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As you leave the Port of Vecchio, heading inland in a northwesterly direction, the ground rises fairly steeply and, after a three-hour journey along winding paths obstructed by great masses of rock, and sometimes broken by ravines, you come to the edge of a very extensive maquis. This is the home of the Corsican shepherds, and of those who have fallen foul of the law. I should explain that, in order to save themselves the trouble of manuring their fields, Corsican farmers set fire to an area of woodland. Too bad if the flames spread further than intended; come what may, one can be sure of a good crop if one sows seeds on this land that has been fertilized by the ash from the trees that grew on it. When the ears of grain have been harvested (they leave the straw, which would be troublesome to gather), the tree-roots that have remained in the soil, untouched by the flames, sprout thick clumps of shoots the following spring, which within a few years grow to a height of seven or eight feet. This kind of dense brushwood is known as maquis. It is made up of various species of tree and shrub, tangled and intertwined at Nature’s whim. A man would need an axe to force a way through, and sometimes the maquis can be so dense and overgrown that even the wild sheep cannot penetrate it.
If you have killed a man, go to the maquis above Porto-Vecchio, and you will be able to live in safety there, with a good rifle, gunpowder and bullets. Don’t forget to take a brown cloak with a hood, which does duty for blanket and mattress. The shepherds will give you milk, cheese and chestnuts; and you will have nothing to fear from the law or from the dead man’s relatives, except when you have to go down to the town to replenish your ammunition. When I was in Corsica in 18-, Mateo Falcone had his home half a league from the maquis. He was a man of some means for that district, who lived nobly-that is, without working-from the produce of his flocks that were driven to pasture on the mountains round and about by shepherds who lived like nomads. When I saw him, two years after the event I am about to relate, he looked 50 years old at most. Picture to yourself a small but robust man with tightly curled, jet-black hair, an aquiline nose, thin lips, large bright eyes, and a complexion tanned like cappuccino with cream. His skill with a rifle was said to be extraordinary, even for Corsica, where there are so many good shots. For instance, Mateo would never have shot a wild sheep with buckshot, but would kill it at a hundred and twenty paces with a bullet in the head or in the shoulder, as the mood took him. He used his weapons with as much ease by night as by day, and I have been told of one of his feats of skill which may perhaps seem incredible to anyone who has never travelled in Corsica. At eighty paces, a lighted candle would be placed behind a transparent sheet of paper the size of a plate. He would take aim, then the candle would be extinguished, and one minute later, in total darkness, he would fire, piercing the paper three times out of four.
With such an extra-ordinary talent, Mateo Falcone had earned himself a great reputation. He was said to be both a dangerous enemy and a staunch friend; moreover, he was always ready to do his moral duty, gave alms to the poor, and lived on good terms with everyone in the district of Porto-Vecchio. But rumor had it that in Corte, where he had taken a wife, he had disposed most effectively of a rival, who was said to be as formidable in war as in love: at any rate, Mateo was given credit for a rifle-shot which caught the rival off his guard as he was standing shaving at a small mirror hanging in his window. When the affair had blown over, Mateo married. His wife Giuseppa first bore him three daughters (to his fury), then finally a son, whom he named Fortunato. This boy was the hope of the family, the heir to his father’s name. The daughters had married well: their father could count on the daggers and rifles of his sons-in-law if the need arose. The son was only 10 years old, but already showed great promise.
One autumn day Mateo set out early with his wife to go and inspect one of his flocks in a clearing within the maquis. Little Fortunato wanted to go with him, but the clearing was too far away; and besides, someone had to stay behind to look after the house; so his father refused his request to accompany them. As we shall see, he had cause to regret his decision. He had been away for several hours, and little Fortunato was lying quietly in the sun, gazing at the blue mountains and thinking about the following Sunday, when he would be going to have lunch in town with his uncle the caporal when his meditations were suddenly interrupted by the sound of a gunshot. He got up and looked towards the plain, whence the sound had come. Other gunshots followed at irregular intervals, coming closer all the time. Finally, on the path leading from the plain to Mateo’s house, there appeared a man in a pointed cap of the sort worn by the mountain folk, bearded, in rags, and dragging himself along with great difficulty, leaning on his gun. He had just been shot in the thigh.
This man was an outlaw who had gone by night to buy gunpowder in the town and had been ambushed on the way by Corsican voltigeurs. After putting up a tremendous defence he had managed to get away, hotly pursued and taking shots at his pursuers from behind rocks. But the soldiers were close behind him, and his wound meant that it would be impossible for him to reach safety of the maquis before they caught up with him.
He came up to Fortunato and said to him:
“Are you Mateo Falcone’s son?”
“Yes.”
“I am Gianetto Sanpiero. The yellow-collars are after me. Hide me, I can’t go any further.”
“But what will my father say if I hide you without his permission?”
“He will say you did the right thing.”
“How can I be sure?”
“Hide me quickly, they’re coming.”
“Wait till my father comes back.”
“Wait? Damn it, they’ll be here in five minutes! Come on, hide me, or I’ll kill you.”
With perfect composure, Fortunato replied, “Your gun isn’t loaded, and there are no cartridges left in your carchera.”
“I’ve still got my stiletto.”
“But can you run as fast as me?” with a bound, he was out of reach.
“You are no son of Mateo Falcone! Would you have me arrested by the yellow-collars on your very doorstep?”
The child seemed agitated. “What will you give me if I hide you?” he asked, drawing closer. The bandit rummaged through his carchera, and took from it a five-franc piece, which he had no doubt set aside for buying gunpowder. Fortunato smiled at the sight of the silver coin. He seized it and said to Gianetto, “Have no fear.”
At once he made a large hole in a pile of hay which stood beside the house. Gianetto hid in it, and the child covered him over so as to allow him to breathe, yet so that no one would suspect that there was a man concealed there. He also thought of a most ingenious strategy, worthy of a true renegade. He went and fetched a cat and her kittens and placed them on the pile of hay, to make it look as if it had not been disturbed recently. Then, noticing drops of blood on the path near the house, he carefully covered them with dust, after which he went and lay down again quite calmly in the sun.
A few minutes later six men in brown uniforms with yellow collars, led by a high-ranking officer, arrived at Mateo’s door. The adjutant was a distant relative of Falcone. (It is a well-known fact that in Corsica degrees of kinship are traced much further back than is the case elsewhere.) His name was Tiodoro Gamba. He was a zealous man, much feared by the bandits, several of whom he had already tracked down.
“Good day, little cousin,” he said to Fortunato, accosting him. “How tall you’ve grown! Did you see a man pass this way just now?”
“Oh, I’m not as tall as you yet, cousin,” the child replied with seeming naivety.
“You soon will be. Tell me now, did you see a man pass by?”
“Did I see a man pass by?”
“Yes, a man wearing a pointed black-velvet hat and a jacket with red and yellow embroidery.”
“A man with a pointed hat and a jacket with red and yellow embroidery?”
“Yes. Answer me quickly. And stop repeating my questions.”
“This morning the priest came past our house on his horse-Piero. He asked me how Papa was, and I told him that …”
“Ah, you’re trying to be clever, you little devil! Tell me quickly which way Gianetto went. He’s the man we’re after, and I’m certain he took this path.”
“Who knows?”
“Who knows? I do! I know you saw him.”
“How can I have seen someone pass by, if I was asleep?”
“You weren’t asleep, you little wippersnapper. The shots woke you.”
“What makes you think your guns are so noisy, cousin? My father’s is much louder.”
“To the devil with you, you confounded little scamp! I’m quite certain you saw Gianetto. You may even have hidden him. Come on, lads! Into the house with you, and see whether our man is inside. He was hobbling along on one leg, and the wretch has got too much sense to try to make it to the maquis in that state. Anyway, the bloodstains end right here.”
“And what will Papa say?” asked Fortunato with a mocking laugh. “What will he say when he hears that someone entered his house while he was out?”
“You little rogue!” said Adjutant Gamba, taking him by the ear. “I can soon make you change your tune, you know! If I give you twenty strokes with the flat of my sabre, perhaps then you’ll talk.”
And Fortunato still laughed contemptuously. “My father is Mateo Falcone!” he said with emphasis.
“Do you realize, you little devil, that I can take you away to Corte or Bastia? I’ll make you sleep in a cell, on straw. I’ll clap you in leg-irons and have you guillotined if you don’t tell me where Gianetto Sanpiero is.”
The child burst out laughing at this ridiculous threat. “My father is Mateo Falcone!” he repeated.
“Sir,” muttered one of the soldiers while touching the officer’s sleeve, “Don’t let’s get on the wrong side of Mateo.”
Gamba was plainly in a quandary. He spoke in a low voice to his soldiers, who had already searched the whole house. This was not a very lengthy operation, for a Corsican’s cottage consists of one single square room. The furnishings consist of a table, benches, chests, hunting equipment, and a few household utensils. Meanwhile, little Fortunato stroked his cat, and seemed to take a malicious delight in the perplexity of the soldiers and his cousin. A soldier went up to the pile of hay. Seeing the cat, he gave the hay a half-hearted prod with his bayonet, shrugging his shoulders as if sensing that his precaution was absurd. Nothing stirred; the child’s face betrayed not the slightest emotion.
The adjutant and his men were at their wits’ end. Already they were looking gravely in the direction of the plain, as if tempted to head back the way they had come, when their chief, realizing that threats would make no impression on Falcone’s son, decided to make one last attempt, and see what effect cajolery and bribes would have.
“Little cousin,” he said. “You seem a wide-awake lad; you’ll go far. But you’re ‘messing’ with me, and if I weren’t afraid of angering my cousin Mateo, I’m hanged if I wouldn’t take you prisoner.”
“You don’t say!”
“But when my cousin gets back, I’ll tell him the whole story, and he’ll give you a thrashing as a reward for having lied.”
“Is that so?”
“You’ll see. Look, be a good kid, and I’ll give you something.”
“And I’ll give you a piece of advice, cousin. If you waste any more time, Gianetto will be in the maquis, and then it’ll take more than one fine fellow like you to fetch him out again.” The adjutant took from his pocket a silver watch that was worth at least ten crowns, and, seeing little Fortunato’s eyes light up at the sight of it, he held the watch suspended from its steel chain and said, “You little rogue. Wouldn’t you like to have a watch like this hanging around your neck? You could stroll around the streets of Porto-Vecchio, proud as a peacock, and people would ask you what time it was, and you’d say, “Look at my watch.”
“When I’m grown up, my uncle the caporal will give me a watch.”
“Yes; but your uncle’s son has got one already-but not as nice as this one-and he’s younger than you.”
The child sighed.
“Well, do you want this watch, little cousin?” he said swinging it gently in his direction. Fortunato eyed the watch like a cat that has had a whole chicken placed before it. Sensing it is being teased, it dare not lay a paw on it, and from time to time it looks away, so as not to succumb to temptation nor appear too interested. But it licks its chops continually, and seems to be saying to its tormentor, “What a cruel trick to play on me!”
Yet Adjutant Gamba seemed to be sincere in his offer of the watch. Fortunato did not reach out his hand, but, smiling bitterly, said to him, “What are you trying to put over?”
“I swear I’m not. Just tell me where Gianetto is and the watch is yours.”
Fortunato could not suppress a smile of disbelief; fixing his dark eyes on those of the adjutant, he tried to read in them how much faith he could place in his words.
“May I lose my commission,” exclaimed the adjutant, “if I don’t give you the watch as agreed. My men here are witnesses, and I cannot go back on my word as an officer.”
As he spoke he moved the watch closer and closer until it was almost touching Fortunato’s pale cheek. The child’s face clearly showed the struggle between personal greed and the traditional claims of solidarity against the authorities that was raging within him. His bare chest was heaving, and he seemed to be fighting for breath. And still the watch swung, twisted, and occasionally bumped against the tip of his nose. At last his right hand slowly rose towards the watch; his fingertips touched it; and he felt its full weight in his palm, though the adjutant still held the end of the chain. The dial was pale blue, the case newly polished; in the sunshine it seemed ablaze…The temptation was too great.
Fortunato raised his left hand too, and, with his thumb, pointed over his shoulder at the pile of hay behind him. The adjutant understood-he let go of the chain; Fortunato found himself sole possessor of the watch. He rose with the agility of a fawn and moved ten paces away from the pile of hay, which the soldiers at once began to demolish.
Very soon the hay began to move and a man emerged from it, drenched in blood and with a dagger in his hand. But as he tried to rise to his feet, his wound which had stopped bleeding, prevented him from standing up-he fell. Throwing himself on him, Gamba ripped the stiletto from his grip. Instantly he was tightly bound, despite his struggles.
Gianetto, lying on the ground trussed like a bundle of firewood, turned his head towards Fortunato, who had stepped forward again. “You son of a… ,” he said with more contempt than anger. The child flipped back the silver coin he had accepted from the prisoner, feeling that he no longer deserved it; but the outlaw seemed not to even notice the gesture. With great composure he said to the adjutant, “My dear Gamba, I can’t walk; you’re going to have to carry me into town.”
“You were running faster than a fleeing buck a moment ago,” retorted the victor pitilessly. “But set your mind at rest; I’m so pleased to have caught you that I could carry you on my back for three miles without tiring. In any case, my friend, we’ll make you a stretcher out of some branches and your overcoat, and we can get horses at Crespoli’s farm.”
“That’s good,” said the prisoner, “and just put a bit of straw on the litter, so I’ll be more comfortable.”
While the soldiers were busy improvising a litter with chestnut branches and dressing Gianetto’s wound, Mateo Falcone and his wife suddenly rounded the bend leading from the maquis. The woman was plodding laboriously forward, bent beneath the weight of an enormous sack of chestnuts, while her husband ambled along with only a rifle in his hand, and another slung over his shoulder-it is unbecoming for a man to carry any burden but his weapons.
Mateo’s first thought on seeing the soldiers was that they had come to arrest him. But why should such an idea cross his mind? Had Mateo perhaps tangled with the law? No; he enjoyed a good reputation. He was, as they say, a man of high standing. But he was a Corsican and a man of the mountains, and there are few Corsicans from the mountains who, if they delve in their memories, cannot find some offense-a gunshot, a knifing, or some such trifling matter. Mateo had a clearer conscience than most, for it was more than ten years since he had pointed his gun at any man. But nevertheless he was circumspect, and he prepared mentally to defend himself vigorously should the need arise.
“Woman,” he said to Giuseppa, “put down your sack and be ready.” She instantly obeyed. He handed her the gun that was slung over his shoulder, which might get in the way. He loaded the one he was carrying and advanced circumspectly towards the house, keeping close to the trees at the roadside, and ready, at the slightest hint of hostility, to dash behind the largest trunk, where he could fire from under cover. His wife walked at his heels, carrying his spare gun and his cartridge-pouch. In the event of combat it is the task of a good wife to load her husband’s weapon.
The adjutant, for his part, felt extremely ill at ease at the sight of Mateo advancing with measured steps, gun at the ready and finger on the trigger. “If by any chance,” he thought, “Mateo should turn out to be a relative of Gianetto, or if he were a friend of his and meant to protect him, the very wads from his two guns would hit two of us, as sure as a letter reaches its destination. And if he were to take aim at me, notwithstanding our kinship…”
In this dilemma, he took the courageous course of advancing alone to meet Mateo and tell him of the affair, hailing him like a long-lost friend. But the short distance that separated him from Mateo seemed interminable.
“Hey there, old comrade!” he called. “How are things, my old friend? It’s me, your cousin Gamba.”
Mateo had halted with no word of reply, and as the other spoke he slowly raised the barrel of his gun until, at the moment when the adjutant reached him, it was pointing towards the sky. “Buon giorno, fratllo” (“Good day, brother,” the traditional greeting between Corsicans), said the adjutant, offering him his hand. “I haven’t seen you in ages.”
“Buon giorno, fratello,” answered Mateo much to the officer’s relief.
“As I was passing, I came to say hello to you and cousin Pepa. We’ve had a long haul today, but, although we’re exhausted, there’s no call to feel sorry for us, for we’ve made a splendid catch. We’ve just collared Gianetto Sanpiero.”
“God be praised!” exclaimed Giuseppa. “He stole a milk goat from us only last week.”
These words delighted Gamba.
“Poor devil,” said Mateo. “He was hungry.”
“The rogue defended himself like a lion,” continued the adjutant, somewhat disconcerted that Mateo felt for him. “He killed one of my men and, not content with that, he broke Corporal Chardon’s arm. Not that that matters-Chardon’s only a Frenchman. And then he went and hid so well that the devil himself wouldn’t have discovered him. If it hadn’t been for my little cousin Fortunato here I’d never have been able to find him.”
“Fortunato?” exclaimed Mateo.
“Fortunato?” repeated Giuseppa.
“Yes. Gianetto had hidden under that pile of hay over there. But my little cousin showed me what the game was. I’ll tell his uncle the caporal, so he can send him a fine present for his trouble. And both your names will appear in the report I shall be sending to the Public Prosecutor.”
“Damnation!” muttered Mateo softly.
They had rejoined the squad of soldiers. Gianetto had already been placed on the litter, ready for departure. When he saw Mateo in the company of Gamba, he smiled scornfully. Then, turning towards the door of the house, he spat on the threshold and said, “House of a traitor!”
Only a man resigned to death would have dared call Falcone a traitor. One quick dagger-thrust would instantly have repaid him for the insult once and for all. Yet Mateo merely raised his hand to his brow like a man in despair.
Fortunato had gone inside the house on seeing his father arrive. He soon reappeared with a bowl of milk, which he offered to the prisoner with downcast eyes.
“Keep away from me!” roared the outlaw, in a voice of thunder. Then, turning to one of the voltigeurs, he said to him, “Give me a drink, comrade.”
The soldier handed him his water-bottle, and the bandit drank the water offered to him by a man with whom he had just exchanged rifle shots. Then he asked to have his hands tied across his chest instead of behind his back. “I like to lie comfortably,” he explained.
They hastened to comply with his request. Then the adjutant gave the signal to depart, bade farewell to Mateo, who did not reply, and set off back towards the plains at a brisk march. Almost ten minutes passed before Mateo spoke a word. The child glanced uneasily first at his mother, then at his father, who was leaning on his gun, contemplating him with an expression of concentrated fury.
“A fine beginning!” said Mateo at last, in a voice that was too calm-one terrifying to anyone who knew the man.
“Father!” cried the child, advancing with tears in his eyes as if to throw himself at his feet. But Mateo shouted, “Out of my sight!” And the child stopped and stood sobbing a few paces from his father.
Giuseppa stepped forward. She had just noticed the watch-chain, one end of which was dangling from Fortunato’s shirt.
“Who gave you that watch?” she asked severely.
“My cousin the adjutant.”
Falcone seized the watch and hurled it against a rock, smashing it into a thousand pieces.
“Woman,” he said, “is this child mine?”
Giuseppa’s brown cheeks turned brick-red, “What are you saying, Mateo? -do you realize who you are talking to?”
“This child is the first of his line to have committed a betrayal.”
Fortunato’s sobs and hiccoughs intensified-Falcone continued to stare at him like a wildcat. Finally he struck the ground with the butt of his gun, then shouldered it and set off again on the path leading to the maquis, calling on Fortunato to follow him. The child obeyed. Giuseppa ran after Mateo and seized him by the arm.
“He is your son,” she said in a trembling voice, fixing her dark eyes on those of her husband as if trying to read his thoughts.
“Leave me alone,” replied Mateo, “I am his father.”
Giuseppa kissed her son and retreated, weeping, into the cottage. She fell to her knees before an image of the Virgin and prayed fervently. Meanwhile, Falcone walked a couple of hundred paces along the path and did not stop until he reached a small ravine, into which he descended. He sounded the earth with the butt of his gun and found it soft. Easy to dig-the place seemed suitable.
“Fortunato, go and stand by that big stone,” he said without emotion.
The child did as he was ordered.
“Kneel down and say your prayers.”
“Father! Don’t kill me, father!”
“Say your prayers!” repeated Mateo in a terrible voice.
Stammering and sobbing, the child recited the Our Father and the Apostles’ Creed. At the end of each prayer his father uttered a loud “Amen!”
“Are those all the prayers you know?”
“Father, I know the Hail Mary too, and the Rosary-aunt taught me.”
“It’s rather long, but no matter.”
The child finished the litany in a whisper.
“Have you finished?”
“Oh, father, mercy! Forgive me! I won’t do it again! I’ll beg my uncle the caporal until Gianetto is reprieved!”
He went on speaking. Mateo had raised his gun and was taking aim, saying to his son, “May God forgive you!” The child made a desperate effort to get up and clasp his father by the knees, but he was too late. Mateo fired, and Fortunato fell like a rock-dead.
Without a glance at the corpse, Mateo set off for the house to fetch a spade with which to bury his son. He had gone only a few paces when he met Giuseppa, who had run up in alarm on hearing the rifle-shot.
“What have you done?” she cried.
“Justice.”
“Where is he?”
“In the ravine; I’m going to bury him. He died like a Christian; I shall have a mass sung for him. Tell my son-in-law, Tiodoro Bianchi, to come and live with us.”
The End
Prosper Mérimée (1803-1870)
How the Redoubt was taken

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FINE carriage with rubber tyres, a fat coachman, and velvet on the seats, rolled up to the house of a landowner called Gryabov. Fyodor Andreitch Otsov, the district Marshal of Nobility, jumped out of the carriage. A drowsy footman met him in the hall.

“Are the family at home?” asked the Marshal.

“No, sir. The mistress and the children are gone out paying visits, while the master and mademoiselle are catching fish. Fishing all the morning, sir.

Otsov stood a little, thought a little, and then went to the river to look for Gryabov. Going down to the river he found him a mile and a half from the house. Looking down from the steep bank and catching sight of Gryabov, Otsov gushed with laughter. . . . Gryabov, a large stout man, with a very big head, was sitting on the sand, angling, with his legs tucked under him like a Turk. His hat was on the back of his head and his cravat had slipped on one side. Beside him stood a tall thin Englishwoman, with prominent eyes like a crab’s, and a big bird-like nose more like a hook than a nose. She was dressed in a white muslin gown through which her scraggy yellow shoulders were very distinctly apparent. On her gold belt hung a little gold watch. She too was angling. The stillness of the grave reigned about them both. Both were motionless, as the river upon which their floats were swimming.

“A desperate passion, but deadly dull!” laughed Otsov. “Good-day, Ivan Kuzmitch.”

“Ah . . . is that you ?” asked Gryabov, not taking his eyes off the water. “Have you come?”

“As you see . . . . And you are still taken up with your crazy nonsense! Not given it up yet?”

“The devil’s in it. . . . I begin in the morning and fish all day. . . . The fishing is not up to much to-day. I’ve caught nothing and this dummy hasn’t either. We sit on and on and not a devil of a fish! I could scream!”

“Well, chuck it up then. Let’s go and have some vodka!”

“Wait a little, maybe we shall catch something. Towards evening the fish bite better . . . . I’ve been sitting here, my boy, ever since the morning! I can’t tell you how fearfully boring it is. It was the devil drove me to take to this fishing! I know that it is rotten idiocy for me to sit here. I sit here like some scoundrel, like a convict, and I stare at the water like a fool. I ought to go to the haymaking, but here I sit catching fish. Yesterday His Holiness held a service at Haponyevo, but I didn’t go. I spent the day here with this . . . with this she-devil.”

“But . . . have you taken leave of your senses?” asked Otsov, glancing in embarrassment at the Englishwoman. “Using such language before a lady and she . . . .”

“Oh, confound her, it doesn’t matter, she doesn’t understand a syllable of Russian, whether you praise her or blame her, it is all the same to her! Just look at her nose! Her nose alone is enough to make one faint. We sit here for whole days together and not a single word! She stands like a stuffed image and rolls the whites of her eyes at the water.”

The Englishwoman gave a yawn, put a new worm on, and dropped the hook into the water.

“I wonder at her not a little,” Gryabov went on, “the great stupid has been living in Russia for ten years and not a word of Russian! . . . Any little aristocrat among us goes to them and learns to babble away in their lingo, while they . . . there’s no making them out. Just look at her nose, do look at her nose!”

“Come, drop it . . . it’s uncomfortable. Why attack a woman?”

“She’s not a woman, but a maiden lady. . . . I bet she’s dreaming of suitors. The ugly doll. And she smells of something decaying . . . . I’ve got a loathing for her, my boy! I can’t look at her with indifference. When she turns her ugly eyes on me it sends a twinge all through me as though I had knocked my elbow on the parapet. She likes fishing too. Watch her: she fishes as though it were a holy rite! She looks upon everything with disdain . . . . She stands there, the wretch, and is conscious that she is a human being, and that therefore she is the monarch of nature. And do you know what her name is? Wilka Charlesovna Fyce! Tfoo! There is no getting it out!”

The Englishwoman, hearing her name, deliberately turned her nose in Gryabov’s direction and scanned him with a disdainful glance; she raised her eyes from Gryabov to Otsov and steeped him in disdain. And all this in silence, with dignity and deliberation.

“Did you see?” said Gryabov chuckling. “As though to say ‘take that.’ Ah, you monster! It’s only for the children’s sake that I keep that triton. If it weren’t for the children, I wouldn’t let her come within ten miles of my estate. . . . She has got a nose like a hawk’s . . . and her figure! That doll makes me think of a long nail, so I could take her, and knock her into the ground, you know. Stay, I believe I have got a bite. . . .”

Gryabov jumped up and raised his rod. The line drew taut. . . . Gryabov tugged again, but could not pull out the hook.

“It has caught,” he said, frowning, “on a stone I expect . . . damnation take it . . . .”

There was a look of distress on Gryabov’s face. Sighing, moving uneasily, and muttering oaths, he began tugging at the line.

“What a pity; I shall have to go into the water.”

“Oh, chuck it!”

“I can’t. . . . There’s always good fishing in the evening. . . . What a nuisance. Lord, forgive us, I shall have to wade into the water, I must! And if only you knew, I have no inclination to undress. I shall have to get rid of the Englishwoman. . . . It’s awkward to undress before her. After all, she is a lady, you know!”

Gryabov flung off his hat, and his cravat.

“Meess . . . er, er . . .” he said, addressing the Englishwoman, “Meess Fyce, je voo pree . . . ? Well, what am I to say to her? How am I to tell you so that you can understand? I say . . . over there! Go away over there! Do you hear?”

Miss Fyce enveloped Gryabov in disdain, and uttered a nasal sound.

“What? Don’t you understand? Go away from here, I tell you! I must undress, you devil’s doll! Go over there! Over there!”

Gryabov pulled the lady by her sleeve, pointed her towards the bushes, and made as though he would sit down, as much as to say: Go behind the bushes and hide yourself there. . . . The Englishwoman, moving her eyebrows vigorously, uttered rapidly a long sentence in English. The gentlemen gushed with laughter.

“It’s the first time in my life I’ve heard her voice. There’s no denying, it is a voice! She does not understand! Well, what am I to do with her?”

“Chuck it, let’s go and have a drink of vodka!”

“I can’t. Now’s the time to fish, the evening. . . . It’s evening . . . . Come, what would you have me do? It is a nuisance! I shall have to undress before her. . . .”

Gryabov flung off his coat and his waistcoat and sat on the sand to take off his boots.

“I say, Ivan Kuzmitch,” said the marshal, chuckling behind his hand. “It’s really outrageous, an insult.”

“Nobody asks her not to understand! It’s a lesson for these foreigners!”

Gryabov took off his boots and his trousers, flung off his undergarments and remained in the costume of Adam. Otsov held his sides, he turned crimson both from laughter and embarrassment. The Englishwoman twitched her brows and blinked . . . . A haughty, disdainful smile passed over her yellow face.

“I must cool off,” said Gryabov, slapping himself on the ribs. “Tell me if you please, Fyodor Andreitch, why I have a rash on my chest every summer.”

“Oh, do get into the water quickly or cover yourself with something, you beast.”

“And if only she were confused, the nasty thing,” said Gryabov, crossing himself as he waded into the water. “Brrrr . . . the water’s cold. . . . Look how she moves her eyebrows! She doesn’t go away . . . she is far above the crowd! He, he, he . . . . and she doesn’t reckon us as human beings.”

Wading knee deep in the water and drawing his huge figure up to its full height, he gave a wink and said:

“This isn’t England, you see!”

Miss Fyce coolly put on another worm, gave a yawn, and dropped the hook in. Otsov turned away, Gryabov released his hook, ducked into the water and, spluttering, waded out. Two minutes later he was sitting on the sand and angling as before.

The End

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(Whenever a new year is round the corner, I have been so starry eyed, as with my gambler’s optimism, to make a resolution, “I must improve my financial career”.-and come 2019 I cannot think of any better area than my finance. Two heads are better than one so I shall happily let a Canadian humorist to double for me. Happy new year to all my visitors.-Benny.Jan.1,2019)

When I go into a bank I get rattled. The clerks rattle me; the wickets rattle me; the sight of the money rattles me; everything rattles me.

The moment I cross the threshold of a bank and attempt to transact business there, I become an irresponsible idiot.

I knew this beforehand, but my salary had been raised to fifty dollars a month and I felt that the bank was the only place for it.

So I shambled in and looked timidly round at the clerks. I had an idea that a person about to open an account must needs consult the manager.

I went up to a wicket marked “Accountant.” The accountant was a tall, cool devil. The very sight of him rattled me. My voice was sepulchral.

“Can I see the manager?” I said, and added solemnly, “alone.” I don’t know why I said “alone.”

“Certainly,” said the accountant, and fetched him.

The manager was a grave, calm man. I held my fifty-six dollars clutched in a crumpled ball in my pocket.

“Are you the manager?” I said. God knows I didn’t doubt it.

“Yes,” he said.

“Can I see you,” I asked, “alone?” I didn’t want to say “alone” again, but without it the thing seemed self-evident.

The manager looked at me in some alarm. He felt that I had an awful secret to reveal.

“Come in here,” he said, and led the way to a private room. He turned the key in the lock.

“We are safe from interruption here,” he said; “sit down.”

We both sat down and looked at each other. I found no voice to speak.

“You are one of Pinkerton’s men, I presume,” he said.

He had gathered from my mysterious manner that I was a detective. I knew what he was thinking, and it made me worse.

“No, not from Pinkerton’s,” I said, seeming to imply that I came from a rival agency. “To tell the truth,” I went on, as if I had been prompted to lie about it, “I am not a detective at all. I have come to open an account. I intend to keep all my money in this bank.”

The manager looked relieved but still serious; he concluded now that I was a son of Baron Rothschild or a young Gould*.

“A large account, I suppose,” he said.

“Fairly large,” I whispered. “I propose to deposit fifty-six dollars now and fifty dollars a month regularly.”

The manager got up and opened the door. He called to the accountant.

“Mr. Montgomery,” he said unkindly loud, “this gentleman is opening an account, he will deposit fifty-six dollars. Good morning.”

I rose.

A big iron door stood open at the side of the room.

“Good morning,” I said, and stepped into the safe.

“Come out,” said the manager coldly, and showed me the other way.

I went up to the accountant’s wicket and poked the ball of money at him with a quick convulsive movement as if I were doing a conjuring trick.

My face was ghastly pale.

“Here,” I said, “deposit it.” The tone of the words seemed to mean, “Let us do this painful thing while the fit is on us.”

He took the money and gave it to another clerk.

He made me write the sum on a slip and sign my name in a book. I no longer knew what I was doing. The bank swam before my eyes.

“Is it deposited?” I asked in a hollow, vibrating voice.

“It is,” said the accountant.

“Then I want to draw a cheque.”

My idea was to draw out six dollars of it for present use. Someone gave me a chequebook through a wicket and someone else began telling me how to write it out. The people in the bank had the impression that I was an invalid millionaire. I wrote something on the cheque and thrust it in at the clerk. He looked at it.

“What! are you drawing it all out again?” he asked in surprise. Then I realized that I had written fifty-six instead of six. I was too far gone to reason now. I had a feeling that it was impossible to explain the thing. All the clerks had stopped writing to look at me.

Reckless with misery, I made a plunge.

“Yes, the whole thing.”

“You withdraw your money from the bank?”

“Every cent of it.”

“Are you not going to deposit any more?” said the clerk, astonished.

“Never.”

An idiot hope struck me that they might think something had insulted me while I was writing the cheque and that I had changed my mind. I made a wretched attempt to look like a man with a fearfully quick temper.

The clerk prepared to pay the money.

“How will you have it?” he said.

“What?”

“How will you have it?”

“Oh”—I caught his meaning and answered without even trying to think—”in fifties.”

He gave me a fifty-dollar bill.

“And the six?” he asked dryly.

“In sixes,” I said.

He gave it me and I rushed out.

As the big door swung behind me I caught the echo of a roar of laughter that went up to the ceiling of the bank. Since then I bank no more. I keep my money in cash in my trousers pocket and my savings in silver dollars in a sock.

*Gould Jay, a crooked American financier of the Golden Age period. He had his hand in every shady deal and made money.

The End

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(This story was first published in Cosmopolitan, March 1901. It was probably written in the summer of 1893, an allegory about the Jim Crow South during Reconstruction. The dog represents emancipated slaves.-benny)

A Child was standing on a street-corner. He leaned with one shoulder against a high board-fence and swayed the other to and fro, the while kicking carelessly at the gravel.

Sunshine beat upon the cobbles, and a lazy summer wind raised yellow dust which trailed in clouds down the avenue. Clattering trucks moved with indistinctness through it. The child stood dreamily gazing.

After a time, a little dark-brown dog came trotting with an intent air down the sidewalk. A short rope was dragging from his neck. Occasionally he trod upon the end of it and stumbled.

He stopped opposite the child, and the two regarded each other. The dog hesitated for a moment, but presently he made some little advances with his tail. The child put out his hand and called him. In an apologetic manner the dog came close, and the two had an interchange of friendly pattings and waggles. The dog became more enthusiastic with each moment of the interview, until with his gleeful caperings he threatened to overturn the child. Whereupon the child lifted his hand and struck the dog a blow upon the head.

This thing seemed to overpower and astonish the little dark-brown dog, and wounded him to the heart. He sank down in despair at the child’s feet. When the blow was repeated, together with an admonition in childish sentences, he turned over upon his back, and held his paws in a peculiar manner. At the same time with his ears and his eyes he offered a small prayer to the child.

Presently he struggled to his feet and started after the child.
He looked so comical on his back, and holding his paws peculiarly, that the child was greatly amused and gave him little taps repeatedly, to keep him so. But the little dark-brown dog took this chastisement in the most serious way, and no doubt considered that he had committed some grave crime, for he wriggled contritely and showed his repentance in every way that was in his power. He pleaded with the child and petitioned him, and offered more prayers.

At last the child grew weary of this amusement and turned toward home. The dog was praying at the time. He lay on his back and turned his eyes upon the retreating form.

Presently he struggled to his feet and started after the child. The latter wandered in a perfunctory way toward his home, stopping at times to investigate various matters. During one of these pauses he discovered the little dark-brown dog who was following him with the air of a footpad.

The child beat his pursuer with a small stick he had found. The dog lay down and prayed until the child had finished, and resumed his journey. Then he scrambled erect and took up the pursuit again.

On the way to his home the child turned many times and beat the dog, proclaiming with childish gestures that he held him in contempt as an unimportant dog, with no value save for a moment. For being this quality of animal the dog apologized and eloquently expressed regret, but he continued stealthily to follow the child. His manner grew so very guilty that he slunk like an assassin.

When the child reached his door-step, the dog was industriously ambling a few yards in the rear. He became so agitated with shame when he again confronted the child that he forgot the dragging rope. He tripped upon it and fell forward.

The child sat down on the step and the two had another interview. During it the dog greatly exerted himself to please the child. He performed a few gambols with such abandon that the child suddenly saw him to be a valuable thing. He made a swift, avaricious charge and seized the rope.

He dragged his captive into a hall and up many long stairways in a dark tenement. The dog made willing efforts, but he could not hobble very skillfully up the stairs because he was very small and soft, and at last the pace of the engrossed child grew so energetic that the dog became panic-stricken. In his mind he was being dragged toward a grim unknown. His eyes grew wild with the terror of it. He began to wiggle his head frantically and to brace his legs.

The child redoubled his exertions. They had a battle on the stairs. The child was victorious because he was completely absorbed in his purpose, and because the dog was very small. He dragged his acquirement to the door of his home, and finally with triumph across the threshold.

Presently he struggled to his feet and started after the child.
No one was in. The child sat down on the floor and made overtures to the dog. These the dog instantly accepted. He beamed with affection upon his new friend. In a short time they were firm and abiding comrades.

When the child’s family appeared, they made a great row. The dog was examined and commented upon and called names. Scorn was leveled at him from all eyes, so that he became much embarrassed and drooped like a scorched plant. But the child went sturdily to the center of the floor, and, at the top of his voice, championed the dog. It happened that he was roaring protestations, with his arms clasped about the dog’s neck, when the father of the family came in from work.

The parent demanded to know what the blazes they were making the kid howl for. It was explained in many words that the infernal kid wanted to introduce a disreputable dog into the family.

A family council was held. On this depended the dog’s fate, but he in no way heeded, being busily engaged in chewing the end of the child’s dress.

The affair was quickly ended. The father of the family, it appears, was in a particularly savage temper that evening, and when he perceived that it would amaze and anger everybody if such a dog were allowed to remain, he decided that it should be so. The child, crying softly, took his friend off to a retired part of the room to hobnob with him, while the father quelled a fierce rebellion of his wife. So it came to pass that the dog was a member of the household.

He and the child were associated together at all times save when the child slept. The child became a guardian and a friend. If the large folk kicked the dog and threw things at him, the child made loud and violent objections. Once when the child had run, protesting loudly, with tears raining down his face and his arms outstretched, to protect his friend, he had been struck in the head with a very large saucepan from the hand of his father, enraged at some seeming lack of courtesy in the dog. Ever after, the family were careful how they threw things at the dog. Moreover, the latter grew very skilful in avoiding missiles and feet. In a small room containing a stove, a table, a bureau and some chairs, he would display strategic ability of a high order, dodging, feinting and scuttling about among the furniture. He could force three or four people armed with brooms, sticks and handfuls of coal, to use all their ingenuity to get in a blow. And even when they did, it was seldom that they could do him a serious injury or leave any imprint.

But when the child was present, these scenes did not occur. It came to be recognized that if the dog was molested, the child would burst into sobs, and as the child, when started, was very riotous and practically unquenchable, the dog had therein a safeguard.

However, the child could not always be near. At night, when he was asleep, his dark-brown friend would raise from some black corner a wild, wailful cry, a song of infinite lowliness and despair, that would go shuddering and sobbing among the buildings of the block and cause people to swear. At these times the singer would often be chased all over the kitchen and hit with a great variety of articles.

Sometimes, too, the child himself used to beat the dog, although it is not known that he ever had what could be truly called a just cause. The dog always accepted these thrashings with an air of admitted guilt. He was too much of a dog to try to look to be a martyr or to plot revenge. He received the blows with deep humility, and furthermore he forgave his friend the moment the child had finished, and was ready to caress the child’s hand with his little red tongue.

When misfortune came upon the child, and his troubles overwhelmed him, he would often crawl under the table and lay his small distressed head on the dog’s back. The dog was ever sympathetic. It is not to be supposed that at such times he took occasion to refer to the unjust beatings his friend, when provoked, had administered to him.

He did not achieve any notable degree of intimacy with the other members of the family. He had no confidence in them, and the fear that he would express at their casual approach often exasperated them exceedingly. They used to gain a certain satisfaction in underfeeding him, but finally his friend the child grew to watch the matter with some care, and when he forgot it, the dog was often successful in secret for himself.

So the dog prospered. He developed a large bark, which came wondrously from such a small rug of a dog. He ceased to howl persistently at night. Sometimes, indeed, in his sleep, he would utter little yells, as from pain, but that occurred, no doubt, when in his dreams he encountered huge flaming dogs who threatened him direfully.

His devotion to the child grew until it was a sublime thing. He wagged at his approach; he sank down in despair at his departure. He could detect the sound of the child’s step among all the noises of the neighborhood. It was like a calling voice to him.

The scene of their companionship was a kingdom governed by this terrible potentate, the child; but neither criticism nor rebellion ever lived for an instant in the heart of the one subject. Down in the mystic, hidden fields of his little dog-soul bloomed flowers of love and fidelity and perfect faith.

The child was in the habit of going on many expeditions to observe strange things in the vicinity. On these occasions his friend usually jogged aimfully along behind. Perhaps, though, he went ahead. This necessitated his turning around every quarter-minute to make sure the child was coming. He was filled with a large idea of the importance of these journeys. He would carry himself with such an air! He was proud to be the retainer of so great a monarch.

One day, however, the father of the family got quite exceptionally drunk. He came home and held carnival with the cooking utensils, the furniture and his wife. He was in the midst of this recreation when the child, followed by the dark-brown dog, entered the room. They were returning from their voyages.

He was the picture of a little dark-brown dog en route to a friend.
The child’s practised eye instantly noted his father’s state. He dived under the table, where experience had taught him was a rather safe place. The dog, lacking skill in such matters, was, of course, unaware of the true condition of affairs. He looked with interested eyes at his friend’s sudden dive. He interpreted it to mean: Joyous gambol. He started to patter across the floor to join him. He was the picture of a little dark-brown dog en route to a friend.

The head of the family saw him at this moment. He gave a huge howl of joy, and knocked the dog down with a heavy coffee-pot. The dog, yelling in supreme astonishment and fear, writhed to his feet and ran for cover. The man kicked out with a ponderous foot. It caused the dog to swerve as if caught in a tide. A second blow of the coffee-pot laid him upon the floor.

Here the child, uttering loud cries, came valiantly forth like a knight. The father of the family paid no attention to these calls of the child, but advanced with glee upon the dog. Upon being knocked down twice in swift succession, the latter apparently gave up all hope of escape. He rolled over on his back and held his paws in a peculiar manner. At the same time with his eyes and his ears he offered up a small prayer.

But the father was in a mood for having fun, and it occurred to him that it would be a fine thing to throw the dog out of the window. So he reached down and grabbing the animal by a leg, lifted him, squirming, up. He swung him two or three times hilariously about his head, and then flung him with great accuracy through the window.

The soaring dog created a surprise in the block. A woman watering plants in an opposite window gave an involuntary shout and dropped a flower-pot. A man in another window leaned perilously out to watch the flight of the dog. A woman, who had been hanging out clothes in a yard, began to caper wildly. Her mouth was filled with clothes-pins, but her arms gave vent to a sort of exclamation. In appearance she was like a gagged prisoner. Children ran whooping.

The dark-brown body crashed in a heap on the roof of a shed five stories below. From thence it rolled to the pavement of an alleyway.

The child in the room far above burst into a long, dirge-like cry, and toddled hastily out of the room. It took him a long time to reach the alley, because his size compelled him to go downstairs backward, one step at a time, and holding with both hands to the step above….they found him seated by the body of his dark-brown friend.

When they came for him later, they found him seated by the body of his dark-brown friend.

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by Alexandre Dumas

Leaving l’Abbaye, I walked straight across the Place Turenne to the Rue Tournon, where I had lodgings, when I heard a woman scream for help.

It could not be an assault to commit robbery, for it was hardly ten o’clock in the evening. I ran to the corner of the place whence the sounds proceeded, and by the light of the moon, just then breaking through the clouds, I beheld a woman in the midst of a patrol of sans-culottes.

The lady observed me at the same instant, and seeing, by the character of my dress, that I did not belong to the common order of people, she ran toward me, exclaiming:

“There is M. Albert! He knows me! He will tell you that I am the daughter of Mme. Ledieu, the laundress.”

With these words the poor creature, pale and trembling with excitement, seized my arm and clung to me as a shipwrecked sailor to a spar.

“No matter whether you are the daughter of Mme. Ledieu or some one else, as you have no pass, you must go with us to the guard-house.”

The young girl pressed my arm. I perceived in this pressure the expression of her great distress of mind. I understood it.

“So it is you, my poor Solange?” I said. “What are you doing here?”

“There, messieurs!” she exclaimed in tones of deep anxiety; “do you believe me now?”

“You might at least say ‘citizens!’”

“Ah, sergeant, do not blame me for speaking that way,” said the pretty young girl; “my mother has many customers among the great people, and taught me to be polite. That’s how I acquired this bad habit—the habit of the aristocrats; and, you know, sergeant, it’s so hard to shake off old habits!”

This answer, delivered in trembling accents, concealed a delicate irony that was lost on all save me. I asked myself, who is this young woman? The mystery seemed complete. This alone was clear; she was not the daughter of a laundress.

“How did I come here, Citizen Albert?” she asked. “Well, I will tell you. I went to deliver some washing. The lady was not at home, and so I waited; for in these hard times every one needs what little money is coming to him. In that way it grew dark, and so I fell among these gentlemen—beg pardon, I would say citizens. They asked for my pass. As I did not have it with me, they were going to take me to the guard-house. I cried out in terror, which brought you to the scene; and as luck would have it, you are a friend. I said to myself, as M. Albert knows my name to be Solange Ledieu, he will vouch for me; and that you will, will you not, M. Albert?”

“Certainly, I will vouch for you.”

“Very well,” said the leader of the patrol; “and who, pray, will vouch for you, my friend?”

“Danton! Do you know him? Is he a good patriot?”

“Oh, if Danton will vouch for you, I have nothing to say.”

“Well, there is a session of the Cordeliers to-day. Let us go there.”

“Good,” said the leader. “Citizens, let us go to the Cordeliers.”

The club of the Cordeliers met at the old Cordelier monastery in the Rue l’Observance. We arrived there after scarce a minute’s walk. At the door I tore a page from my note-book, wrote a few words upon it with a lead pencil, gave it to the sergeant, and requested him to hand it to Danton, while I waited outside with the men.

The sergeant entered the clubhouse and returned with Danton.

“What!” said he to me; “they have arrested you, my friend? You, the friend of Camilles—you, one of the most loyal republicans? Citizens,” he continued, addressing the sergeant, “I vouch for him. Is that sufficient?”

“You vouch for him. Do you also vouch for her?” asked the stubborn sergeant.

“For her? To whom do you refer?”

“This girl.”

“For everything; for everybody who may be in his company. Does that satisfy you?”

“Yes,” said the man; “especially since I have had the privilege of seeing you.”

With a cheer for Danton, the patrol marched away. I was about to thank Danton, when his name was called repeatedly within.

“Pardon me, my friend,” he said; “you hear? There is my hand; I must leave you—the left. I gave my right to the sergeant. Who knows, the good patriot may have scrofula?”

“I’m coming!” he exclaimed, addressing those within in his mighty voice with which he could pacify or arouse the masses. He hastened into the house.

I remained standing at the door, alone with my unknown.

“And now, my lady,” I said, “whither would you have me escort you? I am at your disposal.”

“Why, to Mme. Ledieu,” she said with a laugh. “I told you she was my mother.”

“And where does Mme. Ledieu reside?”

“Rue Ferou, 24.”

“Then, let us proceed to Rue Ferou, 24.”

On the way neither of us spoke a word. But by the light of the moon, enthroned in serene glory in the sky, I was able to observe her at my leisure. She was a charming girl of twenty or twenty-two—brunette, with large blue eyes, more expressive of intelligence than melancholy—a finely chiseled nose, mocking lips, teeth of pearl, hands like a queen’s, and feet like a child’s; and all these, in spite of her costume of a laundress, betokened an aristocratic air that had aroused the sergeant’s suspicions not without justice.

Arrived at the door of the house, we looked at each other a moment in silence.

“Well, my dear M. Albert, what do you wish?” my fair unknown asked with a smile.

“I was about to say, my dear Mlle. Solange, that it was hardly worth while to meet if we are to part so soon.”

“Oh, I beg ten thousand pardons! I find it was well worth the while; for if I had not met you, I should have been dragged to the guard-house, and there it would have been discovered that I am not the daughter of Mme. Ledieu—in fact, it would have developed that I am an aristocrat, and in all likelihood they would have cut off my head.”

“You admit, then, that you are an aristocrat?”

“I admit nothing.”

“At least you might tell me your name.”

“Solange.”

“I know very well that this name, which I gave you on the inspiration of the moment, is not your right name.”

“No matter; I like it, and I am going to keep it—at least for you.”

“Why should you keep it for me? if we are not to meet again?”

“I did not say that. I only said that if we should meet again it will not be necessary for you to know my name any more than that I should know yours. To me you will be known as Albert, and to you I shall always be Solange.”

“So be it, then; but I say, Solange,” I began.

“I am listening, Albert,” she replied.

“You are an aristocrat—that you admit.”

“If I did not admit it, you would surmise it, and so my admission would be divested of half its merit.”

“And you were pursued because you were suspected of being an aristocrat?”

“I fear so.”

“And you are hiding to escape persecution?”

“In the Rue Ferou, No. 24, with Mme. Ledieu, whose husband was my father’s coachman. You see, I have no secret from you.”

“And your father?”

“I shall make no concealment, my dear Albert, of anything that relates to me. But my fathers secrets are not my own. My father is in hiding, hoping to make his escape. That is all I can tell you.”

“And what are you going to do?”

“Go with my father, if that be possible. If not, allow him to depart without me until the opportunity offers itself to me to join him.”

“Were you coming from your father when the guard arrested you to-night?”

“Yes.”

“Listen, dearest Solange.”

“I am all attention.”

“You observed all that took place to-night?”

“Yes. I saw that you had powerful influence.”

“I regret my power is not very great. However, I have friends.”

“I made the acquaintance of one of them.”

“And you know he is not one of the least powerful men of the times.”

“Do you intend to enlist his influence to enable my father to escape?”

“No, I reserve him for you.”

“But my father?”

“I have other ways of helping your father.”

“Other ways?” exclaimed Solange, seizing my hands and studying me with an anxious expression.

“If I serve your father, will you then sometimes think kindly of me?”

“Oh, I shall all my life hold you in grateful remembrance!”

She uttered these words with an enchanting expression of devotion. Then she looked at me beseechingly and said:

“But will that satisfy you?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Ah, I was not mistaken. You are kind, generous. I thank you for my father and myself. Even if you should fail, I shall be grateful for what you have already done!”

“When shall we meet again, Solange?”

“When do you think it necessary to see me again?”

“To-morrow, when I hope to have good news for you.”

“Well, then, to-morrow.”

“Where?”

“Here.”

“Here in the street?”

“Well, mon Dieu!” she exclaimed. “You see, it is the safest place. For thirty minutes, while we have been talking here, not a soul has passed.”

“Why may I not go to you, or you come to me?”

“Because it would compromise the good people if you should come to me, and you would incur serious risk if I should go to you.”

“Oh, I would give you the pass of one of my relatives.”

“And send your relative to the guillotine if I should be accidentally arrested!”

“True. I will bring you a pass made out in the name of Solange.”

“Charming! You observe Solange is my real name.”

“And the hour?”

“The same at which we met to-night—ten o’clock, if you please.”

“All right; ten o’clock. And how shall we meet?”

“That is very simple. Be at the door at five minutes of ten, and at ten I will come down.”

“Then, at ten to-morrow, dear Solange.”

“To-morrow at ten, dear Albert.”

I wanted to kiss her hand; she offered me her brow.

The next day I was in the street at half past nine. At a quarter of ten Solange opened the door. We were both ahead of time.

With one leap I was by her side.

“I see you have good news,” she said.

“Excellent! First, here is a pass for you.”

“First my father!”

She repelled my hand.

“Your father is saved, if he wishes.”

“Wishes, you say? What is required of him?”

“He must trust me.”

“That is assured.”

“Have you seen him?”

“Yes.”

“You have discussed the situation with him?”

“It was unavoidable. Heaven will help us.”

“Did you tell your father all?”

“I told him you had saved my life yesterday, and that you would perhaps save his to-morrow.”

“To-morrow! Yes, quite right; to-morrow I shall save his life, if it is his will.”

“How? What? Speak! Speak! If that were possible, how fortunately all things have come to pass!”

“However—” I began hesitatingly.

“Well?”

“It will be impossible for you to accompany him.”

“I told you I was resolute.”

“I am quite confident, however, that I shall be able later to procure a passport for you.”

“First tell me about my father; my own distress is less important.”

“Well, I told you I had friends, did I not?”

“Yes.”

“To-day I sought out one of them.”

“Proceed.”

“A man whose name is familiar to you; whose name is a guarantee of courage and honor.”

“And this man is?”

“Marceau.”

“General Marceau?”

“Yes.”

“True, he will keep a promise.”

“Well, he has promised.”

“Mon Dieu! How happy you make me! What has he promised? Tell me all.”

“He has promised to help us.”

“In what manner?”

“In a very simple manner. Kléber has just had him promoted to the command of the western army. He departs to-morrow night.”

“To-morrow night! We shall have no time to make the smallest preparation.”

“There are no preparations to make.”

“I do not understand.”

“He will take your father with him.”

“My father?”

“Yes, as his secretary. Arrived in the Vendée, your father will pledge his word to the general to undertake nothing against France. From there he will escape to Brittany, and from Brittany to England. When he arrives in London, he will inform you; I shall obtain a passport for you, and you will join him in London.”

“To-morrow,” exclaimed Solange; “my father departs tomorrow!”

“There is no time to waste.”

“My father has not been informed.”

“Inform him.”

“To-night?”

“To-night.”

“But how, at this hour?”

“You have a pass and my arm.”

“True. My pass.”

I gave it to her. She thrust it into her bosom.

“Now? your arm?”

I gave her my arm, and we walked away. When we arrived at the Place Turenne—that is, the spot where we had met the night before—she said: “Await me here.”

I bowed and waited.

She disappeared around the corner of what was formerly the Hôtel Malignon. After a lapse of fifteen minutes she returned.

“Come,” she said, “my father wishes to receive and thank you.”

She took my arm and led me up to the Rue St. Guillaume, opposite the Hôtel Mortemart. Arrived here, she took a bunch of keys from her pocket, opened a small, concealed door, took me by the hand, conducted me up two flights of steps, and knocked in a peculiar manner.

A man of forty-eight or fifty years opened the door. He was dressed as a working man and appeared to be a bookbinder. But at the first utterance that burst from his lips, the evidence of the seigneur was unmistakable.

“Monsieur,” he said, “Providence has sent you to us. I regard you an emissary of fate. Is it true that you can save me, or, what is more, that you wish to save me?”

I admitted him completely to my confidence. I informed him that Marceau would take him as his secretary, and would exact no promise other than that he would not take up arms against France.

“I cheerfully promise it now, and will repeat it to him.”

“I thank you in his name as well as in my own.”

“But when does Marceau depart?”

“To-morrow.”

“Shall I go to him to-night?”

“Whenever you please; he expects you.”

Father and daughter looked at each other.

“I think it would be wise to go this very night,” said Solange.

“I am ready; but if I should be arrested, seeing that I have no permit?”

“Here is mine.”

“But you?”

“Oh, I am known.”

“Where does Marceau reside?”

“Rue de l’Université, 40, with his sister, Mlle. Dégraviers-Marceau.”

“Will you accompany me?”

“I shall follow you at a distance, to accompany mademoiselle home when you are gone.”

“How will Marceau know that I am the man of whom you spoke to him?”

“You will hand him this tri-colored cockade; that is the sign of identification.”

“And how shall I reward my liberator?”

“By allowing him to save your daughter also.”

“Very well.”

He put on his hat and extinguished the lights, and we descended by the gleam of the moon which penetrated the stair-windows.

At the foot of the steps he took his daughter’s arm, and by way of the Rue des Saints Pères we reached Rue de l’Université. I followed them at a distance of ten paces. We arrived at No. 40 without having met any one. I rejoined them there.

“That is a good omen,” I said; “do you wish me to go up with you?”

“No. Do not compromise yourself any further. Await my daughter here.”

I bowed.

“And now, once more, thanks and farewell,” he said, giving me his hand. “Language has no words to express my gratitude. I pray that heaven may some day grant me the opportunity of giving fuller expression to my feelings.”

I answered him with a pressure of the hand.

He entered the house. Solange followed him; but she, too, pressed my hand before she entered.

In ten minutes the door was reopened.

“Well?” I asked.

“Your friend,” she said, “is worthy of his name; he is as kind and considerate as yourself. He knows that it will contribute to my happiness to remain with my father until the moment of departure. His sister has ordered a bed placed in her room. To-morrow at three o’clock my father will be out of danger. To-morrow evening at ten I shall expect you in the Rue Ferou, if the gratitude of a daughter who owes her father’s life to you is worth the trouble.”

“Oh, be sure I shall come. Did your father charge you with any message for me?”

“He thanks you for your pass, which he returns to you, and begs you to join him as soon as possible.”

“Whenever it may be your desire to go,” I said, with a strange sensation at my heart.

“At least, I must know where I am to join him,” she said. “Ah, you are not yet rid of me!”

I seized her hand and pressed it against my heart, but she offered me her brow, as on the previous evening, and said: “Until to-morrow.”

I kissed her on the brow; but now I no longer strained her hand against my breast, but her heaving bosom, her throbbing heart.

I went home in a state of delirious ecstasy such as I had never experienced. Was it the consciousness of a generous action, or was it love for this adorable creature? I know not whether I slept or woke. I only know that all the harmonies of nature were singing within me; that the night seemed endless, and the day eternal; I know that though I wished to speed the time, I did not wish to lose a moment of the days still to come.

The next day I was in the Rue Ferou at nine o’clock. At half-past nine Solange made her appearance.

She approached me and threw her arms around my neck.

“Saved!” she said; “my father is saved! And this I owe you. Oh, how I love you!”

Two weeks later Solange received a letter announcing her father’s safe arrival in England.

The next day I brought her a passport.

When Solange received it she burst into tears.

“You do not love me!” she exclaimed.

“I love you better than my life,” I replied; “but I pledged your father my word, and I must keep it.”

“Then, I will break mine,” she said. “Yes, Albert; if you have the heart to let me go, I have not the courage to leave you.”

Alas, she remained!

Three months had passed since that night on which we talked of her escape, and in all that time not a word of parting had passed her lips.

Solange had taken lodgings in the Rue Turenne. I had rented them in her name. I knew no other, while she always addressed me as Albert. I had found her a place as teacher in a young ladies’ seminary solely to withdraw her from the espionage of the revolutionary police, which had become more scrutinizing than ever.

Sundays we passed together in the small dwelling, from the bedroom of which we could see the spot where we had first met. We exchanged letters daily, she writing to me under the name of Solange, and I to her under that of Albert.

Those three months were the happiest of my life.

In the meantime I was making some interesting experiments suggested by one of the guillotiniers. I had obtained permission to make certain scientific tests with the bodies and heads of those who perished on the scaffold. Sad to say, available subjects were not wanting. Not a day passed but thirty or forty persons were guillotined, and blood flowed so copiously on the Place de la Révolution that it became necessary to dig a trench three feet deep around the scaffolding. This trench was covered with deals. One of them loosened under the feet of an eight-year-old lad, who fell into the abominable pit and was drowned.

For self-evident reasons I said nothing to Solange of the studies that occupied my attention during the day. In the beginning my occupation had inspired me with pity and loathing, but as time wore on I said: “These studies are for the good of humanity,” for I hoped to convince the lawmakers of the wisdom of abolishing capital punishment.

The Cemetery of Clamart had been assigned to me, and all the heads and trunks of the victims of the executioner had been placed at my disposal. A small chapel in one corner of the cemetery had been converted into a kind of laboratory for my benefit. You know, when the queens were driven from the palaces, God was banished from the churches.

Every day at six the horrible procession filed in. The bodies were heaped together in a wagon, the heads in a sack. I chose some bodies and heads in a haphazard fashion, while the remainder were thrown into a common grave.

In the midst of this occupation with the dead, my love for Solange increased from day to day; while the poor child reciprocated my affection with the whole power of her pure soul.

Often I had thought of making her my wife; often we had mutually pictured to ourselves the happiness of such a union. But in order to become my wife, it would be necessary for Solange to reveal her name; and this name, which was that of an emigrant, an aristocrat, meant death.

Her father had repeatedly urged her by letter to hasten her departure, but she had informed him of our engagement. She had requested his consent, and he had given it, so that all had gone well to this extent.

The trial and execution of the queen, Marie Antoinette, had plunged me, too, into deepest sadness. Solange was all tears, and we could not rid ourselves of a strange feeling of despondency, a presentiment of approaching danger, that compressed our hearts. In vain I tried to whisper courage to Solange. Weeping, she reclined in my arms, and I could not comfort her, because my own words lacked the ring of confidence.

We passed the night together as usual, but the night was even more depressing than the day. I recall now that a dog, locked up in a room below us, howled till two o’clock in the morning. The next day we were told that the dog’s master had gone away with the key in his pocket, had been arrested on the way, tried at three, and executed at four.

The time had come for us to part. Solange’s duties at the school began at nine o’clock in the morning. Her school was in the vicinity of the Botanic Gardens. I hesitated long to let her go; she, too, was loath to part from me. But it must be. Solange was prone to be an object of unpleasant inquiries.

I called a conveyance and Accompanied her as far as the Rue des Fosses-Saint-Bernard, where I got out and left her to pursue her way alone. All the way we lay mutely wrapped in each other’s arms, mingling tears with our kisses.

After leaving the carriage, I stood as if rooted to the ground. I heard Solange call me, but I dared not go to her, because her face, moist with tears, and her hysterical manner were calculated to attract attention.

Utterly wretched, I returned home, passing the entire day in writing to Solange. In the evening I sent her an entire volume of love-pledges.

My letter had hardly gone to the post when I received one from her.

She had been sharply reprimanded for coming late; had been subjected to a severe cross-examination, and threatened with forfeiture of her next holiday. But she vowed to join me even at the cost of her place. I thought I should go mad at the prospect of being parted from her a whole week. I was more depressed because a letter which had arrived from her father appeared to have been tampered with.

I passed a wretched night and a still more miserable day.

The next day the weather was appalling. Nature seemed to be dissolving in a cold, ceaseless rain—a rain like that which announces the approach of winter. All the way to the laboratory my ears were tortured with the criers announcing the names of the condemned, a large number of men, women, and children. The bloody harvest was over-rich. I should not lack subjects for my investigations that day.

The day ended early. At four o’clock I arrived at Clamart; it was almost night.

The view of the cemetery, with its large, new-made graves; the sparse, leafless trees that swayed in the wind, was desolate, almost appalling.

A large, open pit yawned before me. It was to receive to-day’s harvest from the Place de la Révolution. An exceedingly large number of victims was expected, for the pit was deeper than usual.

Mechanically I approached the grave. At the bottom the water had gathered in a pool; my feet slipped; I came within an inch of falling in. My hair stood on end. The rain had drenched me to the skin. I shuddered and hastened into the laboratory.

It was, as I have said, an abandoned chapel. My eyes searched—I know not why—to discover if some traces of the holy purpose to which the edifice had once been devoted did not still adhere to the walls or to the altar; but the walls were bare, the altar empty.

I struck a light and deposited the candle on the operating-table on which lay scattered a miscellaneous assortment of the strange instruments I employed. I sat down and fell into a reverie. I thought of the poor queen, whom I had seen in her beauty, glory, and happiness, yesterday carted to the scaffold, pursued by the execrations of a people, to-day lying headless on the common sinners’ bier—she who had slept beneath the gilded canopy of the throne of the Tuileries and St. Cloud.

As I sat thus, absorbed in gloomy meditation, wind and rain without redoubled in fury. The rain-drops dashed against the window-panes, the storm swept with melancholy moaning through the branches of the trees. Anon there mingled with the violence of the elements the sound of wheels.

It was the executioner’s red hearse with its ghastly freight from the Place de la Révolution.

The door of the little chapel was pushed ajar, and two men, drenched with rain, entered, carrying a sack between them.

“There, M. Ledru,” said the guillotinier; “there is what your heart longs for! Be in no hurry this night! We’ll leave you to enjoy their society alone. Orders are not to cover them up till to-morrow, and so they’ll not take cold.”

With a horrible laugh, the two executioners deposited the sack in a corner, near the former altar, right in front of me. Thereupon they sauntered out, leaving open the door, which swung furiously on its hinges till my candle flashed and flared in the fierce draft.

I heard them unharness the horse, lock the cemetery, and go away.

I was strangely impelled to go with them, but an indefinable power fettered me in my place. I could not repress a shudder. I had no fear; but the violence of the storm, the splashing of the rain, the whistling sounds of the lashing branches, the shrill vibration of the atmosphere, which made my candle tremble—all this filled me with a vague terror that began at the roots of my hair and communicated itself to every part of my body.

Suddenly I fancied I heard a voice! A voice at once soft and plaintive; a voice within the chapel, pronouncing the name of “Albert!”

I was startled.

“Albert!”

But one person in all the world addressed me by that name!

Slowly I directed my weeping eyes around the chapel, which, though small, was not completely lighted by the feeble rays of the candle, leaving the nooks and angles in darkness, and my look remained fixed on the blood-soaked sack near the altar with its hideous contents.

At this moment the same voice repeated the same name, only it sounded fainter and more plaintive.

“Albert!”

I bolted out of my chair, frozen with horror.

The voice seemed to proceed from the sack!

I touched myself to make sure that I was awake; then I walked toward the sack with my arms extended before me, but stark and staring with horror. I thrust my hand into it. Then it seemed to me as if two lips, still warm, pressed a kiss upon my fingers!

I had reached that stage of boundless terror where the excess of fear turns into the audacity of despair. I seized the head and collapsing in my chair, placed it in front of me.

Then I gave vent to a fearful scream. This head, with its lips still warm, with the eyes half closed, was the head of Solange!

I thought I should go mad.

Three times I called:

“Solange! Solange! Solange!”

At the third time she opened her eyes and looked at me. Tears trickled down her cheeks; then a moist glow darted from her eyes, as if the soul were passing, and the eyes closed, never to open again.

I sprang to my feet a raving maniac, I wanted to fly; I knocked against the table; it fell. The candle was extinguished; the head rolled upon the floor, and I fell prostrate, as if a terrible fever had stricken me down—an icy-shudder convulsed me, and, with a deep sigh, I swooned.

The following morning at six the grave-diggers found me, cold as the flagstones on which I lay.

Solange, betrayed by her father’s letter, had been arrested the same day, condemned, and executed.

The head that had called me, the eyes that had looked at me, were the head, the eyes, of Solange!

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A friend of mine, a soldier, who died in Greece of fever some years since, described to me one day his first engagement. His story so impressed me that I wrote it down from memory. It was as follows:

I joined my regiment on September 4th. It was evening. I found the colonel in the camp. He received me rather bruskly, but having read the general’s introductory letter he changed his manner and addressed me courteously.

By him I was presented to my captain, who had just come in from reconnoitring. This captain, whose acquaintance I had scarcely time to make, was a tall, dark man, of harsh, repelling aspect. He had been a private soldier, and had won his cross and epaulettes upon the field of battle. His voice, which was hoarse and feeble, contrasted strangely with his gigantic stature. This voice of his he owed, as I was told, to a bullet which had passed completely through his body at the battle of Jena.

On learning that I had just come from college at Fontainebleau, he remarked, with a wry face: “My lieutenant died last night.”

I understood what he implied, “It is for you to take his place, and you are good for nothing.”

A sharp retort was on my tongue, but I restrained it.

The moon was rising behind the redoubt of Cheverino, which stood two cannon-shots from our encampment. The moon was large and red, as is common at her rising; but that night she seemed to me of extraordinary size. For an instant the redoubt stood out coal-black against the glittering disk. It resembled the cone of a volcano at the moment of eruption.

An old soldier, at whose side I found myself, observed the color of the moon.

“She is very red,” he said. “It is a sign that it will cost us dear to win this wonderful redoubt.”

I was always superstitious, and this piece of augury, coming at that moment, troubled me. I sought my couch, but could not sleep. I rose, and walked about a while, watching the long line of fires upon the heights beyond the village of Cheverino.

When the sharp night air had thoroughly refreshed my blood I went back to the fire. I rolled my mantle round me, and I shut my eyes, trusting not to open them till daybreak. But sleep refused to visit me. Insensibly my thoughts grew doleful. I told myself that I had not a friend among the hundred thousand men who filled that plain. If I were wounded, I should be placed in hospital, in the hands of ignorant and careless surgeons. I called to mind what I had heard of operations. My heart beat violently, and I mechanically arranged, as a kind of rude cuirass, my handkerchief and pocketbook upon my breast. Then, overpowered with weariness, my eyes closed drowsily, only to open the next instant with a start at some new thought of horror.

Fatigue, however, at last gained the day. When the drums beat at daybreak I was fast asleep. We were drawn up in ranks. The roll was called, then we stacked our arms, and everything announced that we should pass another uneventful day.

But about three o’clock an aide-de-camp arrived with orders. We were commanded to take arms.

Our sharpshooters marched into the plain, We followed slowly, and in twenty minutes we saw the outposts of the Russians falling back and entering the redoubt. We had a battery of artillery on our right, another on our left, but both some distance in advance of us. They opened a sharp fire upon the enemy, who returned it briskly, and the redoubt of Cheverino was soon concealed by volumes of thick smoke. Our regiment was almost covered from the Russians’ fire by a piece of rising ground. Their bullets (which besides were rarely aimed at us, for they preferred to fire upon our cannoneers) whistled over us, or at worst knocked up a shower of earth and stones.

Just as the order to advance was given, the captain looked at me intently. I stroked my sprouting mustache with an air of unconcern; in truth, I was not frightened, and only dreaded lest I might be thought so. These passing bullets aided my heroic coolness, while my self-respect assured me that the danger was a real one, since I was veritably under fire. I was delighted at my self-possession, and already looked forward to the pleasure of describing in Parisian drawing-rooms the capture of the redoubt of Cheverino.

The colonel passed before our company. “Well,” he said to me, “you are going to see warm work in your first action.”

I gave a martial smile, and brushed my cuff, on which a bullet, which had struck the earth at thirty paces distant, had cast a little dust.

It appeared that the Russians had discovered that their bullets did no harm, for they replaced them by a fire of shells, which began to reach us in the hollows where we lay. One of these, in its explosion, knocked off my shako and killed a man beside me.

“I congratulate you,” said the captain, as I picked up my shako. “You are safe now for the day.”

I knew the military superstition which believes that the axiom “non bis in idem” is as applicable to the battlefield as to the courts of justice, I replaced my shako with a swagger.

“That’s a rude way to make one raise one’s hat,” I said, as lightly as I could. And this wretched piece of wit was, in the circumstances, received as excellent.

“I compliment you,” said the captain. “You will command a company to-night; for I shall not survive the day. Every time I have been wounded the officer below me has been touched by some spent ball; and,” he added, in a lower tone, “all the names began with P.”

I laughed skeptically; most people would have done the same; but most would also have been struck, as I was, by these prophetic words. But, conscript though I was, I felt that I could trust my thoughts to no one, and that it was my duty to seem always calm and bold.

At the end of half an hour the Russian fire had sensibly diminished. We left our cover to advance on the redoubt.

Our regiment was composed of three battalions. The second had to take the enemy in flank; the two others formed a storming party. I was in the third.

On issuing from behind the cover, we were received by several volleys, which did but little harm.

The whistling of the balls amazed me. “But after all,” I thought, “a battle is less terrible than I expected.”

We advanced at a smart run, our musketeers in front.

All at once the Russians uttered three hurrahs—three distinct hurrahs—and then stood silent, without firing.

“I don’t like that silence,” said the captain. “It bodes no good.”

I began to think our people were too eager. I could not help comparing, mentally, their shouts and clamor with the striking silence of the enemy.

We quickly reached the foot of the redoubt. The palisades were broken and the earthworks shattered by our balls. With a roar of “Vive l’Empereur,” our soldiers rushed across the ruins.

I raised my eyes. Never shall I forget the sight which met my view. The smoke had mostly lifted, and remained suspended, like a canopy, at twenty feet above the redoubt. Through a bluish mist could be perceived, behind the shattered parapet, the Russian Grenadiers, with rifles lifted, as motionless as statues. I can see them still,—the left eye of every soldier glaring at us, the right hidden by his lifted gun. In an embrasure at a few feet distant, a man with a fuse stood by a cannon.

I shuddered. I believed that my last hour had come.

“Now for the dance to open,” cried the captain. These were the last words I heard him speak.

There came from the redoubts a roll of drums. I saw the muzzles lowered. I shut my eyes; I heard a most appalling crash of sound, to which succeeded groans and cries. Then I looked up, amazed to find myself still living. The redoubt was once more wrapped in smoke. I was surrounded by the dead and wounded. The captain was extended at my feet; a ball had carried off his head, and I was covered with his blood. Of all the company, only six men, except myself, remained erect.

This carnage was succeeded by a kind of stupor. The next instant the colonel, with his hat on his sword’s point, had scaled the parapet with a cry of “Vive l’Empereur.” The survivors followed him. All that succeeded is to me a kind of dream. We rushed into the redoubt, I know not how, we fought hand to hand in the midst of smoke so thick that no man could perceive his enemy. I found my sabre dripping blood; I heard a shout of “Victory”; and, in the clearing smoke, I saw the earthworks piled with dead and dying. The cannons were covered with a heap of corpses. About two hundred men in the French uniform were standing, without order, loading their muskets or wiping their bayonets. Eleven Russian prisoners were with them. The colonel was lying, bathed in blood, upon a broken cannon. A group of soldiers crowded round him. I approached them.

“Who is the oldest captain?” he was asking of a sergeant.

The sergeant shrugged his shoulders most expressively.

“Who is the oldest lieutenant?”

“This gentleman, who came last night,” replied the sergeant calmly.

The colonel smiled bitterly.

“Come, sir,” he said to me, “you are now in chief command. Fortify the gorge of the redoubt at once with wagons, for the enemy is out in force. But General C——— is coming to support you.”

“Colonel,” I asked him, “are you badly wounded?”

“Pish, my dear fellow. The redoubt is taken.”

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1.
The small locomotive engine, Number 4, came clanking, stumbling down from Selston–with seven full waggons. It appeared round the corner with loud threats of speed, but the colt that it startled from among the gorse, which still flickered indistinctly in the raw afternoon, outdistanced it at a canter. A woman, walking up the railway line to Underwood, drew back into the hedge, held her basket aside, and watched the footplate of the engine advancing. The trucks thumped heavily past, one by one, with slow inevitable movement, as she stood insignificantly trapped between the jolting black waggons and the hedge; then they curved away towards the coppice where the withered oak leaves dropped noiselessly, while the birds, pulling at the scarlet hips beside the track, made off into the dusk that had already crept into the spinney. In the open, the smoke from the engine sank and cleaved to the rough grass. The fields were dreary and forsaken, and in the marshy strip that led to the whimsey, a reedy pit-pond, the fowls had already abandoned their run among the alders, to roost in the tarred fowl-house. The pit-bank loomed up beyond the pond, flames like red sores licking its ashy sides, in the afternoon’s stagnant light. Just beyond rose the tapering chimneys and the clumsy black head-stocks of Brinsley Colliery. The two wheels were spinning fast up against the sky, and the winding-engine rapped out its little spasms. The miners were being turned up.

The engine whistled as it came into the wide bay of railway lines beside the colliery, where rows of trucks stood in harbour.

Miners, single, trailing and in groups, passed like shadows diverging home. At the edge of the ribbed level of sidings squat a low cottage, three steps down from the cinder track. A large bony vine clutched at the house, as if to claw down the tiled roof. Round the bricked yard grew a few wintry primroses. Beyond, the long garden sloped down to a bush-covered brook course. There were some twiggy apple trees, winter-crack trees, and ragged cabbages. Beside the path hung dishevelled pink chrysanthemums, like pink cloths hung on bushes. A woman came stooping out of the felt-covered fowl-house, half-way down the garden. She closed and padlocked the door, then drew herself erect, having brushed some bits from her white apron.

She was a till woman of imperious mien, handsome, with definite black eyebrows. Her smooth black hair was parted exactly. For a few moments she stood steadily watching the miners as they passed along the railway: then she turned towards the brook course. Her face was calm and set, her mouth was closed with disillusionment. After a moment she called:

“John!” There was no answer. She waited, and then said distinctly:

“Where are you?”

“Here!” replied a child’s sulky voice from among the bushes. The woman looked piercingly through the dusk.

“Are you at that brook?” she asked sternly.

For answer the child showed himself before the raspberry-canes that rose like whips. He was a small, sturdy boy of five. He stood quite still, defiantly.

“Oh!” said the mother, conciliated. “I thought you were down at that wet brook–and you remember what I told you–”

The boy did not move or answer.

“Come, come on in,” she said more gently, “it’s getting dark. There’s your grandfather’s engine coming down the line!”

The lad advanced slowly, with resentful, taciturn movement. He was dressed in trousers and waistcoat of cloth that was too thick and hard for the size of the garments. They were evidently cut down from a man’s clothes.

As they went slowly towards the house he tore at the ragged wisps of chrysanthemums and dropped the petals in handfuls along the path.

“Don’t do that–it does look nasty,” said his mother. He refrained, and she, suddenly pitiful, broke off a twig with three or four wan flowers and held them against her face. When mother and son reached the yard her hand hesitated, and instead of laying the flower aside, she pushed it in her apron-band. The mother and son stood at the foot of the three steps looking across the bay of lines at the passing home of the miners. The trundle of the small train was imminent. Suddenly the engine loomed past the house and came to a stop opposite the gate.

The engine-driver, a short man with round grey beard, leaned out of the cab high above the woman.

“Have you got a cup of tea?” he said in a cheery, hearty fashion.

It was her father. She went in, saying she would mash. Directly, she returned.

“I didn’t come to see you on Sunday,” began the little grey-bearded man.

“I didn’t expect you,” said his daughter.

The engine-driver winced; then, reassuming his cheery, airy manner, he said:

“Oh, have you heard then? Well, and what do you think–?”

“I think it is soon enough,” she replied.

At her brief censure the little man made an impatient gesture, and said coaxingly, yet with dangerous coldness:

“Well, what’s a man to do? It’s no sort of life for a man of my years, to sit at my own hearth like a stranger. And if I’m going to marry again it may as well be soon as late–what does it matter to anybody?”

The woman did not reply, but turned and went into the house. The man in the engine-cab stood assertive, till she returned with a cup of tea and a piece of bread and butter on a plate. She went up the steps and stood near the footplate of the hissing engine.

“You needn’t ‘a’ brought me bread an’ butter,” said her father. “But a cup of tea”–he sipped appreciatively–“it’s very nice.” He sipped for a moment or two, then: “I hear as Walter’s got another bout on,” he said.

“When hasn’t he?” said the woman bitterly.

“I heered tell of him in the ‘Lord Nelson’ braggin’ as he was going to spend that b—- afore he went: half a sovereign that was.”

“When?” asked the woman.

“A’ Sat’day night–I know that’s true.”

“Very likely,” she laughed bitterly. “He gives me twenty-three shillings.”

“Aye, it’s a nice thing, when a man can do nothing with his money but make a beast of himself!” said the grey-whiskered man. The woman turned her head away. Her father swallowed the last of his tea and handed her the cup.

“Aye,” he sighed, wiping his mouth. “It’s a settler, it is–”

He put his hand on the lever. The little engine strained and groaned, and the train rumbled towards the crossing. The woman again looked across the metals. Darkness was settling over the spaces of the railway and trucks: the miners, in grey sombre groups, were still passing home. The winding-engine pulsed hurriedly, with brief pauses. Elizabeth Bates looked at the dreary flow of men, then she went indoors. Her husband did not come.

The kitchen was small and full of firelight; red coals piled glowing up the chimney mouth. All the life of the room seemed in the white, warm hearth and the steel fender reflecting the red fire. The cloth was laid for tea; cups glinted in the shadows. At the back, where the lowest stairs protruded into the room, the boy sat struggling with a knife and a piece of whitewood. He was almost hidden in the shadow. It was half-past four. They had but to await the father’s coming to begin tea. As the mother watched her son’s sullen little struggle with the wood, she saw herself in his silence and pertinacity; she saw the father in her child’s indifference to all but himself. She seemed to be occupied by her husband. He had probably gone past his home, slunk past his own door, to drink before he came in, while his dinner spoiled and wasted in waiting. She glanced at the clock, then took the potatoes to strain them in the yard. The garden and fields beyond the brook were closed in uncertain darkness. When she rose with the saucepan, leaving the drain steaming into the night behind her, she saw the yellow lamps were lit along the high road that went up the hill away beyond the space of the railway lines and the field.

Then again she watched the men trooping home, fewer now and fewer.

Indoors the fire was sinking and the room was dark red. The woman put her saucepan on the hob, and set a batter pudding near the mouth of the oven. Then she stood unmoving. Directly, gratefully, came quick young steps to the door. Someone hung on the latch a moment, then a little girl entered and began pulling off her outdoor things, dragging a mass of curls, just ripening from gold to brown, over her eyes with her hat.

Her mother chid her for coming late from school, and said she would have to keep her at home the dark winter days.

“Why, mother, it’s hardly a bit dark yet. The lamp’s not lighted, and my father’s not home.”

“No, he isn’t. But it’s a quarter to five! Did you see anything of him?”

The child became serious. She looked at her mother with large, wistful blue eyes.

“No, mother, I’ve never seen him. Why? Has he come up an’ gone past, to Old Brinsley? He hasn’t, mother, ‘cos I never saw him.”

“He’d watch that,” said the mother bitterly, “he’d take care as you didn’t see him. But you may depend upon it, he’s seated in the ‘Prince o’ Wales’. He wouldn’t be this late.”

The girl looked at her mother piteously.

“Let’s have our teas, mother, should we?” said she.

The mother called John to table. She opened the door once more and looked out across the darkness of the lines. All was deserted: she could not hear the winding-engines.

“Perhaps,” she said to herself, “he’s stopped to get some ripping done.”

They sat down to tea. John, at the end of the table near the door, was almost lost in the darkness. Their faces were hidden from each other. The girl crouched against the fender slowly moving a thick piece of bread before the fire. The lad, his face a dusky mark on the shadow, sat watching her who was transfigured in the red glow.

“I do think it’s beautiful to look in the fire,” said the child.

“Do you?” said her mother. “Why?”

“It’s so red, and full of little caves–and it feels so nice, and you can fair smell it.”

“It’ll want mending directly,” replied her mother, “and then if your father comes he’ll carry on and say there never is a fire when a man comes home sweating from the pit.–A public-house is always warm enough.”

There was silence till the boy said complainingly: “Make haste, our Annie.”

“Well, I am doing! I can’t make the fire do it no faster, can I?”

“She keeps wafflin’ it about so’s to make ‘er slow,” grumbled the boy.

“Don’t have such an evil imagination, child,” replied the mother.

Soon the room was busy in the darkness with the crisp sound of crunching. The mother ate very little. She drank her tea determinedly, and sat thinking. When she rose her anger was evident in the stern unbending of her head. She looked at the pudding in the fender, and broke out:

“It is a scandalous thing as a man can’t even come home to his dinner! If it’s crozzled up to a cinder I don’t see why I should care. Past his very door he goes to get to a public-house, and here I sit with his dinner waiting for him–”

She went out. As she dropped piece after piece of coal on the red fire, the shadows fell on the walls, till the room was almost in total darkness.

“I canna see,” grumbled the invisible John. In spite of herself, the mother laughed.

“You know the way to your mouth,” she said. She set the dustpan outside the door. When she came again like a shadow on the hearth, the lad repeated, complaining sulkily:

“I canna see.”

“Good gracious!” cried the mother irritably, “you’re as bad as your father if it’s a bit dusk!”

Nevertheless she took a paper spill from a sheaf on the mantelpiece and proceeded to light the lamp that hung from the ceiling in the middle of the room. As she reached up, her figure displayed itself just rounding with maternity.

“Oh, mother–!” exclaimed the girl.

“What?” said the woman, suspended in the act of putting the lamp glass over the flame. The copper reflector shone handsomely on her, as she stood with uplifted arm, turning to face her daughter.

“You’ve got a flower in your apron!” said the child, in a little rapture at this unusual event.

“Goodness me!” exclaimed the woman, relieved. “One would think the house was afire.” She replaced the glass and waited a moment before turning up the wick. A pale shadow was seen floating vaguely on the floor.

“Let me smell!” said the child, still rapturously, coming forward and putting her face to her mother’s waist.

“Go along, silly!” said the mother, turning up the lamp. The light revealed their suspense so that the woman felt it almost unbearable. Annie was still bending at her waist. Irritably, the mother took the flowers out from her apron-band.

“Oh, mother–don’t take them out!” Annie cried, catching her hand and trying to replace the sprig.

“Such nonsense!” said the mother, turning away. The child put the pale chrysanthemums to her lips, murmuring:

“Don’t they smell beautiful!”

Her mother gave a short laugh.

“No,” she said, “not to me. It was chrysanthemums when I married him, and chrysanthemums when you were born, and the first time they ever brought him home drunk, he’d got brown chrysanthemums in his button-hole.”

She looked at the children. Their eyes and their parted lips were wondering. The mother sat rocking in silence for some time. Then she looked at the clock.

“Twenty minutes to six!” In a tone of fine bitter carelessness she continued: “Eh, he’ll not come now till they bring him. There he’ll stick! But he needn’t come rolling in here in his pit-dirt, for I won’t wash him. He can lie on the floor–Eh, what a fool I’ve been, what a fool! And this is what I came here for, to this dirty hole, rats and all, for him to slink past his very door. Twice last week–he’s begun now-”

She silenced herself, and rose to clear the table.

While for an hour or more the children played, subduedly intent, fertile of imagination, united in fear of the mother’s wrath, and in dread of their father’s home-coming, Mrs Bates sat in her rocking-chair making a ‘singlet’ of thick cream-coloured flannel, which gave a dull wounded sound as she tore off the grey edge. She worked at her sewing with energy, listening to the children, and her anger wearied itself, lay down to rest, opening its eyes from time to time and steadily watching, its ears raised to listen. Sometimes even her anger quailed and shrank, and the mother suspended her sewing, tracing the footsteps that thudded along the sleepers outside; she would lift her head sharply to bid the children ‘hush’, but she recovered herself in time, and the footsteps went past the gate, and the children were not flung out of their playing world.

But at last Annie sighed, and gave in. She glanced at her waggon of slippers, and loathed the game. She turned plaintively to her mother.

“Mother!”–but she was inarticulate.

John crept out like a frog from under the sofa. His mother glanced up.

“Yes,” she said, “just look at those shirt-sleeves!”

The boy held them out to survey them, saying nothing. Then somebody called in a hoarse voice away down the line, and suspense bristled in the room, till two people had gone by outside, talking.

“It is time for bed,” said the mother.

“My father hasn’t come,” wailed Annie plaintively. But her mother was primed with courage.

“Never mind. They’ll bring him when he does come–like a log.” She meant there would be no scene. “And he may sleep on the floor till he wakes himself. I know he’ll not go to work tomorrow after this!”

The children had their hands and faces wiped with a flannel. They were very quiet. When they had put on their nightdresses, they said their prayers, the boy mumbling. The mother looked down at them, at the brown silken bush of intertwining curls in the nape of the girl’s neck, at the little black head of the lad, and her heart burst with anger at their father who caused all three such distress. The children hid their faces in her skirts for comfort.

When Mrs Bates came down, the room was strangely empty, with a tension of expectancy. She took up her sewing and stitched for some time without raising her head. Meantime her anger was tinged with fear.

II

The clock struck eight and she rose suddenly, dropping her sewing on her chair. She went to the stairfoot door, opened it, listening. Then she went out, locking the door behind her.

Something scuffled in the yard, and she started, though she knew it was only the rats with which the place was overrun. The night was very dark. In the great bay of railway lines, bulked with trucks, there was no trace of light, only away back she could see a few yellow lamps at the pit-top, and the red smear of the burning pit-bank on the night. She hurried along the edge of the track, then, crossing the converging lines, came to the stile by the white gates, whence she emerged on the road. Then the fear which had led her shrank. People were walking up to New Brinsley; she saw the lights in the houses; twenty yards further on were the broad windows of the ‘Prince of Wales’, very warm and bright, and the loud voices of men could be heard distinctly. What a fool she had been to imagine that anything had happened to him! He was merely drinking over there at the ‘Prince of Wales’. She faltered. She had never yet been to fetch him, and she never would go. So she continued her walk towards the long straggling line of houses, standing blank on the highway. She entered a passage between the dwellings.

“Mr Rigley?–Yes! Did you want him? No, he’s not in at this minute.”

The raw-boned woman leaned forward from her dark scullery and peered at the other, upon whom fell a dim light through the blind of the kitchen window.

“Is it Mrs Bates?” she asked in a tone tinged with respect.

“Yes. I wondered if your Master was at home. Mine hasn’t come yet.”

“‘Asn’t ‘e! Oh, Jack’s been ‘ome an ‘ad ‘is dinner an’ gone out. E’s just gone for ‘alf an hour afore bedtime. Did you call at the ‘Prince of Wales’?”

“No–”

“No, you didn’t like–! It’s not very nice.” The other woman was indulgent. There was an awkward pause. “Jack never said nothink about–about your Mester,” she said.

“No!–I expect he’s stuck in there!”

Elizabeth Bates said this bitterly, and with recklessness. She knew that the woman across the yard was standing at her door listening, but she did not care. As she turned:

“Stop a minute! I’ll just go an’ ask Jack if e’ knows anythink,” said Mrs Rigley.

“Oh, no–I wouldn’t like to put–!”

“Yes, I will, if you’ll just step inside an’ see as th’ childer doesn’t come downstairs and set theirselves afire.”

Elizabeth Bates, murmuring a remonstrance, stepped inside. The other woman apologized for the state of the room.

The kitchen needed apology. There were little frocks and trousers and childish undergarments on the squab and on the floor, and a litter of playthings everywhere. On the black American cloth of the table were pieces of bread and cake, crusts, slops, and a teapot with cold tea.

“Eh, ours is just as bad,” said Elizabeth Bates, looking at the woman, not at the house. Mrs Rigley put a shawl over her head and hurried out, saying:

“I shanna be a minute.”

The other sat, noting with faint disapproval the general untidiness of the room. Then she fell to counting the shoes of various sizes scattered over the floor. There were twelve. She sighed and said to herself, “No wonder!”–glancing at the litter. There came the scratching of two pairs of feet on the yard, and the Rigleys entered. Elizabeth Bates rose. Rigley was a big man, with very large bones. His head looked particularly bony. Across his temple was a blue scar, caused by a wound got in the pit, a wound in which the coal-dust remained blue like tattooing.

“Asna ‘e come whoam yit?” asked the man, without any form of greeting, but with deference and sympathy. “I couldna say wheer he is–‘e’s non ower theer!”–he jerked his head to signify the ‘Prince of Wales’.

“‘E’s ‘appen gone up to th’ ‘Yew’,” said Mrs Rigley.

There was another pause. Rigley had evidently something to get off his mind:

“Ah left ‘im finishin’ a stint,” he began. “Loose-all ‘ad bin gone about ten minutes when we com’n away, an’ I shouted, ‘Are ter comin’, Walt?’ an’ ‘e said, ‘Go on, Ah shanna be but a’ef a minnit,’ so we com’n ter th’ bottom, me an’ Bowers, thinkin’ as ‘e wor just behint, an’ ‘ud come up i’ th’ next bantle–”

He stood perplexed, as if answering a charge of deserting his mate. Elizabeth Bates, now again certain of disaster, hastened to reassure him:

“I expect ‘e’s gone up to th’ ‘Yew Tree’, as you say. It’s not the first time. I’ve fretted myself into a fever before now. He’ll come home when they carry him.”

“Ay, isn’t it too bad!” deplored the other woman.

“I’ll just step up to Dick’s an’ see if ‘e is theer,” offered the man, afraid of appearing alarmed, afraid of taking liberties.

“Oh, I wouldn’t think of bothering you that far,” said Elizabeth Bates, with emphasis, but he knew she was glad of his offer.

As they stumbled up the entry, Elizabeth Bates heard Rigley’s wife run across the yard and open her neighbour’s door. At this, suddenly all the blood in her body seemed to switch away from her heart.

“Mind!” warned Rigley. “Ah’ve said many a time as Ah’d fill up them ruts in this entry, sumb’dy ‘ll be breakin’ their legs yit.”

She recovered herself and walked quickly along with the miner.

“I don’t like leaving the children in bed, and nobody in the house,” she said.

“No, you dunna!” he replied courteously. They were soon at the gate of the cottage.

“Well, I shanna be many minnits. Dunna you be frettin’ now, ‘e’ll be all right,” said the butty.

“Thank you very much, Mr Rigley,” she replied.

“You’re welcome!” he stammered, moving away. “I shanna be many minnits.”

The house was quiet. Elizabeth Bates took off her hat and shawl, and rolled back the rug. When she had finished, she sat down. It was a few minutes past nine. She was startled by the rapid chuff of the winding-engine at the pit, and the sharp whirr of the brakes on the rope as it descended. Again she felt the painful sweep of her blood, and she put her hand to her side, saying aloud, “Good gracious!–it’s only the nine o’clock deputy going down,” rebuking herself.

She sat still, listening. Half an hour of this, and she was wearied out.

“What am I working myself up like this for?” she said pitiably to herself, “I s’ll only be doing myself some damage.”

She took out her sewing again.

At a quarter to ten there were footsteps. One person! She watched for the door to open. It was an elderly woman, in a black bonnet and a black woollen shawl–his mother. She was about sixty years old, pale, with blue eyes, and her face all wrinkled and lamentable. She shut the door and turned to her daughter-in-law peevishly.

“Eh, Lizzie, whatever shall we do, whatever shall we do!” she cried.

Elizabeth drew back a little, sharply.

“What is it, mother?” she said.

The elder woman seated herself on the sofa.

“I don’t know, child, I can’t tell you!”–she shook her head slowly. Elizabeth sat watching her, anxious and vexed.

“I don’t know,” replied the grandmother, sighing very deeply. “There’s no end to my troubles, there isn’t. The things I’ve gone through, I’m sure it’s enough–!” She wept without wiping her eyes, the tears running.

“But, mother,” interrupted Elizabeth, “what do you mean? What is it?”

The grandmother slowly wiped her eyes. The fountains of her tears were stopped by Elizabeth’s directness. She wiped her eyes slowly.

“Poor child! Eh, you poor thing!” she moaned. “I don’t know what we’re going to do, I don’t–and you as you are–it’s a thing, it is indeed!”

Elizabeth waited.

“Is he dead?” she asked, and at the words her heart swung violently, though she felt a slight flush of shame at the ultimate extravagance of the question. Her words sufficiently frightened the old lady, almost brought her to herself.

“Don’t say so, Elizabeth! We’ll hope it’s not as bad as that; no, may the Lord spare us that, Elizabeth. Jack Rigley came just as I was sittin’ down to a glass afore going to bed, an’ ‘e said, ”Appen you’ll go down th’ line, Mrs Bates. Walt’s had an accident. ‘Appen you’ll go an’ sit wi’ ‘er till we can get him home.’ I hadn’t time to ask him a word afore he was gone. An’ I put my bonnet on an’ come straight down, Lizzie. I thought to myself, ‘Eh, that poor blessed child, if anybody should come an’ tell her of a sudden, there’s no knowin’ what’ll ‘appen to ‘er.’ You mustn’t let it upset you, Lizzie–or you know what to expect. How long is it, six months–or is it five, Lizzie? Ay!”–the old woman shook her head–“time slips on, it slips on! Ay!”

Elizabeth’s thoughts were busy elsewhere. If he was killed–would she be able to manage on the little pension and what she could earn?–she counted up rapidly. If he was hurt–they wouldn’t take him to the hospital–how tiresome he would be to nurse!–but perhaps she’d be able to get him away from the drink and his hateful ways. She would–while he was ill. The tears offered to come to her eyes at the picture. But what sentimental luxury was this she was beginning?–She turned to consider the children. At any rate she was absolutely necessary for them. They were her business.

“Ay!” repeated the old woman, “it seems but a week or two since he brought me his first wages. Ay–he was a good lad, Elizabeth, he was, in his way. I don’t know why he got to be such a trouble, I don’t. He was a happy lad at home, only full of spirits. But there’s no mistake he’s been a handful of trouble, he has! I hope the Lord’ll spare him to mend his ways. I hope so, I hope so. You’ve had a sight o’ trouble with him, Elizabeth, you have indeed. But he was a jolly enough lad wi’ me, he was, I can assure you. I don’t know how it is . . .”

The old woman continued to muse aloud, a monotonous irritating sound, while Elizabeth thought concentratedly, startled once, when she heard the winding-engine chuff quickly, and the brakes skirr with a shriek. Then she heard the engine more slowly, and the brakes made no sound. The old woman did not notice. Elizabeth waited in suspense. The mother-in-law talked, with lapses into silence.

“But he wasn’t your son, Lizzie, an’ it makes a difference. Whatever he was, I remember him when he was little, an’ I learned to understand him and to make allowances. You’ve got to make allowances for them–”

It was half-past ten, and the old woman was saying: “But it’s trouble from beginning to end; you’re never too old for trouble, never too old for that–” when the gate banged back, and there were heavy feet on the steps.

“I’ll go, Lizzie, let me go,” cried the old woman, rising. But Elizabeth was at the door. It was a man in pit-clothes.

“They’re bringin’ ‘im, Missis,” he said. Elizabeth’s heart halted a moment. Then it surged on again, almost suffocating her.

“Is he–is it bad?” she asked.

The man turned away, looking at the darkness:

“The doctor says ‘e’d been dead hours. ‘E saw ‘im i’ th’ lamp-cabin.”

The old woman, who stood just behind Elizabeth, dropped into a chair, and folded her hands, crying: “Oh, my boy, my boy!”

“Hush!” said Elizabeth, with a sharp twitch of a frown. “Be still, mother, don’t waken th’ children: I wouldn’t have them down for anything!”

The old woman moaned softly, rocking herself. The man was drawing away. Elizabeth took a step forward.

“How was it?” she asked.

“Well, I couldn’t say for sure,” the man replied, very ill at ease. “‘E wor finishin’ a stint an’ th’ butties ‘ad gone, an’ a lot o’ stuff come down atop ‘n ‘im.”

“And crushed him?” cried the widow, with a shudder.

“No,” said the man, “it fell at th’ back of ‘im. ‘E wor under th’ face, an’ it niver touched ‘im. It shut ‘im in. It seems ‘e wor smothered.”

Elizabeth shrank back. She heard the old woman behind her cry:

“What?–what did ‘e say it was?”

The man replied, more loudly: “‘E wor smothered!”

Then the old woman wailed aloud, and this relieved Elizabeth.

“Oh, mother,” she said, putting her hand on the old woman, “don’t waken th’ children, don’t waken th’ children.”

She wept a little, unknowing, while the old mother rocked herself and moaned. Elizabeth remembered that they were bringing him home, and she must be ready. “They’ll lay him in the parlour,” she said to herself, standing a moment pale and perplexed.

Then she lighted a candle and went into the tiny room. The air was cold and damp, but she could not make a fire, there was no fireplace. She set down the candle and looked round. The candle-light glittered on the lustre-glasses, on the two vases that held some of the pink chrysanthemums, and on the dark mahogany. There was a cold, deathly smell of chrysanthemums in the room. Elizabeth stood looking at the flowers. She turned away, and calculated whether there would be room to lay him on the floor, between the couch and the chiffonier. She pushed the chairs aside. There would be room to lay him down and to step round him. Then she fetched the old red tablecloth, and another old cloth, spreading them down to save her bit of carpet. She shivered on leaving the parlour; so, from the dresser-drawer she took a clean shirt and put it at the fire to air. All the time her mother-in-law was rocking herself in the chair and moaning.

“You’ll have to move from there, mother,” said Elizabeth. “They’ll be bringing him in. Come in the rocker.”

The old mother rose mechanically, and seated herself by the fire, continuing to lament. Elizabeth went into the pantry for another candle, and there, in the little penthouse under the naked tiles, she heard them coming. She stood still in the pantry doorway, listening. She heard them pass the end of the house, and come awkwardly down the three steps, a jumble of shuffling footsteps and muttering voices. The old woman was silent. The men were in the yard.

Then Elizabeth heard Matthews, the manager of the pit, say: “You go in first, Jim. Mind!”

The door came open, and the two women saw a collier backing into the room, holding one end of a stretcher, on which they could see the nailed pit-boots of the dead man. The two carriers halted, the man at the head stooping to the lintel of the door.

“Wheer will you have him?” asked the manager, a short, white-bearded man.

Elizabeth roused herself and came from the pantry carrying the unlighted candle.

“In the parlour,” she said.

“In there, Jim!” pointed the manager, and the carriers backed round into the tiny room. The coat with which they had covered the body fell off as they awkwardly turned through the two doorways, and the women saw their man, naked to the waist, lying stripped for work. The old woman began to moan in a low voice of horror.

“Lay th’ stretcher at th’ side,” snapped the manager, “an’ put ‘im on th’ cloths. Mind now, mind! Look you now–!”

One of the men had knocked off a vase of chrysanthemums. He stared awkwardly, then they set down the stretcher. Elizabeth did not look at her husband. As soon as she could get in the room, she went and picked up the broken vase and the flowers.

“Wait a minute!” she said.

The three men waited in silence while she mopped up the water with a duster.

“Eh, what a job, what a job, to be sure!” the manager was saying, rubbing his brow with trouble and perplexity. “Never knew such a thing in my life, never! He’d no business to ha’ been left. I never knew such a thing in my life! Fell over him clean as a whistle, an’ shut him in. Not four foot of space, there wasn’t–yet it scarce bruised him.”

He looked down at the dead man, lying prone, half naked, all grimed with coal-dust.

“”Sphyxiated,’ the doctor said. It is the most terrible job I’ve ever known. Seems as if it was done o’ purpose. Clean over him, an’ shut ‘im in, like a mouse-trap”–he made a sharp, descending gesture with his hand.

The colliers standing by jerked aside their heads in hopeless comment.

The horror of the thing bristled upon them all.

Then they heard the girl’s voice upstairs calling shrilly: “Mother, mother–who is it? Mother, who is it?”

Elizabeth hurried to the foot of the stairs and opened the door:

“Go to sleep!” she commanded sharply. “What are you shouting about? Go to sleep at once–there’s nothing–”

Then she began to mount the stairs. They could hear her on the boards, and on the plaster floor of the little bedroom. They could hear her distinctly:

“What’s the matter now?–what’s the matter with you, silly thing?”–her voice was much agitated, with an unreal gentleness.

“I thought it was some men come,” said the plaintive voice of the child. “Has he come?”

“Yes, they’ve brought him. There’s nothing to make a fuss about. Go to sleep now, like a good child.”

They could hear her voice in the bedroom, they waited whilst she covered the children under the bedclothes.

“Is he drunk?” asked the girl, timidly, faintly.

“No! No–he’s not! He–he’s asleep.”

“Is he asleep downstairs?”

“Yes–and don’t make a noise.”

There was silence for a moment, then the men heard the frightened child again:

“What’s that noise?”

“It’s nothing, I tell you, what are you bothering for?”

The noise was the grandmother moaning. She was oblivious of everything, sitting on her chair rocking and moaning. The manager put his hand on her arm and bade her “Sh–sh!!”

The old woman opened her eyes and looked at him. She was shocked by this interruption, and seemed to wonder.

“What time is it?”–the plaintive thin voice of the child, sinking back unhappily into sleep, asked this last question.

“Ten o’clock,” answered the mother more softly. Then she must have bent down and kissed the children.

Matthews beckoned to the men to come away. They put on their caps and took up the stretcher. Stepping over the body, they tiptoed out of the house. None of them spoke till they were far from the wakeful children.

When Elizabeth came down she found her mother alone on the parlour floor, leaning over the dead man, the tears dropping on him.

“We must lay him out,” the wife said. She put on the kettle, then returning knelt at the feet, and began to unfasten the knotted leather laces. The room was clammy and dim with only one candle, so that she had to bend her face almost to the floor. At last she got off the heavy boots and put them away.

“You must help me now,” she whispered to the old woman. Together they stripped the man.

When they arose, saw him lying in the naïve dignity of death, the women stood arrested in fear and respect. For a few moments they remained still, looking down, the old mother whimpering. Elizabeth felt countermanded. She saw him, how utterly inviolable he lay in himself. She had nothing to do with him. She could not accept it. Stooping, she laid her hand on him, in claim. He was still warm, for the mine was hot where he had died. His mother had his face between her hands, and was murmuring incoherently. The old tears fell in succession as drops from wet leaves; the mother was not weeping, merely her tears flowed. Elizabeth embraced the body of her husband, with cheek and lips. She seemed to be listening, inquiring, trying to get some connection. But she could not. She was driven away. He was impregnable.

She rose, went into the kitchen, where she poured warm water into a bowl, brought soap and flannel and a soft towel.

“I must wash him,” she said.

Then the old mother rose stiffly, and watched Elizabeth as she carefully washed his face, carefully brushing the big blond moustache from his mouth with the flannel. She was afraid with a bottomless fear, so she ministered to him. The old woman, jealous, said:

“Let me wipe him!”–and she kneeled on the other side drying slowly as Elizabeth washed, her big black bonnet sometimes brushing the dark head of her daughter. They worked thus in silence for a long time. They never forgot it was death, and the touch of the man’s dead body gave them strange emotions, different in each of the women; a great dread possessed them both, the mother felt the lie was given to her womb, she was denied; the wife felt the utter isolation of the human soul, the child within her was a weight apart from her.

At last it was finished. He was a man of handsome body, and his face showed no traces of drink. He was blonde, full-fleshed, with fine limbs. But he was dead.

“Bless him,” whispered his mother, looking always at his face, and speaking out of sheer terror. “Dear lad–bless him!” She spoke in a faint, sibilant ecstasy of fear and mother love.

Elizabeth sank down again to the floor, and put her face against his neck, and trembled and shuddered. But she had to draw away again. He was dead, and her living flesh had no place against his. A great dread and weariness held her: she was so unavailing. Her life was gone like this.

“White as milk he is, clear as a twelve-month baby, bless him, the darling!” the old mother murmured to herself. “Not a mark on him, clear and clean and white, beautiful as ever a child was made,” she murmured with pride. Elizabeth kept her face hidden.

“He went peaceful, Lizzie–peaceful as sleep. Isn’t he beautiful, the lamb? Ay–he must ha’ made his peace, Lizzie. ‘Appen he made it all right, Lizzie, shut in there. He’d have time. He wouldn’t look like this if he hadn’t made his peace. The lamb, the dear lamb. Eh, but he had a hearty laugh. I loved to hear it. He had the heartiest laugh, Lizzie, as a lad–”

Elizabeth looked up. The man’s mouth was fallen back, slightly open under the cover of the moustache. The eyes, half shut, did not show glazed in the obscurity. Life with its smoky burning gone from him, had left him apart and utterly alien to her. And she knew what a stranger he was to her. In her womb was ice of fear, because of this separate stranger with whom she had been living as one flesh. Was this what it all meant–utter, intact separateness, obscured by heat of living? In dread she turned her face away. The fact was too deadly. There had been nothing between them, and yet they had come together, exchanging their nakedness repeatedly. Each time he had taken her, they had been two isolated beings, far apart as now. He was no more responsible than she. The child was like ice in her womb. For as she looked at the dead man, her mind, cold and detached, said clearly: “Who am I? What have I been doing? I have been fighting a husband who did not exist. He existed all the time. What wrong have I done? What was that I have been living with? There lies the reality, this man.”–And her soul died in her for fear: she knew she had never seen him, he had never seen her, they had met in the dark and had fought in the dark, not knowing whom they met nor whom they fought. And now she saw, and turned silent in seeing. For she had been wrong. She had said he was something he was not; she had felt familiar with him. Whereas he was apart all the while, living as she never lived, feeling as she never felt.

In fear and shame she looked at his naked body, that she had known falsely. And he was the father of her children. Her soul was torn from her body and stood apart. She looked at his naked body and was ashamed, as if she had denied it. After all, it was itself. It seemed awful to her. She looked at his face, and she turned her own face to the wall. For his look was other than hers, his way was not her way. She had denied him what he was–she saw it now. She had refused him as himself.–And this had been her life, and his life.–She was grateful to death, which restored the truth. And she knew she was not dead.

And all the while her heart was bursting with grief and pity for him. What had he suffered? What stretch of horror for this helpless man! She was rigid with agony. She had not been able to help him. He had been cruelly injured, this naked man, this other being, and she could make no reparation. There were the children–but the children belonged to life. This dead man had nothing to do with them. He and she were only channels through which life had flowed to issue in the children. She was a mother–but how awful she knew it now to have been a wife. And he, dead now, how awful he must have felt it to be a husband. She felt that in the next world he would be a stranger to her. If they met there, in the beyond, they would only be ashamed of what had been before. The children had come, for some mysterious reason, out of both of them. But the children did not unite them. Now he was dead, she knew how eternally he was apart from her, how eternally he had nothing more to do with her. She saw this episode of her life closed. They had denied each other in life. Now he had withdrawn. An anguish came over her. It was finished then: it had become hopeless between them long before he died. Yet he had been her husband. But how little!–

“Have you got his shirt, ‘Lizabeth?”

Elizabeth turned without answering, though she strove to weep and behave as her mother-in-law expected. But she could not, she was silenced. She went into the kitchen and returned with the garment.

“It is aired,” she said, grasping the cotton shirt here and there to try. She was almost ashamed to handle him; what right had she or anyone to lay hands on him; but her touch was humble on his body. It was hard work to clothe him. He was so heavy and inert. A terrible dread gripped her all the while: that he could be so heavy and utterly inert, unresponsive, apart. The horror of the distance between them was almost too much for her–it was so infinite a gap she must look across.

At last it was finished. They covered him with a sheet and left him lying, with his face bound. And she fastened the door of the little parlour, lest the children should E see what was lying there. Then, with peace sunk heavy on her heart, she went about making tidy the kitchen. She knew she submitted to life, which was her immediate master. But from death, her ultimate master, she winced with fear and shame.

The End
written in 19o9 and published in 1911. From The Prussian Officer and Other Stories

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