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Title: Brigadier Frederick, The Dean's Watch
Author: Erckmann-Chatrian
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 "Brigadier Frederick, The Dean's Watch" ***

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DEAN’S WATCH ***



[Illustration: Emile Erckmann]



                       [Illustration: Title page]


                          *ERCKMANN-CHATRIAN*

                         *Brigadier Frederick*

                                 *AND*

                           *The Dean’s Watch*


                       TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH

                      WITH A CRITICAL INTRODUCTION
                    BY PROF. RICHARD BURTON, OF THE
                        UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA

                      A FRONTISPIECE AND NUMEROUS
                          OTHER PORTRAITS WITH
                          DESCRIPTIVE NOTES BY
                             OCTAVE UZANNE



                          P. F. COLLIER & SON
                                NEW YORK



                            COPYRIGHT, 1902
                        BY D. APPLETON & COMPANY



                          *ERCKMANN-CHATRIAN*


Fashions change in literature, but certain things abide.  There may be
disputes from generation to generation, even from decade to decade, as
to what is æsthetic, or what is beautiful; there is less as to what is
human.  The work of the French writers, whose duality is quite lost in
the long-time association of their names for the purposes of story
making, seems at the least to make this claim to outlast its authors: it
is delightfully saturated with humanity.

And this humanity is of the sort that, since it can be understood of all
men, is therefore very widely acceptable.  It is well to emphasize the
point in an attempt to explain the popularity of Erckmann-Chatrian,
immediate or remote.  There are other reasons, to be sure: but this one
is at the door, knocking to be heard.  But to speak of the essential
humanity of these books is not to deny or ignore their art; that they
have in abundance--quite as truly indeed as the work of your most
insistent advocate of "art for art"; but it is art for life’s sake.  In
the best sense, the verisimilitude of the Erckmann-Chatrian stories is
admirable, impressive.  They are, as a rule, exquisitely in key.  They
produce a cumulative effect by steadily, unobtrusively clinging to a
single view-point, that of the speaker who is an eye-witness, and the
result is a double charm--that of reality and that of illusion.  One
sees life, not through the eyes of the authors, but through the eyes of
the characters; hence the frequent setting-forth of principles is
relieved from didacticism by the careful way in which the writers
refrain from expressing their own opinion. So artistic are they that
they even indulge in the delicate ruse of opposing the views which are
really their own, thereby producing a still stronger effect of
fair-mindedness and detachment.

Yet, as the world knows, in the most justly famed of their books, the
so-called National Novels, it is their purpose to preach against war;
they are early advocates of the principles of the Peace Congress at The
Hague, forerunners, in their own fashion, of the ideas expressed in art
and literature by later men like Tolstoy and Verestchagin.

The local colour--one still uses the phrase as convenient--is remarkable
for its sympathetic fidelity; the style well-nigh a model of prose whose
purpose it is to depict in homely yet picturesque terms the passage of
great events, seen by humble, it may be Philistine, folk, and hence not
seen _couleur de rose_.  When a heartfelt sympathy for average
human-kind rises to the surface of the author’s feeling, some candid,
cordial phrase is ever found to express it.

The work of Erckmann-Chatrian, voluminous as it is, can be easily
classified: it mainly consists of the idyl and the picture of war;
_L’lllustre Docteur Mathéus_, their first success, happily illustrates
the former _genre_; any one of the half dozen tales making up the
National Novel series may be taken to represent the latter.  Both veins
turned out to be gold mines, so rich were they in the free-milling ore
of popular favour.  Such stories as _L’Ami Fritz_ and _The Brigadier
Frederick_ are types of the two kinds of fiction which panned out most
richly also for the world.  In the idyl dealing with homely provincial
life--the life of their home province--these authors are, of a truth,
masters. The story is naught, the way of telling it, all that breeds
atmosphere and innuendo, is everything.  In _L’Ami Fritz_ the plot may
be told in a sentence: ’tis the wooing and winning of a country lass,
daughter of a farmer, by a well-to-do jovial bachelor of middle age in a
small town; _voilà tout_; yet the tale makes not only delicious reading,
it leaves a permanent impression of pleasure--one is fain to re-read it.
It is rich in human nature, in a comfortable sense of the good things of
the earth; food and drink, soft beds, one’s seat at the tavern, spring
sunlight, and the sound of a fiddle playing dance tunes at the fair:
and, on a higher plane, of the genial joys of comradeship and the stanch
belief in one’s native land.  When the subtler passion of love comes in
upon this simple pastoral scene, the gradual discovery of Friend Fritz
that the sentiment he has always ridiculed has him at last in its
clutch, is portrayed with a sly unction, a kindly humour overlying an
unmistakable tenderness of heart, which give the tale great charm.
Sweetness and soundness are fundamentals of such literature.

This tale is a type of them all, though deservedly the best liked.  Love
of nature and of human nature, a knowledge of the little, significant
things that make up life, an exquisite realism along with a sort of
temperamental optimism which assumes good of men and women—these blend
in the provincial stories in such a way that one’s sense of art is
charmed while in no less degree one’s sense of life is quickened and
comforted.  Erckmann-Chatrian introduced to French readers the genuine
Alsatian, not the puppet of the vaudeville stage.  Their books are,
among other things, historical documents.  From their sketches and tales
better than in any other way one can gain an understanding of the
present German provinces of Alsace and Lorraine during a period
stretching from the Revolution to and after the Franco-Prussian war.
The Alsatian in their hands is seen distinctly as one of the most
interesting of Gallic provincial types.

The attitude of Dr. Mathéus, that charming physician savant, who is in
love with science, with the great world of scholarship and literary
fame, and so is fain to leave his simple countryside in quest of
renown—in his final return to his home as, after all, the best spot on
earth, typifies the teaching of these authors in all their works.  The
tale is a sort of allegory, veiling a sermon on the value of the
"fireside clime" of home hearths and hearts. Nor must it be forgotten
that these writers cultivated the short story or tale with vigour and
success; _The Dean’s Watch_, printed in the present volume, is an
excellent example of the _genre_. Erckmann-Chatrian, especially in the
earlier years of their conjoined labour, wrote numerous pieces of short
fiction which abounded in gruesome adventure and situations more or less
startling—witness the Heidelberg murder story.  They possessed a
considerable talent for the detective fiction brought to a fine art by
Poe and worthily carried on in our day by Conan Doyle.  Yet even here
the work has a higher value—perhaps the highest—for the thoughtful
reader in that it affords a faithful transcript of German life in time
gone by; the authors, although so circumscribed in space, are in some
sort historians of piquant social conditions.  It is commonly said that
your true short-story writer is not a novelist, nor the other way about.
But _The Dean’s Watch_, and a dozen other tales that could be named, are
little master-pieces not to be omitted in any just, comprehensive survey
of these fecund authors.

The National Novels differ from these simpler tales in more than theme
and the fuller body and greater variety they possess; the authors’ aim
in the series sets the books apart from the other stories.  This group
is made up of tales that fairly may be called "purpose fiction," in the
present cant.  Erckmann-Chatrian agree to hate war and to justify their
hate by writing a succession of books portraying its horrors, always
from the disadvantage-point of actual humble participants and onlookers,
so that the plea shall appear to be at once fairly made and yet be
overwhelming in effect.  Of the result, surely it may be said of the
National Novels that if they are not magnificent, they are war—war
stript of its glory, reduced to the one grim denominator of human
misery.

The successive national struggles of France towards that peaceful
Republicanism which has now endured long enough to induce the outside
world into a belief that this volatile, fiery people will never revert
to any form of monarchy, are sketched so graphically as to give a clear
comprehension of their history.  Nowhere is the artistry of the authors
better exhibited than in the skill with which, by placing their own
position in the mouths of others and by means of their remarkable power
in characterization, they rob special pleading of that didacticism which
is so deadly an enemy of good fiction.  To secure an effect of
verisimilitude no method of story-telling is perhaps so useful as that
in which one of the characters speaks in proper person.  What the author
loses in omniscience, he more than gains in the impression of reality.
This method is admirable in the hands of Erckmann-Chatrian, who
consistently use it in their fiction.  Do the writers of any other
nation, one is tempted to query, offer such frequent examples of good
taste in this avoidance of the too didactic as do the French?  In some
English hands so strenuous an attempt would have seemed heavily
intolerable. Here one forgets all but the naturalness of word and action
in the characters; and the lesson sinks the deeper into the mind.

In justice both to our authors and the present-day temper, it may be
declared that the Twentieth Century is likely to be more sympathetic to
their particular thesis than was their own time.  There is a popular
treatment of war which bedecks it in a sort of stage tinsel, to the
hiding of its gaunt figure and cadaverous face.  Some of Scott’s
romances are of this order.  Zola, with his epic sweep in _Le Débâcle_,
does not disguise the horrors of the Franco-Prussian struggle.  Yet epic
it is, and in a sense, romantic; handled by a poet whose imagination is
aroused by the magnitude and movement of his theme.  Erckmann-Chatrian
set themselves squarely against this conception; they reduce the
splendid trappings and _elan_ of battle to its true hideousness.

In order to depict the inevitable, wretched results of the killing of
men for purposes of political ambition, or national aggrandizement,
Erckmann-Chatrian, as in their provincial idyls, cling steadily to the
position of the average man, who cannot for the life of him see the use
of leaving all that is pleasant and dear, of fighting, marching,
sickening, and dying for the sake of a cause he does not understand or
believe in, as the slave of men whom he perhaps despises.  Joseph Berta,
the lame conscript, the shrewd, kindly Jew Mathieu, the common-sense
miller Christian Weber, protagonists in three well-known stories, each
distinct from the other, are all alike in their preference for peace
over war, for the joy of home and the quiet prosecution of their
respective affairs, instead of the dubious pleasures of siege and
campaign.

There is a superbly _bourgeois_ flavour to it all. Yet one feels its
force, its sound humanity.  The republicanism of these writers is of the
broadest kind.  They hate Bonaparte or Bourbon, because in their belief
either house stands for tyranny and corruption; while Napoleon is their
special detestation, the later Empire is vigorously assailed because it,
too, is opposed to the interests of the people.  Napoleon III., whom in
high satiric scorn they pillory as "The Honest Man," comes in for savage
condemnation, since he again brings woe upon the working folk, in
pursuit of his own selfish ends.  And underneath all, like a
ground-swell can be felt a deep and genuine, if homely, patriotism.

Human nature, as it is witnessed in the pages of Erckmann-Chatrian, is
not hard to decipher. It lacks the subtlety of the modern psychologue,
miscalled a novelist.  Humanity for them is made up of two great
contrasted elements—the people and the enemies of the people; the latter
made up of kings, politicians, government leaders, and the general world
of bureaucracy, who fleece the former, "that vast flock which they were
always accustomed to shear, and which they call the people."  But the
people themselves, how veritable and charming they are!  Not a whit are
they idealized; the fictional folk of these writers are always
recognisable; they give us that pleasure of recognition which Mr. James
points out as one of the principal virtues of modern novel-making. The
title of one of the well-known books, _The History of a Man of the
People_, might almost stand as a description of their complete works.
There is no sentimentalizing of average humanity; none of the Auerbach
or George Sand prettification of country life.  Erckmann-Chatrian are as
truthful as a later realist like Thomas Hardy.  The family life in _The
Brigadier Frederick_ is almost lyrically set forth, until it seems,
mayhap, too good for human nature’s daily food; but similar scenes in
other stories have a Dutch-like fidelity in their transcripts of the
coarser, less lovely human traits; recall the wife and daughter of
Weber, for example, or the well-nigh craven fear of Joseph Berta in _The
Plebiscite_, who seems half a poltroon until he is seasoned in a
Napoleonic campaign; the psychologic treatment here suggesting Stephen
Crane’s _The Red Badge of Courage_.  The blend of grim realism and
heroic patriotism in the figure of the old sergeant in _The Plebiscite_
is a fine illustration of that truth to both the shell and kernel of
life which Erckmann-Chatrian maintain throughout their work.

On the whole, then, it is a comfortable, enheartening conception of Man
they present.  Poor theologians they would make; men are by nature good
and kind; only warped by cruel misuse and bad masters, as in war.  "Ah,
it is a great joy to love and to be loved, the only one joy of life,"
exclaims the Jew Mathieu in _The Blockade_.  This simple yet sufficient
creed pervades their thought. Again and again is it declared that
whatever the apparent evil, so that the faithful-hearted and devout of
the world, like Father Frederick, lose courage for the moment, the fault
is with men upon earth, not in heaven.  High over all, God reigns.  A
spirit of kindliness, quiet, unheroic, but deep and tender, enswathes
the more serious part of these novels like an atmosphere; and if the
mood shifts to indignation, it is the righteous indignation of the good
in the face of that which is wrong and evil.  And these better human
attributes are most commonly found in the provinces; the city, as a
rule, spells sin.  The touch of mother earth brings purity and strength.
"La mauvaise race qui trompe," declares the Brigadier Frederick,
"n’existe pas au pays; elle est toujours venue d’ailleurs."  One smiles
at this, but it offends not nor seems absurd.  Its very prejudice is
lovable.

Perhaps none of the stories make so moving an appeal against war as _The
Brigadier Frederick_. Its sadness is the most heartfelt, its realism the
most truthful, and hence effective.  Nor in any other book of the War
Series does the French character shine more clearly in its typical
virtues. Family love and faith, _camaraderie_, humble devoutness in
religion, and earnest patriotism are constantly made manifest in this
fine tale. Instead of conducting their hero through the spectacular
scenes of military campaigns, the authors depict only the stay-at-home
aspects of war, which because of their lack of strut and epic colour
are, as a rule, overlooked, and which yet illustrate far better than the
most Zolaesque details the wretched _milieu_ and after effects of a
great national struggle.  Frederick, the old guard of the Alsatian
forest domains, loses in turn his post, his son-in-law, wife, and
daughter, and at last his native land; and through all his misery
remains proudly a Frenchman, who refuses to declare allegiance to the
German invaders; and, in being true to his convictions, furnishes a
noble example of a man who, by the moral test, rises superior to any
fate, his head being

    "bloody but unbowed."


Again, sad as the story is, it differs from too much of the tragedy of
current literature; it is sad for the sake of a purpose, not for
sadness’ sake. Alleviation is offered the reader from the beginning, in
that he knows that Frederick himself has survived all his woes, since he
is telling his tale to a friend in after years.  These qualities make
the work wholesome and beautiful, sound both for art and life.

Erckmann-Chatrian draw strength from mother-soil. Their stories are laid
in Alsace-Lorraine, or at least it is that debatable land whence the
characters go only to return for the peaceful denouement, which these
authors, in the good old-fashioned style, like to offer their readers.
The popularity of such writers brings us back, happily, to that
untechnical valuation of literature which insists, first of all, in
regarding it as an exposition of human experience.  Their books bear
translation especially well because there is something in them besides
incommunicable flavours of style, though style is not wanting; namely,
vital folk, vivid scenes, significant happenings.  Theirs is the
misleading simplicity of method and manner which hides technique of a
rare and admirable kind.  Allowing for all exaggeration for altered
ideals in fiction, and for the waning of interest in the historical
circumstances which they portray, there remain such elements of
permanent appeal as to give their books far more than a transient worth.

For more than forty years, Erckmann-Chatrian wrote as one man; their
collaboration was, in effect, a chemical union.  No example in
literature better illustrates the possibility of the merging of
individualities for the purposes of artistic unity.  The double work of
the English Besant and Rice is by no means so important nor do they
stand and fall together in the same sense; much of Besant’s typical
fiction being produced after his partner’s death.  In the case of the
most famed collaboration of older days, that of the dramatists Beaumont
and Fletcher, the union was more intimate.  But the early death of
Beaumont, the consideration that he wrote less than half the plays
conventionally attributed to their joint authorship, and the additional
consideration that some of the best and most enjoyable dramas associated
with these great names—_The Loyal Subject_, to mention but one—are
unquestionably of Fletcher’s sole composition, make the
Beaumont-Fletcher alliance not so perfect an example of literary
collaboration as is offered by Erckmann-Chatrian.  When Chatrian died in
1890, it was as if, for literary purposes, both died.  Their work had a
unity testifying to a remarkable if not unique congeniality in
temperament, view and aim, as well as to a fraternal unity which—alas!
the irony of all human friendships—was dispelled when their quarrel,
just before the death of Chatrian, put an end to an association so
fruitful and famous.

From the very nature of fiction in contrast with drama, it would seem as
if collaboration in stage literature were more likely to yield happy
results than in the case of the novel.  Here, however, is an example
setting aside _a priori_ reasoning; seemingly "helpless each without the
other," the final breach in their personal relations would seem to have
written Finis to their literary endeavour.  Yet Erckmann survived for
nearly a decade and wrote military stories, which in tone and temper
carried on the traditions of the two men. But we may easily detect in
this last effort the penalty of their literary severance: the loss of
the craftsmanship of Chatrian was a loss indeed.  Nor is this subjective
guess-work of the critic; Erckmann himself described nearly twenty years
ago the respective parts played by the two in their literary work.  He
declared that after a story had been blocked out and thoroughly talked
over between them, he did all the actual composition. Then was it
Chatrian’s business to point out faults, to suggest, here a change in
perspective, there less emphasis upon a subsidiary character, or here
again, a better handling of proportion—in short, to do all the
retouching that looks to artistry. And Erckmann goes on to testify in
good set terms how necessary his collaborator was to the final perfected
form of the story; how much it must have suffered without his sense of
technique. It would appear from this that the senior member of the firm
did what is commonly called the creative work of composition, the junior
filling the role of critic.  From France one hears that Erckmann was
very German in taste and sympathy (_mirabile dictu!_ in view of so much
of what he wrote); Chatrian, French to the core, a man who insisted on
residing on the French side of the national line, who reared his sons to
be French soldiers; whereas Erckmann in later years hobnobbed with the
Germans, members of his family, in fact, inter-marrying with his ancient
enemies.

Indeed, this last act of their personal history has its disillusionment.
But after all, men shall be judged in their works.  Whatever their
private quarrellings, their respective parts in literary labour, their
attributes or national leanings, the world, justly caring most in the
long run for the fiction they wrote, will continue to think of them as
provincial patriots, lovers of their country, and Frenchmen of the
French, not only in the tongue they used, but in those deep-lying
characteristics and qualities which make their production worthily
Gallic in the nobler implication of the word.

RICHARD BURTON.



                          *BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE*


_The celebrated friends who collaborated for fifty years under the title
of_ ERCKMANN-CHATRIAN _were natives of the department of the Meurthe, in
Alsace-Lorraine_.  ÉMILE ERCKMANN _was born at Phalsbourg (now
Pfalzburg), on the 20th of May, 1822.  His father was a bookseller; his
mother he lost early.  He was educated at the grammar school of
Phalsbourg, and was a boarder there, growing up an intractable and idle
boy.  At the age of twenty Erckmann went up to Paris to study law, but
he was inattentive to his work, and positively took fifteen years to
pass the necessary examinations; having done so, he made no further rise
of his profession.  When he was twenty-five he suffered from a serious
illness, and during his convalescence, in Alsace, he turned his
attention to literature.  At this moment there had arrived in
Phalsbourg; as an usher in the grammar school, a young Alsatian_,
ALEXANDRE CHATRIAN, _of Italian descent, who was born at Soldatenthal,
near Abreschwiller, on the 18th of December, 1826, and who was destined
for the trade of glass-worker. He had been sent in 1844, as an
apprentice, to the glass-works in Belgium, but had, in opposition to the
wish of his parents, determined to return and to be a schoolmaster in
France._

_Erckmann and Chatrian now met, and instantly felt irresistibly drawn to
one another.  From this time until near the end of their careers their
names were melted indissolubly into one.  In 1848 a local newspaper, "Le
Démocrate du Rhin," opened its columns to their contributions, and they
began to publish novels.  Their first great success was "L’Illustre
Docteur Mathéus" in 1859, which appeared originally in the "Revue
Nouvelle," and which exactly gauged the taste of the general public.
This was followed by "Contes Fantastiques" and "Contes de la Montague,"
in 1860; by "Maître Daniel Rock," in 1861; by "Contes des Bords du Rhin"
and "Le Fou Yégof" in 1862; "Le Joueur de Clarinette" in 1863; and in
1864, which was perhaps the culminating year of the talent of
Erckmann-Chatrian, by "Madame Thérèse," "L’Ami Fritz" and "L’Histoire
d’un Conscrit de 1813." These, and innumerable stories which followed
them, dealt almost entirely with scenes of country life in Alsace and
the neighbouring German Palatinate.  The authors adopted a strong
Chauvinist bias, and at the time of the Franco-German War their
sympathies were violently enlisted on the side of France._

_In 1872 Erckmann-Chatrian published a political novel which enjoyed an
immense success, "Histoire du Plébiscite"; in 1873, "Les Deux Frères",
and they concluded in many volumes their long romance "Histoire d’un
Paysan."  Two of the latest of their really striking romances were "Les
Vieux de la Vielle," 1882, and "Les Rantzau," 1884.  During this period,
however, their great vogue was the theatre, where in 1869 they produced
"Le Juif Polonais," and in 1877 "L’Ami Fritz," two of the most
successful romantic plays of the nineteenth century, destined to be
popular in all parts of the world.  After the war of 1870-’71 Erckmann
lived at Phalsbourg; which was presently annexed to German Lothringen,
and he became a German citizen; Chatrian continued to reside in Paris,
and remained a Frenchman.  For a long time the friends continued to
collaborate on the old terms of intimacy, though at a distance from one
another, but a quarrel finally separated them, on a vulgar matter of
interest.  Erckmann claimed, and Chatrian refused, author’s rights on
those plays which bore the name of both writers, although Chatrian had
composed them unaided. The rupture became complete in 1889, when the old
friends parted as bitter enemies.  Chatrian died a year later, on the
4th of September, 1890, from a stroke of apoplexy, at Villemomble, near
Paris. Erckmann left Phalsbourg, and settled at Lunéville, where he died
on the 14th of March, 1899. The temperament of Erckmann was phlegmatic
and melancholy; that of Chatrian impetuous and fiery.  They were
strongly opposed to the theories of the realists, which assailed them in
their advancing age, and they stated their own principles of literary
composition in "Quelques mots sur l’esprit humain," 1880, and its
continuation "L’Art et les Grands Idéalistes," 1885.  For a long time
their popularity was unequalled by that of any other French novelist,
largely because their lively writings were pre-eminently suited to
family reading.  But they never achieved an equal prominence in purely
literary estimation._

E.G.



                               *CONTENTS*


Erckmann-Chatrian
       _Richard Burton_

Lives of Erckmann and Chatrian
       _Edmund Gosse_

Brigadier Frederick

The Dean’s Watch

The Portraits of Erckmann and Chatrian
       _Octave Uzanne_



[Illustration: Chatrian]



                         *BRIGADIER FREDERICK*



                                  *I*


When I was brigadier forester at Steinbach, said Father Frederick to me,
and when I was the inspector of the most beautiful forest district in
all the department of Saverne, I had a pretty cottage, shaded by trees,
the garden and orchard behind filled with apple trees, plum trees, and
pear trees, covered with fruit in the autumn; with that four acres of
meadow land along the bank of the river; when the grandmother, Anne, in
spite of her eighty years, still spun behind the stove, and was able to
help about the house; when my wife and daughter kept house and
superintended the stables and the cultivation of our land, and when
weeks, months, and years passed in their tranquility like a single day.
If at that time any one had said to me, "See here, Brigadier Frederick,
look at this great valley of Alsace, that extends to the banks of the
Rhine; its hundreds of villages, surrounded by harvests of all kinds:
tobacco, hops, madder, hemp, flax, wheat, barley and oats, over which
rushes the wind as over the sea; those high factory chimneys, vomiting
clouds of smoke into the air; those wind-mills and sawmills; those
hills, covered with vines; those great forests of beech and fir trees,
the best in France for ship-building; those old castles, in ruins for
centuries past, on the summits of the mountains; those fortresses of
Neuf-Brisach, Schlestadt, Phalsbourg, Bitche, that defend the passes of
the Vosges.  Look, brigadier, as far as a man’s eye can reach from the
line of Wissembourg to Belfort. Well, in a few years all that will
belong to the Prussians; they will be the masters of all; they will have
garrisons everywhere; they will levy taxes; they will send preceptors,
censors, foresters, and schoolmasters into all the villages, and the
inhabitants will bend their backs; they will go through the military
drill in the German ranks, commanded by the feldwebel[#] of the Emperor
William."  If any one had told me that, I would have thought the man was
mad, and, even in my indignation, I should have been very likely to have
given him a backhander across the face.


[#] Sergeant.


He would only have told the truth, however, and he would not even have
said enough, for we have seen many other things; and the most terrible
thing of all for me, who had never quitted the mountain, is to see
myself, at my old age, in this garret, from which I can see only the
tiles and chimney-pots; alone, abandoned by Heaven and earth, and
thinking day and night of that frightful story.

Yes, George, the most terrible thing is to think!  Foxes and wolves that
are wounded lick themselves and get well.  Kids and hares that are hurt
either die at once, or else hide in a thicket and end by recovering.
When a dog’s puppies are taken away, the poor beast pines for a few
days; then she forgets, and all is forgotten.  But we men cannot forget,
and as time goes on we realize our misery more and more, and we see many
sad things that we had not felt at first. Injustice, bad faith,
selfishness, all grow up before our eyes like thorns and briers.

However, since you desire to know how I happened to get into this hovel
in the heart of La Villette, and the way in which I have passed my life
up to the present time, I will not refuse to answer you.  You can
question many other people beside myself; persons of different
occupations—workmen, peasants emigrated from down yonder; all the
tumble-down houses of La Villette and La Chapelle are filled with them.
I have heard that more than two hundred thousand have left.  It is
possible.  When I quitted the country the roads were already
overcrowded.

But you know all about these things as well as I do; so I will tell
about what concerns me alone, beginning at the beginning.  That will be
the simplest way.

When your grandfather, M. Münsch, the President of the Tribunal,
obtained promotion, in 1865, and left for Brittany, I was very glad of
it, in one way, for he deserved to be promoted; I have never seen a
better or more learned man.  Saverne was not the place for him.  But, on
the other hand, I was very sorry for it.  My father, the former forester
of Dôsenheim, had never spoken to me of President Münsch but with the
greatest respect, repeating to me, over and over again, that he was our
benefactor, that he had always liked our family.  I myself owed to him
my good post at Steinbach, and it was also on his recommendation that I
got my wife, Catherine Burat, the only daughter of the former brigadier,
Martin Burat.

After that, you can readily believe that, in going to make my report at
Saverne, it was always with emotion that I gazed upon that good house,
where, for twenty years, I had been so kindly received, and I regretted
that noble man; it made my heart very sad.  And, naturally, we missed
very much, no longer having you to spend the vacations with us.  We were
so used to having you, that, long in advance, we would say: "The month
of September is coming round; little George will soon be here."

My wife arranged the bed upstairs; she put lavender in the well-bleached
sheets, and she washed the floor and window-panes.  I prepared snares
for the thrushes and bait of all kinds for the trout; I repaired the
tomtits’ hut under the rocks; I tried the whistles for the bird-calls,
and made new ones with lead and geese bones; I arranged everything in
order in our boxes—the hooks, the lines, the flies, made of cock
feathers; laughing beforehand at the pleasure of seeing you rummage
among them, and of hearing you say: "See here, Father Frederick, you
must wake me up to-morrow morning at two o’clock, without fail; we will
start long before day!"

I knew very well that you would sleep like a top till I should come to
shake you and to scold you for your laziness; but at night, before going
to bed, you always wanted to be up at two o’clock, or even at midnight;
that amused me greatly.

And then I saw you in the hut, keeping so still while I whistled on the
bird-call that you scarcely dared to breathe; I heard you trembling on
the moss when the jackdaws and thrushes arrived, wheeling under the
trees to see; I heard you whisper, softly: "There they are, there they
are!"

You were almost beside yourself when there came a great cloud of
tomtits, which usually happened just at daybreak.

Yes, George, all these things rejoiced my heart, and I looked forward to
the vacations with as much impatience perhaps as you did.  Our little
Marie-Rose also rejoiced in the thought of soon seeing you again; she
hastened to plait new snares and to repair the meshes of the nets which
had got broken the year before.  But then all was over; you were never
to return, and we knew it well.

Two or three times that poor idiot Calas, who looked after our cows in
the field, seeing afar off on the other slope of the valley some persons
who were on their way to Dôsenheim, came running in, crying, with his
mouth open as far as his ears, "Here he is, here he is!  It is he; I
recognise him; he has his bundle under his arm!"

And Ragot barked at the heels of that idiot. I should have liked to have
knocked them both over, for we had learned of your arrival at Rennes,
and the President himself had written that you regretted Steinbach every
day.  I was in a bad enough humour, without listening to such cries.

Often, too, my wife and Marie-Rose, while arranging the fruit on the
garret floor, would say: "What fine melting pears, what good gray
rennets! Ah! if George returned, he would roll them round from morning
till night.  He would do nothing but run up and down stairs."  And then
they would smile, with tears in their eyes.

And how often I myself, returning from the bird-catching, and throwing
on the table my bunches of tomtits, have I not cried: "Look! there are
ten or twelve dozen of them.  What is the good of them now the boy is no
longer here? Might as well give them to the cat; for my part, I despise
them."

That was true, George; I never had a taste for tomtits, or even for
thrushes.  I always liked better a good quarter of beef, with now and
then only a little bit of game, by way of change.

Well, it is thus that the time passed just after your departure.  That
lasted for some months, and finally our ideas took another course, and
that the more because, in the month of January, 1867, a great misfortune
happened to us.



                                  *II*


In the depth of the winter, while all the roads and the mountain paths
were covered with snow, and we heard every night the branches of the
beech trees breaking like glass under their load of ice, to the right
and left of the house, one evening my wife, who, since the commencement
of the season, had gone to and fro looking very pale and without
speaking, said to me, towards six o’clock, after having lighted the fire
in the fireplace, "Frederick, I am going to bed.  I do not feel well.  I
am cold."

She had never said anything like that before. She was a woman who never
complained and who, during her youth, had looked after her house up to
the very day before her confinements.  I suspected nothing, and I
replied to her:

"Catherine, do not put yourself out.  You work too hard.  Go and rest.
Marie-Rose will do the cooking."

I thought "once in twenty years is not too much; she may well rest
herself a little."

Marie-Rose heated a jug of water to put under her feet, and we took our
supper of potatoes and clotted milk as tranquilly as usual.  We were not
at all uneasy, and about nine o’clock, having smoked my pipe near the
stove, I was about to go to bed, when, on coming near the bed, I saw my
wife, white as a sheet, and with her eyes wide open.  I said to her,

"Helloa, Catherine!"

But she did not stir.  I repeated "Catherine," and shook her by the arm.
She was already cold. The courageous woman had not lain down till the
last moment, so to speak; she had lost much blood without complaining.
I was a widower. My poor Marie-Rose no longer had a mother.

That crushed me terribly.  I thought I should never recover from the
blow.

The old grandmother, who for some time had scarcely ever stirred from
her arm-chair, and who seemed always in a dream, awoke.  Marie-Rose
uttered cries and sobs which could be heard out of doors, and even
Calas, the poor idiot, stammered:

"Oh, if I had only died instead of her!"

And as we were far away in the woods, I was forced to transport my poor
wife to bury her, to the church at Dôsenheim, through the great snows.
We went in a line, with the coffin before us in the cart.  Marie-Rose
wept so much that I was forced to support her at every step.
Fortunately the grandmother did not come; she sat at home in her
arm-chair, reciting the prayers for the dead. We did not return that
evening till it was dark night.  And now the mother was yonder under the
snow, with the old Burat family, who are all in the cemetery of
Dôsenheim behind the church; she was there, and I thought:

"What will become of the house?  Frederick, you will never marry again;
you have had a good wife and who knows if the second would not be the
worst and the most extravagant in the country. You will never take
another.  You will live like that, all alone.  But what will you do?
Who will take care of everything?  Who will look after your interest day
and night?  The grandmother is too old and the girl is still a mere
child."

I was miserable, thinking that everything would go to ruin and that my
savings of so many years would be wasted from day to day.

But my little Marie-Rose was a real treasure, a girl full of courage and
good sense, and no sooner was my wife dead than she put herself at the
head of our affairs, looking after the fields, the cattle, and the
household, and ruling Calas like her mother.  The poor fellow obeyed
her; he understood in his simplicity that she was now the mistress and
that she had the right to speak for everybody.

And so things go on earth.  When we have had such trials we think that
nothing worse can happen to us, but all that was merely the beginning,
and when I think of it, it seems to me that our greatest happiness would
have been, all to have died together upon the same day.



                                 *III*


Thus all our joys, all our satisfactions passed away, one after the
other.  The old house to which I formerly returned, laughing from afar,
only to see its little windows glittering in the sun and its little
chimney smoking between the tops of the fir trees, was then sad and
desolate.  The winter appeared very long to us.  The fire which sparkles
so joyously on the hearth when the white flowers of the frost cover the
panes, and when silence reigns in the valley, that fire which I had so
often gazed at for half an hour at a time while smoking my pipe,
thinking of a thousand things that passed through my head, now gave me
none but melancholy thoughts.  The fagots wept; poor Ragot sought in
every corner, he wandered up stairs and down and smelt under all the
doors; Calas wove baskets in silence, the oziers piled in front of him;
grandmother Anne told her beads, and Marie-Rose, very pale and dressed
in black, came and went through the house, watching over all and doing
everything without noise like her poor mother. As for me, I said
nothing; when death has entered anywhere all lamentations that one makes
are pure loss.  Yes, that winter was long!

And then the spring came as in other years; the firs and beech trees put
forth their buds; the windows were opened to renew the air: the great
pear tree before the door became covered with white flowers; all the
birds of the air began once more to sing, to chase each other, and to
build nests as if nothing had happened.

I also returned to my work, accompanying the chief guard, M. Rameau, in
his circuits in order to direct the wood felling, overlooking the works
from a distance, leaving early in the morning and returning late, at the
last song of the thrushes.

My grief pursued me everywhere, and yet I had still the consolation of
seeing Marie-Rose grow in strength and beauty in a truly marvellous way.

It is not, George, because I was her father that I tell you this, but
you would have had to search for a long time from Saverne to Lutzelstein
before finding as fresh-looking a young girl with as trim a figure, as
honest an air, with such beautiful blue eyes and such magnificent fair
hair.  And how well she understood all kinds of work, whether in the
house or out of doors!  Ah, yes, I may well say it, she was a beautiful
creature, gentle and yet strong.

Often coming in at night and seeing her at the head of the stairs,
signing to me that she had waited supper a long time for me, then
running down the stairs and holding out to me her fresh cheek, I have
often thought:

"She is still handsomer than her mother was at the same age; she has the
same good sense.  Don’t lament over your misfortunes, Frederick, for
many people would envy your lot in having such a child, who gives you so
much satisfaction."

One thing only made the tears come, that is when I thought of my wife,
then I cried to myself:

"Ah! if Catherine could come back to see her, she would be very happy!"

About the same time other ideas entered my head; the epoch of my
retirement was approaching, and as Marie-Rose had entered her
seventeenth year, I thought of finding her a good and nice young fellow
from among the foresters, in whose house I could tranquilly end my days,
in the midst of my children and grandchildren, and who, taking my place,
would respect me as I had respected my father-in-law Burat, when
succeeding him twenty years before.

I thought of it; it was my principal idea, and I had even some one in
view, a tall and handsome young man from Felsberg, who had left the
horse guards three or four years before, and who had just been appointed
forest guard at Tömenthal, near our house.  His name was Jean Merlin,
and he was already experienced in the duties of a forester, having
passed his apprenticeship at Eyisheim, in Alsace.

The young fellow pleased me first because he had a good character,
afterward because Marie-Rose regarded him with a favourable eye.  I had
remarked that she always blushed a little when she saw him enter the
house to make his report, and that he never failed to appear in full
dress, carefully shaved, his little cap with its hunting horn badge,
adorned with an oak leaf or a sprig of heather, which sets off a man;
and that his voice, which was a little gruff, became very gentle in
saying, "Good day, Mlle. Marie-Rose; I hope you are quite well?  What
beautiful weather we are having—the sun is shining finely," etc.  He
appeared embarrassed; and Marie-Rose also answered him timidly.  It was
very clear that they loved and admired each other, a natural thing when
one is old enough to get married.  It always has been and always will be
so; it is a blessing of Providence.

Therefore I found no evil in it, on the contrary I thought: "When he
asks her of me according to custom, we will see about it.  I will say
neither yes nor no at once; one must not have the air of throwing one’s
self at people’s heads; but I will, and by yielding, for neither must
one break young people’s hearts."

Those were the ideas that I revolved in my head.

Besides which the young man was of good family; he had his uncle, Daniel
Merlin, who was schoolmaster at Felsberg; his father had been sergeant
in a regiment of infantry, and his mother, Margredel, though she lived
with him in the forester’s house at Tömenthal, possessed at Felsberg a
cottage, a garden, and four or five acres of good land; one could not
desire a match in every way more advantageous.

And seeing that everything seemed to go according to my wishes, almost
every evening when I returned from my circuits through the woods, in the
path which skirts the valley of Dôsenheim, at the moment when the sun is
setting, when the silence spreads itself with the shadow of the forest
over the great meadows of La Zinzelle—that silence of the solitude,
scarcely broken by the murmur of the little river—almost every evening,
walking thoughtfully along, I pictured to myself the peace that my
children would have in this corner of the world, their pleasant home,
the birth of little beings whom we would carry to Dôsenheim to have them
baptized in the old church, and other similar things, which touched my
heart and made me say:

"Lord God, it is all sure; these things will happen.  And when you grow
old, Frederick, very old, your back bent by age, like grandmother Anne,
and your head quite white, you will pass away quietly, satisfied with
years, and blessing the young brood.  And long after you are gone, that
brave Jean Merlin, with Marie-Rose, will keep you in remembrance."

In picturing all this to myself, I halted regularly on the path above
the forester house of Jean Merlin, looking beneath at the little tiled
roof, the garden surrounded with palisades, and the yard whence the
mother of Jean drove her ducks and fowls into the poultry-yard towards
night, for foxes were not wanting in that outskirt of the forest.  I
looked down from above, and I cried, raising my cap, "Hilloa!
Margredel, good evening."

Then she would raise her eyes, and joyously reply to me, "Good evening,
Mr. Brigadier.  Are all well at your house?"

"Why, yes, Margredel, very well, Heaven be praised."  Then I would come
down through the brushwood, and we would shake hands.

She was a good woman, always gay and laughing because of her great
confidence in God, which made her always look upon the bright side of
things.  Without ever having said anything to each other, we knew very
well of what we were each thinking; we only needed to talk about the
weather to understand all the rest.

And when, after having had a good gossip, I went away, Margredel would
still call after me, in her rather cracked voice, for she was nearly
sixty years old, "A pleasant walk to you, Brigadier. Don’t forget Mlle.
Marie-Rose and the grandmother."

"Don’t be afraid.  I’ll forget nothing."

She would make a sign with her head to me that it was all right, and I
would go off with lengthening steps.

It sometimes happened to me also, sometimes when my circuit was finished
before five o’clock, to find Jean near the house, at the other side of
the valley, in the path that skirted our orchard, and Marie-Rose in the
garden picking vegetables. They were each on their own side, and were
talking across the hedge without appearing to do so; they were telling
things to each other.

That reminded me of the happy time when I was courting Catherine, and I
came up very softly over the heather till I was within twenty steps
behind them, and then I cried, "Ho! ho!  Jean Merlin, is it like this
that you perform your duties?  I catch you saying fine words to the
pretty girls."

Then he turned round, and I saw his embarrassed look.

"Excuse me, Brigadier," he said, "I came to see you on business, and I
was conversing with Mlle. Marie-Rose while waiting for you."

"Oh, yes, that is all very well; we will see to that.  I do not trust
foxes myself."

And other jokes without end.  You can understand, George, that happiness
had returned to us.

I had as much confidence in Jean Merlin as in Marie-Rose and in myself.
The evil race that deceives does not exist in our country; it has always
come from elsewhere.



                                  *IV*


Things went on like this throughout the whole year 1868.  Jean Merlin
took every possible occasion to present himself at the house, either on
business connected with his office, or else to consult me on his family
affairs.  He had but one fear, that was of being refused.  Sometimes,
when we were walking together in the woods, I saw him musing, with
drooping head; he seemed to wish to speak; he raised his voice suddenly,
and then was silent.

For my part, I wished that he would be a little more courageous, but I
could not open the subject; that would not have been proper for his
superior; I awaited his formal proposal, thinking that he would end by
writing to me, or by sending me one of his relatives to make a
ceremonious declaration: his uncle Daniel, for instance, the
schoolmaster of Felsberg, a respectable man, who was able to take charge
of so delicate a commission.

It often happened to me also to reflect upon what concerned me
particularly.  I asked nothing better than to see my daughter happy, but
I had to try to arrange all interests in accord as much as possible.
When one thinks of nothing, everything appears simple and easy, and yet
the best things have their evil side.

I had still nearly two years to serve before retiring, but after that,
if my son-in-law was not named brigadier in my place, we would be forced
to quit the old house, where I had passed so many years, with the beings
who were dear to me—father-in-law Burat, my poor wife, grandmother Anne,
everybody, in fact; and we would be obliged to abandon all that to go
live in a land which I did not know, and among strange faces.

That idea made me wretched.  I knew well that Marie-Rose and Jean Merlin
would always respect me as their father; of that I was sure. But the
habit of turning round in the same corner and of seeing the same things
becomes a second nature, and that is why old hares and old foxes, even
when they have received gunshot wounds in the neighbourhood of their
lair or their hole, always return there; they need the sight of the
brushwood and the tuft of grass, which recall to them their youth, their
love, and even the annoyances and the sorrows which, in the long run,
make up three-quarters of our existence, and to which we become as
strongly attached as to memories of happiness.

Ah! I never should have believed that anything worse could happen to me
than to retire with my children into a country of fir trees like ours,
and into a little house like my own.

These things made me very uneasy, and, since the departure of President
Münsch, I no longer knew of whom I could ask a bit of good advice, when
at length all was settled in a very happy way, which touches my heart
even now when I think of it.



                                  *V*


You must know that, during the years 1867, 1868, and 1869, roads were
being made in all directions, to facilitate the wood-cutting and to
transport the wood to the railway and the canal. M. Laroche, Forest
Inspector of the Canton of Lutzelstein, directed these great works.  He
was a man of fifty-five years of age, robust and serious, who thought of
nothing but his business; hunting and fishing were not among his tastes;
to be well noticed by him, there was no question of being a good shot or
a skilful trapper; it was necessary to serve him well.

He often came himself to the place, explaining clearly the declivity to
be followed, the trees which ought to be felled, etc.; unless one was
idiotic, he could not but understand.  Things went on this way briskly
and well.  Naturally, such a man would know all his workmen thoroughly,
and when he was satisfied, he would address to you some of those kind
words that make your heart light.

For my part, I think that he took an interest in me, for often, after
hearing my report in his office at Lutzelstein, he would say to me,
"That is very good, very good, Father Frederick!" and would even shake
hands with me.

Towards the spring of 1869 the order arrived to repair the road which
descends from Petite Pierre to the valley of Graufthal, in order to join
the new highway from Saverne to Metting; the junction fell near the
saw-mill, not far from the forester’s house; I had to go, therefore,
every working day with my brigade to survey the works.

The first part was almost finished, and they had commenced to blow up
the rocks below, near the valley, to level the road, when, one morning,
going to make my usual report at Lutzelstein, the inspector received me
particularly well.

It was about ten o’clock, his breakfast hour, and he had just reached
his house as I rang.

"Ah! it is you, Father Frederick," said he, gaily, as he opened his
door; "fine weather this morning.  All right down yonder?"

"Yes, sir, all is going well, according to your orders."

"Very good," said he.  "Sit down, I have something to say to you.  You
will breakfast with me.  My wife is with her parents in Champagne; you
will keep me company."

Often, when I arrived at breakfast time, he would offer me a glass of
wine, but the idea had never occurred to him to give me a place at his
table.

"Sit down there," said he.  "Here, Virginie, bring a plate for the
brigadier.  You can bring in breakfast."

Imagine my astonishment and my satisfaction. I did not know how to thank
him; he did not seem to see my embarrassment.  He commenced by taking
off his tunic and putting on his coat, asking me: "You have a good
appetite, Father Frederick?"

"Yes, sir, that never fails me."

"So much the better!  Taste this beefsteak; Virginie is a good cook; you
will tell me what you think of it.  Here’s to your health!"

"Here’s to yours, sir."

I felt as if I were dreaming; I said to myself, "Is this really you,
Frederick, who are breakfasting here in this handsome room, with your
superior, and who are drinking this good wine?"  And I felt embarrassed.

M. Laroche, on the contrary, grew more and more familiar, so that,
finally, after three or four glasses, I discovered that the thing was
quite natural.  Because his wife was not at home, I thought that he was
glad to have me to talk over the felling of the timber, the new
clearings, and our road from Graufthal; so I grew bolder, and answered
him laughing, and almost without embarrassment.

Things went on thus for about twenty minutes; Mlle. Virginie had brought
in the biscuits, almonds, and Gruyère cheese, when, throwing himself
back in his chair, and looking at me good-humouredly, "It is very
agreeable," said he, "to be as well as we are, at our age.  Ha! ha! ha!
we have not yet lost our teeth, Father Frederick!"

"No, indeed; they are well-rooted, sir."  And I laughed, too.

"How old are you?" he asked.

"I shall soon be fifty, sir."

"And I am fifty-five.  Well, well, it is all the same; the time for
retiring is approaching; one of these days they will slit our ears."

He was still laughing.  As for me, when I thought of that, I was not so
gay as before.

Then he passed me the cheese, saying: "What do you think of doing two
years from now?  For my part, my wife wants to take me into her country,
Champagne.  That is a great bore; I do not like the plains; but, you
know, ’A wilful woman will have her way.’  It is a proverb, and all
proverbs have an astounding air of good sense."

"Yes, sir," I answered; "such proverbs as that are really annoying, for
I could never leave the mountains; I am too used to them.  If I had to
go, I should not live two weeks.  There would be nothing left to do but
throw on me the last handful of earth."

"Without doubt," he said; "but when the young people come, the old
people must give up their place."

In spite of the good wine, I had become quite silent, thinking of those
unfortunate things, when he said to me: "In your place, Father
Frederick, do you know what I would do?  Since you love the mountains
so, since it is, so to speak, your existence to live in the forest—well,
I would look out for a son-in-law among the foresters; a good fellow,
who would take my place and with whom I would live tranquilly till the
end, in the midst of the green caps and the smell of the firs."

"Ah! that is so, sir; I think of it every day; but——"

"But what?" he said.  "What hinders you? You have a pretty daughter, you
are a sensible man; what embarrasses you?  It is not for want of choice,
I hope; in the inspector’s guard, big Kern, Donadieu, Nicolas Trompette,
would ask nothing better than to become your son-in-law. And that good
Jean Merlin.  He is what one might call a model forester—frank, active,
intelligent, and who would answer your purpose admirably.  His record is
excellent; he stands first on the list for promotion, and, upon my word,
Father Frederick, I think that, on your retreat, he has a good chance of
succeeding you."

When I heard that, I got red up to my ears, and I could not help saying,
"That is true!  No one has anything to say against Jean Merlin; I have
never seen a better or more honest fellow; but I cannot offer my
daughter to people who please me; Merlin has never spoken to me of
marriage with Marie-Rose, neither has his mother Margredel, nor his
uncle Daniel; not any of the family.  You can understand, sir, that I
cannot make the advances; it would not be proper! Beside, everything
ought to be done decently and in order; the proposal ought to be made
regularly!"

He was going to answer, when Mlle. Virginia came in to pour out the
coffee, so he took a box from the mantelpiece, saying, "Let us light our
cigars, Father Frederick."

I saw that he was amused, and when the servant went out he cried,
laughing, "Come, now, Father Frederick, do you really need some one to
tell you that Marie-Rose and Jean Merlin love each other with all their
hearts?  And must Uncle Daniel come and declare it to you in a black
hood and with buckled shoes?"

He laughed loudly, and as I sat in surprise:

"Well," said he, "here is the affair in two words: The other day Jean
Merlin was so melancholy that I asked him if he was sick, and the poor
fellow confessed to me, with tears in his eyes, what he called his
misfortune.  You are so serious and respectable-looking that none of the
family dared to make the proposal, and the good people thought that I
would have some influence. Must I put on my grand uniform, Father
Frederick?"

He was so gay that, notwithstanding my trouble, I answered: "Oh, sir,
now all is well!"

"Then you consent?"

"Do I consent?  I have never wished for anything else.  Yes, yes, I
consent, and I thank you. You can say, M. Laroche, that to-day you have
rendered Frederick the happiest of men."

I had already risen and had put my bag upon my shoulder, when the chief
guard, Rameau, entered, on business connected with the service.

"You are going, Frederick?" asked the inspector.  "Are you not going to
empty your cup?"

"Ah!  M. Laroche," I said, "I am too happy to keep quiet.  The children
are waiting for me, I am sure; I must go carry them the good news."

"Go, then, go," he said, rising and accompanying me to the door; "you
are right not to delay the young people’s happiness."

He shook hands with me, and I left, after saluting M. Rameau.



                                  *VI*


I went away so happy that I could not see clearly.  It was only at the
end of the street, in going down at the left again, towards the valley,
that I awoke from this great confusion of joyous ideas.

I had perhaps taken a little drop too much; I must confess, George, that
the good wine had dazzled my eyes a little; but my legs were solid,
nevertheless, and I went as if I were just twenty years old, laughing
and saying to myself:

"Frederick, now everything is according to rule, no one will have
anything to say; it is the inspector himself who has made the proposal
and that is a thousand times better than if it had been Uncle Daniel.
Ha! ha! ha! what luck!  Won’t they be happy when they learn that I
consent; that all is arranged and that there is nothing left to do but
to sing the _Gloria in Excelsis_! Ha! ha! ha!  And you can laugh, too,
for all has gone as you wished it.  You will stay in this country to the
end of your existence; you will see the woods from your window, and you
will smell the sweet odours of the resin and the moss till you are
eighty years of age.  That is what you needed, to say nothing of the
rest; of the children, the grand-children, etc."

I wanted to dance as I descended the Fromuhle road.

It was then about six o’clock, and night was approaching; with the
coolness of the evening the frogs were beginning their music in the
midst of the reeds, and the high grasses of the pool, and the old fir
trees on the other side of the shore showed blue against the darker sky.
I stopped from time to time to look at them and I thought:

"You are fine trees, straight and full of good sap, and so you will
remain there for a long time to come.  The sun will delight your
evergreen tops till you are marked for the axe of the woodcutter.  Then
that will be the end, but the little firs will have grown up in your
shadow and the place will never be vacant."

And while thinking of that, I recommenced my march, quite touched, and I
cried:

"Yes, Frederick, such will be your lot.  You loved father-in-law Burat,
you supported him when he could not do anything, in consideration of the
confidence he had reposed in you, and because he was a good man, an old
servant of the state and a man to be respected.  Now it is your turn to
be loved and supported by those who are full of youth; you will be in
the midst of them like one of these old fir trees, covered with white
moss. The poor old things, they deserved to live, for if they had not
grown up straight they would have been cut down long ago to be made into
logs and fagots."

I blessed Providence which never lets the honest perish, and it is thus
that I arrived, towards seven o’clock in the evening, on the Scienie
road at the bottom of the valley.  I saw the forester house at the left,
near the bridge.  Ragot was barking, Calas was bringing the cattle back
to the stable, shouting and cracking his whip, the flock of ducks on the
bank of the river were scratching and picking themselves around their
necks and under their wings and tails, while awaiting the hour of going
to roost; some chickens were still pecking in the courtyard, and two or
three half-plucked old hens were napping in the shadow of the little
wall.

Then, seeing Ragot running to meet me, I said to myself:

"Here we are.  Now attention.  First you are going to speak.  Jean
Merlin must be there for certain.  All must be quite clear beforehand."



                                 *VII*


I went up the stairs and I saw Marie-Rose in the lower room, with bare
arms; she was kneading dough and rolling it out flat, with the
rolling-pin, on our large table, to make noodles.  She had seen me in
the distance and continued her work without raising her eyes.

"You are working hard, Marie-Rose," I remarked to her.

"Ah! it is you, father," said she; "I am making noodles."

"Yes, it is I," I replied, hanging my bag against the wall; "I have come
from the inspector’s.  Has any one been here?"

"Yes, father, Jean Merlin came to make his report, but he went away
again."

"Ah! he went away again, did he?  Very good! he has not gone far, I
guess; we have some very important business to talk over!"

I came and went, looking at the dough, the basket of eggs, the little
bowl of flour and Marie-Rose, working away without opening her lips.

Finally I stopped and said to her:

"See here, Marie-Rose, it is right to be industrious, but we have
something else to do just now.  What is this that I have just heard at
the inspector’s?  Is it true that you love Jean Merlin?"

As I spoke she let fall the rolling pin and flushed scarlet.

"Yes," I said; "that’s the point!  I don’t mean to scold you about it;
Jean Merlin is a nice fellow, and a good forester, and I am not angry at
him.  In my time, I loved your mother dearly, and father Burat, who was
my superior, neither chased me away nor swore at me because of it.  It
is a natural thing when one is young to think of getting married.  But
when one wishes to marry an honest girl, one must first ask her of her
father, so that every one may be agreed.  Everything ought to be
conducted sensibly."

She was very much embarrassed, for on hearing that she ran to get a pot
of mignonette and placed it on the sill of the open window, an action
which filled me with surprise, for my wife, Catherine, had done the same
thing on the day of my proposal to call me in; and almost at once Merlin
came out of the clump of trees under the rocks opposite, where I also
had hidden, and ran across the meadow as I myself had run, twenty-three
years before!

Then, seeing these things, I did also what old Burat had done.  I placed
myself in the hall before the door of the room, my daughter behind me;
and as Merlin entered, all out of breath, I drew myself up and said to
him:

"Merlin, is it true what the inspector tells me; that you love my
daughter and ask her in marriage?"

"Yes brigadier," he answered me, placing his hand on his heart, "I love
her better than life! At the same time he wished to speak to Marie-Rose,
but I cried:

"Stop a minute!  You love her and she has found out that she loves you.
That is very nice—it is agreeable to love each other!  But you must
think also of the others, of the old people. When I married Catherine
Burat I promised to keep her father and mother till the end of their
days, and I have kept my word, like every man of honour; I have loved
them, cared for them, and venerated them; they have always had the first
place at table, the first glass of wine, the best bed in the house.
Grandmother Anne, who still lives, is there to say it.  It was only my
duty, and if I had not done it I would have been a villain; but they
have never had any complaints to make, and on his death-bed father Burat
blessed me and said: ’Frederick has always been to us like the best of
sons!’  I deserve, therefore, to have the same, and I wish to have it
because it is just!  Well, now that you have heard me, will you promise
to be to me what I was to father Burat?"

"Ah! brigadier," said he, "I would be the happiest of men to have you
for a father!  Yes, yes, I promise to be a good son to you; I promise to
love you always and to respect you as you deserve."

Then I was touched, and I said:

"In that case, all right; I give you the hand of Marie-Rose, and you may
kiss her."

They kissed each other right before me, like two good children that they
were.  Marie-Rose wept profusely.  I called the grandmother into the
little side-room; she came leaning on my arm and blessed us all, saying:

"Now I can die in peace, I have seen my grand-daughter happy, and loved
by an honest man."

And all that day till evening she did not stop praying, commending her
grand-children to God. Merlin and Marie-Rose did not weary of talking
together and looking at each other.  I walked to and fro in the large
room and told them:

"Now you are affianced.  Jean can come whenever he likes, whether I am
at home or gone out.  The inspector told me that he was first on the
list for promotion, and that he would doubtless replace me at my
retreat; that cannot be far off now; then we will celebrate the
marriage."

This good news augmented their satisfaction.

Night came on, and Jean Merlin, so as not to worry his mother, rose and
kissed once more his promised bride.  We accompanied him out as far as
the great pear tree.  The weather was magnificent, the sky glittering
with stars; not a bird nor a leaf was stirring, all were sleeping in the
valley. And as Merlin pressed my hand I said to him again:

"You will tell your mother, Margredel, to come without fail to-morrow
before noon; Marie-Rose will get you up a good dinner, and we will
celebrate the betrothal together; it is the greatest festival in one’s
life; and if Uncle Daniel could also come we should be very glad of it."

"Very well, Father Frederick," he said, and then he walked swiftly away.

We went in again with tears in our eyes. And thinking of my poor
Catherine, I said to myself:

"There are still some pleasant days in life; why is my good, my
excellent wife no longer with us?"

It was the only bitter moment I had during that day.



                                 *VIII*


You understand, George, that after this, all went on well.  I had
nothing more to think of but my service.  Jean Merlin and his mother
Margredel came to pass every Sunday at our house.

It was autumn, the opening of the season for hunting and fishing; the
time for bird catching and snare setting in the woods, and for fishing
baskets and nets at the river.

The old watchmaker, Baure, of Phalsbourg, arrived, as usual, with his
great fishing rod and his bag for the trout; Lafleche, Vignerol, and
others, with their bird calls and limed twigs; the gentlemen from
Saverne with their dogs and their guns; they whistled, they yelled; they
shot hares and sometimes a deer; then all these people came to take
lunch and refresh themselves at the forester’s house; the smell of
frying and of good omelettes, with ham, reached to the garden, and we
turned a penny or two at the house that way.

As you know all these things, I have no need to tell you about them.

But this year we saw also arrive quantities of wood-cutters from the
Palatinate, from Bavaria, and further; great strapping fellows, with
knapsacks on their backs and gaiters with bone buttons on their legs,
who were going to Neiderviller, to Laneville, and to Toul to work at
wood felling. They passed in bands, their vests hanging from the handles
of their axes over their shoulders.

These people emptied their mugs of wine as they passed; they were jolly
fellows, who filled the room with smoke from their big porcelain pipes,
asking questions about everything, laughing and joking like people who
have no trouble about earning their living.

Naturally I was glad to have them stop at our house; that made business
brisk.

I remember at this time a thing which shows the blindness of slow-witted
people who are ignorant of what is going on at twenty leagues from home,
and who trust to the government without thinking of anything; a thing of
which I am ashamed, for we went so far as to laugh at sensible men, who
warned us to be on our guard!

One day our whole house was filled with people from the city and the
environs; some of these strangers among the rest.  They were laughing
and drinking, and one of the tall Bavarians, with red whiskers and big
mustaches, who was before the window, cried:

"What a lovely country!  What magnificent fir trees!  What are those old
ruins up there—and this little wood yonder—and that path to the
right—and that pass to the left, between the rocks?  Ah!  I have never
seen such a country for fruit trees or fine water courses.  It is rich;
it is green.  Is there not a steeple behind that little wood?  What is
the name of that pretty village?"

I, who was glad to hear this man so enthusiastic over our valley, I told
him about everything in detail.

Baure, Dürr, Vignerol were talking together; they were smoking and going
occasionally to the kitchen to see if the omelette was nearly ready,
without troubling their heads about anything else.

But near the clock sat Captain Rondeau, who had returned home several
months before having retired on a pension, a tall, dry-looking man, with
hollow cheeks, wearing his black overcoat buttoned up to the chin,
suffering from wounds received in Italy, Africa, and the Crimea,
listening without saying anything and drinking a cup of milk because
Doctor Semperlin had forbidden him to take anything else.

This went on for a whole hour, when the Bavarians, having emptied their
mugs, continued their journey.  I followed them to the door to show them
the road to Biegelberg; the tall, red-haired man laughed, showing his
teeth with a joyous air; finally he shook hands with me and cried,
"Thanks," as he went to join his band.

While they were taking their leave, Captain Rondeau, leaning on his
cane, was standing in the doorway, and he watched them go off with
glittering eyes and compressed lips.

"Who are those people, Father Frederick?" he said to me.  "Do you know
them?"

"Those are Germans, captain," I answered him; "wood-cutters; I do not
know any more about them, except that they are going to Toul, to work
for some contractors there."

"Why do they not employ Frenchmen, these contractors?"

"Ah! because these wood-cutters are cheaper than ours; they work for
half-price."

The captain frowned, and all at once he said:

"Those are spies; people that came to examine the mountain."

"Spies?  How is that?" I answered, in astonishment.  "What have they to
spy out here? Have they any reason to meddle in our affairs?"

"They are Prussian spies," he said, dryly; "they came to take a look at
our positions."

Then I believed almost that he was joking with me, and I said to him:

"But, Captain Rondeau, all the strong points are set down, and any one
can buy maps of the country at Strasburg, or Nancy, or anywhere."

But, looking at me askance, he exclaimed:

"Maps! maps!  And do your maps tell how much hay, and straw, and wheat,
and oats, and wine, and oxen, and horses and wagons can be put into
requisition in each village for an army on the march?  Do they tell you
where the mayor lives, or the _curé_, or the postmaster, or the receiver
of contributions, so that one can lay one’s hand upon them at any
minute, or where stables can be found to lodge the horses, and a
thousand other things that are useful to know beforehand?  Maps, indeed!
Do your maps tell the depth of the streams, or the situation of the
fords?  Do they point out to you the guides that are best to take or the
people that must be seized because they might rouse up the populace?"

And as I remained, my arms hanging at my sides, surprised at these
things, of which I had never thought, Father Baure cried from the room:

"Well, captain, who is it that would want to attack us?  The Germans?
Ha! ha! ha!  Let them come! let them come!  We’ll give them a warm
reception.  Poor devils!  I would not like to be in their skins.  Ha!
ha! ha!  We would settle them!  Not one should go out alive from these
mountains."

All the others laughed and cried out: "Yes! yes! let them come!  Let
them try it!  We’ll give them a good reception!"

Then the captain re-entered the room, and, looking at big Fischer, who
was shouting the loudest, he asked of him:

"You would receive them?  With what?  Do you know what you are talking
about?  Where are our troops, our supplies, our arms; where, where,
where, I ask of you?  And do you know how many of them there are, these
Germans?  Do you know that they are a million of men, exercised,
disciplined, organized, ready to start at two weeks’ notice—artillery,
cavalry, infantry?  Do you know that?  _You_ will receive them!"

"Yes," cried Father Baure, "Phalsbourg, with Bitche, Lichtenberg, and
Schlestadt, would stop them for twenty years."

Captain Rondeau did not even take the trouble to reply, and, pointing
from the window to the wood-cutters that were going away, he said to me:
"Look, Father Frederick, look!  Are those men wood-cutters?  Do our
wood-cutters march in ranks? do they keep step? do they keep their
shoulders thrown back and their heads straight, and do they obey a chief
who keeps them in order? Do not our wood-cutters and those of the
mountains all have rounded shoulders and a heavy gait? These men are not
even mountaineers; they come from the plains; they are spies.  Yes, they
are spies, and I mean to have them arrested."

And, without listening to what might be answered, he threw _sous_ on the
table in payment for his cup of milk, and went out abruptly.

He was scarcely outside the door when all who were present burst out
laughing.  I signed to them to be quiet, for that the captain could
still hear them; then they held their sides and snuffled through their
noses, saying:

"What fun! what fun!  The Germans coming to attack us!"

Father Baure, while wiping his eyes with his handkerchief, said:

"He is a good fellow; but he got a rap at the Malakoff, and since then
his clock has been out of order, and it always strikes noon at fourteen
o’clock."

The others recommenced laughing, like real madmen, so that I thought,
George, myself, that the captain had not common sense.

All that comes back to me as if it had taken place yesterday, and two or
three days later, having learned that the captain had caused the
wood-cutters to be arrested in a body at the Lutzelbourg station, and
that, their papers being all right, they had obtained authorization to
continue their journey into Lorraine, notwithstanding all the
representations and the observations of M. Rondeau, I believed decidedly
that the worthy man was cracked.

Every time that Baure came to the forester’s house he would begin upon
the chapter of the German spies, and made me very merry over it. But
to-day we have ceased laughing, and I am sure that the jokers of
Phalsbourg no longer rub their hands when the _feldwebel_ makes his rod
whistle while calling to the conscripts on the parade ground, "_Gewehr
auf!—Gewehr ab!_"  I am sure that this sight has more than once recalled
to them the captain’s warning.



                                  *IX*


This took place at the end of the autumn of 1869; the valley was already
filled with mist; then came the winter: the snow began to whirl before
the panes, the fire to crackle in the furnace, and the spinning-wheel of
Marie-Rose to hum from morning till night, to the accompaniment of the
monotonous ticking of the old clock.

I paced to and fro, smoking my pipe, and thinking of my retreat.
Doubtless Marie-Rose thought of it also, and Merlin spoke to me
sometimes about hurrying up the marriage, which annoyed me considerably,
for when I have said my say, I am done, and, since we had agreed to
celebrate the marriage the day of his nomination, I did not see the use
of talking over an affair already decided.

But the young people were in a hurry; the dulness of the season and the
impatience of youth were the causes.

For two months past, Baure, Vignerol, Dürr, and the others came no more;
the trees bent under their load of icicles; no one passed the house any
more, except some rare travellers afar off in the valley.  The history
of the captain’s spies, which had made me laugh so much, had entirely
gone out of my head, when an extraordinary thing proved to me clearly
that the old soldier had not been wrong in distrusting the Prussians,
and that other people thought of dealing foul blows—people high in rank,
in whom we had placed all our confidence.

That year several herds of wild boars ravaged the country.  These
animals scratched up the newly-sown grain; they dug up the ground in the
woods to find roots, and came down every night to tear up the fields
around the farms and the hamlets.

The peasants were never done lamenting and complaining; when, finally,
we heard that Baron Pichard had arrived to organize a general battle. I
received at the same time the order to go and join him, at his
rendezvous of Rothfelz, with the best marksmen of the brigade, as many
of the huntsmen of the neighbourhood as I could get.

It was in December I started with Merlin, big Kern, Donadieu, Trompette,
and fifteen or twenty hunters, and in the evening we found up there all
the baron’s guests, filling the rooms of the little hunting lodge, lying
on straw, eating, drinking, and joking as usual.

But you know all about those things, George; you remember also the
hunting lodge at Rothfelz, the cries of the hunters, the barking of the
dogs, and the danger of the guests, who fired in every direction but the
right one, in the lines and out of the lines, always imagining at the
end that they had killed the great beast.  As for us guards, we had
always missed.  You remember that; it is always the same thing.

What I want to tell you is, that after the hunt, in which some wild
boars and a few young pigs had fallen, they had a grand feast in the
hunting lodge.  The carriages of the baron had contained an abundance of
everything: wine, cherry brandy, wheaten bread, pies, sugar, coffee,
cognac; and, naturally, towards midnight, after having run around in the
snow, eaten, drunk, howled and sung, the party of pleasure wore a
dubious aspect.

We were quartered in the kitchen and well supplied with everything, and,
as the door of the dining-room was open, to air the room, we could hear
everything that the guests said, particularly as they shouted at the
tops of their voices, like blind men.

I had noticed among the number a tall, lean fellow, with a hooked nose,
black eyes, a small mustache, a tightly-fitting vest, and muscular legs
in his high leather gaiters, who handled his small gun with singular
skill; I said to myself, "That man, Frederick, is not in the habit of
sitting before a desk and toasting his calves by the fire; he is
certainly a soldier, a superior officer!"

He had been stationed near me in the morning, and I had noticed that his
two shots had not missed their mark.  I looked upon him as a real
huntsman, and so he was.  He knew also how to drink, for towards
midnight three-fourths of the guests were already fast asleep in all the
corners, and, except himself, Baron Pichard, M. Tubingue, one of the
largest, richest vine-growers in Alsace; M. Jean Claude Ruppert, the
notary, who could drink two days running without changing colour or
saying one word quicker than another; and M. Mouchica, the
wood-merchant, whose custom it is to intoxicate every one with whom he
has any dealings—except these, the other guests, extended on their
bundles of straw, had all left the party.

Then a loud conversation took place; the baron said that the Germans
were sending spies into Alsace, that they had agents everywhere,
disguised as servants or commercial travellers or peddlers; that they
were drawing out maps of the roads, the paths, the forests; that they
even penetrated into our arsenals and sent notes regularly to Germany;
that they had done the same thing in Schleswig-Holstein before
commencing the war, and then in Bohemia, before Sadowa; that they were
not to be trusted, etc.

The notary and M. Mouchica agreed with him that it was a very serious
business, and that our government ought to take measures to stop this
spy system.

Naturally, when we heard that, we listened with all our ears, when the
officer began to laugh, saying that he was more ready to believe what
the baron said because we were doing the same thing in Germany; that we
had engineers in all the fortresses and staff-officers in all their
valleys.  And M. Tubingue having said that that was impossible, that no
French officer would behave that way, because of the honour of the army,
he began to laugh still louder, and said:

"But, my dear sir, what is war now?  It is an art, a game, an open
contest; they look over each other’s hands and each tries to make out
the cards of his adversary.  Look at me; I have gone all through the
Palatinate as a commercial traveller; I sold Bordeaux to those good
Germans!"

Then, laughing still more, the gentleman related all that he had seen on
his road, just like what Captain Rondeau had said that the Prussians
were doing here, adding that we were only waiting for an excuse to seize
on the left bank of the Rhine.

When they heard that, my guards began to stamp their feet with delight,
as if their fortune was made; and at once the door was closed, and we
heard nothing more.

I went out into the air, for the stupidity of big Kern, Trompette, and
the others disgusted me.

It was very cold outside; the platform was white with frost and the moon
over the bristling old firs was peeping between the clouds.

"What is the matter, brigadier?" asked Merlin, who had followed me; "you
look pale.  Do you feel sick?"

"Yes, the stupidity of Trompette and the others has upset me; I should
like to know what made them stamp," I answered.  "And you, too, Merlin;
you surprise me!  You think that it is a fine thing to invade the
country of our neighbours; to carry off the wheat, the wine, the hay,
and the straw of poor people, who never did us any harm.  You think it
is fine to take their country and to make them French, in spite of
themselves.  That is sport.  You think that is sport!  Would you like to
become a German? Would you like to obey the Prussians and put aside your
country for another?  What would it profit us to do such a thing as
that?  Would it make us richer to tear out the souls of our neighbours?
Would that leave us with a good conscience?  Well, for my part, I would
not, for the honour of our nation, have an ill-gotten _centime_ or inch
of land.  I do not want to believe what that gentleman says.  If it is
true, so much the worse!  Even if we were the strongest to-day, the
Germans, from father to son, would think only of vengeance, of returning
to their rights, of reclaiming their blood.  Would the good God be just
to abandon them?  There are only beings without hearts and without
religion who are capable of believing it; gamblers, who imagine stupidly
that they will always win.  Nevertheless, we see that many gamblers end
their days on a dunghill."

"Father Frederick," said Merlin, "don’t be angry with me.  I had never
thought of all that; it is true.  But you are too angry to return to the
kitchen."

"Yes," I answered, "let us go to sleep; that is better than drinking;
there is still room in the barn."

We did so, and left the next morning at daybreak.

What I have just told you, George, is true; I have always placed justice
above everything, and even now, when I have lost all that I loved best
in the world, I repeat the same thing.  I am better pleased in my great
misery to be deprived of the fruit of my labour for thirty years than to
have lost my love of justice.



                                  *X*


After that the winter passed as usual; rain, snow, great blasts of wind
through the leafless trees, uprooted firs, dislodged rocks, covering
with earth the roads and paths at the foot of the slope.  That is what I
had seen for twenty-five years past.

Then gradually the spring arrived.  The cattle again descended to drink
at the river.  Calas began to sing again as he cracked his whip, and the
cock began to flap his wings on the low wall of the poultry-yard, in the
midst of his hens, filling with his clear voice all the echoes of the
valley.

Ah! how all that comes back to me, George, and how beautiful those
things to which I then paid no attention, appear to me now in this
garret into which scarcely a ray of light can penetrate.

It was our last spring at the forest house.

Marie-Rose, every morning, in her short petticoat, with her clean
_fichu_ crossed over her bosom, went into the garden with her basket and
the old earthy knife, to gather the first vegetables.  She came and
went, lifting up the bordering of box that edged the little alleys, and
tied up the branches of the rose bushes that had fallen away from their
stakes.  I saw in the distance Jean Merlin, advancing at a swift pace
through the meadow path, skirting the old willows; I heard him call out:

"Marie-Rose!"

She instantly rose and hastened to meet him. They kissed each other and
returned laughing, arm in arm.  I was pleased and said to myself:

"They love each other dearly.  They are good children."

Old grandmother Anne, who was nearly always shut up in her own room, was
looking too, leaning out of the little window surrounded with ivy, with
her eyelids puckered up, her old face wrinkled with satisfaction; she
called me:

"Frederick!"

"What is it, grandmother?"

"I am growing young as at the time of my own marriage.  It was the year
of the comet in which they made such good wine before the great Russian
winter; you have heard them talk of that, Frederick; all our soldiers
were frozen."

"Yes, grandmother."

She liked to recall those old stories, and we did not think that we
should soon see the same things.

The good people of Phalsbourg, the poorest, such as father Maigret, old
Paradis, grandfather Lafougére, all of them old soldiers without any
means of subsistence but public charity and their medal of St. Helena,
began to come to look for mushrooms in the woods; they knew all the
different kinds from the small to the large Polish mushroom; they
gathered also strawberries and mulberries.  The wood strawberries, which
are the best, sell in the town for two sous a quart, mushrooms for three
sous the small basketful.

The lower meadow, by the river bank, gave them also quantities of salad.
How many times those poor old backs were forced to stoop in order to
earn a _sou_!

And every year we received orders to enforce the forest laws more
severely, to prevent the poor from picking up the dead leaves and beech
nuts, which was as much as to say to "prevent them from living."

Things went on this way till the hay-making season, when came the great
drought; it lasted till the end of July, and we feared for the potatoes.

As to the _plebiscite_, I won’t talk to you about that; those things did
not worry us foresters much.  One fine morning we received the order to
go to the Petite Pierre, and all the brigade, after assembling at my
house, left together in their holiday clothes to vote; yes, as we had
been ordered to do.  Then, stopping at the inn of the Three Pigeons, we
drank a bumper to the Emperor’s health, after which every one went home
and never thought of it any more.

The people complained of but one thing at Graufthal, Dôsenheim, and
Echbourg, and that was the lack of rain.  But in the depths of the
valleys dry weather was always the most beautiful and the richest; we
never lacked moisture; the grass grew in abundance, and all the birds in
Alsace, blackbirds, thrushes, bullfinches, and wood pigeons, with their
young nestlings, enjoyed themselves with us as if in an aviary.

It was also the best time one could wish for fishing, for when the
waters were low all the trout ascended to the springs beneath the rocks,
where one could take them out in one’s hand.

You may well believe that there was no lack of fishermen.  Marie-Rose
had never before had as many omelettes and fried dishes to prepare. She
superintended everything and answered the compliments made to her upon
her approaching marriage without stopping her work.  She looked as fresh
as a rose; merely looking at her, Jean Merlin’s eyes grew moist with
tenderness.

Who would have imagined at that time that we were going to have a war
with the Prussians? What interest had we in that?  Beside, did not every
one say that the _plebiscite_ had been voted to keep peace?  Such an
idea had never entered our heads, when, one July evening, the little
Jew, David, who had been to Dôsenheim to buy a calf, said to me as he
passed:

"You have heard the great news, brigadier?"

"No; what is it?"

"Well, the Paris newspapers say that the Emperor is about to declare war
upon the King of Prussia."

I could not believe it, because the wood-merchant Schatner, who had
returned a few days before from Sarrebrück, had told me that the country
thereabouts was swarming with troops, cavalry, infantry, artillery, and
that even the citizens had their knapsacks, their guns, and their
complete outfits, ticketed and numbered, all arranged in good order on
shelves in large barracks, and that at the first sign of the _hauptmann_
these people would have nothing to do but to dress themselves, receive
cartridges, get into a railway car, and fall upon our backs _en masse_.
As for us, we had nothing at all, either in our towns or our villages,
so simple good sense made me think that they would not declare war on
these Germans before having put us in a condition to defend ourselves.

So I shrugged my shoulders when the Jew told me such an absurd thing,
and I said:

"Do you take the Emperor for a fool?"

But he went off, dragging his calf by the rope, and saying:

"Wait a bit, brigadier; you will see—this won’t last long."

All that he could say on that score came to the same thing, and when
Jean Merlin came that evening, as usual, it never occurred to me to tell
him about it.

Unfortunately, eight or ten days later, the thing was certain; they were
calling in all soldiers away on leave of absence.  It was even stated
that the Bavarians had cut the telegraph wires in Alsace—that
innumerable troops were passing Saverne, and that others were encamped
at Niederbronn.



                                  *XI*


All at once it was rumoured that there had been fighting near
Wissembourg, and that same evening the inhabitants of Neu Willer,
fleeing with their furniture piled on carts to Lutzelstein, told us at
the very door of the house, without daring to come in, that several of
our battalions had been slaughtered; that the general of the vanguard
had been left on the field; that Wissembourg was in flames, and that our
troops were retiring towards Bitche.

These people seemed bewildered with terror; instead of continuing on
their way to Petite Pierre, the idea struck them all at once that it was
not strongly enough fortified, and in spite of the circuit of three
leagues that they had just made, the whole band, men and women, began to
climb the Falberg hill to fly to Strasbourg.

Then desolation reigned among us.  Merlin and his mother came to our
house to talk over the bad news.  The grandmother lamented.  As for me,
I said there was no need to be cast down about it, that the Germans
would never dare to risk themselves in our forests; that they did not
know the roads, and other reasons like that, which did not prevent me
from being very uneasy myself, for all that Captain Rondeau had said to
us one year before came back to me; the wood-cutters that he had caused
to be arrested at Lutzelstein rose before my eyes; and then I was
humiliated to think that the soldiers of Baden and Bavaria had beaten
the French at their first encounter. I knew that they were ten to one,
but that did not lessen my grief.

It was our first bad night.  I could not sleep, and I heard Marie-Rose,
in her little side room, get up, open the window, and look out.

All outside was as silent as if nothing had happened; not a leaf was
stirring, so calm was the air; some crickets were chirping on the
ground, which was still warm six hours after sunset, and along the river
the frogs were uttering their long, drawn-out cry.

My inward emotion prevented me from sleeping. About four o’clock Ragot
began to bark down-stairs; some one was knocking at the door, I dressed
myself, and two minutes after, went down to open the door.

A man, the younger Klein-Nickel, of Petite Pierre, brought me an order
from Inspector Laroche to come without delay.

Marie-Rose had come down-stairs.  I only waited long enough to snatch a
morsel, and then I left with my gun slung over my shoulder.  By seven
o’clock I was at M. Laroche’s door, and I went in.  The inspector was
seated at his desk writing.

"Ah! it is you, Frederick," he said, laying down his pen, "take a seat.
We have had some pretty bad news; you know that our little body of men
detached for observation has had a misfortune?" "Yes, sir."

"They allowed themselves to be surprised," said he; "but that is
nothing; it will not occur again."

He appeared as tranquil as usual, and said that in every war there were
ups and downs; that a first unfortunate engagement did not signify
anything, but that it was always good to take precautions in view of
more serious events impossible to foresee; consequently, that it was
necessary to tell all the men of my brigade, and those that we were
employing on the forest roads, to be ready to march with their pickaxes,
hatchets, and shovels, at the first order, because it would perhaps be
necessary to blow up the rocks and to cut the roads by means of ditches
and the felling of trees.

"You understand," said he, seeing me rather uneasy, "that these things
are simply measures of forethought, nothing is threatening; Marshal
MacMahon is concentrating his troops near Hagenau; everything is in
movement; there is nothing immediate to fear; but the chief thing is to
be ready in case of need; when everything is ready, we will act rapidly
and surely.  I may receive an order from General de Failly to block the
roads, and in such a case the order must be executed within a few
hours."

"It will not take long, sir," I answered; "everywhere the rocks are
leaning over the roads; in falling they would take everything with them
to the bottom of the valley."

"Exactly," said he.  "But, first, every one must be warned.  We have no
lack of blasting powder; if the order arrives, all my colleagues having
taken the same measures, it will be a day’s journey from Bitche to Dabo;
not a cannon, not an ammunition wagon can pass from Alsace to Lorraine."

He said this as he accompanied me to the door, and shook hands with me.

As I was going thoughtfully home, I saw on the height of Altenberg some
soldiers who were planting stockades along the hillside.  The greatest
confusion was reigning in the suburbs, people were running from house to
house to get news, two or three companies of infantry were encamped in a
potato-field.

All that day and the next I did nothing but carry the orders of the
inspector from Frohmühle to Echbourg, from Echbourg to Hangsviller, to
Graufthal, to Metting, etc., telling each of what he would have to do,
the places where we were to meet, the rocks which we were to attack.

On the third day I came home, so worn out that I could not eat nor even
sleep for several hours.  However, towards morning I fell into a heavy
sleep, from which I was roused by Marie-Rose coming into my room and
opening the window towards Dôsenheim.

"Listen, father," said she, in a trembling voice; "listen to that noise.
What is it?  We hear nothing but that in the whole valley."

I listened.  It was an endless booming that filled the mountain, and at
times covered the noise of the wind in the trees.  It did not take me
long to understand what it meant, and I answered:

"It is cannon.  They are fighting seven or eight leagues from here, near
Woerth.  It is a great battle."

Marie-Rose instantly ran down-stairs, and after having dressed myself I
followed her into the lower room, where the grandmother was also; her
chin trembled as she looked at me with wide-open eyes.

"It is nothing," I told them; "do not be afraid; whatever happens, the
Germans will never come this far; we have too many good places to defend
our passes."

But I was very far from feeling very confident myself.

The cannonading grew louder, sometimes like the distant rolling of a
storm; then it died away, and we heard nothing more but the rustling of
the leaves, the barking of Ragot before the door, and the quacking of a
duck among the willows by the river.  These voices of the solitude, when
one thought of what was going on behind the curtain of the forest, had
something strange about them.

I should have liked to climb the rocks to see at least what was going on
on the other side, in the plain; but as the order to commence operations
might arrive at any minute, I was forced to stay where I was.

This went on till three o’clock in the afternoon.

I walked about, trying to put a brave face on the matter, so as not to
frighten the women.  This day, the sixth of August, was very long; even
today, when so many other griefs have overwhelmed us, I cannot think of
it without a heavy heart.

The most terrible moment was, when all at once the dull sound that we
had heard since morning ceased.  We listened at the garden window, but
not a breath, not a sound but those from the valley reached us.  It was
only after a few minutes that I said:

"It is over.  The battle is ended.  Now some are running away and the
others are pursuing them.  God grant that we have conquered."

And till night not a soul appeared in the neighbourhood.  After supper
we went to bed with heavy hearts.



                                 *XII*


The next day was very gloomy; the sky was cloudy, and at length it began
to rain, after the two months’ drought; the rain fell heavily and
continuously; the hours passed slowly away, the order to commence
operations did not come, and I said to myself:

"That is a good sign!  So much the better! If we had been defeated the
order would have arrived early this morning."

But we had no news, and about three o’clock, losing patience, I said to
Marie-Rose and the grandmother:

"See here, I cannot stand this any longer; I must go to Petite Pierre to
find out what is going on."

I put on my water-proof cape and went out into the pouring rain.  On our
sandy soil the water flows off without soaking into the ground. I
arrived at Petite Pierre, where every one was then shut up in the
cottages, about six o’clock. At the point of the fort, high up in air a
sentinel was on guard outside of his watch-box.

A few minutes later I entered the office of the chief inspector.  He was
there alone, walking up and down with a bowed back and a gloomy air, and
when I raised my hood he stopped short and said to me:

"It is you, Father Frederick, is it?  Have you come to hear the news and
to get your orders?"

"Yes, sir," I replied.

"Well, the news is bad; the battle is lost; we are repulsed from Alsace,
and one hundred and fifty thousand Germans are advancing to enter
Lorraine."

A cold shiver ran down my back, and as he said no more I murmured:

"Everything is ready, sir; there is nothing to do but to distribute the
powder for the mines and to commence felling the trees; we are all ready
and waiting."

Then, smiling bitterly and running his hands through his thick brown
hair, he cried:

"Yes, yes, we are all like that.  Time presses; the retreat is
continuing by Bitche and Saverne, the enemy is sending out scouts in all
directions, and the orders do not come."

I answered nothing, and then, seating himself, he cried:

"After all, why should I hide the truth from you?  General de Failly has
sent me word that the abattis are useless, and that there is nothing for
us to do."

I was as though rooted to the ground and a cold trembling shook my
limbs.  The inspector recommenced his walk with his hands crossed behind
his back under the skirts of his coat, and as he paced to and fro,
without saying another word, I added:

"And now, what are we to do, sir?"

"Remain at your posts like brave fellows," he said.  "I have no other
orders to give you."

Something choked me; he saw that, and, looking at me with moistened
eyes, he held out his hand to me, saying:

"Come, Father Frederick, take courage.  After all, it is pleasant to be
able to say, a hand upon the heart, ’I am a brave man!’  That is _our_
recompense."

And I said, deeply moved:

"Yes, sir, yes, that is all which remains to us, and that will never be
lacking."

He did me the honour to accompany me down the walk to the gate, and
again pressing my hand, he cried:

"Courage! courage!"

Then I set off again, descending the great valley.  The rain covered the
pool of the Fromühle, which was quivering all gray among the willows and
the parched herbage.

As to telling you about the ideas which chased each other through my
head, and how often I passed my hand over my face to wipe away the tears
and the rain which were flowing from it—as to relating to you that,
George, it is not in my power; that would take a wiser man than I; I
felt myself no longer, I did not know myself, and I repeated to myself
in my trouble:

"No orders—it is useless.  The general says that it is useless to cut
down the trees and to block up the roads.  Then he wants the enemy to
advance and to come through the passes."

And I marched on.

It was dark night when I reached the house. Marie-Rose was waiting for
me, seated by the table; she observed me with an anxious eye, and she
seemed to ask, "What has happened—what orders have we."

But I said nothing, and, throwing my cape, all streaming with rain, on
the back of a chair, and shaking my cap, I cried:

"Go to bed, Marie-Rose, we will not be disturbed to-night; go and sleep
tranquilly; the general at Bitche does not want us to stir.  The battle
is lost, but we will have another in Alsace, at Saverne, or farther off,
and the roads are to remain open.  We have no need to do anything, the
roads will be well guarded."

I do not know what she thought about it, but at the end of a minute,
seeing that I did not sit down, she said:

"I have kept your soup near the fire, and it is still hot if you would
like something to eat, father."

"Bah!  I am not hungry," I answered; "let us go to bed: it is late, and
that is the best thing to do."

I could no longer restrain myself; anger was gaining upon me.  I went
out and bolted the door, and then taking the lamp I went up-stairs.
Marie-Rose followed me, and we each went to our own room.

I heard my daughter go to bed, but I remained thinking for a long time,
leaning my elbows on the table and watching the little yellow light
before the black panes where the ivy leaves were shivering in the rain,
winking my eyes and saying to myself:

"Frederick, there are, nevertheless, many asses in the world, and they
do not walk in the rear; they march in front and lead the others."

At last, as the night advanced towards two o’clock, thinking that it was
useless to burn oil for nothing, I undressed and went to bed, blowing
out my lamp.

On that very night of the seventh to the eighth of August, the Germans,
having reconnoitred to a great distance and finding that all the roads
were free, advanced in a body and took possession of the passes, not
only of La Zingel but also of La Zorn, thus investing Phalsbourg, the
bombardment of which was begun two days later.

They passed also into Lorraine by the great tunnel of Homartin, while
our army fell back, by forced marches, upon Nancy, and finally upon
Chalons.

Thus the two great German armies of Woerth and Forbach found themselves
united, and all others were as if swallowed up, cut off from all help
and even from all hope.

You can easily picture to yourself that immense army of Prince
Frederick; Bavarians, Würtemburgers, Badeners, cavalry, artillery,
infantry, which defied by squadrons and by regiments through our lovely
valley; that torrent of human beings which goes on and on, ever forward,
without interruption during a whole week, and the cannon which thunders
around the place, and the old rocks of the Graufthal which resound with
echoes upon echoes, and then the smoke of the conflagration which arises
to Heaven forming a sombre dome above our valleys.



                                 *XIII*


After the grand passage of the German army and the bombardment of the
city, thousands of _landwehr_ came to occupy the country.  These people
filled up all the villages and hamlets; here one company, there two;
further on three or four, commanded by Prussian officers.  They guarded
all the roads and paths, they made requisitions of all kinds: bread,
wheat, flour, hay, straw, cattle, nothing came amiss to them; they
amused themselves at the corner of the fire, talked of their wives and
children with an air of tender emotion, pitied the fate of their poor
brothers of Alsace and Lorraine, and sighed over our misery.  But all
that did not prevent them from eating and drinking heartily at our
expense, and from stretching themselves out in the old arm-chair of the
grandmother or grandfather, smoking with satisfaction the cigars that we
were obliged to furnish for them!  Yes, fine words did not cost them
much.  This is what I have often seen at Graufthal, at Echbourg,
Berlinger, Flangeviller, where the desire to learn the news made me go
from time to time, wearing a _blouse_ and carrying a stick.

From the first days of September their governor-general, Bismark Bohlen,
came to establish himself at Hagenau, declaring that Alsace had always
been a German province, and that his Majesty the King of Prussia was
taking possession of his own; that Strasbourg, Bitche, Phalsbourg, Nevy
Brisach were to be considered as cities rebelling against the legitimate
authority of King William, but that they would soon be brought to their
senses by the new bombshells weighing a hundred and fifty pounds.

This, George, was what they said openly with us, and that shows that
these Germans took us for fools, to whom they could tell the most silly
jokes without fear of being laughed at.

Our only consolation was that we lived in the midst of the forest, in
which these brave people did not like to risk themselves; I thanked
Heaven for it every evening.  But scarcely was Bismark Bohlen installed
than we saw passing every morning and evening regularly mounted
_gens-d’armes_ in the valley, with their helmets and their great cloaks,
with packets of proclamations, which the mayors were obliged to post up
on the doors of their offices and the churches.

These proclamations promised the kindest of treatment to the faithful
subjects of King William, and threatened with death all those who
assisted the French, whom they called "our enemies!"  It was forbidden
to give them bread or even a glass of water in their misfortune, to
serve them as guides, or to hide them in one’s house; one must give them
up to be an honest man; you were to be judged by a council of war in
case of disobedience, and the smallest penalty for such an offence was
twenty years of the galleys and thirty-seven thousand francs fine.

By such means Bismark Bohlen could dispense with all other explanations
touching the races, the German fatherland, and the rights of his
Majesty.

Picture to yourself now our solitude, the fear of marauders, whom we
could not have dared to repulse, because they would have presented
themselves in the name of the king.  Fortunately that kind of people are
not very courageous; it was rumoured that sharp-shooters, and even
soldiers escaped from Woerth, were prowling round in the neighbourhood,
and that preserved us from visits from that good race which wished us so
much good.

It was also said that the members of the forest guard would be kept,
that the salary of the old guards would even be augmented, and that
several would obtain promotion.

You can understand my indignation when I heard such things said; I had
not forgotten the advice of our good Chief Inspector; I reminded our men
of it at every opportunity:

"We must stay at our posts!  Perhaps the luck will not always be against
us.  Let every one do his duty till the end.  I have no other orders to
give you."

He observed this order himself, staying at Petite Pierre and continuing
to fulfil the duties of his office.

Strasbourg was defending itself; there was fighting going on round Metz.
From time to time I sent Merlin to get the orders from our superiors,
and the answer was always: "Nothing is hopeless.  We may be called upon
at any minute.  Let every one stay where he is!"

We waited then, and the autumn, always so beautiful in our mountains,
with its russet leaves, its silent forests, where the song of birds was
no longer heard; its meadows newly mown and smooth as a carpet as far as
the eye could reach; the river covered with gladiols and dead leaves,
this great spectacle so calm at all times, was still grander and sadder
than ever in the midst of the terrible events through which we were
passing.

How often then, listening to the endless murmur of the forest, over
which was passing the first cold shiver of the winter, how often have I
said to myself:

"While you are looking, Frederick, at those old woods wherein everything
is sleeping, what is happening down yonder in Champagne?  What has
become of that immense army, the cavalry, the infantry, the cannons, all
those thousands of beings going eagerly to destruction for the glory and
interest of a few?  Shall we see them driven back in disorder?  Will
they remain lying amid the mists of the Meuse, or will they return to
place their heel upon our necks?"

I imagined great battles.  The grandmother also was very uneasy; she sat
by the window and said:

"Listen, Frederick, do you hear nothing?"

And I listened; it was only the wind among the dry leaves.

Sometimes, but rarely, the city seemed to awake; so a few cannon shots
thundered amid the echoes from Quatre Vents to Mittelbroun and then all
was silent again.  The idea of Metz sustained us; it was from there,
above all, that we hoped to obtain succour.

I have nothing more to tell you about this autumn of 1870; no news, no
visits, and towards the last but little hope.

But I must tell you now about a thing that surprised us a good deal,
that we could not understand, and which unhappily has now become too
clear for us, like many other things.



                                 *XIV*


About two weeks after the establishment of Bismark Bohlen at Hagenau, we
saw arrive one morning in the valley a vehicle similar to those used by
the Germans who were starting for America before the invention of
railroads—a long wagon, loaded with hundreds of old traps, straw beds,
bedsteads, frying-pans, lanterns, etc., with a muddy dog and an unkempt
wife and a horde of scabby children, and the master himself leading his
sorry jade by the bridle.

We looked at them in amazement, thinking, "What does all this mean?
What are these people coming to do among us?"

Under the cover near the pole the woman, already old, yellow, and
wrinkled, her cap put on awry, was picking the heads of the children,
who were swarming in the straw, boys and girls, all light-haired and
chubby and pussy, as potato-eaters always are.

"Wilhelm, will you be quiet?" she said. "Wait till I take a look—wait, I
see something. Good, I have it; you can tumble about now. Wilhelmina,
come put your head upon my knees; each must take their turn; you can
look at the pine trees later."

And the father, a big man, in a bottle-green coat, that had a thousand
wrinkles in the back; his cheeks hanging, his little nose adorned with a
pair of spectacles, his pantaloons tucked into his boots, and a big
porcelain pipe in his mouth, pulled on his miserable horse by the bridle
and said to his wife:

"Herminia, look at those forests, those meadows, this rich Alsace.  We
are in the terrestrial paradise."

It was a group resembling the gipsies, and, as Merlin came to see us
that day, we talked of nothing but that the whole evening.

But we were destined to see many more of them, for these strangers, in
old _cabriolets_, basket wagons, _chars-a-banc_, and two or four wheeled
carriages, put into requisition along the road, continued to pass for a
long time.  From the first of them, the remembrance of whom has remained
in my mind, the train was never ending; there passed daily three, four,
or five vehicles, loaded with children, old men, young women, and young
girls—the last gotten up in an odd style, with dresses which, it seemed
to me, I remembered having seen some fifteen or twenty years before upon
the ladies of Saverne, and with wide hats, trimmed with paper roses, set
upon their plaits, just three hairs thick, like the _queues_ of our
grandfathers.

These people talked all kinds of German and were hard to understand.
They had also all kinds of faces: some broad and fat, with venerable
beards; others sharp as a knife-blade, and with their old overcoats
buttoned to the throat, to hide their shirts; some with light gray eyes
and stiff, shaggy, red whiskers; others little, round, lively, going,
running, and wriggling about; but all, at the sight of our beautiful
valley, uttering cries of admiration and lifting up their hands, men,
women, and children, as we are told the Jews did on entering into the
Promised Land.

Thus came these people from all parts of Germany; they had taken the
railroads to our frontiers, but all our lines being then occupied by
their troops and their provision and ammunition trains starting from
Wissembourg or from Soreltz, they were forced to travel in wagons, after
the Alsatian fashion.

Sometimes one and sometimes another would ask us the way to Saverne,
Metting, or Lutzelstein; they got down at the spring below the bridge
and drank from one of their pans or from the hollow of their hands.

Every day these passages were repeated, and I cudgelled my brain to find
out what these foreigners were coming to do among us at so troubled a
time, when provisions were so scarce and when we did not know to-day
what we should have to eat the morrow.  They never said a word, but went
upon their way, under the protection of the _landwehr_ which filled the
country.  We have since learned that they shared in the requisitions—a
fact which permitted them to save money and even to get themselves into
good condition on the road.

George, all these Bohemians of a new species, whose miserable air filled
our hearts with pity, even in the midst of our troubles, were the
functionaries which Germany sent to be our administrators and our
rulers, preceptors, controllers, notaries, schoolmasters, foresters,
etc.  They were persons who, from the months of September and October,
long before the treaty of peace was signed, arrived tranquilly to take
the place of our own people, saying to them, without ceremony, "Get out
of there, so that I may get in."

One would have said that it was all agreed upon beforehand, for it
happened so even before the capitulation of Strasburg.

How many poor devils, beer barrels or schnaps drinkers, who had been
whipping the devil around the stump for years and years in all the
little cities of Pomerania, of Brandenburg, and further still, who never
would have become anything at home, and who did not know from whom to
ask for credit at home for rye bread and potatoes—how many such men fell
then upon rich Alsace, that terrestrial paradise, promised to the
Germans by their kings, their professors, and their schoolmasters!

At the time of which I speak they were still modest, notwithstanding the
wonderful victories of their armies; they were not yet sure of
preserving that extraordinary good-fortune to the end, and, comparing
their old tattered coats and their miserable appearance with the easy
fortune of the least of the functionaries of Alsace and of Lorraine,
they doubtless said to themselves:

"It cannot be possible that the Lord should have chosen scamps like us
to fill such good places. What extraordinary merit have we, then, to
play first fiddle in a country such as this, which the French have
occupied for two hundred years, which they have cultivated, planted, and
enriched with workshops and factories and improvements of all kinds?
Provided that they do not return to retake it, and to force us to return
to our schnaps and our potatoes."

Yes, George, with a little common sense and justice, these intruders
must have reasoned thus to themselves; a sort of uneasiness could be
recognised in their eyes and in their smile.  But once Strasburg was
taken and Metz given up, and they comfortably installed in large and
fine houses, which they had not built, sleeping in the good beds of
prefects, under-prefects, judges, and other personages, of whom they had
never even had an idea; after having imposed taxes upon the good lands
which they had not sowed, and laid hands upon the registers of all the
administrations, which they had not established, seeing the money, the
good money of rich Alsace, flowing into their coffers—then, George, they
believed themselves to be really presidents of something, inspectors,
controllers, receivers, and the German pride, which they know so well
how to hide with cringing when they are not the stronger—that brutal
pride puffed out their cheeks.

There always remained to them during the time that I was still down
yonder an old remembrance of the Lorempé Strasse and of the Speingler
Volk, where they had formerly lived.  That remembrance made them very
economical; two of them would order a mug of beer and pay for it between
them; they disputed about farthings with the shoemaker and the tailor;
they found something to find fault with in every bill, crying out that
we wanted to cheat them; and the poorest cobbler among us would have
been ashamed to display the meanness of these new functionaries, who
promised us so many benefits in the name of the German fatherland, and
who showed us so much avarice and even abominable meanness.  But that
only showed us with what race we had now to do.



                                  *XV*


One day, towards the end of October, one of the _gens-d’armes_ of
Bismark Bohlen, who passed every morning through the valley, halted at
the door of the forest house, calling:

"Hillo, somebody!"  I went out.

"You are the Brigadier Frederick?" asked the man.

"Yes," I answered, "my name is Frederick, and I am a brigadier
forester."

"All right," said he, holding out a letter; "here is something for you."

Then he trotted off to join his comrade, who was waiting for him a
little farther on.  I entered the house.  Marie-Rose and the grandmother
were uneasy; they looked on in silence as I opened the letter, saying:

"What can those Prussians want with me?"

It was an order from the Oberförster,[#] established at Zornstadt, to be
at his house the next day, with all the foresters of my brigade.  I read
the letter aloud and the women were frightened.


[#] Chief Inspector of the forest.


"What are you going to do, father?" asked Marie-Rose, after a pause.

"That is what I am thinking about," I answered; "these Germans have no
right to give me orders, but they are now the strongest; they may turn
us out of doors any day.  I must think it over."

I was walking up and down the room, feeling very much worried, when all
at once Jean Merlin passed rapidly before the windows, ascended the
steps and entered.

"Good morning, Marie-Rose," said he, "good morning, grandmother.  You
have received the order from the Oberförster, brigadier?"

"Yes."

"Ah!" said he, "those people have no confidence in us; all the foresters
have received the same thing.  Shall we go?"

"We must see about it," I said; "you must go to Petite Pierre and ask
the advice of our inspector."

The clock was striking eight.  Jean started at once; at twelve o’clock
he had already returned to tell us that M. Laroche wished us to see what
the Germans wanted with us, and to send him an account of it as soon as
possible.  So it was resolved that we should go.

You must know, George, that since the arrival of the Germans the forests
were robbed by wholesale; all the wood still in cords and piled in the
clearings, vanished, fagot by fagot: the _landwehr_ carried off all that
was within their reach; they liked to sit by a good fire in their
earthworks before the city.  The peasants, too, helped themselves
liberally, one might almost say that the property of the State belonged
to the first-comer.

I told my guards without ceasing to watch the culprits closely, that the
wood still belonged to France, and that after the war they would have to
account for it.  My district suffered less than the others, because I
continued to make my rounds as heretofore; people always respect those
who do their duty.

So I sent Jean to tell his comrades to meet without fail the next day at
the forest house, wearing their uniform, but without badges, and that we
would go together to Zornstadt.

The next day, when all had assembled, we took up the line of march, and
about one o’clock we arrived in the vestibule of the great house,
wherein the Oberförster had installed himself and all his family.  It
was a great holiday at Zornstadt for the Prussians.  They had just heard
of the capitulation of Bazaine, and they were singing in all the public
houses.  The Oberförster was giving a banquet.  Naturally this ill news
made our hearts very heavy.  The other brigades had already met at the
door, headed by the brigadiers, Charles Werner, Jacob Hepp, and
Balthazar Redig.

After having shaken hands, it was decided that we should listen to the
remarks of the Oberförster in silence, and that I, as the oldest
brigadier, should speak for all if there was anything to reply.  We
still waited for over half an hour, as the banquet was not yet over;
they were laughing and joking, playing the piano and singing "Die Wacht
am Rhein."  In spite of their immense vanity, these people had not
expected such great victories, and I think that if we had had other
generals, that, in spite of their preparations and their superiority in
numbers, they would not have had the opportunity to be so merry at our
expense.

At last, about two o’clock, a German in a green felt hat, adorned with
two or three cock feathers, with a joyous air, and cheeks scarlet to the
ears, for he had just left the kitchen, came and opened the door,
saying:

"You may come in."

After traversing a long room, we found the Oberförster alone, seated in
an arm-chair at the end of a long table, still covered with dessert and
bottles of all kinds, with a red face, and his hands crossed upon his
stomach with an air of satisfaction.  He was a handsome man in his
jacket of green cloth edged with marten fur—yes, George, I will confess
it, a very handsome man, tall, well-made, a square head, short hair,
solid jaws, long red mustaches and side whiskers, that, so to speak,
covered his shoulders.  Only his large red nose, covered with flowery
splotches, astonished you at first sight, and forced you to turn away
your eyes out of respect for his rank.  He looked at us as we entered,
his little gray eyes screwed up; and when we had all gathered round the
table, cap in hand, after having scrutinized us carefully, he settled
his waistcoat, coughed a little, and said to us, with an air of deep
emotion:

"You are good people.  You have all honest German faces; that pleases
me!  Your get-up is very good also; I am satisfied with you!"

In the side room the guests were laughing; this forced the Oberförster
to interrupt himself:

"Wilhelm, shut the door!" said he to the servant who had let us in.  The
waiter obeyed, and the Oberförster continued:

"Yes, you have good German faces!  When I think that you have been kept
for so many years in the service of that race of boasters, it makes me
angry.  But, thanks to the Almighty, and thanks also to the armies of
our glorious King William, the hour of deliverance has arrived, the
reign of Sodom and Gomorrah is over.  We will no longer see honest
fathers of families doing their duty with loyalty and exactness, and
preserving the property of his Majesty; we will no longer see such
people living on a salary of five or six hundred francs, while
adventurers, law-breakers, gamblers, people swallowed up in vice, award
themselves forty millions a year to support dancing girls, cooks, and
toadies, and to declare war at random upon pacific neighbours, without
reason, without foresight, without armies, without ammunition, and
without cannon, like real idiots!  No, that will never be seen again;
old Germany is opposed to it!"

Then the Oberförster, satisfied with what he had just said, filled his
glass in order to refresh his ideas; he drank solemnly, with half-closed
eyes, and continued:

"I have sent for you to confirm you in all your situations; for I
visited the forests, I saw that all was in order; I saw that you were
faithful servants; it is but just that you should remain.  And I
announce to you that your salaries are to be doubled; that old servants,
instead of being put on the retired list, shall receive promotion; that
they shall enjoy an honest competency proportionate to their rank;
finally, that the munificence of his Majesty will extend itself to you
all, and in your old age you will bless the happy annexation of this
noble land, Alsace, to the mother country. You will relate some day to
your children and grandchildren the story of this long captivity in
Babylon, during which you suffered so much, and you will also become the
most faithful subjects of his Most Gracious Majesty, the King of
Prussia. This is what I wish!  Old functionaries like you, honoured and
respected in the country because of the faithfulness of their services,
exercise always a great influence over the peasantry.  You will express
loudly your attachment to our glorious King William, that hearty
attachment which every German feels.  Yes, you will take the oath of
allegiance to his Majesty; and as to the rest, as to the augmentation of
your salary, I give you my word as an Oberförster that all will be done
according to the promises I have just made you."

While he was talking he did not cease to watch us; behind us were two or
three tall Germans in uniform, who appeared dazzled and touched by his
discourse.  But as for us we remained cold, cap in hand; and as I was to
be the spokesman they all looked at me to see what I thought.

You can imagine, George, my silent indignation to see that they called
us good servants, honest people in order to make traitors of us.  I felt
my cheeks getting red; I would have liked to be able to answer that only
rascals would have accepted the title of honest men, by forfeiting their
honour; but I held my tongue, not wishing to answer for my comrades,
several of whom had large families; the responsibility seemed too great.

The Oberförster having ended, he looked at us fixedly; at me in
particular, and he said:

"Well! you may speak; I authorize you to speak."

Then I answered:

"Sir, as the oldest forester of the three brigades, my comrades have
requested me to speak for them all; but the proposition that you have
just made is serious; I think that every one will ask for time to think
it over."

They all nodded assent; and he, who was really astonished, for he had
doubtless thought that the augmentation of the salaries would decide
everything, remained for over a minute with his eyes wide open, staring
at me as if I were something extraordinary; then he did as much for the
others, and, frowning, he said gruffly:

"I give you twenty-four hours!  To-morrow at this time I want to have
your written reply, signed by each of you; yes or no!  Do not think that
there is any lack of men, there are plenty in Germany, good people, old
foresters, who know the service as well as the smartest of you, who
would ask nothing better than to come into this rich Alsace, where
everything grows so abundantly, to live in comfortable houses in the
midst of magnificent forests, having nothing to do but to take a little
turn in the neighbourhood morning and evening, to draw up a report, and
to receive for that twelve or fifteen hundred francs a year, with the
garden, the strip of meadow, the pasture for the cow, and all the rest
of it.  No, do not think that!  Hundreds are waiting impatiently till we
tell them to come.  And weigh well your answer; think of your wives and
your children; beware of having to repent bitterly if you say no!
France is completely ruined, she is penniless; the wretched forests that
are left her in Brittany and the Landes are nothing but broom-sticks;
the guards of these thickets will retain their places, and you will
never get other situations.  You are Germans.  The French used you and
despised you; they called you blockheads! Think over all this; it is the
advice of an honest man that I give you, of a German brother and the
father of a family!"

He looked at me, thinking that I was going to say something; but I
compressed my lips, and I felt as if little puffs of cold wind were
passing over my forehead.  All my companions were also silent.  At one
side behind the door some one was playing on the piano, and a woman was
singing a sweet and melancholy little song.

"Twenty-four hours," he repeated, rising; "not another minute."  And,
throwing his napkin on the table angrily, he added:

"Remember, too, that those who wish to answer no can pack up at once;
the highway is open to them.  We will never keep enemies among
us—dangerous persons—that would be too stupid. We are not Frenchmen."

So he entered the next room, while we went out by the vestibule.

What the Oberförster had said to us, "that we would have a hard time
getting situations in France, and that the Germans would force us to be
off without mercy," was terrible; the most courageous hung their heads.

Some of them, very pale, were thinking of going to the Fir Tree Inn to
deliberate; they wanted, above all, to know my opinion; but I said,
stopping before the door of the inn:

"From this time, comrades, let us economize all the little money that we
have; five sous for a glass of wine is always five sous.  We shall
probably have to break up housekeeping, and at these unhappy times
everything is dear; travelling costs money when we take women, children,
and old men with us."

Big Kern insisted upon knowing what I thought; several of them gathered
around me, so I finally said:

"See here, for what concerns myself I know what I ought to do; but at
such a moment as this every one should be free to follow his own
conscience; I shall give no advice to any one."

And seeing poor Jacob Hepp, the father of six small children, standing
with drooping head, hanging arms, and cast-down eyes, I said:

"Come!  Let us shake hands all round once more—for the last time,
perhaps!  May the old recollections of friendship follow us wherever
Heaven may conduct us."

Several of us kissed each other, and at that place we parted.



                                 *XVI*


Jean Merlin and I took the road to Felsberg alone; I do not know what
the others did, whether they entered the inn or returned to their homes.
As for us, so many ideas were passing through our heads that we walked
on for a long while without saying a word.

On leaving Zornstadt, we ascended the hill of Bruyères till we reached
the plateau of Graufthal, and suddenly the sun pierced the clouds and
shone upon the woods.  The sun was very brilliant, and showed us through
the leafless trees in the depths of the valley the pretty cottage in
which I had passed so many happy days since Father Burat had given me
his daughter in marriage.

I stopped short.  Jean, who was following me along the path, also
halted; and, leaning on our sticks, we looked for a long time as if in a
dream. All the by-gone days seemed to pass before my eyes.

The little cottage, on this clear, cold day, looked as if it were
painted on the hillside, in the midst of the tall fir trees; its roof of
gray shingles, its chimney, from which curled a little smoke, its
windows, where in summer Marie-Rose placed her pots of pinks and
mignonette, the trellis, over which climbed the ivy, the shed and its
worm-eaten pillars—all were there before me, one might have thought it
possible to touch them.

When I saw that I said to myself:

"Look, Frederick, look at this quiet corner of the world, wherein thy
youth has passed, and from which thou must go away gray-headed, without
knowing where to turn; that humble dwelling wherein thy dear wife
Catherine gave thee several children, some of whom lie beside her in the
earth at Dôsenheim.  Look! and remember how calmly thy life has glided
away in the midst of worthy people who called thee good son, kind
father, and honest man, and prayed God to load thee with blessings.
What good does it do thee now to have been a good father and a dutiful
son, to have always done thy duly honestly, since they drive thee away,
and not a soul can intercede for thee?  The Germans are the strongest,
and strength is worth more than the right established by God himself."

I trembled at having dared to raise my reproaches to the Almighty, but
my grief was too deep, and the iniquity appeared to me to be too great.
May Heaven forgive me for having doubted of His goodness.

As to the rest my resolution was taken; I would rather a thousand times
have died than have committed so base an action.  And, looking at
Merlin, who was leaning gloomily against a birch tree near me, I said:

"I am looking at my old abode for the last time; to-morrow the
Oberförster will receive my answer, and day after to-morrow the
furniture will be piled upon the cart.  Tell me now what do you mean to
do?"

Then he flushed scarlet and said: "Oh!  Father Frederick, can you ask me
that?  You pain me by doing so.  Do you not know what I will do?  I will
do like you; there are not two ways of being an honest man."

"That is right—I knew it," I said; "but I am very glad to have heard you
say so.  Everything must be clear between us.  We are not like Germans,
who chase the devil round the stump, and think that everything is right,
provided it succeeds.  Come, let us walk on, Jean, and keep up your
courage."



                                 *XVII*


We began to descend the hill, and I confess to you, George, that when I
approached the house and thought of how I should have to announce the
terrible news to my daughter and the grandmother, my legs trembled under
me.

At last we reached the threshold.  Jean entered first; I followed him
and closed the door. It was about four o’clock.  Marie-Rose was peeling
potatoes for supper, and the grandmother, seated in her arm-chair by the
stove, was listening to the crackling of the fire, as she had done for
years past.

Imagine our position.  How could we manage to tell them that the Germans
were going to turn us out of doors?  But the poor women had only to look
at us to understand that something very serious had happened.

After having put my stick in the corner by the clock, and hung my cap on
the nail, I walked up and down the room several times; then, as I had to
commence somehow, I began to relate in detail the propositions that the
Oberförster had made to us to enter the service of the King of Prussia.
I did not hurry myself; I told everything clearly, without adding or
suppressing anything, wishing that the poor creatures might also have
the liberty of choosing between poverty and shame.

I was sure that they would choose poverty. Marie-Rose, deadly pale,
lifted her hands to Heaven, murmuring:

"My God! is it possible?  Do such rascals exist in the world?  Ah!  I
would rather die than join such a company of wretches!"

It pleased me to see that my daughter had a brave heart, and Jean Merlin
was so touched that I saw his lip quiver.

The grandmother seemed to wake up like a snail in its shell; her chin
trembled, her dull eyes sparkled with anger; I was surprised at it
myself. And when I went on to say that the Oberförster, if we refused to
serve Prussia, gave us twenty-four hours to leave our home, her
indignation burst forth all at once.

"To quit the house?" said she, lifting her bent form, "but this house is
mine!  I was born in this house more than eighty years ago, and I have
never left it.  It was my grandfather, Laurent Duchêne, who first lived
here, more than a hundred and thirty years ago, and who planted the
fruit trees on the hill; it was my father, Jacquemin, who first marked
out the road to Dôsenheim and the paths of Tömenthal; it was my husband,
George Burat, and my son-in-law Frederick here, who sowed the first
seeds of the beech trees and firs, whose forests now extend over the two
valleys; and all of us, from father to son, we have lived quietly in
this house; we have earned it; we have surrounded the garden with hedges
and palisades; every tree in the orchard belongs to us; we saved up
money to buy the meadows, to build the barn and the stables.  Drive us
away from this house? Ah! the wretches!  Those are German ideas! Well,
let them come!  I, Anne Burat, will have something to say to them!"

I could not calm the poor old grandmother; all that she said was just;
but with people who believe that strength is everything, and that shame
and injustice are nothing, what is the use of talking so much?

When she sat down again, all out of breath, I asked her, in a very sad
but firm voice:

"Grandmother, do you wish me to accept service with the Germans?"

"No!" said she.

"Then within forty-eight hours we must all leave together this old
house."

"Never!" she cried.  "I will not!"

"And I tell you it must be," said I, with an aching heart.  "I _will_
have it so."

"Ah!" she cried, with painful surprise.

And I continued, with anguish:

"You know, grandmother, that I have always had the greatest respect for
you.  May those Germans be a thousand times accursed for having forced
me to be disrespectful to you; I hate them still more for it, if
possible!  But do you not understand, grandmother, that those brutes are
without shame, without honour, without pity even for old age, and if
they encountered the slightest resistance they would drag you out by
your gray hair? You are weak and they are strong, and that is enough for
them!  Do you not understand that if I saw such a spectacle I would
throw myself upon them, even if they were a regiment, and that they
would kill me?  Then what would become of you and my daughter?  That is
what we must think of, grandmother.  Forgive me for having spoken so
harshly to you, but I do not wish for a minute’s grace, nor, I am sure,
do you; beside, they would not let us have it, for they are pitiless
people!"

She burst into tears and sobbed out:

"Oh! my God! my God! to have to leave this house, where I hoped to see
my grand-daughter happy and to nurse my great-grandchildren! My God! why
did you not call me away sooner?"

She wept so bitterly that it touched our hearts, and all of us, with
bowed heads, felt the tears trickle down our checks.  How many
recollections came to us all!  But the poor grandmother had more than
any of us, having never quitted the valley for so many years, except to
go two or three times a year to market at Saverne or Phalsbourg; those
were her longest journeys.



                                *XVIII*


At last the blow was struck.  Cruel necessity, George, had spoken by my
lips; the women had understood that we must go away, perhaps never to
return; that nothing could prevent this fearful misfortune.

That was done; but another duty, still more painful, remained to fulfil.
When the lamentations had ceased, and we were meditating, mute and
overwhelmed, raising up my voice anew, I said:

"Jean Merlin, you asked me last summer for my daughter in marriage, and
I accepted you to be my son, because I knew you, I liked you, and I
esteemed you as much as the greatest man in the country.  So it was
settled; our promises had been given, we wanted nothing more!  But then
I was a brigadier forester, I was about to receive my pension, and my
post was promised to you. Without being rich, I had a little property;
my daughter might be considered a good match.  Now I am nobody any more;
to tell the truth, I am even a poor man.  The old furniture I possess
suits this house; if it were taken with us it would be in the way; the
meadow, for which I paid fifteen hundred francs from my savings, also
because it was convenient to the forest house, will be worth little more
than half when it has to be sold over again.  Beside, perhaps the
Germans will declare that all real estate belongs to them.  It depends
only upon themselves, since the strongest are always in the right!  You,
too, will find yourself without a situation; you will be obliged to
support your old mother.  The maintenance of a wife in the midst of all
this poverty may appear very troublesome.  Therefore, Jean, my honour
and that of my daughter oblige me to release you from your promise.
Things are no longer as they were; Marie-Rose has nothing, and I can
understand that an honest man, on such a grave situation, might change
his mind."

Merlin turned pale as he listened to me, and he answered, in a gruff
voice:

"I asked for Marie-Rose for her own sake, Father Frederick, because I
loved her, and she also loved me.  I did not ask for her for the sake of
your place, nor yet for the sake of the money she might have; if I had
thought of such a thing, I would have been a scoundrel.  And now I love
her more than ever, for I have seen that she has a noble heart, which is
above everything."

And, rising and opening his arms, he cried: "Marie-Rose!"

Scarcely had he called her, when she turned, her face bathed in tears,
and threw herself into his arms.  They remained clasped in a close
embrace for some time, and I thought to myself:

"All is well; my daughter is in the hands of an honest man; that is my
greatest consolation in the midst of all my misfortunes."

After that, George, in spite of our grief, we grew calm again.  Merlin
and I agreed that he would go the next day to carry our answer to
Zornstadt: "No, Oberförster, we will not enter the service of the King
of Prussia!"  I wrote my letter at once and he put it in his pocket.

It was also agreed that I should go early to Graufthal, and try to find
lodgings for ourselves, wherein we could place our furniture.  The three
first-floor rooms belonging to Father Ykel, the host of the Cup Inn, had
been empty ever since the invasion, as not a traveller came to the
country.  There must certainly be room in his stable, too; so I hoped to
hire them cheap.

As to Merlin, he had still to tell his mother, and he said to us that
she would go to Felsberg, where Uncle Daniel would be very glad to
receive her.  The old schoolmaster and his sister had kept house
together for a long time, and it was only after Jean Merlin’s
installation in the forester’s house at Tömenthal that he had taken his
mother to live with him.  Good old Margredel had nothing to do but to
return to the village, where her little house was waiting for her.  So
our final resolutions were taken.

Jean also took upon himself to go and tell M. Laroche of what had
occurred, and to say also that I would come and see him after our
flitting.  Then he kissed Marie-Rose, said a few encouraging words to
the grandmother, and went out.  I went with him as far as the threshold
and shook hands. The night had come; it was freezing cold; every blade
of grass in the valley was sparkling with frost, and the sky was
glittering with stars.  What weather in which to leave our home and to
seek another shelter!

As I returned to the room, I saw poor Calas empty the saucepan of
potatoes on the table and place the two pots of clotted milk beside the
salad-bowl, looking at us with an amazed air; no one stirred.

"Sit down, Calas," I said; "eat alone; none of us are hungry this
evening."

So he sat down and began to peel his potatoes; having cleaned out the
stable and given forage to the cattle, he had done his duty and his
conscience was easy.

Happy are those who cannot see the morrow, and whom the Almighty only
governs, without kings, without emperors, and without ministers. They
have not one-quarter of our sorrows.  The squirrel, the hare, the fox,
all the animals of the woods and the plains, receive their new fur at
the beginning of winter; the birds of the air receive finer down; those
who cannot live in the snow, for lack of insects to feed them, have
strong wings, that enable them to seek a warmer climate.

It is only man who receives nothing!  Neither his labour, nor his
foresight, nor his courage can preserve him from misfortune; his fellow
beings are often his worst enemies and his old age is often the extreme
of misery.  Such is our share of existence.

Some people would like to change these things, but no one has the
courage and the good sense which are necessary.

Finally, at nightfall we separated, to think over, each alone in his
corner, the terrible blow that had overwhelmed us.



                                 *XIX*


On the following day, which was the first of November, at dawn, I set
out for Graufthal.  I had put on my blouse, my thick shoes, and my felt
hat.  The trees along the roadside were bending under their covering of
frost; occasionally a blackbird or a thrush would rise from under the
white brushwood, uttering its cry, as if to bid me farewell.  I have
often thought of it since; I was on the path of exile, George; it was
only beginning, and extended very far.

Towards seven o’clock I arrived under the large rocks, where the most
wretched huts in the village were situated—the others were built along
the banks of the river—and I stopped before that of Father Ykel.  I went
through the kitchen into the smoky little parlour of the inn.  Nothing
was stirring; I thought I was alone and I was about to call, when I saw
Ykel, sitting behind the stove, his short black pipe, with a copper
cover, between his teeth, and his cotton cap pushed over one ear; he did
not move, as he had had, a few weeks before, an attack of rheumatism,
brought on by his long fishing excursions among the mountain streams,
and also at night by torchlight, amid the mists.

The valley had never known such a fisher; he sold crawfish and trout to
the great hotels of Strasbourg.  Unhappily, as we all have to pay for
our imprudences, sooner or later, he had been attacked by the
rheumatism, and now all he could do was to sit and think about the best
places in the river and the great hauls he used to make.

When I discovered him, his little green eyes were already fixed upon me.

"Is it you, Father Frederick?" he said. "What is your business here
among these rascals who are robbing us?  If I were you, I would stay
quietly in the forest; the wolves are much better neighbours."

"We cannot always do as we like," I answered.  "Are your three upper
rooms still empty, and have you room enough in your stable for two
cows?"

"Haven’t I, though!" he cried.  "The Prussians have made room!  They
have taken everything—straw, hay, oats, flour, and the cattle.  Ah!
room; I guess so; from the garret to the cellar, we have plenty; it will
not run out for a long time!"

And he uttered a harsh laugh, gnashing his old teeth and muttering:

"Oh! the wretches!  God grant that we may one day have the upper hand; I
would go there on crutches, in spite of my rheumatism, to get back what
they took from me!"

"Then," said I, "the rooms are empty?"

"Yes, and the stable, too, with the hayloft. But why do you ask me
that?"

"Because I have come to hire them."

"You!" cried he, in amazement.  "Then you are not going to stay at the
forest house?"

"No, the Prussians have turned me out."

"Turned you out!  And why?"

"Because I did not choose to serve under the Germans."

Then Ykel appeared touched; his long hooked nose curved itself over his
mouth, and, in a grave voice, he said:

"I always thought you were an honest man. You were a little severe in
the service, but you were always just; no one has ever been able to say
anything to the contrary."

Then he called:

"Katel!  Katel!"

And his daughter, who had just lighted the fire on the hearth, entered.

"Look here, Katel," said he, pointing to me; "here is Father Frederick,
whom the Prussians have turned out of his house, with his daughter and
grandmother, because he will not join their band.  That is a thousand
times worse than the requisitions; it is enough to make one’s hair stand
on end."

His daughter also sided with us, crying that the heavens ought to fall
to crush such rascals. She took me up-stairs, climbing the ladder-like
stairs to show me the rooms that I wished to hire.

You cannot imagine anything more wretched; you could touch the beams of
the ceiling with your hand; the narrow windows, with lead-framed
casements, in the shadow of the rocks, gave scarcely a ray of light.

How different from our pretty cottage, so well lighted, on the slope of
the hill!  Yes, it was very gloomy, but we had no choice; we had to
lodge somewhere.

I told Katel to make a small fire in the large room, so as to drive away
the damp; then, going down-stairs again.  Father Ykel and I agreed that
I should have the first floor of his house, two places in the stable for
my cows, the little hayloft above, with a pig-sty, one corner of the
cellar for my potatoes, and half the shed, where I intended to put the
furniture that would not go into the rooms, at a rent of eight francs a
month—a pretty large sum at a time when no one was making a _centime_.

Two or three neighbours, the big coal man, Starck, and his wife; Sophie,
the basket-maker; Koffel, and Hulot, the old smuggler, were then
arriving at the inn, to take their glass of brandy, as usual.  Ykel told
them of the new abominations of the Germans; and they were disgusted at
them.  Starck offered to come with his cart and horses to help me to
move, and I accepted, thankfully.

Things were settled that way; Starck promised me again to come without
fail before noon; after which I took the road towards home.  It had
begun to snow; not a soul before or behind me was on the path, and,
about nine o’clock, I was stamping my feet in the entry to get off the
snow. Marie-Rose was there.  I told her briefly that I had engaged our
lodgings, that she must prepare the grandmother to leave very soon, to
empty the contents of the cupboards into baskets, and to take the
furniture to pieces.  I called Calas to help me and went to work at
once, scarcely taking time enough to breakfast.  The hammer resounded
through the house; we heard the grand-mother sobbing in the smaller room
and Marie-Rose trying to console her.

It all seems to come back to me.  It was terrible to hear the
lamentations of the poor old woman, to hear her complain of the fate
that overwhelmed her in her old age, and then to call on her husband for
aid, good Father Burat, who had died ten years before, and all the old
people, whose bones lay in the cemetery at Dôsenheim. It makes me
shudder when I think of it, and the kind words of my daughter come back
to me and touch my heart anew.

The hammer did its work; the furniture, the little looking-glass by
Catherine’s bed—my poor dead wife—the portraits of the grandfather and
grandmother, painted by Ricard, the same who painted the beautiful signs
in the time of Charles X; the two holy-water vessels and the old
crucifix, from the back of the alcove; the chest of drawers belonging to
Marie-Rose, and the large walnut-wood wardrobe that had come down to us
from great-grandfather Duchêne; all those old things that reminded us of
people long dead, and of our quiet, peaceful life, and which, for many
years, had had their places, so that we could find them by groping in
the darkest night; everything was taken away; it was, so to speak, our
existence that we had to undo with our own hands!

And Ragot, who came and went, all astonished at the confusion; Calas,
who kept asking, "What have we done, to be obliged to run away like
thieves?"  And the rest!—for I do not remember it at all, George!  I
would even like to forget it all, and never to have begun this story of
the shame of humanity and the humiliation of that sort of Christians who
reduce their fellow creatures to utter misery, because they will not
kneel before their pride.  However, since we have begun it, let us go on
to the end.

All that was nothing as yet.  It was when big Starck came, and the
furniture was loaded on his wagon, we had at last to tell the
grandmother to leave her little room, and when, seeing all that
desolation in the road, she fell on her face, crying:

"Frederick, Frederick, kill me! let me die, but do not take me away!
Let me, at least, sleep quietly under the snow in our little garden!"

Then, George, I wished that I were dead myself.  The blood seemed
curdling in my veins. And now, after four years, I would be puzzled to
tell you how the grandmother found herself placed in the cart, in the
midst of the mattresses and straw beds, under the thousands of
snow-flakes that were falling from the sky.



                                  *XX*


The snow, which had continued to fall since morning, was by this time
quite deep.  The great wagon went slowly on its way, Starck, in front,
pulling his nags by the bridle, swearing, and forcing them to advance by
blows; Calas, farther on, was driving along the pigs and cows; Ragot was
helping him; Marie-Rose and I followed, with drooping heads; and behind
us the cottage, all white with snow, among the firs, was gradually
vanishing in the distance.

We had still our potatoes, wood, and fodder to take away the next day,
so I closed the door and put the key in my pocket before leaving.

At nightfall we arrived before Ykel’s house. I took the grandmother in
my arms, like a child, and carried her up-stairs to her room, where
Katel had kindled a bright fire.  Marie-Rose and Katel kissed each
other; they had been schoolmates and had been confirmed together at
Felsberg.  Katel burst into tears.  Marie-Rose, who was deadly pale,
said nothing.  They went up-stairs together, and, while Starck and Calas
and two or three of the neighbours were unloading the furniture and
putting it under the shed, I went into the parlour, to sit down for a
few minutes behind the stove and to take a glass of wine, for I could
not stand it any longer; I was exhausted.

Our first night at Graufthal, in that loft, through which poured the
draught from the garret, is the saddest that I can remember; the stove
smoked, the grandmother coughed in her bed; Marie-Rose, in spite of the
cold, got up to give her a drink; the little window-panes rattled at
every blast of the wind, and the snow drifted in upon the floor.

Ah! yes, we suffered terribly that first night! And, not being able to
close my eyes, I said to myself:

"It will be impossible to live here!  We should all be dead in less than
two weeks.  We must positively go somewhere else.  But where shall we
go?  What road can we take?"

All the villages of Alsace and Lorraine were filled with Germans, the
roads were crowded with cannon and convoys; not a hut, not even a stable
was free.

These ideas almost made my hair turn gray; I wished that I had broken my
neck in coming down the steps of the forest house, and I wished the same
thing for the grandmother and my daughter.

Happily, Jean Merlin arrived early the next morning.  He had taken our
answer to the Oberförster, he had moved his furniture to Felsberg, and
old Margredel, his mother, was already sitting quietly beside the fire
at Uncle Daniel’s house.

He told us that with a good-humoured air, after having kissed Marie-Rose
and said good-morning to the grandmother.

Only to see how his confidence had already lightened my heart; and when
I complained of the cold, the smoke, and of our bad night, he cried:

"Yes!  I understand all that, brigadier; I thought as much; so I hurried
to come here. It is very hard to leave your old ways and come to live
among strangers at your age; that paralyzes one’s arm.  Such occasions
change one’s ideas.  Here is the key of my cottage and the book of
estimations; you have also your register and the stamping hammer.  Well,
do you know what I would do in your place?  I would take everything to
our chief inspector, because the Oberförster of Zornstadt might ask you
for them and force you to give them up.  When they are deposited with M.
Laroche no one will have anything more to say to you.  While you are
away Marie-Rose will wash the windows and the floor; Calas will go with
Starck to get the wood, the fodder, and the potatoes, and I will
undertake to arrange the furniture and to put everything in order."

He spoke with so much good sense that I followed his advice.  We went
down into the large room, and though it is not my habit, we took a good
glass of brandy together; after which I set out, the register under my
blouse, the hammer in my pocket, and a stout stick in my hand.  It was
my last journey through the country on affairs connected with the
service.  The pool of Frohmithle was frozen over; the flour-mill and the
saw-mill lower down had ceased to go.  No one, since the day before, had
followed my path; all seemed desolate; for three hours I did not see a
soul.

Then, remembering the smoke from the charcoal kilns, the sound of the
wood-cutters’ hatchets working in the clearings, lopping the trees,
piling up the fagots beside the forest paths, even in mid-winter, all
that formerly gay life, that profit that gave food and happiness to the
smallest hamlets, I said to myself that the robbers, who were capable of
troubling such order to appropriate wrongfully the fruit of the labour
of others, ought to be hanged.

And from time to time, in the midst of the silence, seeing a
sparrow-hawk pass on his large wings, his claws drawn up under his
stomach and uttering his war cry, I thought:

"That is like the Prussians!  They have got the Germans in their claws;
they have given them officers who will cudgel them; instead of working,
those people are forced to spend their last penny in the war, and the
others have always their beaks and claws in their flesh; they pluck them
leisurely, without their being able to defend themselves. Woe to us all!
The noble Prussians will devour us; and the Badeners, the Bavarians, the
Würtembergers, and the Hessians with us!"

Those melancholy ideas, and many others of the same kind, passed through
my mind.  About ten o’clock I ascended the stairs of the old fort,
abandoned since the beginning of the war; then descending the Rue du
Faubourg, I entered the house of the chief inspector.  But the office
door in the vestibule at the left was closed; I rang and tried to open
the door, but no one came.  I was going out to ask one of the neighbours
what had become of M. Laroche, and whether he had been obliged to go
away, when an upper door opened, and the chief inspector himself
appeared on the stairs in his dressing-gown.



                                 *XXI*


"Who is there?" said M. Laroche, not recognising me at first under my
broad-brimmed felt hat.

"It is I, sir," I answered.

"Ah! it is you, Father Frederick!" said he, quite rejoiced.  "Well, come
up stairs.  All my household has departed, I am here alone; they bring
me my meals from the Grapes Inn.  Come in, come in!"

We went into a very neat little room on the first floor; a large fire
was burning in the stove. And, pushing forward an arm-chair for me:

"Take this chair, Father Frederick," said he, seating himself beside a
small table covered with books.  So I sat down, and we began to talk
over our affairs.  I told him about our visit to the Oberförster; he
knew all about that and a good many other things beside.

"I am glad to find," said he, "that all our guards, except poor Hepp,
the father of six children, have done their duty.  With regard to you,
Father Frederick, I never had the least doubt about either your
son-in-law or yourself."

Then he inquired about our position; and, taking the register and the
hammer, he put them in a closet, saying that his papers were already
gone, that he would send these after them.  He asked me if we were not
in pressing need.  I answered that I had still three hundred francs,
that I had saved to buy a strip of meadow, beside the orchard, that that
would doubtless be sufficient.

"So much the better!" said he.  "You know, Father Frederick, that my
purse is at your service; it is not very full just now; every one has to
economize their resources, for Heaven only knows how long this campaign
may last; but if you want some money——"

I thanked him again.  We talked together like real friends.  He even
asked me to take a cigar from his box; but I thanked him and refused.
Then he asked me if I had a pipe, and told me to light it.  I tell you
this to make you understand what a fine man our chief inspector was.

I remember that he told me after that that all was not yet over; that
doubtless our regular army had surrendered _en masse_; that all our
officers, marshals, generals, even the simple corporals had fallen into
the power of the enemy, a thing that had never been seen before since
the beginning of the history of France, or in that of any other nation;
that pained him, and even if I may say so made him indignant.  He had
tears in his eyes like myself.

But after that, he said that Paris held good, that the great people of
Paris had never shown so much courage and patriotism; he added that a
large and solid army, though composed of young men, had been formed near
Orleans, and that great things were expected from it; that the republic
had been proclaimed after Sedan as the peasants go for a doctor when the
patient is dying, and that, however, this republic had had the courage
to take upon itself the burden of all the disasters, dangers that it had
not caused, while those who had drawn us into the war withdrew to a
foreign country.  That a very energetic man, Gambetta, a member of the
provisory government, was at the head of this great movement; that he
was calling around him all the Frenchmen in a condition to bear arms,
without distinction of opinions, and that if the campaign lasted a few
months longer the Germans could not hold out; that all the heads of the
families being enlisted, their estates, their workshops, their
improvements were neglected. No ploughing or sowing were done, and that
the women and children, the entire population, were dying of terrible
starvation.

We have since seen, George, that those things were true; all the letters
that we found on the _landwehr_ told of the terrible poverty in Germany.

So what M. Laroche told me filled me with hope.  He promised also to
have my pension paid to me as soon as it would be possible, and about
one o’clock I left him, full of confidence.  He shook hands with me and
called out from the door:

"Keep up a good heart, Father Frederick; we will have happy days yet."

After I left him I felt like another man, and I walked leisurely back to
Graufthal, where a most agreeable surprise awaited me.



                                 *XXII*


Jean Merlin had put everything in order. The cracks in the roof and in
the doors and windows were stopped up; the floor was washed, the
furniture placed and the pictures hung, as much as possible as they were
at the forest house.  It was bitterly cold outside; our stove, which
Jean had put up and blackleaded, drew like a forge bellows, and the
grandmother, sitting beside it in her old arm-chair, was listening to
the crackling of the fire, and looking at the flame which was lighting
up the room.  Marie-Rose, with her sleeves rolled up, seemed delighted
at my satisfaction; Jean Merlin, his pipe in his mouth and screwing up
his eyes, looked at me as if to say:

"Well, Papa Frederick, what do you think of this?  Is it cold now in
this room?  Is not everything clean, shining and in good order?
Marie-Rose and I did all that?"

And when I saw all that I said to them:

"All right.  The grandmother is warm.  Now I see that we can stay here.
You are good children!"

That pleased them very much.  They set the table.  Marie-Rose had made a
good soup of cabbages and bacon, for as the Germans took all the fresh
meat for their own use we were very glad to get even smoked meat;
fortunately potatoes, cabbages, and turnips did not run out and they
formed our principal resource.

That evening we all took supper together; and during the repast I
related in all its details what the chief inspector had told me about
the affairs of the republic.  It was the first positive news we had had
from France for a long time; so you may guess how eagerly they all
listened to me.  Jean’s eyes sparkled when I spoke of approaching
battles near the Loire.

"Ah!" said he, "they call the French the old soldiers.  Indeed! they
defend their country, then!"

And I cried, full of enthusiasm:

"Of course, they will defend their country! You had better believe it!
The chief inspector says that if it lasts for a few months the others
will have enough of it."

Then he twirled his mustache, seemed almost to speak; but then looking
at Marie-Rose, who was listening to us with her usual quiet aspect, he
went on eating, saying:

"Anyhow, you give me great pleasure by telling me that, Father
Frederick; yes, it is famous news."

At last, about eight o’clock, he went away, announcing that he would be
back on the morrow or the day after, and we went quietly to bed.

This night was as comfortable as the night before had been cold and
disagreeable; we slept soundly in spite of the frost outside.

I had recovered from my sorrow; I thought that we could live at
Graufthal till the end of the war.



                                *XXIII*


Once withdrawn under the rocks of Graufthal, I hoped that the Germans
would let us alone. What else could they ask from us?  We had given up
everything; we lived in the most wretched village in the country, in the
midst of the forest; their squads came very seldom into this corner,
whose inhabitants were so poor that they could scarcely find a few
bundles of hay or straw to take away with them.  All seemed for the
best, and we thought that we would not have anything more to do with the
accursed race.

Unfortunately we are often mistaken; things do not always turn out as we
thought they would. Soon it was rumoured that Donadien, big Kern, and
the other guards had crossed the Vosges; that they were fighting the
Germans near Belfort, and all at once the idea struck me that Jean would
also want to go.  I hoped that Marie-Rose would keep him back, but I was
not sure of it.  The fear haunted me.

Every morning, while my daughter arranged the rooms, and the grandmother
told her beads, I went down stairs to smoke my pipe in the large room
with Father Ykel.  Koffel, Starck, and others would come dropping in, to
take a glass of brandy; they told of domiciliary visits, of orders not
to ring the bells, of the arrival of German schoolmasters to replace our
own, of the requisitions of all kinds that increased every day, of the
unhappy peasants who were compelled to work to feed the Prussians, and
of a thousand other atrocities that infuriated one against those stupid
Badeners, Bavarians, and Würtembergers, who were allowing themselves to
be killed for the sake of King William, and warring against their own
interests.  Big Starck, who was very pious, and always went to mass
every Sunday, said that they would all be damned, without hope of
redemption, and that their souls would be burned to all eternity.

That helped to make the time pass agreeably. One day Hulot brought us
his grandson, Jean Baptiste, a big boy of sixteen, in his vest and
pantaloons of coarse linen, his feet bare, winter as well as summer, in
his large shoes, his hair hanging in long, yellow locks over his face,
and a satchel hanging over his thin back.  This boy, sitting in front of
the fire, told us that at Sarrebruck and Landau the _landwehr_ were
furious; that they were declaiming in all the taverns against the crazy
republicans, the cause of all the battles since Sedan, and of the
continuation of the war; that it had been reported that a battle had
been fought at Coulmiers, near Orleans; that the Germans were retreating
in disorder, and that the army of Frederick Charles was going to their
rescue; but that our young men were also learning to join the army of
the republic; and that the _hauptmänner_ had laid a fine of fifty francs
a day upon the parents of those who had left the country, which had not
prevented him, Jean Baptiste, from going to the rescue of his country
like his comrades.

Scarcely had he ceased to speak when I ran up the stairs, four steps at
a time, to tell Marie-Rose the good news.  I found her on the landing.
She went down to the laundry, and did not appear in the least
astonished.

"Yes, yes, father," she said, "I thought it would end that way; every
one must lend a hand—all the men must go.  Those Germans are thieves;
they will return routed and defeated."

Her tranquility astonished me, for the idea must have occurred to her,
too, that Jean, an able-bodied man, would not stay at home at such a
time, and that he might all at once go off yonder in spite of his
promises of marriage.  So I went to my room to think it over, while she
went down, and two minutes afterward I heard Jean Merlin’s step upon the
stairs.

He came in quietly, his large felt hat on the back of his head, and he
said good-humouredly:

"Good morning, Father Frederick; you are alone?"

"Yes, Jean; Marie-Rose has just gone to the laundry, and the grandmother
is still in bed."

"Ah! very good," said he, putting his stick behind the door.

I suspected something was coming, from his look.  He walked up and down,
with bent head, and, stopping suddenly, he said to me:

"You know what is going on near Orleans? You know that the breaking up
of the German army has begun, and that all willing men are called upon.
What do you think of it?"

I flushed scarlet and answered, feeling rather embarrassed:

"Yes, for those on the other side of the Loire it is all very well; but
we others would have a long journey to take, and then the Prussians
would arrest us on the road; they guard all the paths and highways."

"Pshaw!" said he; "they think the Prussians more cunning than they
really are.  I would wager that I could pass the Vosges under their
noses.  Big Kern and Donadien have passed, with a good many others."

Then I knew that he wanted to go, that his mind was made up to a certain
extent, and that gave me a shock; for if he once set off, Heaven only
knew when his marriage would take place; the thought of Marie-Rose
troubled me.

"Very likely," I said; "but you must think of the old people, Jean.
What would your mother, good old Margredel, say, if you abandoned her at
such a time?"

"My mother is a good Frenchwoman," he answered.  "We have talked it
over, brigadier; she consents."

My arms dropped at my sides; I did not know what to reply; and only at
the end of a minute I managed to say:

"And Marie-Rose!  You do not think of Marie-Rose!  Yet you are
betrothed.  She is your wife in the eyes of God!"

"Marie-Rose consents also," he said.  "We only want your consent now;
say yes; all will be settled.  The last time I was here, while you were
down stairs smoking your pipe, I told Marie-Rose all about it.  I said
to her that a forest guard without a situation, an old soldier like me,
ought to be at the front; she understood and consented."

When he told me that, George, it was too much; I cried: "I do.  It is
not possible!"  And, opening the window, I called out:

"Marie-Rose!  Marie-Rose!  Come here.  Jean has arrived."

She was hanging out clothes in the shed, and leaving at once her work,
she came up stairs.

"Marie-Rose," I said, "is it true that you have consented to let Jean
Merlin go to fight the Germans at Orleans, behind Paris?  Is it true?
Speak freely."

Then, pale as death, with flashing eyes, she said:

"Yes.  It is his duty.  He must go.  We do not wish to be Prussians, and
the others ought not to fight alone to save us.  He must be a man. He
must defend his country."

She said other things of the same kind that warmed my blood and made me
think:

"What a brave girl that is!  No, I did not know her before.  She is the
true descendant of the old Burats.  How the old people wake up and speak
through the mouths of their children! They want us to defend the earth
of the old cemetery where their bones lie buried."

I rose, white as a sheet, with open arms. "Come to my arms!" I said to
them; "come to my arms!  You are right.  Yes, it is the duty of every
Frenchman to go and fight.  Ah! if I were only ten years younger, I
would go with you, Jean; we would be two brothers in arms."  And we
embraced each other all round.



                                 *XXIV*


I wept; I was proud of having so brave and honest a daughter, whom I had
not appreciated till then; that made me lift up my head again. The
resolution of Jean and Marie-Rose appeared natural to me.

But, as we heard the grandmother groping her way from the other room, by
leaning against the wall, I made a sign to them to be silent, and, when
the poor old woman came in, I said:

"Grandmother, here is Jean, whom the chief inspector is about to send to
Nancy; he will be there for some time."

"Ah!" said she.  "There is no danger?"

"No, grandmother, it is a commission for the forest registers; it has
nothing to do with the war."

"So much the better!" said she.  "How many others are in danger!  We
ought to be very happy to keep out of it!"

Then, sitting down, she began, as usual, to say her prayers.

What more can I tell you, George, about those things that rend my heart
when I think about them?

Jean Merlin spent the whole day with us. Marie-Rose cooked as good a
dinner as she could in our position; she put on her handsome cap and her
blue silk _fichu_, so as to be agreeable to the eyes of the man she
loved.

I seem to see her still, sitting at the table near the grandmother,
opposite her betrothed, and smiling, as if it were a holiday.  I seem to
hear Jean talking about the good news from Orleans, about the happy
chances of the war, which are not always the same.

Then, after dinner, while the grandmother dozes in her arm-chair, I see
the two children sitting beside each other, near the little window,
looking at each other, holding each other’s hand, and talking in a low
voice, sometimes gaily, sometimes sadly, as is the custom with lovers.

As for me, I walked up and down, smoking and thinking of the future.  I
listened to the hum of talk from the tavern, and, remembering the danger
of leaving the country, the penalties established by the Germans against
those who wished to join our armies, I seemed to hear the stamping of
heavy boots and the rattle of sabres. I went down the stairs, and, half
opening the door of the smoky room, I looked in, and then I went up
stairs again, a little reassured, saying to myself that I ought not to
be afraid, that more difficult lines of the enemy had been crossed, and
that energetic men always got well through their business.  So passed
all that afternoon.

Then, at supper, as the time for his departure drew near, a more
terrible sadness and strange, unknown fears seized upon me.

"Go to bed," I said to the grandmother; "the night has come."

But she did not hear me, being a little deaf, and she went on muttering
her prayers, and we looked at each other, exchanging our thoughts by
signs.  At last, however, the poor old woman rose, leaning her two hands
on the arms of her chair, and murmuring:

"Good night, my children.  Come, Jean, till I kiss you.  Distrust the
Prussians; they are traitors!  Do not run any risks; and may the Lord be
with you!"

They kissed each other; Jean seemed touched; and when the door was
closed, as the church clock was striking eight, and when the little
panes were growing dark, he said:

"Marie-Rose, the time has come.  The moon is rising; it is lighting
already the path by which I must reach the Donon."

She flung herself into his arms and they held each other clasped in a
close embrace for a long time, in silence, for down stairs they were
talking and laughing still; strangers might be watching us, so we had to
be prudent.

You do not know, George, and I hope that you never will know, what a
father feels at such a moment.

At last they separated.  Jean took his stick; Marie-Rose, pale, but
composed, said: "_Adieu_, Jean!"  And he, without answering, hurried
out, breathing as if something was choking him.

I followed him.  We descended the dark little staircase, and on the
threshold, where the moon, covered with clouds, cast a feeble ray, we
also kissed each other.

"You do not want anything?" I said, for I had put about fifty francs in
my pocket.

"No," said he, "I have all that I need."

We held each other’s hands as if we could never let go, and we looked at
each other as if we could read each other’s hearts.

And, as I felt my lips quiver:

"Come, father," said he, in a trembling voice, "have courage; we are
men!"

Then he strode away.  I looked at him vanishing in the darkness,
blessing him in my heart.  I thought I saw him turn and wave his hat at
the corner of the path, by the rock, but I am not sure.

When I went in, Marie-Rose was seated on a chair by the open window, her
head buried in her hands, weeping bitterly.  The poor child had been
courageous up to the last minute, but then her heart had melted into
tears.

I said nothing to her, and, leaving the small lamp on the table, I went
into my room.

These things happened in November, 1870. But much greater sorrows were
to come.



                                 *XXV*


After that for a few days all was quiet.  We heard nothing more from
Orleans.  From time to time the cannon of the city thundered, and was
answered by that of the enemy from Quatre Vents and Werhem; then all was
silent again.

The weather had turned to rain; it poured in torrents; the melting snow
floated in blocks down the course of the swollen river.  People stayed
in-doors, cowering close to the fire; we thought of the absent, of the
war, of the marches and counter-marches.  The _gens-d’armes_ of Bismark
Bohlen continued to make their rounds; we saw them pass, their cloaks
dripping with rain.  The silence and the uncertainty overwhelmed one.
Marie-Rose came and went without saying anything; she even put on a
smiling aspect when my melancholy grew very great; but I could see from
her pallor what she was suffering.

Sometimes, too, the grandmother, when we least expected it, would begin
to talk about Jean, asking for news of him.  We would answer her by some
insignificant thing, and the short ideas of old age, her weakened
memory, prevented her from asking more; she would be contented with what
we could tell her, and murmured, thoughtfully:

"Very good! very good!"

And then the cares of life, the daily labour, the care of the cattle and
of the household, helped us to keep up.

Poor Calas, having no more work to do with us, had turned smuggler
between Phalsbourg and the suburbs, risking his life every day to carry
a few pounds of tobacco or other such thing to the glacis; it was
rumoured at this time that he had been killed by a German sentinel;
Ragot had followed him; we heard nothing more of either of them.  They
have doubtless been sleeping for a long time in the corner of a wood or
in some hole or other; they are very fortunate.

One morning, in the large down-stairs room, when we were alone, Father
Ykel said to me:

"Frederick, it is known that your son-in-law, Jean Merlin, has gone to
join our army.  Take care, the Prussians may give you trouble!"

I was all taken aback, and I answered, after a moment:

"No, Father Ykel!  Jean is gone to Dôsenheim on business; he is trying
to collect old debts; at this time we need money."

"Pshaw!" said he, "you need not hide the truth from me; I am an old
friend of the Burats and you.  Merlin has not been here for several
days; he has crossed the mountain, and he did right; he is a brave
fellow; but there are plenty of traitors about here; you have been
denounced, so be on your guard."

This warning startled me, and, thinking that it would be well to tell
his mother, Margredel, and his Uncle Daniel, after breakfast, without
saying anything to Marie-Rose, I took my stick and set out for Felsberg.

It had stopped raining.  The winter sun was shining over the woods, and
this spectacle, after leaving our dark nook, seemed to revive me.  As
the path at the hill passed near the forest house, showing the old roof
in the distance, I was touched by it.  All my recollections came back to
me, and it occurred to me to go and take a look at the cottage, and to
look at the inside by standing on the bench by-the wall.  It seemed as
if it would do me good to see once more the old room, wherein the old
people had died and where my children had been born!  My heart warmed at
the idea and I went swiftly on, till, reaching the little bridge between
the two willows, covered with frost, I stood still in horror.

A German forest-guard, his green felt hat, with its cock-feathers, set
on one side, his long-stemmed porcelain pipe in his great fair
mustaches, and with his arms crossed on the window-sill, was smoking
quietly, with a calm expression, happy as in his own house.  He was
looking smilingly at two chubby, fair-haired children, who were playing
before the door, and behind him, in the shadow of the room, was leaning
a woman, very fat, with red cheeks, calling, gaily:

"Wilhelm, Karl, come in; here is your bread and butter!"

All my blood seemed to go through my veins at the sight.  How hard it is
to see strangers in the old people’s house, where one has lived till
one’s old age, from which one has been chased, from no crime of one’s
own, only because others are masters and turn one out of doors!  It is
terrible!

The guard raising his head suddenly, I was afraid he would see me, so I
hid myself.  Yes, I hid myself behind the willows, hastening to reach
the path farther on, and stooping like a malefactor. I would have been
ashamed if that man had seen that the former master had found him in his
house, in his room, beside his hearth; I blushed at the idea!  I hid
myself, for he might have laughed at the Alsatian, who had been turned
out of doors; he might have enjoyed himself over it. But from that day
hatred, which I had never known before, entered my heart; I hate those
Germans, who peacefully enjoy the fruit of our toil, and consider
themselves honest people.  I abhor them!

From there I went up through the heath to Felsberg, feeling very sad and
with hanging head.

The poor village seemed as sad as I, among its heaps of mud and
dunghills; not a soul was to be seen in the street, where requisitions
of all kinds had passed more than once.  And at the old schoolhouse,
when I tried to lift the latch, I found the door fastened.  I listened;
no noise nor murmur of children was to be heard.  I looked through the
window; the copies were hanging there still by their strings, but the
benches were empty.

I called, "Father Daniel!" looking up at the first-floor windows, for
the garden gate was also closed.  Some moments later another door, that
of Margredel’s house, built against the gable end, opened; Uncle Daniel,
an active little man, with coarse woollen stockings, and a black cotton
skull cap on his head, appeared, saying:

"Who is there?"  I turned round.

"Ah! it is Brigadier Frederick," said he. "Come in!"

"Then you do not live yonder any more?" said I.

"No, since day before yesterday the school has been closed," he
answered, sadly.

And in the lower room of the old cottage, near the little cast-iron
stove, where the potatoes were cooking in the pot, sending their steam
up to the ceiling, I saw Margredel, sitting on a low stool.



                                 *XXVI*


Margredel wore her usual open, kindly expression, and even her usual
smile.

"Ah!" said she, "we have no longer our pretty up-stairs room for our
friends.  The Germans are hunting us out of every place; we will not
know where to go soon!  However, sit down there on the bench, Father
Frederick, and, if you like, we will eat some potatoes together."

Her good-humour and her courage in such a wretched place made me still
more indignant against those who had plunged us all into misfortune; my
consternation kept me from speaking.

"Are Marie-Rose and the grandmother well?" asked Margredel.

"Yes, thank God!" I answered; "but we are very uneasy about Jean.  The
Prussians know that he has gone; Father Ykel has warned me to be on my
guard, and I came to warn you."

"Who cares for the Prussians?" said she, shrugging her shoulders
contemptuously.  "Ah! they are a bad race!  Jean has crossed the
mountains long before this; if they had been able to stop him we would
have heard of it by this time; they would have come to tell us, rubbing
their hands with delight; but he has got over; he is a fine fellow!"

She laughed with all her toothless mouth.

"Those who have to fight him will not laugh. He is safe with our
volunteers!  The guns and cannon are thundering yonder!"

The poor woman saw the bright side of everything, as usual, and I
thought:

"What a blessing it is to have a character like that; how fortunate!"

Uncle Daniel was walking about the room, saying:

"It is because of Jean’s departure that the bandits shut up my school.
They had nothing to reproach me with; they gave me no explanations; they
simply shut it up, that is all, and just gave us time enough to carry
away our furniture; they looked at us crossly, crying, ’_Schwindt!
schwindt!_’"[#]


[#] Quick! quick!


"Yes," cried Margredel, "they are sly hypocrites; they strike you heavy
blows without warning. In the morning they smile at you, they sit by the
fire like good apostles, they kiss your children with tears in their
eyes; and then all at once they change their tone, they collar you, and
turn you out of doors without mercy.  Ah! those good Germans; we know
those honest people now!  But they will not always be so proud. Wait a
bit; Heaven is just!  Our own people will come back; Jean will be with
them.  You will see, Father Frederick!  We will go back to the forest
house; we will celebrate the wedding there!  That is all I can say.
Don’t you see, you must trust in God.  Now we are suffering for our
sins.  But God will put everything to rights, when we will have finished
expiating our faults. It cannot be otherwise.  He uses the Prussians to
punish us.  But their turn will come; we will go to their country.  They
will see how agreeable it is to be invaded, robbed, pillaged.  Let them
have a care!  Every dog has his day!"

She spoke with so much confidence that it infected me; I said to myself:

"What she says is very possible.  Yes, justice will be done, sooner or
later!  After all, we may take Alsace again.  Those Germans do not like
each other.  We would only have to win one great battle; the break-up
would begin at once. The Bavarians, the Hessians, the Würtembergers, the
Saxons, the Hanoverians, they would all go home again.  We would have it
all our own way!"

But, in the meantime, we were in a very sad position.  Margredel said
that they had enough rye and potatoes to last till the end of the war,
and that, with a few _sous’_ worth of salt, would be sufficient for
them.

Master Daniel compressed his lips and looked thoughtful.

So, having seen how things were getting along at Felsberg, I took leave
of my old friends about eleven o’clock, wishing them all the good things
in the world.

I avoided passing by the forest house, and I descended the hill of
Graufthal by the forest of fir trees among the rocks, leaning on my
stick in the steepest places.

I remember meeting, about two-thirds of my way down, old Roupp, an
incorrigible thief, with his faded little blouse, his cotton cravat
rolled like a rope round his lean neck, and his hatchet in his hand.

He was chopping away right and left, at everything that suited him; huge
branches, small fir trees, everything went into his magnificent fagot,
which was lying across the path, and as I called to him:

"Then you are not afraid of the Prussian guards, Father Roupp!"

He began to laugh, with his chin turned up and his scrap of felt hat on
the back of his neck, and wiping his nose on his sleeve.

"Ah! brigadier," said he, merrily, "those people don’t risk themselves
alone in the forest! Unless they come in regiments, with cannon in front
of them and uhlans on every side, and ten against one, they always
follow the high roads. They are fellows that have a great respect for
their skins.  Ha! ha! ha!"

I laughed, too, for he only told the truth.  But a terrible surprise
awaited me a little farther on, at the descent of the rocks.

When I left the wood and saw the little thatched roofs at the foot of
the hill, among the heath, I first saw helmets glittering in the narrow
lane in front of Father Ykel’s hut, and, looking closer, I perceived a
ragged crowd of men and women gathered around them; Ykel, at the door of
the inn, was talking; Marie-Rose behind, in front of the dark stable,
and the grandmother at her little window, with uplifted hands, as if
cursing them.



                                *XXVII*


Naturally, I began to run through the brushwood, knowing that something
serious was happening, and descending the passage of the old cloister,
to make a short cut, I came out behind the stable, at the moment that
some one was leaving it, dragging our two cows, tied by the horns.

It was the station-master of Bockberg, named Toubac, a short, thick-set
man, with a black beard, whose two tall, handsome daughters were said to
be the servants of the Prussian hauptmann[#] who had lodged at his house
since the beginning of the siege.


[#] Captain.


When I saw this rascal taking away my cattle, I cried:

"What are you doing, thief?  Let my cows alone, or I will break every
bone in your body."

Then, at my cries, the sergeant and his squad of men, with drawn
bayonets, Ykel, Marie-Rose, and even the grandmother, dragging herself
along and leaning against the wall, entered the passage.

Marie-Rose cried out to me:

"Father, they want to take away our cows."

And the grandmother said lamentingly:

"Good Heavens! what will we have to live on?  Those cows are our only
possession; they are all that we have left!"

The sergeant, a tall, lean man, with a tight-fitting uniform and with a
sword at his side, hearing Ykel say, "Here is the master! the cows
belong to him!" turned his head, as if on a pivot, and looked at me over
his shoulder; he wore spectacles under his helmet, and had red mustaches
and a hooked nose; he looked like an owl, who turns his head without
moving his body; a very bad face!

The crowd was blocking up the passage and the sergeant cried:

"Back!  Clear the premises, corporal, and if they resist, fire upon
them!"

The trampling of the sabots in the mud and the cries of the grandmother,
weeping and sobbing, made this scene fearful.

"These cows suit me," said the station-master to the sergeant; "I will
take them; we can go."

"Do they belong to you?" said I, angrily, and clutching my stick.

"That is no affair of mine," said he, in the tone of a bandit, without
heart and without honour.  "I have my choice of all the cows in the
country to replace those that the rascals from Phalsbourg carried off
from me at their last sortie.  I choose these.  They are Swiss cows.  I
always liked Swiss cows."

"And who gave you the choice?" I cried. "Who can give you other people’s
property?"

"The _hauptmann_, my friend, the _hauptmann_!" said he, turning up the
brim of his hat with an air of importance.

Then several of the crowd began to laugh, saying, "The _hauptmann_ is a
generous man; he pays those well who give him pleasure."

My indignation overcame me; and the sergeant having ordered his squad of
men to go on, at the moment when the station-master, crying "Hue!" was
dragging my poor cows after him by the horns, I was about to fall upon
him like a wolf, when Marie-Rose took hold of my hands and whispered to
me with a terrified look:

"Father, do not stir, they would kill you. Think of grandmother."

My cheeks were quivering, my teeth clenched, red flames were dancing
before my eyes; but the thought of my daughter alone in the world,
abandoned at this terrible time, and of the grandmother dying of hunger,
gave me the strength to keep down my rage, and I only cried:

"Go, scoundrel!  Keep the property you have stolen from me, but beware
of ever meeting me alone in the forest!"

The sergeant and his men pretended not to hear; and he, the wretch,
said, laughing:

"These cows, sergeant, are as good as mine; after a long search we ended
by finding two fine animals."

They had searched all the villages, visited all the stables, and it was
on us that the misfortune fell.  Marie-Rose, on seeing the poor beasts
raised by us at the forest house, could not restrain her tears, and the
grandmother, her hands clasped above her gray head, cried:

"Ah! now—now we are lost!  Now this is the last stroke.  My God, what
have we done to deserve such misery!"

I supported her by the arm, asking her to go in, but she said:

"Frederick, let me look once more at those good creatures.  Oh! poor
Bellotte!  Poor Blanchette!  I will never see you again!"

It was a heartrending spectacle, and the people dispersed quickly,
turning away their heads, for the sight of such iniquities is the most
abominable thing on earth.  At last, however, we were obliged to ascend
to our wretched little rooms, and think over our desolation; we had to
think how we should live, now that all our resources were taken away.
You know, George, what a cow is worth to a peasant; with a cow in the
stable one has butter, milk, cheese, all the necessaries of life; to
possess a cow is to be in easy circumstances, two are almost wealth.  Up
to the present time we could sell the produce and make a few _sous_ in
that way; now we would have to buy everything at this time of dearth,
while the enemy fattened on our poverty.

Ah! what a terrible time it was!  Those who come after us will have no
idea of it.



                                *XXVIII*


All that we had left were five or six hundred weight of hay and
potatoes.  Ykel, who sympathized with all our griefs, said to me the
same day:

"Look here, brigadier; what I predicted has come to pass.  The Germans
hate you, because you refused to serve under them, and because your
son-in-law has gone to join the republicans.  If they could drive you
away, or even kill you, they would do it; but they want still to give
themselves airs of justice and highmindedness; for that reason they will
strip you of everything to force you to leave the country, as they say
’of your own free will!’  Take my advice, get rid of your fodder as
quickly as possible, for one of these fine mornings they will come to
requisition it, saying that those who have no cows have no need of
fodder.  And, above all, do not say that I gave this advice!"

I knew that he was right; the next day my hayloft was empty; Gaspard,
Hulot, Diederick, Jean Adam, big Starck, all the neighbours came that
evening and carried off our provision of hay by bundles, and in this way
I had a few francs in reserve.  Starck even gave up to me one of his
goats, which was of the greatest use to us; at least the grandmother had
a little milk, morning and evening, that prolonged her life; but after
so many shocks the poor old woman was terribly weakened, she trembled
like a leaf, and no longer left her bed, dreaming always, murmuring
prayers, talking of Burat, her husband; of Grandfather Duchêne, of all
the old people that returned to her memory.  Marie-Rose spun beside her,
and sat up till late at night, listening to her laboured breathing and
her complaints.

I sat alone in the side room, near the little windows, almost blocked
with snow, my legs crossed, my unlighted pipe between my teeth, thinking
of all the acts of injustice, of all the thefts, of those abominations
that took place every day; I began to lose confidence in the Almighty!
Yes, it is a sad thing to think of, but by dint of suffering I said to
myself that among men many resemble the sheep, the geese, and the
turkeys, destined to feed the wolves, the foxes and the hawks, who feast
themselves at their expense. And I pushed my indignation so far as to
say to myself that our holy religion had been invented by malicious
people to console fools for being preyed upon by others.  You see,
George, to what excesses injustice drives us.  But the worst of all was,
that there was bad news from the interior.  A party of Germans came from
Wechem to confiscate my hay and found the loft empty; they were
indignant at it; they asked me what had become of the fodder, and I told
them that the station-master’s cows had eaten it.  My goat happened
fortunately to be among those of Starck, or the _bandits_ would
certainly have carried it off with them.

This troop of brawlers, then going into the inn, related how the
republicans had been beaten; that they had left thousands of corpses on
the field of battle; that they had been repulsed from Orleans, and that
they were still pursuing them; they laughed and boasted among
themselves.  We did not believe one quarter of what they said, but their
good-humoured air and their insolence in speaking of our generals,
forced us to think that it was not all a lie.

As to Jean, no letters, no news!  What had become of him?  This
question, which I often asked myself, troubled me.  I was careful not to
speak of it to Marie-Rose; but I saw by her pallor that the same thought
followed her everywhere.

It was now December.  For some time the cannon of Phalsbourg had been
silenced, it was said that at night flames had been seen to rise
suddenly from the ramparts; we wondered what it could be.  We have since
learned that they were burning the powder and breaking up the artillery
material, and they were spiking the cannon, for the provisions were
running out and they were about to be forced to open the gates.

This misfortune happened on the thirteenth of December, after six
bombardments and a hundred and twenty days of siege.  Half the city was
in ruins; at the bombardment of the fourteenth of August alone eight
thousand five hundred shells had laid whole streets in ruins; and the
poor fellows picked up hastily in the suburbs at the time of the
terrible heat and sent into the city, with nothing but the blouses on
their backs and their shoes on their feet, after having passed that
fearful winter on the ramparts, were carried off again as prisoners of
war, some to Rastadt, others to Prussia, through the snow.  On hearing
this news the consternation became universal.  As long as the cannon of
Phalsbourg thundered we had kept up our hopes.  We said from time to
time, "France still speaks!"  And that made us lift up our heads again;
but then the silence told us that the Germans were really our masters,
and that we must make ourselves small so as not to draw down their anger
upon us.

From that day, George, our sadness knew no bounds.  To add to our
misfortune, the grandmother grew much worse.  One morning when I entered
her room, Marie-Rose said to me in a low voice:

"Father, grandmother is very sick.  She does not sleep any more.  She
seems suffocating!  You ought to go for the doctor."

"You are right, my daughter," said I; "perhaps we have waited too long
as it is."

And, in spite of the pain of seeing our old fortress in the enemy’s
hands, I determined to go to Phalsbourg in search of a physician.  That
day the country was nothing but mud and clouds.  I went straight
forward, with drooping head, walking on the slope at the edge of the
road, my mind a blank, from having thought for so many months of our
abasement, and so downcast that I would have given my life for nothing.

On the plateau of Bugelberg, just outside of the forest, seeing before
me about three leagues distant the little city looking as if crushed
under the gloomy sky, its burned houses, its ruined church, its ramparts
levelled with the ground, I stopped for a moment, leaning on my stick
and recalling bygone days.

How many times during the past twenty-five years I had gone there on
Sundays and holidays with my poor wife, Catherine, and my daughter,
either to go to mass, or to see the booths of the fair, or to shake
hands with some old comrades, laughing, happy, thinking that everything
would continue that way till the end of our days!  And all the vanished
joys, the old friends, who, in their little gardens at the foot of the
glacis, called to us to come to pick currants or to gather a bunch of
flowers, seemed to return.  How many recollections returned to me!  I
could not remember them all, and I cried to myself:

"Oh! how distant those things are!  Oh! who would ever have believed
that this misfortune would come upon us, that we, Frenchmen and
Alsatians, should be obliged to bow our necks to the Prussian yoke!"

My sight grew dim, and I set out again on my journey, murmuring in my
soul the consolation of all the wretched:

"Bah! life is short.  Soon, Frederick, all will be forgotten.  So take
courage, you have not much longer to suffer."

I seemed also to hear the trumpet of our joyous soldiers; but at the
gate, a squad of Germans, in big boots, and their sentinel, with
bow-legs, his gun on his shoulder, his helmet on the back of his neck,
and, walking to and fro in front of the guard-house, recalled to me our
position.  My old comrade, Thomé, city overseer and collector of the
city duties, beckoned to me to come in. We talked over our misfortunes;
and, seeing that I was looking at a company of Prussians crossing the
bridge, who, holding themselves erect, were keeping step, he said:

"Do not look at them, Frederick, they are proud when one looks at them;
they think that we are admiring them."

Then I turned away my eyes, and having rested for a few minutes I
entered the city.



                                 *XXIX*


Do I need to describe to you now the desolation of that poor Phalsbourg,
formerly so neat, the little houses so well built, the large parade
ground, so gay on review day?  Must I tell you of the houses fallen over
on each other, the gables overturned, the chimneys in the air amid the
ruins; and of the taverns filled with Germans, eating, drinking and
laughing, while we, with long faces, looking scared, wretched and ragged
after all these disasters, saw these intruders enjoying themselves with
their big pay taken out of our pockets?  No, only at the thought of it,
my heart sickens; it is a thousand times worse than all that people
relate.

As I reached the corner of the parade ground, opposite the church tower,
which was still standing, with its cracked bells and its virgin with
uplifted arms, a harsh voice called from the state-house:

"_Heraus_!"[#]


[#] Get out.


It was the sergeant of the station who was ordering his men to go out;
the patrolling officer was coming, the others hastened from the
guard-house and formed the ranks; it was noon.  I had halted in
consternation before the Café Vacheron. A crowd of poor people,
homeless, without work and without food, were walking backward and
forward, shivering with their hands in their pockets up to the elbows;
and I, knowing from what Thomé had said that the military hospital and
the college were crowded with the sick, asked myself if I could find a
doctor to visit at Graufthal a poor old woman at the point of death.  I
was overwhelmed with sadness and doubt.  I did not know to whom to
address myself or what to do, when an old friend of the forest house,
Jacob Bause, the first trout fisher of the valley, began to call behind
me:

"Hallo! it is Father Frederick?  Then you are still in the land of the
living?"

He shook hands and seemed so glad to see me that I was touched by it.

"Yes," said I, "we have escaped, thank God. When one meets people now
one almost thinks that they have been resuscitated.  Unfortunately
grandmother is very ill and I do not know where to find a doctor in the
midst of this confusion."

He advised me to go to Dr. Simperlin, who lived on the first floor of
the Café Vacheron, saying that he was a good and learned man, and a true
Frenchman, who would not refuse to accompany me, in spite of the length
of the road and the work he had in the town, at the time of this
extraordinary press of business.  So I went up stairs; and Dr.
Simperlin, who was just sitting down to dinner, promised to come as soon
as he had finished his repast.  Then, feeling a little more easy, I went
down stairs into the large coffee room, to take a crust of bread and a
glass of wine, while waiting for him.  The room was filled with
_landwehr_; fat citizens in uniform, brewers, architects, farmers,
bankers, and hotel-keepers, come to take possession of the country under
the command of the Prussian chiefs, who made them march like puppets.

All these people had their pockets full of money, and to forget the
unpleasantness of their discipline they ate as many sausages with
sauerkraut, and as much ham and salad with cervelats as our veterans
used formerly to drink glasses of brandy.  Some drank beer, others
champagne or burgundy, each according to their means, of course without
offering any to their comrades—that is understood; they all ate with two
hands, their mouths open to the ears, and their noses in their plates;
and all that I say to you is, that as this muddy, rainy weather
prevented us from opening the windows, one had sometimes to go outside
in order to breathe.

I seated myself in one corner with my mug of beer, looking at the
tobacco smoke curling round the ceiling, and the servants bringing in
what was wanted, thinking of the sick grandmother, of the ruins that I
had just seen, listening to the Germans, whom I did not understand, for
they spoke an entirely different tongue from that of Alsace; and at the
other end of the room some Phalsbourgers were talking of an assistance
bureau that was being organized at the State House, of a soup kitchen
that they wished to establish in the old cavalry barracks, for the poor;
of the indemnities promised by the Prussians, and on which they counted
but little.

The time passed slowly.  I had ended by not listening at all, thinking
of my own misery, when a louder, bolder voice drew me from my
reflections; I looked: it was Toubac, the station-master of Bockberg,
who was interrupting the conversation of the Phalsbourgers, who cried,
audaciously thumping the table with his big fist:

"It is all very well for you, city people, to talk now about the
miseries of war.  You were behind your ramparts, and when the shells
came you ran into your casemates.  No one could take anything from you.
Those whose houses are burned will receive larger indemnities than they
are worth; the old, worm-eaten furniture will be replaced by new, and
more than one whose tongue was hanging before the campaign can rub his
hands and stick out his stomach, saying: ’The war has made me a solid
citizen; I have paid my debts and I pass for a famous warrior because my
cellar was bullet proof.  I will devote myself to staying in my country
to buy cheap the goods of those who are going away with the money from
my indemnities; I will sacrifice myself to the end as I have done from
the beginning.’  Yes, that kind of war is agreeable; behind strong walls
all goes well. While we poor peasants, we were obliged to feed the
enemies, to give them hay, straw, barley, oats, wheat, and even our
cattle, do you hear?—our last resource.  They took my two cows, and now
who shall I ask to repay me for them?"

This was too much.  When he said that, the effrontery of the rascal made
me so indignant that I could not help calling to him from my place:

"Ah! wicked scoundrel, do you dare to boast of your sufferings and of
your noble conduct during our misfortunes?  Speak of your sacrifices and
the good example that your daughters set.  Tell those gentlemen how,
having searched the country with a squad of Germans, who gave you your
choice among all the animals of the mountains and the plain, to replace
your wretched beasts, after having stolen, by this means, my two
beautiful Swiss cows, you are not yet satisfied.  You dare to complain,
and to undervalue honest folk who have done their duty?"

As I spoke, thinking that this rascal was the cause of the grandmother’s
illness, I grew more and more angry; I would have restrained myself, but
it was too much for me, and all at once, seizing my stick with both
hands, I rushed upon him to knock him down.

Fortunately, Fixeri, the baker, who was sitting beside this rascal,
seeing my uplifted stick, parried the blow with his chair, saying:

"Father Frederick, what are you thinking about?"

This had a terrible effect; all the room was in a commotion and trying
to separate us.  He, the thief, finding himself behind the others, shook
his fist at me and cried:

"Old rascal!  I will make you pay for that! The Germans would have
nothing to do with you. The Oberförster turned you out.  You would have
liked to have served under them, but they knew you; they slammed the
door in your face. That annoys you.  You insult honest people; but look
out, you will hear from me soon."

These astounding lies made me still more furious; it took five or six
men to hold me, so as to prevent me from getting at him.

I should have ended by turning everything upside down, if the _landwehr_
had not called a party of watchmen who were passing along the road.
Then, hearing the butt ends of the muskets as they were grounded at the
door, and seeing the helmets in front of the window, I sat down again,
and everything calmed down.

The corporal came in; Mme. Vacheron made him take a glass of wine at the
bar, and as the noise had ceased, after wiping his mustaches, he went
out, making the military salute.  But Toubac and I looked at each other
with sparkling eyes and quivering lips.  He knew, the wretch, that now
his shame would be discovered all through the city, and that made him
beside himself with rage.

As for me, I thought, "Only manage to be in my way going to Biechelberg;
I will pay you off for all that you have done; the poor grandmother will
be avenged."

He, doubtless, had the same thoughts, for he looked at me sideways, with
his rascally smile.  I was very glad when Dr. Simperlin appeared on the
threshold of the room, making me a sign to follow him.

I left at once, after having paid for my glass of wine, and we set out
for Graufthal.



                                 *XXX*


You know, George, how much bad weather adds to one’s melancholy.  It was
sleeting, the great ruts full of water were ruffled by the wind. Dr.
Simperlin and I walked for a long time in silence, one behind the other,
taking care to avoid the puddles in which one could sink up to his
knees.

Farther on, after having passed the Biechelberg, on the firmer ground of
the forest, I told the doctor about the offers that the Oberförster had
made to us, and the refusal of all our guards except Jacob Hepp; of our
leaving the forest house, and of our little establishment at Ykel’s, in
a cold corner of the wretched inn, under the rocks, where the
grandmother had not ceased to cough for six weeks.

He listened to me with bent head, and said at the end that it was very
hard to leave one’s home, one’s fields, one’s meadows, and the trees
that one has planted; but that one should never draw back before one’s
duty; and that he also was about to leave the country with his wife and
children, abandoning his practice, the fruit of his labour for many
years, so as not to become one of the herd of King William.

Talking thus, about three o’clock, we reached the wretched tavern of
Graufthal.  We ascended the little staircase.  Marie-Rose had heard us;
she was at the door, and hastened to offer a chair to Dr. Simperlin.

The doctor looked at the black beams of the ceiling, the narrow windows,
the little stove, and said:

"It is very small and very dark for people accustomed to the open air."

He was thinking of our pretty house in the valley, with its large,
shining windows, its white walls.  Ah! the times had changed sadly.

At last, having rested for a few minutes, to get his breath, he said:

"Let us go see the invalid."

We entered the little side room together.  The day was declining; we had
to light the lamp, and the doctor, leaning over the bed, looked at the
poor old woman, saying:

"Well, grandmother Anne, I was passing by Graufthal, and Father
Frederick beckoned me in; he told me that you were not very well."

Then the grandmother, entirely aroused, recognised him and answered:

"Ah! it is you, M. Simperlin.  Yes, yes; I have suffered, and I suffer
still.  God grant it will soon be over!"

She was so yellow, so wrinkled and so thin, that one thought when one
looked at her:

"Good heavens, how can our poor lady continue to exist in such a
condition!"

And her hair, formerly gray, now white as snow, her hollow cheeks, her
eyes glittering, and a forehead all shrivelled with wrinkles, made her,
so to speak, unrecognisable.

The doctor questioned her; she answered very well to all his questions.
He listened with his ear at her chest, and then at her back, while I
held her up.  At last he said, smiling:

"Well, well, grandmother, we are not yet in danger.  This bad cold will
pass away with the winter; only you must keep yourself warm, and not
give way to sad thoughts.  You will soon return to the forest house; all
this cannot last."

"Yes, yes," said she, looking at us.  "I hope that all will come right;
but I am very old."

"Bah! when one has kept up like you, is one old?  All this has been
caused by a draught; you must take care of draughts, Mlle. Marie-Rose.
Come, keep up your courage, grandmother."

So said the doctor; the grandmother seemed a little reassured.

We left the room, and outside, when I was questioning him and my
daughter was listening, Dr. Simperlin asked me:

"Shall I speak before Mlle. Marie-Rose?"

"Yes," I answered, "for my poor daughter takes care of the invalid, and
she ought to know all; if the illness is serious, if we are to lose the
last creature who loves us and whom we love—well, it is always best to
know it beforehand, than to be struck by the misfortune without having
been warned."

"Well," said he, "the poor woman is ill not only because of her old age,
but principally because of the grief which is sapping her constitution.
She has something preying upon her mind, and it is that which makes her
cough.  Take care not to grieve her; hide your troubles from her. Always
look gay before her.  Tell her that you have strong hopes.  If she looks
at you, smile at her.  If she is uneasy, tell her it is nothing. Let no
one come in, for fear they should tell her bad news; that is the best
remedy I can give you."

While he spoke, Marie-Rose, who was very much alarmed, was coughing
behind her hand, with a little hacking cough; he interrupted himself,
and, looking at her, he said:

"Have you coughed like that for any length of time, Mlle. Marie-Rose?"

"For some time," she answered, flushing.

Then he took her arm and felt her pulse, saying as he did so:

"You must be careful and look after yourself, too; this place is not
healthy.  Have you fever at nights?"

"No, sir."

"Well, so much the better; but you must take care of yourself; you must
think as little as possible of sad things."

Having said that, he took his hat from my bed and his cane from the
corner, and said to me, as we were descending the stairs together:

"You must come to the city to-morrow, and you will find a little bottle
at the shop of Reeb, the apothecary; you must give three drops of it, in
a glass of water, morning and evening, to the grandmother; it is to calm
that suffocating feeling; and look after your daughter, too; she is very
much changed.  When I remember Marie-Rose, as fresh and as healthy as
she was, six months ago, it makes me uneasy.  Take care of her."

"Gracious Heavens!" said I to myself, in despair; "take care of her!
Yes, yes, if I could give her my own existence; but how take care of
people who are overwhelmed by fears, grief, and regrets?"

And, thinking of it, I could have cried like a child.  M. Simperlin saw
it, and, on the threshold, shaking my hand, he said:

"We, too, are very sick; is it not so, Father Frederick?  Yes, terribly
sick.  Our hearts are breaking; each thought kills us; but we are men;
we must have courage enough for everybody."

I wanted to accompany him at least to the end of the valley, for the
night had come; but he refused, saying:

"I know the way.  Go up stairs, Father Frederick, and be calm before
your mother and your daughter; it is necessary."

He then went away and I returned to our apartments.



                                 *XXXI*


Two or three days passed away.  I had gone to the town to get the potion
that the doctor had ordered from Reeb, the apothecary; the grandmother
grew calmer; she coughed less; we talked to her only of peace,
tranquility, and the return of Jean Merlin, and the poor woman was
slowly recovering; when, one morning, two Prussian _gens-d’armes_
stopped at the inn; as those people usually passed on without halting,
it surprised me, and, a few moments later, Father Ykel’s daughter came
to tell me to go down stairs, that some one was asking for me.

When I went down, I found those two tall fellows, with jack-boots,
standing in the middle of the room; their helmets almost touched the
ceiling.  They asked me if they were speaking to the person known as
Frederick, formerly the brigadier forester of Tömenthal.  I answered in
the affirmative; and one of them, taking off his big gloves, in order to
fumble in his knapsack, gave me a letter, which I read at once.

It was an order from the commander of Phalsbourg to leave the country
within twenty-four hours!

You understand, George, what an impression that made on me; I turned
pale and asked what could have drawn upon me so terrible a sentence.

"That is no affair of ours," answered one of the _gens-d’armes_.  "Try
to obey, or we will have to take other measures."

Thereupon they mounted their horses again and rode off; and Father Ykel,
alone with me, seeing me cast down and overwhelmed by such an
abomination, not knowing himself what to say, or to think, cried out:

"In the name of Heaven, Frederick, what have you been doing?  You are
not a man of any importance, and, in our little village, I should have
thought they would have forgotten you long ago!"

I made no reply; I remembered nothing; I thought only of the grief of my
daughter and of the poor old grandmother when they learned of this new
misfortune.

However, at last I remembered my imprudent words at the Café Vacheron,
the day of my dispute with Toubac; and Father Ykel at the first word
told me that it all came from that; that Toubac had certainly denounced
me; that there was only one thing left for me to do, and that was to go
at once to the commander and beg him to grant me a little time, in
consideration of the grandmother, over eighty years of age, seriously
ill, and who would certainly die on the road.  He also sent for the
schoolmaster, and gave me, as Mayor of the parish, a regular attestation
concerning my good qualities, my excellent antecedents, the unhappy
position of our family; in short, he said all the most touching and the
truest things that could be said on such an occasion.  He also
recommended me to go to M. Simperlin, too, and get a certificate of
illness, to confirm his attestation, thinking that thus the commander
would be touched and would wait till the poor old woman was well enough
to travel.

In my trouble, seeing nothing else to do, I set out.  Marie-Rose knew
nothing of it, nor the grandmother, either; I had not the courage to
announce the blow that was threatening us.  To set out alone, to fly far
away from those savages, who coolly plunged us into all sorts of
miseries, would have been nothing to me; but the others! Ah!  I dared
not think of it!

Before noon I was at Phalsbourg, in a frightful state of wretchedness;
all the misfortunes that crushed us rose before my eyes.

I saw the doctor, who declared simply in his certificate that the
invalid, who was old, weak, and, moreover, entirely without resources,
could not stand a journey, even of two hours, without dying.

"There," said he, giving me the paper, "that is the exact truth.  I
might add that your departure will kill her also, but that would be
nothing to the commander; if this does not touch his heart, the rest
would be useless also."

I went then to the commander’s quarters, which were in the old
government house, in the Rue du College.  The humiliation of addressing
supplications to rascals whom I detested was not the least of my
sorrows; that I, an old French forester, an old servant of the state,
gray-headed and on the point of retiring on a pension, should stoop to
implore compassion from enemies as hard-hearted, as proud of their
victories, gained by sheer force of numbers, as they were!  However, for
the grandmother, for the widow of old Burat, I could bear everything.

A tall rogue, in uniform, and with red whiskers, made me wait a long
time in the vestibule; they were at breakfast, and only about one
o’clock was I allowed to go up stairs.  Up there another sentinel
stopped me, and then, having received permission to enter a rather large
room, opening on the garden of the Arsenal, I knocked at the commander’s
door, who told me to come in.  I saw a large, red-faced man, who was
walking to and fro, smoothing down the sleeves of his uniform and
puffing out his cheeks in an ill-natured way.  I told him humbly of my
position, and gave him my certificates, which he did not even take the
trouble to read, but flung them on the table.

"That has nothing at all to do with it," said he sharply; "you are
described as a dangerous person, a determined enemy of the Germans.  You
prevented your men from entering our service; your son-in-law has gone
to join the bandits of Gambetta.  You boasted openly in a restaurant of
having refused the offers of the Oberförster of Zornstadt; that is four
times more than is necessary to deserve being turned out of doors."

I spoke of the grandmother’s condition.

"Well! leave her in her bed," said he; "the order of the
_Kreissdirector_ is for you alone."

Then, without listening to me any longer, he went into a side room,
calling a servant, and closed the door behind him.  I went down stairs
again, feeling utterly crushed; my last hope was gone; I had no other
resource; I had to leave; I had to announce this bad news to my
daughter, to the grandmother!  I knew what would be the result of it;
and, with hanging head, I went through that German doorway, the bridge,
the sentinels, without seeing anything.  On the glacis, at Biechelberg,
all along the road through the woods and through the valley, I was as if
mad with despair; I talked to myself, I cried out, looking at the trees
and raising my hand toward heaven.

"Now the curse is upon us!  Now pity, the disgrace of crime, the remorse
of conscience are abolished!  Nothing is left now but strength. Let them
exterminate us, let them cut our throats!  Let the rascals strangle the
old woman in her bed; let them hang my daughter before the door, and as
for me, let them chop me into pieces!  That would be better.  That would
be less barbarous than to tear us from each other’s arms; to force the
son to abandon his mother on her death-bed!"

And I continued on my road, stumbling along. The forests, the ravines,
the rocks seemed to me full of those old brigands, of those Pandoras of
whom I had heard tell in my childhood; I thought I heard them singing
round their fires, as they shared the plunder; all the old miseries of
the time before the great revolution came back to me.  The distant
trumpet of the Prussians in the city that sounded its three wild notes
to the echoes, seemed to me to arouse those old villains who had been
reduced to dust centuries before.



                                *XXXII*


All at once the sight of the cottages of Graufthal aroused me from my
dreams; I shivered at the thought that the moment was come to speak, to
tell my daughter and the grandmother that I was banished, driven away
from the country.  It seemed to me like a sentence of death that I
myself was about to pronounce against those whom I loved best in the
world.  I slackened my steps so as not to arrive too quickly, when,
raising my eyes, after having passed the first houses, I saw Marie-Rose
waiting in the dark little entry of the inn; my first glance at her told
me that she knew all.

"Well, father?" said she in a low voice, as she stood on the threshold.

"Well," I answered, trying to be calm, "I must go.  But you two can
stay—they have granted you permission to stay."

At the same time I heard the grandmother moaning up stairs in her bed.
Katel, that morning, directly after I set out, had gone up stairs to
tell my daughter the bad news; the poor old woman had heard all.  The
news had already spread through the village; the people round us were
listening; and, seeing that the blow had fallen, I told all who wished
to hear how the Prussian commander had received me.  The crowd of
neighbours listened to me without a word; all were afraid of sharing my
fate.  The grandmother had heard my voice, and she called me:

"Frederick!  Frederick!"

When I heard her voice, a cold perspiration broke out on my face.  I
went up stairs, answering:

"Here I am, grandmother, here I am!  Don’t cry so!  It will not last
long.  I will come back! Now they distrust me.  They are wrong,
grandmother; but the others are the strongest!"

"Ah!" she cried, "you are going away, Frederick—you are going away like
poor Jean.  I knew that he had gone away to fight.  I knew all.  I will
never see either of you again."

"Why not, grandmother, why not?  In a few weeks I will be allowed to
come back, and Jean will come back, too, after the war!"

"I will never see you again!" she cried.

And her sobs grew louder.  The people, curious, and even cruel in their
curiosity, had come up stairs one after another; our three little rooms
were filled with them; they held their breath, they had left their
sabots at the foot of the stairs; they wanted to see and hear
everything; but then, seeing the poor old woman in the shadow of her
great gray curtains, sobbing and holding out her arms to me, almost all
hastened to go down stairs again and to return to their homes.  No one
was left but big Starck, Father Ykel, and his daughter, Katel.

"Grandmother Anne," said Father Ykel, "don’t get such ideas into your
head.  Frederick is right. You must be reasonable.  When peace is
declared all will be right again.  You are eighty-three years old and I
am nearly seventy.  What does that matter?  I hope to see again Jean,
Father Frederick, and all those who are gone."

"Ah!" said she, "I have suffered too much; now it is all over!"

And till night she did nothing but cry. Marie-Rose, always courageous,
opened the cupboards and packed up my bundle, for I had no time to lose;
the next day I must be on my road. She took out my clothes and my best
shirts and put them on the table, asking me, in a low voice, while the
grandmother continued to cry:

"You will take this, father?  And that?"

I answered:

"Do as you think best, my daughter.  I have no sense left to think of
anything with.  Only put my uniform in the bundle—that is the principal
thing."

Ykel, knowing that we were pressed for time, told us not to worry about
the supper, that we should sup with them.  We accepted.

That evening, George, we spoke little at table. Katel was up stairs with
the grandmother.  And when night came, as my bundle was packed, we went
to bed early.

You may readily believe that I slept but little. The moans of the
grandmother, and then my reflections, the uncertainty as to my
destination, the small amount of money that I could take with me, for I
had to leave enough to live on at home—all these things kept me awake in
spite of my fatigue and the grief that was weighing me down.  And all
through that long night I asked myself where I should go, what I should
do, what road I should take, to whom I should address myself in order to
make my living?  Turning these ideas over a hundred times in my head, I
at last remembered my former chief of the guards, M. d’Arence, one of
the best men I had ever known, who had always liked me, and even
protected me during the time that I was under his orders as a simple
guard many years before; I remembered that people said that he had
retired to Saint Dié, and I hoped, if I had the good luck to find him
yet alive, that he would receive me well and would help me a little in
my misfortune.  This idea occurred to me towards morning; I thought it a
good one, and I fell asleep for an hour or two. But at daybreak I was
up.  The terrible moment was approaching; I was scarcely out of bed, the
grandmother heard me and called to me.  Marie-Rose was also up; she had
prepared our farewell breakfast; Ykel had sent up a bottle of wine.

Having dressed myself, I went into the grandmother’s room, trying to
keep up my spirits, but knowing that I would never see her again.

She seemed calmer, and, calling me to her, she threw her arms round my
neck, saying:

"My son, for you have been my son—a good son to me—my son Frederick, I
bless you!  I wish you all the happiness that you deserve. Ah! wishes
are not worth much, nor the blessings of poor people either.  Without
that, dear Frederick, you would not have been so unhappy."

She wept, and I could not restrain my tears. Marie-Rose, standing at the
foot of the bed, sobbed silently.

And as the grandmother still held me, I said:

"See here, grandmother, your benediction and your kind words do me as
much good as if you could give me all the riches of the world; it is my
consolation to think that I will see you soon again."

"Perhaps we will meet again in heaven," said she; "but here on this
earth I must say farewell. Farewell, Frederick, farewell."

She held me tightly embraced, kissing me with her trembling lips; and
then, having released me and turned away her head, she held my hand for
a minute, and, beginning to sob again, she repeated, in a low voice:
"Farewell!"

I left the room; my strength failed me.  In the side room I took a glass
of wine and I put a piece of bread in my pocket; Marie-Rose was with me;
I beckoned her to come down stairs softly, so that the grandmother
should not hear our sobs at the moment of parting.

We went silently down stairs into the large lower room, where Father
Ykel awaited us with some other friends; Starck, who had helped us to
move from the forest house, Hulot, and some other good people.

We bade each other farewell; then in the entry I kissed Marie-Rose, as
an unhappy father kisses his child, and in that kiss I wished her
everything that a man can wish to the being whom he loves better than
his life, and whom he esteems as one esteems virtue, courage, and
goodness.  And then, with my bundle slung on the end of a stick, I went
away without turning my head.



                                *XXXIII*


The path of exile is long, George, and the first steps that one takes
are painful.  He who said that we do not drag with us our country
fastened to the soles of our shoes, was learned in human suffering.

And when you leave behind you your child; when you seem to hear as you
walk along the grandmother’s voice saying farewell; when from the top of
the mountain that sheltered you from the wind and covered you with its
shadow, at the last turn of the path, before the descent, you turn and
look at your valley, your cottage, your orchard, thinking, "You will
never see them more!" then, George, it seems as if the earth holds you
back, as if the trees were extending their arms towards you, as if the
child was weeping in the distance, as if the grandmother was calling you
back in the name of God!

Yes, I felt all that on the hill of Berlingen, and I shudder yet when I
think of it.  And to think that worms like us dare to inflict such
sufferings on their fellow-creatures!  May the Almighty have mercy upon
them, for the hour of justice will surely come.

I tore myself away and continued my journey. I went away; I descended
the hill with bent back, and the dear country gradually vanished into
the distance.  Oh! how I suffered, and how many distant thoughts came
back to me! The forests, the firs, the old saw-mills passed away.

I was approaching Schönbourg, and I began to descend the second hill,
lost in my reveries and my despair, when all at once a man with his gun
slung over his shoulder emerged from the forest about a hundred yards in
front of me, looking towards me.  This sight awoke me from my sad
thoughts; I raised my eyes.  It was Hepp, the old brigadier, whom the
Prussians had won over, and who was the only man among us that had
entered their service.

"Hillo!" said he, in amazement, "it is you, Father Frederick!"

"Yes," I answered, "it is I."

"But where are you going so early in the morning with your bundle on
your shoulder?"

"I am going where God wills.  The Germans have turned me out.  I am
going to earn my living elsewhere."

He turned very pale.  I had stopped for a minute to breathe.

"How!" said he, "they are turning you out of doors at your age—you, an
old forester, an honest man, who never did harm to any one?"

"Yes; they do not want me in this country any longer.  They have given
me twenty-four hours in which to quit old Alsace, and I am on my way."

"And Marie-Rose and the grandmother?"

"They are at Graufthal, at Ykel’s.  The grandmother is dying.  The
others will bury her."

Hepp, with drooping head and eyes cast down, lifted up his hands,
saying: "What a pity! what a pity!"

I made no reply, and wiped my face, which was covered with perspiration.
After a moment’s pause, without looking at me, he said:

"Ah! if I had been alone with my wife!  But I have six children.  I am
their father.  I could not let them die of hunger.  You had a little
money laid aside.  I had not a _sou_."

Then, seeing this man with a good situation—for he was a German
brigadier forester—seeing this man making excuses to a poor, wretched
exile like me, I did not know any more than he did what to answer, and I
said:

"That is the way of the world.  Every one has his burden to bear.  Well!
well! good-bye till I see you again."

He wanted to shake hands with me, but I looked another way, and
continued my journey, thinking:

"That man, Frederick, is even more unhappy than you; his grief is
terrible; he has sold his conscience to the Prussians for a piece of
black bread; at least you can look every one in the face; you can say,
in spite of your misery, ’I am an honest man,’ and he does not dare to
look at an old comrade; he blushes, he hangs his head.  The others have
profited by the fact of his having six children to buy him."

And, thinking of that, I grew a little more courageous, knowing that I
had done well, in spite of everything, and that in Hepp’s place I would
have hanged myself long ago in some corner of the wood.  That comforted
me a little.  What would you have?  One is always glad to have done the
best thing, even when one had nothing to choose between but the greatest
of misfortunes.

Then those thoughts vanished, too; others took their place.  I must tell
you that in all the villages, and even in the smallest hamlets I passed
through, the poor people, seeing me travelling at my age, with my bundle
slung over my shoulder, received me kindly; they knew that I was one of
those who were being sent away from the country because they loved
France; the women standing before their doors with their children in
their arms said to me, with emotion, "God guide you!"

In the little taverns, where I halted from time to time to recruit my
strength, at Lutzelbourg, at Dabo, at Viche, they would not receive any
money from me.  As soon as I had said, "I am an old brigadier forester;
the Germans have exiled me because I would not enter their service," I
had the respect of everybody.

Naturally, also, I did not accept the kind offers they made me; I paid
my way, for at this time of forced requisitions no one had anything too
much.

The whole country sympathized with the republic, and the nearer I got
towards the Vosges the more they spoke of Garibaldi, of Gambetta, of
Chanzy, of Faidherbe; but also the requisitions were larger and the
villages overrun with _landwehr_.

At Schirmeck, where I arrived the same day, about eight o’clock in the
evening, I saw, on entering the inn, a _Feldwebel_, a schoolmaster, and
a commissioner, who were drinking and smoking among a quantity of their
people, who were seated at tables like themselves.

They all turned round and stared at me, while I asked a lodging for the
night.

The commissioner ordered me to show him my papers; he examined them
minutely, the signatures and the stamps; then he said to me:

"You are all right at present, but by daybreak to-morrow you must be on
your way."

After that the innkeeper ventured to serve me with food and drink; and,
as the inn was filled with the German officials, they took me to the
barn, where I fell asleep on a heap of straw.  It was freezing outside,
but the barn was near the stable; it was warm there; I slept well
because of my fatigue.  Slumber, George, is the consolation of the
wretched; if I had to speak of the goodness of God, I would say that
every day He calls us to Him for a few hours to make us forget our
misfortunes.



                                *XXXIV*


The next day a sort of calm had replaced my dejection; I went away more
resolute, hastening across the plain to reach Rothau.  I began to think
of Jean Merlin.  Perhaps he had followed the same route as I, for it was
the shortest.  How glad I would be if I could hear some news of him on
my way, to send to Marie-Rose and the grandmother; what a consolation it
would be in our misfortune!  But I must not hope for it, so many others
during the last three months had climbed from Rothau to Provenchères,
French and Germans, strangers whom no one could have remembered.

Nevertheless, I thought of it.  And as I walked swiftly along I admired
the beautiful forests of this mountainous country, the immense fir trees
that bordered the road and recalled to me those of Falberg, near
Saverne.  The sight of them touched me; it was like old comrades who
escort you for several hours on your journey before saying a last
farewell.

At last the rapid motion, the fresh, bracing air of the mountains, the
kind welcome from the good people, the hope of finding M. d’Arence, my
old chief of the guard, and, above all, the wish not to let myself be
discouraged, when my poor daughter and the grandmother still had need of
me, all that revived me, and I said to myself at each step I took:

"Courage, Frederick!  The French are not yet all dead; perhaps after a
while the happy days will return.  Those who despair are lost; the poor
little birds that the winter drives away from their nests and who are
obliged to go far away to seek the seeds and the insects upon which they
live suffer also; but the spring brings them back again.  That ought to
be an example to you. Another effort, and you will reach the top; from
Provenchères you will only have to go down hill."

Thus encouraging myself climbing on and persevering, as weary as I was,
I reached Provenchères about the middle of the day, and made a short
halt.  I drank a glass of good wine at the inn of the Two Keys, and
there I learned that M. d’Arence was still at St. Dié, the inspector of
the woods and waters, and that he had even commanded the national guard
during the late events.  This news gave me great pleasure; I left there
full of hope; and that evening having reached St. Marguerite, at the
bottom of the valley, I had only to follow the highway till I reached
the city, where I arrived so fatigued that I could scarcely stand.

I halted at the first little tavern in the Rue du Faubourg St. Martin,
and I was fortunate enough to get a bed there, in which I slept still
better than in my barn at Schirmeck.  The Prussian trumpet awoke me
early in the morning; one of their regiments was occupying the city; the
colonel was quartered in the episcopal palace, the other officers and
the soldiers were lodged with the inhabitants; and the requisitions of
hay, straw, meat, flour, brandy, tobacco, etc., were going on as briskly
as at other places.  I took a clean shirt out of my bundle, and put on
my uniform, remembering that M. d’Arence had always paid great attention
to the appearance of his men.  Character does not change: one is at
fifty years of age exactly as one was at twenty.  Then I went down into
the inn parlour, and inquired for the house of the inspector of the
forest.  A good old woman, Mother Ory, who kept the inn, told me that he
lived at the corner of the large bridge, to the left, as you went
towards the railway station.  I went there at once.

It was a clear cold day; the principal street, which runs from the
railway station to the cathedral, was white with snow, and the mountains
round the valley also.  Some German soldiers, in their earth-coloured
overcoats and flat caps, were taking away at a distance, before the
mayor’s office, a cartload of provisions; two or three servant maids
were filling their buckets at the pretty fountain of La Muerthe.  There
was nothing else to see, for all the people kept in doors.

Having reached the house of the inspector, and after having paused for a
moment to reflect, I was going in, when a tall, handsome man in hussar
pantaloons, a tight-fitting braided overcoat, a green cap with silver
lace, set a little on one side, began to descend the stair-case.  It was
M. d’Arence, as erect as ever, with his beard as brown and his colour as
fresh as it was at thirty years of age.  I recognised him at once.
Except for his gray head, he was not changed at all; but he did not
recognise me at first; and it was only when I reminded him of this old
guard, Frederick, that he cried:

"What, is it you, my poor Frederick?  Decidedly we are no longer young."

No, I was no longer young, and these last few months had aged me still
more, I know.  However, he was very glad to see me all the same.

"Let us go up stairs," he said; "we can talk more at our ease."

So we went up stairs.  He took me into a large dark office, the blinds
of which were closed, then into his private room, where a good fire was
sparkling in a large porcelain stove; and, having told me to take a
chair, we talked for a long time about our country.  I told him of all
our wretchedness since the arrival of the Germans; he listened to me
with compressed lips, his elbow on the edge of the desk, and he finally
said:

"Yes, it is terrible!  So many honest people sacrificed to the
selfishness of a few wretches! We are expiating our faults terribly; but
the Germans’ turn will come.  In the meantime, that is not the question;
you must be in straitened circumstances; you are doubtless at the end of
your funds?"

Of course I told him the truth; I said that I had to leave enough to
live on at home, and that I was trying to get work.

Then he quietly opened a drawer, saying that I, like the other
brigadiers of Alsace, had a right to my quarter’s pay, that he would
advance it to me, and that I could repay him later.

I need not tell you my satisfaction at receiving this money at a time
when I needed it so much; it touched me so that my eyes filled with
tears and I did not know how to thank him.

He saw by my face what I thought, and, as I tried to utter a few words
of thanks, he said:

"All right, all right, Frederick.  Don’t let us speak of that.  You are
an honest man, a servant of the state.  I am glad to be able to help
you."

But what pleased me most of all was that, when I was about to go, he
asked me if several of our guards had not joined the army of the Vosges.

Then I instantly thought of Jean; I thought that perhaps he had news of
him.  In spite of that, I first cited big Kern and Donadieu, and then
only Jean Merlin, who had left last, and who had doubtless followed the
same road as I had done, by Schirmeck and Rothau.

"A big, solid fellow," said he, "with brown mustaches; formerly in the
cavalry, was he not?"

"Yes, sir," I answered, in great excitement; "that is my son-in-law."

"Well," said he, "that honest fellow passed this way; I gave him the
means and the necessary indications to reach Tours.  If you are uneasy
about him, you may be comforted; he is all right; he is at his post."

We had then reached the foot of the stairs; at the door M. d’Arence
shook hands with me; then he went away, crossing the bridge, and I went
towards the railway station, feeling happier than I can tell you.



                                 *XXXV*


I anticipated Marie-Rose’s joy, and I seemed to hear the poor
grandmother thank God when she heard the good news; it seemed to me that
our greatest misfortune had passed away, that the sun was beginning to
shine through the clouds for us.  I walked along with my head full of
happy thoughts; and when I entered the parlour of the Golden Lion,
Mother Ory looked at me, saying:

"Ah! my good man, you have had some good luck befall you."

"Yes," I answered, laughing, "I am not the same man I was this morning
and yesterday. Great misfortunes don’t always stick to one person all
the time!"

And I told her what had occurred.  She looked at me good-humouredly; but
when I asked her to give me some paper, so that I could write all the
good news to Graufthal, she said, clasping her hands:

"What are you thinking about?  To write that your son-in-law is with the
army, that he received aid from M. d’Arence to speed him on his way!
Why, M. d’Arence would be arrested tomorrow, and you, too, and your
daughter!  Don’t you know that the Germans open all the letters; that it
is their best means of spying, and that they seek every opportunity to
levy new taxes on the city?  For such a letter they would require still
more requisitions.  Beware of such fearful imprudence."

Then, seeing the justice of her remarks, I suddenly lost all my gaiety;
I had scarcely spirit enough left to write to Marie-Rose that I had
arrived safe and well and that I had received some help from my former
chief.  I thought at every word that I had said too much; I was afraid
that a dot, a comma, would serve as a pretext to the scoundrels to
intercept my letter and to drive me farther away.

Ah! how sad it was not to be able to send even a word of hope to those
one loves—above all, at such a cruel moment!  And how barbarous they
must have been to charge against the father as a crime the consoling
words that he sent to his child, the good news that a son sends to his
dying mother!  But that is what we have seen.

Only the letters announcing the death of one’s relatives, or some new
disaster to our country, arrived; or else lies—news of victories
invented by the enemy, and that was followed the next day by the
announcement of a defeat.

From that day, not daring to write what I knew, and receiving no news
from home, I lived a melancholy life.

Imagine, George, a man of my age, alone among strangers, in a little
room at an inn, looking for hours together at the snow whirling against
the window-panes, listening to the noises outside, a passing cart, a
company of Prussians who were going their rounds, the barking of a dog,
people quarrelling; without any amusement but his meditations and his
recollections.

"What are they about yonder?  Does the grandmother still live?  And,
Marie-Rose—what has become of her?  And Jean, and all the others?"
Always this weight on my heart!

"No letters have come; so much the better. If anything had happened,
Marie-Rose would have written.  She does not write; so much the worse.
Perhaps she, too, is ill!"

And so it went on from morning till night. Sometimes, when I heard the
hum of voices down stairs in the parlour, I would go down, to hear the
news of the war.  Hope, that great lie which lasts all one’s life, is so
rooted in our souls that we cling to it till the end.

So I went down stairs, and there, around the tables, by the stove, were
all kinds of people—merchants, peasants, wagoners—talking of fights in
the north, the east; of pillages, of military executions, of fires, of
forced contributions, of hostages, and I know not what all!

Paris was still defending herself; but near the Loire our young troops
had been forced to fall back; the Germans were too many for them! They
were arriving by all the railroads; and then our arms and ammunition
were giving out.  This young army, assembled in haste, without a head,
without discipline, without arms, without provisions, was forced to keep
up against this terrible war, and the fearful weight of numbers could
not fail to crush it after a while.

That is what the Swiss and Belgian newspapers said, that the travellers
sometimes left behind them.

The bombardment of Belfort continued.  The weather was fearful; snow and
hard frosts followed each other in quick succession.  One could almost
say that the Almighty was against us.

For my part, George, I must confess that, after so many misfortunes, I
was discouraged; the least rumour made me uneasy; I was always afraid of
hearing of fresh disasters; and sometimes, too, my indignation made me
wish to go, in spite of my old legs, and get myself killed, no matter
where, so as to be done with it.

_Ennui_ and discouragement had got the upper hand of me, when I received
a letter from my daughter.

The grandmother was dead!  Marie-Rose was coming to join me at St. Dié.
She told me to hire a small apartment, as she was going to bring a
little furniture, some linen, and some bedding, and that she was going
to sell the rest at Graufthal before her departure.

She said also that Starck had offered to bring her on his cart, through
Sarrebourg, Lorquin, Raon l’Étape; that the journey would probably last
fully three days, but that we would meet again at the end of the week.

So the poor grandmother had ceased to suffer; she lay beside her
daughter, Catherine, and Father Burat, whom I had loved so much!  I said
to myself that they were all luckier than I; that they slept among their
ancestors, in the shadow of our mountains.

The thought of seeing my daughter once more did me good.  I said to
myself that we would be no longer alone; that we could live without much
expense till the end of the invasion; and then, when Jean returned, when
he had found a situation, we would build up our nest again in some
forest; that I would have my pension, and that, in spite of all our
misfortunes, I would end my days in peace and quietness, among my
grandchildren.

That appeared very natural to me.  I repeated to myself that God is
good, and that all would soon be in order again.

Marie-Rose arrived on the fifth of January, 1871.



                                *XXXVI*


I had rented, for twelve francs a month, two small rooms and a kitchen
on the second floor of the house next door to the Golden Lion; it
belonged to M. Michel, a gardener, a very good man, who afterward
rendered us great services.

It was very cold that day.  Marie-Rose had written that she was coming,
but without saying whether in the morning or the evening; so I was
obliged to wait.

About noon Starck’s cart appeared at the end of the street, covered with
furniture and bedding.

Marie-Rose was on the vehicle, wrapped in a large cape of her mother’s;
the tall coalman was walking in front, holding his horses by the bridle.

I went down stairs and ran to meet them.  I embraced Starck, who had
stopped, then my daughter, saying to her, in a whisper:

"I have heard news of Jean.  He passed through St. Dié.  M. d’Arence
gave him the means to cross the Prussian lines and join the Army of the
Loire."

She did not answer, but as I spoke, I felt her bosom heave and her arms
tighten round me with extraordinary strength.

They went on again; a hundred yards farther we were before our lodgings.
Starck took his horses to the stable of the Golden Lion.  Marie-Rose
went into the large parlour of the inn, and good Mother Ory made her
take at once a cup of broth, to warm her, for she was very cold.

That same day Starck and I took up the furniture. At four o’clock all
was ready.  We made a fire in the stove.  Marie-Rose was so worn out
that we had almost to carry her up stairs.

I had noticed when I first saw her her extreme pallor and sparkling
eyes; it astonished me; but I attributed the change to the long watches,
the grief, the anxiety, and, above all, to the fatigue of a three days’
journey in an open wagon, and in such terribly cold weather.  Was it not
natural after such suffering?  I knew her to be strong; since her
childhood she had never been ill; I said to myself that she would get
over that in time, and that with a little care and perfect rest she
would soon regain her rosy cheeks.

Once up stairs, in front of the sparkling little fire, seeing the neat
room, the old wardrobe at the back, the old pictures from the forest
house hung on the wall, and our old clock ticking away in the right-hand
corner behind the door, Marie-Rose seemed satisfied, and said to me:

"We will be very comfortable here, father; we will keep quiet, and the
Germans will not drive us farther away.  If only Jean comes back soon,
we will live in peace."

Her voice was hoarse.  She also wanted to see the kitchen, which opened
on the court; the daylight coming from over the roofs made this place
rather dark; but she thought everything was very nice.

As we had not any provisions yet, I sent to the inn for our dinner and
two bottles of wine.

Starck would take nothing but the expenses on the road.  He said that at
this season there was nothing to do in the forest, and that he might as
well have come as to have left his horses in the stable; but he could
not refuse a good dinner, and then, too, he liked a good glass of wine.

Then, at table, Marie-Rose told me all the details of the grandmother’s
death; how she had expired, after having cried for three days and three
nights, murmuring in her dreams: "Burat! Frederick!  The Germans!
Frederick, do not desert me!  Take me with you!"  At last the good God
took her to Himself, and half Graufthal followed her bier through the
snow to Dôsenheim, to bury her with her own people.

In telling her sad tale, Marie-Rose could not restrain her tears, and
from time to time she stopped to cough; so I told her that I had heard
enough, and that I did not care to know any more.

And when dinner was over, I thanked Starck for the services he had
rendered us.  I told him that in misfortune we learn to know our true
friends, and other just things, which pleased him, because he deserved
them.  About six o’clock he went away again, in spite of all that I
could say to persuade him to remain.  I went with him to the end of the
street, asking him to thank Father Ykel and his daughter for all that
they had done for us, and if he went to Felsberg to tell Mother
Margredel how we were getting along, and, above all, to ask her to send
us all news of Jean that she might receive.  He promised, and we
separated.

I went back, feeling very thoughtful; glad to see my child once more,
but uneasy about the terrible cold that kept her from speaking.
However, I had no serious fears, as I told you, George. When one has
always seen people in good health one knows very well that such little
ailments do not signify anything.

There was still seven or eight weeks of winter to pass through.  In the
month of March the sun is already warm, the spring is coming; in April,
sheltered as we were by the great hill of Saint Martin, we would soon
see the gardens and the fields grow green again in the shelter of the
forest. We had also two large boxes of climbing plants to place on our
window-sills, which I pictured to myself beforehand extending over our
window-panes, and that would remind us a little of the forest house.

All these things seemed good to me, and, in my emotion at seeing
Marie-Rose again, I looked on the bright side of the future; I wanted to
live as much to ourselves as we could while waiting for Jean’s return,
and to worry ourselves about the war as little as possible, although
that is very hard to do when the fate of one’s fatherland is in
question; yes, very hard.  I promised myself to tell my daughter nothing
but pleasant things, such as tidings of our victories, if we were so
fortunate as to gain any, and, above all, to hide from her my uneasiness
about Jean, whose long silence often gave me gloomy thoughts.

In the midst of these meditations I returned home.  Night had come.
Marie-Rose was waiting for me beside the lamp; she threw herself into my
arms, murmuring:

"Ah! father, what happiness it is for us to be together once more!"

"Yes, yes, my child," I answered, "and others who are now far away will
return also.  We must have a little patience still.  We have suffered
too much and too unjustly for that to last forever. You are not very
well now; the journey has fatigued you; but it will be nothing.  Go
sleep, dear child, and rest yourself."

She went to her room, and I retired to bed, thanking God for having
given me back my daughter.



                                *XXXVII*


Thus, George, after the loss of my situation and my property, earned by
thirty years of labour, economy and faithful services; after the loss of
our dear country, of our old parents and our friends, I had still one
consolation: my daughter still remained to me, my good, courageous
child, who smiled at me in spite of her anxiety, her grief, and her
sufferings when she saw me too much cast down.

That is what overwhelms me when I think of it; I always reproach myself
for having allowed her to see my grief, and for not having been able to
keep down my anger against those who had reduced us to such a condition.
It is easy to put a good face on the matter when you have everything you
want; in need and in a strange country it is a different thing.

We lived as economically as possible.  Marie-Rose looked after our
little household, and I often sat for hours before the window, thinking
of all that had occurred during the last few months, of the abominable
order that had driven me from my country; I suddenly grew indignant, and
raised my arms to heaven, uttering a wild cry.

Marie-Rose was more calm; our humiliation, our misery, and the national
disasters hurt her as much and perhaps more than me, but she hid it from
me.  Only what she could not hide from me was that wretched cold, which
gave me much anxiety.  Far from improving as I had hoped, it grew
worse—it seemed to me to get worse every day.  At night, above all, when
I heard through the deep silence that dry, hacking cough, that seemed to
tear her chest asunder, I sat up in bed and listened, filled with
terror.

Sometimes, however, this horrible cold seemed to get better, Marie-Rose
would sleep soundly, and then I regained my courage; and thinking of the
innumerable misfortunes that were extended over France, the great famine
at Paris, the battlefields covered with corpses, the ambulances crowded
with wounded, the conflagrations, the requisitions, the pillages, I said
to myself that we had still a little fire to warm us, a little bread to
nourish us.  And then, so many strange things happened during the wars!
Had we not formerly conquered all Europe, which did not prevent us from
being vanquished in our turn?  Might not the Germans have the same fate?
All gamblers end by losing!  Those ideas and many others I turned over
in my mind; and Marie-Rose said, too:

"All is not over, father; all is not over!  I had a dream last night.  I
saw Jean in a brigadier-forester’s costume; we will soon have some good
news!"

Alas! good news.  Poor child!  Yes, yes, you can dream happy dreams; you
may see Jean wearing a brigadier’s stripes, and smiling at you and
giving you his arm to lead you, with a white wreath on your head, to the
little chapel at Graufthal, where the priest waits to marry you.  All
would have happened thus, but there should be fewer rascals on earth, to
turn aside the just things established by the Almighty.  Whenever I
think of that time, George, I seem to feel a hand tearing out my heart.
I would like to stop, but as I promised you, I will go on to the end.

One day, when the fire was sparkling in the little stove, when
Marie-Rose, very thin and thoughtful, was spinning, and when the old
recollections of the forest house, with the beautiful spring, the calm,
melancholy autumn, the songs of the blackbirds and thrushes, the murmur
of the little river through the reeds, the voice of the old grandmother,
that of poor Calas, the joyous barking of Ragot, and the lowing of our
two handsome cows under the old willows, came stealing back to my
memory; while I was forgetting myself in these things, and while the
monotonous hum of the spinning wheel and the ticking of our old clock
were filling our little room, all at once cries and songs broke out in
the distance.

Marie-Rose listened with amazement; and I, abruptly torn from my
pleasant dreams, started like a man who has been roused from sleep.  The
Germans were rejoicing so, some new calamity had befallen us.  That was
my first idea, and I was not mistaken.

Soon bands of soldiers crossed the street, arm in arm, crying with all
their might:

"Paris has fallen!  Long live the German fatherland!"

I looked at Marie-Rose; she was as pale as death, and was looking at me
also with her great brilliant eyes.  We turned our eyes away from each
other, so as not to betray the terrible emotion that we felt.  She went
out into the kitchen, where I heard her crying.

Until dark we heard nothing but new bands, singing and shouting as they
passed; I, with bowed head, heard from time to time my daughter coughing
behind the partition of the kitchen, and I gave myself up to despair.
About seven o’clock Marie-Rose came in with the lamp. She wanted to set
the table.

"It is no use," I said; "do not put down my plate.  I am not hungry."

"Neither am I," said she.

"Well, let us go to bed; let us try to forget our misery; let us
endeavour to sleep!"

I rose; we kissed each other, weeping.  That night, George, was
horrible.  In spite of her efforts to stifle the cough I heard
Marie-Rose coughing without intermission until morning, so that I could
not close my eyes.  I made up my mind to go for a doctor; but I did not
want to frighten my daughter, and thinking of a means to speak of that
to her, towards dawn I fell asleep.

It was eight o’clock when I woke up, and after dressing myself I called
Marie-Rose.  She did not answer.  Then I went into her room, and I saw
spots of blood on her pillow; her handkerchief, too, which she had left
on the night-table, was all red.

It made me shudder!  I returned and sat down in my corner, thinking of
what I had just seen.



                               *XXXVIII*


It was market day.  Marie-Rose had gone to lay in our small stock of
provisions; she returned about nine o’clock, so much out of breath that
she could scarcely hold her basket.  When I saw her come in I
recollected the pale faces of those young girls, of whom the poor people
of our valley used to say that God was calling them, and who fell asleep
quietly at the first snow.  This idea struck me, and I was frightened;
but then, steadying my voice, I said quite calmly:

"See here, Marie-Rose, all last night I heard you coughing; it makes me
uneasy."

"Oh! it is nothing, father," she answered, colouring slightly; "it is
nothing, the fine weather is coming and this cold will pass off."

"Anyhow," I replied, "I will not be easy, as long as a doctor has not
told me what it is.  I must go at once and get a doctor."

She looked at me, with her hands crossed over the basket, on the edge of
the table; and, guessing perhaps by my anxiety that I had discovered the
spots of blood, she murmured:

"Very well, father, to ease your mind."

"Yes," I said, "it is better to do things beforehand; what is nothing in
the beginning may become very dangerous if neglected."

And I went out.  Down stairs M. Michel gave me the address of Dr.
Carrière, who lived in the Rue de la Mairie.  I went to see him.  He was
a man of about sixty, lean, with black sparkling eyes and a grizzled
head, who listened to me very attentively and asked me if I was not the
brigadier forester that his friend M. d’Arence had spoken to him about.
I answered that I was he, and he accompanied me at once.

Twenty minutes afterward we reached our room.  When Marie-Rose came the
doctor questioned her for a long time about the beginning of this cold,
about her present symptoms, if she had not fever at night with shivering
fits and attacks of suffocation.

By his manner of questioning her she was, so to speak, forced to answer
him, and the old doctor soon knew that she had been spitting blood for
over a month; she confessed it, turning very pale and looking at me as
if to ask pardon for having hidden this misfortune from me.  Ah!  I
forgave her heartily, but I was in despair.  After that Dr. Carrière
wished to examine her; he listened to her breathing and finally said
that it was all right, that he would give her a prescription.

But in the next room, when we were alone, he asked me if any of our
family had been consumptive; and when I assured him that never, neither
in my wife’s family nor my own, had we ever had the disease, he said:

"I believe you; your daughter is very beautifully formed; she is a
strong and handsome creature; but then she must have had an accident; a
fall, or something like that must have put her in this condition.  She
is probably hiding it from us; I must know it."

So I called Marie-Rose, and the doctor asked her if some weeks before
she did not remember having fallen, or else run against something
violently, telling her that he was going to write his prescription
according to what she would reply, and that her life probably depended
upon it.

Then Marie-Rose confessed that the day the Germans came to take away our
cows she had tried to hold them back by the rope, and that one of the
Prussians had struck her between the shoulders with the hilt of his
sword, which had thrown her forward on her hands, and that her mouth had
suddenly filled with blood; but that the fear of my anger at hearing of
such an outrage had kept her from saying anything to me about it.

All was then clear to me.  I could not restrain my tears, looking at my
poor child, the victim of so great a misfortune.  She withdrew.  The
doctor wrote his prescription.  As we were descending the stairs he
said:

"It is very serious.  You have only one daughter?"

"She is my only one," I answered.

He was sad and thoughtful.

"We will do our best," he said; "youth has many resources!  But do not
let her be excited in any way."

As he walked down the street he repeated to me the advice that M.
Simperlin had given me about the grandmother; I made no answer.  It
seemed to me that the earth was opening under my feet and was crying to
me:

"The dead—the dead!  Give me my dead!"

How glad I should have been to be the first to go to rest, to close my
eyes and to answer:

"Well, here I am.  Take me and leave the young!  Let them breathe a few
days longer. They do not know that life is a terrible misfortune; they
will soon learn it, and will go with less regret.  You will have them
all the same!"

And, continuing to muse in this way, I entered an apothecary’s shop near
the large bridge and had the prescription made up.  I returned to the
house.  Marie-Rose took two spoonfuls of the medicine morning and
evening, as it had been directed.  It did her good, I saw it from the
first few days; her voice was clearer, her hands less burning; she
smiled at me, as if to say:

"You see, father, it was only a cold.  Don’t worry about it any more."

An infinite sweetness shone in her eyes; she was glad to get well.  The
hope of seeing Jean once more added to her happiness.  Naturally, I
encouraged her in her joyous thoughts.  I said:

"We will receive news one of these days. Neighbour such a one also
expects to hear from her son; it cannot be long now.  The mails were
stopped during the war, the letters are lying at the offices.  The
Germans wanted to discourage us.  Now that the armistice is signed we
will get our letters."

The satisfaction of learning such good news brightened her countenance.

I did not let her go to the city; I took the basket myself and went to
get our provisions; the market women knew me.

"It is the old brigadier," they would say; "whose pretty daughter is
sick.  They are alone. It is he who comes now."

None of them ever sold me their vegetables at too high a price.



                                *XXXIX*


I thought no longer of the affairs of the country.  I only wanted to
save my daughter; the rumours of elections, of the National Assembly at
Bordeaux, no longer interested me; my only thought was:

"If Marie-Rose only lives!"

So passed the end of January, then came the treaty of peace: we were
deserted!  And from day to day the neighbours received news from their
sons, from their brothers, from their friends, some prisoners in
Germany, others in cantonments in the interior; but for us not a word!

I went to the post-office every morning to see if anything had come for
us.  One day the postmaster said to me:

"Ah! it is you.  The postman has just gone. He has a letter for you."

Then I hastened hopefully home.  As I reached the door the postman left
the alley and called to me, laughing:

"Hurry up, Father Frederick, you have got what you wanted this time: a
letter that comes from the Army of the Loire!"

I went up stairs four steps at a time, with beating heart.  What were we
about to hear?  What had happened during so many weeks?  Was Jean on the
road to come and see us?  Would he arrive the next day—in two, three, or
four days?

Agitated by these thoughts, when I got up stairs my hand sought for the
latch without finding it.  At last I pushed open the door; my little
room was empty.  I called:

"Marie-Rose!  Marie-Rose!"

No answer.  I went into the other room; and my child, my poor child was
lying there on the floor, near her bed, white as wax, her great eyes
half open, the letter clutched in her hand, a little blood on her lips.
I thought her dead, and with a terrible cry I caught her up and laid her
on the bed.  Then, half wild, calling, crying, I took the letter and
read it with one glance.

See, here it is!  Read it, George, read it aloud; I know it by heart,
but it does not matter, I like to turn the knife in the wound; when it
bleeds it hurts less.


"MY DEAR MARIE-ROSE: Adieu!  I shall never see you more.  A bursting
shell has shattered my right leg; the surgeons have had to amputate it.
I will not survive the operation long.  I had lain too long on the
ground.  I had lost too much blood.  It is all over.  I must die!  Oh!
Marie-Rose, dear Marie-Rose, how I would like to see you again for one
instant, one minute; how much good it would do me!  All the time I lay
wounded in the snow I thought only of you.  Do not forget me either;
think sometimes of Jean Merlin. Poor Mother Margredel, poor Father
Frederick, poor Uncle Daniel!  You will tell them.  Ah! how happy we
would have been without this war!"


The letter stopped here.  Underneath, as you see, another hand had
written: "Jean Merlin, Alsatian.  Detachment of the 21st Corps.
Silly-le-Guillaume, 26th of January, 1871."

I took this all in with one look, and then I continued to call, to cry,
and at last I fell into a chair, utterly exhausted, saying to myself
that all was lost, my daughter, my son-in-law, my country—all, and that
it would be better for me to die, too.

My cries had been heard; some people came up stairs, Father and Mother
Michel, I think. Yes, it was they who sent for the doctor.  I was like
one distracted, without a sign of reason; my ears were singing; it
seemed to me that I was asleep and was having a horrible dream.

Long after the voice of Dr. Carrière roused me from my stupor; he said:

"Take him away!  Do not let him see this! Take him away!"

Some people took me by the arms; then I grew indignant, and I cried:

"No, sir; I will not be taken away!  I want to stay, she is my daughter!
Have you children, that you tell them to take me away?  I want to save
her!  I want to defend her!"

"Let him alone," said the doctor, sadly; "let the poor fellow alone.
But you must be silent," he said to me; "your cries may kill her."

I fell back in my seat, murmuring:

"I will not cry out any more, sir; I will say nothing.  Only let me stay
by her; I will be very quiet."

A few minutes after, Dr. Carriére left the room, making a sign to the
others to withdraw.

A great many people followed him, a small number remained.  I saw them
moving to and fro, arranging the bed and raising the pillows, whispering
among themselves.  The silence was profound.  Time passed.  A priest
appeared with his assistants; they began to pray in Latin.  It was the
last offices of the church.  The good women, kneeling, uttered the
responses.

All disappeared.  It was then about five o’clock in the evening.  The
lamp was lighted.  I rose softly and approached the bed.

My daughter, looking as beautiful as an angel, her eyes half open, still
breathed; I called her in a whisper: "Marie-Rose!  Marie-Rose!" crying
bitterly as I spoke.

It seemed every minute as if she was about to look at me and answer,
"Father!"

But it was only the light that flickered on her face.  She no longer
stirred.  And from minute to minute, from hour to hour, I listened to
her breathing, which was growing gradually shorter and shorter.  I
looked at her cheeks and her forehead, gradually growing paler.  At
last, uttering a sigh, she lifted her head, which was slightly drooping,
and her blue eyes opened slowly.

A good woman, who was watching with me, took a little mirror from the
table and held it to her lips; no cloud dimmed the surface of the glass;
Marie-Rose was dead.

I said nothing, I uttered no lamentations, and I followed like a child
those who led me into the next room.  I sat down in the shadow, my hands
on my knees; my courage was broken.

And now it is ended.  I have told you all, George.

Need I tell you of the funeral, the coffin, the cemetery?  and then of
my return to the little room where Marie-Rose and I had lived together;
of my despair at finding myself alone, without relations, without a
country, without hope, and to say to myself, "You will live thus
always—always until the worms eat you!"

No, I cannot tell you about that; it is too horrible.  I have told you
enough.

You need only know that I was like a madman, that I had evil ideas which
haunted me, thoughts of vengeance.

It was not I, George, who cherished those terrible thoughts; it was the
poor creature abandoned by heaven and earth, whose heart had been torn
out, bit by bit, and who knew no longer where to lay his head.

I wandered through the streets; the good people pitied me; Mother Ory
gave me all my meals. I learned that later.  Then I did not think of
anything; my evil thoughts did not leave me; I talked of them alone,
sitting behind the stove of the inn, my chin on my hands, my elbows on
my knees, and my eyes fixed on the floor.

God only knows what hatred I meditated. Mother Ory understood all, and
the excellent woman, who wished me well, told M. d’Arence about me.

One morning, when I was alone in the inn parlour, he came to talk things
over with me, reminding me that he had always shown himself very
considerate towards me, that he had always recommended me as an honest
man, a good servant, full of zeal and probity, in whom one could repose
perfect trust, and that he hoped it would be that way till the end; that
he was sure of it; that a brave, just man, even in the midst of the
greatest misfortunes, would show himself the same that he was in
prosperity; that duty and honour marched before him; that his greatest
consolation and his best was to be able to say to himself: "I am cast
down, it is true; but my courage remains to me; my good conscience
supports me; my enemies themselves are forced to confess that fate has
been unjust to me."

He talked to me in this manner for a long time, pacing up and down the
room; and I, who had not shed a tear at my daughter’s funeral, I burst
out crying.

Then he told me that the time had come to depart; that the sight of the
Prussians only embittered my nature; that he would give me a letter of
recommendation for one of his intimate friends in Paris; that I would
obtain there a situation with a small salary, either on the railway or
elsewhere; and that in this way, when my pension was paid to me, I could
live in peace, not happy, but far from all that reminded me unceasingly
of my misfortunes.

I was ready to do anything that he wished, George, but he wanted nothing
but for my own good.

So I set out, and for the last three years I have been one of the
superintendents of the Eastern Railway Station.



                                  *XL*


When I arrived in the midst of the great confusion after the siege, I
had the pain of seeing a terrible thing, the recollection of which adds
to my suffering—Frenchmen fighting against Frenchmen. The great city was
in flames, and the Prussians outside looked at this sight with a
barbarous joy.

"There is no longer any Paris," they said; "no longer any Paris."

The horrible envy that gnawed these people was satisfied.

Yes, I have seen that!  I thought that it was all over with us; I
shuddered at it.  I cried, "The Almighty has determined that France
shall descend into the abyss!"

But that, thanks to Heaven, has also passed away.  The recollection
remains; let us hope that it will never perish.

And that was not all.  After these great calamities I was obliged to
witness, as I fulfilled the duties of my post, pass, day by day, before
my eyes, the great emigration of our brothers of Alsace and Lorraine;
men, women, children, old men, by thousands, going to earn their living
far from their native land—in Algeria, in America, everywhere.

Our poor countrymen all recognised me by my face; they said, "He is one
of our people."

The sight of them does me good also; it is like a breath from one’s
native land of good and wholesome air.  We shook hands.  I pointed them
out the hotel where one can live cheaply; I rendered them all the little
services that one can render to friends of a day, who will retain a kind
remembrance of him who held out his hand to them.

And in the evening, when I went back to my little room under the roof,
and thinking about these things, I am still glad at not being quite
useless in this world; it is my only consolation, George; sometimes this
thought gives me a good night’s rest.

Other days, when the weather is gloomy, when it rains, when it is cold,
or when I have met in the street the bier of a young girl, with its
white wreath, then sad thoughts get the upper hand.  I wrap my old cloak
around me when my work is over, and I wander aimlessly through the
streets, among the people who are all occupied by their own affairs and
pay no attention to any one. I walk very far, sometimes to the Arc de
Triomphe, sometimes to the Garden of Plants, and I return utterly
exhausted.  I fall asleep, trying not to think of the happy days of the
past, for those remembrances make my heart throb even in a dream, and
suddenly I awake, covered with perspiration, and crying:

"All is over.  You have no longer a daughter. You are alone in the
world."

I am obliged to rise, to light my lamp, and to open the window in order
to calm myself a little, to soothe myself and to restore myself to
reason.

Sometimes, too, I dream that I am at the forest house with Jean Merlin
and Marie-Rose. I see them; I talk to them; we are happy.  But when I
awake—do not let us talk of it; what is ended cannot return.

Things will go on this way as long as they can.  I shall not be buried
with the old people, neither with Jean; nor with my daughter.  We will
all be scattered.  This thought also gives me pain.

I must confess, George, that our brothers of Paris have received us very
well; they have helped us, they have aided us in a hundred ways; they
have done all that they could for us.  But after such terrible
disasters, they themselves having been so severely tried, the poverty
was still very great; for a long time in the garrets of La Villette, of
La Chapelle, and of the other suburbs, we suffered from cold and hunger.

To-day the greatest portion of the stream of emigration has passed;
almost all the labourers have got work; the women and the old people
have found a refuge, and the children are receiving instruction in the
public schools.

Others are always coming, the emigation will last as long as the
annexation, for Frenchmen cannot bow their heads like the Germans under
the Prussians’ despotism, and the annexation will last long if we
continue to dispute over party questions instead of uniting together in
the love of our fatherland.

But do not let us speak of our dissensions; that is too sad.

The only thing that I have still to say to you before ending this
sorrowful story is, that in the midst of my misfortunes, I do not accuse
the Almighty; no, the Almighty is just; we deserve to suffer.  Whence
came all our misfortunes? From one man who had taken an oath before God
to obey the laws, and who trampled them under his feet, who had those
killed who defended them, and transported far away to the islands
thousands of his fellow beings whose courage and good sense he feared.
Well, this man we approved of; we voted for him, not once but twenty
times; we took, so to speak, his evil actions upon ourselves; we threw
aside justice and honour; we thought, "Interest does everything; this
man is shrewd; he has succeeded; we must support him."

When I remember that I voted for that wretch, knowing that it was not
just, but afraid of losing my place, when I remember that, I cry,
"Frederick, may God forgive you!  You have lost everything, friends,
relatives, country—everything. Confess that you deserved it.  You were
not ashamed to support the man who caused thousands of Frenchmen, as
honest as yourself, also to lose their little all.  You voted for
strength against justice; you must bow beneath the law that you
accepted.  And, like millions of others, you, too, gave that man the
right to declare war; he did so.  He staked you, your country, your
family, your possessions, those of all Frenchmen in the interests of his
dynasty, without thinking of anything, without reflecting or taking any
precautions; he lost the game.  Pay and be silent.  Do not reproach the
Almighty with your own stupidity and injustice; beat your breast and
bear your iniquity."  That is what I think.

May others profit by my example; may they always nominate honest people
to represent them; may honesty, disinterestedness and patriotism come
before anything else; people who are too cunning are often dishonest,
and people who are too bold, who do not fear to cry out against the
laws, are also capable of upsetting them and of putting their own will
in the place of them.

That is the best advice to be given to the French; if they profit by it
all will go well, we will regain our frontiers; if they do not profit by
it, that which happened to the Alsatians and Lorrainers will happen to
them also, province by province; they may repent, but it will be too
late.

As to the Germans, they will reap what they have sown.  Now they are at
the pinnacle of power; they made all Europe tremble, and they are
foolish enough to rejoice at it.  It is very dangerous to frighten every
one; we learned it at our own expense; they will learn it in their turn.
Because Bismark has succeeded in his enterprises, they look upon him as
a kind of a god; they will not see that this man employed only dishonest
means: strategy, lies, espionage, corruption and violence.  Nothing is
ever firm that is erected on such a foundation.

But to tell all this or nothing to the Germans would come to the same
thing; they are intoxicated by their victories, and will only awake when
Europe, wearied by their ambition and by their insolence, will rise to
bring them to reason; then they will be forced to acknowledge, as we
have acknowledged ourselves, that, if strength sometimes overwhelms
right, justice is eternal.



                     THE END OF BRIGADIER FREDERICK



                           *THE DEAN’S WATCH*



                                  *I*


The day before the Christmas of 1832, my friend Wilfrid, his double-bass
slung over his shoulder, and I with violin under my arm, were on our way
from the Black Forest to Heidelberg. An extraordinary quantity of snow
had fallen that season.  As far as our eyes could see over the great
desert plain before us, not a trace of the route, either of road or
path, was to be discovered. The north wind whistled its shrill aria
about our ears with a monotonous persistence, and Wilfrid, with wallet
flattened against his thin back, his long heron-legs stretched to the
utmost, and the visor of his little flat cap pulled down over his nose,
strode along before me, humming a gay air from "Ondine."  Every now and
then he turned his head with a grim smile, and cried:

"Comrade, play me the waltz from ’Robin’—I wish to dance!"

A peal of laughter always followed, and then the brave fellow would push
on again with fresh courage.  I toiled on behind in his footsteps, with
the snow up to my knees, and my spirits sinking lower and lower every
moment.

The heights about Heidelberg had begun to appear on the distant horizon,
and we were hoping to reach the town before nightfall, when we heard the
gallop of a horse behind us.  It was about five o’clock, and great
flakes of snow were whirling about in the gray light.  Soon the rider
was within twenty steps.  He slackened his pace, examining us out of one
corner of his eye.  We also examined him.

Imagine a big man with red beard and hair, wrapped in a brown cloak,
over which was loosely thrown a pelisse of fox-skins; on his head a
superb cocked-hat; his hands buried in fur gloves reaching to the
elbows.  On the croup of his stout stallion was strapped a well-filled
valise. Evidently he was some burly sheriff, or burgomaster.

"Hey, my lads!" he cried, drawing one of his big hands from the muff
which hung across his saddle-bow, and clapping his charger’s neck, "we
are going to Heidelberg, I see, to try a little music."

Wilfrid eyed the traveller askance.

"Is that any affair of yours, sir?" he answered, gruffly.

"Eh? yes; I should have a piece of advice to give you."

"Well, you can keep it till it’s asked for," retorted Wilfrid,
quickening his pace.

I cast a second glance at our new companion. He looked exactly like a
great cat, with ears standing out from his head, his eyelids half
closed, and a long, bristling mustache; altogether he had a sort of
purring, paternal air.

"My friend," he began again, this time addressing me, "the best thing
you can do is to return whence you came."

"Why, sir?"

"The famous maestro Prinenti, from Novare, has announced a grand
Christmas concert at Heidelberg.  Everybody is going to it; you will not
get a single kreutzer."

This was too much for Wilfrid.

"A fig for your maestro, and all the Prinentis in this world!" he cried,
snapping his fingers. "This lad here, with his long curls and blue eyes,
and not a hair yet on his chin, is worth an army of your Italian
charlatans.  Though he never played outside the Black Forest, he can
handle a bow with the first musician in Europe, and will draw melody
from his violin such as was never heard before in Heidelberg."

"Hear, hear!" cried the stranger.

"It is just as I tell you," said Wilfrid, blowing on his fingers, which
were red with the cold.

Then he set out to run, and I followed him as best I might, thinking he
wished to make game of the traveller, who kept up with us, however, at a
little trot.

In this way we went on in silence for more than half a league.  Suddenly
the stranger cried out, in a harsh voice:

"Whatever your talents may be, go back to the Black Forest.  We have
vagabonds enough in Heidelberg already without you.  It is good advice I
give you—you had best profit by it."

Wilfrid was about to make an angry retort, but the rider had started off
at a gallop, and already reached the grand avenue of the elector. At the
same moment, a great flock of crows rose from the plain, and seemed to
follow him, filling the air with their loud cries.

About seven o’clock in the evening we reached Heidelberg.  There, in
fact, we found posted on all the walls Prinenti’s flaming placards,
"Grand Concert, Solo, etc., etc."  We wandered about among the different
ale-houses, in which we met several musicians from the Black Forest, all
old comrades of ours, who immediately engaged us to play in their band.
There were old Bremer, the violoncellist; his two sons, Ludwig and Carl,
capital second violins; Heinrich Siebel, the clarinet-player; and big
Berthe with her harp.  Wilfrid with his bass-viol, and myself as first
violin, made up the troupe.

It was agreed that we should all go together, make one purse, and divide
after Christmas. Wilfrid had already engaged a room for himself and me.
It was on the sixth story of the little tavern "Pied-du-Mouton," in the
middle of the Holdergasse, and was only a garret, though, luckily, it
had a sheet-iron stove, in which we lighted a fire to dry ourselves.

While we were sitting quietly over the fire, roasting chestnuts and
discussing a pot of wine, who should come tripping up the stairs and
knock at the door but little Annette, the maid of the inn, in scarlet
petticoat and black-velvet bodice, with cheeks like roses, and lips as
red as cherries! Next moment she had thrown herself into my arms with a
cry of joy.

We were old friends, the pretty Annette and I, for we were both from the
same village, and, to say truth, my heart had long been captive to her
bright eyes and coquettish airs.

"I saw you go up just now," she said, drawing a stool to my side, "and
here I am, come for a minute’s talk with you."

With that she began such a string of questions about this one and
that—in fact, about every one in our village—that I declare to you it
was as much as I could do to answer the half of them. Every little while
she would stop and look at me with such a tender air—we would have been
there till this time, had not suddenly Mother Gréder Dick screamed from
the bottom of the stairs:

"Annette, Annette, are you ever coming?"

"This minute, madame, this minute," cried the poor child, jumping up in
a fright.  She gave me a little pat on the cheek, and flew to the door.
But, just as she was going out, she stopped.

"Ah!" she cried, turning back, "I forgot to tell you.  Have you
heard——?"

"What?"

"The death of our pro-recteur Zahn?"

"Well, what is that to us?"

"Ah, yes; but take care, sir, take care—if your papers are not all
right!  To-morrow morning, at eight o’clock, they will come to ask for
them.  They have arrested, oh! so many people during the last two weeks.
The pro-recteur was assassinated yesterday evening, in the library, at
the Cloister of Saint-Christophe.  Last week the old priest, Ulmet
Elias, who lived in the Jews’ quarter, was killed in the same way.  Only
a few days before that they murdered the nurse, Christina Haas, and
Seligmann, the agate-merchant of the Rue Durlach.  So, my poor Kasper,"
she added, with a tender glance, "take good care of yourself, and be
sure that your papers are all right."

All the while she was speaking, the cries below continued.

"Annette, O Annette, will you come?  Oh, the miserable creature, to
leave me here all alone!"

And now, too, we could hear the shouts of the guests in the saloon
calling for wine, beer, ham, sausages.  Annette saw that she must go,
and ran down the stairs as quickly as she had come up.

"_Mon Dieu! mon Dieu!_" I heard her soft voice answering her mistress,
"what can be the matter, madame, that you should make such an outcry?
One would think the house were on fire."

Wilfrid closed the door after her, and came back to his seat.  We looked
at each other with some uneasiness.

"This is strange news," said he at last.  "At any rate, your papers are
all in order?"

"Certainly," I replied, and showed him my pass.

"Good!  There is mine, I had it viséed before we left.  But still, all
these murders bode no good to us.  I am afraid we shall make but a poor
business here.  Many families must be in mourning, and then, besides all
these annoyances, the trouble which the police will give us."

"Bah!" cried I, "you take too dismal a view of everything."

We continued to talk about these strange events until long past
midnight.  The fire in our little stove lighted up the angles of the
roof, the square dormer window with its three cracked panes of glass,
the mattress spread upon the bare boards, the blackened beams overhead,
the little fir table, which cast an unsteady shadow on the worm-eaten
floor.  A mouse, attracted by the heat, darted back and forth like an
arrow along the wall.  We could hear the wind without, whistling and
bellowing around the high chimney-stacks, sweeping the snow from the
gutters beneath the eaves in misty swirls.  I was dreaming of Annette.
Silence had fallen upon us.  Suddenly Wilfrid, throwing off his coat,
cried:

"It is time to sleep; put another stick of wood in the stove, and let us
go to bed."

"Yes, that is the best thing we can do," said I, and began to pull off
my boots.  Two minutes afterward we were stretched on the mattress, the
coverings drawn up to our chins, and a great log under our heads for a
pillow.  Wilfrid was asleep in a moment.  The light from the little
stove blazed up and died away, the wind redoubled its violence without,
and, in the midst of dreams of Annette, I, too, in my turn, slept the
sleep of the just.

About two o’clock in the morning I was awakened by a strange noise.  At
first I thought it was a cat running along the gutters; but, my ear
being close to the rafters, I could not remain long in doubt.  Some one
was walking over the roof.  I touched Wilfrid with my elbow to awaken
him.

"Hist!" whispered he, pressing my hand.

He also had heard the noise.  The fire was just dying out, the last
feeble flame flickered on the crumbling walls.  I was on the point of
springing from the bed, when, at a single blow, the little window, kept
closed by a fragment of brick, was pushed open.  A pale face, with red
hair, eyes gleaming with phosphorescent light, and quivering cheeks
appeared in the opening, and looked about the room.  Our fright was so
great that we could not utter a sound.  The man passed first one leg,
then the other, through the window, and descended into the garret so
carefully that not a board creaked under his footsteps.

This man, with heavy, round shoulders, short and thick-set, his face
wrinkled and set like a tiger couched to spring, was none other than the
rider who had overtaken us on the road to Heidelberg. But what a change
in his appearance since then! In spite of the excessive cold, he was in
his shirtsleeves, a pair of breeches belted about his waist, woollen
stockings, and shoes with silver buckles. A long knife, flecked with
blood, glittered in his hand.

Wilfrid and I gave ourselves up for lost.  But he did not seem to see us
under the shadow of the sloping roof, although the fire was fanned again
into a blaze by the current of cold air from the open window.  The
intruder seated himself on a stool, cowering and shivering in a strange
way. Suddenly his greenish-yellow eyes fixed themselves on me, his
nostrils dilated; for more than a minute, which seemed to me an age, he
stared at me.  The blood stood still in my veins.  Then at last, turning
towards the fire, he coughed with a husky, hoarse sound, like that which
a cat makes, without moving a muscle of his face.  Drawing a watch from
the fob of his pantaloons, he seemed to look at the hour, and then,
whether from absence of mind or some other reason, I know not, laid it
upon the table.  At length, rising from his seat with an air of
uncertainty, he looked towards the window, appeared for a moment to
hesitate, and then passed out of the door, leaving it wide open behind
him.

I jumped up to shove the bolt, but already the man’s steps were creaking
on the staircase two stories below.  An irresistible curiosity overcame
my terror.  I heard a window open, which looked upon the court, and, in
a moment, I was at the dormer in the landing of the stairs on the same
side.  The court, seen from this height, was like a deep well.  A wall,
fifty or sixty feet high, divided it into two parts.  On the right was
the court of a pork-butcher; on the left, that of the Pied-du-Mouton.
The wall was covered with moss and the rank vegetation which flourishes
in the shade. Its summit reached from the window which the marauder had
just opened, in a straight line to the roof of a great, gloomy building
in the rear of the Bergstrasse.  All this I took in at a glance, as the
moon shone out from among the heavy snow-laden clouds, and I trembled as
I saw the man come out through the window, and fly along the top of this
wall, his head bent forward, the long knife in his hand, while the wind
whistled and wailed a dismal chorus.

He gained the roof in front, and disappeared through a window.  I
believed I must be dreaming.  For several moments I remained with open
mouth, my breast bare, and my hair blown about by the wind and wet by
the sleet which fell from the eaves.  At last, waking from my stupor, I
returned to our garret, and found Wilfrid with face blanched, and
haggard with fright, and muttering a prayer under his breath.  I
hastened to bolt the door, throw some wood into the stove, and slip on
my clothes.

"Well?" asked my comrade, getting out of bed.

"Well," I replied, "we are safe this time.  If that man did not see us,
it was only because Heaven was not ready yet for us to die."

"Yes," he murmured, "yes; it is one of the assassins Annette told us
about.  Good Heavens! what a face! and what a knife!"

He fell back on the mattress.  I swallowed what was left of the wine in
the pitcher; and, as the fire was now burning brightly, filling the room
with its heat, and the bolt seemed a strong one, I began to regain my
courage.

Still, the watch was there; the man might return to look for it.  Our
fears awoke again at this idea.

"What is to be done now?" asked Wilfrid. "Our shortest plan will be to
go back at once to the Black Forest.  I have no wish to play any more
double-bass.  You can do as you choose——"

"But why?  What should make us go back? We have committed no crime."

"Hush! speak low!" whispered he.  "The word crime alone is enough to
hang us if any one heard.  Poor devils like us serve as examples for
others.  Were they only to find this watch here——"

"Come, Wilfrid," said I; "it is no use to lose one’s head.  I dare say,
a crime has been committed this night in the neighbourhood, it is more
than probable; but, instead of flying, an honest man should aid justice;
he should——"

"But how aid it? how?"

"The simplest way will be to take the watch to-morrow to the provost,
and tell him what has taken place."

"Never! never!  I would not dare touch the watch."

"Very well; I will go myself.  Come, let us go to bed again."

"No; I cannot sleep any more."

"As you will.—Light your pipe, then, and let us talk."

As soon as day dawned, I took the watch from the table.  It was a very
fine one, with two dials—one for the hours, the other for the minutes.
Wilfrid seemed, however, by this time, to have regained his assurance.

"Kasper," he said, "all things considered, it will be better for me to
go to the provost.  You are too young for such a piece of business.  You
will not be able to explain properly."

"Just as you choose," I replied.

"Besides, it would seem strange for a man of my age to send a child."

"Oh, yes, Wilfrid; I understand."

I saw that his self-esteem had driven him to this resolution.  He would
have been ashamed to own to his comrades that he had shown less courage
than I.

He took the watch, and we descended the stairs with grave faces.
Passing through the alley which leads to the street Saint-Christophe, we
heard the clinking of glasses and knives and forks.  At the same time I
recognised the voices of old Bremer and his two sons.

"Faith, Wilfrid," said I, "a good glass of wine would not be bad before
we go out."

I pushed open the door into the saloon.  All our friends were there;
violins and horns hung upon the walls—the harp in one corner.  They
received us with joyful cries of welcome, and made us take seats at the
table.

"Hey!" cried old Bremer; "good luck, comrades! See the snow, and the
wind!  The saloons will all be full.  Every flake of snow in the air is
a florin in our pockets!"

The sight of my little Annette, as fresh and piquant as ever, smiling on
me with eyes and lips full of love, gave me new spirits.  The best
pieces of ham were for me; and, every time that she came to set down a
glass near me, her hand would tenderly press my shoulder.  Ah! how my
heart beat, as I thought of the nuts which we had cracked together the
night before!

Still, the pale face of the assassin would pass from time to time before
my eyes, making me shudder at the recollection.  I looked at Wilfrid. He
was grave and thoughtful.  As eight o’clock struck, we all rose to go,
when suddenly the door opened, and three mean-looking fellows, with
leaden faces, and eyes sharp as rats’, followed by several more of the
same sort, presented themselves on the threshold.  One of them, with a
long nose, which seemed to be on the scent for some mischief, a great
cudgel in his fist, advanced with the demand—

"Your papers, gentlemen!"

Every one hastened to satisfy him.  Unhappily, however, Wilfrid, who was
standing near the stove, was seized with a sudden fit of trembling; and,
as he saw the practised eye of the police agent regarding him with an
equivocal look, the unlucky idea occurred to him of letting the watch
slip down into his boot.  Before it reached its destination, however,
the officer stepped up to him, and, slapping him on the leg, cried, in a
bantering tone:

"Ah! ha! something seems to trouble you here!"

Upon this, Wilfrid, to the consternation of all, succumbed entirely.  He
fell back upon a bench, as pale as death; and Madoc, the chief of
police, with a malicious shout of laughter, drew forth the watch from
his pantaloons.  But, the moment the agent looked at it, he became
grave.

"Let no one go out!" he thundered to his followers; "we’ve the whole
gang here.  ’Tis the watch of the dean, Daniel Van der Berg.  Quick! the
handcuffs!"

Thereupon arose a terrible tumult.  Giving ourselves up for lost, I
slipped down under the bench close to the wall.  In spite of their
protests, poor old Bremer, his sons, and Wilfrid, were all handcuffed.
Just then I felt a soft little hand passed gently about my neck.  It was
Annette’s, and I pressed my lips upon it as a last adieu, when, seizing
my ear, she pulled it gently—gently. Under one end of the table I saw
the cellar-door open; I slipped through; the trap-door closed.

All had passed in a second.  In my hiding-place I heard them trampling
over the door; then everything was still; my unlucky comrades were gone.
Without, on the door-step, I heard Mother Grédel Dick lamenting in
shrill tones the dishonour which had fallen on the Pied-du-Mouton.

All day long I remained squeezed behind a hogshead, with back bent and
legs doubled under me—a prey to a thousand fears.  Should a dog stray
into the cellar—should the landlady take a fancy to refill the jug
herself, or a fresh cask have to be broached—the least chance might be
my destruction.  I imagined old Bremer and his sons, Wilfrid, big Berthe
herself, all hanging from the gibbet on the Harberg, in the middle of a
great flock of crows that were feasting at their expense. My hair stood
on end.

Annette, as anxious as myself, carefully closed the door each time she
left the cellar.

"Leave the door alone," I heard the old woman say.  "Are you a fool, to
lose half your time in opening it?"

After that the door remained open.  I saw the tables surrounded by new
guests, who discussed in loud tones the doings of the famous band of
murderers who had just been captured, and exulted over the fate in store
for them.  All the musicians from the Black Forest, they said, were
bandits, who made a pretence of their trade to find their way into
houses and spy out the bolts and bars, and then, next morning, the
master would be found murdered in his bed, the mistress and children
with their throats cut.  They ought all to be exterminated without pity.

"All the town will go to see them hanged!" cried Mother Grédel.  "It
will be the happiest day of my life!"

"And to think that the watch of Maître Daniel was the means of their
capture!  He told the police of its loss, and gave them a description of
it this morning; and, an hour afterward, Madoc bagged the whole covey."

Thereupon followed shouts of laughter and triumph.  Shame, indignation,
terror, made me hot and cold by turns.

Night came at last.  All the drinkers had gone, save two or three who
still lingered over their cups.  A single candle remained lighted in the
saloon.

"Go to bed, madame," said Annette’s soft voice to Mother Grédel; "I will
stay till these gentlemen go."

The carousers, tipsy as they were, understood the hint, and took their
leave, one by one.

"At last," thought I, as I heard the last one go, stumbling and
hiccoughing through the door—"they are all gone.  Mother Grédel will go
to bed.  Annette will come, without delay, to deliver me."

In this agreeable anticipation, I had already disentangled my numb
limbs, when these dreadful words of the portly landlady met my ears:

"Annette, go and close up, and do not forget the bar.  I am going myself
into the cellar."

Alas! this seemed to be the praiseworthy, but for me most unlucky,
custom of the good lady—so as to see herself that all was right.

"But, madame," stammered Annette, "there is no need; the cask is not
empty——"

"Mind your own business," interrupted her mistress, whose candle already
was shining at the top of the steps.

I had hardly time to crouch again behind the cask.  The old woman went
from one cask to the other, stooping beneath the low ceiling of the
vault.

"Oh, the hussy!" I heard her mutter; "how she lets the wine leak out!
But only wait—I will teach her to close the stopcocks better.  Just to
see! just to see!"

The light cast dark shadows on the walls glistening with moisture.  I
made myself as small as possible.

Suddenly, just as I thought the danger over, I heard a sigh from the
stout dame—a sigh so long, so lugubrious, that it struck me at once.
Something extraordinary must have happened.  I risked a look.  To my
horror, I saw Mother Grédel, with open mouth, and eyes starting from her
head, staring at the ground beneath the cask behind which I was standing
motionless.  She had espied one of my feet, projecting beneath the joist
which supported the hogshead.  No doubt, she thought she had discovered
the chief of the brigands, hidden there for the purpose of cutting her
throat during the night.  My resolution was taken quickly.  Rising up, I
said in a low voice:

"Madame, for Heaven’s sake, have pity on me!  I am——"

But thereupon, without listening—without even looking at me, she began
to scream like any peacock—the shrillest, the most ear-piercing
screams—and at the same time to clamber up the stairs as fast as her fat
body would let her. Almost beside myself with terror, I clung to her
robe—fell on my knees beside her.  But this was worse still.

"Help! help! assassins! murder!" she shrieked. "Oh! oh!  Let me go!
Take my money!  Oh! oh!"

It was frightful.

"Look at me, madame," I tried to say; "I am not what you think."

But she was crazy with fear; she raved, she gasped, she bawled at the
top of her lungs—so that, had we not been underground, the whole quarter
would have been aroused.  In despair, and furious at her stupid folly, I
clambered over her back, and gained the door before her—slammed it in
her face, and shoved the bolt.  During the struggle the light had been
extinguished, and Mistress Grédel remained in the dark, her voice only
faintly heard at intervals.

Exhausted, almost annihilated, I looked at Annette, whose distress was
equal to mine.  We stood listening in silence to the faint cries.
Gradually they died away and ceased.  The poor woman must have fainted.

"Oh, Kasper!" cried Annette, clasping her hands.  "What is to be done?
Fly!  Save yourself!  Have you killed her?"

"Killed her?  I?"

"No matter—fly!  Here—quick!"

And she drew the bar from before the street-door. I rushed into the
street, without even thanking her—ungrateful wretch that I was!  The
night was black as ink—not a star to be seen, not a lamp lighted, snow
driving before the wind.  I ran on for half an hour, at least, before I
stopped to take breath.  I looked up—imagine my despair—there I was,
right in front of the Pied-du-Mouton again.  In my terror I had made the
tour of the quarter perhaps two or three times, for aught I knew.  My
legs were like lead; my knees trembled.

The inn, just before deserted, was buzzing like a bee-hive.  Lights went
from window to window. It was full, no doubt, of police-agents.
Exhausted with hunger and fatigue, desperate, not knowing where to find
refuge, I took the most singular of all my resolutions.

"Faith," said I to myself, "one death as well as another!  It is no
worse to be hung than to leave one’s bones on the road to the Black
Forest. Here goes!"

And I entered the inn to deliver myself up to justice.  Besides the
shabby men with crushed hats and big sticks whom I had already seen in
the morning, who were going and coming, and prying everywhere, before a
table were seated the grand-provost Zimmer, dressed all in black,
solemn, keen-eyed, and the secretary Rôth, with his red wig, imposing
smile, and great, flat ears, like oyster-shells.  They paid hardly any
attention at all to me—a circumstance which at once modified my
resolution.  I took a seat in one corner of the hall, behind the great
stove, in company with two or three of the neighbours, who had run in to
see what was going on, and called calmly for a pint of wine and a plate
of sauerkraut.

Annette came near betraying me.

"Ah, good Heavens!" she exclaimed; "is it possible that you are here?"

But luckily no one noticed her exclamation, and I ate my meal with
better appetite, and listened to the examination of the good lady
Grédel, who sat propped up in a big arm-chair, with hair dishevelled,
and eyes still dilated by her fright.

"Of what age did this man seem to be?" asked the provost.

"Forty or fifty, sir.  It was an immense man, with black whiskers, or
brown—I don’t know exactly which—and a long nose, and green eyes."

"Had he no marks of any kind—scars, for instance?"

"No, I can’t remember.  Luckily, I screamed so loud, he was frightened;
and then I defended myself with my nails.  He had a great hammer and
pistols.  He seized me by the throat.  Ah! you know, sir, when one tries
to murder you, you have to defend yourself."

"Nothing more natural, more legitimate, my dear madame.—Write, M.
Rôth—’The courage and presence of mind of this excellent lady were truly
admirable.’"

Then came Annette’s turn, who simply declared that she had been so
frightened she could remember nothing.

"This will do," said the provost.  "If we need to make further inquiry,
we will return tomorrow."

The examination being thus ended, every one departed, and I asked Mme.
Grédel to give me a room for the night.  She did not in the least
recollect ever having seen me before.

"Annette," she gasped, "take the gentleman to the little green room in
the third story.  As for myself, sir, you see I cannot even stand on my
legs!  O good Lord! good Lord! what does not one have to go through in
this world!"

With this she fell to sobbing, which seemed to relieve her.

"Oh, Kasper, Kasper!" cried Annette, when she had taken me to my room,
and we were alone, "who would have believed that you were one of the
band?  I can never, never forgive myself for having loved a brigand!"

"How?  Annette, you too?" I exclaimed; "this is too much!"

"No, no!" she cried, throwing her arms about my neck, "you are not one
of them—you are too good for that.  Still, you are a brave man just the
same to have come back."

I explained to her that I should have died of cold outside, and that
this alone had decided me. After a few minutes, however, we parted so as
not to arouse Mother Grédel’s suspicions, and having made certain that
none of the windows opened on a wall, and that the bolt on the door was
a good one, I went to bed and soon was fast asleep.



                                  *II*


When I drew the curtain of my bed next morning, I saw that the
window-panes were white with snow, which was heaped up also on the sill
without.  I thought mournfully of my poor comrades’ fate.  How they must
have suffered from cold!  Old Bremer and big Berthe especially—my heart
ached for them.

While I was absorbed in these sad reflections a strange noise arose
outside.  It drew near the inn, and, not without fear and trembling, I
jumped out of bed and rushed to the window, to see what new danger
threatened.

They were bringing the terrible band to confront it with Mme. Grédel
Dick.  My poor companions came down the street between two files of
policemen, and followed by a perfect avalanche of ragamuffins, yelling
and hissing like true savages. There was poor Bremer, handcuffed to his
son Ludwig, then Carl and Wilfrid, and last of all stout Berthe, who
walked by herself, lamenting her fate all the while in heart-rending
tones:

"For Heaven’s sake, gentlemen, for Heaven’s sake, have pity on a poor
innocent harpist! I—kill!  I—rob!  Oh! good Lord! can it be possible?"

And she wrung her hands.  The others looked doleful enough as they
walked with heads bent, and dishevelled hair hanging over their faces.

The procession, rabble and all, turned into the dark alley which led to
the inn.  Presently the guards drove out the eager crowd, who remained
outside in the mud, with their noses flattened against the window-panes.

I dressed myself quickly, and opened my door, to see if there were not
some chance of escape, but I could hear voices and footsteps going to
and fro down-stairs, and made up my mind that the passages were well
guarded.  My door opened on the landing, just opposite the window which
our midnight visitor of the night before must have used in his flight.
At first I paid no attention to this window, but, while I remained
listening, on a sudden I perceived that it was open—that there was but
little snow on the sill, and drawing near I perceived that there were
fresh tracks along the wall.  I shuddered at this discovery.  The man
had been there again, perhaps he came every night.  The cat, the weasel,
the ferret, all such beasts of prey, have their accustomed paths in this
way.  In a moment, everything was clear to my mind.

"Ah," thought I, "if chance has thus put the assassin’s fate in my
hands, my poor comrades may be saved."

Just at this moment the door of the saloon was opened, and I could hear
some words of the examination going on.

"Do you admit having participated, on the 20th of this month, in the
assassination of the priest Ulmet Elias?"

Then followed some words which I could not make out, and the door was
closed again.  I leaned my head on the banister, debating in my mind a
great, an heroic resolution, "Heaven has put the fate of my companions
in my hands.  I can save them.  If I recoil from such a duty, I shall be
their murderer! my peace of mind, my honour, will be gone forever!  I
shall feel myself the most contemptible of men!"

For a long time I hesitated, but all at once my resolution was taken.  I
descended the stairs and made my way into the hall.

"Have you never seen this watch?" the provost was saying to Grédel.
"Try to recollect, madame."

Without awaiting her answer, I advanced and replied myself, in a firm
voice: "This watch, sir, I have seen in the hands of the assassin
himself, I recognise it, and I can deliver the assassin into your hands
this very night, if you will but listen to me."

Profound silence for a moment followed my address.  The astounded
officials looked at each other; my comrades seemed to revive a little.

"Who are you, sir?" demanded the provost, recovering himself.

"I am the comrade of these unfortunate men, and I am not ashamed to own
it," I cried, "for all, all of them, though poor, are honest.  Not one
of them is capable of committing the crime they are accused of."

Once more there was silence.  The great Berthe began to sob under her
breath.  The provost seemed to reflect.  At last, looking at me sternly,
he said:

"Where do you pretend you will find the assassin for us?"

"Here, sir, in this house, and, to convince you, I only ask to speak one
moment to you in private."

"Come," said he, rising.

He motioned to the chief detective, Madoc, to follow us, and we went
out.

I ran quickly up-stairs; the others close behind me.  On the third
story, I stopped before the window, and pointed out the tracks in the
snow.

"There are the assassin’s footsteps," said I. "This is where he passes
every evening.  Night before last he came at two o’clock in the morning.
Last night he was here; no doubt he will return to-night."

The provost and Madoc looked at the footsteps for several moments
without saying a word.

"And how do you know these are the footprints of the murderer?" asked
the chief of police, incredulously.

I told them about the man’s entrance into our garret, and pointed out
above us the lattice through which I had watched his flight in the
moonlight.  "It was only by accident," I said, "that I had discovered
the footsteps this morning.

"Strange!" muttered the provost.  "This modifies considerably the
position of the prisoners. But how do you explain the murderer’s being
in the cellar?"

"The murderer was myself, sir."

And I related in a few words the events of the night before.

"That will do," said he, and then, turning to the chief of police,
continued:

"I must confess, Madoc, that these fiddlers’ story has seemed to me by
no means conclusive of their having had anything to do with the murders.
Besides, their papers establish, for several of them, an _alibi_ very
hard to disprove.—Still, young man, though the account you give us has
the appearance of being true, you will remain in our power until it is
verified.—Madoc, do not lose sight of him, and take your measures
accordingly."

With this he went down-stairs, collected his papers, and ordered the
prisoners to be taken back to jail.  Then, casting a look of contempt at
the corpulent landlady, he took his departure, followed by his
secretary.

"Madame," said Madoc, who remained with two of his men, "you will please
preserve the most profound silence as to what has taken place. Also,
prepare for this brave lad here the same room he occupied night before
last."

His tone admitted of no reply, and Mme. Grédel promised by all that was
sacred to do whatever they wished, if they would only save her from the
brigands.

"Give yourself no uneasiness about the brigands," replied Madoc.  "We
will stay here all day and all night to protect you.  Go quietly about
your affairs, and begin by giving us breakfast.—Young man, will you do
me the honour to breakfast with me?"

My situation did not permit me to decline this offer.  I accepted.

We were soon seated in front of a ham and a bottle of Rhine wine.  The
chief of police, in spite of his leaden face—his keen eye and great nose
like the beak of an eagle—was a jolly enough fellow after a few glasses
of wine.  He tried to seize Annette by the waist as she passed.  He told
funny stories, at which the others shouted with laughter.  I, however,
remained silent, depressed.

"Come, young man," said Madoc, with a laugh, "try to forget the death of
your estimable grandmother.  We are all mortal.  Take a good drink, and
chase away all these gloomy thoughts."

So the time slipped away, amid clouds of tobacco-smoke, the jingling of
glasses, and clinking of cans.  We sat apart during the day in one
corner of the saloon.  Guests came to drink as usual, but they paid no
attention to us.  At nine o’clock, however, after the watchman had gone
his round, Madoc rose.

"Now," said he, "we must attend to our little business.  Close the door
and shutters—softly, madame, softly.  There, you and Mlle. Annette may
go to bed."

The chief and his two followers drew from their pockets bars of iron
loaded at the ends with leaden balls.  Madoc put a fresh cap on his
pistol, and placed it carefully in the breast-pocket of his overcoat, so
as to be ready at hand.

Then we mounted to the garret.  The too-attentive Annette had lighted a
fire in the stove. Madoc, muttering an oath between his teeth, hastened
to throw some water on the coals.  Then he pointed to the mattress.

"If you have any mind for it," said he to me, "you can sleep."

He blew out the candle, and seated himself with his two acolytes in the
back part of the room against the wall.  I threw myself on the bed,
murmuring a prayer that Heaven would send the assassin.

The hours rolled by.  Midnight came.  The silence was so profound I
could scarcely believe the three men sat there with eye and ear strained
to catch the least movement—the slightest sound. Minute after minute
passed slowly—slowly.  I could not sleep.  A thousand terrible images
chased each other through my brain.  One o’clock struck—two—yet
nothing—no one appeared.

At three o’clock one of the policemen moved. I thought the man was
coming—but all was silent again as before.  I began to think that Madoc
would take me for an impostor, to imagine how he would abuse me in the
morning.  And then my poor comrades, instead of aiding, I had only
riveted their chains!

The time seemed now to pass only too rapidly. I wished the night might
last forever, so as to preserve at least a ray of hope for me.

I was going over the same torturing fancies for the hundredth time—on a
sudden, without my having heard the least sound—the window opened—two
eyes gleamed in the aperture—nothing moved in the garret.

"They have gone to sleep!" thought I, in an agony of suspense.

The head remained there—motionless—watchful. The villain must suspect
something! Oh! how my heart thumped—the blood coursed through my veins!
And yet cold beads of sweat gathered on my forehead.  I ceased to
breathe.

Several minutes passed thus—then, suddenly, the man seemed to have
decided—-he glided down into the garret, with the same noiseless caution
as on the previous night.

But at the same instant a cry—a terrible, short, thrilling cry—vibrated
through the room.

"We have him!"

Then the whole house was shaken from garret to cellar by cries—the
stamping of feet—hoarse shouts.  I was petrified by terror.  The man
bellowed—the others drew their breaths in quick gasps—then came a heavy
fall which made the floor crack—and I heard only the gnashing of teeth
and clink of chains.

"Light!" cried the terrible Madoc.

By the flame of the burning coals, which cast a bluish light through the
room, I could dimly see the police-officers crouched over the body of a
man in his shirt-sleeves; one held him by the throat, the knees of the
other rested upon his chest; Madoc was roughly clasping the handcuffs on
his wrists.  The man lay as if lifeless, save that from time to time one
of his great legs, naked from knee to ankle, was raised and struck the
floor with a convulsive movement.  His eyes were starting from their
sockets—a blood-stained foam had gathered upon his lips.

Hardly had I lighted the candle when the officers started back with an
exclamation:

"Our dean!"

And all three rose to their feet, looking at each other with pale faces.

The bloodshot eye of the assassin turned towards Madoc, his lips moved,
but only after several seconds I could hear him murmur:

"What a dream!—Good God! what a dream!"

Then a sigh, and he lay motionless again.

I drew near to look at him.  Yes, it was he, the man who had overtaken
us on the road to Heidelberg, and advised us to turn back. Perhaps even
then he had a presentiment that we would be the cause of his ruin.
Madoc, who had recovered from his surprise, seeing that he did not move,
and that a thread of blood was oozing along the dusty floor, bent over
him and tore asunder the bosom of his shirt; he had stabbed himself to
the heart with his huge knife.

"Eh!" said Madoc, with a sinister smile. "Monsieur the dean has cheated
the gallows.  He knew where to strike, and has not missed his mark.  Do
you stay here," he continued to us. "I will go and inform the provost."

I remained with the two police agents, watching the corpse.

By eight o’clock next morning all Heidelberg was electrified with the
news.  Daniel Van der Berg, dean of the woollen-drapers, possessed of
wealth and position such as few enjoyed, who could believe that he had
been the terrible assassin?

A hundred different explanations were offered. Some said the rich dean
had been a somnambulist, and therefore not responsible for his
actions—others, that he had murdered from pure love of blood—he could
have had no other motive for such a crime.  Perhaps both theories were
true. In the somnambulist the will is dead, he is governed by his animal
instincts alone, be they pacific or sanguinary, and in Master Daniel Van
der Berg, the cruel face, the flat head swollen behind the ears—the
green eyes—the long bristling mustache, all proved that he unhappily
belonged to the feline family—terrible race, which kills for the
pleasure of killing.



                      THE END OF THE DEAN’S WATCH



                           *THE PORTRAITS OF
                         ERCKMANN AND CHATRIAN*


[Illustration: ÉMILE ERCKMANN.
After a portrait by Otto de
Frère, about 1856.]


The popular names of Erckmann-Chatrian, names which recall so many
stirring and patriotic tales, represent, to our great regret, only a
very obscure and unæsthetic iconography.  We have but very few pictures
of the authors of _Madame Thérèse_ and _L’Ami Fritz_.  Simple and rural
in their tastes, Erckmann and Chatrian, without at any time parading
that celebrity in which so many authors of "smart" literature take so
much pride, when in the most brilliant epoch of their fame still
preserved that rustic simplicity which characterized their first
appearance.  With their genial and upright natures these two Alsatians
never thought to put themselves before their works.  They were men of a
bygone age, Nature’s philosophers, wise men without vanity.  Our task in
respect of them has been difficult, but we hope not altogether
infelicitous.  It is not without a certain satisfaction that, by the
side of other personalities so often popularized, we have been able by
dint of persevering research to discover two or three portraits of these
writers.

Thus we have given as frontispiece two pictures of these Siamese twins
of literature, ingenuously painted, in timid and awkward strokes, by one
of those travelling professors of the familiar art of charcoal and
pencil, such as were to be seen in the villages of Alsace about fifty
years ago.  It portrays the "Amis Fritz" and the worthy pastors seated
round the tables in the old Gothic inns.

A detached portrait of Erckmann by Otto de Frère, of about the year 1864
or 1865, gives us an opportunity of studying more closely one of the
collaborators.  Émile Erckmann, born in 1822, at Phalsbourg, has in the
portrait before us already passed his fortieth year.  The calm features
and high bald forehead of the professor leave an impression of gravity
and thoughtfulness.  A pair of spectacles which he wears adds to his
pedagogical appearance.  Émile Erckmann represents the philosophic and
the contemplative side of this romantic couple.  Born in a town which
has given so many chiefs to the French army, he brought to their joint
work a deep and profound study of the Alsatian land, together with the
silent tenacity of his race. The confined life of his province, rural
and industrious in times of peace, implacable and ardent in the hour of
strife, finds in him an able and truthful historian.

[Illustration: Erckmann.
About 1868.]

The first portrait of Émile Erckmann is contemporary with _Madame
Thérèse_, one of the most admirable and best known of their _romans
nationaux_. A second portrait, which is reproduced here, seems a trifle
older and of about the year 1868. That year the Théâtre de Cluny in
Paris produced a piece adapted by the two friends from the novel _Le
Juif Polonais_.  Erckmann at that time wore a beard.  His dress, like
his appearance, is without care, but in that serious face and behind
those spectacles there shines the profound and concentrated look of one
accustomed to gaze upon the waters and the mountains of the Vosges; and
the expression, brilliant as a fixed star, obliterates all that is crude
and inharmonious in this face, which otherwise reminds one of a German
schoolmaster. In contradistinction to Chatrian, who spent nearly the
whole of his life in Paris and its environs, Erckmann seems to pine for
the green woods and scenery of that beautiful country where the healthy
and simple people are so much in harmony with nature.  Thus is he shown
to us here.  His features remind us both of Taine and Cherbuliez, though
he possessed nothing in common with them beyond that serene look full of
reflection and deduction.  Erckmann worked in Alsace; Chatrian, on the
contrary, whose administrative duties kept him all day at his desk in
Paris, could indulge his taste for novel-writing only in the evenings,
occasionally stealing a few hours in the day out of the time which he
was bound to devote to his Government work.  To the calm and quietude of
his companion Chatrian added the animation of an ardent and inventive
spirit.  To the reflective and poetic talent of Erckmann, he opposed the
hastiness of his own dashing and spontaneous genius.  To his pen, no
doubt, can be assigned all those parts where the story, leaving the
description of rustic life, plunges boldly into dramatic action.

A double portrait, from a photograph taken about 1874, depicts them in
the constrained attitude characteristic of the work of Daguerre and his
followers.  Doubtless they were together in that little house at Raincy,
where they often met to discuss the plot of some new work, and where the
photographer must have invaded their privacy.

[Illustration: ERCKMANN AND CHATRIAN.
About 1874.  (After a photograph)]

"Only once did I see that little garden at Raincy," writes one of their
friends, "but I can see again the kindly, portly Erckmann seated under
the shade of a cherry-tree, a picture which later on I saw reproduced
again at the Théâtre Français in _L’Ami Fritz_—Erckmann with his calm
face and shrewd eyes, smoking his pipe, and throwing out philosophical
theories between the whiffs of tobacco.  He is, as it were, the dream,
and Chatrian the reality in this partnership.  Erckmann would willingly
have kept to the fantastic tales of their early days, but it was
Chatrian, the type of the soldier, with the mustache and face of a
somewhat harsh-looking non-commissioned officer, and a strict
disciplinarian, who directed the collaboration towards the Napoleonic
era and the national chronicles.  This, in a measure, explains the
portraits and helps us to show them both, united in a work
simultaneously conceived, both simple and great in their baffling
expression, happy in knowing themselves understood by the multitude of
the poor and humble.  That photograph dates from the representation of
_L’Ami Fritz_ in the Théâtre Français.

After the defeat of the Alsatians these poets, deeply touched, sing to
us in their heartfelt words of the picturesqueness of their mountains
and forests, henceforth to be under German rule.  At that moment (and it
is also the last portrait we have been able to find) Erckmann is aged,
his beard and mustache are silvered, his appearance no longer that of a
professor, but rather that of an old officer whom the close of the war
has thrown out of employment.  Chatrian, on the other hand, though only
four years his junior, with hair and beard still abundant, seems alive
with vigour and strength.  His glance is keen, frank, and loyal, his
face open and bold, his attitude full of energy. No picture could
express better than this the striking contrast between two temperaments
so widely dissimilar, and yet so well designed to supplement each other
and form a complete whole.

[Illustration: ERCKMANN AND CHATRIAN.
After a caricature by André Gill, 1879.]

André Gill, in a typical and humorous caricature, has admirably shown
the expressions of the two writers as their faces appear above a jug of
beer, each with an Alsatian pipe in his mouth.  A peaceful happiness
marks their brotherly features. They are enjoying the dramatic successes
of the _Rantzau_ and Madame Thérèse.  The final disagreement, which did
not happen until 1890, at Villemomble, and which ended only with
Chatrian’s death, had not yet come, like a detestable intruder, to
separate those two strong characters. Their dreams, their work, and
their successes were still joint property at the time Andre Gill drew
this caricature.  The two writers have been termed the "Siamese twins"
of historical romance.  One cannot understand why these two figures, so
full of contrast, were never delineated in painting nor sculpture, in
view of the large measure of success which directed attention to their
names.  Such incomprehensible mysteries do sometimes occur in the lives
of celebrated men, and we fail to find the solution of the enigma, which
forces us to admit that Erckmann and Chatrian left us no portraits, no
important engravings, no great popular lithographs, nor any medallions
or busts.  If ever posterity thinks of raising a monument to the memory
of these two curious writers, the artist to whom the task is assigned
will have some difficulty in finding any other valid and interesting
documents than the few pictures which are collected here.

OCTAVE UZANNE.



                                THE END





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