By the Same Author.
A STORY OF YOUTHFUL DAYS.
" 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.
FLORA L. SHAW.
AUTHOR OF " CASTLE BLAIR."
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
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
" 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
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
" 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
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-
" 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
Hector looked at me. Then his face wrinkled
into laughter, and he replied with twinkling
" 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
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-
" 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
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
" 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
"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
" 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
"There are two," said Esquebesse with a
smile, " who think like you, Pierre, that union
" 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
" 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
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 ? "
" 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
" 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
" 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
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
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
" 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
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
" 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 ? "
" 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
" 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
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
" 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
" 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
"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-
" 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-
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
"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
" 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
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
" 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
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
" 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
" 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
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
" 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
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
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
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
" 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."
" 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
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-
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-
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-
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
" 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,
saying "It was as much my fault as hers. I
made her laugh."
Grand'mere looked at him sharply for an
" 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
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-
" 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
" 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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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-
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
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
" 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
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
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.
" 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
" 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
" 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
" 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 ? "
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
"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
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 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
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?"
"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
" 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
" 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
The miller seemed very much in earnest. I
could not resist the temptation to look round
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
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
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
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."
" There is one with whom I would soon settle
"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
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
" 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."
"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
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."
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
HECTOR. I4 1
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.
H EC TOE.
/ 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
" 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,"
"And quick and active, and full of fore-
thought ; also dexterous and industrious and
" 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
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
" 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
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,
"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,
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-
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
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 ? "
" 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
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
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
" 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.
"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,
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
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-
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
" 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
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
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.
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.
" 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.
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.
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
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,"
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
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
" 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
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
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."
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
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
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
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-
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
As Dr. Charles and Hector and I were going
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
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
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
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
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."
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
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
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
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
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 ? "
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
" 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
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
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
" 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 :
" 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,
' 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
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
" 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.
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
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
" Do me the pleasure to be silent. It is not
for the chillren to mix themselves up with
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
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
" 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,
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.
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
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
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
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
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
" 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.
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.
" 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
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
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
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 :
" 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
" 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 ? "
" 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
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-
" 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
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
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
" 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
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
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.
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,
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
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
" 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
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.
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
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
Hector was already standing on the window-
sill, his pinafore and coat thrown off.
" Tell them not to turn on the water," he said.
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.
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 ! "
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
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
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
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."
" 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.
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
" 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."
" 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
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-
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
" 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
" 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
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
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."
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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 oth.er rations," he said, " it is
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
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
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
the best way is for them to have it, so that they
" 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
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
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 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."
"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.
" 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
"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."
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
S 2 HECTOE.
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
" 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."
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
" 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
"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
"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
surprise, as one looks at a person one has never
" 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
"If you will wait," he said, "we will find
some way of letting Georges know, and he will
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.
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
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
" 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,
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."
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
" Yes," said Hector, in his most absent man-
ner. " It is fine weather too for fishing."
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.
" Do you ever catch anything ? "
. 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.
" 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
" 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 ? "
" 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
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,
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.
~^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.
" 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-
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
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-
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-
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
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-
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-
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
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.
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
" 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
"Calm yourself, dear sister," he replied, in
the tone of Sceur Amelie, " these rages are bad
for the soul."
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
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-
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
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,"
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
" 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
" 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
" 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
remember what they were, and he will learn
them in a minute once he knows."
But my interposition only increased Soeur
" 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
" 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,
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."
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
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
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
" 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
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
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
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
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,"
" 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-
" 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
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.
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.
\\ 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
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
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.
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
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
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-
" 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
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-
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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.
"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
" 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
" 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
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
" Here we are, Zelie," he said, " without any
money, and I know that you are hungry ; but I
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
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'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
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."
" 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
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
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
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
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
" 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
"No, oh, no!" I said; "I think I'm just a
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-
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
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.
" 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
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."
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-
" 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
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.
~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-
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
" 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 .
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
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.
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 ? "
He looked so big, so helpless, so shamefaced,
that a heart of stone must have felt some pity
" 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
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
'IT IS LONG NOW SINCE THESE THINGS HAPPENED, AND I
SUPPOSE I HAVE GROWN TO BE A WOMAN." PAGE 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
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."
MBS. SWING'S BOOK OF BOYS.
WE AND THE WORLD.
By Mrs. EWING. Price, $1.25
ROBERTS BROTHERS, Publishers,
JOLLY GOOD TIMES;
CHILD LIFE ON A FARM.
BY P. THORNE. PRICE $1.25.
ROBERTS BROTHERS, PUBLISHERS,
HARRY BLOUNT. Passages in a Boy's Life on Land
and Sea. By PHILIP GILBERT HAMERTON. Price $1.50.
ROBERTS BROTHERS, PUBLISHERS,
BOB BROWN'S BOY-BOOK
"WILL BRADLEY AND I."
Written by one of us for the amusement of Pa's and
Ma's in general, Aunt Lovisa in particular.
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