids in a meadow, and with no thought save to leap the highest, and
prance the furthest; but second, and more truly, I must think, to show
to advantage the grace (if any) and perfection of the human body, which
we take to be the work of a divine hand, and the beauty of motion in
accord with music. And whereas I have heard dancing condemned as
unmanly, and fit only for women and young boys, I must still take the
other hand, and think there is no finer sight than a well-proportioned
man, with a sense of his powers, and a desire to do justice to them,
moving through the figures of a contra-dance. But this is my hobby, my
dear, and I may have wearied you with it before now.

I undertook, then, as my trade allowed it,--and indeed, in time the
bench came to hold only the second place in the arrangement of my
days,--to give instruction in dancing and deportment, to such as desired
to improve themselves in these respects. The young people in the
villages of that district were honest, and not lacking in wits; but
they were uncouth to a degree that seemed to me, coming as I did from
the home of all grace and charm, a thing horrible, and not to be
endured. They were my neighbours; I was bound, or so it seemed to me, to
help them to a right understanding of the mercies of a bountiful
Providence, and to prevent the abuse of these mercies by cowish gambols.
I let it be understood wherever I went that whoever would study under me
must be a gentleman; for a gentleman is, I take it, first and last, a
gentle man, or one who out of strength brings sweetness, as in the case
of Samson's lion. To please, first the heart, by a sincere and cordial
kindness, and next the eye, by a cheerful and (so far as may be)
graceful demeanour; this disposition will tend, if not to great deeds,
at least to the comfort and happiness of those around us. I was thought
severe, and may have been so; but I lived to see a notable change
wrought in that country. I remember the day, Melody, when a young man
said to me with feeling, "I cannot bear to see a man take off his hat to
a woman. _It makes me sick!_" To-day, if a man, young or old, should
fail in this common courtesy, it would be asked what cave of the woods
he came from. But let fine manners come from the heart, I would always
say, else they are only as a gay suit covering a deformed and shapeless
body. I recall an occasion when one of my pupils, who had made great
progress by assiduous study, and had attained a degree of elegance not
often reached in his station, won the admiration of the whole room by
the depth and grace of his bow. I praised him, as he deserved; but a few
minutes after, finding him in the act of mimicking, for the public
diversion, an awkward, ill-dressed poor lad, I dismissed him on the
instant, and bade him never come to my classes again.

In these ways, my child, I tried, and with fair measure of success, to
ease the smart of my own pain by furthering the pleasure of others; in
these ways, to which I added such skill as I had gained on the violin,
making it one of my chief occupations, when work was slack, to play to
such as loved music, and more especially any who were infirm in health,
or in sorrow by one reason or another. It was a humble path I chose, my
dear; but I never clearly saw my way to a loftier one, and here I could
do good, and think I did it, under Providence. As an instance,--I was
sent for, it may have been a year or two after my trouble, to go some
distance. A young lady was ill, and being fanciful, and her parents
well-to-do, she would have me come and play to her, having heard of me
from one or another. I went, and found a poor shadow of a young woman,
far gone in a decline, if I could judge, and her eyes full of a trouble
that came from no bodily ailment, my wits told me. She sent her people
away, saying she must have the music alone. I have seldom found a better
listener, Melody, or one who spoke to me more plain in silence, her
spirit answering to the music till I almost could hear the sound of it.
Feeling this, I let myself slip into the bow, as it were, more than I
was aware of; and presently forgot her, or next thing to it, and was
away in the rose-garden of Château Claire, and saw the blue eyes that
held all heaven in them, and heard the voice that made my music harsh.
And when at last I brought it down to a whisper, seeing the young
woman's eyes shut, and thinking she might be asleep, she looked up at
me, bright and sharp, and said, "You, too?"

I never saw her again, and indeed think she had not long to live. But it
is an instance, my dear, of what a person can do, if the heart within
him is tender to the sorrows of others.

After Abby's death,--but that was years after all this,--I found it wise
to leave my native village. I will not go into the cause of this, my
child, since it was a passing matter, or so I trusted. There was some
one there who had great good will to me, and, not knowing my story, may
have fancied that I was one who could make her happy; I thought it right
to tell her how I had fared, and then, she being in distress, I left my
home, and from that time, I may say, had many homes, yet none my own. I
have met with rare kindness; no man of my generation, I would wager, has
the number of friends I can boast, and all kind, all hearty, all ready
with a "welcome to Rosin the Beau." And now here, at your aunts' kind
wish and your prayer, my dearest Melody, dear as any child of my own
could be, I am come to spend my last days under your roof; and what
more could mortal man ask than this, I truly know not. My violin and
your voice, Melody; they were made for each other; everybody says that,
my dear, and neither you nor I would deny it. And when the _obligato_ is
silent, as shortly it must be in the good course of nature, it is my
prayer and hope that you will not miss me too much, my dear, but will go
on in joy and in cheer, shedding light about you, and with your own
darkness yielding a clear glory of kindness and happiness. Do not grieve
for the old man, Melody, when the day comes for him to lay down the
fiddle and the bow. I am old, and it is many years that Valerie has been
dead, and Yvon, too, and all of them; and happy as I am, my dear, I am
sometimes tired, and ready for rest. And for more than rest, I trust and
believe; for new life, new strength, new work, as God shall please to
give it me.

          "I've travelled this country all over,
             And now to the next I must go;
           But I know that good quarters await me,
             And a welcome to Rosin the Beau."


THE END.



       *       *       *       *       *



Transcriber's Notes:

Obvious punctuation errors corrected.

Page 20, "our" changed to "her" (clapping her hands)

Page 63, " ather" changed to "father" (how my father)

Page 74, "couple" changed to "couples" (a few couples)





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