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By the Same Author. 



" There is a quite lovely little book just come out about chil- 
dren, ' Castle Blair.' . . . The book is good, and lovely, and true, 
having the best description of a noble child in it (Winnie) that I 
ever read ; and nearly the best description of the next best thing 
a noble dog." JOHN RUSKIN. 












TT has been an exciting day for me, Grand'mere 
says, and she has sent me to bed early. But 
I do not want to sleep ; and as I sit here in the 
quiet, it is not of to-day that I think, but of the 
old time long ago when little Hector flashed like 
a new star into our life. Every one forgets him 
now but I. I will never forget him. 

First, I heard of his coming. It was a quiet 
spring day in April. The peach-trees and pears 
in the orchard were in full blossom, the hedges 
were bursting into leaf, and I sat in the porch 
spinning by Grand'mere, looking down over the 
yellow mustard fields and vineyards red with 
opening anemones. 

Grand'mere was busy counting off the stitches 
for the heel of the stocking that she was knit- 
ting, so she had told me to hold my tongue when 
T chattered, and I was trying to amuse myself by 


listening to the blackbirds piping and singing 
in the great stone-pine by the door ; when 
presently I saw the white cornette of Soeur 
Amelie coming round the elder clump at the 
end of the lane. 

I never cared much to see her in the morning, 
for in the morning she came to teach me to 
read and write, and learn L'Histoire Sainte, 
and as the money Grand'mere paid her for that 
was to go to build a chapel for the sisters at 
Baitgz, I felt always very, very wicked if I was 
not good. But when she came in the afternoon 
it was generally to chat over the news with 
Grand'mere, and I liked to hear the news. It 
was so dull to listen all day to the cooing of the 
pigeons up on the roof and the click of the 
needles in Grand'mere's stocking. 

To-day, as she came closer in sight, I saw 
that she had a letter in her hand. 

" I met the postman at the bottom of the 
lane," she said, "and I brought your letter up 
to save him the walk." 

Grand'mere so seldom received a letter that I 
felt my own cheeks flush with surprise, and I 
glanced up eager to see what she would do. But 
the stitches of her heel were not counted yet, 
and she went on aloud sixteen, seventeen, 


eighteen not stretching her hand for the letter 
till the heel was safely separate on the third 

Then, when she had looked at the post-mark 
and examined the writing, she glanced down 
sharply at my eager face, and said as she pulled 
out her spectacles : 

" I hear the hens clucking. They are hungry, 
go you and give them their food." 

I could have cried for disappointment, but 
Grand'mere would never b'e gainsaid. So I 
got up very slowly and went away ; and the big 
hens got all the corn that day, for I took no 
thought of the chickens, but just spilled the 
Indian corn angrily about the yard, till Madelon 
put her head out of the kitchen window and 
remarked to Jean : 

" Oh, the famous housekeeper ! We shall 
show fat fowls in the market next Saturday." 
And that made me shut down the corn-bin with 
a bang and run straight back to the porch to es- 
cape from Jean's stupid laughter. I could see 
Sceur Am&ie's cornette flapping as I came round 
the corner of the house, which proved she was 
in full flow of- conversation. The letter had dis- 
appeared ; no doubt into Grand'mSre's great 
apron pocket, to keep company with the keys 


and her wool ball. But I hoped yet to glean 
something from the conversation. 

Grand'mere's eyes were unusually bright, and 
the decided look on her face piqued my curiosity 
to the quick. I had never seen her look so, ex- 
cept at harvest-times or when there was business 
to be done. 

Her eye fell on me the moment I came round 
the corner. 

" Fast day for the fowls, hein ? " she said ; but 
the next moment she laughed good-humoredly, 
and while I blushed scarlet to find myself thus 
found out she called me to her, and said : 

" After all, the news concerns you more than 
any of us, since it is you who will gain a com- 
panion ; and I do not see why you should not 
hear that the son of your cousin Marie, who died 
last year in England, is coming to live with us. 
He is an orphan, like you. His father too is 
lately dead, and he is .less happy than you, for 
his grandparents do not want him at all, but 
gladly send him to his mother's relations. 
Therefore his heart may likely enough be sore 
when he comes, and you will do your best to 
be kind to him." 

" Poor child," she continued to Soeur Amdlie; 
"neither father nor mother now, and I remem- 


her how his mother rejoiced over him not two 
years ago. Beautiful, she told me, and strong 
and clever like his father, but even then the 
family did not love him ; their hearts were 
always of ice for his mother. They were jeal 
ous, perhaps; and now ah bah! they are a 
selfish people, the English. With their droit 
d'ainesse, they have no place for the orphans of 
younger children. Here he will find no gran- 
deurs, but there is enough, thank God, of every- 
thing we need ; and so far as heart goes, this 
little one will love him. As for me, I loved his 
mother ; I am too old now to love new-comers." 
Grand'mre patted my head while she spoke, 
and I kissed her brown wrinkled hand, and 
promised that I would love him for both of us. 
I did not say anything more, for Grand'mdre 
used not to like children to talk much ; but I sat 
there, and thought of the promise I had made 
while Grand'mre and Sceur Amlie continued 
to talk ; and the more I thought, the more I felt 
that I would like to love little Hector. What 
Grand'mre and Soeur Amlie were saying above 
my head made me picture him in my heart very 
sad and lonely. He had no sisters or brothers, 
they said. No more had I ; and I wondered if 
he sometimes wished for a brother as I had some- 


times wished for a little sister. I had never 
known my father and mother, so it was no grief 
to me to lose them ; but he had known his. I 
thought of his mother, rejoicing over him ; and 
then of her, dead and cold ; and he left all alone 
to the jealous family ; till the picture of his deso- 
lation brought tears to my eyes, and I had to try 
quickly to think of something else, for fear 
Grand'm^re might see and ask me what was the 
matter. I listened then with all my ears to what 
Grand'mre and Sceur Amlie were saying, and 
I understood enough to know soon that Hector's 
grandfather was a rich English milord, but that 
Hector's father had been the youngest son, and 
his family had been angry with his imprudent 
marriage ; and now that he was dead, Hector's 
uncles were jealous because the boy was so 
strong and fine, while they had no sons yet to 
inherit their wealth. Already I felt a sisterly 
pride in him ; I was glad to know that he was 
strong and fine. I remembered suddenly with 
new interest how I had often heard Grand'mere's 
friends congratulate her on the healthy air of 
Salaret, and I looked over our fields with almost 
a wicked joy at the thought that they would make 
him every day stronger and finer, till he grew up 
wonderful, like the Prince Charming of a fairy 


tale, and went home to astonish his wicked un- 
cles. His uncles were going, Grand'm^re said, 
to have plenty of sons. I did not know how 
that would be, but I took for granted beforehand 
that our Hector would be more beautiful and 
more clever than any of his cousins. 

Already he was to me our Hector, and from 
that day till the day he came I scarcely ceased to 
think of him. Salaret was like a new place 
since it had this new interest. I had never 
thought about it before. It had been always 
there, standing, just as it does now, on the side 
of the hill with the vineyards sloping down in 
front and the orchard sloping up to the chestnut 
wood behind ; and I had been accustomed year 
after year to watch the blackbirds build in the 
big stone-pine by the door, and the ducks and 
geese swim round the little stagnant pond in 
front, while the pigs and fowls and oxen tramp- 
led the soft slush of the big farmyard, and the 
laborers came and went, without ever asking 
myself whether all this was pretty or plea- 
sant. It was part of my life, and before that 
time I scarcely remember it ; but I remember 
quite distinctly now how it looked on the day 
that Hector came ; and, wherever I spend my 
future life, it is the picture of Salaret, as I saw 


it that day, which will always remain with me as 
the picture of home. 

Everything had been made ready for Hector. 
Madelon had said that she would love no English 
boy. Her father lived in the mill which was the 
very last bit of land the English ever held in 
France, and he remembered the English Duke 
of Wellington ; so she thought she knew all 
about the English. She said they were hard and 
gluttonous, and very little civilized ; and she 
used to tease me about Hector, saying before- 
hand that he would be ugly like a monkey. But 
for all that, she said the Duke was a great milord ; 
and when she heard that Hector's grandfather 
was to accompany him, she had worked like four 
to make the house ready for the occasion. It 
was clean now, from top to bottom. In the 
drawing-room the windows had been opened and 
the floor fresh waxed and polished ; a faint scent 
of honey rose from the shining boards and mixed 
with the sweet smell of the summer wash which 
the breeze from the garden blew out of the clean 
white dimity curtains. The brass dogs on the 
hearth had been polished ; I had myself dusted 
the old-fashioned chimney-piece. Grand'mere 
did not like to have flowers brought into the 
house, but the peach-trees outside were in full 


blossom, and their pink boughs crossed each 
other before the open windows, throwing rosy 
reflections on the floor. 

Upstairs, too, Hector's own little room was 
ready. Madelon had scrubbed it beautifully 
clean ; Grand'mdre herself had given out a pair 
of the best linen sheets for his bed. They let 
me give him my patchwork quilt, and everything 
looked as comfortable as we could make it. 
Even the pigeons seemed pleased as they cooed 
on the window-sill and looked in. Then, when 
there was nothing more to do, and I had brushed 
and plaited my hair, put on my Sunday dress and 
one of my Sunday white pinafores, Grand'mere 
took pity on my impatience, and told me to run 
down the lane and watch till I saw a carriage 
in sight on the high road. At the bottom of our 
lane there was a mound, with an old wooden cross 
upon it, and from the top of the mound you could 
see for a mile or two along the road ; so I ran 
down through the lane where the hedges were 
all in flower with white thorn and gorse and peri- 
winkles, and climbed on the mound to watch. 
But the carriage kept me waiting a long time, 
and while I waited, to make the time pass, I 
tried to fancy myself in Hector's place, and to 
imagine what then I should think of the new 
home to which I was coming. Instead of watch- 


ing the high road, I had soon turned my back 
upon it, and for the first time in my life I really 
looked at Salaret. It is only a farmhouse, and 
to my childish eyes it did not look nearly grand 
enough, with its modest white walls and long 
straggling expanse of red-tiled roof which 
stetched in irregular gables over house and 
stables and storehouses ; but the orchard spread 
up the hill behind like a sun-touched cloud of 
white and pink, the chestnut wood above was 
bursting into brilliant green, and in the lovely 
lights and shadows of the spring afternoon, 
the place touched my heart even then with 
a tender and homelike feeling. I thought that 
if I could have wished it more grand, I could 
hardly have wished it more beautiful, and I hoped 
that little Hector would be glad to live there 
with me. 

Grand'm^re stood waiting under the pine-tree 
by the porch, and I was looking at her and at 
the pigeons pecking and strutting on the path 
at her feet, when suddenly above the noise of 
the forge at the other side of the road a sound of 
wheels and trotting horses fell on my ear, and, 
before I had time even to jump off my post of 
observation, a grand carriage drawn by a pair 
of horses had dashed round the corner and was 
rolling in front of me up the lane. 



' I ^O try to overtake the equipage was useless, 
and to run in the cloud of dust it raised 
would have been to make myself dirty as well as 
late. So, mortified as I was to have missed 
the first sight of Hector after all, and trembling 
with shyness at the thought of entering the 
drawing-room already full of strangers, I went 
slowly back to the house. 

Grand'mdre and her visitors had gone in by 
the time I reached the door; but there, standing 
in the porch alone, with his head in the air and 
his eyes fixed eagerly on the thick branches of 
the stone-pine, was a little boy, who must, I 
knew, be Hector. He wore a loose suit of rough 
black serge, made with a wide collar which fell 
back upon his shoulders, leaving his throat and 
chest bare, like a sailor's, to the air. His hat 
was in his hand, and the sun streamed upon the 
masses of ruddy gold hair which, though cut 
short, yet waved loosely above his strong square 


forehead. Everything about him was strong and 
firm, the attitude in which he stood, the intensity 
of his* gaze into the pine-tree, the curves of the 
white throat and uplifted chin. He was not the 
least bit like what I had expected, but I had 
time to look at him thoroughly, for he stood just 
in the middle of the porch, so that I could not 
pass into the house ; and though on first seeing 
him I had put out my hand and stammered forth 
the best greeting that I could, he did not seem 
for some time to see me. As he would neither 
move out of my way nor take any notice of me 
himself, I waited quietly on the step beneath 
him, and my gaze followed his to the depths of 
the pine foliage ; then after a moment or two he 
looked down, and his first words, spoken in 
French as pure as my own, and as quietly as 
though he had known me all my life, were : 

" Are they thrushes or blackbirds ? I can't 
get a sight of one." 

I was red all over, not for shyness now, but 
for real pleasure to hear his voice and to be able 
to tell him what he wanted to know. 

" They are blackbirds ; and from the window 
of your bedroom you can see right into one of 
the nests." 

" Right in, so as to see the eggs ? Are there 


any eggs ? Do you think we shall see the young 
ones when they are hatched ?" 

He turned fully to me now, and looked straight 
into my face, his own face all aglow with inter- 
est. I saw that his eyes were dark grey, and I 
thought they werethe brightest I had ever seen. 

" I think they will be hatched soon," I said, 
" because they have been laid a long time now ; 
one might even come out to-day." 

" Let us go up," he said eagerly. " Let us go 
up ; perhaps it will be out already." 

In another moment we were upstairs in his 
room, and without seeming even to see the cup- 
board of carved oak, or the patchwork quilt, or 
the new mat Grand'meire had bought for his bed- 
side, he flung himself half out of the window in 
his anxiety to peep into the nest. The mother 
bird was sitting ; we could not see the eggs, but 
she looked at us with soft bright eyes from be- 
neath her interlaced canopy of green spikes, and 
J saw at once that Hector would no more have 
frightened her than I. 

He looked at her very quietly for a time, 
his grey eyes sparkling with interest ; then he 
asked me in a whisper if I knew much about 

I whispered " No, that I only liked watching 


them sometimes, but that there were a great 
many at Salaret" 

" Ah, that's the way it is with girls," he said, 
" they never know much about things ; have you 
a bird book ? " I might have been offended, 
only that he spoke so quietly I saw he did not 
mean to be rude, and then I could not help 
thinking that with regard to me it was quite 
true. I did not know much about anything, I 
did not even know if we had a bird book, and I 
was so ashamed to confess my ignorance that I 
stammered and grew red as I answered that I 
did not think we had. 

He looked round at me. It was the first time 
he had really looked at me since we met, and 
said quite kindly, as though he were talking to 
a very little child, " Do you know how to read ?" 

His question made me grow redder than ever. 
I was nine years old then ; I had been able to 
read for the last four years, and I told him so 
with a little indignation piercing through my 
cautiously whispered tones. I was glad at all 
events to let him know that I was not so great 
an ignoramus as he thought. 

" You did not seem to know the books of the 
house," he said, "and I want to find out if that 
*> a real blackbird or a ring-ousel. But it is 


rather early in the year for a ring-ousel to be 

He made way for me as he spoke, and I plant- 
ed my elbows down beside his on the window- 
sill. The window was narrow, so there was but 
just room for us both, and we remained, thus 
wedged tightly, shoulder to shoulder, while we 
continued our whispered conversation. Under 
the strangely alert gentle eyes of the blackbird 
our intimacy grew fast. I told Hector man) 
things about Salaret. I pointed out to him the 
budding woods down in the hollow, and told him 
of the numbers of birds he would find down 
there. I told him of the great woodpigeon hunts 
held up in the hills at the time of passage ; of 
how we caught ortolans after the corn harvest ; 
of everything that I thought would interest him ; 
but at last, when I was telling him how the 
woodpeckers ate the whole shutter of one of our 
windows, he suddenly interrupted me to know if 
we had any gold-crested wrens, 

He used the Latin name, and by this time I 
was no longer afraid of him ; so I laughed, and 
said quite saucily that I did not understand 

" And it seems that I do not speak French," 
he said, "for I don't know the French name. 


What are we going to do in order to arrive at 
understanding each other ? " 

We looked at one another and laughed, and 
then I saw what a merry face he had. 

" Come downstairs to my grandfather," he 
said, ."he knows everything, and he'll tell us the 
French name." 

It was the first time I had thought of the 
grown-up people, and all my shyness returned as 
I followed Hector downstairs. 

But Hector did not apparently know what 
shyness meant. He walked straight into the 
drawing-room, which seemed to be full of the 
silks and laces of two very grand ladies ; and 
profiting by a pause in the conversation, asked 
something in English of an old gentleman who 
sat on the sofa beside Grand'mere. But, instead 
of answering his question, the gentleman asked 
him in return where he had been and what he 
had been doing ; and all eyes then turned to me. 

"Ah," Grand'mere said good-naturedly, taking 
Hector's two strong white hands in hers, "you 
have been making friends with Z61ie, I see. 
Children," she added to Hector's grandfather, 
" are best left to themselves to become ac- 
quainted. In the age of growth new friend- 
ships are quickly made. That is nature, a.nd 


we can do little to make or mar it. For the 
rest Zdlie wishes so much to have a companion 
of her own age, that had he been ugly as Satan 
she would always have found him more beauti- 
ful than an old grandmother who has had the 
time to forget that she ever was a child." 

Grand'mere looked at me so kindly as she 
spoke that I forgot the strangers who were 
there, and in spite of my shyness I threw my 
arms round her neck and whispered : 

" However much I love him, you are always 
Grand'mere." I think that pleased Grand'mere, 
for she liked to know that I loved her. But 
Hector was looking puzzled. 

" Zelie," he said. " What's Zlie ? " 

Grand'mere and I both laughed at his bewil- 
dered expression. 

" Oh ! We don't know that yet," said Grand- 
mere with a sarcastic note in her voice. " This 
is Zelie," and she laid her hand upon my 

Instantly Hector turned towards me a face 
which made my heart beat for pleasure, the 
beaming face of recognition one turns to a 

" You ! " he exclaimed, " are you Zlie ? Of 
course, yes, of course ; I had forgotten there 
was to be a little girl." 


" You had forgotten there was to be a little 
girl?" repeated Grand'mere. "And for what 
did you take her then during the hour you have 
passed together?" 

Hector looked at me. Then his face wrinkled 
into laughter, and he replied with twinkling 
eyes : 

" For a bird book, I think, madame." 

"And a bad one too," I murmured, with his 
speech about girls knowing nothing much rank- 
ling a little in my memory. Every one laughed 
at his bit of impudence, and Grand'mere said, 
"Aliens, she had better prove her love to you 
by giving you something to eat. It is the part 
women play towards men like you. Take him 
away, Zelie, and give him some goiiter. It is 
probable that he likes nuts and jams even better 
than you like them yourself." 

I had prepared a gofiter for Hector before he 
came. I asked him now if he would like to 
have it out of doors, and as he said he would, we 
were soon seated under a fig-tree at the corner, 
enjoying our little picnic. That is to say, I en- 
joyed it. I don't know whether Hector did in 
anything like the same degree. To have a com- 
panion at last, and to know that .he was not 
going away ; to think that to-morrow I should 


wake up to find him still in the house, and that 
the next day, and the next day, and the next, he 
would still be there to share my life ; that when 
the fruit was ripe he would be there to pick it 
with me ; that when the hay was cut we should 
play in it together ; that when the maize was 
reaped he would work with me at the winnow- 
ing ; that we should rejoice together when the 
time came to cut the grapes ; that when Soeur 
Amelie gave us lessons, he would learn them by 
my side to know, in fact, that life was never go- 
ing to be lonely any more filled me with a delight 
almost greater than I could contain. The food 
we were eating seemed to me to taste nicer than 
it had ever tasted before ; but I scarcely cared to 
eat for the pleasure of watching Hector, and try- 
ing to slip the best pieces on his plate. He did 
not seem to notice much what he was eating or 
what I was doing, but lay on his side with one 
leg curled round the other and one elbow planted 
on the ground, and gazed about him in silent in- 
terest. From time to time he asked me a ques- 
tion which I answered to the best of my ability, 
but he did not seem to wish to talk, and I was 
content to be silent. His face was like an ani- 
mated conversation all the time, it was so full of 
energy and sympathy; and in watching it I be- 


came interested to a degree which left us both 
unaware of how little we talked. 

I sat facing the house ; he lay opposite to me, 
looking down over the lane and the vineyards 
beyond. Presently I saw the corners of his 
mouth go up and his eyes light with laughter. 

" What are you laughing at ?" I asked. 

"At the face which is coming up the path; 
it's exactly like an india-rubber cracker in a cor- 
nette. Look ! " 

I looked round to see to my horror Sosur 
Ame'lie, whom I had always been taught to rev- 
erence as a saint, and whom I considered as far 
above the shafts of criticism as M. le Cur6 or 
Grand'mere herself ; and to make matters worse 
the truth of Hector's observation forced itself 
upon me the instant my eyes fell on her. Her 
face was like the india-rubber face of a cracker. 
It was very small and very wrinkled, the tiny 
mouth and nose and chin almost disappearing in 
rather overhanging cheeks. Cheeks, lips, and 
all were yellow like old ivory ; the little pale 
blue eyes were unshaded by any eyebrows ; and 
swathed as the face was in the white bands of 
her coif, it looked, I confess, so little human 
that I could hardly help laughing, myself at 
Hector's naughty comparison. 


I had hardly had time to tell him that he must 
not laugh at her, that she was very good, and 
that she taught us our lessons to help to build a 
chapel for the sisters at Baitgz, before she 
reached the place where we were sitting. 

She kissed me as usual, on both cheeks, and 
while my head was in her cornette I almost 
prayed that she might not kiss Hector. I knew 
by instinct that he would not like it. But she 
did. She makes a rule of kissing every one who 
is connected, however distantly, with the family; 
and Hector bore it very well. He came out 
from under her cornette a little red, and his hair 
ruffled by the mistake he had made of trying to 
kiss the wrong side of her face, for which he had 
received a blow from the front of the cornette 
going in the opposite direction ; but he made no 
sign of objecting to the salute. If she had let 
him alone then all might yet have been well. 

She began to ask him questions. 

" Have you ever seen a sister of charity before 
dressed like this?" 

" No, madame." 

"Ah! my costume astonishes you, perhaps; 
but you must not think that we are scarecrows, 
we sisters of charity. We are only poor weak 
women who have devoted ourselves to good 


works. We serve the good God and pray to " 
Soeur Amelie said all this in a tone of the 
utmost good-humor, but here she suddenly 
stopped and asked somewhat seriously : " But 
perhaps you do not love our Holy Church ?" 

Hector made no answer, and she repeated, 
" Your mother was a holy woman, have you 
been brought up in our religion ? " 

Hector looked as though he did not know 
what the religion of sisters of charity might be. 

" I don't exactly know," he answered slowly. 

" In the Catholic religion," she explained. 
" Are you Catholic or Protestant ? " 

And he, standing politely hat in hand : " I 
think we had better ask my grandfather, ma- 
dame. My aunts talk to me a great deal about 
religion, but I never thought of asking them the 
name of their religion. Grandpapa will know." 

I think Soeur Amelie was too much astonished 
to be able to continue the conversation, for she 
changed it suddenly, saying in a cheerful voice : 

" And are you very glad to be here, my poor 
child, with the little cousin who loves you ? " 

And he, still standing with head uncovered : 

" I don't know yet, madame, I have only just 

" How, you don't know ? They have taught 

I1ECTOE. 27 

you already, at your age, to do without af- 
fection ? " 

This in a tone of the deepest commiseration. 

Hector looked puzzled, and not knowing what 
to say he tried to smile. I understood directly 
that Soeuf Am&ie was thinking of him as the 
unfortunate orphan cast out from a cold-hearted 
family, and I was sure from the two or three 
minutes I had been in the drawing-room that 
Hector's grandfather at least loved him. 

But I had too great a respect for Soeur Amelie 
to say anything then, and she continued in a 
tone of curiosity : 

" Is it nothin-g to you that your little cousin 
loves you ? " 

" She cannot love me yet, madame," with a 
smile no longer puzzled but amused. 

" Ah, you do not understand that. You do 
not love her, then ? " 

He made no answer, but stooped to brush 
some twigs from his clothes. I cast an implor- 
ing glance at Soeur Amelie, but she did not see 
it : she was intent upon Hector. 

" Say, then ! You do not love her ? " 

An embarrassed pause, then Hector answered 
firmly: "No, madame;" not adding a word of 
explanation, but reddening a little with discom- 


fort at having to make the impolite speech. I 
felt for him with all my heart. 

"Oh! ma Soaur," I exclaimed; " how can he 
love me yet, when he has only known me for an 
hour ? " 

But she, who was nodding her head slowly up 
and down as over a reprobate, replied with sud- 
den animation: 

" Nevertheless, you love him ? You." 

It was quite true, and I was silenced, but not 
for that one bit convinced that Hector was hard- 
hearted. It was natural that I should love him 
I had so few people to love. I had heard so 
much about him, and then he was to be the 
companion for whom, I had longed. Whereas 
there was no reason for him to love me, he knew 
nothing at all about me ; and I liked him only 
the better for telling the. truth. 

" Do you like France ? " was Sceur Amelia's 
next question, and I found myself almost trem- 
bling for Hector, lest he should not like France, 
and be obliged to answer No, to this question 
also. If he did I knew Soeur Amclie would 
be mortally offended, for she thought France 
the most beautiful country in the world, and our 
Chalosse the most beautiful part of France. 
She prided herself specially upon this, because 


it was her birthplace ; and she had good ground, 
she always told us, for her opinion, having in 
her youth seen other countries and having never 
seen any to compare with the Chalosse. I 
never knew what other countries she had seen ; 
when I asked her, she used to say that they 
were far away too far for me to know anything 
about; but every one round Salaret said that 
she had traveled, and we were all proud that 
she should still hold so good an opinion of our 
country. No one in the village would have 
dared in her presence to make a disparaging 

Fortunately, Hector did like France, and he 
answered brightly, stretching his arm out to- 
wards the fields : 

" Yes, I like France, and I like that ; it is a 
thousand times prettier than London. In Lon- 
don we have only houses and streets and parks 
and people everywhere. It is much cleverer, 
you know ; but I like the country." 

" Ah, you prefer the country ! And why so, 
if there is more cleverness in London ? '' Soeur 
Amelie was evidently a little piqued at the 
implied imputation on country wits, and her 
voice took a sarcastic tone. 

But Hector did not notice it, and answered 


quite innocently, " Oh, it is the people of course 
who are much cleverer in London ; and I don't 
like people in the country you can be alone." 

His eyes fixed absently as he spoke on the 
horizon. He seemed to fancy himself alone 
already in the distant fields, and while Soeur 
Amelie raised her hands, murmuring in despair : 
" But those instincts are the instincts of a sav- 
age" the song of a rising skylark caught his 
ear, and he evidently did not hear what she said 
for pleasure in listening to the bird. 

There was no time for further conversation 
between them, for a moment later Grand'mere 
appeared at the house -door accompanied by 
Hector's relations, and Hector was called to 
say good-bye. 

I did not fancy Hector cared much for his 
aunts, though they seemed to speak kindly to 
him and kissed him affectionately before they 
got into the carriage. But I was more than ever 
certain, when I witnessed the parting between 
him and his grandfather, that he and the old 
man loved each other. The grey head bent 
down till it almost touched Hector's bright 
golden hair. Hector's vigorous young arms 
were fhrown round his grandfather's neck for 
one hearty hug, and if it hadn't been for all 


Grand'mere and Madelon said about the English 
never showing their feelings, I could have fan- 
cied that the eyes of both were moist. That, 
however, was only for a moment. The next, 
they were saying something very cheerful to 
each other in English, which of course I did 
not understand. The old gentleman pulled some 
money out of his pocket, which he gave to Hec- 
tor, then he got into the carriage : the footman 
banged the door; and a few moments later the 
only sign of their presence was our little Hector 
whom they had left behind. 

" Well, little lad," said Grand'mere putting her 
hand upon his head, "you'll be very unhappy 
for awhile, but you must not be discouraged for 
that; you will become accustomed to us. Here 
is the little one all ready to adore you. As for 
me, I loved your mother, and her son at all 
events is at home here." 

Then Grand'mere and Sceur Amelie went in 
together. We heard the buzz- of their talk for a 
long time through the window, and later, when 
I left Hector for a moment to go and get the 
key of the corn-bin from Grand'mere for the 
fowls' supper, I heard Grand'mere say in reply 
to some criticism of Sceur Amelie's : 

" Ah bah ! he has a good face and a vigorous 


little body, and if he has his little individuality, 
let him keep it. You are a saint, and you would 
like to see us all conform to certain rules. I 
am only a simple country-woman, who has never 
stirred off her own land; but I go by what I see, 
and in my experience it is the individuals who 
achieve something, not the men whom Nature 
turns out like buttons by the gross." 

II EC TOR. 33 


T WOKE next morning with the joyous thought 
that I had to show Hector our house ; and I 
knew enough of him now to feel sure that he 
would like it. I slept in a little room -inside 
Grand'mere's, and at five o'clock in the summer 
mornings Grand'mere used to open her windows 
and mine. At half-past five she used to dress, 
and before she went down, if I was not awake 
she used to wake me, and pour the cold water 
into my basin for me to wash. It was not sum- 
mer yet, and the early morning hours were fresh 
and'dark, so that though Grand'mere liked to be 
up herself she used to let me lie in bed till half- 
past six. But this morning I had no desire to 
lie in bed. I was up and dressed before half- 
past six ; and when I found Grand'mere in the 
kitchen blowing the red embers under a sauce- 
pan of steaming milk my enquiry whether Hec- 
tor was to be called met with the answer I had 
hoped for. 


" Yes, yes ; go and wake him up." 

I ran upstairs eager to see him again, but 
when after knocking twice I softly opened his 
door, I saw only the bedclothes thrown back 
from the empty bed, and a little night-shirt lying 
on the floor : Hector himself was gone. 

" Well," grumbled Madelon, when I returned 
to the kitchen, " up to what time would you like 
him to stay in bed ? I called him at five o'clock. 
I don't suppose he is to be more coddled than 
you. He seemed to like his bed, allez. He was 
well wrapped up in your new quilt." 

" It is a good bed, I sorted all the feathers of 
it myself," said Grand'mere. " It was perhaps 
a little hard for the beginning, Madelon, to bring 
him out of it so early." 

"Bah! he. has a firm body. He can bear 
some hardships," said Madelon; and I without 
any more words slipped away to try and find 

He was nowhere in the house. I could not 
find him in the garden or the farmyard, and 
after awhile I set off to seek for him down the 
lane. I had not far to go, for at the forge I 
found him watching the smith light his fire, and 
chatting at the door with a girl from one of the 
m^tairies, who was on her way up to fetch the 


He seemed to have known her all his life, he 
had so much to say to her: and when I came 
up I found he was telling her about the furnaces 
he had seen in a great arsenal somewhere in 

I liked to hear about it, and the smith came 
to listen too when he had finished lighting his 

" Ha, it is interesting that; the little lad knows 
how to speak," he said, as Hector went on to 
describe the wonders of the great arsenal. 

" That's what people achieve by joining 
together. Now, here am I with good strong 
arms." He rolled his shirt-sleeves higher as he 
spoke, and looked down with pride on his well- 
developed muscles. " Yes, and delicate fingers 
too, for all that regards smith's work. And 
there is Esquebesse the keeper, with head 
enough for four. He lends me his ideas, he 
explains to me what he wants. I lend him my 
hands, I do for him what he explains, and crack! 
a machine is made. He snares his foxes and 
his weazels. The partridges thrive. I send 
my little bill to M. le Comte. I have a few 
francs to rattle in my pocket, every one is sat- 
isfied ; and there we are friends, M. le Comte and 
Esquebesse and I." 


Esquebesse had come up the road with his 
dogs while the blacksmith was talking, and it 
was to him that the latter part of the speech 
was addressed. They were a contrast to each 
other, those two men. Esquebesse fair and 
slight, with shoulders stooping a little forward 
under his dirty brown velveteen jacket ; Pierre, 
short and black and square, with knotted mus- 
cles standing out on his bare arms and throat, 
and a brawny chest exposed by the loose shirt 
he always wore. And yet they were the great- 
est friends. It was well known that Esquebesse 
seldom failed to look in at the forge twice and 
three times a week, and Pierre used to walk 
over from Sainte-Marie-les-Bains as regularly as 
Sunday came round to smoke a pipe with Esque- 
besse in his lodge, at M. le Comte's gate. 

Esquebesse smiled in his quiet way at Pierre's 
notion of admitting M. le Comte as a third into 
their friendship. 

"You're right, Pierre," he said, "those who 
don't serve one another are apt to hate each 
other, and hatred is useless friction ; it is as bad 
for the country as rust for the machine. If 
there is anything which will hinder our old 
France from working now, it is the hatred of 


" La - has, in your arsenal they kept their 
machines bright " asked Pierre. 

" Oh yes," said Hector, " they couldn't have 
any rust there," and he began to describe the 
workshops, full of flashing steel and whirring 
leather-bands, wheels going round, pistons work- 
ing up and down, men and boys, hot, dirty, con- 
centrated upon their work, feeding the powerful, 
precise, indifferent machines with the materials 
which passed through them from one stage to 
another of perfection. 

" That's fine, that," said Pierre, nodding at 
Esquebesse. " And yet to say that it takes all 
that to maintain an army." 

" Oh, he's a famous monster, the army, and 
eats easily not only all that, but all the best 
blood of a nation into the bargain. In this 
country," Esquebesse said with a smile to Hec- 
tor, " we keep a pet dragon who gobbles up all 
our young men. We regret them it is true, but 
then he swells himself out and we are proud of 
the size of our dragon. We pat his sides per- 
petually, and from time to time we make him 
take a great breath that we may see how big 
he is." 

" And when he has arrived at maturity we 
use him to eat up the dragons of other nations, 


or too unhappily, to be eaten up himself; and it 
is very fine that," said a new voice, somewhat 
bitterly, behind Esquebesse. 

It was young Georges of the farm of Saint- 
Loubouet, dressed in his soldier's uniform, and 
so much improved in appearance since he went 
away more than three years before to be a sol- 
dier, that I scarcely recognized him. 

But Irma recognised him well enough, for she 
blushed very red under her capeline, and said at 
once, just as though we did not all know now 
why she had been dawdling at the forge that 

" Allons, good day, M. Esquebesse, I must be 
going on to fetch my milk." 

Every one knew round Salaret that Georges 
was Irma's lover. His father held a little farm 
just on the other side of Grand'mere's estate to 
the farm held by Irma's father, and there was 
only Georges and his sister to divide the inher- 
itance. Irma was one of a big family. Georges 
had made love to her all his life, and though 
there was no engagement between them, her 
parents had been glad to promise that if Georges 
came back of the same mind after he had served 
his time with the army, they would give their 
consent to an engagement then. 


Some said now that the parents were sorry 
they had given any promise, for Irma was very 
young at that time, and she had grown up since 
so pretty that she might have been married 
many times over. But she had no wish herself 
to marry any one but Georges. She said she 
would rather wait for him. 

I had often heard Sceur Amelie and Grand'- 
mere talking about it, and I had never seen any 
lovers together in my life before, so I looked 
with all my eyes as Irma moved across the road 
with her white woollen capeline falling back and 
her curly dark hair shining in the sun, and 
Georges said something to her in a low voice 
which brought the color suddenly back to her 
open countenance. 

"There are two," said Esquebesse with a 
smile, " who think like you, Pierre, that union 
is strength." 

" Ah ! I would be glad to see that union. He 
comes back, poor lad, because he has heard 
rumors at Montfort, and he is uneasy. But he 
has no need, allez; she is safe that one. I have 
kn^wn her from the cradle, and it is not every 
woman that I would have encouraged the boy 
to stake his happiness upon." 

" But they say the other is rich, and that he 

40 If EC TOE. 

is in love, the great idiot. And the parents 
would sell their souls for a thousand francs 

" Ah bah ! union is strength, and I will wager 
that for all her air of reserve, those two will find 
means of laying their heads together before he 
goes back to his regiment tomorrow." 

" Those two " were separating now, and Irma 
called to us, "You are coming, children?" So 
we heard no more, but trotted up the lane with 
her, leaving Georges behind in chat with his 
uncle the blacksmith. 

In the kitchen, Grand'mere was beginning to 
wonder what had become of us, but the milk 
was only just ready. As we appeared in the 
doorway, Grand'mere set the big saucepan on 
the plate which awaited it at one end of the 
kitchen-table, and while Madelon served Irma 
with the fresh milk she had come to fetch, 
Grand'mere cut us each a great slice of corn 
bread, and filled our bowls with the hot yellow 
milk. When there were visitors at Salaret we 
always had coffee. No one knew how to make 
it better than Grand'mere ; but when we were 
alone Grand'mere neither took it herself nor 
gave it to any of us. 

Hot milk and corn bread were good enough, 


she said, for country folk; and Madelon and 
Jean had their breakfast from the same loaf and 
saucepan that furnished ours. 

I was afraid Hector might not like such sim- 
ple fare, but he broke his bread into his milk 
just as I did mine, and ate it as though he had 
never eaten anything else all his life. The only 
part of our breakfast which he seemed to notice 
was the pleasure of being allowed to sit and eat 
it on the doorstep looking out over the farmyard 
where the cocks and hens were already picking 
up their breakfast, and the wet straw glistened 
in the light of the newly risen sun. I always 
ate my breakfast on the doorstep in the summer, 
and Hector thought as I did that the bread and 
milk tasted much nicer there than in the smoky 

'Ah! how hungry I am," he said as he put 
his bowl back empty on the table. 

"You are hungry," said Grand'mere; "then 
begin again and let us see what effect that will 
have." Which he did to his own great satisfac- 
tion and Grand'mere's. 

"Madelon, you were right to wake him up at 
five o'clock," she said. 

"As if I didn't know it," replied Madelon. 
"That's not the body of a sluggard." And by 


that I understood that in spite of her sharp ways 
Madelon was going to love him too. 

Grand'mere liked no one to he idle, and after 
breakfast I always helped a little in the house- 
work ; so I presently lost sight of Hector, and 
when Soeur Amelie came at nine o'clock, he was 
not at first to be found. 

" I am not astonished," she said to Grand'- 
mere. " I greatly fear that it is a little savage 
whom they have sent you; and we shall have 
much difficulty in instructing him in anything 

" Go and look for him, Zelie, go and look for 
him," was Grand'mere's only answer. " And 
don't come back to say you can't find him. It 
is ridiculous in this little house." 

It occurred to me after awhile to look in the 
drawing-room a room we never entered our- 
selves unless we had visitors and there, at last, 
I found him. He had opened one of the shut- 
ters and the light thus admitted fell upon an old 
bookcase, at the foot of which he sat upon the 
floor reading so intently that he did not notice 
my entrance. 

" Sceur Amelie is here, Hector," I said. 
" Will you come ? " 

He paid no attention, but as I knew he must 


have heard me, I contented myself with looking 
over his shoulder while I waited. The book 
seemed to me very stupid. It was a shabby 
little volume bound in worm-eaten leather, and 
the yellow pages were stained with damp. I 
could not understand what Hector was reading 
about; it was apparently a machine, and the 
title written at the top of the page, " Avicepto- 
logie Fran^aise," left me as much as ever in the 
dark. I did not know what Aviceptologie meant, 
and I soon grew impatient. 

" Hector, Soeur Amelie does not like to be 
kept waiting. Will you come ? " 

" Eh, what ! What do you say ? Soeur Ame- 
lie ? Look here Zelie. Didn't you say yester- 
day that there were plenty of woodpeckers about 
here ? " 

" Yes, lots ; we will go out in the woods after 
dinner, but come along with me now. And 
Hector, you musn't open the drawing-room 
shutters again without Grand'mere's leave ; the 
sun spoils the furniture." 

" And larks, Zelie ? Didn't you say there 
were larks too ? " 


"Well, look here. Do you think we could 
find a peach-stone, or an old leg of mutton bone 


"Hector!" I exclaimed, in imploring tones, 
"be good! I dare say we shall have stewed 
peaches for dinner to-day, because it is Friday, 
and then you can have a stone. But come now, 
Soeur Amelie will be so vexed if you delay." 

" Soeur Ame"lie ! Eh, Why ! Is she here ? 
What does she want? Of course I'll go. 
Where is she? " 

It was the first time in my life that I had ever 
been late for lessons. My books stood on a 
little shelf in the dining-room, and when I saw 
Sceur Amelie's cornette coming up the lane, it 
had always been my habit to run and set chairs 
for her and me, and put my books upon the table. 
I never missed her, for from our door we could 
see a long way over the country, and her white 
headdress was so conspicuous in the morning 
sun, that one of us was sure to note her coming 
on the high road long before she turned into 
our lane. 

I was therefore already fluttered this morning 
when lessons began, and soon I found that the 
interest I took in Hector's proceedings was 
stronger thari my best resolutions. I could 
concentrate my mind on no work of my own. 
Soeur Amelie wished to find out what Hector 
knew. Could he read ? 


" Yes, a little." 

" Could he write ? " 

"Very badly." 

" Did he like arithmetic ? " 

" No, he hated it." 

" Was he good at geography ? " 

" He had never learnt any." 

" Had he studied well 1'Histoire Sainte ? " 

He had never heard the phrase before, and 
did not know what it meant ; but he supposed 
ill history was holy because it was the account 
of the struggles of men, and it made you see 
how, in spite of everything, good men had made 
the world grow better. 

He had been answering listlessly before ; his 
face flashed now into interest, and he was going 
to say more when Soeur Am^lie interrupted him : 

" It is evident that you understand little of 
the true tendencies of history, and what I -am 
asking you about now is Scripture history. You 
have heard the Bible spoken of, no doubt. Well, 
the Bible is not a book to put into the hands of 
children, but all that is necessary for them to 
know is told in 1'Histoire Sainte, in a purified 
language, which presents no stumbling-blocks to 
the understanding. If you have never studied 
it, we must begin at once, for you have at your 

4& n E c T o /? . 

age much lost time to repair. With politics and 
worldly history we need not concern ourselves." 

" How funny ! Yes, I suppose it wasn't 
called politics in those days when the Israelites 
asked for a king, and were told that they ought 
not to want one." 

Soeur Ame'lie looked surprised, and I thought 
a little annoyed. " I don't know where you 
have picked up your information," she said, 
" but you have understood badly ; such a thing 
never happened, the good God has been always 
on the side of kings ; it is only the irreligious 
who disregard their divine right, and would do 
away if they could with everything that is 

Hector did not seem to think she was in 
earnest, for he laughed good-humouredly and 
then saying, " It is quite clear, I'll show it to 
you ; I remember exactly where it is," he 
disappeared suddenly from the room. He 
returned almost immediately, with a small 
closely-printed book in his hand. "There it 
is, you see ; just read that bit, about the great 
wickedness they did in the sight of the Lord in 
asking for themselves a king." 

" It is in English," Soeur Amelie said, putting 
the book from her with an air of reproof, " and I 
don't read English." 


" Oh, well, may Zelie run and fetch a French 
Bible, and I'll show it to you in that? They are 
very nearly the same, I have often compared 

"What? What do you say? Is that a 
Bible?" exclaimed Soeur Amelie, suddenly 
taking up the book with interest. "And you 
have read it ? " 

" Yes, I have only read it all through once, 
but I am going through it again now, and of 
course I know a good many of the Psalms by 
heart, and parts of the Gospels and Epistles, 
and a good many chapters out of Isaiah and 
Jeremiah, and some of Deuteronomy and Levit- 
icus. I used not to care a bit for Deuteronomy 
and Leviticus till grandpa taught me Egyptian 
and Babylonian history ; and then it became so 
interesting, you know, to trace the effects of the 
Egyptians on the Jews, and of the Jews again 
upon the Babylonians, that I learnt a good many 
of the Jewish laws by heart. Have you ever 
read the Apocrypha ? That's very interesting 

Sceur Amelie looked at him while he made 
this unusually long speech, just as she might 
have looked at some curious animal in the 
Jardin des Plantes. She was too much aston- 


ished to interrupt him, but as he ended her 
indignation broke forth: 

" No, indeed, at my age even I have never 
permitted myself to read it ; and while you are 
here, Hector, you shall not read it either. It is 
an unheard of presumption for a child like you 
to venture to read words which are often more 
than the very wisest can understand. You are 
perhaps too young to know, my poor child, what 
dangers you have run, but here we will protect 
you against the snares of the evil one. I will 
take this book and put it in a place of safety ; 
whenever you return to England it shall be 
given to you again. If, as we all hope, that 
time may be far distant, your mind will be per- 
haps better prepared to receive its mysteries." 

She said the last words very kindly, and 
crossed herself with fervor as she slipped the 
book into her pocket. 

Hector did not attempt to rescue his book, 
but stood and gazed at her for a moment with a 
puzzled expression in his eyes. 

" What did you say your religion was ? " he 
asked as he sat down again quietly in his place 
beside me. 

" The Catholic religion," she replied. 

"Oh ! then my aunts must be Protestants." 


On this first day Soeur Amelie seemed to 
think it would be well to examine him no 
further, and after hjs display of unexpected 
knowledge she gave him a piece of geography 
and Histoire Sainte to learn by heart, and 
turned her attention to me. 

I suppose I was very trying that morning, for 
I could not think of anything but Hector; and 
Soeur Ame"lie was more irritable than I had ever 
known her. Lessons ended for me in tears, for 
Hector in nothing at all, for when Soeur Amelie 
turned to him at the last moment to hear his 
repetition he did not know one word of the 
lesson she had set him. He had been thinking 
of something else, probably, the whole time. 
He wrinkled his brow, and looked vainly round 
the room for inspiration. Nothing came ; Sceur 
Amelie sat and waited with the book in her 
hand. On his side only the blankest silence. 

At last she threw the book down in vexation. 
" I should not have wished to give punishments 
on Hector's first day," she said, " but that sum 
that Zelie is crying over must be done and these 
lessons learnt before I come to-morrow. We 
shall not advance much, Hector, if this is the 
way you work." 

Madelon's shrill voice from the kitchen- 


" He ! ma Soeur, Pierre is harnessing. Make 
haste!" cut short any more of the reproaches 
she might with justice hate addressed to us, for 
Pierre the blacksmith used always to give her a 
lift back to the convent as he drove into Sainte- 
Marie-les-Bains to dine with his old mother, and 
she could not keep him waiting at the corner of 
the lane, "Allons, don't cry, Zelie ; do your 
sum now at once before dinner, and be better 
children to-morrow." She kissed us then both 
before she went, and a minute after we saw the 
wings of her cornette flapping as she ran down 
the lane in the sun. 

I thought Hector would have said something 
about her taking his book and being disagree- 
able ; and I meant to defend her, because, 
though she was a little cross sometimes, she was 
always kind at heart, and I felt ashamed now 
she was gone of having been so silly and 

But the instant she was out of the room 
Hector seemed to forget all about her, and his 
first question was : 

" Do you really think we shall have stewed 
^caches for dinner, Zelie ? It isn't the time of 
year for peaches now, is it ? " 

" No, but Grand'mere puts them away ri tins 


when they are plentiful, and we often do have 
them on Fridays. Are you very fond of 
peaches ? " I asked, wondering a little at what 
seemed like greediness. 

" I don't mind about the peaches one way or 
the other, but I want the stones. You see this 
man says," and he put up on the table the little 
brown book he had been reading in the morning, 
" that, with a peach-stone properly cleaned out, 
and filed and pierced at both sides, you can 
make a call perfectly resembling the cries of 
larks. Of course I can make one with a mutton - 
bone and a little wax, but I think the peach-stone 
would be the nicest and the easiest too. And 
look here, Ze"lie, I have been drawing on my 
slate all the figures I could remember of the 
implements a bird-catcher needs. Just you take 
the book now, and see if I describe them rightly." 

His slate was covered with little pictures of 
knives, bill-hooks, awls, odd sorts of whistles, 
things that looked like quivers full of arrows, 
and various other tools which had no meaning 
at all for me, till I saw that in the book he had 
put into my hands there were a number of old 
plates which corresponded with his drawings, 
and were accompanied by full and minute 
descriptions of the construction and uses of the 

52 II EC TOE. 

implements they represented. Then he began 
to describe to me how the things were made, 
and what they were for, while I kept the book 
open to see if he remembered rightly. He 
explained to me that the word Aviceptologie 
meant the science of catching birds, and even in 
the short time he had had for reading, he had 
found out so much about the habits of our 
native birds, and the way to call them and the 
way to catch them, and how to make the differ- 
ent tools he needed, that I was quite fascinated 
by hearing him repeat it all ; and we were both 
still leaning over his slate when Madelon came 
in to set the table for dinner. 

" Ha, we are beginning to love our lessons, 
are we ? " she remarked with a sharp glance at 
the disorder of the table. " Formerly the table 
used to be clear when I came to set the places. 
It is very good to be studious, but it is good also 
not to neglect our common duties." 

I blushed to think how little I merited the 
praise bestowed upon my diligence. My sum 
was still unfinished, Hector's lessons were 
unlearnt ; but we had to put our books away, 
for Madelon's movements were very prompt, 
and a few moments later the steaming soup- 
tureen set down before Grand'mre's place 
served as a signal that dinner was ready. 



T TECTOR got his peach-stones at dinner, but 
after dinner Grand'mere sent us to wipe 
apples up in the fruit-loft, so we did not imme- 
diately put them to any use. Grand'mere told 
us that we might have the two best apples we 
could find in each shelf we wiped, and as the 
shelves were large, and we were both fond of 
apples, we worked for a long time upstairs. We 
had fairly earned at last three apples each, and 
were bringing them down in glee to eat with our 
gotiter out of doors, when I perceived that the 
door leading to the* granaries was open, and I 
took Hector in to show him the part of the 
house which I liked best of all. The dwelling- 
house at Salaret was built at one end of the 
farmyard, at the other end was the great store- 
house for the wine, and the room with the 
presses and wine tanks all idle and dusty now, 
but full of life and activity in the autumn, when 
the sun had coaxed the bare brown vines into 


fruit ; all along one side of the yard, connecting 
the dwelling-house with the wine-rooms, ran a 
succession of necessary outhouses, cowhouse, 
dairy, laundry, stables, woodhouse, and above 
them, for the whole length of the yard, ran the 
granaries and hay-lofts. Grand'mere was very 
proud of her granaries ; and well she might be, 
for to this day, old as she is, she looks after her 
metayers so well, that there is hardly a land- 
owner in the cpuntry who has finer harvests 
than she. She has only to look at a field and 
she knows within a bushel or two how much 
corn ought to come to her out of it ; she knows 
how many quarts of wine to expect from every 
vineyard, and she insists upon full measure ; yet 
she is so just, and in her own way generous, to 
the metayers that they never have cause for 
complaint. I think they respect her all the 
more because she will not allow them to cheat 
her, and they know she is never hard in cases of 
distress. I have often known her, when there 
was occasion, give up her share of the produce 
from a poor mStairie, and not only feed the fam- 
ily through the winter, but give them their seed 
corn in the spring. "When God is wielding 
the scourge," she used to say, "we must help 
each other to bear His blows with patience." 


No one who serves Grand'mere would dare to 
bring her a nonsensical tale ; but there is not 
one of her metayers who does not feel in his 
heart that he has a friend up at Salaret. 

The granaries were not at their best on the 
day Hector first saw them, for we had sold a 
great deal of corn that winter. After the har- 
vest they were always piled from floor to roof, 
leaving only a path for the laborers to pass up 
the middle. But Hector had never seen them 
like that, and he admired them to my heart's 
content just as they were to-day. Men were at 
work in the middle room, giving out sacks 
through the shoot to load a bullock cart, which 
was drawn up in the yard below. In the first 
rooms as we entered there was no light but that 
which came from the tiled roof overhead, and 
the soft broken rays fell pleasantly on the differ- 
ent heaps of grain. The rye, the golden maize, 
the more sobered colored wheat, the glistening 
oats, were all equally beautiful, in my eyes, and 
I pointed them out with pride to Hector. He 
had never seen anything at all like it before, he 
said, and his joy at jumping head foremost into 
the thrashed corn, at swinging in the thrashing 
machine, rolling on the silky yellow maize leaves 
we found piled in another room ; burying me 


and himself in the white husks from which the 
grain had been beaten out, was a revelation of 
future delight to me. I had never done any of 
those things, because I had never had any one 
to do them with ; but now I enjoyed it as much 
as Hector did, and our laughter rang from room 
to room. Grand'mere came up to see how the 
men were getting on with the lading, and when 
she saw my cheeks flushed and my hair full of 
bits of straw, instead of being vexed, as I was 
half afraid she might be, she patted my head 
and said : " That's right, Hector ; give her 
some exercise and make a child of her again. 
She is so sober and staid, that I was beginning 
to think they had cheated me with a grandchild 
as old as myself." 

Hector was likely, indeed, to give me plenty 
of exercise. He was tumbling head over heels 
down a heap of maize leaves, when all his peach- 
stones fell out of his pocket and rattled about 
the floor. 

" But, yes, Ze"lie, I had forgotten ! The wood- 
peckers ! " he exclaimed, as he picked them up. 
" You promised to take me to the woods after 
dinner. And where are our apples ? I think I 
must eat them now; I am so awfully hungry 


This last was in rather a lower and somewhat 
apologetic tone ; but Grand'mere heard it from 
the room where she was busy. 

"Go and get some gotiter f rom Madelon," she 
called out. "And then you need not come up 
again. I shall be locking the doors in a minute 
or two." 

I was hungry too to-day, as I never used to be 
before Hector came, and we accepted gratefully 
the bread and garlic Madelon gave us at the 
kitchen door. Then Hector proposed that we 
should take it to eat in the woods where the 
woodpeckers were; and staying our appetites 
as we went with an apple apiece, we started for 
our first walk together. 

As we went down the lane, Hector pulled his 
peach-stones out of his pocket and began to 
explain to me how he intended to make his 
whistles ; but the operation turned out to be 
less simple than he had thought, for at the very 
beginning we were puzzled by the necessity for 
piercing the stones before we could get at the 
kernel to scrape it out. Hector was very 
anxious to make them at once, in order to try 
their effect down in the woods ; but it was only 
the more tantalizing as we looked at the beauti- 
fully marked impenetrable shell to reflect how 


quickly and easily the nut inside could be dis- 
posed of if we once succeeded in making the 
holes we wanted. Hector had the book in his 
pocket, and produced it. There was a little 
engraving of the peach-stone as it ought to be 
pierced on both sides, with a hole about the size 
of a small lentil. There were instructions on 
the opposite page to pierce it, and scrape it 
out, and we were told that its goodness con- 
sisted in the clear full note it gave. But before 
that clear full note could be heard we had to find 
means of boring the crisp and close-grained 

" It's no use going any farther," Hector said, 
" till I try if the small blade of my knife will 
do it." 

So we sat down on the mound at the bottom 
of the lane, and our half-eaten apples rolled 
unheeded into the dust, while we concentrated 
all our energy and attention upon Hector's ope- 
ration with the knife. But it was very slow and 
not satisfactory ; sometimes the steel seemed to 
make no impression on the wood, sometimes 
chips of peach-stone broke off in unexpected 
places ; and when I compared the jagged, untidy 
scraping with the neat holes in the picture, I felt 
sure that no clear full note would ever come out 
of our peach-stone. 

" So we sat down on the mound at the bottom of the lane." PAGE 58. 


Then at last, as I had been expecting all 
along, the knife slipped, and the stone Hector 
held was in an instant covered with blood from 
his left hand. I screamed in dismay, and with- 
out stopping his work, he looked up at me with 
a curious smile. 

" What a regular little French girl you are," 
he said, " to scream at the sight of a little blood ! 
What does it matter so long as we get the holes 
made ? " 

" I don't know what you mean," I replied 
indignantly, " by a regular little French girl. 
French girls are not cowards only," and I found 
my voice Quivering a little, though I did not 
want it to ; "I thought you had hurt yourself." 

" Go on with this," he said, " while I twist 
my handkerchief round the cut." 

He put the knife and the blood-stained peach- 
stone into my hand. It made me feel sick to 
touch it, and I suppose I was really in heart a 
coward, for my hands shook with the terror I 
felt lest the knife should slip again. But I 
would not have refused for all the world. I 
was determined he should not think through me 
that French girls were cowards. I grasped the 
peach-stone as tight as my trembling fingers 
would hold it, and with an inward prayer, to 

60 EEC TOE. 

St. Joseph to watch the knife I began- in my 
turn to scrape. 

I was rewarded. I had no sooner begun than 
Hector very gently took the knife and peach- 
stone from me. 

" That'll do," he said, " the knife might slip 
again, and I only wanted to see if you were 
really brave, or if you were boasting, like most 
girls. Perhaps I'd scream if you were cut ; it is 
always worse seeing things done to other peo- 
ple." I laughed at the thought of him scream- 
ing, but I saw as I looked up that he had turned 
very pale. 

" Does it hurt much ? " I ventured anxiously, 
for the cut was a deep one. 

" No, not a bit. It is only the sight of blood 
always makes me feel rather sick. That's why 
I go on looking at it. It is so silly to mind 
those things." 

He had not, however, an opportunity for look- 
ing at it much longer, for Georges of Saint- 
Loubouet came out of the forge at that moment, 
and seeing the stained handkerchief which Hec- 
tor had unwound again from his hand, he 
came and asked us what was the matter. We 
explained what we had been trying to do, and 
he solved our difficulty for us in a minute. 

EEC TOE. 6l 

" Bind up your hand," he said to Hector, 
" and come along in here. My uncle is the 
man you want." 

" Blow your fire," he continued good-naturedly 
to his uncle as we passed into the forge, " I have 
brought you a big job now. Here are two chil- 
dren who want to pierce two peach-stones. They 
began cleverly enough by piercing themselves, 
but they forgot to swallow the peach-stones 
first, so they are obliged now to have recourse 
to you." 

" Let us see let us see," said Pierre, work- 
ing his bellows. And in five minutes more 
Hector's peach-stones were all laid on the anvil, 
where a red-hot nail worked by a master hand 
soon made in them the holes we needed. 

Georges left the forge as soon as he had put 
us in his uncle's hands, but Pierre listened 
good-naturedly to all Hector had to say about 
the uses to which he intended to put his p.each- 
stones, and looked at the engraving in order to 
make our holes of the exact size. 

"Tiens!" he said. "What one learns by 
being able to read. Read me a bit now that I 
may see how they say it in the book." 

Hector read aloud as he was asked ; and I 
wondered what he meant by saying to Sceur 


Am&ie that he could only read a little. He 
read beautifully, far, far better than I, and, I 
thought, than Soeur Amelie either. 

"That's fine that!" said the smith; "Ah, 
Esquebesse is the man for you. He'd like to 
see that book too, and he'll tell you all about 
birds. He knows their haunts for twenty miles 
round. Good-day, M. Baptiste ! " 

The burly form of Baptiste the miller filled 
the doorway. He wanted his horse shod, and 
Pierre had to attend to him at once. He was 
one of Grand'mere's well-to-do tenants. They 
said in the neighborhood that, besides his mill, 
he had saved at least four hundred pounds, with 
which he had bought railway shares ; and though 
his family had not held the mill for anything 
like the number of generations that Georges' 
family, for instance, had held the Saint-Lou- 
bouet farm, he was not a new-comer, and he 
was treated with consideration in the country. 
He was past forty now, but he was not married, 
and a single life seemed to agree with him. 
His round, red, fat face beamed prosperously 
above his blouse, and his comfortable propor- 
tions and well-kept clothes spoke of no stint or 
mismanagement at home. " They told me your 
nephew Georges was here," we hearcl him say 
as Pierre bent over the horse's hoof. 


" He is out," Pierre answered shortly. 

"Where has he gone?" 

" As if I knew ! Gone up to pay his respects 
to Madame Loustanoff very likely. He will be 
back with me at six o'clock." 

This last was with a good-humored, open air, 
but as he came into the forge to fetch some nails, 
Pierre said to us in a low quick voice, " You 
are going down to the woods over there ? " 

" Yes." 

" Then, if you see Georges, tell him the miller 
is here inquiring for him. You won't forget?" 

Without giving us time to answer he went 
back to the shoeing of the miller's horse, but 
though we did not understand why, we saw very 
well that he did not wish our mission to be men- 
tioned before the miller. We therefore said no 
more about it as we followed him out of the 
forge. Only as we stood for a moment to watch 
the shoeing, Hector asked how much there was 
to pay for our peach-stones. 

" How much money have you got ? " asked 
Pierre, laughing. 

" I have plenty of money," said Hector, put- 
ting his hand in his pocket and pulling out three 
gold Napoleons, "but that hasn't anything to 
do, has it, with what you ought to make me 



" It has generally a good deal to do with what 
I make my customers pay. But keep your 
money, my child, I don't want any." 

" That is not the way to do business," said 
the miller, as he puffed his cigarette; "I don't 
approve of those generosities I don't say in 
this case. What you have done is no doubt a 
small thing, and then it is for Madame Loustan- 
off ; but, as a rule, those who can't pay for things 
should not want them, and you ruin yourself in 
working for paupers." 

" I am not as rich as you, M. Baptiste, but I 
am rich enough; and, be easy, I'll make you 
pay, at all events, for the work I do for you." 

We all laughed at the fervor of Pierre's assur- 
ance, and Hector said : 

" You'd better let me pay too, for I'm sure 
only to lose my money ; I nearly always do." 

"Nonsense," said Pierre. "There's nothing 
for you to pay. But that's a lot of money for 
you to carry loose in your pocket. You ought 
to give it to some one to keep." 

" Well, then," said Hector, " will you keep it 
for me ? Grandpapa gave it to me when he was 
going away, and I'm certain to lose it unless 
some one takes care of it." 

" And what tells you that I am honest ? " 


asked Pierre. " You have only known me since 
this morning." 

Hector paused a moment and considered 

" I think it's because you seem to care more 
about other people than about yourself," he said 
then, "and if you care more about them you 
can't want to take their things." 

"And I know you are honest," I said, 
"because I have known you all my life." 

" Allons, I'll, take your money," said Pierre, 
"and keep it at all events till you come back 
this evening. It would be a pity to lose it down 
in those woods. And now be off; you haven't 
a moment to spare if you want to catch any 
birds before dark to-night." 



"X \ 7E were soon down in the woods, and once 
there, the interest of eating our godter 
and of scraping out our peach-stones as a pre- 
liminary to producing the promised clear, full 
note which was to delude the larks, so absorbed 
us that we thought no more of Pierre or the 
miller, or the message given us for Georges. 
We did not find the kernels of the stones very 
easy to scrape out with a bent pin, which was 
the only instrument we possessed small enough 
to penetrate to the innermost corners of the 
nutshell ; but with patience we succeeded at 
last, and then we sat on the stump of an old 
chestnut-tree and whistled till our cheeks ached 
with blowing and our sides with laughter. I 
need not say that our notes were not in the 
least like the notes of larks. If they were clear 
and full, that virtue was due to the healthy state 
of our own lungs and throats; the peach-stones 
counted for very little in the sounds which we 


produced. But when we had laughed our fill, 
and I had grown tired of trying to whistle, Hec- 
tor became serious, and pulling the "Avicepto- 
logie " out of his pocket, applied himself in ear- 
nest to learn the lark-call. The book gave exact 
directions about the manner in which the whistle 
should be held; and after a time, whilst I 
amused myself looking through the plates and 
asking questions which remained all unanswered, 
Hector, with reiterated endeavors, succeeded in 
drawing a note from the peach-stone itself. 

His face flushed with pleasure. " It's not a 
good note, and it's not much like a lark's cry," 
he said, " but it is a note made with the peach- 
stone. Listen ! when I whistle without the 
stone the sound it quite different." 

It was true ; and his perseverance had roused 
my listlessness into renewed interest. I did not 
attempt to produce the sound myself, but I 
made him try it again and again, till he was 
quite sure of it, and we were both of opinion 
that it really was growing clear and full. 

" Now," he said, " the thing to do is to find 
out where some larks live, that we may come 
and listen to them every day and try to imitate 
their sounds. They might very likely be build- 
ing now ; the end of March and April is their 


time, and the young birds won't be out till May ; 
so we should have good opportunities." 

" How did you find out so much about birds, 
Hector ? " I asked. " Did your grandfather 
teach you that too ? " 

" Hush ! No. You can learn anything you 
like, when you know how to read. Don't chat- 
ter, I want to listen." 

It was late now in the afternoon. The sun 
was so low that the shadows of the trees crossed 
each other in long drawn-out perspective over 
the patches of shining white and mauve anem- 
ones and green tufts of daffodil spikes which 
broke the russet of last year's fallen leaves, and 
the wood was alive with the cries of little birds 
going to roost. Sweet and harsh, clear and 
muffled, low and shrill, they answered each other 
across the hollow, till we could have believed 
that every bud and branch had its voice and that 
the trees were singing in chorus. 

In such a confused medley of sound, I could 
not have distinguished any special note with the 
least hope of following it up; but after listening 
attentively for a few moments, Hector made me 
a sign to follow him, and began to steal away 
on tiptoe over the leaves. At last, I too fancied 
I heard amongst the other sounds a low sweet 


note down in the hollow, which was repeated 
from time to time; and stopping occasionally to 
listen, we made our way down into the thicker 
part of the wood where the path wound through 
it to the village. As we reached the place 
whence we thought the bird's song proceeded, 
the .sound ceased; but Hector stopped by a 
spreading daphne-bush and whispered : 

"-It was a woodlark, and I'm sure it came from 
somewhere near here ; but perhaps it won't sing 
while it sees us. Let us get under this bush 
and wait." 

" Serpents ! " I whispered in an agony as I 
saw him lifting the low boughs of the daphne; 
but his only answer as he slid underneath the 
glossy screen was an indifferent " Don't come." 

He did not take the trouble to look at me, 
but I fancied the expression of his face the 
same as when he had called me " a regular little 
French girl ; " and after a moment of desperate 
struggle with myself I stooped and whispered, 
" Is there room enough for me, Hector? " 

" Plenty," he answered ; and I wriggled in 
beside him. 

" Plenty of room for you, and a few serpents 
too," he said. But this time he spoke kindly, 
and though I shook with fear I felt quite happy. 


Finding that I remained unbitten, I became 
convinced after a few moments that we had 
intruded upon no serpent's nest, and as Hector 
curled himself round on one side of the daphne- 
stem, breaking off a few small branches to make 
room for his head, I followed his example on the 
other side, till we were soon established in the 
greatest comfort like two little tailors under a 
tent. Hector had his peach-stone ready, and 
we listened in silence for the "tark. We waited 
very patiently, but it did not sing again ; and 
presently, instead of the notes of the lark, we 
heard the sound of steps approaching; and 
human voices, speaking low, came to us through 
the trees. 

"Because, listen to me, Irma," a voice was 
saying which we recognized directly as that of 
Georges. " It is that I have loved you so long 
I can't get over the habit now, and if you play 
me false, I must go away and begin a new life. 
I shall care no more for Saint Loubouet, if all 
its fields are to remind me of you when you are 
married to some one else. If I cannot share 
my little comforts with you, it is no use to me 
that I am my father's only son. I shall only be 
sorry that he must be left childless and desolate 
in his old age ; for you know me, Irma ; you 


have known me since I was a little boy, and you 
know I am too fiery to live here if you marry 
any other man than me. It would be stronger 
than I. I will volunteer when my time is up 
for an African regiment, and perhaps out there, 
with the sea between us, I shall manage to for- 
get you." 

" But no, Georges," Irma said. " It will not 
be I who will send you over the sea." 

" They're nYaking love ! " Hector whispered 
to me with excitement quite as great as my own ; 
and without the least thought of our indiscre- 
tion, we put our two heads together and peeped 
through an opening in the daphne -leaves as 
silently and cautiously as if we had been watch 
ing the proceedings of the woodlark itself. They 
were walking down the path together. Irma 
had her distaff in her belt and she was spinning 
as she went ; but she did not seem to me to be 
thinking much of the evenness of her thread. 
Her cheeks were flushed, and her dark eyelashes 
wet with unusual tears. Georges' face was 
turned towards her. He seemed to be very 
much in earnest. 

"I tell you all that, Irma," he said, "just 
that you may know. For when I was away at 
Montfort and I heard rumors, I lay awake think- 

/2 HF.VTOR. 

ing, and I thought it's a long time since she has 
seen me, and perhaps she thinks I am forgetting 
her, and that it will make no difference ; and 
then I thought to myself, it is only fair to let 
her know the difference it will make ; for I know 
you have a good heart, Irma, and you love my 
father, and you promised to be a daughter to 
him. Then, if you marry some one else, you 
rob him of both his children. And you who 
have known him all your life, you know it would 
break his heart for the land to go after him to 
some other than me. We have held that land 
of the Loustanoffs now, from father to son, near 
four hundred years. I love the land too, Irma. 
It is there I was born ; it is near there my 
mother is buried. I had always hoped to live 
there with you, and that the old man would see 
our little ones about him there before he died. 
And when I was lying awake thinking at Mont- 
fort, I thought, she has a good heart ; she would 
not work this ruin if she knew the difference it 
would make. I can't impose* upon you to make 
you think me better than I am, for you have 
known me all my life. I don't know how to 
speak well, Irma, and I know I am not much 
myself for you to be faithful to ; but it is, do you 
see, that you promised the old man to be his 


daughter, and that it would make such a differ- 

He stopped nearly opposite the daphne-bush, 
seeming to entreat an answer, and she put her 
hand out to him and said, as she looked up with 
the color mounting in her cheeks: 

" It is that you are much to me, Georges. It 
is not because I have promised the old man, but 
because I have promised you yourself that I 
will be faithful to you." 

Georges squeezed the little brown hand she 
gave him. 

"Ah! Irma," he said, "if you knew the good 
it does me to hear you. You don't understand 
that, you, but when a man is far away and he 
lies there thinking, and they have told him how 
all the men at home, cleverer and richer than 
he, are trying to get his sweetheart, and he 
thinks how he is stupid and plain, with nothing 
to recommend him and that she is growing pret- 
tier and prettier every day, then it is like a 
great sickness here to think she will not stick to 
him. And when I come home to find you 
remember still. Ah ! it makes a baby of me." 
He dashed his hand across his eyes, and then 
they walked on again side by side. 

The next thing we heard was Irma's voice : 


" I only say to you what I say to every one. 
I will never marry any other man but you 
unless I am forced into it against my will." 

" Unless you are forced into it ! How can 
they force you if you choose to say No?" 

" Ah ! Georges, you know we must obey our 
parents, and they make my life hard, allez, 
because I have waited for you. But they gave 
their promise themselves to wait till your time 
was up, and I will hold out till then." 

" It will not be long now, only ten months 
more; and I shall be here in the autumn with 
the soldiers." 

" You will not fail, Georges ? " 

" Fail ! how should I fail ? The whole of the 
1 8th Corps will move, and the manoeuvres are 
to extend over this very ground. It will be hard 
indeed if we don't meet. Who knows but I 
may be quartered in your very house ! " 

" It is my father who will be pleased in that 
case. He who loves soldiers so much ! " They 
both laughed aloud a merry, light-hearted laugh. 

" It is all one," said Georges, " I don't love 
them myself much more than he, and he will 
like me again when he sees you at St. Loubouet." 

" But, Georges, if you were kept at Montfort ? " 

" I shall not be kept at Montfort. My Col- 


onel is kind to me ; he knows that my home is 
here, and only yesterday he told me to tell my 
parents I should see them again in the autumn." 

" I know you are his orderly, and he favors 
you your father told me that ; but if he were 
to keep you with him at Montfort ? It is that 
Georges, I shall want you in the autumn. The 
busy season will be here soon, and there will be 
no more question of marriages now till the har- 
vests are over ; but I will speak frankly to you ; 
you know how it is at the Saint-Martin. They 
ask my father, and it is not easy to say No whe',i 
every one is against you. And then and then 
they say you have your cousin at Montfort, and 
that you go to see her every Sunday ; and they 
laugh at me to wait for a man who does not 
think of me. And I do not believe a word of 
it, but it vexes me to hear her spoken of so 

" Ha ! they tell you 'that, do they ? Well, it 
is true that I spend part of every Sunday with 
my uncle, and I see Marie there when I go. 
But it is not true that I think once of her in the 
week between whiles, and if you like better, 
Irma, for me to stay in barracks on Sunday after- 
noons I will stay in barracks." 

" No, Georges, I am not so selfish ; and, 


besides, I trust you. But you will not fail me 
when the soldiers come." 

" Listen, Irma ! " They stood still again. 
Georges raised his head, and then we heard the 
woodlark's cry. " You know that call well. One 
day, when the soldiers are here, you will be 
spinning in the porch, and you will hear it three 
times, thus." 

We listened, and heard the woodlark call its 
mate, as Georges said, three times before we 
fully understood. Then, as it dawned upon 
Hector that Georges was the lark we had been 
tracking, he shook so with suppressed chuckling, 
that I was afraid the rustling of the branches 
would betray our presence. I suppose, however, 
that Georges was thinking only of Irma, and 
Irma only of Georges, for they paid no atten- 
tion, though the daphne-leaves shook under their 
very eyes. 

" And when you hear it," Georges continued, 
"you will come down spinning into the wood, 
where you will not be long alone." 

My position under the daphne-bush was be- 
coming intolerably uncomfortable. In kneeling 
up to peep at the two lovers I had put myself 
into a strained attitude, which forced me to 
throw nearly all my weight upon a branch, on 


which my right hand rested. My arm and back 
were aching, my head was twisted, some twigs 
upon which I knelt were pressed most painfully 
into my knee. I felt that in another moment I 
must move, cost what it would, when suddenly 
the branch upon which I was leaning gave way, 
and crash through the lower twigs I went to the 
ground. Hector's hand griping my frock firmly 
at the waist, alone prevented me from rolling 
ignominiously out at the feet of Georges and 
Irma. Hurt as I was, I had the presence of 
mind to stifle the exclamation which rose to my 
lips, and while Georges and Irma, startled at the 
extraordinary and unexpected sound, looked, 
fortunately for us, in every direction but the 
right one first, Hector and I lay trembling, we 
scarcely knew whether most with laughter or 
most with fear, upon the ground. 

Had they stayed five minutes longer they 
must have discovered us, but Irma was fright- 
ened by the noise ; and though Georges assured 
her it was but a squirrel, or perhaps a weasel 
chasing a rabbit through the bushes, she said 
that it was time for her to be going home. The 
sun was low, and her father would be angry if 
she were seen out in the dusk. 

"But, Georges, listen no more to what they 

78 n EC TOT?. 

say at Montfort. I will wait for you, and, if 
anything should keep you in the autumn, you 
will write to your uncle and he will let me 

" I will not fail," said Georges. " I will write 
to my uncle Pierre, and as he cannot read, it is 
you whom he will ask to read his letter to him. 
I will arrange all that ; but he is sharp, 1'oncle 
Pierre, he needs no telling." 

They were walking away while they spoke, 
and now they turned a corner which took them 
out of our sight. In an instant Hector and I 
were out of our hiding-place. 

" I would like to know how long he took to 
learn that lark-call," said Hector; "let's see if 
it was like this." Hector made a call as he 
spoke upon his peach-stone ; but my mind was 
too full of Irma and Georges to listen. 

" I wonder if Pierre's message had anything 
to do with that" I said, nodding my head after 
the two lovers, and full of importance at the 
thought that we were being used perhaps in 
such great matters. 

" He said we were to be sure and not forget, 
let us run across and give it to them before 
they get up en the high-road. They will never 
guess that we come from here." 



A CIRCUIT through the woods brought us 
in a minute or two face to face with 
Georges and Irma. The consciousness of our 
knowledge caused us to blush guiltily as we 
delivered our message, but I could see by the 
effect it had upon them that we were right to 
have carried out Pierre's instructions. They 
both looked embarrassed, and when Irma said 
" Then I won't go on with you, Georges," he 
made no attempt to persuade her. 

I was so fascinated by my interest in these 
real living lovers, that I would have stood there 
open-mouthed to stare at them as long as they 
remained together, if Hector had not pulled my 
dress and walked on himself in leisurely fashion 
down the path. 

" What were you staying there to look at 
them for ? " he said. " They couldn't say good- 
bye while you were there." 

" Why not ? " I asked innocently. 

" Because Georges must go down on his knees 


to kiss her hand, or they must fall into each 
other's arms, or something like that ; lovers 
always do when they bid each other good-bye, 
and they couldn't you know, while you stood 
staring at them." 

" How do you know lovers always do that ? " 

" Oh, because I have read about them in the 
library at home, lots of them, and they always 
do. At least, I don't know though ; perhaps it 
is only gentlemen lovers. Sir Charles Grandi- 
son and the lovers I have read about are all gen- 
tlemen, and I don't believe Georges is such a 

This thought seemed rather to relieve Hector's 
mind, and he said, after a minute's reflection, 
" When I marry, I don't intend to marry a lady." 

" Why not ? " 

' Because a girl like Irma is much better. 
Ladies scream and wring their fair white hands, 
and think it is grand to pretend they don't care 
about you a bit when you are making love to 
them. Now, Irma was nice and kind to Georges, 
and then she went on spinning all the time, and 
that's so much more useful. Ladies can read 
and write a little more than Irma, but they don't 
know anything much, and they can't do any 
work, and I don't see any good of having a wife 
unless she can be of some use to you." 


" Hector," I said, as we approached the edge 
of the wood, " what funny books you seem to 
have read the Bible and novels and Babylonian 
history." But my remarks on Hector's reading 
were cut short by the whining voice of a tramp 
whom I had noticed hanging about the forge 
when we were there. 

" Could the little gentleman give him a sou ? " 
he asked ; he was hungry, and he had wilked a 
long way. 

Hector thrust his hand into his pocket, but 
pulled it out empty. 

" I forgot," he said, " of course I gave all my 
money to the blacksmith to keep ; what a pity. 
No, I have nothing for you." 

" Yes, that's it. We have gold pieces for our- 
selves and nothing at all for the starving," re- 
plied the man, with sudden change of voice and 
an evil look. " You think perhaps that I an} 
going to believe what you like to say to me, but 
I am not such a fool." As he spoke he sud- 
denly approached and seized Hector by the col- 
lar. " Now then, what have you in the bottom 
of your pockets ? " 

Hector's answer was two swift blows, one 
after the other as fast and as hard as he could 
hit, straight up into the man's face. He was a 


great lusty fellow, about three times as big as 
Hector, and when I saw the wicked angry light 
that flashed into his eyes as he raised his stick, 
I was so terrified that the shriek I uttered 
must have been heard up at Salaret. 

Down came the stick. If it had struck Hec- 
tor as he intended, there would have been no 
need for another blow ; but Hector had slipped 
in some wonderful way between his legs. The 
force with which he had struck only served to 
make the man lose his balance, and before he 
had recovered himself, the hand of Pierre the 
blacksmith was on his collar, his stick had been 
wrested from him, and with all the strength and 
adroitness of a right arm accustomed to use the 
hammer, Pierre was belaboring him with blows. 
I could not bear to see it, even though the man 
had struck Hector. " Enough, Pierre," I im- 
plored, " enough, you will kill him ! " But 
Pierre paid no attention to me, and I hid my 
face in my hands to shut out the horrible sight. 

" Let me alone for hitting. I am not a 
blacksmith for nothing, and I know how to 
regulate my blows. He has had his lesson 
good, he'll remember it too, allez, for some time 
to come, but there's not a bone in his body 
broken. That'll teach you to come prowling in 


our woods, and to make attempts to rob children 
who can't defend themselves. I heard every 
word that passed, you villain ; and if ever I 
catch you off the high-road in Madame Loustan- 
offs's land again, you will receive the like at my 
hands." Pierre's voice warned me that the 
chastisement was over, and I looked up to see 
the unfortunate beggar sitting on the ground 
while Pierre stood over him stick in hand, but 
as cool as if he had just beaten out a horse-shoe 
on his own anvil. Esquebesse had sauntered up 
with his two dogs, and was calmly smoking over 
the scene. Hector alone seemed as much moved 
as I ; with a face as white as marble and eyes 
strangely bright, he stood with his hands in his 
pockets, gazing at Pierre. I could see that he 
had not missed one detail. The corners of his 
mouth were drooping, but if the face was as 
white, it was as firm as marble too. I wondered 
what he thought of it all. He did not speak. 

" You hit hard, Pierre," said Esquebesse. 

" I was right," said Pierre. " Empty your 
pockets ! " The tramp obeyed without a word. 
I was surprised to see him so submissive. In 
one pocket, beside his knife, there was a heavy 
bundle which clanked as he threw it out. In 
obedience to a gesture from Pierre he unfastened 


the knotted corners, and displayed a heap of 
halfpence which must have been worth several 
francs. From his other trousers pocket he 
pulled a folded newspaper, and as he turned the 
pocket inside out he tried to slip up his sleeve 
some silver and a ten franc piece which Pierre's 
quick eyes instantly discovered. In his blouse, 
a flask and a half-eaten roll with a good slice of 
ham between its crusts, had been thrust out of 
sight, beneath his dirty handkerchief. 

We children looked on stupefied. 

" You see," Pierre said to Esquebesse, " he is 
a vicious rogue. He is not poor, he is not 
hungry, and he would have used violence to 
steal from these children. I am for justice, and 
where there is crime I would have chastisement. 
It is that," and he pointed to the wretched 
creature on the ground, "which is the ruin of us 
honest people. He will not work, but he must 
eat fine bread and ham, and there are thousands 
like him. They agitate the country, and we 
honest people dare not move, for we know well 
that filth is there at the bottom, asking nothing 
better than to disseminate itself if it is stirred." 

Esquebesse took his pipe out of his mouth 
and slowly puffed away a mouthful of smoke. 
"You are right," he said; "it is they who ruin 
us. Who ruins them ? " 


Pierre looked at him for a moment in silence, 
and then turned to the tramp. 

" Where do you come from ? " he asked. 

" From Tarbes." 

" Before that ? " 

" From Bayonne. 

" You were born in the South ? " 

" No, I am a Parisian ; " and the man looked 
up for the first time with something like a gleam 
of pride. 

" A famous Parisian ! What are your par- 

" Is that your business ? It is nothing to 
you who are my parents." 

" Answer," said Pierre. 

" I know nothing of them. I have been told 
that I was born at the factory." 

Esquebesse had taken up the newswaper and 
was looking at it. 

"Yes," he said, "that's it, born in the factory, 
of unknown parents ; and afterwards they are 
nourished with stuff like this." He read aloud 
as he spoke from the newspaper : 

" ' The people is above the law, it is for the 
people now to efface with its broad foot the law 
which it has written in the sand.' And those 
are not the words of an obscure newspaper 

86 H EC TOR. 

writer; they are words spoken out .in the 
daylight before all France by a man who 
aspires to the position of a leader. 

"Ah! we want leaders. We are like sheep 
without any shepherds. Is it astonishing that 
wolves slip in amongst us ? In England," (and 
he turned to Hector,) " the old aristocracy have 
not abandoned the people so, they have kept 
their rightful place; they work for the 'people 
and with the people ; they are the leaders ; they 
employ their leisure in gaining knowledge, and 
their knowledge is at the service of the country. 
When I was young, I went to England with M. 
le Comte, and I saw your aristocracy. You 
have your share of young idlers and dandies, 
but it is not they, with all their glitter, who 
uphold your nobility. You have still in your 
great English families gentlemen who would 
hold themselves disgraced if they did not work 
harder for their country than any of the laborers 
they daily see work for themselves. That is 
what I understand by a true aristocrat, and that 
is how your country is kept straight. Each 
class does its own work. Those who have 
instruction lead, those who know little follow, 
We have made noble efforts, we French people. 
but here, now for more than a hundred years, 


our aristocracy has failed us. We, who know 
nothing, have been forced to put ourselves 
forward. Ambition was soon mixed in it, and 
what has been the result ? convulsion after 
convulsion hope lifting the nation, and then 
despair. It is for those whose fortune and 
position is assured to stand in the front. They 
can disengage their mind from the thought of 
reward. But when the personal ends to be 
gained are too great, who can say that his eyes 
would not be dazzled by the flash of vainglory, 
nor his hand turned aside to grasp power for 

Esquebesse replaced his pipe in his mouth, 
and drew from it a long whiff of srnoke. The 
man at his feet sat without attempting to rise, 
or to collect the contents of his pockets, which 
lay scattered on the dead leaves around him. 
Dirty, unshaven, ragged, the top of his head 
bald, and the long hair around falling over his 
ears and the collar of his coat, he seemed to 
wait, with eyes cast down, the further pleasure 
of his captors. I was glad he did not raise his 
eyes, for 1 was so full of curiosity I could not 
help looking at him, and I dreaded at the same 
time to see that wicked expression again. 

Esquebesse seemed to take no more account 

88 HECTOR. _ 

of his presence than if he had been a dead rabbit 
or a weasel. " I never see an idle rogue like 
that," he said, "without thinking of the idle 
gentlemen who have abdicated their rights. 
There are some who would say it does not 
concern me, but as one gets old, tranquilly in 
the depths of one's woods the mind has leisure 
to occupy itself with many things ; and you, my 
little gentleman, it concerns you. Look well at 
that man. Fix him in your memory as he is 
there, with his money and his white bread, and 
his newspaper which bids him efface the law, for 
such as you see him, with his attempt to steal on 
his conscience, he represents crime. It is per- 
haps the first time you have seen it, and you 
don't understand much of these things yet, but 
keep it in your mind. There is matter there for 
plenty of useful reflection." 

Hector's eyes had been fixed on Esquebesse 
while he spoke. He looked down now as though 
literally obeying the keeper's directions. I 
looked down too at the man sitting, as I have 
described, on the leaves, with rounded back and 
downcast impenetrable face. In the midst of the 
silence, not knowing that we were all watching 
him, the man raised his head a little and flashed 
a glance at Pierre. It was as though he had 


suddenly opened to us the wickedness of his 
soul ; his eyes were so keen, so cunning, and so 
malevolent, that they seemed to bring you face 
to face with hate and revenge and cruelty. I 
shuddered from head to foot as I met them. He 
perceived that we were all looking at him. 
Instantly the eyelids dropped again, and the 
face was but a stolid mask once more ; but as I 
looked over at Hector I could see by his strange, 
interested, horror-stricken expression that he too 
had caught the glance, and that he felt crime 
was terrible. 

" Aliens ! " said Pierre, " enough has been 
said. It matters little to me where evil comes 
from or where it goes. I thrash it when I catch 
it under my hand, and that is what I counsel all 
honest folk to do. Get up now," he added to 
the tramp, "and since I have given you the 
occasion to use it, I will give you also a little oil 
to rub yourself with before you go any further. 
Pick up your money. None of us would soil our 
fingers with stolen coin." 

The man seemed stiff and sore, but we stood 
fascinated and watched till every coin was 
picked up, and his knife and his roll and his 
newspaper replaced in the pockets from which 
they had come. Then as he turned to follow 


Pierre and Esquebesse to the forge we sped up 
the darkening lane, I at all events seized with 
sudden fear, and not daring to look behind me 
till I reached the shelter of the porch. From 
there, as I glanced round, I saw the figures of 
three men dark against the red lights of the 
forge, and Georges inside quietly lighting his 
pipe with a glowing cinder. But I had no 
desire to watch them farther ; I was too glad to 
run down the passage and find myself in our 
own safe kitchen, where Madelon was busy with 
her saucepans and Jean was washing his hands 
at the sink in preparation for his supper. 



R AND'MERE sat in the dining-room knit- 
ting by the little fire, which we still 
enjoyed in these chilly spring evenings. The 
door was open between the dining-room and the 
kitchen, so she called to us when she heard our 
voices, and we went in and told our story. 
Madelon came in too to lay the .cloth for supper, 
and her indignation was great at the recital. 
What excited her most was that our beggar 
should have had white bread to eat. 

"Ah! the villain," she said, "yes, that's how 
it is ; we honest people work and deny ourselves, 
and think corn bread good enough for every day, 
and the rascals who are not worth feeding live 
on the fat of the land. Ah, Tenez, they speak 
much of Providence ; if I had the arrangement 
of things, it would not be the good-for-nothings 
who should eat white bread." 

But Grand'mere put on her spectacles and 
looked sharply through them at Madelon. 


" That's well," she said, " that's very well ; 
that's the way we should speak before children ! 
Fi done, mademoiselle, I should have thought 
you had more good sense." 

Madelon was close upon forty at this time, 
but she had lived with us already for twenty 
years, and when Grand'mere was vexed she 
always spoke to her as though she was still a 
little girl. On this occasion Madelon said no 
more, but began to wind up the lamp on the 
sideboard and Grand'mere continued to us : 

" Did that man seem happy to you with his 
white bread and his smoked ham ? " 

" Oh, no ! " we both cried at once. 

" If you had each a piece of corn bread and 
garlic to go and eat in the woods, would you 
not have been far happier than he ? " 

We thought of how we had enjoyed ourselves 
down in the woods that very afternoon, and we 
told of the fun that we had had. 

" And the reason of that difference," Grand'- 
mere pursued, "is that you are innocent, and 
he is guilty. For remember well this, children, 
that he who abandons his duty is not only 
wicked, he is a very great fool, for he abandons 
happiness too. With innocence the simplest 
life is happy. As soon as you begin to do evil 


all the splendors in the world leave you miser- 
able. The ways of Providence are inscrutable. 
We do not understand them all, but there is no 
need that we should ; for nobody that I know of 
has ever asked us to do the work of Providence. 
A few ignorant people who imagine themselves 
capable of understanding everything," Grand'- 
m6re raised her voice with some asperity, "will 
tell you that they could arrange the world much 
better ; but that only proves that they have as 
little faith as they have good sense. I tell you 
that we see here below a very little piece at a 
time of the great scheme, and that one must be 
mad to attempt to judge that of which we hardly 
know the ABC. During my long life I have 
seen that the dishonest are unhappy, while the 
honest and industrious, and those who know 
that they must not meddle with what they do 
not understand, are happy. And that seems to 
me enough for reasonable people." 

Madelon knew as well as we did that the last 
part of Grand'mere's speech was intended for 
her, and we heard her muttering in the kitchen 
as she carried the lamp away to light, but she 
did not dare for the moment to make any more 

Grand'mere's supper was very simple: in 


winter a dish of vegetables with a piece of 
bread comprised her whole bill of fare, and in 
summer a salad, a pear, or a bunch of grapes 
replaced the hot dish of vegetables. For me 
there was always a boiled egg, and how can 1 
describe the lively pleasure I felt when this 
evening after the lamp had been put in the 
middle of the round table, and the dish of 
haricots set as usual before Grand'mere, Made- 
Ion brought in two boiled eggs upon a plate 
instead of the one which I had been accustomed 
to for years. It seems a little thing to take 
pleasure from, but of all the happy sensations 
of that day none stays with me more vividly 
than the joy I felt when Madelon brought in 
our two eggs and I realized afresh that I had a 
companion now in supper and in everything. 

" Monsieur the scoundrel sups no doubt on 
partridges," Madelon remarked audibly to Jean 
as she served the remainder of the haricots for 
their supper in the kitchen ; and I thought in 
my heart that Grand'mere was right ; no matter 
what he had, I felt sure he was not as happy as 
I while I ate my egg slowly, looking at Hector. 

" Yes," Grand'mere said when supper was 
finished and Madelon had cleared the table, 
" Esquebesse is right ; it is with idleness that 


crime begins ; therefore Zelie, since you have 
amused yourself all day, you will fetch your 
thimble now, and help me to make blue pina- 
fores for Hector. His fine clothes will soon be 
spoilt in running over the country with you ; 
also, such a dress is not suitable. And you," 
she said turning to Hector, "you must be useful 
too. If you know how to read, you shall read 
me my newspaper while I work." 

I had been surprised to see Grand'mere pro- 
duce her work-basket after supper, for as long as 
I could remember it had been her custom to 
devote the evening hour to her newspaper. 
The only sounds ever to be heard in the dining- 
room during that hour were the ticking of the 
great clock in the corner, and the occasional 
rustle of the newspaper; varied in winter by the 
tapping of the evergreens upon the window- 
pane, and in summer by the evening songs of 
the birds outside in the orchard ; and I had 
been accustomed whenever I wanted conversa- 
tion to carry my spinning into the kitchen, and 
sit there by the hearth, or on the doorstep, 
according to season, chatting with Madelon 
while she went about her work. It had never 
occurred to me that Grand'mere could give that 
hour up, and to see her change the habi> of so 


many years in order to work for Hector made 
me realize how kind and good she was. I was 
therefore doubly glad that she told Hector to 
read to her glad for Grand'mere's sake that she 
should not altogether miss the newspaper she 
enjoyed, and glad and proud that she should 
hear how beautiful Hector could read. 

I had a little chair of my own, upon which I 
always sat ; but there was no little chair for 
Hector ; so he got into Bonpapa's rush-bottomed 
armchair, which had stood empty for years 
beside the hearth. It was too high for his feet 
to touch the ground, and sitting there opposite 
to Grand'mere with his legs crossed and one 
heel resting for support on the rung of the chair, 
he gravely read us out the news of the day. 

I have the blue pinafores still which Grand'- 
mere and I made that spring for Hector. They 
are shabby and faded now ; but I never see 
them lying in a corner of the cupboard where I 
keep my linen without thinking of those quiet 
evenings, with the fire of vine branches crack- 
ling on the hearth and Hector's voice musical in 
the silence, while we plied our needles through 
the dark-blue stuff. 

I understood very little that first evening of 
what Hector read. It was chiefly about the 


army and the length of time that men should 
serve. But he seemed soon to become inter- 
ested, and he began to ask Grand'mere questions, 
which she answered as gravely as if he had been 
a man of her own age. She told him about our 
conscription for the army, which they do not 
have in England. He hardly would believe at 
first that all our young men had to go, when 
they were twenty-one, and draw lots to be 
soldiers or to stay at home. Grand'mere told 
him how few escape by drawing good lots ; and 
she described to him the scene in the market- 
place the day Georges of St. Loubouet went to 
draw. The groups dressed in their Sunday 
clothes, standing about talking to keep up their 
spirits before their boys went in to draw ; the 
anxious mothers and fathers standing in couples 
by the door of the mairie while their sons' fate 
was being decided within ; the eager looks cast 
at the lot stuck in each lad's hat as he came 
out ; the cries of joy when it was good, the 
starting tears, the silent hand-shake, the de- 
spairing pallor, when it was bad. " Ah ! " she 
said, " it would have needed a heart of stone to 
see old Jeanti standing there waiting "when 
Georges' turn came, and not to have been 
touched by it. His wife was not dead then, but 


98 HL'VTOR. 

ill in bed at home, and he stood alone close by 
the door of the mairie. When I saw him he 
was leaning on his stick holding his cap in his 
hand, and the wind was blowing his white hair. 

" ' I am saying a little prayer,' he said to me, 
' while the lad draws. For if this turns badly, I 
doubt much it will kill the wife.' 

" I joined him and made also my prayer that 
Georges might succeed. But it was no use. 
After a few minutes the boy came out, and I 
could see the fatal lot even before he reached 
the door. 

" Jeanti recognized his son as soon as I did, 
but in his trembling eagerness he did not 
perceive the lot. 

" ' How has it gone, Georges ? I don't see 

" Georges himself was as white as a ghost. 
'No luck, father; I must go.' And the old 
man put his cap upon his head and said only 
1 God's will be done.' 

" He was not mistaken, it killed the boy's 
mother ; Georges hadn't been gone three weeks 
when she was in her grave. Ah ! that con- 
scription, it is the scourge of the country. It 
takes all our best young men." 

"It's not just," Hector said. "In England 


no one could take them and send them against 
their will to fight." 

" Oh, for that, yes," said Grand'mere. " So 
long as the country wants them, it is just that 
they go. But it is war which is sad, and the 
passions of men which make war necessary. If 
Germany is to burst in upon us again, we must 
be ready to thrust her back, and who so fit to 
defend us as our sons. There is no help for it, 
we must give them ; but it is hard for the 
fathers and mothers." 

Then she began to describe to Hector the 
hardships of a soldier's daily life, the fatiguing 
sentry work, the evil-smelling barracks, the 
scanty food, the want of money, the separation 
from all they loved ; till he said in his thoughtful 

" It seems to me that to be a good French- 
man you must be a hero." 

"Yes," said Grand'mere, "and as all the 
world has not heroic blood, it happens that we 
see sometimes very bad Frenchmen like your 
tramp of to-day." 

Hector finished the newspaper, and then at 
about half-past eight Grand'mere sent us to bed. 
I only lay awake long enough to hear her lock- 
ing the doors downstairs, and the dogs baying 

loo HECTOR. 

in the yard as Madelon let them loose for the 
night. Then with the happy feeling that we 
were well protected against foreign enemies and 
tramps and miseries of all kinds, I fell asleep to 
dream of Hector and birds'-nests and the bright 
spring woods. 

HECTOR. 101 


T TECTOR'S first thought in the morning was 
of birds again. He was out in the woods 
before sunrise to hear them wake. I could not 
go with him, for Grand'mere told me to watch 
the milk while it boiled ; but when breakfast 
was ready, I heard the welcome sound of his 
peach whistle in the lane, and looking out I saw 
him sauntering along with Esquebesse. They 
stopped under the elder-trees, and while Esque- 
besse took the peach-stone in his own hands to 
examine, Hector pulled the " Aviceptologie " 
from his pocket and pointed out a passage. 
One of the dogs, hoping perhaps for something 
better than books, poked his nose into the 
gaping pocket, but neither Hector nor the 
keeper paid any attention to him. 

Esquebesse took the volume and read what 
Hector had pointed out, while Hector gazed up 
anxiously in his face. Then the volume was 
returned. Esquebesse nodded in confirmation 

102 HECTOR. 

of what he had read, and stretched his hand in 
the direction of Cassagne. They were talking, 
Hector still with eager upturned face, not heed- 
ing in the least where he went, when they 
reached the gate and Grand'mere came into 
the porch. 

" Good morning, M. Esquebesse. I see with 
pleasure that the little lad chooses his friends 
well. But if he is as hungry as he was yester- 
day he would do well not to accompany you just 
now, for his breakfast waits in there ; and then 
later the Sister will come for the schooling. 
Duty must pass before everything." 

" Very certainly, madame. I am not taking 
him away, I am bringing him back. I also have 
my duties to attend to for the 'moment. But I 
shall have occasion soon to visit the woods out 
beyond Cassagne, and if you permit it I will 
take him with me when I go. It seems he has 
an ambition to become a bird-catcher." 

The woods beyond Cassagne ! It meant the 
whole afternoon away from me unless M. Esque- 
besse would take me too. I dared not ask, but 
I suppose my face betrayed my thought, for at 
that moment his eyes lighted upon me, and he 
added good-naturedly, "And the little one shall 
come too if she likes." 

HECTOR. 103 

" With you, M. Esquebesse, they are in good 
hands ; you will take them where you like. 
Once their duties are attended to they are free. 
But you must not put yourself out for them." 

" No danger, madame, no danger ; you know 
that I like children. Come then after dinner," 
he added to Hector, " to my own house, and we 
will see what we can do. Z61ie knows the way. 
Good-morning, Madame Loustanoff." 

He whistled to his dogs and passed on down 
the lane, while we went into breakfast, in the 
kitchen, full of delight. Our delight was changed 
to sorrow and humiliation when Soeur Am^lie 
came; for then, and only then, did we remember 
the sum and the lessons which were Jto have 
been done for her. 

She was, of course, very angry ; most de- 
servedly so with me, for the ways of the house 
were not new to me, and I had no excuse for 
having forgotten. I felt exceedingly penitent, 
and would have tried hard to do a double number 
of sums that morning to atone for my fault ; but 
Soeur Amelie had so much to say about our 
naughty behaviour, that there was no time to 
prove our sorrow by our acts. Hector did not 
even seem to feel sorry. He sat perfectly 
silent under the reproaches which were addressed 

104 HECTOR. 

to him, flushing a little at first when Soeur 
Am61ie spoke of the bad end. to which the idle 
and disobedient were sure to come; but after- 
wards, while she expatiated upon the theme,.! 
could see that his thoughts were far away. 

" Those who do not work should not eat. Do 
you suppose that a good dinner would be put 
upon this table at twelve o'clock to-day if others 
had not worked ? and can you reconcile it to 
your conscience ? " the Sister was saying, when 
Hector started from his chair, with a joyous 
light in his eyes, and cried out 

" Why, Zelie, if you were right about them, 
they might be hatched to-day. I quite forgot to 
look this morning." 

He encountered as he started up Soeur Amelie's 
astonished gaze, and suddenly remembered where 
he was. In an instant he had banished the joy 
from his eyes, and with what must, I am sure, 
have been a tremendous effort of politeness, he 
put on an expression so miserably guilty that as 
he sat down again I found it impossible to help 

I knew how wrong it was of me, I felt horribly 
wicked ; but I could not help it, the laughter 
was out before I had had time to think. 

" Oh ! ma Soeur, I beg your pardon," I ex- 

HECTOR. 105 

claimed ; " I know I should not have laughed 
but Hector's face was so funny." 

My attempt at explanation was unfortunate ; 
Soeur Amelie would hear no more. 

"Funny!" she exclaimed; "you find his 
naughtiness funny. Then it is time for your 
grandmother to let you hear what she thinks of 
such drollery. Madame Loustanoff," she called 
through 'the open door into the kitchen, "will 
you have the kindness to come and tell these 
children what you think of their behaviour ? It 
seems that what I say is only laughable." 

Madelon called back from the sink, where she 
was scouring saucepans, that Madame Loustanoff 
was in the farm-yard ; and I heard her shout 
through the window, in fiatois, to Jean, that he 
was to find Madame Loustanoff and tell her that 
the Sister wanted her to come and make the 
children listen to reason. 

I sat horror-stricken. Such a thing had never 
happened to me in my life before, as to have 
a formal complaint of my behaviour carried to 
Grand'mere ; and the idea of bringing her in 
from her occupation on the farm only for the 
purpose of speaking to us seemed to me so 
monstrous, that I gazed at Hector in blank 
dismay, unable even to find words for a suppli- 

io6 BECTOR. 

Hector also seemed to feel this. 

" It was not at you," he tried to explain, "that 
Zelie .was laughing." 

But Sosur Amelie had taken the strong meas- 
ure and was prepared to support it now with 

" Silence, sir," she said, " you will exculpate 
yourself to Madame Loustanoff." 

The blood rushed into his cheeks ; but he 
was silent, and then we all sat and waited for 

She came at last in her short grey dress and 
sabots, with her large hat tied over her cap, and 
the bunch of big keys in her hand. I could see 
by the firm set of her mouth and the brightness 
of her little dark eyes that she was not inclined 
to be trifled with. 

Soeur Ame'lie, rather whiter than usual for 
anger, poured out the story of our misbehaviour. 
We had begun, she said, with carelessness and 
inattention yesterday, we had gone on with 
idleness, and when she blamed us for leaving 
our tasks undone, we had laughed at her re- 

We sat with eyes fixed on Grand'mere while 
the Sister was speaking. Even to our own ears 
our conduct, thus related, sounded indeed inex- 

HECTOR. 107 

cusable, and I knew Grand'mere well enough 
to know that she would not think lightly of 

" Hein ! They laughed at you did they?" she 
said, "that was pretty, very pretty." 

" It was Zelie alone who laughed," explained 
the Sister. 

" Oh, it was Ze"lie alone who permitted herself 
that little diversion ? And from whence do you 
take, mademoiselle, these airs of the town ? If 
it is from our little gentleman here, the sooner 
you are humiliated before him the better. Pass 
me that distaff." 

My empty distaff stood in the corner of the 
dining-room leaning up against the wall. I 
fetched it as Grand'mere desired. 

" Stretch out your hand," she said. 

I stretched it out timidly in horrible fear of 
what was coming, and the next instant a smart 
blow upon the palm of my hand made my arm 
tingle to the shoulder. It was not the pain 
alone which made my cheeks burn, and the tears 
start suddenly from my eyes ; but the feeling of 
shame and humiliation which overcame me was 
hardly felt before Hector caused me to forget it ; 
for no sooner was my hand-withdrawn than he 
pulled his from his pocket and thrust it forward, 

io8 HECTOR. 

saying "It was as much my fault as hers. I 
made her laugh." 

Grand'mere looked at him sharply for an 
instant. * 

" If your fault was the same you deserve the 
same punishment," she said ; and she brought 
the distaff down upon his hand with a blow 
every bit as hard as the one she had given me. 
Hector did not seem to like it any better than I 
did, and we both looked ruefully at our reddened 
palms, while Grand'mere proceeded 

" And they have been idle ? Well, there are 
not two words to say on the subject. You 
understand that at Salaret the idle do not eat 
white bread and smoked ham. It is a question 
of finishing before twelve all the lessons Sosur 
Ame"lie sets you, or Madelon lays hut one place 
on our dinner-table." 

With that she turned round and went away, 
and Hector and I sat down very quietly to our 
lessons. I found my slate pencil hard to hold 
in my hot and sore right hand, and looking 
across the table I saw that Hector was in 
equal difficulty. He went on steadily, how- 
ever, so I determined to go on steadily too, and 
for a time no sound was heard but the squeak of 
our pencils on the slates. Then Soeur Amelie 

HECTOR. 109 

went into the kitchen, and returning almost 
immediately with .some vinegar in a cup, she tore 
her own handkerchief in half, and after soaking 
the two strips in vinegar she bound our hands 
for us, so deftly and comfortably, that in a few 
minutes the pain was almost gone. 

She did not say a word to us, and except for 
the " thank you " we each uttered in return for 
the binding of our hands, no one spoke till the 
lessons were all learned and the hour of repeti- 
tion came. 

" Well ! " said Grand'mere, as she passed 
through the dining-room just before Soeur Ame- 
lie went. " Is the work done ? " 

" Oh, yes, madame. Everything is finished. 
They have been very good, and I am sure they 
regret now that they were naughty." 

" So much the better," Grand'mere said. And 
without waiting for any assurance from us to 
that effect, she went on into the kitchen where 
we heard her saying to Madelon : 

" You can lay the places as usual. Every 
one has gained his dinner." 

" I had a great deal rather not have any din- 
ner." Hector said, in a low voice to me, as 
having put our books away we went and stood 
aimlessly in the porch, where a row of pigeons 
sat cooing on the lintel 


" Why not ? " I asked. 

" Because it seems as if I had worked to get 
dinner, and I didn't care one scrap for that." 

" But there's no shame in working for your 
dinner, is there ? " 

" There's no shame for a laborer. Gentlemen 
are different." 

" And what difference do you find, my little 
gentleman?" asked Grand'm^re's voice sarcas- 
tic behind us. 

Hector flushed deeply at being overheard, and 
instead of answering looked away from Grand'- 
mere out over the vineyards. 

" Voyons, explain yourself ; show us the rea- 
ron why the gentleman should not work for his 

I waited rather anxiously for Hector's answer, 
for Grand'mere had always taught me that it 
was silly pride to suppose there was any great 
difference between gentlemen and good laborers, 
and I was disappointed that Hector should have 
one petty thought. He seemed to have some 
little difficulty in explaining himself. He con- 
tinued to gaze for a moment over the fields, and 
then he said, with an evident effort, but quite 
clearly and steadily 

"Gentlemen ought to work for something 


better than dinner. There is no shame for a 
poor man, because if he didn't gain food he'd 
have to die. Gentlemen have everything they 
need, and they ought not to work for themselves 
at all. They ought to work for other people. 
It doesn't matter a bit to be hungry once in a 
way. I have tried going without my dinner and 
tea just to see." 

" So," said Grand'mere, and there was no 
sarcasm in her voice now, "your idea of the 
difference between a gentleman and a plebeian 
is that the gentleman -works for others, and the 
plebeian for himself. Well, keep that idea, it 
will do you no harm if you act up to it. But," 
and the sharp look came into her eyes again, 
" just tell me this. If you didn't do your lessons 
for the sake of dinner, how does it happen that 
they have been all done since you understood' 
that without lessons there was no dinner ? " 

" It was not because of dinner. It was 
because I hate for her," and he nodded his head 
in the direction of Sceur Ame"lie's departure, 
"to tell you that I am idle. I am not idle." 
There was a passionate note of disclaimer in his 
voice which seemed to please Grand'mere, for 
she smiled and nodded her head as she replied 

" We shall see that." 


Then she left us to go and see after the labor- 
ers, and Hector and I> being after all exceedingly 
hungry, were attracted by the good smell of cab- 
bage-soup to the kitchen, where, forgetting our 
troubles, we peeped into the saucepans and 
helped and hindered Madelon, till the welcome 
hour of noon brought Grand'mere in again, and 

An hour later, with the " Aviceptologie " 
safely stowed in Hector's pocket and my knit- 
ting in my hand, we started to fulfil our appoint- 
ment with Esquebesse. -We had not far to go 
to reach his cottage, only about a kilometre up 
and down through the woods, and then along a 
bit of an old by-road bordered, as our lane was, 
with flowers. I remember well how it looked 
that day with the row of dark-green box-bushes, 
which separated it on one side from the wood, 
glittering in the sunlight behind the gorse and 
white thorn, and luxuriant patches of swift- 
growing periwinkle covering the hedgerow grass 
and opening their blue blossoms boldly in the 
dust of the road. The wild strawberries were 
still in flower all along the ditch, and violets and 
cuckoo and bright yellow celandines seemed to 
form a little court around the more stately impe- 
rial crowns. Hector had never seen so many 

HECTOR. 113 

wild flowers all together. He said it reminded 
him of some words that he had read "The 
wilderness and the solitary plain shall be glad 
for them, and the desert shall rejoice and blos- 
som as the rose." I asked him who wrote those 
words, and he told me one of the Prophets, he 
didn't remember which. Since then I have 
always liked to picture the Prophets walking in 
woods like ours, and thinking of God. 

We did not hurry, but zigzagged from side to 
side of the road, peeping into the box-bushes 
for birds'-nests, looking under the strawberry- 
leaves to see if the fruit were forming poking, 
peering, smelling, admiring everywhere. We 
neither of us had hands to spare, for Hector 
wanted every minute to use his, and I from time 
to time remembered my knitting ; so whatever 
flowers Hector picked he stuck, stalk downward, 
into my big pinafore pocket ; and as I took care 
in my scrambling, not to hurt them, he told me 
before we reached the cottage that I made a 
most capital little donkey. I was so pleased 
that I think at the moment I would have asked 
nothing better of life than to be his little donkey 
for ever. 

Esquebesse's cottage stood at the end of this 
bit of road, back under the shade of the wood. 


He and his goat and his two dogs lived there 
alone, but they had a very comfortable little 
home. When people asked Esquebesse why he 
did not marry, he always said that the situation 
of his house was too lonely he could not ask any 
woman to remain there by herself, while he 
went on his distant rounds ; but however that 
might be, his establishment seemed quite com- 
plete without a wife. On either side of the 
cottage he cultivated a bit of garden ground, 
and his vegetables were famous in the neighbor- 
hood. The vine which covered the front of his 
house, produced grapes which Grand'mere her- 
self was glad to buy when we had visitors at 
Salaret. The three beehives which stood on a 
board beneath his kitchen -window gave more 
honey every year than he could eat ; his fowls 
were the envy of surrounding farmers' wives. 
And within the house everything was scrupu- 
lously neat and clean. 

"My poor mother left all in order," Esque- 
besse used to say, and since then there has been 
no one to make disorder. Twice a year his sis- 
ter used to come for a week from Montfort to do 
his wash, and to inspect his linen ; but that was 
all the help he ever had. 

To-day, as we came down the road, we could 

HECTOR. 115 

see through the open doorway the interior of 
the big low room, which served him for kitchen 
and sitting-room. It looked dark and quiet to 
eyes dazzled with the sunshine and flowers of 
the open road. A small fire smouldered in the 
wide chimney, and the smoke curled slowly up 
on either side of the great chain and hook on 
which no caldron was hanging. The caldron it- 
self stood to one side on the hearth, with the 
brown water pitcher near it. Just opposite the 
door was the old carved cupboard, where family 
linen had been stored for generations, and on a 
low oak table against the wall some cabbages 
were piled, with half a pumpkin and two or three 
onions. Nets and other utensils for bird-catch- 
ing hung from the smoke -blackened rafters 
above, interspersed with rabbit-skins and bunches 
of garlic. We did not see any one in the room, 
but as the dogs were lying out in the sun before 
the cottage door, we knew that Esquebesse was 
not far off, and we advanced, intending to enter 
and wait. The dogs did not approve of this 
intention, and no sooner did we manifest it than 
they started up and came towards us, barking 
with such a distinctly inhospitable accent, that 
if .1 had not been holding Hector's hand I should 
certainly have turned round and run away. 

li6 HECTOR. 

They were big hunting dogs, known to be fierce ; 
and even Hector, I think, was a little frightened 
as one of them suddenly rushed at us, for he put 
himself in front of me while he held my hand 
tight and said, " Stand quite still." 

At that moment, however, a voice from within 

" Here, Bruno ; lie down, Loup Garou ; " and 
as Bruno paused in his advance, Dr. Charles of 
Portalouve appeared upon the threshold of the 

" These dogs are too zealous in the discharge 
of their duty," he said as he advanced to meet 
us. " Esquebesse went up to M. le Comte half 
an hour ago and left them to guard the house 
and me ; but he told me he was expecting you, 
and during all the time that they have lived 
together the dogs should have become better 
acquainted with their master's hospitable na- 

He took my hand as he spoke and led me past 
the danger which had frightened me, into the 
shelter of the house. Hector, however, instead 
of following us remained on the threshold, 
standing quietly between the dogs. 

Dr. Charles had only lately come back then 
from Bordeaux, to be the assistant of our old 

HECTOR. 117 

doctor, Du Verger, at Cassagne. His mother, 
Madame de la Meillierie, is a cousin of Grand'- 
mere's, but as she has always lived at Portalouve, 
which is seventeen kilometres off, I scarcely 
remembered at that time to have ever seen her. 
Grand'mere and I did not often move as far as 
seventeen kilometres. I knew Dr. Charles, for 
I had seen him more than once at Salaret, and 
sometimes I had met him in the lanes or woods, 
about the farm, with his trousers rolled up and 
the mud thick upon his boots hunting in out-of- 
the-way places for specimens of stones and 
flowers. I had heard the country people speak 
too of his knowledge, and his goodness to his 
mother, so I did not feel shy at all when I found 
myself in the kitchen alone with him. It was 
the first time I had ever seen him without his 
spectacles, and as I looked up to thank him for 
coming out, I saw how kind and gentle his eyes 

The remains of an omelette and a loaf and a 
bottle of wine on the table, with Dr. Charles' 
hat and specimen case lying beside them, showed 
that he had been enjoying the hospitality of 
Esquebesse ; and when he had answered my 
few words of thanks and stuck my bunch of 
flowers into a pitcher of water that stood by the 
cabbages, he began to clear the table. 


" When hunger assails me in the woods and I 
find myself very far from dinner," he said, " I 
always come and beg an omelette from Esque- 
besse; but it is not just that I should leave dis- 
order in his kitchen." 

Seeing what he wanted to do, I took a bowl 
from the dresser, and while he went to put the 
remains of the loaf into the bread-pan, I washed 
his plate and glass and fork. 

" Tiens, my child, you are helping me ? " he 
said when he came back. 

" You helped me, monsieur, just now." 

He smiled, and stood watching me while I 
polished the glass with a dry cloth as Grand'- 
mere had taught me to do. 

" The fact is," he said, " Esquebesse gains in 
the exchange ; if I had washed his glass it is 
probable that he would have had to wash it 
again before he used it." 

Then he sat down and opened his specimen 
case, leaving the rest of the table for me to 

HECTOR. 119 


T HAD cleared the table, and Hector, having 
finished his inspection of the dogs, had 
come in and was standing with me watching 
Dr. Charles' proceedings at a respectful distance, 
when Esquebesse arrived. 

" Pouf," he said as he took off his hat and 
wiped his face, "I have kept you waiting; but I 
have arranged all our little affairs satisfactorily. 
I passed round by Salaret, and Madame Loustan- 
off trusts the children to us. Now we have 
nothing else to do but to start." 

" Where are we going ? " asked Hector. 

" Where are we going ? Dr. Charles has told 
you nothing? We are going the whole way to 
Portalouve. Dr. Charles goes to spend Sunday 
with his mother, and he will drive us there in 
his little carriage. Baptiste, the miller, went 
yesterday evening to Montfort, and he will give 
us a lift back." 

We children cared little how we were to get 


there or how we were to come back. That we 
were going to Portalouve was enough for us. 
Had Esquebesse suddenly announced that he 
meant to take us to Paris, I could hardly have 
felt more excited. Portalouve, thirteen kilo- 
metres on the other side of Cassagne, fully 
halfway to Montfort where Georges and the 
soldiers were, seemed indeed to me a new 
country. How Esquebesse had ever persuaded 
Grand'mere to let us go I could not imagine, 
and I dared not ask for fear any flaw might 
appear in the permission and hinder our de- 
parture even now. 

Hector took our good luck much more coolly 
than I ; he seemed pleased when Esquebesse 
first announced it, but his interest had been 
awakened by Dr. Charles' specimens ; and even 
while Esquebesse was bringing the old carriage 
round from the back yard where the horse had 
been tied, and making such preparations as he 
thought necessary before quitting the house, 
Hector was listening intently to a description 
Dr. Charles was giving him of the inward and 
outward growth of vegetable stems. Esquebesse 
had no respect, apparently, for his love of 
knowledge. As soon as he was ready to lock 
up the house he told him to run out and shut up 

HECTOR. 121 

the shutters, which Hector did with the greatest 
goodwill. Esquebesse fastened them on the 
inside, then we all went out ; I saw the key 
turned at last in the door, and in another minute 
we had fairly started. 

Dr. Charles' carriage was a funny old vehicle 
with a hood, intended to hold only two people ; 
but Dr. Charles and Esquebesse made room for 
me between them, and Hector sat very comfort- 
ably on the footboard at our feet. The old 
yellow nag which Dr. Du Verger had bought 
from Grand'mere fifteen or sixteen years before, 
was so well accustomed to the road that it went 
almost of its own accord, and there was nothing' 
to interfere with the delight I had in seeing our 
beautiful country and in showing it to Hector. 
As far as Cassagne I knew it myself, after that 
I had to leave all his questions to be answered 
by Dr. Charles and Esquebesse ; but I was well 
content to listen, for he asked questions that I 
should never have thought of asking, and in 
answering them Dr. Charles and Esquebesse 
talked together, and told us so much that was 
interesting, that the world began to seem to me 
much bigger than it had ever seemed before. A 
long way past Cassagne we passed a vineyard 
where a number of men were digging. Esque- 

122 SECTOR. 

besse told us it belonged to M. le Comte, and he 
stopped the carriage that we might see what 
they were doing. An overseer was directing 
them, and after speaking a few words to Dr. 
Charles, he took my hand and led me to a part 
of the vineyard where the ground was thrown 
up round a large square ditch. We mounted on 
the sides of the ditch, and looking down we saw 
to my surprise, at about three or four feet below 
the surface of the vineyard, what looked to me 
like a beautiful painted pavement. The design 
was of baskets of fruit and flowers, with game 
and fish lying round ; the workmen had just 
washed it, and the wet colors glowed in the sun 
almost like precious stones. 

"What is it?" I asked. "Why does M. le 
Comte have his vineyard paved ? " 

The overseer smiled, and Dr. Charles ex- 
plained that this pavement which I saw was 
called a mosaic, and that it was not M. le Comte 
who had put it in the vineyard, but probably 
some Roman noble more than a thousand years 
before. M. le Comte had only found it, and was 
having it transported to the floor of his own 

" The Romans have lived here then ? " said 
Hector, raising his head and looking round as 

UECTOE." 123 

though he expected still to see their palaces on 
the slopes of the hills. 

"There is little doubt," said the overseer 
gravely, " that they have spat on this very 

He was mocking at the sudden light which 
had sprung into Hector's face, but Esquebesse 
answered almost at the same time with a kindly 

" Therefore, if we must be heroes in order to 
be good Frenchmen, Frenchmen should not 
forget that they have the blood of heroes in 
their veins. Hein ! " 

I wondered how Esquebesse knew that Hec- 
tor had said men should be heroes to be good 
Frenchmen, but Hector did not seem to notice 

" If those mountains could speak," he said, 
pointing to the snow-line of the Pyrenees, which 
seemed in the clear atmosphere of the spring 
afternoon to lie quite close to us, " how awfully 
interesting it would be to ask them questions. 
I do so long often to ask questions of all the old 
things, who were there before we were born." 

" It is a question of learning their language," 
said Dr. Charles thoughtfully. And as they 
stood so looking at the mountains, I heard one 
of the workmen say to another 

124 ' HECTOR. 

" Who is the little chap ? " 

" It's the English boy, from Loustanoff's." 

An incredulous laugh was the only answer. 

" What are you laughing at ? It is so." 

" Not he. He's not English." 

" Why not ? " 

" He's too handsome." 

Two or three of them drew together, and 
looked at him critically as he stood on the 
edge of the ditch talking to Esquebesse and 
Dr. Charles. 

" He is solidly built," said one ; " he will go 

And I, who had never thought before whether 
he was handsome or ugly, felt my heart beat 
faster with pride in him as I looked. Once in 
the carriage again, Dr. Charles began to tell us 
about the old Romans, and the drive through 
the flowering country from the mosaics to Porta- 
louve seemed to pass almost like a dream. But 
it was one of those dreams of which one never 
loses the recollection. I see still, as though it 
had been but yesterday, the purple of the 
bursting woods which clothed the hills, the 
orchards everywhere in blossom, the yellow 
mustard-fields, the glaring crimson sainfoin, the 
bright tender green of the flax-fields, the rich 

HECTOR. 125 

brown earth where the lately planted maize was 
germinating. Over all, the blue sky, with clouds 
driving high up before the wind, and in the 
distance the sparkling peaks of the Pyrenees 
girdling us in. It was Saturday, so we were not 
alone upon the road. A bright stream of buyers 
and sellers flocked to and from the Saturday 
markets; vehicles of all sorts passed us fre- 
quently, and Dr. Charles and Esquebesse, who 
knew most of the people for many miles round, 
told us to whom they belonged and where the/ 
were going, and exchanged many a greeting with 
the passers-by. They say it is very grand to 
drive in the Bois de Boulogne, and that the 
carriages there are finer than I have any idea of. 
All the same, I do not believe that any lady in 
Paris ever had a happier drive in the Bois than 
I had that day between Salaret and Portalouve. 
Esquebesse stopped at an inn where the road 
branched off to Montfort, and told them to bid 
the miller wait for us when he came back from 
Montfort in the evening ; and after that, another 
quarter of an hour of driving brought us to 
Dr. Charles' home. 

I was rather cramped with sitting so long, 
and I remember that when the carriage stopped 
at the yard gate Dr. Charles lifted me out and 

126 HECTOR. 

carried me himself across the slush of the farm- 
yard to the kitchen-door, while Hector followed 
between the very muzzles of two big St. Ber- 
nards. The barking of the dogs brought out 
Madame de la Meillerie, and she was so de- 
lighted to see her son that she kissed me and 
Hector in the warmth of her heart almost as 
affectionately as she kissed Dr. Charles. I see 
her still as she stood in the doorway in her 
ample black dress and lilac sun-bonnet, her 
broad kind face beaming with pleasure. 

Had she something nice to give the children 
for goAter? Of course she had. Some little 
cakes were baking at this minute in the oven 
for to-morrow's dessert, and they should taste 
the Spanish melon jam of which she had spoken 
last New Year to Madame Loustanoff. As for 
Esquebesse, it was not now that she had to tell 
him he was always welcome at Portalouve ; a 
little glass of her old Malaga would do him no 
harm, she fancied, after his long drive. And 
then there was a rattling of keys and a bustling 
about, and hasty direction to Jeanne and Mar- 
guerite ; and while we stood and stretched 
ourselves before the kitchen fire the dining-room 
table was set out with cakes and jam and milk 
and a p^te" de foie gras, and a dusty bottle of old 
Malaga for Esquebesse. 

HECTOR. 127 

" Aliens, Chariot, eat a bit yourself ; I'll be 
bound your dinner was a light one to-day." 

"You are making cruel reproaches to Esque- 
besse, mother. It was he who furnished it." 

" Nothing but an omelette, madame," said 

" Ah, I know that everything is good in 
Esquebesse's house, but an omelette all the 
same soon leaves place for other things. Sit 
down, sit down ; " and she cut into the pate with 
hospitable vigor. 

" I ask no better," said Dr. Charles, " your 
pates, my mother, are to be refused by no rea- 
sonable man." And in another moment we 
were all seated round the table eating as though 
we also had dined upon Dr. Charles' omelette. 
Madame de la Meillerie waited upon us, and 
took pleasure in piling up our plates ; but she 
herself took nothing except a little, half-glass of 
Malaga to please her son. 

The farm at Portalouve was as large as Sal- 
aret, and Madame de la Meillerie was very busy 
that afternoon. So when after goiter Esque 
besse went away to attend to the business which 
had brought him to that part of the country, 
Dr. Charles followed his mother into the yard to 
give her the benefit of his advice in some bar- 

128 HECTOR. . 

gains she had. to make that afternoon, and Hec- 
tor and I were free to ramble where we pleased. 
Our rambles took us at first no further than the 
kitchen. The servant Jeanne, who was a girl 
from our side of Cassagne, was only too glad of 
a chance of hearing news from her village, and 
while Hector amused himself with sauntering 
about looking at everything, she made me pass 
all our neighbors and their affairs in review. A 
very respectable woman, who wore her hair 
uncovered like a lady, was sitting at work in one 
corner of the kitchen. She seemed to listen 
with interest to what we were saying, and 
presently, when Jeanne's questions became a 
little slack, she asked in a pleasant, quiet 

" Do you know in your country, mademoiselle, 
a girl called Irma Lagrace?" 

The name at once attracted Hector's attention. 

" Is that our Irma ? " he asked, coming up to 
my side as he spoke. 

" Yes," I said, answering both him and the 
workwoman. " We know her very well, madame. 
Do you wish for news of her ? " 

" I do not know her myself ; but I have heard 
her spoken of often. They say she is very 

HECTOR. 129 

" She is the prettiest person I know," Hectoi 
said with a decision which astonished me. 

" I see nothing so very remarkable in her," 
said Jeanne with a toss of the head. " People 
have got it into their heads that she is very 
pretty, and the men all run after her, because 
men are like sheep ; what one does the others 
must do. But all that has no common-sense in 
it. She is no better than the other girls of the 
village. And then between nine of them, I ask 
you what sort of a dot she is likely to have? " 

" The dot counts for little if the suitor is rich. 
They say she is pretty enough to be married for 
her beauty." 

" Bah ! it is only that old idiot of a miller who 
says so, and what does he know about beauty ? 
It is not in his family, at all events, that he 
would have learnt to admire it." 

" My cousin Georges has told me the same, 
and he at all events has eyes." 

" Are you Georges' cousin Marie, that he goes 
to see at Montfort ? " asked Hector, his eyes 
lighting with sudden interest. 

"Yes," said the workwoman with a smile, "I 
am Marie Monthez, cousin of young Georges of 
St. Loubouet. You have heard him speak of 
me ? " 

130 HECTOR. 

I was dreadfully afraid for a moment that 
Hector would say more than he ought, but I 
might have spared my anxiety; he only replied 
in an absent, dreamy voice 

" Yes, I heard him say he went to see you 
every Sunday." 

"And since you think Irma so pretty, tell me 
what she is like," Marie Monthez pursued. 
" Georges does not know how to describe. Tell 
me what she looked like the last time you saw 

The corners of Hector's mouth curled up into 
laughter; the remembrance of the last time he 
had seen Irma seemed to tickle his fancy, but 
he said he did not know how to describe in 

"Allons! that is foolish," said Marie, "you 
speak French like ourselves. Come now, tell 
me what she is like. You, then, mademoiselle." 

I described as well as I could Irma's bright 
curly hair, her clear complexion, her white 
teeth, her soft dark eyes. 

"And then her lips," " said Hector; "she 
really has lips, as they say in story-books, the 
color of cherries, and nice little feet, with good 
sensible shoes that she can walk in, and hands 
burnt a pretty brown color in the sun. And 

HECTOR. 131 

sometimes when she laughs, she puts her head 
on one side just like a blackbird, doesn't she, 
Zelie ? The last time we saw her," here his 
mouth began to curl merrily again, " was yester- 
day in the wood, near our house, and the sun 
was shining so that little shadows of the tree- 
branches fell all over her as she walked along 
with " 

" With whom ? " said a new voice suddenly 
and angrily behind us ; and we turned round to 
see no less a personage than M. Baptiste, the 
miller himself, who had come in unobserved, 
and had heard perhaps everything we had been 

"Well. She was walking along with " he 


Hector who had reddened nervously at the 
sudden interruption, recovered from the start 
and answered quietly 

" With her distaff. She was spinning, you 
know." <* 

The miller seemed to think he had been rather 
foolish, for he laughed awkwardly, and glanced 
at Marie Monthez as he said 

" Good, good. So long as young girls only 
walk with their distaffs, they give proof of their 
good sense, do they not, Mam'selle Marie?" 

132 HECTOR. 

"Ah! M. Baptiste, you know I have always 
told you you are too severe upon young people." 
They spoke to each other like old friends, which 
rather astonished Hector and me, for it had 
never occurred to us that the miller would also 
know Georges' cousin. His next words showed 
that he not only knew her, but knew her well. 

Jeanne was at the other end of the kitchen, 
helping Marguerite to lift a heavy caldron from 
the fire, and as Hector and I stood looking out 
of the window, I suppose the miller considered 
himself as good as alone with Marie Monthez. 

" Mademoiselle Marie," he said, sitting down 
at the opposite side of her work-table, and wip- 
ing his face slowly with a large pocket-handker- 
chief, " I come from seeing your parents, and it 
is because they told me you were here that I 
have come here to-day." 

" You know, M. Baptiste, that where I am you 
are always welcome," Marie's quiet voice replied. 

" For I have a question to ask you. I would 
like to know if it is true what they say, that you 
do not intend to marry ? " 

I glanced over my shoulder. Marie had 
dropped her work to listen to him. Now she 
took it up and began to stitch swiftly as she 

HECTOR. 135 

" I have not said that." 

"It would be a pity," he went on slowly, 
"for from Salaret to Montfort there is not a 
housekeeper to compare with you. Every one 
knows how you have always behaved towards 
your parents, and when one behaves well towards 
one's parents that proves a good heart, which 
will lead you to behave well in other circum- 
stances of life." 

" It is very simple ; for housekeeping, my 
mother brought me up in the midst of order ; 
and in what concerns my behavior, I have always 
loved my parents. I have no merit in all that." 

" But yes but yes, you have a rare merit. 
At Montfort every one speaks of your goodness, 
the wickedest tongue in the town finds nothing 
.to say against you. And then you are rich; it 
is a pity for such a wedding portion as yours to 
lie idle." 

" For that, yes, I am rich enough ; but I have 
no desire to be married for my portion." 

" Enfin, if there was somebody who liked you 
for yourself, that you had known from your 
childhood and who was not bad, you would not 
say No." 

The miller seemed very much in earnest. I 
could not resist the temptation to look round 

134 HECTOR. 

again. Marie had dropped her work, and was 
looking at him with a bright color in her cheeks 
which made her seem ever so much younger 
than we had thought her at first. 

" Why do you ask me this, M. Baptiste ? " she 

" Because- 1 would wish to know. Your par- 
ents told me it was no use, that you would not 
hear of marriage; and I said to them, let me 
try : we have known each other since we were 
children, perhaps I shall have some influence." 

" If he suited me, I would say Yes." 

" I may tell this to your parents ? " The 
miller rose up joyously as he spoke, and held 
out his hand to her. 

There was a moment's pause, and Marie's 
voice, trembling a little, said 

" What do you mean, M. Baptiste ? " 

Then Madame de la Meillerie and Dr. Charles 
came in fiom the yard, and while they were 
welcoming Baptiste we turned round to see 
Marie taking up her work again, with a face still 
aglow and her eyes bright almost like Irma's. 

After that, Hector and I went out ; and while 
the afternoon light lasted we played about in the 
yard and the granaries and the orchard, as 
happy as kings, till between six and seven 

HECTOE. 135 

o'clock. As we were standing in the cow-shed 
watching the milking, we heard Madame de la 
Meillerie call "children!" from the kitchen- 
door, and we went in to find that it was time to 
start home again. The miller's spring-cart was 
at the door, and Marguerite, under Madame de 
la Meillerie's direction, was putting armfuls of 
straw into the back of it for Hector and me to 
sit upon. " The children will be warmer there," 
she said, "than on the seat, and they will be less 
in your way. You will find it chilly, va, before 
you get home. Tiens, Charles, fetch the Malaga ; 
they will each take a little glass before they 

My remembrance of the drive home is much 
more confused than my remembrance of the 
afternoon drive out. Whether it was the Malaga, 
or the monotonous movement, or the exposure 
to the air, or the exceeding comfort of my posi- 
tion in the straw, I do not know, but I continued 
all along the road to fall asleep, and to wake up 
at intervals to see nothing but the clear dark sky 
above, and the outlines of Esquebesse's tall 
figure, and the miller's heavy round back, black 
and solid, in front of us, against the clearer dark- 
ness of the atmosphere. After a while the stars 
came out, and the miller lighted one of the 

136 I^ECTOR. 

lanterns of the cart. Each time I woke the air 
seemed to me a little fresher. Each time I woke 
I saw Hector sitting up in the opposite corner 
of the cart with a face that looked like white 
marble in the starlight, and dark eyes wide 
open, but I was covered warmly with a sack ; 
the freshness of the air only made me sleep the 
more soundly, and I took heed of nothing, till, 
when we must have already long passed Cassagne 
on our homeward way, I was wakened by Hector 
nudging me persistently. I could not at first 
think what he wanted, but I soon heard that 
Esquebesse and the miller were talking together 
on their elevated seat, and the night wind was 
blowing their words back to us. 

" Yes," the miller was saying, " I see that after 
a certain age marriage becomes a necessity. 
While one is young all goes well ; a man likes 
his liberty, but later on he begins to feel the 
need of some one who is entirely devoted to 
Sim ; some one whom he will find always there 
when he comes in ; some one who will take care 
of him when he is ill ; who will remember the 
dishes that he likes ; who will look after his 
house ; who will put his interests before every- 
thing, You will say what you like, Esquebesse. 
YOU are alone, and you have only yourself to 

HECTOR. 137 

think of, so all goes well ; but a house needs a 
woman at the head of it. I, for instance : for a 
year now my old Marie Anna has been telling 
me that her son wants her to go and live with 
him at Cassagne, and she leads me in conse- 
quence the life of a dog. I, such as you see 
me, I dare not tell her to put four eggs in my 
omelette on Friday, if she chooses to put but 
three. I come in hungry, she takes pleasure in 
making me wait half-an-hour for my dinner ; 
and if I dare to address a reproach to her, pouf ! 
it is her son who jumps down my throat. If I 
am not satisfied, she asks nothing better than to 
go and live with her own people." 

Esquebesse laughed 

" There is one with whom I would soon settle 
my account." 

"You laugh. It is easy for you. But I I, 
ask you a little what would become of me if she 
went. She has been there since the death of 
my mother. She knows all that is in the house 
better than I know it myself, and, if she goes, I 
become at once a prey to all the old vultures 
who choose to make an entrance into my house 
for the purpose of wasting my substance. Could 
I look after them when I have my mill to attend 
to? Could I carry about with me the key of the 

138 HECTOR. 

linen cupboard and the provisions ? Do I know 
I, how many fine shirts I have, which came to 
me from my father and my grandfather? How 
many sheets my mother span since her mar- 
riage how many she brought in her trousseau 
how many she found here when she came ? 
Marie Anna knows all that. She could tell you 
the year in which every sheet and tablecloth was 
spun. She keeps all that in repair; she arranges 
the wash. I know nothing of it ; and if she 
goes, a new one comes without interest in the 
house, all will be under her care, and it is not 
much that I would give for the honesty of those 
who have no interest to serve you. All all 
will go to rack and ruin. The furniture, which 
Marie Anna has rubbed from her youth upwards, 
do you suppose another will care to keep it 
bright ? All my habits, all my tastes, which 
Marie Anna knows as I know them myself, how 
shall I begin to teach them to another ? I shall 
be wretched." 

" It is as clear as daylight," said Esquebesse. 
" You must give up your liberty, and marry a 
reasonable person, who will be able to supply 
Marie Anna's place ; only you must persuade 
Marie Anna to stay with you for one year after 
your marriage in order to show your wife the 
ways of the house." 

HECTOR. 139 

"To show the ways of the house to my wife," 
said Baptiste, laughing, as though the sound of 
the words pleased him ; " that is exactly what I 
counted upon doing. Marie Anna shall stay for 
a year. At the end of that time my wife will 
know all, and I shall have nothing to do but to 
grow old in comfort, with my little ones about 
my knees. Ha! ha! Esquebesse, why do you 
not follow my example ? " 

" Why ? " said Esquebesse, " because I have 
not so much wealth to take care of, nor so many 
tastes to be satisfied, nor the annoyance of 
losing an old servant to fear; nor, before all 
that, the pleasure of knowing a person as sensi- 
ble and as amiable as Marie Monthez. I con- 
gratulate you, miller, with all my heart. She. is 
a person whom any one might be proud to see 
at the head of his household. I have never 
heard her spoken of with anything but the 
greatest esteem." 

Baptiste burst out laughing again, and I 
thought it very funny while I heard him, that 
Marie Monthez could care for any one so stupid 
and awkward as he. 

" It's not done yet," he said. "We must have 
a little time. But we shall see we shall see. 
Here's your turning, Esquebesse." 

140 HECTOR. 

The cart stopped as he spoke, and we found 
ourselves at the corner of the road which led 
down to Esquebesse's cottage. 

We all got out of the cart, and the miller 
drove on, still chuckling to himself in high 

" Great egoist, va ! " Esquebesse muttered as 
he stood and looked after him for a moment. 
" The idea never crosses your mind to ask your- 
self whether you will make her happy, with your 
tastes and your habits and your fine linen shirts. 
But since she is good enough to love you, I ask 
nothing better. Come, children, run to take the 
stiffness out of your limbs." 

Hector and I enjoyed the next hour at Esque- 
be^se's cottage as much as any part of the day. 
The dogs, hearing Esquebesse's voice, trotted 
down the lane in friendly fashion to meet us, and 
we all went together into the dark kitchen ; then 
when Esquebesse had uncovered the ashes and 
thrown a bundle of dry vine-twigs on the smoul- 
dering hearth, he bade Hector blow up the fire 
and showed me the sideboard at the far end, 
where stood .everything I needed for laying the 

" It seems to me," he said, as he came back 
with a bottle in his hand from the closet which 


served him for cellar, "that we have no need of 
a Marie Anna. Here is my soup, which has 
been sjmmering all day by the hot ashes. We 
have eggs, we have hone)', and after supper you 
shall see if I cannot make hot wine with any 
housewife in the country." 

And, indeed, it seems to me that I have never 
before, or since, drunk any hot wine so good. I 
always make it on Shrove Tuesday now for 
Grand'mere from Esquebesse's recipe, but I 
think there must have been some virtue in the 
little yellow earthenware saucepan he used that 
night, or perhaps it was our appetite after the 
long drive, or perhaps the conversation with 
which he entertained us. 

I had never thought, till I heard him talk, of 
how much life there is in the woods ; but as I 
listened to him I saw them peopled with a 
thousand creatures whose very names I ignored ; 
and while he told Hector chiefly of the habits of 
birds and their enemies, the weasels and ferrets 
and stoats, a new world seemed to rise up around 
me a world in the midst of which I had lived 
hitherto like one blind and deaf and dumb, 
knowing nothing of that which was taking place 
constantly under my eyes. 

"Ah !" Esquebesse said, "if you do not take 

142 II EC TOP. 

the trouble to watch them and to know their 
lives, and to extend your sympathies towards 
them, they are for you as if they did not exist. 
And it is the same thing, children, between 
human beings. " There," he took his pipe out 
of his mouth and waved it comprehensively 
towards the walls of the cottage, " there we are 
surrounded by millions of joys and sorrows and 
interests, but all rests with yourself. If you are 
content to remain with small knowledge and 
narrow sympathies, the world will be empty and 
dead to you." 

I thought of what Dr. Charles had said of 
the mountains. It is a question of learning 
their language ; and that night at all events, 
when Esquebesse lit his lantern and took us 
home through the woods, I did not feel as 
though we were alone. I felt as though we 
were walking through a crowd. The audible 
snoring of the owls seemed to me only one voice 
out of the millions which, had I known how to 
listen, I might have heard. 



/ nr*HE happiness of the next few days was 
undisturbed, for me by anything but the 
increasing soreness between Soeur Amelie and 
Hector. Hector's lessons were almost always 
badly done ; Soeur Amelie was, of course, almost 
always vexed with him. I saw that they did not 
like each other ; and this troubled me, for I was 
fond of Sceur Amelie. I had been accustomed 
to see her every day as long as ever I could 
remember, and she had been always kind to me, 
therefore I would have liked her to appreciate 
Hector ; and I would have liked Hector, too, to 
see that though she was not wise and great like 
some of the people he had perhaps been accus- 
tomed to in England, still she was good and 
nice in her way. He only said that people who 
knew nothing ought not to try and teach that 
nothing to others, because nobody wanted to 
learn it ; and all I could do was to try and make 
up a little to Soeur Amelie by learning my 

144 H EC TOE. 

own lessons extra well. I don't mean to say 
that I always did this, because I was not very 
fond of lessons, and Soeur Ame"lie vexed me so 
much sometimes by the way she talked to 
Hector, that I could not care to please her ; but 
when I was feeling good, I tried as much as 
I could to keep her in good-humor by doing 
everything myself that I thought she would like, 
and that used to make her often far pleasanter 
to Hector. In this way we got on fairly well, 
and when she was not there Hector and I were 
so happy together that we scarcely thought 
about her. 

" Ze"lie," Hector said one day, when he was 
sitting as usual on the kitchen doorstep with the 
"Aviceptologie" open on his crossed knees, "do 
you think I am ingenious ? " 

"I think you might be ingenious if you liked," 
I said. 

"And quick and active, and full of fore- 
thought ; also dexterous and industrious and 
imaginative ?" 

" I don't know, Hector. That's a great deal 
to ask. . Why do you want to know? " 

"Because I want to be all that." 

" It is very grand to aim so high," I said, 
with a sigh of admiration. " For quickness and 

HECTOR. 145 

activity and cleverness, I am sure you won't 
find it very difficult ; but for forethought and 
industry, Hector, I don't know. You don't work 

" I don't work at stupid things," Hector said. 
" But I could work if it were necessary." 

"Yes, that I do believe," I exclaimed joyously. 
"If once you could make up your mind to work, 
I am sure you would be industrious. And it 
would be so charming, Hector, for then Soeur 
Amelie would not be annoyed, and she would 
see all your other good qualities." 

" Because," Hector continued, without paying 
much attention to me, " unless I can 'become all 
these things, I shall never catch birds really 
well. You hear what this man says : ' The first 
and most essential of all the qualities a bird- 
catcher must have, is taste. Without it, it is 
impossible to insure success, and the chase 
becoming fruitless, is soon only irksome. Taste 
never exists without dexterity and industry, and 
these are the two qualities which lead necessa- 
rily to success.' And then again : 'It is also 
important that a bird-catcher should be ingen- 
ious, lively, active and provident, and that his 
imagination should always be ready to come to 
his assistance, because ' I can't read you the 

146 . HECTOR. 

reasons, they are too long, but you will see 
directly you begin to study the question in 
earnest, that without these qualities one couldn't 
hope to do any good. Patience, too. Yes, that 
one could learn. It is more the quickness and 
sharpness and ready imagination that bother 
me, because you can't make yourself clever if 
you are naturally stupid." 

" But you can make yourself cleverer, I ex- 
pect, if you are naturally a little bit clever," I 
hazarded. " That's why everybody works at 

"Is spinning easy?" asked Hector, looking 
up at my distaff, which since his admiration of 
Irma's industry I had kept more constantly 
in use. 

" Oh yes, quite easy. Try." 

He tried, but the tow came in lumps and 
would not twist, the spindle would not turn 
round in his unaccustomed fingers. Finally, he 
dropped it, and some of the yarn which I had 
already spun was unwound in a dirty puddle. 
That did not matter at all, for in a minute I had 
broken off the dirty piece and spun as much 
again in its place. 

" It is only that you have never practised it," 
I said to Hector, "and it is not worth your 

HECTOR. 147 

while, for it is not boys' work. I was just as 
bad at first, but I made myself cleverer." 

" Every one here is clever," Hector said ; 
"even Madelon knows a lot of things. She can 
spin and weave and make wine, besides making 
bread and bacon, and all that a common cook 
knows how to do. As for Grand'mere, she is 
the cleverest woman I have ever seen. If she 
was cast on a desert island, she would do every- 
thing that was wanted. She could sow and reap 
and grind, and cook the food ; she could spin 
and weave, and cut out and make the clothes. 
She knows all about building and tiling and 
thatching. She knows about draining land, and 
about doctoring sick people. I think she ought 
to be a queen." 

I imagine Grand'mere in her short gray dress 
and her shady hat and her wooden shoes, with 
her dear old withered brown face, sitting upon 
the throne of France, which I had always 
pictured to myself as being made of pure gold ; 
and fond as I was of her, I could not help 

" Queens are not like that, Hector," I said ; 
" they are grand ladies, and beautiful and 

" Well, they ought to be like that," he said, 

148 HECTOR. 

"so that they could be useful to their people. 
What's the good of grand ladies, beautiful and 
young, to be dressed out in silks and satins for 
a crowd to stare at ? It would be much better 
if they could show people how to make good 
bread. I think what Esquebesse said, that real 
gentlemen and kings and queens ought to be the 
people who know most, and who do most for 
every one else. That's why I'm going to try 
and learn bird-catching. I don't know how to 
do one single thing, now, that's useful." 

" But, Hector, you know we learn our lessons, 
and that will make us useful." 

" If we did real sensible work, it would ; little 
rubbish lessons, like ours, aren't any good. 
Nobody would ever grow clever on that sort of 
stuff; but just look at Esquebesse, how clever 
he is with going about in the woods, watching 
the animals and thinking as much as he likes." 

I saw that Hector was as far as ever from 
working well for Sceur Amelie, and as she was 
at that moment coming up the lane, we dropped 
the subject. By the time she had reached the 
house Hector had disappeared, and a minute 
after I caught sight of him in the stable begging 
some hairs out of the horse's tails from Jean. 
He stumbled through his lessons that morning, 

HECTOR. 149 

however, without special difficulty, and in a 
couple of hours we were both of us free to study 
to our hearts' content the art of twisting horse- 
hairs for birdtraps. It was in working like this 
with Hector that I first began to understand the 
pleasure of reading, for I saw how he got from 
books just what he wanted to know. The 
" Aviceptologie" told us exactly how many hairs 
to use for the cord of a snare ; how to knot them 
together ; how to hold them ; how to twist them ; 
how to finish them off when they were twisted ; 
and also, alas, the manner and purpose of their 

" I suppose a bird-catcher must kill birds," I 
said to Hector; and I saw by his answer that he 
had been thinking too upon this subject. 

" He must kill them in these snares," he said ; 
"but I don't intend to practice much with these. 
I shall only use them once or twice, just to see 
if I can, and then I shall go on regularly with 
bird-calling. That will be as good for me, and 
as I sha'n't wring their necks when they jcome, 
the little extra exercise of trotting after me will 
do the birds no harm." 

Immediately after dinner we escaped to the 
woods, and Hector began to set his snares. As 
a snare was nothing but a noose of horse- 

150 HECTOR. 

hair, of which one end was made fast in a 
branch, the only difficulty of setting them was 
to choose spots in the wood where birds were 
likely to pass. In order to do this, we had to 
watch the birds. Hector was very patient ; he 
would lie for half-an-hour at a time in one spot 
absorbed by all that he saw and heard, and 
though my ear was never as quick as his to 
catch the different notes of the birds' songs, 
my eyes soon became practised, and I took 
almost as much pleasure as he in watching the 
strange and beautiful things that went on around 
us. It was thus that I first conceived the love 
of natural history which has been such a pleas- 
ure in my life. Hour after hour, as the summer 
went on, Hector and I used to lie side by side 
upon our stomachs listening and looking in 
different parts of -the woods ; and I cannot 
attempt to write down a fiftieth part of the won- 
derful things we saw. Insects, birds, flowers, 
animals, even the harmless kind of serpents, 
became interesting to us ; and in the big book- 
case in the drawing-room, which I had never 
thought of opening, Hector discovered an old 
copy of M. Buffon's " Natural History," which 
told us most things that we wanted to know. 
On this first day, however, we were very 

HECTOR. 151 

ignorant, and the only result of looking with all 
our eyes, and listening with all our ears was to 
make us feel that the woods were a thousand 
times fuller than we had thought, and that it 
was impossible to take count of the movement 
which was going on there. There were num- 
bers of birds twittering everywhere; therefore, 
after a time, we set six snares very much on 
chance, and after that Hector said to me that 
we must find a bird's-nest. 

" You are not going to take eggs, are you ? " 
I asked. 

" No ! " he answered very shortly. " But I 
want another snare. Have you four more horse- 
hairs ? " 

I told him that I had, and he took them and 
knotted them together; then we hunted in the 
bushes for a nest. Before long we found one. 
It was built very nearly on the ground, amongst 
the chestnut shoots which were springing up 
from the roots of an old stump. The mother- 
bird was sitting when we first discovered it; but, 
frightened at our intrusion, she flew away ; and 
while she wheeled uneasily over our heads, we 
were able to examine at leisure the little semi- 
circular nest, carefully and elaborately woven of 
blades of grass, and the five greyish-brown eggs 

152 HECTOR. 

which lay upon the warm, soft lining of the 
nest. The sun shining through the chestnut 
shoots threw light shadows across them, and I 
thought what a lovely little home it was for the 
male bird to come back to. 

" Isn't she tiny," I said, " to have done all 
this? It seems impossible that two little birds 
should have the sense to build themselves such 
a beautiful home." 

Hector did not answer. He had fastened 
some string to either end of his bit of twisted 
horse-hair, and he made one end secure to a 
chestnut branch at the back of the nest, then 
he made a loose knot in the horse-hair itself, 
and pulled it open with his fingers till the circle 
of it was about the size of the nest ; this he laid 
upon the nest, and taking in his hand the long 
end of string which lay upon the ground, he 
signed to me to hide with him beneath a box 
bush. The instant we were out of sight the 
uneasy mother-bird descended with a sudden 
drop upon her nest, and ceasing -her little plain- 
tive notes, seemed to swell with content to find 
all well as she nestled once more upon the eggs. 
I did not know what Hector meant to do, but I 
suspected something horrible, and my heart was 
beating fast with apprehension when I saw his 

HECTOR. 153 

arm suddenly move. Almost at the same instant 
there was a loud piteous tweak from the little 
nest, and as Hector rose, I saw that the string 
was drawn quite tight, and in the noose formed 
by the horse-hair the bird hung by the neck 
quite dead. 

" Oh, Hector ! " I cried, " what have you 
done ? It is cruel." 

But I said no more. He looked even more 
upset than I. There was a flushed spot in each 
of his cheeks, and he stood with the string still 
in his hand, staring as though fascinated at his 
little victim. It was a brownish-yellow bird, 
with white and black stripings underneath, and 
the sun which shone through the chestnut twigs 
upon the warm eggs, shone too upon its pretty 
plumage, upon its relaxed legs and limp falling 
head, showing too plainly that already life was 

"I see it is true," he said. " I did not believe 
it was so easy." 

I did not say anything, but went up to the 
nest to feel the eggs. 

" I had to do it, Zelie," Hector said after a 
little pause. " If I want to be a bird-catcher, I 
ought to try all ways." 

I was only thinking that the eggs would nevef 
be hatched now. I could not speak. 

154 HECTOR. 

"If I could kill the he-bird," Hector said, 
raising his head. 

" Isn't it enough ? " I asked, almost choking 
with a kind of anger to think he could be cruel. 

" It is that, if I could kill the he-bird, he 
would never know that she was dead first, and 
the eggs don't know they were to be hatched." 

He seemed to understand what I meant, for 
his face was red all over, and his lip was quiver- 
ing. I saw that whatever his reason was for 
killing the bird, he was not cruel and heartless, 
and I was ashamed of my disloyal suspicion. I 
did not tell him that, but when he came up to 
undo the string from the branch to which he had 
fastened it, and I saw that he could not see the 
knot because two big tears had gathered in his 
eyes, I could not help leaning over the nest and 
putting my arm round his neck. 

" Let us go and bury it somewhere," I said ; 
" and now that we know it can be done, we shall 
not need to take any more this way." 

But we were not yet at the end of our troubles 
on account of that little bird. 

We were standing still beside the nest, Hec- 
tor with the bird and the string in his hand, 
when Irma came suddenly upon us. 

She asked us first, in her bright cordial fashion, 

HECTOE. 155 

what we were doing ; and then perceiving the 
nest and the strangled bird in Hector's hand, 
she divined what had happened, and burst out 
into reproaches against Hector. 

" What you have done is very ill," she said. 
" You think, perhaps, that because you are only 
a boy, you may be cruel if you like ; but it is 
not so. Boys who have hearts amuse themselves 
certainly, sometimes, with catching birds, but 
they could not go and treacherously seize a poor 
mother brooding upon her eggs. It is not only 
she you have killed, but all those little ones ; 
and look, there now is her mate flying home 
with food for the family you have destroyed." 
It was true : another bird of the same kind was 
wheeling above our heads, showing unmistaka- 
bly by its movements on what spot it would 

" Ah ! poor lark," Irma cried, holding out to 
it the dead body of its mate, " you will never 
see her again. You will never hear her voice 
of welcome. Keep your food, there is no one 
at home to need it." 

" Is it a lark ? " Hector asked. 

" Yes, it is a lark, and you are a horribly cruel 
boy," Irma replied with a burst of anger, which 
even then, children as we were, we understood 

156 HECTOR. 

to be in some measure greater, because it was 
Georges' bird that Hector had killed. " But, 
tenez, you will suffer for it all the same, for those 
who have no heart do not enjoy life. They 
make others miserable, and they are contempti- 
ble themselves." 

She spoke with so much passion that the tears 
started to her eyes ; then, perhaps because she 
did not want us to see, she walked on quickly 
and left us by the nest. 

Hector stood looking at the dead bird in his 

" I think there must be somebody without 
much heart who is making her unhappy now," 
I said; "She was crying when she went away, 
and she would not have been so angry only for 
the bird." 

" She might have been so angry for the 
cruelty," Hector said. And indeed it seemed 
as though that was the case, for we had not 
gone much farther before we met Esquebesse, 
and found that Irma had told him the story with 
an indignation which had in some measure com- 
.municated itself to him. He also spoke strongly 
to Hector of the cruelty of killing a brooding 

" If it is only to carry trouble and confusion 

HECTOR. . 157 

to innocent beings, who are fulfilling the duties 
Nature has imposed on them, that you spend 
your time in the woods, you would do better to 
confine yourself to the high-road," he said. 
" To understand Nature you must love it. If 
you would enter into the life of the woods, put 
all thought of your own profit out of your mind ; 
leave selfishness in the towns, and on the roads, 
where men pass up and down. There it is per- 
haps needed. But in the woods there is no com- 
petition for man, no one wants to pass beyond 
him, no one occupies themselves with the 
thought of him ; he may forget himself alto- 
gether. Without selfishness, neither greed nor 
cruelty exists. The heart, if you let it, will 
expand here naturally among the works of God; 
but if you bring selfishness with you, you cover 
yourself as it were with a shell which shuts you 
out from all true fellowship with Nature. It is 
very fine to love knowledge ; all intelligent 
beings must necessarily love it. Listen to the 
living sounds of the woods, and get well into 
your little head that there is a lesson beyond all 
others which they will teach you, if you can 
learn it, that is, to respect the lives of others." 
I have known since how Esquebesse carried 
out his maxim, and how his lonely existence was 

158 UECTOE. 

guided by respect for the lives and happiness of 
others. But even then his slow and thoughtful 
sentences impressed both me and Hector, and 
we went away very gravely to bury the bird 
Hector had killed. For a long time after that, 
if I felt inclined to be selfish, the remembrance 
of the cold eggs in the nest and the desolate 
he-bird, used to come between me and my incli- 
nation, and Esquebesse's simple "respect the 
lives of others," has made me act kindly very 
often since, when without the thought of it I 
might have been unkind. 

After we had buried the bird, we went with 
some fear to visit our snares. We neither of us 
said anything, but I am sure Hector hoped with 
all his heart, as I did, that there might be noth- 
ing in them. It was not till we had arrived at 
the place where they were set that we remem- 
bered, for the first time, the very important 
necessity of baiting them. Naturally, as we 
had put nothing to entice the birds into them, 
they were all in exactly the condition in which 
they had been left ; and Hector's face began to 
brighten as with much alacrity we took them 

"It is not the season to set snares now," he 
said. " I had forgotten that all the birds we 

HECTOE. 159 

took in them would be mothers or fathers, with 
young ones waiting for them at home. We 
wont try them any more till the autumn or 

This resolution cheered us both considerably; 
but we found, to my regret, when we reached 
the house, that the story of, as it was now 
called, Hector's want of heart, had preceded us. 
Grand'mere received us after her own fashion 
with a vigorous 

"Ah ! it is pretty to go out in this fine sun- 
shine to kill mothers of families. Fi done, 
Monsieur Hector, I should have thought you 
had more heart." 

Sceur Amelie, who was there, shook her head 
and looked solemn, and asked how he would 
like to have that kind of thing done to himself, 
and whether he did not know that cruelty was a 
sin ? Madelon even must needs say her say as 
usual, and she jeered at the fine hunter who 
killed his brooding birds. But Hector did not 
seem to pay the least attention to any of them. 
He only looked absently in front of him while 
they talked, and slipped away almost immedi- 
ately to the drawing-room, where I found him a 
minute or two afterwards sitting at the foot of 
the old bookcase absorbed in M. Buffon. 

160 HECTOR.^ 

Grand'mere heard us there, and came in. 
" No, no," she said, " no indulgences for people 
who permit themselves to be selfish. The 
drawing-room is not for children. Shut the 

Hector got up, with a strange white, tired 
look on his face, and, without asking if he might 
take the book elsewhere, he replaced it in the 
bookshelf and left the room. I saw Grand'mere 
look curiously after him, and I longed to tell her 
that he was not' obstinate or hard-hearted, but I 
did not dare. 

Th.e granaries were open that day, and five 
minutes later Hector was singing at the top of 
his voice as he worked away with a wooden 
spade, helping the men to fill some sacks with 

We saw him from the kitchen through the 
open doors above the stable, standing by a great 
brown heap of wheat, in his long-sleeved blue 
pinafore, with his ruddy hair all standing out in 
disorder round his head, and his face bright with 
the unwonted exercise. 

"There is one," said Madelon, "who doesn't 
put himself out for what people say." 

"It is greatly to be feared " Soeur Ame"lie 
was beginning, when Grand'mere almost simul- 
taneously answered Madelon. 

HECTOR. l6l 

" Well, and what would you have him do go 
and whimper in a corner because we say to him 
a few sharp words which he deserves ? Ma foi! 
it is a funny doctrine, and I prefer a little more 

Soeur Amelie said no more to Grand'mere ; 
but I am sure she talked to other people, for, 
from that day, I could see that Hector had 
everywhere the reputation of being heartless. 

It used to make me angry to hear the neigh- 
bors say that the English were always cold 
hearted ; but it is difficult to silence people's 
tongues, or to make them think what you would 
like them to think of those you love. 

In one way, however, this only drew me closer 
to Hector ; for I think there is nothing which 
binds you so close to any one as to be in the 
secret of his goodness. 

162 HECTOR. 


A FTER the affair of the lark, Irma seemed 
to take quite a dislike to Hector, and as 
she came up to Salaret twice every day to fetch 
her milk, she soon showed it enough for him to 
see, as well as I, what she felt. It did not make 
a bit of difference to his admiration for her ; he 
continued to like her just as much, and to think 
her as pretty as he had always thought her; ana 
he used to hang about the yard and talk to her 
almost always when she came up to the house. 
I think her short answers and her rebuffs hurt 
him, because I used to see the same white, tired 
look on his face sometimes that I had seen the 
day Grand'mere sent him out of the drawing- 
room ; but he never told me that they did, or 
gave any hint that he noticed her manner to 
him, except by just occasionally talking about 
himself as a kind of boy you couldn't expect 
people to care for much. 

HECTOR. 163 

We stuck to our resolution of setting no 
more snares in the springtime, and Hector 
continued day after day to practice bird-calls 
down in the woods, till he could at last imitate 
the cry of the lark and one or two others almost 
as well as Georges himself. I had not his ear or 
his voice, neither should I ever have had the 
patience to go on trying as he did, day after day, 
so I did not attempt to learn the bird-calls ; but 
it was a great delight to both of us to find that 
he really was succeeding. We certainly carried 

out the instructions of Monsieur B , the 

unknown author of the " Aviceptologie," for 
we spent the greater part of our time in the 
woods studying constantly the cries of the birds, 
and Hector endeavored, as he was told, to follow 
their example punctually. We learned, sooner 
than I should have thought possible, to dis- 
tinguish between their cries of joy, their cries 
of alarm, and the songs with which they re- 
joiced in peace ; and often, as we sat together 
listening on a chestnut stump, I used to amuse 
Hector by making up whole stories out of the 
different cries we heard uttered and answered. 
Grand'mere did not mind how long we stayed 
out of doors, for I always took my spinning with 
me, and in ordinary seasons there was nothing 

164 II EC TOE. 

special for Hector to do at the farm. She fan- 
cied, I believe, that we stayed in the wood near 
the house ; but we did not really, for there was 
a particular kind of couch-grass which Hector 
wanted very much for making whistles to imitate 
the cry of the owl, and we roamed through all 
the woods in the neighborhood in the hope of 
rinding it. We never succeeded in finding 
exactly the sort which the author of the "Avi- 
ceptologie " recommended, but we found two or 
three other kinds, and in our search after it 
became by degrees acquainted with a great many 
of the grasses and flowers of our woods which I, 
at least, should probably never have known had 
it not been for Hector's activity. 

In these rambles too we used often to meet 
Dr. Charles of Portalouve, and he always took 
some kindly notice of us. He interested him- 
self in our search after the couch-grass, and in 
fact joined in it, for he too was constantly 
hunting for specimens of our native plants. 
Whenever we met we used to ask news of each 
other of the couch-grass, and he used to look at 
the flowers we had gathered and tell us about 
them. Then, too, he was often hungry and far 
away from his dinner, and he used to delight us 
by simply accepting half of the bread and 

HECTOR. 165 

garlic, or curd cheese, with which we were 
generally provided. I have known since that 
his mother used to be vexed that he, whose 
parents were so well to do, should wander about 
the country like a poor man trusting to the 
chance of finding himself near some little 
country inn to eat ; but he never was able to 
remember those things for himself, and it used 
to make us very happy to meet him, and have 
the chance of dividing our goiiter into three 
parts instead of two. We always took care that 
his part should be the largest, and he used often 
to see that, and laugh and say, " Nevertheless, I 
accept ; I am hungrier than you ; " and then we 
could almost have hugged him for pleasure. 

One day we were all three sitting on a heap 
of stones by the roadside, eating bread and 
garlic, with a great bundle of faded flowers, and 
the specimen box and my distaff lying in the 
dust beside us, when a handsome carriage rolled 
slowly past, in which was one little shrivelled old 
man. He was wrapped up in a great-coat and 
scarf, though the day was so warm that we had 
been freely wiping our faces with our handker- 
chiefs just before he came up; and when he saw 
Dr. Charks he stopped the carriage. 

" I know it is folly, Doctor, for me to be out," 

166 HECTOR. 

he said in a thin, quavering voice, "but they 
told me my voice might be useful in the elec- 
tions to the Conseils G^neraux, and they dragged 
me from my chimney corner." 

"There is no harm in that, monsieur; to 
move about a little will do you good. And how 
go the elections ?" 

" Badly, as badly as they can" go. I knew it 
beforehand, and I told them it was useless to 
disturb ourselves. What is the voice of a 
gentleman nowadays ? Worse than nothing 
amidst the common herd which takes pleasure 
in voting against him. I saw to-day, in the 
voting hall, a man who used to be my gardener, 
who is now a member of the town council, and 
whose vote is worth as much as mine. They 
say even that he has influence, and that the 
greater part of the town council votes with him. 
The elections have become a farce. I will 
occupy myself with them no more. May God 
watch over our unhappy country." 

Dr. Charles was looking very thoughtful. 

" I dare to believe, monsieur, that He will 
not abandon us," he replied gravely. 

" What I wanted to speak to you about, 
Doctor, was that last medicine you sent me," 
continued the quavering voice. " It is not 

HECTOR. 167 

strong enough. I begin to think now that I 
need a tonic." 

" Tonics only serve to augment an evil, unless 
the system has been prepared to receive them," 
Dr. Charles replied, in the same thoughtful tone 
as before. 

" Then for Heaven's sake prepare my system," 
the old gentleman answered impatiently ; and 
Dr. Charles seemed to wake up into sudden 
laughter, as he replied : 

"That is not so easy, monsieur, as at first 
sight it may seem." 

A few more remarks were made about the 
medicine and exercise and a wholesome diet, 
and the carriage drove on, leaving Dr. Charles 
still half thoughtful, half amused. 

Hector had stood listening to the dialogue. 

"Is that one of your French aristocracy?" he 
asked, as the carriage drove away. 

" Exactly. That is M. le Comte, of whom 
you must have heard Esquebesse speak. 

We all sat down and applied ourselves again 
to our bread and garlic in silence, till presently 
Hector's eyes fell on the bundle of flowers in 
the road. " Supposing some giant collector was 
looking out for specimens of men and women," 
he said, " and he happened to pick up M. le 

x68 HECTOR. 

Comte, wouldn't he think we were a queer little 
lot, and would'nt he be pretty well puzzled, too, 
to know how all the things in the world got 

"Ay, indeed," Dr. Charles said. "And the 
same thing is but too true of many of our 
gentlemen of the old blood. They need a tonic 
badly, but who is to prepare their system ? " 

" Is it idleness," Hector asked, " that makes 
them what they are ? " 

" Esquebesse would tell you that idleness is at 
the bottom of most evils, for idleness is pretty 
sure to bring self-indulgence, and self-indulgence 
brings selfishness. Esquebesse has too much 
heart ever to have worked for himself alone, 
therefore he thinks there is safety in work ; but 
I have seen industrious men only the more 
selfish because they have worked hard for them- 
selves. They gratify their own wants so well, 
that they forget there are any other wants in 
the universe." 

Hector listened in the eager way in which 
he always did to anything which exercised his 

" Yes," he said at once, " but he grinds the 
corn and people eat it, so that even if he doesn't 
care to be of use he is of use. That's better 
than a selfish gentleman." 

HECTOR. 169 

I knew of course that he was thinking of the 
miller, and what he said made me begin to think 
in my own heart that perhaps it was better not 
to be a gentleman, since a working-man had 
only to be honest and respectable in order to be 
of some use, and a gentleman might so easily 
be of no use at all. 

But Dr. Charles seemed interested by Hector's 

"Yes," he said, "if we except a selfish lady," 
he patted my head kindly as he spoke as though 
to show that he did not think me selfish, "a 
selfish gentleman is perhaps what there is of 
worst in the human species, for the same posi- 
tion which gives him advantages for himself 
makes him necessarily an example and leader to 
many other people. The power of the cultivated 
man is very great. If he teaches nothing but 
selfishness he betrays his trust, and probably 
does, if we could calculate it, a great deal more 
harm than the ruffian who cuts his neighbor's 
throat for the sake of a few gold coins. On the 
other hand, we must remember this : that if the 
power of the cultivated is enormous, it is great 
for good as well as for evil. Putting on one 
side the great deeds of history for which heroes 
have been found in all ranks, we have only tc 

170 HECTOR. 

look round us honestly in any civilized country, 
and we see worthy and devoted gentlemen doing 
good which the poor and uncultivated, however 
well-disposed, could never hope to achieve. 
There are gentlemen who do not cultivate 
themselves, then they or their children soon 
drop from the rank of their forefathers, and are 
lost in the mass of the uneducated. There are 
among the poor some who have the energy and 
the power to cultivate themselves; these rise, 
either in their own persons or the persons of 
their children, to the rank of gentlemen. I 
make no hard-and-fast line of aristocratic de- 
scent, but I call the mass of the rich and the 
cultivated gentlemen, and I maintain that in all 
civilized countries this great mass is doing, on 
the whole, enormous good. If you belong to it 
by birth, I would say hold on to it by every 
means in your power. Never abandon the 
possibilities for good with which you have been 
endowed. If you do not belong to it by birth, 
strive to rise towards it try to win a place for 
your children in the upper half of humanity. 
Knowledge and riches are an immense power. 
Men ought to be powerful ; and I would no more 
advise the ploughman to be content to remain 
ignorant and half brutalized, than I would advise 

HECTOR. 171 

the gentleman to be content to live on the 
reputation of his father's deeds. As for me, 1 
respect what is above me, and my idea is that 
we should all go higher together. After that, 
I am only a little middle-class doctor, and the 
idea of our aristocracy seems unfortunately to 
be that we should all go lower together. M. le. 
Comte, you see, is not only determined to take 
no more interest in the elections himself, but he 
is angry that' his gardener should take an interest 
in them either. Such things, Hector, when you 
see them in high places, are sad, but they bring 
home more and more the lesson that every man 
should set it before himself as an aim to add 
something to the knowledge and advantages of 
his fathers." 

There was something in Hector, I think, 
which made people talk to him in this way. He 
took so much interest in everything that went 
on round him, that he scarcely seemed at times 
like a child. People seemed to take pleasure in 
telling him their real thoughts, and I, going 
about always with him and listening to his talks, 
got to know our nearer neighbors more inti- 
mately in a month or two with him than in all 
the years I had lived amongst them alone. This 
talk with Dr. Charles has remained in my mem- 

172 HECTOE. 

ory, because it was, I think, the first thing which 
made me begin to feel myself what Hector felt 
that we had special duties, because we were 
born in what Dr. Charles called the upper half 
of mankind. I had always thought before that 
it was very lucky for me that Grand'mere wasn't 
poor, like some of the peasants about Salaret, 
who had to keep their children at work all day, 
and feed them chiefly on chestnuts like the pigs, 
and I had even wondered sometimes why I 
should have been so favored ; but now I began 
to understand the balance of things, and to see 
that if I had better I ought also to do better. 

Dr. Charles said more than I have repeated 
about the use and power of cultivation. He 
told us, just as Esquebesse had done, how know- 
ledge opened the heart, and made men feel the 
joys and sorrows of other people. He told us 
how much the poor people everywhere needed 
knowledge, and how much the rich were able 
when they chose to give it to them ; and after 
this day I never was inclined to think any more, 
as Hector had sometimes made me think, that 
perhaps it was better not to be a gentleman : I 
saw that the best was to be a gentleman, and a 
good gentleman. 

As Dr. Charles and Hector and I were going 

HECTOR. 173 

back towards Salaret that day we met Irma 
bringing her little brothers and sisters home 
from the Salle d'Asile. They were all so small, 
that as she walked amongst them with her dis- 
taff raised, she reminded us of the goose-girls 
when they drive their flocks through the stubble- 
fields after the corn has been cut ; and Dr. 
Charles said to her, laughingly, as we met 

" You are bringing back all your little geese 
quite safe, Irma." 

" Yes, yes, Monsieur le Docteur," she replied, 
with her old bright smile, " and the Sisters tell 
me that they are good little geese, especially 
this one." She laid her hand kindly as she 
spoke on a little bullet head which reached but 
a short way above her knee, and received an 
affectionate rub in answer from the proud object 
of her praise. " That big one there is begin- 
ning to read words of two syllables. He can 
answer his questions nicely in his Histoire 
Sainte, and he can count well now. This one," 
and the hand went down again to the tiny crea 
ture at her knee, " can count up to ten, and 
sings like a little choir-boy." 

" The big one there" was not seven yet ; and 
" this one " was between two and three. There 
were five altogether, and Irma looked at them 

174 HECTOR. 

so proudly and affectionately that Dr. Charles 

" Why, Irma, to see you so pleased with them, 
one might think they were your own." 

//// Monsieur le Docteur : they are as good 
as mine, since they are my brothers and sisters, 
and we must hold together. Without that what 
would become of the family ? Heaven knows, 
I ask nothing better than to work hard and do 
my share towards maintaining them. But there 
are sacrifices before which one draws back." 

Her face had grown grave while she was 

We did not understand what she meant, but 
Dr. Charles seemed to understand, for he said 
warmly and kindly 

" At least, Irma, you have the sympathy of 
all people of heart, for when such sacrifices are 
not necessary no one can wish to see them 
made ; especially if they involve the happiness 
of more than one person." 

The last words brought the color so vividly 
back to Irma's cheeks, that without knowing 
quite what the sacrifice she spoke of could be, 
Hector and I were at once sure it had something 
to do with Georges. 

" Thank you, monsieur," she said. " You do 

HECTOR. 175 

me good. When one is alone, and then .luty 
seems to put itself on the other side, it is hard 
sometimes to keep up one's resolution. Voyons, 
Jeanne, say ' Bonjour, monsieur et compagnie.' " 

Jeanne looked very shy for a moment, but as 
Irma insisted on the greeting, and the other 
children said it boldly in chorus, Jeanne made 
her little curtsey to Dr. Charles. 

"Bonjour, monsieur," she said; then to Hec- 
tor, with another curtsey, " Bonjour, compagnie." 
And while we all laughed at the dignity to which 
Hector was raised, Irma caught her up in her 
arms and carried her away with a hearty kiss. 

We children longed to know what the sacri- 
fice for her brothers and sisters, of which she 
had spoken, could possibly be. We would have 
given a good deal to ask Dr. Charles, but though 
we chattered to him quite freely about many 
things, we did not dare to ask him this, and it 
was not till he had left us that we gave our 
whole mind to conjectures upon the matter. 
The great secret seems to me now so simple, 
that I hardly know how we could help guessing 
it ; but notwithstanding Hector's readings in 
his uncle's library, we were quite ignorant of 
such affairs, and the little brothers and sisters 
puzzled us completely. How Irma could be in 

176 HECTOR, 

any way called upon to sacrifice herself for 
them was a wonderful mystery to us, and our 
guesses were wide of the mark till it struck me 
one day that we might go to the forge and ask 
Pierre. He would know, we felt sure, and we 
were not shy with him. He did know, and after 
assuring us that the matter could not interest 
us, and that children could not possibly under- 
stand such things, he told us that Lagrace was 
poor, and found it hard to bring up his large 
family, and that there was an offer of a rich 
marriage for Irma with a middle-aged man, who 
was willing to take her without a marriage por- 
tion. Irma stuck still to Georges, but her par- 
ents told her it was her duty to think of her 
family, and that it was unnatural to think more 
of Georges, who was a stranger, than of the 
little brothers and sisters, who were her own 
flesh and blood. Every one blamed her, Pierre 
said, for resisting her parents' wishes ; but when 
our hearts were beating fast with excitement 
over the story, and our hopes for Georges were 
very low, Pierre cheered us by the declaration 
that he, at all events, did not blame her. To 
his mind, he said, it was an abominable crime to 
take her from Georges and give her, all young 
and generous and pretty as she was, to a great 

HECTOR. 177 

clumsy fellow, old enough to be her father, who 
had never even suspected that there is anything 
else to do in the world but to fill one's own 
stomach and amass gold pieces. 

It is easy to imagine how indignantly we two 
echoed Pierre's opinion. Hector's astonished 
disgust knew no bounds, and Pierre said it did 
him good to talk to us ; that only children 
remained natural now-a-days. Hector would 
have liked to go straight away and tell Georges 
what they were doing. Pierre told him that 
that would be of no use, for poor people were 
not like the rich ; they had to sit still often and 
be patient, no matter what fretted their hearts. 
Georges could not leave his regiment, and it 
would only make him miserable to know what 
Irma was suffering. But for the poor as for the 
rich, Pierre said "there is the justice of GOD, 
and we shall see yet if courage and good faith 
will not triumph over avarice and selfishness." 

178 J1ECTQE. 


l^ROM this time the affair of Georges and 
Irma occupied our thoughts a great deal. 
But as Irma had said, people were too busy in 
the summer months to think about getting 
married, and we heard nothing more of it for 
a long time. 

The hay was cut, the cherry harvest had 
come and gone, the granaries at Salaret were 
filled again almost to bursting, and the worst 
heats of summer were over, when one Saturday 
afternoon Hector and I were down, as usual, at 
the forge. 

Except on the Saturdays when Grand'mere 
took us to Cassagne, we hardly ever failed to 
spend part of that afternoon with Pierre. He 
called it his reception day. His friends were 
the peasants, and merchants, and peddlers, and 
tramps, who passed to and from the market, and 
though they gave him many a job as they went, 
it was not only for the pleasure of seeing Pierre 

HECTOR. 179 

work, that we used to go on Saturdays to the 
forge. It was for the fun of hearing the gossip, 
and seeing the people pass by. I have thought 
since then that Pierre's Saturday reception was 
to us what the newspapers are to grown-up 
people, with the difference that we got our news 
alive. He was such a general favorite that no 
one would have passed the forge without stop- 
ping to tell any interesting piece of gossip they 
knew, and the common remarks of those who 
had nothing to tell showed what subjects occu- 
pied people's thoughts. The crops in their 
various seasons, the weather, the goose fatten- 
ing, the election, all formed in their turn the 
basis of Saturday conversation, and we used to 
think, then, it was a funny charm which made 
everyone speak of the same thing. If the 
farmer's wife from the nearest farm said as 
she passed, " Good day, M. Pierre. What a 
wind for the orchards ! the ground was strewn 
with little pears under my big pear-tree this 
morning," then we knew that everyone who 
went by would tell us of the damage done to his 
orchard by the wind that night. 

As people trudged in laden in the early part 
of the day they seldom stopped to talk, but if 
Pierre happened to stand at the door of the forge 

i8o HECTOR. 

each gave some such bit of personal news as he 
went, and received two words in answer. It was 
in the afternoon that Hector and I loved to 
hang about the door. Then, as the merry 
groups clattered home with empty baskets, the 
girls and boys in their smart market clothes 
rejoicing to be rid of their loads, and heads of 
families looking content to have the day's gain 
stowed away in some safe inner pocket, everyone 
was disposed to dawdle, and all the stories of 
the market were repeated to us with comments 
and variations. Personal anecdotes and gossip 
were mingled then with business talk about 
seed-time and harvest, and Hector and I scarcely 
knew whether we enjoyed most to listen to the 
circle on the threshold of the forge, or to climb 
the mound at the opposite side of the road and 
look out for our friends as they came. We used 
to try which of us could recognize them best at 
a great distance on the road, and though we 
sometimes made funny mistakes, there were 
people whom we always knew. Irma Lagrace 
was one. She used to walk so straight, and look 
so slim and neat in the sunshine that streamed 
through the poplars, that we never mistook her 
for any of the other girls of the neighborhood, 
and her daik red skirf and white capeline made 

HECTOR. 181 

one of the spots of color for which we used to 
look with the greatest interest ; Dr. Charles's 
carriage with the yellow horse ; Esquebesse and 
his dogs were very welcome too ; but I think 
that our chief delight on Saturdays was to see 
Baptiste the miller go by. He had a heavy old 
horse who used to canter with his head down 
between his fore legs, and, though Baptiste had 
been pulling him for nearly twenty years, he had 
never succeeded in pulling his head up. So they 
went by fighting with each other every week, 
Baptiste bumping up and down in the saddle, 
with the two white bags in which he brought 
home what he wanted from market, flying out on 
either side, his blouse filled with wind, and his 
face like a full-blown peony. He looked always 
so heavy and awkward and hot, that we who did 
not care for him used to get a great deal of 
amusement out of the contrast between his 
figure and that of his little old servant Marie 
Anna, who went by every Saturday, too, on a 
donkey, with a big basket over her arm, looking 
so immovable in her saddle, that she and the 
donkey and the basket might all have been 
made of wood, and who never failed to call out 
in her shrill, hard voice : 

" Has the miller passed this way ? " 

182 HECTOR. 

On the particular Saturday of which I speak, 
people were very late in returning from the 
market ; the afternoon was wearing on, and we 
were still inside the forge when we heard the 
voice of Marie Anna calling out as usual to 
know if the miller had yet passed by. 

Pierre went out upon the threshold. 

" Not a living soul has passed since dinner- 
time," he said. " They have had enough, no 
doubt, of the great heat, and are waiting for the 
cool of the evening." But we saw, while he 
spoke, that the stream of home-comers had set 
in, for the road so empty before was covered 
now with moving groups. 

" That's it," grumbled Marie Anna, " every- 
thing passes now before work. The weather is 
warm; there is news at the market, and no 
matter what becomes of the work, so long as we 
take our ease like princes. It is time for these 
things to finish ; my master is losing his head." 

"There is news at the market?" Pierre asked, 
and we children opened our ears for Marie 
Anna's answer. 

" They speak of nothing but the soldiers," she 
replied. " It seems we are to Jiave five or six 
thousand of them on our backs before long, 
stuffing themselves with our provisions, and 

HECTOR. 183 

helping themselves without Yes or No to all 
that there is of best in the country. Ah, I 
know what it is. They will pass like a pest. 
After them will come desolation. I have seen 
it. And over there, at the market, they are 
rejoicing like children because it is new." She 
spoke with all the contempt of experience for 
the ignorant, and we thought that the miller 
would have to be braver than he looked if he 
ventured to rejoice with her eye upon him. 

" It is settled then," said Pierre. " The 
soldiers come decidedly. And when must we 
expect to see them ? " 

" Next month, just in the middle of the vin- 
tage. Six thousand of them to be quartered off 
and on for a month in this arrondissement of 
two thousand inhabitants. Think if we shall 
have them into our very lofts ; and think what 
will remain to us of our crops after they are 

"Allans, Marie Anna. We mustn't judge 
them beforehand. As for me, you know I have 
my nephew Georges in the army, and for his 
sake the soldiers shall be well received in my 

Georges's return had been our first thought 
when we heard the news, and we were radiant 

184 HECTOE. 

already. But Marie Anna was not to be 

" Much they will care," she croaked, " how 
they are received. It is the first time we have 
had such an occupation since you have known 
how to understand things, but I know. I have 
a good memory. I do not forget. They will 
pass like grasshoppers ; nothing will remain to 
us. The English themselves were not so bad as 
the French." 

" Bah ! we are not in time of war now. War 
changes the natures of men ; but our soldiers 
are good. Que diable ! They are the sons and 
the brothers and the nephews of people like 
ourselves, and when they come in tired and 
footsore and hungry, and see there before them 
the master of the house, who bids them welcome, 
and pours them out a draught of good little 
white wine, they will say to themselves, 'Tiens! 
it is like our father, or our brother, or our uncle, 
down there at home ; ' they will drink to his 
health, and they will be ashamed to do anything 
in his house which they would not do in the 
house of their own relations." 

One or two other people had come up, and 
there was a murmur of assent to what Pierre 
said, only Marie Anna remained unconvinced, 
and Pierre continued : 

HECTOR. 185 

" When you saw soldiers here it was in time 
of war. Instead of saying to themselves, 'We 
shall soon return into our villages, and we shall 
be ashamed if we have done things that are 
disgraceful,' they said to themselves : ' We are 
going into battle to be killed for something we 
don't care about at all. We have to give up our 
homes, and our families, and everything our 
hearts cling to. Then let us be merry and 
enjoy what we can take. It is only just for 
others to suffer in their turn.' Everyone can't 
be a hero, and despair makes monsters of men. 
Also after having killed men for duty, after hav- 
ing seen one's self splashed with human blood, 
after having marched over the bodies of your 
comrades, without paying attention to anything 
but the order of your commander to close up the 
ranks, your moral ideas are so upset that a little 
robbery and violence seems of small account. 
Manoeuvres in time of peace are quite another 
thing. Then the soldier is a good honest fellow, 
who follows his trade like one of ourselves. 
And why should he exercise himself in arms ? 
why should he sweat under the marches and 
counter-marches, which you will see when they 
are here ? why should he have always under his 
eyes the possibility that he will hear one day, 

l86 HECTOR. 

' War is declared,' and will be sent with his 
pouch full of cartridges to fight upon our 
frontier? Why? That he may defend us, that 
we good bourgeois of Cassagne may sleep in our 
beds tranquil, and say to ourselves, ' If the 
invader comes, the army is there ; the soldiers 
will give their lives for us.' '' 

The little circle had grown wider round the 
door of the forge, and Pierre's words were 
received with a sort of acclamation. 

" That's it, Pierre. You are right. We must 
think of that," rose in murmurs from one side 
and the other, and more than one mother whose 
son's life had been given, drew a brown hand 
across her eyes, and declared that for her part 
the soldiers were welcome. 

I could see that Hector was listening eagerly, 
and I felt much excited. Young as I had been 
at the time of the war, I remembered still the 
terrible scenes of desolation, when mothers and 
fathers came up to Salaret to tell Grand'mere of 
the death of their children ; I remembered, too, 
to have seen Grand'mere weep at the news of a 
great battle that was lost, and I felt for the 
moment, while Pierre was speaking, that I would 
have given everything I possessed to the soldiers. 
I think Hector felt something like that too, for 

HECTOR. 187 

his eyes glowed as he stood with his gaze riveted 
on Pierre ; then, when Pierre had finished speak- 
ing, he looked with a sort of curious interest at 
the hard peasant faces, moved as they were with 
generous thoughts, and said to me, " I would 
like to be a soldier." Esquebesse made one of 
the circle to which Pierre had spoken, and he 
said : 

" What you say, Pierre, is very true. The 
French soldier does not serve for his own profit. 
All that he gets from the nation, besides his 
food and his clothes and his tobacco, is one little 
sou a day, and since for that he gives us every- 
thing, we need not grudge him once in a way a 
share of our good things. The billeting orders 
are that each officer is to have a room to himself, 
and the soldiers shelter and straw, and a place 
to light their fire ; but we will receive them 
better than that. Everyone will do according to 
his means, and, for my part, so long as there is 
wine in the cellar, and vegetables in the garden ; 
those who are billeted on me shall find their 
wine and their soup ready for them every day." 

The hospitable feeling once expressed, seemed 
to spring up in all hearts, and everyone agreed 
that to give the soldiers their wine and soup was 
the least that those who could afford it might do. 

i88 HECTOE. 

Hector whispered to me that Irma and her 
father had joined the group, and we looked at 
Irma with joy and congratulation in our faces, 
but she did not see us. She was listening with 
moist eyes and a bright spot of color in each 
cheek. While expressions of sympathy were 
arising on all sides, mixed with declarations that 
in the neighborhood of Cassagne the soldiers 
should not want, Baptiste the miller cantered up. 

" Well," he said, " it is lucky for us that the 
splendid summer has ripened all the crops early. 
We shall get in the maize without loss. But, in 
spite of the fine weather, it is a bad look-out 
for those whose wealth is in vines." 

" Why so ? " asked one or two whose vineyards 
were well known. 

"Why ? " Because if those rascals of soldiers 
are to be here in the first week of Octobei, you 
must begin to cut the grapes at once, otherwise 
you will make no wine this year." 

"There is what I said," murmured Marie 
Anna. " He has some good sense, in spite of 

" Do you suppose they will respect property?" 
Baptiste went on. "Not they; they will help 
themselves to what they like. After their 
passage the gardens and vineyards will be as 

HECTOR. 189 

bare as my hand. This is what comes of your 
good-foi -nothing Republican government. With 
all their talk about peace, they bind on our backs 
military burdens we never had before. But the 
soldiers whom they quarter on me shall not 
desire to return, I promise you that." 

Baptiste was evidently out of temper ; his 
words fell like a chill on the enthusiasm of the 
little assembly. Faces which a minute before 
had been looking tender and generous, became 
suddenly careworn and hard again. People 
turned somewhat anxiously towards him, and no 
one answered till Esquebesse took his pipe out 
of his mouth and said quietly : 

"They will not touch the vines. Government 
has taken strong measures to prevent damages." 

I learnt then how true it is that there are two 
sides to every question. Before Baptiste came 
up, everyone seemed to agree with Pierre, and 
to wish to be generous to the soldiers. Now 
that Baptiste advised them to be selfish, a 
number seemed suddenly to change round to 
his view, and to think it best to be selfish, as he 
said. Irma's father was one of them. 

" For my part," he said, " I am of the opinion 
of the miller. What is happening to us is a 
misfortune from which we shall take a long time 


to recover. Why should we stint our children 
to give wine and soup to soldiers? Already to 
have them here is ruin enough, and as for me, 
I will give nothing but what the law obliges." 

Irma flushed, but a woman who had spoken 
of her boys in the army, cried out : 

" It is all one. They are our sons, and we 
owe them something. Especially you, M. La- 
grace. You have young sons ; their turn will 
come, and one day you will be glad if you can 
think in \our heart, 'Eh, bien! when I had the 
chance, I did what I could for the soldiers.' " 

The discipline of the metairie would have 
forbidden Irma to say a word in answer to her 
father, but this woman seemed to express just 
what Irma felt, for the flush of vexation faded 
partially away, and there came a bright grateful 
look into her eyes. 

" I don't think, papa," she ventured, " that 
Valentine or Maurice will ever be good-for-noth- 
ings or robbers." 

Her voice was so low and sweet after the loud 
argumentative tones, that all eyes turned towards 
her. But her father seemed vexed, and answered 
sharply : 

" Do me the pleasure to be silent. It is not 
for the chillren to mix themselves up with 

HECTOR. 191 

affairs which concern their fathers. Yes," he 
continued sarcastically, " the young girls who 
think of nothing but dressing themselves up 
smart, and running out to see the grand parades, 
and to hear the military masses, will welcome 
the soldiers, but their parents have a little more 
foresight. They know what it is to have their 
vineyards stripped, and their poultry robbed, 
and their gardens ravaged. They know that 
they will pay dearly for a few grand sights. 
And it wont be the young girls who will sing, 
either, after the soldiers are gone. Those who 
respect themselves will remain close in their 
fathers' houses, and will think rather of the 
misfortune of their parents than of their own 

Irma dropped her eyes quietly to her knitting 
while her father was speaking, but when he had 
finished, and the miller from his place of eleva- 
tion on the horse's back called out : 

" That's it. The women should show the 
soldiers we don't want them in the country." 

She flashed up to him such a glance of dislike 
that Hector and I saw plainly she shared our 
feelings against the fat egoist. 

The arguments for and against the soldiers 
could not go on for ever. People had to be 

192 HECTOE. 

moving home. So after Pierre and Esquebesse 
had said a little more in their favor, and the 
miller a good bit more against them, the little 
rircle round the forge broke up, and group after 
group went away through the lengthening shad- 
ows, to spread in their various villages the great 
news that the soldiers were coming. 

As Irma and her father were moving away, 
we noticed with some excitement that Hector's 
tramp, who seemed to find profit in passing up 
and down this particular road, had been listening 
on the outskirts of the little crowd. 

"Ah! you are perfectly right," he said to the 
miller, who had dismounted, and was walking 
beside Lagrace. " You will see queer things 
ivhen the soldiers are here. I know them, I." 

Then Irma's repressed irritation burst sud- 
denly out, and, turning upon him, she said with 
a sort of fury, before the miller had time to 
speak : 

" What can you know about good people ? 
You are a scoundrel ; go away." 

After that she walked on fast towards the 
farm alone, knitting swiftly as she went, with 
the hot color flaming in her cheeks. 

As for us, our excitement was beyond words. 
After having thought at first only of Georges, 

HECTOR. 193 

we had now taken in the great fact that in 
another week or two the country would be 
swarming with soldiers : if everyone were to 
have them in their houses, we also should have 
some at Salaret, and, after watching the last 
group leave the forge, we ran home up the lane, 
bursting with anxiety to tell Grand'mere the 
great news, and to find out how she meant to 
receive, our soldiers. 

194 HECTOR. 


T__pOR the next few days we could think of 
nothing else but soldiers. Grand'mere 
entered to a great extent into our feelings, and 
though she smiled at our enthusiasm and de 
clared herself too old now to be excited about 
new things, she patted my head and said that 
she liked to see my cheeks burning, for generous 
blood was easily stirred when it was young. She 
soon set our hearts at rest as to the manner in 
which she meant to receive her soldiers, for, the 
very first evening, when we ran home fresh from 
the discussion at the forge and repeated all we 
could remember, she said that Pierre and Esque- 
besse had spoken well, and she had declared, 
before Jean and Madelon and one or two farm 
laborers, that any of the metayers who wished 
to obtain favor from her would do well to 
receive the soldiers hospitably. In the course 
of the next day, some of the metayers came up 
to Salaret to ask what she thought about cutting 

HECTOR. 195 

the grapes, and her answer to the first made us 
perfectly happy. People would do what they 
liked, she said, about their own grapes, but she 
hoped that she might never see the day when 
the vintage began on her land before the second 
week in October. In the good old times when 
she was young, the grapes were never cut till 
the first frost had touched them, and fires had 
to be lit in the vineyards to warm the hands of 
the grape-cutters. People had grown soft since 
then ; she gave in to custom so far as to let her 
vintage begin in the middle of October, and the 
wine was none the better for it. A day sooner 
it should not begin if all the armies in France 
were going to march over her vineyards. More- 
over, for the benefit of such metayers as had 
grapes of their own, over which she had no 
control, she very frankly expressed her opinion 
that those who had not the courage and good 
faith to await in patience the proper seasons, but 
tried to snatch gifts from the hand of God before 
His own time came for bestowing them, were 
likely to surfer for their greediness. 

We children remembered to have heard Pierre 
say almost the same words about Georges' and 
Trma's love affair, and hearing Grand'mere say 
them now, we hoped the more for Irma. Soeur 

196 UECTOR. 

Amelia did not take the same view as Grand'- 
mere of the soldiers. It was the duty of every- 
one, she said, to receive them properly ; but she 
used to lament in mysterious half-sentences the 
terrible misfortunes which the soldiers would 
bring upon the country, the wickedness they 
would introduce, the ruin and misery they would 
leave behind, till, one day, when we were all 
standing at the door of the kitchen after lessons, 
and she had been angering Hector and me by 
talking as though soldiers were, one and all, 
messengers of Satan, Hector said in his quiet 
matter-of-fact way : 

" I suppose you haven't ever been in love with 
a soldier, have you, ma Sceur ? " 

" Mon Dieu ! Mon Dieu ! " exclaimed Sceui 
Amelie ; "what questions to come into a child's 
mind. Positively he is possessed. I, a sister of 
charity, to But it is frightful ! Did any- 
one ever hear such things spoken of ? " 

She took out her handkerchief and wiped her 
face, and Grand'mere said : 

" There, there, ma Sceur ! the child meant no 
harm; he doesn't understand these'things." 

Hector went stolidly on : 

" Because, if you had ever been in love with 
a soldier, you'd understand much better about 

HECTOR. 197 

them being good, and you'd be longing for them 
to come too, and turning red, like other people, 
when you heard them spoken of, and looking so 
awful pretty. Have you ever been in love with 
anyone ? " 

This last question was shot out' suddenly but 
deliberately, and the effect upon Soeur Amelie 
was so dreadful, that, in spite of my anger 
against her, I could hardly forgive Hector for 
the irresistible chuckle of laughter which burst 
from him. 

She literally gasped for breath, and, with both 
hands up before her withered face, she cried out, 
" Oh ! oh ! " in a voice which did not sound to 
me like hers at all, but like the voice of someone 
who had been badly hurt. The next instant she 
was all herself, shocked and astonished, redden- 
ing, gesticulating, flapping the wings of her 
cornette, as she declared that that child was a 
" demon, a true little demon ; " but she looked 
so miserably uncomfortable, that Grand'mere 
said : 

" It is all one, ma Soeur. There is nothing to 
agitate yourself about if in the past you have 
had your experience. There are many things 
in life, and, with the rest, a little love comes in 
tjrn to all of us. Go along out of doors now, 
children, and talk no more stupidities. 

ig8 HECTOR. 

Hector had another burst of chuckling as we 
went down the lane. 

" I don't see anything so amusing," I said, 
rather indignantly, " I think you hurt her." 

When he saw I wasn't amused he stopped 
laughing, and said, "Why shouldn't I? It 
served her right for saying nasty things. Girls 
always think that they may hurt as much as they 
like, and that it is a great shame if anyone hurts 
them back again." 

Sceur Amelie never abused the soldiers again 
in Hector's presence, but I am sure she disliked 
him all the more from that time. He said he 
thought people were silly who minded about 
being disliked when they were able to do the 
things they really wanted to do. It was like 
wanting to buy without paying the money. I 
understand better now what he meant, but I 
suppose I always was silly, for I minded very 
much not only about being disliked myself, but 
about him being disliked also. 

That same day Hector said he wanted to see 
Baptiste's mill at work, and we went down im- 
mediately after dinner through the woods. The 
river wound past Lagrace's metairie, and as we 
went we saw Lagrace and his family in the vine- 
yard cutting grapes. Hector asked Irma why 
she did it. 

HECTOR. 199 

" I obey my father," she said, sadly, " We 
are very poor, and he is afraid because of the 

The me'tairie did look poor with its weather- 
stained walls and broken shutters, and patched 
clothes hanging out to dry upon a line. We 
were struck by the contrast between it and the 
mill, for the miller's land came next after La- 
grace's on the river bank. The wheel was not 
at work when we reached the mill, and the 
stream spread out into a clear full pond under 
the chestnut trees above the dam. The trees 
were laden with fruit that year, the woods were 
already turning gold, and the red-tiled mill, 
which was reflected with them in the clear still 
water, seemed a rich and comfortable place to 
live in. 

Baptiste looked like a rich and comfortable 
miller, too, when we got round to the front f his 
house and saw him in his dining-room. It was a 
festival day apparently at the mjll, for at ordi- 
nary times Baptiste dined in the kitchen, and he 
was not alone. We saw through the vine-covered 
frame of the open window the round table set in 
the middle of the low dining-room with its 
dessert and wine bottles. The miller, with his 
back to the big side-board, leaning forward on 

200 HECTOR. 

the table smoking a cigarette, and leisurely stir- 
ring his cup of coffee, while on one side of him 
sat Marie Monthez, and on the other a nice- 
looking woman, whom we instantly guessed to 
be her mother. The smoke from his cigarette 
curled over their heads ; they looked very much 
at their ease. In the kitchen, on the other side 
of the passage, Marie Anna was clattering the 
dishes, in a way which with Madelon at home 
meant temper. 

We did not wish to disturb the miller, so we 
went round to the back and asked Marie Anna 
if he were going to work the mill that day. She 
didn't know anything about it, she said, nor 
about him either, it seemed. She used to be of 
opinion that he had inherited a little common- 
sense from his parents, but since he had taken 
to giving dinner parties in the middle of the 
week, and to behaving like a young fool of 
twenty, she found that she had been mistaken. 
For her part she had had enough of it, and if 
things were to be conducted like this, tne sooner 
she went home to her son the better. 

She said all this as much to her dishes as to 
us, and IJector, who was anxious to find out 
about the mill, thought he would pacify her, I 
Suppose, by saying : 

HECTOR. 201 

" Oh, well, when the miller is married you will 
be able to go home to your son quite comforta- 
bly." But his remark had anything but a 
pacifying effect. Marie Anna dashed a plate 
into the plate-rack. 

" When the miller is married ! " she exclaimed, 
contemptuously. " He's not married yet, and 
won't be at Martinmas if he doesn't change his 
tactics, great fool. Not knowing what he wants. 
Ah ! if his mother was here she'd soon bring him 
to reason. Talk to me of men ! they are all the 
same. From the day of their birth to the day 
of their death they must have women to arrange 
their affairs. First we must feed them, and then 
we must serve them, then we must nurse them, 
and in the end they generally have the ingrati- 
tude to die first, and to leave us with a coffin to 
contemplate, asking ourselves if it was all worth 
while. I know them, allez ; I've seen them all 

Marie Monthez opened the door of the dining- 
room opposite, and came into the kitchen as the 
last words were being uttered. 

" What do you say, foster-mother ? " she asked 
in Gascon. And we saw at once that whoever 
Marie Anna was angry with, it was not with 
Marie Monthez. 

202 HECTOR. 

" I say," she replied, with as near an approach 
to good-humor as she often displayed, " that 
those women who are not yet bothered with a 
man to look after, would do very well to keep 
their independence. If only they knew what it 
is, they wouldn't be in a hurry to slip on their 
wedding rings. Some men may have qualities, 
but the foundation of them all is the same, 
egoism, egoism, always egoism. After that, 
what's the good of talking? I've talked for 
forty years, and I've never prevented a mar- 
riage that I know of." 

Marie Monthez laughed. 

" Shall I tell you why ? " she asked ; " it is 
because you speak to human nature, and you 
forget one half of it. If men like to receive, 
women like also to give, and everything arranges 
itself quite simply." 

" Women like you, I daresay," grumbled 
Marie Anna. " Not women like me. I'd like 
to take them by the hair and knock their heads 
together, when I see them imbecile and self-glo- 
rious as they are. There, don't speak of them ! 
I've lived all my life with a man under my nose, 
till I have finished by having a horror of the 
whole lot! What do they want now in the 
dining-room ? " 

HECTOR. 203 

" They don't want anything," said Marie 
Monthez. " But we have sat there long enough, 
and I came out to have a chat with you. First 
give me the keys, and I will go and fetch the 
fine shirts I was mending the last time." 

"Go! go! It is not I who would mend them 
in your place," muttered Marie Anna as Marie 
Monthez mounted the stairs, swinging the bunch 
of keys on her forefinger as she went. 

We had been waiting all this time near the 
open door of the yard, not quite knowing wheth- 
er to go or stay ; but Marie Anna did not pay 
the smallest attention to us. She set a plate 
for herself on the end of the kitchen table, and 
having taken a large loaf of bread from the cup- 
board, and a little red earthen pot from the fire, 
she proceeded to eat her soup with the utmost 
unconcern. I began to feel that our attempt to 
see the mill was a failure, and I glanced at 
Hector to see whether he thought of retiring, 
but he had pulled his beloved Aviceptologie 
from his pocket, and was already seated on the 
doorstep, reading with an unconcern quite equal 
to that with which Mane Anna was eating her 

It was rather uncomfortable to sit there wait- 
ing between them, and I was wishing that Marie 

204 HECTOR. 

Monthez would come down again, when the in- 
ner door of the kitchen opened and the miller 
appeared looking very jovial and full of dinner. 

" Marie Anna," he said, " I would like, that is, 
we would like a little glass of brandy after our 

Marie Anna paid no attention. She did not 
seem to see him or hear him till he had repeated 
his request. Then she lifted her head from her 
soup-plate and remarked sharply that she should 
have thought two bottles of good wine was 
enough expense to make for dinner on a work- 
ing day. 

" I told you, Marie Anna, that I had good 
reasons for giving this dinner," he urged, with 
the manner of one who wishes to give no 
offence. And since brandy is asked for, you 
would not have me refuse it ? " 

" Madame Monthez has asked for brandy ? " 

" I don't say Madame Monthez asked for it," 
he answered, reddening like a schoolboy under 
her sharp eyes. " But after all, the brandy 
is mine ; I have a right to drink it if I please." 

" Oh, certainly, you will do what you please ! 
You may use your brandy to wash the clothes 
with, if you like, and it will be all one to me. 
Are your affairs my affairs? Not at all ! I shall 

HECTOR. 205 

soon have left you to throw your money out of 
the windows at your pleasure. And I promise 
you that then it won't be only by these windows 
it will go," she nodded towards the front of the 
house, "but by those." 

The miller followed her hand with his eyes as 
she pointed with an expressive jerk of her thumb 
to the windows of the back kitchen, and perhaps 
he saw in his mind all the old women of the 
neighborhood coming in to rob him when she 
was no longer there to defend his substance, for 
he said in a very humble voice : 

" It is true, Marie Anna, it is true. I know 
that if you were not there they would rob me on 
all sides. Nevertheless, we have a good store 
of that '58 brandy in the cellar. It is not often 
that I open a bottle, and I would like to complete 
the dinner." 

Marie Anna muttered something in her plate. 
I did not hear it. He did apparently, for he lost 
patience, and said, with his red face growing 
redder : 

" Enfin, Marie Anna, I am the master Tiere, 
and I have the right to take my ease when I 

" Oh yes, you are the master here ! " she 
answered sarcastically. And as if that state- 

206 n EC TOR. 

ment had made an end of the matter, she took 
up her spoon and applied herself wholly to her 

" You have the keys ? " he asked, after waiting 
uneasily for a minute. 

"No, I have not." 

" Well ! you will bring the brandy ? " and, 
glad to escape, he retreated towards the door. 

But at this Marie Anna raised her head indig- 

"Very certainly I will not bring the brandy !" 
she exclaimed. "What!" in addition to all my 
other work, I am to trudge now up and down to 
the cellar for you. Since when have you become 
such a fine gentleman that you cannot enter 
your own cellar ? Ah ! if your parents could 
see you, they would say truly it was worth while 
to bring up a son with order and common-sense. 
Go your own way! Go your own way! There 
will soon be no cellar for you to enter." 

She rose as she spoke, and proceeded to wash 
her plate and glass and spoon at the sink. 

"A thousand pests be upon women. How 
does she expect me to go to the cellar when she 
won't give me the keys ! " the miller muttered 
half under his breath. But I don't think Marie 
Anna heard that, as she had grown a little deaf 


with increasing age ; and though he abused her 
he knew, I suppose, that she did not mean to let 
him have what he wanted, and that he might as 
well give in soon as late, for aloud he only said : 

" Oh, well, Marie Anna, perhaps you are 
right. Brandy is not necessary after dinner, 
and it is probable that Madame Monthez does 
not care for it. She is very sober in eating and 

He gave one rueful glance at the cellar-door, 
and with disappointment spreading on his broad 
red face, he went away. 

I wondered for a moment if Marie Anna was 
going to relent and call him back. Far from 
doing anything of the sort, she remarked to her 
plates as the door closed after him : 

"Quite the contrary! .Madame Monthez likes 
a little glass of cognac after her coffee better 
than most people. But it is not I who will help 
to soften her for your silly plans. May she keep 
some common-sense, I ask no more." 

Hector had looked up from his book while 
this little scene was taking place, and at the 
sight of Marie Anna with her sharp hooked 
nose and little withered bare arms, victoriously 
perched on a stool by the sink, while the big 
miller slunk shamefaced away, he whispered to 

208 HECTOR. 

me that she was like one of the hens at home 
driving our big dog Marius out of the yard. 
Marie Monthez came down again while we were 
both laughing. She asked what was amusing 
us, and Hector, with the perfect frankness and 
simplicity he always showed towards people 
whom he liked, told her at once what it was. I 
was afraid she might be vexed, but his descrip- 
tion of the scene made her laugh too. 

" Poor M. Baptiste," she said ; " people laugh 
at him, and Marie Anna illtreats him shamefully, 
but he is good underneath, and if he fell into 
good hands, he would astonish everyone by all 
he would do. It was not amiable of you to 
refuse him his brandy," she added to Marie 
Anna, " and if you play him such tricks, it is not 
astonishing that he should become egoist to 
defend himself." 

Nevertheless, she did not attempt to get the 
brandy for him, but settled down quietly to her 
work, and we children, hoping that without 
brandy there was more chance of the miRer 
returning to his work that day, sauntered off to 
inspect as we could the outside of the mill. 

HECTOR. 209 


TT was uninteresting to wander about looking 
at the outside of a mill which was not at 
work, and, when Hector had examined the 
wheel, and climbed on the gate which shut the 
water off, and looked long enough down the nar- 
row channel where, when the mill was working, 
the now quiet water rushed and foamed, we 
sauntered into the chestnut woods to peer about 
after our usual fashion. 

The bracken was high under the trees, and 
here and there I remember a tall rose-colored 
fox-glove caught the light, and seemed to glow 
in the green gold haze which the strong after- 
noon sun spread round us through the woods. 
There were not many birds, but the squirrels 
were at work in the branches of the beech and 
chestnut trees, and we were soon so interested 
in watching them and in racing along the ground 
with our heads in the air trying to keep pace 
with their flying progress through the tree-tops, 

2io HECTOR. 

that we took very little heed of time, and would 
have entirely forgotten the mill and the miller, 
had we not, later in the afternoon, seen the mil- 
ler walking in the wood. 

He was talking to somebody, and, to our very 
great surprise, we saw, as we drew nearer, that 
that somebody was Hector's tramp. Just as we 
came in sight, the miller gave him a piece of 
money, and said : 

" And as much more if you succeed in taking 
it. I will not touch it myself, I don't want it, 
only there is no harm in trying all means ; 
and before I pay you, you understand that I 
must see it." 

" Be easy," said the tramp ; and at that mo- 
ment, the miller caught sight of us. 

We were staring at him in such a rude, curi- 
ous way, that I didn't wonder he looked vexed, 
but he seemed really, as Marie Monthez said, 
better than people thought him, for he only 
spoke a little more sharply to the tramp as he 
bid him be off now, and understand that that 
was the last money he would get for a long time, 
and to us he said that he understood we wanted 
to see the mill at work, and if we liked he would 
show it to us now he was going in to turn the 
water on. 


We had given up hoping to see the mill that 
afternoon, and this unexpected proposal com- 
pletely put the tramp out of our minds. We- 
went back with delight by Baptiste's side, and 
in the powdery rooms and white floured stair- 
cases of the mill we forgot even our objections 
to the miller himself. 

Once the mill was at work, he said, he would 
have to attend to his business, but he showed us 
over everything before he turned the water on, 
and then he took us into a little room above the 
mill wheel, from the windows of which he told 
us to watch the rush of the water. It had one 
window nearly over the wheel, and another from 
which we could look across the mill-pond up the 
river. Some children were throwing sticks into 
a chestnut tree on the right hand shore of the 
mill-pond ; and we recognized the Baptiste that 
we knew in the displeasure with which the mii- 
ler caught sight of them. He forgot for a 
moment both us and the mill, and exclaimed 
angrily : 

" What are those children doing there ? 
They seem to be taking strange liberties with 
my trees ! " 

They were indeed taking strange liberties, for 
as stick after stick flew up into- the tree, the 

212 HECTOR. 

half-ripe chestnuts pattered down amid the cries 
of delight from the children, and as each bright 
'splash announced a bunch of nuts in the water, 
there was a rush to the edge of the pond and an 
outstretching of hands and sticks to save it, a 
holding on of some to the pinafores of others, 
and shouts of triumph over every rescue. It 
was evident that no thought of concealment 
spoilt the fun, and the joyous excitement was so 
infectious that Hector looked up with sparkling 
eyes, expecting the miller himself to sympathise 
when five little blue-pinafored figures formed 
themselves into a chain, and five little round 
faces glowed with interest to see the foremost 
pair of arms stretched to their furthest in the 
endeavor to fish up a fine bunch of prickly husks 
which the current was carrying slowly and 
surely out of reach. The miller was not to be 
touched with sympathy of that kind. 

" They are the little Lagraces," he said, in the 
worried tone of one who announces a misfor- 
tune. " It is Marie Anna who will soap their 
heads if she catches them." 

He left us as he spoke, but we were too much 
interested in the chestnut-gathering to care for 
the moment about seeing the mill-wheel turn. 
The bunch of prickly husks could not be saved. 

HECTOR. 213 

It was abandoned to the river, but with renewed 
energy a shower of sticks was flung again into 
the chestnut-tree. Down came the nuts on 
every side, the riper ones bursting as they fell, 
and making with their snow-white linings bright 
points of light upon the ground. The children 
ran hither and thither to gather the treasure, 
and Hector and I were laughing to see them, 
almost as merrily as they laughed, when a great 
shower of nuts fell into the water. There was 
a leaping of bright drops in the sun, a widening 
of glassy circles on the water, a burst of joyous 
shouts from the children, a confused rush to the 
riverside, then suddenly a heavy plash, and ail 
the mixed sounds joined in one loud cry of fear 
and grief. 

I scarcely saw what had happened. One of 
the smallest had fallen in. The others, in a 
miserable group, were stretching vainly the lit- 
tle hands and sticks which a moment before 
had proved too short to secure the floating 

" Oh, and the water's deep," I cried, " the 
water's deep." 

Hector was already standing on the window- 
sill, his pinafore and coat thrown off. 

" Tell them not to turn on the water," he said. 

214 HECTOR. 

And before I knew what he was going to do, 
there was another splash on our side of the pond. 
I thought Hector too would die ; the mill seemed 
to rock with me, the sky and the river and the 
trees all mixed and whirled before my eyes. 
The next instant his head came up above the 
water. I saw the sunlight on his face as he 
struck out with steady strokes for the opposite 
shore. I understood that he knew how to swim, 
and I never shall forget the feeling of faith I 
had suddenly in his strength. 

I shouted with all my force across the pond to 
the other children. 

" Do not be afraid. He will save her." Then, 
without a moment's delay, I ran to stop, as he 
had bid me, the turning on of the water. The 
miller had shown us on the way up the place 
where he stood to turn the water on. I made 
myself remember it as I ran down the little 
stairs, and I reached the spot just in time to put 
my hand on the arm of the miller's man, who 
was going to work. 

I told him what had happened. I asked where 
the miller was. He said the miller had just 
gone up round the pond. Then he seized a rope 
that was lying at hand, and we both ran out 
over the little bridge, and as fast as we could go 
in the direction of the chestnut tree. 

HECTOR. 215 

But even to run as we did through the mill 
garden and along the bank took a long time. 
Before we reached the chestnut tree we were no 
longer needed, for as we mounted the bit of 
rising ground which led to it, we saw Hector 
already on the bank sturdily running in the 
direction of the mill, the water pouring in little 
streams from his shirt and trousers, but a drip- 
ping child in his arms, and the group of brothers 
and sisters, silent and awe -stricken, trotting 
after him. It was little Jeanne Lagrace whom 
he had saved. She was insensible, and I think 
that even then he was not sure that he had saved 
her, for he took no notice of anything, and did 
not seem to see us or to hear our voices as he 
hurried on towards the house with his white 
face set strong and firm like a man's. 

We had not seen the miller. He met us 
almost at the threshold. 

"What is this?" he cried; "what is this? 
How wet you are ! " And then, filling up the 
doorway with his burly form, " Don't go in, you 
will make a mess, and Marie Anna will be 

We could not pass him, and Hector spoke for 
the first time : 

" Bother Marie Anna, and you too. Stand 
aside ! " 

216 HECTOh. 

The order was given with such decision that 
Baptiste did stand aside, and reddening and pro- 
testing followed us through the dining-room, as 
Hector walked on without hesitation into the 
guest-chamber of the mill. There on the best 
bed in the middle of the best coverlet he laid the 
wet unconscious child, and while the miller tried 
in vain to defend himself from the sarcasms of 
Marie Anna, who came from the kitchen at the 
noise, Hector appealed to Marie Monthez and 
her mother to do what should be done. They 
quickly undressed little Jeanne, and though 
Marie Anna could not resist the temptation of 
scolding the miller, all the time she too was 
active in help. The brandy which had been 
refused to Baptiste was produced in a moment, 
hot blankets were made ready, and before long 
little Jeanne, warm and comfortable in bed, 
opened her eyes, and on seeing so many strange 
faces began to cry. 

Hector had stood silent and watchful all this 
time at the bottom of the bed, having pulled off 
his wet stockings, and pooh-poohed the notion 
of changing anything else. Now he said : 

"Shall I fetch Irma?" 

It was the most natural thing to do, but his 
words seemed to embarrass everybody. The 

HECTOR. 2i; 

miller and Madame Monthez looked uncomfort- 
able ; Marie Anna lifted up her head and sniffed 

It was Marie Monthez who said, as she raised 
herself from the pillow where she had bent to 
comfort Jeanne : 

" Yes, fetch Irma. She will soon console the 
little one." And in the very quiet way she said 
it and bent again over the child, I could see 
that there was something strange. 

Hector was off like a swallow with two of the 
little Lagraces at his heels. Marie Anna 
wanted to turn out the other two also, but 
Marie Monthez again interfered : 

" No, let them stay, Marie Anna ; they are 
doing no harm." 

" And my floor that I washed yesterday," 
grumbled Marie Anna; "it might be a maize 
field. Look at the dirt ; and water everywhere ! " 

But Marie Monthez did not seem to care. 
She only asked Marie Anna to go and make 
some broth for Jeanne. 

Marie Anna went muttering to the kitchen, 
and if the broth was good in proportion to the 
noise she made with the pots while she prepared 
it, it must have been very good indeed. The 
house rang to the sounding blows of iron 

2i5 HECTOR. 

kettles on the kitchen hearth, for in our room 
there was absolute silence. Madame Monthez, 
having put the room tidy, sat knitting in the 
armchair ; the miller stood and looked out of 
the window with the light shining through his 
great ears, so that they glowed like poppies om 
either side of his head. Marie Monthez bent 
down again till her cheek touched little Jeanne's 
upon the pillow. 

The grown-up people being so qiiiet, we 
children did not dare to move, and the time 
seemed very long to me before a sound of 
footsteps in the passage announced Hector's 
return. The miller turned round from the 
window, and the next moment Irma was on the 
threshold of the bedroom. 

She stood for one moment, flushed, hesita- 
ting, looking, I thought, as though she did not 
like to come. The next, little Jeanne had seen 
her, and held out her arms, and Irma was at the 
bedside hugging the child tight and close to her 

"Poor little thing," she murmured, "you were 
terribly frightened. It is all one, I love you 
well, and now you are safe, safe in Irma's 

" It doesn't hurt now," little Jeanne said, 
patting Irma's cheeks contentedly, but as the 

HECTOE. 219 

ciasp of Irma's arms was loosened, she clung to 
her imploring, " You won't go away. Take me 
home, take me home, too ; I don't want to stay 

Tears and sobs came again. It seemed that 
the worst part of the fright to the little shy 
creature was the finding herself suddenly in a 
strange room, full of strange people, and Irma, 
as she comforted her, made her excuses. 

" You must forgive her," she said, looking for 
the first time at the miller and Madame Monthez. 
" She is too young to understand that she owes 
you gratitude. I thank you very much for all 
you have done. If my father were here, he 
would thank you better." She held herself 
straight and tall while she spoke, and kept the 
child clasped close against her. I could not 
think what was the matter, but somehow she did 
not look to me like the Irma who came to fetch 
the milk every day. 

" It is a pleasure to me to serve you with my 
house," the miller said ; and when I remem- 
bered that he had wanted to keep us out, and 
that he hadn't done anything at all for little 
Jeanne, I thought that he need not have been 
in such a hurry to take her thanks for himself. 
" Also, it will be a pleasure to me to serve you 
now if I can do anything for you." 

220 HECTOR. 

" Thank you, M. Baptiste, I need nothing." 

The miller was gazing at Irma stupid and 
open-mouthed. She had run down with Hector 
just as she was, in her short brown working 
dress, with the sleeves rolled up to the shoulders. 
The dress was a little open at the throat on 
account of the heat, and under the gold colored 
handkerchief which she wore twisted round her 
head, her hair had slipped in dark coils upon her 
neck. Jeanne had nothing on at all but one 
very small white garment, and, as Irma stood 
there by the dull green hangings of the bed 
with the child in her arms, she made me think 
suddenly of a picture that hangs over the altar 
in the lady chapel at Cassagne. I don't know if 
the miller felt the same strange sort of respect 
for her that I felt ; Marie Monthez thought her 
beautiful I am sure, for she sat looking at her 
steadily for a long time before she rose from her 
seat in the shadow of the curtain and said, in 
her sweet, quiet voice : 

" You would like to take her away ; I will go 
and see if her clothes are dry." 

There seemed nothing in that to agitate Irma, 
but her color suddenly came and went. She 
seemed to have difficulty in forcing herself to 
speak, and before she had uttered a husky 
"Thank you," Marie Monthez had left the room. 

HECTOR. 221 

The clothes took a longer time to fetch than 
the short journey to the kitchen made at all 
necessary, but Marie Monthez came back pres- 
ently with the little bundle over her arm. 

" Shall I help you ? " she said to Irma ; and 
they dressed little Jeanne between them, neither 
of them speaking, but their hands crossing and 
touching sometimes as they met at the fastening 
of the tiny garments. 

As they occupied themselves so, it seemed to 
me that the strange look went from Irma's face, 
and she became more like her everyday self. 

Madame Monthez went out of the room. 

The miller began somewhat noisily to open 
and shut the lattice window which did not quite 
fit its frame, and under cover of the slight noise, 
Marie Monthez bent towards Irma and said : 

"Will you trust me? I would help you if I 

Irma raised her eyes to Marie Monthez's face, 
and replied, with a forlorn note in her voice 
which sounded all the sadder because it was so 
quiet : 

" I dare not trust anyone. It seems to me 
that all the world is against me now." 

Jeanne's dressing was finished, and she turned 
and put her arms round Irma's neck, whispering: 

" Let us go home." 

222 HECTOR. 

" The children at least love you tenderly," 
Marie Monthez said. 

* "Ah, yes! and that is the worst. Without 
that I should have strength." 

The miller ceased fidgeting with the window, 
and came forward. 

Irma took Jeanne in her arms, thanked him 
briefly once more for his hospitality, wished 
good-day to Marie and Madame Monthez, and, 
with the four little brothers clinging to her 
skirts, passed out into the sunshine. We stood 
and watched her till a turn in the path hid her 
from our view. Ten minutes after we were 
running home, and, as we passed the chestnut 
tree, we saw the miller with a broom in his hand 
sweeping chestnuts and leaves and branches all 
into the river, while he cast, from time to time, a 
fearful glance towards the house. 

"He!" he called to us; "You saw Marie 
Anna as you left the house." 

" Yes," Hector answered, " she seemed to be 
looking for you." 

The miller re-applied himself with vigorous 
strokes to his sweeping. 

" Well, let her come ; all will be in order here 
before she arrives. She will find nothing to 

HECTOR. 223 


the following Monday the maire came 
out to Salaret to look at our accommo- 
dation, and it was decided that we were to have 
thirty-five soldiers and three officers. It was 
settled, too, to our unbounded delight, that we 
were to have chasseurs-a-pied whenever they 

It was still possible that Georges might not 
come with his regiment, and we remembered 
well that he had promised in that case to write 
to his uncle Pierre, who was to let Irma know. 
We, therefore, watched the daily postman with 
the greatest interest. 

One day, as we were standing in the porch, 
we saw the postman bring a letter for Pierre, 
and put it down as usual on the bench outside 
the forge, and our hearts sank into our shoes, 
but when we raced down to Pierre and uncere- 
moniously asked him if he had had news from 
Georges, he made us happy again by the bright- 

224 HECTOR. 

ness of his " Not a word," and after this we 
had no more scares. The postman never even 
stopped again at the forge ; and between the 
thought of Irma's happiness in seeing Georges, 
and our own delight at the prospect of the 
soldiers, we felt ourselves to be almost bursting 
with happiness as the first day of the occupation 
drew near. 

The first real sign we saw of the coming of 
the soldiers was the arrival of their bread. 
Hector and I saw it pass one day in open 
wagon-loads along the road to Cassagne. The 
afternoon happened to be rainy, I remember, 
and we thought how nasty the bread would be 
before the soldiers got it; but the quantity of it 
astounded us ; it helped us to realize what 
numbers of men were coming, and we had so 
much to do with our own preparations that, in 
spite of the indignation expressed by Esque- 
besse and Pierre at the sight of so much good 
food spoiled, we had no time left to criticise the 
preparations of the government. 

Every spare bed in the house was needed for 
the officers, and Grand'mere had decided to put 
her soldiers into the big coach-house and the 
laundry adjoining it ; in addition, therefore, to 
our other pleasures, we children had all tha 

HECTOR. 225 

delight of seeing the household turned upside 
down, and we worked with a will wherever we 
were allowed to show ourselves. The carriage 


had to be taken out of the coach-house and put 
for shelter under the cart-shed, so had the great 
coach which had stood there, I believe, since 
the time of Grand'mere's grandfather, and it was 
no trifle to move. I see Hector still in his 
shirt sleeves, his face flushed with unwonted 
exertion, running under Jean's orders from 
wheel to wheel and shoving with all his might, 
while the heavy old vehicle rocked on its straps. 

Grand'mere all the time was everywhere, 
looking after Madelon, looking after us, and 
seeing also to the farm. Her wooden shoes 
clattered as she came and went, and whenever 
we wanted an order or direction, she was there 
with her mouth set firm and her little eyes 
bright and soft. 

"That's it, my children. Work well!" she 
said from time to time. " Poor fellows, they will 
be tired when they arrive here, and since they 
fight for us it is but just we should help them a 

When we had finished all she had told us to 
do, she came herself and drove nails into the 
walls, and hung up half-a-dozen clean coarse 

226 I1ECTOE. 

towels, and then when all was ready in the 
house and out, and the yard was full of the 
delicious fragrance of the coffee Madelon was 
roasting for the officers on the kitchen doorstep, 
Grand'mere took her big bunch of keys from 
her belt, and bid us go down with her to the 
cellar to carry up the wine for the soldiers. 

" Eighteen bottles ! " Madelon counted, as we 
made our last journey across the yard. " Eigh- 
teen bottles a day every day the soldiers are 
here, without counting the cognac for the officers. 
That'll make a fine hole in the cellar." 

Grand'mere was following us, and heard what 
Madelon said. 

She paused opposite the open gateway and 
pointed to the vineyards, which lay stretched 
out golden in the evening sun. 

" The good God does not count the grapes he 
gives us," she said, " so what need have you, 
Madelon, to count the wine we give the soldiers." 

It was not only in our house. All over the 
country there was preparation and bustle and 
merriment, as we learnt from Pierre and Esque- 
besse and Dr. Charles ; and next day the soldiers 
came. Hector and I knew that they were to 
be marched into Ste. Marie les Bains, about two 
kilometres off, and there dismissed to find their 

HECTOR. 227 

lodgings as they could, but no hour had been 
named for their arrival. We had been expecting 
them all day, and from early morning we had 
spent every spare moment we could get on the 
mound beneath the cross, looking eagerly along 
the road in the direction of Ste. Marie. Sosur 
Amelie spoke to us seriously on the folly of 
allowing our minds to be distracted by worldly 
excitement, but we paid no attention, and found 
it impossible to conceal our'delight even from 

But we strained our eyes in vain along the 
hot white road till somewhere near five o'clock, 
when at last a cloud of dust appeared on the top 
of the nearest rising. The low rays of the 
afternoon sun made the dust seem like a golden 
halo, and through the gold the bright blades of 
bayonets flashed in sparkling points. That was- 
all we could see at first, for the dust was so thick 
we could not make out either men or uniforms, 
but as they came nearer we could see a number 
of infantry surrounding a couple of country 
wagons, which the drivers had good-naturedly 
put at the disposal of the tired soldiers. There 
were no chasseurs-a-pied, only common soldiers 
of the line, with their long blue coats buttoned 
up at the corners, their loose red trousers 

228 HECTOR. 

covered with dust, and their bodies bent slightly 
forward under the heavy loads they bore. They 
were not the grand bearded men we had pictured 
to ourselves, with bronzed foreheads, marching 
gloriously as if to conquer the world. Most of 
them were young like Georges, their faces were 
white and dragged and stained as with dirt and 
gunpowder, their lips were parched and swollen. 
Instead of the joy and triumph we had expected, 
Hector and I felt a shock of pity. The cross 
roads by which we stood were the first that had 
been passed on the road from Ste. Marie, so the 
soldiers were in considerable numbers as they 
had left the village, but they were not moving in 
any regular order, and when they saw people 
gathered together at the cross, there was a 
hoarse demand as if from one throat for the way 
to the nearest spring. Many of them thrust out 
at the same time bits of white paper which con- 
tained their lodging orders. But no one seemed 
to think of his quarters. Water, water was all 
they wished for. 

"Ah, unfortunates!" cried a sympathetic 
woman near us ; " you, you look half starved ! " 

" We are dying of thirst," we heard a soldier 
say. " We have marched forty kilometres in 
the sun and the dust to-day, and we have had 

HECTOR. 229 

nothing yet to eat except the dry bread we had 
in our pockets." 

I shall never forget the murmur of pity which 
rose around them. It seemed such a gentle 
sound to come from the rough peasant throats, 
and from that moment, instead of any more 
doubt or fear, everyone seemed only anxious to 
get his soldiers and to comfort them. 

" This way ! this way ! " we heard on all sides 
as the billeting papers were made out. " You 
are for me. A little courage, it is not far, and 
there is good wine in the cellar." 

And so they went away in groups down the 
cross roads, the soldiers limping and good- 
humored, the peasants, both men and women, 
carrying their knapsacks and carbines. 

Soldiers were arriving every minute, and 
peasants also as the news spread came running 
from the fields, till^ there was quite a concourse 
at the cross roads. Presently in the midst of 
the crowd we heard the name, " Loustanoff ! " 
" Loustanoff ! " reiterated once or twice, and 
found to our delight that our soldiers had come 
at last. They were not chasseurs-a-pied that 
first day, only the same thirsty, dirty, footsore 
men of the line, and it was now our turn to call 
with anxiety, ' This way ! this way ! The house 

230 HECTOR. 

is quite close. You see just there." Jean was 
also in the crowd. We had no need to wait till 
all our thirty-five were gathered, but hurried 
up the lane with the first four or eight who 
happened to be at hand, and the others followed 
in a straggling stream. Our officers had come 
by a different road, for they were already at the 
house ; Grand'mere was talking to two under 
the porch as we arrived ; but she left them 
immediately and came forward to meet us. 

" You are very welcome, my poor fellows," 
she said to the soldiers. " But, mon Dieu, how 
tired you look. Come this way ; you will find 
something to refresh you here." 

She led the way into the yard while she spoke, 
and as she pointed to the open doors of the 
laundry and coach-house, through which the 
afternoon sun shone in upon the clean white- 
washed walls and piles of fresh yellow straw, 
and the table with its burden of wine bottles 
standing in the centre of each room, there was 
a rush on the part of the soldiers to their 
quarters. But they did not first touch the wine; 
they began to throw off their knapsacks and 
belts. It was Grand'mere who took up the first 
bottle and called on the man nearest to her to 
hold out his cup. 

HECTOR. 231 

" To your health, madame," he said, as he 
raised it to his lips. 

" To your health, my good soldiers," Grand'- 
mere replied; "drink all of you, now drink; 
there is half a bottle for each man ; only leave 
their share for the comrades who have yet to 

The tables were in an instant surrounded by 
men who drank as though it were new life they 
had been given. Grand'mere looked on with a 
softened countenance. 

" Ah ! poor fellows, poor fellows ! " she said ; 
" they needed that. C'est gal. They shall feel 
better before they leave us to-morrow. Now," 
she added aloud, " there is the pump, and here 
are towels ; you have only to wash yourselves 
and to take off your big boots, and you will find 
your soup ready for you in the kitchen." 

I went indoors to help Madelon to set the 
kitchen table, and, in a few minutes, the men 
came in, each with a bit of bread in his hand, 
and sat down round the tables we had prepared, 
to enjoy their big platefuls of steaming soup. 

" Ah ! " they said, as they stretched their tired 
legs, " if all campaigning were like this, the 
trade of war would be run after." 

Hector and I waited upon them, but they 

232 HECTOR. 

would not give us trouble enough. They 
chatted and laughed good-humoredly with us 
while they ate, but they did not take long 
over their supper ; and when they had finished 
we heard a word of command. They all stood 
up, and almost before we knew what they were 
going to do, the tables were cleared and washed, 
the plates they had used were in a tub of water, 
the kitchen floor was swept. The promptitude 
of their movements pleased Madelon. " That is 
what one calls work," she said ; and from that 
day her adherence to the cause of the soldiers 
was complete. 

Grand'mere also was pleased. " One sees," 
she said, " that they do not wish to abuse our 
hospitality. It is good that, it is very good." 
And while some of the soldiers started again for 
Ste. Marie les Bains to fetch the rations, and 
the others were busy in the yard cleaning their 
boots and accoutrements, she sent us down with 
Jean into the vineyard to bring up two market 
baskets full of grapes. 

" There ! " she said to the soldiers when we 
had brought them up. " As soon as you have 
finished your work, you will carry your tables 
into the garden, and you will refresh yourselves 
with eating these grapes and smoking your 
pipes at your ease." 

HECTOTi. 233 

Hector and I had no eggs for supper that 
night, for every egg in the house had gone into 
omelettes for the soldiers ; and Madelon was too 
tired to make us anything nice instead. But I 
don't think we either of us cared or knew 
whether we had anything at all. 

It was a warm and lovely evening, for we 
were then in the middle of St. Martin's summer; 
the dining-room windows were wide open, and 
before supper was over a corporal sent in to 
inquire whether Madame would have any objec- 
tion to the men singing a little in the garden. 
Grand'mre said it would be a pleasure to her to 
hear them sing, and it was indeed a pleasure to 
all of us, such as we had not had for a long 
time. I think they must have sung all their 
best songs as a sort of return for our hospitality. 
Some of the men had fine voices, and they took 
the solos and duets and trios, while all together- 
swelled the choruses. The dust of the day did 
not seem to have choked their throats, for their 
notes rose so clear and strong on the still even- 
ing air, that I remember thinking, as I sat on a 
stool by Grand'mere's chair and listened without 
seeing anyone, how it was like a choir of angels 
singing out in the darkness. They sang in all 
strains, gayly, sadly, gloriously. Grand'mre 

234 HECTOR. 

had tears in her eyes constantly during the 

"And that is how they go to fight," she said 
from time to time. " They are fine fellows ! 
they are fine fellows." 

I do not know how late they continued to 
sing. At half-past eight Grand'mere sent us to 
bed, and I was so tired with the excitement of 
the day, that five minutes after my head touched 
the pillow I fell asleep to dream of soldiers, with 
"Mourir pour la patrie" still ringing in my ears. 

HECTOR. 235 


T^ARLY as. we were up on the following 
morning our soldiers were already gone ; 
but others came that afternoon in their place, 
and for th'e next three or four days the country 
swarmed with troops. Only children could fully 
understand the delight that it was to Hector 
and me. I have found out since I have been 
grown up, that grown-up people can hardly ever 
give themselves entirely to one enjoyment as we 
did without feeling that it is wrong. We had 
no pangs of conscience ; and except for our very 
short bit of lessons we did nothing but enjoy 
ourselves all day long. 

During these three or four days one of La- 
grace's oxen fell sick, and Irma did not come 
herself for the milk, as she was wanted at home 
to look after it. We had therefore no opportu- 
nity of finding out from her when she expected 
Georges, but in the meantime, secure in the 
maire's promise that we should have chasseurs 

236 II EC TOE. 

quartered upon us when they came, we gave our- 
selves up to the pleasure of entertaining other 

Madelon had to be up every morning at three 
o'clock in order to have the officers' coffee ready 
for them before they started, and after the first 
morning she always called us early that we 
might see them go. Then through the day 
troops of infantry, cavalry, and artillery, passed 
and repassed upon the roads, and the excitement 
of watching them never palled upon 'us. The 
greater part of our time was spent down at the 
forge, where, while we waited for new sights, 
Pierre repeated to us all the stories about the 
soldiers that each fresh day of the occupation set 
afloat, and our enthusiasm was fanned by hear- 
ing how much they suffered from fatigue and 
want of food, and yet how well and kindly they 
behaved. It almost always happened as on the 
first day that they did not get any rations till 
they were exhausted for want of food ; besides 
that, all the bread we had seen going in open 
wagons to Cassagne had been put damp into the 
cellars of the mairie, and before the men got it, 
it was covered with a sort of green mould, which 
made it too bad to eat. Twice the rations of 
meat also were bad, and on those days, as vhe 

HECTOR. 237 

soldiers had no money and there were not enough 
shops in our neighborhood in any case to supply 
food for so many, the men were almost starving. 
Young soldiers had been seen crying for hunger 
in the streets of Cassagne, and the old ones, 
both officers and men, were indignant Still 
their good-humor and honesty and kindliness 
never failed. Those who came to us stacked 
their mouldy bread merrily enough in the yard 
for our pigs to eat, and were grateful for what- 
ever we gave. They cleaned the knives and 
boots of the house, and cracked jokes over the 
size of Hector's absurd little clothes, which one 
of them generally brushed. They helped Made- 
Ion to scour her saucepans, and were always 
ready to chatter good-humoredly with Hector 
and me. I was proud for Hector to see them, 
and he admired them as much as ever I could 

It may easily be imagined under these circum- 
stances what we felt when about the third or 
fourth morning of the occupation, Sceur Amelie 
took it upon herself to advise Grand'mre to 
keep us very close to the house while the coun- 
try was so full of soldiers. 

"An evil turn is so quickly done," she said : 
" and it is not even, Madame Loustanoff, as if 

238 HECTOR. 

the children were your own. What would you 
say to Hector's grandfather if the child were 
found murdered in a wood ? " 

Hector laughed one of his infectious merry 

" What would you say to the superior, ma 
Soeur, if the soldiers mistook your white cornette 
for a target," he asked, " and it were found 
pierced with bullet-holes in the road ? " 

But Grand'mere seemed struck by what Soeur 
Amelie had said. 

" When I was young, sir," she remarked to 
Hector, " I was taught to respect my elders. It 
seems that it is no longer the fashion." And 
while Hector was blushing to the roots of his 
hair, as he always did at a reproof from Grand- 
'mere, she continued, with her eyes fixed thought- 
fully upon us, "It is true they are not mine; 
they are a trust. We will see about this." 

That was all at the time,' but Hector and I 
were inwardly furious with Soeur Amelie for 
talking of our beloved soldiers as if they were 
brigands. They had given proof enough of their 
goodness now for us to feel that we had a right 
to be indignant for their sakes, and Hector 
showed his anger by doing all his lessons badly 
and being stupid as only he could be. 

HECTOR. 239 

Clever as he really was, he seemed at times to 
have an absolute genius for stupidity. His face 
used to assume a sullen expression, his brows 
used to wrinkle, he would take no step without 
asking for directions, and in the simplest expla- 
nation he would invariably find a dark point 
which afforded an excuse for further questions. 
I was never quite sure at those times whether 
he was acting, or whether, when his mind was 
full of other things, Sceur Amelie's talk did so 
confuse him that he forgot from sentence to sen- 
tence what she was saying ; but I am inclined to 
think that what he really did was to abstract his 
mind almost entirely from a present which was 
disagreeable to him, and that he thus produced 
upon his companions of the moment the impres- 
sion of a child half imbecile. 

On this occasion Sceur Ame"lie was very an- 
gry. She told him several times that he was 
intolerable, and declared more than once that 
she believed the child was an idiot, but it had no 
effect. At the end of lesson time every lesson 
was still undone, and Sceur Am&ie went away 
still angry, telling Hector that he might do 
them as he best could by himself, but that they 
were to be done somehow before she came 
next morning, 

2<p HECTOR. 

As usual Hector put her out of his mind the 
very instant she had left the house. Jean wanted 
us to help him to clean out the coach-house for 
a fresh set of soldiers who were coming in that 
afternoon, and before Soeur Amelie was at the 
end of the lane, Hector was already busy with 
broom and pitchfork. 

He came in to dinner rosy with exercise, and 
with an appetite that would have astonished 
himself when he first came to us. 

Grand'm^re knew nothing about his behavior 
at lessons, and .she looked pleased as his plate 
came forward again and again to be replenished. 
" Enfin," she said, towards the end of dinner, 
" my system is not bad. I think your grand- 
father would be satisfied, Hector, if he saw you 

And a minute afterwards she added : 

" Should you be afraid to take a message for 
me to the mill this afternoon ? " 

The sudden lighting of Hector's countenance 
was answer enough. 

" You believe in the soldiers, then ? You 
don't think they would gobble up little children 
if they met them in the wood ? " 

Hector laughed contentedly. " If they are 
not given any rations," he said, " it is 

HECTOR. 241 

always possible. But since there are no com- 
plaints ! " Then suddenly changing his manner, 
he burst out as if in angry recollection, " I do 
think it is a shame, when people are as good 
as they can be, to talk as if they were ogres, and 
monsters, and everything that is horrible. The 
people who do it can't know what it feels like to 
be good. I hate them." 

" Hum ! " said Grand'mere, in her quiet sar- 
castic fashion, " you do well to hate every one 
who has a different opinion from you. It is one 
of the first duties of the Christian." 

"I have reflected," she added presently, when 
Hector had had time to digest her remark, "and 
I also believe in the good behavior of the sol- 
diers. I trust them, and I will not keep you 
always in the house. But you must remain to- 
gether. Where one goes the other must go. I 
make you responsible for each other, and you 
understand that since you have liberty you must 
use it well." 

We promised in our hearts all Grand'mere 
could wish, and it was with a new sense of self- 
respect that we started after dinner for the mill. 

The autumn sun was very bright, and the coun- 
try was basking in midday heat, when we set out. 
There was not a creature stirring in the distant 

242 HECTOR. 

fields, and the woods were so still, that as we 
passed through them our own voices chattering 
made a noise which seemed to be repeated a 
thousand times in the emptiness. 

Grand'mere had not told us to hurry to the 
mill, and as her message was only to ask Bap- 
tiste when he would be next going to Montfort, 
we knew it did not matter at what hour he re- 
ceived it, so we dawdled along in our usual 
happy fashion, stopping to look at all sorts of 
things and to listen from time to time to the tap 
of the woodpeckers, who alone worked on 
through the heat. The excitement of the sol- 
diers during the past week had caused us in 
some measure to forget the woods, and I remem- 
ber well the feeling we had that day as of coming 
back to old friends when we found ourselves, 
not under the shade, but in the golden light of 
the trees. It was a season when the woods were 
changing rapidly and every day made them 
more beautiful. That year was also, I am glad 
to think, a specially beautiful 1 year in the Cha- 
losse, and the whole way from Salaret to the 
river lay through a maze of gold and purple, and 
dark brown and crimson and pale yellow. 
Above us, around us, at our feet, were such 
beauties as no one can picture who does not 

HKCTOR. 243 

know autumn woods, and so much had happened 
in the last few days among the tree branches, 
and the briars and the bracken, that Hector and 
I found almost more than we could think about. 
The strange thing is that we neither of us talked 
to each other about the beauty, and yet I know 
as well that his mind was full of it as I know 
that I have never forgotten it myself. We talked 
joyously at first about the soldiers, then as the 
silence of the woods fell upon us, we dropped 
each into our own thoughts. 

" I understand partly," Hector said at last, 
" why kings don't always give their subjects 

I had so often heard him talk of the beauties 
of freedom that I was surprised at the change, 
and I asked him " why ? " 

" Because," he said, " I see now that it is not 
easy to be sure you are using liberty well ; and 
I suppose kings think that the people ought 
to be taught first." 

I did not think very much about liberty my- 
self one way or the other, but I knew Hector 
did, and that it would puzzle and worry him to 
find his favorite idea wrong, so I. said : 

" I dare say people have to learn to use it the 
way they learn every thing else, by trying, and 

244 HECTOB. 

the best way is for them to have it, so that they 
may try." 

" Because, you mean, nothing but liberty can 
teach them to use liberty," he said quickly. 
" Yes, I believe that is it. Perhaps that's why 
Grand'mere gives it to us. I should like to learn. 
Zelie," he continued, turning round to look at 
me, " how awfully clever you are sometimes. 
You seem to know things by jumps." 

I wasn't clever a bit. I didn't know any- 
thing about it, and I had only said what I 
did to make his thoughts comfortable, but I 
blushed for pleasure at his praise, and I would 
have been ready now to talk of liberty for half 
an hour. 

He had said all he wanted to say on the sub- 
ject, and the next moment he was telling me 
about a place he had discovered where the birds 
came to drink in the hot weather. 

" Come along," he said, " and I will show it to 
you; only mind, you must do what the author 
of the Aviceptologie says ladies can't do, you 
must resist your natural itching to talk and 
laugh, otherwise, we shan't see any birds." 

Hector so loved that book that Grand'mere 
had long since given it to him for his own, and 
he knew it now almost by heart. So indeed 

HECTOR. 245 

did I, and in the course of many bird-calling 
expeditions, I had learned to remain as perfectly 
still under the bushes as Hector himself. His 
recommendation to silence was, therefore, on 
this occasion hardly necessary, but he had a 
habit of teasing me from time to time with 
reminders that I was only a girl, and I believe 
the feeling that I had to support the honor of 
our whole sex in his* eyes, made me often do 
things much better than I should otherwise have 
done. However that may be, we had long 
wished tp find the birds' drinking-place at this 
end of the wood, and when Hector led me to a 
little ditch at the bottom of Lagrace's vineyard, 
I lay like a mute by his side between the vines. 
It was not the right hour of course to see 
birds come to drink, still the wet ground all 
round the tiny stream was so cut up by the 
marks of claws, that we were sure it was a gen- 
eral drinking-place, and we hoped to see a few 
birds even now. Surely enough, after patiently 
waiting for ten minutes, there was a rustle in 
the underwood on the other side of the stream, 
and a wren hopped down to bathe and drink. 
He dipped his wee head in the water, the light 
drops were scattered on either side. We held 
our breath for pleasure, for we did not often 

246 II EC TOR. 

get a chance of observing wrens at their every- 
day work. He, perching on a mossy stone, 
dipped and bowed and scattered water in the 
sunshine ; he was just going to hop right in, 
when a sudden loud and angry voice arose up at 
the house, and in one instant he was gone. 

Hector and I started with impatience, and 
then hid ourselves quickly again. But it was 
useless to hope for more birds while the noise 
at the farm continued. There was evidently 
something the matter. Many voices were raised 
in tones both of scolding and lamentation, and 
above them all we heard Lagrace's, loud and 

We could distinguish no words at first, but 
after a time Lagrace with his sons went away to 
work, and we heard his voice distinctly as he ap- 
proached along the vineyard path. 

" Enfin," with an oath, " this must come to an 
end ; I am not a fool to ruin myself for a child's 
caprice. I have said, and I will be obeyed. 
You have till to-morrow. After that, gare ! " 

Then a gradually fading murmur of sound up 
at the house, and all fell into silence again. 

But we could think no more of birds. We 
felt suddenly as though we had been horribly 
selfish to think of them at all. 

HECTOR, 247 

Hector stood up presently and shook himself 
and said, " Let us go up to the house and see 
Irma, and ask after that ox that was sick. Per- 
haps, after all, Lagrace was scolding about it." 

The scolding had been so violent that I fol- 
lowed him in some fear and trembling, half-dread- 
ing, though all was silent now, the spirit of 
anger that seemed to live within the walls of the 

Madame Lagrace was stringing onions under 
a shed in the garden. She was a stern-faced 
woman, who had a reputation for working very 
hard and behaving like a stepmother to her own 
children. She was working hard now, and the 
onion string she was engaged upon grew like 
magic under her fingers, but she seemed to have 
no satisfaction in her work. Her face was as 
dismal as if she had been sitting idle with dull 
thoughts. We asked for Irma ; she jerked her 
head towards the stable, and said she was over 

" May we go and see her ? " said Hector ; " we 
came to ask after the ox that was sick." 

" You may go ; and you'll see two things 
about equally useful to a peasant a dead ox and 
a girl who won't serve her parents. Ah, ma foil 
and after her there are still ten to feed." 

248 HECTOR. 

"The ox dead!" I exclaimed, knowing better 
than Hector what that meant to a me'tayer who 
was not rich. " The ox dead ! What will 
you do ? " 

"Ah! just so," she said bitterly; "what will 
we do ? The horses sold this year for next to 
nothing, the wine spoilt with cutting the grapes 
too early, and now the finest ox dead. I saw 
very well yesterday that it was going to die, and 
I told Lagrace he had better kill it, and at least 
sell the meat ; but no, he is always obstinate as 
a mule, and then is surprised that his daughter 
matches him. Between the two of them they 
will ruin us from top to bottom. What we shall 
do ! The children soon will not have a bit to 
eat, and we shall become a shame and a laughing- 
stock to the neighborhood." 

I expressed our sympathy as I best could, but 
naturally it did not console her much. 

"It is ruin," she repeated doggedly; "one 
brings us to it, and when there is yet. a way to 
escape, the other hesitates to take it. Eh bien ! 
I am sick of obstinate people. But I must have 
my turn. We have trifled enough, and now that 
I charge myself with affairs, we shall see if they 
won't mend. Nobody shall resist me long." 

She looked so hard and cruel while she spoke, 


that all my sympathy for her went away, and I 
was glad to escape from her angry eyes and fol 
low Hector to the stable. 

We neither of us spoke as we went across the 
yard. We saw no one, and we had no need to 
ask in which shed Irma was. The sound of a 
child's weeping drew us to an open door. We 
looked in. There on the litter lay the dead ox, 
and on an upturned pail by the manger Irma sat 
with her head bowed upon her hands. The 
children stood round, looking on with solemn, 
wide-open eyes, and the sound of weeping came 
from little Jeanne, who stood af Irma's knee, 
crying and sobbing as if for a sympathy that'she 
knew no other way to express. 

Irma raised her head as we came in at the 
door, but she did not see us ; she only took little 
Jeanne upon her knee and held her close in her 
arms, and said : 

"There, there, poor little one! don't cry, you 
have no need. Irma will do something soon 
which will make you so happy and so rich. You 
shall have fritters on Sunday, and everything 
that you like." 

And then suddenly Irma herself began to cry, 
and while Jeanne laid her head, soothed, upon 
her sister's shoulder, big tears splashed fast one 
after another on the child's blue pinafore. 

250 HECTOR. 

" Irma, you are crying," she said ; " why do 
you cry if we are going to be rich and happy ? " 

" It is that " Then she broke down com- 
pletely, and seemed to forget the children. 
" Oh ! it is hard. But God wills it ; I prayed to 
Him so well. When the ox fell ill I knew that 
all my happiness was there, and I watched him 
night and day. I said in my heart I would take 
it for a sign ; and God would not have it so. I 
must submit." 

"Irma! Irma! What is it ?" cried the little 
thing, clinging to her sister's neck as Irma's 
sobs rose choking her, and her tears fell fast. 
" What is the matter with you ? " 

" It is that it is that he will always think I 
have betrayed him because the other is more 
rich. And I must never tell him to the con- 
trary. Ah, if God could have spared but this 
one ox ! " 

" It is because of the ox that you are crying ?" 

" Yes, dear, yes ! because of the ox." And 
Irma, seeming to recollect herself, raised her 
head and wiped her tears away with the corner 
of her apron. " You must not make yourselves 
sad," she said, looking round at the other child- 
ren ; " I am stupid to go and cry like that when 
duty is there quite simple." 

11ECTOE. 251 

Her eyes fell at the moment upon us, and 
Hector, whom I had not looked at till then, 
stepped forward with his face very white, and 
his eyes dark and glowing. 

" What is your duty ? what are you going to 
do, Irma ? " he asked. 

" I am going to marry the miller," she re- 
plied in a dull quiet voice. 

" The miller ! Baptiste ! " we cried together, 
too-much astonished for another word, while the 
children, who had no doubt been taught to 
desire this, set up a shout of joy. 

" Our ox is dead," she said. " If I marry the 
miller he will give us another ox, and he will 
lend money to my father. The children will 
have enough to eat." She pointed as she spoke 
with one hand to the ox, and with the other arm 
drew little Jeanne closer against her breast. 
Her eyes looking up at Hector were so good 
and honest, that to look at them would have 
made it impossible for me to say anothe? word. 
They did not seem to have that effect on Hector. 
"And Georges," he said, "you seem to be quite 
forgetting him ! " 

A sudden quiver ran through -her, but she 
replied as quietly as before : 

"No, I am not forgetting him. I am doing 


my duty. Children do not understand these 

"No, indeed!" Hector broke out bitterly, 
"we don't understand the kind of duty which 
makes you break your promises, and break 
hearts, and then say it's all right because the 
children will have fritters on Sunday. It's 
horrible of you. I didn't think you were so 

His cheek flushed, his lip quivered as he 
spoke. Irma looked at him in surprise, and so 
did I, for I hardly thought he would have cared 
so much. 

" You do not forget ! " he continued. " You 
remember how Georges said to you in the wood 
that it was like a sickness to him here," and 
Hector put his hand, as Georges had done, upon 
his heart, " to think other people were trying to 
get you, and how he could never live in this 
place if you married anyone else, but that he 
would go to Africa, and leave his old father to 
die alone. You remember how you promised 
that in any case you would wait; and still you 
are going to marry a great fat selfish brute, who 
is engaged already to someone else. I thought 
you were different. I thought you were faithful ; 
and if it's duty to be unfaithful, then I'd a. great 
deal rather be wicked." 

HECTOR. 253 

Irma's pale cheeks began to glow as Hector 
spoke, but the only part of his speech which she 
attempted to answer was his allusion to the 
miller's engagement.- 

" How ! " she exclaimed, " he betrothed al- 
ready ? It is not enough for him to break my 
heart and Georges'. There is yet another un- 

We told her all we knew about Marie Monthez, 
and how we were sure she loved the miller; and 
then the finishing stroke was put to our horror 
of Baptiste. It seemed that instead of intend- 
ing to marry Marie Monthez himself, he was 
trying to arrange a match between her and 
Georges, in order that Irma might be left free 
for him. 

"She is too old for Georges," Irma said; "but 
she was always his favorite cousin. The miller 
has influence with the family, because he is rich, 
and he told my father yesterday that it was all 
but settled, I have only to give my consent to 
marry him, and next day Georges and Marie are 
engaged. Oh ! he is cruel and selfish. He 
knows how to have his own way." 

But Hector's belief in Georges was not for an 
instant shaken, and he had little pity for Irma's 

254 HECTOR. 

"Anyone can have his own way if women are 
such fools that they can't keep a promise. What 
has the miller to do with you ? " Hector said. 
" It was not he who told Georges he'd wait for 
him. It was not he who told Georges he trusted 

"And then," Irma went on rapidly, "what is 
that you say about the postman having called 
one day at the forge ? Pierre told me he had 
not had a letter, and who but Georges would 
write to him when they knew he cannot read ? 
What can I do ? How can I know the truth 
when my parents and my friends are lying 
against me ? " 

She bowed her head again upon her hands, 
and we remained all silent for a moment. 

Then the children seeing that Irma no longer 
wept, became suddenly shy of us, and ran away 
into the yard, and Irma and Hector entered into 
a discussion, in which, though I cannot now 
remember the words, I remember very well that 
Hector's one idea, from which he could not be 
moved, was, that Irma had no right to break her 
promise to Georges. He argued against every- 
thing she had to say so stoutly and fiercely that 
she seemed almost to forget he was a child, and 
I saw her look at him once or twice in a sort of 

HECTOR. 255 

surprise, as one looks at a person one has never 
known before. 

" I am very ignorant," she said. " I do not 
know much what is right or wrong, but I trusted 
to God for a sign, and now it has come and I 
dare not disobey." I should not have dared to 
argue against that, and even without it I should 
have thought her very good to do what her 
father and mother wished ; but Hector seemed 
sure the other way. 

" You promised Georges. Georges thinks you 
are his, and you have no right to break your 
word," he reiterated. " You chose to say in 
your heart that the ox's death would be a sign, 
but God isn't obliged to do according to your 
heart, and it isn't a sign. He never gave a sign 
to be unfaithful." 

I, scarcely knowing which I agreed with; could 
not help believing that Hector must be right, 
and Irma's heart was on his side all the time. 
So at last it seemed quite natural to us, that 
when he prayed Irma to wait one week before 
she gave her answer to her father, she was 
inclined, child as he was, to listen seriously to 
his proposal. 

"If you will wait," he said, "we will find 
some way of letting Georges know, and he will 

256 HECTOR. 

tell you what to do ; but you cannot break your 
promise by yourself." 

It was settled thus at last. Hector was not 
content with a vague promise from Irma that 
she would think about it. He made her enter 
into a clear and serious engagement that she 
would not give her father a final answer for 
another week, and he on his side entered into 
an equally serious engagement to let Georges 
know before that time what was taking place at 

Then we left the me"tairie with the immediate 
duty before us of giving Grand'mere's message 
to the miller. 

HECTOR. 257 


WOULD as willingly have undertaken to go 
and talk quietly to a dragon in his den as to 
go and talk quietly to the miller after the news we 
had just received. It seemed too dreadful that 
he should be the rich old man whom Irma was to 
marry. He, so selfish, so dull, so fat. He who 
had tried to set the people against the soldiers. 
He whom we had always laughed at. All this 
summer, while we had been meeting him and 
talking to him and treating him like other 
people, he had been persecuting her and trying 
to take her away from Georges. I felt so dazed 
and bewildered by the discovery, that I was 
hardly yet able to take in the fact that Hector 
had become mixed up in the matter, and that 
he had promised to let Georges know what was 
going on. Any thoughts I had about the 
possibility of helping her were expressed in the 
despairing exclamation which burst from me as 
the comfortable red tiles of the mill and the still 

258 HECTOR. 

pond fringed with laden chestnut trees came in 

" Oh, Hector ! He is so rich. She will never 
escape from him." 

I had no hope that she could be saved, but 
Hector thought differently. 

He turned round upon me with a sort of 

" But she must escape," he said. " It is not 
likely that a selfish brute like that will have his 
way, and good fellows like Georges give up. 
She ought to have stuck firm to her promise 
always, and then there'd have been no fear." 

" Hector," I asked incredulously, " have you 
really the idea that you can render Irma any 
service ? " 

" What do you mean ? " 

" You told her you would let Georges know ; 
uut you would not ever be able to find him, 
would you ? " 

" You don't suppose I'd have promised if I 
didn't mean to find him. Of course I shall let 
him know." 

" But you don't know the number of his 
battalion," I said ; not that I wanted to dis- 
ouade him, but simply that I was so astounded 
at the undertaking he thus coolly entered upon, 

HECTOR. 259 

that I could not help enumerating the difficul- 
ties. " Nor the name of his colonel. The 
chasseurs don't come ; and if we go about 
among the troops asking for Georges of St. 
Loubouet they will take us only for two mad 
children. That again would matter little ; but 
if Irma is going to marry the miller for the 
children's sake, of what use will it be to bring 
Georges here? He has no money." 

Then I understood that what Hector had said 
to Irma was what he really thought. 

"She must not marry the miller for the 
children's sake," he said, indignantly. " I don't 
see the good of people having tongues if they 
can only tell lies with them ; and when she 
promised Georges she'd wait for him, she ought 
to keep that promise first of everything." 

" Even when she breaks it for a good pur- 

" All I know is," said Hector doggedly, " that 
if I was a man I'd hate a woman who said ' yes ' 
with a whole lot of 'ifs' in her heart. You'd 
never feel sure at any minute that her 'yes' 
wasn't going to turn into 'no.' If she means 
'yes,' let her say it, and then afterwards stick to 
it ; and if she^doesn't mean it, don't let her say 
it at all." 

260 HECTOtt. 

He muttered something about " wishy-washy 
girls," and then he said aloud, " Zelie, you know 
what Dr. Charles and Esquebesse think gentle- 
men ought to be. Well, I think like them, and 
because you and I are a gentleman and lady, we 
ought to work for Irma. The only thing that 
can do any good is to bring Georges here, and I 
am going to bring him here. You can help or 
not, as you like, only mind you're not to say 
'yes' with ' ifs ' in your heart. If you say 'yes,' 
you're to do everything I want, and I may want 
more than you think." 

At that moment I happened to look towards 
the mill, and I saw the miller's fat comfortable 
figure crossing the stream by the little bridge 
that led into the wood. He paused half way, 
and shaded his eyes with his hands that he might 
look up at Lagrace's me"tairie. The sight of him 
was enough to drive away indecision if I had had 
any. I turned boldly round and answered with 
a smile, " No matter what you want to do, I'll 
help you." 

Then we took hands, and ran down together 
towards the mill. We knew that the miller was 
not in ; so we went on into the wood to find him, 
and it was not long before we marked his blue 
blouse down among the yellow fern by the river. 

HECTOR. 261 

He was walking up and down smoking a cigar- 
ette as though he were waiting for some one ; 
and whether it was the recollection of the person 
whom we had last seen with him in that place, 
or the thoughts of which our minds were full, 
I cannot say, but the same idea flashed through 
both our heads at once. 

"Stop," Hector said, "let us watch him, and 
see who comes. If it isn't our business, we 
needn't listen." 

We were still at some distance from him, and 
he had not remarked our approach, for the brack- 
en was in many places above our heads. We 
had nothing to do, therefore, but to stay where 
we were, by the water's edge, under the spread- 
ing branches of a chestnut tree, and we had not 
waited very long before the sound of footsteps 
advancing over the dry bracken and crackling 
beech nuts told us that the miller's friend was 
coming. We peeped out cautiously from behind 
the bracken. It was he, the tramp ! Good-bye 
to any lingering scruples we might have had on 
the subject of listening to what was not intended 
for us. We strained our ears and craned our 
necks, and by standing on the very tips of our 
toes, we succeeded in obtaining a good view of 
the bit of ground on which the miller stood. We 

262 HECTOR. 

could not hear everything that was said, but 
after a few sentences had passed between them, 
each man put his hand in his pocket, the miller 
pulled some money out of his, and the tramp at 
the same moment produced a letter. Hector 
had hold of my hand at the time, and he squeez- 
ed it so tight that I could hardly help screaming. 
I would rather have had it squeezed off, how- 
ever, than have made any noise, and it was well 
that I was silent, for just at that moment we 
caught the sound of the miller's voice. 

The tramp was holding out the letter to him. 

" No, no," he said, " I will not touch it. You 
shall have your money, but you shall not have it 
to say of me that I received a stolen letter. If 
it falls in the river it is not my fault." 

He threw up some silver coins and caught 
them again. The letter span out over the water, 
and the next thing we saw was the tramp chink- 
ing the money in his turn before he thrust it 
into his pocket. Then the tramp and the miller 
walked away together ; and two minutes later, 
Hector, hanging from one of the low spreading 
boughs of the chestnut tree which had sheltered 
us, had fished the bit of drenched white paper 
from the water. We did not know Georges' 
handwriting, but the letter was directed to 

HECTOR. 263 

Pierre, and it had the Montfort postmark, which 
was quite enough for us ; our triumph was great. 
But we had no time to enjoy it, for Hector had 
only just folded the letter in his handkerchief, 
and put it carefully in the breast pocket of his 
coat, when we heard the footsteps of the miller 
returning alone. 

We should have liked to run, but there was 
Grand'mere's message to deliver. We there- 
fore made our way down to the mill, and met 
the miller on the threshold of his own door. 

He looked very radiant and self-satisfied. I 
think my eyes must have flashed fire at him, I 
felt so angry. Hector seemed as dull and cold 
as a stone. 

"When I shall be going to Montfort," said 
the miller when we had given our message. 
"Yes, I shall have business there the day after 
to-morrow, business upon which I shall per- 
haps have to consult your grandmother too. 
H6 ! It is fine weather for business." 

He thrust his hands deep down as he spoke 
into the pockets of his baggy trousers, and 
looked at us with the satisfied air of a donkey 
who rubs his back against a tree. I felt as if I 
should choke. 

" Yes," said Hector, in his most absent man- 
ner. " It is fine weather too for fishing." 

264 HECTOR. 

The miller was startled out of his state of 
beatitude. He glanced at Hector in evident 
discomfort, but Hector's countenance remained 
a blank, and he composed himself again. 

" Do you sometimes fish ?" he asked. 

" Sometimes." 

" Do you ever catch anything ? " 

" Sometimes." 

. And then, as if rousing himself with an effort 
to put a question, Hector looked coolly up at the 
miller, and said : 

" Can you tell us the number of Georges of St. 
Loubouet's battalion and the name of his 
colonel ? " 

This time, whether with surprise or vexation, 
or a mixture of both, the miller turned red up to 
the roots of his hair, and having done that, with 
Hector's clear eyes fixed upon him, he seemed 
to grow more and more confused and angry. 

"What do I know about it?" he asked irri- 
tably. " Do you suppose I keep account of the 
regiments and colonels of all the young fellows 
about here who are taken by the conscription ? 
I have something else to do. You may tell your 
grandmother then, that I shall be going to Mont- 
fort the day after to-morrow." 

We turned away, and another thought seemed 
to strike him. 

HECTOR. 265 

" Wait for me a minute," he cried, " I am go- 
ing up to Lagrace's place now, and after that I 
will pass round by your grandmother's. Marie 
Anna will give you some gotiter while I slip on 
a clean blouse." 

His company was the last thing we desired, 
and we were beginning to say that we could not 
wait, when we perceived Marie Anna in the pas- 
sage behind him, making hideous signs to us to 
accept his offer. 

We entered therefore, and while the miller 
went up stairs Marie Anna beckoned us into 
the kitchen. 

" He knows Georges' battalion as well as I 
do," she averred. " It is the 3d, Colonel Roche. 
But you will search for Georges in vain amongst 
the soldiers who are here ; he is not coming ; his 
colonel keeps him to write in the office at Mont- 
fort. Tenez ! without more feigning, I saw you 
just now by the riverside ; what was it you fished 
out of the water with so much care ? " 

I looked in dismay at Hector ; but he did not 
' seem to mind in the least, and answered boldly : 

" It was a letter from Georges which had been 

" And it is for that that you wan f his ad- 
dress ? " 

266 HECTOR. 

" Yes, it is to let him know that your master 
is an old coward who is trying to steal his sweet- 
heart from him. And you may go straight up 
stairs and tell your master what I am going to 
do if you like, I don't want him to be friends 
with me. But he needn't think he has got 
Irma yet." 

Marie Anna did not show, the slightest incli- 
nation to declare our proceedings to her master. 

" Oui da ! Oui da ! " she said, nodding her 
head emphatically. " If that is how it is, I am 
on your side ; Irma is not of his age, it is a folly. 
Ah ! the old fox, he would intercept letters, 
would he ? He becomes sharp in his old age ; 
but there are others who are sharper. Listen ! " 
she dropped her voice as she spoke and glanced 
suspiciously at the staircase. " He is weaving a 
plot to make her think that Georges is marrying 
another. Tell her from me that there is not one 
word of truth in it. Old women know every- 
thing, and I know they may do what they like: 
Marie Monthez won't have it any more than 

The miller's step was heard on the staircase, 
and we were soon, in spite of our distaste for his 
company, walking with him up the road. We 
lagged a little behind, so as to avoid the neces- 


sity of conversation, and I do not believe that 
Hector looked at him once as we went along. 
But I could not take my eyes from him ; his 
heavy clumsy figure looked heavier and clumsier 
to me at every step he took. I noticed how 
round his shoulders were, how he rolled from 
side to side, and scarcely lifted his feet when he 
walked, how he never raised his head to look at 
the fields, but plodded forward with his eyes on 
the dust. Then every five minutes he stopped to 
take off his cap and wipe his face as though 
going up the hill to the me"tairie were hard work, 
when the worst heat of the day was over. And 
presently, as if to mark the contrast, four sol- 
diers came out from a side road and marched up 
the hill before us with a light and springing 
step, chatting gayly to each other as they went. 

I had often seen the miller's ugliness and 
awkwardness before, but he had never looked to 
me so ugly as he did on that day, when I knew 
how cruel and selfish he was in his heart ; and 
as I walked behind him, I remember feeling a 
sort of horrible fascination, as though he were 
wickedness itself moving along the sunny road, 
and I were obliged to stay close by it. 

When we reached the me'tairie, the miller 
turned in at the gate. We continued our road, 

268 HECTOR. 

skirting the low paling of the farmyard. Irma 
was turning over straw with a pitchfork in one 
of the sheds, but before we had time to call her, 
Madame Lagrace came out of the house. She 
looked round a moment as if to find her daugh- 
ter, then seeing Irma in the shed, she crossed 
the yard, snatched the pitchfork away, and, with- 
out any apparent reason, gave Irma a vigorous 
box on the ears. 

We saw Irma's eyes flash fire for an instant, 
for she was not meek by nature. Then she 
seemed to recollect herself, and straightening 
the handkerchief which bound her hair, she went 
into the house without a word, her pale face 
looking all the paler for the red mark left by her 
mother's hand upon her cheek. 

Just then if Hector had asked me to go 
through fire and water to save her, I would have 
done it willingly. 

HECTOR. 269 


~^K 7E lost little time, as may be imagined, in 
taking the rescued letter to the forge, 
fisrjuebes^f happened to be with Pierre. It was 
he who 'pened it and read aloud the contents. 
It came as we had thought, from Georges, and 
thft d;?'.e showed that it must have arrived the 
very **ay we saw the postman stop outside the 
forge. In it Georges told how his colonel was 
obliged to keep him at Montfort, because of the 
sudden death of one of the non-commissioned 
officers, and how this same unexpected circum- 
stance had given him his promotion. " But," 
he said, " if it is Irma who reads this letter to 
you, she is to know that they might make me 
Marshal of France, and it would not give me the 
same pleasure as only to see her ; for I think of 
her night and day, and it seems to me I can 
never he satisfied till I touch her hand again." 
And the miller had almost made her believe that 
Geor-/es was forgetting her ! Hector and I 
boik d over with indignation. 

270 HECTOR. 

" Ha ! " said Pierre, " it is with good reason 
that they never let her come now to the forge ; 
they fear that she may hear the truth. But it is 
you, Esquebesse, who must charge yourself with 
letting her know it now. And since we have 
discovered the plots that Messer Baptiste has 
been laying, we must find means to turn him 
aside with a little threat of the law. What he 
has done with regard to the letter is surely an 
affair for the tribunal, and though I am not rich, 
and have no malice towards him, I would will- 
ingly pay a little prosecution if it could serve 
the children. I love that Georges as if he were 
my son. It would give me pain to see him 

" Yes," said Esquebesse, " it is on the miller 
we must work. Irma is there torn between her 
duty and her inclination. She sees the children 
cry, she is told that it is her duty to marry the 
miller, and she is a girl to break her heart rather 
than not do*her duty. But she shall have this 
letter to-night, and I charge myself after that 
with frightening the miller. He is very soft for 
all his bluster, and cowardly as an old hen. You 
see there, children," he added, turning to us, 
" one who has not learnt the lesson of the woods. 
He does not understand what it means to re- 

HECTOR. 271 

spect the lives of others, or he would never have 
conceived the idea of putting himself between 
Irma and her happiness." He folded the letter 
as he spoke, and put it in his pocket. " Count 
upon me, Pierre," he said ; " I will do what I 
can. And you, children, you are very good and 
sensible to have saved the letter and brought it 
here so quickly. Shall you be able, now, do you 
think, to hold your tongues about it to everyone, 
even to your grandmother herself ? " 

We readily promised what he asked, and he 
went away down the road like a man who has a 
plan in his head. 

When we got back to Salaret we found that 
the miller had already been there, and from what 
Grand'mere was saying to Sceur Amelie, we 
understood that he had asked Grand'mere's per- 
mission to marry, and that Grand'mere had 
granted it with pleasure, still- thinking that 
Marie Monthez was to be his bride. All was 
not settled, he had told her, yet, but it was his 
intention to come and ask for her consent in 
form, after his return from Montfort. 

Our promise to Esquebesse kept us tongue- 
tied, and when we had heard all there was to 
hear we ran into the yard, that we might not be 
tempted to speak of the subject so near our 

272 HECTOR. 

hearts. But even there among the new soldiers 
we were not to forget it. 

Instead of the red legs and blue coats to which 
our eyes had now become accustomed, we saw 
in the yard and washhouse a mass of dull, dark 

" What regiment do you belong to ? " Hector 
asked of the first man we reached. 

" What regiment, my little chap ? " he replied, 
turning on us a face as bright as a polished ap- 
ple, " the best regiment in the whole service of 
France the Little Chasseurs." 

They had come at last. Though we knew 
now that we were not to expect Georges, it was 
a pleasure to us to see his regiment, and indeed 
they were, of all the soldiers we had received, 
the brightest and most good-humored. 

Tired ! they said, in answer to our enquiries. 
Not they. A march of twenty kilometres might 
tire those hulking infantry men, but as for them 
they would undertake to run forty at their little 
trot, and be as fresh at the end as at 'the begin- 
ning. Hungry! Ah bah ! when you were hun- 
gry in time of war you must tighten your belt. 
That was dinner enough for soldiers. Never- 
theless they did ample justice to Madelon's soup 
and haricots, and Grand'mere's good wine in- 

HECTOR. 273 

clined them to conversation. Yes, several of 
them knew Georges, and those who did were 
loud in his praise, but they said he would never 
make a soldier. And when Madelon asked why 
not, one of them laughed and said, " he has his 
sweetheart in this country, has he not?" and 
another, a gray-haired sergeant, said, turning 
round to Madelon, " You may^tell her from me, 
Martin Lamotte, friend of her betrothed, that she 
is a fortunate woman. I am an old soldier now. 
I have seen plenty of service and plenty of men, 
and I have never seen a conscript better behaved 
than that same Georges, nor a soldier more reg- 
ular in his duty, though he does not love it, and 
more faithful to his home. La bas at Montfort 
he has never done a thing that he would not 
have done in his own village. It is right that 
she should know this, for it gives a good girl 
courage to know the goodness of her man." 

It gave us courage, too, for after this Hector 
and I felt more than ever assured that Georges 
and the miller were like goodness and wicked- 
ness opposed. 

We were up long before daylight on the fol- 
lowing morning, and the first glimmer of sun 
found us swinging on Lagrace's gate, for we 
longed to tell Irma what Lamotte had said ; but 

274 HECTOR. 

it was not Irma who came earliest into the yard. 
Lagrace's voice saluted our ears. 

" What do you want ? " he enquired from the 
end of the yard. 

" We want to speak to Irma," Hector replied. 

"She is not there." 

Hearing the voices, Irma herself appeared on 
the threshold, but her father turned round and 
said sharply, " You go in. If you did your duty 
you would find other things to occupy yourself 
than with idle gossiping." 

" It doesn't matter at all," Hector said, in a 
voice loud enough for Irma to hear; "it will do 
when she comes for the milk." 

He meant it as a hint to her that she was to 
come herself for the milk, but Lagrace replied : 

" She won't fetch any milk. We can't afford 
to pay for it now, and we must do without." 

Irma re-entered the house in obedience to her 
father's command, but as she went she laid her 
hand upon her breast and smiled at us. We 
took that to mean that she had Georges' letter, 
and that she thanked Hector for saving it, but 
we had no further opportunity of discovering 
whether this was the case, for though we return- 
ed several tirne$ during the morning, and hung 
the yard of the me"tairie, we did not sue- 

HECTOR. 275 

ceed in seeing Irma again. Madame Lagrace 
came and went and scowled at us from time to 
time. We got nothing else for our pains. At 
last, towards half-past eight, it became evident 
that Irma was not to be allowed to leave the 
house, for when the children came out with their 
caps and bags ready for the Salle d'Asile one of 
the big boys came up from the vineyard to take 
charge of them. This took away our last hope 
of seeing Irma, and Hector then announced that 
we must be content to go for Georges without 
speaking to her any more. 

Now, though Hector had certainly said, as 
plainly as words could say it, that he intended 
to let Georges know what was going on, I had 
never even conceived the possibility of going 
ourselves to find him, and on this subject Hec 
tor and I had the only struggle which ever dis 
turbed our friendship. His plan was to get 
from Pierre the three napoleons, which up to 
that day had remained in the forge, to leave 
Salaret secretly, to make our way as we best 
could to Montfort, and having found Georges, to 
bring him back with us before the week which 
Irma had given us was out. Just as with regard 
to Irma his one thought was that she should 
keep her promise to Georges, so now he concen- 

276 HECTOR. 

trated his whole mind upon finding the ways 
and means of fulfilling his promise given to 
Irma. That seemed to him right, and he would 
admit no other thought at all. 

I, on the contrary, was overwhelmed with a 
sense of the awful naughtiness of running away 
without Grand'mere's permission, leaving her 
and the household to surfer agonies of anxiety 
for a week, and I found courage to dispute the 
point with Hector, and to tell him that I thought 
his plan was wicked. 

He listened to my arguments at first with 
some surprise, and then, with a thoughtful, 
steady expression on his countenance, which I 
remember to this day 

" Girls seem to think a great deal of anxiety," 
he said, when I had done ; " but a little anxiety 
doesn't really matter when it is over. I think 
Grand'mere herself would say afterwards that it 
is better for her to be a little unhappy for a 
week, than for Irma to be unhappy all her life. 
And the thing is that, though of course we don't 
love other people as much as we love Grand'- 
mere, what happens to them is just as impor- 
tant," he hesitated as though not easily able to 
find words in which to express his meaning 
"well, I mean just as important to God." 

HECTOR. ' 277 

I had exhausted myself in argument, and I 
found nothing more now to say, for I was not 
accustomed to oppose him. Still I suppose he 
saw that I was not convinced, for he continued 
after a pause : 

" Even if I had npt promised, we ought to go 
for Georges. Irma is there at work, she cannot 
go to him. He is doing his work at Montfort, 
he cannot be running back here on chance to 
see if "she wants him, and here we are rich, and 
idle, and gentlemen whose chief duty it is to 
help other people. Why we must go. If we 
are going to sit and be rich and do nothing, we 
shall be as bad as the worst aristocrats Esque- 
besse and Dr. Charles ever talked of. Z^lie, 
you know you think so too, and what's the good 
of thinking unless you're going to do like your 

He spoke very slowly, and as the words fell 
from his lips, many conversations, which I have 
not repeated, came back, to my mind, conver- 
sations with Dr. Charles and Esquebesse, in 
which the drift had been always the same that 
the duty of the gentleman was to work for 
others. It was a favorite topic of talk with us, 
and I had loved to hear about it, for it made me 
feel proud to be a lady, but I had never thought 


that to carry it out would bring one into posi- 
tions like this. Indeed, I am not sure that I 
ever thought much about carrying it out at all, 
and now, instead of feeling that Hector's plan 
was wicked, I began to feel as though he were a 
stronger, and better, and wiser kind of creature 
than I. It flashed through my mind that it was 
by doing like their thoughts that men grew 
great, and at the same time I felt that I never 
should be great, for instead of wishing to do a 
lady's duty I could only think of Grand'mere 
going about with the same sad, quiet face she 
had worn during the war, and taking blame to 
herself, as I knew she would, that she had not 
watched us more carefully. 

" Hector ! " I faltered. But he would not help 
me. He waited for me to decide. 

" Oh, I cannot ! " I burst out at last ; " it 
would be too cruel." 

I expected him to scold me. I expected him 
to try and persuade me still. But he did not. 
There was a little pause, and then he said, in 
the cold indifferent voice he used to speak in 
when first he came to us : 

" Very well. I shall go alone. And remem- 
ber you are bound, at all events, by your promise ' 
to Esquebesse, not to say anything about the 

HECTOR. 279 

matter, nor to tell anyone where I am gone. 
Only I shan't tell you any of my plans, because," 
and he turned away rather contemptuously, "of 
course I don't know now whether you'll keep 
your promise to Esquebesse any better than 
your promise to me." 

For the first time I remembered my promise 
to him on the hill. And he had not taken it 
from me unawares ; he had warned me that if I 
said "yes" it must be in earnest. Something 
seemed to glue my lips together, I could not 

" But I suppose," Hector continued, " that 
you would like Irma to be helped if you don't 
have to do anything disagreeable." 

The slight emphasis he laid upon the " if " 
stung, as I suppose he meant it to do. Yes, I 
was like the women he had said he would hate. 
I had said " yes " with my heart full of " ifs." I 
was unfaithful. I was untrustworthy. He would 
always hate me. And yet it didn't seem wicked 
to think of Grand'mere too. My head spun with 
a confusion of thought too strong for me. 

"Hector," I could only say, "did you mean 
then to go to Montfort?" 

" Of course I did." 

He seemed to be waiting still for my decision. 

280 HECTOR. 

I had promised. He had trusted me. When he 
had to decide between a lot of things right and 
wrong, he chose one and stuck to it. I felt for 
a moment like an utter fool, wavering about 
from side to side, and then suddenly, I scarcely 
know how, my resolution formed itself clear and 
strong. I also would choose one right and stick 
to it. 

" I will keep my promise," I said ; " I will 
do whatever you want." 

" You won't change this time ? " he asked, but 
the brilliant smile he gave me showed that he 
knew I would not. 

I had only time to shake my head when 
Madelon appeared, out of breath and furious. 

"What are you thinking of, then?" she ex- 
claimed, at sight of us; "are you losing your 
heads completely, idlers that you are. Here's a 
quarter of an hour that the Sister has been wait- 
ing for you in the dining-room, and I running 
like a madwoman all over the farm to find you." 
A vigorous shake to me concluded the sentence. 
Trees, sky, and earth were mixed up before me 
for a moment, and when I had recovered myself 
sufficiently to feel sure that my head was still 
upon my shoulders, the trees still rooted as usual 
in the ground, and the sky at a safe distance 


above us, Hector was swinging his legs upon a 
chestnut branch above our heads. - 

" No, no," he said to Madelon, " if you were 
to shake me the way you have just shaken Zelie, 
I shouldn't have a clear thought again for a 
week, and I shall need all the powers of my 
mind before I have done with Soeur Am61ie to- 
day, for I've not learnt a single lesson, and she'll 
give it to me, unless I can make them up fast 
enough." Then, seized apparently with a sud- 
den access of wild spirits, he began to give us, 
on the chestnut branch, a representation of Soeur 
Ame"lie upraiding him severely for his idleness, 
and waxing more and more angry as she talked. 
He imitated so well her cracked yet sweet voice, 
he chose so exactly the expressions she used, he 
agitated his legs in such a ridiculous way to rep- 
resent her little flustered manner, that I gained 
by my laughter a sounding box on the ear from 
Madelon, who still held me tight. 

" Ah, rascal ! " she shouted to Hector, " ha, 
barefoot ! That is how you mock at people. It's 
I who would whack you if I could lay my hands 
on you." 

"Calm yourself, dear sister," he replied, in 
the tone of Sceur Amelie, " these rages are bad 
for the soul." 

282 HECTOR. 

But the words were no sooner out of his mouth 
than he was seized with a burst of chuckling, 
and, turning round to follow the direction of his 
eyes; I saw Sceur Amelie herself standing at the 
farther end of the path. 

She had not heard anything, and Hector drop- 
ped quietly from the tree. But as she advanced 
towards us she began to reproach him in the 
very terms he had been using. There was just 
difference enough between her voice and the 
voice he had assumed, to make the effect irre- 
sistibly funny, and again my unfortunate inclina- 
tion to laugh got the better of me. I shook 
under Madelon's restraining hand, and this put 
the finishing touch to her honest exasperation. 

" Ah yes, ma Sceur," she exclaimed, " it is 
time for you to come. They have neither heart 
nor law, these children, and they are mocking 
you as if you were the puppet of a travelling 

In an instant of course the picture flashed be- 
fore our eyes of Soeur Amelie doing lay figure 
to a quack dentist in the market-place, and it 
was too much. Hector and I made no further 
attempts to contain ourselves, but laughed until 
the tears ran down our cheeks. 

"What is this?" asked Sceur Ame"lie, all 

HECTOR. 28 j 

ready to be offended. " What is the meaning 
of this ? " 

" Oh, ma Soeur ! " I explained, hastening to 
appease her wrath ; " we beg your pardon, but 
we were there in the mood to laugh and be silly, 
and Madelon says something which finishes us 
off. We did not know the time, or we would 
have been waiting for you indoors." 

" My remembrance of yesterday does not dis- 
pose me to laughter," Sceur Amelie said, in the 
tone of one who reserves his judgment; "but 
we shall see in the house if the work done for me 
justifies this merriment." 

"Ah, yes!" said Madelon, "it is I who would 
justify their merriment for them. Taking me 
out from my work like this, and Madame Lous- 
tanoff away, consequently double to do in the 
same time." . 

Grand'me're had gone very early to a funeral 
on the other side of Cassagne, and was to stay 
and dine in the town. She would not, therefore, 
return till late in the afternoon, and with the 
burden of Hector's unlearnt lessons beginning 
to lie heavy on my conscience, I was, for the 
first time in my life, glad of her absence. 

Hector was in one of his wild moods. Instead 
of seeming depressed by the recollection of his 

284 II EC TOE. 

work undone, he was in a condition of the high- 
est spirits. His eyes were bright, his mouth 
ready to curl into laughter on the smallest provo- 
cation, his face, wreathed as it was with good- 
humored smiles, seemed more than ever alive 
with intelligence and resolution. Knowing well 
the kind of scene which was likely to ensue when 
Sceur Amelie discovered that he had done no 
work for her, I trembled as we took our places 
at the table, but Hector did not seem even then 
to give his lessons a thought. 

It was Soeur Amelie's habit always to hear 
mine first, and if Hector would have busied him- 
self looking over his, I could have stammered 
and hesitated a little, and drawn out my repetition 
till he had had time to gain at least some notion 
of what he had to say. But, in spite of the kicks 
I gave him under the table, he did not so much 
as remember to find the places. He sat with 
his books closed gazing out through the open 
window, yet evidently seeing as little of what 
went on outside as he heard of what was going 
on inside. He was thinking, thinking hard, as 
I could see by the brightness of his eyes, and 
the firm set of his brow. I felt sure that he was 
planning in his mind the details of our flight to 
Montfort, and in the distraction caused by my 

SECTOR. 285 

desire on his account to draw his attention to his 
lessons, and my desire on my account to know 
the result of his thoughts, I had very nearly, by 
my manner of saying my lessons, drawn down 
upon my own head the indignation I dreaded for 
him. This did not dispose Soeur Ame*lie to in- 
dulgence, and it was with her severest manner 
that she turned presently to Hector. 

" Eh, what ! My lessons ! " he exclaimed, 
coming only half back to the present moment. 
" Yes, of course ; where are my books ? " he 
started up to look for them, and Soeur Ame*lie 
asked him what he meant when they were 
already on the table. 

" What was it I had to say ? " he asked, as he 
began to turn over the leaves. 

" That is, surely, for you to know." 

" But I don't know. I don't remember in the 

" You can't have learnt them very well in 
such a case. Find the place." 

Hector was evidently completely puzzled. 

" But it is ridiculous to tell me to find a place 
when I don't know what place to look for. I 
don't remember a bit more what I had to learn 
than if I had never seen one of these books." 

"In laughing as you did at Madelon's inno- 

286 HECTOR. 

cent remark, you have shown me enough for one 
morning that you think me ridiculous. But I 
am not so ridiculous as to be taken in by this 
idle pretence. It is impossible for anyone to 
learn a lesson and forget completely what it is 
about. You will find the place yourself." 

" But I didn't learn my lesson." 

"Ah ! for once, this is too much ; to tell me 
you have not learnt your lesson in order that 
you may uphold your own obstinacy. Find the 
place at once." 

Hector wrinkled his brow, gazed at her with 
the puzzled, almost idiotic, expression his face 
could sometimes wear, and began without a word 
to turn the pages aimlessly. Gradually his eyes 
went towards the window, and, as they gazed 
outwards, brightened again, the puzzled expres- 
sion died away, and his countenance became, 
once more a picture of eager resolution. But as 
I began to hope that the returned brightness 
meant awakening memory, and that he would be 
able in a moment to remember where his lesson 
was, I perceived that the book was dropping 
from his listless hands. Another glance at his 
face convinced me that his thoughts were far 
away from Soeur Amelie and lessons. I longed 
to recall him, yet feared to attract Soeur 

HECTOR. 287 

lie's attention ; and, between the fascination 
of watching Hector, and a wish to keep the Sis- 
ter in a good humor by a show of determined 
industry, my brain, never strong, was soon in a 
pitiable condition. " Twice two are three," I 
repeated, audibly and fervently; "twice four are 
six, twice seven are twenty-one." I was work- 
ing hard putting down the figures as fast as I 
could say them, and, to my surprise, the slate 
was snatched out of my hands, the whole sum 
rubbed out, and I ordered to begin again. I 
had not the slightest idea why ; and now tears 
came to add to my mental confusion. It must 
be confessed that we were very aggravating. 

" Hector," said Sceur Amelie, at length ; " do 
you intend to'do any lessons this morning, or do 
you wish to convey to me, by your behaviour, 
that my coming here is a farce, and that you are 
in a state of open rebellion against the authority 
Madame Loustanoff sets over you." 

Hector did not hear the beginning of this 
speech. Grand'mere's name awakened his atten- 
tion, and he was evidently guessing at the sense 
of the words, as he replied : 

" I don't rebel against Grand'mere's author- 

"But you are ready to rebel against mine," 

288 HECTOR. 

exclaimed Soeur Ame'lie. " Well, no ; it shall 
not be. Because Madame Loustanoff is not 
here you think you can do as you like. But I 
will act ; I also. If you do not say those lessons 
to me, and do what else you have to do before I 
leave you, you shall go up to your own room, 
and I will ask Madelon to watch that you do not 
leave it till Madame Loustanoff returns." 

Madelon hearing her own name, came to the 
dining-room door, and her presence seemed to 
aggravate Hector, for he replied with open 
defiance : 

" Madelon would have something to do- to 
keep me in my room if I wanted to get out, for 
she can't lock the window, and as soon as her 
back is turned I would get down by the pine 

"Yes, my lad," said Madelon; "but there is 
no pine tree by the hayloft, and that, with the 
Sister's permission, is where I will put you. 
Then, with the ladder taken away) you may kick 
your heels at your pleasure. You are caged till 
Madame Loustanoff returns." 

"Well, just try," said Hector; "I won't go up 
of my own accord, and if you're strong enough 
to carry me up, I'll jump out of one of the 
granary wmdows." 

HECTOR. 289 

" Ah, it's easy talking when we're on the solid 
ground, but when we are up at a window, some 
fourteen or fifteen feet above the ground, we 
remember that legs and arms will break, and we 
don't take these airy jumps. I'm ready, ma 
Soeur ; I have good strong arms, and when you 
need me, you have only to give me a call. It is 
I who will have pleasure in locking up my little 

Madelon returned to the scouring of her pots, 
and Soeur Amelie reiterated her threat to Hector. 
Hector now was no longer absent; he was 
bitterly offended. 

" I think it is a shame ! " he said, with flushed 
cheeks, and something like tears of indignation 
moistening his eyes. " I have told you quite 
honestly that I forget what I had to learn. You 
won't tell me what it is, and yet you say you 
will lock me up if I don't learn it. How can I 
do what is impossible ? " 

"The only impossibility in the matter," Sceur 
Amelie returned, " is that you can have forgot- 
ten what you had to learn, and that subterfuge 
shall not serve. I will not be taken in by it for 
a moment. No; not even .so far as to tell you 
again what lessons you had to learn." 

" May I tell him, ma Soeur ? " I begged. " I 

290 HECTOR. 

remember what they were, and he will learn 
them in a minute once he knows." 

But my interposition only increased Soeur 
Amelie's anger. 

" Hold your tongue, Z61ie, and confine your- 
self to doing your own work. If you, whom 
they did not concern, can remember what they 
were, it is another proof of the absurdity of 
Hector's excuse. He has not forgotten them ; 
I will not admit for an instant that he has 
forgotten them." 

" Then I am a liar ? " said Hector. 

" Yes, you are a liar ; and lying is a mortal 

" It's not true. I have forgotten my lessons. 
I am telling you the exact truth, and I won't 
submit to injustice. If I can help it, Madelon 
sha'n't put me into the hayloft." 

But he could not help it ; Madelon's arms 
were strong, as she said, she did not scruple to 
call in one of the farm laborers to help her; and, 
at the end of lessons, Hector was carried, kick- 
ing and struggling, into the hayloft. When he 
was in, and the ladder taken away, he stood at 
the open doorway straightening his clothes. 

"Very well," he said to Sosur Amelia, who 
with Madelon, and one or two of the laborers, 

HECTOR. 291 

still stood in the yard below, " I shall not be 
here when Grand'mere comes back, but she will 
know your injustice some day, and I will never 
learn lessons with you again while you go on 
saying that I am a liar." 

" They said he was a liar ? " I overheard one 
of the laborers ask another, as everyone turned 
to go their different ways. 

" Yes, and he says no." 

" It was for that he struggled so hard ? Ma 
foi ! I would have done as much ; it is not 
amusing to be shut up there with the rats for 
something you have not done." 

292 HECTOR. 


T DO not think I have ever in my life felt so 
lonely, and so miserable, and as I did on 
that day, when, scarcely knowing what I did, 
conscious only of a dull rage in my heart against 
Sceur Amelie, against Madelon, against all the 
world since Hector was punished, I went away 
into the chestnut wood to hide myself and cry, 
leaving Hector a prisoner in the loft. 

Hector and I had built ourselves a little hut 
of branches between the trees, and into that I 
crept to bear my misery alone as best I could, 
till Grand'mere should return. 

It is no exaggeration to call it misery. I 
shall never forget the suffering I endured. I 
was always a nervous child, ready to torment 
myself lest anything should happen to the people 
I loved, and Madelon had no sooner shut the 
hayloft door and bolted it on the outside with 
the pitchfork, than pictures had begun to arise 
in my mind of the terrible things which Hector 

HECTOR. 293 

might do. I knew him well enough to know 
how intolerable the thought of waiting there for 
Grand'mere would be to his proud spirit, and I 
believed him capable of any desperate deed. He 
might burst his heart, I thought, in trying to 
break down the door, or he might hang himself, 
or he might smother himself in one of the heaps 
of grain, or, failing any of these things, he 
might very likely faint with the fatigue and 
emotion he had gone through, and with what 
would have been to me the terror of being shut 
up there alone in the dark with the big rats, and 
then there would be no one to help him, he 
might die in his faint. This was the idea which 
at last took possession of me. It was in vain 
that I tried to drive it away, that I tried to 
reason with myself. I shut my eyes and would 
have forced my thoughts to something else I 
could only see as vividly as if it were reality, 
Hector lying on the floor of the hayloft, stiff 
and white, with the rats sniffing at him, and 
running over his body, and the impossibility of 
reaching him became an agony. I don't know 
how long I had been there ; I was lying on the 
floor of the hut, not crying, but in a state of still 
pain, in which every minute that went by was 
hard to bear, when the sound of footsteps 

294 HECTOR. 

attracted my attention. The next moment 
Hector himself stood on the threshold. Hec- 
tor himself, as cool and unconcerned as usual. 

"Oh, Zelie!" he said, "you here? that is 
jolly! now you'll be able to get me some 

His voice brought me in some measure back 
to myself. 

" They have let you out ? " I managed to ask. 

"They haven't let me out; I jumped out at 
the back through one of the granary windows 
it's quite easy. But it's past twelve, and dinner 4 
looked to me quite ready when I peeped through 
the chinks of the hayloft door. You'd better 
go down to the house. Only look here ! isn't 
this a queer little beetle ; I picked it off the 
ground just now as I was coming up." 

He stretched out to me a hand which he had 
till now kept closed, and on the palm I saw a 
beetle somewhat different from any we had yet 
found in the woods. 

It gave me a strange indefinable feeling of 
respect for him to think that while I had been 
lying on the ground incapable, in that causeless 
agony of apprehension, he with everything to do 
had been cool enough to observe a strange beetle 
on his path. I took hold of the tips of his finger 

HECTOR. 295 

and leaned over to look at the insect ; but sud- 
denly the hand and the beetle became blurred 
beneath my eyes. I bent my head lower that 
Hector might not see, and before I could help it 
tears were dropping upon his palm. 

"Why, Zelie," he said, "what's the matter?" 
And, as I raised my face, and he looked for the 
first time attentively at me. " You have been 
crying a wholelot before, too ! Have they been 
doing anything to you ? " 

"No," I said, "no!" 

" Why have you been crying then ? " 

" It was for you." 

" For me ? Do you really care about me, 

His voice softened so suddenly that I gave 
him a hearty hug. He for the first time hugged 
me too ; and after that we both found ourselves 

I felt so happy, then, that nothing seemed to 
me to matter. It was without a scrap of fear, 
rather with joy, at the prospect of braving an 
adventure for Hector's sake, that I ran away 
presently to dine myself, and bring him back the 
materials for a meal. 

As Madelon and I were alone, our dinner did 
not take long. I had a moment of anxiety 

296 HECTOR. 

when, after we had finished, she took a piece of 
bread and a bowl of soup, and mounted the lad- 
der to the hayloft. But she did not go in. She 
contented herself with setting the bowl down 
just inside the door and quietly drew the bolt 
again, as if afraid that Hector might recommence 
the fight. I, for all my anxiety, took care to 
profit by her absence to secure some of the salt 
goose we had been eating, and some bread and 
cheese, and a few minutes later I arrived in 
safety at the hut with a well-filled basket in my 
hands. I had passed round by fowl-house and 
garden and vineyard, where eggs and salad and 
grapes had been added to the spoil I brought 
from the house, and Hector welcomed all with 
glee. It was the work of two or three minutes 
to kindle a fire of dry sticks in the hut. I knew 
quite enough about cookery to be able to pre- 
pare a simple meal, and I had soon the pride and 
delight of seeing Hector beam with satisfaction 
over an omelette which he held in a painfully 
hot plate upon his knees. His only seat was a 
bundle of sticks, table there was none, one plate 
constituted the entire dinner service, but his 
appetite seemed limitless ; he ate heartily of 
everything I had brought, and, as his spirits 
rose to rollicking pitch, with the satisfaction of 

HECTOR. *97 

his hunger, mine too rose so high that if I had 
had a wish, it would have been that it might be 
supper time, and he hungry again to give me 
again the joy of feeding him. This was the first 
time I had had an opportunity of really serving 
him ; I had been able to do it well. He was 
satisfied with me ; I can understand still that I 
was happy. 

It was a good beginning to our journey to 
Montfort. When Hector presently told me to 
gather up what scraps remained, as we did not 
know where we might sup that night, I remem- 
bered, in spite of the pain at my heart his words 
awaked, that Grand'mere had herself said, 
"Where one goes the other must go," and I 
was glad to think that whatever happened I 
should be with him. The steadiness of his reso- 
lution served me for resolution, and my scruples 
ceased to torment me. Possibly he was mis- 
taken in going ; but since he went, my duty was 
clearly enough to stick to him. I don't quite 
know why the act of getting his dinner for him 
should have made this plain in my mind, but it 
did, and I worried him with no remonstrance 
when he announced that we should not return 
to the house again. I only felt as if somebody 
had taken hold of my heart, and squeezed it 
tight and hard. 

*9 8 HECTOR. 

Pierre was the only person to whom we said 
any kind of good-bye. 

It was necessary to get Hector's money from 
him, and he was evidently surprised that we 
should ask for all three napoleons at once, when 
they had lain so long unthought of in his 

" I hope I am right to give them to you," he 
said, " without asking your grandmother. You 
are not going to do any folly with them, hein ! " 

" I shall spend them as a gentleman should," 
Hector replied. 

" Ah; my proud little monsieur ! you will have 
no questions from an old blacksmith ; but if the 
old blacksmith loves you " 

" And if I love the old blacksmith," Hector 
said, holding out his hand with one of his beau- 
tiful bright smiles, " it doesn't follow that I tell 
him everything I am going to do. When people 
love each other they trust each other." 

Pierre took Hector's hand and shook it 

" You are right, my lad, you are right," he 
said; "I should not have been afraid." 

And with that we went away. 

I had asked no question yet about how we 
were to reach Montfort. But presently Hector 

II EC TOR. 299 

turned to me and asked, with the gentle, kindly 
manner he had assumed since the morning, 
whether I did not want to know his plan, " or 
perhaps," he said, "you think it's so horrid of 
me to go, that you don't care how we are going 
to do it ? " 

From that moment I would not have turned 
back for all the world ; and I answered from the 
bottom of my heart that it was I who would be 
horrid if I did not wish to know his plan. 

" It is rather funny," he said, with brighten- 
ing eyes ; " come along, I won't tell you, but I'.M 
show you something." 

He burst into one of his happy chuckles as he 
spoke, and held out his hand to me. We jump- 
ed over the ditch together, and then I raced 
after him, where he led me through the woods 
and down to the river side till we came out oppo- 
site to the mill yard, where the miller and Marie 
Anna were loading a wagon with straw. 

" Well," I said, breathless and laughing, " is 
it to admire the miller that you have brought me 
here ? I see nothing." 

" It is to admire our carriage and our coach- 

And Hector turned a somersault in now unre- 
pressed delight. 

300 HECTOR. 

" M. Baptiste himself shall drive us to Mont- 
fort, where he goes to arrange all concerning 
his marriage. He takes the wagon, I know, 
half-way, and we shall travel in the straw as 
comfortably as kings in a coach. The other half 
of the journey we must manage for ourselves." 

" But, Hector ! he will never consent ! " 

" I should rather think he wouldn't consent if 
anyone was such a fool as to ask him. But we 
will climb up there as soon as it is dark, and sleep 
on the top of the load. Long before daylight he 
starts, and as he is much too fat even to think of 
climbing up himself, he'll walk before us more 
than half-way to Montfort without a suspicion 
that two little serpents have slipped into his 
straw. Don't you see him, red and consequen- 
tial, telling everyone he meets that he has 
business at Montfort ? " 

It was funny to think of, and we had a hearty 
laugh together as we walked down into the mill- 
yard to find out one or two things which Hector 
still wanted to know about the journey. 

My breath came and went uncomfortably fast 
while, as .we watched the loading of the cart, 
Hector asked point-blank in his usual cool and 
simple fashion for all the information we wanted, 
but I suppose the miller thought it was quite 

HECTOR. 301 

natural that what was interesting to him should 
be interesting to us, for he did not seem in the 
least surprised by Hector's questions, and told 
us every detail we wished to know. A little inn 
called the " Cruchon d'Or," at the branching of 
the Montfort road towards Portalouve, would be 
his last stopping-place, for the house at which 
he was going to leave the straw lay out of the 
direct road, and when he had delivered the straw 
and put up his own horses, he meant to continue 
his road in the public diligence. 

It was still early in the afternoon when we 
left him, and the hours seemed terribly long till 
evening, but Hector was so gentle and loving to 
me that afternoon that I was not nearly so 
unhappy as I should have expected to be. We 
took the precaution first of filling our basket 
with chestnuts and grapes, so that we might not 
starve up on the straw; and then I believe 
Hector tried to keep me amused and occupied 
in order that I might not think too much of 
Grand'mere. We visited together all our favorite 
haunts, and there was only one moment when 
the pain of going seemed almost more than I 
could bear. It was when, after the sun went 
down, Hector called for the last time an assem- 
bly of the little birds. 

302 HECTOR. 

They came as usual in answer to his cries, 
wrens and robins, jays and thrushes, larks, 
chaffinches, and blackbirds ; though I had been 
with him on many bird r calling expeditions, I 
had never known them come more quickly or in 
greater numbers, and on any ordinary occasion 
it would have been with delight, even greater 
than his, that I should have welcomed them. 
But on this day each fresh bird that came 
seemed to me another voice from the woods and 
from our old life saying good-bye to us, and 
when I thought of how happy we had been, I 
could hardly keep myself from sobbing by 
Hector's side. Even now, when I feel at all 
inclined to be sad, the evening clamor of birds 
always brings the tears to my eyes. 

I managed to control myself, because I did 
not want Hector to think his plan made me 
unhappy, and when the birds had gone again, 
the silence and darkness of night had fallen 
upon the woods, and our time of waiting was 
over. Half-an-hour later we were composing 
ourselves to sleep on top of the miller's loaded 
wagon, and the last thing I remember of that 
night is feeling Hector pull the straw round me 
to keep me warm. 

HECTOR. 303 


\\ 7"HEN I woke again we were already out 
upon the high road. Morning had 
scarcely come, for all around us was yet dark, 
and the birds in the trees by the roadside were 
only just beginning to wake. But, away to the 
east, there was a clear soft light in the sky, and 
when the freshness of the air had fully waked 
me, I could easily distinguish Hector sitting up 
in his shirt-sleeves, watching the dawn. His 
jacket was tucked round me. I made him put it 
on again, and then he lay down at my side. It 
was too early for me to wake up, he said, and to 
please him I remained still as if I were asleep. 
In reality, the thought of Grand'mere waking, 
too, as I knew she would, with the earliest dawn, 
to think of us anxiously, came to me the instant 
I was awake, and after that, sleep was impossi- 
ble. I lay with eyes wide open in the darkness, 
thinking of her. Yet, even then, as I listened 
to Hector's quiet breathing, and pictured the 

304 HECTOR. 

dangers of the road, I was glad that I had not 
let him come alone. 

The straw on which we lay was piled so high 
and wide that, as the cart jolted slowly on, it 
often brushed the branches of the trees on either 
side of the road, and, amidst showers of dew, 
startled birds flew out from time to time, fanning 
our faces with their wings as they passed through 
the keen air. We, moving along in our nest so 
high up, felt ourselves to be amongst them, and 
the strangeness of driving between the tree 
branches at that dark, quiet hour, with no com- 
panions but the awakening birds, combined with 
our thoughts to keep us both still and silent. 
Twice, at long intervals, Hector asked me in a 
low voice if I felt frightened, and when the 
second time I whispered back that I was not 
going to be frightened at all with him, he 
seemed satisfied, and we said nothing more till 
the mountain tops flamed with light, and all the 
country began to wake. Then, as the birds, no 
longer startled, flew out on every side in search 
of breakfast, and trees and hedges seemed alive 
with chirp and chatter and shrill song, as dogs 
in all the m^tairies began to bark, and oxen 
brought out to labor lowed gravely in the morn- 
ing air, as the sound of human voices came from 

HECTOR. 305 

the fields, and the sun spreading bright, lit up 
the dewy vines and grasses far and wide, Hector 
and I woke fully too, and discovered that, fike 
the birds, we wanted breakfast. Like them, we 
had to content ourselves with grapes and chest- 
nuts, for my basket held nothing else ; but we 
were not disposed to grumble, for, in the agita- 
tion of our grave adventure, breakfast seemed to 
both of us too small a trifle to be considered. 

We chatted a little while we ate, but we dared 
not raise our voices, for fear the sound might 
be heard above the rattle of the wagon-wheels, 
and we soon sank back into silence and the 
companionship of our own thoughts. We could 
not see the miller, and the fun we had antici- 
pated in making him drive us unawares to 
Montfort was forgotten. Hector's thoughts 
were evidently concentrated on future plans, 
and I sat beside him looking back. The country 
was glorious in russet and crimson and gold, 
and the deep blue of the autumn sky spread 
tranquil above the mountains, but, with vision of 
the heart more penetrating than bodily eyes, I 
saw, through all the beauty, only Grand'mere 
lonely ; and the pain and pleasure of that morn- 
ing journey were so keenly mixed, that the 
inward excitement alone remains in my memory. 

306 HECTOR. 

I have no recollection of any external incidents 
or details till, when the sun was almost directly 
above our heads, Hector woke me from my 
thoughts by the information that we were within 
a kilometre of the " Cruchon d'Or." From that 
time I remember everything quite distinctly. 

We got down from the cart by means of a 
hanging end of straw rope which Hector twisted 
and made fast, and we timed our descent in 
such a way that almost as our feet touched the 
ground, Baptiste urged his horses round the cor- 
ner to the inn. We were thus left standing on 
the road alone. We were on a little hill. We 
could see the white line lying straight for miles 
across the country. 

" This is the way to Montfort," said Hector ; 

And we began to walk. Even the miller 
seemed to me like an old friend as we left him 
behind. We were both exceedingly hungry, but 
as we did not dare to ask for anything to eat at 
an inn where the miller might very probably 
stop and dine, the first thing to be done was to 
walk on to another inn. We had come away, of 
course, in the everyday clothes we wore about 
the farm. I, in my blue pinafore, bare-headed ; 
Hector wearing the common " berret" of the 

HECTOR. 307 

country which Grand'mere had bought for him 
when his English hat wore out. We looked, 
therefore, like two little peasants, and we had no 
fear of being remarked, but for still further pre- 
caution we resolved to speak nothing but patois 
on the road. The second inn was a long way 
off. We had already walked for several kiloma 
tres, and I was beginning to feel faint and sick 
with hunger and the heat of the sun upon my 
head, when we were overtaken by an old man 
leading a donkey laden with panniers full of 

He was a respectable looking man, dressed in 
a clean, though faded blouse, and his long white 
hair floated on his shoulders like that of Jeanti 
St. Loubouet, so, as I spoke patois better than 
Hector, I asked him, without fear, if he would 
sell us two bunches of his grapes. 

He said no, that they were for the soldiers, 
and that they were too dear for us, half a franc 
a bunch. 

It was a shameful price, and we had no hesita- 
tion in telling him so ; but that was on the sol- 
diers' account. So far as we ourselves were 
concerned, we wanted them too badly to care 
what the price was. Hector pulled out one of 
his napoleons, and the old man's manner in- 
stantly changed. 

308 HECTOR. 

" Ah ! " said he. " If that is how it is, you arc 
among those who choose. Take which bunch 
you like, and, since we are going the same road, 
you had better journey on with me, till we meet 
the soldiers. I have no change to give you now, 
but when I have sold my grapes, I shall be full 
of money." 

We thought him very avaricious, but it is the 
common fault of our peasants to be too fond of 
money, and we were not sorry to have some one 
to show us the way in a country which was now 
quite unknown to us. So we agreed readily 
enough to his proposition, and he relieved my 
tired feet by putting me up on the donkey to 
ride between the panniers. He insisted also 
that Hector should keep his napoleon till we met 
with the soldiers, and as Hector dropped it back 
into the loose trouser pocket from which it came, 
he gave us much good advice on the necessity 
of taking care of money when we had it. 

Hector, never fond of. good advice, trudged on 
sturdily in the dust before us, but the old man, 
leading the donkey, walked by my side, and I 
had to listen, whether I liked it or not, to his 
conversation. The result of it was to terrify me 
very effectually. It seemed that an attempt had 
been made the night before to murder two child- 

HECTOR. 309 

ren on the road to Dax ; children, the old man 
told me, who were not much bigger than Hector 
and me. He wanted to know if we had heard 
anything of it, and when I told him that we had 
not, he said that he knew none of the details, he 
only repeated what he had heard that morning 
in the inn. But the mention of the story led to 
talk about other dreadful things, and while my 
blood ran cold, and I sat trembling from head to 
foot, he told me one horrible story after another 
of robbery and murder. I was so fascinated that 
I could not ask him to stop, and yet while he 
talked I became conscious of a growing repul- 
sion from him which made me long to reach the 
place where our journey together was to end. 

At last, to my joy, we came within sight of a 
field by the roadside, where, round little pyra- 
mids of stacked muskets, some hundreds of 
soldiers were sitting, or lying, or standing about 
in groups. 

It was the hottest hour of the afternoon. 
There was no shade in the field, and the sun 
poured down upon the gaudy uniforms and glit- 
tering musket-barrels till the stubble, amidst 
which the soldiers lay, seemed almost ablaze 
with color and light. But in our very short ac- 
quaintance with soldiers, Hector and I had 

310 HECTOR. 

already learned too much of their daily suffer- 
ings to take pleasure in the brilliant effect, and 
when we reached them we found what we had 
expected. They had been marching for hours 
in the heat and the dust. Their rations had 
gone, by mistake, to some other part of the 
country, and now, instead of being drawn up to 
rest by a spring in one of the many woods which 
clothed our hills, they were halting for an hour 
in the burning sun at a distance of more than 
half a kilometre from any water. Some lads 
from the nearest village were bringing water, 
and one barrel of wine the whole contents of 
the village inn had been sent out, but that was 
like nothing amongst so many, and the instant 
our grapes were seen we were surrounded with 
a rush which promised well for our old man's 
hopes of making money. Even those officers 
who were near pressed up to us with the eager- 
ness of schoolboys, and hands were thrust out 
on all sides to seize the fruit ; but when our 
guide announced the price of his merchandise, 
there was something like a wail of indignation 
from the men. Not one in twenty there proba- 
bly possessed half a franc. The hands so eagerly 
stretched out dropped back empty. Haggard 
faces, lit joyously a moment before by the hope 

HECTOR. 311 

of easing their torment of thirst, turned away 
more haggard. The parched throats and swol- 
len lips could hardly frame the husky cry of 
" shame, shame ! " which, faintly uttered by so 
many men, seemed to me the bitterest reproach 
I had ever heard ; and yet, almost savagely, the 
few who could pay elbowed their way through 
the crowd who could not, and they were still so 
many as to give our old man as much as he could 
do to serve them. 

Hector could not bear it. He jumped up 
beside me on the donkey. 

"Why do you not make him sell them cheap- 
er ! " he cried, commanding attention at once by 
the energy of his voice and gesture. " If nobody 
would buy, he must sell at your own price." 

There was a generous movement through the 

" He is right. Let us make an effort," cried 
a voice we recognized, and Sergeant Martin La- 
motte set the example of throwing back into the 
donkey's pannier the bunch of grapes he had 
scarcely tasted. More swiftly than I can de- 
scribe it the example was followed. A boyish- 
faced lieutenant of artillery, who had just secured 
two bunches, stopped in the act of raising a 
handful of berries to his black and swollen lips, 

3^2 HECTOR. 

and flung back the fruit untasted with a cry of 
" Well done, sergeant ! " Officers and men fol- 
lowed him. With one accord the crowd denied 
itself, and bunch after bunch fell into the don- 
key's baskets. There was a moment when 
Hector and I and the old man saw ourselves left 
alone with the grapes in the midst of a circle 
which withdrew from us, and a clamor arose of 
" Give us back our money, or else sell at half 
the price." 

There was nothing for it but surrender, and 
the old man agreed at once. 

" At half price ! " he cried, holding up a 
bunch in either hand, and in an instant the 
crowd was round us again. But as he turned to 
take the grapes from the pannier, I surprised a 
glance thrown from him to Hector which made 
me shudder from head to foot. 

" Oh, come away," I whispered, " I am sure 
that man is wicked ; " and scarcely knowing 
what I did, I dragged Hector to the outskirts of 
the crowd. 

There, notwithstanding the reduced price of 
the grapes, men were still standing who could 
only look on in silence with hungry eyes and 
hands thrust deep into pockets where not one 
sou was to be found. 

IlECTOE. 313 

"We could spare one napoleon, couldn't we, 
Zelie ? " Hector asked ; and he put his hand into 
his pocket to draw it out. 

The next instant a blank look overspread his 
countenance. A deep blush succeeded it ; he 
knelt down on the stubble to turn out his 
pockets. The Aviceptologie, from which since 
Grand'mere had given it to him for his own he 
was never separated, a dirty handkerchief, some 
wire, and some bits of wood were the sole con- 
tents, and after a hasty inspection of these 
objects he looked up at me with the blush still 
spreading, and penitence marked in every line 
of his face. 

" Zelie, I have lost them all." 

I was so overwhelmed that for an instant I 
could not speak. The soldiers round us asked 
if anything was the matter. Hector began to 
accuse himself : " I have brought .ier from 
home, and I have lost all " and then I found 
my voice. 

" No, he has not lost," I said. " We have 
been robbed, and I am convinced that old man 
is the robber. Three napoleons. We had them 
safe when we met him this morning." 

I had little imagined the effect of my words. 
The old man was already out of favor, and my 
accusation was instant 

3*4 HECTOR. 

" Robber ! robber ! seize him ! search him ! " 
was repeated from mouth to mouth. Not more 
than two or three knew what was the matter, 
but each member of the crowd seemed to take a 
personal pleasure in the punishment of the 
grape-seller. The excitement spread. Those 
from behind pressed on those that were in front. 
" Assassin " was soon added to the other epi- 
thets. " Hold him ! secure him ! " was shouted 
on all sides. A scuffle of some sort took place. 
A cry like a prolonged "Ah ! " rang through the 
crowd, and when a soldier near us snatched me 
up in his arms that I might see, the sight which 
met my astonished eyes was no longer the 
white-haired old man in the spotless and neatly 
mended blouse, but our well-known tramp, still 
struggling, ragged and dirty, in the hands of the 
soldiers who had rolled him on the ground. His 
white wig lay at his feet. "One of the white 
eyebrows had fallen off, the other still remained 
in its place. He had shaved his chin since we 
had last seen him, but in spite of all there was 
no mistaking him now. I understood why the 
glance he had given Hector had filled me with 

Everything happened so quickly that I 
scarcely knew how it came about. There was 

HECTOR. 315 

a great confusion ; officers from other parts 
came up. In another moment two gendarmes 
had made their appearance ; the tramp's elbows 
were bound behind him. I heard the gendarmes 
reply in answer to some excited explanations : 
"Ah! it's for something graver than picking a 
little boy's pocket that we want him," and the 
tramp, who seemed utterly cowed, whined out, 
" They are not dead, therefore it's not murder." 
And then, as the tramp was being mounted on 
his own donkey to be led away, Hector plucked 
my sleeve and whispered, " Zelie, let us run 
before they pay attention to us." 

It was not a minute too soon. We were only 
just on the other side of the hedge when we 
heard a cry raised of " The children," and, while 
the soldiers were looking for us in the field, we 
ran with all our speed along trie ditch, and found 
shelter under the bushes of a little wood. 

We watched the tramp and his escort move 
away. We saw the soldiers come out after a 
time, and march in the opposite direction ; and 
then, when all was quiet and we were left alone, 
Hector turned to me and took both my hands 
in his. 

" Here we are, Zelie," he said, " without any 
money, and I know that you are hungry ; but I 

316 HECTOR. 

will get you something to eat somehow, if you 
can hold out a little longer. And you wouldn't 
like to turn back now, would you, just because 
of wickedness ? " 

There was a strange gentleness in his voice, 
as though he thought he had got me into trouble, 
and was sorry for it. But less than ever then 
should I have liked to turn back, and I told 
him so. 

It cannot be denied that we did feel very 
hungry and tired and footsore, as we trudged 
through the remaining hours of the afternoon 
along the dusty high road. We had gone out of 
our way to the soldiers. We had little or no 
hope of reaching Montfort that night, and unless 
we arrived there, we had no idea where we 
should sleep, or eat, or how we should rest 
ourselves. We were so tired that we walked, I 
think, very slowly, and it was well we did. 
Towards nightfall we asked in a village we 
passed through how far it was to Montfort, and 
we were told that we had been coming the wrong 
way. We were as far from Montfort still as 
when we started from the soldier's field. 

It was a terrible disappointment. I could not 
see Hector's face, and there was a moment of 
dead silence in the darkness. Then I heard 

HECTOR. 317 

Hector's voice shake, and, abandoning the oatois 
he had hitherto used, he said in French, and 
with the indescribable dignity which caused the 
people round Salaret to call him the little 
English milord : 

"Will you have the kindness to give Made- 
moiselle a cup of milk and a piece of bread ? 1 
have no money to repay you, but we have lost 
our way, and she is both hungry and tired." 

The woman he addressed had spoken to him 
before as to a little peasant. Now she perceived 
her mistake, and perhaps she also heard the 
quiver in his voice, for she answered cordially, 
and brought us food at once out to the door. 

My -hunger had, by this time, become such a 
craving that the cup of milk she gave me was 
drained almost as soon as my lips had touched 
the brim. What was my disappointment then 
to hear Hector say, as she offered some in turn 
to him : 

" No, thank you, I am not hungry." 

I knew well why it was.' He would beg for 
me he would not beg for himself. I had no 
pride. I accepted gratefully the generous slice 
the woman cut from her corn loaf, and hid a 
large half under the napkin, which was all that 
remained in our little basket. We could not 

318 HECTOR. 

hope now to sleep at Montfort, so, at the risk of 
being taken up for trespassers, we crept into the 
first wood we reached, and, by the pale light of 
the stars, we made a bed of dried bracken and 
leaves, in which we very gladly laid our tired 
limbs. Then I, who had been watching my 
Opportunity, ventured : 

" You must be dreadfully hungry, Hector." 

" Rather." 

" Look once more if there isn't a bit of bread 
hidden in the folds of the napkin. The idea 
comes to me that we didn't shake the napkin 
when we looked this morning." 

I did my very best to makemy voice suffi- 
ciently hopeless, but my heart thumped against 
my side, till Hector's joyous cry announced at 
once the success of my stratagem and the ex- 
tremity of his hunger. 

" Oh, Ze"lie, such a jolly big bit ! Won't you 
have some ? " 

If he had not been so hungry he would not 
have been deceived, "for, though the bread was 
stale, it was not like bread which had been cut 
the day before. As it was, he suspected noth- 
ing, but lay and munched it by my side, with 
such comic expressions of delight, that I, for 
very happiness, fell asleep as soon as the last 

HECTOR. 319 

mouthful had been disposed of ; and to this day 
he does not know that he ever ate bread which 
had been begged. 

The night was fortunately fine, and we had 
given ourselves such a plentiful covering of 
bracken, that though the woods were sparkling 
in dew when we awoke, we found ourselves 
warm and dry, and much refreshed by ten hours 
of comfortable sleep. 

As we were preparing to leave our bed, we 
were startled by the barking of a keeper's dog. 
There was no time to get away, and Hector 
would not even attempt it. When the keeper 
came up, Hector told all that was needful to tel] 
of our story. We had tried to walk from the 
" Cruchon d'Or" to Montfort, we had lost our 
money and missed the way, and having nowhere 
else to sleep, we had crept into the wood. 
Would he tell us the way we ought to go ? In 
our crushed and dirty clothes we looked shabby 
and poverty stricken, and Hector did not now 
speak French. The keeper evidently took us 
for two little vagrants, and said somewhat sharp- 
ly that our parents would do better to keep us 
at home than to send us out to seek for an exist- 
ence on the high roads. 

"Nevertheless," he added, "if you are good 

320 HECTOR. 

for anything, you will be glad to earn your din- 
ner by a little honest work. They have begun 
the vintage to-day in that farm up on the hill. 
They are short of hands, and, if you say I sent 
you, they will give you a day's work, and a 
dinner at the end of it." 

The eagerness with which Hector accepted 
his offer cut short some mutterings about the 
lock-up being the proper place for us, and with 
the joyful prospect of dinner before our ejes, we 
were soon in the vineyard he had pointed out. 
But to work for our bread was, as we soon found, 
a different matter to running down for amuse- 
ment, as we did at home, to help the reapers, 
while the inclination lasted. Five hours' toil in 
the full blaze of the a'utumn sun had almost ex- 
hausted us before the hour came to serve out 
the onion soup and bread. I felt too sick to 
taste it when it was given to us. Hector, tired as 
he was, was hungry still, and when he had made 
a hearty meal, felt so much refreshed, that he 
declared himself ready to run, if necessary, the 
whole way to Montfort, but I thought with dis- 
may of the long stretch of road, and scarcely 
knew how I should force my feet to move. In- 
deed, we soon found that it was impossible for 
me to go further without rest. Though I tried 

HECTOR. 321 

hard to be as strong as Hector, my head began 
to spin, and my feet refused their office. In- 
stead of walking I was presently staggering 
from side to side of the road, and we agreed that 
the only thing to be done was to give up for the 
present, and lie down again in a wood to rest. 

Nothing could have been tenderer than Hec- 
tor was to me. He gathered leaves and bracken 
to make me a bed, and when he saw me crying 
for disappointment to find myself thus a hin- 
drance to him in his undertaking, he comforted 
me gently, and said that .anyhow I was as brave 
as a boy, and that he would never say again girls 
could not keep their promises. So, with my 
hand in his, I fell asleep, and when I woke, I 
found that he had been back to the farm and got 
a piece of bread and some grapes for me instead 
of the dinner I had rejected. When I sat up, 
refreshed by sleep, ready and glad to eat some- 
thing, he looked on with great relief. He had 
thought I was going to be ill, but nothing was 
the matter with me except fatigue and hunger, 
and now, having rested and eaten, I found my- 
self to my delight quite ready to go on again. 

Unfortunately it was late in the afternoon, 
and, night found us still a long way from Mont- 
fort. We slept again in a hospitable wood, and 

322 HECTOR. 

breakfasted, as we had supped the night before, 
on a drink of water from a delicious spring, but 
towards midday I began to feel faint and ill, as 
on the previous afternoon. 

We had to pass through a little town, and the 
sight of the fruit and bread set out in the shop 
windows made me giddy. 

The expression on Hector's face helped me to 
recover myself. 

" Do you feel starved, Zelie ? " he asked anx- 
iously, and at the same time he threw such a 
glance of despair upon the shops as I know no 
suffering of his own would ever have drawn 
from him. 

"No, oh, no!" I said; "I think I'm just a 
little thirsty." 

We were close by the fountain, and when I 
had drunk the cup of water Hector filled for me, 
and bathed my face, and rested for a little while, 
I was able by the help of Hector's arm to go on 
again. Once outside the town we thought we 
might find a sheltered place in which I could 
sleep, as I had done the day before. 

It was the general dinner hour, and the streets 
were almost empty. No one noticed us but an 
old woman who was selling roast chestnuts at 
the corner of the street, and, as I lingered a mo- 

HECTOR. 323 

ment in the delicious smell, she thrust a handful 
of her wares almost into my face. I was, I sup- 
pose, half stupid, for I thought she meant to 
give them to us, and put my hand out eagerly 
to receive them. At the same moment she 
screamed, in a sharp, strident voice, "A sou 
for six," and Hector, drawing me on, dashed her 
hand roughly on one side. She cast after him 
an objurgation on his want of manners. I saw 
that his face was red, and, for the first and only 
time during our journey, tears were trembling 
on his eyelashes. 

When we had reached a place where I could 
rest, he made me as comfortable as he could, and 
then he left me, saying that he would bring me 
something to eat somehow. I was too languid to 
think or to ask any questions. I fell into a kind 
of dose, which was half sleep, half stupor, and 
I was dreaming of hot roast chestnuts when I 
was wakened by Hector's voice, saying : 
" Zelie ! Zelie ! wake up now and eat." 
He was kneeling beside me, bareheaded, with 
a glowing triumphant face, and in his cap, which 
he held in both hands, there was bread and hot 
roast chestnuts. I could hardly believe at first 
that it was not still a dream ; but the smell of 
the chestnuts, the eager joy of Hector as he 

324 HECTOR. 

peeled one of them and put it to my lips, con- 
vinced me that I was awake, that this time I 
might put my hand out and take food. I did not 
say a word, I began to eat, and no one who has 
not been hungry can conceive what it was like 
to feel life coming back with every mouthful. 
The pain in my head grew less, the blood seemed 
to move again in my arms and legs, I felt light 
and bright once more, and even before I was 
able to think there was the delicious sense 
through my enjoyment that Hector had brought 
me this relief. 

As soon as my head was clear enough, I asked 
him how he had managed to get food. 

For all answer he turned his pocket inside 
out. The dirty handkerchief was there, and the 
wood and wire. The Aviceptologie was gone. 

" Hector, you have sold the book that Grand'- 
mere gave you because you loved it so, and for 

He nodded. Then, after carefully considering 
his crust, he took an immense bite, and re 
markecj, with a humorous twinkle in his eyes, 
" Not for you, for chestnuts." 

J knew better. 

" How rnuch did you get for it ? " I asked 
presently, ^Yhen I had swallowed the lump which 
rose in my throat. 

HECTOR. 325 

" Six sous. They said it was old-fashioned 
and shabby," he explained in answer to my 
exclamation of dismay. " I showed them the 
pictures ; they said they were neither pretty nor 
entertaining. They have bought it for waste- 

We neither of us said any more, it was like 
a friend to us. 

Our journey had become painful now, indeed. 
I would not for the world have taken away 
Hector's courage by expressing doubts of our 
success, but in my heart I began to feel that we 
should never reach Montfort. Hector, too, was 
almost exhausted. He made jokes from time to 
time to cheer me, but he looked sad in between, 
and he had dark tired rings under his eyes. We 
spoke no more to each other of Georges or of 
Montfort, but plodded slowly on, each, I believe, 
with the desperate determination to go so long 
as we could move our feet. Towards nightfall 
it began to rain ; still we went on and on, seeing 
no suitable place to sleep, till at last, wet and 
shivering, we entered the suburbs of a town, and 
exchanged the mud of the roads for closely set, 
pointed, paving stones which, twisting and 
bruising our swollen feet, added such unendur- 
able pain to our fatigue, that we stopped as with 

326 HECTOR. 

one accord. We had no need to speak, each 
knew what the other felt. But what was to be 
done? We gazed in silence down the feebly 
lighted street, and then looked back into the 
country from which we had come. The rain 
was pouring down straight and heavy ; all behind 
us was darkness and mud. 

" You cannot sleep there, Z61ie," Hector said, 
and we looked again into the town. The street 
in which we stood was quite empty ; cutting it, 
at a little distance, there was another, which 
seemed wider and better lighted, and we could 
see people moving to and fro, but to reach it we 
must cross two hundred yards of paving stones. 
I cared little what became of us ; I would have 
liked to lie down where we were, but Hector, 
after gazing for a moment, drew my arm into his 
and led me forward. 

" You must not sleep in the open air to-night," 
he murmured in the tone of one who is uttering 
a familiar thought aloud. And when we got into 
the light of the broader street, I could see that 
he had taken a resolution. 

" What are you going to do, Hector ? " I 

" I am going to sing ! " he said ; "people will 
give us perhaps a few sous." 

HECTOR. 327 

To sing for money in the public streets, he, 
my little gentleman, Hector ! Exhausted as I 
was, the thought roused me. 

" Hector, think of your grandfather ; what 
would he say ? " 

" He would say," Hector answered with a 
little smile, " that a gentleman must not fail the 
people who trust him." 

He drew me down into the middle of the 
street, and, as if my words had reminded him 
of something, the song he chose to begin with 
was the English " Home, sweet Home!" 

I only heard the first verse. As he was 
beginning the second my eyes fell on a familiar 
face in the little circle which came round us ; my 
head spun suddenly round, and, instead of the 
words of Hector's song, the last sound which 
struck upon my conscious ears was the voice of 
Georges of St. Loubouet exclaiming in conster- 
nation : 

" Gracious heavens, Monsieur Hector ! What 
are you doing in this plight in the high street of 
Montfort ? " 

We were in Montfort ! Georges was there ! 
The next thing I knew was that I was dry and 
warm in a comfortable bed, with Dr. Charles 
sitting beside me feeling my pulse, and Marie 

528 HECTOR. 

Monthez standing ready with a basin of broth ; 
turning from them to look for Hector, I saw him 
seated in an arm-chair by the fire, with just such 
a basin as mine steaming on a little table at his 
elbow : and by degrees I understood that Dr. 
Charles had been passing in his carriage when 
Georges picked me up, and that he had driven 
us all to the house of Madame Monthez, where 
we were welcome, as Marie hospitably told us, 
to rest and eat for ever if we liked. 

HECTOR. 329 


~D EST was delicious, indeed, between the 
herb-scented sheets, but we did not sleep 
till Hector had told why we came. Marie's 
father listened with the others to our story. 
When it was finished, he turned to Marie and 
Georges where they stood together, and said : 

" My children, you were right. A marriage 
between you is impossible. When the miller 
comes to-morrow for his final answer, it is I who 
will give it to him once for all." 

Marie and Georges exchanged a hearty shake 
of the hand. 

" The fact is," Marie said, with a smile, 
" Georges and I like each other too much to be 
willing to make one another mutually unhappy. 
Now we shall remain friends to the end of our 

" But that won't be much use," Hector said, 
"unless Georges gets Irma from the miller." 
And here Dr. Charles stood up and said, with 


his kindly face glowing for sympathy, that he had 
an idea, and that if Georges would go outside 
with him, he would tell his plan. He buttoned 
his great coat and took his hat, saying that he 
would not return that evening, and he and 
Georges went out together. When Georges 
returned half-an-hour later, his lip was quivering 
with emotion, and his hand trembled as he held 
it out to Hector. 

"I shall never thank you," he said; "you 
have given me a happiness that you cannot even 

Two tears overflowed from his swimming 
eyes, and as he dashed them away with the 
back of his big brown hand, he said apologeti- 
cally to the assembled circle. 

" Excuse me ! it is joy." 

It was enough for that one night. Weary 
with so many strange emotions, I fell asleep 
without even trying to think what Dr. Charles' 
plan might be. 

When I woke, it was afternoon, and Grand'- 
mere was at my bedside. Dr. Charles had 
driven through the night to Salaret, and at 
break of day Grand'mere had started with fresh 
horses to come to us. To tell my joy at -seeing 
her, the sorrow I expressed for all the anxiety 


we had caused, is of little use. Everyone who 
knows Grand'mere knows that any fault com- 
mitted against her alone is soon forgiven ; and 
she has never in her life been more gentle to 
me than she was that day. 

" Yes," she said, " we have passed through 
many emotions. For a time we believed that 
you had been murdered on the road to Dax; and 
I blamed myself to have left you without care. 
You have also your share before you. You must 
take your courage in your two hands. But 
remember that your Grand'mere is always there 
who loves you as the child of her old age." 

She helped me to dress in the clean clothes 
that she had brought with her, and I was sur- 
prised to find how weak and tired I still was. I 
was glad to have her arm to lean upon as we 
went into the kitchen. 

An unusual number of people were there. 
Georges and Irma stood hand in hand by the 
window, looking so happy that there was no 
need to ask any questions about them. It scarce- 
ly occurred to me to be surprised at seeing Irma 
at Montfort, but when my eyes fell on Irma's 
father and mother dressed in their best clothes, 
and chatting affably to M. Monthez, I began to 
think that something strange must have hap- 

332 HECTOR. 

pened. Hector sprang forward to meet us as 
we entered the room, and his face was a revela- 
tion to me. 

" What is it ? " I asked, with a sudden fear I 
could not account for. 

" You have not told her ? " said Dr. Charles. 
And as Grand'mere answered "No;" Hector 

" First of all, Georges is rich, and he is to 
marry Irma in the spring." 

I clapped my hands for joy, as, hearing their 
names, Georges and Irma turned their radiant 
faces on us from the window ; and it was in the 
midst of a happy murmur of congratulation, that 
Grand'mere said, 

" But the fact is, my poor little Z61ie, there is 
sadness for you underneath all this, for Hector 
has to go." 

Joyous sounds all round me, brilliant faces, 
only Hector gravely holding my hand in a silence 
I understood, while, with interruptions of joy 
and gratitude from the bystanders, Grand'mere 
Lold a story which accounted for all I saw. 

On the very day we left Salaret, she had re- 
turned home to find a letter waiting for her from 
Hector's grandfather, in which Hector's imme- 
diate return to England was desired. A terrible . 

HECTOR. 333 

yachting accident had left the old man nearly 
desolate. Hector's three uncles had been 
drowned. The little orphan for whom but a 
short time before there had been no place, was 
now his grandfather's only heir. 

Our disappearance under the circumstances, 
with the country full of strange men, and dis- 
quieting rumors afloat of children murdered on 
the road to Dax, was too grave an occurrence to 
be concealed from Hector's guardians. Grand- 
'mere had telegraphed to England, and the 
instructions which were telegraphed back from 
England caused placards to be immediately 
posted through the department offering a re- 
ward of five thousand francs for our recovery. 

Dr. Charles was the first to see that Georges 
had fairly earned the reward, and when the 
object of our journey was made known there 
was little division of opinion in the matter. 
Five thousand francs in ready money, with the 
farm of St. Loubouet to come to him, and 
Grand'mere's goodwill, put Georges very nearly 
on a level with the miller as a match for Irma, 
and there was now no objection to the marriage 
we had so much desired. 

I heard it all as in a dream. Irma and Georges 
were rich and happy. Hector was to be rich 

334 HECTOR. 

and happy, and to live with the grandfather that 
he loved. Everyone round me was full of joy; 
I also ought to rejoice, and all I understood of 
the whole story was that Hector was going. 

" Fortune has turned at last ! " exclaimed Ma- 
dame Lagrace joyously; and then, with the one 
cry of " Hector ! " I threw my arms round his 

He knew what I meant. 

" I will come back," he whispered, as he felt 
my sobs rise against his breast ; and amid the 
ever-increasing cackle of congratulation, I heard 
Grand'mere saying gently, 

" It is for his good, Zelie." 

Yes, it was for his good. That was the best 
thought to comfort me. I repeated it to myself, 
when I looked again at the happy faces, and I 
felt that it was wicked to grudge them their hap- 
piness. Yet the joy on every countenance 
seemed to drive me cruelly away, and my eyes 
did not rest till they fell on Marie Monthez, who 
alone of the strangers looked on with pity. 

Our eyes met, and I knew as one does know 
things sometimes in an instant, that she was not 
happy like the rest. 

At the same moment she started and colored 
slightly. A shadow had fallen upon the floor, 
and the miller entered the room. 

HECTOR. 335 

The scene was evidently a complete surprise 
for him. His red face grew positively pale for 
an instant, and his jaw dropped as he perceived 
Georges and Irma by the window, where they 
still stood hand in hand. They were so happy 
they saw nothing. They did not know the mil- 
ler had come in. 

I could see Marie's eyes follow him with the 
pitiful expression deepening into pain. 

M. Monthez came forward. 

" I am sorry, Baptiste," he said, " I would 
have spared you this surprise, but I did not ex- 
pect you till the evening. Your answer is clear, 
I think." And he indicated with his right hand 
Georges and Irma. 

" You mean that she marries the other?" said 
the miller, stupidly staring at the couple in the 

" Yes, and if you weren't a fool, you'd marry 
another, too ! " cried a sharp voice behind him. 

We turned to see Marie Anna. 

" Oh, yes ! " she replied in answer to the ex- 
pression with which the miller met this new 
surprise. "You thought I would remain at the 
mill for ever while you made a fool of yourself at 
your leisure in Montfort. Ma foi, I could stand 
it no longer, and I took the diligence last night 
to come and see my son." 

33 6 HECTOR. 

Then Baptiste's wrath found a vent. 

"Don't plague me with your son!" he thun- 
dered ; " I don't believe you have a son ; or if 
you have, go to him for good and all." 

" So I will ! " replied Marie Anna smartly, 
"and to the inn of the ' Cruchon d'Or' also. 
My son has bought the goodwill, and he can do 
without me no longer. Therefore I give you 
here my eight days' notice." 

" Eight days' notice ! " repeated the miller, 
suddenly sobered ; " after forty-seven years of 
service, you give me eight days' notice ! But 
what is to become of me ? " 

" Little I care," replied Marie Anna, " what 
becomes of you. I have had enough in forty- 
seven years of serving a fool. Ah, I have no 
son ! Well, continue, continue as you are doing, 
and we shall see which of us two will grow old 
with grandchildren about our knees." 

The allusion was like the prodding of a goad 
in the miller's pride. He evidently writhed un- 
der it, and the color mounted purple over his 
forehead as he made an effort to contain him- 
self and answered humbly, 

" But the linen, Marie Anna ! Who will look 
after it ? And the provisions ? It is you who 
keep them always locked. You cannot plant 
me there with nobody ? " 

HECTOR. 337 

He looked so big, so helpless, so shamefaced, 
that a heart of stone must have felt some pity 
for him. 

" Foster-mother," said Marie Monthez, " you 
will stay with him a little longer." 

" Not a day ! " retorted Marie Anna. " It is 
for those who feel sorry for him to help him now 
if they like. I've borne with him for forty-seven 
years, and I have had enough." 

"Ah, yes!" she continued, addressing the 
miller with renewed fire of sarcasm. "You 
think it is I, with my worn-out eyes, who for the 
last ten years have mended your linen, you 
think it is I who take the trouble to renew the 
rosemary and lavender every summer in the 
shelves. You think it is I who spend my time 
in seeking receipts to tempt your appetite. 
Undeceive yourself, I would never have been so 
foolish as to devote myself thus to a man ! 
But," and she turned to the assembled company, 
" see a little the imbecility of men. There is 
one of whom nature has made a mass of egoism, 
seeing no farther than his nose, asking nothing 
but to let his comfort pass before everything in 
the world. Here is an angel of intelligence and 
devotion, who has but one folly, that of being 
ready to pass her life in his service. And he, at 


338 HECTOR. 

his age, spends his time in running on the one 
side after a young girl who detests him, and on 
the other after an old scold who despises him. 
Oh, men ! We have to spend our lives in 
showing them that two and two make four." 

" I am of opinion," said Grand'mere good- 
humoredly, as all eyes turned to the burning 
countenances of the miller and Marie Monthez, 
" that this is a case for showing how from four 
we can make two and two. What do you say, 
Baptiste ? the world has given you Marie 
Monthez for a bride long since." 

The miller had been brought very low ! 

" Is it true ? " he asked, with an awkward 
attempt to take Marie Monthez's hand; "you 
will love me and you will not throw me over ? " 
He cast a rueful glance on either side as he spoke 
to Irma and to Marie Anna. 

Marie Monthez had recovered her composure 
by this time. 

" I have loved you all my life, Baptiste," she 
said simply, "and you know I am a good 

So it was settled to the great delight of Marie 
Anna, who, notwithstanding her contempt for 
the miller, entertained a respect for the mill, 
which had caused her, as she now avowed, to 


HECTOR. 339 

plan this marriage for her foster-child thirty 
years ago, when the little Marie was still a baby 
at her breast. 

One other pleasant thing happened before my 
great sorrow came. Grand'mdre bought back 
the Aviceptologie on our way to Salaret, and 
restored it to Hector. 

Before he went to England, he in his turn 
gave it to me because, he said, it was the thing 
he had of his own which he loved the most, and 
he would come back some day to fetch it. But 
of all the rest I cannot speak. We hear from 
him often, I have never seen him since. 

It is a long time now since these things 
happened, and I suppose I have grown to be a 
woman. A little while ago I felt quite like a 
child ; but on the day on which I first began to 
write about Hector, Dr. Charles asked Grand'- 
mere to let me be his wife. He said he had 
loved me ever since that day in the spring time 
long ago, when he saw me coming down Esque- 
besse's lane in the sunshine, with my pinafore 
pockets full of flowers. I am very sorry I 
cannot love him too, but Grand'mere allowed me 
to decide for myself, and I am still to stay at 
Salaret. Since this took place, I have felt that 
I am not quite a child, and I have tried to grow 

340 HECTOR. 

wiser and more sensible as a woman ought to be. 
But I hardly know yet which I am, and I ask 
myself sometimes whether it is a child's folly or 
a woman's, which makes me still believe Hector's 
promise, " I will come back." 




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HARRY BLOUNT. Passages in a Boy's Life on Land 
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