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Title: Coward or Hero?
Author: Leclerc, Eugène
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 "Coward or Hero?" ***

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                            COWARD OR HERO?



                    [Illustration: COWARD OR HERO?]


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



                            COWARD OR HERO?

                      _TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH_

                                   BY

                            MRS. SALE BARKER


                       [Illustration:Decoration]


                    _WITH TWENTY-FIVE ILLUSTRATIONS_

                                 LONDON
                       GEORGE ROUTLEDGE AND SONS
                         BROADWAY, LUDGATE HILL
                      NEW YORK: 9, LAFAYETTE PLACE
                                  1884



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



             _UNIFORM IN SIZE AND PRICE WITH THIS VOLUME._

                                -------

ADVENTURES IN INDIA.

    By W. H. G. KINGSTON. With Coloured Frontispiece and 36
    Illustrations.


THE HOLIDAY ALBUM FOR BOYS.

    By HENRY FRITH. With 92 Illustrations.


BEING A BOY.

    By CHARLES DUDLEY WARNER.


HIS OWN MASTER.

    By J. T. TROWBRIDGE.


FRIEND OR FOE.

    By the Rev. H. C. ADAMS.


THE BOY CAVALIERS.

    By the Rev. H. C. ADAMS.


UNAC THE INDIAN.

    With Coloured Frontispiece and 23 Illustrations.



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



                               CONTENTS.

                                -------


        CHAPTER                                            PAGE

        I        THE CAPTAIN’S INDIGNATION                   13

        II       MY NOSE                                     16

        III      COLONEL BOISSOT’S SYSTEM                    18

        IV       GOOD RESOLUTIONS                            23

        V        I SEE A MONSTER                             25

        VI       FRIMOUSSE                                   29

        VII      MONTÉZUMA AND CROQUEMITAINE                 32

        VIII     THE COLONEL’S HORSE                         36

        IX       CHILDREN SHOULD CONFIDE IN THEIR PARENTS    39

        X        MONTÉZUMA’S ACCOMPLISHMENTS                 41

        XI       DARING EXPLOITS                             47

        XII      THE INTOLERANCE OF THE LITTLE BANTAM        51

        XIII     HAVE I A VOCATION?                          53

        XIV      AN ANXIOUS QUESTION HAPPILY SETTLED         56

        XV       A PROJECTED BATTLE                          59

        XVI      MY PROJECT IS DEFERRED                      62

        XVII     SCIENTIFIC REFLECTIONS ON MY NOSE MADE      67
                   BY DR. LOMBALOT

        XVIII    I DISCOVER THAT I DO NOT POSSESS THE        71
                   BUMP OF COMBATIVENESS

        XIX      THE BANTAM CEASES TO TROUBLE ME             75

        XX       MISS PORQUET’S SCHOOL                       78

        XXI      A FRIEND.—PRISONER’S BASE                   85

        XXII     STUDIES.—SCHOOLBOY TALK                     88

        XXIII    A DREADFUL ADVENTURE                        91

        XXIV     DON’T LET MARC KNOW                         94

        XXV      “THE BOY WHO HAS BEEN SO ILL”               99

        XXVI     MARC’S FRIENDSHIP FOR ME                   101

        XXVII    PLANS FOR THE HOLIDAYS                     105

        XXVIII   THE PROSPECT OF GOING TO COLLEGE           108

        XXIX     AT BOIS-CLAIR                              110

        XXX      ULYSSES MAKES HIS APPEARANCE               116

        XXXI     SAD NEWS FOR ME                            119

        XXXII    I GO TO COLLEGE.—A PUPIL CALLED            121
                   BORNIQUET

        XXXIII   MY NOSE STILL TROUBLES ME                  126

        XXXIV    “AZOR! AZOR!”                              128

        XXXV     THE THEORY OF SELF-DEFENCE                 134

        XXXVI    STILL A COWARD                             137

        XXXVII   INCONSISTENCY                              141

        XXXVIII  MY PARENTS’ DEVOTION TO ME                 143

        XXXXIX   A HUNTING COAT OF FORMER DAYS              146

        XL       THE EFFECT OF THE NEW COAT ON MY           149
                   CHARACTER

        XLI      THE BEETLE                                 155

        XLII     A FIGHT AT LAST                            160

        XLIII    MY FATHER IS SATISFIED                     163

        XLIV     EXTREMES ARE BAD                           166

        XLV      A LAST CHAPTER, WRITTEN BY ANOTHER HAND    171



                       [Illustration: Decoration]



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



                      LIST OF PAGE ILLUSTRATIONS.

                                -------


                                                                 PAGE

   COWARD OR HERO?                                     _Frontispiece_

   “IT WAS FRIMOUSSE, OUR GREAT CAT”                               27

   “HE MADE A SUDDEN SPRING, AND CAME WITH A BANG                  45
     AGAINST THE BARS”

   “THE DOCTOR STARED AT MY NOSE”                                  63

   “A GREAT BOY OF ELEVEN, RATHER A STUPID FELLOW”                 79

   “I UTTERED A PIERCING CRY”                                      95

   “I COULD NOT BEAR TO SEE A COW COMING UP TO ME”                111

   “HULLO, LOOK AT AZOR!”                                         131

   “WITH THAT COAT A NEW ERA IN MY LIFE BEGAN”                    151

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



                       [Illustration:Decoration]



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



                            COWARD OR HERO?

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



                                   I.

                       THE CAPTAIN’S INDIGNATION.


“NOW then! What is the matter?” asked my father in a sharp tone,
impatiently throwing down the newspaper.

“Nothing, papa,” I answered, but in a trembling voice.

“Nothing, you say? Then why did you pull down the blind? Why did you
hurry away from the window? And why, sir, has your nose turned white?
What is there to be seen in the street to frighten you like that?”

The tears rushed to my eyes, and I began to sob, as I replied, “It isn’t
in the street, it’s opposite.”

My father jumped up so quickly from his chair that it fell with a loud
noise on the polished floor of our little dining-room. As to me, I was
more dead than alive: my father’s fits of impatience terrified me. And
on these occasions I would stare at him, and look so stupid, that I used
to make him more angry than ever.

He went to the window, pulled up the blind, and looked at the opposite
house. There, at the window, stood a little boy of about my own age, who
was always watching to see me come to the window of our house in order
that he might make hideous faces and put out his tongue at me across the
street.

My father turned round: he stood with his arms tightly folded on his
chest; he looked at me from head to foot, and then he said in a sneering
voice full of scorn:—“So that is what frightened you! You unfortunate
creature, you will never be fit for anything as long as you live. A
great boy of eight years old! the son of a soldier, and of a brave
soldier, I flatter _myself_. Here am I burdened with a boy as timid as a
hare, yes a regular hare, to bring up. You may well be ashamed, sir.
Thirty years’ service! Five campaigns! Eight wounds! to come to this; to
come to bringing up a boy who is afraid of his own shadow! Hide
yourself, miserable child,” he went on, “for I am ashamed of you. How
shall I have the face to walk about the town; to meet people that I know
who will say; ‘How goes it, captain? How goes it with you?’ What am I to
answer to these inquiries, sir? _What_ am I to say?”

“I don’t know,” sobbed I.

“Ah! you don’t know; but I know too well. I must answer ‘You are very
kind, and I thank you; I am well, but I occupy my leisure hours in
educating a coward! And that coward, sir, is my own son.’ Yes, my own
son. And your nose! where did you get that nose, sir?”


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



                                  II.

                                MY NOSE.


FROM my earliest infancy the principal and dominant—too dominant—feature
in my face, was an immense nose.

Now that this organ is a little disguised by a thick moustache, my
friends, to flatter me, compare it to an eagle’s beak. But when I had no
moustache, my companions who had no wish to flatter me, compared it to
the beak of a Toucan. Unfortunately for me this was only too good a
comparison, and, what was worse than all, when I was frightened (which
alas! happened very often) my nose turned very pale.

“Now then,” would my father exclaim, “there’s that miserable nose of
yours turned white again: rub it, do, so as to give it a little colour.”

I was such a simple little fellow, that I used seriously to follow my
father’s advice, given in derision, and I would fall to rubbing my poor,
large nose most furiously: labour wasted! it turned pale just the same.

My father went on reading the newspaper which he had thrown down as I
have described; and I did not stir; I did not sit down nor did I dare go
out of the room, but I remained sulking in the corner.

I say sulking, because I can find no other word to describe the state
that my father’s fits of anger put me into. Anyone who had come into the
room and seen me in that corner would have said, “Here is a sulky little
boy!” But no, I was not really sulky; I felt very much hurt that my
father should speak so harshly to me to cure me of a fault which wounded
my own self-respect as much as it did his. I was not sulky then, only
deeply distressed; but all sorts of contradictory thoughts passed
through my head, and I knew neither how to utter nor explain them: I
remained silent and uncomfortable, and people made the mistake of
thinking me sulky.

I grieved over my father’s reprimand, and pondered sadly while he read
the newspaper. I asked myself, “How is it that other little boys can
help being cowards?”

I then made up my mind that for the future I _would_ be brave; yet I
could not help feeling an inward consciousness that, when the
opportunity came for me to show courage, I should only play the coward
again. I endured real torture that hour I passed in the corner, and was
finding my trouble insupportable, when suddenly the door opened to admit
my father’s old friend Colonel Boissot.


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



                                  III.

                       COLONEL BOISSOT’S SYSTEM.


COLONEL BOISSOT was an old brother-in-arms of my father, who, like him,
had retired from the army, and settled down to a quiet life at Loches.

After the first few words of welcome and politeness had passed, my
father asked the colonel, if he happened to know of any animal that was
more timid than a hare.


    [Illustration:Decoration]


“An animal more timid than a hare?” replied the colonel thoughtfully.

“Yes,” said my father.

“By Jove, certainly!” answered the colonel, “a frog is more cowardly,
because in the old fable of La Fontaine we are told that the frogs were
afraid of a hare.”


    [Illustration]


“Very well,” said my father, pointing at me with the newspaper, “there
you see a frog then; I have only to put him in a glass bottle with a
little ladder, to act as a barometer,” and as he uttered these words, he
looked at me with a vexed and mortified expression, and made me a sign
to go out of the room.

The colonel looked at me, with his great round eyes wide open, and
making a slight grimace, asked, “Is he——”

“Good gracious! yes,” replied my father with a deep sigh. The colonel
whistled softly, as he looked at my father, and he rolled his eyes back
to me with an astonished expression in them, pretended or real. This
warlike man felt surprised, apparently, to find a coward in the son of a
brother-in-arms. All the time he stared at me I did not dare to move.

At last he shook his head several times and said, grinding his teeth the
while, “You know, Bicquerot, I belong to the old school. For such
fancies as these (for they are pure fancies), I know but of one remedy,”
and he made suggestive and disagreeable movements with his cane as if
chastising an imaginary coward.

“Oh, no!” my father answered quickly, “no, the remedy would be worse
than the malady. And think, too, of his mother: she, the poor dear
mother, would go mad. No! no! certainly not.”

“You are wrong,” drily replied the advocate of violent measures, “it is
an infallible remedy.”

“That is possible,” said my father; “but _I_ could never resort to it.”
Then turning to me he said in a more gentle tone of voice, “Now go, my
poor boy, run and find your mother.”

There was something so sad, so touching in the tone of my father’s
voice, the expression of his face was so kind, that if the odious
colonel had not been present I should have thrown my arms round his neck
and kissed him.

But I dared not, and as I awkwardly shut the door after me, with
trembling hands, I again heard these words issue, one by one, from
between the clenched teeth of the terrible colonel: “_Bicquerot, you are
wrong._”


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



                                  IV.

                           GOOD RESOLUTIONS.


BUT no! my father was not wrong; for I loved him with all my heart, in
spite of his fits of anger, and I would never have deceived him in
anything. If he had beaten me, I felt that I could never have loved him
so much again. I should, most likely, have become a liar like Robert
Boissot. For, after all, the old school system had not succeeded so well
with him. It is true that when his father was present, he was all that
could be desired in a boy; one would have thought he was on parade too,
because of his soldier-like bearing. But when his father turned his
back, matters were, indeed, very different. He spoke of the colonel in
the most disrespectful way; and I will not repeat here the dreadful
untruths which he would utter without the slightest shame. It is true I
was a coward, but they might have killed me outright, before I would
have said the things of my parents, that he said of his. And he would
laugh while he said them! Actually laugh.

Before his father, the colonel, this boy would pretend to be most
friendly to me: he would call me his “dear good little Paul.” If I had
dared I would have called him a liar before everybody; for when his
father was not there, he would take me into a corner, and make the most
hideous faces at me, and pull my poor long nose, till I cried;
threatening at the same time, if I told anyone, that he would squeeze me
to death in the doorway.

Was not this cowardice? but of a different kind from mine, and surely a
far worse kind. “Ah! if I dared to do things, if I could only get over
the nervous trembling and that stupid imagination of mine which showed
me dangers in every direction!” I said this to myself as I walked slowly
down stairs; I did not hurry myself, because my eyes were red, and I was
anxious my mother should not see that I had been crying, for I knew it
would worry her.

These are the questions I asked myself as I reached the last step:—“In a
small house like this, where I know every corner, why do I fancy that
somebody is always hiding to pounce out upon me? why do I fancy this
when I really know that there is no one and nothing to frighten me? Why
do I fancy always that there are strange beasts lurking in the shadows
which will jump out upon me to pinch and bite, and prick and scratch me,
or perhaps, which is almost worse, place a great hairy paw upon my neck,
or look at me with great dreadful eyes? Why am I so silly as to fancy
all this? But now, for the future, I am resolved I will never be so
foolish again.”


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



                                   V.

                            I SEE A MONSTER.


POUF! Bang! At that moment something black, light, and at the same time
enormously large, some shapeless yet undoubtedly ferocious creature,
passed within a foot of my face with the speed of lightning. It touched
the ground without making the least sound, seemed to roll over in the
half-dark corridor, and then suddenly disappeared at the little door
leading into the garden.

I tried to scream, but my voice failed me: I trembled from head to foot;
my legs gave way and I involuntarily sat down on the last step of the
staircase, and covered my face with my hands, not to see again that
horrible thing! Without doubt it would return. It was hiding somewhere,
I was sure. What might it not do to me? I waited in an agony, my eyes
firmly closed. Just then the door of the kitchen opened, and my mother,
greatly surprised, asked me what I was doing there.

I told her all.


    [Illustration: “IT WAS FRIMOUSSE, OUR GREAT CAT.” ]


As I did so she raised her head, saw the door of the meat-safe open, and
said: “The creature that has frightened you so dreadfully was still more
frightened by you! It was Frimousse, our great cat, who had come to
steal some meat, which I am sorry to see she has done, and when she
heard you coming she was put to flight in a great hurry. Now, see,” said
my kind mother, smiling. “Satisfy yourself; the cat has carried off the
piece of beef which remained from luncheon. Look, there is the empty
dish! Don’t be frightened any more, my dear little boy, but now come
with me: when Mrs. Puss has behaved in this naughty way, I always know
where to find her. Come along, you must see her for yourself.”

I answered “Yes” to all my mother said, but in my heart I believed she
was mistaken. That horrible creature that passed me was too large, too
shapeless, to be our cat.


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



                                  VI.

                               FRIMOUSSE.


MY mother, taking me by the hand, led me with her into the kitchen, and
gave me a glass of sugar-and-water to help me to recover myself. She
then showed me Frimousse, who had taken refuge on the roof of a little
shed at the end of the garden, and the naughty cat was there eating
greedily her stolen meal. While devouring the meat, she kept jerking her
head first to the right, then to the left, as if she found it rather
tough. At the same time she looked at us, or rather at me, with a
menacing and defiant expression.

“You see now that it was naughty Frimousse,” said my mother, in her
loving, caressing voice; “don’t you, my darling boy? You are quite sure
now that there was nothing to frighten you, are you not?”

“Yes, mamma, I do see it: I was a silly boy,” I replied.

My reason, the fact of seeing the cat eating the stolen meat, my
mother’s assertion, everything told me clearly enough that it was
Frimousse that had frightened me so: still in spite of all, something
within me seemed to deny the fact. Was it possible that Frimousse, our
cat that I knew so well, could have appeared so enormous?

Well, it was just possible perhaps; and now I began to fancy that there
was something very strange about that cat. While she was eating, what
fierce looks she gave me! Certainly there seemed something unnatural and
odd—dreadful too—about her. And those strange glances which she gave me!
Surely it was against _me_ that she cherished spiteful feelings! Then
another idea came into my head: perhaps this cat, who gave me such
vicious looks, was not a real cat? Perhaps, I thought, she has the
power, at times, to take the shape of that fearful, that horrible
creature which I saw on the staircase.

If I had explained these foolish thoughts to my mother, I knew
beforehand how silly she would have thought me, and what she would have
answered. I knew also, beforehand that her answer would not convince me.
Oh! how terrible it was! Still, I preferred to say nothing, and I kept
my thoughts to myself to torment me.


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



                                  VII.

                      MONTÉZUMA AND CROQUEMITAINE.


I THINK I know partly how this unfortunate and unhealthy state of mind
began with me: this painful habit of seeing something extraordinary and
terrible in the most simple matters, and of peopling the house with
unearthly and mischievous beings. I think it came about in this way:—

When I was quite little, I used often to be given in charge to my
father’s orderly. He was a brave and honest fellow, and very fond of me.
His name was Montamat, but everyone called him Montézuma. Unfortunately
for me he possessed far more imagination than judgment.

Whenever I was naughty or unreasonable, he would call for Croquemitaine;
and as he was a ventriloquist you may suppose it was not long before a
conversation commenced with _this_ extraordinary person, who used to
reply to the questions asked of him from the dark, mysterious, and
fearful regions of the kitchen chimney sometimes; or sometimes from the
bottom of my porridge bowl, or again sometimes from the inside of a
drawer in the table close to where my little chair was placed. As I
believed most implicitly in Croquemitaine’s existence, Montézuma made me
do exactly as he liked by this means. Just fancy! here was a man who
appeared to me to be on the most intimate terms with a mysterious and
supernatural being! A man who could summon this being at will, and, at a
single word, send him off again about his business, just at the moment
when, almost mad with anguish, I feared, yet longed, to see the
mysterious being appear to me.

Our discussions would always end in the same way when I had been
naughty.

“Now will you do it again?” Montézuma would ask in a stern voice.

“Oh, no! no! my good Montézuma,” I would cry, “I will never, never do so
any more.”

“Then, Croquemitaine,”—Montézuma would say in a gentle voice,—“you can
go away, we will not give you our little Paul to-day; for he has
promised to be a good boy.”


    [Illustration:Decoration]


“All right! all right! I shall have him the next time,” a most terrible
gruff voice would answer. And repeating “all right” a good many times,
the voice sounding less and less distinct and further away each time,
Croquemitaine would depart for that occasion.

As I grew bigger Croquemitaine came less frequently. I believe that
Montézuma got tired of always employing the same means of keeping me in
order. Still I did not lose my faith in this supernatural being. Very
often, when the furniture creaked, or the wind whistled down the chimney
or in the passages; when the porridge-pot boiled over, and made strange
grumbling sounds, I felt that there was something more than usual in
these noises; something very strange and mysterious. Then my heart would
beat violently, and Montézuma bursting out laughing would cry, “Ah! ah!
ah! how white your nose has turned!”

“But,” would I reply in a piteous tone of voice, “I have not been
naughty.”

“That you know best!” Montézuma would answer sententiously. “What does
your conscience say?”


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



                                 VIII.

                          THE COLONEL’S HORSE.


THE tormentor chosen by Montézuma to succeed Croquemitaine, was the
horse belonging to the colonel of my father’s regiment. It was a
beautiful white horse with a splendid mane, and a grand thick tail which
swept the ground. When he stamped and snorted, and turned his graceful
head from side to side, he looked so intelligent, that I easily believed
everything that Montézuma told me about him. This marvellous horse,
according to Montézuma, knew all that passed, and repeated it to the
colonel; also, if I did not take care, all my particular misdeeds to my
father. For instance, Montézuma would say, “So you won’t eat your soup?”

“No! I won’t eat my soup! and pray, what of that?” I would reply.

“Very well,” was the answer, “the colonel’s horse will tell your father
to-morrow on parade!”

I would have eaten my soup if it had been boiling, rather than expose
myself to the tale-bearing of that white horse. I learnt, little by
little—as Montézuma found me more difficult to manage—all sorts of
horrible peculiarities belonging to the colonel’s terrible horse. I
heard that he would bite most cruelly all little boys who refused to go
to bed at eight o’clock, who kicked their father’s orderly, or who
preferred to sail their boats on the pond in the Palais Royal (where
Montézuma did _not_ happen to meet his friends) to taking a walk in the
Jardin des Plantes (where Montézuma always met his friends). It seemed,
according to Montézuma, that this much-to-be-dreaded animal had devoured
the little son of the master shoemaker, because he fought with his
schoolmistress: nothing had been found of this unfortunate but his
shoes, his cap, and a letter in which he declared that he thought he
quite deserved his fate.

With a sigh of anguish I would anxiously ask, “And what did his mamma
say?”

Montézuma replied, “She was in great grief.”

“I will never kick you again, Montézuma,” would I cry. “Oh! pray of the
horse not to eat me, because it would make mamma so sad.”

“Very well; this time you are safe,” Montézuma then gravely replied.
“But remember, if you ever do so again, he will not listen to my
entreaties.”

With what an eye of curiosity and distrust did I gaze upon that
anthropophagus of a horse, when I was taken to reviews. If I was placed
near the colonel, curvetting in pride at the head of the regiment on his
splendid white charger, I was seized with a terrible panic.

“Let us go further, Montézuma. Oh! do come away!” I used to pray, “he
knows me, he is looking at me!”

“Don’t be afraid; while you are with me, and I do not sign to him, he
will say and do nothing,” replied Montézuma.

“But,” I persisted, “don’t you see how he looks at me, and how he shakes
his head? What does he mean?”

“Well, he means,” answered Montézuma, “he just means, ‘I have my eye on
you: you must remember that, and take care how you behave.’”


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



                                  IX.

               CHILDREN SHOULD CONFIDE IN THEIR PARENTS.


ALL these things terrified me greatly, and yet, to tell the truth, I
took a secret pleasure in them. It was an unhealthy excitement, but even
men sometimes find, like children, a strange pleasure in what is
alarming and mysterious. Much good may it do them!

Montézuma would have been wicked to put all these ideas in my head if he
had known the harm they did me. But he had no idea of it, poor fellow!
He must, however, have been rather ashamed of these inventions of his,
because he never said a word about them before my father or mother. And
I, without his bidding me keep silence, said not one word either, about
the matter, except to him. It was a secret between us. One discovers
when one is very young, I am afraid, the charm of forbidden pleasure, or
at least, of mysteries, and it was certainly a great pleasure to me to
have this secret of the white horse’s powers between Montézuma and
myself.

Still it was a great misfortune for me that I did not tell all to my
father and mother; they would have put a stop to these foolish fancies
and mad terrors, which little by little destroyed my spirit, and turned
me into the unfortunate coward I became.

People who have children entrusted to them, or who are constantly with
them, should make a rule that they shall never be frightened by stories
of giants and ogres, or supernatural beings, or in the foolish yet
terrible way in which Montézuma used to terrify me.

One cannot tell the effect these fears may have upon children: can never
guess the mischief that may be done. When once my father had retired
from the army I was no longer under the influence of Montézuma. I no
longer believed in Croquemitaine, and had even lost faith in the
colonel’s horse; but though the actual belief was gone, the pernicious
influence remained, and I was always building up fresh terrors on the
ashes of the old ones.


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



                                   X.

                      MONTÉZUMA’S ACCOMPLISHMENTS.


MONTÉZUMA had the most wonderfully flexible face I ever saw. He could
literally do anything he liked with it. For instance, he would lengthen
his features, raise his eyebrows, and half shut his eyes, and there you
had before you the living image of Lieutenant Hardel, the thinnest and
most miserable looking officer of the regiment. Then, in an instant, he
would puff out his cheeks, half bury his head between his shoulders, and
opening his big eyes, roll them about in a terrible manner, and at that
moment you beheld an exact copy of Major Taillepain. When he began these
representations, which were performed for me, and me only, I could
scarcely contain myself for joy. At each change of countenance, I would
clap my hands and cry out, “Again, again, Montézuma! Again, please,
again!”


    [Illustration:Decoration]


He, too, would get quite excited over his own performances, and after
having imitated the faces of all those he chose to mimic, he would begin
making grimaces of so terrible and strange a nature, that I would be
seized with horror. It seemed to me as if it could not be Montézuma
standing before me: that fantastic and hideous face that I beheld—now
furious, now jeering, and now surely the face of some strange
animal—could no longer be his; and, almost beside myself with fear, I
trembled all over. Then I used to have a sort of hysterical fit, crying
and laughing at once, and I would implore of Montézuma not to do it any
more. And he would then have his own natural face again in a moment, and
taking me up, kiss me heartily.

In time, these performances which frightened me so dreadfully, yet which
I could not help asking Montézuma constantly to repeat, had the effect
of putting the strangest ideas into my head about the similarity of the
human and animal physiognomy. I began to discover, from this time,
different and strange expressions in the faces of the animals that I
happened to meet with. In some I would read a threatening or spiteful
expression, in others an expression of mockery or fun, which they, of
course, never really wore.

I remember, in particular, one of the monkeys in the Jardin des Plantes,
who, as a monkey was singularly ugly, and as a greedy monkey, showed
singular eagerness to partake of some cakes which we had brought with
us. From quite a long way off he saw them, and came towards the bars of
his cage at a curious, loose, half-dislocated trot. When we had just
reached the cage, and he was within a few paces of us on the other side,
he made a sudden spring, and came with a bang against the bars. Oh! how
frightened I was! I thought he was jumping into my face! I shut my eyes
in terror, and when I opened them, there he was close to me, and I saw
him rolling his eyes and grinding his teeth, and grinning at me. I
thought I had never seen so spiteful a face! I dreamed of him that
night; and the impression left upon my mind by the sight of that horrid
monkey was so strong, that three years afterwards, I actually—before my
father, of whom I stood in some awe—was seized with nervous terror at
the sight of an ugly little neighbour, who stood at his window opposite,
making faces at me, and putting out his tongue.


    [Illustration: “HE MADE A SUDDEN SPRING, AND CAME WITH A BANG
    AGAINST THE BARS.”]


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



                                  XI.

                            DARING EXPLOITS.


MY mother, naturally extremely timid, scarcely ever dared to differ from
my father; but still she bravely took my part when he would attack me
too severely on the unfortunate subject of my cowardice. My father would
always be softened by her in the end. But as a last protest he would
shrug his shoulders and say:—“Very well, my dear; but pray dress him,
then, like a little girl, and set him to work to hem handkerchiefs.”


    [Illustration:Decoration]


Hem handkerchiefs! In his eyes this was the most dire insult that could
be offered to a coward. But I, who had but little pride in me, I should
have been more than contented to be turned into a girl, and sit and hem
handkerchiefs. I should in that case never have to leave my mother, and
I should not have the disagreeable prospect of college looming in the
future.

I had a great love of dolls; my mother and I used to make up the most
delightful rag dolls together. I used generally to hide them most
carefully away when I had finished playing with them. Sometimes, though,
I had the misfortune to leave one about: my father, then finding it,
would turn and twist it with the end of his cane; wearing on his face,
the while, an expression of the greatest contempt. Then—with a dexterity
which I should have admired if it had not been exercised at the expense
of my poor doll—he would toss it up into the air and send it flying,
with a twist of his cane, right out of the window.

My paternal love for my outraged child would then seem to give me some
courage—for I had to brave more than one danger to recover my dolly. If
the doll fell in the street I would fly downstairs, and opening the
hall-door a little way, put my head out to reconnoitre, and—after being
quite sure that there were no carriages in sight to drive over me and
crush me, nor curs to run after me and bite me, nor boys about to pelt
me with peas out of their popguns—I risked it, and recovering my
treasure from the street, would retreat, breathless and excited, at the
idea of dangers which I _might_ have met with.

If the doll happened to fall into the garden, I would first go and look
out of the kitchen window—for from there I could see the goings and
comings of a certain little bantam-cock belonging to us. This funny
little fowl, which was no bigger than my two fists, was of a most
quarrelsome disposition. Directly he saw me coming he would run up as
fast as he could, and then standing right in front of me, firmly planted
on his two horrid little feet, he would stare at me, turning his head
from side to side, first with the right eye and then with the left,
twitching his little comb about with rapid jerks. Why did he come? What
did he want with me? I had never done anything to him! Had he only then
discovered, like others, that I was a coward, and merely amused himself
(being a facetious sort of fowl) by making me afraid of him?

When he was at the bottom of the garden, occupied with his own affairs
in some corner, I would seize the opportunity, and gliding softly,
softly to where my dolly lay, I would carry it off in triumph before he
had time to follow me. Sometimes though, he would only pretend to be
pre-occupied, and in reality watch me out of the corner of his wicked
little eyes, and suddenly shoot out from his corner right up to the
door, when I, scarcely outside as yet, would make a rapid and
ignominious retreat inside the house again. Sometimes I have made as
many as ten ineffectual attempts to get out at the door, without
counting the various stratagems which I was obliged to have recourse to
when once outside before I could recover my lost property.


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



                                  XII.

                 THE INTOLERANCE OF THE LITTLE BANTAM.


WHEN I did not play with my dolls, I made little chapels and altars in
all the corners of the house. I made myself a chasuble out of my
mother’s apron, and I sang away, as loudly as ever I could, all the
hymns I knew by heart, and many that I composed for the occasion. My
father said nothing to this, because he thought that, after all, a child
must amuse itself in some way; however, I generally chose the days when
he was out, and my _grands services_ took place always when he went out
fishing. On those days I felt I was free, gay, and happy. I sang my most
beautiful anthems, composed of any words that came into my head,
terminating in _us_ or _um_; and the house resounded with the noise of
my bell.

But the procession, consisting of myself alone, did not go beyond the
different rooms and the kitchen. I did not go into the loft, because who
ever heard of a grand imposing ceremony taking place in a loft? I would,
however, have gladly gone into the garden to ask a blessing upon our
rose trees, and the one apricot tree which grew there, but which never
had any apricots on it; only the notorious intolerance of that little
bantam-cock prevented the procession venturing out of doors.

When I met my mother, as I marched about the passages in pomp, she would
smile kindly at me, and kiss me as I passed. Then I would whisper in her
ear, “Mamma, I should like to be a priest.”

“And why not, my darling,” would be her reply, “if it is your vocation?”


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



                                 XIII.

                           HAVE I A VOCATION?


ONE day when my father came home from fishing he went into the kitchen,
where my mother was making some cakes, and remained there talking
earnestly with her for some time. While this conversation was going on I
appeared upon the scene dressed up in my surplice, for I was just in the
middle of one of my grandest processions. As I was about to enter the
kitchen I was rooted to the spot by these words, which I heard
proceeding from my father’s lips.

“You say, my dear, that he talks of becoming a priest: the fact is he
knows neither what he is talking about nor what he wishes. You must not
suppose that because a child arranges little chapels in the corners of
rooms, pretends he is joining in a religious procession, and wears his
mother’s apron as a surplice, that he is therefore fitted to be a priest
when he grows up. You might just as well say that a boy must become a
soldier because he puts a feather in his cap and plays the drum all day;
and then,” he went on in a melancholy tone of voice, “Paul would
certainly be a worthy priest to offer to God’s service! Priest, do you
say?” Then exclaimed my father bitterly, “No; a priest, like a soldier,
must ever be ready to sacrifice his own life. A priest must think
nothing of danger or suffering, if he incurs either for the good of
others! A priest must be ready at any hour of the day or night to visit
and solace those dying from pestilence. However contagious an illness
may be, no priest may shrink from visiting those stricken down with it,
at the risk of his own life. Do you think Paul has a vocation for this?”

My mother hung her head and said nothing. Alas! what could she have
said? My father’s words were wise indeed. As for me, I stood motionless
in the shadow of the dark corridor, with my little bell in my hand. I
listened to all that was said, standing there too distressed to remember
that I ought not to listen to my father and mother’s conversation when
they were unconscious of my presence.

“You see, my dear,” my father continued in a more gentle voice, “a man
requires courage in whatever position he may be placed and in whatever
profession he may choose. But the duty of a priest is to give others
courage when they fail in it, and how can he do that if he is wanting in
it himself? He must set others the example. No, our boy is less fitted
to be a priest than anything else; for a priest _must_ be courageous,
and his courage must be of the highest order. But mind, I would not, for
anything in the world, prevent our unfortunate son from following his
vocation, if he really had one. I will not deny that I had hoped he
might become a soldier, because I was one myself; but alas! I have had
to give up that hope.” And he repeated slowly, in a sad tone of voice,
“Yes, I have given it up!”

The bell fell from my hand: at the noise it made, both my father and
mother turned round and discovered me. “Ah! you are there,” said my
father, looking sadly at me. “It is as well, perhaps, that you heard
what I said. At all events it _is_ said, and you have heard it. However,
I did not intend you should do so, my poor boy!” he exclaimed as he
kissed my forehead. “But you will understand some day why I have at
times seemed severe with you.”

“Kiss papa,” said my mother, “and try to remember what you have heard.
You are very young, you have time to profit by his words. You may yet do
better. I am pleased with his progress in his lessons,” she went on,
addressing my father in a conciliatory tone, “I have taught him all I
can, he knows, as much as I do.”


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



                                  XIV.

                  AN ANXIOUS QUESTION HAPPILY SETTLED.


THESE words of my mother, intended to settle matters happily, at once
raised another cloud on my horizon.

“Well then,” answered my father, “if you have taught him all you can, we
must send him to college. Now then, little man, don’t let me see your
nose turn white.”

College! word odious to my ears, and terrible to my imagination. Robert
Boissot, was he not at college? I could judge from this sample of a
schoolboy how horrid all the rest must be. What awful things had that
boy told me about his companions, who set their masters at nought and
fought such terrible fights that they almost tore each other to pieces.
At this fearful thought I instinctively put up my hand to my nose. If I
took that poor nose to school, should I ever bring it back again?

My mother sighed as she answered my father. “I have thought, dear, that
it would be hard upon our boy to send him at once to college. The
college boys are so rough and inclined to bully the little ones: you
see, too, Paul has really not been accustomed to play with boys at all.”

“And whose fault is that?” said my father.

“I know, I know,” answered my poor mother; “but all I would say is,
don’t you think it would be better to send him first to Miss Porquet’s
school? It is so near us; there are not many pupils, and nearly all are
younger than Paul. Miss Porquet is very gentle and at the same time very
firm. And the boys at that school are not always having those dreadful
quarrels and fights which they have at the college. She teaches Latin to
several of the children, for instance to one little boy whose mother I
know, and who told me yesterday that he was getting on extremely well.”

“Very well,” replied my father, “let us settle it so, that he goes to
Miss Porquet’s school first. And now, my poor little Paul, you must try
to be brave. Fight against this terrible cowardice. Little by little, if
you struggle hard, you will be able to overcome your foolish fears. If
you try each day to be a little more courageous, you will at length find
you are as brave as anyone else. Things don’t come all at once. It is
only by striving hard that you can acquire a virtue or overcome a
weakness.”

I promised my father to do all I could to overcome my cowardice. My
mother kissed me fondly in the passage and whispered in my ear, “Poor
darling!”


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



                                  XV.

                          A PROJECTED BATTLE.


I WENT to bed that night with the best intentions in the world, and with
my head resting on the pillow I formed thousands of projects, one more
daring than the other, so that I might show my parents how much I loved
them and how hard I tried to please them. When my mother came up to tuck
me into my little bed, as she did every night, and stooped over me to
kiss me, I threw my arms round her neck and drawing her quite close
whispered in her ear: “I do so love you!”


    [Illustration:Decoration]


“Darling little fellow!” she answered, resting her cheek against mine.

I was so excited that I could not go to sleep for a long time. I kept
turning over in my mind a most daring project, a most audacious deed
which I was determined to perform. Yes, I was determined I would walk
into the garden the next day and beard the little bantam-cock. How
surprised he would be to see me come up to him without the least fear.
Ah! it would be his turn to be afraid now. Yes, I would just open the
door leading from the corridor, open it quite wide! then I would walk up
to the apricot tree: walk straight up to it without hurrying, or
trembling. Then he would come up to me; I should just appear as if I did
not see he was there. Then what would he do? He would most likely fly at
me. Very well, let him; but I would raise my hand at the moment he began
his attack, and I would give him such a blow with my fist that he would
not forget it in a hurry. But then, perhaps he would give me a terrible
peck, the vicious little horror! Pooh, what of that? I could easily
prevent it!

Having come to this conclusion, I at last fell asleep. My plan was to
get up early the next morning without making any noise; to go downstairs
and into the garden before anyone was about, for I did not wish people
to witness my exploit. I was determined to try if I could not carry my
project out with courage and success; but I could not be quite sure how
matters would turn out, so I would rather have my first battle over
without a witness.

When I opened my eyes the next morning, it was broad daylight. I jumped
out of bed, said my prayers, and dressed as fast as I could.


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



                                  XVI.

                        MY PROJECT IS DEFERRED.


FROM the staircase, down which I bounded two or three steps at a time, I
could hear the cock-a-doodle-doo of my enemy. His shrill voice seemed to
pierce through one’s head, it was such a self-satisfied, such a
confident tone of voice, that as I listened I seemed to hesitate in my
design of bearding the little cock. However, after a moment I regained
my courage, and I said to him—just as if he could hear me,—“Hollo, Mr.
Cock, in five minutes you won’t hold your cockscomb quite so high!”

As valour need not altogether exclude prudence, I thought it wise to
take my father’s fishing-rod with me. And I drew my cap well down over
my eyes.

As I entered the kitchen I found my mother already there; she was
engaged in picking lentils and removing the little pebbles which clung
to them.

“Are you going out fishing?” she asked laughingly.

“No, mamma, I was only going—” Then it occurred to me that I had
determined I would not tell anybody of my audacious project—that my
intended victory over the bantam was to be a profound secret until I was
the undoubted conqueror. I bit my tongue and prudently cut the sentence
short. As I never told a lie, I did not give a word of explanation.

“Put down the fishing-rod,” said my mother without paying any attention
to my evident embarrassment; “take off your cap, and come and help me.”

I hastened to obey her, and, to tell the truth, I am ashamed to say I
felt some satisfaction in putting off for a day or two, the duty, which
I had imposed upon myself, of teaching a lesson to that impudent little
cock. He, in the meantime, seemed to crow over my infirmity of purpose,
for his cock-a-doodle-doo sounded more loudly than ever all over the
place. “Ah!” said I to myself, “you will lose nothing by waiting; you
would certainly have caught it by this time, I can tell you, if I had
not been kept in.” At that moment my mother went out of the kitchen.

Instigated by a feeling of curiosity to see what was going on inside the
kitchen—or, perhaps, with a baser motive of crowing over me, the little
bantam suddenly flew on the ledge outside the kitchen window, and
putting his head first on one side, and then the other, looked
impertinently through the panes of glass into the kitchen.

“Take that!” cried I; and seizing a handful of lentils, I threw them
against the window. It sounded like a shower of hail. The bantam gave a
hoarse scream of terror, flapped his wings, and disappeared. The rascal,
I have not a doubt, paid the chickens off for the fright I caused him,
as I heard them uttering piercing cries soon afterwards.

I carefully picked up the lentils, and set to work cleaning them again,
feeling quite pleased with my exploit.


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



                                 XVII.

        SCIENTIFIC REFLECTIONS ON MY NOSE MADE BY DR. LOMBALOT.


“THAT is very nicely done,” said my mother, on her return to the
kitchen. “You are a good helpful little boy; and now go and put on your
best suit for breakfast, as somebody is coming.”

This somebody was Dr. Lombalot, the old surgeon-major of my father’s
former regiment. When he retired from the army he settled at Tours. He
was to arrive by an early train.

“He is a great original,” said my mother, “but your father likes him
very much.”

He was indeed an original! He had all sorts of theories upon various
subjects and systems of doing things, which he always made out must be
right. For instance, he never ate a boiled egg like the rest of the
world, and he proved that the rest of the world was wrong in the way it
ate them. “Omelettes, yes, Ma’am, omelettes,” said he, looking at my
mother across the breakfast table, “omelettes ought to be done in a
certain particular way known only to myself; but I am willing to give
the receipt”—here he made a little bow to my mother,—“and you should
_always_ pour in the oil before the vinegar in making a salad,”—here he
twinkled his eye maliciously at my father, who was mixing a salad, and
had just poured in the vinegar first.

One of his theories was, he informed us, that neither men nor boys
should wear braces. And then he announced that people should always walk
upstairs backwards, so as not to get out of breath. Here I unfortunately
swallowed some coffee the wrong way, and choked myself, because I was
bursting with laughter; the doctor wiped his spectacles, and putting
them on, stared at my nose, which I felt turn pale.

“And phrenology?” said my father hastily, wishing to divert his
attention, “you still study phrenology?”


    [Illustration: “THE DOCTOR STARED AT MY NOSE.”]


The doctor did not appear to hear the question, his eyes were fixed on
my unfortunate nose. At last he uttered the words “_Remarkably_
strange!”

“What is strange?” enquired my father. The doctor did not at once reply:
lifting up his right hand, he held it before him, moving it first
further and then nearer to him, as if he was trying to get an exact
point of sight to suit him. When he held it still, the back was towards
me, and it hid half his face. His eyes peeped over it as if he was
looking over a wall or as if he was plunged in water to the tip of his
nose.

We all gazed at him in great surprise and some consternation. As for
him, he quietly continued his operations, figuratively pulling me to
pieces: his eyes became quite small, and puckers and wrinkles appeared
at the corners.

“Not the least affinity,” said he, in a few seconds, “between the
different features in that face. I take the nose” (here he made a sort
of telescope with his closed fist), “a warlike nose! I hide it” (he hid
himself again behind his wall until I saw only his two eyes), “and I see
a meek forehead, and a timid eye. I look at them altogether again” (here
the wall disappeared), “and what a strange contrast is before me! That
martial nose and that timid physiognomy! that poor face! which is quite
ashamed to have such a nose attached to it, a nose almost.... What was I
going to say? however, no matter. It is just as if you saw a gentle,
peaceable, good-natured shop-keeper giving his arm in the street to some
violent, insolent blusterer. Absurd contrast! a caricaturist would be
delighted to meet with that boy!”

“But,” said my father impatiently, “do tell us something about
phrenology!”


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



                                 XVIII.

      I DISCOVER THAT I DO NOT POSSESS THE BUMP OF COMBATIVENESS.


THE doctor looked grave as he answered: “My dear Bicquerot, if you ask
that question seriously, I will reply. But if you are only joking, pray
don’t do so any more. It is too serious a subject to laugh at.”

My father having declared that he was not joking at all, the doctor
looked round him in a suspicious manner and lowered his voice as he
said, “I have discovered things that would make your hair stand on end
if I disclosed them to you. I have discovered a real science, an
infallible science——”

“Then,” said my father, “do you seriously believe that our character and
destiny in the world depend upon the form and size of the bumps on our
skulls?”

“Yes; I do believe it,” answered the doctor with the air of a resigned
and misunderstood genius, as he folded his hands in front of him. “Yes,
I do believe it: O Bicquerot!” he repeated.

“Well, I confess,” began my father.

“Thirty years’ experiences, thirty years of study and researches, have I
spent!” cried the doctor, “and have at last found the truth! Here, read
this,”—he felt in the side pocket of his coat and pulled out a yellow
pamphlet—“read this, I say, and the scales will drop from your eyes.”

“However, doctor, look here,” my father again tried to begin.

It was the doctor’s turn to become impatient. “It is not a question of
_However!_ it is not a question of _Doctor!_ It is not a question of
_Look here!_ at all,” he exclaimed. “Truth is truth. Let me feel the
head of the first comer, I will tell him: ‘Sir, you have such and such a
bump. Very well, you will do such and such a thing; you will not be able
to help it. You who have the bump of _murder_, you will be a _murderer_.
Science declares _that you must become a murderer_!’ But he answers me:
‘I have always been a quiet, peaceable man; I have lived for fifty years
in the world and have never hurt anyone yet, not even a fly!’ ‘Never
mind, my friend,’ I say; ‘in two years, in ten years, you will be a
_murderer_! and if you die without being one, remember that you would
have been one, only you had no opportunity.’”

“Oh, come! that’s too much!” cried my mother, scandalized and shocked.

“Well, madame, perhaps I exaggerate a little, but it is in order that
you may understand me better,” and the doctor proceeded to tell us many
extraordinary things which I did not in the least understand, and which
made my mother very indignant and my father discontented. He went on
laying down the law, without attending to any remarks or objections made
by his listeners; at last he finished up a long confused rigmarole with
the following words:—

“Now, madame, be good enough to look at your husband’s head. If you
look, you will see on each side of the head, just above the ear, a large
protuberance. This is the bump of combativeness, of _courage_, or, if
you like it better, heroism. Very well, madame, that same bump is to be
found on all the old Roman heads. When you next go to Paris, go to the
Louvre, and notice the Roman busts and statues there, and you will see I
am right. Whoever has that bump, if he was hatched by a chicken, brought
up amongst hares, and nourished all his life upon nothing but pap, would
yet be a brave man, everywhere, and always. Let who may say the
reverse.”


    [Illustration:Decoration]


I instinctively put up my hand to my head to feel in the place indicated
by the doctor. Alas! in place of a bump I discovered a deep hollow! I
felt quite ill! the doctor’s words sounded like a distant and indistinct
rumble. I felt the sort of despair that a sick man experiences when,
thinking he is recovering, having been buoyed up by the hopeful words of
friends, all his hopes are dashed to the ground by some brutal doctor
who tells him, without any preparation, that his case is hopeless and he
must die.


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



                                  XIX.

                    THE BANTAM CEASES TO TROUBLE ME.


I WENT out of the room as soon as I could do so without being remarked.
My mother soon came after me.

“Isn’t Doctor Lombalot a real original?” said she, trying to smile, “but
one must not believe all he says, you know. You see, neither your Papa
nor I believe him, dear; and he was very wrong and very rude to say
those things about you, which could only annoy you. But do not trouble
about it, my darling boy.”

I could not say I did not trouble about the doctor’s unkind remarks, for
in truth I troubled greatly about them. That shows how careful grown-up
people should be in the things they say before children, who cannot as
yet distinguish what is false or exaggerated, from what is just and
true.

The next morning, I felt so upset that I was really unequal to undertake
my famous expedition against the little cock. It was again a deferred
project, a battle put off until the following day.

On that following day, I went down stairs with my mother, and, going to
the door which led into the yard where the chickens were kept, I opened
it wide and looked out. I saw only the hens and chickens, which were
clucking and scratching away on the ground. I gathered courage, and
walked outside with a firm step: I walked through the yard into the
garden where the roses grew and the apricot tree stood.

There a great surprise awaited me! For there in a corner lay the little
bantam-cock on his back with his two little legs straight up in the air.
He was quite dead: he had probably been seized with apoplexy, caused by
his violent temper and excessive gluttony. The other fowls, with
culpable indifference, were pecking about quite as usual, apparently not
wasting a single thought or sigh on the memory of the defunct.

“A good riddance!” said I with a sigh of relief. And that was the only
funeral speech that was made at the demise of the impertinent little
bantam.

From that day I took possession of garden and yard. My mother remarked
that I had taken a sudden fancy for building little cottages with pieces
of slate and tile, and that I was always outside at work, in the yard.
My enemy was replaced by a large rooster; very tall, sullen of aspect,
and also extremely cowardly. He never ventured to trouble me in my
architectural studies.

Thus ended the great trial which was to have decided which was the
better warrior, the bantam or myself, and which trial was to put my
courage to the test. Things were now really left as they were, for the
trial of strength never came off, by reason of the little cock’s
untimely death. But, to tell the truth, in my heart of hearts, I was not
sorry that the intended passage of arms with my fierce little antagonist
did not take place.


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



                                  XX.

                         MISS PORQUET’S SCHOOL.


IN the following October I became one of Miss Porquet’s pupils. Nothing
remarkable occurred on my entrance into the school except that my cheeks
became crimson and my nose very white while Miss Porquet put me through
a sort of preparatory examination.

All the other scholars stared at me, as was only natural; and I could
not help thinking, as they eagerly listened to the answers I made to
Miss Porquet’s questions, that they were laughing at me, which indeed I
believe to have been the case.

Miss Porquet declared herself satisfied with my replies, and told me
that I should at once go into the first class, which, as well as the
second, was under her own tuition. The third class was composed of
children of various ages, from boys of seven to babies of three.

The third class was taken care of, petted, scolded, and taught and
amused by two of Miss Porquet’s sisters. Now those babies in the third
class were the very children that I dreaded most, their astonishment at
my unfortunate nose was so unfeigned that it seemed like impudence.


    [Illustration: “A GREAT BOY OF ELEVEN, RATHER A STUPID FELLOW.”]


The first class consisted of five pupils including myself. There was,
first of all, a great boy of eleven, rather a stupid fellow; he had the
figure of a young man, and the knowledge of a mere baby. For three years
he had been struggling with the rudiments of Latin; and he might,
indeed, as well have struggled a little with the rudiments of his own
language, for he could scarcely spell a single word correctly. His
parents, who were rich, and very fond of travelling, did not know what
to do with their stupid boy, so they left him to the care of Miss
Porquet.

He had the greatest aversion to books of all kinds, but he took the
greatest pride in fine clothes, bright coloured neckties, etc.; and he
wore straps to his trousers. This boy used to hide himself in corners to
eat chocolate. He was given the nickname of _The Count_ by the other
boys.

He came up to me just as we were going into the playground, and said
point blank, “My name is Arthur de la Croulle!” (he evidently thought
this a very fine name) “and what is your name?”

“My name is Paul Bicquerot,” I replied. He made a face of disgust, and
gave me to understand that he thought Bicquerot a vulgar name. I never
doubted but that he must be right; but I felt very sad, both on account
of my parents and myself!

“My father is very rich” (here he rattled the money in his pocket), “and
yours?” he asked.


    [Illustration:Decoration]


“I don’t know,” I answered.

Another face of disgust, more disdainful than the first, followed my
reply. He then placed the point of his first finger on the sleeve of my
jacket, which was clean but not new, and he said, with a rude laugh,
“Your parents are poor, or you would wear better clothes. I dislike poor
people, and so does my mamma.”

He then turned on his heel and went off to walk by himself at the other
end of the playground. One would have thought that there was not one
amongst us rich enough to be admitted to the honour of walking with him.

As for me, I remained stupefied at what he had told me. I had never
thought about whether my father and mother were rich or poor. I was
rather inclined to think them rich, because they did not go about with a
stick and wallet, asking for alms like old Father Chaumont, who came
every Friday to beg at our door.

The young Mr. de la Croulle put strange ideas into my head.


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



                                  XXI.

                       A FRIEND.—PRISONER’S BASE.


“SO _The Count_ asked you if you were rich?” said a pretty little boy of
about my own age, as he came up to where I was standing; “don’t mind
what he says, he is a little cracked. Did what he said distress you?
Don’t cry, there is nothing to cry about; _The Count_ doesn’t know
_what_ he says half his time. He always goes off by himself in that
grand way, when we first come out to play; but when once we have settled
upon a game, and are going to begin, he forgets his straps and other
toggery, and plays harder than any of us. Will you play at Prisoner’s
Base?”

“I don’t know the game,” I answered.

“No?” said he, in a surprised tone. “Well, I will teach it to you; it’s
not difficult, you shall be on my side.”

I did not dare to refuse the offer which was so kindly made, and yet I
scarcely dared to accept it. My new friend, however, who was full of
spirit and fun, cut short my excuses, and, taking me by the hand, led me
off. As we walked across the playground he informed me that his name was
Marc Sublaine, and that his father was the president of the local
tribunal.

In enlisting me on his side he had made but a sorry recruit; and in the
beginning his comrades did not scruple to tell him so. I utterly ignored
all the rules of the game: I rushed blindly about, without the least
method. I allowed myself to be made prisoner like a goose; and, once
prisoner, I began to think of something else, instead of trying to
escape, and holding out my hand to my comrades to help me. Once, when I
was near making a prisoner—just on the point, in fact, of catching
him—the boy, who felt he would be caught directly, turned and ran after
me; when I, stupidly afraid of him, ran off as fast as I could amid
shouts of laughter from both sides.

Once I forgot which side I belonged to. Each cried out, “Here, here!
this way!” and I ran first to one, and then the other, bewildered and in
such a state of agitation that I nearly gave up the game. If I had done
so I should have lost the good opinion of my playfellows for ever.

Fortunately just about this time the clock struck, and the two sides
mingled together to go into school. I feared that I should be reproached
for being so stupid and playing so badly; but the boys had laughed
merrily at me and felt no ill-will towards me. Marc put his arm through
mine; he smiled at me, it was with good nature and no desire to tease
me. I felt I loved this kind boy with all my heart; and at the same time
I felt very sorry that I had behaved so ridiculously while playing; for
I feared he must despise me.

“I am afraid you must think me very silly?” I said timidly.

“Very silly? why should I?” he answered kindly. “Not at all. You didn’t
know the game and you made mistakes; that was all. One can’t do things
all at once: one must learn how to do them. But I will tell you what I
noticed when we were playing, and that was that you are a very good
tempered boy.”

I reddened with pleasure, and without thinking that my request might
appear sudden and strange, I said to him, “Will you be my friend?” and I
held out my hand to him.

He took it, and looking in my face, smiled again, and simply said:—“I
should like it very much.”

I cast a look of triumph in _The Count’s_ direction; but unfortunately
his back was turned towards me.


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



                                 XXII.

                        STUDIES.—SCHOOLBOY TALK.


WITH what ardour I attacked my Latin! How anxious I was to show the
boys, and Marc above all, that although I might be stupid at playing
Prisoner’s Base, I was not stupid at my lessons.

Marc recited the best in the class, and I felt as much pleasure at his
doing so as if I had been the first in the class myself. I came out
second, to my great joy. The others stammered through their lessons
somehow; as for _The Count_ he could scarcely decline a noun correctly.
But after all, what could be expected, when all study time was spent by
him in making paper boxes for chocolate, and writing on them his names
in full, the place and date of his birth, and his present address; or
else in making little scales with cotton and pieces of paper, in which
he weighed flies, wafers and little bits of feather cut from the quill
pens,—while the rest of us were busy humming over our lessons to
ourselves, with our thumbs pressed into our ears.

When I returned home in the evening I spoke of nothing but my new
friend, and the pleasure I had had in playing at Prisoner’s Base. I kept
to myself the unpleasant and disparaging remarks made by _The Count_. I
was happy, animated and chatty. My father looked at me with an
expression of good-natured curiosity and my mother smiled. I explained
to them, at great length, but without the least clearness, the rules of
Prisoner’s Base, talking exactly as if it was a new game just invented;
as if no one had ever heard of it before, and as if my father had never
been a schoolboy. It is one of the peculiarities of childhood to think
that the world begins with themselves, and to wish to explain everything
from beginning to end to grown-up people. My excitement seemed quite to
change my nature, habits and disposition. I kept interrupting the
conversation by saying in a loud tone, “_He_ told me this,” or “_he_ did
that,” the _he_ being in each instance my new friend Marc.

My father was most kind and considerate that evening in making allowance
for my excitement and enthusiasm, and never once said that children
should not bore grown-up people with their foolish chatter. On the
contrary he rather encouraged me and exchanged glances of satisfaction
with my mother. Ah, that was a happy evening!


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



                                 XXIII.

                         A DREADFUL ADVENTURE.


THE more I saw of Marc the better I liked him. Every day I respected and
admired him more. I secretly made him the model which I did all I could
to copy. In every situation which troubled and puzzled me in my
character of schoolboy, I would ask myself the question, “Now in my
place what would Marc do?” and that decided me.

One night when my father was reading his newspaper in the dining-room, I
sat beside my mother talking quietly to her, and, as was my wont,
extolling my hero Marc: for the hundredth time did I draw his picture in
vivid word-painting for my mother’s edification. She listened as usual
and smiled. Presently I noticed that she began looking about her as if
she had lost something. She searched in her work-basket, on the floor,
in the table drawers, and at last she tapped her forehead and said: “To
be sure! I remember now, I must have left them in the garden.”

“What is it, mamma?” I asked.

“My scissors; I went into the garden this afternoon and was working
there. I must have left them on the bench, or perhaps they fell under
it.”

She turned to go out of the room; as she did so I followed softly, and
without her seeing me I opened the door which led from the corridor into
the garden and went out. It was very dark. I saw little squares of light
thrown through the kitchen window on the gravel; and that seemed to be
the only light I could see anywhere. There was no moon, and no stars. I
hesitated for a moment, one moment only, and then I said to myself,
“What would Marc do? He would go and find his mother’s scissors, I am
sure; _I_ will go then: yes, I will certainly go.” But as I made an
uncertain and trembling step forward, my courage almost forsook me: it
seemed as if it was not I walking there in the dark. I heard the loud
beating of my heart, each throb was painful! I heard a surging in my
ears and I held my breath involuntarily. All sorts of vague forms
floated before my eyes. Something, surely, moved amongst the dead leaves
to the right, I thought. I passed by quickly. But something is surely
stealing along at the top of the wall to the left? Here I stopped, and
waited a moment. What could it be? Something, I felt certain, was
watching me, following every movement! However, on I went, and arrived
at last, more dead than alive, at the wooden seat under the large
cherry-tree. I passed my hand rapidly over the seat—no! the scissors
were not there. “They must, then, be upon the ground,” said I to myself,
and I said again, in a whisper, “What is easier than to pick them up? I
must of course feel for them under the seat. Of course I must pick them
up.”

It was very easy to talk of picking them up; but _how_ was I to do it?
If I stooped, surely that _mysterious something_ that had certainly been
stealthily following me, would pounce out upon my back. And if it should
be hidden behind the seat! If it should jump into my face! Horrible!
Then, too, what a dreadful feeling it would be to pass one’s hand over
the earth without being able to see what one touched! who could tell
what dirty, horrible, slimy and cold creature I might not come in
contact with? Without trying to invent any new monster to terrify myself
with, supposing a toad should touch my hand!

But I now remembered Marc, and I determined I would be worthy of his
friendship. In desperation I stooped suddenly and placed my hand on the
gravel under the seat. I uttered a piercing cry and lost consciousness.


    [Illustration: “I UTTERED A PIERCING CRY.”]


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



                                 XXIV.

                          DON’T LET MARC KNOW.


WHEN I recovered my senses I found myself lying in my bed; my father and
mother were standing at the side of it, and our doctor was holding my
hand.

“The serpent! the serpent!” were my first words.

Dr. Brissaud looked at my father, who said a few words to him in a low
tone. My head felt so weak that I seemed to hear his voice from a long
distance; I succeeded, however, in distinguishing these words: “He went
into the garden without a light to look for his mother’s scissors, and
in feeling for them he must have put his hand on a coil of rope used for
hanging up the linen to dry, and which was left under the garden seat.”
Upon that I went off to sleep.

I kept my bed for a long time after this, for I was very ill. I was
continually having dreams and fancies, in which all the fantastic and
horrid creatures conjured up by Montézuma were perpetually playing a
part. Always the same: Croquemitaine, the Colonel’s horse, the monkey in
the Jardin des Plantes, the little boy who lived opposite who put out
his tongue at me, Montézuma himself and Dr. Lombalot, who both made
faces at me, and, at last, that dreadful serpent that I had, in fancy,
touched with my hand. As the creatures of my imagination would torment
me more and more, I would fall to shaking and shivering all over, my
poor father standing pale by my bedside, and my mother crying. Then, as
they caressed me, I would implore them “not to tell Marc; not let Marc
know that I was a coward!”

In saying this, I was not just to myself, I can see that now. I had
really displayed great courage; and, under the influence of the best
feeling, I had obliged my poor little trembling body to obey my will.
Only, in a moment of great excitement, I had trusted too much to my
strength and it had failed me. I had attempted too much. If I had not
been so determined, if I had only asked advice, I should not have
imposed upon myself a task so terribly severe to me. To brave unknown
dangers in the dark was too great a trial for my nature to attempt all
at once. I should have begun more gradually to overcome my fears, and
then I should not have failed so sadly.

Indeed, after this adventure, I was, for a long time, in a worse state
of mind than I had ever been before.


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



                                  XXV.

                     “THE BOY WHO HAS BEEN SO ILL.”


THE snow was on the ground and the ponds all frozen when I was well
enough to return to school. I was warmly welcomed by my schoolfellows,
above all by Marc, who had called to ask after me every day during my
illness, although he lived quite at the other end of the town. He looked
upon me now with the profoundest interest, blended with affection: that
respectful sort of interest which one child feels for another who has
been brought near to death.

_The Count_ alone, of all the boys, said nothing kind to me when I first
met him on my return to Miss Porquet’s. He was too much taken up with
arranging a new violet comforter well over his nose, under which
comforter he managed to bury his face and hide himself like a dormouse.

I was too weak at first to join in any violent games; the boys still
played at prisoner’s base, and hockey, they made slides, and put snow
down one another’s backs, much to the horror of poor Miss Porquet. When
the sun shone, Marc and I walked together up and down the playground
until I was tired. When it was too cold for me to go out, he and I
remained indoors and had a game at dominoes or draughts in the
schoolroom.

I was quite sure, from Marc’s manner to me, that he was ignorant of my
terrible secret; that neither he, nor any of the other boys, knew that I
was a coward. My late illness was sufficient excuse for any nervous
timidity which I might display on occasions. All went well with me at
the school now. If any new pupil who came during that term appeared
anxious to make unpleasant remarks respecting the size of my nose or any
other peculiarity, he was always stopped at once by the information,
“That is the boy who has been so ill.” Some of them indeed seemed to
take quite a pride in themselves that they numbered amongst them a boy
who had been so very ill. What will not people be proud of?


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



                                 XXVI.

                       MARC’S FRIENDSHIP FOR ME.


MARC was extremely, and deservedly, popular amongst his schoolfellows;
and, as I was his particular friend, some of his popularity was
reflected upon me.

That I had been attracted by him the first day I saw him was not
extraordinary; for he won, even at first sight, every one’s sympathy.
Besides, had he not held out his hand to me that first day when he saw
me in trouble? and did I not owe it to him that I had escaped the jokes
and bullying which new boys generally get inflicted upon them?

But he, why did he like me? Perhaps for the simple reason that I loved
him so, and that I required his friendship; his heart was so generous
and kind!


    [Illustration:Decoration]


At any rate, thanks to him, I found out what it was to be the friend of
one who was thought so highly of. I was respected because he liked me,
and I felt that I grew better by being so much with him.

When spring came round, and the cockchafers began to buzz among the
linden trees, more than one of those unfortunate insects would be
roughly seized by the wing, and passed from the hand which held it
captive down the back of some timid young scholar. Then the most
appalling shrieks would be heard from the frightened boy, accompanied by
yells of joy and shouts of laughter from the perpetrator of the
mischief. As for me the very idea of having a cockchafer put down my
neck made me shudder all over. Miss Porquet, who was rather nervous
herself, was very angry when the boys played this trick, but she could
not stop it.

_The Count_, in spite of his pomposity, often came in for this
disagreeable practical joke. He would then fly to his desk and write off
to his mother. Whether the letters went I know not; but it was his great
resource on these occasions. Now, fortunately for me, no one dreamt of
putting a cockchafer down the neck of Marc Sublaine’s particular friend.

As things went so smoothly in play-hours I was all the better able to
devote myself to my studies, and tackled my Latin grammar with the
better will for having my mind at ease.

At the close of that summer I remember the boys adopted a very
disagreeable method of teasing one another. It lasted for about a week,
just when the furze bushes were covered with burs. And while the fancy
lasted, the teasing was incessant. Everywhere—in the playground, at
study time, under Miss Porquet’s very eyes—handfuls of burs used to be
cast by anonymous hands, like harpoons by a whaler, on the innocent
heads of unsuspecting boys. The heads chosen were always those covered
with the thickest or curliest hair. And the victim would sometimes have
to pass an hour in grumbling and complaining, while he disentangled the
odious burs from his head; often pulling out handfuls of hair as he did
so. This trick was never played on me; that I was spared, I knew well I
owed to Marc.


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



                                 XXVII.

                        PLANS FOR THE HOLIDAYS.


THE holidays drew near, and Marc and I formed the most delightful plans
for passing part of them together. It was arranged that I should pass a
week with him and his parents at their country house, Bois-Clair. This
was situated almost on the borders of the beautiful forest at Loches,
and at a short distance from the meadows watered by the river Indre. I
already knew something of Bois-Clair, for I had passed a happy
half-holiday there. But this time, only to think! what happiness! I was
to spend a whole week there.


    [Illustration:Decoration]


And yet my joy was not entirely without alloy. For I thought of the
forest. We should of course go there to gather wild flowers and berries;
that would be delightful! But if we met with wolves, boars, robbers, or
snakes! Besides in a forest there would be sure to be thickets so
obscure, so dark and terrible, that it made me ill to think of them. It
is true we would fish in the little streams for cray-fish, that would be
very nice! but supposing the cray-fish were to pinch our fingers with
their claws! or supposing we found adders instead of cray-fish, or
perhaps frogs! horrid frogs which are so like toads! Yes, but we would
go to the banks of the river and fish for gudgeon. Ah! but suppose the
bank gave way—as really happened once to my father—and we should be
plunged in the Indre, which is over three feet deep quite in-shore.

Marc spoke of all these chances with a smile on his lips, and such
perfect confidence in all turning out well, that I began to feel
reassured. I began to think that courage was contagious. Not that I can
say that I was courageous, that I had courage myself—alas! far from it,
I knew I could not trust myself to be brave. But it seemed as if I
somehow so trusted in Marc that his courage did for both of us.

If I had dared to tell him how really frightened I was about many
things, he would have made me happy by telling me at once something I
only learnt by chance in conversation, and that was that François would
be with us wherever we went. François was his father’s servant: an old
soldier and a worthy man.


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



                                XXVIII.

                   THE PROSPECT OF GOING TO COLLEGE.


IN the distance, however, beyond this happy holiday-time, there loomed a
dark shadow: the time was drawing on when I should have to go to
college. Now certain traditions which I had heard at Miss Porquet’s
school represented the college as a sort of anticipation of the lower
regions; where, from morning to night, the small and weak suffered from
the tyranny of the strong. Amongst the _Porquets_ (for so the pupils of
Miss Porquet were called) those who were of an adventurous and daring
spirit, looked forward calmly, if not eagerly, to their college life—at
least so some of them said—and to prepare themselves for it, wore their
caps all on one side, and already talked the particular college slang.
Others less courageous, waited the fatal moment of their removal from
Miss Porquet’s care to the dangers of college life with fear and
trembling. I was of that number. Some of the timid young Porquets having
left the school, and actually, as it were, standing on the threshold of
the college, drew back when on the very edge of the precipice, and
obtained their parents’ consent to pass another year under the
protecting wing of the amiable Miss Porquet.

Marc was to go to college at the same time as I did. He was not one of
those who wore his cap on one side or who talked slang, and he did not
boast that he would knock down the first collegian who looked scornfully
at him. No, Marc was not that sort of boy at all: but on the other hand
he had no fears about his college life. This wonderful courage—as it
appeared to me—won my greatest admiration. As for him, it was only
natural, he thought, to be fearless. And we made our plans together as
follows:—

“We will go to college arm in arm,” Marc would say to me sometimes; “we
will never be rude or provoke anyone, then it is most likely that nobody
will provoke us. But if they touch us, well, we will defend ourselves,
that is all.”


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



                                 XXIX.

                             AT BOIS-CLAIR.


THE holidays arrived, and Marc and I went off to Bois-Clair. Rare and
wonderful thing! that happy time, looked forward to, talked of, and
thought of, for so long, fully realised our expectations. We were as
happy and enjoyed ourselves in all respects as much, as we had ever
dreamed we should. What spirits we were in! We were intoxicated with the
splendid air, the freedom, and the constant exercise out-of-doors. We
were seldom in the house, for we were so occupied with our important
out-door affairs—fishing, gathering wild fruits and flowers, and getting
ourselves nearly lost in the grand forest. François was always with us,
and always in a good temper, when we went on any long expedition.


    [Illustration: “I COULD NOT BEAR TO SEE A COW COMING UP TO ME.”]


I became quite enterprising, almost daring, and, except now and then
when certain fears assailed me, which however I did my best to conceal,
I began to think I was becoming a changed character. One of the
drawbacks, though, to my perfect happiness, while staying with Marc, was
the constant chance of meeting with cattle. I could not bear to see a
cow coming up to me. That was one of my fears. Another cause of trouble
was the chance of falling in with sheep-dogs; how I dreaded seeing a
flock of sheep grazing in a field, I knew the dogs would be with them,
and that if we walked near, they would be sure to come up to us.

And this they always did without fail, and what a moment of anxiety I
used to pass when these great, shaggy, dirty animals came running
towards us, barking as loudly as they could, staring at us with their
great bright eyes. Marc used to speak to them, and somehow he always
knew how to quiet them; for at the sound of his voice they would stop
barking, and walk off wagging their stumps of tails.

Still, when we had passed them I did not dare to look back for fear they
should be coming after us. It always seemed to me that one of them would
creep stealthily up behind and grip me. I seemed to feel, sometimes, as
if one of the dogs was only a foot behind me, and just about to spring,
and then, with a great fear on me, I would turn round suddenly to find,
of course, no dog there.

The poor beasts had not wasted another thought on us: they returned to
their flocks, after we passed, gently wagging their tails, and stopping
now and again to philosophize, with their noses examining a mole-hill.

The turkeys were creatures that I detested, and nothing was more
disagreeable to me than meeting them. I was very much afraid of them. I
can scarcely give an idea of the effect produced upon me by their little
black eyes, which always had an angry glare in them, their frightful
wrinkled heads, their great spread-out tails, and drooping wings; there
seemed to me to be something hideously unnatural always about the
turkeys, and when they advanced towards me, with their ruffled feathers,
they appeared to me like some monstrous stuffed beasts, that went on
wheels, not living birds walking about. Marc did not seem to notice
them, and I never told anyone the dread I had of those turkeys; but when
they came near I shrank into a corner, and scarcely breathed until they
had passed.

The pigs, too, troubled me not a little. I would willingly have walked a
good distance out of my way to avoid passing through the copse where
they were turned out. I distrusted their squinting little eyes, which
appeared so full of deceit and malice; and I hated the familiarity with
which they came up to smell us, simply because they, like us, belonged
to the house. I remembered on these occasions all sorts of terrible
tales of children having been devoured by pigs. But the coolness and
confidence of Marc, in all times of apparent danger, in a little while
reassured me.

Little by little—seeing that I was neither bitten, tossed, pecked, nor
devoured—I became accustomed to all the objects which at first caused me
so much terror. It is true I did not go in search of them, but I did not
fly from them, as I began by doing.


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



                                  XXX.

                     ULYSSES MAKES HIS APPEARANCE.


THE day before that on which we were to return to Loches, Marc and I
went on to one of the terraces which overlooked the road, to shoot our
bows and arrows. All of a sudden Marc cried out, “Hollo! here’s Ulysses!
what does he come for, I wonder?”

Ulysses was one of the gendarmes belonging to the brigade at Loches. I
was leaning on the railing: Ulysses came up to us at a hard gallop.

“Hollo! Ulysses, how d’ye do?” cried Marc.

Ulysses raised his head, looked at us, and nodded. “Is your papa at
home?” he asked Marc.

“Yes,” answered Marc, “he is.”

Off went the gendarme at a trot, and in another minute we saw him turn
to the left and enter the great gate of the courtyard of Bois-Clair.
When he turned to leave us I noticed that he carried a small yellow
leather bag at his back. I watched it jumping up and down as the horse
trotted. Ah! if I had only known what that little yellow bag contained!


    [Illustration:Decoration]


François soon came out to tell us that luncheon was ready. When we
entered the courtyard we saw the gendarme’s horse tied to one of the
chestnut trees. The flies were tormenting him; he kept shaking his head,
and giving tremendous kicks with his great iron-shod feet. As we passed
him he was frightened, and started, making a tremendous clatter. Off I
ran. As I passed the kitchen window, I saw Ulysses at table having
dinner.

At luncheon Mr. and Mrs. Sublaine both seemed much pre-occupied; every
now and then they spoke together in a low tone of voice. After luncheon
Ulysses came into the room, and then Mr. Sublaine told him he should
“start to-night instead of to-morrow.”

I looked at Marc with surprise, and I saw, by the expression of his
face, that he was as much astonished as myself.

As we were leaving the dining-room Mrs. Sublaine told us to make our
little arrangements in the way of packing, and so on, for that we were
going to leave Bois-Clair that evening. She did not tell us why, but
returned to talk to Mr. Sublaine. We were back again at Loches at eight
o’clock that night.


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



                                 XXXI.

                            SAD NEWS FOR ME.


THE next day Marc came to see me, and told me that his father was going
to Orleans. This news distressed me, I scarcely knew why. I had a
presentiment that something terrible would follow. I had seen at
Bois-Clair a large letter with a red seal, which laid beside Mr.
Sublaine’s plate at luncheon. No doubt this had been brought by the
gendarme in his little yellow bag. It was owing to that letter, with the
red seal, that we had returned to Loches, sooner than was intended. This
I felt quite sure of: and also that the same letter caused Mr. Sublaine
to hurry off to Orleans. What would come next?

Alas! my fears were but too well founded. The day but one following,
when I went to play with Marc, he told me that his father was appointed
to a higher post under government at Orleans.

As Marc told me this, he looked very sad. When he told me, I could
scarcely speak. I remember I only answered, “Ah!” It must have seemed
very stupid, but I am sure he saw how grieved I was, for he did all he
could to comfort me.

Marc’s parents were only to go at the beginning of October, so there was
still a little time for us to be together, but I only seemed to suffer
more in consequence. Each time I saw Marc, my heart seemed to swell with
pain at the thought of our parting. I was miserable! how I loved him! he
had been so good to me! how handsome he was! alas! should I lose sight
of that good, kind face, perhaps for ever!

He tried his best to console me, he promised that he would often write
to me, and talked of holidays yet to come that we would pass together at
Bois-Clair: and then the blow was struck.


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



                                 XXXII.

               I GO TO COLLEGE.—A PUPIL CALLED BORNIQUET.


ON Saturday the third of October, Marc, and the rest of his family went
to Orleans. Sunday I spent in tears, and on Monday my father took me to
college.

The way to the college was through a very long street, called Pont
Street. That Monday was very cold, I remember; an autumnal fog came up
from the meadows near and seemed to creep into my bones, and I trembled
in every limb.

At every step we met college boys of all ages, who were loitering along
in the same direction we were going. They called to one another from a
distance, and formed into different groups, from several of which I
heard chance words escaping, in which very clear allusions were made to
a new boy who had “a fine big nose of his own.”

Once within the college grounds the boys prepared to enter school,
separating into their different classes. After wandering about for some
time, uncertain where to go, I found myself in the middle of a group of
boys which opened, with apparent good nature, to let me join them, and
then closed round me. Once in the crowd I discovered that the object of
each boy seemed to be to push his neighbour down; three times did I
advance with the rest to the school door, and each time I was pushed
away from it and knocked up against the wall. The fourth attempt was
more successful, I was lifted off my legs and borne with the crowd into
school, where, half crushed and quite out of breath, I managed to
stumble on to one of the nearest benches.

As I took my school-books one by one out of my satchel, my neighbour
jogged my elbow, and so threw them down; and the professor, looking
sternly at me, begged that I would not “make so much noise.”

He asked the names of all the pupils, and made me repeat mine very
carefully.

“Write an exercise!” said he at last.

Just as I plunged my pen into the inkstand and brought it out—certainly
rather too full of ink—a neighbour who was watching me, gave my elbow
another jog, and calculated the effect so well, that the contents of the
pen were shot all over the clean white collar of one of the smaller
boys, a little red-headed fellow, who turned round to me in a fury. I
tried to explain how the misfortune occurred, the professor was very
angry, and I made myself as small as possible.

The exercise over, the professor proceeded to question us, that is, to
question the new pupils.

“Borniquet!” said he, “stand up.”

Borniquet did not move. The boys looked at one another with surprise and
began whispering, the professor a second time ordered the pupil named
Borniquet to rise. Strange to say, Borniquet made no sign: this time
there was a regular murmur of surprise among the pupils; the professor
became red with indignation. I trembled at the bare idea of the terrible
punishment that awaited the luckless Borniquet; I would not have been in
his place for something.

“I desire you to stand up, Borniquet!” cried the professor, turning to
the right,—just where I was. I looked now at the boys on each side of me
with great curiosity; it must be one of them, thought I.

“But you, you, you!” cried the professor again, pointing his finger
right in my direction. I turned round and looked behind me. Where was
Borniquet? The whole class now burst out laughing.

“You, the third boy on the second bench!” cried the professor, now quite
losing patience.

The third boy on the second bench was me. The boys near me said, “Get
up! get up!” As there was certainly some mistake somewhere, I still
hesitated, when I felt a sudden and violent push, which came from I knew
not where, and I was on my legs. I looked at the professor, feeling very
foolish.

He was a worthy man: thinking he had a very stupid and nervous pupil
before him he questioned me in a kind, gentle tone to encourage me.
Presently he stooped over his desk, and then looked up quite surprised.
“But, I see,” cried he, “that there is no pupil of the name of Borniquet
on the list! Why what is your name?”

“Bicquerot,” I said.

He tapped his forehead and declared that he had made a slip of the
tongue. “That might happen to any one,” he remarked, turning towards the
laughing boys.

But it was a curious thing that he should have made the mistake in the
name so many times. His tongue had a strange way of slipping. During the
whole year I was called by the two names, and had to answer sometimes to
Borniquet, sometimes to Bicquerot. And naturally my schoolfellows
preferred calling me by my wrong name Borniquet.


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



                                XXXIII.

                       MY NOSE STILL TROUBLES ME.


A CURLY headed little boy, with eyes sparkling with malice, and a tiny
turned-up nose, came close up to me and said: “Don’t you intend to give
it back to me?”

“What do you mean?” I asked in surprise.

“You know very well,” he answered, looking more impertinent than ever.

“But I assure you I do not,” replied I.

“My nose; you know you have taken my share as well as your own, and it’s
very nasty of you,” said this disagreeable child.

I reddened and turned away from him. The boy on the other side of me
seized the opportunity of my turning towards him, to say: “My little
Borniquet.”

“Not Borniquet but Bicquerot!” I corrected.

“Ah, that’s true,” he went on. “But, my little Borniquet, tell me, what
is it made of?”

I guessed that he alluded to my nose, and I shrugged my shoulders.


    [Illustration:Decoration]


“He has a false nose,” said my interlocutor in a voice loud enough for
nearly everyone to hear, “and he won’t tell me if it is made of
paste-board!”

All the boys near us began to laugh, and presently the whole class
joined in the hilarity: never had an unfortunate nose become so popular
so quickly.

All sorts of jokes were made about my luckless nose. Little pieces of
paper were sent round with witty and unpleasant allusions to my
prominent feature. A future caricaturist gained great applause by making
a sketch representing the pupil Borniquet dressed as an acrobat beating
a drum, and suspended from the trapeze by his monstrous nose.

The least reference made to _any_ nose instantly attracted every eye to
mine, and sent the class off into roars of laughter.

What a beginning to my college life! I said to myself over and over
again, If Marc had but not left me, all this would never have happened.


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



                                 XXXIV.

                             “AZOR! AZOR!”


WHEN school was over I made up my mind that I would slip quietly out of
the college gates, and making my escape, run home as fast as my legs
could carry me. Unfortunately I did not succeed in doing this. In the
playground I had to pass several boys who were collected together in
groups before they went home. I blush to acknowledge that one of these
boys—quite a little fellow too—planted himself resolutely in front of me
and prevented me from passing him. After standing so for a second he
suddenly seized me by the nose and pulled it till I cried out.

“Knock him down, he has insulted you,” cried out a boy noted for his
love of fighting.

I looked at him, feeling stupid and uncertain what to do: he turned away
in disgust, shrugging his shoulders.

I succeeded, however, in making my way out of college. To my great
astonishment all the boys whom I passed, whether of my own class or not,
seemed determined to call me “Azor.” “Here, here, Azor,” they cried.
“Hi, hi, Azor, where is that dog Azor? Oh, here he is, and muzzled! He
does not bite, not he. Get out, Azor!” These were the cries that greeted
me on every side. Why should they call me by that name, which in France
is commonly given to a dog only?

Here and there, in Pont-street, stood groups of college boys: as soon as
I passed one of these clusters, the boys all burst out laughing and
called after me, “Azor! Azor!”

Confused and frightened, I ran past houses and people and soon got ahead
of the most advanced of the college boys. When I got in front of the
Hospital, I saw two old men breathing a little fresh air at the door; as
I passed them, one gave the other a slap on the back and cried out,
“Hullo, look at Azor!” and I heard them bursting out into peals of
laughter.

At the corner of one of the streets I had to pass by, there was a large
grocer’s shop; one of the shop-boys was standing close to the pavement
grinding coffee. As soon as I passed, the coffee-mill stopped and I
heard the boy calling to the others, inside the shop, to come and look
at “Azor!”


    [Illustration: “HULLO, LOOK AT AZOR!”]


The work people, coming out of the manufactory to their dinners, began
to bark at me, and hiss as if they were setting two dogs to fight.

At last, to my joy, I saw our house: I was safe! But no, not yet: my
hands trembled so that I could not turn the handle of the door: my
nervous stamping attracted the attention of a painter who was painting a
signboard in front of a restaurant near. The moment he saw me, he left
off whistling a popular air, and, coming towards me, held his
paint-brush horizontally about two feet from the ground, and promised
“Azor, good Azor,” a piece of sugar if he would jump over it nicely.

I rushed into the house and threw myself upon a chair, panting for
breath.


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



                                 XXXV.

                      THE THEORY OF SELF-DEFENCE.


“HAS anyone hurt you?” anxiously inquired my mother.

I shook my head.

“What has happened, then, my poor boy?” asked she.

Then I burst out, in a voice of despair, with the history of all my
wrongs. I declared that I would _never_, _never_, go inside the college
doors again! I must be sent back to Miss Porquet. That if I was not sent
back there——

Here my father’s voice cut my passionate words short, and put a stop to
my rage. I began to cry. My father looked at me and shrugged his
shoulders.

When I told him of all my troubles, he replied, “Oh, is that all? When I
was a boy, things were much worse than that. You must return laugh for
laugh; and when anyone touches you, fall upon them and give it to them
well. It should be a case of, ‘You pinch me, I pinch you back; you throw
a pen full of ink at me, I throw my inkstand at you; you pull my nose, I
pull your ears; you call me Azor, I call you Médor; and there we are
quits! You run after me to frighten me, I throw my leg out, and you
tumble over it into the mud.’ That’s the way to manage, my little Paul,
with schoolboys; you do that, and you need no longer be afraid; and you
can then laugh at them in your turn. Ah! if it had been me!”

Then he took my hand, and doubled it to feel my fist, and said: “Now,
look at that; that is a fist like any other boy’s; even stronger and
harder than many of your age and size have. Now I have told you before
how easy it is to use it: you raise your arm like this, clenching your
fist tightly; draw your wrist well back to your shoulder, and then
strike out straight and hard. There you are, my son, that is all you
have to do. Your adversary will be on his back most likely; then you
must help him to get up, and to dust himself, shake hands with him, and
it’s all over. Now see, my little man, how easy it is; will you not
try?”

I replied, “Yes, papa;” but in such a piteous tone of voice, that my
father could not help making a face at me. He then began walking up and
down the room; and as he passed behind me, he suddenly cried out, “But
what in the world have you got on your back?”

I shuddered. What could it be? Most likely some creeping thing; perhaps
a caterpillar! But it was not; for my father now took from my back a
placard, on which was written—“_My name is Azor!_” Those horrid boys had
gummed it there!

My mother was most indignant at what she considered a great insult. The
idea of giving me the name of a dog!

“An insult!” cried my father; “on the contrary, I consider it a
compliment. For my part, I would much rather be a dog than a frog or a
hare. A dog, at least, shows his teeth and bites. At any rate, in my
time, dogs knew how to bite; but perhaps that is changed now, as so many
other things are.” He frowned as he looked at the placard again, and
muttered between his teeth, “Ah! if I had been in Azor’s place to-day,
my friends, you should have discovered that he could show his teeth!”


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



                                 XXXVI.

                            STILL A COWARD.


ALAS! my father’s advice bore no fruit. Each day brought me some new
nickname; I had soon as many names and titles as a Spanish grandee. I
suffered all the bullying that timid little boys endure at the hands of
their bigger schoolfellows. And, shame be it to me to say it, even
babies of eight and nine years old were not afraid to run after me, and
join in any tricks that were played me. These children would troop after
me when we came out of school, shrieking and yelling, driving me before
them, brandishing their wallets as if they were tomahawks, and I used to
fly! I, who was taller by a head than any of them! yes, I flew before
them like a great, stupid stag hunted by a parcel of little curs. People
would come to their doors to watch us and would laugh at me for a
coward, and call me all sorts of names. And once, I remember, Colonel
Boissot happened to see us, and he stood watching the hunt with his hat
all on one side and a smile of contempt upon his face.

There was a little fellow at the college called Lehardy, he was only
nine, but I had taken a great fancy to him because I thought I saw a
likeness between him and Marc: we were great friends. He never joined
the other little boys in chasing me, or behaving rudely to me, and as he
lived near where I did we often walked to the college together.


    [Illustration:Decoration]


One day when we were walking side by side and talking together, a little
wretch of seven came up to Lehardy, and, seizing him by the ear, pulled
it cruelly merely for the pleasure of hearing the poor little boy
scream. I saw his eyes, filled with great tears, raised to me as if
imploring my protection. Pity and indignation fought a fierce battle
with cowardice, I trembled from head to foot, and was on the point of
throwing myself upon Lehardy’s aggressor. But, unfortunately, my heart
failed me, and I ran away, stopping my ears not to hear the cries of my
poor little friend.

All school-time I was haunted by those pleading eyes, I heard those
screams of pain, and I felt a kind of horror of myself. For the first
time in my life I knew what it was to feel remorse. I could not attend
to my lessons; all the professor’s explanations were lost upon me, and
it was impossible for me to answer a single question. When we came out
of school I kept behind, I would not have found myself face to face with
little Lehardy for anything in the world. He had trusted to me to help
him, and I had failed him.

I avoided him the next day and the day following. By chance we met, and
I then saw that the good little fellow bore me no malice. This only
increased my contempt for myself. No one accused me, but my conscience
gave me no peace. I was miserable, the thought of what I had done was
insupportable to me.

It is very difficult to make up one’s mind to have a tooth pulled out
(at least when one is a bit of a coward). No amount of reasoning or
advice seems to have much effect. One is always inclined to reply to
kind friends, “I know you are right to advise me to have it out, but I
dare not.” However, when toothache once sets in badly, it has more
effect than all the advice in the world, and, much as we dread the
operation, we fly to the dentist and have the tooth out, painful as it
is. Now that was very like the situation in which I found myself. I felt
now that I really could have the courage to fight with a boy of five or
six, if by that means I could wipe out the recollection of my cowardice
from my own memory and the memory of my poor little friend.

Unfortunately for my good resolutions, nobody else seemed inclined to
torment Lehardy, and I felt that if I had to wait to display my courage,
it would all evaporate like smoke.


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



                                XXXVII.

                             INCONSISTENCY.


MY courage did not go the length of making me cry out to my
schoolfellows: “Whoever wishes to have a fight has only to touch
Lehardy!” I only waited, determined that another time, should he need my
protection, he would not have to look for it in vain.

My good resolutions, I need not say, had no effect in changing my
appearance. My nose had always excited laughter, and it did so no less
now; when the boys made jokes about me, and gave me nicknames, such as
Azor and Toucan, I did not dream of using my fists against them. No; my
courage, if you could call it courage at all, had nothing aggressive in
it; it was expectant only. My schoolfellows saw no change in the
unfortunate Bicquerot, at whom they were accustomed to poke their fun.

Still, come what might, I was decided that if any boy attempted to
molest Lehardy, I would interfere, and would fight with all my strength
in the cause of the poor little fellow whom I had deserted in such a
cowardly way before. It was very strange that I should have felt so
brave upon this one subject, and that my courage should have stopped
there. The idea of resenting attacks upon myself never occurred to me.
My thoughts were all taken up with the punishment of Lehardy’s
aggressors.

I leave the trouble of deciding why my courage should have first
appeared in this form, to any profound philosopher who may think it
worth his while to consider the subject. Was it from a want of logic, or
absence of selfishness?


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



                                XXXVIII.

                      MY PARENTS’ DEVOTION TO ME.


WHEN I first became one of Miss Porquet’s pupils, _The Count_ had
taunted me with the poverty of my parents. This idea once put into my
head made me reflect upon many circumstances which I should have allowed
to pass unnoticed had it not been there.

One evening, I remember, I came home from school earlier than usual as I
was not feeling well, and I found my father and mother at dinner. To my
astonishment I found it consisted only of soup and salad! I understood
now why I had always dined alone: my dinner was always substantial and
most abundant. My father and mother stinted themselves for my sake, and
wished to hide from me that they did so.

My father’s half-pay as a retired officer was all we had to live upon,
and part of that was devoted to helping a friend of his who was in
difficulties.

I was deeply touched; but I dared not make any remarks upon what I had
seen: first of all I should not have known how to express my feelings;
but my love and respect for my father and mother increased each day that
I lived.

Sometimes in the evening, while I was learning my lessons for next day,
at the table close to the little lamp, my father, who would be seated
near me, would fall asleep over his newspaper, and his head lean more
and more forwards as he slept. I remember one night in particular that
he did so, and I then noticed that he had two great hollows at his
temples, and that he had two deep lines down his cheeks. I felt
heartbroken! My father was growing thin, and it was because he stinted
himself in everything for my sake! I forgot my lessons, and I sat
staring at my father as if I could never turn my eyes away from him.

Suddenly he woke up, and lifting his head, looked at me with surprise,
and asked me what I was thinking about.

“Nothing, papa,” I replied, turning very red; and I stooped over my
lesson-book and appeared to be working very hard.

If I had dared I would have thrown my arms round my father’s neck and
have told him how I loved him, how I thanked him, yet how grieved I was.

Sometimes at night, when I had been in bed and asleep for some hours, I
would awake suddenly. I would feel that I had slept a long time, and
that it was very late; yet, through the door which led into my mother
and father’s room and which stood ajar, I could see a light burning, and
by that light I could always see my dear mother seated at a table,
working, mending the household linen, and making or mending my clothes
or my father’s. Then I would cough gently, and my mother coming to my
bedside would ask me if I did not feel well or had been dreaming; then
how I used to throw my arms round her neck and kiss her, twenty times,
one after the other, and tell her how I loved her with all my heart.


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



                                 XXXIX.

                     A HUNTING COAT OF FORMER DAYS.


ONE morning I saw my mother looking at my jacket. She appeared troubled
and anxious. I could read her thoughts: she was thinking that I must
soon have a new one, and of the means of getting it. We were so poor!
She sighed as she looked at my worn-out jacket, and as she did so I
coloured as if I had been found out in some grave fault. She then went
to my father and consulted with him for a long while. After this
consultation she went to her wardrobe—that wardrobe which was full of
mysterious things—and from it she took a parcel, and laid it carefully
on the table.

My father and I both came to the table, curious to see what was in the
parcel: my mother took out the pins from the paper one by one, and put
them in a little box. I felt very impatient to know what _could_ be in
that wonderful parcel, and I thought my mother’s fingers moved very
slowly. At last she uncovered a coat, carefully folded up, which she at
first took to the window to examine, and then spread out upon the table.
This coat was a most wonderful and beautiful garment in my eyes; it was
a green velvet hunting coat, with brass buttons. My mother smoothed it
gently with her hand to get rid of any creases that there might be in
it; then turning to my father she said, “This will do beautifully!”

I had never seen this coat before, it must have lain for many many years
buried in my mother’s wardrobe: it was no doubt a relic of better days:
those days that I had heard my father talk of when some old friend
chanced to come and see him.

When I looked carefully at this wonderful coat, I discovered that it was
made of the richest and softest velvet, and that the head of a fox was
engraved upon each of the brass buttons. The fox was full face, standing
out in relief from each of the buttons, his sharp nose and cunning eyes
wonderfully true to nature. At sight of these buttons my admiration knew
no bounds; my mother, smiling, placed her hand caressingly on my head
and said, “Now thank your father, he is going to let me make this coat
fit you, and it shall be yours!”

I jumped for joy, I turned head over heels, I thanked my father, I
kissed my mother, I clapped my hands, and I determined that I would try
hard to deserve all the kindness that my parents showed me. Yes, thought
I to myself, I will use my fists even if only to prove that I am worthy
to wear that splendid coat, which my father has worn, and which my dear
mother is going to make fit me, with her own hands, and which has such
grand buttons!


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



                                  XL.

               THE EFFECT OF MY NEW COAT ON MY CHARACTER.


MY mother first carefully unpicked my father’s hunting coat, and then
measuring me she cut out sundry patterns in grey paper, and then cut out
the pieces of velvet from these patterns. With what anxiety, mingled
with joy, did I watch her operations; it was delightful. The scissors
went crac, crac, crac! as they cut through the velvet. What should I
have done if they had cut too far? But no, there was no fear of that, my
mother was too clever for that. All that she undertook was well done.

Every day when I returned from the college, I walked up softly behind my
mother’s chair as she sat working, to look over her shoulder and see
“how we were getting on” with the wonderful coat. I remember one day a
gentleman called and remained talking to my mother for a long time. I
was indeed wanting in charity towards that visitor! what angry looks I
gave him as I sat in a corner studying my Latin grammar! What angry
words I managed to think, without speaking! All my thoughts were taken
up by that splendid coat. I was longing to wear it, and this tiresome
visitor prevented my mother from working at it for hours.


    [Illustration: “WITH THAT COAT A NEW ERA IN MY LIFE BEGAN.”]


With that coat a new era in my life began, with it I seemed somehow to
gain courage and address. The thought of it seemed to make me think
better of myself. At all events I determined to try to be worthy of it.
When I went to bed that night, I did all I could to keep awake, in order
to watch my mother working through the door which stood a little way
open: I said nothing, I lay quiet as a mouse. The bed clothes were
pulled up to my nose and I was perfectly happy; happy to feel myself so
warm and comfortable, happy at seeing the bright lamp in the next room,
which seemed to keep me company, happy at having such kind good parents,
and above all was I not happy at possessing that beautiful velvet coat
with those grand buttons! That night I was indeed a happy boy. Little by
little my eyelids closed, and in spite of my efforts to keep awake, I
was soon fast asleep.

The next morning when I awoke, the first thing I saw was the beautiful
coat hanging on the back of one of the chairs. I sprang out of bed and
soon had it on. Never had I been so delighted with anything before. It
was a little too long and a little too wide; but it was all the better
for that surely? I grew very fast, and this coat _must_ last a long,
long time. Just over the shoulders the velvet was rather loose and
puckered, and appeared somewhat like the wings of a swallow in shape.
But that really made me look broader, and was therefore an improvement
to my figure. The coat had been made considerably smaller, although it
was still rather large for me; but the buttons of course could not be
made smaller in proportion, and they therefore covered far more space
than formerly in proportion to the velvet. I was however only the more
delighted at this: they were so beautiful!

My curiosity satisfied about the fit of my coat, I now thought of my
dear mother, who I feared must have sat up half the night working, in
order to give me pleasure. My heart was touched beyond measure at this
thought, and I was filled with gratitude towards her. I took the coat in
my arms and kissed it. I then went to find my mother that I might thank
her. How happy she was at seeing my delight! and when I started off to
college, she stood at the window that she might watch me walking down
the street dressed in my gorgeous new jacket.


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



                                  XLI.

                              THE BEETLE.


THE first college boy that I met that morning begged me to give him the
address of my tailor. The second came up to me with an expression of the
most intense surprise, and passed his hand over my coat.

When I turned to him and asked him rather indignantly what he was about,
he replied that he considered my jacket admirable! Now according to my
idea this was not too strong an expression to apply to my velvet coat,
but there was something in the tone in which it was said that annoyed
me. Still more was I displeased when he walked round me two or three
times, lifting his hands up in the air. He was joined almost immediately
by half a dozen little rascals, who, following his example, raised their
hands towards heaven, exclaiming in various tones: “Admirable!”

There were different groups of boys standing about in the street, and in
one of these groups I heard a boy holding forth, apparently much to the
amusement of the others, about a certain green coat which had been cut
out by a carpenter with a few strokes of his hatchet. In another group a
boy said that “some one” was a wonderful hand at making coats! And in a
third group one of the scholars declared that “_somebody_, not a hundred
miles off, was exactly like a great green beetle!” And then on every
side I heard “Beetle, Beetle!” sung out to the tune of a polka.

This pastime, which began to cause no little annoyance to the
passers-by, was suddenly put a stop to by the striking of the college
clock, and in a few seconds the boys were all hard at work at their
studies,—or supposed to be so.

During lesson-time I could not help asking myself what they could mean
about the beetle? and alas! wounding as it was to my pride, I could not
but come to the conclusion that Beetle was now to be added to the list
of my nicknames. One more or less, what did it matter? so I reasoned:
still, I could not help the feeling of annoyance this new name caused
me. All doubt upon the subject was put an end to by the sight of a
caricature which was passed from hand to hand along the forms, and which
my eyes soon caught a glimpse of.

I easily recognised the absurd nose which had been so often drawn in
imitation of my own. And now my coat, my beautiful coat, was caricatured
too! I knew it was intended for my coat, but how shamefully caricatured!
The buttons were made to look the size of dessert plates, and the whole
coat appeared like the shell of a large green beetle with my face at the
top. To prevent any mistakes upon the subject, the artist had written
under the drawing—_Bicquerot, or the Green Beetle!_

Have you ever received a sudden and totally unexpected blow? If so, you
know the feeling of stupefaction that follows—as if one were completely
overpowered; then comes the pain which nearly makes one scream. And this
is followed by a feeling of blind rage and a thirst for vengeance.

These are the sensations which I experienced on seeing the caricature
and afterwards, while my schoolfellows were muttering their lessons
round me.

I was astounded! that jacket which I was so proud of—which I thought so
much of for many reasons—was caricatured and laughed at by everyone. I
felt, too, acute pain at the thought that my mother’s work—that work
which was one of the proofs of her great love for me—was made a subject
of contemptuous ridicule. I was now wounded in the most sensitive part
of my nature.

I felt the great tears rush to my eyes; I would not let them fall, but
courageously forced them back. I would not betray the pain and
humiliation I was suffering. I buried my head in my hands, and kept my
eyes fixed upon my Latin grammar; but, with my mind’s eye, I saw over
again my mother seated at work, busy over my jacket, smiling to herself
as she stitched away so indefatigably, forgetting all her own weariness
in the thought of the pleasure she would give me. Then, beside that
picture, rose before me the laughing, the grimacing faces of the
insolent boys!

The contrast made me furious! I was so wretched that I determined I
would no longer bear it. At that moment my hand, unknown to myself,
clenched the leg of the table nearest to me with such violence that the
whole table shook; the boys raised their heads in surprise, and the
professor begged the pupil “Bicquerot” to keep still.

The pupil Bicquerot said nothing; but when school was over, he walked
out of college with his head in the air; his knees trembled with nervous
emotion, but his heart was strong and determined.


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



                                 XLII.

                            A FIGHT AT LAST.


“HISH! Swish! there goes the Beetle!” cried an impudent voice in my ear.

I turned round quickly, and grinding my teeth, asked: “Who said that?”

Brideau, nicknamed “Cock of the Walk,” who was walking just behind me,
was so surprised at the expression of my face, that he retreated a step
or two.

“Was it you?” I demanded.

He did not dare to deny it before all the other boys, lest they should
think that he was afraid of me. So he replied in an insolent tone of
voice, “Yes it _was_ me!”

I threw myself upon him with clenched fists and my eyes shut. I dashed
myself against something, and something was dashed against me. I felt a
violent shock. My left eye suddenly became extremely painful, felt very
heavy, and seemed to see ten thousand lighted candles at once. It seemed
as though my knees gave way, that I staggered two or three steps
backwards and leant against something hard. I soon opened my eyes, or
rather the right eye,—for the left was still tightly closed—and the ten
thousand candles had turned into a number of bright circles which
twisted about in the dark. I discovered that I had backed into a
grocer’s shop, between a barrel of herrings and a case of dried figs.
Everyone looked at me with surprise. Some of my schoolfellows cried out
“Bravo!” (most likely in derision) and others asked me, “if it hurt me
much.”

“Not at all,” I answered; I was so excited, that I very nearly said, “on
the contrary I feel the better for it!” Strange to say, nobody laughed
at me. One boy kindly bathed my eye with cold water. To tell the truth I
was very much surprised to find that a blow from my fist struck just by
chance, in that way, should seem to change so entirely the conduct of my
schoolfellows towards me.

Casting my sound eye round me, I tried to find out what had become of
Brideau. I expected to see him come rushing at me; imagine my
astonishment at seeing him going off with a crest-fallen and discomfited
air. He had had one of his eyes much damaged, and his nose was bleeding
into the bargain. It seemed that I had knocked him down. Someone said to
me: “You’ve beaten him!” And, then only, I discovered to my intense
surprise, that I was the conqueror.

Fancy! me the conqueror! Could it be so? It seemed so strange that I
could scarcely believe it! A conqueror, and gloriously wounded. I smiled
involuntarily as I bathed my eye, which now saw black circles revolving
in the light, and which seemed to me to be tremendously swelled! However
I did not mind a black eye or anything else: I had fought in a good
cause, and had conquered.


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



                                 XLIII.

                        MY FATHER IS SATISFIED.


WHEN I discovered that my coat had not suffered in the fray I was quite
contented, and I returned home whistling as I went, for the first time
since I had been to college. What balm victory spreads upon our wounds!
By the time I reached our house I merely seemed to feel a little
stiffness in my left eye. My father was quite right when he said that
nothing was easier than to give a blow with your fist. Nothing is
easier, and nothing easier than to receive one. In the twinkling of an
eye I had given one and had it returned; though, for the life of me, I
could not say how it came about: and I do not therefore intend to give a
lecture upon the subject.

I would not have told my parents what had taken place for anything in
the world: they would have been sure to ask what I had fought about, and
they would have felt hurt had they known the reason. My mother, seeing
that I appeared troubled at her anxious inquiries about my black eye,
and that my replies were evasive, thought it wiser not to question me
further; and my father dreamed so little that his poor coward of a son
could have received his wounds in battle that he imagined every possible
reason for them rather than the true one.

The news was now spread in the college that Bicquerot was decidedly
eccentric, that he had curious fancies, and this was why they thought
so. I had allowed them all, even the very little boys, to call me all
sorts of names and I had taken no notice, but had appeared meek and
gentle to a fault: I had been called Azor, Toucan and Borniquet, and had
not stirred, but being once called a beetle! my nature was changed, I
became furious, and hit out right and left, in the blindness of my rage.

At the end of the term my father almost fell off his chair when reading
my report from the college. All was well enough till he arrived at the
remarks upon my general conduct, and then came the words “Very bad.”

“What does this mean?” inquired my father in an angry tone of voice,
marking, with his thumb, the objectionable adjective. As I did not
reply, he read on the next page the following words, “quarrelsome and
fond of fighting.” He appeared stupefied. Could it be possible that my
conduct was described as very bad, because of my love of fighting? He
turned to me, and resting his first finger on my chest, exclaimed, “You!
You have fought! Is it true?”

“Yes, papa,” I answered.

“Were you beaten?” he then inquired.

“No,” said I; “I gave some blows with my fist, and had some given back
to me.”

“Real good blows?” cried my father, “bang, bang?”

“Real good blows,” I answered.

“Often?” he asked.

“Well, yes, pretty often,” said I.

“What a young rascal!” said my father, pretending to pinch my ear; and
in a whisper he continued: “kiss me, my boy!”


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



                                 XLIV.

                           EXTREMES ARE BAD.


IT is often difficult for men—then how much more so for boys—to avoid
running into extremes. I ought to have been contented with being no
longer a coward, but alas! I was not, for I now became somewhat of a
bully. I grew excited and furious at very little. It did not require the
opprobrious name of beetle to be applied to me now in order to make me
angry. The time arrived when the least word would make me begin a fight
at once. I began to amuse myself by frightening the smaller boys and
making them fly before me. And the big boys, even, were very careful how
they approached me.


    [Illustration:Decoration]


One day I called at Miss Porquet’s school merely to see _The Count_. I
found him—poor creature, left still by his parents in this baby
school—standing in the playground with his cap on one side and his hands
in his pockets. I stared at him from head to foot, and asked him if he
had any remark to make about my coat, my trousers, my neck-tie, or any
part of my dress. And I inquired if he was sure that he wouldn’t like to
come into a corner with me and learn how they fought at college? He
stared at me with frightened eyes, declined my offer, and rushed into
the schoolroom, where he locked himself in, screaming as loud as he
could. As for Brideau, I called him any nickname I chose, and he dared
not say anything. But alas! I was puffed up with pride and vanity! I
used to look at myself in the glass with admiration and respect, and
murmur to myself the words, “Bravest of the brave!” But everything has a
reverse side: the “Bravest of the brave” unfortunately had his ears one
day well pulled by a footman whose afternoon nap he disturbed by ringing
a large bell close to his head. The “Bravest of the brave” one day had a
dispute with a cur in the street whose temper was more imperfect than
his teeth, the consequence of which was that the brave one’s trowsers
were shortened on one leg by a foot, and his mamma had to sit up half
the night repairing the disaster. Seeing which the “Bravest of the
brave” cried himself to sleep under the bed clothes, vowing he would
never disturb street dogs again.


    [Illustration:Decoration]


The “Bravest of the brave” did not like Robert Boissot, and lost no
opportunity of contradicting him and of being generally disagreeable to
him, in order to pay off old scores. Alas! the brave one received from
the said Robert Boissot so violent a blow on the top of his nose, that
he was obliged to bury it in his pocket-handkerchief and fly home amid
shouts of derision. The mischief done was very considerable, the
toucan’s beak had been so badly treated that it was obliged to be
wrapped up in as many bandages as a mummy, and it was more than three
weeks before it could be unrolled, and viewed again by the light of day.
When it was again displayed to the eyes of the public it was discovered
to lean over considerably to one side.

They say that Michael-Angelo one day received a blow on the nose from
his friend Torregiani. This knock on the nose changed for ever the
expression of the great man, and made him morose and solitary. The knock
on _my_ nose, given by Robert Boissot, also changed _my_ expression, and
my character. During the time that my nose was recovering itself I had
leisure to reflect. Those reflections changed my ideas upon many
subjects; and made me wiser.

Little by little, I learned to live without running into the extreme of
either cowardice or bullying; and my life passed much as the lives of
other people.


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



                                  XLV.

                A LAST CHAPTER, WRITTEN BY ANOTHER HAND.


HERE terminate the confessions of a coward as told by himself. But I
will add some details respecting his after life which his own modesty
prevented him from relating. When he says that his “life passed much as
the lives of other people,” he should have added, “like the lives of
those who, first distinguishing themselves at the college of Saint Cyr,
follow a glorious career in the army.”

When sub-lieutenant, Bicquerot was the first to scale the walls of a
certain Arab village, and then received a severe sabre cut which helped
his promotion to lieutenant.

Lieutenant Bicquerot became captain without any wounds, as he was then
with his regiment at Bordeaux, and not near any fighting. As peace
prevailed at that time and he had not seen his parents since he left
Saint Cyr, he got leave; and then might be observed by the worthy
inhabitants of Loches, two Captains Bicquerot walking arm-in-arm about
the streets.


    [Illustration:Decoration]


Captain Bicquerot did his duty nobly at the siege of Sebastopol. He was
wounded by a ball, and became insensible; when he regained consciousness
in the hospital he was shown the rosette of the Legion of Honour which
now decorated his buttonhole, and was told that he lost consciousness as
a Captain, but that he awoke to find himself Major.

At the commencement of the Italian campaign Bicquerot was
Lieutenant-Colonel. He was made full Colonel at the battle of Magenta.
He owed this promotion to his extreme courage and presence of mind
displayed upon the occasion. And he was publicly complimented by the
general in command.

On his return to France, Colonel Bicquerot was sent to Tours with his
regiment. He often went over from thence to Loches to see his beloved
mother and father. Captain Bicquerot called his son “the colonel” with
immense pride. His mother did not call him “the colonel,” but how
rejoiced she was when “_her Paul_” came to see her, and on Sunday gave
her his arm to take her to church.

Dr. Lombalot’s mind was greatly disturbed while Colonel Bicquerot lived
at Tours. He would have liked him to live there always for one reason,
and that was because he played chess so admirably, and often had a game
with the worthy doctor. But for the sake of his phrenological theories
the doctor would have liked to see the colonel start for Cochin China.
For after having said that so distinguished an officer was wanting in
the bump of combativeness, how could he talk of the truths of phrenology
again! However, he did talk of them, though in his heart the obstinate
old man could not have believed in them.

At the time when Bicquerot and his friend Marc Sublaine passed that
happy holiday at Bois-Clair, there was a little baby sister of Marc’s
being carried about by her nurse. Miss Marie Sublaine was then cutting
her first teeth. As that young person, at that time of her life, was of
a somewhat misanthropical turn of mind, and passed all her time in the
nursery, it is not to be wondered at, that “the Coward” omitted to
mention her when he recounted his confessions. However, one knows that,
in general, young gentlemen of nine or ten profess the most extreme
contempt for the society of babies; above all, babies that have a habit,
like Miss Marie Sublaine, of crying for nothing, and of scratching and
biting the noses and fingers of their friends.

Nevertheless Miss Marie Sublaine became in time the wife of Colonel
Bicquerot. And a very happy couple they were.



                                THE END.



             BRADBURY, AGNEW, & CO., PRINTERS, WHITEFRIARS.

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



 ● Transcriber’s Notes:
    ○ Missing or obscured punctuation was corrected.
    ○ Unbalanced quotation marks were left as the author intended.
    ○ Typographical errors were silently corrected.
    ○ Page 116, “Ulysses came up to us at a hand gallop.” was changed to
      “Ulysses came up to us at a hard gallop.”
    ○ Page 138, “as he lived near here I did” was changed to “as he
      lived near where I did”.
    ○ Inconsistent spelling and hyphenation were made consistent only
      when a predominant form was found in this book.
    ○ Text in italics is enclosed by underscores (_italics_); text in
      bold by “equal” signs (=bold=).





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