Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: In the Village of Viger
Author: Scott, Duncan Campbell
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "In the Village of Viger" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



http://www.pgdpcanada.net with images provided by Canadiana



                        IN THE VILLAGE OF VIGER



                                 IN THE
                            VILLAGE OF VIGER


                                   BY
                         DUNCAN CAMPBELL SCOTT



                             [Illustration]



                                 BOSTON
                            COPELAND AND DAY
                               MDCCCXCVI



                    ENTERED ACCORDING TO THE ACT OF
                    CONGRESS IN THE YEAR 1896 BY
                    COPELAND AND DAY, IN THE OFFICE
                    OF THE LIBRARIAN OF CONGRESS
                    AT WASHINGTON.



                TO MY DAUGHTER
              ELIZABETH DUNCAN SCOTT
        Robins and bobolinks bubbling and tinkling,
          Shore-larks alive there high in the blue,
        Level in the sunlight the rye-field twinkling,
          The wind parts the cloud and a star leaps through,
        Ferns at the spring-head curling cool and tender,
          Bloodroot in the tangle, violets by the larch,
        In the dusky evening the young moon slender,
          Glowing like a crocus in the dells of March;
        All a world of music, of laughter, and of lightness,
          Crushed to a diamond, rounded to a pearl,
        Moulded to a flower bell,—cannot match the brightness
          In the darling beauty of one sweet girl.



          _I am indebted to Messrs. Charles Scribner’s Sons_
          _for permission to reprint several of these tales._
                                                   _D. C. S._



                Whoever has from toil and stress
                Put into ports of idleness,
                And watched the gleaming thistledown
                Wheel in the soft air lazily blown;
                Beneath the poplars, silver pale,
                Eyed in the shallow amber pools
                The black perch voyaging in schools;
                His strange and questionable lore,
                While the cream-blossomed basswood-trees
                Boomed like an organ with the bees;
                Has startled with prosaic hoof,
                Beneath the willows in the shade,
                The wooing of a pretty maid;
                And traced the sharp or genial air
                Of human nature everywhere:
                Might find perchance the wandered fire,
                Around St. Joseph’s sparkling spire;
                And wearied with the fume and strife,
                The complex joys and ills of life,
                Might for an hour his worry staunch,
                In pleasant Viger by the Blanche.



                                CONTENTS


                                                   PAGE
                   THE LITTLE MILLINER               13
                   THE DESJARDINS                    30
                   THE WOOING OF MONSIEUR CUERRIER   39
                   SEDAN                             51
                   NO. 68 RUE ALFRED DE MUSSET       63
                   THE BOBOLINK                      78
                   THE TRAGEDY OF THE SEIGNIORY      85
                   JOSEPHINE LABROSSE               101
                   THE PEDLER                       113
                   PAUL FARLOTTE                    119



                        IN THE VILLAGE OF VIGER



                        IN THE VILLAGE OF VIGER


[Illustration]


                          THE LITTLE MILLINER.

IT was too true that the city was growing rapidly. As yet its arms
were not long enough to embrace the little village of Viger, but before
long they would be, and it was not a time that the inhabitants looked
forward to with any pleasure. It was not to be wondered at, for few
places were more pleasant to live in. The houses, half-hidden amid the
trees, clustered around the slim steeple of St. Joseph’s, which flashed
like a naked poniard in the sun. They were old, and the village was
sleepy, almost dozing, since the mill, behind the rise of land, on the
Blanche had shut down. The miller had died; and who would trouble to
grind what little grist came to the mill, when flour was so cheap? But
while the beech-groves lasted, and the Blanche continued to run, it
seemed impossible that any change could come. The change was coming,
however, rapidly enough. Even now, on still nights, above the noise of
the frogs in the pools, you could hear the rumble of the street-cars and
the faint tinkle of their bells, and when the air was moist the whole
southern sky was luminous with the reflection of thousands of gas-lamps.
But when the time came for Viger to be mentioned in the city papers as
one of the outlying wards, what a change there would be! There would be
no unfenced fields, full of little inequalities and covered with short
grass; there would be no deep pools, where the quarries had been, and
where the boys pelted the frogs; there would be no more beech-groves,
where the children could gather nuts; and the dread pool, which had
filled the shaft where old Daigneau, years ago, mined for gold, would
cease to exist. But in the meantime, the boys of Viger roamed over the
unclosed fields and pelted the frogs, and the boldest ventured to roll
huge stones into Daigneau’s pit, and only waited to see the green slime
come working up to the surface before scampering away, their flesh
creeping with the idea that it was old Daigneau himself who was stirring
up the water in a rage.

New houses had already commenced to spring up in all directions, and
there was a large influx of the laboring population which overflows from
large cities. Even on the main street of Viger, on a lot which had been
vacant ever since it was a lot, the workmen had built a foundation.
After a while it was finished, when men from the city came and put up
the oddest wooden house that one could imagine. It was perfectly square;
there was a window and a door in front, a window at the side, and a
window upstairs. There were many surmises as to the probable occupant of
such a diminutive habitation; and the widow Laroque, who made dresses
and trimmed hats, and whose shop was directly opposite, and next door to
the Post Office, suffered greatly from unsatisfied curiosity. No one who
looked like the proprietor was ever seen near the place. The foreman of
the laborers who were working at the house seemed to know nothing; all
that he said, in answer to questions, was: “I have my orders.”

At last the house was ready; it was painted within and without, and
Madame Laroque could scarcely believe her eyes when, one morning, a man
came from the city with a small sign under his arm and nailed it above
the door. It bore these words: “Mademoiselle Viau, Milliner.” “Ah!” said
Madame Laroque, “the bread is to be taken out of my mouth.” The next day
came a load of furniture,—not a very large load, as there was only a
small stove, two tables, a bedstead, three chairs, a sort of lounge, and
two large boxes. The man who brought the things put them in the house,
and locked the door on them when he went away; then nothing happened for
two weeks, but Madame Laroque watched. Such a queer little house it was,
as it stood there so new in its coat of gum-colored paint. It looked
just like a square bandbox which some Titan had made for his wife; and
there seemed no doubt that if you took hold of the chimney and lifted
the roof off, you would see the gigantic bonnet, with its strings and
ribbons, which the Titaness could wear to church on Sundays.

Madame Laroque wondered how Mademoiselle Viau would come, whether in a
cab, with her trunks and boxes piled around her, or on foot, and have
her belongings on a cart. She watched every approaching vehicle for two
weeks in vain; but one morning she saw that a curtain had been put up on
the window opposite, that it was partly raised, and that a geranium was
standing on the sill. For one hour she never took her eyes off the door,
and at last had the satisfaction of seeing it open. A trim little
person, not very young, dressed in gray, stepped out on the platform
with her apron full of crumbs and cast them down for the birds. Then,
without looking around, she went in and closed the door. It was
Mademoiselle Viau. “The bird is in its nest,” thought the old
postmaster, who lived alone with his mother. All that Madame Laroque
said was: “Ah!”

Mademoiselle Viau did not stir out that day, but on the next she went to
the baker’s and the butcher’s and came over the road to Monsieur
Cuerrier, the postmaster, who also kept a grocery.

That evening, according to her custom, Madame Laroque called on Madame
Cuerrier.

“We have a neighbor,” she said.

“Yes.”

“She was making purchases to-day.”

“Yes.”

“To-morrow she will expect people to make purchases.”

“Without doubt.”

“It is very tormenting, this, to have these irresponsible girls, that no
one knows anything about, setting up shops under our very noses. Why
does she live alone?”

“I did not ask her,” answered Cuerrier, to whom the question was
addressed.

“You are very cool, Monsieur Cuerrier; but if it was a young man and a
postmaster, instead of a young woman and a milliner, you would not
relish it.”

“There can be only one postmaster,” said Cuerrier.

“In Paris, where I practised my art,” said Monsieur Villeblanc, who was
a retired hairdresser, “there were whole rows of tonsorial parlors, and
every one had enough to do.” Madame Laroque sniffed, as she always did
in his presence.

“Did you see her hat?” she asked.

“I did, and it was very nice.”

“Nice! with the flowers all on one side? I wouldn’t go to St. Thérèse
with it on.” St. Thérèse was the postmaster’s native place.

“The girl has no taste,” she continued.

“Well, if she hasn’t, you needn’t be afraid of her.”

“There will be no choice between you,” said the retired hairdresser,
maliciously.

But there was a choice between them, and all the young girls of Viger
chose Mademoiselle Viau. It was said she had such an eye; she would take
a hat and pin a bow on here, and loop a ribbon there, and cast a flower
on somewhere else, all the time surveying her work with her head on one
side and her mouth bristling with pins. “There, how do you like
that?—put it on—no, it is not becoming—wait!” and in a trice the
desired change was made. She had no lack of work from the first; soon
she had too much to do. At all hours of the day she could be seen
sitting at her window, working, and “she must be making money fast,”
argued Madame Laroque, “for she spends nothing.” In truth, she spent
very little—she lived so plainly. Three times a week she took a fresh
twist from the baker, once a day, the milkman left a pint of milk, and
once every week mademoiselle herself stepped out to the butcher’s and
bought a pound of steak. Occasionally she mailed a letter, which she
always gave into the hands of the postmaster; if he was not there she
asked for a pound of tea or something else that she needed. She was fast
friends with Cuerrier, but with no one else, as she never received
visitors. Once only did a young man call on her. It was young Jourdain,
the clerk in the dry-goods store. He had knocked at the door and was
admitted. “Ah!” said Madame Laroque, “it is the young men who can
conquer.” But the next moment Monsieur Jourdain came out, and, strangely
enough, was so bewildered as to forget to put on his hat. It was not
this young man who could conquer.

“There is something mysterious about that young person,” said Madame
Laroque between her teeth.

“Yes,” replied Cuerrier, “very mysterious—she minds her own business.”

“Bah!” said the widow, “who can tell what her business is, she who comes
from no one knows where? But I’ll find out what all this secrecy means,
trust me!”

So the widow watched the little house and its occupant very closely, and
these are some of the things she saw: Every morning an open door and
crumbs for the birds, the watering of the geranium, which was just going
to flower, a small figure going in and out, dressed in gray, and,
oftener than anything else, the same figure sitting at the window,
working. This continued for a year with little variation, but still the
widow watched. Every one else had accepted the presence of the new
resident as a benefaction. They had got accustomed to her. They called
her “the little milliner.” Old Cuerrier called her “the little one in
gray.” But she was not yet adjusted in the widow’s system of things. She
laid a plot with her second cousin, which was that the cousin should get
a hat made by Mademoiselle Viau, and that she should ask her some
questions.

“Mademoiselle Viau, were you born in the city?”

“I do not think, Mademoiselle, that green will become you.”

“No, perhaps not. Where did you live before you came here?”

“Mademoiselle, this gray shape is very pretty.” And so on.

That plan would not work.

But before long something very suspicious happened. One evening, just
about dusk, as Madame Laroque was walking up and down in front of her
door, a man of a youthful appearance came quickly up the street, stepped
upon Mademoiselle Viau’s platform, opened the door without knocking, and
walked in. Mademoiselle was working in the last vestige of daylight, and
the widow watched her like a lynx. She worked on unconcernedly, and when
it became so dark that she could not see she lit her lamp and pulled
down the curtain. That night Madame Laroque did not go into Cuerrier’s.
It commenced to rain, but she put on a large frieze coat of the deceased
Laroque and crouched in the dark. She was very much interested in this
case, but her interest brought no additional knowledge. She had seen the
man go in; he was rather young and about the medium height, and had a
black mustache; she could remember him distinctly, but she did not see
him come out.

The next morning Mademoiselle Viau’s curtain went up as usual, and as it
was her day to go to the butcher’s she went out. While she was away
Madame Laroque took a long look in at the side window, but there was
nothing to see except the lounge and the table.

While Madame Laroque had been watching in the rain, Cuerrier was reading
to Villeblanc from _Le Monde_. “Hello!” said he, and then went on
reading to himself.

“Have you lost your voice?” asked Villeblanc, getting nettled.

“No, no; listen to this—‘Daring Jewel Robbery. A Thief in the Night.’”
These were the headings of the column, and then followed the
particulars. In the morning the widow borrowed the paper, as she had
been too busy the night before to come and hear it read. She looked over
the front page, when her eye caught the heading, “Daring Jewel Robbery,”
and she read the whole story. As she neared the end her eyebrows
commenced to travel up her forehead, as if they were going to hide in
her hair, and with an expression of surprise she tossed the paper to her
second cousin.

“Look here!” she said, “read this out to me.”

The second cousin commenced to read at the top.

“No, no! right here.”

“‘The man Durocher, who is suspected of the crime, is not tall, wears a
heavy mustache, has gray eyes, and wears an ear-ring in his left ear. He
has not been seen since Saturday.’”

“I told you so!” exclaimed the widow.

“You told me nothing of the kind,” said the second cousin.

“He had no ear-ring in his ear,” said the widow—“but—but—but it was
the _right_ ear that I saw. Hand me my shawl!”

“Where are you going?”

“I have business; never mind!” She took the paper with her and went
straight to the constable.

“But,” said he, “I cannot come.”

“There is no time to be lost; you must come now.”

“But he will be desperate; he will face me like a lion.”

“Never mind! you will have the reward.”

“Well, wait!” And the constable went upstairs to get his pistol.

He came down with his blue coat on. He was a very fat man, and was out
of breath when he came to the little milliner’s.

“But who shall I ask for?” he inquired of Madame Laroque.

“Just search the house, and I will see that he does not escape by the
back door.” She had forgotten that there was no back door.

“Do you want a bonnet?” asked Mademoiselle Viau. She was on excellent
terms with the constable.

“No!” said he, sternly. “You have a man in this house, and I have come
to find him.”

“Indeed?” said mademoiselle, very stiffly. “Will you be pleased to
proceed?”

“Yes,” said he, taking out his pistol and cocking it. “I will first look
downstairs.” He did so, and only frightened a cat from under the stove.
No one knew that Mademoiselle Viau had a cat.

“Lead the way upstairs!” commanded the constable.

“I am afraid of your pistol, will you not go first?”

He went first and entered at once the only room, for there was no hall.
In the mean time Madame Laroque had found out that there was no back
door, and had come into the lower flat and reinspected it, looking under
everything.

“Open that closet!” said the constable, as he levelled his pistol at the
door.

Mademoiselle threw open the door and sprang away, with her hands over
her ears. There was no one there; neither was there any one under the
bed.

“Open that trunk!” eying the little leather-covered box.

“Monsieur, you will respect—but—as you will.” She stooped over the
trunk and threw back the lid; on the top was a dainty white skirt,
embroidered beautifully. The little milliner was blushing violently.

“That will do!” said the constable. “There is no one there.”

“Get out of the road!” he cried to the knot of people who had collected
at the door. “I have been for my wife’s bonnet; it is not finished.” But
the people looked at his pistol, which he had forgotten to put away. He
went across to the widow’s.

“Look here!” he said, “you had better stop this or I’ll have the law on
you—no words now! Making a fool of me before the people—getting me to
put on my coat and bring my pistol to frighten a cat from under the
stove. No words now!”

“Monsieur Cuerrier,” inquired Madame Laroque that night, “who is it that
Mademoiselle Viau writes to?”

“I am an official of the government. I do not tell state secrets.”

“State secrets, indeed! Depend upon it, there are secrets in those
letters which the state would like to know.”

“That is not my business. I only send the letters where they are posted,
and refuse to tell amiable widows where they go.”

The hairdresser, forgetting his constant fear of disarranging his
attire, threw back his head and laughed wildly.

“Trust a barber to laugh,” said the widow. Villeblanc sobered up and
look sadly at Cuerrier; he could not bear to be called a barber.

“And you uphold her in this—a person who comes from no one knows where,
and writes to no one knows who——”

“I know who she writes to——” The widow got furious.

“Yes, who she writes to—yes, of course you do—that person who comes
out of her house without ever having gone into it, and who is visited by
men who go in and never come out——”

“How do you know he went in?”

“I saw him.”

“How do you know he never came out?”

“I didn’t see him.”

“Ah! then you were watching?”

“Well, what if I was! The devil has a hand in it.”

“I have no doubt,” said Cuerrier, insinuatingly.

“Enough, fool!” exclaimed the widow—“but wait, I have not done yet!”

“You had better rest, or you will have the law on you.”

The widow was afraid of the law.

About six months after this, when the snow was coming on, a messenger
came from the city with a telegram for Monsieur Cuerrier—at least, it
was in his care. He very seldom went out, but he got his boots and went
across to Mademoiselle Viau’s. The telegram was for her. When she had
read it she crushed it in her hand and leaned against the wall. But she
recovered herself.

“Monsieur Cuerrier, you have always been a good friend to me—help me! I
must go away—you will watch my little place when I am gone!”

The postmaster was struck with pity, and he assisted her. She left that
night.

“_Accomplice!_” the widow hissed in his ear the first chance she got.

About three weeks after this, when Madame Laroque asked for _Le Monde_,
Cuerrier refused to give it to her.

“Where is it?”

“It has been lost.”

“_Lost!_” said the widow, derisively. “Well, I will find it.” In an hour
she came back with the paper.

“There!” said she, thrusting it under the postmaster’s nose so that he
could not get his pipe back to his mouth. Cuerrier looked consciously at
the paragraph which she had pointed out. He had seen it before.

“Our readers will remember that the police, while attempting to arrest
one Ellwell for the jewel-robbery which occurred in the city some time
ago, were compelled to fire on the man in self-defence. He died last
night in the arms of a female relative, who had been sent for at his
request. He was known by various names—Durocher, Gillet, etc.—and the
police have had much trouble with him.”

“There!” said the widow.

“Well, what of that?”

“He died in the arms of a female relative.”

“Well, were you the relative?”

“Indeed! my fine fellow, be careful! Do you think I would be the female
relative of a convict? Do you not know any of these names?” The
postmaster felt guilty; he did know one of the names.

“They are common enough,” he replied. “The name of my aunt’s second
husband was Durocher.”

“It will not do!” said the widow. “Somebody builds a house, no one knows
who; people come and go, no one knows how; and you, a stupid postmaster,
shut your eyes and help things along.”

Three days after this, Mademoiselle Viau came home. She was no longer
the little one in gray; she was the little one in black. She came
straight to Monsieur Cuerrier to get her cat. Then she went home. The
widow watched her go in. “Now,” she said, “we will not see her come out
again.”

Mademoiselle Viau refused to take any more work. She was sick, she said;
she wanted to rest. She rested for two weeks, and Monsieur Cuerrier
brought her food ready cooked. Then he stopped; she was better. One
evening Madame Laroque peeped in at the side window. She saw the little
milliner quite distinctly. She was on her knees, her face was hidden in
her arms. The fire was very bright, and the lamp was lighted.

Two days after that the widow said to Cuerrier: “It is very strange
there is no smoke. Has Mademoiselle Viau gone away?”

“Yes, she has gone.”

“Did you see her go?”

“No.”

“It is as I said—no one has seen her go. But wait, she will come back;
and no one will see her come.”

That was three years ago, and she has not come back. All the white
curtains are pulled down. Between the one that covers the front window
and the sash stands the pot in which grew the geranium. It only had one
blossom all the time it was alive, and it is dead now and looks like a
dry stick. No one knows what will become of the house. Madame Laroque
thinks that Monsieur Cuerrier knows. She expects, some morning, to look
across and see the little milliner cast down crumbs for the birds. In
the meantime, in every corner of the house the spiders are weaving webs,
and an enterprising caterpillar has blocked up the key-hole with his
cocoon.



                            THE DESJARDINS.


JUST at the foot of the hill, where the bridge crossed the Blanche,
stood one of the oldest houses in Viger. It was built of massive
timbers. The roof curved and projected beyond the eaves, forming the top
of a narrow veranda. The whole house was painted a dazzling white except
the window-frames, which were green. There was a low stone fence between
the road and the garden, where a few simple flowers grew. Beyond the
fence was a row of Lombardy poplars, some of which had commenced to die
out. On the opposite side of the road was a marshy field, where by day
the marsh marigolds shone, and by night, the fire-flies. There were
places in this field where you could thrust down a long pole and not
touch bottom. In the fall a few musk-rats built a house there, in
remembrance of the time when it was a favorite wintering-ground. In the
spring the Blanche came up and flowed over it. Beyond that again the
hill curved round, with a scarped, yellowish slope.

In this house lived Adèle Desjardin with her two brothers, Charles and
Philippe. Their father was dead, and when he died there was hardly a
person in the whole parish who was sorry. They could remember him as a
tall, dark, forbidding-looking man, with long arms out of all proportion
to his body. He had inherited his fine farm from his father, and had
added to and improved it. He had always been prosperous, and was
considered the wealthiest man in the parish. He was inhospitable, and
became more taciturn and morose after his wife died. His pride was
excessive and kept him from associating with his neighbors, although he
was in no way above them. Very little was known about his manner of
life, and there was a mystery about his father’s death. For some time
the old man had not been seen about the place, when one day he came from
the city, dead, and in his coffin, which was thought strange. This gave
rise to all sorts of rumor and gossip; but the generally accredited
story was, that there was insanity in the family and that he had died
crazy.

However cold Isidore Desjardin was to his neighbors, no one could have
charged him with being unkind or harsh with his children, and as they
grew up he gave them all the advantages which it was possible for them
to have. Adèle went for a year to the Convent of the Sacre Cœur in the
city, and could play tunes on the piano when she came back; so that she
had to have a piano of her own, which was the first one ever heard in
Viger. She was a slight, angular girl, with a dark, thin face and black
hair and eyes. She looked like her father, and took after him in many
ways. Charles, the elder son, was like his grandfather, tall and
muscular, with a fine head and a handsome face. He was studious and read
a great deal, and was always talking to the curé about studying the law.
Philippe did not care about books; his father could never keep him at
school. He was short and thick-set and had merry eyes, set deep in his
head. “Some one must learn to look after things,” he said, and when his
father died he took sole charge of everything.

If the Desjardins were unsociable with others, they were happy among
themselves. Almost every evening during the winter, when the work was
done, they would light up the front room with candles, and Adèle would
play on the piano and sing. Charles would pace to and fro behind her,
and Philippe would thrust his feet far under the stove, that projected
from the next room through the partition, and fall fast asleep. Her
songs were mostly old French songs, and she could sing “Partant pour la
Syrie” and “La Marseillaise.” This last was a favorite with Charles; he
could not sing himself, but he accompanied the music by making wild
movements with his arms, tramping heavily up and down before the piano,
and shouting out so loudly as to wake Philippe, “Aux armes, citoyens!”
On fine summer evenings Philippe and Adèle would walk up and down the
road, watching the marsh fire-flies, and pausing on the bridge to hear
the fish jump in the pool, and the deep, vibrant croak of the distant
frogs. It was not always Philippe who walked there with Adèle; he
sometimes sat on the veranda and watched her walk with some one else. He
would have waking dreams, as he smoked, that the two figures moving
before him were himself and some one into whose eyes he was looking.

At last it came to be reality for him, and then he could not sit quietly
and watch the lovers; he would let his pipe go out, and stride
impatiently up and down the veranda. And on Sunday afternoons he would
harness his horse, dress himself carefully, and drive off with short
laughs, and twinklings of the eyes, and wavings of the hands. They were
evidently planning the future; and it seemed a distance of vague
happiness.

Charles kept on his wonted way; if they talked in the parlor, they could
hear him stirring upstairs; if they strolled in the road, they could see
his light in the window. Philippe humored his studious habits; he only
worked in the mornings; in the afternoons he read, history principally.
His favorite study was the “Life of Napoleon Buonaparte,” which seemed
to absorb him completely. He was growing more retired and preoccupied
every day,—lost in deep reveries, swallowed of ambitious dreams.

It had been a somewhat longer day than usual in the harvest-field, and
it was late when the last meal was ready. Philippe, as he called
Charles, from the foot of the stair, could hear him walking up and down,
seemingly reading out loud, and when he received no response to his
demand he went up the stairs. Pushing open the door, he saw his brother
striding up and down the room, with his hands clasped behind him and his
head bent, muttering to himself.

“Charles!” He seemed to collect himself, and looked up. “Come down to
supper!” They went downstairs together. Adèle and Philippe kept up a
conversation throughout the meal, but Charles hardly spoke. Suddenly he
pushed his plate away and stood upright, to his full height; a look of
calm, severe dignity came over his face.

“I!” said he; “I am the Great Napoleon!”

“Charles!” cried Adèle, “what is the matter?”

“The prosperity of the nation depends upon the execution of my plans.
Go!” said he, dismissing some imaginary person with an imperious
gesture.

They sat as if stunned, and between them stood this majestic figure with
outstretched hand. Then Charles turned away and commenced to pace the
room.

“It has come!” sobbed Adèle, as she sank on her knees beside the table.

“There is only one thing to do,” said Philippe, after some hours of
silence. “It is hard; but there is only one thing to do.” The room was
perfectly dark; he stood in the window, where he had seen the light die
out of the sky, and now in the marshy field he saw the fireflies gleam.
He knew that Adèle was in the dark somewhere beside him, for he could
hear her breathe. “We must cut ourselves off; we must be the last of our
race.” In those words, which in after years were often on his lips, he
seemed to find some comfort, and he continued to repeat them to himself.

Charles lay in bed in a sort of stupor for three days. On Sunday morning
he rose. The church bells were ringing. He met Philippe in the hall.

“Is this Sunday?” he asked.

“Yes.”

“Come here!” They went into the front room.

“This is Sunday, you say. The last thing I remember was you telling me
to go in—that was Wednesday. What has happened?” Philippe dropped his
head in his hands.

“Tell me, Philippe, what has happened?”

“I cannot.”

“I must know, Philippe; where have I been?”

“On Wednesday night,” said he, as if the words were choking him, “you
said, ‘I am the Great Napoleon!’ Then you said something about the
nation, and you have not spoken since.”

Charles dropped on his knees beside the table against which Philippe was
leaning. He hid his face in his arms. Philippe, reaching across, thrust
his fingers into his brother’s brown hair. The warm grasp came as an
answer to all Charles’s unasked questions; he knew that, whatever might
happen, his brother would guard him.

For a month or two he lay wavering between two worlds; but when he saw
the first snow, and lost sight of the brown earth, he at once commenced
to order supplies, to write despatches, and to make preparations for the
gigantic expedition which was to end in the overthrow of the Emperor of
all the Russias. And the snow continues to bring him this activity;
during the summer, he is engaged, with no very definite operations, in
the field, but when winter comes he always prepares for the invasion of
Russia. With the exception of certain days of dejection and trouble,
which Adèle calls the Waterloo days, in the summer he is triumphant with
perpetual victory. On a little bare hill, about a mile from the house,
from which you can get an extensive view of the sloping country, he
watches the movements of the enemy. The blasts at the distant quarries
sound in his ears like the roar of guns. Beside him the old gray horse,
that Philippe has set apart for his service, crops the grass or stands
for hours patiently. Down in the shallow valley the Blanche runs,
glistening; the mowers sway and bend; on the horizon shafts of smoke
rise, little clouds break away from the masses and drop their quiet
shadows on the fields. And through his glass Charles watches the moving
shadows, the shafts of smoke, and the swaying mowers, watches the
distant hills fringed with beech-groves. He despatches his aides-de-camp
with important orders, or rides down the slope to oversee the fording of
the Blanche. Half-frightened village boys hide in the long grass to hear
him go muttering by. In the autumn he comes sadly up out of the valley,
leading his horse, the rein through his arm and his hands in his
coat-sleeves. The sleet dashes against him, and the wind rushes and
screams around him, as he ascends the little knoll. But whatever the
weather, Philippe waits in the road for him and helps him dismount.
There is something heroic in his short figure.

“Sire, my brother!” he says;—“Sire let us go in!”

“Is the King of Rome better?”

“Yes.”

“And the Empress?”

“She is well.”

Only once has a gleam of light pierced these mists. It was in the year
when, as Adèle said, he had had two Waterloos and had taken to his bed
in consequence. One evening Adèle brought him a bowl of gruel. He stared
like a child awakened from sleep when she carried in the lamp. She
approached the bed, and he started up.

“Adèle!” he said, hoarsely, and pulling her face down, kissed her lips.
For a moment she had hope, but with the next week came winter; and he
commenced his annual preparations for the invasion of Russia.



                         THE WOOING OF MONSIEUR
                                CUERRIER.


IT had been one of those days that go astray in the year, and carry
the genius of their own month into the alien ground of another. This one
had mistaken the last month of spring for the last month of summer, and
had lighted a May day with an August sun. The tender foliage of the
trees threw almost transparent shadows, and the leaves seemed to burn
with a green liquid fire in the windless air. Toward noon the damp
fields commenced to exhale a moist haze that spread, gauze-like, across
the woods. Growing things seemed to shrink from this heavy burden of
sun, and if one could have forgotten that there were yet trilliums in
the woods, he might have expected summer sounds on the summer air. After
the sun had set the atmosphere hung dense, falling into darkness without
a movement, and when night had come the sultry air was broken by flashes
of pale light, that played fitfully and without direction. People sat on
their door-steps for air, or paced the walks languidly. It was not a
usual thing for Monsieur Cuerrier to go out after nightfall; his shop
was a general rendezvous, and the news and the gossip of the
neighborhood came to him without his search. But something had been
troubling him all day, and at last, when his evening mail was closed, he
put on his boots and went out. He sauntered down the street in his shirt
sleeves, with his fingers in his vest pockets. His face did not lose its
gravity until he had seated himself opposite his friend Alexis Girouard,
and put a pipe between his teeth. Then he looked over the candle which
stood between them, and something gleamed in his eye; he nursed his
elbow and surveyed his friend. Alexis Girouard was a small man, with
brown side-whiskers; his face was so round, and the movements of his
person so rapid, that he looked like a squirrel whose cheeks are
distended with nuts. By occupation he was a buyer of butter and eggs,
and went about the country in a calash, driving his bargains. This
shrewd fellow, whom no one could get the better of at trade, was ruled
by his maiden sister with a rod of iron. He even enjoyed the friendship
of Cuerrier by sufferance; their interviews were carried on almost
clandestinely, with the figure of the terrible Diana always imminent.

When a sufficient cloud of smoke was spread around the room, Cuerrier
asked, “Where is she?” Alexis darted a glance in the direction of the
village, removing his pipe and pointing to the same quarter; then he
heaved a relieved sigh, and commenced smoking again.

“So you are sure she’s out?” said Cuerrier.

Alexis looked uneasy. “No,” he answered, “I can’t be sure she’s out.”

Cuerrier burst into a hearty laugh. Alexis stepped to the door and
listened; when he came back and sat down, Cuerrier said, without looking
at him, “Look here, Alexis, I’m going to get married.”

His companion started so that he knocked some of the ashes from his
pipe, then with a nervous jump he snatched the candle and went into the
kitchen. Cuerrier, left in the dark, shook with silent laughter. Alexis
came back after making sure that Diana was not there, and before seating
himself he held the candle close to his friend’s face and surveyed him
shrewdly.

“So, are you not mad?”

“No, I’m not mad.”

Alexis sat down, very much troubled in mind. “You see I’m not young, and
the mother is getting old—see? Now, last week she fell down into the
kitchen.”

“Well, your getting married won’t prevent her falling into the kitchen.”

“It is not that so much, Alexis, my good friend, but if you had no one
to look after things—” here Alexis winced—“you would perhaps think of
it too.”

“But you are old—how old?”

Cuerrier took his pipe from his mouth and traced in the air what to
Alexis’s eyes looked like the figure fifty. Cuerrier offered him the
candle. “There is not a gray hair in my head.” Girouard took the light
and glanced down on his friend’s shock of brown hair so finely
disordered. He sat down satisfied.

“To whom now—tell me what charming girl is to be the postmistress of
Viger; is it the Madame Laroque?”

Cuerrier broke again into one of his valiant laughs.

“Guess again,” he cried, “you are near it. You’ll burn yourself next
time.”

“Not the second cousin—not possible—not Césarine Angers?”

Cuerrier, grown more sober, had made various signs of acquiescence.

“And what will your friend the widow say?”

“See here, Alexis, she’s—” he was going to say something
violent—“she’s one of the troubles.”

“Bah! Who’s afraid of her! If you had Diana to deal with, now.”

“Well, Alexis, my good friend, that is it. Could you not drop a little
hint to the widow some time? Something like this——” he was silent.

“Something like a dumb man, eh?”

“Paufh! I have no way with the women, you will make a little hint to the
widow.”

Just then there was a sound of footsteps on the walk. Alexis promptly
blew out the candle, grasped his friend by the arm, and hurried him
through the dark to the door. There he thrust his hat into his hand, and
saying in his ear, “Good-night—good luck,” bolted the door after him.

The night had changed its mood. A gentle breeze, laden with soft
moisture, blew from the dark woods; the mist was piled in a gray mass
along the horizon; and in spaces of sky as delicately blue as blanched
violets, small stars flashed clearly.

Cuerrier pursed up his lips and whistled the only tune he knew, one from
“La Fille de Madame Angot.” He was uneasy, too uneasy to follow the
intricacies of his tune, and he stopped whistling. He had told his
friend that he was going to marry, and had mentioned the lady’s name;
but what right had he to do that? “Old fool!” he said to himself. He
remembered his feuds with his love’s guardian, some of them of years’
standing; he thought of his age, he ran through the years he might
expect to live, and ended by calculating how much he was worth, valuing
his three farms in an instant. He felt proud after that, and Césarine
Angers did not seem quite so far off. He resolved, just before sleep
caught him, to open the campaign at once, with the help of Alexis
Girouard; but in the dream that followed he found himself successfully
wooing the widow, wooing her with sneers and gibes, and rehearsals of
the old quarrels that seemed to draw her smilingly toward him, as if
there was some malign influence at work translating his words into
irresistible phrases of endearment.

                 *        *        *        *        *

Monsieur Cuerrier commenced to wear a gallant blue waistcoat all dotted
with white spots, and a silk necktie with fringed ends. “You see I am in
the fashion now,” he explained to his friends. Villeblanc, the
superannuated hairdresser, eyed him critically and commenced to suspect
him. He blew a whistle of gratification when, one evening in mid-June,
he saw the shy Cuerrier drop a rose, full blown, at the feet of Césarine
Angers. His gratification was not unmixed when he saw Césarine pick it
up and carry it away, blushing delicately. Cuerrier tried to whistle “La
Fille de Madame Angot,” but his heart leaped into his throat, and his
lips curled into a nervous smile.

“So—so!” said Villeblanc. “So—so! I think I’ll curl my gentleman’s wig
for him.”

He was not unheedful of the beauty of Césarine. He spoke a word of
enigmatical warning to the widow. “You had better put off your weeds.
Are we not going to have a wedding?”

This seed fell upon ready ground, and bore an unexpected shoot. From
that day the widow wore her best cap on week days. Then along came the
good friend, Alexis Girouard, with his little hint. “My friend Cuerrier
wants to get married; he’s as shy as a bird, but don’t be hard on him.”
The plant blossomed at once. The widow shook her finger at her image in
the glass, took on all the colors of the rainbow, and dusted off a
guitar of her youth.

Cuerrier came in the evenings and sat awhile with the widow, and that
discreet second cousin, hiding her withered rose. Sometimes also with a
stunted farmer from near Viger, who wore shoe-packs and smelt of native
tobacco and oiled leather. This farmer was designed by the widow for
that rebel Césarine, who still resisted behind her barricade, now
strengthened by secret supplies of roses from an official of the
government itself.

“But it is high time to speak,” thought Cuerrier, and one night, when
there was not a hint of native tobacco in the air, he said:

“Madame Laroque, I am thinking now of what I would like to happen to me
before I grow an old man, and I think to be married would be a good
thing. If you make no objection, I would marry the beautiful Césarine
here.”

The widow gathered her bitter fruit. “Old beast!” she cried, stamping on
the guitar; “old enough to be her great-grandfather!”

She drove the bewildered postmaster out of the house, and locked
Césarine into her room. She let her come down to work, but watched her
like a cat. Forty times a day she cried out, “The old scoundrel!” and
sometimes she would break a silence with a laugh of high mockery, that
ended with the phrase, “The idea!” that was like the knot to a
whip-lash. She even derided Cuerrier from her chamber window if he dared
to walk the street. The postmaster bore it; he pursed up his lips to
whistle, and said, “Wait.” He also went to see his friend Alexis. “I
have a plan, Alexis,” he said, “if Diana were only out of the road.” But
Diana was in the road, she was in league with the widow. “Fancy!” she
cried, fiercely, “what is to become of us when old men behave so. Why,
the next thing I know, Alexis—_Alexis_ will want to get married.”

Whatever Cuerrier’s plan was, he got no chance to impart it. Diana was
always in the road, and reported everything to the widow; she, in turn,
watched Césarine. But one night, when Alexis was supposed to be away, he
appeared suddenly in Cuerrier’s presence. He had come back unexpectedly,
and had not gone home first. The plan was imparted to him. “But to bring
the calash out of the yard at half-past twelve at night without Diana
hearing, never—never—she has ears like a watch-dog.” But he pledged
himself to try. The widow saw him depart, and she and Diana expected a
_coup d’état_. Madame Laroque turned the key on Césarine, and fed her on
bread and water; Diana locked her brother’s door every night, when she
knew he was in bed, much to Alexis’s perplexity.

The lane that separated the widow’s house from Cuerrier’s was just nine
feet wide. The postmaster had reason to know that; Madame Laroque had
fought him for years, saying that he had built on her land. At last they
had got a surveyor from the city, who measured it with his chain. The
widow flew at him. He shrugged his shoulders. “The Almighty made this
nine feet,” he said, “you cannot turn the world upside down.”

“Nine feet,” said Cuerrier to himself, “nine feet, and two are eleven.”
With that length in his head he walked over to the carpenter’s. That
evening he contemplated a two-inch plank eleven feet long in his
kitchen. The same evening Alexis was deep in dissimulation. He was
holding up an image of garrulous innocence to Diana, who glared at it
suspiciously.

The postmaster bored a small hole through the plank about two inches
from one end, through this he ran the end of a long rope and knotted it
firmly. Then he carried the plank upstairs into a small room over the
store. Opposite the window of this room there was a window in Madame
Laroque’s house.

“Good-night, sweet dreams,” cried Alexis to Diana, as, cold with
excitement, he staggered upstairs. He made all the movements of
undressing, but he did not undress; then he gradually quieted down and
sat shivering near the window. In a short time Diana crept up and locked
his door. It took him an hour to gain courage enough to throw his boots
out of the window; he followed them, slipping down the post of the
veranda. He crept cautiously into the stable; his horse was ready
harnessed and he led her out, quaking lest she should whinny. The calash
was farther back in the yard than usual; to drive out he would have to
pass Diana’s window. Just as he took the reins in his hand the horse
gave a loud, fretful neigh; he struck her with the whip, but she would
not stir. He struck her again, and, as she bounded past the window it
was raised, and something white appeared. Alexis, glancing over his
shoulder, gave a hoarse shout, to relieve his excitement; he had seen
the head of the chaste Diana.

Cuerrier let down the top window-sash about two inches, then he raised
the lower sash almost to its full height, and passed the end of the rope
from the outside through the upper aperture into the room, and tied it
to a nail. Then he pushed the plank out of the window, and let it drop
until it swung by the rope; then he lifted it up hand over hand till the
end rested on the sill. Adjusting it so as to leave a good four inches
to rest on the opposite ledge, he lowered away his rope until the end of
the plank reached the opposite side, and there was a strong bridge from
Madame Laroque’s house to his own. He took a stout pole and tapped
gently on the window. Césarine was stretched on her bed, sleeping
lightly. The tapping woke her; she rose on her elbow; the sound came
again; she went to the window and raised a corner of the curtain.
Cuerrier flashed his lantern across the glass. Césarine put up the
window quietly. She heard Cuerrier calling her assuringly. She crept out
on the plank, and put the window down. Then she stood up, and, aided by
the stout pole, which the postmaster held firmly, she was soon across
the abyss. The plank was pulled in, the window shut down, and all trace
of the exploit had vanished.

At sunrise, pausing after the ascent of a hill, they looked back, and
Césarine thought she saw, like a little silver point in the rosy light,
the steeple of the far St. Joseph’s, and below them, from a hollow
filled with mist, concealing the houses, rose the tower and dome of the
parish church of St. Valérie.

A week after, when the farmer from near Viger came into the post-office
for his mail, bearing the familiar odor of native tobacco, the new
postmistress of Viger, setting the tips of her fingers on the counter,
and leaning on her pretty wrists until four dimples appeared on the back
of each of her hands, said, “I have nothing for you.”

The rage of Madame Laroque was less than her curiosity to know how
Césarine had effected her escape. She made friends with her, and wore a
cheerful face, but Césarine was silent. “Tell her ‘birds fly,’” said
Cuerrier. Exasperated, at last, the widow commenced a petty revenge. She
cooked a favorite dinner of Cuerrier’s, and left her kitchen windows
open to fill his house with the odor. But, early that morning, the
postmaster had gone off to St. Valérie to draw up a lease, and had taken
his wife with him. About noon he had stopped to water his horse, and had
climbed out of his calash to pluck some asters; Césarine decked her hat
with them, and sang a light song—she had learned the air from “La Fille
de Madame Angot.”



                                 SEDAN.


ONE of the pleasantest streets in Viger was that which led from the
thoroughfare of the village to the common. It was a little street with
little houses, but it looked as if only happy people lived there. The
enormous old willows which shaded it through its whole length made a
perpetual shimmer of shadow and sun, and towered so above the low
cottages that they seemed to have crept under the guardian trees to rest
and doze a while. There was something idyllic about this contented spot;
it seemed to be removed from the rest of the village, to be on the
boundaries of Arcadia, the first inlet to its pleasant, dreamy fields.
In the spring the boys made a veritable Arcadia of it, coming there in
bands, cutting the willows for whistles, and entering into a blithe
contest for supremacy in making them, accompanying their labors by a
perpetual sounding of their pleasant pipes, as if a colony of uncommon
birds had taken up their homes in the trees. Even in the winter there
was something pleasant about it; the immense boles of the willows,
presiding over the collection of houses, seemed to protect them, and the
sunshine had always a suggestion of warmth as it dwelt in the long
branches. It was on this street, just a little distance from the corner,
that Paul Arbique kept his inn, which was famous in its way. He called
it The Turenne, after the renowned commander of that name, for they had
the same birthplace, and Arbique himself had been a soldier, as his
medals would testify. The location was favorable for such a house as
Arbique was prepared to keep, and in choosing it he appealed to a
crotchet in man which makes it pleasanter for him to go around the
corner for anything he may require. A pleasant place it was,
particularly in summer. The very exterior had an air about it, the green
blinds and the green slatted door, and the shadows from the
willow-leaves playing over the legend “Fresh Buttermilk,” a sign dear to
the lover of simple pleasures.

From all the appearances one would have supposed that The Turenne was a
complete success, and every one thought Arbique was romancing when he
said he was just getting along, and that was all. But so far as he knew
he spoke the truth, for his wife managed everything, including himself.
There was only one thing she could not do; she could not make him stop
drinking brandy.

The Arbiques considered themselves very much superior to the village
people, because they had come from old France. “I am a Frenchman,” Paul
would say, when he had had too much brandy; but no one would take
offence at him, he was too good a fellow. When he had had a modicum of
his favorite liquor he talked of his birthplace, Sedan, the dearest spot
on earth to him, and his Crimean experiences; and when he had reached a
stage beyond that he talked of his wife. It was a pathetic sight to see
him at such times, as he leaned close to his auditor, and explained to
him how superior a woman Felice was, and what a cruel, inexplicable
mistake she had made in marrying him, and how all his efforts to make
her happy had failed, not through any fault of her own, but because it
was impossible that he could ever make her happy; thus taking all the
blame of their domestic infelicity upon his own shoulders, with the
simple idea that it must be his own fault when no fault of any kind
could possibly rest with Felice.

He was a tall chivalrous-looking fellow, with a military air, and
despite his fifty years and the extent of his potations there was yet a
brave flourish in his manner. He was seen at his best on Sunday, when,
clothed in a complete suit of black, with a single carnation in his
buttonhole, and with an irreproachable silk hat, he promenaded with
Madame Arbique on his arm. Madame on such occasions was as fine as her
lord, and held her silk gown far above the defilement of the street, in
order to show her embroidered petticoat and a pair of pretty feet. But
no matter how finely she was dressed she always wore an expression of
discontent. She had the instincts of a miser, but she also had enough
good sense not to let them interfere with the sources of profit, and so,
although she was as keen to save a cent as any one could have been, The
Turenne showed no sign of it. The provision for the entertainment of
guests was ample and sufficient. Felice had always had her own way, and
owing to Paul’s incapacity, which had overtaken him gradually, the
affairs of the house had been left in her hands.

They had only had one child, who had died when she was a baby, and this
want of children was a great trial to Paul. They had attempted to fill
her place by adopting a little girl, but the experiment had not been a
success, and she grew to be something between a servant and a poor
relation working for her board. This was owing to no fault of Paul’s,
who would have prevented it if he could, but his wife had taken a
dislike to the child, and she simply neglected her. Latulipe, for in the
family she was called by no other name, was a strange girl. She had been
frightened and subdued by Madame Arbique, and at times she would
scarcely speak a word, and then again she would talk boldly and
defiantly, as if she were protesting, no matter how insignificant her
remarks might be. Her personal appearance was as odd as her manner; she
had an abundance of hair, of a light, pleasant shade of red, her
complexion was a clear white, her lips were intensely crimson, her dark
eyes were small but quick, and very clear. Her manner was shy, and
rather awkward. Her one claim to distinction was that she had some
influence over Arbique, whom she could now and then prevent drinking. He
was sorry for her, and ashamed of the position she occupied in the
house, which was so different from what he had intended.

When the Franco-Prussian war broke out, and for months before, The
Turenne was the rendezvous for those of the villagers who had any desire
to discuss the situation. Arbique was the oracle of this group, and
night after night he held forth on the political situation, on the art
of war, and his personal experiences in the army. There was only one
habitué of The Turenne who was silent on these occasions, that was Hans
Blumenthal, the German watchmaker. He had had his corner in the bar-room
ever since he had come to Viger, and was one of Arbique’s best
customers. But when the war excitement broke out Arbique expected to see
no more of him; the warmth of the discussions and the violence of the
treatment his nation received nightly would have been expected to drive
him away. But instead, he returned again and again to his place at the
little table by the window, peering through his glasses with his
imperturbable, self-absorbed expression, not seeming to heed the wordy
storms that beset his ears.

Arbique, when hostilities had actually broken out, pasted a map of the
seat of war upon the wall; above this he placed a colored picture of a
French chasseur, and scrawled below it the words “_A Berlin!_” Even this
did not disturb the German. He took advantage of the map, and as Arbique
had set pins, to which were attached red and blue pieces of wool, to
show the positions of the armies, he even studied the locations and
movements with interest. He read his paper, gave his orders, paid his
score, came and went as he had always done. This made Paul very angry,
and he would have turned him out of the house if he had not remembered
that he was his guest, and his sense of honor would not permit it. He
was drinking very heavily and wanted to fight some one, but every one
agreed with him except the German, and he kept silence. He had serious
thoughts of challenging him to a duel, if the opportunity offered.

Latulipe was the only one who stood up for Hans. She had been accustomed
to wait on the guests sometimes, when Arbique was incapacitated, and his
gentle manner had won her regard. One day she turned on Paul, who was
abusing Hans behind his back, and gave him a piece of her mind. She was
so sudden and sharp with it that she sobered him a little, and in
thinking it over he came to the conclusion that if he could help it she
would see the German no more. Hans noticed her absence, and said to Paul
one night when he was ordering his beer: “Where is Mademoiselle
Latulipe?” By the way he said it, in his odd French, any one could have
told what he thought of Latulipe. “Mademoiselle Latulipe,” said Arbique,
with a dramatic flourish, “is my daughter.” So Hans saw her no more in
the evening.

He had other trials besides this. Once in a while the lads in the street
hooted after him, and this sort of attention became more frequent. One
evening, after the news of Woerth had been received, some one threw a
stone through the window of his shop. That very night he stood before
the map with his hands behind him, peering into it; as he altered the
pins, which Arbique had now lost all interest in, he heard some one
mutter “_Scélérat!_” He thought it must be intended for him, but he
drank his beer quietly and went home rather early. After he had gone
some of his enemies, becoming valiant with liquor, made a compact to go
out when it was late enough, break into his house, and give him a sound
beating. But Latulipe overheard their plan from the stairway, and as
soon as she could get away without being noticed, she ran over to the
watchmaker’s shop. It was quite late and there was not a soul on the
street. She was wondering how she could warn him, but when she reached
the door she noticed a ladder which led to a scaffold running along
below the windows of the second story, where some workmen had been
making repairs. There was a light burning in one of the second story
windows, and without waiting to reflect Latulipe ran up the ladder and
tapped at the window. Hans opened it, and said something in German when
he saw who it was. Latulipe did not wait for salutations, but told him
exactly what he might expect. When that was over she tried to escape as
she had come, but the darkness below frightened her, and she could not
go down the ladder. Hans tried to coax her to come in at the window and
go out by the street door, but she would not hear to that; she leaned
against the house, shrinking away from the edge. So Hans got out upon
the scaffolding. “Mademoiselle Latulipe,” he said, in his rough French,
“you need not be alarmed at me; I have only a good heart toward you.” He
held out his hand, but Latulipe knew by the sound of his voice that he
was going to make love to her, and before he could say another word she
was at the bottom of the ladder. When the bravos came to give Hans his
beating he confronted them with a lamp in one hand and a pistol in the
other, and they fell over one another in their haste to retreat.

During the whole of the month of August Arbique had been wild with
excitement; he could think of nothing but the war, and would talk of
nothing else. At first he would not believe in any reverse to the French
arms; it was impossible—lies, lies, everything was lies. His cry was
“_A Berlin!_” But although he could manage to deceive himself by this
false enthusiasm, sometimes the truth would stab straight to his heart
like a knife, and he would tremble as if he had the ague, for the honor
of his country was the thing dearest to him in all the world. If he
could only have died for her! But there, day after day, he saw the pins
on the map, moved by that cold German, close around Metz. He could no
longer cry “_A Berlin_;” the French army was facing Paris, with Berlin
at its back. He drank fiercely now, and even Latulipe could do nothing
with him. Madame Arbique knew that he would drink himself to death, as
his father had done. He would sit and mutter by the hour, thinking all
the time of what revenge he could have on Blumenthal, who had become to
his eyes the incarnation of hated Prussia. But so long as Hans came to
the house quietly to sit at his table and drink his beer Arbique would
not say an uncivil word to him.

On the evening of the 28th of August there was an unusual crowd at The
Turenne, and a group had surrounded the map gesticulating and
discussing. Hans had finished reading his paper, and went toward them.
They parted when they saw him coming, and he stood peering down at the
map through his glasses. Arbique had not been seen all evening, but he
appeared suddenly, looking haggard and shattered, and caught sight of
his friends grouped round the German. He went slowly toward them, and as
he approached he heard Hans say: “There, there they must fight,” and saw
him put his finger on the map between Mézières and Carignan, almost over
Sedan.

Paul had been in bed all day, and had not had anything to drink, and
when he saw the German with his finger on Sedan he could not stand it
any longer. He broke out: “No, not there—here,” his voice trembling
with rage. “Here they will fight—you for your abominable Prussia, I for
my beautiful France.” He fell into a dramatic attitude. Drawing two
pistols from his pocket, he presented one to his nearest friend to hand
to Blumenthal. The man held the pistol for a moment, but Hans never
moved. Madame Arbique, seeing the commotion, and catching sight of the
weapons, screamed as loud as she could, and Latulipe, running in, threw
herself upon Arbique. He turned deadly pale and had to use the girl’s
strength to keep from falling. Hans went away quietly, and sat down near
the window. Arbique was fluttering like a leaf in the wind, and Latulipe
and Felice half carried him upstairs. The men left in the room shook
their heads.

The next evening Hans was walking in the starlight, under the willows.
With his dim vision he saw some one leaning against one of the trees,
but when he passed again he knew it was Latulipe. He stopped and spoke
to her. When she spoke she did not answer his question. “Oh,” she said,
“he will never get better, never.” “Yes,” said Hans, “he will be
better.” “No,” said Latulipe, “I know by the way he looks, and he says
now that France is beaten and crushed he does not want to live.” “Brave
soul!” said Hans. “And when he goes,” said Latulipe, “what is to become
of me?” He laid his hand upon her arm, and when she did not resist, he
took her hand in both his own. She was giving herself to the enemy. A
cloud above had taken the starlight, and in the willows a little rain
fell with a timorous sound. Latulipe was crying softly on Hans’s
shoulder.

It was September, and around Viger the harvest was nearly finished. The
days were clear as glass; already the maples were stroked with fire,
with the lustre of wine and gold; early risers felt the keener air; the
sunsets reddened the mists which lay light as lawn on the low fields.
But Paul Arbique thought and spoke of Sedan alone, the place where he
was born, of the Meuse, the bridges, of his father’s farm, just without
the walls of the city, and of his boyhood, and the friends of his youth.
His thoughts were hardly of the war, or of the terror of the downfall
which had a little while before so haunted him.

It was the evening of the day upon which the news of the battle had
come. They had resolved not to tell him, but there was something in
Latulipe’s manner which disturbed him. Waking from a light doze, he
said: “That Prussian spy, what did he say?—they must fight
there—between Mézières and Carignan? I have been at Carignan—and he
had his hound’s paw on Sedan.” He was quiet for a while; then he said,
dreamily: “They—have—fought.” Latulipe, who was watching with him,
wept. In the night his lips moved again. “France,” he murmured, “France
will rise—again.” It was toward the morning of the next day when his
true heart failed. Latulipe had just opened the blinds. A pale light
came through the willows. When she bent over him she caught his last
word. “Sedan.” He sighed. “Sedan.”



                      NO. 68 RUE ALFRED DE MUSSET.


IT was an evening early in May. The maples were covered with their
little seed-pods, like the crescents of the Moslem hosts they hung redly
in the evening air. The new leaf-tips of the poplars shone out like
silver blooms. The mountain-ash-trees stood with their virginal branches
outlined against the filmy rose and gray of the evening sky, their
slender leaves half open. Everything swam in the hazy light; the air was
full of gold motes; in the sky lay a few strands of cloud, touched with
almost imperceptible rose. At the upper window of a house in De Musset
Street, Maurice Ruelle looked down upon the trees covered with the misty
light. His window was high above everything, and the house itself stood
alone on the brow of a little cliff that commanded miles of broken
country. Maurice was propped up at the window, and had a shawl thrown
about his shoulders. The room was close; a little wood-fire was dying
away in the open stove.

“Maurice, Maurice, I’m sick of life. I will be an adventuress.”

Maurice turned his head to look at the speaker. She was seated on the
floor, leaning on her slanted arm, which was thrown behind her to
support her weight.

“Well, my dear sister, you are ambitious—”

“Don’t be bitter, Maurice.”

“I’m not bitter; I know you are ambitious; I am proud of you, you know.
I don’t see why you have to nurse me; fate is cruel to you.”

“Oh, but I don’t nurse you, you know that; what’s my nursing good for? I
only wish we had money enough to send you away for these terrible
winters, or give you a room in some fine hospital.”

Maurice watched the birds dropping through the glow. A little maid
brought in candles. Eloise began to walk up and down the room
restlessly.

“Ah, well, we haven’t the money,” Maurice sighed.

“Money—money—it’s not altogether a matter of money; to me it’s a
matter of life.”

“Well, to me it’s hardly a matter of money or of life.”

“Maurice, you must not think of that; I forbid it. I must do something.
I feel that I can succeed. Look at me, Maurice—tell me now—”

She stood with her head thrown back; and poised lightly, and with a
little frown on her face.

“Superb!” said her brother.

“I know I’ll do something desperate,” she said. “I must live; I was made
to.”

“Yes, my dear, that is the difference between us.”

“Maurice, how dare you; I forbid it; I have decided. You will go south,
and I will begin to live. I am going to stop wishing.”

“Well, I have long ago ceased to wish; wishing was the only passion I
ever had; I have given it up. But I have not wished for money; sometimes
I have wished for health—”

He did not finish his sentence; he only thought of what he had longed
for more than anything else, the love of his beautiful, impulsive
sister. Eloise was dusting her geranium leaves. Maurice looked from his
window into the tree on which the leaves were not yet thick enough to
hide the old nests.

A short time after this a rather curious advertisement appeared in one
of the city papers. It read: “Very handsome old oak furniture.
Secretaire with small drawers. A dower chest and a little table. Each
article richly carved. For particulars call at No. 68 Rue Alfred de
Musset, Viger.”

Eloise read this advertisement to her brother.

“What does this mean?” he asked. “We have no such furniture, but it is
our number true enough. Is this the commencement?”

“Yes, my dear, that is what it is.”

The next day callers in response to this advertisement began to arrive.
Eloise answered the bell herself. The first was a rather shabby old man
who wore a tall hat and green glasses. He produced a crumpled clipping
from the paper, and, smoothing it out, handed it to Eloise.

“I have come to buy this second-hand furniture,” he explained, holding
his hat by the brim. Eloise looked at the advertisement as if she had
never seen it before.

“There must be some mistake,” she said. “I have no such furniture.”

“I have not mistaken the number—No. 68 Rue Alfred de Musset.”

“Yes, but the printer must have made a mistake; this is not the place.”

Many times that day she had to give unpromising looking people the same
answer. Every one of them accepted the situation cheerfully; certainly
it must have been a mistake. Three letters came also with inquiries
about the furniture. One of these Eloise was tempted to answer; but she
resolved to wait a day or two. The next day no one came at all; but on
the next, about four o’clock in the afternoon, a young man drove up in a
dog-cart. He left his horse, and walked rapidly through the little
garden to the house. He was a handsome vigorous-looking youth. He rang
somewhat violently; and Eloise answered the summons. She opened the door
a foot, and the caller could only see a bit of her white dress.

“I have called to see the furniture you have advertised,” he said.

The door opened slowly, and, taking this as an invitation to enter, he
stepped into the hall. He could not tell why, but he expected to see an
old woman behind the door; instead he saw a very graceful girl holding
the door-knob between her fingers. Without a word she preceded him with
an air of shyness, and led the way into the front room. He glanced about
for the furniture; it was evidently not there. She asked him to be
seated.

“My father wanted me to come out and look at the things you advertised,”
he said.

“You are very good, Monsieur.”

“Not at all; my father picks up these things for the house, when they
are really valuable.”

“These are very valuable.”

She still wore an air of shyness, and looked abstractedly from the
window into a lilac-bush; she seemed nervous and apprehensive.

“Could you let me see them?”

There was a noise upstairs. Eloise half started from her chair.

“I beg of you not to speak so loudly.”

He relapsed into a whisper.

“I beg pardon, I was not conscious of speaking too loudly.”

“It is not that, but—I cannot explain.” She ended abruptly. “You see,”
she said, hesitatingly, “I wish you had come yesterday.”

“Have you promised them to some one else?”

“No, not at all; but yesterday it might have been possible, to-day it is
impossible to show it to you.”

“When can I see it?”

“I am unfortunate—I cannot say when. It is my brother’s—but it must be
sold.”

An expression of slight distress crossed her face.

“Does he not want it sold?”

“Monsieur, I beg of you not to question me; I am in great perplexity.”
She continued, after a moment’s pause, “You have rarely seen things so
exquisite; the secretaire has a secret cabinet, the chest is carved with
a scene of nymphs in a wood; the table is a beautiful little table.” She
figured these articles in the air with an imaginative wave of her hand.
The young man began to regard her with some interest; he remarked to
himself that she was a lovely girl.

“I’m sorry my call is inopportune, I will come again.” He left his card
on the table.

“Perhaps when you come again it will be more convenient,” she said,
following him at some distance to the door. He opened it himself, and
went down the steps; as he looked back it was slowly shutting, and he
caught a glimpse of her delicate white dress as it closed. Eloise took
up the card. The name was Pierre Pechito. She knew the name; it was
borne by one of the richest of the city merchants. She took the card up
to Maurice. He held it in his emaciated fingers.

“Is this the end of Chapter One?” he asked. “Well, he may never come
back; and what will you do with him if he does come back?”

“Oh, he will come; as for the rest, we must succeed. But there is one
thing, Maurice, you must be the invisible ogre; you must rage about here
as wildly as you can, while I am working out our destiny downstairs.”

“My destiny?” he asked, with a falling touch of sadness in his accent.

A few days after this Pierre returned. “May I come in?” he asked, as
Eloise held the door open hesitatingly.

“If you wish, Monsieur.” They sat a moment silently in the parlor.

“Monsieur,” said Eloise, commencing hurriedly but determinedly, “in this
life everything is uncertain; so much depends upon mere circumstances,
which are too obscure for us to control. I am willing to show you the
furniture, but how much depends upon that!” She rose with the air of a
heroine, and led the way to the foot of the stairs. Pierre followed. She
had ascended three steps, and he had his hand on the newel post, when
there was a crash in the room above. Eloise turned suddenly and leaned
against the banister, glancing up the stairs, and extending her hand to
keep Pierre back. “Monsieur, for the love of heaven do not come on, go
back—go back into the room, I beg of you.”

“I am leaving you in danger, Mademoiselle.”

“I am accustomed to it. I beg of you.” She accompanied these words with
an imploring gesture. Pierre went into the room, where he paced up and
down. The noise increased in violence, and then ceased altogether.
Eloise returned to the room; she leaned from the window, breathing
convulsively; she plucked one of the half-grown lilac leaves and bit it
through and through.

“Yet the furniture must be sold,” she said aloud. Pierre took a step
toward her.

“Mademoiselle, you are in distress. May I not help you? I am able to.
You can command me.”

“Alas, Monsieur, you mean I can command your wealth.” Pierre was
profoundly moved at the sorrow in her girlish voice.

“I mean I would help you; I want to do what I can for you.”

“Let us go no farther,” she said, with her eyes fixed on the floor. “I
must not come into your happy life.” There was a trace of bitterness in
her tone.

“I have undertaken to buy the furniture,” he said, with a smile. “I will
not give up so soon.”

“Maurice, Maurice, you are a splendid ogre!” said Eloise, throwing open
the door.

“It is terribly exhausting,” he said, with a faint smile.

When Pierre next came it was raining quietly through a silver haze; the
little maid opened the door; a moment later Eloise came into the room.
When she spoke her voice sounded restrained; and to Pierre she seemed
completely different.

“I have deceived you,” she commenced, without prelude, “there is no
furniture to sell.” To all his questions or remonstrances she gave him
this answer, as if she were afraid to trust herself to other words,
standing with her eyes cast to the floor, and an expressionless face.
But when she seemed the most distant, as if she could not recede
further, she burst into tears. Pierre hurried toward her—“Mademoiselle,
I cannot address you by name; you cannot deceive me; you are in great
distress. I beg you not to think of the furniture; it is not necessary
that these things of wood should trouble you further; to-day I did not
come to see it, I came to see you.”

“Oh, Monsieur,” she sobbed, “you must never come here again,
never—never!”

“Make no mistake, I will come, at least until I can help you, until I
know your story.” He gained her hand.

“Monsieur, I cannot accept your assistance; but your kindness demands my
story.”

She told it. She was a lovely girl caught in a net of circumstances. She
was an orphan. Her parents had left her and her brother a little
money—too little to live on—they existed. Her brother was a
cripple—how often had she wished she was dead—he was wicked. She
hinted at unkindness, at tyranny. It was necessary to sell these
heir-looms. (Here Pierre pressed her hand, “You could not deceive me,”
he said.) But he would not hear of it. Her life was intolerable—but she
must live it to the end—to the end. “If I could have deceived you,
Monsieur, I would have done so.” A smile shimmered through her tears.
Pierre pressed her hand; she softly drew it away. Suddenly there was a
crash in the room above; a light shower of dry white-wash was thrown
down around them; the sound of an inhuman voice came feebly down the
stairs. “I must go, do not detain me,” she cried, as Pierre tried to
intercept her. He endeavored to hold her at the foot of the stairs. “Do
not go, I beg of you.” She turned sweetly toward him. “I must go; it is
my duty; you do yours.” The tears were not yet dry on her eyelids.
Pierre watched her flutter upstairs like a dove flying into a hawk’s
nest. His pulses were pounding at his wrists. “I wish I knew what my
duty was,” he said to himself. As he left the house he glanced up at the
window, a handkerchief dropped down; he pressed it to his lips and
thrust it into his bosom. When he was out of sight he examined it. It
was a dainty thing of the most delicate fabric; in one corner were the
words, “Eloise Ruelle.”

Eloise found Maurice almost fainting with his exertion. When he
recovered, he said—

“Is the game worth the candle?”

“Well, we will see.”

“Eloise, you have been crying.”

“I cry easily, I do everything easily.”

Maurice turned away and gazed from the window. The rain was so fine it
seemed to be a rising mist; the trees were hidden, like plants in the
bottom of the sea; somewhere the sun was shining, for there was a silver
bar in the mist.

Pierre was not slow in coming again; but, instead of seeing Eloise, he
had a note thrust into his hand by the little serving-maid. It ran: “I
cannot see you. _He_ forbids it. Who could have told that our last word
was ‘good-by.’ If I could have spoken again I would have thanked you.
How can I ever do so now? Adieu.” Reading this on the step, he scrawled
hurriedly on a leaf of his note-book: “I would not have you thank me,
but I must see you again. Your risk is great, but I will be here
to-morrow night; we will have the darkness, and all I ask is ten
minutes. Is it too much?”

He gave the note to the maid, who shut the door. The house looked
absolutely sphinx-like as he walked away from it.

The next night was moist with a touch of frost. A little smoke from
burning leaves hung in the air with a pungent odor. The scent of the
lilacs fell with the wind when it moved. Eloise was muffled
picturesquely in a cloak. Pierre was holding her hand, which she had not
reclaimed. “I have dared everything to come,” she said softly.

“You are brave, braver than I was to ask you.”

“You know my story. You are the only one.”

“That binds us.”

“How can I thank you?”

“You must not try, I have done nothing.”

Just then a burning brand was hurled from the window; it fell into the
lilac-tree where it devoured a cone of blossom and withered the leaves
around it. It threw up a little springing flame which danced a light on
Eloise, who had cowered into a corner by the steps, with her hand over
her eyes. Pierre went to her. “Tell me,” he said, “what does this mean?”

“Oh,” she moaned, “he suspects we are here; he always has a fire on the
hottest nights, and he is throwing the sticks out.” This led Pierre to
expect another one. He caught her by the arm.

“You must come out of danger,” he said, “one might fall on your dress.”
The brand was glowing in spots. He tore it out of the bush and trampled
on it. They went to the other side of the steps. It was the season of
quick growth. In one day thousands of violets had lit their little tips
of yellow fire in the tangle of the underwood; in one day the tulips
were moulded into fragile cups of flame burning steady in the sunlight;
in one day the lilacs had burst their little clove-like blooms, and were
crowding in the dark-green leaves.

Pierre was saying excitedly: “Listen to me. This thing cannot go
further. I love you, I am yours. I must protect you. You cannot deny
me.” Eloise tried to stop him with an imploring gesture. “No,” he cried,
“you must hear me! you must be mine! I will take you away from here.”

“Oh, do not tempt me!” cried Eloise. “I must stay here. I cannot leave
him.”

“You must leave him. What hold has he upon you? I will never let you go
back to this torment,—never. Eloise,” he continued seriously,
“sometimes we have to decide in a moment the things of a life-time. This
is such a moment. Before I pluck this blossom,” he said, leaning down to
a dwarf lilac-bush bearing one bloom, “I want you to promise to be my
wife.” A moment later he had plucked the flower, but had dropped it, and
had caught Eloise in his arms. She stifled a cry, and gave herself to
him.

“Maurice, Maurice,” cried Eloise, “look at me, I am triumphant!” He
hardly looked at her; he was cowering over the fire, which had
smouldered away, and in which the ashes were fluttering about like
moths.

“I have done what you asked, that is all,” he said, with an effort.

“But it is everything to me; I will never forget you, Maurice, no matter
how powerful I may become.”

“Alas! you need not remember me for long. Perhaps I will have what I
wanted here, in some other star.”

                 *        *        *        *        *

A few evenings later Eloise drew the door after her: “Hush!” she said,
“the least noise will disturb him.” She hesitated, and left the door
ajar.

“Do you regret?” whispered Pierre.

“No, but I am leaving everything.”

“Yes, even the old furniture; if it had not been for that I would never
have known you,” he said.

“Everything—everything,” murmured Eloise.

She listened for a moment, and then shut the door softly on the empty
house: Maurice had gone to the hospital that afternoon; the little maid
had been discharged.

“But,” she said, holding Pierre’s arm and leaning away from him with her
sweet smile, “I have also gained all—everything.”

The next moment they had gone cautiously away.

This was the beginning of her career.



                             THE BOBOLINK.


IT was the sunniest corner in Viger where old Garnaud had built his
cabin,—his cabin, for it could not be called a house. It was only of
one story, with a kitchen behind, and a workshop in front, where Etienne
Garnaud mended the shoes of Viger. He had lived there by himself ever
since he came from St. Valérie; every one knew his story, every one
liked him. A merry heart had the old shoemaker; it made a merry heart to
see him bending his white head with its beautiful features above his
homely work, and to hear his voice in a high cadence of good-humored
song. The broad window of his cabin was covered with a shutter hinged at
the top, which was propped up by a stick slanted from the window-sill.
In the summer the sash was removed, and through the opening came the
even sound of the Blanche against the bridge piers, or the
scythe-whetting from some hidden meadow. From it there was a view of a
little pool of the stream where the perch jumped clear into the sun, and
where a birch growing on the bank threw a silver shadow-bridge from side
to side. Farther up, too, were the willows that wore the yellow tassels
in the spring, and the hollow where burr-marigolds were brown-golden in
August. On the hill slope stood a delicate maple that reddened the
moment summer had gone, which old Etienne watched with a sigh and a
shake of the head.

If the old man was a favorite with the elder people of Viger, he was a
yet greater favorite with the children. No small portion of his earnings
went toward the purchase of sugar candy for their consumption. On summer
afternoons he would lay out a row of sweet lumps on his window-sill and
pretend to be absorbed by his work, as the children, with much
suppressed laughter, darted around the corner of his cabin, bearing away
the spoils. He would pause every now and then to call, “Aha—Aha! Where
are all my sweeties? those mice and rats must have been after them
again!” and would chuckle to himself to hear the children trying to keep
back the laughter, out of sight around the corner. In the winter, when
the boys and girls would come in to see him work, he always managed to
drop some candy into their pockets, which they would find afterward with
less surprise than the old man imagined.

But his great friend was the little blind daughter of his neighbor
Moreau. “Here comes my little fairy,” he would call out, as he saw her
feeling her way down the road with her little cedar wand. “Here comes my
little fairy,” and he would go out to guide her across the one plank
thrown over the ditch in front of his cabin. Then they would sit and
chat together, this beautiful old man and the beautiful little girl. She
raised her soft brown, sightless eyes to the sound of his voice, and he
told her long romances, described the things that lay around them, or
strove to answer her questions. This was his hardest task, and he often
failed in it; her questions ran beyond his power, and left him
mystified.

One spring he bought a bobolink from some boys who had trapped it; and
he hung its cage in the sun outside his cabin. There it would sing or be
silent for days at a time. Little Blanche would sit outside under the
shade of the shutter, leaning half into the room to hear the old man
talk, but keeping half in the air to hear the bird sing.

They called him “Jack” by mutual consent, and he absorbed a great deal
of their attention. Blanche had to be present at every cage cleaning.
One day she said, “Uncle Garnaud, what is he like?”

“Why, dearie, he’s a beauty; he’s black all over, except his wings and
tail, and they have white on them.”

“And what are his wings like?”

“Well, now, that finishes me. I am an old fool, or I could tell you.”

“Uncle Garnaud, I never even felt a bird; could I feel Jack?”

“Well, I could catch him; but you mustn’t squeeze him.”

Jack was caught with a sudden dart of the old man’s hand; the little
blind girl felt him softly, traced the shape of his outstretched wing,
and put him back into the cage with a sigh.

“Tell me, Uncle Garnaud,” she asked, “how did they catch him?”

“Well, you see, they put a little cage on a stump in the oat-field, and
by-and-by the bird flew over and went in.”

“Well, didn’t he know they would not let him out if he once went in?”

“Well, you know, he hadn’t any old uncle to tell him so.”

“Well, but birds must have uncles, if they have fathers just like we
have.”

Old Etienne puckered up his eyes and put his awl through his hair. The
bird ran down a whole cadence, as if he was on the wind over a
wheat-field; then he stopped.

“There, Uncle Garnaud, I know he must mean something by that. What did
he do all day before he was caught?”

“I don’t think he did any work. He just flew about and sang all day, and
picked up seeds, and sang, and tried to balance himself on the
wheat-ears.”

“He sang all day? Well, he doesn’t do that now.”

The bird seemed to recall a sunny field-corner, for his interlude was as
light as thistledown, and after a pause he made two little sounds like
the ringing of bells at Titania’s girdle.

“Perhaps he doesn’t like to be shut up and have nobody but us,” she
said, after a moment.

“Well,” said the old man, hesitatingly, “we might let him go.”

“Yes,” faltered the child, “we might let him go.”

The next time little Blanche was there she said, “And he didn’t do
anything but that, just sing and fly?”

“No, I think not.”

“Well, then, he could fly miles and miles, and never come back, if he
didn’t want to?”

“Why, yes; he went away every winter, so that the frost wouldn’t bite
him.”

“Oh! Uncle Garnaud, he didn’t, did he?”

“Yes, true, he did.”

The little girl was silent for a while; when the old man looked at her
the tears were in her eyes.

“Why, my pretty, what’s the matter?”

“Oh, I was just thinking that why he didn’t sing was because he only saw
you and me, and the road, and our trees, when he used to have
everything.”

“Well,” said the old man, stopping his work, “he might have everything
again, you know.”

“Might he?” she asked, doubtfully.

“Why, we might let him fly away.”

The bird dropped a clear note or two.

“Oh, Uncle Garnaud, do let him go!”

“Why, beauty, just as you say.”

The old man put off his apron and took the cage down.

“Here, little girl, you hold the cage, and we’ll go where he can fly
free.”

Blanche carried the cage and he took her hand. They walked down to the
bridge, and set the cage on the rail.

“Now, dearie, open the door,” said the old man.

The little child felt for the slide and pushed it back. In a moment the
bird rushed out and flew madly off.

“He’s gone,” she said, “Jack’s gone. Where did he go, Uncle?”

“He flew right through that maple-tree, and now he’s over the fields,
and now he’s out of sight.”

“And didn’t he even once look back?”

“No, never once.”

They stood there together for a moment, the old man gazing after the
departed bird, the little girl setting her brown, sightless eyes on the
invisible distance. Then, taking the empty cage, they went back to the
cabin. From that day their friendship was not untinged by regret; some
delicate mist of sorrow seemed to have blurred the glass of memory.
Though he could not tell why, old Etienne that evening felt anew his
loneliness, as he watched a long sunset of red and gold that lingered
after the footsteps of the August day, and cast a great color into his
silent cabin above the Blanche.



                     THE TRAGEDY OF THE SEIGNIORY.


THERE was a house on the outskirts of Viger called, by courtesy, the
Seigniory. Passing down one of the side-streets you caught sight of it,
set upon a rise, having nothing to do with the street, or seemingly with
any part of the town. Built into the bank, as it was, the front had
three stories, while the back had but two. The lower flat, half cellar,
half kitchen, was lighted from a broad door and two windows facing the
southeast. Entrance to the second floor was had by a flight of steps to
a wide gallery running completely across the front of the house. Then,
above this second story, there was a sharply-peaked roof, with
dormer-windows. The walls of the kitchen story were rough stone, while
the upper part had been plastered and overlaid with a buff-colored wash;
but time had cracked off the plaster in many places, and showed the
solid stones.

With all the ravages of time upon it, and with all its old surroundings
gone, it yet had an air of some distinction. With its shoulder to the
street, and its independent solidity, it made men remember days gone by,
when it was only a farm-house on the Estate of the Rioux family. Yet of
that estate this old house, with its surrounding three acres of land,
was all that remained; and of the retainers that once held allegiance to
this proud name, Louis Bois was the last.

Living alone in the old house, growing old with it, guarding some secret
and keeping at a proper distance the inquisitive and loquacious
villagers, had given Louis also some distinction. He was reported an old
soldier, and bore about the witness of it in a wooden leg. He swore,
when angry, in a cavalier fashion, using the heavier English oaths with
some freedom. His bravery, having never been put to proof, rested
securely upon these foundations. But he had a more definite charm for
the villagers; he was supposed to have money of his own, and afforded
the charming spectacle of a human being vegetating like a plant, without
effort and without trouble. Louis Bois had grown large in his indolence,
and towards the end of his career he moved with less frequency and
greater difficulty. His face was round and fat; the hair had never grown
on it, and the skin was fine and smooth as an orange, without wrinkles,
but marked with very decided pores. The expression of amiability that
his mouth promised was destroyed by an eye of suspicious restlessness.
About fifteen years before the time of his release Louis had been sworn
to his post by the last of the Rioux family—Hugo Armand Theophile.

This young man, of high spirit and passionate courage, found himself, at
the age of twenty-five, after two years of intermittent study at a
Jesuit College, fatherless, and without a sou to call his own. Of the
family estate, the farm-house, round which Viger had closed, was all
that remained, and from its windows this fiery youth might look across
the ten acres that were his, over miles of hill and wood to which his
grandfather had been born. This vista tortured him for three days, when
he sold seven of his acres, keeping the rest from pride. Then he shook
off the dust of Viger, but not before swearing Louis Bois, who was old
enough to be his father, and loved him as such, to stay and watch the
forlorn hope of the Rioux Estate until he, the last of the line, should
return and redeem his ancient heritage. He would be gone ten years, he
said; and Louis reflected with pride that his own money would keep him
that long, and longer.

At first he kept the whole house open, and entertained some of his
friends; but he soon discovered that he lost money by that, and
gradually he boarded up the windows and lived in the kitchen and one
room of the upper flat.

He was a sensitive being, this, and his master’s idea had taken hold
upon him. His burly frame contained a faint heart; he had no physical
courage; and he was as suspicious as a savage. Moreover, he was
superstitious, as superstitious as an old wife, and odd occurrences made
him uneasy. If he could have been allowed to doze on his gallery in the
sun all his days, and sleep secure of dreams and visitations all his
nights, his life might have been bearable. The first three years of his
stewardship were comparatively uneventful. He traced his liege’s
progress through the civilized world by the post-mark on his letters,
which sometimes contained a bill of exchange, of which the great and
safe bank of Bardé Brothers took charge. As yet his master had not
captured a treasure ship; but seven years remained.

At the beginning of his fourth year something happened which disturbed
Louis’ existence to its centre. An emissary of the devil, in the guise
of a surveyor, planted his theodolite, and ran a roadway which took off
a corner of his three acres, and for this he received only an
arbitrator’s allowance. In vain he stumped up and down his gallery, and
in vain his English oaths—the roadway went through. To add to his
trouble, the letters from the wanderer ceased. Was he dead? Had he
forgotten? No more money was coming in, and Louis had the perpetual
sight of the alienated lands before his eyes.

One day, when he was coming home from the bank, his eye caught a poster
that made him think; it was an announcement of a famous lottery. Do what
he would he could not get it out of his head; and that evening, when he
was cooking his supper, he resolved to make money after a fashion of his
own. He saw himself a suddenly rich man, the winner of the
seventy-five-thousand-dollar prize. He felt his knee burn under him, and
felt also what a dead thing his wooden leg was.

He began to venture small sums in the lottery, hoarding half his monthly
allowance until he should have sufficient funds to purchase a ticket.
Waiting for the moment when he could buy, and then waiting for the
moment when he could receive news of the drawing, lent a feverish
interest to his life. But he failed to win. With his failure grew a sort
of exasperation—he would win, he said, if he spent every cent he owned.
He had moments when he suspected that he was being duped, but he was
always reassured upon spelling out the lottery circular, where the
drawing by the two orphan children was so touchingly described.

At last, after repeated failures, he drew every cent of his own that he
could muster, and bought a whole ticket. He never rested a moment until
the returns came. He had days of high spirits, when he touched his gains
and saw them heaped before him, and other days of depression when he
cursed his ill luck, and saw blanks written everywhere. When he learned
the result his last disappointment was his greatest. He had drawn a
blank.

He was in a perfect fury of rage, and went off to bed cursing like a
sea-pirate. When he took off his wooden leg, he took it by the foot and
beat the floor with the knee-end until he got some relief. Could he have
captured, he would have murdered the innocent orphan children. He swore
never to be tempted again, but the morning when he took that oath, April
was bleak on the hills, and a tardy spring circled in cold sunshine,
leaving the buds suspended.

When May came, his hope again blossomed. Slowly and certainly his mind
approached that money he had in trust for his master, until, one sultry
day in June, he saw his way to success, and felt his conscience lulled.
That afternoon he dozed on the gallery and dreamed. He felt he was in
Heaven, and the heaven of his dreams was a large Cathedral whose nave he
had walked somewhere in his journeyings. He saw the solemn passages, the
penetrating shafts of light, the obscure altar rising dimly in the
star-hung alcove; and from the glamour round the altar floated down a
magnificent angel, and with a look of perfect knowledge in his eyes
shamed him for his base resolve. Slowly, as Louis quailed before him, he
dwindled, shimmering in the glory shaken from his vesture, until he grew
very faint and indistinct, and dissolved slowly into light. Then his
vision swayed aside, and he saw his own gallery, and a little
cream-colored dog, that sat with his back half-turned towards him, eying
him over his shoulder. Superstitious Louis shuddered when he saw this
dog. He thought there was something uncanny about him; but to a casual
observer he was an ordinary dog of mixed blood. He had a sharp nose and
ears, piercing eyes, straight, cream-colored hair rather white upon the
breast, and a tail curled down upon his back. He was a small dog; an
intense nervousness animated his every movement.

Louis was afraid to drive him away, and so long as he saw him he could
not forget his dream and the reproof he had had from heaven; gradually
he came to believe the animal was a spirit in canine form. His reasons
for this were that the dog never slept, or at least never seemed to
sleep. All day long he followed Louis about. If he dozed in his chair
the dog laid his nose between his paws and watched him. If he woke at
night his eyes burned in the darkness. Again, he never seemed to eat
anything, and he was never heard to utter a sound.

Louis, half-afraid of him, gave him a name; he called him Fidele. He
also tried to coax him, but to no purpose. The dog never approached him
except when he went to sleep; then he would move nearer to him. At last
he got greater confidence; and Louis awoke from a doze one day to find
him gnawing his wooden leg. He tried to frighten him off; but Fidele had
acquired the habit and stuck to it. Whenever Louis would fall asleep,
Fidele would approach him softly and chew his leg. Perhaps it was the
soft tremor that was imparted to his fleshy leg from the gnawing of the
wooden one; but Louis never slept more soundly than when this was
progressing. He saw, however, with dismay, his hickory support
vanishing, and to avoid wasting his money on wooden legs he covered the
one he had with brass-headed tacks. In the end the dog came to be a sort
of conscience for him. He could never look at his piercing eyes without
thinking of the way he had been warned.

To pay for his recklessness Louis had to live on a pittance for years;
just enough to keep himself alive. He might have lost his taste for
gambling, through this rigor, and his temptation to use his master’s
money might never have returned; but in his lottery business he had made
a confidant of one of the messengers of the Bardé Bank. The fellow’s
name was Jacques Potvin. He was full of dissimulation; he loved a lie
for its own sake; he devoured the simple character of Louis Bois.
Whenever they met, Louis was treated to a flushed account of all sorts
of escapades,—thousands made in a night—tens of thousands by a
pen-stroke.

At last, as a crowning success, Jacques Potvin himself had won a
thousand dollars in a drawing that Louis could not participate in. This
was galling. To have that money lying idle; never to hear from his
master Rioux, who was probably dead, and to see chance after chance slip
by him. He gave his trouble to Potvin! Potvin took the weight lightly
and threw it over his shoulder.

“Bah!” he said. “If I had that money under my fingers, I would be a rich
man before the year was out.”

The fever was in Louis’ blood again. He tossed a sleepless night, and
then resolved desperately. He shut Fidele up in the attic, and went off
and bought a ticket with his master’s money. When he came back from the
bank, the first thing he saw was Fidele seated in one of the
dormer-windows, watching him. It would be six months before he could get
any news of his venture; six months of Fidele and an accusing
conscience.

Half the time was scarcely over when, to his horror and joy, came a
letter from his master. It was dated at Rio. He was on his way home; he
would arrive in about six months. The probable failure of his scheme
gave Louis agony now. He would have to face his master, who would arrive
at Christmas if his plans were discharged, with a rifled bank account.
On the other hand, if he should be successful!—Oh! that gold, how it
haunted him!

One night, on the eve of his expectation, Louis fell asleep as he was
cooking his supper. He slept long, and when he awoke his stove was
red-hot. He started up, staring at something figured on the red stove
door.

It was only the number of the stove, but it was also the number of his
ticket. He waited, after that, in perfect serenity, and when his notice
came he opened it with calmness. He had won the
seventy-five-thousand-dollar prize.

He went off hot foot to Potvin.

“Of course,” he said, “I’ll have them send it to the Bardé Bank.”

“Just keep cool,” said Potvin. “Of course you’ll do nothing of the
sort.”

“But why?”

“Why? Wait and see. The Imperial Bank is safe enough for you.”

Louis had the money sent to the Imperial Bank.

A short time after this, when Louis passed the Bardé Bank, a crowd of
people were besieging the doors and reading the placards; the Bank had
suspended payment. The shrewdness of Potvin had saved his seventy-five
thousand.

When he next met Jacques, he hugged him to his heart. Jacques laid his
finger on his nose:

“Deeper still,” he said. “I know, I _know_ that the Imperial itself is
totterish. This affair of the Bardés has made things shaky; see?
Everything is on three legs. If I were you, now; if _I_ were you, I’d
just draw that seventy-five thousand dollars and lay it away in a
strong-box till this blows over.”

“But,” said Louis, in a panic, “I have no strong-box.”

“But _I_ have,” said Jacques.

Louis laid his hands on his shoulders, and could have wept.

Christmas passed, but no sign of Hugo Armand Theophile. But the second
week in January brought a letter, two days old, from New York. Rioux
would be in Viger in a week at the latest. Louis was in great spirits.
He planned a surprise for his master. He went off to find Jacques
Potvin, but Jacques was not to be found.

Louis arranged that Jacques was to meet him at a tavern called “The Blue
Bells” the next day.

“But,” said Jacques, when they met, “this is absurd. What do you want
the money for?”

“Never mind, I want it, that’s all.”

“But think; seventy-five thousand dollars!”

“I want it for a few days. Just the money—myself—I—is it not mine?”

Some one in the next compartment rose, and put his ear to the partition.
The voices were low, but he could hear them well. Listening intently,
his eyes seemed to sink into his head, and burn there darkly.

“Well, so it is,” concluded Jacques. “I will get it for you. But we’ll
have to do the thing quietly, very quietly. I’ll drive out to Viger
to-morrow night, say. I’ll meet you at that vacant field next the
church, at eleven, and the money will be there.”

The listener in the next compartment withdrew hastily, and mingled with
the crowd at the bar. That night he wandered out to Viger. He observed
the church and the vacant lot, and saw that there were here and there
hollows under the sidewalk, where a man might crouch.

He afterward wandered about for a while, and found himself in front of
the old farm-house. A side window of the second story was filled with
the flicker of a fire. A ladder leaned against the wall and ran up past
the window. He hesitated whether to ascend the gallery-steps or the
ladder. He chose the ladder. With his foot on the lowest rung, he said:

“If I hadn’t this little scheme on hand I would go in, but—”

He went up the ladder and looked in at the window. Louis Bois was asleep
before the fire. Fidele lay by his side. The man caught the dog’s eye.

Louis woke nervously, and saw a figure at the window. The only thing he
discerned distinctly was a white sort of cap. In his sudden fear,
seeking something to throw, he touched Fidele, and without thinking, he
hurled him full at the man.

The dog’s body broke the old sash and crashed through the glass. The
fellow vanished. When Louis had regained his courage, he let Fidele in.
There was not a scratch on him. He lay down about ten yards from Louis,
and looked at him fixedly.

The old soldier had no sleep that night, and no peace the next day.

The next night was wild. Louis looked from his window. The moon was
shining brightly on the icy fields that glared with as white a radiance;
over the polished surface drifted loose masses of snow, and clouds
rushed across the moon.

He took his cloak, his stick, and a dirk-knife, and locking Fidele in,
started forth. A few moments after he reached the rendezvous, Jacques
drove up in a berlin.

“Here it is,” Jacques said, pressing a box into his hands, “the key that
hangs there will open it. I must be off. Be careful!”

Jacques whirled away in the wind. There was not a soul to be seen. Louis
clutched his knife, and turned toward home. He had not left the church
very far behind, when he thought he heard something moving. A cloud
obscured the moon. A figure leaned out from under the sidewalk and
observed him. A moment later it sprang upon the pathway and leaped
forward.

Louis was sure some one was there; half looking round, he made a swipe
in the air with his knife. It encountered something. Looking round
fairly he saw a man with a whitish cap stagger off the sidewalk and fall
in the snow.

Hurrying on, he looked back a moment later, and saw the figure of the
man, receding, making with incredible swiftness across the vacant space.

Louis once out of sight, the man doubled with the rapidity of a wounded
beast, and after plunging through side-streets was again in front of the
farm-house. He ascended the ladder with some difficulty, and entered the
room by the window. Where he expected to find his faithful steward,
there was only a white dog that neither moved nor barked, and that
watched him fixedly as he fell, huddled and fainting, on the bunk.

A few minutes later Louis reached home. The sickness of fear possessed
him. He staggered into the room and sat before the fire, trying to
control himself. When he was calmer, he found himself clutching the box.
He threw off his cloak and took the key to fit it into the lock. The key
was too large. In vain he fussed and turned—it would not go in. He
shook the box; nothing rattled or moved. A horrid suspicion crossed his
mind. What if Jacques had stolen the money! What if there was nothing in
the box!

He seized the poker in a frenzy and beat the box open. It was
empty—empty—empty!

His hand went round in it mechanically, while he gazed, wild with
conjecture. Then, with an oath he flung the box on the fire and turned
away. The disturbed brands shot a glow into every part of the room, and
Louis saw by one flash a gray Persian-lamb cap, which he recognized,
lying on the floor. By the next, he saw the head, from which it had
rolled, pillowed on his bunk.

He tried to utter a cry, but sank into his chair stricken dumb; for
death had not yet softened the lines of desperate cunning on the face,
which, in spite of the scars of a wild life, he recognized as that of
Hugo Armand Theophile Rioux.

The look of that cap as he had seen it through the window; the glimpse
he had of it a few minutes ago, when he swept his knife back through the
air; the face of his master—dead; the thought of himself, duped and
robbed, fixed him in his chair, where he hung half-lifeless.

Everything reeled before him, but in a dull glare he saw Fidele, his
nose between his extended paws, and his eyes fixed keenly upon him. They
seemed to pierce him to the soul, until their gleam, which had followed
him for so many years, faded out with all the familiar lines and corners
of his room, engulfed in one intense, palpitating light.

The people who broke open the house saw the unexplained tragedy of the
Seigniory, but they did not find Fidele, nor was he ever seen again.



                          JOSEPHINE LABROSSE.


“JOSEPHINE,” said Madame Labrosse, quietly, through her
tears—“Josephine, we must set up a little shop.”

Said Josephine, with a movement of despair, “Every one sets up a little
shop.”

“True, and what every one does we must do.”

“But not every one succeeds, and ours would be a very little shop.”

“There are some other things we could do.”

“Mamma,” said Josephine, “do not dare! Let us set up a little shop.”

And accordingly the front room was cleared out and transformed. What
care they took! How clean it all was when they were at last ready for
customers, even to a diminutive sign.

“My daughter, who will wait?” asked Madame Labrosse.

“I will wait,” answered Josephine, and she hung her bird in the window,
put the door ajar, and waited.

That was in the early summer, before the Blanche had forgotten its
spring song.

“Mother,” said Josephine, “we belong to the people who do not succeed.”

“True!” replied Madame Labrosse, disconsolately. “But we must live, and
there is the mother,” and she cast her eyes to the corner where her own
mother sat, drawing at her pipe, so dark and withered as to look like a
piece of punk that had caught fire and was going off in smoke. “But
there are some things we can do.”

“Mamma, do not _dare_!”

But this time Madame Labrosse dared, and she put on her cloak and went
into the city. When she came back her face was radiant, but Josephine
cried herself to sleep that night.

All this was in the early March, before the Blanche had learned its
spring song.

In truth, if the shopkeeping had been a failure, was it the fault of
Josephine or Madame Labrosse? Their window was brighter than other
shop-windows, and one would have thought that people would have come in,
if only to look at the sweet eyes of Josephine and hear her bird sing.
But, no! In vain for months had the candy hearts and the red-and-white
walking-sticks hung in the window. It was the crumble and crash of one
of these same walking-sticks that had startled Josephine into the
confession that the shop was not a success. In vain had Madame Labrosse
placed steaming plates of pork and beans in the window. Their savor only
went up and rested in beads on the pane, making a veil behind which they
could stiffen and grow cold in protest against an unappreciative public.
In vain had she made _latire_ golden-brown, crisp, and delicate; it only
grew mealy and unresisting, and Josephine was in danger of utterly
spoiling her complexion by eating it.

“There must be something wrong with the window,” said Madame Labrosse.

“Well, I will walk out and see,” said Josephine, and she came sauntering
past with as little concern as possible.

“Mother, there is nothing wrong with the window.”

“Wait! I will try,” said Madame Labrosse, and she in turn came
sauntering by. But Josephine had stood in the door, and her mother,
chancing first to catch sight of her, lost her view of the window in her
surprise at the anxious beauty of her daughter’s face.

“Well! mamma.”

“Josephine, why did you stand in the door?” asked her mother, kissing
her on either cheek.

“But the window?” persisted Josephine.

“Let the fiend fly away with the window!” said her mother; and
Josephine’s bird, catching the defiance of the accent, burst into a
snatch of reckless song.

                 *        *        *        *        *

Now that Madame Labrosse had dared so much, Josephine was not to be
outdone, and she commenced to sew. Her mother always went away early in
the morning and came back before noon, and one day she caught Josephine
sewing. She snatched the work.

“Josephine, do not dare!” When she next found her at work she said
nothing, but instead of kissing her cheek, kissed her fingers.

But why was it that trouble seemed never very far away? Josephine sewed
so hard that she commenced to take stitches in her side, and of a sudden
Madame Labrosse fell sick—so sick that she could not do her work, and
Josephine had to go to the city with a message. Her heart beat as she
passed the office-doors covered with strange names; her heart stopped
beating when she came to the right one. She tapped timidly. Some one
called out, “Come in!” and Josephine pushed open the door. There was a
sudden stir in the room. The lawyers’ clerks looked up, and then tried
to go on with their work. A supercilious young man minced forward, and
Josephine gave her message. The clerks pretended to write, but the only
one who was working wrote Josephine’s words into a lease that he was
drawing—“the said party of the second part _cannot come_.”

When she went away, he leaned over the supercilious young man and asked:
“Where did she say she lived?”

“At St. Renard,” said the young man; at which every one laughed, except
his inquirer. He sat back in his chair, peering through his glasses at
the place where Josephine had stood. St. Renard—St. Renard; was there
ever such a saint in the calendar? was there ever such a suburb to the
city? When he left the office he walked as straight home as he could go.
He kept repeating Josephine’s words to himself: “My mother, Madame
Labrosse, being sick, cannot come; she lives at”—St. Renard? No, no;
not St. Renard. When he had arrived at the house, where he had boarded
for ten years, he went up to his room, and did not come down until the
next morning. When he had shut himself in, he commenced to rummage in
his trunk, and at last, after tossing everything about, he gave a cry of
joy and pulled out a flat, thin book. He spread this out on the table
and turned the leaves. On the first page were some verses, copied by
himself. The rest of the book was full of silhouettes, cut from black
paper and pasted on the white. He found a fragment of this paper, and
taking his scissors he commenced to cut it. It took the form of a face;
but, alas! not the face that was in his mind, and he let it drop in
despair. Then he tried to sleep, but he could not sleep. Through his
head kept running Josephine’s message, and he would hesitate at St.
Renard, trying to remember what she had said. At last he slept and had a
dream. He dreamed that he was sailing down a stream which grew narrower
and narrower. At last his boat stopped amid a tangle of weeds and
water-lilies. All around him on the broad leaves was seated a chorus of
frogs, singing out something at the top of their voices. He listened.
Then, little by little, whatever the word was, it grew more distinct
until one huge fellow opened his mouth and roared out “VIGER!” which
brought him wide awake. He repeated the word aloud, and it echoed in his
ears, growing softer and softer until it grew beautiful enough to fill a
place in his recollections and complete the sentence—“My mother, Madame
Labrosse, being sick, cannot come; she lives at Viger.”

The next Sunday, Victor dressed himself with care. He put on a new
_peuce_-velvet coat, which had just come home from the tailor’s, and
started for Viger. What he said when he found Madame Labrosse’s he could
never distinctly remember. The first impression he received, after a
return of consciousness, was of a bird singing very loudly—so loudly
that it seemed as if its cage was his head, and that, in addition to
singing, it was beating against the bars. He was less nervous the next
time he came, and the oftener he came the more he wondered at the
sweetness of Josephine’s face. At last he grew dumb with admiration.

“He is very quiet, this Victor of yours.”

“Mamma!” said Josephine, consciously.

“Does he never say a _word_?”

“Why, yes.”

“Now, what does he say?”

“Mamma, how can I remember?”

“Well, try, Josephine.”

“He said that now the leaves were on the trees he could not see so far
as he used to. That before, he could see our house from the Côte Rouge,
but not now.”

“Well, and what else?”

“Mamma, how can I remember? He said that the birds had their nests all
built now. He said that he wondered if any birds boarded out; that he
had boarded out for ten years. Mamma, what are you laughing at? How
cruel!”

“My little José, the dear timid one is in love.”

“Mamma, with whom?”

“How can I tell? I think he will tell you some day.”

But the “some day” seemed to recede; and all the days of May had gone
and June had begun, and still Josephine did not know.

Victor grew more timid than ever. Josephine thought a great deal about
his silence, and once her mother caught her blushing when he chanced to
stir in his chair. She intended to ask her about it, but her memory was
completely unhinged by a letter she received. It was evidently written
with great labor, and it caused the greatest excitement in the house.

“Mon Dieu!” Madame Labrosse exclaimed, “François Xavier comes to dine
to-morrow!” And preparations were at once commenced for the reception of
this François Xavier, who was Madame Labrosse’s favorite cousin.

His full name was François Xavier Beaugrand de Champagne. He had just
come down from his winter’s work up the river, and on the morning of the
day he was to dine with his cousin he stood leaning against the brick
wall of a small hotel in the suburbs. The sunlight was streaming down on
him, reflected up from the pavement and back from the house, and he
basked in the heat with his eyes half shut. His face was burned to a
fiery brown; but as he had just lost his full beard, his chin was a sort
of whitish-blue. He was evidently dressed with great care, in a
completely new outfit. He appeared as if forced into a suit of
dark-brown cloth; on his feet he wore a tight pair of low shoes, with
high heels, and red socks; his arms protruded from his coat-sleeves,
showing a glimpse of white cuffs and a flash of red under-clothes. His
necktie was a remarkable arrangement of red and blue silks mixed with
brass rings. On his head he wore a large, gum-colored, soft felt hat. He
had little gold ear-rings in his ears, and a large ring on his finger.
As he leaned against the wall he had thrust his fingers into his
pockets, and the sun had eased him into a sort of gloomy doze; for he
knew he had to go to Madame Labrosse’s for dinner, and he was not
entirely willing to leave his pleasures in the first flush of their
novelty. He had made arrangements to break away from the restraint early
in the evening, which softened his displeasure somewhat; but when his
friends came for him he was loath to go.

How beautiful Josephine had grown, how kind that cousin was, and how
quickly the time went,—now dinner, now tea; and who is this that comes
in after tea? This is Victor Lucier. And who is this that sits so
cheerfully, filling half the room with his hugeness? This is François
Xavier Beaugrand de Champagne; he has just returned. Just returned! Just
returned from where? What right has he to return? Who is this François
Xavier, who returns suddenly and fills the whole room? Can it be so? A
vague feeling of jealousy springs up in Victor. Can this be the one of
Josephine’s choosing? Yes, true it is; he calls her José. _José_, just
like Madame Labrosse.

But he is going now, and he is very loath to go; but he will be back
some day soon, and off he goes. And by and by away goes Madame Labrosse,
“just for a moment,” she says. They are alone now as they have never
been before. Josephine sits with the blood coming into her face,
wondering what Victor will say. Victor also wonders what he will say.

Josephine’s bird gives a faint, sleepy twitter. They both look up, then
he hops down from his perch and pecks at his seed-font. Suddenly he
gives a few sharp cries, as if to try his voice. They both start to
their feet. Now he commences to sing. What a burst of rapture! In a
moment Josephine is in Victor’s arms, her cheek is against the velvet
coat. Is it her own heart she hears, or is it Victor’s? No need of words
now. How the bird sings! High and clear he shakes out his song in a
passionate burst, as if all his life were for love. And they seem to
talk together in sweet unsaid words until he ceases. Now they are seated
on the sofa, and Madame Labrosse comes in.

“Josephine!”

“Mamma, how can I help it?” and the tears of joy creep out on her
eyelashes.

Suddenly the grandmother, catching sight, through her half-blind eyes,
of Victor and Josephine on the sofa, cries out and menaces him with her
shrivelled fist, when they all rush upon her with kisses and pacify her
with her pipe.

And now, what is this noise that breaks the quiet? It is a wild song
from the street, echoing in the room. There is a shout, and a cab draws
up at the door. It is François Xavier, returned for the second time. He
stands swaying in the middle of the floor. There is a vinous lustre in
his eyes. His coat is thrown back from his shoulder. Some one has been
dancing on his hat, for it is all crushed and dusty. He mutters the
words of the song which the chorus is roaring outside—“C’est dans la
vill’ de Bytown.” Madame Labrosse implores him with words to come some
other time. Josephine implores him with her eyes, clinging to Victor,
who has his arm around her. But François Xavier stands unimpressed.
Suddenly he makes an advance on Josephine, who retreats behind Victor.

“Scoundrel! base one,” calls out Victor, “leave the house, or I myself
will put you out!” François Xavier gazes for a moment on the little
figure peering at him so fiercely through his spectacles. Then, as the
chorus lulls for a moment, a smile of childish tenderness mantles all
his face and with the gesture of a father reclaiming his long-lost son
he stretches his arms toward Victor. He folds him to his breast, and,
lifting him from the floor, despite his struggles he carries him out
into the night, where the chorus bursts out anew—“C’est dans la vill’
de Bytown.”

It is late when Victor at last escapes, and hears them go roaring away
as he flees, hatless, through the fields to his home. It is still later
when he falls asleep, overcome by excitement and the stimulants which
have been administered to him; and through his feverish dreams runs the
sound of singing, of Josephine’s voice, inexpressibly sweet and tender,
like the voice of a happy angel, but the song that she sings is—“C’est
dans la vill’ de Bytown.”



                              THE PEDLER.


HE used to come in the early spring-time, when, in sunny hollows,
banks of coarse snow lie thawing, shrinking with almost inaudible
tinklings, when the upper grass-banks are covered thickly with the film
left by the melted snow, when the old leaves about the gray trees are
wet and sodden, when the pools lie bare and clear, without grasses, very
limpid with snow-water, when the swollen streams rush insolently by,
when the grosbeaks try the cedar buds shyly, and a colony of little
birds take a sunny tree slope, and sing songs there.

He used to come with the awakening of life in the woods, with the
strange cohosh, and the dog-tooth violet, piercing the damp leaf which
it would wear as a ruff about its neck in blossom time. He used to come
up the road from St. Valérie, trudging heavily, bearing his packs. To
most of the Viger people he seemed to appear suddenly in the midst of
the street, clothed with power, and surrounded by an attentive crowd of
boys, and a whirling fringe of dogs, barking and throwing up dust.

I speak of what has become tradition, for the pedler walks no more up
the St. Valérie road, bearing those magical baskets of his.

There was something powerful, compelling, about him; his short, heavy
figure, his hair-covered, expressionless face, the quick hands in which
he seemed to weigh everything that he touched, his voluminous,
indescribable clothes, the great umbrella he carried strapped to his
back, the green spectacles that hid his eyes, all these commanded
attention. But his powers seemed to lie in those inscrutable guards to
his eyes. They were such goggles as are commonly used by threshers, and
were bound firmly about his face by a leather lace; with their setting
of iron they completely covered his eye-sockets, not permitting a
glimpse of those eyes that seemed to glare out of their depths. They
seemed never to have been removed, but to have grown there, rooted by
time in his cheek-bones.

He carried a large wicker-basket covered with oiled cloth, slung to his
shoulder by a strap; in one hand he carried a light stick, in the other
a large oval bandbox of black shiny cloth. From the initials “J. F.,”
which appeared in faded white letters on the bandbox, the village people
had christened him Jean-François.

Coming into the village, he stopped in the middle of the road, set his
bandbox between his feet, and took the oiled cloth from the basket. He
never went from house to house, his customers came to him. He stood
there and sold, almost without a word, as calm as a sphinx, and as
powerful. There was something compelling about him; the people bought
things they did not want, but they had to buy. The goods lay before
them, the handkerchiefs, the laces, the jewelry, the little sacred
pictures, matches in colored boxes, little cased looking-glasses, combs,
mouth-organs, pins, and hair-pins; and over all, this figure with the
inscrutable eyes. As he took in the money and made change, he uttered
the word, “Good,” continually, “good, good.” There was something
exciting in the way he pronounced that word, something that goaded the
hearers into extravagance.

It happened one day in April, when the weather was doubtful and moody,
and storms flew low, scattering cold rain, and after that day
Jean-François, the pedler, was a shape in memory, a fact no longer. He
was blown into the village unwetted by a shower that left the streets
untouched, and that went through the northern fields sharply, and lost
itself in the far woods. He stopped in front of the post-office. The
Widow Laroque slammed her door and went upstairs to peep through the
curtain; “these pedlers spoiled trade,” she said, and hated them in
consequence. Soon a crowd collected, and great talk arose, with laughter
and some jostling. Every one tried to see into the basket, those behind
stood on tiptoe and asked questions, those in front held the crowd back
and tried to look at the goods. The air was full of the staccato of
surprise and admiration. The late comers on the edge of the crowd
commenced to jostle, and somebody tossed a handful of dust into the air
over the group. “What a wretched wind,” cried some one, “it blows all
ways.”

The dust seemed to irritate the pedler, besides, no one had bought
anything. He called out sharply, “Buy—buy.” He sold two papers of
hair-pins, a little brass shrine of La Bonne St. Anne, a colored
handkerchief, a horn comb, and a mouth-organ. While these purchases were
going on, Henri Lamoureux was eying the little red purses, and fingering
a coin in his pocket. The coin was a doubtful one, and he was weighing
carefully the chances of passing it. At last he said, carelessly, “How
much?” touching the purses. The pedler’s answer called out the coin from
his pocket; it lay in the man’s hand. Henri took the purse and moved
hurriedly back. At once the pedler grasped after him, reaching as well
as his basket would allow; he caught him by the coat; but Henri’s dog
darted in, nipped the pedler’s leg, and got away, showing his teeth.
Lamoureux struggled, the pedler swore; in a moment every one was
jostling to get out of the way, wondering what was the matter. As Henri
swung his arm around he swept his hand across the pedler’s eyes; the
shoe-string gave way, and the green goggles fell into the basket. Then a
curious change came over the man. He let his enemy go, and stood dazed
for a moment; he passed his hand across his eyes, and in that interval
of quiet the people saw, where they expected to see flash the two
rapacious eyes of their imaginings, only the seared, fleshy seams where
those eyes should have been.

That was the vision of a moment, for the pedler, like a fiend in fury,
threw up his long arms and cursed in a voice so powerful and sudden that
the dismayed crowd shrunk away, clinging to one another and looking over
their shoulders at the violent figure. “God have mercy!—Holy St. Anne
protect us!—He curses his Baptism!” screamed the women. In a second he
was alone; the dog that had assailed him was snarling from under the
sidewalk, and the women were in the nearest houses. Henri Lamoureux, in
the nearest lane, stood pale, with a stone in his hand. It was only for
one moment; in the second, the pedler had gathered his things, blind as
he was, had turned his back, and was striding up the street; in the
third, one of the sudden storms had gathered the dust at the end of the
village and came down with it, driving every one indoors. It shrouded
the retreating figure, and a crack of unexpected thunder came like a
pistol shot, and then the pelting rain.

Some venturesome souls who looked out when the storm was nearly over,
declared they saw, large on the hills, the figure of the pedler, walking
enraged in the fringes of the storm. One of these was Henri Lamoureux,
who, to this day, has never found the little red purse.

“I would have sworn I had it in this hand when he caught me; but I felt
it fly away like a bird.”

“But what made the man curse every one so when you just bought that
little purse—say that?”

“Well, I know not, do you? Anyway he has my quarter, and he was
blind—blind as a stone fence.”

“Blind! Not he!” cried the Widow Laroque. “He was the Old Boy himself; I
told you—it is always as I say, you see now—it was the old Devil
himself.”

However that might be, there are yet people in Viger who, when the dust
blows, and a sharp storm comes up from the southeast, see the figure of
the enraged pedler, large upon the hills, striding violently along the
fringes of the storm.



                             PAUL FARLOTTE.


NEAR the outskirts of Viger, to the west, far away from the Blanche,
but having a country outlook of their own, and a glimpse of a shadowy
range of hills, stood two houses which would have attracted attention by
their contrast, if for no other reason. One was a low cottage,
surrounded by a garden, and covered with roses, which formed jalousies
for the encircling veranda. The garden was laid out with the care and
completeness that told of a master hand. The cottage itself had the air
of having been secured from the inroads of time as thoroughly as paint
and a nail in the right place at the right time could effect that end.
The other was a large gaunt-looking house, narrow and high, with many
windows, some of which were boarded up, as if there was no further use
for the chambers into which they had once admitted light. Standing on a
rough piece of ground it seemed given over to the rudeness of decay. It
appeared to have been the intention of its builder to veneer it with
brick; but it stood there a wooden shell, discolored by the weather,
disjointed by the frost, and with the wind fluttering the rags of
tar-paper which had been intended as a protection against the cold, but
which now hung in patches and ribbons. But despite this dilapidation it
had a sort of martial air about it, and seemed to watch over its
embowered companion, warding off tempests and gradually falling to
pieces on guard, like a faithful soldier who suffers at his post. In the
road, just between the two, stood a beautiful Lombardy poplar. Its
shadow fell upon the little cottage in the morning, and travelled across
the garden, and in the evening touched the corner of the tall house, and
faded out with the sun, only to float there again in the moonlight, or
to commence the journey next morning with the dawn. This shadow seemed,
with its constant movement, to figure the connection that existed
between the two houses.

The garden of the cottage was a marvel; there the finest roses in the
parish grew, roses which people came miles to see, and parterres of
old-fashioned flowers, the seed of which came from France, and which in
consequence seemed to blow with a rarer color and more delicate perfume.
This garden was a striking contrast to the stony ground about the
neighboring house, where only the commonest weeds grew unregarded; but
its master had been born a gardener, just as another man is born a
musician or a poet. There was a superstition in the village that all he
had to do was to put anything, even a dry stick, into the ground, and it
would grow. He was the village schoolmaster, and Madame Laroque would
remark spitefully enough that if Monsieur Paul Farlotte had been as
successful in planting knowledge in the heads of his scholars as he was
in planting roses in his garden Viger would have been celebrated the
world over. But he was born a gardener, not a teacher; and he made the
best of the fate which compelled him to depend for his living on
something he disliked. He looked almost as dry as one of his own
hyacinth bulbs; but like it he had life at his heart. He was a very
small man, and frail, and looked older than he was. It was strange, but
you rarely seemed to see his face; for he was bent with weeding and
digging, and it seemed an effort for him to raise his head and look at
you with the full glance of his eye. But when he did, you saw the eye
was honest and full of light. He was not careful of his personal
appearance, clinging to his old garments with a fondness which often
laid him open to ridicule, which he was willing to bear for the sake of
the comfort of an old pair of shoes, or a hat which had accommodated
itself to the irregularities of his head. On the street he wore a
curious skirt-coat that seemed to be made of some indestructible
material, for he had worn it for years, and might be buried in it. It
received an extra brush for Sundays and holidays, and always looked as
good as new. He made a quaint picture, as he came down the road from the
school. He had a hesitating walk, and constantly stopped and looked
behind him; for he always fancied he heard a voice calling him by his
name. He would be working in his flower-beds when he would hear it over
his shoulder, “Paul;” or when he went to draw water from his well,
“Paul;” or when he was reading by his fire, some one calling him softly,
“Paul, Paul;” or in the dead of night, when nothing moved in his cottage
he would hear it out of the dark, “Paul.” So it came to be a sort of
companionship for him, this haunting voice; and sometimes one could have
seen him in his garden stretch out his hand and smile, as if he were
welcoming an invisible guest. Sometimes the guest was not invisible, but
took body and shape, and was a real presence; and often Paul was greeted
with visions of things that had been, or that would be, and saw figures
where, for other eyes, hung only the impalpable air.

He had one other passion besides his garden, and that was Montaigne. He
delved in one in the summer, in the other in the winter. With his feet
on his stove he would become so absorbed with his author that he would
burn his slippers and come to himself disturbed by the smell of the
singed leather. He had only one great ambition, that was to return to
France to see his mother before she died; and he had for years been
trying to save enough money to take the journey. People who did not know
him called him stingy, and said the saving for his journey was only a
pretext to cover his miserly habits. It was strange, he had been saving
for years, and yet he had not saved enough. Whenever anyone would ask
him, “Well, Monsieur Farlotte, when do you go to France?” he would
answer, “Next year—next year.” So when he announced one spring that he
was actually going, and when people saw that he was not making his
garden with his accustomed care, it became the talk of the village:
“Monsieur Farlotte is going to France;” “Monsieur Farlotte has saved
enough money, true, true, he is going to France.”

His proposed visit gave no one so much pleasure as it gave his neighbors
in the gaunt, unkempt house which seemed to watch over his own; and no
one would have imagined what a joy it was to Marie St. Denis, the tall
girl who was mother to her orphan brothers and sisters, to hear Monsieur
Farlotte say, “When I am in France;” for she knew what none of the
villagers knew, that, if it had not been for her and her troubles,
Monsieur Farlotte would have seen France many years before. How often
she would recall the time when her father, who was in the employ of the
great match factory near Viger, used to drive about collecting the
little paper match-boxes which were made by hundreds of women in the
village and the country around; how he had conceived the idea of making
a machine in which a strip of paper would go in at one end, and the
completed match-boxes would fall out at the other; how he had given up
his situation and devoted his whole time and energy to the invention of
this machine; how he had failed time and again, but continued with a
perseverance which at last became a frantic passion; and how, to keep
the family together, her mother, herself, and the children joined that
army of workers which was making the match-boxes by hand. She would
think of what would have happened to them then if Monsieur Farlotte had
not been there with his help, or what would have happened when her
mother died, worn out, and her father, overcome with disappointment,
gave up his life and his task together, in despair. But whenever she
would try to speak of these things Monsieur Farlotte would prevent her
with a gesture, “Well, but what would you have me do,—besides, I will
go some day,—now who knows, next year, perhaps.” So here was the “next
year,” which she had so longed to see, and Monsieur Farlotte was giving
her a daily lecture on how to treat the tulips after they had done
flowering, preluding everything he had to say with, “When I am in
France,” for his heart was already there.

He had two places to visit, one was his old home, the other was the
birthplace of his beloved Montaigne. He had often described to Marie the
little cottage where he was born, with the vine arbors and the long
garden walks, the lilac-bushes, with their cool dark-green leaves, the
white eaves where the swallows nested, and the poplar, sentinel over
all. “You see,” he would say, “I have tried to make this little place
like it; and my memory may have played me a trick, but I often fancy
myself at home. That poplar and this long walk and the vines on the
arbor,—sometimes when I see the tulips by the border I fancy it is all
in France.”

Marie was going over his scant wardrobe, mending with her skilful
fingers, putting a stitch in the trusty old coat, and securing its
buttons. She was anxious that Monsieur Farlotte should get a new suit
before he went on his journey; but he would not hear to it. “Not a bit
of it,” he would say, “if I made my appearance in a new suit, they would
think I had been making money; and when they would find out that I had
not enough to buy cabbage for the soup there would be a disappointment.”
She could not get him to write that he was coming. “No, no,” he would
say, “if I do that they will expect me.” “Well, and why not,—why not?”
“Well, they would think about it,—in ten days Paul comes home, then in
five days Paul comes home, and then when I came they would set the dogs
on me. No, I will just walk in,—so,—and when they are staring at my
old coat I will just sit down in a corner, and my old mother will
commence to cry. Oh, I have it all arranged.”

So Marie let him have his own way; but she was fixed on having her way
in some things. To save Monsieur Farlotte the heavier work, and allow
him to keep his strength for the journey, she would make her brother Guy
do the spading in the garden, much to his disgust, and that of Monsieur
Farlotte, who would stand by and interfere, taking the spade into his
own hands with infinite satisfaction. “See,” he would say, “go deeper
and turn it over so.” And when Guy would dig in his own clumsy way, he
would go off in despair, with the words, “God help us, nothing will grow
there.”

When Monsieur Farlotte insisted on taking his clothes in an old box
covered with rawhide, with his initials in brass tacks on the cover,
Marie would not consent to it, and made Guy carry off the box without
his knowledge and hide it. She had a good tin trunk which had belonged
to her mother, which she knew where to find in the attic, and which
would contain everything Monsieur Farlotte had to carry. Poor Marie
never went into this attic without a shudder, for occupying most of the
space was her father’s work bench, and that complicated wheel, the model
of his invention, which he had tried so hard to perfect, and which stood
there like a monument of his failure. She had made Guy promise never to
move it, fearing lest he might be tempted to finish what his father had
begun,—a fear that was almost an apprehension, so like him was he
growing. He was tall and large-boned, with a dark restless eye, set
under an overhanging forehead. He had long arms, out of proportion to
his height, and he hung his head when he walked. His likeness to his
father made him seem a man before his time. He felt himself a man; for
he had a good position in the match factory, and was like a father to
his little brothers and sisters.

Although the model had always had a strange fascination for him, the lad
had kept his promise to his sister, and had never touched the mechanism
which had literally taken his father’s life. Often when he went into the
attic he would stand and gaze at the model and wonder why it had not
succeeded, and recall his father bending over his work, with his compass
and pencil. But he had a dread of it too, and sometimes would hurry
away, afraid lest its fascination would conquer him.

Monsieur Farlotte was to leave as soon as his school closed, but weeks
before that he had everything ready, and could enjoy his roses in peace.
After school hours he would walk in his garden, to and fro, to and fro,
with his hands behind his back, and his eyes upon the ground,
meditating; and once in a while he would pause and smile, or look over
his shoulder when the haunting voice would call his name. His scholars
had commenced to view him with additional interest, now that he was
going to take such a prodigious journey; and two or three of them could
always be seen peering through the palings, watching him as he walked up
and down the path; and Marie would watch him too, and wonder what he
would say when he found that his trunk had disappeared. He missed it
fully a month before he could expect to start; but he had resolved to
pack that very evening.

“But there is plenty of time,” remonstrated Marie.

“That’s always the way,” he answered. “Would you expect me to leave
everything until the last moment?”

“But, Monsieur Farlotte, in ten minutes everything goes into the trunk.”

“So, and in the same ten minutes something is left out of the trunk, and
I am in France, and my shoes are in Viger, that will be the end of it.”

So, to pacify him, she had to ask Guy to bring down the trunk from the
attic. It was not yet dark there; the sunset threw a great color into
the room, touching all the familiar objects with transfiguring light,
and giving the shadows a rich depth. Guy saw the model glowing like some
magic golden wheel, the metal points upon it gleaming like jewels in the
light. As he passed he touched it, and with a musical click something
dropped from it. He picked it up: it was one of the little paper
match-boxes, but the defect that he remembered to have heard talked of
was there. He held it in his hand and examined it; then he pulled it
apart and spread it out. “Ah,” he said to himself, “the fault was in the
cutting.” Then he turned the wheel, and one by one the imperfect boxes
dropped out, until the strip of paper was exhausted. “But why,”—the
question rose in his mind,—“why could not that little difficulty be
overcome?”

He took the trunk down to Marie, who at last persuaded Monsieur Farlotte
to let her pack his clothes in it. He did so with a protestation, “Well,
I know how it will be with a fine box like that, some fellow will whip
it off when I am looking the other way, and that will be the end of it.”

As soon as he could do so without attracting Marie’s attention Guy
returned to the attic with a lamp. When Marie had finished packing
Monsieur Farlotte’s wardrobe, she went home to put her children to bed;
but when she saw that light in the attic window she nearly fainted from
apprehension. When she pushed open the door of that room which she had
entered so often with the scant meals she used to bring her father, she
saw Guy bending over the model, examining every part of it. “Guy,” she
said, trying to command her voice, “you have broken your promise.” He
looked up quickly. “Marie, I am going to find it out—I can understand
it—there is just one thing, if I can get that we will make a fortune
out of it.”

“Guy, don’t delude yourself; those were father’s words, and day after
day I brought him his meals here, when he was too busy even to come
downstairs; but nothing came of it, and while he was trying to make a
machine for the boxes, we were making them with our fingers. O Guy,” she
cried, with her voice rising into a sob, “remember those days, remember
what Monsieur Farlotte did for us, and what he would have to do again if
you lost your place!”

“That’s all nonsense, Marie. Two weeks will do it, and after that I
could send Monsieur Farlotte home with a pocket full of gold.”

“Guy, you are making a terrible mistake. That wheel was our curse, and
it will follow us if you don’t leave it alone. And think of Monsieur
Farlotte; if he finds out what you are working at he will not go to
France—I know him; he will believe it his duty to stay here and help
us, as he did when father was alive. Guy, Guy, listen to me!”

But Guy was bending over the model, absorbed in its labyrinths. In vain
did Marie argue with him, try to persuade him, and threaten him; she
attempted to lock the attic door and keep him out, but he twisted the
lock off, and after that the door was always open. Then she resolved to
break the wheel into a thousand pieces; but when she went upstairs, when
Guy was away, she could not strike it with the axe she held. It seemed
like a human thing that cried out with a hundred tongues against the
murder she would do; and she could only sink down sobbing, and pray.
Then failing everything else she simulated an interest in the thing, and
tried to lead Guy to work at it moderately, and not to give up his whole
time to it.

But he seemed to take up his father’s passion where he had laid it down.
Marie could do nothing with him; and the younger children, at first
hanging around the attic door, as if he were their father come back
again, gradually ventured into the room, and whispered together as they
watched their rapt and unobservant brother working at his task. Marie’s
one thought was to devise a means of keeping the fact from Monsieur
Farlotte; and she told him blankly that Guy had been sent away on
business, and would not be back for six weeks. She hoped that by that
time Monsieur Farlotte would be safely started on his journey. But night
after night he saw a light in the attic window. In the past years it had
been constant there, and he could only connect it with one cause. But he
could get no answer from Marie when he asked her the reason; and the
next night the distracted girl draped the window so that no ray of light
could find its way out into the night. But Monsieur Farlotte was not
satisfied; and a few evenings afterwards, as it was growing dusk, he
went quietly into the house, and upstairs into the attic. There he saw
Guy stretched along the work bench, his head in his hands, using the
last light to ponder over a sketch he was making, and beside him,
figured very clearly in the thick gold air of the sunset, the form of
his father, bending over him, with the old eager, haggard look in his
eyes. Monsieur Farlotte watched the two figures for a moment as they
glowed in their rich atmosphere; then the apparition turned his head
slowly, and warned him away with a motion of his hand.

All night long Monsieur Farlotte walked in his garden, patient and
undisturbed, fixing his duty so that nothing could root it out. He found
the comfort that comes to those who give up some exceeding deep desire
of the heart, and when next morning the market-gardener from St.
Valérie, driving by as the matin bell was clanging from St. Joseph’s,
and seeing the old teacher as if he were taking an early look at his
growing roses, asked him, “Well, Monsieur Farlotte, when do you go to
France?” he was able to answer cheerfully, “Next year—next year.”

Marie could not unfix his determination. “No,” he said, “they do not
expect me. No one will be disappointed. I am too old to travel. I might
be lost in the sea. Until Guy makes his invention we must not be apart.”

At first the villagers thought that he was only joking, and that they
would some morning wake up and find him gone; but when the holidays
came, and when enough time had elapsed for him to make his journey twice
over they began to think he was in earnest. When they knew that Guy St.
Denis was chained to his father’s invention, and when they saw that
Marie and the children had commenced to make match-boxes again, they
shook their heads. Some of them at least seemed to understand why
Monsieur Farlotte had not gone to France.

But he never repined. He took up his garden again, was as contented as
ever, and comforted himself with the wisdom of Montaigne. The people
dropped the old question, “When are you going to France?” Only his
companion voice called him more loudly, and more often he saw figures in
the air that no one else could see.

Early one morning, as he was working in his garden around a growing
pear-tree, he fell into a sort of stupor, and sinking down quietly on
his knees he leaned against the slender stem for support. He saw a
garden much like his own, flooded with the clear sunlight, in the shade
of an arbor an old woman in a white cap was leaning back in a wheeled
chair, her eyes were closed, she seemed asleep. A young woman was seated
beside her holding her hand. Suddenly the old woman smiled, a childish
smile, as if she were well pleased. “Paul,” she murmured, “Paul, Paul.”
A moment later her companion started up with a cry; but she did not
move, she was silent and tranquil. Then the young woman fell on her
knees and wept, hiding her face. But the aged face was inexpressibly
calm in the shadow, with the smile lingering upon it, fixed by the
deeper sleep into which she had fallen.

Gradually the vision faded away, and Paul Farlotte found himself leaning
against his pear-tree, which was almost too young as yet to support his
weight. The bell was ringing from St. Joseph’s, and had shaken the
swallows from their nests in the steeple into the clear air. He heard
their cries as they flew into his garden, and he heard the voices of his
neighbor children as they played around the house.

Later in the day he told Marie that his mother had died that morning,
and she wondered how he knew.

                                THE END.



                           TRANSCRIBER NOTES


Misspelled words and printer errors have been corrected.

Inconsistencies in punctuation have been maintained.

A cover was created for this eBook.

[The end of _In the Village of Viger_, by Duncan Campbell Scott.]





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "In the Village of Viger" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home