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Title: The Great Invasion of 1813-14 - or, After Leipzig
Author: Erckmann-Chatrian
Language: English
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[Illustration: MM. ERCKMANN-CHATRIAN.]


THE GREAT INVASION OF 1813-14;

Or,

After Leipzig.

by

MM. ERCKMANN-CHATRIAN,

Authors of "Waterloo," "The Conscript," "The Blockade," &c.

Being
a Story of the Entry of the Allied Forces
into Alsace and Lorraine, and Their March
upon Paris after the Battle of
Leipzig, Called the Battle of
the Kings and Nations.



Ward, Lock and Co.
London: Warwick House, Salisbury Square, E.C.
New York: Bond Street.


[Illustration]



THE

GREAT INVASION;

OR

AFTER LEIPZIG.



CHAPTER I.


If you would like to know the story of the Great Invasion of 1814, just
as it was told me by the old huntsman, Frantz du Hengst, you must come
with me to the village of Charmes, in that province of France called
the Vosges. About thirty little houses, with stuccoed fronts, and their
roofs covered with dark green moss, are dotted along the borders of
the Sarre; you can see their gables round which the ivy creeps and
the honeysuckle twines--the honeysuckle withered now, for winter is
near--the beehives closed with wisps of straw, the little gardens, the
wooden palings, the hedge-rows that divide them from each other. To
the left, on a high mountain, stand the ruins of the ancient castle
of Falkenstein, destroyed two hundred years ago by the Swedes. It is
now nothing but a heap of ruins, over-run with brambles and weeds. The
approach to it is by an old, worn pathway, called a _schlitte_[1] road,
of which you can catch a glimpse through the fir-trees. To the right,
on the hillside, is seen the farm of Bois-de-Chênes, a large building,
with granaries, stables, and outhouses, the flat roof weighted with
huge stones to resist the keen north wind. Cows are grazing on the
common, and a few goats are climbing the steep rocks.

All is calm and silent.

Some children, in drawers made of a sort of gray cloth, their heads
and feet bare, are warming themselves round their little fires on the
outskirts of the wood. If you watch the light blue columns of smoke as
they disperse in the air, or hang motionless in white and gray clouds
over the valley, you will discover behind these clouds the barren tops
of the Grosmann and the Donon.

How, you must know that the last house of the village, whose square
front is pierced by two glazed casements, and whose low door opens
on to the muddy street, belonged in 1813 to Jean-Claude Hullin, an
old volunteer of '92, but at that time a shoemaker in the village
of Charmes, and held in high esteem among the simple mountaineers.
Hullin was a short, stout, thick-set man, with gray eyes, thick lips,
a short nose, with a strongly-marked division at the end, and thick,
grayish eyebrows. He was a jovial, good-natured fellow, and didn't know
how to refuse anything to his daughter, Louise, a child whom he had
rescued from a troop of those wretched _heimatshlos_--half-tinkers,
half-blacksmiths[2]--who travel from village to village, soldering
saucepans, melting spoons, and mending broken crockery. He looked upon
her as his own daughter, and had completely forgotten that she was not
of his blood.

Besides Louise, the worthy man had other objects of affection.
He loved, above all, his cousin, the old mistress of the farm of
Bois-de-Chênes, Catherine Lefévre, and her son, Gaspard, drawn in that
year's conscription, a handsome young fellow, betrothed to Louise, and
whose return at the end of the campaign was anxiously expected by all
the family.

Hullin always dwelt proudly on the memory of his campaigns of
Sambro-et-Meuse, of Italy, and Egypt. Sometimes of an evening, when
his day's work was done, he would set off to the great saw-works at
Valtin, formed of the trunks of trees still covered with their bark,
and which you can perceive down below there at the bottom of the gorge.
There, seated in the midst of the woodcutters, charcoal-burners, and
_schlitteurs_,[3] opposite the great fire made of sawdust and shavings,
and whilst the heavy wheel went for ever round, amid the never-ceasing
thunder of the mill-dam and the constant grinding of the saw, with
his elbow on his knee, and pipe in mouth, he would talk to them of
Hoche, of Kleber, and finally, of General Bonaparte, whom he had seen a
hundred times, and whose spare figure, piercing eyes, and eagle glance
he could paint to the very life.

Such was Jean-Claude Hullin.

He was a man of the old Gallic stock, loving extraordinary adventures
and hair-breadth 'scapes, but sticking to work from a principle of
duty, from year's end to year's end.

As for Louise, that waif snatched from the travelling tinkers, she
had a slender, lithe figure, long delicate hands, eyes of so deep and
tender a blue that they went straight to the very bottom of your soul,
a complexion like snow, hair of a light straw colour, soft and fine
as silk, shoulders a little rounded like those of a kneeling maid
at prayer. Her innocent smile, her pensive brow, in short, her whole
presence reminded you of the old _lied_[4] of the minnesinger,[5]
Erhart, where he says, "I have beheld a ray of light; my eyes are
still dazzled with its brightness. Was it the moon's beam through the
foliage? Was it Aurora's smile in the depth of the woods? No; it was
the beautiful Edith, my love, who passed. I have seen her, and my eyes
are still dazzled."

Louise dearly loved the fields, gardens, and flowers. In spring, the
first note of the lark caused her to shed tears of tender pleasure.
She delighted to watch the first opening of the blue-bells and
sweet-scented May that blossomed on the hillside; and eagerly awaited
the return of the swallows to build their snug little nests under the
eaves. She was still the child of a wandering race, only a little less
wild; but Hullin made excuses for everything; he understood her nature,
and would sometimes say, with a smile:

"My poor Louise, if we had nothing to live on but what you bring
us--your pretty handfuls of wild flowers--we should be starved to death
in three days."

Upon which she would throw her arms round his neck, and smile upon him
so sweetly that he would set contentedly to work again, saying:

"Ah! What business have I to scold her? She's quite right; she loves
the sun and the green fields, poor child. Gaspard must work for two;
he'll have happiness enough for four. I don't pity him, not I. There's
plenty of women to work, and it does not improve their looks: but women
who love and are kind to you--what a chance to meet with one--what a
chance!"

Thus reasoned the worthy man, and days, weeks, and months went by in
the near prospect of Gaspard's return.

Gaspard's mother, widow Lefévre, a woman of marvellous industry and
energy, shared Hullin's ideas on the subject of Louise. "I," she would
say, "only want a daughter who will love us; I don't want her to meddle
with my housekeeping. Only let her make herself happy! You'll not
disagree with me, will you, Louise?"

And then the two would fall to kissing and hugging each other!

But still Gaspard did not return, and for the last two months no news
had been heard of him.

Now on a certain day, towards the middle of the month of December,
1813, between three and four o'clock in the afternoon, Hullin, squatted
on his bench, was busily engaged in finishing off a pair of iron-bound
sabots for the wood-cutter, Rochart. Louise had just placed a little
earthen pipkin on the brazen stove, the fire in which was crackling
and roaring with a plaintive sound, while the old clock marked the
seconds with its monotonous tick. Outside, all along the street, were
to be seen pools of water covered with a thin white coating of ice,
showing that winter was near at hand. At intervals was heard the sound
of thick sabots on the hard ground, and then a felt hat, a hood, or a
white cap would go by, and all would be still again, the silence only
broken by the gentle hum of Louise's spinning-wheel, and the singing
of the _marmite_ on the stove. This had lasted for about two hours,
when Hullin, happening to cast a glance through the little glazed
window-panes, suddenly left off working, and remained staring with his
eyes wide open as if struck by an unusual sight.

In fact, at the turning of the street, just opposite the inn of the
"Three Pigeons," there was seen coming, in the midst of a troop of
urchins, whistling, hooting, leaping, and yelling--"The King of
Diamonds! the King of Diamonds!"--there was seen coming, I say, the
strangest figure it is possible to imagine. Just picture to yourself a
man with red hair and beard, a grave face, sullen eye, straight nose,
his eyebrows joined in the middle of his forehead, a circlet of tin on
his head; a long-haired, iron-gray sheepskin floating from his back,
the two fore-paws of which formed the fastening around his neck; a
number of little copper crosses hanging like charms on his breast; his
legs encased in a sort of drawers made of gray cloth, fastened above
the ankle, and his feet bare. An enormous raven, his coal-black wings
relieved by a few feathers of dazzling whiteness, was perched upon his
shoulder. At first sight of him, and his stately presence, you would
have thought him one of those ancient Merovingian kings depicted in the
paintings of Montbéliard; he held in his left hand a short thick stick,
cut in the form of a sceptre, and with his right hand he made fantastic
gestures, raising his finger to heaven, and seeming to address his
suite.

Every door flew open as he passed--curious faces were pressed against
every window-pane. Some old women, from the outer steps of the doors,
called to the madman, who did not deign to turn aside his head; others
came down into the street, and tried to bar his way, but he, with head
erect and raised eyebrow, with a gesture and a word, forced them to
stand aside.

"See," said Hullin, "here is Yégof. I did not expect to see him again
this winter. It is not his usual custom. What the devil can bring him
back in such weather as this?"

And Louise, laying down her distaff, ran hastily out to look at the
"King of Diamonds." The arrival of the fool Yégof at the beginning of
winter was quite an event; some were delighted at it, hoping to keep
him and make him tell stories of his fortune and glories, by the inn
firesides; others, and especially the women, felt a sort of uneasiness,
for madmen, as everybody knows, have dealings with the world of
spirits; they know the past and the future, and are inspired by God;
the only thing is to be able to understand them, their words having
always two meanings--one common, for vulgar people, the other deep, for
refined and cultivated minds.

And this fool besides, had, above all others, really extraordinary and
sublime ideas. No one knew either where he came from, where he went, or
what he wanted; for Yégof wandered about the country like a troubled
spirit; he would talk of races now extinct, and claimed to be himself
Emperor of Austrasia, Polynesia, and other places. Large volumes might
have been written about his castles, his palaces, and his strongholds;
he knew the numbers, situation, and architecture of them all, and
celebrated their grandeur, beauty, and riches with a simple and modest
air. He would speak of his stables, his hunting exploits, the officers
of his crown, his ministers, his counsellors, the superintendents of
his provinces; he never mistook their names or their rank, but he
complained bitterly of having been dethroned by the accursed race, and
the old midwife, Sapience Coquelin, every time she heard him groaning
over this subject, would shed a shower of tears, as would many others
too. Then he, pointing with his finger to heaven, would exclaim:

"Oh! women! oh, women! remember! The hour is near. The spirit of
darkness flies. The old race--the masters of your masters--advance like
the waves of the sea!"

And every spring he was in the habit of making a tour among the old
owls' nests--those antique ruins that crown the wooded summits of the
Vosges, Nideck, Geroldseck, Lutzelbourg, Turkestein, saying that he was
going to visit his fiefs, and talking of re-establishing the ancient
splendour of his States, and bringing back his revolted subjects into
slavery, with the help of the grand Golo, his cousin.

Jean-Claude Hullin used to laugh at these things, not having a mind
high enough to enter into the invisible spheres; but they had a great
effect upon Louise; above all, when the great raven flapped his wings,
and uttered his hoarse croak.

Yégof was coming down the street without stopping anywhere, and Louise,
quite in a fright at seeing that he was fixing his eyes upon their
little house, said hastily:

"Papa Jean-Claude, I think he is coming here."

"Very likely," was Jean Hullin's reply. "The poor fellow must be in
great want of a pair of strong sabots, now the cold weather is coming,
and if he asks me, I should find it hard to refuse him."

"Oh, how good and kind you are!" said the young girl, with a loving
kiss.

"Yes, yes; you coax me finely," said he, with a laugh, "because I do
just whatever you like; and who's to pay me for my wood and work, I
should like to know? Not Yégof, that's very certain!"

Louise gave him another kiss, and a tear stood in Hullin's eye as he
looked at her, and murmured:

"That's the pay I like best of all."

Yégof was at that time about fifty paces off their house, and the noise
and tumult grew louder and louder.

The street urchins, hanging on to his tattered robes, kept shouting:
"Diamonds! spades! clubs!" All of a sudden he turned round, raising his
sceptre, and, with a proud, though furious air, exclaimed:

"Begone, accursed race! Begone! Deafen me no more with your cries, or I
will let loose my pack upon you."

The only effect of this threat was to redouble the hisses and shouts
of laughter; but at this juncture Hullin appeared at his door, with
his long strap in his hand, and picking out five or six of the most
riotous, threatened to give them a taste of it for their supper--a
thing which the worthy man had often done before, with the full consent
of their parents--when all the troop dispersed helter-skelter. Then,
turning towards the maniac:

"Come in, Yégof," said the shoemaker: "come in, and warm yourself by
the fire."

"My name is not Yégof," replied the poor fellow, with an offended air:
"my name is Luitprand, King of Austrasia and Polynesia."

"Yes, yes, I know," said Jean-Claude, "I know; you have told me all
that before; but no matter whether your name is Yégof or Luitprand,
come in all the same. It is cold; try and warm yourself."

"I will come in," replied the fool, "but it is on a very serious
affair--an affair of state: it is to form an indissoluble alliance
between the Germans and the Triboques."

"Very good--we will talk about it."

Then Yégof, stooping under the portal, entered, in a dreamy absent
manner, and made a profound bow to Louise, at the same time lowering
his sceptre; but the raven would not come in. Spreading his immense
wings, he swept in a vast circle round the dwelling, and wound up his
flight by beating himself against the window panes furiously enough to
break them.

"Hans," cried the fool, "take care! I'll come to you!"

But the bird would not detach his sharp claws from the leaden staples,
and continued to flap his great wings against the casement as long
as his master stayed in the house. Louise never took her eyes off
him; she was afraid of him. As for Yégof, he took his seat in the old
leathern arm-chair behind the stove, with his legs extended as if on a
throne--and, casting a haughty look around him, said:

"I come from Jerome in a straight line to conclude an alliance with
you, Hullin. You are not ignorant that I have deigned to cast my eyes
on your daughter, and I come to ask her of you in marriage."

Louise, at this proposal, blushed up to her ears, and Hullin burst into
a peal of loud laughter.

"You laugh!" cried the fool, in a hollow voice. "Well, you are wrong to
laugh. This alliance can alone save you from the ruin that threatens
you--you, and your house, and all that is yours. At this very moment my
armies are advancing--they are innumerable--they cover the earth. What
can you do against me? You will be conquered, destroyed, or reduced to
slavery, as you have already been during many ages; for I, Luitprand,
King of Austrasia and Polynesia, have resolved all shall return to the
ancient order of things. Remember!"

Here the fool solemnly raised his finger.

"Remember what happened before!--You were beaten!--And we, the old
races of the North--we put our foot on your necks. We laid the heaviest
stones on your backs, to build our strong castles, and our subterranean
prisons. We harnessed you to our carts--you were before us as the straw
before the hurricane. Remember, remember, Triboque--and tremble!"

"I remember very well," said Hullin, still laughing; "but we took our
revenge--you know."

"Yes, yes," interrupted the fool, with a frown; "but that time is past.
My warriors are more numerous than the leaves of the forest; and your
blood flows like the water of the brooks. You! I know you--I have known
you during more than a thousand years!"

"Bah!" was Hullin's reply.

"Yes, it is this hand, do you hear--this hand that subdued you, when
we arrived for the first time in the midst of your forests!--it bowed
your head beneath the yoke, and it will bow it again! Because you are
brave, you think yourselves for ever masters of this country and of
all France. Well, well, you are wrong! We have shared your country,
and will share it again. We will restore Alsace and Lorraine to
Germany, Brittany and Normandy to the men of the North, and Flanders
and the South to Spain. We will make a little kingdom of France round
Paris--quite a little kingdom, with a descendant of the old race at
your head, and you shall not stir any more--you shall be very quiet.
He! he! he!" and Yégof laughed.

Hullin, who knew very little of history, was surprised that the fool
should know so many names.

"Bah! have done, Yégof," said he, "and take a little soup to warm your
stomach."

"I do not ask for your soup--I ask of you this girl in marriage--the
handsomest in my States. Give her to me willingly, and I will raise you
to the steps of my throne; if not, my armies will take her by force,
and you shall not have the honour of having given her to me."

As he spoke, the unhappy man regarded Louise with a look of profound
admiration.

"How lovely she is!" said he; "I destine her to the highest honours.
Rejoice, young girl, rejoice--you shall be queen of Austrasia!"

"Listen, Yégof," said Hullin: "I am much flattered by your offer--it
proves that you appreciate beauty! That is very right; but my daughter
is already betrothed to Gaspard Lefévre."

"But I," exclaimed the fool, in an angry tone, "will not listen to
that." Then rising, "Hullin," said he, resuming his solemn air, "this
is my first offer. I shall renew it twice. Do you hear? Twice! And if
you persist in your obstinacy, woe! woe to you and to your race!"

"What! will you not eat your soup?"

"No! no!" yelled the fool. "I will accept nothing from you till you
have consented. Nothing! nothing!"

And as he went towards the door, to the great joy of Louise, who kept
watching the raven flap his wings against the window-panes, he said,
raising his sceptre, "Twice more!" and went out.

Hullin burst into a loud laugh.

"Poor devil!" said he. "In spite of himself, his mouth watered for the
soup. His stomach is empty--his teeth chattered with cold and hunger.
Well, folly is stronger than either."

"Oh, how he did frighten me," said Louise.

"Well, well, my child, never mind; he is gone. He can see you are
pretty, fool as he is. There is nothing in that to be afraid of."

But in spite of these words, and the departure of the fool, Louise
still trembled, and felt herself blush as she thought of the looks the
wretched being had cast on her.

In the meantime, Yégof had retaken the road to Valtin. He could be seen
walking gravely away, his raven perched upon his shoulder, and making
strange signs and gestures, although there was no one near him. Night
was at hand, and soon the tall form of the King of Diamonds blended
with the gray tints of the winter twilight, and finally disappeared.

[Illustration]

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 1: Roads to which the trunks of trees felled or blown down in
the forest are conveyed are called _schlitte_, or sledge, roads.]

[Footnote 2: Without home or fireside.]

[Footnote 3: Properly _tree-fellers_.]

[Footnote 4: Song.]

[Footnote 5: Poet, minstrel.]



CHAPTER II.


On the evening of the same day, after supper, Louise, having taken her
spinning-wheel, had gone to spend the evening with Dame Rochart, at
whose cottage all the old gossips and young girls of the neighbourhood
were in the habit of assembling, relating old legends, chatting about
the rain, the weather, marriages, christenings, the departure or the
return of the conscripts, and what not--all of which helped to pass
away the time in a very agreeable manner.

Hullin sat alone, opposite his little copper lamp, repairing the old
wood-cutter's sabots. Already he thought no more of the fool, Yégof;
his hammer went up and down, hitting the big nails into the thick
wooden soles, and all mechanically, and from force of habit. A thousand
thoughts, however, passed through his head; he was a dreamer without
knowing why.

At times he thought of Gaspard, who, for a long while, had given no
sign of life; then of the campaign, which was being indefinitely
prolonged. The lamp lit up with its yellowish flame the little smoky
cabin. Outside not a sound was to be heard. The fire was almost
out; Jean-Claude rose to throw on a fresh log, then sat down again,
murmuring:

"Bah! this cannot go on much longer. We shall have a letter one of
these days."

The old clock began to strike nine; and as Hullin resumed his work, the
door opened, and Catherine Lefévre, the mistress of the Bois-de-Chênes
farm, appeared on the threshold, to the great surprise of the
shoemaker, for it was not usual for her to leave her home at such an
hour.

Catherine Lefévre might be about sixty years of age, but she was as
upright and straight as at thirty. Her clear gray eyes and hooked nose
gave to her face some-what the look of a bird of prey; her sunken
cheeks, and the corners of her mouth, drawn down by thought, added
something of a gloomy and bitter expression; two or three thick locks
of grizzled hair hung down on each side of her temples; on her head
she wore a striped brown hood, which covered her shoulders also down
to her elbows; in short, her whole aspect denoted a character firm
to obstinacy, mingled with something of grandeur and sadness which
inspired at once respect and fear.

"You, Catherine!" said Hullin, surprised out of himself.

"Yes, it is I," replied the old farm-mistress, in a calm tone. "I am
come to talk a little with you, Jean-Claude. Is Louise gone out?"

"She is spending the evening with Madeline Rochart."

"That is well."

Then Catherine threw back her hood, and came and sat down beside the
bench. Hullin looked at her steadfastly; he was struck by an appearance
of something at once extraordinary and mysterious.

"What is the matter?" said he, laying down his hammer.

Instead of replying to this question, the old woman, looking towards
the door, seemed to be listening; then, hearing nothing, she resumed
her musing look.

"The fool Yégof passed last night at the farm," said she.

"He came to see me, too, this afternoon," said Hullin, without
attaching any importance to this fact, which seemed to him of no moment.

"Yes," replied the old woman, in a low tone, "he passed the night at
our house, and yesterday evening, at this hour, in the kitchen, before
everybody, that man, that madman, related the most fearful things to
us!"

She was silent, and the corners of her mouth seemed to be drawn down
lower than usual.

"Fearful things!" murmured the shoemaker, more and more surprised, for
he had never seen the farm-mistress in such a state before, "but what
sort, Catherine, what sort?"

"Dreams that I have had!"

"Dreams! you must be laughing at me, surely!"

"No."

Then, after a moment's silence, looking at the wonderstruck Hullin, she
went on slowly:

"Yesterday evening, then, after supper, all our people were assembled
in the kitchen, round the fire. The table was still covered with the
empty bowls, platters, and spoons. Yégof had supped with us, and been
diverting us with the history of his treasures, his castles, and his
provinces. It might be then about nine o'clock--the fool had just
seated himself in the corner, beside the blazing hearth. Duchêne, my
labourer, was botching Bruno's saddle; the shepherd, Robin, was weaving
a basket; Annette was arranging her pots and pans on the dresser,
while I had brought my wheel to the fire to spin a hank before going to
bed. Out of doors, the dogs were barking at the moon; it must have been
very cold. Well, there we all were, talking about the winter that was
coming; Duchêne was saying that it would be very hard, for he had seen
large flocks of wild geese, which is a sure sign: and Yégof's raven,
perched on the edge of the chimney-piece, his great head buried in his
ruffled plumes, seemed to be asleep; but from time to time he stretched
out his neck, preened a feather or two with his bill, then looked at
us, listening for a second, and again plunged his head between his
shoulders."

The farm-mistress was silent for a moment, as if to collect her
thoughts. She cast down her eyes; her long, hooked nose bent itself
almost to her lips, and a strange paleness seemed to spread over her
face.

"What on earth is she driving at?" said Hullin to himself.

The old woman went on:

"Yégof, beside the blazing hearth, with his tin crown on his head, his
short staff between his knees, was dreaming of something. He looked at
the great black fire-place, the large stone chimney-piece, with figures
and trees carved upon it, and the smoke which was rising in heavy
wreaths round the flitches of bacon. All at once, when we were least
thinking of it, he struck the end of his staff upon the stones, and
cried out, like one in a dream: 'Yes, yes; I have seen all that. It is
a long time ago--a long time.' And as we all looked at him, struck with
surprise--'At that time,' he went on, 'the fir forests were forests of
oak--the Nideck the Dagsberg, the Falkenstein, the Geroldseck; none
of those old castles, now in ruins, existed then. At that time they
used to hunt the wild oxen in the woods, fish for salmon in the Sarre;
and you--you fair-skinned men, buried in the snow six months in the
year--you lived upon milk and cheese; for you had large flocks and
herds on the Hengst, the Schneeberg, the Grosmann, and the Donon. In
summer, you hunted; you came trooping down to the banks of the Rhine,
the Moselle, the Meuse. Oh, yes; I remember all that.'

"Strange to say, Jean-Claude, while the fool continued speaking,
I seemed to see again all those countries of former times, and to
remember them as a dream. I had let fall my distaff, and old Duchêne,
Robin, Jeanne--in short, every one, was listening eagerly. 'Yes, it
is a long time ago,' the fool began again. 'In those times, too, you
used to build these huge fire-places; and all around, at two or three
hundred paces, you used to fix your palings fifteen feet high, and
inside of them you used to keep your great dogs, with hanging dewlaps,
who barked night and day.'

"Whatever he said, Jean-Claude, we saw. As for him, he seemed to pay
no heed to us, but kept looking at the figures on the chimney-piece,
with his mouth wide open; but at the end of a moment, having turned his
head towards us, and seeing us all attentive, he began to laugh with
that wild laugh of his, exclaiming: 'And at that time--oh! fair-haired
men with blue eyes and white skins, fed on milk and cheese, and only
drinking blood in the autumn, at the great hunts--you believed
yourselves masters of the plain and of the mountain, when we, the red
men with green eyes, sprung from the sea; we, who drank blood always,
and loved nothing but war, arrived one fine morning, with our axes
and our spears, coming up the Sarre under shadow of the old oaks. Ah!
it was a cruel war, and one that lasted weeks and months. And the old
woman, there,' said he, pointing to me, with a strange smile, 'the
Margareth of the clan of the Kilberix, that old woman with the hooked
nose--within her palisades, in the midst of her dogs and her warriors,
defended herself like a she-wolf. But at the end of five moons hunger
came: the gates of her palisades opened for flight, and we--in ambush
in the stream--we massacred all--all, except the children and the
beautiful young girls. The old woman alone, with her nails and her
teeth, defended herself to the last. And I, Luitprand--I cleft her gray
head, and I took her father, the blind man, the aged of many days, and
chained him to the gate of my strong castle like a dog.'

"Then, Hullin," continued the farm-mistress, bowing down her
head--"then the fool began to sing a long song--the complaint of the
old man chained to his gate. Wait while I try and remember it. It was
sad--sad as _a miserere_. I cannot recollect it, Jean-Claude; but I
seem to hear it still: it froze the marrow in my bones. And as he
kept laughing all the while, our people at last grew furious. With a
terrible cry, Duchêne sprang at the throat of the fool to strangle him;
but he, stronger than you would think, repulsed him, and raising his
staff threateningly, exclaimed:

"'On your knees, slaves--on your knees! My armies are advancing.
Do you hear them? The earth trembles beneath their tread. Those
castles--the Nideck, the Haut-Barr, the Dagsberg, the Turkestein--you
will have to rebuild them. On your knees!'

"Never in my life did I see a countenance more terrific than that of
Yégof at this moment; but, for the second time seeing my people about
to rush upon him, I felt bound to defend him.

"'He is a madman,' said I. 'Are you not ashamed to take heed of the
words of a fool?' They stopped on account of what I said; but for my
own part I could not close an eye the whole night long. I lay awake
hour after hour, thinking of what the wretched creature had said. I
seemed to hear the song of the old man, the barking of the dogs, and
the sounds of battle. It is long since I have felt so disturbed and
unhappy. That is why I have come to see you. What do you think of all
this, Hullin?"

"I!" said the shoemaker, whose full, red face betrayed a sort of
sad scorn mixed with pity; "if I did not know you as well as I do,
Catherine, I should say that you had gone out of your mind--you,
Duchêne, Robin, and all the rest of them. It all sounds to me like one
of the tales of Genevieve de Brabant--a story made to frighten little
children, and which shows us the folly of our ancestors."

"Because you do not understand these things," said the old
farm-mistress, in a calm and grave tone; "you never had any ideas of
this sort."

"Then you believe what Yégof sang to you?"

"Yes, I believe it."

"What, you, Catherine--a woman of your sense? If it were Dame Rochart,
I should think nothing of it. But you!----"

He rose quite indignant, took off his apron, shrugged his shoulders,
and then abruptly sat down again, saying, "Do you know who this raving
maniac is? Well, I will tell you. You may be sure he is one of those
German schoolmasters who puzzle their brain over an old story of
Mother Goose, and discuss it gravely with you. By dint of studying
dreaming, pondering, looking for knots in a bulrush, their brain
gets bewildered--they have visions, distorted dreams, and take those
dreams for gospel. I have always looked upon Yégof as one of those
poor creatures, he knows a host of names; he talks of Brittany and
Austrasia, of Polynesia and the Nideck; and then of the Geroldseck,
the Turkestein, the borders of the Rhine: in short, of everything, at
random till at length there seems to be something in it, while in truth
there is nothing. At another time, you would think with me, Catherine;
but you are in trouble at not having had any news from Gaspard. These
rumours of war, of invasion, that are going about, torment you, disturb
your rest. You cannot sleep, and so you come to look upon the babble of
a fool as the words of Holy Writ."

"No, Hullin--it is not so. You, yourself, if you had heard Yégof----"

"Stuff and nonsense!" exclaimed the honest man. "If I had heard it I
should have laughed in his face, as just now---- By the way, do you
know that he came to ask Louise's hand of me, to make her Queen of
Austrasia?"

Catherine Lefévre could not restrain a smile; but immediately resuming
her serious manner: "All your reasons, Jean-Claude," said she, "do not
convince me; but I confess Gaspard's silence alarms me. I know my son.
I am certain he has written to me. Why, then, have not his letters
reached me? The war is going badly, Hullin; we have the whole world
against us. They will have none of our revolution; you know that as
well as me. As long as we had the upper hand, and gained victory upon
victory, they were hand-and-glove with us; but, since our disasters in
Russia, things have taken another turn."

"Ah! ha! Catherine, how your head wanders. You look always on the black
side of things."

"Yes, I do look on the black side of things, and I am right. What
troubles me most is that we get no news from the outer world; we live
here like a nation of savages, and know nothing of what is going on
around us. The Austrians and the Cossacks may fall upon us from one day
to the next, before we know where we are."

Hullin observed the growing excitement of the old woman, and was
infected, in spite of himself, by the influence of her fears.

"Listen, Catherine," said he, all at once; "when you talk in a rational
way, it is not for me to contradict you. All that you say now is
possible. Not that I believe it; still, there is no knowing I was
intending to go to Phalsbourg in about a week, to buy some sheepskin to
line my sabots. I will go to-morrow. At Phalsbourg, a fortified place,
and a post-town, moreover, there must be some reliable news to be had.
Will you believe what I bring you from there?"

"Yes."

"Good; then that is settled. I will set out early to-morrow. It is five
leagues; about six o'clock I shall be back. You will see, Catherine,
that your gloomy ideas are against all common sense."

"I hope so," replied the farm-mistress, rising; "I hope so. You have
comforted me a little, Hullin. And now I will go back to the farm, and,
I hope, sleep better than I did last night. Good night, Jean-Claude."

[Illustration]



CHAPTER III.


On the morrow, at daybreak, Hullin, attired in his Sunday pantaloons
of thick blue cloth, his ample brown velvet surcoat, his red waistcoat
with metal buttons, and a broad-brimmed felt hat on his head, which,
looped up in front like a cockade, exposed to view his rubicund face,
set out on his way to Phalsbourg, with a stout walking-stick in his
hand.

Phalsbourg is a little fortified place on the high road between
Strasbourg and Paris. It commands the borders of Saverne, the defiles
of the upper Barr, of Roche-Plate, of Bonne Fontaine, and of the
Graufthal. Its bastions, its outworks, its half-moons, are carved
in zig-zag on a rocky platform. At a distance, it seems as if you
could clear the walls with a single stride; but, as you approach, you
discover the ditch, which is a hundred feet broad and thirty feet deep,
and the gloomy ramparts cut in the rock opposite. That brings you to
a stand. For the rest, with the exception of the church, the commune
hall, the two gates of France and Germany in form of a mitre, and the
belfreys of the two powder-mills, all is hidden behind the glacis. Such
is the little town of Phalsbourg, which is not wanting in a certain
character of grandeur, especially when you cross its bridges, and enter
beneath its low massive portals and bristling portcullises. In the
interior, the houses are built at regular intervals; they are low,
well-constructed buildings, built of hewn stone: everything about the
place has a military look.

Hullin, inclined, by his sturdy nature and jovial disposition, never
to give himself unnecessary alarm about the future, considered all the
reports of retreat and invasion that were flying about the country
as so many lies spread by scandal. You may, therefore, judge his
surprise when, on quitting the mountain, and arrived at the outskirts
of the forests, he saw the suburbs of the town razed to the ground;
not a garden, not an orchard, not a walk, not a tree, not a shrub was
left: all had been levelled that was within reach of gun-shot. A few
poor wretches were trying to collect the scattered fragments of their
habitations, and were carrying them to the town. Nothing was visible on
the horizon but the long, gloomy line of ramparts towering overhead.
Jean-Claude felt as if struck by a thunderbolt; for a few minutes he
could not utter a single word, or take a single step.

"Oh, ho!" said he, at length, "this looks bad--this looks very bad!
They are expecting the enemy!"

And then his warlike instincts began quickly to get the upper hand of
him, and his brown cheeks grew crimson.

"And it is those beggars of Austrians, Prussians, and Russians, and
all the scum collected from one end of Europe to the other, that are
the cause of this," he exclaimed, flourishing his stick; "but let them
beware! we will make them pay dearly for it!"

He was in a sort of white rage, such as honest men feel when urged
beyond bounds. Woe to any one who had thwarted him at that moment!

About twenty minutes afterwards he entered the town at the end of
a long file of vehicles, to which five and even six horses were
harnessed, and who were drawing with great efforts enormous trunks of
trees, destined to form block-houses. Among the drivers, the country
people, and the horses, neighing, rearing, and stamping, gravely rode a
mounted _gendarme_ named Kels, who seemed to take no note of anything,
and only said in a bluff voice: "Courage, courage, my friends--we have
two more stages to do by the evening. You will have deserved well of
your country!"

Jean-Claude passed over the bridge.

In the town a fresh spectacle presented itself to his eyes. There all
were ardently preparing for its defence, every door was open, and men,
women, and children were coming and going in every direction, to assist
in the transport of gunpowder and projectiles. At times they collected
in groups of three, four, and six, to gather the news.

"Hey! neighbour!"

"What now?"

"A courier has just arrived at full gallop; he came in by the French
gate."

"Then he comes to announce the arrival of the National Guard from
Nancy."

"Or, perhaps, a convoy from Metz."

"You are right--we are short of sixteen-pound shot, and also want
grape-shot. They are going to cast a lot."

Some honest citizens in shirt-sleeves, mounted on tables along the
footpaths, were busily engaged in blocking up their windows with thick
planks of wood and mattrasses. Others were rolling water-barrels in
front of their doors. Hullin felt reassured at witnessing so much
enthusiasm.

[Illustration: "HE ENTERED THE TOWN AT THE END OF A LONG FILE OF
VEHICLES."]

"All right!" he exclaimed; "everybody seems to be making holiday here.
The Allies will meet with a warm reception."

Opposite the college the shrill voice of the town-crier, Harmentier,
was heard proclaiming: "This is to give notice that the casemates
will be thrown open, in order that every one may be able to transport
thither a mattrass and two coverlets for his own personal use; and
that the commissioners are to commence their tour of inspection, to
ascertain that every inhabitant has three months' provisions laid up
in store, the which he is to certify.--This 20th of December, 1813.
Jean-Pierre Meunier, Governor."

All this Hullin heard and saw in less than a minute, for the whole town
seemed to have turned out. Strange, serious, and comic scenes followed
close upon each other without interruption.

Some National Guards were dragging a twenty-four pounder in the
direction of the arsenal. These brave fellows had a steep ascent to
climb, and their strength was nearly exhausted. "Hoy!--all together! A
thousand thunders! Put your shoulder to it! Forward!" Thus shouting all
together, and pushing with all their strength at the wheels, the great
cannon, stretching out its long, bronze neck over its immense carriage,
which rose above everything, rolled slowly over the pavement, trembling
beneath its weight.

Hullin was in such a state of delight that he was no longer like the
same man. His martial instincts--the recollection of the camp, the
march, the fire, and the battle--all returned at full speed; his eye
sparkled, his heart beat quicker, and already ideas of defence,
entrenchments, death-struggles, whirled rapidly through his brain.

"Upon my word!" said he to himself, "all this looks well! I have made
sabots enough in my life-time; and since I have a chance of shouldering
a musket again, well and good!--so much the better; we will show the
Prussians and Austrians that we have not forgotten our old trade."

So reasoned the brave man, carried away by warlike recollections; but
his joy was not of long duration.

In the square in front of the church were stationed fifteen or twenty
carts filled with the wounded that kept arriving from Leipzig and
Hanau. These unfortunates--pale, wan, with fast glazing eye; some whose
limbs had been already amputated, others whose wounds had not been
even dressed--were patiently awaiting death. Beside them stood some
old, worn-out horses, munching their meagre allowance; while their
drivers, poor devils taken into employ at Alsace, wrapped in their
ragged cloaks, were sleeping, with their hats pulled over their brows,
and their arms folded across their breasts, on the steps of the church.
It made one shudder to see these wretched groups of human beings, in
their large gray coats, as they lay jumbled together upon the bloody
straw; one supporting his broken arm upon his knees; another with his
head bandaged with an old handkerchief; a third, already dead, serving
as a seat for the living--his blackened hands hanging over the side of
the cart. Hullin stood rooted to the ground in the presence of this
dismal spectacle. He could not turn his eyes aside. It is in the power
of great human griefs to fascinate us thus; we have a morbid wish to
see how men perish--how they face death: the best of us are not free
from this frightful curiosity. It seems as if eternity was revealing
its secrets to us.

There, too, near the shafts of the first cart, to the right of the
file, were squatted two carbineers in sky-blue tunics--two real
Colossuses, whose iron frames were bowed beneath the pressure of
hardship. They might have been taken for two caryatides, crushed
beneath the weight of an enormous mass. One with thick red moustaches,
and hollow cheeks, gazed around with lustreless eyes, as if just
awakening from a frightful dream. The other, bent double, his shoulder
torn by a grape-shot wound, was gradually growing weaker and weaker, at
times raising himself up with a start, and talking low, as if dreaming.
Behind lay, stretched in couples, infantry soldiers, most of them
struck by a ball, and with a broken arm or leg. They seemed to endure
their fate with more firmness than the giants. These unfortunates did
not speak a word, with the exception of a few among the youngest, who
passionately cried for water and bread. And in one of the carts, a
plaintive voice, the voice of a conscript, was heard calling, "Mother!
mother!"--whilst some of the older ones smiled gloomily, as much as
to say: "Your mother!--oh! yes, she will be sure to come!" This was
what their looks said; perhaps, in reality, they were past thinking of
anything.

From time to time a sort of shudder ran through this sad assemblage
of human beings. That was when several of the wounded half raised
themselves, and instantly fell back again, as if Death, at that precise
moment, had been going his rounds among them.

Then all was silent again!

And as Hullin stood watching all this, and feeling his very heart
sicken within him,--just at that moment a shopkeeper in the Square,
Sôme the baker, came out of his house, carrying a large saucepan
filled with soup. It was then a sight, to behold all those ghosts
move restlessly on their straw, their eyes sparkling, their nostrils
dilating; new life seemed to be given them, for the poor wretches were
dying of hunger.

The good baker, Sôme, with tears in his eyes, approached, saying:

"Here I am, my children!--a little patience! It's I--you know me?"

But he had no sooner reached the first cart than the huge carbineer
with hollow cheeks plunged his arm up to the elbow in the boiling soup,
seized the meat, and hid it under his coat; all this was done with the
rapidity of lightning. Immediately, savage yells broke forth on all
sides. Those who had strength to move seemed as if they would have
devoured their comrade; while he, with his two arms crossed upon his
breast, his teeth fixed in his prey, and his squinting eye looking both
ways at once, seemed deaf to their threats. On hearing the uproar, an
old soldier, a sergeant, rushed out of a neighbouring inn. He was an
old campaigner; he saw at a glance what was the matter, and, without
loss of time, snatched the meat from the ferocious beast, saying:

"You deserve to have none at all. It is going to be divided. We shall
cut it into ten rations!"

"There are only eight of us!" said one of the wounded--very calm in
appearance, but whose eye glared with feverish excitement.

"How, eight?"

"You can see, sergeant, that these two are going to kick the
bucket--it'd be wasting good provisions!"

The old sergeant cast a look at the cart.

"He is right," said he; "divide it into eight portions!"

Hullin could see no more; he withdrew to the house of the innkeeper,
Wittman, opposite, as pale as death. Wittman was also a dealer in
leather and furs. On seeing him enter, he exclaimed:

"What! is that you, Master Jean-Claude?--you come earlier than usual; I
did not expect you till next week."

Then, seeing him stagger, he continued:

"But, what is it? There is something the matter?"

"I have just been seeing the wounded."

"Oh! I see; the first time--I know it makes you feel queer; but if
you had seen fifteen thousand of them go by, as we have, you'd think
nothing of it."

"A pint of wine--quick!" said Hullin, who felt himself turning sick.
"Oh, men, men--and we call ourselves brothers!"

"Yes, brothers; as far as the pocket is considered," replied Wittman.
"Here, take a drink, it will set you right."

"And do you mean to tell me you have seen fifteen thousand such go by?"

"At the very least, during the last two months, to say nothing of those
who are left in Alsace and the other side of the Rhine; for, you see,
they couldn't find carts enough for all, and then some of them weren't
worth the trouble of carrying away."

"Oh! yes, I see! but why are these unfortunate men there? Why do they
not take them to the hospital?"

"The hospital! what is the good of a hospital--of ten hospitals--for
fifty thousand wounded? All the hospitals, from Mayence and Coblentz
to Phalsbourg, are crowded. And besides, that terrible malady, the
typhus fever, do you see, Hullin, kills more than the cannon-ball. All
the villages of the plain for twenty leagues round are infected; they
are dying off everywhere like flies. Luckily, the town has been in a
state of siege for the last three days, the gates are going to be shut,
no person will be allowed to enter. Why, I myself have lost my uncle
Christian and my aunt Lisbeth--both as well and hearty as you and I are
at this present moment, Master Jean-Claude. And now the cold has come
at last. There was a white frost last night."

"And were the wounded left out in the open air all night?"

"No, they arrived from Saverne this morning; in an hour or two,
just time to give the horses a little rest, they will set out for
Sarrebourg."

At this moment, the old sergeant, who had been settling affairs with
the wounded in the carts, entered, rubbing his hands.

"Ha! ha!" said he, "it's sharp weather, Master Wittman; and you have
done wisely to light the fire in the stove. A little sup of brandy,
just to keep the fog out. Hum! hum!"

In spite of his little puckered-up eyes and hatchet-shaped nose, the
countenance of the old soldier beamed with good humour and joviality.
His whole figure was martial, his face bronzed by exposure to the
open air, frank and open, though tinged with an expression of sly
humour; his tall shako, large great-coat of grayish-blue, the belt,
the very epaulette, all seemed part and parcel of himself. He could
not have been sketched otherwise. He kept striding up and down the
room, rubbing his hands, while Wittman poured him out a dram of brandy.
Hullin, seated near the window, had instantly noticed the number of
his regiment--6th Light Infantry. Gaspard, son of the farm-mistress
Lefévre, served in this regiment. Jean-Claude could now hear news of
Louise's betrothed; but just as he was about to speak, his heart nearly
failed him: "If Gaspard were dead; if he had perished, like so many
others!"

The worthy sabot-maker felt as if he were choking. He was silent.
"Better," thought he, "to know nothing at all."

And yet, in a few minutes' time, he was unable to restrain himself.

"Sergeant," said he, in a hoarse voice, "you belong to the 6th Light?"

"Yes, neighbour," said the other, returning to the middle of the room.

"Do you happen to know a young man named Gaspard Lefévre?"

"Gaspard Lefévre, of the 2nd division of the 1st--do I know him? Why,
I taught him his drill: a brave soldier, by all that's blue! hard as
iron. If we had about a hundred thousand of his mettle----"

"Then he is alive?--he is well?"

"Yes, friend. That is to say, he was on Dec. 15th, when I quitted the
regiment at Fredericsthal, to escort this convoy of wounded; but in
such times as these, you see, we can't answer for anything; from one
moment to the next we are each of us liable to be sent to our account.
But a week ago, at Fredericsthal, Gaspard Lefévre answered to the
muster-roll."

Jean-Claude drew a long breath.

"But, sergeant," said he, "do me the favour to tell me why Gaspard has
not written home for two months?"

The old soldier smiled, and winked his little twinkling eyes.

"What the deuce, my good friend," said he; "do you think people have
nothing better to do in war time than write letters?"

"No; for I served myself in the campaigns of Sambre-et-Meuse, Italy,
and Egypt; but that did not prevent my writing home to let them know
how I was getting on."

"One moment, comrade," interrupted the sergeant; "I, too, have served
in Italy and Egypt; but the campaign we have just ended is not like
either of those; it's quite another sort of thing."

"It has been very severe, then?"

"Severe! I believe you! All may thank their lucky stars who have not
left their bones to bleach there. Everything was against us. Sickness,
traitors, the peasants, the shopkeepers, our Allies--in short,
everything. Of our company, which left Phalsbourg in full marching
order on the 21st of last January, there have returned only thirty-two
men. I think Gaspard Lefévre is the only one of the conscripts left.
Poor fellows! they fought well; but they were not used to starving, and
they melted away like butter on a stove."

So saying, the old soldier approached the counter, and tossed off his
brandy at a single draught.

"Your health, friend. Are you, by chance, the father of Gaspard?"

"No; I am a relation."

"Well, you have reason to be proud of him. What a fine young fellow for
twenty! Yes, in spite of all, he has kept his post while others gave in
by dozens."

"But still," pursued Hullin, after a moment's silence, "I'm at a loss
to see what there was in this last campaign so different to all others;
for we also had sicknesses--traitors to encounter."

"Different!" exclaimed the sergeant; "everything was different.
Formerly, if you fought with us in Germany, you must remember that
after one or two victories it was all over; people received you well;
you drank wine and ate sour-krout and ham with the worthy citizens,
or danced with their fat wives. The husbands and grandpapas shook
their sides with laughing, and when the regiment took its departure,
everybody was ready to cry their eyes out. But this time, after Lutzen
and Bautzen, instead of coming round, the people only made wry faces
at you; you could get nothing, except by force, till you would almost
have thought yourself in Spain or La Vendee. I don't know what they had
taken into their heads against us. Again, if we had been nothing but
Frenchmen, and hadn't had heaps of Saxons and other allies, who were
only waiting the opportunity to spring at our throats, we should have
gained the day all the same, one against five; but the Allies!--never
talk to me of allies again! Why, look now at Leipzig, the 18th of last
October, in the very midst of the battle, our Allies turned against us,
and fired at us from behind: those were our fine friends, the Saxons.
A week after, our once excellent friends, the Bavarians, came and threw
themselves in the way of our retreat. We had to cut our way through
them at Hanau. The next day, close to Frankfort, another column of good
friends present themselves. They had to be crushed. In short, the more
of them you kill, the more spring up in your path. And now, here we are
on this side of the Rhine. Well, rest assured we have yet more of these
good friends all the way from Moscow on our track. Oh, if we could only
have foreseen this after Austerlitz, Jena, Friedland, and Wagram!"

Hullin had grown quite thoughtful.

"And what is the state of things with us now?" he asked.

"The state of things is, that we have been obliged to re-cross the
Rhine, and that all our strong places on the other side are besieged.
The 10th of last November, the Prince of Neufchâtel reviewed the
regiment at Bleckheim. The soldiers of the third battalion were
transferred to the second, and the skeleton of the regiment was to
hold itself in readiness to set out for the depôt. The skeletons exist
sure enough, but where are the men? No wonder there are none, bled as
they have been at every pore. All Europe is up in arms. The Emperor is
at Paris; he is preparing his plan of campaign. Let them only give us
breathing-time till spring!"

Just at this moment, Wittman, who was standing by the window,
said:--"Here comes the Governor--he has been examining the abattis and
defences round the town."

And they saw the commandant, Jean-Pierre Meunier, his head adorned with
a large three-cornered hat, and wearing a tricolour scarf round his
waist, crossing the square.

"Ah," said the sergeant, "I must go and get him to sign the order of
march. Excuse me, friend, I must leave you."

"Good-bye, sergeant, and thank you. If you see Gaspard again, tell him
that Jean-Claude Hullin desires to be remembered to him, and that all
in his village are anxiously expecting to hear from him."

"Certainly, certainly. I will not fail." The sergeant went out, and
Hullin sat thoughtfully and silently finishing his pint of wine.

"Neighbour Wittman," said he, after a moment's pause, "where is my
parcel?"

"It is ready, Master Jean-Claude."

Then, looking in at the kitchen door, he called out:--"Grédel, Grédel,
bring Master Hullin's parcel!"

A little woman appeared at this summons, and placed on the table a
bundle of sheepskins. Jean-Claude passed his stick through the bundle,
and put it on his shoulder.

"What, are you going to start directly?"

"Yes, neighbour Wittman; the days are short, and it is bad travelling
through the woods after six o'clock. I must get home betimes."

"A safe journey to you, then, Master Jean-Claude."

Hullin went out, and crossed the square, keeping his eyes turned aside
from the convoy of wounded and dying, who were still stationed in front
of the church.

And the innkeeper, as he watched him from his window setting off at a
good round pace, said to himself--

"How pale he was when he came in; he could scarcely stand upon his
legs. It's droll now, a rough man, an old soldier like him, to be so
upset, while I could see fifty regiments of wounded go by in carts
without thinking more about it than my morning pipe."

[Illustration]



CHAPTER IV.


Whilst Hullin, informed of the disasters that had befallen our armies,
was walking with downcast head and knitted brows towards the village of
Charmes, all was going on as usual at the farm of Bois-de-Chênes. The
fantastic stories of Yégof--the rumours of war--were alike forgotten
for the present; old Duchêne led his oxen to the water, the shepherd
Robin foddered his cattle, and Annette and Jeanne skimmed their pans of
milk, and made their curds-and-whey. Catherine Lefévre alone, gloomy
and silent, mused continually on the past, while, at the same time,
overlooking with an impassive face the doings of her household. She was
too old, and of too serious a nature, to forget from one day to the
next anything that had so greatly moved her.

When night came, after the evening meal, she went into the inner
apartment, where her people heard her take the heavy ledger from the
cupboard, and lay it on the table, to make up her accounts, as it was
her custom to do.

They immediately began to load the heavy cart with corn, vegetables,
and poultry, for on the morrow it was market-day at Sarrebourg, and
Duchêne was to set out at daybreak.

Picture to yourself this large kitchen, and all these honest people
making haste to finish their work before going to bed; the big black
pan smoking on an immense fire made of fir cones, and glowing with
crimson heat; the dishes, pots, and porringers shining like suns upon
the dresser; the bunches of garlic and golden onions hanging in rows
from the brown rafters of the ceiling, among the hams and flitches
of bacon; Jeanne, with her bright blue head-dress and short scarlet
petticoat, stirring the contents of the pan with a great wooden spoon;
large wicker hencoops, with the clucking fowls, and the great red
cock thrusting his head between the bars, and watching the fire with
a surprised eye, and head twisted on one side; the mastiff, Michel,
with flat head and hanging jaws, prowling about in quest of some
stray morsel; Dubourg descending the creaking staircase on the left,
with bent back, a sack on his shoulder, and his other hand placed
archwise on his hip; whilst outside, in the darkness of the night, old
Duchêne, standing upright in the cart, holds up his lantern, and calls
out:--"That makes the fifteenth, Dubourg; two more."

There was also hanging against the wall an old brown hare brought by
the huntsman Heinrich to be sold in the market, and a fine grouse, his
green and red feathers glistening in the firelight, with glazed eye,
and a drop of blood at the tip of his beak.

It was about half-past seven when the sound of footsteps was heard
in the court-yard. The mastiff went growling towards the door. He
listened, sniffed the night air, and then quietly returned to his place
by the fire.

"It is some one belonging to the farm," said Annette. "Michel does not
stir."

Directly after, old Duchêne was heard outside, saying, "Good night,
Master Jean-Claude. Is it you?"

"Yes; I have just arrived from Phalsbourg, and I have come to rest for
a moment before going down to the village. Is Catherine in?"

And as he spoke, the honest man appeared in the bright firelight,
standing at the door, his broad-brimmed hat pushed back on to the nape
of his neck, and his bundle of sheepskins on his shoulder.

"Good night, my children," said he; "good night; always at work?"

"Yes, Master Hullin, as you see," replied Jeanne, with a smile. "If one
had nothing to do, life would be very tedious."

"True, my pretty girl, true; there is nothing like work to give you
those fresh cheeks and large bright eyes."

Jeanne was going to reply when the inner door opened, and Catherine
Lefévre entered, casting a searching look at Hullin as if to guess
beforehand the news he brought.

"Well, Jean-Claude, you are back again."

"Yes, Catherine. There is both good and bad news."

They went into the inner room, a high and spacious apartment,
wainscoted to the very ceiling, with its cupboards of old oak with
bright locks, its porcelain stove, its old clock marking the seconds in
its walnut case, and its large arm-chair of embossed leather, which had
been in use for ten generations. Jean-Claude never went into this room
without thinking of Catherine's grandfather, whom he seemed still to
see sitting in the shadow behind the stove.

"Well!" inquired the farm-mistress, offering a seat to the
sabot-maker, who had just placed his bundle on the table.

"Well, of Gaspard, the news is good; the lad is well. He has seen some
hardships--so much the better; that is the making of a young man; but
for the rest, Catherine, everything is very bad. War! war!"

He shook his head, and the old woman, with compressed lips, sat
opposite to him, upright in her arm-chair, her eyes fixed, and
listening eagerly.

"So everything is going wrong; we shall have wars at our very doors?"

"Yes, Catherine, from one day to the next we may expect to see the
Allies in our mountains."

"I dreaded as much. I was sure of it; but speak, Jean-Claude."

Hullin then, with his elbows on his knees, his great red ears between
his hands, and lowering his voice, began to relate all that he had
seen: the defences round the town, the formation of batteries on the
ramparts, the publication of the state of siege, the carts filled with
the wounded in front of the church, his meeting with the old sergeant
at the house of Wittman, and the renewal of the campaign. From time to
time he made a pause, and the old farm-mistress would slowly wink her
eyes, as though to fix the facts in her memory. When Jean-Claude came
to the wounded, the good woman murmured, in a low voice, "Gaspard has
escaped that."

Then at the close of this dismal story there was a long silence, and
they both looked at each other without uttering a word.

What reflections, what bitter feelings passed through their minds!

After a few moments the old woman strove to rouse herself from these
thoughts.

"You see, Jean-Claude," said she, in a calm, grave tone, "Yégof was not
wrong."

"No doubt, no doubt he was not wrong," replied Hullin; "but what does
that prove? A fool--a maniac, who goes from village to village--who
comes down from Alsace, goes back to Lorraine, wanders right and
left--it would be very surprising if he saw nothing, and if there
should not be from time to time a mixture of truth in his mad sayings.
All kinds of things get mixed up in his head, and then people think
they understand what he does not understand himself. But it is not now
a question of a fool's babblings, Catherine. The Austrians are here.
The question is, whether we shall allow them to pass, or whether we
shall have the courage to defend ourselves."

"To defend ourselves!" exclaimed the old woman, her pale cheeks
flushing with excitement; "whether we shall have the courage to defend
ourselves! You must forget, Hullin, that it is to me you are speaking.
What! are we then unworthy of our forefathers? Did they not defend
themselves, even to the death--men, women, and children?"

"Then you are for fighting, Catherine?"

"Yes, yes, as long as a morsel of flesh is left on my bones! Let them
come! The old woman is prepared!"

Her long gray hair seemed to stand erect upon her head; her pale and
withered cheeks trembled, and her eyes flashed fire.

She was really grand to look upon, as she stood, flushed and excited,
like that aged Margareth of whom Yégof had spoken. Hullin silently
held out his hand to her, and smiled approvingly.

"Right!" said he; "right! The same as ever. You are like yourself,
Catherine; your own true, brave self, as you stand there before me; but
now be a little calm, and listen to me. We are going to fight, and with
what means?"

"All and every means; all are good--hatchets, scythes, pitchforks."

"Truly, truly; but guns and bullets are best of all. We have guns:
every dweller in the mountains hangs his own over his door; unluckily
we have neither powder nor ball."

The old farm-mistress grew calm in a moment; pushing her gray locks
back under her cap, she stood absently gazing straight before her, with
a thoughtful look.

"Yes," she suddenly replied, in a sharp, short tone; "that is quite
true; we have neither powder nor ball, but we soon will have. Marc
Divès, the smuggler, has some. You shall go to him to-morrow from me.
You will tell him that Catherine Lefévre buys of him all his powder
and all his bullets, that she pays him for them, that she will sell
all her cattle, her farm, her land, all--all--to procure some. Do you
understand, Hullin?"

"I understand. This is well done of you, Catherine; it is splendid!"

"Stuff! splendid and well done!" sharply retorted the old woman; "it
is only natural that I should avenge myself! These Austrians, these
Prussians, these red men, who have already half destroyed us--well!
I would pay them back. I hate them, father to son. Now, you see! Buy
the powder; and this wandering beggar, this fool shall see if we will
rebuild his castles!"

Hullin then perceived that she was still brooding over Yégof's stories;
but seeing how exasperated she was, and that, besides, her having this
notion contributed to the defence of the country, he made no remark on
this subject, and simply said:

"Then, Catherine, it's agreed that I go to Divès to-morrow?"

"Yes: you will buy all his powder and his bullets. Some one must also
go the round of all the villages in the mountain, to warn the people of
what is going on, and arrange a signal with them for assembling in case
of attack."

"Make your mind easy," said Jean-Claude; "I will undertake that, too."

They had both risen, and were proceeding towards the door. For the last
half-hour the sounds in the kitchen had ceased: the farm people had
gone to bed. The old woman placed her lamp in a corner of the hearth,
and drew the bolts. Out of doors, it was cold and sharp, the air calm
and clear. All the tops of the surrounding trees and the dark firs of
the Jägerthal stood out against the sky in dark or luminous masses. Far
off in the distance the shrill yelp of a fox resounded in the valley of
the Blanru.

"Good night, Hullin," said Dame Lefévre.

"Good night, Catherine."

Jean-Claude rapidly descended the steep hill, and the farm-mistress,
after having looked after him for a second, went in and shut the door.

I leave you to imagine the joy of Louise, when she learnt that Gaspard
was safe and sound. The poor child, for the last two months, could
hardly be said to have lived. Hullin was very careful not to show her
the dark cloud that was slowly, but surely, moving towards them. All
the night long he could hear her prattling to herself in her little
room, talking low, as if congratulating herself upon her happiness,
murmuring the name of Gaspard, and opening her drawers, her boxes; no
doubt in search of some of her treasures to which she might whisper of
her love.

Thus the little bird, who has been drenched by the storm, while still
shivering with cold and wet, begins to sing and to hop from branch to
branch at the faint glimmer of sunshine.

[Illustration]



CHAPTER V


When Jean-Claude Hullin went the next morning in his shirt-sleeves
to open his shutters, he saw all the neighbouring mountains--the
Jägerthal, the Grosmann, the Donon--covered with snow. There is always
something striking in this first aspect of winter, come upon the earth
in our sleep; the old firs, the moss-covered rocks, still decked in
verdure the evening before, and now sparkling with hoar-frost, fill
the soul with an indefinable feeling of sadness. "Another year gone,"
we say to ourselves; "another rough winter to go through, before the
return of the flowers!" And people hasten to provide their winter
clothing, and lay in their store of fuel. While your humble dwelling is
pleasant inside with warmth and light, you hear out of doors, for the
first time, the sparrows--the poor sparrows--chirruping mournfully, as
they nestle, with ruffled plumage, under the thatch, "No breakfast this
morning--no breakfast!"

Hullin put on his strong iron-bound and doubled soled shoes, and his
thick overcoat.

He heard Louise walking about in her little room overhead.

"Louise!" he called out; "I am off!"

"What! are you going out again to-day?"

"Yes, my child, I must: I have not finished my business."

Then, having put on his large, slouched hat, he went halfway up the
stairs, and said, in a low tone:

"You will not expect me very soon, my child: I have a good distance to
go, so do not be anxious about me. If anyone asks you where I am gone,
you can say, 'To Cousin Mathias's, at Saverne.'"

"Won't you have your breakfast before you go?"

"No! I've put a crust of bread, and a little flask of brandy, in my
pocket. Farewell, my child. Be happy. Dream of Gaspard."

And, without waiting for fresh questions, he took his stick, and
quitted the house, directing his steps towards the hill of the
Bouleaux,[6] to the left of the village. After about a quarter of an
hour's brisk walking, he had passed it, and gained the footpath of the
Three Fountains, which winds round by Falkenstein, with which a low
stone wall runs parallel.

The first snows of winter, which are never long able to resist the
damp of the valleys, were already beginning to melt away, and trickled
slowly down the footpath. Hullin mounted the wall to make his footing
surer, and as he chanced, by accident, to cast his eyes down on the
village, at a distance of within two gun-shots, he saw the housewives
busily engaged in sweeping the snow away from the front of their
houses, whilst some old men, standing by, wished them good morning as
they smoked their first pipe in their doorways. This profound calm,
in presence of the thoughts that were stirring within him, moved
him deeply; he continued on his way in a thoughtful mood, saying to
himself: "How quietly and tranquilly their life flows on! They have no
doubts and fears for the future; and yet, but a few days, and what
clamour, what strife, may rend the air!"

As the first thing necessary was to procure the powder, Catherine
Lefévre had very naturally cast her eyes upon Marc Divès, the smuggler,
and his virtuous spouse, Hexe-Baizel.

These people lived on the other side of the Falkenstein, under the very
shadow of the old ruinous _burg_. They had hollowed out for themselves
in the rock a very convenient cavern which had only one entrance, and
two apertures to admit light; but which, if report spoke true, had
another outlet, leading to old subterranean passages of great extent.
This the custom-house officers had never been able to discover, in
spite of numberless visits paid with that object in view. Jean-Claude
and Marc Divès had known each other from childhood--had rambled
together as boys in search of hawks' and owls' nests, and, in after
life, they met each other at least once nearly every week, at the great
sawpits of the Valtin. Jean-Claude, therefore, believed himself sure of
the smuggler, but he was not quite so certain of Madame Hexe-Baizel,
a very discreet person, and who would not, perhaps, be greatly taken
with the prospect of strife and warfare. "At any rate," said he, as he
jogged steadily along, "we shall soon see."

He had lit his pipe, and from time to time he turned slowly round to
gaze upon the broad landscape, whose limits kept growing wider and
wider.

Nothing more beautiful in nature than these wooded mountains, rising
one above the other in the pale heavens--these vast plains, stretching
out of sight, all white with snow--these black ravines, half hidden
among the woods, with their sluggish streams gurgling slowly over the
smooth pebbles at the bottom.

And then the silence--that grand solemn silence of winter--the
half-melted snow falling noiselessly from the tops of the tall firs
on to the lower branches, gently bending beneath their weight; the
birds of prey whirling in pairs over the forest, uttering their shrill
war-cry. All this must be seen, for it cannot be described!

About an hour after he had left the village of Charmes, Hullin,
climbing the summit of the steep mountain, reached the foot of rock of
the Arbousiers. All around this huge mass of granite extends a sort of
rocky terrace, three or four feet wide. This narrow footway, canopied
by the tall tops of the slender mountain firs, looks dangerous, but it
is safe; unless attacked by giddiness, you can walk along it without
risk. Above rises the rocky and ruinous archway of the cavern.

Jean-Claude drew near the smuggler's retreat. He stopped a few moments
on the terrace, put his pipe back in his pocket, then advanced along
the path, which describes a half circle, and ends on the other side by
a sudden gap.

At the very end, and almost on the edge of this gap, he perceived the
two lattices of the cave, and the half-opened doorway, in front of
which an immense heap of dung was piled.

At the same moment Hexe-Baizel made her appearance, sweeping the dung
into the abyss with a large besom made of green broom. She was a
little, withered woman, with red tangled locks, hollow cheeks, sharp
nose, small eyes sparkling like stars, pinched mouth, amply furnished
with very white teeth, and a ruddy complexion. As to her costume, it
was composed of a very short and very dirty woollen petticoat, a coarse
chemise, tolerably clean; her small, muscular arms, covered with a sort
of yellow down, were bare to the elbows, in spite of the excessive cold
of the atmosphere at this height. To complete her costume, the only
coverings to her feet were a pair of old worn-out shoes, down at the
heel.

"Ah! good morrow, Hexe-Baizel," exclaimed Jean-Claude, in a tone of
mocking good humour. "You are as fat and comely as ever--I see, happy
and contented! It does one good to see you."

Hexe-Baizel had started at the first sound of Jean-Claude's voice like
a weasel caught in a trap; her red hair seemed to stand on end, and
her little sparkling eyes flashed fire; but she instantly recovered
herself, and exclaimed, in a short, sharp tone, as if speaking to
herself:

"Hullin! the shoemaker! what does he want?"

"I have come to see my friend Marc, fair Hexe-Baizel," replied
Jean-Claude; "we have some business to settle."

"What business?"

"Ah! that is our affair. Come, let me go in, that I may speak to him."

"Marc is asleep."

"Well, then, he must be awakened, for time presses."

So saying, Hullin stooped under the doorway, and entered a cavern,
whose vaulted roof, instead of being round, was formed in irregular
curves, furrowed with crevices. Quite close to the entrance, and two
feet from the ground, the rock made a sort of natural hearth; on this
hearth a few lumps of coal and some juniper branches were burning.
All Hexe-Baizel's cooking utensils consisted of a copper saucepan,
an earthenware porringer, two cracked plates, and three or four
pewter spoons; all her furniture of a wooden bench, a wood-cutter's
hatchet, a salt-box hung against the rock, and her large besom made of
green broom. To the left of this kitchen was another cavern, with an
uneven-shaped door, larger at the bottom than the top, and which shut
by means of two planks and a cross-beam.

"Well, where is Marc?" said Hullin, as he seated himself beside the
hearth.

"I've told you already he is asleep. He came home very late yesterday.
My man must have his rest; do you understand?"

"I understand very well, Hexe-Baizel; but I've no time to wait."

"Begone, then."

"It's very easy to say 'Begone,' only I don't want to go. I've not come
a whole league to go back with my hands in my pockets."

"Is that you, Hullin?" broke in a rough voice, issuing from the inner
cave.

"Yes, Marc."

"Oh! here I am."

A sound like the rustling of straw was heard, then the wooden outworks
were withdrawn, and a huge frame, three feet broad from one shoulder
to the other, lean, bony, bent, the neck and ears of the colour of
brickdust, and with thick, stubbly, brown hair, appeared, stooping
through the opening, and Marc Divès, yawning and stretching his long
arms with a stifled sigh, stood before Hullin.

At first sight, the aspect of Marc Divès seemed pacific enough; his
broad and low forehead, short, curly hair, which came down in a point
almost to his eyebrows, leaving his temples bare, his straight and
pointed nose, and long chin, and, above all, the calm expression of
his brown eyes, would have caused him to be classed rather among the
ruminating than a fiercer tribe of animals; but those who so thought
would have done wrong. Reports ran throughout the country that Marc
Divès, in the event of an attack by the revenue officers, did not
scruple to make use of his hatchet or carbine in case of need, and many
serious accidents that had befallen the excise collectors were laid to
his charge; but the proofs were always wanting, the smuggler, thanks to
his profound knowledge of all the defiles of the mountain, and of every
cross-road from Dagsburg to Sarrebrück, and from Raon-L'Etape to Bâle,
in Switzerland, always contriving to put himself at fifteen leagues'
distance from the place where an unlucky encounter had taken place. And
then he had such a simple manner about him, and those who spread those
evil reports were always sure to come to a bad end, which proves the
justice of Providence in this world.

"If you'll believe me, Hullin," said Marc, after he had come out of his
hole, "I was thinking of you only yesterday evening, and if you had
not come I should have gone straight to the sawpits of the Valtin on
purpose to meet you. Sit down; Hexe-Baizel, give Hullin a chair."

He then seated himself on the hearth, with his back to the fire, and
his face to the open door, through which breathed the gales of Alsace
and of Switzerland. Through this opening, too, a magnificent prospect
might be enjoyed; you would have styled it a regular picture, framed
in the rock, but still an immense picture, embracing the whole valley
of the Rhine, and beyond that the mountains dissolving far in the
hazy distance. And, to crown all, there was the fresh breeze of the
mountain, and the bright fire, which, flickering and dancing in this
owls' nest, was a pleasant sight to turn to, with its ruddy glow,
forming such a striking contrast with the pale blue tinge of the
distant scenery.

"Marc," said Hullin, after a moment's silence, "may I speak before your
wife?"

"She and I are only one."

"Well, then, I have come here to buy of you powder and shot."

"To shoot hares, I suppose," said the smuggler, with a knowing wink.

"No; to fight the Germans and Russians."

There was a moment's silence.

"And you will want a great deal of powder and shot?"

"All you can supply me with."

"I can supply you to-day with three thousand francs' worth," said the
smuggler.

"I will take it."

"And as much more in a week's time," added Marc, with the same calm
tone and thoughtful eye.

"I will take it."

"You will take it!" exclaimed Hexe-Baizel; "you will take it! No doubt;
but who's to pay for it?"

"Be silent!" said Marc, in a harsh tone; "Hullin shall have it; his
word is enough for me."

Then, extending his huge hand, with a cordial
expression:--"Jean-Claude, here is my hand; the powder and shot are
yours; but I should like to have the spending of my share of them, you
understand?"

"Yes, Marc; and one thing more. I purpose paying you at once."

"He is going to pay!" said Hexe-Baizel; "you hear?"

"Yes; I'm not deaf! Baizel, go and fetch us a bottle of
_brimbelle-wasser_; that'll warm our hearts a bit. I am rejoiced at
what Hullin has just told me. Those beggars of _kaiserliks_ will not
have it quite so much their own way as I thought. It seems we are going
to defend ourselves, and with a good will."

"Yes, with a right good will."

"And there are those who will pay for it?"

"It is Catherine Lefévre who will pay for it, and it is she who has
sent me," said Hullin.

Then Marc Divès rose, and in a solemn voice, and with his hand extended
towards the summits of the steep mountains, he exclaimed:--"She is
a woman as grand and as firm as that rock down below there, the
Oxenstein, the largest I ever saw in my life. I drink to her health.
Drink you, too, Jean-Claude."

Hullin drank, as did also the old woman.

"And now there is nothing more to be said," exclaimed Divès; "but,
hark ye, Hullin; you must not fancy this will be an easy matter; all
the hunters, all the _ségares_,[7] all the _schlitteurs_, all the
woodcutters of the mountain, will not be too many for the work that is
to be done. I have just come from the other side of the Rhine. There
are Russians, Austrians, Bavarians, Prussians, Cossacks, Hussars. There
are--why, the country swarms with them. They blacken the face of the
land; they camp in the plains, in the valleys, on the heights, in the
cities, in the open air, everywhere; they are everywhere."

At this moment a sharp cry resounded through the air.

"It is a buzzard on the wing," said Marc, interrupting himself.

But at the same moment a dark shadow passed over the rock. A cloud
of greenfinches flew over the abyss, and hundreds of buzzards and
hawks were seen taking their rapid, angular flight overhead, uttering
harsh cries to frighten their prey, while the whole seemed struggling
together in a compact mass that looked motionless by reason of its
density. The regular movement of these thousands of wings produced in
the stillness a sound like that of dead leaves stirred by the north
wind.

"That is the flight of the greenfinches of Ardennes," said Hullin.

"Yes; it is their last passage. The earth is covered with snow, and
the seed lies buried in its bosom. Well, look now; there are more men
down below there than those birds can number. No matter, Jean-Claude,
we will beat them, provided everyone puts his shoulder to the wheel.
Hexe-Baizel, light the lantern; I will show Hullin our stores of powder
and shot."

Hexe-Baizel, at this information, could not restrain a grimace.

"No one, for twenty years," said she, "has ever entered the cave. He
can surely believe us on our word. We take his word that he is going to
pay us. I shall not light the lantern, no!"

Marc, without a word, stretched out his hand, and seized a thick cudgel
from the wood pile close by; then the old woman, bristling with rage,
disappeared into the inner hole like a ferret, and came a few seconds
after with a great horn lantern, which Divès quietly lit at the blazing
hearth.

"Baizel," said the smuggler, replacing the stick in the corner, "you
should know that Jean-Claude is the old friend of my childhood, and
that I put a deal more trust in him than in you, old polecat; for if
you were not afraid of being hung the same day as me, I should have
dangled at the end of a rope long ago. Come, Hullin, follow me."

They went out, and the smuggler, turning to the left, went straight
towards the gap which was yawning on the very edge of the Valtin, at
the height of two hundred feet in the air. He put aside the foliage of
a small oak growing up from below, strode over it, and disappeared as
if suddenly launched into the abyss below. Jean-Claude shuddered; but
almost immediately afterwards he saw, against the ledge of the rock,
the head of Divès, who called to him:

"Hullin, place your hand to the left, you will find a hole; put your
foot out boldly, you will feel a step, and then turn upon your heel."

Master Jean-Claude obeyed, not without trembling; he felt the hole in
the rock, he encountered the step, and taking a half-turn, he found
himself face to face with his companion, in a sort of arched niche,
abutting formerly, no doubt, on some postern gate. At the bottom of the
niche was a low vault.

"How on earth did you discover that?" exclaimed Hullin, quite
thunderstruck.

"While looking for nests, thirty-five years ago. I was one day on the
rock, and I often noticed, coming in and out of this nook, a _grand
duke_ and its mate, two magnificent birds, the head as large as my
fist, and the wings six feet across. I heard the cry of their little
ones, and I said to myself: 'They are near the cavern, at the end of
the terrace. If I could take just one turn a little beyond the gap, I
should have them!' By means of looking and leaning over, I managed to
see the corner of a step just above the precipice. I found a strong
holly tree beside it. I grasped the tree, put out my leg, and there
I was! What a fight, Hullin! the old bird and his mate were ready
to tear my eyes out. Luckily, it was daylight. They flew at me like
fighting-cocks, pecking at me, and screaming horribly all the while;
but the sun dazzled them. I kicked them with all my might. At last they
fell down stunned over the top of that old fir tree down below there;
and all the jays round about, the thrushes, the greenfinches, the
tomtits, kept flying round about them till night-time, to strip them
of their feathers. You can't imagine, Jean-Claude, the heap of bones,
of skins of rats, leverets, of skeletons of all sorts, that I found
in this nook. It was a regular pest-house. I lost no time in clearing
it all out, and discovered this narrow passage. I must tell you there
were two young ones. The first thing I did was to wring their necks,
and stuff them into my bag; that done, I entered very quietly, and you
shall see what I found. Come on."

They then crept along beneath the narrow and low vault formed by
enormous blocks of red stone, and through which the lantern they
carried cast a flickering light.

At the end of about thirty feet, a vast cavern of circular form,
hollowed out of the solid rock, appeared before Hullin. At the bottom
were ranged in pyramids about fifty little barrels, and at the sides a
great number of bars of lead and bags of tobacco, with the strong odour
of which the air was filled.

Marc left his lantern at the entrance of the vault, and now stood
looking proudly on his den, while a smile curled his lips.

"This is what I found," said he; "the cave was empty, only in the
middle of it there was the carcase of a beast as white as snow--no
doubt some fox who had died there of old age--the beggar had found out
the passage before me. He slept here soundly enough; who the devil
would ever have thought of following him? At that time, Jean-Claude,
I was only twelve years old. The thought instantly struck me that
some day or other this hiding-place might be useful to me. I did not
then know for what; but, in after-times, when I had my first bouts of
smuggling at Landau, Kiel, and Bâle with Jacob Zimmer, and when all the
custom-house officers were at my heels, the idea of my old cavern began
to haunt me day and night. I had made the acquaintance of Hexe-Baizel,
who was at that time servant at the farm of Bois-de-Chênes, where
Catherine's father then lived. She brought me twenty-five louis as her
marriage portion, and we came and settled ourselves in our cavern of
Arbousiers."

Divès was silent, and Hullin, after musing a moment, said: "You are
very fond of this hole, then, Marc?"

"Fond of it? I'll tell you what, I wouldn't change it for the finest
house in Strasburg, with two thousand livres a year to boot. For
twenty-three years have I hidden my merchandize here; sugar, coffee,
gunpowder, tobacco, brandy, all finds its way here. I have eight horses
always on the road."

"But you don't enjoy yourself."

"I don't enjoy myself! You think, then, it's nothing to trick the
gendarmes, the custom-house officers, the excise; to spite them, gull
them, hear them say everywhere, 'That beggar of a Marc, what a cunning
rogue it is! what a dance he leads you! he sets the law and all its
agents at defiance;' and so on, and so on. He! he! he! I'll answer for
it, that it's the greatest pleasure in life. And then, the people all
round adore you; I sell them everything at half-price. You can afford
to be good to the poor, and keep your own belly warm."

"But what danger, what risks!"

"Bah! not an exciseman in the world will ever think of passing that
gap."

"I believe you!" thought Hullin, as he reflected that he should have to
make his way back over the precipice.

"But for all that," continued Marc, "you are not altogether wrong,
Jean-Claude. In the beginning, when I had to come here with one of
those little barrels on my shoulder, I used to sweat great drops of
perspiration; but I am used to it now."

"And if your foot were to slip?"

"Well then all would be over. As well die spitted on a fir-tree as lie
coughing whole days and nights upon a mattrass."

Divès then held up his lantern, and, by its light, the barrels of
gunpowder, piled one upon another up to the roof of the vault, were
plainly seen.

"It is the best English gunpowder," said he; "it flows like grains of
silver over the hand, and makes a splendid charge. You don't want much
of it; a thimbleful's enough. And here's some lead without the smallest
particle of tin. From this very evening, Hexe-Baizel shall begin to
cast bullets; she's a good hand at that--you will see."

They were preparing to return the same way they came, when all of a
sudden they were startled by a confused humming sound of talking at no
great distance from them. Marc blew out his lantern, and they remained
plunged in darkness.

"There is some one walking above there," whispered the smuggler; "who
the deuce has managed to climb up the Falkenstein this snowy weather?"

They listened in breathless silence, and with their eyes fixed on a
pale streak of light which streamed through a narrow fissure at the
end of the cavern. Around this cleft grew some shrubs sparking with
hoar-frost, while higher up might be perceived the top of an old wall.
As they stood thus anxiously watching in the most profound silence,
there suddenly appeared at the foot of the wall a huge head covered
with long matted hair, the sharp, lean face ending in a red pointed
beard, the sharply-cut profile standing out in strong relief against
the white wintry sky.

"It is the King of Diamonds," said Marc, with a laugh.

"Poor devil!" said Hullin, in a grave tone; "he has come to ramble
about his castle, with his bare feet on the ice, and his tin crown on
his head! Stay! see! he is speaking; he is giving his orders to his
knights, to his court; he extends his sceptre to the north and to the
south--all is his; he is lord of heaven and earth! Poor devil! only to
see him with his thin drawers and his old sheepskin on his back, makes
me shiver with cold."

"Yes, Jean-Claude, and me, too; it makes me feel like a burgomaster,
or mayor of a village, with his round paunch and fat puffy cheeks, who
says to himself: 'Me, I am Hans-Aden; I have ten acres of beautiful
meadows, I have two houses, I have a vine, my orchard, my garden, hum!
hum! I've this, and I've that!' The next day a little touch of colic
carries him off, and--good bye! Ah, the fools! the fools! who is there
that is not a fool? Come along, Hullin, the very sight of that poor
fellow babbling to the wind, and his raven, who croaks of famine, makes
my teeth chatter."

As they came out into the open day, Hullin was almost dazzled by the
sudden change from the thick darkness. Fortunately, the tall stature
of his companion, standing upright before him, preserved him from an
attack of giddiness.

"Step firmly," said Marc; "imitate me--your right hand in the hole, the
right foot forward on the step, one half turn round--here we are!"

They returned to the kitchen, where Hexe-Baizel told them that Yégof
was in the ruins of the old _burg_.

"We know it," replied Marc; "we have just seen him taking the air up
above there; every one to his taste."

At the same instant, the raven, Hans, hovering over the abyss, passed
in front of the door, uttering a hoarse cry; they heard the rustling
of the frost-covered bushes, and the fool appeared before them on the
terrace. His looks were wild and haggard, and, casting a glance at the
hearth, he exclaimed:

"Marc Divès, you must give up this place as soon as possible. I warn
you; I am weary of this disorder. The fortifications of my domains must
be free. I will not suffer vermin to harbour in them."

Then perceiving Jean-Claude his brow grew clear.

"You here, Hullin!" said he. "Can it be, that you are at length wise
enough to accept the proposals I have deigned to make you? Do you feel
that an alliance such as mine is the sole means of saving you from the
total destruction of your race? If it be so, I congratulate you; you
have shown more good sense than I expected of you."

Hullin could not help laughing.

"No, Yégof, no; Heaven has not yet enlightened me enough," said he,
"for me to accept the honour you wish to do me; besides, Louise is not
yet of an age to marry."

The fool had grown grave and gloomy again. Standing on the edge of the
terrace, with his back to the abyss, he seemed on his own territory,
and his raven, fluttering from right to left, had no power to disturb
him. He raised his sceptre, knit his brow, and exclaimed:

"Then now, for the second time, Hullin, I reiterate my demand; and for
the second time you dare to refuse me! Now I will renew it yet once
more--once more, do you hear? and then let destiny be fulfilled!"

And so, turning gravely on his heel, his head high and erect, in spite
of the extreme rapidity of the descent, he vanished quickly from their
sight.

Hullin, Marc Divès, and even Hexe-Baizel herself, uttered loud peals of
laughter.

"He is a great fool," said Hexe-Baizel.

"I think you are not altogether wrong," replied the smuggler. "That
poor Yégof is certainly out of his mind. But never mind that now.
Baizel, listen well to me; you must begin to cast bullets of all sizes;
for my part, I am going to set out for Switzerland. In a week at the
latest, the rest of our ammunition will be here. Give me my boots."

Then tying round his neck a thick red woollen comforter, he took down
from the wall one of those cloaks of dark green such as shepherds wear,
threw it over his shoulders, pulled his old slouched hat over his
brows, took a stout cudgel, and exclaimed:

"Do not forget what I have just told you, old woman, or beware.
Forward, Jean-Claude!"

Hullin followed him out upon the terrace without saying good-bye to
Hexe-Baizel, who, for her part, did not even deign to come to the door
to see them depart. As soon as they had arrived at the foot of the
rock, Marc Divès stopped, and said:

"You are going into all the villages of the mountain, are you not,
Hullin?"

"Yes, that is the first thing to be done; I must warn the woodcutters,
the charcoal-burners, the bargemen of what is going on."

"Without doubt. Do not forget Materne of Hengst and his two boys,
Labarbe of Dagsburg, Jerôme of Saint-Quirin. Tell them that there
will be powder and ball; that we are in it heart and soul, Catherine
Lefévre, I, Marc Divès, and all the honest people of the country."

"Make your mind easy, Marc; I know my men."

"Then good-bye for the present."

They wrung each other's hands and parted.

The smuggler took the path to the right, towards the Donon, Hullin that
to the left, towards the Sarre.

They were both proceeding on their way at a good pace when Hullin
called to his comrade:

"Halloo! Marc, as you pass Catherine Lefévre's, tell her that all goes
well, and that I am gone to the villages in the mountain."

The other answered by a sign of his head that he understood, and then
both continued their way.

[Illustration]

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 6: The Birch Trees.]

[Footnote 7: Workers in a sawpit.]



CHAPTER VI.


An extraordinary agitation prevailed at this time over all the line
of the Vosges; the report of an expected invasion spread from village
to village, even to the very farms and cottages of the Hengst and
the Nideck. The hawkers, the carriers, the tinkers, all the floating
population that roves incessantly from the mountain to the plain, and
from the plain to the mountain, brought every day from Alsace and the
borders of the Rhine a lot of strange news.

"Every place," said these folks, "is being put in a state of defence;
foraging parties are constantly engaged in provisioning them with
corn and meat. The roads from Metz, from Nancy, from Huningen, and
from Strasbourg, are filled with convoys. In every direction you meet
waggons full of ammunition, cavalry, infantry, artillery, all hurrying
to their posts. Marshal Victor, with his twelve thousand men, is
already engaged in keeping the road to Saverne, but the drawbridges
are always raised from seven o'clock every evening till eight the next
morning."

Every one was of opinion that all this boded no good. Nevertheless,
if many felt serious alarm at the near prospect of war, if old women
lifted their hands to heaven and prayed to all the saints in the
calendar, the greater number thought only of the means of defence.
Under such circumstances, Jean-Claude Hullin, you may be sure, was well
received everywhere.

That very day, about five o'clock in the evening, he reached the summit
of the Hengst, and stopped at the dwelling of the patriarch of the
forest rangers, old Materne. It was there that he passed the night;
for, in winter time, the days are short and the roads bad. Materne
promised to undertake the charge of the defile of the Zorn with his two
sons, Kasper and Frantz, and to reply to the first signal that should
be made to him from the Falkenstein.

The next day Jean-Claude repaired betimes to Dagsburg, to consult with
his friend Labarbe, the wood-cutter. They went together to visit the
neighbouring hamlets, to try and inspire every heart with the love of
their country; and the day following, Labarbe accompanied Hullin to
the house of the Anabaptist, Christ-Nickel, the farmer of Painbach, a
respectable and very sensible man, but whom they could not succeed in
winning over to their glorious enterprise. Christ-Nickel had but one
reply to every observation:

"It is right, it is just; but the Gospel says, 'Put up thy sword in
its place; he who slays with the sword shall perish by the sword.'" He
promised them, however, his best wishes for the good cause; this was
all they could obtain.

They went from thence to Walsch, to exchange firm hand-grips with
Daniel Hirsch, an old naval gunner, who promised them his support, and
that of all the people of his commonalty. At this place Labarbe left
Jean-Claude to continue his way alone. For a whole week longer he did
nothing but work his way to and from the mountain, from Soldatenthal
to Léonsberg, to Meienthâl, to Abreschwiller, Voyer, Loëttenbach,
Cirey, Petit-Mont, Saint-Sauveur, and on the ninth day he found himself
at the house of the shoemaker, Jerôme, at Saint-Quirin. Together they
visited the defile of the Blanru, after which Hullin, satisfied with
his journey and its results, at length took his way back to the village.

He had proceeded for about two hours at a steady pace, picturing
to himself camp life, the bivouac, the attack, the marches and
countermarches, all the episodes in a soldier's life which filled
him with enthusiasm, when afar off, still at a great distance, he
discovered in the pale twilight the hamlet of Charmes, and his own
little modest tenement, from the chimney of which rose a wreath of
smoke so thin as to be almost imperceptible, the little gardens
surrounded with wooden palings, the shingly roofs, and, to the left,
the large farm of Bois-de-Chênes, with the sawpit of the Valtin at the
other end half-hidden in the already dark ravine.

Then, suddenly, and without knowing why, a deep sadness fell upon him.

He relaxed his pace, as he mused upon the calm, peaceful life that he
was about to lose, perhaps for ever; of his own little room, so cosy in
winter, so fresh and gay in spring, when he threw open the casements,
and inhaled the fresh breeze from the woods; of the drowsy ticking
of the old clock, and, above all, of Louise, his dear little Louise,
spinning quietly in the twilight, with downcast eyelids, and singing
some old song in her clear, pure voice in the quiet evening hour, when
a feeling of peace and repose stole over them both. This recollection
came upon him so forcibly that the smallest objects, every humble
implement of his own trade, the long, shining straps, the short-handled
hatchet, the mallets, the little stove, the old cupboard, the glazed
earthen porringers, the antique image of Saint Michael nailed to the
wall, the old canopied bed at the end of the alcove, the bench, the
trunk, the little copper lamp--all came back to his mind like a living
picture, and the tears stood in his eyes.

But it was, above all, Louise, his beloved child, whom he most pitied.
What tears would she not shed! how she would pray of him to give up the
thoughts of fighting! how she would cling about his neck, saying, "Oh!
do not leave me, dear, dear father! Oh! I will love you so! Oh! say you
will not leave me!"

And the honest fellow saw her beautiful eyes bathed in tears; he felt
her arms about his neck. For a moment the idea came into his head to
deceive her, to make her believe something else--no matter what--to
account for his absence, and console her; but such modes of dealing
were foreign to his nature, and he grew more and more sad.

As he was passing by the farm of Bois-de-Chênes, he went in to tell
Catherine Lefévre that all was going well, and that the mountaineers
only awaited the signal.

A quarter of an hour later, Master Jean-Claude, descending the footpath
to the house, stood opposite his own modest dwelling.



CHAPTER VII.


Before pushing open the creaking door, the idea struck Jean-Claude to
see what Louise was doing at that moment. So he took a peep through
the casement into the little room, and there he saw Louise standing by
the curtains in the alcove; she seemed very busily employed in folding
and unfolding some clothes spread out upon the bed. Her sweet face
beamed with happiness, and her large blue eyes shone with a sort of
enthusiasm; she was speaking aloud to herself at the same time. Hullin
listened, but a cart that happened to be passing just at that moment
prevented his hearing what she said.

So, taking his resolution boldly, he entered, saying, in a firm voice;
"Well, Louise, here I am back again."

In an instant, the young girl, radiant with joy, and bounding like a
fawn, was in his arms.

"Ah! it is you, father dear; I was expecting you. Oh! what a time you
have been away, but here you are at last!"

"Because, my child," replied the brave man, in a tone a trifle less
firm, placing his stick behind the door, and his hat upon the table;
"because----"

He could say no more.

"Oh! yes, yes, because you have been to see our friends," said Louise,
with a smile; "I know all; Mother Lefévre has told me everything."

"What! you know all, and yet you are the same as usual? So much the
better; it shows your good sense. And I, who was dreading to see your
tears!"

"Tears! and why, Father Jean-Claude? That shows you do not know me; you
shall find I have courage."

The resolute air with which she uttered these words made Hullin smile;
but the smile very quickly vanished when she added: "We are going to
war, we are going to fight, we are going into the mountain."

"Heyday! hoity-toity! 'We are going, we are going!' what's all this?"
exclaimed the good man, quite wonderstruck.

"Yes. Are we not going, then?" said she, in a tone of regret.

"Well--that is to say--I shall have to leave you for some time, my
child."

"To leave me! Oh! no. I shall go with you, that's settled. Stay, see,
my little bundle is ready already, and I am preparing yours. Don't you
trouble yourself about anything; leave it all to me, and it will be all
right."

Hullin could not recover from his surprise.

"But, Louise," he exclaimed, "you cannot be thinking of it. Only
consider. Why, you would have to pass whole nights out of doors,
marching, running; and then the cold, the snow, and, above all, the
firing! It cannot be."

"Pray, now," said the young girl, in a voice that shook with emotion,
as she threw herself into his arms, "don't make me unhappy; you are
jesting with your little Louise; you cannot mean to leave her!"

"But you will be much better here. You will be warm and comfortable.
You shall hear from me every day."

"No, no; I will not stay behind; I will go with you. I don't mind the
cold. I've been shut up too long; I want a little change of air, too.
The birds don't stay at home. The robin redbreasts are out of doors all
the winter long. Did I not have to bear the cold when I was quite a
little thing, and hunger, too?"

She stamped impatiently with her foot, and then, for the third time,
threw her arms round Jean-Claude's neck.

"Come, Papa Hullin," said she, in a coaxing voice, "Mother Lefévre has
said 'Yes.' Will you be less kind than she? Ah! if you but knew how I
love you!"

The honest fellow, touched beyond measure, had sat himself down, and
turned aside his head to hide his emotion and avoid her persuasive
caresses.

"Oh! how unkind and naughty you are to-day, Papa Jean-Claude!"

"It is for your sake, my child."

"So much the worse, then, for I shall run away; I shall run after you.
The cold, indeed! What do I care for the cold? And if you are wounded,
and if you ask to see your little Louise for the last time, and she is
not there close to you, to tend you, to love you to the last? Oh! you
must think me very hard-hearted!"

She sobbed and cried. Hullin could restrain himself no longer.

"Is it really true that Mother Lefévre consents?" he asked.

"Oh! yes; oh! yes; she told me so. She said, 'Try to persuade Papa
Jean-Claude; for my part, I ask no better; I am quite willing.'"

"In that case, what can I do against you both? You shall come with us.
It is settled."

There was then a shriek of joy that made the whole house echo.

"Oh! how good and kind you are!" and with a brush of the hand the tears
were dried up.

"We are going away, to ramble over the mountains, and make war," was
now the joyful cry.

"Ha!" said Hullin, with a shake of the head; "I see now you are still
the same little _heimathslôs_ as ever. As well try and tame a swallow."
Then, drawing her to his knee: "Ah! Louise," said he, "it is now twelve
years since I found you in the snow; you were quite blue with the
cold, poor little thing! And when we got home to the little cabin, and
the warm fire brought you gently round, the first thing you did was
to smile upon me. And from that time I have always done whatever you
wanted. With that smile you have led me by the nose."

Then Louise began to smile upon him again, and they embraced each other
very lovingly.

"And now, then, let us look at the bundles," said the good man with a
sigh. "Are they well packed up, eh, child?"

He approached the bed, and stood quite surprised to see his warm
clothing, his flannel waistcoats, all well brushed, well folded, and
well packed up. Then came Louise's bundle, with her best frocks, her
petticoats and thick shoes, all in good order. He could not help
laughing at last, and exclaiming:

"Oh! _heimathslôs, heimathslôs!_ there are none like you for packing
up, when once you've set your mind upon it!"

Louise smiled.

"You are pleased?"

"I must be so! But all this time, while you have been so busy about
this work, you never thought, I suppose, of preparing my supper?"

"Oh! that is soon done! I did not know, Papa Jean-Claude, that you were
coming back this evening."

"That is true, my child. Cook me, then, something--no matter what, but
quickly, for I've a good appetite. In the meanwhile, I'll smoke a pipe."

He seated himself in his old corner, and lit his pipe in an absent,
thoughtful manner. Louise bustled about, right and left, like a frisky
sprite, now stirring the fire, now breaking eggs into the pan, and
tossing up an omelet in the twinkling of an eye. Never had she seemed
so gay, so smiling, so pretty. Hullin, with his elbow on the table, his
cheek in his hand, sat gravely watching her, and thinking what will,
firmness, and resolution there was in that fragile creature, light as
a fairy, and determined as a hussar. In another moment she had brought
him his omelet on a large-patterned dish, along with the bread, a glass
and bottle.

"Now then, Papa Jean-Claude, feast away."

She watched him fondly as he ate his meal.

The fire blazed brightly in the stove, reflecting its warm light on the
low rafters, the wooden staircase just visible in the gloom, the great
bed at the bottom of the alcove, all the little details of the home
so often cheered by the gay humour of the shoemaker, the songs of his
daughter, and the pleasant bustle of work. And all this Louise could
quit without a sigh of regret; she thought of nothing but the woods,
the snowy path across the endless chain of mountains from their village
to Switzerland, and farther still. Ah! Master Jean-Claude had, indeed,
good reason to exclaim, "_Heimathslôs! Heimathslôs!_" The swallow
cannot be tamed!--she needs the open air, the boundless sky, the
eternal voyage over the wide expanse of waters! She fears neither storm
nor wind, nor torrents of rain, as the hour of departure approaches.
Henceforth, she has but one thought, one sigh, one cry: "On! on!"

The meal over, Hullin rose, and said to his daughter:

"I am tired, my child; kiss me, and let us go to bed."

"Yes; but don't forget to wake me, Papa Jean-Claude, if you go before
daybreak."

"Be easy. It's settled; you shall come with us."

Then, as he looked after her as she ascended the narrow wooden
staircase, and disappeared within her own little attic--"Is she afraid
of being left alone in the nest?" said he to himself.

Out of doors the silence was so great that it might almost be said to
be heard. The village clock had just struck eleven. The good man sat
down to take off his shoes. Just at that moment his eye happened to
fall upon his gun, suspended over the door. He took it down, wiped
it slowly, and tried the lock. He had thrown his whole soul into the
business before him.

"There's work in the old gun still," he murmured to himself; and then
added in a grave voice:

"It's droll, it's droll; the last time I used it--at Marengo--that's
fourteen years ago--it seems to me but yesterday!"

All at once, outside, the crisp snow crackled beneath a rapid footstep.
He listened--there was some one. And almost immediately after he heard
two little taps at the window. He ran and opened it. The rough head
of Marc Divès, with his broad-brimmed hat quite stiff with frost, was
visible in the gloom.

"Well, Marc, what news?"

"Have you warned the mountaineers--Materne, Jerôme, Labarbe?"

"Yes, all."

"It is but just in time: the enemy has passed."

"Passed?"

"Yes, along the whole line. I have come fifteen leagues through the
snow since morning to tell you."

"Good! we must give the signal--a large bonfire on the Falkenstein."

Hullin was very pale. He put on his shoes again. Two minutes after,
with his thick great-coat flung over his shoulders, and his stick in
his hand, he softly opened the door, and was following Marc with hasty
strides along the footpath of the Falkenstein.

[Illustration]



CHAPTER VIII.


From midnight until six o'clock in the morning, a bright flame shone
through the darkness on the summit of the Falkenstein, and the whole
mountain was astir.

All the friends of Hullin, of Marc Divès, and of Dame Lefévre,
their legs encased in long gaiters, their old guns slung over their
shoulders, were silently marching through the woods in the deep
stillness of the night towards the gorges of the Valtin. The thought
of the enemy crossing the plains of Alsace to come and surprise the
dwellers in the defiles and mountains was uppermost in the minds
of all. The tocsins of Dagsburg, of Abreschwiller, of Walsch, of
Saint-Quirin, and of all the other villages, never ceased summoning the
defenders of their country to arms.

You must now picture to yourself the Jägerthal at the foot of the old
_burg_ during the period of an extraordinary fall of snow, at that
early hour of the morning when the tall shadows of the trees begin
to be visible through the gloom, and the piercing cold of the night
is lessened at the approach of dawn. You must picture to yourself
the old saw-works, with its broad flat roof, its heavy wheel loaded
with icicles, the low interior dimly lit up by a fire of fir-logs,
whose glow is beginning to pale in the faint but clear light of early
morning; and all around this fire is a confused jumble of seal-skin
caps, felt hats, dark profiles towering one above the other, and
pressed close together like a living wall. Farther on, the whole length
of the woods, in all the windings of the valley, other beacon-fires
lighted up, in their crimson glow, groups of men and women huddling
together in the snow.

The agitation was beginning to grow calmer. As the daylight grew
stronger and stronger, people began to recognise each other.

"Holloa! cousin Daniel of Soldatenthal! you are here too, then?"

"Why, yes, as you see, Heinrich, and my wife, too."

"What, Cousin Nanette! Why, where is she, then?"

"Down below there, near the great oak, by Uncle Hans's fire."

There were hearty hand-shakings everywhere. Some were giving vent to
long and loud yawns, while others again were engaged in throwing sticks
and logs of wood on the fire. Some were handing flasks about to each
other, while others were drawing back from the circle round the fire
to make room for their neighbours, who were shivering with the cold.
But in spite of these various means of passing the time, signs of
impatience began to show themselves among the crowd.

"But, I say," exclaimed one, "we didn't come here to warm the soles of
our feet, did we? It's time to look about, to understand each other."

"Yes, yes," was the general response; "let us come to an understanding;
let us appoint our leaders."

"No! everyone is not here yet. Look; there are some from Dagsburg and
St. Quirin arriving now."

In fact, as the day grew lighter, it served to show more and more
people arriving by all the different paths of the mountain. There were
then already several hundred men in the valley: woodcutters, charcoal
burners, watermen, without reckoning the women and children.

Nothing more picturesque can be imagined than this halt in the midst of
the snow, in the deep defiles, surrounded by tall pines towering to the
skies; to the right, valleys linked with each other, stretching away
far out of sight; to the left, the cloud-capp'd ruins of Falkenstein.
At a distance, they might have been taken for large flocks of cranes
herding together for comfort, 'mid the snow and ice; but, on a nearer
view, you could then behold these rough men, with beards bristling like
the skin of the wild boar, stern eyes, broad square shoulders, and
horny hands. Some among them, taller than the rest, belonged to that
fiery red race with white skins, hairy to the very finger-ends, and
strong enough to uproot oaks. Of this number were Materne of Hengst,
and his two sons Frantz and Kasper. These stalwart fellows, all three
armed with long carbines, from Inspruck, wearing long gaiters of blue
cloth, with leather buttons, reaching high above the knee, a sort of
tunic made of goat-skin, and their hats pushed to the very back of the
head, had not even deigned to approach the fire. For the last hour they
had been sitting together on the trunk of a felled tree by the river's
edge, with watchful eye and keen scent, like hunters lying in ambush,
with their feet on the snow.

From time to time the old man would say to his sons: "What are they
shivering about, down there? I never knew a milder night for the
season. It's like a spring night; the rivers are not even touched by
the frost!"

All the forest-rangers of the country round, as they passed, gave them
a hearty shake of the hand, and then closed in around them, so that
they formed, in a manner, a band apart. These people spoke but little,
being used to keeping silence for whole days and nights together, for
fear of frightening the game.

Marc Divès, standing in the midst of another group, over which he
towered by a whole head, was talking and gesticulating, and pointing
sometimes to one point of the mountain, and sometimes to another.
Opposite him stood the old shepherd, Lagarmitte, in his long grey
smock, his wooden sheep-horn on his shoulder, listening open-mouthed,
and from time to time silently bowing his grizzled head. For the most
part, all the band seemed attentive; it was principally composed of
woodcutters and bargemen, with whom the smuggler was almost daily
brought into contact. Between the sawpit and the first fire was seated
the shoemaker, Jerôme of Saint-Quirin, a man of about fifty or sixty,
with a long face, brown complexion, hollow eyes, big nose, a seal-skin
cap pulled over his ears, and his yellow beard descending in a point to
his waist. His hands, covered with thick woollen gloves, were leaning
on an enormous knotted stick. He wore a long hooded cloak of coarse
cloth, and might well have passed for a hermit. Any time a fresh rumour
arose in some part or another, old Jerôme turned his head slowly round,
and listened intently with knitted brows.

Jean Labarbe, with his elbow on his axe, sat passively looking on. He
was a man with pale cheeks, aquiline nose, and thin lips. He had great
influence over the men of Dagsburg, owing to his firmness and strength
of mind. When everyone was shouting around him:

"We must deliberate; we can't stay doing nothing here!" he simply
confined himself to saying: "Stop, Hullin has not come yet, nor
Catherine Lefévre." Then all were silent, and contented themselves with
looking eagerly towards the path leading from the Charmes.

The _ségare_,[8] Piorette, a little dry, lean, nervous man with black
eyebrows meeting in front, the stump of a pipe between his lips,
stood in front of his shed, watching, with an eye at once keen and
thoughtful, the strange scene around him.

The general impatience was, however, increasing from minute to
minute. Some village mayors, in square-cut coats and three-cornered
hats, proceeded towards the sawpit, and called upon the men of their
districts to deliberate. Very luckily, the cart of Catherine Lefévre at
length appeared in sight coming along the pathway, and immediately a
thousand enthusiastic shouts rose on all sides.

"Here they are! here they are! they have come!"

There was a great stir and bustle among the crowd. The groups who
were at a distance drew near, everyone came running up, and a sort of
shudder of impatience seemed to run through the whole vast assembly.
No sooner was a distinct view caught of the old farm-mistress, whip in
hand, sitting on her truss of straw with Louise by her side, than cries
and shouts rent the air of "Vive la France! Hurrah for Dame Catherine!"

A little way behind came Hullin, striding along across the meadow of
the Eichmath, distributing hearty hand-grips, his broad-brimmed hat at
the back of his head, his gun slung over his shoulder.

"Good day, Daniel. Good day, Colon. Good day, good day."

"Ah! ha! it's growing warm, Hullin."

"Yes, yes; we shall hear the chestnuts burst in the fire this winter.
Good day, old Jerôme; we are engaged in a great enterprise now."

"True, Jean-Claude. We must hope to accomplish it, with the blessing of
God."

Catherine, as soon as she reached the sawpit, then told Labarbe to
deposit on the ground a little keg of brandy which she had brought from
the farm, and to borrow a jug from the sawyer in the shed.

A little while after, Hullin, coming up to the fire, met Materne and
his two sons.

"You are late," said the old huntsman to him.

"Well, yes; what would you have? First, we had to descend from the
Falkenstein, take our guns, and get the women-kind in marching order.
However, here we are at last, so don't let us lose any more time. Give
us a blast of your horn, Lagarmitte, to call all the people together.
The first thing of all is to lay our plans, to appoint our leaders."

In an instant, Lagarmitte was blowing away at his long horn, with his
cheeks inflated to his very ears, and the bands of men, who were still
dispersed along the footpaths, and on the outskirts of the woods,
hastened their steps to arrive in time. In a short time all the brave
fellows were assembled in front of the sawpit.

Hullin, now grave and stern, mounted a heap of trunks of trees, and
casting a look of serious meaning on the crowd that surrounded him,
said, in the midst of the deepest silence:--"The enemy crossed the
Rhine the evening before last; he is now marching over the mountains to
enter Lorraine; Strasbourg and Huningen are in a state of blockade. We
must expect to see the Germans and the Russians in three or four days."

There was a general ringing cry of "Vive la France!"

"Yes, Vive la France!" replied Jean-Claude; "for if the Allies enter
Paris, they will be masters of everything. They may, if they please,
re-establish tithes, taxes, convents, privileges, and gibbets. If you
wish to see all this again, you have only to let them pass by."

Words cannot describe the gloomy rage depicted in every countenance at
these words.

"That is what I had to say to you," cried Hullin, sternly, and pale as
death. "You are here, and you are here to fight."

"Yes, yes."

"That is well; but listen to me. I do not wish to take you unawares.
There are fathers of families among you. We shall be one against ten,
against fifty. We must expect to perish. Therefore, let such as have
not well reflected on the matter, as have not the heart and the courage
to do their duty to the very end, depart. We will have none of them.
Everyone is free."

Then he was silent, and looked on all around him Everyone stood still
and motionless; so, with a still firmer voice, he continued:--"No
one stirs. All, all are resolved to fight to the last. Well, it
delights me to see that there is not a single dastard among us. Now
we must appoint a leader. In great perils, the first thing is order,
discipline. The leader whom you will appoint will have all the rights
of command and of obedience. So, reflect well, for on this man will
depend the fate of all."

Having thus spoken, Jean-Claude descended from his elevation, and
all was bustle and excitement. Each village deliberated separately,
each mayor proposed his man, and in the meanwhile time was going on.
Catherine Lefévre was burning with impatience. At length, unable to
contain herself any longer, she stood up on her seat, and made a sign
that she wished to speak.

Catherine was held in the highest estimation. At first some, then a
greater number, drew near to learn what she had to say to them.

"My friends," said she, "we are losing too much time. What is it you
require? A trusty leader, is it not? A soldier, who has been used to
war, and who knows how to turn our positions to the best account? Well,
then, why do you not choose Hullin? Is there one among you who can find
a better man? If so, let him speak at once, that we may decide. For my
part, I propose Jean-Claude Hullin. Do you hear, down below there? If
this goes on much longer, the Austrians will be here before we have
chosen a leader."

"Yes! yes! Hullin!" exclaimed Labarbe, Divès, Jerôme, and several
others.

"Come, let us collect the votes for or against."

Then Marc Divès, climbing on to the trunks of timber, exclaimed, in
a voice of thunder, "Let those who do not desire to have Jean-Claude
Hullin for a leader hold up their hand."

Not a hand appeared.

"Let those who desire to have Jean-Claude Hullin for a leader hold up
their hand."

Every hand was in the air.

"Jean-Claude," said the smuggler, "come up here, and look around. It is
you whom they demand for a leader."

Master Jean-Claude, having done as desired, saw that he was appointed,
and at once spoke in a firm tone, and said:--"Good. You appoint me your
leader. I accept the post. Let the elder Materne, Labarbe of Dagsburg,
Jerôme of Saint-Quirin, Marc Divès, Piorette the sawyer, and Catherine
Lefévre, go into the sawpit. We will hold a council. In a quarter of an
hour or twenty minutes I will issue orders. Meanwhile, let each village
supply two men to Marc Divès for the transport of powder and ball to
Falkenstein."

[Illustration]

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 8: Sawyer.]



CHAPTER IX.


All those whom Jean-Claude Hullin had named assembled under the shed
of the sawpit around the immense hearth. A sort of pleased good-humour
beamed in the faces of these brave men.

"For twenty years have I heard talk of the Russians, the Austrians, and
the Cossacks," said old Materne, with a smile; "and now I shall not be
sorry to see a few of them within range of my gun; that will be quite
another thing."

"Yes," replied Labarbe; "we shall see some strange things; the little
children of the mountain will be able to relate stories of their
fathers and grandfathers, and the old women, won't they tell legends
round the fire in fifty years to come?"

"Comrades," said Hullin, "you know all the country round; you have
the mountain under your eyes from Thann to Wissembourg. You know that
two highways, two imperial roads, cross Alsace and the Vosges. They
both come from Bâle; one follows the course of the Rhine as far as
Strasbourg, from whence it proceeds along the borders of the Saverne
till it reaches Lorraine. It is protected by Huningen, Neuf-Brisach,
Strasbourg, and Phalsbourg. The other turns to the left, and goes as
far as Schlestadt; from Schlestadt it enters the mountain, and reaches
Saint-Dié, Raon-l'Etape, Bacarat, and Lunéville. At first the enemy
wanted to force these two roads, as being better for the cavalry,
artillery, and baggage; but as they are defended, we have nothing to
fear on that head. If the Allies besiege the strong places--which will
lengthen out the campaign--then we shall have nothing to fear; but that
is not very probable. After having summoned Huningen to surrender,
Belfort, Schlestadt, Strasbourg, and Phalsbourg, on this side of the
Vosges; Bitche, Lutzelstein, and Sarrebrück on the other, I think they
will fall upon us. Now, listen to me well. Between Phalsbourg and
Saint-Dié there are several defiles for the infantry; but there is only
one road available for cannon; that is the road from Strasbourg to
Raon-les-Leaux by Urmatt, Mutzig, Lutzelhouse, Phramond, Grandfontaine.
Once masters of this passage, the Allies could come down upon Lorraine.
This road leads to the Donon, two leagues from here on our right. The
first thing to do is to establish ourselves firmly there in the spot
most favourable to the defence--that is to say, on the sides of the
mountain; to intersect it, to break down the bridges, and to throw
strong barricades across it. A few hundred strong trees laid across
a road with all their branches are as good as ramparts. They serve,
too, for the best ambuscades, as you are well sheltered, and can see
all that is going on. Those big trees are the very devil! you have to
cut them down bit to bit; you cannot throw bridges over them; in fact,
there's nothing better. All this, comrades, will be done by to-morrow
evening, or the day after at latest. I will undertake that; but it
is not enough to occupy a position, and put it in a good state of
defence; we must still further manage that the enemy cannot turn it."

"Just what I was thinking," said Materne. "Once in the valley of the
Bruche, the Germans can enter with the infantry among the hills of
Haslach, and turn our left. Nothing can prevent their trying the same
manoeuvre on our right, if they succeed in reaching Raon-l'Etape."

"Yes; but to prevent that, we have one very simple thing to do; that
is, to occupy the defiles of the Zorn and the Sarre on our left, and
that of the Blanru on our right. The best way to guard a defile is by
holding the heights; Piorette will, therefore, station himself with a
hundred men on the side of Raon-les-Leaux; Jerôme, on the Grosmann,
with a like number, to defend the valley of the Sarre; and Labarbe, at
the head of the rest, to overlook the hills of the Haslach. You will
choose your men from among those of the nearest villages. The women
must not have far to go to bring provisions, and then the wounded
will be nearer home, which must be thought of, too. This is, for the
present, all I have to say to you. The leaders will be careful to send
to me every day to the Donon, where I am going to establish this very
evening our head-quarters, a good walker, to inform me of all that is
going on, and receive the password. We will organize also a reserve;
but, as we must make the greatest haste, we will talk of that when you
have all taken up your positions, and when there is no longer any fear
of surprise on the part of the enemy."

"And I," exclaimed Marc Divès; "I shall have nothing to do, then? I am
to remain with my arms folded looking at the others fighting?"

"For you, your duty will be to overlook the transport of the
ammunition; none of us understand like you managing powder, preserving
it from fire and damp, casting bullets, and making cartridges."

"But all that is woman's work," exclaimed the smuggler; "Hexe-Baizel
would do it as well as me. What! am I not to fire a single shot?"

"Be easy, Marc," replied Hullin, with a laugh; "you will not want
for opportunities. In the first place, the Falkenstein is the centre
of our line--it is our arsenal, and our point of retreat in case of
misfortune. The enemy will know, through his spies, that our convoys
set out from thence; he will probably attempt to intercept them. You
will have enough of bullets, and bayonets, too. Besides, even if you
are under shelter, so much the better, for it would not do to confide
your caves to the first comer. Still, if you really wish----"

"No," said the smuggler, who had been struck by Hullin's remark about
his caves; "no; all things well considered, I believe you are right,
Jean-Claude. I have my men; they are well armed. We will defend the
Falkenstein, and if an opportunity of firing a shot offers I shall be
more free."

"Then this matter is arranged, and we all understand?" asked Hullin.

"Yes, yes; we understand."

"Well, comrades," exclaimed the brave man, in a joyful accent, "let us
warm our hearts with a few good glasses of wine. It is ten o'clock,
so let everyone return to his village, and make his preparations.
To-morrow morning, at the latest, all the defiles of the mountain must
be strongly occupied."

They then came out of the shed, and Hullin, in presence of all, named
as leaders Labarbe, Jerôme, and Piorette; he then told all those of the
Sarre to assemble as soon as possible near the farm of Bois-de-Chênes
with hatchets, pickaxes, and guns. "We will set out at two o'clock,"
said he, "and we will encamp on the Donon along the road. To-morrow, at
daybreak, we will begin our entrenchments."

He detained old Materne and his sons Frantz and Kasper, to announce to
them that the battle would doubtless commence at the Donon, and that
they should, therefore, need some good marksmen in that part, at which
they were greatly pleased.

Dame Lefévre had never appeared happier. As she got up again into her
cart, she embraced Louise, and whispered in her ear: "All is going
well. Jean-Claude is a man; he sees everything; he carries everyone
along with him. Even me, who have known him for forty years, he
astonishes me."

Then turning to him: "Jean-Claude," said she, "we have a ham waiting
for us at home, and a few bottles of old wine, that we'll not leave for
the Germans to drink."

"No, Catherine; they shall not drink them. Come on."

But just as she was flourishing her whip, and as a goodly number of
mountaineers were ascending the steep sides of the mountain on their
way back to their respective villages, there was seen approaching,
in the extreme distance, a tall, thin man sitting in his goat-skin
saddle, a hare-skin cap on his head, which he held erect. An enormous
long-haired sheep-dog came bounding along by his side, and the flaps
of his immense riding-coat flew behind him like wings. Everyone
exclaimed: "It is Doctor Lorquin of the plain; he who attends the poor
gratis. Here he comes, with his dog Pluto; ah! he is a worthy man!"

It was indeed he; he came galloping along, shouting at the top of his
voice, "Halt! stop! halt!" and with his face as red as fire, his big
eyes sparkling with excitement, his long beard of a reddish brown,
his broad stooping shoulders, and his great bounding sheep-dog, he
came along at a swinging pace. In two more minutes he had reached the
foot of the mountain, crossed the meadow, and brought up in front of
the shed. Immediately after a voice, panting for breath, was heard to
say, "Ah! how deaf you all are! and the idea of going on a campaign
without me! You shall pay for it!" touching a little chest, which he
was carrying behind him, "Stay a minute, my lads," said he; "I've
something in there that you can't very well do without. I have in there
little knives and large ones, round and sharp ones, for digging out the
bullets, and shot of all sorts, that you will be peppered with." And
then he burst into a loud peal of laughter, and all the spectators felt
their flesh creep.

Having given utterance to this agreeable pleasantry, Doctor Lorquin
resumed, in a graver tone, "Hullin, I must pull your ears for you.
What! forget me, when the point in question was the defence of our
country! Suffer me to be informed of it by others! And yet it seems to
me that a doctor will be in requisition here, I must blame you."

"Forgive me, doctor; I have been in the wrong," said Hullin, warmly
pressing his hand. "During the last week so many things have happened.
You cannot always think of everybody; and, besides, a man like you does
not require to be warned of his duty to fulfil it."

The doctor's brow relaxed. "All this is very well, and very good," he
exclaimed; "but that does not alter the fact that, by your neglect,
I might have arrived too late. All the good places are taken, the
crosses distributed. Come, lead me to the general, that I may prefer my
complaint to him."

"I am the general, and I appoint you surgeon-in-chief to the forces."

"Surgeon-in-chief to the forces of the Vosges! Well, that will suit me.
No malice, Jean-Claude." Then, approaching the cart, the worthy man
told Catherine that he should depend upon her for the organization of
the _ambulances_.

"Make your mind easy, doctor," replied the farm-mistress; "all shall
be ready. Louise and I will make that our special care from this very
evening; will we not, Louise?"

"Oh, yes! Mother Lefévre," murmured the young girl, enchanted to see
that they had actually commenced the campaign; "we will work hard, day
and night, if needs be. M. Lorquin may make his mind quite easy."

"Well, then, forward! You dine with us, doctor."

The little cart set out at full trot; all along the road, the good
doctor laughingly recounted to Catherine how the news of the general
rising had reached him; the despair of his old housekeeper, Marie, who
strove hard to prevent his going to be massacred by the _kaiserlicks_;
in short, the different episodes of his journey from Quibolo to the
village of Charmes. Hullin, Materne, and his boys walked a few steps
behind, with gun on shoulder, and in this way they ascended the
mountain, and directed their steps towards the farm of Bois-de-Chênes.

[Illustration]



CHAPTER X.


You may imagine the state of excitement at the farm, the comings and
goings of the servants, enthusiastic shouts of all, the clinkings of
glasses, and clatterings of knives and forks, the joy painted on every
face, when Jean-Claude, Doctor Lorquin, the Maternes, and all those
who had followed Catherine's vehicle, were installed in the large
house-room at the farm, around a magnificent ham, and had set steadily
to work to celebrate their future triumphs cup in hand.

It chanced to be on a Tuesday, always a grand cooking day at the farm.

The great kitchen fire had been blazing since morning; old Duchêne,
in his shirt-sleeves, was drawing from the oven innumerable manchets
of bread, the good smell of which pervaded the whole house. Annette
took them from his hands, and piled them up in a corner of the hearth.
Louise waited on the guests, and Catherine Lefévre superintended
everything, calling out as she did so:

"Make haste, children, make haste, the third batch must be ready by the
time the men from the Sarre arrive. That will make six pounds of bread
a man."

Hullin, from his place, watched the old farm-mistress as she came and
went.

"What a woman!" he exclaimed, "what a woman! Go and find me such
another the whole country round! She forgets nothing! The health of
Catherine Lefévre!"

"The health of Catherine Lefévre!" was loudly responded by all the rest.

There was a renewed clinking of glasses, and then the talk fell again
on marches, attacks, and entrenchments. Every one felt inspired by an
invincible confidence; every one said to himself, "All will prosper."

But Heaven was reserving for them on that day a still greater pleasure
and surprise, and especially for Louise and Dame Lefévre. Towards
noon, just as a bright ray of the winter's sun was making the snow
look whiter than ever and melting the hoar-frost on the window-panes,
and the great red cock thrusting his head out of the fowl-house was
flapping his wings and making the echoes of the Valtin resound with his
shrill cry of triumph, all of a sudden the watch-dog, old Yohan, who
was quite toothless, and very nearly blind, began to give vent to a
succession of barks at once so joyous and so plaintive, that everyone's
attention was attracted.

The great kitchen fire was blazing at its height; the third batch was
being drawn from the oven, and yet Catherine Lefévre herself stopped to
listen.

"There is something going to happen," said she, in a low tone.

Then she added, in a voice that shook with emotion:

"Since my boy left home, Yohan has never barked like that."

At the same moment rapid steps were heard crossing the court-yard;
Louise sprang towards the door, exclaiming, "It is he! it is he!" and
almost immediately a trembling hand was at the latch; the door opened,
and a soldier appeared at the threshold, but a soldier, so lank,
sunburnt, and haggard, his old grey overcoat with pewter buttons so
worn out, his long cloth gaiters so torn and discoloured, that all the
spectators were speechless with surprise.

He seemed unable to take a step farther, as he firmly put the butt-end
of his gun to the ground. The tip of his eagle nose--the exact
counterpart of Dame Lefévre's--shone like bronze, his red moustaches
quivered; he looked just like one of those lean, hungry hawks driven
by famine in winter to the stable doors. He looked straight into the
kitchen, and his cheeks seemed to turn pale beneath their tinge of
sun-brown, and his hollow eyes filled with tears as he stood there
without being able to speak a word or advance a step.

Out of doors the old dog kept leaping, and whining, and rattling his
chain as if he would break it; within, not a sound could be heard but
the crackling of the fire, so deep was the silence; but very soon
the voice of Catherine Lefévre was heard exclaiming, in heartrending
tones:--

"Gaspard!--my child! It is you!"

"Yes, mother!" replied the soldier, in a voice choking with emotion.

And in a second Louise had begun to sob, whilst all in the vast room
rose at once with a noise like thunder.

All ran towards him, with Master Jean-Claude at their head, shouting:

"Gaspard!--Gaspard Lefévre!"

But Gaspard and his mother were clasped in each other's arms:
this woman, usually so strong-minded, so courageous, was weeping
unrestrainedly; her son shed no tears, but held her close to his heart,
his red moustaches buried in her gray locks, as he murmured:

"Mother! mother! ah! how often have I thought of you!"

Then, in a louder voice:

"Louise!" said he, "I saw Louise!"

And Louise rushed into his arms, and they mingled their tears and
kisses together.

"Ah! you did not know me again, Louise!"

"Oh! yes--oh! yes, I knew you directly by your step."

Old Duchêne, with his cotton night-cap in his hand, stood by the fire
stammering:

"Gracious Lord--is it possible? my poor child--how changed he is!"

He had brought Gaspard up, and always pictured him since his departure
fresh and ruddy-cheeked, in a handsome uniform with red facings. It
deranged all his ideas to see him otherwise.

At this moment Hullin, raising his voice, said:

"And we, Gaspard, all of us, your old friends, have you nothing to say
to us?"

Then the brave fellow turned round, and uttered a shout of recognition:

"Hullin! Doctor Lorquin! Materne! Frantz! all! they are all here!"

And the embracings began again, but this time more joyously, mingled
with shouts of laughter and hearty hand-shakings, that seemed as if
they would never come to an end.

"Ah! Doctor, is that you? Ah! my old Papa Jean-Claude!"

They looked at him again and again, staring him full in the face with
countenances beaming with joy, as if to assure themselves that it
was really he; then, linking their arms in his, they carried rather
than led him into the kitchen, and Dame Catherine followed with his
knapsack, Louise with the gun, Duchêne with the tall shako, all
laughing and crying by turns, and drying their eyes and cheeks. You
never saw anything like it.

"Come, let us sit down--let us drink!" exclaimed Doctor Lorquin; "this
is the _bouquet_ of the feast."

"Ah! my poor Gaspard, how glad I am to see you come back again safe and
sound," said Hullin. "He! he! without wishing to flatter you, I like
you better as you are than with your fat red cheeks. You are a man now,
i'faith! You remind me of the old soldiers of my own time, the men of
Sambre, of Egypt, ha! ha! ha! we had no fat cheeks among us! we were
not sleek and shining! We looked more like hungry rats who have just
caught sight of a piece of cheese, and our teeth were long and white, I
warrant you."

"Yes, yes; that does not surprise me, Papa Jean-Claude," replied
Gaspard. "Sit down, sit down; we shall talk more at our ease. But what
is this?--what brings you all to the farm?"

"What! you do not know? All the country is up in arms, from the Houpe
to St. Sauveur, to defend ourselves."

"Yes, the Anabaptist of Painbach told me something of this as I was
passing; it is true, then?"

"Is it true? Why, everyone is engaged in it, and I am general-in-chief."

"All right, all right; a thousand thunders! Let those dogs of
_kaiserlicks_ have their own way in our country! that wouldn't suit
me at all. But just pass me the knife. Whatever happens, it's always
jolly to find oneself at home again. I say, Louise, just come and sit
beside me a little. Look, Papa Jean-Claude, with my little girl on
one side of me, that capital ham on the other, and a jug of good wine
forming the line in front, it would not take me a fortnight to get into
condition again, and my comrades would not know me again when I joined
my company."

Everybody had sat down again, and was fully employed in watching with
wondering looks the brave soldier, cutting, carving, quaffing, then
casting tender glances at Louise and his mother, and replying to one
and another without at the same time losing a single mouthful.

The farm people, Duchêne, Annette, Robin, and Dubourg, ranged behind in
a half-circle, stood gazing upon Gaspard in a sort of ecstasy; Louise
kept filling up his glass, while Dame Lefévre, sitting near the oven,
looked over the contents of his knapsack, and finding there nothing but
two old shirts quite black with dirt, and with holes large enough to
put your hand in, a pair of shoes down at heel, an empty tobacco-pouch,
a comb with three teeth, and an empty bottle, she lifted up her hands,
murmuring to herself: "Good Lord! need we be surprised that so many die
of starvation!"

Doctor Lorquin, at the sight of such a vigorous appetite, gleefully
rubbed his hands, as he muttered from under his thick beard: "What a
fellow it is! What a digestion! What a set of teeth! Why, he could
crack pebbles like nuts!"

And even old Materne said to his boys: "In my time, after a two or
three days' hunt on the mountain tops in winter, I have known what it
was, too, to have the appetite of a wolf, and to eat the haunch of a
roe-buck at a sitting; now I am grown old, a pound or two of meat is
enough for me. Age makes all the difference!"

Hullin had lit his pipe, and seemed absent and thoughtful; it was
plain that he was uneasy about something. After a few moments, seeing
Gaspard's appetite begin to relax, he abruptly exclaimed: "But tell
us, Gaspard, if I may make so bold as to ask, how does it happen that
you are here? We thought you were still on the Strasbourg side of the
Rhine!"

"Ah! ha! old boy, I understand," said young Lefévre, with a knowing
wink; "there are so many deserters; is it not so?"

"Oh! such an idea as that would never enter my head! and yet----"

"You would not be sorry to know if we are all right and correct! I
don't blame you, Papa Jean-Claude; you are quite right; those who don't
answer to the muster-roll when the _kaiserlicks_ are in France, richly
deserve to be shot! Make your mind happy; there's my leave."

Hullin, who had no false delicacy, read: "Twenty-four hours' leave of
absence to Grenadier Gaspard Lefévre, of the 2nd company of the 1st
regiment.--January the 3rd, 1814. GEMEAU, chief of the battalion."
"Good, good," said he; "put it up in your knapsack; you might chance to
lose it."

All his good-humour had returned.

"Look you, my children," said he, "I know what love is; there is bad
and good about it; but it is bad in particular for young soldiers
who come too near their homes after a campaign. They are capable of
forgetting all and everything till they find themselves brought back
with two or three gendarmes at their heels. I've seen that happen
before now. But, however, since everything is clear and straightforward
here, let's drain a bumper of _rikevir_. What say you, Catherine? The
men of the Sarre may arrive from one moment to the next, and we have
not an instant to lose."

"You say well, Jean-Claude," replied the old farm-mistress, sadly. "Go
down and bring up three bottles from the little cellar, Annette."

The servant-girl ran quickly out at her mistress's orders.

"But this leave, Gaspard," continued Catherine, "how much longer has it
to run?"

"I received it yesterday, at eight in the evening, at Vasselonne,
mother. The regiment is in retreat upon Lorraine; I must rejoin it this
evening at Phalsbourg."

"Well and good; you have still seven hours before you. It will not take
you more than six to get there, though there is a good deal of snow at
Foxthâl."

The good woman came and sat down by her son. Her heart was full almost
to bursting; she could not conceal her grief. Everyone was deeply
touched. Louise, with her arm on Gaspard's worn-out epaulet, and her
cheek pressed against his, was sobbing as if her heart would break.
Hullin knocked the ashes out of his pipe on the corner of the table; he
sat silently, with knitted brows and compressed lips; but as soon as
the bottles made their appearance and were uncorked, "Come, Louise!"
he exclaimed, "courage! what the deuce! All this will be only for a
short time; it must come to an end some way or another, and I say that
it will end well. Gaspard will come back, and we shall have a happy
wedding."

He filled up the glasses as he spoke, and Catherine wiped her eyes as
she murmured: "And to think that all these robbers are the cause of
this happening to us! Ah, let them come! let them only come here!"

They drank, though in a melancholy sort of way, but the good old
_rikevir_, as it found its way to the hearts of these worthy people,
soon cheered their drooping spirits. Gaspard, stronger than he had
appeared at first, began to relate the terrible affairs of Bautzen,
Lutzen, Leipzig, and Hanau, where the conscripts had fought like
veterans, gaining victory upon victory until traitors found their way
among them. Everyone listened with silent interest; Louise, when the
recital touched upon moments of great danger--crossing rivers under the
enemy's fire, carrying a battery at the point of the bayonet--pressing
his arm as if to defend him. Jean-Claude's eyes sparkled. The doctor
always wanted to know the exact position of the ambulances; Materne and
his sons stretched out their necks, and showed by the rigid compression
of their massive red-bearded jaws how eagerly they were drinking in
every word that fell from his lips, and with the aid of the generous
wine, the general enthusiasm increased each moment, and every now
and then vented itself in muttered expressions. "Oh! the dogs! the
villains! let them beware! All is not over yet!"

Dame Lefévre admired the courage and good fortune of her son in the
midst of these events, the memory of which will be preserved from
generation to generation. But when Lagarmitte, grave and solemn, in
his long gray gaberdine, his large black felt hat upon his head, his
wooden horn on his shoulder, crossed the kitchen, and, standing in
the doorway, announced, "The men from the Sarre are coming!" then all
this excitement disappeared, and everyone rose, thinking only of the
terrible struggle which was shortly going to begin on the mountain.

Louise threw her arms round Gaspard's neck, exclaiming: "Gaspard, do
not leave us! Stay with us!"

He turned very pale. "I am a soldier," said he; "my name is Gaspard
Lefévre; I love thee, Louise, a thousand times better than my own life,
but a Lefévre knows nothing but his duty!" And he unclasped her arms
from about his neck. Then Louise sank, half-fainting, down, and, with
her head lying on the table, began to groan aloud. Gaspard rose.

Hullin placed himself between them, and pressing his hands warmly,
while his own strong frame shook with emotion, "Right, my lad!" said
he; "spoken like a man, and a brave one, too."

His mother approached more calmly to buckle his knapsack on to his
shoulders. She performed that task with knit brows, her lips firmly
compressed under her long hooked nose, without uttering a sigh; but two
big tears slowly coursed each other down the furrows in her cheeks. And
when she had finished, turning round with her sleeve to her eyes, she
said, "There; go, go, my child, thy mother blesses thee. If war seizes
thee for its prey, still thou wilt not be dead to us. See, Gaspard,
there is thy place; there, between Louise and me; thou wilt ever be
there! This poor child is not yet old enough to know that to live is
but to suffer."

Everyone went out. Louise, left alone, began to weep and groan afresh.
A few moments after, as she heard the butt end of his gun resounding on
the flagstones and the outer door opening, she rushed out after him,
shrieking in heartrending tones, "Gaspard! Gaspard! see, I will be
firm; I will not cry any more; I do not want to keep you back--oh, no,
but do not leave me in anger; have pity on me!"

"Anger! angry with you, my darling! Oh, no, no," he replied. "But to
see you so miserable breaks my heart. Ah! if you had but a little
firmness now, I should be happy."

"Well, then, I have; kiss me. See, I am no longer the same. I will try
to be like our good mother Lefévre."

They exchanged their parting embrace with more calmness. Hullin stood
by, holding the gun; Catherine waved her hand, as much as to say, "Go,
go--enough."

And he, suddenly seizing his weapon, departed, with a firm step, and
without once turning his head.

On the other side, the men of the Sarre, with their pickaxes and
hatchets, were climbing in procession the steep and rugged ascent of
the Valtin.

At the end of five minutes, at the turning by the great oak, Gaspard
looked round, and waved his hand. Catherine and Louise answered him.
Hullin then came forward to meet his men. Doctor Lorquin alone
remained with the women; when Gaspard, continuing his way, was quite
out of sight, he exclaimed:--"Catherine Lefévre, you may be proud of
having so brave a man for your son. Heaven speed and prosper him!"

They heard the distant voices of the new-comers, who were laughing
gaily among themselves, and marching to war as to a marriage festival.

[Illustration]



CHAPTER XI.


Whilst Hullin, at the Head of the mountaineers, was taking his measures
for the defence of his country, the fool Yégof--that being deprived of
the blessing of self-consciousness, that unhappy creature with his tin
crown, that sad spectacle of humanity shorn of its noblest, greatest,
most vital attribute, intelligence--the fool Yégof, his breast exposed
to the cutting wind, his feet bare, insensible to cold, like the
reptile in his icy prison, was wandering from mountain to mountain, in
the midst of the snows of winter.

Whence comes it that the madman is able to resist the sharpest severity
of the atmosphere, while an intelligent being would succumb to it?
Does it arise from a more powerful concentration of life, a more rapid
circulation of the blood, a state of perpetual fever? Or is it the
effect of the over-excitement of the senses, or any other unknown cause?

Science says nothing. She admits only material causes, powerless to
give an account of such phenomena.

So Yégof went on at random, and night came. The cold was redoubled, the
fox gnashed his teeth in the pursuit of an invisible prey; the famished
buzzard fell back with empty claws among the bushes, uttering a cry of
distress. He, with his raven on his shoulder, gesticulating, jabbering,
as if in a dream, kept marching, marching on, from Holderloch to
Sonneberg, from Sonneberg to Blutfeld.

Now, on this particular night, the old shepherd, Robin, of the farm of
Bois-de-Chêne, was destined to be the witness of a most strange and
fearful sight.

Some days before, having been overtaken by the first fall of snow at
the bottom of the gorge of the Blutfeld, he had left his cart there
to conduct his flock back to the farm; but having discovered that he
had forgotten his sheepskin, and left it in a shed there, he had on
this day, when his work was done, set out about four o'clock in the
afternoon to go and fetch it.

The Blutfeld, situated between the Schneeberg and the Grosmann, is a
narrow gorge, bounded by perpendicular rocks. A narrow stream of water
winds through it, summer and winter, under shadow of the tall shrubs,
and in its depths extends a vast pasturage, all covered with large gray
stones, that lie thickly scattered about.

This defile is very little frequented by the dwellers in the mountains,
for there is a wild and weird look about the Blutfeld, especially by
the pale light of a winter's moon. The learned folks of these regions,
the schoolmasters of Dagsburg, and of Hazlach, say that in that spot
occurred the famous battle of the Triboques against the Germans,
who wished to penetrate into Gaul, under the command of a leader
named Luitprandt. They say that the Triboques, from the surrounding
mountain-tops, hurling upon their enemies huge masses of rocks, crushed
them there as in a mortar, and that, on account of this great carnage,
the gorge has preserved to this day the name of _Blutfeld_ (field of
blood). Fragments of broken pots, of rusty lances, bits of helmets,
and long swords with cross hilts, are often found there.

At night time, when the moon sheds her soft light upon this field and
those immense stones, all covered with snow, when the north wind blows
and whistles among the frost-covered branches, making them rustle and
clatter like cymbals, you might fancy you heard the wild cry of the
Germans at the moment of surprise, the shrieks and groans of the women,
the neighings of the horses, the hoarse rumbling of the chariots in the
defile; for it appears that these people brought with them, in their
skin-covered carriages, women, children, old men, and all that they
possessed in gold, and silver, and moveables, like the Germans setting
out for America. The Triboques never ceased to massacre them during two
days, and on the third they went back to the Donon, the Schneeberg,
the Grosmann, the Giromani, the Hengst, their broad shoulders stooping
under the weight of their booty.

This is what is related concerning the Blutfeld, and certainly to see
this gorge enclosed within the mountains like an immense trap, without
any other outlet than a narrow footpath, it is easy to understand how
the Germans might have been surprised there, and fallen an easy prey to
their victors.

Robin did not reach the spot till between seven and eight o'clock, just
as the moon was rising.

The honest fellow had descended the precipice a hundred times, but
never had he beheld the place so brightly illuminated and at the same
time of so gloomy and sinister an aspect.

At a distance, his white cart, standing at the bottom of the abyss,
looked to him exactly like one of those enormous stones, covered
with snow, beneath which the Germans had been interred. It was at the
entrance of the gorge, behind a thick cluster of shrubs, and beside it
the little torrent ran murmuring in a slender stream, bright as steel,
and sparkling like diamonds.

When he arrived at the place, the shepherd began to look for the key of
the padlock; then, having unlocked the shed, he crept in on his hands
and knees, and found, very fortunately, not only his sheepskin, but
even an old hatchet which he had quite forgotten.

But judge of his surprise when, on issuing from it, he saw the fool
Yégof appear at the turn of the footpath, and come straight towards him
in the bright moonlight.

The honest man immediately remembered the terrible story told in the
kitchen of Bois-de-Chênes, and he felt afraid; but quite another
feeling came over him when behind the fool, at fifteen or twenty paces,
he beheld, stealthily approaching in their turn, five grey wolves, two
big and three smaller ones.

At first he took them for dogs, but they were wolves. They followed
Yégof step by step, and he did not appear to see them; his raven
hovered overhead, flitting from the full moonlight to the shadow of the
rocks, and then returning; the wolves, with flaming eyes, their sharp
muzzles turned up, were sniffing the air; the fool raised his sceptre.

The shepherd pulled to the door of the shed as quick as lightning, but
Yégof did not see him. He advanced into the gorge as into a spacious
audience-chamber; to the right and left rose the steep rocks, far above
which myriads of stars were shining. You might have heard a fly move;
the wolves trod the ground noiselessly; not a sound was there, and the
raven had just perched on the top of an old withered oak that grew upon
one of the rocks opposite; his shining plumage looked still darker than
usual, as he turned his head, and seemed to be listening.

It was a strange sight.

Robin said to himself:--"The fool sees nothing, hears nothing; they
will devour him. If he stumbles, if his foot slips, it is all over with
him."

But in the middle of the gorge, Yégof, having turned round, sat down
upon a stone, and the five wolves, all round him, still sniffing the
air, squatted on their haunches in the snow.

And then, a really terrible sight, the fool raising his sceptre,
addressed a speech to them, calling them each by their names.

The wolves answered him with dismal howls.

Now this is what he said to them:--"Hé! Child, Bléed, Merweg, and thou,
Sirimar, my ancient, we are met together, then, once again! You have
come back fat. There has been good cheer in Germany, eh?"

Then, pointing to the snow-covered gorge:--"You remember the great
battle?"

First one of the wolves began to howl slowly in a dismal voice, then
another, then all the five together.

This lasted a good ten minutes.

The raven, perched on the withered branch, did not stir.

Robin would gladly have fled. He put up his prayers, invoked all the
saints, and, in particular, his own patron, for whom all the shepherds
of the mountain have the highest veneration.

But the wolves still continued to utter their dismal howlings,
awakening all the echoes of the Blutfeld.

At last one, the oldest of the number, was silent, then another, then
all, and Yégof continued:--"Yes, yes; that is a dismal story. See!
behold! there is the river down which our blood flowed in streams!
No matter, Merweg, no matter; the others have left their bones to
whiten on the common, and the cold moon has seen their women tearing
their hair for three days and three nights! Oh! that terrible day!
Oh! the dogs! were they proud of their great victory! Let them be
accursed--accursed!"

The fool had cast his crown to the ground. He now picked it up,
groaning as he did so.

The wolves, still seated round, listened to him like attentive
spectators. The biggest among them began to howl, and Yégof answered
his complaint.

"You are hungry, Sirimar; take comfort, take comfort; you will not want
for food much longer; the men of our side are coming, and the strife
will begin afresh."

Then rising, and striking his sceptre on a stone.

"See," said he, "behold thy bones!"

He approached another.

"And thine, Merweg, behold them!" said he.

All the troop followed him, while he, raising himself upon a low rock,
and glancing round upon the still and silent gorge, exclaimed:--"Our
war song is silent! our war song is now a groan! The hour is near; it
will re-awaken, and you will be among the warriors, you will possess
once more these valleys and these mountains. Oh! that sound of wheels,
those cries of women, those blows from crushing rocks and stones; I
hear them; the air is full of them. Yes, yes; they fell on us from
above, and we were surrounded. And now all is dead; hark! all is dead;
your bones sleep, but your children are on their way, and your turn
will come. Sing, sing!"

And this time he himself began to howl, whilst the wolves broke out
afresh in their savage war-cry.

These dismal howls grew more and more loud and appalling, and the
silence of the rocks around, some plunged in thick darkness, while
others were fully revealed in the moon's bright rays, the solemn
stillness of every tree and shrub beneath its weight of snow, the
distant echoes replying with a mysterious voice to the mournful
concert, all were calculated to strike terror into the breast of the
old shepherd.

But by degrees his fears grew less, for Yégof and his dismal followers
were getting farther and farther away from him, and gradually
retreating towards Hazlach.

The raven, in his turn, unfurled his wings, and took his flight through
the pale vault of heaven.

The whole scene vanished like a dream!

Robin heard for a long time after the howlings of the retreating
wolves. They had completely ceased for more than twenty minutes, and
not a sound broke the deep silence of the winter night, when the worthy
man felt himself sufficiently recovered from his fright to come out of
his hiding-place, and take his way back at full speed to the farm.

On arriving at Bois-de-Chênes, he found everybody up and stirring.
They were going to kill an ox for the troops from the Donon. Hullin,
Doctor Lorquin, and Louise were already gone with the men from the
Sarre. Catherine Lefévre was busy, having her great waggon, with four
horses, loaded with bread, meat, and brandy. People were coming and
going in all directions, and all eagerly lending a helping hand in the
preparations.

Robin had no opportunity of relating to anyone all that he had seen and
heard. Besides, it seemed to himself so incredible that he really dared
not open his mouth about it.

When he had retired to rest in his crib in the middle of the stable,
he said to himself that no doubt Yégof had, during the winter, tamed a
litter of young wolves, and that he babbled his folly to them in the
same way that one talks sometimes to one's dog.

But, for all that, this strange encounter left a superstitious dread
upon his mind, and even when he had arrived at a great age, the good
old man never spoke of it without shuddering.



CHAPTER XII.


All was accomplished that Hullin had commanded: the defiles of the
Zorne, and of the Sarre, were strongly defended; that of the Blanru,
the extreme of the position, had been put in a state of defence by
Jean-Claude himself and the three hundred men who formed his principal
force.

It is thither, on the eastern acclivity of the Donon, two _kilometres'_
distance from Grandfontaine, that we must transport ourselves to await
the coming of events.

Above the high road which intersects the mountain two-thirds of the
way up, was at that time to be observed a farm surrounded by a few
acres of cultivated land, the homestead of Pelsly, the Anabaptist,
a large building with a flat roof such as was needed to avoid being
carried away by the strong gusts of wind. The back part, extending in
the direction of the mountain top, was appropriated to the stables and
pigsties.

The confederates were encamped all around. At their feet lay
Grandfontaine and Framont, confined within a narrow gorge; farther off,
at the turning of the valley, Schirmeck, and its old pile of feudal
ruins; and in the greatest distance of all, the Bruche disappearing
in zig-zag in the vapourish mists of Alsace. To their left rose
the barren summit of the Donon, thickly strewn with rocks and some
stubbly firs; while before them was the snow-covered road, with huge
trees unstripped of their branches thrown across it. The melting snow
suffered the yellow pasture land to appear from time to time; at others
it formed large waves tossed to and fro by the fierce north wind.

The prospect was at once awful and sublime. Not a pedestrian, not a
vehicle appeared on the road which winds through the valley till it
gradually disappears in the distance: the whole place seemed like a
desert.

The few fires scattered round about the farm, sending their puffs of
dense smoke up to the sky, alone indicated the position of the camp.
The mountaineers seated round the fires over which their food was
cooking, their broad-brimmed hats pushed back on their heads, their
guns slung on their shoulders, were quite sad and desponding: for three
days they had been on the look-out.

In one of these groups, with crossed legs, rounded back, and pipe in
mouth, were old Materne and his two sons.

From time to time Louise would appear at the door of the farm, then
re-enter very quickly and set to work again. A large cock, scratching
on the dunghill, was crowing with a hoarse voice; two or three fowls
were strutting up and down among the bushes. All this was pleasant to
behold; but what chiefly rejoiced the volunteers was to contemplate the
magnificent sides of bacon, of a beautiful red and white, so temptingly
blended, hanging before the fire on spits of green wood, and yielding
their luscious fat drop by drop on the embers, and to go and fill
their drinking-cups at a little barrel of brandy placed on Catherine
Lefévre's cart.

About eight o'clock in the morning, a man suddenly made his appearance
between the Great and Little Donon; the sentinels immediately observed
him; he descended the pathway, waving his hat. In a few minutes they
recognised Nickel Bentz, the old forest ranger of the Houpe.

The whole camp was astir; some one ran to inform Hullin, who had been
sleeping for an hour in the homestead on a large mattrass, side by side
with Doctor Lorquin and his dog Pluto.

They all three came out, accompanied by the old shepherd, Lagarmitte,
whom they had named the trumpeter, and the Anabaptist Pelsly, a grave
and sedate man, his arms plunged to the elbows in his tunic of hodden
grey with brass hooks, a broad fringe of beard encircling his massive
jaws, and the tassel of his cotton cap hanging halfway down his back.

Jean-Claude appeared delighted. "Well, Nickel, what's going on down
below there?" he exclaimed.

"So far nothing new Master Jean-Claude; only on the Phalsbourg side
there is a rumbling like a storm. Labarbe says it is cannon, for all
night long flashes like lightning were seen passing over the forest
of Hilde-house, and since this morning grey clouds have hung over the
plain."

"The town is attacked," said Hullin; "but what news from Lutzelstein?"

"Nothing," replied Bentz.

"Then that is because the enemy will attempt to turn the place. In any
case, the Allies are in the neighbourhood. There must be a terrible
number of them in Alsace."

Then turning towards Materne, who was standing behind, "We cannot
remain any longer in uncertainty," said he; "you must depart with your
two sons to reconnoitre."

The old huntsman's countenance brightened.

"All right! I shall be able then to stretch my legs a little," said he,
"and try to bring down one of those Cossacks."

"One moment, old boy. You have nothing to do with bringing down anyone;
all you have to do is to keep a look-out and see what is going on.
Frantz and Kasper can remain armed; but for you, I know you, and
you must leave your carbine here, as well as your powder-flask and
hunting-knife."

"What for?"

"Why, because you will have to go into the villages, and if you were
taken armed, you would be shot on the spot."

"Shot?"

"Not a doubt of it. We are not regular troops; they do not take us
prisoners, they shoot us. So you will proceed on your way to Schirmeck,
with a stick in your hand, and your sons will accompany you and keep
at a distance under shelter of the hedges, and within gun-shot. If any
marauders attack you, they will come to your assistance, but if it is a
column or a squadron, they will let you be taken."

"They will let me be taken!" indignantly exclaimed the old huntsman; "I
should like to see that."

"Yes, Materne; and it will be the best way, for an unarmed man they
will let go; an armed man they will shoot."

"Ah! I see, I see. Yes, yes, that's not a bad thought; I never thought
to part from my carbine, Jean-Claude, but in war time we must obey
orders; there, there is my gun, and my flask, and my knife. Who will
lend me his blouse and stick?"

Nickel Bentz handed him his blue smock-frock and felt hat.

When they had changed clothes, any one might have taken the old
huntsman, in spite of his thick, gray moustaches, for a simple peasant
of the mountains.

His two boys, quite proud of belonging to this first expedition,
examined the priming of their carbines, each with its bayonet used for
hunting the wild boar straight and long as a sword. They felt the edge
of their hunting-knives, threw their game-bags across their shoulders,
and assured themselves that everything was in good order, casting
flashing looks around them.

"Ha, ha!" said Doctor Lorquin, with a smile, "don't forget the advice
of Master Jean-Claude. Prudence! A German more or less among a hundred
thousand would not make much difference, whilst if either of you came
back to us out of marching order, we should find it difficult to
replace you."

"Oh! fear nothing, doctor; we shall keep our eyes open."

"My boys," replied Materne, formally, "are true hunters: they know how
to wait, and take advantage of the right moment. They will not fire
unless I call."

"Good luck to you!" shouted Hullin after them, as they ascended the
snowy sides of the mountain, to avoid the felled trees. After a
quarter of an hour's walking, they turned round by the fir forest, and
were out of sight.

Then Hullin quietly returned to the farm, talking as he went with
Nickel Bentz.

Doctor Lorquin walked behind, closely followed by Pluto, and all the
others went back to their places around the camp-fires.

[Illustration]



CHAPTER XIII.


Materne and his two sons walked on for a long time in silence; the
weather had set in fine; the pale wintry sun shone on the dazzlingly
white snow without melting it. The ground still remained firm and hard.
At a distance, in the valley, were outlined, with surprising clearness,
the branches of the fir trees, the reddish peaks of the rocks, the
roofs of the cottages, with the icicles hanging from the eaves, their
little glittering window-panes, and their pointed gables.

People were walking in the street of Grandfontaine; a group of young
girls were standing round the fountain, and some old men in cotton
night-caps were smoking their pipes at the doors of their cottages. All
this miniature world beneath the blue vault of heaven went and came and
lived without a breath or a sigh reaching the ears of the foresters.

The old huntsman halted at the outskirts of the wood, and said to his
sons:--"I shall go down into the village, and see Dubreuil, who keeps
the 'Fir Apple.'"

He pointed with his stick to a long white building, the windows and
doors surrounded by a yellow border, and a branch of pine suspended
from the wall by way of a sign.

"You will await me here; if there is no danger I will come out on the
door-step, and raise my hat; you can then come and take a glass of wine
with me."

He immediately descended the snow-covered mountain side, which took him
full ten minutes, then made his way between two furrows, reached the
meadow, crossed the village square; and his two sons, gun in hand, saw
him enter the inn. A few moments after, he re-appeared at the door, and
raised his hat, to their great delight.

In another quarter of an hour, they had rejoined their father in the
large keeping-room of the "Fir Apple," a low apartment, heated by a
large copper furnace, with a sanded floor, and long deal tables running
down the centre of it.

When Materne entered, there was no one there but the innkeeper,
Dubreuil, the fattest and most apoplectic of the publicans of the
Vosges, with a big belly, round, goggle eyes, flat nose, a wart on his
right cheek, and his triple chin falling in folds over his turned-down
collar. With the exception of this curious personage, sitting in a
large leathern arm-chair near the furnace, Materne was alone. He had
just filled the glasses, the old clock was striking nine, and its
wooden cock was flapping its wing with a curious, creaking sound.

"Your health, Father Dubreuil," said the two lads in a rough voice.

"Good day, brave boys, good day!" replied the innkeeper, forcing a
smile. Then, in an oily voice, he demanded, "Is there nothing new?"

"Truly, no," replied Jasper; "this is winter, the time for hunting the
wild boar."

Then, both of them depositing their carbines in the angle of the
window, within reach in case of a surprise, passed a leg across the
bench, and seated themselves opposite their father, who was at the
upper end of the table. At the same time they drank, saying, "To our
health!" which they were always careful to do.

"So, then," said Materne, turning towards the fat man, as if to resume
the course of an interrupted conversation, "you think, Father Dubreuil,
that we shall have nothing to fear in the Baronies, and that we may
quietly continue to hunt the wild boar?"

"Ah! as to that, I can't say anything," exclaimed the innkeeper; "only
at present the Allies have not yet passed Mutzig. And, besides, they
are doing no harm to any one; they receive every one kindly, and with
good will, who will take up arms against the Usurper."

"The Usurper! and who is he?"

"Who? Why, Napoleon Bonaparte is the Usurper, to be sure. Just cast
your eyes on that wall opposite."

He pointed to a large paper placard, posted on the wall, close to the
clock.

"Look at that, and you will see that the Austrians are our true
friends."

Old Materne frowned till his eyebrows met; but immediately repressing
any outward sign of emotion, he merely said, "Ah, bah!"

"Yes, just read that."

"But I do not know how to read, M. Dubreuil, nor my boys either. Just
explain the thing to us yourself."

Then the old innkeeper, leaning his two great red hands on the arms of
his chair, rose, panting and puffing like an ox, and placed himself
before the placard, with his arms akimbo, while, with a pompous tone,
he read a proclamation from the Allied Sovereigns, declaring that they
were making war against Napoleon personally, and not against France;
in consequence of which every one was to remain quiet, and not to
interfere in the matter, under pain of being burnt, pillaged, and shot.

The three hunters heard all this, and regarded each other with a
strange look.

When Dubreuil had finished, he went back to his seat, and said, "You
see now!"

"And where did you get that from?" asked Kasper.

"Why, my lad, it's posted up everywhere."

"Well, we are glad of it," said Materne, laying his hand on the arm of
Frantz, who was rising, with flashing eyes. "You want a light, Frantz?
Here is my match-box."

Frantz sat down again, and the old man placidly resumed--"So our good
friends, the Germans, will not harm anyone?"

"All peaceable persons have nothing to fear; but those miscreants who
rise in rebellion will have everything taken from them, which is but
just, for it is not right that the good should suffer for the wicked.
You yourselves, for instance, instead of harm being done to you, you
would be received with welcome in the service of the allied armies.
You know the country; you would be useful as guides, and you would be
liberally paid."

There was a moment's silence; the three huntsmen looked at each other
again; the father had spread his hands upon the table, quite wide open,
as if to urge his sons to be calm. Yet he himself had turned very pale.

The innkeeper, who saw nothing of all this, continued--"You would,
indeed, have much more to fear in the woods of the Baronies from
those robbers of Dagsburg, La Sarre, and the Blanru, who have risen in
revolt, and would like to renew the struggle of '93."

"Are you quite sure of that?" asked Materne, making a violent effort
over himself.

"Am I sure of it? You need only look out of the window to answer that
question; you will see them on the road from the Donon. They have
surprised the Anabaptist, Pelsly; they have bound him to the foot of
his bed; they are pillaging, stealing, pulling up the roads; but let
them beware. A few days hence they will see some strange things. It is
not with thousands of men that they will be attacked, but with tens of
thousands, with _millions_ of thousands. They will be all hanged!"

Materne rose. "It is time to be thinking of returning," said he, in a
short, dry tone. "By two o'clock we must be back in the woods, where we
can chatter away like magpies. Good day to you, Father Dubreuil."

They went out hastily, no longer able to restrain themselves for rage.

"Reflect well on what I have said to you," the innkeeper called out
after them from his great arm-chair.

Once outside, Materne said, while his lips trembled with fury--"If I
had not left that man, I should have broken the bottle about his head."

"And I," said Frantz, "could hardly help running my bayonet into his
fat paunch."

Kasper, with one foot on the step, seemed longing to return. As he
clutched the handle of his hunting-knife, his countenance wore a
terrible expression. But the old man took him by the arm, and drew him
away, saying:

"Come away; we shall find another time to repay him for all this.
Advise me--me--Materne--to betray my country! Hullin did well to tell
us to be on our guard: he was right."

They then descended the street, casting such angry looks to the
right and left as they passed, that people said inquiringly to each
other--"Why, what can be the matter with them?"

As they reached the end of the village, opposite the Old Cross, quite
close to the Church, they stopped, and Materne, in a calmer tone,
showing them the path that winds round by Phramond, through the woods,
said to his sons:

"You take that road. For my part, I shall follow this as far as
Schirmeck. I shall not go too quickly, to allow you time to come up
with me."

They separated, and the old huntsman in a pensive mood, and with head
bowed down, walked on for a long time, asking himself by what inward
power he had been able to prevent himself from breaking the head of
the fat innkeeper. He answered that it was, no doubt, from the fear of
compromising his sons. All the while musing on these things, Materne
met, from time to time, flocks of oxen, sheep, and goats that were
being driven into the mountains. There were some coming from Wisch,
from Urmatt, and even from Mutzig. The poor beasts seemed ready to drop
with fatigue.

"Where the deuce are you going in such a hurry?" cried the old huntsman
to the dismal-looking shepherds; "have you no confidence, then, in the
proclamation of the Russians and Austrians, you fellows?"

To which these gloomily replied, "Ah! it's all very well for you to
laugh. Proclamations, indeed! We know what they are worth now. We are
pillaged of all, robbed of everything; forced contributions are got out
of us, and our horses, cows, oxen, and even our vehicles carried off."

"Stop! stop! stop! it can't be. What you tell me," said Materne, "quite
bewilders me! What, people so brave, so friendly, the saviours of
France! I can't believe it. Such a handsome proclamation."

"Well, then, come down to Alsace, and you will see. Seeing's believing,
they say."

The poor fellows went on their way, shaking their heads with an air of
profound indignation, while he laughed in his sleeve.

The farther Materne continued his route, the greater grew the number of
the flocks of cattle; not only were there troops of these, lowing and
bleating, but flocks of geese were to be seen as far as the eye could
reach, screaming and cackling, dragging themselves along the ground,
with flapping wings, and feet half-frozen with the cold. It was a
pitiable sight!

As he drew near to Schirmeck, it was much worse still; people were
flying in crowds, with their large vehicles loaded with barrels, smoked
meats, furniture, women, and children, lashing the horses enough to
kill them on the spot, as they kept repeating, in doleful tones: "We
are lost! the Cossacks are coming!"

This cry, "The Cossacks! the Cossacks!" flew from one end of the road
to the other like a whirlwind; women turned round, gaping-mouthed, with
fear and wonder, and children stood upright in the carts and vehicles
to see as far off as they could. Never was anything seen like it; and
Materne felt indignant, and blushed for the terror of these people, who
might have defended themselves, but for their selfishness and desire to
save their property, which drove them to an unworthy flight.

At a branch of the road just by Schirmeck, Kasper and Frantz rejoined
their father; and they all three entered the "Golden Keg" tavern, kept
by the widow Faltaux, to the right of the road.

The poor woman and her two daughters were watching from a window the
great migration, with tearful eyes and clasped hands.

In truth, the tumult increased from second to second. The cattle, the
carriages, and the people, seemed to want to pass out over each other's
backs; they seemed to have gone out of their minds, and were shouting,
and even striking at each other in their mad desire to escape.

Materne pushed open the door, and, seeing the women more dead than
alive, pale and dishevelled, he exclaimed, striking his stick on the
ground--"What! Mother Faltaux! are you, too, out of your senses? What!
you, who ought to set a good example to your daughters, have you lost
all presence of mind; it's too bad!"

Then the old woman, turning round, replied, in a doleful voice--"Ah, my
poor Materne! if you did but know--if you did but know!"

"Well, what? the enemy is here; he will not eat you."

"No, but they are swallowing up everything without mercy. Old Ursule,
of Schlestadt, who arrived here yesterday evening, says that the
Austrians will have nothing but _knoépfe_ and _noudels_, the Russians
_schnaps_, and the Bavarians _sour-krout_. And when they've stuffed
themselves with all that up to their very throats, they keep still
calling out, with their mouths full: '_schokolate! schokolate!_' My
God! my God! how shall we feed all these people?"

"I well know that it is very difficult," replied the old huntsman. "You
can never give a jackdaw enough cheese; but, in the first place, where
are these Cossacks, these Bavarians, and these Austrians? All the way
from Grandfontaine we have not met a single one."

"They are in Alsace, round about Urmatt, and they are coming here."

"Well, in the meanwhile," said Kasper, "be so obliging as to serve us
with a jug of wine; here is a crown piece; you can hide it easier than
your barrels."

One of the girls went down into the cellar, and just at that moment
several other people came in--an almanack-seller from the Strasbourg
side, a waggoner in his smock-frock from Sarrebrück, and two or three
of the inhabitants of Mutzig, of Hirsch, and of Schirmeck, who were
escaping with their flocks and herds, and had hardly strength left to
speak.

They all seated themselves at the same table, facing the window which
commanded a view of the road; wine was brought them, and each one began
to relate all that he knew. One said that the Allies were so numerous
that they were obliged at night time to lie down to rest side by side
in the valley of Hirschenthal, and so full of vermin, that after
their departure the dead leaves walked about all alone in the woods.
Another, that the Cossacks had set fire to a village in Alsace, because
they had been refused candles for dessert after their dinner; that
certain of them, especially the Calmucks, ate soap like cheese, and
bacon-rind like cake; that a great number drank brandy by the pint,
after having taken care to put handfuls of pepper in it; that you must
hide everything from them, for they found everything that came in their
way good to eat and drink. On this, the waggoner related how that,
three days since, a division of the Russian army having passed in the
night under the cannon of Bitsch, it had been obliged to station itself
for more than an hour on the ice in the little village of Rorbach; and
that this whole division had drunk out of a warming-pan which had been
left out by mistake on the window-sill of an old woman of eighty; that
this race of savages broke the ice to bathe, and then went into brick
ovens to dry themselves; in short, that they were afraid of nothing but
corporal _schlague_!

These good people related such singular things to each other--things
which they declared they had seen with their own eyes, or heard from
the best authority--that it was scarcely possible to believe them.

Out of doors, the uproar, the rumbling of carts, the bellowing of
the cattle, the shouts of the drovers, and clamour of the fugitives
in general, continued as loud as ever, and produced the effect of an
immense and universal boom. Towards noon, Materne and his sons were
just going to set off, when a shout, greater and more prolonged than
the others, was heard: "The Cossacks! the Cossacks!"

Then every one rushed out except our mountaineers, who contented
themselves with opening a window and looking out. Everybody fled across
the fields; men, 'ocks, vehicles, all dispersed like leaves before the
winds of autumn.

In less than two minutes the road was clear, except in Schirmeck, where
such uproar and confusion reigned that you could not take four steps
for the crowd.

Materne, looking far down the road, exclaimed, "It's no good my
looking, for I can see nothing."

"Nor I, either," replied Kasper.

"Ah! I see, I see!" pursued the old huntsman, "that the terror of all
these people gives the enemy greater power than they really possess. It
is not thus that we will receive the Cossacks in the mountain, as they
shall find to their cost!"

Then shrugging his shoulders with an expression of contempt: "Fear is a
villanous thing," said he; "for, after all, we have but a poor life to
lose. Come, let us be going."

On quitting the tavern, the old man having taken the road that lay
through the valley to ascend the summit of the Hirschberg, his sons
followed him. They soon reached the outskirts of the wood. Materne then
said that they must climb to the greatest possible height, in order to
discover the plain, and bring back positive news to the camp, for that
all the reports of those fugitives were not worth the testimony of a
single eye-witness.

Kasper and Frantz agreed with him, and they all three began to
scale the side of the mountain, which in this part formed a sort of
promontory overlooking the plain.

When they had reached the summit, they saw distinctly the position of
the enemy, about three leagues off, between Urmatt and Lutzelhouse;
they looked like great black lines upon the snow; farther off were to
be seen some dark masses, no doubt the artillery and the baggage. Other
masses were to be discerned round about the villages, and, in spite of
the distance, the glitter of bayonets announced that a column had just
set out on the march for Visch.

Having contemplated this picture for a long time with a thoughtful eye,
the old man said: "We have down there a good thirty thousand men under
our very eyes. They are advancing on our side; we shall be attacked
to-morrow, or the day after, at the very latest. This will be no
trifling affair, my lads; but if they've the advantage of numbers, we
have in position; and then it's always best to fire on a mass; there's
sure to be no balls lost."

Having made these judicious reflections, he looked up to observe at
what height the sun was, and added: "It is now two o'clock; we know all
we want to know. Let us return to the camp."

The two lads swung their carbines over their shoulders, and leaving
on their left the valley of the Brocque, Schirmeck, and Framont, they
ascended the steep acclivity of the Hengsbach, overlooked at two
leagues' distance by the Little Donon. They re-descended on the other
side without following any footpath through the snow, only tracing
their course over the mountain tops as the shortest way to reach their
journey's end.

They had proceeded thus for about two hours; the winter sun was sinking
in the horizon; night was approaching; night, but bright and calm. They
had now only to descend, and remount, on the other side, the solitary
gorge of the Reil, forming a large circular basin in the midst of the
woods, and enclosing a little dark pool, where the wild roe sometimes
came to slake their thirst.

All at once, as they were striding along, thinking of nothing in
particular, the old man, suddenly stopping behind a curtain of shrubs,
said, "Hush!"

And raising his hand, he pointed to the little lake, then covered
with a thin and transparent coating of ice. His two boys had only to
glance in that direction to witness the strangest sight. About twenty
Cossacks, with rough yellow beards, their heads covered with old
seal-skin caps, shaped like the funnel of a stove, their lean forms
clad in long tatters, their feet in stirrups made of old cords, were
sitting on their little horses with long floating manes, thin tails,
the crupper spotted with yellow, white, and black, like goats. Some
had for sole weapon a long lance, others a sabre, others a hatchet
suspended by a cord to the saddle, and a large holster pistol attached
to their belt. Several, with upturned faces, were looking delightedly
and admiringly at the dark green tops of the fir trees, reaching one
above the other till finally lost in the clouds. One tall, bony fellow
was breaking the ice with the thick end of his lance, while his little
horse drank, with outstretched neck and long mane falling beardwise
down each cheek. Some among them, having alighted, were clearing away
the snow, and pointing to the wood, no doubt to indicate that it was
a good place for encamping. Their comrades, still on horseback, were
talking together, and showing on their right the bottom of the valley,
lying low like a gap as far as the Grinderwald.

In short, it was a halt, and it would be impossible to describe the
strange and picturesque appearance which these beings from far-off
lands, with their bronzed countenances, long beards, black eyes, low
foreheads, flat noses, tattered grey coats, presented on the borders
of that still lake, and under those steep rocks, with their tall
fir-crowned summits reaching to the skies.

It seemed like a glimpse of another and a different world to them,
a species of unknown, curious, and strange game, that the three red
huntsmen began to gaze upon at first with a singular curiosity. But
that over, at the end of five minutes, Kasper and Frantz fixed their
long bayonets at the end of their carbines, then stepped stealthily
about twenty paces backwards into the covert. They reached a rock of
fifteen to twenty feet high, which Materne ascended, being unarmed;
then, after a few words, exchanged in a low voice, Kasper examined his
priming, and slowly took aim, while his brother stood close at hand.

One of the Cossacks, the same who was letting his horse drink, was
about a hundred paces off. As Kasper's shot awoke the deep echoes of
the gorge, the Cossack, rolling over the head of his steed, disappeared
beneath the ice of the lake. It is impossible to describe the stupefied
surprise of his comrades when they heard the shot and witnessed its
effect. They stared about them in every direction as the echo gradually
died away, while a thick puff of smoke appeared above the cluster of
trees where the huntsmen were.

Kasper, in less than a quarter of a minute, had re-loaded his gun; but,
in the same space of time, the Cossacks, who had alighted, leapt upon
their horses, and set off at full speed in the direction of the Hartz,
following one behind the other like roebucks, and shouting wildly,
"Hurrah! hurrah!"

This flight seemed like a vision, for just as Kasper was taking aim
for the second time, the tail of the last horse disappeared among the
bushes.

The horse of the dead Cossack was left alone standing by the water,
held there by a strange circumstance--his master, plunged headlong in
the mud to the waist, had still his foot in the stirrup.

Materne, perched upon his rock, listened and then joyfully exclaimed:
"They are gone! Well, let us go and see. Frantz, remain here; if some
of them should return."

But in spite of this wise counsel, they all three came down to the
horse; Materne immediately seized the bridle, saying, "Well, old
fellow, we'll teach you to speak French."

"Come along, then," exclaimed Kasper.

"No; we must see what we have brought down. Look you, this will
encourage the others; dogs are never well broke in till they have
scented the game."

They then fished the dead Cossack out of the pond, and having thrown
him across the horse, they began to climb the side of the Donon by a
footpath so steep that Materne kept repeating, a hundred times over,
"The horse will never be able to pass this way."

But the horse, lean and agile as a mountain goat, passed more easily
than they, which led the old huntsman to say at length: "These Cossacks
have famous horses. When I grow quite old, I shall keep this one to go
hunting with. We've got a famous horse, boys; he looks like a cow, but
he's got the strength of a dray-horse."

Occasionally, too, he made reflections on the Cossack: "What a droll
face, eh? a round nose, and a forehead like a cheese-box. There are,
for certain, some strange fellows in the world! You took good aim at
him, Kasper; hit him just in the middle of the chest; and see, the ball
has come out at the back. Famous powder; Divès always keeps capital
stuff."

About six o'clock they heard the first challenge of their sentinels:
"Who goes there?"

"France!" replied Materne, advancing.

Everybody ran to meet them, exclaiming, "Here is Materne!"

Hullin himself, as curious as the rest, could not help running up with
Doctor Lorquin. The men were already crowding round the horse, staring
at him in open-mouthed wonder, by the side of a large fire where their
supper was cooking.

"It is a Cossack," said Hullin, pressing the hand of Materne.

"Yes, Jean-Claude; we caught him just by the lake of the Riel: it was
Kasper who shot him."

They placed the corpse near the fire, the bright flickering rays of
which reflected fantastic shadows on his countenance, of a dingy yellow.

Doctor Lorquin, having looked at him, said, "It is a fine specimen
of the Tartar race; if I had time, I would scald him in a bath of
quicklime to procure a skeleton of the tribe." Then, kneeling beside
him, and opening his long grey riding-coat, "The ball has traversed
the pericardium," said he; "which produces very nearly the effect of
aneurism of the heart."

The others were silent.

Kasper stood leaning on his gun, and seemingly quite satisfied with
his game; while old Materne, rubbing his hands, said, "I was sure
I should bring you back something; my boys and I never come back
empty-handed. And there it is!"

Hullin then drawing him apart, they entered the farm together, whilst,
after the first moment of surprise, every one began to make his own
personal reflections on the Cossack.

[Illustration]



CHAPTER XIV.


That same night, which happened to fall on a Saturday, the little farm
of the Anabaptist never ceased for a moment to be full of people coming
and going.

Hullin had established his head-quarters in the large room on the
ground floor, to the right of the barn, facing Framont; on the other
side was the temporary hospital for the sick and wounded; the part
overhead was inhabited by the people belonging to the farm.

Although the night was very calm, and innumerable stars twinkled in
the clear sky, the cold was so intense that the ice was nearly an inch
thick on the window panes.

Out of doors was heard the challenge of the sentinels going their
rounds, and on the neighbouring mountain-tops the howlings of the
wolves, who had followed our armies by hundreds since 1812. These
carnivorous animals, crouching in the snow, their sharp muzzles between
their paws, and hunger gnawing their vitals, called to each other from
the Grosmann to the Donon with plaintive moans resembling those of the
keen north wind.

Then more than one mountaineer felt himself turn pale.

"It is death that sings," thought they; "it scents the battle, and
calls to us!"

The oxen lowed in the stable, and the horses stamped and plunged
furiously. About thirty fires were burning around; the Anabaptist's
wood-house was ravaged; log was heaped upon log, they roasted their
faces, while they shivered at the back; they warmed their backs, and
icicles hung from their moustaches.

Hullin alone, sitting at the large deal table, thought of everything.
After the latest reports of the evening, announcing the arrival of
the Cossacks at Framont, he was convinced that the first attack would
take place on the morrow. He had distributed the cartridges, he had
doubled the sentinels, ordered the patrols, and allotted all the posts
the whole length of the defences. Every one knew beforehand the place
he was to occupy. Hullin had also sent word to Piorette, to Jerôme of
Saint-Quirin, and to Labarbe to despatch to him their best marksmen.

The little dark passage, lit only by a solitary lantern, was full of
snow, and every moment by its dull light were seen passing the leaders
of the ambuscade, their hats pulled down to their ears, the large
sleeves of their riding coats drawn down to their wrists, with gloomy
looks, and their beards stiff with the frost.

Pluto no longer growled at the heavy footsteps of these men. Hullin,
plunged in thought, sat with his head between his hands, his elbows on
the table, listening to all the reports:

"Master Jean-Claude, there is something moving to be seen in the
direction of Grandfontaine; there is a sound like the trampling of
horses."

"Master Jean-Claude, the brandy is frozen."

"Master Jean-Claude, there are numbers asking for powder."

"We want this--and that."

"Let them keep a good look out upon Grandfontaine, and change the
sentinels on that side every half-hour. Bring the brandy to the fire.
Wait till Divès comes; he will bring a fresh supply of ammunition.
Distribute the rest of the cartridges, and let those who have more than
twenty give some to their comrades."

And this was how it went on all night long.

About five in the morning, Kasper, Materne's son, came to tell Hullin
that Marc Divès, with a cartload of cartridges, Catherine Lefévre
in another vehicle, and a detachment from Labarbe, had just arrived
together, and that they were there awaiting him.

This news pleased him greatly, especially on account of the cartridges,
for he had feared the want of them might cause delay.

He rose immediately and went out with Kasper. It was a strange and
singular spectacle that met his eye.

At daybreak, masses of thick fog were beginning to rise from the
valley, the fires were crackling and sparkling in the mist, and people
were lying sleeping about in every direction; here lay one, his hands
clasped under his head, his face purple with cold, his legs bent
under him; there another, with his cheek on his arm, and his back to
the blazing fire; the greater part were sitting, their heads hanging
down, and guns slung over their shoulders--a still and silent picture,
revealed either in a flood of crimson light, or half hidden in the grey
tinge of morning, according as the fire burnt high or low. Farther off,
in the distance, the profiles of the sentinels were sharply outlined
against the pale sky, as they stood resting on their guns, looking
down on the cloud-covered abyss below. To the right, at about fifty
paces from the last fire, was heard the neighing of horses, and people
stamping with their feet to warm themselves, and talking loud.

"Here is Master Jean-Claude," said Kasper, advancing.

One of the men having thrown some splinters of dry wood on to the
fire, there was a blaze, and by its light were seen Marc Divès's men
on horseback, a dozen strapping fellows wrapped in their long grey
cloaks, their broad-brimmed hats pushed back on to their shoulders,
their thick moustaches either turned up, or falling down to their very
necks, grouped motionless around the baggage waggon; a little farther
on was Catherine Lefévre, crouching among the packages in her cart, her
feet buried in the straw, her back against a large barrel; behind her
was a cauldron, a gridiron, a pig fresh killed, scalded, white and red,
some ropes of onions, and heads of cabbages to make soup; all this was
revealed for an instant in the shadow, and then fell back again into
darkness.

Divès was a little apart from the convoy, and now rode forward on his
great horse. "Is that you, Jean-Claude?"

"Yes, Marc."

"I've some thousand cartridges here. Hexe-Baizel works day and night."

"Good! Good!"

"Yes, old boy. And Catherine Lefévre is bringing provisions, too; she
killed yesterday. Where shall we put the powder?"

"Down below there; under the cart-shed, behind the farm. Ah! is that
you, Catherine?"

"Yes, Jean-Claude. It is pretty cold this morning."

"You are always the same, then; you are afraid of nothing!"

"Why, should I be a woman if I were not curious? I must poke my nose
into everything."

"Yes, you have always excuses to make for whatever you do that is good
and right."

"Hullin, you are a babbler; have done with your compliments! Must not
those people there have something to eat? Can they live on air through
the winter? The open air is not very nourishing in such cold weather as
this, when it's just like needles and razors! So I took my measures.
Yesterday we slaughtered an ox--you know poor Schwartz--he weighed a
good nine hundred weight. I've brought his hind-quarters with me to
make soup this morning."

"Catherine, I shall never come to know you," cried Jean-Claude, quite
touched; "you always surprise me. Nothing is too much for you; neither
money, nor pains, nor trouble."

"Ah!" replied the old woman, rising and jumping out of her cart, "do
stop; you bother me, Hullin. I will warm myself."

She threw her horse's reins to Dubourg; then turning, said:--"Anyhow,
Jean-Claude, those fires are delightful to look at. But Louise, where
is she?"

"Louise has passed the night in cutting out and sewing bandages, with
Pelsly's two daughters. She is at the hospital, down below there, where
my light is shining."

"Poor child!" said Catherine, "I will run and help her, that will warm
me."

At this moment, Divès and his men were taking the powder to the
cart-house, and as Jean-Claude approached the nearest fire, what was
not his surprise to see among those surrounding it, the fool Yégof,
with his crown on his head, gravely seated on a stone, his feet on
the embers, and with his rags draped around him like a royal mantle.
Nothing more singular can be imagined than the appearance of this
strange figure in the firelight. Yégof was the only one of the number
who was awake, and he might really have been taken for some barbarous
king, musing in the midst of his sleeping horde of savages.

Hullin, for his part, saw only a fool, and gently touching his
shoulder: "How are you, Yégof?" said he, in an ironical tone; "you
have come, then, to lend the succour of your invincible arm, and your
innumerable armies!"

The fool, without betraying the least surprise, replied: "That depends
upon you, Hullin; your own fate, with every one else's, is in your
hands. Here are we, just as we were sixteen hundred years ago, on the
eve of a great battle. Then I, the leader of so many peoples, I came to
your khan to demand the passage."

"Sixteen hundred years ago!" said Hullin; "what the deuce, Yégof, that
makes us terribly old! But, after all, what does it matter? Every one
has his own notion of things."

"Yes," replied the fool, "but, with your usual obstinacy, you would not
listen to anything. The dead lay in heaps on the Blutfeld, and those
dead cry aloud for vengeance!"

"Ah! the Blutfeld," said Jean-Claude; "yes, yes, it's an old story; I
think I've heard tell of it."

Yégof's brow grew crimson; his eyes flashed fire. "You boast of your
victory!" he exclaimed, "but take care, take care: blood calls for
blood." Then, in a gentler tone: "Listen," added he, "I wish you no
ill: you are brave; the children of your race may mingle with those of
mine."

"Ah! now he is coming back again to Louise," thought Jean-Claude; and,
anticipating a formal demand: "Yégof," said he, "I am sorry, but I must
leave you; I have so many things to see to----"

The fool did not wait the end of this leave-taking, and rising with his
face convulsed with rage: "You refuse me your daughter!" he exclaimed,
pointing upwards with a solemn air. "And it is for the third time!
Beware! Beware!"

Hullin, despairing of making him listen to reason, hastily withdrew;
but the fool, in furious accents, addressed to him as he went these
strange words:

"Huldrix, woe to thee! Thy last hour is near. Wolves will feast again
upon thy flesh. All is over. I let loose upon thee the tempests of my
rage. For thee and thine let there be neither grace, nor pity, nor
mercy. Thou hast willed it so." And, throwing a portion of his ragged
robe over his left shoulder, he strode rapidly away towards the summit
of the Donon.

Several of the mountaineers, half awakened by his cries, watched him
with a dull eye as his retreating form disappeared in the darkness;
they heard a sound like the flapping of wings; then, as in the vision
of a dream, they turned round, and went to sleep again.

About an hour after, Lagarmitte's horn sounded the _reveille_. In a few
seconds, every one was up and stirring.

The leaders of the ambuscade assembled their men. Some proceeded
towards the cart-house, and distributed the cartridges; while others
filled their flasks with brandy from the barrel. All this was done
with the utmost order; then each division repaired, with its leader at
its head, in the early twilight, towards the barricades on the mountain
side.

When the sun appeared, all round the farm was silent and deserted, and
with the exception of five or six fires, which were still smoking,
there was nothing to announce that the volunteers occupied every point
of the mountain, and that they had passed the night in that spot.
Hullin then took a snack, and drank a glass of wine with his friends,
Doctor Lorquin and the Anabaptist, Pelsly. Lagarmitte was with them,
for he was to remain with Jean-Claude all the day, and transmit his
orders in case of need.

[Illustration]



CHAPTER XV.


Seven o'clock, and yet not the slightest movement was perceptible in
the valley. From time to time Doctor Lorquin would throw up the sash of
a window in the house-room, and look out; there was nothing stirring;
the fires were out; all was still and silent.

Opposite the farm, about a hundred paces off, on a sloping wall, lay
the Cossack shot the evening before by Kasper; he was white as snow,
and hard as a flint.

Within doors, a large fire was burning brightly in the stove. Louise
was sitting beside her father, and regarding him with a look of
ineffable sweetness; it seemed as if she feared she might never see him
again; her red eyes betrayed that she had just been shedding tears.
Hullin, though firm, seemed greatly moved.

The doctor and the Anabaptist, both grave and solemn, were talking of
present affairs, and Lagarmitte was listening to them attentively.

"We have not only the right, but it is also our duty, to defend
ourselves," the doctor was saying; "these woods were laid out and
cultivated by our fathers; they are our lawful property."

"No doubt," replied the Anabaptist, in a sententious tone; "but it
is written, 'Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not shed thy brother's
blood.'"

Catherine Lefévre, who was just at that time busy with a rasher of
ham, and who was doubtless tired of this discussion, turned sharply
round, and replied, "Which means that, if we were of your religion, the
Germans, the Russians, and all the other red men would be allowed to
have everything their own way. Yours is a famous religion; yes, famous
for such scum as those! It gives them the license to rob and plunder
all who are better off than themselves. The Allies would like us to
have such a one, no doubt! Unluckily, every one is not of the same
opinion. We are not all like sheep, ready for the slaughter; and I, for
one, Pelsly, without meaning any offence to you, think it is rather
stupid to fatten oneself for the good of others. For all that, you are
worthy people, no doubt; no one can say to the contrary; you have been
reared from father to son in the same ideas: like father, like son. But
we intend to defend ourselves, in spite of you; and when all is over,
you shall make us speeches on the subject of eternal peace. I am very
fond of listening to lectures on peace when I've nothing else to do,
and am sitting by the fire after dinner; it does me good to hear them."

Having spoken in this way, she turned to the fire, and went on quietly
cooking her ham.

Pelsly remained staring open-mouthed at her, and Doctor Lorquin could
not restrain a smile.

At the same moment, the door opened, and one of the sentinels on duty
outside called out: "Master Jean-Claude, come and see; I think they are
on the alert."

"All right, Simon, I am coming," said Hullin, rising. "Louise, kiss me;
courage, my child; do not be afraid; all will go well."

He pressed her to his breast, his eyes swimming with tears. For her
part, she seemed more dead than alive. "And above all," said the worthy
man, addressing Catherine, "let nobody go out, and let none approach
the windows."

Then he rushed hastily forth.

All the spectators had turned pale.

When Master Jean-Claude had reached the edge of the terrace, casting
his eyes over Grandfontaine and Framont, which lay about nine thousand
feet below him, this is what he saw.

The Germans arrived the evening before, some hours after the Cossacks,
having passed the night, to the number of five or six thousand, in the
barns, stables, and outhouses, were now bustling and hurrying about in
all directions. It was a regular ant-hill. They were issuing from every
door in files of ten, fifteen, and twenty, hastening to buckle on their
knapsacks, hook on their swords, and fix their bayonets.

Others, horsemen, Cossacks, hussars in green, grey, and blue uniforms,
trimmed with red and yellow; caps of oil-skin, sheepskin, shakos, and
helmets, were saddling their horses, and hastily rolling up their large
holsters.

The officers, their cloaks flung over their arms, were descending the
little narrow stairs, some with upturned heads scanning the country
round, others kissing the women on the threshold of the houses they
were leaving.

The trumpeters, one hand resting on their hips, the other elbow aloft,
were sounding the rappel at every corner of the street; the drummers
were tightening the cords of their drums. In short, in this space,
which, seen from a distance, looked like a hand's-breadth, might be
seen every description of military attitude at the moment of departure.

Some peasants, leaning out of their windows, were watching all this;
the women showed themselves at the windows of the lofts. The innkeepers
were busy filling flasks, corporal _schlague_[9] standing beside them.

Hullin had a quick eye, nothing escaped him: he took in all this at a
glance, and besides, he had been used to this sort of thing for many
a long year; but Lagarmitte, who had never seen anything of the kind
before, was stupefied with surprise:

"There are a good many of them!" said he, shaking his head.

"Ah! bah! what does that prove?" said Hullin. "In my time, we have
exterminated three armies of fifty thousand of the same race, in six
months; we were not one against four. All those you see there would not
have made our breakfast. And besides, you may make your mind easy, we
shall not need to kill them all; they'll fly before us like hares. I've
seen that before now!"

After these sage reflections, he judged it prudent to go and inspect
his company again.

"Come on!" said he to the shepherd.

They both then, advancing behind the barricades, shaped their course
along a path cut through the snow two days before. These snows,
hardened by the frost, were now become as solid and firm as ice. The
trees, as they lay in front all covered with hoar-frost, formed an
impenetrable barrier, which extended for about six hundred metres. The
road lay hollowed out below.

As he approached, Jean-Claude saw the mountaineers of the Dagsberg,
crouching at intervals of twenty paces in a sort of round nests which
they had dug out for themselves.

All these brave fellows were sitting on their knapsacks, their flask on
their right, their hats, or fox-skin caps, pushed to the back of their
necks, their guns between their knees. They had only to rise in order
to see the road at fifty paces beneath them, at the foot of a slippery
descent.

They were delighted to see Hullin.

"Eh! Master Jean-Claude, is it going to begin soon?"

"Yes, my lads; don't be afraid; before an hour we shall be hard at it."

"Ah! So much the better!"

"Yes, but above all, mind your aim; breast high; don't be in a hurry;
and be careful to show no more flesh than is necessary."

"Never fear, Master Jean-Claude."

He went farther on; everywhere he was received in the same way.

"Do not forget," said he, "to stop firing when Lagarmitte sounds his
horn. We must have no waste of powder and shot."

When he came up with old Materne, who commanded all these men, to the
number of about two hundred and fifty, he found the old huntsman just
preparing to smoke a pipe, his nose as red as a live coal, and his
beard bristling with cold like a wild boar.

"Ah! is that you, Jean-Claude?"

"Yes, I've come to shake hands with you."

"All right; but tell me--they seem in no hurry to come--if they should
happen to pass another way?"

"No fear of that. They must take this road for the artillery and
baggage. Hark! there's the bugle--to boot and saddle!"

"Yes, I saw that before; they are preparing." Then, with a low chuckle:

"You don't know, Jean-Claude, just now, as I was looking towards
Grandfontaine, what a droll thing I saw."

"What was that, old boy?"

"I saw four Germans lay hold of the fat Dubreuil, the friend of the
Allies; they laid him down on the stone bench at his door, and one tall
bony fellow gave him I don't know how many blows with a stout stick
over his back. Didn't he bellow, the old rascal! I'll wager he has
refused something to his good friends; his old wine of the year 1811,
for instance."

Hullin listened no further, for happening to cast a glance down upon
the valley, he had just seen a regiment of infantry debouch on the
road. Farther off, in the street, the cavalry were advancing, with five
or six officers galloping at their head.

"Ah! ha! they are coming now in good earnest," exclaimed the old
soldier, whose countenance suddenly assumed an expression of energy and
strange enthusiasm.

Then he sprang upon the trench, exclaiming:

"My children, attention!"

As he passed, he caught a glimpse of Riffi, the little tailor of the
Charmes, leaning upon a long gun; the little man had made a step in the
snow to take aim. Higher up he recognised also the old wood-cutter,
Rochart, with his big sabots trimmed with sheepskin; he was taking a
hearty draught from his flask, and then slowly raising himself up,
with his carbine under his arm, and his cotton cap over his ear.

And that was all; for in order to survey the whole sphere of action, it
was necessary for him to climb to the summit of the Donon, where there
is a rock.

Lagarmitte followed him, stretching out his long legs as if he were
walking on stilts. Ten minutes after, when they had arrived quite out
of breath at the top of the rock, they perceived at four thousand odd
feet below them the enemy's column of about three thousand men, with
long white coats, cloth gaiters, tall shakos, and red moustaches; the
young officers with flat cap, riding at regular distances among the
troops, caracoling on horseback, sword in hand, and turning round from
time to time to call out, in a shrill voice: "_Forvertz! Forvertz!_"
(Forward! Forward!)

And this body bristled with glittering bayonets and advanced at full
charge towards the barricades.

Old Materne, his long hawk's nose peering over the branch of a
juniper tree, had also observed, with raised eyebrows, the arrival of
the Germans. And as he was very clear-sighted, he was able even to
distinguish faces among all this crowd; and picked out the one whom he
would bring down himself.

In the middle of the column, mounted on a tall bay horse, there
came riding straight towards them an old officer with a white wig,
three-cornered lace hat, his form enveloped in a yellow mantle, and
his breast decorated with orders. When this personage raised his head,
the corner of his hat, surmounted by a tuft of black feathers, formed
a target. He had long wrinkles in his cheeks, and seemed to be no
chicken.

"That's my man!" said the old huntsman to himself, taking aim leisurely.

He cocked his gun, fired, and when he looked, the old officer had
disappeared.

Immediately the mountain-side was ablaze with shots the whole length
of the entrenchments; but the Germans, without answering, continued to
advance towards the entrenchments, gun on shoulder, and keeping the
ranks as steadily as if they were on parade.

If the truth must be told, more than one brave mountaineer, the
father of a family, when he saw that forest of bayonets which kept on
advancing up the mountain, in spite of the shots that were poured on
them, began to think that he might perhaps have done better to stay at
home in his village than to thrust himself into such an affair. But as
the proverb says: "The wine is drawn; it must be drunk!"

Riffi, the little tailor, bethought him of the prudent warning of his
wife, Sapience: "Riffi, you will get lamed for life, and that will be a
pretty job!"

He promised a superb offering to the chapel of St. Léon if he came back
safe and sound from the war; but at the same time he resolved to make
good use of his long gun.

Two hundred paces from the barricades the Germans halted and opened
a running fire such as had never before been heard on the mountain:
it was a regular buzz of shots; balls by hundreds hacked down the
branches, made bits of ice leap up in all directions, came crashing
down upon the rocks, to the right, to the left, before, behind. They
came hissing and whistling through the air at times as thick as a flock
of pigeons.

This did not prevent the mountaineers from keeping up their fire, but
it could no longer be heard. All the mountain-side was wrapped in a
bluish smoke which made it difficult to take aim.

At the end of about ten minutes, the roll of the drum was heard, and
all that mass of men began to charge at the abattis, officers as well
as others, shouting "_Forvertz!_"

The ground trembled beneath them.

Materne, drawing himself up to his full height, by the side of the
trench, with a voice terrible in its emotion, cried, "Up! Up!"

It was time, for a good number of those Germans, almost all of them
students of philosophy, law, or medicine, scarred in skirmishes at
Munich, Jena, and elsewhere, and who fought against us because they had
been promised that their liberties should be granted them after the
downfall of Napoleon; all these intrepid young fellows began to crawl
on all-fours over the ice, and attempted to leap into the entrenchments.

But as fast as they climbed up the sides of the mountains, they were
stunned with the butt-ends of the guns, and fell back among their ranks
like hail.

It was at this juncture that there was witnessed an act of bravery on
the part of the old wood-cutter, Rochart. Singlehanded he overthrew
more than ten of those sons of old Germany. Seizing them under the
arms, he flung them back upon the road. Old Materne had his bayonet
reeking with blood. And the little tailor Riffi kept incessantly
reloading his great gun, and firing energetically upon the heaving,
struggling crowd below; and Joseph Larnette, who unfortunately received
a shot in the eye; Hans Baumgarten, who had his shoulder fractured;
Daniel Spitz, who lost two fingers by a sword-thrust; and a crowd of
others whose names will be honoured and revered from generation to
generation, never ceased for one second to load and discharge their
guns.

Below, nothing was heard but fearful shouts and cries; and above,
nothing was to be seen but bristling bayonets, and men on horseback.

This state of things lasted a good quarter of an hour; no one knew
what the Germans intended to do, since they could not clear a passage.
Nearly all the students had fallen, and the others, old campaigners,
used to honourable retreats, did not throw themselves into the fray
with the same ardour.

They began by beating a retreat, slowly; then more quickly. The
officers, behind them, struck them with the flat of their swords;
shots came whizzing after them, and finally, they fled with as much
precipitation as they had advanced in good order.

Materne, standing erect upon his eminence, with fifty others round him,
brandished his carbine, laughing heartily.

At the foot of the ascent heaps of the wounded were dragging themselves
painfully along. The trampled snow was red with blood. In the midst of
the heaps of dead were to be seen two young officers, still alive, but
crushed and entangled under the corpses of their horses.

It was a horrible sight! But men are really ferocious; there was not
one among the mountaineers who pitied these unfortunates; on the
contrary, the more of them they saw, the more rejoiced they were.

The little tailor, Riffi, at this moment, flushed with a noble
enthusiasm, let himself slide down the whole length of the steep
ascent. He had just perceived, a little to the left, below the
barricades, a superb horse, that of the colonel shot by Materne, and
which was standing quietly in a corner, safe and sound.

[Illustration: "AS THEY CLIMBED UP THEY WERE BRAINED."]

"You shall be mine," said he to himself; "won't Sapience be astonished,
that's all!"

All the others envied him. He seized the horse by the bridle, and got
upon his back. But judge of the general astonishment, and that of Riffi
above all, when the noble animal set off at full gallop towards his
friends the Germans.

The little tailor raised his hands to heaven, invoking all the saints.

Materne had half a mind to fire, but he was afraid, as the horse was
going at such a furious pace.

They were no sooner in the midst of the enemy's bayonets than Riffi
vanished out of sight.

Every one thought he had been massacred; an hour after, however, they
saw him passing down the principal street of Grandfontaine with his
hands tied behind his back, and corporal _schlague_ behind him with his
uplifted cane.

Poor Riffi! he alone was not fated to share in the day's triumph; and
his comrades were even led to laugh at his unhappy fate, just as if it
had happened to a _Kaiserlick_.

Such is the nature of men; provided they are happy themselves, the
misery of others concerns them but little.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 9: Drum-major.]



CHAPTER XVI.


The mountaineers were almost beside themselves with joy at their
victory; they wrung each other's hands, lauded each other to the skies,
and looked upon themselves as the most renowned of heroes.

Catherine, Louise, Doctor Lorquin, every one had gone out of the farm,
shouting, congratulating themselves, looking at the traces of the
balls, the mounds blackened by the powder; then at Joseph Larnette,
with his fractured skull, lying extended in his trench; Baumgarten,
with his arm hanging helpless by his side, on his way to the hospital,
looking as pale as death; and Daniel Spitz, who, in spite of his
sword-cut, wanted to stay and go on fighting; but the doctor would not
listen to this, and forced him to return to the farm.

Louise came with the little cart and distributed brandy to the
combatants; and Catherine Lefévre, on the edge of the ascent, stood
looking upon the dead and wounded lying thickly scattered along the
road, which was tracked with their blood. There they lay, poor fellows,
young and old, all heaped indiscriminately together, with faces as
white as wax, eyes staring wide open, and outstretched arms. Some few
tried to rise, and instantly fell heavily back; others were looking
upwards, as if they were still afraid of being shot at; while some
again were dragging themselves slowly along to get under shelter from
the balls.

Several seemed resigned to their fate, and only seeking a quiet place
to die in, or else straining their eyes after their regiment returning
to Framont; that regiment, with which they had quitted their native
village, with which they had first made a long campaign, and which was
now abandoning them to die!

"Our comrades will see old Germany again," thought they; "and when
the captain or the sergeant is asked, 'Did you know such a one:
Hans, Kasper, Nickel of the 1st or 2nd company?' they will answer,
'Stay--it's very likely--had he not a scar on the ear, or on the cheek?
Fair or brown hair, five or six feet in height? Yes, I know him. He
is left in France, by the side of a little village whose name I don't
remember. The mountaineers massacred him on the same day as the big
major Yéri Peter; he was a brave lad. And so good night.'"

Perhaps, among the number, there might have been one who thought of
his mother; of a pretty girl in his own country, Gretchen or Lotchen,
who had given him a riband while crying her eyes out as he was setting
off--"I shall wait for your coming back, Kasper; I shall never marry
any one but you!" Ah, my poor lass, you will have to wait a long while!

It was not a pleasant sight to look upon, and as Dame Lefévre beheld
it, she thought of her own Gaspard.

Hullin, who had just arrived with Lagarmitte, called out, in a jovial
tone:

"Well, my lads, you have smelt powder; a thousand thunders! This will
do. The Germans have nothing to boast of in this day's work."

Then he embraced Louise, and ran to Dame Lefévre.

"Are you contented, Catherine? Things are going well with us. But
what's the matter? I see no smile on your face."

"Yes, Jean-Claude, everything is going as well as can be. I am
contented; but just look down on the road there! What frightful
slaughter!"

"It is war," was Hullin's grave reply.

"Is there no way of bringing up here that boy who is looking at us with
his large blue eyes? It wrings my heart to see him; or that tall, dark
one, who is binding up his leg with his handkerchief?"

"Impossible, Catherine; it grieves me, too; but we should have to cut
steps in the ice to descend to them, and then the Germans, who will be
sure to be back in an hour or two, would follow us by them. Come away.
We must announce the victory to all the villages round; to Labarbe, to
Jerôme, to Piorette. Here, Simon, Niklo, Marchal, come here; you must
set off at once to carry the great news to our comrades. Materne, you
keep a sharp look-out, and at the slightest movement, let me know."

As they drew near the farm, Jean-Claude saw the reserve body, with
Marc Divès on horseback in the midst of his men. The smuggler was
complaining bitterly of having been left, as he called it, to fold his
arms and do nothing. He looked upon himself as dishonoured, for having
borne no part in the late fray.

"Bah!" said Hullin, "so much the better; and besides, you are
protecting us on our right. Just look down below there. If we are
attacked in that direction, you shall march to the defence."

Divès said nothing; his face wore an expression at once sad and
indignant; and his tall followers, wrapped in their cloaks, with their
long rapiers suspended outside, did not seem to be in a bit better
humour: they looked as if they were plotting vengeance.

Hullin, not being able to console them, entered the farm. Doctor
Lorquin was just beginning the operation of extracting the ball from
the wound of Baumgarten, who was groaning fearfully.

Pelsly, standing on the threshold of his house, was trembling from head
to foot. Jean-Claude begged him to supply him with paper and ink, in
order that he might despatch his orders throughout the mountain-side;
but it was with difficulty that the poor Anabaptist could comply with
his request, so great was his agitation.

He managed it, however, at last, and messengers set off in all
directions, quite proud of being deputed to announce the first battle
and the victory.

A few mountaineers, who had come into the large room, were warming
themselves by the stove, and talking in an excited manner. Daniel
Spitz had already undergone the amputation of his two fingers, and was
sitting behind the stove, with his hand bound up in linen.

Those who had been posted behind the barricades before daybreak, not
having breakfasted, were then getting a crust and a mug of wine,
shouting, gesticulating, and bragging with their mouths full. Some
were going out to cast a look upon the trenches, others coming back to
warm themselves, and everybody, in speaking of Riffi, and his dismal
lamentations on horseback, and his plaintive cries and entreaties,
laughed till their sides ached.

It was eleven o'clock. These comings and goings lasted till noon, the
moment when Marc Divès suddenly entered, exclaiming, "Hullin! where is
Hullin?"

"Here I am."

There was something strange in the tone of the smuggler's voice; just
before furious at not having taken his part in the struggle, he seemed
triumphant. Jean-Claude followed him, greatly alarmed, and the large
room was cleared in an instant, for every one was convinced, by Marc's
excited manner, that something serious had happened.

To the right of the Donon extends the ravine of the Minières, where
rages a torrent when the snow begins to melt: it descends from the top
of the mountain to the bottom of the valley.

Just opposite the plateau defended by the mountaineers, and on the
other side of the ravine, at a distance of five or six hundred yards,
is a sort of uncovered terrace, with a very steep descent, which Hullin
had not judged necessary to occupy provisionally, not wishing to divide
his forces; and seeing, besides, that it would be easy for him to
strengthen this position by means of fir trees, and defend it in the
event of the enemy showing signs of attacking it.

Judge, then, of the consternation of the brave man, when, on reaching
the threshold of the farm, he saw two companies of Germans climbing up
by this side, in the middle of the Gardens of Grandfontaine, with two
field-pieces drawn on heavy carriages, and seemingly suspended over the
precipice. All were pushing hard at the wheels, and in a few moments
more the cannons would reach the platform. It was like a thunderbolt
to Jean-Claude; he turned pale, and then went in a fearful rage with
Divès. "Could you not have warned me sooner?" he roared. "Did I not bid
you, above all things, to keep a good look-out on the ravine? We are
surprised; they will take us in flank; cut off the road. Everything is
gone to the devil!"

The spectators, and old Materne himself, who had just run to the spot
in the utmost haste, trembled at the glance he threw upon the smuggler.

The latter, in spite of his wonted boldness, stood speechless and
chapfallen, not knowing what answer to make. "Come, come, Jean-Claude,"
said he, at length; "be calm; it is not as bad as you think. We've not
had our turn yet, we fellows. And then, we're in want of cannon; it's
just the very thing for us."

"Yes, just the very thing indeed, you great fool! It was your vanity
that made you wait till the last moment, wasn't it? You wanted to
fight, to be able to swagger and boast; and, to gain your ends, you
risk the lives of us all. See! look! there are others already preparing
to set out from Framont."

True enough, another column, much stronger than the first, was then
leaving Framont, and advancing, at the double, towards the defences.
Divès said not a word. Hullin, governing his anger, grew suddenly calm
in the presence of such imminent danger.

"Go back to your posts," said he to the spectators, in a sharp voice;
"let every one be ready for the attack which is preparing. Materne,
attention!"

The old huntsman bowed.

Meanwhile, Marc Divès had recovered his self-possession. "Instead of
brawling like a woman," said he, "you would do better to give me the
order to begin the attack down below there by defending the ravine by
the fir-trees."

"It must be so--a thousand thunders!" replied Jean-Claude. And then, in
a calmer tone; "Listen, Marc; I'm in a furious rage with you. We were
conquerors, and through your fault we've lost all our ground. If you
miss your blow, we'll cut our throats together."

"Agreed. The affair is settled; I'll answer for the consequences."

Then, leaping on to his horse, and throwing the skirt of his cloak
over his shoulder, he drew his long rapier with a haughty and defiant
air. His men followed his example closely. Then Divès, turning towards
the reserve, composed of fifty stalwart mountaineers, pointed to the
platform with the point of his sword, and said: "You see that, my lads;
we want that position. The men of Dagsburg must never be able to say
that they showed more pluck than those of the Sarre. Forward!"

And the troops, full of martial ardour, set out on their march along
the edge of the ravine. Hullin, pale with excitement, shouted, "Fix
bayonets!"

The tall smuggler, on his immense brown horse, with muscular and
shining croup, turned round, while a smile curled his lip under his
thick moustaches; he poised his rapier with a look full of meaning, and
the whole troop plunged into the thick fir forest. At the same moment,
the Germans, with their eight-pounders, attained the height and began
to place their battery, whilst the column from Framont was scaling the
side. All was, therefore, in the same position as before the battle;
with this difference, that the enemy's cannon-balls were going to be
concerned in the affray, and take the mountaineers from behind.

The two field-pieces were distinctly visible, with their cramp-irons,
levers, drags, artillerymen, and commanding officer, a tall, bony,
broad-shouldered man, with long, light, waving moustaches. The azure
vault of the valley brought far-off things so near, that you might have
thought him within arm's length; but Hullin and Materne knew better;
there were a good six hundred yards between them; no gun could reach as
far as that.

Nevertheless, the old huntsman, before returning to the barricades,
wished to have a clear conscience. So he advanced as near as possible
to the ravine, followed by his son Kasper and a few mountaineers, and
leaning against a tree, he slowly took aim at the tall officer with
light moustaches.

All those who saw him held their breath, for fear of disturbing him,
and marring his aim.

The shot winged its way through the air, and when Materne leaned the
butt-end of his gun upon the ground to see what had happened, no change
had taken place. "It is astonishing how age dims the sight," said he.

"You! your sight dimmed!" exclaimed Kasper; "there is not one, from the
Vosges to Switzerland, who can boast of sending a ball, at two hundred
yards, as well as you!"

The old forester knew it well, but he did not want to discourage the
others. "Perhaps so," he replied; "we have no time to discuss that now.
Here comes the enemy; let each man do his duty."

In spite of these words, Materne, to all appearance simple and calm,
inwardly felt great anxiety. As he entered the trench, confused sounds
reached his ear; the clashing of arms, the regular tramp of footsteps:
he looked down over the side of the ascent, and beheld the Germans,
this time coming with long ladders, furnished with grappling-irons.

This was a disagreeable sight for the old huntsman. He signed to his
son to approach him, and whispered to him: "Kasper, this is bad, this
is very bad; the beggars have brought scaling-ladders with them. Give
me your hand. I would wish to have you near me, and Frantz also; but we
will defend our lives as best we may. If we come off with whole skins,
so much the better."

At this moment a terrible shock shook all the barricades to their
foundations; a hoarse voice was heard to exclaim, "Oh! my God!"

Then a heavy sound not a hundred paces off. A fir-tree bent slowly
forward, and fell right down into the abyss below.

It was the first cannon-shot: it had carried away with it both the
legs of old Rochart. This shot was followed almost at the same moment
by another, which came crashing along, covering in its headlong course
all the mountaineers with splinters of ice; Old Materne himself
bent beneath the force of this terrific explosion, but immediately
recovering himself, he shouted: "Let us avenge ourselves, lads! They
are here! Let us conquer or die!"

Fortunately, the panic of the mountaineers lasted but a second;
they all felt that a moment's hesitation, and they were lost. Two
scaling-ladders were already having their grappling-irons fixed to
the side of the mountain in spite of the heavy fire poured on the
assailants. This sight brought every one to the trench, and the combat
was renewed more fiercely--more desperately than at the first attack.

Hullin had remarked the ladders before Materne, and his indignation
against Divès was increased by the sight; but as, in such a case,
indignation is of no earthly use whatever, he had despatched Lagarmitte
to desire Frantz Materne, who was posted on the other side of the
Donon, to come to him with all haste with half of his men. I leave you
to imagine whether the brave lad, forewarned of the danger his father
was running, lost a second in obeying the order. Already the broad felt
hats were seen ascending the mountain's side through the snow, the men
with their carbines slung over their shoulders. They were running as
fast as they could, and yet Jean-Claude, hastening to meet them, with
the large drops of sweat standing on his forehead, and his eye wild and
haggard, shouted to them, in a ringing voice: "Come on, there, quicker!
you will never get here at that rate."

He was actually trembling with rage, attributing the whole misfortune
to the smuggler.

In the meanwhile, Mark Divès, at the end of about half an hour, had
made the round of the ravine, and from the back of his tall horse was
just beginning to discover the two companies of Germans with grounded
arms, a hundred paces behind the guns, which were firing on the
entrenchments. Then, approaching the mountaineers, he said to them,
in a stifled voice, while the explosions of the cannon were awakening
every echo in the gorge, and in the distance the clamours of the
assault resounded: "Comrades, you will charge the infantry with fixed
bayonets; I and my men will undertake the rest. Is that understood?"

"Yes, that's understood."

"Well, then, forward!"

The whole body advanced in good order towards the outskirts of the
wood, with the tall Piercy of Soldatenthal at their head. Nearly at the
same instant there was the "_verda_" (challenge) of a sentinel; then
two shots; then a great shout, "Hurrah for France!" and the heavy dull
sound of rushing footsteps; the brave mountaineers were falling upon
the enemy like a troop of wolves!

Divès, standing upright in his stirrups, with his long nose and
bristling moustaches, was laughingly looking on:

"It's all right," he kept saying to himself.

It was a fearful conflict; the ground trembled under it. The Germans
were not, any more than the confederates, opening fire; all was
passing in silence; the clashing of bayonets, the heavy thud of the
musket-stocks, intermingled from time to time by a shot, cries of rage,
groans, tumult; nothing else was heard.

The smugglers, with outstretched necks, sword in hand, sniffed the
carnage, impatiently awaiting the signal from their leader.

"Now it is our turn," said Marc. "The cannon be our prize!"

And forth from the woody fastnesses, with their long cloaks floating
behind them like wings, leaning eagerly forward on their saddles, and
their swords poised, onward they came, rushing like the wind.

"Don't cut--stab, stab," said Marc.

And this was every word he uttered.

In a second the twelve vultures had swooped down upon the guns. There
were among the number four old Spanish dragoons, and two ex-cuirassiers
of the Guard, whom the taste for danger attached to Marc. Blows from
every imaginable weapon that the artillerymen had at hand, rained round
them as thick as hail. They were all parried beforehand, and every
stroke brought a man down.

Marc Divès met the fire of two pistols full in his face; one of the
shots blackened his left cheek, and the other carried away his hat. He,
bending over his saddle, with his long arm outstretched, pinned at the
same moment the tall officer with light moustaches to one of the guns.

To conceive the effect of this terrible scene, we must picture to
ourselves the deadly conflict on the heights of the Minières; the
groans of the dying, the neighing of the horses, the cries of rage, the
flight of some, casting away their weapons to run more quickly, the
savage ardour of others.

Marc Divès was not of a contemplative turn: he did not waste time in
making poetical reflections on the tumult and senseless fury of the
wars men wage with each other. He saw the situation at a glance, and
leaping from his horse, flung himself upon the first cannon, still
loaded, seized the levers of the gun-carriage to change its direction,
levelled it at the foot of the ladders, and, snatching a match which
was smoking on the ground, fired.

Then at a distance arose strange clamours, and the smuggler, through
the smoke, saw a bloody gap in the enemy's ranks.

"Now on, boys," said he to his men, "we must not sleep upon it. A
cartridge here; a ball, some turf: we'll sweep the road. Look out!"

The smugglers took up their position; and the fire was kept up upon
the white uniforms with untiring zeal. Volleys of bullets whizzed
through their ranks. At the tenth discharge there was a general rout.

About six hundred men perished on that day. There were mountaineers,
and there were _Kaiserlicks_ in far greater numbers; but had it not
been for the cannonade of Divès all would have been lost.

[Illustration]



CHAPTER XVII.


The Germans, driven back in multitudes upon Grandfontaine, fled in
bands in the direction of Framont, on foot and on horseback, hurrying
along, dragging with them their baggage, throwing their knapsacks
across the road, and then looking behind them as if they feared to see
the mountaineers at their heels.

In Grandfontaine they destroyed everything they could lay their hands
on, out of a spirit of revenge; they smashed the windows and doors,
insulted the inhabitants, demanded to be supplied with food and drink
on the spot, and outraged the women. Their shouts, their imprecations,
the authoritative commands of their leaders, the complaints of the
citizens, the heavy, incessant tread of footsteps on the bridge of
Framont, the shrill neighings of the wounded horses, all reached the
barricades in one confused, mingled sound.

On the mountain-side nothing was to be seen but arms, shakos, and dead
bodies; in short, all the signs of a great defeat. Opposite appeared
the cannons taken by Marc Divès, pointed over the valley, and ready to
fire in case of a fresh attack.

All was then over--quite over. And yet not a single cry of triumph rose
from the entrenchments. The losses the mountaineers had sustained in
this last assault had been too severe and cruel. There was something
solemn in this deep silence succeeding to the tumult; and all those
men who had escaped the carnage looked at one another with grave faces
as if they were surprised at seeing each other. Some called to a
friend, others to a brother, who did not answer. They would then begin
to search in the trench, along the barricades, or on the ascent, crying
as they did it, "Ho! Jacob, Philip!--is it you?"

And then night came, and its grey shadows spread over entrenchments and
abyss, adding the horror of mystery to scenes already terrible enough.

Materne, after having wiped his bayonet, called his sons to him in
hoarse accents:

"Ho! Kasper! Frantz!"

And seeing forms approaching in the darkness, he began to ask:

"Is it you?"

"Yes, it is us."

"Nothing wrong with you?"

"No."

The old huntsman's voice, usually so rough, trembled like a woman's.

"Here we are all three, then, together again!" said he, in a low tone.

And he, whom no one had ever accused of being softhearted, bestowed
a hearty embrace upon his sons, who were greatly surprised by his
emotion. They heard a sound in his breast as of inward sobbing; they
were much moved by it, and said to themselves: "How he loves us! We
should never have believed this!"

They themselves felt touched to the very quick.

But in a short time, the old man, recovering himself, exclaimed:

"All the same, this has been a tough day's work, boys. Let us go and
have a cup of wine, for I'm thirsty."

Then casting a last look on the gloomy scene, and seeing the sentinels
which Hullin, as he went by, had just posted at every thirty paces,
they proceeded together towards the old farm.

They were crossing the trench, where the dead lay in heaps, lifting
their feet whenever they felt them come in contact with anything soft,
when they heard a stifled voice say:

"Is that you, Materne?"

"Ah, my poor old Rochart!--pardon, pardon!" replied the old huntsman,
stooping down. "I touched you. What! are you there still?"

"Yes, I cannot move, for I have lost my legs."

They were all three silent for a moment, and then the old wood-cutter
resumed:

"Tell my wife that she will find behind the wardrobe my little savings,
put away in a stocking. I hoarded it up in case we should either of us
fall ill. For me, I have no more need of it."

"That we shall see, we shall see;--you may recover yet--poor old
fellow! We will carry you away."

"No; it's not worth the trouble; I've only an hour longer to live; it
would only put me to pain."

Materne, without answering, made a sign to Kasper to form a litter with
his carbine and his own, and Frantz to place the old wood-cutter upon
it, in spite of his remonstrances. Which was immediately done. And in
this manner they all arrived at the farm together.

All the wounded who, during the combat, had had strength to drag
themselves to the hospital, had repaired thither. Doctor Lorquin and
his assistant, Despois, who had arrived during the day, were up to
their ears in work, and still all was not nearly finished, so much was
there to do.

As Materne, with his sons and old Rochart, were crossing the dark
alley by the light of the lantern, they heard on their left a groan
which froze the very marrow in their hones, and the old wood-cutter,
half-dead as he was, exclaimed:

"Oh! why do you bring me here? I will not--no, I won't! I would rather
die at once!"

"Open the door, Frantz," said Materne, while a cold sweat stood upon
his face--"open, make haste!"

And Frantz having pushed the door, they saw on a long kitchen table
in the centre of the low apartment, with heavy brown rafters, young
Colard, stretched at full length, three candles on each side of him,
a man at each arm, and a bucket just under him. Doctor Lorquin, his
shirt-sleeves turned up to his elbows, a short saw about three fingers
broad in his hand, was just preparing to cut off the poor devil's leg,
while Despois was holding a large sponge. The blood was splashing
down into the bucket. Colard was as pale as death. Catherine Lefévre,
standing beside him with a roll of lint over her arm, was striving to
be firm, but two deep wrinkles that furrowed her cheeks by the side of
her hooked nose showed how she was clenching her teeth. She was looking
down on the ground without seeing anything.

"It's all over!" said the doctor, turning round.

And casting a glance at the new comers, he said:

"Ah! is that you, old Rochart?"

"Yes, that's me; but I don't want any one to meddle with me; I'd rather
stay as I am."

The doctor, taking up a candle, looked at him, and made a wry face.

"It's time you were seen to, my poor old fellow; you've lost a deal of
blood already, and if we wait much longer it will be too late."

"So much the better; I've suffered enough in my time."

"Just as you will: let's go to the next." He looked down a long row of
mattrasses at the bottom of the room; the two last were empty, though
soaked in blood. Materne and Kasper laid the old wood-cutter on one,
whilst Despois approached another of the wounded, saying:

"Nicolas, it's your turn now."

They then saw the tall form of Nicolas Cerf raise itself up, with a
face deadly pale, and eyes glistening with fear.

"Give him a glass of brandy," said the doctor.

"No, I would like my pipe better."

"Where is your pipe?"

"In my waistcoat."

"All right; here it is. And the tobacco?"

"In my trousers' pocket."

"I've got it. Fill his pipe, Despois. He has courage, has this one:
that's right! It does one good to see a man with a stout heart. We will
have your arm off in double-quick time."

"Is there no way of saving it, Doctor Lorquin, for the sake of my poor
children? It's their only living."

"No, the bone is crushed; it will never be any good to you again.
Light the pipe, Despois. Now then, Nicolas, smoke away."

The poor fellow began to smoke, without having a great desire for it.

"Are you all right?" asked the doctor.

"Yes," replied Nicolas, in a stifled voice.

"Good. Now then, Despois, attention!--the sponge!"

Then, with a large knife, he described a rapid circle through the
flesh, while Nicolas ground his teeth with the agony.

The blood spurted out. Despois put a bandage tight round. The grinding
of the saw was heard for a few seconds, and the arm fell heavily to the
ground.

"That's what I call an operation well got through with," said Lorquin.

Nicolas was not smoking now: his pipe had fallen from his lips. David
Schlosser de Walsch, who had held him, let him go. They bandaged the
stump, and then Nicolas went without any assistance and laid himself
down again on the mattrass.

"There's one more despatched. Sponge the table, Despois, and let's get
on to another," said the doctor, washing his hands in a large bowl.

Every time he said "Let's go to another," all the wounded were struck
with fear on account of the groans they heard, and the sharp knives
they caught sight of now and then; but what was to be done? Every
room in the farm, the barn, the attics, all were filled with the
wounded. There was nothing but the large room on the ground-floor left
at liberty for the people belonging to the place; so the doctor was
obliged to operate under the very eyes of those whose turn must come
sooner or later.

All this had passed in a few moments. Materne and his sons had stood
looking on, as people do look on at anything horrible to know what it
is. Then they had seen in a corner on the left, just under the old
Dutch clock, a heap of arms and legs jumbled together. Nicolas's arm
had already been thrown on to the top, and the doctor was preparing to
extract a ball from the shoulder of a mountaineer of the Harberg with
red whiskers; large gashes in form of a cross had to be made in his
back, and from his hairy, shuddering flesh the blood was streaming down
to his boots.

It was strange to see the dog, Pluto, behind the doctor, surveying the
operations with an attentive look, as if he understood it all; and from
time to time he stretched his legs and bent his back with a yawn that
reached from ear to ear.

Materne could not bear to see any more. "Let us be going," said he.

They had hardly entered the dark walk when they heard the doctor
exclaim, "I've got the ball!" which must have caused great pleasure to
the man from Harberg.

Once outside, and breathing the fresh clear air, Materne ejaculated:
"And to think that the same might have happened to us!"

"Yes," replied Kasper; "to get a bullet through your head is no great
matter; but it's another thing to be chopped about like that, and have
to beg your bread for the rest of your days."

"Oh! I should do like old Rochart, for my part," said Frantz; "I should
just die quietly, without any bother. When you've done your duty, what
have you to fear? The good God is always the same!"

At this moment, the hum of voices was heard on their right.

"It is Marc Divès and Hullin," said Kasper, listening.

"Oh, yes! they have been, no doubt, making barricades behind the fir
forest to protect the cannon," added Frantz.

They listened again; the footsteps drew nearer.

"You are greatly embarrassed with those three prisoners," Hullin was
saying, in an abrupt tone. "Since you return to Falkenstein to-night to
procure ammunition, what prevents your taking them with you?"

"But where shall I put them?"

"Where? Why, in the public prison of Abreschwiller; we cannot keep them
here."

"All right; I understand, Jean-Claude; and if they attempt to escape by
the way, I shall plant my toasting-iron between their shoulders."

"Of course, of course."

They had by this time reached the door, and Hullin, perceiving Materne,
could not restrain a cry of delight.

"Ah! is it you, old fellow? I've been looking for you for the last
hour. Where the deuce have you been to?"

"We've been carrying poor Rochart to the hospital, Jean-Claude."

"Ah! that's a bad job, isn't it?"

"Yes, very bad."

There was a moment's silence, and then, the worthy man's satisfaction
regaining the upper hand, "Yes; it's not pleasant," he went on; "but
what can you do? It's the chance of war. You're not hit, you fellows?"

"No; we are all three safe and sound."

"So much the better, so much the better. Those who are left may boast
of having been lucky."

"Yes," exclaimed Marc Divès, laughing; "there was a moment when I
thought Materne was going to sound a parley; but for those cannon-shots
at the end, by my faith! things were taking a bad turn."

Materne coloured, and casting a side-look at the smuggler, "Possibly,"
he drily observed; "but had it not been for the cannon-shots at the
beginning, we should have had no need of those at the end; old Rochart,
and fifty more of our brave fellows, would have had their arms and legs
still, which wouldn't have made our victory any the less pleasant."

"Bah!" interrupted Hullin, who foresaw the beginning of a dispute
between two men whose dispositions were far from conciliatory. "Let's
put an end to this; every one has done his duty, and that's the great
thing." Then addressing Materne, "I have just despatched a messenger to
Framont," said he, "to desire the Germans to fetch away their wounded.
In an hour they will be here, no doubt; we must warn our look-outs to
let them approach, but without arms, and with torches; if they come
otherwise, let them be shot."

"I will see to it at once," replied the old huntsman.

"Hey! Materne, you will come to supper afterwards at the farm with your
boys?"

"All right, Jean-Claude."

He departed.

Hullin then told Frantz and Kasper to have large camp fires lighted for
the night; Marc, to give his horses a feed of corn, so that they might
be ready to go, without loss of time, to fetch ammunition; and, as they
withdrew to execute his orders, he entered the farm.



CHAPTER XVIII.


At the end of the dark walk was the court-yard of the farm, down to
which you descended by five or six worn steps. On the left were the
barn and the wine-press; on the right, the stables and pigeon-house,
the gable roof of which stood out in strong and black relief against
the dark and cloudy sky, while exactly opposite the door was the
wash-house.

No sound from without reached this spot. Hullin, after so many scenes
of tumult, was struck by this perfect and profound silence. He surveyed
the trusses of straw suspended among the beams of the barn up to the
very roof, the wheelbarrows, the carts--these latter standing in
the shadow of the outhouses--with a feeling of calm and indefinable
complacency. A cock was strutting about on the ground in the midst of
his hens, who were sleeping all along the wall. A large cat flew by
like lightning, and disappeared through a hole in the cellar. Hullin
felt as if awakening from a dream. After a few moments of this silent
contemplation, he was proceeding slowly towards the wash-house, the
three windows of which were shining like stars in the midst of the
darkness.

The farm-kitchen not sufficing to prepare the food of three or four
hundred men, they had set up a temporary one in this part of the
premises.

Master Jean-Claude heard the fresh voice of Louise issuing orders in a
little resolute tone that quite took him by surprise.

"Come, Come, Katel! let's be quick; it's near supper-time. We mustn't
let our people be hungry. Since six o'clock this morning to have eaten
nothing, and fighting hard all the while! We mustn't keep them waiting.
Now then, Lesselé, come along, stir yourself--salt, pepper!"

Jean-Claude's heart leapt within him at the sound of this voice. He
could not resist the pleasure of looking through the window for a
moment before he went in. The kitchen was large, but rather low, and
the walls were whitewashed. A large fire of beech-wood was blazing on
the hearth, and encircling with its spiral columns of flame the black
sides of an immense _marmite_ (cauldron). The chimney-piece, very high
and rather narrow, hardly sufficed to carry off the thick clouds of
smoke that rose from the fire-place. The bright light served to clearly
reveal the charming figure of Louise as she moved briskly about,
coquettishly attired in a short petticoat, which afforded greater
freedom to her limbs; her pretty face crimsoned in the ruddy glow; her
bosom confined in a little bodice of red cloth, which displayed to
perfection her sloping shoulders and graceful neck. There she was, in
the very heat of action, going and coming, and tasting the dishes with
her little bustling, housewifely air, trying the soup, approving and
criticising. "A little more salt, a little of this, a little of that.
Lesselé, won't you soon have finished plucking our great scraggy cock?
At this rate, we shall never be ready."

It was really a charming sight to see her take the command thus.
Hullin felt the tears come into his eyes. The two daughters of the
Anabaptist; one, long, dry, and pale, with her large flat feet thrust
into round shoes, her red hair tucked up under a little coif of black
taffeta, her blue cotton gown descending in long folds to her heels;
the other, fat and plump, who waddled like a goose, lifting her feet
slowly one after the other, and balancing herself with her arms akimbo;
these two honest girls formed the strangest contrast to Louise. The fat
Katel went to and fro quite out of breath, without saying a word, while
Lesselé, in an absent, dreamy way, did all by rule and compass.

The worthy Anabaptist himself, seated at the other end of the
wash-house on a wooden chair, with his legs across, his head turned up,
his cotton cap on the back of his head, and his hands in the pockets
of his gaberdine, was watching everything with a look of astonishment,
and saying from time to time, in a sententious voice: "Lesselé, Katel,
do just as she bids you, my children; it will be a good lesson for you;
you've not yet seen the world; you must get on quicker."

"Yes, yes; we must bustle about," Louise would rejoin; "what would
become of us if we were to take months and weeks to consider about
putting a little garlic in the sauce? You, Lesselé, you are the
tallest; just reach me down that rope of onions from the ceiling."

And the tall girl instantly did as she was bid.

It was the proudest moment in Hullin's life. "How she orders the others
about!" said he to himself; "he! he! he! she is a regular little
hussar, a white-sergeant! I never suspected her of it."

And it was only at last, after five minutes' watching, that he made up
his mind to go in.

"Holloa! all right, children!"

Louise was at that moment peeping into a saucepan, spoon in hand; she
left everything, and ran to throw herself into his arms, exclaiming:
"Papa Jean-Claude! Papa Jean-Claude! is it you? You are not wounded?
you are not hurt?"

Hullin, at the sound of that loving voice, turned pale, and was unable
to reply.

It was only after a long silence, and still holding his dear child
pressed close to his heart, that he was able at length to say, in a
faltering voice, "No, Louise, no; I am very well, and I feel very
happy."

"Sit down, Jean-Claude," said the Anabaptist, who saw him trembling
with emotion; "see, here is my chair."

Hullin sat down, and Louise, seating herself on his knee, with her arm
on his shoulder, began to cry.

"What is the matter, dear child?" said the brave man, in a low voice,
and embracing her affectionately. "Come, be calm; a moment ago I saw
you so courageous."

"Ah, yes! I was pretending to be so; but, do you know, I was in a great
fright all the while? I kept saying to myself, 'Why does he not come?'"

She threw her arms round his neck; then, in a natural outburst of joy,
she took the good man by the hand, exclaiming: "Come, Papa Jean-Claude,
let's have a dance!" and she waltzed him two or three times round the
room.

Hullin smiled in spite of himself, and turning to the Anabaptist, who
still preserved his serious air, "We are a little mad, Pelsly," said
he; "you mustn't let that surprise you."

"No, Master Hullin; it's very natural. King David himself, after his
great victory over the Philistines, danced before the ark."

Jean-Claude, astonished at resembling King David, made no reply. "And
you, Louise," he replied, after a pause, "were you not afraid during
the last battle?"

"Well, I was at first; all that noise, and those cannon shots; but
afterwards, I thought of nothing but you and Mother Lefévre."

Master Jean-Claude became silent. "I knew," he was thinking, "that that
child had a brave heart. She thinks of everything, and fears nothing."

Louise then, taking him by the hand, led him in front of a regiment of
saucepans all round the fire, and proudly pointed out to him all her
cookery. "Here is the beef, here is the roast meat, here is the supper
for General Jean-Claude, and here is the soup for our wounded. Ah!
we've had to make haste! Lesselé and Katel can tell you. And here is
our great batch of bread!" She went on pointing to a long row of loaves
ranged on the table. "Mother Lefévre and I baked it."

Hullin listened, quite wonderstruck.

"But that's not all," she added; "come this way."

She took off the iron lid of the oven, at the other end of the
wash-house, and the kitchen was immediately filled with an odour of
delicious cake that rejoiced the heart. Master Jean-Claude was quite
overcome.

At this moment Dame Lefévre entered the room. "Come," said she; "we
must lay the table; everybody is ready and waiting. Come, Katel, go and
lay the cloth."

The fat girl ran quickly out, and then, all together crossing the dark
court-yard, one behind the other, proceeded towards the keeping-room
of the farm. There they found Doctor Lorquin, Despois, Marc Divès,
Materne, and his two sons, all sharp-set, and provided with good stout
appetites, impatiently awaiting the arrival of the soup.

"And our wounded, Doctor?" exclaimed Hullin, entering.

"All is finished, Master Jean-Claude; you've given us some tough jobs
to do; but the weather is favourable; there is no fear of putrid
fevers, and all is going as well as can be."

Katel, Lesselé, and Louise shortly after entered, carrying an enormous
smoking soup-tureen, and two magnificent joints of roast beef, which
they placed upon the table. They took their places without any
ceremony, old Materne to the right of Jean-Claude, Catherine Lefévre on
his left, and from that time the clattering of knives and forks, and
the opening of bottles, took the place of conversation until half-past
eight in the evening. Out of doors, the reflection of bright fires on
the window-panes announced that the other volunteers were also enjoying
themselves, and doing justice to Louise's cookery, which still further
contributed to the satisfaction of the guests within.

At nine o'clock, Marc Divès was on his way to Falkenstein with the
prisoners. By ten o'clock every one was asleep at the farm, and on the
mountain around the camp fires.

Nothing broke the silence, save, from time to time, the distant
challenge of the sentinels on duty, going their rounds.

Thus ended this day, on which the mountaineers proved that they had not
degenerated from the ancient race.

Other events, not less grave, were soon to succeed those which had just
taken place; for in this world, one obstacle is no sooner overcome,
than others present themselves. Human life resembles a troubled sea;
one wave follows another from the old world to the new, and nothing can
stop this eternal movement.

[Illustration]



CHAPTER XIX.


Throughout the whole of the battle and until night-fall, the folks
of Grandfontaine had seen the fool Yégof standing on the summit
of the Little Donon, his crown on his head, his sceptre uplifted,
transmitting, like a Merovingian king, orders to his imaginary armies.

What passed through the mind of this unhappy being when he saw the
utter rout of the Germans, no one knows. At the last cannon-shot he had
disappeared. Whither had he fled?

This is what is related on this subject by the inhabitants of
Tiefenbach.

At that time, there lived in the Bocksberg two singular creatures, two
sisters, one called Little Kateline and the other Big Berbel. These two
tattered beings had fixed their abode in the _Cavern of Luitprandt_,
so called, say the old chronicles, because the King of the Germans,
before descending into Alsace, caused to be interred under that immense
vault of red freestone the barbarian chiefs who fell in the battle of
Blutfeld. The warm spring that rises always in the middle of the cavern
protected the two sisters against the rigorous colds of winter, and
the wood-cutter, Daniel Horn, of Tiefenbach, had had the charity to
close up the principal entrance of the rock with heaps of broom and
brushwood. By the side of the warm spring was another, cold as ice,
and clear as crystal. Little Kateline, who drank at this spring, was
not four feet high; she was stout and squat, and her vacant look, round
eyes, and an enormous wen, gave to her the singular expression of a
fat turkey in a meditative mood. Every Sunday she was in the habit of
lugging to the village of Tiefenbach a wicker basket, which the good
people filled with cold potatoes, crusts of bread, and sometimes--on
festivals--with cakes and other leavings of their merry-makings. Then
the poor creature, quite out of breath, returned to her rocky home,
chuckling, laughing, gibbering, and crying all at once. Big Berbel was
very careful not to drink at the cold spring; she was lean, one-eyed,
and as skinny as a bat; she had a flat nose, large ears, a sparkling
eye, and lived on what her sister managed to pick up; but in July,
when the very hot weather had set in, she used to shake from the
mountain-side a dry thistle over the harvest-fields of those who had
not regularly filled Kateline's basket, which brought down upon them
fearful storms, hail, rats, and field-mice in abundance.

For which reason they dreaded the spells of Berbel like the plague; she
was known everywhere by the name of _Wetterhexe_,[10] whilst little
Kateline passed everywhere for being the good genius of Tiefenbach and
its neighbourhood. In this way Berbel lived at her ease, by folding her
arms, and the other by clucking and pecking for it wherever it was to
be found.

Unfortunately for the two sisters, Yégof had established, for a
number of years past, his winter residence in Luitprandt's Cave. It
was from thence that he took his departure in the spring, to visit
his innumerable castles, and pass in review his fiefs as far as
Geierstein, in the Hundsrück. Every year, therefore, towards the end of
November, after the first snows, he came with his raven, which always
produced a succession of eagle-like croaks from Wetterhexe.

"What is the matter with you," he would say, quietly installing himself
in the best place; "are you not living on my domains? I think it is
very good of me to keep two useless _valkiries_ in the Valhalla of my
fathers."

Then Berbel would become furious, and overwhelm him with taunts and
abuse, while Kateline would sit clucking with an angry look; but
he, without taking any notice of them, lit his pipe--made of old
boxwood--and began to relate his distant peregrinations to the souls
of the German warriors interred in the cavern sixteen centuries ago,
calling them by their names, and speaking to them like living beings.
I leave you to imagine whether Berbel and Kateline saw the fool arrive
with pleasure; to them it was a positive calamity. Now, this year,
Yégof not having come, the two sisters thought he was dead, and were
rejoicing in the idea of never seeing him any more. During the last few
days, however, Wetterhexe had remarked the agitation that prevailed
in the neighbouring gorges; people departing in large bodies, gun on
shoulder, from the regions of the Falkenstein and the Donon. Evidently
something out of the common was taking place. The witch, remembering
that the year before Yégof had related to the souls of the warriors
that his innumerable followers were shortly going to invade the
country, felt a sort of vague uneasiness. She would have given anything
to know the reason of this unusual disturbance, but no one came up to
the rock where they dwelt, and Kateline having gone her usual journey
the Sunday before, would not have stirred for an empire.

In this state of things, Wetterhexe wandered over the mountain-side,
getting more and more anxious and distraught.

During the whole of this particular Saturday, things went even further.
From nine o'clock in the morning, loud and heavy explosions rolled like
the sound of a tempest amid the thousand echoes of the mountain; and in
the distance, towards the Donon, swift lightnings flashed across the
sky between the tall tops of the mountains; then, towards night, noises
still more deep and formidable resounded through the silent gorges. At
each explosion, the summits of the Hengst, the Gantzlée, the Giromani,
the Grosmann, were heard to echo back their answer through the very
depths of the abyss.

"What is that?" asked Berbel, of herself. "Is it the end of the world?"

Then, re-entering the cavern, and seeing Kateline squatting in her
corner, nibbling a potato, she shook her roughly, exclaiming, in a
hissing voice: "Idiot! do you, then, hear nothing? You are not afraid
of anything--not you! You eat, you drink, you cluck! Oh! you monster!"

She snatched her potato furiously away, and sat down, quite trembling
with passion, by the warm spring which was sending up its grey clouds
to the vaulted roof of the cavern.

Half an hour after, it having grown dark, and the cold excessive, she
lit a fire of brushwood, which threw a pale and flickering light over
the blocks of red stone, to the very end of the cavern where Kateline
was now sleeping, with her feet in the straw, and her knees up to
her chin. Outside every sound had ceased. Wetterhexe pushed aside the
bushes at the entrance, to cast a look upon the mountain-side; then she
returned and squatted again beside the fire, her large mouth closely
compressed, her flabby eyelids shut, forming large circular wrinkles
round her cheeks, she drew over her knees an old woollen coverlet, and
seemed to be taking a doze. Not a sound was to be heard, save at long
intervals, the faint murmur of the condensed vapour falling back from
the vault to the spring.

This death-like silence lasted for about two hours; midnight was
approaching, when, all at once, a distant sound of footsteps, mingled
with discordant clamours, was heard on the mountain-side. Berbel
listened; she recognised the sound of the human voice. Then rising,
all of a tremble, and armed with her large thistle, she glided to
the entrance of the rock, pushed the bushes aside, and saw, at the
distance of fifty paces, the fool Yégof, advancing in the bright
moonlight. Flourishing his sceptre in the air, he was calling upon his
followers, and fighting and struggling as if he were in the thick of
a battle. This fearful conflict with invisible beings struck Berbel
with superstitious terror; she felt her hair stand on end, and would
have fled and hid herself, but, at the same instant, a confused murmur
caused her to turn suddenly round, and judge of her alarm when she saw
the hot spring boiling more than usual, and clouds of steam rise from
it, then detach themselves and move in floating masses towards the door.

And whilst, like phantoms, these thick clouds were slowly advancing,
Yégof appeared, exclaiming, in a sharp voice: "At last you are here.
You have heard me!"

Then, with a rapid gesture, he put aside every impediment: a rush of
frosty air penetrated the cavern, and the vapours dispersed themselves
over the spacious canopy of heaven, wreathing and twisting themselves
over the rock as if the dead of that day, and those of centuries past,
had renewed, in other spheres, the eternal combat.

Yégof, his features livid and contracted beneath the moon's pale rays,
his sceptre outstretched, his long beard descending to his breast, and
his eyes flashing, saluted each imaginary phantom with a gesture, and
called it by its name, saying: "Hail, Bled! hail, Roug! and all of you,
my brave companions, hail! The hour you have waited for for centuries
is near; the eagles are sharpening their beaks, the earth thirsts for
blood; remember the Blutfeld!"

Then Yégof abruptly entered the cavern, and crouched down near the
spring, with his huge head between his hands, and his elbows on his
knees, watching the bubbling of the water, with a wild and haggard eye.

Kateline had just awoke, and her clucking sounded like sobs;
Wetterhexe, more dead than alive, was watching the fool from the
darkest corner of the cavern.

"They have all risen from the earth!" suddenly exclaimed Yégof--"all,
all! there are none left; they are gone to revive the courage of my
young men, and inspire them with contempt for death!" and, raising his
pale face, impressed with the expression of bitter grief, "They fought
valiantly--yes, yes, they did their duty well--but the hour was not
yet come. And now the ravens are fighting over their flesh!" Then, in
an accent of terrible rage, tearing off his crown, and handfuls of his
hair with both hands: "Oh! race accursed!" he shouted, "must you for
ever cross our path? But for you, we should already have conquered
Europe; the red men would be masters of the universe! And I have
humbled myself before the leader of that race of dogs. I have asked of
him his daughter, in lieu of taking her and carrying her off, as the
wolf does with the sheep. Ah! Huldrix! Huldrix!" Then, interrupting
himself: "Listen, listen, _valkirie_," said he, in a low voice; and he
raised his finger solemnly. Wetterhexe listened. A very high night-wind
had just risen, shaking the old forest trees, with their frost-covered
branches. How many times had the sorceress heard the north wind howl
through the long winter nights without even taking heed of it? But now,
how terror-stricken she was! And as she stood there, trembling from
head to foot, a harsh cry was heard without, and almost immediately
the raven, Hans, dashed wildly into the cavern, and began to describe
wide circles overhead, flapping his wings in a frightened manner, and
uttering dismal croakings.

Yégof turned as pale as a corpse.

"Vòd, Vòd!" he exclaimed, in heartrending tones, "what has thy son
Luitprandt done to thee?"

And for a few seconds he remained as if terror-stricken; but suddenly
seized with a wild enthusiasm, and brandishing his sceptre, he rushed
out of the cavern.

He went straight forward, with outstretched neck and striding step,
like a wild beast marching to his prey. Hans preceded him, fluttering
from place to place.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 10: Storm Witch.]



CHAPTER XX.


The Germans had quitted Grandfontaine, Framont, and even Schirmeck.
At a distance, very far off, on the plains of Alsace, dark points
might be remarked indicating their battalions in retreat. Hullin awoke
early, and made the round of the camp. He stood for a few moments
contemplating the scene that lay extended before him, the cannon
pointed towards the gorge, the volunteers stretched around the fire,
the armed sentinels; then, satisfied with his inspection, he returned
to the farm where Louise and Catherine were still sleeping.

The greyish light of dawn was stealing through the chamber. A few
wounded in the next apartment were beginning to be attacked by fever;
they might be heard calling on their wives and mothers. A little later,
the hum of voices and the footsteps of people coming to and fro broke
the still silence of the night. Catherine and Louise awoke; and the
first sight that met their eyes was Jean-Claude sitting in a corner of
the window-seat, gazing affectionately upon them; and, ashamed of their
apparent laziness, they rose at once, to go and embrace him.

"Well?" said Catherine, inquiringly.

"Well, they are gone; we are left masters of the route, as I foresaw."

This assurance did not appear to tranquillise the old farm-mistress;
she had to look out of window, and see with her own eyes the Germans
in full retreat as far as Alsace. And even then all the remainder of
the day her stern countenance still preserved the expression of an
indefinable anxiety.

Between eight and nine o'clock, the pastor Saumaize arrived from the
village of Charmes. Some mountaineers then came down to the foot of the
mountain to carry away the dead; they then dug, to the right of the
farm, a long ditch, where volunteers and _kaiserlicks_, whether clad in
uniform or coats, hats or shakos, were quietly ranged side by side.

The pastor Saumaize, a tall old man, with white hair, read the ancient
form of prayer for the dead in that rapid and mysterious tone which
penetrates to the very bottom of the soul, and seems to invoke bygone
generations to attest to the living the horrors of the tomb.

All day long carriages and _schlittes_[11] kept arriving to remove the
wounded, who were imploring to be allowed to see their native village
once more. Doctor Lorquin, fearing to increase their irritation, was
forced to consent to it. About four o'clock Catherine and Hullin found
themselves alone in the large house-room of the farm. Louise had gone
to prepare the supper. Out of doors large flakes of snow continued to
fall from the skies, and lay thick upon the window-ledges, and from
moment to moment a sleigh was to be seen setting out silently with its
sick burden lying buried in the straw; sometimes a man, sometimes a
woman, leading the horse by the bridle. Catherine, seated by the table,
was folding bandages with an absent air.

"Why, what's the matter with you, Catherine?" inquired Hullin. "Since
this morning I have noticed how low-spirited you seem. And yet
everything is prospering with us."

The old farm-mistress, then slowly pushing back the linen from her,
replied:

"It is true, Jean-Claude; I am troubled."

"Troubled! and what about? The enemy is in full retreat. Only just now,
Frantz Materne, whom I had sent to reconnoitre, and all the scouts from
Piorette, from Jerôme, and from Labarbe, have come to tell me that the
Germans are returning to Mutzig. Old Materne and Kasper, after helping
to remove the dead, were informed at Grandfontaine that there was
nothing to be seen of them on the side of Saint Blaize-la-Roche. All
this proves that our Spanish dragoons gave the enemy a warm reception
on the road to Senones, and that they were in fear of having their
retreat cut off by Schirmeck. I cannot see, therefore, Catherine, what
it is you are tormenting yourself about."

And as Hullin regarded her with a questioning look, "You will laugh at
me again," said she: "I have had a dream."

"A dream?"

"Yes, the same that I had at the farm of Bois-des-Chênes."

Then, growing excited, she went on in almost an angry tone:

"You may say what you like, Jean-Claude; but a great danger threatens
us. Yes, yes, all this, in your opinion, has not a shadow of common
sense. Moreover, this was not a dream; it was all like an old story
coming back to your mind; something that you see again in your
sleep, and that you recognise again. Listen. We were, as to-day, after
a great victory, somewhere, I don't know where, in a sort of great
wooden barrack, with heavy rafters across, and palings round it. We
were not in fear of anything; all the faces that I saw, I knew; you
were there, and Marc Divès, and many others, old people dead long ago;
my father, and old Hugh Rochart, of the Harberg, uncle of the one
who has just died, all wearing gaberdines of thick grey cloth, long
beards, and bare-necked. We had just won a similar victory, and we
were drinking out of a large red earthen pot, when suddenly a cry was
raised: "The enemy is returning!" and Yégof, on horseback, with his
long beard, his pointed crown, a hatchet in his hand, his eyes glaring
like those of a wolf, appeared before me in the darkness of the night.
I rush upon him with a stake--he awaits me; and from that moment I
see nothing more; only I feel a terrible pain in my neck, a gust of
cold wind passes over my face, and it seems to me as if my head were
dangling at the end of a cord. It was that miscreant Yégof who had
hung my head at his saddle, and was galloping away!" continued the old
farm-mistress, in such a tone of conviction that it made Hullin shudder.

[Illustration: "PASTOR SAUMAIZE READ THE PRAYERS FOR THE DEAD."]

There was a few moments' silence; then Jean-Claude, recovering from his
stupefied inaction, replied:

"It was a dream. I myself have such dreams sometimes. Yesterday you
were disturbed, agitated--all that noise, those shouts."

"No," she retorted, in a firm tone, resuming her occupation--"no, it is
not that. And to tell you the truth, during the whole of the battle,
and even at the very moment when the cannon was roaring against us, I
was not one bit afraid; I was certain beforehand that we could not be
beaten: I had already seen that, but now I am afraid!"

"But the Germans have evacuated Schirmeck; all the line of the Vosges
is defended; we have more people than we require; they keep on coming
every minute."

"No matter!"

Hullin shrugged his shoulders.

"Come, come, you are excited, Catherine; try to be calm, and think
of pleasanter things. As for all these dreams, look you, I value
them just as much as I do the Grand Turk, with his pipe and his blue
stockings. The great thing is to be well on our guard, to have plenty
of ammunition, men and cannon; these are worth much more than the very
brightest of dreams."

"You are laughing at me, Jean-Claude."

"No; but to hear a woman of good sense and great courage speak like
you, reminds one, in spite of oneself, of Yégof, who boasts of having
lived sixteen hundred years ago."

"Who knows," said the old woman, in a persistent tone, "whether he
recollects what others have forgotten?"

Hullin was about to relate to her his conversation of the evening
before at the camp with the fool, thinking thus to upset from top
to bottom all her dismal visions; but seeing that she held the same
opinion as Yégof on the question of the sixteen hundred years, the
brave fellow said nothing more, and resumed his silent walk, with head
hung down and careworn brow. "She is mad," he was thinking to himself;
"one more little shock, and it will be all over with her."

Catherine, after a moment, in which she seemed to be lost in thought,
was just about to say something, when Louise came skimming in like a
swallow, exclaiming, in her sweetest voice:--

"Mother Lefévre, Mother Lefévre, here is a letter from Gaspard!"

Then the old farm-mistress, whose hooked nose seemed bent down till it
almost met her lips, so indignant was she to see Hullin turn her dream
into ridicule, raised her head, and the deep wrinkles in her cheeks
relaxed. She took the letter, looked at the red seal, and said to the
young girl:

"Kiss me, Louise; it is a good letter."

And Louise immediately bestowed on her a warm embrace.

Hullin had joined them, quite delighted at this incident, and
Brainstein, the postman, with his thick shoes an inch deep in snow,
stooping shoulders, and his two hands leaning on his stick, stationed
himself at the door with a tired look.

The old woman put on her spectacles, opened the letter in a sort of
meditative way under the impatient eyes of Jean-Claude and Louise, and
read aloud:

"This, my good mother, comes to tell you that all is as well as can
be, and that I arrived on Tuesday evening at Phalsbourg, just as they
were closing the gates. The Cossacks were already on the side of
Saverne; we had to keep up a constant fire all night against their
vanguard. The next day, an envoy came to summon us to surrender the
place. The governor, Meunier, made answer that he might go and hang
himself elsewhere, and three days after great showers of bombs and
howitzer-shells began to rain upon the town. The Russians have three
batteries, one on the side of Mittelbronn, the other at the barracks
above, and the third behind the tile-kiln of Pernette; but the red-hot
shot did us the most harm; they burn the houses from bottom to top,
and when some part is set fire to, then come the howitzer-shells in
a body and hinder people from putting it out. The women and children
do not leave the block houses; the inhabitants remain with us upon
the ramparts; they are brave fellows; there are among them some
old warriors of Sambre and Meuse, of Italy and Egypt, who have not
forgotten their old skill. It made me sorry to see the old greybeards
hard at work again with the guns. I warrant you, no bullet misses its
mark with them. But, for all that, when you've made the world tremble,
it's rather hard to be forced, in your last days, to defend your
barrack and your last morsel of bread."

"Yes, it is hard," put in Dame Catherine, wiping her eyes; "only to
think of it makes one sorrowful." Then she continued:--

"The day before yesterday the governor decided to make an attack upon
the Russian battery at the back of the tile-kiln. You know that the
Russians are in the habit of breaking the ice of the tank to bathe in
companies of twenty or thirty, and that they then go to dry themselves
in the furnace of the brick-kiln. Good. About four o'clock, as day
was departing, we went out by the postern of the arsenal, and passed
through the Allée des Vaches, gun on shoulder, at a rapid trot. A
few minutes after, we opened a running fire on the Cossacks who were
bathing in the tank. All the rest then came out of the tile-kiln. They
had only just time to catch up their cartridge-pouches, shoulder their
guns, and place themselves in rank, all naked, like so many savages as
they were, in the snow. But, for all that, the beggars were ten times
more numerous than we, and they were just commencing a movement in the
direction of the little chapel of St. Jean, in order to surround us,
when the cannon from the arsenal began to pour such a hail of shot
in their direction as I never saw the like of before. The grape shot
carried away whole files right out of sight. At the end of a quarter
of an hour, all in a body began a retreat upon Quatre-Vents, without
stopping to pick up their pantaloons, the officers at the head of
them, and showers of bullets bringing up the rear. Papa Jean-Claude
would have laughed fit to crack his sides at the sight. At length, at
night-fall we returned to the town, after having stormed the battery,
and thrown two eight-pound shot into the brick-kiln. This is our
first expedition. To-day, I am writing to you from the barracks of
Bois-des-Chênes, where we are quartered to provision the place. All
this may last for months. I have already told you that the Allies are
returning by the valley of Dosenheim as far as Weschem, and that they
are gaining by thousands the road to Paris. Ah! if it were only God's
will that the Emperor should have the upper hand in Lorraine or in
Champagne, not a single one of them would escape. However, he who lives
longest sees the most. They are sounding the recall from Phalsbourg;
we have not fared badly in the way of oxen, cows, and goats in the
neighbourhood. There will be a little fighting to get them all in safe
and sound. Farewell for the present, my good mother, my dear Louise,
Papa Jean-Claude; my affectionate and loving remembrances to you all."

As she finished reading, Catherine Lefévre was quite overcome with
emotion.

"What a brave boy!" said she; "he knows nothing but his duty. In
short, you hear, Louise, he sends you his affectionate and loving
remembrances."

Louise then throwing herself into her arms, they gave each other a
hearty embrace, and Dame Catherine, in spite of the firmness of her
character, could not restrain two big tears which slowly coursed each
other down her wrinkled cheeks; then recovering herself:

"Come, come," said she, "all is going well. Here, Brainstein, you
go and eat a piece of beef and drink a glass of wine. Here is a
crown-piece for your trouble; I should like to have to give you a
similar sum every week for just such another letter."

The postman, delighted with this gratuity, followed the old woman;
Louise walked behind, and Jean-Claude came after, impatient to question
Brainstein on all that he had learnt by the way touching present
events, but he gained nothing new from him, except that the Allies
were investing Bitche and Lutzelstein, and that they had lost several
hundred men in endeavouring to force the defile of the Graufthal.

[Illustration]

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 11: A sort of sledge peculiar to the district of the Vosges.]



CHAPTER XXI.


About ten o'clock in the evening, Catherine Lefévre and Louise, having
wished Hullin good-night, went up into the room overhead. There were
two large feather beds; and the tall bedsteads, nearly as high as
the ceiling, with their long curtains, striped blue and red, had an
extremely warm and comfortable appearance.

"Come," exclaimed the old farm-mistress, getting upon her chair, "come,
sleep well, my child; for my part, I am quite worn out; I can keep up
no longer."

She drew the bed-clothes over her, and in less than five minutes after
she was sound asleep.

Louise, being also exhausted, was not long in following her example.

Now this had lasted about a couple of hours, when the old woman was
awakened with a start by a fearful tumult. Everything was in an uproar.

"To arms!" was the cry--"to arms! Hi! this way, a thousand thunders!
they are upon us!"

Five or six shots followed, illuminating the dark window-panes.

"To arms! to arms!"

The shots were heard again. People were hurrying to and fro. Then
Hullin's voice was heard--sharp, penetrating, issuing orders. Then to
the left of the farm, a good distance off, came a sound like a heavy
prolonged crackling in the gorges of the Grosmann.

"Louise, Louise!" exclaimed Catherine, "did you hear that noise?"

"Yes. Oh! heavens! how terrible!"

Catherine jumped out of bed.

"Get up, my child," said she; "let us dress ourselves."

The shots were by this time redoubled, and kept passing like flashes of
lightning across the window-panes.

"Attention!" shouted Materne.

With these sounds were mingled the neighing of a horse outside, and the
trampling of a multitude of people in the alley, in the court-yard, and
in front of the farm; the house seemed shaken to its very foundations.

All at once the firing was replied to from the windows of the room on
the ground floor. The two women dressed themselves in haste. At this
moment the staircase creaked under a heavy footstep; the door opened,
and Hullin appeared with a lantern, pale, his hair in disorder, and
every sign of agitation visible in his face.

"Make haste!" he exclaimed; "we have not a moment to lose."

"Why, what is happening?" asked Catherine anxiously.

The firing was evidently coming nearer and nearer.

"What?" exclaimed Jean-Claude, almost beside himself, and wildly
tossing up his arms; "do you think I have time to explain things to
you?"

The farm-mistress saw that there was nothing to do but obey orders.
She took her hood, and descended the staircase with Louise. By the
flickering light of the shots, Catherine saw Materne, bare-necked,
and his son, Kasper, firing from the entrance of the valley on to the
barricades, while ten others behind them kept loading and handing
the guns to them, so that they had nothing to do but to take aim and
fire. All this motley group, busily engaged in loading, shouldering,
and firing, gave a terrible aspect to the scene. Three or four dead
bodies, propped up against the old decayed wall, added to the horror of
the combat; the smoke was beginning to make its way rapidly into the
dwelling.

When they had reached the foot of the staircase, Hullin exclaimed:
"Here they are, thanks be to God!" And all the brave fellows about
there, looking up and seeing them, called out, "Courage! Mother
Lefévre!"

Then the poor old dame, her frame quite shattered by so many emotions,
began to cry. She leaned on the shoulder of Jean-Claude; but the latter
passed his strong arm round her, and carried her off like a feather,
running all along the wall to the right. Louise followed, crying and
sobbing.

Out of doors nothing was to be heard but the whizzing of bullets
through the air, heavy thuds against the wall; bricks and mortar were
giving way, and tiles flying about in all directions, and exactly
opposite, in the vicinity of the barricades, three hundred paces off,
were to be seen the white uniforms, in line, lit up by their own fire
in the thick darkness of night, and then to their left, on the other
side of the ravine of the Minières, the mountaineers, who were taking
them in the flank.

Hullin disappeared at the turning by the farm; there all was plunged in
darkness. It was as much as you could do to catch a glimpse of Doctor
Lorquin on horseback in front of a sleigh, a long cavalry sword in
his hand, two holster-pistols in his belt, and Frantz Materne, with a
dozen of men, with grounded arms, trembling with rage. Hullin placed
Catherine in the sledge, on a truss of straw, and then Louise beside
her.

"There you are!" exclaimed the doctor, "and it's a very lucky thing!"

And Frantz Materne added: "If it had not been for you, Dame Lefévre,
you may easily believe that not one of us would quit this spot
to-night; but when you are in the case, there is nothing to say."

"No," cried the others; "there is nothing to say."

At the same moment, a great tall, long-backed fellow, with legs as long
as a heron's, came from behind the wall, running at full speed, and
shouting: "The enemy! Fly! save yourselves!"

Hullin turned as pale as death.

"It is the great grinder of the Harberg," said he, gnashing his teeth.

Frantz said not a word; he shouldered his carbine, took aim, and fired.

Louise saw the grinder, thirty paces off in the shadow, stretch out his
two long arms, and fall, face downwards, to the ground.

Frantz re-loaded his gun, smiling with a strange expression.

Hullin said: "Comrades, here is our mother; she who has given us
powder, and supplied us with food for the defence of our country, and
here is my child save them!"

They all replied, with one voice: "We will save them, or perish with
them."

"And do not forget to tell Divès that he is to remain at the
Falkenstein till further orders."

"All right, Master Jean-Claude."

"Then forward, doctor, forward!" cried the brave man.

"And you, Hullin?" said Catherine.

"For me, my place is here; we shall have to defend our position to the
death!"

"Papa Jean-Claude!" cried Louise, stretching out her arms to him.

But he had already turned the corner; the doctor struck his horse, the
sleigh sped over the snow, and behind followed Frantz Materne and his
men, carbine on shoulder, while the firing still continued all round
the farm. This is what Catherine Lefévre and Louise beheld in the space
of a few minutes. Something strange and terrible had doubtless happened
during the night. The old farm-mistress, recollecting her dream, grew
silent and absorbed. Louise dried her tears, and threw a long look on
the hillside she was leaving, and which was all alight, as if on fire.
The horse, urged by the doctor, went at full speed; the mountaineers
who formed the escort could hardly keep up with him. For a long time
still the tumult, the sounds of the combat, the explosions, the hissing
of bullets whistling through the trees, continued to be heard; but
all this, by degrees, grew less and less, and in a short time, at the
descent of the path, all had disappeared as in a dream.

The sledge had just reached the other acclivity of the mountain,
and was speeding like an arrow through the darkness of the night.
The gallop of the horse, the hurried breathing of the escort, the
occasional cry of the doctor, "Up, Bruno! come up, then!" alone
disturbed the silence.

A strong gust of cold air coming up from the valleys of the Sarre,
brought from a distance, like a sigh, the ceaseless sounds of the
torrents and the woods. The moon, just emerging from behind the cloud,
shed her pale light over the gloomy forests of the Blanru with their
tall fir-trees loaded with snow.

Ten minutes after, the sledge reached the corner of these woods, and
Doctor Lorquin, turning round on his saddle, called out:

"Now, Frantz, what shall we do? This is the path which leads towards
the hills of St. Quirin, and this other leads down to the Blanru; which
shall we take?"

Frantz and his escort had come up with them. As they found themselves
then on the eastern declivity of the Donon, they began to see again, on
the other side, high in air, the firing of the Germans who came by the
Grosmann.

They saw nothing but the flashes, and a few instants after the reports
awoke the echoes of the abyss.

"The path by the hills of St. Quirin," said Frantz, "is the
shortest way to the farm of Bois-des-Chênes; we shall gain at least
three-quarters of an hour."

"Yes," cried the doctor; "but we risk being stopped by the
_kaiserlicks_, who now hold the pass of the Sarre. See, they are
already masters of the heights; they have, no doubt, sent detachments
on to Sarre-Rouge to secure the passage of the Donon."

"Let us take the path by the Blanru," said Frantz; "it is longer, but
it is safer."

The sleigh descended the path, to the left through the woods. The
volunteers marched one behind the other, gun in hand, on the rising
ground, while the doctor on horseback in the road beneath made his way
through the untrodden snow that lay thick upon the ground. Above hung
the branches of the dark fir-trees overshadowing the gloomy pathway,
while all around the moon was shining brightly. As they proceeded thus
for about a quarter of an hour, in silence, Catherine, after having
held her tongue for a long while, not being able to contain herself any
longer, exclaimed:

"Doctor Lorquin, now that you have got us into the pass of the Blanru,
and can do what you like with us, perhaps you will be good enough to
explain why we have been taken away by force? Jean-Claude came and
caught me up in his arms, and tossed me on to this truss of straw, and
here I am!"

"Houp, Bruno!" said the doctor.

Then he gravely replied:--"To-night, Dame Catherine, the worst of
misfortunes has befallen us. You must not be angry with Jean-Claude,
for through the fault of another, we lose the fruit of all our
sacrifices."

"By whose fault?"

"Of that unlucky Labarbe, who has not held the pass of the Blutfeld. He
has since died doing his duty; but that does not repair the disaster,
and if Piorette does not come in time to the support of Hullin, all is
lost! We must yield our posts, and beat a retreat."

"What! Blutfeld is taken?"

"Yes, Dame Catherine; who the deuce would have ever thought that the
Germans could approach that way? A defile almost impracticable for foot
passengers, hemmed in as it is between perpendicular rocks, where the
shepherds themselves can hardly descend with their flocks of goats.
Well, they passed through there, two by two; surprised Roche-Creuse;
they killed Labarbe, and then fell upon Jerôme, who defended himself
like a lion until nine o'clock in the evening; but, at the last, he was
obliged to fly into the fir forest, and leave the passage free to the
_kaiserlicks_. That is the whole of the story. It is fearful. There
must have been in the country some man cowardly enough, vile enough, to
guide the enemy to our rear, and deliver us up, bound hand and foot.
Oh! the wretch!" exclaimed Lorquin, his voice quivering with rage. "I
am not naturally cruel; but if he should fall into my clutches, I would
tear him to pieces! Houp, Bruno! come up!"

The volunteers still continued their way along the rising ground,
silently, like shadows.

The sleigh again set off at full gallop, then, after a while, relaxed
its speed; the horse was panting for breath.

The old farm-mistress continued silent, to arrange these fresh ideas in
her head.

"I begin to understand," said she, after a few moments; "we have been
attacked to-night in front and on the side."

"Exactly so, Catherine; fortunately, ten minutes before the attack,
one of Marc Divès' men--a smuggler, Zimmer, the ex-dragoon--came in
breathless haste to put us on our guard. But for that, we should have
been lost. He came up with our vanguard, after having ran the gauntlet
of a whole regiment of Cossacks on the side of the Grosmann. The poor
devil had received a terrible sword-thrust; his bowels were hanging
over his saddle; were they not, Frantz?"

"Yes," gloomily replied the young huntsman.

"And what did he say?" asked the old farm-mistress.

"He had only time to cry, 'To arms! we are surprised. Jerôme has sent
me. Labarbe is dead. The Germans have forced the Blutfeld.'"

"He was a brave man," said Catherine.

"Yes, he was a brave man!" replied Frantz, despondingly.

Then all became silent again, and for a long time the sleigh continued
to wend its way along the winding valley.

At times it was obliged to stop, the snow was so deep; three or four
mountaineers then got down to lead the horse by the bridle, and they
thus continued on their way.

"But, for all that," rejoined Catherine, suddenly rousing herself from
her reverie, "Hullin might just as well have told me."

"But if he had told you of those two attacks," interrupted the doctor,
"you would have wanted to stay behind."

"And who could have prevented my doing what I wish? If I pleased now to
alight at this moment from the sleigh and go back, should I not be free
to do so I have forgiven Jean-Claude, and I am sorry that I did so."

"Oh! Mother Lefévre, if he should happen to be killed while you were
saying that?" murmured Louise.

"The child is right," thought Catherine; and then quickly added: "I say
that I am sorry for it; but he is such a brave and worthy man that you
cannot be angry with him. I forgive him with all my heart; in his place
I should have acted like him."

Two or three hundred paces further on, they entered the defile of the
Roches. The snow had ceased to fall; the moon was shining brightly
between two large black and white clouds. The narrow gorge, shut in by
steep rocks, lay stretched in the distance, and on the mountain sides,
tall fir-trees lifted their lofty tops to the skies. Nothing disturbed
the deep silence of the woods; you might have thought yourself far away
from any human agitation. The silence was so profound that not only was
every one of the horse's steps distinctly heard on the snow, but at
times even his heavy breathing. Frantz Materne would sometimes stop,
and cast a hasty, anxious glance around, then step out quickly again to
overtake the others.

And valleys succeeded to valleys. The sleigh ascended, descended,
turned to the right, then to the left, while the mountaineers, with the
glitter of their steel bayonets just visible in the greyish dawn, as
perseveringly followed it.

They had just reached thus, about four o'clock in the morning, the
meadow of the Brimbelles, where there may be seen in our own day a
large oak just at the turn of the valley. On the other side, on the
left, in the midst of trees and shrubs all white with snow, behind its
little stone wall, and the palings of its little garden, the old house
of the keeper Cuny was just beginning to be visible, with its three
beehives safely fixed on a plank, its old knotty vine creeping to the
very top of its shelving roof, and its little branch of fir suspended
outside in form of a sign, for Cuny carried on also the trade of
publican in this solitary place.

[Illustration]



CHAPTER XXII.


At the spot which the sleigh and the convoy had reached, the road winds
round at the higher portion of the level ground, which lies four or
five feet below, and as a thick cloud veiled the moon, the doctor,
afraid of upsetting his equipage, stopped under the oak.

"We have only about an hour's journey more, Dame Lefévre," said he, "so
be of good heart; we are out of danger now."

"Yes," said Frantz; "we have got the worst part over, and now we can
let the horse take a little breath."

All the band gathered round the sleigh, and the doctor alighted. Some
struck a match to light their pipes, but no one said anything, for
they were all thinking of the Donon. What was passing there? Would
Jean-Claude succeed in holding his position until the arrival of
Piorette? So many painful things, so many mournful reflections passed
through the minds of these brave fellows, that no one had the least
desire to speak.

When they had been standing for about five minutes beneath the old
oak, just as the cloud was slowly retiring, and the pale moonlight
streamed through the gorge, all at once, at two hundred paces opposite
them, a dark figure on horseback appeared in the footpath among the
fir-trees. The moon's rays, falling full on this tall dark figure,
revealed distinctly to them a Cossack, with his sheepskin cap, and
his long lance under his arm, the point behind. He was coming along
at a gentle trot. Frantz had already taken aim, when behind the first
appeared another lance, then another Cossack, then another, and among
the dark shadows of the trees, and under the pale canopy of heaven, the
trampling of horses and glittering of lances announced the approach
of the Cossacks in single file, who were coming straight towards the
sledge, but leisurely, like people who are searching for something,
some with upturned faces, others leaning forward over the saddle as
though to look underneath the bushes; altogether there were more than
thirty of them.

Judge of the emotion of Louise and Catherine, seated on their sleigh
in the middle of the road. They looked at each other in open-mouthed
surprise. Another moment, and they would be in the midst of those
bandits. The mountaineers seemed stupefied; it was impossible to
return: on one side the meadow slope to descend, on the other the
mountain to climb. The old farm-mistress, in her distress, took Louise
by the arm, exclaiming: "Let us escape into the woods!"

She attempted to get out of the sleigh, but her shoe stuck fast in the
straw.

Suddenly one of the Cossacks uttered a guttural exclamation, which ran
through the whole line.

"We are discovered!" cried Doctor Lorquin, drawing his sword.

He had hardly said the word when a dozen shots lit up the path from
one end to the other, and a regular howling of savages replied to the
volley; the Cossacks crossed from the path into the meadow opposite,
their reins hanging loosely, knees squared, urging their horses
to their utmost speed, and making for the keeper's house with the
fleetness of stags.

"Ha! they must be riding to the devil!" cried the doctor.

But the worthy man spoke too soon; at two or three hundred paces down
in the valley, the Cossacks suddenly wheeled round, like a flock of
starlings describing a circle--then, with poised lance, and nose bent
down between their horses' ears, they galloped furiously right down
upon the mountaineers, uttering their hoarse war-cry: "Hurrah! hurrah!"

It was a terrible moment!

Frantz and the others flung themselves on the wall to cover the sledge.

Two seconds after, nothing was heard but the clashing of lances and
bayonets, cries of rage answering to imprecations; nothing seen under
the shadow of the old oak, through whose branches some pale rays of
light still glimmered, but horses rearing on their hind legs, wildly
tossing their manes, madly striving to leap over the meadow wall, and
above, veritably savage faces, with gleaming eyes, uplifted arms,
hurling furious blows, advancing, retreating, and uttering wild shouts
fit to make the hair stand erect upon your head.

Louise, as pale as death, and the old farm-mistress, with her long thin
gray locks, were standing up in the straw.

Doctor Lorquin stood before them, parrying the blows with his sword,
and all the while he was warding them off he kept shouting: "Lie down!
Death and destruction! keep down, will you?"

But they did not hear him.

Louise, in the midst of this tumult, of these savage shouts, thought of
nothing but shielding Catherine; and the old farm-mistress--judge of
her terror!--had just recognised Yégof, on a tall, bony horse--Yégof,
his tin crown on his head, his matted beard, his lance in hand, and
his long sheepskin floating from his shoulders. She saw him there as
plainly as if it had been broad daylight; yes, it was he whose sinister
face she beheld ten paces off, with its flaming eyes, darting forth his
long blue lance and striving to reach her. What should she do? Submit,
yield to her fate? Thus it is that the firmest natures feel themselves
forced to bow before an inflexible destiny. The old woman believed
herself doomed beforehand; she believed herself foredoomed, and gazed
on all those ferocious men, yelling and leaping like so many hungry
wolves, aiming and receiving blows in the soft clear moonlight. She saw
some struck down, and their horses, the bridle hanging over their neck,
escaping into the meadow. She saw the uppermost windows in the keeper's
house open on the left, and old Cuny, in his shirt-sleeves, level his
gun, without daring to fire into the _mêlée_. She saw all these with
singular clearness, and kept saying to herself: "The fool has returned:
whatever happens, he will hang my head to his saddle. It must end as it
did in my dream!"

And, in truth, everything seemed to justify her fears. The
mountaineers, too inferior in number, were giving way.

There was a regular hand-to-hand encounter. The Cossacks, leaping up
the ascent, fought in the path; one sword-thrust, better directed than
the others, reached the back of the old woman's head; she felt the
touch of the cold steel just in the nape of her neck.

"Oh! the wretches!" she shrieked, falling back, and supporting herself
with her two hands at her back.

Doctor Lorquin himself had just been knocked against the sleigh. Frantz
and the rest, surrounded by twenty Cossacks, could not run to their
assistance. Louise felt a hand laid upon her shoulder; it was the hand
of the fool, still bestriding his tall horse.

At this supreme moment, the poor child, mad with fear, uttered a cry of
agony; at the same moment she caught sight of something shining in the
dark, the pistols of Lorquin, and, quick as lightning, snatching them
from the doctor's belt, she fired both shots at once, scorching the
beard of Yégof, whose pale face was lit up by the flash, and shattering
the skull of a Cossack who was leaning towards her, his white eyes
distended with desire.

In another instant, she seized Catherine's whip, and, standing up,
pale as a corpse, she lashed the flanks of the horse, who set off at
full gallop. The sleigh flew wildly along; it swayed to the right and
left. All of a sudden, there was a violent shock; Catherine, Louise,
and all rolled in the snow down the steep descent of the ravine. The
horse suddenly stopped short, thrown back upon his haunches, his mouth
covered with bloody foam.

Rapid as this fall had been, Louise had seen some shadows pass like the
wind behind the trees. She had heard a terrible voice, that of Divès,
shout: "Forward! Stab, stab!"

It was but a vision, one of those confused apparitions such as pass
before our eyes at our last hour; but as she arose, no doubt remained
in the poor girl's mind; a sharp conflict was raging at twenty paces
from her, behind a ridge of trees, and Marc was shouting lustily:
"Courage, lads! no quarter!"

Then she saw a dozen Cossacks climbing up the opposite side of the
mountain, through the bushes, like hares, and above, in the broad
light of the moon, Yégof crossing the valley at his utmost speed,
like a frightened bird. Several shots were sent after him, but the
fool escaped them all, and, drawing himself up to his full height
in his spurs, he turned round, brandishing his lance with a defiant
air, and uttering a loud hurrah in the shrill tone of a heron who has
just escaped from the talons of the eagle, and wings his rapid flight
through the air.

Two shots were again sent after him from the keeper's house; something,
a shred of his rags, detached itself from the person of the fool, who
continued his way, repeating his hurrahs in a hoarse accent while
scaling the path his comrades had taken.

And all this vision disappeared as in a dream.

Then Louise turned round; Catherine was standing beside her, not less
dumfounded, but not less watchful. They looked at each other for a
moment, and then threw themselves into each other's arms with a feeling
of inexpressible relief.

"We are saved!" murmured Catherine. And, woman-like, they both began to
cry.

"You have behaved bravely," said the farm-mistress--"well, very well.
Jean-Claude, Gaspard, and I, we may be proud of you."

Louise was agitated by such profound emotion that she trembled from
head to foot. The danger past, her own gentle nature regained the
ascendancy; she was at a loss to account for the courage she had just
shown.

In another moment, finding themselves a little recovered, they were
preparing to climb back into the road, when they saw five or six of the
mountaineers and the doctor coming to look after them.

"Ah! it's no use for you to cry, Louise," said Lorquin; "you are a
dragon, a right-down imp. Now, your heart's in your mouth to look at
you, but we all saw you at work. And, by-the-bye, my pistols--where are
they?"

At this moment there was a rustling among the bushes, and the tall form
of Marc Divès appeared, sword in hand, while he exclaimed:

"Holloa! Dame Catherine; those are rough adventures. A thousand
thunders! what a lucky chance that I should happen to be there! Those
beggars would rifle you from head to foot!"

"Yes," said the old farm-mistress, pushing her gray hair under her cap,
"it is most fortunate."

"Fortunate! Ah! I believe you. It is not more than ten minutes since
I arrived with my ammunition waggon at Cuny's house. 'Don't go to the
Donon,' said he to me; 'for the last hour the sky has been all red on
that side. There is fighting going on there, you may be sure.' 'You
think so?' 'Yes, I do indeed.' 'Then Joson shall go out and look about
and see how the land lays.' 'Good.' Joson had no sooner gone than I
hear shouts like five hundred devils. 'What's the matter, Cuny?' 'Can't
say.' We push the door open, and we see the hurly-burly. Ha!" continued
the tall smuggler, "it did not take me long to be among them. I leap on
my good horse, Fox, and then forward. What a piece of luck!"

"Ah!" said Catherine, "if we were only sure that our affairs were going
as well as the Donon, we might rejoice in good earnest."

"Yes, yes, Frantz told me all about that--that's the devil; there must
be always some hitch," replied Marc. "In short--in short, we are still
stuck fast here, with our feet in the snow. Let us hope that Piorette
will not leave his comrades long in that plight, and now let us empty
our glasses, which are still half full."

Other smugglers had just arrived, saying that that wretch of a Yégof
might be back soon, with a lot more of his own sort at his back.

"That is true," replied Divès. "We will return to the Falkenstein,
since that is Jean-Claude's order; but we cannot take our waggon with
us; it would prevent our taking the cross-roads, and, in an hour, all
those bandits would be down on us tooth and nail. Let us go, in the
first place, back to Cuny's; Catherine and Louise will not be sorry to
drink a cup of wine, nor the others either; it will warm their hearts
for them. Come up, Bruno!"

He took the horse by the bridle. Two wounded men had just been laid
on the sleigh. Two others having been killed, with seven or eight
Cossacks lying dead upon the snow, their large boots wide apart, were
obliged to be abandoned, and they proceeded directly towards the house
of the old ranger. Frantz was consoling himself for not having been at
the Donon. He had run two Cossacks through, and the sight of the inn
besides tended to put him into good humour. In front of the door the
ammunition waggon was stationed. Cuny came out to meet them, exclaiming:

"Welcome, Dame Lefévre; what a night for women! Sit down! What is going
on up above there?"

Whilst they were hastily draining a bottle, he was obliged to have
everything explained to him over again. The good old man, dressed in a
simple jerkin and green breeches, with his wrinkled face and bald head,
listened eagerly, his eyes quite round with surprise, his hands clasped
as he exclaimed:

"Good God! good God! what times we live in! Now-a-days you cannot go
along the high road without the risk of being attacked. It is worse
than the old stories of the Swedes."

And he shook his head.

"Come," cried Divès, "time presses; let us be going!"

When all were ready to start, the smugglers led the waggon, which
contained some thousands of cartridges and two little barrels of
brandy, about five hundred yards off; they then unharnessed the horses.

"Now, keep going on!" cried Marc, "in a few minutes we will rejoin you."

"But what are you going to do with that vehicle there?" asked Frantz.
"Since we have not time to take it back to the Falkenstein, better put
it safe under Cuny's shed than leave it in the middle of the road."

"Yes, to get the poor old fellow strung up when the Cossacks arrive,
for they will be here before another hour. Don't trouble yourself about
anything. I know what I'm about."

Frantz rejoined the sleigh, which set out on its way. In a short time
they passed the sawpit, and then took a short cut to the right to
reach the farm of Bois-des-Chênes, whose tall chimney was discernible
three-quarters of a league off.

When they were halfway up the mountain, Marc Divès and his men overtook
them, calling out to them: "Halt! stop a little while. Look down below
there."

And they all, having looked behind towards the bottom of the gorge, saw
the Cossacks caracoling round the cart, to the number of two or three
hundred.

"They are here! Let us fly!" cried Louise.

"Stay a little," replied the smuggler; "we have nothing to fear."

He was just speaking, when an immense sheet of flame extended its two
crimson wings from one mountain to the other, illuminating the woods
and rocks to their very summits, as well as the little house of the
ranger, then came such an explosion that it made the very earth tremble.

And as all the bewildered spectators stood looking at each other, for
the moment speechless and spell-bound with fear, Marc's loud peals of
laughter mingled with the sounds that still rang in their ears.

"Ha! ha! ha!" he exclaimed, "I was sure that the beggars would stop
around the waggon to drink my brandy, and that the match would have
time to reach the powder! You think they are likely to follow us, do
you? I tell you what, their arms and legs are by this time hanging to
the branches of the fir-trees! Come on; and may Heaven do as much to
all those who attempt to cross the Rhine!"

All the escort, the mountaineers, the doctor--everybody, had grown
silent again. So many terrible emotions inspired each one with endless
thought, quite different from those of ordinary life. They could not
help saying to themselves: "What are men, thus to destroy, torment,
devour, and ruin each other? What have they done, that they should hate
each other so? And what can the ferocious spirit that excites them to
it be, if it's not the devil himself?"

Divès and his men alone could behold such things unmoved, and while
they galloped away, laughed and applauded themselves.

"For my part," said the tall smuggler, "I never saw such a capital
joke. Ha! ha! ha! I shall never stop laughing at it, if I live for a
thousand years."

Then all of a sudden a gloom came over him, and he exclaimed:

"For all that, this must be Yégof's work. We must be blind not to see
that it is he who led the Germans to the Blutfeld. I should be sorry
if he had met his end by the blowing up of my cart. I have something
better in store for him. All I desire is, that he may keep all right
until we chance to meet each other somewhere in the corner of a wood.
If I have to wait a year, ten, twenty years, no matter, so it comes at
last. The longer I shall have waited, the better my appetite will be:
tit-bits are good cold, like boar's head cooked in white wine."

He said this in a laughing, good-humoured way, but those who knew him
augured from it no good to Yégof.

In half an hour after they had all arrived before the farm of
Bois-des-Chênes.



CHAPTER XXIII.


Jerôme de St. Quirin had safely effected his retreat upon the farm.
Since midnight he had occupied the rising ground on which it stood.

"Who goes there?" was the challenge of the sentinels as the escort
approached.

"It is us--us from the village of Charmes," replied Marc Divès in his
stentorian voice.

They were recognised and allowed to pass.

The farm was wrapped in silence. An armed sentinel was walking up
and down before the barn, where about thirty of the mountaineers
were asleep upon some straw. Catherine, at sight of those heavy
gabled roofs, those old outhouses, those stables, of all that ancient
dwelling-place within whose walls she had passed her youth, where her
father and her grandfather had tranquilly spent their peaceful and
industrious lives, and which she was about to abandon, perhaps for
ever, Catherine felt a terrible oppression of the heart; but she kept
the feeling to herself, and springing from the sleigh, just as in
former times she used to return from market:

"Well, Louise," said she, "here we are at home again, thanks be to God."

Old Duchêne had come and opened the door, exclaiming:

"Ah! is it you, Madame Lefévre?"

"Yes, it is us! No news of Jean-Claude?"

"No, Madam."

Then they all went into the large kitchen.

Some embers were still blazing on the hearth, and under shadow of the
immense chimney-piece was sitting Jerôme de Saint-Quirin, with his
large cloth hood, his sandy pointed beard, his thick stick between his
knees, and his carbine resting against the wall.

"Good-morrow, Jerôme," said the old farm-mistress.

"Good-morrow, Catherine," answered the grave and solemn leader of the
Grosmann, "you come from the Donon?"

"Yes. Things are taking a bad turn, my poor Jerôme! we were obliged to
leave the farm, because it was attacked by the _kaiserlicks_. There was
nothing but white uniforms to be seen on every side. They were just
beginning to pass the barricades."

"Then you think that Hullin will be obliged to abandon the position?"

"If Piorette does not come to his assistance, it is possible!"

The mountaineers had drawn near the fire. Marc Divès was stooping over
the ashes to light his pipe; as he raised himself up, he exclaimed:

"For my part, Jerôme, I only wish to ask you one thing: I know already
that the men under your command fought well."

"We did our duty," replied the shoemaker; "there are sixty men lying
dead on the side of the Grosmann, who will be able to say as much at
the last judgment."

"Yes; but who, then, was it that acted as guide to the Germans? They
could not of themselves have found out the passage of the Blutfeld."

"It is Yégof, the fool Yégof," said Jerôme, whose gray eyes, circled by
deep wrinkles, and overhung by thick white eyebrows, seemed really to
flash with fire as he spoke.

"Ah! You are quite sure of it?"

"Labarbe's men saw him in the act--he was leading the others."

The mountaineers regarded each other with looks of indignation.

At this moment Doctor Lorquin, who had stayed outside to unharness the
horse, opened the door, exclaiming:

"The pass is lost! Here are our men from the Donon; I have just heard
Lagarmitte's horn."

It is easy to imagine the emotion of the bystanders. Every one began to
think of the relations, the friends, whom he might perhaps never see
again, and all, including those in the kitchen and the barn, rushed
out to learn the news. At the same moment, Robin and Dubourg, who were
placed as sentinels on the Bois-des-Chênes, exclaimed:

"Who goes there?"

"France," replied a voice.

And, in spite of the distance, Louise, thinking she recognised her
father's voice, was seized with such a sudden emotion, that Catherine
was obliged to support her in her arms.

Almost immediately the sound of a number of footsteps was heard upon
the hard crisp snow, and Louise, no longer able to contain herself,
cried out, in a trembling voice:

"Papa Jean-Claude!"

"Here I am," replied Hullin, "here I am!"

"My father?" exclaimed Frantz Materne, running to meet Jean-Claude.

"He is with us, Frantz."

"And Kasper?"

"He has received a little scratch; nothing worth speaking of; you will
see them both directly."

At the same moment Catherine threw herself into Hullin's arms.

"Oh! Jean-Claude, what happiness to see you again!"

"Yes," said the brave man, in a sorrowful tone, "there are many who
will never behold those they love again."

"Frantz," old Materne was then heard calling out, "here! this way!"

And on all sides nothing was to be seen but people looking for each
other, shaking hands and embracing. Others were calling, "Niclau!
Sapheri!" but from more than one no answer came.

Then the voices grew hoarse, as if stifling, and ended by being silent.
The joy of some, and the consternation of others, imparted a sort of
terror to the scene.

Louise was weeping freely in Hullin's arms.

"Ah! Jean-Claude," said Dame Lefévre, "you have got something to hear
about that child there. At present I shall not tell you anything,
except that we were attacked."

"Oh! yes. We will talk of all that by-and-by. We have no time to lose
now," said Hullin. "The pass of the Donon is lost, the Cossacks may be
here by daybreak, and we have still many things to do."

He turned the corner and entered the farm; every one followed him.
Duchêne had just thrown a fresh log on to the fire. Those faces
blackened with powder, still flushed with fighting, their garments
torn by bayonets, some stained with blood, advancing from the shadowy
darkness outside into the full light cast by the blazing fire,
presented a singular and striking spectacle. Kasper had his forehead
bound up with his handkerchief, having received a cut from a sabre. His
bayonet, the front of his dress, and his long blue cloth gaiters were
spotted with blood. As for old Materne, he, thanks to his imperturbable
presence of mind, returned safe and sound from the strife and carnage.
The remnants of the two troops of Jerôme and Hullin thus found
themselves re-united.

There were the same wild figures, inspired by the same energy and the
same spirit of vengeance; only the latter, harassed by fatigue, were
sitting right and left, on logs of wood, on the edge of the sink, on
the low stones of the hearth, with their head between their hands,
their elbows on their knees. Others were staring vacantly about them,
and not being able to convince themselves of the disappearance of Hans,
and Joson, and Daniel, were exchanging questions, which were followed
by long intervals of silence. Materne's two sons were holding each
other by the arm, as if they were afraid of losing one another, and
their father, behind them, leaning against the wall, with his elbow
resting on his gun, was regarding them with a contented air. "There
they are; I see them," he seemed to be saying to himself; "they are
famous fellows! They have both come off with whole skins." And the
worthy man coughed gently behind his hand. If any one came to him to
ask about Pierre, or Jacques, or Nicolas, he would answer at random:
"Yes, yes; there are plenty of them down below there lying on their
backs. But what would you have? It's the fortune of war. Your Nicolas
has done his duty. You must console yourself with that." And in the
meanwhile he was thinking to himself: "Mine are not left in the lurch;
that's what I care about most."

Catherine was laying the table, assisted by Louise. In a short time,
Duchêne came up from the cellar with a barrel of wine on his shoulder,
which he placed on the dresser; he tapped it, and then every one of the
mountaineers brought his glass, his mug, or his jug, and filled it from
the purple stream that glistened in the blazing light of the fire.

"Eat and drink!" cried the good farm-mistress; "it is not over yet, and
you've still need of all your strength. Here, Frantz, take down those
hams for me. Here is bread, knives; and now sit down, my children."

Frantz made a spit of his bayonet, and hung up the hams in the wide
fire-place.

They drew the benches forward, they sat down, and, in spite of their
grief, proceeded to eat with that vigorous appetite of which neither
present griefs nor cares for the future can wholly deprive strong men.
But that did not prevent a poignant sorrow clutching at the heart of
these brave fellows, and first one and then another would suddenly
stop, and, laying down his fork, quit the table, saying, "I have had
enough."

While the mountaineers were thus repairing their strength, their
leaders were assembled in the next room, making fresh dispositions for
the defence. They were sitting round the table, lighted by a solitary
tin lamp; Doctor Lorquin, with his great dog Pluto by his side, Jerôme
in the angle of a window on the right, Hullin on the left, quite pale.
Marc Divès, with his elbow on the table, his cheek on his hand, had his
broad shoulders turned to the door: he only showed his brown profile
and one of the corners of his long moustache. Materne alone remained
standing, as usual, against the wall, behind Lorquin's chair, his gun
at his feet. From the kitchen came the hum of voices.

When Catherine, sent for by Hullin, entered, she heard a sort of
groaning sound which caused her to start. It was Hullin who was
speaking.

"All those brave lads, all those fathers of families who fell one after
the other," he was saying, in a tone of bitter grief, "do you think
that it does not wring my very heart? Do you think that I would not
rather a thousand times over have been massacred myself? Ah! You know
not what I have suffered this night! To lose your own life is nothing,
but to bear alone the weight of such a responsibility----!"

He was silent, but the quivering of his lips, a tear that rolled slowly
down his cheek, his very attitude, all showed the scruples of the
honest man, and that he found himself in a situation where conscience
herself hesitates and seeks fresh support. Catherine went very gently
and seated herself in a large arm-chair on the left. After a few
seconds, Hullin added, in a calmer tone: "Between eleven o'clock and
midnight, Zimmer arrived, shouting, 'We are taken in the rear! The
Germans are coming down from the Grosmann; Labarbe is dead; Jerôme
cannot hold out any longer!' And then he said no more. What was to be
done? Could I beat a retreat? Could I abandon a position which had
cost us so much blood, the pass of the Donon, the road to Paris? If I
had done so, should I not have been a poltroon? But I had only three
hundred men against four thousand at Grandfontaine, and I don't know
how many who came down from the mountain! Well, cost what it would,
I resolved to hold out. It was our duty. I said to myself: 'Life is
nothing without honour! We will all die; but it shall never be said
that we have surrendered the road to France. No, no; it shall never be
said!'"

As he spoke these words, Hullin's voice again shook with emotion, his
eyes filled with tears, and he added: "We held our post; my brave
children held it until two o'clock. I saw them fall around me. As they
fell they shouted: 'Hurrah for France!' At the beginning of the action,
I had sent to warn Piorette. He arrived at full speed, with about fifty
good men. It was already too late; the enemy poured down on us right
and left; they held three parts of the ground, and drove us back into
the fir-forests on the side of the Blanru; we could not stand against
their fire. All that I could do was to collect my wounded, those who
were still able to drag themselves away, and place them under the
escort of Piorette. About a hundred of my men joined him. For myself,
I kept only fifty to go and occupy the Falkenstein. We cut our way
through the Germans who would have stopped our retreat. Fortunately
the night was dark; but for that, not a soul among us would have
escaped. This, then, is the state of things with us; all is lost! The
Falkenstein alone is left to us, and we are reduced to three hundred
men. The thing is now to know whether we are determined to go on to
the end. For myself, I have told you it is painful to me to bear such a
heavy responsibility alone. As long as it was a question of defending
the pass of the Donon, there could be no doubt about the matter: every
one owes his life to his country; but this pass is lost; we should want
ten thousand men to enable us to re-take it, and at this very moment
the enemy is entering Lorraine. Now then, what is to be done?"

"We must go on to the end," said Jerôme.

"Yes, yes," exclaimed the others.

"Is this your opinion, Catherine?"

"Certainly!" exclaimed the old farm-mistress, whose features expressed
inflexible firmness.

Then Hullin, in a firmer tone, proceeded to disclose his plan.

"The Falkenstein is our point of retreat. It is our arsenal; it is
there that we have our ammunition; the enemy know it, and will attempt
to storm it. To prevent that, we must all of us here present hasten
thither to its defence; all the country round must see us, so that they
may be able to say--Catherine Lefévre, Jerôme, Materne and his sons,
Hullin, Doctor Lorquin, are there. They will not lay down their arms!
This thought will reanimate the courage of all honest people. At the
same time, Piorette will hold himself in readiness in the woods; his
followers will increase every day. The country will soon be over-run
with Cossacks--with robbers of every description. As soon as the enemy
shall have entered Lorraine, I will make a signal to Piorette; he will
throw himself between the Donon and the road, and all the stragglers
scattered over the mountain will be caught, as in a net. We may also
profit by favourable chances to carry off the convoys of the Germans,
harass their reserves, and, if fortune favours us as we must hope, and
all these kaiserlicks should be beaten in Lorraine by our army, we
shall then be able to cut off their retreat."

Every one rose, and Hullin, entering the kitchen, made this simple
address to the mountaineers:

"My friends, we have just decided to resist to the very last. At the
same time, every one is free to do as he likes, to lay down his arms,
to return to his village; but let those who desire to avenge themselves
assemble with us; they shall share our last bit of bread and our last
cartridge."

The old bargeman Colon rose and said:

"Hullin, we are all with you; we have begun to fight all together, and
we shall finish all together."

"Yes, yes!" cried out all the others.

"You have all decided, then? Very well! listen to me. Jerôme's brother
will take the command."

"My brother is dead," interrupted Jerôme; "he is lying on the side of
the Grosmann."

There was a moment's silence; then, in a firm voice, Hullin continued:

"Colon, you will take the command of all those who are left, with the
exception of the men who formed the escort of Catherine Lefévre, and
whom I shall retain with me. You will go and rejoin Piorette in the
valley of the Blanru by the way of the Two Rivers."

"And the ammunition?" inquired Marc Divès.

"I have brought back my waggon," said Jerôme; "Colon can make use of
it."

"Let the sleigh be got ready as well," exclaimed Catherine; "when the
Cossacks come they will plunder everything. We must not let our people
go away empty-handed; let them take away the oxen, the cows, and the
goats; let them carry off everything; it is so much lost for the enemy."

Five minutes after, the farm was being completely stripped of
everything; they were loading the sleigh with hams, smoked meats,
bread; leading the cattle from the stables, harnessing the horses to
the great waggon; and in a short time the convoy set out on its march,
with Robin at the head, and the volunteers behind, pushing at the
wheels. When it had disappeared in the woods, and silence suddenly
succeeded to all this noise, Catherine, as she turned round, saw Hullin
behind her as pale as death.

"Well, Catherine," said he, "all is settled."

Frantz, Kasper, and those who formed the escort, all stood ready armed
and waiting in the kitchen.

"Duchêne," said the brave woman, "do you go down to the village; we
must not have the enemy ill-treating you on my account."

The old servant then, shaking his white head, and with his eyes full of
tears, replied:

"So that I but die here, Madame Lefévre. It is fifty years since I
first came to the farm. Do not force me to go away from it; it would be
my death."

"As you will, my poor Duchêne," replied Catherine, greatly moved at
this proof of her old servant's fidelity. "Here are the keys of the
house."

And the poor old man went and sat down on a stool beside the hearth,
with his eyes fixed, and his mouth half open, like one lost in a sad
and bewildering dream.

They set out on their way to the Falkenstein. Marc Divès on horseback,
his long rapier in his hand, formed the rear-guard. Frantz and Hullin
were on the left overlooking the mountain side; Kasper and Jerôme on
the right of the valley; Materne and the men of the escort surrounded
the women.

Strange to say, in front of the cottages of the village of Charmes, on
the doorsteps of the houses, at the casements, at the windows, appeared
faces young and old, watching with curious eyes this flight of Dame
Lefévre, and evil tongues did not spare her.

"Ah! she's come to ruin at last," said they. "This comes of meddling
with what does not concern you!"

Others made the reflection aloud that Catherine had been rich quite
long enough, and that it was now her turn to come down in the world.
As for the industry, the wisdom, the goodness of heart, and all
the other virtues of the good old farm-mistress, the patriotism of
Jean-Claude, the courage of Jerôme, and Materne and his two sons, the
disinterestedness of Doctor Lorquin, the devotion of Marc Divès, no one
said anything about them--they were conquered!

[Illustration]



CHAPTER XXIV.


At the bottom of the valley of the Bouleaux, about two gun-shots from
the village of Charmes, on the left, the little troop began to ascend
slowly the footpath of the old _burg_. Hullin, remembering that he
had followed the same road when he went to buy powder of Marc Divès,
could not help a feeling of deep sadness from stealing over him. Then,
in spite of his journey to Phalsbourg, in spite of the spectacle of
the wounded of Hanau and of Leipzic, in spite of the old sergeant's
recital, he despaired of nothing; he preserved all his energy, and had
no fear of the success of the defence. How all was lost: the enemy
was descending on Lorraine, the mountaineers were flying. Marc Divès
was riding slowly by the side of the wall through the snow; his big
horse, accustomed, no doubt, to this journey, kept neighing, tossing up
his head, and dropping it down again on his breast, in sudden jerks.
The smuggler turned round in his saddle from time to time, to throw a
glance back on the farm of Bois-des-Chênes they were quitting. Suddenly
he exclaimed:

"Hi! here are the Cossacks in sight!"

At this exclamation all the troops halted to look about. They were
already a good way up the mountain, above the village and even the farm
of Bois-des-Chênes. The gray wintry dawn was dispersing the mists of
morning, and amid the recesses of the mountain were visible the forms
of several Cossacks, with head erect, pistol in hand, approaching at a
slow pace the old homestead. They were advancing cautiously, and seemed
as if they feared a surprise. A few moments after, others appeared in
sight, ascending the valley of the Houx, then others still, and all in
the same attitude, standing up in their stirrups, to see as far off
as possible, like men who are hoping to discover something. The first
comers, having passed the farm and observing nothing threatening, waved
their lances and wheeled half-round. All the others then galloped up to
the spot, like crows following one of their number who has taken wing,
supposing he has just discovered a prey. In a few seconds the farm was
surrounded, the door opened. Two minutes later, there was a crashing
of glass, and out through the windows came furniture, mattrasses, and
linen tumbling about in all directions. Catherine, with her hooked nose
drawn down to her very lip, looked calmly on this scene of ravage.
For a long time she said nothing, but suddenly seeing Yégof, whom she
had not perceived until then, strike Duchêne with the butt of his
lance, and push him out of the farm, she could not restrain a cry of
indignation:

"Oh! the brute! What a coward he must be to strike a poor old man, who
cannot defend himself. Ah! the wretch!"

"Come, Catherine," said Jean-Claude, "we've seen enough of it; there's
no good in feasting your eyes on that!"

"You are right," said the old farm-mistress; "let us go: I should be
tempted to go down among them to avenge myself single-handed."

The higher they ascended the mountain, the clearer and sharper grew
the air. Louise, the true daughter of the _Heimathslôs_, with a
little basket of provisions on her arm, was climbing the steep side
at the head of the troop. The pale blue sky, the plains of Alsace and
Lorraine, and, quite on the verge of the horizon, those of Champagne,
all that boundless expanse stretching far as the eye could reach,
excited in her breast feelings of the deepest enthusiasm. She seemed as
if she had wings to skim the azure vault of heaven, like those great
birds which sweep down from the tops of the trees to the abyss below
uttering their cry of freedom. All the miseries of this lower world,
all its injustices and its sufferings, were forgotten. In fancy Louise
again saw herself just a little creature on the back of her mother, the
poor strolling gipsy, and said to herself: "I was never more happy,
never had less care, never laughed and sang so much! And yet we often
wanted bread then. Ah! those were happy days!" And then snatches of old
songs would come back to her mind.

At the approaches to the rock, which was of a reddish-brown, incrusted
with large black and white pebbles, and inclining over the precipice
like the arches of an immense cathedral, Louise and Catherine stopped
in an ecstacy of surprise and delight at the scene that lay before
them. Overhead, the firmament appeared to them still more spacious,
the path cut in the rock still narrower. The valleys stretching away
far out of sight, the endless woods, the distant lakes and pools of
Lorraine, the narrow streamlet of the Rhine like a blue riband on
their right. This grand spectacle touched them deeply, and the old
farm-mistress said, with a sort of enthusiasm:

"Jean-Claude, He who has cut this rock that towers to the skies, who
has hollowed out these valleys, who has planted the trees, the shrubs,
and the mosses of the forest, He will render us the justice we deserve."

As they stood thus regarding the steep and lofty rock, Marc Divès led
his horse into a cavern near at hand, then he returned, and beginning
the ascent before them, he said to them:

"Take care; it is very slippery."

At the same time he pointed out to them, on their right, the blue
precipice with the tops of the tall fir-trees at the bottom.

Every one became silent until they came to the terrace where the vault
began. Arrived there, each one seemed to breathe more freely. They saw,
about halfway, the smugglers, Brenn, Pfeifer, and Toubac, with their
large gray cloaks, and black felt hats, sitting round a fire which
seemed to extend the whole length of the rock. Marc Divès said to them:

"Here we are. The _kaiserlicks_ have got the upper hand. Zimmer has
been killed to-night. Is Hexe-Baizel up above there?"

"Yes," replied Brenn, "she is making cartridges."

"They may be of use still," said Marc; "keep your eye open, and if you
see any one approaching, fire upon him."

The Maternes had stopped on the edge of the rock, and those three tall
red fellows, their felt hats pushed back, their powder-flask on their
hip, carbine on shoulder, long muscular legs firmly planted on the
solid point of the rock, formed a strange and striking group. Old
Materne, with outstretched hand, was pointing out at a distance, very
far off, an almost imperceptible white speck in the middle of the fir
forests, saying:

"Do you know what that is, boys?"

And they all three looked at it with half-closed eyes.

"It is our house," replied Kasper.

"Poor Magrédel!" replied the old huntsman, after a moment's silence.
"How uneasy she must have been for the last week! What vows has she not
offered up for us to Saint Odile!"

Just at this moment, Marc Divès, who was in front, uttered a cry of
surprise. "Dame Lefévre," said he, suddenly stopping short, "the
Cossacks have set fire to your farm!"

Catherine received this news with the utmost calmness, and advanced
to the very edge of the terrace; Louise and Jean-Claude followed
her. The bottom of the abyss was covered with a thick white cloud;
through this cloud was to be seen a bright spark in the direction of
Bois-des-Chênes, and nothing more; but at intervals, when there was
a gust of wind, the fire was distinctly visible. The two tall black
gables, the haystack on fire, the little stables with flames bursting
from them; then all disappeared again.

"'Tis already nearly over," said Hullin, in a low voice.

"Yes," replied the old farm-mistress, "there goes forty years of labour
and toil; but no matter--they cannot burn our good lands, the broad
meadows of the Eichmath. We will set to work again. Gaspard and Louise
will put that all right. I do not repent of what I have done."

After about a quarter of an hour, there was a regular volley of sparks,
and then the whole lay in ruins. The black gables alone were left
standing. They then resumed their way up the steep and rocky footpath.
As they reached the upper terrace, they heard the sharp voice of
Hexe-Baizel:

"Is it you, Catherine?" she exclaimed. "Ah! I never thought that you
would come and see me in my poor hole."

Hexe-Baizel and Catherine Lefévre had formerly been school-fellows
together, so they now addressed each other in a familiar manner.

"Nor I either," replied the old farm-mistress; "but no matter, Baizel,
in misfortune we are always glad to meet with an old friend of our
childhood." Baizel seemed touched by the remark.

"All that is here, Catherine, is yours," she exclaimed--"all!"

She pointed to her poor stool, her besom of green broom, and the five
or six billets of wood on her hearth. Catherine looked around for some
moments in silence, and said:

"It is not much, but it is solid; one comfort, they will not burn your
house down."

"No, they will not burn it," said Hexe-Baizel, with a laugh; "they
would want a large quantity of wood even to warm it a little. He! he!
he!"

The volunteers, after so many fatigues, felt in need of repose, so
every one hastened to rest his gun against the wall, and to stretch
himself upon the ground. Marc Divès opened the door of the inner cavern
for them, where they were at least under shelter; then he went out with
Hullin to examine the position.



CHAPTER XXV.


On the rock of the Falkenstein, at its very highest point, rises
a round tower hollowed out at its base. This tower, covered with
brambles, white thorns, and myrtles, seems as old as the mountain
itself. Neither French, Germans, nor Swedes have been able to destroy
it. The stone and the cement are united so firmly, that not the least
fragment can be detached. It has a gloomy and mysterious aspect, which
carries you back to bygone times to which the memory of man cannot
reach. At the period of the passage of the wild geese, Marc Divès used
frequently to lie in ambush there when he had nothing better to do, and
sometimes at the fall of day, just as the flocks were arriving through
the mist, and describing a large circuit before retiring to rest, he
would bring down two or three, to the great delight of Hexe-Baizel,
who was always very eager to put them on the spit. Often, too, in the
autumn, Marc would spread his nets among the bushes, into which the
thrushes would drop without even a struggle; so that, in short, the old
tower served him as a sort of storehouse.

How many times had Hexe-Baizel, when the north wind blew hard enough
to tear the horns from off the oxen, and the noise, the cracking of
the branches, and the hoarse groaning of the surrounding forests
ascended on high like the clamour of an angry sea--how many times had
Hexe-Baizel been nearly carried away as far as the Kilbéri opposite?
But she would cling to the bushes with both hands, and the wind but
succeeded in shaking out her red locks.

Divès, having noticed that his wood, from being often covered with snow
and steeped with rain, gave out more smoke than flame, had sheltered
the old tower with a roof made of planks. On this subject the smuggler
had a singular story to relate: He asserted that he had discovered
while fixing the rafters, at the bottom of a fissure, an owl as white
as snow, blind, and feeble, provided in abundance with field-mice
and bats. For this reason he had christened her the _Grandmother of
the Land_, supposing that all the birds came and brought her food on
account of her extreme old age and feebleness.

At the close of this day, the mountaineers placed in observation, like
the dwellers in a vast hotel, on all the ridges of the rock, saw the
white uniforms appear in the neighbouring gorges. They were issuing
in vast masses from all sides at once, which showed clearly their
intention of blockading the Falkenstein. Marc Divès, seeing that, grew
more thoughtful.

"If they surround us," thought he, "we shall no longer be able to
procure provisions; we shall have to surrender or perish with hunger."

They could perfectly distinguish the staff officers of the enemy's
forces, riding leisurely round the fountain in the village of Charmes.
There, too, was one of the great leaders, heavy of body, with a fat
paunch, who was surveying the rock with a long telescope; behind
him stood Yégof, whom the officer turned round from time to time to
question. The women and children formed a circle further off, looking
wonderingly on, and five or six Cossacks were caracoling round. The
smuggler could not restrain himself any longer; he took Hullin aside:

"Look," said he, "at that long file of shakos appearing all along the
Sarre; and on this side too, others who are ascending from the valley
like hares, with long strides; they are _kaiserlicks_, are they not?
Well, what are they going to do there, Jean-Claude?"

"They are going to surround the mountain."

"That is very clear. How many do you think there are?"

"From three to four thousand men."

"Without counting those who are dispersed throughout the country. Well,
what would you have Piorette do against this host of vagabonds, with
his three hundred men? I ask you that plainly, Hullin."

"He can do nothing," replied the brave man, simply. "The Germans know
that our ammunition is at the Falkenstein; they fear a rising after
their entry into Lorraine, and wish to protect their rear. Their
general has discovered that he cannot subdue us by main force; he has
resolved to reduce us by famine. All that, Marc, is positive, but we
are men, we will do our duty; we will die here!"

There was a moment's silence; Marc Divès knit his brow, and did not
seem at all convinced.

"We will die!" he exclaimed, scratching the back of his head. "For my
part, I don't at all see why we should die; that does not enter into my
ideas, there are too many people who would be delighted at it!"

"What would you do, then?" said Hullin, in a dry tone--"would you
surrender?"

"I surrender!" exclaimed the smuggler. "Do you take me for a coward?"

"Then explain yourself."

"This evening I set out for Phalsbourg: I risk my skin by crossing the
enemy's lines, but I like that better than to cross my arms here and
perish by famine. I shall either enter the place at the first sortie or
endeavour to gain an outpost. The Governor, Meunier, knows me. I have
sold him tobacco for the last three years. Like you, he has served in
the campaigns of Italy and Egypt. Well, I shall lay the case before
him. I shall see Gaspard Lefévre. I will do so much that they will
perhaps give us a company. We want nothing but the uniform, do you see,
Jean-Claude, and we are saved. All that are left of our brave fellows
will join Piorette, and, in any case, we may be relieved. In short,
that is my idea; what do you think of it?"

He looked at Hullin, whose fixed and gloomy eye disturbed him.

"Come, is there not a chance?"

"It is an idea," said Jean-Claude at length. "I do not oppose it."

And, in his turn, looking the smuggler straight in the face:

"You swear to me to do your utmost to gain entrance to the place?"

"I swear nothing at all," replied Marc, whose brown cheeks were
suffused with a sudden red. "I leave here all that I have: my property,
my wife, my comrades, Catherine Lefévre, and yourself--my oldest
friend. If I do not return, I shall be a traitor; but, if I do return,
Jean-Claude, you shall give me a little explanation of the question
you have just put to me: we have a little account to settle together!"

"Marc," said Hullin, "forgive me; I have suffered too much these last
few days! I have been wrong; misfortune makes me mistrustful. Give me
your hand! Go, save us, save Catherine, save my child! I say this to
you now; we have no resource but in you."

Hullin's voice trembled: Divès allowed himself to be moved by it; only
he added:

"For all that, Jean-Claude, you should not have spoken so to me at such
a moment; let us never speak of it again! I will leave my skin by the
way, or else return to deliver you; this very evening at night time, I
will set forth! The _kaiserlicks_ are already encircling the mountain;
no matter, I have a good horse, and, besides, I've always been lucky."

By six o'clock the loftiest of the mountain tops were wrapped in
darkness. Hundreds of fires sparkling at the bottom of the gorges
announced that the Germans were preparing their evening meal. Marc
Divès descended the footpath on tiptoe. Hullin listened a few
seconds longer to the sound of his comrade's footsteps; then he
directed his own, in a meditative mood, towards the old tower where
the head-quarters had been established. He raised the thick woollen
covering which shut in the owl's nest, and saw Catherine, Louise, and
the others crouching round a little fire which threw its feeble light
upon the grey walls. The old farm-mistress, seated on a block of oak,
with her hands clasped round her knees, was watching the flame with
fixed eye, compressed lips, and livid complexion; Louise, leaning with
her back against the wall, seemed absorbed in a dream; Jerôme, standing
behind Catherine, with his hands crossed upon his stick, touched with
his thick otter-skin cap the rotten roof. All were sad and dispirited.
Hexe-Baizel, who was lifting up the lid of a saucepan, and Doctor
Lorquin, who was scraping the mortar of the old wall with the point of
his sword, alone preserved their wonted aspect.

"Here we are," said the doctor, "come back to the time of the
Triboques. These walls are more than two thousand years old. A good
quantity of water must have flowed from the heights of the Falkenstein
and the Grosmann, by the Sarre to the Rhine, since a fire was lit in
this tower."

"Yes," replied Catherine, like one awaking from a dream; "and many
others beside us have suffered here cold, hunger, and poverty. Who
has known of it? No one. And in a hundred, two hundred, three hundred
years, others, perhaps, will come again to seek shelter in this same
place. They will find, like us, the cold wall, the damp earth. They
will make a little fire. They will look round as we do. And they will
say, like us: 'Who has suffered before us here? Why have they suffered?
They were then pursued, hunted, as we are, to come and hide themselves
in this miserable hole.' And they will think of times past, and none
will be able to reply to them!"

Jean-Claude had approached. In a few seconds, the old farm-mistress,
raising her head, began to say, as she regarded him:

"Well! We are surrounded--the enemy wants to reduce us by famine!"

"It is true, Catherine," replied Hullin. "I did not expect that. I
reckoned on an attack by main force; but the _kaiserlicks_ are not
yet quite as far advanced as they think. Divès has just set out for
Phalsbourg; he is acquainted with the governor of the place. And if
they will send only a few hundred men to our succour----"

"We must not count upon it," interrupted the old woman. "Marc may be
taken or killed by the Germans. And then, even suppose that he succeeds
in crossing their lines, how will he be able to enter Phalsbourg? You
know well that the place is besieged by the Russians!"

Then every one became silent.

Hexe-Baizel soon after brought the soup, and they made a circle round
the steaming bowl.

[Illustration]



CHAPTER XXVI.


Catherine Lefévre went out of the old cavern about seven o'clock in
the morning; Louise and Hexe-Baizel were still asleep; but broad
daylight, the splendid daylight of the upper regions, was already
streaming through every abyss. At the bottom, through the bright azure,
were outlined the woods, the valleys, and the rocks as clearly as the
mosses and pebbles of a lake beneath its crystal waters. Not a breath
disturbed the air; and Catherine, in presence of this spectacle of
boundless nature, felt herself calmer, more tranquil than even in sleep.

"What," said she, to herself, "are our petty troubles of a day, our
trials and vexations? Why weary Heaven with our murmurs? Why dread
the future? All this only lasts but for a second. Our complaints are
of no more account than the cry of the grasshopper in autumn: do its
cries prevent winter from coming? Must not the times and seasons be
accomplished, and all die to be born again? We have been dead before
and have returned again; we shall die again, and again return. And the
mountains, with their forests, their rocks, and their ruins, will be
ever there to say to us: 'Remember! Remember! Thou hast seen me; behold
me again; and thou shalt see me again from generation to generation!'"

Thus mused the old woman, and the future no longer made her afraid;
thoughts for her were only memories.

And while she was standing there for a few moments, all of a sudden a
hum of voices struck upon her ear; she turned, and saw Hullin with the
three smugglers, who were conversing gravely together on the other side
of the plateau. They had not perceived her, and seemed engaged in a
serious discussion.

Old Brenn, standing on the edge of the rock, with the blackened
stump of a pipe between his teeth, his cheek wrinkled like an old
cabbage-leaf, his round nose, gray moustache, flabby eyelid drooping
over his blood-shot eye, and the long sleeves of his gaberdine falling
by his side, was looking at the different points which Hullin was
showing him on the mountain; and the two others, wrapped in their long
gray cloaks, were pacing to and fro, shading their brows with their
hands, and seeming absorbed in profound attention.

Catherine drew near, and soon she heard:

"Then you do not believe it will be possible to descend on either side?"

"No, Jean-Claude, there is no way," replied Brenn, "those brigands know
the country, every inch of it; all the paths are guarded. See, look at
the deer pasture all along that pond; the preventive officers never
had a thought of even noticing it; well, the Allies are defending it.
And, below there, the passage of the Rothstein, a regular goat-walk,
which you never pass above once in ten years--you can see the glitter
of a bayonet behind the rock, can you not? And that other here, where I
have carried on my little game for eight years without ever meeting a
gendarme--they are holding that too. The very devil himself must have
shown them the defiles."

"Yes!" exclaimed the tall Toubac, "and if it is not the devil who has
put his foot in it, it must, at least, be Yégof."

"But," replied Hullin, "it seems to me as if three or four firm
determined men might carry one of those outposts."

"No, they are supported one by the other; at the first report of a gun,
you would have a regiment upon your back," replied Brenn. "Besides,
supposing we should have a chance of passing, how should we return with
provisions? For my part, this is my opinion: The thing is impossible!"

There was a silence of some moments.

"But still," said Toubac, "if Hullin wishes it, we will try, all the
same."

"We will try what?" said Brenn, "to break our backs in trying to escape
ourselves, and leave the others in the net. It's all the same to me;
if the rest go--I go! But as to saying that we shall return with
provisions, I maintain that it's impossible. Let us see, Toubac, by
which way would you pass, and by which way would you return? It's no
use in this case promising; you must perform. If you know a passage,
tell it me. For twenty years I have beaten the mountain with Marc, and
I know every road, every path within ten leagues from here, and I do
not see any other passage than in heaven!"

Hullin turned round at this moment and saw Dame Lefévre, who was
standing a few paces off, and listening attentively.

"What! were you there, Catherine?" said he. "Our affairs are beginning
to take a bad turn."

"Yes, I understand: there are no means of renewing our provisions."

"Our provisions," said Brenn, with a strange smile. "Do you know, Dame
Lefévre, for how long we have enough?"

"Why, for a fortnight," replied the brave woman.

"We have enough for a week," said the smuggler, emptying the ashes of
his pipe upon his nail.

"It is the truth," said Hullin; "Marc Divès and I believed in an
attack on the Falkenstein; we never thought the enemy would dream of
beleaguering it like a fortified place. We have been mistaken!"

"And what are we going to do?" asked Catherine, turning quite pale.

"We are going to reduce every one's rations to half. If in a fortnight
Marc does not arrive, we shall have nothing more--and then we shall
see!"

So saying, Hullin, Catherine, and the smugglers, with heads bowed down,
took their way back by the gap. They had just set foot on the descent,
when at thirty paces above them appeared Materne, who was scrambling,
quite out of breath, through the ruins, and clinging to the bushes to
get along quicker.

"Well," exclaimed Jean-Claude, "what's going on, old fellow?"

"Ah! there you are--I was looking for you. An officer from the enemy's
camp is advancing along the wall of the old _burg_, with a little white
flag; he seems as if he wishes to speak with us."

Hullin, immediately continuing his way towards the declivity of the
rock, saw, in effect, a German officer standing on the wall, and who
seemed to be waiting till they made a sign to him to ascend. He was
within two gun-shots; farther off were stationed five or six soldiers,
with grounded arms. After having inspected this group, Jean-Claude
turned and said:

"It is an officer, who comes, no doubt, to summon us to surrender the
place."

"Let them send a shot at him!" exclaimed Catherine; "it's the best
answer we can make him."

All the others appeared of the same opinion, except Hullin, who,
without making any observation, descended to the terrace, where the
rest of the volunteers were.

"My children," said he, "the enemy sends us an envoy. We do not know
what they want of us. I suppose it is a summons to lay down our arms,
but it is possible it may be something else. Frantz and Kasper will go
to meet him; they will bandage his eyes at the foot of the rock, and
lead him here."

No one having any objection to make, the sons of Materne slung their
carbines over their shoulders, and withdrew beneath the winding
archway. At the end of about ten minutes the two tall red hunters came
up to the officer. There was a rapid conference between them, after
which they all began to ascend the Falkenstein. As the little group
came gradually nearer, they were better able to distinguish the uniform
of the envoy, and even his physiognomy. He was a spare man, with rather
light hair, a well-formed figure, and resolute movements. At the foot
of the rock, Frantz and Kasper bandaged his eyes, and in a short time
their footsteps were heard beneath the vault. Jean-Claude going
himself to meet them, untied the handkerchief, saying:

"You desire to communicate something to me, sir; I am ready to listen
to you."

Tho mountaineers were about fifteen paces from this group. Catherine
Lefévre, who was the foremost, was knitting her brows. Her bony figure,
her long and hooked nose, the three or four locks of her gray hair
straggling over her flat temples, and the bones of her hollow cheeks,
the compression of her lips, and the fixity of her look, seemed at
first to attract the attention of the German officer; then the gentle
and pale face of Louise behind her; then Jerôme, with his long sandy
beard, draped in his tunic of coarse cloth; then old Materne, leaning
upon his short carbine; then the others; and, finally, the high red
vault, the colossal masses of which, built up of flint and granite,
hung over the precipice with some withered brambles. Hexe-Baizel,
behind Materne, her long besom of green broom in her hand, outstretched
neck, and heel on the very edge of the rock, seemed to astonish him for
a second.

He himself was the object of marked attention. You recognised in his
attitude, in his long face, with its sharp outline and brown skin, in
his clear grey eyes, in his slender moustache, in the delicacy of his
limbs hardened by the toils of war, the marks of an aristocratic race.
He had about him a mixture of the old campaigner and the man of the
world--the swordsman and the diplomatist.

This reciprocal inspection terminating in the twinkling of an eye, the
envoy said, in good French--

"Is it to Commander Hullin that I have the honour to address myself?"

"Yes, sir," replied Jean-Claude; and as the other was casting an
undecided look around the circle: "Speak out, sir," he exclaimed,
"that every one may hear you! When the question is one of honour and
country there is no one in France that may not hear what we have to
say--the women are as much concerned in the affair as we are. You have
propositions to make to me; and, in the first place, on the part of
whom?"

"On the part of the General commanding-in-chief. Here is my commission."

"Good! We will hear you, sir."

Then the officer, raising his voice, said in a firm tone:

"Permit me first, Commander, to tell you that you have magnificently
fulfilled your duty. You have compelled the esteem of your enemies."

"In the matter of duty," replied Hullin, "there is neither more nor
less; we have done our best."

"Yes," added Catherine, drily; "and since our enemies esteem us on
account of that, well, they will esteem us still more in a week or a
fortnight--for we are not at the end of the strife. We shall see some
more of it."

The officer turned his head, and stood like one stupefied at the savage
energy imprinted in the looks of the old woman.

"These are noble sentiments," he replied, after a moment's silence;
"but humanity has its rights, and to shed blood wantonly is to render
evil for evil."

"Then, why do you come into our country?" cried Catherine, in her sharp
eagle's voice. "Quit it, and we will leave you in peace!" Then she
added: "You make war like robbers; you steal, you plunder, you burn!
You deserve all to be hung. You ought to be thrown from that rock as an
example!"

The officer turned pale, for the old woman appeared to him quite
capable of executing her threat; he, however, recovered himself almost
immediately, and replied, in a calm tone:

"I know that the Cossacks have set fire to the farm which is to be
seen opposite this rock--they are ruffians, such as are to be found in
the train of every army--but this solitary act proves nothing against
the discipline of our troops. Your French soldiers did many such
things in Germany, and particularly in the Tyrol; not content with
plundering and setting fire to the villages, they mercilessly shot
down every mountaineer suspected of having taken up arms in defence of
his country. We might make reprisals; it would only be our right, but
we are not savages; we can appreciate all that is great and noble in
patriotism, even in its most unfortunate inspirations. Moreover, it is
not against the French people that we are making war; it is against
the Emperor Napoleon. Besides, the General, on hearing of the conduct
of the Cossacks, has publicly denounced this act of vandalism, and,
in addition, has decided that an indemnity should be granted to the
proprietor of the farm."

"I want nothing from you," sharply interrupted Catherine; "I prefer to
be left with my injustice--and to avenge myself!"

The envoy saw by the old woman's tone that he could not make her listen
to reason, and that it was even dangerous to make her a reply. So he
turned towards Hullin, and said:

"I am commissioned, Commander, to offer you the honours of war, if
you surrender this position. You have no provisions--we know it. In a
few days, at latest, you will be compelled to lay down your arms. The
esteem the General-in-Chief feels for you has alone decided him to
propose to you these honourable conditions. A longer resistance would
lead to no good. We are masters of the Donon; the body of our army has
passed into Lorraine; it is not here the campaign will be decided--you
have, therefore, no interest in defending a useless position. We wish
to spare you the horrors of famine upon this rock. Come, Commander,
decide!"

Hullin turned to his followers, and said to them simply: "You have
heard? For my part, I refuse but I will submit if every one else
accepts the proposition of the enemy?"

"We all refuse!" said Jerôme.

"Yes--yes, all!" repeated the others.

Catherine Lefévre, hitherto inflexible, happening to look at Louise,
seemed touched; she took her by the arm, and turning to the envoy, she
said:

"We have a child with us; would there be no means of sending her to one
of our relations at Saverne?"

No sooner had Louise heard these words, than throwing herself into
Hullin's arms, with a sort of terror, she exclaimed:

"No--no! I will stay with you, Papa Jean-Claude. I will die with you!"

"'Tis well, sir," said Hullin, quite pale; "go tell your General what
you have seen; tell him that the Falkenstein will remain with us till
death! Kasper, Frantz, lead back the envoy."

The officer seemed to hesitate; but as he was opening his mouth to
speak, Catherine, quite livid with rage, exclaimed:

"Go--go! You are not yet where you think. It is that brigand of a Yégof
who has told you that we had no provisions, but we have enough for two
months; and in two months our army will have exterminated you all. The
traitors will not always have it their own way. Woe be to you!"

And, as she was getting more and more excited, the officer judged it
prudent to retire. He turned towards his guides, who replaced the
bandage, and conducted him to the foot of the Falkenstein.

That which Hullin had ordered on the subject of the provisions was
executed on that very day; each one received his half-ration for the
day. A sentinel was placed before the cavern of Hexe-Baizel, where the
provisions were kept; the entrance was barricaded, and Jean-Claude
decided that the distributions should be made in the presence of all,
in order to prevent injustice. But all these precautions could not
preserve these unfortunate creatures from the horrors of famine.

For three days provisions had completely failed at the Falkenstein,
and Divès had not given signs of life. How many times, during these
long days of agony, had the mountaineers turned their eyes towards
Phalsbourg! how many times had they listened, thinking they heard the
steps of the smuggler, whilst the vague murmur of the air alone filled
space!

It was amid the tortures of hunger that the whole of the nineteenth day
since the arrival of the confederates at the Falkenstein was passed.
They spoke no more; crouched on the ground, with pinched faces, they
remained lost in an endless reverie. At times they looked at each other
with flashing eye, as if ready to devour each other; then they grew
calm and gloomy again.

When Yégof's raven, flying from peak to peak, was seen approaching
this scene of misfortune, old Materne shouldered his carbine; but
immediately the bird of ill-omen would take flight at its utmost speed,
uttering dismal croakings; and the arm of the old hunter fell powerless.

[Illustration]



CHAPTER XXVII.


As if the exhaustion of hunger had not sufficed to fill up the measure
of the misery they were enduring, the unhappy mountaineers, keeping
their dreary vigils on the Falkenstein, only opened their mouths to
threaten and accuse each other.

"Don't touch me!" screamed Hexe-Baizel, in a voice like a polecat's, to
those who looked at her, "don't touch me, or I will bite you!"

Louise grew delirious; her large blue eyes, in place of real objects,
saw only shadows flitting over the plateau, skimming over the tops of
the trees, and plant themselves on the old tower.

"Here are provisions!" she would exclaim.

Then the others would be furious against the poor child, crying out
angrily that she wanted to make game of them, and that she had best
beware.

Jerôme alone still remained perfectly calm; but the great quantity
of snow which he had drunk to appease the inward anguish that was
consuming him, bathed all his body and his face with a cold sweat.

Doctor Lorquin had tied a handkerchief round his loins, and tightened
it more and more, declaring that he thus satisfied his stomach. He was
seated against the tower, with his eyes shut; from hour to hour he
opened them, saying:

"We are at the first--at the second--at the third period. One day more,
and all will be over!"

He would then begin a dissertation upon the Druids, on Odin, Brahma,
Pythagoras, making Latin and Greek quotations, announcing the
approaching transformation of the people of Harberg into wolves, into
foxes, into animals of all sorts.

"For my part," he would exclaim, "I shall be a lion! I will eat fifteen
pounds of beef a-day!"

Then, recovering himself:

"No, I will be a man; I will preach peace, fraternity, justice! Ah!
my friends," he would say, "we suffer by our own fault. What have we
done, on the other side of the Rhine, for the last ten years? By what
right did we want to impose masters on those peoples? Why did we not
exchange our ideas, our sentiments, the products of our arts and of
our industry, with them? Why did we not go to seek them as brothers,
instead of wishing to subjugate them? We should have been well
received. What must they have suffered--the unfortunates--during those
ten years of violence and rapine? Now they avenge themselves; and it is
justice! May the curse of Heaven alight on the wretches who divide the
peoples to oppress them!"

After these moments of excitement, he would sink fainting against the
wall of the tower, murmuring:

"Bread. Oh, for nothing but a morsel of bread!"

The sons of Materne, crouching among the bushes, gun on shoulder,
seemed to be awaiting the passage of game which never arrived; the idea
of perpetual ambush sustained their expiring strength.

Some, bent double, were shivering, and felt consumed by fever; they
accused Jean-Claude of having led them to the Falkenstein.

Hullin, with superhuman strength of character, still went and came,
observing what was passing in the surrounding valleys, without saying
anything.

At times he advanced to the very edge of the rock, and with his large
compressed jaws, and flashing eye, watched Yégof sitting before a large
fire, on the plateau of the Bois-des-Chênes, in the midst of a troop
of Cossacks. Since the arrival of the Germans in the valley of the
Charmes, the fool had not quitted this post; he seemed, from there, to
gloat over the agony of his victims.

Such was the aspect of these unfortunates under the vast canopy of
heaven.

The punishment of hunger at the bottom of a dungeon is frightful,
no doubt, but beneath a sky bathed in light, in the eyes of a whole
country, in face of the resources of nature, it passes all expression.

Now at the close of this nineteenth day, between four and five o'clock
in the evening, the weather had lowered: large grey clouds rose behind
the snowy summit of the Grosmann; the sun, red as a bullet just out
of the furnace, was casting his last rays athwart the murky sky. The
silence on the rock was profound. Louise gave no more sign of life.
Kasper and Frantz continued motionless among the shrubs like stones.
Catherine Lefévre, crouching on the ground, her sharp knees between her
skinny arms, her rigid and hard features, her hair hanging over her
livid cheeks, with haggard eye, and chin as sharp as a vice, resembled
some old sibyl sitting in the midst of the bushes. She spoke no more.
That evening, Hullin, Jerôme, old Materne, and Doctor Lorquin had
assembled round the old farm-mistress to die together. They were all
silent, and the last faint rays of twilight illumined the dismal group.
To the right, behind a jutting point of the rock, some fires of the
Germans glimmered in the abyss. And as they sat there, all at once
the old woman, coming out of her long reverie, murmured at first some
unintelligible words.

"Divès is here!" said she at length, in a low voice. "I see him; he is
leaving the postern, to the right of the arsenal. Gaspard follows him,
and----"

Then she counted slowly:

"Two hundred and fifty men," said she; "national guards and soldiers.
They cross the bridge; they mount behind the half-moon. Gaspard is
speaking with Marc. What is he saying?"

She appeared to listen:

"'Let us make haste;' yes, make haste; time presses; there they are
upon the glacis!"

There was a moment's silence. Then all at once the old woman, drawing
herself up to her full height, her arms tossed wildly aloft, hair
erect, and mouth quite wide open, shouted, in a terrible voice:

"Courage! kill! kill! ah! ah!"

And she fell heavily back.

This fearful cry awakened everybody; it would have awakened the dead.
All the besieged seemed to be born again. Something was in the air.
Was it hope, life, soul? I know not; but all came hurrying along like
a troop of deer, holding their breath to hear. Louise herself moved
softly and raised her head. Frantz and Kasper dragged themselves along
upon their knees; and, strange to say, Hullin, casting his eyes through
the darkness in the direction of Phalsbourg, thought he saw the fire
and smoke of a volley of musketry announcing a sortie.

Catherine had resumed her former attitude; but her cheeks, just now as
lifeless as a plaster mask, shook violently; her eye was again covered
with a dreamy film. All the others listened; it might have been said
that their existence hung upon her lips. Nearly a quarter of an hour
had passed, when the old woman slowly continued:

"They have crossed the enemy's lines. They are hastening to
Lutzelbourg. I see them. Gaspard and Divès are in front, with
Desmarets, Ulrich, Weber, and our friends from the city. They come!
They come!"

She was silent anew; a long while yet she listened; but the vision was
gone. Seconds succeeded to seconds, slow as centuries, when suddenly
Hexe-Baizel began to say, in a sharp voice:

"She is mad! she has seen nothing. Marc, I know him. He is laughing
finely at us. What is it to him if we perish? Provided he has his
bottle of wine and chitterlings, and can smoke his pipe quietly in the
chimney-corner, it's all the same to him. Ah! the wretch!"

Then all relapsed into silence, and the unfortunates, a moment revived
by the hope of a near deliverance, fell back again into despair.

"It is a dream," thought they; "Hexe-Baizel is right; we are condemned
to die of hunger."

In the meantime, night was come. When the moon rose behind the tall
fir-trees, casting her pale rays on the sorrowful groups of the
besieged, Hullin only was still watching, though burnt up with fever.
He heard far, very far off in the gorges the voices of the German
sentinels calling out "_Wer dà! Wer dà!_" the camp patrols going their
rounds through the woods, the shrill neighing of the horses at picket,
their stamping, and the shouts of their keepers. Towards midnight
the brave man ended, however, by going to sleep like the rest. When
he awoke, the village clock of Charmes was striking four. Hullin, at
the sound of its distant vibrations, aroused himself from his stupor;
he opened his eyelids, and as he was looking round, in a sort of
bewildered manner, striving to recover his faculties, the dim light
of a torch passed before his eyes; a fear came over him, and he said
to himself:--"Am I going mad? The night is quite dark, and yet I see
torches."

And yet the flame re-appeared; he regarded it more closely, then rose
abruptly, pressing for a few seconds his hand against his contracted
face. Then, hazarding another look, he saw distinctly a fire on the
Giromani, on the other side of the Blanru; a fire which swept the
heavens with its purple wing, and flickered among the shadows of the
fir-trees on the snow. And, recollecting that this signal had been
agreed on between himself and Piorette to announce an attack, he began
to tremble from head to foot; cold drops of sweat stood on his face,
and walking on tiptoe through the darkness, like a blind man, with
outstretched hands, he stammered:

"Catherine! Louise! Jerôme!"

But no one replied to him, and after having groped about in this way,
thinking he was walking, while in reality he was not taking a single
step, the unhappy man fell back, exclaiming:

"My children! Catherine! They come! We are saved!"

Immediately there was heard a vague murmur; it seemed as if the
dead were re-awakening. There was a burst of dry laughter; it was
Hexe-Baizel, gone mad from suffering. Then Catherine exclaimed:

"Hullin! Hullin! Who spoke?"

Jean-Claude, recovered from his emotion, exclaimed, in a firmer tone:

"Jerôme, Catherine, Materne, and you all, are you dead? Do you not see
that fire down there, on the side of the Blanru? It is Piorette, who is
coming to our assistance."

And, at the very same moment, a loud explosion rolled through the
gorges of the Jægerthâl with the sound of a tempest. The trumpet of the
last judgment would not have produced more effect on the besieged; they
suddenly awoke.

"It is Piorette! It is Marc!" was screeched by voices, broken,
dry--voices of mere skeletons; "they come to save us!"

And all these poor wretches strove to rise; some sobbed; but they had
no more tears. A second explosion brought them to their feet.

"Surely that is platoon firing," exclaimed Hullin; "our people fire
also in platoons; we have soldiers of the line; hurrah for France!"

"Yes," replied Jerôme, "Dame Catherine was right; the Phalsbourgians
are coming to our relief; they are descending the hills of the Sarre,
and there is Piorette, now heading the attack on the Blanru."

In effect, the firing began to resound from both sides at once, towards
the plateau of the Bois-des-Chênes and the towering heights of the
Kilbéri.

Then the two leaders embraced each other; and as they walked on tiptoe
through the thick darkness, trying to gain the edge of the rock, all of
a sudden Materne's voice was heard, loudly exclaiming:

"Take care, my lads, the precipice is there!"

They stopped, looking down at their feet; but there was nothing to be
seen; a gust of cold air coming up from the abyss alone warned you
of the danger. All the mountain tops and the surrounding gorges were
plunged in thick darkness. On the sides of the mountain opposite, the
lights from the firing flashed like lightnings, illuminating now an old
oak, the dark outline of a rock, now a cluster of furze bushes, and
groups of men going and coming as in the midst of a fire. Two thousand
feet below, in the depth of the gorges, were heard heavy sounds, the
gallop of horses, confused clamours mingling with the word of command.
At times the cry of the mountaineer hailing, that prolonged cry,
echoing from one mountain top to the other, "He! oh! he!" rose to the
topmost height of the Falkenstein like a sigh.

"It is Marc," said Hullin; "it is the voice of Marc."

"Yes, it is Marc who is bidding us keep up our courage," replied Jerôme.

All the others, crouching round them, with outstretched neck, and
hands grasping the edge of the rock, strained their eyes to see. The
firing continued with a vivacity which betrayed the fierceness of the
battle, but it was impossible to see anything. Oh, what would they have
given to take part in this supreme conflict, the unfortunates! With
what ardour would they have thrown themselves into the fray! The dread
of being again abandoned, of seeing at daylight their defenders in
retreat, rendered them dumb with fear.

Meanwhile, day was beginning to dawn; the first pale glimmer of light
was breaking over the dark tops of the mountains; some rays descended
into the shadowy valleys; half-an-hour after they silvered the misty
vapours of the abyss. Hullin, casting a look through these breaks in
the clouds, was able at length to recognise the position. The Germans
had lost the heights of the Valtin and the plateau of Bois-des-Chênes.
They were now massed in the valley of Charmes, at the foot of the
Falkenstein, a third part of the way up the side, to be out of the
reach of their adversaries' fire. Opposite the rock, Piorette, master
of Bois-des-Chênes, was ordering barricades to be thrown up on the
side of Charmes. He was going hither and thither, the end of his pipe
between his lips, his felt hat cocked on his ear, his carbine slung
over his shoulder. The blue axes of the woodcutters glittered in the
morning sun. To the left of the village, on the side of the Valtin,
in the middle of the brushwood, Marc Divès, on a little black horse,
with a long flowing tail, his long sword in his hand, was pointing to
the ruins and the _schlitte_ road. An officer of infantry, and some
national guards in blue coats, were listening to him. Gaspard Lefévre,
alone, in advance of this group, leaning on his gun, seemed thoughtful.
It might be seen from his attitude that he was forming desperate
resolutions for the moment of attack. In fine, quite on the summit of
the hill, against the wood, two or three hundred men, ranged in line,
with grounded arms, stood watching also.

The sight of this small number of defenders wrung the hearts of the
besieged; so much the more that the Germans, seven or eight times
superior in numbers, were beginning to form two columns of attack to
regain the positions they had lost. Their general was sending horsemen
in all directions carrying orders. Rows of bayonets were beginning to
defile.

"It's all over!" said Hullin to Jerôme. "What can five or six hundred
men do against four thousand in line of battle? The Phalsbourgians will
return home, and say, 'We have done our duty!' And Piorette will be
crushed."

All the others thought the same; but that which raised their despair
to its height was to see all at once a long file of Cossacks debouch
in the valley of Charmes at full gallop, and the fool Yégof at their
head, galloping like the wind; his beard, the tail of his horse, his
sheepskin, and his red hair all streaming in the wind. He looked at
the rock, and brandished his lance above his head. At the bottom of
the valley, he spurred straight up to where the major-general of the
enemy's army stood. Arrived near him, he made some gestures indicating
the other side of the plateau of Bois-des-Chênes.

"Ah! the wretch!" exclaimed Hullin. "See! he is telling him that
Piorette has no barricades on that side of the mountain, and that it
must be taken in the rear."

In effect a column immediately set itself on march in that direction,
whilst another directed its movement towards the barricades to mask
that of the first.

"Materne!" exclaimed Jean-Claude, "are there no means of sending a
bullet after the fool?"

The old hunter shook his head. "No," said he, "it is impossible; he is
out of reach."

At this moment, Catherine gave vent to a savage cry--a hawk's cry.
"Let us crush them!--let us crush them as we did at the Blutfeld!"

And this old woman, a moment before so weak, rose and flung herself
upon a mass of rock, which she lifted with her two hands; then,
with her long scanty gray locks, her hooked nose drawn down to her
compressed lips, lank cheeks, and bent back, she advanced with a firm
step to the very edge of the abyss, and the rock cleft the air, tracing
an immense curve.

A horrible noise was heard below. Splinters of fir-trees flew about
in all directions, then an enormous stone was seen to rebound at a
hundred paces with fresh impetus, roll down the steep descent, and,
with a final bound, fall upon Yégof, and crush him at the very feet of
the general of the enemy's forces. All this was accomplished in a few
seconds.

Catherine, standing on the edge of the rock, laughed a laugh that
sounded more like a rattle, and that seemed as if it would never come
to an end.

And all the others, all those phantoms, as if inspired with a new
life, threw themselves upon the crumbling ruins of the old _burg_,
exclaiming--"Death! death! Let us crush them as at the Blutfeld!"

Never was a more horrible scene beheld. Those beings, at the very gates
of the tomb, lean and squalid as skeletons, found fresh strength for
carnage. They stumbled no more; they tottered no more. They lifted each
one his stone, and ran to hurl it down the precipice; then returned to
take another, without even looking at what was passing below.

Now figure to yourselves the stupor of the _kaiserlicks_ at this deluge
of ruins and rocks. They had all turned round at the first sound of the
stones crashing down one after another over the shrubs and the clumps
of trees, and at first they remained as if petrified; but raising their
eyes still higher, and seeing other stones descending and descending
still, and, above all that, spectres running hither and thither,
lifting up their arms, emptying them, and beginning again; seeing their
comrades crushed--rows of fifteen and twenty men overthrown at a single
blow--an immense cry resounded from the valley of the Charmes, as far
as the Falkenstein, and in spite of the voice of the leaders, in spite
of the firing, which recommenced right and left, all the Germans fled
in disorder to escape this horrible death.

When the rout was at its height, the general of the enemy's army had,
however, succeeded in rallying a battalion, and effecting a quiet
retreat towards the village. There was something in this man, calm in
the midst of disaster, grand and dignified. From time to time he turned
round to cast a gloomy look at the falling masses of rock which were
making bloody gaps in his column.

Jean-Claude observed him; and in spite of the intoxication of triumph,
in spite of the certainty of having escaped famine, the old soldier
could not restrain a feeling of admiration.

"Look," said he to Jerôme, "he does as we did on returning from the
Donon and the Grosmann: he remains to the last, and only yields step by
step. Truly there are men of courage in every country."

Marc Divès and Piorette, witnesses of this stroke of fortune, came
down through the fir-trees to endeavour to cut off the retreat of
the enemy's general, but they could not succeed in their attempt.
The battalion, reduced to half, formed a square behind the village
of Charmes, and slowly re-ascended the valley of the Sarre, at times
stopping, like a wounded wild boar who turns upon the pack, when the
men of Piorette and those of Phalsbourg tried to press it too closely.

Thus ended the great battle of Falkenstein, known in the mountain under
the name of the _Battle of the Rocks_.

[Illustration]



CHAPTER XXVIII.


The battle was hardly over, about eight o'clock, when Marc Divès,
Gaspard, and about thirty mountaineers, with panniers of provisions,
ascended the Falkenstein. What a spectacle awaited them up there!
All the besieged, stretched on the ground, seemed dead. It was in
vain to shake them, to shout in their ears, "Jean-Claude! Catherine!
Jerôme!"--they answered not. Gaspard Lefévre, seeing his mother and
Louise motionless and with clenched teeth, told Marc that if they did
not recover he would blow out his brains with his gun. Marc replied
that every one was free to do as he pleased, but that, for his part,
he should not blow out his brains for Hexe-Baizel. At length, old
Colon having deposited his pannier on a stone, Kasper Materne suddenly
sniffed its contents, opened his eyes, and, seeing the provisions,
began to clash his teeth like a fox on the chase.

Then they understood what was the meaning of that; and Marc Divès,
going from one to the other, simply held his flask under their noses,
which sufficed to bring them round. They wanted to swallow all at once;
but Doctor Lorquin, in spite of his delirium, had still the good sense
to warn Marc not to listen to them, and that the least over-feeding
would kill them. So, for this reason, each one received nothing but a
little bread, an egg, and a glass of wine, which singularly revived
their moral courage. They then placed Catherine, Louise, and the others
upon _schlittes_, and re-descended to the village.

As to painting now the enthusiasm and emotion of their friends when
they saw them return, leaner than Lazarus rising from the grave, it is
a thing impossible. They looked at each other, embraced; and at each
fresh comer from Abreschwiller, from Dagsburg, from St. Quirin, or
elsewhere, it was all gone over again.

Marc Divès was obliged to relate more than twenty times the story
of his journey to Phalsbourg. The brave smuggler had not been much
favoured by fortune. After having escaped by miracle from the bullets
of the _kaiserlicks_, he had fallen, in the valley of Spartzprod, into
the midst of a troop of Cossacks, who had stripped him of everything.
He had been compelled to wander afterwards during two weeks round
the Russian posts that encircled the town, braving the fire of the
sentinels and risking twenty times to be arrested as a spy, before
being able to penetrate into the place. To crown all, the governor,
Meunier, alleging the weakness of the garrison, had at first refused
all assistance; and it was only at the pressing solicitation of
the citizens of the town that he at length consented to detach two
companies.

The mountaineers, listening to this recital, admired the courage of
Marc, his perseverance in the midst of dangers.

"Oh!" the big smuggler would good-humouredly reply to those who
congratulated him, "I have only done my duty. Could I leave my comrades
to perish? I knew well it was no easy matter. Those dogs of Cossacks
are more cunning than Custom-house officers; they will scent you out
like ravens. But no matter; we have outwitted them all the same."

When five or six days were passed, every one was afoot. Captain Vidal,
of Phalsbourg, had left twenty-five men at the Falkenstein to guard
the ammunition. Gaspard Lefévre was of the number. The young fellow
came down every morning to the village. The Allies had all passed into
Lorraine; no more was seen of them in Alsace, except round the strong
places.

Soon news was brought of the victories of Champ Aubert and of
Montmirail; but times of great misfortune were at hand. The Allies, in
spite of the heroism of our army and the genius of the Emperor, entered
Paris.

This was a terrible blow for Jean-Claude, Catherine, Materne, Jerôme,
and all the mountaineers; but the recital of these events does not
enter into our history; others have related them.

Peace made, in the spring they rebuilt the farm of Bois-des-Chênes. The
woodcutters, sabôt-makers, masons, bargemen, and all the workmen of the
country lent a hand.

About the same period, the army having been disbanded, Gaspard cut off
his moustaches, and his marriage with Louise took place.

On that day all the combatants arrived from the Falkenstein and the
Donon, and the farm received them with doors and windows wide open.
Every one brought his presents to the bride and bridegroom--Jerôme,
little shoes for Louise; Materne and his sons, a fine heathcock, the
most amorous of birds, as everybody knows; Divès, packets of smuggled
tobacco for Gaspard; and Doctor Lorquin, a parcel of fine linen.

There was open table kept even in the barns and outhouses. What was
consumed in wine, bread, meat, tarts, and _kougelhof_, we cannot say;
but what we know is, that Jean-Claude, who had been very gloomy and
depressed since the entry of the Allies into Paris, brightened himself
up on that day by singing the old air of his youth as gaily as when he
set off, gun on shoulder, for Valmy, Jemmapes, and Fleurus. The echoes
of the Falkenstein opposite repeated from afar this old patriotic
song--the grandest, the most noble that man has ever heard under
heaven. Catherine Lefévre beat time upon the table with the handle of
her knife; and if it is true, as many say, that the dead come to listen
when we speak of them, our brave fellows must have been satisfied, and
the King of Diamonds have foamed in his red beard.

Towards midnight, Hullin rose, and addressing the newly-married couple,
said to them:

"You will have brave children; I will dance them upon my knees; I will
teach them my old song; and then I will go and rejoin my forefathers!"

So saying, he embraced Louise, and arm-in-arm with Marc Divès and
Jerôme, he went down to his little cottage followed by all the wedding
guests, singing in chorus the sublime song.

Never was there seen a more beautiful night; inumerable stars sparkled
in the deep blue sky; there was a gentle rustling among the shrubs
at the foot of the mountain beneath which so many brave men had been
interred. Every one experienced by turns feelings of joy and of regret.

On the threshold of the modest dwelling there was shaking of hands and
wishing good-night; and then all, some to the right, others to the
left, returned to their villages.

"Good night, Materne, Jerôme, Divès, Piorette, good-night!" exclaimed
Jean-Claude.

His old friends returned the salute, waving their hats, and they all
said to themselves:

"There are still days when one is very happy to be in the world. Ah!
if there were never either plagues, or wars, or famines--if men could
agree together, love and help each other--if no unjust quarrels rose
between them, the earth would be a real Paradise!"

[Illustration]


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_By OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES._

 440 Elsie Venner.
 441 Autocrat of the Breakfast Table.


_By SAMUEL LOVER._

 446 He Would be a Gentleman.
 447 Irish Stories and Legends.


_By Mrs. MARSH._

 451 Father Darcy.
 452 Time, the Avenger.
 453 Emilia Wyndham.
 454 Mount Sorrel.


_By ELEANOR F. TROLLOPE._

 459 Aunt Margaret.
 460 A Charming Fellow.
 461 Veronica.
 462 Sacristan's Household.


_By ALBERT SMITH._

 465 Christopher Tadpole.


_By BRET HARTE._

 468 Complete Tales.
 469 The Heathen Chinee.
 470 Wan Lee, the Pagan, &c.
 471 Deadwood Mystery, and Mark Twain's Nightmare.


_By Capt. MAYNE REID._

 474 The Mountain Marriage.


_By Mrs. LYNN LINTON._

 478 Lizzie Lorton.
 479 The Mad Willoughbys.


_By IVAN TURGENIEFF._

 483 Virgin Soil.
 484 Smoke.
 485 Fathers and Sons.
 486 Dimitri Roudine.


_By NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE._

 491 Blithedale Romance.


_By Mrs. CASHEL HOEY._

 492 No Sign.
 493 Blossoming of an Aloe.


_By Mrs. G.M. CRAIK._

 494 Riverston.
 495 Lost and Won.
 496 Winifred's Wooing.


_By T.A. TROLLOPE._

 500 Marietta.
 501 Beppo, the Conscript.
 502 Lindisfarne Chase.
 503 Giulio Malatesta.
 504 La Beata.


_By MARK TWAIN._

 509 The Innocents Abroad.
 510 American Drolleries.
 511 Funny Stories; with Holmes' Humorous Poems.
 512 The Mississippi Pilot; with Bret Harte's "Two Men of Sandy Bar."


_By W.H. MAXWELL._

 516 Hector O'Halloran.


_By HENRY JAMES, Jun._

 519 The American.


_By the Author of "WOMAN'S DEVOTION."_

 524 Mr. and Mrs. Asheton.
 525 Three Wives.
 526 Ladies of Lovel Leigh.
 527 Queen of the County.
 528 Book of Heroines.
 529 Lords and Ladies.
 530 Woman's Devotion.


_By THEODORE HOOK._

 536 Jack Brag.


_By M.W. SAVAGE._

 541 My Uncle, the Curate.
 542 Bachelor of the Albany.
 543 Falcon Family.
 544 Reuben Medlicott.
 545 Clover Cottage.


_By M. BETHAM EDWARDS._

 551 White House by the Sea.
 552 John and I.
 553 Lisabee's Love Story.
 554 Wild Flower of Ravensworth.


_By J. FENIMORE COOPER._

 559 Mark's Reef.
 560 The Sea Lions.


_By JOHN DANGERFIELD._

 564 Grace Tolmar.


_By J.G. HOLLAND._

 565 Arthur Bonnicastle.


_By Miss JEWSBURY._

 568 The Half-Sisters.
 569 Sorrows of Gentility.
 570 Marian Withers.
 571 Constance Herbert.


_By Mrs. GREY._

 575 Mary Seaham.
 576 Gambler's Wife.
 577 The Daughter.


_By JOHN MILLS._

 582 Belle of the Village.
 583 The Briefless Barrister.


_By the Author of "MY FIRST SEASON."_

 588 Charles Auchester.
 589 Counterparts.
 590 My First Season.


_By "SCRUTATOR."_

 595 Master of the Hounds.
 596 Country Gentleman.
 597 Squire of Beechwood.


_By Mrs. W.M.L. JAY._

 602 Shiloh.
 603 Holden with the Cords.


_By Miss R.M. KETTLE._

 606 Smugglers and Foresters.
 607 Mistress of Langdale Hall.
 608 Hillsden on the Moors.
 609 Under the Grand Old Hills.
 610 Fabian's Tower.
 611 The Wreckers.
 612 My Home in the Shires.
 613 The Sea and the Moor.


_By MICHAEL SCOTT._

 620 Tom Cringle's Log.
 621 Cruise of the "Midge."


_By JEAN MIDDLEMASS._

 625 Wild Georgie.


_By the Author of "OLIVE VARCOE."_

 629 Forgotten Lives.
 630 The Kiddle-a-Wink.
 631 Love's Bitterness.
 632 In the House of a Friend.


_By GEORGE MEREDITH._

 635 Tragic Comedians.


_By Capt. ARMSTRONG._

 638 Queen of the Seas.
 639 The Sailor Hero.
 640 Cruise of the "Daring."
 641 The Sunny South.


_By Miss PARDOE._

 644 The Jealous Wife.
 645 Rival Beauties.


_By W. STEPHENS HAYWARD._

 650 Eulalle.
 651 The Diamond Cross.


_By ANNA H. DRURY._

 654 Deep Waters.
 655 Misrepresentations.
 656 The Brothers.


_By DOUGLAS JERROLD._

 660 The Brownrigg Papers.


_By Lady EDEN._

 661 Dumbleton Common.
 662 Semi-Attached Couple.
 663 Semi-Detached House.


_By Miss C.J. HAMILTON._

 664 Marriage Bonds.
 665 The Flynns of Flynnville.


_By HOLME LEE._

 673 Hawksview.
 674 Gilbert Messenger.
 675 Thorney Hall.


_By HENRY COCKTON._

 676 Valentine Vox.


_By KATHARINE KING._

 677 Lost for Gold.
 678 Queen of the Regiment.
 679 Off the Roll.
 680 Our Detachment.


_By S.W. FULLOM._

 683 Man of the World.
 684 King and Countess.


_By the Author of "CASTE," &c._

 687 Colonel Dacre.
 688 My Son's Wife.
 689 Entanglements.
 690 Mr. Arle.
 691 Bruna's Revenge.
 692 Pearl.
 693 Caste.


_By Rev. R. COBBOLD._

 696 Margaret Catchpole.
 697 The Suffolk Gipsy.


_By Mrs. PARSONS._

 698 Beautiful Edith.
 699 Sun and Shade.
 700 Ursula's Love Story.


_By ARTEMUS WARD._

 703 His Book; and Travels among the Mormons.
 704 Letters to Punch; and Mark Twain's Practical Jokes.


_By ANNA C. STEELE._

 705 Condoned.
 706 Gardenhurst.
 707 Broken Toys.


_By Mrs. WHITNEY._

 710 Odd or Even?


_By EMILIE CARLEN._

 711 Twelve Months of Matrimony.
 712 The Brilliant Marriage.


_By WILLIAM CARLETON._

 715 Squanders of Castle Squander.


_By W.S. MAYO._

 720 Never Again.
 721 The Berber.


_By Mrs. FORRESTER._

 722 Olympus to Hades.
 723 Fair Women.


_By MARK LEMON._

 725 Leyton Hall.


_By Miss BURNEY._

 726 Evelina.


_By HONORE DE BALZAC._

 728 Unrequited Affection.


_By JANE PORTER._

 732 The Scottish Chiefs.


_By HANS C. ANDERSEN._

 734 The Improvisatore.


_By KATHARINE MACQUOID._

 735 A Bad Beginning.
 736 Wild as a Hawk.
 737 Forgotten by the World. (2_s._ 6_d._ and 3_s._)


_By A. LAMARTINE._

 741 Genevieve, and The Stonemason.


_By GUSTAV FREYTAG._

 744 Debit and Credit.


_By Author of "ST. AUBYN OF ST. AUBYN'S."_

 745 Charlie Nugent.
 746 St. Aubyn of St. Aubyn's.


_By "WATERS."_

 747 The Heir at Law.
 748 Romance of the Seas.


_By EDGAR ALLAN POE._

 749 Tales of Mystery, &c.


_By HENRY J. BYRON._

 750 Paid in Full.


_By THOMAS MILLER._

 754 Royston Gower.


_By Mrs. S.C. HALL._

 755 The Whiteboy.


_By AUGUSTUS MAYHEW._

 756 Faces for Fortunes.


_By Lady CHATTERTON._

 757 The Lost Bride.


_By WILLIAM GILBERT._

 758 Dr. Austin's Guests.


_By VARIOUS AUTHORS._

 759 Melincourt. T. Peacock.
 761 Maretime. Bayle St. John.
 762 Jacob Bendixen. C. Goldschmidt.
 763 The Only Child. Lady Scott.
 765 Image of his Father. Bros. Mayhew.
 767 Bellal. A Popular Author.
 768 Highland Lassies. E. Mackenzie.
 769 Rose Douglas. S.W.R.
 770 O.V.H. Wat Bradwood.
 771 Esther's Sacrifice. Alice Perry.
 772 Ladies of Bever Hollow. A. Manning.
 773 Madeline. Julia Kavanagh.
 774 Hazarene. Author of "Guy Livingstone."
 776 First in the Field.
 777 Lilian's Penance. Mrs. Houston.
 778 Off the Line. Lady Thynne.
 779 Queen of Herself. A. King.
 780 A Fatal Error. J. Masterman.
 781 Mainstone's Housekeeper. E. Meteyard.
 782 Wild Hyacinth. Mrs. Randolph.
 783 All for Greed. Baroness de Bury.
 785 Kelverdale. Earl Desart.
 786 Dark and Light Stories. M. Hope.
 787 Chips from an Old Block. Author of "Charley Thornhill."
 788 Leah, the Jewish Maiden.
 789 Zana, the Gipsy. Miss Stevens.
 790 Margaret. Sylvester Judd.
 791 The Conspirators. A. de Vigny.
 792 Chelsea Pensioners. Gleig.
 793 A Lease for Lives. A. de Fonblanque.
 794 The Backwoodsman. Sir E. Wraxall.
 795 Almost a Quixote. Miss Levien.
 796 Janetta, and Blythe Herndon.
 797 Margaret's Ordeal. E. Juncker.
 798 Philiberta. Thorpe Talbot.



LIBRARY EDITION OF THE BEST AUTHORS.

Crown 8vo, neat cloth gilt, price 3s. 6d. each.


 1 The Pickwick Papers. By Charles Dickens. With Original Illustrations
 by A.B. Frost.

 2 Nicholas Nickleby. By Chas. Dickens. With the Original Illustrations
 by "Phiz."

 3 Virgin Soil. By Ivan Turgenieff.

 4 Smoke. By Ivan Turgenieff.

 5 Fathers and Sons. By Ivan Turgenieff.

 6 Dimitri Roudine. By ditto.

 7 Hector O'Halloran. By W.H. Maxwell. Illustrated by Leech.

 8 Christopher Tadpole. By Albert Smith. Illustrated.

 9 Charles O'Malley. By C. Lever. Plates by Phiz. Half-bd.





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