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A TALE BY MM. ERCKMANN-CHATRIAN, AUTHORS OF
erect; not arrogantly, not in mean terror When George came home of an evenard abject self-depreciation, but in rev-ing, after having gone round the timbererent affection and trust : as a man ought yards and saw-mills, the young fellow to stand.
PETER BAYNE. turned his head away to avoid seeing
what was going on within. The father and son behaved as if they did not know each other, and the mother, whose eyes
were now always red, carried her boy's From The St. James Magazine. meals up-stairs to him. THE TWO BROTHERS.
Once only did Monsieur Jacques say,
with great bitterness, Florent, I have THE CONSCRIPT," ETC.
two brother Jeans now! one in-doors, one
out; this house is no longer mine, I am CHAPTER XVII.
no longer master here." LOUISE became gradually worse and His misery and sorrow oozed out in worse from the day this notice was hung spite of his will. “Ah,” he would say, up at the Mairie. The wedding had to be if I did but sleep on the hill-side, with delayed. Physicians were sent for in all the others, by our old church! They directions ; they came and held consulta- are at rest and know nothing of the troutions. There were Monsieur Bourgard bles of this world." from Saarbourg, a man of great fame and But if Monsieur Jacques was wretched experience, he was well known all over on one side of the street, Monsieur Jean the country, there was Monsieur Péqui- was just as miserable on the other. gnot from Lorquin, Monsieur Heitz from Each time I went by the bare hedges at Fénétrange, Monsieur Weber from Boux- the bottom of his garden I saw Monsieur willer, and, finally, all the medical author- Jean walking up and down, bareheaded, ities to be had for ten leagues round in nothing but his greyish-blue knitted Chaumes.
jacket, in rain or in sunshine. He never They were to be seen continually com- ceased walking up and down, and could ing and going, but no one knew the result not stop in-doors, where the nurse Rosaof their deliberations.
lie and the physicians were masters. The head-keeper had obtained a leave This stony-hearted man was sinking: of absence and had gone, it was said, to He stooped, and his nose lengthened fetch the legal certificates required for visibly, like the beaks of certain eagles, his marriage. His place was filled dur- which grow down so long that they caning his absence by Caille, the horse- not part them, and die for want of food; guard from St. Quirin.
a proper retribution for their ferocity and Autumn had returned with its deep love of prey. melancholy and cold winds which always In my opinion Monsieur Jean had deheralded winter in. I went to Monsieur served all this; and I used to think, le Maire's every day after school, to fill “You old sinner! you have not only the duties of secretary of the commune. brought all this on yourself for the past, I found him a great sufferer from rheu- but you deserve it all for the present, matism; but he suffered in silence, sit- because you have obstinately made up ting with his leg stretched out on a stool, your mind to sacrifice your own child, by his elbow on his desk, and his eyes forcing her to marry a man she cannot turned towards the windows, against the bear. I do not pity you — pride and panes of which withered vine-leaves fell hatred should be punished.” from off the gable branches, while the I saw him one evening on his knees in wind blew pieces of straw all about from church, praying with his whole heart, and the loft. Everything seemed to be dying apparently in great trouble of mind. away, and the tall poplars along the road- Louise, I thought, must be in a very side kept up a constant moan.
alarming state for such a man as this to I used to sit writing, while he remained be praying so fervently. I looked and quiet, always in deep thought.
saw there was no sham in him then; “I am getting old, Florent,” said he something extraordinary was certainly one day to me; “ I have worked too hard going on. - and what for?"
I had gone up to fetch a book from off “ Monsieur le Maire," I replied, “there the organ-desk, and the sight of this are still happy days in store for you.” terrible man all alone in the dark church,
" Never," said he, “never ; 'it is all kneeling, with his head in his two hands, over !"
greatly struck me. I feared it would
soon be over with poor Louise, and raised into almost nothing. He speaks to nomy soul to my Maker, imploring His help body; people come and go without his and mercy
minding. Come, in the name of heaven, I was not mistaken, for the first thing Monsieur Florent !” Marie-Barbe said when I reached home I had not waited for all this, but had was,
already put my hat on and was running " Have you heard that all the doctors down-stairs, neither did I slacken my have given Louise up, Florent? A great pace until I got near the house. physician, of the name of Ducondray, has As Rosalie had said, the house-door been sent for from Nancy.”
was wide open, any one who liked could “No, I knew nothing about it,” I re- walk in and out. Servants were standing plied : “but I had a kind of load here, a about their masters' carriages, and looked forewarning of some evil. That's what it at me when I went in. The doctors was." I entered my study in a more were all assembled in the large pianosolemn reverie than I had ever been in room, which opened in the hall. Four or before.
five of the older looking, in hooded cloaks, We did not mention Louise's 'name untied neckties, and with their hair in over supper, but we all thought of her, disorder, were quarrelling together, like each sorrowing for the poor child we had all savants do, caring for no one's conseen so beautiful, so full of life and youth, cerns but their own. so good to the poor, and now in a hope- When I entered, Monsieur Bourgard, less condition.
from Saarbourg, who knew me, exclaimed, I prayed for her before I sought rest. “ There he is.' The next day the medical men arrived, I bowed in some confusion to all of and met, under the presidence of Mon- them. One of the number, a tall man in sieur Ducondray, for a final consultation. a black coat and white necktie, with a It was now the end of autumn, the long face, big nose, wide mouth, broad, weather, after incessant rain, had set high wrinkled forehead, and with as digin fine again ; the trees were leafless, and nified a mien as one of our university the flocks had ceased to be led out to inspectors, Monsieur Ducondray from pasture, the grass meadows being sod- Nancy, politely inquired, den ; our schoolroom was, therefore, full “ You are Monsieur Florent, the masof boys and girls.
ter at Chaumes, are you not ?” No one ignored what was going on at “I am, Monsieur." Monsieur Jean's, everybody felt uneasy
“Well,” said he, in a pleasant but very about Louise. I had finished the morn- serious manner, “ we have a case of great ing lessons at about eleven, and had gone responsibility in hand, and we believe up-stairs, where the cloth was laid for you can enlighten us.” dinner, when Rosalie, Monsieur Jean's I protested that I was only a simple servant, entered.
village master, and quite unfit to en“Quick, Monsieur Florent !” she cried, lighten such clever men. in a mournful voice; "come, you are « Wait a moment,” said he, interruptwanted ; Monsieur Ducondray, the doc- ing me. “Let me first tell you how we tor from Nancy, has sent for you.”. are situated. You have doubtless been
“Me?” I asked, in astonishment. informed that my colleagues have several “You must be making a mistake, Rosalie. times been called to Cbaumes for Mdlle. What can a savant have to say to a vil- Rantzau ; they have come separately and lage schoolmaster?”
collectively." * No, no ; I am certain. All the gen- “ I have been told so." tlemen want to speak to you, Monsieur “Well, these gentlemen have now reFlorent.”
course to my experience, and I have seen My surprise can be fancied. I took their invalid. I think she is in a deep my hooded cloak down from its peg and decline, which will prove fatal unless we threw it over my house-jacket.
can discover its cause. I have pressed * Where are you going, Florent ?"|her to give us some clue as to the origin asked Marie-Barbe, coming in. “ Be of her disease, but she is either too cautious, Monsieur Jean is there; re- frightened or too modest, and we can member how he treated you last time.” draw nothing from her. After great per
“Ah ! fear nothing now, Marie-Barbe," suasion, however, our interesting invalid said Rosalie, “our Monsieur is no longer hid her face, saying that she would never the same man.
Since the last consulta- be able to tell what she had on her mind, tion he has dwindled down, all of a piece, i but that we were to ask Monsieur Florent.
After having made this partial disclosure “We know,” interrupted the doctor, in she appeared alarmed at what she had a brief, concise tone, " that your poor said, and has since refused to open her child will expire in a few weeks — as lips. We beg you will communicate what soon as the cold sets in - unless you get you know, for the fate of the poor young reconciled to your brother and consent lady is in your hands. Have you any to the union of your young people. That knowledge of the cause of her illness? is what we know.”' We shall prescribe, if you have, accord- And taking up his hat, which was on ing to the information you may impart. the table, lying by a grey cloak, he turned I beg you will not hesitate, you are to the physicians. among men who are ready to
“Gentlemen,” said he, “ the consultatheir share of responsibility.”
tion is over. I think we can leave." I contained my emotion as well as I When he had gone out of the room the could, and replied,
others followed, and the servants put “This is what I know of the case, gen- their horses to the carriages. tlemen, and I will tell you all I do know, I looked on, thinking of what had octhough I may lose my situation by so curred. Monsieur Jean Rantzau redoing, and misery may be my lot in con- mained in the hall
. I do not know what sequence. Louise loves her cousin he looked like, but he could have struck George Rantzau ; George loves her in his bosom and said, return, and they would give up their life “ It is my fault ; it is all my own fault!" one for the other ; but the fathers of these When the clock struck one I hastened young people, although they are brothers, back to school. There was just time to have hated each other for years and swallow a mouthful, for the children had years; they have divided this place and already gathered. They were shouting, caused much scandal with their dissen-whistling, and enjoying my absence, the sions and abominable hatred; neither very first that had occurred for five and will consent to the union of their chil- twenty years. Order was restored as dren, who are thus both driven to de- soon as I appeared, but I had no taste spair. As to Louise, she would rather die for teaching that day. I was much than marry the man who is forced on her shaken by the events of the last two for a husband, that is Monsieur Lebel, months, and found I could not bear up the head-keeper. I have told you the against the wickedness of mankind; whole truth, gentlemen, you may believe everything seemed dark around me. I my word.”
had forsaken my herbal, my insects, my “We readily believe you," replied the fossils, and suffered that day more than old doctor from Nancy, looking at his usual on account of Louise's desperate colleagues. “You see, gentlemen, that state, so that Marie-Barbe's questions I am not mistaken : this is the second and observations were intolerable. case of the kind I have had to deal with. “Leave me alone, and don't speak to It is love, more powerful than the instinct me," I said. “ Life is bitter enough of self-preservation. Faithful even to without all these vain words.” death !"
After supper Marie-Barbe and Juliette When he had done speaking I turned folded up the table-cloth, finished their and saw Monsieur Jean behind me. He work, and went to bed. I sat in my had come in through the side-door and study, by the lamp, thinking over the had heard everything: he was an altered events of the day and wondering whether man, nothing now but skin and bones, sal- Monsieur Jean would be wicked enough low and untidy in his appearance. His to persevere in his resolve to the end; waistcoat was unbuttoned, he wore no if he would stand by and see his daughnecktie, and altogether looked like a ter die rather than quicken her with a ruined 'man who has ceased to care for hope ; and questioning whether so great himself. As he stood, bent with the an injustice could be committed. weight of his sorrow, he reminded me of Towards eleven I felt tired of my reold misers who have lost all their fortune ; flections and went down to lock up the he had lost his pride.
house before I went to bed. It was a Monsieur Ducondray addressed him. cold, cloudy night, but the cool wind did
“ You have heard what has just been my head good, and I walked up and down said, Monsieur ? "
the street, at the end of which shone a “ Thus," replied Monsieur Jean slowly, light in Monsieur Jean's house from the "you can do nothing more? You have window of Louise's room. The confitried everything ? That is all you know?"|dence she had shown when she told the
doctors to ask me what was the cause of brothers standing face to face after thirty her illness proved that she had not for- years' hatred ! Jacques held the lamp, gotten me. I liked to fancy, in that showing his own features expressive of silent hour of night, that the poor child stern wonder and Jean's inclined head knew a friend watched near her. It was he was the picture of misery. nothing but a superstitious idea, yet it “What do you want ? ” asked Jacques, comforted me. When I reached the end in a harsh voice. of the street I noticed that a pile of tim- “ I have something to tell you,” replied ber stood in front of Monsieur le Maire's Jean very humbly; but finding his brother house ; it was to be sawn the following did not move and looked haughtily at him, day; and behind this pile of logs I saw he pleaded, “ Jacques, my child is dying.' a light burning in the office. So Mon- He received no answer, but the mayor sieur Jacques was up too? He could closed the window and stepped out to not sleep either !
open the house-door. Both entered like I stood in the shade of the timber to two shadows. When they were inside, look up at the sick-room, and fancied Jacques reopened the window to pull the Louise, being given up by the doctors, outer shutters together. lying without a friend to hold her hand or I listened a full quarter of an hour : say a syllable of comfort to her through not a sound, not a word, were to be heard, all that solemn space of time during which and I went home much astonished at the life recedes. I pictured to myself the old scene I had witnessed. I dreamt all nurse knitting at the foot of dying people night of the two faces gleaming in front and quietly listening to their sighs, pro- of each other in the darkness. “What vided her brandy-bottle stood on the can it all mean?" I thought.
" What mantelpiece. Then I next thought of have they told each other? What is the Monsieur Jean looking on with gloomy next thing we shall hear ?" features, and feeling indignant that a child The following day was a holiday. It of his should prefer death to his head- was Thursday; and no sooner had it keeper.
struck eight than curiosity led me to My blood boiled. Though I am not a Monsieur Jacques, where I hoped someharsh man, and never struck a child, yet thing would be betrayed on his countefor once I felt sorry I was not strong nance. enough to chastise the unnatural monster, On reaching his house the first person and thought George would do well to ex- I saw was Madame Rantzau coming downterminate him.
stairs with a pile of shirts on one arm. Finding that no one moved in the two The door of the dining-room was open, houses, and the two lights remaining mo- and I saw a large leather trunk half filled. tionless, I was going back towards home, with clothes, brushes, shoes, and waistwhen I heard a slight stir.
coats, wrapped in newspaper parcels. Somebody was walking about in Mon- The good lady only had the other half to sieur Jean's house, where a second light fill, and continued packing Monsieur appeared, then it was extinguished; a Jacques stood, in shirt-sleeves, combing heavy tread came down his stairs, then his hair and beard in front of a small the passage-door was opened with great mirror hung upon the window-frame. caution. I could not see, but I heard the On seeing me enter he said, in a short, same heavy steps cross the street and off-hand way, “ Ah, is that you, Florent ? near the spot I stood by: I was fright- I was going to send for you. I am leavened.
It was perhaps Monsieur Jean. ing for Saarbrück: one of my customers If he were to find me there! The person there has run off with my money. All stopped, then listened. A moment after men .now-a-days are liars, thieves, and I saw Monsieur Jean's tall figure in front swindlers — go and trust people! I have of Monsieur Jacques’lighted office. What sent word to my substitute ; he will be did he mean to do? My heart throbbed. here presently. Ah, there he is ! ” He looked in for a few moments, then Good-day, Monsieur le Maire,” said knocked at the window.
Monsieur Rigaud, who just then entered ; A gruff voice, which I recognized to be you have sent for me ; what is there that of Monsieur Jacques, asked, in the going on?” deep silence, “ Who is there?”
“ I am being robbed of my money, that "It is I,' replied Jean in a stifled is what's going on. A thief of a timbervoice.
dealer is going to Hombourg or Havre The window was suddenly thrown open after having sold my wood and put the and a light brought that revealed the two cash in his pocket. I must run after him
with this bad leg of mine, and catch him, as the curtains, which were provided with too, before he sails."
glass loopholes for the traveller to see “Ah !” replied Father Rigaud, “bad out of. The man came in for the trunk, news indeed; and when do you expect to which he tied on behind and covered over be back again ?"
with the oil-cloth roof canvas. We were “ There is no telling," answered the all standing in the passage. Madame mayor, in a cross, peevish way. “If I Charlotte hoped her husband would at succeed in collaring the confounded thief least give her a parting kiss, but MonI shall have to call a board of men to- sieur le Maire was in too bad a humor to gether to examine the scoundrel's ac- think of that, and took the reins in hand counts, for he is bankrupt; I shall have as he went up the driver's steps, saying to go to law and soap the fingers first of to all, “Be sure you forget nothing. one, then of the other. It will be a slow Hue!” affair, especially with the Prussian author- Just as the carriage drove off George ities. If I get clear of it all in six weeks came down the house-passage, for he was I shall consider myself lucky. If, on the going out. He had on his woollen frieze other hand, the swindler has gone over with a hood to it, held a cudgel in his to America - a thing these German bank- hand, and had pulled down the brim of rupts all do - I shall have to scrape to- his wide beaver hat. He looked gloomy, gether all the sums I can collect, to find and, without saying good-day or goodout if he has been paid for all he has night to any one, turned up the street on delivered. It is the very devil to get his way to the woods. The old man cast money out of an absconding party!” a side-glance at him ; but George walked
I and Rigaud looked at each other. straight on without turning his head round, When the mayor liad put his overcoat on, and the char-à-bancs rolled by as if he he went to his writing-table and opened had not seen it. the drawer.
I and Monsieur Rigaud stood for some “ Now, Rigaud,” he said, “ you will not minutes looking at the heavy shower comforget to post up the price of wheat and ing down, then in deep thought went to of bread; you will sign the parochial the Mairie together. tickets, passports, and the rest — you are to take my place; here's the stamp of the Mairie, Renaud will soon get you in the The departure of Monsieur Jacques in way of transacting affairs.
search of his timber-merchant astonished " It is really very unpleasant for you to no one. It was a natural thing for a have to travel in such weather," said business man to do under the circumFather Rigaud ; "look at the rain; it is stances, and every one of the villagers awfully wet."
would have acted as he had done. “What's the use of making a fuss about Marie - Barbe and my daughter even it?" asked the mayor, who did not evi- sympathized with him and abused the dently want to be condoled with. “What Prussian thief who compelled a poor has to be done must be done, that's all." rheumatic old man to travel in such in
He then produced a letter sealed up at clement weather. I shared their feelings. each corner with red wax.
But universal surprise can be imagined “Monsieur Florent," said he, turning when a carriage, similar to that of Monto me," my brother-in-law from Lutzel- sieur Jacques, but covered with parcels, bourg, Monsieur Picot, will be here this was seen on the following morning with night or to-morrow morning. You will Monsieur Jean, as driver, inside. He sat give him this — do you hear?”
on the back seat, half-concealed by the “ Yes, Monsieur le Maire.”
hood overhead and the leather apron in “Don't forget it. It is an important front, which he had drawn up to his chin. and private matter."
He wore his large travelling-cape and fox“You know, Monsieur le Maire, that I fur cap, from under which he looked out never forget anything."
on both sides of the way, lashing his He looked round, saw the packed trunk horses most furiously, as if he were afraid and asked for the key, felt in his pockets, of being overtaken and had to save his threw a cloak, having a strong silver snap life. to it, over his shoulders, pulled his fur At this sight a clamour arose among cap down over his ears and abruptly left the Chaumes people : everybody ran out the house.
to see him go by; faces appeared at all The char-à-bancs stood at the door with the doors, stables, sheds, and air-holes. its great leather hood drawn down, as well. From the room in which I was dressing I