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´╗┐Title: Unawares
Author: Peard, Frances
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Unawares" ***

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Unawares
By Frances Peard
Published by Roberts Brothers, Boston.
This edition dated 1872.

Unawares, by Frances Peard.

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________
UNAWARES, BY FRANCES PEARD.

CHAPTER ONE.

  "Quaint old town of toil and traffic."

  Longfellow.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

"You might tell us something, Madame Angelin, since you know so much!"

"Yes, indeed.  What is the good of knowing if you keep it to yourself?"
cried a younger woman, impatiently, placing, as she spoke, her basket of
herbs and vegetables upon the broad stone edge of the fountain around
which a little group had gathered.

"Was it a fit?"

"Has Monsieur Deshoulieres gone to him?"

"Is he dead?"

"What becomes of her?"

"Holy Virgin! will the town have to bury him?"

The individual upon whom this volley of shrill questions was directed
was a small, thin, pungent-faced Frenchwoman, who had just filled her
pitcher at the fountain, and stood with hands clasped over her waist,
and with ineffable satisfaction in her twinkling black eyes, looking
upon the excited questioners who crowded round her.  It is not given to
everybody to know more than their neighbours, nor, as Veuve Angelin
shrewdly reflected, is it a privilege to be lightly parted with.  There
was something very enchanting in the eager attention with which her
information was awaited, and she looked round upon them all with a
patronising benignity, which was, to say the least, irritating.  The May
sun was shining brightly over old pointed roofs; the tiny streams
running out of three grim carved heads in the stone fountain danced and
sparkled in its light; the horse-chestnuts stiffly standing round the
little "Place" threw deep shadows on the glaring stones; from one side
sounded the soft wash of an unseen river; old, dilapidated houses were
jumbled together, irrespective of height and size; behind the women, the
town with its clustering houses rose abruptly on the side of a steep
hill, crowned by the lovely spires of the Cathedral; and before them,
only hidden from sight by the buildings of a straggling suburb,
stretched the monotonous plains and sunny cornfields of the granary of
France.

Veuve Angelin smiled indulgently and shook her head.  "You young people
think too much of gossip," she said.

"So they do, Marie, so they do," responded an old woman, pushing her
yellow, wizened face through the shoulders of those in front of her.
"In our day things arranged themselves differently: the world was not
the magpie's nest it is now.  The young minded their elders, and
conducted themselves sagely, instead of chattering and idling and
going--the saints know whither!"

Veuve Angelin drew herself up.  She was by no means pleased with this
ally.  "All that may have been in your day, Nannon," she said
spitefully, "but my time was very much the same as this time.
Grandfather Owl always thinks the days grow darker."

"Hear her!" cried the old woman, shrilly.  "Has she forgotten the
cherry-trees we used to shake together, the--"

One of the younger of the group interrupted her unceremoniously, "Ta,
ta, Nannon, never mind that now!  Tell us, Madame Angelin, whether it is
all true which they say about the poor old gentleman and the beautiful
young demoiselle.  _Ciel_! there is the clock striking noon, and I
should have been back from market an hour ago.  Quick! we all die of
curiosity;" and she caught some water in the palm of her hand and
sprinkled it over the drooping herbs in her basket, while the others
pressed round more eagerly than ever.

But Veuve Angelin's temper had been roused by Nannon's reminiscences.

"I am going," she said crossly.  "No one shall ever accuse me of
returns from the Cygne, and with this monster of a pitcher to carry up
the hill, just because the _fille_ who fetches the water is ill--"

"Let me carry your pitcher, Madame Angelin!"

"I will take it to the very door.  _Peste_, it is hard if one can't do
so much for one's friends."

"Yes, yes, Fanchon will carry it like a bird.  And so Monsieur is
absolutely at the hotel?"

"Bon jour, mesdames," said old Nannon, laughing shrilly.  "No one cares
to help me with my basket, I suppose?  It is heavy, too: it contains the
clean clothes of my sister's girl, Toinette, a good, hard-working girl
she is, and _fille_ at the Cygne, as you know.--What, Fanchon, my child,
you would carry it!  How admirable you are with your attentions to a
poor old woman like me!  I was wrong, Madame Angelin, I acknowledge it,
in my estimate of your generation."

There was a hesitating movement among the women: they had forgotten
Toinette, and with such a link it was possible that Nannon might be the
best newsmonger after all.  Veuve Angelin noticed the movement, and it
filled her with dismay.

"I saw it myself, I tell you," she cried loudly, plunging at once into
the heart of her subject.  "I saw them come out of the Cygne, the old
monsieur and the young lady, and walk up and down, up and down, under
the trees before the door, and then just, just as they came towards
me--"

She stopped.  The women pressed closer.  Fanchon was drawn back, and
listened enthralled; old Nannon, whose temper was not so sharp as her
words, chuckled under her breath, and said, "She has started at last."
Veuve Angelin looked round and went on in triumph, nodding her little
head, and throwing out her hands.

"It is as I have told you.  They were close by me, those two, and
turning round to enter the hotel again, when, in one second--his foot
slipped, and he came down on the pavement with his head against the
steps.  Imagine my feelings!"

A buzz of sympathy responded to this appeal.  In the character of an
eye-witness, madame almost became a heroine.  Fanchon timidly
inquired,--

"He is old?"

"He looked half dead before."

"And he is hurt?"

"Hurt!  Of what then do you conceive our skulls to be composed? of
granite--iron--india-rubber?  _Tenez_, I heard it crack, I tell you; and
after that there is not much to be said."

"No, assuredly."

"Madame has reason."

Veuve Angelin looked proudly at Nannon: Nannon laughed.

"Since the monsieur is dead, it is strange that Monsieur Deshoulieres
should trouble himself to pass the morning with him," she said.

"And why?" demanded Mere Angelin, reddening with anger.  "Is it
likely,--I put the question to you all, mesdames,--is it likely that
she--she!--should be a better judge of what is strange in the
proceedings of Monsieur Deshoulieres than I who have lived in his
service for nearly fifteen months?"

There was a murmur in the negative, but it was not very decided.  These
doubts had the effect of weakening the general confidence.

"Certainly, madame should know," said her stanchest adherent.

"Nevertheless," persisted Nannon, "you may rest assured that an hour ago
he was not dead, and that Monsieur Deshoulieres was doing his utmost
that he should not die."

"Not dead!  But I tell you I heard his skull crack!"

"How can you answer that, Nannon?"

"His skull?  Bah!  I was in the house at the time, and helped to carry
him upstairs.  M.  Deshoulieres came while I was there."

There was a general exclamation, old Nannon was surrounded.  Here was
one who had been more than an eye-witness, an actual actor in the event
which was agitating Charville.  Fanchon caught up her basket again,
another seized her umbrella, she was the centre of the group which moved
away, questioning as they went, towards the upper town.  Veuve Angelin
would have been left behind, bitter and friendless, to drag her heavy
pitcher as best she might up the steep hill, and to moralise upon the
fleeting charms of popularity, if old Nannon, generous in the moment of
victory, had not desired one of her followers to assist her.

The hot sun streamed down upon the narrow, ill-paved streets; little
gutters trickled crookedly through their middle; the women toiled slowly
up, keeping under the shade of gaunt, picturesque houses, all
irregularly built, high and low, gabled and carved, delightfully
artistic in their very defiance of proportion.  Rough steps led up to
the houses, great projecting blocks of stone ran along their front, with
pots of bright flowers resting upon them: everywhere there were windows,
up in the roofs, down in quaint unexpected corners,--clothes hung out of
them, here and there long strings of peascods.  Strange little stone
workshops were built up by themselves in the street, so small that the
workmen looked too big for them: every thing was shelving, dirty,
picturesque.  The people sat outside their houses, tight-capped children
played about, the sun fell on them, on the gay flowers, the green
peascods,--somehow or other from everywhere bright bits of colour
flashed out gorgeously.  Nannon, with her poor, weather-beaten face, and
her shoulders broadened with labour, walked sturdily on in her blue
stuff gown, a little shawl crossed under an enormously wide black
waistband, a plain white cap pulled forward on her forehead, and
slanting upwards behind,--gesticulating and talking in her high, shrill,
unmodulated voice.  Fanchon, by right of her basket, kept close beside
her; last of all marched Veuve Angelin, half-curious and
half-contemptuous.

There is no news like one's own news.

CHAPTER TWO.

  "A square-set man and honest."

  _The Holy Grail_.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Knots of people stood about the streets, all talking of the strange
event.  Charville is rich in beauty, in picturesqueness, in its
magnificent Cathedral, but its events are few and orderly.  People do
get killed every now and then, it is true: only a few months before,
young Jean Gouye had fallen from a scaffolding, and never spoken again.
But then everybody knew Jean Gouye, and all about him: there was no
mystery or room for speculation in his fate, poor fellow!  This last was
a very different matter.  Who were the strangers?  Where did they come
from?  Where were they going?  What brought them to Charville?  What
made him fall?  Was he dead?  Was mademoiselle in much grief?  Each
person asked the other without much hope of finding out: it was
something to get hold of Nannon, and hear the little she had to tell.
There was no hurry of business to interfere with their curiosity.
Charville took life leisurely: if a house had to be built the masons
talked, laughed, joked with each other between laying on their stones;
the shoemakers gossiped with their neighbours; women brought their work
to the door, played with the children, scolded or chattered.  It was an
easy, quiet, lounging sort of existence, without much distraction from
the outer world,--a magnified village life.  Such an event as had
occurred that morning came upon them like a new sensation.  Nannon had
never been made so much of.  Veuve Angelin followed sulkily.

She would not accompany the triumphal progress to the door of the Cygne,
but turned down a narrow, ill-paved street, which branched off by the
Eveche, and ended in a small, modern square.  M.  Deshoulieres' house
stood in the midst of it, and she entered hastily, with some fears lest
he should be there, and angry at the delay of his breakfast.  He was an
easy-going master, just the one that Veuve Angelin liked, too much
absorbed with his own thoughts and interests to interfere much with her
sovereignty; but every now and then he awoke sufficiently to make her
aware that she could not presume absolutely upon his absent ways.  Even
when she ruled most despotically she was just a little afraid of him.
There was always a possibility that he might assert the prerogative of
having his own way.  Now she was conscious that he would have a reason
for indignation, if he returned, hungry and weary, from his morning's
work, to find the house empty, no food prepared.  "It is all the fault
of that gossiping old Nannon!" she said crossly, as she stopped, hot and
out of breath, to listen at the foot of the stairs for her master's
steps overhead.  She heard nothing; but it was with the air of a martyr
that she mounted, prepared, if there was need, to expatiate upon her own
sufferings, and the inconveniences caused by the absence of Lisette, the
_fille_ who generally fetched the water.  She need not have been afraid.
It was quite two hours afterwards--the things were set out in the
little _salon_, with its polished floor, its red curtains, its mirror,
its timepiece; in the kitchen, where Veuve Angelin also slept, little
pots and pans were simmering and bubbling over tiny hollows filled with
charcoal, scooped out of the brick arched stove--before the doctor and
little Roulleau, the notary, came round the corner with excited faces,
eagerly talking as they walked.

"Man's folly is never so apparent as in his last moments," the doctor
was saying cynically, as they turned in from the square, and began to
mount the bare, uncarpeted staircase.

Veuve Angelin, standing at the top, caught the words with a certain grim
satisfaction.

"So he is dead, after all, in spite of that old woman's obstinacy," she
said volubly.  "I knew it from the first: what one sees one sees, and
what one hears one hears, and nobody can make it different.  But as for
those creatures, bah!  They are _imbecilles_, know-nothings: one might
as well waste one's breath upon a stone wall.  Monsieur has no doubt
just come from the Cygne?"

"Hold your tongue, Marie," answered the doctor, shortly; "get us
something to eat, and do not kill my patients beforehand."

"Something has vexed him," reflected Marie, vanishing promptly.  "Do
what one will for their comfort, those men are always ungrateful."

She would have made up for his want of communicativeness by listening to
the conversation as the two drank _vin ordinaire_, and munched radishes,
but M.  Deshoulieres was exasperatingly silent.  Two or three times the
notary glanced at him as if about to speak, but checked himself.  He
looked troubled, gloomy, abstracted.  The companions were very different
in appearance; M.  Deshoulieres, unlike the conventional type of his
countrymen, largely built, with a massive head, a quantity of short
light hair, and thick moustaches, warmer in tint than his hair.  He had
blue eyes, very blue, well-opened and quick; a finely shaped mouth; over
all a grave expression which somewhat alarmed people.  I ought perhaps
to say, alarmed people who were well, the sick could never understand
their previous fears.  He made enemies for himself by his want of
sympathy for imaginary complaints, he was too straightforward and
truth-telling ever to be entirely popular; but he had a little kingdom
of his own where he reigned triumphantly,--a sad little kingdom,
perhaps, one in which he was always fighting, helping, cheering,--out of
which had grown the grave expression, the abruptness of which others
complained, but one which had also its tributes and its victories and
its satisfactions, and which was dear to the man's good heart.  In his
ears there sounded, it is true, a never-ending din of murmurs,
suffering, feeble moans: to balance these, there were glad, grateful
looks, patient thanks, a lighting up of faces at his step.  Such a life
needs compensations, and he found them.  He might come away, as I have
said, grave and absorbed; but he rarely looked as he looked when he sat
in his little _salon_ on this particular morning,--gloomy, worried, and
out of sorts.

Monsieur Roulleau noticed the change.  Monsieur Roulleau noticed many
things for which no one credited his little half-hidden eyes.  Somebody
once said of him that his face had not the resolution to show its
owner's character, you might look at it for so long a time without
finding any thing to read.  It was answered that he was indeed a blank,
his wife ruled and treated him as a cipher.  On the whole, he was
supposed to be a little, timid, good-natured creature, no one's enemy
but his own, and urged on to exertion by his wife.  Charville half
pitied, half laughed at him.  M.  Deshoulieres had known the little man
for many years, and did him good turns when they lay in his power.  He
looked upon him as something of a victim with this wife in the
background, and her terribly strong will.  The doctor pushed away his
tumbler of wine, lit a cigar, and leaned back in his chair, thinking and
frowning with all his might.  He was quite unconscious that M.
Roulleau, with his back to the window and the red curtains, was not
letting a look or a sign escape him; but he grew a little worried with
Veuve Angelin's ostentatious service.

"That will do, Marie," he said sharply.  "You can leave us and close the
door."

Veuve Angelin went away in a fume.  After enduring the dulness of these
men over their food, it was intolerable that she should be excluded from
the more sociable condition which cigars were likely to produce.  She
slammed the door in token of wrath, and stayed close by it, picking up
stray words and disconnected sentences which had the effect of adding
rather to her bewilderment than her knowledge.

"Bear witness," said the doctor at length, abruptly, "bear witness
always, Roulleau, that I did my utmost to point out to Monsieur Moreau
the absurdities, the inconveniences, of such an arrangement."

The notary bowed and spread open his hands.

"There can be no occasion for M.  Deshoulieres to speak of witnesses
when the world will have his own word."

"True," replied M.  Deshoulieres, simply.  "Nevertheless, we both know
enough of the world to be aware that it holds no prerogative so dear as
that of doubt.  You and I understand the matter clearly: there may be a
dozen others in Charville who will trust me loyally, some will
comprehend the broad fact that, by the law, my quality as the doctor
attending M.  Moreau in his last illness precludes my receiving any
benefit whatever under his will.  But for the rest--"

"No one would be capable of cherishing thoughts so base, so detestable,"
exclaimed the notary, with a burst of enthusiasm.

"Bah!  Nothing more is required for their fabrication than a little
ignorance and a little love of gossip.  Are these so rare, my good M.
Roulleau?"  The doctor made two or three vigorous puffs.  Presently he
held his cigar in his hand, and broke out again: "What possessed the man
to dream of such a thing?  He knows nothing of me, absolutely nothing.
I may forge, burn, steal, poison the young man, let the girl starve.  Do
you mean to tell me that every thing is placed in my hands?"

"The will I have had the pleasure to frame under Monsieur Moreau's
instructions authorises Monsieur Max Deshoulieres as _depositaire_ to
receive all rents and moneys due to Monsieur Moreau or his heirs, and to
hold them in trust until the arrival of Monsieur Fabien Saint-Martin,
sister's son to Monsieur Moreau; always deducting a certain sum, named,
sufficient to maintain his wife's niece, Mademoiselle Therese Veuillot,
upon the condition only that she continues to reside in this town of
Charville--"

"Pardon," said the doctor, interrupting: "the sum assigned for this
purpose can hardly be called a maintenance."

Roulleau shrugged his thin shoulders.

"It is bare without doubt," he replied; "and I ventured to point out
this fact to Monsieur Moreau.  But he was peremptory.  He was peremptory
also in his provisions that you should deliver up the papers to no one
but Monsieur Saint-Martin in person.  He is peremptory, it appears to
me, in all his expressions."

"Peremptory!" broke in M.  Deshoulieres once more: "he is immovable--
made of adamant.  Not one man in a thousand could have forced himself to
perpetrate all these absurdities in a condition like his.  To have
opposed him further would have been to kill him.  What creatures we are!
Here is a man, shrewd, keen-witted, prompt; an old man, whose hold on
life was palpably failing, who had but recently buried his wife, who
could not close his eyes to the fact that he was himself rapidly
approaching death.  And yet this man makes no provision for the
inevitable.  It finds him without so much as his earthly affairs
settled, clinging to a stranger for unwilling help."

The notary did not answer.  Perhaps some shadow of the inevitable swept
also over him as the doctor spoke.  His hand shook as he poured more
wine into his tumbler, and drank it thirstily.  M.  Deshoulieres sat
thinking.  Outside sounded a measured tramp, tramp: a company of
soldiers were marching through the little Place.  The children ran and
marched too, in imitation.  The sun gleamed sharply on the bayonets the
men carried over their shoulders; the steps died away along a narrow
street.  Presently M.  Deshoulieres said in a musing tone,--

"There will surely be no difficulty in discovering this nephew?"

"One cannot tell.  There are strange stories of disappearances.  At all
events, if ten years elapse without his arrival, the property is
dispersed among charities.  And his injunctions against advertising were
very strict."

"Strict? say fierce, _mon ami_.  There is some motive we do not
comprehend underlying it all.  From the bottom of my heart I believe he
is acquainted with his nephew's whereabouts, and would force him to
return voluntarily.  But what have I done that I should be made a
cat's-paw?"

"Without doubt it is Monsieur's well-known honourable character which
influenced his choice."  M.  Deshoulieres made a gesture of impatience.

"Honourable character?  Bah!  The man knows nothing of my character or
my honour either.  I wish I could honestly say he was not in his proper
senses.  When I think of what has been done, it seems to me that he is a
madman and I am a fool; but I suppose the world will pronounce him a
fool and me--a knave.  Stop, I know what you are going to say;
nevertheless, you will discover that I am right.  If there was any good
to be gained by this ridiculous trust, one might endure it with
philosophy.  As it is, I foresee nothing but annoyance, trouble, and
gossip."

"Monsieur alarmed with the prospect of gossip?  I have always understood
that he despised it," said the notary, with a scarcely perceptible
sneer.

"That depends.  The thing may sting although it is contemptible."

"Mademoiselle Veuillot will require a home," said M.  Roulleau, after
another pause.

"There is no time to spend over new perplexities," answered M.
Deshoulieres, impatiently, jumping up and pushing back his chair.  "I
must return.  Come with me, Roulleau: there is just the possibility of
his having arrived at a more Christian state of mind, and agreeing to an
alteration."

"He must die, I presume?" remarked the notary.

"Die?  Yes.  No one but he could live through the night, but he will no
doubt do so--out of contrariety," added the doctor, under his breath.

The two men rose.  Veuve Angelin had only just time to scurry into her
kitchen before they appeared, ran down the stairs, and into the little
square.  There was a statue in the centre, of course, and trees planted
round it, with benches here and there for the idle.  Nurses and their
charges strolled about, under the little patches of shade, a band played
lively airs from the last comic opera, two or three men sat outside a
cafe and smoked.  M.  Deshoulieres turned abruptly down the narrow lane
along which Veuve Angelin had carried her pitcher.  Such contrasts--
outside, the sun shining, people laughing and amusing themselves;
inside, sorrow, and hush, and death--were too thoroughly matters of
course with him to be much noticed.  Perhaps he had seen deeply enough
into life to know that, after all, the contrast is often superficial.
Not unfrequently the laughter would be tears, if it dared: the sharpest
grief is sometimes denied the luxury of a sign.  Heaven help such poor
souls!  Moreover, the contrast, such as it is, came before him every
day.  It shocks us when we are suddenly brought out of the noise and
turmoil about us, face to face with that dread Angel whose step each
hour brings nearer to ourselves.  But this man lived, as it were, in his
presence, and was not jarred by any discord between that consciousness
and the life of every day.  Nevertheless, on this day there was a
strangeness about the event which impressed, him and made him impatient
of interruption to his thoughts.  He was glad to leave the music and the
dancing children and the sunlight behind him, and to feel himself under
the shade of the great cathedral, though he did not put his fancy into
words, or acknowledge more than a pleasant friendliness as he looked up
at the beautiful spires, the firm up-springing lines, the lovely rose
windows, the noble portals, the thin solemn statues with folded hands
and serene attitudes,--the whole aspect of the building ever varying,
severe or tender, as the case might be, but always inconceivably
peaceful.

The little notary had hard work to keep pace with his companion's long
strides.  They went round two sides of the Cathedral, then out of the
Place Notre Dame into another street, as narrow as the others, but
somewhat unlike them.  The houses were not crowded together in so odd a
fashion.  They had outside shutters, which were closed against the sun;
and high up were long rambling wooden balconies, over which green vines
clambered and tossed themselves.  Further on, a house was being dug
out,--the house of some famous man: the workmen were a little excited
over a fresh discovery.  M.  Deshoulieres passed without a look, and
presently came upon the Cygne, standing in a triangular Place, set round
with sycamore-trees.  At the door M.  Roulleau ventured upon a remark.

"Do you intend to suggest any course of action to the young lady?" he
asked.

He received no answer.  Just then the doctor was not thinking about the
young lady.  He strode hastily up the stairs, through an atmosphere yet
heavy and sweet with its lingering cloud of incense, and into the room
where M.  Moreau was doing battle with the last enemy he would have to
contend with.  A girl stood by the side of the bed, looking down on the
dread struggle with pitiful eyes.  Except now and then moistening the
poor parched lips or smoothing the tumbled pillow, there was nothing for
her to do but watch: all apparent consciousness was at an end; no sign
of recognition greeted the doctor.  He also stood watching for a few
minutes before he turned to the girl.

"How long is it since this change came on, mademoiselle?"

"About a quarter of an hour.  I think he hardly heard Monsieur le Cure's
last words," she added, under her breath.  Her voice trembled: that
quarter of an hour had seemed very terrible to poor Therese.  The
sunlight streamed in at the window, but, in spite of it, the room looked
dark and funereal: there was a heavy paper on the walls; stiff, solid
furniture; in one corner a huge black stove reared itself grimly towards
the ceiling.  The women of the house would have stayed with her, but the
old man was impatient of their presence: almost his last word had been a
peremptory "Go!" still fierce enough to frighten them.  It was not
likely that the consciousness of any person's presence would return, as
M.  Deshoulieres quickly perceived.  He took the little notary to the
door, and told him so.

"There is no possible use in your waiting, M.  Ignace," he said.  "I was
a fool, and must abide by the consequences.  Nothing will ever be
changed now.  What is the matter?--are you ill?" he went on, noticing
his pale face.

"For the moment,--only for the moment, M.  Deshoulieres," answered the
little man, with a quavering voice.  "It is so horrible, you know, to
see him like that.  Will--will it be soon?"

"I do not know.  It is what we must all come to," said the doctor,
sternly.  He shut the door, and went back to the bedside.  "That man is
a veritable coward," he said, half aloud, so that Therese might have
heard if she had not been busied with a vain attempt to soothe the
increasing restlessness of the dying man.  Those two, and old Nannon,
who came in after a while of her own accord, watched together.  It was
at an end before morning, as the doctor had foretold.  When the grey
dawn broke over the old weird-looking houses, with the young
sycamore-trees standing sentinel-wise before them; when it touched the
beautiful stern lines of the Cathedral, and delicate carving blossomed
into distinctness, and light stole into the shadowy depths, and the
little lamp before the altar burned yellow, and the jackdaws woke up
screaming and busy, Monsieur Moreau lay with a quiet look upon his
features to which they had long been strangers, until it seemed as if
the day, which was bringing youth to all the earth, had brought it back
to him, and fixed it on his face for ever.

CHAPTER THREE.

  "Les vertus se perdent dans l'interet comme les fleuves se perdent
  dans la mer."

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Mademoiselle Veuillot and M.  Deshoulieres stood by the bedside silent.
Noticing her a little curiously, he fancied there was more awe than
grief in her countenance: it was white and troubled; but there had been
enough in the night's vigil to account for that.  She stood looking
sadly down, her hands knitted together, the morning light full on her
face.  Grey eyes with long lashes, a mouth delicately lined, a round
forehead, neither straight nor classical, but full of a certain sweet
nobility, with waved brown hair lying softly and lightly upon it.  He
looked at her with a half-pitying, half-uneasy sense of guardianship.
She was so girlish, so fragile, so dependent.  "What am I to do with
her!" thought M.  Deshoulieres, despairingly.

Aloud he said, so abruptly that she started,--

"You have been much tried, mademoiselle.  Let me urge you to go and lie
down."

Old Nannon came round from the foot of the bed.  Therese hesitated, half
turned to the door, then back again towards the motionless figure.  At
such a time the first departure seems almost a cruelty to the dead.  M.
Deshoulieres laid his hand on her arm.  "Come," he said, decidedly.

He led her into the adjoining _talon_, and closed the door of
communication, but instead of leaving him, as he anticipated, she walked
to the window and looked out at the fresh sweet morning, at the lights
that were flooding the yellow stone of the Cathedral.  It was all very
solemn and tranquil as yet, although the town was just wakening to life.
There was nothing harsh, nothing that seemed to jar upon the quiet
repose of the figure that indeed should never more be vexed by earth's
discordant din.  Therese stayed there, and looked out for some minutes.
It may be that she was gaining courage to speak, for when she turned
round her voice was a little tremulous.

"Before I go, will you, who have been so good a friend to us, tell me
whether my poor uncle spoke of--of Fabien, his nephew?"

"M.  Fabien Saint-Martin?  But certainly.  He spoke much of him."

"Ah!"

"Permit me in my turn, mademoiselle, to ask from you whether you will be
able to give us any information as to where Monsieur Saint-Martin is to
be found?"

"You do not know?  Surely he said!"

"On the contrary, he refused to answer, when we questioned him.  I had
fears, I confess, but yet I hoped you would have been able to enlighten
us."

"But I cannot, I cannot!  That was the secret he kept from me.  Oh,
monsieur, he has not carried it to the grave!"

She was more moved than she had been yet.  She turned impatiently from
the light, not crying, but with eyes full of trouble.  M.  Deshoulieres,
who did not understand her suppressed emotion, thought it was the result
of the scene she had gone through.  She looked at him as if he must know
why these words of his were so terrible to her, but he did not know.  He
put her down as tired and sad, and therefore fanciful.

"Go and rest yourself," he said decidedly.  "You may be sure we shall
soon learn all we want."

"You do not know him," she said.  "He was so--inflexible," the word was
spoken after a pause, as though a remembrance of the still face on the
pillow prevented her from using a harsher one.  "Poor Fabien!  He went
away partly in a rage, partly in disgrace.  I think it was to America,
but even that I scarcely know.  My uncle would tell no one--me least of
all," she added under her breath, so that the doctor did not hear.

"How long ago?"

"Two years."

Seeing that she did not move, M.  Deshoulieres, in the flush of
annoyance at his own position, could not avoid alluding to it.  "By a
strange and a most undesirable arrangement, I am to act as trustee for
the property, until it can be made over to M.  Saint-Martin.  It will be
necessary that Monsieur Roulleau and I go without delay to Chateau
Ardron.  There you may be sure we shall hear some tidings."

Therese shook her head despairingly.

"If he told you nothing himself, you will not hear of my cousin at
Ardron."

M.  Deshoulieres thought her perverse.  He would not permit such a
possibility to take root in his mind.  He went home through the quaint
crooked streets, all bathed in the delicious freshness of a spring
morning,--streets with old arched doorways, bits of bold carving,
clambering vines, and overhead a sky broken into tender pearly tints,
beneath which the blue was deepening every hour.  People were already
about, standing on the top of doorsteps, plodding off to their work:
they stared curiously at the doctor, guessing that he was on his way
home from the Cygne, and wondering whether the tragedy was over.  No one
ventured to address him, he looked too grave and preoccupied.  He was
inwardly wroth with himself for having yielded, and yet he knew very
well that if the whole thing were to be repeated he should yield again.
What was to become of Therese? where was she to live?  He caught sight
of a dull grey wall, and remembered with some satisfaction that there
was a convent in the town to which it was possible she might choose to
retire.  He could not help thinking that such a course would be the best
she could take.  "However," reflected M.  Deshoulieres, dismissing the
subject with a sigh of perplexity, "we shall know better after I have
been to Ardron."

Ardron still seemed the goal where things were to be made clear, when he
and little Roulleau started for it on the day after the funeral.
Therese was at the notary's house,--a temporary arrangement which
relieved the doctor of some anxiety.  To reach their end required a
journey of some hours, at first through the great sunny corn plains,
then by a cross line into a more diversified country, where was
pasture-land and great trees, under which the cattle stood lazily
content, and where, at last, they stopped at a little station bright
with flowers, and embowered in acacias.

A bloused porter answered their inquiries.  "Chateau Ardron, messieurs?
That road--provided you keep continually to the right--will lead you
there in less than a quarter of an hour."  M.  Deshoulieres walked
quickly; he was anxious to put an end to his uncertainties; the notary
had some difficulty in keeping up with him.  Monsieur Roulleau, who was
always haunted by a fear of accidents, wore a yellow straw hat, and
carried a huge umbrella to ward off sunstroke.

The sun was certainly hot, but a soft breeze rustled through the copse:
by and by they came to a little hill, and then to a turn in the road.
"We shall find the house there," said the doctor, quickening his pace.
He was right.  On the top of a mound, stiffly planted on either side
with trees, stood an unmistakable chateau of the ugliest modern type.
It was built of red brick which time had not yet touched or mellowed,
and faced with broad belts of white stone; the windows were numerous,
and set thickly together, like those of a manufactory; at either end of
the front was a small edifice, to represent a tower, and in the centre a
little pretentious lantern.

"As I expected," said M.  Deshoulieres, with a grimace which the notary
did not see.  "Now for the inside, all gilt and satin."

All gilt and satin it was: the notary was rapturous in his admiration.
"It might have been in the upholsterer's shop yesterday," he said, in a
fervour of enthusiasm.  The finery struck the doctor as looking more
desolate and melancholy in this uninhabited house than the most
threadbare furniture could have done.  The rooms stared unmeaningly at
the daylight, as the old woman who lived there with her husband threw
back the shutters, and caught off the covers.  Every thing seemed new,
gay, and heartless.  One room upstairs was different from the others.
It was richly but more simply furnished: little things about it appeared
to resist the general cold formality of the house.  It had a delicate
paper, pictures, a pretty little alcove hung with muslin.

"The room of mademoiselle," said the old woman, pushing back the
_persiennes_, and letting in a flood of warm sunlight.  M.  Deshoulieres
held back his companion at the door, and would not go in.

Therese was right, he began to fear.  There were desks, papers, letters,
at the chateau, but no information about M.  Saint-Martin.  Every thing
was carefully and methodically arranged: only this one item was wanting,
which in M.  Deshoulieres' eyes outweighed all the rest.  Old Mathieu
and his wife, who knew nothing of their master's death, were full of
wonder, compassion, and, above all, anxiety about their own future.  To
them there were no dismals at Chateau Ardron, only a warm kitchen,
plenty of firewood, a roof over their heads, a little monthly instalment
of francs.  Monsieur Moreau had dismissed all the servants soon after
his wife's death, had shut up his grand chateau, and gone away with
Therese.  It seemed as if a fit of restlessness had seized him.  The
poor old people, who had no restlessness, wanted to be assured that they
would not lose their home, and when they understood this, they cheered
up again at once.  M.  Deshoulieres wondered whether M.  Moreau had one
mourner in the world.  It seemed as if he had built his own
prison-house, a wall of hard unloving words and deeds, in the midst of
which he had died.

The little notary was hard at work among the papers, tying up bundles,
and sealing them, when M.  Deshoulieres rang the bell for the old couple
to answer his questions about Fabien.  They knew even less than he
expected.  They had heard of him, without doubt, but he had never been
at Ardron since M.  Moreau hired them, and no one found it agreeable to
mention his name when it enraged his uncle to such a degree.  The
notary, who had been glancing over letters, placed a couple in the
doctor's hands.

"They give no information, I fear; but I conceive it my duty to ask you
to read every thing in which M.  Fabien's name appears," he said with an
air of profound caution.

Two boyish letters, written from school, and containing but few words.
They were tied up carefully, and had evidently been much read.  Was this
the one human love that could have reached the hard cold man in his
prison-house?  There were more letters in another packet of slight
importance, but all preserved; the last was dated two years and a half
ago, during an apparently temporary absence from Rouen, and alluding to
the purchase of Ardron.

"And there are no more?" inquired the doctor.

"No more," answered M.  Roulleau, after a momentary pause.  "That is to
say, I should prefer your assuring yourself on the matter.  Here are the
papers in order."

M.  Deshoulieres applied himself to the task.  The two men sat there
reading, arranging, making notes, now and then saying a few words, until
the afternoon was far advanced.  "There is nothing," exclaimed the
doctor, pushing back his chair impatiently.  "Was there ever such a
predicament!"

"There is nothing, as you say," assented the notary, slowly.  "After
all, the property is in good hands."

"Do not talk about it," M.  Deshoulieres said testily.  "One would
suppose you thought it a fine thing.  There is the village still, and
the cure.  We may hope for something from him."

In the village--which lay about a league behind the chateau, and to
which the doctor and the little notary walked, under a sweet, grave,
evening sky, through trees in which the nightingales were singing with
all their might--in the village there were enough surmises offered to
them to account for the disappearance of half a hundred nephews; but no
facts.  Monsieur Fabien desired to see life--Monsieur Fabien could not
have his own will--he was, doubtless, an emigrant in America--in the
Mauritius--he was with the army in Algeria--he was amassing a fortune
among the English--he was a missionary in China.  M.  Deshoulieres was
too impatient to sift the trifles which were poured into his ear; M.
Roulleau professed himself at his wit's end.  It made quite a little
sensation at Ardron to know that these strangers had brought news of
Monsieur Moreau's death, and were seeking tidings of Monsieur
Saint-Martin.  The rumour travelled up to the presbytere, and Monsieur
le Cure was prepared when old Jeanneton came hobbling in, to say that
two gentlemen were asking to speak with him.  He had an instinctive
aversion to strangers, and the welcome he accorded was not particularly
gracious.  As they sat in the little humbly furnished room, with the
cure listening to his story with a grim, unsympathising face, M.
Deshoulieres thought he had never before entirely realised the
disagreeables of his position.  Whenever a question was put to him, the
cure slightly raised his shoulders or shook his head.  There was an air
of doubt about the manner in which he received every detail, which
irritated the doctor almost beyond bearing.  He had never seen M.
Fabien.  It was possible that he had been at Ardron.  The extraordinary
terms of the will struck him as incomprehensible in a person of M.
Moreau's solidity.  Did he understand them to say that they had already
searched the papers at the chateau without success?  Had the two
gentlemen before him undertaken the task unaided?

"Monsieur le Cure is not perhaps aware that I have the honour of
belonging to the legal profession," put in the little notary, smoothly.

A dry cough was the cure's only answer.  When the doctor said hotly,
that they were departing from the subject on hand, he got up, clasped
his hands behind his back, looked M.  Deshoulieres full in the face, and
said--

"Unquestionably this difficulty must have greatly disarranged monsieur.
I regret exceedingly to have no information to offer on the matter."

"Not even a suggestion?" inquired the doctor, after a blank pause.

"_Pardon_.  You may call the police to your aid, or you may insert an
appeal in the journals."

"Both means were expressly forbidden by the will, on such serious
conditions for M.  Saint-Martin that I do not feel justified in adopting
them.  To do so would be to reduce his fortune to 40,000 francs."

"In that case--" the cure concluded with a shrug.

The doctor strode away from the presbytere in great wrath.  "Dolts!
idiots!" he muttered, swinging along with the great steps little
Roulleau found it difficult to follow.  "No one can so much as use their
eyes and ears in this abominable place.  To return to Charville as we
came is an absurdity not to be thought of."

Nevertheless, it was all that remained to be done.  They did not reach
the Chateau until the moon had risen, throwing cold lights upon the
formal vases on the terrace, the empty basins of the _jets-d'eau_.  The
nightingales had ceased, it was all quiet and a little oppressive.  The
house stood up before them, ugly still when no more than its form could
be seen; outside the door old Mathieu and his wife had placed two
chairs, where they were sitting waiting for the return of the gentlemen.
Monsieur Saint-Martin's discovery was no desirable matter in their
eyes.  It was an affair which they thought should be left to arrange
itself, and meanwhile Chateau Ardron was a very comfortable home for
their old age.  M.  Roulleau, meditating upon it, fancied that the
information M.  Deshoulieres requested them to seek for, would not be
sought with overmuch eagerness.

"The country is well rid of such _vauriens_," grumbled the old woman to
him confidentially, as he pulled off the yellow bandana he had tied
round his throat for fear of the night air, and made her stand by while
he satisfied himself that his bed was dry.  "Leave them alone.  They
will come back only too soon."

"You forget, Mere Bourdon, you forget," said the notary, shaking his
head mildly, "if M.  Saint-Martin were to return, he would take the
chateau into his own hands.  There would be gay doings.  The whole
neighbourhood would benefit."

"The saints forbid!" said Mere Bourdon fervently, under her breath.
Such a change of affairs would turn herself and old Mathieu out into the
cold.  She thought of their draughty little hut and shivered.  Three out
of the four who slept at Chateau Ardron that night were clearly of
opinion that M.  Fabien Saint-Martin would do well to remain a mystery.

Early in the morning M.  Deshoulieres was in the village again, but he
added nothing to his meagre stock of information.  He came back through
the rain--for the weather had changed in the night--vexed and troubled,
and inclined to blame the notary for not suggesting a better plan of
operations.  The country people going off to market, bumping along in
carts, or under enormous umbrellas walking sociably with their pigs or
their calves, all bade him good day; there was a sort of impression
already abroad that here was the real master of the chateau.  Old
Mathieu and his wife scraped and bowed and wished "_bon voyage_" a dozen
times when the two went away to the railway station.  M.  Deshoulieres
in his annoyance was disposed to consign the chateau, the village, and
its inhabitants, including the cure, to the bottom of the sea.  When
they were in the train he took from a bag a bundle of the papers they
had brought with them, and buried himself in them.

"It is inconceivable," he said at last.

The notary, who had apparently been sleeping, opened his eyes with a
wondering "_comment_?"

"It is inconceivable that in all those papers there should be nothing
relating to this nephew of a later date than the letters we discovered."

Roulleau shrugged his shoulders.  "What will you?" he replied.  "The man
was, without doubt, an eccentric.  They had quarrelled, and he showed
his displeasure by obliterating whatever related to the time and cause
of their quarrel."

"His displeasure?  Hum," said the doctor, "it looks more like wounded
affection.  I wish, with all my heart, his eccentricities had not vented
themselves upon me.  Well, there is no more to be said.  `Patience, and
shuffle the cards.'  We must wait.  But, pray, where is Mademoiselle
Veuillot to wait?"

"You have to provide her with a home?"

"Precisely.  And where?"

"Would it be possible for Mademoiselle to remain where she is?"
suggested the notary, doubtfully.

"At your house?  My excellent Monsieur Roulleau, is such an arrangement
practicable?"

"There are drawbacks, certainly.  But I would do any thing to assist you
in such an emergency."

"Let me hear the drawbacks."

"There is my wife.  She is admirable--she is devoted--a paragon!"
exclaimed the little notary, enthusiastically, "nevertheless, monsieur,
she is a woman, and women are but human."

"Is that peculiarity confined to them?" asked M.  Deshoulieres, dryly.
"Go on, M.  Ignace, I fully comprehend that you must consult your wife."

"Monsieur is too considerate.  The other drawback I am averse to
mentioning.  Alas, it is not every one who can follow the dictates of
his heart--the sum bequeathed by Monsieur Moreau is so trifling, so
inadequate."

"I will double it," promptly replied the doctor.  "So long as Mdlle.
Veuillot remains in your house, and is supplied with all that is
necessary and fitting, I will undertake to pay you twice the sum named
by Monsieur Moreau.  When the heir comes, of course he will take the
arrangements in his own hands."

"Without doubt, without doubt," said Roulleau, quickly.  "You are
generous indeed, monsieur.  When the young lady is aware of what you
have done in her behalf--"

"She will be aware of nothing," M.  Deshoulieres interrupted with
decision.  "The money matters do not go beyond us.  You will find out
from Madame Roulleau whether the arrangement is agreeable to herself,
and if it meets with no opposition from Mademoiselle Veuillot, it may be
considered an affair settled.  I shall go to sleep with a mind
relieved."

When M.  Deshoulieres was asleep, the little notary took out a
pocket-book, looked at the superscription of two letters, each addressed
to M.  Moreau, Chateau Ardron, and replaced them in his pocket with a
grimace of satisfaction.

"Zenobie will acknowledge that I have arranged this little matter well,"
he said to himself, triumphantly.  "If only this damp does not injure my
chest!"

CHAPTER FOUR.

  "As is the woodbine's, so the woman's life."

  _The Lost Tales of Miletus_.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

M.  Deshoulieres had lived nearly forty years in the world.  He still
wanted three or four years of that age, it is true, but he looked more,
and perhaps this was the reason that he was in the habit of thinking of
himself in round numbers as a man of forty.  All his life had been
comparatively solitary.  He was an only child; his mother died while he
was at a _lycee_; his father married again; the son had gone out into
the world, worked, risen, now he stood high in his profession, and had
been pressed by his colleagues to give up the provinces and betake
himself to Paris.  Why he had not followed their advice he scarcely
knew.  No tie specially bound him to Charville, but, somehow, he had
struck root in the strange old town,--there was always some case in
which he was interested, something that kept him from moving.  The man
was too simple-minded, perhaps, to care for the city life which just
stayed within the horizon of his thoughts, and never grew any nearer.
He did not think enough about himself to be ambitious.  And with his
noble, kindly nature, always giving out of its abundance to others, he
had lived all these years without any peculiar interest of his own; had
lived until certain little habits, and fancies, and opinions had grown
upon him,--a dread of women, a love of solitude, somewhat of a dislike
to any thing that took him out of his ordinary work.  All that had
happened in the past week was peculiarly distasteful to him.  Here was a
girl thrown upon his care, and perhaps an endless sea of troubles rising
out of the unwelcome charge; here was a mystery, and he hated, mysteries
with all his heart; here were already looks, hints, surmises.  "By and
by they will say that I poisoned the old man," reflected the doctor,
with a grim laugh.  He was not accustomed to have his word doubted; this
suspicious cure's little drop of bitterness vexed him more than he
confessed even to himself: it was a sort of forerunner of the world's
opinion; and the world's opinion affects us all in some degree, say what
we will to the contrary.

Therefore when little Roulleau made his cautious proposal about
Mademoiselle Therese, M.  Deshoulieres jumped at it as an escape from
one difficulty.  He had been thinking where he could place her, without
much satisfaction having grown out of his thoughts, but, oddly enough,
the Roulleau household had not presented itself.  It was respectable,
inoffensive; there was that wife, certainly, but M.  Deshoulieres had a
kind of half-shaped theory that women could not be so objectionable
towards women as towards men,--there was no reason that Madame Roulleau
should drive Therese as she drove Ignace; nay, more than once in that
little expedition to Ardron he had felt inclined to sympathise with
Madame.  Every now and then his wishes, wandered longingly away towards
that still safer refuge, a convent; if Therese could only feel a
vocation in that direction she might be placed at once with the good
Sisters in the town.  Then his responsibility would be at an end.  M.
Deshoulieres devoutly wished it might be brought to so happy a
conclusion.

A little soft patter of rain was falling as the two men walked from the
station to M.  Roulleau's abode; the young leaves looked a brighter
green, the sky had blue patches here and there between the grey; it was
one of those spring showers which are full of life and fragrance.
Sleepy, picturesque Charville lay and drank it in contentedly; little
shallow pools twinkled in the hollows of the excavated house, out of
which the workmen were dragging old memories.  At the corner, watching
them, stood old Nannon: the doctor nodded to her and hurried on,--he
wanted to get over this business, to return to his patients.  After all,
he reflected, the predicament was too absurd to last long.  Monsieur
Fabien would speedily appear, receive his property, remove himself and
his perplexities from the doctor's mind.  Charville would resume its
usual peacefulness, its inhabitants come into the world, marry, go out
of it again; the Cathedral chimes ring their varying notes; M.
Deshoulieres take his coffee under the stiff trees before the _cafe_;
the women gossip volubly round the stone fountain on their way from
market.  All should be as it had been before M.  Moreau came to trouble
Charville with his strange bequest.

But Therese?

When M.  Deshoulieres entered the little, bare, unadorned room in the
Roulleau's house--its master having left him at the door to confer with
his wife upon the question of the girl's remaining with them--Therese
was standing by the table, eagerly watching the door, and the doctor's
heart was touched by the wistful grey eyes, which read his failure in a
moment, and sank.  She looked so helpless, so young to be left in this
strange friendless condition.  He went up to her kindly and took her
hand.

"We are as we were," he said, answering the look, "but what then?  He
will come in good time; do not despond.  I was not made for police work;
and as for Ignace Roulleau, he can creep along on the beaten track, but
take him out of it, bah! he is of no more use than a child.  We must
have patience; something will arise; news will come."

"Do you think so?"  Therese said, wearily.

"I am confident," he answered.

When she looked up at him he was smiling kindly upon her.  Her youth,
her forlornness, those pathetic eyes, all touched him more than he
imagined.  His big chivalrous man's heart answered at once their mute
appeal.

"News will come," he repeated, positively.  "Monsieur Saint-Martin will
appear himself some day."

"Some day!" cried Therese, with a harsh ring of anguish in her voice.
"Yes, yes, he will come some day, perhaps--but when?  Oh, and the days
are so long!"

She flung herself down by the table and hid her face on her arms; her
figure shook, her rapid breathing was broken by sobs.  M.  Deshoulieres
looked at her in amazement.  Hitherto she had been so quiet that this
passionate outbreak startled him.  He began to wonder vaguely whether M.
Fabien was more to her than her uncle's nephew--whether the banishment
had any thing to do with the grey eyes of Mademoiselle Therese? but the
moment after he smiled at his own fancy.  Had it been so she would have
known at once where to find him.  M.  Deshoulieres was little acquainted
with women, it is true, and with the acknowledgment there came a little
devout ejaculation of gratitude; but he knew enough to have a profound
conviction that were this suspicion correct, not all the uncles in the
world would have prevented M.  Fabien at the Antipodea and Mademoiselle
Therese in France from communicating with each other.  Perhaps what he
did know was owing more to romances read in his boyhood than to actual
experience.  He had lived too busy a life, he would have said, to have
had time for watching or making out for himself dreams of that kind.
And yet at the bottom of his heart he had a vast, almost childish belief
in the power of love.  He put away that idea almost angrily, and went
and stood by the window until poor Therese recovered herself.  Naturally
she was overdone, upset; that explained it all.  He waited patiently,
considering all the sick people with whose interests Ardron had
interfered; and he looked out of the dull little window at the little
that could be seen--the wet blank wall opposite, over the top of which a
few garden trees waved feebly backwards and forwards; a cart drawn by
stout horses with blue thick woollen fringes on their huge collars,
which jerked and rumbled over the uneven stones.  Presently, through the
rattle, he became aware that Therese, sitting upright and keeping her
tearful eyes turned away, was speaking.

"I beg your pardon," she said once or twice over again, as if she could
not get any further.

M.  Deshoulieres came and sat down by her.  There was the same kindness
in his eyes, if only Therese had looked at them, but his voice was a
little quick and peremptory.  He had no time to waste in unnecessary
words.

"Is there really nothing more that you can tell me about Monsieur
Saint-Martin?" he asked.

"Nothing of the present," said Therese, slowly.

"Well, of the past, then?"

"What did you hear at Ardron?"

"Nothing."

"Ah, that is no wonder," said Therese, speaking with a little more
animation.  "The people at Ardron scarcely know Fabien; we have been
there such a little time, you see.  We used to live at Rouen--my uncle,
my aunt, Fabien, and I.  Fabien has always lived with them; my uncle
loved him better than any one else in the world.  I went to Rouen when
my father and mother died, that was eleven years ago," said Therese,
considering; "I was nine years old and Fabien was fourteen."

"And your aunt took you?"

"Yes.  Poor aunt Ferdinande! she tried to be kind; and my uncle was
generous--very generous.  He despised women, though, monsieur, and he
never professed to like me.  Is it not strange that, after all, I should
have been the only one left to him now?"

She spoke in a questioning dreamy sort of way, clasping her hands over
her knee, and looking out of the window at the dropping rain.  There was
a certain easy grace in her attitude, in the curves of her figure, in
the poise of her head.  Monsieur Deshoulieres was not noticing it, he
glanced at the timepiece instead and fidgeted.

"Then, as I understand, M.  Moreau intended his nephew to enter his
house at Rouen?" he asked.

"Oh, he had entered it," Therese cried quickly; "he had entered and was
doing admirably when--"

"Well, when--?"

"--They had a disagreement."

"Ah, a disagreement.  On matters connected with money?"

M.  Deshoulieres thought he was pursuing the examination with great
skill; he did not notice the troubled appealing glance which poor
Therese threw at him before answering slowly,--

"Not altogether."

"On business, then?  It is much the same thing.  Five-eighths of the
world permit such matters to wreck their lives.  And so the old man was
angry, and M.  Saint-Martin went off in a headstrong fit?"

Poor Therese wanted very much to tell her little story--the old, old
story--more commonplace even than M.  Deshoulieres', yet so new, so
beautiful, in her eyes.  But how could she?  He was so terribly prompt
and abrupt, he would not see what she meant, would not help her, his
quick manner frightened her, her education had taught her reserve, she
needed sympathy to draw out little by little what it was so hard to say
in words; after all, it was not necessary that she should relate her
share in the matter.  She said, sighing,--"The two disagreed, monsieur,
as you say."

"And so the young man acted in this wise fashion?"

"It was not Fabien's fault.  It was his uncle who was angry.  Fabien had
done nothing wrong."  Her whole attitude changed; her throat curved, her
eyes kindled; evidently she was prepared to do battle for the absent if
the opportunity came.  M.  Deshoulieres, however, had relapsed into
silence, his elbows on his knees, his hands thrust into his hair.
Looking up at last, he suddenly said,--

"And you mean to say that you do not know where he went?"

"No," she answered, steadily.

"Your aunt, Madame Moreau, has not been dead many months; do you suppose
that she was as strangely ignorant?"

"I do not know--I cannot tell," said Therese, with agitation.

"But you have an idea," said M.  Deshoulieres, fixing his keen eyes upon
her, and frowning unconsciously.

"From something she once let drop I fancied he was in America, but when
I begged and prayed her to tell me she became so terrified at her own
imprudence that I could not find out any thing more.  She was in great
awe of my uncle.  He never mentioned poor Fabien, except once, when--"

She stopped short, tears gathered in her eyes.

"Well?" said Deshoulieres, impatiently.

"--When he showed me a scrap of writing, evidently torn off a letter,
and containing only two lines."

M.  Deshoulieres said, "Well?" once more.

Therese turned and looked at him reproachfully.  She thought him cruel,
hard.  He was trying to befriend her after his own fashion, but she
found it difficult to believe.  There are sore places in our hearts
which others touch all unconsciously, and when the pain darts through us
we feel as if they must know something of what they are doing.

"They were bitter words," she said, her voice faltering.  "`I renounce
for ever my country, and the friends I left there.'"

"Bah!" said M.  Deshoulieres, irreverently.

The girl flashed round upon him.

"You do not know Fabien!"

"Who were his friends?" he asked, without noticing her little outburst.
And then Therese glanced shyly at him, and calmed down.  Here was his
best friend if this man would only understand.  But he was terribly
prosaic, he would not understand.  His questions travelled relentlessly
along the great dusty high road of facts, while her thoughts danced away
from them into sweet little flowery meadows, river-banks, a sunny
dream-land of what might, have been, what might be yet.  In spite of her
trouble, an irrepressible smile quivered on her lips, which would have
puzzled the doctor, had he seen it.  She answered demurely that the only
two of whom she knew were a certain Leon Fauchet, whom she believed to
have entered the army; and Claude Lamourette, who went out to China
within a few weeks of Fabien's departure.

It was all unsatisfactory, provoking.  Even the doctor's impatient
spirit was forced to acknowledge that nothing could be done for the
present.  His hands were tied by the terms of the will, he could only
wait and trust that such little strings as he had set going would some
day tug M.  Fabien Saint-Martin into Charville.

Without any particular reason for the feeling, he disliked him heartily,
but, nevertheless, it was to be hoped he would come and deliver them
from this tangle of perplexities.  There was no more to be said about
Fabien in this interview, but Therese's future remained to be settled.
M.  Deshoulieres fidgeted and fussed on his chair.

"Is this house agreeable to you?  Would you like to stay?" he said at
last, shooting out the words quite suddenly.  Therese, who had been the
one most troubled in the conversation, grew self-possessed when she
found her own prospects under consideration.

"Do you mean, like to live here?" she asked.  "It would do as well as
any other place."

"You would not prefer the convent?"

"Oh, Monsieur, not--not the convent!" she exclaimed, with all the
trouble returning.  Her grey eyes dilated, she put out her hands
imploringly.

"No one will force you," said M.  Deshoulieres, in a kind, reassuring
voice, but he did not understand this sudden terror.  Looking upon it as
a natural retreat for unmarried girls, he had thought it not unlikely
she might herself suggest it.  He was sorry that she shrank from it, and
it surprised him a little.  Nevertheless, had she but known it, she was
quite safe from any attempt to thwart her inclinations; but she did not
know it.  Her early experience of her uncle's unrelenting will led her
to expect everywhere the same harshness, the same determination.  What
M.  Deshoulieres had once suggested he might at any time attempt to
oblige her to follow out; and to be buried in a convent, to lose all
hope of seeing Fabien, of hearing a word here, a word there, a rumour of
his whereabouts--to lose this was to twenty-year old Therese like losing
life itself.  She would have preferred any hardship to this prospect,
which had hung over her while her uncle lived, and was, probably, only
prevented from taking shape by a certain half-contemptuous indulgence of
his wife's wishes, and after her death by a softening consciousness of
his own failing health.  Now it surged up before her again; M.
Deshoulieres' words could not calm her fears.

"Only let me stay here," she entreated.

He looked at her a little keenly.  It was something new to have any one
dependent upon him, half pleasant, half puzzling--then he thought of his
patients and jumped up.

"That is soon settled, mademoiselle; I will speak to Madame Roulleau,
and then you can arrange things as you please.  Pardon me now, for my
time is not my own."

There were no difficulties with the Roulleaus; M.  Deshoulieres went
away from the house rather pleased with his own management.  Therese was
provided for, for the present; he had satisfied himself upon one or two
points, had learned also that she did not care for Fabien.  Poor stupid,
blind Max!

Monsieur and Mme.  Roulleau lost no time in going to Therese when once
the doctor had quitted the house; madame led the way of course, but she
was a little changed to Therese, as the latter saw at once.  Hitherto
she had been almost cringing in her manner, now she had the air of one
who permits herself to be persuaded against her better judgment.  She
was a woman of about fifty, with a sharp, puckered face, a nose pinched
and slightly hooked, a long upper lip, black hair strained tightly
backwards, and hands which were long, lean, covetous-looking.  Some
people's hands take you into their owner's secrets, before their faces
have let out any thing.  Mme.  Roulleau's were of this kind.  You might
notice a stretching, a little involuntary curve of the fingers' ends, as
if they longed to be grasping something.  It struck Therese again as she
stood before her in the middle of the room in a kind of linen jacket,
drawn in round the waist, and the girl hardly understood at first that
M.  Roulleau was speaking, she could not help watching madame's hands
with a sort of fascination.  M.  Roulleau coughed and spoke a little
louder.

"Our excellent friend, Monsieur Deshoulieres, has made a proposal,
mademoiselle, I had the pleasure to observe, which would relieve him, he
says, from an embarrassment.  Without doubt he has confided it to you.
Now, madame and I could receive no pleasure so profound, so grateful to
our hearts," continued the little man, becoming suddenly enthusiastic,
"as that we should experience by assisting our excellent doctor to the
very extent of our means; but--"

"This is impossible," said madame, sharply.

"_Mon amie_!" remonstrated the notary, with an appealing gesture.

"Impossible!" reiterated Mme.  Roulleau.  "I know you, Ignace; you are
as weak as an infant over your ideas of friendship; but I am a mother.
I think of my Adolphe, of my Octavie, defenceless little ones!  I cannot
consent to burden our family with another load.  Mademoiselle must seek
a home elsewhere."

Therese started like a guilty thing.  Up before her rose the grim walls
of the convent, Fabien seeking her outside, she shut in, separated,
unconscious of his neighbourhood.  Peace might be there--repose; her
untrained heart cried out passionately for other things.  "There is the
convent," said madame, watching her.  She had heard from M.
Deshoulieres how his suggestion had been received.

"Let me stay here.  Do not send me away," said poor Therese, with
imploring eyes.

"It is not my heart," answered madame, trying to be pathetic; "it is the
cost, the extras we must provide."

"I can live upon so little," urged the girl, turning towards the little
notary.

"Zenobie!" he exclaimed, as if with a sudden impulse, "it is useless--I
must yield!"

"Imprudent man!" replied madame, keeping up the little farce with great
vigour; "do you forget our miserable means?"

"I forget nothing.  We must stint ourselves--I know it.  Adolphe and
Octavie must suffer--I know it.  What then?  When friendship and
compassion call, I cannot shut my heart.  Mademoiselle, you have
conquered.  Remain."

He spoke with a grandly tragic air.  Therese relieved, astonished, all
at once, could not credit her ears.  It seemed impossible that the
little man should assert himself in this manner against his wife, who
cast up her hands, and cried out again at his imprudence.  She tried to
murmur thanks, but M.  Roulleau, in his unwonted energy, waved them
aside.

"There is one point," he went on, "in which I am sure mademoiselle's
delicacy of feeling will unite with our own.  It would desolate Mme.
Roulleau and myself, were our admirable M.  Deshoulieres to have any
idea of the difficulties this little arrangement may entail upon us.
Whatever the world may say, he has not the means to assist as his
generous heart would desire, yet without a question he would insist upon
doing so.  What then?  The contest would lacerate us, we should not
consent; mademoiselle would again have to seek a home.  No, no, our
friends may blame us--bah! one must follow impulse sometimes!"

"How good you are to do this!"  Therese cried out gratefully.  She had a
generous heart, and it smote her for not having sufficiently valued the
little man.  When the two had gone away, monsieur still heroic, and
madame injured, she felt as if a great dread had gone with them.  Her
heart sang a little song without words--a song all about Fabien, and
constancy, and meeting.  Wonderful things grew up before her; sober
people would have laughed or cried, as the case might be, could they
have heard her music.  Therese was in that enchanter's castle, wherein
most of us wander for a little while, at some time or other, listening
to the songs which are never sung so sweetly elsewhere.

CHAPTER FIVE.

  "Lo, as some innocent and eager maiden
  Leans o'er the wistful limit of the world,
  Dreams of the glow and glory of the distance,
  Wonderful wooing and the grace of tears,
  Dreams with what eyes and what a sweet insistance
  Lovers are waiting in the hidden years."

  P.W.H.  Myers.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Therese was really grateful to the Roulleaus for their concession,
grateful and a little touched by what seemed honest delicacy of feeling.
Madame Roulleau, who could dig like a mole when she wanted to find out
a character, had been digging and burrowing while her husband was at
Ardron, and knew pretty well by this time what strings to pull.  People
who have this sort of shrewdness can see a good deal without going far
down; she did not reach the depths, but she was quite satisfied.  It was
not worth her while to study all the complexities of the girl's nature,
if she had tried doing so she would have had a baffling task, for there
were plenty of contradictions about it.  Probably Therese's education
had something to do with all the contrarieties and incongruities which
met you at every turn--she was tender and hard, resolute and timid,
generous and distrustful; it was impossible to know which of the
opposing qualities would come uppermost: a great hopefulness, perhaps,
impressed you the most.  It was not insensibility to, but an inborn
dread of the sadnesses of life which made her cling to the bright side.
In spite of what they may say, there are people who find a certain sort
of enjoyment in trouble, they like to be made to _weep_ over fictitious
distresses, there is a chord in them which responds at once to any call
for sympathy.  Therese was not one of these people to whom we turn in
our sorrows, sure at least of being understood, if we are not helped.
As yet she was impatient of sorrow, eager for happiness.  She hated
tragedies, sad books, minor music.  As I have said, it was not that such
things did not touch her--perhaps if she had been indifferent she would
not have minded them so much--but her nature rose up in rebellion
against them: they were part of Adam's curse.  She had not learned that,
after all, through the Infinite Love that uses sorrow and suffering for
instruments, they have caught a Divine beauty, a sweet solemn loveliness
which by degrees reveals itself and wins our hearts.  Therese believed
only in one kind of happiness--our wills gratified, our dreams realised,
all the little idols we have set up smiling down upon us from their
pedestals: as we go on in life we find out sometimes that it was well
our idols were shattered for us, or we might have been crushed under
their weight; but Therese had no fear of this.  She thought of herself
as if some day all her longings must be satisfied, her troubles ended
and laid aside, every thing completed, rounded off, and perfect.  After
that, I think there came a golden haze.  There is something
half-pathetic, half-comforting, in this unlimited faith in coming
happiness.  We see where it fails, but every now and then it acts upon
our wearier spirits like a breath of immortality.

Therese had already met with enough to daunt her in her little life,
although it had not had that effect; she looked upon all the roughnesses
of the road, so far, as things extraneous, and not altogether belonging
to her existence.  Whatever part of her they affected it was not her
belief in the rose-coloured days that were coming.  That stood unshaken.
Nor while it lasted could she be said to have lost her courage; yet it
had grown to have a strange admixture of timidity since she went--a bold
brave child--to live at Rouen.  Her heart used to swell, and her cheeks
flush, when M.  Moreau was harsh to her aunt, to Fabien; but her woman's
nature, though it resented his treatment, quailed before it.  Once or
twice she had resisted him, but all the time she was terribly
frightened.  Poor Therese! she was only a girl, and he had every thing
on his side except right, as she used to say to herself indignantly,
half angry at her own weakness.

Madame Moreau was a large feeble woman, who scarcely ventured to think
without her husband's permission.  She was so passive under his
provocations that you were inclined to wonder whether she had been so
from the first, or whether, after he had frightened the spirit out of
her, nature had avenged herself by giving her this impervious armour.
Therese's little fiery outbreaks on her behalf were always wasted.  They
were much more appreciated by Fabien; he incited her to them, and she
was too generous to notice that she was left to bear the consequences
alone.  He was her hero, over whom she rang her little changes of
admiration: when he told her that he loved her, instead of formally
beforehand requesting her hand from her uncle, she promised, with her
grey eyes shining straight into his, and all her heart in her words,
never to give him up.  Fabien promised the same.  "Every thing," says an
old writer, "has a double handle, or at least we have two hands by which
to apprehend it."  I suppose it was so with this promise.

Then came the crash, and her hero went away, more of a hero than ever.
In her thoughts Therese set a crown on his head, and turned him into one
of the old champions.  Fabien, who was thoroughly nineteenth-century,
would have been utterly puzzled what to do with himself if her ideas had
come true.  And then, with her boundless store of hopefulness, of
expectation, she did not find the waiting so weary as it looked.  Every
now and then, to be sure, there would surge up in her heart a wild
longing, a yearning such as had broken out when M.  Deshoulieres spoke,
the days would seem interminable, the distance from Fabien infinite.
Such pangs came more acutely after M.  Moreau had one day called her
into his room.

"So you are still thinking of that ungrateful?" said the old man
mockingly.  "In that case you shall receive his latest news."

And then he showed her Fabien's lines of renunciation.

All the girl's fear of her uncle vanished: she lifted her head proudly.
"When Fabien writes those words to me, I will believe them," she said,
and went away, leaving old Moreau speechless at her presumption.  It was
her greatest victory among their encounters, but it was one of those
victories which cost more than defeats.  Not all her buoyancy could rise
against the weight which the words left in her heart.  How could he
write them?  How could he?  She used to put the question passionately,
and then answer it with a hundred fond excuses.  All must be right some
day,--that was the creed to which she clung; could she only keep free
from the convent walls, all must be right.  When her aunt died, and she
lost the one slender link to her uncle's affection, her dread of them
increased; afterwards, through all the terrible time at the Cygne, she
could not altogether repress the sense of liberty which came with the
lifting from her the weight of that indomitable will.  Whatever
happened, she thought she must breathe more freely.  She was not at all
prepared to find M.  Moreau's intentions echoed back by her new
guardian.  Madame Roulleau had taken care to impress her with an idea of
his inflexible nature, and she began, in her ignorance, to dread that he
might have the power to compel her to submit.  Any fate seemed
preferable, and Madame Roulleau was well aware that in taking her into
her house, she might impose what terms she pleased.

At first there was not much laid upon her.  She had a miserable little
room, it is true, bare and dreary, but what then?  "If mademoiselle
expects another Chateau Ardron, she must not come to Rue St Servan,"
said Madame, with her disagreeable smile.  Therese hastened to explain
that no such discontented comparison had entered her head.  She was in
fact too young to care much for the want of comfort round her; she
pulled the things about and spread out her little possessions, and
wasted no repinings for the blue silk curtains, and the gilding, and the
_ormolu_ at Chateau Ardron.  Out of her window, beyond the roofs, she
could see one of the Cathedral spires, with its delicate stone fretwork;
a great expanse of sky over the flat country round; the very roofs were
too crooked, too full, of quaint character, to be commonplace.  She
could make histories out of them, weave romances about the people who
lived beneath them--romances into which her own story and Fabien's stole
in some irrepressible way.  It seemed like a little time of rest after
all the harshness and unkind words of the last years.  Surely some
intuitive instinct would tell Fabien that she was alone in the world,
and that no one need come between them now.

But in a little while she found she had no time for dreaming.  Things
seemed to fell upon her as a matter of course.  Mme.  Roulleau would
come in with a great heap of clothes in her arms, her own, Adolphe's,
Octavie's, for mademoiselle to exercise her powers of _reparation_ upon.
It was often very difficult to make out of them what madame expected;
only Aladdin's magician with his new lamps for old could have satisfied
her, and poor Therese darned and turned and patched, and patched and
turned and darned, in despair: more than once before she had learned her
lesson of economy, she cut up her own things in a vain attempt to
perform the impossible.  If she could only have pleased by her efforts
she would not have disliked the work; she was active-minded, glad to be
of use, there would have been a certain enjoyment in her own ingenuity.
And if Mme.  Roulleau was capable of being touched she must have been
conscious of the sweetness with which Therese took her rebuffs, the
patience with which she tried to follow out her directions.  They were
the only weapons the girl brought forward at this time.  But to certain
natures there is nothing so dear as the power of petty tyranny, and
neither the money paid by M.  Deshoulieres, nor the work she extracted
from her, were so delightful to Madame Roulleau as the infliction of
daily snubs upon Therese.  Skilfully drawing out her desire to remain
free and lead a secular life, skilfully playing upon her fears of a
convent, imperceptibly strengthening her dread of M.  Deshoulieres'
decisions, far more swift than he to fathom the secret of the girl's
heart and to turn it to their purpose, she did her best to make
Therese's life a burden.

And yet for a time, as I have said, Therese bore it all not only with
patience but with cheerfulness.  She hoped bravely, and this was the
elixir which prevented her feeling madame's sting.  It was not pleasant
to be found fault with, but she said to herself that it all came from
her own stupidity, her want of knowledge about useful things.  After
all, they were useful, and it was very good for her to be forced into
them.  She preached vigorous little lectures over her own reluctance and
want of gratitude.  Monsieur and madame were not charming, certainly,
but they had been very generous and only demanded a return.  In those
days her step was buoyant, her colour bright, her grey eyes sparkling.
Madame Roulleau used to look at her and say crossly to her husband,--

"She has had some news of that _vaurien_."

The little notary used to get into a fever of alarm.  "Zenobie," he
would say, with his shrill voice quavering, "if he comes back we are
ruined."

"He must not come back," said madame, quietly.

"Must not!" repeated the little man, querulously.  "That is very fine,
but who is to keep him away?  It appears to me that there was never such
a world as this for gossip.  Instead of minding their own affairs,
people talk, talk, like so many parrots, and who is to make sure that
their mischievous tongues will not one day carry the news to the wrong
person?"

His wife darted a contemptuous glance at him.  "It is a lottery, as I
told you before," she said coldly.  "One or other must lose."

"And you talk of it so calmly!  Do you know what a frightful risk I run?
If M.  Saint-Martin comes home, and the little hindrances I have put in
his way are discovered--or if that girl finds out the double payment, I
am ruined!  I shudder when I think of it."

He was shuddering.  It was a hot June day, and he shivered as if he had
the ague.  Madame looked at him with still the same expression in her
face.

"You are a coward, Ignace," at last she said, letting her words drop
slowly, "and that makes you a fool.  Do you suppose that I have not
weighed the risk?  Do you suppose that I am not watching?"

Under her eyes he shivered more visibly.  "I know," he said in a
submissive voice; "I only thought--"

"Do not think," she interrupted contemptuously; "leave thinking to me."

"He might write to her," M.  Roulleau muttered under his breath.

"What are you saying?"

"Do not be angry, Zenobie; I only remarked that he might write to her."

"Here?"

"No; to Chateau Ardron.  In that case, _mon amie_," continued the little
man, apologetically, "permit me to observe that the letter would be
forwarded to Monsieur Deshoulieres."

Madame sighed.  "I do not think I shall ever be able to educate you,"
she said; "I must soon give it up.  And you can actually assert that
such a danger has only just struck you, and that all this time you have
taken no precaution against it.  _Hein_! look here!"

Her tone rose peremptory and shrill.  M.  Roulleau looked obediently at
the copy of the letter she flourished before his eyes, and then
admiringly at her.

"You are a marvel!" he said in his feeble, abject voice.

"I made her write it," she said, still shrilly.  "Bah, she is only too
easy to manage, there is no satisfaction, one had but to work on her
fears.  Her letters will be sent here, and I think, monsieur, you will
acknowledge that I can arrange who shall be the receiver?"

"I acknowledge every thing," he said, with a deprecating gesture.

"Perhaps you may be relieved to know," she continued, returning to her
cold measured tones, "that I took further steps at the same time.  It
would be inconvenient if other letters reached M.  Deshoulieres.  I
requested, therefore, in his name, that all documents which might arrive
should be forwarded to you.  By this means we control one channel of
communication."

"But, Zenobie, my angel--"

"Well? more scruples?"

"You said in his name?"

"Exactly."

"But--suppose he should find it out?"

"In that case, and supposing also that you had not the wit to persuade
him that such were his orders, our little enterprise is at an end.  I
have told you that there must be risk.  Bah!" she continued, suddenly
becoming fierce again, "you do not fear to be a villain, Ignace,
provided you may have the profit without the danger.  You can creep, but
you cannot spring."

She did not look unlike a wild-cat herself, with her round black eyes
sparkling, her hands making energetic passes in the air.  M.  Roulleau
was in an agony lest any one should hear her imprudent words.

"Hush-h-h," he said tremulously, "I am not so clever as you, Zenobie, I
do not affirm it.  Only tell me what you would have me do."

"Do!" she cried in her high-pitched voice.  And then, with one of those
sudden strange checks by which she controlled her passion, she changed
back to her contemptuous manner.  "You can never be any thing but what
you are, but you may be useful in your own way.  Do?  Go and creep,
Ignace."

CHAPTER SIX.

  _Cori_.--"I have been i' the market place;
  ...
  ...all's in anger."

  _Coriolanus_.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Of all French towns, perhaps Charville is the most under female
influence.  I do not know how the power has grown up, or whether it is
of any great antiquity, but it is so hard to conceive any thing modern
in connection with the place, that one supposes it to have existed in
remote ages.  Women's rights in France are of a more muscular character
than in England; women go out into the fields, dig, reap, and plough: it
is a severe training, from which they come out brown and weather-beaten.
There is plenty of such work in the great monotonous cornfields round
Charville all the year round; but inside the town, a more important,
and, in their eyes, a more honourable occupation, is intrusted to women.
The measuring and selling the grain in the corn-market is carried on by
a corporation of their number.  They do their work very quickly and
efficiently.  Their code of laws is of long standing, and seldom meets
with a hitch.  The owners leave all in their hands; in fact, their
trustworthiness is so proverbial, that as soon might the character of a
judge be assailed, as the honesty of one of this corporate body.
Saturdays are the days when you may see the carts coming in from the
farms laden with little golden grain: the Charville sleepiness seems to
rouse itself into action; there is activity, energy, sometimes even a
little spice of hurry.  Those that enter the town at the lower suburb
find it no easy matter to get up the narrow steep streets; the carts
jolt and creak, the horses labour, while all the time there is an
unceasing chorus of the sharp "Heep, heep!"

Inside the market, as I have said, matters move with all imaginable
rapidity and gravity.  The women receive the grain, weigh it, and the
sale goes on so briskly that all is over before the end of an hour.
Outside, in the Place, are a crowd of carts, people idling, old women
standing about in their stuff gowns and snowy caps; the country people
meet their relations; there is a din of good-humoured chatter about the
price of corn, the value of samples, the health of the bishop, the
ambition of Madame the Prefet's wife, the chance of gaining a few
_sous_,--all kinds of matters, great and small, but rarely any more
serious disturbance.  Monsieur Deshoulieres was surprised one morning as
he passed through the Place to find himself the centre of a hubbub.
Quite a crowd had gathered together at the entrance to the market--men
and women with grave excited faces, a torrent of shrill voices.  People
looked out of their windows; the horses, standing unheeded in the carts,
tossed their great manes, and stamped and shook themselves to get rid of
the tormenting flies.  The time when business usually concluded was
past; it was evident that something still hindered it, something
unusual.

"What is the matter?" asked M.  Deshoulieres, elbowing his way through a
throng of women.

So many voices answered him that he lifted his low hat, and said, with
an appealing gesture, "One at a time, if you please, mesdames."

"Such an affair has never before happened in our town."

"It is a scandal!"

"One will hear next that one sells short measure one's self!"

"Could monsieur conceive the audacity of that unhappy boy!"

"Madame Mathurine will assuredly apply to Monsieur le Maire."

Then they all began again.  The doctor could not understand it.  He saw,
however, that there were two parties, each enthusiastic for their own
side; and from what he could gather out of the angry waves of talk, he
suspected the town and country people were at variance.  Old Nannon was
passionately declaiming in the centre, alternately scolding her
opponents and hugging a white-faced bullet-headed boy in a blouse who
seemed the object of attack.  A painter would have been pleased with the
scene, there was so much colour and animation about it.  The houses
looked as if each had its history: there were wonderful Gothic arches
with great sombre depths, and above them, perhaps, a scarlet or purple
flower flaming out of a window; a crowd, with its patches of indigo,
olive green, and rich russets, all in harmony with the background; great
white horses, carrying their monstrous collars; yellow corn going away
to the water-mills, hot sunshine, striped awnings, pigeons flying up and
down from the roofs,--while a clear atmosphere brought out all the tints
and soft half-tones, so that it made a beautiful glowing picture.  A
fat, comfortably dressed farmer's wife had been leaning against the wall
of the market, more silent than the rest; she pushed her companions on
one side in the midst of the clatter of tongues,--

"_Tenez_," she said, decidedly.  "I will explain the affair to
monsieur."

"Is that you, Madame Lemaire?" said the doctor, with a little relief.
"Now perhaps there is a chance that I may understand.  What is hindering
the business to-day?  Is the market closed?"

"Mesdames are deliberating," replied Madame Lemaire in a slow, solid
voice.  "There has been an inconvenient event.  The corn was brought in
this morning from Gohon's, as usual, and delivered to Madame Mathurine.
When she came to measure the grain, she found, as she says, three of the
sacks deficient.  She has a theory," continued Madame Lemaire,
ponderously, "that the boy Jean-Marie, who drove the cart, could explain
the matter if he chose.  There are plenty to take his part, and plenty
to take hers.  _Voila tout_, monsieur!"  There had been a slight lull in
the din of voices, accorded to the position of the well-to-do farmer's
wife, as she made this explanation.  When she stopped it broke out
again.  Old Nannon had drawn near to listen, dragging the accused after
her, and she took up the cudgels immediately.

"_Voila tout_, madame remarks, but it shall not be all, I say.  If
Madame Mathurine supposes she is to take away the character of an
innocent angel like this, she shall learn her mistake.  Speak for
thyself, Jean-Marie."

The innocent angel only answered by a howl.  The bystanders laughed.
Monsieur Deshoulieres interposed,--

"What have you to do with him, Nannon?" he inquired.

"He is her sister's son."

"He works for Monsieur Gohon," replied a chorus of shrill voices.  At
this moment the great doors were flung open, and the people poured into
the market.  It all looked grey, cool, business-like: sacks heaped
about, great measures, a few men in blue blouses, and a small knot of
women, in white frilled caps, and little crossed shawls, standing
together in the midst.  M.  Deshoulieres looked on with a little quiet
amusement, wondering how the women would conduct themselves.  A
commotion in the corn-market was almost unprecedented.  Just then he saw
a figure standing behind two others in the sunlit doorway.  Something in
form or attitude was so unlike the rest, that he looked again and
recognised Therese.  She had already noticed him, so that it did not
surprise her when he came back to her and began, in his quick abrupt
manner,--

"You here, mademoiselle?"

She drew back a little, seeing that he was displeased, and lifted her
eyes to his face with the expression that always unconsciously touched
him.  It was quite true that a few months ago she would have shrunk from
finding herself among people alone, but since her stay at the Roulleaus,
madame had impressed upon her that she was no longer in a position to
hold such ideas; she made her useful in this as in every other respect,
and Therese had been a little proud of overcoming the dislike which all
French education and habits implant so strongly that it becomes second
nature.  She had been passing through the Place, and had paused for a
moment at the entrance to the market, to look at the throng within.
There the sunlight had betrayed her to M.  Deshoulieres.  The idea of
concealing herself from him, or from any one else, would never have
entered her head, but now she wished heartily that he had not perceived
her.  When he went on to ask what had become of her attendant, poor
Therese coloured crimson with vexation.

"I have no _bonne_, monsieur," she answered as composedly as she could.
"In my position I do not expect one."

It was M.  Deshoulieres' turn to colour.  He walked up to fat Madame
Lemaire, who was standing near, and brought her back with a kind of
ceremonious formality.  "There has been a mistake about mademoiselle's
servant," he said, hurriedly; "will you do me the kindness to permit her
to remain under your protection?"  Then he went a little aside from
them, and stood watching the proceedings.

The women looked very grave and determined, only Mme.  Mathurine was a
little pale.  She was the most unpopular of her number among the country
people, and a good many of them, without any real suspicion of her
honesty, were not sorry to inflict a touch of humiliation.  Old Nannon,
in her wrath, said openly that she had lined her pockets with the price
of the corn, and then accused the boy of bringing short measure.
Others, who had not the old woman's personal interest in the matter,
would not venture so far, they shook their heads, and shrugged their
shoulders.  The majority inclined to the belief that the boy had been
tampered with, and had sold the grain before he reached the market; but
Mme.  Mathurine, who was proud and self-reliant, saw only the shakes and
shrugs.  She was obliged to appear composed and indifferent, but in her
heart a fierce indignation was burning.  She had made a little mistake
in not having at once called one of the other saleswomen to witness the
reality of the short measure, and even to have made a mistake was very
bitter to her pride.  She folded her arms and looked round upon the
faces about her with the air of a queen.

"There is no more to be done, messieurs and mesdames," she said.  "The
business is concluded.  Monsieur Gohon will communicate with the
corporation, if he desires it."

"And our Jean-Marie?" asked Nannon, pressing up and looking warlike.

Madame Mathurine deigned no other answer than a withering glance.  Her
companions gathered round her; they made a little compact phalanx and
moved towards the doors.  Old Nannon followed, dragging her reluctant
nephew, and pouring out a torrent of words,--

"I appeal to the commissary,--to the mayor," she cried, thrusting
herself before Mme.  Mathurine.  M.  Deshoulieres began to think the old
woman's rage would lead her to a personal attack upon her enemy, and the
other saleswomen thought so too, for the eldest of the group, perceiving
him, came quickly up and said in a low voice,--

"Pray, monsieur, use your influence to prevent scandal."

"Nannon," he said, sternly, "this must end.  You have been allowed too
much licence already.  So much as relates to the affair here is
finished; for the rest, Jean-Marie and his master must settle it between
them."

There was a little murmur of applause among the town-people, an honest
admiration for their doctor made his opinion as decisive as the maire's.
Nannon shook her head, and drew herself up with a certain pathetic
dignity.

"That is easy to say, monsieur," she answered, her poor old voice
tremulous with indignation.  "We all know the quantity was just when the
corn left the farm, and if the poor boy goes back with this story, it
does not require to be a witch to know that my sister will have him on
her hands again."

Therese, standing rather behind fat Madame Lemaire, and her basket, was
in a little flame of excitement.  Her colour rose, her eye sparkled, one
or two people near looked at her with curiosity and admiration, but she
did not remark it.  She liked the old woman with her ugly, half comical,
half-pathetic face, and wanted her to be proved in the right; M.
Deshoulieres, who found himself, to his amusement, constituted a kind of
judge, little knew what a warm partisan of the accused was watching him
from the background with flashing eyes.  He asked a few necessary
questions; the sacks had been brought tied and marked as usual, the bill
of the quantity delivered to Madame Mathurine, Jean-Marie stoutly denied
any encounters on the road.  M.  Deshoulieres felt convinced that he
denied too much; old Nannon, on the contrary, was in triumph.

"Now monsieur sees that he is telling the truth!"

"That is just what he is not doing," said the doctor severely.  "If he
can give no other account of himself, and Madame Mathurine does not call
in the commissary of police, it will be Gohon's duty to do so.  As for
you, Nannon, you should know better than to encourage him."

"Oh, monsieur!"

Nannon's face was tragic.  Therese was altogether on her side against M.
Deshoulieres' harshness.  No one can be so unjust as a girl when her
feelings are brought into the battle-field; Nannon's young champion
would have ridden pell-mell over right and wrong, laws and principles,
Madame Mathurine, and the whole corporation, in defence of this old
woman with her foolish, unreasonable love.  She detested M.
Deshoulieres when he said:--

"It is true.  Listen to me, Jean-Marie.  You shall have one chance more.
Whom did you see on your road here to-day?"

Something came out which sounded like "the Simons and Michault."  There
was a murmur of indignation.

"Imagine the little wicked one vowing that he met no one!"

"Did monsieur conceive the road to be a desert?" said Nannon, drawing
herself up defiantly.

"Where was Michault?" asked M.  Deshoulieres, disregarding.

"He was at Cottereau's."

Between obstinacy and fright it was difficult to extract the truth from
the unhappy Jean-Marie, but the doctor's questions at last elicited the
facts that he had been persuaded to enter the Cottereaus' cottage--one
of those miserable huts which abound in the department--under pretence
of receiving a commission from Mere Cottereau to buy some cotton yarn
for her in Charville.  Then it came out that Michault, who was sitting
there, went away, the others gave the boy cider, and detained him for
some time, while no doubt the theft was committed.  The Cottereaus'
character was well-known in the district; it all seemed clear enough now
that Jean-Marie acknowledged this much, and M.  Deshoulieres did not
think the boy knew more.  Notice would be given to the police, but it
was not likely he would suffer from them.  M.  Deshoulieres bestowed a
few sharp words upon him, meaning all the while to say something to
Gohon on his behalf.  This neither Nannon nor Therese guessed; the old
woman's foolish fondness provoked him, and he would not let her see that
he had any compassion for the culprit.

The crowd poured out into the sunshine again, rich colours flashed about
here and there, carts were laden and driven off with great creaks and
rumblings.  People were tolerably satisfied with the ending of the
affair, which left them one object for abuse in the treacherous
Michault.  The saleswomen congratulated themselves, only Madame
Mathurine walked away alone with an angry indignant heart.  It was
nothing to her that her integrity had been proved, since it had once
been doubted.  She was not even grateful to M.  Deshoulieres.

Poor Max!  He had done a good morning's work, perhaps warded off a
serious evil; if they had been men with whom he had to deal, his good
deeds would have held a chance of appreciation.  Here, on the contrary,
old Nannon walked off, still erect and defiant; Madame Mathurine was
unthankful; Therese called him unmerciful.  Before he had time to look
for her she had wished adieu to Madame Lemaire, who wanted to keep her,
and had slipped out with the crowd.  M.  Deshoulieres, coming to where
he had left her, found her gone.  He was obliged to explain something of
her story to Madame Lemaire, who, with all her solidity, was curious and
a little romantic.

"There must be but one conclusion," she said, laughing good-humouredly
when he had finished; "monsieur should marry her."

He started with undisguised amazement.  "I!"

"But yes.  Is it so wonderful?"

"I!  What could have put that into your head?"

Madame Lemaire nodded wisely.  "Perhaps it was her pretty face, perhaps
it was chance.  Who knows?  After all it is of monsieur we are talking."

M.  Deshoulieres shook his head, and went away smiling, yet with a
half-hidden sadness in his tone.  "You must look for romances elsewhere,
madame," he said.  "I have no heart to spare except for my patients."

No one ever entirely realises how much his life is moulded by what we
call trifles.  We do not want a lion in our path to turn us, a straw
will do it as effectually.  It is only an indifferent word occasionally
that opens the floodgates and lets the torrent in.  A look affects a
life; perhaps such insignificant instruments are chosen to keep us
humble.  Looking back, when we have gone further on our journey, we
dimly understand it, but at the time the influences seem too small to be
admitted.  Yet it is the teaching of all creation, whether physical or
spiritual.  In the drop of water, in the blade of grass, in the moment
of time, in the thought of our heart, God teaches us the immensity of
little things.

CHAPTER SEVEN.

  "Experience, like a pale musician, holds
  A dulcimer of patience in his hands."

  E.B.  Browning.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Max Deshoulieres did not smile any more after he went away from Madame
Lemaire, but he never forgot her little speech.  It seemed to set all
sorts of unknown strings vibrating, the words kept echoing back from his
heart; things that had nothing to do with his life, as he fancied,
floated up before him: children's faces like angels', the touch of tiny
hands, sweet womanly voices, wistful grey eyes, all these strange
uncalled-for visions haunted him; he could not have driven them away if
he had wished it.  If he had been an idle man, with time to spend in
dreaming, he might have understood their meaning sooner; as it was, he
wondered a little, and then flung himself heart and soul into a battle
with some grim disease in a squalid room where there was the dirt
without the picturesqueness of Charville.  Almost unconsciously this
man's life had been one noble self-sacrifice.  He seemed to use his
great strength of will in setting aside all selfish aims.  He worked
with a single-mindedness out of which had grown a strange simplicity and
tenderness.  Therese, with all her hopefulness, had not his strong
faith.  If he had been more accustomed to make pictures, in which he
formed a central figure, Madame Lemaire's words might not have stirred
him as they did.  A hand had swept the strings, would the tones it set
vibrating grow and swell into grand, beautiful chords of sweet harmony,
or die away in a sad, sorrowful wail?

That little fact of seeing Therese alone among all those people, vexed
him with the Roulleaus.  He went there the next morning.  Therese saw
him on the stairs, and fled back, foolish child, to her room, with a
cold fear in her heart of what he might be come to propose.  She had
remarked his displeasure of the day before, and who knew what might grow
out of it?  Madame Roulleau used to invent little speeches of M.
Deshoulieres, which poor Therese had no reason for disbelieving; she
felt them hard,--cruel.  Her heart resented this trampling out of the
bright things of life which they told her he was trying to force upon
her.  She liked sunshine, flowers, love,--liked them, and wanted them
for herself with an impatience that would not so much as endure the
thought of life without them.  One feels a compassion for such natures,
knowing how hard the lessons of time must prove to them, and yet it may
be that their very buoyancy helps them to float over the stormy waves.
It was so with Therese at present.  She felt more confident of Fabien's
love now than she had done when he was near her and talking about it;
she never doubted that he would return; she could turn her dingy little
room in Rue St Servan into a veritable palace with her bright thoughts
of the future.  There was a little precious likeness of Fabien which she
would take out and talk to whenever Madame Roulleau was more than
usually tyrannical.  With so much sunshine before her, she could bear
any thing so long as that terrible guardian would leave her alone.

Downstairs the terrible guardian was expressing his opinion to Madame
Roulleau; for little Roulleau kept out of the way on these occasions,
and madame preferred it, since she was always afraid that his cowardice
might betray them.  M.  Deshoulieres was very grave, very determined: he
had left all these minor things to be arranged by Madame Roulleau, he
said; but she must quite understand that mademoiselle must have every
thing that was right and _convenable_.  As he spoke he looked round, and
wondered if she were happy there.  His own tastes were very plain, but
he was not sure whether a young girl would not require something
brighter than this barren abode; and madame, who watched him like a cat,
read his looks without difficulty, and was very judicious in her
answers.  She did not say too much, but she implied that mademoiselle
preferred the freedom and unconventionality of their family life to
permitting changes to be made on her account.  "She has had enough of
luxury, monsieur," she said.  Therese upstairs, shivering and trembling
over that convent fancy, did not know how these two were concerned with
the web and woof of her life: madame, with her covetous hands turning
and twisting it to suit her purpose; Max, with his great tender heart
and his quick abrupt ways, wanting to protect the little solitary
figure, whose solitariness and helplessness among the crowd the day
before had touched him with pity.  "Poor child!" he said softly in his
heart.  He was not quite sure of the value of madame's professions.  He
made up his mind to question Therese herself at the first opportunity.

When he went away it was with the understanding that Therese should take
no more solitary walks.  Madame would have gladly escaped the
concession, but it was not possible; and her busy thoughts went off at
once to the question of how the affair could be managed, at least cost;
or how it might be balanced by extracting further work from the girl.
She went up to her with a gloomy depressed face which terrified Therese
when she opened the door.

"Is there any news?  What has he said?" she asked, quickly.

"This all comes from your imprudence in loitering at the market
yesterday, mademoiselle.  M.  Deshoulieres is highly displeased,--
requests that we will provide an attendant for you.  An attendant!"
repeated madame, with a little hoot of scorn.  "When my husband toils
and toils, and I pinch and pinch; and then we are reproached because you
do not walk about as if you were the daughter of M. le Prefet!  I saw
beforehand that it would not do.  You must seek another domicile,
mademoiselle."

"You will send me away!" said poor Therese, turning pale.  "But where
can I go?"

Madame threw out her hands.

"That is for M.  Deshoulieres to decide.  There is always the convent.
You will be safe enough behind the _grille_," she added, with a mocking
laugh.

Therese was very ignorant, and had no idea what unlimited powers M.
Deshoulieres' guardianship might not convey.  The tears gathered in her
eyes, she almost flung herself at madame's feet.

"No, no, no, madame," she implored, "do not send me away.  I am not good
enough for that life.  I cannot give up Fabien.  Do not send me away!"

It was her whole heart crying out, but madame looked and listened
coldly.

"My children must not be sacrificed," she said, folding her hands
inexorably.

There was a little silence.  Madame glanced at Therese from under her
eyelids; the girl had recovered herself, and was standing motionless,
her eyes on the ground, and a red flush on her cheek.  Either her pride
had come to her aid, or she was making a desperate resolution.  Madame
thought it was time to waver.

"If, indeed--" she said, slowly.  "But no."

"If what, madame?"

"You have had a grand education, without doubt, mademoiselle?"

"I used to learn a great deal.  I do not know that it was any good,"
said Therese, wearily.

"I am in treaty with an admirable instructress for Octavie and Adolphe.
It would be an infinite loss to them: still--"

"Do you mean that I could teach them?" said Therese, brightening up and
looking delighted.

"It is almost wrong of me," madame declared, sighing.  "I do not know
what my husband will say to my weakness."

Therese cried out, gratefully, that she should never repent it.  Her
buoyant spirit reasserted itself; she drew a long breath of relief as
she thought of Monsieur Deshoulieres and the convent on one side, Fabien
and happiness on the other, with Madame Roulleau, in her linen jacket,
standing as arbitrix between them.  If there had been a dozen Octavies
and Adolphes she must have embraced her, as she did.  Such joy did not
mollify madame.

"Who is to promenade with you?" she asked, crossly.  "It must not be a
fine lady, to ruin us in wages."

"I have thought of some one," Therese cried out with eagerness.  "Let it
be old Nannon; she is very poor, and will be glad to get a little."

"That old creature!" exclaimed madame, who was secretly pleased, but
felt it necessary to make a favour of every concession.

Perhaps Therese also was actuated by the spirit of contradiction towards
the unconscious offender, M.  Deshoulieres.  "I should like her better
than any one else," she said.

Madame went away well satisfied with her own tactics.  By a little
skilful management she could make these two play against each other.
Therese was already thoroughly prejudiced against her guardian, and
should he be displeased by the choice of Nannon, he would learn that it
arose from the girl's own wilfulness.  It was far more likely that,
having once spoken on the subject, he would not trouble himself about it
again.  Madame Roulleau was a clever woman, but she knew nothing of
those new sounds which were beginning to make themselves heard in his
heart.

Before she left the room she told Therese to go to old Nannon's, and
desire her to come to Rue St Servan.  M.  Deshoulieres was gone to
Epernon, and safe out of the way.  Therese, who all the morning had been
looking longingly at the soft sunshine and the cool delicate clouds
which sailed lazily across her great expanse of sky, was glad to get out
into the brightness.  It was one of those exquisite days of broken light
in which quaint old Charville seemed full of pictures and of memories; a
capricious sky, a sweet tender glow upon the stones, here and there a
keen shaft of sun-ray, here and there a deep grave shadow--contrasts,
but not contradictions.  Later in the day there was to be a mass in the
Cathedral for the children who were just confirmed; the little
white-veiled figures were flitting about in all directions.  Therese
stood and watched two who came along a narrow, dark street, and under a
grey archway; two black-robed sisters in great white flapping caps,
stretching out on either side like wings, held their hands.  "_Soyez
tranquille, mon enfant_," one of them was saying, in her calm, hushed
voice, as they passed Therese; it sounded almost like a benediction, as
they all went quietly along under the Cathedral and the praying statues.
Tears rushed into the girl's eyes; she put out her hands with a sort of
vague beseeching for some such kindly words, but no one saw or
understood the gesture.  The figures went away into the light, Therese
remained sadly on the broad steps looking after them.  With these solemn
walls rising heavenwards; with these serene, mute statues--angels and
their harps, saints with folded hands, crowned kings and queens,
prophets, apostles, martyrs--standing in majestic unbroken calm, it
seemed as if, after all, peace might be the happiness of life.  Was it
to be found in such an existence as these quiet women had chosen?  Would
it not be better for her to yield and do as they had done?  She shivered
at the thought.  A little white butterfly fluttered down on the hand of
one of the crowned figures, and rose again, as if the touch chilled it.
"It is like me," Therese thought bitterly; "I am not good enough for
that cold, saintly life."  Poor child!  There were all kinds of new
thoughts wrestling within her; perhaps, among them, breathed the faint
distant echo of an eternal truth.  Neither in the cloister nor in the
world will peace or happiness, or whatever we may call the highest
earthly bliss, come to those who seek them selfishly.  From behind some
sad figure, in companionship where we least expect them, they may step
forth smiling.  But they are divine gifts; and He who gives has not made
them the end of our endeavour, the goal of our race.

The girl dashed away her tears, and came slowly down from the steps; she
would have gone into the Cathedral, but the doors of the north portal
were not open, and she went mechanically along the streets towards
Nannon's.  The air was soft and healing, every thing gentle, dewy, and
full of sweet beauty.  Rain had fallen in the night, the broad fans of
the horse-chestnut leaves still sheltered little depths out of which
gleamed patches of wet, and diamond beads glistened on the grass, which
feathered out here and there from a crevice in some old cracked wall.
Presently Therese, who was not much thinking about her errand, caught
the sound of a voice which recalled it.  There was an old arched stone
doorway lying in grey shade.  Worn steps led up to it, and through the
open space you could see a little sunny court, a stone fountain catching
warm yellow tints, vines clambering round the edge, an old woman in a
blue stuff gown and white cap leaning against it and chattering merrily.
There must have been other invisible figures to whom Nannon was holding
forth, for every now and then there came a little chorus of shrill
laughter.  The vine-leaves rustled, their shadows danced in the
sunlight; Therese stood at the doorway and looked at it all for a moment
before she called,--

"Nannon!"

"Holy Virgin!" exclaimed the old woman, starting, "it is Mademoiselle
Veuillot!"

Therese's name still excited interest in Charville; two or three heads
peered out from the framework of the doorway.

"She looks thinner already, poor thing!" said one girl presently, in a
compassionate whisper.

"No wonder, Suzette, if Madame Roulleau provides her food."

"But what becomes of all that money?"

"Who knows!  Monsieur le Docteur is a good man, without doubt, but such
a sum is a sore temptation when one has but to help one's self."

"That is not possible," said an old man, speaking in a thin cracked
voice, and striking his stick on the ground.  "The law provides that no
med--"

"Bah, bah, Pere Andre, the law may provide, but we all know that the
rich snap their fingers at the law.  Henri, little wicked one, be quiet.
Well, Nannon, what did mademoiselle want?"

"Nannon is to be mademoiselle's _bonne_!" cried the young girl, who had
been the first to extract the information.

"Nannon! mademoiselle's _bonne_!"

The old woman laughed as heartily as the others, her brown, grotesque
face wrinkling into innumerable lines.  "It is true, nevertheless, my
children," she said.  "See what comes when least one expects it!  M.
Deshoulieres says she is not to walk about alone; figure to yourself her
choosing me!  If it had been Suzette now--but no, look to yourself,
Suzette; after this you will be having me for a rival with Pierre and
Jacques."

The girl laughed, pouted, and twisted a wet vine-branch round little
Henri's head.  "Is it all settled, Mere Nannon?"

"There is Madame Roulleau to be seen."

"And she is a woman!" said old Andre, casting out his hands, and
speaking in his poor thin voice.  All the group seemed to agree in
snubbing old Andre.

"What of that?  She will not eat me," said Nannon, holding up her apron
to shade her from the sun.

"That is true," assented Henri's mother.  "But you will need to look out
for the _sous_."

"She will hold them tight; but some must creep out of her fingers,"
Nannon said, nodding cheerfully; "and if M.  Deshoulieres drives that
unfortunate boy out of his place, I shall say that the saints have sent
us all a recompense.  That is what they do sometimes, as I will say for
them, and when one does not altogether expect it at their hands.  And
mademoiselle asked for Jean-Marie."

Therese waited quickly away from the little sunshiny vine-covered court
set in the framework of its grim old pointed doorway, and went back to
the Cathedral, going round this time to the south portal, by which she
knew she could find entrance.  It lay in the full blaze of sunlight:
flying buttresses, open pillars, and enormous gargoyles threw sharp
shadows on the warm stone.  One of the doors was open: inside lay, as it
seemed, a vast chasm of darkness, but out of the midst of it the
opposite transept window gleamed like a gorgeous bed of jewels.  A great
bell tolled solemnly; up the broad steps swept a long procession of the
white-veiled children, and sisters in their serge dresses.  Therese
followed them; she found a chair, and tried not to notice the stir and
bustle about her.  People crowded in until the great Cathedral was
almost filled.  The service was held outside the choir; the little white
multitude stood in the centre: on one side were other children in red
dresses and rose-wreaths; all round were throngs of loving or curious
spectators--warm lights flashed through the magnificent glass.
Presently from high overhead dropped the first sweet notes of the organ,
and the young fresh voices swelled up to meet it.

Some of the women were crying.  There was something about the service
which was inexpressibly touching; the vast sombre ancient church, the
childish voices.  Therese, who had been strangely excited before, almost
sobbed as she knelt.  Even there her desolation and solitude seemed to
wrap her round; she had not so much as any one to pray for, she thought,
except Fabien.  Her prayer went up, eager and piteous, that Fabien might
come and she might be happy.

CHAPTER EIGHT.

  "Behind this eminence the sun
  Would drop serenely, long ere day was done;
  And one who climbed that height, might see again
  A second setting o'er the fertile plain
  Beyond the town, and glittering in his beam,
  Wind far away that poplar-skirted stream."

  Archbishop Trench.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Looking back afterwards, it seemed to Therese as if that soft July day
had been her last day of liberty; Octavie and Adolphe became terrible
taskmasters.  The weather changed, it grew hot, sultry, oppressive; she
used to sit in the stuffy little room at Rue St Servan and gasp for a
breath of fresh air.  "Adolphe, must you be all day about your theme?"
she would ask, a little too impatiently perhaps; and then Octavie would
hold her disagreeable little head in the air and reply, "Mamma does not
like you to correct Adolphe, mademoiselle."

She was not patient at all in these days.  She hated the lessons and the
eternal mendings, and all the petty humiliations madame visited upon
her, enduring them only as alternatives for worse things.  There must
come a day of escape, she thought; but her hope was beginning to grow
restless and feverish.  Every morning she got up thinking something must
be heard of Fabien that day, and every day the weight in her heart
became heavier.  She could not understand it.  She was still so childish
in some things that she thought the good things must come, the hard go
away; I think she pictured Fabien as a kind of beautiful fairy prince,
at whose appearance Madame Roulleau and Monsieur Deshoulieres, and the
terrible children, and the great heaps of worn-out clothes, would die
away out of her life.  She painted her own future in these colours until
it seemed absolutely to belong to her.  But, although when misgivings of
its certainty obtruded themselves, she rebelled against them, I am
inclined to think that misgivings came more frequently as the weeks went
on.

After all, the mending was not so bad as the teaching.  The clothes were
a burden, but they could not contradict her or make disagreeable remarks
like Octavie, or have Adolphe's fits of obstinate sulkiness.  She was
not patient, as I have said, but she might have pleaded a certain amount
of excuse when she had but the choice of being called cross by the
children or remiss by their mother.  Octavie--who was dressed in the
extreme of fashion, and had a sallow face, high strongly-marked
eyebrows, black eyes, and hair drawn up into a number of little curls at
the back of her head--kept a sharp look-out for poor Therese's
short-comings.  "Mamma does not think Adolphe has improved in his
writing;" "Mamma expects that you will see that our rooms are always in
order, mademoiselle."  When Therese could not smile at these speeches
they hurt her terribly.

Old Nannon came to Rue St Servan, and was duly acknowledged as the
girl's attendant whenever she went out.  She and Madame Roulleau had a
preliminary skirmish, from which madame retired a little discomfited;
for, with all her simplicity, Nannon had no lack of shrewdness.  In
spite of the spirit of contradiction which prompted it, Therese had not
made a bad choice.  There was a fresh vigorous heart beating in the old
woman's bosom, an unconquerable fidelity, keen humour, clear wit; she
liked any thing young and pretty, and felt a great compassion for this
girl, who was not only young and pretty, but so friendless.  Before a
month was over she would have gone through fire and water to serve her.
She served her better by the homely words she let drop.  Every life has
its pathos and its poetry, whether we acknowledge it or not; Nannon,
with her hard fare and her weather-beaten face, was like the rest.  Her
lover had been a soldier, had fallen out of the ranks in a long march,
and died of typhus in a hut by the roadside.  It was months before she
heard of it--months during which she waited, and hungered, and hoped.

"And yet you lived?" asked Therese, looking at the brown face in wonder.

"_Si fait, si fait_," said Nannon, laughing and showing her white teeth.
"If people died of such things, mademoiselle, the world would never go
on as it does.  And there was my sister to take care of besides; it
would have been very selfish to talk about dying."

This sister and her children seemed all the world to Nannon.  It
appeared to Therese as if the whole burden of their existence fell upon
those broad old willing shoulders.  Once she had asked what Mere Belot
did, and Nannon quite ruffled up at the question.

"If Mademoiselle were a mother she would know that is enough," she said,
reproachfully.

Therese could not understand her.  Afterwards she found out by some
chance that Mere Belot was one of those incapable women who are always
taken care of, and toiled for, and shielded.  There are poor queen bees
as well as rich ones, and her sister brought her as much honey as she
could scrape together, and pinched, and struggled, and fought for the
children, while Mere Belot sat in the street outside the house and spun
a little cotton yarn between her intervals of gossip, and accepted her
good things placidly.  They came to her quite as a matter of course;
and, though it be but a poor little hive, it makes a great difference
whether you are the queen or the working bee.

Nannon had taken all the children into her faithful heart, but, perhaps,
she loved Jean-Marie the best.  He had been a trouble ever since he was
born.  He had been twice as long as the others in cutting his teeth, had
frightened them all out of their wits with croup and small-pox and
fevers, had broken his leg, and set the house on fire, and was for ever
being dragged out of scrapes by Nannon.  So many things happened to him
that I believe she looked upon him as a hero at last.  He was always
making fresh starts on the road to fortune, and trailing back again
before a week was over.  This last start at Gohon's farm had carried him
quite a long way.  He had been there more than a month: Nannon's pride
was excessive; she used to walk out through the waving cornfields, and
watch the farm for an hour for the happiness of seeing Jean-Marie bring
out the horses or fetch the cows.  It was an innocent little triumph
very dear to her; and, perhaps, it was no wonder that she felt it hard
when M.  Deshoulieres brought to light that misdemeanour with the
Cottereaus and Michault, which threatened to put an end to all her
triumphs.  She did not know that it was M.  Deshoulieres also who had
gone out to the farm the next day, and asked that the boy might have a
longer trial; she accused the doctor of having almost deprived
Jean-Marie of his situation; and Therese had all her baseless prejudices
against him confirmed by the old woman.  It was very unfortunate,
because she might have escaped from the Roulleau tyranny if Nannon had
counselled her to appeal to M.  Deshoulieres; but since his decision
against her boy, there was no harshness of which Nannon did not believe
him guilty.

So these two used to sit and talk on the hot, dry evenings, when Therese
could get away from her labour in the stifling little house.  Nannon and
she would wander through the quaint old town, down the steep streets,
and so to the quiet river, whose murmur fell on her ears like the sound
of a comforting voice before she reached it.

She liked those evenings best when the sky was tender primrose colour,
and the dusky trees stood up against it in soft, shady, mysterious
masses, with strangely bright bars of colour gleaming through them.
There were disused fortifications, an old gateway, and a bridge; above
these houses jumbled oddly together clambering up the side of the hill.
She liked to watch the water slip calmly by, the leaves floating on its
surface, the long grasses under the bank breaking it into little brown
eddies.  There were quiet shadows, shadows always comprehensible, never
terrible; shadows which stole gently down to the roots of the willows,
by which the river rolled along, catching their reflection on its
surface, and then suddenly lit up with a sheet of tremulous golden
light.  A little rough causeway ran by the waterside, here and there a
stunted sapling thrust itself out as though to kiss the stream
that moved on regardless; here and there were little wooden
standing-places--_lavatoires_--for the washerwomen, who all day long
thumped and gesticulated and chattered shrilly, but in the evening left
the river to its own unceasing songs.

It was a very quiet, out-of-the-way little corner.  The cornfields
stretched far away--great flat plains; a bird might cry in the distance,
the church bells clang, a peasant in his blouse go by and wish them good
evening; except these signs of life there was very little to disturb
them.  Nannon thought it _triste_; but it seemed to bring refreshment to
Therese, who never before had liked silence and solitude.  She was ill
at this time, I think; feverish, restless, and sick with hope deferred.
She had been waiting for two years, at her age a lifetime.  Separation
had not before been so cruel as it was now that the great bar between
her and Fabien was gone, and only his presence was needed.  Perhaps her
hopefulness would have sunk altogether under the strain if it had not
been for the river and Nannon.

Sitting on a stone by its bank one evening, as I have described their
doing, they were startled by seeing a figure coming along the narrow
causeway towards them.  The sun had set behind the upper town; they were
too much under the hill to see the houses or the Cathedral spires, but
the rich autumnal sunset lingered in the sky, crimson patches and dark
purples on a background of tawny gold; there was a soft, breezy rustle
in the air.  The figure came out of dusky shadows along the causeway,
and it startled Therese, because she saw at once it was not one of the
blue-shirted labourers, who, at rare intervals, came back into the town
by that path.  When it drew nearer she recognised M.  Deshoulieres.  He
had been detained at a village, which lay not far from Charville, where
a little child had been ill.  That afternoon it had died, and M.
Deshoulieres, who loved little children, was coming home touched and
softened.  He had chosen this path, perhaps, because, although he did
not think about it in his heart, the river and the long grasses, and the
tremulous golden light, had their attractions also for him.  He was
looking at the water, and when he suddenly came upon these two figures
sitting quietly there in the midst of the solitude, he could not refrain
from an exclamation of surprise.

"Mademoiselle Veuillot!" he said.

Therese did not know what to answer.  Neither of them had expected to
meet the other here.  She was half angry, half-frightened, lest this
innocent little enjoyment of hers should also be pronounced unfitting.
Both she and Nannon had risen, Nannon standing with her arms crossed
defiantly.

"We came here because it is so cool and so pleasant," said Therese,
looking beseechingly at her enemy.  Surely the river might be spared to
her!  "Is it late?" she said, suddenly conscious of the depth of the
shadows.

"A little," he answered dryly.  In his heart he was wondering with a
little amusement at her fancy for solitude, and at the companionship in
which he found her.  It seemed to him as if the silence and the shadows
were more fitting for a grave man like himself than for such a child as
Therese.  In the waning light, in her black dress, she looked thin and
pale.  "This is not a place for you to sit in so late.  There is mist
from the river," he said.  "You should keep on the higher ground."

"We do not often stay so late, do we, Nannon?" said Therese,
appealingly; "and it is so hot in the town."

Nannon, who represented the opposition to M.  Deshoulieres, was nothing
loath to enter upon the field.  "There is no harm in the river," she
said, with decision.  "Monsieur would know that if he had lived in the
town as long as I have.  If mademoiselle prefers the band and a little
distraction, she can always find it above there; but if she likes better
to come and sit in this seclusion, there is nothing to prevent it.
White mist does no one any hurt.  It is the stirring up which brings the
fever," added Nannon, with a spiteful allusion to some sanitary measures
of M.  Deshoulieres.

"You are coming back now?" he said, addressing himself to Therese,
without taking any notice of Nannon's speech.

Long afterwards she wondered at the clearness with which she remembered
every detail of that walk, the little rough, untidy path, the
rose-bushes growing out of the grey wall, the dog that stood and barked,
then the houses and the steep hot streets.  At the time she scarcely
noticed them, but afterwards they came back.  M.  Deshoulieres was grave
and preoccupied; but once, when Nannon had lingered behind to speak to
some friend, he turned round and said, with a sudden smile and a twinkle
in his blue eyes,--

"So that is the companion you have chosen, mademoiselle?"

Therese murmured something, feeling horribly guilty: she wondered
whether he would guess that her sympathy with Nannon began in the
market.

"She is not a bad old woman," went on the unconscious Max.  "She lets
herself be eaten up by that sister of hers, and she does not always tell
the truth; but she will be honest and faithful."

"I am sure she is faithful," said Therese, forcing herself to say
something, and thinking of Fabien.

M.  Deshoulieres looked up quickly.  "Is faithfulness a favourite virtue
of yours, mademoiselle?"

"It seems to me that it is the anchor of life," answered the girl in a
low voice.

He looked at her again with a little wonder.  There was something almost
passionate in the tone with which she spoke those few words.  His next
question came out abruptly.

"Does your present residence suit you?  Are you sure that you would not
prefer a change?"  Therese thought of the convent, and turned sick.  "I
do not wish for any change," she said, hurriedly.

"You are content to remain where you are?"

It was a strange sort of contentment, Therese thought, with a quick
flash of self-pity; but the other place of refuge that was open to her
would be unbearable.  She said yes to his question, and then despised
herself for the falseness of her answer.  "Every place must be a little
sad to me, just now, monsieur," she went on, "for I belong to no one.
But I am glad to stay at Mme.  Roulleau's."

He did not answer.  She thought, perhaps, he had not listened to her
pathetic little explanation; she did not know that it had gone straight
for his heart.  The pity that he had felt once or twice before became
more intense, more personal.  Perhaps the time and circumstances helped
the feeling: the evening was soft, quiet, almost solemn; all his
sympathies had been called out that day by the little child's deathbed.
"Let me go to sleep," the little tired voice had said; there was no more
pain afterwards, except in the hearts of the watchers.  The words came
back to him continually, with a vision of the tiny, wasted, flushed
face; any appeal would have touched him in his present mood, and Therese
seemed only an older child, with no one, as she said, to care for her.
He walked on, thinking silently, and she made a great effort to put a
question into words.

"Have you heard nothing yet of Monsieur Saint-Martin?"

"Nothing, nothing.  One would have supposed that by this time a letter--
a message, at least--might have reached Ardron.  It would seem that the
estrangement was serious.  Why do people take so much trouble to forge
their own unhappiness, Mademoiselle Veuillot?"

There are many ways of doing that work, innocent, unconscious ways,
sometimes.  At this very moment, M.  Deshoulieres, with his big, manly,
pitiful heart, was laying it open and making it ready for the sharp
red-hot thrusts that came afterwards.  We do the same, all of us, often.
We grind the weapons that are to wound us.  But, thank God, the weapons
are not always evil, and such leave no poison in the wound.

"Mademoiselle, did you hear the clock strike?" said Nannon, bustling up.
"We must make haste, the days grow so short, and the virgins up there
do not carry their lamps lit."

"Up there" was the cathedral porch, where the parable is graven, and the
ten stand in their changeless attitudes of despair or bliss.  M.
Deshoulieres, Therese, and Nannon passed under them.  It was not so dark
as Nannon represented, but a sweet duskiness was veiling all the bright
tints; people sat outside their houses laughing and chattering with
their children; a few lights began to appear; in the distance was heard
the indistinct roll of a drum.  Rue St Servan looked gloomy when they
turned into it: the light always left it early.  When M.  Deshoulieres
wished Therese good evening, he said, with a smile which she did not
see,--"Do not stay so long by the river another evening, mademoiselle."

CHAPTER NINE.

  "A stirring of the heart, a quickening keen
  Of sight and hearing to the delicate
  Beauty and music of an altered world;
  ...That mysterious light,
  Which doth reveal and yet transform; which give
  Destiny, sorrow, youth, and death, and life,
  Intenser meaning; in disquieting
  Lifts up; a shining light: men call it love."

  Jean Ingelow.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

M.  Deshoulieres went slowly away from the Roulleaus towards his own
house.  The _cafe_ at the corner of the little Place was brilliantly
lit; outside, between great tubs of evergreens and climbing daturas, men
were sitting, smoking, drinking coffee, or mixing horrible little
decoctions of absinthe.  Instead of joining the group, and reading his
evening budget of the _Patrie_, the _Gaulois_, or the _Organe du
Departement_, M.  Deshoulieres strolled away to one of the deserted
seats under the trees, where there was not sufficient cheerful light or
sound for the attraction of idlers, and he was not likely to be
recognised.  There was his own house opposite, dark and dreary-looking.
Some of the windows round were open, light streamed out, figures sat in
the balconies; one woman he noticed particularly in a white shining
dress, with a child clambering on her knee; he could hear happy voices,
laughter and singing.  His own house looked like a dark patch in the
middle of it all: presently, one little feeble light passed a window,
disappeared, shone out again in the story above.  "Veuve Angelin is
going upstairs," commented M.  Deshoulieres.  For the first time a
feeling of dissatisfaction took shape in his mind.  Why had he no one
better than Veuve Angelin to welcome him?  Why should his house be
unlike those others?  It had a balcony,--he had hardly noticed it
before,--why might not a lady, in a white shining dress, sit there in a
little glow of warm light?  He half closed his eyes, and fancied her: a
slight figure, dark brown hair, lying lightly on her forehead; grey
eyes, with the beseeching look he had more than once remarked.  "Every
place must be a little sad to me, for I belong to no one."  His shining
lady would say no such pathetic words.  Ah, M.  Deshoulieres, you opened
your heart to Pity, and another visitant slipped in unawares!

It seemed but a little while to himself that he sat there under the
trees, yet, when at last he roused himself to move, half the lights had
vanished, only two or three excited politicians remained before the
_cafe_: there was a September chill in the air in spite of the day's
heat.  Max was thoroughly ashamed, on glancing round, to realise the
time he had wasted.  It was too late to light another cigar; he got up,
shook himself, and walked across to his house.  A little primitive
light--just a wick in a glass of oil--burnt feebly within the entrance;
at the head of the stairs stood Veuve Angelin, in an injured frame of
mind.

"So monsieur has come at last," she said sharply, "and all the world has
been seeking him for the last two hours.  There has been a message from
the Eveche: they are all in commotion: Monseigneur may be dead by this
time, or recovered, which would be almost as bad, considering that that
miserable little Monsieur Pinot would have the credit of it."

"What was the message?" asked M.  Deshoulieres, calmly.

"Monseigneur felt himself more feeble this evening, and desired monsieur
to come without delay.  If they found you absent, M.  Jean was to fetch
M.  Pinot at once.  I got him to talk about that affair at Minguard,
which kept him a little; but it is too horrible to think of that other
creature's triumph.  If monsieur were to walk very fast?"

"There is no occasion for such an exertion, Marie, since M.  Pinot is
there.  Monseigneur is quite safe with him."

"Monsieur will not go?"

"Oh, yes, I shall go.  Only I should like my coffee first.  And, stay,
have there been no other messages?"

"Only one from that old Andre.  The boy is worse--or so they said."

"Why did you not say so?" demanded M.  Deshoulieres, sternly.  "Give me
my coat at once."

"But, monsieur, the coffee--"

"Give me my coat."

"Monseigneur--"

But the doctor was clattering down the stairs.

"What a man!" muttered Veuve Angelin, throwing up her hands.  "He is no
more fit to manage his affairs than a child--an idiot!  I do what I can,
but he overthrows every thing.  Monseigneur sending for him, that
wretched little Pinot longing to jump into his shoes, and in the face of
it all he first orders coffee, and then rushes off to that old misery
Andre, from whom he will never get a _sou_.  It upsets my nerves to
think of it.  Monseigneur at the Eveche, and that boy of old Andre's in
a hole of a place, both wanting him, and he must choose to go to the
boy!  And M.  Jean was so agreeable!  It is true, as he says, that I
have a great deal of solitude to endure here, but one could bear a great
deal if those one lived with were only reasonable.  And there will be
that cook of M.  Pinot's giving herself airs at the market to-morrow!  I
will take care to let them know whom M.  Jean came to first--but
monsieur never arrives at taking his position, do what I will."

It was midnight before M.  Deshoulieres reached the Eveche; the Bishop's
nephew received him freezingly.

"It is some hours since we sent to request your services, monsieur."

"When I reached my house, Monsieur l'Abbe, I understood that your
servant had wisely gone on to M.  Pinot, and knowing Monseigneur to be
in good hands I obeyed a pressing summons to a poor boy whose state
gives me great uneasiness."  M. l'Abbe stared.  Here was the chief
pastor of the flock lying upstairs, sick and weary, and this doctor--
occupying himself with attendance upon one of the very poorest of the
sheep.  He answered stiffly:--

"M.  Pinot is at this moment with the Bishop."  The doctor bowed.

"He appears to understand the case, and I do not think we need deprive
your other patients of your time."

"Under those circumstances, as I am very sleepy, M. l'Abbe," said M.
Deshoulieres cheerfully, "I shall go and indulge myself with great
satisfaction.  With Monseigneur's symptoms, you may have perfect
confidence in Monsieur Pinot."

He left the Abbe speechless, ran down the broad oaken stairs, and
through a yard and a garden out into the Place Notre Dame.  It was a
calm, beautiful night, overhead the stars were shining, before him rose
the Cathedral in silent, grave repose.  "This night's work will be the
making of Pinot," he thought to himself, as he walked under the dark
houses.  "All Charville will know of it to-morrow.  He is a painstaking
little man, without originality of conception, but able to benefit by
what he sees practised, which is more than one can say of all one's
trade.  I am glad he should have this lift, though I shall miss the old
Bishop's good-natured face."

The next morning, when M.  Deshoulieres went out early, Veuve Angelin
devoutly hoped he was going to the Eveche.  At his _dejeuner_, however,
she waited upon him with so lugubrious a face, that he felt himself
obliged to inquire into the cause.

"It cannot be true.  Monsieur would not look so unconcerned.  Otherwise
it is reported that monsieur was refused permission to see Monseigneur
last evening."

"It is quite true, Marie.  A terrible fact."

"And that creature, Victoire, was boasting through the market that her
master was in attendance all night."

"I am sorry to hear that Monseigneur required it."

"But, monsieur--"

"Well?"

"You are ruined!"

"I?  Not at all."

"Monsieur Pinot at the Eveche!"

"We will get him an introduction to the Prefecture."

"Monsieur should not jest.  I shall never be able to hold up my head at
the market again."

"That is a very lamentable consequence.  At all events, Marie, you will
have the comfort of reflecting that a Bishop is at the bottom of your
misfortunes."

M.  Deshoulieres sat smiling and unimpressed; Veuve Angelin was almost
crying over the mortifications she foresaw to be in store for her, when
a step sounded on the stairs.  She went out and came running in again,
radiant.

"From the Eveche," she said, giving him a note.

M.  Deshoulieres, who was human, could not himself resist a little
twinkle of satisfaction as he read.  The Abbe, after making his
compliments to M.  Deshoulieres, begged him to call at the Eveche as
soon as his other engagements would admit.  The note was pointedly
civil.

"Poor man!" thought the doctor, folding it up with a smile.  "Such a
concession ought to serve for penance."

"Monsieur is sent for?" asked Veuve Angelin, eagerly.

"I am going to assist M.  Pinot," answered the doctor, gravely.  "Don't
you know, Marie, that a great man has generally a second in command?
After this, if Madame Victoire usurps the honours of the market, you may
decidedly claim the privilege of following close behind."

Veuve Angelin, who could not understand a joke, was left not altogether
at ease.  "If monsieur loses his standing in the place, I shall quit,"
she said to herself.  "To have that woman setting herself before us
would be unbearable.  To assist M.  Pinot!  The Bishop would have more
proper feeling than to allow such a thing to be named.  M.  Pinot!"

M.  Deshoulieres meanwhile reached the iron gates, passed under the
trees, from which brown leaves were dropping, and rang the bell of the
Eveche.  M.  Jean himself opened the door, the Abbe was not to be seen.
The doctor went upstairs into a large lofty apartment, wainscoted with
dark wood.  Logs were burning in an open fireplace; in a great cushioned
chair drawn close to it, sat an old kindly-faced man, with a little
black skull-cap covering his white locks, and his withered hands
stretched out on the arms of his chair.

"So you are come this time, Monsieur Deshoulieres," he said, with a
little nod of welcome.

"Monseigneur," said the doctor, respectfully, "it was no intentional
neglect on my part.  I consider it my duty to attend first to the most
pressing cases, and I was well aware that Monsieur Pinot would prove
efficient."

"Oh, I know all about it.  It was my nephew.  Monsieur l'Abbe does not
infrequently make a--hem--he makes mistakes," said the Bishop, pulling
himself up.  "And now, my good M.  Deshoulieres, before we say any thing
more, be kind enough to tell me how is the boy, and what is his name?"

"He is a little better," said the doctor, smiling, "and he is the
grandson of old Andre Triquet, the wood-cutter."

"What does he most want?"

"Every thing."

"Except a good doctor," said Monseigneur, with a kind smile.  "There he
has the advantage of us all.  Well, I must see to my rival's comforts.
And now for my next question.  I do not receive much definite
information: is it your opinion that the town is in a healthy
condition?"

M.  Deshoulieres shook his head.  "There have been fever cases clinging
to it all the summer."

"But they say that the cold weather will cure them."

"The cold weather may undoubtedly check the results, but if the cause
remains, I venture, Monseigneur, to predict a fierce epidemic for next
year."

"And the cause is--?"

"The blindness or the wickedness of our authorities."

"You speak strongly, Monsieur Deshoulieres."

"You would do the same, Monseigneur, if your work lay where mine does."

There was a little silence: the doctor became aware of the unintentional
irony of his words; the Bishop also had recognised it, for he moved his
head restlessly upon the cushion.  Presently he stretched out his hand
to the doctor and said with simple dignity,--

"I am an old man.  I cannot give the personal help this great town
requires at my hands.  Strength and opportunity are no longer mine, but
at least I can pronounce the blessing of God upon those who, like you,
are using them for His poor."  There was something of grandeur in his
face and attitude; M.  Deshoulieres, much moved, rose up and stood
silent.  He had never before realised in the Bishop's character the
force which lay hidden behind an easy good-nature.  At this moment a
bell rang.

"That is Monsieur Pinot," said the Bishop, relapsing into a smile.  "I
shall not see him."

"Monseigneur, all this time we have not spoken of yourself."

"I did not send to you for that purpose.  I believe your friend is doing
me no harm, and it would give him so much satisfaction to cure me that I
must let him have the chance for once.  But if he fails, I bargain that
Andre Triquet's grandson and I change doctors."

"Nevertheless, I shall put a few questions," said M.  Deshoulieres.

When these were over, the Bishop, who liked a little gossip, detained
him.

"Is your strange trusteeship still going on?"

"As it was."

"And you have received no tidings of the young man?  It is peculiar,
very peculiar.  There was a girl, also, left under your charge, was
there not?"  Max flushed slightly.  The last night's thoughts, which
occupation had hunted out of his mind, came back like a torrent.  He
caught a glimpse of himself in a great velvet-bordered mirror which
stood over the chimney-piece, he looked old, grave, unlike a lover for
Therese.

"Mademoiselle Veuillot has found a temporary home, Monseigneur, at the
house of Ignace Roulleau, the notary in Rue St Servan.  The conditions
of her small legacy require her to remain in Charville."

"She might be received at our convent," suggested the Bishop gravely.

M.  Deshoulieres made no answer beyond taking leave.

CHAPTER TEN.

  "Have I not nursed, for two long wretched years,
  That miserable hope, that every day
  Grew weaker, like a baby sick to death,
  Yet dearer for its weakness, day by day?"

  Madoc.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

After that evening walk from the river Therese told Nannon she thought
that M.  Deshoulieres was kinder than she had fancied.  Nannon, whose
prejudices were invincible, shook her head.

"He may be kind when he pleases, I do not deny it, but he is as hard as
a stone."

"Every one is hard, I think," said Therese, sadly.

Her bright hopefulness was leaving her; there was so much irritation and
fret in her daily life, so much contact with low, mean natures, that it
had not power to hold its own.  That future to which she looked forward
was not one which strengthened her to bear the present; it rather added
to the fever of impatience which consumed her.  We want something
stronger than props of our own rearing when the dark days come with
their storms.  Poor child, it appeared to herself as if she was for ever
stretching out her hands and groping vainly in the darkness for
something by which to hold.  There was one figure among those which for
ages had stood outside the great Cathedral and called to the passers-by,
that she had grown almost to identify with herself--a woman who seemed
half in supplication, half in fear.  It is probable that no one else had
seen that expression in the attitude.  Those beautiful grave statues at
Charville are able to adapt themselves, with something of the power of
the Psalms, to the wants and wishes of those who love them.  All around
are the great flat corn plains; every thing is made to speak of crops
and gains, getting and selling, buying of farms, proving of oxen.  But
in the midst there rises, like an eternal protest, this glorious
Cathedral, with spires always pointing heavenwards, always typifying
what man's life may be amid all the world's care and turmoil.  Life in
the world, not of it.  Therese, who did not recognise this, who perhaps
had not lived long enough to search for types and shadows in the things
about her, was yet conscious of an increasing delight in wandering round
the old Cathedral.  She fancied she was losing her props when, after
all, she was being trained to hold by those that would never fail her.

Madame Roulleau, in spite of her cleverness, almost endangered her
prospects by her treatment of Therese just now.  Even her covetousness
was not so strong as her love of oppression, and her pleasure in
humiliating the girl by all possible means.  Therese was made almost a
drudge in the household.  Pride prevented her from complaining, but she
felt fierce and bitter against her oppressors.  She might have appealed
to M.  Deshoulieres, of whom she stood less in awe than before their
last conversation, had she seen him, but for a month or two they did not
meet.  He came two or three times to Rue St Servan, but Mme.  Roulleau
held there might be dangers in interviews, and contrived that he should
never see Therese.  As it happened, also, they never encountered one
another elsewhere.  Every one knows how in a large place you may be
months without once crossing the track of your nearest neighbour, and so
it was with Therese and M.  Deshoulieres.  Had he been resolute, of
course he could have effected it without difficulty, but, in truth, he
was not decided what to do.  Deep in his heart that little vision of
Therese in his home, loved and cared for, had never stirred from its
place.  If during the day, with its ceaseless toil and battling, there
was a veil drawn across the sweet, homely picture, he suffered his
thoughts to dwell upon it with an ever-deepening tenderness when the
quiet hours came.  What held him back was the dread lest he might take
an unfair advantage of the girl's present loneliness.  He knew nothing
of all that made it most bitter, of the weariness of her waiting, of the
physical hardship of her lot, but he knew from her own words that a
sense of her desolation was strong upon her, and he feared lest it might
lead her to accept another lot, afterwards to prove more unendurable.
He thought hardly of himself, he was so much older, so grave, so
occupied, that he dreaded hurrying her into a mistake.  He longed to see
her, but with the determination which he exercised over longings, he
accepted the separation, believing that each day she might become more
reconciled to her position, or better acquainted with the depths of her
own feelings.

It was a noble, unselfish heart in which the unconscious Therese was set
as in a little shrine.

Does it make life sadder or brighter to think how much of this unknown
treasuring there is in the world around us?  People who fancy themselves
least cared for sometimes have a wealth of affection poured out upon
them, of which they may never dream until the day when every thing is
made plain.  One does not know whether it is comforting or saddening to
recollect this,--comforting, one hopes, because it is very sure that
such love cannot be wasted, whether it seems so in our eyes or not.

November came.  It was not foggy, but there was a good deal of rain, and
the air was damp and chilly.  The vines that had been so fresh and
blithe through the summer now disconsolately waved their straggling
helpless branches to and fro from the little balconies.  The great
plains, in which lay hid the promise of next year's abundance, looked
brown and dreary without their wealth of golden corn.  Therese used to
escape to her own room when the teaching was over, and shiver there
rather than sit with Madame Roulleau in the little ugly room with its
great stove filling up one corner.  Her walks with Nannon were
necessarily fewer and interrupted, owing to the shortening days and the
rain, and she suffered for want of them.  She grew pale and thin, her
step lost its elasticity, her mouth its smile.  Was she never to escape
from this life, this weary, hateful treadmill?  When depression seizes
on one point it assails us on all; those cruel words of Fabien's became
much more terrible to her than ever they had seemed before.  She was
among those he had renounced; what was her love that it should hold him
through those years, across unknown distances?  And then she would
determine that he was dead.

One day--while it was quite early, and Therese was working away at the
children, with a dreary sense of drudgery, which did them and herself no
good--Mme.  Roulleau, who had gone to her bedroom to hunt for something
in a great press, was startled by her husband coming in upon her with a
white scared face.

"Zenobie--Zenobie, _mon amie_!" he said piteously.

"Well?  What now?"

"That which we dreaded is arriving--Monsieur Saint-Martin!  What will
become of us?"

"Is Monsieur Saint-Martin here?" inquired madame with perfect coolness,
although she turned a shade paler.

"Here!  The saints forbid!"

"The saints are not likely to be on your side, so that I would not place
much confidence in their protection, if I were you," said his wife,
sarcastically.  "Have the goodness, Ignace, to inform me what this great
event may be that you find so disturbing."

"_Mon amie_, do not be angry.  I have come to you at once.  But it is
ruin.  Monsieur Deshoulieres has just been here; he has received a
letter--"

"Well?"

"A letter about our affair."

"Give it to me."

"How did she know I had it?" murmured the little man, half in
admiration, half in fear, as he took it from his pocket.  Madame
received it in silence.  The note consisted only of a few lines:--"If
Monsieur Deshoulieres desires tidings of Monsieur Fabien Saint-Martin,
nephew of Monsieur Moreau, recently deceased, let him find himself at
the Lion d'Or, at Pont-huine, on the afternoon of the 20th of November,
at three o'clock."  No more.  The post-mark was Paris.

"The twentieth!  That is to-day," remarked madame meditatively.  The
paleness had increased a little; her lips were set more tightly.

"One hundred and eighty francs a month," groaned Roulleau.

"And M.  Deshoulieres is gone?"

"Gone?  No.  He has just received a message from the Prefet.  Madame is
taken in sharp illness.  He came here fretting and fuming on his way to
the Prefecture, as if this horrible Monsieur Saint-Martin were the one
person he most desired to see upon the earth.  Did you not understand,
Zenobie?  It is I who must go."

"You!  I understand!  How can I understand?" screamed madame, facing
round upon him in a flame of indignation--"when you come crying out that
you are ruined, all the time having the game placed in your very hands!
You have grown so crooked, you cannot even speak straight to your own
wife.  Can you not think even so much as this for yourself!  Are you
blind--a dolt--a baby--an imbecile!"

"Zenobie!" implored the little man in an agony.

"Yes!" she said, with a world of scorn in her tone; "that is your
_metier_, and all you are fit for--to take care lest any one should
overhear us.  I cannot keep patience always.  All the world may know
that Monsieur Saint-Martin is coming, if they will."

"Zenobie!"

"I repeat it.  At what time do you go?"

"The train leaves in half an hour."

"Then do not interrupt me."

She turned away from him, and sat down.  M.  Roulleau, too glad to gain
peace, waited patiently.  For five minutes there was silence, broken by
no sound but the heavy drip of rain; a distant rumble of carts; one or
two church clocks striking the hour.  Then madame lifted her head, and
spoke in a measured, set voice, very different from her late vehement
outbreak,--

"You will go to the station, and take a ticket for Pont-huine," she
said; "but you will get out at Maury, the village on this side of it.
Make what inquiries you can about strangers at the Lion d'Or, and return
by the last train.  It is probable that M.  Deshoulieres will meet you
at the station."

"What then?" said the little man breathlessly.  "You have seen nothing,
heard nothing, done nothing.  No one has appeared at the Lion d'Or.  If
you may venture an opinion, the whole affair is a silly hoax.  Are you
capable of this?"

"Every day implicates us more," Roulleau said, wiping his face.

"There is no gain without speculation," replied madame, with one of her
scornful glances.  "Would you prefer opening your arms to Monsieur
Saint-Martin?"

"He will ask so many questions."

"It is the more easy in such a case to shape your answers."

Little Roulleau was helpless under her inexorable will.  His own sordid
nature prompted him one way, while his cowardice held him back.  He
would have been a villain without his wife, but he would have dug
underground, putting out all his little crafty resources, to fence
himself round from discovery.  She worked more boldly and for larger
ventures.  The imprudences she committed kept him in continual alarm.
At the same time there was a fertility of resource, a vigour in her
undertakings, of which he acknowledged the value, and which were strong
enough to carry him along against his judgment.  He remonstrated, but he
had never sufficient power to resist.  She swept away all his little
terrified suggestions like a whirlwind.  Ignace put on his yellow straw
hat, took his thread gloves and his umbrella, and went obediently to the
station.  Madame was more polite that day to Therese than she had been
for months.

In the evening, Therese was sitting with the children, who were supposed
to be preparing their lessons for the next day.  Octavie, always upright
and suggestive, was at the table, with a book open before her, on the
alert, as usual, to snub Mademoiselle Veuillot or her brother, as the
case might require.  He was a very ugly little boy, with his baggy
knickerbockers and cut-away jacket, and a closely cropped little head;
but he was not so utterly detestable in Therese's eyes as Octavie.  With
all his obstinacy and provoking ways he was not a worldly, unnatural
little being like her.  He had not her patronising, superior ways; he
was not always watching and spying.  I am telling you what Therese
thought, and it must be remembered that she was not in a patient mood at
this time: she was eating the bread of poverty, and it was made very
bitter.  This evening Adolphe would not attend.  He jumped up and down,
upset his chair, danced about the room.  "Mamma thinks that Adolphe
already knows less of history than when he began it with you,
mademoiselle," remarked Octavie, pleasantly.

"I know more than you!" shouted Adolphe, indignant at this report, and
still careering round the table.  "I know more than you, and more than
mademoiselle, and more than a great many people."

Octavie lifted her arched eyebrows.

"But yes, I do, and I could tell you about it, only I don't choose."

"Adolphe!" said Therese, sharply, "I am waiting."

"She always thinks that mamma tells her every thing," said Adolphe
triumphantly, "but she does not.  She is only a little girl, is she,
mademoiselle?  I know a great deal more."

"Madame Barry never permitted Adolphe to misbehave himself,
mademoiselle.  It is only since you have been our governess," said
Octavie, furiously.

"She will not be our governess long," cried Adolphe, before Therese
could speak, "if M.  Saint-Martin is come."

"Monsieur Saint-Martin!"

All the room turned round before Therese; she caught at the table to
steady herself.  When she opened her eyes, the children were staring at
her, Octavie's sharp black eyes looking curiously, Adolphe a little
frightened.  Therese cried out in a glad tone they had never heard
before from her,--

"Is Monsieur Saint-Martin come, Adolphe?"

Nobody answered.  Octavie had nudged her brother, and he began to be
afraid that he might be punished for repeating words he had caught in
his mother's high-pitched voice as he passed the bedroom door.  "All the
world may know that Monsieur Saint-Martin is coming," she had said; but
Adolphe remembered one or two sharp calamities which had befallen him
for repeating his mother's sayings when she was "in a tempest."  He
would not speak.

"Adolphe, dear Adolphe, is he really come?" said Therese.  Her eyes
looked like stars; she put out her hands imploringly; she wanted to hear
it again, but she believed it at once; she was so young that happiness
seemed the most natural thing in the world.  Of course he was come; her
troubles were at an end; her heart felt as if it was dancing for joy.
He was come; every thing was changed, forgotten; her youthfulness leaped
up again; she looked kindly even on Octavie.  "Where is he, dear
children, is he here?"

Adolphe shook his head emphatically; he did not know what to say.
Octavie, who believed that a great blunder had been committed, said,
patronisingly,--

"You should not listen to him, mademoiselle: he does not understand."

"Mamma said it," cried Adolphe stoutly, determined to assert himself.
But Therese was already flying down the stairs into the little _salon_.
"Perhaps he is there," she thought.  Monsieur and madame, who were
standing together in the middle of the room, turned hastily round as
Therese came quickly in.  It might have been the light, which was not
burning very brightly or clearly, that made their faces look yellow and
haggard, the notary's especially.  Perhaps they, too, believed they
might have seen M.  Saint-Martin, when the door opened so abruptly, and
Therese, flushed, smiling, radiant, stood before them.

"Is he here?" she asked joyfully, though a momentary glance showed her
that no one was in the room but monsieur and madame, who were speechless
at a question which seemed to echo back their fears.  Madame recovered
herself instantly.

"To whom do you allude, mademoiselle?" she inquired with a politeness,
to which Therese was a stranger.

The girl patted the ground impatiently.  "To my cousin--to M.
Saint-Martin.  Adolphe tells me that he is come."

"That boy romances--he is a droll," said madame, holding up her hands
and turning to her husband, with a little show of parental interest.
"He means no harm; but he must not be allowed to make announcements so
unfounded without correction.  I shall--"

"What do you mean?" exclaimed Therese, with a sharp cry of
disappointment.

"My poor mademoiselle," said madame, taking hold of her hand, "you must
not be angry with him, he is but a child; he has the heart of an angel,
but he talks like a boy without knowing what he is about.  Do you not
suppose that I should have flown to tell you, had only Monsieur
Saint-Martin--whom we so desire--arrived?"

"And it is not so?  Oh, madame, are you sure?"

All the radiancy had gone; her eyes filled with tears.  Madame, who was
not yet sure what a day might bring forth, made her sit down, even kept
her hand.  Therese let her hold it, she was too stunned to be altogether
conscious; a dull weight of disappointment had fallen upon her, from
which she could not at once rally.

"I will tell you, my child.  Ignace, some one is waiting to see you,"
said madame, significantly; for the little man was still standing under
the yellow light, looking from Therese to the door, as if another person
might yet enter.  "Now he is gone, and I will tell you all about it.
There has been a letter from some foolish person--my husband would
assure you that such idle jesters are never wanting--to hint that there
was news to be heard of M.  Saint-Martin.  Poor Ignace!  He has a good
heart; he started off at once.  `One should neglect nothing,' he said to
me, and he went away, deserting his business, and spending the day in
leaving not a stone unturned.  He has come back so weary!  I must go and
give him his soup."

"And he heard nothing?" asked Therese, faintly.

"Absolutely nothing.  I guessed how it would be, but I would not
discourage him.  You should not have had this disappointment, _chere_
mademoiselle, but who could have expected that little droll to have put
two and two together so cleverly?" said madame, smiling.  "You find him
almost too quick, do you not? and he has not Octavie's admirable
discretion.  He is impetuous, like me."  Therese started up from her
seat.  "I will go to my room, since it is all a delusion," she said, in
a harsh, changed voice.

"You must not think too much of this Monsieur Saint-Martin," said
madame, with a little assumption of motherliness.  "Men come and go,
like the clouds; one can put no dependence upon them.  And you shall not
lose your home, let Monsieur Deshoulieres say what he will.  _Allons_, I
have a heart!"

The girl made no answer.  She stood motionless until madame had
finished, then turned away, walked heavily out of the apartment, up the
stairs, and into her own little room.  There, with a low, bitter cry,
which would no longer be repressed, she flung herself down by her bed.
The cry, which at first was inarticulate, shaped itself into words:
"Fabien, Fabien, I can bear this life no longer!  Oh, why, why do you
not come?  It is so hard.  Why have I all this to endure?"

CHAPTER ELEVEN.

  "Like sun above, a woman's love
      Must have its destined way;
  To some great gain, to others pain,
      And wherefore who can say?
  But be it bliss or wretchedness,
      In reason man must own
  That it is true, and nothing new,
      She loves for love alone."

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Poor Therese's hope seemed to desert her terribly after that
disappointment.  Madame, who, for a few days, was polite and kind in a
spasmodic sort of fashion, fell back into her old ways, when nothing
more was heard of the appointment at the Lion d'Or.  Therese used to
feel strange alternations of listlessness and indignation creeping over
her.  At times it was as if a life was closing round her against which
it was hopeless to rebel,--a life which was relentless and overpowering;
at times her heart cried out passionately against her oppressors.  She
accepted whatever was put upon her with a dull kind of aching, but
without a protest.  She was young and healthy, so that although her
cheek lost its roundness, her strength did not absolutely give way; but
the grief she suffered was too much mixed with bitterness, and too
repressed from outward signs, not to be hurtful even physically.  It
seemed to her as if all the world were against her--M.  Deshoulieres,
Monsieur and Madame Roulleau; even Fabien, in his far-away home, had
renounced her.  Yet she never ceased to love him.  Only hope was shaken,
because faith had never been strong in poor Therese.  Her childhood had
been loveless; the child had little teaching,--teaching, that is, which
should make her strive after high things, or shape her little life after
a holier pattern than those she saw around her.  She believed her aunt
Ferdinande to have been a good woman, but it was a goodness so weak and
despairing that the girl despised it.  It seemed to her as if this world
she lived in was one where might, however unjust, carried the day.
Where trust should have been there was a void in her heart, from which
sprang no comfort, only bitterness and rebellion.

This year the winter at Charville set in with strange fits and starts.
The owners of thermometers took a proud delight in electrifying their
neighbours by reports of sudden rises and falls in their favourite
study.  There came sharp frosts, even snow.  The river flowed like an
inky stream between white banks; icicles froze round the stone fountain;
there was what old Nannon called a _jolie gelee_--a certain keen, bitter
beauty in the harmonies of white and grey, in the snow-laden boughs, in
the great sweep of plain and sky.  The women clattered home from market,
instead of staying to gossip by the way.  Little Dutch-like children,
with shrieks of ecstasy, made slides down the steep streets, to the
peril of the limbs of passers-by; old people crouched round the stoves,
to get what warmth they could in their miserable houses.  Instead of
this weather lasting, however, there followed abrupt thaws, soft damp
days, quite unlike the time of year.  The Charville people hardly knew
what to make of it.  "The cold is unpleasant, but when one has made up
one's mind, it may as well come," grumbled old Andre, the wood-cutter.
That is the way with some of us.  We are half angry when the evil we
have prognosticated is mercifully averted.

On one of these mild afternoons Madame Roulleau took her two children to
pay a visit of ceremony; Octavie arrayed in a silk frock, which had been
sent to Therese with her other possessions--not many--from Ardron, and
which she had cut up for Octavie in those first days when she hoped to
please.  Little Roulleau was in his office; Nannon came to the door to
find out whether mademoiselle wanted her, and at the same moment arrived
Monsieur Deshoulieres.

"_Bonjour_, Nannon," he said, cheerfully.  "So mademoiselle is in the
house?"

"She may have gone out with Madame Roulleau," replied Nannon with
unblushing promptitude.  "As monsieur sees, I have just come."

"No, I saw madame and her children in the distance.  Have the goodness
to ask mademoiselle to give me the pleasure of five minutes'
conversation in the _salon_."

"What eyes he has!" muttered Nannon to herself, going unwillingly up the
stairs on her errand.  "And yet they are as blue as the very
cornflowers.  What does he come here frightening that poor child for, I
should be glad to know!  A man so hard as he has no right to have eyes
like that.--If mademoiselle pleases I will say I cannot find her."

"Monsieur Deshoulieres!" said Therese, crumpling together the work on
her lap with a quick, agitated movement, when Nannon made her
announcement.

"Shall you see him?  Beware, then, mademoiselle.  I know these men.  Do
not yield a thing, or the convent will be thrust down your throat."

"I do not think I care," the girl said, rising wearily, "nothing can be
worse than this life."

"Am I to come with you, then, or shall I go on with the work?  _Dame_!
do they give you such holes to mend!"

"I had better go alone," answered Therese, pausing to think over what in
a French household is always a breach of etiquette.  "There is no one to
care," she said to herself bitterly, as she went down.

When M.  Deshoulieres saw her enter, he started.  Her face was pale,
thin; there was a heaviness in her movements which his experienced eye
noted at once.

"You have been ill, mademoiselle?" he said anxiously.  He had come
without any very definite purpose; it was, he told himself, to see how
she looked, whether she was well and happy.  The sight of her sent the
blood rushing to his heart, he hardly knew what he was saying.  Strong
man as he was, he stood there trembling.  "You have been ill?" he
repeated.

Therese shook her head.

"Then something has happened?"

"What should it be, monsieur?" she said, with a half sob which would not
be repressed.  "I live on from day to day."

"My poor child, is life so hard?"

She looked at him in wonder.  What did he mean--he, who was one of her
persecutors--by standing there, saying kind words, and looking down upon
her with compassionate eyes?  She thought the words would be like Madame
Roulleau's, lasting only for a day, and resented them in her heart.  He,
meanwhile, was thinking of what she had said once, that pathetic little
sentence which had sounded in his ears ever since,--"Every place must be
a little sad, since I belong to no one."  Poor desolate Therese!  She
was shutting up her heart, misjudging even at this moment the man who
was yearning to pour out upon her the best gift this world has to
offer--a great, unselfish love.  She answered his question coldly.

"It will all come to an end one day.  Do you want to speak to Monsieur
or Madame Roulleau, monsieur?"

He was a little chilled and disappointed.  He did not stay to remember
that the feelings which had been growing stronger with him week by week,
day by day, must be unknown to her.  It was unreasonable, perhaps, to
expect another answer, and yet he fancied it should have been different.

"I do not want them," he said gently.  "I came to speak to you, to know
whether you were still contented with these people.  You do not look so.
Is there any thing I can do?"

"You have heard nothing more from the Lion d'Or?" she asked, evading an
answer.

"No," said the doctor, more abruptly.  He disliked the subject of this
trust, which brought him letters, papers to sign, difficulties, and
endless arrangements.  Only a week before he had paid another flying
visit to Ardron, about a matter which required his personal
superintendence, and he made a second attempt upon the imperturbable
cure.  "Still no news?" inquired the cure, with that slight lifting of
the eyebrows which M.  Deshoulieres found so irritating.  "Absolutely no
promise of news?"  And then he was told of that impotent visit to the
Lion d'Or.  "And you found no one?  Decidedly, monsieur, as you say,
there must be imposition somewhere."  That was all the doctor could
extract, and it was not at all pleasant.  "No," he replied to Therese,
"I wish I could have gone myself; but, after all, it would only have
been one fool more.  Roulleau says there will be a dozen such
absurdities.  It is always the case in these affaire.  You should have
known nothing about it.  How came they to be so indiscreet as to cause
you the disappointment?"

"It was the children's doing," she said; and then, with a sudden
impulse, which astonished herself, she stretched out her hands
imploringly.  "Promise me, promise me," she said, "always to tell me
when there is a little hope like that."

Her eyes were filled with tears, even those few kindly words were
breaking down the barriers of pride.  He took her hands; he was greatly
moved by the child-like appeal.  "I promise," he said quietly.

"It is horrible to think that things are being concealed from one."

"You may trust me.  But, my child, why are you hungering so terribly
after a change?  Cannot we make you happy here?"

Something in his voice made her heart stand still with fright.  She
tried to draw away her hands, but he held them fast, so fast that he
almost hurt her.  In fact, he did not know what he was doing.  He kept
his voice under control, but the room swam round.  He was only conscious
that she was close to him.

"Let me go, monsieur," she said, in a low, hurried voice; and then he
recovered himself with an effort.

"Hear me first," he said, releasing her hands; but standing between her
and the door, and holding her still more, as she felt, by a certain
determination in his voice.  "I did not come here meaning to say this;
but when I see you looking so changed, so sad, I cannot keep it back.  I
think I could make you happy.  It should be my life's joy.  I am old--
much older than you, a plain, rough man; but--child, child, do you know
how I love you--!"

The last words broke from him with a passionate ring.  She put her hands
before her eyes.  "No, no, no!" she cried.

There was a moment's silence.  Then he began to speak again, patting a
great force upon himself as he did so.  "Forgive me.  I know you cannot
understand--cannot feel as I do.  I do not ask for it.  I only ask you
to let me give you the home you want.  You say you belong to no one.  It
is at least something to have a home," he said in abrupt sentences, with
his voice unconsciously tremulous.

Still silence, yet her heart beat so quickly that she fancied its great
throbs filled the room.  What was this that had come to her?  What
sudden awakening had changed their positions?  And what was it that was
offered?--a home--rest--deliverance from bondage, it seemed.  She had no
love to give; but if he did not demand it?  He was not hard, she knew
that now, and did him justice.  Would it not be easy to put her hand
into his, and go away where at least she would find kind shelter?  One
must be in a position like hers before judging poor, desolate Therese
for the strength of the temptation.  Fabien, who had been gone so long--
Fabien, who had renounced her with the rest--Fabien and weary waiting--
unkind words, hard toil, solitude, dreariness, on the one side; on the
other, love, tenderness, protection.  She hesitated, her heart cried out
for these good things, she half put out her hand, and glanced at him
with shy, frightened eyes.  His own grew more hopeful, more eager, as he
noticed the little action.

"Will you trust me?  Will you come?" he said in a deep, tender voice.
He fancied he could read her maidenly reluctance, her fears; he knew
nothing of that other who formed the real barrier between them; he did
not even understand what motives half impelled her towards him.  He had
her hands in his again before she quite knew what he was about.  It all
seemed to her like a dream.  "Can you give me a little love?" he said,
smiling.  The word awoke her.

"No, no," she cried, wrenching her hands away suddenly.  "Oh, what are
you saying!  Never, never!"

He drew back, terribly hurt.  His love deserved a better answer than
this, and he knew it.  He had spoken from the depth of his heart, and
thus he had a right to expect a less indignant rejection.  But the next
moment pity overcame his anger.  She had flung herself into a chair and
buried her face on the table, in an attitude so despairing that he
forgot himself.  He walked quickly to the window and back, then Therese
heard his voice, changed, but with a tone in it which thrilled through
her.

"At least let me be your friend.  Tell me how I have troubled you."

She was hardly conscious of speaking.  Perhaps some quickened perception
awoke in him in the pain of that moment, and her lips must have framed
the name, for he repeated the word "Fabien," under his breath; and then
there came a silence, which seemed to her endless.

She looked up at last.  He had dropped into a chair opposite to her; his
face was very pale and stern.  He breathed quickly.  Almost
involuntarily she said, "Do not be angry with me!"

"Why did I not know this before?" he asked abruptly.

"I thought you might have understood--I could not explain--the others
knew," she said, in a broken voice.

"Then your marriage is arranged?"

"Nothing is arranged," she cried out quickly.  "My uncle would not hear
of it.  He wanted Fabien to marry a lady who was noble, and had a large
_dot_, and--there were other reasons--but this was one cause why they
quarrelled.  And it was after he had gone that he wrote those cruel
words," she said, her voice faltering.

Max rose up again, and came close to her.  "My poor child," he said,
"how you must have suffered!"  Then, as she was going to speak, he
stopped her.  "Listen.  I do not pretend to tell you that this has not
been a heavy shock.  If I had but known--but I did not know, I have been
ignorant, blundering, blind.  You are the first woman I ever loved,
and--but I do not blame you.  Therese, remember that always, there is no
one to blame but myself.  We will forget all this, and have no more such
mistakes, only I must always be your friend.  I claim it as a right."

There was a world of simple manliness, of tenderness, in his voice.
Therese, who had expected reproaches and bitter words, was deeply moved
by it.  How had she misjudged this man!  She had been prejudiced, blind,
to the true nobility, which lay hid behind a somewhat blunt exterior;
until this moment she had recognised nothing of it.  She thought how
strong he was, how able to protect, to teach her; her poor little weary
heart longed for such a helper, even in the midst of its clinging to
Fabien.  Fabien himself seemed to lose something when she compared the
two.  For very weariness the conflict might perhaps have ended in Max
Deshoulieres' favour, if he had chosen that it should do so.

"It is such a long waiting, and those were such hard words," she said,
falteringly.

"Foolish words," he said, with a little sad smile.  "People cannot
renounce so readily, even if they wish it.  If you love him, do not
doubt him, my child.  There are plenty of reasons which may have caused
his silence; he has been impetuous and foolish, no doubt, but with such
an uncle there are excuses for a young man.  Before long we shall hear
of him, believe me."

He tried to speak cheerfully.  Every word cost him a stab; but for her
sake the brave chivalrous heart took this added burden upon itself.
Perhaps he guessed something of what she was feeling, and pitied the
weakness and inexperience which found it hard to endure.  With a pang he
put on one side the bright visions which he had been cherishing; all
that he could do now was to be her friend and helper, and that he would
do faithfully.  He saw her brighten under his words; she looked up
gladly.

"Fabien will not long stay away, when he knows I am alone," she said,
with a renewal of hope.  "You are sure no more can be done?"

"I will tell Roulleau to redouble his exertions.  You may be sure M.
Saint-Martin will not expatriate himself without from time to time
making inquiries.  Unless, indeed, he is a second Diogenes."

"He was not like Diogenes, at all," said Therese, simply.  "Oh,
monsieur, you have made me so much happier!"

When she had spoken, the cruelty of her words struck her.  He was
thinking of her, caring for her, and she was taken up only by her own
trouble.  The contrast was something new to her: as it made itself felt,
she reddened painfully, and the tears rushed into her eyes.  "Forgive
me," she said, tremblingly, "I--I--"

"Are we not to be friends?" he said, with a kind, steadfast look.  "And
for what are friends good, unless it be to help one another?"

"But--" she stopped.

"But what?  Do you think what I have said should prevent me from helping
you?  Child, child, we learn many things as life goes on.  What I told
you is true--I have never loved before, I hoped I never should love; I
believed I should go through the world, and do the work God put before
me alone; I desired nothing more.  It came upon me unawares.  I do not
think that there can have been a time when I did not love you, but I did
not know it.  And now it has become a part of myself, something which
can never be any more separated from me.  Hush! do not be frightened.  I
promise you that you may hear all I have to say without disloyalty to--
him.  It can never leave me: it has brought me a sorrow, a great sorrow;
but even at this moment--Therese, Therese, do you think I could part
with it?  Do you think that I do not even now thank God for this gift?
There is a sweetness in it which no suffering can overpower."

Yes, there was a sweetness--all the sweetness of true love.  Love, which
was generous, and could give without a hope of return; love, which in
its friendship, in its self-sacrifice, in its faithfulness, should be
like an angel in this man's heart.

Therese looked at him with awe.  Something in his words stirred her
nature to its depths, showed her a height of which she had never
dreamed.  She had claimed happiness as a right, he accepted sorrow as a
blessing.  She had found only bitterness where he already spoke of
sweetness.  She cried out against her lot, he had faith that all should
be for good.  She had read of these things, she had in some degree
thought of them in her devotions; but never before had she seen a life
thus influenced, and it came upon her like a revelation.

"And therefore," continued Max, still standing before her, and speaking
in the same slow sentences, "you will understand that, though I may not
often see you, it must be my greatest happiness to serve you, to be your
friend and his.  Do not deny me this.  Do not fear me."

"I do not fear you," Therese answered, quickly.  She wanted to say more,
to thank him, but the words would not come.  Involuntarily she put out
her hand, he caught it, pressed it to his lips, held it there a moment,
and was gone.  She heard him clattering down the staircase, the little
timepiece striking four, Nannon singing country songs to herself in a
cracked wiry voice, doors opening and shutting, old familiar sounds with
that touch of unreality which sometimes seizes them.  The very patch of
grey sky opposite to her, against which leafless trees waved solemnly
backwards and forwards, looked like a strange, unnatural picture.  She
was too bewildered to collect her thoughts.  Something seemed to have
come to her, it may have been fresh hope, a new spring, which made her
eye sparkle, and her colour rise.  Had that echo found a stronger voice
which whispered that there was something to be striven for higher than
mere happiness?  Perhaps.  Such voices gather strength if we do not
stifle them with our wilfulness.

CHAPTER TWELVE.

          "A temple, like a cloud
  Slowly surmounting some invidious hill,
  Rose out of darkness: the bright work stood still,
  And might of its own beauty have been proud.
  But it was fashioned, and to God was vow'd
  By virtues that diffused, in every part,
  Spirit divine through forms of human art
  ...
                      ...Hope had her spire
  Star-high, and pointing still to something higher."

  Wordsworth.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

People who are compassionate and give themselves heartaches over
suffering which seems undeserved, would be wiser and happier if they at
least acknowledged other points of view than their own.  If they could
look at them from all, they would see gain where now they only see cost.
No one ever knew what this interview, which had wrung the heart of one,
did for Therese; not even Therese herself, certainly not Max.  But it
happened at a time when things were very bad with her, when she was
losing ground, growing bitter, hard, angry with her lot.  She had a
feeling as if no one would help her, and that is a very unwholesome
conviction to take root in any one's heart, especially one so young as
Therese.  In the midst of it all there came this revelation.  While she
believed herself uncared for, this, great tender, unselfish love had
been growing round her.  The love she pictured was exacting, jealous,
almost fierce; that which had been opened to her seemed something
nobler, more divine.  She acknowledged that, while her heart still clung
to Fabien.  Nay, Fabien had never been so well loved as after Max
Deshoulieres had shown her his own nobility.  She felt her
heart-burnings and want of faith so petty!  She felt as if she could be
more patient, more trustful, more content, now that this man had put
before her a living picture of what love might be.

There was, moreover, a little change for the better in her position.
Monsieur Deshoulieres had noticed that she looked ill and worn, and was
not long in pointing out the fact to Mme.  Roulleau.

"You are sure that Mademoiselle Veuillot has all that she requires?" he
asked, gravely.

Madame Roulleau had not much difficulty in satisfying him; men are slow
to suspect cruelty on the part of one woman to another, and he was not
suspicious.  He thought that she had been fretting, very likely staying
too much in the house during the cold weather, wanting occupation.  Was
there no one to whom she might go for relaxation and society?  Madame
assured him that it was mademoiselle's own choice that she confined
herself to their own family.  "She assists me in the _menage_, and I am
rejoiced that she should teach the children when she is disposed.  Poor
mademoiselle! her teaching is not much, as monsieur may suppose.  But,
after all, it gives her occupation, and no one can be happy when they
are idle.  And they are such excellent children!  They have such good
hearts!  As for my little Adolphe, he adores her!"

This was a very rose-coloured account, but it contained nothing to make
M.  Deshoulieres doubt.  He felt himself, poor fellow, something of the
value of occupation just then.  It was a little hard to go through the
daily round of sadnesses, complaints, pain; but, after all, they
lightened the load on his heart.  He gave Madame Roulleau two or three
injunctions which made her very uneasy lest he should ask questions from
Therese, and lose the formidable character with which, she had invested
him.  She went home on the day on which she met him, in a great hurry,
and embraced Therese.  "You want distraction, mademoiselle; you are
looking quite pale, you undertake too much.  I shall be obliged to
forbid your assisting me in these little things,"--the girl began to
think that her toil must really be voluntary, madame's words were so
decided.

Madame Roulleau was alarmed.  She and her husband had not laid any deep
plot at the beginning of this affair, they had only wanted, as they told
themselves, to be on the watch for such good things as might turn up,
and help them out of certain difficulties in which they found themselves
plunged so as to threaten _faillite_.  When little Roulleau was called
to the bedside of the dying man, his keen wits saw at once the
possibility of entanglements, difficulties; all so much money in his
pocket while M.  Deshoulieres continued to employ him as notary.  This
would be at an end directly M.  Deshoulieres, as _depositaire_, had
fulfilled his trust.  The idea of getting hold of Therese, and the sum
set aside for her maintenance, occurred to him at the very moment that
he was taking down M.  Moreau's words.  At first he thought of no more
than this.  By little and little other possibilities presented
themselves--pieces of good luck he called them.  M.  Saint-Martin's
return was the event which would put a stop to the pleasant little
income of which he was already beginning to taste the sweets, and he was
able to arrange two or three hindrances in the way of that return.  Two
South American letters, for instance, found among the papers at Chateau
Ardron, would have given a clew to the young man's residence, which
might have brought him back with inconvenient promptitude.  These
letters, having been examined by madame, were now no longer in
existence.  It was not difficult to procure from Paris an answer or two
containing just as much as he desired and no more, and purporting to
come from an old friend of M.  Moreau's, a lawyer, a master at Fabien's
_lycee_.  It was not difficult, but it was a decided step.  M.  Roulleau
used to awake in the night and think of that step in a cold
perspiration.  Certain great letters used to dance before his eyes, and
shape themselves into something that resembled "Forgery,"--an ugly word
to haunt people in the middle of the night.  Afterwards came that
summons to the Lion d'Or.  Most likely this is the usual fashion in
which crime grows into crime.  Nothing very definite at first, a sort of
haze over what may happen, a determined shutting of the eyes.

Madame was clever, but she was a dangerous coadjutor, little Roulleau
acknowledged it with groans.  There was always the risk that her temper
might flame out, and ruin their most carefully concocted schemes.  She
knew it herself: every now and then she put tremendous restraint upon
it, but the restraint did not last.  The love of tyranny was
overpowering.  To indulge it upon Therese she used to jeopardise every
thing.  If Ignace tried to counteract it, he only added fuel to the
flame.  He lived in continual fear.

Husband and wife would have shared the panic could they have known what
had taken place in the little _talon_ on that December day, and how
nearly it brought M.  Deshoulieres and Therese together.  Perhaps Nannon
guessed.  She was a shrewd old woman.  Therese was young and scarcely
able to conceal her feelings; so there was a soft bright expression in
her face which Nannon had never before noticed.  She came slowly up the
stairs and into the room where the holes were being mended for her
without saying any thing, and looked out of the window with eyes which
saw a great deal more than the crowded roofs, or even the broad flat
plain beyond.

"Mademoiselle might give an opinion," Nannon said at last, affronted.

Therese started, turned round, went quickly to her, and gratefully
kissed the old brown wrinkled cheek.

"Do you know what you are like?" she said.  "You are like one of the
fairies who used to come to the help of the poor princesses who were
shut up in terrible towers, and forced to do all kinds of hateful work.
I don't believe one of them had a worse hole than that to mend."

"I don't know about fairies," answered Nannon, shaking her head
doubtfully; "but, if they are evil spirits, it is not very polite of
you, mademoiselle, to call me one."

The girl laughed.

"If you lived in the north you would know more about fairies; but here,
in this ugly flat country, there is not so much as a bush for them to
hide behind.  _Allons_, don't be cross, Nannon; not even Rouen has a
cathedral like yours.  I am going there now; will you come?"

"What has happened?" thought the old woman to herself.  Therese had not
laughed so gayly for many a week past.

They went out, along the narrow street, under the archway at the end,
into the Place Notre Dame.  A strong wind was blowing from the
south-west, all the earth was grey, but the sky was full of glorious
lights.  A delicate greenish blue made the groundwork; over that lay
motionless masses of high clouds, rosy red, here and there broken with
purple shadows, serene, majestic; out of one uncovered depth shone a
tiny trembling star.  Nearer the earth grey rain-clouds were hurrying
up; they had blotted out the west and the sinking sun, and now hurled
themselves across the plain, with edges torn and rent and twisted by the
violence of the driving wind.  Broken bits of vapour scudded before
them, veiling for a moment the rosy lights above.  It was a strange
contrast of peace and unrest.  For though the earth was saddened by the
driving rain-cloud which was powerless to rob the heavens of their
glory, but could blot it out and hide it from the dwellers below, there
was peace even with her.  In the midst of the rush and tumults--solemn,
steadfast, and unmoved--rose up the spires of Charville's great
cathedral.  Into the drift of the cloud itself, untouched by any ruddy
glow from the glowing sky, grey with the shadow of the storm, it pierced
the darkness like an eternal prayer.  Never more glorious in its beauty,
never more faithful in its teaching, than now when it pointed upwards
through sadness and gloom.  Round about it stood the sentinel statues,
just men made perfect, an innumerable company of angels; overhead,
flying buttresses lightly clasped the stone, interlacing pinnacles
crowned the clustering shafts.  From arch to arch, from gargoyle to
buttress, from pinnacle to spire, the eye followed its holy guidance,
until, above cloud and greyness and the sweep of the whirlwind, it
reached the deep light, the burning brightness of the heavens.

One little heart, at least, felt something of all this.  It seemed to
come like a seal upon what the afternoon had opened to Therese; glimpses
of a life in the midst of what was low and base, higher than she had
taught herself to realise before.  Out of the stones of the earth men
had raised the church which pointed to heaven.  Out of the little
struggles of the day might grow the joys of eternity.  The carved
figures of the gateways looked at her with kind human eyes; until now
they had seemed very far off--saints whose holiness was out of reach,
martyrs who were martyrs, and not men.  Therese used to gaze up at them
with admiration, and get a little impatient.  But to-day they had come
down to her from out of their canopies.  She had learned something of
the divine lesson which glorifies life, and turns drudgery into an
aureole.

The two women went together into the great church.  When they came out
again it was dark; the clouds were still flying wildly; between the
rents stars were shining out.  Nannon was a little puzzled over M.
Deshoulieres' visit and Therese's silence; she said, at last,--

"Mademoiselle, has any thing been heard of M.  Fabien?"

"Nothing yet.  But M.  Deshoulieres is sure that he will soon come
home."

"M.  Deshoulieres?  Hum.  Do you know what people are beginning to say?"

"What?"

"They say that even to be _depositaire_ to such a property is a very
fine thing, and that M.  Deshoulieres is perhaps in no hurry to smooth
M.  Saint-Martin's return."

"They say that!  And you can repeat it!" cried Therese flashing round
upon her.  "Nannon, I shall hate you if you believe what wicked people
talk.  Do you not know how good he is?  Have you not told me yourself
how much he does?"

"That may be.  But he is a hard man for all that," said Nannon,
obstinately.

"So you repeat.  I do not believe it.  I believe there is no man in all
Charville so good, so noble, and so generous, as Monsieur Deshoulieres,"
cried the girl, with vehemence.

"So, so!  This is new doctrine.  What has changed you, then,
mademoiselle?"

Therese was silent.  In the darkness, Nannon could not see her blushes.
"Perhaps, because I have only now begun to know him," she said, softly.

"This is not the first time you have met," Nannon answered, with a
certain dryness.  "_Peste_! this wind is enough to blow one's head off
one's shoulders.  Well, well, old people can't take these fancies like
young ones."

"Yet you have told me yourself about his kindness to your neighbours."

"Oh, for a doctor, yes.  That is quite another affair.  A doctor, you
see, mademoiselle, makes it a part of his trade to be good to the sick.
Otherwise, nobody would take his nasty medicines.  There would be a
revolution, and, who knows, we might find that we could live without
doctors.  M.  Deshoulieres is very well when you have need of him.  But
I have heard it said, `Never trust a lawyer when you are in peace, a
doctor when you are well.'  There is another word about cures, only
mademoiselle might not like to hear it.  Ouf, what a tempest!"

"Nannon, you are not good to-day at all."

"_Pardon_, mademoiselle.  It is rather that I think of Jean-Marie."

"Jean-Marie is not at the farm now?"

"No, no; he has tried three masters since M.  Gohon.  He is too good for
them, little angel, that is the truth.  He is not like one of those
great hulking country boys who have no wits beyond their hands and feet.
M.  Gohon might have suited him, though."

"But, Nannon, it was not because of that affair at the Halle that M.
Gohon dismissed him."

"That is your innocence, mademoiselle; when any one has enemies like
that Madame Mathurine and M.  Deshoulieres, a very little serves.  No,
no; M.  Deshoulieres is not good to have to do with, unless one has the
fever.  Then, certainly--"

"If ever you have the fever, and he cures you, you will not talk of him
like this," Therese answered, indignantly.

"If I have it I shall send for him, and not for that poor little Pinot,
whom I recollect when he was a little creature in leading-strings,
tumbling about like a helpless bundle.  As if he could tell what was
good for anybody!  But, mademoiselle, I do not understand.  If M.
Deshoulieres is so excellent as you suppose him, why do you not complain
to him of these creatures--these Roulleaus--who insult you with making
you slave for them?  Perhaps he does not know."

"No, he does not know," answered Therese, dreamily.  The same thought
had come into her own mind.  She knew now that she had but to speak, and
her life would be lightened of those heavy burdens which had grown so
hateful to her.  And yet--could she speak?  She believed that the sum
left by her uncle for her support was, in truth, very inadequate, and
she knew nothing of its being even now doubled.  Few people might care
to receive her; she disliked the idea of being thrown upon M.
Deshoulieres' charity.  And, after all, it might be so short a time
before it ended!  With his words ringing in her ears, she fancied Fabien
might be at the doors.  She would rather bear all until he came.
Deliverance by him would be very sweet.  With it all there spoke a
nobler reason.  To take up something of what she had let fall--to redeem
months past in idle repining--to live a life that was not ever
self-seeking, ever crying out for good things withheld: this was the
purpose growing out of that day's events.  It was all feeble, imperfect,
even in the act of resolution; but it was there.

"No; he does not know," she repeated, as they stood at the door of the
Roulleaus' house.  "I would rather he did not know.  I would rather
affairs remained as they are.  Good-night, Nannon.  It was very good of
you to mend those holes."

"Good-night, mademoiselle."  The old woman stood and watched the dark
figure run lightly up the stairs; then she turned away, shaking her
head.  "Something has done all this, something has changed her, and yet
her heart has not moved from M.  Fabien, for I said it to see.  The
saints forbid that M.  Deshoulieres should want her to marry him, since
he will always have his own way, and the poor child would have to yield.
Mend holes, did she say?  She has a worse hole in the temper of that
madame than any thing I can mend for her.  Ah, my cap!--my boy, my boy,
there, in the gutter! that white thing!  What a torment of a wind!  Stop
it!  Ah, my child, you are a treasure; come and let me embrace you."

CHAPTER THIRTEEN.

  "There are always a number of people who have the nature of stones;
  they fall on other persons and crush them.  Some again have the nature
  of weeds, and twist about other people's feet, and entangle them.
  More have the nature of logs, and lie in the way, so that every one
  falls over them.  And most of all have the nature of thorns."

  _Modern Painters_.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Months passed.  Charville had its own events to talk about.  Madame, the
wife of the Prefet, died, there was a change of regiments, a fresh
company took the theatre.  These were the topics about which people
spoke, keeping their own little subjects of interest under the surface,
as people do.

Therese, who had no one with whom to converse after this fashion, became
in time grateful for the hard work which took her thoughts out of the
groove along which they travelled incessantly.  It seemed as if the key
had been put into her hands which opens the treasure-house of life.
Before this she had been groping with the wrong instrument.  The key
lies before us all, only we are so dull and so blind that unless
something forces it upon us we often take no notice, or merely play with
it.  Not our own, but another's.  When we have learned that lesson, the
treasure doors fly open.

There had been no news of Fabien, and she was often very sad, very
desponding, but never with such a sense of dreariness as before.  There
seemed something to live for besides that bright hope of happiness which
used almost to mock her by its very brilliancy.  Her buoyancy came back;
she could sing over her work, laugh sometimes at madame's tyranny.
Above all, the teaching lost some of its horrors.  Octavie was as
disagreeable as ever, but Adolphe was more teachable, more affectionate;
Therese began to feel a little fond of him at the bottom of her heart.
She used to tell him stories about her life in Rouen, or legends of the
Brittany which was her mother's province.  Adolphe was an insatiable
listener.  "Encore, encore," he would cry peremptorily, and then Therese
had to begin all over again.  Occasionally he would reward her with a
story of his own.  "Ecoute toi," was always the beginning, and then
perhaps, "il y avait un geant."  But the giant never accomplished much
beyond the mere fact of existence.

The spring this year was unusually early at Charville--unusually early
and unusually mild.  When the young green leaves began to show
themselves it seemed impossible not to believe but that Fabien would
come with them.  While people are young--and, thank Heaven, with a good
many youth is not to be measured by years--the spring has a brightness
which is irresistible.  M.  Deshoulieres, too, with more uneasiness than
he liked to confess, felt that tidings should have come by this time.
He and Therese did not meet very often that winter.  Whenever it
happened she knew that he was on the watch to prevent her from feeling
uneasy or pained by his presence, with a simple straightforward kindness
which touched her unutterably.  He saw that she was more content, and
rejoiced at it.  Once or twice he questioned Nannon about her, but the
prejudiced old woman would not give him much information.  If M.
Deshoulieres set himself against M.  Fabien's return, she thought, what
would become of them?  Any thing, even Madame Roulleau's conduct, was
preferable to such a misfortune.  All this while he had another anxiety
in his mind.  His own sweet dreams of happiness were at an end, the
balcony must remain unfilled, no loving eyes watch through the darkness
for his return.  Utterly and for ever he had put these visions aside.
Therese loved another.  He looked it in the face, and accepted his fate
bravely.  He understood that she was young, solitary, weak perhaps, from
these circumstances.  He had read her heart so well as to know,
moreover, that were he to press his own suit, she, out of this youth and
solitariness and weakness, might in time give herself to him.  I do not
say that he scorned the temptation, but that, with a man of Max
Deshoulieres' nature, it could not so much as exist for one moment in
his heart.  To him such an advantage would have been an impossibility.
To love her was to be bound in all noble fashion to guard her and to
help her.  Guard her and help her he would; yes, help her, although his
own heart lay in the path over which she desired to walk.  All this Max,
who was little given to self-pity, recognised and accepted; what
troubled him with anxious thoughts was the doubt whether Fabien was
worthy.  It seemed to him as if there was something selfish and petty
about the manner in which he had broken away from the difficulties
surrounding him; something heartless in his allowing so long a period to
pass without communication.  Those boyish letters tied up and labelled
with a trembling hand were proof of the old man's love.  Was Fabien more
unforgiving than his uncle?  Had he ceased to remember his little
playmate?  Or--was he dead?

The young horse-chestnut trees budded and blossomed, the great
cornfields lay round Charville like an emerald sea, everywhere there was
the pleasant stir of spring, the smell of fresh-turned earth, the women
hoeing and weeding in the fields, above them the larks singing
jubilantly.  The time of M.  Moreau's death came and passed away.  There
was no news of Fabien.  Madame Roulleau began to feel as if all
prospered.

Every one talked about the early season, the warmth of the spring, but
the doctors, it was noticed, made no answer to these congratulations.
Monseigneur at the Eveche, the Prefet, and a few of the leading men were
aware of the cause of this silence.  Certain of the number had it dinned
persistently into their ears by M.  Deshoulieres whenever he had the
chance, or could make it.  What healthiness Charville possessed it owed
to its situation, to the broad plains around, and the winds that rushed
up and carried away the foul, bad exhalations.  The town itself was
shamefully mismanaged.  The narrow streets, the old tumble-down,
crowded, picturesque houses went on from year to year untouched, and the
population increased and were crammed into the same space as their
forefathers occupied with a quarter of their number.  The old walls no
longer existed, it is true, except in name, and the people had broken
through, crossed the river, and spread out a straggling suburb.  But all
the houses in that part were miserably squalid, and lay low with water
standing about them, so that they were, to say the least, no less
unhealthy than the habitations in Charville proper.

There was always illness.  But this year there was something about the
illness which caused considerable anxiety to the doctors.  Something, in
the way in which a fever clung and lingered, and sprang up, and held its
ground, even when it was winter, with snow and frost on the ground, and
it was not, as Nannon said with indignation, fever weather.  It was this
impossibility of beating it out which made M.  Deshoulieres speak of it
with gravity.  People laughed at him for it.  "Fever?  But, monsieur,
there is always fever at Charville.  It is almost an institution."

"Monsieur le Prefet, it is an institution with which we could well
dispense."

"_Eh bien_, we shall see.  It seems to me you are disturbing yourself
unnecessarily.  Next winter, perhaps, there may be a possibility of
accomplishing some of these improvements that you so much desire.  My
dear monsieur, you do not know how many important matters call for my
devotion to them at this moment."

M.  Deshoulieres had some idea.  There was an old underground cave at
Charville, where the Prefet proposed establishing his mushroom-beds.  It
was a scheme with which the wants of the town could not possibly be
expected to interfere.  He went home terribly disheartened.

The Bishop did his best for him, but, as he had said, he was an old man,
and in his comfortable room, in the Eveche, he could not, perhaps,
estimate the extent of the danger.  After all, too, this danger depended
in great measure upon certain conditions.  There had been a warm, damp
spring.  If the summer were unusually hot the chances were very much in
favour of the fever.  Otherwise it might tide over again, carry off one
here, one there, and not at all interfere with the Prefet's
mushroom-beds.  M.  Deshoulieres was looked upon as an uncomfortable
prophet.  Why should he talk of evils before they arrived?  He would not
consent to hold his peace as they desired, but he was thrown very much
upon his own resources.  A little beyond the suburbs I have described, a
hospital had been built, the Hospital St Jean.  M.  Deshoulieres busied
himself with improving its working capabilities.  He had a certain
authority there of which he made good use.  And it seemed to him as if
there was little else he could do.  The men in whose hands power rested
met him with the never-failing "_nous verrons_," which did not abate his
indignation, and the poor clung to their poverty and their filth.

And meanwhile the fever gained a little ground.  It was of a low typhoid
character, and it kept entirely in the lower town.  As yet not a single
case had occurred elsewhere to frighten the mothers when they looked at
their little ones sleeping, with, perhaps, a little flush upon the soft
sweet cheek.  The lower town was privileged, as it were, to possess a
certain amount of unhealthiness, and no one troubled their heads much
about the matter except the doctors, whose business it was supposed to
be.  It was a lovely summer.  There was the promise of an abundant
harvest, always an important question in Charville.  The plains, flat
and ugly as they were, could boast a certain beauty in their aspect of
fertility.  Little stone-coloured villages, with a church in the centre
of each, were dotted here and there.  Canals or small streams trickled
slowly along, the course of the river was broken by water-mills, every
thing seemed full of fat promise.  The sun glowed down upon it all,--a
peaceful, contented scene.  What more was wanted?  The Prefet looked at
it one day from his window with a smile of satisfaction, and went away
to his mushroom-beds.  He saw Monsieur Deshoulieres in the distance, and
crossed over to avoid him.  "That man has become a perfect pest," he
said severely.  "I incline to think that after all there may be
something in these stories that one hears now and then about him and the
old man who died.  It appears to me that he never knows when to be
content, and discontent is the mother of all the vices, one with which,
I am thankful to say, I have no sympathy."

"It is the bane of our century," said Monsieur de Blainville, with whom
he was walking.

"Precisely.  And in my opinion the Government should put it down with
more determination than they do."

"Hydra-headed, remember."

"_Raison de plus, mon cher_.  In this century we should be able to cope
with monsters.  _Allons_!  I long for your opinion about the depth of
the beds.  You say eighteen inches, and my man maintains twenty to be
the minimum depth.  I shall hear the reason on both sides before
deciding.  It is an important question, on which one should not
pronounce hastily."

About a week after, Therese, who had resumed her favourite walks by the
river, asked Nannon:

"What is this about the fever?  I heard Monsieur Roulleau talking of it
yesterday."

"There is no use in talking, particularly when it is a little creature
like that who talks.  All they may say will not stop the fever."

"It increases then?"

"Increases?  But yes.  This morning we hear that it is in our street.
Louise Gouye's child, of whom I have sometimes told mademoiselle, has
it."

"What, that pretty little blue-eyed thing?"

"Yes, yes.  The poor mother is in despair."

"But, Nannon, it seems to spread terribly.  Can nothing be done?  What
does Monsieur Deshoulieres say?"

The old woman made a gesture of impatience.  "Monsieur Deshoulieres is
always poking and meddling--for what good?  All the doctors in the world
will not stop the fever if it pleases the good God to send it to us.  If
He means it to come it will come.  I have heard my mother talk of it
years ago in Charville, just the same.  She lost her father and two
brothers--fine strong young men they were--and the dead lay there in the
houses, for they could not get any one to bury them.  Mademoiselle sees
that it was intended.  What the doctors have to do is to try and cure
the people who catch it."

Indifference in the rich, fatalism in the poor, helped the fever along
mightily.  A dry, hot summer succeeded to the green promise of the
spring.  When July came the plains lay scorching under the fiery
sunshine, and fever raged in Charville like a pestilence.

CHAPTER FOURTEEN.

  "And looking down I saw the old town lie
  Black in the shade of the o'erhanging hill,
  Stricken with death, and dreary."

  _The Earthly Paradise_.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

It had come in earnest indeed.  Creeping on by little and little,
holding the ground it had conquered, fastening every day on fresh
territory, the fever was no longer the shadow with which M.
Deshoulieres did his best to frighten obstinate men, but a grim reality.
In the narrow, picturesque, ill-ventilated streets it struck down whole
families with deadly effect.  Day after day the fierce sun glowed
relentlessly overhead, the air throbbed like that at the mouth of a
furnace, foul smells rose out of the earth.  The churches were crowded,
the terrified people put up passionate prayers for rain, for something
to lessen the intolerable heat.  The Prefet sent for M.  Deshoulieres.

"This is terrible," he said.  "What are we to do?"

"You must ask others that question, Monsieur le Prefet.  I have now no
time for the work of prevention."

"We must draw cordons, endeavour to separate the infected streets."

"Whatever is done, permit me to offer you my last piece of advice.  Lose
no more time."

There was a bright indignant flash in the doctor's eye, of which the
Prefet was not unconscious: M.  Deshoulieres could not restrain it when
he thought of the wasted warnings.

The Prefet was no coward.  He went down into the fever-stricken
districts, and did his utmost at last to stir the people into exertion.
But a kind of despairing apathy hung over them.  They resented the
attempt to move them into fresh houses.  "Better die where one has
lived," was the unfailing answer.

Among the higher classes a panic prevailed, whole families fled; but
after a time, when the fever raged more fiercely, the neighbouring towns
refused to receive them, and Charville was shunned as a plague-stricken
place.  The hospital of Saint Jean was full to overflowing; other
buildings were hastily fitted up, still more room was needed, and more
nurses required.  Sisters were sent from the convent, and then the fever
attacked the convent itself, and more could not be spared.  Others came
from Paris, and yet hands were wanted.  The doctors were overworked and
were in despair.  Those who are able to thank God that they have never
seen the horrors of a pestilence have no conception of the blight which
hangs over the doomed town.  There are a certain number who laugh and
jest through it all; strange to say, perhaps the number increases as the
evil days close in.  There are balls, dances, theatres; it is the policy
of the authorities to keep up the hideous mask of gaiety, lest people
should realise too truly what is beneath.  But every thing seems to lie
under the ban of fear.  A truth, a rumour, becomes a terror, a hundred
exaggerated reports add to the actual horrors.  Thank God, again, you
who have never known it.

In all Charville, perhaps, the most miserable and the most frightened of
those who had what Nannon called the fever-fright, was little Monsieur
Roulleau.  He wanted to go away when first it broke out in any severity,
but madame was inexorable.  Between his fear of her and his fear of the
fever he did not know what to do.

"Zenobie," he would say imploringly, "it is so long since we have had
any change!"

"It will be longer yet," answered madame, with decision.  "You are
foolish to attempt to blind me, Ignace.  Do you not suppose I know why
you want to go?"

For a time she held him in check, but at last the other fear became the
strongest.  He came in one day with his face white and his hand shaking.

"There is a case in Place Notre Dame."

"What of that?"

"It is my nerves.  They are not like yours, my angel.  If we stay here
longer I shall have it by to-morrow.  I feel it.  And the children--"

"Bah!  What folly!  Do you not know that if this fever carries off some,
there will be others wanting to make their testaments?  Do you not know
that your work will be doubled?  He!  Answer me that!"

Her voice had risen to its stormy pitch, but Ignace was beyond caring.

"I must go," he said, feebly.

Madame looked at him steadily.  She saw that he was speaking truth.  He
must go, or if he stayed he would soon become a victim to his terror.
"Attend then," she said, changing her tone and speaking with a touch of
scorn.  "You shall go."

"Zenobie, my treasure--"

"Hush.  You shall go, I say.  My mother at Tours will take you in, and
you may, if you choose, depart at once.--Charles has been clerk long
enough to understand the business with my superintendence."

"Perfectly, perfectly.  You need have no apprehension on that score.  To
tell the truth, my health is become so indifferent that even without
this unhappy state of things I must have sought a little rest."

Madame looked at him with a peculiar expression in her face.

"That is settled then, monsieur.  And I and the children, we remain
here?"

"If you think it best, my dear Zenobie.  I have the most supreme
confidence in your discretion," said the little man, eagerly.  "You
will, without doubt, be in perfect security.  It is I only who am called
out by the peculiar nature of my avocations, who really run any risk.
You will remain here with Mademoiselle Veuillot."

"With Mademoiselle Veuillot.  Exactly."  There was something not unlike
a thunder-cloud in the extreme quietness of madame's manner, but the
little notary went on unheeding:

"The last letter that was forwarded from Chateau Ardron we did not
answer, you will remember.  It was your idea that it might have been
supposed to have miscarried.  Another would, do you not think so,
require a different treatment?"

"_Allez_," said madame, more sharply.  "Will you then not stay and
conduct the affair yourself?"

The threat had the effect of stopping all Monsieur Roulleau's
injunctions.  He was restless and anxious to be gone.  Therese, when she
heard of it at their dinner, had no difficulty in discovering the
motive, although husband and wife put it upon business at Tours, which
required his presence.  Nannon confirmed her idea.

"I shall not soon forget his face when I told him it was so near."  _It_
meant the fever at this time in Charville.

"Will it come to us I wonder, Nannon?"

"_Dame_, who knows?  It has its road and it will keep to it.  One or two
have died of fright, that I do know, for I heard M.  Deshoulieres say
so."

Nannon's cheery old face had grown sad and haggard.  She knew too well
what was going on.

"This heat will kill us all, I believe," said Therese, sighing.  "I feel
as if I would give any thing to get down by the river.  Do let me go,
Nannon!"

"Mademoiselle must not dream of it," answered the old woman with
decision.  "As it is, I believe Monsieur Deshoulieres would say I was
doing wrong in coming up here.  But he positively forbade me to let
mademoiselle pass through those streets."

Amid all his labours he had thought of her.

"Do you love Monsieur Deshoulieres better by this time?" asked the girl,
suddenly.

There was a minute's silence.

"Monsieur is admirable at present," said Nannon at last, stubbornly.
"Admirable.  But then it is his _metier_, mademoiselle must understand.
It has absolutely nothing to do with those other matters we have talked
about.  For the sick he devotes himself like a saint.  I do not know how
he can do all he does.  If it were not for mademoiselle I believe I
should go to him and ask to be allowed to nurse.  One can do that though
one is old and stupid.  And they want nurses so terribly, the poor
things."

"How I wish I might be one."

"Mademoiselle!  You!"

"Yes, I.  Do you think nobody can have any good idea but you?"

"Mademoiselle jests."

"On such a subject!"  Therese answered, gravely.

"But mademoiselle might catch the fever."

"One would suppose you were talking to Monsieur Roulleau," said the
girl, with impatience.  "What makes my life of greater value than the
lives of those good women who risk theirs now?  Bah, Nannon!  I did not
expect you to take the fever-fright."

"It is not for myself.  I am no longer in my youth; the fever, or
whatever it may please the good God to send, will be all one to me
soon," answered the old woman, unconsciously pathetic.  "But with
mademoiselle it is different.  She is young and inexperienced, and does
not know what she is asking.  It is all too sad for her."

"Is it very dreadful at the hospital?"

"Not so bad as in the houses where the poor things are all together, one
lying dead on the floor and another unconscious by the side; and then
there is the weeping and the wailing which they manage to shut out of
the hospital."

Therese shuddered.

"Oh, Nannon, if it would but rain!"

She said no more on the subject, but one day when she was alone she
ventured a little way along one of the least affected of the lower
streets, one which was not closed like certain of the others to the
public.  Yet this struck the girl as being, deserted: the old sleepy
cheerfulness that she remembered was gone, no knots of chatterers stood
about, one or two people might be seen on their stone house-steps, but
they looked sad and spiritless.  The workshops were shut up, a heavy
languid, stagnant air was about the place.  It seemed the sadder for
that brilliant sunshine streaming down upon it all.  The poor pet
flowery drooped thirsty and uncared for.  Therese felt a sense of
frightened guilt in being there.  It was as if she had no right to
intrude, as if--as, indeed, was the case--she had come into the valley
of the shadow of death.  From the door of one house some little children
looked at her wonderingly; she stopped, wishing to speak to the poor
little things; and then she heard inside low feeble moans, which scared
her away.  Her heart was beating fast, a strange sort of oppression had
seized hold of her; Nannon was right, she thought, she had not known for
what she was wishing.  The street was full of angles and twists and
crookednesses; she went on a little further, stumbling over the rough
paving and gasping for breath, it was so stifling between the tall
overhanging houses.  Always the same deserted look, the bright cruel
sunshine, the hot sickening smells, the horror of a nameless something
in the air.  Therese could bear it no longer: the moans she had heard
were in her ears, her heart beat almost to suffocation, and she turned
and ran back with all her might.

Afterwards in her room she reproached herself and cried bitterly over
what she called her cowardice.  It was not cowardice, although she would
have it so.  If she had been brought face to face with the fever she
would not have feared it.  It was imagination which had conquered her,--
imagination acting upon Nannon's keenly drawn pictures, and quickened by
the most vivid impression she had yet received of the heavy, death-laden
atmosphere.  But she did not make this excuse for herself.  She felt
humiliated, almost desperate with shame.  The next day she went to the
cure at a neighbouring church, and spoke more freely than was her wont,
although she told him nothing of a half-formed resolution.  Perhaps he
did not quite understand her, but he helped her as much as he could;
Therese had never before looked upon him as so nearly a friend.

Then she went back to Rue St Servan, and sought Madame Roulleau.
Madame was sitting in the office, with a pen behind her ear, and her
thin hair drawn up tighter, doing her husband's work with considerable
acerbity.  She would not in the least have minded bearing its whole
weight upon her shoulders had it not been that certain foolish legal
impediments in the way of women cut her off from the most lucrative part
of his profession.  It was a folly, but it was undeniable.  And Ignace's
cowardice just now stood in the way of golden gains.  No wonder that
madame was sharp in the midst of her astonishment at seeing Therese
before her.

"You were speaking yesterday of the children having their vacation,
madame," said Therese quietly.  "I am thinking of taking advantage of it
to leave you for the present."

Madame laid down her papers, stood up behind the bureau, and resting her
hands on it said, in a low furious voice, "You are going?"

"For a time only, I repeat, madame."

"Oh, I comprehend.  It is the fever-fright that has hold of you," she
said, contemptuously.  "Understand, however, mademoiselle, that by
leaving Charville you lose even the pitiful sum provided for your
support."

Therese winced under the scorn as the young do wince.  She grew very
red, and said quickly, "You are mistaken, madame.  What I propose doing
is to offer myself as a nurse at the hospital.  I have no intention of
leaving Charville."

"You!  A nurse!"

"Exactly so, madame."

"See then," cried madame, volubly, sinking back among her papers,--"see
then how the ingratitude I knew would come to pass, has come!  We take
her in when no one else would do so, nourish her as a daughter,
disarrange ourselves, slave,--when I think of it, there is nothing we
have not done.  Ah, my poor Ignace, what will it not cost you to learn
that I was right!"

"What have I said?" asked Therese, appalled at the storm.

"Oh, do not consider it, do not consider us, mademoiselle.  If others
may think it base that at the time when my husband's health has failed,
and I must struggle for bread for my children, you should take the
opportunity of depriving them of even that little which might assist
them, I say nothing.  I make no reproaches, I leave them to your own
heart."

Therese drew herself up proudly.  "You talk strangely, Madame Roulleau,"
she said.  "At one moment I am a burden, at another an assistance.  Do
not fear for the little you receive from me.  So long as I am provided
with a bare support, the rest may remain in your hands until my return.
Only these scenes are not agreeable."

Madame recognised her false step, and did her best to retrieve it.  She
calmed, not suddenly, but by degrees, and tried to draw out the girl's
sympathy for her position, with so many business matters on her hands.
There was the risk that Therese might catch the fever and die, but she
did not dread the fever herself sufficiently to fear that inconvenience
greatly.  At all events Therese meant to go, and therefore it only
remained for her to put matters in the best train for herself.  The
girl, who was sweet-tempered, came round before long.  Madame threw
herself into her idea at last with enthusiasm.  But Therese shook her
head when she asked her plans.

"I am going at once, and I do not think I shall come back again," was
all she would say.

Then she went upstairs, put what things she wanted quietly and
expeditiously into a bundle, and left the house.  "M.  Deshoulieres may
not allow it," madame had objected, and Therese, who thought the same,
was bringing some feminine tact to bear upon that probability.  She was
passing the Cathedral, but suddenly turned and went in.  There was a
little dark corner in a side aisle, which only caught a few rays of
light through the nearest window, gorgeous with painted glass in glowing
prodigality of colour.  She drew her chair there and knelt down.
Presently, far away in the choir, half-a-dozen priests began reciting
their office with deep, rich voices.  Therese fancied it was like the
distant roll of the sea.  There was not much music in it, but it was
full and solemn-sounding; she stopped her prayer and listened.  And then
her heart went up in a cry, "O my God, make this work I desire a psalm
of Thine."

She went out of the Cathedral, crossed the Place, and turned down the
street from which she had fled only the day before.  There was the same
strange oppressive stillness about it, but her steps only faltered for a
moment.  Then she went on bravely, except that she drew her breath a
little quicker.  She reached the house from which the children had
looked out at her, her heart sank a little when she saw they were not
there; she had somehow trusted to them as friends.  A woman came to a
narrow quaint window opposite and stared indifferently at her.  Therese
went slowly up the steps, hot from the burning sun, and softly opened a
door.

If it was hot outside, what was this room like?  It was all she could do
in her first horror to keep her ground, and not to run away as once
before.  She stood still, however, and a woman, who was sitting by a low
miserable bed, glanced languidly at this strange young figure who was
standing there with the old street behind her, and the glow of the
sunshine round her head.  In another minute or two Therese recovered
herself and came forward timidly.

"Can I do any thing for you?" she asked in a low voice full of awe.

"No."

It was not repulse, but simply despair.

"I think I could help you a little," Therese said gently.  "Once my aunt
had a fever, and I used to nurse her.  And you seem so ill yourself."

This time there was no answer.  The woman, who had her arm on the pillow
of the bed, on which lay a girl, a little younger than Therese, neither
moved nor objected, but watched mechanically while Therese drew off the
quilt from the bed, fastened open the window, and moistened the lips of
the sufferer, who was unconscious of her presence.  Afterwards the woman
said she had believed it was the Blessed Virgin, or one of the saints,
who came in so strangely; but even this conviction did not astonish her.
She sat there, and watched dully until the sick girl started up, and
poured out a wild torrent of delirious words.  They were obliged to hold
and soothe her while it lasted; but when it was over she sank down in
utter exhaustion.

"Is there medicine to give her?" asked Therese.  The woman nodded, and
pointed to a bottle, on which the directions were clearly written.
Therese poured out the quantity and gave it to her.

"See there," she said cheerfully; "she is tranquil now.  Is she your
daughter?"

"My daughter," answered the woman in a low hoarse voice.  "As you know,
her father is dead, and they have just carried him away.  I have had it,
too, and she nursed me."

Therese, wondering over the phrase "as you know," asked where were the
children.

"M.  Pinot has taken them."

"Is M.  Pinot coming again?"

"He or the other.  I do not know," said the woman wearily.  She would
not speak again, but she did not interfere with any of Therese's
movements.  The girl found wine in a bottle, and made her drink a
little, after she had poured some between poor Fanchon's lips; the same
girl who had chattered so merrily at the fountain the year before.  Then
she heated some soup for the poor mother, and made the room look a
little less deplorable than it had done when she entered it.  Her fear
had left her utterly--a great pity had swallowed it.  But her heart beat
fast, when as evening was coming on she heard a step at the door.

It was M.  Deshoulieres.  Therese saw that with a glad throb, but she
was standing a little behind the door in the shadow, and he came in
quickly, and passed to the bed without noticing that a third person was
in the room.  Neither did he speak for a few moments, but at last turned
to the poor mother and said,--

"This is good.  She is a little better.  Have you given her the
medicine?"

The woman pointed behind him and said,--

"She has," and M.  Deshoulieres turned round and saw Therese.

She trembled violently, fearing lest after all she had done wrong, and
then she looked in his face and saw a sudden agony in it, and recovered
herself at once.

He crossed the room and stood before her in the dim corner, at first
speechless.  When he did at last speak, his voice was so changed, so
rough and broken, that she hardly recognised it.

"Child, child!" he said, "what madness have you done?"

"Do not send me away," she said, gently.  "I could not help it, I could
not sleep at night for thinking of all this misery.  And what was there
to keep me?  I am free if any one in the world is free.  You must let me
remain.  I am not afraid."  He answered her sharply, like a person in
keen pain.

"What you ask is impossible, ridiculous!  I insist upon your returning
at once."

Therese shook her head.

"I cannot go back to the Roulleaus from this house.  You see that, do
you not, monsieur?  It would be simply wicked."

"Then I must find you a lodging.  Heavens, mademoiselle, what has
possessed you?"

She did not answer.  He looked at her there in the grey dusk, the little
window open behind her, the old blackened discoloured walls, the poor
meagre fittings, the wretchedness around, and she standing, so womanly,
so brave, so patient, as she was under his upbraidings.  He longed to
take her hand and draw her away out of that hot foul atmosphere.  He
could give himself without a murmur, but his heart cried out against her
making a choice like this.  Is it not always easier to give ourselves
than to give our dearest?

"Come," he said, almost passionately.

But she made no movement.  She only said,--"If you order it, I must go,
of course.  But what would be the good?  If any mischief is done it must
be done by this time.  Pray, pray let me stay!"

She had the advantage of being perfectly self-possessed, while he was
deeply moved and very pale.

"I will find some one to come here.  Indeed, you must not remain."

She saw he was wavering.

"Then let me go to the hospital.  You know you want nurses."

"Yes, but they are trained, experienced nurses that we want."

"I can learn quickly," Therese said, eagerly.  "_Allons_, M.
Deshoulieres, when those that you seek come, I can go away.  Or leave me
here."

"No, no," he answered again.  "This is far worse than the hospital.  How
could you be so imprudent?"

"You are going to accept me," she said, joyfully.

He took her hand and looked into her face.

"Do you know what you are asking?  Do you know what you must bear?  Have
you courage enough, strength enough, devotion enough?"  There was a
little silence, and then Therese looked up and answered, humbly,--

"No.  But, monsieur, I will ask for all these; and I think that,
perhaps, He who has given me the will will send me what I want."

After that he could say no more.  He may have put up a different prayer
for her in his own heart, but of it she knew nothing.  He said no more
to her; he promised the poor, half-stupefied mother that some one should
be sent for the night, and then those two went away together.  It was
evening now, the sun had set, a golden glimmer just lingered on the
plains.  Far away, in other parts of bright France, the goats would be
trooping home from breezy uplands in tinkling herds, soft sweet breezes
tossing the hay, fresh mountain streams gurgling along their rocky beds,
dewy grass waving, leaves rustling: here, the hot thirsty air still
filled the narrow streets, the summer evening brought no relief from the
invisible pestilential cloud that hung and penetrated, and stifled.
Together those two went--under the quaint houses, so sadly stricken,
along the rough pavement, over which many little feet were never now any
more to patter--solemnly and silently, because their hearts were very
full, and a great shadow hung over them.  They passed under an ancient
gateway, crossed a bridge; and, in another few minutes, the two--still
silent--went together up a flight of steps, and into the hospital of St
Jean.

CHAPTER FIFTEEN.

  "They serve God well,
  Who serve His creatures."

  _The Lady of La Garaye_.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

The first person who confronted them within the hospital doors was
Nannon.  She had learned Therese's intentions from Madame Roulleau, and
had come away at once with the hope of changing what she fancied was no
more than a girl's foolish excited whim.  Therese's delay had frightened
her even more than the first hearing of her scheme; and now, when she
saw her enter with M.  Deshoulieres, after a momentary sensation of
relief, her heart sank with the conviction that if M.  Deshoulieres was
in favour of her being so cruelly sacrificed, not all the talking in the
world would take her away from the place.  And, indeed, Therese stopped
her first exclamation.

"Hush, Nannon.  It is of no use.  Every thing is decided."

The old woman was so aghast that she fell back at once upon her
strongest card, which she had intended reserving for the end of her
argument.

"Mademoiselle--listen then--mademoiselle, what would M.  Fabien say?"

"M.  Fabien!"  M.  Deshoulieres, who was a little in advance, turned
round and said this.  They all looked at one another for a moment, and
then he went on slowly and quietly: "She is right.  We have not thought
enough.  I implore you, mademoiselle, for the sake of Monsieur
Saint-Martin, to return with her to the upper town."  The light from a
lamp fell on his head.  Nannon said to herself admiringly, "After all he
has a noble face, that man."  Therese answered quickly, holding herself
at her full height as she spoke, "Do you think I have not thought of
him?  Do you think any one I loved would keep me back?"

At another moment she could not have spoken out her heart's affection in
such a manner, shyness and custom would have prevented it; but now
something seemed to demand it, her allegiance to Fabien, she thought.
Max Deshoulieres, looking at her reverently, said, within himself, "I
pray, I pray to Heaven, she is not judging him from her own capacities
only."  Nannon was silent, as people are when some strong feeling makes
itself known in their presence; Therese was resolute and decided, her
step light, she did not look like one who would consent to change; and
M.  Deshoulieres, if he had been moved, was quiet again.  All the old
woman could do was to ask to share the nursing; and, finally, she gained
permission to become a sort of medium of communication between the
hospital and the outer world, to fetch what was needed, and carry
messages to a house about a kilometre away, where convalescents were
tended by one of the trained sisters.  After which M.  Deshoulieres, who
felt an uncomfortable conviction that he had been persuaded against his
judgment and his wishes, fetched another sister, and delivered Therese
into her keeping.

"No work to-night, remember," was his last order as he hurried away.

"Then you will be on day duty," said the Sister, kissing her at once,
and looking at the pretty young face with a little brisk wonder.  "That
is best.  You shall sleep with me and with Sister Gabrielle.  We want
more nurses sadly, only--my child, I look at you because you are so
young, and I wonder.  Did your mother let you come?--ah, ah, I guess
what you would say.  You are right.  Yes, there were many of the blessed
saints younger than you; let me see, there was S.  Lucy, S.  Faith, S.
Prisca--"

She ran on with a long list of names, all the while leading the girl up
the broad staircase, with its stone balustrade.  It was impossible to
put in a word; but her cheery voice and bright little apple-face looking
out of its black drapery gave the best welcome that Therese could have
received.  Every thing was hopeful.  The patients were better, a great
many of them.  It was only a fever, and what was that to the plague?
Now, if they had lived in the East, it might have been the plague.  It
was certain there would be rain soon.  And those who were ill were so
patient and so good it was a delight to nurse them.  All that she
touched grew bright; it was Therese's turn to look at her in wonder.
But when Sister Gabrielle came in to the clean, tiny room to take her
appointed hours of sleep, Therese gave a little jump of glad surprise.
It was the same _religieuse_ as she had watched and heard on the day
when she felt so sad and so desolate under the great Cathedral; the one
whose sweet calm voice she remembered with its quieting, "Soyez
tranquille, mon enfant."  She remembered also the beautiful face, paler
and thinner now, but only more beautiful still.  There was a rare
fascination and power about this woman,--the clearest common-sense, and
a spirituality which exalted it.  Little Sister Annette became more
silent directly, and treated her with affectionate reverence.  She acted
as head alike to the sisters and the lay nurses, and said a few words to
Therese upon her duties which touched and strengthened the girl
unspeakably.  She was half-frightened, half-glad, to be there; but she
would not have gone back for the world, and although she went to bed
assured that sleep would never come, the "Soyez tranquille" returned in
dreams.

After that night she had no more dreams.  She slept too heavily when the
time for sleeping came.  M.  Deshoulieres had done well to warn her,
Sister Gabrielle to strengthen her for it; there was so much that was
terrible and ghastly and full of horror.  Not fear.  There was no time
for fear.  But she was very young and tender-hearted, and somehow, at
first, she had expected to see more relief, and to have the consolation
of soothing these poor souls more than she found by experience to be the
case.  By and by she understood her position better, and was content to
look for less, and yet Sister Gabrielle told her, smiling, that she was
one of the most popular nurses among them all.

French organisation is the most perfect in the world, but the fever beat
the organisation.  If all that M.  Deshoulieres wanted had been done,
there would scarcely have been room enough for the fresh patients.  As
it was, there was over-crowding and over-work.  Now and then a nurse
failed, and was carried away to the infirmary at the convent.  It was
found that such as fell ill for the first time at the hospital could not
recover there, and so they were taken away at once.  The precautions to
avoid spreading the infection were strongly enforced.  Still it spread.
People went about the streets softly, with an awe-struck look on their
faces.  There were special services, litanies.  Day after day the fierce
sun beat down on Charville; day after day the fever smote its victims;
day after day such doctors and such nurses as were spared were at their
posts, fighting it.

M.  Deshoulieres seldom spoke to Therese, unless it was to give special
orders, and she was quite unconscious how narrowly he watched her during
this terrible time.  He was ready to interfere at once if she flagged
But she did not flag.  Her eye was brighter, her face was alive with
keener energy than he had seen in it yet.  At first she had a great deal
to learn, but by and by it became evident that among all the brave women
who laboured there as women can labour, there was not one more
self-denying, more courageous, more tender than Mademoiselle Veuillot.
Where patient watching was needed, in cases where it seemed impossible
not to shrink, she stood her ground.  When speech failed, and only mute
gestures, difficult to interpret, remained to the sufferer, those
pitiful grey eyes were quick to read the hidden meaning.  When these,
too, ceased, and death followed upon his shadow, more than once dying
looks or dying lips faltered blessings upon the faithful nurse who stood
there faithful to the last.

And so it arrived that Sister Gabrielle told her that she was one of the
most popular nurses among them all.

M.  Deshoulieres watched and wondered.  She was different from what she
had been.  He had known her well enough to know that.  But he was
ignorant how the change had come, or, rather, how her character had thus
ripened and opened out.  Perhaps it was the outbreak of a heart tender
enough to overcome selfishness.  Perhaps there was a touch of shame
about it that her own trials had seemed so unendurable, now that she was
brought face to face with what we call life's great realities.  Least of
all did he think, when he had time to think, which was not often, that
his own example had any thing to do with it.  Yet so it was.  Therese
had never been the same since that day when he and she had spoken
together; and, seeing him in the heart of his work at the hospital, she
owned that even yet she had not done him justice.

For now she could understand more fully what a great, noble heart was
this man's.  She could understand why a soft light came into Sister
Gabrielle's eyes when she spoke of him--the sort of reverence with which
the attendants in the wards obeyed his bidding.  It seemed to her as if
he, single-handed, did more to keep them all at work in the most
efficient manner, than the other members of the staff put together.  It
seemed to her as if a great deal of the bravery and the cheerfulness
which distinguished the workers grew in some fashion out of this bravery
and cheerfulness which never failed.  Always at his post, ready with
keen promptitude to decide the crowd of doubtful questions brought for
his opinions, accepting responsibilities from which others shrunk,--"My
friend, the Minister of Health is in Paris, and I am here," Therese
heard, him say one day, in answer to a timid objection from little M.
Pinot,--quick to note the first symptom of over-fatigue among the band
of nurses; encouraging Sister Annette's merry little sayings; swift,
patient, tender, inflexible, all at once.  It was here that she first
realised Max Deshoulieres' kingdom.

Fanchon was well again.  M.  Deshoulieres found means to let her know
that.  Nannon told her that the fever had not spread in the upper town;
there were only a few isolated cases.  Madame Roulleau had said that
when there had been a little rain to cool the air, M.  Roulleau would
return.

"Otherwise I think she will fetch him," said Nannon, laughing; "and,
_dame_, I believe the fever would be less terrible to him than madame
with her claws out."

"But will it ever rain again!" answered Therese, who was walking by a
cornfield in the early morning.  All the nurses were compelled to be in
the open air for half air hour daily, and she had been on night duty
lately.

People asked that question a hundred times in the day.  The sky, with
its bright sunny beauty, had grown quite terrible and fierce in their
eyes.  Water was becoming scarce, the air was so heated that the nights
scarcely cooled it at all; while all this continued it was scarcely
possible that the fever should subside.

One day there was great sorrow in the hospital.  Kind little Sister
Annette, whom every one loved, became dull, lost her appetite, and
complained of headache.  Within an hour, M.  Deshoulieres had taken her
himself to the convent, and a rumour got about that it was a bad case.
They missed her terribly.  Her kindly, hopeful chatter had done more
than any of them knew to keep their spirits from sinking.  Somehow it
was difficult to imagine her to be ill.  Therese said so to Sister
Gabrielle one day in their little room, which two other sisters shared
with them now; and then Sister Gabrielle took her in her arms, and
kissed her, and said, with a spasm of pain working her beautiful face,
"She is not ill any longer, our dear sister; she is at rest."

Therese nearly broke down herself after this.  Probably she would have
done so altogether if it had not been for M.  Deshoulieres and Sister
Gabrielle, who watched her wisely and tenderly, and sent her more into
the cornfields with Nannon.  The days came and went, she scarcely knew
how time passed, or that it was nearly five weeks since first she came
to the hospital.  It seemed, at last, as if the fever was stationary--
the number of cases neither diminished nor increased.

But the sky was as fierce as ever.

One afternoon it changed.  A greyness gathered over it, not big
satisfactory clouds, but still something of the nature of cloud.  A few
scattered drops fell, enough to make large round holes in the white
dust, and then it all cleared away, and the stars came out, and on the
next morning the sun was braving it as undauntedly as he had done for
those weary weeks past, and the Charville world was gasping and panting,
and trying to make merry, with the thermometer at 90 degrees in the
shade, with pestilence upon them, and drought at their very doors.
Madame Roulleau, who had said that Ignace should not return until there
had been rain, was frantic at the delay.  There were cases of sunstroke
among the reapers, a few old feeble people died literally of exhaustion
from the stifling heat.  Monseigneur at the Eveche had been at death's
door, and had driven them all distracted by refusing to allow M.
Deshoulieres to be called away from his other work, until he became so
weak that his will had no longer any power of influencing them, and M.
l'Abbe took matters into his own hands.  But, indeed, those evil days
brought out rare instances of devotion.

There came, at last, one day and night which exceeded every day and
night that had gone before.  Each door and window in the hospital was
open, but it seemed as if all the air had gone out of the world.  One or
two of the patients who were thought to be doing well failed again, and
sank rapidly on that terrible night.  Great revolving fans had been
placed in the wards, and were kept in motion continually, but nothing
seemed to break the oppression; the very nurses lost heart under it.
"Is it the end of the world?" one said, wearily.  Therese, who had kept
up bravely, when morning came was so spent and languid, that she could
hardly drag herself across the ward.  She flung herself across her
little bed, too exhausted to speak to the sister, who shared her turn of
rest, and fell into a dead, heavy sleep; when she awoke Sister Sara was
standing at the window.

"It has rained!" she cried out, joyfully, hearing Therese stir.

Therese had not heard the thunder or the heavy drops, but all the air
was cool, moist, and exquisitely delicious.  Pools of water lay on the
leads, the sun just gleamed out from between dark clouds, and birds
chirped exultantly.

"Now we can breathe again, the saints be praised!" said the sister, with
her little commonplace face made beautiful by thankfulness.

"Poor Sister Annette!  Her rain has come at last," said Therese, more
slowly.

There was a Te Deum at the Cathedral, but grateful hearts did not wait
for that to sing their own little special Te Deums.  Never had the great
plains been so delightful in their eyes as now, when a dense grey pall
lay over them, blurring the outlines, creeping up thicker and thicker,
dark, watery, heavy masses.  The thunder-clouds had come first, great
mountainous forms, with white mists floating across them; then followed
a few hours of clear, cool, enchanting weather, and afterwards the
plains were folded in the thick, close low rain, more beautiful to the
people than the most gorgeous colouring could have been.  It made itself
felt upon the fever at once.

Not many days after, Therese was sent for to the little room in the
lobby, where Nannon was allowed to enter.  Nannon was there, and M.
Deshoulieres also.  Something in their faces made her ask quickly what
was the matter.  It was very soon told.  Nannon had come from Rue St
Servan, where little Adolphe had the fever, and was crying out piteously
for his mademoiselle, his dear Mademoiselle Therese.

"Shall you go, mademoiselle?" asked Nannon.  M.  Deshoulieres said
nothing, he only looked at her.

"Of course I shall go," answered Therese; "that is, if you think I can
be spared," she went on, appealing to him.

"That can be arranged," he said, gravely.  "But do you understand what
you are doing?  I fear these people have not treated you well."

"My poor little Adolphe!" was the girl's only answer.  She had learned
something in these six weeks.

They were obliged to keep her departure a secret from the patients who
had been especially under her care.  The nurses all kissed her; some of
them had tears in their eyes.  With all her bravery, she was so young
that, when she went away, she clung to Sister Gabrielle and sobbed.  "I
have been happier here than I ever was in my life before," she said,
between her sobs.  I do not know whether it was really thus, but looking
back she thought so; and M.  Deshoulieres, who could not bear to hear
her say it, went back to the ward suddenly, so that when she looked
round to wish him good-by, he was not there.

"Has that woman no perception, then," Nannon said, indignantly, as they
toiled up through the steep streets, "that she will not allow our doctor
to come?  Monsieur Pinot is not bad, no, he is not bad, but he is like
the gosling waddling after the gander.  Mademoiselle need not laugh, she
knows what I mean.  What would you have?  Charville could not expect to
see two M.  Deshoulieres."

Nannon had been converted utterly, and like other converts she was not
fond of hearing her former opinions quoted.

"After all," she went on, "I am glad mademoiselle is out of that place."

"Is the poor child very ill?"

"I believe so," said the old woman, shrugging her shoulders.  "Madame
fought against it for days, she said it should not be the fever; she was
like a mad woman.  But now she is frightened.  She loves her children,
that wild-cat!  Ouf, I am out of breath!  Such a summer as this does not
make one younger."

So they went their way, picking their road over the wet stones, and
keeping clear of little torrents of water that here and there spouted
out wildly from the eaves.  The flowers were gratefully drinking in the
soft rain; a beautiful rich geranium flamed out against a grey stone
background; the terrible oppressive cloud was lightened; there were
people moving about again; little children playing; one little mite in a
pink frock and a tight black cap, Therese longed to kiss, but she dared
not let them approach her.  Presently a girl standing at a door smiled
and nodded and kissed both hands.  It was Fanchon.  The apparition gave
Therese a little thrill of delight.  "It is so odd to think how horribly
frightened I was," she said to Nannon, "and now it all seems so
natural."  She went on with a lightened heart.  That little glimpse of
Fanchon, and afterwards the ever steadfast loveliness of the Cathedral,
did her good.  At the door of the Roulleaus' house, Nannon detained her
for a moment.

"Listen, mademoiselle," she said.  "Do you know last night I dreamed
that Monsieur Fabien was come!"

"And so did I," said Therese, smiling.

Madame in her linen camisole was at little Adolphe's bedside copying a
letter when Therese went softly into the room.  Was she glad to see her?
The girl could not tell.  She was rigid and defiant, and yet every now
and then an expression resembling terror flashed out from her eyes.
Adolphe was glad at all events.  He knew her directly, and put out his
poor little weak arms.  "Now you will tell me stories, mademoiselle," he
said, with a feeble triumph at having carried his own way.  Therese knew
well by this time what to do, and she changed the whole aspect of the
uncomfortable little room in a few minutes.  Every thing was put in
order and ready for use.  Poor Adolphe did not really want any stories,
but, as he grew a little delirious in the evening, he said over and over
again, "il y avait un geant, il y avait un geant."  Tears came into her
eyes as she heard the little thin voice wandering on.  Nothing soothed
him so much as to have her close to his bedside, singing to him; and
madame, who was very silent, sat and watched them with a fierce, jealous
sorrow pulling at her heart.  She knew little better than a baby what to
do in a sick-room, but she loved her children passionately.  It cut her
to the heart that Adolphe should turn from her to another.  It cut more
deeply still that this other should be Mademoiselle Veuillot.

CHAPTER SIXTEEN.

  "No tear relieved the burden of her heart;
  Stunn'd with the heavy woe."

  _Thalaba_.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

The days went on for Therese very much as they had done at the hospital.
She had but one patient instead of many, it is true, but that one
absorbed all her care.  Octavie had been sent from the house; the
_file_, who was in the habit of coming for a certain number of hours
daily, took fright and kept away.  Nannon took her place, but she was
not permitted to enter the sick-room, and madame was utterly incapable
of those little feminine cares which nursing demands.  So it all rested
upon Therese, and even when the child was unconscious there seemed to be
an increase of disquietude if she was not close at hand.  She thought it
a bad case, and longed for M.  Deshoulieres' swift perception to be
brought to bear upon it, and she could not help remembering Nannon's
irreverent simile when little Pinot came into the room, with his little
attempt at imitation of the other's manner.  But madame broke out
violently when she suggested that M.  Deshoulieres should be sent for.
And so there was nothing for it but to remember his injunctions, and
patiently to do what was needed for the poor little man, whose
naughtinesses and obstinacies were forgotten now, or recalled only with
shame at her own want of forbearance.

She wondered sometimes at madame's strange ways.  It was impossible to
say in what mood the next hour would find her, fierce or remorseful,
snappish or affectionate.  Therese would have understood better had she
known what coals of fire her unconscious hands were heaping and
shovelling upon madame's head just then.  Nothing could have been so
terrible to her as to see this girl whom she had injured sitting with
the little hot hand in hers which the mother loved above all others in
the world, and longed to tear away out of her clasp.  Nothing.  It
almost maddened her.

At last one morning M.  Pinot also told her that he would suggest her
sending for M.  Deshoulieres.  "It would be a satisfaction to himself,"
he said.  Therese, who knew what those words meant, turned a little
pale, and looked tenderly down upon the little ugly brown face, now so
pinched and wizened and changed, which kept slipping down from the
pillow.

"M.  Deshoulieres shall not come," answered madame, in her strange
defiant tone.  "The child is no worse."

"_Pardon_, madame.  It grieves me to say--"

"He is not worse, I tell you.  The fever must run its course, and I have
heard you say it is now only weakness."

"Madame, at this stage--"

"He is not worse, I repeat again.  I do not choose that M.  Deshoulieres
should come."

"In that case--Is Monsieur Roulleau aware of the extent of this illness,
may I inquire of madame?"

"My husband comes to-day."

"How has she brought him?" thought Therese, who knew something of the
force of the little notary's fears.  She had brought him by not telling
him of the illness at all.  There was business waiting for him, and she
had told him that after it had rained she should demand his return.  In
her next letter she said that it had rained, that the fever was
diminishing, and that on such a day he was to be at Rue St Servan.
That was all.  Nannon, who admitted him, wondered as much as any one.
Madame come slowly down the stairs and signed to him to enter the little
bureau.

"Zenobie, my angel," he said, turning to meet her as she followed him.
Something, it might have been a grey look on her face, arrested him,
"What is the matter?" he said, faltering.

She was a woman, after all,--wicked, cruel, but a woman.  Her sin was
smiting her sorely; there were those terrible coals of fire scorching,
consuming her.  And he was her husband, the father of her children.
"Oh, Ignace, Ignace, _mon ami_," she cried, piteously, stretching out
her arms for support, "our little Adolphe!"

"What then?"

"Ah, he suffers so!"

"Suffers!  Is he ill?"

"The fever--"

"The fever!" he cried, springing back with one bound against the wall.
"The fever is in this house and you let me come?"

She would be patient yet.  It was the first shock.  He had not realised
her words.  "He will not know you, Ignace; he is changed and so weak; it
is terrible to see him."

"Keep back!" he cried out, for she was drawing closer; "keep back!  You
have been nursing him, and now you speak to me!  Let me go out into the
air.  Zenobie, how could you be so imprudent?"

"You will not see him--your son?"

"What is the good, what is the good?  I can do nothing.  See here, what
a palpitation you have given me.  Let me pass!  I will go back to Tours
at once.  Let me pass!  I shall be a dead man if I stay in the house
with a fever."

Her wrath blazed out.  "Coward!" she said, standing between him and the
door, and holding him immovable with a look of supreme scorn.  "Coward!
And while you stand there trembling, shaking, do you know who it is who
is there by his side, nursing and tending him until I am driven mad?
That girl.  Do you know that while I hate her, it is all I can do
sometimes not to fall on my knees before her and tell her all?  Do you
know that he cares for her more than for me,--me, his mother?"

"Zenobie, Zenobie, have patience!  You will ruin us with your
impetuosity."

"Listen, then.  You who have not so much as the bravery of a woman in
your miserable little heart--it is your child whom that girl is nursing
night and day.  You have no courage--have you no pity?  Do you,
remembering who she is, and what she is doing,--do you refuse to let her
know that this man, her lover, is alive,--that you could lay your hand
upon him, and bring him back to her?  Do you refuse that?  She may die,
remember, die of nursing your child!"

"Not so loud, not so loud," said the little man uneasily.  "If she were
to die, we should lose the money, it is true, but it might be the
safest.  There would be fewer complications."

She turned from him with a look of unutterable horror.  In his
cowardice, and in his cruelty, he had fallen far below even her measure
of wrongdoing.  With a pale scared face, he was watching the door with
the hope of escape, but she, like an avenging fury, stood between it and
him.

"Let us go into the street," he said feebly.  "I have always heard there
is less danger in the open air.  You will not?  _N'importe_.  Do not let
me keep you, my Zenobie.  Can I convey any message to your mother?"

She faced him again.  "If he dies!"

"He will not die--no, no, he will not die, believe me.  You are a little
nervous, that is all.  Oh, he will not die; he has an excellent
constitution--Holy Virgin, what is that!"

It was M.  Deshoulieres knocking sharply at the door.  Madame Roulleau,
rigid and defiant again, opened it; the little notary shrank further
into the corner; the doctor entered hastily.

"Mademoiselle Therese?" he said, looking round.  "Ah, madame, may I ask
you to request her to descend at once.  I bring news, or, believe me, I
would not incommode you at such a time."

"What news, monsieur?" asked madame, still erect.

"Monsieur Saint-Martin has arrived."

Her head sank, she went out of the room and up the stairs slowly.  There
was a tempest in her heart when she opened the door of the sick-room.
It was all very solemn and quiet, solemn with the foreshadowing of that
quietness which is infinite.  The child lay on the little white bed,
Therese knelt by its side, the _persiennes_ were half closed, one
quivering ray of sunlight touched the girl's head, the sweet young face
was full of tender sorrow.  For a moment she stood speechless, watching;
the next Therese heard a sharp keen voice in her ear:--

"Why do you look like that, you!  He is mine, I will not have you take
away his love.  And I have hated you and done you all the harm I could--
do you hear?"

"Hush, hush, madame," said Therese softly.  She looked at her, and knew
that this woman in her strange excitement was speaking truth; at another
time she might have been angry at the confession, but for weeks past she
had been walking on the borders of that land where wrath and bitterness
are hushed.  She lifted her hand and pointed to the little face on the
pillow.  Madame dared not speak, she fell on her knees and trembled.
Therese gently drew back the _persiennes_; a sweet cool breeze came into
the room, the plains were all steeped in a kind of subdued sunshine,
silvery, and broken with clouds.  There were long shadows on the roofs
and gables, birds singing in the gardens of the Eveche; presently the
murmur of a distant chant came swinging up from the Cathedral, where all
the windows were open.  No service was going on, but the choristers were
practising a _requiem_, very sad and sweet, yet now and then breaking
into triumphant chorus.  Therese fancied she caught the
words,--"_requiem, dona eis requiem_," shrill, clear, boyish voices
answering one another.  Rest was very near one of the three in that
room.  She touched madame, and said, "See, I think he knows us."

Yes.  For the last time the dim eyes turned and looked into theirs,--for
the last time the little weak hand just moved as if to seek their clasp;
the little voice, so strangely pathetic in its hoarse unchildlike
accent, tried to reach Therese.  For the last time.  After that there
was peace--the peace echoed by the choristers in the Cathedral--the
peace that could never any more be broken.  So best!

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN.

  "One friend in that path shall be
  To secure my steps from wrong;
  One to count night day for me,
  Patient through the watches long,
  Serving most with none to see."

  R.  Browning.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

M.  Deshoulieres, who had not a moment to spare, paced up and down the
bureau in a fever of impatience.  M.  Roulleau had slipped out directly
his wife left the room: the doctor was too preoccupied to notice him at
all, or he must have been struck with the terror in his face.

"Does monsieur say that M.  Saint-Martin is actually in Charville?" he
asked in a trembling voice, with his hand on the door.

"No.  He is at Maury.  There is barely time to meet the train.  Will you
hasten mademoiselle?"

And then he began to pace up and down with his watch in his hand.
Nobody came.  He opened the door, it was all silent.  With a sigh--was
it relief or disappointment?--he ran down the steps and hastened to the
station.  People who passed him said that M.  Deshoulieres was--giving
up at last; there was a worn dragged look on his face, like that of a
man under the first touch of illness.  Poor man!  There were two or
three conflicting currents in his heart, such as wear lines before they
have been running very long.  An hour of their work will do more than a
few years of age, who is but a slow labourer after all.  Fabien was
come--this man of whose love he had never known until he had given that
away which now he could never more take back.  Fabien had come, and
there would be a marriage; and Therese would be carried away, and he--?
Well, he should remain in Charville, go through that daily round so
like, and yet so unlike, itself; worry the Prefet, be victimised by
Veuve Angelin--it was not very interesting when he looked at it in this
downright, colourless fashion, but still it was there; so far as a
future could be foretold, this was the future to which he had to look
forward.  Most people have once or twice in their lives gone through
that desolate time when before them stretches out a grey, cheerless,
sunless prospect, a long dusty road, as it were, along which there must
be a solitary plodding.  Until we have tried it ourselves we cannot
believe that, after all, the first view is the saddest part of it; that
as we go along we come to hidden banks, in which starry flowers are
blossoming--walls, painted with delicate bright lichen--tiny wayside
streams--crystals in the dust--all manner of sweet surprises, and
evermore above them all the eternal blue of heaven.  Afterwards, when we
are in the midst of them, we wonder how the dreary road has become so
beautiful; but beforehand it appals us.  Perhaps life never looked so
sad to Max Deshoulieres as in that little journey from Charville to
Maury.

When he reached the station the sun was setting.  From out of a yellow
western sky, a great dusky red grey vapour stretched upwards half across
the heavens, and on this again lay purple horizontal bands of cloud.
The little town was within a stone's throw of the station; a cluster of
cold-looking ugly houses, and on an eminence a church, with a quaint
tower running up between its low apse and the nave.  M.  Deshoulieres
made straight for the church, skirted it, and found himself in front of
a bran-new hotel, having a narrow facade, a little court, and stiff
evergreens ranged round in bright green tubs.  "M.  Saint-Martin?
Certainly.  Would monsieur have the goodness to pass this way?"

After all, it was rather ludicrous to come in this prosaic fashion upon
the man whose absence had given rise to so many speculations.  Max
smiled to himself--a little sad smile with an aching heart--as he
followed the polite waiter upstairs through a passage, into a room where
two gentlemen rose to receive him.  One he knew at once--the cure of
Ardron.  The other--Monsieur Fabien Saint-Martin.

For the first moment I doubt whether he understood much of what was
passing; he was looking at Fabien.  A young man--for that he was
prepared, but somehow it forced itself upon him strangely--tall, slight,
with quick, dark eyes, and an expression that did not please him about
the mouth and jaw.  This was his first, swift impression; his next was
that there was a marked restraint and stiffness about the greeting he
received.  The young man made no attempt to speak, after a ceremonious
bow; the cure, who had been writing, resumed his seat at the table.  Max
said, with a slight flush on his cheek, and with another bow,--

"Permit me to offer you my very sincere congratulations on your return,
Monsieur Saint-Martin.  It is an event, the delay of which has
discomposed us considerably."

Alas, poor Max!  How much, only he knew.

"I should have been glad myself to have returned before," said M.
Fabien, speaking in an abrupt tone.  "_Parbleu_, M.  Deshoulieres,
inheritances do not fall from the skies in such a shower that this one
should be a matter of indifference to me."

"That I can suppose."

"Nevertheless, it appears that I am not greatly indebted to you for your
endeavours to make it known," continued the young man, with a
disagreeable laugh.  "It is well, perhaps, monsieur, that other friends
have taken a deeper interest in the matter."

"No one, monsieur, can have had so deep an interest in the matter as
myself," said Max, restraining himself; but with a swift flash from his
eyes.

M. le Cure, with his very determined opinions on the subject, looking up
from his writing at that moment, could not help feeling a disagreeable
sense of contrast in the two--M.  Deshoulieres standing there, erect and
massive, with his beautiful head, and his calm, indignant eyes--Fabien
pale, angry, restless.

"That I can believe--in one sense," said the young man, sharply.

M. le Cure thought it was time to interfere.  "Permit me to offer you a
chair," he said, rising and putting forward his own.

"I thank you," answered Max, quietly, "but it appears to me that I shall
prefer standing until I can gather the drift of M.  Saint-Martin's
strange remarks.  We will come to the point at once if you please.  Am I
to understand that you accuse me of having taken no steps towards
informing you of M.  Moreau's death and bequest?  You are silent,
monsieur.  I conclude, then, that such is your accusation.  Permit me to
remark, in reply, that the two only direct means of communication in my
power--advertisements and the assistance of the police--were so rigidly
forbidden by M.  Moreau, that their employment would have deprived you
of any benefit whatever under the will, beyond a legacy of 40,000
francs.  It was an apparently unaccountable condition--that is to say,
it appeared unaccountable to me at the time--but I am under the
impression that I mentioned it to M. le Cure at my first interview?  At
all events it matters little.  The will itself can be placed in M.
Saint-Martin's hands to-morrow."

He paused.  There was an uncomfortable silence.  Then the cure said
coldly,--

"Certainly; I am aware that you mentioned an extraordinary provision to
that effect."

"But," broke in Fabien with a sneer, "I presume the provisions were
scarcely extended to the point of obliging M.  Deshoulieres to ignore
any indirect information that might be supplied to him on the subject,
or of declining to be enlightened by letters from myself?  Possibly I am
mistaken.  A will that could do so much may have had the power of
enforcing blindness and deafness upon its executor."

Max, stern, quiet, and self-possessed, answered at once,--

"M.  Saint-Martin, I demand an explanation, of words which are to me
wholly unintelligible."

"M.  Deshoulieres, I demand, on my part, firstly, an explanation of your
non-appearance at the Lion d'Or at Pont-huine?"

"So? that is easily given, monsieur.  The sudden illness of one of my
patients prevented it.  In my stead I sent the notary who drew up
Monsieur Moreau's will, and was equally with myself acquainted with its
particulars.  M.  Roulleau spent the afternoon at Pont-huine.  As no
person appeared, he returned to Charville with the belief that we had
been made the victims of a jest."

M.  Fabien laughed.  "This, I think, you can disprove," he said, turning
to the cure.

"It was no jest, monsieur," said the cure, sternly.  "You will permit me
to remark that all I heard, even from your own lips, of Monsieur
Moreau's last illness, and the extraordinary terms of his will, coupled
with the amazing fact of his having chosen as _depositaire_ a man wholly
unknown to him until the morning of his death, appeared to me so
unaccountable, not to say suspicious, that I felt it my duty to act in
some degree on my own responsibility.  I made private inquiries among
those whom I considered likely to aid me, and immediately that I
succeeded in obtaining a slight clew which it appeared to me might lead
to the desired point, I thought it desirable--yes, monsieur, I avow it--
to test the sincerity of your professions, by appointing a meeting at
the Lion d'Or.  Permit me to state that from having myself waited there
the whole day in vain, I am in a condition to affirm that no notice was
taken of my communication."

"Allow me, then, in return, to say that you behaved in an indefensible
manner, M. le Cure," replied M.  Deshoulieres, promptly.  "You had no
right to indulge in anonymous communications.  Nevertheless, I have
already informed you of what was done.  You can apply to M.  Roulleau.
Have you any thing more to remark?"

The cure, who was suspicious but not irritable, glancing at him again,
could not repress another feeling of admiration.  Either the man was a
magnificent deceiver or--He was so steadfast, so noble-looking, so
immeasurably above the other.  M. le Cure fidgeted, and did not know
what to think.  Fabien answered the question hotly.

"A great deal more.  During the last year I have twice written to my
uncle, at Chateau Ardron.  What has become of these letters?"

"I cannot answer you," said Max, in some surprise.  "I cannot answer you
that question.  Since the first month only a few unimportant letters
have come to me, and they were brought by M.  Roulleau, to whom they
have been forwarded by some mistake."

"We have questioned old Mathieu at Ardron," the cure said dryly; "he
remembers the foreign letters, and will swear to having forwarded them.
As to the mistake, he told us that he had your directions to send all
letters to M.  Roulleau, numero 8, Rue St Servan, Charville."

M.  Deshoulieres' face, for the first time, looked troubled.  "There is
something strange in this which I do not understand," he said slowly.
Fabien interrupted him with his insulting laugh.

"There is a great deal, let me assure you, monsieur, which we do not
understand--"

Max, in his turn, stopped him.  "That will do, Monsieur Saint-Martin.  I
can pardon much to a person in your position, but my forbearance has its
limits.  I shall question M.  Roulleau on the points you have named.  It
is unnecessary to say more to-night.  May I ask what hour you will
appoint for meeting me in Charville to-morrow, when the will can be
read, and the papers delivered into your keeping?"

"Charville, monsieur?  On my word, were I to meet you in Charville the
complications might be increased by a second deathbed scene.  A thousand
thanks, but I must decline your invitation to that charming fever-hole."

"In that case, monsieur, I regret to state that my unwished-for trust
cannot be brought to an end so quickly as I should desire.  The wording
of the will requires your presence in Charville."

"More extraordinary provisions!" said the young man, with a shrug of
annoyance.  The cure interrupted him contemptuously.

"It is not the part of a brave man to fear shadows," he said.  "M.
Deshoulieres, will twelve o'clock be agreeable to you?"

Max bowed.

"At your own house?"

"I think not.  I would suggest the Cygne."

"Good.  Before you go, may I trouble you with one question?" said the
cure, whose suspicions and whose impressions were pulling him different
ways.

"Certainly."

"At the beginning of this interview you remarked upon that condition of
M.  Moreau's will which forbade the advertisement of the bequest to his
nephew, that it appeared unaccountable to you at the time.  I gather
from that, monsieur, that a solution has since presented itself to you.
If I am not mistaken, may I inquire the nature of this solution?"

Ah, Therese, waiting and watching, not knowing yet who was so near!  Ah,
faithful heart, that never faltered in its purpose, nor suffered its own
pain to stand before her happiness!  Ah, true, patient, noble love, that
gave his face the glory that it wore!

"Monsieur Saint-Martin," he said, turning from the cure, and speaking to
the young man, "I believe that your uncle, in spite of his words, loved
you above all others.  I believe he regretted the harshness which had
separated you and Mademoiselle Veuillot, and desired in a certain manner
to atone for it.  He may have thought that a voluntary appeal on your
part would be a test of the sincerity of your attachment.  At all
events, it appears to me that the provisions of his will, which were
intended to keep Mademoiselle Veuillot in Charville, and to oblige you
to receive your inheritance in the same town, could tend to no other
purpose."

"Ah, by the way, Therese!" said Fabien, lightly.  "Is Therese in
Charville?"

"You will see her to-morrow," M.  Deshoulieres said gravely.  Was this
the first thought of her who had been left so desolate?  He bowed and
went away quickly, not daring to trust himself longer.  Fabien half
followed him, and then came back and flung himself on a sofa.

"I don't know that we should have let him go, after all," he said,
irresolutely.

"I hardly think you would have had much power to prevent him," remarked
the cure, with a grim smile, coming from the window, and ringing the
bell for lights.  He could not help despising the young man with his
weak passionate nature, and yet he tried to keep up a conviction that he
had been wronged.

"And so Therese is here," said Fabien.  He laughed a little to himself,
and curled his moustache.  "She had a spirit, had Therese, and her eyes
were something to remember.  _Parbleu_, though, a visit to that
fever-hole is not too agreeable to contemplate."

"Is Mademoiselle Veuillot your _fiancee_?" asked the cure, severely.

Fabien laughed again.  "_Fiancee_?  No, _mon pere_, not altogether.  We
shall see."

"It is possible that her interests also may have suffered."

"Ah--yes--it is possible.  But my uncle had not too great a love for
Therese.  I am curious to know how he has provided for her."

"Yet I have understood that your disagreement with your uncle originated
in your attachment for Mademoiselle Veuillot," said the cure, facing
round upon him sharply.

"Precisely," answered Fabien, airily.  "But then--what will you?--I was
young, foolish--the truth was that I could not endure my old uncle's
_regime_ in the office.  I heard of an opening in Rio Janeiro, and I
worked my way out.  On the voyage I wished myself back a hundred times,
I promise you, but once there, somehow or other, I found myself on my
feet--fortune favoured me.  I was getting weary of it, though, and this
news came to me just in time through M. l'Abbe, but it is not a bad
place after all.  One sees the world."

And so M.  Fabien rattled on, while the cure looked at him and listened
with a growing discontent.  Before he went to bed, he found it necessary
to repeat to himself all the evidence he had gathered against M.
Deshoulieres.  There was no denying it; things bore a very dark
appearance.  A suspicious trust; an appointment said to have been kept
in the face of his own knowledge to the contrary; letters suppressed;
rumours that all was not right; a letter from M. l'Abbe at the Eveche:
"M.  Deshoulieres is a man well spoken of, but my own opinion of him
does not coincide with that of the world."  A letter from the Prefet: "I
consider this doctor a pestilent, discontented individual, always trying
to advance his own schemes.  In effect, I doubt him."

"M. le Prefet would not have spoken without reason," said M. le Cure to
himself assuringly, as he folded up the letter.  "After all, there are
cases in the world when a man's face does not agree with his actions."

M.  Deshoulieres went sadly home that night.  It was not of his own grey
future that he was thinking, nor of the accusations that had been heaped
upon him so unexpectedly--he almost smiled as he recalled them.  He was
thinking of Therese and of Fabien.  Was this man to whom her heart had
gone out, one who would keep it, and treasure it, and cherish it?  There
was a deep intolerable pain in the question that would come surging up
in spite of his efforts to still it.  The stars shone out, and a fresh
rustling breeze was swaying the stiff sycamores, lights were gleaming
from the old houses, the vines on the balconies had changed into dusky
masses.  The shadowy old sounds and sights were very familiar and sweet
to poor Max, but this night they seemed to have lost their power.

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN.

  "Aimer sans Amour est amer."

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Therese was waiting for M.  Deshoulieres the next morning when he went
to Rue St Servan.  He could not tell how she looked; she was eager,
troubled, doubtful, all at once.  He did not yet know what had happened,
but he guessed directly.  "Ah, that poor madame!" she said shuddering.
"It is too terrible--" and then she stopped.

He saw that she had been overwrought.  All that night Madame Roulleau
had lain on the floor by the child's bed, in a fierce agony of despair,
not weeping, but writhing.  Once she had looked up with dry, burning
eyes, and said to Therese hoarsely, "Your lover is come.  Do you
remember? _he_ told you so once, and I beat him for it.  Do you hear
that, all of you?  I told a lie, and I beat my little Adolphe."  There
was something so terrible in her voice and in her face, that Therese and
Nannon shrank.  And this was all that she knew of Fabien.  The poor
child, in spite of her bravery, could hardly endure these different
emotions that were tearing at her heart.  Nothing at the hospital had
been so dreadful to witness as the sight of that hard, insupportable
agony.  And in the midst of it she had been told that Fabien was come.

"What is it all?" she said, putting out her hand to Max, with an
appealing glance that went to his heart.  He answered it at once with a
kind smile.

"There is good news for you.  M.  Saint-Martin has come at last."

"So it is true!"  Her face changed suddenly, her eyes danced.  "I could
not believe it; but if you say so, I know it is true."

Yes, those grave blue eyes were true as truth itself.  There was a
burden to be borne by one, perhaps by both of them, and his work should
be to lighten hers.

"You may believe it, indeed.  I have seen him--"

"Seen him!"  Such gladness in her face!--such gladness in her voice!

"And you shall meet him to-day at the Cygne."

Something made her put out her hand to him again.  "What do I not owe
you!" she said, gratefully.

"For what?" he said with a smile.  "I was neither the letter nor the
ship that brought him back.  _Allons_, it appears to me it is monsieur
the cure of Ardron whom you will have to thank the most."

She shook her head without answering.  She was not deceived.  If ever
friend was faithful to his friendship, it was this friend.  Neither of
them spoke for a moment, then Therese said slowly,--"I shall understand
every thing better by and by, I think.  I fancy there are things which
neither of us understand as yet.  That poor woman--!" she added,
sighing.

"So the poor little one is dead!"

"It is not that only--I mean that is not the worst," she said in answer
to his look.  "Her sorrow is so dreadful to see.  I have asked her to
hear Pere Gaspard, but she will not let him come into the room.  I
wonder whether Sister Gabrielle could do any thing!  I wonder what it
is!  She says such terrible things."

M.  Deshoulieres was too generous-hearted to suspect readily, but that
night he had been perplexed by thoughts of little Roulleau, suggested in
the interview at Maury.

"I must see her husband," he said.  "Is he with her, or shall I find him
in the bureau?"

"Did you not know?" asked Therese in surprise.  "He is not here.  He
went away again at once when he heard of the fever.  The little coward!"

"Went away!"

"But yes, indeed.  To Tours, she supposes.  I think that is one of the
things that has half killed her."

M.  Deshoulieres' face became more grave.  This flight of the little
notary added considerably to the difficulties of his position.  He
remembered also that Ignace had heard his tidings of M.  Saint-Martin's
arrival.  Therese, who saw this cloud, asked at once, "What is it?"

"I do not like his absence at this time, and I want the papers connected
with M.  Moreau's will.  Will you wait here for a moment while I speak
to the clerk?"

He came back again presently, shaking his head.  "We can go no further
than the outside of the chest; Madame Roulleau has the keys, and I am
afraid you must make an effort to get them.  It is really a matter of
extreme importance, or I would not ask you to undertake such a task," he
added abruptly.

Therese turned a little pale.  "Does it not seem cruel?"

"I cannot help it.  It is necessary.  Would you rather that I saw her?"

"No, no.  I will try, but I dread it."

She was absent so long that he had risen to follow her, when she came
into the room again, white and trembling.  "No, I have done nothing,"
she said, in answer to his look.  "She only rocks herself backwards and
forwards on the ground.  She never looked up--I do not know whether she
heard me; but yet she must have, for when I came away at last, I heard
her spring up and bolt the door.  Nannon is out, and there she is quite
alone.  It cannot matter so greatly.  Fabien can wait for his papers
another day--" A shade that unconsciously crossed his face made her cry
out quickly, "They will trust you unreservedly!"

"Scarcely that, perhaps," he said, with a smile and a sigh.  "Well, we
must wait; this fit may possibly pass off.  I will go and ask Sister
Gabrielle to come here.  Whether that poor woman will see her or not,
she will be some one in the house, for you must take Nannon with you to
the Cygne soon after twelve.  You understand that it is on account of
the fever that I do not bring M.  Saint-Martin here?"

"Yes, yes.  But ought I to see him?  You are sure there is no danger?"
she asked piteously.

"Not with the usual precautions.  Can I help you in any way?"

"No, thank you.  Pere Gaspard has been very kind."

Therese never knew how those hours passed.  She tried to go into the
room where madame lay in her awful depth of despair, but the door was
locked, and Therese, who could not keep down the well of joy that seemed
to come dancing up from her heart, felt indeed as if this happiness
separated them more than any bolts.  She called herself cruel, inhuman;
she thought of little Adolphe, the weariness, the fever, the pain; but
even while her tears fell, those glad visions would intrude themselves.
When we are quite young we are so rigorous over our sorrows that we are
impatient of comfort; it is in after life that we learn to refuse no
consolations.  She scolded herself, and then when Sister Gabrielle came,
fell into her arms, and laughed and cried together.  Sister Gabrielle,
who had a way of soothing people, listened quietly, and seemed to lift
that little burden of self-reproach from her heart.  She dressed her,
and called Nannon, and stood on the top of the steps watching the two go
away together down the street, and under the dark archway.  Charville
had broken out into its cheerfulness again; the fever was dying away,
only here and there was still the sharp anguish of recent loss like
Madame Roulleau's.  Therese went off with a buoyant step into the
sunshine, and the merry jangle of voices.  Sister Gabrielle turned back
into the house, took her knitting, and sat patiently on the stairs
outside the room, where the mother had shut herself in with her despair.

When Therese reached the Cygne, something of her brightness had fled.
She hung back with a little dread; it was Nannon who pushed forward, and
made Toinette show them the room which M.  Deshoulieres had set apart
for them.

"There is no one there; see, mademoiselle!" she said, reconnoitring.

It had a balcony, which looked over the sycamore-trees at the lovely
spires of the Cathedral.  Nannon, with quick tact, went out there, and
sat humming a little chanson, very cracked and discordant, but to her
full of memories of her girlhood.  Those songs of old age are the most
pathetic songs of all.  Therese in the room waited with a hundred hopes
and fears in her heart.  It was three years since she had seen Fabien,
and now that he was near she began to tremble.

Meanwhile, in another room of the hotel, a stormy discussion was taking
place.  It was necessary for M.  Deshoulieres to greet the two gentlemen
with the information that the notary had left Charville unexpectedly,
and that it was not in his power to produce the will.  M.  Saint-Martin
broke out in passionate terms at once.

"So, monsieur, and this is the end!  Do not suppose that I have come
here to be trifled with."

"M.  Deshoulieres must be aware," interrupted the cure in his frigid
tones, "that he stands in a strange position."

"M. le Cure, I am perfectly aware.  M.  Saint-Martin has--not a right,
but a certain amount of excuse for what would otherwise be unpardonable
expressions.  But when I have said this, I have said all.  Events have
conspired to bring about this false position, and a very short time
will, I suppose, set it right.  Meanwhile, I claim the courtesy and the
trust which is due from one gentleman to another."

"From one gentleman!--yes," sneered Fabien.  "_Pardon_, monsieur; I was
not aware that you considered yourself beyond that pale."

Fabien, who was white with rage, would have answered fiercely, but the
cure again interfered.

"Messieurs, the interests of both require something more than a battle
of words."

"You are right," said Max, turning frankly towards him.  "I regret what
I said.  The delay is just as vexatious to me as to you--more so, in
fact, since it seems to create suspicions which are certainly not
agreeable for me to hear--but we had better meet it like reasonable
beings.  It is possible that I can obtain the keys from Madame Roulleau
to-morrow--at all events learn where her husband is, and telegraph for
him at once.  If you return to Maury, I will give you the earliest
information; if, on the contrary, you prefer to remain in Charville, you
will have the satisfaction of being on the spot, and able to adopt
whatever measures you think advisable--for the security of your
inheritance," added the doctor, with a little mockery in his smile,
which was not lost upon the cure.

Monsieur Saint-Martin, not having recovered himself, answered sharply:
"Certainly I do not choose to remain in this city of the plague.  My
lawyer will be here to-day; and as to further proceedings, I shall be
guided by him.  He may suggest immediate action."

"I should recommend your carrying it out at once," replied M.
Deshoulieres gravely.  Fabien, who hated ridicule, looked quickly at him
to see whether he was serious or not, and could not satisfy himself.

"It is unendurable," he muttered.  "After having all one's life been
pestered by the vagaries of an old man, he might at least have spared
his ridiculous restraints when he was dead, and could find no pleasure
in them."

"Is Mademoiselle Veuillot here?" asked the cure, looking up.

"She is.  She is in the next room."

"What do you propose to do?" said Fabien, disregarding.

"I have already told you, monsieur.  Meanwhile you may employ any spurs
with which your lawyer may furnish you," replied M.  Deshoulieres
impatiently.  Therese was in the next room, and this man was
indifferent.

"You ought to see Mademoiselle Veuillot at once," said the cure, rising.

"Therese?  Oh, yes.  She is here, you say?  By all means."

She heard their voices in the passage; half rose, and sat down again,
while the colour faded completely out of her face.  In the balcony,
Nannon was singing her little refrain,--

  "Helas, je sais un chant d'amour
  Triste ou gai tour a tour;"

an old melancholy Breton song that had somehow been wafted across from,
the quaint wild province of hills and chestnut trees to these broad
unromantic corn plains.  Therese, who had not heard it before, never
forgot the little sad air.  She heard the song, and the voices, and the
door opening; but for the first moment it was all confused.  It was her
own name which recalled her; her own name in Fabien's voice.

"Ah, Therese, at last we meet!  Believe me that I am enchanted to renew
our acquaintance.  You have not quite forgotten me, I flatter myself."

She raised her eyes, not to his but to Monsieur Deshoulieres'.  One
piteous, appealing glance--what was this?--acquaintance--forgotten?
Three years of hungering and hoping, and could this be her greeting at
the end?  He with an overwhelming pity in his heart might not help her
by look, or sign, or word.  Face to face, heart to heart, these two must
show each other the story of their lives.

"You have come at last, Fabien," she said, faintly.

"After all, yes.  I have had enough of South America, as you may
imagine.  It was a little more amusing than the old bureau at Rouen, but
it was becoming _ennuyant_.  Variety before all.  Life requires to be
tasted like wine, a sip here and a sip there before one decides.  Now I
shall try the charms of Paris.  And you? have you remained here since my
uncle's death?  A _triste_ place, is it not?"

And she had loved him!  By some subtile force of sympathy, Max knew that
she was suffering a sharper pang than any which had come to him.  He was
standing with the cure where they could not see them, but he could hear
the light frivolous voice, the heartless words.  He had loved in vain,
but she had loved unworthily.  There is no sting so sharp as that sting.
And outside, in the sunny balcony, old Nannon was crooning over her
refrain--

  "Helas, je sais un chant d'amour,
  Triste ou gai tour a tour:
  Ce chant qui de mon coeur s'eleve,
  D'ou vient qu'en pleurant je l'acheve!"

Therese was very pale, but she had got back her self-possession.

"I am sure that poor M.  Moreau felt your departure."

"Did he?  Ah, that is not improbable!  He should have conducted himself
differently, and prevailed on me to stay.  However, I pardon him; he did
his best to atone for it by dying at the right moment.  Not but what I
owe him something for his conduct even then."

"Oh, Fabien!"

"It is true, then," he said excitedly.  "And M.  Deshoulieres is aware
of my sentiments."

Max turned round grave and quiet.

"It is unnecessary to repeat them in the presence of Mademoiselle
Veuillot."

"_Parbleu_, and why?  They will be repeated before the world very
shortly, let me assure you, if the will and certain explanations do not
reach me."

She looked inquiringly--again not at him, but at M.  Deshoulieres.  This
time he answered her: "Monsieur Roulleau's absence has placed us in a
difficulty.  Until his return M.  Saint-Martin has only my Word to rely
upon."

"A word which, unfortunately, is contradicted by facts."

Whether he was provoked by M.  Deshoulieres' calmness, or irritated by
his disappointment, his tone was more insulting than it had been the
preceding night.  The girl's eyes flashed.

"Are you doubting his word?"

"There is scarcely room for _doubt_," said Fabien, meaningly.

With a swift impetuous impulse she crossed to where Max stood,--

"How can you let them say such things?" she said, passionately, her
breathing short and quick.  Poor Therese! she felt all a woman's
indignation and a woman's powerlessness at once.  "M. le Cure," she
cried, "how can you listen and not speak?"  I think she dumbfounded them
all for a minute.  Nannon, who heard her voice, stopped her chanson to
listen.  Max, with a strange sweet pain in his heart, looked down at her
and cared very little for Fabien's rude speeches.  After all, she was
not powerless.  Max looked at her and said, softly,--

"Such things do not hurt me."

And at that moment there was a heavy step, a little fumbling at the
door, and Madame Roulleau came in.  Her face was so white and rigid that
Fabien, who did not know her, exclaimed as if she were an apparition,
and, indeed, the others were scarcely less startled.  She came across
the room, like a person walking in a dream, straight to where M.
Deshoulieres stood, and flung a key on the table, before him.

"There is what you want," she said.  "If I touch the papers they will
scorch me."

They all looked at one another.  Therese, who was still trembling with
excitement, put her hand on her arm.  Madame Roulleau threw it off,
keeping her eyes fixed on M.  Deshoulieres.

"Do you wish to know why I have come?" she went on.  "_Tenez_, you can
hear, then, all of you.  My little Adolphe is dead--dead, do you
understand?--dead of the fever; and my husband, who was frightened, has
left him and me by ourselves.  That is what husbands should do, is it
not?"  She spoke like a person in an agony; Therese shuddered.  "Some
one said M.  Saint-Martin was here--it was either that sister or
Adolphe, I do not know which.  I can tell you all about it.  We will
begin from the beginning--that was at Ardron.  M.  Deshoulieres, as you
know, and my husband brought me home the letters which he found,--two
letters from Rio Janeiro asking for money.  I burned them.  Burning is
always safe.  Two others came afterwards, and those I burned also.  We
wrote those answers that we had from Paris.  Is that all?  No, I
remember.  There was that appointment at Pont-huine, when you sent
Ignace, but it was easy enough for him to stay away."

"Unhappy woman," said the cure, sternly, "what led you into all this
wickedness?"

She did not answer him.  She had her eyes still fixed upon M.
Deshoulieres, and she never looked aside.

"Ask her," said the cure.

"Why was this, Madame Roulleau?" said the doctor, sadly.

"We wanted the money," she answered at once; "the money you gave us for
the girl.  And what Ignace had to do about it brought in money.  We knew
it must all go again when M.  Saint-Martin came home.  Last night I said
to myself that I would tell you; I do not know why I came here; the
sister said something, I believe.  She is staying with him."  And then,
with a bitter cry which they never forgot, "He is dead--dead!  I dared
not send for you, and you might have saved him."  She went swiftly out
of the room, down the stairs, into the street.  If they had wished to
stop her they could scarcely have done so; but they all stood dumb, that
last cry ringing in their ears.

"_Libera nos a malo_," said the cure, at last, under his breath.
"_Amen_."

He was a just man.  Perhaps his prayer had not only to do with that poor
stricken woman who had gone out from them.  Perhaps he was thinking also
of the evil of suspicions and accusations without cause.  He was a just
man, but ungracious.  He wanted to speak at once to M.  Deshoulieres,
and the words would not come readily.  Therese was looking shyly and
beseechingly at Fabien.  Why did he not acknowledge the unconscious
wrong that he had done?  Nobody spoke.  It was Nannon who broke the
silence, coming in from the balcony.

"The saints preserve us!  She has gone down the street as if there were
a mob at her heels."

"I may as well go and search for the will, I believe," said M.
Deshoulieres, turning round with a sigh.  Therese still looked at
Fabien.  Why did he not speak?

"M.  Saint-Martin," said the cure, gravely, "I think there is a duty for
us to perform before we can allow M.  Deshoulieres to leave us--a duty
and a reparation.  My own share in the matter has been the heaviest.  I
beg to offer him my most sincere apologies."

"It may or may not be, as this woman says," Fabien answered grudgingly;
"it does not explain it altogether to my mind.  At all events it is
impossible to congratulate M.  Deshoulieres upon his choice of a notary.
I shall make a point of having the rascal punished, and meanwhile may I
request you, monsieur, to do us the favour to fetch the will without
delay?  The sooner one gets out of this hole the better."

"Allow me to repudiate M.  St Martin's sentiments altogether," said the
cure, with a flush on his sallow cheek.  "I beg to decline having any
thing to do with the reading of the papers connected with this--what I
may call--unfortunate will.  It had better be delayed until the arrival
of the lawyer."

"You desert me, in fact, Monsieur le Cure," said Fabien, crossly.

"I leave you in good hands, as you must be aware," said the cure, who,
having been mistaken himself, felt a degree of satisfaction in snubbing
the young man.  "Nothing that I can say can atone for the pain we have
unintentionally inflicted upon M.  Deshoulieres, and all that remains is
a matter of form."

"Will you not consent to meet us here to-morrow at the same time?"

"On the contrary, immediately that I have been to the Eveche, I shall
return to Ardron.  Are you coming my way, M.  Deshoulieres?"

They all went down the stairs together--the cure, the doctor, Fabien
looking discontented, Therese, and Nannon.  Therese lingered a moment to
say in an undertone,--

"Fabien, why do you not acknowledge that you have wronged him!"

"Wronged him, bah!  The only person wronged is myself.  Therese, you
used to take my part."

It was the first allusion, on his part, to other days.  A little earlier
in the interview it would have touched her more.  Now it gave her
something of the old sense of compassion for his weakness; but that was
not the feeling that could bring her back.  Her heart had always
revolted against injustice; it revolted now doubly, trebly.  She was
frightened at herself; frightened at the way in which the love she had
been clinging to all this time was melting away.  In the midst of her
pain and indignation and pity, it gave her a strange unreal feeling.
There is often a strange medley in our hearts on those days which we
call crises in our lives.  The lesser things subside, and we forget all
but the most prominent; but at the time the oddest emotions hustle one
another.  Therese was puzzled at herself; at the change that seemed to
have come over her since that morning.  And then she found herself
curiously watching the little procession that went down the stairs,--the
cure in his flowing black cassock and his wide beaver hat; M.
Deshoulieres and Fabien, so unlike each other; Nannon, with her broad
shoulders and her heavily plaited green gown--it seemed as if all the
characters in her little drama were trooping down together.  Monsieur
Deshoulieres was the victor, who was going away in triumph, but there
was not much triumph in his heart just then.  At the door they
separated.

"Adieu, Therese," said Fabien, with his hand on the door of the
_salle-a-manger_.

"Adieu, Fabien."

"If you come to Paris at any time let me know.  Do not allow the
provinces to engross you altogether.  Or if you have need of any
thing--"

"I have need of nothing."

"In that case, _au revoir_."

He wanted to punish her.  His nature was too small to bear the
humiliation of allowing himself to be in the wrong.  He was in a rage
with them all, and he wanted to punish her.  He only stung her.  And the
others had passed out, so that they heard nothing.

CHAPTER NINETEEN.

  "And thou, as one that once declined,
  When he was little more than boy,
  On some unworthy heart with joy,
  But lives to wed an equal mind."

  _In Memoriam_.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Monsieur le Cure had his own little mortifications to endure before he
got back to his study in the presbytere at Ardron.  On his way to the
Eveche he encountered the Prefet, who loved a little gossip, and stopped
him at once.

"Is it true?  Has Monsieur Moreau's heir actually arrived?"

"Yes, Monsieur le Prefet," said the cure, grimly.  "I came to Charville
with him for the purpose of ascertaining the meaning of certain
suspicious circumstances connected with the will and the trusteeship."

"What, those ridiculous reports about M.  Deshoulieres?"

"Ridiculous!  I have your own letter confirming them."

"Mine!  My dear Monsieur le Cure, I must have been a great fool, if I
wrote any thing so absurd.  Ah, bah!  I remember.  I was irritated with
him at one time, I believe--he had a mania, and worried me.  But--M.
Deshoulieres!  He is a hero, nothing less.  There is to be a meeting
to-morrow, to discuss some means of making known to him the gratitude of
the town."

At the Eveche it was the same.  The Abbe laughed in his face.  "He
nettled me once, I acknowledge, but that was a trifle.  I cannot tell
you my feelings towards him now.  Ask any of the clergy who worked with
him in this last terrible three months.  A mistake?--of course it was a
mistake.  All France has cause to be proud of M.  Deshoulieres.  My dear
friend, imagine your coming on such an errand!"

"Monsieur l'Abbe," said the cure, sharply, "I only wish you people of
Charville would appreciate your heroes a little beforehand."

Poor Therese!  That day was, probably, the most desolate in her life.
Whichever way she looked every thing seemed blank and homeless.
Something had gone away out of her heart; at first a great swelling
indignation took its place; but this could not last.  There are sudden
deaths as well as lingering: her love had met with such an end; but all
deaths must have their suffering.  Almost his first words had done it.
What was it in them? how was he different from the Fabien of old days?
She sat by her window looking out over the gabled roofs at the plain and
the far horizon, where sad-coloured clouds were creeping quietly up--
with eager eyes that seemed to be searching an answer for the questions
that were perplexing her.  She was very miserable and sick at heart, but
it was not so much with the loss of Fabien, as with the loss of love.
It seemed to her as if, in spite of the slighting and the coldness, she
ought to love him still--and she did not.  It was the identical Fabien
after all, though she tried to think otherwise.  In the old contests
with his uncle, the old impatience of control, weak resistance, attempts
at self-assertion, there had been the same character, but she had set
round it a little glow of her own, and covered up its imperfections
until she had forgotten them.  She had counted for love what was no more
than a mixture of vanity and self-will.  Old Moreau might have left
Fabien alone in this matter, and he would have ended by marrying a
_dot_.  Or, again, a little hardship and real work would have quickly
brought him back from South America.  But the old man yearned after his
prodigal.  He smoothed his way for him, all the time writing fierce
unforgiving letters demanding submission and return.  Fabien, who soon
found out where his good things came from, used to enjoy them
comfortably, and mock at the threats which they contradicted.  When at
last they stopped he was a little uneasy, and wrote two letters; but he
was receiving a good salary in an office, and there was no great
difficulty in being supplied with money.  M.  Moreau's feelings were
pretty well-known in Rio.  It seems sometimes in this world as if those
unloving natures that shut their hearts against the sunshine around them
are suffered to pour out all that they can give where they meet with no
return.  Perhaps that loving without response is at once their
punishment and their blessing.  Where all to us looks hard and barren
rock, there is at least one little stream of water trickling down into
the desert with unselfish bounty.

Fabien was the same--except that his faults and his weakness had in
those three years become more prominent--but Therese missed the key to
her puzzle, herself.  It was she who had changed, while all the time she
believed it to be Fabien.  She had grown up with disadvantages of
education like his own, but the nobler nature recognised a higher
standard when it was given, and strained towards it.  There was the
difference.  With all her faults and her visions of self-pleasing, she
had not the vain satisfied contentment which sees nothing better nor
more desirable than itself.  She was always, almost unconsciously,
wanting something beyond, and that desire is never ungratified.  At a
time when things seemed saddest, and all about her most mean and petty
and discouraging, she was shown a glimpse of the most perfect thing this
earth ever has to show--the heart of a good man.  There was this in
Therese--she recognised at once its goodness and its beauty, it showed
her what somehow she had failed to see before.  All work is not achieved
by the same instruments, though we sometimes speak as if it were.  Only
it is God's work always.  And I think that after Therese knew Max
Deshoulieres--knew him as she did in a hundred more ways than there has
been space to tell you about here--she unconsciously transferred his
qualities to Fabien, his generosity, and patience, and manliness, and
truth, and tenderness, so that she used to dream of Fabien with all
these making him beautiful.  As she rose herself, she could not but also
raise that one who held so dear a portion of her heart.  Absence
softened down the little remembrances which might have interfered with
her dreams.  And then came the awakening--the awakening, and, alas! the
contrast.  It is not when we first see what is lovely that.  We
appreciate it most.  It is when we come back to our former ideal.  All
the glory of mountains, and the vastness of their snow-fields, and the
tender radiance of their sunsets, do not fill us with their beauty
perfectly until we return and know for the first time how far they excel
the things to which our eye had become accustomed--our common hills.  It
hurts our loyalty sometimes to acknowledge it, but we cannot help it--
nay, we need not try to help it.  The best is to be the best always.

But if you have ever felt this, you will know something of the feeling
which was causing bitter pain to poor Therese, as she sat on the ground
in her room, with her head on the window-sill, and her eyes filling with
hot tears of shame.  She had believed love to be eternal, and lo! it had
died away out of her heart.  She scarcely thought of his own coldness,
of the studied way in which he had avoided any expression which should
lead her to fancy they met on terms in any way resembling those in which
they had parted.  If his words had been like fire, she knew her feelings
would not have been different--there, as I have said, was the sting.  So
ungenerous, so passionate, so weak!  And yet she blamed herself for
letting her love go.  She was very young.  She wanted some wise, tender
heart on which to rest her head and so pour out her perplexities.  But
she had no one.  Nannon, who had heard enough to make her furious, did
not know what to say or what to think about it; she had sense enough to
hold her tongue; at the same time it made a sort of restraint of which
they were both conscious.  Sister Gabrielle could not come to Therese;
she was ministering to a more terrible grief in a sadder room.  If she
had come, I doubt whether the girl would not have been too shy to tell
her pathetic little story.  And so she sat there and let her eyes rest
on the soft clouds and the Cathedral that carried upwards towards them
its burden of earth voices, anguish, and joy; and wondered vaguely what
was to come of it all, and whether she was to be left like a little waif
and stray in this hard forgetful world.  Pity her a little--my poor
Therese!  It was hard for her.  She was solitary and young, with no one
on whom to lavish innocent girlish caresses, no one to pet or to scold--
or to cherish her.  Even the sweet joy of helpfulness, which had taken
the bitterness out of her solitude, could not quite heal the pang.

M.  Deshoulieres did not come near her all that day.  He, too, was
suffering.  A hundred hopes and fears and doubts gave him no peace.  He
cared not a _sou_ for this retractation, which to the cure seemed such a
mighty matter; but his wrath blazed out against Fabien when he thought
of Therese.  He dared not go to her.  If he had known of what her heart
was full, he would have acted otherwise, but he felt as if, poor child,
it would be an intrusion upon her humiliation.  Her love had died; he
thought of it as still struggling, hoping, clinging.  They were not his
own wrongs, but hers, which made him so stern and abrupt in his
interview with Fabien and his lawyer on the following day.

No news came of the little notary.  After Madame Roulleau's confession,
however, there could be no difficulty about the will.  But there was a
clause which the lawyer read slowly, and to which M.  Deshoulieres, who
knew what was coming, listened with knitted brows.  A clause which
bequeathed a small sum for the maintenance of Mademoiselle Therese
Veuillot while she remained in Charville, "or until she be otherwise
provided for by Monsieur Fabien Saint-Martin."

M.  Laurent paused.  Fabien said, with a little laugh,--

"Ah!  I remember.  I used to have a _tendresse_ for the _belle Therese_.
I suppose my uncle thought it might come to something.  The sum is not
much; it may as well be continued.  _Allons_, M.  Laurent, pass on."

To tell the truth, he had begun to be afraid of M.  Deshoulieres; but he
had never so much cause to be afraid as at that moment.  Nevertheless
Max, still thinking of her, put a strong restraint upon himself, since
that secret of hers must be sacred from all the world.  He went slowly
away from the Cygne when all his disagreeable work there was at an end.
A train was nearly due, and the country people were flocking down to the
station with empty baskets, and a merry confusion of shrill voices.  It
was pretty generally known what the meeting was arranging that day: he
was not thinking about it when he found himself in the midst of a little
hubbub of congratulations and smiling faces.  It was so spontaneous that
he was greatly touched; he broke away as soon as he could, but the warm
homely blessings pursued him.  Just as he reached the Cathedral, he saw
Therese and Nannon going in.  He followed her; she did not see him, but
they were kneeling near one another, the vast length of the Cathedral
stretched before them, with rich deep shadows.  All the light came
through gorgeous panes of sapphire, ruby, orange: it was indescribably
beautiful and solemn.  As she carried back her chair she saw him, and
they went out together.  The old women sitting in the porch and selling
_brioche_ cakes, all knew of what was going on at the Prefecture, and
stopped their knitting to nod and smile.  Max, who only thought of
Therese, looked at her sad face with an infinite pity in his heart.

"Where are you going?" he asked.

"I do not know," she said, wearily.  "The funeral has been to-day, and
poor madame cannot bear to see me.  I came out because I thought she
wished me away."

"If mademoiselle stays in that miserable house she will die," said
Nannon, bluntly.

"Come this way," he said.

He led her down through the little narrow street to the Place where his
own house was.  Except a few _bonnet_ with their charges, the little
space under the trees was deserted.  They sat down together on one of
the green seats, and Nannon chatted with a little fat girl and her
nurse, who were solemnly throwing a ball backward and forward with
profound interest in their faces.  Max was not quite clear how to begin,
when Therese forestalled him.

"I cannot bear to think of what you have endured for us," she said
gently.  "You have been so kind a friend, and this must seem like such
terrible ingratitude!  I could not understand it all--so much has come
at the same time,"--she said, with a little trembling hesitation in her
voice which made him long to break out into passionate pleading.  But he
answered her very quietly.

"You need not think about it any more.  Such a mistake could only be
troublesome for a day or two.  And when M.  Moreau made his will, his
choice of me as a trustee was sufficiently unaccountable to set tongues
wagging.  The very fact of my being his medical attendant then prevented
any possibility of my benefiting under his will, as we all knew; but I
suppose there are always people who think that money sticks in the
fingering."

She shook her head.  "Fabien should not have believed it."

"But remember," he said, more eagerly than he might have done if it had
not been his rival whom he was defending--"there were quite enough odd
circumstances to make him suspicious.  I ought not to have left matters
as I did in Roulleau's hands.  You should recollect this.  M.
Saint-Martin had actual ground for his suspicions."  Therese paused for
a moment before she answered.

"It was afterwards--when he knew they were false."

"It is hard to shake off impressions."

What could he say?  His heart was torn in a hundred ways.  He longed to
help her--he feared to hurt her.  When he looked at her sad face, all
the anger in his nature leaped up against Fabien, and yet the very
strength of his feelings made him fear to be ungenerous.  Was it,
indeed, all over between them?  "About yourself?" he went on at last.

"Ah, yes, about myself.  Your troubles are not at an end, you see," she
said, with a little quivering attempt at playfulness.  "Am I to go on
living with Madame Roulleau?"

"I am afraid it will not do for you at all.  I do not like your being
there even now."

"But I am not so sure.  I have been thinking about it a great deal.  At
first I remembered that she used to say I was an expense; but yesterday,
do you recollect, she said that the money they had from me was what they
wanted?  If I went away, do you think she would be poorer? or is it too
little to help them?"

"I am sure it helps them," said M.  Deshoulieres, hesitating slightly.

"And yet it seems to be very little.  How much did my uncle leave me
exactly?"

"A thousand francs a year," he said, still reluctantly.

"And that is all they have had?  Ah, no, I perceive.  Oh, what have you
been doing!" she cried, her eyes filling with tears.

He turned away from them almost abruptly.  "Bah!" he said.  "Of course a
_depositaire_ has to see to such little things.  That is nothing.  You
should rather blame me for the bad choice I made.  I will tell you what
strikes me.  There is a Madame Aubert here, an excellent woman, whose
husband has but lately died, and whose daughter is delicate and wants a
companion of her own age.  I think you might be very happy there,
provided,"--his voice trembled--"provided you desire to remain in
Charville?"

"Where could I go?" she said, with heavy tears dropping from her eyes.
"I wonder whether in all France there is any one so friendless as I am."
It was spoken under her breath, but he caught the forlorn words.

"Therese!" he said passionately.  "Therese!--"

She half rose from the seat, turning on him a frightened face.  He
stopped her.

"Hear me at least," he said.  "I ask nothing--nothing: I would not pain
you, no, not for all the joy which a word of yours might bring.  I have
not forgotten what you told me,--if you repeat it now, my Therese, I
swear your love shall be to me as sacred a thing as it has been since I
heard it from your lips.  If it is so, I will say only, forgive me, and
trust me once more.  But, if things are not as they were--if--if--" His
great frame shook with emotion, he put out his hands, his voice was
choked.  Then he recovered himself with a strong effort.  "Therese, is
there any hope?"

She was silent.  What was this rush of tenderness which swept across her
heart?  What was this great contentment which seemed suddenly to calm
all the sadness and the wounds and the self reproach of the past days?
Could it be new, this feeling which seemed to fill her whole being with
a sense of unutterable happiness?  Ah, no, more likely all this time it
had been growing in her unawares.  More likely, as has been said before,
she had taken his goodness, and his nobility, and his tenderness, and
had set them up in her heart, and called the image Fabien.  She had done
it in good faith, all unconsciously, only she had been treasuring a
shadow; and, lo! there came a waft, and the shadow was gone.  It may
have been strange that the awakening had not come before; nevertheless
it had not.  She had been faithful to Fabien, but it was to Fabien
dressed in M.  Deshoulieres' virtues.  Sometimes those deceptions are
very terrible.  With the real knowledge there comes every now and then a
blank, or, what is worse, the terrible word, "too late."  One is
thankful that for this poor little Therese there were better things, and
that circumstances occurred to show her Fabien's character at once
without the veil which might have carried on the deception and made her
burden infinitely harder.  She was silent.  But over her face there came
a soft, tender flush, her sweet eyes looked shyly up into his.

"Is there any hope?" he said again, bending over her, and speaking in a
low, quick, eager tone.

And then into his outstretched hands she put her own...

Before they went home she told him all that had troubled her.  And he,
in his turn, told her something.  He showed her the little dull balcony
between the trees, where once he had pictured her sitting waiting, in
the warm glow of light.  They went a little nearer, these two, and
looked at it.  Nannon, who was getting rather tired of her play with the
sturdy little woman who went solemnly through her pranks, came across,
and asked what they were talking about.

"We are settling a new dress for mademoiselle," said M.  Deshoulieres,
his honest blue eyes brimming over with fun.  "It must be white and
something shiny."

"White and shiny!  That will be a bride's dress," cried Nannon, all her
teeth showing.  "So that is it, mademoiselle?  I am as happy as a little
cat.  There is a little good news come at last; for, what with fevers
and wickednesses, and that angel of a Jean-Marie wanting to go for a
drummer ever since he saw the last review, I can scarcely sleep at
night.  And monsieur is going to have a deputation and the thanks of the
town--has he heard?"

They went back slowly through the narrow tangled streets, and past the
Eveche into the Place Notre Dame.  There rose the Cathedral, golden with
the glow of the autumnal sun; there stood the serene statues
encompassing it solemnly.  Little dappled ranks of clouds rested quietly
on the blue heavens, the jackdaws flew in and out of their carved homes;
two great hawks that lived up there with them swooped lazily along, or
hung poised in midair.  After the stifling oppression of the summer,
this cool, sweet autumn came with a sense of delicious relief.  These
two had their hearts almost too full for speech, but I do not know that
silence was not as sweet to both.  I do not know that we can leave them
better than here, under the shadow of the great Cathedral, in the glow
of the golden sunshine.

The little notary had disappeared, and, except the fact that he had not
been seen at Tours, nothing could be ascertained about him.  Whether he
fled from the fever, his wife, or Monsieur Saint-Martin, remained also
an open question for Charville to decide.  He never came back again,
that was the only sure point.  Therese went to Madame Aubert for a
little while, for Madame Roulleau, when no tidings arrived from her
husband, left Charville--a broken-down woman.  M.  Deshoulieres best
knows where she is gone.  And Fabien is reported to have married a
widow, rich and noble, and to live in superb apartments in Paris.

Charville has not changed very much, after all.  Something has been
done, but it remains still almost the same picturesque, shadowy, dirty
old town.  Down by the stone fountain the women chatter and gossip as
shrilly as ever, and drown the undertone of the river; the sun shines
softly upon the yellow cornfields, and the tall gabled roofs, and the
Cathedral that crowns them all.  One fancies it is a little like a life.
Above broken imperfections, above din and jar and fret, there rises
evermore the something higher towards which our eyes may turn, our weary
feet may press.  If it were not so, we should be lingering in the
cornfields and in the streets for ever.  But when we once have felt that
other beauty, its desire can never again go out of our souls.  And there
are many ways by which we are led upwards.





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